A random idea that happened to pop into my head. I'm hoping to turn this into a chapter story but there are two things making me reluctant about it; would anyone read it? And I'm not very good at keeping up-to-date with things, so I'm nervous that you'll all get mad if I take too long.

Title: Crossing Paths
Pairings: RenShuu, various others
Characters: servant!Shuuhei, prince!Renji, king!Byakuya. Appearances by Grimmjow, Ichigo, Rukia, Izuru, Momo, Gin, Tousen, Rangiku, and various others
Rating: T for now

Shuuhei lived a simple life from the time he was born until he turned five years old. It was easy, filled with careless days in the forest, cloud watching, and running around with the neighborhood dog. He was too young to notice the stares that people gave him, or the way that mothers kept their children his own age away from him. The boy didn't notice the angry furrowing of brows in his direction, the crosses and signs of evil as he raced through the city with a bright smile upon his features. He suspected nothing, as his life was a narrow, simple game that he enjoyed to play.

But by the time that he turned ten, his mind, which had grown over-attentive, eyes that saw and followed everything, and ears that tuned into every surrounding, he quickly became aware that his village, the place where he had grown up, did not welcome him. Shuuhei knew not why, but he cared deeply about the isolation that was given to him and only him. His parents were never there for him anymore, nor was the neighborhood dog. His life had crumpled to despair and loneliness. The child sulked and hid in the forest for days, and when he did go into the village, whether it be for food or just to see if anything changed, he always smiled. It was a facade that he offered to the ones that did not care.

But not even a week before his eleventh birthday, he watched as the nobles slipped into the town for a small visit. Shuuhei wanted to get closer, to see them as everyone else did, but they chased him away. He did not give up, not once, until nearly five hours later on the first day. That's when they began to chase him and attempt to capture him.

He ran as fast as he could, his eyes frantic, body heaving, mind racing as he tried to figure out what to do. Eventually he climbed, hiding inside the hollow in the center of the massive oak tree. They passed by him, and eventually he broke, crying for the first time in his short little life. It was the first time that they had meant to do him harm, and it scared him that they would try. A few minutes later, he peered out of the tree, spotting no one.

But still he did not move.

Weariness crept into him, and his grey eyes trailed around the place he had called home for so long. His head lifted, and in the distance he saw the fires curling into the sky from the village that had harboured him for so long. And he knew that he couldn't go back. Just in that instant, he heard a crack.

Shuuhei's head instantly swivled in the direction of the offensive sound. Standing to his right was a finely dressed teenager, rich crimson curls falling over his shoulders. Braided into it were white threads, adding a godly shine to the locks of red. Warm brown orbs flicked about the clearing rapidly, taking in all that he could see. Across his chest was a dark red dragon, silver fire being blown from its mouth. From his forehead and the bare skin that the child could see were black tribal tattoos, proud where they stood and standing out against the tanned skin. Taut muscles shivered beneath the black cloth, ready to move at any moment. Captivated by the older's appearance, he leaned forwads for a better look, one of his hands slipping down past the bark. Shuuhei squeaked in surprise, teetering on the edge for a moment before he righted himself.

As soon as that happened, his gaze met that of the crimson-haired man's. The child instantly shrunk back inside of the trunk, pressing against the bark with terror-filled grey eyes. Was he one of the people who had chased him? Not even mere seconds later, the redhead was sitting at the opening, watching him with unreadable eyes.

"What is your name?" The voice was crisp, holding the authority of a noble, authority that did not serve to disobey. The small body shivered in fear, his eyes widened with terror and unease. "A-are you here t-to take me away?" Shuuhei's voice, used for the first time in days, was raspy and soft. A hand extended towards him and he jumped. "Don't be afraid; I'm not going to take you anywhere. I just want to know why you're hiding." The voice was soft and reassuring.

He continued to watch the redhaired teenager as he stuck his head and upper body into the large hollow, crawling in himself. It was big enough for both of them and possibly a third; the oak was certainly ancient. "T-they were chasing me and i-it was scary," the small one said, but he backed away from the stranger; his little mind still did not fully trust him. "The people from the village were chasing you?" The older asked. Shuuhei caught the flicker of anger across his face, the lash of uncertainty in those formly welcoming brown eyes. His demeanor changed dramatically. "Is your name Shuuhei?"

In that moment, he knew he had made a grave error, and it might cost him his life.

"W-what are you going to do to me? I-I don't even know w-what I did wrong!" The child cried out, feeling tears bead at the corners of his eyes. "I don't wanna go back there! Please, please don't make me go! I'll be good, I swear I will! I won't take any more food and I'll go far away, just don't make me go back!" By this time, Shuuhei had risen and moved as far away as he could, his little grey eyes brimming with tears, body shaking with fear and deep sadness. If the stranger took him back, would the village people actually . . . hurt him?

