Disclaimer: I claim no ownership to Bleach in any way, shape, or form.
Love Potion Version 9.0: Chapter 8
"Rukia…Rukia…Rukia!" The dark-haired Soul Reaper jolted awake and sat up quickly before looking around to see who was shaking her and calling out to her. Her eyes quickly found the two Kurosaki twins staring at her. She felt a strong sense of déjà vu from the way they were staring at her: Yuzu looking shocked and Karin with surprise.
"What's wrong?" she asked, her mind still in a fog from just waking up.
"You see," Karin said casually, "When we wake up first thing in the morning and see you out of bed, we assume that you'd be downstairs…" then, her voice went into an accusatory tone. "…not sleeping in our brother's bed when he isn't here!"
That snapped Rukia out of her fuzzy state and sent her brain into a frenzy; looking at her surroundings, she realized that she had ended up in Ichigo's room again, and she knew that the chances of the same excuse she used yesterday working now were between slim and none. 'But how did this happen?' she thought to herself, 'Ichigo isn't even here, so why did I come in here unless…'
"Rukia," Yuzu's voice interrupted Rukia's thought and brought her back to reality. "Why are you in Ichigo's bedroom?" Before Rukia could think of a reply that would more than likely be reasonable to accept, Isshin came barging into the room, voice booming.
"Why it's obvious, my sweet little Yuzu!" he yelled. "It's because Rukia misses my foul-smelling rouge of a son and wants him back in her loving embrace!"
'Suddenly, I envy Ichigo being locked up in a metal room,' Rukia thought wryly before attempting to salvage what little dignity was left in this situation. "No, it's not like that at all," she answered sweetly, though the bead of nervous sweat going down her temple was shining noticeably. "I've always had a problem with sleepwalking; it comes and goes sometimes, but the point is that it'll be over soon."
"You know, that's about as believable as yesterday's gem: 'I went to the bathroom and got turned around heading back'" Karin countered, raising her eyebrow. "It's pretty obvious that you're just making this up."
"Maybe not," Yuzu said, putting her finger to her chin in thought. "I heard that when someone's in denial about something, their subconscious mind will make them do strange things to try and get them to admit the truth they don't want to face." Her eyes then widened in realization as she started smiling widely. "That's it! It must be that Rukia is in love with Ichigo, but won't admit it to herself; so now, her mind's making her come into Ichigo's room as a means of making her realize her own feelings!"
'That's as bad as Rukia's/my excuse,' Karin and Rukia both thought simultaneously.
"Oh Yuzu!" Isshin cried, hugging his youngest child. "It's times like these that make your dear ol' Dad so glad he's got such a smart daughter like you!"
"So what does that make me? " Karin said blandly, though her annoyance at him was clear.
"Why Karin, you should know that you're the athletic child," Isshin replied, waving his finger at her. "That leaves Ichigo as the troublemaker!" His answer was rebutted by Karin slamming her fist into his chin.
"Stop stereotyping us old man, and go back downstairs," she said sourly.
"Oh my goodness," Yuzu yelped as she hurried out of the room. "I need to start on breakfast before we have to go to school!" Isshin got up, rubbing his chin as he groaned in pain.
"Yuzu," he called after her, "Can you bring Daddy some ointment for his boo-boo?" With his departure, only Rukia and Karin were left in Ichigo's bedroom.
"Well Karin, I'd better--" she started, but the younger girl held her hand up to silence her before looking at Rukia square in the eye and saying her piece.
"I just want two things between us to be clear," she stated slowly, moving forward towards the girl opposite her. "First, if you don't have feelings for my brother but he does for you, and you're just toying with him, it'll be me kicking your ass for payback."
Despite Rukia knowing that, as a Soul Reaper, she could probably handle anything Karin thought of, she knew from first-hand accounts what Ichigo's temper got like when his friends and family were hurt. 'And if she's anything like her brother,' she thought, 'She'll be just as vicious.'
"I promise, Karin," she answered sweetly. "I would never dream about doing such a thing to Ichigo; plus, we're just friends so there are no chances of him seeing me that way." Karin looked the girl up and down, as though she was checking for any signs that she was lying. When she nodded slowly, indicating that she believed the opposite girl, Rukia let out a silent breath she didn't know she had been holding.
"The second thing is that, if Yuzu's 'denial' theory is actually right," Karin continued, "Then you'd better snap outta denial fast. I don't want to come in here to find you doing something weird like sleeping in one of Ichigo's shirts or something." Hearing this made Rukia's face go red; hearing something like that from Isshin was bad enough, but Karin, who was supposed to be the sensible one, saying something like that was horrifying.
"I'm hungry," She added, acting like she hadn't just made such a lewd statement. "Let's go get some breakfast. And if you're not there soon, I'm having yours as well." With that, Karin left Rukia alone with her thoughts…and a certain perverted toy that shot out of the closet towards her.
