DISCLAIMER: again and again, I still don't own bleach
Here now is the last chapter for ENTRUSTING.
To everyone who reviewed the fourth chap, thank you guys very much! I was afraid that with the time lapse in between chapters 3 and 4, people would not be able to recognize my story or that they have forgotten about it. I was very, very glad to see that you guys haven't forgotten this story.
To all of you who have read, reviewed, added this story to their faves and alerts, this is all for you guys.
May this chapter invoke in you the same feelings it took from me while writing this chapter.
Ichigo stood silently beside Rukia. Since the ceremony and until now, Rukia kept her silence, her head bowed, eyes covered by the black laced cap she wore in her head. She had stood composed in front of all the people who came to pay their respects. She said all the right words, did all the right things that is expected of her. She did everything like clockwork, as if she was just hosting a public event. Ichigo could even hear some whispers behind them, about how unemotional and cold Rukia was, just like Byakuya. Ichigo's hands balled into fists, They may see how calm and composed she is outside, but only he can feel the pain that Rukia is going through right now. Only he saw the slight tremors that shook her entire frame, how she fought back the tears that was threatening to fall, how much it cost her to acknowledge each and every person who attended. And how much she was hurting inside.
Up to now, Ichigo still doesn't know exactly what had transpired between the two siblings when they went to Byakuya's office four months ago. He had discreetly walked out and waited outside the office doors when he felt that Byakuya would have wanted some privacy with his sister. All he knows as that Rukia came out there worried and sure that something was wrong with her brother. At that time Ichigo would have loved to tell her the truth, but his promise to Byakuya kept him from coming clean. It was between the two of them and all Ichigo could do was to be there to help and support Rukia.
And just as Ichigo has expected, Rukia did not take the news lightly. In fact, she denied the whole thing. Ichigo almost smiled as he remembered how Rukia battered down the defenses of the world renowned oncologist. She was all in her Kuchiki power, eyes and mouth set, as she in her soft but steely voice made the doctor almost eat his own words.
It was during the last two weeks of Byakuya's life that Rukia found out the truth about her brother's condition. Ichigo believed that Byakuya would have preferred to keep his illness a secret from Rukia till the very end, had it not been for Rukia's surprise visit to their ancestral home, where she found him alone, in bed, writhing from pain.
She was frantic when she found out the truth. Ichigo knew because she called him and begged him to come. Rukia, with all her Kuchiki pride, rarely begs, so Ichigo knew how distraught Rukia had been that afternoon.
Rukia was adamant in finding another doctor, who could actually save her brother. She had pleaded and begged Byakuya to try out different alternative medicines and methods. But in the end, it was Byakuya who had won the argument.
And during the ensuing days that followed, Rukia never left her brother's side. She had taken care of him and nursed his brother till the very end.
Ichigo stood beside Rukia as the guests started to leave. Watched her shake hands and said thanks to the different heads of clans and business men who had the experience of working with Byakuya. Some were old and said their condolences in a heartfelt way. Others, men, who just wanted a piece of the action and who had the hidden agenda of furthering their business ties with the younger Kuchuki heir. Some just to whisper behind them at how some men could really get what they deserved. Ichigo knew that Rukia could sense the falseness on peoples voices, and can hear some of the words spoken in whispers behind them. But she remained calm and collected. If Byakuya could see her now, he would be proud at how cool, controlled and gracious Rukia had been acting.
But that is what it all was, an act. An act she had started to play the minute she walked out of the door early this morning. She had promised that she would not besmirch the Kuchiki name. For the sake of her brother, even if the mask that she had put on was as heavy as lead, she would endure it.
She took a deep breath. She had known this would happen. She knew. Yet knowing does not stop the pain and the agony that she felt in every breath that she took. Her heart felt laden with sorrow, her chest heavy with grief. For weeks, she had tried to prepare herself. But the ache is still there gnawing at her.
She knew that she was hanging onto a very thin line of self control. But she still kept on. She smiled when she has to, acknowledged people when she had to, moved when she had to but most of the time she had kept to herself. She wished that people could just leave. Leave her in her time of mourning. But they kept hovering around her like bees. She almost snapped and would have done bodily damage to whomever she heard was whispering unsavory words about her brother. But Ichigo had kept her still.
Ichigo, she knew she wouldn't be able to do all this if he wasn't there beside her. He had been her source of strength and courage. She needn't even talk, he already knew. She saw Ichigo glare at the young man behind them and moved closer to her and took her hand in his. She took his hand and held on to it tightly, as if it was her lifeline.
Please leave us, she almost said. She could feel her control breaking any minute now. She needs them to leave. Ichigo put another arm around her shoulders and gave it a squeeze. He was lending her his strength. And she was grateful for it. She leaned her head towards his shoulder accepting his help. And with another painful deep breath, she once again started to act like the gracious hostess, and grieving sister that she is.
One by one the guests left. One by one Rukia could feel her nerves snapping. She looked at the fresh uneven toiled earth. Her brother was under there. Her brother, he was buried deep under all that soil. Where she would never see him or talk to him again.
Her brother was gone.
And the realization of it hit her once again with a force so strong, heavy and oppressive that she dropped down on her knees. The tears that she had held for so long now flowed freely down her cheeks. "nii sama" she said as she clawed at the soil, digging, trying to reach for her brother.
"Rukia, shhh, don't, please Rukia" Ichigo had embraced Rukia trapping her arms, and leaned her down to him. Ichigo felt the sobs that wretched out from Rukia. Her whole body was trembling, heaving with every breath that she took.
