Title: 4 AM Eternal
Characters: Tatsuki, Shinji, Hiyori
Warning: Mild spoiler for the current arc.
Disclaimer: Kubo owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 1200 words
Summary: Tatsuki goes for a morning run in a ghost town.
Dedication: For micro_raptor, who asked for Tatsuki-centric fic with maybe added Vizards set sometime in the present. :>
Beta: None, sorry!
Note: My first actually finished Bleach fic ever omfg. :S Er, the ending sort of just hangs there, but it's supposed to, since I kinda imagined this as a manga chapter before I sat down to write it. :>
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Tatsuki liked waking up before everyone else. Karakura Town was quiet in the first place, but during the early hours, when the streets were empty, its silence had a voice. It spoke of rainy days spent indoors and family, of fireflies and soccer games and friendship. It spoke not with words but with images, fleeting and ephemeral, like stills from a movie projector spinning too fast. Right now, with unseasonably early frost covering the grass outside Tatsuki's window, the town looked like part of a dream world. It was a very Orihime-like thing to imagine, and Tatsuki would never admit she did. It made her think of that Soul Society place, the one the Urahara weirdo told them about.
Tatsuki climbed down from the windowsill, frowning. Evil spirits, good spirits. She hadn't wanted to believe it, but she'd seen Ichigo, hadn't she? Ichigo, dressed in that strange black outfit, with a giant sword on his back. Ichigo, swinging that sword like he was born to do it. Ichigo, off somewhere in a world of evil spirits -- Wacko Mondo? something like that.
"You'd better bring her back," Tatsuki muttered. "And you'd better be alive when you do, or I'll throw you out the window this time, Ichigo!"
The last words came out louder than she'd intended, and she put a hand over her mouth, listening. Her outburst didn't seem to have woken her parents, though. Tatsuki relaxed and crossed the room to open her closet, deciding to go for a run before school. Maybe she would have time to stop in the community park and practise her kata; it would help settle her mind, something she badly needed. Her head was still awhirl with what she'd learned after Ichigo had disappeared through that strange dark gate.
The streets were empty as Tatsuki jogged towards the community park -- too empty. Not a single car passed her; not even dogs were barking. No longer did Karakura feel like a dream world. It felt like a spirit world. But there were no ghosts around, either, or Tatsuki would have seen them. Was she dreaming this? Ever since she had gained the ability to see spirits, her dreams had become much more vivid. That man Urahara had said it was because of Ichigo.
Ichigo. The last time she'd talked to him, Tatsuki had put his head through a window and told him a bunch of things you weren't ever supposed to say out loud. And he'd just left her standing there. A vicious, cowardly part of Tatsuki wished Ichigo would never come back. Seeing his face would just remind her of how badly she'd embarrassed herself in front of the whole school that time. Tatsuki hated thinking this way. She didn't want to be the kind of person who puts herself above everyone. But she was still angry at Ichigo, so angry. Sado had gone with him, which made sense, but Ishida? The four-eyed sewing champion was supposed to help save Orihime? Just because he was a boy didn't mean he could fight.
Ichigo should have told me everything. He should have taken me with him.
Tatsuki threw her fist out at a tree and didn't manage to stop it in time; her knuckles scraped bark. She was so useless, unable to focus even on a simple move like that.
It occurred to her then that Urahara Shōten was not that far from here. Maybe the manager would be there already -- shop owners usually arrived earliest, didn't they? Maybe she could ask him a few more questions.
Before her mind was even made up, Tatsuki was already jogging westward.
Urahara Shōten looked just as empty as the rest of the town, its display windows like blind eyes. Tatsuki knocked on the door, but after three minutes with no answer, she knew it was no use. She checked her watch; still early. She could wait a while and hope the manager showed up, but--
"Arisawa-san? Is that you?" called a voice from above. Tatsuki looked up.
Shinji Hirako, the transfer student, was hanging upside down above her. In thin air.
"Uh," Tatsuki began, gaping, but a thud from behind interrupted her. She turned to see a very short, blonde girl with pigtails squatting on the pavement.
Karakura's ghost town status had been revoked, apparently.
"What's a human doing here?" the girl asked, glaring at Shinji. "Shouldn't she be asleep like the others?"
Human? Tatsuki thought, frowning. And what are you supposed to be, a kangaroo?
"This is Arisawa Tatsuki," Shinji said. "She's a friend of Ichigo's."
"And my first love."
"WHAAAAT?" Tatsuki and the blonde girl said together. The girl swung a fist at Shinji, but he ducked, cackling, flipped over, and landed next to Tatsuki.
"What's going on?" Tatsuki demanded. "Who are you really, Shinji?"
"You don't want to know," Shinji said, his face turning serious. "Why are you here?"
"Why not?" Tatsuki asked. "I came to talk to the shop owner. Do you know him?"
"Tch," the blonde girl said. "Do we know him, she asks."
"It's her spiritual energy," Shinji said, his face thoughtful. "Gotta be. Whatever Urahara did to put the rest of 'em to sleep must not have worked on Ichigo's friends."
Tatsuki was about to grab Shinji and shake him, but just then Asano ran out from around the corner, his eyes frantic. "Arisawa!" he shouted. "You're here! My sister and my parents, they won't wake up, they--"
"Stop screaming so loudly, Asano-san," Kojima said, strolling out from the opposite direction. "You'll wake everyone."
"No, he won't," Shinji said, somewhat sadly.
"Don't call me Asano-san!" Asano yelled. "When did you get here? What's going on?"
"That's what I came here to find out, Asano-san," Kojima replied. He turned to Shinji and the blonde girl. "You know, don't you?"
The two exchanged looks. "Uh," Shinji said. "Sort of."
"Let's hear it," Tatsuki said.
"Um," Shinji mumbled, looking very uncomfortable. "Well, the whole town's been moved to Soul Society, you see."
"What?" Tatsuki, Asano, and Kojima said together.
"But Mizuiro and I don't even live in Karakura Town," Asano objected. "We're just outside it."
"That Urahara," Shinji said with a chuckle. "Always overdoing everything."
"Wait, we're all dead?" Kojima asked.
Shinji shrugged. "Technically? No."
"But if those Gotei 13 fools lose the fight, you might as well be," the blonde girl supplied.
"Fight?" Asano asked, sounding somewhat faint. "There's a fight?"
"Urahara said there would be, didn't he?" Tatsuki muttered. "So now what?"
Shinji gave her a long, considering look. "Urahara asked me to wait here a while and see if you showed up. He told me to let you help if you wanted. Do you?"
"We're going to help," Tatsuki said, squaring her shoulders.
Beside her, Asano opened his mouth to say something. She trod on his foot. Boys were so very useless.
"You're not actually going to fight anyone, you know," the blonde girl said. "You're only a human."
"And you're what, a monkey?" Tatsuki exploded, glaring.
"Heh," the girl said. "You could say that. Name's Sarugaki Hiyori. Don't wear it out."