A/N: Finally, I'm back!! Here's chapter eleven with a bittersweet surprise. ;) Enjoy. I've also been thinking of changing the title for some time. I was thinking either Piece of Heaven or Good Grief. Or something else entirely....

Chapter 11: Mind Boggling Kiss

Red whine...perhaps it could be thought of as a man's rouge. The crimson liquid left a nearly unnoticeable stain on ones lips. Rukia looked through the eyes of a hawk as she watched a servant pour the wine into Ichigo's glass. When he noticed her staring at him quite oddly, Rukia had to evade her gaze and pretend to be staring down at her miso soup.

"You've been acting so weird lately, ya know that?" Ichigo commented, taking another sip of the whine.

Rukia sniffed imperiously. "What do you mean? I'm acting the way I always am."






Rukia glared daggers at him. "Alright, I get it. No need to analyze me."

Ichigo smirked. "Well, you'd think I understand you the best."

"That's the problem. You understand me too well," Rukia mumbled. "Sometimes you just need to mind your own business and let things be."

"Oh? And if I weren't butting into your business, how would I ever know what's going on around me?" Ichigo asked, leaning one elbow on the wood polished table. "And if I were to let things be, they would never work out the way I want them to."

"Tough luck." Rukia snorted.

Ichigo chuckled lightly, all the while gazing at her with bemusement in his eyes. All Rukia could think was how much she wanted to protect that rare smile of his. How precious it was. Her violet eyes watched him carefully with every sip of wine he took. For a man who didn't drink alcohol, he was sure laying it thin tonight.

He seemed to be unaffected by wine in no way whatsoever, and drank as though having years of experience. When the servant offered her some wine, Rukia had to decline. Instead, she would take meager bites out of her croquet every now and then, but could barely concentrate on her food with her heart pumping as fast as it was. She felt it freeze up the instant their eyes met. She blushed at the intense contact and glanced back down at her soup.

Rukia flinched at the sound of Ichigo snapping his fingers, signaling for all servants to leave the room. She looked up to see Ichigo curling his finger, beckoning her to come to him. After a moment's hesitation, she reluctantly got up and went to stand next to him. Her tatami sandals pitter-patted as she did so. He kicked the chair and slid it over for her to sit down. Rukia nodded her thanks and sat in the chair, her hands grasping the silk of her green kimono.

"Something wrong?"

"No...why would anything be wrong?" Rukia asked, averting her gaze.

Ichigo frowned. "You can me tell me, ya know. If you're homesick or something just let me know and we can go visit your brother and sister anytime."

"N-no, it's not that...I-I mean yes, of course I miss them but it's a little too early to go visit them." Rukia gave him a fierce look. "I appreciate your concern, but once again, it is none of your business."

"Wrong. It's my business entirely. If you're troubled then I usually wind up feeling the same."

"If you want me to say, I'm homesick. Fine. I'm homesick! There! You happy?!"

Ichigo narrowed his eyes and reached out to take her elbow, twisting it almost painfully for her to look at him. In the next instant he had pulled her onto his lap. He held her forearms to keep her violent thrashing still. Rukia met his smoldering gaze, and almost felt like flinching.

"Kuchiki Rukia...no, Kurosaki Rukia, you don't have to tell me everything." Ichigo frowned, the skin around his eyes becoming tight. "I've been trying so hard to stay out of your mind but sometimes, I desperately want to know what's going on in that damn head of yours...You're the biggest damn mystery I've ever come across."

Rukia growled. "Let me go."

Ichigo's arm wound tight around her waist while the other held her chin up.

"No matter how much you deny it, our lives are tied together. No matter how much you don't think I care, it doesn't matter. You're an important figure in my life. Tell me, is there something you want that's within my reach to give you?"

Rukia's face was tinged with pink at the sentiment. "...I just want you to be happy, that's all."

"What makes you think I'm not happy?" he asked, his face twisting into a scowl.

Rukia hand reached up hesitantly to touch his face and her thumb rubbed him under his eye. His gaze never left hers as she did this. Those brown eyes...she had now idea how any pair of eyes could look that beautiful. Almost as if she couldn't help herself, she pressed her lips to his cheek. Ichigo gazed at her incredulously but all Rukia could see to do was smile back.

