Beginning Notes – Yes, I'm at it again. This idea came to me when I was watching an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (try and guess which episode). Anyways, a few points, real quick before we start:
Point 1 – This takes place 15 years after the current arc in the magna, so take everyone's current age and add 15 to it. That puts Ichigo and Co. at around 30, his sisters at 26...you get the idea
Point 2 – I've always written using the English translations of everything, but I decided to try using the Japanese dialect this time around, so if I screw up a little, don't come down on me for it
Disclaimer – Don't own Bleach, as you well know. Kind of own the idea for the story. Do own any OC's I make up
All In Your Head
The sun was setting on another day, the sky fiery orange. The twitter of birds carried through the air, drowned out by the clashing of swords.
"Ow, ow! Rukia! Come on, mercy!" a crimson-haired man shouted. He was wearing black robes, a sword out in front of him. A black-haired girl with sharp violet eyes and similar robes was swinging her own sword at him, trying to break through his defenses. "Rukia, come on!"
The girl took another swing. The force of the blow threw the man backwards. "Ow," Abarai Renji grumbled as he pushed himself up onto his knees, "God damn Rukia, what's your freakin' problem?"
Kuchiki Rukia pushed a stubborn lock of hair out of her eyes, looking down at Renji. "Fine, don't answer, see if I care," Renji glared back at his child-hood friend.
"I don't have any problems"
"Well that's something to debate about – yah!" he ducked out of the way of a rock Rukia had kicked in his direction. He looked up at her again, smirking. The smirk died away when he saw the look in Rukia's eyes. The shining, lively look that had once resided in her violet eyes was gone, replaced a dull look of longing. It could have been fifteen years earlier, she still could have been on death row. That was what the look reminded him of; the way she had been when she was sentenced to execution.
"What are you staring at?" she broke him out of his reverie, "You look like an idiot gaping at me the way you are"
"Ah shut it," he snapped before closing his mouth and looking away, "Anyways, if you're done beating on me for the day, I'd like to get home"
"Whatever," Rukia shrugged, scowling slightly. Renji looked up at her for a second before sheathing his Zanpakutou.
"I thought you wanted to go home," she turned away, sheathing her own Zanpakutou as she did so, "Don't complain about something if you're not going to actually do it"
"Ugh, whatever," Renji rolled his eyes, annoyed now, "See you around then"
He walked away. Rukia looked over her shoulder and watched him, feeling a little bad. In his own, twisted way he was just trying to help, after all. He just wanted her to be okay again. That much was understandable. What he didn't get was that she would never be okay again. Not fully.
"Sorry Renji," she muttered, knowing full well he couldn't hear her. Fingering the hilt of her Zanpakutou, she started to make her way home.
It had been fifteen years since the war against the arrancar. Some things had remained as they always were. For instance, Renji was still an annoying jerk who seemed to enjoy antagonizing Rukia and having pain inflicted upon him. But at the same time some things had changed a lot.
Rukia had finally managed to convince her brother to let her become a ranked officer. She'd been made the vice-captain of the thirteenth squad about a year ago. She hadn't actually talked to any of her friends since the war, and she planned on keeping it that way. After what had happened, after the war, she couldn't stand to look any of them in the eye, especially Ichigo. She didn't think she'd ever be able to look at Ichigo again.
Rukia sighed as she let herself into her house. She'd moved out of Byakuya's mansion five years earlier, when she had acquired her first rank (fourth seat). The place she lived in was considerably smaller than the Kuchiki house, but she lived alone, it didn't need to be a big place.
She dropped onto the couch, leaning her head back, eyes closed. She still felt bad about the way she had treated Renji. Her old friend had been patient enough to stay and train with her for most of the day, she probably shouldn't have beat on him. But she couldn't help it; she'd gone to the living world today.
Rukia breathed deeply and opened her eyes, looking over at the small side table next to the couch. Only one thing adorned the surface, a framed photo of a boy with spiky orange hair and amber eyes. He was smirking at the camera in an "I'm-being-forced-to-smile" way.
Rukia stared at the photo, losing herself for a second. He'd always said she would be the death of him, and if she wasn't she'd drive him insane...
"No! No! You don't get it! They're out, they're out there!"
The voice haunted Rukia in her dreams, drove her insane. She heard it every night before she fell asleep, then echoed on the borders of her mind all through her dreams. His screams bounced around in her head, a constant reminder of what had happened, what she had made happen.
"Her fault, it's her fault! No, let me go!"
Rukia closed her eyes and lowered her head into her hands, wishing she could just cover her ears and block out the voices, but they were in her head.
He clawed at his head, leaving long angry scratches, digging his nails, leaving blood...
Rukia's eyes shot open. "I thought nightmares were only supposed to come when I'm asleep," she muttered, laying down and resting her head on the arm-rest. She was really going to go crazy if she kept thinking about this.
"Blood...blood, everywhere, it's there, it's on you, it's on her...on her..."
