Okay. Going for a little more humour. Still on the comfort side of things though.

Hope you guys enjoy it. I don't intend to write this frequently going forward. I'm just making the most of my time at the moment to try to stretch out my fingers a little. Hoping that the fluency of my writing will get back up to scratch with practice.

As always, feel free to let me know if you enjoyed it. I got a few reviews and PMs already for my last chapter. Sorry if you found it sad. I think I needed to address my own feelings on the ending of Bleach before I could move back to the one-shot stuff. Thanks to anyone so far who commented, PMed or favourited this story.


Ichigo opened his eyes reluctantly at the sound of his bedroom door creaking open. He stayed still in his bed as he heard small feel tip toe over to where he appeared to slumber. He reached slowly for the spare pillow that he had hidden underneath his blankets. He was prepared for it this time.

All week she had managed to scare him at least once a day. Well, not really scare, no. More like startle. Nevertheless, he was fed up with it! It was all in preparation for this new horror film that was coming out tonight. Everyone at school had been speaking about it and Rukia had asked him if he would take her. He said that only babies get scared that easily and she made a bet that if she could manage to scare him then he would have to take her to see the movie with the rest of the gang. Ichigo obviously agreed to such a silly challenge and, looking back on it now maybe, just maybe, he was a little over confident.

If there is one thing he should have thought about it was specifying the difference between being startled and being scared. That and… maybe he should have considered Rukia's size. Damned midget seemed to be able to fit literally anywhere. He had never seen someone to be able to jump out from such tiny spaces. Given the fact, it was no wonder that she managed to startle him so soon after the bet was placed. Needless to say she developed a flavour for it though; and he was beyond sick of it!

He heard the creek of his bedroom floor as she crept up beside the bed. Not as smart as you thought you were, eh, Kuchiki…

Before the midget had the chance, Ichigo jumped from his bed and swung the pillow at her head with ruthless and – perhaps – unnecessary force. He heard a startled cry, but the voice did not belong to Rukia.

"Ichi-nii!"

When he looked back he saw a traumatised Yuzu cowering on the floor beside his bed. Her hair practically standing on end with shock, "What has gotten into you, brother?! You almost gave me a heart attack!"

Ichigo immediately dropped the pillow and went to help Yuzu, "I'm so sorry, Yuzu! I thought you were – "Before he had the words out of his mouth he felt two hands grab at his ankles and heard a screech. He yelped and danced across the floor to break free from whatever had gotten a hold of him. With his heart in his chest, he immediately went to look to Yuzu. She was crying…

With laughter.

And what's more…

"Oh. My. God!" her annoyingly smug voice came from underneath his bed. She appeared then, panting between her cackle of a laugh as she crawled her way out, "Did you see his face, Yuzu?! I thought we were going to have to call in your father to give him CPR!"

Yuzu continued to giggle as Ichigo gathered his bearings, "I'm so sorry, Ichi-nii! I would not have agreed to help if I thought you would have gotten so scared!"

"I wasn't scared!" he replied indignantly, "I was –"

"Startled…" Rukia finished, mockingly, "Just like you were at school and in the park and at the swimming pool and…"

"Keep this up and I'm not taking you to the movie!" It was petty, but it was all he had left, and she knew he meant it.

She scowled, but the corners of her mouth were still turned up with the hint of her earlier prank, "Fiiiine!" She sighed in agreement, "But I'm only stopping because I feel sorry for you! You're going to run out of pants tonight if I don't give you a break from all of my… startling." And with that, she and Yuzu left and Ichigo finally took a shaky breath.

Oh, I'll show you startled, Kuchiki… just you wait!


They arrived at the movie theatre and queued for popcorn. Rukia spoke animatedly to the group about how this was her first ever horror movie and how excited she was to see Ichigo whimper like a baby. She then went on to describe, in detail, each time she had managed to frighten Ichigo that week – and she did not skip out on the acting when it came to her perception of how Ichigo had responded. Ichigo rolled his eyes in disgust – it was all wildly exaggerated. However, as he heard the resounding laughter of his long-time friends, he could not help but smile a little.

He could vividly remember when Rukia first arrived to Karakura town and how little she seemed to fit in – how little she allowed herself to fit in moreso. Now, she had captured the attention of all of their friends and it was clear to see that they were all enjoying her company as much as she was theirs. He hated to admit it but… he was proud of the midget.

"Come on," Tatsuki said between her snickering, "We better head in or we'll miss the whole movie!"

With that they all strolled in. Rukia sat herself firmly between Ichigo and Inoue chatting animatedly to the orange haired girl. Rukia had swung in just before they were about to sit down and, before she did, Inoue would have naturally been placed at Ichigo's side for the movie. Ichigo watched as Inoue and Rukia sat deep in conversation, but he couldn't help but notice Inoue looking a little bit put out however. He didn't get the opportunity to see if she was okay though, as the movie began to play on the screen.

