Rating: PG-13 for language
Genre(s): Angst, Drama, Romance, Supernatural
Pairings: Ichigo/Rukia (main), Zangetsu/Sode no Shirayuki
Length: 6,339 words
Summary: Once upon a time, the Gods played a game of Fate that erased the sun and blackened the moon. (She destroys, He creates, and the Love between them continues forever more).
Author's Notes: Title for this was taken from Dylan Thomas' Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. I would highly recommend reading the poem after finishing this story. I couldn't resist taking the Break Up, Make Up theme a little further than intended. If you're a fan of Greek myths, I'm sure you'll be able to find some elements of those great legends in this. Kudos if you can guess at my OTP, which I snuck into the story quite discreetly. ;D
They say that a long, long time ago…
"Let's play a game, Zangetsu." She twirled a strand of pale blue hair in between her fingers, eyes focused on the man by her ivory throne. He leaned against the armrest casually and didn't answer for a long while, but she didn't care for things like time. They were Immortals. Goddess of Destruction and God of Creation. Time was child's play. …the Gods played a game of Destiny that erased the sun and blackened the moon.
…the Gods played a game of Destiny that erased the sun and blackened the moon.
"Renji, this way!"
("Still watching her, Shirayuki? How unexpected." The serpentine man shook a finger mockingly and bent to kiss her pale, cold hand. She resisted the urge to recoil from his touch. "Could it be that you're worried about her well-being? My vessel would never harm such a tragic young girl, not when her suffering would be so much more beautiful if left alone to grow and fester." His lips stayed on her skin, each word brushing irritatingly close. "But you would know all about that, wouldn't you? You, of wild nights and godless chaos, who dared to give a mortal immortality without ties. Such a cruel person…."
She could not attack him. Instead, she stayed unmoving on her throne, her eyes carefully shuttered. He pushed the sleeve of her white dress away, lips moving to her wrist where they stayed for seconds, minutes, hours, days, eons. Time meant nothing. This was revolting. His touch was toxic to her.
"Such a lovely person." The God of Chance murmured, withdrawing as Zangetsu approached. "How unfortunate that you share a soul with someone who will be forever alone." He tipped his hat in her direction as he turned to leave.
"Keep watching her, White Queen. Keep watching."
There was something different about the way they spoke to each other now, as if there had suddenly sprung up a wall overnight, forming impermeable bricks from words. She watched Renji turn the fish as it cooked over the fire, the flames hypnotizing against the background of a moonless night.
"You don't really believe him, do you?" Her words were unusually soft. This silence was unseemly, unnatural. The sentence she uttered, even more so. "Come on, Renji. He's just crazy, he doesn't--he's not right."
"I'm happy for you." He interrupted without looking at her. He didn't even seem to notice the fire licking dangerously close to where his hand was resting. "Humans touched by Heaven are rare." She stared at the back of his head, unable to read his thoughts for once. What was this divide? This barrier? Where was the Renji who claimed her plans sucked, who punched her when she kicked him, who dragged her through the streets to safety when she messed up? Who was this boy carelessly burning his dinner?
She laughed weakly, substituting pain for hard-bought humor. "Yeah, they're rare. Renji, are you stupid or something? There's no way I'm actually sharing a soul with one of the Gods. Haha, you had me going for a second." She picked at a stain on her shirt idly. "You're burning the fish, idio--"
"I'm not joking." Was it her imagination or did something just vanish from within her? "Rukia, he's right." Something was gone. "You're different from me. You've always seemed a little different, even back then. I just never noticed until now." Empty. "Are you listening to me? Oy, Rukia. What the hell is this--ow. Rukia. Rukia. Rukia!"
She blinked mechanically.
Renji, the one who fought with her over the last fish in the fisher's rotten basket when they first met as abandoned orphans on the street. Renji, the boy with red hair. Renji, her friend. Her only friend. Her connection. Her single tie. He was…he was so distant now. And he was happy for her, that she was supposed to be cursed with a God's gift, that she was to be different. He had never thought to look at her, to ask her.
"Shit! The fire just went out, hey Rukia, can you help me out here? What are you looking at?"
Nothing. Empty. Empty. Empty. Run. Destroy.
It was a moonless night. As if possessed, she reached a hand towards the shadows and pulled the darkness around her.
