Author's Note: Alright, here's that IchiRuki story I promised you! This is my first Bleach story EVER, and I hope I didn't get this couple too far out of character, though I believe I kept them in character quite well, myself. It's also my thirteenth story uploaded here, and I pray it's my lucky thirteen.

As always, no pointless reviews (I still got a bunch of those on my Royai story, even though I specifically stated NOT to do that) and if you flame, you're a dead person.


The Ties That Bind


He was so exasperating.

It wasn't the first time this thought had ever crossed Rukia's mind. In fact, it wasn't the first time today.

It was half-past eight on a Friday night, and Rukia had just wanted to relax after the events of the day. Keigo had been making passes at her all day at school, the other girls had once again been pestering her about whether or not she liked Ichigo in a certain way, and fighting a Hollow had made them both late for dinner, earning Ichigo a bit of a scolding from his father, which the moody, orange-haired teen had disregarded completely. And of course, after he had eaten, he had left the table and gone up to his room without so much as thanking his sister for making the evening meal. Yuzu had asked Rukia if she would mind helping to clear the table, which of course, Rukia couldn't say she did, lest she want to appear discourteous. And now that she was sitting on the shelf in the closet, trying to read, Ichigo obviously thought that this was the perfect time to annoy her.

"Who the Hell does he think he is? I mean, honestly, when he talks like that, it's clear that he can't read you at all! Sometimes I wonder if he's all there," Ichigo complained from his bed, where he was sitting with his back against the headboard and looking put out.

Sometimes I wonder if you're all there, she thought, rolling her eyes behind her book and saying nothing. She couldn't understand for the life of her what Ichigo thought complaining would accomplish. From her past experience, nothing would change unless you did something to force it to.

"And where does he get off saying those things about..."

Rukia sighed and went back to tuning him out, something she had learned to do when he got like this. She couldn't stop him from ranting, but that was no reason for her to have to listen to him do it. If she ignored him long enough, he'd shut up eventually.

"Especially when it's so obvious that..."

She wished he wouldn't do this. Whenever he felt like he had to complain, she was always the one who was forced to listen. What did he think she was, his shrink? Sure, she knew a lot about psychology and she was sure she understood the inner workings of his mind, but she wasn't one of those "Highly-trained professionals" people were always going on about. She really couldn't stand it when he complained to her about everything that was bothering him. Couldn't he whine to someone else for a change? She didn't know why he wouldn't talk to Chad or someone else like that, but she didn't know one thing.

She was running out of patience.

She hadn't noticed that Ichigo had stopped talking. She also hadn't noticed that, at some point, he had left his bed and was now standing over her, looking down with intense disapproval.

"Rukia! You haven't heard a thing I've said!"

Startled, she dropped her book, shooting a glare up at Ichigo.

"Of course I have! I can listen to you and read at the same time," she snapped back, growing more and more agitated with each passing second.

"If you heard what I said, why didn't you answer me?" He growled, a slight tick developing in his right eye when she picked up her book and opened it again.

"I didn't think you wanted an answer, seeing as those questions are generally considered rhetorical," she calmly responded, flipping a page and earning herself another angry growl from Ichigo.

"It wasn't rhetorical, stupid," he told her, becoming angrier when she didn't put her book down. Usually, calling her a name could elicit some response, but this time, there was nothing.

"What did you ask me, then? I must have missed that part of your tirade," the girl asked, not bothering to look up at him.

"I asked you why you put up with Keigo constantly hitting on you," Ichigo stated, looking closer to hitting her than he ever had.

Rukia picked her bookmark up from the space beside her and marked her place in her novel, finally closing it and setting it down."'Hitting on me?' I don't understand, Ichigo," she told him with a raised eyebrow and an amused tone.

"Hitting on you. You know, making passes at you."

She blinked.

"Flirting with you?"

"Ah. There you go, I understood that," she replied, smiling, still completely oblivious to what Ichigo was getting at.

"Stop avoiding the question, Rukia." That selfsame twitch was back in his eye, something Rukia found very difficult not to giggle at.

Putting on her schoolgirl act, more for entertainment value than anything else, she said, "I don't understand what you're talking about, Kurosaki-kun!"

"That's not funny, Rukia," he groused. Her grin only grew wider at this response.

"I'm not trying to be funny, Kurosaki-kun! I don't know what you're asking me," Rukia sang out, pleased with the reaction she was getting from the young Shinigami boy.

