Title: Like Ice
Characters: Hitsugaya, OC
Disclaimer: Don't own nothing!
A/N: Originally written using Rukia in the earlier days of Bleach but that didn't go as plan. Time like takes when Hitsugaya's Advance Force is in Karakura Town. Chapters 196, I think. Of course reviews are loved!
Anton Akakievich wobbled through the busy streets of Karakura. His bones ached from arthritis, his vision faded long ago, and his movements had become sluggish and slow- a great contrast to his lively youth.
He was old now- so very old and tired. Where there was once a head of dark locks, now become covered with white snowy hair, flawless skin became covered in wrinkles and he more often found himself exhausted from the simplest of task.
Death approached him, he was sure of it, and it was only a matter of time before he would be taken away. But he did not mind. He had been alive for a very, very long time- long enough to see his grandchildren grown to have their own children and to be one of the few that remembered the old tradition that had seemed to be forgotten. He had done everything he had wanted to do and now all he could do was await that long sleep.
The sun shone dimly, clouds scattering across the blue sky, while a breeze ruffling his silver hair. He paused to fix the collar of his coat.
It was a rather cool autumn's day, a slight anticipation for the cold winter months to come. And though many people seemed rather anxious and cheerful for the coming of winter holidays, he could not share the same enthusiasm. Winter always seemed to bring a deep sorrow within him. His great-grandchildren often asked what was wrong with him, why he seemed so sad and distant when it began to snow. But Anton would chuckle telling them he didn't like his feet to get cold.
Of course, they would nod their little heads before running off to join the rest of their friends in a snowball fight.
After a few minutes, he finds his way into the park, his cane guiding him and his weaken feet dragging along. Tiredly, he collapses on a nearby bench, sighing in the process. A few children scrambled about the yellowish lawns chasing and laughing at one another until they spot another child in the distance and run the opposite direction. Beyond that the park remained quiet, except for the occasional footsteps of people walking along.
The wind blew, gently knocking his cane aside. The old man grumbled to himself just about ready to rise to pick up his cane when it suddenly appeared in front of him.
"You drop this."
Teal eyes peered up at him and he noticed a boy- rather young and small- hold out his cane. His face was round, very much so like a child's, though his hair was snowy white just like his own.
"Thank you," Anton smiled as he grasped his cane. "You're a very helpful young man."
He shrugged. "It's no problem."
The boy's cell phone beeped just then and he dug into his pocket before flipping it open and reading the text. He mumbled something under his breath, his fingers quickly moving to reply to the message. The phone beeped again and the boy looked at it angrily, minutes away from breaking it apart.
He paused though as he realized that the older man was looking at him rather curiously.
"Ah forgive me!" Anton croaked. "I don't know how... but you just remind me of a child I knew long ago."
"Really?" he responded though his thumps were quickly moving through the buttons, and he didn't seem at all interested.
"Yes, yes," the old man continued, holding his cane tightly. Old memories began to flood him and he couldn't help that sinking feeling from resurfacing. He could see in his mind's eyes, a younger version of himself, talking boisterous to a group of friends, and then an out caster briefly glancing to their direction before walking away.
"His mother," Anton began in a tired voice, "left him on the front steps of an orphanage... and he grew up somewhat distant and bitter... of the world. Many of the children were afraid of him but behind his back they whispered about him. They spoke of how indifferent he seemed towards his mother, how he never showed any form of compassion or kindness to any one, how he almost seemed to be void of emotions. Everyone whispered, 'He's cares about no one; he's just like ice.'"
The boy looked up from his phone- a questioning look in his eyes- and stared at the man, his features rapidly changing as though he just recalled something very important.
His tired his eyes moved over the pond, distinctly seeing his memories come alive. There stood a seven-year-old child, dressed in a heavy overcoat and muffler. He sat alone lumping snow together, trying to make little snowmen- the only sort of companionship he would show- before rubbing his mittens to provide some sort of heat to his numb fingers.
Anton blinked, seeing that child rise and fix his muffler over his face, looking at that little snowmen and adjusting it slightly. Hurriedly, the child ran off, bypassing dead trees and rocks.
