Just a Kiss.
A/N: Thank you so much to those who have reviewed. I know a lot of people say this, but it really does mean a lot... to me, especially. And again, I apologize for the wait, but I must warn you all that things will be slowing down and probably will stay at this pace for the rest of the year since school is starting soon… sighs…
Ichigo waited with bated breath; feeling his chest constrict with anxiety. There, he thought, I did it. I told her.
The heavy silence was almost too much to bear. The night bore down upon them with such stillness; it was almost as if it too, were waiting for her answer.
A small, sad smile played upon her lips for a fraction of a second. She looked down at the ground, so that her hair covered her eyes in an impenetrable black veil. She felt safer that way, not so exposed or vulnerable. That, and Ichigo wouldn't be able to see the faint traces of the beginnings of tears. Tears of happiness? Or sadness? She did not know. Perhaps it was a mix of both emotions… a mix caused by her confusion. What was she to do? What was she to say?
He still waited; not moving a muscle. Slowly, and unknowingly at first, his body started to tense up instinctively, like he was bracing himself for a battle. When he realized that all his muscles with aching and straining with the effort, he forced himself to relax. He let his shoulders drop and tilted his head up to the sky, a fraction of an inch, so as to be as inconspicuous as possible. He didn't want Rukia to even begin to entertain the idea that he was becoming exasperated or something.
After what seemed like an eternity, when he felt he couldn't bear the crushing weight upon his chest anymore, she suddenly spoke. Her voice was so quiet that he had to lean closer to hear.
" Ichigo," she said softly. " Don't lie… please."
He was taken aback. " Rukia…" Feeling that it was the right moment, he stretched out his hand slowly, and his fingertips brushed against her cheek. Half expecting to feel the wetness of tears, he faltered; then proceeded to cup her chin and tilt her head upwards until he was gazing into her oddly misty eyes. " Why would I lie?"
She gave a miserable sort of sniff and shrugged her shoulders slightly.
" Why would I like, to you, of all people?"
Her hands came up and gripped his forearm gently to pry away his hand as she spoke. " Well, maybe you aren't lying. But I don't exactly believe you," a hard edge crept into her hushed tones.
His mind barely registered the meaning of the words she just spoke. But before he could stop himself, the word had already escaped his mouth; it slipped out instinctively, like he was prepared for this, even though his brain did not know it. " Why?"
" Well…" she looked away slowly. " It… your description doesn't exactly fit me, for one."
The way she said it, almost made him sure that she was smiling, however faintly; even though he couldn't see her face.
She turned back to him; shrugging her shoulders apologetically. " I don't know… Ichigo, I'm so… confused. I… Renji… Byakuya…"
" What about them?"
" They… they wouldn't approve… for different reasons, obviously, but the point is, they won't approve."
" That's okay," he said quickly, all the while sure that he knew exactly what each man's reasons were. " I'm not asking you to do anything, I just wanted… well you wanted to know. And I wanted to tell you. So I did… you don't… I don't want… I mean, we don't have to do anything."
" But that defeats the whole point, doesn't it?"
" What point?"
" You taking lessons to impress me."
" That's okay."
" Ichigo… it's not that I don't want to though…" said Rukia hesitantly, " It's just that –"
She was abruptly cut off by a group of teenagers passing by. They whistled and jeered at them, the girl, in the middle, dressed in the average slut-garb, shouted in a loud, obnoxious, mocking tone, " Why don't you just make out already?"
Rukia's eyes narrowed and she whirled around. " Why don't you just shut up and mind your own damn business?!" she hollered back, then, out of anger she decided to add a very rude hand gesture as an added measure.
She could hear them laughing behind her back, and she fumed silently, the conversation at hand completely forgotten. She could hear them slowly walking away and wanted nothing more at the moment than to shut their mouths for them.
Ichigo felt affronted; this certainly made things way more awkward.
Rukia then looked up, almost as if she just realized he was standing there. " So, anyways," she said, still quietly seething with rage, " It's just that it won't exactly work out… you know what I mean?"
Ichigo smiled suddenly. " I know," he said.
Rukia looked surprised. " You know?"
" Yeah, I pretty much figured that… you being … well, to put it bluntly, not alive… sort of doesn't exactly…"
" Funny, isn't it?" she said, giving a little laugh.
" Yeah, kind of. Stupid too, now that I think about it."
" Kind of." Her face brightened. " But we could go out once. You know, sometime soon…" she paused, looking forlorn. In a what obviously was a tone full of dread, she said, " I have to head back to Soul Society in a few days."
