Hey guys! Yes, contrary to popular opinion, I'm not dead… Not completely at least. Anyway, Chapter Seven is here.

Now, before we start, there's one thing that needs to be discussed. To all of you that have read the story, and have complaints about the changes I've made, listen up… IT'S CALLED "AU" FOR A REASON, YOU BLOODY CANON NAZIS! Alternate Universe, meaning that it takes place in fanon, and has nothing to do with canon outside of what the author decides to include.

That in mind, this story is going to have major changes to pretty much every aspect of the Bleach Universe, from character backgrounds to Zanpakutou releases and their spirits. If you can't take that, then get out now. And now that that's out of the way, on we go.

By the way, to my Familiars/Hollows, I may have forgotten something in the writing of this, and we'll have to make a couple small tweaks. Nothing major, I don't think. Just small things that could go anywhere. That's it.

Disclaimer: I don't on Bleach. There. It's done. Onward!

"That stupid…" Chizuru let out a growl as she slammed open the door to her home. There was a bang as the door it the wall, along with her shoes when she kicked them off. "That stupid boy!"

One would think that the slamming of Chizuru's front door would be enough to get her parents to react, the same with her shouting. If either of them were actually home when Chizuru came home from school, then it would have. For the moment, the redhead was home alone. Probably a good thing too. The girls anger was getting the better of her in the worst of ways. Temper tantrum.

Like the front door of her house, the door to Chizuru's room was slammed shut, but then also kicked once by the girl for good measure. The was also a bang as her backpack, filled with heavy books, was thrown against the nearest wall. Chizuru threw herself onto her bed, a muffled combination of a growl and a scream coming out as she buried her face in her pillow. Just after, she picked herself up, hitting the pillow once or twice, and then ending by falling so she was on her back, staring at the ceiling for a moment before she threw an arm over her eyes, sucking in deep breaths.

After several moments of sucking in air, her breathing finally evened out. Her arm came away from her eyes, her glasses closer to her face than they had been. The frames were bent, but she didn't care. Her eyes weren't even that bad. She only needed them to see really far away.

Chizuru closed her eyes and let out a sigh, placing the bent red frames on the table by her bed. Sitting up quickly, she shot off her bed, undoing the buttons on the front of her shirt as she moved. With her hands on the subject of her shirt, her mind was on the subject of Ichigo and her Hime. For her, what she had seen, heard, and experienced just wasn't what she saw as right.

While Chizuru was pretty much what people would call flamboyantly loud and…open about herself, she had her reasons for being so. All her showboating and crying out of how she absolutely loved girls had a very valid point in which to justify it. And that single reason was so that she wouldn't be hurt again.

It was in middle school she'd realized that she had more of a thing for girls than boys. She didn't know why really, and she didn't question it either. It was just true and that was it. She didn't tell her friends, or anyone else. Things went on as they always had. And then she had come along.

She'd been new, a transfer student that transferred in after the summer of Chizuru's second year in middle school. Her name was Ruri Takamine. She wore her hair shorter and down, rusty red in color, a vibrant contrast to her pale skin and grey eyes. Her figure was thin, but with a generous bust for a fourteen year old. She was kind, and even a little shy. Chizuru couldn't help but fall for her.

When the girl started hanging out with her and her friends, Chizuru had been overjoyed. Even more so when the two of them slowly began to drift closer together. At moments, Chizuru's eyes would be drawn to Ruri, who would have been staring before she looked away flushing. Closer and closer they became until finally, Chizuru confessed how she felt for the girl. Ruri had accepted with tears of joy.

For over a year, the two of them kept her relationship a secret. With their friends, they were normal. Without them, the two were never apart. They hugged, they kissed, they went out together where they would not be discovered. They gave a gift to each other, to signify the bond between the two of them. For the longest time, Chizuru referred to Ruri as her 'Hime', for she thought she was as beautiful as any princess. For over a year, they had a peaceful relationship. Then came the end of it all.

In the last semester of their third year, Ruri's family was set to move again. And Chizuru hadn't found out about it until about a day before it was set to happen. Chizuru confronted Ruri about it in hallway full of people, going as far as to trap the girl against the wall. She demanded to know why Ruri wouldn't tell her about it, the person she loved above all else.

The words were spoken, and the whispers started. Accusing whispers. Some of them had thought that Chizuru was crooked, but Ruri too? No way. That girl was arrow straight. Wasn't she? Although, Ruri put a stop to it all before they could start. She'd started crying, laying it on thick. "W-what are you saying Chizuru-san? I-I'm not a l-lesbian. Why would I love you more than anyone else?"

Chizuru didn't handle that well. She started shouting, hysterical, asking why she would lie about what they had. Ruri just cried all the harder, and Chizuru just got angrier for it. The affair ended when several people had to drag Chizuru off the poor girl, who ran away, crying her eyes out.

At the end of the day, Chizuru went to Ruri's home to try and speak with the girl again, but was met by her parents. They had started yelling immediately, asking how she would dare attack their daughter and accuse her of being a lesbian. They threatened the poor girl away, saying they would call the police if they ever saw her again. The next day, Ruri was gone, and Chizuru might as well have been too. The girl was broken inside. Her love had betrayed her, and nothing could be done to fix it. Her parents never noticed. Not once. They were far too busy to care that much. For the remainder of her middle school life, she was empty. Then came high school, at Karakura High, where she met Orihime.

At first, the girl almost couldn't believe what she was seeing. For a moment, Chizuru had almost thought that her love had come back to her. She quickly realized that this wasn't the case. This girl wasn't the one that she'd fallen in love with. But she was also quick to realize that she didn't care. Save for her name, this girl was everything that she had lost, and she wanted it all back.

For this, she would endlessly pursue this girl, to show her love in any way that she could, even going as far as to grope. If she could manage to convince Orihime that loving another girl was a much more beautiful thing than loving a boy, she would have her love and happiness back. And in order to protect it at all costs, she made sure to announce what Orihime would be getting into if she were to love Chizuru. At this point, Chizuru didn't care. There was no shame in being a lesbian. Ruri couldn't see that, but Orihime would, and she would be better for it.

But there was one obstacle always in her way. Ichigo. That man. Orihime's love. From him, Orihime could not, would not, be swayed. Despite her best attempts, Orihime only had eyes for him. And now, each had finally found the other.

Even stripping out of her clothing, a wave of disgust made the bile rise in her throat. Chizuru couldn't stand the thought of that man all over her Hime. That girl was too good for him. That boy. That hooligan. He'd finally found Orihime's love. And he'd stolen her from Chizuru.

Finally bare of clothing, Chizuru looked herself over in the bathroom mirror. Even if she thought so herself, she had a nice body. Her skin was soft, pale, and supple. Long legs, dainty feet and hands, shapely hips, breasts, and a wonderfully tight little ass. How could Orihime pick that man over her?

Orihime was hers. It stayed in her head. It stayed as she slipped off the two necklaces around her neck: a heart shaped locket, the gift from her best friend, and the other an heirloom from her great-grandmother, a small silver cross and chain. It stayed as she set them both on the sink counter and stepped into the steaming stream in the shower. Orihime was hers, and she would have her. No matter what.

"So let me get this straight…" Ichigo was not a happy hybrid. His eyes were closed, the eyelid twitching like mad and a tick mark pulsing on his forehead. "Instead of explaining all this to me, and then letting me dress myself, you thought it would be best to keep me in the dark, then strip me and dress me up like a damn doll. Am I getting this right?"

Kisuke brought out that damned fan again. "Yes, I do believe that pretty much sums up the situation perfectly." The shopkeeper had the gall to actually laugh like a loon. Ichigo didn't appreciate it.


"What the hell's wrong with you?" Even Urahara's bucket hat couldn't hide the lump that appeared out of nowhere. Ichigo's smoking fist was just more proof of what had happened.

"I did tell you that he would not appreciate this boss." Tessai pushed the glasses up his nose, appearing out of nowhere behind Ichigo. The boy jumped about a foot in the air.

"Yeah, and I don't enjoy being scared shitless either!"

Urahara just laughed again, waving around his fan. How that lump disappeared so quickly was beyond any of them. "Oh relax Ichigo! It's not like you were hurt or anything. The worst thing that happened to you was that you were stripped to your shorts." Over in the corner, Jinta laughed, and Ururu blushed. There was even a small smile on her face.

"Yeah, and I didn't appreciate that either." There was a new tick mark and eye twitch developing.

"Now now Ichigo, relax. We did replace your clothes after all. And they're much nicer than that boring old school uniform anyway." It was true. It looked so much better than that sweater vest. Save for the jeans, which were a fairly pale shade of blue, the outfit was mostly black. The boots were black leather with a slight heal, and the shirt black and collared, with half-rolled sleeves and pinstripes. It hung loose, with no undershirt and unbuttoned up the front.

The other primary color to the outfit was silver. As in jewelry. Around his neck, two silver chains and a simple black string with a crescent moon hanging from it. Both wrists had a silver chain wrapped a couple of times around each, and each hand had at least one silver ring apiece, at most two. One last thick chain was hanging about his waist, wrapped from around the front pocket to the back pocket. And of course, a belt covered in silver studs. All in all, very nice.

Ichigo snorted some, looking over the rings on the pointer and ring finger of his right hand. "Yeah, you even set me up with jewelry." His eyes flicked to Urahara. "What are you up to Urahara?"

"Me?" Urahara grinned, quickly covering it with his fan. "Whatever makes you think this is my idea?"

"Gee, I wonder." Ichigo deadpanned. "You dragged me here."

The fan snapped shut. "Nope. We're simply here to provide assistance." His eyes moved towards the door. "The one behind this is your devotee, Halibel. I believe her intention is some fun for the three of you."

Ichigo's brows raised in surprise. "Halibel?"

"Oh, your servant is being bad. Time to break out the whip and chains."

Ichigo's blush was a mystery for all four employees when they saw it. 'I'm going to pretend that you never said that.'

"Gives a good mental image, doesn't it King?"

Ichigo's blush only deepened. '…Shut up.'

In the other room with Halibel and Orihime, the young princess was feeling a couple levels of uncomfortable at the moment. Some clothing could do that to a person.

"H-Halibel-san? Are you sure about this? These clothes are a little…small." Even as she said it, she was trying to pull the skirt down to cover just a bit more of her thigh. She wasn't having very good luck with it. The thing was too short to actually cover much. At mid-thigh, the black skirt ended and gave way to creamy flesh. Around her waist, it was held up by a belt lined in the center by studs. As for the top, it was the equivalent of a leather corset, tied together up the front, and lacking of any bra beneath it. To finish the ensemble was a rather thin leather jacket, like Halibel's but black, and with white fur lining the collar.

"What's wrong Orihime," came the taunting voice of Ririn, she popping up out of nowhere, in her gigai for once rather than the little stuffed bird she usually inhabited. "Afraid to show off some skin?"

"W-well…" In truth, she actually was feeling a bit self-conscious at the moment. She'd never really dressed in something like this before, save for her new Shun Shun Rikka clothing. But those were part of her powers. These were…different.

Ririn let a scowl and a pout take over her face. "Hmph. I don't know why you're so worried about something like that." Her eyes shut and she let out a growl before she ultimately exploded. "It's not fair! A body like that, and you're self-conscious! It's a bloody crime! Dammit, why her!"

Halibel mostly looked the same at the outburst. And Orihime, despite the fact that she was still trying to hide herself within the rather small outfit, had enough sense to look somewhat insulted. Well, she at least gained a scowl on her normally calm face.

And of course, to follow her rant, Ririn's face suddenly gained an excited look. "Wait, I know!" With a giggle and a small twist, and of course, a small amount of her illusionary powers, Orihime suddenly found herself staring at a doppelganger of herself, right down to the skimpy outfit she was currently wearing. "Maybe I should go in your place!" A sultry look took over Ririn's transformed features, one hand coming to her face, pointer finger on the bottom lip and her tongue appearing to give it a long, slow lick, while the other hand moved to ghost across the curve of her ass. In Orihime's voice, she spoke low and sexy, "He wouldn't even know the difference, and he'd get to have a good bit of fun."

Halibel, again, had basically no reaction, save for the small raising of her eyebrow. Although, Orihime had a complete turnaround of feeling upon seeing the image of herself, for she blushed a nice color of red to match Halibel's clothing. She nearly choked on her words when she spoke them. "R-Ririn-san, please stop it." She looked to the ground, bringing a hand to her chest and clenching her fingers. The blush was still very much present. "T-this is al-already embarrassing."

"She does present a valid point though, Orihime-san." Halibel stepped in front of Orihime, even as Ririn undid her illusion. "For someone who as such a wonderful body, you are very self-conscious about your looks. Why is that?"

Orihime met the woman's eyes for a matter of about a second before looking away again. And she looked away again because of the shame that she was feeling. Not shame caused by the clothing, but by her current feelings toward the woman standing in front of her. Because of Halibel. Only twenty four hours into this odd sharing relationship and she was already beginning to have doubts of it being the best of ideas. Her confidence issues flaring once again, she could help but to feel somewhat jealous of Halibel. True, she herself was just as good-looking as the arrancar woman, but unlike her, the woman had no issue with the subject of her looks. Orihime could clearly see that the woman was beautiful, but she wasn't as sure as that about herself.

What's more, the woman was much closer to Ichigo already than she herself was. Halibel stayed with him, was close to him, lived with him, and above all was completely open with him. What could Orihime claim that she was to him? That in mind, the girl felt herself curl herself into a little ball of anxiety.

However, Halibel could see all of this, and she was not going to have it. That was the whole idea of what she was planning: to help Orihime with her confidence issues, as well as Ichigo-sama with his ideas about his new relationship. And in order to do that, she had to make them experience things that the two of them were not used to, just like their relationship. That in mind, it was time to get the two of them out of their comfort zones. She only hoped that it would work as well as she planned.

"Ano, Halibel-san." Orihime's small murmur brought Halibel out of her musing. "Do I really have to where this clothing?"


"Isn't there anything else?"


"Couldn't I just-"


"But this skirt is-"



"There is no getting out of this Orihime-san." Halibel's words were punctuated by a small tap of her forefinger on the tip of Orihime's nose. Anything that Orihime had to say immediately died and she looked to the ground, her face afire.

Ririn just watched the scene with a small sweat drop. 'I was just kidding around with her a bit, but this Arrancar chick is just downright mean.'

Stepping away from Orihime, Halibel opened the door to the other room. " We are ready to proceed, Ichigo-sama."

Said strawberry swiveled his head around to look at them. "Well it's about…" His words trailed off very quickly, and for good reason. Halibel's outfit he had already seen, and if he were to be perfectly honest with himself, the fact that she would dress like that for him was an incredibly satisfying thought indeed. But still, it was something that he was quickly getting used to.

Orihime on the other hand was something different entirely. Of course, with her new transformation, he had pretty much seen everything about her without wandering into the territory of the obscene. That white clothing and the angel wings just make her look gorgeous. But this new clothing that she was wearing was different. White clothing, no matter how skimpy, made her look innocent and beautiful. In a word, pure. However, even as he watched her try to hide the rest of her exposed skin under that miniskirt, he couldn't help but notice that in black clothing, she looked…

"Smokin' hot." It was out of his mouth before he realized, and Hichigo only agreed with his assessment. But then, even with his realization, he just continued to stare, lips slightly agape. His statement had brought all attention to him. Halibel let the smallest of smiles cross her lips.

Orihime was a different case though. She'd never been stared at with such intensity by anyone. At least, not anyone that had any romantic interest in her and vice versa. When Ulquiorra had stared at her like that, she hadn't felt a thing. His emerald eyes had been filled with nothing but emptiness. He did not care for her in the slightest. What's more, she was fully clothed at the time. Even if she hadn't been, it was doubtful that it would have mattered to the Cuatra Espada.

But Ichigo was far different from Ulquiorra. Orihime actually felt something for Ichigo. The fact that he was staring at her in such a provocative outfit actually meant something to her. What's more, based on the comment that he let slip from his lips, the way he was staring at her, and the fact that his mouth was agape as he stared, this outfit was far more than pleasing for his eyes. It was enough to make her do another full body blush as she turned back to Halibel.

"H-Halibel-san, can I-"




"These clothes-"


Doing her level best to make the short skirt longer and hold the small jacket closed, she let out a small moan. Halibel glanced at the poor girl as she walked forward, a slight sway to her hips. "Orihime-san, it is for your own good." As she stood next to him, Ichigo was vaguely aware of slim cocoa fingers on his cheek and beneath his chin. "Ichigo-sama, perhaps it would be wise for you to close your mouth?"

Ichigo found his senses again when she put a gentle upward pressure on his chin, his jaw and lips closing slowly, while his black and gold eyes were drawn away from Orihime and up to Halibel's smirking face. "I take it that you like Orihime's new wardrobe, yes?" She trailed a fingernail lightly across his cheek.

The boy swallowed rather thickly when his eyes went back to Orihime, but diverted from her again "Y-yeah." There was dusting of red on his cheeks, and he sounded a little embarrassed by his answer. Halibel merely sighed to herself. This really needed to end.

"I believe that it is time for us to be leaving." She turned to Urahara as she spoke. "Thank you for your help Urahara-san."

"Don't mention it." He adjusted his hat to sit a little lower on his head while he was speaking. "It was no trouble after all. Kind of fun actually." His face stretched into a thin smile. "Now you three go have fun."

Ichigo, up from the floor and dusting off his new pants, raised an orange brow in the shopkeeper's direction. "That's it? You're not charging us for all of this?"

"On no, I am." The man's fan snapped open, and he took on a jovial grin. "It's being added to your tab as we speak!" He gave a hearty laugh and waved his fan, while Ichigo just slumped over a bit.

"Great. Just what I need. More debt."

Halibel joined him at his side. "Forgive me Ichigo-sama. I did not think that he would do something like that."

