Chapter 57: Strawberry Meets Death

I MISSED YOU ALL! :DD!

A major AN at the end- but to start, this chapter is unfortunately short compared to some of SMD's chapters; but after an entire semester's worth of break, I think this is a good length. Plus, I need to get back into my SMD mode :O Done in two hours, sadly :( But, I hope you like :D Due to unforeseen circumstances between mid-October to mid-November, Telephone fell behind in updates, so I will have to be updating interchangeably between these two. My plans to have SMD finished by mid-January are now impossible =,= WAH~! Oh well :)

I have updated my profile, by the way! If you want, let me know which you'd think would be best to start after SMD and Telephone- When They Come for Me or Headboard Confessions? Also, I'll try to quickly reply to recent, past reviews next chapter :)

I hope you enjoy this chapter :) Thanks for the support even throughout its hiatus- I appreciate you all so much!

*Shitsurei shimashita - a formal apology

Disclaimer: I do not own any original Bleach characters, concepts or quotes.


White curtains danced softly in the breeze flowing through the open window, Ukitake's long, white hair and hoari lightly billowing in it, his hands resting on the window's frame with closed eyes, chin to the warm sun casting down its rays...

Inhaling deeply, releasing his breath slowly, green eyes opened as he turned, the beautiful scene from just beyond the window pane replaced with sickly white walls, machines lined against the windowless one centered around a cold, hard bed, all reaching out with tubes and wires, connecting to Rukia lying motionless beneath a heavy, white blanket.

Sighing in exhaustion, Ukitake moved from the window tempting him back to the peaceful view, his hands locked behind his back, the tall captain moving to Rukia's bedside, careful of the tubes feeding into her throat and lungs, several IVs taped in place on her hands and arms; he frowned at the tangle of countless tubing, hating their dependence on them to keep Rukia alive, clenching his fists to keep from tearing them all out and smashing the noisy devices, biting his lip to keep from screaming at her to wake up….

Her skin was pale, much paler than he could ever recall; black hair flat and clashing against the whites of her bed, Rukia appeared smaller than she has ever seemed in the infirmary's bed, quiet and still, parted lips dry and colorless-

Ukitake dropped his head into his hands as he fell into the chair, hunched over by her bedside, stifled coughs racking his tired body, his reiatsu heavy….

Wake up, Rukia…. "Please live…."


"QUEEN!"


Yellow eyes suddenly opened, the room about Yoruichi silent and chilled, Yuzu still asleep by Shuuhei's side; lifting her head with raised ears, the feline kept absolutely still, searching the air some blocks away for the pressure again, eyes fixed on the lightened sky beyond the frosted window- Ichigo?

Muscles moved beneath her, Shuuhei slowly awakening with a groan, Yoruichi sitting up from her place on his lower back, grey eyes looking over his shoulder at her; "Yoruichi-san?"

His voice stayed in a whisper, Yuzu's breathing holding steady in her sleep; "When did you get here? How is Ichigo?"

Yoruichi looked at him in silence before turning back to the window, her eyes narrowed, her ears flattened back.

"I had left him mostly well, but… I think he's running on his instincts now."

Shuuhei frowned, making to ask her what she meant, but the feline suddenly jumped down to the floor from his back, pausing only to look back him; "Don't worry- just stay here and rest, Shuuhei."

Yoruichi rushed from the room quickly and silently, Shuuhei left behind with a frown, settling back down onto the bed and pillow.

...two days.


The shop was empty and silent when Ichigo pushed aside the clear plastic over the door frame, the male stepping through slowly, standing by the entrance as he gazed around, letting his eyes adjust to the darker rooms; running a hand through messy hair damp with the chilled morning air, Ichigo pulled his worn hoodie closer around his body, his jeans loose and torn, his whole look tired and haggard.

Walking through the shop's front, Ichigo turned into the hallway beginning Urahara's home, making his way through the hallways yet to be finished, a proper roof still not made with tarps hardly keeping the cold out.

