Disclaimer; I don't own Bleach. Nuff said.


It's dark now. It's normally dark when she wakes up. Cold too, although never in the sense of it being cold, but she was aware more than anything that it was cold, numbing, something to shrink away from.

She'd become afraid.

But not of the dark. The dark was different. It was home now, the only thing she knew as constant. Pale light filtered in occasionally, the only indication of passing time - morning, breaking, far out there beyond her grasp. She doesn't really care. The dark is safer. It's cold, but if she lets it, it becomes warm. Her memories are the dark, now, and she likes it that way.

Her flame no longer flickered. They'd removed Tobiume weeks ago, in case she'd use the zanpakuto again.

It was a curious thought, but she'd let them do as they wanted, removing her last companion without any arguments or fuss. Even Tobiume resigned herself to the fate, taking her flames, the light, the warmth with her. She didn't really miss it, but she knew that something should be there.

She didn't want it back though. The empty, hollow dark was comforting. She could fill it with whatever she wanted. There was nothing she didn't want to remember. There was nothing.

Her mind had become a blank slate as Tobiume had shown signs of rusting.

If it rains when a zanpakuto's wielder is lonely, what then happens to a zanpakuto whose wielder has all but forgotten her own name? She doesn't even remember the people who come and sit beside her, talking gently in the light.

She hates the light. The light is full of things, and people, and names and words, smiles, emotions. She doesn't like it. Almost craves for the odd speaking sword.

If she wakes when it's light, she buries her head under the pillow, whimpering softly until its dark or she falls asleep again. It's the dark she seeks now because the dark doesn't make her think she should know these people, the sad-faced blonde boy, the scarred man who insists she call him senpai, the loud obnoxious red-haired idiot...

The quiet white-haired child who'd stood, watching her for hours on end, waiting without a word, expression unfathomable.

She hasn't spoken since she woke the second time. The strangled words she managed to mutter felt foreign, and in fear of saying something like that again, she's stopped talking. Nobody realized she didn't know what was happening at first. They'd even handed over the zanpakuto, although they'd quickly realized that it was a bad idea. She didn't know why hospital sheets were always white, but red seemed absolutely violent, splattered across them. It was a stark contrast, her dark hair and red blood, pale skin shaking as the sword was taken, removed, whispering the saddest farewell, enough to break an already shattered heart.

But she doesn't miss it. Doesn't miss the light she hides from. Doesn't miss the warmth. All those things are full of other things, emotions, fears. Things she can no longer face.

Her adjunct badge had long since gone too, handed on to the new vice captain of the fifth division, some slow, bumbling fool of a boy who barely knew the right end of his zanpakuto to hold. Someone the white-haired boy had sneered at when he'd visited, the only show of anything but blank apathy.

He's the only one that keeps coming, though. Blank apathy aside, she doesn't mind. It's not like she has the voice to tell him to go, anyway. So he stands and watches while it's dark, and she sits and stares blankly ahead. He never moves past the door, she never stirs from the bed. It's almost like a game, the two testing to see who will break first, who will collapse under the weight of the masks and shields they're putting up, who will snap.

She's the first to stop eating. He's the first to stop sleeping. She's the first to cry, and he's the first to look away.

And then when she cries again, weeks, months later, suddenly, there's a movement, a flurry of white, something soft against her cheek, the smallest of smug grins and she knows she lost whatever game they were playing but he lost too in coming to her side.

The two losers stare at each other and she threatens to cry again, harsh, rasping voice muttering something, but he hears it and that grin is back, getting bigger all the while, hands grasping her smaller ones - although she was sure that they should be the larger - warmth, somehow, and is that a hug? She doesn't know, barely feels it, but there's a mass of white fluffy hair in her face and the warmth is more now and she can't help but want it to stay, because even in the blissfully numbing dark, there's a light about the situation, and then she's clinging to him as he moves away, him towering over her - when did that happen? uncertain, but sure she was the taller, once upon a time when she had a name - freeing himself from her pitifully weak grasp with a smile that's no longer smug and she knows that smile, if nothing else in the world, finally registering that that smile had been hers in that once upon a time, way back when the world didn't hurt and everything seemed to fit, to make her happy.

He whispers something for her, only her, always only her, a word she remembers, but not the tone, not the kindness, the familiarity about the way he used it. It had always been part of an insult before, hadn't it? And now it stood alone, she stood alone, but he was there, and she stumbled out of the white sheets, reaching and clutching to him, holding on to the last lifeline, the first one she'd ever had. And that smile is back, and the game is still being played and she realizes he didn't lose at all, he simply sacrificed a piece to save her, walls crumbling, ice melting, and she sinks to the floor, the scared little girl he used to know but it's only for a short while.

It's only until she learns to be strong again.