(A/N): Yay! In celebration of midterms finally ending, I hope you enjoy this chapter.

Chapter 20: Falling Up

Ichigo cursed himself for getting himself into this situation in the first place. He couldn't have just minded his business; he couldn't have just pushed Rukia into the past and moved on with his routine, bloody life. No, of all the things to do, he had to stalk her. And look where it got him: a deserted alley with the woman he loved and abandoned pinning him to the floor, most likely with a knife hidden in her pocket.

Just hearing the tone of her voice, as threatening and violent and manly and utterly familiar as the last time he'd heard it, was enough to make all the blood run out of his face and throat suddenly dry. But then he reminded himself that he was a MAN, a freaking assassin for god's sake! So it was only basic logic that he be calm, cool and unaffected.

"Is that supposed to s-scare me?" Crap, he stuttered. She probably smelled his fear by now and was biding her time to rip him apart with her teeth and eat him alive.

A sharp, thin eyebrow rose in response to his question. "Why do you look like you've just pissed yourself?" To add to his embarrassment, she leaned back slightly to see if she was right.

Turning red, he replied, "Coz you're kneeing my goddamn bladder is why!" She glared harder at him, and being the spiteful bitch she was, she dug her knee in deeper, making him groan.

"What do you want?" he demanded warily. In all honesty, he had no clue. He vaguely wondered if he should know, and then cursed himself for being so stupid sometimes.

"What the hell do you mean, 'What do I want?' What do you think?!"

"Uh…" His face contorted uncomfortably, and Rukia's dimmed in confusion. He looked constipated.

"Answers asshole! I want some freaking answers!"

Ichigo's face seemed to fall back into his usual, everyday scowl. And much to Rukia's disbelief and slight disgust, her stomach seemed to do a flip at the sight of it. Biting back her anger, she waited for a response.

"Well, can't you get answers in a nice place? Why did you come here, a freaking alley, anyway?"

"Well for one thing, you were stalking me you stupid freak! And if you were gonna wear fucking rat shavings glued to your chin and follow me around, then I doubted that turning around and politely asking you to discuss our problems over a cup of coffee was gonna work!" Looking at his slightly fearful face, she continued. "And I really wanted to punch you Ichigo, and I'm so glad I did coz it felt damn good!"

"…Are you done with your little tirade?" He asked quietly, amber eyes now unreadable.

She huffed indignantly, paused and thought for a second. "Yes."

"Hm…well, now that you've caught me and I've agreed to talk to you, could you please get off me?"


He gritted his teeth in annoyance. "Why. Not." He growled it out in such a menacing way, that any other person, maybe even Renji would have been quick to scurry away. But of course, much to his misfortune, Rukia was not any other person. She sneered down at him like a cat measuring her prey.

"Because you, my little fruity boy, are a coward. And I know the second I get off; you'll probably knock me out and run away with your tail between your legs."

Damn, she knew him so well.

But he wasn't so prepared to let her believe she had the entire upper hand. Like every other time they fought, he had to ensure to her that he held at least half the power. Moving his hands, whose wrists were being held down by Rukia, he moved them up to grasp her upper thigh. She yelped in surprise and blushed bright red. Turning to look at him with wide eyes, he smirked and pulled her forward a bit to a more comfortable position where she wouldn't be resting all her weight on his…ahem, lower body.

He pulled his hands back and rested them back to their original position, her fingers still clasped around his wrists. "If you're not gonna get off, then I wanna be comfortable. Go on with your questions," he said, still smirking.

Rukia was furious to say the least. How dare he touch her like that…so familiarly! And now she was flustered and all her threats and things she was planning to say had flown out the window the second he made contact with her legs. She was just blessed that she was at least wearing suit pants and not a skirt.

To pay him back for her embarrassment, which he was reveling in, she slapped his head quite hard. It worked.

"OW! What was that for?!" All his suaveness and arrogance vanished.

"For changing the subject!"


"Now, my first question is…" As she expected, he immediately fell silent, his face changing again, this time back to the cold hard shell she had encountered so many times when he was dealing with business. She sighed mentally. Out of all his faces, she disliked this cold one most.

"What happened to Gin and Aizen?" Her eyes were averted as she spoke, focusing on his the buttons of his dirt brown shirt. She didn't notice the immediate tightening of his muscles, or his fists clenching under her wrists, or the anger portrayed on his face coupled with the hidden concern in his eyes and he glared at her.