"If you're not trying to be funny, then you're just being a bitch," he retorted, a statement which, though he could usually rely on it to get her riled up, got him no negative reactions whatsoever.

"You're so grumpy tonight, Kurosaki-kun. Is something bothering you?" His frown deepened at this, and Rukia realized that she couldn't keep this up for much longer without laughing at the way he was acting.

He just continued to glare at her for a moment, before making an exasperated noise and walking away from his closet, flopping back down on his bed without another word.

Score one for me, Rukia thought to herself, picking her book back up and opening it back to the page she had been on before Ichigo's interruption.

Everything was quiet for a few minutes, leaving Rukia to think that she had won this round and she would finally be allowed to read in peace. She smiled at that thought, leaning back against the closet wall and enjoying the tranquil silence.

Until she felt a pillow collide with her face.

She dropped her book in surprise, looking up at Ichigo in disbelief and shock. He was grinning triumphantly at her, making it more than obvious to her that he had indeed been aiming his pillow at her.

"How. Dare. You." She slid down off of the shelf, touching her feet down to the floor, slowly approaching him with a very dangerous look on her face, an angry fire dancing in her blue-purple eyes.

"I can't believe you would do that! A Kuchiki commands respect, and that was incredibly disrespectful! What is wrong with you!" Ichigo could tell by the look in her eyes that he had gotten exactly the response he had wanted. She was absolutely furious.

"I'll give respect when I get it, Rukia," he told her with a smirk. "Besides, haven't you ever heard of a pillow fight?"

Rukia blinked at him, confused. "A what?"

"A pillow fight. People hit each other with pillows until either one of them gives up, or the pillows are completely destroyed. My sisters and I used to have them all the time when we were kids."

Rukia looked thoughtful for a moment.

"Y'know what?" She said after a few seconds as Ichigo waited expectantly for her to finish. "That's stupid."

She saw how his face fell at her statement, though he hid his disappointment well. "Yeah, I guess so," he muttered as he turned away.

Perfect. A sinister smile played on Rukia's lips as she picked up the pillow he had thrown at her and promptly chucked it, full-force, at the back of his head. It hit him, making him pitch over, face-first, straight into his bed.

"Hey!" Ichigo pushed himself up off of his bed, grabbing the other pillow as he did so. "I thought pillow fights were stupid, Rukia," he taunted, bracing himself against the floor in anticipation of her next assault.

"They are. But stupid things can be fun, you know. You are, after all," she teased back. Ichigo froze for a moment, likely surprised that she thought he was fun to be around, although he quickly realized he had been insulted. "You little-"

Signature smirk on her lips, she took this opportunity to lunge at him, grab the pillow she had just thrown, and smack him in the back of the head with it. Unfortunately for her, Ichigo was used to fighting and dodging blows. Knocking her off-balance, he returned her strike with one of his own.

"Ichigo! That's not fair!" Rukia almost shrieked, earning herself a laugh from Ichigo when her voice went up much higher than she had intended.

"All's fair in love and war, Rukia," he said with a smirk, hooking his ankle around Rukia's and knocking her feet out from under her.

Caught off-guard, Rukia flung her arms around his neck in an attempt to drag him down with her, but since she didn't weigh enough to do that, she only ended up hanging off of him.

"Hey! Get off," Ichigo protested, trying to push Rukia off him and back onto the floor. He was finding it hard to keep himself upright; even though Rukia didn't weigh very much, she was heavy enough to make him a little unsteady. He stumbled, tripping over the book that Rukia had dropped, and falling flat on his back.

Rukia tightly closed her eyes the second they started to fall, waiting for her body to connect with his floor.

It never happened.

Instead of the hard, cold wood of Ichigo's floor, she felt the soft fabric of his shirt, the warmth of his body, and his heartbeat, which for some reason, had sped up to at least twice his normal rate.

"U-uh...Rukia?" She heard him stutter as he tried to get her attention.

"A-ano..." Rukia was almost afraid to open her eyes and look at him, already fully aware of the compromising position they were in. But, she wasn't one to show weakness, so she did it anyway, blue-purple eyes staring timidly into amber. His entire face was flushed red, and upon seeing this, Rukia realized he wasn't the only one blushing.

She wanted to get up off of him, needed to, but something seemed to be holding her in place, as though she was literally bound to him with invisible cords, or perhaps the kidou that she had used on him the very first time they had met. She was stuck, couldn't move, no matter how much she wanted to or needed to.

