A/N: Ok, the beginning of my new story... I'm not leaving my other in-progress Bleach story, for whoever is wondering, I just felt like writing this first. I'm not sure if the first chapter is very interesting, but I'll do my best to make the next chapters better. So read this thing and tell me what you think. Oh! And there're no shinigami stuff here, everybody are just ordinary students. Ok? Ok.
Disclaimer: I do not own the anime/mangd Bleach, the chapters or the songs included in this fanfiction.
'Alright… Ready? One… Two… Th- ICHIGO! What the hell do you think you're doing?'
'Would you mind…?'
'…Removing the packets of waffles and chips from inside the trumpet…'
'But nobody plays it anyway…'
'I don't care. Get them out. Right. NOW!'
'Alright, alright… Gosh… I wonder what her problem is'
'What was that?'
'Oh. Nothing! I'm just… apologizing to the trumpet… for being so careless.'
'…Right. Now let's get st- RENJI!'
'This is no time for ordering pizza!'
'Good for you. Now hang up the…'
'I'm not ordering pizza. I'm ordering some Chinese food.'
A soft weary sigh followed that statement.
'We've got work to do! Now will you PLEASE concentrate?'
'Rangiku's late.' Ichigo pointed out, crossing his arms in front of his chest, one hand holding both drumsticks 'We can't start without her.'
Ise Nanao sighed and reached with one hand to rub her eyebrows in what seemed to be a rather pathetic attempt to ease the headache that was beginning to bother her thanks to the complete lack of cooperation. She was so NOT the person for such job.
'Look…' she begun, annoyance clear in her voice as she eyed the people under her guardianship carefully. What she saw was a bunch of bored teenagers, staring puzzlingly back at her, each of them with a different instrument in their hands. Of course they all had talent but that was so not enough. They lacked any sort of organization whatsoever and they were so easily distracted they could hardly do any work without stopping at least ten times during the process.
'Yeah, we are looking.' Renji noted, leaning lazily against the wall, his guitar resting peacefully in his feet.
Nanao took a deep breath.
'LOOK…' she repeated, this time louder 'I completely understand why you're acting this way. I…'
'No, you don't!' Rukia cut her off, eyes narrowed inimically 'We can't be a normal band anymore! Our vocal is gone! And there is no one to sing with Rangiku who refuses to sing solo on the competition and we can't even play properly, BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO PRACTICE! We can't THINK of anything to practice, we can't and we are all stuck like this until we find somebody for a lead singer!'
'Well, it's not like it's my fault, so you can stop SHOUTING at me!' Nanao snapped back, lips tightly pursed 'I do understand! I do understand your lack of motivation and the stress and all, but hey! Ichimaru left, but that's just one person! All of you are still here and if you…'
'Gin chose all the songs.' Ichigo pointed out gloomily.
'He made up all the arranges and the choreography…' came Renji's comment as he put his hands in his pockets.
'He organized everything.' Orihime finished, looking down at her toes 'To put it simply, he did most of the work.'
Nanao stood silent for a couple of seconds, then finally let out a long sigh and shook her head.
'I give up!' she announced, turning around on her heel 'Rangiku asked me to come and help you, but you can't be helped! You don't want to compete and to win – fine! Go feel sorry for yourselves. I don't care! I don't care at all!' At that point she rolled her eyes heavenwards and quickly headed to the front door, undisturbed by anyone. Ichigo, Renji, Rukia and Orihime didn't make any effort to stop her, just watched quietly as she exited, leaving them all alone in the deserted night club. After she was gone there were a couple of seconds of awkward silence.
'That wasn't a nice thing to do.' Inoue murmured, thoughtfully tracing the keys of her keyboard with her fingers 'She just wanted to help…'
'Well, she can't.' Renji groaned, sliding down the wall he was leaning against 'We can't do anything without a lead singer. Someone to perform with Rangiku…'
'Yes, and to do everything for us.' Rukia spat, rolling her eyes 'You know it's almost impossible to find someone who'll willingly do that!'
'Gin did it.'
