It was the middle of the afternoon when a knock sounded on the apartment door. Buffy, who had been reading and drinking some tea on the sofa, waited a few moments before getting up to answer the door. It was really odd; both Yumichika and Ikkaku had been avoiding her since she had woken up. While it wasn’t all that odd for Ikkaku to avoid her most of the time – she always seemed to be doing something to irritate him – it was strange for Yumichika to run and hide when she came near. She was sure they were hiding something. But what, she wasn’t sure.
Buffy opened the apartment door, surprised to see a little girl with bright pink hair and big brown eyes grinning up at her. Any other time Buffy would have picked the little girl up and swung her around a couple of times before setting her back down, but she didn’t think her shoulder would be up to it yet. Instead, she kneeled down to her level, smiling as she did so.
“Hiya Pixie!” Yachiru said happily, flinging herself at Buffy and wrapping her arms around her neck.
“Hey you,” Buffy replied, patting the girl on the head. “What can I do for you today? Got any new toys for me to see or books you’d like me to read to you?”
“No, sorry,” Yachiru said with a sad expression before perking up again. “Ken-chan asked me to come and get you because he wants to see you.”
“Did he now?” Buffy asked, trying to remain calm as her blood ran cold. Why would the Captain want to see her? As far as she knew, she hadn’t done anything to warrant the Captain’s attention recently. The only thing she could think of was the incident from last night, but she hadn’t told anyone about it and she was pretty sure her assailants wouldn’t be blaring it about, either. She narrowed her eyes; if either Ikkaku or Yumichika went to the Captain about this, they were dead men.
“Pixie-chan?” Yachiru asked, sounding worried. Buffy blinked, momentarily forgetting about the little girl in front of her. “Is something wrong? You look like you’re gonna kill someone. Hey, can I watch?”
“Nope, I’m fine,” Buffy replied, smiling, wondering, not for the first time, how this sweet little girl could enjoy watching someone be killed in battle. She chalked it up to being stuck with the captain for so long; Yachiru and Kenpachi had been together longer than she, Ikkaku and Yumichika had. She got up and took Yachiru by the hand and led her out of the apartment. “Come on, let’s go see what Captain Zaraki wants with me.”
Yachiru babbled as they walked to the Captain’s office; Buffy had learned long ago to tune most of it out, because most of the time she talked about nonsense anyway. Buffy still had a slight limp due to her knee, but she really hoped her Captain wouldn’t notice. Before long, Yachiru was pushing the door to the Captain’s office open and bounding in, an exuberant grin on her face.
“Ken-chan! Pixie’s here!”
Captain Kenpachi Zaraki looked up from the work on his desk, a serious expression on his face. He had been doing some research, something that he didn't want to do, but it was necessary if it came down to transferring Buffy to another squad.
"Come in, sit," he said seriously, gesturing to the chairs in front of the desk. Buffy walked across the room, aware of the eyes watching her and trying hard not to limp or show any kind of weakness.
"What can I do for you, boss-man?" Buffy asked carefully, sitting down gingerly in the offered chair.
"I have something serious I want to discuss with you," Zaraki began before looking at Yachiru. "Yachiru! Go to your room for bit, I have to talk to Buffy. Alone."
"Do I have to?" Yachiru asked, her voice almost taking on a whiny tone. One expression from Zaraki had Yachiru out of the room and the sound of a door slamming shut was heard a moment later.
"Now that we're alone, I have something serious I want to discuss with you," Zaraki continued. "I'll cut right to the chase, because I know you would do the same with me. I've been hearing you're having some problems here."
"Who told you that?" Buffy asked, trying to remain calm but there was no use denying it. She would be in for an ass kicking to end all ass kickings if she lied to her captain, which wasn't something she wanted to do.
"I've just heard some things, seen some things," Zaraki replied. Buffy gave him a blank look. "Don't look at me like that, I'm not stupid. I know when to spot problems when they come up. How did you get that bruise on your face?"
"Walked into a door," Buffy replied automatically.
"And that limp?" he asked, arching an eyebrow.
"Banged my knee into a table when I got up this morning."
Zaraki sighed; he didn't think Buffy was going to lie to him, but apparently he was wrong. He would have to be far more direct with Buffy, something he had hoped she would do on her own.
"Really now," Zaraki said calmly, sitting back in his chair and propping his feet up on his desk. "Because I've heard from a couple little birdies that you were attacked last night. Wanna tell me about it?"
"No," Buffy replied, seething. She couldn't believe they would do this to her! They were always meddling in her life, trying to control it.
