A/N: Blue eyes? Fixed! Sorry about that. I really did know that he has amber/brown, but another of my heroes has blindingly blue eyes, so I always forget that other people ah, don't. Ahaha (cough) well anyway, hope that solves the problem!

Rukia's Care


Rukia looked down at Ichigo's calm, sleeping eyes as she brushed a few strands of dirtied, orange hair from his brow. He hadn't woken for almost two days having sustained horrible injuries from an attack that was meant for her. She closed her eyes to suppress the guilt that boiled to the surface, making her skin feel oily and dirty. With a pained sigh, she stood from the edge of his bed and turned to look at the street below his window.

Ichigo had always taken care of her, protected her. This time though, he had gone almost too far. Despite a giant hole in his chest and deep gashes on his arm, he had pushed her away and taken a Hollow's tusk in the stomach. They were both lucky that he had made the final blow as he fell into the attack and the horn quickly vanished from his gut, but the wound was still seeping with blood, dripping steadily upon the cement. As Ichigo fainted into Rukia's arms, she began to drag him frantically back to his home, sobbing for breath.

"Damnit, Ichigo. Why do you always have to save me?" she whispered as the sun's rays filled the sky with a vibrant array of parakeet colors. With one last glance out the window, she turned back towards the desk and tossed bloodied bandages and sponges into a large bowl of red, murky water. She picked it up gently and wobbled down to the kitchen.

The house was unusually quiet with the family gone for the summer. They were visiting their grandparents in Hokkaidou, but Ichigo said that he would be needed at the school, so he stayed behind. Rukia knew differently. She knew that he stayed to kill hollows and to look after the house, but deep inside she felt that he hadn't wanted to leave her. It was as if he had known she would be attacked and that he would have to save her like he always did. The thought was infuriating.

With an irritated flick of her wrist, Rukia turned on the faucet and listened to the tinkling of the metal bowl as water cascaded into the sink, washing away Ichigo's blood. She supported her weight upon the counter and hung her head between her arms. Once the water was scalding, she turned it off and laid the towels in the soapy water, hoping to lift some of the crimson memory from the cloth. She trudged back up the stairs and wandered into Ichigo's room.

Curtains closed, light dimmed, Rukia dressed calmly for sleep in the open air of the room. It wasn't often than Ichigo wasn't there, so it was a rare opportunity to be able to dress with her legs stretched, still having room enough to put her arms over her head. As she buttoned her nightshirt, she watched Ichigo's chest rise and fall serenely, his chiseled muscles pumping air like a well-oiled machine.

"Onee-san?" a tiny voice called timidly from the doorway. Rukia turned to see Kon holding onto the doorframe with his small plush limbs. He looked anxiously at Ichigo and shuffled his feet.

"Aa?" Rukia sighed. She sat down at the desk and beckoned to him. He wobbled over to her and climbed up on her lap. She didn't protest, but simply held him there, like a child who had just woken up from a nightmare.

"Will Ichigo be okay, onee-san?" he sniffled. Rukia noted that he leaned his head against her chest in a rather intimate spot, but didn't have the strength to address the matter. She simply nodded and turned her gaze back to the setting sun.

"He'll be alright. He just needs to rest. It's a good thing that his family's gone for the summer or else we'd have a whole other set of problems on our hands, ne."

"When do you think he'll wake up?"

"I can't say, Kon." A silence vibrated through the air and the little plush toy hopped down from Rukia's lap.

"Take good care of him, onee-san. Let me know if you need any comfort!" he said cheerily as he strolled out of the room, purposefully lightening his attitude. Rukia smiled at him briefly, exhaustedly. She picked up a cup of cold tea that she had forgotten about nearly two hours before and held it in her hands like the keystone to her archway of emotions. If she let go of the cup, she would break down. The tighter she held on to it, the harder she clenched her teeth, the fewer tears would fall to her cheeks.

A tear splashed the cold, dark waters of her tea and she bit her lip, hiding her eyes beneath her black waves of hair. With a deep, strangled breath she regained her composure and gripped her ceramic cup with whitened knuckles. A raspy cough caught her attention and she turned her eyes, wide with shock, towards the bed. Ichigo's intense amber eyes looked at her with a twinge of pain, his brow furrowed with confusion and exhaustion.

"I-ichigo?" she whispered.

"Rukia." His fingers felt the sheets next to his side and stretched towards Rukia weakly. She hesitated in taking his hand, but let their fingertips touch, sending a bolt of electricity through her stomach. She felt her cheeks burn and Ichigo smiled meekly.

"You stupid boy! Why did you have to do this?" Rukia sobbed, anger and relief overwhelming her. Ichigo let his grin spread a little farther, a chuckle escaping his lips. Rukia looked up at him, a tear pouring down her lashes carelessly. She wiped it away hastily and dried her eyes, allowing nothing but the redness of her face hint that she was so upset.

