I couldn't decide who to dedicate this for, specifically. It fit thenakedcat and so many other lovers of the Ishidas. So just consider this story a little lagniappe from my holiday brain (where it is snowing, where the halls are decked).
Not of The Body
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Bleach; I share them with an entire fandom.
Description: Life and Death in the Ishida family. Vignette. PG.
Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts. ~from the Sutta Nipata, a Buddhist text.
Running a soapy cloth across his son’s nude and unconscious form, Ryuuken saw a body being prepared for burial. The image came unexpectedly. His sight shifted, and the room brightened. There was the corpse. There was the monk standing over the corpse.
Was it a vivid memory? Ryuuken was quite sure he had never witnessed such a thing. The still wobbly arms hanging off a white-sheeted bed, the monk’s whispered incantations, a prenatural reverence in the air that couldn’t have come from a movie or cultural film about funeral rites.
He blinked. He dipped the cloth into a bowl, and the vision left.
I’m not given to hallucinations.
He fingered the towel between his son’s toes. Uryuu’s feet had gotten bloody from all that running around.
A monk washing a dead body.
That sort of foolishness was done in the homes of the deceased, wasn’t it? Not in hospitals. Ryuuken had seen many a nurse washing patients. Live patients, not corpses--even if the bodies were infirm and dangling their feet over their coffins.
No matter. Ryuuken continued with his task. Uryuu was very much alive, only inanimate for the moment. The association of the boy’s pale form with a corpse was obvious, but the hallucination… not Uryuu. Someone else.
Ryuuken didn’t believe that he had developed the power of foresight overnight. As far as he knew, the Quincy were not precognitive. It had to be a memory, not a foretelling.
No matter, no matter. Ryuuken was surprised to see that some of the blood was not drippings from an upper body wound. The boy had run around--without the benefit of hirenkyaku--on legs nicked by arrows? The wounds were shallow, though. They didn’t need to be dressed. Once a cut was properly disinfected, open air was better for it. Bacteria tended to breed under bandages.
A lifeless body.
Even it was a precognition…
A lifeless body is just a body.
Ryuuken had never understood the elaborate spectacles that funerals were. Even if they were for the emotional benefit of the survivors, they were still a disgusting waste of money.
Pray to your little shrines after the cremation. That should take care of the psychological necessities--saying goodbye, acknowledging the soul who (you believe) has left this earth (if your loved one turned into a Hollow, you will never know). Save your money for the living. Give to the children’s cancer ward here if you have to spend it.
Ryuuken had refused to attend his own father’s funeral.
At the thought of Souken, Ryuuken’s hand paused over Uryuu’s bloody knee.
“This is a nurse assistants’ job,” he said aloud as he wrung another wet cloth. He could have summoned any one of girls from that competent and well-run third floor, and she would’ve given Uryuu a quicker, more thorough bath. Honestly, would he have had to tell her that the steaming wound on his son’s chest was from a spirit arrow? And that he, Ryuuken Ishida, the hospital’s chief administrator, the man who framed and hung the Geneva Convention version of the Hippocratic Oath in his office, the doctor sworn not to use his knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties—
I shot Uryuu. In his last moment of consciousness he thought his father killed him.
Blood everywhere from long thin superficial gashes. Sweat sticking the wings of that ridiculous haircut to his neck.
Well, the stupid boy will wake up soon enough and realize that kindnesses and coddlings don’t serve anyone.
Ryuuken decided that he was done. There was no need to clean up each and every tiny cut that might be susceptible to infection. When Uryuu walked again, he could just take a shower.
Making a low sighing sound, one that did not entail opening his mouth, Ryuuken pulled a blanket over his son’s body.
Stupid, softhearted, over-confident, self-trained….
He should be waking up by now, shouldn’t he?
Ryuuken forced one of Uryuu’s eyelids open and checked the pupil. He had never restored Quincy powers to anyone before, so he didn’t know what recovery might entail. Uryuu was exhausted but would be sitting up soon.
The boy was lying on one of two rollaway hospital beds that Ryuuken had acquired for himself and his student. Uryuu’s face was thin and damp, and on his sunken chest, the seared mark of the Quincy cross was still visible. White and skinny as he was (had Uryuu been this emaciated last year?), Ryuuken didn’t think that his son looked like a corpse.
Ryuuken picked up Uryuu's broken glasses. Only one frame was missing. The prescription could be read from the other lens, and the optometry people upstairs could refit the frames in minutes. Maybe he should go get that done.
Ryuuken didn’t rise from his chair.
He’s just exhausted.
Despite being unschooled and a total novice, Uryuu had displayed surprising endurance today. For generations, the Ishidas had been known for their stamina, and maybe Ryuuken should have anticipated a longer session of chasing the boy around with arrows. Uryuu was obstinate. Fast too, but clumsy and weak. How he had acquired enough power to actually burn out using it Ryuuken did not know.
He’s fine. That Menos was a greater threat to his life than my shooting him.
After the final arrow had flown into his son’s chest, after Uryuu fell and then did not get up, Ryuuken did not question his own aim. Nonetheless he held his hand over Uryuu’s heart to feel for the Quincy power. It was there. Still, Uryuu did not wake up, so Ryuuken, acutely self-conscious of the act even though he was alone, had lifted his own son over his shoulder and carried him to bed. There he had taken off his clothes and given him a medical examination.
He’s far less likely to die after I train him. Still likely to die, though, given how stupid he is.
Ryuuken wanted a shower. He needed a smoke. He considered going to Uryuu’s apartment and getting him some clothes because those in the pile by the bed were shreds. He did not get out of his chair. He tried not to think about the hallucination and tried to concentrate only on what the sudden appearance of hybrid Hollow meant for those with high reiatsu.
And so his mind went in both directions and ended up in the same place: Death.
Future deaths: Karakura citizens by the hundreds slain by Hollow. Deaths from the past: His mother’s death. His wife’s death. His father’s death. All the indulgent funerals of the self that Ryuuken had endured as an adolescent. “Every change, now matter how small,” Souken had said, “is a death.”
Ryuuken could almost hear the old man’s voice, but this time he was certain that he was not experiencing an hallucination: “There is a small difference between madness and grief. The more and more you give up of yourself, the longer you will need to mourn. But you can never, Ryuuken, change the fact that you are a Quincy.”
It occurred to Ryuuken that the body he had seen in the vision was himself.
The corpse had looked enough like Uryuu to worry Ryuuken (even though he was skeptical about these precognitive powers), but what if it was himself?
Who, in the name all that is sane, would give me a Buddhist funeral?
This time Ryuuken rose from the chair. He walked to the basin with towels and washed his face. He rolled down his sleeves and straightened his tie.
The old man had always been blabbering about Death being born with every Life. How the Quincy had been a proud people who protected Life and caused Death. How Life and Death--
Quincy, Quincy, Quincy. Death, death, death.
The way Souken talked, Death was a noble and wonderful thing.
Going to Soul Society and being surrounded by Shinigami? Wonderful.
Ryuuken walked out the door. Let Uryuu wake up and notice the washcloths, his nakedness, the fact that he was still alive. That his very young and stupid Life depended on his power from now on.
The hybrids had attacked Uryuu, so Ryuuken knew they would attack other humans. In this case, Quincy power was another way to save the living, and Ryuuken knew he could not avoid battle.
I’m walking to my Death every day.
He walked into a hospital elevator, saw that he was alone and reflexively touched his heart. The power was there.
Ryuuken wanted to believe that the power was in intelligence, agility, and skill. But he knew the truth.
The power was not of the body. It lived in a Quincy soul.
Author’s note: It’s terribly difficult to write these two without incestuous undertones.