Disclaimer: don't own it
White Moon, Black Sun
Swirls of black and red energy crackled and spun among the sideway's buildings of Ichigo's inner world. They spun insanely, tugging at Ichigo's hair and clothes.
"Focus, Ichigo. Pull your power within you! Do not let it escape you skin." Zangetsu watched from nearby, his hair and robe perpetually rippling in an unseen wind.
"I'm trying!" Ichigo yelled over the roar of his power. He tried to yank in his reiatsu, but it again and again it seemed to slip past his fingers.
Zangetsu narrowed his eyes. "Try harder! It is your power, force it to obey your commands! Do not let it overcome you."
Ichigo concentrated, clenching his eyes and fists shut. He mentally willed his reiatsu to compress into his body. The swirls of energy drew closer, glowing bright around him. With a snap, they disappeared within him. Ichigo opened his eyes. They glowed white-blue with power.
"I did it!" he exclaimed.
"Focus!" Zangetsu bellowed, but it was too late. A torrent of power poured out of him, flickering, then dissipating.
Ichigo's face fell. With an angry huff, he sat down on the horizontal skyscraper. "I had it," he grumbled.
Zangetsu laid a hand on his shoulder. "You need practice. Your reiryoku is vast. That is enough for today. Return to me tomorrow, Ichigo, and we will try again."
"No! I want to keep going!" Ichigo stood up.
"Tomorrow. You are exhausted."
Zangetsu shook his head. "You will hurt yourself if you continue."
Ichigo looked up at the tall, dark-haired man. He scowled and nodded.
"Okay. See you tomorrow, ossan."
Somewhat sulkily, he vanished from his inner world.
Zangetsu sighed and returned to his pole. His wielder was stubborn, willing to do anything to have the power to protect his family and friends—even do what he hated most: reiatsu control.
Zangetsu supposed he should be grateful Ichigo was incredible determined. It was an admirable trait. If only it didn't make him so self-sacrificing . . .
He didn't want their partnership to end any time soon.
Ichigo rolled his eyes, easily sidestepping. Keigo tripped, crashing into the courtyard cement face-first.
"Ichigo, you're so cruel to me!" he cried, fake-sobbing.
"Has anyone told you that you should try out for the school play?" Mizuiro asked, walking up and peering at Keigo.
"Hey Ichigo. How was break?"
Ichigo shrugged. Compared to the years before, it was nothing.
"So. . . our last year of high school."
The other two nodded. They stood there somewhat awkwardly, not knowing what else to say.
"Kurosaki-kun!" Orihime ran towards him, holding something brown and fuzzy in her hands. "Look what Ishida-kun made me! Isn't it adorable!"
Ichigo stared at the ball of fluff. He could barely see its button eyes and small, disproportionate body and limbs from the mass of fuzzy yarn. "What is it?"
"It's an amigurumi bear! Isn't it cute?"
Ichigo scratched his head. "Uh, sure Inoue."
She beamed, hugging the . . . thing.
Ishida walked up behind her. "Hello, Kurosaki."
"Ishida-kun! Thank you so much!" Orihime squealed, turning around and hugging him. Ishida blushed.
"It was nothing."
"A gift isn't nothing," she admonished, stepping back. Ishida blushed a deeper red.
"Well. . . you're welcome," he said, not looking at her.
"Class is about to start," Mizuiro interrupted, looking at his watch. "We should get going."
"Aa," Ichigo agreed.
Ichigo breathed deeply, sweat dripping down his face. He relaxed his muscles, one by one, still keeping his reiryoku tightly coiled within him.
"Good. Memorize the feeling of having your reiryoku completely under control, infusing every atom of your body with power. Your heart with beat more powerfully. You lungs will take in more air. Even your skin will toughen, impervious to simple attacks."
Ichigo obeyed, taking in the sensation of power.
"Now run. Practice shunpou. Feel the difference."
Ichigo leapt into the air, easily flash-stepping. The single step took him twice as far as it had before. He could feel each of the countless reishi around him, solidifying under his feet. He could almost see them, little specks of . . . something, absolutely everywhere.
"I was blind. . ." he whispered.
"Aa. Now go. Keep control of your power."
Ichigo smiled at Zangetsu. "Thanks, ossan. I know I'm not the best student."
Zangetsu waited until he was gone, then smiled ever-so-slightly.
