Title: A Quincy Carol
Characters: Uryuu, Orihime and a cavalcade of shinigami, some IshiHime-ness involved
Rating: PG-13 (for a bit of swearing, not for any sexiness)
Disclaimer: Bleach doesn't belong to me. I'm just playing with the characters.
Author's Note: I saw a commercial for the new movie version of A Christmas Carol and this happened. I don't even know. My very first fanfic stole from literature, too.
It was a little after eleven at night on November 5, and Uryuu Ishida was sliding into bed when he was quite surprised to see Ichigo Kurosaki step through his bedroom wall in full shinigami attire.
"What are you doing in my room, Kurosaki?" It was best to be direct in these situations.
"I have something important to tell you. Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits." Ichigo didn't look happy to be there.
"Speaking of three, you have three seconds to get out of my room before I start shooting," Uryuu waved the Quincy cross at his wrist for emphasis.
"Hey, this wasn't my idea! I said, 'Let him do what he wants. It's none of our business.' But I guess we all need to make sure the stupid Quincy doesn't die alone with nothing but his capes to keep him company." Ichigo crossed his arms and looked even less happy to be there.
"Kurosaki…" Again, a twitch of the wrist.
"It's your birthday tomorrow, right?"
"How did you know that?" Uryuu had made a point of not telling anyone.
"It doesn't matter. What does matter is that you can't keep closing yourself off from people and spending your birthdays alone."
"I didn't know you cared so much, Kurosaki," Uryuu replied, falling back on their usual snarky back-and-forth. He was losing his footing in this strange situation and he needed some familiarity, even if it was just a few jabs at Ichigo's expense.
"Bite me, Ishida. I'm not doing this for you." Ichigo's face took on a more serious look. "There's someone else you're hurting with this hermit act of yours."
"What in the world are you talking about?"
Ichigo pointedly didn't answer. "Your visitors will be here soon. Try not to shoot them in the ass with one of your arrows before they can tell you something useful." With a wave, he was gone, leaving a gaping Quincy in his wake.
The next thing Uryuu remembered, he was waking up to a female voice calling his name. Rukia was standing at the foot of his bed.
"Did Kurosaki put you up to this?" was the first question that sprang to mind. She didn't answer him. Why were they both so intent on ignoring his questions when it suited them?
"I am here to show you birthdays past." Rukia was in full Kuchiki-sama mode, maintaining a somber expression and giving her words weight and importance. "Follow me."
There was a strange jerking sensation as Rukia took his arm and pulled him out the window. It didn't feel like she was using shunpou, and they arrived at their location in an instant. They walked in to a room that Uryuu recognized as his childhood bedroom. This had to be a dream. Couldn't he even escape his association with shinigami in his sleep?
When he saw the little Uryuu just waking up, he realized the time they were visiting with a sinking feeling in his stomach. He was nine years old, and it was the first birthday after his grandfather's death. Young Uryuu bounced out of bed, eager to see what his birthday would bring. His older counterpart wanted to stop him, make him return to his bed and sleep straight through to the next day.
"This is the beginning of your desire to be alone on your birthday, isn't it?" Rukia commented, picking up on Uryuu's dread.
They followed newly-nine-year-old Uryuu down the stairs to the dining room. Instead of birthday greetings and gifts, he found a curt note from his dad on the table, "Working late. Make some ramen for dinner. – Ryuuken." There was no more bounce to little Uryuu as he left the dining room to get ready for the day.
"How could you do that to a little kid, Ryuuken?" Uryuu spat out bitterly.
"You shouldn't punish yourself for one man's coldness," Rukia advised. "Sometimes people don't know the best way to handle…new additions…in their lives, even if they're family."
"I'm not punishing myself!" Even to his own ears, he sounded petulant, as if he was becoming more like his younger self while he stayed in this past reality.
Rukia added kindly, "You have friends who would be happy to spend time with you on your birthday. Why don't you let them?"
He didn't have an answer for that.
Uryuu woke up suddenly in his bed. There was no sight of Rukia. "It was just a dream," he whispered to himself.
"What was just a dream?" a gruff voice responded. Uryuu jumped as Renji stepped out of the shadows.
"Abarai! What are you doing here?" Were the invasions never going to end tonight?
"Rukia showed you birthdays past. I'm here for the present. Let's get this over with." Renji's actions quickly followed his words. Uryuu felt the same sensation as before as he was pulled from his bed and quickly spirited to a new location.
This time, he didn't recognize the room they appeared in. Until Orihime walked into his line of sight.
"What are we doing here? We can't just walk into someone's apartment! It's illegal!" It was one thing to participate in breaking-and-entering in the past and spy on yourself, but to just show up in a girl's place… He was no better than a peeping tom. He turned to walk away.
Renji just gave him a look that said, "I'm not putting up with any bullshit", grabbed his arm and turned him back to face the kitchen counter where Orihime was standing.
