Something a Little Sweeter

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the flowers were blooming…and Rukia Kuchiki was pissed all to hell.

'Arrogant fools, all of them' When she thought this, Rukia was referring collectively to every male she had encountered since morning.

First had been Byakuya, who had turned up here at the crack of dawn for no apparent reason other than to demand she return to the Soul Society at once. She had refused. Byakuya had merely looked on impassively and gone away. He had such a way of making her feel like a petulant child, something no one else could do, Rukia hated the feeling.

Walking alone from school, Renji had then shown up, and the same old same old had ensued. She loved Renji dearly, in a brotherly way, and would always appreciate all that he had done for her, but he and Byakuya needed to realise that she was a responsible woman now. Of course she would avoid undue risk, but as an active Soul Reaper, sometimes that was simply not possible.

Having escaped both surrogate brothers, she had been set upon by several Hollows who just had to have been jocks in life, with those chauvinistic attitudes to a female Soul Reaper. Predictably angered, Rukia had done what she had sworn never to do after many months of watching Ichigo, and severely drained her still meagre spirit energy avenging her injured pride. Eventually she defeated them all, but didn't walk away unharmed by a long shot. She had been forced to tear off the bottom of her shirt and even some of her skirt to stem the bleeding.

When she reached her original destination of Urahara's shop, the fan waving schemer had taken one look at her altered attire and made the expected smartass crack about Rukia's new look. This had earned him an enthusiastic demonstration of why provoking a bruised, bleeding and highly capable Shinigami spoiling for a fight is a bad plan.

Laden down with purchases, Rukia had veered away from returning to Ichigo's place as it would be near impossible to sneak in until Isshin burned himself out and fell asleep. The number of times they had nearly been caught…

So now she was in the park. Rukia regarded it as a sanctuary of sorts, which, with the exception of the occasional Hollow, was relatively peaceful. However, the tranquil beauty all around just wasn't doing it for her today. She needed…something more, and she knew just where to find it.

A small grin appeared on her face for the first time that day. Rukia reached for her satchel which she had thrown away fro her before flopping gratefully onto the soft, soft grass. Little did she know, but a certain someone was watching every move she made.

Ichigo Kurosaki stood a good distance away from the oblivious Shinigami, observing her silently. He always liked to look at her when he knew she wouldn't catch him doing it, not in a lewd sense, just desiring to see what she acted like when she was alone. And today he had more to look at than usual. Rukia was battered from head to toe, like she got mauled by a bunch of angry cats. Her hair was a mess, her clothes were torn, parts of her school outfit had been ripped off and used as bandages, and she was sporting dozens of scratches and bruises, the crowning glory of which was a magnificent purple shiner over one eye. And the restless, irritated expression she wore said everything and nothing all at once.

Meanwhile, Rukia, having no reason to suspect that she was being monitored, had rummaged through the bag and located her prize. In her dainty, manicured hand she held…

'Chocolate?!' Ichigo looked on disbelievingly at the businesslike Shinigami he had come to believe was all work and no play began to meticulously unwrap a candy bar. 'I gotta be hallucinating, Rukia is a creature of habit, and this is not part of her habits!' Ichigo was right. She never took dessert at meals, but taunted him for his indiscipline, stating that it was unbecoming to a representative of the Soul Society to be such a glutton. Oh, how he got sick of hearing that, even if he did disregard the advice completely.

Rukia bit into the soft fudge, letting her eyes fall shut in order to give the candy her undivided attention. 'Oh yes…' she thought, this is just what she needed. It wasn't her failsafe stress reliever for nothing.

Ichigo decided he had seen enough, and walked towards Rukia. "Having fun are we?" he asked a tad sarcastically. The raven-haired girl splayed out on the grass choked on the lump of sweet fudge slipping down her throat, and her dark eyes shot open in surprise.

"Ichigo?" was all she managed to say before said lump of chocolate went down the wrong way and caused Rukia to lapse into a minor coughing fit. Her orange haired companion waited patiently (or at least as patiently as Ichigo could possibly be in any situation, which was not very) and tapped a foot idly as he waited for her to recover.

Finally she did, and looked up at Ichigo with watery eyes. "Startled you, did I?" Ichigo asked, highly amused. It wasn't so much a question as a statement, and the chronic orange head smirked down at her, enjoying her discomfiture.

On autopilot, the girl simultaneously whacked him over the skull, kicked him in the shins and stomped on his foot. She then lowered herself to the ground again and sat cross-legged as if nothing had happened. "No, not at all" was her prim reply as Ichigo gasped in pain.

A loud grunt was the only indication that Rukia hadn't concussed him. Unfazed by the rudeness, she gestured to the empty patch of greenery next to her. Taking the hint for once he sat down immediately. A few seconds of peaceful silence ensued. Then Rukia decided to speak.

"So what brings you here?" she asked casually, breaking off a piece of fudge to offer to him. He accepted it and chewed thoughtfully before replying. "Looking for you, it's not like you not to say where you're going and if you're going to be late home" Ichigo answered gruffly, orange locks shielding his eyes from her curious gaze.

Curious was right, that hadn't been the angry response she had expected. He almost seemed concerned. Time to test that theory out. "Were you worried about me?" Rukia asked as lightly as she could manage.

True to form, Ichigo immediately went on the defensive. "No! Of course not! Why would you think that? That's ridiculous!"

Ichigo continued to yammer on, but his female friend had long since zoned out on him. Months of being around the stubborn substitute had led her to rely more on his body language than his words at times. It didn't fail her now. Ichigo shuffled uncomfortably and clenched and unclenched his hands repeatedly. Rukia smiled, and placed a hand gently over gently over his own. Ichigo's head snapped up and he looked at her in askance, but didn't pull his hands away from her grip.

Rukia would have let go at that point anyway…if Ichigo had not stopped her that is. His palms closed over hers as she made to move away and the customary restlessness she had come to expect from him was replaced with a strange look that Rukia couldn't recall ever seeing before. And it aroused a new feeling in her as well.

Slowly, carefully, so that the other would have sufficient time to back away be they unsure, both Shinigami began to lean forward. Their eyes closed, their bodies tensed in anticipation of the inevitable.

Lips met. Ichigo groaned and roughly pulled her closer to him by the waist as she drew her slim arms around his neck to do the same.

'Oh my…this is so much better than chocolate' Rukia thought blissfully, tangling their tongues together. He tasted fruity, like…strawberries no less. 'What a wonderful irony' was her last thought before giving herself up to the sensation of being kissed senseless. Ichigo's dazed mind was running along much the same lines, with his sole thought being that this was even more perfect than in his dreams.

They finally parted, gazing at each other intensely. Eventually Ichigo recovered enough from his combined shock and delighted surprise to form a coherent sentence.

"Why did you just do that?" he breathed "not that I'm complaining of course" he added wryly.

"I'm glad" Rukia replied, wearing a rare contented smile on her pretty features. "And the reason is…" She leant up to lick his lips playfully "I was in the mood for something sweeter"

The End