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Genre: Romance
Rating: T
Pairing: Yumichika x OC
Spoilers: None
Summary: You do not love a woman because she is beautiful, but she is beautiful because you love her.
Word count: 3,187
Warning: Some language. Unclear timeline.

Disclaimer: Bleach belongs to Tite Kubo. Summary is an anonymous quote. Title is a Laura Whitcomb book.
Other: Song used for this chapter belongs to Regina Spektor.

A/N: Flashbacks in italics in this chapter

 Chapter listing

_______________________________________________________________________________

Lady sings the blues so well, as if she mean it.
As if it’s hell down here in this smoke-filled world
Where the jokes are cold
They don’t laugh at jokes, they laugh at tragedies.

Corner-street societies
But they believe her, they never leave her
While she sings she makes them feel things.
She says I, can sing, this song so blue
That you will cry, in spite of you
Little wet tears on your baby’s shoulder.
Little wet tears on your baby’s shoulder…

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

Arya was silent the entire walk to the Tenth Division, not that it was that long of a walk to begin with. But Arya didn’t like to draw too much attention to herself, she preferred being silent and just watching. It was amazing the kinds of things one could learn when people ignored you or didn’t notice you for one reason or another. And it’s not like she tried to be sneaky. People just tended to overlook her.

 

At the Tenth Division office, Ikkaku, with his usually disregard for tact, flung open the door and stalked in without knocking.

 

“Matsumoto, I told you-!” The short, white-haired captain stopped, realizing that it was not his lieutenant who had walked into his office uninvited. “Madarame-san, Ayasegawa-san,” he said. He leaned sideways in his desk, noticing someone behind them. “Kurosawa-san,” he said, nodding politely to her.

 

She was screaming. She was screaming and she couldn’t stop. How… how could this have happened? He was stronger than that, wasn’t he? Wasn’t that why he went to the Academy?

 

She fell to the ground, the hard surface jarring her knees painfully, but she was beyond caring at the moment, beyond feeling. She reached forward, hands trembling, arms shaking, tears streaming down her face. Her brother… her only brother… her only family…

 

“I promise… I promise… I promise…” It fell from her lips like a mantra. She didn’t notice the world around her, didn’t notice anything but her brother’s body, his lifeless body. So quiet… so still…

 

She did notice when the shinigami showed up to help her, to help her brother, to save him. But it was already too late. They arrived to find Arya screaming like a lunatic over the crumpled, broken form of her older sibling, kneeling in the red-soaked earth and cradling his still sluggishly bleeding body to her chest, rocking back-and-forth.

 

Someone tried to pull her away from him, but as soon as they forced the body out of her arms and yanked her to her feet, she threw herself to the ground again and used every inch of her body, not to fight against them, but simply not to go.

 

“Come on, girl, cut it out,” someone said, grabbing her arm and pulling her to her feet, their hold hard enough to leave bruises.

 

“Stop being so insensitive.”

 

The person let go of her abruptly, mumbling, “Yes, taicho.” But Arya wasn’t listening, she had already turned, intent on her brother, but was stopped again.

 

“You shouldn’t look at him like this,” someone said, voice commanding, but still softer than the person before him. “You don’t want your last memory of him to be like this.” A gentle hand was placed on her shoulder. “Do you?”

 

It was that last, quietly whispered question that made Arya’s knees give out as she gave a keening wail and collapsed. Before she hit the ground, arms wrapped around her and held her up. Turning in the embrace, she buried her face in a pale neck and cried and cried.

 

The person holding her was stiff as he held her, but Arya’s hands were fisted in the white captain’s haori so he couldn’t really go anywhere.

 

“Hey! Where-”

 

“Over here, Matsumoto,” the person holding Arya said, one hand making a jerky movement against her back, like he wanted to help her, but really didn’t know how.

 

Arya could hear shinigami behind her, covering up her brother and getting ready to move the body, so she pressed her face harder into the neck in front of her, whimpering pitifully. Suddenly, feminine fingers were prying hers away from the haori she was gripping.

 

“It’s alright, sweetie, I’ll help you,” she smooth female voice was right next to her ear. “Hitsugaya-taicho has important things to do.”

