Edited on June 4, 2007.
Some dialogue may have changed, and I have added something that I had originally planned to include as a flashback in a later chapter - but believe me it was for the better. As well, I tried to work out all the misspellings and typos I could find. I hope it's better now.
This is the first chapter of my new story, this is also my first attempt at Bleach. This story is IchiRuki, although that doesn't quite happen in this chapter. This one merely serves as the slate that sets the plot out for the eyes.
-Melancholy of the Moon, Chapter I-
It came to be almost a year since she had arrived to the academy. Short of twelve months since she had stopped aging. Such a thing had confused her, and Renji was not around for her to inquire an answer of him.
She remembered asking about that, to one of her classmates, a boy sitting next to her. He had explained that the aging process retards in Sereitei and in parts of Rukongai.
"Where are you from, Rukia san, that might explain why?" had asked a girl behind them. She had her elbows propped up, her limber fingers tented, her chin resting thoughtfully on them.
"Inuzuri," she had answered, not liking the way the girl's gaze fixed on her. She had eyes that warned of danger.
The boy looked severely interested. "How long where you in Rukongai, Rukia san?" he asked. "What do you remember about the human world, I've never been there?"
Of course he hadn't. He had been born in Sereitei, in Soul Society. To a noble family.
She had answered that she had lived in Inuzuri for as long as she remembered, and that the old lady that had cared for her had informed her that it was so since she had come to Soul Society as a baby. Hence, she knew nothing of the human world apart from what she learned here.
"How old are you then, Rukia san?" had asked the girl, and she could have sworn she'd seen a glint amidst yellow-green.
She had a vague idea of her age, as it was marked by death, and she knew the thing well. The old lady had died when Rukia had been in this world for about four years, she was alone for one, she had met those boys the following year and spent ten years surviving with them.
"Fifteen," she said.
"Wow!" exclaimed the boy. "You're so young, Rukia san. I'm almost fifty, what a difference."
"Yes," said the girl, "I'm around that age as well."
"When did you slow?" she asked.
"We grow normally, but begin to age slowly once our reiatsu awakens. I slowed at seventeen," explained the boy. "You've stayed the same for a year because you left Inuzuri and came here since that time."
"But it makes sense," said the girl.
"Does it, Shihouin san?" asked the boy.
"Yes. You see, Soul Society's natural law lifts the standstill of aging in districts like Inuzuri," she began.
"Really," said the boy. "And why is that?"
The Shihouin girl, smiled and leaned to whisper something in his ear. Her blonde hair cascaded over her shoulder.
"Ask Rukia san," she said. "I'm sure she's figured it out by now."
He looked to her eagerly. "Why, Rukia san?"
Now she understood, Rukia now knew why, thanks to this girl. "Because," she said softly. "It is more merciful to die sooner, then live slowly, in a place like that."
The year was ending, and since that conversation the snide remarks came;
'She's from Inuzuri, did you know?'
'Inuzuri! You must be joking. What is that kind of alley garbage doing in our school?'
'She should go back, the likes of her do not belong here.'
Where before she had been a bit quiet because she was a bit timid in her new surroundings, now she completely withdrawn. She wished to leave this place, but had nowhere else to go.
She wanted to...
"Disappear, Rukia san," repeated the girl. "Have you ever though about disappearing? - What if you could do it? Would you take the chance?"
She let the words wash over her, ignoring them and the real meaning as best as she could. They however echoed through her mind. She raised her gaze to the blue sky above, above the blonde girl who had inquired from her.
She didn't plan on answering the question, it would just boost the girl's ego to know that she had gotten Rukia to talk; when in her class she had become notorious for hardly ever speaking.
"I asked you something Rukia san," pressed the girl on. "It's rude to not answer polite questions, you know," she chastised as she leaned forward slightly and with a slim finger poked Rukia where her collarbone dipped finely through the material of her uniform, as if daring her to continue to pay no heed to her.
In her mind Rukia growled at the action, and outwardly lowered her sight to the blonde girl in front of her, locked eyes, and glared as icily as she could hoping the girl would cease her onslaught and just leave her be, as always.
She grinned. "My!" she gasped theatrically, drawing back her finger swiftly as if burned. "How scary you are Rukia san! Did everyone see that - how Rukia san just attacked me with her gaze!" she exclaimed.
But no one answered as their instructor had arrived. And so the girl ceased her drama and with a smirk and slight shove against her side, made her way past Rukia to where the class was drawing around the instructors, eager to be told what they were to do that day when they went on their first trip.
