The first streaks of dawn were starting to light the sky, birdsong breaking the silence.

Shiro sat on the hood of the green car he had borrowed from his dad. A sigh hissed through his teeth as he felt the sun already beginning to affect him.

Shiro sat on the hood of the green car he had borrowed from his dad, absent-mindedly tapping his fingers on the cool metal. A sigh hissed through his teeth as he felt the sun already beginning to affect him. He glanced down at his phone for the time. Rukia was running late.

He was just about to unscrew the top of his flask when he heard someone approach him. He looked over at the short, black-haired girl. A long object wrapped in a blanket was tucked under her arm. He raised an eyebrow at it, but didn't otherwise didn't acknowledge it.

Rukia slowed, her heart beating loudly in her chest. Shiro had called her earlier saying only that Ichigo was in trouble and he needed her help.

"You know I'm deliberately disobeying my brother by coming here, right?" Rukia stamped her foot semi-impatiently. In truth, she was trying to hide her fear: Shiro's eyes were flickering like candles between red and gold. "Now. Would you mind telling me exactly what is going on?"

Ichigo is losing it fast and now he's kidnapped and if we don't go to save him-" He cut his sentence off, not entirely sure now to say more on the matter.

Rukia quickly understood the weight of the problem, and her heart sank further. "Kidnapped? Where? By who?"

"The District Leader, Ulquiorra. He's in charge of all the vampire clans in this area." Shiro ran a hand through his hair, grimacing when his fingers frustratingly got tangled in small knots and snarls. "Listen, I'll explain it all in the car, just-"

"Why?" Rukia interrupted.

Shiro raised an eyebrow at the question.

"Why are you asking me to come along?"

"Because I need a Hunter with me to do this."

It was now Rukia's turn to raise an eyebrow. "A Hunter? I'm not a Hunter. Isn't your dad one? Why not bring him?"

"He's on suspension. His powers are sealed right now. I would take Urahara, but everyone outside of my family thinks he's dead and he wants to keep it that way. Your brother is out of the question, so that leaves you."

"But I'm not a Hunter-"

"It runs in your blood though."

"I can't-"

"Then go home." Shiro stated plainly, locking eyes with Rukia.

Her breath caught in her throat with the intensity of his glare and an odd pressure seemed to suddenly fall upon her shoulders. "W-what?" She stammered out, suddenly fearful.

Shiro continued in a soft monotone. "This will be dangerous. I know I asked you to come here, but if you can't take it, then I suggest going home quickly."

Almost dream-like, Rukia felt her body start to take a step back, all the while keeping uncomfortably steady eye-contact with Shiro. In her mind, she was arguing against herself, weighing the options: 'You're in way over your head, this is dangerous, just leave. But... Ichigo. He's in trouble, and it seems bad. I can't just leave my friend.'

Making up her mind, she took a defiant step forward. "No. If I can help Ichigo, then I will."

Shiro stepped back and blinked a few times, smirking. "Good. Told you there was Hunter blood in you."

Rukia shook her head as the odd feeling passed. "Wha-?"

"Vampiric charm doesn't work on you. I was really trying my hardest to make you leave. It didn't work on you at all."

"Was that what that odd feeling was?" She said mostly to herself, but apparently loud enough for him to hear.

Shiro smirked "If you were any ordinary person, it would have been more than just an 'odd feeling.' I could have snapped your willpower like a toothpick."

"You can do that!?"

"Well yeah… I can't feed on random strangers while they're screaming for help and trying to get away or something. Gotta do something to keep them quiet." He laughed. "Just try to avoid eye contact when we get there.

Rukia picked up the blanket-wrapped object that she had unknowingly dropped. "Does it hurt, being bitten?"

He paused for a second, thinking the question over. "I don't know. I've never experienced it." Shiro responded, opening the car door. He paused and, in a much more somber tone, said, "Really though, this is dangerous. We're going to be basically breaking into the the District Headquarters. Even when we find Ichigo, I don't know what shape he'll be in. I can't promise that he's not about to topple off the edge of sanity. He probably won't be thinking rationally enough to distinguish friend from foe."

"You don't think he'll recognize us at all?"

He shook his head and heaved a sigh. "I'm hoping he does."

"Is that why you want me to come along?"

"That, and I would really appreciate the company." He offered a brief but genuine smile.

Sympathy shot through Rukia at Shiro's concern for his brother. Followed by mind shock at the fear glinting in his eyes.

"Well then," Rukia walked past Siro and over to the vehicle. "What are we waiting for?

He smirked in response as they got in the car and started driving, sticking to the main roads as the traffic had yet to really start up.