"That was from last time. I just want to see you happy, Ichigo. You're also an important figure in my life so it's important that you smile. This life is indeed worth fighting for, after all."

"You...are full of surprises." Ichigo shook his head.

After a moment, Ichigo released his hold over Rukia and she shot off his lap. She smiled at him as she began to walk out of the room. She turned her head to glance over her shoulder and called out, "Good night."

Rukia reached out with the handkerchief to place over his lips when suddenly his eyes snapped open. She didn't have time to gasp at seeing the amber within them. She was flipped onto her back and was beneath him in a matter of seconds. Her eyes widened as she saw his face loom closer to hers'. Was he going to eat her? She rose a fist to strike it as his jaw but watched in horror when he grabbed her fist and rose it to his lips. He placed a gentle kiss on it, watching her through half-hooded eyes.

Rukia remained frozen at his touch. She stiffened when his hand was suddenly in her hair, forcing her eyes back on him. The hollow's fingers intertwined with her own.

"Wh-what're you doing...?"

The hollow grinned. "It's nice to be back in control."

Rukia's eyes widened when she felt his hand slide beneath her sleeping yukata and across her flat stomach. She twisted away from him, her eyes fearful as she watched him. His eyes were on her face, watching her every movement. She couldn't even stop the next move he pulled. He had leaned down and captured her lips with his.

She panicked when she felt his hands on her shoulders, slowly slipping her sleeves downward. She closed her eyes tightly and shook her head from side to side but wherever she moved, he followed.

Rukia tore her lips away. "Stop! What do you think you're doing?!"

The hollow gave her a knowing look. "What do you think? I like you better without this damn barrier between us," he murmured, gesturing at her sash.

Rukia immediately pulled her sleeves back correctly. She glared at him with all the anger she could muster.

"Get off of me," she ground out through clenched teeth.

"Now, Rukia, is that really what you want?" he whispered, trailing hot kisses down her neck in his wake.

Rukia shivered. His lips were on hers' once more. She watched his eyes closed and her lips move in sync with his. Her hand went to the back of his head and began tugging on it. She waited a moment before swinging her fist backward and knocked him off the bed. She jumped to her feet and made a break for the door.

"You little bitch...!"

Rukia cried as she fell forward, strong arms wrapped tightly around her waist. She was flipped around to face the fury flaring in his amber irises. She braced both hands on his shoulders in a tight grip, her violet orbs gazing imploringly, desperately into his amber eyes.

"Ichigo, wake up!"

"It's useless. The king gets to sit out of this name."

The flaps of Ichigo's shihakushou opened and Rukia could see the curse mark on the hollow's chest beginning to spread. The onyx dagger-like symbols intertwined like a vine wrapping itself upon one's heart.

"I demand you bring him back," Rukia ordering, her violet eyes blazing.

She placed both hands on his chest, watching in horror as the curse mark spread further. The hollow's eyes sneered down at her as he raised a hand to his throat where the curse mark had reached. Rukia's neck twisted around at the sound of the door sliding open. Yoruichi stood there gripping the soul chain from before. She flash stepped toward the hollow, and Rukia watched his head collide against the wall. His neck immediately snapped up in reflex to glare venomously at Yoruichi. They watched in horror as his hands clenched over the chains and shattered them to pieces.

Yoruichi stood in front of Rukia in a protective manner. Her jaw was set tightly as she readied her battle stance. Rukia reached blindly for her zanpakutou, cursing when she realized she had left it behind.

"Don't. If anything should happen to you, the real Ichigo would be unhappy," Yoruichi whispered. "Stay here."

When the hollow made to attack, Yoruichi lept right up to him to hit his pressure point. She hadn't quite anticipated his speed to equal to hers'. He had grabbed her arm and hurled her right trough the glass window. Rukia's eyes widened. She felt like screaming out to her but her voice failed. She watched as the hollow lept up onto the balcony railing, landing in a crouch as his eyes scanned the ground below.

