AN: Yo, thanks all you awesome, awesome reviewers. Giving me inspiration to write…even for other fics. As for other fics, by the way…some of you have been asking about A Summer Job…um…hopefully (not making any promises) this week I should be able to get something down.

Also the legal drinking age in Japan is 20. I know in this story there are a lot of culturally wrong…ideas that I'm implanting…but just deal with it please. So in this story, the legal drinking age will be 18.

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach

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Christmas in the USA: Party

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Loud. That's what he didn't like about parties. The loud music. Sure he appreciated the good tune every now and then, but booming in his ears like this… He sighed, as he picked up his glass. It was punch. He wasn't drinking for a few reasons. One was that he was to drive Rukia back home, and the other was that he wanted to keep an eye on Rukia.

He wasn't a big fan of drinking anyway. He was very susceptible to hangovers. Then again, that didn't stop others, such as Matsumoto. Rukia didn't drink. She had turned eighteen early this year (she was older than him by about two months) and had asked (demanded) him to watch over her while she first tasted alcohol.

It was quite fortunate that she did ask him to look after her, because it turned out that she was extremely alcohol intolerant. Cutting a long story short, it lead to Rukia asking some very personal questions – which thankfully she didn't remember. Ichigo did.

- - -

"Ichigooooooo!" Rukia cried, even though he was right next to her. Ichigo winced. So this was what she was like when she was drunk. Thankfully no one was at their place.

"Shh," he hissed, even though he knew she would keep going.

"Why?" she pouted, looking up at him with big watery eyes. Ichigo turned away, embarrassed.

"Because," he said, not looking at her.

"Why?" she persisted, scooting around to face him.

They were sitting on the floor of her spacious bedroom, and Ukitake had gone away on a business trip, straight after Rukia's birthday. She had been eighteen for about a day, and she had confessed to him that she really wanted to see what it was about alcohol that was so good.

So, here they were, a day after her birthday, with an assortment of alcoholic beverages. She didn't actually need the assortment; after one glass she had started that weird way of talking.

And asking very personal questions.

Like now.

"You know," Rukia said slowly.

"What?" Ichigo answered roughly, cross because he couldn't look away since she was right in front of him.

"There are times I see you looking at me…"

Ichigo gulped. Calm down, he told himself. She's just drunk. Then again, these hidden feelings did come out when people were in this state.

"And that's unnatural because?" he answered slowly.

"No, no, no," she shook her head harder than necessary. "It's like…" she started…then stopped.

It was only then did Ichigo realise that he was hanging onto her every word. "Like?" he repeated.

"Like…you're really looking at me. Um…" she placed her finger on her chin and looked up at the ceiling. "Checking me out."

Ichigo swallowed. What?

Then she laughed. "But as if you would do that," she said as a somewhat sad expression passed over her face.

Ichigo bit his lower lip and moved closer to her. Dare he? Kissing her would either totally ruin their relationship, or change it drastically, whether good or bad he didn't know. Either way, it was certain that any physical contact between them while she was in this state would transform their relationship.

Ichigo pulled back. He wasn't going to kiss her when she was like this. It just wasn't right.

- - -

Loud laughter interrupted his thoughts. He turned around to see a large circle of people standing around someone…Rukia?

He panicked, and made his way to the crowd. Sure enough, in the centre was Rukia, making a variety of 'funny' faces to the circle. Ichigo breathed a sigh of relief, though it was obvious she was drunk. He quickly took her by the hand and led her away from the party, ignoring the surprised looks from everyone.

"Hey," he hissed, grabbing her by the shoulders. "I thought you weren't supposed to get drunk?"

"I'm…I'm not," she protested, even though Ichigo could smell the alcohol on her breath.

"What did you drink?" he asked, ignoring her earlier protest.

"I was just…standing at the table drinking… juice."

Ichigo closed his eyes for a moment. Everyone in their grade knew that Rukia didn't drink, so it was obvious that someone had given her something to drink telling her it was juice to get a laugh out of it.

"Who gave you it?" he asked, his voice quietly under control. Everyone knew.


Ichigo straightened up, his face suddenly becoming cold. "Wait here. Don't move."

Jack Jaggers, more commonly known as Grimmjaw, due to the sneer he wore continually, showing his gleaming white teeth. Ichigo didn't really have anything against the guy, but now, he had a bone to pick with him. That bastard.

He pushed roughly past the crowd, making a clear, straight line path towards the taller student. He was sitting at one of the set up bar tables, chatting with one of his friends.

Ichigo tapped him on the back, unaware that most of the people at the party were watching him. He apparently didn't know that by pushing through the main dancing area with a rather heavy aura, he attracted a lot of stares.

"Hey. Did you give Rukia a drink?" Ichigo asked as the other student turned around.

"Oh. Ichigo. Yeah, it was funny, wasn't it?" he said as he took a sip from his glass.

"Hilarious," Ichigo replied in a dead tone. He made as if to walk away, but suddenly turned around and smashed his fist into the other boy's face. The force knocked Grimmjaw onto the floor, his glass shattering onto the ground. The party was silent. Even the DJ was kind enough to turn off the music.

