_debbiechan_ (_debbiechan_) wrote in bleachness,
_debbiechan_
_debbiechan_
bleachness

I wrote it: the part where Ryuuken & his son reunite.

Happy Birthday Lotusie.
I'll have the illustration for this soon, I imagine.

After You Died and Even Before That

Description: A father-son reunion. A third part to my stories “Real Sex” and “Pretend Love,” although it can stand alone.

Warnings: Angst. Ryuuken may be OOC but given these particular circumstances he may not be. If mentions of prostitutes require a warning, then yes, this fic mentions prostitutes. Otherwise it’s very gen and PG.



After You Died and Even Before That
by debbiechan


Disclaimer: Kubo Tite created the Ishidas and Perriot Studios has the legal right to embellish these characters, but I want to play with them too.

Description: A father-son reunion. A third part to my stories “Real Sex” and “Pretend Love,” although it can stand alone.

Warnings: Angst. Ryuuken may be OOC but given these particular circumstances he may not be. If mentions of prostitutes require a warning, then yes, this fic mentions prostitutes. Otherwise it’s very gen and PG.

for lotus seed. Happy Birthday.



“The Last Quincy … that is who I am.” ~ Ryuuken, chapter 186.

“Some day my end will come and my wealth will be scattered and lost, for I have no heir.” ~ from a Chinese story about a prodigal son, Saddharmapundarika Sutra 4.



Time was skipping from Toledo to Tokyo with a layover in Amsterdam. Memories were flying; memories were delayed. It felt like forever was a plane ride. Everything else--an imagined life. Then just as oblivion settled, the clouds would part and there would be a view of green fields and barn roofs from the tiny window.

Ishida Ryuuken returned his seat to an upright position and snapped on his seatbelt before the steward could bother him about it.

His son had died and now he was alive again.

The descending plane vibrated a familiar celestial hum (D flat--Ryuuken had perfect pitch), but when the wheels bumped the runway, Ryuuken felt like he’d never landed on Earth before.

It was as if he, not his son, was the one returning to the Living World.

Why couldn’t it have been her who came back?

Upon getting the phonecall that Uryuu was whole and unharmed and drinking a cherry coke in Urahara’s shop, Ryuuken’s first thought had been thank you, Uryuu, thank you for staying alive. That thought’s echo: why couldn’t it have been her?

On the grueling plane rides back from Spain to Japan, the echo had resounded in Ryuuken’s skull. How long had it been since he thought about Uryuu’s mother so much? He’d managed to avoid thoughts of her in Spain, Italy, and Greece.

In Europe, he had been a man escaping memories. Never someone lacking in self-awareness, Ryuuken understood that Uryuu’s presumed death was amplifying an older grief.  Still, he had believed--foolishly, foolishly he now knew--that he could evade the worst pain by taking an extended leave from work and going to countries he’d never seen.

The majestic landscapes of Switzerland and Austria had mocked him. While planes took him from one bright metropolis to another, his thoughts traveled ruin city to ruined city. Death to death. His father, his mother, the Quincy people, his wife and now his son. Death to death, and the last one had broken him.

Ishida Uryuu had been dead but now he was alive again.

Ryuuken deboarded the plane and yawned; he felt the pressure in his ears give way and a headache start pounding under his left eye. He reached into his shirt pocket and found the migraine pills he carried everywhere. He swallowed one. He knew that Uryuu’s coming back would rebuild some of his emotional landscape, but that there was no victory over Death here.

Why couldn’t it have been her who came back?

No, the simple fact was that she had died and would never come back. Uryuu had never really been dead, only returned from a soul-eating world where everyone believed the boy had died.

Sixteen months gone. For the better part of that time, Ryuuken had believed that his own future was, essentially, over.

Now the plane rides, the endless plane rides, were bringing his future back home.

The layover in Amsterdam had been especially hard. Slushy weather that wasn’t snow but enough to delay departures. Cup after cup of coffee before remembering that he hadn’t eaten since leaving Barcelona. His cell ringing again and again and it being Isshin, the last person in the world Ryuuken wanted to talk to.

