Wow, I have no idea where this came from. I just opened OpenOffice on autopilot today and started typing. This is what came out. Weird.

This is the first thing I've written in a long time, so I'm rusty beyond reason. I'm not sure if I like this or not, but hopefully you do. It's not so much a story as it is a letter. It may turn into a story: I can definitely see where I've left room for another chapter or seven. Weirdly enough as I was typing I was feeling the emotional responses I thought Rukia would have to each of these lines, imagining what the 'reality' was to what Ichigo thinks has happened. Well, maybe you'll understand once you've read it.

Total words before authors notes: 1884. Officially (I think) the shortest thing I've ever written.

-Zeta


When I was younger the words just flowed from me like water from a mountain glacier, now it seems that glacier has finally met a damn. What could I possibly say to make you understand who I am now?

When I was younger I could make the words flow forth and change hearts and minds, now all I can change is my clothing for the day. Soon even that will be beyond my capabilities. But there's something I need to say, one last thing I need to do, before I leave this world forever. So let me have the strength to speak my heart. Remove my fear and grant me this last peace before eternity swallows me whole. I only have a few hours left.

My name is Ichigo Kurosaki, my age is sixty nine and the date is October 31st. Two years ago when I was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer I retired from the company of my children to find a quiet place to die. I found it five thousand miles away in the land of America, and this letter is being written at a small shack on that lands' eastern coast.

It wasn't that I did not want to be among my family and friends at the end of my life. No, quite the contrary, I've regretted the choice I made more than once since I left. I chose to leave in order to spare my descendants the pain of watching my slow decline and ultimate death. No... perhaps not. Maybe I've just always been bad at saying goodbye. Misuki, my eldest daughter, would be furious with me if she knew what I'm doing now. I can almost see her gentle brown eyes looking back at me accusingly. I hope she'll forgive me someday, this had to be done.

I guess I should get to the point, shouldn't I? I'm sorry, I'm rambling. That was never my way. I know you're there, you know. Reading over my shoulder, scoffing at my out of character actions. I can't sense you anymore but I know you're there. It's been thirty five years, Rukia, and I'm sure you haven't changed a bit. Shocked? Ha! I've still got it I guess.

Thirty five years... What did we stop talking for again? I can't remember. I'm so sorry, but I can't remember anymore. There are lots of things I can't remember anymore, though. Some days I can't remember who I am, or where I've come from. Some days I can't recall my wife's name, my children's faces, my dad or sisters, Karakura or even Japan. All I can remember on those days is you. I don't know why the tumor leaves me with my memories of you when I have nothing else, but they're what I cling too when I have nothing else. I hope that doesn't make you ashamed of me.

I remember we didn't part on good terms. I remember it had something to do with my wife at the time, something had happened or... Maybe I was that something had changed between the two of us, my wife and I, that you weren't happy about. I can't remember. It's so strange, trying to apologize for something you can't even remember doing.

Heh, what's more vivid is little Shinji's reaction to the news that his aunt Rukia wouldn't be around anymore. He threw a tantrum so bad I was fixing his room for three months afterwards. He was grounded of course, but I can still hear his voice ringing in my ears telling me "How could you! Are you that STUPID?" My wife wasn't happy with him for that, neither was I. But Orihime seemed sad, whereas I was angry. I almost didn't figure out why his outburst effected her so. She told me she was fine of course, you know how she is about seeming weak in front of the people she loves. I walked in on her once shortly after crying, and before she noticed me I could swear I had caught her muttering "Is it so obvious?"

At the time I didn't even pay it much mind. I think I must have thought she was worried about looking jealous, or something similarly stupid of me. I was a real idiot for most of my life, wasn't I? I can almost hear you shouting "YES!" right now. I'm suddenly glad I can't see or hear you anymore...

No, I'm not. I miss you. I've missed you since before we parted ways all those years ago. I wish you had stayed with us all those times we offered. Or even once when we offered. It was nice having you around. Shinji loves you, you know. I'm willing to bet that you still see him every once in a while for good measure too. Then again I'm sure his namesake has shown up and given him swordsmanship lessons against my express orders. Would you believe I once caught the two of them paging through a hentai magazine? I've never seen my old mentor run that fast in my life. My son, either. I regretted teaching him shunpo about then, heh.

I'm rambling again, aren't I? Gosh, where have the years gone. I sound my age now, don't I?

