The rain was pouring down on him, wetting the hair, face and clothes. Ichigo however, didn't feel cold.
He strained his eyes to scan the forest near the cemetery, when he fought Fisher right after he became a shinigami. He wondered why he found himself in here of all places.
May be because he put his life on line intentionally for the first time. It was his first fight.
Well, in his current situation, so distant past didn't matter at all. He didn't care about the place, he just wanted to know if his assumptions were correct.
Ichigo made a few steps forward, and after a slight hesitation he started to walk slowly.
As he wandered, the rain became a little harder and he saw a milk white fog, which came to be thicker and thicker.
All he could hear was the rustle of leaves as the raindrops hit it and slid down to finally reach ground. His trainers made a quiet scraping noise, sometimes kicking a small rock.
Ichigo squinted his eyes to sharpen his eyesight and finally he saw a shadow about a hundred meters ahead of him.
The pace of his heart quickened and strange excitement in the pit of his stomach urged him to go faster.
To see if it was real.
If I could say so at all.
The closer he was, the more he wanted to run, yet he cooled down. He didn't want to look desperate. He had his one moment of weakness in a fight with Ginjo, but that will not happen again. Ever.
"Look who we got here." Their eyes finally met. The icy shade of violet was throwing lightnings on him, making his insides boil; exactly how he remembered it.
Rukia stopped right in front of him, her hands on hips, brows furrowed in an angry expression and he could swear she'll start tapping her foot within ten seconds.
"Yo, shorty." He spoke, hiding his hands in the pockets of his jacket, knowing it would piss her off.
The irritated exhale of hers and the way she rolled her eyes made him feel as it was a week since they last met.
She hadn't changed at all.
"Don't 'yo' me here, you stupid jackass. I can't believe I am seeing you here. That's really pathetic of you. What kind of sluggard have you become?" She hit his shoulder once with the end of the sentence and tangled her arms on her chest.
"How are things going?" Ichigo wanted to change the subject, because he didn't know how much time he got. He'd rather have a short talk once he has the opportunity instead of hearing excuses, even though they sounded so familiar and vbrought back good memories, which he had buried down so long time ago.
"I just can't believe you… Well. Still vice- captain as you see." She pointed at the badge at her left arm and adjusted the midnight black strand that crossed her face since he remembered. When he looked closer, it seemed her hair were more like he first met her, but still a bit shorter.
"How are you? Inoue? Chad? Ishida?" He noticed as her brows grew milder when she mentioned her old friends. It must have hurt to leave everything in here.
"Great. Ishida is one of the best doctors, but he still sews secretly dresses for ladies, thinking nobody knows about it. Inoue… she got married and now is a mother of twins and a daughter." Rukia's eyes became big as plates.
"No way. Inoue is a mother… I hope her husband cooks for their children." She laughed and Ichigo joined her. It was truly surprising how easy it was to talk to her after ten years of silence.
"Chad is a teacher in karate school and works in an orphanage."
"That is totally like Chad. The only thing he felt good at was helping others. And fighting of course." Rukia smiled gently, looking a bit distant and then she glanced at him intensely.
"And you?" The atmosphere suddenly became tense. Ichigo decided to tell the truth. There was no point in lying, especially in a situation like this.
"Me… I am a teacher in the same school you used to attend."
"No way!" She started to laugh so hard that she bent down and held her stomach.
"What's so funny?" Ichigo furrowed his brows. How could she laugh so hard? He wasn't a teenager anymore with buzzing hormones in his veins… He has become a staid man…
"You? A teacher? You've got to be kidding me." She sobered, and wiping the little tears of the corners of her eyes continued her tirade. "You were probably the most troublesome student- constantly fighting, loads of absences and totally foul-mouthed even towards teachers. How could possibly that person scold other kids for wrong behavior? I mean… that's a little hypocrisy."
"I've had good grades." Ichigo felt in duty to defend himself. He wasn't that much of a troublemaker…
Well. Maybe he was.
But that doesn't make him a bad teacher.
