Death comes once, let it be easy.
* * *
Let it be easy
* * *
This is how she learns her sword's name.
A dark night. Rain. Blood warm on her face.
A dead body is all the heavier for the life that has fled. Rukia feels her knees buckle, lets the weight push her down. Kaien's head lolls, horribly, on her shoulder, and the shock of it makes her hands slip on the hilt of her sword.
Dead weight. Dead by her own hand.
Her captain's voice is hoarse from coughing. He should not be out in the rain. Kiyone and Sentarou would make him -- would make him --
Her grip on her sword loosens. It has not spoken to her, still. She remembers she'd wanted to ask Kaien about it, if this long silence was normal, if it was like this for everybody else.
She had not asked. She had not wanted to presume.
She lets go.
The new voice cuts through her captain's low rumble and the mindless susurration of the rain as a white beam of moonlight cuts the darkness. It says,
A warm hand on each of hers, curling her fingers around the hilt of her sword.
It says, "Withdraw."
She pulls out her sword. The blade glistens blackly.
It says, "Stand up."
Warmth at her back. She does not dare look around. She does not dare.
"What do I do?" she whispers, and the voice says, "Walk on."
"Where do I go?"
"We took him away," says the voice, patiently, speaking as you would to a child.
"Now we bring him home."
"I don't know -- "
"He has family," says the voice. "He told you once. You remember, honey."
Rukia does. Fear seizes her again, coward that she is.
"I can't." Couldn't face the people he belonged to. She wouldn't have the courage to go amongst them, a trespasser, and tell them, I took him away from you.
"You can," says the voice. "I'll be there with you. Come on. Heave him up. Step by step."
"Kuchiki," says her captain, for the hundredth time. Rukia is puzzled by the loudness of his voice, the worry in his face.
"I'll do it," she explains.
"Easy now," says the voice. "Nice and easy. Nothing to it. Don't be afraid. You can't hurt him anymore."
* * *
It speaks to her as they make the trek, warm lips at her ear. Its breath smells of cigarette smoke and vanilla. It tells her things Rukia is never able to recollect. They're more than she wants to know.
They leave ice in their tracks. The air shivers as they pass.
The warmth is at her elbow when she tells the bewildered child, "I killed him," and how ugly, thinks Rukia: even now, laying her sin at his feet, she's thinking, I will never be alone again.
* * *
When it's done, when it's just the two of them, Rukia turns around and sees her. This is her voice, her warmth, her never be alone again -- a girl in high heels, with white ribbons in her hair.
"Are you ready to hear my name now?" says the girl.
"I can tell you," says Rukia. "Sodeno Shirayuki."
"If you like, honey," says Death. "Yes. That'll do."