A/N: I would like to thank the following people for their reviews on the previous chapter:
Also for the people I've already replied to. I am sorry for the long hiatus. But don't worry, I have no plans to quit with this fanfic.
Disclaimer: I don't use big words and I don't own Bleach. And my works are beta'd by le .papillon .blanc. Many thanks and much loves.
Ichigo does not utter a word as he walks slowly up to her. She is the only person that occupies his entire mind and senses at the moment and all the feelings that he desperately tries to run away from rushes back.
Rukia eyes him wearily. The scowl. She does not think that she would have missed the scowl.
Ichigo stops in front of Rukia. They look at each other for the longest time, as if they want to embed the other's image in their mind so they won't forget every curve or the littlest details about the other, until with a sigh, Ichigo takes his eyes away from Rukia and places his forehead on her shoulder, bending down as he does so.
"Ichigo?" asks Rukia again. She has absolutely no idea how to react.
Ichigo snakes his arm around Rukia's petite form. God, he has missed this feeling of having her in his arms. She seems so perfectly molded for him.
Rukia is flabbergasted. She tries to push him away with her free hand but Ichigo refuses to budge.
"Just let me hold you for a sec, kay?" begs Ichigo slowly, sending chills down Rukia's spine. He has never sounded so defeated in his life. And so Rukia lets Ichigo embrace her. She does not know what is going on but she sure could tell that something is stressing him out. She does not need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.
For Ichigo, it feels like the world has stopped moving. If it is up to him, he does not want it to ever spin on its axel again if it means that he is going to lose Rukia. However, he knows that he has to face the reality sooner rather than later. There is no way Rukia will allow him to hug her for eternity. So slowly, reluctantly, he lets Rukia go. Their eyes meet again and Rukia is shocked to find tears in Ichigo's eyes.
She reaches out and wipes the tears that are falling on his cheeks. Ichigo startles. He is not even aware that he is crying.
"Shit, what is wrong with me?" jokes Ichigo, his attempt to break the awkward silence.
Rukia does not say anything. She just watches Ichigo embarrassedly wipe his tears with the palm of his right hand. Rukia realizes that his left hand is still holding her right arm. Rukia contemplates her next course of action for a few seconds and decides that they should really take this somewhere private. Soon she leads him to her front door. Ichigo follows without saying a word. She hands him the helmet that she has been holding so that she can open the door. She gives way and Ichigo steps inside. She walks in after him and switches on the light.
"Have a seat," invites Rukia as she grabs the coat that Ichigo has taken off. Ichigo complies. Rukia watches him slouch back as he takes a seat at one of the sofas in her living room. Her heart reaches out to him.
She shakes her head to clear her mind. She takes off her own coat and hangs them in the closet. She notices the coat that Ichigo lent her on that fateful night, which brings a smile to her lips. She reminds herself to return it to him later. She puts her helmet and bag away before she walks into the kitchen.
Ichigo looks around. Her house is just like her, spotless and simple. Besides the sofa that he sits in, there are only a few other accessories: a home entertainment system and a rack that holds her belongings, mostly pictures and pottery. Ichigo does not have to look closely to figure out that all those pictures are of her and Gin with the exception of one: a picture of her getting kissed on the cheek by Grimmjow. Ichigo notes that there are no pictures of her brother anywhere except for a family photo that he reckons was taken when she was still a toddler. At one side, there are frames of pictures that are simply breathtaking. Ichigo has done his homework and he knows exactly who the photographer is. The awareness of things that are just sends needles to his heart.
Ichigo heaves a sigh. What is he doing here? Does he even belong here?
He blames it all on his legs. They are the ones who dragged him to this place. To her.
Today is his mother's death anniversary. Just like every year, his father would want him to join the family trip to their mother's grave. He knows that his father does not want him to be depressed on this day but Ichigo could not help it. He has refuses the invitation which consequently makes him even more depressed. On this day, he would avoid meeting anyone. He does not want to hear comforting words from any of them. They will repeat the same words every year, that it was not his fault.
Ichigo snickers. How would they know? They were not there.
