Idiocy 1: Ichigo

You can speculate all you want about my relationship with Rukia Kuchiki, so long as you don't mind a glowering scowl and possibly a punch in the face when I find out about it. We are comrades, we are partners, we are friends in an odd and argumentative way. And there are some who believe us to be more. But whatever she may or may not be to me the fact remains that Rukia is a reasonably attractive female and I am a healthy teenage male, and she is sleeping in my closet. Six feet from my bed. And there are nights when that fact keeps me from sleeping.

She'd probably put a hole through my head if she knew about it.

Stupid teenage hormones.

I think I have decent self control, and I'm no where near as perverted as Kon, or even the guys at school. I have never made a comment about Orihime's chest size; I have never looked up anyone's skirt – not even when they were flying through the air over my head in a battle; and I have never, never tried to watch Rukia when she changes into the pajamas she stole from my sister in the closet not six feet from where I sit doing my homework.

I haven't even imagined it. It'd be too embarrassing.

Still, there are times when I'm holding her petite frame to mine (not often, and always in battle, and they are undeniably awkward in the moments after and between when the danger is over and I haven't quite gotten around to putting her down yet because I don't know how to do it without dropping her flat on her butt like I've been burned – which, in a way, I have – or like I'm scared she'll wallop me – which, in all honesty, I halfway am) and I feel strange in a way that's almost too warm and almost makes me unable to concentrate which is why I'm never quick enough to put her down and she always ends up looking at me as though she isn't sure if she really should wallop me or if she should just wait quietly for me to come to my senses. Generally she settles for yelling at me about something else putting immediate emotional distance between us which makes it far less awkward to set her down and walk away. And I wonder if she's done it on purpose as I try desperately to shake off the strange heaviness in my limbs and the lightness in my head and the memory of how she felt in my arms, because even though my mind was so focused on the battle I hardly registered that I'd picked her up my body still remembers.

She's warm and soft and so different from the image of her in my head which is made up of our shared experiences and the little habits and eccentricities and daily interactions that are Rukia to me. That Rukia is strong and almost intimidating, but in a way that makes me want to fight back rather than back down, maybe just because I want to see how she'll react. She isn't Rukia without that fire. But in those moments in my mind's eye that image is replaced with a slight frame and gentle curves, and large eyes that sometimes reveal more than she wants them to.

And there are moments when that image lingers and will not be shaken no matter how hard I try and I'm forced to admit that there is an attraction. And somehow it's more than physical, more than hormonal, though I wouldn't call it emotional or spiritual. And that's the part that makes me lie awake at night as I listen to the soft noises that are Rukia.

There are times when I'm fascinated with her, preoccupied with her, or rather the idea of her, and far too aware of the fact that only a sliding door and a few feet stand between us.

That and a chasm of unanswered questions and uncertain emotions that practically stretches into eternity. There might as well be continents between us.

And that is why, tonight, I am sitting in the middle of my bed, back against the wall, contemplating my 'relationship' with the rather petite and surprisingly stubborn shinigami who has yet to come home, rather than doing my homework as I'm supposed to, or sleeping as I'd like to.

I don't love her. Though I've been accused of it often enough.

She's attractive, but I don't want her. She's important to me, but I don't love her. Not in the way they think. That much I know.

It would be stupid to love her, and, though I've been accused of that as well, I'm not an idiot. Not completely.

That's why I don't love her.

It would be unbelievably and irrefutably stupid to fall in love with Rukia Kuchiki.

There are a lot of reasons. She's not quite human. She's probably far older than I am, and the term 'lifespan' doesn't even apply to her. She may leave any day. We could either one – or both, for that matter – die at any moment. They're all valid reasons, and all to some degree true. It might be, in part, that she could never really understand me, and I could never really understand her. We're from two different worlds. It may have everything to do with her, but more likely it has just as much to do with me.

I am Ichigo Kurasaki and love is just not something I do.

Fighting I do, protecting I do, and, albeit often reluctantly, soul reaping is something I do. But I do not fall in love. Not with Tatsuki, who may be my closest friend; not with Orihime, who, dense though I can be, I realize has feelings for me; not with any of the other girls in my class or in my school who think that I'm cool just because I'm silent and my favorite expression is a scowl; not with any of the beautiful and skilled women of the Soul Society; and especially not with her.

Love is complicated even under the best of circumstances; to fall in love under these circumstances would just be idiotic.

Because it is never wise to love when what you know is but a drop in an ocean of what you do not. There is so much about her that I do not know, that I am not certain I could ask even if she would tell me. So much between us, before us, in our pasts and in our futures that we will not share and so cannot fully understand: her past and mine, riddled with pain and loss. I know there has been loss and that she is not yet past it. Still, it isn't her muddled emotion that is the problem, it is my own insecurities. Can I ever measure up to that memory? Could I stand not knowing if her feelings are for me or him – that other man I never met who they say I am so much like? Did she love him? – I don't know. Is it him she is seeing when she looks at me? – I don't know. And I cannot overlook that.

