Disclaimer: KUBO TITE RULES! I don't own.

Notes:: This is my first fic so I hope everyone's in proper character and all. Please review and let me know what you think...if I get good reviews I may make this a multi-chapter thing...right now I'm not sure cause I don't know how well I'm writing them so lemme know.

Rukia hugged her legs closer to her chest as she sat in the dark confines of Ichigo's closet, her book opened wide before her. This was how she spent her time at night. While Ichigo was doing homework and bathing she was studying in the warm pajamas she had borrowed from his little sister, Yuzu. They were comfortable, as ugly as yellow was on her, and she even kinda liked wearing them. They were soft. Kon's short breaths were snoozing away next to her, as he often did, unable to stay awake as long as she did. Rukia was always last to bed and first to rise as a habit. She couldn't help it, she had to assure the safety of those around her and double check the area for threats before sleep. She'd be doing that later on in the night though, when Ichigo first drifted off to dreamland. Now she was caught up in the gentle sounds Kon was making. If it hadn't been for Ichigo she never would've saved that little spirit. It was against the rules and she wasn't used to breaking the rules, but Ichigo..he had seemed so adament, so hurt by the idea of them killing this person who had stolen his body. She couldn't shatter him like that when he was actually showing a rare moment of concern. He wouldn't have pushed more than his position allowed, but he would've thought about it a lot afterwards. He would've been kicking himself for letting him die, the way he often did his mother. She put a hand on the stuffed lion's head and let a small smile cross her lips.
"Rukia? You still up?" It was a soft question that had come from a distance. He was checking to see if he was about to be too loud coming in or not, the same way he did every night. She turned and peeped out the crack she'd left in the closet doorway so he'd see her shake her head.
"No, I'm studying," she answered simply. Her eyes wandered over his still damp chest, revealed only partially by his open pajama shirt. His blond hair was still drenched, as always, despite Yuzu's constant warnings that he was going to catch cold doing that. Rukia really couldn't see this boy of all people getting sick. It just wasn't part of his personality to be weak in any way.
"Yeah, I figured you were," he said quietly as he closed his bedroom door. "You never sleep," he added a little softer. She felt a pang inside her stomach that she didn't understand. Was she hurt by his comment? Why did he say it so much softer? She must have had that quizzical look on her face because he raised an eyebrow at her.
"I do...just less than you do," she said simply and turned back to her work. All that was left of her in his view was the slight curve of her back and the semi-damp ebony locks of hair that were draped down her shoulders. He buttoned up his pajama top and turned to face his room. It had been a very long day, as they all seemed to be anymore, but he wasn't irritable. Just tired. He hoped she could tell the difference. He might be an ass but he didn't want to unintentionally hurt anyone's feelings. That was when he remembered Kon and his eyes roamed the room looking for him.
"Kon in there with you?" he asked, glancing over his shoulder. She nodded as though he could see her and then added aloud:
"Yes, he's already asleep." He nodded in response. Weird how they could have this silent conversations and not question the motive behind it. He sat down on his bed and did a quick review over his day, just to assure he didn't forget anything he'd have to pay for tomorrow, because he at least wanted the time to prepare for paying for it.
--dad woke him up by kicking him off the bed --Rukia took his books to class for him, which he discovered after searching for them the good part of half an hour --he made a convincing excuse for running out of class the other day and took plenty of notes on Contemporary History --had lunch with the guys, slugged Keigo for a comment that would've offended Rukia if she had completely understood what he meant by it --walked Karin and Yuzu home from class for the first time in a long while --met Rukia in the park for training --made an excuse for Orihime who had thought he passed out in the park and was worried --made it halfway home before being attacked by Rukia's beeper --killed a nothing Hollow, knocking his shoulder out of whack --attacked his father for hurting him, ate dinner, did his homework and showered It had been too long of a day for a bath, he was afraid of falling asleep in the tub and drowning before anyone noticed he was gone. He rubbed his sore shoulder gently as an isolated ache went through it. These long days and short nights were killing him slowly. It wasn't that they were any shorter than they used to be because the only difference was his crashing at the end and if he didn't crash he didn't sleep and not sleeping was the worst. Truly it was Rukia's fault and she didn't know. She thought he was sleeping when she snuck out at night, but he had woke up one eventful night and caught her and hadn't slept sound since until she came back through the window. It was that protective part of her, that seriously focused on work part of her, but at the same time it was more than that. She wanted to assure herself that she was safe, that she didn't have to worry and could sleep soundly. With her job he couldn't blame her, but didn't she know he'd protect her?
"You heading to bed?" she asked tentatively though she never looked back at him. He smirked at her with a knowing on his face. She was tired and she couldn't go to sleep until she'd checked everything out and she couldn't do that until he was asleep. Oh well, he was going to bed early anyway..he wouldn't have to do her a favor.
