An update has been dragged out for so many days, and I apologize. Exams and crap, but I managed to find some random shreds of time to type this out. Last chapter, people. Thank you for reviewing this story, thank you for seeing Ichigo and Rukia through bouts of angst. And not to mention hating Sato (I did.) So, redcheese presents to you: Chapter 9.

Ichigo Has A Goddamn Hostel Room!

Chapter 9: Tying Up Loose Ends

Rukia stared at the pile of driftwood they had gathered.

"Do you know how to light a fire, Ichigo?"

He prodded her nose, and she squirmed.

"No, I don't. But you do."

"What? I don't!"

"Oh yes you do."

"…I maintain that I don't!"

"Well, I maintain that you don't know that you can do what you maintain that you don't."

"You stupid turnip, how am I supposed to know something that I don't even know how to do?"

Ichigo sighed. This was going to take longer than he thought.

"Rukia, you are a shinigami, are you not?"

She frowned at his question.

"Of course I am. Is that some sort of trick question?"

He grinned.

"No it's not. But I still say that you do know how to light a fire."

Rukia bared her teeth. "I don't!"

He sighed again.

"Okay, okay. Let's see. Does the phrase 'DEMON ARTS' sound relatively familiar to you?"

She blinked, and started shredding a twig that she had picked up from the pile.

"Kidou?"

"Yea, kidou. Now, does the phrase 'BLUE FIRE' make any sense now, you moronic rabbit-loving fiend of a shinigami?"

Rukia dropped the twig, and attempted to punch him.

"SAY SO EARLIER, BAKA."

---

The fire (which was undeniably a rather lovely shade of blue) crackled merrily away, while Rukia brought an armful of seaweed that Ichigo had asked her to get.

Or ordered her to get, in actual fact.

"Okay, that's enough. Get the clams."

"Don't order me around; I'm not your maid!"

He was at her side faster than she imagined, and put his arms around her.

"All right, I'm sorry."

She tried, and failed, to poke him in the ribs.

"Say please."

"Yes m'am. Please, if you wouldn't mind, bring the clams over to the fire?"

Rukia tiptoed, and kissed him.

"Now that's the way to go. Keep m'am-ing around, and I'll kiss you again."

Ichigo grinned. Rather evilly, actually.

"YES M'AM. Hah, you owe me another."

Rukia cringed. She somehow regretted her verbal promise of smooches.

"Ichigo, what do we do with the seaweed?"

He knelt down beside the fire, and dumped half the seaweed over it. Steam hissed its way through the green lump as he tossed the clams onto it and covered the whole thing with the remaining seaweed.

Brushing his hands off on his shorts, he turned around and put both hands on Rukia's shoulders.

Her eyes softened. Being nose to nose to Ichigo was kind of funny and warm and happy at the same time.

He cleared his throat, as if he was about to say something. Rukia blinked, her heart rate increasing.

Ichigo grinned.

"M'AM."

Her fist was inches away from his jaw when he actually leaned in, and kissed her.

---

"Mmph. Stop hugging me like that, unless you want me to be the first soul in history that has died of suffocation."

He ignored her completely, burying his head into her hair even further.

Rukia narrowed her eyes. It was nice to be held like this, but to be used as a stress ball was not a very nice thing to be.

"Ichigo, the clams are burning!"

He smiled into her hair.

"I won't be tricked by you, no way."

"…The clams are really burning!"

"Am not listening, Rukia."

She jabbed him mercilessly, and he yelped, jumping back and clutching his side at the same time.

"The clams, Ichigo!"

A rather nasty smell reached his nose, and he furrowed his brows.

Shit.

---

After three burnt fingers and lots of smoke, Ichigo managed to rescue three quarters of the clams from a horrible burnt death.

Which was contradictory in itself, considering that either way, they'd be dead.

But no matter.

What was worrying, however, was the level of cholesterol he'd accumulate by the end of today.

Rukia had nothing to worry about of course, but he did.

Ichigo grabbed another clam, shrugged the matter aside, and moved on with his life.

"I like clams, Ichigo."

Rukia had already eaten her way through half her share with gusto and he tried, and failed to suppress a smile.

"Slow down, or you'd get a really bad stomach ache."

She ignored him, finished the rest of her clams, and started on his.

"Hey!"

It's obvious that he gave in to her in the end.

---

After Rukia tossed the clam shells into the sea, and after Ichigo had covered the fire with sand, they decided to go back to the hostel. It was seven am, after all, and they couldn't ignore the fact that they were both damn freaking tired.

Ichigo marveled at the miracle that no one had seen the bright blue fire dancing on the beach.

He imagined Lady Luck smiling a smile akin to that of Urahara's and waving her bright pink striped fan at him.

Ichigo blanched, and Rukia peered at him in concern, clearly oblivious to the horror movie that his inner mind's theatre was playing.

"Ichigo, are you okay?"

He shook his head, choking, and told her about the horrible imagery that had been floating into his mind.

Rukia stared at him for a few seconds, and she laughed.

She laughed like she'd never, ever stop, and Ichigo swore he felt something buried deep in his ribcage float up ever so lightly, and dissipate.

He bent down, holding her chin with his right hand and her back with his left, angling his head towards hers. Rukia smiled at him, for him, her eyes crinkling softly at the corners as she leaned in, too.

As they kissed, he brought both arms around her, lifted her up from the sand, and swung her around in arcs, in circles that he wished with all his heart that'd never, ever end.

