A Christmas Parallel

"What is this?" Ichigo asked, puzzled, as he caught the lumpy package that Rukia tossed him. He grimaced slightly at the crinkly foil wrapping and brightly colored ribbons, both too cute to be possible. Rukia scowled, and pretended to busy herself with her homework.

"It's a Christmas present, you idiot. I thought humans celebrated it at around this time," she said.

"You're giving me a Christmas present?" Ichigo asked. He could not hide the surprise in his voice. "Why?"

"Do you want it or not?!" she asked, bending her head closer to the table, her face hidden. "Just take it, you goddamn bastard."

Ichigo glared. "You're two days early, stupid," he retorted. But he was smiling. "What is it?"

"Just open it."

Ichigo shrugged and tugged the bright green ribbon off. "It better not be something ridiculous…" he muttered to himself. He ripped the shiny foil off, half trepid, half curious, and it fell open in his lap. His eyes widened slightly.

"Is this… a scarf?" he asked incredulously. Rukia made no comment. Her nose was mere millimeters from the table. Astonished, Ichigo quickly unraveled the woolen item until it pooled at his feet in a misshapen pile.

"Where did you learn how to knit?!" he asked, running his hands across the loose stitches and frayed ends. "When have you gotten the time?"

"Just accept the gift, dumbass!" Rukia exclaimed. With more speed than Ichigo could image, she took the scarf and jammed it into his mouth. Ichigo's eyes bulged as his head was thrust backwards by the force of her blow. "Stop being ungrateful!" She retreated quickly into the closet and slammed the door shut.

"Rukia!" he shouted hoarsely, after spitting the scarf out. "You bitch, get out here!" He pounded against the closet door, "I ought to kick your tiny little—"

"ICHIGOOO!!" Isshin's foot collided with Ichigo's face. "STOP SHOUTING AND GET TO BED!"

---

"Oh, Kurosaki-kun," Orihime said worriedly. "Your jaw looks horrible…"

Ichigo shifted quickly and attempted to cover his face with his scarf. "It's nothing," he grumbled. "My dad's a fucking lunatic."

Orihime laughed politely. "That's a very nice scarf, by the way," she said, smiling, almost smirking. "The color suits you nicely."

"This?" Ichigo said, his face scrunching with disgust. "I just needed something to wear…"

"Kuchiki-san spent a long time on it," Orihime burst out. "She even asked me and Ishida-san for help!"

Ichigo was flabbergasted. "What?"

"Kuchiki-san," Orihime repeated, her eyes shining. "Romantic, isn't it? She spent days on it. I think she had to go through about three other scarves until she got the hang of it! She was hoping you'd be pleased with it, Kurosaki-kun."

"Why would she go to such idiotic measures to make me such an ugly thing?" Ichigo asked, frustrated. "Is that why she comes home late every night?!"

Inoue paused. Her face wrinkled in thought. "Kuchiki-san lives with Kurosaki-kun?" she asked.

The implications of what he said hit him, and he panicked. "A-Actually, I m-meant," he stammered, "We-well, she w-works as a… as a volunteer!"

Orihime looked at him doubtfully.

"Yeah, a v-volunteer! For my d-dad…" he said, feeling himself sinking deeper and deeper. "And she always, um, she d-does cleaning…" He grabbed his hair and gave a frustrated sigh.

"Kuchiki-san and Kurosaki-kun!" Orihime said brightly. "A perfect pair!"

Ichigo's palm met his face. "Inoue, I'm gonna go over there now."

Orihime didn't hear him, completely enraptured in her own little fantasies. "And then Kurosaki-kun comes in on his shiny white stallion, no, pony! And Kuchiki-san yells 'Save me, save me!' and…"

---

"Nice scarf," Ishida said with a barely concealed smirk.

"Shut the hell up, you knitting pansy."

---

"Where'd you get that thing?" Keigo said during lunch. Ichigo focused all of his attention onto his sandwich. "It looks handmade!"

Mizuru gasped dramatically. "Ichigo, a girl?!"

Keigo shrieked like no man had ever shrieked before. "A GIRL?! YOU?!"

Chad made no comment, but the next moment that Ichigo looked at him, he had his school jacket inconspicuously wrapped around his neck. Ichigo glared, "Are you making fun of me too, Chad…"

"WHO WOULD MAKE YOU A SCARF?!"

"NONE OF YOUR GODDAMN BUSINESS."

"Oh, is it an older woman, Ichigo? I knew you were always sneaking looking at my grandma…"

"DO YOU WANT YOUR FUCKING FACE SMASHED IN?!"

"What woman would take you over me?"

---

"Chad," Ichigo said as they walked home. He punche the cement for good measure, but then regretted it later. Chad didn't comment, as usual, though Ichigo was relieved that he had finally taken his jacket off of his neck. "Chad, I fucking hate women."

"Will Kuchiki-san make me a scarf too?" Chad asked out of the blue.