She lowered her voice as she passed. "I suppose I should count myself lucky, seeing as you refrained from attacking me, Inuzuri trash," she mocked.
With a small sigh, audible only to her, Rukia made her way to the others, pushing through any openings between their bodies she could find as she knew she stood no chance of hearing what was going on if she wasn't in the front.
'If I had Renji then this wouldn't be a problem,' she thought grittingly as she was stepped on. 'He'd probably just have put me on his shoulders...and have whined about it'
Finally, she made her way to the front, and found that there were three people in between the circle her class had formed.
The first was a tall, handsome boy with a number 69 tattooed on his face, lines on his arms and neck, a bandage across his left cheek and nose and three lines running vertically down the right side of his visage. "My name is Hisagi Shuuhei," he called out. "And these are Soma Kira and Usagi Yuu," he said, gesturing towards a red headed girl with an overly passive expression and a brunette boy that wore a slight smile. "We will be your instructors for today in a lesson that has already been done by the top class of first years a month ago," he explained. "Usually your class would have this trip in the middle of your second year - but as it's being proven, you are all exceptional and have caught up to being only a month behind your counterparts."
Tittering and whistles blew from the back of the crowd, the usual bunch of rowdy boys. But however disruptful their behavior was, Rukia knew that they were excellent students.
Hisagi scowled at them, effectively submitting them to silence. "You all will see a Dummy Hollow," he continued. "In which we will show you how to properly dispose of it, and witness a soul burial and learn how to perform it properly," he elaborated further.
The boy named Yuu smiled widely at this. "But hopefully without the hassle that Hisagi kun encountered last time," he laughed as he indicated to the long gashes on his friend's face.
"Although it does give you an idea to be cautious," spoke up Kira, frowning at her fellow classmate. "Those marks were from the Dummy Hollows you will be hunting, after all. So exercise caution if you don't want scarring like that," she warned, stressing her last statement. "Or want to be killed."
Hisagi scowled too at Yuu, who shrugged sheepishly. "Well then, now that you know what we're doing, please split up into groups of three. Your trio will be assigned a Dummy Hollow for you to track down and destroy after a demonstration…so pick people you know you can trust with your life, as well as one's that you work well with," he said.
Rukia mentally sighed…groups? That never ended well, her classmates weren't very fond of her. Soon there were groups surrounding the instructors, who surveyed them quietly.
"Alright then," called out Yuu. "Let's get going!"
Rukia swallowed and wondered what in Seireitei she was going to do when a pair of hands grabbed her shoulders. "Please wait sempai," the person holding her cried out, effectively stopping the trio of instructors. Hisagi motioned for the other two to keep going while he walked towards Rukia who felt suddenly faint, knowing nothing good would come from this, and the person holding her - who she knew must be Shihouin, ready for another go at her.
Hisagi stopped before her, and the girl removed her hands. He raised and eyebrow, "What is it?" he asked.
The girl then grabbed Rukia's shoulders again and thrust her out sending her flying into Hisagi, who caught her shoulders with surprise. He steadied her, and frowned as he raised his gaze to the blonde before him. "What was that?" he asked disapprovingly.
"Oh, nothing," she exclaimed. "I merely lost my footing. "You'll have to forgive me," she apologized, smiling sweetly.
"Whatever," said Hisagi who Rukia saw was not buying it, and removed his hands from Rukia, who backed away a step once he let go. "What was it then?" he asked. "You must have called me here for something.
The blonde nodded. "Oh yes, sempai, for something indeed," she affirmed, her yellow-green eyes glinting.
"Well then," demanded Hisagi. "What is it?"
The blonde smiled deviously. "Well you see sempai, there seems to be an uneven number of people and Rukia san here seems to not have a group," she explained.
"But that's to be expected," she continued. "You after all said to pick people who were compatible in skill with one another…but you see, Rukia san isn't good at much of anything, so she got stuck by herself," she gushed out.
"And so I was merely drawing attention to her predicament so you could just tell her to go back to her dorm something…She'd just be in the way, trust me," she assured.
Rukia couldn't believe what she was hearing. She felt her face burn and her clenched palms coat with bitter heat. Why was this girl doing this? To go this far, what was her intention besides embarrassing her from here to hell?
Hisagi stood stunned for a second, as if not quite understanding, but regained himself quickly, donning on a mask of amusement. "Really?" he inquired, sarcastically, Rukia recognized. "Well, thank you for that information young lady," he said.
