Disclaimer: Bleach and all its characters are property of Kubo Tite, not mine.

Author's Notes: Rukia's Birthday themed story for the Winter Presents event of the IchiRuki Fan Club on Bleach Asylum.


Draw Me Awake

Tomorrow was art class day. Ichigo had been particularly grumpy about it, saying it's almost painful to sit by her side and witness her butcher any theme conceivable into a Chappy horror fest. Tomorrow, she would also be turning one year older – thought Rukia while tugging herself underneath the blankets on her bed at the Kurosaki twins' room. It felt awkward on how all her previous years seemed to only stand out in chunks instead of individually. All her years in Rukongai looked the same, all her years as a Kuchiki looked the same, but ever since she came into the real world and met Kurosaki Ichigo, all her life changed, and not even days looked the same in between each other. For the first time, she really felt alive. Was that the magic of the real world, was that the reason why sometimes even souls would rather cling to it instead of heading to Soul Society?... Or was that the magic of Kurosaki Ichigo, the boy whose heart is big enough to hold anyone he lays eyes on, the heart so many people would willingly die to protect, herself included. Yes, in truth, the most distinctive division on her life couldn't be held in years, but rather in two separate stages: pre Kurosaki Ichigo and post Kurosaki Ichigo, for, no matter how many decades she had lived before, it now felt like her life was just beginning. How will tomorrow be like – was the last wonder in her mind before she drifted asleep on that cozy winter night.

And then it was day again. A sunny day on her birthday, like a gift from the heavens. She and Ichigo were walking to school together, as usual. She was admiring the rising sun's reflex on the river, countless shining sparks brushing a golden stream, when Ichigo spoke, a couple of steps behind her.

"Hey, Rukia, what day is today?"

"January the 14th."

He paused to contemplate it for a while. "… Hm… Isn't it your birthday?"

"I guess so."

He took some time to reply again. "… I'm supposed to give you a present, then."

She rolled her eyes. "No, idiot, you're not supposed to do anything, if you don't feel like it. Besides, if you only gave it thought now, it already counts as not giving me a present."

"Nothing I can't remedy." He sped up his pace to catch up with her and grabbed her arm.

"Stop saying non-" her words were silenced by his kiss, that invaded her mouth strong and overtaking. Rukia's eyes widened and blinked repeatedly in surprise and panic, she didn't know how to think, didn't know what to do, so she did the only thing her body knew how even without needing thought – a strong punch on his chin.

"Oooouuuch!"

"Rukia-nee, are you alright?" Yuzu turned on her lamp and slightly raised her head from the pillow, rubbing one eye.

Rukia was sitting on her bed panting, eyes nervously scanning her surroundings, while unconsciously massaging the knuckles of her right hand. She looked down to her hurting fingers and her breathing slowly calmed down. "… I'm sorry, Yuzu, I think I hit the headstand of the bed on my sleep."

"Are you hurt, Rukia-nee?"

She smiled to put the child's worries at ease. "No, it's alright, it was just a bump. Sorry to have awaken you, go back to sleep."

As she turned off the lights and both returned their heads to the pillows, Rukia tugged a fist to her nose. It was a dream. Just a dream. Of course, as if Ichigo would ever kiss her. She shouldn't even dream of such a thing.

But, as she closed her eyes, the softness of his lips assaulted her, the taste of his mouth haunted her and she opened them again. Would he really feel like that?... Wait, she shouldn't even be thinking about those things. Ichigo… But it wasn't her fault, people don't control what they dream with. Still, it felt so wrong. Her lids drew shut amidst the memory of that kiss. … No… It felt much more than that.

When her eyes opened again, the night was over. The whole Kurosaki family wished her a happy birthday and Isshin let her and Ichigo skip classes for the day, so they could go celebrate with the rest of the gang. On their way to Inoue's place, Rukia chose to walk behind Ichigo, all the while thinking about the dream she had. Actually, she had been thinking about it all the time, it was a wonder how come Ichigo didn't notice her weird quiet behavior. She observed him, walking steadily ahead of her, hands on his pockets. Heaven forbid he would ever know she dreamt of such a thing, and she had dreamt of it happening right here, by the river, she remembered, while gazing lazily at the shore. And she frowned, something felt awkward – that wasn't even the way to Inoue's place to begin with! And it was far too warm for a winter day. Wait… was she… dreaming again?...

Rukia suddenly looked forward to Ichigo. Would he kiss her?... Her feet stopped walking. "Ichigo."

"Yeah?" He turned around to face her, his bright orange mane waving to the breeze's whim and his amber eyes reflecting the sun's glow. Did she want him to kiss her?

