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Series: A Hero

Chapter: Prologue- Concern

Rating: PG-13 / T
Word Count: 1,351
Warnings: some swearing, light angst
Characters: Ukitake, Renji, mention of Shunsui, Ichigo
Pairings: implied Renji -> Ichigo and Shunsui -> Ukitake
Notes: This is the short first chapter/prologue of that AU story I’ve talked about a couple times. I’ve tried to do my best with characterization, but as this is a major Alternate Universe, differences in their pasts have had some effects on the characters. Hopefully they’re halfway convincing anyway. :)

The awesome cmc42 did a quick beta on this for me. <3

And most importantly: THIS WHOLE SERIES IS FOR THE AMAZING spikykun! Happy one week belated birthday, bb!
Summary: In which Renji worries, Ukitake is treading a dangerous path, and the reader has little idea what’s going on. 
Ukitake paused in his writing, his pen hovering in the air above the sheet of paper. He bit his lip thoughtfully, and then put down the pen, reaching over to sift through a stack of papers. Most of his desk and the neighboring shelf were covered in papers, though the majority of them could be found in stacks of tidy folders further back on the large wooden desk, shoved up against the wall. He squinted at the diagram on the paper, trying to decipher the messy script. It was a page from an old, old book that he’d managed to save before they’d had to flee the Library.
“Ugh. I hate this room.”
The white haired man looked away from the notes, glancing over at the doorway. He smiled. Renji was back.
Renji was alive.
“Yes, your allergy to paperwork must really bother you here.”
Renji eyed the stacks of papers suspiciously, as if fearful of an attack.
“I’ve yet to be eaten,” Ukitake commented dryly, and Renji scowled at him. Ukitake cocked his head and gazed at him, eyes taking in the rips in his clothing, the gash on his forehead that cut through his tattoos, and the suspicious dark stain near his shoulder. Renji followed the path of his stare and his scowl deepened.
“I’m fine.” He dismissed the unspoken worry.
Ukitake just continued to study him. “And everyone else on your team?”
“… alive,” He said, shrugging, but Ukitake knew him better than that.
“That’s good,” He commented, nodding slightly and knowing not to push. They both were very aware that missions hadn’t been going well lately, no matter what group you ran with. Returning with all your team alive was good, was more than good.
Renji looked back up, his eyes exhausted and serious, acknowledging what Ukitake had left unsaid. And then he smirked, breaking the moment.
“Speaking of my team, Shunsui was looking for you.”
Ukitake twitched, wryly wondering whether he liked this topic any better than the last. "I was enjoying the peace."
Renji snickered. "He was bothering people in your lab when I snuck out to go find you."
Ukitake shook his head, his eyes slightly amused. "I'm doomed when he figures out where my office is."
"Now I have something to blackmail you with." Renji smirked. "Behave or I'll tell Shunsui where your office is."
Ukitake raised an eyebrow at him. "And then I'll tell Ichigo you have a crush on him," he said sweetly, and watched with amusement as his best friend reddened.
"That's all in your head, you crazy old man. I don’t have a fucking crush on that asshole," he grumbled, glaring at him. Ukitake blinked innocently back.
"If you say so." Ukitake grinned, absently fiddling with the papers. And he’s not a boy anymore. He’s twenty-five now, and you know it.
"I do say so." Renji said vehemently, moving closer to eye the papers on Ukitake's desk. Ukitake froze, suddenly remembering what he’d just been researching, but he had no time to cover it up without looking suspicious. "Working on that project again?" His voice was dangerously quiet, the defensive anger fading away to be replaced by… something else.
It was Ukitake's turn to flush, and he hurriedly scooped the papers up and reached for the folder they belonged to. He slid them within the folder, not looking at Renji. "I have to try something. You know the barrier has been weakening."
He didn't know if Renji nodded or not, but after a brief moment Renji replied. "I know. But that's fucking dangerous, Jyuushirou."
"I know," Ukitake answered, staring down at the closed folder, noticing absently how innocuous it seemed.
He heard Renji sigh. "Be careful, you idiot."
Ukitake smiled faintly down at the folder. "I will. I know the repercussions as well as you do. Probably better, actually."
Renji snorted. "You're probably right. That’s ‘advanced magical theory’." Renji had… not done so well in that class at the Academy. Back when there was an Academy.
