Hey everyone, this is my second story for bleach and also my second story for fanfiction. It won't be perfect but I hope you like it anyway.

Sorry if I made any mistakes in this chapter.

Please no Flames, but Constructive criticism, advice and ideas are accepted, as it will help me write this story and improve it.

I don't own Bleach, Tite Kubo does, I only own the OCs, plotline and Ideas(some have been inspired though)

Word count: 6,008 in 12 pages.

Warning some course language, some sexual reference, and there is violence. Also there are some OCs but they only help the story work and the characters might be oocish but this an AU story afterall.

Thanx to Winter Knight, glon morski, Experimentnumber628, chite, BreathToday and Moinca for reviewing last chapter.

Remember if you have any questions about the fic just ask.

EXPLANATION: (Nothing to do with story): Okay well you you all know from last chapter that I was injured and in hospital, well my string of injuries has continued and I can't really catch a break. It's been interrupting with my school and I've been doing everything I could to get up to date with it and so writing anything in general has be put on the back foot. That and I've completely lost any inspiration for bleach at the moment, it's been leaning to Avatar The Last Airbender at the moment, but I will try update my Bleach stories. Most likely I'll be focusing in Sanctum as I have an idea of where I'm going, whereas in Cataclysm I've hit a massive rut. So I'll see how I go.

Sorry for any mistakes, but I think you all can understand why there might be an excess of mistakes..

Now that's done, on with the story and I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 6: My Day's Now

Rukia awoke the next morning eager to get through the day. Tonight Ichigo was going to help her find out about her parents. Though the thought of him brought bitter disappointment at the memory of last night. He didn't even consider them friends and she felt hurt at that. She knew she deserved no less but she couldn't help but feel that way. Worse, he only saved her because he owed her and it brought an unnerving question to her mind. What if she hadn't? Would he have left her to her own devices against those foul minded men? She didn't doubt him to be dangerous when pushed into it, but she didn't believe him to be a heartless person.

Rukia remained on her comfy bed, she relished the luxury of it. Never had she seen a bed like this and she didn't want to get off of it, scared that if she did, it would all disappear. She laughed at the lunacy of the very idea of something like that happening. However, she wondered who this fortress belonged to? And if Ran and Nel knew of it, why didn't the take them here sooner? She sighed and got out of bed, despite yearning to stay wrapped under the warm covers.

She had responsibilities, one in particular which would keep a certain Strawberry hungry if she didn't do. If she didn't do it would probably annoy him and then he'd be an absolute pain out of pure spite. She huffed as she changed. 'Why did she have to do it? Oh right Ran nominated her to do it and Nel thought it was an excellent idea.'

At least doing it let her off some of the chores that had to deal with meals. They were always the most painstaking. Now she had to deliver Ichigo his meals. She had a feeling the Strawberry was going to give her a world of frustration for it too. Check his injuries and redress them like Nel had taught her too. Check on him every now and again, go on an extra food and supply raids and should Nel need her help with anything. Otherwise she had free time, which she could use to give Ichigo company when he wanted it. She owed it to him.

She smiled at all the young ones running around and exploring their new home. All of them shouted greetings as she passed, she replied in turn as she walked down the stairs to the kitchen.

Rukia was there in approximately fifteen minutes. She'd have gotten there sooner, if she hadn't gotten lost traversing the passages that one time. Okay, Rukia was lying to herself, it was actually three times, not that she'd admit it to anyone. She waltzed into the kitchen, cheerfully humming. A huge mistake with Rangiku in there dozing.

"Someone's happy this morning." Nel noted stirring a sleepy Rangiku awake.

"Oh are you thinking about a boy?" Rangiku exclaimed, cunningly sweet.

"No! I just had a good sleep, that's all." Rukia lied. Truth was she was happy because she was thinking about Ichigo. Well more about the fact he was actually going to help her remember her past. Her ever elusive past it seemed sometimes. No one knew anything about her until Rangiku found her asleep on their doorstep. Before that it was all blank, she was a nobody, someone who didn't exist. She was Rukia, just Rukia. That's all she remembered, not even a last name.