Finding the rug covering the floor-door leading into the basement, Ichigo stood silently for some seconds, looking down at the rug, his eyes blank and reflecting its design; gripping his broken hand and wrist, bandaged with an half-assed effort, he closed his eyes as he breathed deeply, quickly separating himself from his body, gasping at the stinging pain in his wounds, broken bones aching from the separation.

His body left fallen on the floor, Ichigo stepping closer to the rug, slowly reaching over his shoulder, breathing out with relief as his hand grasped a clothed tang, determination running through his whole being at the feel of Zangetsu slung across his back again.

Huffing, his eyes set and firm, Ichigo kicked aside the rug, leaning down to pull the door open, throwing it wide open as he straightened out; "It's time again, Zangetsu…."

Hands clenched, Ichigo jumped down into the basement without a second's worth of hesitance.


Ichigo stood before the white doll Yoruichi called the Tenshintai, the strange instrument left leaning against a small boulder in the basement, Ichigo silently wrapping the chain around his arm as Yoruichi had around her hand, his brown eyes fixed on the Tenshintai.

Remembering just some hours before, remembering first seeing Zangetsu before him, Ichigo rubbed at the chain, reciting Yoruichi's words to memory-

"I'll be keeping him materialized for at most, three days, for as long as I can at one time."

The chain secure around his forearm, tight to keep from catching on anything, Ichigo reached behind his back to grasp Zangetsu's tang, pulling it forth to his side.

"It needs reiatsu… it needs the blade…."


Ichigo, you're going to let me die, aren't you?"


Pulling his blade back, brown eyes narrowed and strained, Ichigo tightened his hold on Zangetsu, his left, bandaged hand resting on its blunt edge, keeping it steady; thrusting his blade straight into the doll's center, Ichigo stood his ground as the same, intense light engulfed him, an explosion erupting seconds after, hundreds of blades falling from above into the ground.

'I won't let you die, Rukia.'


Yoruichi stood tall amongst the blades Zangetsu brought forth, Ichigo and his zanpaktou's spirit standing feet apart from each other in the clearing air, eyes locked in a firm gaze; around Ichigo's forearm was the chain, Yoruichi frowning at the male, Urahara walking up silently beside her.

Her yellow eyes turned onto him; "Why didn't you stop him, Kisuke?"

His grey eyes shadowed by his hat, Urahara turned to meet her angry ones.

"What is the point? I would have just ended up injuring him more trying to stop him, and he was surely to continue his training eventually."

Scowling, Yoruichi rushed forward, walking up to Ichigo pulling a blade from the dirt, her hand grabbing onto his arm wrapped with the chain, its metal burning her skin as she pulled on him to turn his attention onto her; "What the hell did you not understand, Ichigo! I told you to wait for me to call you! You reckless idiot-!"

Narrowing his eyes on her, Ichigo suddenly reached for her neck, a flash of pain running across his features as his movements strained his broken wrist, nevertheless holding a tight grip around her neck, Yoruichi's eyes never breaking his gaze.

"I understood perfectly fine, Yoruichi-san. But, right now, I need you to back off."

Her burning hand let go of his arm, quickly grabbing hold of his wrist at her neck, the male faltering at the pain searing through his entire arm, Yoruichi tightening her grasp around it; pulling his hand from her neck, Yoruichi looked at the bandaged hand, growling beneath her breath, glaring at Ichigo.

"How the hell do you expect to defeat Zangetsu like this! You don't have a second chance at this, Ichigo! You-!"

"I KNOW!" Ripping his wrist from her grip, his reiatsu exploded out around his whole being, Zangetsu releasing his own, moving into stance across from his shinigami.

Rocks were thrown aside by the two powerful forces pushing out from their bodies, Yoruichi's clothes and hair billowing in the raging strength engulfing her, yellow eyes narrowed angrily on the male before her, Ichigo's brown eyes set on Zangetsu.

Damn it, Ichigo! With a huff, Urahara already making to leave the basement, Yoruichi reached out to grab Ichigo's sleeve with a struggle, the female having to raise her own reiatsu just to breathe properly, yelling over the noise about them; "The moment you feel exhausted, if you start feeling nausea- release the materialization, you hear!"

