Wow, I wrote something that isn't yaoi! I'm so proud of myself.

This is for my crazy sister Rukia, who wanted a "sweet" HichiRuki story, although with him involved it'll be hard not to let it get dark. I'll try my best!

Just to clarify, I'll be sticking in bits of Japanese, because I believe the feeling behind some of the things that are said can't be properly translated into English. Translation notes are at the end.

Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach, but it owns me! Mwa ha ha ha!

Anyway, read and enjoy!

Chapter One: Longing

He's so lucky.


Ichigo ran from his room, stumbling down the stairs with his typical glare firmly in place, ignoring Kon's muffled protests at being shut in his backpack once again. Rukia had already left for school, not bothering to wake him, probably intentionally being as quiet as she could so he'd be late for school again. The last few times he'd been kept in front of the class he'd seen Rukia snickering behind her hands as Ochi-sensei bopped him on the head repeatedly with her book and gave him a lecture about tardiness before letting him take his seat.

If only I could use shunpo, Ichigo thought ruefully, reminding himself that reaching class on time in his shinigami form would do very little to help his attendance record, although when his body finally showed up it would be Kon receiving the book bashing. Just this thought was enough to make Ichigo toy with the idea for a little longer, but he eventually abandoned it, knowing that if he gave Kon access to his body, school would number among one of the last places the little pervert would go, despite the abundance of short skirts and giggling.

Even if he did show up, he'd probably try to do inappropriate things to Inoue during class, and get my body killed by Chizuru, he told himself, shuddering at the thought. By running the entire way, Ichigo managed to reach school just a few minutes after the first bell had rung. He entered the classroom panting, endured a few smacks from the dreaded book and smirks from the class, then made his way to his seat.

As he passed Rukia's desk, turning toward her to pay her smile with a glare, he suddenly found himself reaching out to brush her cheek, his fingers continuing to slip through her hair before coming to rest on her shoulder.

"Ichigo? What are you doing?" she said, her face caught half between shock and suspicion, not sure if this was a joke of some kind.

"N-nothing!" he said, reacting to the sound of her voice and realizing what he was doing, pulling his hand back suddenly and clenching it into a fist to better control it. He stepped around her desk and took his seat, blushing and staring out the window, but at the same time wondering the same thing she had asked. What had he been doing?

Ichigo had a suspicion, but he hadn't felt the hollow for quite some time. All he'd sensed during that moment was a sudden longing to . . . touch her. To have her attention focused on him.

But she was already looking at me, Ichigo thought, confused, feeling the urge to put his head in his hands, but not wanting to worry Rukia, who seemed to have settled on the idea that Ichigo had been teasing her. He needed to let her continue thinking that. He didn't want her to know that he could be losing control, that it was surfacing again.

Ichigo almost expected that voice to rise in the back of his head after this thought, for his hollow to state clearly that yes, it was back, and it wanted control, or at least for it to mock him. But not even a trace of that familiar darkness could be found, a fact that scared Ichigo all the more. What was it doing? Was it holding back, hiding, building up the strength to once again fight for Ichigo's soul?

Unsure of the state of his own mind, Ichigo found it very hard to focus on the lesson Ochi-sensei was teaching, concentrating instead on trying to heed the warnings his instincts were presenting. He suddenly wondered if, at that very moment, there was a much more important lesson being taught in his own head, one that he was incapable of understanding, one that concerned not only his life, but the lives of all he held dear. As he turned to once again look at Rukia, that faint longing rose again, and Ichigo quickly directing his gaze elsewhere. For reasons he couldn't-and didn't quite want to-understand, Rukia seemed to be the trigger for his inner hollow's emergence.

Some time later, far too long in Ichigo's mind, the final bell rang. Rukia, who Ichigo had been ignoring for her own good throughout the lesson, promptly rose and bashed him over the head with her sketchbook.

"Teme! What the hell was that for?" Ichigo cried, springing to his feet and rubbing his head.

"For ignoring me!" Rukia said in her best and cutest Kuchiki-san voice, apparently trying to counteract her sudden violence, at least in the eyes of her classmates.

"Drop that schoolgirl stuff; you sound like Chappy," Ichigo grumbled in a low tone so only Rukia could hear him. He hoped this properly grumpy remark would convince her that everything was okay with him, especially since he was avoiding looking at her. She seemed to be way too damn perceptive to his mental state, and he really didn't want her to know what he was feeling every time he saw her.

"Hidoi!" she cried out; Ichigo guessed she'd just barely held back a "pyon". She accompanied this remark with another bop from her sketchbook.

Ichigo waved her off, collecting his things and navigating around desks and classmates to reach the door. Once in the hall, he had to dodge Keigo, who leapt toward him with a cry of "Ichigoooooo!", but he was used to this reaction, and could therefore escape while remaining lost in thought.

I've got to think of an excuse to get her away from me until I can get it under control, or at least until I can figure out what it's up to.

Thankfully, Rukia seemed to be taking the hint that he wanted to be alone, for although she walked home with him, she didn't talk to him the whole way. Ichigo was grateful for this, mentally promising himself that he would apologize to her when this was all over. He knew that she would understand, once he worked his pride down enough to admit what he'd been going through, and that she would forgive him.

They were almost home, the silence now growing uncomfortable, when Rukia stumbled on an uneven bit in the sidewalk. Without thinking, Ichigo spun around and caught her before she could fall, her sudden nearness a shock after he'd tried to ignore her presence the whole way home.

"R-rukia. You okay?"

"I'm fine," Rukia said grudgingly, pushing him away from her. But his hands didn't let go of her wrists.

"Ichigo?" she asked, meeting his eyes.

Then he pulled her to him, pressing his body against hers and meeting her lips with a forceful kiss. She froze, uncertain, and the kiss softened for a moment to something much more tender, before Ichigo abruptly broke it off. Without thinking about how bad this would look, merely needing to get away from her, Ichigo broke into a run, reaching his house and throwing open the front door, kicking his shoes off and continuing up to his room, where he slammed and locked the door.

Ichigo leaned against the back of the door, clapping his hand over his mouth, eyes wide. What . . . had he just done?

He pushed away from the door, dropping his backpack, and sat on the edge of his bed, his head in his hands, eyes closed.

What are you doing? Ichigo thought desperately, trying to recover from what his hollow had just made him do.

*Come on, King, don't pretend ya don't like it*, the hollow said, finally making himself known.

"I don't!" Ichigo cried out, forgetting to keep his voice low in case his family wondered why he was talking to himself. Right now, that was the least of his cares.

"Rukia and I, we. . we aren't like that! She's my friend, my nakama, but that's all."

He sank back on his bed, rubbing at his eyes, trying to get it to leave, trying to regain control.

*She could be more*, the hollow said suddenly.

Ichigo opened his eyes and sat up in shock. The hollow's last statement had been given in a tone that was separate from the longing Ichigo had been feeling all day. It had almost been . . . caring.

No, Ichigo thought, trying to keep his thoughts to himself. There was no way that thing could ever care for anyone but itself. His hollow was just trying to catch him off guard, to find a way to gain control. And Ichigo was determined not to let that happen.

Translation Notes:

Shinigami - death god; "soul reaper" in the dub

Teme - very rude way of saying "you"

Hidoi - horrible

Pyon - a cutesy, bouncy noise, literally "hop"

Nakama - a close friend