"Mmm, sure. It's just a massively huge coincidence that you became a morning person after you met a certain Strawberry." Rangiku stated dismissively but Rukia heard the insinuating tone underneath it and rolled her eyes in response.

"If you must know Ran." Rukia replied using Rangiku's nickname. "Ichigo said he'd help me find out more about my parents." Rukia countered taking a completely unbothered tone but looked at Nel for help. Nel just smiled walking over to hand Rukia her and Ichigo's food. "Sorry, you know there's no stopping her when she gets like this." Nel whispered lowly.

Rangiku simply smiled, waiting as Nel stopped speaking before continuing on her tirade. "I'm sure! I'm sure that you're just happy that an amazingly hot guy, who you just met and saved is going to help you remember your parents and lost past." She paused momentarily before taking a dramatically shocked expression, like she'd just had an epiphany.

"Oh my God you're right! There's absolutely nothing romantic about it! How absurd of me to think otherwise!" She agreed with Rukia, her whole demeanour serious but Rukia knew she was being completely sarcastic.

"Ran last I checked, he didn't even think we were friends. I don't know where you get these outlandish ideas from." Rukia argued seeing through Ran's mask.

"Outlandish ideas? I thought I just said it was absurd. Didn't I say that Nel?" She questioned as if she was completely innocent. Rukia rolled her eyes and grabbed the plates and rushed out the kitchen annoyed. In her hurry she nearly dropped the plates as she swerved avoiding hitting into Renji.

"Sorry Renji." She apologised, barely looking up, yet her cheeks reddened in embarrassment, her stomach fluttered slightly when Renji's familiar hands gripped her shoulders gently.

"Ruk don't worry about it. Where you going?" He asked curiously, wondering why she had a second plate, absently forgetting Rukia had been assigned to watch Ichigo.

"Up to Ichigo to give him breakfast, like I'm supposed to." Rukia answered rushing past him, all the while missing the dark look that crossed his face as she said Ichigo.

Renji entered the kitchen, scowling. Rangiku looked up and stood grabbing a plate for him. "Still hasn't noticed has she?" She asked him kindly as she handed him the plate. Renji merely grabbed the plate gently from Rangiku's hand.

"Better hurry up and tell her before someone else gets her attention." Rangiku advised. Renji grunted in reply and left the kitchen quickly.

"Ran! Who are you trying to set Rukia up with? Renji or Ichigo?" Nelliel asked demandingly, frowning at her close friend.

"Either one would be good. That damn girl is always so serious and she's nearly sixteen for God's sake. She needs a boy in her life." Rangiku exclaimed.

"You have no shame! Leave her alone and she'll find someone on her own." Nel reprimanded lightly.

"Hey, give me some credit. If I'd left you alone, you and Grimmjow wouldn't have happened. You know Grimmjow was all over Harribel!" Rangiku retorted easily. Nel looked at her and sighed. Ran had her there. Grimmjow hadn't noticed her feelings until Rangiku had instigated one of her little plans. She just hoped no-one got hurt but Nel knew should this situation continue to develop on its current path, there'd be more than a few broken hearts. She knew relationships just as well as Rangiku and like Rangiku she could see the relationship between Ichigo and Rukia forming. Even more she knew Renji liked Rukia and that Rukia reciprocated those feelings for him, she just denied it to herself. This was going to evolve into a love triangle sooner or later and it was going to be messy for all parties. She just prayed no one else got involved in it emotionally else it'd be a catastrophe.

Rukia's POV

I ran up the stairs, everyone was waking now more than before. The older ones who didn't mind a bit of a sleep in took the chance to without a second thought. I hoped that Ichigo was one such person. Though I doubted it, he'd mentioned sleeping on the streets so he probably woke with the sun, if not earlier. I was still frustrated at Ran's sneaky insinuations, I hated when she got like this. I remember her doing that with Renji, I mean come on I didn't like Renji that way nor did he like me that way. We were just friends, same with Ichigo... if even that.