---

The first sight that they were met with when they (at last) made it back to school, hand in hand, was a horrifying and shocking one.

Ichigo thought it looked even worse than Lady-Luck/Urahara, something like a life sized replica of the hideous pink toy that his father had tried to press on him on (wrongfully) discovering that his precious son was gay.

Rukia thought it looked like shit.

She liked to keep things short and simple, just like herself, pun obviously not intended.

It was a bright pink limousine, and whether it was hot or baby pink was not the issue here. It was there, and it was without doubt going to kill both their eyes.

"…Holy shit, Rukia."

"Ditto."

A clicking of heels made them both spin around, Ichigo in wide eyed horror, and Rukia with her violet eyes blazing with fire.

Sato blinked rapidly, and attempted to compose herself. Arranging the pink scarf around her neck, and adjusting her tiny pink skirt, she tried, and failed, to appear completely disconcerted at Ichigo and Rukia's appearance, coupled with the fact that they were both hand in hand.

"Hello, Kurosaki-kun!"

Ichigo cringed instinctively, both at her sugary tone and Rukia's grip on his fingers, but he hardened his expression.

He wasn't going to forgive her just yet.

Sato looked at the floor, twisting her (pink) gloves around with her fingers.

"Kurosaki-kun, I wanted to…apolo-"

"Rukia's right here, you know?"

Sato looked up at him, large eyes widening.

"Kuro-"

"You should at least remember your manners now, right?"

Sato turned pink. Her mouth tightened, and she sent a fleeting glance at Rukia, who was holding Ichigo's hand with something akin to pride.

"Hello, Kuchiki-san."

Rukia smiled, but the violet fire in her eyes didn't extinguish itself, and her grip around his fingers didn't loosen.

"Hello, Sato-san."

Sato looked away.

"Kurosaki-kun, you and Kuchiki-san are together?"

Ichigo turned to look at Rukia, and then back at Sato. He nodded.

"Yep, we are."

Sato looked at the ground again, fidgeting uncomfortably.

"Kuchiki-san, I'm sorry for throwing the ball at you. Kurosaki-kun, I'm sorry, too."

Rukia blinked, surprised. But she smiled, a softer one this time.

"It's okay, Sato-san. I'm thankful for your apology."

Sato looked up at both of them, and looked away, her lashes batting frantically, feverishly, betraying all pretence of indifference.

"Kurosaki-kun, I'm transferring, and I wish both of you well."

Ichigo sighed. It was no use attacking her like that, he thought, and when he looked at Rukia, he saw the same message reflected back at him.

"Sato."

The girl looked up at him, face tensed and pale.

"It's all right. I mean, what you did really sucked, but it's no use being angry with you, right?"

Rukia cleared her throat, and her grip on his fingers relaxed a little.

"I forgive you, Sato. Just…don't do that to anyone else."

The corners of Sato's mouth twitched just a little, as her eyes sparkled with held back tears.

"Thank you, Kurosaki-kun and Kuchiki-san."

Ichigo shrugged. "You're transferring?"

Sato nodded mutely, and her fingers stopped abusing her pink glove at last.

"Ayumi-dono! All your luggage has been loaded into the boot, and we're ready to set off!"

A smartly dressed (in pink, both Ichigo and Rukia observed, pitying him) chauffer appeared behind the flamboyant vehicle, opening the car door with professional promptness.

"Your father does not want to be kept waiting, Ayumi-dono, I advise you to tie up all your loose ends, and hurry!"

Sato turned just as she was about to enter the car. She looked at Rukia, her white beret settling perfectly on her blonde head.

"Kuchiki-san, please take care of Kurosaki-kun."

Rukia inclined her chin slightly, and straightened up, keep eye contact with Sato.

"I would have no reason not to, Sato-san."

Sato nodded stiffly, and with a quick glance at Ichigo, stepped inside the car.

As the car zoomed away in a cloud of exhaust, which Ichigo was surprised wasn't pink; he turned to look at Rukia.

"You're a fierce one, aren't you?"

All the tension seemed to seep out of her as she looked at him, and she smiled, clearly relieved.

"You're one to talk, Kurosaki-kun."

He grinned, and brushed her cheek with his fingers, and then his lips.

"How about a nice, warm shower?"

Rukia's eyes lit up, and she nodded vigorously, hair bobbing up and down.

"Me first?"

Ichigo narrowed his eyes at her.

"It's not fair, you know, the way you make me give in to you."

She stuck out her tongue at him.

"All right, all right. You first."

She whooped and grabbed his hand, and he felt as if he was never, ever going to stop smiling with her.

"YOU ORANGE TURNIP, HAH! I DEMAND YOU TO BUY ME LUNCH TODAY!"

Or maybe he was going to regret it just a little.

---

Ichigo's cell phone rang, as Rukia was in the shower.

He examined the number. His crazy dad was calling him!

Ichigo had admittedly almost forgotten about his family among all the other things that had happened.

He flipped the phone open.

"MY DEAR SON! Oh, I have missed you so. Are you doing fine wherever you are staying, my son?"

"I am, you stupid bastard. I'm alive."

"Ah, how you show your love for your father is so abstract! Would you come back to where you rightfully belong, in your home, son?"

Ichigo grinned.

"I'll think about it."

end!

yay and boo, the fic has ended! I'm so sorry about the delay, and I'm so grateful to every single one of you for all your support! heh.

with much thanks,

;redcheese.