'Gin was an exception. And Gin left.'
Renji's jaw clenched along with his fists.
'That bastard…' the red-head growled, looking away angrily 'It's not even the fact he left the band what annoys me that much… But what he did to Rangiku…'
They fell silent, each of them lost in their own thoughts. Everything had seemed so perfect, so well-planned just a month ago. They had been preparing for the competition, playing in the night club three nights in the week so they'd have the place during the whole day for practicing, and yes... Matsumoto and Ichimaru had been a couple… Things had been going smoothly, time passing fast and unnoticeable. But just as every good thing, this too, quickly came to an end. One morning, just like that, Gin had left. His explanation had been written in a slap-dash manner on a small piece of paper and it pretty much said he had received an offer for a musical career he could not just turn down, that he had to make some changes in his life, think for his future and he was very sorry…
Well, 'sorry' didn't fix anything…
Since that moment things had started to get worse. The incident broke Matsumoto's heart, left them without a lead singer and the band begun to slowly sink in deeper and deeper desperation. Their enthusiasm was reducing constantly, the rehearsals were lessening in frequency and when they actually happened, they were short and almost nothing was sang or played.
'What are we going to do now?' Orihime asked slowly. In respond Renji sighed and stood up, dusting off his clothes.
'Well… It's pretty obvious.' He said, stretching his arms and directing a rather absent-minded look in the front door's direction 'If we want this band to keep existing, we need to find someone to sing with Rangiku. And that's that.'
'Then we're doomed. No one will agree on doing everything Gin did.' Rukia murmured irritably as she lifted the guitar and carried it to its sack. By the looks of it, they wouldn't do anything today day so just wandering around with the guitar didn't seem to have any point. She could bet that in few minutes they'd all be outside, hanging out, having pointless conversation and doing just as pointless activities. Rangiku wasn't about to come. That was already perfectly clear to everybody.
'Nah, don't be like that, Rukia!' Ichigo replied as he walked behind her, leaned against the wall on his left shoulder and crossed his legs while waiting for her 'There must be somebody out there… just waiting for us to discover his existence…'
School corridors, next day…
'Surely, he can't be a senior…'
'Yeah, he can't boast about with that height of his, I agreed, but they say he's a genius.'
'Uh huh. And he's also one of the best at sports, which really leaves me wondering about how he does it…'
'Looks like a creepy little vampire to me… Look at how pale he is… And those eyes…'
'There really is something weird about him, everybody can see it… He has almost no friends, people say he hates music classes even though he's always with the earphones and the i-pod and he never takes off that cap… Even during classes.'
'Doesn't that make teachers mad?'
'It does. But he's the principal's nephew AND the smartest boy in the school, so they leave him be.'
'Not really. He's absolutely spoiled. Does whatever he wants and no one does anything about it…'
'Ugh! Just cuz he's related to-…'
'Oh, here he comes… Shh…'
Hitsugaya Toushiro passed by the two without paying any attention to their conversation, baseball cap pulled over his piercing jade eyes. The hat prevented curious gazes from seeing most of his hair and what was in view were just a strand or two of something that had the suspicious snowy-white color. It had bothered the students a lot at the beginning (about six months ago) and several of them had tried to get to see what he was hiding, but the kid turned out to be not only a genius with maths and science, but good at kicking annoying people's butts. His simply supernatural intuition helped him get away before the hand had even grabbed him and he succeeded in getting rid of whoever was bothering him very quickly afterward. Eventually, people left him be and just got used to the mystery surrounding his being, his short temper, cold attitude, haughtiness and indifference towards everything and everybody that weren't directly connected with him.
Hitsugaya stopped at the next turn in front of a door. He had the earphones still blasting music in his ears and the skateboard under his arm. Glancing at his watched, he noted to himself he was just in time and with a small sigh, he turned the i-pod off and put it along with the earphones in his pocket, before going in.
