Summary: A story of an unbreakable bond shared between two people who found each other once more.
Bleach © Tite Kubo
There was a crack in the mirror in the hallway.
There was a story between those thin and fragile lines.
I gently traced my fingers along the sharp edges. It was almost mesmerizing. Abruptly, I winced. Blood rolled down from my index finger and thumb. I stared at the smeared blood stain on the mirror, and then at my bleeding, trembling fingers.
"That's right…," I whispered as I forced out an uneasy laugh, "It's just like that time… that time…"
I opened my bedroom door to find a woman coughing blood…
My teeth gritted together as I clutched my head with both of my hands.
She tried to cling to the wall for balance, but ultimately fell to her knees…
The blood from my fingers had seeped down my cheek and strands of my blond hair.
Her hair was a mess, and her face was bruised. She looked so pale, so helpless…
My head felt like it was splitting. Twisting and turning. Opening. Breaking apart.
She looked at me, but all I could see was the… blood…
I shut my eyes and wished for it all to stop.
"Yuri… Go back to your room."
"Hurry. Go, before–"
– STOP IT!
My eyes widened as I realized someone very, very horrible.
I couldn't breathe.
My hands automatically reached for my neck desperately, my fingers pressed into my skin. Sweat rolled down my face. I-I couldn't breathe. I batted my eyes rapidly. There had to be someone wrong with this apartment. It must've been suffocating. There was too much air for one person. My heart raced like crazy. I couldn't stand it.
Not without… not without…
I raced towards the front door and opened the latch, slamming the door open. The sound echoed down the hall to the stairway. A sudden breeze brushed past me. I shivered at its touch and stumbled forward. My hands squeezed the railings of the second floor apartment hall as if I was clinging to life itself. I was gasping for breath for what felt like forever. I wiped sweat off of my forehead and sighed in relief. I was breathing again. It felt good.
"Shouldn't you be in school?"
An unfamiliar voice. I lifted my head up and turned to find a man standing across the hall. It was a damn unfamiliar face too. He had wavy, dark brown hair and grayish blue eyes. He was dressed in a navy blue, baggy and long-sleeved shirt, black pants, and mildly worn out tennis shoes.
I squatted, pressing my forehead against the railing, as I groaned. I still had that nasty headache. "Shouldn't you mind your own business…?" I muttered dejectedly, "Who are you, anyway?"
"I live across the hall, so I guess we're neighbors. I moved here a week ago."
"Right… I remembered seeing the moving truck."
He leaned against the railing, and a box of cigarettes was partially visible from his back pants pocket. "What's your name?" the man asked me, crossing his arms.
I paused for a moment, weighing the idea of whether I should tell a stranger my name or not. I shrugged my shoulders and stood up. Telling him my name wouldn't hurt. I figured I made worse decisions than this.
"Shōgasato Yuri," I introduced myself quietly, "What about you? You got a name too, right?"
"You can call me Rei."
"What kind of name is Rei?" I questioned, tilting my head.
He returned my expression. "Well, what kind of name is Yuri?"
I frowned. I guess I deserved that kind of answer. "… It's the name my mom gave me."
Rei pondered for a moment and crossed his arms. "I don't think your mother would like it if she knew you were skipping classes."
"What she doesn't know won't hurt her."
"What about your father? What would he think?"
I lowered my gaze. "… I don't want to talk about… him."
Rei raised an eyebrow, but shrugged the comment off. "Okay, then. We won't talk about him," he finally decided.
That nasty headache was still hurting pretty hard. It made it a little difficult to keep up with this guy. "Anyway, stop asking questions, will you?" I muttered, rubbing my head, "You're being annoying, old man."
"I'm not that old," Rei said, a little offended.
"How old are you, then?" I inquired.
"Twenty-two. How about you, kid?"
"I ain't no kid! I look like one, but I ain't no kid!"
"Aren't you in elementary school?"
"I don't look it, but in a couple of months, I'll be a first year in high school," I told him, smiling smugly, "And I'm almost fifteen."
"So, right now, you're in your third year of middle school and you're fourteen."
"I said, I'm almost fifteen!"