"Forget it. I've known him long enough to expect something like this. Just don't worry about it." As he was running a hand through his bangs, he noticed something as it attached itself to his right. Glancing over at her, Orihime tightened the hold that she had on the arm while she stared at the ground, flushed and careful not to meet Ichigo's eyes. "Hime? What's wrong?" Orihime simply shook her head, her long tresses fanning outward at the quick motion. "Then what-"

"She is fine, Ichigo-sama," Halibel said, taking the position at his left arm and pulling enough to get them all walking. "She is simply a little flustered over the choice of clothing that I picked out for her. She will be fine."

Being slowly lead out of Urahara Shoten, the boy spared another glance at Orihime, her eyes still on the ground and her grip on his arm all the tighter now. For now he would let the matter drop. He looked back at Halibel. "So, where are you taking us?"

"You are going along with this rather easily, Ichigo-sama," Halibel observed, a green eye on her master. In turn, Ichigo's eyes went skyward, and he flushed a little. Halibel was puzzle by that response until he mumbled out a choice phrase.

"We-well, it's not like I'm going to refuse either of you if there is something that you want to do." The flush grew a bit on his cheeks, and Orihime, hearing the words rather clearly, couldn't help but roll in on herself just a little more. His words made her happy, but she thought that they were wasted on someone like her.

Halibel stared at Ichigo for several moments as they walked before she faced forward again, her own thoughts going a mile a minute. She couldn't remember the last time that someone had said something like that to her. Had anyone ever told her something like that, she wondered. Despite that though, she felt her stomach flutter a little from his words. For her, it was nice, and if not for the color of her skin, they would have seen the light dusting of pink on her cheeks.

"For the moment, where I am taking you is to remain a secret." She had quickly regained her the little composure she'd lost. "It is going to be a bit of a walk however. I hope you don't mind."

'Not like I really have a choice.'

"Ah, quit your bitchin'. Just enjoy the view."

Ichigo glanced between a rather demure acting Orihime and a rather neutral looking Halibel. He looked at their clothing, and found himself actually agreeing with his horse. It didn't stop him from saying, 'Just shut up.'


Somewhere over the course of the day, Apache's attitude had taken a drastic turn and spiraled south. Her morning wake up had been pleasant enough. At least, as pleasant as it could be when Mila Rose was the one waking her up. But then again, maybe not, since Mila pushed her out of the bed in order to wake her up. Apache had peeled herself off the floor, a red mark on the front of her face and a tick mark on her forehead.

"Mila Rose…" The warning and anger in her tone was dismissed.

"Rise and shine sleepyhead. Time for breakfast." She was gone after that, leaving a rather irate blue haired girl behind. Not bothering see what she was putting on, she only realized that it was one of Chad's shirts after she put it on and found it to be several sizes too large. On her, it might as well have been a ship's sail. For the barest second, she froze and looked it over in the mirror on his dresser. It hung off her, the sleeves were far too long, and the bottom of the shirt itself hung down over her thighs. She blushed, but that didn't stop her from lifting the shirt to her nose. It was definitely a recently worn item, because she could just make out the faint odor of sweat, musk, and the even fainter odor of soap.

"Apache what's taking you so-" Mila stuck her head back into the room to catch Apache smelling the collar of his shirt. Said girl froze, along with Mila, who simply stared. That blank stare turned to a grin fairly quickly. "Never mind. Take your time." She slipped away, and Apache just stood there mortified before growing angry and ripping the shirt off as quickly as she could. Putting her own clothes on, she made it to the table with a blush to find Mila in her underwear, and Chad without a shirt. She quickly ignored both of them and sat down, avoiding Mila's smirking face.

Breakfast had been a quiet affair for the most part. Apache's deteriorating mood was somewhat alleviated when she discovered how good of a cook Chad actually was. It had been a long time since she'd actually had any type of human food, but that omelet was the best thing that she could ever remember tasting. Not that she would actually tell him that. It wasn't her style to compliment someone.

After Chad had left, they had the place all to themselves. So, they did the only thing that they could think of at the time. They looked around the place. To be more accurate, they snooped. And they discovered the one thing fairly quickly that occupied their time for a small chunk of the day. Apparently, Chad, despite his appearance and attitude, had a thing for video games, since they found a game system, and several games to go with it. Several hours, and many losses for Apache later, they finally grew bored. The losses left Apache in a bit of a lower mood than she'd started with.

Her mood did lift a little when Halibel showed up in the middle of the day. It was a very pleasant surprise for both her and Mila. The news that she had for Apache wasn't.

"Apache, starting tomorrow, you will be attending school with Ichigo-sama and his friends."

The look on Apache's face must have been a priceless one, because while Halibel's face was mostly blank, Mila burst out into sidesplitting laughter. When Apache finally found her voice, she was disagreeable. "What? You're kidding me, right Halibel-sama?"

Halibel had only shaken her head. "I'm afraid not. The application forms have already been turned in. I personally turned them in myself. I also took the liberty of picking up some uniforms for you from Urahara-san." She held up a small plastic bag.

Well, with that question out of the way, she'd gone to the next logical one, and pointed at Mila. "Well what about her? Doesn't she have to go too?"

Before Halibel could actually answer, Mila was hanging off Apache, her grin wide as she pinched the girl's cheeks. "Don't ya get it girl? I'm more mature. And because of that, I wouldn't fit in at high school."

The tick marks started appearing immediately. "Who's more mature here…?"

Mila mussed the girl blue hair. "Why, me, of course."

"Get off of me, you bitch!"

"Who are you calling a bitch?"

"You, ya fat cow!"


"Gorilla bitch!"

"Stop fighting you two." Halibel said it just as she walked out of the door, leaving the girls alone again.

After that, they checked out the place more, discovering many new things throughout. They didn't really go digging, but found out plenty about their host. He obviously liked video games, he played the guitar, he worked out, and he liked to cook if all the cookbooks they found were any indication. And apparently he had a roommate before the two of them moved in.

Which led to Apache's current bad mood, and rather loud exclamation, for that roommate had just bitten the end of her finger.

"You stupid bird! Get back here!"

Chad's cockatiel, Yuuichi. After finally noticing it in the living room, Apache had approached the cage enough to be eye to eye with the bird inside. The thing had seemed fairly tame enough, cocking its head from side to side as it stared at her. Unfortunately, she had made the mistake of opening the cage to try and pet it. If the fact that it backed away as far as the cage would allow wasn't enough to hint that it didn't want her near it, the fact that it bit her did. After doing that, it flew the coop, straight for Mila.

"Aw, such a pretty bird." It landed on her hand, letting her lightly stroke its feathers. "What's wrong? Did the mean little girl try to hurt you?"

Another tick mark appeared on the side of Apache's head. "I didn't do shit to that bloody bird!"

The cockatiel let out a squawk and a whistle before it said, "Mean little girl. Mean little girl." It let out another squawk.

Both Mila and Apache blinked at the bird while it cocked its head. Mila finally broke the silence though when she let out several snorts and finally a deep belly laugh. "Now that's a smart bird!"

Apache didn't think so though. The tick marks came back with a vengeance, she started to shake with anger, and finally, she jumped at both Mila and the bird. The bird took off. Mila wasn't as fortunate, since Apache collided head first with her, and knocked them both to the floor. Apache was immediately up though and after the cockatiel, which took off flying down the hall. Although, as soon as she rounded to corner to give chase, she collided with something very large, and judging from how much the thing had hurt, it was rather hard as well. Chad was home.

Apache backed off, clutching at her face where she'd rammed into Chad's chest. Peeking out from wincing eyes, she caught his own looking down at her from under his bangs, his look rather blank as it always was. Yuuichi was perched on his shoulder. Apache glared, both at her host and his bird.

'Okay, that fucking hurt.' Apache brought her hand away from her face, lightly pressing on her nose once or twice. She wasn't used to this. At least not much. As an Arrancar, pain wasn't something she regularly experienced, due to her hierro. With that, she at least knew that the person had to have sufficient power to hurt her. In this body, pain was easy to inflict. Her stinging nose and cut finger were proof of that.

She was mildly taken aback when Chad reached out and grabbed her hand. He brought it close to look at it, before Apache ripped it out of his grip, a small blush present on her cheeks. "W-what the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Your finger's cut." His deep voice and the way he stared sent a small shiver through her system. "Let me see it."

The way he spoke was almost the same way that Halibel did when she was giving order. It even invoked the same feelings in her. She could even admit to herself that he scared her a little. While he was no Halibel, he certainly was imposing. So stubbornly, begrudgingly, unwillingly, she held out her hand to him, and he took it again, singling out the finger with the cut on it and examining it closely. After a moment of inspection for Chad, twitching for Apache, and small snickers for Mila, the man finally spoke up.

"He bit you."

"Well no-" He cut her off when he started dragging her by the hand toward the bathroom. "Hey hey! That fucking hurts! Let go of me you big oaf!" The fact that he nearly pulled her arm out of its socket was less than appreciated, of course. He did let go when he reached the bathroom though, just before he started riffling through his medicine cabinet. Apache was still less than pleased. "What the fuck are do-" She stopped when Chad turned and glanced at her, his eyes apologetic.

"Sit, please." Apache looked somewhat dumbstruck when he said it, but she sat down on the toilet lid, like he said to, while he went back to rummaging through his cabinet until he found a box of bandages and a tube of disinfectant. "Give me your hand."

She held out the hand to him almost mechanically, watching him as he kneeled in front of her and was still tall enough on one knee to dwarf her in her seat. He applied to a light amount of disinfectant with a q-tip, a small hiss escaping Apache's lips as it stung her cut. "Sorry, but this has to be taken care of quickly, or it could get infected."

Apache turned a mismatched scowl on the bird at his shoulder. "Nothing would need to be taken care of if he hadn't bit me in the first place," she grumbled quietly.

"Can't be helped. He's bitten me once or twice as well, but he's never broken he skin with me." He slipped the bandage over the cut while he spoke. "Finished." He was up and out of the bathroom a moment later, leaving Apache sitting there to stare at her bandaged finger.

Now she really wasn't sure what to think of this man. He was as much an enigma as that damnable strawberry was. He was all but an emotionless rock, from what she had seen. What's more, he was massive, but he was oh so gentle just now, compared to how roughly he had handled both herself and Mila-Rose the night before when he'd separated the two of them. For a person to be so rough and gentle… The lids of Apache's mismatched eyes lowered and both took on a strange shine.

"Well, well…" Apache snapped out of her stupor and turned to find Mila smirking at her from the door. "You were awfully obedient for him just now."

The blush almost burned, but it was held back. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Sure you do," Mila purred, moving so her face was a few inches from Apache's. "Does little Apache like being led around by the nose? Hmm? Are you a submissive little girl under all that temper?"

The tick marks started up again as her head slowly turned and she met Mila's gaze. "What was that?"

"Well, I was just noticing that you seemed awfully willing to do what he told you, and for all the fuss that you were making, you didn't struggle in his grip all that much." Mila's grin grew. "Apache, are you tsundere?"

Back in the kitchen, Chad was grabbing a pan from his one cupboard when the scream met his ears. It was more like a cross between a scream and a cry of outrage. "Mila-Rose!"

The thump of footfalls met his ears, and he turned to see Mila round the corner, grinning like a fool, with an enraged midget known as Apache in hot pursuit. "Get back her you bitch!" She threw out a punch at her friend/rival, who evaded, and instead of hitting Mila, she hit the broad side of the frying pan that Chad was holding.

Both Mila and Chad watched as a pained shiver ran through the blue haired girl, who brought her hand back and clutched it tightly, eyes tearing as she glared at Chad. "That fucking hurt!" It was pretty much a yell…one to many in Chad's book now. It was time to put a stop to it.

"Apache." He said her name with a little more force in his voice than was probably necessary, but his intention must have come across well enough, because she snapped to attention fairly quickly. "Sit down. Now."

The authority in his voice was a surprise for both of the girls. And once again, Apache found herself listening to him rather quickly. She almost looked like a scolded child as she sat down at the table, her eyes toward the floor, her hand in her lap as she tried to make the pain in her one hand leave. Mila was almost having a fit, snickering like she was.

"Oh, Apache's in trouble…" She stopped laughing when she glanced at Chad staring at her just as intensely as he had Apache.

"You too, Mila." The woman was slightly taken aback.



Mila obeyed just as quickly as Apache had, her own eyes also pointed at the floor. Considering that she looked somewhat older than Apache, it would have looked funny to see her looking like the scolded child in any other situation.

Chad glanced at his pan, noting the slight dent in it now. It wasn't ruined, just a little bent. Still good. He set it on the stove before moving to stand in front of both of the girls. He pulled a chair from the table, having a seat in front of them, still towering even as he sat. Both girls spared a glance at him, seeing that the look that he'd been wearing was gone, replaced by a softer one.

"Listen, both of you," he said carefully, calmly. "I said that you two could stay here. That's fine with me. In fact, I would welcome the company, since it's very rare that I actually have people visit." His calm look became a little less calm as he scowled lightly. "But you're both going to have to tone it down a little if you're going to live here. I have neighbors, some of them a little more tolerant than others, but they still don't appreciate it when you disturb them."

Both Mila and Apache had enough decency to at least look a little bit ashamed. They hadn't really thought about that. They had to remember that this wasn't Hueco Mundo. There were people everywhere here, rather than Arrancar and Hollows, most spread far and wide away from each other, where nothing would disturb them, save for those that came attacking. What's more, they were only staying here out of Chad's generosity. Getting him in trouble with the other tenants was hardly any way to repay him for his hospitality.

Mila caught his eye, and had enough sense to look a little demure under his rather intense stare. "Sorry about that. It's been a while since something like that actually mattered to us. I mean, we shout and argue with each other all the time. For us it's normal."

Chad gave an understanding nod to this. It was an easy idea for him to grasp. They were friends. This was how their friendship was. He did notice though that Apache seemed fairly quiet. Hell, even as he glanced at her, he noticed that she still looked a bit putout. He turned his eye back to Mila. "It's fine. I can handle it. You just have to tone it down a bit, alright?"

Mila grinned a million watt grin. "Got it!"

Chad looked back at Apache, who looked back at him. She noted that his gaze from before had softened back to the one he'd been wearing before. It was nice, and she found that she couldn't really meet his eyes for some reason or another. She settled for looking back at the ground, but still felt an expectant gaze on her, waiting for an answer. When it came, it was rather quiet and short. "'Kay."

Chad only response was to smile, stand, and place a large hand on her head. She looked up into a smiling face, meeting his eyes from under his bangs. She looked at him for a moment, her cheeks coloring before she looked away. Chad removed his hand and walked back to the stove, preparing his dented pan. Mila glanced at it from around his side.

"So then, what's for dinner big guy."

"I was thinking about chili con carne." Even as he said it, he was pulling a rather large pot from one of his cupboards.

Mila's eyes almost lit up as she licked her lips. "Mmm. Sounds good. Need any help?"

He glanced at her. The help would actually be appreciated. Otherwise, they wouldn't be eating until much later in the night. "Yes. You can help brown the meat."

"Ano…Chad?" The big guy and Mila glanced back at where Apache had yet to move from her seat. She looked a little guilty. "I… I don't eat meat."

Mila's jaw went slack at that declaration. "You're kidding me right? Why the hell not?"

Apache suddenly went from demure to pissed off again. "I just don't! Is there a problem with that?"

"I've seen you eat Hollows by the bushel!

"That's different!"

"Not it isn't!"

"Yes it is!"



Chad laid a hand on both of their shoulders, getting their attention. Both calmed quickly. "Sorry," they both said in unison, while Chad exchanged the large pot for two smaller ones, one of which was larger than the other.

"It's fine." he said, putting the pots on the stove, and then turning to Apache. "Since I'm making more than one dish, you're helping too."

The girl was taken aback. "I am?"

"Unless you want to be eating at midnight."

Mila just snickered, hitting the heat on the stove and opening a package of beef Chad had handed her. Apache looked disgruntled, but merely snorted. "All right, fine. What am I doing?" He was quick to hand over a knife and a few green peppers, while he himself began slicing a rather large onion. Just seeing the onion was enough to make her eyes water. How he didn't shed a single tear was beyond her, even as she started into her task.

"Careful you don't cut yourself, lil' Apache!" Mila chirped.


"Tatsuki, you absolutely sure that they're in some kind of trouble?"

"Dammit, how many time do I say it Keigo? Yes, I'm sure!"

Tatsuki, Keigo, and Mizuiro were currently running toward the Urahara Shoten, looking to see if the strange shopkeeper could help them in anyway possible. After having witnessed the abduction of both her childhood friend and her best friend off the school grounds, Tatsuki had immediately gone running to find some kind of help from their little group of friends. The first person that she'd gone looking for was Chad. Unfortunately, Chad was a dead end. As soon as the last class ended, the boy seemed to all but vanish, he left in such a hurry.

Then she'd gone to the next person that she knew would be able to help in some way. Uryu. Unfortunately, she did not foresee the response that she was going to give her. In fact, she nearly cussed him out when he said it.

"Kurosaki is strong enough to take care of himself and Inoue-san. Besides, given your description of his kidnapper, they're probably off enjoying themselves in some way." He pushed his glasses up and walked off after that, leaving behind both an irate and worried martial artist.

After that failure, she went to the last two who knew anything of the situation, and they had been Keigo and Mizuiro. Keigo had brought up Urahara, reminding her that he'd helped Ichigo go to Hueco Mundo, and thought perhaps that he would be able to help them out in some way. Thus, they were currently in front of the little shop, running straight for the door.

After bursting through the front door, and through the front of the shop, Tatsuki slammed the door to the living space behind it open, gasping out, "Hey, Geta-boushi!" She face-faulted at the scene in front of her.

