I’m Not Your Fault
or Chinese Chicken Flu Strikes Ishida Uryuu
Disclaimer: Kubo Tite invented the characters of Ishida Uryuu and Kurosaki Ichigo and owns the rights to their story, Bleach. I just put the boys together for fun and snarky!love.
for Neha who gets what she asks for, only with no sex because I’m odd like that
Ishida answered his apartment door without any clothes on.
Ichigo refused to believe his own eyes. This shiny-wet, butt-naked apparition couldn’t be Ishida. For one thing, it was friendly.
“Kurosaki-kun!” It spoke in Ishida’s voice but was imitating Inoue.
“You’re all wet,” was all Ichigo could say.
“You’re so observant.” It looked like Ishida but with black hair plastered to its skull so its facial features seemed larger. “I just got out of the bath.” Those eyes were bulging more than they were supposed to. They looked … unfocused? Ishida’s eyes had seemed strange at other times--like when Ichigo had caught him without his glasses, but this wasn’t one of those times.
This IshiThing was wearing glasses. Glasses, in fact, were all that it was wearing, and it was not the least bit self-conscious. The door was still wide open to the whole neighborhood while this brazen, bug-eyed weirdo stood dripping a puddle on the threshold.
It wasn’t Ishida. It was the wrong color in fact. The real Ishida was only a couple shades warmer than those white clothes he liked to wear and this guy was all rosy like an overripe sumomo. And parts were purplish--the droopy lids above those swollen eyes and the genital area--Ichigo glanced down to verify that this strange, moist, reddish-purplish IshiThing was human….
“Are you sick or something?”
IshiThing looked down at his own crotch. “What’s the matter with it?”
“What?” Ichigo took a moment to un-confuse himself. “It?” He looked up to meet IshiThing’s bleary gaze. “No, no, your thing looks normal but you’re all funny colored.” Ichigo tried to assess the situation but knew he sucked at stuff like this. Maybe this was Ishida and he had the Plague. “Have you had all your vaccinations?”
Ichigo knew the truth now; this was Ishida because no one else could do indignant like that.
“Your color,” Ichigo said. “You’ve got a really bad rash--did you know that? Looks like mumps or rubella.” Ichigo had never seen a case or mumps or rubella but he’d read descriptions of the diseases over and over when kids get came to get their school shots at the Kurosaki Clinic.
“This isn’t mumps or rubella, Doctor Kurosaki,” the rosy-red Ishida went on in a superior tone. “I’m fine. I’m just feverish. This is just a run-of-the-mill virus. I tend to--” He put his hand forward on the doorframe to steady himself. “I tend to--” Ishida’s voice fainted before he did. Ichigo could barely hear his last words. “I get a little flushed is all.”
Ichigo waited to catch him because Ishida’s body fell in slow motion. First Ishida’s head nodded, then his shoulders drooped, then his upper torso moved forward as if trying to slam an opponent, but Ichigo grabbed two slippery forearms before the rest of Ishida could dribble to the floor. “Hey!” Ichigo felt the wet naked weight on his chest increase as Ishida continued to lose consciousness.
“C’mon Ishida, you’re not really--”
Okay, maybe this wasn’t Ishida. Passing out wasn’t in Ishida’s Uryuu’s repertoire. He just didn’t do that. In battle he sat wide-awake with his hand chopped off and his insides disemboweled. He was tough and alert and always talking shit and even though he looked like a skinny girl in a short skirt in that
A slightly vulnerable Ishida would’ve been hard enough to take, but this was a totally naked Ishida passed out in Ichigo’s arms.
Ichigo’s insides seized with panic.
“Ishida?” Ichigo’s own voice sounded lost and girly, and he was ashamed of himself. He’d been in worse crisis situations. This was nothing, just a matter of getting the poor guy to a healer, to the hospital, to his dad … at least to the bed.
Ichigo put one hand under Ishida’s knees and scooped him up easily. Ichigo’s heart rate was rising.
Don’t freak. He’s not dead.
Ichigo kicked the door behind him shut and walked to the bedroom. It was because his mother’s body had fallen on him when she died that he hated the weight and feeling of an unconscious body, he knew that, but remembering the source of his panic didn’t stop it, and worse, he felt helpless and out of his element. He wasn’t a healer. He was afraid he’d do something to make matters worse.