Finally, Ryuuken had answered the phone.

“You’re late, Ryuuken. You should see your son’s face.”

At that moment Ryuuken saw it. A thinner, less defined version of his own face. Her blue eyes and black hair.  His  mouth and nose. An earnestness that was Souken’s and a defiant pride that was Uryuu’s own.

Did Uryuu still look like that? Had the sixteen months changed him? Urahara had sworn that the boy wasn’t physically damaged, but sixteen months away from the Living World--that had to have changed him.

Another memory skip: the boy struggling to keep up with Ryuuken’s demands. Uryuu’s torn clothes and bleeding fingers and coughing promise to draw the bow better next time. Ryuuken’s hard reply: You had better or you’ll die within the year, do you understand that? The cold dread when Ryuuken discovered the boy was gone.

Uryuu’s note had said: A friend is in trouble. I have to help. I don’t know when I’ll return.

In the Amsterdam airport, Ryuuken, fidgeting with his cell and a pack of cigarettes, tried explaining to the simple-minded Shinigami what icy weather does to airplane wings and runways.

Even as he spoke, hail fell against the airport windows, and Ryuuken had presumed his flight would be cancelled. The flight home to see Uryuu, the flight to reclaim his own life.

“Do your Quincy shunpou, man. Can’t you get here that way?”

“I’m over nine thousand miles away, Kurosaki.”

Hail was crashing against glass and steel. Memories were hitting Ryuuken hard. Damn Shinigami. Isshin was an unwanted connection to the past--to her and the day she carried the baby into the house, to the day a thirteen-year-old Uryuu slammed the door and shouted that he would never return to his father’s house, to the day a sixteen-year-old Uryuu stole Ryuuken’s weapons and left a crucial training session. So many times Ryuuken had berated himself--if only Uryuu had completed that lesson, if only Ryuuken hadn’t stepped out for a smoke….

Uryuu’s not dead anymore; my son is alive again.

“Has he asked to talk to me?” Ryuuken asked Isshin.

“Hey! Pick me up some of those famous Dutch chocolates! Urahara had a post-Valentine’s Day sale last week, and there’s not any chocolate in the whole store!”

Ryuuken had not read Uryuu’s goodbye note until the boy had been gone a year. He had hoped the note would provide a clue as to where Uryuu was, but all it did was seal the idea that the boy was dead. It was only then that Ryuuken realized that he had saved the note. It was only then that Ryuuken realized how much his son’s choices mattered and that Ryuuken’s life had always been dependent on Uryuu’s choices.

I don’t know when I’ll return.

“How long does it take to fly from Spain anyway?” Isshin continued in his strained, deliberately cheerful voice. “Are we going to have to declare you presumed dead? You won’t get any cake if we do that. I’m going to order a cake--for the birthdays the boys missed while they were gone.”

Uryuu, Uryuu, why do you have to learn life’s lesson’s the hard way? Why couldn’t you have trusted in me the way you trusted in your grandfather? I said you would die. Why didn’t you listen to me?

“Why don’t the airplane people hose down the planes with hot water?”

Why did you die?

“Electromagnetism? That doesn’t sound like it would work as fast as hot water.”

Dead, gone, never to return. Like her. It was like she died all over again.

“Hail? Slow down, slow down there, friend. I can’t understand a word you’re saying. Ice does what? Oh my god, Ryuuken, you’re crying."

Ryuuken hadn’t realized that his voice was hoarse and his words inaudible.

He hadn’t cried since his wife’s death and couldn’t recognize the experience. He touched his cheek. Wet. He hung up on Isshin.

The gregariousness of people in Spain was nothing compared to the geniality of people in Amsterdam. People offered him money. They patted the shoulder of the well-dressed, weeping man and held up their credit cards. They said encouraging things in Dutch.

Ryuuken was moved; he was insulted; he felt he owed these annoying people an explanation.

