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30 August 2011 @ 04:55 pm
What Happens After The End (3/?)  
Title: What Happens After The End
Author: Ragna (afteriwake)
Pairing: Ensemble, mostly focusing on Tatsuki and Renji from here on out.
Rating: PG-13, to be safe
Spoilers (if applicable): Goes AU in the Deicide arc.
Warnings (if applicable): None.
Summary: What if Aizen really had killed Tatsuki, Mizurio, Keigo and Chizuru and put their bodies up on display to taunt Ichigo? What would happen next?
Authors Notes: At this point I'm going to focus more on Renji and Tatsuki's budding friendship that will turn romantic.

---

The following day Renji found himself walking up to the Shiba residence, package in hand. There had been more than one item from Orihime, who had been emotional as she handed him the things she wanted Tatsuki to have. It had been heartbreaking almost for him to see how devastated she was. As much as she was obviously in love with Ichigo he wasn't sure if she'd ever get over his role in what had happened to her best friend. Time would tell. But he had personally promised to pass along messages between them, so at least she would know her friend was okay, whatever decision she made about her future.

The men who stood guard greeted him warmly and allowed him entrance to the home. He traveled down the long flight of stairs and went to the room he had been directed to . “It's Abarai-san,” he said.

“Well, you certainly got here quick,” Kuukaku said from the other side. “Come in. Arisawa-san is in here with me.”

He opened up the door and looked at the two women. Kuukaku was lounging while Tatsuki was practicing karate moves farther away. She stopped and looked at Renji, grinning slightly. “Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” he replied, looking at him. “I'm glad you're here.” He grinned and held out the package. “From your friend Inoue.”

“Really?” she asked, rushing over. She took the package and opened it quickly, spotting the letter on top first. She began to read, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. She dashed them away when she finished the letter and looked at him. “I need to let her know I got this.”

“I'll make sure she knows,” Renji said. She picked up the package and held it to her chest. “What's in there, anyway?”

“A book she gave me, this stuffed animal she knew I liked and a picture of the two of us,” she said, hugging the package close. “You promise you'll tell her?”

“If you write a letter I'll make sure Urahara gets it to give to her,” he said with a nod. “Tonight, even.”

“How's she doing?” she asked.

“Heartbroken,” he said honestly. “She wanted to use her shields to bring you back but Ichigo's father wouldn't let her, saying that if you were already here it would do a lot of damage to bring you back.”

“Like I'd be a zombie?” she asked.

“Yeah, I think that was the idea.”

“Then I'm glad she didn't,” she replied.

“She blames Ichigo,” he added quietly. “Because he didn't get there fast enough, mostly, but also because his powers drew Aizen here and if he'd never gotten them, or never gotten them back after Byakuya and I took them Aizen never would have come to Karakura Town.

“It's not his fault,” she said quietly. “I mean, yeah, I wish he'd gotten there earlier, too, but Aizen's a bastard. I don't know if he'd been able to save us, and it's a moot point anyway. We died, we're here, and we need to make the best of it.”

“It's going to take a while for her to feel that way. Messages from you may help, though.”

“Maybe,” she replied.

“So...you're the only one interested in the Gotei 13?”

She nodded. “Yeah. I mean, my only really good skill is self defense. I've had the opportunity to use weaponry, including swords, so that part will be easier, I think. Shiba-san was telling me about the other stuff, and I'm a hard worker and a fast learner. I should be able to get the hang of it.”

Kuukaku nodded. “She's the strongest of the four of them And none of the others were interested. In fact, they all want to stay here and help for board and food. Getting three people who actually work hard, unlike Ganju, could be a good thing. I'm still considering it, but I'm leaning towards yeah, they can stay.”

“I talked to Captain Commander before I came back. Even though you're older than most of the recruits, he's willing to let you in,” Renji said. “You won't get any special treatment from the instructors, but I have been allowed to help you practice. And he wants an eye kept on all four of you as a favor to Ichigo, to make sure you don't starve. But you do realize being in the Gotei 13 is dangerous, right?”

She scoffed. “Like living in the human world wasn't, with all those Hollows around? Besides, Shiba-san told me about what happened to her brother, and I don't think it can really get any worse than that.”

