A/N: How did I got idea for the story? Simple, I was playing Batman: Arkham Asylum and after failing couple of times to complete a level due to being shot down like Daffy Duck during duck season, I thought to myself that I am just about tired of doing favor to those pricks by not snapping their necks or slashing them in half! Idea of slashing remained and I thought... who would do well? Someone with big sword because I deserve a break too and bam! Ichigo came to mind! Yeah, I went from Batman to Bleach. Initial idea was to make Rukia the insane one but it didn't stick so... resident madman became Ichigo. I am not sure if this is original idea or not, if not... well I do apologize in front as I do not intend to claim any idea as my own... still this idea seemed interesting in my head and practically unrolled one chapter after another. First story of 2017 and also first story where I use female character's perspective as main one. Exploring!
Small note as you read on. Italic bold letters indicate the 'other' side of Ichigo's personality.
15th September 2016
I finally did it. Contrary to popular belief among my colleagues, I am not crazy for choosing to work in Hueco Mundo. Transfer papers have been processed without my family's knowledge. I even kept my colleagues, my most trusted of friends in the dark about this. To say that my brother was furious would be an understatement. I don't think he will ever forgive me for taking on this job… but I feel like I should be here.
On the very first day here, I met the most curious of cases…
Aizen read the documentation in silence. His pleasant facial lines, few strands of hair that fell over his face, lightly touching his glasses and the edges of lips slightly curved up were enough to make Rukia nervous on her chair. Respectively, she refrained from staring at him for more than few seconds at the time but she could swear that couple of time he caught her gaze and it would make her stomach clench even more. He is indeed a very handsome man, there is not a single shred of doubt about it… and yet he gave away strange aura, one that managed to imbed fear, admiration and respect. Perhaps, she thought, it is needed… such a man is needed to run place like this and everyone she knew highly praised him. Man of action, man of plan and strong conviction… it felt as if she is in front of celebrity. He is there, sitting across her at his large wooden desk, examining papers that she brought.
"Quite impressive, doctor Kuchiki." He finally broke silence, prompting her to slightly twitch on her chair "Top five in your class, summa cum laude, completed all your exams with highest grades and quite the list of professors who are recommending you." Aizen continued, slowly placing papers down on the table. His eyes shifted and looked directly at her, locking gaze with hers. In an instant, she felt as if he is staring into the very depths of her soul, like he is reading her every thought.
"Yes, thank you for your praise, doctor Sosuke." Rukia added a bit nervously, not sure how to respond other than to thank him.
"Please, no need to be so formal." He smiled at her. Hand moved up and with great amount of grace removed glasses that sat on his nose. Well, now it was worse for her… nothing between their gazes to 'protect' her from his piercing gaze "I am, however, quite interested to hear what brings you here."
"W-well…" Rukia cleared her throat. If there is time to impress him, it is now and to do that, she decided to be cocky "As you said, I am among the best in my class and I felt that best way to test my skills is to challenge myself."
"That is quite correct." Aizen added with soft voice, amused by her tone "You come from highly distinguished family. You are sister to Kuchiki Byakuya?"
"Yes. You know him, doctor?"
"Quite well, actually." Aizen replied, moving his hair up from face. That one move seemingly changed entire perspective of him. He looked less like a gentleman and more like a predator "All the way back from high school days. He is very influential man nowadays; surely he could've chosen a better place for his sister to display her skills."
"Isn't doctor needed where sick are?" She asked, surprising him with the question "Surely patients here are in need of the doctor most."
"My my… we are cocky. Blood of Kuchiki flows strong in you but you are not wrong. Still, as a doctor you also must consider your career. If you are to be challenged, you must be known and career is built on successful cases. Tell me, doctor Kuchiki, do you know why this institution is called 'Hueco Mundo'?" Rukia was in silence. She didn't know the answer and she waved her head, much to his expectation "The Hollow World. In here, we don't get cases of mild schizophrenia or insomnia. Here come the cases that are considered long lost… those who are empty inside, void of any reason, logic and sanity. Only a handful of those who come here will leave… You are in institution which sees curing them as secondary objective. Do you know what our primary one is?"
"I do not wish to assume." Rukia replied, making Aizen show his smirk.
"Our primary goal is to keep them away from everyone else." He placed his glasses down on his desk. His right elbow was now firmly placed on the table and fingers of same hand held his head that leaned in arm. "I admire your enthusiasm, doctor Kuchiki, but I worry about your own sanity. Please, do not see this as an insult but I am also not here to assume. Eventually, every doctor will chase career and you will see that there is little here to improve your status. But you already know that, don't you?" He asked and she nodded " Well then, welcome aboard, doctor Kuchiki."