I felt a twinge at the thought and ignored it, he was right, we barely knew each other. I continued to sprint up the stairs with expert balance and grace. I twisted around the children running down the stairs, careful not to drop anything as I kept running not slowing. Eventually I made it to his room level. He was the only one on this floor. Grimmjow had thought it best just in case he somehow managed to escape.

I was a bit surprised at Grimmjow, he didn't live up to my expectations from all the rumours I'd heard about. From them he'd sounded like an even crazier Zaraki Kenpaci, if that was even possible, but around Nel he seemed... sane. Well that was when Ichigo wasn't in the same room. I swear Grimmjow looked threatened by him. I laughed at the thought.

When I neared Ichigo's door, I saw Yachiru sitting at it with a small group of children, which was slowly growing. One such group sprinted past me, in fact the very same group that I'd passed on the steps. When they reached Yachiru one of them handed her something shiny... a key. The little bastards had just pick-pocketed me for the key.

"Yachiru." I growled as I stood near them, holding the plates as I watched them devise a way to unlock the door. They were far too short to reach. They tumbled down, falling to the floor stunned at my sudden appearance. I'd made sure to come extra quietly, without them noticing me.

I stepped over them carefully and retrieved my key, balancing the plates on one arm like I'd seem waitresses do. Amazingly I didn't drop anything. I turned my attention onto the gathered children. "Now off. He's not a pet you can play with." I reprimanded lightly, keeping my tone calm.

"But he has a pet wolf." A little girl with brown pig tails squeaked. He name was Toyokawa Yui.

I rolled my eyes. "Shiro's not his pet. He's his friend and he's not in there. Toshiro's in charge of him, since for some God only knows reason Shiro decided it. So go outside and find them downstairs." I exclaimed in good manner, enjoying their excited smiles. The group of children chattered happily as they scattered off to find Toshiro. Only Yachiru remained and looked at me pleadingly.

I sighed and knelt down to her eye level. "No, sorry Yachiru for now you can't visit him." I stated softly, apologetically. Yachiru nodded dipping her head as she began to walk away. "Yachiru." I called and she turned to look at me. "I promise when he's better I'll take you in to see him, okay?" I asked and winked, smiling. She broke into a grin and nodded enthusiastically, as she ran off in better spirits.

I sighed happily and put the plates on the floor before unlocking the door. I opened it gingerly waiting for an angry exclamation at the late breakfast, but there was nothing. I peeked in and glanced at his bed and there he was still fast asleep. I ducked and picked up the plates and slid through the door. I walked to his bed and placed the food on the bedside table.

Ichigo was sprawled on his stomach lying diagonally across the bed, taking up as much room as possible. His uninjured left arm hung limply off the side of the bed. The blanket I'd given him twisted around him, barely covering him. He wore the same pants as last night and no shirt. He breathed lightly and didn't stir. I noted his hair was shaggy and unkempt. I wondered idly when he last cut his hair.

Carefully I shook his shoulder, he stirred grumbling and battered my hand away before ducking his head into the crook of his arm, glancing away from me. His light periodic breathing resumed seconds later. I shook him again slightly harder, while murmuring his name. I was extremely cautious not to aggravate his wounds. 'Though, the pain might wake him up.' I idly thought as my second attempt failed.

He just stirred, moving slightly into a different position. This time he sleepily folded his arms and rested his head on them, facing me this time. He wasn't even using a pillow, it was on the floor a few metres away. He must have thrown it, unaccustomed to the leverage it gave his head. I snarled lowly this time shaking him harder as his patterned breathing returned. He simply repositioned himself and turned his face away again. This time I growled loudly and shook him harder than I'd intended to. His breath hitched slightly as he hissed and rolled over onto his back, his hurt right arm sliding off the bed. Again his breath returned to its sleeping rhythm as if nothing had disturbed his sleep. For someone who sleeps on the streets he sure is fucking difficult to wake up.

