A/N – Leave it to me to write a crazy mess of a category like Angsty/Humor/Romance. Mostly Ichi/Ruki but a little Shunsui/Nanao and even Gin/Matsu if you use a magnifying glass.
And I blame Love Hina for… well, you'll see XD
Disclaimer – I don't own Bleach I'm just borrowing the characters for a bit…
O o O o O o O
Three Shinigami sat around the square table, all lost in thought. All had a similar dilemma, and as with most women – living or dead – their problems revolved around men. Deep sapphire eyes met clear amethyst which met bright aquamarine. And since their tumultuous thoughts concerned one particular topic, the conversation had naturally followed.
"…the true test of your womanhood is whether you've ever caused a man to run into something from being so entranced by your beauty!"
A more than slightly intoxicated Matsumoto emphasized her point by thrusting her sake cup in Rukia's direction, sloshing the liquid over the edge. Startled, Rukia jumped back involuntarily from the table, wide eyes blinking in surprise.
"That's easy for you to say," the petite Shinigami grumbled as she settled back in her spot. "That probably happens to you on a daily basis."
"Agreed. You really do have an unfair advantage," Nanao scolded, shaking a finger in the general direction of Matsumoto's "attributes."
The busty woman snickered, "You both know that's not true. Nanao, I know for a fact your own Taichou was so distracted watching your cute little rear the other day that he tripped on his haori."
Nanao rolled her eyes, "Too bad you could tell the same story about nearly every other woman in Seireitei."
The spots of color appearing high on her cheeks didn't escape either of her companion's notice. "Ah, but everyone knows they can snatch his sake without him sensing a thing whenever you walk through the room." The color spread over most of Nanao's face as the other two women exchanged a grin.
Uncharacteristically Nanao held out a hand, demanding a drink of Matsumoto's sake, silently confirming the extent to which the comment affected her. A quick gulp was about all she could handle and she returned the bottle to its owner. Turning her bespectacled eyes upon the younger member, she made an attempt at a diversion. "What about you, Rukia? I'm sure Kurosaki has gotten distracted by you before." She tapped her chin thoughtfully, "It was rather romantic how he came all the way here to save you."
Matsumoto leaned over the table, obviously enjoying this rare opportunity to tease the usually quiet Kuchiki. "I heard Kurosaki needed to be rescued from a scrawny little hollow not so long ago…" She held up her thumb and forefinger about an inch apart, demonstrating her presupposition.
Rukia's pale face flared bright crimson, surpassing even Nanao's blush from earlier. She knew exactly what the loud woman was referring to, despite all her attempts to forget the embarrassing incident.
She let out a frustrated sigh.
Immediately after it had happened Rukia had sworn her substitute to silence on pain of death. And coming from a dead woman, the threat carried some serious weight. Though she wasn't quite certain how Matsumoto had managed to hear about it… the only other person there had been Renji and he hadn't even shown up until afterwards… or so she thought.
"I've only heard rumors," the perky blonde continued. "So you should probably tell me what really happened so I --
"There's nothing to tell!" Rukia interrupted vehemently.
The other two stared at her, taken aback at the intensity of her outburst. Matsumoto was the first to recover and gave her a saucy wink, "Now I know this is good."
Brow still furrowed, Rukia muttered under her breath but gave in. "I don't know what all the fuss is about. Ichigo and I were fighting a hollow. The hollow got in a lucky shot so I finished it off." She plopped back into her seat, "See, hardly even worth mentioning."
"Right, but how did the hollow get in that strike?" Matsumoto prodded.
"I told you, it was just lucky."
"Are you sure it wasn't because of anything you did?"
The blush that had nearly faded returned in full force as the short-haired woman refused to answer.
Nanao gently pressed her, "I heard that you were forced to dodge an attack while still in your gigai…"
Rukia's shoulders slumped in defeat, "Well, it did appear pretty quickly and I didn't have time to switch."
"And that you were wearing a skirt…"
A wide grin broke out over Matsumoto's face as she made the connection between what remained unconfirmed. "Oooh, did Kurosaki catch a peek at your panties!?" She snickered as Rukia buried her face in her hands. "Heh, that's a yes if I've ever heard one. But still, I'd consider that a compliment." She took another swallow, "That or he's never seen under a woman's skirt before… Personally I'd bet on the latter!"
Although momentarily tempted to crawl under the table, Rukia couldn't help but laugh a little. Ichigo really was painfully innocent, though it wasn't as if she had much room to talk, considering her only experience was a random forceful groping in an alley of Rukongai. Hardly a romantic experience considering the offending boy barely escaped with his manhood.