"I'm…not at liberty to talk about that," he replied stonily, feeling his heart clench when she flinched almost imperceptibly. She turned her head back up to face him, a mixture of emotions running through her eyes. Anger, annoyance, confusion and even slight fear. She opened her mouth several times, only to close it again.

"No…of course you're not," she whispered to herself, followed by a bitter chuckle. Sighing deeply, and watching her eyes slowly harden, he cursed his idiocy.

"Aizen's being held at an area designated by Yamamato, waiting for execution. Gin…" Ichigo paused and Rukia straightened up a bit. "We're not sure where Gin is."

Her reaction was one he feared. She exhaled sharply and her eyes snapped back to stare at him disbelievingly, silently begging him to say he was kidding. He didn't. Her death grip around his wrist tightened and she swallowed deeply. He wasn't going to say anything else. She knew it.

"Ah, well I hope you guys find him."

A long silence followed after that. The only awkward silence that ever existed between them that didn't evolve from a petty argument. "Well, hurry up and ask your other questions," Ichigo barked after several minutes. "I got stuff to do."

She stared at him, intensity returning. "Inappropriate gay videos, I presume? Leave Renji alone, Ichigo…"

"What was that bi—"

"How's Momo doing?"

Obviously annoyed at being interrupted and being called gay, he scoffed. "She's doing fine now. Woke up a couple weeks ago."

"I'm glad…I miss her."

"Hm." He grinned at the sudden chance. "Who's the gay one now?! Ha, too bad Kuchiki, Hitsugaya already called dibs on her."

"Why did you just dump me in a hospital without any word of anything? No note or message or anything to clue me in one what was going on! What, were you hoping I'd wake up with amnesia or thinking it was a dream or something? I mean, I understand if Yamamato ordered it…but I don't think he'd be so cruel."


"That's my last question Ichigo," Rukia said and there was something in her voice as she said it that Ichigo just couldn't define, no matter how hard he tried. "Just answer me that one question and I'll get off and let you go and never bother you again." She sounded so tired.


He didn't want that. And the slap of realization hit him like one of Rukia's punches. He didn't want her out of his life. He wanted her to stay with him in his penthouse. He wanted to wake up with her every morning and fight with her all day. He didn't want to come home to a dark, lonely home, but rather to a bright home, with her cooking stinking up the place and fires from the oven heating up the kitchen. He wanted to protect her. He wanted to be selfish.

He needed her.

And just when he was about to tell her that, she adjusted herself on top of him and he was exposed to the light blue blouse she was wearing, stained with the blood of gunshot wounds that had reopened just this morning. A wave of self-hatred rose up in him and he flushed his revelation down the toilet.

He needed her…but he couldn't have her. For her own good.


She needed to hate him. If she hated him, if would be easier on her. Ichigo struggled to figure out an answer that was vague enough not to reveal anything he was feeling, but enough to satisfy her, if such an explanation was even possible.


"Orders," he said the first word on his brain and Rukia stiffened on him. This was the one answer she did not want to hear. "Yamamato ordered it, and I always follow orders, Kuchiki." He turned his neck to meet her eyes head-on. "Why would I go against orders?"

You could if you wanted to, Rukia thought to herself but didn't dare voice her thoughts. He'd gone against orders before, and for much more trivial things. She chuckled bitterly. Of course…she wasn't worth the effort.

Ichigo flinched. She had said the words out loud, but it was so quiet that he had to strain his ears to hear it and once he did, wished he hadn't bothered. She probably didn't even know she'd spoken them aloud. A tight fist of guilt clenched his stomach and he averted his eyes. He was a coward.

Several silent, tense moments passed, neither moving, neither looking at the other. Rukia wasn't sure why she lingered after his answer; perhaps she was desperately wishing for him to say he was just kidding and give her the answer she wanted to hear.

He didn't.

Sighing, Rukia let go of her grip on his wrists and straightened her spine. "Alright," she muttered. "Thanks."

The fist around his stomach constricted almost painfully and she moved to get up. She wiggled against him to get her weight on her knees so she could pull away without further contact. His chest started to burn. He couldn't let her leave. Not like this, not without some memory of her to satisfy him for the rest of his days until he forgot her forever, if that was even possible.

