I don't own Bleach or its characters. Installment four is here! Do enjoy! Oh- and to answer your question Misc. Ink, I look up all this, I've never taken care of a horse in my life, lol. I've fed and pet one, that's about it. XD

Chapter Four: A Helping Hand


Ichigo snuggled deeper into the duvet, burying his head beneath the silky pillow. He felt the tendrils of sleep recoiling around him, and he gratefully returned to their grasp.


Before Ichigo could even lift his head to look at the clock, the door burst open, the hallway lights flooding the room. The light was flipped on, and the pillow snatched from over his head, which promptly was used to pummel him about the skull and back while he flailed, desperately trying to escape the tangle of sheets and comforter. He rolled off the other side of the bed, spinning around once his feet hit the hardwood to confront his assailant.

His simmering anger hit boiling point once he laid eyes on his attacker.

"Hey, you bastard! What's your problem?" he demanded, growing angrier by the second as the grin grew wider on Grimmjow's face. He stood there smugly, dressed in dark wash blue jeans and a gray, plaid button up, which was tucked in to his jeans and held together with a black leather belt, the buckle a gleaming silver gothic 6. His blue hair fell defiantly against his forehead, and Ichigo had to admit to himself that under very different circumstances he wouldn't mind being woken up by the asshole before him.

But that would require some sort of parallel dimension or some dashingly handsome man with a bowtie and blue police box to come sweeping Ichigo off into space and time, neither which Ichigo believed was ever going to happen. Here in this reality, assholes came in a sinfully delicious packaging that left you with buyer's remorse once opened. Said asshole whipped the pillow at his head, which he effectively dodged.

"This is yer wake up call, berry boy. I told ya you'd be helping out 'round here, didn't I?"

Ichigo's eyes darted to the alarm clock at the side of the bed, outrage welling up inside him.

"It's four in the morning, Grimmjow!"
"Welcome to the world of ranching, berry! We don't sleep in til the crack of noon 'round here! Get yer ass dressed, borrow some work boots from Weiss, and get yer ass to the table for breakfast. Breakfast is at four thirty, we head out at five. You'll be taggin' along with Weiss, til' I figure out what else yer useful for."

Grimmjow strode out with a smirk, and Ichigo flipped him off behind his back. Then he looked down and realized he stood there the whole time in Snoopy pajama pants and a holey red t-shirt two sizes too big for him. He mentally face palmed, wondering why he cared what Grimmjow must have thought as he strode to the closet to figure out what the hell he had to wear.

Ichigo had ended up settling for light colored skinny jeans that were splattered in random paint colors. They were old with holes in both knees and he wore them when he worked, so he figured they'd have to do in this situation as he realized all he owned was skinny jeans. He paired it with and old red t-shirt that had a graphic of a surfer catching a large swell.

Out in the hallway he ran into Weiss, who was stumblingly tiredly out of his room. Ichigo was glad to see Weiss shared his sense of fashion, the boy wearing skinny jeans just like him just with more holes and a light blue tank top under a navy plaid flannel.

"Hey," Ichigo said, smiling sheepishly, "Grimmjow said you might have some work boots I can borrow?

"Yeah sure," he said, eyeing Ichigo. "Size 10?"

"Sounds about right," Ichigo said with a grin, watching as the kid retreated back into his room. He emerged with a pair of scuffed brown leather boots, handing them off to Ichigo.

"They're a little worn, sorry."

"They're perfect, thank you," Ichigo replied, smiling at him. "Let's go eat, and then you can show me what this is all about, yeah?"

"Alright," Weiss said, following Ichigo down the stairs with a small grin.

They clambered down to the table, Ichigo sitting where he was the previous night. Weiss surprised him by sitting right next to him, instead of in the chair next to Yammy. Everyone was passing around dishes that were emitting pleasing aromas and making Ichigo's stomach gurgle in demand to be fed.

"Eat up, boys!" said Nel, bustling in with a heaping plate of homemade waffles and handing it to Weiss, who put 3 on his plate and passed to Ichigo. Ichigo himself chose two, noticing everyone's plates were overflowing with food. Bacon, sausage, and an egg casserole later, Ichigo's plate looked like everyone else's and it tasted amazing.

Conversation buzzed as fork full after fork full was stuffed into hungry mouths, dishes making the rounds sometimes as many as three times. Ichigo ate more than he normally would, encouraged quietly by Weiss to eat another plate. He finished before everyone else and waited patiently for Weiss to take the lead, not knowing where to go from here.

After a while Weiss stood, drained his glass of orange juice, and motioned for Ichigo to follow. Ichigo thanked Nel for breakfast, and she just frazzled his and Weiss' hair, telling them to have a good day and stay hydrated.

"Hey," called out Grimmjow, and they both turned.

"Keep our new guy busy and safe, ya hear?"

Weiss nodded slightly, and Grimmjow grinned as they both stalked off, not realizing they both shared the same expression of contempt at his statement.

They stood in the tack room, Ichigo taking in the scent of leather and grinning at Weiss.

"What's first?"

"Well, we saddle the horses for the crew to ride out, once they're gone, we muck out the stalls and refresh them for now."

"Why don't they saddle their own horses?" questioned Ichigo, raising an eyebrow peevishly.

Weiss shrugged.

"I dunno. We all start off being slaves to everybody else I guess. It was this way when Pa was alive; Grimm had all this before I did."

"Hm," was all Ichigo said. He looked around at the saddles.

"Well, I can say honestly I've never saddled a horse."

"It's ok, I can teach you," Weiss said, flipping his hair out of his eyes and going over to grab a few saddles.

"You grab those brushes and blankets there," Weiss said, indicating which ones with a nod of his head in the general direction. Ichigo followed his orders and walked with him to the stalls.

