Note: Yay, my first Bleach fanfic! Nothing really to say, except that I hope you like it enough to leave me a review. Takes place about 2-3 weeks after Rukia decides to stay in Soul Society.
Rukia was running. Fast enough to tear the paper out of sliding doors and frantically enough to have no idea where the hell she was going. Her stomach lurched when beyond the sound of her heaving gasps and thundering heart came the sounds of shrill protests and calls giving chase.
Turning a corner, she yelped when she nearly ran into Hanatarou.
"Ohayo, Rukia-san," he said somewhat shyly, scratching the back of his head. "How are you?"
"Hanatarou…!" Rukia managed to wheeze, bending over to catch her breath. "You have to…run…"
Her blood ran cold when Matsumoto's voice shouted out in triumph. "There she is! Tackle her together with the runt if you have to!"
"RUN!" Rukia gave the astonished boy a shove and shot down the hall, blindly darting through a group of 4th squad officers, sliding haphazardly down the recently mopped floor, and then finally crashing into a startled Renji.
"Oi, Rukia! What the hell are you"—
Rukia slapped a hand over his gaping mouth and dragged him into a nearby closet, slamming the door.
The herd of stampeding females trampled past a few seconds later, and Rukia listlessly released Renji, collapsing to the floor.
"R-Rukia!" Renji knelt by her side, putting a hand on her shoulder. "What's wrong? Why the hell are you being chased?"
The exhausted Kuchiki merely lay there, panting and shaking her head.
"What? Kuchiki-taichou? What's he done now, that bastard"—
Rukia merely shook her head again, slowly getting to her feet again.
Renji blinked, a little subdued and frightened by the harrowed look in Rukia's overly large, haunted eyes.
"They want Nii-sama."
For a moment, Renji just stared at her in silence, expression unreadable. Then, with a slow, feral grin, he cocked an eyebrow, shouldered the door open, and dragged her out.
"I gotta hear this."
Three days earlier.
Sake was smuggled into the shinigami academy when the last of the injured finally left the hospital, and as soon as the old man had dismissed all the captains from their first meeting after the Aizen rebellion, the corks popped.
"Taiiiiichoouuuu!" Matsumoto sang as Hitsugaya walked into the room, brow furrowing when he realized his lieutenant was, indeed, wasted yet again.
"I'm so happy you're all right," she kneeled down in front of him, looking remarkably sober for a second. "We missed you."
He cocked an eyebrow. "We?"
"Everyone!" she beckoned half-consciously to the raucous group of lieutenants and officers behind her. "And us!"
Hitsugaya blinked when she loomed in closer, throat tightening in trepidation. "Us?"
"Me," she said seriously, pointing to her face, and"—her chest suddenly seemed to be the only thing in his entire field of vision.
Hitsugaya's protest was muffled when Matsumoto hugged him, shoving his face right between her breasts.
"We missed your fuzzy white head, taichou!"
It was at that point Rukia walked in with Renji, standing at the back of the room as the rest of the captains emerged from the room one by one. The second captain to emerge after Hitsugaya was Kyoraku, and he positively squealed in delight at the sight of all the sake.
Renji looked forlornly at Hitsugaya, who had stopped thrashing in Matsumoto's grip and seemed to be hanging there limply, held up by Matsumoto's arms as she swung him side to side, repeatedly singing –
"—Taichou! Kawaii, kawaii Taichou! Fuzzy white-head Taichou!"
Renji's brow twitched.
"I wish I was a captain."
Every ten or fifteen minutes, another captain would emerge from the meeting room after being assigned his or her respective tasks, only to be greeted exuberantly and enthusiastically by the drunk subordinates.
Except, when Mayuri emerged, nobody but Nemu had gone up to greet him, as everyone else was too nervous to go near the insane captain.
"Ken-chaaaaan!" Yachiru jumped on him the moment he stepped through the door, and Yumichika was sent flying through a wall when the overjoyed subordinate tried to embrace his captain.
