A/N: Thanks for all of the reviews! However, after reading some of the reviews, I realised that maybe I'm not warning you guys enough.

I'm not making you read this, so if you don't like weird and awkward explicit scenes with a dash of dub-con, don't read this. I'd rather you not read it and save your pure mind! With that, here are the warnings for this chapter:

WARNINGS: EXPLICIT CONTENT WITH DUB-CON LEMON, ANGST, HURTFUL ADULT SCENES WITH AKWARD AND WEIRD SEXUAL SCENES. LANGUAGE. Also, slight Rukitake, as usual, but also a little light Byaruki.

SPOILER ALERT

Also, Byakuya is now "dead," how can this happen? I'm devastated, but let's not lose hope that he's still alive and keep the fandom going with Byaruki love 3

I don't own Bleach.


Chapter Six

Entwined Fingers

Rukia's eyes remained firmly screwed shut and her clammy fingers gripped at the sheets as she heard the familiar click of her door being shut. She could practically feel the room drop by several degrees as her brother silently swept through the room and she had promised herself she wouldn't back down and immediately cry. She stiffened, her heart pounding as she felt the indentation on the bed and heard her bed cry out at the foreign weight.

'It will be alright, it'll be okay, nice and quick', she repeatedly thought to herself as she heard Byakuya move around above her, but she inhaled quickly as she felt his fingers on her thighs. It wouldn't be as bad as last time though, the most painful part was already over and it might not even hurt this time, right? If there were no 'virginity' to take, then there would be no pain. Well that's what she had heard. Saying that, she couldn't help but feel the familiar wave of repulsion as his fingers once again firmly eased her legs apart. He hadn't said a word, made no notion of when he was going to start or that he had even acknowledged her as a human being that had feelings and concerns.

As she listened to the sound of a bottle cap being opened and the bottle being squeezed, she suddenly became aware of how stifling the room suddenly was. She had felt a chill not minutes before, and now he was smothering her and invading her sanctuary, prompting a sick anxiousness to consume her. It was just like before, awkward, suffocating and utterly nerve-wracking.

Byakuya looked down at his sister, as she lay stiff as a board below him. He had convinced himself that it wouldn't be as bad as last time, but looking at her now, he begged to differ. He was beginning to have the same hindrance as last time, and the fantasy of his wife was barely enough to cut out the small sniffles and harsh body language that Rukia was displaying. He positioned himself, lying over her and keeping his body as separate from hers a possible by resting on his forearms. He internally sighed as he began to enter her however, she was barely aroused – as to be expected, but her lack of wetness wouldn't only make it painful for her, but he too would experience discomfort.

Rukia's hold on the sheets tightened as she felt Byakuya begin to push into her and she winced at the familiar burn upon his intrusion. She immediately tensed with pain as he attempted to push further, and she cried out at the stinging, burning friction of his actions. She didn't even know how much she'd taken when tears began to prickle the corners of her eyes, he still felt way to big and it hurt to stretch to accommodate him, something she hoped she would no longer experience. Although it wasn't as painful as to scream like last time, it was enough to bring tears to her eyes and cause her legs to clamp together in protest.

Byakuya knew she was resisting, and although she had now naturally lubricated to accommodate him, her clamping down on him made it difficult. On the one hand, her legs made it difficult for him to move deeper, but as she squeezed the most sensitive part of his body, he couldn't help but internally groan in pleasure. This was sick and wrong on many levels, but the part that disgusted him most was the fact that she felt so fucking good around him. He would have preferred her to be even wetter, to make the insertion easier and remove the slight discomfort, but he couldn't deny how much she was stimulating him. He said nothing as she ever so slowly relaxed, allowing him to thrust the rest of the way in before stilling to allow her to keep up.

Rukia's eyes flew open and she clamped her mouth shut and she tried not to screech in surprise and pain. The burning had intensified it stung to no end as he slowly began to move, thrusting deeply and hitting something hard, causing painful, jarring thuds deep within her. She tried to shake her head of the tears, but soon resigned herself to her small, high-pitched whimpers and cries as Byakuya thrust in harsh strokes.

Byakuya internally sighed, struggling to keep the erotic image of his wife alive as Rukia cried below him. She cried all last time and was crying during this time too…not that he could really blame her. He knew he was thrusting deeply but he was trying anything to get himself to release, but her damned crying was distracting and downright off-putting. He sat up and pulled out, thoroughly disgusted by the situation and her incessant sobbing.

"Stop crying," he said, his voice stable despite his inclination t o snap at her. It wasn't just her crying, it was the fact that he was doing this in the first place, he was angry at his wife for being so desperate for a baby, he was angry that he loved her so much that he'd go through with it, but he was mostly angry with himself for going through with it. She jumped at his sudden speech but immediately stopped crying, a little sniffle her only betrayal. He could see the effects of her crying as her cheeks and nose were stained with pink, and her eyes were beginning to become puffy.

She felt him lie back over her again, what was that? Why did he ask her that? Did he find her crying annoying? She felt him ease into her once again but his continued harsh thrusts prompted tears once more and although she tried her damndest to fight them and keep them to herself, they still ended up streaking down her face. Even the smallest form of comfort would have helped her and she desperately needed some form of reassurance. Through her tear filled eyes she stared at Byakuya's robe covered arm and his slender hand as they stayed beside her head and it only then occurred to her that she could move her arms around. Hisana had always told her to keep her hands firmly by her sides at all times, but then again, it wasn't as if Hisana was watching over her to check. Would Byakuya tell his wife if she were to move her arms a little? Not likely. She doubted that he even discussed the nitty-gritty details of their actions with his wife… or the action in general, for that matter.

She took the opportunity to move her hand up by her head, just inches from Byakuya's and stared at as a means of a distraction to the discomfort.

