Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to Bleach, Kubo Tite does.
Summary: After coming back to Soul Society, Rukia loses her possessions. Ordered to retrieve her items, Renji goes through her backpack from the living world and learns what she cherished the most. IchiRuki!
Author'sNote: I didn't mean to make this long, but it happens I suck at making short one-shots. Enjoy some fluff. Go IchiRuki!!
In Her Backpack
"Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose."
- Kevin Arnold
Her name was Kuchiki Rukia. She was a shinigami in the 13th Division. She was graceful, pure… a Kuchiki.
A Kuchiki. Not a human.
Her face remained still, emotionless, stoic like a perfect Kuchiki. Her eyes – oh, her beautiful violet eyes – had frozen to be cold and unkind. Her mouth had set in a line, almost expressionless but at the same time, almost a frown. Her chest rose and fell at a slow, calm rhythm.
She was a good actor. A very good actor. If she was feeling pain, hurt or worry, such emotions did not show.
But Renji knew better.
When they – Rukia, Renji and her brother Byakuya – had crossed the gate, she had kept her composure, even though tears had threatened to fall on her face. It was rare to ever see her cry, but had she managed to bury her human emotions deep within her heart, and was able to present the Kuchiki face.
It amazed him that she remained so calm and stoic when she was escorted to the sixth division holding cell. Her eyes were slightly downcast, her face expressionless. Death was waiting for her. His heart ached.
The next time he was near her was when he was ordered to retrieve her items. The idea of them keeping her belongings safe puzzled him, but they dare not give her a fair trial, or at least a chance to explain.
Renji shook his head gently, reminding himself again that she was going to die. Executed. For giving her powers to the human boy. It was perplexing.
"My Captain sent me," Renji said loudly when he entered the room. His childhood friend was not here, which relieved him since he did not know what to say to her, but the shinigami knew she was near.
Another shinigami called him inside. "We checked her things. You can take 'em." He waved his hands to the general direction where her items laid.
The red-haired man first noticed the brown backpack since it was the biggest item. His feet moved towards the object and found that all of her earthly possessions were neatly arranged in a row. When he glanced back at the door, the shinigami was already gone.
His brown eyes strayed back to her backpack, remembering that this thing was on her back when they crossed the gate. Renji's fingers brushed the soft material; his eyebrows furrowed when the image of her human expression danced before him. He frowned.
Then his eyes flitted to the item next to the backpack. It was Rukia's steely-white cell phone. He did not touch it, but he noticed the little bunny cell phone chain attached. His nose scrunched for a moment, remembering that she was fond of such creatures. This one was pink, made of furry material and looked fairly new.
"You want it?" he asked her. Orange hair gleamed in the light as he looked down at the petite woman, who was easily mistaken for a girl. She nodded excessively, obviously excited with the prospect of possessing a bunny, even if it was a toy.
The teen inserted a few coins and twisted the knob. He put his hand inside to retrieve the plastic ball and then handed it to her, watching her open it eagerly. Then she frowned, showing him a green frog. It was cute but, "It's not a bunny."
The teen almost rolled his eyes, inserting more coins into the machine. Her eyes fixated when he turned the knobs and gave her another plastic ball.
She opened it quicker this time, holding her breath. When she saw what it was, she frowned, releasing her breath. "It's a cow." Her lip puckered out a little, and he sighed, inserting his last coins into the mysterious machine.
"Here," he said, handing her the plastic ball.
Her eyes shone and face glowed when she removed the lid to find a pink bunny. Though pink was not her favourite colour, it was forgiven because bunnies were her absolute favourite. She then allowed the orange-haired boy to attach the item to her cell phone. Once it was in her possession again, she dangled it up in the air, admiring the bunny. It glowed in the sunlight that peered through the mall's window. Her eyes then strayed and smiled to the boy who was bathed in a same golden light and she thanked him.
The next item was her red glove which bore the skull mark. Renji crossed his arms, knowing its purpose – to push a soul out of one's body.
"Ichigo!" she called. He turned to face her, opening his arms as if to receive a hug.
She glided in the air while she slipped the glove on and then slammed into him. His body collapsed to the floor as his soul rose proudly, wearing an arrogant smirk. His large zanpakutou gleamed steel in the light. He was ready to fight.
The petite shinigami took a step aside and watched silently. She was ready to intervene when necessary, but today he cleaned up nicely, which broadened his arrogant smile. Then the orange-haired teen returned to his body, and they walked home together.
"You did well," she complimented without looking at him. Her eyes were on her glove as she was removing it from her delicate hand.
Then the red-haired shinigami examined a rectangular prism box. It was decorated with pictures of fruits. His head jerked back with odd interest. Of course he did not know that this was a juice box.
It was lunchtime and today she had ditched the girls to eat with Ichigo's friends, upon Keigo's request.
"I already showed you how to use this," the orange-haired teen told her when she gave him the box.
"I know, open it," she demanded still.
"I'll open it for you, Rukia-chan!" Keigo wailed, trying to snatch the box but instead meeting a solid hand to his face.
