Summary: Ichigo's impression of Kuchiki Rukia, after it all ended... or perhaps, it was then that it all began.

The rain stopped falling inside of him.

There was a purpose to breathing now that had nothing to do with family or duty or guilt. He found it in the way she would clutch at her arms helplessly, forcing herself to watch the fall of a child ghost just to convince him to become a Shinagami. He found it when he discovered how much she wanted to run and risk her life for strangers, despite how powerless she now is - the way she had done for him and his family. He knew that, more than once, all she wanted was to just wrestle her powers back from him so she could go and save the world of spirits and the world of humans from the attacks of the Hollows. It was in the way she clutched her fingers together so tightly that he thought she was going to start drawing blood, the way she forces herself to watch with that pain-filled look in her eyes. Her gaze, hard and determined, are always trying to hide that softness in her that she hadn't the heart to destroy. Kuchiki Rukia was the worst at being a modern day, vulnerable, teenage girl in all senses but one.

She had her heart in her eyes.

"...well, she liked bunnies! What the hell else could I do?"

- Ichigo, on Rukia

save the girl

by Blue Jeans

He's met a lot of Shinigami in his time, and none were as stupid as her. There were those more violent than her, more talented, better with a sword, better with words, more graceful, more ugly, more beautiful, less kind... He isn't sure where she came from, this girl who spoke like someone from the middle ages with that air of arrogance about her like she was years his senior though she was almost half his height and couldn't open most packages within an hour of receiving it. He -reluctantly- respects her. He isn't sure how she was able to fool everyone (anyone) into believing in her though, in who she pretends to be, and he would be the last to admit that he fell for quite a few of her tricks.

He doesn't know how she does it. Even though she's not half as powerful as that brother of hers, even though she wasn't cheerful or gentle or kind as the girls in his class (or any girl for that matter), though he'd readily admit that he hardly ever noticed those girls to begin with... She isn't even all that pretty, and she sure as hell doesn't know how to act like a normal person, because she's not. She's Shinagami, always rambling on about duty and saving others as if it were the most important thing in the world. She was an idiot, ready to die because some stranger told her that her worth wasn't enough, though Rukia would protest to an inch of her worth on his wording if he ever said it within her hearing range.

He wonders when she'll learn that someone who was a stranger isn't worth anything of her time, and empty warnings from her about his attitude means nothing to him. But she'd just up and go put her life into those unseen hands of fate and fear after everything they'd been through together, after everything she'd put him through. Really, she owed him. The bitch can't just leave with an encoded note and not much else in her name! She pretends she's a ghost, and though he knew her first as a spirit, she was Kuchiki Rukia, his idiot roommate and classmate in one. The girl he stows away in his closest because she has no where better to be and it's close enough to him to invade his privacy and mess up his life more. She's... sadly the girl he sees first thing in the morning and the last girl he sees at night. He won't ever admit that sometimes, when she's out, he'd wait up for her - though the moment she climbs up his window, he's in bed like a rocket, least she suspects that he cared about wherever the hell she was or her health or whatever other strange ideas she comes up with in that head of hers. He wouldn't be all that surprised if it involved a bunny or a whole colony of bunnies, because there were occasions...

He's not grateful for meeting her at all. He's never going to admit that she makes him laugh like no one else can. Like that time she spent two days sneaking into the kitchen to fiddle with the toaster and the coffee-maker as if they where god-send. He won't admit how the fact that she can't even pop a straw through a juice box cracks his mask of indifference with an ease that frightens him or how it threatens to ruin his cool image at school every time she fails at it again. He won't treasure her first time to the movies either, when the boys and the girls split into groups, one group heading for the action and gore, while the other went for the romance and fluff. She didn't last in that theater of teary eyed women and sleepy eyed men for five minutes. In fact, she had snuck into their action flick and stayed there for the rest of the time - well, the rest of the time they were in the theater. "What are you doing here?" He had hissed at her when she appeared next to him, always unwanted but always just -there-.

"What am I doing here?" she demanded incredulously, as if it was the stupidest question he had ever asked in his life. "How could you have just left me with them without even a warning? That thing you call a "romansu" was horrible! Do women really act like that?" she demanded with an equally heated reply. They both got shushed at, but she was already not paying attention to him or anyone else for that matter. Those large, dark eyes were drawn to the blood spilled on the screen with a ritualistic frequency that foretold the results of the rest of the movie. The others accepted her fine, though Kojima Mizuiro had whispered to Ichigo secretively if it was really okay that a delicately seeming girl like Rukia be watching such gore with them. Ichigo snorted at the idea, Rukia was far from delicate in -any- sense of the word.

"Rukia-san doesn't seem the type-" Kojima begun pointedly.

