Chapter 6.

Hi guys! Remember this little story? It's been ages, I know… Gomen ne! Many things prevented me from continuing this story, including art-block… :( But I finally figured out how I want the story to continue, and I really do hope that you'll like it!

It is your kind notes and reviews that make me want to write more, after all, so I thank you guys for that! -hugs everyone-

Bleach – still not mine… :(

6. I knew you would be back

„We were careless." stated the 1st division Captain, just as Matsumoto and Hisagi entered the crowded room.

„Apparently, not all of the 12th Division's reports should be taken for granted." said Kyouraku.

"Don't joke with me!" shot Kurotsuchi back "all of our information was correct! Those captains can only blame themselves for waltzing into that territory without any precaution!"

Matsumoto was panting heavily and absent-mindedly pushed her way through the crowd. But after a few meters she felt someone tug on her uniform, so she unwillingly stopped and tried to free her sleeve.

"Where do you think you're going, Matsumoto?" Hitsugaya whispered.

"What happened, Taicho?" asked Matsumoto, ignoring everything else.

Hitsugaya looked her deep in the eye, and took a minute before answering. "They were ambushed." he said finally. "I don't know the details, but it seems there were some hollows with some weird abilities and none of the squad members sensed them, only when it was too late. Kira was attacked first, but Ichimaru saw the hollow right before it jumped on Kira, and managed to block it, but got most of the damage. Soi Fon got beat up pretty badly, too; Kuchiki taicho and Abarai are alright... well, compared to the rest."

Matsumoto looked around the crowd while listening to Hitsugaya, trying to decipher where the injured ones were, but couldn't see because of the other shinigami. The crowd was still increasing, as more people joined them. Soon all of the captains, vice-captains and higher ranked officers were present, and the room was filled with the noise of anxious chattering.

"May I have your attention, please." Unohana's calm but firm voice magically silenced everyone. "Excuse my rudeness, but we need to heal the injured ones, and your presence is disturbing the process."

"Captain Unohana is right." continued the 1st division captain instead of her. "Everybody but the captains head back to your quarters, and wait there for further instructions." The command was loud and clear, yet nobody seemed to want to go, so further instructions were needed from the captains to make their subordinates obey the orders. Kurotsuchi insisted some of his squad members' were allowed to stay, as "they needed to collect data and analyze it as soon as possible".

Matsumoto headed out with the crowd, but quickly took a turn and went around the building to the window where she sensed the injured ones to be. Something just drew her towards that window; what it was, she didn't know.

Curiosity?

Perhaps.

She decided to ignore her motifs, and glanced around the empty garden, to make sure she wasn't going to be caught. As closer she got to the window, the clearer she could feel that the only ones in the room were the injured ones and some members of the 4th division, who were healing them. The captains were obviously in another room, she thought with relief. She really wanted to take a peek, but first tried to make sure she wouldn't be spotted, so she concentrated all her senses on the position of the people.

It seemed to her that the only ones moving around were the healers, so which meant that the injured captains and vice-captains were either lying down or sitting, but not moving around. Matsumoto walked over the window, which was shut. Hopefully, since it was dark outside, they wouldn't see her, yet the light inside allowed her to be able to see everything. She moved slowly, and finally was able to see at least a third of the room. Matsumoto saw a figure lying down, and judging by its smaller frame, she guessed it was Soi Fon. She couldn't see her clearly though, because a healer was squatting in front of her, and a bright green light was glowing above Soi Fon's body.

Matsumoto moved a bit more, and was already able to see half of the room. Next to the other bed, she saw Kira sitting on the floor, head bent down, and sobbing, apparently, although Matsumoto wasn't sure, as the closed window proved to be mostly soundproof.

"That kinda explains the weird reiatsu pattern though..." she thought to herself.

Next to Kira she saw another bed with another body on it... and the blood in her veins instantly froze. She couldn't see the entire figure, as three or four healers surrounded it, but she could clearly see the captain's uniform soaked with blood. She didn't blink for the longest time, when something bright-red blocked her view.

"Rangiku-san??" Renji exclaimed, opening the window.

Matsumoto jumped a few meters back, still in shock. Apparently, the image of Ichimaru's blood-soaked figure broke her concentration and she forgot to hide her reiatsu.

"Oh... Renji, I'm glad you're alright!" she said, forcing a smile. "You.. are alright… right?" she added, regaining her focus, and noticing that Renji's body was covered with numerous bandages and a few blood stains.