"Right. But still… that's just strange." She chuckled a couple more times and then looked at him, as if expecting the rest of the story.
"What? Why are you looking at me like that?"
"I was just wondering… do you have kids?" Ichigo sighed. That was obvious she wanted to know.
"Yeah. One. A girl." He knew that an awkward silence will come after that statement.
"That's good." Rukia smiled. "Are you happy?"
"Yes, I guess so." He answered slowly, observing her reactions. There was a smile on her face, but he knew her well enough, to be aware of the melancholy of her sight and tight grip on the sword by her side.
What was worse, he felt exactly the same. His hands were clenched in fists in the pockets, the teeth could start grate at any moment, and somehow it wasn't ok anymore to look her in the eye.
It couldn't be different. We both know that.
They were both worlds apart, she- a spirit, him- a human with blood and flesh; both with different lives destined.
Yet it was still a fact, that he had never met anybody- neither human nor a spirit- who would understand him the way she did; who could cheer him up whenever he was down, who could kick him in the face just because it was right to do so.
She was his person and he was hers.
Was it a kind of love? He had no idea.
They never had a chance to find out.
"Look, Ichigo." She pressed her eyelids together for a moment, still not letting go of her sword. When she opened her eyes, he saw they were a bit glossy, a bit sad, but there was still hope in them.
"I know I have no right to do this, but… Just this once…." She made one step forward, so that he could feel her right in front of him. It wasn't warmth… it was just… just Rukia.
She reached for his face and he bent down involuntarily.
Just this once.
Feeling her palms on his cheeks, he met her lips just for a brief moment, before she retreated. Her hands went down to his shoulders, and then rested on his chest flatly. He knew she could feel how fast end erratic was his heartbeat.
She smiled at him softly, as cheerfully as she could.
"I'm sorry, Ichigo but this isn't right. You've got a wife and a child out there, they need you." He covered her hands with his and breathed in heavily. Suddenly, this basic action has become difficult.
"But… it's gone already." He whispered, not knowing what to do. He wanted to stay right here for ever, yet the feeling of powerlessness, hopelessness and guilt… it was overwhelming. He hated himself for not being able to fight this way. It was way harder than slashing an enemy with Zanpakutou.
"It isn't. Fight, Ichigo. You've got so many people out there who are going to be broken after you leave. Fight."
Suddenly he felt an extreme pain in his chest, exactly where Rukia was touching him.
"Fight, Ichigo. You have to."
One more wave of pain, even more severe than the previous one hit him out of nowhere.
He fell to his knees as he was hit by the third time, still holding one of Rukia's hands as if it was the only way to be saved.
"What is… happening?" He managed to stammer, even though his guts were twisted in pain.
"It's gonna be ok. Don't worry." He saw as a single tear slid down Rukia's cheek; he wanted to say something to cheer her up, to say he's gonna be ok, whatever happens, but his vision became blurred and he heard loud noises inside of his head, somebody screaming, bright, colorful lights appeared in front of him, his brain was going crazy from too many stimulus...
"Twenty eight, twenty nine, thirty!" A young doctor bent down to a orange haired man, who was lying down lifelessly on the street next to the newest yellow Ferrari. He blew two breathes into his mouth and continued heart massage.
A considerable crowd of onlookers gathered around the place of accident. Women were whispering in dread to each other, covering their mouths with hands, men simply stood around and waited for the results of the efforts of the ambulance crew.
"It's no good, pass me a defibrillator at once!" The doctor screamed and the other doctor immediately handed him electrodes.
"Everybody move away! Now!" He screamed and soon the characteristic, electric sound echoed in the air. The man quickly tore the shirt on the chest of the victim and first jolt flowed through the muscled body.
The doctor checked the pulse and breath and loaded the defibrillator once again.
As the ambulance crew worked as hard as they could to bring the man to life, a boy stood on the pavement, crying while talking to the policemen. He tried to explain; everything happened so fast, a child ran on the street, the orange haired man threw himself to protect the little girl and he just couldn't anticipate it… He didn't want to hurt anybody… He prayed to God to save that man.