 

Arya leaned back, startled that she had been sobbing and crying hysterically into the neck of a Captain. Emerald eyes regarded her coolly through a fringe of snowy hair, though there was an edge of sadness to them, a slight hint of pity.

 

“It’s alright, Matsumoto,” the boy said. “I think she should come to the Seireitei anyway, she could have some talent like her…” He trailed off. “Well, she should go there, on any account.”

 

The golden-haired woman looked like she wanted to say something, but snapped her mouth closed at her captain’s glare. “Right, taicho, of course.” She turned and walked away, telling someone to hurry up and that they were leaving.

 

Arya kept her gaze firmly in front of her, concentrating on not listening to what was going on behind her and persistently ignoring the steady flow of silent tears that were streaming down her face.

 

The white-haired captain in front of her looked uneasy. “I…” He glanced away from her. “I am sorry for your loss,” he said finally.

 

Arya just nodded mutely. Her only family… what would she do now? How could she do what her big brother wanted her to do? She had to find a way, but…

 

“Come on.”

 

Arya started, staring blankly at the hand held out to her. “Tai…cho…?”

 

“It’s Hitsugaya-taicho,” he said. “Of the Tenth Division.” He held his hand out farther. “Now let’s go, you shouldn’t… stay here any longer,” his eyes flickered briefly behind her. “I’ll take you to Seireitei. Alright?”

 

After a long moment, Arya nodded, and took the offered hand.

 

Arya nodded back at the small captain. If she had had her way, she would have preferred to be in the division of the man who had saved her (prolonged her misery) all those years ago. But she hadn’t promised to be in the Tenth Division, now had she?

 

When she heard the static-y sound of a portal disappearing, she grinned. Her brother was home! It was a good thing the Seireitei let him use a portal to get here, they lived so far outside the city walls, that it would take forever for him to get here, even if he flash-stepped.

 

Setting down the instrument in her arms (a guitar, a present from her brother from a mission to the human world) and jumping up, skirt billowing around her knees, she ran towards the front door.

 

“Onii-chan!” She called gleefully, as she got closer. “I wrote a new song today! You have to… listen…” She trailed off as she opened the door. “Onii-chan…?” She called, taking a few steps towards him.

 

Her brother was standing a few yards from the door. His shinigami uniform was torn, the top almost falling completely off his shoulder. Even as she watched, the zanpaktou he had been holding limply in his hand clattered to the ground. But his back was to her, she couldn’t see his face. He normally ran to the door to greet her.

 

“Onii-chan?” She called again.

 

“Arya-chan,” he said suddenly, voice rough, ragged, tired. “I’m sorry.”

 

She took a jerky step forward. “What…”

 

“I know I promised I’d protect you for always, that I’d watch you become a singer just like you always wanted, but I’m sorry.”

 

Arya frowned. Nothing he said was making any sense. It was hard enough to understand him as it was, since every few words he stopped and coughed. “What are you talking about?” She asked, taking another step forward.

 

“Promise me something,” he continued, like he hadn’t heard her.

 

“What are you talking…”

 

“Please, please finish my dream for me.” He doubled over coughing and when he stood again, Arya could hear him panting raggedly for air. “To be a member of the Eleventh Division under Zaraki-taicho.” He coughed again.

 

“But, onii-chan, why do I have to do it?”

 

That was when he turned to fact her and Arya paled when she saw the blood on his chest, dripping from his mouth. “Please, I… can’t…” He gasped. “Mission went… wrong… Hollow behind me… please… promise me…” He smiled, teeth red, before thudding heavily to his knees. Then a gasped out, “love… you… little sister…” right before he tumbled over sideways.

 

That was when she started screaming.

 

Staring at the captain at the desk in front of the trio, Arya was glad it was him and not someone less… consoling who had come to help. Not that Hitsugaya-taicho was very comforting. But it could have been worse, she supposed. It could have been Mayuri-taicho or Zaraki-taicho. She shivered. Yes, it could have been worse.

 

“A new type of Hollow, yes, that‘s what all the reports point to.” Hitsugaya’s drew Arya’s thoughts back into the room. He sighed and ran a hand over his face, before resting his chin on his palm, staring at them. “And you’re coming with us this time?” The question was directed at Arya.

 

She started to nod, but was interrupted when Ikkaku snorted. “Zaraki-taicho said to ask ya if she could go with us.” He frowned. “Feel free to say no.”