"Now that I think about it," the old man began after a moment's pause, thinking out loud to himself. "He was probably very lonely without any family or friends."
"W-what happened to him?"
The voice stirred Anton from his trance, reminding him of the present. He turned his head to view that boy staring at him in anticipation- not exactly what one would expect when an old man goes off storytelling. Anton took a breath, feeling that sharp jolt of pain in his heart- this pain that never seemed to go away that seemed to grow even stronger now that he was so close to death.
"It was one winter... Some of the kids surrounded him when he was alone in the woods, laughing and making fun of him... but he never said anything. He would just watch them without showing any jolt of fear or anger... There was this one boy that constantly ridiculed him because his parents abandoned him... he said all sort of terrible things but that child never said or did anything- he would just stop what he was doing and walk away. 'You're just like ice!' he yelled out as he started walking away. "Everyone says 'you're just like ice!'"
Anton could see it. He could see that child's shoulder stiffen, as the unspoken words finally reached his ears. It had been a secret, whispered in the darkness but he wasn't stupid, he heard it. And as the words echoed loudly in the desolated woods, his body began to shake. In an instant he swung violently, colliding his fist and sending blood spewing all over the bully. The surrounding kids stared with wide eyes- no doubt shock at this sort of expression. "Get him!" one shouted, running after the smaller child. The bully hurried got to his feet, chasing after the boy. He caught with him in no time.
"I guess..." Anton continued coming back to the present once again. "That he probably got tired of being called that behind his back, so he hit him and he was chased and beaten. He was thrown and he landed half unconscious... The snow covered everything including the lake… but the ice was still thin… and he fell into the water," he coughed pulling out a handkerchief and holding it onto his mouth.
The boy stood waiting patiently for him to continue. "He yelled for help," Anton said still hearing that poor child crying out for help. His yells echoing in the wilderness, where no one but the dead trees heard. "But... everyone was too afraid... and they ran away."
Anton looked down at the boy. He was still, as though he had been frozen in time. His hands, his breathing- it all seemed to stop as his teal eyes focused on something that was far, far away.
"There was another blizzard that night," the boy said slowly, his voice so very small. "And it got cold... it got really cold... and he didn't have any family or friends."
"They found him..." the old man answered, a strong surge of emotion coursing through his body. "They found him two days later. But by that time his skin had turned blue and he was covered in ice. He died from hypothermia."
The boy continued to gaze off, thinking, thinking of something old and lost within his subconscious.
"Y-you're him, aren't you?" Anton whispered, looking at the boy- no he wasn't really a boy they were both the same age, they had grown in the same town, they had attended the same school. They were both each others peers, but one had grown into adulthood and the other had stayed into childhood.
There was a pause- a rather long pause and the world around suddenly seemed to fade away. The past seemed to come back to life, still and unchanging.
"Yes," he replied looking directly at him. His teal eyes soften as he gazed at his wrinkled face. "Yes, I am."
Anton was on the ground suddenly, his palms and forehead pressed onto the dirt ground. His old body screamed out in protest, but he ignored it, curving his back further into the ground. "I do not ask for your understanding or forgiveness," he cried. "I do not deserve any of that. I-I," and his voice croaked as he recalled his misdeeds. "...I was the one that pushed you. I was the one that killed you. I'm sorry... I am truly, truly sorry."
Tears began to roll down his wrinkled face, splattering on the floor. "I have repented after you died! I swore to myself that I would not mistreat another human being ever again. I have become compassionate to those around me to help ease this guilt, but I cannot help but think this constantly over and over again. I pray each and every night that an afterlife really does exist- not for me but for you! I pray that you have found a family," he sobbed pushing his head deeper into the ground. "I pray that you have found happiness and a place to belong...That you won't be like ice anymore!"
Two hands were gently on his shoulders and Anton looked up to see soft teal eyes not the coal eyes he remembered in his youth that were bitter at the whole world. "Anton, do not worry anymore. I have found my family and friends." He thought for a moment. "I am at peace."
Hitsugaya Toushirou smiled, genuinely smiled at his killer's face. "Live the rest of your life free of guilt. I am not like ice anymore."