"Maa, where the hell is Kuchiki-taichou?" Renji said after Unohana came through the door. "I want some sake, too…"
Renji looked down at Rukia when she didn't answer, his brows furrowing when he saw how white her face was.
It'll be the first time I see him since he saved me, Rukia thought wildly, feeling nauseated. Why is he taking so long? No, wait; I don't want him to come out. I won't know what to say. I won't be able to look him in the eye…
Urgh…she unconsciously ground her fist into her lurching stomach. Calm, calm, calm…ack, is that him? No…just Ukitake-taichou…
Why couldn't they let me visit him while he was hospitalized? She wailed internally. At least that way I wouldn't feel so damn awkward—
Rukia staggered, clutching her head as Renji lowered his fist, looking extremely annoyed. "—the hell's the matter with you?"
"Ah…er…n-nothing," she stammered, rubbing her head. "It's just…"
Rukia grimaced suddenly, turning green as Soi Fong entered, and Renji slowly came to understand as she sagged against the wall behind her.
"What are you so worried about? I should be the one worried about meeting him outside the hospital again, seeing as how he tried to freakin' kill me," Renji said. "How do you think I feel?"
"Shut up, Renji," Rukia moaned, bringing her hand to her mouth. "I don't feel so well."
"Oi," Renji stood up straighter, looking alarmed. "Don't throw up here in front of everyone."
Komamura entered then, and Rukia nearly slid down onto the floor. Nii-sama is next, nii-sama is next, nii-sama is next.
Rukia glanced up to see Matsumoto towering over her, (she'd left her unconscious Taichou lying face-down on a nearby sofa and shoved Renji aside) along with a bunch of the other female officers and lieutenants accompanying her.
Matsumoto shoved a sake bottle in front of her face.
"Drink, honey. You'll feel better. We're here for moral support."
"N-No, thank you," Rukia choked out, struggling to fight down her lunch as the smell of sake invaded her senses. "I'm all right…really"—
"Don't lie!" Matsumoto all but shouted, with a wasted Kiyone and Isane echoing her and a still-sober Nanao, Unohana, and Soi Fong nodding in agreement.
"We all heard your nii-sama's story…we…we were so very touched, honestly, and…felt so sorry for both of you…" Matsumoto said tearfully, closing her eyes and putting a hand on her heaving bosom.
"It has awakened my deepest sympathy and admiration for Kuchiki-taichou," Unohana said delicately, smiling slightly.
"I never thought a man would go so far to keep such an old promise with to wife," Nanao said somewhat wistfully, brow twitching as her captain staggered past, laughing hysterically.
"You should be grateful he kept the promise to protect you, and stayed with you," Soi Fong said, voice somewhat softer behind her usual stony tone.
"Kuchiki-taichou is wonderful!"
"Ah…I…" Rukia's small voice was drowned out when Kiyone caught onto Isane.
"Kuchiki-taichou is, hic, exemplary!"
Matsumoto smiled sluggishly, tipping back onto her back and gazing at the ceiling through half-lidded eyes.
"Kuchiki-taichou is hot."
Nearby, Renji took a step backward in shock and fell over a table, and Rukia's eyes seemed to widen to twice their size.
Matsumoto had happened to say that at the opportune moment, when silence seems to fall in a loud, crowded room at random intervals. And thus, every single sake-touched woman heard Matsumoto's drunken declaration.
…then Renji and every other man's eardrums nearly exploded from the incoherent, exuberant squealing that followed that announcement.
"Matsumoto said it!" a blushing Soi Fong punched her lieutenant when he gave her a surprised look.
Isane and Kiyone were on the floor with Matsumoto in what could only be described as a state of hysterical, fanatically insane fan-girling.
"Kuchiki-taichou! Why didn't I see it before?" Matsumoto exclaimed to herself. "Kuchiki-taichou, no, Byakuya-sama, is the man for me!"
"But Matsumoto…" Isane whined, rolling over to prod the buxom lieutenant. "You have to shaaaare!"
"Yeah!" Kiyone exclaimed. "Kuchiki-taichou is too pretty for you alone!"
"PRETTY?" Renji fell over again on the other side of the room.