Ichigo sighed.

---

He slammed his door shut, hard. So hard that the contents in his room shook and fell off their shelves. "RUKIA. WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU!?"

There was no reply. Ichigo stomped over to the closet and threw the door open. He found her sprawled on the sheets in his closet, reading what looked like a romance novel. In a blink of an eye, it had disappeared and she was glaring at him.

"What do you want?" Rukia asked. "I'm studying."

"My ass," he snarled. "No one would fucking leave me alone about your stupid scarf! What the hell is wrong with you?!"

"Did you come here just to tell me that?!" Rukia retorted, her face red. "It's not my fault that you are a utter… utter scrooge about Christmas!" She climbed out and pushed him roughly, angrily. "I thought Christmas was about giving and caring and sharing with the people you love! And here I thought that this dumb ritual would be a fun thing to participate in! You humans are completely insane!"

Ichigo was speechless. "Sharing… love?" he repeated, his face slack.

"Never mind!" she exclaimed. She stormed to the window and leapt out before he could say anything.

"Idiot!!" he shouted, running to the window. "This is the second story, what are you thinking?!" he cried without thinking. Rukia sprinted off without looking back.

Ichigo groaned. "This is stupid," he muttered, his hand immediately reaching up to grab the scarf that wound itself snugly around his neck. "Really, really, stupid…"

---

"Did the damsel in distress thank you for rescuing her?"

Ichigo looked up from his desk and stared blankly at Orihime. "What?"

"Oh, you're still wearing the scarf!" she said happily. "Kuchiki-san must be pleased! "

"Whatever," he muttered. "Listen, Inoue, I'm not in the mood right now, so…"

Inoue smiled weakly. "Excuse me, then," she said, giving a nervous bow of the head. She walked off as Ichigo continued to wallow in his self-deprecating depression. Then, realization hit him.

"Wait, Inoue!" he said. "Wait, you're a girl right?"

Orihime turned, and gave him a confused smile. "Yes?"

"Listen, I have this situation," he said. He opened his mouth to begin, but then stopped. "Oh wait, do you mind?"

"No, not at all!" she replied brightly. "What is it?"

Ichigo hesitated. "Well, this friend of mine…"

"Do I know him?" Orihime asked. Ichigo's eyes narrowed, but from the purely innocent look on Orihime's face, he concluded that she was as dense as a brick in winter.

"No, he doesn't go to school here. Anyway, you see, there's this girl that made him… I mean, there's this girl that like, just gave him a present for Christmas. Which was stupid, since the guy never asked for anything and he didn't think that the girl knew what Christmas was… be-because…" he faltered at the questioning look on her face. "B-because she was… from America… and they don't celebrate it there."

"They don't?" Orihime asked, incredulous.

"Yeah, well, it's America. Anyway, so he got mad at her, because I mean, he didn't ask for it, and then people started pissing him off about it with their stupid questions and so he royally fucked things up by pissing her off and now she's mad at him, and I—he doesn't know what to do now," he said quickly.

Inoue shook her head, as if disappointed. Ichigo was gripped with worry.

"What? What?!"

"Does your friend have any feelings at all?" Orihime asked. "Obviously, the girl likes him!"

"WHAT?!" Ichigo exclaimed.

"Or she's looking for some sort of favor," Orihime said, looking contemplative. Ichigo relaxed slightly.

"It's probably the second one," he muttered. "But anyway, what should he do?"

"Well" she said. "Maybe he should give her something in return?"

"Like what?" he pressed.

"Well, what kind of person is she?" she asked.

"She is…" He growled, "A STUPID. ANNOYING. BITCH."

Orihime smiled nervously. "Well, I'll see what I can do…"

---

"Put on a coat," he said roughly to Rukia that night.

"CLOSE THE DOOR."

"STOP ARGUING AND WEAR THIS."

Rukia stared blankly at the down jacket that was thrust into her face. "Is that… new?" she tentatively swung a leg out of the closet.

"It's fucking freezing out there, you damned idiot," he said. "Wear this unless you want to die as a Popsicle."

She slowly put on the jacket, shooting him suspicious looks, though fighting the urge to ask him what a Popsicle was. "Are we going somewhere?"

"Yes." Ichigo said firmly, opening the window. "Stop asking questions."

"Is that the scarf?" she asked icily, not moving an inch. "Why would you wear a stupid scarf?"

"What did I say about asking questions?! Stop being annoying!" he exclaimed, grabbing her wrist and nearly tossing her out the window.

"I hate you!" she shrieked as she tumbled onto the ground.

---

"What is this place," Rukia asked, none-too-pleased. Ichigo shoved his hands into his pocket and sunk lower into the deep collar that the scarf formed around his neck. She looked up at him, her eyes demanding an answer.

"An ice-skating rink," Ichigo said. He reached into the bag that he had been carrying and tugged out a pair of small skates and thrust them at her. "Wear these—they're Yuzu's."