Kisuke was in his underwear, a pair of boxers striped white and green like his hat, which was still on his head, looking through the clothing he normally wore. Little Ururu was sitting across the table, sipping tea with a small blush staining her cheeks. "Now that's weird. I could have sworn that I had it earlier…"

Tatsuki was quick to recover. "What the hell are you doing?"

Kisuke spared a glance at the girl, and her newly arrived and out of breath compatriots, his brow raised. Then a big smile flashed across his face. "Ah, Arisawa-san, so good to see you again. Welcome. I was just looking for my wallet. I seemed to-" He was cutoff when Tatsuki landed a kick to his chin.

"You're sitting almost naked in front of a young girl! Have some damn decency!"

"Ano…it's all right," Ururu said quietly. "I'm used to it."

Ururu's response didn't seem to help. In fact, it seemed to make her angrier, since she turned to Urahara, looking livid and rolling up her sleeves. "What kind of sick bastard are you?"

"Now now," Urahara said, waving his hands defensively. "She didn't mean anything by that, I promise."

Jinta chose that moment to walk in. "Hey boss, I couldn't find your wallet in the back room. You sure you…" He trialed off when he saw Tatsuki and the others, and then pointed at her. "Hey, I know you. You're carrot-top's girl! What are you doing here?"

Tatsuki was sure she was blushing, but she wasn't sure whether it was from embarrassment, or righteous indignation. In the end, righteous indignation won out. "I'm not his girl, you little twerp!" She made sure to leave a bump when she hit him. "Get your damn facts straight!"

"OW! That hurt you stupid-!"

"Jinta." Tatsuki, Keigo, and Mizuiro all jump when Tessai popped up out of nowhere. For such a large man, he moved like a bloody shadow. Jinta suddenly started looking scared. He was even more so when Tessai picked him up by the scruff of his shirt and brought him in close to his face. "What have a told you about how you should treat our customers?"

Jinta struggled against Tessai's grip. "But she-"

Tessai brought him closer. "That does not matter. Now, what have I told you?"

Jinta started to sweat under the intense gaze of his boss. "Always treat the customers with respect, regardless of how you are treated." It came out as more of a squeak than actual words.

"Exactly." The large mustached man turned towards Tatsuki, Keigo, and Mizuiro, and bowed low, Jinta still tight in his grip. "Please forgive his rudeness. He still has a lot to learn here."

"Ano…" Tatsuki started, just a little thrown off. "It's fine."

"Good to know." Urahara popped up, fully clothed now and waving his fan. "It would be bad if his actions drove away potential customers."

"Like yours won't," Tatsuki muttered under her breath.



Urahara stared for a moment, but then that grin spread across his face. "Now then Arisawa-san, how may I be of assistance?"

Before Tatsuki could say anything, Keigo jumped in with his usual overdramatic flare. "You have to help us! Oh it's terrible! It's horrible!"

"Oh really?" Another wave of the fan. "What is?"

"It's so horrible, words can't describe it! It's-" Tatsuki finally hit him over the head to quiet his ranting.

"Enough already!" She turned to a still rather jovial looking Urahara. "Ichigo and Orihime have been abducted."

"Have they now?" Urahara raised a brow beneath his hat. "Are you absolutely sure about that?"

Tatsuki was growing angry. "Of course I'm sure! I saw it myself! Why does everyone keep asking me that?"

Urahara tapped his fan against his chin. "Forgive me Arisawa-san, but I'm having trouble believing that what you're thinking is actually the case."

Tatsuki's face now mirrored how she felt. "Why?"

"Because they were here just a little bit ago, and both of them looked quite fine."

Tatsuki's anger all but disappeared, and she went quiet. Meanwhile, Keigo made himself known once again, only this time, a little more calmly. "They were here?"

"Yes indeed. They bought some clothes and jewelry." The shopkeeper started tapping his chin repeatedly, turning eyes to the ceiling. "I think the three of them were going clubbing."

The three weren't sure what to say about that. In fact, to the three of them, thought of Ichigo going to a club of any kind was absolutely ridiculous. It just wasn't his thing. And it definitely wasn't Orihime's. Tatsuki was kind enough to voice it. "That's ridiculous."

"The abductor," Urahara said, holding up a finger, "she was blonde, fairly tanned, wearing white, and had a rather nice figure, did she not?"

Now Tatsuki was even more taken aback.

"Then there isn't a need to worry." Kisuke's eyes showed from under his hat, accompanied by an almost lazy smile. "I'm guessing that Ichigo told you about the allies he gained, but he didn't give many details, did he?" At Tatsuki's nod, Urahara spoke again. "That woman is one of them." He stopped to think for a second. "Then again, she could probably be called more than an ally for Ichigo."

If Urahara had been trying to get a stir of some kind out of the three, then he succeeded readily with Tatsuki. "What the hell's that supposed to mean?"

A hand came to the man's stubbly chin. "Well, considering that he touched her, flirted with her, saw her naked, and kissed her, I'd have to say that the two of them were involved with one another."

The group was struck with more silence. Until Keigo found his voice. "What?"

Tatsuki found hers next. "But Ichigo's with Orihime!"

"Hai, hai," Urahara nodded, his finger in the air again. "He did all of this right in front of her."

Tatsuki felt her anger spiking. "That bastard!"

"And Inoue-san didn't seem to care." His comment sent Tatsuki rigid again, and she stared at him. "From what I could tell, they're both equally involved with Ichigo."

Now Keigo really found his voice. "What? But-but? That's so unfair! How does Ichigo get two women?"

Tatsuki continued to stare at Urahara, her mouth opening and closing like a fish until she finally looked to the ground, her eyes very wide and her mind very much conflicted with this new piece of information. Shocked would have probably been a mild term at the moment. Her thoughts immediately flashed back to the discussion that had occurred the night before.

She'd thought that Ichigo had told her everything. She distinctly remembered him telling her that along with his transformation, he'd gained some new allies during his escapade to the world of Hollows. He'd told her that there were eight of them, all women of varying ages, and that she would likely meet them eventually. But he hadn't given her any more than that.

But now she was actually learning something about these new allies of his, or at least one of them, and she wasn't at all liking what it was that she was learning. In fact, what she had just learned made the bile rise to the back of her throat. The fact that Ichigo was involved with Orihime was something that she could easily understand and accept. Orihime had loved that boy for as long as she could remember. Now that he'd actually seen the light and realized her feelings, she could be happy for her friends.

But who was this new woman? And if he was with Orihime, then why was he involved with this woman at all? Tatsuki's mind traveled to the possibility, but then she quickly shook her head. That couldn't be the case. Surely Orihime wouldn't share Ichigo with anyone, especially a woman that the two of them had just met. But from everything that she had just been told, that certainly seemed to be the case. Tatsuki felt herself slump as she thought about it, her mind clouding with both angry and sad thoughts. Her fists and jaw clenched, a small tear leaking from her eye. 'Why…'

"OH THE UNFAIRNESS OF IT ALL! How-!" Having had enough of Keigo's antics, Mizuiro tripped the boy up, making sure to step on his head to silence him. He kept that same smile that he always did.

The boy held up a hand as he kept that smile. "Well, thank you for clearing everything up for us, Urahara-san. Forgive us if we caused you any unnecessary trouble."

Urahara waved a dismissive hand. "Oh no, not at all. It's understandable that you would worry for one of your friends, especially given everything that you've been seeing lately." An eye came out from the shadow of his hat. "Will you be needing anything else today?"

Mizuiro simply waved a dismissive hand. "Thank you, but no. Unfortunately, we must be going." With that, the young man turned to leave, dragging Keigo by the collar of his shirt. "Come along Asano-san."

"What happened to using my first name?" The two were out of sight quickly, and Tatsuki was about to leave as well before Urahara waved a lazy hand to gather her attention.

"Ah, Arisawa-san, before you leave, could you spare me a few moments of your time, please?"

Tatsuki stopped and turned to fully face the man, her expression a little apprehensive, if still downtrodden at the news she'd just received. "What is it?"

"Oh nothing," he said dismissively, having moved and started digging through his closet, earning him a raised brow. Both eyes widened when he re-emerged, holding what looked like a PDA attached with a wire to an airport security metal detector. "I just need you to hold still for a moment while I gather a little data."

He started scanning around her head when she asked, "What data? Looking to see how much metal's in my system?"

"Funny," Urahara mused, still smiling. "This is a device that measures the spiritual power of a person. I noticed last night that you yourself have quite a bit of power. I just want to get an accurate reading of it."

"Did you do this for Ichigo too?"

"If I tried, I imagine the machine would explode in my hand." Several small beeps alerted him that the machine was finished scanning, he reading over what the display had to say. Tatsuki noticed that under the shadow of his hat, she could see a surprised eye. "Hmm, now that is rather strange."


"Well, according to this, you have a rather low amount of spirit power." He tapped the machine with a finger. "In fact, it's much lower than it was last night, even after you blew Ichigo off his feet and through my wall. How interesting."

"Maybe the thing's busted," Tatsuki deadpanned. "Can I go now?"

"Hai hai" he said, having discarded the device and waving his fan again. "Thank you for your time." Just as Tatsuki turned to go, he spoke again. "Oh, Arisawa-san." She glanced back at him. "Before you go home, do you think that you could drop this off at Inoue-san's apartment?" He held up a bag for her.

Taking the bag, she glanced inside. "Orihime's school uniform?"

"Oh yes, she left it here when she stopped earlier, and it would only be fit to return it to her as soon as possible." His fan snapped shut. "Unfortunately, I am going to be busy for the rest of the evening, and you most likely know where she lives, I figured that you could-"

"I get it, I get it," Tatsuki said in an exasperated voice, stomping out of the shop, making sure to slam the door on her way out. A stray thought passed through her mind. 'Damn lazy bastard.'

Back in the shop, Tessai, after sitting quietly throughout the exchange, spoke up. "Boss, do you think it wise to send her to Inoue-san's home?"

Adjusting his hat, Urahara said, "Yes. The hostility between them is not going to resolve itself. They need to confront each other."

"Would it not be best for Inoue-san to be present when it occurs?"

"Only if hindrance is the goal." He stroked his stubbly chin. "Things will work out in the end. Especially if all three of them are looking towards the same goal."

Tessai did not speak again, and instead left the room. 'I hope you know what you're doing Kisuke.'

As Ichigo glanced up at the establishment in front of him, he wasn't entirely sure what it was that he should be feeling. Based on the clothes that Halibel had dressed himself and Orihime in, he'd had a bit of an idea of what she'd been planning. At the very least, he'd known that she would be dragging the two of them to Karakura's entertainment district. The exact location he hadn't known.

"Halibel, please tell me this isn't the place."

"It is," she said, disappointing her master.

He suppressed a bit of a groan. He knew enough about this place to warrant such a response. The place was called Illusions, otherwise known as one of the most popular, and busiest, clubs Karakura had to offer. Across town, light posts were adorned with fliers to advertise the place, along with the occasional billboard.

The building itself was somewhat modest, standing only two stories. That was pretty much where the modesty ended. The building itself was colored a rather deep shade of purple, neon lights of green and blue flowing in intricate patterns over its surface, several twisted over the door in a sign displaying the club's name. Oh both sides of the black double doors, two rather large looking men stood, both dressed in jeans and black uniform shirts with crossed arms.

Ichigo glanced around, taking in the sight of others dressed like themselves moving to enter the club, before he looked at Orihime. The girl had yet to look up from the ground, and the parts of her face that weren't obscured by her hair looked somewhat red. He noticed that the grip that she had on his arm tightened somewhat. "Halibel-san," she breathed, her voice shaky, "are we really going in there?"



Ichigo glanced at Halibel, noting how her face did not so much as twitch while she thought of an answer. "Think of it as a teaching experience."

"What the hell is she talking about?"

'Not a clue.'

"Halibel, the experience may be stopped at the door," Ichigo ground out between his teeth, walking towards said door. "Places like this usually check I.D., and last I checked, Orihime and I weren't of age to get into a place like this!"

Halibel let her eyelids lower by a fraction of an inch. "Your concern is noted Ichigo-sama. However, it is unwarranted. Everything has been arranged."

Before Ichigo could ask what she was talking about, the two guards stopped them at the door, the one holding out his hand, and Halibel followed the action seamlessly when she pulled three small plastic cards from between her cleavage.

For a moment, Ichigo simply stared at her, a dusting of red on his face before he looked to the man as he shuffled through the cards. His gaze only wavered when he felt Orihime shift uncomfortably on his other arm. He looked to her to see her glancing ahead of her, flushing and fidgeting. He looked ahead to see the other bouncer giving her a rather long and appreciative once-over. Only after he finished did he catch Ichigo catching him. The strawberry's lips parted in a snarl that resonated rather deeply and loudly in his throat. The man broke out in a cold sweat.

He felt a small tug on his arm and warm breath on his ear as Halibel leaned to whisper, "Just remember Ichigo-sama, he can never touch."

The man examining the cards gave them one last look-over before he handed them back to Halibel, she slipping them back into her top. He pulled the door open for them, allowing them to enter and walk the distance of a rather dark hallway lined with ultraviolet lighting and glowing neon designs. Of course, Ichigo was looking at Halibel, not around him.

"Halibel… what the hell was that?"

"Urahara-san was also kind enough to provide us with false identification for our evening out," she said calmly and quickly, nearly making Ichigo groan.

"Of course he did." Next to him, Orihime had yet to say anything. Their walk came to a stop again as they came to the end of the hall, two more doors blocking the way, another two bouncers, and a woman with a cash box off to the side. Muffled music could be heard on the other side of the doors. Before Ichigo could so much as move, Halibel had, slipping a hand inside her jacket to pull out a rather thick wallet full of yen notes.

"How much?" she asked, her voice monotone.

"1500 apiece." Halibel pulled out several bills, handed them over, and held out her one hand, the woman taking a stamp and marking the back of her hand. The woman looked at Ichigo for a second before he held out a hand, and Orihime as well. He pulled back his hand to find a glowing green mark on the back of it.

"Welcome to Illusions," the woman said, placing the money in her box. "While you are her, please enjoy yourselves, but do so responsibly. There is one rule that must be followed. Fighting is prohibited. If you are caught starting a fight, you will be immediately evicted from the premises. If someone tries to pick a fight with you, be nice and try to dissuade the opposite party from doing so."

Ichigo raised a brow when he heard that. "Be nice?" He did catch the smiles on the two bouncer's faces when he asked.

The woman merely nodded. "Yes. It's a term our head bouncer likes to use. Basically, keep the situation from escalating until one or more of our bouncers arrives to help you. If you can't do that, then at least keep it contained."

Now Ichigo understood. "Only hit him it he hits me first, and even then, try to keep things from blowing up."

"Correct. Now, please enjoy yourselves." The two men at the door grasped a handle apiece and pulled. The three of them all had their senses suddenly assaulted by light, sound, and in Ichigo and Halibel's case, a heavy amount of smells.

The three of them looked in on the place with a small amount of wonder. It was much bigger inside than the outside let on. A large dance floor stretched out before them, people crowding it with their moving bodies, some so close that their flesh ground against that of their partners, some accidentally, more intentionally. The place was mostly dark, save for the blaring, flashing strobe lights, glowing black lights, and neon signs that lined the place. Across the floor, Ichigo spotted a rather large, and well stocked bar, and around the floor he noticed a number of seated booths, all lit by a small overhanging light, kept dim to keep the mood. Walking through the door, he glanced up to find a second story over looking the first, lined with tables and booths like the first, with people moving to the rhythm of the techno music as they watched the people below.

Halibel put enough pressure on his arm as she pulled to have him follow, leading himself and Orihime towards the booths. Orihime risked a look around at the place and its patrons, many of the women dressed much like herself and Halibel, some even wearing a little less, while most of the men dressed like Ichigo. She must have looked either out of place, or rather fetching, as she was getting many appraising looks. The fact that some of those looks were coming from her own gender didn't really help calm the blush.

Ichigo himself was noticing the stares as well. Almost every woman he passed at least glanced at him, others stared, and he shivered when one or two men gave him a once-over and blew a kiss. One or two of the women actually licked their lips, and he felt a warm tingle run through his blood, but not strongly. And the smells he was picking up. Whatever they were, they weren't helping.

Leading them to an empty corner booth, Halibel slipped in and slipped off her jacket, Orihime and Ichigo following and spreading around the small round table. Orihime kept her jacket, still blushing and clasping her hands in her lap.

Still looking around the place, Ichigo had almost missed the waitress that Halibel waved over to them when he wasn't looking. She was already leaving when he did notice her though. Ichigo gave the Arrancar a look. "Halibel, what did you order?"

"Sake, and three cups."

Now Ichigo and Orihime really stared at her. Alcohol. If everything she was doing already with them wasn't enough, now she was trying to get them to drink? Just what did she have in mind?

Hichigo though, was enjoying himself already. "Music, nice clothes, and booze? I'm liking the situation more and more."

Ichigo glanced around, taking note of all the ones staring once again. 'I figured that you would.'

"Halibel-san" Orihime started, making Halibel glance at her as she finally looked up and around, still fidgeting and still blushing. "Ano… why are we here again?"

You will see soon enough Orihime-san," Halibel replied as the waitress returned with several small bottles of sake, three saucers included. Ichigo almost blanched when he saw Halibel hand over three thousand yen notes, and the waitress' obvious delight when Halibel said, "Keep the change."

"Halibel…" The woman looked at Ichigo. "…where did you get the cash to pay for all of this?"

Reaching in to the pocket of her coat, she pulled out a rather fat looking piece of leather, somewhat worn and smooth from use. "I stole Urahara-san's wallet."

At that, Ichigo just stared at her, and she stared right back. He lost the staring contest when he snorted, leaning hi head back to let out a laugh. "Serves him right," he said, Halibel pocketing the wallet again.

Orihime glanced at Halibel,, hands still in her lap, and still fidgeting. "Ano…you shouldn't steal things Halibel-san."

