"This is all your fucking fault, you know that?"
Orange brows furrowed as one amber-brown eye twitched slightly. With a huff, Ichigo folded his arms across his chest and jerked his chin stubbornly away from the pair of violet eyes that glared accusingly at him. No matter what she said, he was not about to admit that it was his fault. Because it wasn't. Obviously, it was her fault. Her and that stupid argument they'd been having. Hence, he chose to roll his eyes and ignore her. Arguing had gotten them into this mess, and now that he was stuck here with her, he certainly didn't feel like listening to her bitch any more then she already had. Running a hand through soaking wet orange hair, he directed his scowl out at the downpour that had sent them into the relative shelter of the bus stop in the first place. Glancing back at his companion out of the corner of his eye, he could see her mouth open in preparation for what was likely another round of yelling, blaming, or just plain old bitching. He cut her off with a vicious snarl, turning away from her in the process.
"Just shut the hell up, Rukia! This is all your fault anyway, so quit fuckin' bitching."
Though she'd expected him to still be pissed – after all, it was Ichigo – Rukia was still a tad surprised at the vehemence in his tone. And no, it wasn't her fault. Growling to herself, she assumed a similar position, arms folded tightly across her chest, ignoring the feeling of water droplets sliding down her back from drenched black hair, chin held haughtily up in the air as she refused to even acknowledge his presence.
And to think this all had started over something as mundane and insignificant as an ice cream cone. It had been about half an hour ago, before the sky had opened up and they'd been forced to abandon their typically-violent fight for the cover the plexi-glass and metal structure offered.
What the hell does he care what kind of ice cream I eat, anyway? Like it fucking matters or something…
Sparing another glare for the spiky-haired punk who was determinedly pretending she did not exist, Rukia suppressed the urge to shudder slightly as her slight form finally began to register two things. One, her clothes, like her hair, were completely soaked. And two, now that it was getting later and the temperature was dropping, it was getting colder. Growling slightly and tightening her grip on her own arms, the black-haired girl let her thoughts drift back to the events of just a short time earlier. She and Ichigo had been on their way home from school, and she'd managed to bother and cajole and finally demand him into buying her an ice cream. Well, ok so he'd capitulated after she'd abused his shins and threatened to tell his father where he hid his porno – not that he actually HAD any, but the effect would be the same nonetheless -- and promised to spread some sort of embarrassing rumor to Keigo, where it was certain to get passed around the entire school. Never mind that she wouldn't likely DO any of those things – well, except the shins part – the effect had been the same. He'd growled, and glared, and looked as though he very much wanted to introduce her to his left fist, and finally scowled and caved in. Like usual.
The difficulty had arose when he'd told her to pick out "whatever goddamn flavour you want so we can get this over with". She'd snarled at him to quit his complaining, ignored his attitude, and politely asked the vendor for her favourite kind. Strawberry. It didn't seem to her to be that strange of a request, and she had laughed when he asked if she was sure, and proclaimed it her favourite and asked if he could make sure it was the kind with the big chunks of strawberry in it, like she always liked to get. But somewhere between her extolling on the wonderfulness of that perfect flavour and the vendor laughing and mentioning how he ought to have known because she always ordered that same one every time she came by, she'd missed Ichigo's expression changing to one that seemed downright uncomfortable. What she didn't miss was his loud assertion that she couldn't have that, she'd have to pick something else.
Well that made absolutely no sense whatsoever, and she'd told him as much, albeit in a less polite manner. Something along the lines of asking what the hell he thought he was doing, telling her what kind of icecream she could have. And it had disintegrated from there into a screaming match over, of all things, strawberry ice cream. And then, he wouldn't even just shut the hell up and TELL her why the fuck it was somehow impossible now for her to have that particular flavour. And then it had to get even worse, as they had both been so caught up in insulting and screaming at each other they'd completely missed the ominous rumble of thunder and the darkening clouds overcast in the sky. At least… they'd missed it until the thunderous boom announced itself and it's partner; the torrential downpour that had followed.
Thus it was that with a stream of cursing and more insults, they'd ran for cover, finally ending up here. Trapped in a drafty bus stop that did little more then keep the rain off of their heads, waiting for the torrent to quell at least enough for them to get home. Then, she could at least refuse to acknowledge his presence in the relative comfort of the dry indoors.
