|Maybe We Forgot
Author: The Tribe PM
Nearing the end of their time together in Karakura, Rukia is somehow still oblivious to the raunchy rumors circulated around the school about her and Ichigo, so he opts to tell her. Oneshot submitted to IchiRuki-Club Back to Basics contest on deviantArt.Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Angst - Ichigo K. & Rukia K. - Words: 4,036 - Reviews: 8 - Favs: 27 - Follows: 6 - Published: 09-20-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8540847
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Maybe we forgot
All the things we are
We are together
-Ellie Goulding, "Every Time You Go"
"I think I'm finally getting the hang of this," said Ichigo, a genuine smile on his face as he turned toward his shinigami companion. The felled hollow dissipated behind him, and he casually rested his huge sword on his shoulder. The fading, sinking sun framed his lion-like mane like a halo.
The corners of Rukia's mouth lifted slightly, as if Ichigo's grin were somehow contagious. It turned into a smirk, as she noted, with only a tinge of guilt forming in her gut, "Don't get too comfortable, I'm not gonna be weak forever."
"You're not weak," he corrected offhandedly, carefully sheathing his sword.
Taken aback, Rukia elaborated, "I'm powerless..."
"That's not the same thing."
Although Ichigo refused to look at her, suddenly very preoccupied with his sword, Rukia's eyes softened in his direction. Cocking her head to the side, she pondered whether or not she'd ever get used to this boy's shifts in mood and subtleties. She doubted it, and found she didn't mind either. It was an exciting, frightening feeling having a friend once again; Rukia had gotten so used to being on her own. With a pang, she realized she would soon have to get used to it again.
With his sword refastened to his back, Ichigo began a leisurely stroll back to his body. That was new. He never wanted to linger when it came to hollow hunting. She let it lie—they deserved some leisure for once—and walked alongside him with her hands clasped behind her back. A comfortable silence filled the empty street, the scraping of their steps the only sound filling their ears.
It'd been a while since Rukia had felt this comfortable around another person. It had been decades, in fact. She had thought herself content with her work, convinced herself she didn't need anyone, but Ichigo...it was a marvel she had been coping all these years without him. When he was around, there was a good atmosphere. His immense reiatsu, which had at first startled her with its great size, was now more like a warm, enveloping blanket than a daunting presence. Although she felt that his latent abilities should have been scary, she couldn't help but feel safe with him.
And that in of itself was dangerous.
Without a second thought, she pushed the idea to the back of her mind, leaving behind a promise that she would revisit it later. Now wasn't the time. Soon, but not just now.
After a time, Ichigo opened his mouth to speak. His voice sounded far away when he asked, "So, you're going back to Soul Society when your powers are restored?"
Twitching, she stretched to cover up the involuntary reaction, her fingers linked above her head. The question's relevance cut like a knife—and why did he have to sound so lost?
"Mm, I suppose," she responded casually. "I'm due back soon." It was a lie, of course. She had been due back a month now. And with the Menos Grande Ichigo had encountered, they were surely on their way to recover her. No, not recover: arrest.
Ichigo hesitated before inquiring further, "What's it like? Soul Society."
Rukia could taste another lie on her tongue, what she normally told souls during konsou: that it was a peaceful place—but this wasn't a frightened ghost beside her, this was Ichigo. He could handle the truth, thistruth at least. She owed him that much. "It's not heaven. And not as 'peaceful' as I advertise."
Turning to her, Ichigo raised his eyebrows. "That so?"
"Truth be told, for those who aren't nobility, it's pretty rough. Spirits without any sort of powers can live off just water and are never hungry, but still there are those who don't get enough. Absurd, isn't it? You'd think it'd be easier than it is here."
"And...you?" he asked tentatively.
For a moment, she remained silent, side-eyeing him. A gnawing sensation in the back of her mind urged her to come out with the years she had spent on the streets: how she knew both sides of it, the rough and tumble days for the poor in Rukongai and the lavish way of life reserved for those within the walls of the Seireitei. She hesitated. The last thing she wanted was to give him some sob story. He didn't need to know any more about her than he already did, and she already knew too much about him.