The blonde smiled, oblivious to his tone. "It's Shihouin Ayae," she smarmily informed.
"Ah, I see," nodded Hisagi. "Many thanks to you then Shihouin sama for informing me of your problem. If you'd like you can head on out to your group, they must be waiting for you," he offered.
Ayae smiled sweetly. "Of course sempai," she nodded. "And you be sure to terminate the...hindrance," she said as she grinned and then ran off to where the class had headed.
Rukia still stood before Hisagi, not having been able to turn and face the girl who was her tormentor in the face. She looked at the pavement floor intently, wondering what she had ever done to deserve to be so humiliated. Her face still burned and her eyes stung, but she willed herself not to cry, it was too unlike the person she used to be before she came here, the one she was trying to become one more.
She looked up, startled, as she felt a weight settle on her head. His hand was warm.
Hisagi wasn't looking at her, but at the retreating form of Shihouin Ayae. "I don't know what you did to piss off that girl," he spoke to her. "But you better not make it any worse. She's the daughter of one of the four main noble families and can make your life here a nightmare," he added.
He then settled his eyes on her, which she quickly hid from by averting them back to the ground. Then closed them as she felt the hand on her head disappear and her chin being lifted by a forefinger and thumb. "Open your eyes," ordered Hisagi and she found herself obeying. "Now," he sighed. "What did you do to that brat?…Maybe I can help you," he offered.
Rukia blinked. "I…" she whispered.
"Yeah?" urged Hisagi, releasing her chin.
Rukia lowered her face, angry at the reason. "I didn't do anything to that girl," she whispered. "She acts like such because I'm from Rukongai."
Hisagi raised an eyebrow, "That's all?" he questioned, "Geez, from what part are you, one of the middle numbers?"
"78th," said Rukia, trying to conquest her ire.
To her surprise Hisagi laughed. "You?" he chuckled. "From that part of Rukongai?" he said again, disbelievingly.
Rukia gazed at him in surprise, all anger gone now. "You don't believe me?" she asked.
Hisagi scoffed. "Of course not. Look at you…you would have been eaten alive in Inuzuri," he said loudly. Then he shook his head "You're going to have to try to become a better liar girl. I bet then that's what got you on that noble's bad side."
Rukia merely stared. "But I am," she assured softly. "I'm from that part of Rukongai, I'm not lying."
Hisagi then frowned. "What's your name again?" he asked.
"Rukia," she said.
"Rukia what?" asked Hisagi.
"Just Rukia…I don't have a surname…or rather I don't know it. I came to Rukongai as a baby," she explained.
Hisagi then nodded. "I see," he said softly, but she could tell that he still did not quite believe her. "Well then Rukia san, I'll have you go back to your dorm."
Rukia's eyes widened. "But then I'll fail this assignment," she said surprised. "My marks will drop and I'll be... thrown out of here," she finished uncertainly.
Hisagi waved his hand. "It's your term project, and important, but no you wont, I'll just have you make it up later…I think it's best you stay away from Shihouin, for today anyway…and look on the bright side, you get a day off," he added.
Rukia bowed low. "Sorry to have caused you trouble," she whispered.
Hisagi smiled. "Not at all…now go, you have a day of leisure ahead of you, use it wisely," he instructed.
And yet she didn't move. "That's an order," he commanded good-naturedly.
And with that he walked away from her off to go help Kira and Yuu with the teams the first year normals class had formed, leaving Rukia behind in a state of confusion.
Rukia walked across the grounds of her school, ransacking her mind for something to do. And yet there was nothing since she didn't have any work that she hadn't completed, and no people she liked to hang out with.
She walked into the forest and kept going until she was sure that nobody was near her. Then she climbed a tree and sat among the leafy foliage. 'Maybe I could take a nap?' she wondered. 'I haven't had one of those in quite some time…' And so she leaned against the trunk of the tree for security, closed her eyes and drifted off.
She dreamt of her past. Of hazy memories when she was with the old lady, of wandering the dusty 78th district, and then of meeting those boys. Of being able to feel like she had a family that she was close to. And then of losing that bond bit by bit with them as they died off.
But one always remained. Abarai Renji always stayed. They grew closer with each death, bonded more as life became more harsh. Came together to the academy to become Shinigami as a pair.