I wont be joining you in Soul Society, Rukia. I know that goes against the plan. I know I need a soul burial, and I'll accept one. Once I've done that though I'm coming on back to earth and making my life over again. Or, at least I'm going to watch over my children, and theirs, until my life in spirit is gone by.

I've already talked this over with the kids and convinced them it's alright. All except for Misuki I should say. They know I wont be doing anything creepy like watching them in the shower or interfering with who they eventually marry. Misuki told me I was ruining my afterlife, but she wouldn't tell me why she thought so. She just kept telling me I should go and enjoy what life was left to me, then die and enjoy that too. Shinji wasn't overtly thrilled either, come to think of it. "Are you that stupid?" He asked me. Boy must think I'm absolutely retarded, I swear.

I guess you're wanting an explanation. My apology must make sense now, even if I can't remember exactly what I'm apologizing for. I guess it's always felt like we had time before. I always figured I could just figure it out in Soul Society but now that I'm not staying I guess things are different; all that time I thought I had is gone now. There wasn't any rush before, now I feel like I've only got a few hours. Which I guess is true.

When Orihime and I parted ways a few years after you and I did it ripped a hole in me that I've never fully managed to repair. She's always been a wonderful mother to the children, and I can't say she's ever been unkind to me either. Ishida.. Uruyu, rather, has been kind enough to not rub it in my face as well. She's been with him since she left me, of course. The kids had always viewed him as a sort of second father and when she married him that became a reality. Me, I stayed unmarried of course. I've always been more of a one woman man. I just never quite realized which woman until it was too late.

I heard you married Renji, congratulations. I'm happy that you're happy, between stick-in-my-ass Byakuya and everything that happened during the wars you definitely deserve it. I know my congratulations comes about thirty two years late, but I hope you can accept it anyways. I wish you every happiness in the world. And if you're wondering who's ass to kick, talk to Urahara. Our resident shady salesman decided to invite me to the wedding. I wasn't sure you'd have wanted me there so I stayed away, but I'm sure it went well.

You remember the wars? I do. Sort of, I guess. The details are sometimes fuzzy, but I can remember the way I felt during the battles. Powerful. Alive. Desperate, sometimes. More than anything I remember the desperation I felt when I couldn't save someone. The fight, the killer instinct, it stayed with me long after the wars themselves finally ended. I'd go out prowling the night sometimes just hoping I'd get caught up in a bank robbery or a shooting just so I could feel alive one more time. I'd go out seeking a rush, especially after I heard about you and Renji. When 'Hime left me my behavior just progressed. It got to the point where I would put the kids to bed and go out prowling the streets. I'd get into a fight with a band of muggers, threatened at knife or gunpoint, and I'd hope that I'd feel that rush that made me feel alive again. Then one night I wound up in intensive care.

I woke up almost two weeks later with Masaki (my daughter, not Mom) by my bedside. Orihime apparently wasn't thrilled with me. When we spoke she gave me two options: I could relinquish full custody of the kids over to her and have minimal visitation rights or I could get into therapy. I obviously chose to go to the shrink.

It took me almost three years of therapy before my thrill seeking stopped. The kids were great and 'Hime, even though she hated what I was doing to myself, was supportive. Ishida had to bail my ass out of jail so many times I'm surprised he didn't have a trust fund dedicated to it. During the shrink visits I got to the roots of my problems. Which, apparently, are Rukia Kuchiki.

Hey, I'm not blaming you for my mess. Not at all, and don't you dare think it's your fault. What I mean, I guess, is that it's my fault and it's about hating myself over you. Err, wait, that's not right... what I... I don't know how to say this, Rukia...

I'm in love with you. I have been since I was fifteen, I think. I don't want to mess anything up for you in Soul Society, and my family still needs me here. So I'm going to stay. I can still be of some use to this world; Soul Society doesn't need me. You don't need me. So I'm going to stay in this world because it's better for both of us. You deserve the happiness of a loving marriage to a good man and, however stupid Renji is, he is a good man. I wont stick around to be a jealous hag for that.

But I felt like I should tell you. You deserve to know. I married the wrong woman when I married Orihime. So my boy Shinji was right, I really am that stupid, haha.

Thank you for the privilege of knowing you, Rukia. I think I'm done now. If you're going to be the one doing my soul burial then I'll see you in a few hours, at least now you're forewarned. I'm going to go for a walk with Shakespeare and enjoy my last sunset.

-Ichigo