"Thank you, doctor Sosuke!" She replied enthusiastically.
"Mister Grimmjow will give you the tour and bring necessary documentation to start your work. I assume you intend to start right away?"
"Of course, doctor." Rukia added and stood up from chair, leaving Aizen's office. Outside of it, man was already waiting for her. Tall, wearing white uniform, sporting teal hair color which immediately caught her attention. He didn't need any explanation, all was already said prior to Rukia's arrival and he politely showed to his left, urging Rukia to follow.
"So, you're new doc, huh?" He asked, looking down at petite woman walking beside him. Contrary to Aizen's obscured dominance in office, Grimmjow didn't try to hide his side. His tone matched his imposing posture "Well I would like to say you're gonna have great time but… it's hell."
"Is it that bad?" She asked, looking up at him.
"You'll see soon enough. You've seen reception downstairs… that's where you check in. First floor is cases that are… insane but mostly puppies."
"And your worst cases?"
"Wow, straight to the demon pit, huh?" He snorted at her question. They reached elevator and he pressed button, waiting for door to open and elevator to take them up.
"Why is it called demon pit?" Rukia continued with questions.
"Cause they long since lost their humanity." Grimmjow commented as they stepped inside the elevator "Some of them are… long lost, ain't nobody gonna help them anymore. We keep them here so they don't hurt someone outside but most are here because they already did that."
Doors opened and long hallway before them revealed almost eerie sensation. Lower floors were busy, populated by doctors, nurses, orderlies, technicians... but this floor felt like a ghost town. Clean, disinfected, well managed ghost town. To both sides were metal doors with large reinforced glass that showed inside of the rooms.
"Chief informed me you are fresh graduate." Grimmjow added as they slowly walked.
"How much did doctor Sosuke tell you about me?" Rukia inquired, rising her eyebrow as orderly who chuckled.
"Enough. See, it's bad if you are here without knowing the ropes so… I am kinda here to assist you until you learn how to walk."
"Then you know I am among best in my class. Psychiatry is my specialty." Rukia huffed, slightly agitated by Grimmjow's comparison.
"Oh you know medicine alright, you don't know them." He waved with finger among the rooms "I ain't here to tell you how to treat them… see, you are kinda above me. No, I am here to tell you what not to do with them so that you don't get your pretty face smashed against the wall… or have your eyes plucked out."
"Are they capable of doing that?" Rukia gulped hard at the mental image. The thought of one of them slamming her against the floor or slipping fingers to gouge her eyes out did not sit well and she felt that uneasy knot in her guts begin to clench hard.
"See this?" He stopped and pulled his short sleeve up to show several scars on his shoulder. They looked like scratches and bite marks, long since healed but the remnants of it were visible "I work as part-time bouncer… you know, extra cash. Brown belt aikido, black belt tae kwon do. I topple guys twice my size and I didn't get this in a bar… no, I got this from him…"
He led her toward one of the doors. Inside was a frail looking man, though size was hard to determine. His skin looked pale, edges of his pajamas ripped and tattered and greasy, black hair covered his eyes. Instead of sitting on bed, he was in the far left corner with pillow in lap and blanket on the floor, creating a 'barrier' between him in corner and rest of the room.
"Ulquiorra Cifer." Grimmjow commented "I was changing his bed sheet when bastard decided to attack me. I turned my head for two seconds and he was already on me like spider money… Bastard ripped through my sleeve like it was paper and kept biting me. Twenty years' worth of martial arts did not prepare me for him…"
"Why was he admitted?" Rukia inquired as she looked at man squatting in corner.
"Would you believe me if I say clinical depression? It was mild at first… family brought him because they feared he would kill himself. Once he got here… it only got worse. Long list of violence, assaults on orderly and other patients got him on top floor of our little piece of hell."
"How long is he here?"
"Two years." Grimmjow sighed "At first he only spoke with doctor Inoue… she is only one who managed to get through to him. But as it always happens here, doctors leave, get to better positions and we are left to deal with them. He stopped talking to doctors, withdrawn himself into his own world. Poor sod is gonna die here."
He looked once more toward Ulquiorra and just waved his head, moving onto the next room. Rukia followed his guide to the step, anxious and fearful of what could come next. In contrast to previous room, this one was much more active. Tall man paced around the room, snarling like a beast and occasionally moving to the wall only to slam fist against it once before resuming his pacing.