“My son,” he had said through tears, even as his composure returned to him. “My son was dead but now he’s alive again.”

No one understood English, but a smiling lady gave him one of those tiny, badly hand-painted ceramic tulips sold at the airport gift shop. No one left him alone until his flight number was announced.

A miraculous change in the weather! The plane was going to Tokyo after all! As Ryuuken boarded, he held a handkerchief over his nose so the attendants would think he had a cold. And he couldn’t stop the tears, even though his throat had stopped weeping.

He had never been so relieved to find that he was the only person in first class.

By the time the plane was over Vienna, Ryuuken was sober. He checked his eyes in the lavatory for red-rimmedness, and it was then that he realized he hadn’t slept. He allowed himself a nap. It had been a dreamless one. The strange, dream-like world was the one in which he awoke.

The strange world he was walking in now.

People hugged and chattered and one woman wept in the arms of an elderly person who was so wrinkled that she appeared to be over a hundred years old. Airports were always full of noisy reunions, but Ryuuken had never paid much attention to them before.

Airports were over-running with happiness.

There were the vendors selling comics and souvenirs. Happy as they counted out change.

There were the college kids who traveled in packs. Bouncing with excitement and happiness. Music leaking from their earphones, candy in their mouths.

There were the foreigners, happy to have touched ground after long flights. Not all of them happy--complaints sounded alike in every language Ryuuken heard.

Some tourists and businessmen came to Tokyo for its renowned kinkiness, for its sexual underground and its imaginative prostitutes. Ryuuken could see the deadness in men’s eyes as they walked to their limousines.

Some people do strange things to feel alive.

Ryuuken didn’t feel alive yet.

I won’t believe you’re alive, Uryuu, until I see you with my own eyes.

It was strange to remember that at one time, at his lowest, Ryuuken had hoped that his son was dead. Believing Uryuu was dead was better than fearing he had been taken prisoner by the Arrancar. Some things were worse than death. Some things should never have to be experienced by children….

Isshin’s son was missing along with Uryuu, and the Shinigami simpleton had promised Ryuuken that the two boys would return. The day that Urahara Kisuke pronounced chances for survival after an absence this long as being “very slim,” Isshin knocked over stands of merchandise in Urahara’s shop and swore that he would never give up on his son. Ryuuken accepted, as easily as stepping into a hot bath after a hard day, that it was over. He wouldn’t hope any more.

Most people, Ryuuken’s colleagues and Uryuu’s schoolmates, didn’t even know that Uryuu was missing, and Ryuuken didn’t know what to tell them. It would have taken some years to have Uryuu pronounced legally dead, and Ryuuken could not seek the death certificate granted to persons whose bodies had been pulverized in terrorist attacks or lost to other undeniably un-survivable circumstances

My son went to Hueco Mundo. 

Ryuuken didn’t know what was more suicidal than that.

From the beginning, he had struggled to contest rational explanations for Uryuu’s not coming back, but the negative thoughts triumphed:

He went with a bunch of kids who were a liability in battle, and knowing Uryuu, he probably died trying to protect them somehow.

That, or Isshin’s son, that Ichigo with an intelligence comparable to his father’s, led Uryuu into a chivalrous but no-win situation.


Ryuuken had held out the possibility that Uryuu was hiding, involved in some sort of intrigue, or perhaps was a well-cared-for prisoner of war, but when the Arrancar army arrived and even they didn’t even know where his son and Isshin's son were....

What else was I supposed to believe?

On the one-year anniversary of Uryuu’s going to that soul-eating place in order to save that girl, Ryuuken bought an airplane ticket. It was not a spontaneous whim--Ryuuken wasn’t whimsical and he made few moves in his life that had not been calculated for months.

Percentages of his investment interests that would have ordinarily gone into Uryuu’s trust fund were in a new “vacation fund.” The first withdrawal paid for that first ticket away from Japan and its grief.

