He stares at me, his eyes radiating the shock I knew he'd experience. I suppose it was bound to be so; after all, how does one say that they are infertile in a positive way? No spin doctor could ever possibly figure that little conundrum. So, rather than drag it out, I decided to be forthright and, perhaps even brash, about it.
I look to the ground as I feel his arms shake slightly, my tears peppering the floor beneath my face. I can't bear to see the look of pain that will undoubtedly be etched across his face. A man's pain is always far worse to see.
"I'm sorry," I breathe, wishing with all my heart that I didn't have to force this burden upon his already laden shoulders. "Honestly, I am so very sorry." My tears continue to fall unhindered.
"Are…are you certain?" he gulps, his fingers tense against my skin.
I nod sadly before realising that he probably isn't paying attention to the motions of my head.
"Yes. I'm certain."
I raise my head and wipe at my eyes.
"Think about it, Ichigo."
He gazes into my eyes and I can see the hurt brewing within them; a maelstrom thrumming with unparalleled force.
I continue unimpeded. "I am a shinigami."
"What of it?" he says. "So am I."
I shake my head again, slowly and without mocking. "To an extent, yes, you are."
He looks at me in surprise.
"Ichigo, you are alive. I am not. You are flesh and blood. I am a soul."
"What does any of that matter?"
"I'll give you an example, okay? Think of an animal who is heavily pregnant. Now, suppose this animal were to be involved in a horrific accident and she died. People would be rushing to save the dead mother's young, wouldn't they?"
"With the mother dead, the young cannot survive for very long. The young needs constant warmth; protection; oxygen; food. Without them, the young would simply…wither away into nothing."
I breathe heavily, a rasping gasp of pain before I conclude my allegory.
"The same is true with humans, of course. Think about it in a very literal sense, Ichigo. How can I, who am dead, support life?"
He looks devastated by my well-reasoned, totally truthful arguments. I'm not trying to be horrible to him, not at all.
I cannot lie to him about this. It is too big for me to do that. In the future – whether near or far, it doesn't matter – this would become an enormous issue of contention, one we may not be able to overcome.
Therefore, it is surely better for us to try to work through this now. Far better that it be out in the open before he becomes too heavily ingrained in the idea of us having children together.
"Rukia." His voice is so quiet, like he is having difficulty finding his voice. I face him, showing him just how deeply this cuts me as well. I hate that I am unable to give him children. I hate that I am unable to mother a child of my own. I would love to be a mother, especially if Ichigo were to be the father. He, me and our baby. What could be more wonderful? More right? More perfect?
"Rukia, I…" he stammers falteringly, failing to string together more than a couple of coherent words before he falls into lapsing spasms of broken sentences.
I relieve him of his spluttering.
"Shh…I understand. I realise that you…that you no longer want to be with me."
"Honestly, it's alright. I mean, how could you want to stay with me now, knowing what you do?"
"I'll take only a moment to gather a few things and then I'll be out of your way."
I turn to leave.
His hand closes around my wrist, effectively stopping me. I turn to face him, tears dripping from my eyes, my chest heaving in stifled sobs. His eyes are piercing; a scorching blaze is contained within their depths; and he has a blazing expression on his face.
"What are you babbling about?" he demands.
"You think I want to leave you…because of this? God-damn it, Rukia. I thought you knew me much better than that."
His hand curls around mine, his fingers entwining themselves with my own.
"I don't…understand…" I grind out.
He smiles deeply.
"I'm not going to abandon you because of this. You honestly think I'm going to throw away everything we have together because you can't have children?"
I remain poignantly silent.
"You did? Well, I'm not, I won't and I never will."
I gasp in surprise.
"We've been through far too much for us to give it all up now."
His eyes soften.
"Right?" he asks softly.
I study his face, searching for a sign of insecurity or concealment. "…Right," I say finally, finding no evidence of deception in his clear, revealing eyes.
With little preamble, he moves his arms and wraps them about my form, an all-encompassing shelter of warmth and protection enveloping my whole being.
"I love you, Rukia. I truly do," he says, his face buried into my neck.
I try to respond with the same words, yet they stick in my throat. For some reason, simply repeating the words to him doesn't seem to have any significance. I want to show him that I love him, that I really believe in us as a couple.
Taking his hand, I place it tenderly on my breast, directly over my heart. "Rukia?" he asks, the confusion clear for me to see.
"Do you feel that, Ichigo?" I ask, knowing that there can be no mistaking the rapid thuds resounding in my chest. "I know that this heart is only manufactured for the purpose of deception, but I want you to know that my heart, my true heart, belongs to you."
"Rukia," he says, his tone one of wonder.
"I want to be with you, Ichigo," I say, my voice shaky; it worries me to hear how scared I sound. "You and me, for the rest of forever."
He looks deeply into my eyes for a second before his lips come crashing into mine, claiming them for his own with bruising pressure. My eyes flutter for the briefest moment before I melt; I meet his assault forcefully, giving as good as I get. As we become increasingly breathless, he breaks our kiss, takes a small breath - one I mirror - kisses me lightly, then steps back and smiles serenely.
"For the rest of forever," he agrees.
Author's Notes: Here is the conclusion to Argumentation. I do sincerely hope that you have enjoyed this particular series of stories. I haven't decided what will come next within Black Sun Rising, White Moon Soaring, but I hope that you will enjoy it. My greatest thanks go to Rukia's Reflection, Katsumi Hatake, adri001 and SomethingInTheWater for their numerous and varied, yet always wonderful reviews. I'm hoping to have a new chapter to Ever on the Move up in time for Christmas, but in case it isn't ready, I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Ho Ho Ho and all that jazz :)