Closing her eyes, she simply stated, "Don't worry about me."
She heard Ichigo scoff beside her. "Like I would," he huffed.
Idiot. A ghost of a smile haunted Rukia's face. Ichigo had to be the worst liar she had ever encountered.
They continued their walk. It was strange, strolling back to the Clinic as if nothing were out of place, him in his shihakusho, her still in her school uniform. Why were they dawdling? School hours were over, but that had never stopped him from rushing back to his body before.
Somewhat perplexed, Rukia asked, "You're not in a hurry?"
"Nah, it's not like we're missing school or anything."
She nodded in agreement, but wasn't satisfied with the answer.
Ichigo let out a mirthless chuckle. "If it were still school...just imagine what those bastards would think up if we were gone this long," he muttered, holding up his twitching hands with a horrified expression on his face.
"Huh?" prompted Rukia, tilting her head.
Ichigo seemed to shift uncomfortably. "Well, you know the rumors around us, right?"
Was he...blushing? "No..." she replied, narrowing her eyes.
"Of course you don't," he exhaled exasperatedly.
Alarmed, she exclaimed, "You don't think they suspect that we—!"
"Oh yeah, they suspect," he confirmed. Now he was definitely blushing.
Rukia chewed at a thumbnail. They knew. How could this have happened? This was supposed to be a secret! And now a rumor was circulating? Careless. She had been far too careless. First giving all her powers to a human, and now this? She was a shame to the Kuchiki family name, to be sure.
"But how did they find out?"
He stopped walking, squinted at her. "Wait, what do you mean by 'find out'...? Found out about what?!"
Whipping her head around, Rukia turned on her heels to face the stock-still substitute shinigami. "About us!"
Ichigo's entire face was now bright crimson. "'Us'!?"
She rolled her eyes. "Fighting hollows!"
Ichigo nearly fell over, reaching out for something to lean on and somehow finding a telephone pole before plummeting face-first to the pavement. This woman was unbelievable. How did someone supposedly so much older than himself get to be so naive? There was a fine line between cute and irresponsible when it came to innocence.
"No, no," he explained, once he regained his balance, "they don't know about hollows at all."
Rukia threw her hands in the air, "Then what are you worried about?"
He took a step forward, stooping slightly so his eyes were even with hers. "They...well, with the way you always drag me off in a hurry, the whole school thinks we're...together."
Frowning, Rukia still didn't seem to get it. "But...we are together..." As if to prove her point, she gesticulated at him, then herself, indicating that, yes, they were "together."
Trying to untie his knotted tongue proved a lot more difficult this time around. "Not physically! Well, yes, physically—no! I mean, they think we're, you know..."—and here he whispered the last word as if he were a child divulging a dirty secret—"dating."
"Oh." So thatshe understood. Cheeks turning pink, she swallowed. "You mean, when I get a hollow alert and drag you off, they think that we're—we're going to—?"
"Yeah," he admitted sheepishly, self-consciously rubbing the nape of his neck.
Well, that explained the girls' question today. Rukia had wondered what had prompted that. The answer she had given—"...just a friend!"—found this an appropriate time to resurface in her mind. Bad enough they had asked her such a thing, but they thought that she was...doing that with him?
Ichigo had never seen her blush like that before.
Whirling around, Rukia faced forward again, and she took long, powerful strides away from him. She silently berated herself for not being able to get out the word "sex" even in her own mind—she would turn seventy in less than a decade, for goodness sake, why was she so skittishly skirting around the subject? There was a limit to innocence...
Especially since it was true, what she'd told them: the nature of her relationship with Ichigo was indeed purely friendship. Well, camaraderie; they were both soldiers fighting an endless war against hollows, but yes...it had become more than a business contract—still, they were friends and only that.
Then...why did it feel like a lie?