Byakuya felt her move her hand beside his and his brief glance sideways allowed him to see Rukia fiddling with her fingers, probably as a form of distraction. He could tell she was still crying, her small sniffles and coughs gave that away, but he also realised that as her crying and discomfort continued, he was finding it increasingly difficult to find his climax. He needed it to be over as soon as possible, but he was getting further and further from his goal and the guilt washed over him with every one of Rukia's pained cries and attempts to stop him from moving. He groaned inwardly at Rukia's pained state – this wasn't getting anywhere and although his wife wouldn't be too pleased with what he was about to do, at least it might get them somewhere. He quickly moved his hand over hers before giving her small, bony hand a tight squeeze.

Rukia gasped as she turned her head towards his, brushing her hot, wet cheek against his, cool and dry in comparison. She looked up at the ceiling as she moved her fingers to grip his hand hard, trying with all her might to squeeze his hand as he continued his painful movements. She was rewarded with a small squeeze back and she gripped his hand tightly, her eyes screwed shut as her tears slowed but refused to cease. His hand felt warm, large and comforting to her and she remembered for the first time in a long while that despite his cold, abrupt and harsh persona, Byakuya was human too. He was probably finding it just as difficult and emotionally and physically painful as her.

With Rukia's hand firmly clutching his, and her whimpers quieting, Byakuya was able to concentrate on his thoughts and finally grasp a pleasured feeling. He used his base stock of stored images for arousing material, and now that Rukia's legs had relaxed a fraction, he was able to move more easily and manoeuvre to what felt good for him. He noticed with disgusted arousal that Rukia was tighter than Hisana, perhaps due to her lack of sexual experience, and he couldn't help but internally moan at Rukia's virginal tightness and how incredible she felt around him. With what felt like a lifetime for Rukia, a very long and painful lifetime, Byakuya's thrusting finally became slightly irregular, signalling the end. She grimaced as she felt him release, the same disgusted feeling washing over her as he tried to impregnate her. Again, he made no noise or verbal inclination of his release; neither did his straight face reveal any change. She snapped her eyes shut and turned her head to the side again as he finally sat up and pulled out, making her wince like last time at his rather rough treatment of her. She felt him s climb off the bed and heard the sound of her door shutting just seconds after.

She no longer cared that her sister had requested she lie down for several minutes after each time it happened, to ensure conception, and now gingerly made her way to the bathroom so scrub herself of her brother's essence. She couldn't hold back her small sob as warm wetness disgustingly trickled down to her upper thighs, and she didn't know if it was her own, her brother's, or both of their by-products of fucking.

xxxxxxx

The woman giggled to herself softly as she looked over at her sleeping partner. Perhaps she had overdone it? She generally knew how to handle him, but there are odd times when he just couldn't carry on or ended up falling asleep just after they had finished. He had satisfied her well today, but she could tell that there was something distracting him, something niggling away in the back of his mind, maybe? She had known him long enough to know when something was bothering him. She liked it when he slept however, it took years off his face, even though he hardly seemed to age visually, and it's a time when he's genuinely at peace. She reached over to his hand and played idly with his slender fingers, as she wished he would put a little more weight on for his health, any skinnier and he would be wasting away. She shrugged to herself however, she wasn't his mother, or his girlfriend, and so she couldn't really lecture him on his weight. From a doctor's perspective she could point him in the right direction, but it wouldn't help, he was sinewy by nature. He was physically fit however, and that was enough for him. She lifted all of his fingers in turn before letting her hand rest on his.

It was only mid-morning and she was thoroughly enjoying her day off. After all the extra hours she had had to put in over the past two weeks due to both a high traffic of injured soul reapers and the problems Hisana has brought to her health division, she deserved a break. She envied her partner's ability to sleep practically anytime and anywhere, for even though she had pulled a few all-nighters during the past week, sleep now evaded her. She had hoped that vigorous sex would help her calm down and sleep, but she still felt restless. Perhaps another round would help? Saying that, she doubted the man next to her could go again. She heard him inhale deeply before groaning, his hand pulling from under hers and landing on his forehead as he groggily awoke.

"Sorry, I fell asleep," he mumbled blearily as he rubbed his eyes and leant over to look at the clock on the bedside table.

"I think I overdid it," Retsu replied with a smile, looking over at him.

"I enjoyed your 'overdoing'," he grinned as he lay back down, sighing contentedly, "I guess it just made me tired."

"I wish I could sleep," Retsu replied wistfully, now looking up at the ceiling, "I was hoping to catch up on sleep during my day off. I've left Isane to run around and do my work for the day, poor girl."

"She's a good vice-captain," he pointed out, "She'll cope well. It's my vice-captain you've got to feel sorry for."

"How so?" Retsu asked, challenging him as she raised her eyebrows and sat up on her forearm as she turned to him.

"Well, since I'm here playing hooky with you, she's got to deal with Kiyone and Sentarō singlehandedly," he pointed out, "And because I've been missing from my squad for more than two minutes, they're going to be going crazy wondering where I am."

"Oh, yes," Retsu replied thoughtfully, "I had forgotten about them."

Jūshirō sighed beside Retsu, not wanting to get up and leave the warmth of her bed, but she deserved her sleep and rest after her constant work and he needed to get up and rein in his wayward third seats. He had noticed that Retsu had been in need of his company a lot more than usual lately, and even their usual routine of 'meet up, have sex, and leave' had been turning into dinners and meet-ups on some evenings. He knew that she wasn't interested in dating again, but it was more a form of friendship with benefits. He knew that since Hisana's sudden turn of illness, she had been working non-stop and often through the night, so she needed the rush of adrenaline and a way to unwind – she just decided to choose him to relieve the pressure of the job.

