When Rukia saw Ichigo pass out from his injuries, it broke the viselike grip of fear that was constricting her heart. This is Ichigo…MY Ichigo…and he’s hurt. Because of me. She immediately went into action, “Ran, I need you to go to Rukongai and bring Retsu here. I don’t know exactly how much damage he’s taken internally, so I’d feel better if she came and checked him out.”
“I’ll leave right away…” Ran looked seriously at Rukia, “I am so sorry that I brought that buffoon here. He sort of followed me home but if I’d known that he was only coming to cause trouble…he wouldn’t have been here.”
Rukia gave her a small smile. “Ran, I know that you’re fond of Ichigo, so of course I don’t blame you for Renji’s idiotic actions. Besides,” Rukia looked at Ichigo’s prone form and sighed, “This is all my fault-no one else’s. Just please bring Retsu as soon as possible, okay?” Rangiku nodded solemnly and left to find Retsu.
“Momo!” Rukia barked. When the small servant arrived looking, Rukia gave her instructions, “Get a couple of strong men to carry Ichigo upstairs. I’d carry him myself but he’s been injured and I don’t want him jostled too much.”
“Hai, Rukia-sama! But…errr…what about the other one?” Momo looked distastefully at the red-haired idiot passed out on the ground.
“Don’t worry about that…I’ll take good care of this bastard,” Rukia said grimly. Momo returned very quickly with the requested men and Rukia instructed them to put him in her bed and be very careful with him. When the men and Momo had gone, Rukia grabbed Renji, threw him over her shoulder, and took off for her parents’ home.
Rukia went only as far as the front door and threw his body down hard on the stone steps. “Kuchiki-sama,” One of the guards looked at her in askance, “What happened to Abarai-sama?”
“Tell my father…”
“Rukia? What is the meaning of this?” Kuchiki Byakuya asked with a frown as he opened the front door.
“Father, this idiot had the utter gall to attack one of my slaves and when I intervened…he actually struck me! I don’t have time to deal with him or I would have already taken care of it…I trust you will make him see the error of his ways?”
Byakuya’s eyes darkened-the only sign that her news had affected him. “Rukia, you can be certain that Abarai-san will never do such things again…you have my word.”
Rukia knew that her father was going to make that dumbass pay in ways she couldn’t imagine so she gave him a nod, kissed him lightly on the cheek, and sonidoed away.
Byakuya looked down at the unconscious man and wondered who could have done this much damage to his second in command. Whoever he was, Byakuya wanted to shake the man’s hand. He spoke to the guard, “Take him to the dungeon, right away.” Abarai Renji would soon see the folly of his ways…no one was allowed to hit his daughter and get away with it.
When Rukia arrived back at home, she practically flew up the stairs to see Ichigo. She came into her room and saw Momo at his side, gently washing the blood from his mangled torso.
Rukia shoved down the unreasonable jealousy she felt at seeing the other woman’s hands on him and instead, focused on Ichigo’s health. “How’s he doing?” She asked with a concerned frown?
“He hasn’t awakened yet, Rukia-sama.”
Rukia nodded, “You can go now, Momo. I’ll finish cleaning his wounds.”
Momo’s expression became troubled. “Rukia-sama,” she asked hesitantly, “Did Abarai-san inflict these odd wounds on Ichigo-sama?”
Rukia closed her eyes and shook her head, “No, he didn’t. Now please go so that I can attend to him.”
“Hai,” Momo said as she hurried out of the room.
Rukia sat down carefully on the bed next to Ichigo and began wiping his body with the cloth. As she worked, she thought back on his fight with Renji and those disturbing-no… frightening-eyes and she was utterly confused by it all.
How had she known? Rukia never had the ‘sight’-the ability to see the future-that some demons had-so it made no sense for her to dream about Ichigo’s…transformation. She had been so sure that he was human but now, she didn’t know what he could be. No human could have so soundly trounced her father’s second and yet, Ichigo had done so with ease. Rukia’s musings were interrupted by the entrance of Unohana Retsu.
“Rukia, I came as fast as I could. I told Rangiku-san to stay downstairs so that I could examine your man in peace.” She moved closer to the bed, “Let me have a look at him.”
Rukia blushed at her calling Ichigo ‘her man’ but nodded and moved reluctantly away from his side. Retsu peered down at the magnificent male and felt an immediate, unnatural sexual attraction to him. She mentally shook herself and focused on using her demon arts to heal his broken ribs and facial bones. As she was examining his ribs, Retsu spoke quietly to Rukia, “Abarai-san did not cause these gashes…they were done with precision and he would have had to submitted to this treatment or been bound to have such a thing done to him.”
Rukia hung her head in shame. Retsu had never approved of abusing humans and Rukia could feel her disappointment radiating throughout the room. “Will he be alright?” she asked anxiously.
