"You want me to what?" Kurosaki Ichigo's eyes widened. His best friend just sighed as she repeated herself.
"I said I want you to take Captain Ukitake out in the living world for a few days." Kuchiki Rukia had a dangerous tone in her voice, just daring the blond to argue.
"W-why?!" It wasn't that Ichigo didn't like the white-haired Captain; he just didn't understand why this was being asked of him. "He's a Captain! Surely he's too busy to-!"
"As his lieutenant, I'll take care of everything while he's gone," Rukia said. "He's been overworking himself and it's not good for his health. Captain Unohana recommended him take a few days off and I say he should be with you."
"Did you even give him a choice in this matter...?" Ichigo deadpanned.
"Of course not! He'd insist on saying and doing his Captain's duties."
Ichigo sighed. "You can't be serious..."
"I am, Ichigo!" Rukia growled. "Take this seriously! He's making himself worse! It's either this, or leave him in Soul Society where he will continue to do his work one way or another and wind up in the Fourth again!"
Ichigo didn't want the gentle Captain to be hospitalized, so he nodded. "Fine, but I have school, Rukia. What am I meant to do with him there?"
Bring him with you," Rukia suggested. "He won't cause you any problems."
"I know..." Ichigo sighed. "Why do I feel like I'm going to regret this...?"
Several hours later~~
It wasn't surprising to find that Ukitake Jyuushiro had been escorted personally to Ichigo's home by Rukia herself. It was actually surprising that it had been her and not the two third seats that couldn't agree on a single thing; Ichigo wondered how Rukia had talked them into staying behind when they were always two steps behind Jyuushiro himself.
"I don't understand why we entered through Ichigo-kun's bedroom window and not the front door." Jyuushiro's eyebrows furrowed slightly as he tried to comprehend their actions.
"Don't worry about it, Ukitake-San," Ichigo reassured. "I'm used to it. Just put your bag down by the bed, okay? We'll need to tell my dad that you're staying here."
Jyuushiro did as he was told and placed his bag down by the bed in a gentle manner. He followed Rukia and Ichigo out of the bedroom and down the stairs.
They walked into the kitchen and stopped by the table where Ichigo's family were sitting. They looked up at Ichigo before their eyes found Rukia.
Isshin jumped to his feet, completely disregarding Jyuushiro, and pulled Rukia into a hug. He rubbed his cheek against hers and cried about how he had missed her. Karin rolled her eyes and Yuzu just watched in curiosity.
"Dad, can you let go of her?" Ichigo asked in a frustrated tone. When he was ignored, he raised his fist and aimed a powerful punch into his father's face.
Isshin pulled away, glaring at Ichigo. "What was that for?!"
"You wouldn't listen to me!" Ichigo shouted, raising his fist again.
"Can you please not fight...?" Jyuushiro's soft voice spoke, his eyes full of uncertainty.
Isshin looked at the white-haired Soul Reaper in surprise, not having realised there was someone else in the house with them. "Who are you?"
Before Jyuushiro could speak, Rukia cut in. "He's a family friend, but..." the girl pulled a handkerchief out of her pocket, preparing another dramatic act. "...his parents moved overseas and he got left behind, so he has nowhere to go! The house his parents had left behind for him got set on fire by arsonists and he can't live with me because we don't have any room and he doesn't have any other friends! He's sick and he's all alone in this world!"
By now, Rukia's fake tears had Isshin crying. The man was hugging Rukia, nodding rapidly. "Yes! Yes, I'll take him in! By Gods I'll take him in! It's so sad!"
Ichigo just rolled his eyes and beckoned for Jyuushiro to follow him. The Captain did so, a small smile on his face.
"She's quite the actress, isn't she?" Jyuushiro commented as he climbed the stairs after Ichigo.
"Oh, please." Ichigo just waved his hand in a dismissive manner.
Jyuushiro laughed. "Thank you for letting me stay with you, Ichigo-kun. I'm sorry to have to be a bother but Rukia was very adamant in this."
"You're not a bother, Ukitake-san." Ichigo opened the door to his bedroom. He stepped in and closed the door after the frail man entered next.
Jyuushiro was as cheerful as ever, his bright smile widening as he observed the room. He sat down at the desk, spinning the chair to face Ichigo. "I rarely go to the Living World. I don't get sent here a lot due to my health. They would rather keep me close to the Division Four barracks."
"When was the last time you were here?" Ichigo sat on the bed and folded his legs, observing the other male.
