The Poker Game

It's Bleach. It involves Rukia. Ichigo. And a deck of cards. Oh baby.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Bleach, or the characters mentioned in the story. I think that is fairly obvious.

Rukia sat cross legged on the floor, directly across from Ichigo, a serious look in her dark eyes.

Ichigo was secretly holding his breath. He sincerely hoped that she wasn't going to pull out a condom or some odd sexual toy. He really didn't think he was the right person to explain the birds and the bees to her.

And if he did end up explaining it to her, knowing Rukia, she wouldn't get it and ask for a demonstration. . .

"I want you to tell me exactly what these are for." she said, whipping out a deck of cards from out of nowhere. I wonder how she does that, Ichigo wondered silently. The uniforms have no pockets and her chest is pretty flat. The only place she could hold anything is up her . . .

"Ichigo?" Rukia said, frowning slightly. "Are you listening to me?"

Ichigo let out his breath in a long, loud sigh. "Those are cards, Rukia," he replied in that half exasperated, half annoyed way he reserved for answering her questions. Or when talking to her in general.

"Cards?" Rukia asked looking at him, confused. "But what are they for?"

Ichigo sighed again. "They're for playing games, you idiot."

He didn't even see her fist coming.

Rukia gave him a basilisk's glare as he nursed his throbbing forehead. "Bastard! Don't call me that!"

"Whatever you say. Idiot," he muttered under his breath, wondering when he had ever gotten comfortable enough to let his guard down like that. This was Rukia for crying out loud. That girl would cuddle with a bunny as soon as strangle it.

Rukia gave him another evil glare before sitting back down and smoothing her skirt. "So how do you play with cards?"

He shook his head in amazement at her ignorance. With a smooth, practiced motion, he slid the cards out of their case and shuffled them expertly. "There are four suits," he began, fanning out the cards to show her. Some part of his mind knew that he had homework, and that if he didn't do it now, he wouldn't have time to meet with the guys later.

But another part of his mind was telling him that he would rather be here.

After two hours, fifty-three rounds of Go Fish, twenty six games of Crazy Eights, and a gazillion hands of every other card game he could think of, Ichigo was completely cleaned out of his allowance for the next three months. He had also managed to lose every snack food in the house and dibs on the bathroom first thing in the morning. The one thing he had managed to retain was the right to his bed, and that was only because he had cheated.

It was his own fault. When Rukia had disgustedly thrown down her cards after her first loss and asked how anyone could be amused by games that required such little brain power, he had stupidly opened his mouth and told her that anything was a lot more fun when a wager was thrown in.

So now he was lying on the floor with his jacket off and sleeves rolled up, waiting for her to reveal her hand. He had only just finished explaining the rules of Poker to her ten minutes ago, and he was actually doing rather well. He could now go to the bathroom first on Sundays and every other Thursday. Well, when those days finally came around, he'd be sure to use up all of the hot water.

The problem with Rukia, he realized, was that she was unable to lie. That was why he was finally gaining some lost ground.

Ichigo absentmindedly thumbed through his cards, an expression of perfect blandness on his face. Rukia looked at him, one corner of her mouth twitching upwards in a slight smirk. She had a good hand, then. "Full house," she said triumphantly, laying her cards in front of her. She met his eyes and her lips shaped something he could tell was a grin.

Ichigo wondered when he had learned to pick up these small, insignificant things and interpret them so that he knew her every disappointment and joy. Maybe you just spend too much time with her, a little voice whispered in his ear.

"Ichigo," Rukia said, reaching over to snap her fingers under his nose. "Earth to Ichigo!"

His entire body jumped in surprise, and he pushed his rather disturbing thoughts to the back of his head. "What," he drawled. "Is it my turn?"

She cocked her head and raised one eyebrow. "You have to shuffle the deck again. You just lost."

"Oh," he said, wondering when that had happened. "Okay."

Rukia watched, eyes gleaming, as he deftly shuffled, over and under, flipping the cards from hand to hand so quickly that they moved in a blur. "Ichigo," she suddenly said out of nowhere, "What's the difference between poker and strip poker? Can we play it?"

One hand popped the cards out, but the other wasn't there to catch them. It was clutching his chest, trying to stop his heart from popping out of his chest. "Wha-wha-WHAT? Where did you learn that from?"

A small line appeared between her eyebrows. A frown. "From the boys who gave me the deck. They said that maybe when I had learned a bit I could come back and play strip poker with them.

"Rukia," Ichigo said slowly. "Where was this?"

Rukia blushed. "I got lost. I went into a bar to get directions."

He took a deep breath. His eye was twitching, but he knew it wasn't her fault. It was his. He should have been there with her. "Next time. . . Just next time, wait for me, okay?"

She was smiling. No, grinning, much more noticeably this time. "Okay." Ichigo sighed in relief. He looked around for the cards, only to see Rukia holding them between her palms, attempting to shuffle. She was actually doing a pretty decent job. Kind off sloppy, but not bad. "Can we play now?"

Ichigo smiled. He was in a good mood. "What was the bet for the last hand?" he asked.

"You have to sleep in the closet every Saturday," she replied, her amusement easily detected in her voice. She was laughing at him.

He winced. "How about I use the last round to demonstrate the differences between strip poker and normal poker?"

"All right. I already own your soul. I guess losing the chance to sleep on your bed every Saturday isn't a big deal."

Ichigo grinned and pulled his shirt over his head.

AN: Wrote this while gorging myself on left over tarts and apple cider. Just wanted to record that for posterity.

Well, Rica, this fanfic is for you. Sorry, but I couldn't see to get my fingers to type a lemon. They just wouldn't obey me.

Anyways . . . Well, that's my last attempt at Bleach one shots. How terrible was it? Slightly? Extremely? Tell me in your reviews!