Hardly nodding at her, Ichigo stepped into shunpo with Zangetsu, his sleeve torn from her grip, Yoruichi scowling before moving with shunpo, distancing herself from the two males.

Far from her, Ichigo's blade held against Zangetsu's.


A sigh left Hitsugaya as his gaze moved from his papers over to Matsumoto, his fukutaichou silently pretending to read over and sort his documents, her long, full ginger tresses falling about her face, hiding any bruises and cuts from the attack Isane had let heal on their own.

Laying down his pen, Hitsugaya leaned back in his large chair, drumming his fingers on its wooden armrests as he looked at her; "If you're not going to work, you might as well go harass the Division."

Blue eyes snapped up at him, Matsumoto's perfected pout already on her lips.

"What are you talking about, Taichou? I am working, what do you think I've been doing with all these papers?"

Toshiro scoffed, glad to see her back to her usual, lazy antics; "If you were truly working on these papers, I wouldn't have been sorting them myself for the past hour every time I finished reading and signing them."

Matsumoto huffed, leaning her elbow on the desk with her large bosom resting on its edge, her chin in hand as she stared at the wall behind Hitsugaya, her captain's gaze growing heavy.

"I've just been thinking about… everything. About Kuchiki Rukia and the human… about Shuuhei…."

Sitting up with a sigh, Matsumoto leaned back into her seat, her arms crossed beneath her breasts.

"Ukitake taichou snapped at me today, Taichou…."

Hitsugaya's eyes widened, leaning forward in his seat onto his desk; "What do you mean, Matsumoto? What the hell did you do-?"


A knock startled Ukitake from his difficult sleep, his back aching from his slouched position in the hard, uncomfortable chair, eyes stinging from the infirmary's bright lights-

"Y-yes… come in."

The door opened to reveal Matsumoto, papers held in arms as she stepped through, closing the door behind her to immediately fall onto her knee, bowing her head; "Ukitake taichou- forgive me for suddenly intruding."

The older male frowned slightly, gesturing for the vice-captain to stand.

"Do not worry, Matsumoto-san. What brings you here…?" He watched her slowly make towards him, her eyes struggling not to chance upon Rukia, pale and motionless in the stiff bed; standing beside Ukitake's chair, Matsumoto hesitated as she looked one last time at the papers, eventually holding them out to him, Ukitake eyeing the thin stack in her hand.

"What's this?"

"I… I was asked to deliver these. I happened to be around… and without duties, apparently…."

His hand took hold of the papers, nodding his thanks. Clasping her hands together in front of her, Matsumoto remained silent as Ukitake took his time even thinking about reading the papers, her blue eyes glancing over to Rukia's bed, inhaling sharply at the tightening in her chest, unsure what she was feeling at the look of the fallen noble.

'I never thought we'd crossed any paths in any manner, Kuchiki Rukia… you're sentenced to death, and with you… will be Shuuhei…."

"Who gave you these, Matsumoto?" She snapped her gaze down onto Ukitake's sharp gaze, frowning at his rising reiatsu, his hand clenching the papers as he held them up at her, impatient with her silence- "Well!"

Matsumoto jumped, swallowing uneasily; "It is procedure, Taichou… Yamamoto soutaichou handed them to me, to deliver, with how Kuchiki Rukia was captured-."

"She was not captured!" Ukitake stood abruptly, his chair pushed back, papers crinkled in his tight grasp, his exhaustion and conflict within tearing down his front, Matsumoto unable to keep from stepping back; "Ca-captain-!"

"I took her from them!" Ukitake's anger fell heavily to his guilt and sorrow, Matsumoto struck silent as the captain every shinigami knew for his smiles despite his health pains looked away, glancing about him, sighing uneasily as a shaking hand ran through his long hair.