Ryuuken still hadn’t touched Uryuu’s investment folder and had been in a quandary over what to do it. So much money saved for Uryuu’s education. Medical school, his internships abroad, a first house once the young man outgrew apartments and wanted to start a family. Ryuuken had lived frugally for years, not only because it was in his nature to live simply but also because he saved every mon for Uryuu’s future.

And then, after the long hot bath and relief from the torture that was waking up every day and trying to summon a difficult and elusive and fragile hope, the future died.  There was no future for Uryuu. There was no Uryuu.

Ryuuken didn’t weep; Ryuuken didn’t mourn; Ryuuken felt his own future drop away.

He was walking back into it now. Time had direction and purpose. For the past four months, he had toured Europe aimlessly, looking at art and sampling strange foods and meeting many women fascinated by his austere personality. Ryuuken had found no pleasure in any of it.

My son was dead but now he is alive again.

The limousine dropped Ryuuken off at the railway and the railway dropped him off on the outskirts of Karakura and Ryuuken used hirenkyaku to sweep to the Urahara shop where, not bothering to knock, he opened the front door and walked in.

Life begins again, he thought. Here, life begins again.

-----

No one seemed to be around. Ryuuken reached out with his senses and felt Uryuu’s reiatsu on the back porch.

There he was. Facing the Shinigami boy who was sitting on the same step. The two were talking in quiet tones. Uryuu’s hair … Uryuu’s hair was shiny … he’d recently showered … Uryuu’s black hair … the hair was longer or maybe it just looked longer because it was wet…. Fingers of Uryuu’s right hand twirled a twig from a plum tree…. Where were the blossoms? Oh there they were… petals scattered on Uryuu’s lap …white pants… Quincy clothes…white clothes immaculate as always.

“Uryuu.”

The boys hadn’t noticed his presence and looked up, startled. Their eyes stayed wide. As if Ryuuken were someone to fear. As if they’d been caught breaking curfew or skipping class.

“Please leave us alone,” Ryuuken said to the Shinigami boy.

“Sure.” The orange-haired boy stood up, and looking profoundly uncomfortable, went back into the shop.

The two are going to be inseparable after what they’ve been through. If they weren’t friends before, now--

Uryuu was staring at his father. He didn’t look as hardened and detached as Ryuuken had expected. One would think that surviving in Hueco Mundo for over a year would’ve toughened the boy a bit.

In fact, he looked a couple years younger, not sixteen months older.

His mother’s delicacy … Uryuu had always looked delicate … Ryuuken knew he wasn’t.

“We’re going home,” Ryuuken said.

“But Urahara-san said that we have to stay here for some tests and stay in quarantine--”

“And you believe everything that lunatic says? You look fine to me. Get your things and come with me.”

Uryuu twirled the plum tree twig faster. “I don’t have any things.”

“Don’t tell me that’s the same Quincy outfit you wore to Hueco Mundo.”

“I washed it. Urahara-san was going to send someone to my apartment to get some clothes but--”

“We can do that on our way to my house.”

Uryuu stood up. He seemed more compliant than Ryuuken could ever remember him being. “Okay.” The twig dropped from his fingers. “I’ll have to say good-bye first.”

Ryuuken’s next exhalation of breath sounded angry even though he hadn’t meant it to. “Why don’t you just write them a note?”

Uryuu did.

As Uryuu knelt by the front door to put on his shoes, Ryuuken read through the thin paper taped on the door window. The note read: I’ll be back soon.

It was cold for February, and Ryuuken had left his jacket in Amsterdam. He hadn’t noticed he was cold until anger began to burn his ears.

Damn the pride and arrogance of the young to Hell! If the boy had entered Hueco Mundo expecting to die, then he shouldn’t have gone in the first place. It’s better to live than to die nobly attempting an impossible task.

Outside the store, Ryuuken asked Uryuu if he could still perform hirenkyaku.

“I haven’t tried since--I guess so.”

“Never mind.” Ryuuken took his son by the upper arm and flew with him across the clouds. His reiatsu made a platform wide enough for the both of them to stand on, but Ryuuken didn’t let go of Uryuu.

