Author: afrai
Summary: Reincarnation isn't quite as simple as Ichigo thinks.
Disclaimer: Render unto Kubo Tite what is Kubo Tite's.
Notes: I'm not a big fan of the reincarnation trope in this particular fandom, but there's no denying that the possibilities are endless.

Everything new is old again

The last thing Ichigo saw before he died was Rukia's face.

The next thing he saw was the uniform at the desk.

It figured. Other people probably got the river across the fields, the Grim Reaper, Charon and his boat. Kurosaki Ichigo got a low-level bureaucrat in his introduction to the fine art of being dead, because that made as much sense as anything else.

"So," he said. "Now what?"

"Ah," said the man at the desk. "Paperwork, I'm afraid. If I could know your mother's maiden name, your blood type, and your general moral constitution?"

"Hm," said Ichigo. He tried to read the form the man was filling out, but the man tugged it away jealously and hid it under his arm. "What for?"

"We here at the waystation of life and death try to make your new life as suitable for your character and just desserts as possible," said the man. "This data helps us help you better."

"New life," said Ichigo. "Shit. You mean I'm gonna have to do it all over again?"

The man smiled palely.

"Sorry," he said. "That's the Wheel for you. You can't escape the eternal futility of the cycle of death and rebirth. It's, well, futile."

"Well, fuck that -- " Ichigo caught sight of the man's expression and deflated. "Get this a lot, do you."

"Ah, well, at least you aren't a deist," said the man. "Some of those can get quite nasty when they find out they're not getting a free ride straight to Heaven.

"And then there are the ones who get nasty when find out they're not going to Hell," he added thoughtfully. "Now, those are scary -- I'm sorry, you were saying?"

"Guess I don't get to choose where I end up this time?" said Ichigo.

"Well! Well, no, but within the limits of your case, we do try to cater to your wishes so far as we are able to," said the man. "You're slated to be born as a human again: we can't do anything about that, but as that's really the best option, theologically speaking, you probably wouldn't want to have it changed anyway. We can do something about the people you'll meet, tinker a bit with your fate -- there's nothing we can do about your destiny, of course; that'll be mostly up to you. But we do our best to help. Is there anything ... ?"

Ichigo stared at the stacks of paper piled on the desk. His form was blue and printed. There were others trapped under it: fragile scraps of rice paper covered in close black brush strokes, parchment with spidery writing skittering across its yellowed face.

He was thinking of how Rukia had looked, in that last moment. It was a look he knew pretty well from the inside. He'd never wanted to be the one to put it on anybody else's face.

"I fucked up," he said. "There's someone I need to make it up to. I have to -- if I could meet her again. Can you do that?"

"We can but try," said the man cheerfully, shuffling through the stacks. "What's her name? Spelt? Splendid, very good. Your lover?"

"She's a nutcase," said Ichigo darkly. "But I owe her."

"Aha!" The man made a tiny note on the blue form. "You'll -- well, I can't tell you much, but it shouldn't be too much of a change. You'll find adapting easy. There might be a couple of minor differences, though -- change of hair colour, you don't mind that, do you?"

"That's fine," said Ichigo. "Just -- "

"And it's a different time period from the one you were born in, but that's necessary, you know," said the man. "Can't have you meeting your own self, after all. That always causes all kinds of metaphysical problems. And the end of the universe, of course."

"Yeah, whatever," said Ichigo. "But -- I will get to make it up to her? I kinda made a promise."

"Mm, yes. It depends what you choose to do, of course, but you'll certainly get the chance," said the man. "Off you go, then. Good luck with the promise-keeping."

"Thanks," said Ichigo.

He really was a nice young man, the man reflected when Ichigo was gone. He wondered if he should have mentioned the chronology issue, but there wouldn't have been much point to that. Human souls usually found the whole non-linear aspect of reincarnation confusing, and it wasn't like he'd remember it, after all.

He uncapped the white-out pen and carefully obliterated the name on the form. Now, what was the boy's new name again?

"... Swallow?" he said.

Oh, well. It was probably better than strawberry.