A/N: Not long now, I promise. One or two more chapters and we're done for good. Actually, all thanks to Mau-Chan and Lazy Mew for their supportive PMs and you readers for giving me the motivation to continue writing. This installation is not as long, and not as fun but all I gotta say, I miss the time when I was still a student. Working life sucks the life out of you. With that said, read on!
Disclaimer: I don't own anything, so go awayyyy.
To see you when I wake up
Is a gift
I didn't think could be real
To know that you feel the same
As I do
Is a three-fold utopian dream
He stared at the heart-shaped face, whose owner was apparently still sleeping, peacefully nestled in the crook of his embrace. He studied the way her lashes rested against her naturally-tinted cheeks, and from there his gaze traveled down the subtle angle of her cheekbone down to the crevice of her neck. He shifted his eyes back to her face, specifically her upturned nose, and noticed a cluster of faint freckles amidst the porcelain skin. A rogue strand of jet black hair fell to cover her forehead and subconsciously, he reached over to brush it away.
"Dear hubby of mine, are you almost done ogling me?"
Startled, Ichigo gave out a throaty laugh. "You were supposed to be sleeping!"
Rukia grinned sheepishly before giving her husband a quick kiss and hurriedly escaped to the bathroom. "See you later!"
"What's the hurry?" he called, missing the sight of her round backside as she slammed the bathroom door behind her.
The door creaked open slightly, with Rukia poking out her head. "Precaution method. You'd never let me leave the bed if I didn't make my escape," she replied dryly.
Laughing, Ichigo shook his head. "You know me too well."
The sleek Nokia 76 was ringing when the shower was still running in the next room. Shifting in bed, Ichigo grabbed the offending phone to answer. "Hello?"
The line was static. "Hello? Can I speak to Rukia please?"
A guy's voice. Ichigo frowned. "Who's on the line?"
"It's Shiba Kaien."
The temperature dropped to several degrees. "She's in the shower." Take that, loser. She was in my bed, not yours!
"Oh, damn," the caller sighed audibly before hesitating. "Kurosaki-san?"
"Yes, it's me."
"Sorry to call so early."
"No problem. Is there any message you want me to convey?" Ichigo replied, curt and polite.
Shiba hummed. "There is, actually." Ichigo suppressed a retort that was forming at the tip of his tongue. "Well, it's regarding you too, so might as well break it to you." Shiba hesitated again. "I was thinking if you two would grant me the honor of acting in my latest videoclip?"
Ichigo frowned. "Excuse me?"
"Well, I'm releasing a new single about two lovers in a long-distant relationship. So I thought who else who'd better understand it than you guys."
"Well, I'd be damned -."
"Listen, Kurosaki-san. I know you have a busy schedule ahead of you. It's just that this song is kind of personal and Rukia-chan is a great friend. You guys have the chemistry both on and off screen and it'd be awesome if people could see that presenting my song. The contract and pay is negotiable of course, I'd fax the whole enchiladas to you -."
"No, no, it's not that," Ichigo cut in. "It's off season here in England anyway. But you have to run the idea to Rukia first, see what she thinks," he suggested, more laidback now.
Shiba hmm-ed. "Well, what do YOU think? I promise, this song is nothing mushy."
Ichigo chuckled. "Dude, I'm sure it's not. I enjoy your stuff too. I like the idea as well."
A pause. "Then, could you please do me a favor and convince Rukia-chan for me?" Shiba requested, his tone lighter than before.
"Why don't you talk to her yourself?"
"Nah, I'm sure you'll do a better job," Shiba reassured Ichigo.
"I'll see what I can do."
"Thanks, Kurosaki-san. It means a lot. I've stayed up all night just to wait for the decent hour to call you guys up. I saw you guys on E! last night and I thought you guys would be perfect for the song."
"We're honored, Shiba-san. Let me talk to Rukia and see what she thinks. We'll get back to you soon."
"Guess who called?"
"Just take a wild guess."
"Sweetie, you have absolutely no imagination whatsoever."
"Hey, you asked me to guess."
"Fine, fine." "It was Shiba."
"Do you want to know what we talked about?"