She rubbed her hands at the sides of her dress nervously and felt her cheeks blushing. "… Well… a… I was wondering if you have a present for me…"

Ichigo scratched the back of his head and slowly walked towards her. It's a dream, it's ok if he kisses her in dreams, isn't it? "Well, I was kind of saving it for later on, but I can give it to you now, if you wish…"

Dreams are virtual experiences that never really happened, so anything is ok, right? There's no harm on having it one more time, is there? "Yes, please." She stood in her toes in anticipation, violet orbs sparkling.

"Here." Rukia planted her feet back to the ground as he handed her a Chappy key chain, already brandishing the keys to his house. She just stood there looking at it, raven bangs hiding her disappointment. But not well enough. "Something wrong?"

"… No… it's just…"

"Rukia?" he cupped her face, meeting her gaze. His expression was troubled and his thumb was leisurely brushing her cheek. "What's wrong?"

Wasn't it ok for him to kiss her? It's her dream. It's no one's business but hers. It brings no consequence to real life. What if she does want him to. Yes, she wants it. She wants it right now.

Ichigo lowered his head to hers and their lips met. She closed her eyes and tasted the warm sweetness of his mouth, while his breath caressed her rosy cheek. She could listen to the fast beating of her heart and feel his pounding against her chest. It was overwhelming, his arms circling her seemed to take her away from any other existence besides their mutual flame. She sighed and trailed up his muscles with searching fingers that lost themselves amidst his golden locks, while he raised her, lacing her legs around his waist. Ichigo's strong hand on her back felt so gre- painful?!?

"Rukia-nee!" Yuzu turned her lamp on again, to be startled further by the sight of a fallen Rukia, back on the floor, one leg still on the bed and grabbing the pillow over her body.

"It's ok, Yuzu!" Rukia turned the pillow so that her face could be seen – a very flustered face at that, but her tone was rather lively in between pants. "Nothing to worry about, I just fell off the bed."

"But, Rukia-nee, you could be hurt!"

She climbed back to bed energetically. "No, no, I'm fine! Sorry to have troubled you again, let's go back to sleep. Come on, come on, turn off the lights, please, all is well."

Yuzu reluctantly opted on obliging and turned off the light again. When no eyes could see her anymore, Rukia closed her eyes with a wide grin, softly gripping her pillow. Oh yes, back to sleep she goes, sleeping is good, sleeping is really good!

When her eyes could behold her surroundings again, she was in Soul Society, standing on a balcony outside her room in the Kuchiki Manor. The air was filled with sakura petals languidly falling, providing delight for both sight and smell. But, from far away, a sudden rush of air seemed to scatter them into an incoming whirlpool. The culprit of such disorder soon appeared next to her: Kurosaki Ichigo – on his bankai release, no less – with an amused smirk and laying down a stuffed Chappy as tall as himself. Oh, he looked good on his bankai robes… really good.

"Happy Birthday, Rukia! I bet you thought I'd forget, didn't you?" And he looked proudly at the massive present. "Boy, was it a piece of work to bring this thing all the way here!" he said, whipping the sweat from under his bangs with the back of his hand. "So… how do you like it?"

Rukia's stare was ignited with intent as she walked towards him. "Screw Chappy. Come here!" And she jumped at Ichigo with the voraciousness of a starving wild feline, making him fall underneath her as she feasted feverishly on everything her hands could claw and her mouth could tangle with.

"Rukia's not up yet?" Ichigo was munching the last of his toast, already wearing his school uniform.

"Eager to give her the birthday present, my son?" asked Isshin with a sly grin.

"Shut up, old man, I'm just worried about us getting to school on time." And he got up from the table. "I'm going upstairs, see if she's coming or not." Isshin just waved his hand dismissively while drinking the coffee.

He was not eager to give her the present he bought for her, but he went to his room to grab the wrapped package anyway, before knocking on the girls' room.

"You can come in, Ichi-nii, we just came inside to get our bags." replied Karin.

As he came inside, he saw Rukia still sleeping, wrapped in a mesh of disarrayed sheets and blankets.

"We let her sleep, Ichi-nii. She didn't sleep well tonight, so we decided to let her rest some more."

Still holding the gift, he ventured leaning over her and shake her shoulder slightly. "Oy, Rukia. Are you sick, or just slacking off school because it's your birth-"

"Ichigo…" Her voice was languid, as was the hazy stare of her eyes, but what really silenced him was her mouth invading his, with both her hands holding the back of his head secure from any escape.