At a bump of turbulence, Ryuuken moved his hand from Uryuu’s arm to hold him by the opposite shoulder. It was the closest thing to a hug he had given his son in years, and by the way Uryuu flinched, Ryuuken knew it wasn’t welcome.

“I’m just trying to keep you from falling off and killing yourself a second time.”

“I’m not an invalid. I told you. I can do hirenkyaku.”

But Uryuu didn’t shoot away on his own reiatsu and neither did he shake away his father’s hold.

-----

After the festive and populated tourist spots he’d seen in Europe, Ryuuken’s house, a large home for Karakura, seemed modest and empty.

Even emptier than usual.

And Uryuu’s nervous presence at the threshold reminded Ryuuken that his son had not set foot in this house for years.

“I don’t have anything to offer you to eat. I have no clue what’s in the refrigerator, and I’m …  I’m sorry but it looks like I won’t be throwing the banquet for the Prodigal Son.”

“It’s okay. We ate a lot at Urahara-san’s.”

“Oh yes, I’m feeling it now--” Ryuuken shut his eyes and shook his head. “My circadian rhythms are screwed.  Do you know how long the plane ride from Barcelona to Tokyo is? Even without delays and ridiculous layovers? I really can’t see straight.”  Ryuuken took off his glasses and rubbed the space between his eyebrows.

“Did you eat anything?” Uryuu asked quietly. His eyes were sweeping across the living room.

“You were gone for sixteen months, Uryuu. I was in the air for forty hours. I don’t think that communication between us is going to be easy at the moment. I am expecting the whole story from you, but for now … I’m--I’m just relieved to see you’re unharmed.”  (Uryuu’s eyes widened at the words--were they that atypical?) “To be honest … looking at you now, it’s hard to envision you as anything but a ghost. I believed you were dead all this time.”

Uryuu made a face. It was a disrespectful face--his bottom lip jutted forward and his eyes narrowed. The boy doubted every word Ryuuken was saying. “Even before I went to Hueco Mundo,” he said with that soft arrogance Ryuuken had been certain he would never hear again, “you believed I was doomed. You must’ve told me a hundred times during training that I was going to die.”

That was the old Uryuu. The sardonic one. The rude child.

“You’re right. I didn’t have faith in you because you didn’t demonstrate an ability to survive under the worst of circumstances. But now….”

Uryuu’s eyes were hopeful. One could always read the boy’s face. He had never perfected his father’s self-possessed impassivity. The boy was transparent as rain.

“Urahara didn’t tell me much and neither did the father of that Shinigami you were stranded with. I’m presuming that you were either very lucky or very resourceful to have pulled out of this particular mess. I have to shower and shave, and I’ll evaluate your battle strategies later.”

That sounded cold, even to Ryuuken.

He hesitated before speaking again.

How could he explain to Uryuu that his father had suffered too?

“Even a dead son is a lot of trouble,” Ryuuken said. “Applying for your death certificate was out of the question but there was the matter of your financial assets. Word got out that I was planning to re-invest your trust fund, and my office was swamped with suspicious solicitors. I was going to sell the house.” Ryuuken heard the desperation overtaking his voice. “There was no one to inherit the library, so why not pack the books and sell the house? I was going to give away your clothes when I returned from Europe.”

“You still have my clothes?”

“Your room is exactly as you left it,” Ryuuken said. “Except dustier, of course. The maid is always forgetting to go in there.”

“Are you….” Uryuu sat on the floor. He sat right there on the floor even though there were comfortable seats not one millimeter away from him. “Do you expect…?

Just what kind of savage life were you leading those sixteen months? Sitting on the floor. I never saw you do such a thing.

“How long do you want me to stay here?” Uryuu asked.

“We’ll talk about that later. I need a shower.” Ryuuken picked up the small overnight bag he’d brought with him from Barcelona. He didn’t remember what he put in it--certainly not clothes. Maybe toiletries and a book so he wouldn’t be suspected of being a bag-less terrorist at the gates. He had wanted to leave the hotel as quickly as possible. He had dropped his pen and then his wallet at the checkout desk. He had almost fallen on the entry ramp as the plane was boarding.