"I took her, held her in front him… an-nd I took her away…." He nearly fell into the chair, hand losing their tight grip on the papers, holding them limply in his lap. Ukitake glanced back up to Matsumoto, frowning with his gaze moving onto Rukia's still form on the bed, sighing once more; "I'll fill these out… please wait outside to return them…."

Matsumoto bowed, quickly retreating out of the room, leaving Ukitake to himself with his precious student; rubbing at his chin, Ukitake closed his eyes, yellow eyes in black flashing at his memory, exhaling a stuttering breath.

"Live Kuchiki… please live for young Kurosaki-san…."


Hitsugaya had a heavy frown watching Matsumoto's eyes reflect with emptiness, thinking back; raising a hand to her temple, his fukutaichou closed her eyes, lips tight in a grimace; "I w-waited for his report… and walking back to the Captain-Commander's quarters… I… I read it."

Her captain's reiatsu became heavy, Matsumoto's eyes opening to see Hitsugaya glaring, his hands clenched into fists-

"What the hell were you thinking? No one else is supposed to see that report until after the soutaichou receives and distributes it himself!"

"I know, Captain!" Her empty, blue eyes filled with many emotions again as turquoise eyes softened, Matsumoto holding onto the desk's edge; "I know… but he kept saying 'them,' so I… had to…."

Hitsugaya remained silent, his brows furrowing above his strained gaze.

"Taichou… Shuuhei… Hisagi Shuuhei is alive, Taichou!" She was met with a confused look, her captain sighing exasperatedly, slamming his hand down onto his desk's top.

"You've known that, Matsumoto! You've been training our entire division based on his zanpaktou and style-!"

"I was in denial, Taichou!" Matsumoto rubbed at her eye, shaking her head, gaze down on her lap; "I couldn't accept the death I truly thought he had met that night… and now he's still alive… still an enemy…."

Hitsugaya looked away from her, eyes heavy with reluctance- with regret- as he barely forced himself to whisper-

"It is still your duty to Soul Society, to follow your directive… and eliminate Hisagi Shuuhei, Matsumoto…."

Matsumoto clenched her hands around her shihakushō, bowing her head further; "…hai, Taichou."


Zangetsu dug his heels into the dirt, Ichigo's clashing blade pushing his back against the boulders, his young shingami's blade chipping off but has yet to break; excellent, Ichigo!

"Pathetic, Ichigo!" Pushing the male back as blades clashed once more, Zangetsu moved with shunpo, Ichigo immediately following after him, just inches behind him, closer to the spirit's speed every time.

"Then try this, Old Man!" Bursting forth, Ichigo moved in front of Zangetsu, twisting around mid-air, his blade swung about to suddenly strike against Zangetsu, his zanpaktou's spirit barely raising his blade in defense, shoved to the ground below them.

Zangetsu recovered before the dust even cleared, Ichigo's leg slashed into as Zangetsu sped past him, his blade stained red with Ichigo's blood.

Falling to the ground, landing with a crouch before he forced himself to stand tall, Ichigo groaned at his muscles begging him to give up, Zangetsu's shadow moving over him, growing in size; Ichigo looked up to find Zangetsu's blade coming at him, his own chipped blade raised in defense.

The ground exploded about them, Yoruichi watching as both males were engulfed by the large cloud of dust, Zangetsu moving out from within, standing feet away from Ichigo's hidden body.

The air clearing slowly, Ichigo kneeled in a pool of blood within the crater his body had broken into the ground, his blade shattered and useless after many strikes and clashes, his body shaking with every ragged breath he took, bandages completely wet with blood from his wounds torn open.

Yoruichi stared at his arm wrapped by the chain, a disgusting feeling of worry pulling at her chest, his skin stained by his blood burning against it; it's hasn't been even five hours and the chain is already burning into him. And his wounds, his broken bones… Ichigo… don't kill yourself!

Zangetsu stared at Ichigo's beaten, bloodied body, his grip tightening on his tang, his voice loud and firm.

"Get up!" Charging at him, Zangetsu slashed into Ichigo's chest, the male falling back on the ground, grinding his jaw, holding back a pained scream; "Ichigo- get up!"

