Summary: Kurosaki Ichigo/15 years old. Hair colour/orange. Eye colour/brown. Occupation/superpowered ballerina.
Disclaimer: ... sorry doesn't even begin to cover it, does it, Kubo Tite.
Notes: For Ruthi, who guessed correctly that I'd written The Blest Surprize for Yuletide 2005, and who then proceeded to demand Ichigo-inna-tutu. There are no words for how very much this is not my fault.
This is sort of a Princess Tutu crossover, and sort of not, but it is not in fact necessary to've watched the first episode of Princess Tutu to understand the story. This is because it probably wouldn't help anyway.
So, ordinary day, Ichigo's walking home from school to have a nice dinner with his crazy family, everything's great -- well, not great, but it's not until you've seen what really fucking bizarre looks like that you realise how great normal is --
Then it happens.
Line dancers! Fucking line dancers! A whole goddamn army of them, cha-cha-ing or whatever the fuck they call it in a thin red line of deliberate self-humiliation across the street. Ichigo doesn't mind ballroom dancing and he even kinda likes tap, so long as it's not him doing any of it, but he draws the li -- but line dancing, no.
Are they doing the Macarena?
"Excuse me," he says to one of them, because she has to've been at least sixty, and his mother brought him up right. She stops. She twirls. She looks at him in astonishment.
"You can see me?"
"Yeah," says Ichigo.
Because other kids with supernatural abilities, they see dead people. Kurosaki Ichigo? He sees dead dancers. He sees dead dancers everywhere. Let's not even talk about the time that pole dancer accosted him right outside school, because really, if he never sees that expression on Keigo's face again, it will be too soon.
"Well, c'mon then, join in!"
Ichigo has a theory about dance. Actually, he has about 67 theories about dance, most of them starting with something along the lines of "fucking fruity assholes with their fucking fruity pirouettes -- hey, you, get your goddamn blocked shoes out of my sink!" but this one, this particular one, is that dance is contagious. He hasn't met a single dead dancer who hasn't either tried to make him dance along, or tried to make him watch. When it's modern dance, the first option's almost better than the second.
"No, thank you -- no, really -- "
"Come on! We're doing the two-step next!"
Ichigo struggles between politeness and kicking the old lady in the head. He goes for Door #3:
"Oh hey, look, is that a talent scout?"
Exit Ichigo, pursued by a bear.
He'd have nothing against dancing if dancers would stop trying to have something with him. Like, for example, conversations.
"I mean, don't you think the soft female element flowing into the male hardness -- "
Ichigo holds up a finger. It might not be the right finger for perfect courtesy, but he's been plenty courteous today already.
"Oi, d'you mind? My sisters are here."
"I don't mind, Brother," says Yuzu.
"I can't hear anything," says Karin.
"But don't you see them too, Karin-chan?"
"I don't believe in dance," says Karin. She holds up her bowl. "More rice, please."
The dead guy looks reproachfully at her. He wears black tights and ballet shoes and is usually to be found tip-toeing on the pavement outside their clinic, waiting for Ichigo to come out of the house so he can tell Ichigo something else stupid about the meaning of dance.
"That girl has no soul," he says.
"You have no shirt," Ichigo points out. "Think that makes you even."
Dead Guy looks artistically offended.
"I was dancing when I died," he says.
"Yeah, well, don't blame me," says Ichigo.
"Is he going now?" says Karin.
"Thought you didn't believe in him," says Ichigo.
"Doesn't make him any less annoying," Karin says, and clicks her chopsticks after Dead Guy in a serene goodbye when he storms off. Ichigo likes to think she takes after him.
Ichigo's been known to be wrong on occasion. This time, he makes the mistake of thinking that line dancers are the worst the day's going to give him.
He jolts out of a dreamless sleep into a fraying night. The girl glissades into the room, face fierce with that rapt absorption all ballerinas have. This frankly looks too much like gas to Ichigo to impress him, but he guesses that's what happens when you're trying to do things walking on tip-toe in a leotard which a sane man wouldn't do without about thirty carabiners, a strong length of rope and enough life insurance to send his loved ones on a lifelong holiday in the Bahamas.
All Ichigo's world's a stage. There are times when he thinks he'd almost prefer Hamlet.
"Hey," he says. He's going to say, 'Show's over, you're dead, think you could restrain yourself from doing arabesques on my window-sill?' but she turns and looks at him.
Hear that? The orchestra's tuning up. It is scientifically proven that there is no sound as sweetly uncertain as the tweedle of a violin searching for the true note.
I've done the experiments. Trust me on this.
Ichigo falls out of bed. His hand's groping behind him for the light switch. He barely notices it. What his instinct for self-preservation thinks is a good idea is the least of his worries right now.
"Hey, you!" She can't open the window. He's certain of this. If she opens the window, it comes in; the world blossoms like a flower; life ends, or begins, or something equally disruptive and unnecessary. He's 15, he needs his fucking beauty sleep, Kuchiki Rukia cannot open the window --
She touches down in front of the window, in a position he recognises despite himself. Striking Anglo-Saxon attitudes. Ichigo's read The Wanderer. He knows what depressive fucktards the Anglo-Saxons were.
"Get back," he says. With her body laid open like that, an attacker would just have to pick his spot. Ichigo can see the spear shoved through her chest, cracking ribs and parting flesh. He tastes blood, as if it's already happened, as if it's his own wound. He feels sick.
"You idiot, get back!"
Her eyes are empty: a toppled glass. This will leave a stain. This will scar.
