Standard disclaimer applies.
Author's notes:
It's been a long while, certainly, but…
We'll see how it goes. Unending appreciation to everyone that has left a review, and especially to those who have stayed faithful to this. As for the oneshot, it's just a little something that came up over a year ago. I'll probably be working on unfinished drafts before something new comes up, as I want to get them all out and warm up to writing once more.

Of yearning

Her black-jet hair was spilled on the pillow; the light of dawn filtering through the curtain making her skin glow golden. A soft tress had fallen over her face, its end just ending slightly above her round, pink lips. He reached over to place it back behind her ear; the simple brush of his fingers on her cheek making her stir and sigh in still contented sleep.

He propped himself on his right arm as he watched her. It wouldn't be long before she woke up, wearing a sleepy smile and wrapping her arms around his neck to greet him with a good morning kiss. Rukia's touch would be soft, gentle, he would be surrounded by momentary bliss, and then, all too suddenly, she would get up from bed and…They would fall into the routine in which they were the masters of "pretend".

The thought struck a cord. Ichigo knew that there were too many things that would come their way if what they had was exposed. However, it didn't mean he liked to hide like this from everyone. He wanted to show the world how much he loved her, to show that she belonged by his side, and that no one should ever doubt it or even try to take her away from him again.

And so, the thing he loathed the most in the routine, when she slipped away from him like water on his fingers, began.

Her eyes slowly fluttered open and a sheepish grin spread over her face as she realized he was looking down at her. There was an unreadable look on his dark, amber eyes but she didn't have the time to decipher it. Unlike usual, he didn't wait for her to move first and lowered down to kiss her, but she ignored it and kissed him back. There was an urgent sense in his gesture that Rukia also failed to notice, or at least, seemed to overlook.

"Good morning," she whispered against his lips. Her skin was shining with the afterglow.

The first few rays of sunlight were still filtering through the window's beige, flimsy curtain. Stronger, more stronger. The day had, undoubtedly, begun; and for once, Ichigo wasn't happy about it. Her eyes moved around the room, Ichigo's amber ones then following the direction of her gaze, and both found the clock on his nightstand. The red numbers seemed to glare at them.

She groaned and rolled out of the bed, fingers searching for her nightgown on the floor and hastily wearing it on. Ichigo caught her by the wrist before she could move any further away, not moving from bed and only having to stretch a bit to reach out for her, and pulled her back to bed. She soon was once again beside him, looking up at him with an annoyed look.

"Just where do you think you are going?" he grumped, slightly miffed himself.

"Ichigo, I have to go," she told him, and after catching his resentful look, she added more calmly and softly, "Remember Yuzu and Karin are leaving early for school today because they have cleaning duty; they will be waking up anytime soon. If I'm not in their room when they do, they'll get suspicious."

Ichigo propped himself on his elbows, one on each side of her, and leaned down to catch her lips once more. She broke the kiss, half-grinning at his childish protest.

"And, Ichigo, I don't need to tell you what will happen if your father finds me sneaking out of your room in the morning, wearing my nightclothes. He already has an idea of what's going on, I think, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to deal with him about it yet, right?"

He huffed in annoyance, frown in place. It wasn't only his father or his sisters that were an issue. Actually, his father would probably gloat about the little fact that his young boy was finally a man. It was all about laws and society and non-understanding people, for whom all he cared little about. But things were like this…

"Alright already, I get your damn point." Ichigo dropped onto the bed beside her, face down against the pillow. His arm slipped carefully around her waist. "Just wait a minute longer."

"Ichigo, but…" She was cut off as he turned over and placed two fingers over her lips. Sighing, she nestled against him. There was something about being in his arms that comforted her, like she had finally found somewhere where she belonged. "Okay, just a little while."

They rested like that silence, with her back against his chest. For a moment, there was no sound in the room other than their tranquil breathing and the 'shush' noise of the sheets when they moved slightly. She could feel his chest falling and rising with every breath and could smell his musky scent. He busied himself with staring at the slope of her back.

She'd been away for a week, back at Soul Society to retrieve further instructions about their missions for the month. It was easier that way, if she left alone, because him going over there wasn't a pretty ride. He'd never thought a week could be so long, especially when he'd spend it wondering if she'd come back one more time or not. The moment she crossed the gate was always so very frustrating.

"I missed you, you know?" he whispered against her skin minutes later, leaving a trail of kisses on the exposed flesh of her shoulder and along her arm. And his words meant so much more…

Rukia relished the sensation, shutting her eyes close. "I know."