Summary: Kurosaki Ichigo knows the rule of the world: in the end, the only one he can depend on is himself. On the path to self-destruction, he meets the last person who still believes he's worth something — if he can only let her in [AU, IchiRuki]
Beginning Notes: So I have an unnaturally unhealthy obsession with the Trading Yesterday song Shattered (and Love Song Requiem and Beauty and the Tragedy. But that's a story for another day). Anyways, if you've never heard this song, go listen to it. I demand you go listen to it. It is amazing. And I'm in love with it. That is all.
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or the song Shattered. I am just a lowly fan who clearly needs a life. But if I had one, I wouldn't have enough time to write. What a nasty catch-twenty-two. Read on!
And I've lost who I am
And I can't understand
Why my heart is so broken
Rejecting your love...There's a light
There's a sun, taking all the shattered one
To the place, we belong…
~Shattered by Trading Yesterday
I. Caught Again
"Get back you here you filthy thief!"
Heads turned to watch the high speed pursuit of the middle-aged fruit vendor chasing the hooded, black-clad figure down the street. The chaser had a clear disadvantage against the one he was chasing; the thief had quite a head-start, after all, and was clearly faster than the vendor.
"You're not getting away this time!" The vendor shouted, informing the spectators that this was a daily ritual. "Get back here, street trash!"
The thief skidded around a corner, bolting down an alleyway. By the time the vendor got there, the thief was scaling the chain-link fence that broke the alley into two parts. "Oh no you don't!" The vendor shouted, running down the alley, one hand out; he got a tight hold on the thief's ankle. "Gotcha! Now give me—"
His words were cut off quite abruptly by a shoe to the face. The vendor cursed as he stumbled back, clutching, and the thief laughed, finishing his climb to the top, and jumping down onto the other side, running away.
"Damn you!" The vendor shouted, sputtering through the blood that ran freely from his nose. "Damn you!"
The chase was over. The thief had won. Again.
Kurosaki Ichigo was still chuckling as he slipped his hood off and pulled the apple out of his pocket, tossing it into the air once before taking a large bite out of it. He was pretty sure he'd broken the vendor's nose. But hey, that was what he got for calling Ichigo street trash.
That's the breaks, he thought with a smirk, taking another bite of the apple.
"Yo, Ichigo!" Ichigo turned his head to look over his shoulder. "Could hear that vendor yelling at you three streets over." Renji said as he caught up to Ichigo. "You really like pushing his buttons, don't you?"
"He just makes it so easy." Ichigo shrugged. Renji rolled his eyes as he pulled a candy bar out of his pocket.
"You should just stick to convenience stores. They keep all the small stuff at the back, they're practically asking me to steal it."
"Sure, blame the stores for your inability to keep your hands to yourself."
Renji chuckled. "I blame life for that one, my friend."
"I blame lack of money."
"Nah, too simple. Gotta be creative to survive in this world." Ichigo opened his mouth to answer, but cut off abruptly to look up when he felt a raindrop hit his face.
"Damn, I think it's starting to rain." He groaned silently. He was not looking forward to walking across the city in the rain.
"Think we can get back before it starts coming down heavy?"
The sky answered that question, opening up almost the moment Renji finished talking and dropping bucketsful of a water on the two teens. "Does that answer your question?" Ichigo grumbled as he shoved his half-eaten apple back into his sweatshirt pocket and yanked his hood back up over his head.
"Yeah, yeah." Renji responded sarcastically, pulling on his own hood as well. "Come on, there's a place near here we can hide out in until it stops."
He took off down the street, Ichigo right behind him.
Renji's idea turned out to be one of the many old warehouses in the city. They went around the back, climbing carefully through a broken window. "Who's that?" Ichigo heard someone call as he climbed in after Renji. He froze.
"S'just me." Renji said easily, though he held his hands up as if in defeat. "Gimme a break Takaichi."
Ichigo jumped off the sill, landing lightly on the floor, and straightened up to face the person Renji was talking. He was a big guy, probably two or three years older than Ichigo, his hair almost completely cut off. "We're just here to hide from the rain," Renji continued. "We won't get in the way of anything, don't worry."
"Whatever." Takaichi sounded uninterested now that he was familiar with at least one of the intruders. "Just go sit in a corner somewhere, and make sure you get out as soon as the rain is done."
