A/N: This short thing is for my good friend, Al May, who challenged me to write a drabble containing the word 'pool.' I was able to apply it more relevantly than I had expected (and not just in the title, either). Booyah! Thanks Al May! Review please.

A Pool of Mud

It was a great bargain, how much she could spend on a box of romance novels. She enjoyed the read, and no matter what Ichigo said, Rukia found the plots enthralling and less painful than slaying Hallows. Ichigo said they were silly, unrealistic. There was nothing novelty about Caitlyn, her baby, or her loaded rifle.

Yet, he offered to carry the box anyways.

Rukia turned it down without hesitation. "Don't mock me, Ichigo," she said. "You've already insulted my books."

"You're box of love looks heavy."

"I said don't mock me." She stopped, shifted the box under one arm, and patted the cardboard side. "I can carry it just fine."

"Well—"

"Why are you acting so funny?"

The toe of Rukia's shoe got snagged in a small divot in the cement. Caught off balance, the box slipped out of her grasp and a pile of books spilled into a pool of mud. With a groan, Rukia bent over to salvage her sodden library.

Ichigo picked the box up, silently brushing the dirt off. The mud left dark, grainy stains on his fingers. "I'm not acting funny at all," he said. "I don't really like your taste in books, but I am on your side." He leaned over her, bent at the waist, and held the box for her. "Always."

A cold chill settled over Rukia. Didn't those words belong to Kaien-dono? It was strange. Ichigo already resembled him so much, but to hear those words again, it frightened her. She half expected two drunken squad members to leap out of the bushes, yowling teasing remarks.

Ichigo scowled, looking at her from an upturned angle. "What?" He nudged her with his knee, shaking the box impatiently. "What's with that face? Don't tell me you're hurt. "

"Of course not," she said quietly.

Ichigo shook the box again. "Well, come on then. I don't have all day."

Without a word, she gently placed the books inside.

Then, hefting the box under his arm, Ichigo straightened up. He sighed. "Sheesh, and you think I act funny?"

Rukia watched the wet ground. "Let's go home," she said.

Not once, did Rukia object to letting him carry her box of trashy romance novels.