'Good morning…' he greeted the new music teacher absently and headed to his place at the back of the room, just next to the window. Thesecond he sat down, the bell rang and most of the student groaned with annoyance before heading to their own seats. There was a short moment of utter havoc, then everybody were put and ready for whatever they were going to be facing. It was just then that the door of the classroom burst open and a tall strawberry-haired girl with very nice curves entered, or rather rushed in the room.
'Ooops!' Matsumoto Rangiku reached to fix her already perfect hair and giggled nervously 'Sorry about that. I… uh… lost track of the time.'
The music teacher pushed her glasses up her nose a bit - probably a bad habit she had developed like most people with sight problems.
'Take a seat, Miss. And make sure not to be late next time.'
'Of course.' With another nervous giggle, Matsumoto started to make her way to her place just behind Rukia. Hitsugaya only gave her a mindless glance before redirecting his impassive gaze to the window again. Unlike him, he could tell most of the boys took their time ogling the girl, pairs of hungry eyes following her every movement as though it was going to make her notice them.
'Sorry about not coming to the repetition yesterday…' Matsumot whispered to Rukia.
'No worries. We did nothing, anyways…' the black-haired girl replied as she rolled her eyes and rested her head on her hand.
Repetition? Hitsugaya's usual frown deepened slightly as the words reached his ears. Oh, yes… They were some sort of a music band, right? Right…
And so the lesson started. Since the teacher was new, the first thing she did was to ask everybody for his or her name. Then she looked at the textbook for a couple of minutes, nodding to herself thoughtfully as she checked what they had done so far. At the end, she put everything down, clapped her hands together and announced that since this was their first class together, they'd just sing whatever kind of songs they like. The news were welcomed with a loud cheer by everybody, except of the pale boy at the back of the room, who just sighed.
Seconds later the whole school corridor was shaking with the uproarious singing, or more like shouting of the class, most of the tones absolutely false. The obvious tone deafness of the students was, however, compensated by their sincere enthusiasm and well, yes, even Toushiro had to give them a credit for trying so very hard to sing properly. Apparently, the teacher was thinking the same for she seemed exceptionally pleased by the teenager's efforts. She stood in front of the class with a big smile on her face, eyes travelling from face to face, from widely opened mouth to another, until she noticed Hitsugaya. He was just sitting there, gazing out of the window with his head resting on his hand and his lips tightly sealed together.
The teacher put her hands on her hips and scanned the boy again from nose to tail and after making sure he wasn't about to take part in the singing started to make her way towards him.
Hitsugaya looked up with a hint of reluctance in his jade eyes as she approached him.
'Yes?' he asked, raising eyebrows expectantly.
'You are not singing.' She pointed out. Thank you, Mrs Obvious.
'Well, you can't just sit here, doing nothing…'
'I don't sing.' He announced calmly. The teacher blinked with confusion, for a moment not realizing what he meant. Then her mouth formed a big 'o', which was the obvious sign of understanding, and then smiled brightly at the boy.
'Oh, don't be shy, most of the people in here can't sing but they…'
'I didn't say I couldn't sing.' Hitsugaya cut her off, eyes rolling with annoyance 'I said I just didn't do it.'
The teacher stared at him oddly and somewhat indignantly. Hitsugaya just gazed back, looking completely composed and undisturbed.
'You can't do that!' the teacher finally exclaimed, shaking her head 'Without a suitable excuse, the student does whatever he is told to!'
'Actually' he begun, raising his hand to keep her from continuing 'I have a permission from the principal considering singing in music classes.' With that he shoved his hand in the depths of his schoolbag and in a minute pulled out a folded piece of paper 'Here.'
The teacher took it and after fixing her glasses, quickly scanned the content. With every row she read, her eyes widened more and more until she was staring stupidly at the sheet in her hand.
'It seems you've understood.' Hitsugaya nodded to himself and before the teacher had time to reply, reached for the piece of paper and pulled it away from her rather rudely. Coming back to her senses, the teacher took a deep breath and also nodded, looking somewhat embarrassed.
'I-I… see.' She said, forcing a smile 'I knew about the hat, but I was uninformed about this.'
'It's ok. Thank you.' Hitsugaya replied with a tone that simply demanded an end of the conversation.