Did he lie Ishida down gently enough on the bedspread? Sometimes in these situations you can jostle brains and spines and mess up people forever. Not that brain jostling would matter with Inoue’s rejection techniques. “You’ll be okay, Ishida,” Ichigo heard himself whisper. Now, to shunpou over to wherever Inoue was, probably at Tatsuki’s--
“Mmm.” There was a thin moaning sound coming from the body on the bed. Again, that wasn’t like Ishida at all. Ishida didn’t whimper, not if he was bleeding buckets or his arms were slashing apart as he fired off arrow after arrow loaded down with Ichigo’s dense reiatsu….
“No, Kurosaki … mmmm.”
Ishida wasn’t moaning in pain; he was trying to speak. Ichigo sat next to him and searched his face for signs of recovery.
“Don’t talk,” Ichigo said. Fever-delirious people were often like drunk people. That’s why Ishida had called him “Kurosaki-kun” and had come to the door naked. That had to be it. Drunk people liked stripping too. Ichigo just hoped Ishida wouldn’t throw up like drunk people did. “Just rest. I’m going to--”
“Don’t go!” The words were a whine. Ishida still hadn’t opened his eyes but his hand reached out, fell back on his stomach. This was crazy. Ishida was a tough guy. He didn’t whine or act weak, not even when impaled with Zangetsu.
Ichigo reflexively covered Ishida’s hand with his. “I’m right here. It’s okay.”
It just so happened that their hands rested on the upper part of Ishida’s abdomen where… there should have been a scar. Ishida’s flesh was perfectly smooth and whole there--a little mooshy at the moment but there was no evidence that Ichigo had tried to kill Ishida a few weeks ago. Ichigo and Ishida’s hands rose and fell with Ishida’s breathing.
Impaled with Zangetsu. Yeah, there was going to be no escaping that memory. Ichigo owed Ishida big-time now. He’d stabbed his friend through the gut while in his own delirious frenzy and now it was Ichigo’s fault that Ishida was this sick because damn it, damn it, he should’ve known that when Ishida didn’t come to school yesterday that something was wrong and should’ve checked up on him yesterday.
“Holy fuck, Ishida, what is wrong with you? This is the Chinese Chicken flu, isn’t it?”
Ishida opened one eye. It looked less swollen than before. “There’s no such thing.”
Even delirious with the Chinese chicken flu, the bastard thought he knew everything. “Yes there is, Ishida. It’s been all over the news.”
“No, no, no.” The other eye opened. He looked less reddish. The fainting spell seemed to have done him good. “You’re thinking of Influenza A. I don’t have that.”
“You do! Look at you!”
“And it’s not from
“Like chickens!” Ichigo insisted.
Ishida’s lashes fluttered and his pupils rolled away, leaving only the dim whites of his eyes staring at Ichigo.
“Damn it!” Ichigo shook Ishida’s arm. He didn’t care about jostling Ishida’s brains. He shook harder.
Ishida’s blue pupils reappeared.
“You just had a febrile seizure!” Ichigo announced.
“I don’t think so,” Ishida responded in a feeble voice. “People stop having those when they’re about five years old.”
“Holy fuck, Ishida.”
“It’s fine. It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have gotten out of the bath so fast--”
The idiot actually tried to sit up so Ichigo stopped him with an open palm. Ishida lay back down without complaint and kept talking in a voice with affect, like he was giving a book report. “I took a lukewarm bath to bring the fever down but then I got chills so I got out. My resting blood pressure is low anyway so I should’ve known better--”
“I should have known better.” Ichigo folded his arms and felt that rising urge to fight in his gut. Only he didn’t know what to punch. “You never skip school unless you’re sick or injured. I didn’t think about that until fourth period today. I’m sitting there and trigonometry is kicking my ass and I can’t remember the Pythagoras Theorem and--”
“Sssh.” Ishida’s voice was whispery calm. “I’m not your fault, Kurosaki.”
Whatever that meant, it made some sort of mysterious sense to Ichigo. Except that Ishida didn’t talk that way. “How long have you been like this?” Ichigo asked
The wan face on the pillow looked perplexed. “What do you mean?”
Ichigo couldn’t help raising his voice. “Why am I asking a delirious person questions? Sick! How long have you been sick? It doesn’t matter--I’m taking you to my dad’s clinic.”
“Now that’s not very smart. Why expose your sisters and all these innocent people there to the Chinese chicken flu?”
“I thought you said there was no such thing as the Chinese chicken flu!”
