PLEASE READ: This may seem a bit familar. It was orginally the prologue of one of my early incomplete fics (Until You...), but I've taken the whole thing and done massive changes and additions. Don't be surprised if you find the two stories nothing alike. I really did not like the characterizations of Ichigo and Rukia that I had done and feel much more satisfied with this version.

Title: The Girl Next Door
Chapter One
Disclaimer: Don't own. Kubo Tite does.
Summary: A/U. This is totally sapp. Serious fluff, waff, whatever you want to call it. I basically wrote sterotypical contemporary romance prose with Bleach characters as my muses. They liked and so will you. So there.

Ichigo always enjoyed a good laugh and now was most certainly one of those times. He looked at the petite woman reaching futilely towards her mailbox, which was apparently in the top row of the many neatly lined up squares in his apartment complex. "Damn, you're short!"

The woman shot him a death glare. "Excuse me?" Her mailbox key was now pointed in a very threatening manner in Ichigo's direction.

He repressed the urge to laugh a second time and settled for what he thought was his most charming smile. "I can help you with that, miss."

The death glare intensified. "No, thank you." The words were forced out from gritted teeth. Her key was almost in the lock. Rukia was sure that if a nosy orange haired man had not interrupted her concentration she would have been fine.

Instead, she found a presence uncomfortably close behind her and a large hand slipped her key into the lock and opened it. Her mail was taken out, deposited into her hands and her mailbox key was now dangling in front of her face.

Rukia looked at the man's face, which was now sporting a very cocky smirk, and couldn't help feeling a mixture of anger and frustration. And that leer was not helping matters at all.

"You're welcome, Rukia-san!"

Bastard had looked at her mail. If Rukia had known him for longer than the one minute he'd been in front of her, perhaps even his name, she would have kicked him in the shins.

Instead, she settled for "accidentally" stepping on his foot as she walked past him, otherwise ignoring him and his remarks. The elevator was only a few feet away and Rukia felt relief when she stepped inside and pressed the button for the seventh floor. She counted herself lucky as not have been forced to share a ride upstairs with the ass.

This was, of course, before a familiar hand, much larger than her own, stopped the elevator door's progress with ease. "Mind sharing a ride up?"

Well, it would be his bruised shins...

He liked to think of himself as a man of action. One who took his ideas and made them into reality. He didn't like to sit around and wait for a solution to appear, but defied the mold and made his own answers.

Really, Kurosaki Ichigo was not the type of guy to pine from afar (or across the hall as fate would have it) after a woman and he'd certainly never had trouble talking to women before. Sure, he'd been a bit shy when he was younger, growing up without his mother there, but after living with his father and two sisters, he'd long ago abandoned all subtlety and at least part of his sanity.

But here he was, lusting and yearning for a woman and not doing a damn thing about it. She wasn't unapproachable per se. Rukia had moved into the apartment complex and onto his floor over four months ago. They had a grudging sort of friendship neither could explain. They still grinded on each other's nerves with frequency, probably as two headstrong people always would, but each silently held a deep respect for the other.

Ichigo just could quite put his finger on it. Actually, that wasn't true and if he said so, it would be lying to himself. He knew he wasn't afraid of her. He was afraid of rejection. Not any rejection, but her rejection. Also, he was afraid of turning into a cheesy romantic sap, but he was beginning to think that was quickly becoming a moot point.

A loud pounding woke Ichigo from a sound sleep on an early Sunday morning. For the life of him he could not fathom who it could be.


Oh. Well, that explained that. Ichigo rolled back under his warm blanket.


He pulled a pillow over his head.

Peace and quiet descended. Heh.

"Ichigo!" This time the voice sounded much too close for his liking and he heard his front door slam shut. Shit, he'd forgotten about that key he'd given her a month ago when she had taken care of his pet, while he'd been out of town.

Ichigo was in the process of trying to decide how he could have forgotten about such a vital piece of information when he felt the side of his bed dip in. A finger nudged his bare shoulder that was exposed by the top of his blanket. "Oi."

He poked his head out from underneath his pillow and cracked an eye open.

Rukia smiled. "Good morning, Ichigo!"

Ichigo sighed. He knew he could kiss any thoughts of sleeping in late goodbye. "Rukia..."

"What was that?"

Another sigh. "Good morning, Rukia."

"Good. I used your key to get in."

"Which begs the question; what exactly are you doing here?"

"I brought donuts!"


"Get up!" His covers were unceremoniously ripped from their comfortable resting place atop his body.