Rukia sat there, mouthing wordlessly as a few other women she didn't recognize joined the others on the floor, swooning loudly and shamelessly over her brother.
Her brother. The man who wouldn't know the meaning of a joke if it bit him in the behind, the man who made a block of ice look like a better converser, the man who hadn't granted anything more than a passing glance to a single woman since his wife's death.
Kuchiki Byakuya suddenly, in a moment of Matsumoto's drunken, passionate praising, became the most eligible man in all of Soul Society.
"His hair is so beautiful!"
"His eyes are more beautiful!"
"I like his butt!"
Rukia felt her nausea double.
There was a loud squeal suddenly, followed by hysterical, high-pitched giggling and someone repeatedly saying—
"Ask her! Go ask her!"
Matsumoto sat up again, facing Rukia since she had slid onto the floor a while ago.
Rukia feared the lecherous, wide grin that was plastered on the lieutenant's face. Surely, she couldn't say anything more embarrassing, could she?
"Oi, Rukia," Matsumoto whispered, her grin widening. "You've lived with him for fifty years…"
Rukia's blood stilled.
Oh dear God, NO.
"Have you ever seen him naked?"
Rukia would have fainted if Renji hadn't heaved the buxom woman away from her, shouting himself hoarse at them to stay the hell away from the poor girl.
"Aww, you're no fun Renji," Matsumoto pouted, sticking out her lower lip. "I just wanted to know if"—
"NO!" Rukia screamed in answer, praying that Renji hadn't heard the question the first time. "I HAVEN'T!"
"Oh…" Isane looked crushed, and Rukia was shocked to see Unohana blink a little too innocently and Soi Fong purposely turn her head the other way.
God. Take me now.
And it was at that moment Kuchiki Byakuya chose to enter the room.
Rukia thanked God for giving the drunken women enough sense to fall silent when he entered, but then she remembered that she was supposed to be nervous, and her nausea came rushing back.
And it didn't help that the rest of the room hushed eerily fast, and the first person his gaze fell on was her.
Renji greeted him somewhat awkwardly, earning a few soft-spoken words and a nod. Then they both started walking in her direction.
Byakuya stopped in front of her, and Rukia faintly wondered why he suddenly seemed like a giant. Renji coughed purposefully, trying to hide his grin and failing.
Oh. Shit. She was still sitting on the floor.
She shot to her feet, still barely coming below her brother's shoulder, and kept her gaze focused resolutely on the floor.
"W-Welcome back…Nii-sama," she croaked.
Her eyes darted to the side to look behind him, mouth growing dry as the women tried and failed to contain their giggles.
As with nearly everything else he found unworthy of his attention, Byakuya merely ignored the giggles and nodded, and she hastily followed when he and Renji left the room.
She thought then that she had left the scarring experience in that room, as the door slid shut behind her and the women burst into hysterical laughter and excited screams.
But as she silently bade Renji goodbye and followed Byakuya home, she couldn't suppress the shiver of trepidation that ran down her spine.
Present (shinigami academy cafeteria)
Rukia glared at Renji as he proceeded to die laughing.
"It's not funny!" she said irritably, as he slumped onto the table, body shaking with mirth as he pounded the table with his fist.
"And what…" Renji gasped for breath between laughs. "…what does Kuchiki-taichou think of all this?"
Rukia averted her eyes. "He…doesn't know."
Renji collapsed in another fit of laughter, then stopped immediately once Rukia punched him in the stomach.
"It's gone too far, Renji!" Rukia said, looking even more harrowed than before. "T-They…keep asking me for things that belong to nii-sama!"
"Oh?" Renji got up from the floor, wincing and rubbing his stomach. "Like what?"
Rukia's face turned blood red, and Renji proceeded to fall into another fit when he heard her mutter something that sounded like, "Hairbrush."
"They won't stop following me," she moaned, burying her face in her hands. "They keep asking me questions about him that I don't even know! Like what his favourite colour is, what his scarf's made of, whether he sleeps on his back or his side…"
"Why don't they just approach him?" Renji said carelessly, biting into an apple. "I would, if I were a girl, I mean."