"Perhaps about a hundred or so years ago. I can only come here with Shunsui."
"Times have really changed since then, Ukitake-san." Ichigo smiled. "I've got a lot to teach you in your time here."
"Thank you, Ichigo-kun. I –"
Ichigo jumped to his feet as Jyuushiro started coughing. He looked around, not sure what to do. He had personally never witnessed one of Ukitake's attacks and knew only what Rukia had told him. What should he do?
At that moment, the door burst open and Rukia ran in, holding the same handkerchief she had back in the kitchen. She approached her Captain and gently pried his now-bloodied hands away, dabbing at his mouth.
Jyuushiro didn't speak until he had stopped coughing. He regarded the hanky Rukia was holding with a look of disgust before he smiled at his lieutenant.
"Thank you, Rukia-kun." Jyuushiro's smile was bright, almost as if he hadn't just been coughing up blood. "I apologise for you having to look after me again. And I'm sorry you had to see that, Ichigo-kun, but at least now you'll know that it was only me coughing if you find blood on your belongings. I will replace anything I damage with my illness."
Ichigo shook his head. "It's fine, Ukitake-san. It's not your fault. Just relax."
Rukia put a hand on Jyuushiro's shoulder. "Take your medicine and go to sleep, okay, Captain? You've got a big day ahead of you tomorrow and you need to rest."
"I'm fine." Jyuushiro's smile didn't falter once.
"No, you're not. Go and get your medicine or I'll get it for you." When Jyuushiro didn't move, Rukia sighed and moved to the bag sitting by the bed. She unzipped the small pocket on the side and pulled out a small packet before she handed it to Ukitake. "Now take those. And there had better not be any paperwork in your bag, either. I'll be checking it before I leave."
"Hey, who's the captain here?" Jyuushiro's green eyes fixed Rukia with a mock-stern gaze, his happy expression ever present.
Rukia bit her lip and looked away, a small blush coating her cheeks. "Sorry, Captain Ukitake."
"It's alright, Rukia-kun. Ichigo-kun, may I have a glass of water, please?"
Ichigo left to get the ill Shinigami some water. When he returned a few minutes later, he was just in time to see Rukia waving about several sheets of paper and berating Jyuushiro about smuggling paperwork into the Living World when he was supposed to be resting.
The Captain accepted the glass with a cheerful thank you before he swallowed his medication. He beamed at Rukia and Ichigo, happy as could be. The man was always so happy and optimistic despite his illness that would one day end up claiming his life.
"I'm going back to Soul Society now, Captain Ukitake." Rukia smiled at her superior, knowing that he was in safe hands. "Don't worry about your paperwork; I've got it for you, okay?"
Jyuushiro nodded. "I appreciate it, Rukia-kun."
Rukia left not long later through the window. Ichigo checked his watch, finding that it was nearing eleven o'clock at night. He sighed and stood up, moving to grab some pyjamas from his drawers.
"You should put some pyjamas on and go to bed," Ichigo called over his shoulder. "I'm sure you're tired."
"I'm usually in bed by now, yes," Jyuushiro agreed. "My medicine knocks me out pretty easily, but I feel pretty good. I would like to stay up and talk with you, Ichigo-kun."
"I'm pretty tired, and I have school tomorrow," Ichigo said as he pulled his shirt off and replaced it with his pyjama top. "Besides; you'll need to get up early as well and come with me."
Jyuushiro nodded. "I understand." He moved to grab his bag and opened it, reaching in to pull out pyjamas. He turned around and changed, slightly embarrassed about being seen naked in front of someone; the only person who sees his body was Shunsui.
When Jyuushiro turned back around and put his clothing into his bag, he smiled brightly again.
"Where am I sleeping, Ichigo-kun?"
"There's a spare futon under the bed." Ichigo reached under the bed and pulled out the futon. It took only a few seconds to roll it out, and he left the room briefly to return with a few blankets.
Jyuushiro was already lying down by the time Ichigo had returned, as cheerful as ever. He gratefully accepted the blankets that were laid down on top of him and snuggled in close, resting on his side.
"Goodnight, Ichigo-kun," Jyuushiro called as he felt sleep coming to claim him.
"Night, Ukitake-san..." Ichigo mumbled as he climbed into his own bed. He switched off the lamp, but he was unable to sleep. He glanced down at Ukitake after a few minutes of restlessness, smiling softly at how peaceful the white-haired man looked.