Rolling onto his front, Ichigo spitting out blood, the male pushed himself onto his hand and knees, his broken wrist's skin torn and bleeding by now, throbbing in pain as he held it against his bleeding chest, keeping it from sight.

Pulling himself straight, struggling off his knees, Ichigo staggered out from the crater, grasping a blade's tang, pulling it out from the ground; Zangetsu watched Ichigo turn to him, glaring deeply from beneath his damp bangs shadowing his eyes, panting and sweating, holding his broken wrist protectively against his chest; "No need to tell me twice, Old Man…."

Fighting back a smirk, Zangetsu closed his eyes, silent and still, Ichigo growling with confusion.

"The fuck are you doing-!"

Numerous forms of Zangetsu suddenly surrounded Ichigo as the blades did, all holding the same blade, all the exact image of the man still standing before him, Zangetsu opening his eyes to look into his brown gaze struck with shock.

"All can kill you. Only I will bleed if you tear through me." They all moved into shunpo about Ichigo, the male cursing as he stepped with flash as a blade came at him, Yoruichi standing back as she watched him take on fifty splitting images of Zangetsu, his blood dripping in a trail.

Don't die, Ichigo… whatever you do- don't die!


The room was dark and empty when eyes opened slowly, clouded ears hearing a faint beeping, small, various bright lights in the dark seemingly all around the body, the beeping increasing in speed as the heart pounding loudly to the ears pumped faster, breathing a struggle.


Eyes grew wide, the pained gasp caught in her throat, the blade tearing through her flesh as the hand before her drove it into her abdomen, curving it up through her diaphragm, cracking bones and tearing flesh loud to her muted ears, unable to breathe.


Lips parted to scream, choking at the realization of tubes running down the throat, gagging at the feel of them all shoved past the mouth, down deep into the lungs; hands blindly moved to grasp the tubes, pulling and pulling on them, desperate as they seemed to be endlessly long, choking again- whimpering- tears running down dry skin, fighting back the urge to vomit.


"LEAVE HER ALONE! LEAVE HER!"


One tube came out, another, then another, gasping as hands tossed them aside, the suction and blowing of them loud in the darkness, that damn beeping frantic and quick, loud and annoying; cold circles were stuck onto the chest, fingers ripping a cloth aside, scratching at the circles, ripping them off-

The beeping became one long, low tone, gasps and whimpers in the darkness, faint glowing lines of light outlining a window and door, hands pushing off the firm bedding to sit up; a piercing scream ripping through the air at the searing, tearing pain in the abdomen and the entire torso's middle, hands feeling at the skin, feeling it endlessly flawless… but deep within, the pain was excruciating….


Hands brushed black, damp hair back from her sweating forehead, dim, eyes barely open, barely looking up into another gaze, her shallow gasps for air silent and weak.

"Oh my little one, what have they done to you?"


Loud, fast footsteps grew beyond the walls, shouts ringing out, crying heard within the surrounding darkness, eyes shut tight in a hopeless attempt to disappear and wake from the nightmare, a door slammed open.

Unohana's hand turned the lights on, finding her curled up and shaking, sweat and fierce chills along her exposed skin, violet eyes shining in the sudden light, wide and struck with fear-

"Kuchiki!"


Blades clashed violently, Ichigo shoving off Zangetsu from his blade, barely turning to block another, a third Zangetsu coming at him, tearing into his back; screaming out, Ichigo turned in time to catch the older male behind him, slashing into his torso, Zangetsu simply fading away, bloodless.

Cursing, Ichigo crouched beneath a blade swung for his neck, striking up into Zangetsu, moving away with shunpo as two came at him from the sides.

Feet away, his blade hardly chipped off, Ichigo watched Zangetsu fade again, the two left behind turning to him, disappearing from sight; Ichigo struggled to move into shunpo, barely dodging a strike, moving onto a boulder behind them.

Turning around, sweating and bleeding, panting and shaking, Ichigo pulled his blade back as Zangetsu came at him, pushing off the boulder, meeting him mid-air- tearing into him as Zangetsu's blade cut into his arm.

