Hey there, everybody. Long time no see. I've been kind of lazy with my fics lately, I'll admit... but I'm here with a new fandom. Damn me for loving Bleach so much. I might just get chemical poisoning! D:
I believe that this will be either a two-part or a three-part, depending on how I feel like describing things. I hope you enjoy! x3
-Anti-Strawberry-
Rating: "T" for brief language, hints at homosexuality, and some upcoming themes. Subject to change.
Pairing: IchiIshi
Summary: It's been six years, and now everyone in the group is at the grand age of twenty-one. Ichigo, being rejected by Rukia for his love a year ago, has become a musician and performs in a nightclub only to end up running into someone he didn't think would find him...


The moon--an ivory entity of the night, illuminating in its path the darkest shreds of the Earth at the darkest of times. Nighttime. A time of sin and glorious gallivants. Of course, there are just some people who know more about the fun of the night than others. For a twenty-one-year-old substitute shinigami, it was the time to live life to the fullest.

"Who's ready to party and hear some real music!?" Kurosaki Ichigo bellowed over the mulling roar of his favorite night club. The young man wore a tight black, green, and purple striped shirt with a collar that had a few buttons. The jeans he had were torn up, faded, and dark blue that sat low on his hips and tight around his thighs, only flaring out slightly towards his ankles. A studded belt was angled around his waist, very similar to the bracelets around his wrists. Each ear was pierced twice in the lobe with simple hoops, and an extra hoop was anchored in the cartilage of his right ear. He was the definition of near-emo style. Strumming a few beats on his guitar, he graced his sharp features with an obnoxiously-confident grin only to receive a cheer in his direction.

Ichigo really did love getting this attention. He soaked it up like a neglected sponge. This was strange simply because he used to be such a loner.

And really, he still was.

It had been a few years ago that Ichigo decided to finally pick up that cherry-red guitar that was so silently collecting dust in a corner of his room. He played a little when he was younger, but had long since given it up. When he let the music come back to him though, damn, he was glad he did. Not only did it give him the excuse to call something he enjoyed doing a career, it wasn't something he particularly considered work.

What could be so hard about doing something you love and getting paid for it? Whatever celebrity made up the bullshit about fame being difficult, well, Ichigo wanted to bash their head in. Not that Kurosaki had a swelled ego. He knew that less than a fair amount of musicians ever truly made it, but he wasn't doing bad, and that was just fine with him.

The only thing that ever bothered him was the plethora of fangirls (and the occasional boy). Considering that Karakura was not a particularly huge city, nor was he a completely unknown presence, the amount of locals that screamed when they noticed him walking down the street astounded him.

There was good attention and bad attention, and Ichigo hated that kind. At the end of the day, though, he knew it was part of the deal so he just chose to live with it and give a false smile to them all, an act that somehow got girls to swoon. Perhaps even some guys. The bisexuality of the job managed to startle him incessantly. Could one really call it the bisexuality of the job...? Whatever.

"Thank you, thank you!" he bellowed out, beating a few more notes as the crowd cried for him once again. "We're gonna take a short break, but don't worry. We'll be back!" Ichigo tossed a small wink and walked off backstage. "Keigo, you slowed down a little bit towards the end," he noted with a smirk at his drummer.

"Oh... shut up! Only you can stay awake doing this all friggin' night long, Ichigo-kun!" Keigo pouted back, drumming out a rhythm on Ichigo's skull with the sticks in his hands.

The fiery-headed one's eye twitched in annoyance. "Whatever. It's called knowing how to schedule your time. Instead of spending the day with girls, I slept," Ichigo huffed back, grabbing the drumsticks to keep them from any longer killing brain cells.

"Hey!" Keigo cried, "I did not spend the whole day with girls, I was with Ritsuko (1)!"

"Fine. Girlfriend. Same difference, Keigo."

"Arguing again?" came a soft-spoken, deep voice from the opposite corner of the dim room.