But he was taken away too. He was here she knew - at the academy as well. But was separated from her, and yet it seemed he didn't miss her in the way she did he. Every time she saw him he would be surrounded by friends, with people he could laugh with and grow closer to.
She hardly ever saw him anymore since he wasn't in her class. She hadn't seen him apart from glimpses for nearly a month…when he went on that trip that she should have gone on today.
He had treated her normally then, casually and playfully with such ease, as if nothing had changed. And then he headed off with his friends, and left her realizing that she had none…she only had Renji…but her time with him was fleeting.
It hurt to know that her bonds with him were unraveling, and pained her more to see that he didn't notice.
'If he had noticed he would have done something…' she thought, idly hopeful as she emerged from her slumber. 'But Renji isn't the type to notice details like that…he isn't the type of person to check that I'm still there next to him.' She blinked, her eyelids lowering sadly, 'Or maybe he just doesn't care enough to notice anymore...'
She lifted her legs before her and wrapped her arms around them, leaning her cheek on her knee to rest. 'I wonder why I can't cry over the fact that I'm losing Renji?' she wondered. 'I do feel sad…such a sadness as I've never felt before, it's so heavy and choking sometimes…but I can't bring myself to cry. Maybe it's because he's happy?' she though as her shoulders and features drooped with the familiar weight of morose.
"Oi Rukia!" yelled an exuberant voice from a few trees away.
She blinked, slowly lifted her head from her knee and turned the other way too see who had called her. It had been Renji who was standing a few trees away. Her eyes widened slightly as she saw him. He was still the same as that day a month ago. Full of life. Not like her, who felt as thought it was being drained everyday she passed in this place.
He was grinning, and waving at her. "Rukia!" he called out as he made his way to her, jumping with ease through the trees until he finally landed before her. He crouched down in front of her to meet her eye level. "What are you doing here Rukia?" he asked smiling. "I though your class was going on a trip," he inquired. "Is it not today?"
Rukia stared at him, surprised that he was actually here before her. That he was speaking to her. That Abarai Renji could speak as if he had seen her just yesterday.
"Yes," she whispered feeling a bit numb at the thought, she tightened her grip around her raised legs and once more laid he cheek against her knee, hiding her face from Renji. "There was a trip today…but I don't go," she added softly.
"What?" deadpanned Renji. "Why in Seireitei didn't you go?" he demanded. "That trip counts for a lot of credit, Rukia…you could be kicked out if your grades drop drastically don't you know?" he exclaimed.
Rukia sighed. "Yes, I know," she said softly.
She couldn't look at him. Renji was smart and would understand what she was implying…what she wouldn't directly say. The only reason after all that she even remained in the academy was for him…but he was disappearing from her life and apparently did not need her. Sometimes she really came close to deciding on leaving.
"Rukia," he sighed frustrated. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he questioned. And she knew that he was trying to control his rising temper. Much like he used to do when she ticked him off when they were in Rukongai. But Renji was Renji and he had never wanted to release his full anger on her…not then, and she knew that now was no different.
'But maybe being apart for so long has made him forget how to control his ire towards me,' she though passively as she continued not looking at him and instead watching the autumn leaves freefall from their branches down to the ground.
"Rukia," ground out Renji. "Rukia what's wro-" he began.
But he was cut off as he heard his name being called out from somewhere in the forest. He raised his head and sighed. "I have to go Rukia," he said softly. "But- but we need to talk so meet me here at lunch time," he told her.
He sighed when she wouldn't look at him. "Rukia, we'll talk then," he assured as he patted her head. She closed her eyes at the familiar weight and embedded the feeling into her heart.
She could still feel it even after he had left.
Renji glanced exasperatedly at the clock, willing it to go faster so lunch could commence and he could go see Rukia.
"Well then," rang out their Kido instructor. "Today's lesson is now over…make sure to study the notes you took yesterday and today as we will be having a written test tomorrow," he said.
"And I expect every one of you to do very well," he threatened.
With that said he walked to the door. "Stay here until he bell rings for you to leave," he ordered, and then left.
Renji slumped down onto his seat; he had been hoping the guy would have just let them leave.
"What's eating you?" asked Kira Izuru, his classmate and friend as he slid into the seat next to him.
"Nothing," ground out Renji under his breath. "I'm just waiting for the damn bell to ring for lunch."
Kira raised an eyebrow and the laughed quietly. "Geez, I know you love to eat Abarai kun, but this is a bit extreme isn't it…being angry because you can't wait," he admonished, laughing.
