Peace Until I Die
Spoilers for Chapter 424. This is just a drabble, written in a half-hour after reading the newest chapters in the manga. The entire conversation between Ichigo and Keigo is from Bleach Manga Scans Online, chapter 424.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach.
"Have you decided, like, what you're going to do when you grow up and stuff?"
Ichigo turned to look at him in mild surprise, a bit astonished that Keigo was thinking that far ahead. He was sucking on a juicebox with a straw inside, and leaning on the fence surrounding the rooftop that Keigo was hanging off of.
"My career path?"
"Yeah, like that!" the brown-haired boy said cheerfully. "What else is there?"
"Isn't it still a little early for that?"
"There's gonna be career guidance at the end of the semester. You gotta start thinking soon! Your grades were great when you started here, Ichigo, but they sure dropped in the second half of your first year!"
"Shut up," Ichigo snorted. They'd still been better than Keigo's. "I was busy with a lotta stuff then. I had no choice. And I was still at the top of the middle."
"…I wonder what Rukia-chan's up to?"
Ichigo looked at Keigo, who was now lying on the floor with his arms around himself, with a flat expression.
"Why does Rukia have to come into the discussion there?"
"Becauuuse, don't you think it'd be nice of her to show her face around here every once in a while?" Keigo smirked, looking in the opposite direction from Ichigo. "Don't you think it's kinda cold that she hasn't come back even once?"
"No, it's not." Ichigo said. "She isn't the representative of Karakura Town, to begin with. It's normal for her not to come."
"…Arent you lonely?"
"Like hell I'd be." Ichigo began walking away. "This is the normal life I worked sixteen years to get. I'm fine with peace until I die."
"…I feel ya," Keigo said, standing up and dusting himself off. "I don't wanna have any more scary experiences like that either."
He didn't follow Ichigo immediately. Instead, he turned and looked at two figures that his friend hadn't been able to see for seventeen months.
"Yer a little shit, you know that, kid?" the redheaded shinigami asked.
"No one's going to tell him you're here. You heard Ichigo. He's happy. Leave him alone."
"He's our friend too," Rukia said quietly. "We would have died for him."
"He almost did die for you. We waited for him to wake up for a month."
"Everyone respects the sacrifice he made. He is a hero. His name will be remembered forever in the history of Soul Society. Do you believe he will ever be happy with a boringly normal life? Can you see him in twenty years as a salaryman with a wife, two children and a dog?"
"…you didn't see him. You never saw what he was, at the end," Keigo said, remembering his friend standing tall and facing a being so powerful that he disintegrated objects from the real world just by approaching them. "I can feel you. You've got a weird feeling hovering around you. All of you shinigami do, even Afro-san. Ichigo didn't. I don't think we could understand his power. I don't think anyone could. And he gave it up for peace, and he's never regretted it."
"What's yer point, kid?"
"Just… he's done enough," Keigo said, turning his back and starting to walk away. "He's ours now. Let him live his life. He can live in peace until he dies. He won't need to deal with you until then."
Rukia bowed her head. Renji put his hand on her shoulder.
"He'll see us again. We'll be in his dreams until he does."
"I believe that Ichigo will see us again in his lifetime. I just worry… what if he doesn't want to?"
A/N: A short speculation I felt like sharing. The 'what about Rukia?' question just seemed odd, and I wondered why Keigo asked it. This was what I came up with. I might be giving Keigo too much credit, but the kid tried to stand against Aizen with a borrowed sword. I think he's got hidden depths.