Disclaimer: I make no claim to the series, ideas, or characters of Bleach. All quotes used have been given proper credit to the speakers.
Author's Notes: I've come down with a severe case of writer's block/laziness lately. My writing is nowhere near as good as it should be, but I'm trying to get rid of it by writing regardless of current inability to write of that, I need to stop making excuses for myself and start taking the blame for my inept writing skills whatever the cause may be.
Alright, here's my take on what may or could have happened during one of the many scenes involving the tower. Spoilers up to somewhere after the current anime episodes and before the current manga translations; it's kind of hard to say exactly where since I may have blended during a few spots in the story. Being my take, a few facts have been bent or broken. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy.
The Tower's ViewBy Adam Lakewood
Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.
Dark thunderheads rolled across the sky, effectively dulling the early-morning's sun. The sky itself loomed overhead with a dark, grayish hue only possibly attainable by a force such as nature. The mists and fog slowly crawled around the empty city with a life of their own, and from the small lakes, rivers, and pools, smoke slowly rose from the water. Everything was quiet except for the gentle caw of a bird in the distance: a crow, perhaps. How fitting.
Rukia shivered as the cold drifted in heavier than ever. The sudden change of weather was strange, uncomfortable, but in its own way, welcomed. She let out a slight sigh and watched as her breath mixed with the cold in the form of fog and soon disappeared as if it was absorbed by the early morning's mist. … Just as would be her life.
It was hard enough to know that she was going to die. It was even harder waiting. With waiting came time, with time came thinking, and with thinking came hope. However, she knew where she was. She knew she was in the Soul Society in a tower heavily guarded. Her own brother had seen to that.
Obviously, it had been a long time since they had a prisoner in the tower. She was treated more like an unknown being than the actual person that the most of them knew of. For the first few days of her captivity, she got more attention then than just about her entire lifetime. All of the guards in the tower made it a point to come by to ask her questions and try to hold idle chat with her every chance they got. Annoyed by the fact that she was getting more attention just weeks before her death sentence, she chose to simply ignore their ceaseless questions.
She wished she had talked to them when she had the chance.
Now, she was old news. She was like a new toy to a child: exciting for the first few days just because it's something new; then it's just another object in a dusty closet.
She had tried to appear to be possibly one of the strongest people in the world through her determination alone. But, for the past few days, that façade had fallen. The loneliness combined with the fact that she was going to die had started to really get to her. Every time one of the guards would pass by, it was she who quickly went up to the bars like a caged animal. Each time, should would try her best to get one of them to talk to her much like they had just a couple weeks earlier. Each time she was ignored much in the same way she had ignored them. She wished now that she had been more polite. Maybe then… she would have someone to talk to.
Even Renji had stopped coming.
She had taken all of Renji's visits for granted. They were friends; such was supposed to hold fact that he would visit her throughout the day. But, she had been stubborn. She had been rude to him, hateful, sarcastic, fickle, and just about everything else she now classified under 'stupid.' Perhaps now, even he was tired of it. She couldn't really help but feel malice toward him for not visiting, but she really couldn't blame him for not wanting to either. Maybe even friendships have their limits.
That was the name she thought of most. That name was where any vain hope she may have had rested. If anyone could possibly do anything to get her out of her current predicament, it would be him.
When all odds were against him seemed to be the times that Ichigo was at his best. She remembered back to the time when she first met him. His family was in danger, and he, a mere human, was able to break the bind she had put on him in order to protect his family. Then came the greatest display of raw spiritual power she had ever seen when he single-handedly sent a Menos Grandes Hollow back from where it came as if it were nothing. He surprised her further when he was able to defeat Renji when he and her brother first came for her. Even her brother had been slightly surprised.
Ichigo could do anything. If Ichigo were there, everything would be alright
She hated to catch herself thinking that way. It seemed so childish; like a little girl would view a parent or elder sibling. However, it didn't matter; just thinking about him made her feel stronger, safer, and less alone than she knew she was.
However, thinking about Ichigo was in many ways a double-edged sword for her comfort. Certainly, she found strength and courage, which was something quickly depleting in her, just thinking about him. Ichigo embodied the very concept of strength of the mind, body, spirit, and soul. So, just as merely thinking of a belief in a higher power in a world deprived of such can bring spark to all of the attributes which it presents, so could she feel stronger, braver, and all together safer merely by imagining the presence of Ichigo with her. But, thinking about him would likewise bring back the last memory she had of him before their departure.