The irritated boy scowled further. "What are you going to do when I'm not here?" he muttered rhetorically. He unwrapped the box's straw and popped it in the hole and then handed it back to her. There were no thanks said, but he knew she appreciated it.
When she sipped on it, she looked at him. "When you're not around, I'll do it myself then."
His eyes narrowed at her. "Then why do you make me do it?"
She stopped sucking to give him her full attention, baring her teeth in a small smile – or smirk. "To make you feel useful."
Some days he really wanted to hurt her. Instead of yelling back, he crossed his arms, forgiving her for her weird ways. He inwardly admitted though he liked her curiosity about the real world.
Suddenly her phone rang. Immediately the shinigami pulled it out to read the order. In less than a minute, they were running together, leaving their juice boxes behind.
"Wait! Where are you two going!? Rukia-chan you left your drink!" Keigo yelled after them.
"We'll be back. I can always get another juice box!" Rukia answered and soon the pair was out of sight.
Renji almost forgot how bad she drew when he found her sketchbook. He was not surprised it was one of her prized possessions. The sixth division Vice Captain opened it and smiled weakly, stifling his laugh. There was a picture of bunny things. He shook his head, turning the pages.
He saw a picture that tried to explain souls, pluses and hollows. His smile broadened at her other attempts but he halted at a particular sketch. It was not too bad, considering that she mainly drew rabbits, but Renji frowned at what she had drawn.
It was of a room – a small room – and the lines on the pages were rough. Maybe it was half-assed or just drawn quickly. As if she did not have enough time.
On the right side of the page, there was a tall boy at his writing desk. It was that boy, the orange-haired boy. His face was not drawn in, though Renji doubted she could draw his face properly, but he could tell it was this boy because of his wild hair. Everything else about him was drawn in detail. His clothes were messily sketched but she had pencilled in the shadows and creases. In the middle of the page were a bed and a window that she had shaded. Then on the left were lazy, horizontal lines, as if she had given up.
Her face was set, determined, as she furiously marked her sketchbook. Rukia sat in the closet while she worked, looking up occasionally to the orange-haired boy.
Once his eyes caught hers. "What are you doing?"
She did not respond; she thought it was obvious she was sketching. "Look there and do your homework." Her finger pointed to his opened textbook before him.
At that, he narrowed his eyes in suspicion. He watched silently as her pencil cried in her book when she created a line. "I can't concentrate when you're doing that."
She looked up but did not say anything.
"What are you drawing?" he asked then, almost rolling his eyes at her possessed expression.
It took her a moment to reply. "I'm drawing this room." Her eyes captured his again for a quick second before she examined his clothing, pouring her vision into her book.
He responded with an, "Oh," his voice laced with surprise and curiosity. He wondered how bad she would draw his room, but instead asked, "Why?"
She pretended not to hear him at first, but then said, "Because I'm bored."
Ichigo turned back to his textbook and soon forgot she was studying him and his room. Later, he heard her jump out of the closet with a magazine in her hand. She rested on his bed comfortably and sifted through it. He asked, "You're done already?"
She did not look at him. "What do you mean already? I spent at least thirty minutes on it."
The yellow rays of the sun spilled through his window, illuminating her hair and her ivory skin. "Let me see." He didn't know if he would regret those words.
Rukia watched him this time, and took a while to assess if he really meant it or not. Then she pushed herself up with her elbow and pulled out her sketchbook. Her small fingers flipped the pages to her last work, showing him the result. She was not expecting him to comment, but that was fine because she was ready to draw on him.
Ichigo's eyes widened subtly when he looked at it. "It's not that bad," he said, taking the book from her hands. "Not as terrible as your other ones." He felt a smack on his head and quickly returned her sketchbook back to her. The orange-haired boy did notice that she drew his attire considerably well, though he doubted that he really looked that lanky when he did not want to study.
Rukia did not thank him, but smiled when she returned to his bed and continued reading.
Renji flipped the page after that and saw white. He put the sketchbook down and continued investigating the rest of her belongings. To the right of the glove was a small cylindrical object. Renji opened it. The contents were red and when he sniffed the substance, it smelled of strawberries. It was a strawberry chap stick.
She frowned, touching her lip with her fingers. "My lip burns," she complained, and when her partner did not say anything, she pulled out a chap stick.
He glanced down every three seconds while she put it on, and glared when she said, "Strawberry."
"This smells good," she said, breathing in the fruity scent of the stick. She looked at him and noticed his irritated scowl.
"Where did you get that from?" he asked. They were walking home from another battle with a hollow and the sun was setting behind them.
"The girls at school," she told him. "You want some?"
As if he would use that stuff. "You know it makes your lips red right?"
"Does it?" she asked. She jerked back a bit as if to avoid a blow.
"I don't have a problem with normal chap sticks, but forget it if it's going to make me look like a girl." He made another face and watched her shrug as she put the gloss away.
"But it smells good," she repeated, smiling. "Like strawberries."
