It doesn't matter when it starts to rain as she sits on the steps of the apartment complex, right outside. She'll continue to wait for as long as it takes. Streams of water flow down her face and soak through her clothes but she thinks it feels all right some how. It doesn't bother her anymore.
Closing her eyes, Rukia remembers things like Kaien's death and entering the world of the living. Starting a life as a shinigami with Renji, Rukia hadn't imagined being thrown around as much as she has. Byakuya taking her in, having Kaien guide her, meeting Ichigo-that was never part of her plan. And, in some ways, she realizes that she's never really had a plan to begin with.
And now Uryuu has come into this strange, beat up life of hers. Rukia thinks that, maybe, she should start expecting things from now on, since she's never tried before. Beginning with a checklist of Things Rukia Should Expect. Hugging herself, she laughs a bit. Yeah, and what should she put? Messing up Relationships. Check. Getting ignored by Ichigo. Check. Getting screwed by life. Check. Sighing, she leans back against the stair step behind her.
She has hope. And that scares Rukia because things are just going to go up in flames in the end. And the worst part is she truly wants this to work out. She doesn't know why or what it is, but being with Uryuu has given her something to live on. There's something shared between them and she likes having that. It was felt in small moments between her and Ichigo, however it is multiplied with Uryuu. So, maybe that's the little reason she has to be with him. She hopes (wishes, prays with all her heart) that somehow, some way, they wouldn't be separated by an age difference-a life's difference.
"Rain doesn't suit you."
Rukia thinks that it's probably a bad thing she never heard footsteps come near her. Or even feel a presence. Wrapped within depressing thoughts of sad outcomes, she hadn't even felt a person draw near. But as she stares into saddened amber eyes, Rukia feels as if it doesn't really matter at all.
He towers above her (like he's always done, always supposed to be there), fist curled in tension and face distorted in something like suffering. Water from the sky runs down his face, over his skin. She doesn't bother to stand to face him, she'd still be looking up. She figures that it's probably her turn to answer. Maybe he expects it, but knowing him, Rukia knows he's waiting for some sort of reply. A large part of her is torn to get up and walk inside, away from trouble. But she still is so attached to him and Rukia feels he is a part of her that probably will never go away. And, with that, Rukia can find it in her to still love him.
"You only say that because you hate rain."
He nods, unashamed. "I never told you...but I think you've always known."
"Since the beginning, you've cleared up my gray skies."
Yeah. She knows. Offering a small smile, she tells him, "I need you too, you know."
Ichigo shifts uncomfortably, averting his eyes for only a second. "For awhile, I've felt the only thing I could do for you was to protect you. That was all I knew and accomplish." He's quiet and she knows now is not a good time to interrupt. "And..." he quietly confesses, "I guess I forgot that protecting you was having you and the others by my side. Not running off and getting stronger."
"Did you?" she asks and when he gives a questioning glance, "Get stronger, I mean."
A small and spiteful laugh escapes from his mouth and he shakes his head. "My hollow will never see the light of day again. But that comes with a price, apparently." He pauses and gazes at her face, brows knit together in suffering. "I learned gaining power means loosing everything else that meant so much to me."
Rukia averts her eyes for a moment. Yes, that's true (most of the time, sometimes) because that's where they are now. She'd like to pretend that they could go their separate ways and never feel anything like this again. But the both of them are intertwined into something so deep, she knows it's impossible to never look back. It was unintentional, she knows, for them to love each other and care so much, but it's what they both needed. Of course, he had to go and screw it up.
"Ichigo," she breathes out and she sees him tense just a little bit more, "We've done things to each other that has hurt us in the past."
"Yeah," he closes his eyes and sighs, defeated and she knows exactly what he's thinking.
Folding her hands together, she offers another smile.
"What's one more?"
"Rukia, we can't just igno-"
"Fool!" She stands and hits him on his head. "I'm telling you we forgive. Stop believing we can never recover just because you ran off and forgot about us. We are inseparable. And you know this."
Gaping, he watches her with a cross between anger and embarrassment as she rebukes him (again) until he smiles back. Rukia smirks. He's got her point.
"Have you spoken to Isshin?"
And he's back to frowning. "No."
She gives him a look of annoyance. "Was stopping by to see me planned?"
"Well," he sighs out, "It's been on my to-do list for weeks. But then this shit with Ishida happened and Dad suddenly becoming a shinigami blew up in my face, and-"
"And you're going to fix it."
He opens his mouth to say something back (like yelling, or swearing, or both, or maybe just something else) but they sense someone nearing. Her heart jumps as the lean figure of Uryuu comes closer, wet clothes clinging to his skin. His footsteps are light and quiet and his face is bowed ever-so slightly as he glances between them both.
Ichigo turns his eyes away to the ground and back at Rukia, opening his mouth then closing it again. She knows he wants to say something-much more than yelling at her. But he starts to turn away, ready to leave.
It feels tense around them as Uryuu steps besides her, eyeing Ichigo carefully.
Ichigo's eyes flicker over Rukia's form and he nods slowly, read to walk away. His frown worries her (but then again, everything he does worries her) and he doesn't say any more. Rukia hadn't expected him to say anything at all, but she remembers a time when she could tell him it's all right and he'd be just fine. This time it's different. This time...she's the problem.
Slightly bowing her head, she closes her eyes and feels her heart hurt with each second.
She looks up and finds that, for the first time today, she hasn't spoken to him since last night. His eyes, dark so suddenly and laden with something she's afraid of, gaze strongly upon her face. Alarmed by his appearance, she begins to ask what's happened, but he nods to the inside and gently pushes her towards the direction.
"Please," he whispers, voice rough and tired, "wait for me in there. I'll be just a second."
