By Adriana Santomé- hikari yuuko
Written: November 30th, 2004.
Revised: April 11th, 2006.
Standard disclaimer applies.
Ichigo had grown used to walking down the street with her. Neither of them talked most of the time, although sometimes silence was better than words. It had turned out into some sort of unspoken arrangement between the two already, it seemed. He'd have his hands set inside his pockets and she would walk next to him completely upright, prim and proper as usual. He'd glance at her from the corner of his eye from time to time, if just to see that she was still keeping his pace. Often, he found that Rukia's soft frown blended harmoniously with her calm features; in that blank expression that was so much like her.
Rukia would always be Rukia…
And Rukia didn't smile so often, at least, not smiles that reached her eyes.
But he had grown used to that as well.
They'd split up eventually on their way home; she took a different route a block before they arrived home so she could get inside through his room's window. It made things look less suspicious, or at least they thought so. It didn't matter what their classmates thought anymore, though. They had learned not to tease the orange-haired Kurosaki the very following morning of the day he and Rukia had first decided to walk home together.
Ah, a joyous day that was, certainly! There had been many hissed threats slipping from Ichigo's tongue that day, enough to even surprise Rukia with his newfound passion for shutting Keigo's mouth. And perhaps, even some bloody faces had the teacher not entered the room the very moment when the boy felt like lunging himself at the loudmouthed Asano boy.
So that's how they began walking home together everyday… It wasn't that they liked spending so much time with each other, of course not; but rather it was preventive measure in case a new hollow attack aroused. It had been what Rukia had told him and he complied with nothing more than an exasperated frown. Besides, Ichigo had told her afterwards, he could make sure she wouldn't get lost in the city. Even when she protested (or more like, screeched: "I do not get lost!"), he couldn't help but smirk faintly at her; despite everything the oh-so-great female shinigami said, Rukia had no sense of direction when it came to street names.
He suddenly felt her presence no longer by his side and he looked over his shoulder to find her. She was standing a few steps behind him in her spot, unmoving. Groaning, he turned around and walked back to her.
"Rukia, what the heck are you…?" He halted on his speech, his eyes having followed hers and meeting the place she was looking at. He looked back at her weirdly. "Rukia?"
She said nothing and simply stared blankly at the transparent window pane, two bright, dark blue eyes set straight at the rabbit on the other side of the window. It turned out that she had stopped exactly in front of a pet shop, a pet shop with a rabbit cage in the front exhibit.
"Dammit, Rukia, don't even think of it," Ichigo warned as he slapped his forehead in exasperation and turned to her in an annoyed expression. He scrunched his nose and tried to persuade her back into getting home as soon as possible. "C'mon, let's go home. I'm getting hungry."
She chose to ignore him, however, and continued staring ahead as the bunny opened its red eyes and wriggled its nose. He watched her as she crouched down a little to get face to face with it. Her eyes glinted with something Ichigo was afraid to decipher. "I want one," she announced firmly.
He did a double-take. "Wha-what?"
"I said: I want one," she said in her most solemn tone, straightening herself up and turning to look at him with a serious expression stretched all over her pale face. Rukia pointed to the window with her index finger; making sure her schoolbag didn't slip from her shoulder, she rested her left hand on her hip in hopes of looking even more demanding.
He stared at her, amber eyes slightly wide with amusement. The tall boy shrugged her off easily with, "Are you crazy? Why would you want a bunny!" He frowned deeply, "I can't take one home anyway."
She stared up at him childishly, the blank face never changing. "I. Want. One."
"Ugh… you are impossible," he said, his frown deepening further like it never had before.
Rukia would always be Rukia…
And Rukia was stubborn.
Ichigo's eyebrow rose at this. If she had been a normal "teenager", he could have sworn that that had been a whine. But, certainly, she wasn't. He cursed under his breath, mentally preparing himself for what he knew that was to come now. He knew of her fetish with rabbits, but damn it, take home a bunny? How was he supposed to get out of this one?