Falling limp towards the ground, Zangetsu's image fading in his blurred vision, Ichigo crashed into the ground, blood and dirt mixing, his aching body jerking from the impact, his jaws tight as he fought back a painful yell; fuck!

You're not done yet… get up and defeat him, King! Don't you dare fuckin' die!

"S-shut up…." Rolling onto his side, Ichigo looked around, Zangetsu nowhere in sight; "Z-Zangetsu!"

Moving onto his knees, his blade still whole, Ichigo stabbed its tip into the ground, pulling himself up with his only hand, his arm burning from the chain, the smell of burning blood and flesh filling the air.

"Zangetsu! I'm not done, Old Man!"

Tearing out the blade, Ichigo swayed dangerously on his feet, Zangetsu appearing before him, standing silently and still; "You're not giving up?"

Breathing out a laugh, Ichigo wiped his brow on his sleeve, smirking at his Oji-san before him, grasping his tang tightly as he tucked his broken wrist into his open robe, along his chest, moving into stance.

Gazes locked, Ichigo and Zangetsu disappeared with a single step.


Rukia's entire body shook, her skin burning despite the cold she felt, her damp tresses brushed bacwith Unohana's gentle hand running a wet cloth along her forehead, moving down past panting lips to her neck; Ukitake pacing fiercely within the room, Unohana held Rukia's hand tightly, leaning over her bedside to look into violet eyes, speaking gently.

"Rukia, dear… can you hear me?" She could barely make out the slight nod Rukia gave her, her small hand in Unohana's tightening almost painfully, Isane running a fresh cloth over Rukia's skin; "Captain… what should we do? She's shaking so badly-."

Whimpers left Rukia's trembling lips, Ukitake coming up at her side, frowning heavily as he looked down at her, his throat tight.

"What's the matter with her?" Unohana looked over to him standing beside her, frowning heavily as she looked away to the door shut to the room, eyes narrowing onto it-

"He's here."

The door slammed open, Renji stepping in and holding the door open with obvious desire to just rush over instead to Rukia's side, Byakuya soon rounding the frame into the room, his cold stare locked with Unohana's; "Why is it I did not receive notification of her awakening?"

Smiling brightly at the noble moving slowly further in, Unohana shrugged, cocking her head slightly as she studied Byakuya's face for any emotions.

"Shitsurei shimashita, Kuchiki taichou." She held her head high, not a single angle of a bow to him, Byakuya's gaze narrowing onto her; "How do you find the prisoner?"

Ukitake bit back a snarl, standing tall with his gaze set on Byakuya standing by the foot of Rukia's bed.

"Your sister is burning a fever to give Yamamoto-san's Ryūjin Jakka a challenge!"

Byakuya remained stoic, his hand moving onto his zanpaktou's hilt, Ukitake glaring heatedly at him.

"Inform me immediately of her full recovery- I am over-seeing her transfer into Senzaikyū-."

Unohana froze, Ukitake moving around her to come at Byakuya, his eyes in disbelief, shaking his head with denial; "You can't be serious…."

Byakuya closed his eyes, opening them back up slowly, beginning to turn towards the door with Renji at his side; looking over his shoulder, Byakuya's voice held steady… and empty.

"Kuchiki Rukia, and our remaining targets in the living world, shall be executed upon Sōkyoku Hill."

He stepped into shunpo, Unohana looking down into Rukia's eyes, violet hues glazed with tears.


Shuuhei woke with a start at the feel of a hand roughly shaking his shoulder, looking up through his blurred vision into bright, feline eyes framed by exotic skin and purple hair, his mind slowly registering the sight through his sleepy haze; "Yo-ruichi-san? What are you-?"

"Get up, Shuuhei- leave your gigai and grab something quick to eat." She left the room then, hurrying out into the hallway, her long, purple hair trailing behind her; pushing off his stomach onto his elbows, grey eyes cleared and focused around him, a slight panic rushing Shuuhei off the bed onto his feet, only Yuzu's blanket left in her place.