"Without tragedy, no story would ever begin," she says, and opens the window. In the glow of the lightning flash, Ichigo can see the joints in her limbs, the strings holding her up. All in a moment, he's never been so angry in his life --
Rukia steps out onto the thin air.
-- and Ichigo knows from angry, anger's his best friend, he could ring up anger any time and it'd be at his door in five minutes with a six pack of beer and a bag of chips --
She falls. This is what inevitability looks like to the uninitiated.
-- but he makes his own fucking destiny, his mom taught him that and Rukia taught him that and he, he was born knowing it.
Ichigo soars. The orchestra strikes up.
I've always liked the oboes. You?
Now learn, Kurosaki Ichigo! These are the stories dance can tell.
A touch of the fingers: meeting. A swoon, graceful and deliberate: self-sacrifice. Now a divertissement: wariness, training, friendship, trust. Notice the absence of unfamiliarity? Friends are like that. There is a theory that this is because you've met them all before in a former life, but my researches have shown that to be apocryphal at best.
But it's a pretty story. And that's the most important thing, no?
Listen: she stole your sister's pajamas; she ate your food; she embarrassed you in front of your friends and family and put you through ridiculous training exercises and you never really had a good night's sleep after she started living in your closet. She gave you strength. She knows you. You owe her for that last thing alone, more than anyone else will ever be able to understand.
You're going to save her. The alternative cannot be countenanced.
So you say. But how many ballets have a happy ending? What tragic resonance in the image of the white swan dying, in the liquid notes of her last song, in the rime on her slow-beating wings! What beauty! What deathless, exquisite grace in the --
Words! Always fucking words, as if dancing wasn't bad enough without there being whole books devoted to interpreting it. No, they had to come in and ruin his fucking moment of epiphany with their stupid goddamn words --
All right, maybe not. ♥
But you are discovering it, are you not? The reason why. Ballet holds the golden secret, the Philosopher's Stone, what women have tormented themselves and men have thrown themselves off cliffs to find -- the secret of flight.
Then go and save her, Kurosaki Ichigo. Learn to dance while you're at it. For what other purpose is your story told?
The ground breaks up like a party gatecrashed by the police. The fountain of flowers shooting out of it isn't exactly what Ichigo expected, but it'll do in a pinch.
The girl floats down onto the white petals in a way that probably breaks 17 different laws of physics, but what has ballet got to do with the physical world? Ichigo helps her up. He tries to ignore the fact that he's standing en pointe. He's also standing on a pillar of flowers that came out of nowhere, to the accompaniment of what he's pretty sure is Tchaikovsky. Really, life's too short.
"Uh," he says. She has petals in her hair. The strings are still playing in the background.
She looks him up and down, raises an eyebrow at the costume, and says, "Your arms are all wrong" just as Ichigo starts saying,
"Look, you don't have to -- what? My arms are -- I just saved your life! And my arms are fine!"
"But not a bad rehearsal," she says grudgingly, as if it pains her to have to say anything positive about him. "Crude, but powerful." She touches his face, smiles a little mockingly.
"Learn some subtlety, and we might give a good show," she says.
"You don't have to," says Ichigo. He can't see the strings anymore, but he can tell they're there. She's dancing still. "You don't have to listen. You don't belong to -- whoever the fuck this guy is."
Her eyes are empty again. She holds out her hands, in a gesture of resignation, or apology, or even defiance. Ichigo can't tell. Maybe it's just a gesture of a gesture.
"What else is there but the dance?" she says.
"There's, I dunno," says Ichigo, but she's gone.
The strings are quiet. The air smells like snow.
"Painting," he says into the silence. "Rock and roll. Poetry. I read poetry."
It's only after a moment that he remembers he's still standing on a pillar of flowers he conjured up with the pure magical power of his grand jete. He realises two things at once: that this is completely impossible, and that he's actually really goddamn tired.
He could've done with realising that when he was safely on solid ground, he thinks. And then there's nothing but the thump of exhausted reluctant ballerina coming back to earth.
Consider a green-and-white striped hat, proceeding dreamily down the street.
He doesn't dance himself. The rhythmic clack of clogs on the ground is far too beautiful a sound for him to deprive the world of it.
He pauses to examine the drifts of white flowers on the wind.
"Strawberry flowers," he says, and hums with pleasure behind his fan. A nice touch. He hadn't thought of that.
All stories are full of these surprises. It's part of why he likes them so much.
The boy is spread-eagled on the ground, looking as destroyed as any ten pairs of ballet slippers after a punishing tour. Urahara is pleased to see recognition light his eyes when he looks up.
Urahara could do with less of the homicidal rage, but they'll work on that. They have the whole overture to negotiate in.
He raises his hands.
Clap. Clap. Clap.
"Bravo, maestro," says Hat-and-Clogs. "Well-danced. An excellent rehearsal. And are you ready for the first act?"
Ichigo knows when he's in over his head. It's happened before, though he wouldn't admit to that in public. But this isn't really public, is it? Hat-and-Clogs already knows everything that's happened, and everything that's going to happen.
Or so he thinks. If there's one thing Ichigo knows, though, it's that you never know the kind of shit that's going to go down. Can't even guess. Nothing ever goes according to plan. Plots buck and rear and run away with you. The only thing you can do is try to run and keep up.
He can't do much more at the moment than wiggle a finger, so he does that. He crooks a finger. The hat hovers closer. Ichigo grins: bring it on.
He's always been a pretty good runner. And he's a fucking magnificent dancer, turns out, so:
"Get rid of the fucking tutu," he croaks, "and then we can start talking."