“There isn’t.” Ishida managed to raise himself to his elbows without any difficulty. He looked better, nearer his natural colorless color. “I’m mocking you, Kurosaki.”
Yes, he was better all right. Only Ishida Uryuu could mock people in the middle of a febrile seizure. His eyes looked clear at the moment, though, so maybe he was all done being delirious. Ichigo felt the tightness in his chest lessen and the panic lift.
“I’ve had fever since yesterday,” Ishida continued, “but I’m fine. I grew up in a hospital so I know all about these things. Just a moment ago--when you knocked on the door--that’s as long as I’ve been--not myself. Fevers are manageable when--”
“You were acting like Inoue.”
At that, Ishida looked stunned. Then he seemed to notice that he was naked on the bedspread and pulled a flap of it over to cover himself. “What do you mean acting like …?” He was obviously worried. “Inoue-san is a very pleasant person so I’m sure I didn’t do anything vulgar.”
“You called me Kurosaki-kun.”
“I did NOT.” Ishida narrowed his eyes. “You’re lying.”
“I grew with a doctor for a father too, Ishida, and you need to be … hospitalized and quarantined or something.”
“I did NOT call you Kurosaki-kun. I wasn’t even talking when you helped me walk to the bed!”
Maybe one day, when Ishida had him cornered in an argument, Ichigo would tell him that he’d fainted like a girl, definitely did not walk to the bed, and upon awakening had called out for Ichigo not to leave his side. He probably wouldn’t believe it, but Ichigo would win the argument just by making him doubt a little and at the very least, by impressing him with the ability to come up with such an imaginative put down.
Ichigo stood up and pointed a righteous index finger at the pale figure in the bed. “You are sick as fuck. You need medical attention, and I’m going to call an ambulance, tell your father on you, or just get Inoue to come over here and zap you out of this before you have another seizure and give yourself BRAIN DAMAGE.”
“You’re over-reacting.” Even though he was still wet-haired and looking like a cadaver just fished out of a river, Ishida managed to give Ichigo a superior look. “If you bother anyone about this you will look like a fool, and if you disturb Inoue-san or my father, I will kill you.”
The nerve of this chicken flu victim!
“It’s just a virus that’s been going around the hospital,” Ishida went on. “My father had it last week and it put him down for a few days. He merely took some time off work and you see, if I don’t cure myself with just rest and fluid and Anflagen*, I’ll be less of a man than he is. You can’t bring Inoue-san. Do you understand?”
The gravity of Ishida’s words settled in the ensuing pause.
Ichigo understood. He understood the part about Ishida’s pride anyway. He put away his pointing finger. “Have you had any Anflagen recently?”
“I--I think so.”
“You’ve lost track of time. I bet your dad had a little timer going off every four hours that told him when to take his medicine. Have had you had any fluids recently?”
“I know how to take care of myself.”
“I’m sure you do, but I’m not leaving until you prove to me you can. I wouldn’t be my father’s son if I did--do you understand that?”
“Fine then. Do you have any soda water in the fridge? Orange juice? What are you using for fluids around here besides bath water?”
Ichigo had no idea of what to do for a sick person; it’d been so long since anyone in his family had actually been sick. At the mere hint of a cough or runny nose in one of his offspring, Papa Kurosaki would prescribe Chinese medicinal tea, lots of lollipops and no school for at least a week, thus no one ever became seriously ill.
Ishida’s refrigerator was well stocked with bottles of flavored soda water, jars of red and white miso paste, and a plastic vat of recently prepared rice porridge. One kitchen cabinet contained medical curios from Karakura General, including a blood pressure gauge and an ear thermometer.
The ear thermometer gave a reading of 40 degrees Celsius. “That can’t be right,” Ichigo said. “I don’t think I put it deep enough in your ear.”
“You don’t have to stab it in like a sword,” Ishida said. “You nearly took out my eardrum. 40 degrees is fine.”
“Since when is 40 degrees fine?”
“When the fever doesn’t stay there for long. My fever’s been breaking and coming back since last night.”
“It’s still way high. Don’t you think you have an infection somewhere? Are you taking antibiotics?”
“A good doctor,” Ishida said, as if he were an authority on the matter, “never prescribes preventative antibiotics when a person has been sick for only a short while with a stupid virus.”
“My dad does it all the time,” Ichigo snorted. “Quit acting like you know stuff. If you did, you wouldn’t have gotten delirious, and if I hadn’t come by, you would’ve been traipsing all over the neighborhood naked and talking like Inoue.”
