“Don’t be afraid,” the white-haired specter had said with Ichigo’s voice, months ago. “Okay?”
“I wasn’t afraid!” Rukia had blustered, still trying to reach for a sword that wasn’t there. “You startled me. That’s all.”
She’d meant to chase her wayward substitute down off the clinic roof, badgering him into staying close. He had nowhere near enough experience as a shinigami to sense Hollows before they entered the living world….
Then she’d made it onto the roof, and part of her brain had demanded to know what her captain was doing here–
Only it wasn’t her captain, long white hair or not. It wasn’t Kaien, either; though her torn heart had whimpered this was all her nightmares come to life, Kaien bleached to a Hollow’s bone-white, claws and fangs ready to tear, staring at her….
Human eyes. Ichigo’s eyes, not the venomous gold of a Hollow’s. Even if he was dressed as formally as a Kuchiki clan occasion, and surrounded by odd… little things….
Bakemono, Rukia realized, watching sandals with eyes yip at her, and flap-slap away into the night. To her right was a ghost-faced lantern, blue flames dancing in night wind; far to her left an umbrella fluttered bat-like away….
“Don’t be afraid.”
Rukia knew better than to show fear; either on the streets, or in the Kuchiki clan house. So she’d blustered. Lying through her teeth.
“What are you?”
That, at least, wasn’t a lie.
The bakemono were just squeaks on the night wind. The pale figure sighed, shifted–
Ichigo. In all his short orange-haired teenage stubbornness, jeans and a t-shirt declaring Chaos, panic, disorder – my work here is done.