"Yeah," he grumbled and kicked off his slippers before sliding under the blankets. He didn't bother to say goodnight or sleep well, he was too tired and she didn't seem to mind one bit. His head hit the pillow but sleep didn't hit him until her final walk to the closet several hours later.
That morning she was awoke by a loud outcry and an even louder crash, her eyes wide with terror and worry for Ichigo. She sat bolt upright, not thinking, and met with a blunt force. Color shot into her vision overcoming every other sensation of her body for one beautiful moment until the pain at last surged into her eye with every heartbeat of blood. She gasped and grabbed it, attempting vainly to ease the pain. Her eyes darted around the closet, the noise still loudly continuing outside of the closet. Muffled sounds of a brawl and grunts. She looked in front of her and saw the shelf she had hit. She'd forgotten she put that back in for her clothes..one thing was for sure she'd never forget it again. She removed her hand and blinked as came back from the pain. Kon was sitting up with his hands in his mouth staring at her with what had to be fear of some kind. She squinted, still groggy despite her suffering.
"What's going on?" he whimpered. She made a silent noise herself, more out of being overcome by confusion, as she shifted on the mattress. She motioned for him to be absolutely still before cracking the closet door. There, in a heaping mass on the floor was Ichigo's red hair entangled with a white lab coat. They hadn't heard a thing, being too occupied by their fight.
"Good god..." she grumbled irritatably as she closed the door back and flopped back onto her pillow. Kon's eyes darted in his head, worried and now completely confused. He crawled on tiny stuffed feet to her head and sat down again.
"Rukia?" he questioned. She cut her eyes the direction he was sitting but didn't look at him.
"It's nothing. Just Ichigo's dad waking him up," she said with repeated irritation. She sounded angrier than she was. Sure she was feeling white hot smack-the-shit-out-of-Ichigo right now, but she was also feeling liquid like relief with the knowledge that he was alive and somewhat okay. They canceled each other out. Only Kon, however, was dripping with anger. He was furious at having been woke up so fiercely and at it making Rukia hurt herself. Just wait until he could say something to Ichigo, he'd set these violent family rituals of his to rest or die trying.
"DAMMIT DAD!" snarled Ichigo before there was a loud crack and a following thud. She heard his dad's pained groan and Ichigo's fast moving feet. "STOP DOING THAT!" added Ichigo fiercely. She could only assume he'd kicked his father out and slammed the door behind him. She barely had time to connect to her own existence in his world again when he jerked the closet door open and spat viciously for her to get up. She glared and attempted to rise and argue but he had already closed the door on her. She bit her lip and closed her eyes tightly in an effort to squelsh the fury he had egnited so unwittingly, but this was going to be a losing battle. At least she thought so until she heard Kon's violently fast reprimanding outside of the closet. He must've dashed out when Ichigo opened the door. She sat up and cracked the door one more time. Ichigo was digging through his drawers for some socks and little lion Kon was standing beside him, shaking his padded fist and yelling angrily. She couldn't help the bitter smile that had found it's way to her face as Ichigo's back gradually became rigider and his head started to shake a little harder from withheld fire and brimstone. Kon preached over everything from waking up to Rukia hurting herself, leaving no stone unturned. Before he could finish however Ichigo had picked him up.
"If I need a lesson on how to live my life, I'll ask someone else," he said, voice so low that she watched Kon tremble with fear. The look on the new shinigami's face wasn't much better either. He was literally giving off waves of belligerence until he then tossed the stuffed doll across the room and stormed out, slamming the door again. She jumped slightly, even when she expected him to do it. That was Ichigo, brooding, angry, attitudy, deep down good guy. She surrendered to not being able to yell at him for slamming the door in her face and got ready for school. Maybe by second period he would have calmed down, but she wasn't counting on it.
Later At School.
The door to the classroom flew open and slammed into the back wall with such a force that half the classroom jumped. Everyone paused, though they knew it had to be one person who had bright red hair...Ichigo stormed into the room, his face twisted and drooping in the typical manner of his sulking.
"Wow..someone's in a bad mood," muttered Mizuiro under his breath. Keigo and Chad nodded. Orihime however stopped her conversation with Tatsuki and stood as Ichigo came toward her.
"Good morning Ichigo, how're are you today?" she asked with her voice as sugary as it could manage. Her hair looked extra nice today and her smile was as innocent as usual. Tatsuki crossed her arms and thought, for sure, if anyone could at least chip away at Ichigo's bad mood, it would be Orihime..But Ichigo merely grunted as he went past her. The hurt on Orihime's face wasn't really hurt, more like...misjudgement. While Tatsuki was sitting in shock she simply shrugged and sat back down.
"What were you saying Tatsuki, I'm sorry," she smiled. Keigo leaned forward to where Ichigo sat in front of him.
"You idiot! Couldn't you at least have said hi???" he wailed. Mizuiro nodded.
"I did..." said Ichigo gruffly.
