A/N: It felt weird writing in present tense - I was confused af, I'm sorry. BUT ANYHOW, I wrote this thing based on a headcanon that I posted on tumblr and I swear it was only supposed to be a drabble. But before I knew it, I was over the 1k mark and that's when I was like, "Won't hurt to... add another thousand words, I guess."

And no, I do not own Bleach; especially after the thing that we got over two weeks ago.


Smile. Verb; to assume a facial expression indicating pleasure, favour, or amusement, but sometimes derision or scorn, characterised by an upturning of the corners of the mouth.

Smile. Noun; a pleasant or agreeable appearance, look, or aspect.

It was a truth universally acknowledged that when a woman smiled, it should not have had any form of effect on a man, more so in the terms of making them 'feel butterflies in their tummy'. Such was seen as too romantic, too soft, and too feminine to be compared to the likes of the male gender. And who were they besides specimens known to be tougher, rougher, meaner, and perhaps even colder? They had no need for the emotion, nor did they even know how to handle it, for it was supposedly far too complicated for understanding.

But mind the 'was' used at the beginning.

Denying and avoiding the effects that a smile of a woman has on a man is easier said than done; more so when the woman is four-foot-eight-and-a-half-inches high with an incredible aim towards one's face.

He's still confused as to how she does so, actually. For an incredibly short girl, one would not assume for her to be more than she lets on. Then again, she is Rukia, and she seems to have the consistency of defying one's personal views and opinions on certain matters.

And that, of course, is based on personal experiences that one Kurosaki Ichigo can recollect all too well.

But going back to the original topic of concerning a certain smile that should not affect him as much as it does, it is possible to say that Ichigo is... well, staring.

His mind is blank, all thoughts ceasing to exist the second the corners of Rukia's lips curved upwards. Pearly, white teeth are seen, and even the apples of her cheeks have become more visible. There's a form of twinkle in her eyes, the sort that expresses the aspects of innocence and bliss, and for a moment's while, he doesn't even realise that he's not breathing. But she's talking; that he knows of if her mouth serves better judgement. Is he listening, however? Why do that when he can stay silent and admire her from across the table?

Wait, admire? Where did that come from?

He watches her bring out her excitement, his lip-reading skills oddly making out Chappy and Nii-sama, though he doesn't make much of it. But he is nodding his head, at least, letting out a grunt here and there whenever she pauses.

But warmth,now that was something he's experiencing out of nowhere.

It lives within the deep confines of his chest, the beating of his heart all but ignored. And he knows that it also dwells at the tips of her fingers, feeling them lightly brush against his as they pass the fork to one another. He doesn't say anything about it, and neither has she, so he keeps the acknowledged fact somewhere in his memory for... reasons.

The ray of the sun passing through the open windows hits her soft features at the right angle, and he can't help but notice just how angelic it makes her look. With her wide, indigo eyes and skin that has been described as porcelain in more instances than one, Ichigo finds himself still, a furrow in his brows as if he's examining a work of art. And that alone was putting it lightly, especially considering how he's now observing the way the small piece of cake meets her plump lips before satisfying her tastebuds.

And then she smiles again, and he hears it: the skip of a beat that should not have happened. But it did and he sits there, wondering as to why that's so. It's such a strange thing, unfamiliarity swimming within as he continues to observe, only to see the velvet icing that has made its home on corner of her mouth; unbeknownst to her own knowledge, it seems. And that's where he begins to stare at, a bothering feeling tugging at the corners of his being. He tries to brush it away, almost physically shuddering as if it'll help.

Oh, she's talking.

"—Are you even listening?" He manages to catch as he blinks himself back to reality.

"Hm?"

She sighs and mutters a single word beneath her breath, "Useless."

"I am listening. You were going on about how Byakuya got you some Chappy merchandise as a surprise." He puts it out there as if he knows what he's talking about, even going so far as to leaning back into the back rest of his seat for a casual composure.

Although instead of seeing the smile that he had been admiri—observing several seconds ago, he gets the opposite and allows himself to frown in reflection of Rukia's expression.

"I said that ten minutes ago, idiot," She cuts the cake for another small piece, neutrality placing itself upon her face, "Honestly. And here I was, wasting my breath for someone who wasn't even listening. What's got you so distracted, anyway?"

"I'm not distracted." He retorts, a hand subconsciously reaching out to scratch the back of his head.

"The last thing you heard me say was something from ten minutes ago. Plus, you've got that look on your face, again."

He stops then, gaze sharp against hers. If one does not know better, they would claim that his internal mind is panicking at being caught red-handed. But he isn't, and there's nothing he's caught with; he is, however, wondering as to what the face could be. And so he asks what she means and without a second thought, Rukia immediately answers.