"I'll protect you, Rukia-sama!" Asano Keigo sang out, only to get violently shushed at by quite a few people in the theater. He sulked and luckily quieted before Ichigo could slug him for being such an idiot, though only after his attempts to get closer to Rukia failed.

Thirty minutes into the movie and they were all promptly kicked out of the theaters, though Chad had walked out with them willingly since he was not reprimanded. "I didn't realize Rukia-san was one of those people who really got into the movies," Kojima scratched his head in confusion. Rukia had shouted out at the stupidity of the main character in the middle of the movie, and to make matters worse, she then proceeded to mock the monster on screen as if it were a Hollow - only more useless. What surprised Ichigo was that they weren't kicked out earlier on in Rukia's speech.

"That movie was worthless," Rukia proclaimed angrily, outraged at the treatment they received because of her. "The people in that movie had no sense at all, and they all deserved what was coming to them!"

"Rukia-sama is so brave," Keigo sighed dreamily, already forgetting his earlier disappointment.

Chad simply looked on amused, not bothered at all by the turn of events.

"I paid money for that, you idiot," Ichigo snapped at the self-righteous Rukia before him. "At least see the whole damn thing before shouting in the theaters! Ah, what a waste my money!"

"Waste indeed, but not because of me." Rukia countered stubbornly, refusing to take the blame. "I'm sure they all died," Rukia then added off-handedly, though she glared back at him for daring to lecture her. It was not a position she enjoyed being put in, though she subject him to it constantly. "There's no way any of them could have survived considering their lack of intellect."

"I heard the main character survived," Kojima volunteered cheerfully.

"What?" Rukia exclaimed surprised. "How could that be possible? Wasn't he the one who ran into a wall? What about that one girl who could actually read anything, she seemed to at least have enough skills to run away in the correct direction!"

"Well," Kojima thought on this after a shrug of his shoulders. "There's always that saying about how people who are clumsy are more likely to be lucky, at least in horror movies. And I believe that girl you were talking about got killed by impalement."

Rukia crossed her arms disagreeably. "Luck? There won't be enough luck in the world to save those people! If even the smartest one in their group got killed, they all should die." It was the end of her logic, which gave Ichigo more of a headache when his brain tried to make sense of it than just accepting the thing as is.

"There was that one girl who had a nice rack," Keigo suddenly piped in during the silence.

"There's that," Kojima agreed more seriously than the topic deserved, which earned both him and Keigo a warning glare from Ichigo.

"Whatever," Ichigo slouched indifferently, annoyed at everything at the moment. "Let's just go do something else until the girls come out. Arguing about this is a waste of my time."

"You sure you weren't scared?" Keigo asked Rukia hopefully as they moved towards finding another hang-out place.

"The makeup on the monsters were pretty realistic, wouldn't you agree?" Kojima piped in helpfully.

"Scared?" Rukia asked surprised. She blinked at Keigo with uncertainty in her eyes, as if she wasn't sure how she was supposed to act for a moment. Then her eyes had slid to him, almost asking but not quite. There was a haunted look in her eyes that he understood. Rukia and he had both seen things far scarier than something on a screen. "No, I wasn't." She finally answered with a nervous twitch of her mouth in the form of a half-smile. "Maybe it's the characters," she suggested, "no one worth saving, I guess." There was a lack of conviction in her tone of voice and the gleam in her eyes gave her away. Maybe, because Ichigo knew her so well, he picked out the slight hitch in her shoulders, even in the dark. The others certainly didn't notice, though Chad did give both of them a questioning look.

Ichigo knew Rukia for one thing, if nothing else, she didn't mean what she said, at least, not in real life. To her, everyone was worth saving. But he's not much better when it comes to the truth, because he'd never admit to himself that these memories will sustain him for a lifetime. Even if she leaves him at the drop of a hat (which she eventually did), whatever they had he would never let it go. He was a fool, a fool who would treasure these moments in life his own way. He won't admit that he had felt betrayed and scared and worried about her well being when she finally did disappear from his life, because admitting that -ever- means that he cared about her, cares about her. And acknowledging that, even silently, will probably be the last thing he'll ever do in this lifetime.

When Ichigo wasn't paying attention though, Rukia observed the same things about him. He would save strangers and the world too when the time comes. It was why she trusted him. It was probably the reason why she helped him, the reason why she stayed...

...but even if she doesn't admit it, it was not the only reason why she cared about him. They are not the only reasons why, even at the drop of a hat, he'll go to hell and back to save her, either.

The End

Love this pairing -stars in author's eyes-

The angst! The denial! The coarse language!

... -sweatdrop-

Urr.. Hope you enjoyed it!