I don't own Bleach.

June 29, 1999 —

"What is your verdict?" the judge asked staring down the jury, as if asking them if the decision they made was really the right one.

The man standing tugged at his collar, obvious sweat rolling down his face and neck. It was hot in the courtroom. It was unbearably hot this time of year. The man wore a suit, his tie loosened, and a comb over; trying to cover up a bald spot.

"Um—our—uh, verdict is—um—"

"Speak clearly please," the judge pressed, feeling sweat roll down his forehead and his many chin rolls. He had to get home tonight … his wife didn't think taking this particular case was a very good idea for him or his family.

A nine-year-old kid was accused of slicing his own mother's throat … The mother, his father had said, the nine-year-old adored and would never hurt. Despite all the witnesses and family members who said the kid would never hurt a fly, the people were trialing him as an adult. At the beginning of the trial, the judge had questioned the act … after much convincing, he agreed to it. The kid was found under his dead mother, a knife in his hand and his mother's blood covering the floors like crimson ribbons. He had no choice but to give him the maximum sentence if he was called guilty.

So, now the nine year old was standing his eyes down, obvious shame across his face. The judge felt a little sorry for him; no nine-year-old should be put in this situation found under his mother or not.

"Our verdict is … guilty," the man said, breaking the judge from his thoughts.

The court room fell. People stood and some of them screamed in terror. The convicted boy didn't look surprised. Instead, his eyes became just a little more depressed. His back slumped a little more. His father, a doctor at a local clinic, was the first to stand. He gently touched his son's shoulders and turned him around. The man leaned in, rested his forehead against his son's. "It's okay, I'll get you out of this," he whispered gently. "I know it wasn't your fault."

The boy shook his head. "I deserve this. Don't do anything, Dad."

An officer came up behind him and handcuffed him. The boy looked up at the judge, waiting for him to speak. "Kurosaki Ichigo," the judge said. "You will serve the maximum sentence — life in jail."

His father was crying. Ichigo felt tears flood his eyes, like the damn of his eternal emotions crack until the salty tears seemed through. The officer grabbed the young boy's wrists and led him through two double doors and to the place that he would spend the rest of his life.

January 23, 2005 —

Kuchiki Rukia stood up, ready for the verdict. Had it really been almost a year now since that day had happened? Had she really been through that much in only a short nine months? It didn't seem possible. Though, it didn't seem possible that he was gone … yet. She still couldn't believe it.

The court room was cold. The people inside were still wearing coats it was so cold. Rukia felt cold; her dress didn't keep her too warm with the room being so chilly.

"Jury, what is your verdict?" the judge asked, turning to the people who had just walked into courtroom again. They had been gone for nearly four hours. That was a good thing, right? Rukia wondered looking at them. That meant they had decided quickly … maybe it was for her freedom.

Of course, going to jail and being free made no difference in the young Kuchiki girl's life. She didn't feel like she should even be alive now. If it wasn't for him … she wouldn't be. She would be just like him … six feet underground … cold, dead.

"We find the defendant … guilty as charged."

No one cried out. On the contrary, some people cheered. They were hugging each other and crying with joy. Rukia held back her tears and felt her lip tremble. She had to stay calm. She couldn't let anyone know what really happened. She had to stay strong. She couldn't tremble in fear … she had been strong two minutes ago! She hadn't cared whether or not she was going to jail … her life was already over. She didn't have friends, she couldn't go to school, or walk out on the streets alone … not if she wanted to be safe. Jail was the safest place for her … she should be happy.

One tear fell down her cheek.

She turned her head slightly and her eyes locked with her older brother, Byakuya. He stared her down with cold and penetrating eyes. She looked away. Her sister on the other hand, took her hands and whispered, "I know you didn't do this, Rukia. I know. I'll get you out of here. I promise, I promise …" Tears were slowly rolling down her sister's cheeks.

Rukia brought her fingers up and wiped her sister's tears away. "No Hisana, don't. I'll be fine. I deserve this punishment … it's my fault. Jail is the safest place for me …"

"But you're innocent! I know it, Rukia! You've got to tell them that … I know and you know. Please, baby sister, tell them. You've got to tell them! I can protect you! Please, Rukia … tell them."

"Sorry Hisana."

"The defendant will serve a life sentence for her crime." An officer came up and handcuffed her. They led her out the door and through long, wrapping hallways and to the place she would call her home for the rest of her life. All she could hear, as she walked out of the room willingly, was the cries of her sister and the pleas for her to come back and tell the police the truth.

