Title: Shadow of the Day
Summary: "My world is dark," she murmured. "It's been so long since I saw light, I've forgotten what it looks like. But when I'm with you, I can imagine it."—They are two teens leading very different lives. And yet…"You're my light...Ichigo."[AU, IchiRuki]
Beginning Notes: No, this story has nothing to do with the Linkin Park song. Don't get me wrong, I love the song (it's actually one of my favorites). It just doesn't have a place in the story. Also, for those of you who are familiar with my work, this may make you a little more compelled to read: the story will have a happy ending! 'Course, how hard it is to get to that ending is a different story… /evil laughter/ All righty. On with the show!
Dedication: This story — yes, this entire story — is dedicated to Zapenbits, who's been reading my stories literally from the very beginning, and who never has anything bad to say about anything I write. She's been very encouraging, and her reviews always brighten up my day, and I'm forever grateful for her. Love ya Zappy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. I wish I did. It'd make paying for college a hell of a lot easier. Also, I'd like to point out (before anybody accuses me of plagiarism) that this story is inspired by the Twilight fanfic A Child of the Night by l'heure bleue. And I'm saying this now because I'm sure if I don't, someone's going to scream, "copy-cat!" So there you go. In black and white. I have read the story, and yes, I am drawing inspiration from it. But please bear with me anyway, because I promise, this is not going to be an exact copy of that story. The only thing that's similar is…well, read the story and find out. Everything else is, I swear, my own idea. So please don't kill me or give me hell. Please?
Shadow of the Day — I
—:—Monday, March 3rd, 2008 – 7:52 p.m. —:—
Monotony. It's a part of every life. But for Kurosaki Ichigo, monotony was life. His track was so beaten, it was impossible to stray off of it. He sometimes welcomed the small things that were so different from the norm, that broke up his otherwise boring and predictable day.
Ichigo ducked and his leg shot out, his foot catching the last of his assailants in the face and sending him flying back. Terrific. As if he wasn't already late. Now he had to deal with a couple of goons mistaking him for a rival gang member. Wasn't his life just perfect.
Ichigo took a step back away from the groaning thug laying sprawled on the ground in front of him. His two buddies were a little ways back, having been sent flying when Ichigo had punched them. The orange-haired teen rolled his eyes then looked down at his watch. It was almost seven-thirty. He sighed and looked up as the last rays of the sun disappeared from the orange sky, then shoved his hands into his pocket and started walking.
The sky above him slowly morphed from light-blue with orange highlights to a soft mixture of dark and light blue, then into a velvety blue, almost black. The street-lights above Ichigo clicked on just as he passed under one, illuminating the dark, quiet street. He'd walked these streets, the streets of Karakura Town, so many times, he could do them with his eyes closed. This was his home, this small, troubled town with it's wanna-be gangs and would-be tough guys and never-ending problems. It wasn't dangerous, not by far. In fact, by most standards, it was boring. Ichigo had walked these streets every morning and every night, five days a week, since he'd started high school three years ago. He'd gotten into trouble maybe three times.
This was, as sad as it may have seemed, his life. Every single day it was the same thing. Wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, go home, deal with his annoying father, eat dinner, go to his room and do his homework, then just hang out until he went to bed, then wake up and start it all over again. A never-ending, never-changing cycle. It wasn't even a life, not really. Ichigo often felt like an observer, like he was standing on the outside looking in, wondering if this was all there was. There had to be more, right? After all, everybody was born for a reason; everyone had a purpose in life. Surely Ichigo was no exception that rule. Right?
He sometimes blamed the town for the unbreakable cycle of his life. This small, boring town kept him from doing anything, going anywhere. It had trapped him, maybe forever. Sometimes — most of the time, actually — he really hated it here.
Ichigo came to a halt outside the park entrance, debating whether or not to take the short-cut through. After all, late was late. His father would, no doubt, pounce the second he walked in. It wasn't exactly an inviting thought. Then again, the later Ichigo was, the more annoying Isshin would be. Ichigo rolled his eyes at the thought, and took the turn-off.
The park was surprisingly quiet. Usually at night it was a prime spot for gang members and other thugs. But then, the night was still young. Hopefully Ichigo would be long gone before anybody came. He didn't need anymore trouble…
Ichigo jerked around as the sound of grating metal echoed through the air, and his eyes swiveled around to find the source of the noise, landing on the swing-set tucked in the corner near the woods. It wasn't yet dark enough that he couldn't see the outline of a small figure seated on one of the swings. But it was just dark enough that he couldn't see the person's face.