Rukia stared at him in exasperation. "Nobody is as reckless as you, Renji. And besides, I don't blame them…Nii-sama is…"
"Fucking scary?" Renji said flatly. "Yeah."
"What do I do?" she sighed, putting her forehead on the table. "I can't run forever."
"Meh," Renji waved a hand carelessly. "Maybe it'll die down after a while."
"Not if Matsumoto's involved. That woman never quits."
"Yeah," Renji said with a mix of envy and sarcasm. "Sucks to be Byakuya, I'm sure."
Rukia grinned despite herself, and was just about to deliver a quip when Matsumoto's voice suddenly rang out behind her.
"Rukia-chaaaan! I found you!" Matsumoto wrapped her arms around her before she had a chance to move, plopping herself down on her lap.
"Oi, Matsumoto, can't you see we're having a conversation?" Renji snapped as the woman gave him a disdainful look.
"Pipe down, dumbass. Can't you see two women are trying to discuss something highly important?"
Ignoring the fuming man behind her, Matsumoto turned back around to face Rukia again, a devious smile on her face.
"I've gotta tell you, Rukia, your brother's a hard man to catch off-guard! I kept trying to catch him alone in the 6th squad's office, but he kept evading me. And then yesterday I finally caught him sitting there, and he didn't even glance at my breasts once! I kept leaning over till they were in danger of falling out, but he kept looking at his goddamn book! Ohmygod, or maybe your brother's a legs kind of guy? Or maybe a buns kind of"—
Renji unceremoniously shoved Matsumoto off Rukia's lap when he saw her face turn green again.
"Leave Rukia alone, you freakin' leech! If you want Kuchiki-taichou's attention so badly, just tell him his kenseikan look like macaroni!" Renji barked to the stupefied woman on the ground.
"Thank you," Rukia said hollowly once he dragged her outside and away from the 10th squad's lieutenant. "Can I die now?"
Renji looked at her in sympathy, then tugged her towards the front doors of the academy.
"Come on, let's take on a few of the first-years, it'll distract you."
To Renji's dismay, however, Byakuya's new-found admirers went beyond the likes of Matsumoto.
He gulped when Soi Fong cast a blank stare on him, then looked fixedly at the listless Rukia.
"Rukia, I've decided that I need to brush up on my defense against opponents who use Flash Step. Can you ask Kuchiki-taichou if he's willing to have a spar with me?"
Renji concluded that something must have infected the drinking water.
"Er, Rukia, why don't we go to the hospital wing. Sick people, you know…it'll be fun," Renji rambled as he dragged her away from the 2nd division captain.
Renji barely managed to contain his yelp when Unohana materialized behind the first door he jerked open.
"Hello, Renji-san," the 4th division captain murmured pleasantly. "Hello, Rukia-san. Is Kuchiki-taichou well?"
"If he has any difficulties applying the healing ointments, you can tell him it's perfectly fine to"—
"Kuchiki-taichou is just peachy!" Renji said with a huge, fake grin as he dragged the wide-eyed Rukia backwards. "Kay, thanks, bye!"
"WHAT THE HELL," Renji griped, dragging Rukia down the hall. "What's wrong with them!"
They turned a corner, only to run right into Ise Nanao, knocking a pile of papers out of her arms.
"Sorry," Renji muttered, stooping to help her pick up the scattered papers. He blinked when he saw that they were reports from each respective captain, and the one he clutched had Byakuya's name on it.
And his captain's name…was circled with a heart.
"Oh, good thing I ran into you, Rukia-san," she said, totally ignoring Renji. "I believe I misplaced Kuchiki-taichou's report. Can you ask if"—
"YOU'RE ALL INSANE!" Renji screamed at her, before dropping the paper and escaping with Rukia slung limply over his shoulder.
Renji sprinted down the hall, eyes focused on the exit ahead of him. He had to get Rukia out of this hellhole as soon as—
Isane suddenly popped her head into the hall.
