for her own good

"Rukia would've understood," Renji groaned. He was lying sprawled across the table with his nose nearly in a puddle of vomit. Bits of his supper floated in it.

"Yeah. Course she would." Ikkaku hauled Renji upright enough to get an arm round him. He threw a few coins at the bartender and began to lurch towards the door.

"No. No you don't see. She made it make sense. She made everything make sense." Renji hiccupped. "But she's a lady now. Kuchiki. She wouldn't want me."

"Look --" Ikkaku paused to allow Renji to add to the gutter's contents. When the other had finished retching, he recommended, "Shut the fuck up. Every single damn time we get drunk you go on about this Rukia. Rukia Rukia Rukia fucking Rukia. You think I've got time to listen to this shit?"

Abruptly coordinated if not sober, Renji grabbed Ikkaku's collar and hauled him close. "Don't you talk about her like that."

"Your breath stinks," Ikkaku noted.

"You don't talk like that about her," Renji snarled.

Ikkaku brought his knee up hard into Renji's balls. As the other man sagged, he grabbed him by his collar and hauled him up again, pushing him against the wall. "I'll talk how I want about who I want. I don't give a rat's piss for some brat who got adopted into the aristocracy. I'd have more respect for her if she'd been one of us and done her time properly. You said she was a fighter? Well then, where the fuck is she now?"

Renji's breathing slowed. "Wasn't her fault," he muttered.

"Yeah, well." Ikkaku let go. "Whose fault was it, then?"

Renji leaned back against the wall. "Wasn't -- look, they came to her, I walked in on them, the Old Man himself and that bastard, and Rukia looking at them with big scared eyes, and he offered her a home and a family, fuck it, what was I supposed to say? It was what she wanted, wasn't it?"

Ikkaku took Renji by the arm and turned him till they were pointed in the direction of Eleventh Division, then gave him a shove to get him moving.

"So I told her she'd got her feet under the table," Renji droned on. He wove from side to side, upright but meandering. "Said well done, you did it, kid, you got in with the big boys, you're never going to go hungry again, you'll wear the good clothes and eat the good food from now on, you've made it now. Yeah. And she just --"

"Just looked at you," Ikkaku said, on cue.

"Yeah." Renji paused to stare blearily up at the cloudy sky. "She just looked at me. And I was going to pat her on the shoulder, you know, but she just pushed me away and walked out."

That bit was new. "She just walked out?"

"Yeah." Renji began to walk again. "Like I'd just said goodbye."

Ikkaku thought about that. "You're both idiots," he said a street later.

"Yeah," Renji agreed mournfully.

"You could have grabbed her," Ikkaku pointed out. "You could have asked her what the fuck she thought she was doing. You could have tried --"

"Wouldn't have been the right thing for her," Renji said dolefully. "She deserved better. She deserved the good stuff. If I'd been holding her back -- naah." He lurched. "She's better off without me," he intoned.

"So you left her alone." Ikkaku helped Renji navigate a corner. "She could have been one of us. I hear she's pretty good. That Shiba guy likes her."

"He's an aristocrat!" Renji shouted, coming to a stop and raising his arms to the heavens. "She's an aristocrat! She's happy now! I made sure of that! She deserved it!"

Ikkaku put a hand between Renji's shoulders and shoved. "Shut the fuck up," he recommended.

Renji jolted into a stumble again. "She's got. Dunno word. Thingy. Quality. She's got quality," he muttered. "Deserved better. Than what she got."

It began to rain.

"Yeah," Ikkaku said. "I guess she did."