TITLE

Number One Protector

AUTHOR

reflective/grit

SUMMARY

His hands ball into fists and suddenly there's fire enveloping them. It's just a small moment, and in the next, he hisses and the flame dies. His hands are an angry red, and he can still feel the flames digging into his flesh. (The Avatar AU that no one asked for. Ichiruki.)

WORD COUNT

1057

GENRE

Friendship, Romance, Action, Angst

WARNINGS

Explicit Language


ONE

His sister glanced at him uneasily, having stopped in her tracks. "What do you mean you're going to Shin'ou?" she hisses, and lunges at him. He easily dodges her slap, twists her around hand pins her arm behing her back. "What about mom?" she asks flatly.

He can't see her expression, but if he could, he's sure that there would be hurt in it. "I have to," he says quietly. "There's still you and -"

In one fluid motion, Karin has freed herself from his grasp, and in the next moment, he's face-first in the dust, icy sparks holding him down. "Ow," he winces and struggles futilely against Karin's grip. He could conjure up his flames, but really. What good would it do except burn him? "What was that for!?"

The ice around him melts as Karin sighs and retracts the water into the flask she carries around with her. "That," she says, exasperated, "was a demonstration. Even Yuzu could defeat you within a few minutes at most, and she specialises in healing." She holds out her hand, and with a grunt, he takes it and gets back onto his feet. "Do you honestly think that Shin'ou is going to let you in without bending powers?"

His eyes harden. "I'll never know if I don't try. And I can bend, just not very well." His hands ball into fists and suddenly there's fire enveloping them. It's just a small moment, and in the next, he hisses and the flame dies. His hands are an angry red, and he can still feel the flames digging into his flesh.

She shoves him. "What are you trying to prove, Ichi-nii?! That you're not a weakling? That you're special because your fire-bending is so screwed up as soon as you let go of a flame it evaporates!?"

Her words sting, but Ichigo ignores them. He can do this. He knows it. "Yes," he replies, and walks away. It would be nice if she believed in him, but this way he'll just have to prove that he can protect.

"Ichi-nii," Karin calls after him. "Ichi-nii!" She catches up with him and grabs his arm, eyes glistening with worry. Her hands begin moving in an elaborate pattern. The water from her flask wraps itself around Ichigo's hand and the pure bliss of the soothing cold is enough to soften his expression. Karin is no healer, but she picked up a few rudimentary things from Yuzu. She hesitates. "You... you know that you're special, and I do too. But that's not going to stop the others from attacking you relentlessly. You hurt yourself every time you bend, and it's not bending, not really."

He smiles sadly. "I know, Karin. But I'm not going there so I'll be coddled. I want to grow."

She bites her bottom lip, like she always does when she's worried. "Fine," she yields. "I still think that this is a shit idea, but I won't stop you. But you're telling Yuzu. And you're telling her now."

He winces. Fair enough. They continue their walk to their home in silence, Karin kicking stones wherever she can find them, and Ichigo lost in his thoughts. Karin's waterbending has a rugged quality to it. It's not elegant, like the pro-benders, and fluid. She prefers the solid, icy techniques. Ichigo sometimes wonders if she would have liked better to be born an earhbender. He would, that's for sure. Earth doesn't burn his skin, at least. Every bender is a conductor of their element, representing their powers, materialising them in this world and letting go. Ichigo isn't. He lacks the 'letting go' part. He can't release the energy growling under his skin. He can materialise, yes, but he doesn't manage that ultimate transfer from his skin to the world. Something that takes a child a maximum of two seconds. Well, it's different for them, to be sure. They don't materialise while still holding onto the energy. They convert the energy into their element after letting it pass through their skin. That's why he burns, and every fucking firebender in the world doesn't. Ichigo is angry that he is stuck with fire. Every element would have been at least useful in this situation. He could form shields of air, wind or water. He could have healed himself, if no one else.

Instead, he's stuck with this, and it makes his blood boil.

Needless to say, Yuzu doesn't take it well. She's a mother hen, and incredibly protective of her siblings. And she doesn't want Ichigo to get hurt. "I forbid it!" she shouts. "You are not going -"

"This isn't your decision to make," Ichigo interjects calmly. Yuzu looks like she's been slapped. He winces. "Look, I'm not asking for your approval or anything, I'm just telling you that I made my decision, and I'm going to be a part of the Gotei 13. Even if it's just a support member, I can't just sit around while every guy my age is drawn in for the war, and I get special treatment for being professionally diagnosed. By my father, to add. Eventually, they're going to come knocking, and they'll shove me a sword in my hand and make me fight." Karin and Yuzu look at him, shocked. "I want to be prepared for that," he says quietly. "Otherwise I can't defend you guys."

Karin is shaking and when she looks at him, he can see the anger in her eyes. "You fucking idiot," she snaps. "Do you seriously think we can't protect ourselves just fine?! Just because we weren'tt born with a dick -"

"Karin!" Yuzu exlaims, bright red.

Ichigo can feel the flush on his skin, too. But there's something else within him too. He crosses the room and pulls Karin and Yuzu into a hug. "I'll be fine," he insists. "You can protect each other while I'm away. I'm counting on it."

Slowly, his sisters relax into his embrace.

"Mom," Ichigo says solemnly. "I'm leaving." He draws a hand through his hair, smiling weakly. "I know that Yuzu and Karin are going to take care of things just fine, so don't worry. I'll be alright too. I don't even know yet if they'll let me in, but I have to try." He glances at the portrait one last time, then turns around to leave.


NOTES

To be continued, reviews are love!