note: Takes place in the middle of chapter 424.

some immutable facts

He doesn't miss her. He doesn't wake up every morning expecting to hear the slide of his closet door or to feel the curl of cold wind from a half-open window. He doesn't hesitate and linger at all the places they've ever been together, all the places that he's ever drawn his sword.

Instead Ichigo closes his eyes to it all; he forges ahead and pretends.

Theirs hadn't been a goodbye. There had been no resolution, no closure, nothing said that would have made the separation—her vanishing in front of him—any easier.

They had said a lot. In fact, she'd screamed things at him with her eyes, with her clenched fists and her lowered head; that last intake of breath before his vision went completely blank and he'd been unable to see anything of real worth. And he, he'd tried to tell her the same, with a steady gaze and the refusal to look away.

It'd made everything the very opposite of easy.

Back when she still attended Karakura High with him, people always used to speculate on whether the two of them were dating or sleeping together or even bullshit like whether they were secretly married or not. Even his father, Ichigo thinks, had suspected something past the wild claims of grandbabies and a third daughter! There'd always been the underlying assumption of her saying something or him doing something or the both of them just…something.

They had all been wrong.

There had been no clandestine meetings, no kisses or soft, lingering touches the day before a war began. She had never pulled him aside before a fight to tell him to be careful because, because what, Rukia? He'd never looked at her extra long, like if he could just get close enough she would be able to anchor him to something tangible, could burn the wanting and the uncertainty bubbling in his stomach away.

They had toed that line many, many times, but she had always called them nakama, and he'd always nodded and smiled and looked away with his heart lodged in his throat.

They're not all or nothing, not even close, but it'd felt that way for a very, very long time.

Theirs hadn't been a goodbye because fuck she had gone and told everything—all—with her damn eyes, soft and bright in the light, like with tears. Like she was overflowing with all the things she'd always wanted to say and couldn't, neither of them until now and it was too late. He'd looked at her, held on to the imprint of her body for as long as he could, burned the image of her onto the back of his eyes but still, still he'd wanted more, he'd wanted to crush her to his chest, to drown her—as impossible as it was—in the weight of what he felt, for her, towards her, standing outside that chilly day with the rest of their friends watching.

It hadn't been a goodbye because it wasn't supposed to be an ending. Nothing of theirs was ever so clean, and it—this peace should have been a start to things, to finally. The weight of what they'd said—not with words but with something so much more fundamental—beating at the back of his mind and the back of his heart is a constant, everyday reminder of that.

He misses her.

He knows that, regards it as an academic fact much like it's going to rain today or I have to buy groceries for Yuzu. But he doesn't let himself really feel it or think about it or—

It's like a particularly vicious punch to the gut, remembering after he first forgets and gets too comfortable in this nondescript human body with its lack of perception, awareness and sight. It's the little things, like a flash of memory or a bit of conversation; children in the park and turning around to ask her something, only to realize that she's not there at all.

He wonders if it would have been better if he had let himself miss her every minute of every day, all the time. It might be like breaking into new shoes, and he would have been so used to the ache and dull throb of her absence that nothing could have caught him off-guard.

Somehow, he doubts it.

Pretending is probably the coward's way out, but he's been the hero so many times that he thinks he deserves a break, just this once. He never asks Chad or the others if she's visited, if she's here, if she's watching him right this second and he doesn't have a clue, not a single fucking clue. Instead, he keeps moving, gets a job, makes it a point to hang out with his friends. He keeps moving because if he stops, if he gives himself the time to think and to realize that he might never see her again, never hear her or feel her or act on any of the impulses that's been building up inside of him for months and months and months—

"—you don't miss her?"

Ichigo doesn't hesitate:

"There's no reason to."

note: Reviews and feedback are appreciated! I've got to try something happier next, but the angst just calls.