Ichigo sighed, eyes flickering back to the slight figure standing at the far side of the shelter. Yeah, she was still mad at him. Which in itself was stupid, it being her fault and all. He didn't understand what the big deal was, couldn't she have just picked some other flavour? Was it really that difficult to do? Never mind that some small and often-overlooked rational portion of his brain seemed dead-set on pointing out that, in reality, it was a bit more ridiculous for him to be so bothered by something as insignificant as ice-cream. But then, she'd had to pick the strawberry kind, hadn't she? Just like she had to pick everything that was strawberry.
Is she fuckin blind?! Or just stupid?
While he certainly didn't like to think on it much, Ichigo was nonetheless perfectly aware of the fact that his name – though it wasn't written as such – was the same as that accursed flavour's name. Hence the fact that the irritating little bitch of a shinigami that was perpetually by his side having a fucking fixation on that same damnable fruit being something of a crisis situation in Kurosaki Ichigo's 16-year old brain. He knew she liked strawberries. Hell, he occasionally liked the things, when he wasn't having to listen to the same old tired jokes and quips that people who didn't know him liked to make. At least, liked to make until they had their inevitable meeting with his fist. But did she have to…flaunt it like that? For fuck's sake, it seemed like every time he turned around she had some new strawberry-themed or flavoured thing.
Idiot! If you keep doing that sort of shit, people are gonna think we're…
He didn't finish the thought, instead busying himself with making sure his face was turned completely away from Rukia so that she would not see what he was sure was definitely NOT a blush finding it's way to his visage. Because the idea of being in that sort of relationship with Rukia had most certainly never crossed his mind. Never. Not even once. Ok…so maybe once, but it had only been because Keigo wouldn't shut up about it and he'd made sure not to think on it again. It was just one of those things that he…didn't think about. Kindof how he didn't think about those sporadic moments where he would actually admit to himself that all his protests to the contrary, he actually enjoyed her company. Or those instances that were more frequent then he'd like to admit to, where he would find himself watching her and actually allow himself to admire her and admit that even though he teased her about it mercilessly, she was actually quite attractive. Beautiful, even.
And, at the moment, the other thing he was trying – somewhat unsuccessfully – to not think about was the fact that it was getting later, the rain wasn't stopping, and he could see that Rukia was getting cold. And that actually, somehow…made him feel a little bad. Which he was downright confused about. After all, if she'd just not been so stubborn over the stupid ice cream, they'd have been nearly home when the storm hit and they wouldn't BE in this mess. So… if that was the case, then why did he feel as though he ought to be doing something?
She was not cold. No sir, not at all. And even if she had been cold, there was no way she was going to let him know about it. The damned idiot and his stupid weirdness, trying to tell her she couldn't have strawberry ice-cream. Like there was suddenly something wrong with the flavour. She knew perfectly well that he got mad when someone referred to HIM as "strawberry", but Rukia honestly saw no connection between that rightfully-irksome thing and her own predilection for the pink-coloured confection.
The hell is wrong with him anyway? It's just ice-cream, it's not the end of the world.
Caught up in her scowling and her mental reassurances to herself that no, she was in fact NOT shivering, Rukia was surprised at the impact of damp denim against her back as his jacket sailed through the air to land on her head. Pulling the oversized garment off of her hair, she frowned before turning and balling it up before clocking him in the back of the head with it.
"I don't need your stupid jacket, dumbass. Or what, am I not allowed to wear what I want either, now?"
Growling, he flung it back at her, harder this time. She was so goddamned stubborn sometimes… Turning, he crossed his arms back over his chest, ignoring the fact that the sudden lack of coverage made goosebumps break out over his forearms.
"Just take it, moron. I can see you shivering all the fucking way over here, so put it on and shut the hell up about it."
Why was she making this so difficult. He wished she'd just take the damned thing, shut up, and at least try – for once – to NOT make his life more difficult then it already was. Unfortunately for Ichigo, fate was yet again against him as she snarled back at him.
"And then what, you fucking tell me how to wear it? Because obviously anything I get from you has to be on your goddamn terms or else."
Snapping back, he brushed a hand through his hair, sending water droplets flying as he stalked over, making sure to stay out of the range of her feet. His shins were bruised enough as it was.
"Would you fucking give it a rest?! What the hell is so hard about picking a different kind of ice cream, Rukia? It's just ice cream!"