The second last item was a wrinkled piece of paper. The lines were rushed, full of scratches and lines to cross out the words on the page. One of his dark eyebrows rose when he tried to make out what she had written, but he could only manage a few words.
She sat in his chair and bit on her lower lip in concentration. Holding her pen in her hand, her knee shook a bit as she looked for the right words.
Finally she wrote:
For my reasons, I must leave. Do not look for me, and do not worry. After you read this letter, burn it. And if you can, hide out for a while.
Quickly then, she wrote a copy for him, adding a code to it. Then when she was done, she scribbled over the master copy, scrunched the paper in a ball, and hurriedly stuffed it into her bag. Then she saw Kon watching her…
Renji frowned at the last item – a photo. He lifted it up between his fingers, eyes narrowing at the way his childhood friend looked up at him, the human boy, who looked forward with a smirk.
It was another trip at the mall and this time they passed a photo booth. The small stand caught her attention when flashes of light pulsated from inside the curtain.
"What's that?" She stopped walking and pointed at the box.
He shoved his hands in his pockets. "It's a photo booth. You go inside and it takes your picture."
She could feel his eyes on her. "Oh." She moved forward to the foreign object to examine it, but jumped slightly when two girls came out, giggling. They stood together as they waited for their picture.
"Let's take a picture Ichigo." She had already learned what a photo was; he had shown her his pictures but she never had a picture of herself.
Ichigo joined her, exhaling deeply. "Fine." There was that scowl on his face but it softened when she grew excited. Once the other girls received their photos, Rukia caught a glimpse of their goofy poses: tongues sticking out, then another with eyelids flipped over, and then back to back bodies with fingers intertwined into gun, and the last they hugged.
The orange-haired teen read the instructions, and popped in his money. He felt Rukia's hand on his as she dragged him inside.
"Every ten seconds it'll take a picture," he told her, waiting.
On the first photo, she stuck out her tongue and pulled on the skin below her eyes. Ichigo just sat beside her with arms crossed, maintaining his usual scowl.
"Ichigo!" she yelled, jabbing him in the stomach with his elbow. "Do something!"
He looked back at her angrily and they stared.
The second image captured the pair face to face, inches apart, wearing irritated expressions. Her hand was curled into a fist and a vein swelled on his forehead.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked, aware what both pictures looked like.
"I don't know, just don't sit there," she demanded. She always bossed him around as if she was more superior, he thought, but then something came to his mind.
He grabbed her face and before the camera took the picture, his fingers pinched her cheeks, making her scream at him for pulling them so hard.
The actual image was just that: his wide grin as he pulled her cheeks apart. Her eyes were narrowed in pain, and in anger, but those negative feelings did not show. At the last second she bared her teeth in a smile. It was a ridiculous picture.
"That hurt," she said, rubbing her face after she slapped his hands away. "I'm glad you find it so amusing, Ichigo."
He laughed, holding his stomach with his left hand.
"Let's take a serious picture," he suddenly said.
"Like just sit and smile?" she asked, her eyes on the camera and counting the time.
"Yeah." He looked down at her, and watched her straighten her back and smile. He mimicked her, sitting more properly.
Then he placed an arm on her shoulder.
The last image was the two of them, not fighting or bickering, but rather a sensible image. He smile, she smiled, but on the last moment, she turned her head towards him when his hand made contact with her delicate shoulder.
"That was fun," he said, pulling her out. They waited for one minute for their photo stills to pop out and she gave him an appreciative smile when he handed it to her.
"Let's go home," he said then. More people buzzed passed them as the mall became busier. He waited for her deep eyes to lock with his and he received her confirmation about going home. His home was always his home, but when it became hers, he did not know.
Renji put down the picture and felt a weak smile resurface. So these were her most precious earthly items? These were the items she chose to take with her when she ran away? The cell phone was practical, and her sketchbook was her life… and maybe the juice box was important for thirst…and the chap stick was a definite must if her lips burned again… and even the rough notes if she was in a hurry to get out of the house…
But the last item lingered in his head.
It was the last item – the photo – that caught her eye before she left. It laid on his desk, which was odd since she did not know how he got it - maybe she had left it there? – she couldn't remember. But she grabbed it in the last moment when she ran away…
Whatever smile was on Renji's face completely vanished when he placed each of her items in her backpack. He delivered it to the Kuchiki house and left it with a servant, trusting that it will find its way to Rukia's room.
Then the next time he would see Kuchiki Rukia, he saw the shinigami she was, not the human she had become. He did not tell her about her belongings, even when it retched his heart when he saw her so lifeless and cold. Like a Kuchiki.
Instead he told her of the reports of a boy with a massive sword and orange hair.
Renji was amazed at how quickly her eyes snapped wide open, and watched the life spill in. It was the human expression. The expression you had when you were alive.
He imagined if Rukia managed to survive this execution and reunite with her earth possessions her eyes would light up and her alive expression would resurface.
Renji walked away then, eyes downcast.
Because each item in her backpack lingered memories of the boy with the massive sword and orange hair.
Author's Note: Goodness gracious, I'm so sick. It would be lovely if you can review. Thanks for reading.