"I think an exception can be made just this once, Orihime-san." The woman filled the three saucers to the brim, sliding two towards her two compatriots. "For now, please, have a drink."

Both Orihime and Ichigo looked down at the cups in front of them. Neither had ever really drank the stuff before. Ichigo had, but only a little for a family friend's wedding. It had burned his throat, and he hadn't been too sure whether or not he'd liked it. Though somewhat apprehensive, he picked the cup up anyway, and took the shot quickly. As he did, he noticed it didn't burn his throat as it had before, instead warming him the whole way through, the strong smell hitting him as strongly as the taste of it. As he set the cup back down, he let out a breath he'd been holding, still feeling the warmth and the strong scent of the alcohol.

"Hmm, not bad King."

'Oh, stow it.'

Orihime glanced from Ichigo to her own cup. She'd never drank before, or had any inclination to do so. And as she looked at Halibel to say so, she was just in time to see the woman slipping from her seat, her gaze locked onto Ichigo. Before either could say anything, she had latched onto his wrist, pulling him from his seat on the edge of the booth out onto the floor. He was more than a bit surprised.

"Wha-! Halibel, what the hell?"

"I-Ichigo-kun?" Orihime barely moved, reaching out a hand towards the boy as Halibel dragged him by the arm, only for him to disappear into a sea of bodies. She suddenly found herself very alone, and even more uncomfortable. That feeling increased and she began to fidget as she noticed many people looking at her. She turned her eyes t her lap again. This was going to be a long night for her.

Out on the floor, Ichigo finally ripped his arm from Halibel's grip. She turned to him, noting the aggravated look upon his features.

"Halibel, what the hell is going on here?" Some of the people around watched the two of them closely.

"What do you mean?"

"Dammit, don't play dumb with me!" He stepped close, looking down on her and keeping her gaze with his. "It's only been a day, but I'd have to be a complete fool not to see how smart you are." He took a step closer. Their noses were almost touching now. He spoke more gently now, but still enough for her to hear over the music. "You planned this night out. Why?"

For several moments, Halibel simply stared into his eyes. Then she closed the gap. If Ichigo was surprised when her lips touched his, he didn't show it. His features simply softened, and he returned it. When his tongue traced along her bottom lip, she was more than happy to oblige him entrance, her own wet appendage entwining with his like the bodies of many of the dancers around them.

When they finally parted, both were breathing heavily, a thin string of saliva connecting their bottom lips. Halibel was the first to speak. "Ichigo-sama, I was at your school today."

"You were-"

"I heard your conversation with Orihime in the hall."

That shut him up. She leaned forward. He felt warm breath on his ear.

"Tell me, my master. Do you feel the same about me as well? That you are undeserving of me? That perhaps you aren't good enough?"

His embarrassment and the aversion when she looked at his face again was enough. Lightly, Halibel cupped his chin and brought his face so that he was looking back towards her again. "Tell me Ichigo-sama. Why would you think such a thing? Of either of us? How could you think that you don't completely deserve us both? Especially after the things you've been through?"

"What's she on about?"

For once, Ichigo didn't tell his horse to shut it. "Halibel, what are you talking about?"

"Aizen told all the Espada of your exploits, and your attack on Soul Society to rescue Rukia Kuchiki." Her eyes narrowed. "Tell me, were you rewarded in any way for your efforts?"

Ichigo was surprised by that one. Just what was she getting at here?

"Or your rescue of Orihime-san? Was there any tangible reward for your actions, aside from pain?"

She wrapped her arms around his neck. "After everything you've been through, or put yourself through, where is your reward? Don't you deserve to receive for everything you've given?" She pulled him so they were almost kissing again. "Ichigo-sama, fate is finally rewarding you for all that you've been put through. Surely you would not turn it away?"

Ichigo wasn't sure what to say to that. He tried to speak anyway. "Orihime-"

"She WANTS to be with you, Ichigo-sama. She thinks you deserve her more than anyone else in the world. She simply cannot find the courage to say that to you." She kissed him again, more lightly this time. "And I CHOSE to follow you. You're the only one I have found that is deserving of me. Would you really turn us away when we both want you as well?"

Ichigo stood there for several moments, his and Halibel's still forms a huge contrast to the moving bodies on the floor around them. He blinked once or twice, eyes wide and face surprised. And then he heard Hichigo speak.

"She's right you know."


"All the crap you go through, and you don't get something. That's bullshit." Hichigo let out a smirk within. "You're finally getting what's coming to ya, King. Just fucking enjoy it. And if you don't, then I will."

Ichigo thought about it for a moment. Being rewarded. He didn't care about such a thing, really. In fact, it seemed a little silly to him. Anything he did, or plainly plunged himself into, he did because either one of his friends or loved ones was in trouble, or because he thought it was right, not because he wanted something for his efforts.

He looked Halibel in the eye again, she tilting her head in a questioning glance. But then again, he didn't see anything wrong with getting something for what he was doing. It's just that if someone offered a reward for anything he did, then he politely refused it. So in this case, how do you refuse the reward when the things that you have coming to you want to be with you as well. That answer was simple. You don't.

Halibel almost beamed when Ichigo smiled and slipped his arms around her middle. That was more like it. The blush and the sideways glance were unexpected though.

"I've never been in a relationship before, Halibel. You and Orihime are going to have to forgive me if I screw things up, or can't do something."

To this, Halibel could only smile, leaning forward to splay a hand across his bare chest. She leaned into him, nose and mouth pressing into his neck, breathing deep of his scent. Letting it out slowly, she spoke, "I believe that is more than reasonable. It would not be if I were to expect everything of you." Her tongue flicked from her mouth, its rough surface taking up the lone bead of sweat running down his neck, feeling him shiver under its light caress.

Either she did not see his blush for the lighting, or she chose not to. Either way, he felt himself react to her. It was an inevitable thing. That tingle he felt in his blood, the spark the moved through his muscles, a warmth he couldn't stop. He let out a ragged breath, grasping at her arm and the smooth skin of her throat, pushing her away from his neck, her own breathing heavy and warm against his wrist.

"Having a taste, are you?" He said, pulling her close. Amidst the scent of salt and sweat, he could smell it. Strong and musky, thick in his nose. He felt her shiver, felt her nipples harden beneath the top against his chest. Taking the hand from her arm, holding it close to her face, only she noticed the aura of black and red, a small ball forming in his hand, his face scrunched in concentration to keep it small. "You only have to ask."

Her lips parted, condensed energy slowly flowing between them. She shook harder, grasping at his shirt, hanging on as pleasured tears appeared at the corner of her eyes. It was gone quickly, her face pressed against his chest, breathing quick and deep. She could still taste it. So thick, so sweet, so rich. Beneath her eyelids, green pulsed to red, white to black, and back again. She felt a trickle of liquid down her thigh, and from the deep rush of air that rose his chest, she knew. She knew he could smell her. She glanced up at him. He grinned. Cocky. Satisfied. Wonderful.

"Shall we dance, Ichigo-sama?" she asked, righting herself and taking his hand. That cocksure smile disappeared, and he glanced away again.


"What is it?"

"I don't know how to dance."

She stared at him for a moment, and then a titter escaped from her lips. A new song was just beginning as she grasped his hands. From what Ichigo could tell, it was synthrock, but he could not place the song. "And what is going on here could hardly be called dancing, Ichigo-sama. These people let their bodies simply move as they feel. They let their instincts guide them. No taught movement, nothing learned, simply moving." Her hand splayed across him again, this time his cheek. "I promise that I won't break. So please, Ichigo-sama, show me what your instincts tell you. Show me how you feel."

The song was just about to end its first verse when Ichigo took her hand. And then the movements began just as the chorus did.

A boyish notion of false emotion…

He sent her into a controlled spin, her feet moving seamlessly to accommodate. She spun fast, her hand still in his above her head, and he moving with her as they moved across the floor. People moved to give them room, some enjoying the new show.

These words are spoken despite my love…

They came out of the spin, her arm outstretched with his, before he pulled her back to him, her front pressing up against him, a leg bent and lifted up to his waist. Both had their hands splayed about them, one at their sides, one upon their stomachs. Their faces so close they almost kissed. Ichigo went as far as to nip at her lips.

A fool's devotion was set in motion…

They almost flew apart, she lashing out as if to strike. He moved to the side and behind her, his arm brushing past her golden locks and neck. Once past her back, he grasped her forearm, bringing her back again, her feet twisting as she spun across his front from hand to hand. He grabbed her forearm again, twisting her so her arm came across her stomach, her back pressed against his chest, his warm breath tiptoeing across her neck.

My eyes are open now…

It's a glass cage so I can't pretend…

"I feel a little outta my league here," Ichigo said in her ear. "Especially since you're the one doing all the work."

I see it coming but I can't defend…

"Nonsense," she replied in his arms, a hand coming to his head, fingers combing through his hair. She took extra care to grind her body into his own, a move he responded to readily. "You're doing wonderfully, Ichigo-sama."

You cut so deep, my belief is gone…

She turned in his arms, their bodies still gyrating slowly, hands roaming over each other. "Shall we continue, Ichigo-sama?"

Ichigo looked at the people around them, some clapping, some cheering, all watching them. He felt the sweat coming already. He already felt the burn beginning in his muscles, and he liked it. He caught her look with a grin. "Yeah."

My belief is gone. My belief is…

The two of them continued their dance until the song ended, matching their movements to the music, slower when the beat slowed, and then faster as the tempo kicked it up. Ichigo surprised himself a number of times, taking actions that he would never normally take. Especially when he had lifted Halibel off the floor. He'd been particularly satisfied with the gasp and shudder that he'd managed to pull from her when his tongue had laved her midriff and dipped into her navel. But now, walking off the floor, with the clapping and people cheering in his ear, he had to wonder.

What was going on with him? He'd never done anything like that before. Hell, him being here at all was unnatural. At least for him. He wiped the sweat from his brow. Was this all because of his new powers? Was he really changing all that much? Before he could dwell on the subject anymore, something at their table demanded his attention.

Halibel let out another small titter, leaning up against Ichigo. He smelled of sweat and heat in her nostrils. "You were wonderful Ichigo-sama." She glanced at his face, and saw him staring in a particular direction. "Ichigo-sama?" She followed his gaze to their table. The sake, cups, and their jackets were still there. But…

"Halibel…where's Orihime?"

What one thinks about as they walk along the street is a mystery to everyone else. Some people think of work. Some think about how their day panned out, and what tomorrows going to be like. Others think about their friends, loved ones, and the things that they keep from their friends.

It wouldn't be hard to guess what Tatsuki Arisawa was thinking as she crossed the street to Orihime's apartment. She could understand their reasons for wanting to keep things from her. But some of the things that they had still kept from her, even after their explanation, were the things plaguing her thoughts right. Mainly, their new allies. They'd told her about the two girls who'd hurt Orihime, Loly and Menoly. She felt her fist clench around the bag of clothing she was holding. Why would they bring those two back with them? Why would Orihime want anything to do with them? After what they did, they didn't deserve her forgiveness.

But then her thoughts went to that woman with the dark skin. Like the other two, she was supposed to be an ally of Ichigo's. But if what the shopkeeper had said was true, she was more than that for him. She was on the same level as Orihime. She was his romantically. But why? And Orihime was okay with it, even though Ichigo was involved with her first? Was the woman taking advantage of Orihime's nature? And if that was the case, why did she even want to be with Ichigo anyway?

Before she could even contemplate an answer, she was at Orihime's door. Pulling out her key, she stopped. She glanced at the door with a raised brow. She leaned in close, ear against the wood. It was faint, but she could hear it. Voices. Female voices. Voices that she knew to not be her best friend's. 'Who the hell?'

She slipped the key into the lock slowly, taking care to remain quiet even as she twisted the lock open slowly and pulled the door open. She slipped inside, still quiet and setting down her bag. She heard the voices coming from the kitchen, and the sharp smell of spices assaulted her nose now.

"I don't think any these books have ever even been opened," a high female voice drifted from the kitchen. Tatsuki heard the faint sounds of metal striking metal, softened by liquid.

"You're surprised?" A new voice sounded. One that made Tatsuki's eyes widen. "After that breakfast this morning, I'm sure that Orihime-sama never bothered with learning how to cook." There was a sigh. "Maybe we should just cook from now on."

Tatsuki hadn't heard the last two statements. The blood boiling in her ears took care of that as she found herself face to face with Loly and Menoly, both at the stove, cookbook in hand, ingredients abound, and a large pot in place. Both had a look akin to shock when they saw her, Menoly's stirring of the pot freezing along with Loly's turning of a page in the book. The only thing that Tatsuki was really aware of though was Loly, who's person was getting steadily closer as the enraged martial artist charged her.

Once again, Loly seemed to freeze up. She remembered the girl very clearly. But this time, just before Tatsuki could slam the girl to the wall, Menoly interfered, stopping Tatsuki's advance by grabbing both of her wrists. The blonde turned on her frozen sister.

"Dammit Loly, don't just stand there! Help me out!" Loly snapped out of her frozen state, moving forward to help her sister. With the combined force of the two of them, they easily managed to restrain a rather irate Tatsuki. Menoly pinned her arms down, her knees resting on the martial artists forearms, while Loly sat on the girl's legs. Tatsuki was less than appreciative of their actions.

"Damn you, you stupid bitches! Let me up! LET ME UP!" She struggled against the two of them, trying to throw them off, but not succeeding. Meanwhile, the two sisters managed to get a good look at her face.

"Isn't this Orihime-sama's friend?" Menoly mused, keeping herself seated against the irate girls struggling. "What was her name again?"

"Tatsuki." The girl snapped her face to Loly when her name was said, and she started shouting at her. Loly didn't hear the shouts. She was too busy thinking, despite the sad look on her face. Orihime had told her and her sister about the girl the night before. Loly knew why Tatsuki had it in for her. She didn't really blame her.


"Orihime-sama…" Loly piped up. So far, the walk to Orihime's home had been rather quiet, save for the sounds of their shoes on pavement. "Who was that girl back there?"

Orihime was all smiles when she spoke. "Oh, that's Tatsuki-chan! She's mine and Ichigo's best friend! We've been together forever!"

"She seemed pretty mad back there." Orihime glanced back at Menoly, who was adjusting the collar of the black denim jacket over the gray tank top and the blue jeans she was wearing. She faced forward again, her smile now somewhat sad.

"Tatsuki-chan…doesn't like it when I get hurt." Her eyes took on a slight shine. "She's always been there to help me when I need it. She's protects me." Orihime squeezed her hands together. "And we didn't tell her that the two of you came with us."

That one got both of their attention. Loly had a sneaking suspicion why, but Menoly was the one who asked. "Why not?"

"Because of what happened in Hueco Mundo between us."

That made them all shut up, and both Loly and Menoly looked very guilty. They were quiet the rest of the way home, and even after they arrived at Orihime's apartment. It was like this up until they went to bed, and even then the twin Arrancar stayed awake, both contemplating in their spare futons. Neither one missed the small sobs that came from Orihime's bed.

The two of them only felt all the worse when they heard her speak. "I'm sorry Tatsuki-chan."

/End Flashback

Looking down at their captive now, and hearing the things she was yelling at them, they wondered if they could perhaps reason with her. Menoly was the first to speak up. "Ano…" Tatsuki snapped her head in the blonde's direction. "Tatsuki-san, perhaps we could talk-"

"NOT HAPPENING!" Flecks of spittle flew when she yelled at Menoly. "You hurt my best friend! After what the two of you did, I don't wanna hear anything that you have to say!" She rounded on Loly, who shrank back a bit. "I wish Ichigo had just killed you, you fucking sluts! You deserved to be punished-!"

The slap came out of nowhere, and Tatsuki was surprised to feel the stinging in her cheek. She looked back at Loly, who had tears in her eyes.

"You think we weren't? You think he didn't consider it? We were ready to die when we faced him! But he forgave us! She forgave us! I don't fucking know why, but she did!" The tears actually started to stream down her face. "You think we don't regret what we did to her? That we haven't already been punished for it?"

Loly held a hand to her chest and spoke. "When he found us, Grimmjow Jeagerjaquez saw fit to snap off my leg from the thigh down. Menoly was outright killed." Loly's expression grew somber. "He blew off everything above her waist with a cero."

Tatsuki's eyes grew wide when she looked at the blonde sister. The girl just shut her eyes, while Tatsuki felt her shake as she pinned her arms. Loly just kept going.

"The only reason she's still here is because Orihime-sama helped us. But Aizen didn't think I'd been punished enough. When he spoke to me, he cut off the same leg that Orihime-sama restored, and then cut off the arm on the same side." Loly looked like she was going to be sick, and her tears grew in quantity. "Then he left me to Yammy."

Tatsuki watched the girl shake and cry. She knew who Yammy was. Ichigo had been kind enough to give a description and identify him as the big tanned fucker that had almost killed her way back when. Now Tatsuki felt her gut clench at the girls story. She'd been left to that big son of a bitch? That couldn't be good.

"Yammy is a sadistic son of bitch. He cuts off on cutting people up and hurting them. He hit me, he used his zanpakutou to cut me, hit me with the flat of the blade. He broke my arm like a twig, and he ripped up my clothes." Loly clenched her eyes shut. "If my sister hadn't shown up and used her release to paralyze him for a few minutes, he would have… he would have…" Loly broke down in tears, and held her hands to her eyes.

Tatsuki watched the girl, and she felt the bile rise in her throat. She knew where that line had probably been going. Hate her or not, she wouldn't wish that on anyone. Menoly spoke up.

"Tatsuki-san, if we let you up, will you listen?" Tatsuki barely felt herself nod. The girls got off her limbs, and Tatsuki sat up. None of them got off the floor, but Loly backed away from them, putting a small bit of space between herself, her sister, and Tatsuki. Tatsuki watched the floor while Menoly spoke.