Try as she would to erase it from her memory, the "unmentionable" incident kept returning to the forefront of her mind. Normally she was quite adept at maneuvering in skirts while fighting and still maintaining her personal dignity. Inwardly she cringed… the truth was that they had both been distracted that day.
The impenetrable wall she carefully maintained had cracked almost imperceptibly just before Ichigo leapt into battle with the hollow. His robe had come slightly undone and she had been so caught up in admiring his chest beneath the fabric she hadn't even noticed the hollow charging at her. At least, until it was far too late to make a modest dodge. She supposed she should be grateful she hadn't worn the lace ones that day. Or the string bikini with the strawberry print. The prettily striped boyshorts had been embarrassing enough.
And there certainly was no doubt of what he had seen. The kid's face had turned a brighter pink than her panties and he had spun completely away from his opponent. Desire had been clearly visible in his typically unreadable eyes. Along with stunned embarrassment. She sighed, recalling the desperate blasts of kidou she had fired past the dazed teen… all while sprawled un-ladylike on the concrete.
They hadn't spoken of it, save the brief instance in which Rukia threatened both his life and his future as a functioning male if he ever mentioned it.
Matsumoto coughed, startling Rukia out of her reverie. "Wow, it must've been good if you're still daydreaming about it."
She narrowed her eyes, "That baka. He only wishes. I was just thinking of the painful ways I'm going to torture whoever started spreading this..." She paused; "rumor" wasn't really accurate since it did actually happen. "…this gossip."
Matsumoto peered sorrowfully into her now-empty bottle as she unsuccessfully attempted to shake an extra drop from it. She set it down with a forlorn sigh, turning back to Rukia, "You can't really be too upset. It was pretty obvious something was going on ever since your orange-haired savior showed up here."
Rukia blanched, her face losing all the color it had previously gained. She looked hopelessly to Nanao, receiving only a subtle nod in confirmation of Matsumoto's suggestion.
"Besides, you shouldn't be too hard on Renji for spilling… he's probably just jealous." She waived a hand dismissively.
Rukia growled; she should have known Renji was the one who – wait… "J-jealous?" she managed.
Nanao had procured an additional sake bottle from her sleeve, which the 10th Division vice was currently imbibing. The prim Shinigami gazed at Rukia through her glasses, "Of course. Until Kurosaki arrived we all assumed Renji was off-limits –"
"What? Renji and I are just friends."
"Exactly. Once we witnessed the manner in which you and the substitute constantly steal glances at each other that much became obvious. You don't even display that much affection towards your own brother." She pushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear. "Well, we already assumed there was a reason you remained in the real world for such an extended time. That merely confirmed it."
This had gotten completely out of control. And the tiny raven-haired Shinigami didn't know how to fix it. It was true that she had been admiring Ichigo's well-toned chest that day, but it wasn't as though they ran around making googly eyes at each other. Was it? Panic clenched Rukia's stomach, the fear so tangible it was a sharp throb. Apparently the whole of Seireitei had concluded that they were more than friends; a theory no doubt encouraged by her boarding at his house.
She clung to the old arguments, the ones she told herself late at night when thoughts of a certain moody teen swirled through her mind, preventing both inner tranquility and slumber. The ones that said she only stayed there because she was comfortable with the family… and with him. The ones that insisted she merely tolerated his presence, denying the stinging ache that prickled in her chest when they were entire dimensions apart.
Without warning her head thumped to the table, startling a drunken Matsumoto from her discourse on the benefits of strategically cut robes, for which Nanao was sincerely grateful. They both turned to face the small woman, who was quite obviously fighting an internal battle of monumental proportions.
Rukia gazed at her companions mournfully, "How can I face everyone, knowing that they all think…" she trailed off, unable to finish the thought.
"Would they be so wrong?" Nanao prodded quietly, fully aware of her hypocrisy considering she had been in love with her own Taichou for decades and yet refused to even admit it to herself. It seemed Rukia had at least been able to acknowledge her feelings internally. Nanao shook her head, marveling at what she could learn from the much younger soul.
Propping her chin in her hands, Rukia contemplated her revelation in silence. As if reaching some crucial decision, she suddenly grinned and hurried from the room, stocking feet padding softly on the floor.
Solemn violet eyes again met melancholy azure. Both understood the other without words as their eyes drifted to the door which the young Shinigami had rushed through moments before. Allowing herself a rare two drinks within one day, Nanao held out a small cup which Matsumoto refilled without comment.
Exchanging smiles that didn't reach their eyes, they drank in unison, their thoughts again drifting towards that which was out of reach. One due to her own stubborn decisions and the other because of a decision made for her.
They understood and endured.
O o O o O o O
O o O o O o O
Yikes, hope that mixture of categories wasn't too messy - but it's such a random mix of characters that it almost couldn't be helped!
Hope you enjoyed XD