Ichigo turned all the way to face the swings. The figure was small, almost child-like. Too young to be out at this time. And Ichigo, against his better judgment, was curious. He made his way slowly towards the swings, waiting for the figure to say something. But it was silent, as if the person hadn't seen him. He stopped when the person's face became clear to his eyes; he was standing about ten feet away.
It was a girl, a very small girl, with shoulder-length raven hair framing her thin face. Her skin was pale, ghost-like, as if she didn't get out in the sun much. She was wearing, a thin, flowing, white sundress; the wind blew lightly, ruffling the bottom. Her eyes were closed, her head tilted towards the sky, her fingers curled around the chains of the swing. Her lips were moving. The movement was small, miniscule, as if she were speaking to herself, though no sound ever escaped her.
Ichigo hesitated, but then his foot moved of it's own accord. On his first step he came down on a twig; he froze as the audible snap echoed through the silent air.
The girl looked down at once, her eyes snapping open. Ichigo had half a second to be stunned by the vivid, violet color before she spoke.
Ichigo blinked, surprised. She was staring right at him…
"Say something." There was a strange note in her voice, a mix of defensive, as if she were ready to argue, and a small bit of panic, as if she was scared. "Please. I know you're there. Say something. Where are you?"
Her eyes were wide, unseeing…unseeing. Realization hit Ichigo like a ton of bricks.
She was blind.
"Sorry." Ichigo was careful to keep his voice low as he spoke. "I didn't mean to scare you."
The girl stood, still gripping the swing chain. "You didn't." She assured him, letting her fingers unwrap themselves one at a time. "Just startled me. People don't usually come down here. I just…" She shrugged, letting her hand fall to her side, her head looking left and right, her eyes scanning, as if she were seeing something only visible to her. "There are always people here." She seemed to be talking to herself now. "But not tonight. It's still early, I guess. They'll be here."
It took Ichigo a moment to speak. She seemed so lost in her own world, this strange, sightless girl. He wouldn't have been surprised if she'd forgotten he was there. But he couldn't stop himself from speaking. "What are you doing here, anyways? It's late."
"It's the only time I get to come out." Her answer was so perplexing, so vague. Ichigo cocked his head slightly, trying to make sense of it. After a minute he gave up, moving on to his next question.
"Do you come here often?" He asked, strangely eager to keep talking to her.
The girl nodded, smiling. "Every night."
This surprised Ichigo. "And no one's ever bothered you?" He knew what kind of people frequented the park at night. He couldn't imagine this small, seemingly helpless girl up against those thugs. But she shook her head.
"I don't know. I'm small. People don't notice me. No one's ever bothered to come down here before." She took a step forward, smiling softly. "Not that they're the kind of people I want to deal with. Just because I can't see them doesn't mean I don't hear them. It isn't something I want to get mixed up in."
Ichigo raised an eyebrow. "You know what kind of people come down here. So why aren't you running in the other direction? I could be anyone, after all. How do you know I won't hurt you? I mean…you can't tell. You're blind,"
He felt stupid for pointing that out. The girl blinked, obviously surprised, her pale skin reddening just a bit. She hesitated for a minute, and Ichigo was worried he'd said something wrong. "How did you…"
"Because you're looking at me, and it's like you're looking through me," Ichigo explained quietly, taking a single step forward. "And when you look around, it's obvious you don't see. You have your own world. I see it in your eyes."
The girl's eyes were sparkling now, as if she liked what Ichigo was saying. "Observant," she said, a slight smile pulling at her lips.
"You're avoiding my question." Ichigo informed her. The smile on her face was more pronounced now. "How do you know I won't hurt you?"
The girl seemed unperturbed by the question, as if she could tell it was hypothetical. As if she just knew Ichigo didn't mean her any harm. "Well, for one thing, you're alone. People usually come down here in pairs, or some other amount of people. For another, you're taking the time to stand here and talk to me, which I'm pretty sure no one else would do. I mean, here I am blind and defenseless-looking. What big, tough guy wouldn't want to take that as a chance to prove to his friends how strong he is?" There was a hint of sarcasm in her voice as she said that. Ichigo half smiled.
"All right, all valid points. You still don't know I won't hurt you."
The girl seemed to find that a bit amusing. "Actually, I do. I'm a pretty good judge of character — it's all about the voice. You have a kind voice."