"No you grunted..that's not the same," corrected Mizuiro. Ichigo ground his teeth to avoid getting more angry than he already was. He had had a bad enough morning, he really did need the pit crew's two cents.
"IT'S THE SAME TO ME!" he barked. Keigo frowned and glared.
"Don't you take that tone with me!" he replied with only a hint of being upset. Ichigo growled, his face turn somewhat crimson, and then, out of nowhere, he just turned around to face front. His eyes were focused on space, his arms crossed. "Hey man? Are you okay?" he added concerned.
"Yeah...s'just not been a good morning," he admitted and shot them a let it be for a while look. Chad put a hand on Keigo's shoulder before he could speak and he agreed to let that subject drop. Instead they switched to Mizuiro's new crush in the eleventh grade. Ichigo finally had a moment to think and that was when he realized that Rukia hadn't greeted him when he came in. He looked around the room, but saw no small shinigami in the room. Why wasn't she here? Why wasn't she sitting in her seat reading as she always was when he came in? Keigo was asking a bunch of stupid questions and really getting into the new topic when Rukia finally walked into class. She had left before Ichigo, but she also had to make a stop by the "clogs and hat guy" for some energy cells her gigai needed.
"Rukia-dono!" chirped Keigo in mid-sentence, causing Ichigo to finally look up. What met his eyes nearly caused his heart to drop through his stomach. Rukia's left violety eye had been blackened and blue, destroying the elegance of her soft face with a red swollen blimish. He couldn't believe it, someone had hurt her. His fist instantly balled.
"Oh Rukia..." Mizuiro said gently, his face showing the worry that was racing through Ichigo's mind. Rukia, however, appeared totally clueless as to her newest badge.
"That's a real zinger you got there," put in Chad with a grin. "Who'd you kill?" he added with a grin. Rukia smiled back, but confusion was still on her face.
"I didn't kill anyone..." she said weakly. Ichigo stepped toward her and gripped her upper arm harshly, refusing to look her in the face.
"I need to talk to you," he said gruffly. Rukia tilted her head up to look him in the eyes and her skin prinkled at the dark look on his face. She didn't fight it, much less she didn't have time to say a word before Ichigo had hauled her out into the hall. Keigo, Mizuiro, and Chad were left looking at each other with questions.
"Well?" demanded Ichigo simply. Rukia jerked her arm free just before it started to really hurt and glared at her semi-partner. He had leaned up against the wall, his arms crossed and his eyes hidden by the top of his head. She was beginning to feel nervous.
"Well what?" she asked him. He could feel her hostility growing, but he didn't really care.
"I'm waiting for you to tell me how you got the shiner..." he said quietly.
"I-- I sat up too fast this morning and hit the shelf," she answered, clearly ashamed. She now was the one who refused to make eye contact with him and he didn't like it. His eyes were burning holes into because he couldn't quite decide if she would lie to him about something. Karin came home once with a shiner because some boys had ganged her after school and lied. Would Rukia do the same? He remained silent as he considered the possiblity. "Is that all?" she asked belligerently. Ichigo's eyes focused on the look of her face.
"Would you lie to me?" he asked. Rukia was worried now, because he was too worried for comfort.
"No..." she answered. As the seconds went by Ichigo seemed taller, stronger and she was slowly feeling weaker and smaller. "Would you lie to me?"
"Of course not!!!" he snarled back, coming out of his stoic pose. She sighed inwardly, but outside she barked in return.
"Then why do you think I would lie to you?" He stopped and the soft look in his eyes broke her reserve. She saw that look when he looked at Karin and Yuzu, when he was defending a soul...he wanted to protect her.
"I don't," he said and started back into class. Rukia acted before she thought. She did something she would curse herself for later, but she reached out and grabbed him..she stopped him. And he did stop. At the feeling of her hand on his arm he froze from head to toe, not even a hair daring to move. What was she doing. Rukia herself was motionless. She couldn't believe she had done that. She finally took her hand off of him and withdrew back to herself.
"Next time just ask what you want to know," she said softly and walked around him back into the classroom. Ichigo didn't move. He stood there for what felt like eternity, thinking about Rukia's action. It was like she hadn't known what to say after she grabbed him, but what she had said had hit him with questions. She had known what he was asking but never answered it. She had asked her own questions that he hadn't answered either. Why? What was going on here? Suddenly his mind was filled with questions.
"Ichigo?" Her voice was familar but at that current second the only sound he could hear was Rukia's voice. He blinked confused...she had come back? He looked at her and then quickly hit the floor. Miss Kunieda meanwhile looked down at him from where she stood. "You okay?" she asked. Ichigo felt the veins popping in his head again.
"Fine," he snapped, leaping to his feet and walking into the room. His friends were sitting silently in their desks staring at him as he came in, obviously worried why he didn't come right back in, and Rukia was reading once again. He jerked his eyes away from her as he passed and concentrated on the fact that he was in school and had to study.

N/A:: Ne? What do you think?