Exhaling up with force, Rukia made that one tendril of hair flutter up away from her face where it always fell. She decided to slow her pace a bit, so she wouldn't leave Ichigo behind. When he caught up to her, he remained quiet, and she silently worried they wouldn't speak the rest of the way home.
"Home," huh? she thought. What a fool I've been. She didn't belong here, this wasn't her home—even if being with Ichigo had been the closest she'd ever come since Kaien, and Renji before him. It was different, of course, the feeling she had with him. Like every person had a signature, so too did the imprint someone could make on another's heart. The way they were as a team, how easy it could be with him, their understanding of each other. It felt as if he'd scribbled his mark beneath her skin. It warmed her, filled her up. It was new, but at the same time...not. It was what she'd had back then but somehow more. A connection she'd never felt before.
Rukia mentally shook herself. Love, friendship, camaraderie, whatever you wanted to call it, it still was the last thing she needed right now. It was nothing but trouble.
"Rukia," said Ichigo in a warning tone.
Distracted, she half-turned his way, "What?"
"You're going to collide with my house!" he shouted, grabbing her by the shoulder before she could. When she looked forward, her nose was barely an inch away from the siding of the Kurosaki Clinic. Ichigo sighed exasperatedly, "Geez, watch where you're going. Did what I say really bother you that much?"
"N-no!" she denied, brushing his hand off and veering in the direction of the gutter pipe, their mode of reentry into the house. Trailing after her, he frowned as he always did. Putting a hand onto the pipe and beginning her ascent, Rukia threw over her shoulder, "Your classmates are clearly stupid. Why would Ido such indecent things with you?"
"Wha...What's that supposed to mean!?" he snarled, climbing up after her. "It...It's not like I'd want to with you either!"
When he looked up to see her reaction, however, all he saw was up her skirt, and—consequently, inevitably—her panties. Grip tightening on the pipe, Ichigo actually hurt his neck snapping his gaze back to his white knuckles. Was she doing this on purpose or something?
Reaching the window to Ichigo's room, Rukia stood facing him when he scrambled through. From the closet, Kon came rushing out and leaping at his "Nee-san." Without even turning around, both Rukia and Ichigo easily side-stepped the perverted stuffed lion, and his momentum sent him flying out the open window. This was followed by a wumph! as his soft body hit the pavement. Checking if he was alright, Ichigo peered over the ledge, to see him holding up a dirty paw, giving a thumbs up sign.
"Nice one!" Kon yelled up meekly.
Rukia shook her head. When was that Mod Soul going to give up?
Avoiding her eyes, Ichigo slipped back into his body where they'd left it at his desk. Despite Kon jumping in, Ichigo was still miffed about the "with you"comment and refused to look at her when he stood up.
Of course she noticed instantly. "What?" she demanded, folding her arms over her chest, assuming his agitation had to do with Kon.
Scratching the back of his head, Ichigo decided to let it go. "Ah, nothing."
What did it matter if she wanted to do those kinds of things with him or not? Why did he let it get to his head that she was so adverse to it? Even though his reaction had been the same, why did it bother him so much when she turned her nose at the idea of them together? That wasn't what was important though. Even if they wanted to (not that he did! Or did he...? No, he definitely did not!), they couldn't be together. She was going back to Soul Society when her powers returned anyway...but then what? He was just gonna go on with life like none of this had ever happened? To him, going back to some semblance of a "normal life" seemed more impossible than Rukia being his..."girlfriend."
A part of him, a very dominant part that was hard to ignore, wanted her to never go back. But he was just being stupid, right?
Seemingly satisfied with Ichigo's bull shit answer (although there was a hint in her eyes that she didn't believe him; he was grateful she hadn't questioned him further), Rukia slipped into her—her!?—closet and set to changing from her uniform into pajamas. Ichigo tried to ignore the sound of shifting cloth as he attempted to get some studying in. Nearly broke his pencil in two biting down on it.
Once she emerged, she was dressed in his sister's yellow checkered pajamas. Ichigo side-eyed her choice of sleepwear with a judging glare, but said nothing as Rukia dangled her legs over the edge of the futons in his—yes, his—closet. It seemed wrong to see her in Yuzu's clothes all the time. She really was nothing like either of his sisters, and she wasn't like a sister to him either.
