Nom Omnis Moriar

Word Count: 2,148

Rating: T for language and themes

Spoilers: Some for Soul Society Arc.

Author's Note: Oh, dear. I don't think this endeavour is going to end well. Last time I tried a chapter fic...well, it's still unfinished. For now. Anyway, please read, review, point out spelling mistakes, all that jazz. Too short? I think so. Maybe. Hm.

Disclaimer: I, in no way, shape or form, own Bleach or any affiliated characters. Unfortunately.

If Byakuya had known how little time was left, perhaps he would have used it a little more wisely. Perhaps he would have made each moment matter before the days whittled by and the voracious hands of Death claimed its victim and froze time forever in its place. Perhaps he would have stopped it.

But he didn't know how little time was left.

None of them did.

And in the midst of our lives we die.

Time, it seemed to Rukia, was like a handful of sand. It wasn't that it was made up of thousands of tiny segments (although admittedly, it was) or that, given enough of it, it could wear away even the hardest cliff-face (althought admittedly, it could) or even that it was dry, coarse and grainy, and sometimes got stuck in your toes and then later you'd find it in your hair and you'd never be able to get it out of your clothes and - well, admittedly, it wasn't like that at all.

Time was like a handful of sand because the tighter you grasped it the quicker it ran through your fingers. She had done her fair share of grasping. The days in that forsaken tower had slipped by far too quickly; their insidious nights melting into dawn before she had a chance to realise it, preying upon -


So much for internal analogies.

Rukia gritted her teeth and leaned forward onto her hands and knees, peering over the edge of the Kurosaki household's roof to see a very disgruntled boy leaning out of his window and peering back at her.

"What the hell are you doing up there? Yuzu's been calling you for dinner. It's cold. And it's getting dark. And what the hell are you doing on my roof anyway?" Ichigo scowled and involuntarily leant a little less out of the window. He readied himself to make a run for it if all hell broke loose. He couldn't help but think that her new vantage point and lack of time-keeping were perhaps precursors to the implosion of her brain.

"You just asked me that." Rukia batted at his head and contemplated momentarily how amusing it would be if she could knock him out of the window. "I've been ruminating on things. And you interrupted me! Besides," she muttered indignantly, "it's almost spring." She settled back and gazed wistfully at the molten remains of the sun. "I want time to go faster."

"What are you warbling about?" Ichigo tightened his grip on the windowsill and tried to ignore the rumbling in his stomach. "And what sort of word is ruminating? And why do you look tired?"

And in the midst of our lives we die.

"Enough with the questions, Ichigo! I look tired becauseI am tired. And ruminating is a wonderful sort of word! It came seventh in the list of The Best All-Round Verbs Of All Time That Start With The Letter R." Ichigo stared at her incredulously. "Who the hell made up that crap contest?"

"I did."

Ah. Of course she did. "Stop losing your mind and come have some dinner! Or I'll go without you and tell them you drowned!"

Rukia snarled and pushed herself off the roof, diving feet-first through the window in a maneouvre Indiana Jones would have been proud of and smacking Ichigo in the face as she went. He fell over with a squawk. Result! "Fine, fine." She brushed herself down and stepped daintily over his prone body. "I'm going to eat all of yours - "

She was interrupted by the beeping of her cell phone. "Ichigo! A hollow!" She said and quickly scanned the radar. "Not far from here."

"Not now..." Ichigo groaned, but he was already reaching for Kon. Looked like he'd be missing out on dinner anyway. The fluffy little bastard would enjoy it for him, he was sure of it. Rukia grinned and leapt nimbly from his window into the blossoming darkness. "This way, idiot. And hurry up!"

"Oi, Rukia!" He yelled and half-fell out the window after her. He knew what she meant, though. Spring was coming. And in his opinion, it couldn't come fast enough. It had been a long winter. Too long. Spring would be a reminder of the life in the world, of the unrelenting hope that there were indeed things better and brighter than cold, moonless nights and dead trees and dead souls and dead beliefs. He caught up to her as she came to halt on a neighbouring rooftop. He motioned to the lumbering hollow with his sword. "I'll handle this one alone. Since you're so tired." Rukia sniffed and stepped in front of him. "Don't be ridiculous. I'll bet you 1000 yen I'll take care of it in less than 30 seconds."