"Do I want to know?" "You didn't say anything nasty to him, did you?"
"Hey, thank you for the vote of confidence."
"Well…" "So, what did you guys talk about?"
"He wanted us to star in his latest videoclip. Something about lovers in a long-distant relationship. Kinda like our stuff, you know?"
"Oh my God. For real?"
"Yep. He's asking for your approval."
"Are you kidding me? Of course I agree! I know exactly which song he was talking about!"
"Really now, you do?"
"Duh. I've only listened to it like 14 thousand times."
"Now, I'm not sure I like the idea of having my wife listening to another man's voice for 14 thousand times over and over again."
"But I was thinking about you the whole 14 thousand times, so does that make up to it?"
"Of course, babe." "Mmm… I love your butt." "Do you wanna do it?"
"What? Jump you in this bathroom? Do you seriously have to ask?"
"No, silly. The videoclip!"
"Yeah, sounds cool. Anything you want, babe."
"Anything I want?"
"Anything you want."
"Ichigo, have you seen my mortarboard?" Rukia called, rummaging around their hotel room, her silky robe billowing behind her.
"Negative," Ichigo reported, his tooth brush sticking out of his mouth. He spitted out the foamy toothpaste before rinsing his mouth. "You really gotta stop running around like a chicken lost her freaking head, sweetie. Your cap isn't going anywhere."
"Well, apparently it's gone for a walk now. I haven't seen it anywhere," she muttered, turning everything in her carry-on luggage upside down. "How am I supposed to graduate without my mortarboard?!" she wailed, exasperated.
On impulse, she marched to the TV cabinet and peeked behind the Plasma, but to no avail. "How the heck did it disappear just like that? It was still in the drawer last night!"
Ichigo, who just stepped out of the bathroom with only a towel around his middle, chuckled at the sight of his wife searching for her missing mortarboard behind the TV. "I don't know Rukia, but I'd say you hire a detective," he joked. "Did you think the TV kidnap your cap or something?"
Looking up from kneeling by the bedside, Rukia gave him a dry look. "Ha-ha. You're so funny, husband." She pulled on the bedskirt and peeked under the bed.
"Anything?" Ichigo called from the dresser.
"Negative," Rukia replied in a mocking tone. She pulled herself up and plopped down on the bed, sighing. "I really should assemble a freaking GPS on every single thing I own. This sucks," she pouted.
Hearing her deflated tone, Ichigo rounded the corner of the four-posted bed and kneeled in front of her, still in his towel and all. He reached up and palmed a rosy cheek. "Hey hey… Relax, the ceremony is not going to start in another three hours. Plenty of time to track your AWOL mortarboard," he consoled, caressing her cheek softly.
The pout was resistant. "Are you making fun of me, oppa?" she narrowed her eyes, ignoring the sudden attack of butterflies in her gut at her husband's touch. She picked up the habit of calling him 'oppa' after their Kdramas marathon a few weekends back.
Ichigo grinned. "How could you, Koi-shi? I have been nothing but supportive of you, even if you're going to stick GPS tracking devices on everything that we own. Let me contact my accountant for the budget."
"Oppa!" Rukia chastised, hitting softly on Ichigo's broad chest. "One derogatory remark and you're sleeping on the floor tonight!"
Horrified, Ichigo held a hand to his chest. "Koi-shi, you're so evil! After all I've done to please you -."
"Please me?" Rukia butted in, incredulous.
"I quite recall a certain sexy vixen purring out my name last night after multiple rounds of, uh, pleasure," Ichigo supplied, grinning effectively.
"Oppa! How could you think of sex at a moment of distress such as this?!"
"What? A lost mortarboard? Are we supposed to be mourning?"
"I can't believe you," Rukia muttered, attempting to stand up. But Ichigo was quicker.
"Where do you think you're going, Kurosaki-san?" he inquired playfully, a hand sneaking under the silk of his wife's robe.
Narrowing her eyes, she tried to push his hand away. "Away," she replied curtly, lest her voice start faltering and destroy her cool demeanor.