"Ok, this Tiburon, Hal's horse. First you have to brush the horse in the area the saddle goes, and then we fit them with the blanket. Here, hand me the brush and I'll demonstrate. We have to be thorough, but not so overly careful because they are brushed at the end of each day and inspected for sores by Stark before dinner."

He brushed while he talked, and Ichigo watched carefully. He handed the brush over to Ichigo, pointing to a chestnut colored horse the next stall over.

"That's Murcielago, Cifer's horse. You brush him and I'll be by to blanket and saddle him when I'm done with Tiburon, okay? This is more efficient with two people, we'll have them done in no time," he said with a small smile.

Ichigo smiled back and went to brush the horse. He noticed the slight difference in height of this horse from the last, grinning slightly as he brushed the calm creature while trying to image Ulquiorra mounting a horse as large as Grimmjow's or Nnoitra's. He stopped when Weiss came in with blanket and saddle, and the younger one inspected his work.

"Good job, man," Weiss said, holding out a fist. Ichigo grinned and knocked his own fist against the kid's pale hand, moving on to the next. Before he knew it, he was standing in front of the last stall, the golden plate on it gleaming with the name Pantera.

He stepped inside, recognizing this horse as Grimmjow's. He was an all black stallion, at least 17 or 18 hands high. He was a beautiful and powerful creature, and he knew it too. The horse pawed the ground and snorted at Ichigo, eyeing him with eyes as black as the night.

"Hey big guy, I'm just here to brush you out, no need to get hostile," Ichigo said, holding the brush out toward the horse. The horse took a sniff of the brush in Ichigo's hand and snorted, tossing his mane and switching his tail as if to tell Ichigo to get on with it. Arrogant, just like his rider, thought Ichigo. He could feel the horse relax under the brush soon after he started, and Pantera held still for him to do his job. He patted the horse's neck as Weiss walked in.

"Huh, seems he's taken a liking to you," Weiss said, draping an all white blanket over the horse's back.

"Why do you say that?" asked Ichigo, still patting and rubbing the beast.

"He doesn't let anyone do that, not even me," Weiss said, nodding toward Ichigo's petting hand. "He gets all uppity and snorty when I do it. He's a jerk just like Grimmjow."

Ichigo laughed.

"I had that same thought at first."

Weiss smirked, lifting a white leather saddle onto the horse. He saw Ichigo watching so he narrated as he worked.

"You have to place the saddle so at least an inch of blanket is in front. Placing the saddle too far up on the blanket will cause the blanket to work its way backward under the saddle while riding. Then go to the offside and lower the right stirrup and cinch and check that the blanket is centered. Always keep a hand your horse's rump when walking around to the opposite side so your horse is aware of your presence."

Weiss walked around to the right side of Pantera and Ichigo followed, watching Weiss' hand trailing softly down the side of the horse and rested on his rump. He fiddled with the saddle a bit, checking the blanket with analytical eyes.

"Once the saddle is on the blanket, lift up the front part of the saddle pad to create an air pocket between the blanket and your horse's withers," he explained as he lifted the saddle just so. "Next, reach under the horse's belly for the cinch. Run the tie strap through the cinch ring and D-ring twice." He did so and pulled.

"Tighten the cinch just enough so it's up against the horse's belly. Next create a loosely tied cinch knot. To make the knot, pull the tie to one side of the D-ring, cross over the top and run it up through the D-ring again. Then pull the end of the tie down through the loop you created."

Ichigo watched, completely fascinated by how easily Weiss' hands just did what he described, with the ease of years of experience. To him, it looked complicated.

"Now slowly tighten the cinch so it is nice and snug around the horse's belly just behind the front legs. The cinch should be snug enough so you can just fit your finger between the cinch and horse's belly."

He slid his finger in, showing Ichigo.

"Before tightening the cinch, double check that the blanket is centered and the cinch is straight and not twisted. The cinch should not be able to rub or cut into the horse's front legs. Tighten up the cinch knot and secure the end of the tie strap through the tie carrier in front of the saddle."

The hair in the boy's eyes didn't distract him as he eyed the blanket and cinches before knotting and securing. It was almost as if Ichigo really wasn't there and he was just talking to himself, immersed in his work.

"Take the back cinch, fasten it after the front cinch is snug - the back cinch should be close to the horse's belly so it does not get caught on brush or branches, but should not be tight; your hand should be able to fit flat between the cinch and horse."

He made sure his hand fit and then grinned up at Ichigo.

"That's all there really is to it, the rest is up to the horse's rider. They walk their horse around to make it relax because some horses will puff out their stomachs and lungs when first putting on the saddle making it impossible to fully tighten the cinch and to make sure no loose skin is trapped under the girth. Next they tighten the front cinch making sure it is tighter than snug as you don't want the saddle to slide off the horse while mounting or riding. Then they pull their horse's legs forward to get any pinch skin out from under the girth. They adjust the stirrup and then they mount."

"Your knowledge about this is astounding," Ichigo said, truly amazed as he inspected the final product, not missing the light dusting of pink across Weiss' cheeks.

Just then, Grimmjow appeared, and Pantera let out a light whinny at the sight of his favorite person. Grimmjow checked over the saddle silently, checking the centeredness and tightness of the cinches.

"Front cinch needs to be tighter next time," he said, leading Pantera out of the large stall. Weiss' face fell and Ichigo frowned. That stupid blue haired bastard just blew everything he'd built up on the kid out of the water. He sighed inwardly and followed Weiss out of the stall, heading off to the next chore.

End Chapter. Well, how about that? Reviews? Comments? Oh, and one last announcement, we found out we are having another baby! I think I'm going to write another one shot to celebrate! =D