I definitely do not own Bleach or any of its characters.
Chapter One – added 5/13/09
"Oi, Rukia!" Shuuhei panted while running to her table, followed by Renji. "Why are you hiding up here? We've been looking for you all morning."
"Be quiet! I'm not hiding. How can you be my friends and not find me in the library?!" Rukia hissed with one eyebrow raised in disbelief. "Do you even know me?"
Kuchiki Rukia sat at her usual study table on the top floor in the library. No one was ever at this table – or section of the library for that matter. The books on the top floor use a card catalog with actual, tangible cards and never left the library. It was usually just Rukia and the books.
"Psh, no one is even up here to hear us," Shuuhei muttered.
"You can get information from the Internet nowadays, you know," Renji added nonchalantly.
"Huh? Ah, but maybe we shouldn't be mock –"
"So, you were looking for me all morning just to mock me?" Rukia interrupted Shuuhei's criticism of Renji with a glare.
For Rukia, one of the perks of going to an elite private academy was definitely the amazing library. It was nothing but floor to ceiling shelves with dark, antique, wood furniture – what a library should look like. She spent a lot of time in the local library when she had lived with Hisana. Sometimes Hisana would even drop her off for an entire day to read while she went to work when no one else could watch Rukia. The earthy smell of books usually put Rukia instantly at ease, letting her forget everything but what she read or studied.
"Well, we've been looking since our morning workout anyways. And we were more making a point. I mean, why would we look for you here? No one comes up here ... let alone this early in the morning. Classes haven't even started ... and it's Monday," Renji said.
Nearly all of the students came from noble or wealthy families. Most paid their way in and managed at least average grades, less got scholarships, and even fewer had both the brains to have gotten a scholarship and the money to pay their way in. Scholarships could be for either academics or for sports. Rukia felt lucky that she could count herself among the last group with regards to academics.
She almost had the reputation for academic excellence her older brother, Kuchiki Byakuya, had set when he attended. She planned to make Hisana proud by being a perfect Kuchiki and using her lack of social life to study as much as possible. She would use this last term to move from second to first in her class. There was one person in her way. She wasn't sure who, since they never posted names with the class rankings, only student numbers.
"I'm motivated. Now, out with it!" Rukia demanded, glaring, in a quiet, yet firm, voice.
"Ah... where to start...," Shuuhei began quietly, obviously delaying.
"Why were you looking for me?"
In fact, she had been trying to study for a quiz, but instead found herself annoyed and watching Abarai Renji and Hisagi Shuuhei fidget uncomfortably across from her. They were all three graduating this year. Rukia had been friends with Renji since junior high and met Shuuhei through Renji her first year here.
Renji and Shuuhei first met at a sports practice, as they both had sports scholarships and started attending practices before first year classes even started. Renji and Shuuhei became inseparable best friends when they switched rooms to live together as first years and discovered their mutual love for crazy tattoos and fighting. They both played several sports and had plenty of friends.
Unfortunately for Rukia, they were her only two friends – literally. Rukia was closed off and had a hard time opening up to anyone. She had unintentionally perfected being invisible, because being alone was easier. Kuchiki family functions were facilitated by etiquette rules – being well-mannered and making proper conversation –, but at school it was horrible. Having Renji and Shuuhei made it tolerable.
All Rukia really had was studying. Non-Renji or non-Shuuhei guys treat her as if she doesn't exist; she'd never been asked on a date. Girls ignore her for the most part, thinking she was stuck up. Although some girls seemed nice, Rukia kept her mouth shut to preserve her dignity as a Kuchiki and avoid starting an ongoing row. She sadly accepted her lack of friends and aimed to make sure she didn't have any enemies either.
Rukia couldn't believe how vicious girls could be. Rukia was certain that even the girls that were nice to her would find her annoying if she started to open up to any of them. At least being a social outcast did wonders for her marks. Rukia liked to think that she didn't have time for friends because of all her studying, rather than that she studied to fill her lack of social life.
She heard that her brother had been popular, respected, smart, and ... well ... the perfect Kuchiki student from professors. Unfortunately, just being a Kuchiki didn't help her one bit socially when most of the students were noble and/or rich anyway. Being a Kuchiki, she couldn't have realistically gone to any other than this school, the top school. At least she definitely had a handle on the smart part of being a Kuchiki. Or at least she would if she could ever get back to studying. Rukia sighed and rolled her eyes impatiently.
"Rukia ... now don't get mad. I don't really know how to say this or even explain it so it doesn't sounds worse than it really is ... heh heh ...," Renji started.
"I have an organic chemistry quiz first period that I need to be studying for. Hurry up and spit it out!" Rukia fumed and crossed her arms. "You know how hard Professor Nemu makes even her quizzes. In fact, both of you should be off studying, instead of bugging me."
"Okay, okay, well, you see ..., " Shuuhei looked away, scratching his head. "Renji and I were wiping the floor with all the other guys in the school dojo last night. And we had just casually whispered to Ikkaku that either one of us alone could take him and any other guy at the same time. That's when Renji says that we'd bet anything on our victory. I mean, you know how good we are, right?"