"If you don't tell me, I can't make sure that the people who did this to you are brought to their proper punishment," Zaraki said quietly. "You know I usually let the squad deal with their own problems, but this is different. I know it is. But I can't help you if you don't 'fess up."
"Himura hired some guy from another squad to bind me with Kido and then had three others beat the crap out of me," Buffy deadpanned. Zaraki's eyes widened. Three on one he could understand and even tolerate, but using Kido to bind first? That was wrong and completely inexcusable. Battles were supposed to be fought one on one, not three on one with the one at a clear disadvantage.
"I see," Zaraki said. He sighed and rubbed his eyes with his hand in an expression of exhaustion. "I don't want to do this, I really don't want to lose a fighter like you, but it has to be done for your own safety."
"What has to be done for my own safety?" Buffy asked, her eyes narrowing.
"I'm going to have to transfer you," Zaraki replied. Buffy was livid at that, snarling under her breath and transforming into some sort of feral person when the words hit her. “I’m sorry, Buffy, but if I don’t do this, you’re probably gonna die at the hands of Himura. Never liked the shit, never seemed to have any honour. Pulling this kind of shit definitely proves it.”
"They're dead," she growled, getting up from her chair and storming out of the office. She flash stepped to her apartment, storming in and searching to make sure neither her brother nor Ikkaku were there. When she determined that they weren’t there, she crumpled onto her bed, burying her face into her pillow, the angry tears streaming hotly down her face.
This wasn’t even the first time they had meddled. The first time had been at the welcome to the party shindig when they had been initially accepted at the academy. Then there were the boys who paid attention to her; one day they would be talking to her as if everything were fine, and the next they would be avoiding her like the plague. It wasn’t too difficult for Buffy to put two and two together. Then there was that time she had gotten drunk with Rangiku and Iba a while back and had crashed at Iba’s place. The next morning she had been dragged out like a sack of potatoes before being lectured soundly about going home with strange men she barely knew, although she’d known Iba since the beginning. They might be closer to him now, but she met him first!
This, however, was one of the worst things they had done. Did they think she couldn’t handle her own problems? Did they really think she was incapable of asking for help, and automatically felt the need to intervene on her behalf? Of course, she hadn’t planned on going to the Captain, not yet, but did they think to ask her about it? No!
Buffy lay on her bed until night fell, and she didn’t move when she heard someone knock on the door. She made no indication that she heard anyone enter and it wasn’t until she heard a voice at her bedroom door that she moved at all.
“Buffy, what’s wrong?” Buffy’s best friend, Rangiku, asked, sitting next to Buffy on the bed. Buffy sat up, sniffling, her eyes red and puffy. Rangiku enveloped her in a hug, stroking her hair affectionately as she did so. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Boys are so stupid sometimes,” Buffy said with a sniff, burying her face in Rangiku’s neck.
“What did they do this time?” Rangiku asked with a sigh. She should have known; there were only two males in the entire Gotei 13 who could get Buffy acting like this.
“Something happened last night, Yumi and Kakku found out, they told Captain Zaraki and now I’m being transferred,” Buffy wailed, sniffling again.
“And what, exactly, happened last night that had Ikkaku and Yumichika running to your captain?” Rangiku asked, hoping it wasn’t too serious. Those boys did have a habit of overreacting when it came to Buffy, but this definitely sounded serious, more serious than anything that had happened to Buffy in the past.
“I kind of got into a little fight,” Buffy replied sheepishly. Rangiku pinned her with a look, eyes narrowing in suspicion. “Okay, it was more than a little fight. I got jumped while on patrol last night and came home a little worse for wear.”
Rangiku released Buffy from the embrace and held her at arm’s length, examining her face and anything else she could see without taking Buffy’s clothes off.
“I’m fine Rangiku, I swear!” Buffy said quickly, uncomfortable under the scrutiny.
“How badly were you injured?” Rangiku asked, her pale blue eyes concerned. Out of everyone she knew and every expression used to get her to tell the truth, Rangiku’s was the one that worked the best by far. Mostly because she knew Rangiku wouldn’t go running and tattling unless she thought that her life with in dire danger, but also because she was another woman.
“Um, well,” Buffy waffled, only to be cowed by the stern glare sent her way. “I think it was tallied at a broken collarbone, several cracked ribs, a dislocated shoulder, a dislocated knee and lots of bumps and bruises.”
“You think?” Rangiku asked, arching an eyebrow. “Didn’t you go and see someone at the Fourth Division?”
“You know I hate hospitals. Captain Unohana still scares the crap out of me,” Buffy replied, wrinkling her nose in disgust. “And hey, look, I’m healed up good as new. The only things that still hurt are the shoulder that got dislocated and my knee. I’m fine, I swear!”