He walked aimlessly trying to calm himself down and before he realized it, he was in front of Rukia's front door. He contemplated whether or not he should stay but his feet refused to move. He gathered up his courage and tried the door bell but no one answered. Disappointed, he had wanted to leave but decided against it. That was why he had waited for hours, ignoring the passersby who eyed him suspiciously.
He knows that he needs to come clean with his feelings today otherwise he could never do it. Besides, he knows Rukia is the only person on this earth who understands how he feels at the moment.
Ichigo is glad that he has made the right decision. Just seeing her again in flesh has lifted a boulder off of his chest. Ichigo could not help but smile at what he has become.
Rukia walks towards the living room with two cups of tea in her hands. Tea, they say, can calm your nerves and she thinks that they both need that. She hands a cup to Ichigo who gratefully takes it.
"So…" Rukia starts as she takes a seat on the floor, a couple feet away in front of Ichigo.
"So…" Ichigo echoes.
Rukia just looks at Ichigo and he does the same thing as they sip their tea.
"Ichigo…" Rukia starts again after some time has passed and Ichigo still keeps his mouth shut.
Ichigo takes his eyes away from Rukia.
Rukia rolls her eyes. She finds this situation a tad ridiculous so she puts down her cup and looks intently at Ichigo.
"What is wrong?" she asks slowly. She does not want to distress him even further but she thinks at least she has the right to know why he is looking for her, so unexpectedly, she might add.
"Nothing," is all the answer she gets from Ichigo.
And so they sit in silence once again until Ichigo puts down his empty cup and notices that Rukia is still looking expectantly at him. He knows that he cannot stay quiet forever.
"I guess," says Ichigo unhurriedly, still holding Rukia's gaze. "I just missed you."
It is not completely a lie. He does miss her. A lot is an understatement. He misses her with every wake of his being.
He gets the desired effect. Rukia blushes. She had not realized it herself but she must admit that it is good to see Ichigo again. She guesses she must have missed him too unknowingly. She thinks of him often enough anyway.
"Well… you look like shit," says Rukia to hide her embarrassment.
"Touche," says Ichigo. Rukia pouts which makes Ichigo smirk with glee.
And so they sit in silence, content with each other's company for several more minutes.
Her heart beats faster, still not used to hearing her name coming out from his lips but she hides it well. "Hmm?"
"How have you been?"
Rukia shrugs. "A lot of things have happened but I am still me."
"How have you been?"
Ichigo sighs. "A lot of things have happened. I am not sure if I am still me."
That gets Rukia attention. "What do you mean?"
Ichigo does not answer right away. He leans in and stares straight at Rukia. "I mean my life changed after I met you."
He might seem nonchalant about it but the truth is his heart is racing a hundred miles an hour. It is a wonder that Rukia could not hear his heart beats.
Rukia sits up straight at Ichigo's response. She expects a lot of things but that is definitely not one of them.
"I am responsible for you looking like this?" asks Rukia disbelievingly, referring to Ichigo looking like he has gone through hell and back.
Chuckling, Ichigo shakes his head, denying it. "No, silly. This is my own doing." Then he looks at Rukia and she is startled to see the apparent emotions in his amber orbs. "You made me realize that I am capable of feeling this," Ichigo touches his chest where his heart is.
Rukia swears her heart almost stops when she hears those words. It definitely makes her feel like there are hundreds of butterflies fluttering in her stomach. She raises an eyebrow, unsure if she has heard him right.
Ichigo does not divert his eyes from the violets. He wants her to listen to his every word, and digests it. He wants her to understand the impact that she has in his life. He forms his words, speaking slowly and deliberately as he looks straight at her. Only god knows how nervous he is. He has never done anything like this his entire life. He never thought the day would even exist!
"Rukia," Ichigo notices her cheeks redden. It happens every time he calls out her name. He must admit that he likes the sound of them coming from his lips too. It gives him a sense of possessiveness. This just gives him more strength and confidence to continue. "Before I met you, I do not know what love is. Hell, I scoffed at the idea of being in love. But look at me now. All I can think of is you. You taught me how to love."
