Disclaimer: None of these characters or the setting belong to me, they're the property of Kubo Tite.

This is unbeta'd, so any mistakes are my own. Point them out in a kind manner, please!


It wasn't that Ishida was jealous of Ichigo.

Okay, maybe it was. The young man had a tight family, people who loved him and cared about his well-being. Ichigo was so confident, and despite his brash mannerisms the bright haired boy managed to attract all sorts of people, effortlessly making friends and earning their respect (or scaring the hell out of people, but Ichigo also possessed the quality of not giving a damn). Ishida struggled to connect with anybody, even those older than him and just as intelligent. It annoyed Ishida, it made him want to shoot an arrow up Ichigo's ass, and yet...it drew him in. After confronting Ichigo that first time - how had the idiot managed to not notice me in the time we've been in school, I'll never know - the dark-haired boy had been secretly happy that his temperamental rival invited him up for lunch.

Ichigo truly was an idiot - he wasn't smart enough to pause and think before rushing in to something, and he said what was on his mind whether it was the time for it or not. He never seemed down, always standing tall and determined.

So seeing him like this was bothering the Quincy. So they weren't able to get in to Seireitei right away, there were other options - Youruichi-san didn't seem bothered or worried, so why should Ichigo?

But that didn't explain why Ichigo was sitting on the top of a roof, staring at the closed off area with a blank expression (which was another thing that bothered the last Quincy - the substitute shinigami was horrible at hiding his feelings). Sadly, it bothered him, and he wanted - no, needed - for Ichigo to return to his normal, annoying self.

"As nice as the sunset is, I don't think it's good enough to result in such intense scrutiny," Ishida murmured as he approached Ichigo from behind. The boy's shoulder's stiffened in response, but he said nothing. Sighing, Ishida sat down next to his comrade and slipped his glasses off for a quick cleaning.

"She's in there somewhere," Ichigo said quietly, his gaze never wavering from the white stonewalls. "She's in there somewhere, and it's up to me to save her." Ishida returned his glasses to the bridge of his nose and raised a quizzical eyebrow.

"Saving her really does mean that much to you?" Such strength of feeling wasn't something the Quincy could comprehend. He'd been alone for most of his life - his father had abandoned him long ago, and his grandfather wasn't around anymore. Since Ishida had difficulties relating to people in general, loneliness had become something comforting familiar, if that could be said. So hearing Ichigo sound so sure, so determined to save a young woman he hadn't known for very long seemed...weird.

Ichigo sent Ishida an exasperated, angry look. "Why else would I come here, idiot?" The expression, such a normal one for the other boy, made Ishida relax. Not bothering to response, both boys returned to silently staring at the sky before them.

"I came," Ishida began hesitantly, not sure if he wanted to tell his rival such a private thing, "to get stronger. I need to get stronger. I don't understand a driving need to save someone important to me. I don't have important people. My grandfather...he died a long time ago." Ishida's throat constricted, but he managed to squeeze the words out anyway. "My father never cared either way for me, and I haven't seen him in a long time. He sends money to support me, though." The blue-eyed boy made no mention of his mother, and Ichigo didn't ask.

Still unsure of why he was baring his soul to someone like him, Ishida fell silent. The distant sound of people talking and moving about filled the air, but neither of the two boys spoke. Oddly enough, it wasn't an awkward silence. Ishida felt better now that he'd finally told someone of his problems, even if it was to someone who wouldn't care.

"Are you sure there's nobody who's important to you? Nobody you'd give your life for in a heartbeat?" Ichigo turned intense-looking eyes toward Ishida, who suddenly felt nervous. He'd never seen such an expression on this boy's face. Ishida didn't know how to begin to describe the emotions written upon his companion's face.

"Uh," was all the blue-eyed boy could think to say. "No?" He didn't mean for it to sound like a question, and realizing that he sounded unsure had him scrambling for a more definite sounding response. "No. I have no family, and no friends. Who is there to care for?"

This seemed to upset the taller boy. He jerked upright, shooting a death glare toward the surprised Ishida. "The only reason you came here," Ichigo whispered harshly, "is to get stronger? I don't fucking believe that. You might not give a damn about me, but I've seen you interact with Inoue and Chad. Don't you dare say they aren't friends, because if that's not how friend's treat each other, then I don't know what the hell is."

Surprise turned in to confusion, and Ishida furrowed his brow in an attempt to understand. "Sado-san and Orihime-san? But...Orihime-san is nice to everybody, and Sado-san is too. He doesn't go out of his way to talk to anybody, but he's never rude or...and Orihime's very friendly, she talks to everybody!"

If possible, Ichigo's glare intensified. "You fool! Chad talks to you, doesn't he? That's more than most people can say. And you're right, Inoue does talk to everybody, she IS very friendly. But Inoue is the type to be friends with anybody, and I know she thinks of you as a comrade." At Ishida's surprised look, Ichigo returned to his slumped over way of sitting. "And you say I'm clueless?" The boy muttered.

Still confused, Ishida forced his thoughts about his relationship with Orihime-san and Sado-sun away, and focused on something else that'd been said. "Where did you get the idea that I don't care about you?" Wincing, Ishida realized it made him sound rather girl-ish, but he really was curious.

Ichigo blinked. "Er...well, you said you hate all shinigami, and you definitely don't treat me the same way you treat the others."

Ishida smirked. "That's because you're an idiot."

"The fuck? I am not, you're the idiot!" Ichigo snarled.

"You're the one that didn't notice me, even though my spiritual pressure should've been enough to guarantee you do!"

"Yeah, well you're the one who doesn't even know he has friends!"

"I don't! Sado-san and Orihime-san are just too polite and kind. Which is more than I can say for someone like you, who also doesn't have two brain cells to rub together!"