"Oh yea, I'm fine, they just finished mopping me up. No big deal really. Soi Fon taicho and Ichimaru taicho got it pretty bad though..." he lowered his voice before continuing, "although Kira's nerves may be in the worst condition of all..."

Matsumoto looked at him confused, not sure if he was joking or not, only to decided it would be a pretty inappropriate time to joke about such matters.

"What happened to him?" Matsumoto whispered, coming closer to Renji, so that he could hear her.

"Well, poor bastard blames himself for his captain's injuries; you know just how he is. I think most of his wounds are ok, but he wouldn't st..." Renji was interrupted by the sound of an opening shoji, as somebody entered the room. The 'somebody' were most of the captains, but by the time they all came in, Matsumoto wasn't there any more, and Renji had already closed the window. However the - now locked - window got a few freezing looks from Hitsugaya.

--

Matsumoto made her way back to the 10th division's main building, where she was supposed to be waiting in the first place. Some of the higher seated officers of her division were all there and bowed low as she entered the room.

Nervous silence of anticipation filled the room for the next half an hour or so. Some of the braver members tried asking Matsumoto if she knew any details, but seeing how she probably didn't (or wouldn't tell), they soon gave up, and continued whispering among themselves.

Matsumoto used the spare time to get her thoughts straight. The blood-soaked image she saw earlier wouldn't go away, and a strange feeling in her stomach was twisting her insides.

"He'll be alright." she kept repeating to herself. "And the rest of them too." she added quickly in her mind, as if feeling guilty for worrying about a single person. "It's natural, isn't it..." she continued her inner reasoning, "childhood friends and all..." It wasn't working.

("Well, what did ya expect? Ya said there could never be anything between us, so I guess I better go, before ya get mad at me again or sumthin…")

A very different image of Ichimaru crept back into her mind, and her worry was soon replaced with growing anger. A younger member of her division approached her in the worst possible moment.

"Ano, Matsumoto-san..." he began.

"Damn it, NO I do NOT know any details, GOT IT??" she yelled at him, and the poor guy retreated a few steps. Apparently, he just wanted to tell her to come to the other office room, as Captain Hitsugaya has returned. When they got that clear, Matsumoto quickly apologized to the boy, and rushed to the other office.

"Taicho..."

"Well, looks like there's nothing we can do at the moment." Hitsugaya began, as his subordinates encircled him. Matsumoto made her way through the small crowd and was now standing in front of him. "The 12th division needs to make some research and until we know the result we can't do anything. I do have some shorter reports that I need some of you to go through, but looks like most of the work will be delayed until tomorrow."

"Will they be sending more teams to the Living World?" somebody asked.

"Not at the moment." Hitsugaya said.

"Can we volunteer?" asked somebody else.

"Not without my permission." said Hitsugaya.

"What about the injured ones?" asked a girl in the front.

Hitsugaya continued answering their questions, but Matsumoto didn't get any new information, and decided not to push it. Soon Hitsugaya emptied the room and the two of them remained in silence. They spent the next few hours working on the papers they were given, although both of them seemed to take little interest in paperwork at the moment. Couple of hours later Matsumoto dozed off on the couch, and Hitsugaya let her be.

--

When Matsumoto woke up, the sun was already up and Hitsugaya was nowhere to be found.

"I bet he'll scold me when he gets back…" she thought with regret as she stood up to stretch out her sore muscles. She went over to the little bathroom next to the office to freshen up. Just as she finished and went back to the office, she saw Hitsugaya come in. Expecting him to be mad at her for falling asleep, she just stood there, looking at him.

After a few moments of silence and no eye-contact, Hitsugaya simply said: "You can go see him now."

"Eh??" gasped Matsumoto. "Why would I want to…?"

To her great surprise Hitsugaya just sighed and shook his head, causing his white locks to lower a little.

"Fine, then I'm ordering you to go to the 4th Division building and check on the situation." he said.

Matsumoto stared at him for a few long seconds and decided not to push the matter, and left the office.

--

As she approached the 4th Division's main building she expected to see the crowd from yesterday, but only saw a few other shinigami, which made her let out a little sigh of relief.

She stopped a member of the 4th division for information, but all she could find out was that Captain Unohana and Vice-captain Isane were not in the building, and the other officers were busy elsewhere, so she couldn't talk to them, but she was told that she was free to visit the injured ones.

"Although," the healer added, "Kuchiki taicho along with Abarai fuku-taicho have already left the healing station, and Soi Fon taicho is currently in treatment, so go to the section number 4, where you'll find Ichimaru taicho and Kira fuku-taicho."

