~ Inspired by: Damien Rice- Nine crimes

NINE CRIMES

It was a beautiful night.

Millions of tiny, shining lights illuminated the inky sky, decorating it as the pearl necklace is gracing a neck of the beautiful woman.

The moon was high above in all its glory, forming a sparkling path in the stream of water which flowed underneath the old bridge, which witnessed a lot of stories during the long period of its existence- good and bad ones, petrifying and heart-warming, finished or incomplete.

Too bad, this beautiful view was obscured by thick fog floating around the bridge and the riverbanks, making the woman resting on the concrete railing unable to see the wonder of the night sky.

Her arms were situated flatly on top of it, as she stared with blank eyes down, forcing herself to see the element underneath her. No matter how hard she tried, all she could register were tranquil ripples and a sough typical for a flowing river.

Her heart was beating quickly, as she slowly sat on the balustrade and moved her legs calmly to the other side.

Everything was peaceful, except for her heart, which thumped in her ribcage, just like a previous night, which played in her mind over and over again, like a never ending nightmare.

She stood up and took a deep breath, enjoying the silence, the fresh scent and the fog, which cooled her skin under the black kimono.

She understood, it was better she couldn't see anything, the feeling of emptiness around, and loneliness was exactly what she needed..

It's time.

Her raven hair were dispelled by the light breeze for a moment and she smiled lightly.

Sadly.

Bitterly.

She slowly spread her hands, perceiving the increasing strength of the wind, as if it foresaw what was going to happen.

She didn't mind, it was all over.

When she made a step forward, to meet the edge, her right hand brushed something.

Something warm.

She has withdrawn it at once, also stopping herself from going forward.

Or rather going down.

The fog was too thick for her to see what was that warm thing. She wanted to ignore it, but then she heard a voice from her right side, what shook her.

"Who's there?" It was a man. How was it possible she didn't notice his presence? It was supposed to be secluded place, where nothing will disturb her from doing what she wanted to do.

She sighed and a well known feeling of helplessness flooded her once again.

She couldn't do it, was it in Soul Society or the Real World, she simply couldn't do it. There was always something in the way.

"It's me." She whispered, sitting down on the concrete. She didn't even try to come closer to that man. Somebody came for her and she didn't even notice she was followed.

A single tear of anger escaped her eye. Why wouldn't they just let her do it? Let her leave peacefully and cut her tortures?

"What 'me'?" She heard an angry response and suddenly it struck her, how unfamiliar the voice was.

"Rukia." She said before she could realize what she was doing. Her eyesight couldn't reach the person who was standing only a few steps from her, because of the fog. A spark of curiosity ignited somewhere inside of her soul. It was weak, overwhelmed by tons of other feelings, however strong enough to make her ask "Who are you?"

"I'm a murderer." A stranger responded lowly with a breaking voice and by the sound she could tell he moved towards the edge.

Did he... came here for the same reason she did?

Impossible.

It was one in a million chance a situation like this occurred.

"Nice to meet you." She answered after a couple of minutes of silence.

"You shouldn't be here by now."

"What if I should?" She sat still, because she had no idea what else she could do. She couldn't come back, she couldn't jump, so she sat, that was what she could.

"I wanted to be alone." He had a clean voice. Even if it expressed pain and misery, it was a very beautiful voice.

"So did I."

"If so, couldn't you move a bit further?" Another annoyed tone crossed the air between them.

It was so grotesque. Two suicides fighting for a place.

"Couldn't you?"

This time nothing but a growl of irritation came from her right side and by the sounds she could tell he sat as well.

"No."

"Afraid it will be gone?" She supposed he knew she was talking about the courage. He should be able to understand that if he really intended to…

"Yes."

Another long silence between them. Not uncomfortable one, just silence.

"Would you… tell me your story before… you know. I'm just a stranger." She asked.

She wanted him to speak. If he didn't agree, she'll ask for something else, she just wanted to hear that man speak. Weird thing, however them sitting here and talking was even weirder. After all, she didn't care about anything, sooner or later, it will be over for both of them.

Well, she couldn't be sure about him, but if it's about her, she had already decided.

She'll do it here and tonight.

"I have one condition." He finally answered and she turned her head instinctively to look at her interlocutor. What she noticed was only the milky blanket of fog.

"Yes." She said simply, before he clarified what was that one condition. It wasn't important.

The fog became so thick the contours of her knees begun to be fuzzy.