"Then Kurosaki comes up and says that Ikkaku can step aside, because he'd like to take us up on the wager, except have it be just him against both of us. And you know that we're the best and Kurosaki has always been just average when sparing in class, so who knew he'd be so... well... good, right? And he told us he'd bet enough money to pay off our student loans. I could really use that," Renji said before Shuuhei picked up where he left off.
"Well, somehow we ended up saying we were so confident we'd win that we'd even bet you, Rukia, for a week as his slave and that the loser ... umm losers actually ... heh heh ... also have to transfer schools. We didn't really have anything else to bet. Umm... I kind of don't even know how we even thought to bet you in the first place, actually."
"Anyway, it just kind of ... happened ... heh heh," Renji jumped in to finish pathetically, scratching his head and sporting a big, fake, nervous, don't-kill-me smile.
"What the hell? You know very well why you bet me. Were you just trying to embarrass me and the Kuchiki name? My brother will kill you when he finds out," Rukia fumed in a scary monotone.
Renji and Hisagi cringed, seeing Rukia's eyes darken in warning and a tick start to develop over her right eye. As much as they already still ached from the beating Ichigo gave them, they knew they would hurt far worse for far longer if Rukia ever got a hold of them. They wouldn't be able to bring themselves to fight back. It would be a different kind of pain.
"Actually, Kurosaki or maybe his friend with the glasses kind of suggested it," Shuuhei timidly ventured.
Ichigo had just wanted to win; she wanted to make them suffer. Neither of them felt right fighting back against a petite girl, even one as scary as Rukia was right now. Her knuckles started turning white, as she grabbed the polished wood edge of the table in front of her. Rukia shuddered while realizing this could mean Ichigo had some evil plan that involved her.
"Please, please, please, Rukia! We are both on meager sports scholarships. We don't have anywhere else to go. You know we'd never get in anywhere else at this point without bottomless pockets! It's the last term before graduation! You have to help us out!" Renji pleaded, as Rukia closed her eyes and took deep, supposedly calming breaths. "We know you've never gotten along with him, but I'm sure it won't be that bad."
"Won't be that bad. Won't be that bad!?" Rukia stopped and smiled evilly before continuing, "Wait ... don't the two of you have to leave school, because you lost anyways? Maybe I don't even need to help you out, hmm? I just need to get your new addresses at wherever you can get in with barely more than a month left of final term."
"Umm ... well ... that's the other weird thing. Kurosaki didn't even wait for us to get back on our feet before he told us that we didn't have to leave school if we could up the time he got you as his slave from one week to... uh, well, uh... one month starting today," said Renji, pointedly not making eye contact.
"One month! One month! Okay. Okay. Okay. I guess I have to help you out, but I am going to kick your sorry asses for offering me up like a piece of property to that pompous, womanizing, orange-haired jerk! And you can bet I'm going to tell my brother about this the next time he sends for me to come home for the weekend!" Rukia shouted with escalating ire. "Kiss the internship you're doing with my brother this summer good-bye, Renji!"
"But I need that internship!" Renji pleaded. "I need to..."
"Maybe you should have been thinking about that while you were selling me into slavery!"
She slowly sank further into her chair, abandoning her relentless, perfect Kuchiki posture. The anger wasn't enough to keep the despair and helpless submission at bay. Rukia would have started bawling at how her day and everyday for the next month couldn't possibly get any worse. She felt so alone and so .... disposable. No matter how hard she worked, her life was never going to be her own.
There was even money involved in the bet! The two friends that usually defended her practically just sold her to Ichigo. She might have fought back if she didn't already feel defeated from thinking about how her only friends could do this to her in the first place. She was furious with her friends and wouldn't let them see her cry. Taking out her anger on them would have to wait until she could pull herself together and focus solely on her anger.
"Take some deep breaths. Rukia, I really don't think he's a cruel guy or anything. Kurosaki probably just didn't really want to try to get us kicked out. I don't think this is going to be as bad as you think. I... we would never have agreed to this if we thought he was going to torture you like some kind of a pet," Shuuhei offered.
Rukia's biggest annoyance at the school was Kurosaki Ichigo. She couldn't even remember how it started. They had been at the same school and in the same classes since junior high school, when she had first been sent to the best school available to her as a Kuchiki. It seemed like there wasn't a time when they ever got along. Whenever they were around each other shouting, fighting, and sometimes bruises would inevitably ensue.
"But we've never... gotten along," Rukia said with as much apathy as she could, trying to wall up her emotions as her thoughts drifted back to Ichigo.
For some reason she had no problem standing up to Ichigo when she couldn't with anyone else. But at least before high school they had gotten good at avoiding the other completely, or at least she had. He always noticed her, no matter how invisible she was to everyone else. Ichigo always seemed to be able to run into her, almost as if on purpose. It happened so frequently that Rukia didn't know if it was more annoying when he did or didn't acknowledge her presence anymore.
"And do you think that he would ruin his reputation by outright torturing you for a month? You're a Kuchiki; your brother could crush a no-name like him, no matter how rich his family is. I bet it will be a month of snappy retorts. If anything gets abuse it will be Kurosaki's shins," Shuuhei said with a smile, earning an upward twitch at the corner of Rukia's mouth.
