Title: And I Will Remember This

Author/Artist: Inclination

Character/Pairing: Renji/Rukia

Fandom: Bleach

Theme: #16, rip

And I Will Remember This [Even When All Else Fades Away]

At first it seemed unreal, Renji thinks, that fact that she wasn't always there, unthinkable that such a persistent force throughout his life could slip and fade away and be gone as if she had never existed.

Renji finds himself thinking about her often, her name a silent mantra in his head as he practises kendo or studies kido in the Shinigami Academy. Rukia, he thinks, as he brings his sword down in class. One. Two. Three. Rukia Rukia Rukia; her name a steady heartbeat in his head.

It's worse when he's trying to sleep at night and the lines between reality and dreams are blurring, worse when he half-awakens in the darkness and thinks that he could still find her body – warm, and half curled in on itself – sleeping next to him, like when they were children, if he were only to reach out his arm. It's worse still in the morning, when he find himself bleakly alone, and realises that she's gone, she's gone and she's not coming back.

He sees her passing in the Shinigami Academy, and his heart leaps into his throat – Rukia! he wants to shout, but he remembers she has a new name now, one that leaves a metallic aftertaste in his mouth, like coppery tang of his own blood. Kuchiki Rukia. Kuchiki.

She doesn't look at him as she walks past, and he wants to seize her, to shake her. Remember me, he wants to demand, wants to beg, please remember, because if you don't who else will? He wants to reach for her bony wrist, to feel the joints and sinews there, as fragile and slender as when they were half-starved street orphans – but when he stretches out his hand, something in the back of his mind hisses Kuchiki, and to Renji, Kuchiki has come to mean untouchable.

That night, Renji dreams of Rukia crying – just stood, dressed in a white kimono, looking tiny and breakable, like he remembered her before they'd decided to become Shinigami – but crying. Each of her tears is as small and crystalline and perfect as a miniature star falling from her jewel-dark eyes. But Rukia never cries, Renji thinks; he wants to cup her face in his hands, to kiss away her beautiful, perfect sadness.

He reaches out to her, and finds as hard as he tries, he cannot reach her, cannot touch her – there is a faultless barrier between them that Renji cannot break down no matter how hard he strains, no matter how much he loves her, no matter how brokenly she cries.

Renji wakes up shaking and feeling vaguely nauseated, reaching for where Rukia's body should be, even though he already knows the bed is empty. He drags himself off his futon, he slides open the shoji door and stands barefoot on the veranda, shivering in the night air. The moon is bright and full in the sky, and Renji can imagine what the silver would look like reflecting off of Rukia's eyes; he has seen it countless times before. Renji remembers looking at the moon as a child, from the filth in the Rukongai, and wanting to pluck it out of the sky, to hold its silvery light in his hands, as if it had the power to wash him clean.

Renji bites his lip, and vows that one day, he'll not only be strong enough to wipe away Rukia's tears, but maybe – just maybe – he'll be strong enough to stop her crying at all. One day, he'll be strong enough to take the moon from out of the sky.