“I'm going up to her right now. Just watch me.”
Renji wastes precious seconds by fussing with his shirt. Juushiro never misses wrinkles and even complimented how nice his hair looked this morning. Just marching up to Rukia Kuchiki takes more than a clean shirt and decent hair, though. Izuru and Momo have somehow managed to remain patient with him, lacking suggestions about what he can do but patient nonetheless.
“You’ll be fine,” Izuru promises. “Just don't be late for class, okay? Momo, you wanted to meet Shuhei, right?”
Izuru has given him the space to approach her without a sister tagging along. He does not dare waste opportunity and comes up just as she’s putting away her book. Even her smile is unchanged from their time in the same houses but is enough to make his throat go dry. Renji crosses his arms over his chest and gives her the smile she used to call his ‘prepared to take on anything’ smile.
“I wondered whether you would ever come up,” she says. “How are you? Is the new house okay?”
“We’re going to meet with my foster dad's niece, Nanao, soon.” Renji chews on his lower lip, uncertain how to tread here. “I guess that means we’re going to be adopted, right? People never want you to meet their family unless you're going to be adopted. How is it living with your brother?”
“Byakuya enjoys quiet.” Her shrug is tight. “Going places makes him nervous because he has this thing? I can't remember the name for it. His driver, Kaien does a lot for him. Byakuya wakes me up in the morning for school and makes breakfast but Kaien does the drop-off and other stuff for him.”
Finally, a family member found just to be bounced around with someone else. Granted, her fate is much better given how many friends lie in unmarked graves with their cause of death marked as unknown. Yeah, he cants fault her for the disappointment in her eyes. Really, he should be hurrying off to class now but leaving her disappointed -- again? He can't do that. Mentioning how this is the best house by far would be cruel. Confirming that he has a home now would be worse.
“Don't forget our promise.” Renji gives her forehead a poke. “How can we keep our promises when we're running late for class, huh?”
Her disappointment gives way to irritation, mild but present. “We can't keep any promises when you take forever to speak up.”
“I'm working on it.”
Truthfully, he does not intend on keeping her a secret when he has no reason to. Renji intends on sharing more about Rukia when the time is right, which has a wide range. Neither foster parent gives any indication he knows about the crush or that he actually spoke with her today. Izuru and Momo toss him expectant looks throughout their afterschool snack, which he tries in vain to ignore. Even Toshiro can detect a change among his brothers and sister, canvassing the table and rising on his tiptoes by each one.
Renji hoists him into his lap and gives him a cracker to shush him. “What's going on with you, huh?”
Momo seizes her opportunity the moment he begins gnawing on the cracker. “Toshiro must be proud of you because I hear you actually spoke with Rukia Kuchiki today.”
Izuru's ears tinge pink. “I tried getting her away but she snuck off to see whether you followed through with it. How is she? Does she enjoy living with her brother? Is he nice?”
Even Toshiro is watching him now. Giving him over to Juushiro remains an option, but his foster parent is watching, curious. Escaping without drawing attention is no longer an option. Changing the subject will still draw attention. Renji settles on leading into a question.
“Her brother seems okay, but he has this problem?” He looks toward Juushiro. “What does it mean when someone cannot go places because it makes them nervous?”
“I don't know enough about him to give you a proper answer,” Juushiro warns. “Sometimes, going to a specific place can make people nervous because it triggers bad memories. I appreciate everything hospital staff does and has done, but going to one makes me anxious because I associate it with bad things which have happened in the past. You needn't look so concerned, loves. Prior to having my illness diagnosed, I frequented hospitals for a set diagnosis and sometimes underwent invasive testing with less than patient staff members.”
“Her brother's thing has a name, though.”
“Well, people can suffer from this thing known as agoraphobia. I don't know enough about him to say for certain that what he suffers from, but it sounds difficult regardless.”
Directly asking her probably won't be appropriate, but he's going to help her this time. He intends on doing things right this time.