Rating: Totally PG
Spoilers: Umm… none?
A/N: I wrote this a while ago. I'm finally posting it. stole some of my formatting. Originally, all the paragraphs in Rukia's perspective were indented to separate them from Ichigo's point of view. Anything that relates to the two of them connecting, such as dialogue, is centered.
Ichigo starts every morning with a run around the campus, enjoying the quiet of a world still asleep. He wears shorts even in the icy skin-burning chill of winter because he is both stubborn and eager to feel alive.
Rukia begins her mornings standing on a rooftop, staring out across the town she is to protect. She knows the moment Ichigo wakes up, but she only sometimes goes to meet him on his morning run because she is both stubborn and eager to feel alive. On cooler days, she brings an extra blanket.
He likes the way his feet make even rhythms that change depending on whether he is running on grass or concrete or gravel. He likes the way the skin on his bare arms prickles under the touch of the wind. He likes when he can feel the warmth of her presence on those sometimes mornings, before his eyes find the curve of her hips and the shine of her eyes.
She likes the way the thick muscles tense under his wind-reddened skin as his graceful, efficient strides bring him around the bend of the lake. She likes the way he pretends not to know she is there until she steps out of the shadows and stands in his path with her arms crossed and stance wide. She likes when he smirks at her with a mischievous determination in his eyes and sprints faster.
They both like when he tackles her and rolls her to the ground next to him.
Shoulder-to-shoulder, they lie on the grass.
"I can always tell when you're there, Rukia."
"But you never know before, do you?"
"Isn't it more fun that way?"
Even though he only shrugs, he knows the answer is 'yes' because of the anxious exhilaration mingling with the endorphins in his blood.
Even though he only shrugs, she knows the answer is 'yes' because she can feel the frenzied beating of his heart against her cheek.
They listen to the sounds of the lake water slapping the rocks and the trees dancing and the birds greeting the sun. She doesn't speak until the chattering of his teeth is added to the paraphernalia of sound.
"Fool. You've been a human your whole life and you don't yet know that you'll freeze?"
"I've definitely spent at least a cumulative year in Soul Society."
"Does that make it better?"
"I'm not cold, anyway."
She leans up on a thin, pointed elbow and stares at him.
He doesn't meet her eyes but he is smiling.
"How have you managed to live this long?"
"Good Karma. You know, I read this book once—"
"No. No books."
"If you spent more time reading, it might spare the world from those deformed drawings you call art."
She punches him in the arm.
"When I was young, I was taught a wise saying. It goes like this: all times are not for all things. Everything has its—"
His finger on her lips stops her.
"Shhh… You're ruining the moment."
He wants to laugh at the way her eyes bulge and her cheeks puff like she is a balloon about to pop. He thinks of a cork being pulled from a wine bottle when he removes his hand from her mouth.
She wants to murder him in some horrific way but she also wants to laugh because she remembers a time when he was younger and she bested him in every argument they had. She thinks of blooming tiger lilies beside the Rukongai River when he removes his hand from her mouth.
He pulls her to the lakeside and wraps his arms around her.
She unfolds the blanket and drapes it over their shoulders.
And, staring out at the glass-like water reflecting a pink and purple tinged sky, he imagines that it is hundreds of years ago, and that he is a Samurai and she the lady he has sworn to protect. He looks down at the gleaming mass of her hair that is dark enough to have captured a starless night and he has to amend his fantasy. She is a Samurai too, but though they fight together, he always protects her.
And, staring out at the wisps of yellow-touched clouds caught in the treetops, she imagines that it is years in the future, and that he is a Soul Society Captain and she is his Vice Captain, battling beside him. She looks up at the square set of his jaw with the orange stubble of quiet rebellion and she has to amend her fantasy. She is a Captain too, but they still battle side-by-side, and she forces him to allow her to protect him every once in a while.
"You know Rukia, I worried once…"
"I worried once that we wouldn't have anything in common."
"Well, you were obviously wrong."
"Because I worried the same thing."
He turns his auburn eyes to her.
She meets him with a mingling of violet and indigo.
"Good morning, Ichigo."
They both feel alive.