It had been awkward at first, just meeting up for sex and then leaving again straight after, but as the years continued, it had become surprisingly easier. They had loved each other at one point, but that was a long time ago, when they were newly appointed captains and not long out of the academy, fresh and rosy-cheeked with excitement and youth for the road ahead. Three failed attempts at a relationship later had seen them in their current situation. It just wasn't meant to be. There was always something in the way: their mismatched schedules, his illness, and her dedication to her work. After the third and longest attempt, they had resigned themselves to the fact that it wasn't going work. Instead, they each decided to remain single but took the best part of the relationship and kept it as simple, casual and unattached sex. Stress relief and company, that's all they needed, and it worked well for them. They've broken up the 'pact' several times since its conception however, as they've both dated other people now and again, but in the end, they've always come back to each other, often depressed, upset and on rare occasions, heartbroken.

"What's wrong?" he heard her ask, snapping him from his thoughts.

"Oh, nothing," he smiled with a shake of his head.

Retsu pursed her lips, he could be as stubborn as the rest of them, and she realised that she would have to ease it out of him, "Work has been busy recently." She tried, making light conversation in the hopes of being pointed in the right direction.

"Nothing too strenuous on our end of the Seireitei," he supplied, giving nothing away with his casual tone, "I'm sorry it's been busy on your end."

"It's fine," she replied, "Nothing a little rest and relaxation can't fix."

"I see," he grinned as her hand had made its way back to his.

She matched his grin; he's obviously in a playful mood despite his distraction during the last few hours. Maybe she could get it out of him if she teased him a little, "You know, I've got something rather humorous to tell you." She smiled as she turned on her side to face him, her fingers now running up his toned torso as his muscles rippled in response.

"And that is?" he asked as his hand quickly covered hers, stopping her in her tracks. He could feel himself beginning to stir again, and although he would have loved to relieve her of her stress again, he needed to get back to his squad soon and the more she played with his chest, the harder it would become to resist her. That was always his undoing, he could never say no to her.

"Well," she smirked as her efforts were thwarted, he was too damned intelligent for his own good, "I've heard from Isane that Nanao said that Kiyone told her that you have quite a thing for your vice-captain."

"Oh not this again," Jūshirō sighed, rolling his eyes in frustration. Damned women and their incessant gossiping!

Retsu smirked, was she on to a winner? "Not what again?"

"I've already been told by Shunsui that apparently I have crush on Rukia, news that came from that Women's club you attend," he sighed, this was getting ridiculous now.

"It's okay if you like her," Retsu said seriously as she heard the sigh in his tone. "You know you're free to date anyone you like and call a stop to this, you've done so in the past. As have I."

"It's not us," Jūshirō tried to explain as he sat up and moved his pillow back so he could sit up and against the headboard. Retsu moved to rest her head on his chest and he naturally wrapped his arm around her to comfort her, "I just don't like her in that way, and she doesn't like me fancy me either. I care about her, yes, but as a sister. I see her as I see my sisters: young, strong women who also need care and comfort now and again. She's going through a lot right now, and I have a duty to help her, as her colleague, superior and friend."

"I know," Retsu replied gently, realising that the issue could be Rukia's situation, "But what I'm saying is that if you do like her, then you're free to go at any point and pursue a normal relationship."

"I don't like her," he concluded, "And the relationship would hardly be normal. She's trying to get pregnant with her brother's child!"

"There's no reason you can't have a happy relationship with her once she's had the child," Retsu argued, "She'd be good for you, and you need someone permanent in your life. Perhaps she can put you in your place." She laughed as she shrugged out of his hold and sat up properly next to him. He looked irritated but he couldn't hide the tiny smile at the corners of his mouth at the statement.

"Why are we having this conversation?" he asked, looking down at her as he crossed his arms.

"There was something bothering you, and you wouldn't tell me," Retsu mocked a sulk, "Besides, it would be nice if you could find someone and be happy."

"I'm already happy with what I have!" he argued, "If I do happen to find a girl that I actually like, then I'm sure I'll try dating her, but since that hasn't happened yet, I'll just stick to our current arrangement."

Retsu sighed, exasperated. She hated it when he was being stubborn, but then, if he didn't have romantic feelings for Rukia, then he simply didn't have them, and prodding at him wouldn't inspire them either, "I just want you to be happy. I care about you."

"I am happy," he assured her as he moved to sit on the side of the bed before reaching down to the pile of clothes and fishing out his underwear, "I care about you too, but stop your probing and I'll be even happier. You need to concentrate on resting so that you can go back to work tomorrow." She nestled into the pillows as she watched with him get dressed, a small smile on her face. She yawned and closed her eyes as she took to listening to him tie his Shihakusho sash and shrug on his captain's coat, perhaps she could fall asleep after all. Such would be a much-appreciated luxury.

"Retsu," Jūshirō's unsure tone pulled her from her thoughts of sleep as her eyes opened quickly to look over at him. She frowned at him before catching sight of the butterfly that was speedily making its way across the room to her. She groaned as it landed on her finger, hoping it was nothing.

Jūshirō watched as Retsu's once calm features now twisted to that of shock and worry as the butterfly crumbled to nothing and she hastily threw herself from the bed, stark naked as she picked up her underwear and wiggled into it. Jūshirō busied himself as he picked up the remainder of her clothes that he had hastily thrown half way across the room several hours before.

"What's wrong?" He asked as he handed the Shihakusho and captain's robe to her.

"It's Hisana," she explained as she stepped into her Shihakusho trousers, "She's taken a turn for the worse and she's reacted badly to a drug we've been trying her on. I don't understand, yesterday she seemed to be getting better, and now she's turned again."