Ishida looked embarrassed. Ichigo figured that Ishida must’ve truly blacked out what happened. Maybe if Ichigo told him he’d giggled like Inoue and twirled his black hair with one finger and said du’uh, where are my maxi-pads? that would keep the smart ass in his place.
Ishida mumbled something about needing to dress himself but Ichigo told him to shut up and stay in bed. Then Ichigo threw an extra blanket on him, and on top of the blanket a futon that had been rolled up in the hall closet. The futon was child-sized and had little white crosses sewn on a deep blue background. It looked like something Ishida had made in primary school, but it was thick enough to keep a wet naked person plenty warm. Ichigo didn’t want to see Ishida get up and pass out again.
“When you can get up to pee by yourself and not wobble around, then I’ll leave.”
“Isn’t that a rule in hospitals?” Ichigo was sure of this fact from his father’s practice. “You aren’t released from a physician’s care until the nurse observes that you can go to the bathroom by yourself.”
“Damn it, Kurosaki, I can do that already.”
“Then do it.”
Ishida shut his eyes and exhaled deeply. His eyelids were dark and unhealthy looking. “I don’t have to go at the moment, and when I do, I don’t want you watching me--is that understood?”
“Sick as fuck,” Ichigo muttered as he left to fetch something for Ishida to drink. “Sick, sick, sick as fuck.”
At the very least, Ichigo could make sure Ishida wouldn’t take another blood-pressure plummeting bath again. What kind of doctor’s son was this idiot anyway? Every grandmother in
He supervised Ishida’s downing two Anflagen capsules and a good third of a Ramune soda. Ishida didn’t want to eat, so Ichigo ate the rice porridge that was leftover in the fridge. It was actually not bad for porridge because Ishida had added all kinds of fragrant spices. It was only after finishing the batch that Ichigo felt bad for eating a sick man’s food. He found Ishida’s rice cooker and the congee setting and after some awkward measuring of this and that per Ishida’s instructions, Ichigo had started another batch of porridge.
When Ichigo returned from the kitchen, Ishida appeared to be asleep.
Ichigo had to touch him to make sure he wasn’t dead. He expected to be whacked the moment his fingertips grazed Ishida’s brow, but no, Ishida didn’t stir. Ichigo covered the whole forehead with his palm.
Convinced Ishida was alive, Ichigo took off the silver-rimmed glasses and folded them on the nightstand. He took Ishida’s temperature again. Neither the ear poking nor the little beep sound of the thermometer fazed the slumbering patient. 38 degrees Celsius. That was the temperature of a person who would live to see another day, so Ichigo relaxed and thought he’d catch some television. Then he remembered that Ishida didn’t have a television in his apartment.
He found a laptop computer, though, but after googling for information about plagues and chicken diseases and discovering that most of the fatalities from Asian bird flu were nice young people between the ages of ten and nineteen, Ichigo wondered if he shouldn’t just find Inoue.
Even if it meant Ishida would kill him after getting healed.
He closed the laptop and looked for something else to distract himself. There were all sorts of boring books piled around, books Ichigo didn’t want to open for fear that they might contain terrifying facts about mysterious illnesses that mimicked ordinary chicken flus but were really infestations by insidious termites that raped your brain and transformed your personality ….
Who are you, Ishida Uryuu, and why are you always hiding from me?
It was no use. Ichigo knew that he was terrified of having someone die on him the way his mom had, and making matters worse was how Ishida always acted like nothing in the world was wrong and that had been Kurosaki Masaki too--Ichigo figured as much because what woman was really that happy all the time the way he remembered his mom? What sorts of loneliness and need did people hide all the time? Why couldn’t he protect people from the monsters inside themselves as well as from the monsters outside?
Ichigo rose from the desk and sat on the edge of Ishida’s bed because there was nowhere else to sit. He could just lie down here and take a little nap and stop worrying.
Or he could go fetch Inoue.
Ichigo would only be trying to save Ishida’s precious brain from irreversible damage from chronic high fever. Isn’t that what friends did for one another? Hadn’t Ishida gone up to Ichigo when he was a raging Hollow-beast and tried to save Ichigo’s humanity only to get attacked by Ichigo for his efforts?
Ishida’s face, always thin, looked wasted and ashen lying on the white pillow.
Guilt, guilt, guilt.