After a moment of examining him, Retsu nodded affirmatively, “He just needs to rest and replenish his strength. I must say that I’m surprised he’s even alive after tangling with a demon-and such a strong one, at that!”
“Did Rangiku tell you about…what happened during the fight?” Rukia inquired.
“No, she only said that your man, Ichigo, had been injured and you needed me right away. We wasted no time on more words.”
Rukia recounted the events of the day including the nightmare she had about Ichigo killing her. “Have you ever heard of such a thing happening before, Retsu?”
“Honestly, Rukia, in all my years I have never seen a demon with eyes like that but the way you described his fight with Abarai-san, well…he sounds very demon-like.” Retsu appeared to be contemplating something but decided not to elaborate on whatever it may have been.
“But even more puzzling to me than the possibility that he may be demonic is the fact that I dreamed about it before I had any idea. Why would I have done such a thing?”
Retsu looked hesitant to answer but she finally spoke, “I have heard of such things before in the history of our people…although I’ve never actually witnessed it first hand. When the fates of two creatures are inexorably entwined, the consciousness of one would sometimes bleed into that of the other. I don’t think what you had was a premonition, but still…if you ever see him like that again, please be careful Rukia.”
Rukia thought about the things her friend told her and a disturbing thought occurred to her, “Fates inexorably entwined…D-does that mean that he is possibly…my mate?”
Retsu nodded at once, “That is exactly what it means, m’dear. Tell me; have you had stronger than normal feelings towards this boy…desire, jealousy, rage?”
“I-I have…I mean, I do feel intense feelings for him…but mates?” Rukia looked down and whispered, “He told me he loved me, Retsu…he told me that and then I did this to him,” she gestured toward his torso. “How can something like me have a mate like him? He obviously allowed me to hurt him like this without any retaliation and now I know that he could’ve killed me for it and yet…he never raised a hand to me. I’m not worthy of him-no matter if he is demon or human-how could I cause such pain to him if he were my mate?”
Rukia looked absolutely dejected so Retsu held the smaller woman in her comforting embrace, “You cannot entirely change who you are, Rukia but, you regret what you did, ne?” Rukia nodded miserably, “Then I think it is entirely possible for him to be your mate. I have never known you to regret an action before. Even when you were an out of control newborn, you never regretted killing humans or torturing them either-much to my dismay. I believe this man has brought about a change in you because I am seeing a side to you that I thought your transformation had destroyed. You can feel again, Rukia.”
Retsu finished her speech with tears in her eyes and Rukia looked up at her with wonder in hers, “Do you really think so? Do you really think I can be different for him?”
“I’ve heard that mating can change some of our people. I’m not saying you will be less of a demon, but I do believe that for him, you will be different…for him, you may be able to love.”
Rukia looked quickly away, “But I don’t know how to love, Retsu, all I know how to do is destroy. Just the thought of telling him such a thing-giving him that kind of power over me makes me cringe. What’s worse is that I’m afraid I’m going to hurt him again. If another woman even looks at him, I feel such rage that I can’t stand it…I just want them to die, painfully.” Rukia looked at Retsu and the older demon saw the passion blazing in her friend’s gaze before she looked away from Retsu, “I’m ashamed to say that I felt it even when you were examining him and I know you would never try anything with Ichigo.”
Retsu turned away so that Rukia would not see her blush. Before she forced them away, her thoughts were most certainly not pure regarding that delicious male…even injured and unconscious, the man just bled sensuality and if he belonged to anyone but Rukia…
“Retsu, I have no idea what he is and he has no idea what I am…how can this work?”
“You’ll just have to tell him the truth and expect him to do the same.” Both women were startled when the object of their conversation opened his eyes.
Ichigo awoke to a fierce pounding in his skull that seemed to intensify whenever he tried to move. When he heard Rukia’s husky voice, he pushed down the pain and forced his eyes to open. “Rukia? Are you here?” he asked groggily.
“I’m here,” she replied, “I asked my friend to come by and make sure you’re okay. She’s been a healer for a very long time so you’re in good hands, Ichigo.”
Ichigo squinted his eyes against the pain in his heads he located the other woman in the room. When his gaze fell upon her, Retsu gave him a warm smile, “Hello, Ichigo, my name is Unohana Retsu. How are you feeling?”
The orange-haired male gave her a half-hearted grin, “Like my head was run through a meat grinder but other than that, I’m great.”
“That’s quite an understandable feeling considering you faced down a very powerful opponent…and lived,” Retsu replied.
Ichigo looked as if he’d suddenly remembered something important and looked anxiously towards his lover, “Rukia…” he began hesitantly, “I-I’m so sorry that I scared you…I should have told you everything before you bought my contract.” He looked down dejectedly, “You may want to call the whole deal off.”