Jūshirō grimaced but said nothing, only nodding in acknowledgement. He helped her into her captain's robe as words escaped him, what should he say? He wasn't a doctor, he didn't know what to suggest or do, and they had no idea what was wrong or if it was fatal or not.

"Try your best," he decided to stick with as he followed her out of her private room and out of the living quarters before walking across the open space that led to the relief centre.

"I always do," she smiled.

"I know," he returned her smile, "And if you need me, I'm only on the other side of the Seireitei."

"I'll send for you if the mood takes me," she agreed before smiling once more and turning on her heels, flash stepping into the centre. Jūshirō watched as she flash stepped away before flash stepping to his own squad, suddenly dreading what state the barracks will be in.

xxxxxxx

"What's happened?" Retsu called loudly down the hall towards her office as members of her squad rushed around her, "Where is Isane?"

"In Lady Kuchiki's room," a girl replied, trotting beside Retsu in order to keep up with the long strides.

Retsu took some paperwork from the girl before stepping up the pace so the girl struggled to follow, letting her think in peace as she made her way to Hisana's room.

"Captain!" Isane exclaimed, a look of pure relief plastering her face as she whipped around to greet her superior.

"What happened?" Retsu repeated as she moved over to stand at the bottom of the bed where the rest of the paperwork sat. She looked up briefly at Hisana's limp form and couldn't help but grimace.

"She seized," Isane explained.

"She had a seizure?" Retsu paled as her eyes widened.

"Yes," Isane confirmed grimly, "I've given her a muscle relaxant and she's in and out of sleep at the moment."

"What caused the seizure?" Retsu asked, moving to look at Isane's records.

"We don't know," Isane looked down, slightly embarrassed about her lack of knowledge, "It could be anything. It's most likely the case that we've put her on a drug that has affected her, or taken her off one too fast. It could also be an anxiety attack, or simply lack of sleep or dehydration. We've ruled out infection and a fever with tests."

"Was there anything out of the ordinary before she seized?" Retsu asked, listening to Hisana's shallow breathing as she slept.

"She dropped a cup of water this morning, but she's never been clumsy before," Isane replied casually as she tapped her chin with a pen in thought, "But she didn't knock it off her bedside table or accidently drop it and try and catch it in haste or anything when she picked it up. In fact she sort of didn't realise she had dropped it until it clattered on the floor next to her bed."

"Strange," Retsu agreed, "Anything else?"

"She also seemed a little confused earlier," Isane wracked her brain for material, "It was before she fell asleep so it was a little muffled, but she seemed to think that captain Kuchiki would be visiting her in the morning, but we told her he'd visit in the evening, like always. She then became a little distressed and repeated over and over that he'd visit in the morning, like yesterday."

"He visited her while she slept yesterday afternoon," Retsu replied, ashen faced, "She never saw him yesterday."

"W-What does it mean?" Isane asked.

"These symptoms suggest a neurological complication," Retsu replied with a quiet voice before clearing her throat, "It's affecting her perception of time, memory and pattern."

"What is 'it'?" Isane asked, as her captain was deep in thought. "Captain?" She prompted after a short while.

"I don't know, Isane," Retsu replied, suddenly feeling very thinly spread once more. She had hoped that her day off would have allowed her to rest and think, but now she felt close to breaking point and she felt stretched and pushed for time they didn't have.

"Captain?" a knock at the door distracted them, and a male soul reaper entered, "I have Lady Kuchiki's urine pot sample results."

"Thank you," Isane replied for her stressed captain as she took the pot and read the paper accompaniment, "There's a lot of blood in her urine." Isane looked up at her captain.

"Her liver is still failing," Retsu concluded, "And we still don't know what's wrong with her."

xxxxxxx

Retsu sighed as she reached down to grab her body wash, hot droplets running down her arms, breasts stomach as the shower bore down on her. It was the early hours of the morning and she and Isane had spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in the library, trawling through journal after journal in the medical section in order to put her symptoms together and make a conclusion. They found nothing substantial in the section they checked and decided to return tomorrow to make a start on the other medical sections. She'd even gone as far as to give captain Kurotsuchi a phial of Hisana's blood and urine for tests, to see if he could spot anything. She doubted he would find anything anyway.

She felt like throwing caution to the wind and wanted to cry the stress away. She was running out of time and options, and she knew that Hisana was slowly dying. She put her hand on the steamed up window pane of the shower door to distract herself from crying, but she had realised that if they didn't figure out what was wrong very soon, Hisana would be dead long before she would even get a chance to see the baby Rukia was making for her.

She inwardly cursed herself as the threat of tears tickled her throat; she was both exhausted and clueless, with the outcome of a young woman resting on her. She hung her head under the jet as she decided to call Jūshirō; she needed a shoulder to cry on.

xxxxxxx

As briefly and awkwardly instructed by Byakuya, who had been informed by Unohana, Rukia prepared herself for a second night. The previous night had been bad enough, and she knew that two times in a row would leave her feeling sore.

Byakuya pushed open the door slowly before making his way over to Rukia, noting once again, her rigid, frightened state. He sighed inwardly. He didn't want to be here and she didn't want him here, so how they managed to get through it every time astounded him. He still had no idea what had possessed him to grip her hand last night, desperation perhaps? Was it sheer and utter desperation for her to stop sobbing her heart out as he thrust himself in and out of her? She had hardly been wet and it had just made things all the more difficult and awkward for the both of them. Moreover, Hisana had now been in the relief centre for a month and she showed no significant improvement. They kept information to a minimal and he was beginning to become distrustful of the small information that they were feeding him. He was becoming fearful for their lack of a conclusion and treatment and he knew deep down that there was a real chance that Hisana was running out of time. Put into perspective, it made this whole baby thing seem redundant. Why have a child when she's too ill to take care of it?