Then...what was she to him?
Ichigo turned back to his work. He wasbeing stupid.
Idly aware of Rukia's swinging feet, Ichigo tried his hardest to focus on his English. She was the one to break the silence. "Before...what you said earlier, about not being weak..."
"I meant it," he answered clearly without turning to look at her.
"Yes, but whatdid you mean?" It's a question that had been eating at her insides. She urged, "Specifically."
Ichigo's frown deepened as he spun his chair in her direction. Palms flat on either side of her, she was staring at the ceiling. Following her sight-line, Ichigo saw a fly buzzing around the light fixture, followed only by Rukia's blue-violet eyes. Ichigo looked back at her, and she looked to him, the fly forgotten.
Leaning forward, Ichigo sighed through his nostrils, elbows on his knees. "You lend your strength." He paused, carefully observing her reaction. "How do I put it? It's unwavering, fearless, your desire to help others. You gain strength by providing strength..." He shrugged, leaned back, before adding, "You strengthen me."
Rukia's breath hitched in her throat as she felt a warmth spreading from the pit of her stomach and out through her body.
He hesitated a moment before admitting, "I think...I think someday I'd like to be that for others."
You already are, idiot, she internally muttered. But she didn't dare say it aloud.
Instead, she deadpanned, "Cheesy."
Ichigo's face flushed fire-engine red. "Shut up!" he shouted.
There was a sudden knock at the door, causing both Ichigo and Rukia to jump. Without hesitating, Rukia tucked and rolled back into the cramped, dark space of the closet while Ichigo wildly sent a clumsy roundhouse kick to the slider door, his toes curling and pushing it closed, spinning in his seat like a top before falling to the floor.
"Onii-chan?" Yuzu, the culprit behind the knocking, called timorously, having heard his yelling. "Are...are you alright in there?" Apparently undamaged, Ichigo sprang to his feet just as she turned the knob of the door and stepped into the room.
"Yeah!" he exclaimed, far too energetic in his movements. "I was just on the phone! With Keigo! That Keigo! What an idiot! Haha! Ha!"
Though disturbed by Ichigo's emphatic gesturing of all four limbs like some sort of madman and the fact that his phone was nowhere near his person, Yuzu turned her worry into a lecture (something she excelled at), "Onii-chan, you should be nicer to your friends!"
"Aye, aye!" he responded stiffly, saluting her.
Yuzu slowly backed away out of the room with a final, "Dinner's going to be ready soon. Curry tonight..."
"Sounds delicious!" he almost screamed at her.
In the closet, Rukia's mouth was already watering in anticipation. Ever since Ichigo had first introduced the dish to her, she'd been craving it.
As Yuzu left, Ichigo could just barely hear her muttering something about boys getting weird when they reached their teen years. Once out of earshot, Ichigo heaved a sigh of relief. Opening the closet door, he breathed, "That was too close."
"Way too close," agreed a tangled-up Rukia.
"Here, let me help you," he offered, pulling her up and out of the closet by both of her hands like she weighed nothing at all. Which, she supposed, she may as well have, compared to that giant zanpakutou he had to lug around day after day.
Straightening, Rukia reluctantly thanked him, brushing herself off. She looked up at Ichigo, suddenly so close she could smell him. All soap and musk and...Ichigo. She took a step back, steadying herself, clearing her throat, trying to find anything to do that wasn't staring at the broad chest in front of her.
"Well," she began awkwardly, quirking her lips to one side. From downstairs, the sounds of his father drifted up and the stinging reminder that Ichigo had a lively family (the family she saved) that she wasn't a part of set into Rukia's bones again. "You better go to dinner with your family."
"Yeah..." he replied distractedly.
Despite the step back, they were still standing too close to each other. The air filled with their breathing, and Ichigo followed that step—toward her.