"Come on, your kid is looking! 150 more! Give him some epinephrine!"
A four year old girl was embracing a tall woman's knees, trying to understand why did they treated her dad like that. He was just sleeping. If they let her come closer and blow into his ear he would furrow his brows, pretending he's still sleeping and then he would tickle her as long as she swears she won't do that again… if only they let her…
"Mommy, can I go and wake daddy up? They have no idea how to do it…"
A woman squatted down to look the child in the eye and spoke with breaking voice.
"Daddy… he is sleeping differently than usually. They have to do this to wake him up. Now… here's…"
"One more time! 200!"
A toy fell out of woman's hand as she heard the command.
"Just… play for a moment…" The tears, which were held up until now burst from her grey eyes.
The little girl took the toy, but she didn't start to play; her auburn fringe, which was not hidden under the pink hat flowed with the wind as her sapphire eyes watched with interest the whole scene. She just couldn't understand it. One moment she runs to her mommy, which is standing on the other side of the street, the next dad shoves her to the ground and falls asleep in that place. It was just strange.
The woman with long brown hair hugged the child tightly and her pretty features were distorted with sorrow, pain and understanding.
"He's breathing! Intravenous inlet! Now get him to the hospital, he's still unstable. Hurry up!"
While the orderly bustled about the man, people around breathed out with relief.
"Rukia?" Nobody heard the weak voice except for the woman, who was already clearing her way towards her husband.
"She's ok, don't worry." Her eyes shone with tears, her long hair were pulled by the wind in every direction, but she didn't care. She just held his hand tightly with hers.
"Where is she?"
"Here, look. She's ok."
Ichigo saw the nosy, sapphire eyes of his daughter, who was looking down at him, what was quite unusual.
"Why are you lying on the street, daddy? It's dangerous."
"I know. Don't you ever do this. Daddy will be gone for a few days, so take care of mommy for now, ok?" Ichigo whispered weakly, touching small Rukia's ankle, just to make sure he is not dreaming. She's all safe and sound. Only that matters.
"Of course! We'll be waiting for you!"
"Excuse me ma'am, but we need to take him. He's very weak." The young doctor called for attention.
"Yes, yes. Thank you. Come on Rukia, tonight you are going to sleep at gradpa, what do you think?." A woman wiped away the tears and put her hair behind the ears. She's going to leave her there for tonight, grab some things from home and get to the hospital.
"Yaaaay! Do you think he would play an aeroplane with me?" The girl's eyes already shone with excitement.
"I'm sure he would. Let's go."
Ichigo was transported in the ambulance, with the oxygen mask on, some machines beeping around him and people constantly checking his breathing.
It was kind of annoying, when a man was trying to think.
You were right, Rukia, it wasn't my time yet. I guess I need to thank you once more for saving me. Why the hell it's always you who is right?
Just thinking about his daughter growing up without a father, just like he was growing up without a mother tore his heart apart. Who would teach her how to defend herself from stalkers?
And his wife… she wasn't Rukia, she wasn't the one he yearned for when he was down, but he loved her in some way. They were happy… and Rukia… she never belonged to him and she never will.
It's time to acknowledge it.
But the kiss… He won't ever forget that. Hopefully, he'll see her someday walking towards him, just like tonight in that forest. Until then… he's just a teacher with a family.
~ This is a short fanfic dedicated for my friend Stella: Kotik-Stells from DA.( She's an amazing anime-artist, if you are interested in Bleach, you should definitely check out her gallery!) She is really somebody special to me and this is a late birthday gift for her. The story was inspired by song "You walking towards me" performed by JinWoon. It is short, but I hope I managed to write down all the points I wanted. It is kind of different of what I usually write. I included an OOCs- Ichigo's wife and his daughter- Rukia, which was named because of the eyes. And Ichigo's sentiment of course. Opinions and critics are really welcomed.
Thank you for attention. :)