A/N: Hello again! You'll notice by now that I'm no good at updating regularly...
Also, thank you to everyone who added me to their Author Alerts, Favs list, and in particular thank you to everyone who reviewed and came with constructive criticism, or compliments, or even complaints. It was much more than I expected from this very humble, and soon to be finished series of one-shot stories.
Summary/Theme: "All we have to do is make room."
Standard Disclaimer: Bleach is solely the property of Kubo Tite, and I am merely borrowing his playground.
Every now and then, she's reminded that this false body isn't hers. It's on loan, and she's only playing at life, because she has been dead for a long time, after all.
When she looks at people of the living world, she is reminded that there are real bones under their skin. Her's is a shell, a facsimile with all of the likeness of life, but none of the substance. There is nothing under her skin except her spirit and this world isn't meant for one like her.
There is a barbecue at the park. Everyone makes their way over to the picnic table like a well choreographed dance. As they all find their places, she hovers under the shade of the trees, unsure if there's any room left for her.
"Oi, Rukia," Ichigo calls loudly, glancing over at her and talking with his mouth half-full.
Part of her wonders what her esteemed brother would say about his table manners.
"You just going to stand there, or are you going sit down and eat?"
"Won't it get too crowded?" she asks, shrugging. "I'm fine here." And really, she is fine. She is used to being a bystander, sitting on the fringes of groups, content to watch.
Ichigo gives her an inscrutable look before moving over towards Ishida, who warns him in a loud voice- to please close his mouth when he chews, and that if he so much as sprays a tiny speck of sauce on his shirt, he'll be picking up the tab on his dry cleaning.
"I didn't think there would be any room," she says to Ichigo as she squeezes in between him and Chad. Her slim shoulders brush up against his. She fits, just barely.
"If there isn't, we make room," he says, shrugging casually. The rest of that sentence hangs between them, fragile and unspoken.
"It's that easy, is it?" she murmurs, as she picks up a hot dog bun.
"Yeah," he says with a quiet confidence, "it is."
Ishida clears his throat irritably. "Kurosaki, are you just going to hold onto the potato salad, or are you actually going to pass it around to the rest of us?"
As Ichigo and Ishida bicker loudly, Tatsuki asks Rukia to pass the bread. Orihime and Chad inquire about Soul Society and things fall into a rhythm that she didn't know she missed. When she closes her eyes, she can feel Ichigo's reiatsu in her mind, a warm solid weight, and she smiles. Perhaps this world doesn't belong to her, but here and now, surrounded by friends and honest laughter, with Ichigo's shoulder strong and steady along her sword arm, this is right. This is where she belongs.
Thanks for reading.