This fic is based off something that I (and I think lots of IchiRuki fans) hope will happen sometime in the near future...I won't say too much, but it'll probably be pretty obvious soon enough. So yay for fanservice, procrastination, and not sleeping! :D

Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach, I do reserve the rights to any OC's.

Strange Readings

Ichigo Kurosaki stared at the ceiling above him, his eyes tracing the subtle brush strokes carelessly left by his own amateur paint job a few days ago. After years of staring at a blank white ceiling he'd finally had enough. He grabbed a ladder, some newspaper, and a few buckets of light green paint and shut himself in his room for the weekend.

He emerged quite proudly when all was said and done. Even a few hours of ridicule from his father and sisters (his orange hair clashed horribly with the specks of green paint that had worked their way all over him during the course of his home improvement experiment) couldn't bring Ichigo down. He didn't care too much about what they thought anyway; rather he was much more anxious to see her reaction.

Ichigo made sure to clean his room thoroughly, vacuuming every last paint chip off of the carpet, dusting all of his shelf and desk space, and restocking the closet with clean linens and clothes. This deviation from his usual routine of school and shinigami duties excited him much more than he'd anticipated; Ichigo supposed he'd never realized how much he valued a little change every now and then.

After the Winter War finally came to a close, and Sousuke Aizen had fallen, Ichigo found himself in a somewhat odd position. For the first time in a long time his life was without any looming danger, and he didn't quite know what to do with himself. He continued to exorcise hollows at the request of the Soul Society, but that only kept him occupied for so long. Ichigo felt alone and unchallenged, which left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Rukia Kuchiki was his only saving grace. Every week she'd come from her various assignments with stories of new aspects of the material world she discovered, questioning Ichigo for hours on end about things like reality television and hip-hop music. Her innocent and unbiased interpretations of these phenomena forced Ichigo to look at the world in a whole new light, and even though he teased her about her childlike observations he made sure never to discourage her from returning every week with something new to share.

Ichigo waited impatiently in his room for her Sunday night, staring up at his paint job and wondering what seemingly normal topic Rukia would force him to reexamine this time. Feeling uncomfortable and antsy in the silence, he reached to switch on the radio, but he stopped, frozen in space as a voice faintly whispered to him, barely audible above the blood now pulsing through his ears.

You can always talk to me, coaxed the voice. I've been so bored…and I know you have too…

Ichigo sat up completely straight, his body overcome with a wave of anxiety. He knew that voice, he was sure of it. He just didn't want to believe it. Or say it. Or think it. He turned on the radio, clumsily spinning the volume dial up as far as he could without waking the rest of the house.

You don't think a little noise is gonna scare me off, do ya?

Ichigo grabbed a book from his backpack, frantically flipping to the page he was supposed to read for tomorrow's class.

Nice try, but I'm still here…after all, I'm you…

"Shut up."

You've gotten complacent, Ichigo!

"Shut up."

And I warned you never to let your guard down…



He whirled around, watching Rukia step onto his bed from his window. She looked at him worriedly, her face full of concern.

"Are you all right?"

Ichigo nodded, suddenly aware of his ragged breathing and clammy skin.

"Uh…yeah, yeah. You just startled me."

Rukia stared at him skeptically.

Ichigo took a deep breath in, trying to shake the incident from his mind.

"I'm fine. How do you expect me to react when you just come in through my window like that with no warning at all?! Like a burglar or an…assassin or something! Do you come into everyone's house like that?"

Rukia relaxed a little and dropped herself down onto Ichigo's bed. "Who were you yelling at?" she asked.

"No one. It was just the radio."

"It didn't sound like the radio."

"Well it was! Jeez, what's your deal?" Ichigo snapped irritably, eager to change the subject.

Rukia scowled. "How rude! Is that anyway to treat your dear friend who came to visit you? A guest in your house? No wonder you don't have a girlfriend!"

Ichigo rolled his eyes. "Whatever…but look around! Do you notice anything different about my room?" he said smugly, preparing himself for what he could only imagine would be a shower of compliments about his handiness and painting expertise.

"Did you get sick on the walls?" asked Rukia, wrinkling her nose and looking around at the green tinged room.

Ichigo glared at her.