He looked over at her as he stood next to her bed, spying some erotically covered book that had been shoved on her bedside table, no doubt in haste after he had entered her room without much prior notice. What filth was Hisana giving to her now? He disapproved of Hisana's liking to such pornographic novels, she seemed to read and think about such things rather than trying them out with him, despite his willingness to do such things. Hisana was a dreamer, and as such she was much happier dreaming about a perfect Prince Charming character than finding one within her husband. Byakuya was far from perfect, but he tried to be a good husband. He just wished she would appreciate him a little more. His gaze flickered to Rukia once more before he turned on his heels and exited the room. He definitely wasn't in the mood to put up with his sister's pained sobs, and his body couldn't take another hard thorough scrubbing like last night. He cared not for captain Unohana's advice right now, and if she wasn't pregnant again this month, then they'd have to try again next month, or the month after, wouldn't they? He could try again once he'd had some distance and time away from her. One night a month was definitely the limit.

xxxxxxx

Why did he walk out? If they wanted a decent chance of her becoming pregnant, then they'd have to try for several days, or so Byakuya had quickly said a few days before they began trying again. She shrugged, she just didn't know what was going on in his head, but then, she mostly didn't want to know. Then there was that hand holding thing…why'd he do that? Lord, it had confused and shocked her, but at the time she hadn't the time or the care to question it, but now, looking back at it, it just confused her all the more. She had broken her sister's orders to keep her hands by her sides at all times, but it was Byakuya who took her hand in his and took some initiative to comfort her, not herself. She didn't know what instructions Hisana had given to Byakuya regarding the protocol. She had also only just taken the time to realise that Hisana was still in the relief centre, despite her 'small' cold. Don't colds only last a few days? Given her recent situation, she hadn't the time to put much thought into it, but if that were the case, then is Hisana more ill than captain Unohana let on? Maybe that's what's affecting Byakuya?

"Deep in thought?" a voice prompted her from her thoughts and she looked up to meet the gaze of her captain.

"Yeah," she mumbled as she grabbed at the paperwork she had temporarily neglected.

"You look tired," her captain said as he sat down at his own desk.

"You do too," Rukia pointed out.

"I suppose that's true," Jūshirō replied with a small shrug. He'd been up all night with Retsu as she had alternated between pacing around her room, firing medical terms at him and crying all over him as they sat on the bed. It wasn't until he had pinned her down to the bed and held onto her did she manage to put her over-active mind to sleep. He looked down at his desk and grimaced, he wasn't one to shirk off work and responsibility but concentration evaded him and all of his trying to complete his work this morning had turned out fruitless. This was getting nowhere, and he could tell Rukia was also distracted; it didn't take genius to figure out why.

"Kiyone, Sentarō," he suddenly called loudly, making Rukia jump. As if on cue, the pair came running into his office, loyally standing opposite his desk and ready for instruction, "Rukia and I are going to the living world for the day to check on the status of the substitute soul reaper. Sentarō, you will temporarily take my place, and Kiyone, you will take Rukia's place. We'll be back at the end of the day. Oh, and no fighting."

"But captain, why can't I be the captain?" Kiyone protested upon seeing Sentarō's smug look.

"Because I said so," he replied firmly, "End of discussion."

He resolved himself to get more sleep at night; lack to sleep seemed to make him incredibly grouchy and irritable. Rukia stood up and followed him out of the office, thoroughly confused, but she followed instruction nonetheless. She followed behind him for several minutes as he led the way to the Senkaimon before she decided to question his authority.

"Captain, we're not due to check on Ichigo's status," she pointed out as she jogged to catch up with him, "There are already stationed soul reapers there to keep an eye out for him. Besides, he hasn't done anything wrong to warrant us checking up on him."

"I know," he replied with a smile as he looked down at her.

"Then what are we doing in the living world this afternoon?" she asked with raised eyebrows.

"Relaxing, eating cake, shopping, visiting friends, anything really," he replied casually, despite Rukia's incredulous expression.

"Why?' she asked, almost horrified that he was casually skipping work to bum around, it sounded like something captain Kyoraku would do, not him. Maybe he'd spent too much time around the drunken captain, and it was having negative effects on him?

"Well, I'd like a break from everything that's going on," he pointed out, "And I know you'd like a break and a chance to distance yourself from…everything."

Rukia looked down at her feet as she took in his words, she hadn't really considered a trip to the living world as an option to take her mind of things. For one, she thought she'd never get the time off work to take a mini-vacation, even if it was for just an afternoon or overnight somewhere. But now that he mentioned it, she certainly wouldn't say no to a relaxing trip to the living world and she would actually like to see her friends Ichigo and Orihime again.

"Besides," he continued with a smile, "I've ran out of my favourite hair products and I buy them from the living world as I can't buy them here. Also, I feel like eating cake and there's this good cake shop in Karakura town that I'd like to visit."

Rukia shook her head at the audacity of her captain, but then since he was the captain, he could do anything he wanted, right? Still, she couldn't complain. She kept up with his speed as they went through the Senkaimon and into Karakura town before stopping at Urahara's to pick up their Gigai.

"Where to now?" Rukia asked as she straightened the dress on her Gigai, following her captain out of the Urahara shop.

"We can catch a bus to the shopping district and go to the cake shop, if you like," he suggested as he patted down his clothes: a dusty black t-shirt and beige cargo shorts. He didn't always agree with the fashion that came pre-loaded with their Gigai, but it was only for a short while and it wasn't if he was trying to attract a girl or anything. Rukia nodded up at him before following him to bus stop around the corner and pulling out her phone from her dress pocket.

"I'll text Ichigo and see if he wants to meet up!" she suggested happily, now looking forward to seeing him.

