Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach…
Author's Note: This is a pairing I think should have been done a long time ago, but apparently, few people share that opinion. Anyway, enjoy and feel free to review.
'Before Rukia-san entered the Senzaikyu Shi-Shinro, she was held in sixth company's detention area. I was assigned cleaning duties there. At first, I was afraid of her… Because she was an aristocrat. But… the first time I called her 'Kuchiki-san', she corrected me. She told me to call her 'Rukia.' Her voice was kind. I was so relieved. From then on, I couldn't wait to clean her cell each day…' Hanataro Yamada tilted his face skyward and smiled into the afternoon sun. 'But that seems like… so long ago…'
"The weather is pleasant, today." Hanataro whirled around with a start to see Rukia Kuchiki standing a few feet behind him.
"R-Rukia-san!" he stuttered. "I didn't know you were-! I mean-! G-Good afternoon!" Rukia arched a curious eyebrow at the seventh seat adjutant.
"What do you have there?" she asked, motioning toward the stack of boxes he held against his chest.
"Oh! These are the new, standard-issue first-aid kits… Captain Unohana asked me to deliver one to each company barrack.
"But… You still have eleven left," she stated, pointedly.
"Yeah… I guess I kind of zone out," he replied with a nervous chuckled.
"Here." Rukia stepped forward and removed the top five boxes from his stack.
"I'm not doing anything particularly productive at the moment," she explained. "At least this way, you can get the job done in half the time." Hanataro's gaze trailed to the ground.
"T-Thank you," he blushed. With that, the two shinigami began making their way across the Seireitei. As they walked along in silence, Hanataro couldn't help but steal a few glances at the woman beside him. She was a radiant as ever, he thought. No matter the mood or circumstance, he had always known Rukia as a figure of unshakable composure. There was an air of dignity about her, and it breached into everything she did. How could anyone help but be drawn to her?
"You know," Rukia began, "You shouldn't daydream to much. If an officer had spotted you, there could have been trouble."
"I know," Hanataro sighed. "But, sometimes, I just can't help…"
"As the saying goes: Those who walk with their heads in the clouds are prone to swallowing birds."
"Um, I'm not sure that's exactly right," Hanataro replied through an uneasy smile.
"Well… Something of the like."
As promised, they finished delivering the packages in almost half the original time. This came as a shock to Hanataro, who had fully expected the task to last for the better part of the day.
"Thank you very much, Rukia-san," he said, bowing deeply. "I don't know how I could have done it without you."
"You're welcome, but I'm sure you would have managed with or without my help. All you have to do is stay focused. Anyway, I should probably return to my division. Goodbye."
"Goodbye, Rukia-san!" With that, the raven-haired woman turned and headed back toward the thirteenth company barracks.
'Rukia-san…' Hanataro placed a hand over the strap of his medical bag gave it an idle tug. He too should be returning back to his respective base, he thought. He didn't mind, though. He had just experienced the best part of his day.
"Women?!" Renji snapped, nearly gagging. Once the initial shock had passed, he calmly placed his bowl of rice down and stared evenly over the table. "What do YOU need to know about WOMEN?"
"I-I don't know," Hanataro replied. "I'm kind of new at this so…"
"Well, at least tell me who we're talking about." Hanataro froze; he had been hoping to avoid that question altogether. Scratching idly at his blushing face, Hanataro glanced distractedly at the far side of the cafeteria.
"W-well… You see… That is-"
"Well? Are you gonna tell me or what?"
"Tell you what?" Ikkaku asked, plopping down beside Renji. The scabbard of his zanpaku-to clattered violently on the table, startling anyone within a few feet.
"Fourth company here wants to know how to talk to girls."
"Z'at so? Why's he asking you, then?"
"Hey! What's they supposed to mean?!"
"Look here, kid," Ikkaku continued, "When dealing with girls, the most important thing to do is be up-front. You gotta get aggressive."
"Aggressive?" he echoed.
"That's right. Come right out and say what's on your mind."
"What the hell kind of advice is that?!" Renji spat. "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard!"
"Oh yeah?! What would you know about it, huh?! I don't see you picking up any tail!" The two men, having forgotten Hanataro's dilemma, plunged headlong into a full-scale clash. A cloud of curses and obscenities billowed up from the rattling table as they exchanged blow for blow on the cafeteria floor. Hanataro sighed. Well, that hadn't helped at all.