"shhhh…" he said once again as he held her still. This was the first time that he saw Rukia shed tears since Byakuya heaved his last breath. Even at that time Rukia didn't cry. Rukia just kissed Byakuya's hand and embraced him one last time. And with a kiss on Byakuaya's cheek, she stood, arranged the pillows and the blankets around her dear brother and called the doctor. Not once had she cried. Not when the doctor had pronounced the time of death. Not when she had called the clan elders and informed them of his death, not when she talked to the priest, the florists, the funeral parlor people. Not even when she chose the casket in which Byakuya would be laid to rest.
But now, it's as if the dam broke and Rukia just let it all flow out.
"Why?" she asked again and again, "Why? Why?"
"Rukia, please don't" Ichigo couldn't anything else but to hold her closer, his own eyes misting, feeling the pain that Rukia is in. Each sob felt like stabs of daggers in his chest. If he could remove all the hurt and suffering that she is feeling, and carried it for her, he would have done so. If he could do anything to stop her from hurting, he'd do it, a hundred times over just so she wouldn't feel like this ever again.
Ichigo didn't know how long they had stayed in that position. And he didn't care anyways. All that he was aware about was Rukia. She was quieting down a bit, but still he held her. Her whole body was still trembling. Ichigo knew that Rukia was fighting for some semblance control.
"I…I don't…know… if I…if I… could… ever get over this" she whispered brokenly. "I was….Ichigo he told me…nii-sama told me, that…" Oh god, the tears that she thought had stopped were spilling down her cheeks again "that I…I was…his pr-pride" sobs once again tore out from her. This time, Rukia didn't fight it anymore. She was hurting. Every bone and part of her body felt bruised and battered. As if her heart and lungs were slowly being ripped off her. "After…after….e-evry-thing…he…nii-sama, nii-sama told me…th-that" She held on to Ichigo, she didn't know if she could go through this, she needed his strength, his presence, his warmth. "Why Ichigo? Why…why'd he have to-to le-leave me? He didn't deserve to die! He didn't deserve to suffer like that" It was getting harder and harder for her to breathe. Each word she uttered felt like it was being taken forcefully out of her throat. "I prayed and prayed. I prayed…I promised to be good…I promised to follow his every command…but he didn't…he didn't get better. Why? Why did this happen?"
Ichigo knew that she had to do this. She was struggling in his embrace, clawing at his chest, but all he could do was hold her. Tears were now falling down his cheeks. He couldn't help it. He was hurting as much, because she was hurting. He kissed the top of her head and soothingly ran his hand at her back. There was nothing more painful than to see someone you love hurting like this.
"He was…he…was…all, all that I…I had l-l-left of…my…my family" Rukia doesn't know how much of this she could endure, but she couldn't stop herself. "He said…oh God…he said…with his last…last breath…that he loves me" She was now pulling at his shirt, banging her fist in his chest. "But he didn't…he didn't…he couldn't hear me…say it in return…because…because…he was…he was…a-al-ready g-g-gone!"
Her brother was gone
The undeniable truth ran repeatedly in her brain. No other amount of crying, and no money in the world could ever bring him back. Her only brother was gone. She now just feels numb, spent. "Ichigo..." She didn't know how long she cried in his arms. The tears were still there, threatening to fall, but she held them at bay. "could you just …just hold me a little longer?" She just felt so weak and powerless.
Ichigo just held her tightly as he positioned her in his lap, her head to be cradled in his shoulder, while her back was supported by his arms.
Ichigo need not say anything, she understood. He was lending her his strength. She still doesn't know how to face tomorrow. All she wanted to do was turn back time and be with her brother again. Or to crawl into her own self, her solitude and be left alone.
'yo-you're my p-pride, Ru-Rukia, always h-have b-been, a-always will b-be' One of the last words her brother has ever spoken to her, amidst all the pain that he was feeling.
She was his pride. As long as she survives, her brother's pride would always linger on. Her eyes were already closing on it's own. She was tired, physically, mentally emotionally. But she vowed, with the last vestiges of consciousness, she vowed to be the best she can be so that her brother's pride would never be tarnished.
Ichigo felt her breathing even out. For the first time, he became conscious of his surroundings. Night has already fallen. The cold evening air was already blowing and crickets could now be heard chirping amongst the trees. He gently picked Rukia up. He needed to get her to bed. She was exhausted, he knew, but he still has something to do
Standing by Byakuya's grave, "I will take care of her" he said softly "I promise" I will do everything in my power to protect her and keep her safe, he added silently. "Thank you, thank you for entrusting her to me. She will always be the most important person in my life" as she was yours "and I will treasure her for the rest of our lives. I swear, I'll make her happy." With a last bow to the man that he couldn't help but admire, he made his way to his car, carrying the now sleeping Rukia in his arms.
Oh dear, I need a tissue. I don't know if this chapter moved you to tears, but I was honestly crying while I was writing this. My heart felt as laden as Rukia's, and I felt as helpless as Ichigo. I had to stop several times while typing because the tears was blurring my vision.
I don't know if it's just me, but I couldn't stop the tears while writing this.
So, what do you guys think?
To all Byakuya fans, please don't hate me. I love Byakuya as much as you probably do, that is why I could never paint him as a bad guy. Not in this fic, nor in any of my other stories. But I do hope that you have liked the Byakuya that I have written here. Please forgive me for killing him in this story, gomen.
Anyway, I have this idea in my head for the epilogue. I don't now if I should write it still. I mean, I kinda felt like this was the apt ending for entrusting. What do you guys think? Should I go along with the epilogue? Or should I leave it as this? Please do tell me. If I get enough reviews and requests I might just write and post an epilogue.
So please…review. If you're as moved as I was, then review. If you hated what I did to byakuya, tell me with a review. If you think I should write an epilogue, then review and tell me. If you loved this story, please review. If you want to criticize it, then leave a review too.
Just drop a review please.