“Rukia, Ichigo…” Retsu interrupted their private conversation, “I think that I’ve served my purposes here so I’m going to go home now. Ichigo, you just need to rest and let your wounds heal for a few days, and then you should be able to resume your normal activities.”
“Thank you so much for coming,” Rukia said. Ichigo added his own thanks, Retsu said her goodbyes and left for Rukongai.
After she left, Rukia responded to Ichigo’s earlier statement. “Ichigo, you don’t have to be sorry about anything and I most certainly will NOT call off the deal!” Rukia looked furious at the mere thought.
He looked puzzled by her reaction, “But I thought you were scared of me?”
“I was…for a moment. Ichigo…” Rukia was at a loss for words.
“I guess I should tell you everything,” he took a deep, steadying breath and began tiredly. “Rukia…I honestly don’t know what’s wrong with me. Ever since I was a small child, I’ve had a very violent nature and I always enjoyed causing pain. I never wanted to hurt anyone weaker than I was, but if they were equal or stronger, then I would enjoy every one of their screams. When I was a little older, I heard my okaachan talking to my otousan and she was crying about me and it was then that I knew there was something very wrong with me. I tried from that moment on to be better for her. I did my best to ignore the urges that I had-almost like a separate entity in my head-that told me to wreak havoc.
Ichigo looked away in shame, “After my parents disappeared, I had to let my…darker nature…prevail a few times to protect me and my sisters and each time I did, it became harder to push it back down. When Yoruichi found me, I was about to lose it. She didn’t know it at the time, but she saved the lives of those men I was fighting. If she hadn’t stopped them…I would have mutilated them. I’ve done it before… “
Ichigo looked toward Rukia to gauge the effect his words were having on her. When he didn’t see fear or disgust on her features, he continued, “When the monster takes over, I lose all sense of right and wrong. I’ve killed people, Rukia. Granted, they weren’t good people, but they were still people and I shouldn’t have enjoyed killing them. I reveled in their blood soaking my hands even though later, the thought of it made me literally sick.”
“Today, when you saw me…you saw the monster and…I’m sorry. I never wanted you to see that side of me. I also want you to know that I would never hurt you-even when I’m in that state because, well…I’m just so damned sorry for everything I’ve done.”
When he finished speaking, Rukia sat beside him on the bed, “So, why do your eyes change like that?”
“When I was a child and trying so hard to be good for okaachan, my father would hold me close and soothe me until the urges passed. I would ask him why I was bad and why I looked different and he would tell me that I wasn’t bad-just different-and that I had my grandfather’s eyes. He told me that one day, I would meet my grandfather and I would be proud to have a part of him. But he never told me why they changed like that. For a long time, I just thought everyone’s eyes changed when they were angry or excited but then I found out that…it was just me. Not even my sisters experienced it-but I was so glad for that later.”
When Ichigo finished speaking, he noticed that Rukia was as white as a sheet, “Rukia, what’s wrong?”
Rukia looked at him, he sapphire eyes wide with disbelief, “Ichigo…what was your father’s name?”
“Why do you want to know my father’s name?” Ichigo asked with a frown.
“Tell me his name, Ichigo,” Rukia said sternly.
“His name was Isshin…Kurosaki Isshin.”
Rukia had passed out after hearing the name of Ichigo’s father. “Rukia! What the hell…” he shook her small body and she came slowly awake. “Rukia,” he began anxiously, “Are you okay? Why the hell did you faint?”
Rukia had to think fast to avoid having a conversation that she was completely unprepared for. After all, how do you tell someone that A) Demon’s exist, B) I’m a demon, C) You’re a demon, and D) You’re grandfather’s the head fucking demon! It’s really not something one prepares for when thinking of casual conversation topics.
Instead of telling the truth, Rukia crossed her arms over her chest in a blatantly petulant pose. “I don’t know why I fainted…maybe I was just emotional from your story.” She stomped her small foot for added emphasis, “Can a woman not feel emotion without being raked over the coals for it?”
Immediately contrite, Ichigo tried to soothe her pique, “Of course you can, Rukia…I’m sorry…I was just worried about you.” About that time, Rukia looked down at his bandages and noticed several bright red splotches had blossomed on the white cloths. “Baka! You’ve reopened your wounds!”
Ichigo looked down and frowned, “I guess I did that when I was trying to wake you up…sorry.”
“Fool! Quit saying you’re sorry all of the time…you wouldn’t be in this condition if it wasn’t for my treatment of you! This is entirely my fault…”
“It’s not your fault that I slept with Yoruichi and it’s not your fault that I fought with that dumbass today. I deserved every bit of punishment you gave me and I definitely deserved the broken ribs for scaring you today…I never want to see fear like that in your eyes ever again.”