Rukia glanced about his room for any weapon she could use that wouldn't severely injure Ichigo. She spotted a dagger on his desk and made a dive for it. Just as she was prepared to stab him, she saw Yoruichi's long, orange-sleeved arms come up and drag Ichigo down with her. Rukia immediately rushed over to see them both land in front of each other. She clenched the handle of the knife in her hand bitterly as she watched the fight go on below her.

She couldn't stand by and watch. She was no damsel. If anything, she needed to be down there and helping Ichigo. Yoruichi used Ichigo's shoulder for leverage as she flipped right over him.

"Stay up there! Don't get involved!" she shouted in mid-air.

Rukia grimaced. Yoruichi lifted up a leg to block his next attack and agilely danced out of the way. She flash stepped over to him, eyes wide at seeing Ichigo had grown even faster. He was in front of her, clutching both of her hands in a tight grip. He swung her overhead and watched her skid painfully across the floor. Yoruichi cursed under her breath as she struggled to her feet. She stood shakily, her amber eyes piercing into his own. She raised a fist chin-level and the other was by her waist. She took a step forward, motioning for him to come at her.

Ichigo grinned wickedly as he charged at her without abandon. Yoruichi deftly evaded his punches, managing to get a hit in. She punched him across the jaw, making him draw blood. His neck retracted and she took the opportunity to hit his vital point. He let out a gasp before his eyes went white. She stretched out an arm and let him fall against her. She sighed, placing one hand on his back.

"Ichigo, whatever are we going to do with you?"

Yoruichi glanced up at Rukia who had not moved from her spot since the beginning. She cast an apologetic look to the young girl that belonged to nobility. Rukia's face contorted with pain as she looked down at her. She glanced down at the handkerchief with his lip print on it.

"All for this...

"Are you alright?"

Ichigo's eyes fluttered open at the soft voice that had invades his dreams. He slowly sat up and winced at the ache in his chest. He turned to see that Rukia was kneeling beside his bed.

"What's going on? Why am I- why do I feel like this?" Ichigo asked, gazing imploringly at Rukia.

Rukia looked uncomfortable. "It's...well, last night after training you past out in your room."

Ichigo groaned, touching the back of his head. "I can't remember any of it."

"Easy, Ichigo. Don't overdo it. Here, I brought you breakfast. It's a bit late in the day but still."

"But what happened?" Ichigo insisted.

"I don't know. We were both training together when you just suddenly passed out," Rukia said, avoiding eye contact.

Ichigo narrowed his eyes. "Passed out? Since when do I pass out?"

"I don't know, okay?! You just did. You probably overexerted yourself."

Ichigo snorted. "Whatever."

Rukia moved his tray closer to him.

"Eat. You'll need your strength."

"Not hungry."

"Don't be a child and just eat," Rukia growled, grabbing a spoonful of soup and forced it into Ichigo's mouth.

"Bitch! It's scolding!"

"Then eat it yourself!"

Ichigo snatched the spoon from her and jerked a thumb at her to get lost. Rukia rolled her eyes as she got on her feet and exited his room. She leaned against the door frame, bringing her chin to rest against her chest. She let out a long, remorseful sigh. It was one lie after another. How was she supposed to protect him in such a manner?

Rukia reached into her obi and pulled out the handkerchief with Ichigo's lip print. She didn't want this to go to waste. At the very least wanted Ichigo to be happy. She went into the library where the rest of the ingredients were set next to a wooden bowl. First she mashed the coriander, mint leaves and rosemary into powder then added the lavender oil. Using a dagger, she chopped off a lock of her own hair. To finish off, she tossed in the handkerchief and began mixing in all the ingredients.

The book said to stir until the powder turned from a light blue to a bright blue. Once it had changed, she had to take out the handkerchief and air it out before dipping it in once more. Rukia grinned in satisfaction when she saw the powder as well as the handkerchief had turned bright blue. She stashed the bowl and remaining ingredients underneath the table. She would come back later to clean up. Rukia would wait for the perfect opportunity to restore the garden.

The entire day, Rukia spent it by Ichigo's side. She didn't want to leave him alone for even an instant. She knew the closeness sort of annoyed and confused Ichigo but she didn't give a rat's ass. After all, she was his protector so she had the right to be close to him.

"Alright. Why are you following me?" Ichigo asked, without glancing back at her.

Rukia blinked. "What? Do I need a reason to hang around you?"

