Tell-tale signs that you're falling in love with your best friend: you stake your claim.
Ichigo was seeing red.
His eyes zeroed to the hand that was resting casually on his best friend's arm. The hand belonged to one of the most eligible bachelor's in Tokyo, and the fact that it was grasping Rukia's arm loosely did not settle well in Ichigo's stomach.
He had come earlier to pick her up from the courthouse so that they could leave the city to visit his family living in the suburbs. Kurosaki family with its honorary member, Kuchiki Rukia, sit down in a quiet, laid-back family dinner at least once a fortnight.
Although it wasn't that apparent to the world around them, but he knew Rukia was evading him for at least a week now. Since the night of that fateful kiss.
That was why he had thought of cornering her in her office to sit down and discuss the issue like two adults that they were.
He had definitely not included Kaien into the equation.
Hastening his pace, he noted the stance of his best friend while facing her supposed crush. She was tense, back straight, shoulder squared. He could almost actually see her chin jutting out. He recalled telling her once of her fighting stance. "You look like you're gangsta like that, Rukia." To which his best friend had pummeled him with a pillow.
Good, he thought. She had most definitely not welcomed the contact. He did not know why but the fact pleased him immensely. He felt appeased, a small smirk curved on his lips. A yard away from them, as if on cue, as if she could feel his presence, Rukia turned her head towards him.
Kaien was not pleased with the interruption.
Rukia felt relieved. She felt like brushing off the hand that had deliberately landed on her arm and ran straight into Ichigo. He was always her savior, not that she would have admitted it to his face. She grinned, her heart felt a million times lighter.
"I thought I'd drop by earlier to pick you up. I got your favorite macchiato," Ichigo said, smiling at his favorite woman.
She beamed. He knew her too well. "Thank you."
A sudden clearing of throat reminded them of another's presence.
Rukia bit her lip. She gently stepped out of Kaien's hold and stepped closer to Ichigo. The dark-haired man lowered his hand and shoved it into his pant pocket.
"Shiba Kaien, meet Kurosaki Ichigo," she uttered softly. Her status-less introduction did not go unnoticed by Ichigo. Somehow, he was pleased.
Nodding his head, Kaien's brown eyes met with Ichigo's amber ones. I'm interested.
Ichigo's gaze did not waver. She's mine. "Nice meeting you." Firm, filled with underlying message, handshakes exchanged.
He felt a tug at his sleeve, and Rukia's hand resting slightly on his chest. His gaze softened and shifted down to the woman next to him. He took that as a sign to draw the woman close in his arm. "Is it okay to leave yet?" he asked softly, his palm settling modestly on her back. She smelled of strawberry and vanilla. How he missed the smell.
She nodded, biting her bottom lip nervously. She swore her arm acted on its own. But she had wanted reassurance. She had wanted to feel safe. "I wrapped up everything about five minutes ago. I just need to grab my briefcase."
"See you again, Shiba." Ichigo bid curtly.
Kaien nodded in ascent. "See you, Kurosaki."
Her soft hand was still held firmly in his as he walked them both out the courthouse, oblivious to the staring and admiring eyes around them.
"I can bring my own briefcase."
"You were avoiding me, short stuff."
That silenced her good.
"I'm not mad," he amended, slowing their pace as they were nearing his car. He stole a look at the woman beside him. "But I am your person, Rukia. You just don't turn away from your person," he confided gently.
Rukia lowered her gaze to the pavement. She realized they were already standing in front of Ichigo's Infiniti M56. "I was not turning away from you," she protested softly.
Ichigo rolled his eyes, pulling her closer to him. "Certainly did not feel that way to me." He unlocked the car and chucked the briefcase into the passenger seat before slamming the door shut again.
"What do you mean?" Rukia lifted her face to stare at Ichigo with a defiant look.
"You know what I mean," Ichigo muttered. He exhaled deeply before leaning against his car, tugging Rukia's hand so that she stumbled against him. She let out a small yelp as her hands shot out automatically to grab him.
"Ichigo…" She started to peel herself off of him.
He persisted and wrapped his arms around her, holding her safely against his chest. "Don't go shy on me, Rukia," he mumbled into her hair.
"I'm not," she muttered into his chest.
Pulling apart slightly, Ichigo ducked his head to look intently at Rukia. "So can we finally talk?"
Rukia tilted her head, trying to hold her voice steady. His amber eyes were too intense for his own good. "Can we do so without me being plastered to you?"
He shrugged. "I like it this way. You smell nice. You always do."
"I told you not to go shy on me."
This time she was the one who rolled her eyes. "I'm not."
"Fair. Last Thursday happened. Right?"
He went straight for the kill. "Mutually-consented, fantastic kiss, right?"
She blushed again. It was beyond fantastic. "Right."
Ichigo smirked. He knew that she enjoyed the kiss as much as he did. But getting back to the real issue here… "So we're still us, right?"
"I'm going out on a limb here by telling you I had all sorts of buzzing bugs in my belly when I kissed you last week, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm still your person, right?"
What? Rukia could not help it, she snorted-laughed. Then of course, she blushed. "Well I was graced with the presence of more graceful creatures in my belly, ie, butterflies, but yeah, I get what you mean," she confessed softly.
Ichigo's grin technically doubled in size. "Excellent. We're on the same page," he cheered. He peeked down at her face again, trying to gauge her reaction. "So you are not opposed if the same episode were to happen again in the future?"
Rukia tried not to blink. She had always known that he had pretty lashes to match his intense amber eyes. She tried not to drown in them. "No?"
Ichigo's smile softened. "Four years of law school and you only have a monosyllable answer for me?" he taunted playfully.
She finally blinked and jolted out of his alluring gaze. She smacked his shoulder with her free hand. "No, sir, I have no objections to similar encounter in the future," she mocked him, a bright smile on her own face. All thoughts of apprehension fled.
A/N: There you have it, folks. I try to get them back in character, but I'm older now. Explanations are given in my profile page. This is what I have so far. I will update more as more ideas come to mind. Thank you for sticking with me. Here's hoping you guys are having a nice day :)