Ichigo frowned. Inoue, Ishida, and Chad had all been acting strangely. They kept on glancing at him, confused. What up with them?
He felt his reiatsu fluctuate. Irritated, he forced it to still.
Again! Ishida was staring at him. Ichigo raised an eyebrow. He looked away, pushing up his glasses.
At lunch, Ishida confronted him, glasses flashing.
"Alright, what is it, Kurosaki? Why can't I feel your reiatsu? All day today, and sometimes in the middle of the night. I even went to check on you once, and you were just asleep. What the hell is going on?"
Ichigo scowled. "You were watching me as I slept?"
Ishida huffed. "That's not the point."
Inoue and Chad saw them and approached.
"Ichigo, are you okay?" Chad asked, concerned.
"I'm fine! I just learned to control my reiatsu!" At the same time, it flared, almost escaping Ichigo's grip. He angrily pulled it back in.
They looked at him.
Ishida shook his head. "I never thought I'd live to see the day you controlled your monstrous reiryoku.
Ichigo's scowl deepened.
"Che, whatever. You would too if you had Zangetsu as a teacher."
"Don't get distracted, Ichigo! Let controlling your reiryoku become second nature." Zangetsu brought his blade down. Ichigo only just managed to block it.
"I know!" he grunted, blocking another strike. He countered, and was blocked in return.
"You're pathetic," said Hichigo's creepy, echoing voice. Ichigo almost lost control then, barely drawing back his power.
"Shut up!" he yelled, dodging an attack. Hichigo laughed, the sound raising goosebumps on Ichigo's arms. He made every effort to ignore his irritating hollow, focusing on Zangetsu's powerful, lightning-quick slices.
"Don't close yourself off!" the hollow said from beside him, his sword unsheathed and dripping with blood. Ichigo's back erupted in pain.
"I said, shut up!" Ichigo bellowed, slicing towards him. Hichigo laughed and dodged.
"I'll take it from here!" he said to Zangetsu, smirking. "You're too soft on him."
Zangetsu narrowed his eyes. "Hardly."
Hichigo's smirk widened. "Don't get your panties in a bunch, old man." He grinned and turned to Ichigo. "Let's do this."
Zangetsu watched them fight, noting how, slowly but surely, Ichigo picked up speed and accuracy, until the two of them were a blur against the blue of the sky. He was still in control of his reiatsu.
"So . . . what does your zanpakutou look like? Zangetsu?"
Ichigo stared at Ishida, almost stumbling as they ran around the school property for gym.
"What? Why do you want to know?"
Ishida shrugged. "Curiousity. Urahara-san mentioned that zanpakutou have other forms. I saw some when we were fighting Muramasa, but not yours."
"Okay then," Ichigo said, feeling slightly awkward. How could he convey what Zangetsu looked like? "He's about as tall as Kenpachi," he began, "and really pale. He wears a black, ragged coat and a black suit with a ragged white collar, and dark brown sunglasses. His hair is wavy, and dark brown. Er, and he has beard, kinda."
Ichigo scowled. "What do you mean, 'that's it'?"
"Well, I thought he'd be more. . . I don't know, interesting. Or majestic, like Hitsugaya-taicho's."
"He is interesting! And majestic! You wouldn't know, you haven't seen him. He just doesn't like to, you know, flaunt himself!"
Ishida raised his arms in surrender. "Okay! You don't have to get so upset, Kurosaki."
"He's my zanpakutou," Ichigo grumbled.
They continued to run, but Ishida kept glancing at him.
"Tell me more about his clothes."
Ichigo shook his head in disbelief.
"You should have heard him! Then he made me draw you for him, and then he criticized both my drawing skills and your sense of fashion!"
Zangetsu raised an eyebrow. "You could just show me to him."
"And then he—what?"
"It would be good for you to practice materialization."
Ichigo looked at Zangetsu. "But . . ."
Zangetsu stared back.
"Kurosaki, what are we doing here?" Ishida looked around at the forest clearing, some ways away from Karakura town.
Ichigo scowled. "Zangetsu says I need to practice materializing him, so while I do, I might as well introduce him to you."
Orihime bounced up and down. "We get to meet him? Really?"
Chad looked vaguely interested.
"Aa." Ichigo used his badge to force himself out of his body, then took his sword off his back, the bandages that sheathed its blade falling away. He held it away from him, concentrating. It began to glow, and then a shape pulled itself free from it, forming the silhouette of a man at least six and a half feet tall. A split-second later, he was entirely in the real world, his dark hair waving in the breeze.
