Characters: Ichigo +/ Rukia; mentions of Byakuya and the Shiba family.
Warnings: Soul Society spoilers, rather vague character death, I guess.
Summary: It doesn't matter what he said at the time: leaving Rukia in Soul Society was a hard thing to do.
Disclaimer: KT owns Bleach; I am a fanwriter only.
A/N: Set just after the Soul Society arc.
Ichigo plopped down on his bed, stretched, and rolled onto his stomach. He reached out and pulled a textbook out of his school bag at random: biology. He had always been a good student; he got in quite a bit of studying, more than most of his classmates realized– but today was different, and he flipped the pages of the section he was reading (a section on arthropods– their characteristics, the different types, all manner of assorted facts about each species) back and forth absently. He read a paragraph here, a paragraph there, but his mind refused to settle.
It was good to be back in the world of common things– this bed, this book, school, ordinary friends who knew nothing of Hollows and zanpakutou– but he couldn’t keep Soul Society out of his mind. Ichigo had never been philosophically-minded, and he wasn’t religious; before all of this had happened, he would never have dreamed that he could find the world of the dead so distracting.
But now was different. Rukia had decided to stay there, to not return to this world. (Elegant, fine-boned Rukia; Rukia all black and white; Rukia with snow...)
Ichigo shook himself mentally and glanced down at his book, where there was a picture of that butterfly whose name he could never remember– the one with the orange wings. And he knew that there was no reason to worry about her. Aizen aside, she could take care of herself.
–Still, he couldn’t help but wonder: what would it feel like, after everything (after she nearly died), to try to make things right with Byakuya? Ichigo certainly couldn’t imagine it. And what about Kuukaku and Ganjuu? –Because it had been awkward, no doubt about it, leaving her at that strange dragon of a woman’s house. (Just as, years before, she had come with Shiba Kaien’s body in tow to her doorstep, had spoken of his death with, as Ichigo had heard it, downcast eyes and a stony look.)
Ichigo had always known where he stood; she was on unsteady ground. He didn’t want to think about her having to mull all of it over again, to over and over those long, white days in the tower where she awaited her own execution; her brother’s betrayal; the night she ran Kaien through; his blood trailing down her hands, her arms, the black fabric of her shihakushou; Kuukaku’s bitterness and anguish, Ganjuu’s too– to absorb so much poison.
–But then he looked down to his book again, read about that butterfly: the monarch butterfly, that was its name; how was it that he always forgot that? It gained protection by eating the toxic milkweed, that was what the book said. Meaning that there was no need for him to worry after all.
The monarch took in poison to make it stronger.
Waah! smiles and helike, I haven't forgotten about you! It's just that I already had this fic mostly written a week or so ago and I've been super busy. But I do still intend to write yours soon.