For a moment I was tempted to pull him off his bed but that would aggravate his injuries, and I didn't want to hurt him. Plus Nel would kill if she found out. No not if, when she found out. I huffed and strode to my food not wanting it to get any colder. It was still relatively warm, Nel had definitely worked a warming solution into it. As I began eating an idea sprung into my head, food! One way to all men was through their stomach.

I grabbed some food and held it near his nose. He stirred as he smelled the food. I heard his stomach grumble in apparent anticipation and slowly his eyes opened and he yawned. He looked at me bleary eyed and with mild surprise, gingerly he stretched readying to sit up. I went to help but he glared. "Injured not an invalid." He growled. I shook my head letting him do it on his own.

He sat hissing as he lethargically sat up, pulling the tight skin around the healing areas. I gazed at him slightly smugly but he ignored me, swinging his feet off the bed preparing to stand. I sighed and grabbed his plate, pushing him back down and gave him his plate.

"Eat first." I snapped as he tried to push me away. He sighed and grudgingly ate his breakfast. I sat of the sofa on the side of his bed. 'Why does he have two sofas? All the other rooms had one.' I wondered slightly. I ate quickly eyeing him carefully as he ate. I finished just before he did and spoke.

"Why are you still wearing those same clothes? Don't the other clothes fit you?" I asked softly.

"Hmm... Don't see why I had to change." He remarked disinterested and stood. I huffed and went looking for the clothes, finding them I threw him some breeches to him. "Put on something clean." I advised calmly, at least that's how I tried to make it sound.

"What no shirt?" He asked tauntingly, smirking. I ignored the comment and walked to him, taking his arm and pulled him to the private bathroom each room had. I yanked the door opened and shoved him gently in.

"This is your bathroom. Over there is the lavatory. This whole place has been irrigated and designed to get rid of waste. Do what you need to and press that button, it'll flush everything down with water. If you're wondering how Nel says it was made with magic..." I went to continue but he interrupted.

"Rukia I know. I've been here before." He explained simply before shutting the door.

I stood stunned for a couple of seconds before walking to the cupboard. In it were all of Nel's healing supplies she'd made for Ichigo. We'd filled up the cupboard last night. Ichigo had fallen asleep watching us. I whirled as I heard the door close and Ichigo trudged in tiredly, his dirty pair of pants over his shoulder. He looked at me curiously.

"Lie down on the bed." I ordered.

"Why?" He asked defiantly.

"I need to redress your wounds and I'll have to do it daily maybe twice a day if the wound is weeping to prevent infection." I elucidated, he raised an eyebrow astounded. Before he could speak again, I spoke knowing what exactly he was going to ask. "Nel doesn't need to tend to your wounds, not when it's as basic as redressing them, if I think there's anything wrong I'll go get her. I'm more than capable of it anyway." I counted his unspoken refute while a soft smile. Ichigo shrugged, obviously he didn't really care who was doing it, he just wanted to know why. He turned and sat on the bed like I'd asked.

I sighed and began rummaging through and gathered the ointments, the one for numbing one, the one for preventing infection and the ointment that sped up the healing process. Also I gathered fresh cloths and bandages to dress the wound. I placed them on the bed beside him before returning to the cupboard. I grabbed a bowl and went to the bathroom and filled the bowl with water. I marvelled at how the water seemed to magically flow into the bowl out of the tap. This was so much easier than carrying a heavy bucket of water to the house from the well over three kilometres away.

Moments later I returned to Ichigo bowl in hand and placed it on the bedside table on the bed's right. Ichigo looked at me curiously as I moved the healing supplies near the water.

"Lie down." I ordered sternly. He frowned for a moment, I could tell he hated being ordered around as he remained seated. We had a glaring contest until finally I got annoyed and pushed him down. He glowered at me but I just smiled brightly at him as I took his right arm gently.