Shaking her head, Rukia refuses. "Not now. Don't fight now."
He leans forward, as if to whisper her in her ear and she wipes his wet hair out of his face. Frowning slightly, he closes his eyes, like a pain had been inflicted upon him. She doesn't withdraw, however she feels Ichigo's discomfort.
"Why must you be so difficult at these times," he says quietly, muttering more to himself than Rukia.
"Don't be long," she tells him and retreats to the inside.
Down the hallways and up the stairs, she enters the empty apartment. She breathes in the scent of the two them. It strikes her that it's the first time she's thought of a place home. The first time she's had time to think about it.
Rain hits against the window and Rukia turns her attention to the outside. Looking down at them, standing in the rain on the sidewalk, she wonders if this means that this storm may pass at last. That maybe arguments can be settled out. The two of them speak in normal conversation, she can tell. They aren't yelling, at least and she has a little bit more hope.
Ichigo suddenly turns away. And with one lasting look to where she stands, he walks down the sidewalk alone. She watches as Uryuu moves to go inside, tense.
Waiting near the window, Rukia feels anxious for reasons she can't explain. There's the fact that she still doesn't know what she's doing here. Then there's how they're ever going to figure this out. And as he walks through the door slowly and gazes into her eyes, she finds they've still got time to work this through.
He gives a hint of a smile and beckons for her to come near. When she does, he embraces her firmly, wet clothes against each other and water falling off their skin. Closing her eyes tightly, Rukia murmurs it will be all right and they'll be just fine. He chuckles lightly, burying his face in her hair.
And with the rain falling from the outside, he whispers, "Stay with me. Please."
He's never felt so numb in his life after that visit with Urahara. Torn between feelings of joy and fear, Uryuu fell into a pit of no feeling, no sensation. Live a life like the shinigami? Impossible. How could this happen to him? To all of them? He still didn't know how to feel.
And it didn't get better when he saw Ichigo standing next to Rukia outside the apartment. Her face, so peaceful and soft, had stared up to the red head. The expression seemed to familiar because she had glanced at Ichigo that way so many times before everything seemed to crash down. A spark of jealously arose in Uryuu's chest but it died as the numbness took over again and he couldn't put up a fight.
When Rukia went inside, Uryuu listened to Ichigo tell him it's fine now. With pained and tired eyes, Ichigo assured him, "She's yours now."
Uryuu glanced at him with suspicion and weariness. The shinigami bowed his head and sighed.
"It wouldn't matter if I fought all my life," a suffering breath escaped his lips.
The Quincy thought about battles and horrible pain they've endured but it hurt when he realized that there has always been another man fighting for her. Uryuu never believed that this would have happened in such a painful way. Nothing came free.
"Rukia has always walked on dangerous grounds all her life," Ichigo continued and looked at him directly in the eye. "But she has someone who will stay besides her all the way now. And...That's something I've always wanted."
"Are you going to continue to fight for this?" Uryuu questioned, afraid of the answer. He felt as if he had torn a piece of Ichigo away, as if he ripped the one thing that stood him up away from his grasp.
In a way that was so un-Ichigo, he shook his head and sighed, defeated. "No matter what you say, Ishida, I know you. And I know...you'll do anything to keep everyone all right. Including Rukia."
Turning away, Ichigo glanced up to the window, where Uryuu knew Rukia was looking, and began walking down the sidewalk, hands in his pockets. With that, Uryuu started to feel belated emotions flood through him.
The second he opens the door, Uryuu embraces her. There's so many what-if's and how's, but he knows she's strong enough to get through this. He knows he's strong enough. And despite already knowing the answer, he asks her:
"Stay with me. Please."
He sighs out, tired so suddenly and leaning against her. She holds him close and leads him to the bedroom. Quietly, his body hits the bed and he pulls her next to him, placing his arms around her waist. She says something about being too cold and they're clothes are too wet, but Uryuu pulls the covers over them, ignoring the protests.
When sleep creeps onto him, he feels her take his glasses off his face and gently lays them on the night table. Drowsily, he opens his eyes and manages to see her smile sheepishly. His arms tighten around her just a little bit more and he buries his face into her neck.
Nervously, he wonders if he should tell her about what happened today. He'll live like her, live with her. Only chances of dying like a regular shinigami will keep them apart. But, if he can help it, she's staying with him for as long as he can. There are still doubts in his mind, however. Uryuu worries that maybe this new condition is temporary, that it will wear off in time. After all, he is a Quincy. There's reality rule breaking wherever he goes (along with Ichigo, but he won't go there). It's terrifying and thrilling all at once because, this time, there's a chance for them.
The news finally hits him. The one true problem between them has been taken away. What's there to argue about now? What's keeping them from truly entering this relationship? Uryuu sighs quietly. She's always been one step ahead of him with everything. A goal that seemed so far away for him was grasped by her hands right in front of him. And, at this moment, they hold it together. So, maybe Orihime was right before: gentleman can get the girl in the end. He plans on thanking her later for giving him the confidence to go through with this (and maybe Urahara and his genius...sometime). Things are falling into place so suddenly and that's okay with him.
There's still silence between them but he knows she's not asleep yet. Pulling away he squints his eyes to see her better. She smiles.
"Listen," she says in a hushed tone, "the rain has stopped."
Knowing there's plenty of time to tell her everything else, he finally kisses her lips.
we want to
The last chapter of this story. And, yes, I did go for a happy ending because I couldn't bright myself to make Uryuu suffer any longer. I mean, could you? Plus, the two hardly got the chance to kiss, so it felt right to end it with that.
A lot of you have followed this story and I thank you for putting up up with it.
By the way, quick question: how many of you went and looked for more IshiRuki fics after reading this one? Have you noticed the lack of them?