"Oi, ossan, I did it, happy? Everyone, this is Zangetsu. Ossan, this is Inoue, Chad, and Ishida."
"Wow!" Orihime breathed.
Zangetsu looked around, briefly letting his eyes rest on each of them. "Your materialization has improved, Ichigo."
"Thanks." Ichigo said, wincing as he remembered his attempts at it earlier that year. "Hey, anything in particular you want to do while you're here?"
Zangetsu looked at him questioningly.
"Oh! I know! We should get some ice cream! And then we could go to ride the Ferris wheel and eat cotton candy! And then I could make us all some peanut-butter, sugar, and leek muffin sandwiches!" Orihime clapped her hands in glee. Everyone stared at her incredulously.
"How about . . . just the ice cream?" Ichigo asked weakly. He looked at Zangetsu. "What do you think, old man? Can you even eat?"
"I am capable of consuming, just as you are when in spiritual form."
Ichigo grinned sheepishly and nodded, then got back into his body, dusting off his jeans.
"Let's go, then!" Orihime said excitedly. She lead the way out of the forest and to the ice cream parlor, eagerly bouncing inside. The rest followed her in.
"I'd like a triple scoop, one wasabi, one garlic, and one pickled plum, please!"
Ishida and Ichigo both turned a faint green. Chad looked away, grimacing.
"Uh, just a double scoop lemon sorbet for me, please," Ishida said, not sure if he even wanted to eat it anymore.
"Two chocolate double scoops," Ichigo ordered.
"Kid sized strawberry," Chad said calmly.
The shopkeeper eyed them strangely, but made their cones without a word. They paid and left, moving towards the river. Ichigo made sure no one else was around and handed Zangetsu a chocolate ice cream cone.
"Eat it quickly, or it'll melt, but not too quickly, or you'll get a headache," he said. Zangetsu eyed the frozen treat warily. He watched the others eating out of the corner of his eye, then hesitantly copied them.
It was cold! And sweet, creamy, with a delightful flavor that he had never experienced. It chilled him as it slid down his throat.
"It's good, isn't it?" Ichigo said, smiling at the bizarre picture Zangetsu, dark and serious, made while holding an ice cream cone.
"Aa." He took another careful lick.
The group reached the river. They settled on a grassy hill, watching as the sun slowly inched closer to the horizon. Zangetsu remained standing, watching the sun's reflection waver on the water.
The zanpakutou turned to look at Ishida. The Quincy cleared his throat.
"What is it like to be a zanpakutou? I mean, what do you do?"
Zangetsu returned his gaze to the water.
"I meditate. I watch Ichigo's life, thinking of ways to guide him. I teach him. I look over him."
"I see . . ." Feeling strangely like he had intruded something, Ishida turned to Orihime. He frowned. "You have a stain on your shirt."
She blushed. "Oh no! I'm such a messy eater." She attempted to scrub it off. Ishida handed her a handkerchief.
Chad ate his ice cream in silence.
Ichigo flopped onto his back, looking at the sky. "Zangetsu no ossan, why is my inner world sideways?"
Zangetsu glanced at Ichigo. "It wasn't always." He gestured at the river. Ichigo furrowed his brows. Then, comprehension filled his face.
"Oh," he murmured.
A drop of water fell on Zangetsu's cheek. Ichigo frowned; the sky was clear. Zangetsu touched it, then looked at him.
"Ichigo," he said softly.
"Sorry," Ichigo muttered, forcing himself not to dwell on past events.
Zangetsu continued to watch him. "I should go back," he said, tone still low.
Ichigo looked up. "Are you sure?"
Zangetsu looked at him meaningfully.
"Alright," Ichigo sighed, taking out his badge and again pushing himself out of his body. He closed his eyes, concentrating on bringing Zangetsu back into his inner world. When he opened them again, he was gone, his familiar reiatsu back in the sword Ichigo held in his hands.
Chad walked up next to Ichigo.
"You two are very close," he observed. Ichigo smiled slightly.
"Aa," he agreed, returning the blade to its place across his back.
Yea, I'm still alive. I've been working on this for a while now… figured I might as well post part of it. Besides, there's not enough ZanIchi out there, and maybe this will inspire other people to try their own hand at it.
This is going to be a rather fluffy slash romance. Don't like, don't read. It's that simple.