Rukia shivered again as another cold breeze blew in through the barred window of the tower. The thin robe that she was provided with didn't do much to shelter from the cold. Her feet were numb from the chill of the bare floor and the sounds of the coming rain didn't do much to help the cold feeling… internal and external. A blanket would have truly help, but time itself would have ceased to exist before she ever showed even the slightest weakness and request that which she needed to feel comfort. If anyone was going to give her comfort, it definitely wouldn't be any of the people keeping her captive. Besides, she only wanted comfort from one person at that moment.
… Comfort she would probably never have.
She could see everything from the tower's window. The Soul Society, which was so large, appeared so small from high up. As was how the universe felt to her at that moment. She was back home. She was back amongst those she knew. Not to mention that despite being confined, the cell was comfortable enough to fit several people. However, given current feelings and circumstances, she would have given anything to be back living the feeble life of a human, living in a strange world where everyone was a stranger, and living with a boy who made her feel useless despite her known worth. She could easily put up with all of that; she would welcome all of that. Living in the small confines of a closet never seemed so appealing before. Living in any fashion… would be comforting.
Rukia peered from her window down upon the section of Soul Society where she was originally from. She wished she could find the same comfort she took for granted during that time. From the window she could see everything. She saw when the stranger broke through the barrier of Soul Society. She had gotten her hopes up then, but that hope got shot down just as fast as it rose with the realization that Ichigo was only one person and would be traveling alone. Besides, no one else in the human world remembered her existence. Knowing that she was sentenced to death and seeing everyone else in the Soul Society go about their trouble-free lives bothered her. However, it wasn't what she could see that bothered her as much as it was what she couldn't see.
…Ichigo. Ichigo… was not coming.
With a loud roar of the thunder, the promised rain finally rolled in. It started in a steady drizzle but soon came down with a sudden force behind it. The loud hiss of the rain, like the cold, was welcomed despite the discomfort it brought. Small puddles of water began to form on the stone windowsill as the rain slowly ran down the iron bars. The rain came down stronger than ever almost as if to make a point to her. The droplets of water spattered and dispersed against the windowsill and she could feel the slight, cold mist of the water against her face as some of the rain blew in through the barred window.
The rain seemed to accomplish its task of reminding her again of some memories of Ichigo she didn't want to remember. She suddenly realized what he meant when he had told her that the rain had always been there for him. With that realization came the realization that the same applied to her. She had never noticed it before, but it was true that the rain had always been there for her as well. The beating and coldness of the rain as well as its steady hiss reminded her of the past: that day in the rain.
The one she would have sworn was the one she secretly loved was killed by the same hollow who killed his wife. It happened on that day in the rain. She had tried desperately to save him, but to no avail. That was the last she ever saw of him. It was he who gave her hope, courage, and strength during those times. Then that support was pulled out from her without any warning. It all happened so quickly. That day in the rain was the last time she ever saw him. It never occurred to her that she might see his face again several years down the road.
Then, she met Ichigo. She noticed the resemblance from the start. Not just in physical appearance but in attitude as well. She hated him for it too. It was painful to look at him. His appearance, his beliefs, his attitude… his pain reminded her of Kaien. He had lost his mother to a hollow, which pained him more than anything else, but he didn't show it. Kaien had lost his wife to a hollow, which pained him more than anything else, but he didn't show it. Many of their habits were the same also. This in itself caused her to feel comfortable around Ichigo despite anything that may have been going against her.
All her life, she had always relied on herself. When she lost her powers to Ichigo, she felt more uncomfortable than she ever had in her life. She was no longer able to even stand up to those which she had sworn to destroy. She felt uncomfortable knowing that without her powers she was nothing more than an insect to those creatures. That is, until she started relying on Ichigo. She was bad for getting herself into trouble, trouble like she was currently in. But, Ichigo was always there to take care of her no matter how much trouble she got in. Soon, she took comfort in knowing that she wasn't the only one who could take care of herself. She took great comfort in knowing that Ichigo would always be able to protect her.
It didn't seem right, but she couldn't help but feel toward Ichigo in much the same way she did Kaien. However, she would never let herself acknowledge that.
Until that day in the rain.