"Hey! What are you--fuck! You…you...."
(White cloud-spun silk brushed around her ankles as she stepped languidly away from the throne. Only on these nights was she allowed to leave her cage, her prison, her domain. "Ah ah, Queen. I don't think he's told you, but Zangetsu hasn't found a mortal yet. You're playing a game against yourself."
She smiled bitterly at the figure by her side. "No wonder I've been so bored. He should hurry up. My mortal has already awoken."
"I wonder why you love him so much and yet, persist in treating me so terribly." White irises against equally colorless pupils regarded her with the gaze of a blind man. "We're the same, Zangetsu and I. But if I were to choose a mortal for the both of us tonight, you would kill both vessels and end the game."
She placed a hand above his heart, fingers fisting the fabric of his shirt. It was a taunting move devoid of affection. "You may share his body on black nights like this, but you are not the same as him. Nameless one, you remind me of myself. Looking at you is like looking into a mirror and unfortunately, I hate what I see. I am not so narcissistic as to love my copy."
"No." He agreed quietly. "You are just cruel enough to hate it.")
She woke up alone. It was an unpleasant feeling.
She hadn't been by herself like this since the two-year period between the death of her sister and her first encounter with Renji. She felt distinctly hollow and weary. Gin had been right, after all. She was truly the same as him. And yesterday night, she had been foolish enough to shut Renji out and to withdraw into an unknown place. Where had the shadows of her memory taken her?
She refused to think about which Immortal had cursed her. She knew enough to realize that whatever she had received, it was far from a blessing. Nothing good could come of emptiness.
"Are you lost or something? You've been staring at that tree for at least five minutes." The guy looked to be about five years older than her and his face had a look of concern that she felt she didn't deserve. "Hey uh, are you alright? You're really quiet."
"I'm fine." She replied automatically. “It’s nothing.”
He didn’t look convinced. She wasn’t surprised. Everything about her must have seemed flat to him: her voice, her lackluster appearance, even her aura. Her response had been something to fill the quiet with, two default words that appeared out of an obligation to at least answer his questions. They carried little to no real meaning. “Well, you don’t look fine.” He muttered a curse underneath his breath and grabbed her by the arm. “The name’s Shiba Kaien and you’re going to come with me.”
Unable (perhaps unwilling) to meet his gaze, she found her eyes drifting to the seal embroidered on the sleeve of his shirt. Shiba. How had she not noticed before? His clothing was made of silk, each strand carefully dyed to a royal blue. And the seal—a mandatory sign for those who worked closely with the Emperor as equals. “I don’t think your family would appreciate my presence.”
He stopped abruptly. “You might be a commoner, but the Shiba family isn’t one that discriminates between classes.” He turned and flashed her a thumbs-up, his smile wide and charismatic. “Besides, you look like you…” A strange look crossed his face. “Ah, never mind. I’m not even sure why I’m saying all of this!”
Distantly, she wondered what she looked like to him. She abandoned the thought before anything could come of it.
(“You didn’t honestly think that you would win by waiting for so many years just to find a vessel. Hm, Zangetsu?” For a second, she saw indecision flicker in his eyes, a moment of doubt and questioning. “He might not awaken in time, your Shiba Kaien. Rukia may well kill him before he can find the truth within himself to save the both of them.”
“I was worried.” He admitted slowly, his hand brushed against her pale forehead. She leaned into the touch slightly as he continued to speak. “If I had picked someone the same night as you had picked that girl, they might have never met. And if they had never chanced to meet, then our entire game would have a meaningless existence.” He tucked a lock of her light blue hair behind her ear absentmindedly, fingers reluctantly pulling away. “I think I was being foolish.”
Shirayuki laughed and the sound was that of wind chimes ringing gently in a breeze. “Do you know why I picked Rukia, of all the mortals roaming that pitiful excuse for a world?” She could sense his confusion and pressed on. It was about time that she gave away a few hints. “That night, fourteen years ago, there were two sisters on an empty street. One of them was left by the other to die. Someone born into loneliness cannot escape it. I wanted the abandoned infant to suffer as she grew, to bear the curse of the Gods, to allow a festering self-hatred to bloom. The more she rejects herself, the stronger her instinct will be to destroy and sever all connections that the world has with her.”
