Author: the general girl PM
For Ichigo, it ends when he loses his powers. It takes Rukia much, much longer. — ichiruki.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Angst - Ichigo K. & Rukia K. - Words: 2,068 - Reviews: 37 - Favs: 130 - Follows: 7 - Published: 04-10-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8012738
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
note: The second section takes place in the month between Ichigo passing out in 422 and him losing his power in 423. The rest you can probably figure out. Some scenes heavily inspired by the Re: Pray Bleach anime ending, also operates on the assumption that Rukia hadn't known the purpose of the sub. shinigami badge.
For Ichigo, it ends when he can't see her anymore. She knows he can't feel her either, but her reiatsu still weaves lazily around his body—searching, probing for something that it won't find.
He doesn't even blink. His eyes had left Rukia's long ago, staring at the sky and a future that will not include her. She swallows, blinking back what might be tears and the words that she cannot say—not anymore.
Not if she wants him to hear.
She pretends that she can't feel the stares of Ichigo's friends heavy on her back, and when she turns, the senkaimon is ready.
He's been asleep for an entire month.
But she hasn't.
What she does instead, after begging leave from Ukitake-taichou with her eyes, is this:
For an entire month she stays at the Kurosaki household; for an entire month she sleeps in his room, his closet. For an entire month she watches him, inhumanly still in his bed.
Karin knows more than she lets on, and Yuzu doesn't ask questions because Isshin never seems worried. Rather, he is as enthusiastic as always, asking after the welfare of his third daughter and yelling at Ichigo's prostrate form (no son of mine should laze about so long!), but Rukia can see past the usual jubilance and knows what it means every time Isshin presses his hand against her shoulder a little too hard when he goes.
Rukia is the only one who never leaves, sometimes staying in her gigai, sometimes swathed in the black of her shihakusho. She takes her meals in his room when she remembers to eat at all; most of the time she's too intent on Ichigo—especially at night, because during the day others visit too.
Chad comes at least several times a week and Ishida just as many. Inoue though, Inoue visits every day.
She fusses over his blankets and whether the window is open or closed, the state of his hair and the state of his room. Her worry is palpable in the wringing of her hands, the distress evident in the pitch of her voice when she asks Rukia time and again will it be today, will it be soon, oh I do hope Kurosaki-kun wakes up soon.
And Rukia wants him to wake up, she does, but it's a bitter wanting and a thing that is hard to swallow because when he wakes up—when he wakes up it will mean the end of her time in this world.
Watching Inoue helps her decide; Ichigo needs—he needs stability, normality and people in his life that will not have to sneak and lie and coerce just to spend a day with him. If she stays—if she visits, she will only hold him down.
(She—and circumstances—had forced her powers on him that first night, but no more, no more.)
The difference is this: someone like Inoue gets to stand over his sickbed with her hand over her heart and wetness at her eyes; someone like Inoue gets to surreptitiously brush stray strands of hair back from his forehead when she thinks no one else is looking. Someone like Inoue gets to touch him, gets to care and worry out loud and someone transient, someone like Rukia—can't.
Rukia swallows, and continues to measure the rest of her days here by the shortening length of his hair.
For Ichigo, it ends when he can't see her anymore.
Rukia is not so lucky. It's hard to fathom a clean break, even though she tries and tries. There are reminders of him everywhere, either in all the places in Soul Society where he's fought (for her, and the fact still leaves her dizzy with gratitude) or in the people that he's met, and changed. Some of the captains ask about him in the beginning, but Renji sticks close with a ready glare and soon, they get the message. Rukia isn't sure if she is grateful or not.
In the end though, she cannot stay away.
She doesn't go often. In fact, she rarely ever goes at all. But when she does open the senkaimon to the living world, she always finds him.
It's not a conscious thing; she walks and her feet just lead her to Ichigo without fail. Rukia tells herself that he's doing ok, that the holes she left behind are slowly being filled and that in time, in time the memory of her, of shinigami and hollows and Aizen will be nothing but an aberration in his otherwise normal life.
She wants that for him, she really does. And If Ichigo looks lost, looks a little angry and frustrated, that will pass as the peace continues.
It has to.
He gets a job, starts helping out with Karin's sports team and passes weekends volunteering at his father's clinic. His eyes are still shuttered but—but.
One day, she finds him with Inoue. It's nearing sunset and they're walking home. It's what she used to do with him and seeing someone else—she knows she has no right, but still, something lodges in her throat.