"It's not my place to tell you everything. Truthfully, I can't." Menoly felt ill. She didn't like this, but the girl needed to hear what she had to said. "We hurt Orihime-sama. Aizen lied to us, made us believe we could trust him, that we were important to him and his plans. We didn't trust Orihime-sama, and we thought she would undermine us. We did what we thought was right at the time." Menoly swallowed when Tatsuki's fists clenched, but the girl didn't move.

"But Orihime-sama still revived us with her powers. We didn't know why, but she did. After I saved my sister from Yammy, she helped us again, and then she even protected us from Yammy when we had to fight against him." Menoly fidgeted a little. "We were so grateful, we pledged ourselves to her as her Fraccion… her servants. That's the reason we're here with her."

Tatsuki still didn't say anything. She just stared at the floor for a moment as she let it all sink in. She wanted to scream at them, shout at them, do something to them. After hearing everything though, she found herself coming up rather mute. What could she say to them? She looked between Loly, her tears slowly drying, and Menoly, who just looked a bit somber as she stared back at the martial artist.

"Tatsuki-san, listen." Tatsuki eyes focused on Menoly, even though her look was a bit empty. "I know you don't like us. I don't ever expect you to. But please, listen." Menoly stood up, offering a hand to Tatsuki. The girl looked at the hand, and took it begrudgingly. "Kurosaki-sama and everyone else that went to Hueco Mundo were put through a lot. They need time to rest and recuperate. Before anything else, please, give them time for that."

Menoly walked Tatsuki to the door in silence. Just as Tatsuki opened the door, she spoke up. "Let me say this." She turned on Menoly, who just listened with a straight face. "If you do anything else to hurt Orihime, I don't care what it takes, I will kill you." Her scowl hardened and sharpened. It could probably cut glass.

Menoly didn't look all that phased by it. In fact, she just kept watching the girl. The two of them stared at each other until Tatsuki finally turned away and walked out. "See you at school tomorrow." That was the only thing the other two uniforms she saw in the bag could have been for. They were way too small for Orihime.

She stopped and turned back. "By the way, Orihime's dealing with a bunch of bullying because of her new relationship with Ichigo. If you're serious about pledging yourself to her, then I suggest you start by getting them off her back." She turned and left then.

When the door finally shut, Menoly let out the breath she was holding before walking back to the kitchen. Loly was up and wiping her face. "Sorry about that Menoly."

"It's alright. I was surprised she didn't try harder." Menoly went back to the soup and stirred it. "She said she'd kill us if we hurt Orihime-sama."

"I thought so." Loly leaned against the counter, her expression somber as she stared at the X on her hand. "If we did, she wouldn't have the chance." She absently traced the X with a finger. "Kurosaki-sama would see to us himself."

"Doesn't that scare you, Loly? That he would kill you?"

"No." Loly shut her hand slowly. Menoly glanced at her sister.

"Why not?

Loly let out a sad chuckle. "Because he'd be merciful. He'd do it quickly."

Outside, Tatsuki walked slowly, thinking over the conversation that had just occurred. She didn't want to feel bad for the two of them, but after the things that Loly had told her, it was a very hard thing not to do. Torture, beatings, loss of limbs, and near rape. It was enough to make her sick. After hearing all of that, it was no wonder Orihime helped them, despite their actions.

For now, she would keep an eye on them. The fact that they were to be students at her school, and most likely in her class, would be a big help in that regard. But still, it was hard to hold onto bad feelings towards them if Orihime didn't. Tatsuki's face fell some as she thought about it. She wouldn't trust them…but if Orihime was going to give them a chance, and they were really sincere about everything, then she could at least let them be for the time being.

"Oh Masaki! Isn't it so wonderful! Our son has brought home four new daughters!" Isshin slid down the length of the giant poster of his late wife, crying tears of joy.

Karin let out an exasperated sigh. "Knock it off, goat chin. You can't scare them away on their first day here."

"Oh Karin, my sweet daughter! I'm sorry! I'm neglecting you!" The man proceeded to rip his shirt open. "Come! Embrace me and bury yourself in my-"

The tick mark and the movement happened so fast that no one really saw anything before Isshin hit the wall. "I said knock it off!"

"Karin!" Yuzu started. "You shouldn't do that."

"He had it coming."

Nell giggled from the couch. "Itsygo's family is so funny." In her lap, Lilinette watched with a bit of a raised brow, her only inclination to nod. Sun-Sun was much the same, although, her mind was in other places. Actually, she was eyeing Isshin with just a bit of scrutiny at this point, smiling a bit at his antics behind her sleeve, and silently wondering about him.

She was sure the other two could most likely feel he was a Shinigami, and she herself definitely could. She didn't say anything though, just in case. Although, seeing the antics of his with the large poster of the woman she could only assume was once his wife was rather funny. But he was a bit of an oddity, especially after she first talked to him.

He'd spoken with her first. He'd been fairly serious then, but he welcomed herself and the others with a smile anyway. He even said that his son was trusting of them, so he would at least give them a chance. As he was acting now though, she had to wonder if all Shinigami were this odd, or if it was just the ones that Ichigo-sama was so close with. The shopkeeper from the night before had been another case. Then again, he was odd, but he had his serious moments. Especially when he'd spoken with her.


Sun-Sun eyed the gigai quietly, her expression mostly blank. She had to admit, this man was very good at his work. From his assistant's notes alone, he had created an exact replica of her body right down to the last detail. For a moment, she had to wonder if she should be perturbed by that.

He'd even gotten that little mole on her left breast perfect.

She turned on him. "Urahara-san, it's perfect." Her brow raised to him rather quickly. He was staring at her with a fair bit of surprise. In fact, he looked like he was a little lost in himself , like he was going through some of his older memories. "Urahara-san?"

"Hmm?" Such an intelligent response for such a brilliant scientist. He was brought back to his senses though. He grinned, lightly rubbing the back of his head . "Sorry about that."

Sun-Sun tilted her head a bit. "Is something wrong? You were staring."

Kisuke waved his hand dismissively. "No, no, it's nothing really." He walked past her, she watching as he opened the door. His voice sounded oddly serious when he stopped. "It's just that you remind me of someone I was close to a long time ago."

"You were close to? What happened to her?"

Urahara was oddly silent for a moment, and then spoke. "She died." And then he walked out.

/End Flashback

Sun-Sun wasn't sure how exactly she was supposed to react to that. From what she'd heard of Kisuke Urahara, he was a bit of a goof. A genius yes, but still an odd duck. That serious tone he'd used was different. It was calm. It was longing. It was the tone of someone who had lost a loved one, and it made her heart ache.

As a Hollow, an Arrancar, she followed her instincts, as all others did. Anything other than survival and instinct was simply a means to an end for her and her species. But hearing that man talk about someone he'd lost made her throat clench shut in sympathy. She had no idea why, but it did. There was something else to it though. With the sympathy came a feeling of loneliness and bitterness that she couldn't place. Even now, she tried to contemplate why she would feel something like this, but her thoughts were interrupted when she felt a tap on her shoulder. It was Yuzu.

"Sorry to bother you," she said, bowing her head slightly, "but I was about to make dinner. I was wondering if there's anything that you don't like to eat."

Sun-Sun watched the girl. She was all smiles, unlike the one with black hair on the couch next to her, who just watched them all quietly. She seemed to be such a sweet little girl. She couldn't be anything but nice to her, so she smiled back. "Not really. Besides, it has been a while since we've had a nice home cooked meal."

Yuzu seemed at bit sad at hearing that, but she smiled anyway. "In that case, I'll have to make sure that dinner tastes extra good." Yuzu moved away quickly, heading for the kitchen as Sun-Sun stared after her. Karin spoke.

"So, how long has it been since you've had real, human food?" Sun-Sun glanced at Karin, raised brow seeming rather prominent.

'She's certainly perceptive.' Sun-Sun spoke up. "I'm not sure."

The two just stared at each other for a moment. "You're connected to my brother being a Shinigami, right?"

"Yes." Oh ho, so this girl did know.

"Are you one his allies?"

"Not really."

"What's that mean?"

Sun-Sun turned forward. "I was his enemy until yesterday. He managed to get a small amount of us to change sides."

Karin just stared at her, her eyes narrowing. "Are you a danger to my family?"

Sun-Sun's eyes also narrowed and she turned back to Karin. "Are they a danger to us?"

They just stared at each other. And stared, and stared, and stared some more. Then Karin snorted and turned away. "I guess not. Since Ichi-nii brought you here, he probably knows he can trust you."

Sun-Sun turned ahead again. "You trust Ichigo-sama's judgment." she thought back to the day before, and her first meeting with him.

"Of course I do. He's my brother. He may be a bit of an idiot sometimes, but he's more than trustworthy."

Sun-Sun thought about that for a minute, remembering how he held her. He'd been warm, and so careful with her. She recalled his words of how not all Shinigami were as bad as Aizen. She'd found that she could trust those words, and the actions he'd had toward them all so far had only reinforced it.

"Yes…" Sun-Sun said quietly. "Yes he is."

"Ano…Please… My boyfriend will wonder where I've…"

"It's fine. I only want one dance."

Orihime was in a very lost, and very awkward position right now. One that she had found herself in very quickly after Ichigo and Halibel had left her sitting at the table. She'd watched the two of them right up until they had started to truly dance with each other. It was then, and after she saw Ichigo lick Halibel's stomach of course, that she actually took in the saucer of sake sitting in front of her. Normally, she would have thought of her age and the fact that the drink was alcohol, but for some reason she found herself uncaring. It burned at her throat, and she coughed only once. When the burning left, she'd noticed how it seemed to warm her throughout. So much did she notice that she almost missed the invitation to dance.

It came from nowhere. Surprised, blushing, and definitely nervous, she wrung her hands together and quietly denied the invitation. The one who offered only grinned and grabbed her hand, and Orihime suddenly found herself dragged off onto another part of the floor by the girl.

Yes, the one who asked her to dance was a girl. The skirt and short tank top combo were a dead giveaway, same with the spiky pony tailed hair and the slim, somewhat smaller than her, figure. The decent sized breasts were a definite indicator. She couldn't get a good look at the hair color, eye color, or a great look at her face for the light of the club. The continuously flashing strobe light didn't help either, as they distorted the vision somewhat and made it a bit harder to see.

The girl spun around after her proclamation, a wide smile on her face. "C'mon honey! You can have one dance without him, right? Besides he looked a little busy last I saw him. What's up with that? You girls agree to share him?"

Orihime was taken aback by the question, and even jerked back a little. The girl looked surprised as well. "Really? He must be quite the catch!" She leaned in close, her mouth next to Orihime's ear. "You want him to pay more attention to you, don't you?"

Those words nearly sent Orihime for a loop. She blushed, and even said back to the strange woman. "Ano, yes I do, but-"

"Then you need to get his attention!" The girl backed off, pulling on Orihime's arms, moving her a little with the crowd to the song. "Dance! Have some fun! There's no way he won't notice you then!"

Nervous was an understatement for Orihime at this point. This girl she didn't know was in front of her, all smiles and fun, trying to get her to dance with her, and she would admit, succeeding somewhat when she brought in the idea of getting Ichigo to take notice. But still, she didn't know the girl. She really should be back to the table.

The girl saw Orihime's reluctance written all over her face, but she kept smiling anyway and leaned back in to whisper in her ear. "It's okay. I get it. You don't know me, and this is a whole new experience for you." Her million watt grin grew brighter. "But we're just here to have some fun. Just a little dancing, that's it. Promise."

Orihime still wasn't sure, but her resolve to say no was quickly crumbling. And then the girl gave the final shot: the puppy dog eyes, combined with a pout. She grasped Orihime's hands and asked, "Please?" And there goes the wall, crumbling like dust. Orihime only looked away and blushed.

"I…ano…I can't dance."

The girl laughed a laugh like small bells. "Is that all? Just move to the music." She pulled on Orihime's hands. "C'mon princess, have a little confidence." She started swinging their arms back and forth to the beat of the song playing, stepping from side to side. Orihime watched for a moment, and then blushing, she began to do the same. The girl's smile only got brighter.

"That's more like it!" She started stepping closer to Orihime, still swaying as Orihime stayed put. "The chorus is coming up. Think you can handle little more than this?"

Orihime bit her lip, but she smiled a small smile and demurely nodded her head, still moving in that simple little dance, her hands still clasped with her female partner's. The girl beamed. "That's what I thought." The chorus came up on them right then.

I kissed a girl, and I liked it.

The girl swung to the side, this time bringing both of their arms, and themselves into a short spin. Orihime barely managed it, but given the small difference in their sizes, it worked well enough. They spun, and then pulled close for a bare second. One hand was let go as they pressed against each other, and then they pushed off, one hand still in the other.

The taste of her cherry chap-stick.

Orihime cheek's colored slightly at that line, one arm pulling tight while the other cracked almost like a whip, her partner's doing the same. She recalled the kiss with Halibel. There had been the light hint of cherries with it. And cinnamon. It had been nice. The girl pulled on her arm, and they were together again. The girl laughed as they came together, still moving lightly back and forth. Orihime couldn't suppress the small giggle that hit her lips either.

I kissed a girl, just to try it. I hope my boyfriend don't mind it.

"See? Isn't this fun?" the girl asked, gleeful to the point of sweetness. "Now aren't you a little glad I pulled you out here?"

It felt so wrong, it felt so right.

Orihime couldn't help it. She nodded and smiled. She was starting to have fun. She turned back when she felt a hand find her shoulder. Halibel was there, neutral expression and raised blonde brow noticeable.

Doesn't mean I'm in love tonight.

"Orihime-san, you shouldn't wander off in here. Ichigo-sama and I were worried." She glanced around, finding the wandering eyes of many leering men. "The intentions of some here are less than honorable."

I kissed a girl and I liked it.

"It's okay! I was just dancing with-." Orihime turned back around, but her dance partner was gone. Like she had vanished. The only trace Orihime could really find of her was the slight leafy scent of autumn.

Halibel cocked her brow a little higher. "Dancing with who?"

Orihime looked back at the woman, waving her hands a bit. "No one. Never mind."

I liked it.

The two of them stared at each other for a minute, and Orihime started to blush a little harder before lowering her eyes. That raised Halibel's other eyebrow. What was the blush for? She bent to catch Orihime's eyes. She looked a bit demure as her eyes darted upward to catch Halibel's. "Is something wrong, Orihime-san?"

The shake of Orihime's head was slow, but Halibel didn't miss the small dart that Orihime's grey orbs made to her lips. Ah, so that was the case. The songs lyrics weren't lost on her either. Seems that they affected Orihime a little more than herself though.

Inside, Halibel smirked and leaned forward. "Orihime-san, would you perhaps like to dance with me?" The way she said it was low, slow, fluid as molten silver, twice as hot, and sent an oh so wonderful shiver up the redhead's spine. She didn't even put up a fight Halibel grasped her hand. That same sinuous voice came back, along with the songs chorus. "Shall we?"

I kissed a girl and I liked it.

Halibel sent Orihime into a slow spin, directing her away and then back to her again. Unlike her partner from before, whoever it was, Halibel wanted Orihime to be closer, wanted to really give her a confidence boost. She pulled Orihime until they were pressing together. This was the best way to do it.

The taste of her cherry chap-stick.

Orihime blushed when she pressed against Halibel's front. She was feeling a little too warm right now. She was aware of the hand the splayed across the bareness of her shoulder blades. Her breathing hitched when Halibel leaned close, tipping her back. They were nose to nose now.

I kissed a girl, just to try it. I hope my boyfriend don't mind it.

"I'm sure Ichigo-sama wouldn't mind it," Halibel said, leaning them back up. A half spin later, Orihime felt Halibel's body grind against her back. She couldn't help the shiver and small moan that escaped. It had felt rather good. Halibel leaned in close to the girl's ear. Orihime looked a little uncomfortable. With good reason. Almost everyone was watching them.

It felt so wrong, it felt so right. Don't mean I'm in love tonight.

"Who cares what they think of you." Halibel's words rang loudly in her ears. Their hips swayed, Halibel's hands coming around and joining at her waist. Orihime could feel Halibel's breath on her neck. "You need to have more confidence in yourself, Orihime-san. You worry over what others will think of you, or over the actions you take. You worry that you will make a mistake, or something bad will happen if you do a particular thing."

I kissed a girl, and I liked it. I liked it.

One of Halibel's hands ghosted over Orihime's stomach and chest, up to her neck. "Unless you take action, how will you know how you affect the things around you? How will you enjoy new things and experiences?" Halibel's voice dropped lower. "If you don't have confidence in yourself, how will you help the people close to you? How will you help Ichigo-sama?"

That one hit home for Orihime. She almost tripped over her own feet twisting to look at Halibel. She met her with a her normal neutral expression. Orihime stared wide eyed for several seconds before she looked to the floor. "I…"

Halibel directed Orihime's look back at herself. "Let us begin here." The kiss was out of nowhere, and Orihime blushed like she'd just been set on the surface of the sun, but Halibel's lips just lingered. Every straight man and crooked woman in the crowd snapped their necks to watch. Both girls felt the eyes, but neither paid them much attention.

Orihime's stiff form finally relaxed some, and her eyes went half lidded. Cherries and cinnamon. Still the same. Still warm and inviting. Halibel parted from her, licking her lips top and bottom. Orihime was vaguely aware of the song coming to a close. Damn it if that song wasn't right. She'd kissed a girl, and she liked it.

Halibel's eyes darted to the spot above Orihime's head. "Ah, Ichigo-sama." Eyes flew open when Orihime whirled around, finding herself looking up at Ichigo. Her face heated up again so quickly that she was vaguely aware of a burning sensation in her hair. Oh no, she'd done it again. And he seen her! Again! How embarrassing. She looked down and wrung her hands together. But she couldn't wipe the small smile away.

