Just a little random string of one-shots, each with a different pairing. Some may be unrequited, some may have yaoi pairings (coughByakuyaUkitakecough) so just be warned ;-p

"Nii-sama" – how Rukia refers to Byakuya; literally, "older brother"

Review if you like. No flames, please.


AI NO KANSHOKU
Ichigo x Rukia


The dark around them was enclosing, but it was private, quiet, in as much a peaceful setting as Ichigo would've liked. After the happenings over the recent days in Soul Society, he had as much a want for rest as a need for it.

Countless cuts and injuries were his body's only mark to just how much he had trained and suffered while trying to become strong in such a short period of time. Kuchiki Rukia gently traced these cuts with her fingers, appalled at how many were longer than the length of her hand. And they did not discriminate to just one part of the body…they were everywhere.

"…Rukia?"

"Oh, did I wake you, Ichigo?" she said, eyes shadowed. Urahara had left them only one small candle to light the room. "I'm sorry."

Orihime, Ishida, Chad, and Yoruichi were somewhere else in Urahara's expansive shop; maybe eating, or training…Rukia didn't really care.

"No, it's okay, I was about to get up anyway," Ichigo said, sitting up with a sigh. All the bandages swathed over his injuries rustled. "What are you doing here? Aren't you going to sit outside with everyone else?"

"I don't even know where they are," she said.

Ichigo shrugged, and looked away. He was still in his bankai clothing, and the tattered edges of his coat cast a strange, jagged outline against tatami mat. The candle flickered once before going out, leaving them in darkness.

"…Ichigo, I…"

He turned his head to her, and his eyes were softer than she'd ever seen them.

"Rukia?"

"…you know, I…I wanted to say…thank you for saving me…" she said haltingly. "But…Ichigo, you idiot. Look at yourself. You went and got yourself this injured just for me…and you totally devastated Soul Society just for me…" she smiled weakly at her last words. "You really are an incomprehensible idiot…"

"Huh. You're the idiot, for thinking that I wouldn't have come for you."

"You're the idiot! You came all that way, fighting, and look at how injured you are! Not to mention you fought nii-sama…"

"Don't even mention that bastard. Can you believe it, he only wanted you to die because it was the fucking law?"

"That's just how nii-sama is…" Rukia said softly. "He is of the noble Kuchiki family, after all."

"Noble Kuchiki family my ass," Ichigo scowled. "Any older brother who gives up on their younger siblings deserved to be lynched. It's just not the way the world works. Siblings look out for each other."

Rukia sighed. "You don't know nii-sama."

"Damn right I don't know him. I don't want to know him either. And I don't care. I rescued you, Rukia; you'll never have to go back to that for as long as you don't want to."

Rukia looked away.

"…Rukia, don't tell me you actually feel sorry for that bastard?"

"…well, he is my elder brother…I…"

"Dammit, Rukia, what did that bastard of an older brother ever do for you? From what I heard during the short time I was in Soul Society, he was nothing like how an older brother should be…he was willing to give you up to execution simply because he had to follow protocol! He could have saved you if he wanted to! But he didn't! And you still stick up for him? Rukia, you're worth more than that!"

She was silent, letting his anger cool down, knowing that anything else said would just infuriate him more. His breathing was harsh in the darkness of the room and he had thrown the blanket off his legs. Rukia looked into his fierce eyes, and her hand started to tremble. It was so like that time, the last time they'd been alone together…

"Ichigo…"

"What?"

"You know…that night…"

"What night?"

"The night right after…right after you defeated nii-sama…"

He sat staring at her for another second more before his memory caught up with him, and then he turned away, a red blush burning on his cheeks.

"Did you mean it?"

Ichigo turned to her, sounding exasperated. "Have I ever done or said anything I didn't mean, Rukia?"

"…no, I guess not…" she said, after thinking about it.

There were so many things that had happened that day…the halt of her execution, the defeat of her brother, Aizen's treachery becoming known, Ichigo's fighting through more battles to simply return to her side so that everyone could meet up again, getting through a barrier back to Urahara's shop…the day had indeed been draining.

Ichigo was so exhausted when they finally reached the shop that he was almost delirious. It was a miracle he could still walk. When able, Rukia had found herself running to him, throwing her arms around him to assure herself that he was real and safe and alive…she had brought him to a dark room to rest. She hadn't cared about the blood and sweat Ichigo was rubbing on her.

"Rukia…glad you're safe…" he said thickly, and she was touched.

"Thank you, Ichigo," she'd said softly, "I…"

Her next words were lost. Later on, her mind would remember only small phrases of whispered words – "…promised I'd save you…" "…you're safe now…" – and the one that she would never forget:

"…I missed you…" he said, and her reaction was halted as he leaned forward to capture her lips to his. The kiss had been fleeting, and Rukia had been so surprised that all she'd done was just stay stock-still; but that was all right, because Ichigo then fell back onto his pillow and into a dead slumber.

Her fingers touched her lips, a reminder that it had actually happened…

"…you've been asleep all this time, and I really wanted to talk to you," she said, looking down at the ground. Like Ichigo, she was still clothed like she had been in Soul Society, the white garments of her execution being enough for her escape. She thought her hand seemed pale enough to match; that was until a dark, warm shadow overtook it. Ichigo's hand.

"I don't say things I don't mean," he said quietly, eyes staring straight into hers.

Rukia was left with that. "…how did you…?"

"I trained with Renji for a while before your supposed execution. We…talked."

"I see," she nodded. She was almost afraid to voice her next question. "…and…" she said softly, "…did Renji…I mean…what did Renji say about me?"

Ichigo regarded her for a few seconds after that statement, saying nothing, though his hand tightened on hers. Rukia knew he would never lie to her, so she wasn't worried about that…it was just the thought of she being transparent enough for someone to read her true feelings that scared her.

"All that he said," Ichigo repeated slowly, "was…don't worry."

Rukia nodded, smiling suddenly, trying to keep the tears from flooding her eyes. Renji had been her best friend for so many years – in fact, he still was. And right now, he could probably read her better than anyone else. If he were there, Rukia would've hugged him for being so astute.

Sighing once, she came close to settle herself against Ichigo's chest, leaning her head against him to hear the steady beat of his heart. It was enough of a reminder that he was alive.

At first startled, Ichigo then wrapped his arms around her as she breathed in the musty smell of him, of his torture and perseverance, of his hard work and of his triumph at the end of all things.

Ichigo shifted and spoke. "Did I have to worry?" he asked, but Rukia could sense that he was smirking as he asked it.

And she smiled back at that, just a little. "Of course not." She looked up.

This boy was the one who made her believe in a future that had once seemed to have slipped out of her grasp. He was the one who made her see the promise that he would not give up on. He was the one who made her live, who showed her the world, who made her want something again.

Because she wanted him.

And Ichigo kissed her again, but this time there was no lack of response on her part; Rukia gave him her kiss as his hand tangled in her dark hair, as dark as the sweet and silent night surrounding them, of such wonder and mystery as it kept unfolding.

There was no pause on living. And she had found her line to life.


owari