“Well, if you insist,” Rangiku said, still looking unsure. “But I think your boys have the right idea in telling your captain about what happened.”
“You’re not serious, are you?” Buffy balked, her eyes widening. “You’re actually taking their side instead of mine?”
“I’m serious about my friends’ safety, Buffy,” Rangiku replied seriously. “If I had known, you bet your ass I would have marched down and talked to your captain. I wouldn’t have even waited until morning like those two morons probably did.”
“I wouldn’t know, I slept until noon,” Buffy replied sheepishly. Rangiku giggled. “What?”
“The fact that you’re ashamed of sleeping until noon,” Rangiku replied with a snicker. “It’s funny.”
“Oh shut up, you silly lush,” Buffy retorted with a snort.
“Hey, it’s not my fault I know how to have fun and you don’t!” Rangiku replied with a huff, crossing her arms across her chest. “So, do you know where you’re headed yet?”
“Nope,” Buffy replied, sobering a little. “But I really don’t want to talk about it. Do you have any plans tonight?”
“Well, I was going to go drinking,” Rangiku replied. “Shuuhei said he wanted to hang out, and I think Iba was interested too. But if you’d rather me stay here with you, I can cancel and spend some time with you instead.”
“No, no, that’s totally fine with me,” Buffy replied with a grin. “Maybe I’ll be able to drink enough to forget this whole shitty day.”
“That’s the spirit!” Rangiku said, bouncing up and down happily, clapping her hands. “You can even crash at my place if you don’t want to come back here and deal with the butthole boys.”
“Oh God, that gave me the worst mental picture ever,” Buffy said with a groan, covering her eyes with her hands. “I think I might need mind bleach or something.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault you have a dirty mind,” Rangiku said with a grin. “You go clean yourself up and I’ll pick out something cute for you to wear, because I’m not letting you out of here wearing your uniform.”
Buffy sighed and headed to her bathroom as Rangiku began raiding the closet, picking out several outfits for Buffy to choose from and asking if she could borrow a couple of things for their “date” because she was too lazy to go home and raid her own closet. Buffy laughed, wondering how she would have gotten by without her best friend and her crazy antics.
The next morning, Buffy came home feeling much better. She had had a very good evening; Iba always seemed to cheer her up, and Rangiku’s new friend, Shuuhei Hisagi, seemed like a decent sort, even if he was still a student. He was so close to graduation and already had a seated position waiting for him after the ceremony, but he was still a student. Even Captains Kyoraku and Ukitake had joined them, which had been an interesting experience all on its own. Who knew Shunsui Kyoraku enjoyed his drink so much?
Smiling as she entered her apartment, still dressed in the green and blue silk kimono she had worn the previous night, she stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Ikkaku and Yumichika sitting in her living room. The smile was wiped from her face immediately as she stalked to her room, sliding the door halfway shut as she did. It would have been slid completely shut, but the sight of an envelope on her bed made her stop short.
Crossing the room, she picked up the envelope and tore it open. Somewhat neat writing filled the page; it was obvious a man had written it by the handwriting. Scanning the note, she got the gist of what it said, scowling at the information.
Buffy glared at the source of the voice; Yumichika had poked his head in the door, although he looked about ready to bolt if Buffy decided to go after him. Or throw something at him.
“What, have you come to tell me that you managed to get me kicked out of the Gotei 13 because you think all of the squads are too dangerous?” Buffy asked, glaring at him.
“Still mad at me, huh?” Yumichika asked, not moving to enter the room completely. Having known Buffy for as long as he had, he knew that encroaching on her space when she didn’t want you to was a Very Bad Idea.
“What was your first clue?” Buffy asked, breathing deeply to remain calm. There was no use in screaming at him, or Ikkaku, even if it would make her feel better in the short term. The damage was already done; her transfer order had already come in and she started at her new division in a couple of days.
“So, where are you headed?” Yumichika asked carefully, not wanting to upset his sister.
“Thirteenth Division,” Buffy replied flatly, tossing the letter back to where she had found it before she sat on the bed.
“Hey, there’s lots of real world missions in that division,” Yumichika said hopefully. “Maybe you’ll see more action over there.”
“I guess,” Buffy replied sadly.
“Do you need any help packing?” Yumichika asked, desperate to get any kind of reaction out of her. It was strange, seeing Buffy so emotionless. What had happened to the passionate, fiery woman he had adopted as his little sister so many years ago? Had the attack affected her that much?
“Rangiku already offered,” Buffy replied with a shrug. “It’s not like I have a huge amount of stuff or anything like that. I should be okay on my own.”
“Well, if you’re sure,” Yumichika said uncertainly.