Ichigo's blood was caught in a struggle. Okay, so his brain needed oxygen, so that was important. But what he'd just seen again, some tried to go south. Blood cells couldn't decide, so they compromised. Out the nose it is. He missed the thin trail of red running down his lip. Shock was the main one in control, with a hand from lust. He did have a rather goofy looking grin on his face, and smoke steadily streaming from his ears.

"King, pick up your fucking jaw."

Hichigo's comment brought him back to reality. He wiped the blood from his nose just as Halibel laid a hand on his backside, and Orihime's, and lead them both off the floor. "So glad you enjoyed the show, Ichigo-sama." Orihime only blushed. Ichigo scowled.

"And so did everyone else." Halibel was between himself and Orihime. She actually jumped and stood still when he laid a light, stinging swat to her one buttock. Orihime saw it, and put a hand on her lips.


Ichigo could only grin when Halibel gave him a surprised look. That look quickly left when she took on a pout. "Ichigo-sama, that wasn't nice."

Ichigo wasn't sure what to do with himself again. A pout from Halibel was one of the most adorable things that he'd ever seen. That, and it was funny as hell, considering that she was a grown woman. When she reverted to her normal expression though, that was something he was used to.

"However, I suppose I deserved it." Orihime found herself pressed against Halibel's front. "Such a display should be for Ichigo-sama's eyes only. Correct, Orihime-san?"

"Ano…that's…" Orihime failed miserably and blushed bloody. Halibel took the chance to slowly push the girl to Ichigo, who watched Orihime as she blushed, then looked at Halibel with a questioning glance.

"Go, both of you. Dance and have a little fun. I shall wait for you at our table." She stepped past Ichigo, leaning in when she did. "Remember Ichigo-sama, Orihime-san is not me. She is far more fragile. Be careful with how you handle her." She moved off quietly, leaving the two alone.

Orihime looked up at Ichigo, and he looked down at her. For some reason, he started to blush. The prospect of dancing with Orihime seemed so much different than it did with Halibel. Almost like it was more intimate. He was nervous as hell. He rubbed the back of his head, eyes glancing away.

Orihime wasn't much better. She watched the floor now, fumbling with her hands. She'd kissed him, hugged him, touched him, and gotten used to being around him in general. This was unexplored territory. From what she'd seen earlier, he had at least some idea of what to do. Or maybe Halibel was just an exceptional partner. Either way, the girl was worried. What if she wasn't good enough? What if she messed up? Before those thoughts took over, something rang in her mind.

If you don't have confidence in yourself, how will you help the people close to you? How will you help Ichigo-sama?

Her hands stopped fumbling, and her lips parted slightly. Why was she questioning herself? Why was she so nervous here? Compared to everything else she'd been involved in, this was so meaningless. She'd done so many more dangerous things just walking down the street. This was nothing compared to what she had been through.

She looked up, and her grey eyes found Ichigo's black and gold. He was smiling, and his hand was held out to her. She looked at it, then his smiling face, and she took the hand with a smile. Another new song was starting.

I still hear your voice when you sleep next to me.

"Ichigo-kun…" Orihime grasped both of his hands, one in each, and spread them, like they were to ballroom dance. They started to slowly move their feet to the growing tempo. "I can't keep up with how Halibel-san dances…" Her eyes turned to the floor, to their slowly moving feet.

I still feel your touch in my dream.

At the line, Orihime squeezed at his sword callused hands. Her eyes quickly came back to his face, and Ichigo was slightly surprised to see the determination. "But I will try. So please dance with me like you did with her."

Their pace picked up as the song did. Ichigo's surprise became a little more passive. "You sure Hime?"

Forgive me my weakness, but I don't know why.

Orihime set her looks in stone and nodded. She had put through much rougher than this already. This was something she was absolutely sure that she would be able to handle. By now, the two of them were beginning to move about in little circles, still clasping hands.

Without you it's hard to survive.

Ichigo's passiveness actually started to slip a little for worry. But at Orihime's look, he couldn't say no. He'd just have to be careful. He let out a light sigh, then breathed deep. Time to pick up the pace.

'Cause every time we touch, I get this feeling.

The slow spin they were in suddenly became faster. Their hair whipped out behind them, their forms staying close together, both mindful of the other's feet.

And every time we kiss, I swear I could fly.

The spin came to a quick stop, Ichigo spinning Orihime out in front of him, and pulling her back. Her hair whipped at his middle before he came back into his arms. He dipped them both quickly, both of their eyes meeting for the entirety.

Can't you feel my heart beat fast, I want this to last.

They came out of the dip, and this time Orihime pushed Ichigo into a spin. He came out of it looking surprised, but his hand still shot up with Orihime's when she thrust it upward to the blinking strobe lights on the ceiling.

I need you by my side.

The other hand followed it quickly after it. Her one arm came down and pointed perfectly straight, Ichigo mirroring it. Her head snapped in its direction, his following now. Once again, long strands of rust and orange whipped the air.

'Cause every time we touch, I feel the static

The hand they had in the air met and the fingers entwined. Their hands whipped down, around, and in the opposite direction, the two of them now back to back. No one that was watching them missed the smile on their faces. Especially two particular sets of eyes watching them, one specifically watching Ichigo.

And every time we kiss, I reach for the sky

The other set of fingers entwined and they spun so that they were facing each other again. Ichigo grinned and Orihime giggled. They brought their hands inward, pushing themselves outward. Both let go of one hand, and both kicked toward the middle with a left leg. The legs met and Ichigo pulled at Orihime. She did a half turn and pressed her back against his chest.

Can't you hear my heart beat so? I can't let you go.

"How am I doing so far… Ichigo-kun," Orihime asked, already feeling out of breath. This was harder than she thought it would be.

"You're doing fine." Ichigo sounded worried. He was feeling a bit tired, but Orihime already looked out of it. "Hime, are you sure you can keep going?"

She could feel the sweat starting to drip on her brow. She could feel the heat beginning in her limbs. She ignored it and took a deep breath. She could do this. She nodded, and they were off again.

I want you in my life.

When they finally made it back to the table, Orihime was tired enough that she collapsed into the seat without regard or care, sticky with sweat and panting for breath. Ichigo himself was sweating to the point that his bangs were plastered to his head and shirt sticking to his chest. Halibel made sure to give him an appreciative once over. Okay, twice over.

"Halibel-san…" Orihime looked at the arrancar woman, who glanced over her sake cup. "How can you dance like that and not feel so tired…?"

The woman took a sip of her alcohol and spoke. "I don't know." Truthfully, she didn't. Dancing had felt both right, and so, so wrong to her. Her body moved of it's own accord with Ichigo's slight direction. After the dance, despite Ichigo's presence, she felt disgusted with herself. He made it bearable, but he couldn't quell the nausea. Even now, it writhed in her stomach like a pit of worms.

Being close to him as she was now out her mind off of it. She filled them both a cup of sake and slid it to them. Ichigo sipped at it, and Orihime took it quickly, neither coughing, and her cheeks getting a little rosier. It wasn't too bad now.

"Now this is the life King," Hichigo said with a laugh. "Booze, women, nice clothes, and dancing. About time we started living like this."

'Will you…' He trailed off, thinking about it for a second. 'You know what, fuck it. I don't give a damn right now.' Truthfully, he just didn't feel like saying it. It was already starting to get old.

"Now that's the spirit, King! Enjoy yourself! By the way, heads up."

Ichigo could only wonder what his horse was talking about until Orihime sidled up to him on the side Halibel wasn't sitting on. Apparently, she'd gotten up during his short interaction and he'd missed it. Now he was sandwiched between the two of them with no way out. He looked at Orihime. That was an unexpected move on her part. At the moment though, she looked rather content next to him. That in mind, Ichigo did something he would probably never do again: followed Hichigo's advice.

He wrapped an arm around them both and pulled them in as closely as he could. He ignored pretty much everything by this point. The music and lashing strobe lights were just sort of there now. The fact that they were all rather warm, and sweaty, from their activities took a back seat in his mind, and neither of them seemed to protest, so he just stayed quiet about it. He breathed deep and let it out slowly, letting a smile grace his lips.

He couldn't remember the last time he had really smiled. He'd smirk, frown, laugh, and go through myriads of other expressions, but he couldn't remember the last time he just smiled. Then again, looking around at the scene, he couldn't remember the last time that he'd actually had this much fun. Studying for school kept him occupied some of the time, his duties as a Shinigami the rest of the time. This was a nice, if somewhat different break from it all. He glanced at Halibel, who looked quite at home against his shoulder.

"Thank you Halibel." Both Orihime and Halibel looked up at that, but only the latter spoke.


"Just saying thanks." He grinned. "It's just that I can't remember the last time that I actually had fun like this." He looked around the club. "Okay, sure, this isn't really my thing, but something new isn't a bad thing." He looked back at her. "I'm glad you dragged us both here."

Orihime was actually having something along the same thoughts. This was definitely new for her. She'd never considered coming to a place like this before. She'd never even had a sip of alcohol before this. Halibel dragged her here, made her have some fun, but she was enjoying it now. The dance with Ichigo exhausted her, but she had fun.

"Yes," Orihime spoke up. She smiled at the woman. "Thank you, Halibel-san."

Halibel felt warmth spread in her chest, because like everything else, she couldn't remember the last time that someone had thanked her. The only way she could really respond to it though was to lay her head back against him, her rosy cheeks lost for the dim light and the color of her skin.

"You're welcome, Ichigo-sama, Orihime-san."

Ichigo only grinned and squeezed both girls a little tighter to him. He would have enjoyed their company for a little longer after he closed his eyes, if not for the interrupting voice that spoke to them. " 'Scuse me, cutie pie…"

One eye popped open to take in the newcomers. Two men, two women. The men were slick enough that they shined, both their hair and skin. Ichigo could smell the grease, and plenty of bad cologne. One had tried to spike his hair, while the other tried to comb his so it hung half over his face. They both failed miserably.

The women he had to wonder why they were with those two. Then again, given that the clothes they were wearing probably weren't even street legal, the heavy amount of make-up caked to them, and the heady smell of flowery perfume, he wasn't all that surprised. He supposed they probably couldn't do any better.

The woman who spoke thought different. "How about a dance?" Ichigo turned to look at her fully. She was blonde, pale skinned, and grinning like she'd found gold.

Hichigo let out a disgusted snort. "Fucking shit, she looks like a whore."

Ichigo wouldn't actually say that. He turned away instead. "No thanks. I'm good."

The woman's smile slipped just a bit at that. The same with her friend. She'd thought this would be a little easier than that. One look at the boy and those girls, she'd thought that she'd had him figured. Two girls, both big-boobed bimbos and scantily dressed. He was a player. Every girl wanted him, and he wanted them all. And all that jewelry probably insured that he had quite a bit of scratch to work with. Maybe she'd get her hands on him and get a little piece. She'd hadn't expected the cold shoulder, or the look of disgust that crossed his face.

She needed to try a little harder. She leaned on the table, getting a bit closer to him. She was aware of Orihime and Halibel watching her now. She even sat down. "C'mon now, don't be like that. You really know how to move. Just one little dance." Her friend and the two guys were getting a bit closer.

Ichigo was getting annoyed. He turned back to look at her, and her smile slipped again. "What part of 'I'm good' don't you get lady? Back off."

She simply scowled and clicked her tongue. "Listen buddy-"

"Ichigo-kun said no. Please leave."

The woman looked at Orihime. She was clutching at Ichigo's shirt, but she was flushed, and averting her eyes. The woman thought had that this girl had confidence. Guess not. She'd be easy to deal with.

"Why should I? Huh, little girl?" She sneered at Orihime when she spoke. "Because you said so? Ha! As if you could handle someone like him. He'd sooner throw you away than he would-"

Orihime was only aware that she'd slapped the woman after she felt the stinging of her palm. Ichigo and Halibel were as surprised as the woman. When she recovered, she growled and turned back to Orihime. "Why you little slut!" She grabbed onto the girls arm and dragged her from the seat, Orihime pulling against her the whole way. The woman raised her hand. "You're gonna slap me?" She would have brought the hand down if not for the painful pressure being put on her wrist.

"Let her go. Now." Ichigo forced her hand down and made her look at him. He must have looked pissed, because she shrunk away from him when he let go of her, and she let go of Orihime. The guy with the slick hair stepped up.

"Hey now, everything's cool buddy. No need to get rough." Ichigo looked him, and scrunched his face. He wasn't sure what was more offensive; his greasy hair, his bad cologne, or the fact that his breath smelled like he gargled with liquid garbage and rat droppings. Scratch that, it was all three.

He was aware of Halibel at his back. "Ichigo-sama, no need to be angry. Orihime-san is okay."

Ichigo took a breath, and calmed considerably. She was right. Nothing really bad had happened. Everything was good. Besides, these guys were worth getting angry over. He was about to take his seat again, when he heard the other guy speak up.

"Guy needs to learn how to keep his bitches on a leash."

Ichigo stopped, and turned to the guy that spoke; the one with the spiky hair. "Pardon?" Ichigo turned fully, and then put a pinky in his ear to twist it, walking closer to him. "What did you say? I couldn't hear that."

The guy just snorted. "I said you need to learn how to keep your bitches on a leash. That loud enough for ya? Huh?"

Indeed it was. Everyone in the general vicinity had heard it. Halibel didn't care, Orihime looked worried, the guy's friends were laughing, and Ichigo…he smiled.

"That's what I thought you said." He grinned wide. "You're right. I should." Halibel smiled when he turned to the two girls the guy had come with. "Either of you ladies wanna teach me how? Considering how well behaved he is, you two must be experts at it." He looked back at the guy, who looked ready to explode. "He's still a little mouthy though. Don't good bitches know when to keep quiet?"

"King…" Hichigo sniffled and wiped a little tear away in Ichigo's head. "I'm so proud of you. Fuck, I think I need a tissue."

The guy had had enough. He was proud of himself when he threw that right hook though, Ichigo's head jerking around from the whack in the teeth. Of course, he looked ready to shit himself when Ichigo turned black and gold eyes back on him. There was a little blood at the corner of his mouth that he licked up. Other than that, nothing. Ichigo grinned when he laid a hand on the guy's shoulder. The bouncers were going to interfere, but the first set of eyes watching Ichigo motioned for them to stay back. He wanted to see where this went.

"You started this when you hit me first." He squeezed down on the guy's shoulder, to make sure he stayed put. "Now I get to finish it."

There was a loud crack when Ichigo's fist slammed into the guy's chin. Jagged pieces of broken teeth fell out his mouth and blood dripped from his lips. Ichigo's punch had insured that the guy would at least achieve a bit of liftoff, and Ichigo used it to his advantage. His next move was a solid fist to the chest, which sent the guy sliding several feet across the floor. He clutched at his mouth and chest, coughing around blood and teeth.

People backed away. Ichigo turned back on the other one. The two girls were gone. The remaining guy grabbed one of the bottles off Ichigo's table and broke it over the edge. He looked ready to piss himself. Ichigo raised a brow and grinned. He was only a couple of feet away. He raised a hand to the guy and wagged a finger. The guy was stupid enough to come at him.

Ichigo sidestepped, grabbing the man's wrist when it passed. One upward palm thrust from Ichigo's other hand, and the guy would now find that his elbow was double jointed. He would also find himself looking down at the floor when Ichigo lifted him up and then slammed him down onto the table. He landed so his broken elbow was bent at a backward angle, the hand of that arm touching his shoulder. He could only moan in severe pain.

'So much for our night out," Ichigo thought, sighing. He wasn't surprised when he felt a finger tap him on the shoulder. He was surprised when he had to glance down to look at the guy doing the tapping.

The guy just topped six feet or so, and was built stocky. Ichigo doubted he be able to make this guy budge while in his body, new strength or not. He wore jeans and a uniform shirt for the club, like the guys he'd seen at the door earlier. The hair was brown, about shoulder length, and a bit wavy, while his eyes were a shade of gunmetal grey and set in a face with a jaw that looked like he could take a hit and keep coming.

"This is a bit unexpected kid," the bouncer said. He spoke calmly and evenly, glancing at the two Ichigo had laid out. "I figured you were gonna throw the first hit." He focused on Ichigo again. "Although, you did follow my rules."

Ichigo raised a brow. "YOUR rules?"

The guy cracked a smile and cocked his head. "Be nice."

Not both Ichigo's brows raised. "You're the head bouncer?" His eyes traveled over the guy, and then back up. "Funny, I thought you'd be taller."

His words were met by the wave of a hand before he slipped his hands in his pockets. "Yeah, I've heard it all. Now listen up kid. I know they started it, but fighting of any kind ain't really tolerated here. That said, I am gonna have to toss you out."

"I figured that was the case," Ichigo said, his face deadpan.

"However…" The man head up a finger. "As another general rule of mine, anyone who follows my rules is entitled to one last dance before we kick them out." He jerked his thumb to the floor of people. "So get going kid. You and your ladies have one dance before you're outta here."

Ichigo wasn't sure how to respond to that. The guy was fairly lenient compared to what he expected. Halibel had the answer though, because she was pulling both Ichigo and Orihime onto the floor. The bouncer just watched them go with a chuckle. "Some kid."

At the moment, Shihoin Yoruichi was very much distracted by her thoughts.

For people who knew the Goddess of Flash, they would know that she never got distracted very easily. In fact, when she was dealing with a matter that concerned business, she was never distracted. As the former leader of the Onmitsukido, she knew. In that particular line of work, distractions usually led to people getting hurt. In some cases, it even got them killed. However, this was not one of those cases. In this case, distractions by her thoughts would help her understand the issue a little better because she was thinking about it.

When it came to Ichigo Kurosaki, thinking was always the primary thing that needed to be done.