Now he wanted Uryuu to believe that his father was in control as always.

A father should be in control.

“I’ll shower and change.” Ryuuken continued. “In the meantime, make yourself at home.”

The word didn’t echo until he was halfway up the stairs: was he really going to ask Uryuu to live here again? Where else would Uryuu go? This house was his home.

-----

The shower didn’t clear Ryuuken’s head. He remembered standing in it, water pouring over his face like the tears he refused to shed, and wondering--fretting actually--over what to do with Uryuu’s investment folder. Charities? A new wing for the hospital? A library, a scholarship, a building that would bear his dead son’s name? Ryuuken had wanted to feel in control: letting lawyers handle things after his own death was out of the question.

He walked down the stairs to the smell of sesame oil frying and found Uryuu in the kitchen--the boy was stirring something in a pan.

“It’s just ramen,” Uryuu said. “I couldn’t find anything else.”

“I suppose I could eat.” Ryuuken had not had an appetite for over a year. Fried ramen didn’t sound too bad

Uryuu shook containers of this and that over the noodles, and Ryuuken remembered Souken saying that knowing how to cook was essential as knowing how to love.

I can’t do either.

Or maybe life had not always been European restaurant after European restaurant.

I was married once; did I ever make breakfast for her?

Uryuu served the thin meal on two plates, and Ryuuken noticed how ravenously his son shoved food into his mouth.

“I thought you said you ate at Urahara’s.”

“Hello Panda and chocolate Pocky,” said Uryuu. “Cherry cokes.”

Ryuuken was going to need a drink. He rarely drank, and he could not remember having had any alcohol beyond that glass of wine with dinner in Florence. His hands were shaking---did he drink too much coffee today or had he forgotten how to use chopsticks after so many meals with silverware?

He found the plum wine and offered some to Uryuu.

Uryuu’s face made every sarcastic gesture short of eye-rolling. “I’m underage.”

“You survived Hueco Mundo; surely, you can have one drink. This is sweet--you’ll like it.”

Uryuu allowed his father to pour two glasses.  He didn’t touch his, but Ryuuken finished his glass in a few swallows.

“We have to get our stories straight for when you go back to school. Everyone thinks you were abroad with relatives. Perhaps I visited you when I was touring Europe?”

“I didn’t even think of that,” Uryuu said. “I forgot all about the people at school.”

“This is why I’m here,” Ryuuken sighed. “To concentrate on dreary but important matters while you’re off rescuing fair maidens. You never even reached the girl in Hueco Mundo, is that right? Urahara said that she reported never having seen you.”

“That’s true. I never reached her.” Uryuu was beginning to look more than nervous (was that panic in his eyes?) “Inoue-san escaped, though. She came back safely. That’s all that matters.”

“What happened, Uryuu? I don’t want embellished heroics; I want to know why you didn’t come back with the rest of the children.”

Silence.

“Urahara-san didn’t tell you?”

“All he said was that you and the Shinigami were back.”

Uryuu set down his chopsticks. “There’s not much to tell. Kurosaki and I were trapped in an underground Arrancar den.”

“The whole time? The whole sixteen months?”

“Yes.” Uryuu was staring at his plate. “We only got out when these Hollow who had become our allies--they came and rescued us.”

“Wait. You couldn’t maneuver out of the trap?  Why couldn’t you get out?”

“Believe me, I thought of every possible escape. We were too deep down. Miles. Even if we could’ve blasted through the Arrancar reiatsu surrounding the nest, we would’ve been buried under tons of sand.”

“I see.”

No adventure, no intrigue. His son in a hole with that son of a Shinigami.

“Before being trapped,” Uryuu offered, “I defeated two Arrancar.”

“With my weapons,” Ryuuken said. “Weapons you stole from the hospital.”