Just when the night couldn't get any weirder. Ichigo had to physically restrain himself from snorting. "You must be deaf too, then."
The words slipped out before he could stop them. He sobered up at once, ashamed that he said something like that. But the girl didn't seem to mind. In fact, she smiled. "No, no. You try to be tough, but you have a soft side. You've just never let the world see it. Usually the sign of somebody who's suffered — lost someone important to them, maybe."
Ichigo blinked. Damn. Girl was a psychic. "That's…you're…"
"I know I'm right." She sounded pleased now. "I told you, it's all about the voice."
Ichigo just shook his head. "What's your name?" The girl asked suddenly. The sudden change of subject momentarily distracted Ichigo. It took him a moment to answer.
"Ichigo." He said at last. A small smile pulled at her lips.
"Ichigo." She repeated, a hint of amusement in her voice. She wasn't laughing, at least, the way most people did when they heard his name. "Ichigo." She said again. She seemed to like his name.
A new sound reached them, then; a babble of voices making their way through the park. Ichigo, on instinct, looked down at his watch, groaning when he saw the time. "I have to go." He muttered unwillingly. It shocked him how very much he did not want to leave this girl, this strange girl he barely knew. She was a stranger. It didn't matter. He didn't want to leave. It shocked him. And it scared him, just a little. "Can I…see you again?"
The words left his mouth before he could comprehend even thinking them. The girl smiled. It was small, almost shy. And it was beautiful.
"Sure." Her voice was no more than a whisper. "Whenever you want to come back. I'm here every night."
Ichigo's hand moved of it's own accord then, reaching up and carefully tucking a loose lock of the girl's raven hair back behind her ear. He let his fingers dance over the soft skin of her cheek before turning away. He stopped before he'd even taken his first step though, and looked over his shoulder at her. Their eyes connected, and though he knew she couldn't see, it felt as if she was looking right into him. Into his soul.
"What's your name?"
Her soft smile widened. "Rukia." She informed him. Ichigo smiled as well. It felt strange; he hadn't honestly smiled in such a long time.
"Rukia." He repeated softly. "See ya around."
Strangely, unexplainably, he felt much lighter as he walked away. As if some kind of invisible weight had been lifted off his shoulders. But even so, it felt strange to turn away from her, to walk away. He didn't want to.
Ichigo had no memory of the rest of his walk home. His thoughts were somewhere else, somewhere far away from the dark streets of his neighborhood. He could still see, in his mind, the vivid violet color of Rukia's wide eyes. He saw how she looked around, her eyes taking in everything, and yet seeing nothing. He could still hear her hushed tone, the repressed note of amusement in her voice, could still feel her soft skin under his finger-tips…
There wasn't enough time to duck. A pair of socked feet collided with the side of Ichigo's head, throwing him sideways, into a wall. "You're late!" Isshin said. He was standing somewhere outside Ichigo's line of vision. His father's feet appeared again out of the corner of Ichigo's eye, but this time he was prepared. He jumped up, swinging his foot out and side-sweeping Isshin's legs, sending the man down.
"Give me a break." Ichigo grumbled as he stumbled back, dragging a hand through his spiky hair. He crossed his arm, looking down at his father, who was whining something about kids not respecting their elders.
"You missed supper." Yuzu called from the kitchen. Her voice was casual, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. And really, nothing had. "I saved you some though, it's in the fridge."
"Forget it, I'm not hungry—"
"Aha!" Isshin grabbed Ichigo's ankle suddenly, yanking it out from under him. Ichigo grunted as he hit the floor again. Hard. "Can't let your guard down — urk!" Isshin cut off as Ichigo kicked him in the face.
"Give it a rest!" Ichigo snapped as he stood. He turned away from his father and started up to his room.
"Why do you do that?" He heard Yuzu ask their father. He didn't wait for Isshin's answer before closing his bedroom door. He tossed his bag onto the floor near his desk and fell back on his bed, curling his arms under his head and staring at the ceiling. And again, he saw her — Rukia — in his mind's eye. But it didn't feel like enough.
Seeing Rukia, talking to her, had been, without a doubt, the most real thing that had happened to Ichigo in years. For the first time, Ichigo had felt like more than an observer in his own life. It had been so long since he'd felt that way. He hadn't known it was possible to feel that way anymore.
And he decided.
He would see her again.
Author's Note: So…Whatcha think? Good, bad...um, why are you holding a pitchfork? Review, pretty, pretty, pretty please? — Sam