"Nnoitra Gilga." Grimmjow said, waiting for Rukia to inspect the erratic behavior that patient displayed "Diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder. Walking time bomb killed five men in pure affect before they caught him and… eventually ended up here. I think tranquilizers are soon gonna lose effect on him. Almost got to me once but… dealing with rage is something I am used to."
Rukia quietly observed patient. It didn't take long for Nnoitra to notice that he is being watched. He made a running start and in two steps he was already at the door, slamming both hands against the reinforced glass. It vibrated but didn't bend enough to be broken.
"You look tasty!" He shouted and pressed his tongue against glass, moving it slowly up "I'm gonna eat you first!"
"Knock it off, Gilga!" Grimmjow interjected, slamming his fist against the glass, making him and Rukia flinch. Madman quickly regained his 'senses' and let out a maniacal chuckle at orderly.
"Long time no seeeeeee…" Nnoitra said, elongating last word as long as his breath would allow. After he took a deep inhale, he continued "You are pretty brave standing behind the door. Come on in so I can rip your entrails and make them into a puppet!"
As orderly simply frowned at the words, Rukia wandered away from him, moving onto the very end of the hallway, shifting her gaze from one door to another. It was a colorful display of mental disorders among patients and she soon understood why this was called 'hollow world'. None displayed a single shred of humanity with which they were born, which they needed to have. Schizophrenia, hallucinations, misophonia… if you can name one, it can be seen here. She watched patients with pity in eyes, trying to understand how they felt. But truth is, she couldn't. There was no way for her to understand just what kind of demons plagued them, what haunted their minds and drew them into insanity where treatment was just a long shot rather than viable option.
Yet, one thing caught her eye… At the very end, there was one door that revealed something she did not expect. A man, late twenties, probably early thirties, bright orange hair, sitting on his bed with knees bent up and arms resting on knees. He was looking down, somewhere between his feet and to her great surprise… he looked normal.
"Who is he?" Rukia asked as Grimmjow approached, finishing his exchange of 'compliments' with Nnoitra.
"Him?" He asked and looked through the glass. Grimmjow's lips pressed hard and eyebrows furrowed as he watched man on bed "Kurosaki Ichigo. Don't bother with him, he is long gone."
"Kurosaki…" She repeated "Is he- ?"
"Yep!" Grimmjow nodded, keeping gaze on Ichigo "Son of the illustrious doctor Kurosaki Isshin. Sod's been here for five years already, everyone gave up on him."
"What is his diagnosis?"
"He's a walking, talking encyclopedia of mental diseases. Every doctor here got to different conclusion and… all are right. Most prominent is split personality disorder."
She kept looking through the glass, watching man keep his gaze down between his feet. A small bit of curiosity sparked in her as he lifted his head and looked out through window. Her eyes kept scanning him, up and down, trying to remember every detail about him like it is last time she will see him. Expression on his face was everything but maniacal, nothing like those she just saw in other rooms. He was calm, like a man patiently waiting for his train to arrive.
"He looks lonely…" She commented silently but not enough for Grimmjow to miss it.
"Yea he'll make you believe that. I tackled with him once when he became too violent and I tell you, that man is freakishly strong… Not just strong, he is precise."
"Why is he here?" Rukia asked, still looking carefully at him. For a brief moment, she caught Ichigo's gaze and the saddened expression he had on his face. He didn't linger on her eyes but she could swear that he silently screamed for help, crying for someone to walk in and talk to him. His gaze once more wandered outside of window. Like a wild animal in cage, dreaming of the days long since passed when he ran free. Her hear clenched as she looked at the depressing image of a man who lost his will to live.
"Arrested for murder and brought here for psychiatric evaluation. Came for the view, stayed for the service… He ripped his victim apart." Grimmjow explained, making Rukia gulp hard.
"It's as advertised. Literally clawed man's ribs, heart and stomach out. So far, he had four doctors; none of them were able to get to him."
"Then who will treat him if everyone gives up on him?"
"Look doc, not everyone can be saved. He'll likely either die her of age or finally find way to kill himself."
"Finally?" Rukia asked, finally breaking her gaze away from Ichigo and looked up at orderly "How many times did he try?"
"Umm… pffff… I'd say five times this year alone." Grimmjow gave a solid nod "He tried hanging himself, cutting veins open, tried starving himself… and once he tried to bash his head against wall. See that mark over there?" He pointed to the far left and indeed there was a faint stain on the wall, remnant of blood that was not entirely washed "That's where he hit his head. Fortunately, idiot passed out before he could cause any substantial damage to himself."
