Disclaimer: Yes, I own Bleach. Of course I do. This is obviously reflected in my pointless fanfiction writing, when I could be applying all this to the manga. Haha, I wish I owned Bleach. See below the story for my Author's Note.
Brought to you by: Three Days Grace – Never Too Late
-Mirror, Mirror, on the wall-
The person shimmering on the water's surface is too thin, too sallow.
That girl's eyes are too large, too hopeful as they stare back at her. The mouth is too small and there are traces of fatigue wearing down the person's face as they look at one another—girl to reflection, reflection to girl. She's not sure if she's the reflection of a girl, or the girl herself. Whoever she is, she thinks she's just as ugly as anything she's ever seen before. The water trickles down her face (down the reflected face on the river's surface) from where she's tried to scrub her skin clean. She lifts a hand in anger and disgust, watching as her reflection does the same, and pauses at the look of loathing she finds staring back at her.
The image blurs and shatters into a thousand fragments under the force of her attack. She doesn't realize she's destroying herself, or maybe she does, but just doesn't care. She finds that the less she cares, the less she'll hurt inside. Her hands keep clawing at the water blindly, skin pale and cold, even as her mind screams for her to stop the hatred, stop the ache in her chest, (stop seeing everything that she is not). This is how Byakuya finds her, shaking and sick with the beginnings of insanity as she sits, knee-deep in water.
Her mouth opens in protest as he picks her up in his arms, ignoring the water as it soaks through his captain's robe. She wants to ask him why he does this for her, why he even bothers with her pathetic, little self. She's not beautiful nor is she otherworldly. She wants to ask him if he's just as repulsed by the sight of her as she is. But the question stays lodged at the back of her throat and she settles for smiling weakly (never knowing, couldn't possibly know how much she looked like poor, dead Hisana) at him. This is a broken record, a broken video, playing over and over again. And she's the same foolish girl tripping and falling over herself in an effort to gaze upon a prince's face. She's too thin, too short, too flat, too everything.
She doesn't know which would be worse—to be a reflection of her, or to be her.Pretty dolls all lined up in a row
She's not desperate enough to ask that question at the tip of her tongue as she rests by Ichigo's side. He's quiet for once, and she finds her thoughts wandering down that same alleyway again. His world is filled with so many beautiful people, woman with silky hair and perfect complexion. The magazines she finds at the supermarket are filled with the images of long, slender legs and gleaming, white smiles. When she rushes to the mirror in his bathroom, she finds her smile to be cracked and brittle, like a bone left to bake in the sun for too long. There are articles in the newspapers and stories in those magazines. She reads them carefully, wondering if there's any cure for her. Everywhere she looks though, it's the same article with the same headlines and the same sentences spelled out in tiny, black characters. "Skinny is the new out, unhealthy for new generations," they proclaim and she curses her slim waist and slight frame.
"I like my woman to be…you know, substantial," one guy says, an arm around his smirking girlfriend. "Skinny girls just look like they've been sick forever. I mean, it gets disgusting sometimes, ya know?" Oh, she knows. How could she not? She spends an unhealthy amount of time in front of the mirror, tracing every bump of the spinal cord and every rib. She wonders if Ichigo ever notices her moments of inattentiveness or the way she's been trying to eat more, to be more substantial in this world where ugly people are shunned. Looks are everything, she learns, and she is on the losing side of the battle.
She wants to ask Ichigo if he finds her repulsive, but Orihime is calling from a distance away, and she silently leaves. She doesn't want to see the very image of 'sweet, kind beauty'. She doesn't think she can stand it anymore; maybe she's never been able to stand it to begin with. But that's neither here nor there and the days stretch on as she falls into the mirrors of vanity. Soon it becomes impossible for anyone to reach her. She's too far gone to save this time.
"I don't understand why you care," Tatsuki mumbles as she bites off a large and unattractive bite from the energy bar. Crumbs litter the karate girl's mouth and Rukia takes careful time in eating slowly and spotlessly. "I mean, beauty is beauty, sure. But how long do you honestly think beauty can last? Certainly not forever. I've got more important stuff to worry about, like kicking some butt in the competition this Saturday. Stop worrying so much, I'm sure nobody else worries about this stuff."