Yuzu only had time to drop her jaw before Karin covered her eyes with a hand. "Alright, we're out of here!" But as she tried to lead her sister out of the room, Ichigo dropped the package and was trying to back away from Rukia, only causing her to raise herself completely from the bed and wrap her legs around him. Ichigo backed against the wall as Karin tried to lead their sister behind him, then walked forward again, lead by Rukia's weight, blocking the sister's path in between them and the bed, then reared against the wall again, finally allowing the twins to walk pass them and out the room, closing the door.

From downstairs, Isshin's voice could be heard. "Hey, I'm going to ask Rukia-chan if-"

"Not now, old man!"

"But-"

"Just not now! Wait here!"

Inside the room, Ichigo didn't even notice he was returning the kiss, before Rukia's assault shut down both his mind and his eyes and he let go of the wall to embrace her in abandon. When she set his mouth free to suckle wildly on his neck, Ichigo only had the time to pronounce half her name, before his knees gave in and he slid down to sit on the floor. Rukia made him completely lay down underneath her and ripped his school shirt open, scattering all the buttons with her savagery. As she looked at his bare torso and started to vent her desire with all her might, she managed to mutter in between wet kisses "This… is getting… better… every time!" Ichigo's brain was slow to catch up and his question came more like a whimpering moan than an actual understandable word. It gave Rukia a wicked grin of pride. "Oh, Ichigo, do that again before I wake up!"

"You're definitely awake!" was all he managed to say before pulling her head back up to send chills down her spine as he probed her ear, while she hissed and coiled further against his body.

"Nooo," she breathed out "it's a dream… such a great dream…"

"The hell… you're awake and on top of me right now." And he trailed his kisses lower and lower down her neck, past her collarbone, until the top button of the pajamas prevented him from tasting more skin.

Rukia was suddenly still, only her chest heaving repeatedly against Ichigo's face. "… I'm awake?" Ichigo's nodding grunt reverberated in between her breasts, but Rukia didn't have time to properly enjoy it now. "… I'm awake?..." Ichigo raised his head to claim purchase of her lips again, but Rukia's mouth only opened to scream "ARGH, I'M AWAKE!!" and she jumped off from Ichigo faster than his eyes could follow, landing knelt on top of her bed, with her back turned to him and her hands covering her face in shame.

Ichigo was still with his neck stretched upwards, lips waiting to be kissed, and it took a moment for him to realize Rukia really wasn't on top of him anymore. "What the…? Rukia?"

"Shut up, go away!"

He started to recover from his dazzling previous state and got up to walk towards her. "Do you mind telling me what's going on?"

"Nothing! I'll just use the memory modifier and-"

"Don't you bloody dare." His face showed up right in front of hers and his piercing orbs showed he wasn't going to be taken lightly. Rukia quickly turned her back to him again.

"I can't even look at you right now!"

"One minute ago, you were looking at me just fine…"

"Stop it! Don't say it!" She covered her ears and closed her eyes shut, like a child.

"I think I deserve to know what the hell is going on, Rukia, you owe me that much."

She pondered for a few moments, clinging nervously to her pajama trousers, before lowering her head and sighing in defeat. "… I thought I was still dreaming. People can do anything in dreams, it's of no consequence."

"And that's what you were dreaming about?" She could listen to some amusement in his voice.

"See? You're making fun of me!"

"I'm not making fun of you, Rukia." And he sat down on the bed behind her, facing the opposite way. "It's just that… for a while… I wondered myself whether I was still dreaming."

She turned slightly to the side."… You… dream about it too?"

Ichigo smirked shyly and lowered his head. "… Well… it's like you say, one can dream about whatever, it's of no consequence."

Rukia felt almost childishly happy to know Ichigo had dreamt with her in such a… particular way, and finding the joy awkward and uncalled for, she decided to counter it with her authoritative tone. "But now it had consequence, Ichigo. That's why I must erase all the memories of it."

"If you want to erase the scene from Karin and Yuzu, be my guest, but no bloody way you're taking it from me."

Rukia turned her face slightly to the side again. "Oh, you just want me to let you run around keeping the memory of having stolen my first kiss?!"

Ichigo raised his chin. "Hate to burst your bubble, miss self righteous, but you were the one to steal my first kiss."

Rukia turned her face further, to be able to catch Ichigo by the corner of her eyes. "What?! It's always the guy that's said to steal the kiss, it's on every manga I've read!"

Ichigo turned his face so that he could also catch a glimpse of her. "That's because it's the guy that takes initiative on those stories, idiot, on our case, you attacked me."

"Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Don't say it!" Rukia was facing forward again, covering her ears and eyes wide shut, as if reality could change once she would open them.

"But I don't mind it." Ichigo leaned back slightly, so that their backs could rest on each other.

She opened one eye. "… You don't… mind?"

