AN: Hi! Finally an update huh?! thanks to those who reviewed and egged me on! Extra long chapter! Well be sure to review and tell me what you think! =)
Note: After Byakuya took Stark back to Heaven, his memories were erased so he doesn't remember Ichigo, but rest assured he will sometime soon. Our sweet Strawberry is too tempting to forget so easily =)
Ichigo snapped out of his deep sleep when freezing limbs wrapped around his waist and a thin body pressed against his back, trembling harshly. The teen immediately shuffled around and wrapped his arms around the freezing form in his bed. He had learned long ago not to turn on the lights. Shirosaki hated people seeing him cry. Ichigo ran his fingers over the soft messy silver hair and felt his twin jerk in fear.
"Make them go away, King…" the small hoarse whisper made Ichigo frown in concern. The nickname didn't bother him much anymore. Shirosaki had used it all his life. But he felt a certain sense of guilt for not being able to help. The nightmares continued to haunt the albino teen even after he had grown up. Shirosaki refused to talk about it, always changing the subject when his friends asked. But Ichigo could tell the horrid images in his nightmare had a huge impact on the boy. He sighed and pulled Shirosaki closer. The trembling had subsided and his twin was taking careful breaths. Ichigo stayed awake long after the breathing evened out and Shirosaki closed his pale eyes. His hand ran down the other twin's back trying to sooth him even in his sleep. The sharp protruding ridge of Shirosaki's spine under his skin and nightshirt bothered Ichigo and he fell asleep to the sounds of even breathing.
The weather was certainly acting strange, Ichigo thought as he trudged through the heavy snow on the ground. He was on his way to the new performance arts class alongside Renji. The redhead was shivering in his thin sweater and jogging to keep up without slipping. Ichigo fought the urge to laugh when he heard a loud yelp and Renji slid to a stop next to him, his bottom wet. The pineapple let out a string of curses as he tried to pick himself up again, long limbs flailing everywhere. Ichigo leaned against the door and laughed helplessly. Hisagi's bewildered face set him off again as the dark-haired boy walked over to him. The teens gave one another an amused smile as Ichigo decided to join Hisagi and gave Renji a hand.
"Hmm, we certainly have a bunch of lively students this year, Byakuya-san." An amused voice called out from somewhere close. Ichigo started. It sounded so familiar but he couldn't remember why. Then he turned to the source of the sound and amber eyes met winter grey and Ichigo let go of Renji's arm in shock. The redhead fell back into the snow with a dismayed cry as Ichigo let go.
For a moment, time seemed to freeze as the dark-haired man studied the teenager in front of him. The boy had a shocked expression on his handsome face. The amber eyes were staring at him with so many unspoken feelings it was so intense that Stark couldn't drag his eyes away. Then the redhead elbowed the boy and he tore his eyes away from Stark. The angel frowned in thought. It was somewhat familiar, the pounding of his heart in his chest. Somewhere inside his heart, he felt relief. Then Ichigo's ducked his head and he struggled to keep his face calm, a scowl on his face.
Stark frowned at the display of obvious dislike and stepped out of the warm room. His boots crunched on the snow as he walked over to the fallen redhead on the ground. He offered a gloved hand and pulled the boy up. Renji mumbled a small embarrassed 'thank you' and looked down at his pants in dismay.
"Great…now I look like I pissed on myself." The redhead groaned and covered his behind. A snort came from inside the classroom and they looked up. A slender man leaned casually against the rough wood by the door and gave them a surveying look. His hair was bound back carefully by a gold clasp in a high ponytail. His face was a creamy white and pink lips were pulled down into a frown. His dark maroon eyes landed on Renji.
"What a nice way to introduce yourself." He said calmly, silky voice a smooth purr. Renji ducked his head in embarrassment as the beautiful man looked down at his wrist watch. "Fifteen more minutes till class starts. If you want to get yourselves dried up before hand, I suggest you come inside." Then he turned around with a graceful swish of his dark hair and stepped inside, movements flowing like water. Renji shut his mouth with a snap.
"Damn that's one hot chick." He muttered. Stark coughed to hide his laugh.
"Actually, Pineapple-kun. That is a he." He said in amusement, watching the boy stare back in horror. Hisagi rolled his eyes at his friend and dragged him up the steps into the classroom. Ichigo hesitated before seeing the man next to him move toward the door. Stark turned and gave him a small smile as he offered his hand.
"Shall we go inside where it's warm?" he asked lightly and Ichigo ignored the hand as he took several steps to get away. His mind was still in shock and denial. It couldn't be. It just couldn't be. Stark wasn't here, standing next to him, not here trying to pretend to be his teacher. Why did the angel recognize him? He promised so many years ago. Then the feeling of hurt came from deep inside. Who was the beautiful man with him? Was he an angel as well? Did Stark leave because of him?
A million questions floated in his head as he stepped into the heated room. Stark followed at a slower pace behind him, his eyes following Ichigo's every movement. The boy stepped inside and hung his jacket on the rack next to the door and to Stark's dismay; he took a seat at the farthest corner of the room. The angel frowned at the boy's stubborn dislike for him and was about to go over and start a conversation again when Byakuya nudged him. Their eyes met and Stark sighed as he went to the front of the classroom, carefully turning his eyes away from the strangely familiar orange haired boy at the end of the room. His orders were only to observe and not interfere with anything. Besides, the Darks hadn't shown up yet.
