Notes: For visible_craze's request for Gin/Ryuuken and scars. Title from the September 10, 2005 prompt for the lj community 31_days.


For sustaining such grave injuries, the boy was surprisingly cheerful. He joked with the staff and made the nurses blush. Just his luck, another idiot teenager who was either pathologically reckless or criminally insane. Young for the hair color, but if his file was any indication he was already heading for an early grave.

"Jus' accident-prone I guess," he drawled. His constant smile was a bit eerie, but Ryuuken wasn't easily spooked. Ichimaru, as the file read, hadn't any living relatives. So the deliberate creepiness was probably just for attention. Why couldn't kids go out for sports anymore, instead of turning their boredom into dangerous thrill-seeking behavior?

"Motorcycle accident, you said?" he forced himself to look up from the screen. His bedside manner needed work, as one of the attending physicians had put politely.

"'S what I said," he agreed, a little of the grin leaking into his voice. He was sitting up, and no blood was staining his bandages. "Terribly dangerous, aren't they, motorcycles? But god knows I love 'em."

Ryuuken wasn't ordinarily much of a conversationalist, but the way the boy spoke finally clicked in his mind. "You're not from around here." He wanted him to keep talking, so he could place what seemed so very off about him. But maybe he was over-thinking it. Maybe there really wasn't anything behind layers of false brightness and mock smiles except the usual insufferable teenage angst. But none of the sullen adolescents he'd treated before had constructed such an elaborate and unsettlingly polite facade.

Ichimaru snorted. "You could say that, sensei," he drew out the syllables leisurely. Ryuuken guessed Kyoto, and he was usually pretty good at telling those kinds of things. "But everythin' ya need to know 'bout me 's in there right?" he waved dismissively at the computer. "No fun at all. Visitin' Tokyo over the holiday, that is 'till I took that nasty spill on the bike. The cute nurse typed it all up, ya know whatever ya pay her isn't nearly enough. " He sighed wistfully for effect. "So what about you, huh? Don't a fancy gentleman like yourself have a family to go home to, 'stead of hangin' 'round and chattin' me up after hours?"

"I'd rather not discuss my personal life, thanks," he replied stiffly.

"Nuh-uh, sensei don't say that," he waggled his finger disapprovingly. "How come you know everythin' 'bout me and I don't know one measly thing 'bout you? Turnabout is fair play..." His eyes opened a fraction, steely ice blue.

"I don't, nor do I want to, know the intimate details of your personal life. I'm Ishida Ryuuken, a doctor in residency at this hospital. I will restrict all further inquiries to those which directly relate to your health. I apologize if I've offended you."

Ichimaru seemed to be vaguely amused, but the hands that were idly skimming over white sheets now danced along his collar and brushed the nape of his neck. "A doctor, huh? You don't say!" He dripped sarcasm, and Ryuuken was unnerved by the physical contact. Only one way the kid could move like that, but Ichimaru caught him in a bakudou before he could summon his bow.

"Shit," he cursed as Ichimaru snatched at the cross dangling from his wrist. The boy, looking a lot less cute and a lot more menacing, held up his hands apologetically.

"Don't know if I could exactly letcha keep this, sensei. Doctors shouldn't play with reishi, nah crosses like this are strictly classified, Quincy business. I could bring ya in for the questioning and examination, and I really should. 'Cept of course it'd mean a mountain of paperwork and I don't think much of Kurotsuchi-taichou's methods. He'd ruin you." The last sentence clattered around in Ryuuken's ears as the shinigami seemed to savor it on his tongue. He bent forward to stage-whisper in his ear. "Jus' between you and me, I don't recommend it, not one bit!" He seemed positively giddy, twirling the silver chain and winding it around his long fingers.

He pulled the bandages off, leaving them in an untidy heap on the ground. Deep scars crisscrossed his bare chest and arms; Ryuuken thought he'd rather like to give him a few more. "Never got in an accident anyhow," he continued. "Too many hollows went missin' before I got to the scene. Even in a city like this, someone like you's easy 'nough to spot." He popped a candy in his mouth, releasing from the gigai with a small pop. "Get going," he instructed. "The bike's out front but be careful, I like that one. Although maybe if ya got messed up we could come back and play with sensei here."

He had one foot on the windowsill when he turned back suddenly, as if he'd forgotten something. "Here," he tossed the cross back, and it faintly clinked as it hit the ground. "That's somethin' to thank shinigami for, at least. So no hard feelings. Whenever I hear the old sad stories now, I'll think about you. An' the next time you use that, you'll think about how it's only because I let you."