Oh but he had a lot of nerve. "It's just ice cream"? Wasn't that what she'd yelled at him not less then an hour ago, when this whole fiasco had gone down? Planting fists on hips, jacket balled under one arm, she stared him down, gritting her teeth.
"Yes, Ichigo. I'm quite aware that it is "just ice cream", as you put it. And that is exactly the reason why YOU have no business freaking the fuck out over something so stupid! Why the hell does it matter what kind of ice cream I eat anyway!?"
It had to be the irritation getting to him that made him momentarily forget his usual reaction of clamming up and simply scowling when asked such a thing. Something that would actually suggest that he cared, after all, was not the sort of thing that was good for his "image". But right now he was cold, he was hungry, and he was pissed and irritated with the shinigami who was currently studying him with all the warmth of a pit-bull with an abcessed tooth. And thus he didn't check his words very carefully before he spat them out rather venomously.
"Don't you fucking get it? If you don't quit with this damn strawberry fixation, people are gonna get the wrong damned idea about us!"
Oh, so that was it. It wasn't the damn ice cream at all. It was his own pride and his own insecurities about what people would think. That horror of horrors, they might actually think that she and he were a couple. And even though there was a part of her that wanted to laugh at the fact that such a rumor could get him so rattled, there was also a part that was currently reeling in stunned hurt from the fact that such a thing was obviously a hideous idea to him.
Well great, nice to know the idea is so appealing to you, dumbass. Good thing it doesn't matter to me, I guess.
Except…that it DID matter. Even though…she suddenly didn't realize either when or WHY it had come to matter. Just that for some reason…it did. Eyes narrowing, she snapped back an angry retort, not quite managing to hide the hurt in her voice.
"Oh for the love of- You're being so stupid over THAT? Honestly, Ichigo, I doubt anyone would think that, as I think we all know that that sort of thing is about as appealing to you as going on a date with Ishida. Not to mention that even if you did have any sort of designs on a girl, it certainly wouldn't be an unattractive, noisy, violent bitch like me."
He flinched slightly at the acidic bite of her tone, the malice lacing it. But it was the words themselves that actually hit harder. Not so much the idea that she thought he'd rather kiss the Quincy then be in a relationship, but…the way she described herself. Sure, he said the exact same things whenever they were fighting, but she…she didn't actually think he meant them, did she? Ichigo had always thought she knew him well enough to know better, but maybe he'd been mistaken. The only problem now was…what should he say?
Reason might have dictated something intelligent, even something nice. Maybe something designed to in some way make up for what he now realized had been a rather dumb thing to do. But reason was not the thing that gripped his mind right now. And so instead, he returned her words with a retort of his own.
"Damn right I don't want them thinking that. It'd fuckin' wreck everything."
Big mistake. Her mouth opened, as though to say something, then closed again as she dropped her chin, fingers drawing up slightly into fists, face hidden by her hair as she simply turned away, not saying anything. Oh shit. He'd just had to go and say that, hadn't he? Mentally, Ichigo kicked himself for his inability to keep from inserting foot every time he opened his mouth. Because now he'd obviously managed to upset her, and in an entirely different way then before, and this sort of upset…he didn't really know how to fix. Staring at her back, he raised a hand as if to touch her shoulder, pausing to try and figure out what to say while he figuratively chewed on his shoe. Or maybe it was his knee. After all, he'd certainly swallowed the foot far enough.
"Don't. It's not like it matters, Ichigo. Besides… you're right. It isn't like I'm a part of your world, or like I belong here, so even if things were… like that… it wouldn't make a difference. So just drop it."
And that just pissed him off. After all they'd been through together, after how hard he and Inoue and Ishida and Chad and the others had fought for her, how hard they'd all fought for each other, to have her say there was no place for her… With a growl, his hand found it's way to her shoulder, spinning her around to face his glare.
"Don't fuckin say shit like-"
The angry words trailed off as she wrenched herself free of his grasp, turning away to hide what he could have sworn was the faint glimmer of tears at the corners of her eyes. Rukia was…crying? For some reason, that thought hit him like a ton of bricks slamming into his stomach. Rukia…didn't cry. In all the time he'd known her, he'd only seen it happen once or twice, and each time it had made him nearly sick to his stomach to see those violet eyes brimming with unshed moisture. Swallowing past the lump in his throat, Ichigo searched frantically for something to say, something to do that would make things better. Likely, he'd just fuck things up again, even worse this time, but…he had to at least try.