There would never be any getting over the guilt of having stabbed a friend who was trying to help you in the gut with the sword that was meant to protect him. The sword that was meant to protect everyone--Zangetsu. Zangetsu! How could he have ever hurt Ishida of all people with Zangetsu of all things?
Ishida could’ve hated him for it at least. But no, he had to sit there with his earnest face all sweaty from the pain and say something about how glad he was that Ichigo was back to his real self.
The body on the bed was breathing regularly. For a moment, Ichigo wondered if hearing Ishida breathe meant that he had pneumonia but then he realized that it was just quiet in the room. Ichigo could detect no signs of respiratory distress or even congestion. He remembered how when he was a child (had he been a child the last time he’d caught a cold?) he would run a high fever first and then develop all the wheezy, snotty symptoms of a typical cold. Ishida was just in phase one of being sick. This scary fever would eventually break and then the real misery would start….
If Ichigo had to walk Ishida to the bathroom a million times to see if he could pee by himself, if Ichigo had to pick up all of Ishida’s snot rags and feed Ishida spoonfuls of rice porridge by hand for days and nights and nights and days--all that still wouldn’t be enough to make for what happened in Las Noches.
Ichigo leaned back on his elbows. It was a single bed and he didn’t want to crowd Ishida, so keeping his feet on the floor, he lay himself down so he only occupied the lower portion of the mattress. If he was going to be Ishida’s nurse for days and nights and nights and days, then maybe he needed to find an actual comfortable place to sleep but for now….
Ichigo’s mother would sometimes stay in his room all night when he was sick. Where had she sat? In a chair? On the floor? Ichigo couldn’t remember. He couldn’t remember a single time he was ever seriously sick after his mother died either.
Minutes ago, Ishida had said, “Don’t go” in the weakest voice.
Ishida needed him.
“Are you hot, Kurosaki?”
Ichigo opened his eyes.
It had only been early afternoon, just after school let out, when Ichigo had knocked on Ishida’s door, so Ichigo was surprised that the room was dark like nighttime. He was curled up at the foot of Ishida’s bed, and Ishida was in the same place as before, only sitting up now, wearing a dark yukata. His hair had dried but strands stuck to his face with fresh sweat.
“I--” Ichigo scratched his head. “I must’ve fallen asleep.”
“Either that or you were doing a very good job of lying perfectly still and pretending to snore for the past couple hours. Are you hot? I opened the window but it still felt hot in here to me.”
“Well of course. You’re the one having febrile seizures.”
“Are you planning on going to medical school? You need to learn to pay attention if you are. I already told you that adults don’t have febrile seizures.”
The window wasn’t open. It was draped with a heavier curtain than before. That’s why it seemed so dark. All lamps were turned off. Maybe Ishida was going crazy again--oh! Ichigo knew what the matter was. “Your eyes! Are your eyes all sensitive?”
Ishida squinted behind his glasses. Then he took a swig out of his Ramune soda and gave Ichigo an expectant look.
“Yeah,” Ichigo said, “people at the clinic who have high fevers are always complaining about sensitivity to light.”
“That’s all you know?”
“I guess so.” Ichigo stretched and yawned. “Are you worried you’ve glaucoma or something? I thought you knew everything about everything or if you didn’t you looked it up--oh, I guess you can’t use your laptop if your eyes are freaky. Hey, did you pee by yourself yet?”
Ishida stared at Ichigo with those sick bug eyes.
“You haven’t even gone to the bathroom yet?” Ichigo was alarmed. “You’re dehydrated--that’s what the matter with you is!”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I’ve gone to the bathroom. Are you a pervert and sorry you missed it?”
“You’re lying. Just come to the clinic. My dad can give you an I.V. bag of fluids. Takes ten minutes.”
Ishida slumped into his pillow and raised his knees. “No.”
Ichigo knew that Ishida couldn’t come right out and admit to feeling terrible and worried about dying, but didn’t everyone who’d ever had a high fever wonder if it was going to kill him? Ichigo could clearly remember the fevers of his own childhood and the sensation of leaving his body through a burning place behind the eyes.
“You should’ve woken me up earlier,” Ichigo said. “I’m supposed to be helping you.”
Ishida pulled the blanket covered with the bedspread covered with the child’s
Ichigo felt horrible. “Did I ruin your rice cooker? Did you eat anything? What were you doing up--can you walk around without fainting? You need to eat something. Here, get up--let me see if you can walk okay. Show me where things are in the kitchen and I’ll make you soup.”