"No problem." Renji muttered as Takaichi walked away. Ichigo turned to glare at his red-haired friend.
"What," he demanded angrily, "are you getting us into here? How do you even know that guy?"
"He saved my ass a couple weeks back." Renji said with a shrug, going to sit on a crate in a corner. "Got into a tough spot with some cops, they woulda had me if Takaichi hadn't come along. He dragged me in here and let me hide until the cops were gone."
Ichigo looked around the warehouse wearily. There were only a few people there besides themselves; they were all gathered around Takaichi, who was handing something to them. "Please don't tell me—"
"Yeah…he, ya know, might be a dealer—"
"Are you serious?" Ichigo hissed. He was struggling not to yell. "Damn it Renji, I'd rather be out in the rain than hanging around here, I don't want to get caught up in this crap!"
"Chill, Ichigo," Renji tried to placate his friend. "Look, I hang out here a lot when I need to get off the street for a few, I've never gotten into trouble or anything. It'll be fine. Rain should pass over soon, and when it does we'll get out of here, no harm done."
"Brilliant." Ichigo groaned as he dropped onto the crate next to Renji. "I swear Renji, if anything comes of this, you're dead."
"Man, you worry too much Ichigo—"
Renji was cut off as the large, sliding door was shoved open, and a loud voice boomed, "Nobody move!"
The three kids Takaichi had been dealing with dispersed instantly; Takaichi took off as well, running deeper into the warehouse. "Damn it!" Ichigo swore furiously as he and Renji jumped up as well. It would have been bad enough if the cops had just picked him up. He did not need it on his record that they'd picked him up during a drug bust.
"Come on!" Renji grabbed Ichigo's arm and dragged him back over to the window they'd come in through. Ichigo jumped up the crate under the window, preparing to climb through.
Ichigo froze mid-climb. The voice was familiar; it wasn't referring to him though. "Son of bitch, let go!" Renji growled, trying to yank his arm back. "We weren't doing—"
Ichigo vaulted himself back off the crate, sending his fist right into the cop's face. The cop yelled in surprise as he stumbled back, losing his grip on Renji. "Go!" Ichigo shouted at Renji, who instantly turned and ran to the window.
"Very noble Kurosaki." The cop growled as he grabbed both of Ichigo's wrists, holding him back. Ichigo looked over at the window just in time to see Renji's red head disappear. At least one of them had gotten away.
"Zaraki." Ichigo grumbled, defeated. Zaraki Kenpachi laughed cruelly as he yanked Ichigo towards the warehouse entrance.
"You're in for it this time kid, I wouldn't be surprised if they kicked you out of the system—"
"If you had half a brain you'd realize I wasn't doing drugs." Ichigo snapped. It was that slight that probably forced Zaraki to shove Ichigo a little harder than necessary as he pushed the teen into the cop car.
"We'll see, won't we? I'm sure your social worker will really appreciate this call…"
Ichigo looked up from the table as the door opened, and yet another familiar cop walked in. "Kurosaki-kun." Ukitake sighed, dropping a manila folder onto the table. "So much for not seeing you again any time soon, huh?"
"It's been six months, that's a long time."
"It was three months before your file ended up back on my desk." Ukitake corrected, taking a seat across from Ichigo. "That's not a long time."
"Well you must have gotten your fun little test results back, you know I wasn't doing anything, so you can feel free to let me go at any time—"
"I'll let you go when your social worker gets here." Ukitake cut Ichigo off. "You know how it goes. We pick you up, she comes, puts you in another foster home—"
"Then I run away again. It's all a cruel, vicious cycle, isn't it?"
Ukitake couldn't stop the pity that flooded through him as he stared into the angry amber eyes of the boy across the table from him. "I don't understand you, Kurosaki-kun." He said finally.
"I've heard that a million times." Ichigo muttered, looking away from Ukitake. The silver-haired cop was pretty hard to hate — under any other circumstance, Ichigo was sure he would have respected Ukitake a great deal. Unfortunately, though, Ukitake was friends with Ichigo's social worker; whenever Ichigo ran away, Ukitake was usually the one he ended up dealing with.
"Has there really been something with every foster home you've been in?"
"Yeah. I don't like 'em."
"That's not a reason," Ukitake argued quietly, "it's an excuse."