"I swear Rukia if you don't have a good reason for this, I'll-"

"Nice boxers, Ichigo."

Ichigo told himself that he really was too old to be blushing. He wanted to make some snappy comeback but Rukia was already making her way into his living room. "Hurry up!"

Ichigo couldn't help but laughing; life hadn't been so interesting in quite some time.

Over a breakfast of orange juice, donuts and Sunday morning cartoons on Ichigo's couch, Rukia protested that she really had no reason for her early morning visit.

Ichigo snatched the last donut out of her hand. "Tell me."

"Ichigo, you should know better than to come between me and my food."

Her half eaten powdered donut was dangerously close to being eaten, almost brushing his lips, before she gave in. "I really just wanted to see you!" Her bright smile didn't fool Ichigo for a second.

He had just taken a bite and swallowed before he was tackled to the ground. "Don't take another bite if you value your life!"

Ichigo just laughed. If she really thought her petite frame was going to hold him down and prevent him eating her donut she was sadly mistaken. "Tell me, Rukia."

"Fine, I could use some help putting up my new curtains."

Ichigo knew by "help", that Rukia really meant she would sit and bark commands at him while he got stuck with all of the heavy lifting.

"As I recall Rukia, you never need help from me."

"I never said 'need'. I just wouldn't mind you returning that favor you owe me!"


"When I helped you with your niece and nephew last weekend."

Ichigo sputtered at that. Meanwhile, during his surprise, Rukia had managed to grab the donut and was eating it quite comfortably while sitting on Ichigo's stomach. "You didn't help me and I didn't ask! You just happened to show up!" He may have lost his donut (his conscience protested that really, it had been Rukia's in the first place) but he refused to lose another argument with Rukia. It was happening with alarming frequency these days.

But Rukia was a master and she was on her game like any other day. A pout accompanied a sad expression. "Are you saying that they didn't like me? I truly didn't help at all?"

Ichigo knew he'd lost. She looked adorable when she was wearing a cute little pout and had powdered sugar all over her cheeks. But he was determined to not give in too quickly.

A silence passed. Rukia had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing. No more than thirty seconds passed before Ichigo gave in. "Fine, fine. Just let me shower first and I'll be over."

Rukia threw her arms around Ichigo's neck and planted a kiss on his cheek, effectively rubbing the powdered sugar from her face to his. "Thanks, Ichigo!" And when Rukia's hand came up to shyly wipe away the mess her kiss had left, Ichigo reminded himself again, that he really was too old to be blushing.

Ichigo honestly wasn't too sure of what the problem was at all but it didn't change the fact that he simply could not find the courage to ask her out. Sure, there were some special qualities about her that really separated her from the other women he knew, like her honesty, compassion and humor, but nothing that should have scared him off from asking her out. There was just some unexplainable feeling that he got when he was around her that made him really afraid that he was going to screw up something really good with the wrong words.

He wasn't a guy to be scared though, he didn't want anybody to be mistaken about that. As a private investigator he'd seen a lot of shit and dealt with a lot of real assholes. And even though he felt the occasional shiver of freak running down his spine, it wasn't quite the same as the paralyzing sort of daze that he went into whenever he was around her.

It was Friday afternoon and Ichigo was just returned home from work and at the mailboxes. Predictably, he saw Rukia and took the elevator to the seventh floor with her. It was a short ride and none too soon he was standing by Rukia as she was unlocking her door.

She hadn't seemed to notice that he hadn't left to go to his own apartment and looked up quizzically at him. "Rukia, I-"

"What's wrong?"

"Well, I was-"

"You know you can tell me whatever is on your mind."

"See, last night I was thinking-"

"Do you want to come in?"

"Dammit, woman, stop interrupting me!"

This, of course, was the other reason Ichigo had a hard time getting the words out around her.

"Hey, Ichigo..."


"Why don't you come over tonight?"

She really was always stealing his thunder.

"I'll take silence as a yes. Bring a pizza. You know what I like. See you later." The door shut with a click and Ichigo stood, dumbfounded on the spot.

Ichigo almost laughed as he realized, things didn't seem quite so complicated now. He knocked on Rukia's door. She answered as though she'd been waiting for it. "Yes?"

"Rukia, lets go on a date."

She smiled. "You're lucky I'm nice enough to indulge your manly pride, Ichigo. My place, tonight, bring a pizza."

This time, he really did laugh. "Yes, ma'am."

to be continued...