Ishida closed his eyes. “I don’t feel like it right now.”
Did he always fall asleep with his glasses on? This is bad. Ishida is really sick and I’m a moron.
“If I can’t cook, I’ll find something for you to eat,” Ichigo called as he made his way to the kitchen. “Our dad used to feed us chocolates and lollipops when we were sick. He said that the reason old people died was because they ate too much soup and porridge and that junk food keeps you happy and healthy.”
Ichigo couldn’t remember seeing any junk food in Ishida’s kitchen, only ingredients. He opened drawers and cabinets. The
He bounded back to Ishida’s bedside with an orange Ramune and a package of shu-cream looking confections. Ishida looked to be nodding off. Ichigo took off the glasses off his face, and Ishida startled awake, drawing away from Ichigo’s closeness.
“Don’t get all squirmy with me,” Ichigo said. “I carried you naked to this bed and I’ll stuff these cookies down your throat if you won’t eat them. I might be a stupid nurse but I won’t let you die from stubbornness.”
“Sssh! You don’t have to talk so loud. My head hurts.”
Ishida was weak enough that he let Ichigo take his ear temperature again without protest. 39.9 Celsius. Ichigo braced himself for some more Kurosaki-kuns, but Ishida drank his soda and swallowed more Anflagen and didn’t seem lost to IshiThing again. When he spoke, it was in his usual serious voice.
“My grandfather didn’t think much of modern medical doctors.” Ishida had torn open the bag of cream puffs and was arranging the puffs on the bedspread in a
“That’s kind of a slam to your dad.” Ichigo was wondering if he should get out the blood pressure gauge. He didn’t know how to use it but Ishida probably did. “I suppose that saying means that no matter what I do to try to help you now, I’m still an inferior sort of person because I should’ve … I should’ve helped you before.” Ichigo frowned. The statement made sense in his guilty heart but not when spoken aloud.
“You’re stupid,” Ishida noticed. “You’re not making any sense.” He cracked open a puff and scooped out the white insides with his index finger.
Ichigo didn’t think that Ishida was really going to put that creamy finger into his mouth, but Ishida did. He ate all the cream puffs that way. He finished only the insides and left the little flaky shells.
At least he ate something. Ichigo swept the crumbs off the bed with his palms onto the bag and brought the empty Ramune bottles to the kitchen. Ichigo attempted another batch of porridge, and this one came out okay because he remembered to unplug the cooker instead of leaving it on the congee setting. Ishida didn’t eat because he was asleep again, and this time Ichigo refrained from slurping up Ishida’s food. He put it in a plastic container in the refrigerator and thought that maybe he would serve it with sugar because Ishida seemed to have a sweet tooth at the moment. He recalled Isshin saying that cooking wine was good in sick people porridge, but Ichigo didn’t think getting a feverish patient drunk was a good idea.
Of course Isshin was one of those superior doctors who claimed to prevent illness in himself with alcohol. “Sake keeps the respiratory system clean,” was one of Ichigo’s dad’s favorite sayings. He also used alcohol to treat illness--as in drinking a swig of mirin for a sore throat. Ichigo wondered how such a lush could be such a competent person when it came to caring for the ill, but there was no doubt about it--Kurosaki Isshin was known far and wide for his excellent treatment of patients and his endearing bedside manner.
Ishida would take about five minutes of Isshin’s endearing bedside manner, Ichigo figured, before attempting to kill him.
Ishida slept and slept, and when his fever broke, the sweat ran in rivulets down his face like he’d just taken a shower. Because Ichigo had opened the window to let in the breeze when Ishida had been at his hottest, there was a noticeable chill in the room as night fell.
“Are you cold?”
Ishida didn’t answer so Ichigo thought he was asleep.
“I’m a little cool myself,” Ichigo went on, “but I’m not covered with blankets.” He nonetheless got up to pull down the shade. He left the window open, and the quiet outside seemed just as deep as the quiet inside.
There should not have been space on the other side of Ishida in the single bed but there was. Enough space for Ichigo to lie comfortably on his back. Ishida lay on his side like a thin bumpy border on the far side of the mattress, his body barely noticeable under all the layers of blanket.
“You don’t have to keep feeling guilty,” Ishida whispered. His eyes were still closed.
“I’m just trying to be a decent friend here,” Ichigo said. “Be quiet.”