"Not really, Chad. Keigo's just being an idiot. Big surprise," Ichigo answered, glancing over at the other and shoving his hands into his pant pockets. Hearing that Ichigo was thinking about putting together a band, Chad had revealed that he wasn't too shabby at playing the bass and joined up with his best friend straight away.

"What's so stupid about spending part of the day with my girlfriend!? She wanted my company!"

"In bed?" Ichigo muttered under his breath, also using a slight cough to cover the words up.

"You're just jealous because you don't have a girlfriend. Why don't you try hooking up with Orihime-chan? She still digs you, dude. Besides, she's real cute," Keigo practically squeaked, tossing his arm around Ichigo's shoulders.

"Sorry, Keigo. She's with me," Chad replied, looking away out a dingy window that was at least ten feet up the wall. All he could see was the dimmed neon lights of the club's sign outside.

"ARE YOU KIDDING!?" Keigo erupted, "Oh my God!"

"Shit, you're so damned stupid," Ichigo grunted, starting to pull away.

"Oh, come on! I think we're going to hook you up tonight!" the loud brunet grinned.

"I don't want to get hooked up, Keigo. I like my life just the way it is," Ichigo answered oddly calm, an icy stare glaring at his friend. 'Even if it can be a bit lonely, I don't live that far from my dad and sisters. I'm not alone,' he thought. Men were born with hands for a reason, that reason being that they didn't have to be sexually deprived when not in a relationship. 'I'm fine the way it is.'

Not only had Ichigo admitted to Rukia that he had feelings for her, she had the gall to turn him down and go back to the Soul Society. That had been at least a year ago by now, but he hadn't told a single person, nor had he truly gotten over it.

---

The sun shone brightly through the window of Ichigo's bedroom, giving the brilliant proof of a lazy summer day. The birds were chirping happily, a few cicadas cried their buzzing song, and the laughter of happy children on vacation rung through the air. "Hey... Rukia? Could I talk to you for just a minute?" Ichigo asked, anxiety apparent in his demeanor. He scratched at an invisible itch on his forearm and carefully crossed his legs under him as he sat down on his bed.

The petite shinigami glanced back at him. She was visiting on business. There had been a small outbreak of Hollows that Rukia had been sent to deal with. Currently, she also had been ordered to keep patrol over the area for at least a week to make sure there wasn't any sort of lapse between worlds. Hollow outbreak had become slightly rarer, so it was a matter to be dealt with at once. "... Is there something wrong, Ichigo?" she asked, sounding a bit concerned. The red-head didn't like to show his feelings like she was currently sensing.

"Could you come here and sit down next to me, at least? I'm being serious," Ichigo frowned deeply, his brow crinkling.

Rukia sighed and nodded, plopping down on the bed. "What is it?" She peered up at him, curiosity in her dark eyes.

Ichigo almost felt himself get lost in her expression. She was just so pretty. Her features were so delicate, small, and just--for lack of a better word--adorable, but he knew the power behind this façade. When she wanted to and he wasn't a shinigami, she could probably beat the crap out of him. Ichigo decided to keep that in mind. "There's been something that I kinda wanted to tell you..." he trailed off, scratching behind his head.

"You're stalling, Ichigo."

"Sorry. I just... Rukia, I think I'm in love with you," he blurted out. There. She couldn't tell him that he was stalling anymore. With the revelation, he felt his insides twist around and clench up in the most uncomfortable of ways, like his stomach was just eating itself with nervousness for her answer.

She stared at him strangely for a moment. "Ichigo..." she said softly, "I don't know what to say to that. How long?"

"I'm not even sure myself. A long time, Rukia."

"I'm sorry, Ichigo..."

"Why would you be sorry? You didn't do anything wr--" Ichigo blinked as he was cut off by Rukia silencing him with her right index finger over his lips.

"You know that I care about you a lot, too. More than just about anybody, perhaps more than anybody, right?" she asked. When she received a tiny nod as an answer, she continued, "You're a human, Ichigo. It doesn't matter that you now have shinigami powers... You are still a human." Ichigo threw her a desperate look that simply asked why something like that would matter. "I have no idea if that means you will live the lifespan of a human or a shinigami, Ichigo. That would just be... too painful. Don't you agree?"