Rukia watched the spot orderly pointed at, wondering what could've drove a man to do such a thing, to consistently hit that one spot until it became bloody red, even though room itself had paddings. He had to use great force to reach the solid basis of it… it had to be incredible desire to end his life to do such a thing. She once again looked at Ichigo who repeatedly moved his hand through messy hair. The desperate call became deafeningly loud… such young man plagued by his own inner demons. What would he be like if he wasn't unstable?
"Chief mentioned that, since you are new, you should pick one case. Regulations and all… so… shall we go downstairs?"
"Can you bring me his chart?" Rukia asked, keeping his eyes glued on Ichigo.
"Seriously?" Grimmjow chuckled briefly before his face lost all visible signs of amusement "Wait, you are serious…"
"Yes." She said, already choosing her patient.
"Look, doc…" He reasoned "I know you want to help him, trust me I want to help the idiot too… but take it from me, more experienced doctors gave up on him. If you're gonna go one case at the time, this one is going to be only one you'll ever work…"
"I understand." Rukia confirmed "I'll still like his chart. Can you please unlock the doors for me?"
"Wait, you are going in?" Grimmjow asked, widening his eyes at the petite woman who nodded "I'll go call another orderly…"
"No need. I'll be in alone."
"Oh no no! Not letting you in alone. My ass is on the line if he tries to gnaw your neck!"
Rukia quickly reached for small notebook that was in her lab coat and looked for first empty page. She began writing, rather fast and as she finished, she signed at the bottom and ripped page, offering it to Grimmjow.
"This states that I understood your warning and you are not responsible for anything that happens inside."
"And they say patients here are insane…" Grimmjow grumbled and pulled a keychain with quite a bit of keys on it, unlocking the doors to the room. Rukia entered room and closed doors behind her, but Ichigo was still not looking at her… only when she took a few steps closer to bed, he averted his gaze and measured her up and down. She felt the sudden rush of fear that overtook her… surely a man capable of ripping another man apart should not be taken lightly. Still, she proceeded and walked over to bed.
"Hello?" She said in soft, quiet tone aiming not to spook or provoke him. Ichigo said nothing, keeping his idle gaze outside of window. "I am- "
"Doctor Kuchiki." Ichigo said, his tone was sound and clear.
"Yes… how did you know?" She asked and he lifted his right hand. Finger extended and pointed at her lab coat and a small tag that said 'R. Kuchiki'. After swallowing hard, she managed to offer a forced grin at him "You are observant."
"You are not the first, won't be the last…" He said, continuing his calmness but refusing to lock gaze with her, preferring view he currently has "Ku-chi-ki… What is Byakuya to you?"
"Brother… Older brother, actually." She answered.
"Can you tell me your name?"
"You know it already…"
"Yes, but I would like you to tell me."
"Why?" He shot just as she finished her sentence. His eyes suddenly made connection with hers and it made her flinch a bit.
"I will be your doctor." Rukia answered, collecting her courage to remain calm. Ichigo snorted at this, moving his right hand up through his hair and began to violently scratch his scalp.
"Which one?" He asked.
"Which one what?"
"Which one you want to know about?" He repeated question, specifying his intent "Me or… me?"
"With whom am I speaking now?"
"I-chi-go" He spelled his name, slowly like he is reciting it in a poem.
"And the other 'you'? Is he here? Can you call for him?"
"You think this is a game?" He asked, looking up at her again, lowering hand to once again rest on the bent knee "Look at him! He is a freak, let's go have fun and poke him. Ask him if he really has 'demons' talk inside his head or he's just pretending."
"No it's not like tha-"
"LIAR!" He suddenly yelled with growling voice. The expression on his face changed and he showed clear signs of rage. His eyes, widened and gaze screamed of 'bloodthirst'
"I'm not ly-"
"Don't you fucking dare lie to me you self-absorbed bitch!"
Rukia backed away on the bed, ready to stand up and rush toward the door. Before her was not the image of a lonely man who yearned for help, rather, a murderer who was aching to taste her blood. She reached for the post and just before she could stand up, he lowered head, burying face into his palms and let out a pained groan.
"Knock it off!" He suddenly shouted.
"The bitch is here to prod us!" Growl returned and disappeared once again in next sentence.
"I said knock it off!"
"You need me! You won't survive without me!"
"Get out of my head already!"
Rukia's fear only grew stronger as she watched this exchange. Young man kept talking to himself, switching between deep, growling voice and the one she heard from him first time she entered. He was arguing with himself… one tried to convince him to snap her neck and the other kept shutting him up. Eventually, he started slamming his palm against left temple, as if this is but a bit of water in his ear he tried to remove.
