Damages CH.11: You can't go home again

Now that she had Sode no Shirayuki back…Rukia fought with her conscience. How easy would it be to get a moment alone with Nemuwhat if she was caught…her plan overheard…Nemu blabbed…Stark's fraccion hung around and heard and reported back to one of the Espada. Argh! In frustration she threw herself crossways on the bed, scowling darkly. There were just too many What ifs if she failed.

Her hand rose to her forehead, considering another dimmer possibility. What if she did make it and found Byakuya…but was tracked down and—No! No! No! And then, with a groan she rolled over onto her stomach, peering down at the sleeping form beside the foot of the bed. Yuki. The little Arrancar was convinced—due to Aizen's brainwashing—that she wasn't allowed to set foot outside of Las Noches thereby with her Mistress wanting to take a trip into the living world…she'd just have to…but then how would Byakuya feel if she appeared with an Arrancar in tow?

Dammit! But she couldn't just leave her

Ulquiorra would flip if he found out that his eye had been deceived. She bit her lip, staring up at the canopy; Yuki was an Arrancar, a Hollow, her enemy in the sense of Seireitei. If they hadn't lost and things had been different would she have still felt the same guilt if…but no! That wasn't…but still. Rukia passed her palm fondly over the scabbard lying next to her on the quilt. Sode no Shirayuki. At least she had her back…but now…now would be the time to escape. When they wouldn't think of showing up unexpectedly at night.

Nemu…she hated to leave without offering the quiet girl a chance…

'Stark-sama'

No. She wouldn't. She would stay with him. Nemu wouldn't think of betraying the monster that had slain her fellow Soul reapers. Steadfast loyalty was to be her downfall. Rukia sighed then purposefully slipped off the bed; she would go now rather than risk the chance evading her.

On her lips the words to speak and calm the small Arrancar resided. Taking a breath, she knelt down and tapped the thin shoulder gently, "Yuki!"

~Ruins of Karakura town~

Rukia had forgotten how the world of the living looked at night. A real sky scattered with winking diamonds, no moonlight illuminated the ruinous center of the decimated town. For that she was glad. It would have been more painful to enter if the full blaze of day were upon it. The portal resealed itself behind her. Yuki hadn't come. She recalled the pinched face and wide eyes staring after her and felt a twinge of unease.

Maybe Ulqui—no—he wouldn't. He wasn't the sort to forgive insubordination of any kind. Especially if—"agh!" the cry left her lips involuntarily as she stumbled over something in the street. She hopped over it and regained her balance, squinting in the dark to try and see what it was. A skeletal baby-stroller, her mouth went dry, the wheels still spun in squeaking arcs from her sudden movement of it.

She had to go.

It was too much.

Her sandals were nearly soundless on the pavement. She thought of one place, her heart ached and her cheeks felt clammy with moisture. His house. She doubted it still stood but—suddenly she became aware of a new sound, the uneven tap-tap of another following at a distance. Shit! She had been discovered!

She tried sensing who it was…no reiatsu. Must have it suppressed. That could be any one of them. Their Sonido could easily outmatch her speed and yet whoever it was chose not to do so. Probably wanted to make her squirm in fear before—Something slammed into her back, sending her flying. Tiny arms wrapped around her middle and tumbled with her.

They came to a stop in the middle of the street. Rukia flipped over and sat up, blood-rushing through her ears. "Yu-Yuki?!" she cried, seeing the small head of short hair bob up and the little Arrancar servant's face somewhat bruised from the fall peer up at her.

"I thought about what you said and I—I—I didn't want to stay alone!"

Dumbfounded, Rukia tried catching her breath. It wasn't an Espada chasing her. Her pounding heart assumed a regular if unsteady beat, the fright passing. "You almost gave me a heart attack!"

The Arrancar cowered.

"I thought it was—" she stopped, observing the mutely bowed head pressed against her chest. She sighed and laid her hand on the small back, feeling the slight flinch that followed. "Come on…" she got up slowly with Yuki still clinging to her. "There's a place that I used to know…I'd like to see it one last time then we look for my brother, 'kay?"

Yuki nodded then looked up at her quizzically, "you have a brother? Is he strong?"

"Yes." They began moving again in the direction where she knew the clinic to be.

"Stronger than…the Espada?"

Rukia's chest tightened, her eyes closed briefly then opened, her answer hesitant, "uh-huh. He…he once fought against Ichi—Shirosaki, the day I was going to be executed."

"You were going to be executed! And—and against La Cero? Did he win?"

The Arrancar's eyes were large in her face and Rukia smiled faintly, " of course he did. He's still alive, isn't he?" That was a lie in a way. Yuki swung their clasped hands while she mulled over this. "Is he—your brother—is he a—a-Soul reaper?"