Yes - truly idiotic to love her.

Because you aren't allowed to fall in love with your comrades in arms. It's a bad idea all the way around. It does strange things to your judgment and completely trashes your reason. It makes you make stupid decisions, take stupid risks. And I do that plenty as it is – ask anyone who knows me. I've done it for her, taken stupid risks, more than once, just because it needed to be done. I'm lucky I didn't die in the Soul Society on that half-baked rescue mission – though I'm not about to admit to anyone that I realize that. I just couldn't not go. There wasn't any choice. There still isn't any choice.

Maybe I feel I owe her. She broke her laws to give me her powers, to save my family. She went back quietly to keep me from getting involved, tried to break all ties with me to protect me. Or maybe it's just that part of me that could never say no to someone in trouble - and it has nothing to do with how weak they may or may not be - if there's something I can do, someone who needs help right in front of me, how can I walk away?

Maybe it's that we really have become friends in the time she's spent living in my closet, going to school with me. Maybe it's just that camaraderie that comes with fighting along side one another for so long.

Whatever the reason I can't fight the need to save her. I couldn't then, I can't now. No matter what the danger, who the enemy, or how many obstacles lie in the way, I can't walk away from her. I know that.

How much worse would it be if I was in love with her?

It's a good thing I'm not.

Still, there are things about her that draw me in like a moth to flame. And it isn't just her slight figure or curved hips or large eyes that are expressive even when she doesn't want them to be. It isn't just the fact that I'm a teenage guy sharing a room with a good looking girl. Rukia is strong. From what Renji said I'd gather she's had to be. And, as much as it drives me crazy and gets us in each other's faces, I admire that about her. I suppose I've never been much for the 'damsel in distress' type.

Rukia's movements are as fluid as water. She may have lost most of her Soul Reaper powers, but I'm still riveted when I watch her fight. She is grace incarnate, flying through the air, and I have to wonder if it's all training or if you have to be born with grace like that.

She can defeat a hollow with little more than the chanting of words, but she needed help opening a juice box. She has all the knowledge of the Soul Society, but she hasn't quite gotten the hang of a modern High School. She's so capable, but in the little things she still needs me. And I like that fact. Why?

I know I don't love her, but that's about all I know.

I don't know why it bothers me when she stays out late. It shouldn't because there's no way she's in danger. If there was a hollow attack she would call me, but she hasn't so she isn't in danger. Somehow that bothers me just as much. And that's just stupid.

I don't know why I feel better being able to hear her breathing across the room as she sleeps. It doesn't make me happy, in fact, sometimes it's annoying as heck, but it makes me feel better. And somehow I never sleep as well without it there.

I don't know why I'm in a bad mood every time she disappears for a few days, which is just dumb because we usually just argue when she's around anyway. I know I am though; even Orihime has noticed so it would be stupid to pretend her absence doesn't affect me. But I don't know why it does. It isn't as though I don't know that she'll come back. There isn't any danger anymore, so why does it bother me?

I don't know why I am willing to throw my life away to save her from her own decisions. Because, when it all comes down to it, Rukia is a grown shinigami and she has the right to make her own decisions. And she just gets mad when I interfere, so I don't know why I seem to have made it my personal mission to do just that.

I told Renji that I saved her because everything was my fault, and maybe it was true. But sometimes I wonder if it is something more. I have never been that desperate, that determined. But I don't know what that something more might be.

And I don't know her any better than I know myself.

I know her. I know a lot of things about her. Her past, her personality, her likes, her dislikes, her opinions on just about everything because she rarely passes up an opportunity to tell it to me – usually rather loudly. I know her movements from her fighting style down to the way she pushes away that one lock of hair that always falls across her forehead and the way she holds her chopsticks. Sometimes I even think I have the way she thinks figured out. But I don't know her. I don't know why she leaves. And I don't know why she comes back. I don't know why she saved my life and my family even when she knew it would someday cost her hers.

I don't know why she came back with me, why she stays.

It's because we're friends, but that isn't explanation enough. Why are we friends? What is it that binds us together? What does she think it is? Is she any closer to figuring this out than I am? Is she even trying? Maybe I'm being immature and hormonal and worrying over things that don't even matter. Because when it comes down to it the bottom line is that we are friends. I don't love her, but I do care about her. There's something there that isn't there with anyone else. For both of us. It would be idiotic not to realize that.

She smiles at me. And sometimes I even smile back. She talks to me, really talks to me without holding back. She talks and she listens and she sits in silence even when she'd rather not because she knows I like it. She worries for me and cries for me and is strong for me.