This had been something that Yoruichi had being doing since the day that she met the boy. Even she herself would sometimes refer to him as The Walking Enigma, but for fuck's sake, half the things that he managed to pull out of his ass were just ridiculous. However, she still found some of it amazing. When she first met him, she didn't think much of him. Sure, she could feel some power. How couldn't she? It oozed from him like sweat from pores. Other than that, nothing too impressive. It was only later that she started to really notice the shit he pulled off.

When he'd fought Jidanbo, she was mildly surprised that Ichigo had won. She had said that power wouldn't be enough, but apparently, she'd been wrong. It seems she'd underestimated him, and she'd admonished herself lightly for it. Just because a person is green doesn't mean they're weak. Later though, things really got surprising.

She'd seen the fight with Kenpachi. Hell, it hadn't taken her long to get there after the energies had started flaring. That one really threw her. He'd not only fought Kenpachi Zaraki, but had managed to fight him into a draw. It was almost unheard of! A greenhorn like him, fighting a captain to a draw, and one of the strongest to boot! But he'd done it, and survived. Amazing.

Achieving Bankai in two days, and then beating her old playmate, Kuchiki Byakuya. She wasn't surprised anymore, but she was still impressed. Not to mention, she was proud of her new student. Of course she thought of him as her student, and she had to admit, it was a relish to teach him, even for the tenseness of the situation. That, and he was just so easy to tease. His reactions were just perfect. It was priceless to see him react to her lack of clothing. Those ones were just too cute.

Shaking her head now, she couldn't help but chuckle. One thing that she'd noticed through all of that though was that he never really changed. He was brash, hotheaded, and emotional. A teenager. One who put his friends and comrades before anything else. It's what made him strong. That desire to protect his friends. She could understand that desire. After all, she put herself on the line for Kisuke before, as well as Hirako and the others like him. And Ichigo had been the same up until he went to Hueco Mundo.

Between observing him last night, throughout the day, and his visit to both Urahara's and that nightclub, she actually wasn't sure what to think. At first, she wasn't entirely sure what to make of his change. Considering that Yamamoto went as far as to have her keep an eye on the boy, that really said something. He didn't even give all of the details either. It had to be big though. Okay, so his appearance had changed a little bit, but that wasn't too big of a deal. Hell, he actually looked pretty good.

His behavior was what she was concerned over by this point. Considering what she'd seen so far, she would say that his personality had changed a bit. He still worried over his friends and the people around him, but for other things, he was different. He angered easily, he was quick to use physical violence. The fact that he wasn't acting as he usually did with the opposite sex was another thing she noticed. Sure, he still had some moments where he acted shy and embarrassed over it, but after seeing the little show that he put on at the club, it was safe to say that he'd changed in that regard as well.

Then again, considering that he'd brought Arrancar back with him, she did have to wonder about what exactly he was thinking. Human forms or not, they were still Hollows, and Hollows ate souls. Yoruichi herself had nothing personal against Hollows in general, but that was just how things went. Bringing them to the living world, and taking them in as well. She was sure that maybe Ichigo wasn't thinking straight.

Then again, seeing how he interacted with all of them, it showed that he was still himself. He cared for them, even acted like a big brother for two of them. For all intents and purposes, he treated them like family. So he was still Ichigo, even if he acted differently in some ways.

Yoruichi shook her head a little as she thought about it all. Trying to make sense of all this, especially when she didn't have all the facts yet, was making her head hurt. For the moment, she'd just have to keep an eye on Ichigo like the old man had asked her to. It was really all she could do. Trudging tiredly back to Urahara's though, she could help but think about one last thing.

Halibel, and the way Ichigo interacted with her. While she had no idea why, she couldn't help but feel just a little angry.

As he stood before him, Renji Abarai truly had to wonder what it was that was going through the head of the Captain-General. Given that he was the one called to this meeting, he had a pretty good idea.

"Abarai-fukutaicho, you have been called here due to recent events pertaining to, and the current status of, Substitute Shinigami Kurosaki Ichigo." Seems his idea was pretty close. Of course that was why he was here. Aside from Rukia, Renji was one of Ichigo's closest friends in Soul Society. It only made sense that the Sotaicho would want to speak with him regarding Ichigo's…changes.

"Due to the relationship between the two of you, we are sending you on a mission to retrieve him and bring him to Soul Society."

Now that one really made Renji lift a tattooed brow. Only for a second though. He stiffened to attention when he spoke up. "Forgive me for being blunt Sotaicho, but I don't think Ichigo's going to be all that willing to talk with you right now." Renji looked away for a moment. "He doesn't exactly take well to people who order him to kill off his friends."

Yamamoto just nodded to this. He'd seen that with his own eyes already. He didn't have all the facts at the time, or anyone's opinion on the boy's "friends."

Ukitake spoke out. "Renji, what was your take on Ichigo's new comrades?" Reactions to the question were a bit mixed, in Soifon's hidden anger, Byakuya's indifference, the scrutiny that a few of the others were giving the man, and the small grin that Kyoraku had on his face. They all missed the slight shift in Unohana's gaze to focus on Renji and his response, or the angry leer that Mayuri was giving.

Renji himself was a little surprised by the question. It's not like he'd had much interaction with all of them. He'd just have to give the best answer that he could. "Truthfully sir, I don't know."

"What are you saying, Abarai?" Soifon asked, her voice edged. "They are Arrancar, aren't they? Hollows. You should think of them as your enemy."

"Soifon-taicho, that is enough." Yamamoto turned back to Renji. "Regardless of what your thoughts are on this matter, your duty now is to bring Kurosaki here, along with those women."

Komamura spoke up. "Sotaicho, with all due respect, after the events of the other night, it doesn't seem likely that he will be willing to come here. At least not so soon."

"If that is the case, then give him as much time as he deems necessary. Regardless, bring him here as quickly as you can. You are to leave within the hour." The old captain banged the end of his cane against the wooden floor. "This meeting is dismissed."

The meeting let out slowly, but Kenpachi watched Renji until the Lieutenant was out of his sight. After he was, the man let out a snort. 'What a load of shit.'

Contrary to what people thought of him, Kenpachi was not a stupid man. On or off the battlefield, the man's mind was rather sharp. His paperwork was always finished quickly, but meticulously. It never got the chance to pile up like in other divisions. Aside from that, the man was also not stupid about people, or the lies they told.

If there was one thing that Kenpachi Zaraki prided himself in aside from his fighting skills, it was that he could always tell when someone was lying to him, or telling a lie. This was especially true of the people in his division. He knew everything that went on in his division. Yumichika thought that Kenpachi didn't know about his Zanpakutou, but he knew. Ikkaku as well. The man thought Kenpachi didn't know about his Bankai. Foolish. Any of his men, be they his now or formerly, couldn't keep anything from him.

Renji was no exception. He could almost see it. Renji had already formed an opinion on those girls that Ichigo had come back with. Kenpachi himself already had a bit of an inkling on them.

"You gonna say anything to him?" The blonde spirit's head popped up from over his shoulder. Her pigtails bobbed as he walked.

Once again, the man snorted. 'No. Whatever he thinks of them is his own damn business.' He glanced at her. 'Why the hell are you asking?'

"I just wanna know what you're thinkin'."

'You're in my head. Just look.'

"Dumbass, I would if I could. You're locked up tighter than a steel trap." She huffed. "We gotta talk to build a relationship anyway. Some come on fucker, let's talk." Kenpachi clicked his tongue and made his way back to his division.

Across the Seireitei, Kenpachi wouldn't be surprised that he was right about Renji, as he was thinking about the girls and what he thought of them. Though truthfully, he still wasn't sure about some of them. He couldn't get a bead on those two with Orihime yet. Hell, he could barely remember their names. That Halibel woman he really wasn't sure of. Quiet, aloof, but devoted to Ichigo. And powerful, no doubt about that. Nel still seemed like she had when they met, so he wasn't as worried about her as the others. Actually, she was still fairly friendly. It was the last four that really got him though.

Apache, Mila-Rose, and Sun-Sun. Now he had an immediate opinion of those three. He was a little wary, given their origin and species, but that was normal. It was with these three that his time in the Eleventh division came in. Side by side, he fought with them, battled with them. He'd won with them. That was how it went in the eleventh. If you battle side by side with someone, then you can trust them. Just because that was how it was didn't mean he wouldn't be wary of them. Although, he did think that he could sit down and have a drink with the first two. Or at least Mila-Rose. From the interaction he'd had with her so far, he assumed it'd most likely be enjoyable.

Then that last one. The little girl with the light green hair. Lilinette. Even as he thought about it, there was no way that he could hold anything real against that girl, Arrancar or not. Especially after he had seen that look in her eyes.

Renji let his mind wander as he thought about that look. He knew that look from personal experience. He'd worn it many times himself over the years. People always wore that look when they lost someone close to them. He would know. Losing three of your best friends to oblivion was enough to ensure that. From what he knew, she had only lost one person, the Tres Espada, but they way she looked and the way she acted now said that he had at least been very close to her.

Even just thinking about it made him feel bad. He pitied her because she lost something important to her, but at the same time, he sympathized with her for the very same reason. He also knew that she'd never truly get over it either. He hadn't, and neither had Rukia.

Rukia. Now there was something that was bugging him. The thought of her as she was right now really made him feel down. Considering everything that happened though, he wasn't surprised that she was acting like she was. And considering the person who caused it all, he couldn't help but grit his teeth as well. They were both being stupid, but Ichigo was being especially stupid since he hadn't bothered to take the time and explain the whole situation to her. Renji sighed. Or perhaps he as being stupid because he was jealous.

Contrary to what others thought of him, Renji was no fool. He wasn't Rukia's best friend for nothing. He could see the feelings she had for Ichigo. Anyone could, save for the strawberry. When he found her in the world of the living, and seeing her reactions to Ichigo's pain and near death, he thought he was seeing things. He'd been wrong.

When he mentioned to her before her execution, that he was alive, well, and coming for her, he knew that he hadn't hallucinated. Her reaction and the look in her eyes was enough to cement the fact. She had feelings for Ichigo. She probably didn't even realize it herself, but every time the boy was mentioned, or anytime she saw or thought about him, she always got a little look in her eye. She was always happier.

Renji snorted. She wasn't now though. He'd seen her yesterday, giving a small greeting to her as he passed. Her lack of response and the look in her eyes was enough to tell him everything. She was thinking about Ichigo, but also how he had acted. The was a small grinding sound as Renji grit his teeth a little harder. Even in her depressed state, she still thought about Ichigo! Why not him? Why that human? Had he always been there for her? Hadn't they grown up together? Hadn't he…?

Coming to a stop just before the Fourth Division's front door, Renji's mind hit the undeniable wall. He slumped in mild defeat and anger, his fist clenching, but then loosening and coming up to lightly palm his face and stay there. He really was. He was jealous. Jealous of a man he'd come to see as one of his best friends. His head hit the seki seki rock next to the door.

He was jealous. He was angry because that. And he felt pathetic for all of it.

Unohana Retsu was known, amongst other things, for being a patient woman.

She supposed that was why she okay with Renji taking longer than he should have to get to her division after the meeting. Any Shinigami taking a mission to the living world, whether they be the lowest rank or a captain, was to have a mandatory physical before they were deemed fit to leave. Of course, there was also the fact that she had seen Renji looking troubled just as he was leaving the meeting to make his way to her division, so she supposed could forgive him of a little meandering on his part. He'd hastily apologized as soon as he made his way into her office.

"Oh dear, it's quite fine Abarai-fukutaicho. Please remove your shirt and have a seat. I'll be right with you." Turning away from him, she prepared a few instruments and forms for his physical. Because she had her back to him, he missed the slight widening of her normal smile. This was actually a golden opportunity for her. For it was that she could gather a little information from the cherry haired Lieutenant.

While his power was enough for Halibel-san to swear herself to Ichigo, it wasn't enough for Unohana. She needed to know more about the strawberry. She knew he was loyal, and that he would do anything for his friends, but what was he like outside of battle? Surely Renji would know a little about the boy. She would have asked Rukia, but as the girl was at the moment, that would be an unwise action to take. For now, Renji would have to do.

She took a stethoscope in her hands and turned back to Renji. He looked tired, and a bit disappointed with something. He twitched a little when she place the cold instrument against his chest. "Take a deep breath please." The deep breath and the long sigh that accompanied it prompted her first question, enough to make the conversation that she hoped for to start. "Is there anything wrong Abarai-fukutaicho?"

Renji only smirked a bit. "Is it that obvious?"

The woman gave a serene smile, placing the stethoscope again. "You forget Renji-san, we also offer psychiatric counseling here. It's my job to know when something is bothering one of my patients." She placed the stethoscope on the table and asked for his arm. As she took his blood pressure, she asked, "Perhaps these recent events are the cause?" She paused at his look. "Or perhaps it's about Kurosaki-san?"

Renji's slight tensing said enough. She only smiled, her eyes on him. "Tell me Abarai-fukutaicho, outside of battle, what is that boy like?" At his questioning glance, she said, "Consider it my own curiosity. After overhearing your conversation with the Quincy and the Arrancar in Hueco Mundo, I find myself wondering."

Renji stared at that disarming smile for several moments before he shrugged. "Eh, why not." He actually took on a thinking pose. "Honestly, he's a little bit of a hothead, and he's stubborn. Depending on the circumstances, he's also a little impatient. And from what I've seen, he rarely smiles."

Unohana had surmised a little bit on this already. Considering his actions so far, she wasn't surprised by his words. She did let Renji continue though. "Rukia told me that she's seen him smile before, but…" He took on an uncomfortable look, but spoke anyway. "but he only does it when he's thinking about something painful. Like the anniversary of his mother's death."

Now Unohana paused in her actions. She looked at Renji, but he just kept on going. "Honestly, Rukia knows more about it than I do, but apparently his mom was killed by a Hollow." Renji looked rather somber as he spoke. "She says that he blames himself for it, and that's why he fights to protect everyone that he can. He doesn't want anyone to have to go through everything that he and his family did. That, and he doesn't want to lose anyone else." Renji wore a sad smirk now. "He'll do whatever it takes, and damn the consequences to himself. Hell, the only thing that Arrancar's sword really did aside from give him power and a transformation was kick those feelings up a couple of notches." He looked at her. "That's all I know, really."

"I see." She really did see, but she said nothing. From there, the physical proceeded quietly. Neither said a word after that, and only exchanged pleasantries after Renji was stepping out the door. After he left, Unohana sat quietly behind her desk, contemplating everything that she'd been told. After hearing that his mother was killed by a Hollow, it was little wonder why he was the way that he was. Of course, this new information also made her stop and think about everything that she really found attractive about him. He was the way that he was because of his loss. Every action he took, every emotion that he felt, all of it began when he lost his mother to a Hollow.

Even as she thought about it all, she couldn't help but think about how painful such an experience was for him, and how truly far apart the two of them were from one another. After all, she was no stranger to loss of life. As the head of the Medical Division, she saw people die all the time. Even people that she thought she could have saved. Life was precious for her, and it was her job to make sure that it wasn't lost. However, she had never experienced anything as Ichigo had.

When she lost patients to their injuries or illness, they always weighed heavily on her soul. Even if there was nothing that she could have done for them, she still felt guilt over it. Unlike Ichigo though, she had never lost someone that was truly important to her. She'd never had a loved one die before. To lose one's mother though, and at such a young age, would truly weigh heavily on a person's soul. That weight, that guilt had become Ichigo's burden. He still carried it with his duties, trying to protect everyone else, and from what she knew, he expected nothing in return. For all he endured, he just did not care about himself. Only his friends and loved ones.

Making a mental note to get to know him better, she stood from her desk. Leaving her office to begin her rounds, Unohana couldn't help but think, 'What a strong, courageous boy he is…"

Ichigo was tired.

He was actually tired enough that his eyes were starting to droop, even as he walked. Then again, considering that he, Halibel, and Orihime had gotten in a little later than they thought they would, it wasn't really a surprising thing. If he ever went back to that club, he was going to pay a little closer attention to how the people spoke. Nothing that was said was truly what they meant.

Turns out that the Head Bouncer's idea of "one more dance" was that as long as they stayed on the dance floor, then it was still considered to be one dance. Apparently, Halibel had gotten it, for she kept them on the floor. He had to admit that he'd had plenty of fun. Although, when Orihime and Halibel had pretty much ripped the shirt off of him for the one song, that was truly a new experience. Okay, so the song had been called "Take It Off," but he didn't think that they would actually make him take off his clothes.

After a little over and an hour's worth of music, none of them could really go on. As soon as they stepped off the floor, a bouncer escorted them out. They went quietly, and when they stepped out onto the rather busy streets of the nightlife, they'd all had a good laugh. Tired, but good.

When he'd finally gotten Orihime to her apartment, she'd surprised him by initiating the good night kiss. He'd had no complaints. Afterward, she'd blushed, he'd chuckled, and they both bid each other a good night. Halibel had stayed quiet for the scene, but a thin smile graced her passive face. He had been planning on stopping by Urahara's to drop off his wallet, but no. That wouldn't have been a great end to the night. Instead, he just let Halibel slip her arm in his and walked home. Both had a smile on their face the entire way. Then they got to Ichigo's house.

Ichigo had expected his father to attack him. What he hadn't expected was Halibel's interception. As soon as his dad went into a flying kick, Halibel had gone into a forward flip. One high healed foot caught Isshin's shoulder, and he hit the floor. To make things all the more painful, when she came out of the flip, she landed on his back, her heals digging in.

"Isshin-san, you shouldn't do that."

Isshin only chuckled and looked at his son. "That's a fine woman you have there Ichigo. Just what I'd expect from a Yakuza bodyguard."

Ichigo had raised a brow at that. 'Oh this is going to be good…' He'd played the feigning ignorance card perfectly after that. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Oh my Son, you're so modest and noble! Do not lie to your father! Urahara-san told me everything! About how you stumbled onto a Yakuza deal that went bad, and about how you've been helping the police as an informant! It's why you've been sneaking out at night, and why all these people keep coming to our house!" Isshin had held up a fist from his position on the floor. There were stars in the man's eyes. "I know it's true, my noble Ichigo!"

