I have not been keeping up with the anime or the manga, so this probably contradicts something or other going on in current storylines. Set in the future, probably a little AU. Rated for adult themes.


There are little things Rukia has become familiar with.

The way she never really fights a Hollow alone anymore. How sooner or later, Kurosaki Ichigo will appear beside her, zanpakutou in hand, ready, willing. How sometimes they fight together like true partners, and other times he's impatient enough, or Rukia is hurt enough, that he simply steps out in front, ignoring her protests, and dispatches the thing with such swift and precise efficiency that it takes her breath away. And she is left with some strange mix of envy and admiration and increasing uncertainty about her own abilities, which, of course, he senses.

Depending on his mood and her own state, Ichigo then does one of three things.

Scenario one: Jeers at her. Tells her she's an idiot, complains about her general lack of efficiency, skill, talent, or any combination thereof. Gets her temper flaring enough that she starts yelling, and lo, a new fight is born. Rukia wins two out of three times, and this makes her feel better.

Scenario two: Berates her. The complaints are more serious than his simple teasing. She should know better than to fight without him. He'll always help her, so why won't she call on him more often? She needs him to look after her. And because she understands what he's trying to say (he needs to look after her), she doesn't get mad. She tells him that she can handle these fights. And because he understands what she's trying to say (she needs these fights), he lets it go, usually with some disparaging remark about her short stature, which leads them effectively back to scenario one.

Scenario three: He gets angry at her. Ichigo in a temper is formidable. Not his every day scowling and biting remarks, his flippant annoyance at the general nonsense of the world. This is him using the advantage of his height and build to tower over her, lashing out, so furious that anyone in their right mind—anyone but Rukia—would run away in terror. This is the kind of fight he won't let her dismiss or shrug off, not until he's unleashed his righteous anger at her cool unrepentance. This scenario comes about only when she truly risks her life. There is no structure to it, no familiar list of complaints, only emotion, sparked into an unpredictable inferno. Her, bloody and bruised and nearly broken, but still standing, still alive. Him, all control lost, caution flung to the wind, a Hollow left in nothing but tatters after he's through with it.

She's familiar with these things.

They go home. 'Home' is Ichigo's house, not hers, but it feels like a place where she belongs. They talk on the way. She wants to hear about his friends, what they do when she's not there, what he does. Idiot, he tells her when it's her turn to talk and the discussion almost invariably turns to bunnies. He berates her choice of topic, but listens nonetheless.

Talk fades, and tension grows. Sooner or later, one or both of them realizes that they can't keep hands off the other, and that's how Rukia finds herself pulled into a shadowy alley and trapped between a wall and Ichigo. The large, rough hands on her body were once tentative and the kisses were once brief, but at some point what was new and awkward became familiar and desired. Want turned into need, and now the kisses seem to devour her and the touches are purposeful and knowledgeable, inciting responses from her body that leave her gasping and flushed. And Rukia is never entirely sure she can wait long enough to make it to Ichigo's house.

They go in through the bedroom window, unless Rukia needs medical attention. Then Ichigo will take her into the clinic and treat her himself, cleaning and wrapping wounds as best as he can and leaving them to heal on their own, as they must do. A shinigami's body will heal, faster and more effectively than a human's. Ichigo has learned to step back and let nature run its course.

Rukia waits through this calm treatment with no measure of calm whatsoever. The wounds mean little to her. Blood and stinging pain are nothing compared to prolonged absence from the vicinity of Kurosaki Ichigo. Rukia is not the kind to complain about her lot. Nor is she the kind to waste the time she has.

Somewhere in that house words desert them both. There are no declarations of love, no promises, no passionate endearments. She is content in the way he mutters her name, only her name. She is content in the hands that undress her, the mouth that marks her skin, the body that envelops hers until she nearly loses herself entirely. In that moment, and that moment alone, Rukia can relinquish control.

She's familiar with these things.

In the aftermath, she lets him support her with strong, hard arms around her, and she sleeps as long as she's able, relishing in the feeling of safety and protection and warmth. It's a temporary thing, never lasting more than a few hours. She'll always wake before dawn, slipping out of Ichigo's bed to dress and prepare to leave the place that's become a haven to her for the cold, dangerous world outside.

Ichigo will usually wake up just as she's about to leave. He doesn't ask her to stay. Those words are forbidden, by silent mutual agreement, to both of them. Instead, he tells her to come back. It's become a sort of ritual, a safety net for them both. If he says it, she'll return. She'll stay alive.

But Rukia looks forward to the day when leaving before dawn is an unthinkable thing. When there's no need to ask her to return because she doesn't go. When she can wake up with the sun shining outside the window of Ichigo's bedroom, still warm, still safe, still at his side.

Someday, she promises herself, those things will become familiar.