The echoing call of the hollow sent a shiver down his spine. He released another flare of rietsu.

"Come here,"he thought. "I know you like the taste of Quincy."

Ishida stood, living bait for the hollow he was attempting to destroy. He had no bow. His powers were gone; snatched away by attempting justified revenge. It wasn't fair! He wasn't useless! He was still a Quincy!

What would his friends say if they saw him standing up against a hollow like it was a serious battle? What would Ichi…Kurosaki think? Ichigo? That was another problem he was going to have to deal with, but not now. Now, he, Ishida Uryuu, last of the Quincys was going to uphold his honor.

He poised, holding up one of his father's Seele Schneider. Although his powers were gone, his own human reitsu was still strong enough to form a weak, thin, blue blade. Just enough to finish off the little hollow in front of him. Just enough to prove he wasn't all together worthless. Ishida could still fight. His pride refused to believe otherwise.

The hollow turned its head toward Ishida, and he stepped into view. Its body was thin and flexible like a snake. Yellow eyes focused on him before lunging. Ishida sidestepped. He swung down, forcing all he had into Seele Schneider. The blade cut, but it wasn't enough to kill the hollow, just annoy it. Ishida jumped back.

"Damn it! It doesn't matter. It's still slow enough to dodge. Even if I have to cut it a thousand times I'm going to kill it."His plan was simple. If he could hit the same place enough times, eventually the wound would kill the hollow. The only problem was getting enough energy for each hit. Hit human reitsu was strong, but it was still nothing compared to his lost Quincy power.

The hollow's tail lashed out, knocking Ishida down. Hiyrenraku had made everything slow, but now battles were in double time. His instincts were still readjusting to the change in pace, learning a new fighting style was going to be hard. The tail swung again. Ishida dived out of the way and struck into the wound he had made earlier. He smiled.

Suddenly, he heard a yell. A zanpaktou sliced the hollow down the middle leaving a stunned Ishida in its wake.
"Oi, Ishida!" Ichigo waved and placed Zangetsu on his back.

Ishida couldn't believe it. It was worst than losing, worse than getting killed by the hollow and having it eat his soul. At least then he could have accepted the fact that he tried. He was truly stripped of his Quincy powers now. No Quincy would ever stoop so low as to have a Shinigami save them from a third rate hollow.

And even worse it was Ichigo Kurosaki, the boy who….no. He didn't even want to think about it. He wouldn't admit it to himself. Hormones. It was all just fucking hormones.

"You idiot!" Ishida yelled getting right up in the other's face. This was his entire fault! Ichigo took a step back and held up his hand.

"Woah! What the hell, Ishida? I was just trying to help!" Ichigo countered, his temper quickly rising.

"You couldn't just leave it alone. I had everything under control." Ishida poked Ichigo in the chest. The red head slapped the hand away.

"I thought you might need some help. I was just…"

"No you didn't," Ishida cut him off. "You don't think Kurosaki. You just act. You rush into battles unprepared, and who cares if you die or take someone else's kill." Infuriated, the black haired teen shoved his glassed back up his nose, took a deep breath, and turned around. He intended to walk away, but a calloused hand fell on his shoulder. Ishida tensed. Ichigo wasn't done yet.

Ichigo was pissed. He had arrived to see Ishida struggling with some weird weapon. He had been trying to help. Who cared who killed some weak hollow as long as it wasn't running around eating souls anymore?

The red head opened his mouth to say something when Ishida looked back at him. The dead empty gaze pierced through him like a knife. It was utter, hopeless defeat that made him want to hold Ishida. His anger died in his throat.

"Ishida," he whispered, "What is it? What's the matter?" His hand squeezed the teen's shoulder, sending little shivers down the Ishida's back.
Ishida's face changed. His anger hardened into contempt. He brushed Ichigo's hand off his shoulder, and walked away. "Nothing's the matter Kurosaki. Now leave me alone."

Ichigo had always had the instinctual need to protect and help others. It was second nature, like scowling. He just did it without really thinking too much about it. This was why he saw nothing wrong with haunting Ishida's footsteps. Something was seriously disturbing his friend, and he was going to find out what it was.