The redhead found it amusing for a moment that the child would so willingly beg, but only for a moment. He too was unhappy with the decree that the council members had issued out sixteen days prior. His hand went up to scratch at his cheek and he sighed. "If you promise to obey every single thing I tell you, every single thing without any doubts, I won't make you go back. Can you do that for me?" When the child gave a rapid nod, he was motioned forwards. "First thing; come here."

Shuuhei swallowed nervously before making his way forwards on thin, wobbling ankles. He sniffled, rubbing away the tears in his eyes and trailing down his face. As soon as he was in arms reach, the redhead yanked him forwards, the child crying out in surprise. "Sorry about that; I'm not used to being gentle with children. My name is Abarai Renji, but you may call me 'master'. Understand?"

Shuuhei's eyes quivered. "W-why?" A small smirk twisted along Renji's lips. He really was so deliciously naive; he would enjoy tainting the boy one day, but that time was not now. "If I take you with me, you'll be placed in a large castle and you'll have to listen to everything I say, when I say it. Can you do that, Shuuhei?" The boy stared up at Renji with glistening eyes, giving a small nod. "I call you master."

"That's right; you're learning," the redhead said, offering a bright smile. But Shuuhei had grown weary again. "Why were they chasing me? Why do I have to leave?"

Those tan fingers stroked his head reassuringly, that smile actually softening for a moment. "Don't worry, Shuuhei; they won't chase you ever again. I'm taking you away from here so I can protect you." His body still did not move but Renji began to inch towards the opening. "When we get out there, I want you to follow directly behind me, alright? Don't stray away from me."

With a rapid shake of his head, the redhead began the climb down, Shuuhei sitting neatly on his shoulders although he offered to climb down himself. The moment they were upon the forest floor, the child scurried to do what he had been told, falling into step behind Renji immediately. He scrambled to keep up with the lean, graceful steps, his little legs aching by the time they eached the edge of the foest. He was given a brief moment to catch his breath before he suddenly heard footsteps.

Out of the forest further along the forest stepped four people. Grey eyes widened and he unconciously pressed against Renji's legs, small hands tangling in the fabric to peer around at the newcomers. "Keep still, Shuuhei," the redhead said.

As they grew closer, the muscles resting beneath his fingers tightened, changing their direction and poised calm. The first was tall and lean, almost white blonde hair covering the area over one of his eyes. They were blue like the sky, calm and kind as they stared at Renji. The second one had short black hair, most of it tied back in a bun covered in light blue cloth; the woman held a fierce pride, but her demeanor was gentle. Beside her stood a man with vivid orange hair, his eyes holding a cold glint that made the young boy shiver. The last one of the group stood with dignity and an air of authority, one that even Renji did not hold. Black curls of hair fell over his shoulders, grey eyes unreadable and face set like stone.

"I found him; call back Grimmjow and Rukia so we can head on our way. The other search parties will still be out looking for him, but we'll be long gone before they realize that he's no longer here. I'll leave the task of hiding him to Izuru and Ichigo; once Grimmjow gets here, he'll catch up with you. Rukia, Byakuya, Momo, and I will head back to town. Once that is over, then come find us at the place we discussed."

Renji waved his hand and the strangers took a few steps back, but their eyes never left his form. The redhead dropped to one knee, facing Shuuhei. "I need you to trust me again, okay? Izuru and Ichigo-" he motioned the blonde and the orangette forward- "are going to protect you. Listen to them, and if you are caught with them, don't say a word, understand?" Shuuhei gave a weak nod, chancing a glance back at the trees that had been his home for so long. "Will I . . . ever be allowed to come back?"

Renji gave him an apologetic look. "No Shuuhei; this place is no longer your home." The boy looked back to the redhead with broken eyes and he knew that it was already beginning of what it would take to break him. His small frame was suddenly lifted from the ground and placed upon Ichigo's back. "Hold on tightly, okay? Ichigo will carry you until Grimmjow shows up, in which you'll need to climb onto his back. Whatever happens, you listen to them, don't cause any trouble, and stay silent when spoken to. Is all of this clear, Shuuhei?"

The little brunette gave a feeble nod, and not even five minutes later, they were racing out across the field. He did not once look back; doing so would remind him of all the good memories he'd managed to accumulate from the moment of his ordinary birth to his broken eleventh birthday.

Review for me please, to let me know how I'm doing . . .? And ask for a continuation, maybe . . .? Thanks for reading anyway, and I hope you enjoy anything else I decide to make in the future. 3 -Shuu