It was just another stereotypical overly predictable haunted house horror movie – with a few cheap jump scared designed to frighten the only the weakest of hearts really. Ichigo sat lax in his seat, fighting off sleep for the better part of the 90 minutes. He was about to give up and just let his dreams take him when the characters finally expelled whatever demon was in the house just in time for the movie to end on a cliché cliff hanger. No doubt there will be an even less scary sequel, Ichigo thought as his tired eyes looked over to Rukia. What he saw both surprised and filled him with unmistakable glee.

Sitting almost statue-like, with a thin sheet of sweat across her forehead; she had not yet torn her eyes away from the screen.

Kuchiki Rukia was shook.

And it gave him the best of ideas.


She was quiet the whole way home. He pretended not to notice and did his best not to laugh whenever she jumped at the sound of the bus exhaust on the journey home.

He looked down at his phone to see a message from his father. His sisters were gone to a sleepover. His father was at a friends having a late night poker game and would not be home until much, much later.

Perfect.

When they arrived back to the house, Rukia still had not muttered more than two words other than weak yes or no answers when necessary. Ichigo stood beside her at the front door and reached into his pocket for his keys. Even though he immediately felt the cool metal in his hands, he made a drama about not being able to find them, "Shit! I must have dropped them before we left the house…" he continued to pat every pocket but the one that they were in, "Dad won't be back for hours!" He tried not to look at the frantic expression on Rukia's face as he fought down a laugh.

"What are we going to do?" she asked, her voice was undeniably shaky, "We can't just stay out here! You're such an idiot! How could you forget your keys!" Her voice had become loud now, almost panicked. This would be too easy.

Ichigo clicked his fingers dramatically, "I have an idea! There's a spare key in the back yard somewhere – I'm sure of it. Wait here and I'll go get it."

Rukia's eyes widened at his words, "Wha – n – no!" She almost screamed, before attempting to maintain some mall shred of dignity, "I mean… I may as well follow you… to help you."

It was almost too easy. "You're right," he said and he could see the wave of relief on her face at the thoughts of not being alone in the dark, "You check out here okay? Dad could have moved it to the front yard for all I know! And like you said, it'll be faster with us both looking." Even in the dark, he swore he could honestly see her body shaking in fear.

"Ah – Ah – Ah…"

"Unless…" he could not hide the taunting from his voice now, "You're too scared."

Her brows furrowed almost manically at his words. He could tell every part of her wanted to just give in and follow him, but God Damnit if she was not just the most stubborn little midget, "Who's scared!" she half scoffed half cried, "I'd just be worried I'll find you a broken mess in the back yard because a stray cat might startle you."

Ichigo scowled. Oh, no mercy now, bitch. "Fine! I'll shout if I find the key."

"And I'll let you know when I find it."

"Fine."

"Fine!"

And with that Ichigo walked around the back. Once out of sight he ran around to the back door and took out his set of keys. Ichigo let himself in the back door silently. He knew exactly where that spare key for the front door was and it would only be a matter of seconds before Rukia found it for herself.

"Found it!" he heard her voice from outside, sounding a little more confident now that she had a way inside. When Ichigo did not respond she shouted louder, "I'm heading inside! It's freezing out here… hurry up or I'll lock you out." He scoffed internally, it was a mid-summer's evening – like 19 degrees Celsius. Such a chicken.

He crept up the hallway facing the front door. He watched as Rukia's sillouette worked the lock. The door handle moved down and she pushed open the door just in time for Ichigo to lunge out from the dark hallway with a roar.

She fell to the ground. He was surprised to find that she did not scream all that much. He was too busy laughing however to consider anything beyond his self-praise. He reached to turn on the light and his laughter immediately died.

"Rukia!"

She lay curled up on the floor. Her body was shaking, but this time it was not funny. Her eyes were wide as tears flowed freely down her cheeks. She began sobbing uncontrollably. Ichigo kneeled down and went to put his hand on her shoulder but she flinched and sobbed louder.

"Oh shit…" he cursed himself, "Rukia, I'm so sorry." He sat by her side for another few moments, "It's okay. It was just a stupid joke." It took a while before her eyes would even meet his. When they did he attempted to place his hand on her shoulder again. She allowed it this time, but she was still trembling and her breathing was coming out broken. Ichigo decided then to just pick her up and carry her over to the living room couch.

He could not fight off the pang of guilt he felt looking at her small frame. He really had gone too far. He honestly did not think she would get this upset, "I really didn't mean to upset you so much."

She nodded shakily, and he was beyond relieved to see her respond to him, "I… k – know. It's O-okay." She spluttered.

"I'll get you a glass of water or something."

He went to stand up but her hand immediately reached out for him, "No!"

"Okay," he said, easing himself onto the couch beside her. They sat close together for a few minutes and she never let go of his hand. When her breathing relaxed, she began to speak,"Thanks, Ichigo." She began to sit up from him a little, and only now let go of his hand. Her voice was still a little still rocky, "I'm sorry… I really don't know why, but that movie really got to me."

They sat quietly for a few more minutes, both of them caught up in their own thoughts. Then Rukia looked over to see that Ichigo's face had turned a shade of violet and he looked as though he was choking on his own tongue, "What's gotten into you?"

