Disclaimer: Ladida. You know the drill. Bleach doesn't belong to me. But the bleach that I use to make my clothes sparkly white does xD

A/N: Ahhh, finally a decently long Bleach-fic that's IchixRuki fluff. It started out as a draft on paper first that I thought didn't particularly flow well, but it got better when I typed it out on Word. Then, thanks to nuttyscribbler's comments, it now flows even better and has become a (so-called XD) masterpiece. Can be found on kurosakiclinic on LJ too. Enjoy

A Word of Thanks

"Here." Rukia blinked at the tray of food that Ichigo had brought up.

"What?" She said. "I don't remember asking you to bring me food."

He looked puzzled. "But you need to eat right? I mean, how else are you gonna get food otherwise?" The meal of steaming miso soup and onigiri lay on Ichigo's table, untouched.

The Shinigami Rukia had been staying in Ichigo's closet for the past week or so, and there was something about her that niggled at his mind. He had only figured it out tonight: he had never seen her eat.

"Fool." Her voice held no contempt, but merely stated the obvious. "Have you forgotten that I'm not human?" She glanced up momentarily from her favourite horror manga to favour him with a deadpan look. "I don't need to eat food."

He scratched his head momentarily, glancing at the food. Yuzu had been wondering why he'd taken a tray of onigiri and miso soup up, but Ichigo had shrugged her off, telling her it was for a midnight snack. After realizing that he'd never seen Rukia eat, he'd decided there and then that he might as well take care of that; Yuzu always cooked extra anyway.

"Yeah, well...but you're pretending to be human. And humans eat." He pointed out.

She'd enrolled himself in his school alright (god only knew what kind of memories his school's administration staff were now stuck of that memory alteration thing), she'd even gotten the whole 'I'm-just-a-regular-teenage-high-school-girl' down pat, but because absolutely nobody had ever seen her eat, their classmates were starting to get slightly suspicious.

When asked by others, she'd given the excuse "I'm not hungry", but when further quizzed as to whether she was on a diet, she had replied with a puzzled "No.", because of course she had no idea what a diet was (and Ichigo was rather unversed in such things; his sisters had after all, yet to reach that stage). Therefore, there was no other way to avert their classmates' suspicions, but by making her, or rather, teaching her that she had to eat.

She gave him a peculiar look before consenting to his 'advice', and sat at his desk, giving the soup a small sniff. Ichigo watched her from behind a book of manga as he sat on his bed, eyes following her tentative movements as she munched on an onigiri slowly. After swallowing her first bite, her eyes widened slightly and she turned to Ichigo. He felt his heart skip a beat at the look on her face. He didn't show this of course, but rather, raised an eyebrow to her expression of amazement.

"What?" He intoned.

"This...it's really good." She stared at the half-eaten onigiri in her hand in amazement. Why didn't food at Soul Society taste this good? And it looked so cute too.

An amused smile lit across his lips as she continued to sample the food with childlike wonder; bits of rice stuck at the corner of her lips made her look particularly adorable.

"Aa." He returned in answer. "Yuzu's cooking is really good. Eat up, 'coz that's all you're getting for dinner." She quietly slurped up the miso soup in reply. Then, a thought occurred to her. Had he eaten yet?

"Don't you need to eat too?"

He rolled his eyes in reply and flipped through the pages of the manga. "I eat downstairs. The food I bring up is yours. And from today onwards, you'll eat: breakfast, lunch and dinner, the usual three meals ya know." She blinked.

"Oh yeah, I almost forgot." He reached over to his bedside table for his wallet and rummaged through it before pulling out a few notes and putting it on his desk beside her food tray.

She stared at him, then at the notes.

"What's this?" He goggled at her.

"Uh...money? Don't you guys use money in Soul Society?" She shook her head. "Well, you use it to buy stuff over here."

"Money, huh." She examined the notes with interest; Soul Society had no form of monetary notes or coins. Instead, they relied on the somewhat old system of exchanging one thing for another, and shinigami usually 'bought' stuff based on the Hollows that they killed. The higher the rank of the Hollow they killed, the better the quality or the higher the quantity of objects they could 'buy'.

"That's all good and well...but what would I buy with this?" She fingered the notes carefully, feeling the creases and bumps slowly. She wondered why he'd decided to give her this 'money'; it wasn't as if she would use it to buy souvenirs for people back in Soul Society.

