Her request for a transfer was denied. It was the beginning of the end.
- - - - -
She sits in his room, wrapped in an old jacket that smells ever so faintly of sweat and blood and strawberry, staring at a ceiling that she has stared at many times before. Rukia is one of the only two people to have memorized it's cracks and imperfections, and in regard that it is like from the room's owner- he had never let any one else but her in, beyond the sloppy façade and dismissive scowl. Of course, if was not as though she had been invited, but since when had permission ever been needed? Those such as they were above such trivial matters.
Rukia remembers with a bittersweet sort of smile (or is it a frown?) this same view wrapped in this same jacket, but with someone else's arms wrapped about her slight form and the first time she saw this room. A plush toy and arguments about the strangest matters, like the importance of commercials and the best way to put dishes in the dishwasher. The way he used the term "bitch" as an endearment, and the many shades of a simple frown or smirk.
Soul Society had somehow managed to stabilize itself, make up for it's losses, and was well down the road to rebuilding itself to it's former glory. Ichigo had long since given up his temporary position as captain after Aizen left and no other candidates were to be found, and Rukia had returned to her job as Karakura's resident soul reaper. Zennosuke went back to wherever the hell he had popped up from, Hueco Mundo had been put back into order, and people had started talking to Rukia again when she passed them on the streets of the Seireitei. In short- all was right with the world.
Ichigo had a job as an intern at the local hospital, following in his fathers footsteps. He had graduated from college last year, with top honors no less. He was twenty-three, and had a life that didn't involve midnight chases after hollows except when he was feeling a bit tense after work.
Last week, when she was in her gigai grocery shopping with him, someone had asked Ichigo is his little sister would care for a free sample.
He deserved better things. The living world stopped for no one. Not even them.
And so she lays his jacket back down upon his bed, collects the many things that had accumulated around his room during the one in every three nights she managed to sneak away to what she had thought of as home for many years now, and prepares to jump out the window of his apartment one last time. Because she knows she won't be able to go if she runs into him in the hall.
And just like last time she leaves a coded message and a few clumsy drawings on his bed, picturing that bittersweet smile he'll get on his now chiseled features.
She waits at the window, torn. Almost hoping he will come bursting in to beg her not to go. But she knows he will not. Ichigo is not due home for another three hours.
She grabs his jacket once more, unable to give it up entirely, and vanishes.
Perhaps she will meet him again when his years here are up. Perhaps in another life. For now she will try to patch the frayed edges of her existence with scuffed leather and the smell of strawberry.