The phone rang. Vibrated actually in little semi-circles before a sleepy head of short dark hair lifted, hand fumbling to find the noisy device.
"H-hello?" Hanataro mumbled, blearily blinking at the digital numbers in red on the bedside table. 2:01 am.
"Hana?" At the sound of the female voice he instantly straightened in bed from a slouch, rubbing with his free hand the grains of sleep from large puppy-dog eyes. The nickname was one he was mercilessly teased about. Flower - flower boy. Rukia did it out of affection so he never complained.
"What's wrong?" He asked immediately, not pushy, not bossy. "Ms. Rukia?" and his voice shook a little, "are you safe?" For a few minutes all he could hear in the darkness coming through a static-filled line, was her breaths, broken like hiccoughs interspersed.
"Can you pick me up..?"
He had the sense she'd been crying, but would never admit it. Ms. Rukia was strong like that, strong like he wasn't. Hanataro Yamada, slipped out of his bed with a sigh, clinging onto the cell phone like it were a lifeline connecting them.
"Sure." he said softly, hearing the line disconnect.
He left at approximately 2:10 am.
Ever punctual, he had barely tossed a jacket over his yellow banana pajamas. He guessed she would be at the usual place, not bothering to stop at the several red lights. The boulevards were deserted at this ungodly hour. Hanataro nosed the small lime green VW bug into a back alley parking lot behind Las Noches club. The round cap headlights bounced and arced, illuminating the figure of a petite girl wearing a scandalously short black halter dress and spike heels. Rukia started walking toward the car even before he had switched the ignition off.
Like with all times, she was the very image of perfection in his mind. Short black locks framed her face, severe tips dusted the tops of her narrow shoulders. Rukia's eyes were large and a piercing mixture of blue-violet, her lips were either frowning or smiling. More of the former lately. Hanataro knew the door was unlocked but still had the urge to get out and open it for her.
Ms. Rukia always did that to him.
He never understood why her long string of boyfriends never felt the same.
It was only obvious, her newest, Grimmjow, didn't either. Hanataro turned as she jimmied the door shut, the entire metal frame rocking with the force of the jerk. Rukia scowled and cursed under her breath at the falling apart contraption, reaching up a hand to tug her bangs down over her right eye, but not before he had seen what she was trying to hide.
"Ms. Rukia, you're hurt!"
Self-defensive to the last, she winced and half-raised a hand, hiding half her face from his view. Hanataro hesitated at the steel in her voice.
"I'm fine. Hanataro, please just.." then a hesitation of her own. Rukia bit her lip, staining already smeared lipstick on her small teeth, eyes that were large in her face lowered, mascara streaked faintly in necrotic blue on her pale eyelids. Hanataro knew the inevitable, adding kinder so her pride wouldn't be hurt.
"You can stay at my place."
"Thanks." Rukia said off-handedly, leaning a slender arm up on the triangular window casing, revealing in a few slants of light, purpling bruises made by larger, thicker fingers, in the underside of her upper arm. Hanataro concentrated on driving, his own small hands minutely tightening on the worn steering wheel.
They remained in silence for the rest of the night.
In the morning, because he had without conscious thought, given up the single bedroom in the four-room flat for her use, Hanataro awoke still sleepy and with a terrible crick in the neck. The smell of frying eggs and fresh coffee tingled his taste buds and he pushed aside the blankets on the lumpy thrift store sofa and padded into the adjoining kitchenette, frowning immediately.
"Ms. Rukia, you're my guest! You shouldn't be making breakfast!" The girl he addressed had her back to him and stood at the small silver range top, flipping a large omelet expertly. She was still clad in the dress from the night before and wore socks on her feet as she padded past him to retrieve a set of plates from the nearly bare cabinet.
Hanataro stood fidgeting for a few minutes, his eyes absorbing her graceful motions- truth be told, overjoyed
"Nonsense, Hana." Rukia said briskly, carving the delicious-smelling omelet in half and sliding a portion on each of the plates. With her movement, her hair slipped, the bruise remained darker than ever. Hanataro tried to smile, feeling utterly useless, but it came as more as a pained grimace.
She didn't notice, setting out cutlery on the small space of Formica countertop between the stove and the sink. Hanataro stopped fidgeting long enough to quietly ask, "shouldn't you press charges?" When she didn't look up from pouring coffee, he went stumbling in his haste to speak. "This is the third time, Ms. Rukia." reminding her of all the other times. Other men.
"He opened a door and didn't know I was behind it." Rukia said simply, never caring whether the lie was believable or not. Hanataro took a shallow breath in, his eyes watering the longer they lingered on her.
"I'm sorry." he said softer, accepting the plate she had fixed for him.
"I know you are." she said magnanimously, barely carving a path with her fork.
And then the phone rang.
Her eyes had lit up and she had left to go answer it.
Hanataro dispiritedly cut at his omelet portion, glad for once of thin walls.
"-no. Of course not! Why would I have someone else!"
"-I'm at Hana's- yes, baka. Hana picked me up."
