Disclaimer: i do not own Bleach.

written for the IchiRuki Community on LiveJournal. definitely not doing all of the prompts (as i learned back when i wrote for the UsaMamo drabbles). instead, i'm focusing on connecting all of the prompts i use into sort of a coherent story. it takes place during Rukia's imprisonment during the Soul Society Arc, and she is the storyteller, giving Hanatarou a new story every time he visits her in the cell.

you are calm and reposed
let your beauty unfold
pale white, like the skin stretched over your bones
you are so fragile and thin
standing trial for your sins
holding onto yourself the best you can
you are the smell before rain
you are the blood in my veins

Day One

all the world's a stage

An actress.

If I have the chance to stay in the living world, if I am permitted to make Karakura Town my permanent post, I would love to pass myself off as an actress. Even from that first night, I picked up human mannerisms quite easily, if I can say so. I am always able to adapt easily to any and every new situation. That skill is probably what saved me when I lived in Rukongai all of those years with Renji and the guys.

Ah, Renji.

He's supposed to come here and brief me on my legal situation. If I know him as well as I do, he'll probably barge in here without regards to any kind of formalities or presenting himself as the highly-regarded new Lieutenant of the 6th Division, and just yell at me. Maybe that's how I could stand Ichigo all of this time; I'm used to some idiot, testosterone-drivin male trying to impose his will upon me, as if they're trying to match the level of their voices with their stupidity.

But that's the difference between Renji and me; I can sit here, stare at the wall, imagine exactly how he'll stomp in here...but Renji can never guess my next move or how I will react to something. He'll never do it, even if his life depended on it. And Renji is too hesitant, too cautious, too aware of himself to even try.

Maybe that's why I'm sitting here in a cell, and Renji is performing his duties as a righteous Shinigami, no matter how much of a loud-mouth idiot he really can be under those black robes and fancy arm band.

Maybe that's why I'd be such a great actress. I would keep you on your toes, excited to see what would happen next, make you too flustered to even take an ounce of attention away to guess the next scene. No one can ever guess a noble would act so out of line for a human and end up in jail for high treason, let alone guess it could be someone from the Kuchiki household.

Personally, I never thought I would end up on the bad side of Soul Society, but hey, even actresses can surprise themselves. That means you're good, right?

I sigh, the cold air tickling my lungs. Although the Fifth Division cell is much larger than what I've been accustomed to in recent months, I would trade the difference in size to be back in the warmth and familiarity of Ichigo's closet any day. My stomach grumbles for a tiny bite of Yuzu's delicious cooking. My fist longs to take out my frustrations on Kon, but I know of all the things I want, I don't deserve any of them. The image of Ichigo laying in the street, soaked in a concoction of blood and the rain, flashes in my mind. It took all of my will to not start crying -well maybe not cry, that kind of needless emotions stopped after Kaien-dono- but it's hitting a sensitive nerve. My hands start to hurt from clenching them so hard, but luckily, a noise catches my attention, and I feel a new presence right outside of my cell. It waits there for a bit instead of approaching me.

"You shouldn't wait for my permission to enter," I say casually, not bothering to turn around from my seat facing the stone wall. "I am the prisoner, and you are the unaccused, after all."

I hear the click of the lock, and the metal door swings open.

What is this person scared of?

The reiatsu isn't familiar to me; it feels small, very unremarkable, but at the same time, humble, sincere...and absolutely terrified at the moment. The person shuffles around my cell, and while I try to go back to my usual thoughts of days past, deep soul searching, what movies I would've loved to star in (I think action movies), I am unsuccessful. I hear the other person moving around, their movements echoing throughout my cell, but they don't seem to be stopping anytime soon and they're not addressing me in any way. What's the deal? I turn my head sideways, finally able to look at a small male Shinigami with dark hair and matching dark circles under his eyes. I'm pretty sure I'm not scowling, but as I look him down, he stares back, downright pitiful.

His frightened expression sort of boosts my ego, since someone is actually intimidated by me instead of commenting on my small stature.

Fucking Ichigo.

The Shinigami opens his mouth to stutter something when a rough presence brawls through the room. Renji is slightly tardy for his cue, but he still manages to appear like I predicted.

"Yo Yamada, get out of here. I want to talk to the prisoner," he grunts, his words coming out more like mush instead of coherent dialog. Of course Renji talks more with his body than words, like any testosterone-driven man. The Sixth Division fuku-taichou grips one of my cell bars with his right hand while coolly leaning against my cell and propping his left hand on his hip, as if flexing his arm in an effort to intimidate me. It never worked, and memories of a toothpick-thin Renji-kun pops into my head, easing my thoughts. "Rukia."

I don't bother to face him right away since the smile hasn't subsided yet. I try to put on my best poker face, using Ichigo as my inspiration. Showtime for this actress. Renji clears his throat again, the deep grumblings rattling the cage of my cell. "How long do you plan on torturing everyone like this? You got some poor messenger from the Fourth shaking in his robes, their chef making delicious food which you don't even touch. You need to take care of yourself Rukia."

"Why? So I can be in top form when they execute me?"

He scoffs. "That's not that I mean."

