Notes: I've been writing a lot, lately, haven't I? Anyways, first forage into the Bleach section of , inspired by the chapter where Rukia breaks down, being given hope. Drabble style, supposed to be an exercise into slight character-death. Not sure if that's how it turned out

Disclaimer: standard disclaimers apply

Timeline: takes place before Rukia's sentence is shortened for the last time. Pretty recent, then.

Pairings: translucent IchigoRukia. What can I say?

Grace Period

The grace period for a shinigami that has committed a capital offence and is awaiting execution is thirty-five days.

Kuchiki Rukia had not committed a capital offence.

But she is awaiting execution. Her grace period is twenty-five days.

Not that she tried to think about this, of course. Not that she tried to think at all.

She sat beside the window of her holding cell, beside it, but never touching it. They had taken away her restraints, and she could almost hear them say it; We don't need these anymore. no one has ever escaped.

This is true, she knows. She had to study shinigami history, and she knew with perfect clarity that the number of people that have escaped was zero. She also knew the number of attempted escapes was zero as well.

She was here to think about her sins. That, and to prepare herself for death. (The grace period was established for this reason, as well for the reason that any members of family could visit and say their farewells in this period, since no matter how far away they were, one could make it back in thirty days. The less official reason for the grace period was that no one liked a crier, and it was better to give the prisoners time to prepare then it was to drag a blubbering mess to the stand, one that still had fight left in it. an honorable death, they had decided, would be best.)

She leaned on the wall, and tried not to think. She tried to make her mind a blank, to wipe out all worries and regrets and—

Is this what death is like? She thought into the void.

And flinched, knowing she had ruined it. a crack had appeared in the perfect serenity of her mind. A crack that was a bit too tall, always looked a little pissed, and had orange hair…

She blinked, and looked down at her hands. They were clasped, gently grasping each other. There was no unnecessary flexing. They just lay there, as she wished she could do the same.

Kuchiki Rukia did not fear death. At least, that is what she told herself, sitting there in the dark, lost and alone.

That is what is expected of shinigami, to die, to welcome death.

They are also supposed to die with no regrets, but Rukia supposed that at least peace with herself would be enough to let go.

At least, enough for her to let go. Whether or not certain (human teenagers with orange-blonde hair) other people chose to or not was not up to her to decide.

She wondered where she would be going. After all, she was already dead.

She wondered if she would just be born again, on the outskirts of Soul Society, without memory of her past.

She wondered if she would ever see him again.

She sat on the bench in her cell, unmoving, but only to the untrained eye, as her thoughts raced at light speed.

She sat in the cell that was exactly ten paces long on each side (she knew, she had measured it, late one night when everyone else was asleep. Not that she was waiting for rescue. No.) not counting the bench.

She wanted to reach her hand through the window and touch the stars, to touch them at least once before she had to go. (She did not think about the explosions she had heard before, did not think about the whispers she did not hear; He is here. Kurosaki Ichigo.)

She gazed out through the window, the rectangle of freedom, the only freedom that she would get a taste of (this life, anyway) and did not think of conspiracies.

She did not think of anything, but the stars in the sky, and she slept with one thought.

She dreamt of rescue and of laughter and the tart taste of strawberries on her tongue.

End

Somewhere, in the city that seemed a maze, he pauses in all movement, and looks up also, watching.