White and Black
By Henrika

Henrika- My first posted foray into Bleach. I have another one in a notebook that was my first story, but it's still in the works. Spoilers up to around chapter 190 of the manga, though I think the timeline gets blurred a bit. Oh, and the last chapters of "Wings of an Angel" are coming. I've just hit some rough spots with school and it's taking a lot longer than I had ever hoped. Sorry for that. Enjoy and review!

Oh and fair warning: this piece is somewhat stream-of-conciousness so the tenses probably seem weird. It was a bit of an experiment for me and I have mixed feelings about the results.

He slipped on a patch of black ice and fell back, one side striking the frozen concrete sidewalk while the other landed in a slushy snow bank. He immediately tried to get back up (he was going to be late after all) and regretted it, the dizziness knocking him right back down again. He settled for watching the snowflakes swirl above him as he tried to catch his breath.

Ichigo knew that it would be quite some time before anyone found him. Rukia has insisted on leaving early that day, saying that one of the girls had come across a shop with rare Chappy the Rabbit merchandise and that she wanted to window-shop before school started. This shouldn't have caused him to get a late start, but without Rukia hopping out his window, his timing had been thrown off. When he had finally realized this fact, he had barely ten minutes to get to school.

Taking a shortcut through the park normally shaved about three minutes off the mad dash, but the ice had been camouflaged under a mix of snow and fall leaves that hadn't quite crumbled to nothing yet. It also didn't help that this particular shortcut took him through a part of the park that barely anyone went to, and that it was the middle of winter, leaving the park the grounds of the brave and heavily outfitted (and the dumb with nothing but their school sweaters).

Raising his head again was not the smartest idea he had had in the last few minutes, but he tried it anyways, lying back down quickly. The slush was starting to soak into his uniform, rendering his right side quickly numb. The concrete against his left side wasn't much better in terms of temperature, but it wasn't too wet, and Ichigo was fast learning to appreciate that fact as shivers began to race down and over his spine. He knows enough from his father's clinic that he is able to hazily decide that he has a concussion.

The orange-haired boy turned his head to the sky, again watching the lazy dance the snowflakes made in the air before they settled against him and his surroundings. He wasn't poetic by nature (even if he did greatly admire what Shakespeare did with the art-form) but he was tempted to compose a poem there on the spot. It would involve the snow that was currently chilling him to the bone in a rather rapid fashion. It would involve Rukia of course; snow and ice were her elements. He tried to come up with a few lines, but the couplets kept coming uncoupled when he tried to remember what he had just thought.

Snow had graced his dreams for weeks after Rukia had pushed her zanpaktou into the center of his being and lent him her power. It had been…peaceful. For the first time since his mother had died his dreams hadn't been plagued by the pounding of rain that threatened to build up and drown him. The snow had fallen silent and comforting in those weeks. He imagined it as if he were wrapped in a large snowy blanket, protected from the nightmares that had festered inside of his soul for years. And the smell that belonged to that place, the one that lulled him to sleep with its gentleness, was the one that belonged to Rukia. He wondered if she knew that.

Moving once again, Ichigo tried to pull himself into a sitting position. He achieved his goal and lost it just as quickly as his back gently laid him out again. The snow in his dreams had stopped after Byakuya had stabbed him and left him to die bleeding against a sidewalk not much different than this one. He wondered if Rukia dreamt of snow after that, because the peace in his dreams had disappeared. Rain haunted him in his sleep; along with the newfound whisper that spoke of power in a voice so low he couldn't understand it.

And then he had fought Byakuya again and the murmur in the back of his mind had started speaking, threatening him with his destruction if he should ever lose his control. Ichigo feels the icy substance begin to collect in his hair, a makeshift symbol of his power.

He is a king, but one who cannot bear the weight of his crown for much longer.

The snow feels like himself and his other. The concrete that he lays on is a gray so soaked that it has turned black with the ice; and the snow that he lays on his white. His body is neatly split in half by the two sensations and colors. Ichigo doesn't know if the color gray has ever existed for either of them. The Hollow is white and black while he is black and white. He understands that the black means the death represented by the shinigami, but he doesn't like that the white would have to mean the opposite. The Hollow brings too much destruction to represent life. He doesn't like the comparison of good and evil when it comes to those colors anymore either.

He thinks of metaphors and comparisons and similes and how he could phrase his situation in so many eloquent meaningful ways. But it's not worth the words. The Hollow will erase him if given half the chance. Power, the power he's obtained in order to protect, will be wrested from his grasp and used to destroy everything he's ever held dear. And he will be banished inside his soul and given the role of the king's ride.