The Qunicy, Ichigo found, had a very dull schedule. He walked to school a full half hour early, and finished any last minute homework and extra reading while waiting for class to start. At lunch he sat in silence with Ichigo's friends. After school Ishida had handicrafts club. He then went home to an empty house and studied in his room until his father came home. They shared a simple, silent dinner before Ishida bid goodnight. He showered and then curled up into bed.

Ichigo sat outside Ishida's room, watching the boy sleep. He felt awkward doing this. It felt like he was some kind of weird pervert. But he reasoned it was for Ishida's own good. If the glasses wearing boy wouldn't tell Ichigo what was the matter, he was going to find out.

It was a nice night, so Ishida had left his window open before going to bed. Ichigo carefully crawled through in his shinigami form. So this was Ishida's room? Ichigo had to admit it was not what he expected. Photos, hundred of photos were pinned to the wall in a large collage. Ichigo examined a few. A smiling woman held a tiny black haired baby. An old man and what looked like a child Ishida were smiling as they drank tea. Several were of him and the rest of his class from a field trip they had taken earlier in the year.

Ichigo diverted his eyes to the big white board that filled almost a whole wall. On it were sketches of clothing designs and little notes. An old headless manikin with a half finished gown sat in the corner. Next to the bed was an organized desk. Ichigo pulled out the chair and sat down.

Ishida hadn't stirred which surprised Ichigo. Normally Ichigo's unchecked reitsu would have instantly disturbed Ishida's sleep and woken him up. At least that's what Ishida claimed kept waking him up when they had been bunking together in soul society.

The Quincy turned over and mumbled something unintelligible. His face looked weird squashed against the pillow. Without any glasses, he didn't even look like Ishida anymore.

A chilling hollow call could be heard through the open window. It was close, probably being drawn by the two powerful souls residing in the bedroom. Ichigo looked down to see Ishida's eyes open. The Quincy glared daggers at him.

"I'll ask what you're doing in my room later." Ishida pulled back the covers. Ichigo averted his eyes from Ishida's half naked form until he had pulled on a simple pair of black pants and white top. They hopped out the window and started running towards the hollow.

"It'll be faster if we shunpo," Ichigo said, already prepared to fly forward toward their prey.

"No," Ishida replied. "We're almost there anyway." His hands were growing numb as he ran. Damn Ichigo! He was going to find out the pendant on Ishida's arm was as useless as a cheep necklace. But there was no way they could stop now.

Rounding the corner, they almost ran into the two story hollow. It looked a gorilla with long claws that dug into the ground. It was powerful. Ishida's stomach sank. Crap.

The hollow punched the wall of the house nearby and roared a challenge at the new threat. Its spirit pressure soared. Ichigo instantly took a battle stance. He looked back at Ishida. The Quincy was kneeling on the ground, sweat pouring down his face.

"Ishida?" Ichigo hesitated. The hollow thrust out its claws.

"Ichigo!" the Quincy shouted. The substitute shinigami just had time to block off the blow. The other claw was sent straight for Ishida. Ichigo jumped in front.

"Tensho Getsu!" He yelled, slicing the offending claw off. "Ishida move!"

"I can't," Ishida said, terrified as he attempted to move his limbs. They felt so heavy. Ichigo's rising reitsu and the powerful hollow's reitsu was too much to take.

"What?" Ichigo blocked another attack.

"Ichigo, I don't have any Quincy powers," Ishida confessed.

Ichigo couldn't believe what he was hearing. He grabbed Ishida and threw him to the side. Taking Zangetsu, he easily dispatched the hollow.

"You are the most….idiotic smart person!" Ichigo stomped over and pushed the weary Ishida into the wall. "You came with me, knowing you didn't have any powers. When the hell did this even happen, Ishida?"

"Mayuri. I did a technique trying to kill him. It failed and I lost my powers," Ishida said. He stared at the ground, tears of frustration threatening to spill out. "I'm sorry."

"Why didn't you tell me? Us?" Ichigo asked.

"Because I don't want to be seen as weak!" Ishida pushed him away. "I am a Quincy! I am supposed to fight hollow, protect the innocent! How would you feel if your Shinigami powers suddenly got ripped away leaving you with nothing but your weak human exterior?"

"I have had that happen Ishida," Ichigo said. "I got mine back. Maybe we can do the same for you."