Rukia shakes her head. "It cannot be. We have only met a couple of times –"
"That was enough."
"Yes it was."
"Why are you denying my feelings, Rukia?" asks Ichigo, irritated.
Rukia eyes him suspiciously. How can she believe him when he did not even look for her for the past half year or so? "Where were you then?" asks Rukia grudgingly. Ichigo recognizes the accusing tone in her question. He does not blame her.
"Avoiding you," answers Ichigo honestly.
Rukia snorts. "Yeah, that makes a lot of sense Ichigo."
"Believe me, it makes a whole lot of sense," replies Ichigo heatedly. He does not appreciate the sarcasm. Can't Rukia see what he is trying to do here?
"How exactly?" It is Rukia's turn to get irritated.
"Because…" Ichigo tears his eyes away from her. God this is embarrassing! "Because I want to see if my feelings for you are real or if it were just an infatuation."
"Why do you think I am here, Rukia?"
Argh, Rukia is really making this hard on him!
"Why not now?"
Rukia sighs exasperatedly. Ichigo on the other hand is aggravated with her cagey attitude.
"Is that why you were crying?" questions Rukia, referring to the tears that she wiped not too long ago.
Ichigo diverts his eyes. Obviously he does not feel comfortable talking about whatever it is that makes him this gloomy, Rukia notes. Her heart knows how that solitude feels.
She crawls to where Ichigo is and sits right in front of him. She puts her hands on top of his and squeezes them lightly, making him look back at her.
What he sees in her eyes is an understanding. Rukia does not have to speak the words. He knows that she will not prod anymore. She trusts him to tell her what has been bothering him when he is ready. Until that time arrives, she will wait.
Ichigo is falling in love all over again.
His hand reaches out. Slowly it caresses Rukia's cheek, admiring her beauty and at the same time marvelling at the warm feeling spreading inside of him when they touched. Rukia does not flinch or look away from his intense gaze. She couldn't even if she wanted to. His gaze is so strong, so full of emotions that make it impossible for Rukia to be blasé about it.
Ichigo leans in and Rukia wets her lips unconsciously. This makes Ichigo smirks and before she can wipe that smirk from his stupidly happy face, his lips has crash onto hers. Rukia does not resist. Their first kiss replays in both of their minds which only increase their desire for the other as they both struggle for dominance.
They only stop when they are short for breath and panting for air. Ichigo cups her face with both of his hands, a look of bliss and lust are evident in his amber eyes. He looks passionately at her which causes Rukia to blush profusely.
There is a sign of belonging when she is with him. She remembers how irritated he was when they first met. With any other person, she would probably beat the crap out of them if they called her a bitch (in front of her face too). Somehow with Ichigo, the anger that she usually felt dissipated and replaced with amusement. They might bicker every time they met but she feels comfortable around him. She is not weighed down with the feeling of guilt like when she is with Ulquiorra, or aware of not wanting to hurt his feelings when she is with Grimmjow. As for Gin, he always unnerved her with his presence alone. He is just that kind of person.
Ichigo makes her live in the present.
"I love you," whispers Ichigo. Rukia swear that she sees sparkles in his eyes when he says those words. He is obviously waiting for her response, a preferable response that she could not give. Rukia cannot bear the feelings that he is pouring into her heart so she does the easiest method of hiding her emotions, she looks away.
She may have been swayed and gotten caught in the moment but she knows where her heart is. Or at least she thinks she does.
Ichigo senses the changes in her behavior. Right after he uttered those three meaningful words, he can feel her body tense and she quickly looks away. Slowly, he releases her from his embrace although not letting go altogether. He waits to see what her reaction is next. He has done what he needed to do. The rest is now up to her.
His heart feels like it is going to burst because of the anticipation.
"Ichigo… I –"
"You don't have to say anything," Ichigo interrupts. The truth is he is just afraid to hear her answer. "I have been living through hell without you for the past six months. It has taught me a lot of things, but most importantly, it makes me realize there can be no other girl but you."
Rukia turns her head and looks doubtfully back at Ichigo. This is not fair, she thinks. Who does Ichigo think he is, putting this kind of emotional responsibility on her shoulders?