"Don't listen to them." Hanataro looked up to see Yumachika (who had more than likely accompanied Ikkaku to the mess hall) standing over him. His cool, black eyes stared disinterestedly at the brawling men before shifting back to the raven-haired shinigami. "Neither of them has a clue as to how to deal with the opposite sex. If you want to know so badly, you should try figuring it out for yourself. You're much more likely to get the desired results."
"Right," Hanataro nodded.
"But if you must be conventional, flowers are probably your safest bet." He paused. "Ugh… Fighting is so… ugly."
"As members of the relief squad, you serve as an indispensable support to the main task forces!" Yasochika Iemura, third seat adjutant of the fourth company paused to adjust his glasses. "It is your job to provide medical attention and supplies, on and off the battlefield! You will go anywhere, even into the fray, itself, to lend your hand!"
Hanataro had never liked these orientations. It wasn't that his superior wasn't a good speaker; he was actually quiet compelling; he just found it hard to concentrate. Being around so many people in close-quarters; it was just so easy to drift off into idle thought. Who notice, anyway?
"Hanataro Yamada! Please, come forward!"
'Me?' he thought. 'Why me? Did I do something wrong?' Reluctantly, Hanataro left his seat in the audience and quietly made his way to the front of the room. 'Am I going to get scolded in front of all these people?' He sighed, inwardly. 'I hope they don't double my cleaning duties…' At long last, Hanataro reached the front and took his place beside his superior.
"This," Yasochika announced, "is seventh seat: Hanataro Yamada, leader of the fourteenth advanced relief team! Know his face well! Many of you will be working directly under him, because as of now, Mr. Yamada has been promoted to fifth seat!" Before the words had a chance to sink in, Hanataro was swallowed up in a roar of applause.
"W-what…?" he stammered. The pounding of his heart made it nearly impossible to think, clearly. Had he heard correctly? "F-fifth se-?"
"That's right," Yasochika nodded, stoically. "You're performance has improved significantly of late. You've earned it!"
"T-thank you!" Hanataro exclaimed with bow. "Thank you very much!" The sea of rookie shinigami rose to their feet and cheered excitedly. A group of girls in the front row took turns blowing kisses at him, while the men behind them whooped, insatiably. "Thank you all!"
"Wha-?!" Hanataro nearly toppled over in surprise. "Oh, Rukia-san!"
"You're spacing out again," she said, eyeing him, sternly.
"I know, I know…"
"What are you doing here? You do realize that this is thirteenth company's base, don't you? Do you have some business with the captain?" Hanataro's sweaty hands trembled softly behind his back.
"Actually," he began, nervously, "I came to see… you…"
"THESE ARE FOR YOU, RUKIA-SAN!" he blurted, shoving a fist full of lilies at her. Rukia stared at the bouquet for a moment, then back at Hanataro. He stood with face cast to the ground, staring at the spot between his feet. Upon closer inspection, Rukia noticed the unusually sleek sheen in his coal-colored hair. Was his hair… wet? It was. In fact, his entire person was damp, from head to foot. It suddenly dawned on her that the lilies he was holding were not store-bought, but hand-picket. Images of the ham-fisted shinigami tumbling repeated into Rukongai's river brought a smile Rukia's face. She wondered how long it must have taken him.
"Thank you," she said, accepting the bouquet. "You are very… thoughtful." Compliments and gratitude had never been her forte. Hanataro lifted his head and let out a sigh of relief.
'She liked them? She liked them! It really worked! Yumachika-san was right!' The scraped and bruises he had attained falling against the river's concrete borders felt like nothing, now, not when she smiled like that. The way her lips curved beneath those two, sparkling blue eyes... It was a smile that could ease even the heaviest of hearts.
"You should change out of those clothes," she remarked, abruptly. "You'll catch a cold."
"Heh heh… I guess I am a little damp," he chuckled.
"Then, I'll see you tomorrow?"
"Oh, okay!" With one last smile and a slight nod of her head, Rukia took her leave, disappearing back into the barracks. Hanataro slumped back against a nearby wall and let out a long, soothing, sighed, blissfully. The evening sky was setting in, bringing with it the early-night's wind chill. The scrawny shinigami shiver shook violently beneath the soggy garments that clung heavily about him. If he didn't hurry, he would almost surely wake up sick the next morning. But, Hanataro didn't care. The surrounding world was lost to him. He was in a world, all his own.