Uryuu lowered his head. “I’m sorry.”

Ryuuken cleared the table, put the plates in the sink, and still didn’t have the courage to ask Uryuu to stay. So he told him to stay.

“I’m going to bed. I imagine that you had plenty of time to sleep in that Arrancar prison, but I’ve been awake for too long. You can use the guestroom. It’s your mother’s old sewing room. Or you can use your old bedroom--I can’t guarantee that it’s not dusty. I need to talk to Amalia about that. Because I ignore a room doesn’t mean that she should ignore cleaning it.”

Wordlessly, Uryuu did as he was told.

He won’t stay here for long. He doesn’t want to stay here.

-----


Ryuuken was in bed when he saw the plastic bag leaning against his airplane bag. The bag of clothes retrieved from Uryuu’s apartment. Ryuuken must’ve brought them upstairs by mistake, so he went to deliver the clothes to Uryuu.

Uryuu wasn’t in the guestroom.

That meant he was in his old room.

Uryuu was sitting on the foot of the bed. Breathing hard, looking tragic.

“Uryuu?”

“You really didn’t change anything. You didn’t take the pictures of her away.”

“Why would I have done that? They were your pictures.”

Photographs of Uryuu’s mother. A dozen of them. She had placed them in frames everywhere so if the boy woke up from a bad dream, he could be comforted by her smiling face and not have to … (Ryuuken frowned at the memory) not have to run to his parents’ bedroom where his father had told him, “What are you afraid of? We’re just down the hall. Please don’t bother us again, Uryuu.”

Ryuuken stood at the threshold of the room he never entered. He heard her voice. The memory hit him like a fist in his face, and he was too stunned to feel the pain of it. Her sweet voice telling Uryuu: “I’m just down the hall. I’m here if you need me.”

“You took her pictures down everywhere else,” Uryuu said. His voice sounded petulant. His voice sounded like a twelve-year-old’s. “There were photographs of the family in the hall and now they’re gone.”

“I have my memories, Uryuu. I don’t need poor-quality department-store portraits to remind me of her.”

“I don’t get it.” Uryuu’s voice was almost a sob.

“What?”

“You loved her, but you’ve always acted like you hate me. I used to believe that all fathers were as horrible and cold as you. I didn’t know better.”

“Uryuu, I’ve tried to explain before. Discipline for your own good. Preparation for a career. A purging of that softness of yours--it would do you no good in business or in battle.”

“Why do you want me to live here if you hate me?”

Ryuuken was taken aback. So Uryuu already understood. His father was not merely inviting him here for a few days.

“I don’t hate you, Uryuu. You’re my son.”

Uryuu turned his eyes to Ryuuken. His eyes were like blue fire. Her eyes.

“Then you’re a sadist. The way you’ve always looked at me--it’s like you wished I were dead.”

Hadn’t this argument happened before? When Uryuu was younger. The day he left the house.

“You said I was the kind of idiot who would break his neck falling into a manhole. You said that so often that I believed you were planning on it. You wanted me dead.” Uryuu’s voice could sound like ice even while his eyes burned. “And so then what happens? I die and you must’ve been relieved. You must’ve been overjoyed. No more Uryuu to worry about. No more of my being less than a model of devotion to you.”

“Uryuu, stop.”

But he kept going. “No more worrying about my investment folder. No more trying to pressure me into some future you made up for me. No more of your being embarrassed by the sewing or--or the fact that the school knew my apartment address and that I didn’t live here---in this wonderful house, with my wonderful father, with--”

“If you don’t stop to breathe, you’ll hyperventilate,” Ryuuken said dryly. “That was your problem when dodging arrows too. Forgetting to breathe properly.”

Uryuu seemed to take his father’s sarcasm seriously. He breathed in; he breathed out. Then he said, “Is that why you look so miserable now? Your burdens have returned. Your son has come back to life.”