"Sure," Jūshirō agreed, pleased that Rukia was enjoying herself for once. He watched as she fiddled with her phone for a few minutes, and luckily the wait for the bus was mercifully short. Much to his annoyance however, the driver charged him with an OAP ticket and charged Rukia with a young adult, and although the tickets turned out cheaper that way, he hated when people naturally assumed he was an old man. He was, to the average human of course, but given the grand scheme of things, he was in fact only middle aged. Still, he grumbled to himself as he stood up and leant against the window, Rukia standing in front of him. He really needed more sleep at night.

"You should hang on to something," he warned Rukia, who had still not reached up to grip an over-head handle.

"It's okay," she challenged confidently as she turned to face him, "I come to the living world all the time and I've never fallen…oh…" Her words were cut short however as the bus unexpectedly lurched forward, forcing Rukia forward and straight into him, her face making contact with his chest as he gripped her arms in order to stop her from completely falling over.

"Well…this is a little too close for comfort," he said after a few seconds as Rukia was crushed up against him.

"Uh huh," Rukia agreed, straightening up now and moving away from him, her face blazing red with embarrassment as she gripped the handle. The group of boys who were laughing at the back didn't help. Curse her being in the living world, if this were the soul society, she would have torn them a new one and then Kido blasted their asses into Rukongai by now. She looked around and them and threw them a look, silencing them immediately.

"Rukia, are you okay?" Jūshirō asked as he bent down to become face level with her.

"Y-yeah," she mumbled, her face still blazing with embarrassment.

"Are you sure?" he asked, concerned now as his embarrassment was forgotten.

"I'm fine," she assured him, looking up occasionally to meet his concerned gaze, "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," he laughed, "I wasn't the one who face-planted into someone."

"I suppose not," she laughed nervously, knowing that she would never live this down.

Thankfully, the buzzing of her phone provided a much welcome distraction to her embarrassment, and she held it close to her ear as she answered it.

"You obviously care for your daughter," came the voice of an older woman, prompting Jūshirō to look around to meet the woman's gaze.

"Oh," he replied, meeting her gaze with a laugh, "She's not my daughter."

"Your sister, then," the woman continued as she gave an obvious eyelash bat and a blush before getting off the bus as it came to the next stop.

"She's not my…sister…" he tried but trailed off as she left the bus. Was she flirting with him with her obvious blush and smile? He shrugged his shoulders before turning to Rukia, who was still on the phone. He waited for Rukia to finish her conversation as the buss pulled out of the stop and carried on down the road to town, only a few stops more.

"Ichigo has finished with classes for the morning," Rukia turned to her captain with a smile, and her genuine smile of happiness warmed him, "Maybe we can meet up with him, if that's okay?"

"Of course," he encouraged, "It's good to relate to young men your own age. Or even get a boyfriend one day."

"Oh, it's not like that," Rukia denied quickly, "I don't see Ichigo as anything other than a friend."

"I know," Jūshirō encouraged, "But it would be nice if you found someone." Jūshirō immediately internally grimaced – he was starting to sound like Retsu, but he was just trying to help her find happiness. He shook his head; he was acting like a father or an older brother – by prying into her life and trying to help her by suggesting things she may not be ready for. He cared about her is all, and he hated to see her unhappy.

Rukia wore a permanent blush for the rest of the buss ride and was grateful for Ichigo's presence as he met them at the buss stop. She quickly hopped off to greet Ichigo and gasped in surprise as Orihime popped her head around from the taller redhead.

"Captain Ukitake," Ichigo greeted, surprised to see him accompanying Rukia.

"Kurosaki," he replied courteously before turning to Rukia, "The cake shop is opposite, just across the street. I also think there's some kind of plushie shop around here, Kurosaki, do you know the one I mean?"

"I do!" Orihime filled in for Ichigo's silence.

"Good, could I ask a favour of you please, Miss Inoue," Jūshirō requested with a smile, "But I'll need to ask you in private."

"Okay," she nodded and followed him around the immediate corner.

"What's that about?" Ichigo muttered as he adjusted his shoulder bag a little.

"No idea," Rukia replied with a confused look, what could he want with Orihime?

"Maybe he likes her?" Ichigo answered casually, "Bit of a cradle snatcher, though."

"L-l-likes her?" Rukia stuttered, in utter shock. Her captain likes Orihime? They hardly know each other and Orihime is still alive for one, surely the biggest obstacle of all? "I doubt it, he hardly knows her, and she's way too young for him!"

"Okay, sheesh, keep your panties on," Ichigo quickly calmed her, "It was only a joke. Why are you so bothered who he likes, anyway?"

"I'm not bothered," she defended as a blush crept over her, "I was just pointing out the obvious."

"Sure," Ichigo smirked, pleased at the ample teasing material, "Maybe you like him."

"I don't!" she protested loudly, putting Ichigo out a little at her sudden outburst, "Why do people keep saying that? He's my boss and friend, nothing more. Stop making things up!"

"Rukia, relax," he tried, now genuine, "Again, I was just joking…"

"I'm going to the plushie shop!" she cried out, stomping off in the direction of the shops.

"What was that outburst?" Orihime asked as she and Jūshirō rounded the corner once more.

"Rukia," Ichigo replied with a shrug, "I'm not sure what's wrong with her. She can usually take a joke, but she seems edgy and grumpy today."

Jūshirō grimaced, things were obviously getting to her, and he had hoped that this trip would have cheered her up. Maybe his pact with Orihime could make her happier.

"Where is she?" he asked, now worried that she had stomped off in a huff.

"She said she was going to the plushie shop," he shrugged.

"Oh, I'll catch up with her." Orihime smiled before dashing off after the young Kuchiki.

xxxxxxx

"I'm glad the toys make you feel slightly better," Orihime put gently as she browsed the brightly coloured stuffed animal plushies.