"I like keeping you safe, Rukia. I want to protect you," he confessed as his eyes began to flutter shut again. She watched him quietly as he drifted back into sleep, their fingers still brushed against each other. When his features became peaceful once again, she pulled away from the bed and paced the room thinking frantically about his words but quickly pushed them aside. As night settled in, she returned to the kitchen, brushing his old rags white again with bleach and hanging them out to dry. Grabbing new bandages and her sponge, she filled the bowl with fresh water and walked upstairs. It had been a decent six hours since she had taken a look at the wounds. She wanted to make sure they had closed properly.

"Kon?" she called out quietly, swinging the door open to Yuzu's room. The toy was sound asleep, face down on the pillows. A soft snore raked from his throat and Rukia closed the door silently, hoping he stayed asleep for the remainder of the night. When Rukia had returned with Ichigo, he had gone ballistics and was smacked around the house by the irritable girl. It was high time the poor guy got a break.

Using her hip, Rukia pushed Ichigo's door open and stepped inside. She had kept the desk lamp on and walked to it, placing the bowl of water and new bandages on the towel she had placed on its surface. With great tenderness, she pushed down the sheets covering Ichigo's chest and let herself admire his collarbone and shoulders girlishly. Realizing where her eyes had traveled, she blushed brilliantly and focused herself on his wounds.

Easing his dirtier bandages away from his body, Rukia managed to keep his bleeding to an absolute minimum. She let her fingers feel the sheets underneath his shoulders and found that they were damp and red. She cursed softly under her breath and sat back on her knees, trying to think of a way to remove his sheets.

"Ichigo? Ichigo, wake up," she said quietly, tapping his cheek. His eyes pulled themselves open and looked calmly at her while she pulled the edges of his sheets away from the corners of his mattress.

"Yes?" he whispered.

"I need you to roll over. It'll be painful," she cautioned, taking a hold of his shoulder and hip. Slowly he strained himself and pulled himself over. She felt under his side for the edge of his sheets and tugged them out from under his body. He winced and Rukia could tell his grip was white-hot upon his pillow. She put three folded, thick towels under his back and unknotted his old bandages, pulling them from his body and grabbing her sponge. She felt his eyes burn holes in the wall next to his bed and was silent as she brushed away the blood on his back. She let him lie gently back down on the new, crisp towels and threw his sheets in a garbage bag.

No words were exchanged as Rukia's gentle hands washed away the blood on Ichigo's abdomen. He simply watched her eyes as she worked, healing his wounds to the best of her depleted ability. His skin rippled with excitement as her fingers brushed his skin and wished he had the strength to fight against her, to push her away. He did not want to admit that he enjoyed feeling her fingertips sooth his wounds and heat his flesh. The last three days had been a haze, hearing and feeling her but unable to speak or open his eyes. If only he could remain in that haze.

"Do you want to try eating?" she asked quietly. Ichigo swallowed roughly and nodded his head. His stomach growled awkwardly and Rukia grinned.

"I'll be back soon then. Rest. I'll wake you when your rice is done."

Ichigo watched Rukia leave the room and then turned to look down at his torn abdomen. The bleeding had stopped but when he strained himself to sit, his stomach burned red-hot with pain. Clutching the sheets, he eased himself back to his pillow and listened quietly as Rukia bustled about the kitchen downstairs, mumbling loudly about the directions on the inside of the rice cooker. He smiled to himself, ignoring the itching frustration of being unable to move his torso.

About twenty minutes later, Rukia opened the door, a tray in her hands. She looked proud as she entered the room, displaying her steamed rice with delight. A juice box, complete with straw was placed next to the bowl. She put the tray on the desk and sat on the edge of the bed.

"Don't get up. I don't want to wrap your injuries again," she said sternly. Ichigo let her prop a pillow behind his back to lift his head and watched quietly as she picked up the bowl of rice and chopsticks.

"I can feed myself, Rukia," he said. They shared a glare, a battle of will. Ichigo sighed and Rukia gently placed a small sticky mass of rice in his mouth. She always seemed to win.

"I know you can, Ichigo. Like I said, I don't want to bandage you up again," she said as he ate. His stomach gurgled with the taste of food and he felt his hunger flair. He felt like a child being spoon-fed. He always failed to protect people. He always needed to be protected. Why couldn't he just once completely care for her?

Rukia fought a smile as Ichigo took a sip of juice. She put his empty bowl down and reached for a damp cloth. Brushing away a lock of his hair, she sponged away a few drops of blood and dirt gently. He watched her quietly, her expression softening as she paid particular attention to the blemish.

Ichigo caught her hand and she looked down at him, her eyes startled. A small, appreciative smile tugged at the sides of his mouth and he brushed the cloth against her wrist.

"You have blood on your arm," he said, his fingers pushing the cloth across her skin weakly. She looked at her wrist and saw his blood smeared over her flesh. She pulled away her hand slowly and scrubbed at her arms and hands.

"I-I didn't notice. Sorry," she replied shakily. Ichigo's smile faded and he closed his eyes, falling back into a restless sleep while she cleaned her arms in the basin on his desk. She turned back to him, about to say something but saw his chest rise and fall in a peaceful rhythm. She smiled and sat down at his desk with a book from Urahara's shop, watching the last rays of the day slide behind the horizon.


A/N: New chapter coming soon!