Then, something like a laugh fell from Ichigo's mouth before adding, "Those pajamas look ridiculous on you. And you have to stop stealing my sister's clothes, she's getting suspicious. Tomorrow's Sunday, I'm taking you shopping."
Flustered, Rukia scolded weakly, "Sundays are for studying!"
"Oh, and you study?" he smirked. "You're just going to steal my notes anyway."
Rukia took another step back, cowed by Ichigo's proud smile. So he'd known about that...Her "tactical brilliance" didn't seem to have paid off. "Well, it's for you to study. You're the student."
Her defenses against this were growing weaker by the second. She didn't want to go shopping with Ichigo. No, that wasn't right. She didn't want to want to go shopping with Ichigo. Which she did. Very much. She'd always loved the dresses they wore in the World of the Living, and it'd be nice to relax a little, but...
"An-and anyway, I can never find anything in my size..," She was just making excuses at this point.
"This isn't a discussion. I'm buying you new clothes."
Finally, she gave in, slumping in defeat and sighing, "Fine."
Ichigo smiled wide. Ah, she thought as she felt her own lips curl in response. Another contagious one.
The comfortable silence was broken abruptly by a harsh shout from Karin downstairs: "Ichi-nii!"
"I'm coming, I'm coming!" he lazily yelled back, not taking his eyes off of Rukia.
"Yeah, I'm sure you are!" was her saucy reply before Yuzu scolded her.
What with Ichigo's body going rigid from his ten-year-old sister's implication, the empty threats and oaths he muttered under his breath, and his loud response, "Shut up, I'll just be down in a minute," Rukia had to hold a snicker behind her hand. He rolled his eyes, his anger not staying long at all, apparently amused by her laughter.
"Go," she said, pushing his arm toward the door. With a cheeky grin, she added, "And bring me a big helping once you're done."
"Yeah, yeah," he promised, chuckling as he went.
Alone in Ichigo's room, Rukia felt an odd sort of contentment. She felt heavy, sleepy. Curling up on the futons, she slid the closet door and her eyelids closed. In the pocket of her pajamas, she fidgeted with the folded piece of paper, a farewell note she had written last week, and had been avoiding ever since. She took her hand out of her pocket. It was still the last thing she wanted to think about.
Sighing, she realized she had never in her life felt safer than she did in that stupid closet. Then again, no, it wasn't the closet. It was Ichigo. She remembered his scent, tried to breathe it in. Sitting up, sliding the closet door open, she had an idea. A stupid one, but at this point she didn't care anymore. She stepped out, toward the bed and curled up on top of the blankets. Inhaling deeply, she let his smell enveloped her. As she drifted off, Rukia heard the lively talk downstairs. Beneath that, she could feel Ichigo's reiatsu, coming in waves with each steady heartbeat. It crashed over her like an ocean of blankets, lulling her to sleep.
One more day. That was all she could afford. She couldn't postpone it any longer. She had to be strong like Ichigo had said she was if she was going to leave tomorrow night.
Ichigo had to wait downstairs for quite a while after dinner, offering to clean the dishes even so he could sneak away some food for Rukia. By the time he got back up to his room, Rukia was already fast asleep, still curled up in a ball on his bed like a cat.
"Rukia," he groaned, setting down the dinner tray he'd swiped for her. "That's my bed."
Leaning over her, he playfully poked at Rukia's cheek. She didn't stir.
"Can't be helped," he murmured, sliding in from the bottom of the bed and laying beside her, his back to hers. He didn't even bother changing—sleeping in his clothes was a better result than having her somehow wake up when he was half-naked. A warning voice in the back of his head told him his father would probably discover her with one of his "GOOD MORNING, ICHIGO"s, but he was too full, too warm, and she smelled too good. He closed his eyes.
"Those pajamas really do look ridiculous on you," he whispered his one final quip, his back accidentally brushed against hers. He made no move to roll away as he gave in to slumber, finding himself leaning back into her and making only half-formed excuses as to why. The curve of her back, rising with her breaths, was warm against him.
He didn't care. He'd deal with the consequences in the morning.