"Three days ago…" he hemmed. "Three days ago was my sisters' birthday. They are twins." He paused, however she didn't dare to comment. It was his story. You do not disturb the story. His voice was hollow and hoarse and she could feel another emotion radiating from the person sitting beside: disgust.

"We planned a huge party for classmates, family and friends. It was supposed to be a great feast, with loud bursts of laughing, stupid games and loads of unhealthy food."

After that sentence Rukia's eyes opened widely in shock. This man… this man…

…he was a human.

How could he speak to her? Never, ever had she met a human with ability to communicate with shinigami. Would he be able to see her as well? Would he be able to touch her?

"My mother..." he gulped as his voice broke. "She wanted to go for a shopping a day before the event." He was going to the point, she recognized it by the difficulty he spoke with.

"As my dad was busy, working till the end of the day, I offered to give her a ride to the centre. It was so hot that day… we were driving and planning the party, she wanted to buy a lot of ice creams… While we were talking I started to play with the radio stations, there was too much hip hop in the one we were listening to. I hate hip hop." He paused again, this time for longer.

Rukia would never hustle him, so she just waited; wondering how did his mother die, because it was obvious she died. Probably a car accident, because she just knew the man next to her wasn't the real murderer. He must have done something unintentionally.

That was something he could get over with if he had a will to do it; it's not like he killed her because he wanted.

It's not like he sunk his sword into the flesh of the dear person.

She curled and put hands on her head, shaking it, trying to concentrate again on his story.

Mother, shopping, car.

"I didn't see it. I didn't see the truck, which lost the balance because of the cracked tire and was going at us. I didn't see it soon enough. I… I only noticed it after hearing my mother's scream, that loud scream... and what I did was…" Rukia felt his pain, she knew what it felt like. There was nothing she could say to make it better.

"I turned the car around to avoid being hit by the trunk. I didn't even think she was sitting there, I didn't even think she would be crushed, I just… killed her." Her hand made a move, like it wanted to touch that extraordinary human.

A human that talked to her, really talked, not just observed and pitied.

A human who, she was sure of it, could understand every bit of what she was feeling.

She stilled again, putting her hand again on her knees, before it had a chance to reach that warm and amazing human once again.

"I killed her and that is something I… can't live with." He calmed down and went back to his previous state, full of misery.

"It's the worst thing you can do: to kill somebody precious." Rukia announced gravely, because she felt it was the end. She knew that telling him it was not his fault was useless. Although she felt like his case was not that serious to end up here with her, she decided she won't tell him that. He would only feel worse and that will not change his attitude. He already had the courage, he was ready. She felt somehow bad, because he didn't deserve it. However he was a good man, he'll end up in Soul Society, maybe even become shinigami, who knows? Now when she thought about it, he had some spiritual pressure, quite good actually.

After loosing memory of his previous life, he will become somebody else, free of the guilt and sorrow which are eating him alive in this place…

"Thank you." He whispered, somehow moved. "Finally I heard something honest. I couldn't stand lying of my father, therapist and others… their looks…"

"… filled with pity and worry, pretending to understand you and trying to cheer you up… yes… that sucks." She cut in when she heard his lack of words.

"Exactly."

The wind howled somewhere far away from them and the aura became even more gloomy. Rukia's fringe flowed into the air for a moment, which became a bit cleaner. She could see the outline of the man, whose name was still a secret for her. It seemed he was quite muscular, because his shoulders were wide, while his whole posture was slouched.

Her heart stopped when she looked on top of his head; it seemed his hair was spiky. Whole blood from her face was gone in a second.

Fate was really capricious.

"Your turn." She jumped when he spoke. Her turn…

Things became complicated. He wasn't a shinigami… he would not understand her story even if he tried. Was he even aware of the existence of shinigami? She wanted to tell him, because she yearned for understanding, even if it was only for a minute before she disappears.

She needed him.

"What if I told you… I'm not a human?" She started cautiously, afraid of his reaction.

To her dread, something similar to light chuckle escaped his throat.

"I can't believe it…" She heard bitterness and her already bruised heart took another hit. For a moment she really believed he could relieve that pain which pulsated for last twenty four hours, the pain, she knew would never disappear.

Now he took her as someone crazy.

"Those are the last moments of my life, and I'm sharing it with a ghost…You are a ghost, aren't you?" There wasn't a disdain in his words… he probably was used to communicate with dead people.

"I'm a shinigami." She said feeling the pressure in her chest slowly giving away. "Have you ever met any?"