"It'll be my money anyway."

"You just know I can do it!"

"Fine!" Ichigo swore and rolled out of the way as the hollow, apparently angry from lack of attention, flung itself towards him. It sat back on its haunches and snarled. "Your time started 10 seconds ago!"

"Idiot," Rukia muttered, and drew her sword. The hollow turned and leapt at her. She jumped above it and turned in mid-air to counter-attack. Too slow, she realised, as it lurched out of the way and she had to adjust her landing.

"C'mon, Rukia, I didn't know you had gotten so weak." Ichigo drawled and leaned on his sword.

"Be quiet!" She pivoted and arced her zanpakuto across the hollow's head, already knowing it wasn't strong enough to do any significant damage. "Too shallow!" Ichigo yelled. "Put some effort into it!"

And in the midst of our lives we die.

"Shut up!" Rukia's reiatsu flared. She gripped Sode no Shirayuki with both hands and brought the sword down, carving the hollow's mask in two. "Finally," Ichigo said, and stretched. "But that was way longer than 30 seconds." He frowned when Rukia dropped her sword and, shaking, sank to her knees. "Oi. Oi, what's wrong?" He was at her side in an instant, placing one hand on her trembling back "What is it?"

She struggled to get her breathing under control and weakly pushed his hand away. She shook her head. "I'm ok," she mumbled, and pushed herself to her feet. Instinctively, Ichigo put his arms out to steady her, and caught her when her knees buckled and she collapsed into him. "Doesn't look like it," he muttered, and slung one arm around her waist. "You're exhausted. C'mon. I'm taking you to Urahara's."

"Ah, Kuchiki-san...don't you look lovely, as always?"

"Be quiet, shopkeeper..." Rukia sighed as Ichigo helped her onto a cushion opposite Urahara and took a seat next to her.

"My, my..." Urahara beamed and fanned his face languidly, eyeing the two with a vague fascination. "And what seems to be the problem today? Too many late nights staying up gossipping and whispering sweet nothings?" He snapped his fan shut and lowered his voice. "Or something more serious?"

Ichigo leaned forward. "She had trouble fighting a hollow earlier. It was a weak one, but she got tired, and...well," he gestured to Rukia, "Something must be wrong with her."

Urahara flipped his fan open again and gave a cry of dismay. "I hope you aren't suggesting that my products are faulty!"

"She wasn't in her gigai. Why?" Ichigo frowned. "Is there something wrong with it?" He clenched his fists and stole a sideways glance at Rukia. "There has been before."

She slowly turned her head to look at him but said nothing.

"Now, now, Kurosaki-san, I thought we had put that little incident behind us! I have offered my most humble apologies to both you and Kuchiki-san. I assure you - "

" - Should I get Inoue?"

Urahara sighed and slowly got to his feet. As much as he was fond of Ichigo, he always rushed into things too quickly for his own good. Stubborn and hard-headed, just like his father. He yawned and stretched. "There's no need." He waved his fan at Rukia. "There's nothing wrong with her."

And in the midst of our lives we die.

"But - "

"I can tell just by looking at her. Take her home and let her sleep."

"Urahara, I - "

"Ichigo." Rukia's voice stopped him mid sentence. She nodded once. "He's right, Ichigo. I'm alright."

He looked from her to Urahara tersely. "Fine," he said, and relented. "Let's go home."

"Wonderful, wonderful!" Urahara clapped his hands in delight. "Hurry home then. And don't stay up too late!" Ichigo glared back at him as Rukia carefully stood and walked slowly out the front door of the Urahara Shop. He turned and followed her wordlessly.

"Hey, Kisuke." Yoiruichi appeared behind the shopkeeper and raised an eyebrow. "What was that about?"

"Nothing, Yoruichi-san. A friendly visit, that's all." Urahara smiled over his shoulder at her. "Not as enjoyable as one from you, of course. Shall I fetch some milk?"