Less than a month ago… she watched the one she loved die again. After the shortest of duels with her brother, Ichigo fell from the fatal strikes. The rain came down harder as his blood mixed with the water and flowed down the street like a faint river of blood washing away his very life. Anyone her brother drew his sword against, he did not let live. She didn't entirely see him die, but she was sure he did. Because she didn't see him die was the reason she could find sparks of vain hope from time to time during her captivity. In a small way, she wished she could have seen it herself, then she would be able to stop fooling herself. She cried for him that night: something she hadn't done since Kaien's death. She watched the one she loved die… on that day in the rain.
Perhaps it was true when they said that one never knows what they have until it's gone. She finally understood that more than ever. Now that he was gone from her life in one way or the other, she could remember everything about him. Every word, every smile… everything. She wished she could just see him again. Hear his voice again. She wished she could take back every time she called him a fool; he was everything but a fool; she had been the fool. She wished she could take back every hurtful thing she said to him. She wished she could take back every time she annoyed him… intentional or not.
… But, she couldn't. He wasn't there… nor would he ever be.
She buried her face in her hands when a sob broke from her. She let her tears and emotions run free, unrestrained. For one of the few times in her life, she did what she felt like doing. It was the least she could do for him. She knew he would laugh at her if he saw her crying, but she also knew that he wouldn't look down on her for it despite what picking he may send her way. Her strong front she had put up was gone, and all that was left was the pathetic emotions they hid. It didn't matter. For once… it didn't matter.
"You're crying? Now, I've seen everything!" came Ichigo's voice from outside her cell.
Rukia immediately stopped and lifted her head. Her tears ceased just as fast as if they were suddenly barricaded. Almost as if answering her desperate pleas, he appeared right as soon as she was about to break. Once again, he had managed to show up just when she needed him the most. … Kaien had always been good at that as well.
Rukia slowly, hopefully, hesitantly, almost fearfully turned her head to face him with a surprisingly cheerful smile on her face.
Standing on the other side of the bars was Renji. Rukia felt her heart drop like a stone in the ocean. She knew Renji meant well by coming to visit her, but he couldn't have come at any worse of a time. It was almost as if he had intentionally come just to see her heart break in her momentary hope and confusion. If he had shattered her heart, then he had also ripped it out of her chest, dropped it on the floor, and kicked it across the room.
"What are you doing here?" she questioned in a menacing tone.
Renji took on an expression of surprise as he took a step away from the bars as if she were some sort of caged tiger ready to attack. He cleared his throat and retorted to her challenge.
"The hell you mean, 'What are you doing here?' That's no way to talk to someone who just decided to pay you a visit! I figured you might be… lonely," he said, pausing a moment to look down at the floor and scratch the back of his head. "Hell, I should be resting instead of wasting time talking to a hateful bitch like you," he said as he turned to head back out the door.
Rukia immediately feared his leaving as her previous feelings of loneliness came back to her and feelings of relief of having someone to talk to came over her again.
She quickly made her way over to the bars before he could even take a step and reached a hand through as if trying to reach out and grab him.
"No, please, don't go," she said, sounding a bit more pleading and desperate than she meant.
Her strange tone and actions did not go unnoticed by Renji. He turned around with another surprised look on his face. The look on her face was enough to make him feel sorry that he had not come around in the past two days. He did not know if it was because he threatened to leave or what, but he saw a side to his friend he had never seen before. She looked vulnerable, saddened, desperate… lost. That combined with the fact that he saw her crying was enough to send a chill down his spine.
"Hey, alright! I was just kidding! Don't look at me that way!" he said as he frantically waved his hands around in front of him.
Rukia turned around and smiled weakly. She tried to put her usual front back up, but she found such to be impossible. Something which is broken can't be so easily put back together.
"I've… missed you. Where have you been?" she hesitantly questioned.
"Injured. I'm sorry I haven't visited; I was just able to walk again today."
His statement struck Rukia as being kind of odd. Renji was strong; who or whatever the intruders were that came in certainly couldn't have beaten him. Also, he definitely wasn't clumsy nor was he a masochist, so she highly doubted his injuries were in any way his own fault. She looked around to see him actually limp over to the wall. He let out a hiss of pain as he gently took a seat on the floor.
"Where did you get those injuries?" she asked with surprise evident in her voice.