The Present

Nine years. Nine years he had rotted in this jail cell. Nine years of packing boxes, serving food and community service all for nothing. Nine years of living a life he deserved to live. Ichigo lifted another spoonful of sauce onto someone else's noodles. The person grunted his thanks and Ichigo grunted back. It was normal talk around here.

Sometimes, Ichigo wondered if he could even speak proper Japanese anymore. Probably not; living in here since he was nine … he had been smart for his age and that was good … good, because, when he turned fifteen, the justice center stopped schooling him. He wasn't sure why they even made him go through with schooling … he was just going to be sitting around here for the next ninety years of his life. Sometimes, he wished that he wouldn't have to live another ninety years. Often, he thought about who would really miss him if he, indeed, did die.

His father was so busy, he could hardly come by and see him and when he did, the meetings were always brief. He hadn't seen his sisters since he was nine … the last time he saw them was when he was taken out of the courtroom and to this hellhole. Forever they would be crying in his memory.

When he thought of his family, he could never picture happy things. Sure, he could remember them … it was just the crying … the pain … the loss that he remembered the most. He remembered his father's face … his look of determination when he told Ichigo he was going to save him. It was nine years and his father had come up empty handed in the case of his mother's death. Nine years … and Ichigo was already willing to die.

Sighing at his sudden sense of depression, he served the last three or so people and then started putting his tools away. He went to the back of the kitchen carrying his—spaghetti sauce?—and started to wash it in one of the many sinks that lined the walls of the kitchen.

He was still washing when a crackling voice sounded from overhead. "Mornin' maggots," came the cheery (haha, cheery!) voice of Kenpachi Zaraki, the boss of the hellhole. "I just lettin' ya know … today the girls' side of prison is movin' in with us. I need all the prisoners to report back to their cells at once."

Ichigo looked up from his dishes and to the little speaker located right above the door. He didn't remember there being an announcement about the girls' side moving in with him and his fellow prison mates. Oh well, it's not like it would cause much of a difference around here.

He would still work; he would still mourn over the life that he never had, this life he was never supposed to have … a life he didn't even deserve. A life that should not have been his. A secret he had kept for so long … his father had tried so hard to get him to testify, to put the guy in jail. His father wanted him to be free. Every day, Ichigo would work and think about what his life could have been … should have been. If he spoke his thoughts outwardly, people would assume he wanted out.

He didn't want out.

He wanted to make himself even more miserable … just because he had to. He had to make himself suffer even more so than the person he killed. He had to be worse off than his dead mother.

And most of the time, he was.

Walking back to the cells, Ichigo mulled over the thought. He was considered the bad ass of this side of prison. He didn't talk to anyone nor did he want to be talked to. If someone pissed him off … well, he'd make sure that person couldn't piss for a week. If someone was arrogant enough to think that he could take Ichigo on … that person would be half dead within two minutes of stepping near the orange-haired man.

Ichigo wasn't the strongest, the best fighter, or even the scariest guy this prison had to offer. He was just … weird, different. He kept to himself … he hadn't made any makeshift friends — not even in the nine years he had lived here. He only spoke when he was spoken to. He always had the faraway look in his chocolate eyes.

People had tried to be his friend, sure. They had tried to only end up failing. Sure, some prison mates would sit next to him at lunch and talk … ask him about his past, what he liked to do, etc., but Ichigo never answered. He never intended to answer.

Reaching the corridors containing cells, he quickly found his own — the only one without a neighbor in front of him — and stood there with the rest of the prisoners.

For a while the only sound was the mummers of the other prisoners and the filing in of said people. Then, two huge feet slammed up against the ground from the entry way of their cells. A loud voice yelled, "Alright maggots, line up! Damn it faster!"

The prisoners' bodies became rigid under Kenpachi's gaze. He studied each one of their miserable excuses for faces and then went on. "Okay! Look at the person across from you!" All the prisoners did as they were asked. Good, he thought. I like it better that way. "These people will be your new roommates for the next year or so, so look at em' and get along!"

Most of the prisoners said nothing. The ones that sighed or even had the slightest demur in their stance, were quick to shut up from either the look in Kenpachi's eyes or the eyes of their new prison mate.

Ichigo looked across from him and knew there was no one there. It seemed that he would luck out and not have to be stuck with someone else. He started to smirk when Kenpachi's booming voice stopped him. "Kurosaki!" he screamed. "Come with me!" Ichigo sighed. It was just like Kenpachi to ruin Ichigo's excitement with that annoying voice of his.

Slowly, Ichigo walked along behind him, receiving glares from the other prison mates. He scowled ahead of him and kept following Kenpachi like a puppy all the way to his office.