"I don't care if you do but...I'm about to take a bath, do you mind?!"

Rukia's eyes widened as she stared past him into the open door of the bath room. Her cheeks flushed a deep crimson. She would've glared at him only she found that the lips on his scowling face were a distraction. She still remembered how...rough they had been against hers'. Rukia subconsciously rose a finger gingerly up to her lips. Ichigo watched her in confusion as he leaned against the doorway.

"What's with you?"

Rukia shot her hand down. "Nothing, it's nothing."

"Uh-huh," Ichigo nodded, obviously not convinced. "You've been acting weird all day, ya know."

Rukia turned her back on him as she began walking away. "I have no idea what you could mean."

Ichigo snorted. "I think you do. Well, whatever, do whatever you want."

Rukia heard the sound of the oak doors close behind him as he entered the bath. She sighed to herself. Lately, she had been doing a lot of that. It didn't feel right to keep fooling Ichigo like this. She couldn't understand why Yoruichi wanted to keep the fact that his hollow took over Ichigo's body sometimes a secret from Ichigo. If he knew, then they could all work to fight against his curse.

She stood outside of the bathing room for the longest time. Her head jerked up when she heard the oak doors being pushed open. Ichigo walked out, donning clean clothes and his wet hair matted down. He arched an eyebrow at her before rolling his eyes.

"Don't tell me you've been waiting out here all this time."

Rukia bowed her head and turned away from him. Ichigo watched her silently for a moment before sighing and strode over to her. He grabbed her wrist and began dragging her off with him. She gave him a questioning look.

"Fool, where're you taking me?!"

"Just shut up."

Rukia almost tripped several times while trying to keep up with his long strides. After turning corner after corner, they reached Ichigo's room. He shoved her onto his bed and turned his back on her as he undressed. Rukia who was now sprawled across the bed, watching him in surprise as he was suddenly left in his sleeping yukata. He scowled at her as he climbed onto the bed. He kneeled in front of her and gripped one of her hands in his.

"You're gonna sleep with me tonight, alright?"

Rukia's eyes widened a fraction. "Huh?"

Ichigo rolled his eyes. "I didn't mean actually sleep with me. You know what I mean. I figure this will be good practice considering we have until the end of the year to produce an heir for my clan."

"But I..." Rukia flushed, discreetly placing a fist against her chest. "I mean I knew we would have to someday but...it's still so strange."

Ichigo shrugged. "It's nothing for me but you're a girl so I guess that's a bit embarrassing, huh?"

Rukia rolled her eyes. "You idiot. Of course." She paused. "And by nothing, would you mean that you've done that before?"

"Done what?"

Rukia glared at him. She knew he was just trying to get her to outright say it for his own amusement. "You know...have had sex?"

"Is that what you're worried about?" Ichigo mocked, poking her cheek.

Rukia slapped his hand away. "No such thing."

"To answer, you're question. No, I've never been with anyone else." Ichigo grabbed her hand once more and squeezed it. "We'll get through this. You know you're my confidante."

The words tugged at her heartstrings painfully. Some confidante she was. She didn't even know how to protect him. Rukia suddenly glanced up at the feel of his hand at her jaw. Ichigo's eyes softened as he stared down at her.

"I don't know what's bothering you but I hope you know by now that I'm here."

"Will you always be here?" Rukia asked, leaning into his touch. "Do you promise me that?"

"Without even having to ask, you know I'm not going anywhere," Ichigo murmured. He laid down and draped the covers over both of them. "As long as you need me."

Rukia turned to lie on her side to look at him. "Don't just say it. Promise me."

Ichigo sighed heavily. "I promise, alright? Just go to sleep, midget."

He turned his back to her and Rukia watched the slow heaves his body made with each breath he took. She placed a hand against his back when she was sure he was sleep and buried her face against his back. She didn't like his promise...he himself had sounded so uncertain. Rukia shook her head, closing her eyes tightly and bit her lip. No, she wouldn't allow him to disappear. She couldn't let her best friend and husband be taken over by a monster....

A/N: Here you go. XD I hope you've all enjoyed all that IchiRukiness. Plz review for a quicker chapter. Don't make me sad! lol. :P