Renji raised his head and shot him an icy look. "It's not that," he defended. "Although I am hungry, I just want the bell to ring because I'm meeting a friend for lunch today," he explained.
Kira smiled. "Oh, and why meet this friend of yours by yourself Abarai kun, why don't you have her eat with us?" he asked.
Renji blushed. "Who said anything about a girl?" he shot.
Kira smiled. "Well, I merely guessed you were speaking about Rukia san, since she was who you were speaking to in the forest wasn't it?"
"I also thought that since you probably haven't seen her in a while you might want to catch up with her," he continued. "So bringing her to eat lunch with us would be a good idea…it would give you a chance to see her everyday wouldn't it?" he asked. "You've been whining for ages about how your time together has become so limited anyway," he added.
Renji frowned. "I don't know if she'd be very happy about that, and she probably has her own friends that she eats with," he said offhandedly. "But yeah, she and I need to talk anyway…it seems to me that she's letting her grades slip on purpose…and I can't let that happen Kira, if she gets kicked out then she'll have to go back to Rukongai…and, if that happens...I don't know what I would do," he breathed.
Kira looked thoughtful. "Well Abarai kun, if she eats lunch with us then you'll be able to keep an eye on her won't you?" he asked. "Then you can monitor her actions and decide what to do."
"Decide on what?" asked Renji.
"I don't know," said Kira. "But it seems to me like you two have to decide on something, since it's sounding that if she leaves this school, you'd go with her," he shrugged.
Renji jumped up as the bell rang. "Alright then Kira, I'll bring her over today," he called out as he made a dash for the door.
Kira smiled to himself as he stood as well and walked to the door off to tell Hinamori kun that they were going to have a permanent guest for lunch that day.
Renji rushed through the forest, hoping that Rukia was already there so he could get to her faster.
She was. Still sitting in the same place he had left her, and sleeping soundly.
He landed silently before her and watched her with a small smile. He had always liked watching Rukia sleep. In Inuzuri he had always stayed up late just watching her, happy that he had found them a place to spend the night, proud that she felt she could close her eyes and rest because he was there to protect her.
In Rukongai he always felt unease whenever he left her by herself. He was afraid of what could happen if he left her for too long. He dreaded leaving her because he didn't know if he would come back to her and receive a smile or a corpse as his welcome back.
He knew it annoyed her to be smothered by him every second but it was for her own good, and for his sanity. His greatest fear was for her to die. He didn't know if he could go on if she died and left him too.
But here, he knew that he could let her have her liberty and that she would be safe even if he wasn't around.
So he wasn't about to let Rukia ruin her chances at the academy. He knew if she went back to Rukongai then she was sure to die on her own. And he refused to allow that.
"Oi, Rukia," he whispered softly in her ear and he gripped her shoulders gently and slightly shook her, rousing her delicately from sleep.
"Renji?" she whispered as her eyes steadily opened.
He smiled. "Hey, idiot," he greeted.
"What are you doing here?" she asked sleepily, raising her arms above her head for a stretch.
Renji raised an eyebrow and then bopped her on the head. "Idiot," he reprimanded. "Did you forget already?" he demanded.
Rukia blushed and rubbed the spot on her head where he had hit her. "Oh, yes," she said, recalling before. "You wanted to talk."
Renji nodded. "Yeah, but I think maybe we'll leave that for later, lunch time's limited you know…right now you're coming somewhere with me," he said.
Rukia tilted her head curiously. "Where?" she asked. Inwardly feeling bubbles of happiness fill her being…Maybe Renji hadn't forgotten her after all, maybe he still needed her and wanted to spend time with her from here on out?
"To lunch, Rukia…let's go get lunch," he said, straightening to his full height and then offering her a hand to set her on her feet. She took it and was easily pulled up.
She followed Renji through the forest, happy to be in his company.
"Renji?" she asked.
Renji tilted his head to look at her. "Yeah, Rukia?" he asked.
"Why is it that you're inviting me to lunch?" she asked.
Renji was taken aback by that. "What kind of question is that?" he asked incredulously. "I though you'd be happy to be together again, that's why," he explained.
Rukia smiled softly. "I though you just wanted to yell at me for letting my grades slip," she said.
Renji laughed. "So you've reminded me," he exclaimed. "But that's for later…right now I just want to catch up," he said. "I've missed you, Rukia," he sighed as he stopped and rested his larger hand on her shoulder. "I hope you've missed me too."