"Look, I didn't… that wasn't what I meant…"
Gritting his teeth, he ran a hand through his hair, searching for the right words. Damn his inability to deal with anything even remotely related to feelings. Most of the time it didn't bother him, but right now… it was just making things harder. Maybe explaining things would help?
"It wasn't like… like that. I mean, you know how they all are. If they thought something was… going on, it'd be all over school. You don't wanna deal with that, either."
Taking a deep breath, he glanced away before continuing in an uncharacteristically quiet voice, faint flush apparent on his cheeks.
"It's just… it's not like… things are like that, ya know? I mean…you probably don't want them just assuming shit that ain't true either."
She nodded faintly, still not looking up at him for a moment before she ventured her own query in a small voice.
"Would it…really be so bad if they did?"
Eyes widening, he took a half step back, unsure how to take that. Of course it would be bad. Wouldn't it? It wasn't true, things weren't… like that between him and Rukia. And if his classmates thought it was… well, that would just be a recipe for disaster. He suppressed a shudder at the mere thought of what Keigo and the others would say or do. Scratching his head, he raised eyebrows at her.
"Well…yeah. I mean… do you really want to deal with the sort of shit they'd say if they thought something like that was… was true?
And as soon as the words were out of his mouth, amber-hued eyes widened further as the sudden implications hit him. Swallowing past the sudden dryness that seemed to have randomly spawned in his mouth, he reminded himself to breathe as he hesitantly placed a hand back on her shoulder. She couldn't… She didn't mean…
"Rukia, are you… " A pause, as he tried to get past the disbelief that he was actually about to ask what he was going to ask. "Are you... saying that you… want things to be like that?"
There was a long, nearly suffocating moment of silence before he could see her draw a shaky breath. Shuffling her feet slightly, she raised her head and turned away, not looking at him.
"I… even if I did… would it make any difference?"
As if in an ironic embellishment to an already-tense situation, the wind picked up, blowing the pounding rain into their shelter in cold gusts of mist. Rukia shuddered, arms wrapping tighter around herself as the breeze blew damp dress against thin legs. Without another thought, Ichigo snagged the jacket out from under her arms and tossed it around her shoulders. He didn't… really know what to do. If he wasn't going crazy, Rukia had essentially just… confessed to him? At least, he thought that's what she'd just done. Granted, in some sort of backhanded, weird way, but still. And now… what was he supposed to do.
Well that's easy, dumbass. You answer her.
That in itself was an easy enough conclusion to come to, the problem was… that he didn't know how to answer her. There were two "traditional" ways to answer such a thing. You either accept the feelings, or you reject them. But… which one did he want to do. Either one meant having to deal with his own feelings, something he'd always avoided doing, especially in these sorts of matters. But this was Rukia. And she was… well, she was waiting for his answer, for one.
Would it make a difference? Would it really change things so much if they were like that?
Ichigo stared at the back of her head, trying to work his way through his own emotions. How did he feel about her anyway? She was… definitely a friend. Always a friend. And… a closer friend then just about anyone else, if he thought about it. But was she more then a friend? Staring at the ground, he reluctantly agreed that yes, yes she was. But did that mean he felt that way about her? Or were there just different degrees of friendship.
Quit being such a fucking pussy, you dumbass and just admit it! She IS more then a friend to you, and you've just been too goddamned scared to actually DO anything about it!
As much as he wanted to slap that part of his mind right now, it did serve it's purpose in snapping him out of his mental musings enough to realize that one way or another, he'd better do something quick. With a sigh and a scratch of his head, he glanced back up in time to see Rukia take a step forward and glance back over her shoulder.
"Don't… worry about it, Ichigo. I'm just going to go now."
As she slipped out into the rain, his hand clamped around her wrist, yanking her back under the shelter and against his chest, arms going around her. It wasn't something that had really been thought out, he'd just… done it. And he didn't really know why. But something about the sight of her moving away from him had struck a part of him and he'd acted on instinct. And that instinct had been to stop her from going, from leaving. From leaving him. Letting his head drop, he rested his chin on the top of her head.
"Don't… Rukia, it… it does make a difference. Because…"
He had to pause for a moment to collect his thoughts, the feel of her small form against his was so… unexpectedly distracting. But the more he thought about it, the more he found it easier to admit that yes, it did make a difference. And not because of the potential for embarrassment at the hands of Keigo and the others. Because… because of the way her fingers had curled so easily into the wet fabric of his shirt, because of the way he could feel his heart racing harder then he thought it ever had before, because of the fact that her hair smelled like strawberries and rain and the only thing he could think about was how nice it would be to bury his face in it and smell that scent constantly. Because… she was Rukia. Swallowing again, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to nuzzle his face against wet black locks before continuing in a hesitant manner.