Ichigo notices the anger that suddenly blazes in her violet orbs and wonder if he has said something inconsiderate again. He waits again for her to say something but Rukia just continues to glare at him and damn, she unnerves him!
"Say something," pokes Ichigo nervously.
Ichigo's fingers travel to Rukia's lips and caress it tenderly.
"I have asked myself the same question countless of times, Rukia, and I couldn't find an answer. But if you insist, I guess it is because you are the only girl I know that can turn my life upside down like this," says Ichigo, quoting Ishida's words to him several months ago.
Rukia's eyes soften down upon hearing Ichigo's answer. Despite herself, she feels warm and comforted by Ichigo's words. However she refuses to let Ichigo get to her this easily. Eh, wait… what is she saying? Does she want Ichigo to get to her?
Rukia shakes her head in denial. "I find that quite hard to believe, Ichigo."
Rukia snickers. "You have always been surrounded by girls."
Ichigo shrugs nonchalantly. "None of them are you, Rukia."
"But that does not stop you from having your fun with them."
Rukia wants to smack her head for her accusing tones. She cannot help but feel slightly annoyed whenever she sees tabloid pictures of him with different girls for the past few months.
Ichigo smiles knowingly and it makes Rukia blush all shades of red. "You are jealous," teases Ichigo.
"Sh-shut up. Why would I?"
"Because you too have feelings for me," states Ichigo confidently.
Rukia curses herself. She is slowly drowning here. She needs to stop this from happening or she could really fall for this orange top. She is not the kind of girl who gives in easily to lust. Does this mean that she could really have feelings for Ichigo? The thought scares her. Even more so when she already knows that her heart belongs to Gin even if it is only on her side.
"Don't be ridiculous," she says out loud and it is so sudden, it makes Ichigo jump.
She looks Ichigo straight in the eyes. She has to tell him the truth. This conversation should not even take place!
"I…" Rukia gulps. "I can't do this, Ichigo."
"What do you mean you can't?"
Rukia tries to look away but Ichigo stops her. Rukia knows her next choice of words will cut him deep but she has to do it, for both of their sakes. She takes his hands in hers.
"Ichigo…I – I think I am in love with someone else."
Rukia tenses as she waits for his reaction which is slow to come. She wonders if Ichigo heard her. After several more seconds have passed and still no reaction from Ichigo, Rukia opens her mouth to repeat her words but before she can do that, Ichigo hastily freed his hands from hers and knocks over the empty cup.
"You think?" spats Ichigo. Rukia could not help but feel sorry at the hurt that is so apparent in his amber eyes, hurt that she has caused. The same thing with Grimmjow is happening all over again. Why must God punish her so?
"Is it Grimmjow?" asks Ichigo before he can stop himself. He has seen pictures of them together in tabloids and heard of the rumors that they are dating right now. Yet, even after knowing all that his feet still brought him to her house.
Rukia does not answer. She does not think Ichigo has the right to know. Any other day she would rage at his accusing tone but she knows that he has the right to be angry at her. She has crushed his feelings.
"I am so sorry, Ichigo."
"Stop saying you are sorry, damn it! Don't tell me the kiss we just shared means nothing to you… you can't deny that we both have feelings for each other!" pleads Ichigo. He is so sure of it! If only Rukia would stop being so stubborn and be honest with herself!
Rukia does not deny or confirm Ichigo's words. She is not sure either. It is true that Ichigo affects her so much that she cannot think straight when she is with him but does that mean she loves him? It cannot be, right? Hell, she barely even knows him.
"Ichigo, listen… I really don't know what to say. There is a lot of shit that has been going on in my life at the moment. I… I just can't."
"You can't or you won't?" accuses Ichigo. He is trying to keep his anger and disappointment under control but is failing miserably. He knows that he might get rejected but his ego convinced him that it would not be so, that Rukia is meant to be his. Hah, look at him now, begging for a woman to accept him. What has the great Kurosaki Ichigo become? All because of this midget, this petite girl who looks so damn delectable even in the moment of distress. Oh fuck how he loves her so.