"But, Kurosaki-san, I haven't given you your graduation gift yet," his voice dropped down to a whisper, while his hand climbed up to stroke the side of his wife's breast. He inwardly cheered when he heard a hiss. But a second later, he frowned after noticing his wife's dress for the first time. "Dear wife, what are you wearing?"
"What? It's Armani," she replied defensively in favor of her black sweetheart-neckline dress. "And it's black. It's practical," she added as an afterthought.
"And it's also too much cleavage. I don't think the folks in Nassau are going to approve," he replied vehemently.
"What are you? My nanny? It's not too much cleavage!"
"Uh-huh. I beg to differ. I could so prove to you that it's too much cleavage!"
"I can't believe this! How?"
"The fact that I'm going to pounce on you right this minute should be enough proof that it's too much cleavage," Ichigo replied seriously, before demonstrating his hypothesis by trailing his nose along his wife's décolletage. She smelled of lilies and it was driving him nuts.
And finally, Rukia gave out a real laughter for the first time that morning. "Ichigo, you dork! I'm going to graduate in three hours. You can't pounce on me!"
Smiling deviously, Ichigo pulled off his towel before easing his compliant, smiling wife onto the bed. Only, she wasn't smiling so much after seeing his hidden predicament once the towel was discarded. "You were saying?" he said huskily, lowering himself above her, careful as not to smother her delicate frame.
And soon, Rukia's demise concerning her missing mortarboard was forgotten. At least, temporarily.
A strewn towel, and a pulled-down pushed-up black dress later, with a gentle caress on her cheek, Ichigo lay a long kiss on his wife's forehead, trying to calm the erratic breathing of his heart. "Told you it is too much cleavage," he whispered, smiling.
Rukia laughed, her own heart was thumping against her chest. Gone were her impeccably-pressed Armani dress. "Yeah yeah. I'm gonna wear my grandmother dress and see if you still call me your wife later."
"I would still call you my wife if you ever decide to wrap yourself with a potato sack, Rukia," Ichigo professed, gazing lovingly into her eyes.
"You're bad for my health, Ichigo Kurosaki," Rukia said softly as her heart wasn't showing any sign of slowing down with Ichigo's eyes on her.
"And you're bad for my sanity, Rukia Kurosaki," Ichigo replied evenly. Stealthily, he reached over the bedside drawer and pulled something out. Rukia frowned.
"What is it?"
Grinning, Ichigo brought out her apparently found mortarboard and placed it on top of her head. Rukia went all crossed-eyed trying to peer at her cap. Ichigo burst out laughing before planting a big kiss on her lips. "Happy graduation, magna cum laude."
Rukia beamed at her brother, the last time being when he took a day off to have dinner with her on her 21st birthday. For that occasion, Byakuya flew seven thousand miles to escort his sister to one of the exclusive restaurant in town to celebrate her coming of age.
Today, he flew in from South Africa without prior notice to surprise his sister on her graduation day. Many words can be used to describe the powerful businessman, and subtly caring is one of them.
"You should have told me you're coming. I could at least arrange transportation from Newark for you."
Byakuya gave a slight smile. "It's okay. I have everything arranged beforehand," he replied. "Where's Ichigo?"
Rukia's smile faltered. She tucked a stray strand of raven hair behind her ear. "I'm not so sure, Nii-san. He told me half an hour ago he was going to the men's room," she said, while tip-toeing in search of her husband among the throng of people.
Byakuya lifted an eyebrow. "Well, I'm sure he is just lost trying to find his way, that's all."
"Yeah," she concurred, smiling a little. Feeling a little carefree that she was in a foreign land, she linked her arm around her brother's and leaned against it. "Thank you, Nii-san. For making it."
Warmed by Rukia's reaction, Byakuya just smiled and patted slightly on his sister's hand. "I won't miss it for the world." The siblings sauntered into the garden, hand-in-hand. "Well, I got you something as your graduation gift."
Rolling her eyes, Rukia smiled good-naturedly. "What? Another? And I thought your presence was your major surprise for me. Did I miss Christmas on the calendar or what?" she joked.