Gingerly, I unwrapped it and pulled off the covering cloth. Grabbing one of the fresh cloths I'd gotten, I dabbed it in water and tenderly washed his wound. He let out a quiet hiss when I first pressed, I loosened up the pressure, washing the wound lighter. I took the three ointments and gently placed each on at three separate places. Carefully I rubbed mixing them together over the injury. Ichigo growled, his wound undoubtedly stinging from the treatments as they began to work but soon it'd disappear as it began to numb. Quickly I covered the wound with a clean cloth and rewrapped his arm.

After that I had him sit up again and removed the bandages covering his chest. I peeled off the cloth that covered it before I pushed him back down, getting him to lie on his left side. Deftly I washed the wound and replicated what I did with the ointments on his arm on his chest. I registered the graveness of the wound as I worked. It looked pretty shallow, however, it was healing slowly and stretched widely across his right side. But that was at first glance, when I actually took a good look at it with much protesting from Ichigo, I saw in fact it was a lot deep. It was located between his third and fourth ribs. Stretching from just less than the middle of his right set of ribs at the front to about the same distance on his back. How he managed to lose any pursuers with this kind of wound was a miracle. I finished by wrapping his chest again with bandages after sitting him up.

I noted his stitches had been torn, Nel had been unable to stitch them due to the lack of stitches in our stock. I mumbled as I looked at Ichigo's old bandages, which had some blood seepage, I was now thoroughly annoyed like Nel at Grimmjow's and Renji's rough treatment. Thankfully to Nel's ointments there wasn't as much as there would have been.

I came out of my thought process as Ichigo readied to stand again. He paused as I glared at him. "What?" He snapped. I could see he was tired and that he was fighting his own exhaustion.

"You need sleep." I remarked, he snarled annoyed at my concern.

"I'm fine." He tried standing but I quickly stood in front of him refusing to budge. "No you're not. You're nowhere near fine. Now bed." I argued shoving him gently back. He misbalanced easily and tumbled back onto his bed growling.

As he sat back up I threw a shirt into his face. "Here's a shirt if you want to wear one." I sang at his scowling face. He growled again and dropped it to the floor, he fell onto his back sighing. I looked at him triumphantly as he raised his head still glaring at me. "Oh stop glaring at me." I stated, rolling me eyes. He went to say something but I didn't let him. "When was the last time you had a haircut?" I interrupted changing the subject entirely.

"What?" He asked confused, raising his eyebrows.

"When was the last time you had a haircut?" I asked again phrasing it slower.

"Um, I don't remember, couple of years I guess." He answered both unsure and confused.

"Fine. I'll get Momo to come here at lunch. She'll give you a haircut." I told him matter of factually. He looked at me strangely before shrugging and laying his head back onto the mattress.

"Good, I'll be back at lunch and for the love of God do get some rest." I ordered, my tone marvelling at the apparent miracle it would be if he actually rested. I strode out of the room and locked the door.

I went down all the way to the courtyard and gardens outside. The moment I walked out a streak of white came sprinting toward me, bowling me over. Shiro sniffed me excitedly. Momentarily I was confused as to why, then I remembered where I'd come from. He smelt Ichigo on me. He looked around expectantly and whined dropping his head and tail when Ichigo didn't appear.

Toshiro came running moments later. He gulped and pulled Shiro off of me. Momo followed seconds later and pulled me up. "How's Shiro?" I asked.

"A pain." Toshiro groused, irritated as he glared down at said wolf, who now sat on his foot looking absolutely innocent. I smiled sympathetically at both Shiros. One was disappointed, the other at wit's end.

I looked to Momo, she was smiling brightly despite her close friend's obvious downcast and moody demeanour. "Momo could you do me a favour?" I questioned hopefully.

"Course Ruk. What is it?" She replied cheerfully, her eyes squinting shut in delight.