The sound of the bell drew his attention back to the class and Stark watched as several students shuffled to their seats. He cleared his throat when everyone had settled down. Stark opened his mouth to speak when Byakuya beat him to it and clapped his hands together loudly.
"Silence!" the dark haired angel scowled as one of the students whistled at him. "This will be your new performance arts class and we will be instructing you through this fun and exciting new semester."
He paused and gave Stark a glance and the taller gangly man sighed as he shuffled over. "Ah…my name's Stark. And I'm gonna take you kids through the dance lesson even though I have no idea how to dan…" he trailed off as the classroom exploded in laughter and Stark risked a glance upward and saw the orange-haired boy had put up his wet boots on the desk and had his hood pulled down over his face. He felt his heart tighten as he watched the boy. Stark tore his eyes away with some difficulty, stepped to the side to allow Byakuya to finish the rest for him and scanned his eyes over the list of students. He found the matching picture of the orange head with the hard scowl.
The name sent a thrill though him as if there was something he was supposed to remember. Stark frowned as he rubbed his chin absently. He stood by the side as Byakuya popped in the video instructions for the dance lesson. Without noticing, he kept his eyes on the boy the rest of the class, his head full of unanswered questions.
The loud ring of the bell snapped Stark out of his daze as Byakuya turned on the lights and dismissed the students. Stark stood by silently at the door to pass out the day's homework. He hesitated as the orange haired teen approached in an equally hesitant manner.
Again, grey eyes met amber and Stark felt his heart speed up as the boy looked up at him. He forced himself to look away first and handed the redhead the homework first and tried to smile as Ichigo passed him. The boy ignored him and practically tore the sheet of paper from his fingers as he passed. Stark frowned as he stepped out of the heated room and stared after the boy's retreating figure. Why did his heart hurt so much?
Ichigo dropped his backpack in the kitchen silently and gave Karen and Yuzu a kiss before going upstairs and shutting the door behind him. Shirosaki had given up trying to ask what was wrong with him and stayed silent as Ichigo slammed the door.
He fell onto the bed face-down and breathed in the scent of the old quilt. Stark's scent had long faded from the stitches but he still stubbornly kept the old thing. His mother had done every single one of the stitches by herself. Ichigo felt his heart seize in pain. So angels were just like humans. They were liars. He knew it was foolish for him to keep dreaming that Stark would swoop out of the sky and whisk him away from the mess of the life that he had. He knew it was wrong to blame his father for not being able to provide a dream-like childhood for him and his siblings. He knew it was wrong to feel angry at Stark for abandoning him and leaving for the other gorgeous man. But he couldn't stop the jealousy and anger.
The boy sighed and wiped at his watering eyes before standing up and dragging the quilt with him and the glass jar by the window. He hesitated before gently wrapping the thick glass in the old quilt and opened the window to his room. Ichigo scrawled a messy note for Yuzu before jumping out the window. It took him a lot less time to get to the small abandoned shed than it took eleven years ago. Before he knew it, the familiar old shed appeared in front of him. Ichigo forced away the wave of tears as he pushed open the door to the shack and entered. He hadn't been there for at least three years. The visits stopped when he realized Stark wasn't going to come back and he had buried the place in his heart. The teen spread the quilt by the old lumpy mattress he had dragged in for the angel so many years ago. He forced away the urge to look back and imagine Stark's smiling face and those ghostly white wings behind him. he wouldn't come in anymore.
After a few hours of sitting in the small shed with his stomach rumbling and shivering fro the biting cold, Ichigo stood. He took the delicate jar and stepped out into the snow, the wind wiping his hair around his face. Ichigo focused his eyes on the single white feather sting gently inside and unscrewed the lid slowly. His heart lurched in pain as he gently lifted the thing out. It almost glowed in the dark night.
"I want to move on. It will only hurt more if I keep you by my side. It will only remind me of him and I can't…I just can't…" his whisper turned into a choked whimper as he wiped his face. Taking one more look at the fluttering feather, Ichigo let his fingers slacken their hold and watched as the pure white thing drifted into the sky.
He smiled sadly, half proud half heartbrokenly. He was proud of the courage to let go. It was surprising how light he felt when he let the feather go. He wasn't going to keep his head on cloud nine anymore. No he was going to get a scholarship and make his family proud and help his father take care of their family. He was going to put the smile back on his father's face and he was going to wipe Yuzu's tears away and chase off Shiro's nightmares. He was even willing to learn soccer for Karen's sake. Starting tomorrow, he was going to be a different person. Ichigo smiled crookedly.
"I'm a Phoenix rising from the ashes…" he wiped his face clean and without glancing back, Ichigo turned toward the old beaten shed.
The night was silent. The wind had stopped, the fresh snow glittering softly in the silver moonlight. In the vast expanse of white, a single jar lay silently in the night, the lid glittering with shards of ice. The thin delicate feather fluttered softly down from the dark sky glowing softly as it drifted over the glittery snow and into the thin shed even though the winds had died down some hours ago. The pale glow illuminated the head of flame color hair half buried in the dark quilt. The boy shivered in his sleep. The moonlight illuminated the dried tear tracks on the pale smooth cheeks and the feather fluttered softly down, gently landing against the pale palm of the boy. It stilled as fingers gently closed over it. The boy shifted as warmth washed over him, chasing off the cold. A small smile appeared on his face as he whispered the angel's name.
Somewhere in the silent night, Stark felt his heart lurch.
Aww...so what do you think? Review! =)