I shift in my seat, turning enough so I can look at my childhood friend from over my shoulder. I don't hint to him that I'm glad to see what he achieved for himself, but deep down, I am happy. Although I can't say the same for my current situation, I am pretty damn proud of Renji, and I know somewhere, there is a higher power laughing at me because I was never blessed the cards that could've granted me Renji as my older brother instead of the successor of the Kuchiki noble clan. Not that I don't appreciate Nii-sama and all he has done for me, but I think he'd be better off with someone who doesn't have to stand on her tippy-toes so her nose can turn up above everyone else. I suppose me trying to fit into the Kuchiki clan is my greatest work as an actress.

"I'm not torturing myself, I'm just not hungry," I say quietly. I don't mean for my voice to come out so soft, but my thoughts distracted me with simpler days. Lucky for me, Renji is easily agitated. "Abarai-fuku-taichou...dono."

Renji grips the cell bars with both of his hands now, a flush on his face almost matching his red hair. He looks kind of like a sunburned tourist at the moment; instead of the black standards every Shinigami wears, Renji decks himself out in a casual white and orange yukata, and I can't help but wonder what the occasion is. I'm almost jealous that I can't be apart of the apparent festivities, since it must be something big if Renji isn't wearing his robes. To him, Shinigami robes represent the struggles they overcame in their afterlife, not to mention, he thinks he looks more intimidating in black. From my point of view, Renji's flustered expression looks like he's the imprisoned one as he rattles the bars to get my attention.

Whoops, I usually get too preoccupied making fun of him in my mind.

"What's wrong with with me being the fukutaichou? You gotta problem with it?!" he bellows.

"No, of course not, fukutaichou-dono!" I reply in my human-voice. I know it agitated Ichigo to no end when I used it, and Renji is no different, except maybe he's too thick-headed to perceive that I'm making fun of him. But it's always fun to watch it hit Renji like an avalanche barreling over him. "You are the the only appropriate person to take up the reigns as fukutaichou. Your tattooed eyebrows are incredibly intimidating for any new recruit, fukutaichou-dono, so painful to look at. Your muscles are so massive that wearing your badge must be so restricting, fukutaichou-dono. Sixth Division hair is the best of all, fukutaichou-dono!"

Renji narrows his eyes at me. "Now you're just making fun of me."

About time.

I'm not sure if I say that aloud, but Renji is rattling my cell like an earthquake. "I'll kill you! Get out of there, and I'll do it myself right NOW!"

"But Abarai-fukutaichou, I haven't eaten and my body is feeling fatigued. It wouldn't be fair."

Renji grumbles more incomprehensible things I'm pretty sure had more cussing than actual words, and I turn completely away from him to hide my smile, which makes him raise his voice and beat against the metal bars harder. But I know he has a soft spot for me.

"Renji," I say quiet enough that he has to stop the ruckus. "Do you think I'm really going to be executed?"

Not because it is my life on the line, I do think the pending punishment is a bit excessive. I am, after all, only an actress. A noble. But who am I kidding?

I hear a deep grunt from my friend. He's still flustered. "OF COURSE you are, dumb-ass! They'd probably chop your ass up right in that cell if they were here in my place."

Whoops, he's still mad. There's no talking to him at the moment. "Yes...you probably are right."

"Come on Kuchiki, it was a joke! A JOKE, get it?!"

"For a fukutaichou, you sure don't know what's going on," I throw at him over my shoulder. Renji's getting my snootiest, most noble-like expression I can muster.

Where Ichigo hates my acting voice, Renji hates my facial expressions. A girl never wins with these two. He resumes rattling my cell. "Shut up! I know what's going on. Kuchiki-taichou is submitting his report as we speak." I don't bother to look at him anymore, so I hear Renji prop himself up against the bars. His voice instantly becomes distant. "He's your big brother, Rukia. There's no way he's going to stand by and let you die."

I can't stifle my snort at his comment. There are things I know, trivial, unimportant skills like acting and provoking best friends, and there are things I know. Renji may be slow at detecting my true intentions when I put on my acting skills, but Kuchiki Byakuya certainly does not dabble in the frivolous like I do, the imposter Kuchiki. The icy cold he naturally emits is not an act. The blank, yet piercing stare he uses to analyze you when you're face to face is not an act. His commitment to upholding the prestige of a noble clan is definitely not an act.

My ability to act is the epitome of what I've been trying to do all my life: just trying to get by.

I turn just a little, and I can't help but be surprised when my eyes meet Renji's. I may be imagining it, but he truly looks concerned for me.

"It's been forty years since the Kuchiki clan adopted me." I forgo a little fukutaichou jab as soon as the thought crosses my mind. I'm trying to act serious here. "And never once has he truly looked at me."

I look away, and it becomes clear to me that no matter how much time in the living world I spent refining my acting skills, they can't mask my inner turmoil. Imprisonment isn't my current problem. I realize I've been trying to mask these feelings for years, hell, decades. And I fail every time.

But what is that stupid cliche the humans use all the time? Something about getting back up on your high horse after falling...

Maybe as my last act as a Kuchiki, I'll repay the clan for how they accepted me by keeping my dignity, even if they go through with executing me. My head suddenly becomes heavy with thought, and it dips low so now all I gaze at is my lap. I suppose Renji is at the same kind of loss as I am, for now he's suspiciously quiet, but I don't bother to look at him again. I have a mission now. It will be my greatest and most difficult undertaking, to gather all of my resolve and smile up until the very end of my life-long acting career.