"What the hell do you call me then?" Ichigo shouted, losing his tenuous grip on his temper. "I think of you as a comrade!" Ishida couldn't think of a single response to that, and could only gape like the idiot he called Ichigo. Still furious, the taller boy jumped to his feet and began to pace like an angry cat in a cage. "Dammit, I protested you coming here because I didn't want to see you or the others get hurt. I have a reason for coming here, but you guys don't! If you got hurt because you followed me, I'd never forgive myself!"

Ishida pushed his glasses up his nose. "How conceited of you, to think we came to follow you. The others want to free Rukia, too, you know. You're not the only reason they came." A low, angry growl from the pacing young man was the only response. Ishida felt his smirk returning.

Ichigo still made no response, continuing his pacing over the roof, paying no attention to where he was going. Finally coming to some sort of a decision, he settled back down next to the Quincy. Aiming his gaze toward the bright walls that surrounded the Seireitei, Ichigo spoke.

"You are," he began, "annoying, pompous, conceited, and too concerned with looking cool. But you're also smart, and...talented." The last bit was said grudgingly, but Ishida was surprised to hear it at all. "When you don't blather on about stupid things, you can be...nice to be around."

"Why, Kurosaki!" Ishida said cheerfully. "You sound as though you like me."

"Idiot, that's what I've been TRYING to say! Just forget it!" Ichigo snapped, jumping once again to his feet and stomping off toward the edge of the building to jump down. Without thinking his actions through, Ishida rushed to catch up. Reaching out with one hand, he gripped the back of Ichigo's outfit and pulled. Off-balanced, Ichigo fell backwards in to Ishida. With a loud crash, the two boys landed in a heap on top of the roof.

"What the hell did you do that for?" Ichigo yelled, struggling to get up. Said struggles were only making things worse, entangling them further. Finally Ishida smacked Ichigo upside the head, startling the other boy enough to stop moving.

"Kurosaki, I wanted..." Ishida said nervously, one hand still holding a handful of the other boy's clothes. Hearing his 'comrade' begin to speak, Ichigo went completely still, eyes on Ishida's. "I just wanted to say thanks... for talking sense in to me." It was an embarrassing thing to give thanks for, but the final Quincy needed to say it.

"You needed me to fall on top of you to say that?" Ichigo asked incredulously. Ishida huffed with indignation.

"Of course not, but you were rushing off like a rampaging hippopotamus. I had to stop you."

"I don't rampage, and definitely not like no freakin' animal!" Ichigo shouted, his face turning red.

"Yes, you do. I'm surprised you didn't fall through the roof with the way you were stomping." Ishida snapped, his patience finally faded.

"Shut up! If I was stomping, it was your fault!"

"Don't blame me for your antics!"

"I will if it's your fault, which it is!"

"Is not!"

"Is too!"

Realizing they were sounding like children, the two teenagers went silent. After a few moments of peace, in which each boy was lost in his own thoughts, Ishida spoke.

"How is it that you're the only person that can reduce me to arguing like I'm five?"

Ichigo glanced over, his eyes meeting Ishida's. Opening his mouth to reply, Ichigo froze. Ishida cocked his head to the side, wondering what had made his...friend go so still. Are his cheeks turning pink? They are! Ishida thought, quickly followed by the realization of why. The boy pressed in to the roof could feel his cheeks turning pink too, but seemed unable to tear his gaze away from the one laying on top of him.

The two boys had been lying in a compromising position for some time, and if they hadn't been on top of a roof, it was with no doubt that they would have been discovered like this. Pressed chest to chest, with Ichigo lying a little sideways, legs tangled together, faces inches away...oh yes, this was compromising.

Swallowing, Ishida's thoughts were a tumble of confusion, mostly consisting of 'why hasn't he gotten up? Why do I feel weird? I haven't been this close to someone since Grandfather was alive. He's...really warm'.

"Ichigo..." Ishida said uncertainly. He wasn't sure if that was a plea for him to get off, or a plea for him to stay right there, where his body heat could soak through their clothes and in to Ishida's own cold form. Ichigo drew in a shuddering breath, and his eyes fluttered closed. His breath came out in a quiet whoosh, one that sounded suspiciously like the dark-haired boy's name. Feeling something in his chest - a warm, pleasant feeling - Ishida too closed his eyes.

And so they stayed, until they heard Orihime calling their names.

Snapping their eyes open, realizing they'd been just lying there, in that position, they scrambled to their feet. Refusing to meet the other's eyes, both boys turned their backs to each other and brushed off non-existent dirt from their clothes. Ishida was pleased to see that it wasn't only his hands that were shaking in response to what had just happened.

"Over here, Inoue!" Ichigo shouted, moving to the edge of the roof.

"It's time to come inside! Youruichi-san wants to have a word with all of us!" The girl shouted, waving one arm around unnecessarily. Sending a quick glance behind him, Ichigo smirked.

"Need help getting down, Ishida?"

Ishida glared back. "Of course not. I can handle myself."

"So glad to hear," Ichigo replied. Without a moments pause, he leaped from his perch and fell quickly out of sight. Fighting sudden panic - what if the fool lands on his head? - Ishida calmly walked forward and jumped, making sure to land safely.

It seems Ichigo hadn't waited for him, and was dragging Orihime along, who was looking back with concerned, apologetic glances. Smiling reassuringly, Ishida straightened and strode forward.

It seems Ichigo is no longer worried or unsure, Ishida thought with satisfaction as he watched his friend up ahead.

That's good. Dismissing all other thoughts - including those lingering about what had happened up on the roof - Ishida hurried to not be late for the meeting.


This is a sort of odd pairing, isn't it? I don't think it's all that popular. But I seem to have a thing for rivals falling in love...

Please review, but be kind.