"He used to be Captain of the sixth Division." Rukia said proudly. Not anymore.

"Do you think…he'll…like me?"

"Of course he will, silly!" she hastened to reassure her. He better. Once I tell him how she's helped me, he'd better accept her. They rounded the street corner and she stopped walking. There it was. The outer façade of the clinic was still in place, not a shingle of window seemed broken. It had escaped unscathed. Thank the Gods…

~*~

The stairs creaked underfoot but Rukia had no fear. No one was around; it was just she and Yuki treading on the familiar staircase, coming to the landing turning to the door on the left that was his…

She stiffened and stared.

The door stood open, an unnatural light bathed the room in weak luminescence. A tall figure stood facing the window, almost as if taken from her memories and superimposed like a hologram. Every inch was the same. Faded tight jeans, the clink of a metal chain looped around the belt and hanging to the side, the green station sweatshirt with the hood thrown back.

She wanted to see his face.

It was impossible.

She had to see his face.

Yuki unwillingly was dragged along even stumbling across the threshold. Rukia impatiently tugged on her hand motioning her forward.

He still hadn't turned.

"I-Ichigo?" she hardly dared to hope.

But maybe—could it be—?

Burning black eyes with two yellow pinpoints met her hopeful look, a crazed grin split the scowling mouth, "no, Queen. It's me, Shirosaki!"

Rukia screamed, falling back.

His dense reiatsu washed over the small room.

Her legs gave out.

Her fists clenched, and only then she realized Yuki had let go.

"No, YUKI! NO!!!!"

~*~

Her eyes filled with horror only saw the body of the Arrancar be tossed aside, bloodied about the gaping wound in her chest. Shirosaki didn't spare another look back, crossing the room in two strides, "ooh we're alone now. That pesky Ulqui-kun and Grimm-kitty aren't here to protect you." He bent down to eye level and smirked in her face, "they have, you know. 'Kyorra especially. He worries for you…in fact I would dare say he loves you. Not more than me of course." His hand trailed down her cheek, "no one loves you more than me."

Rukia couldn't even hear.

Yuki.

Her mind was detached, her body hollow.

Hurtbecauseofme.

He drew near.

Her wide-open eyes caught the flicker of movement. Yuki lay on her stomach, her head tilting up. Rukia saw her mouth something, no sound but the trickle of blood escaped. The large eyes closed.

Don'tdiedon'tdieohpleaseGodsdon'tletherdie!!!!!!!!!

"—I'll take good care of you, Queen…" was the last thing she ever heard.

She had no prayer for herself.

~Las Noches~

"Oi, 'Kyorra-kun!"

Ulquiorra merely lessened his pace from the door of the woman's cell. "Yes, Ichimaru?"

The silver-haired Shinigami trotted up to him, smiling a crooked smile tinged with a hint of worry, "you seen Shiro-kun around here?"

"No." he felt slightly curious, "why do you ask?"

"Aizen wants to talk to him 'bout something. But I can't find Shiro-kun anywhere. The last time I did see him was yesterday evening, talking to himself. Saying things about goin' home…" Ichimaru shrugged, "I didn't know what he was talking about so I…"

Ulquiorra heard no more.

Home. Karakura town. But it was

"ULQUI—O-ORRA!!!!"

He sighed. "Yes…Grimmjow?"

Agitated footsteps ran up to them, their owner being the teal-eyed La Sexta, panting with exertion and nervous tension. "She's—" he began then noticing Ichimaru, grabbed a hold of Ulquiorra's arm and pulled him away to an empty room down the hall. Once the door was closed, he said in a rush what had transpired in the last hours of them parting.

He was jealous. He hoped to get one up on his rival. He had snuck back to her room after making sure Ulquiorra was attending to the Inoue woman. And…the room was empty. Both Soul reaper and servant were gonebut where?

A suspicion formed in Ulquiorra's mind.

A simple check of his room and the Zanpaku-to held in his care confirmed part of it.

She had escaped with the help of the Arrancar

Where would she—

The answer was obvious. He wondered why he hadn't realized it before.

"Ulquiorra?"

It was almost strange that it had taken the petite Soul reaper to bring them to this point. A semblance of near mutual concern for one thing.

The duplicate Zanpaku-to dissolved his hands.

"She is somewhere within Karakura town." Ulquiorra said flatly. Grimmjow began cursing but quieted down instantly when he held up his hand to finish. "La Cero, I believe is there also."

~*~

Note: I intend to rewrite this but as I found CH.11 buried within my docs nearly ready I polished it up and decided to post it as it was. Much later on however I will redo Damages because I feel it has gone somewhat astray from my original vision. :P