"Ichigo needs a haircut. Could you do it at lunch?" I proposed, praying I'd not scare her off.

She paled as I spoke, growing more apprehensive with each word I spoke. "I don't know. They say he's dangerous." She murmured feebly, looking away and shaking slightly. I frowned, it seems gossip did spread as fast as wildfire.

"Momo don't be stupid. Ichigo won't hurt you, you haven't given him a reason too. Look, I'll even come with you and Ruk to bring Shiro to see him." Toshiro reprimanded his childhood friend, rolling his eyes at her gossip induced ignorance. They were more than just friends, they were basically brother and sister. Sometimes I forget they aren't, other times I thought Toshiro was older. Momo was timid and kind, it made her easily manipulated and intimidated. Toshiro, however, just shrugged most things off with his icy indifferent demeanour. He rarely made friends because of it and the fact that because of his white hair he was thought to be cursed. Those who earned his loyalty as friend, he became fiercely protective of, especially Momo. He hated the fact people used her nature against her.

Toshiro was a wielder, a wielder of Wild Magic. It allowed him to understand animals like he would a normal person. I think he understands them better than people, which was probably why Toshiro was Shiro's choice to take care of him. Some say with Wild Mages that they could command animals and plants. They were nature's chosen advocates. This ability led to countless people being afraid of him, leading to him to be ridiculed and into fights.

I smiled at Toshiro and he gave a rare grin back, as Momo considered my offer. "Okay but he better not try anything funny." She muttered trying to sound angry and brave but under it I could tell she was quite nervous and curious.

"Don't worry he won't try being funny. I don't think he can laugh. He barely smiles!" I exclaimed jokingly but Hinamori scowled at me.

"That's not what I meant." She growled, frowning worriedly.

"I know Momo. Trust me you'll be fine. He's too exhausted anyway. When we get there at lunch he'll probably be fast asleep." I promised truthfully. I just hoped Ichigo wouldn't turn me into a liar. Hinamori nodded knowing we'd let no harm befall her.

Momo and I sat down, content to watch Toshiro struggle with Shiro. There was one point where he was on the ground grappling with him, actually make that several times. We giggled at him as Shiro constantly stumped the child prodigy. Unfortunately, Shiro decided to turn his intentions onto us and literally dragged us into his games. I was sacred he was going to tear my arm off with how hard he was pulling.

Shiro was strange. Sometimes he seemed almost human, other instances he was what he was meant to be, an animal. I got a strange notion at the thought. Ichigo was like that. It was as if spending all that time surviving together that they rubbed off on each other. I realised they depended on each other to endure all their shared hardships, they grew to need each other just to live. I felt sorry for them. Ichigo should have a family and a home and Shiro a pack and a den in the forest, not running around in a city. Vaguely, I wondered why Alithra took Shiro away from his natural habitat. It didn't seem fair. Why? Why did all these things happen to both of them? Maybe...

My thoughts were interrupted as Hozu strutted towards us smirking, in what he obviously thought was a charming smile but in fact was the complete opposite. Oh actually maybe it was his presence in general that made me want to kick his ass.

"Ruk, how's the mutts?" He called as he paced closer to me and put his arm around me.

I squirmed out of his embrace glaring. Toshiro was too as he began talking. "Mutts? What mutts?" He grilled angrily. It was a well known fact Toshiro abhorred Hozu and vice versa. Hozu hated the different and Toshiro was just that.

Hozu sneered darkly and I resisted the urge to lash out, simply because Nelliel-san would have all our heads if I did. "The mutts. Shiro and Ichigo." He stated laughingly. Without thinking I leapt kicking him in the crown jewels. He howled and when he recovered enough, he backhanded me hard across the face. I jerked back violently and tumbled stunned into Momo, who supported me as I slowly regained my footing.

