-----I don't own anything Bleach, and this is a first try at fan fiction! Send me comments

It started like any other day.

Well, almost…

Kurosaki residence, early morning

Rolling over under his sheets, Ichigo opened sleepy eyes to greet the new day with his telltale frown. Groaning, he shut his amber irises again and turned over, slamming his face forcefully in his pillow, as if this gesture could somehow make him forget that he had to attend school in a very short while.

Hitting blindly someplace near his bed, he shut the alarm, and groaned once again. Somewhere in the corner of his mind, he could almost picture her serious face, discouraged at his lack of courage toward the sun, the tasks at hand, life itself. Hurriedly, he sat up on his mattress, looking around, as if the simple fact that he thought of it and didn't feel the moment happening was just… wrong. Then, he shuddered.

Disgust, discouragement perhaps? He sighed heavily, resumed his frowning and scratched his unruly orange locks absentmindedly.

"So much for usual mornings…"

………………………………………………………………………………………………

"ICHIGO!"

He mumbled dreamily, not quite placing his surroundings. It was all so hazy…

"Ichigo! Ichi…!"

He blinked, several times, starting to feel like a sleepwalker.

ICHIGO! Oi, Ichigo!

Frowning deeper, he suddenly took his bearings, lifting his head toward the shadowed grounds of the school, where the building towered its presence under the hammering rays of that blasted sun. From the roof, he could see hands in the air. Asano, as energetic as ever, was waving at him frantically from their usual lunch spot.

"Come on up Ichigo!

Distinguishing several silhouettes up there, albeit barely, since he had to squint so much, he raised a hand in a distracted salute, not muttering a word, then swung his schoolbag on his shoulder and went toward the steps.

"Dumbass, could have bumped on a trashcan or something…" He murmured to himself.

Since when did I start spacing out so much anyways? Grumbling, he fell back into contemplative reverie.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

From their spot on the grassy grounds, the small group of girls spotted Ichigo walking toward the school from miles away. Under this kind of blasting light, his hair shone like a beacon, a big, luminous warning siren. Worriedly, Tatsuki threw a careful glance toward her friend Inoue, who unmistakably wore that expression again… Grrrr!

Now, even Chizuru wasn't her bubbly self around the nymph-like girl. As if her fake cheery eyes, always a few moments after she would spot him, hurt the female maniac to the core. Much to say, it really took a lot to shake that crazy girl out of her rockers!

Hearing the soft sigh coming from the soft and compassionate girl, Tatsuki couldn't resist cracking her knuckles for what HE did to her. He might not know, or perhaps he didn't care. Men's ego sometimes…

Still, knowing her friend hurt because he was careless around her best of friends made her angry. Every time she cornered him, he kept evasive, distant… almost like… a ghost.

"I-I… I wish he would smile. I miss his surprise grin on days like this." Inoue blurted out suddenly. Turning her eyes toward her, Tatsuki couldn't agree more. Sure, since when it happened, so long ago, he never was the same, but now…

Orihime…

Even gloomier, the spectacled girl who always jumped on said Inoue stayed calmed, eyes fixed as she coolly explained her point of view, looking at a point in the distance, somewhat near the roof of the school.

"Wasn't he always the cool, distant guy, so careful of his image? So what if he wants to reject himself from the world? If he thinks he is so better than everyone…"

Irises dancing from her passionate pain, Inoue stood up hurriedly, fists clenched to her side.

"Take it back Chizuru, you know nothing!"

All eyes turned on her, more than just a little shaken. Sweet, kind Orihime looked so troubled, so in turmoil inside, like the single fact that HE had been insulted had hit her to the core.

"Kurosaki-kun is not like that! He never was! He just… he just feels rain falling on him even on hot summer days like this…" she finished weakly. She turned her eyes away, toward the sky where the contours of the roof contrasted sharply with the vivid blue azure of heavens.

For once, lunch between the girls was silent, thoughtful and more than a little awkward.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

Putting once foot in front of the other was a calm, mechanical, ordinary thing he could focus on. Left, right, left, right… As if nothing else in this world mattered just now. The silent figure of Chad somewhat far, but close enough, shadowed his steps.

That comfortable aura of silence they could share, not saying a word, nor a look, helped calm his thoughts, letting his mind focus on nothing but the pavement, the small bits of gravel that he distinguished on the ground, the occasional debris of garbage that soiled the scenery…

It was about as close as Ichigo came to talk this day. He and Chad shared a lot more in this quiet silence than appearances could ever explain. He had kept an eye on him, discreet and unobtrusive, for a good while now. He knew whatever he had on his mind would come out, sooner or later, and no rush could probably help on such matters.

Inoue's sweet pleas, Tatsuki's threats, Asano's bubbly comments, Ishida's smirking observations… nothing had cut it so far. He would soon come around, somehow, he felt it.

When they neared the Kurosaki household and small clinic, Chad stopped walking, the setting sun highlighting his broad shoulders from behind. Soundlessly, he put a large hand on his friend, his companion's arm, and nodded at his stoic face when Ichigo glanced his way.

Not adding anything, he left; hands in his pockets, while the orange-haired guy entered his home, dodging his dad's kick absentmindedly, ignoring his young sisters' plight to grab a bit, and went up toward his room, vacant eyes registering nothing.

-----I'll try to make something good, I promise!