He was there.
He had always been there though, hadn't he? Just lying in wait for the right moment to strike him, and he had found it. Now it was like his soul was open for him to do with as he pleased.
The hollow seemed to be growing day by day, no matter what he did to suppress it; it would only come back stronger than before. An omnipresent force constantly looming over him. Always waiting for its chance to eat away at him just a bit more.
Slowly it was strangling his consciousness, breaking his will, and devouring his soul. It would only be a matter of time before it gained complete control and killed him all together, what use was a worthless person like him anyway. At this point, Ichigo didn't think his life amounted to much.
What had he done that would have made his life worth anything? All he had done was stood by while those around him had been injured because he was weak. None of it meant anything. There had been nothing he could do to protect any of them. He hadn't been able to protect anyone. It was as if nothing at all had changed. Powerless as ever he had allowed those around him to become the victims of his foolishness. How pathetic had he become?
His resolve had become nothing more than empty words.
'What's wrong Ichigo?' a voice hissed mockingly in his ears, 'having a bad day?'
"Shut up," Ichigo replied to the emptiness as he continued to stare at the ceiling above him, trying to push the voice away.
'Why are you snapping at me,' the voice came again, a sinister tone lining each word.
"Shut the hell up," Ichigo snapped angrily.
'I know why you're so mad,' it whispered, 'it's because you couldn't save them.'
"I told you to shut up!" Ichigo yelled as he sat up and threw his pillow with such force sent out a reverberating crash as it hit his bedroom wall, trying to hit the owner of the invisible voice.
'You want me to stop because you know that I'm right, isn't that it?'
Ichigo covered his ears with his hands, pressing them tightly to his head in futile attempts to block out the words. Those damn words that were the truth.
'That's it. You are afraid of the truth. You're afraid of the truth that you can't protect them without my help. If you know this why don't you allow me to fight? Why don't you let me protect them?'
"You wouldn't protect them…"
'I have more strength then you Ichigo, I can do much more than you can. I can protect them but you are too afraid to let me do anything for them.'
"I'll protect them; I don't need you to do that!"
But, even Ichigo couldn't convince himself of this. He hadn't protected them; he hadn't been able to do anything to protect them. In the end, he was as useless as he had always been.
'Even I can tell you don't mean that Ichigo, I know that you need me to protect them. But you're afraid of my power. So, you'd rather let them all die, then to allow me to protect them?'
"I don't need you; you aren't the one in control of my body."
'Maybe we should change that arrangement?'
"I won't let you control me!"
'I wonder how she'll die.'
Ichigo's body went ridged as these words rang out in his ears.
'There are so many things that could happen to her, I just wonder which. Maybe a hollow, maybe an Arrancar, maybe it will just be a complete accident, anyway it goes you won't be able to protect her and she'll die right in front of you. Wouldn't that be something?'
"I won't let her die…"
'Don't fool yourself Ichigo.'
"I won't let her die…"
'You can say it again and again but it won't make it true. Maybe I'll just take over your body and kill her myself, wouldn't that be just perfect?'
"I won't let her die…"
'How long do you intend on believing that? It will never be true.'
"I won't let her die!"
Like that the voice disappeared and Ichigo fell back on his bed, finding himself short of breath as he stared up at the ceiling.
"Everyday," he thought to himself, "everyday he gets stronger and stronger."
He silently cursed himself. It had become stronger since his fight against Byakuya Kuchiki and the Bountu. Even when he wasn't fighting he was there, breaking down his soul bit by bit.
It had become a sickening shadow that haunted his thoughts and dreams, a looming figure that had made itself quiet clearly known. He didn't want to admit it, to himself or anyone, but he was afraid. Afraid that the words it spoke would become truth, that he would let them down, that he would let her die.
No, he couldn't accept that. Thoughts like this weren't a luxury he could afford right now. It didn't matter, regardless of what happened, regardless of his enemy he would win. He had to win. Losing once, to anyone, could mean losing everything that he clung so dearly to.
Distancing himself from them was the best way he could find. Making them hate him, detest him; want him out of their lives. That way, none of them could be dragged any further into his problems. If any of them got hurt because of him, he would never be able to forgive himself.
Even with this, doubts still tugged at the back of his mind, making their presence known.
Would he really be able to keep his promise? He had saved her once, but what about the next time? Would he even be able to do anything?
Doubt was something that he had found plagued him more and more with the hollow's rising power within him. Turning on his side, his back facing the door he closed his eyes, praying for a period of rest, some time to sort everything out.
By some miracle his tired mind found sleep. The last image he saw as he drifted to sleep, was her being devoured by the darkness sleeping deep within his heart.
God it's been forever since I've posted anything. Life has been horribly busy with all the crap I've got going on but I'm doing my best to keep writing. Our English teacher kicks ass this year so I should be able to write a ton. Anyway, comment, email me, I don't care, but let me know what you think. ; )