 

Hitsugaya ignored him, staring at Arya until she bobbed her head at him hesitantly. He nodded once, firmly. “Good,” he said, standing and, still addressing Arya, said, “Come with me to find my lieutenant.”

 

Ikkaku’s eyes almost bugged out of his head. “Taicho-!”

 

Hitsugaya held up a hand. “Go send a butterfly to Yamamoto-soutaicho and inform him we will leave in approximately thirty minutes. And go find Abarai.” Without waiting for an answer he swept out of the room, grabbing on to Arya’s elbow as he passed her, and pulling her with him.

 

He released her once the reached the hall, glaring at her when she tried to fall back and walk behind him. She sighed in resignation and fell into step beside him.

 

“I hear you got promoted to Fifteenth Seat last month.”

 

It wasn’t really a question, but Arya mumbled an affirmative anyway.

 

Hitsugaya glanced at her out of the corner of her eye, glancing up at least a foot so he could look at her face. “Congratulations.”

 

“… Thank-you.” Surprise colored her voice.

 

He snorted. “Don’t sound so surprised,” he said, before giving the Tenth Division courtyard a sweeping glance. But it was noticeably devoid of strawberry-blonde hair, so they moved on.

 

Arya glanced at him sideways, opened her mouth, closed it again. Finally she asked, “Could you… help me?”

 

“Hm?” Teal eyes were regarding her in interest.

 

“Be promoted more seat levels,” she clarified. He was silent for so long that Arya began to fear she had insulted the frosty captain. “I’m sorry, forgive me for being so forward, I simply thought-”

 

He held up one hand, a smirk tugging at one corner of his lips. “It is not that Arya-san. I simply do not think I am best suited to help you. Perhaps…” He frowned. “I shall have to think about it.” He smirked sideways at her.

 

Arya smiled softly at him in spite of herself. The small captain had been a close friend of hers since she first started to become a shinigami. Wasn’t he the one who offered to enroll her in the Academy? The boy seemed to have a soft spot for her, since he was the one who had brought her into this world of death gods and soul slayers. Too bad he couldn’t have helped her more once she graduated. The Eleventh Division was not an easy place to be forced to grow up.

 

“We shall not shed tears. For tears mean the defeat of the body to the heart. And to us, that simply proves the existence of a heart… is a burden.”

 

That was the first thing she had been told when Hitsugaya-taicho had walked her to the enrollment office of the Shinigami Academy. The stern-faced man at the desk at frowned disapprovingly at her red, tear-streaked face as she continued to cry. The look of disappointment on the face of a man she had never met before made Arya stiffen her spine, square her jaw, and scrub furiously at her eyes. Her brother was a strong shinigami. If he could follow these rules, then so could she. If she wanted to keep her promise to him… she had to.

 

And so Arya hadn’t cried. Not once, since the day she enrolled in the Academy.

 

The Academy had taught her a lot, it was true. The most important being: do not show weakness. Or else your Captain will hand you your ass.

 

But she had trained. And trained and trained and trained. After graduation, she petitioned her placement in the Tenth Division and joined the Eleventh instead. But her brother had wanted to be the best that he could be, so she wouldn’t settle for being some lowly squad member. Not if she could become stronger. So she continued training.

 

But it was hard, it was so hard… The Eleventh Division members weren’t concerned with feelings of camaraderie like many of the other squads. They were concerned with fighting. And it seemed to Arya that they were always fighting someone - whether it was their own squad members, or shinigami from other squads, it just didn’t seem to matter to them, as long as they could fight.

 

Because sooner or later, as Arya swiftly found out, when her new Captain was involved, you always ended up fighting.

 

The first week there had been hell. Drills and tests. Tests and drills. To weed out the weak ones.

 

“You guys suck.” The bald third-seat of the division told the new recruits one day after they had been sparring for hours. “But don’t beat yourselves up about it,” he told them, unsheathing his zanpaktou with a grin, “that’s my job.”

 

Arya wasn’t sure why exactly he was attacking his own squad members in such a vicious fashion, but this was the Eleventh Division, so maybe he thought it was amusing. But the only thing she knew was that when she saw him swing his still unreleased sword at her head after mowing down a dozen recruits, she had thought she was going to die. Her survival instincts taking first place to her training, Arya had ducked, hands curled protectively over the back of her neck.