He took a bite and chewed. It was very good. Much better than the meager fare he knew how to prepare. Hanataro washed it down with scalding hot coffee, the burn taking the sting from something more physical.
Rukia probably had guessed he could hear, for she dropped her tone suddenly, adding almost cajolingly to the blue-haired 6-ft terror, "you know how Hana is. He's such a good friend."
The next bite tasted like ash.
Grimmjow picked her up at 2 pm. Hanataro measured his life by time. By two pm his flat was empty and an essay was due. He measured out his life that way, dulling his recollection of his friend since childhood's never a backward glance when she walked out to the Jeep Wrangler pulled up at the cracked curbside.
The writing was dull. Like he was. He had memorized her habits beforehand and knew that at this time, she and the bouncer were most likely making up in hot passionate ways until his shift at five. Come five and they descended down to the downtown club where the inside always appeared as nighttime.
At six pm he finished the essay and put it carefully stapled together in his backpack. The next hours were spent with a plastic-tasting frozen meal watching the traffic from his bedroom window.
At nine, he washed the few dishes and utensils. Drying everything carefully and replacing it back in its place. Once that was finished, Hanataro went to lay down, fully dressed on top of his bed.
By ten he had drifted off.
The phone rang.
Startled from sleep - unaware until that moment that he had gone to sleep at all. Hanataro struggled awake and snatched it off the messy bedside table.
The lamp had stayed on, casting a glow of yellow electric light. Past the rectangular window, the panes revealed a darkened world.
His breath caught, not bothering to ask questions she wouldn't answer. Ms. Rukia sounded weak. To his memory, Ms. Rukia never sounded weak in front of anyone. Rather than be pleased she was showing such a hidden side to him, Hanataro rose and said bravely to the staticky sound of her breathing on the other end.
"I'll be there soon, Ms. Rukia. Just hold on."
He didn't have to look to know it was .
Both were quiet leaving the parking lot behind the club.
Rukia didn't disguise the limp in her step nor the cut lip and swollen lump on her forehead. Now both beautiful blue-violet eyes were marred by hideous black bruises. She accepted the ice pack wordlessly, attired this night in a magenta over the shoulder affair. Hanataro saw the valiant attempts at makeup to hide the worst of the beatings, smeared irrevocably now.
"Should we press charges?" he asked half-heartedly, knowing it was a waste of effort.
"It would make things..only worse. He's gone now.." Rukia murmured, accepting the clean blankets he had handed to her - what seemed like a thousand times before. Each time, Hanataro Yamada felt like he died a little more inside until he wondered if it was only an empty shell that looked and talked like him but wasn't really, on the inside.
But of course he knew it was only fanciful wishing.
He was there.
Every second of a bleeding heart that never quite healed, standing on the outside looking in at Ms. Rukia because that was all he ever could do. She was too beautiful, too smart and too much of everything else Hanataro Yamada wasn't. Brassy, loud and definitely not timid.
And when Rukia with her bruised, too large eyes softened, sparking with some emotion he had never seen directed his way before. She was always in the lead, taking the mug of forgotten cocoa from his hands and setting it aside, then following up with willowy arms and lips on his that left him breathless and malleable to her hands.
The next morning, Hanataro awoke fully satisfied - a feeling he hadn't felt ever, and...searched the nearby area for any traces of a slim body with petite breasts and soft raven locks.
He found nothing.
A fruitless search turned up a solitary note on the counter space in the kitchen.
An apology was contained - not for the night before, but of her brother's subsequent call and insistence that she return with him to Kyoto. Hanataro sighed and ran a hand through his short chin-length black locks.
- give me space - the note seemed to say staring up at him with traces of smudged ink.
He thought of it - and decided to do just that, placing the missive in a box under his bed where it looked as though a thousand other sheafs of paper bearing the distinct handwriting had been saved. Each notes. Each a separate apology that began at 2am and ended at 8am the next morning. The story of their lives.
Hanataro stopped counting his life by minutes.
At 2 am his eyes would open and he'd turn over under the covers, praying that Mr. Kuchiki would keep Ms. Rukia safe in his stead.
Mid-autumn he received a text message in class.
The time was 2pm exact. In reading it surreptitiously, he risked the wrath of Unohana-sensei and bolted for the door, tossing off any excuse he could think of over his shoulder. He cared not what they said... because dull, too timid Hanataro Yamada was in love with the most amazing woman in the world and maybe...just maybe this time she had seen who was awake at 2am to mend her broken heart.
"You came back...Ms. Rukia." He said finally, breaking through the final doors out onto the sloping lawn of the University. A petite girl waited at the bottom of the stairs, lowering her cell from her ear. "Hanataro, must I constantly remind you, it's Rukia." she chided, her bruises healed, her attire a corduroy jumper over black leggings and a long sleeve purple top underneath.
"Remind me again." He said timidly, drawing nearer to clasp the hands she extended to him. "Rukia." she smiled and kissed him lightly, ever so gently on the lips.
Disclaimer: don't own Bleach nor the lyrics to Anna Nalick's (Breathe 2am)
AN: thanks for reading