"Get out!" He shouted and kept punching himself, each strike stronger than the other. In this heat of a moment, Rukia quickly leaned forward and grabbed his wrist, stopping his hand before it could reach Ichigo's head. He looked at her, breathing hard and fast and only then could she see what he really looked like. Big brown pupils gazed at her, adorned by large bags under eyes. His skin has lost the healthy pink complexion and was becoming pale, revealing that he has been here for long time… but most of all, she could see the exhaustion in him. He was tired, tired of argue, tired of staying here, tired of life and she began understanding why he raised his hand against himself.
He stopped, snapping hand away from her grasp and placing it down once again on knees.
"You can go now…" He said in quiet tone "You've seen what you needed to see… no need to waste time anymore."
"What makes you say that I am here to waste time?" She asked, adjusting herself on bed, now sitting closer to him.
"You are either here to build your career or to conduct your research. Either way, you need your ticket up and you think that if you solve this jigsaw that I call my head, it'll give you accolades. You won't earn your colleague's respect on me. Everything you need to know is in my chart. I've lost pieces long ago…"
"You know that much already?" She inquired, trying to see just how deep his rabbit hole does.
Ichigo smirked as he looked away, keeping his lips curved up as he chanted "Bipolar disorder, split personality disorder, aggression outbursts, schizophrenia, clinical depression, suicidal tendencies, clinical anxiety disorder. I have them all."
"Doctors told you all that?" She asked curiously.
"Doctors told me nothing. None of them diagnosed me in my presence."
It didn't take long for her to put two and two together. She took a deep breath as realization hit her "You went to medical school?"
"Graduated from Karakura Medical Academy, top of my class." He answered, followed by a chuckle and a mocking explanation "-doctor- Ichigo Kurosaki. Son of doctor Isshin Kurosaki… the boy prodigy… I diagnosed myself two weeks after I got here… no need for them to tell me. Doesn't help… I am still gonna be broken man day in and day out. Can you do me a favor?"
"What is it that you want?" She asked.
"Please leave me your pen before you leave."
"Is it so you can try to kill yourself?" She asked and he just nodded. It was easy answer, like asking if he wants a candy "You know it is not the answer."
"You don' know what it's like!" He shouted, but the voice was not of that other self. This was still him "You don't know what it is to live with THIS in my head!" He continued shouting and pressed his fist hard against forehead "I know what I have, I know what medications I need to take, what therapy to prescribe but that doesn't stop it from coming out! I wake up with holes in my memory only to be told that I attacked someone or bit someone or tried to rip someone's throat with my fingers!"
"No… you are right." Rukia answered calmly, looking down on the bed "I don't know what it's like."
"I don't know when it will come… I don't know what it will do but I have to live with it and if I kill someone again… who am I gonna blame for huh? Him or me?"
Rukia once again was left speechless, unsure how to answer. She was trained for this, to handle various psychiatric cases… she was taught how to handle people like him but she just didn't know what to say. Was it his story that enthralled her and left her dumbfounded? Or was it his big, brown eyes that reeked of desperation and the release from agony? His words showed intent to push her away as far as possible but she saw it… she saw the cry for help.
"You'll leave…" He said, hanging his head down from shoulder, once again staring between his feet "Just like everyone else."
"And if I don't?" Rukia asked, making Ichigo chuckle.
"Doctor Matsumoto, doctor Granz, doctor Kurotsuchi, doctor Inoue." He counted and after short pause continued "They said the same and then gave up. You won't be different."
"Well you are not going anywhere until you get better…" Rukia said and stood up from bed, looking down at Ichigo "So I suppose you will just have to wait and see."
Ichigo said nothing. His snort was the answer to her overly-optimistic words… he didn't have any reason to believe her and he didn't. Instead he continued to stare down in one spot, fighting endless battle with his inner demon. Rukia walked away, leaving the room and closing doors behind her. Just in time, Grimmjow returned to lock the door and hand rather thick folder to Rukia.
"Medical history, notes, treatments… all in there." He stated, removing key from the lock and checking if doors are locked "I still say you are making a mistake… if he's one case you need to crack, you'll only have one case in your career."
"Perhaps…" She stated and opened first page. There was image of Ichigo, younger and with better complexion. His hair was just as messy but shorter, well-kept and skin complexion healthy pink. She smiled softly, wondering if she will truly be able to reach to him, if she will able to make him look like he does on this image. "But if I manage to save even one person from the abyss, it will be life well spent."