Hozu stepped forward intent on giving me a lesson. I cringed back knowing I couldn't defend myself. As he raised a fist, Shiro pelted into him knocking him over with no problem. Shiro snarled biting deep into Hozu's collarbone and held tight. I ran to them, trying to pry Shiro off him but he refused to loosen his grip. Hozu screamed in agony, which eventually brought Nel to the scene.

"Toshiro get him off now!" Nelliel ordered, her gaze narrowed in a deadly glare. He nodded and calmly placed his hands on either side of Shiro's head. Shiro let go albeit it seemed quite reluctant. He growled lengthily at Hozu, who immediately shrunk back. Toshiro barked out a short laugh, earning a cold glower from Nel.

"What is so funny about this Toshiro-san?" She snapped, not her usual warm self.

"Shiro. He said Hozu's a stupid pup. That he was taking it easy on him considering he didn't even snap his collarbone. It was only a nip he said." Toshiro answered sincerely mirth spread across his face before quickly recovering his icy exterior. I kept my own up but inwardly I smirked broadly. I walked to Shiro and gave him a grateful scratch behind his ears, while wiping the blood that trickled down my cut and swelling lip.

Understanding dawned on Nel's face as she saw my lip. She shook her head at Hozu's stupidity and arrogance, her eyes getting that dissatisfied and disappointed glint in them. She left it at that knowing she could not tell us off for Shiro's action, Hozu, however got an earful and more. By the end of the fiasco as in Nel tending Hozu's injury and giving us a minor scolding it was lunch.

I scampered up the stairs, Momo, Toshiro and Shiro following closely. Each of us carried food. I had mine and Ichigo's, Toshiro had his and Shiro's and Momo had her own. We reached Ichigo's floor and slowed as we reached his door. I unlocked it and walked in and thankfully true to my word Ichigo was astonishingly asleep, sprawled across the bed. Momo smiled in relief, now fully reassured.

I paced to Ichigo and tried to wake him, when my first two attempts didn't work, I tried with food but that didn't work this time. I huffed throwing my arms up in frustration. Momo laughed while Toshiro remained stern, Shiro, however, scampered mischievously passed me and clamped onto Ichigo's left arm before any of us could stop him. Ichigo awoke with a pain filled yet menacing growl. Shiro gave him no mercy, yanking hard and wrenched him to the ground. Ichigo snarled angrily as agony undoubtedly lanced up his side. "Damn fucking wolf." He cursed pushing Shiro away as said wolf lunged to bite him again.

Momo watched warily as Ichigo struggled with the large wolf. He was scowling darkly and I could tell she was worried about his reaction to their visit. I put a hand comfortingly on her shoulder and squeezed gently. Shiro finally gave Ichigo a reprieve and sat and watched enamoured as Ichigo heaved himself into sitting position.

I walked over to him and offered a hand to help him stand but he glared at me annoyed and huffed. "Injured not an invalid. Would you get that through your thick head?" He snapped as he forced himself to stand in front of me, towering over me as he frowned in exasperation.

I looked at him just as irritated until he spoke. "What happened to your lip?" He asked his brows furrowed deeper and I swear his tone was laced with something akin to concern.

I opened my mouth and shut it again as I noticed Ichigo's arm was bleeding from where Shiro had bitten into him. "My lip's nothing compared to your arm at the moment so don't worry about it." I retorted and stepped forward to have a good look at it. Ichigo scowled harder and shook away my attempts to tend to it. Fed up I snarled and kicked him in the shins. He yelped in surprise and clutched his leg and I pushed him onto the bed.

"Stay there. I need to dress your brand new addition to your lengthening list of injuries." I ordered sternly and whacked him across the head, when he rolled his eyes.

"Is than including the bruised, possibly cracked shins and sore head you so delightedly insisted I have?" He retorted snappily, glaring at me. I rolled my eyes in reply and turned to find Toshiro was fighting smiling and Momo just looked at me. She looked pale as a ghost and looked like she'd just seen one. "Oh wait! Eat first!" I exclaimed, pushing a plate into his face almost immediately after I uttered the words. I took my own food and began munching.