"Yoruichi-san…!" He turned towards the door, moving out into the hallway, knocking shortly on Yuzu's door before opening it, the young beauty nowhere in sight; "Yoruichi-san!"

He searched the air for any slither of Yuzu's weak, small reiatsu, rushing down the stairs without a trace of it, Yoruichi leaning against the front door ahead of him, arms crossed beneath her flattering chest.

"Yoruichi-san, where's-?"

"She's safe, Shuuhei; don't worry about her." He frowned at Yoruichi, but nodded nonetheless, turning back to head upstairs. Hands falling to her sides to push off on the door behind her, Yoruichi wandered aimlessly within the household, golden eyes looking at the photos, smirking at one of Ichigo and his father, Isshin and his boy growling and wrestling as they always did.

She felt Shuuhei's reiatsu behind her, turning to find him out of his gigai, the younger death god moving into the kitchen; "You're worrying me, Yoruichi-san… mind telling me what's going on?"

He opened a cabinet, grabbing a handful of cereal bars, closing it back up as Yoruichi stood by the table.

"Like I told you- don't worry about it. Now, let's get going…." They made their way out, Shuuhei's copy of the home's keys dangling from his finger; closing the door behind them, locking it securely, Shuuhei pocketed his keys as Yoruichi stepped elegantly into a flash step, the male sighing with one last look at the home, moving with shunpo to follow behind the Goddess of Flash herself.


Shuuhei landed in a crouch beside Yoruichi's light drop onto the basement's dirt, his grey eyes looking about the vast surrounding beneath the shop as he stood tall, frowning at the large, deep crevices marking the ground for what seemed as miles, boulders smashed and destroyed all about-

"What the hell…?"

He held silent at the sight of Ichigo sitting in the shade of a boulder's undercut, his large, cleaver-like blade in front of him with its tip dug into the dirt, arms resting on it with his body slouched over, amber eyes hidden by his orange bangs.

Slowly walking towards him, Shuuhei drew in air sharply at the sight of Ichigo's burned arm, his other wrist and hand painfully obvious to be broken, blood and dirt smeared along any skin exposed, his hair limp and damp from sweat; he looked like hell.

"I-Ichigo…." He stood just a few feet from the orange-haired male, reaching out hesitantly as if he could reach him and brush his hair aside, check for any sign he was alive; feeling Yoruichi and Urahara come up on either side of him, Shuuhei stared with near awe as Ichigo finally moved to bring his amber gaze up, his smirk at his lips reaching his eyes, blood crusted along his brow.

"Yo."

Shuuhei's gaze fell into a glare, Yoruichi and Urahara smiling just as slyly as Ichigo was, the previous fukutaichou to the Ninth Division growling with irritation; "Really?"

As if you weren't looking like you let a horde of Hollows kick and drag you around? What the hell happened-!"

Ichigo dropped his gaze breathing out a laugh, wiping at his upper lip mindlessly, cussing at the sting of his broken hand; looking back up at Shuuhei from behind his teasing bangs, Ichigo slowly stood with the support of Zangetsu's strong blade, smirking again as he held onto the tang, his thumb rubbing at the bloodied material wrapped around it.

"…want to check out my new trick?"


:)

In regards to Yuzu and Shuuhei's relationship- nothing physical will happen in Strawberry Meets Death between them. I know I am suggesting it, but it will not get to that point; I do not plan on reaching as far as three years later in this story, making Yuzu an adult- therefore, nothing physical. I am at a point where I can steer their relationship in any direction that I want, that being brother and sister, that being as later lovers, or that being of that relationship in which you are simply everything and anything to each other. Like it or not- I don't really care. However, do not accuse me of portraying a pedophilia without the damn story even finishing. And no, JL, I am not accusing you of accusing me of that- but to you specifically, I am not developing them as is just cause they are main characters. Thanks for sticking with SMD this far, though, and hope you like that other stories.

Much love, KurosakiLove!