"But... Rukia..." Ichigo muttered, gently brushing her hand away, "You can't know until you try, right?"

"Ichigo, I understand where you're coming from. I know the way you are; you would try to find some way to get that increased lifespan at some idiotic cost for me. I'm not going to let you do that."

"But when I die, I'll go the Soul Society!" Ichigo retorted, "Why does this even make a difference to you?"

"I hate seeing you get hurt."

Ichigo wanted to yell that she was hurting him right now, killing him, but he couldn't.

"I know that it sounds stupid, Ichigo, but please try to understand. I've heard you humans say that this sounds cliché, but... it's me, not you. I think I have to be going now, though..." Rukia whispered. (2)

Ichigo stared at her before letting his eyes slip closed. He sat that way for a few moments and when he slowly peered around again, she was gone. He laid down on the bed, his head against the spot where she had been. Letting out a huge sigh, he felt the first tear roll off his cheek for the first time in many years. "... Rukia..." he said to himself, so quietly that he barely heard it. The more he thought about her answer, the less it made sense to him. She lied; he wouldn't understand.

This gorgeous day suddenly seemed just a little bit darker. No longer did Ichigo hear the songbirds, cicadas, or happiness. The only thing he noticed was the gloomy howl of the hot summer wind as it carried the sound he knew as the painful thud of his heart.

---

The rest of that night in the slowly emptying nightclub went fairly well. Ichigo knew he got off key a few times, and he despised that, but it happened. He was distracted by remembering his rejection from Rukia. Currently sitting at the cherry-red colored wood bar, he smiled slightly at the bartender. "Hey, would you mind getting me a beer?" he asked.

"No problem, Kurosaki-san," the middle-aged, balding man smiled. Ichigo had come to like him well enough; the guy was kind. He had dark-brown hair that was starting to grey a little bit, along with a round tummy. Known as Aku-san, he also liked to get to know his regulars, one of which was Ichigo. They had a good relationship because Ichigo's band brought in business, and the young adult was a good-paying customer as well. Pouring the ice-cold brew into a large mug, Aku-san set the drink on the counter as he faced Ichigo with his blue eyes that crinkled around the corners when he flashed a smile. "There you go. Pay when you like."

"Thanks, Aku-san," Ichigo answered, nodding in acceptance as he took the alcohol. He brought the cup up to his lips and was about to take a sip when a familiar voice interrupted him.

"I don't know if I pictured you as an alcoholic or a drug-addict, Kurosaki, but I knew you'd find one or the other eventually."

Ichigo scowled deeply and thought for a moment before turning around. He was certain he recognized that voice, but it was just more… mature, a bit deeper, and even more condescending than he recalled. "Ishida. What the hell are you doing in a place like this, you tight-ass? I haven't seen you in years," he remarked, glancing up to meet sapphire eyes with his own amber.

"I saw the name of the band that was playing. It somehow just reminded me of you, so I thought I could just check it out for a moment, and look what I found." Said sapphire eyes appeared sharp and annoyed.

"Don't look so pissed if you were actually looking around for me."

"Who said I was looking for you, idiot? I just said it reminded me of you."

The red-head simply growled to himself before offering the seat aside him to Ishida, who surprisingly accepted. Ichigo wouldn't admit that he had missed Ishida as well. The guy could be a dick, but he was still a comrade that he respected and enjoyed to be around occasionally. "… Where did you go?" he asked, glancing over at Uryuu.

"I remember telling you that it was none of your business," he snorted in a stuck-up way, folding his hands on the counter in front of him.

Ichigo just stared at his old acquaintance in awe. When did he become a bigger jerk? Besides that, he noticed that Ishida's hair had grown slightly longer, but not by much, and his clothes had gotten darker. The long-sleeved shirt still had the remnants of Quincy pride, as it was graced with that Godforsaken cross on each arm, but the rest was just a black, button-up (x), collared, and tucked-in shirt that any other guy would wear. Mildly-loose black trousers were held up with a simple belt.