Mirrors terrify him these days. The fear that one day he will be looking into one and black eyes and bleached skin will be looking back at him. He's thrown out every white shirt he owns save for his school uniform. He is genuinely afraid of what's inside of him and he thinks that the knock to his head must have really addled his brains for him to be admitting that to himself.

Wondering how long he's been laying here distracts him for a while. Trying to guess by how numb his body feels he comes up with a few hours. Judging by the snow that's accumulated on top of him, the guess feels accurate. Managing to move his wrist close to his face he checks the time on his watch and proves himself right.

Rukia will come looking for him eventually. His thoughts drift back to pretty words that describe her. "White" flits past his mind and it scares him. She wore white to her execution. And the color now reminds him too much of his fear. Isn't snow just really frozen rain? The strangeness of it all throws his thoughts even more out of joint, because the pure white snow belongs to her. She is beautiful when she dances in the snow. Sluggishly (the cold is really starting to get to him now) his brain tries to wrap around that thought. The words "Rukia" and "beautiful" stick out and he hums to himself as he thinks just how right the two words sound together.

Wanting to protect her has become his only goal in life. His namesake demands it and he has already failed to live up to it once. His mother's blood occasionally stains his hands, running cold as a summer rainfall pours through his fingers. He has sworn not to fail again.

He has stopped shivering and vaguely thinks that's a bad sign. Death doesn't frighten him now that the mystery of it has been solved, but having to spend eternity running away from Kenpachi Zaraki and his "rematches" does make him re-think the whole freezing to death thing. Frostbite is the first thing that comes to his head when he realizes that he can't wiggle his toes. His reiatsu should be keeping him warm (he certainly has enough of it) but it isn't and he wonders if he's ever going to be warm again.

Thoughts side-tracking to Rukia again, he feels a bit of warmth bloom in his chest and doesn't mind the strange feeling that he is floating away. Briefly he hears the whispering in the bottom of his soul grow desperate (something about it being troublesome for him to die) but he ignores the voice and amazingly it goes away.

Grounding his imagination in reality is a bit harder than normal, but Ichigo starts sorting out the facts. Love is such an ephemeral concept (especially when's he only fifteen) and trying to determine if that is really what is between Rukia and him seems harder than having to face the whole of Soul Society three times over. He likes to believe that the bond they share is something more than just a simple partnership. After all, saving one another from death a few times on either side had to have some sort of bond to it. Curious as to whether love is something beyond that will, he examines his memories further. The simple touches, the stupid fights, the rare smiles. And now that he thinks about it, Ichigo decides that he really, honestly lov…

"Ichigo!" Rukia slides to her knees beside him, fingers already dancing with healing energy as he fails to respond. "You idiot. Making me worry for you. You didn't show up to school and the others kept wondering where you were and I thought a Hollow had shown up and it hadn't been detected and…"

She's babbling. Ichigo thought detachedly, pondering what could make the great Rukia Kuchiki lose her cool like that. She's wearing the coat he bought her, the empress blue one with the furry hood. Her Chappy scarf brushes over his face as she leans over him and he is grateful that the feeling is starting to come back into his appendages. She's still berating him even as she's healing him, but he's not really paying attention to her words so much as he is to her. His head abruptly stops hurting, the concussion erased, and he lifts it, his lips connecting with her cheek. He's never really thought of himself as lovesick or romantic, but he feels a measure of satisfaction as a blush that has nothing to do with the cold appears on Rukia's face.

She punches him squarely in the face after overcoming her shock, but as she helps him to his feet and they start back towards his house, he can't help but pondering his earlier thoughts. Love is a hard path, and one that two people must take together. Maybe he's afraid of himself, afraid of what he could do to her if he lost control. But it's her decision as well.


"Shut up idiot." She's not looking at him, but he swears he see the faintest hint of a smile tugging at her lips. Maybe she's thinking the same thing.

The path will run ahead before them, strewn with pain and obstacles that may be too large to overcome. He leans against her a little more heavily and decides he doesn't really mind. Wet, exhausted, and being supported by a girl that he wants to define as the girl he loves, Ichigo manages a smile as the white of the snow reminds him of everything he loves about her.

He's not poetic, but he likes to think that for once, instead of dreaming of snow or rain, he'll dream of her.

Henrika- Okay, so I'm a sap at heart. But they make a cute pair.