So, Ichigo did what he usually did and listened to his instincts for the first time in a long time. Just as she was about to shift her weight to her feet and get up, his arms shot out and grasped her elbows, pulling her down. She landed heavily on his chest and looked up at him with confused and frustrated eyes. "Ichi—"

He silenced her with a kiss, firmly planting his lips over hers. One hand clamped around the back of her neck, maneuvering her head so he could find the optimal point of pleasure. Rukia stiffened at first, and tried to pull back, though it was futile. Ichigo focused on when she finally relaxed, her tense body molding against his and her lips finally parting to let him in. The kiss wasn't aggressive or violent at all, but rather possessive and desperate and bubbling over with the silent passion between them. Her fists clenched around his shirt and his other hand moved to wrap around her waist.

Ichigo cursed himself for starting the kiss. It was like taking a long huff of a cigarette after being smoke-free for a long period of time. He wanted more.

The need for oxygen won out as they finally parted, staring at each other for several moments. Ichigo didn't let anything show on his face as he awaited her reaction. Violet eyes flooded with emotion ranging from confusion, irritation, distress, more confusion, and then the all familiar anger.

And then she did the last thing Ichigo would have expected.

Rukia pulled back so she was straddling his hips yet again and then drew her hand back in a fist and punched him in the jaw. It didn't hurt, and it was a typical Rukia reaction, but…

"What the hell, you freaking—"

"What was that?!"

Ichigo stared at her incredulously. Was she stupid, naive, or just in denial? "Well around here, we call it a kiss!"

A hand roughly pushed dark bangs away from her face. "Let me rephrase. Why did you kiss me asshole?"

He smirked in an attempt to infuriate her further. To be quite honest, he always found her most appealing when she was flustered like this; cheeks flushed, eyes bright with anger and lips swollen with their previous actions. "Ohhhh," he drawled out childishly. "That's what you meant. You really should be more specific next time—"

"Ichigo, if you don't answer me, I swear to God—"

"The same reason you kissed me back," he answered at last, and his tone was surprisingly serious.

Rukia didn't have a comeback that time. She blushed against her will, and opened and closed her mouth several times. Ichigo remained patient and unwavering the whole time as she fought to compose herself. "Stop giving me backward answers," she demanded wearily.

"I gave you a perfectly straight answer Rukia. You just don't want to admit it to yourself."

She glared at him. "You have no right to say any of this, much less kiss me! Weren't you the one practically pushing me away just a few minutes ago? Stop jumping back and forth Ichigo! Pick something and stick with it!"

Ichigo's eyes looked pained for a second, but it disappeared as quickly as it came. Groaning loudly in frustration, she prepared to hit him again, but not too hard. Unfortunately, this time, he saw it coming. With narrowed eyes he caught her wrist, "tsk, tsk, Rukia." With the grace only an assassin could have, he wound his arm around her waist again, and easily switched their positions so Rukia was on bottom.

"And for the record, I could have done that anytime."

"And…if I could have, I would have picked you." He moved to get up and leave, but Rukia kicked out his feet beneath him before he could. He fell on the floor, arms shooting out just in time to prevent their heads from banging together. "Damn…"

"Then why don't you?" Rukia persisted. She was vaguely aware of how ridiculous she must sound and how annoyed he must be, but blew it aside. She had to know.

"You never give up, do you?" Her determined eyes were enough of an answer. Sighing, he grabbed her forearm and pulled her up with his so they were now standing. "You were shot," his fingers immediately curled into fists as he said it. "You almost died because of me. If you had never met me, this never would have happened. That's why I left you in the hospital, so you could go back to your normal life and forget and…" his eyes lost their focus as he remembered one of the first things she had said to him. "…and have your freedom back." He gave a cheerless smile and avoided her gaze.

There was silence as he stubbornly avoided meeting her eyes, until she whispered "Idiot." She grinned weakly. "What a stupid reason. I never blamed you for getting shot and," her voice rose and she cut him off from interrupting. "And I never wanted to go back to a normal life. I don't think that's even possible…how could I forget you?"