"Wha…of course not! You just can't see it right in this lighting! I spent days painting this room!"

"Oh…really? That's great, Ichigo!" Rukia smiled half-heartedly. "You didn't paint the inside of my closet, did you?"

Ichigo shook his head, his bad mood escalating as the conversation progressed. "No. There are clean blankets in there, though. I'm going to go to sleep," he said, gently shoving Rukia off of his bed.

"Um…all right, I guess I'll see you tomorrow," waved Rukia, climbing into the closet and sliding the door closed.

"Yeah." Ichigo lied down on his side, staring out of his window at the street below him.

Tough luck, really can't do anything right, can ya?

"Shiiiit," he groaned, stuffing a pillow over his head.

What's with that attitude? You know, we feel the same emotions…you should really lighten up.

"Rukia," Ichigo called, "you awake?"

Rukia slid open the closet door. "Yes, why?"

"Talk to me about something. Anything. I don't care what," he ordered.

"What's with you tonight? Are you not feeling well or something?" she demanded, walking over and sitting down at Ichigo's desk.

"Rukia, please."

She sighed, gazing at the back of his head.

"Fine…well, the other day I came across a human riding on this thing called a Segway…I mean is it really so hard for them to walk? I thought you already had it easy with cars, but this is just ridiculous…"

Ichigo focused oh her voice, drifting off to sleep as it firmly anchored him to reality.

I guess you win tonight, but don't think for one second this is over…


Rukia Kuchiki sat slumped over Ichigo's desk, drumming her fingers against the imitation wood in hopes that something would come along to distract her. Ichigo's behavior the previous night left her feeling rather uneasy. She knew he had a tendency to keep his emotions to himself, but it bothered her all the same that he seemed to be hiding something from her. She sighed, peeling her head off of the desktop and looking around the room for something to do while Ichigo was at school.

She contemplated venturing downstairs to steal some magazines and snacks to bring back to her closet. A day of lounging seemed very appealing; especially since the past few days had been quite exhausting. The Soul Society still sagged under the weight of the heavy casualties from the Winter War, and Rukia's workload had suddenly increased dramatically in order to pick up the slack. A few days per week she traveled to various locations in the material world to dispatch hollows and perform konsou, and the remainder of her days she spent with Ichigo in Karakura Town, finding it a favorable alternative to returning to the Soul Society.

All of the shinigami had been perpetually on edge since the Winter War, undoubtedly feeling the effects of losing so many members to Aizen's forces. The constant tension in the Seireitei nearly drove Rukia insane. She vastly preferred the blissfully oblivious humans to her sad-sack peers, and (for the most part) no one objected to her decision.

Rukia returned back to Ichigo's room after combing the empty house for food and reading material, dismayed to find her cell phone buzzing and lighting up on the desk where she'd left it. She dropped her armful of goodies, examining the blinking dot on the screen that signified the presence of a hollow nearby. Thinking that Ichigo would probably rather not leave school to deal with it, she popped a piece of soul candy in her mouth, allowing her soul to leave her temporary body, or gigai, and a modified soul to take its place while she was away.

"Stay here, and don't make a lot of noise," she instructed the modified soul, who nodded in response and shut itself in the closet. Rukia jumped out of the window, landed gracefully on the ground and sprinted off in the direction of the hollow.

Seems like Ichigo's already there, she thought, slowing down as she sensed him nearby. He'll probably take care of it any second now; this one's not very strong…

Rukia stopped; waiting to make sure Ichigo successfully exorcised the hollow before returning to his room. She also felt a slight disturbance in Ichigo's spiritual pressure. Every so often it would fluctuate, turning harsh and violent. It almost reminded Rukia of…

She stopped herself, putting the thought out of her mind. Ichigo just had a lot on his mind, and therefore his spiritual pressure was a bit turbulent. However, seeing as how the hollow still hadn't been destroyed, Rukia decided to check to make sure Ichigo didn't need any help.

"Do you have this under control?" she called upon arriving, watching at a distance as Ichigo defended himself against the hollow's attacks. He seemed to be holding back; almost reluctant to switch to the offensive, instead dodging the hollow's blows and knocking them back with his zanpakutou.

