Summary: As thin November air fills your lungs, will you come to your senses or will you choke?

Warning: some shounen-ai, spoilers for chapter 58 and episode 17.

AN2: there's been a discussion lately at LJ communities about how Bleach will end. This is just my take on it, after many boring days with nothing to do. Also, my response for bleach100's 8-day challenge.

Unburied Months

I'm here again. The cold wind is an arrow shooting through the frozen sky, grey clouds stretch ahead and everything lies in a sleep under the December snow.

Miles into the forest by the outskirts of town, a lonely willow tree grows in a clearing. People say it's haunted by regretful dead souls and angry spirits, screaming about forgotten yesterdays and tomorrows that never came. But that's what keeps it alive. The branches are bent towards the ground, an upside-down U-shape, and its shape is full of forgotten umbrellas under the metro seats, of broken toys in the closet.

"Wait for me," you said as you stayed behind in Soul Society, sorting out the missing pieces of your life. "Wait for me under the willow tree." You had been there before, but I never knew that it existed.

I came in August, and I lost my way through the woods, cut my knee open on a stone, ran around blindly, but found it in the end and, with fresh blood dripping down my leg, I saw the willow for the first time. The branches were full of green leaves, shadows dancing on the dry grass, and the sun's piercing glare was full of sharp edges as it filtered through the trees. But each circle in the trunk marks a year that the angry dead had cut in, and the shadows moved as though lead by a demon. I came every day in August, familiarizing myself with the dead voices as the heat sucked away my breath.

August was full of mistakes and blunders, the summer heat making my head spin. I remember vaguely kissing Ishida once, in a dazed, dizzy stupor one afternoon as the sun shone its brightest. He resembles you with those strong features, that piercing gaze, and at that time I forgot who he was and I forgot who I was. But he wasn't you, and all familiarity fell apart as he pushed me away.

I came in September, and under the half-stripped branches of the forest trees, the rain hit hard as I arrived soaked to the skin. Showers and the of autumn's cloud-covered sky chased away the last of the summer, leaves floated down in red and yellows as though the willow was falling apart and the humid air left water droplets on the bark. The air smelled of death and rotting leaves, the dulled voices of the regretting echoing in every storm. I came every day in September, and I listened to the ballads of the dead with my hope fading a little.

September was the start of school and I looked for your face among the crowds of confused first years, searching through a maze of corridors classrooms. New faces stared at me as I stared back, desperate to catch a sign, a similar voice, anything. I never sensed your presence, so I just looked around in blind desperation, searching, searching. But you didn't come in September and the desperation fell apart as the bell rang loudly.

I came in October, and the fog sucked away my sight away greedily as I stumbled along the path, tripping over dead branches and fallen leaves. In the distance, the willow looked like a ghost in the middle of nothingness, its atmosphere full of haunted screams. Its branches bare now, the bent shape look dead and the thin limbs resembled hanged bodies. I came every two days in October, and wondered if I'd see you again as I listened to pleading voices.

The October mists always caused illusion and false hope, and I remember chasing someone that was almost you. In the veil of blurred shapes, everyone can be whoever you want whenever you want. I saw small shoulders, I saw a short black hair, and I saw someone who resembled you, only an arms length away. I follow a few steps behind, losing and then catching up with them at the turn of a corner, hide-and-seek that I play alone. But you never came in October and all illusion fell apart as they turned and shouted at me.

I came in November, and slipped on the freezing puddles on the forest path, dull ash-coloured sky stretching from one horizon to the other. A frost had settled outside one night and the willow was silver under its spell the next morning, small icy crystals on everything. Under the bitter grey sky, the dead souls seemed to have come to life again, their voices screeching louder than ever. The branches sparkled in the brittle sunlight after storms and seemed to regain life of their own, almost as if wakened from the grave. I came twice a week in November, resting by the foot of the tree and I swore I almost heard the soil echo of dead yesterdays.

There was a new broadcast one chilly November morning and the TV showed buildings crumbling through the middle, panicked escapers and a sea of smoke rising to the sky. I was sure it was a Hollow, so I was sure you'd be there as well and I crossed the city in hopeful steps. With my breath short and my legs shaking I came to the scene, pushing past oceans of people and stumbling over bits of stone and glass. But you never came in November, it was a bomb, and hope fell apart as the officers pulled me away.

It's December now and everything is frozen, the willows looks dead and almost peaceful on the ice-covered grounds. Everything is doubtful, lingering somewhere between frost and snow, yesterdays and tomorrows that won't come. I'm here again, waiting for you as the temperature drops to minus degrees, my back is against the tree trunk and I listen the mumbles of insane souls buried under the willow tree.

Our willow tree, I'd like to call it, but you have never been here.

owari

AN: (for the August passage) I know very well that Ishida and Rukia aren't alike in any way, but sometimes when you're looking for something you're missing the mind automatically related other people or things to it. Ishida and Rukia both had a likeness to some degree, even if it wasn't so obvious.