At a light, he stopped and glanced at his passenger. "One more thing, Rukia, take these." He handed her two syringes filled with clear liquid.

"What is it?"

"Special type of sedative. You'll probably be ok, but if you're attacked by a vampire, use it. Even if it's me."

"Why would you attack me?"

Shiro sighed, "Because I'm unstable." seeing her confused look, he scratched the back of his head. "Ah where to begin. So you know we are half-bloods, and as cool as it, it has a few downsides. In the course of our lives, we shift between our two halves; sometimes more human, sometimes more vampire."

"Like a swinging pendulum?" Rukia interrupted.

"No. It's so irregular and jarring. There's no rhythm to it, the switch just happens pretty much whenever it feels like it. Anyway, it's the transition between the two that's the hardest. We call it 'going unstable'. Some half-bloods live their whole life and hardly go unstable, then there are people like me that seems to have a target painted on their back. ' It happens in little bursts where I'll just lose control. That's what happened when we first met. Sorry about that, you just caught me at a bad time."

Rukia regarded him warily.

He glanced over at Rukia and added, "Don't worry, I'm ok for right now. Anyway, there's only two ways out- well three if you count death as an option. You can try to wait it out and run the risk of insanity if you're not strong enough to fight it. Or you can settle down and become fully vampire or human."

"So why haven't you done that?"

Shiro mumbled, "Because I can't. Neither can Ichigo. We've already messed things up enough as it is." Seeing Rukia's confusion, he decided to start from the beginning. "Ichigo and I used to be, well, different than we are now. When it comes to half-bloods, we're always twins. And the older twin always holds more power than the younger. Ichigo is older than me."

"But wouldn't that mean that he's-"

"Closer to being a full vampire than me? Yes, or it would, but as I said: we messed things up. We traded powers seven years ago, but the District doesn't know about it. If that choice is made, by law, Ichigo would become a vampire and I would become human. Making a decision like that would most likely kill us both. And if he did survive the change, him mind would be wrecked."

'Ichigo is older than him? Traded powers? Why?' Rukia thought, surprised and confused. She had never really thought too much about it, but she had just assumed that Ichigo was younger. "Can you do anything about it?"

"Yes, I did try to find a way around the rule; that's where everything went wrong."

• x x X * X x x •

"You never gave me a real reason for why you did not answer my summons." Ulquiorra spoke softly, green eyes watching the bright-haired teen seated across from him.

"I told you." Ichigo said, speech somewhat slurred, "I was busy." He took another sip from the cup in front of him. Szayel Aporro promptly filled it full again.

Ulquiorra's eyes narrowed fractionally. "Fool. You believe you can lie to me?"

"I've told you before. I'm not joinin' a darn clan!" Ichigo snarled in sudden anger, slamming his fist down on the arm of the chair. The wood creaked in protest. "I don't care if Shinji is moving again. Shiro and I aren't gettin' involved in one of your stupid turf wars." Ichigo was breathing heavily, his sudden anger made only worse by the lack of sound in the room. He had always hated the fact that Vampires had no heartbeat. It was all too silent.

"You already are involved."

"What do you mean by that?" Ichigo muttered, taking another sip.

"Your brother came to me a few weeks ago."

"You summoned him. He had to show up."

"Is that what he told you? He came of his own free will." Ulquiorra stood and walked around the table, standing in between Ichigo and his cup of blood. The teen looked noticeably annoyed. "Yoshiro-"


Ulquiorra continued, ignoring the interruption, "-came asking for a favor. He was trying to find a loophole around the Half-Blood law."

"But... He said you were trying to enlist him." Ichigo shut his eyes, trying to ignore the growing sense of dread. His head was pounding and making it difficult to think.

"He was asking to join."

"No... Stop... Shiro- He wouldn't. He can't!"

"Why should I stop? I am simply informing you of the current state of affairs."

"He wouldn't. He has to be planning something." A sudden pressure filled the room as Ichigo struggled against the wave of emotions. Nearly shoving Ulquiorra out of the way, he grabbed the cup in front of him and downed it, letting his mind go fuzzy and blank.

• x x X * X x x •

"So you went to this District Leader to be turned into a full Vampire? Why?"

Shiro cursed as a crazy driver pulled around him, cutting him off. "Shinji and his clan are getting ready to leave, they never stay around long. When they do go, there'll be a power struggle. Territory is everything to Vampires; everyone will want to claim the open spot as their own. And, with their base right at the edge of two districts, it could result in all-out war. Since we're not affiliated with any clan, everyone wants at least one of us on their side. Ulquiorra of course wants Ichigo to join, because he's older. If I became a full Vampire, they would leave Ichigo alone."

"Why didn't you tell him?"