He sighed and turned to her with a pointed look. "What?"
"Why can't I have one of those?" Her pale face was twisted in mild curiosity and disappointment. Yet, she managed well to keep her tone even. "Tell me," she ordered.
"Look," he started harsher than he had pretended his voice to be and softened it immediately, "having a pet at home, especially if it's a baby, means a lot of responsibility and it will need a lot of time and care. You have to buy its food and take it outside and clean its mess and all. Even if you truly wanted to, you wouldn't be able to look after it right now."
"But…" she was about to protest when Ichigo's finger flew to her mouth to silence her. He dropped it down once he was sure she wouldn't start arguing back again and Rukia's shoulders slumped.
"Yah, I know what you'll say," he began patiently, "I know you are able take care of it, but not now," he explained, hoping she'd catch what he was trying to say. It came to him as a surprise that he wasn't trying to make a fight out of this, and was actually avoiding an argument. He must have been really, really hungry.
"Besides," he added, scratching the back of his head, "What would I say to Dad? I really can't have any pets at home, it's a clinic, you know? And it wouldn't help much keeping it in my room; I don't need anything hiding under my bed. What if I tripped over it if the thing suddenly decided to come out and 'explore' the place, eh?"
The dark-haired girl looked up at him, seemingly processing everything he had said. It made sense, at least to her, and it was enough but still she her face resembled something vaguely like a pout. "Alright."
She spared a look at the baby rabbit happily sniffing his carrot and she smiled softly at it. Ichigo allowed himself to study her face in this new gesture, one he hadn't seen in a long while. She stood up and straightened, standing in front of the window and said goodbye to the bunny.
"I'll come tomorrow," she promised to the furry animal and then wordlessly walked away, gracefully fixing the strap of her bag over her shoulder. "Let's go," she said simply.
Ichigo shook his head in defeat and followed quietly, hiding a smile.
Rukia would always be Rukia…
And Rukia had a weak spot for cute or fluffy things… like bunnies…
"Oi, Rukia, wait up!"
Later that night, when he returned from a quick errand set by his father, Ichigo entered his room carrying a transparent-blue, circular bowl-like container. He was greeted by an over-enthusiastic Kon, who was soon soaring over the room and thrown to the bed with a well-aimed punch.
"I'm back," the orange-headed boy said as Rukia hoped off the opened closet, were she had been reading a book. Ichigo had hidden all of her manga, so she'd resorted to slipping her magazines in between the history textbook.
She watched in utmost awe, well-hidden like she used to, as he placed it carefully on the corner of his desk so it was against the wall. Then, he took a random magazine from a pile in one of the shelves and plopped himself on his bed as Kon proceeded to yell at him in high-pitched protests for being an abusive, giant idiot.
The blue-eyed girl stared curiously at the small green blob in the middle of a plastic island, some grabble and water. There was a small, plastic palm tree as well.
"It's a baby turtle," she stated the obvious over the stuffed toy's screams, as Ichigo flapped through the magazine pages while efficiently connecting his right fist with the lion's mouth.
"I know it's not a bunny, but you'll have to settle with that for now," Ichigo said plainly, an article about comets and asteroids seemingly catching his attention. "I'll pay for the food, but the rest is up to you. You'll change the water and feed it every day, okay?"
"Is it for me?" Rukia turned to look up at him as she shot the question, but he pretended that he was far too interested in the magazine.
"Yah," he said, again having to deal with an even more annoying lion, who had decided that jumping in his head was the wisest idea. The toy flew past Rukia with a swish and crashed against the white wall, only to fall unconscious. Ichigo hid a grin at this… peace at last.
She smiled, ever-so-softly, at him before turning back to the small, greenish turtle. "Thank you."
Ichigo dropped his magazine for a second before looking at her and smirking, then instantly bringing it up again and continued reading. "You're welcome," he told her absently.
For that smile of hers, he thought he was the one who had to thank her.