"Because… if you want that… I… I want it too."
Eyes closed, she had allowed herself to be pulled into his embrace, allowed the small guilty pleasure of curling fingers into his shirt and relaxing into the comfort the closeness provided. Even if she knew it was probably nothing but sympathy, a way to let her down gently. Let her know that he was sorry, but he couldn't be what he now knew, thanks to her sudden inability to hide her own emotions – despite the fact that she'd been doing just that for how long now? -- , that she wanted. Steeling herself for the inevitable, for the rejection she was fairly certain would come, Rukia felt herself stiffen, eyes widening at his words. She raised her head to look up at him, confused. Brown eyes stared back at her, for once not pulled into their typical scowl. This time, they mirrored doubt and insecurity, things she wasn't used to seeing in Ichigo's normally-stormy gaze.
He could feel something catch in his chest at the way she was looking at him, violet eyes so full of tears and doubt, expression measured as though she expected him to turn her away. And really, could he blame her? After all, he'd spent so much time insulting her and fighting with her and making it so painfully obvious that he didn't have a shred of what could be called "feelings" for her. And suddenly, he wanted nothing more then to erase that doubt from her eyes. And it made no sense to him why it had taken him so long to realize it, so long to act on it.
Sliding one arm slowly, almost hesitantly up her back and shoulders, he let fingers graze softly up the side of her neck to cup her cheek, the pad of his thumb stroking gently against soft skin. Swallowing hard against the sudden rush of nerves that fluttered in his stomach – ok, so now he understood why they called it "butterflies" – he leaned down to touch his nose against hers for a split second before moving even a little further to brush his lips against hers.
It wasn't what anyone might have called a "good" kiss, hell some people might not have called it a kiss at all, more a test-run, a sampling of the waters, making sure he wasn't about to be murdered for his forwardness. But in spite of that, it was good, so good, her lips so very soft and lush against his, just begging him to claim them again, kissing harder, deeper, molding mouth over hers and tightening arms around her as she relaxed, lips parting – whether in submission or shock, it didn't matter – and arms sliding up to his shoulders.
She tasted like honey and sunshine and vanilla and… something he couldn't even define or identify but knew without a doubt that it was so distinctly Rukia that nothing else would taste quite the same. Feeling his fingers thread into ebony strands, he slanted his mouth over hers, sucking on her bottom lip softly for a moment before pulling back to lock brown gaze with her violet one, panting slightly as he caught his breath. Wow. That was… not what he'd planned on doing. And yet… it was really the only thing – somehow – that he could even think of having done. Or maybe that was that he was so fixated on what had just happened that other options weren't registering. Either way, that had just happened and she wasn't beating him. Which meant two pluses in his life.
Had she been the swooning type, Rukia was quite certain she would most definitely have done so. Right now. Multiple times, perhaps, considering the way that Ichigo – defying his usual bumbling and clueless manner in this sort of thing – had just held her, just kissed her – if that was what a kiss was supposed to feel like, she pitied everyone else, as they were obviously missing out – the way men in fairytales kissed their princesses and damsels in distress.
Rukia was most certainly neither of those. Damsel in distress, not at all, no matter what anyone else tried to say, tried to make her into. Princess… well, someone could have made an argument that being part of the noble Kuchiki clan afforded her similar status to that of royalty, but she had never considered it thus. That being the case, she didn't swoon. Rather, she just sighed slightly as he tucked her head under his chin, resting his face against the crown of damp hair on her head, soaking up the warmth his closeness lent her.
For a long, drawn-out moment there was silence, save for the patter of the rain against the roof of the little shelter and the mingled sounds of their respective breaths. And then, the faintest chuckle before she glanced up, eyes finding his, one eyebrow raising slightly.
"So… does this mean I'm allowed to have strawberry ice-cream now?"
Ichigo opened his mouth to protest, to say something argumentative, but after a moment he thought better of it and just sighed, shaking his head with a roll of his eyes. She'd already won, just the same way she always did whenever they fought, it wasn't as though his answer was going to make that much difference.
"Fine, just as long as you shut up about it."