She cares for me even if she's always bossing me around.

Why can't I just accept it and leave it at that?

But I can't because there's just something different.

Maybe we're closer than even I realize, closer than she realizes. Because for all we try to keep distance, to be professional, to not get attached, she's the only one I've told about my mother, the only one I show my weakness to. I'm the only one she's allowed herself to break down in front of. As much as we fight I think we understand one another. Maybe that's why we fight. We understand one another too well, and we're both far too stubborn. But that's why I can tell when she's lost in memories that hurt too much, because she draws into herself just like I do. And that's why she knows when I need her to yell at me and when I need her to sit beside me and be silent, because that is what she would need as well.

She's my comrade, my partner, my friend in an odd and argumentative way. And she's also my anchor, my guardian, my ward, and my comforter. And I suppose I'm all of those to her. She fights against our enemies with me; she fights with me in general, sometimes for no reason at all. She sits silently with me. She drags me out of my shell without my even realizing it. She's quirky and odd, and serious and intelligent and absolutely clueless about a lot of things that seem so simple to me. And when she's gone… I miss all that, even the things that annoy me.

For all these reasons and many more I can't let her go. She belongs here, with me, with us. She's like another sister, only to be completely honest she isn't like a sister at all. Still, Rukia is family, every bit as much as my obnoxious father and my polar opposite sisters. She is every bit as much my family as she ever was Renji's or Captain Kuchiki's – maybe even more so because, in the end, this is the family she chose to stay with. Or maybe this was the family that chose to stay with her.

So even though I'm not in love with her, because that would just be stupid, I won't let her go, and I can't stop thoughts of her from invading my mind. Because you don't have to love someone to care about them, to notice them, do you?

Why did I pick tonight to try to define our relationship anyway? Why do I feel the need to define it at all? Is it because even though the closet is empty I'm still drawn to it? Is it because even when she isn't there she still is in a way that's almost tangible? Is it?

There must be an answer, but I only know what it isn't, not what it is.

It isn't because I'm in love with her that I'm worried that she hasn't come home yet even though it's almost midnight. It isn't because I love her that as I change into my sleepwear and brush my teeth I wonder if she brushed her teeth in Soul Society – hadn't someone told me, Renji maybe, that they didn't have to eat in Soul Society? Maybe they didn't have to worry about hygiene either – and, if she didn't, what she thought the first time she brushed them here.

It isn't love that makes me glance out the window on my way to bed and stare at the closet door once I've lain down. It isn't love that makes me leave on the light, or that keeps me from sleeping as I wait for her to return.

It isn't love that makes me watch her at school each day and wonder each night what she thinks as she lays on the other side of that closet door so close and yet so far from me.

It isn't, because I am no idiot.

There's a noise at the window, almost inaudible, but I can sense her presence. I roll over onto my back, staring up at the ceiling with my arms crossed behind my head. There's no use pretending I'm not awake, she would know. I don't really think this out as I move, it's just what I do, it's natural. Another moment and the window slides open and she's ducking inside. I don't have to turn and watch her to picture what she looks like in my mind. That should probably bother me, but it doesn't. I scowl anyway just for good measure. Scowling is one of the things I do best after all.

My eyes are fixed on the ceiling, but I can follow her movements by the sound of her steps. She quietly closes the window and slips past me, her hand going to the closet door. There is a pause and silence before I feel her turn toward me the slightest bit.

"What's wrong? You're still up." She isn't quite scolding, and not quite worried either, only a little curious and perhaps a little concerned, though her voice is schooled so that I wouldn't know it if I didn't know her so well. I can read it easily though.

"It's nothing." My voice sounds strange to my own ears, but I doubt that she hears anything beneath my typical low, disinterested, it-may-really-be-nothing-or-it-may-just-be-none-of-your-business tone.

She shrugs and slides open the closet door and I close my eyes as I listen to the sounds of her settling down for the night, strangely tense and content all at once. When I can hear she's finished I lean over and switch out the light, turning onto my side. She's there, a few feet and a thin door away, and I'm oddly comforted by that fact.

I don't love Rukia Kuchiki. That's what I keep telling myself. And then I sigh.

… I really am an idiot if I believe that.

A/N: Part one of two, but two is so short I should be smacked for even posting it as its own chapter... Okay, so I know this story leans toward Ichigo/Rukia... it isn't that I'm a fan of the pairing, I'm actually undecided. It would be cute (if predictable), but I'm not certain I see it ever happening in the show. Still, the idea of Rukia sleeping in Ichigo's closet wouldn't leave me. He may be stoic and loud, but he IS a teenage guy, he's gotta feel something about that, right? Next chapter will be Renji's view on Rukia

Read and review!