Ichigo sighed and took the food, deciding to eat in silence, while I chatted amongst my companions. We tried to get him to talk but he ignored any and all our attempts at conversation with he, it was absolutely infuriating. After finishing my food I washed Ichigo's newly acquired wound and bandaged it, much to Ichigo's annoyance. I swear he was worse than a child. When he sat up I observed how he moved tiredly, fighting exhaustion. Stubborn Mule! He turned around briefly and I noticed the long faded burn scar on his back. I frowned realising it wasn't going to be the only one for long.

"What happened to your back?" I asked my tone as quiet and respectable as possible.

"None of your business." He remarked defensively, whipping around to face me and hide his scar. I frowned sadly at his reluctance to trust me, but I understood why he was. He didn't know me, and he didn't have any reason to trust me. I knew if I prodded, he'd break and snap an impulsive answer but I didn't want to damage this tender relationship I had with him. I didn't know how to step into his heart without trampling all over his feelings. I wanted him to trust me and I felt ashamed that I had not noticed the scar sooner.

I sighed and Momo stepped closer nervously, she looked at Ichigo's shaggy orange tresses and thought, her nervousness being leached away by her distraction. Ichigo looked at her blankly, his scowl deep and portraying no other emotions save anger but that anger didn't reach his eyes. From her pocket Momo drew a pair of scissors and ushered Ichigo onto a chair near the dining table. She made short work of it and soon Ichigo's hair was spiky.

Ichigo murmured thanks to Momo, she smiled sweetly no longer afraid of him. She patted his head and Ichigo ducked away scowling. Momo laughed as he mumbled under his breath apparently irritated but soon that was interrupted by Shiro. The wolf leapt, tackling both Ichigo and the chair over. Ichigo pushed Shiro off of him and lunged playfully. He grappled with the wolf, getting Shiro in a headlock, with the wolf replying with a particularly hard kick to Ichigo's stomach. We stared for a few moments shocked at how rough Shiro was with Ichigo compared to us, then we started laughing. Better Ichigo than us. I smiled at them because despite Shiro's rough treatment of Ichigo, he seemed somehow... happier.

Finally, Ichigo stood dodging Shiro's attempts at biting his arm, Shiro soon gave up and went to Toshiro, who simply battered him away lightly. However, Shiro had other ideas and persevered.

"He likes you. That's a first." Ichigo muttered, eyebrows raised in genuine surprise.

"Most animals do. Toshiro's a wild wielder." Momo exclaimed proudly, Ichigo nodded, a faint smile touching his lips. He walked back to his bed and sat on it. He still looked exhausted. He'd slept most of the day yet he still remained tired.

"Ichigo are you okay?" I asked my tone concerned. He didn't look at me but simply shrugged. "I'm getting there." He murmured quietly.

Minutes later Ichigo collapsed completely onto his bed and I took that as a sign to get going. I sent Momo, Toshiro and Shiro out ahead of me before going back to Ichigo.

"Hey, are you sure you're okay?" I questioned worriedly, frowning down at him. Ichigo shrugged slightly and muttered something before drifting off again. I sighed slightly annoyed at his refusal to tell me about his condition but I accepted it anyway and left. He needed rest and I... I needed to... "Oh I don't know." I hissed aloud to myself in annoyance. I guess I'd go find Renji and spend some time with him, Kira and Hisagi.

Yay finally updated and not the greatest chapter but it needed to be done though I still liked it. Especially Shiro in this, he just loves being a pain. I hoped you enjoyed it anyway, it's kinda starting to set the scene in preparation for the start of Ichigo's and Rukia's deal. Anyway I'm glad it's up, so now everyone knows I haven't just dropped off the face of the earth.

Oh and I'm really, really, really sorry for taking so long on getting back to writing, for those who like my strories.

Next chapter will be up as soon as possible, so please review and come back to read the next chapter.