Rukia winces at his sharp accusation, once again unable to say anything because her heart and head refuse to work together in this matter. She looks apologetically at Ichigo, and still has not moved from her spot in front of him. She does not bother to wipe the tears that fall down her face anymore. It is not like Ichigo has not seen her crying face before. Besides, she is not alone in her woe because so very gently her hand moves and wipes a single tear from Ichigo's cheeks.
Ichigo tenses at the touch. He can feel his anger dissipate just from staring straight into her teary violet eyes. Her touch gives him the strength to be in control of his feelings again. God he is a goner when it comes to this woman. There is no way in hell he is giving her up.
"I'm not going to give you up, Rukia," Ichigo echoes his line of thoughts. "Never."
Rukia hates to admit it but hearing those words makes her heart flutter yet again. Knowing that he meant every word that he utters makes her a tad cheerful. Shit. There she goes being selfish again!
"You are only setting yourself up for a deeper wound, Ichigo," warns Rukia.
"I don't care, as long as I get you in the end."
Rukia could not help but smile. "Are you always so confident, Ichigo?"
"Because what I said is fact."
They stare at each other for a full minute, letting all of what has happened sink in. The ringing of Rukia's phone jolts both of them back to reality though. Rukia tries to stand up but Ichigo grabs hold of her hand, refusing to let her go and answer the damn phone.
"Leave it," orders Ichigo.
Rukia looks incredulously at Ichigo. "That might be the hospital. Maybe something happened to Ulquiorra."
"He'll live," Ichigo does not bother to hide the jealous tone in his voice. His hold on her hand tightens until the phone stops ringing.
"You are hopeless."
"I know," says Ichigo smirking which got him a soft playful smack in the head by Rukia. Before Ichigo could retaliate, Rukia's phone rings again.
"I'm gonna answer it," Rukia says before Ichigo could react.
As she answers the phone, Ichigo deliberately eavesdrops on her conversation and he is relieved when Rukia addresses the person at the end of the line as nii-sama. It is just her brother.
Without waiting for Rukia to finish the call, Ichigo decides to excuse himself. He has overstayed his welcome. He also thinks that he might visit his mom after all. He sure has a lot to tell her, especially about Rukia. Meeting Rukia just makes his resolve stronger and he will see to it that he will succeed. Ichigo corrects the cup that he knocked earlier and walks towards Rukia. He kisses her forehead and mouths the word goodbye.
Rukia covers the phone and whispers words of apology because she cannot send him out. Ichigo shrugs it off with a smile telling Rukia not to worry about him. Rukia watches as he takes his coat and signals to him to take his other coat with him, but Ichigo playfully replies that he will leave it just so he has an excuse to come to her house again. Against her better judgment, Rukia blushes as Ichigo chuckles and winks at her. Not a second later he is already outside the door.
"Rukia?" calls Byakuya when Rukia stays too quiet and seems distracted.
"Err, yes nii-sama. I'm still here." Rukia is actually surprised to get a call from her brother so early in the morning, and what is even more odd is the fact that her brother is attempting small conversation with her. It is something that Byakuya has never done before. She suspects something is wrong which is why she does not argue when Ichigo excused himself.
"Nii-sama," interrupts Rukia as Byakuya finishes telling her about the stock market that has rocketed a few hours ago.
Byakuya does not respond. Now Rukia is really sure that something is bothering her brother. "What's going on?"
Byakuya closes his eyes. He has no idea why he had the sudden urge to call Rukia. He blames it all on Gin. That man has screwed up his mind. His words keep repeating inside of his head and it makes him feel uneasy and restless.
"Nii-sama?" asks Rukia again when she does not receive any reply from Byakuya.
Byakuya closes his eyes and heaves a sigh. "I'll see you at lunch, Rukia," answers Byakuya curtly and quickly hangs up the phone before Rukia can speak a word.
Rukia stares questioningly at the phone when the dial tone indicates that Byakuya has ended the call.
First it was Ichigo, then her brother… Rukia has a feeling that there are more surprises coming her way today.
Sorry if you detect OOC. Read and Review!