Rukia smiled sadly and nodded raising an arm and placing her palm atop Renji's hand. "I have Renji…more than you can imagine," she assured.
Renji grinned broadly. "C'mon then Rukia!" he exclaimed as he grabbed her hand. "You have to come meet my friends," he continued as he broke off into a run, Rukia trailing behind him, suddenly helpless as she was pulled by her hand.
"Hey, Renji, stop!" she cried as they sped of in-between students as they reached the grand courtyard in front of the schools opening doors. But he continued running as if he hadn't heard her, and a part of her realized that he most likely didn't want to hear her…he knew her well, and in so knew that she might object to meeting his friends if he gave her a chance.
But she felt afraid to meet the people she felt Renji had replaced her with. She really had never been good with others. What if they didn't like her and made Renji stop seeing her for good? What if's clouded her mind and on impulse she grabbed onto a post that Renji had just passed but she managed to reach enough to clasp tightly, effectively pulling her hand free from Renji's clasp.
Relief flooded her as she was liberated from him, but then there was the realization of searing pain that came after her desperate action, she fell to her knees, clutching the arm that she had used to hold onto the post. "Ouch," she hissed. Sure that her harm had just been broken.
Renji stood there, surprised at what she had done. He soon snapped out of his trance and stalked towards her when he realized that she was hurt. He leant down before her. "Rukia, are you alright?" he questioned, his large palms hovering over her shoulders uselessly.
She nodded but didn't say anything.
Renji panicked and abruptly slipped his arms under her thighs and across her back, picking her up effortlessly. He stood and realized that a crowd of kids had made a circle around him and Rukia. "Geez, what was that?" asked a brunette girl, stepping from the circle, "You could have killed her, are you insane you big brute?" she scolded. "Outta the way," growled Renji as he side-stepped the girl and ran into the school's main building. 'There goes lunch,' he thought, put out as he stalked through the halls, intent on taking Rukia to the Healing Room.
"I'm sorry Renji," whispered Rukia, her face buried in his chest, and he could feel the tears as they soaked into his shirt. Whether from pain or something else he didn't know.
"Don't worry about it Rukia," he said as he ignored the students they passed in the halls, all who were pointing and staring at him and Rukia. "It was my fault anyway; I should have stopped when you asked me to."
Renji finally made it to the Healing Room, and knocked on the door using his foot.
To his surprise it was none other than Hisagi Shuuhei who answered the door. "Sempai?" exclaimed Renji.
"Oh," said the upperclassman. "It's you Abarai. Do you need to see the Healer?" he asked, stepping out of the way to let Renji into the room.
Renji froze as he stepped into the room. Inside were three Shinigami, one of them a captain, or so Renji surmised by his white Haori. "Hello," greeted a dark haired jovial looking man. "I'm Shiba Kaien," he said, raising his hand from his seat on one of the chairs lining the wall before the beds. "And I'm Ukitake Jushiro," said the Haori clad man, smiling softly from his seat next to Kaien. "The name's Kurosaki Ichigo," called out the third man, who was sitting on the bed having his arm bandaged up by the Healer.
Renji was shocked too see the first three seats of the Thirteenth Protection Squad all before him. He abruptly pulled out of his stupor however, hurriedly bowing, although his attempt wasn't successful as he was holding Rukia in his arms.
She cried out suddenly in pain as he bent and moved her damaged arm. "Ah!" he exclaimed in surprise. "I'm sorry Rukia," he apologized hastily straightening.
"Rukia?" questioned Hisagi from behind him. He leaned over Renji's shoulder to get a better look at the person he was holding.
"Are you the same Rukia from this morning?" he questioned of her, unsure it was her as he couldn't see her face as she had hidden it into Renji's chest.
She lifted her face to peek at who was speaking to her. "Yes…Sempai," she confirmed.
Hisagi raised an eyebrow. "Geez, I told you to take a day off, not go do something stupid and hurt yourself," he reprimanded, poking her in the forehead over Renji's shoulder.
"Ah, sorry Sempai, that was my fault," said Renji. "It was an accident though," he added.
"Really now!" said the Healer as he finished patching up Ichigo, patting his bandaged arm, making him wince and glare at the blond young man. "Do put Rukia san down on the bed there, or I'm afraid you'll end up hurting her more," he reprimanded, gesturing towards the bed next to Ichigo's and in front of the two other 13th squad leaders.
"Ah, yes," said Renji as he sat down Rukia on the front of the bed.
