Disclaimer: I do not own the Bleach characters, manga, anime, movies, etc. They belong by copyright laws to Tite Kubo et al.
Saying I Will
Taking Care of A Princess
Ichigo gradually recovered from being hit in the groin. He sat up and looked at the small woman on his bed. "Excuse me?" he asked, her last question finally registering. "When do we go?"
"Exactly. You didn't think Yamamoto-soutaicho would let you go off on your own, do you?"
"I wasn't aware that the Soul Society gave a crap about me anymore," he answered, bitterness entering his tone. "I've lost my powers and along with it…" Ichigo cut himself off, not wanting her to know the extent of his feelings.
"Someone has been watching you and your family the entire time, Ichigo. And I don't mean the Shinigami they got to replace us. Nii-sama made arrangements with Yoruichi-san to do so." Rukia got off of the bed, seeing what "normal" had done to the proud young man he'd been. His reason for protecting his family had remained but not the ability to do so. She supposed that wiping his memory would have been a blessing if it wouldn't have also been a betrayal.
Kneeling beside him, she pushed the boxes out of the way and laid his head on her lap. "I hate being 'normal,' Rukia."
"I know," she whispered. "I thought it was better this way. I never realized what it would do to you."
"I didn't either. I was okay with it at first. No ghosts hounding me, no Hollows coming after me because of my powers or in an attempt to dominate me. Just school work and thinking about the future. And then I realized that…"
"Our friends were left alone to fight and you couldn't protect them."
"Yes. The rain started again, Rukia. I felt it. I wasn't able to do anything. And there wasn't any petite Shinigami to knock me out of my depression. I'd run everything you said through my head, trying to find encouragement but the man you said those things to had power, had a reason and the ability to pick up a sword. I wasn't that person anymore. I'm still not that person."
"Is that why it took you so long to realize you'd lost your badge?"
"Probably. I used to take it with me to school and one day I lost it helping someone." Ichigo opened his eyes, looking up at her face. The delicate features hadn't changed in the time they'd been separated. Her eyes still held all the determination he remembered. "It didn't work so when I realized it, I didn't think anything bad would happen."
"Didn't my captain tell you it would be dangerous for a non-Shinigami to use it? Luckily for you, it's tuned specifically to your reiatsu." She smiled but poked a finger into his forehead. "You're not to lose it again, Kurosaki. Ukitake-taicho said he'd be displeased if you did."
"Oh? Is that why you nearly knocked me unconscious?"
"That was for my own pleasure, although I didn't mean to hit you there."
"You're a sadist, Kuchiki." Ichigo smiled, feeling his heart lighten. What was it about this midget that made him so happy?
"Somebody has to keep you in line."
"Che, you just like hitting people." Their earlier discussion coming back to him, Ichigo sat up, turning to face her. "Why are you here?"
"To get your reiatsu going once more, but don't even think about sucking mine dry again, you idiot."
"But it's gone, there's nothing left," he protested.
"I wouldn't be here if it was gone. The Captain-Commander wants you back in black before you die for real this time. It would be so much easier to send you to the Seireitei through a Senkaimon then to send you via a Hell Butterfly and then have to chase you down because you've ended up in the farthest corner of the Rukongai."
"I'd find you," Ichigo stated, his old confidence returning.
"No doubt, but I don't have time to chase you all over the place because you can't remember your way around." They sat for many minutes in silence, memories of the times he'd been in the Rukongai filtering through their minds.
"So," he started hesitantly. "You're supposed to come with me to school."
"Yes, what's so difficult about understanding that?"
"Rukia, I had to take entrance exams and submit applications. You've done none of that."
"I have too, fool. There was some memory manipulation, but I've passed. The only thing left is to make my schedule, which according to Urahara, you also have to do."
"Of course you manipulated someone's memory." Ichigo sighed, leaning back on his arms. "Yeah, I left it to the last minute. There's something else we have to do before our schedules, midget."
"We need to find a place to stay. I'm planning on renting an apartment, not living in the dorms. It's a good thing too, if my reiatsu is really returning."
"It's returning," she reassured. "Nii-sama insists that we get a big apartment."
"Certainly, and is he going to be paying for it? A one bedroom is all I can afford, Rukia."
"As to that, Nii-sama sent you this." Rukia handed him a letter, his name in Byakuya's handwriting. Without sparing a thought for how he was able to see something from the Soul Society, Ichigo opened it and began reading it to himself.
My sister is in your keeping for however long it takes you to regain that which you have lost. In that time I do not wish her to be in any way beholden to you. Regrettably, I also am well aware of how little she knows of the financial institutions and economy of your world. Therefore, I have set up an account for her in your name with Urahara's help and expect that her lodging, food, clothing and university expenses will be taken care of with these funds.
Should anything happen to her while she is there, I do not have to remind you what will happen to you, do I?
"Your brother still has a way with words," Ichigo said and tucked the letter into his back pocket. "Did Urahara send anything to me?"
"Now that you mention it, he did but I don't understand what it is." Rukia dug around in the purse she had hanging from her shoulder and handed Ichigo an envelope. She watched him take the platinum colored card out and whistle. "Ichigo?"