Rukia watches from above, perching light and steady on a telephone pole with her reiatsu carefully concealed (even though she has no reason, no place none), and wonders what they're talking about, if he will turn around with the sun drenching his face in warm reds and golds and then smile at Inoue with that same smile, if he will reach over and tap her on the forehead like he did to Rukia, once, before waving at her to hurry up towards home.
She wonders why the thought hurts so much.
Rukia gets close just once, and Ichigo's walking home from school again, except this time he is alone. He stops by the river, the same river where she'd sat with him numerous times at night after hollow hunts, watching the lights from the buildings across the water play out on its surface. Sometimes, in the summer, there would even be fireflies.
She sits close to him on the grass like she used to, and arranges her body neatly so as not to infringe on his space. But it's not summer now, and it isn't the same because he never looks at her, never gives an indication that he's aware she is there at all.
Rukia bows her head, legs drawn up and her face hidden against her knees, and lets her reiatsu settle itself like a blanket over the both of them.
She tries very hard not to touch him, even if it wouldn't have made a difference either way.
Ichigo never says a word, only looks to the horizon, eyes constantly searching. He also leaves first.
But then Ginjou happens, and being normal won't serve Ichigo so well after all. Yamamoto wants her to be formally reinstated back into the living world—to watch over Ichigo, they say. But Rukia knows better, knows that they want her to spy and report and detain if necessary, and she won't have that. She knows he would never, ever side with the enemy, would never betray her and everyone else like that, so she refuses even though it means the end of all her trips to the other side.
It doesn't matter, she won't have him tailed and lied to like a common criminal, and after her outburst, Yamamoto does not propose sending anyone else.
She's only sorry that he has to give up his peace again.
After everything—after she lends him her power one more time, after Ginjou's death, after she leaps in front of him and after all the captains realize that he's grown, that he's matured and a man now whereas they'd left behind a boy before—they take a moment to sit, and they talk.
It's an in-between thing, a short pause between the end of one thing and the beginning of the next. They're in his room, and he's digging through the top shelf of his closet for a dry shirt to change into. His shoulders and his broad back take up the entire doorway, but between the gaps she can make out rumpled white linen; the blankets where she'd slept, she thinks, kept as a relic.
Rukia takes a deep breath, and she knows that she wants to say something but whatever it is gets lodged in her throat. Ichigo turns at the sound, and the room is very quiet, very still as he crosses over to where she sits on his desk. He kicks the neglected chair away, moves to stand in front of her.
He's close, definitely invades her sphere of personal space, but they've never cared about physical boundaries, not with each other. They have emotional boundaries too, but those are shared and treated with mutual respect.
Ichigo is taller, she realizes; even with her on the desk, he has to bend to reach her. His arms though, still stay by his side, and his hands are clenched in hard fists.
Rukia can't help it, she leans in, and whereas he's learned restraint in these months apart she's forgotten hers—so many of her reservations peeling like paper in the rain, and it seems to be what he's looking for because Ichigo moves too, plants his arms on either side of her and closes in until their foreheads knock together with a painful thud.
And then they breathe.
"You stayed away for a long time."
Rukia thinks he might be scowling, but she can't tell because all she can see are his eyes, more amber than brown, and herself, reflected in them.
She can give him the rote explanation, that she had been busy with her vice captaincy and her duties; she can tell him half-truths about betrayals of trust; she can say nothing at all.
She knows she owes him more than that.
"You were moving."
He looks startled by her answer, and they're still too close, but she doesn't back away. Instead, she tips her head forward until her forehead slides past his, breaking their only point of contact. So close, but not touching. It is something that she has mastered out of necessity.
"Forward. You were moving forward and I—"
But they're not good at heart-to-hearts. Speeches, proclamations, gestures, sparse lines of comfort, yes, but not heart-to-hearts, not confessions conducted in the dark and privacy of his room with no one else near, not when they're so close that every one of his exhales ghosts over the shell of her ear.
That is why it is a good thing that they are so well versed in communicating with silence, and he seems to understand her anyways, because she feels him shifting, and lifts her head just in time to see him back away a little, just enough so that he can look down at her face.
"Rukia—shit, it was seventeen months and I was moving but it definitely wasn't fucking forward."
"In time, you would've—"
"No," he cuts her off with a look. "I wouldn't have."
She meets Ichigo's eyes again, and they're soft. There is no furrow between his brows and his mouth isn't twisted into a scowl—that's soft too, his entire expression is soft, and a little lost, but mostly determined; really, very determined. Rukia realizes something then:
It had never ended for him either.
note: Last angsty piece from me for a while, promise. Also thanks much to empathapathique for fellow flailing and the plot bunnies and just all the ichiruki love in general. Would be really grateful for feedback as always!