A Father's Ire
Summery: Ichigo and Rukia fight over his life, her death, and the logistics of a necrophilic relationship. Isshin says his part to the girl who might have been (and might yet still be) his daughter in law.
A/N: This was written because, though I love stories about Rukia and Ichigo fighting about things like this, I realized they all inevitably end with Ichigo's death (however belated it might be).
Their voices started out as quiet, harsh whispers, but despite the effort they exerted to keep them that way and avoid waking the rest of the household, they quickly rose in pitch.
"-his isn't right, Rukia! We can be together if we want to be! It won't be easy, but-"
Rukia cut Ichigo off, unwilling to listen to the circular argument repeat itself yet again. "It's not that simple and you know it! We've had this conversation before, Ichigo. We come from two different worlds, two different plains of existence! I'm dead. You're alive. And you're seventeen! You have your whole life ahead of you!"
"What does that have to do with anything?" The teen raged, "The most important part of life is finding who you want to be with and live that life next to! And I-"
"Stop it!" The deceptively young-looking girl shrieked, then curled in on herself. "I can't take this again right now." With that final phrase ringing through Ichigo's bedroom, she made her way out the door and closed it softly behind her, leaving Ichigo alone in the dark.
Rukia walked quietly down the stairs and through the dark house, trying not to wake the rest of the Kurosaki family. It was probably a moot point by now, she realized guiltily, after the long and angry words she and Ichigo had just exchanged.
At the thought of the fight she sighed and leaned back against the kitchen wall where she had ended up, her eyes scrunched tightly to keep back the tears burning the backs of her eyes.
They were always fighting about it now; and not in the light-hearted brawls they'd engaged in in the past. Now it was painful because she wanted to stay with him, and he very obviously wanted to stay with her, but that wasn't the way things worked. And he was so damn young and didn't get it. Maybe… Maybe it would be best if she left for a while. Just until Ichigo could understand…
The soft sound of porcelain meeting wood broke through her thoughts, and she quickly scanned the room for the source of the sound.
There, sitting at the kitchen table in the dark, sat Kurosaki Isshin, sipping calmly at a sake cup, the decanter on the table at his elbow.
Thankful for the darkness and hopeful she had gone unnoticed, she inched back towards the door but froze when he spoke, though he seemed to be speaking to himself, or maybe to the ghost of someone dearly loved.
"It's a father's prerogative to protect his children in any way he can, you know?" He chuckled mirthlessly. "Too bad it's so damn hard to guard against heartbreak." He tipped the small cup to his mouth and took a long swallow of the rice wine inside.
Rukia wondered uncomfortably how long the man had been sitting in the dark like this, drinking by himself. Probably since the beginning of the fight. And…something seemed off about him, something less obvious than just his uncharacteristically dark mood. She realized with a jolt of guilt that she was the cause of this Kurosaki's upset as well.
Feeling like she had intruded on something private, she started backing towards the door again, planning on leaving the house all together. But as soon as she moved his voice called out again, this time undoubtedly aimed at her.
"I'm going to give you some advice, Rukia, because I like you," Isshin spoke slowly, hand tightly gripping the sake cup he held to his lips, "then again, maybe I'm just vindictive. But whatever the motivation, I'm about to tell you something important, so pay attention."
He turned away from her then, eyes staring intently into the small bowl cupped in his palm and the clear liquid within. "If you're set on breaking my son's heart, there's no way I can stop you."
He turned again and met her eyes, his gaze catching the dim light and appearing sharp as glass and just as hard. "But I'm telling you now, if you're going to break my son's heart… don't you dare blame it on the circumstances. Don't look back on this moment years into the future with comforting thoughts like 'It just wasn't fair. There was nothing I could do.' Not when he's willing to fight to his last breath to stay by your side."
Rukia stayed pressed against the wall, becoming more and more nervous as the seconds ticked slowly by. "Kurosaki-san, I'm sure I have no idea wha-"
Isshin threw his head back and finished the remaining sake in one large gulp; the liquid burning it's way down his throat. "You know, when I was with Masaki… Those short years were so horribly, heartbreakingly ephemeral: like a ghost, or a butterfly's wings." He barked out a short, humorless laugh.
"And yet, I wouldn't let anything in this world or the next rip that time from me. It was the brightest part of my whole damned existence. And even when she was gone, she left me three beautiful, beautiful, wonderful children." He smiled, small and sad. "Every man should be so lucky."
"Kurosaki-san, I-I don't know what you're talking about," she tried, unsure in the presence of this strange man she was sure she had never met before.
"It's simple, Kuchiki. My son is willing to fight for you, but you aren't willing to fight for him." His eyes turned hard again, "So maybe it really is best if you leave. We don't need a person like that in this family."
He carefully poured himself another cup of rice wine, focusing entirely on the task and ignoring the petite shinigami where she stood huddled against the far wall.
"This part I am going to say because I'm vindictive. But also because I like you." A small sip. "Not everything can be worth fighting for. If to you my son isn't one of those things, then that's that. But if he is, remember that there is always something you can do. Whether or not you're willing to do it is something else entirely.
"Either way… don't tell yourself there was nothing you could have done differently. Don't tell yourself you had no choice. Saying those things is a choice. So if you're going to break Ichigo's heart like this, then don't tell yourself those things because they are excuses for your own cowardice, and you know it."
He finished this cup slowly, savoring the taste, and then stood. "At least that way, you'll still be able to look at yourself in the mirror."
The man made his way towards the kitchen door, passing in front of the shinigami girl as he went. He paused once he reached her, and she jumped when he spoke in his normal, upbeat voice, "Oh, and tell your brother hello for me, when you see him."
Rukia could only stare after the man as he retreated further into the house, wide, disbelieving eyes trained on his black and white clothed back and the slender sword at his side.
A/N: Thank you for reading. Please leave a quick review telling me what you thought.
P.S. For anyone who didn't get it: Isshin was in his shinigami form the whole time.