"You look a bit different, Kurosaki," Ishida noted, looking up and down the man next to him.

The gaze made Ichigo shift nervously. "It's my concert wear," he replied simply.

"I think it makes you look like a stripper from a gay club."

"Well, you look like a fag, too!"

"… It really has been a long time," Ishida sighed. Did that sound a bit sad?

"Feh. I haven't missed you at all."

"I never said I missed you either, you fool."

Ichigo fell silent for a moment. "So… do you have anybody in your life right now?" he asked just for the sake of conversation. He noticed the atmosphere between them become tense, so he glanced over at the other. "Ishid--"

"No, I don't," he said sharply, cutting the other off. Ichigo just nodded and decided to be quiet until Uryuu wanted to speak.

"… Why? Do you?"

"Hm?"

"Have anybody special in your life right now, Ichigo."

"Ichigo, huh? I'm surprised," the musician answered, "But… no, I don't. I asked Rukia, but she turned me down. It's kind of hard to get over, you know? All I can say is that unrequited love hurts." With that, he took a swig of beer.

"… Yeah, it does…" Ishida watched the other closely. He noticed the rippling of muscles in Ichigo's throat as he swallowed, the way his Adam's apple bobbed slightly, and the fact that there was a small trickle of alcohol working its way down his chin. "You're such a slob," he muttered, rolling his eyes. In the dim light, he hoped there was no way to see the heat that had worked its way onto his face.

Ichigo merely smiled at him as there was no point in arguing. His body became stiff as he felt Ishida's fingertip slide along his face. "What are you--"

"Did I not just say that you're a slob? Kurosaki, there's beer on your face," he mumbled, simply flicking the alcohol from his finger to the tiles beneath them as he brought his hand back to his own personal space. A small smile cracked on his porcelain features when he noticed that Ichigo was blushing. "Have I embarrassed the big, bad rockstar?" he teased.

"Shut up, Uryuu. Anyway, do you have anyplace to stay?"

"I don't think it should matter to you. For all you know, Kurosaki, I'm leaving tonight and going back to where I came from."

"… No?"

"I can get a hotel room."

"You can stay with me. Maybe we can catch up a little bit? I know you never truly liked me that much, but that doesn't mean you have to hold such childish ideas. Please? I promise I won't ask you any questions about… whatever."

Ishida raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "Yeah, right. Fine, though. I'll go with you."

Ichigo glanced around the dark room of the nightclub and noticed that both Chad and Keigo had gone off without him. "Alright then. Let's go." He set the money on the bar and nodded towards Aku-san to get his attention.

"Headin' out already, Kurosaki-san? Well, okay, I'll see you some other time. Just book us whenever you want!" the man smiled at them.

"Of course, Aku-san. I'll be around, don'tcha worry. Let's go, Ishida." He held out a hand to the other that was promptly slapped away.

"I'm not a five-year-old, Kurosaki. Don't treat me as such," he snarled.

"Okay, geez! Don't be such a jackass!" Ichigo scowled and waved his arms in defense. Making sure that the other was behind him as he walked towards the door, he opened it up and headed out into the sky that slowly was turning lighter once again with a companion at his side.

Ishida Uryuu. Not a man that he ever actually expected to see again.


So... what do you think? My sister likes it so far, but hey. xD Family works that way sometimes, I guess.

FOOTNOTES
(1) My sister is also on a "Loveless" kick lately, so that's a spoof of Ritsuka's name, obviously.
(2) Rukia's argument really doesn't make sense because I don't know if Ichigo would live like a shinigami or a human. Help? xD

Other Note (x)
Thank you for reminding me of this, HunterKai. I was going to mention it and had forgotten. xD; So, thanks. We know that Ishida hates buttons. HE HATES BUTTONS. So, why does he have a button-up shirt? Let's just say that it's his way of showing that even if he didn't like them, he conquered the art of buttons with his 1337 sewing skills, 'kay? That was actually my intention when I wrote that. Just so we all are on the same page with that.

Read and review, if you so desire! x3