The walk home was a quiet one since he had come back from Soul Society for a fifth or was it a sixth time. It had to be the sixth time. He had to work hard to get his grades back up to his previous performance level but he had managed quite nicely. His mind kept straying to the short raven haired shinigami that he loved so dearly and wished that she would just stay here with him always. He wanted to scream this last time when he had to go there again because she had gotten herself in over her head, again. But he willingly dove back into the fire to pull her out, again.
He remembered shouting at Byakuya Kuchiki after he brought her home again none the worse for wear, and telling him that he would punch him out next time he allowed Rukia to get in over her head. He also remembered the shakes he had after he left the room realizing what he had done. The elder Kuchiki was not someone to be trifled with. He had meant every word though, and would back them up if it ever happened again. He still remembered the faint smile that crossed Byakuya's face after he stopped yelling. What was that all about, he wondered again.
He walked into his home and was on guard for one of his insane father's surprise attacks but none materialized which was strange in and of itself. He kicked off his shoes and put on his house shoes calling out that he was home. He could hear someone talking in the living room but the voices were to low to make out. He figured that his dad had some company over or Yuzu or Karin did, but he just passed it off. He walked past the living room door and glanced in as he passed, then reversed his step and looked again.
There on the couch was Byakuya Kuchiki and Rukia having a cup of tea with Isshin sitting across from them and Karin and Yuzu sitting next their Dad.
"Um, what's going on?" he asked looking dumbfounded.
Isshin turned to his son and with a stern look, "It seems that Mr. Kuchiki would like for you to become his sisters full time body guard. It has come to his attention that you have saved her from certain perilous situations over and over again. He feels that she should be entrusted into your care as he is unable to fully protect her. It also seems that he will be leaving town on an extended trip and may not return in the near future so he has purchased the house across the street from here and made all the arraignments for you to move in and assume your duties as Rukia's full time body guard."
"What? You can't be serious! I'm only eighteen years old and still in school! Kuchiki-s-sama what's the meaning of this? Rukia?" Ichigo was now flustered beyond words and just gaped at the three.
Byakuya turned and looked Ichigo dead in the eye. "I am doing this to prevent any unnecessary conflicts from arising. I trust that you are up to the job of making sure that my sister's welfare and honor are seen to and that she is safe at all times. I do not expect you to disregard your studies and as such I have enrolled Rukia in your school on a full time basis. My only request is that she be safe and happy. This was also the wish of her sister, my late wife. Do you accept the job?" An ever so slight smirk crossed Byakuya's features as he waited for Ichigo to reply.
Rukia for her part was being extremely quiet and looking very somber and uninterested at this moment.
Ichigo wanted to scream but held it in as he remembered the threats he made to Byakuya back in Soul Society. "This is why he smiled. Rotten bastard." "Byakuya Kuchiki-sama, I accept your offer and will carry out your wishes to the fullest extent possible." With those words he stuck out his hand to seal the deal.
This brought life to the eyes of Rukia, and not in the best way that Ichigo could imagine. The look he received from her promised a severe one sided shouting session and he wasn't going to be the one doing the shouting. He might even feel lucky to escape without broken bones considering how hard she could punch and kick.
"Come Kurosaki-san, you also Rukia. I will show you your new home." Byakuya gracefully stood up and went to the door.
Rukia followed behind her brother without saying a word. She paused at the door noticing that Ichigo hadn't moved. "Are you coming Kurosaki-san?" she asked in a soft voice laced with venom.
"Um, yeah." He scratched the back of his head as he followed her out the door. His mind was racing trying to figure out what Byakuya was up to.
The house across the street was not a bad looking house as it was built around the same time as the clinic was built. It was nearly the same size as Ichigo's house. "All this for two people? Well, at least she won't have to sleep in a closet any more." He smiled at the memories of her jumping out of his closet on school mornings then leaping out the window in an effort to not be caught by Isshin or his sisters.
Rukia turned and looked at him seeing the smile and felt her heart race at the sight. Her words though didn't express the same sentiment. "A body guard doesn't walk around with a silly smile plastered on his face! He is alert to everything around him and aware of what is happening. SNAP OUT OF IT KUROSAKI!"
The look of shock that overcame him made Rukia smile now. She had gotten his attention and made him focus on what her brother was doing again. She was looking around inside the house and admiring all the rooms and the nice furnishings that were in place. "Nii-sama, why did you purchase such a large house? Wouldn't an apartment have done well enough?"