Matsumoto thanked the shinigami and went into the building. She found the room pretty quickly, and after hesitating for a single moment, knocked on the door. She heard Kira answer so she went in.

The room was pretty small with only a few futons lying around, all empty but the two on which Ichimaru and Kira were placed. Kira was sitting on the edge of his futon, facing his taicho, who was lying down; unconscious or asleep, Matsumoto couldn't tell.

"Ohayo, Rangiku-san." greeted Kira, but the usual cheerful tone of his was completely missing.

"Ohayo Kira-kun… How are you feeling?" she asked in a concerned tone. She knelt down beside him, half-way facing him and Ichimaru.

"Pretty fine, thank you… it wasn't me who took that attack anyway." he said in a defeated voice.

"I've heard about it Kira, and I'm sure that you don't have anything to blame yourself for. Just be grateful you got away with those scars only."

"But the taicho…" he began, looking at Ichimaru.

Before searching for further soothing words, Matsumoto looked at Ichimaru, whose eyes were still closed. His captain uniform was discarded, and his naked torso was bandaged almost all over. His hakama that was left on was torn in many places, but it seemed like he took most of the injuries on his upper body.

Realizing she was staring without saying anything for too long, Matsumoto continued: "This is how things work, Kira. Captains protect their subordinates; that is their job, among other things."

"I hope he'll be alright…" said Kira, and Matsumoto wasn't sure if he had heard her.

"He will." she said, and realized how Kira reminded her of a big kid sometimes.

"Were you worried, too, Rangiku-san?" he asked, finally looking at Matsumoto. The teary bright-blue eyes left her no other option but to say:

"…Of course."

"I thought so." he said, a tiny smile appearing on his face. "I need to go outside for a little while, do you mind watching the captain for me until then?"

"I don't think he needs to be watched really…" Matsumoto began, but Kira interrupted her.

"Please, Rangiku-san! He may wake up and need something, you know…" he reasoned clumsily.

"Uhh…" Matsumoto sighed, not sure she actually wanted to be around when he woke up.

She heard Kira close the door behind her and adjusted to a more comfortable sitting position. Matsumoto looked around the room, slightly annoyed, when she suddenly felt a hand on her wrist.

"I'm really touched, ya know."

Matsumoto looked at Ichimaru, who still kept his eyes closed, but his trademark-grin appeared on his pale face.

"You…" Matsumoto exclaimed, eyes wide with shock. "Since when were you awake??"

"A while now… was wonderin how much long'r will it take for Izuru to cry again, but then you came in, and t'is proved to be much more fun."

Matsumoto forcefully freed her wrist, anger spreading throughout her veins.

"Who the hell do you think you are?? That poor guy actually cares about you and is blaming himself for everything, and you're just making fun of him?? You can't treat others like that, especially those who care for you! But you're just selfish that way, aren't you?"

"I never promis'd anything, ya know." He stated, opening his eyes just a little.

"Eh?" Matsumoto wasn't sure what they were talking about any longer, but suddenly she felt an urge to hit him, and so she did - hitting a spot on his side, not covered by bandages. Ichimaru coughed and tried to sit up, although his coughing was mixed with laughter.

"'the hell, Rangiku… what… was that fo'?" he said.

She didn't reply, as she got so carried away that she decided to hit him again – this time directly into a wound on his upper arm. The pain stopped Ichimaru from laughing and he began cursing, lying back on the futon. He opened his eyes to look at Matsumoto, but found her walking towards the door.

"Wow, that felt good." she said cheerfully. "You know you deserved it though, don't you?" she turned around and met his crimson-gaze.

A few seconds later Matsumoto turned around and opened the door to call for somebody from the 4th division to inform them that "one of Ichimaru taicho's wounds has re-opened".

As the healers ran away to get their equipment, Matsumoto went back to Ichimaru and knelt next to him. She put one hand on his chest and the other one on his head, fisting a hand-full of his silver strands. She bent down to him to get her point through, and whispered: "You're too full of yourself, you know that?"

He looked at her and she felt his crimson gaze pierce through her brain. His grin widened and she felt her heart-beat speed up. Annoyed, she pulled harder on his hair, then suddenly let go and stormed out of the room, nearly knocking over the poor healer that rushed in.

She faintly heard his voice behind her back;

"I'll see ya later then!" he said.

She tried to block it out.

- To be continued -

By: Whisper of the Snow

End notes: Ehehe… hope it didn't turn out too emo for you guys… I had so much fun writing this one!

Sorry, no sexual M-rated stuff this time… I believe the next chapter will be more suited for that kind of stuff! ;)

Please tell me what you think!

-bows-