"I wonder what kind of limit this thing has?" he asked himself until he saw that it was a debit card instead of a credit card. "Nice, Byakuya. Sorry, midget, but it looks like your brother has just handed me the key to your trust fund." Grinning, he took out his wallet and slipped the card into the empty slot hear his own. He'd sign it later when she wasn't around to complain.
"Ichigo?' she questioned again, annoyed that he hadn't answered her question, just created more.
"You brother doesn't want you to have to have me buy you the things you need. So he set up a fund with enough money in it so that you'd have all the basic necessities covered, including lodging. We'll split the rent, as obviously your brother doesn't want you in the typical off-campus housing. However, I have the only card to pay for things from that fund, so you're still going to have to ask me."
"I thought Nii-sama hated you."
"He does, but he doesn't want you to have to worry about how our economy works around here. Just let me take care of things, Rukia. You concentrate on your school work and Shinigami duties. Did you get Soul Candy that's at least half-way intelligent this time? It'll have to take notes for you if you have to leave class and take tests as well. We'll have to find you a plush toy that can study with you."
Rukia listened to his voice, amazed and yet saddened that he had changed from the rash young man she used to know. Maturity had a lot to do with his ability to plan things out and for that she was glad, but she wished there was still a part of him that wanted to jump into things without thinking. She was about to agree to his demands, for that's what they truly were (there would be no copying his homework this time) when her soul pager went off.
He bolted upright, his smug attitude gone. "Where?" he asked, instinctively reaching for his badge before remembering that he couldn't transform. Ichigo sighed in disgust and waited while she scanned the phone and slipped out of her gigai. He blinked in wonder, seeing a faint and blurry outline of her. "Rukia?"
She must have said something to "Chappy" because the soul pill nodded enthusiastically before turning to him. "Rukia-sama says you have to explain everything to me."
"Joy," he muttered before turning his head to where Rukia was still standing. "Be careful, midget," he said then turned back and began explaining again what they had to do.
Afterwards, he went downstairs with the first box, Chappy behind him with another. He had tried to get the replacement soul (Urahara had apparently thought things through this time and made Chappy a mod soul) to stay in his room but she'd apparently been instructed to help him with his things because she insisted on following him with one of the heaviest boxes there was. Isshin and Karin looked up, well aware that the soul in Rukia's gigai wasn't Rukia while Yuzu dropped her jaw in shock.
"Rukia-neesan, you shouldn't carry something so heavy!" the younger twin scolded. She leveled a glare on her brother who shrugged. "Ichi-nii!"
"Relax, Yuzu, that isn't Rukia. It's a mod soul that's supposed to take of Rukia's gigai until she comes back. A Hollow appeared and she went to take care of it." Ichigo set the box down on the table, and frowned at his younger sister and father. "You two knew that Rukia and Chappy were here but didn't say anything, why?"
When his father didn't answer but made muffled squeals in his throat, Ichigo looked to his sister. Karin grinned and held up a tube of crazy glue. "He shouldn't be able to bother you for the next couple of days. I convinced him that it was best to leave the two of you alone."
"And you two are all right with her coming back out of the blue?" His young teenage sisters both nodded and Ichigo was about to give up on trying to understand when Karin continued to explain.
"I was real angry at first, even though she had explained when you were unconscious back then that she had to leave. Rukia-neesan said that if she ever came back it was because she had been allowed to but we were never to think that she wanted to leave us or you. And yesterday I saw her on the way home and she was standing on the top of the telephone poll staring sadly off into the distance. When she saw me, her whole face changed. Just like when you used to see her after she'd come home."
"She was here yesterday?" he asked, miffed that she hadn't come to him then.
"Yeah but she said she still had things to do before she could see you and not to tell you. Something about surprising you. Anyway, when I saw how happy she was from just seeing me, I knew she really hadn't wanted to leave you. So I forgave her." Karin smirked, her brother's surprise at her maturity amusing.
"I really missed Rukia-neesan. I'm glad she's home even though she'll be going off to college with you. You'll still come home a lot won't you, Ichi-nii?"
"Every chance I get," he promised.
"All done, boss," Chappy said from behind him. "What now? Do you want to see the brochures Rukia-sama got about apartments? I have them right here." The mod soul dug around in the purse still on the gigai's shoulder and pulled out a fist full of pamphlets.
"Thanks, Chappy, I'll take a look after dinner." Ichigo moved the box he had put on the table and stacked it in front of the door. He heard something coming from the mod soul and when he turned back, Rukia was once more with them.
"So, have you decided on what apartment we should get?" she asked, pointing to a brochure one of his sisters had picked up. "I like that one," she said.
"It's nice," Karin allowed. "But it's too far from the university. Ichi-nii would never make it to his first class on time in the morning."
Rukia wrinkled her brow, confused. "You said you hadn't made your schedule yet."
"I haven't but freshmen often have early classes."
"And you know he likes to sleep in," Yuzu added.
"True," Rukia said, a world weary tone in her voice that made the girls laugh. "It looks like I'm going to have to take care of you, again."
"Don't be dumb, midget. I take care of you, Kuchiki-ojousama," he said, the last with a sarcastic bent. Ichigo got another elbow for his remark although this time her aim was true and only his gut suffered.