"That still makes you fourteen."
"You're damn annoying! Don't treat me like some… bratty kid…"
I was about to continue protesting, but my vision was getting blurry. I wasn't seeing Rei anymore. I tried to feel around for the railing to stop myself from falling, but instead something hit the side of my head really hard. The last thing I remembered was falling and hearing Rei's voice calling out to me.
His voice was the last thing I heard before I blacked out.
I opened my eyes slowly. I blinked and sat up. A wet cloth fell off of my head. I groaned. My head still hurt. I looked around. I was in an unfamiliar room that smelled like cigarettes. I was lying on a couch. There were a stack of brown boxes across the room. A small television was plugged in at the corner of the room. Grocery bags sat on the kitchen counter to my left. I sat up and patted my shaggy blond hair, wondering how long I had been asleep.
I turned to move, but I ended up slipping off of the couch cushion and into a pile of small boxes and bottles on the floor. I winced, rubbing my head as I scanned what I had fallen on. There were boxes of bandages, painkillers, a bottle of cold medicine, a bottle of fever medicine, ointment, and other boxes of pills.
"What is this…?" I wondered aloud.
"Ah… You're awake."
I turned to find Rei standing by the doorway behind the couch, lighting the cigarette in his mouth. A towel hung around his neck. Beads of water rolled down his hair and face. He sighed, walked across the room to the kitchen, and began to put groceries away into the fridge.
"What's all of this medical stuff for?" I hissed, lifting up a box of bandages.
"I've never dealt with someone fainting before, so I didn't know what to buy…"
I blinked. "Who fainted?" I asked him.
Rei stared at me blankly. "… You did," he said, matter-of-factly.
"Eh? Me? Wait… I fainted! And you bought all of this for me…!"
Rei looked away, frowning. "Well… yeah," he muttered, "Sorry, I ended up getting useless things, but at least you're not comatose."
"It wasn't all useless…," I mentioned, taking out a single pill from the box of headache pills, "I've been having a killer headache, so maybe this'll help."
Rei stared at me and then at the apricot pill I was holding between my index finger and thumb. He shrugged. "I'll get you some water." He opened one of the cabinets and lifted out a glass cup. I stared at Rei as he brought me the glass filled with water. "You sure you know how to use that?" he asked, somewhat skeptic.
"I've taken these ones before. I can handle it," I reassured him, swallowing the pill with a couple gulps of water. "Oh, and before I forget, you better put out your cigarette," I added promptly. Rei stared at me, confused. "You see, I don't mind the smell much personally, but I don't think I'm supposed to smell stuff like that."
"Eh…? Oh, you're probably right…," Rei muttered and stubbed his cigarette in an astray. He walked over towards me. "You can still rest if you want. You've been asleep for hours, so it's a little pointless for you to go to your classes now."
"What time is it now?"
"Noon, I think."
I handed Rei the empty glass. He took it and placed it in the sink. I toyed around with a couple of the boxes thoughtfully as Rei returned and sat on the couch. "Sorry that I fainted," I mumbled as I got up and sat next to him, "… Did I scare you?"
"You can't apologize for something that can't be helped," Rei said, placing his hands behind his head. He paused for a moment before adding quietly, "But… Yeah. You scared me… just a little." I lied into the couch, my head inches from Rei's legs. He glanced at me, and after a moment, decided to pat my head. It was a comforting gesture. "Your apartment door was still open. I closed it, but I called for your parents, and they… they weren't home," he said hesitantly.
"They're never home," I corrected him flatly.
"Where's your mother?"
I didn't answer.
"Where's your father?"
"I told you, I don't want to talk about him."
"You've gotta tell me something, kid."
"– I know. You're not a kid, but you have to throw me a bone here."
I frowned. I figured I owed Rei that. He did go through all that trouble buying all that medicine and took care of me when I fainted. I guess he did deserve an honest answer.
"He's gone. My dad… He's gone," I whispered, almost inaudibly.
Rei was quiet for a while before he answered, "I'm sorry to hear that."
I turned my head and looked at Rei. "You have to throw me a bone too," I reminded him firmly.