“As long as you go in with your eyes open,” he said. “If you really want to go, I can escort you there today. We should get there around dusk, because you don't know how to flash step and I'm sure you don't want me carrying you.”

“Like I'd let you,” she said with a smirk. “I could probably beat you up if you tried.”

“Maybe some other time,” he said with a grin. “Wouldn't hurt to get some sparring in with you, at any rate. You're supposed to be the best in Japan, according to Ichigo.”

“Second best,” she said. “But I did it with a broken arm.”

“Which is a pretty good sign you can use her, if she can get the hang of everything,” Kuukaku said. “You guys probably should head out now.”

“After I say my good-byes,” Tatsuki replied. Then she turned and bowed to Kuukaku. “Thank you for your hospitality.”

“Welcome,” she replied, inclining her head. Tatsuki left, and when Renji went to go after her Kuukaku cleared her throat. “I need to warn you about something.”

“Yeah?” he said.

“She isn't going to talk about what happened to them, no matter how hard anyone tries. The only thing I can tell you was she watched it happen to her friends first, then that bastard went after her. You need to keep a close eye on her, because when it all comes to the surface, it could break her. She's strong, I'll give her that, but I don't think she's strong enough to deal with it on her own.”

“I saw their bodies,” he said quietly. “I'm surprised Ichigo didn't kill him.”

“He never seemed the type,” she replied. “The fact that he didn't after what Aizen did, and I imagine it was horrible torture, seems to support my theory. But it doesn't matter. He's going to rot for a very very long time, and he deserves every hellish moment.”

“What worries me is he'll just use the time to plan something worse, wait it out, and do it all over again after we're gone.”

“I won't let that happen,” Tatsuki said from the doorway. “If he tries, I'll kill him myself.”

“There you go,” Kuukaku said with a grin. “A woman with a score to settle. He should be afraid, if he ever decides to try it again.”

“Yeah,” Renji said with a nod, turning to Tatsuki. “Thought you were going to say good-bye?”

“They're still sleeping,” she said with a shrug. She turned to Kuukaku. “I can come back, right?”

She nodded. “Yes. Of course, I could just go and wake them up...”

“It's okay,” she replied. “Just let them know I'll come back and say a proper good-bye soon.” Then she turned to Renji. “I'm ready.”

“Then let's go,” he said, and with that they left the Shiba residence. They had been walking for about a half hour when he spoke up again. “Could you teach me some of your moves later?”

“What, you mean karate?” He nodded. “Yeah, I can do that. But...I mean, you're a fighter. I'm pretty sure you know all of it already.”

“I can do some of what you were doing earlier, but not all of it. And who knows? Maybe I can teach you some stuff too.”

“Maybe,” she replied. She looked around. “Shiba-san said she'd never set foot inside Seirieiti, except the one time when he left after Ichigo rescued his friend. What's it like?”

“An elaborate maze, I guess,” he said with a shrug. “Most of the cool stuff is out in the first district, though. All the bars and restaurants and shops. But there's a lot of work. You don't get a lot of free time when you're a student.”

“Well, I want to train and get strong, and...” She paused for a moment. “Part of the reason I didn't wake them up is because I don't want to face them right now. I'm pretty much abandoning them, even if they are going to be safe and sound where they're at. I don't want to deal with crying and stuff.”

“You can go see them, though. You don't have to spend every waking moment in the Academy. At least a couple times a month you can go back there for a day or two.”

“Yeah, but are they going to want to see me?” she asked. “I'm leaving them, remember? Going off on this grand adventure, I guess. I was always different from them. Now it's just going to be worse. They're going to have these lives here which may or may not be totally different from what they had, and I'm basically joining the military.”

“But you want to do this, right?” he asked, stopping. She did as well, and then nodded. “Then you're taking care of yourself, after making sure they're taken care of. That's all you can do.”

She looked at him, and then sighed. “I guess you're right.”

He looked at her, then looked away. “Besides, you won't be alone, and they won't be alone, either. But if you want to talk, I'm here for you.”

“I don't want to talk,” she said gruffly, beginning to walk away. He sighed, then walked after her. Maybe Kuukaku was right, he thought to himself; when she finally broke down, it very could be more than she could bear.
 
 
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