"R-Rukia?" His voice sounded somewhat strained, and she knew that he was uncomfortable with their current situation, but she couldn't move, and she couldn't tear her eyes away from him. Even stranger, he seemed to be affected by the same thing she was. She'd have thought that he would have shoved her off him and gotten up as soon as he realized what had happened, but he hadn't budged. He was still lying there, on his back, with her practically draped over his chest.

Say something, anything! Her mind screamed at her, but her voice wouldn't obey. Damn it, why am I getting so flustered? It's just Ichigo!

And then, it hit her. He wasn't just Ichigo. He had never been just Ichigo. Ever since their first meeting, there had been something about him that called out to her, something that made her want to be around him, to stay with him. She knew now why she had allowed herself to cry for him on so many occasions, when for anyone else, save for Renji or Byakuya, she would not have let her tears fall. She understood why her heart leapt every time she saw him smile, and why it hurt to see him upset. She could see why he always got so angry when Keigo flirted with her, and why he was so competitive with Renji, even though the two of them were like brothers. She knew why he always tried to comfort her when she was upset, and why he could always find a way to make her smile, why he went out of his way to do that. And clearest of all in her newfound realizations was why, whenever she was in danger, he would be the first to rush to her rescue, every time. It was all for the single reason that what bound her to him now was the very same thing that bound him to her. They were connected now, always had been, ever since they first laid eyes on each other. It didn't matter if they were separated, even by worlds; she was bound to him, and him to her, whether either of them liked it or not.

It was so easy now. Easy to understand, and easy to say.

Keeping her eyes locked with his own, no longer trying to look away, she shifted a bit and opened her mouth to speak. But he didn't allow her to even begin to say it, because as he always did, he had to be the first to let her know what both had realized.

"Rukia, I-"

Not this time. For once, she wanted, needed to tell him what she was thinking, what she felt, even if she didn't say anything at all. One arm outstretched, palm flat on the floor to keep her from falling, she pinned him to the floorboards and firmly but gently pressed her lips to his, lingering only long enough for him to get the message. She pulled away from him, moving off of his body and back into a kneeling position on the floor. She watched as he shifted himself up and into a sitting position, his back against the wall, looking positively stunned. She felt his hand wrap around her wrist, and didn't protest when he pulled her closer to him and into his lap. One arm encircling her waist, he held her as close as he could, allowing her to settle into his arms before he returned her previous affectionate gesture.

When he finally let her go, he could see her eyes sparkling like twin stars as she snuggled up to him, a soft sigh escaping her lips.

"Ichigo, I love you."

A rare smile graced Ichigo's features as he ran his fingers through her hair. "I know. I love you too, Rukia."

She smiled back, her eyes sliding closed as tiredness overcame her. "So where do we go from here?"

Ichigo stood, still holding Rukia, unwilling to let her go as he made his way over to his bed and set her down. "Wherever we want."


((It's a new world, it's a new start,

It's alive with the beating of young hearts.

It's a new day,

It's a new plan,

I've been waiting for you.

Here I am.))



Author's Note: I have to say, I really enjoyed writing this. Took me about a day, and it was much of the fun, to use one of Kai's expressions.

The lyrics at the end are from Bryan Adams' "Here I Am," a very IchiRuki-esque song. Kai and I both agree that this is one of their many themes, actually.

I think this ranks up with my favourite work to date, my first good SasuSaku, "Far Away." These two are my newest fetish; I love them so much, separately and together. I'm sorry, IchiHime fans, but it's never going to happen. Tite Kubo is clearly setting up the IchiRuki pairing, so just give up already. Don't get me wrong; I like Orihime. Just not with Ichigo. She's better off with Ishida. (Yeah, I love them together, too. I have a lot of pairings that I love. What'cha gonna do, right?)

In closing, I'd like to dedicate this to Kai, for many reasons. Firstly, she's the one who got me into Bleach in the first place, and into the IchiRuki pairing. Secondly, she's the one who told me about the Bleach dub being put onto YTV. The Bleach dub is LOVE. I'm not kidding you, I was literally hyperventilating after I saw the first ep, and I'm dead serious, I squealed in the middle of it because I love it so much. (And no, it actually DOESN'T suck. You don't like it, that's fine by me. Don't fly off the handle at me because I do.)

And, lastly, it's been nearly a year since we first met. To our first year of friendship, Kai-chan, and I hope for many more.