Ryuuken didn’t remember how the last argument in this room had ended--probably with Ryuuken’s saying something caustic and un-fatherly. In those days, he could not imagine indulging the boy with the reassurances that were at the tip of his tongue at this moment. He had wanted a hard, strong son who would cut through the cruel realities of the Living World and never, never….

Ryuuken closed his eyes and felt the fatigue of sixteen months. A strong son who would never die.

“Go to bed, Uryuu. This can wait. We’re both over-strained by recent events.”

“NO!”

Good gods, there was a teenager in the house again.

“Unless you tell me right now, right here and now, why it is you hate me so much, I’m leaving. I’m going back to Urahara’s faster than your hirenkyaku took us away from there. What sort of idiot would stay in a house with a person who hates him?”

I would. You hate me, Uryuu, and I want you here. I want you to stay here more than I’ve ever wanted anything else.

“Well? You can’t deny it, can you? That look on your face says you hate me. You hate your own son.”

“I don’t hate you, Uryuu.”

Walk to the bed. Sit there and tell him everything. He’s not a boy anymore. He can understand.

Eyes like blue fire. “Why that look then? Other fathers would be so glad if their dead sons came back to life. You’ve always looked at me like that. Is it disappointment? Is it something else?”

Ryuuken took one step away from the threshold so that he was standing in the hall and appeared ready to leave.

“When I look at you,” he began. He turned his eyes away from Uryuu’s eyes. He couldn’t bear the accusation any longer. He had to defend himself against it. “When I look at you, Uryuu, I see your mother’s face.”

Ryuuken could hear Uryuu’s breathing.

“Sometimes I wonder why she was taken from me and why it wasn’t you. I knew her better than I knew you, you see. She was my wife. You were this small person who ran up and down the stairs and didn’t talk in full sentences. If you had died instead, there would have been sadness but I would’ve gotten over it.”

Was Uryuu horrified? Was this truth worse than believing that his father hated him?

“I didn’t want the responsibility of rearing you after she died, but I took the responsibility because she would’ve wanted me to go on living. She cared for you so much. I didn’t think she thought about the future, though…” Ryuuken felt like he was talking to himself now. “She had never had any plans for you beyond picking out your morning wardrobe, but I would have plans. I never hated you, Uryuu. I wanted to make sure that you would go out in the world with the skills to--”

“I’ve heard this part before,” Uryuu said softly. “Heard it dozens of times.”

Ryuuken glanced back at Uryuu. The boy was looking down at the carpet as if he wanted to shoot a hundred arrows into it. As if he want to burn it with fire from those blue eyes.

“I still miss her,” Ryuuken said. His voice caught. He couldn’t stop himself. Tears in his throat again. He cleared his throat and went on, “When I thought you were dead….

An echo of Amsterdam. The certainty that she was never coming back. The fear that maybe Uryuu wasn’t really back, that it had all been a mistake.

“When I thought you were dead, I missed you too.”

Ryuuken’s heart was pounding with fear. Fear of what?

“Maybe it wasn’t you I missed so much as … as….”

Uryuu snorted with derision. “Not me, of course. You didn’t miss me.

“After you died and even before that … I missed what could have been. I missed not being the kind of father to you that she would’ve wanted me to be.”

Ryuuken walked away. He heard Uryuu drop his body against the mattress.

He’s going to stay. Maybe not for long, but he’s going to stay.


Later that night, when Ryuuken awoke from another stretch of dreamless sleep, he reached out for Uryuu’s reiatsu, and it was still in his old bedroom.

This time the boy would not be running away from home. This time he would not be running away from his father.

And Ryuuken was no longer running away from her memory. His mind spoke her words:
I’m just down the hall, Uryuu. I’m here if you need me.


END


There. Done. Writing the Ishidas always wears me out. There's enough dysfunctional stuff there for several novels, though.
Tags: after you died and even before that, ishida, ryuuken, sequel
Subscribe
  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Comments allowed for members only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 30 comments
Previous
← Ctrl ← Alt
Next
Ctrl → Alt →
Previous
← Ctrl ← Alt
Next
Ctrl → Alt →