As it turns out, Rukia wasn't alright.

At all.

"Kuchiki-san? What do you think of my 'Plan For The Future'?" Orihime's face loomed in Rukia's vision. "Ahem: In the year 3080, Hamlet, the crown prince of Denmark, comes to the United States where he meets the sassy and streetwise Inoue Orihime! There they team up to rob banks and people and do bad things! Then they have to change their names to Bonnie and Clyde because the police and the CIA are following them! And then - "

"It sounds lovely, Inoue." Rukia gave her a slight smile. "And I only wrote - " Stiffening, she stopped and tried to focus on what she was saying instead of the consuming exhaustion creeping over her. "I wrote..."

And in the midst of our lives we die.

"Kuchiki...-san?" Orihime tilted her head to one side and was about to speak again when Ochi-sensei skulked into the classroom and grinned devilishly at her students. "Now then, eager young minds. I know you're all itching for an English test!"

Rukia smiled at Orihime and shook her head, inwardly glad at the distraction. "I'm fine," she mouthed to her friend, hoping Orihime would believe her when she couldn't even believe herself. She breathed as carefully and as deliberately as she could, and resolutely kept her gaze from straying to the other side of the room, where she knew Ichigo would be watching her.

He knew he shouldn't have been surprised when he returned to his room after dinner, silently gloating that Kon missed the best meal of the week, and found a scribbled note on his desk with another horribly drawn image of himself.

"What's that?" Kon scrambled onto his shoulder and peered at the letter. "It's from Nee-san!"

"Mm." Ichigo sighed and tossed it back onto his desk. "She's gone back to Soul Society to check something out. Said she wouldn't be long." He knew he shouldn't have been surprised, but he was. He stretched out on his bed and rested his head on his arms. "I thought she might've told me first..."

"Oi! Where's my picture?" Kon hopped onto the desk and picked the letter up. "Ah...Nee-san gets more talented by the day!" Ichigo didn't answer, and instead rolled onto his side and glared at the wall. Moonlight flickered through his window, trapped by windblown branches that were just beginning to get their leaves. If he had known how little time was left, he would have done things differently. A lot differently. But he didn't know. He had no idea.

He sighed heavily and closed his eyes. What is she thinking?

Unohana Retsu had little reason to doubt her suspicions when Byakuya's sister requested an audience with her and asked to be examined. Shinigami didn't often become ill. Their immune systems were exceptional compared to humans and ordinary souls, and it had to be remarkable circumstances to give them any trouble. So Unohana went through the motions of questioning and examining Rukia, letting her reiatsu trickle through her, seeking the root of the problem, all the while going over in her mind exactly how Kuchiki Hisana had looked before she died.

A familiar presence tugged at her senses, and she left Rukia sitting in one of the examination rooms and stepped outside to greet Byakuya. She smiled politely at him. "Kuchiki-taicho. It's fortunate that you've arrived."

Byakuya's gaze flicked to Rukia, sitting on the edge of the white bed, gazing distantly at her hands clasped on her lap. "I was informed by one of your subordinates. What is wrong with her?"

Delivering bad news was never an easy task. The 4th Division Captain sighed deeply. "I'm truly sorry, Kuchiki-taicho, but I presume you have already guessed, as had I. Your sister is ill."

And in the midst of our lives -

Byakuya kept his eyes on Rukia, but Unohana felt the flutter of his reiatsu and her heart wrenched. "I know what you're thinking." She said, slowly, evenly, carefully. "And yes, we have seen this disease before."

He said nothing.

"Your late wife lasted only a few months. I hope I can give your sister more."

- We die.

Author's Note: So, hm, not a lot to say here. There'll be a few things to clear up later on, but for now I think it's pretty straightforward. First time doing a chapter fic in a very, very long time, so forgive me for possibly horrific structure. As for updating? Well, a review would help, very much so! I actually need a whole lot of help with this. I'm not asking for critique, as that implies I think it's worthy of being rated. I'm asking for constructive, intelligent help. So please do review and tell me what you thought. Thanks a lot for reading.