"You're turning into a humorous young lady, sister," Byakuya mused, smiling. He pulled out his right hand out of his pant pocket and produced a set of keys. "Here."
Rukia frowned. "That is a lot of keys, Nii-san."
He laughed a little at his sister's reaction. "Glad your vision is not impaired yet, Rukia."
"What do they open?" she inquired, intrigued, turning the set of keys over and over in her hand.
Byakuya shrugged. "Ichigo mentioned that you guys might be starting a family soon," he said nonchalantly.
Rukia instantaneously blushed seven shades of red. "He did?" she croaked.
"Yes, he did," he reaffirmed. "The keys open all the doors to your new home in London."
"7-bedroom home in Belgravia. Is that okay?"
Rukia's eyes bulged. "Is that okay? Are you for real, Nii-san? It's more than okay!" she exclaimed. "That's a lot of money. I can't take that," she whined, tugging at her brother's arm.
Byakuya smiled. "Consider it your wedding cum graduation gift."
"You know I'd settle for a bottle of excellent champagne or a good meal, right, Nii-san?" she said. They were now standing in front of the Old Nassau Hall, where the ceremony was going to take place.
"Only the best for my sister."
"Thank God for waterproof mascara," she muttered before giving her brother a bear hug. Byakuya merely laughed.
The two were basking in the warmth of each other's embrace when Rukia felt a tap on her shoulder.
"Finally! How long does a guy need to take a leak anyway?" she exclaimed as she whirled around to face the person.
Who happened to be her husband, currently down on bended knee, with a pink velvet box in hand.
Rukia gasped. "Ichigo, what are you doing?"
Smiling gently at his wife, Ichigo raised a hand in mock salute to his in-law. "Kuchiki-sama, can I proceed?"
Byakuya smirked, gently releasing the hold his sister had on his hand. "Go ahead, Kurosaki."
Satisfied, Ichigo reached for the hand of a befuddled Rukia. By then, their antic was gathering quite a crowd. "Rukia, it's has been four wonderful months being your husband. We didn't have it easy, the distance, the gossips, and just us being stubborn, but I guess those are all the things that make what we have even sweeter. I can't wait to wake up next to you everyday, to see your face, hear your laugh, just to hang out with you, diss the weatherman, kick your ass in Wii, prepare dinner with you, do the laundry. You could safely deduce that I'm whipped, big time," he spoke with mirth in his eyes.
The crowd laughed. A guy had a gall to reiterate, "Yeah, you're whipped, man!", which induced more laughter.
Ichigo too, chuckled as he proceeded. "Our last ceremony was hasty and I feel guilty cause a woman like you deserves more than just a proclamation of vows and a ring. You deserve frills, fluff, ten-tier cake, a dance under the moonlight with your loved ones around you." He paused. He pulled out the micropave diamond ring out of its Harry Winston cushion and slipped it around her finger. The females of the crowd 'ohhh-ed' while the males 'whoa-ed', some even called out 'you're making us look bad, man', all in good grace.
Laughing, Ichigo shook his head, all this while his attention never wavered from his wife. He inhaled deeply before continuing. "So, humbly I request of you, marry me, again, this time, fluffs, frills and all," he finished, a gentle smile on his face.
Rukia choked back a sob, her hand tingling in Ichigo's grasp while the white gold felt cold against her skin. This is real. This is real, she kept reminding herself. "What is it with you and Nii-sama trying to ruin my mascara today?" she whined, wiping a stray tear rolling down her cheek.
Ichigo laughed. "Is that a yes?"
Laughing, Rukia pulled her husband off the pavement and engulfed him in a hug. "Do you really have to ask?"
OMG! On Yahoo!
I think it is appropriate to credit the Mastercard commercial for our today's gossip.
A degree in Neuroscience from Princeton with magna cum laude: four years of intensive book slaving and researching.
A graduation gift from her brother in the form of a 7-bedroom home in the second-most expensive zipcode in London: £25 Million.
A second engagement ring from her husband (ironic, we know): £56 Thousand.
The look on their faces when she said yes: Priceless.
There are certain things money can't buy.
Some girls just have it all, don't they?
Song lyrics of I Miss You by Incubus