"No."

"We exist to fight hollows and maintain the balance between this world and the world after." There was no point in getting deeper. It wasn't necessary to let him know about the details.

"What are hollows?" He asked all of sudden. Rukia was surprised that with his spiritual pressure he had no idea about them. Once again, she thought, he wasn't an ordinary human.

"They are… disgusting creatures, feeding themselves with lost souls, who couldn't pass… to another world." That was the easiest definition.

"I think I get it. Now tell me." She wasn't taking it as an offence he hustled her. He simply wanted to hear something that didn't concern his pain.

So she took a deep breath.

"Shinigami… we are organized. There are squads. Each has its captain and lieutenant. My lieutenant… he wasn't just a boss. He was my friend. Somebody, who had taught me everything, who made me everything I am now. He was…" She couldn't continue, her throat became dry, so did her eyes, because there were not any tears left to spill.

She became silent for a long time to pull herself together and go on with the story.

The echoes of the night were calming- the slow flowing of the river and chirping of crickets probably hidden in the tall grass beside the river, warm rustle of trees… And a feeling of serene beaming from the person next to her.

"A few days ago." She said, absorbing that feeling in some magical way, relaxing her tense muscles, focusing on emptiness in the fog. "His wife's squad set off to find and eliminate one extremely dangerous hollow, which… Well, a dangerous hollow." No need to get into details.

"As a result… she became possessed by that thing." She spat with nausea. "When she came back as the only one alive from the mission, nobody suspected that kind of thing occurred. We welcomed her, treated her, helped her to gain strength…" She moved her knees to her chest. It was no good speaking about this so openly, it felt like putting salt on an open wound.

"When she got better, she killed many… many of our friends. That was… We couldn't comprehend it, we… we were dazed. Kaien..." just speaking that name out loud made her insides twist.

"He wanted to avenge her… let her rest peacefully, regain her pride, which was stained by killing her friends… We didn't dare to hold him back, it was the only way to help him." What was it? She was crying again? She thought she couldn't do it anymore, but here she was, salty droplets landing on her palms fastened tightly around knees.

"Captain, him and me… we went to find that thing and liquidate it. Kaien fought, he was strong, he was one of the best. However his emotions, his wild rage, his pain… he couldn't win against something that powerful in that state. All he did was fight until the end t-to…" Her voice broke completely, but she continued, staggering and swallowing the tears. "t-to defend his p-pride, t-to defend t-the pride of h-his wife, we couldn't interfere. We couldn't." She sobbed openly, because if she could turn back time, she would interfere, she would rather die, than stand idly, watching how her best friend and mentor…

"In the end he became p-possessed. I was ordered to r-run, captain was going to take care of it. I wasn't able to move. I watched as my friend turned evil, turned against us, as he tried to kill captain, who he admired from the depth of his heart… And I couldn't do anything." She swallowed again and spoke faster.

"The h-hollow…it noticed me. That was when I finally regained my senses and started to run, but I was no good. I tripped and it got me. I saw madness in his eyes, I saw… evil, I saw the urge to kill… I was going to die, I knew that, so I… drew my sword and pierced his heart. With all my strength."

"I felt his blood on my hands and face; I held his limp body, which fell on me; even then I still didn't withdrew the sword. I was paralyzed, when for a few seconds he became himself. He thanked me, you know? He t-thanked me." The front of her kimono was completely wet, what caused shivers of cold all over her body. "With the little strength he had left he thanked me for… taking away his life." She wiped away a few droplets.

"And I didn't even respond. I just…held him."

She felt a warm and big hand on her shoulder.

The man was standing, and she still didn't see his face.

"Shall we?" He asked, reaching his arm towards her. Without hesitation she placed her own into his strong grip and stood up.

"Yes." After living it once again, she had even more confidence than before. Surprisingly, she didn't mind his company anymore, she even took it for granted they will do this together. It seemed so obvious, such a perfect match.

But she needed to know one last thing.

"What is your name?" She asked quietly, her voice still hoarse from the tears. She lifted her head up to look at his face, because he was a lot taller than her. She wanted to remember him, in case there was something 'after' afterlife. This stranger became important and if it was possible, he'll stay with her. In her heart, just like Kaien will.

"Ichigo. Ichigo Kurosaki." He was similar to him, or maybe it was only her imagination. His face would be handsome, if only it was decorated in a different expression. His hair were in the funny orange shade. At least she would have called it funny if they met in different circumstances. He had brown eyes, full of sadness, but it was easy to imagine how strong they could look. Above the eyes his eyebrows met in a deep scowl.