'Yes, yes…' the teacher murmured, then turned around and headed back to the front of the room. As soon as she was out of the view, Hitsugaya let out a sigh, the sound of which quickly sank in the noise, produced by his classmates and was just about to return to his previous activities (which simply represented staring out of the window), when he noticed that Matsumoto had stopped singing and was now staring at him. His frown deepened.
'What are you looking at?' he snapped, eyes narrowing. Startled, she quickly looked away.
After the music class…
'Isn't it weird?' Matsumoto questioned, raising a brow as she ran a hand through her hair.
'What do you mean?' Rukia asked, somewhat distracted as they walked down the school corridor and towards the school cafeteria.
'I mean that everybody knows that this boy Hitsugaya Toushiro does not sing. He has permission from the principal not to… Why wouldn't he want to sing? I mean, even people who don't sing well do it with pleasure…'
'Well, the principal is his uncle so I guess this boy-genius is just a big whimsical and Mr. Ukitake, being the soft-hearted person he is, just does whatever the kid asks him to.' Rukia suggested, shrugging. Matsumoto chucked her chin thoughtfully.
'Maybe you are right.' She agreed, looking up at the ceiling 'But that doesn't make Hitsugaya Toushiro much less weird.'
'Does it really bother you that much? What's gotten into you?'
'No… I mean, it's just that… Well, who'd want to be like this? Be so distanced from everybody? Not to have friends? Who'd want to hide his hair all the time? And why?'
'A person untimely bald-headed?' Rukia smirked, making the other girl giggle.
'Don't be ridicules!'
'I'm not. He acts like a glum little old man already.' The black-haired girl pointed out, making an exaggeratedly wise and knowing face. Seeing that, Matsumoto's giggles turned into a full-blown laughter and she stopped walking to calm herself down. Rukia's smirk grew wider and she also stopped, haughtily crossing her hands in front of her chest as she waited for Rangiku to collect herself.
'…Right.' Matsumoto said, chasing the small blush away from her face with a sigh and grinning at her friend 'So… Are we going to do anything after school?'
'You mean like a repetition?'
'Yeah. I have to hand my report after school to the biology teacher and then we can go.'
Rukia just nodded, though she deeply suspected they were going to rehearsal just as much as they did the last time…
When the last bell rang, Matsumoto instructed Rukia and Renji to go find Ichigo and Orihime and wait for her in front of the school building, then she headed towards the staff room for she still had to hand her report. As she walked towards her destination, most students were running pass her in the opposite direction, quickly empting the building before her very eyes. For what seemed like seconds, the corridors became quieter and more peaceful, which, as a matter of fact, wasn't a common thing to witness.
Handing the report took more time then expected, for the biology teacher was having a big, long, detailed conversation with some other teacher and Matsumoto had to wait patiently a meter away. About ten or fifteen minutes later, Rangiku finally got her attention and a second later she was heading back to the exit, walking thought the completely empty school building.
Matsumoto shoved a hand in her pocket and pulled out her mobile phone. She was wondering if her friends were still waiting for her or had already left for the night club. Fiddling with the buttons for a moment, she started searching for Orihime's number and was just about to begin cursing the creepy silence that was somehow making her even more clumsy, when a very unexpected yet pleasant sound reached her ears.
'What the…?' Matsumoto murmured, blinking as she looked around, trying to find the source of the sound. It took her seconds to realize it came from the principal's office. Strangely enough, Rangiku felt like eavesdropping, so without a second thought, she quickly headed to the door. When she reached it, the sounds that had been way too quiet for her to identify before had already turned into words and familiar notes.
Matsumoto's eyes widened.
Someone was singing.
'…Its nothing but some feelings.
That this old dog kicked up
Its been raining since you left me
Now I'm drowning in the flood
You see I've always been a fighter
But without you I give up…'
'This voice… It's… amazing…' Rangiku whispered astonished and without even thinking, she placed a hand on the handle and quietly pushed the door open. What she saw next was the back of a boy that was sitting on top of the principal's desk and had earphones shoved in his ears. Rangiku chocked on her own breath as she saw who it was…
This thick, deep voice, these words that were spoken in such way, steeped with so much feelings and expressiveness… How could it belong to someone who always seemed so emotionless?