He wasn’t surprised, that much, she knew. She was a cruel Goddess, cruel in her hate and even crueler in her love. “You want to see if I can still save that which cannot be saved.” It wasn’t a question.
She tugged him into a light kiss. “That’s part of it. But remember, anyone strong enough to tame destruction must have terrifying scars as well. You cannot save without being saved yourself.”
And with those words, Zangetsu knew Kaien was fated to fail.)
Three years had passed. Enough time to make those memories of a red-haired thief fade into ashen gray pictures in her head. She was now seventeen and Kaien, the nobleman’s son who had so daringly extended his hand to a girl like her, was set to be married in another hour. She wasn’t troubled. The Shiba family had welcomed her kindly, setting aside a position as family servant for her so that she would have an excuse to remain with them.
“Miyako is really wonderful.” She said aloud to the quiet room. It was an affirmation of what she knew to be true. Though their encounters had been few and far in between, she knew enough about Kaien’s fiancée to realize that harboring ill feelings like jealousy and hatred would be useless. Miyako was a gentle and strong woman, pure from within. Rukia smiled as she rearranged the flowers for the fifth time, fingers adjusting the petals of each orchid. For the Shiba family, she would try her best to make the ceremony as beautiful as the bride. “Kaien must be very happy.”
It felt a bit foolish, to talk to herself like this with only china vases and cut flowers for company. Lonely. Yes, it was a bit lonely, wasn’t it? Heaven’s little girl, something hissed sinisterly. She flinched.
“I told you I would watch you, Rukia.” With trembling fingers, she tied a group of white lilies together. There was no way, no way that the man was really here. “You ought to have realized by now.” He continued conversationally as she fought to breathe. “Your connection with the Shiba family is quite strong. After all, you love this Kaien, don’t you? But he belongs to Miyako and this fairytale is about to end.”
His voice was horrible. It cornered her, wrapped ropes around her neck, and laid her bare for everyone to see. Even still, she wouldn’t let him get away with such a carefully concealed threat to Kaien’s happiness. “Gin.” She remembered his name and wished she didn’t. Somehow, saying it aloud solidified his presence here, made this nightmare a twisted reality. “What do you want?”
He laid out his hands in a gesture of innocence, but the disturbing smile never left his face. “Nothing, Rukia. I just wanted to know how you were doing, to see you as you carry out the powers of your Goddess. It would have been better for you to hate Miyako. You might have been able to save her.”
Save…her? She stared blindly at the flowers in her hands. Since when had they ordered marigolds for the wedding? Marigolds. Despair. “Dear me, you still haven’t realized? The White Queen has cursed you with the ability to destroy. And inherently, you destroy anything and anyone you love before they can leave you.” He smiled mockingly and waved at her before leaving the room. “Today’s wedding is about to become a funeral.”
Empty. Missing. But where? “Lady Miyako has fallen!” No. “Lord Kaien is heading to the chamber! Stop, Lord Kaien!” The voices were so clear in her head. She almost missed the sound of the door sliding open.
“He said you killed her. Your eyes, they’re glowing. It’s true, isn’t it? You killed her. You.” He sounded crazed, the carefree smile morphing into a fanatical grin. Cold. Empty. Nothing. His hand was holding onto a knife and he was running, running towards her and he wanted to kill her, wanted to murder her...
She cried as the shadows smothered him to death. Run.
She was despicable.
(“Stop interfering.” Her voice was icy. “I don’t recall inviting you to the game, Shinso.” She watched him as he watched her from behind the barrier she had set up. The burn marks on his hands and angry red cuts on his face were a proof of how much she loathed him. She was forbidden to destroy another Immortal, but she was allowed to keep herself in isolation. The pain didn’t seem to reach him as he pressed another hand on the translucent wall, lightning sparking and searing his skin in whip-like shapes. “Leave.”
He never stopped smiling. “But I haven’t done anything, Sode no Shirayuki. Gin merely visited your precious toy and enlightened her. Didn’t you want her to hate herself? Didn’t you want the toxic flower of disgust to bloom within her heart? I just watered the poor plant. There’s no need to be like this.”