"Y'know...food or clothes or whatever it is that you need." He flipped another page, then looked at her. "You can't keep nabbing clothes from Yuzu's room you know? She's starting to notice." She flushed slightly; Ichigo's sister's clothing had been just her size, and she'd hoped that no one would notice when she 'borrowed' them.

"Oh." Silence. "But don't you need it?" Surely he needed to use this 'money' didn't he? What if he'd given her all his 'money'? How would he survive then? Did he have enough? He probably needed it more than she did. With this thought in mind she set about to try to convince him to take it back.

"I don't really buy stuff anyway. You probably need it more than I do. Like, I dunno, girl stuff?"

"Girl stuff?" She repeated, slightly intrigued. Then she remembered that she was trying to convince him to take his money back. "I don't need to buy that kind of stuff. You should take your money back Ichigo. And besides, it's not right for me to take your money." She pushed the notes across the desk in his direction.

Rukia couldn't help but feel guilty for having disrupted Ichigo's otherwise normal life with her presence. He was human after all, but he had had to take responsibility for her job, her powers. He had to keep her secret, allowed her to stay in his closet without much complaint, dragged him all over the place for orders, and now, he'd even offered her food and money. It just didn't feel right to her.

"It's okay. If you're worrying about whether I've got any more money left, there's still a big chunk in the bank. So stop worrying about it." He didn't even have to look up from manga-flipping to know what was going through her head; his eyes followed the characters eagerly and he was only half-listening to her protests.

"It's not okay"

"It is."

"Not."

"Is."

"Not."

"Is."

"Not!" She exclaimed. It'd be so much easier if he stopped arguing and just took his money back. But then again, it was Ichigo: you couldn't get anywhere with him without first arguing a point. "I mean, it's not fair to you. You've already been dragged into this shinigami business without your consent, and you've already done so much for me. You should be mad that you have to do so much. So why are you doing this? It's more than enough and I'm sure you have more use for this 'money' than I do."

Exasperated, the Deathberry finally put down the manga to really look at the frown on her face. A stray thought concluded that she looked kind of cute that way before he replied.

"It's not a big deal, Rukia. Just take the money." He moved closer towards the desk to properly argue with her.

"No."

"Yes." One inch closer.

"No!"

"Yes!" Two inches closer.

"No!"

"YES!" Three and a half.

"NO!"

"YES!!!" Four and closing in.

"NO!!!"

Their childish banter was interrupted by a knock on Ichigo's room door. They froze. Yuzu's sleepy voice came through the door.

"Ichi-nii...stop talking to yourself so loudly, or you'll wake Karin-chan up." They listened intently to the sound of footsteps fading down the hall until all was silent once again. A collective sigh of relief was heaved by both of them. Then -

"I'm not taking your money."

"Yes, you are." Five inches and he was leaning on the desk.

"No, I'm not."

"You are." Six and his fingers were gripping onto the food tray.

"Not."

"Are." Seven and they were face to face.

"Not."

"Are." Eight and he was breathing her in.

Rukia hissed frustratedly in low tones. "Look, Ichigo. I. Don't. Need. Your money. I mean, I can get food or clothing or whatever by my own means and ---!"

Her sentence was cut short by the feeling of his mouth on hers. She stared in shock at his eyes which glared right back at her; the only thing that stopped her from falling over backwards from the chair in shock was his hand that gently pressed into her back. They stood there like that for a few seconds, neither daring to move, but finally Ichigo's lips whispered along hers and he pulled himself back to his bed; immediately she missed the warmth of his lips on hers, but before she could open her mouth to speak, he had already plunged the room into darkness by flipping the light switch. She heard the rustle of his bed covers as he eased himself into his bed. A second of silence ensued and then his voice came muffled from underneath the sheets.

"Just stop arguing and take the damn money, Rukia." His eyes were open and his cheeks burned furiously underneath the blankets. He found that he liked the lingering taste of miso soup on her soft lips. Ichigo listened intently in the darkness as he heard the answering rustle of money and cloth, then quiet footsteps as she slid his closet door open.

Another bout of silence filled the room before she spoke, her voice quaking slightly.

"I...thanks, Ichigo." His closet door slid close. "Good night."

It was a moment before he answered. "You're welcome. Good night."

The night reigned silent once again as they individually pondered their thoughts.

One thought in particular was synonymous in both their minds.

What had she really been thanking him for?

owari

A/N: Likey? Review to let me know!