"Take a seat, Kurosaki."

Ichigo did.

Around the office there were several filing cabinets filled with, what Ichigo would guess, files of different criminals around this prison. There was a big, wide window behind Kenpachi almost mocking Ichigo as he sat in the hard, poorly cushioned seat. There was several picture frames with many different awards covering the walls. Obviously, Kenpachi was very proud of himself and all his accomplishments.

When he never spoke, Ichigo asked, "Sir, is there something you wanted to talk to me about?" Kenpachi was staring out the window, to the parking lot and free world below. "Sir?"

"Yes, Kurosaki. I'm waiting."

"For what?"

There was a soft knock at the door. "That" was all Kenpachi said and he walked swiftly to the door. Opening it, Ichigo saw a very petite girl behind it. She was probably a year or so younger than him with raven-colored hair and porcelain skin. Her eyes were the deepest violet he had ever seen. It almost made the girl beautiful.


She was wearing the black and orange striped jumpsuit just like all the other prisoners, himself included. Her hair was tattered and her porcelain skin was covered with smudges … she was probably picking up trash or something before she was ordered to come here. But, why was she ordered to come here in the first place?

"Come on, Kuchiki," Kenpachi ordered and motioned to the seat next to Ichigo. She did as she was told; she sat down, her hands immediately went to her lap and her feet crossed. She seemed so nervous. What the hell was she — Kuchiki, he guessed — scared of? Kenpachi looked scary but he really couldn't hurt his worthless prisoners (his words spoke louder than his actions) … let alone a girl.

"I know that you two need to get back to work so I'll make this short and sweet," Kenpachi started. "You two are the one boy prisoner and one girl prisoner that will not have roommates the next year or so because of construction. Myself and Captain Yamamoto have chosen you two to stay together."

Ichigo's eyes widened. Not only would he have to share his prison cell … his sacred temple in this hellhole … but, he would have to share it with a girl!? And a weak, nervous girl at that!

Ichigo's temper flared.

"What?!" he yelled, standing to his feet. "I don't want to be with her! Look at her! She won't be able to handle staying here! She's weak and nervous! Look!" The girl looked up at him. He glared down at her before looking back at Kenpachi. For those few brief moments his eyes met hers, he could see the hatred, the anger living there.

"What?" her voice was low and deadly. "What did you say?"

If Ichigo had been talking to any of the other prison mates, he would have stopped arguing then. He may be the bad ass of this prison, but even Ichigo knew his limits. Nevertheless, there was something about this short, out-of-place midget that made him say something back. "I said, I don't want you as a mate. Got it, midget?"

When she looked at him, her eyes were livid.

"Who said I wanted to be paired up with a carrot like you!" she yelled, getting to her feet. "You are just the annoying bastard who thinks he's better than everyone else here! Well, let me tell you, you're not, you worthless piece of trash!"

Kenpachi watched as the two bickered with an amused smile. He knew they would be a good match. Kurosaki Ichigo was the kid who had been in here since he was nine … he thought he knew everything about this prison and all the people in it would just let him be. Kuchiki Rukia had only been in here for a few years and already she had a reputation of having a spit-fire temper when she was called out but otherwise a pretty soulless girl. Kenpachi could see that there would be no problems with them whatsoever.

They were just too different.

"Okay, you two," he scoffed. They turned to him, their faces enraged and their eyes saying one word: kill. "Before you two pull out your tooth picks as weapons, I have a couple of things to say." He looked back and forth from their faces as he spoke. "First off, you two will not have any kind of intercourse as long as you live under my roof. If I even think once that you two are having sex, I'll make sure you die from work. Literally."

They looked disgusted.



"Number two, please keep the bickering to a low roar. You may be the BA of the prison cell, Kurosaki, and you may be the princess of your side of prison, Kuchiki, but you two do not run the place. I do. If you don't shut ya traps and ya eyes when I tell you to sleep, so help me, I will give you extra trash duty for the rest of the time that you two are together. Got it?"

Ichigo and Rukia looked at each other once before gagging and looking away.

"I take that as I 'got it'?" Kenpachi asked as they crossed their arms across their chests at the same moment and grunted.

Kenpachi smirked. "Good. You are dismissed."

A/N: Whew! That took forever to write! I've been writing bit by bit on the start of this story and let me just say … I'm glad I finally got it going!! Haha. Well, the idea is my good friend Chappi15's and she let me use it! Thanks so much Chap, you rock! It's also her sixteenth birthday today, so stop by her profile and wish her a happy birthday!!