“You drove Kaien to insanity. In the second after Miyako’s death, you spoke in Kaien’s head. I know what your words do and I know why you spoke to him.” She drew patterns in the air and wrapped thorns around the infinite barrier surrounding her and her throne. She wanted him to bleed. She wanted him to bleed and suffer as she had at his hands. If he hadn’t, if Shinso hadn’t used his poisonous words to corrupt Kaien’s mind, the boy would have awakened. Zangetsu would have won and Rukia would have been saved.
“I’m merely trying to tip the scales in your favor. It’s hardly fair to Zangetsu when you try so hard to lose.” A thorn pierced his palm and emerged on the other side of his hand. He seemed unperturbed, staring intently instead at the person cradled in her arms. “Ah, that’s right. Since they shared a soul, he must be suffering from the effects of having his vessel die. It’s a pity Kaien never had the chance to awaken.”
She carefully released the sleeping God in her arms and laid his head on her lap. The sun would be eclipsed tomorrow. “I detest you, Shinso.” She would surely be chastised for doing this later, but all she cared about now was getting the Demon masquerading as a God away from Zangetsu, away from where he could see the Sun in its most vulnerable moment.
She allowed herself to feel everything. Hate. Anger. Guilt. Despair. She allowed it to bubble up within her slowly, allowed it to take control of her. She could not destroy Shinso…
But she would try her damned hardest to torture him.)
When Kurosaki Ichigo was very little, he learned what it meant to protect and to be protected.
Today was the anniversary of his mother’s death. He clutched the flowers in his hand tightly, crushing the thin stalks and fragile petals. The new Meiji government had done nothing to acknowledge the loss of her life due to a careless mistake. He knelt by her plain grave and placed the pitiful group of flowers on the stone. His father had already come by and no doubt, Yuzu was the one who had brushed the dust and stray rocks away from the last resting place of their mother. He allowed himself a small, fond smile that disappeared as quickly as it had come.
“When will you stop punishing yourself for something that you had no control over?” Tatsuki had asked on her way to buy leeks from the local farmers. She was the only one who knew why, at a time when everyone was trying to study medicine to atone for the killings of the last war, he never failed to miss his studies on this day. He hadn’t answered her, hadn’t bothered to say anything. There was no point in answering questions that already had a clear answer. Never.
The sky was dark gray and ugly. Far away, the rumble of thunder intruded on the silence and cleaved the peaceful quiet in two. He welcomed it. For the past eleven years, the sun had shone on his day of memories. For the past eleven years, the world had tried to convince him to move on. But he had stayed still, eyes facing the past and unable to lift to see the future.
It had rained that day too, so long ago…
“Okaa-san, Shisho said I needed to practice harder, but I can’t get it right. I’m supposed to do this and, and I think this, and no, wait, maybe it’s this? Okaa-san!”
He had cried out of frustration (he always cried in front of her, was always weak in front of her) as they walked back home for the dojo. She had held his hand gently, guided him past a rock that he would have surely tripped on. She always did that, protected him from the small things, and he was always trying to protect her, trying and failing.
“Ichigo, don’t cry. What would Shisho say if he saw you? Don’t push yourself. One day, Ichigo will be strong, ne?”
The scent of alcohol, so noticeable even in the rain. A drunk Meiji samurai wandering, unrestrained and bored without a battle to sate the bloodlust. Pleading. A grassy meadow by a dirty river, running, he was running, he had been running. The man with the scary eyes and the sharp sword was following them. Tripping, stumbling, and a gentle voice he loved calling his name.
The dying light in her eyes.
She had shielded him with her own body and buried in his mother’s last embrace, her lifeblood staining his skin and hair, he had been invisible—he had been spared.
I-I didn’t. He was screaming out loud, animalistic fury shredding coherency. Didn’t want, didn’t want. He was crying again, crying like that day eleven years ago. Didn’t want Okaa-san to-to. Never moving. Never moving forwards. Staying still by her side with her body buried in the ground and decaying and it was his fault. His fault. His fault. Shouldn’t have run. Shouldn’t have tripped. Shouldn’t have.
Unbeknownst to him, the broken flower stems slowly began to repair themselves and the dead petals unfurled as if in bloom once more.
(“Why did you pick him?” She asked out of curiosity, unable to touch his shoulder to regain his attention. Her hands had been shackled to her throne since that day she’d irreversibly replaced Shinso’s celestial blood with ice. Her ankles too were chained. She considered it a small price to pay for finally destroying his ability to do as he pleased. He had lost all movement and so the Heavens had punished her by removing her freedom. It was an even exchange. She didn’t regret it.
