lacewood: (Default)
Pei Yi ([personal profile] lacewood) wrote in [community profile] toxicskyremix2005-08-20 02:54 pm
Entry tags:

bleach - at most, flowers

For [ profile] bravecows and [ profile] 31_days August 19 theme: At most, flowers

It takes them all day to dig Moe's grave. The ground is hard and stony, and they are armed with nothing but tree branches and their bare hands. The sticks break in the ground, and grit works its way under their already filthy nails. High above, the sun sears. Sweat trickles into their eyes and burns their vision.

There are only two of them left.

The grave is shallow, in the end, just deep enough for them to lower his thin, lifeless body in, then scrape the dirt back over. A marker to mark the spot. It bears no name, but then, they don't need it to; they are the only ones left to care and they will not forget.

They do not speak; maybe they haven't spoken since Moe took his last breath and closed his eyes while they watched. What is there to say when they already know the motions so well?

She smooths the earth over the grave, then curls her fingers into the dirt. Renji watches her, because it is easier than looking at the marker standing between them, raw and new.

She lifts her head and looks at the graves around them.

"We should have brought something," she says.

He follows her gaze and has to swallow to speak. His tongue is thick and sticks in his mouth; he can taste grit between his teeth.

"Next time."

She nods, then stands and wipes her hands on her dirt-streaked yukata.

They leave as silent as they came.

One less to go.

They return one week later. They had no offerings to make in the end, only wreaths of wildflowers, settled around each marker like a crown. Their fingers are sticky with sap.

She sits back to the graves, staring into the light of the setting sun. He has to squint to see the lines of her rigid back, head held high, figure limed in fire.

(She carries herself like a noble, or a shinigami, Moe had murmured once, still in awe after all those years. Renji had snorted in answer and Moe had given him a small, wry smile. You don't, he'd said, laughing, and then Renji had thumped him and--)

He clenches his teeth against the memory. If he holds himself very still, maybe he can still remember how to breathe, how to close his eyes and not think. Their names run through him anyway.




Who next?

The thought staggers him. God. Fucking hell. God. As if it wasn't bad enough.

There isn't going to be a next time, he tries to think. The truth is harsh: he and Rukia were always the strongest ones. Take care of Moe, Yarigaya had said before he went; he hadn't needed to say more. Renji and Rukia could take care of themselves.

He tries to imagine digging a grave alone and thinks he'd rather be in the grave in that case.

There will always be a next time.

It doesn't matter who goes next.

She stands suddenly. She still doesn't speak, but he climbs to his feet anyway, passes the graves (one, two, three now) to her.

From up here, they can see over miles of forest, green and lush as few things in their lives are. Hara had found this place, he who had been gentle and heavy and, size notwithstanding, the only one who cared to wander past the streets of Rukongai, searching for a peace they'd never quite found. Hara, who had been the first to leave, to ask to be brought back here for the last time.

He tries to think of something to say but his throat sticks. He tries to swallow and can't.


He starts. Her words fall clear and hard; hers is not the voice of the throat-parched, grief-choked.

"Let's go to the shinigami."

He stills.

"If we become shinigami, we can enter Seireitei. They say life is better there," she says.

Renji's never thought about the shinigami before, either way. He knows people who curse them, too many who are afraid of them, but they are too distant in their white towers for him to care. He's never thought of becoming one before.

He wonders if she's just thought of this, or if it's something she's planned before.

Behind them, three graves, waiting.

"... yeah," he finally says.

The grim line of her shoulders sag a little.

He doesn't know how long they stand there, while the flame-coloured evening sinks into dusk around them, until the first stars begin to gleam from a sky still half-light.

"We should go," he says.

She turns without a word. They pass the graves and Renji stops; for a moment, he imagines he can almost smell the wildflowers, never mind that they're probably half wilted by now.

He shakes his head to clear it. Rukia stands before the grave in the middle, waiting.

"I'm fine," he mutters, and she gives the graves one last, steady look.

She doesn't look back, walking away from them. Renji watches her back and doesn't let himself turn.

There will be no next time.


August 2005