Disclaimer: No. I don't own Bleach. If I did, I'd be far less cruel than Kubo.

Characters: Rukia, Renji (hints of Rukia/Renji). Rukia-centric.

Summary Notes: Set during the flashback of Renji's past, when Rukia was offered a position in the Kuchiki family. Based off the song "What Hurts The Most - Rascall Flatts"

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was almost too good to be true. An impossibility. She, the little street urchin turned Shinigami, offered a place in one of the most illustrious families in Seretei. It was, for most, a dream come true. Her coveted position would, ultimately, assist in powering her up through the ranks of the Shinigami.

Something she'd always wanted. She'd be the envy of all who knew her. Anyone would be proud to know that somehow, in some way, they'd been noticed by someone as famous (or infamous, whatever worked) as Kuchiki Byakuya, the head of the Kuchiki Clan.

A new life. A new chance. Something she'd never dared dream of.

She should have been overjoyed.

So why...why did she want to cry? Why did her throat close up? Why did she feel like a weight was settling on her chest, growing heavier and more constricting with each passing moment? Why did her heart feel like it was being torn to pieces with every one of his words?

Rukia was not one to shed tears easily. She'd never let her heart wear itself on her sleeve, never really shown the true depths of her nature to anyone. She was, in some cases, called calm, aloof...all things needed to be a successful Shinigami. In other cases, she was cruelly referred to as an ice queen. It was fitting, they'd say, that her zanpakuto was Sode no Shirayuki.

She'd never let it get to her, though. Nobody's opinion mattered to her. She'd never cared what anyone thought, never sought their approval or their comfort. Except for one.

Renji's hands were warm on her shoulders. They were always warm. He was always warm. Even as starving children, he had been warm, body heat to curl up against in the deadly cold of winter. He was barely suppressed passion, literally fire burning in his veins. Certainly, he was no pushover, always trying to act tough, and wild, and borderline reckless...but to her, he'd showed her that other side. That softer passion that only she, his very best friend, would ever see...the desire to embrace, to protect. To love.

And now, he was breaking her heart.

Rukia wasn't a fool. She could see through his words like clear water. Oh, yes, he seemed genuinely overjoyed at the prospect that had come her way, but...she knew better. She knew him. And thus, she knew that he was lying through his teeth. He was only ever this...exuberant when he was trying to cover up a deeper incentive or notion.

He was trying to be happy. For her sake.

And that was what was slowly shattering her heart, piece by piece.

"Wow, congratulations, Rukia! This is awesome! You'll be the best noble ever, I know it! You've always been better than the rest of us!"

False words. Lies that ate at her heart.

Stop lying to me, Renji. Stop it, damn you...tell me the truth.

She looked down, unable to meet those eyes. Those dark, intense eyes...eyes that, if they simply let the truth in them form words in his mouth, would draw her to refuse. Yes...refuse the honour of becoming a Kuchiki. She would turn her back on that once in a lifetime prospect...

For the truth.

His hands were so warm, so large and calming against her narrow shoulders. Calm, but with feeling. Not like the Kuchiki nobles had been. Not like Byakuya-sama, who had looked down upon her with cool reservation. There had been no feeling, only cool composure. Something she admired. Something she'd wished to always be like.

And yet right now, all she wanted was for Renji to sweep away her indecision. To demand that she refuse. To plead that she stay...beg with the fervour in his dark eyes and expressive features for her to be as she'd always been...his best friend, always beside him. The friend who never held him to any standards, and who never held her to the exact same.


Just...say it, Renji.

He didn't.

His hands were warm...hot lead against her shoulders. She swallowed, pushed them away. Brushed past him, quelling ruthlessly the urge to turn on him and...punch him and kick him and curse him and hug him and kiss him and...and everything that came to mind.

"Thanks a lot," she mumbled, her voice barely audible lest he hear the husky quality of her tone. He didn't need to know she was hurt, that she wanted to cry. Far be it that she fool him anymore than he'd already fooled himself.

All you had to do was say it, Renji...

He said nothing, though.

So she steeled herself to icy calm and continued to walk away. Like a good Kuchiki would.

All you had to say was 'I want you', Renji...

The lone tear froze on her cheek.

"What hurts the most

Is being so close

And havin' so much to say

Yet watchin' you walk away

Never knowin'

What could have been

And not seein' that lovin' you

Is what I was tryin' to do..." - Rascall Flatts