"SHUT UP!" Renji didn't allow her to finish, running past her and out the door with Rukia still slung over his shoulder.
Rukia didn't bother speaking. She just remained slung over his shoulder, glazed eyes staring at the passing scenery as her best friend took her to the safety of her home.
When Renji set her down in front of the gate of the Kuchiki mansion, Rukia swayed, staggered, then stumbled into the bushes, letting loose her breakfast.
Renji grimaced when she stumbled back out, face tinged green and eyes glassy.
The combination of the gross questions they'd asked, Renji's turbulent ride home, and her chronic anxiety of inevitably having to face her nii-sama had resulted in her stomach becoming very unhappy with her.
Oh God. Today was his day off. He was in the house. She would inevitably see him. The awkwardness would be overwhelming. What would she say? What would he say?
Have you seen him naked?
"Rukia," Renji called weakly when she staggered back around for another round.
By the time she'd finished, she was too weak to stand and Renji had to carry her into the house, following her directions to her room.
Dumping her unceremoniously on her bed, he glanced around the room, raising his brows.
"Damn, Rukia, you have it rich."
"R-Renji, can you give me m-my blanket?" Rukia asked, huddled in a shivering pile.
Renji rolled his eyes.
"Get up and take a hot bath. You'll feel better. Besides, you smell like barf."
"T-Thanks," she muttered, somehow managing to be sarcastic. "Fine. I will. You can go now."
"Hmph." Renji turned and walked out, smirking as he heard her whisper a genuine thanks.
Rukia lay there for a while, blinking dazedly at the wall, then slowly got to her feet and proceeded to drag herself to the bathhouse. Laboriously, she retrieved a towel from the linen closet, then walked past Byakuya's room.
Against her will, she turned her head to see one of maids crouched on the floor near his bed—smelling his captain robe.
Rukia clapped a hand to her mouth, forced herself to look away, and kept walking.
Has the world gone mad?
After all, what was so attractive about Kuchiki Byakuya? The man had less expression than a cactus, and if it wasn't for his eloquent way of speaking, he'd come off as rude.
No, not rude, he'd come off as a complete asshole.
But then again, he'd made a new impression on everyone after saving her from Aizen and Gin, and it would be pointless for her to deny his more-than-appealing physical features.
Rukia grimaced, stopping before the door.
Anything more, and she would kill herself. Any more shock for her puny heart would most definitely do her in. No more. No more. Forget Matsumoto, forget worrying, forget the insanity.
Rukia lifted her head, putting on her game face as she slid the door open.
A cloud of steam hit her in the face.
Rukia found herself staring blankly at Byakuya.
She found Byakuya staring blankly back.
She also found herself unwillingly realizing that he had just stepped out of the bath, and was clutching a scant towel around his waist. And that he was wet. Very, very wet. And naked, for the most part.
"Rukia?" Byakuya continued blankly, slight surprise shown in the way his eyes widened slightly.
"N…nii-…" she took a step backward.
Despite her chaotic state of mind and churning stomach, she faintly realized, with a feeling of closure, why Matsumoto was so interested in knowing how he looked naked.
Rukia felt the image of the bewildered, half-naked and wet Byakuya burn itself into her retinas, and managed to have one more coherent thought.
I'm so going to hell.
Then she fainted.
When she woke up, she was back in her room in bed with the blankets pulled over her, and Byakuya staring at her, this time fully-clothed.
"You're ill," he stated a-matter-of-factly. "Rest."
Her face burned with more than just fever when they made eye contact, and she faintly realized that he had probably convinced himself that the aforementioned incident never happened, and expected her to do the same.
At least Matsumoto would never know.
She stared hazily at the ceiling, blinking slowly as her eyelids drooped.
Despite not knowing whether it was the delirium or the fact she knew the situation couldn't possibly get any more awkward, Rukia found herself speaking.
"Nii-sama…what is your scarf made from?"
His expression didn't change, but his eyes suddenly seemed less difficult to meet.
Her fingers brushed over the blanket, and she closed her eyes, brushing her fingers over the unfamiliar fabric again in appeasement.