Ichigo nodded, " Yeah, I heard about that from Renji last week."
" Yeah, so…"
" So… how about Thursday night?"
" What about Thursday night?" she asked, looking alarmed.
" We can go for dinner or something. What do you… what do you want to do?"
" I don't know. We can figure it out when we get together, can't we?"
" Yeah, we could," he said, feeling his spirits lighten and the heavy awkwardness vanish. " That'd be nice." Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a blur of black flash by and as he gazed at the bushes where it disappeared to, he realized that the blur had indeed whizzed by lower then his knee and it wasn't simply his rabid imagination.
" So, you want to head back now? Are you going to stay in my closet… as usual?"
" Yeah," said Rukia, grinning. " Yeah, that'd be nice. I was thinking of staying at Urahara's place, but since…" she trailed away, playing with the hem of her belt, feeling much too conscious of herself. She cleared her throat, " Anyways."
She started to walk away, and then stopped as she realized Ichigo was not walking with her.
He was grinning and he cocked his head toward the bushes. " You go on ahead, I'll catch up."
Rukia saw the tip of a black tail swish out of sight and understood immediately. She gave him a small grin and said, " Alright, see you later then."
Ichigo waited until she turned the corner, then spoke aloud into the dark shadows of the trees. " Come on out, I know you're there."
He waited. Upon receiving no audible answer, he decided to head over towards the bushes. Moving slowly and cautiously, his hands wavered, ready to leap to cover his face.
There was a flash, and then, she appeared in front of him.
" Yoruichi-san," he exclaimed quietly, surprised. He lowered his hands; they were halfway raised to his eyes, which were half shut. He breathed a sigh of relief; thankful that she was still in her concealing cat form. He straightened.
" Very smooth, Ichigo. Everything is alright, I take it, then?" the cat's eyes narrowed as she twisted its face into a grin.
" Yeah, it's fine. We're going to do something Thursday," he told her, unable to conceal the elation in his tone.
" That's nice," said Yoruichi, smiling somewhat patronizingly. Then she grew serious and her voice deepened even further. She fixed her fierce golden eyes upon him. " You do know this… this can't really work out right? I mean… you do realize that we're not a part of this world? This won't really… it's not…"
" Yeah," he sighed. Looking as glum and as moody as he usually was, he turned his back on her. " Don't worry, Yoruichi-san. I know." He then stared back at her in a cheeky sort of way, " Didn't you hear us, while you were doing your little peeping-Tom act?" He nodded at her, a wide smile on his face; and turned to head back home.
She smiled as she watched him walk away. " That's good, Ichigo. As long as you know..." she stared up at the setting sun, " As long as you know…" she repeated, mostly to herself.
Struck by a sudden curiosity, she ran up to him again, craning her neck so she could stare at him. " What do you expect to accomplish? To receive?"
" Well, were just going as friends really. To spend time together without having to worry about saving some poor innocent soul from Hollows and stuff, you know?"
" Hm. Anything else?" Yoruichi's fangs glinted in the moonlight as her grin grew even wider.
" Maybe," said Ichigo, as he continued to walk away. Looking back over his shoulder, he smiled. " Just a kiss?"
" If you play it right," she called after him. " Speaking of playing it right …" she muttered as she turned towards the bushes.
" Heya, Yoruichi!" Isshin seemed to melt out of the shadows.
She barely spared him a glance. They fell into step… well, as much as a cat and a man can fall into step… and headed in the same direction, towards the Kurosaki residence.
He grinned, " Talking to oneself, first sign of madness."
She grimaced and nipped at his ankles. " You never change, do you?"
His eyes widened in mock alarm. " Am I supposed to?"
Yoruichi grinned. " Shouldn't you be getting back before he does?"
" True, true… Is everything alright, Yoruichi?"
" Why wouldn't everything be alright?"
" I don't know," he said, shrugging casually and avoiding her gaze. " I heard that the little bee was back in town for a visit."
She snarled venomously. " So?"
" Nothing, nothing…" said Isshin meekly. " Alright. Hope everything goes okay, then," he said quickly; his tone suggested that he knew everything that had went down. " Goodnight!" He bent down to stroke her back gently, before straightening and dashing off back home.
Yoruichi stared at the spot where he had just been standing. Shaking herself out of the curious reverie, she braced herself, and turned down another street, feeling dread escalate with every step she took towards the Urahara Shop.