"What are you talking about? After doing something like this in the first place, Kurosaki's too evil not to...," Renji started in disbelief and confusion.
"Shut it, Renji," Shuuhei bit out, accompanied by a swift elbow to Renji's ribs.
Kuchiki Byakuya, Rukia's brother, somehow managed to be well liked, respected, and even a little feared while he was a student and was now the same in the upper echelon of the corporate world. Ichigo had managed to follow in her brother's footsteps of popularity and respect at school where she couldn't; maybe it was because neither of them ever smiled. Rukia wasn't shallow enough to hate him just because of that. She hated the whole package, especially, his miserably argumentative personality.
"That was convincing," Rukia rolled her eyes.
"I'm just trying to help," said Shuuhei, while Renji rubbed his sore ribs and glared at his friend.
"You're doing a lame job."
"Rukia, I'm not trying to manipulate you into thinking this will be fun. I'm just trying to say that maybe it won't be as bad as you think."
Rukia knew that no one but maybe Renji and Hisagi would side with her in any fight she and Ichigo might have. Now she might not be able to count on them to defend her anymore. They had too much at stake. She would be at Ichigo's mercy.
"I'm not just going to acquiesce, no matter what you say, Hisagi. You're making it sound like we're just going to be hanging out and teasing each other for a month," Rukia scoffed. "Even endless shin-kicking won't get me to enjoy spending a month with him. It will be utter humiliation."
Most of the girls in the school twittered about who would get the privilege of being Ichigo's date on any given weekend with many of them claiming to have lost their virginity to him on these coveted dates... ewwww. The way everyone else seemed to fall over themselves for him made Rukia nauseous. Now she would have to spend a month in utter hell just from seeing the flock of vapid sycophants.
"Well, I never meant that you would enjoy it, just that it might not be as horrible as you think."
"But it will," grumbled Rukia, sadly.
"I'm really sorry, Rukia," Shuuhei muttered sincerely, while startling Renji into fervent nods with another sharp elbow jab to the exact same spot. "We honestly didn't think this even had a chance of happening; right, Renji?"
His comment didn't have the desired effect on Rukia. Thinking about it made Rukia go from depressed back to angry. Just as Rukia had gotten one knee up to leap across the table and make Renji and Shuuhei unable to walk without horrible pain for the next month (all three of them would suffer together), the clock chimed to signal the approaching class. Fortunately for her two friends, classes always took precedent for Rukia.
The tolls managed to distract Rukia long enough for them to get to the stairs and far enough away that she might get kicked out of the library if she pursued them for the beating they deserved. Getting kicked out of the library would take away her one haven, especially now that she was going to need it. Packing her school bag, Rukia trudged down the stairs.
The only place she had somehow never managed to bump into Ichigo was in the library. Rukia was going to have to spend a lot of time in the library just to tolerate the next month. She refused to give up her refuge and her sanity. She could make Renji and Hisagi suffer later with an expertly planned sneak attack. She hurriedly gathered her books and trudged down the stairs in a fuming sulk.
Just as she thought her day couldn't get any worse, she saw that Ichigo was waiting for her just outside the library with his trademark scowl. How did he know she would be here? Even Renji and Hisagi had trouble finding her. Ichigo couldn't care enough to follow them when they were looking for her. As she passed, pretending not to notice him, he dropped a thick text on top of the one she was already carrying, causing her to drop both.
"Yo, midget, you'd better pick up my book and get a move on. I don't want to be late for my next class."
He smirked as he turned and started to walk away. He wasn't even going to wait for her to pick the books up – typical Ichigo!
"Hey! I have to go to my own classes, you know," Rukia fumed through clenched teeth.
Although Kurosaki Ichigo responded without turning around, Rukia could hear the smirk widening in his voice.
"But the bet starts immediately and one of the perks of having my own slave is not having to carry my own books. Luckily for you, we're both in the same organic chemistry class. In fact, we have a lot more of the same classes then I think you realize," Ichigo explained without pause.
Rukia let out a strangled cry of frustration as she grabbed up the fallen books and hurried to catch up to him, cursing him under her breath.
"I may have to do your bidding, but I don't have to pretend to like it!"
When she caught up to only a few steps behind him, she hurled his book at the back of his head with all her might and anger.
"Carry your own books, carrot-top!"
"Oooowwwww! That hurt, midget!"
Ichigo grabbed his head with one hand and caught the falling book in the other, immediately tossing it lightly at her chest as he howled. The book knocked wind out of her a little, but Rukia managed to stay upright and narrow her eyes in an evil glare.
Huffing, she briskly walked past Ichigo – both books in her arms and her nose in the air. She would be damned if he was going to get some subservient, groveling lackey kissing his butt and patiently awaiting orders all month. Grumbling and rubbing his head, Ichigo regained his lead before they reached the classroom door.
A/N: This is my first story, so I'd love any feedback! Thank you so much for even reading it! I will most likely post the next chapter sometime this weekend... or sooner, depending on how things go.