Ichigo stood there, clenching and unclenching his fists, waiting to see if Grimmjaw would get up. When he didn't, Ichigo turned away. He was so furious that he couldn't see the astonished gaze of the crowd on him, then to Grimmjaw, and then to him again.

"It was only a joke," he heard a voice behind him say. "Why the hell does it matter to you?"

Ichigo turned around just as Grimmjaw had pulled himself up. Taking two quick steps forward, he punched him in the stomach, making him double over. Grabbing his collar with his left hand, he pulled the taller boy off the ground and with a short side step connected his fist with the famous jaw.

Blood spurted in the air, and everyone moved back as Grimmjaw hit the ground and slid across the dance floor.

- - -

Ichigo massaged his swollen wrist. After the fight, he had taken Rukia home. She had sobered down a fair bit after watching Ichigo…well, beat the crap out of Grimmjaw. Not much was said in the car, though Rukia had gladly complied with Ichigo as he took her hand at the party as a signal to leave. After coming to her senses, she didn't exactly want to stay.

After taking a quick shower, she lay on her bed, watching Ichigo sit on a chair in her bedroom, looking at anywhere but her.

"Hey," she said quietly.

Ichigo looked up, raising his eyebrows.


"It's fine."

A pause. "But you should really be a bit more alert," he said, concern framing his sentence. "What if I wasn't there?"

"I can take care of myself," she retorted, immediately feeling guilty. But it wasn't as if it was her fault she got drunk.

"Not if you're drunk," he replied, just as quickly.

"I didn't exactly want to," she said, but quieter this time.


"I…" Ichigo started. "I know." He looked up at the ceiling. "I was just…worried about you."

"I know. Thanks," she said, getting off the bed and taking his swollen wrist in her hands. "We should probably get some ice on that. Wait here."

In a normal house, the fridge would be in the kitchen, but Ukitake had spent a lot of money refurbishing the four-bedroom house. He had carpenters install doors between two of the already-large bedrooms, to make a sort of 'living room' connected to Rukia's bedroom. In her personal living room she had couches, a widescreen plasma TV, a fridge, and a kitchen, though the kitchen was only installed lately, since Ukitake didn't trust Rukia's cooking skills until recently.

The door slid open, and Rukia appeared with a drying cloth and an ice pack. Ichigo held out his hand as Rukia knelt in front of him.

As she wrapped the drying cloth around his wrist carefully, she said gently, "You might have gone a bit far there."

Ichigo forced a laugh. He could still feel the rage boiling inside of him. "He'll live."

She placed the icepack on top of his wrist. "Ichigo, it's ok. It was just his stupid little joke." She searched his eyes for a response. "And you were there right?"

At that his eyes softened. "Yeah."

Rukia felt like laughing at his over-protectiveness. It was as if he was her dad. She got up and kissed him quickly on the cheek. "We should probably sleep. We need to pack tomorrow."

"Yeah, you go ahead," Ichigo said, not moving from his seat.

Rukia raised an eyebrow. "Something still wrong?" she sighed.

"No…its just…I haven't changed since the party. I feel smelly."

Rukia grinned inwardly. This was the Ichigo she knew. She wrinkled her nose. "You are smelly. Go take a shower."

Ichigo rolled his eyes. "I'll be back then."

"Ok. Remember to take the keys," she called as she got into her bed.

"Yep," he replied as he walked out the door.

- - -

His house was quiet and dark. Everyone had fallen asleep long ago, he thought as he checked his watch. Half-past one. He tried to make as little noise as possible as he grabbed a towel and stepped into the shower.

He felt the sticky feeling of the party wash off him as the hot water pounded on his shoulders. He let out a sigh. There was still something bothering him. He closed his eyes and listened to Grimmjaw's taunt.

"It was only a joke," he heard a voice behind him say. "Why the hell does it matter to you?"

There was quite a good reason why it mattered to him. Because he loved her.

It was that simple. Funny though, since he often was the one who scorned love, especially Rukia's. She had had her share of boyfriends, and none of them had worked out. Every time he had been there to comfort her through her tears, he had always heard a small voice inside of him telling him to do something about it. But he had suppressed that voice telling himself that it was utterly ridiculous that he, a best friend, should pursue her as a romantic interest.

Now with school over, it seemed like it didn't matter anymore. It was as if his feelings just presented themselves in front of his face. And there was nothing he could do about it.

He turned off the shower, and stepped out. He would tell her. On this trip. And she would forget about that other guy. And she would tell him that she had loved him all along, and it would be a happy ending after all. They would leave the USA content, and not giving a damn about that other guy.

Ichigo frowned. How come that other guy was always making his way into his fantasies about Rukia. He had known Rukia well enough that she wouldn't go crazy over someone just like that. Even with her previous boyfriends, one of the main reasons why they had broken up with her was that they didn't feel 'loved'. Ichigo knew this, because he had questioned each and everyone of her previous boyfriends. In private. Some walked away with serious wounds.

But this guy – she had been gushing about him since the day she had met him. That was two years ago. And Ichigo could swear she was still as obsessed now, over that stupid guy. Not that Ichigo had actually met him.

But he remembered that day vividly. Because that was the only day in his life that he had decided to confess to her.

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AN: Hey all. Hope you like this new update. I'll try get my other stories updated too. Thanks for reviewing. Much appreciated.