Immediately afterwards, they continued not looking each other in the eye, and Ishida continued acting like a broken record stuck on odd/polite, and Ichigo continued sucking on his teeth and chewing on his lower lip silently and consistently, all through morning classes. By the time they stopped for lunch his mouth and gums hurt, and his stomach was angry.
He did not look at Ishida, Ishida who moved more stiffly and slowly than ever now with his hands all broken and bound, Ishida subdued and lurking as a wounded animal lurks behind his wide-framed glasses. Ishida who did not look at him either. In the strong late-morning sunlight Ishida's face and the bandages were very pale and Ichigo remembered him in his white coat and then on the roof with his great bow of displaced light and energy crackling and spitting in the air.
"I fell down the stairs," Ishida said. He pushed the metal bridge of his glasses up with the tips of his fingers and sat down where he always did. Nobody asked him about it to his face.
But for a moment Ichigo thought that someone in the suddenly quiet classroom would actually say something. Even as he slouched back in his chair with his arms folded lock-wise over his chest, he thought he might actually say something himself. Of course if anyone had seen anything worth saying, yesterday, that involved Ishida, then they would probably have seen something to say about himself, too. And that wasn't good, so he knew he ought to shut up and chew on it. And he did. But there was this grumbling, growling feeling in him, almost as bad as pre-lunch stomachache, that didn't like how a guy could go and wreck havoc and destruction and unbearable amounts of hurt on his own hometown, and then come to school the next day and say he fell down the stairs. The hell you did, he thought, you fucking jumped down the stairs, and you took us all with you.
He knew he wasn't the kind of person to think this way and he was sure hadn't felt this way yesterday at all. Just flabbergasted, like you would be, at the kind of person Ishida had seemed to be, and then flabbergasted a few more times by the kind of person Ishida had actually turned out to be. He wasn't very certain he knew what that was exactly, though. Just that Ishida was not someone who wanted to kill him, not personally, and not for food or for sport, which didn't make it more acceptable but kind of softened the blow so that he was more ready to consider the guy's other motives. And that Ishida was somehow, through all the horrible confusion and bloody aftermath of the things he had brought upon the town, all right. Not good, and definitely not a friend, but all right.
(Ichigo had a feeling it had something to do with the way he'd so quickly and practically tied his head to the handle of the zanpatou, while Ichigo was still holding it. That always had to alter your perception of a guy.)
Their defining conversation of the day took place at the drink machine, when Ishida was trying to get the can of soda out of the bottom of the machine and he couldn't make the glass flap push back without his hands hurting. Ichigo knew his hands hurt because he would lean down and put the back of his hand against the flap and start to push, and then quietly and gently he would take his hand away and stand straight again, looking at the machine with his dark head slightly bowed and his hands very still and pale and useless at his side.
Ichigo knew right away he could not help Ishida take the can out of the machine. But he walked up to him, anyway, and looked at the machine, standing right next to Ishida, his hands stuffed carelessly inside his pockets and nothing wrong with them.
"Stupid design on these things, huh?" he said.
Ishida looked at him, and he felt the final movement of those last bits of confused fury and outrage he had left in him; felt them pass through him and hit Ishida in the face, but weakly, because there hadn't been all that much in the first place and Ishida's eyes were very dark and long and serious, and refused to accept his anger. He remembered Ishida's story, Ishida's tragedy, how Ishida's face had looked like when he had said "I hate shinigami," and meant, not directly but still as a result, "I hate you." Ishida the number one student, Ishida the Quincy, Ishida who had been wronged and who had wronged and here in the half-light of the school corridors was the colour and apparent texture of washed and air-dried cotton. He looked at Ishida's black hair hanging heavy on either side of his head, Ishida's eyes shadowed at a distance behind the glass, Ishida's skin almost the same colour as his cotton school shirt. Ishida said, "I hate shinigami," again but softly now, only his lips moving and the long black drooping wings of his hair shading his mouth so that only Ichigo who was looking head-on at him could see it and know that it wasn't meant for him, not this time, maybe not from now on.
He left the can in the machine and Ishida standing by it and walked away. There's things you can't do for someone who's just getting used to not hating you, he thought, and there's lots of good and kind-hearted people in this town, in this school, and he's never hated them so it's all right for them to help him. Maybe it was good that Ishida should be reminded of that.
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