Rei met my gaze. "That sounds fair," he replied, taking it into consideration, "But you can't tell me you've been living alone this whole time."
"For how long?"
"A few weeks."
"Have you been… eating right? Taking care of yourself well?"
"Mom left me extra money for stuff like that. I just give her the bills to pay for it."
"Someone your age shouldn't be living alone in an apartment. Isn't there any relatives you could stay with for the time being?"
"Have your other neighbors noticed?"
"If the neighbors start wondering things, I tell them I'm living with a senile aunt who has a ridiculous fear of the outdoors."
"… Huh. I'm surprised they actually believe that."
I began to play with strands of my blond hair. "But… If you want, I could visit you," I mentioned, "I could visit you every day. So, you don't get lonely."
"I never said I was lonely," Rei interjected.
"Your eyes said you're lonely. I understand because your eyes are the same as mine."
He patted my head again. "The name Yuri really doesn't suit you at all," Rei decided to change the subject.
"You can call me Shō instead."
"For some reason, that name suits you better."
I smiled. "It sounds cool, right?" I murmured, satisfied by his answer, "If I had friends… I'd want them to call me that."
Rei raised an eyebrow. "You don't have any friends…?" he asked slowly.
"People think I'm a delinquent because of my blond hair. They think I dyed it, but this is my real hair color," I explained, tugging on a lock of my shaggy hair, "It's annoying to see them stare at me like I'm… not normal, so that's why I skip classes."
"Skipping classes will only prove their point."
"… I guess. Do you have any friends, Rei?"
It was Rei's turn to not answer.
I paused. "Can we be friends?" I asked him.
"You want to be friends with me… Shō?"
"Sure. So… are we friends?"
"… Yeah, I guess we are."
I smiled. I couldn't remember the last time I had a friend. I wanted to stay here a little while longer, but I knew I had stayed in Rei's apartment long enough. I stood up and patted the ends of my shorts. "I should go home now, Rei," I decided and headed for the front door, "Will you watch me leave?"
Rei stood up and followed me to the doorway. "I'll watch you go from here," he told me, and briefly pressed his hand against my shoulder, "Try not to faint along the way."
"Try not to worry so much, old man."
"If you stop being such a bratty kid."
Normally, I would have complained about being called something like that, but this time, it wasn't so bad being called a bratty kid for once.
I counted the number of doors as I walked down the long, second floor hall. There were five apartments separating Rei's apartment from mine. I reached my apartment and twisted the knob on the door. It was still unlocked. I opened the door and glanced at Rei, who was still standing by his doorway. He waved. I waved back.
It was strange. I felt a little embarrassed all of a sudden. Was it because I was helped out by some random stranger? Or was it because this random stranger was my newfound friend?
I scratched my head and shrugged it off. When I removed my hand, I noticed something different. The fingers I had cut myself on the crack in the mirror had been bandaged. I never noticed that until now. I looked over my shoulder at Rei before my front door shut behind me and almost saw a hint of a smile on his face. I inhaled a breath.
For some reason, being back in my apartment seemed a little more endurable.
I could breathe again.
a/n: This chapter served as an introductory chapter. The next chapter will have a bit of a time skip, taking place months after Chapter 1. As you may have already figured out, I really like Starrk/Lily. I like how despite being complete opposites of each other, they don't really mind each other's company. In case anyone is wondering, Lilynette's human name is pretty much the same as her Arrancar name. Her first name Yuri [百合] means "lily," and her last name Shōgasato is split from two words: shōga [生姜], which means "ginger," and sato [裏], which means "back." I liked how her Shōgasato sounds because it was the same number of syllables as Ichigo's surname, so it's kind of catchy. There are actually many translations for the Japanese term for "back," but I chose sato because it flowed better when connected to shōga than to connect shōga with senaka – for example – which is another term for "back." In my personal opinion Shōgasato sounds much better than… Shōgasenaka, lol. On the other hand, Starrk's human name – Rei – is shorted from the word reigen [冷厳], which means "grim" or "stark." I haven't chosen a surname for him yet, so for now, his name's just Rei.