 

But the blow never came and when Arya peaked hesitantly up to see why a hush had fallen over everyone, she swallowed thickly when she realized Zaraki-taicho was looming over her like the vengeance of God.

 

The force of his first blow knocked the girl from her feet. Yelping, she tried to scramble out of the way of a second lashing, but he grabbed her by the hair and forced her to look at him. “Fear,” he had all but growled into her petrified face, “is for prey.” He leered at her as he released the death-grip he had on her. “Are you prey, Kurosawa?”

 

Not even contemplating that he knew her name, Arya shook her head so hard her hair went flying all over the place. “No sir, I-” She screeched when he attacked her again. “I’m not prey. I’m not. I-” The Captain punctuated each denial with another blow, kicking the helpless girl for good measure.

 

When the blows ceased, Arya looked up, up, up, at her tall Captain, who was staring disdainfully down at her.

 

That’s when Zaraki-taicho gave Arya the best and worst advice she had ever received all in two simply words: “Suck less.”

 

She stared at his retreating back for a moment, before frowning.

 

Fine.

 

Twenty years later she was Fifteenth Seat. Or one of them. Pretty good for someone whose only talent growing up had been her voice. Pretty good for someone who had never been in a fight or even held a sword before joining the Academy. Pretty good, indeed.

 

Arya glanced away from Hitsugaya-taicho when someone came flying around the corner laughing loudly. And when the jovial woman walked straight into her, Arya just stopped and nodded her head. “Matsumoto-fukutaicho.”

 

“Arya!” The woman threw her arms around the stiff girl in front of her. “How many times do I have to tell me Rangiku?”

 

Arya shook her head as the pair (followed by Matsumoto’s eye-rolling Captain) turned back to find the others. “It would be improper fukutaicho,” Arya explained.

 

Matsumoto pouted. “I thought we were friends.” She brightened. “But in Ichigo-kun’s school you’ll have to call me Rangiku! We’ll be classmates then!”

 

Arya seemed startled. “I-”

 

“Let it go, Kurosawa-san,” came Hitsugaya from slightly behind her. “It’s easier to just ignore it.”

 

So Arya closed her mouth, nodded, and followed the exuberant blonde over the group waiting to leave for the human world.

 

Abarai Renji. Ayasegawa Yumichika. Madarame Ikkaku. Matsumoto Rangiku. Hitsugaya Toshiro.

 

And her. Kurosawa Arya.

 

Twenty years ago her Captain had told her to “Suck less.” And she had trained to prove her brother’s worth. To prove her own worth.

 

And now they were heading into Karakura Town to face a new type of Hollow that no one seemed to know anything about. If there was ever a chance for her to prove her worth, it was probably coming up pretty soon.

 

She nodded to herself, pretending she didn’t see Ikkaku’s eye roll and Yumichika’s haughty sniff.

 

Suck less.

 

Fine. She could do that.

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

Lady lights a cigarette
Puffs away, the winter comes
And she, forgets…

___________________________________________________________________________________

 

A/N: I wanted people to get an introspective look on how Arya came to be in the Eleventh Division and why she needs to stay there. After all, it’s not a place most people like Arya, quiet and reserved are likely to be found. So I explained her promise to her brother. And yes, it is a little Mary-Sue-ish for her to want to sing. But:

 

A.) The people in Soul Society who are NOT shinigami have to have something to do with their afterlife, and I’m betting the people who could enjoy singing in life, would enjoy it in death, even if they can’t remember doing it.

 

B.) This adds to the overall effect of Arya being soft and gentle, a counterpoint to her rough-and-tumble division mates. Even Yumichika, who hates to be dirty, enjoys a good fight.

 

C.) I called her zanpaktou “Nightingale” for a reason, people, not because I liked the name.

 

Also: Yes, you'll notice that I have Hitsugaya address her as "Kurosawa-san" in front of other people, but "Arya-san" when it's just to two of them. In turn, Arya will address him as "Hitsugaya-taicho" most of the time, but once in blue moon as "Hitsugaya-san." Just to show that, over the past twenty years of knowing each other they're friends, but both still with a sense of decorum and that neither of them like to broadcast said friendships.