Characters: Ichigo/Rukia-esque, Isshin, Karin, Yuzu
Word Count: 995
Summary: Rukia muses to herself within the comfort of the Kurosaki family.
Comments: For _tehrin! I think you devoured Bleach faster than I did. :3
It was all in his hands, somehow.
There was just something about them, the way they looked, the way they moved, the play of his muscles as they bunched together just beneath his skin, the hint of bright blue that flashed from between his knuckles. They were scarred hands. She watched the hot skillet steam as it sank into the dishwater, watched him hold it there for a few seconds before touching it with anything but the tips of his fingers, where the calluses were so thick he could scarcely feel the heat through them. Small white strips of flesh laced the back, glistening now beneath the water droplets. She knew larger ones cut across his chest. She knew she was responsible for the worst of them.
He guarded those hands so well. Never reached out to ruffle his little sisters’ hair with them, or pat a friend on the back, or get someone’s attention. He used them to knock other people away, parry blows from his father, swing his sword at a hollow. The strength hidden within them made her stare, eyes on the way his palm dwarfed the little green and yellow sponge as he squeezed the water out of it, on the way he barely had to press to scrub off the caked food. There was something about the way he moved that contradicted his age, all carefully controlled power instead of lanky teenage awkwardness. And it was all evident in his hands. He used them to hurt monsters. He used them to keep himself from being hurt. He hardly ever used them for anything that wasn’t associated with pain, and yet now he stacked the soapy porcelain plates together with a delicacy that suggested they did anything but handle a raw sword.
The surrogate shinigami was nothing but contradictions, and they were all evident in his hands; teaming with life in a way that belied how often they handled death, scars and calluses roughing up soft teenage skin. It was disenheartening, in a way, to see evidence of so much pain peeking out from such a young body. He’d been through so much. And his hands bore all the evidence.
He looked up at her voice, then caught sight of the towel in her outstretched hand and turned away again as he passed her a glass. His fingertips brushed hers. They were slick with soap and water. She wondered if any amount of washing could wash away the blood he imagined coating them.
"You don’t have to help, you know."
Rukia looked up at him. He was frowning as he scrubbed at a plate his father had left out from lunch. She returned her eyes to her own task again, hand fitting easily into the glass as she dried out the inside.
He passed her the plate. "I can get them on my own."
"This is faster."
He grunted. She continued taking dishes as he finished them, teaching herself how to dry them as she went. Behind them his father yelled out something at the television, and his sisters laughed at the outburst. They put the dishes away together, and he only smirked a little when she couldn’t reach into the cupboard, just long enough for her to elbow him in the ribs.
It wasn’t until later that night, as Rukia watched Ichigo from the spare cot in the girls’ room, that she realized how well his hands complimented his eyes. They were gentle as he carefully lifted Yuzu from his shoulder and tucked her into bed, caring as he unclipped the strawberry barrette from her temple and smoothed the hair from her face. His eyes wandered to Karin, who’d had the good sense to bring herself to bed before she’d fallen asleep between her brother’s shoulder and the arm of the couch, and Rukia smiled. Ichigo turned and started when he noticed her, then scowled, caught in the act. His eyes hardened. Rukia knew it was only to protect himself. Just like the hardness he’d etched into his hands.
"I thought you were asleep."
His voice was quiet so as not to startle his little sisters, though Rukia suspected they could sleep through anything, if they couldn’t hear their father singing loudly to himself as he showered just down the hall. The light coming in through the door made his hair look bright yellow.
"I like it here," she murmured softly. "It’s better than hiding in your closet all day."
Ichigo snorted and crossed his arms, as if what she‘d just said was stupidly obvious. "Tell me about it. At least I didn‘t pop in there every time you were trying to change."
Rukia smiled and decided not to correct him; her comfort here had nothing to do with privacy. The harsh light from the hallway caught on a small bump on his finger, and it took her a moment to realize it was a callus from holding a pencil. Ichigo flexed his hand self-consciously as he noticed her eyes straying there, then tucked it into his pocket and made for the door.
"You should go to sleep," he grumbled as he passed. Rukia reached out and caught the hand he’d left dangling, and he paused by her pillow to glance down at her in confusion.
"Tomorrow I want you to teach me how to use the laundry maching," she told him, and let his hand go again. He snorted and tucked that one into a pocket as well.
"Machine. Go to sleep."
He closed the door behind him, and Rukia curled her fingers against her chest as she curled up on her side and listened to the muffled baritone of his father’s voice seeping in through the walls. She smiled to herself. His hands were warm, too, and he’d have as much difficulty keeping that out of them as he did from his eyes.
He was only sixteen, after all, and his hands bore all the evidence.