“Ichigo…you’re not a monster and you didn’t deserve what I did to you. What I did stemmed from nothing more than jealousy and a complete lack of self-control. You are a slave and at that time, you belonged to that bitch. You did nothing wrong by trying to take some pleasure for yourself and…I-I’m sorry for hurting you because of it. I was wrong.” Rukia didn’t have much experience with apologies, so when she finally stumbled through this one, she gave a mental sigh of relief.
“Now,” Rukia said as she began cutting through his bloodied bandages, “Let me redress these wounds and then I’ll have Momo bring you something to eat.” When Ichigo started to protest, Rukia silenced him with a kiss, “You’re going to do exactly as Retsu ordered or I’ll do something really drastic like…revoke your stable privileges!” Ichigo paled appreciably at those words and Rukia knew she now had his complete cooperation.
The truth about Ichigo’s paternity was pushed to the back of her mind for now. While the knowledge Rukia now had about him was vital, the usage of it would wait until her ‘operation’ officially began several weeks from now. Right now, she just had to make sure that Ichigo was okay…and that’s just what she did.
The next few days were rather surreal for them both of them. Rukia tended to him like she actually cared about him and he loved every second of it. For the first time in her life as a demon, Rukia was caring for someone else, and she was thoroughly enjoying her brief sojourn into domesticity. Ichigo told her countless times that he was a fast healer and that he thought he was well-enough to get up, but Rukia wouldn’t relent. Demon or not, she was going to make sure that he healed properly. Rukia unwrapped, cleaned, and rewrapped his torso every day and as guilty as the raven-haired woman felt for hurting him, Rukia was still secretly pleased to see that her marks were going to last. She had gauged correctly and they had been deep enough to leave noticeable scars.
On the morning of his third day in ‘captivity’, Rukia deemed Ichigo well-enough to get out of bed-provided he was careful, of course. Ichigo’s first instinct was to go out and make sure that Diablo was being cared for in his absence, so the two of them made their way to the barn.
Rukia had been racking her brain throughout the entirety of his convalescence to think of ways to assuage her guilt and the answer didn’t hit her until she saw him with that horse and inspiration struck her. “Ichigo…I have a surprise for you.”
Ichigo turned his striking face toward her inquiringly, “What is it, Rukia?” he asked like a little boy.
“I’ve decided that you deserve something for all the trouble I’ve put you through so…Diablo is yours now.”
Rukia was delighted to see Ichigo’s eyes widen and a smile slowly appear on his face, “I’ll have the papers drawn up this afternoon and he will officially belong to you.”
“Thank you so much, aijin…you have no idea what this means to me…how can I ever repay you?” He asked earnestly while wrapping his arms around her small frame.
“Oh,” her sultry voice thickened, “I can think of several ways for you to pay me back.” Rukia twined her arms around his neck and proceeded to whisper several ideas into his his ear.
The rest of the week seemed to pass rather quickly for Ichigo. Even though his injuries had mostly healed, Rukia continued to fuss over him and he continued to enjoy it. There time together wasn’t marred by any jealousy or anger and the result had both of them on cloud nine. When the day of Yuzu and Karin’s party arrived, reality came crashing down with a vengeance, yet again.
After a particularly satisfying bout of love making, Rukia spoke as she lazily stroked her lover’s chiseled abdomen, “Ichigo, you should bathe and get dressed for your sisters’ gala.”
Ichigo groaned at the reminder, “I thought you had forgotten all about that…I hoped so, anyhow.”
Rukia looked puzzled, “Why don’t you want to go, Ichigo? I know you haven’t seen your sisters in a long time.”
“I do want to see them I just don’t think I should. You saw me lose control…what if I did that around them?” He lowered his eyes shamefully, “I never want them to look at me the way you looked at me.”
Rukia placed a kiss upon his worried brow and looked into his eyes, “You won’t lose control around them, okiniiri. You can control it…its just difficult sometimes.”
Ichigo smirked, “You speak as though you have experience with this sort of thing…”
Rukia smirked right back at him, “Maybe I do…”
“That’s not the only reason,” he blushed and looked away, “I don’t like to go around them because of…what I am. I feel like I’m corrupting them just by being in their presence.”
“Ichigo,” she chastised, “You are the only family those girls have left…will you deprive them of seeing the brother they love because of your insecurities?”
“No,” he sighed, “I know they miss me and Kami knows I miss them…I’ll go. I just wish I didn’t have to ride over there with Yoruichi.”
“Oh, about that…you’re not riding over there with her; I’ll be taking you…and you’re also not wearing any clothes that she bought you. I had your new suit delivered yesterday-it’s hanging in your armoire.”
“So you’re going with me to the party?” Rukia nodded, “Thank goodness…I thought I’d have to do this alone!”
“You won’t be alone, Ichigo…now, how ’bout that bath!”