She winced and continued. "And I kissed you back because for some insane reason that I can't even fully understand, I love you—"

The second kiss, in Rukia's opinion, was just as sudden as the first and even better. The initial force of it was enough to make her stumble until her back hit the brick wall. Almost immediately, her arms traveled upward to circle his neck and pull him closer. Frustrated by having to bend down so far, Ichigo hands traveled downward to cup her thighs and hoist her up. Automatically, her legs wrapped around his waist. Her back hit the wall again as he pulled away to trail hot kisses down her jaw and throat before meeting the sensitive junction of her shoulder and neck. Her fingernails dug into his shoulders and she arched back.

"You're an idiot," he muttered into her skin. He pulled his head back to stare at her. "You never know when to back down. I don't think you fully comprehend the consequences of what living with me will bring."

"I think I do," Rukia replied. "I'm pretty sure I do, and I just don't care."


"Ichigo, stop worrying about me, because I can take good care of myself. I'm not a little girl. I know what I'm getting into by wanting to be with you, and I just don't care." She pushed against his chest and he took a step back. She unhooked her feet from his waist and stood up. "What do you want?"

"I don't—"

"It is such a simple question Ichigo," she frowned. "Even you're not that dumb."

He stuffed his fists into his coats' pockets and shifted uncomfortably. "I want you to be safe." Her frown deepened and she crossed her arms. "Fine! But you know so already so…don't make me say it." His face had turned a deep red that clashed horribly with his bright hair.

Feeling considerably more light-hearted, she decided to show him some pity for the first time and let it drop.

"Do you want to stay with me?"

"Yes," she replied with no hesitation.

"Why?" he asked with genuine curiosity. After all the things he had done and said to her, he would have thought she'd be happy if she never saw him again.

Violet eyes crinkled into a grin. "I already told you why."

He resisted the urge to throw his arms up in frustration. In reality, though he didn't show any outward change except for maybe a softening of his scowl and a new lightness in his eyes that certainly wasn't there before, Ichigo was happy.

Very happy.

Against everything he believed and assumed, she actually wanted to stay with him. And even better, he got over his fears enough to let her. She was coming back…finally.

And he expressed his happiness and relief in the only way he knew that didn't involve smiling stupidly. He backed her up against the wall again, and kissed her for the third time. She smiled against his lips and brought her hands around his neck.

Ichigo was about to take it a step further, just a step as they were in the middle of a public place, when an angry voice interrupted him.

"OI!! What the hell do ya think yerdoin'!"

Rukia's eyes shot open and she forcibly pushed Ichigo back. He stumbled back several feet, but steadied himself with clumsy grace. He turned flashing amber eyes to glare at the disrupter. To his shock, the man glared right back at him with equal fury.

"This ain't yer house kiddies," the man in the stained apron and lopsided bakers' hat snarled. He threw the black garbage bag in his hand into a can. "It's friggin' public alley where anyone can see you—"

Rukia interrupted this time with an embarrassed and sincere apology. Ichigo didn't say anything, opting to keep his death glare, until Rukia jabbed his ribs with her elbow and gave him a pointed look.

"Me too," he said it as if it were the hardest thing in the world to admit. Quite frankly, he hand itched to grab the tantō and stab the guy's beer belly a couple dozen times.

The man's hazel eyes narrowed at the younger man, but he grunted in response. "Whatever," he said, "just get a room next time, eh?"

Rukia blushed brightly and turned her head to the side to cough. The man gave Ichigo one last disapproving look, and then turned back to enter his shop, muttering all the while.

"What an ass," Ichigo blurted as soon as the door closed. Rukia laughed nervously and adjusted her blouse. Luckily, the man hadn't seen the blood that stained her shirt.

"No, he was right," she said and returned Ichigo's glare as it shifted to her. I'm losing my touch, Ichigo thought to himself. My glares just don't instill fear like they used to…

"Fine," he spat and started walking back towards the street. Rukia blinked confused at what just happened and what she should do, when a calloused hand gripped her smaller one and pulled her with him.

"Come on," he mumbled under his breath. She began to walk on her own, and smiled when he didn't let go of her hand.

"Let's go home."

Somewhere in Ichigo's mind, something sighed, "Finally."


(A/N): Finally, it eez done!!!! Gosh, it took me forever to finish writing this chapter. Honestly, I wrote, deleted and rewrote so many things in this chapter. But I am very satisfied with it, and hopefully you are as well.

There's an epilogue coming up but then the story is over and you no longer have to threaten me to update. Won't that be great?! (Silence) Oh, it'll be up soon…no, seriously, it will…

Review please! (Coz there's only one left…sadness)