What a familiar and nice face.

"Nice to meet you, Ichigo. I'm Rukia Kuchiki." She whispered and came closer, what made them stand side by side on the cold concrete railing, their hands joined in a silent understanding; acceptance of the path they have both chosen.

"I want to ask you one last thing…" He started, but she felt abashment in his tone.

"Let me guess, you probably wonder how can I kill myself if I'm already dead, am I right?"

The grip on her hand became stronger for a moment. "Yeah."

"Well, I need air as much as you do, so unless I do not decide to save myself, I will disappear… If a shinigami can be killed they can also commit suicide…"

"I see." Ichigo neared the edge and she followed him obediently.

"Ready? There's no coming back." He said and stared down even though there wasn't anything visible.

"No coming back. That's all I want." She held his hand tighter and breathed in deeply one last time, not trying to calm her erratic heart. It was aware it was already over.

"I'm happy you're here." He whispered. "On three?"

"Me too. On three." She smiled, as sudden feeling of freedom hit her together with the strong wind.

"One…" He counted quietly, there was no need for louder words. "Two…"

"Don't let go of my hand." She whispered back looking at him for the last time.

"Ok." He replied and glanced into her eyes. "Three."

Their feet deflected from the bridge and they were flying towards the black surface of the water.

All that Rukia felt was Ichigo's hand wrapping her own and the swish of the air in her ears.

She had no regrets, she was peaceful.

However she felt bad about Ichigo. He didn't have to end like that.

The contact with the icy water was painful, she didn't imagine it would be; she imagined the strength of the fall will kill her at once. Instead, she felt billions of tiny nettles breaking through her skin, as if the wild element wanted to tear her to the shreds. She didn't fight with the stream of the river, only focused on one thing: holding tightly Ichigo's hand.

Slowly her lungs begun to beg for air..

She simply held Ichigo's hand with all her strength and let herself fall into the darkness.

%%%

Ichigo's head broke through the surface of the water.

He coughed, fighting with the stream and pulling Rukia's hand at once.

"Rukia!" God, don't let it be too late. She didn't deserve it. "Rukia!" He screamed once again, but felt nothing but a heavy weight on his left hand. "Rukia!" He yelled as he pulled her up and towed to the riverside.

Please.

He dragged her with the remnants of his strength on the pebbly shore and fell down from the effort.

He breathed heavily, but caught her face and shook her arms feverishly with shaking and weak hands, talking to her all the time.

"Wake up Rukia, wake up! You cannot die like that! You must live. Wake up…" It seemed like long hours passed, yet she wasn't responding.

She simply lied there, pale, with raven hair sticking to her face, soaked black kimono leaving wet marks on the stones.

He finally stopped, placed his head on her cold shoulder, still gripping her tightly.

"I thought…by being there, you saved me. So I wanted to save you too. Saving someone could make up for what we did, right?" He felt something hard in his throat as he spoke and regretted getting out of the water. His hands gripped even tighter arms of the tiny girl.

"But… instead of saving… I killed again." He finished tearingly and let himself fall next to her due to exhaustion. If he'd be lucky enough, he'd die of hypothermia.

"You didn't." He heard weak, throaty voice next to him and something cold touched his head.

Ichigo opened his eyes, thinking he had already passed away.

After lifting his head, he noticed a pair of violet eyes staring at him and the stony surroundings bathed in the feeble gleam of stars.

The cold thing turned out to be Rukia's hand, which rested in his hair.

"You saved me." She smiled gently. "And I saved you."

"Thank God." He whispered, washing away the water from his face. The water and something salty… something what has never appeared on his face before, even after his mother's death.

"Look at the moon. It shines so brightly." She looked up into the sky. Ichigo lied on his back and noticed the unnatural beauty of the night view.

"The fog is gone." He stated lying close to her, not even perceiving the stones which pressed painfully to his back. He had never felt more comfortable than right now.

He reached for the hand of the girl resting beside and looked above.

That night, their story didn't end- it has only just begun.

THE END

~ I know, it was submitted before, but I had to put it once again, because that collection of oneshots became quite messy, especially when I plan to continue some of them, that's why they'll be seperate. I'll submit the rest of the stories as well :)

For those who have read it for the first time, I am looking forward for your opinions, every kind of feedback means a world to me :)

Take care,

M.