"Good," said the Healer, adjusting his glasses. "Now if you'll kindly move out of the way," he said to which Renji complied to with a glare, sitting himself next to the white haired man named Ukitake.
"Now," he said standing before Rukia who was looking down at her shoes, embarrassed. "What seems to be ailing you Rukia san?" he asked, flashing her a smile.
Rukia quickly stammered something incoherent. "What was that?" asked the Healer, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "My arm," Rukia mumbled, trying to avoid looking at him - he really was too handsome to be a healer.
"Ah, your arm!" exclaimed the Healer. He placed a hand on both her shoulders. "And which one, Rukia san?" he inquired softly, quite aware that she was trying not to blush.
"Her left," spoke up Renji from behind the Healer, clearly not amused by the scene infront of him.
"Really your brute," admonished the Healer as he turned to glare at Renji. "I do believe I was speaking to Rukia san, and not you."
Renji scowled. The Healer turned back to Rukia and smiled.
"And now, what seems to be ailing your arm, Rukia san?" he asked.
"It might be broken," she said softly.
"Broken?" asked the Healer, who immediately sent reiatsu to his hands and ran them down Rukia's left arm, inspecting the damage making her bite her lip from pain.
"Broken?" he repeated. "I think not, Rukia san. Your arm was completely pulled out from its socket!" he informed.
Rukia paled. "Pulled out?" she whispered.
"Yes," affirmed the Healer. "How did this happen Abarai?" he questioned sternly, swiveling on his heels to face the red head.
Renji smiled nervously. "Umm, I…I guess I don't know my own strength?" he offered sheepishly. The Healer promptly whacked him atop the head and then turned back around to attend to Rukia who had seemingly passed out while he was reprimanding Renji.
"Oh dear, I suppose that reiatsu put her to sleep faster than I thought," he breathed, sliding his arms under Rukia and pulling her up the bed to set her head on the pillow embellishing it.
"Will she be okay?" asked Hisagi pulling a chair to Rukia's side and sitting on it.
"Yes," said the Healer. "She'll be very much fine once I heal her arm."
"Good," said Hisagi, and Renji released the breath he had been holding.
The dark haired man a seat from him laughed. "Did you think the Healer would have to amputate, Abarai san?" he asked jokingly.
Renji laughed. "I think there was a part of me that did," he confessed. "Glad he didn't have to though, Rukia would have never forgiven me."
Then he sighed. "Ah, Senpai?" he called to Hisagi who looked up as he was addressed.
"What is it Abarai?" he asked.
Renji scratched the back of his head. "Well you see, Rukia said that she didn't go on today's trip," he began. "And the thing is that she's going to lose a lot of credit for that - and she definitely can't have that or she might be kicked out," he explained, his words hurried. "And she can't be kicked out, or she'll die," rushed Renji, becoming more and more worried as he spoke.
"Die?" question Hisagi looking slightly outraged. "Why would she die if she was expelled?" he questioned.
Renji bit his lip. "She'll have to go back to Rukongai…and if I'm not there with her then she'll definitely die," he said softly.
Hisagi looked like he had just been whacked with a mallet. "You mean to tell me that she wasn't lying when she said she was from that district?" he implored.
"Of course not," said Renji. "Rukia doesn't lie."
"I see," said Hisagi seriously.
"Wait, wait, wait!" interjected Kaien. "Why would she die is she went back to Rukongai?" he asked.
"Because," said Hisagi. "The kid would most likely return to the district she lived in before."
"And what district was that?" asked Kaien, curious.
"The Inuzuri one," deadpanned Hisagi.
Kaien's mouth dropped. "You mean to tell me that the fragile little creature over there lived in one of Rukongai's worst of the worst?" he asked.
"She and I did," said Renji.
"Well then, I'm sure Hisagi kun will do something to help Rukia san then," said Ukitake, smiling at the sleeping girl.
"Well-" drawled Hisagi. "There really wasn't anything to worry about in the first place…I had told Rukia san that she could make up the assignment later."
"How is she going to do that?" asked Renji.
"I don't know yet," said Hisagi. "But I'll think of something," he shrugged.
"Phew, then," exhaled Renji as the bell rang.
He immediately jumped up. "Damn, I completely missed lunch," he cried. "Kira and everyone are going to kill me."
He ran over to Rukia and patted her head. "Get better Rukia and I'm sorry for pulling your arm off," he apologized to the sleeping girl.