Ishida turned from his side to face the ceiling. His elbow was touching Ichigo’s elbow. “You can’t save the whole world. You can’t. You have to do the best you can and move on. My grandfather was murdered before my own eyes, and I couldn’t save him. When I think about it now, though, I understand that Sensei would feel very bad if he thought I held myself responsible. He would not want me to be burdened with guilt, and so I’m not. Guilt would only weigh me down and make me an inferior warrior, one who fights out of fear and vengeance rather than one who fights out of ….”
Ichigo wondered if Ishida was delirious again.
“I forgot what I fight for,” Ishida said, “but you know what I mean. You’ve been acting all guilty and mopey ever since we came back from Hueco Mundo.”
“I could’ve killed you,” Ichigo said.
“You didn’t,” Ishida said.
“Promise me,” Ichigo said, “that if I ever turn into a monster or someone not like myself that you’ll stay away from me.”
“You’re not the only one who gets to help his friends.” Ishida started to cough lightly, and Ichigo recognized the onset of normal cold symptoms. The worst of the fever was over. Ishida cleared his throat and kept on talking. “I would do it again, Kurosaki. If you turned into a monster and started doing … things you would regret, I would try to stop you again.”
“And I would stab you in the gut again, Ishida. Please stop talking like that.”
Ishida fell asleep again, waking up every now and then to cough, and once he rose to go to the bathroom. Ichigo lay still and heard the sound of pee hitting the water in the toilet and was glad that Ishida couldn’t see him smile. When Ishida came back to bed, it was with another pillow in his arms. He laid the pillow next to Ichigo’s head, but Ichigo was pretending to be asleep so he didn’t budge. It was only after Ishida fell asleep that Ichigo pulled the pillow under his neck and remembered he hadn’t called his family to tell them he’d be out for the night.
I’m such an idiot.
He told them in the morning. He called from Ishida’s kitchen phone while stirring molasses into warmed-up porridge. Ishida came into the kitchen just in time to hear him tell Karin “I’ll probably just hang around this weekend to keep an eye on him.”
“You know what’s going to happen, Kurosaki. You’re going to catch this virus.”
“I never get sick!” Ichigo shot another spurt of molasses into the bubbling pot. “Got to go now, Karin--he’s awake. He looks like a ghost already and I’m not kidding.”
“And I’m going to have to prove to you,” Ishida continued in a deadly serious tone, “that I am less of an inferior doctor than you are when I care for you.”
“At the very least, I won’t burn your porridge.”
“Oh, right. I get it. When I start running around naked and calling you Ishida-kun, you’re going to prove that you’re less of an inferior doctor than I am. Does that mean a better doctor? This is just like the contest with the Hollow bait, right?”
Ishida put his hand on the pot handle. “Give me that. You’re ruining it.”
“No.” Ichigo pulled the pot away. He couldn’t help but smile broadly, even as Ishida cast him a deadpan look that revealed nothing. “How can you be LESS of an inferior anything?” Ichigo asked. “Doesn’t that make you, like, really inferior?”
“Your grasp of abstract grammar is as bad as your knowledge of medicine.”
“You’re making stuff up.”
“You’re making a disgusting mess of that porridge. That looks like something Inoue-san would eat.”
Ichigo let Ishida have the pot. It was Ishida’s breakfast anyway, and he was soon sprinkling something delicious-smelling all over it.
Ichigo would buy junk food later. Ishida would eat it. Eventually, Ichigo would notice that Ishida had stopped saying stupid things like “less inferior” or “I’m not your fault,” and Ichigo would conclude that Ishida was no longer scarily ill. A person who could construct normal sentences could be relied on to tend to himself and not die of dehydration. Ichigo would go home healthy, free of any of symptoms of the Chinese Chicken flu and Ishida wouldn’t have to make good on his promise to care for him.
But at the moment, eating porridge that tasted like vanilla pudding. Ichigo imagined that it would be all right if their roles were reversed. At some point during the night the burden of obligation had lifted, and Ichigo understood that the indebtedness game wasn’t one that friends should play. Friends helped one another, period. It wasn’t a matter of owing anybody anything.
It wouldn’t be your fault if I got sick, Ishida.
I’m not your fault.
I’m your friend.
Oh, and sorry Neha for not making this sexual. I'll do better next time. In the meantime, you guys who want Pr0ns--the One Sentence Pr0n meme is still going strong. I finally got around to reading it this past weekend and there are some delicious tidbits in there.