"Ichigo," I called and knocked on his bedroom door. I waited for a while but there was no response so I went inside. "Ichigo?" I couldn't find him anywhere and the adjoined bathroom was empty as well. Walking back out, I searched the living room, the kitchen and even the guest room but there was no sign of him. "Weird… He didn't tell me he would be going out today," I crossed my arms and sighed. Taking out my phone, I contemplated whether I should call him or not but decided against it. If I did, he would just tell me I was worrying too much and being over protective and it'll start another round of annoying quarrels.
"What is it?" I opened the door to find a flustered Ulquiorra and widened my eyes. I've never seen him such a panic before. A bad feeling washed over me and I bit my lip.
"The guys found him half an hour ago," Ulquiorra said quickly with a frown and began pacing around. OK, whatever that happened must have been really bad to cause Ulquiorra to become like this… "Follow me and… Please keep calm…" He wrung his hands and walked away at a fast pace.
"What the hell, Ulquiorra?" I ran to catch up to him.
We reached the foyer of the apartment and I saw that there were a dozen men lined up waiting for us. Without saying a word, I followed Ulquiorra into a car and we sped off.
"Kime-sama?" Kana ran up to us when I got out of the car. She shot a glare at Ulquiorra, "Why did you bring her here?"
"She has to know," Ulquiorra replied calmly. His nervousness from earlier was completely hidden and the only sign of his anxiety was his determination to avoid meeting eyes with anyone.
"What is it?" I asked for the umpteenth time. When no one answered, I pushed passed them impatiently despite Kana's horrified shout.
A group of people were crowded around something and talking rapidly but when they saw me they all silenced and looked away. From the gaps between the bodies, I caught a tuft of orange hair and my heart plummeted.
"Kime-sama," Kana placed her hand on my shoulder. "It's better if you don't look. The ambulance will be here soon so-"
I slapped her hand away and rushed to his side.
And in the middle off it was Ichigo.
A wound on his forehead, probably caused by a blunt object, was bleeding profusely and coloured the majority of his face in red. There was another patch of red on his chest, to the left of his heart. I touched it gently and realised it was a bullet wound. Gashes of various sizes covered his arms and legs and his right foot was bent at an unnatural angle.
I brought my shaking hands to my mouth to stop my scream from escaping. I kneeled down beside him and ran my fingers through his hair. "Ichigo… can you hear me?"
Why… I promised I wouldn't let him get hurt again but…
I lifted his head gently and used my lap as his pillow. His breaths were slow and shallow, but he was breathing. I let out a sigh in relief. "Who did this to him?" I demanded without taking my eyes off him.
Blood kept flowing out through his wounds and my chest tightened.
"We're still trying to find witnesses," Ulquiorra replied solemnly. "The media aren't aware of this but we've contacted the police."
"I'll handle this," I balled my fists. "Tell the police Kings will handle this. They can try butt in at their own risk but tell them I won't be responsible for their deaths when I cut them down along with the enemy."
"Kime-sama," Kana gasped.
"Ichigo," I felt his cheek and my hand came away red. I bit my lip. "The bleeding won't stop…"
"Are you OK with this?"
I heard a voice say and looked behind me. Standing among the group of Kings' members was Nel. She had her arms crossed and lips pursed.
"What are you doing here?" I glared at her. "What are you all doing? Take her away!"
"Are you OK with this?" She repeated her question as she struggled against the men. Weirdly, she started laughing humourlessly. "You're more similar to your brother than you realise."
"What do you mean?" I asked despite the situation.
She shook off the arms confining her and looked down at me. From my angle, she seemed to have doubled in height and was towering over me, "You and your brother both grew up in the world of the yakuza while your sister and Ichigo were dragged into it because of you two."
I bit my lip and looked down. It was true…
"Your sister died and now Kurosaki Ichigo is like this," she pointed to him and shook her head. "He'll end up like your sister sooner or later…"
"No, he won't! Shut up! Shut up!" I covered my ears and scrunched up my eyes. Her words echoed in my mind no matter how hard I tried to get rid of it by shaking my head. When I opened my eyes, Nel was gone, along with all of the Kings' members. Only Ichigo and I were left.
My vision blurred and I hurriedly wiped my tears away, Ichigo's blood was smeared over my cheeks but I didn't care.
"Ichigo, you'll be fine. I won't let you end up like my sister," I said but I didn't know if I was saying it to him or to myself.
Where was the damn ambulance? I thought in panic as I watched his face before I noticed something.
"Ichigo?" I called in horror. "No! Don't do this to me. Ichigo!"
He had stopped breathing.
I positioned my hands over his chest immediately and performed CPR on autopilot.
"Ichigo, don't do this to me!" I screamed at him. "Wake up!"
The ambulance finally arrived and I was pushed away by the paramedics.
"No, let me stay!" I screamed at them but a dozen hands pulled me away.
"Let them do their work, Kime-sama," Kana coaxed.
"No!" But no matter how hard I struggled, they kept pulling me away.
Ichigo was so far away. He was getting further and further away – out of my reach.
I sprang up in my bed. My hair, wet with cold sweat, was plastered to my face and my chest heaved as I gulped in lungfuls of air. I rubbed my face tiredly and realised I had been crying.
"Not again," I groaned. I've had the same dream – or nightmare – ever since my brother talked to me.
Every single night, for an entire week…
"Rukia?" Ichigo walked into my room slowly and I hid my face in my arms. The bed sunk a bit when he sat down. "You're shivering," he murmured with a frown while rubbing my arms. "Come here," he wrapped his arms around me. I relaxed into his arms and my hands automatically went up to clutch at the front of his shirt.
He was warm.
He was moving, breathing and talking.
He was alive.
I let out a shaky breath that I didn't know I was holding.
The faint scent of medicine assaulted my nose, reminding me of his healing bullet wound. I closed my eyes, causing a lone tear to escape and travel down my cheek. He pulled the sheets up to cover us and gently rocked me back and forth. "Another nightmare?" He murmured while wiping my cheeks with his thumb gently.
I nodded my head slowly, not meeting his gaze.
"So what kind of dream did the almighty Rukia have to cause her to cry like this?"
"Nothing," I shook my head. There was no way I was going to tell him I dreamed of him dying…
"This has been happening all week," he frowned. 'Are you sure you don't want to talk about it?"
I nodded my head. He studied my face for a while before pulling me into another hug. He ran his fingers through my hair and said softly, "It'll be OK."
I closed my eyes and nodded again, feeling oddly reassured by his words.
After a while, Ichigo lay down on my bed and patted the space beside him, "Try getting back to sleep. You have class tomorrow - er, today, actually - right?"
Not trusting my voice, I just nodded again and laid down obediently. He shuffled closer and draped an arm across me, as if it would ward off the bad dreams.
"…Ichigo, I love you," I whispered.
"Me, too, Rukia," He replied before tightening his arm around me. "Goodnight..." He yawned and promptly fell asleep.
I listened to his even breaths and beating heart. I touched his cheek gently so that I wouldn't wake him.I love you, Carrot. And I would do anything to keep you alive…