"I'll keep an eye on her Abarai," said Hisagi as Renji made his way to the door.
"Thanks Sempai," said Renji with a grateful bow before closing the door.
"Nice guy," said Kaien after he had left.
"Yeah," said Ichigo sarcastically. "A friend that pulls your arm off…he's really one of a kind."
Kaien laughed. "Wow, and so the orange beast speaks…I though you had gone mute or something."
"Nah," said Ichigo. "I just didn't have anything to say."
Kaien grinned. "My, my, that's a first…usually you would have been shooting your mouth off…especially with a guy like that Abarai around," he laughed.
"Yeah, well he didn't seem worth the effort," defended Ichigo, laying back onto the bed, using his good arm as a cushion for his head.
"That could be," said Kaien thoughtfully. "Or perhaps that natural shyness you have around girls acted up because Rukia san here was in the room…did your condition to girls act up then?" asked Kaien playfully.
A red stain of embarrassment smeared over Ichigo's cheeks. "I don't know what you're talking about," he shot.
Ukitake laughed softly. "It seems Kaien has it dead on, why else would we be graced with that blush of yours?" he asked.
"Shut up!" said Ichigo.
"Well anyway," said Kaien. "How's your arm feeling?" he asked.
"Its fine," said Ichigo. "It's only a scratch…I got careless."
"Well then," said Ukitake. "I'll leave you and Kaien to finish the job along with Hisagi kun…I'll be going back to the division," he informed, standing from his chair.
"Fine," said Ichigo. "With me too," said Kaien. "And me," agreed Hisagi.
"Good luck then Hisagi kun…and no more injuries Ichigo," said Ukitake before leaving the room.
Hisagi stood from his chair. "Well, I'll leave you here to heal, Ichigo san," he said. "And I'll take Kaien-dono to where he'll be spending the night."
"Whatever," said Ichigo.
Kaien laughed. "Not to worry, I'll visit you later Ichigo…it's not as if you'll be lonely though. And if that does happen just look at the pretty girl next to you…I'm sure the sight beheld will make the loneliness ebb away," he cooed.
"Shut up!" shouted Ichigo as the other two walked out of the room.
"Idiots," he murmured, before he closed his eyes, inviting sleep to take him.
Renji sighed as he slipped into his seat just as the bell rang. "Made it," he whispered to himself.
He slumped into the chair and at once began wondering if Rukia was doing okay. It was mostly his fault that she had gotten hurt anyway. 'Way to go,' he though. 'The first time in like forever that you have a chance to be around her and you go and pull off harming her.'
He sighed. 'I'll make it up to her…somehow,' he inwardly promised.
Somebody poked his back from behind. 'What the-' Renji swiveled around to come to face with an annoyed looking Kira.
"What was that Abarai kun?" he demanded. "Not showing up to lunch…don't tell me we got ditched because I won't forgive you."
Renji sighed. "I didn't try and ditch you guys…it's just that on the way there I kind of accidentally injured Rukia, and I had to take her to the Healer."
"You hurt her?" asked Kira, looking surprised. "Jeez, wouldn't have asking her to join us been a better approach then subduing her?" he offered.
"Ah, it wasn't like that Kira," he assured indignantly. "It was an accident."
Kira sighed. "It's fine. Just be sure to bring her by tomorrow. Hinamori kun was looking forward to meeting her, and I think they'd make a good pair of friends."
Renji smiled. "Yeah, that sounds great."
He watched as the Healer, with his reiatsu infused hands worked on Rukia's arm. "Hey Healer," he called out to him. "Is that girl going to be okay by tomorrow?" he asked.
The Healer didn't look up from his task. "Yes," he said. "She should be fine by then, if she doesn't overwork it."
"I see," said Ichigo. "The would you mind keeping her here for today. I'd like for her to come with my team on a trip, I'm sure she'll have to use that arm tomorrow if she's going."
The Healer nodded. "Sure. I take that it is for that trip she missed…you're intention is to have her make it up?" he asked.
"Yeah," said Ichigo leisurely. "Seems like a good opportunity for her to do it, and I'd be helping Hisagi out."
The Healer chuckled. "Are you sure you're not just trying to make a pass on Rukia san?" he asked.
Ichigo's features at once contorted in indignation. "What is it with you people? I just want to be nice and this is what I get…idiots!" he exclaimed, willing the mad burn on his cheeks to go away.
The Healer laughed.
How was it?