Despite his tiredness, Ichigo couldn't help the chuckle. Of course Urahara would come up with such a ridiculous story. Ridiculous or not, Halibel had played along perfectly, even before the whole thing was finished.

"Isshin-san, if this was the case," she said, grinding a heel into the man's back. "then why would he have a Yakuza bodyguard on his arm?"

"So professional Halibel-san!" Neither missed Isshin's face turning red. Neither wanted to know. "My son is so noble, saving sweet, lovely Orihime-chan from the gang when they kidnapped her! Even if he had to join a rival gang and take their markings to do it!" Then he'd started crying manly tears. "Then he saved all my other lovely daughters when he stormed the gang's hideout! Oh Ichigo, I'm so proud of you."

"Very astute of you Isshin-san," Halibel said, "but it still doesn't answer my question."

"Oh but it does! Ichigo's gang was going to all the other girls for themselves! But my noble son wouldn't have it! He challenged them all to a fight and won!" He looked up at Ichigo, who's brow was steadily getting higher. "Ichigo, I commend you for picking up that rule about fighting one on one with Yakuza from that movie on TV. Very astute of you!"

Ichigo had almost groaned when he heard that. He picked it up from TV? Couldn't Urahara come up with something better?

"And you managed to impress the boss of the gang as well. From what I was told, he was a little cross with you for putting so many of his men inn the hospital, but you still impressed him enough for him to make a deal with you!"

Ichigo only snorted, letting out a fake sigh of resignation. "I'm guessing Urahara told you the deal as well."

"Yes, yes, yes! Leave him and his affairs alone, and he'd leave you, you're friends, and all of us alone for good!" Isshin eyed the crimson dressed, dark skinned beauty stepping on him. "He even included Halibel-san, one of his best bodyguards, to seal the deal."

Ichigo looked at his dad for a few moments, and then let out another fake sigh. "Yeah, you caught me. Sorry I didn't tell you sooner old man."

"Quite alright, my son! I don't condone the joining of a gang to do it, but I'm so proud of you either way." He grew serious looking and said, "Also, now that Halibel-san is here, I expect you to become a real man as soon as you can."

For that one, Ichigo made sure to step down hard on the man's head before heading off to bed. If only his father had known the truth. He'd probably freak out. Until he actually got around to telling his dad the truth, the man could keep that made up mob story as a suitable replacement.

Of course, when Isshin retold the story to his daughter's earlier this morning, Ichigo wasn't so sure that it was the best idea. Karin just looked at him kind of funny. "You shouldn't join gangs Ichi-nii. They'll be a bad influence." That was a reaction that he wasn't expecting. Then again, she probably knew the truth.

Yuzu didn't. In fact, when Yuzu heard what he'd "supposedly" did, she broke out in tears for the sweetness of it all, and how sorry she was for all of the girls, and saying with her father that they could stay with them for as long as they wanted. But then she took a wooden spoon and whacked Ichigo on the head with it. "Ichigo, you joined a gang? How could you do that?" She said it all with that puffed up, pouty face that she used when she was really disappointed. Then she whacked him with the spoon again. "You should know better than that!" After that though, she hugged him around his waist, sniffling a little. She said she'd been worried about him, and made him promise he wouldn't do anything like that again.

Ichigo frowned. He didn't like worrying his little sisters if he didn't have to. It was par the course though. Lying came with the territory for being a living Shinigami, and in his case, it came with being a big brother. At the moment, he was being the latter. Although this time, it was for Lilinette.

He knew that the first day of school was always scary for kids that hadn't gone before, or for new kids in general. Lilinette was no exception. In fact, she squeezed his hand a little tighter as they walked, bringing him out of his sleepy reverie. Thinking about it, it was probably a good thing that his sisters' school was on the way to his own. It made things easier that way. Although, it didn't really make things easier for Lilinette when they reached the school gates.

Lilinette was shaking so much that it looked like she might fall apart. She locked eyes with him when he bent down and smiled at her. "Lilinette, you need to relax. I know that you haven't been to school, or even thought about it, for a very long time, but it's okay. I promise." He looked at Karin, who was giving him a curious look. "Karin, Yuzu, you two will keep an eye on her won't you?"

Karin couldn't say that she hadn't seen that coming. She huffed and crossed her arms. "Yeah, I don't see why not. But you owe me one Ichi-nii."

Yuzu's response was a little more enthusiastic. "No problem Ichigo!"

"Thanks." Ichigo looked back at Lilinette, who was looking a little less nervous. "Think you can do this Lilinette?" The girl's nod was slow, but she did nod. Ichigo only grinned and laid a hand on her head. "That's what I thought. Now get going or you're gonna be late."

Lilinette blushed lightly, but moved towards Karin and Yuzu, who were frowning and smiling respectively. Before they walked off, Lilinette turned and spoke in a somewhat louder voice. "See you later, Ichigo-nii-san."

Ichigo waved as he walked off. "That was nice of you Ichigo-sama." He glanced at Sun-Sun on his left. Apparently, her uniform sleeves hung just enough to cover her hands and allowed her to hold her arms as she would normally: one hand at her lips, the other resting under it's elbow. His smile quietly dissolved into a smaller one and he let out a sigh.

"Really? I figured that's just what people did for kids nervous about going to school."

"Understandable." Sun-Sun kept her face forward as they walked. "Still, making her feel comfortable was a nice thing to do."


The two of them walked on in silence after that. That gave him a little time to think again, mainly on this whole situation. Honestly, he wasn't surprised that they were going to school. He supposed that he had Urahara to thank for that one as well, which most likely meant more debt, but hey, he was up to his eyeballs already, so why not add a little more.

He glanced at Sun-Sun. He could only assume that she didn't care much that she was attending his school. In fact, when Halibel had told her that, she had just gone along with it quietly. He wasn't surprised that Nel and Halibel weren't. They didn't look old, but they certainly weren't the physical age of any high school student he knew. That most likely excluded Mila-Rose as well. Boy, Apache was probably having a fit about that. He wouldn't be surprised if Loly and Menoly were there as well.

Still, he wondered what was going through their heads with this situation. He kept an eye on Sun-Sun. Not even a single objection at Halibel's words. He had thought that she would perhaps find it unnecessary. But not a single word. So why was she going along with this?

Meanwhile, Sun-Sun was ever so aware of his eyes on her. Those ebony golden orbs. She did not blush under his scrutiny, only stared ahead. It was not as if his were the first. In Hueco Mundo, she'd always had eyes on her, judging, measuring, scheming. In that endless desert, if you were weak, if you weren't vigilant and careful, you were food for your betters. Having Ichigo's eyes on her was no different. She could only wonder what he thought. Was he planning? Was he simply contemplating her? He was part Hollow, so perhaps he wanted to ravish her? Devour her? Kill her?

No. Those eyes were different. Hollow eyes, yes, but not a mindless killer. There was no hunger in those eyes. No insanity. No bloodlust. But there were other things. Compassion. Intent. Strength abound, and promises of protection. She'd seen in when they were in Hueco Mundo, and thought about it until now. The words of his younger sister rang in her mind. Yes, in those eyes, she could see it. He was more than trustworthy. He was…

Sun-Sun's musings were interrupted by a growl that echoed from the depths of Ichigo's throat. She looked at him, and then followed his gaze. It seems that they had arrived at his school already, and Ichigo had company waiting for him. He was dressed like a student, but the crimson hair and the white bandana made him easily recognizable.

Of course, his view of Renji was blocked when his vision suddenly went dark. A familiar voice rang in his ears. "Guess who?"

He only grinned. "Morning, Hime." She let out a squeal when he whipped around, scooped her up, and then set her back down. She did blush when he gave a short kiss, but he didn't expect anything less. He glanced behind him. Loly and Menoly were with her, and he was surprised to see Tatsuki walking with them. Then again, from where he was standing, Tatsuki looked really, really uncomfortable. Until she caught his eye. When that happened, her change in expression really surprised him. She looked hurt, angry, and disappointed, and all of it was directed at him.

No one stopped her when she stormed past towards the school gates. Ichigo only watched, really confused. "What the hell was that about?"

Orihime looked ashamed for a moment, and then looked towards Loly and Menoly. "It's nothing, Ichigo-kun."

He looked at her, and then at the two of them. They both looked rather uncomfortable. He locked gazes with Loly, who only stared back quietly. A slight quirk of the eyebrow from him, and a slow shake of her head was the only exchange between the two of them. Ichigo said, "C'mon, let's go before we're late."

Sun-Sun watched the exchange quietly, but didn't speak. Whatever was going on was not her business. So far, Ichigo was trustworthy. At the moment, that was all that mattered.

Ichigo led their small procession quietly. Renji had yet to move from his position at the gates, but Ichigo knew what was coming. He was probably here to talk. After what happened, that was the only possible reason.

Sure enough ,as soon as Ichigo reached the gates, Renji moved to stand in front of him. Ichigo stopped, and so did his group. "Ichigo, we need to talk."

So he was right. But actually talking? That's a first for Soul Society. "Then talk."

Now Renji looked hesitant. He glanced around Ichigo. "Alone."

"What's this that you have to talk to him alone, huh pineapple head?" Apache and Chad had just arrived on the scene. "You wanna have strawberry's baby or something?"

Both Renji and Ichigo balked at that. Their responses were in stereo as well. "ARE YOU OUTTA YOUR MIND?"

Apache only shrugged. "If I gotta go here, I might as well have some fun with it." She walked past, Chad following quietly behind.

Ichigo only sighed. 'This is going to be fun…'

"It could be worse King."

'How?' Before Hichigo could speak, Ichigo stopped him. 'Wait, don't answer that.'


'Bite me.'

"Thanks but no. You probably taste like shit."

Ichigo calmed as well as he could. He looked at Orihime on his arm. "Hime, would you show them how to get to class. Renji and I gotta talk."

Orihime looked hesitant at first, but then she looked at Renji. She could understand that he was just doing his job. If he needed to talk to Ichigo alone, then there wasn't really much she could do about it. Besides, Ichigo would most likely tell her and the others about it later, so… "Sure, Ichigo-kun."

The group of girls walked past slowly, the Arrancar girls keeping an eye on Renji until they past him. After they were out of earshot, Ichigo spoke up. "All right Renji. We're alone. Now talk. Why are you here?"

Renji wasn't exactly sure where he should start actually. He was a little put off by Ichigo's demeanor. It went from fiery hot to icy cold in record time, and considering that this was Ichigo, that was a miracle. Or a bad omen. Although, there was really nothing that Renji could say by this point that would make things worse than they already were, so getting right to the point wouldn't hurt him. It wouldn't help him much, but it wouldn't hurt. That in mind, Renji set his business face and started.

"I'm here on the Sotaicho's orders." Testing the waters, he watched for Ichigo's reactions. There weren't any. "He wants to speak with you, Ichigo."

That one brought the rise of an orange eyebrow. "He wants to talk to me? After all of the shit that happened the other night, he just wants to talk to me?" That patented scowl came back immediately. "What's the catch?"

Renji looked uneasy for a moment, but that quickly passed. "He wants you to come to Soul Society…and he wants you to bring all of those women with you when you do."

That one seemed to be an instant deal-breaker. "Not happening Renji." He moved to pass the Lieutenant, but felt a hand on his arm. Ichigo almost felt his pupils narrow in anger at the Shinigami's touch. "Let go of me Renji."

"Ichigo, for once just listen. The Sotaicho is trying to be reasonable. He just wants to talk, leader to leader."

Ichigo wrenched his arm from Renji's grip and rounded on him. His hair was standing on end. His eyes almost glowed with anger. "Reasonable? Reasonable? He's being reasonable now? You don't try and order someone to kill new friends and then expect to negotiate with them! The old man is full of shit!" He took a few deep breaths and calmed a little. "Besides, I'm no leader."

"Now you're the one who's full of shit." Renji countered. "Even if you don't think that's the case, it's true." Renji went as far as to jab a finger to the center of Ichigo's chest.

"YOU led the ryoka invasion of Soul Society, YOU were the one who took on the Bount's leader, YOU were the one we all followed when we went to rescue Orihime, and YOU were the one who decided that it was okay to bring Arrancar back to your town!" There was a jab for every 'YOU' he spoke. "There was no arguing, no disagreement, nothing for any of it! You know why? Because like it or not, you're the leader of your ragtag little group of beings!"

Renji leaned in close. "And as the fucking leader, it's your responsibility to take action when the situation calls for it! So you need to stop acting like fucking child, and take care of all this shit!"

Ichigo stood there for a few seconds, letting all of that sink in deep. When he finally moved again, it was his face. His eyebrow was twitching pretty damn quick, and so was the corner of his mouth. His teeth were bared in a smirk. He leaned forward so fast that he head-butted Renji. Renji did not react, save for he was wearing the same look and smirk as Ichigo. "You're getting awfully fucking cocky Renji! Maybe I should kick your ass again, huh?"

"I'd like to see you try it, Ichigo!" The two of them pushed at each other, hands at their shoulders. Neither budged as they pushed, until Ichigo backed out of the way and let Renji fall on his face. He looked up at Ichigo, his face red and scraped. "What the hell Ichigo?"

"I'm not going to be late for class for this shit. If you're coming, then get moving." Ichigo swung his back over his shoulder. He started walking, and Renji was up and following a second later. For a moment, Renji didn't say anything.

"I still have my orders Ichigo. I have to bring you and the Arrancar as soon as I can." He slipped his hands in his pockets. "And until I do, I have to keep an eye on you as well."

Ichigo snorted. "Figures." He sighed and glanced back at Renji. "I've got no real choice, do I?"

Renji only shook his head, to which Ichigo only sighed again. He thought about it for a minute. After the shit that the old man had tried to pull the other night, he had to wonder why he would even consider any request that the old man gave him. Hell, it's not like he actually worked for the old man, so he couldn't really give him any orders and expect him to follow them. The journey to Hueco Mundo was proof enough of that fact.

Then again, there was the fact that Aizen was still at large. Sure he was stronger now. That was undisputable. However, it still wasn't enough. He knew that for a fact. He'd come very close to taking down Aizen, but he hadn't. Like it or not, even as strong as he was now, or all the help that Halibel would be able to provide, he still need the old man and Soul Society's help.

He sighed again. Apparently, that response was going to become rather natural for him. Big surprise. "Fine, Renji. But I'm not dropping everything and going there now." He looked back at the red-haired lieutenant. "We just got back from Hueco Mundo, and we all need time to rest." He scowled and bared his teeth. "Besides, after that shit the other night, he should be glad I've even considered the offer."

Renji only nodded. "Fine. I was told to give you as much time as you wanted anyway."

That made Ichigo's brow raise for the barest second before it descended back into a scowl. The old man was trying to stay on his good side apparently. Fine with him. Let's hope it stayed that way for now.

"Fine." Ichigo said, looking back. "Since you've gotta keep an eye on me, you can help out."

Renji's brow raised. "Help out?"

Ichigo scoffed. "Thanks to Urahara and his ridiculous cover story about me and the girls being involved in gang affairs…" Renji's brow raised a little higher. "Don't ask. Anyway, thanks to that, my dad realized that the girls need clothes. Not clothes from Urahara's place either." A little more debt was good, but if Urahara provided complete wardrobes for all of them, them Ichigo will have dug a hole that he could never get out of. "We're heading to the mall." Ichigo grinned a grin that unnerved Renji to the core. "You get to come along a be a pack mule."

Renji looked at Ichigo with just a bit of loathing. Regardless, he acquiesced. If he was hanging around, he might as well do something to pass the time, aside from training that is. Neither of them had really noticed it, but during the length of their conversation, they had reached their classroom. Ichigo saw Orihime looking worried, but as soon as he gave he a small smile and a wave, she brightened considerably. Before they entered the classroom though, Renji said one last thing.

"Ichigo, just so you know, about Rukia…" Ichigo stopped and frowned when he heard that, but listened. "She's really worried about you."

Ichigo heard that and thought about it. After the failed attempt at trying to kill Halibel the other night, he couldn't help but feel just a little miffed at her. Then again, he couldn't be completely angry with her. It's not like she actually succeeded, or she could have. Unsure of how to feel about her at the moment, he settled for indifferent. "Really? Why?" he asked with a slight raising of the brow and a shrug. Renji simply stared at him and shook his head.

Worried was a bit of an understatement at the moment. He had seen Rukia once in the last two days. He'd caught a glimpse of her just before he'd left for the living world. She looked miserable. Actually, the last time that he had seen her like that was fifty years prior…when she'd had to do the hardest thing that she'd ever had to do. And now she was experiencing those emotions all over again.

'Ichigo, you fucking idiot…'

And that's Chapter Seven, ladies and gents. Now on to business.

For all of you that didn't like this chapter, (and I'm sure that there are at least one or two like there was for the last chapter) tough. Whether you like it or not, introducing new characters and character development is an essential thing for a story. If you can't deal with that, then why do you bother reader stories like mine?

As to the other thing, updates. Before you bother begging/demanding that I make updates, just know that I ignore that kind of thing. You make demands of an author, and expect them to be met. I update when the chapter is finished. No sooner, no later. That's my prerogative as the author. You don't like this either? Then I shall quote 'trotha' from the one review for "Lion's Loss.": Take a Cero enema.

And now I'm gone guys. I've got other writings to get to for the moment, and then I plan on starting on Chapter Eight. Till next time, See Ya Space Cowboys! Bye for now! SnK.

P.S. The Artists and Songs that were used or mentioned in this fic are as follows:

The Birthday Massacre: Looking Glass

Katy Perry: I Kissed A Girl

Cascada: Everytime We Touch

Kesha: Take It Off