'…Now I can't sing a love song
Like the way it's meant to be
Well, I guess I'm not that good anymore
But baby, that's just me…'
Matsumoto thought her whole body had stopped functioning for a second - every single cell had frozen, every muscle was utterly still, tense with shock and apprehension, every bit of the girl was just numb... everything, except her wildly banging heart. She knew the song, she knew when the chorus was supposed to begin and for a moment, the very same moment just before it, she felt as if she had just jumped above a chasm and was flying towards a rope she had to catch to save herself.
Hitsugaya's eyes were tightly closed and his pale palms were covering his ears in what seemed to be an attempt to keep any unwanted sounds away. When he begun singing the chorus, when that strong voice of his left the usually tightly sealed lips, Matsumoto felt her skin prickle, her legs go weak and her hand grip the door-frame.
'…And I will love you, baby - always
And I'll be there forever and a day - always
I'll be there till the stars don't shine
Till the heavens burst and
The words don't rhyme
And I know when I die, you'll be on my mind
And I'll love you – always…'
This boy… how could he possible have such strong radiation of emotion while singing? How could he possibly be so different from the cold and distanced boy genius now, while doing what he had never ever done during the music classes he hated so much?
'…Now your pictures that you left behind
Are just memories of a different life
Some that made us laugh, some that made us cry
One that made you have to say goodbye
What I'd give to run my fingers through your hair
To touch your lips, to hold you near
When you say your prayers try to understand
I've made mistakes, I'm just a man…'
'We need him…' Matsumoto whispered under her breath. Hitsugaya never heard her. He was too absorbed in the singing. And she didn't mind, really. At this moment there was nothing more important than listening to his voice. For a heartbeat, that boy had succeeded in making her forget where she was, what she was doing… even who she was.
…He made her forget Gin…
His singing was like nothing she had every experienced - a phenomenon, a miracle... it was pure magic, whatever it was that he was doing. It came to him with frightening ease as though he wasn't even trying - was that even possible?
Matsumoto swallowed with difficulty, her body suddenly beginning to shake as the effect of the song sank into her very bones.
This is just... too much!
Hitsugaya's voice seemed to be denying all physical laws, shoving away the reality further from whoever was there to hear him, pulling them in deeper and deeper into a completely new dimension, in a place where there were no memories of previous existence and no worries, and no guilt, and no blame, and no hate...
'When he holds you close, when he pulls you near
When he says the words you've been needing to hear
I'll wish I was him cause those words are mine
To say to you till the end of time'
Yeah, I will love you baby - always
And Ill be there forever and a day - always
If you told me to cry for you
If you told me to die for you
Take a look at my face
There's no price I won't pay
To say these words to you
Well, there ain't no luck
In these loaded dice
But baby if you give me just one more try
We can pack up our old dreams
And our old lives
We'll find a place where the sun still shines
And I will love you, baby - always
And Ill be there forever and a day - always
I'll be there till the stars don't shine
Till the heavens burst and
The words don't rhyme
And I know when I die, you'll be on my mind
And I'll love you – always…
Matsumoto blinked. And blinked again. And again.
She felt as if she had just woken up from a dream. Everything seemed so foreign and distant. What was real? What wasn't?
The borders between real world and the dreamland were still rather woolly.
Before her Hitsugaya slowly removed the earphones from his ears and a deep heavy sigh escaped his lips. He then ran a hand across his face and looked up at the ceiling.
'…Dammit…' he whispered '…Why can't I fucking forget…?'
His hand found his pocket and he pulled out something that looked like a photo. Matsumoto couldn't see what there was on it. He was still sitting with his back towards her, blocking her view.
'Who were you singing for?' the words left her lips before she could hold back, making the boy turn around abruptly and stare at her with large jade eyes that held a hint of childish vulnerability.
Song: Bon Jovi - Always