"W-what?!" she sputtered. "What am I supposed to do?"

Ichigo's smirk was hidden. "Do you need me to hold you hand?" he asked. He regretted it immediately as the sharp blades on the shoe collided with his head.

---

"I-I'll k-k-kill him!" Rukia cried, as she clung onto the sides of the rink for dear life. "I'll murder that cheeky bastard!"

"Having fun?" Ichigo said, his smile so evil that it could have rivaled Ichimaru's. "I was hoping I could repay you for this," he said, flinging the end of his scarf over his shoulder.

"You must really hate me," she snarled, "to subject me to this kind of torture."

"No," Ichigo said, skidding around so that he was face to face with her. "This is just payment for your gift." With that, he tugged roughly away from the wall.

"W-WHAT ARE YOU DOING, YOU IDIOT?!" she cried, scrambling to hold onto something to keep her balance. Her feet were doing an odd dance on the ice. "LET ME GO!"

"As you wish," he said playfully, dropping his hold on her immediately. She screeched as her legs swung forward and she slid quickly onto the icy floor. She cursed as Ichigo burst out laughing.

"Bastard," she hissed. She swung her leg sharply at his feet. His body whipped backwards and his head cracked the ice that he had been standing on.

"BITCH!" he exclaimed, bringing his head up painfully. "What the hell are you doing?!"

"Take me home!" she demanded. "I already know that you're angry with the scarf, you don't need to pain me further."

Ichigo stared. "You think this is punishment?"

"Why else would you bring me here?" she asked, turning her head slightly so that he could not see her face. To her surprise, Ichigo gave an indignant huff.

"Look, you idiot," he said, reaching up to touch his scarf. "If I didn't like it, why would I wear it everyday?"

Rukia shrugged noncommittally. "You wanted to mock me?" she said childishly. Ichigo suddenly knocked her strongly on the head.

"I knew it," he said, "Your head really is thick."

Rukia gave him a Look. Ichigo ignored it, and said, "You're just not doing it right. Here." Without waiting for a response, he engulfed her hands in his and pulled her up. She staggered again.

"N-No, stop, Ichigo—I can't do this…"

"Don't give up so easily, you fucking pessimist," he said, gently sliding backwards while holding her steady. "With that kind of thinking, you'll get nowhere. Just trust me." And he smiled in a way that made something inside of Rukia ache.

---

"You finally got it?" Ichigo said, crossing his arms in triumph. "It's only because I taught you."

"Shut up," Rukia said, skating in wide circles. Ichigo's smirk widened as he watched her skate a full length around the rink. Rukia grinned despite herself as well.

"It feels like I'm flying," she said breathlessly. "It's wonderful."

"Told you," Ichigo said. "But you ought to slow down, you're not that good—"

CRASH.

---

"…The ice is cold," Ichigo said stupidly.

Rukia groaned, not bothering to lift her head. "This stupid gigai, I thought I got the hang of it—"

"It's your own fault!" Ichigo roared at the small body clinging at his. "I told you to slow down!"

"Stop shouting," she said, her head pressing closer against his chest. "My head hurts."

"You think your head hurts?! Try getting slammed into the ice not once, but twice in one day!" he said. "And you're HEAVY, get OFF."

"It's warm here," she protested, pressing a cold cheek against the lining of his jacket. "One more minute…"

Ichigo flushed. "You're annoying."

---

"Ichigo. Ichigo. …Ichigo."

"What?"

"It's getting dark," Rukia said. "Should we go home?" She made a move to get up, but he grabbed her. She went rigid in his arms.

"Did you enjoy it?" he asked. Rukia flushed.

"Enjoy what?" she asked.

"Ice-skating," he said, "Fun, right?"

"Oh," she said, growing redder. "Yes, it was fun."

Ichigo rested his head on his upraised arm. "See, you just had to let yourself enjoy it. You're so stuck-up sometimes."

"I'm not stuck-up!"

"Only someone who was stuck-up would deny it."

She banged his head sharply against the ice.

"Fuck!" he yelled, getting up quickly and grabbing her shoulders. "Is this how you repay your benefactor?!"

"Yes," she said sweetly, batting her eyelashes. "Thank you, Kurosaki-kun."

"Disgusting," he muttered. "Fine, let's go home."

"Thank you," she said, standing up with him. She paused. "Yes… thank you."

He brushed the frost off of his jacket. "Yeah, whatever. You're welcome."

"No, I mean, thank you for this," she said, her cold fingers searching for his. "And everything."

"Why are you thanking me?" he asked, skating them both towards the exit. "This wasn't for you."

She smiled wistfully at this. "Right, okay. Thanks anyway."

"Whatever," Ichigo said, not looking at her. "Fuck, your hand is cold." He tightened his grip on hers.

"Are we going home?" she asked, her eyes large and wondering.

"Yeah," he said, "Yeah, home."