Zangetsu’s answer was swift. “You told me yourself, that in order for your vessel to be saved, I must pick someone who needs to be saved before he can save. Kurosaki Ichigo is damaged. Your Rukia is the only one who will be able to destroy his tragic connection to the past.”
She laughed. “The Nameless One was right when he said that you never made the same mistakes twice. How do you know that he will be able to find her?”
He smoothed the hair back from her face gently. She was a captive of her own domain and he was her escape. “Because, Fate has said as much. If our souls are intertwined, so will theirs be inseparable.”)
One thousand years had already passed.
She had met a noble, taken his name, fallen in love, and left him before he could leave her. She had traveled everywhere, seen everything, and had gained nothing. And now, every time she saw her reflection in the water or in a mirror, she would always get the urge to rip out her own eyes. Those goddamn violet irises. How many nights had she cursed Sode no Shirayuki for choosing her to carry the burden of this ability? How many nights had she cursed her immortality among mortals who were born, lived, and then died?
Too many nights to count.
The only constant presence that she had was Ichimaru Gin, and even then, he had slowly changed through the years. He still came to pour salt in her wounds, yet inexplicably, he would leave right before her anger reached a snapping point. If she had the luxury of delusion, she would have thought him afraid. But that was preposterous. The bastard feared no one.
In the distance, someone screamed—a raw sound, rough and primal. Her feet stopped moving and she lifted her head towards the rain. It was best not to get involved in someone else’s burdens. It was best not to care. These things resolved themselves eventually: broken hearts, broken people, broken stories. Life was a lesson in moving on. But even as she reassured herself that it was useless to get involved, she found herself moving in the direction of the scream. Her umbrella was cheap and soaked to the core, but she kept it open for the sake of keeping away questions. A girl with tinted glasses and a folded umbrella during a thunderstorm walking by herself would draw too much attention.
She passed by weeping willows, abandoned benches, and a myriad of people with their heads ducked to avoid the rain. It was almost funny how she had never been really sure of anything in her life before, but that she was so sure she knew where her feet were taking her now. The sign that hung by a post declared the place she was entering a sacred one—the domain of the dead and those who mourned them.
She found him there, a twenty-year old man living in the past as a nine-year old boy. He was shivering and his eyes held a look that she was all too familiar with. She moved quietly to stand next to him, her hands gently closing the umbrella. She, too, wanted someone to share the rain with, wanted the coldness to seep into her bones, wanted to grieve in complete silence.
Wanted to wait for the rain to finally stop.
(“She will destroy his most important connection.” Shirayuki whispered, half-lidded eyes gazing at the scene below. “But he will create a new connection with her to replace it.”
Zangetsu said nothing, but only because there was nothing to be said. This was Destiny.)
“Those flowers…” She murmured when at the rain had finally slowed to a small drizzle. “They’re growing.”
He turned in surprise to the woman who had dared to grieve beside him. At some point in time, she had removed her tinted glasses. Now that he was really seeing her, he was stunned. Her eyes were a dark, incomprehensible shade of purple. Impossible. There were myths and legends that everyone knew, and the most famous of them spoke of a female with lilac eyes who was cursed by the White Queen to forever destroy those around her. Impossible.
She moved past him and knelt, unmindful of the fact that the mud was dirtying her soaked kimono. Her slender fingers nudged one of the petals gently, familiarity in every line and curve of her arm. He wondered if she had done the same thing years ago, bent to touch a delicate a flower with hands that trembled as they did now.
“But, they can’t be!” He denied it. The flowers were dead, cut from where the flower shop had grown them. He had crushed them with his very hands in a fit of emotional distress.
She turned and smiled enigmatically. He felt a sudden emptiness in his chest, a vacancy behind his ribs, by and between the lungs. Fill it. The weight on his shoulders was gone. His feet were no longer shackled to the ground. Replace this hole. He could walk forward once more, uninhibited by the ghosts of the past. Create.
He drew the light breaking beyond the clouds around her, saw the shadows she put up fade into the nothing that they were created from, and knew.
It would never rain again.
They say that a long, long time ago…
There was a love that could rebuild itself even after it was destroyed.