She was arranging something on a plate. Leaning closer, Ishida could see that they were cupcakes, frosted white, with an immaculate blue cross painted on each one. She sighed, her usual cheerful expression absent as she stared at the cupcakes.
Yesterday – Or was it yesterday? He didn't know how much time had passed since this crazy experience began – Orihime had asked him to come over and help her with a sewing project. He said he couldn't, and made up an excuse about studying. He realized now that Orihime had really wanted him to come over so she could surprise him on his birthday.
He was startled out of his thoughts by a sound smack on the back of the head. "You idiot! How could you make her so sad!" Renji looked truly upset.
"I didn't know she had plans for my birthday! How was I supposed to know that she knew the date?" Renji wasn't the only one who was upset. Uryuu was feeling horrible in the face of all of those blue-and-white cupcakes. There was no way they weren't made especially for him.
"So if she had asked you to come over for your birthday, you would have said yes instead of making up a lame excuse?"
"I…of course I…" As much as he liked to think he would have welcomed the gesture, Uryuu knew that he probably would have made the same excuses.
"Studying. On a Friday night, even. I don't know what's wrong with you." Renji raised an eyebrow at him. Or was it a tattoo? A tattooed eyebrow?
"College entrance examinations are very important, something that a shinigami like you could never understand..." Renji could actually see the moment the realization hit him, as Uryuu's face went from "know-it-all" to "indignant Quincy". "Were you spying on me?"
"Yeah, and let me tell you, it was the most boring assignment of my life. Calligraphy lessons with Kuchiki-taichou are nothing compared to watching you pick out a fucking yard of fabric."
Uryuu's sputtering came to a sudden halt when he heard Orihime say softly, "Happy birthday, Ishida-kun." She picked up a cupcake, took a small bite, and then set it back down before walking quickly away.
Uryuu wasn't sure if she could even hear him, but he reached out a hand as if to stop her. "Inoue-san, I – "
Uryuu woke up again in his bed. He could still see the image of Orihime's sad face and wished he could have stayed in that dream, vision, whatever it was, a little longer.
He felt the approach of a crushingly strong reiatsu with a brighter…pinker…reiatsu just underneath. It seemed that the next "spirit" was on its way.
"How strong are ya?" Uryuu found himself staring up into the crazily smiling face of Kenpachi Zaraki. "I've never fought a Quincy before. It could be fun."
"Ken-chan! That's not why we're here!" Uryuu recognized Kenpachi's small fukutaichou, as she appeared from behind his shoulder.
"Come with us Sleepy-Glasses-kun! We have to take you to the future!" Yachiru jumped onto the bed, landing on his stomach. Before he had time to regain his breath to complain properly, they were on their way.
This time, it was early evening and Orihime was walking out of a bakery, locking it behind her. It was clear that this Orihime was older, maybe in her mid-twenties. Uryuu saw that the years had only made her more beautiful.
His pleasant thoughts came to an abrupt end as Ichigo appeared ahead on the sidewalk. He met up with Orihime and they walked together for a while.
"Why are you showing me this? Of course Inoue-san ended up with Kurosaki." Uryuu was almost surprised by the bitter tone to his voice.
"Stop talking and keep watching." Uryuu did as he was told. His usual comebacks just didn't seem appropriate when faced with someone like Kenpachi Zaraki. "Ya know, this Ichigo looks a couple of years older. Do you think he'd be stronger?"
"Ken-chan…" Yachiru warned.
"Right, right. That's not why we're here."
After a few minutes, Ichigo and Orihime reached a corner and parted ways. After saying good-bye to Ichigo, Orihime walked to a nearby park and sat down on a bench. She pulled something out of her bag and stared at it. They weren't close enough for him to be sure, but Uryuu thought that it looked with a postcard - a slightly ragged postcard that seemed to have been in that bag for a while.
"You sent Jiggles a pretty picture with writing on the back. She looks at it a lot!" Yachiru confirmed his suspicions that it was a postcard. But why was Orihime staring so intently at it?
"You decided to travel to some place called Europe for college, studying some girly fashion shit. Then you stayed there." Kenpachi was surprisingly helpful.
"I don't understand. Why are you showing me this?"
"Happy birthday, Ishida-san," Orihime whispered sadly to the sky. His heart soared with the realization that she wasn't with Kurosaki; she was waiting for him.
No, she wasn't waiting for him. She was waiting for a future version of Uryuu Ishida who distanced himself from the girl that loved him, and, if he was going to be honest with himself, that he loved. They were never going to be together in this future. His heart broke.
Uryuu wasn't even surprised this time when he woke up in his own bed. He flipped open his cell phone to check the date. It was November 6. Regardless of what may have happened in between, he had gone to bed on the night of the 5th and woken up the morning of the 6th. It was still his birthday.
Had the visions been real? He wouldn't put it past Urahara or Mayuri to create some sort of hallucinogen. This was why he wanted nothing to do with shinigami.
No matter. He hurriedly got dressed and grabbed his travel sewing box before leaving the apartment. There was someone waiting for him and he had some cupcakes to eat.