Ichigo came to stand behind Rukia wondering the same thing but letting her take the lead.
Byakuya sighed softly before explaining. "I thought that you understood perfectly well why I am doing this. You're near forced marriage into the rouge Tenishi clan and subsequent rescue by Kurosaki have made it clear to the entire Kuchiki clan that there is only one person that will ever be satisfactory in your eyes and for that matter he has become that way to my eyes also. The clan elders have made their wishes clear and this is your dowry. You are not being forced into marring Kurosaki but you are being given that opportunity. What you do with your opportunity is entirely up to you, as it is with Kurosaki. Kurosaki has also brought it to my attention, rather forcefully, that should I fail to protect you again that there would be problems. So to remove the threat I have placed you into his care."
If there had been a camera in the room the Kodak moment of total shock that came over their faces would have made the Soul Society papers as one of the funniest moments in history. Both Ichigo and Rukia couldn't believe a word that they were hearing.
Byakuya continued, disregarding their stunned looks. "You are of marrying age Rukia and so is Kurosaki by the standards of humans. If you choose to accept him and he chooses to ask for your hand then the whole of Soul Society has given its consent in advance. However, should you choose to separate, there will be no second chance. This is a one time offer and will not ever be allowed again." The last was delivered with full captain authority and without even the slightest hint of humor.
Ichigo's hands found their way to Rukia's shoulders and pulled her gently back to his chest. Her hands crossed before her to gently hold his hands in place.
"So you're saying that this is all so that we can get married?" Ichigo asked finally coming to grasp with what Byakuya had said.
"No, this is so that you can ask for her hand in marriage. I find you to be an acceptable partner for Rukia, so you may ask her for her hand. I also expect that you will be able to support her in a lifestyle that will be appropriate for a noble. This is her only dowry. What she does with it is her choice but I expect you to take care of her like the noble she is."
Ichigo turned Rukia around and looked into her eyes. "Well? What do you think? Would you accept me as your husband?"
He look in her eyes was somewhere between sorrow and joy and Ichigo was left to wait for her response. All his hopes and every desire were wrapped up in this one short shinigami. He was terrified that her response was going to be the one word that would tear them apart forever. He held his face as neutral as he could looking into her eyes. Then, she hit him in the solar plexus causing him to double over.
"What sort of proposal was that! Why would any girl even listen to that sort of crap? If you are going to ask me to marry you then do it right!" She yelled at him. She had totally forgotten that Byakuya was standing less than five feet from them.
She never saw the smile that came over him as he watched the diminutive woman lay low the man that had fought all of Soul Society to rescue her and had defeated all comers. To him this was priceless.
Ichigo couldn't get a word in edgewise as he was berated by Rukia. He placed a knee on the floor of the house and with his head hung low. "I apologize Rukia. You are right, I didn't ask you properly. My I ask again?"
She crossed her arms over her chest and looked down on him for a moment. "Fine, ask again but don't expect me to say yes." She said with a humph in her voice.
He reached out and took her hand in both of his. He looked up into her eyes. "Rukia. You are the one person in the world that makes me smile. You changed my life for the better. You breath life into my every moment that I spend with you. When you are gone I feel the rain and I think it will never stop. My life would not be complete without you. I promise to make you proud of me and I promise to make you happy. I would be honored if you would be my wife and partner."
Her eyes had changed as she listened to his heart felt words. She would have married him anyway but the way he worded what he said told her that SHE was the most important thing in his life and would remain that way. The tears started to form again as she listened. "Yes Ichigo Kurosaki, I will marry you." She threw herself into his arms.
He held her like she was the most precious thing in the world, and in his world she was.
They stayed like that for a while until they heard the throat clearing of Byakuya. They both looked at him and blushed. He pointed over Ichigo's shoulder where they looked to see a stunned looking Karin and Yuzu and a very smug looking Isshin.
"Boy, I think you forgot something." Isshin held out a small jewelry box. "Your Mother's rings. I think that she would like you to have them to present to the woman that you are going to marry."
Ichigo took the small box and opened it taking out the diamond engagement ring and placing it on Rukia's finger. He looked into her eyes as he stood up. "I love you Rukia, I think that I always have and I know that I always will."
"Baka Ichigo, just shut up and kiss me."
Amazing how we got from becoming a body guard to becoming a man and wife but that is the way these two work. All or nothing. Most of the time ALL.
So what about an engagement party/house warming party? Or do I leave this alone as a one shot? Readers decide.