"They do," Rukia smiled, now feeling a little calmer. Though, thinking about it, why had she gotten so mad at Ichigo, normally she could take a joke, but today, she felt all over the place. Her hands flews to her stomach, was this pregnancy? No, it's too early to tell, isn't it? She turned to face Orihime, who was a section across from her, looking at the cat plushies, and the curiosity killed the cat. "Orihime, what were you talking to my captain about?"

"Stuff," Orihime replied as casually as she could as she looked around for the other animal types.

Stuff? Well, that's ambiguous, but was Ichigo correct in his joking? She picked up a small duck and fingered the ribbon as she rubbed the soft silk between her fingers and smiled. A dark and unbidden thought occurred to her, she and Hisana would no doubt be picking out toys not too dissimilar if not the same as these, and she would have to pick out those plushies that she loved so much for the child she would soon bear.

Upon seeing Rukia pale, Orihime pointed over to the rabbit plushies, which she knew Rukia liked best. She picked one up and watched as Rukia looked at a few avidly, scanning from shelf to shelf.

"I like this one," Orihime lifted one off the shelf that Rukia had been practically drooling over.

"It's the Limited Edition fluffy Chappy," Rukia automatically filled in before Orihime had even a chance to check the tag, "It's the softest and cutest ever made, and there's only few hundred made."

Orihime laughed upon seeing Rukia's large eyes and small smile, "It's certainly a pretty toy."

"It is," Rukia nodded in agreement, stroking the heavenly soft fur, "It's limited edition, so it's very special. But it's so expensive."

Orihime watched Rukia's face fall a little as they checked the price tag together, holy fuck, it's pricey. What's it stitched with, woven gold and golden thread? Limited edition? At least three regular teddies cost the same as this single one, and all the bears in this shop weren't cheap at that. She felt her friend's excitement fall and her own face fell as she sensed Rukia's previous melancholy.

"Can't you afford it?" Orihime asked, knowing full well of the Kuchiki wealth.

"Of course," Rukia said quickly, pride controlling her voice, "But I have to ask Nii-sama to have access to the Kuchiki money, and seeing as I've spent a lot of money on birthday presents and snacks and things recently, I can't afford to spend so much on a plushie."

"That's a shame," Orihime agreed as Rukia nodded her head, "But I think I'll take it." Rukia's head shot up as mild jealousy quickly took over, how could she afford the toy?

"You're buying it?" Rukia could hardly contain both her surprise and sudden sadness. She couldn't even save for it now.

"Yeah, it'll go great in between my other plushies," she smiled as she gave it a thorough look for imperfections, and finding none, headed towards the counter, "I've got a gap on my shelf that it'll fit nicely into."

"How can you afford it?" Rukia couldn't help but ask as the beautifully cute rabbit was handed over to the smiling cashier.

"I've been working a lot of overtime recently at my part-time job," she replied, looking down at Rukia's crestfallen face, "I've been working at the weekends and after school."

"Oh", Rukia understood, but tried to hide the sadness and slight annoyance in her voice, "I see. That's good."

"Yeah," Orihime concluded as she took her purse out of her bag and pulled out the cash, making Rukia raise her eyebrows. Isn't it strange to carry this amount of money around in cash? Rukia watched sadly as the cashier took the money before giving the rabbit a pat down for dust and wrapping it in pink paper with a ribbon to seal it. She then put it in a bag and handed it to Orihime with a wide smile and a 'good day.'

Rukia was of course, a little jealous that Orihime had picked up the plushie of her dreams, but she realised that it needn't ruin her day, and she found that just spending time away from her problems and engaging in her favourite activities with friends, could make a large difference to her mood indeed. They hurriedly met back up with Ichigo before heading to the electronics store and checking out the newest phones and computers, all of which fascinated Rukia. She had almost forgotten about her captain, until he showed up with bags of his own, apparently he had been running errands, but Rukia knew that he had been shopping for hair care products and other girly items. She rolled her eyes at him and laughed, he could be so girly sometimes. He had then endeavoured to usher them to the cake shop, another 'girly' habit, causing her to shake her head all the more.

"Rolling your eyes?" Jūshirō asked with raised a raised brow as she thought about these habits.

"Just thinking of something," she laughed her face full flush.

"Uh huh," he replied casually before requesting Orihime's presence once more and followed her out of the shop.

"There's definitely something going on," Ichigo murmured between bites of cake, causing Rukia to frown, what should she care if her captain and Orihime started dating? It would be good for them. "I'll ask Orihime later." He continued.

Rukia shrugged, should she ask her captain? But then she could hardly look at him without remembering her crashing into him and subsequent furious blushing. But it wasn't her business and she had no place to ask.

"You're blushing," Ichigo smirked.

"It's warm in here," she retorted quickly as she finished her slice of cake.

"Sure you're not thinking about your captain," he teased.

"Shut up," she snapped, "I wasn't, I don't like him."

"Don't like who?" Orihime asked as she and Jūshirō sat back down at the table.

"Don Kanonji," Ichigo replied without hesitation, "We were saying how fake he is."

"I thought you liked him," Orihime pouted, "You used to enjoy his shows."

"That's before I saw his new show at Ichigo's house, the new one seemed quite fake," she continued with her best poker face.

"I haven't seen his new one," Orihime murmured in thought.

"Ah, excuse me," Jūshirō said suddenly before taking his phone out of his pocket and answering it. His face fell as he listened to the pre-recorded call.

"Is something wrong?" Rukia asked as her captain now looked worried as he held the phone up to his ear.

"I need to head back to soul society," Jūshirō sighed, disappointed that their fun afternoon was being cut short, but Retsu had sounded worried and he knew she was still saddened, "Something has come up."