Ukitake laughed weakly, his mind clearly on other things. He could remember as clear as day what had happened the last time anyone tried that- everyone who’d been there could- and the memory haunted him. It still plagued his nightmares now, ten years later, along with all the other disasters that had preceded it.
His friend slammed a hand down onto the top of the folder; Ukitake jerked back, his eyes wide, and his body automatically tensing. “How long have you been here today, Jyuu?” Renji’s voice was low, and his eyes were very serious, with a hint of concern, and… anger.
Ukitake blinked at him. “Um…” His eyes flickered around the room. “What time is it?”
Irritated, Renji whacked him in the head. “No one in the lab has seen you all day. You probably didn’t even eat any lunch, you goddamn workaholic.” Ukitake cringed, at both the strike and the words. His friend was likely correct; he couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten, off the top of his head. He sighed, exhaustion tugging at his shoulders. Renji picked up the folder and shoved it roughly against his chest. “Put this away,” he ordered, gesturing vaguely toward the stacks of other folders. “And then I’m dragging you out of here.”
Ukitake took the folder away from him and leaned over, placing it gingerly on top of one of the stacks located on his desk. He also had managed to procure a shelf, something that not many here in the compound had, but he mostly used that for older records. This folder was something he looked at much more often than that- much more than Renji was comfortable with.
Renji eyed him, arms crossed over his chest. “Jyuushirou…”
“Renji,” Ukitake responded flatly. They’d had this argument many times. Renji knew it was necessary, even if he didn’t like it. Renji glowered at him, clearly unhappy, but Ukitake met his eyes firmly.
“Let’s just go,” his friend said finally, and Ukitake nodded silently. “Everyone in the lab wanted to know where you were, anyway. They had some questions about something.” He waved a hand in the air, indicating his complete lack of knowledge or care about anything theoretical. Ukitake rolled his eyes. Can’t they go a day without me? He thought, with a flash of exasperation.
Suddenly, they both winced as a loud alarm bell broke the quiet with a painful, continuing clang. They glanced at each other. “Another attack on the barrier, probably.” Renji commented tiredly, and Ukitake inclined his head in agreement, though he was barely able to hear him over the noise. Guess I really do need to go to the lab, then.
“The lab,” he said loudly, and Renji nodded, turning toward the door. Ukitake closed his eyes, and brought his hands together, concentrating. He reached out within his mind for the wards he’d placed around the room, adjusting them for increased security and protection, like he always did when he left the room. He opened his eyes, feeling more weary than usual.
Renji was right. He should have at least eaten something.
He rubbed his forehead, trying to ignore the alarm; it was already giving him a headache. Reluctantly, he leaned over and curled his hand around the top of the wooden cane that was leaning against the old desk. He limped toward the door, his leg aching slightly, but he ignored it, as always.
The barrier has been attacked so many times recently. How long until it fails? Something tells me… that it will be soon. What will happen then? Aizen will never let any of us live.
He glanced up at the ceiling as he closed the door to his office behind them. He could always sense the barrier, the thrumming of its magic and the power both familiar and unfamiliar; its magic a dangerous and exhilarating step above anything Ukitake, or anyone else in the compound, had ever attempted before.
Hang in there, just for a little bit longer. He thought at the barrier, his grip tightening around his cane. We’ll figure something out.


May. 19th, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC)
OK, now you've got me interested. You seem to have a gift for setting a scene and giving a reader a sense of the characters you'll be working with without giving too much of the storyline away (since it seems you choose not to yet). I like the way you've introduced these two so far, and I look forward to seeing more of Renji being awesome!
May. 20th, 2010 02:36 am (UTC)
A gift? Wow, I'm honored! Thank you so much! Yes, that was exactly what I intended. I like writing plots where the reader finds out bits and pieces of the history and world as the fic goes on, eventually getting a complete picture by the end. Hopefully I can pull if off without people getting mad at me, lol. ^^;;

And you'll definitely have a lot of Renji being awesome! The whole idea of showing Renji being kickass is partly how this fic was inspired *g*.

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