“Yep, perfectly sure,” Buffy replied with a quick, self-assured nod. With one last concerned expression, Yumichika turned and left the room, sliding the door shut behind him.
She sighed and surveyed the room and the objects in it. For someone who had been living in the same space for fifty five years, Buffy didn’t have a lot of material possessions, and for some reason, she liked it that way. There were photographs documenting her years at the academy and the Gotei 13; there were a fair share where she, Yumichika and Ikkaku were hamming it up for the cameras. Besides the photographs, the only items she owned were a couple of pieces of jewellery, some cosmetics and her clothing. And, her most prized possession, her Zanpakuto.
“Well, I might as well get this over and done with,” Buffy said to herself with a sigh. She went to her closet and grabbed her suitcases flipping them open onto the bed. The good thing about where she lived was that the clothes never really went out of style. Sometimes there were colors that were more popular than others at certain times, but for the most part Buffy’s wardrobe had served her fine these last few years.
Buffy had almost packed all of her clothes when a knock sounded at her door. She waited for the door to open, as neither Yumichika nor Ikkaku waited until she told them to come in, and when the door didn’t open she wondered who it could be. Crossing the room, she opened the door, surprised to see her vice-captain standing there, looking up at her with a serious expression on her face.
“Hi Yachiru, what can I do for you?” Buffy asked, noticing a distinct lack of books on tow. Most of the time the girl came to Buffy so that she could read to her or play with her, so it was odd to see Yachiru without a book or toy in her hands.
“Pixie-chan is sad,” Yachiru said with a frown. Buffy ushered the girl inside her room, shutting the door behind her.
“What makes you think that?” Buffy asked, as she latched one of her suitcases before placing it onto the floor. She sat down on the bed, patting the spot next to her in invitation. Yachiru climbed up onto the bed and sat next to Buffy, looking up at her with wide, brown eyes.
“Pixie-chan is sad because she has to go away,” Yachiru replied. “But you shouldn’t be sad.”
“Why is that?” Buffy asked, curious as to Yachiru’s reasoning.
“You shouldn’t be sad because she has lots of people who care about her and want her to be safe,” Yachiru replied. “Cue-ball and Pretty Boy and Ken-chan and me. And others too, but they’re not as important.”
Buffy laughed softly at Yachiru’s nicknames for Ikkaku and Yumichika; the girl was helpless with names most of the time. Either that or she was just lazy; Buffy never bothered to find out because she knew Yachiru knew her name, although she preferred using Pixie and Pixie-chan.
“Will I be able to come and see you after you move?” Yachiru asked. “I go and visit Ukki all the time because he gives me candy, but I wanna come and see you too.”
“Of course you can come and see me, as long as you don’t bring the two idiots,” Buffy replied, patting Yachiru on the head.
“They were only trying to help you, Buffy-chan,” Yachiru said. “They didn’t want you to die or get hurt anymore. Please Buffy-chan, can’t you see they love you and want you to be safe?”
“They sure do have a funny way of showing it,” Buffy replied with a snort. “And Ikkaku doesn’t love me, kiddo. Yumichika does, but Ikkaku doesn’t.”
“I think you’re wrong, Pixie-chan,” Yachiru said quietly. “And I think you love him back.”
“It doesn’t matter what I feel,” Buffy said, her voice sad. “Hey, it’s getting late. Do you need me to walk you home?”
“No, Ken-chan’s coming to get me in a little bit,” Yachiru replied. “Do you have any sweets I can have before I go?”
“Is the grass green and the sky blue?” Buffy asked by way of reply. The cupboards could be empty of any real food, but Buffy made sure that there was a small candy supply hidden in her room for her favourite vice-captain. She had to keep it in her room, otherwise Ikkaku would probably swipe it, and even so there were times when Buffy would go looking for it only to find it missing, and Ikkaku had suspiciously acquired a bag of sweets shortly before the discovery was made.
“Yay!” Yachiru exclaimed happily as Buffy extracted a bag of candy from her bedside table.
“Here, share it with Captain Zaraki,” Buffy said, handing the bag to Yachiru. The bag of candy was relinquished not a moment too soon, because at that moment she heard a voice from the front door.
“Oi, Yachiru, get out here!”
“That’s Ken-chan coming to get me,” Yachiru said, before throwing her arms around Buffy’s neck. “I’m gonna miss you, Pixie-chan.”
“You’re talking like I’m leaving forever,” Buffy said with a laugh. “I’m just moving a little way away and you can come and visit me any time you want.”
“Okay,” Yachiru said, releasing the hold she had around Buffy’s neck and bolting from the room so that Zaraki could take her home. “’Bye Pixie-chan!”