"The look that you have when you're thinking about something too hard; the same one whenever you're making notes or doing assignments," And when there's no change in reaction, she continues, "The look that's known as 'I-am-trying-to-figure-something-out-but-can't'. You know what? Ask Renji." With that, she shrugs her shoulders and eats.

Loss for words, Ichigo falls into silence. How's he suppose to respond to that? If he's to deny it any further, then undoubtedly he would be seen as too defensive. And if that becomes the case, she'd ask him what has him on the defence, and he'd have to spend the rest his time arguing that he's not.

Because he really isn't!

So he gradually exhales instead, brown-coloured irises bringing themselves down to look at the cake rather than meet the woman's state of perplexity across from him. He then taps his finger onto the surface of the table, following a form of rhythm from a song he cannot say. His thoughts are finally making themselves known, although the scowl has barely moved from its place. And just as he goes on to speak, his vision is suddenly focusing on a vanilla-flavoured cake held against the brim of his lips.

"Eat." Rukia tells him – or orders, he's never really sure.

"No thanks, I've eaten enough." He replies almost too simply, though he doesn't move away from the offered piece.

"You've only had three bites, Ichigo, that's nowhere near 'enough'."

"Well, maybe because I'm just not that hungry."

"You're the one who asked me if I wanted to eat cake in the first place!"

"And that's because I was wondering if you were hungry."

Rukia huffs, annoyance evident though the crinkling of the skin between thinly-lined eyebrows. Ichigo raises his own in amusement at this point, however, especially as he waits for her to sway from her position. But she doesn't and the cake is still in place right in front of him, patient for devouring. And knowing that there's no point in quarrelling with her over such a small thing, he gives in and bites the dessert off the fork.

She smiles. He stops.

"See? That wasn't so hard now, was it?"

He doesn't say anything towards the matter, his frown coming to a gradual ease as he returns to chewing and to that one thing he had been doing earlier.

He stares.

And without much ado, she returns his look with the twinkle back in her eyes. She's grinning once more, obviously satisfied to a certain extent with the results of her forceful manner. And he should mind, but he isn't doing a thing about it apart from getting himself lost due to a mere smile of hers. He's racking his mind for another situation such as this, for another point in time where he had that strange inkling lurking within him. Needless to say, a few are popping out, but he may have been constantly pushing them away, all because he was pretty sure that it's a natural reaction between friends.

It'll be stupid if he didn't want to see his friends happy, after all.

But when it comes to Rukia, it still feels different. He's somewhat lighter, and if he were not peering so intently, he knows that he would have probably been smiling himself. As a matter of fact, his lips are close to moving to its own accord, though he takes control of them just in time and keeps a straight expression; for reputations' sake, nonetheless. But he doesn't ignore the whispering wonder that is circling him as of that moment.

"She's special," it voices, "she's more than a friend, isn't she?"

And that got him thinking.

More than a friend? He'd be damned if that were the case. Though the thought hits a little closer to home than he likes and there's the sudden spreading of warmth across his face. There's no way in hell he can possibly consider the other as someone more than a friend; it's an entirely stupid idea!

They fight, she's demanding, he's young, her brother tried to kill him once, but he fought to save her anyway. Why? Because she fought to save him on the night they first took her away from him.

Whoa, that sounds a little bit possessive.

A mental slap to the face and back to normal he goes.

Or so he hopes.

He remembers the tears she had shed that night, and he remembers the reason why he wanted to save her so much. He remembers it hurting him, the sight of her crying as he laid on the ground in defeat. It wasn't supposed to turn out that way, but it did, and he swore to himself that she will never cry like that ever again.

A smile looks better on her, anyway. Not that he's ever going to tell her that unless he wants to sign his life away.

But then again, he seems to be ready to do just that whenever a threat against her life is involved.

He then begins to count the number of times he got scared of losing her in the past, and he continues to consider the fear of losing her in the future. He's lost her once before, and as much as he dreads to admit it, those months are a time he'd very much like to forget. It wasn't full of sunshine and butterflies as others thought and saw from a normal teenager; it was seventeen months of him living with a gaping hole in his life that he did not know how to fix.

It was the kind of hole that appeared whenever the world went on without her, only much more excruciating as it ate him from the inside-out. It was her spot, however, her place to fit in whenever she came back. But with him knowing that she was never coming back as he sacrificed the only way just to save the damned world, the hole worsened and he went on as an unfinished puzzle. He did try to fit different sorts of things into it, such as odd jobs here and there, hobbies that others saw as strange, and even a casual date when he had the time. But nothing ever did fit, and somewhere along the lines, he gave up and just settled to waking up and going through each day as best as he could.

But she did come back and into her spot she made herself comfortable once again. And for the first time in a whole while, he felt himself completed at the sight of her smile.

Just like how he is right now.

The train of thought stops abruptly, a hollow crash happening inside his head.

Shit.