Renji turned red from the shame and embarrassment of being beaten in a fight. He was the vice-captain of the 6th division for crying out loud! He wasn't supposed to lose battles. He gritted his teeth together and curled his hand into a fist in remembrance of how badly he was beaten.
"That doesn't matter," he said, making it obvious he didn't want to talk about it.
"Oh, I'm sorry," she replied lightly as if being careful about what she said.
Once again, he could not bear to hear that tone in her voice. It wasn't at all like the confident, strong-willed Rukia he knew. She sounded broken… and given the circumstances, he couldn't really blame her. He let out a sigh after a moment of uncomfortable silence.
"I seem to recall having the shit beat out of me and having my ass royally handed to me-" he started before he was interrupted.
"I see. I'm really sorry to hear that; it must be hard," she lightly interrupted, still speaking in the same tone as before.
Renji ignored her statement and continued despite his better judgment.
"By a very enthusiastic orange-haired brat."
Rukia's eyes widened at his statement. Renji was sometimes hurtful with his comments even when he was just picking on her, but he would never be so cruel as to say something like that to her and not mean it. The excitement caught up to her all at once. She could have sworn that she felt her heart stop. For a moment, time seemed to actually stop for her so she could comprehend entirely what he just said and make sure she wasn't just overreacting. She knew of only one enthusiastic orange-haired boy and she was pretty sure that Renji only knew of one also. She was definitely overcome with hope, joy, and just the slightest amount of the comfort she had been hoping for. She had so much she wanted to say; at that moment she would have been able to talk herself to death if only she didn't find herself speechless.
Renji rose from the floor with a pained grunt. He dusted off his robe and let out a sigh which expressed his sympathy. Seeing and hearing her in the stoop she was in had coaxed him into giving her some hope he was now positive that she needed. He had heard of having sense beat into a person, but he never imagined he would be in that situation. The orange-haired Death God had opened his eyes for him. Neither of them would let Rukia be executed. Rukia was his best friend, and he never wanted to see her cry again. He knew the few words he had just given her gave her the hope he knew she longed for. However, he didn't know if he would be able to stand it to see how she reacted. He had definitely seen enough of this side of Rukia for one day.
"I'm leaving now. I can't stand to see you like you are. Hopefully, the next time I see you, you won't be in that cell."
Renji walked as best he could to the door. He opened it and was ready to head out into the hallway before Rukia's voice stopped him.
"You… you saw… Ichigo?" she questioned, sounding as if her voice was about to crack.
He knew he would probably regret it if he were to turn around to face her, so he settled on answering her while peering out into the hallway.
"Did he… did he say… anything?"
Renji heard something in her voice then that made his heart sink. She sounded vulnerable again… hopeful. Sounded as if his words could either give her strength or break her depending on what he said. So, he decided he would tell her what he was instructed to tell her.
"He said, 'Tell her that Ichigo's here and everything's going to be okay. Tell her that I'm taking her home.'"
Once again, Rukia found herself unable to speak. She had never heard words of the like come from Ichigo, but she knew he would say something like that given the circumstances. She knew that Ichigo had come for her. That was really all that mattered. She felt her will returning to her stronger than ever as the words replayed in her head.
Renji lingered in the doorway for a moment as if he had something else to say. It was obvious that he had something to say but was hesitant to say it. He let out a tired sigh as he turned his head slightly her way, still not daring to look at her.
"Don't forget that I'm here too. I'll make sure that he take's you home."
With that, he didn't wait around for her to respond. He made his way out into the hallway as quickly as he could and closed the door behind him. He left in such a hurry that one would have thought there was a fire lit under him. Rukia knew why though.
With her hope and strength fully restored she could once again see clearly. She felt a relief like none other to find out that Ichigo was still alive and she hadn't watched another loved one die in the rain. Not only was he still alive, but he was there for her. If anyone could help her, it would be Ichigo, and Ichigo would save her; she just knew it. Once again, she felt a comfort similar to he one she had felt during her time in the human world. Renji's last words comforted her even more. She had forgotten how safe she always felt around Renji. She knew now, without a doubt, that she had nothing to worry about. So, she could start thinking about other things. She could start planning for the future now that she knew she had one. Ichigo and Renji would both see to that.
"Thank you," she whispered as she smiled and looked out the window again.
She wondered when it had stopped raining.
Sitting here in Limbo
Trying to stay sane
Between the end of the summer
And the coming of the blessed rain.