But she cares. And this is all that matters in this fairy tale that is not. She cares all too much, to the point where she can no longer walk in the hallways without imagining the mocking laughter of better-endowed females. Her reflection grows sullen and desolate as time passes.
But that's okay. It's just another imperfection.Mirrors winking, hung on the wall
This time, the person staring back at her is stunningly beautiful.
The counter in front of her is littered with rouge, lipstick, foundation, mascara, eyeliner, nail polish, lotion, and a million other cosmetics. She brings a hand to touch the glass of the mirror hesitantly and smiles as she realizes that this person, this gorgeous lady, is indeed her. Her lips are glossy with mankind's lip-gloss and they are a shade of butterfly-pale pink, Her eyes are large and her eyelashes stand out in sharp and luxurious relief. Clipped to her previously lackluster hair is a voluminous hair extension; it makes her tresses seem longer, straighter, better.
She turns from the mirror in satisfaction and quickly steps out of the bathroom, her yellow sundress and hair ribbon flowing together with her movements. She feels rejuvenated, as if the ugly duckling has truly shed its wings.
"You take way too long, Rukia." Ichigo complains, long and loud, back towards her. She smirks, walking over effortlessly, a manicured hand clamping down on his broad shoulders. Perhaps it is then that the ryoka realizes how completely screwed he is, maybe it is the confident and yet scarily glass-like laughter that Rukia (or she who is Rukia and is not at the same time) gives. Either way, when he turns around, he knows that his confident, his best friend, his secret object of affection, has changed into something far more powerful (and dangerous). She is beautiful, but it is an almost cruel type of beauty, one that is corrupt and unnatural. For a ridiculous moment, he thinks that she must've sold her soul.
"I'm going out." She announces, and he can only nod his head dumbly, hands itching to run down her gossamer hair.
It isn't until much later that he realizes her need for beauty has destroyed everything she used to be.
A fake face drawn so beautiful
The voices have gone away, and with their departure, Shirayuki gloats from the recesses of her soul. She turns heads wherever she goes now, petite and yet completely beautiful. There is no one to mock her slender figure anymore, eyes too concentrated on her shimmering, pink lips and half-lidded gaze. It doesn't even occur to her (or maybe it has, but she doesn't care anyways) that she's absorbed her zanpakuto rather than her zanpakuto channeling her own personality.
Later, she will regret these moments of taking to the streets just to watch the reactions of every single male in the vicinity. But for now, for the rest of summer, she is content in her beauty. False though it may be, neither she nor Shirayuki cares much. She can see Ichigo's carefully veiled desire and Kon's obvious awe at his transformed "Nee-san". She wonders what Byakuya will think when she returns in the waning days of August. She wonders whether he will be proud of her and if the clan heads will overlook her Rukongai past in favor of her newfound beauty. She thinks upon these ideas, turning them in her head with something dangerously close to satisfaction.
Far from her sight, Urahara notes the changes beneath a brittle smile and a waving fan. He knows that this she-demon is not Rukia, can't be Rukia, and will only bring trouble wherever she goes. He mulls over what action he should take, inform her dearly beloved 'brother' or stay quiet and watch the scenes unfold. It's not his affair to worry over, he finally decides. Though she may cause terrible grief in her return to Soul Society, though she may flip the stars of Fate over once again, he has no part in this. Benihime disagrees at his side, but he pats the sword and spends his hours trying to reassure the both of them that there isn't anything he can do.
He's not quite sure if he even believes his own words.
Trade dear Vanity your lonesome soul
She steps through the portal with newfound confidence practically radiating off of her. Renji's face is the first one that greets her, expression twisted into disbelief and mild appreciation. She smirks to herself inwardly, passing by him with her head held high. "You might want to close your mouth, Renji. If you keep it open any longer, things might fly in." She watches as he abruptly shuts his mouth, raising an eyebrow in amusement.
"W-wow." He stutters, hand rubbing his head in a characteristic show of awkwardness. "You look great." The words are so unlike Renji that she's taken aback for a moment. It's almost as if he doesn't consider her the same Rukia as before. It's as if this is their first meeting and they'd never gone through the horrors of Rukongai before. Her stomach lurches painfully and she wonders why there's a heavy weight pressing down on her chest all of a sudden.