"Rukia…" Ichigo looked at her, his face contorted with a mixture of frustration, relief, and fear. Rukia's stomach dropped, shaken to see him wearing such an expression.

"I've got this," she said, drawing her sword. The hollow focused its attention on her, slowly advancing on its newest challenger.

"You won't be as satisfying as that redhead, but you'll do…" it growled.

"Tch, how foolish," Rukia scoffed, leaping into the air and slicing the hollow's head cleanly down the middle of its mask. The hollow collapsed to the ground, vaporizing into thin air.

"Thanks, I guess I owe you one," Ichigo mumbled, avoiding eye contact.

Rukia re-sheathed her zanpakutou, unsure of what to say. She knew Ichigo to be quite sensitive when it came to his pride, and he would undoubtedly take offense to any suggestions that he couldn't handle himself. However, Rukia also knew that in these types of situations she would have to forsake his ego in order for him to admit something was wrong.

"Ichigo, what on earth has been bothering you?" she demanded. "And you'd better give me a proper answer."

Ichigo shrugged. "I guess I'm just having an off-OW!" he cried, stumbling backward as Rukia kicked him in the shin. "What the hell was that for?!"

"I told you to give me a PROPER answer! None of this 'I'm just having an off day' nonsense! So out with it! Don't make me call Pyon," she warned, referring to the modified soul inhabiting her gigai with a knack for twisting Ichigo's limbs in unnatural directions.

"What do you want from me? If I want your help I'll ask for it," Ichigo retaliated, guarding his legs from further attacks.

"We both know that's not true," snapped Rukia. "You never ask for anyone's help. So I'm offering you a free pass…I'm going to force it out of you one way or another, so just spit it out now and save yourself some suffering."

"We'll see about that," yelled Ichigo, running back in the direction of his school.

Rukia fumed, debating whether or not it would be worth it to chase him down. She eventually decided against it, thinking that it would be more effective wait until he returned to his room and she could find some way to lock him inside.

Stubborn idiot, she thought to herself, turning to walk back to Ichigo's house. She stopped, though, suddenly aware of someone else's spiritual pressure close by. Rukia looked up, startled to see a female shinigami staring down at her from on top of a telephone pole.

The shinigami stepped into the air and fell slowly onto the ground, landing in a clean, swift crouch.

"Rukia Kuchiki, I presume?" she said, standing up straight. Rukia recognized her face, small but stern features surrounded by symmetrical layers of bangs.


"Michiko Nakamura, third seat of the second division. I've been sent here to do some reconnaissance," she explained. "I was told I might run into you."

"Y-yes," Rukia stammered, caught off guard. "If you don't mind my asking…why were you sent to do…reconnaissance?"

"The twelfth division found some strange readings during a routine monitoring of the spiritual activity in this area. I'm to stay here and report back if I find anything unusual."

"I understand…let me know if you need my help," Rukia offered.

Michiko shook her head. "That won't be necessary. I'll be staying out of your way, and I expect you to do the same. Please pass that on to the substitute shinigami as well," she ordered.

"Yes Ma'am," Rukia answered, watching in confusion as Michiko leapt out of sight.

On her way back to Ichigo's house Rukia's mind overflowed with uneasy questions about Ichigo and these apparent "strange readings". She hadn't sensed anything abnormal in the area, apart from Ichigo's unstable spiritual pressure earlier.

I wonder if the two are related, she asked herself, the very thought of it triggering an unexpected sick feeling in her stomach. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to force the idea from her head.

"Excuse me, Kuchiki-san," someone said, interrupting her contemplations.

"Hmm?" Rukia looked up to find Uryuu Ishida, a classmate of Ichigo's, peering down at her.

"Ishida?" she half greeted, half questioned, surprised to see him outside during school hours. "Is everything all right?"

"I usually wouldn't resort to this," he said, referring to his distaste for all shinigami associated with the Soul Society (although he seemed not to mind Rukia quite as much), "but I needed to speak with you before Kurosaki came back."

Just what exactly is going on? Rukia wondered nervously.

"All right," she answered. "But I have some questions for you as well…"

I hope you liked chapter 1, and that you'll review! Constructive criticism is welcome and encouraged! Have a nice day :)