Even though no one could see them, Ichigo still lowered his head to hide his red cheeks behind orange bangs. "For it to have been stolen by you… I don't mind it. It's fine as it is. I don't want you to change it, I can't let you take it away from me."

"I wish to even take it away from me, Ichigo. I can't even face you with the shame."

"Of what? Was it really that bad?..." He sounded sad.

It was Rukia's turn to blush. "I don't mean it like that."

"What is so wrong with it then?"

"It holds consequence. It's not proper for us to-"

"That's for us to decide – and us alone." He spoke firmly to cut off her Kuchiki tone before she would get intoxicated with it.

She felt like turning to face him again, but somehow, she couldn't dare. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that to me, the only consequence that it will bring is that I won't wake up in the end anymore." He also felt like turning his face to look at her, but to speak these words seemed to drain all the courage he could gather right now. "So, what about you? Do you want this… us… to be something to wake up from?" Her silence wasn't particularly motivating. "Whatever path you take, I'll follow you… and even if it turns out that what makes you happy is for me to pretend this never happened… pretend I will. Just… don't take it away from me. Please."

Somehow, to keep the memory made Rukia feel both happy and frightened. She didn't like the frightening side, but she opted not to go against Ichigo on something he seemed so serious about. "… I won't erase it."

He sighed in relief "Thank you." and got up from the bed. "… Hey, are you coming to school, or do you rather slack off today?" His best effort to return everything to normality.

She checked the clock on the wall. "I rather go, we just lost the first class." So, normality it is.

"Good, you'll need this." And he reached out and handed her the package he had dropped earlier. "Happy Birthday, I'll go change and wait for you outside."

Rukia just nodded and watched him leave the room, closing the door behind him. She unwrapped the paper and revealed a Chappy drawing set, complete with sketchbook, pencils and markers. She smiled thinking it was an awkward gift choice for someone that loathed her artistic side so much, no wonder she never dreamt with that gift last night. Now that she thought about it, giant Chappy would probably be the best gift Ichigo could ever buy her, but, on the other hand, the real Ichigo felt so much better than the one in the dreams. Wait, why was she thinking about that again?...

The day went on uneventful, apart from all the gifts and cheers Rukia got from their closest friends. With a strong sixth sense that only friends seem to share, they all noticed the way both Ichigo and Rukia seemed to be distanced from all the fuss going on around them and be lost in their own thoughts most of the time, but opted not to pry. To Ichigo, it seemed clearer by the minute his life wouldn't get easy pretending that morning never happened. Still, he didn't waver on his decision, he would rather keep the one time real memory than to only wonder how it would feel like from dreams.

And the evening soon came and the Kurosakis were back home again. All day long, Rukia never left Ichigo's mind and now, underneath the warm shower before going to bed, he was wondering whether he could really keep his word. Could he really play pretend nothing ever happened? Would it really ever be the same? Did he even want it to be the same again? But what exactly would he want it to be like? Maybe some things are only meant to be dreamt with. But damn, if having Rukia in his arms for real didn't feel like heaven. And damn him if he didn't crave to have her again.

Already wearing his pajama, Ichigo pulled his blankets backwards to get on the bed, when a piece of folded paper in between the sheets called his attention. When he opened it, his eyes were the first to wide, followed by his grin. Inside, there was the crappiest drawn alarm clock anyone could conceive of, Chappy themed all over it to a point where even the numbers couldn't be recognized among all the bunny ears and noses. The only thing vaguely recognizable in the drawing was a huge X mark crossing the whole clock in red. It was done with the same materials he had gifted her that morning and the message was clear: no more waking up in the end. Ichigo felt his stomach tighten up both with excitement and fear. What will it be like, from now on? How much will change?

Folding back the drawing and hiding it underneath his pillow, Ichigo laid on his bed with his hands behind his neck and eyes watching the bright full moon outside the window. Blessed be Rukia and her crappy drawings. Blessed be the Chappy themed insults to the art of drawing that that woman produces. Blessed be the way Rukia can kill the image of virtually anything with just one distasteful coloring attempt. Because that way, when she notices tomorrow that he didn't sleep at all, he can say it's her fault. He can say she drew it so terribly he couldn't even sleep at night afraid of the suggestion of killer Chappy alarm clock chase nightmare. And if he says it enough times, maybe he can believe it himself, instead of admitting he actually can't sleep of excitement, in anticipation of holding her in his arms again tomorrow. After all, admitting he dreamt of her touch, realizing the concretization was something so meaningful as to make him stand up against her not to lose it, was already so much more than he ever thought he would do. The man who fought and won against the whole of Soul Society for Rukia's sake needed far more training and courage when it comes to his feelings. Nah… tonight, he can't sleep because she just... draws so bad.