AN: Hey all. I guess you could call this my Christmas contribution to Bleach. It may be obvious, but this is an alternate universe, partly inspired after getting sick of IchiRuki fanfics where they hate each other for like 50 chapters, and then it turns to love. So, now, I'm making them friends. Anyway, expect OOC. Originally this storyline was meant for a Naruto cast, but what the hey. It works with Bleach as well, so, here goes.

Anyway in this story, they graduate in December, even though they are in Japan. So please don't give me a review saying that they don't graduate in December, because I already know.

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach

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Christmas in the USA: Graduation

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They were friends. Best friends, in fact, though it wasn't really something they told each other. That would be too mushy. And the both of them were not mushy. Ichigo, being a guy, wasn't really into that romantic, lovey-dovey, deep-and-meaningful relationship type stuff. Rukia, although she was a girl, didn't really follow the crowd when it came to 'girly-stuff'. Sure, she dressed like a girl, had hair like a girl, but she just didn't act all 'girly'. Which was just as well, because then she and Ichigo probably wouldn't be as good friends as they were today.

She had pondered about it before, and had come to the conclusion that Ichigo just didn't 'click' with girly-girls. This, she had deducted from observing Ichigo with another girl in their class, Orihime. She was a nice girl, and Rukia didn't know why Ichigo didn't like her. She was the epitome of the female species; a nicely curved body (which Rukia was jealous of), a bubbly personality, and a sweet naivety that sent most guys into fits of joy. Most guys. Ichigo obviously wasn't included in that category of most since it didn't seem to affect him at all. It really must be his personality, she had thought, as he got along quite well with Tatsuki.

"Hey. Nervous?" She recognized his voice.

She looked up. And really did have to look up. They had known each other since they had been kids, and they had stayed relatively the same height. Until the end of primary school when Rukia was taller than him for about (this was a commonly argued topic) four-and-a-half months. Ichigo had said that she was only taller than him for a few weeks and not even by that much.

It didn't really matter, since as high school hit, the guy-hormones kicked in, and brought Ichigo to his current height, where he towered over her.

She stood up straight, pushing herself away from the wall she was leaning on, to bring herself up to her full height.

Ichigo rolled his eyes. "Give it up, Rukia. You'll never become taller than me."

She pouted. Maybe…just maybe. "No, I'm not nervous. Why would I be nervous on graduation day?" she said, answering his earlier question, also cleverly deviating from the argument that she knew she would always lose.

"Dunno," her friend shrugged. "You seemed a bit…like daydreaming."

She shot him a smile. "I was."


"Stuff," she paused. For some reason she didn't feel like telling him that she had been daydreaming about their relationship together. Even though he probably knew her well enough that he could probably make a pretty good guess of what she was thinking about. She changed the subject. "I'm excited."

Ichigo rolled his eyes again. "Yeah, yeah. We'll be in America soon." He patted her on the head, an action which he did occasionally to either annoy her or as an endearing something; after all, she was his best friend. "Even if it is for a bad cause," he muttered under his breath.

"I heard that, Kurosaki Ichigo," she said sternly.

Ichigo shrugged his shoulders. "What? We're going to find some stupid guy –"

"He is not stupid."

"Ok, well, it's stupid that we –"

He was cut off by the teacher. "Hey you two, it's almost time. Shush."

- - -

Their argument was forgotten, as they proceeded to walk down the centre aisle, midst the clapping and cheering of friends and family. Today was their day. They had suffered nearly thirteen years of schooling, just for this day. It better be good.

It wasn't, really. Quite boring. But, still Ichigo listened to it all; the principle's address, the guest speaker, and even Ishida's speech as the school captain (which was quite good, though he refused to admit it to himself).

He thought he might as well listen to it. It was his last day wearing this damn uniform anyway. It finished before he knew it, he had his graduation certificate, his report card, and was content. He had achieved high marks, and was satisfied. He was happy, but he didn't show it as much as Rukia.

She had come out of the hall jumping and squealing for joy. Ichigo shook his head, even though a small smile crept up on his face. Well, he didn't know what she was so happy about – he already knew from experience that her grades would be reasonable, but the way she was carrying on, it was like she thought school was the worst invention of mankind.

Well, he would be slightly sad when leaving the school. He had made some pretty good friends over the years. He watched as Rukia made her way to a group of girls, and jumped when a heavy hand landed on his shoulders.

"Ichigo! Now that you've finished school, you can get married to Rukia!"

Ichigo sighed. "Dad –"

He was cut off by his little sister, Karin. "Don't worry about that old geezer, Ichigo."

"What? I'm an old geezer now?" protested their dad.


"What, Yuzu?" Karin replied in a bored tone.

"You shouldn't say such mean things to Daddy!"

"Yes! Don't say such mean things to me," added the older man, hiding behind his other daughter.

"Yeah, yeah."

Ichigo managed a small laugh. This was his family. There was no mum, because their mother had died when Ichigo was still very small. Things were different then, just as they were different now. But somehow, they had managed – their dad, even though he acted like an idiot most times, ran a medical clinic, and received quite a lot of money from that.

They carried on with life, though it was hard on the kids. It had been hard on him, as well, but it wouldn't do for him to break down while he had two little sisters to look after. He had made it through somehow, with his friends now – especially Rukia. She had stood by his side the whole time, and for that he was eternally grateful. His other friends had helped, in one way or another.