"Nothing," he plainly lied, now holding his breath to keep whatever he was holding in.

Rukia was having none of it, "No way! You're not keeping this from me. Tell me. You owe it to me at least!"

Ichigo continued to hold his breath for another moment and Rukia honestly feared that he would pass out. Before he could however, Ichigo let out a long and shaky breath. He swallowed deeply. There was a shimmer in his eyes, "Well… I was just thinking about how you got frightened at the movie…"

"Yes…"

"A horror movie…"

"Yes."

"A horror movie about ghosts," now he was shaking in a failed attempt to keep himself together. It all fell apart though as he faced Rukia with a fake deadpan expression and asked, "You do realise you're a ghost, right?"

Before she could even answer, he was lost to his own laughter. Rukia could not fight back to warmth spreading to her cheeks. He was right, it was quite embarrassing the more she thought about it. She grew more frustrated with herself as he laughed. She lept across the couch, addempting to beat him to within an inch of his life in the hopes of shutting him up. He only laughed harder though as they scuffled on the couch.

She tried to maneuverer her arms around so that she could pinch his cheeks, but he rolled himself on the couch with her and then had her pinned under his body weight. "So what!" she argued, "There's no scary music following me around everywhere I go is there? I don't remember ever jumping out and trying to scare the lives out of poor humans trying to mind their own business in their homes!"

At this, Ichigo actually did stop laughing, "Really…?" he asked, and she knew he was referring to her pranks.

"You don't count! You're half dead too!" she countered, but, now she was laughing too. She had to admit, it was funny. Even if she'd never confess to Ichigo that he was right.

After a moment, it dawned on both of them just then how close together they were on the sofa. Rukia actually could not move due to how Ichigo had positioned himself. His face was mere inches above hers. Rukia's hair had become dishevelled in the tussle between them and both were panting from their laughter. Ichigo noticed the faintest glow across her cheeks and wondered briefly how soft they would feel if he leaned down and…

Then Ichigo looked at his watch, "Shit… it's pretty late," he scrambled to get up. Rukia followed suit, both pretending not to feel even the slightest bit perturbed by their actions. Ichigo yawned and stretched out, "We had better get to bed."

He went to go for the living room door, thanking his swift thinking for getting him out of an otherwise precarious situation. But he noticed that she had yet to move, "You staying here, Rukia?"

"Ichigo…" her voice had lost its humour. She looked up at him and he saw something he had rarely ever seen in Kuchiki Rukia's eyes. Real, raw vulnerability. "I'm still kinda scared."

In his haste to maintain his composure, he had forgotten the reason that they had been on the couch in the first place. He smiled, but it was not in mockery this time. "Okay… I'll pop on the kettle. Do me a favour and turn on the TV."

By the time she had it up and running, he had come in from the kitchen with two cups of tea. He placed them down in front of them and took the remote from her hands. He began as he made himself comfortable on the couch and reached over to Rukia.

He took her hand much to her wonder and pulled her over to him so that her head rested on his chest. She was surprised by his actions to say the least, but she did not fight them. The act was nowhere near as suggestive as the one that they had found themselves already in that evening, but it filled both of them with a soft warmth that only comes with complete comfort in another's company. "I don't remember much about when I was little…" he began as he rested his free arm around her and began flicking through the channels, "But… when I was a small kid I do remember the first time I saw a ghost – a real ghost."

At this, Rukia leaned her head up just enough to look at Ichigo's face, but his focus remained on the TV as he spoke.

"I was about three or four," he recalled, "Mum had just settled me in to bed. I remember I couldn't sleep. I couldn't shake the feeling that something, somewhere was watching me. I remember opening my eyes in my room and… there she was."

Even now, the memory of her made Ichigo shiver. "Compared to what we have seen since I met you… this girl was just another ghost but, she had died in a house fire and… to a three year old boy…"

"She must have been terrifying."

He nodded, swallowing deeply before looking away from the TV and meeting Rukia's gaze, "I don't think I slept properly for weeks." He admitted, "But, when I told my mom why I couldn't sleep; that I was scared after seeing the ghost, she started sitting downstairs with me each night before bed and we would both… watch cartoons. She said that they would help me to think happy thoughts and not think about the scary stuff…"

At that, he flicked on the show. Rukia looked over to see, "Chappy: The movie!"

"I hate to admit it," he said with a laugh, "But cartoons really do help."

She drew her eyes away from the TV to meet Ichigo's gaze, "Thank you, Ichigo."

He met her gaze with a determined look in his eyes, "I will watch this with you tonight – because I feel guilty – but after that, you gotta get your own shit together and realise that you are a billion times scarier than the ghosts in any stupid horror movie," he cracked a smile, "Got it?"

She laughed and dropped her head back down on to Ichigo's chest. She reached over to give his hand a squeeze, "Got it!" Ichigo noticed that she did not let go afterwards. He also could not help but realise that he really did not want her to. She could stay there for now at least…

"Hey Ichigo…"

"Yeah?"

"Did you really think I was scarier that the ghosts on the movie?"

"Shut up, Midget."


Hope you Enjoyed 3