Rukia sat up quickly, heart beating wildly and eyes wide with fear. She had been peacefuly sleeping in Karin and Yuzu's room when that horrible sound woke her up. Karin and Yuzu weren't there, they were still downstairs with their father celebrating something they called 'New Year's Eve'. She wasn't sure what that was, but she did know that the celebrations involved staying up past midnight and, after staying out late dealing with a rather nasty Hollow last night, she just wanted to go to sleep. And so, at 10, she was asleep, only to be rudely awakened less than an hour later by that strange noise.

Maybe someone is hurt, she thinks, maybe it's a, no, I would've sensed it.

After regaining her breath and calming her beating heart, she goes out into the hallway and into Ichigo's room, ready to ask him what the noise was.

Ichigo is thrown on his back over the bed, staring aimlessly at the ceiling, his arms resting behind his head. He doesn't even aknowledge her as she walks in, but Rukia knows he can sense her. She wonder why he is in his room istead of downstairs enjoying the celebrations with his family.

"Ichigo?" she questions softly.

"Hmmm?" he answers, still staring at the ceiling.

"What was that loud sound? Was it some type of attack?" she asks.

He laughs softly before turning his face toward where she stands at the door. "No," he says. "It's just my dad and my sisters celebrating. Karin probably popped a noise maker or something. Did it wake you up?"

"Yes." Rukia says, slightly annoyed. "Why are they making noise anyway?"

Ichigo sighs, ready for another ezplanation. "On New Year's Eve people celebrate at midnight by making noise and throwing fireworks, things like that."

"It's not midnight yet." she states simply.

"I know, but my family starts celebrating early." he looks away from her and stares at the ceiling again.

"Humans have strange ways of celebrating." she mumbles.

Ichigo laughs soflty but doesn't reply.

"Why are you not celebrating with them?" curiosity takes the better of her.

"I'm not like them." Ichigo says. "I don't like to be around people making noise. I like my peace and quiet."

Just like me.

They stay silent for a few minutes, neither of them saying anything at all until Rukia remembers something Ichigo said earlier.

"What are fireworks?" she asks suddenly.

He sits up on the bed, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed and touching the floor. "They're these things that get thrown into the air, like small bombs, and they explode in the sky and their lights illuminate the sky." he says.

Rukia stares at him, eyes wide and shining with excitement. "Wow..." she whispers.

Ichigo looks at her and smiles, the he suddenly stands up. "Come on" he says.

"What?" Rukia asks stading up also.

Ichigo puts on his jacket and gloves and walks towards the closet to get his scarf. "Put something warm on, we're going out."

"Out? Where?" she asks.

Ichigo turns towards her and smiles, scarf tightly gripped in his hand. "To see the fireworks."

She runs out of the room before he can say anything else and returns a few minutes later wearing a pair of jeans and her warm coat. The excitement in her eyes shines more than ever before.

Ichigo walks down the stairs and she follows, quickly putting on her gloves. When they get downstairs they see Isshin, Karin and Yuzu all wearing hats with glittery letters that spell "Happy New Year!!!". They're running around the living room making noise. When Isshin sees them he quicly aproaches.

"Ichigo! My son!" he exclaims. "Have you and Rukia-chan finally decided to join us?"

"Uh, no." Ichigo says. "I'm taking Rukia to see the fireworks."

"Oh! I see!" Isshin says, his eyes gleaming with glee. "You're going to give Rukia-chan her New Year's kiss beneath the fireworks! Ah, young love-"

His speech is interrupted by Ichigo's fist connecting with his head and an exclamation of 'Shut up!'. Ichigo pulls a confused Rukia out of the door as his sisters stare at them and his father's voice of "Have fun!" carries them out the door. Once they're out the door she spares a glance at him and notices the high red color on his cheeks.

He's blushing, Rukia smiles.

They walk in silence, taking in the trees and coldness bitting at their faces, until they arrive at a small park sorrounding a lake. There Ichigo stands and looks at the sky, she does the same.

"Are we on time?" Rukia asks.

He nods before adding, "There's still five minutes left until midnight."

They continue to stare at the sky in silence for what seems like hours, until Ichigo checks his watch. "I'll start the countdown now. 10, 9, 8, 7..."

Before Rukia can ask what he's counting down to, he's already done.

"5, 4, 3, 2, 1...Happy New Year, Rukia."

She looks up at him about to ask him what just happened, but then there's a loud screech sound and an explosion in the sky. Millions of blue sparks illuminate the sky as she stares at them in wonder.

So these are fireworks, amazing.

Another firework follows, this time with red sparks and then another with silver ones. Ichigo spares a glance at her and smiles. She's so excited about such a simple thing, she's like a small child. He's happy to have made her forget about everything for a while and just let her enjoy life.

The light spectacle lasts about 10 more minutes and after the last explosion of lights Rukia's eyes lower and focus on the lake a smile on her face. She's quiet for a few moments, but then she remembers something Kurosaki-san said earlier. "Ichigo" she asks "what did your father mean earlier? When he said something about you giving me a 'New Year's kiss'? What is that?" She raises her gaze from the lake's glassy surface to look at him. Ichigo's face is completely red and he avoids eye contact like the plague.

He stutters for a few moments before answering, "Well, at midnight some...couples...celebrate the start of the new year by, uh, kissing." He blushes even more as he says the word.

"Oh..." Rukia continues to look at him, but Ichigo's stare stays on the lake's surface. "A kiss," she says suddenly "like this?" She leans over towards him and touches her lips to his cheek.

She pulls away.

Ichigo is blushing again. He stares at her with wide eyes and raises a hand to touch the spot on his cheek where her lips had been just a moment ago. "N-Not quite..." he whispers, answering her question.

She smirks, but then remembers what she once read in that manga, about couples and kissing, and then she knows what to do. "Or, a kiss like this?"

Then, just like that, her lips are over his. She feels Ichigo stiffen, like he's trying to decide wether to push her away or not, but then he relaxes and she moves her lips firmly over his, her eyes closed. He kisses her back. Somehow his hand wounded up in her hair, pulling her closer, and her arms have wrapped around his neck. After only a few moments, though they seem more like hours, Rukia breaks the kiss, the need for air overwhelming her.

They stand close together, his hand still in her hair, her arms still around his neck. Rukia's breath comes out in pants that burst like white smoke in the January cold. Ichigo's eyes are still closed and he seems to be in deep concentration.

"Happy New Year, Ichigo."

With those words his eyes snap open and the high blush flares across his cheeks once more. He pulls away, slowly unwinding his hand from her hair. "It's late." he whispers. "We should head back."

And so they head back to the Kurosaki home, both in complete silence, too embarassed to comment on what just transcurred. When they arrive home Isshin greets them while the twins loom behind.

"Aha!" Isshin spills out the second they're in the house. "I know that face son! You have been throughly and properly kissed!"

Both Ichigo and Rukia blush, giving away their current situation.

Isshin immediately heads towards the poster of his wife. "My dear Masaki! Have you seen?!" he sobs. "Our son is all grown up, he has recieved his first kiss!"

Karin snorts and Yuzu giggles. Rukia can't take it anymore and runs up the stairs to hide in her- Ichigo's - closet, but not before she sees Ichigo yell "Shut up Dad! It's none of your bussiness!" as he kicks his father repeatedly.

- F I N -

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