With that thought in mind, he dumped his report card and the rest of his gifts and certificates on his dad, and went to join his other friends. They were standing in a large circle, chatting animatedly about what they were going to do, now that they had finished school. Some were going away to holiday at some island resort, others were going to work straight away, and still others were going to university.

"So, Kurosaki, what are you going to do now?"

Ichigo looked at the speaker. Uryuu Ishida. He held a strange respect for the guy, though he annoyed the hell out of him. But since it was the end of school, he figured he might as well be nice.

"Well, I –"

"We're going to America!" interrupted Rukia. She had evidently stopped talking to the other girls, and had come to talk to Ichigo. Bad timing, really. The rest of the group gaped, while Ishida merely pushed his glasses further up his nose, smiling slightly.

Ichigo groaned. He didn't mean to withhold it from his friends, nor were they in the dark about him and Rukia being best friends. It was just that, recently, he had started to feel uncomfortable whenever someone asked him about his relationship with Rukia, even if it wasn't a new question. He had endured all their stupid questions ever since primary school, but for some reason now it had seemed more…penetrating.

"Are you going…alone?" asked Keigo in a trembling voice.

"Yes!" Rukia answered happily, while Ichigo looked up at the sky.

"Ohhh…" said the whole group in unison, mischievous looks flickering across their faces.

"So…are you and Ichigo going to do…anything?" continued Keigo slyly, earning a glare from the orange-head.

"Anything?" Rukia asked, looking genuinely puzzled.

"You know," said the other boy, nudging her. The others laughed, except for Ichigo, who was getting angrier by the second. However, he didn't say anything because a part of him (just a small part) was curious as to what she would say.

"Oh. That," she said with understanding in her voice. "You're such a pervert Keigo. You know Ichigo and I aren't like that. We're just friends."

Before anyone else could add in a smart comment (which usually happened), Orihime burst in the circle. "Come on, come on! We're taking photos!"

As the group shuffled over to where everyone else was taking pictures, Ichigo stayed where he was. He didn't know why, but her response had shaken him up a bit. Why? What she said was totally true, anyway. They were only just friends. They weren't going on this trip with any romantic interest (well, at least in each other).

Then why did he feel something abnormal near his chest area? He couldn't possibly be hurt by her response, now, could he?

- - -

"Oh…these pictures turned out really good!" Rukia exclaimed excitedly. Ichigo rolled over to see what she was talking about. Her bed was, as usual, soft. Damn these rich people.

He was over at her house, as after graduation there really wasn't anything to do. Besides, they lived across the road from each other, so they often visited each other. So here he was, over at her place watching her watching photos on her laptop. On her bed. While there was no one home.

Which was perfectly normal, even though it probably didn't sound normal to anyone else. Ever since they were kids, whenever they slept over at each other's places, they slept in the same bed. For a few reasons – and Ichigo's parents hadn't minded. Rukia's parents, or rather, parent didn't mind either.

In Ichigo's opinion, he was the nicest guy alive. But he wasn't Rukia's real father. Rukia had been adopted at the age of three months, when her mother had died while giving birth, and her father had died of a broken heart shortly after.

Jushiro Ukitake took the girl in, since she had no family that would take her. No one wanted an extra burden. Usually, adoption agencies would question the matter of a single man taking care of a child, but Ukitake was a highly influential business man, who definitely had enough funds to take care of the girl. Besides, anyone who knew the man, knew that he was fair and just in everything he did. No one dared to question his 'mothering' skills.

Which was the reason the two friends stayed over at each other's places so often. Ukitake, although providing Rukia's bare necessities (and a lot more) could not provide a family, something that Ichigo possessed.

Most of the time they felt comfortable together, even while lying on the same bed. Though sometimes Ichigo found it rather awkward, as they got very close, closer than what a boy or girl, who were in a strictly platonic relationship should be.

Like now, for instance. He had rolled over so that he was watching while she browsed though the photos she had taken earlier that day. And he could smell her hair. Her familiar scent.

"Cool," he said, before rolling back over onto his back.

Rukia jumped on him. "Hey!" she complained. "You only watched for like, three seconds!"

"I'm tired," he mumbled, trying to ignore that she was leaning over his chest. Remember, she did say that they were just friends. Best friends. Nothing more, right? "Besides, I need some rest before tonight's party."

Rukia hopped off, and Ichigo silently thanked whatever god was watching over him. "You're no fun," she pouted, but left him alone while she continued to look at the pictures.

After a few moments of trying to get some sleep (and failing), he rolled over on his side and watched as Rukia studied every photo intently, as if they were going to disappear forever after she pressed the next button.

He smiled a soft smile, though it became obvious he was unaware of it when Rukia turned to look at him.

"What?" she said, turning slightly pink. "I thought you were going to sleep." What the hell was he looking at her like that for? That was…weird, to say the least.

"Oh…yeah." With that, Ichigo buried his burning face in the pillow. After all, he did need some sleep before that stupid party. He wouldn't even be going, if it weren't for Rukia pleading with him to come.

At the thought of Rukia, he felt his face burn up again, and he squeezed his eyes shut, willing sleep to come.

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AN: There! How do you like it? Reviews are much loved and appreciated. I'm on this project…pretty much just to try and get back into the habit of writing again. As you already know, I haven't updated my other stories in a while…though trust me, I want to. It's just that…when I write something, I can either force myself to write, and then it turns out crap, or it just flows out from me. That's what I want. Unfortunately it's not coming, so…please bear with me. Thank you very much!