Shiro sighed, "I tried a few times but I kept getting interrupted. Besides, he would never let me go through with it."

"Is it what you want?"

The question caught Shiro off guard and he considered lying before realizing there was no point. "No. But it's probably for the best. Ichigo has been scared of that side of himself since he was nine. As for me, well, I need to do something to prevent myself from losing it completely. And with Ulquiorra breathing down our necks, I don't really se that I have a choice."

"Don't give up yet. After we get Ichigo back- because we are getting him back- we could probably make a good enough case to the Hunters. They might be able to stop this Ulquiorra guy from bothering you. I'll vouch for you, they'll listen to me." Rukia offered.

"Yeah," Shiro smiled softly, "maybe.'

Finally reaching the edge of the city, Shiro turned out onto the highway.

A few minutes of silence passed.

"So what exactly is happening to Ichigo? Is he going unstable too? Is that why all this is happening?"

"Not exactly." Shiro's lips twisted into a frown. "It's really all my fault. I mean... I didn't intend for any of this to happen. It all really started the day we met. Or maybe it started a bit before that, but that was sure the catalyst of it all. How much do you remember from that day?"

"Not much. I actually thought I had dreamed the whole thing up until Ichigo convinced me it was real. The most I remember is him... snapping your neck," she finished quietly. She was still uneasy with the idea of her friend technically killing someone, even if Shiro was okay.

"Yeah. And before he did that, I bit into his arm." Shiro felt his stomach roll with guilt and shame. "It's not the first time it happened, but everything just went wrong this time."

• x x X * X x x •

"Master Cifer," Szayel set down the pitcher of blood as Ichigo's dark eyes fluttered closed again. "Might I ask why the Kurosaki boy is here?"

Ulquiorra stared blankly at said teen as Ichigo's head lolled off to the side. "He's joining us."

"Oh? I thought his brother was; the pale one." He glanced at Ichigo.

"Ichigo is older. I'd rather not go against the law. Besides, this boy is already on his way to changing; his brother bit him and injected venom. It shouldn't be long now."

Szayel's glasses glinted as he smirked slightly, peering down at the teen's purple veins "Oh dear. So his brother did this to him?"

"No." Ulquiorra finally looked away from the now unconscious teen and continued in a monotone. "Ichigo was fairly efficient in draining the poison from the wound, He didn't get all of it, but under normal circumstances, it wouldn't have been enough to trigger a reaction like this. Most likely he was already beginning to become unstable, and the venom acted as an accelerator. However, there were more factors that contributed to this."

"You're talking about his drinking, aren't you?" The pink haired man, looked at the cup of blood the teen had been drinking from.

"Yes. He starved himself for so long, he doesn't know how to deal with his thirst anymore."

• x x X * X x x •

"So basically it was a lot of coincidences that lead to this." Shiro explained.

"Maybe a coincidence will fix it?"

A dark laugh escaped Shiro's lips, sending chills down Rukia's spine. "When coincidences get you into trouble, that's just bad luck. When they get you out of trouble, it's called a miracle. And miracles don't happen. And certainly not twice."

"Twice? This has happened before!?" Rukia shifted in her seat to look at Shiro.

"Not exactly like this, but seven years ago he almost lost it."

"Seven years ago—you keep mentioning that. Why did you trade powers? What happened?"

"Our mom died." the air in the car turned thick and cold. "Ichigo and I we were playing in the park when we were attacked by a Hunter. I don't know why he did it, he probably just hated us." His eyes darkened with frightful anger, "Our mom jumped in front of his sword to save us. We saw the whole thing. Ichigo... he couldn't take it. I've never seen him like that. He would have killed that man if our dad hadn't shown up; and then Ichigo would have died if Urahara hadn't happened to have been walking nearby at that moment. Ichigo's own powers were destroying him. We needed to get rid of them so…"

"So you took them."

"Pretty much, yeah. Somehow I could handle it better than he could. Like I said, he's scared of that side of himself. He wants to be normal."

The silence stretched on as the two watched the road. Rukia wanted to say something. She, afterall, also knew the pain of losing parents; granted, they both died almost when she was too young to even remember them, but nothing seemed appropriate to say so she kept her mouth shut as they drove farther from home.

I know, I haven't published anything in forever. Thank you to all who are still actually reading this. I promise I do actually have an idea of what I'm doing. Here's a bonus extra scene:

"What happened to the Hunter that attacked you?" Ruck asked.

Shiro shrugged. "I dunno. I heard he died about a year later during a recon mission or something, I never learned exactly what happened. I think his name was Aizen or something."

Thanks for reading! Comments, critiques, and questions are always appreciated.