"Shut up," Rukia pulled her legs up onto the couch and tucked her knees under her chin. She buried her head into her knees, eyes squeezed tightly shut now, "Shut up, just shut up, stop haunting me"
She hated these times alone. She hated it when she had no one's company but her own. At the division, anywhere in the Seireitei really, she had someone to keep her mind busy, someone that kept her distracted. That was why she liked training so much; when she was training she couldn't think about anything except the fight, otherwise she'd be hurt. But when she was alone, there was nothing to keep her mind from going back to that night in Urahara's shop. Nothing to stop her from dwelling on the miserable, miserable past that haunted her.
"It's you, it's all you, you're to blame, it's you, it's you!"
Finally, unable to listen anymore, Rukia bounded off the couch, nearly tripping over the coffee table. Stumbling slightly, she made her way to the door. Through all her dwelling, the sun had finished setting, and the moon was now high in the sky. The night air swept of Rukia's face. Comforting her slightly, she started down the street.
"Ah, Rukia-san!" about halfway down the street, a voice called out to her. She looked around, and saw Matsumoto Rangiku and Hinamori Momo walking down the street towards her. "Something wrong?" Matsumoto looked the Squad Thirteen Vice-Captain over, "You've been distracted all day-"
"Didn't you have a mission in the living world today?" Hinamori broke in. Rukia just nodded, looking away. "I see," Hinamori was understanding, thankfully, "How...how is he?"
"Still crazy?" Matsumoto added unhelpfully. Rukia's eyes flashed dangerously as she glared at the Squad Ten Vice-Captain. "Sorry, sorry. You need to get out for a little while, Rukia-san, forget about that whole mess in the living world. What do you say to a couple of drinks? Hinamori and I were just going to get one ourselves"
"Oh...no thank you, Matsumoto," Rukia said, trying to turn away, "I mean...I'd really rather not-"
"Come on now, we won't take no for an answer," Matsumoto and Hinamori each grabbed one of Rukia's arms and dragged her forward, "There's a nice bar nearby, not too crowded, don't worry, I know how you are around big crowds, it's a neighborhood place, you'll enjoy it..."
A night of drinking with Matsumoto. Rukia highly doubted she'd enjoy that. But she didn't seem to have much of a choice in the matter. "Um...Hinamori, Matsumoto, I'd really rather-"
"Have a drink with us?"
"Not exactly what I was thinking, but good alternative-"
In the end, Rukia was forced to succumb to the commands of Hinamori and Matsumoto. She was kind of okay with it, really. They took her mind off the past, and she was happy with that. She was happier not thinking about everything that had happened.
"Now then," Matsumoto poured three glasses of sake from the bottle the bartender had given her, and handed them around to Rukia and Matsumoto, "Who here is brooding more, Hinamori or Rukia-san? One of you needs counseling, I just can't decide who to talk to first though"
"Her," Rukia and Hinamori pointed at each other. Matsumoto smirked as she looked between them, obviously trying to decide which one to go after first.
"All right," she said finally, "I know what Rukia-san's problem is, so Momo-san, start talking"
Hinamori sighed wearily. "Well, if you must know...it's Shirou-chan"
"Ah, Hitsugaya," Matsumoto nodded wisely, "Love problems?"
"Or lack of," Hinamori muttered, draining half her glass in one sip, "He always acts so uptight and...I dunno, weird around me, like I'm just another subordinate. But if I listen to everyone else, he's in love with me"
"He is!" Matsumoto said at once, "He's just...scared, maybe, worried about what might happen if it doesn't work out, you know?"
Hinamori smiled, sipping her drink lightly now, "And how am I supposed to handle that, exactly?"
"I don't know, if Hitsugaya's like any other male, than he's hard-headed and stubborn," Matsumoto smiled as she drained her glass, "But if he really loves you then you can break through to him. You just have to keep cracking at it, ya know?"
Hinamori giggled. "I get it"
"Good then," Matsumoto turned her look on Rukia, who started sipping at her own drink, "Now, Rukia-san. I know what's wrong with you, so let's get to the point-"
"Matsumoto," Rukia cut Matsumoto off and poured herself another drink, "There is no point, all right? There's nothing you, or anyone else can do to make everything the way it was"
She drained her glass again. "Rukia-san-"
"It's all her fault, all her fault!"
Rukia groaned and dropped her head into her hands. "Kuchiki-san?" Hinamori asked, sounding concerned, "Are you okay?"
It was easy for Hinamori. She didn't have voices running around her her head, accusing her. "Yeah, I'm fine Hinamori, don't worry"
"It's all her fault!"
Author's Note – Figured it out yet? Anyways, first chapter, not exactly the best thing in the world, but you know how it is. Anyways, now let's get on to reviews. If you're one of my normal readers, you know all about my review limits. If you don't, here's how they work: I don't like updating without, say...motivation, so, here it goes: 5-10 reviews saying I should continue, and I'll go on. But I never say no to more (ask my readers for "What Happened Last Night", they'll tell you all about my limits). See ya around – Sam