"Is everyone okay?" Rukia asked, now worried for this news.

"Yes, everyone is fine," Jūshirō replied gently, "It's a captain's affair."

"Good," Rukia visibly relaxed as she was relieved that no one was hurt, "Then we should head back now."

"We'll walk you back to Urahara's shop." Ichigo suggested and Orihime nodded in agreement.

Jūshirō decided to get some cakes to go as they left the shop, in case he or Rukia were to end up feeling melancholic in the next few days. He grimaced as he left, something told him that may be the case. They caught the bus back to the Urahara shop and he smiled as Rukia and Orihime talked for most of the way back, it was nice to see her happy and engaging with her friends.

"Orihime?" Rukia asked shyly as they exited the bus and walked towards the shop, nerves suddenly creeping within her, though she knew not why, "Do you have a thing for m-my captain?"

"Of course not," Orihime laughed lightly at the smaller girl's question, "What makes you say that?"

"You were talking to him a lot today, in private," Rukia explained, pleased that Ichigo and her captain were walking quite far in front of them, "He requested your presence several times."

"Ah, yes," Orihime replied with a smile, "I had asked to speak to him in private the last time I was in the Soul Society, but he was really busy, and we had to leave. So he asked what I wanted to talk about, and I said that I wanted to thank him. I wanted to thank him for his help in training us last summer and letting us use his squad's grounds for training and practise. I've become much stronger with the help he gave me, so I wanted to thank him, because I couldn't at the time."

"Oh," Rukia replied sheepishly, now feeling stupid that she had thought Orihime had a crush or liking for her captain, "Well it's good that you got to thank him."

"Yes," Orihime agreed, "He's a lovely guy and a great captain, but there's someone else I like."

"Who?" Rukia asked with excitement, she had no idea that Orihime had an existing crush.

"It's a secret," she teased, but as soon as Rukia scowled and looked away, her eyes flitted to the crass teenage boy only a few steps in front of her.

xxxxxxx

Jūshirō sighed as he cleared the papers on his desk, utterly tired. He had of course rushed over to see Retsu, who upon charting that Hisana's condition was still worsening, had been in need of a sit down and a comforting talk. He had left her feeling better, but he knew that the right thing to do was to visit her in the evening and ask if she was looking for company. He was dog-tired and couldn't even entertain the idea of being 'in the mood,' but he could at least lie down with her and hug. He watched as Rukia also cleared her desk and headed up the stairs to the living quarters. He quickly pulled open his desk drawer and grabbed what he needed before following her and stopping her before she went into her room.

"Rukia."

"Yes, captain," she asked, turning around to face him.

"I have something for you," he replied with a smile before handing her an item wrapped in paper.

Her face was frozen as he handed her the pink-papered item and she knew in an instant exactly what it was. She couldn't move her fingers as her trembling hands held the package, and she fought the sudden overwhelming urge to cry.

"Why?" was all she could ask in a strained whisper.

"You're going through a lot right now," he explained with a smile, though the tears in the corners of her eyes concerned him, "And I wanted to do something nice for you. No one has really stopped and listened to what you want and what you're thinking, despite the fact that you're so young and inexperienced in life. I think that we should do more to help you, I know captain Unohana is trying to give you advice and counselling, but sometimes you just need comfort and kindness. I worry about you and I wanted to get you something in the hopes that it would make you happy."

He smiled as a tear fell down her cheek, prompting him to take a clean tissue from his sleeve and hand it to her.

"Thank you," she choked, trying to keep it together, despite the need to cry into him. It was times like this that she wanted the closeness that she once held with her sister, before all this, before she married Byakuya even. She needed that familial love in all its glory, the feeling of safety and warmth and the knowledge that no matter what the problem, Hisana would always make it better.

"You're welcome," he replied gently, smiling, "So be happy and stop crying."

"Okay," she half smiled, half laughed.

"I'm going to have to go and make sure captain Kyoraku isn't drinking himself into oblivion," Jūshirō said, it was a little white lie, but his activities with Retsu were secret, after all, "Miss Ise isn't quite large and strong enough to carry him home singlehandedly, poor thing." That part was wholly true.

"Okay, thank you," she repeated as her tears stopped a little.

"Chin up, kiddo," he smiled as he patted her head before turning to leave.

Rukia smiled as she entered her room looking at the pink paper as it crinkled under her fingers. She sat on her bed as she fingered the ribbon that had sealed it up, Orihime must have bought it on her captain's orders, and that's what he must have talked to her about in private. It's so expensive, how did he afford it? He's on captain's wage, and of low noble birth, so they must be fairly well off…still, it was a lot of money but she was thoroughly grateful for the toy. She undid the ribbon and pulled the rabbit out of the paper, still in pristine condition. The bear had the limited edition certificate still in the paper, and the tags on the bear made it worth exponentially more, if she were to keep it in its pristine condition and wait for a few years, it would be worth a small fortune. As she put the paper on her dresser she retuned to her bed and changed into her pyjamas, fiddling with the rabbit as she lay in bed. She hugged it to her, not even caring if the tags became torn, or dog-eared or were even ripped off, this was her rabbit and it comforted her as she hugged it's soft body to hers and slowly, cried relieving and refreshing tears.


A/N: You know that feeling when everything is terrible and you're trying not to cry, and then you see your mum and you fall apart because she's such a comfort? That's the feeling Rukia once had for Hisana - just saying so you know what I mean by it. That feeling you get when you see your parent when everything is shit in life.

I saw the Dark Knight Rises in the cinema with my boyfriend the other night, and we really enjoyed it! But yeah, on a more related note, sorry for the Rukitake, it's just so that I can fuck around with emotions and break some hearts later on ;) Byaruki hand holding - room potential methinks?