Ichigo shrugged uncaringly. "Same difference."
"So you like living on the streets better than being in a foster home?" Ichigo didn't answer. "Kurosaki-kun—"
"What do you care?" Ichigo demanded, cutting Ukitake off. "I'm not your problem, so just lay off it, all right? Your only job in regards to me is picking up the phone and calling my social worker so she can come down and ask me these questions. You don't have to pretend to care."
Silence filled the room for a moment. "If that's what you want." Ukitake said finally, standing up. "Your social worker should be here in half an hour, you want anything to drink?"
"No thanks." Ichigo said shortly. He waited until the door had closed to look forward, grateful to be alone again. Sighing he reached into his pocket, pulling out the worn picture he always kept there. He didn't even bother to look at the photo, instead flipping it to look at the writing on the back.
Tamachi. Chidori. Akama. Hikaru. Kama. Ansuz. Ryuiichi. Sagara. Eight names. Eight different foster homes in the seven years he'd been in the system. Of course, that didn't count the time he'd spent running away and living in the group home.
He was sure when his social worker walked in the first thing he'd hear was how much better his sisters were doing than him, and why did he have to cause so much trouble…
The clock on the wall told him it was just after six o'clock. Oh yeah, his social worker was not going to be happy. It was supper time, she was going to want to be sitting at home, eating with her family. She wasn't going to want to deal with her biggest trouble case.
Whatever, Ichigo thought as he leaned back in his chair, kicking the front two legs up and resting his feet on the table, his hands curled behind his head. He didn't change his position when he heard the door open, didn't bother to look and see who was walking in.
Ichigo lowered himself back to the ground, his feet resting flat against the floor. "Hisana-san." He greeted his social worker dryly. Hisana sighed, folding her arms across her chest and giving him an unreadable look.
"Good to see you're still alive. I suppose if I ask what was so wrong with the Sagaras you had to run away, you won't answer, will you?"
"They were all right." Ichigo shrugged. "You know, if you're into curfews and going to school and being around a bunch of other people all the time."
"Sounds like a good life to me." Hisana responded. "So tell me, which part was the biggest turn off?"
"I just didn't want to be there, all right?" Ichigo snapped, annoyed. "C'mon, just sign the paper work so you can get me out of here and drop me off at Kyoraku-kun's for the night, I'm sure you want to get home to your family."
"Paper work is already taken care of." Hisana shook her head slowly. "Lets just get out of here. Looks like I'm going in early tomorrow to find you a new home."
"Good luck with that." Ichigo said as he pushed himself up, grabbing his sweatshirt off the back of his chair and walking over to Hisana. She stepped aside, letting him walk out first, following him through the station.
Ichigo noticed a distinctive smell of pizza when he climbed into Hisana's car. "You caught me on the way home." Hisana explained as she climbed in as well.
"Sorry." Okay, that was a lie.
"I'm sure you are."
The ride to the group home was quiet, as usual. Hisana had learned long ago that trying to talk to Ichigo was useless. Silence was usually the best way to get through these car-rides.
"Well there's a face we haven't seen in awhile."
And there's a voice I hoped I'd never have to hear again, Ichigo thought bitterly as he shifted his eyes to look up at Kyoraku Shunsui, who was beaming down at the orange-haired teen.
"You'll be rooming with Shinji this time, second room on the right." Ichigo looked back at Hisana, who silently handed him his backpack of belongings that she'd rescued from his last home.
"I'll be back as soon as I can find you a new home." She told him simply. "Try to stay out of trouble, please Kurosaki-kun."
"Sure." Ichigo slung the bag over his shoulder, making his way upstairs without another word. Hisana stared after him, her eyes filled with sadness.
"You really think you're going to be able to find him another home?" Kyoraku asked quietly, no longer smiling. "I mean, with his record…"
"I'll do the best I can." Hisana shook her head, sighing. "I have to get home, my sister's waiting. Call me if there are any problems."
"Right-o, Hisana-san." Kyoraku jokingly saluted the young woman. Hisana almost smiled as she left. The smile faded almost instantly. She was almost positive she wasn't going to find another home for this boy.
Which meant she had no clue what she was going to do with Kurosaki Ichigo.
Author's Note: So…worth continuing? Yes, no…why are you holding torches and pitchforks…? Hehe…um, review and let me know what you think? — Sam