At four-seventeen in the morning, I was usually asleep. Should be, at least, since Komamura insisted on me leaving as soon as all my work for the day was completed. Sometimes I would sit there, look at the stack of papers I was behind on, and argue (read: whine) that why should I put off what I could do now until tomorrow? Komamura argued right back (read: ordered) that there was no use tiring myself out and to just go to my quarters and if I didn't he'd call Iba to "escort" (read: drag) me there. Perfect threat, since the thought of anyone but Komamura carrying me scared the hell out of you. Except that Komamura had left earlier in the day this time, just telling me to do my duties and go home as soon as I was finished, and if he found out that I'd disobeyed him, I'd be looking at bathroom duty for a month. And although I knew he didn't mean it, that was still horrific enough to scare me into obeying.

This morning, however, I was woken up by a very, very loud banging on the door. Not like Iba banging... no, this was the kind of banging that constituted me to call whoever was doing it Hisagi. What the hell was Hisagi doing at my door at four-seventeen in the morning? I was still in my nightgown!

I got out of bed and shuffled over to the door, yawning. I rubbed my eyes as I opened it. "What is it, Hisagi?"

It was in fact Hisagi, and he grabbed my wrist. "Tousen, Gin, and Aizen have left the Soul Society, Jou! Come with me!"

It took a minute for my still sleeping brain to process this. Once it did, my eyes flew wide open and I stumbled on the carpet, nearly tripping over myself. "What do you mean, they've left? You can't just, like, leave!"

"You're telling me, Jou-chan! Get going!"

So many things were rushing through my mind at the moment that there really wasn't much for me to do except hold Hisagi's hand and run, following him. Why had they left Soul Society? For what purpose? Had they caused damage or hurt people? Both? What if they'd targeted the captains? "Hisagi," I sobbed, taking in deep gulps of breath for my aching chest. "What's going on? Is Captain hurt?"

"Captain? Captain? How the hell can you still call him 'Captain' after he left us?" Hisagi pulled me faster.

"Not Master Tousen! I mean Captain Komamura! Where is he?"

"And you're still addressing him formally! Honestly, Jou-chan, you're hopeless! Just come on!"

"No!" I stood stock-still in the middle of the hallway, refusing to let him drag me any further. "Not until you tell me if Captain is alright!"

"Jou, seriously! Captain Komamura had a fight with them earlier and we're just now discovering! He's badly injured, and if we don't help get him to Captain Unohana, it could be nasty! Now come on!"

I allowed Hisagi to schlep me along again, as my mind processed this new, horrid, terrifying information. My beloved captain, a role model, seriously wounded by my master... the man he considered his best friend? Tears came to my eyes as I wondered how I could have let this happen to my own best friend.

At last I began to see the wreck, and a large being I assumed to be Komamura, just standing there in the middle of it all. I ran to my captain, letting go of Hisagi and sprinting as fast as I could, Shunpo completely slipping my mind. I just had to get to him... help him...

"Captain!" After what seems to be an eternity, I reached him. I threw my arms around him, wrapping around his body as much as I could, burying my face in his chest. The feel of his soft fur against my cheek was reassuring; he was here, he was alive, and Tousen was the one who left me. Who left both of us. But Komamura stayed. "Captain, where are you hurt?" I pried myself away and began checking him for injuries or blood. "Where did Master and Captain Aizen get you?"

He just looked at me, with those big amber eyes. Full of shine and soul during the day, but somehow they were different now. All the sadness in the world... all the pain, the sorrow, the anguished rage... all in his eyes now as he looked at me. "I'm not hurt badly... just here." He held up his arm, where his torn haori allowed me to see a shallow gash. Uncomfortable, yes. Badly injured, no.

I just gaped. "I... I mean, what... but Hisagi..." I snapped my head to my former partner. "Hisagi, you said it could have been fatal!"

Hisagi grinned at you, but it was a pained grin. "Well, I had to tell you something to get you down here, didn't I, Jou-chan?"

"You asshole!" I reached over and wrestled with him for a minute. "I was really worried! Do you know how bad I was freaking out? I thought Captain was going to die! I'm gonna kill you once we..."

I trailed off, turning around to face the devastation. Several buildings had been completely destroyed, and I wondered why everyone didn't learn about this sooner. And Tousen was gone - he made the choice to leave me, to leave Komamura... to leave everyone behind. I covered my mouth, more tears welling up in my eyes. "Oh my God..."

I turned to my captain and my friend. "Do you know how long it's gonna take for us to rebuild all of this? Not to mention I'll... I'll never see Master again..."

I broke down crying right there, falling to my knees and throwing both arms up over my face. I didn't want them to see me like this, but it wasn't like I had a choice. I only acted the way I did because I tried to fool myself. I acted all happy and hyper, like nothing bothered me. And usually it worked. No one would pick on me if it didn't make me upset, and some people even admired how I was always "strong" in the face of adversity. But I wasn't. Most of the time, it wasn't so serious as to really upset me, but now... this was all too much.

I wailed, the sobs scratching at my throat. "I-It took me ten years to build up what little life I had here! I was at least a member of a squad, and Master Tousen didn't completely despise my existence! I wasn't totally hated, and for once it felt like I belonged somewhere - like I belonged here! Like I had something to live for!" I let my hands fall down, supporting the rest of me as my fingernails dug into the soil where a building had once stood. "But now he's gone! How can I face everyone else when my master has turned his back on me? All of it, what little I had... destroyed in one day!"

I kept crying and crying. I wanted to stop and I wished I could, but it was just no use. My tough, bright fa├žade had crumbled, leaving the real me, the broken one, vulnerable and without the tools to survive. It almost didn't seem like it was real; like it was a dream and I was going to wake up any minute.

I felt strong arms envelop me in a tight, warm embrace. When I looked up, I saw the face of Sajin Komamura: my captain, my best friend. The one who cared enough to stay with the Soul Society, when easily he could have followed Tousen. "It's alright, Ayame-chan," he said softly, holding me close to him and away from the cold, emotionless ground. I could feel his large fingers stroking my back, touching my hair. "It's alright. Everything is going to be fine. I promise. You will always have at least one friend, because I will never leave."

My shoulders were still trembling, my chest heaving against his. I drew in a deep breath, as a desperate attempt to stop crying. I had no reason to cry, I told myself as I laid my head against the silken fur on Komamura's chest. If Tousen had left me, he was not a real friend. But Komamura was.

He was here, I realized as I placed my hand inside his. Everything was going to be alright.

He was here, and that was all that mattered.

Woo! Sorry for not getting to this sooner. Well, reviews are love and they help keep me alive sooooo... review if you want the story continued 'cause if I die from lack of input I won't be able to! XD

Some serious twists coming up, but not for a while yet. A couple more chapters, they'll show up, and you'll see what I mean by twists.

Hope you liked! ^^