"Thanks." She murmurs back, equally distant and walks away from him, her steps not quite as self-assured as before. She stops as Byakuya enters her vision, unsure if she wants to see his reaction. But hadn't she wanted things to be different between them? Hadn't she wanted him to see her in a different light, as someone beautiful and not mere garbage off the streets? Hadn't she wanted his desire? She steels her nerves and bows before him, raising her head slowly. "Nii-sama." She pronounces, the words crystal clear and perfect as a statement could ever be.
His expression is carefully blank, one hand going to cup her face gently. "You've changed." He hesitates over his next words, a rare occurrence, and locks gazes with her. She doesn't shy away, suddenly ashamed of what she's done. "We'll talk more when we reach the manor."
He drops his hand suddenly, as if burned, and she resists the urge to bury her face in her hands in despair. She follows him meekly; somehow still feeling as if she's disappointed him, as if she's failed him yet again. The clan leaders part before them, though their faces are noticeably happier and kinder as they glance at her. She thinks that at least she's managed to do something right this time, and is surprised to find the thought as bitter as black coffee.
In the safety of their quarters does she finally dare to say something to him. "You are angry." She states bluntly, cursing the reflection of her sword that she's become. Cursing her vanity and her carelessness and her inability to do anything but yell at herself time and time again.
"No." He says firmly, and it's almost as if she can believe that. But she can't, because as she gazes into the mirror hanging by the wall, she's filled with disgust again. The face staring back at her isn't her own and the words coming from her mouth are not her own. Nothing is as it should be. "Perhaps surprised by your choice, but not angry. Did you feel the need to apply such cosmetics because of the Kuchiki elders?" It's an excuse she can latch onto—she knows. He is giving her an excuse to use, a shield to hide behind.
She strides straight into the fire, discarding that shield in favor of the flame's cleansing. The truth will hurt the both of them; hurt him because he will know that she didn't trust his love enough, hurt her because she will understand that she has betrayed him. But it's better than hiding behind lies for the rest of her life. "No." She answers, never wavering in her response, and she watches as understanding then hurt shock flashes briefly across his face. "I did it for you. I thought you pitied me. I thought that I wasn't good enough for you, that I was too ugly, too dirty, and too low-class to deserve anything you gave to me." Her eyes are welling up with tears and as she looks at the mirror, that cursed mirror, it seems as if she's lost her soul in addition to her pride.
With a simple kidou spell, his hands obliterate the mirror.
The shards fly every which way and she wants to ask him why, and how, and more importantly, if he still cares. But her throat closes up on her and she feels the tears slide down her face in small rivulets. They wash away her carefully applied lipstick, her mascara, and her fake identity. Her shaking hands unclip the hair extensions and she is once again Rukongai-bred Rukia. She is once again the ugly duckling.
He thinks she's never looked more beautiful than now, her heart spilling over her hands like water falling on an already full basin. Her hair is mussed, the same lock of hair falling stubbornly in front of her large, violet eyes. Her face is pale, the tear tracks glistening wetly on her skin. But she is familiar and she is everything he needs.
"Never change for anyone, Rukia." He says at last, enveloping her in a warm embrace. Her tears soak through his shirt, but he ignores the uncomfortable sensation. "You are perfect the way you are."
She'd changed herself to earn his love, never knowing until now that she'd had it all along.
Author's Notes: This is actually a pretty personal chapter for the first half. I'm a really skinny high-school female and I've been told I look, "Anorexic, unhealthy, not the type guys look for, unsubstantial…etc." And while I understand a lot of models are really skinny, it angers me when I see magazines trying their hardest to put down skinny people as bad influences for the future generations. It's not like I chose to be skinny. It just bothers me a lot when people feel the need to insult one body type just to make another seem better, even superior. Rukia herself is pretty slender and I figured I could work this element in as a reflection of myself. Haha, wow, this turned into a rant. Sorry guys.
I hope I didn't warp their characters too much. Trust me when I say that the waff towards the end was making my stomach churn. I can't write fluffy scenes to save my life; they always make my eyes scrunch up painfully. Thanks to everyone who has stuck with this story for so long. Don't worry; it'll all come to an end next chapter with the long anticipated "Lust". Comment if you can! I really want to hit 50 reviews by the end of Breaking God!