"RUKIAAAA!!!" Kon cried, dramatic tears spilling out of his button eyes. "HOW COULD YOU BETRAY ME LIKE THAT?!?!?!" His answer was a backhand by Rukia into the adjacent wall.
"I knew it was a bad idea to put you back in your body last night," she sighed before going over to pick him up. "Now, I'm taking you over to Kisuke's so that you can substitute for Ichigo until we find a way to cure him."
"NO WAY!" Kon yelled, pointing accusingly at her, "Why should I pretend to be that Lame-O…"
He continued to rant, but Rukia tuned him out, realizing that the only way for him to agree was to tell him the truth. 'Sorry Ichigo, but if we're going to cure you, Kon is going to have to be you and I need to convince him.'
"Because, as of three days ago, Ichigo has become very attractive to the girls in his class," she interrupted, getting the Mod-soul's attention. "So if you were in Ichigo's body then, well just picture it." The living lion plushie put his paw to his to his (nonexistent) chin in thought. She didn't have to wait long as Kon's face broke into a drooling grin, giggling at the images he was seeing.
"Anything my buddy Ichigo needs, he can count on me to help him out!" he said, giving the dark-haired Soul Reaper holding him a thumbs up.
"Good to know," she responded, sweat-dropping. "Now, get in my bag and don't make a peep until we get to Kisuke's. Get it?"
"Anything for you, Rukia!" And after he hopped out of her hands, Kon went directly out the door, heading straight for Yuzu and Karin's room. Finally getting some privacy, Rukia rubbed the bridge of her nose in frustration.
'This is getting out of hand,' she thought. 'There's no getting around it; I have to explain this to Kisuke.' As she started leaving Ichigo's room to get ready for the day ahead of her, she had one final thought.
'When this is over and everyone else has had their memories erased, I'll have plenty of time to think of a personal payback for Renji!'
"Let me get this straight," Urahara spoke slowly, looking hard at Rukia. "You've been sleepwalking, not to mention having explicit dreams that showed you what you were doing, as well as hearing a voice in your head and you didn't think to tell us this yesterday?"
"Well, what do you expect? It's embarrassing; I didn't want to even think about it, let alone discuss it with other people!" Rukia protested. "Besides, I first thought that it was caused by stress or something."
It was uncomfortable at breakfast this morning after the rest of the Kurosaki family caught her in Ichigo's bed: Isshin was ranting about grandchildren, Yuzu kept smiling and asking if she liked her brother yet, and Karin just sat there and ate, smirking in amusement at what she was seeing. Rukia was happy to get out of there, until she realized that she had to tell Urahara about the things she hadn't said yesterday.
"Whatever your reasons, by not telling us this, you've held back information that may help in curing Ichigo. Not to mention that if it's also happening to others, it could turn into something we can't stop." Yoruichi put in seriously, clearly not above using guilt to get her point across. Before Rukia got the chance for a rebuttal, Kon popped out of her bag and started being his usual sensitive self…or rather lack thereof.
"ENOUGH CHATTER; I NEED TO GET INTO ICHIGO'S BODY NOW!!!!'" Everyone turned to stare at the loud Mod-soul. Then Urahara pulled out his trademark fan and smirked.
"Well since you asked so nicely, let's," he said, moving the group towards the metal room where the two redheads were being kept. When they reached the room, Urahara motioned for the two to keep back before putting his protective crystal around his neck and opening the door. He only began opening it before they all heard Renji running and slamming into the door, gulping down the air on their side of the door like a man dying of thirst gulping water.
"Oh, thank god!" he gasped, on his hands and knees. "It was horrible…I didn't think I'd make it through the night! The terrible smell was choking me all night; I'm amazed I got any sleep!" His dramatic speech was cut short by Ichigo kicking him in the butt, the tell-tale throbbing vein present above his eyebrow.
"YOU?! What about me?!?!" he complained. "I was up half the night by your constant whining about your nose, then by your loud snoring…" he paused to hold up his arm, where there was a bandage in place that wasn't there yesterday, "And when I finally did get to sleep, I woke up to find myself strapped down, tape over my mouth, and that lunatic putting a giant needle into me!!" He finished by pointing at Urahara, who was fanning himself with a smile on his face.
"I had to get samples from him to figure out how to reverse the damage," he explained. "The only reason those straps were in place was in case he struggled; you know, to prevent him from knocking the needle out and spewing blood all over the floor."
"YA CAN'T EVEN PRETEND TO BE SORRY?!?!?!" Ichigo's indignant rant was cut short by Kon flying at his face and latching onto his face, startling everyone else.
"SHUT UP AND GIVE ME YOUR BODY, ICHIGO!!" Kon pounded his on Ichigo's face furiously. "All those girls are waiting and I can't disappoint them!"
"You are NOT going to use my body to try and hook up with my classmates again, you perv!!" Everyone sweatdropped as Ichigo struggled to remove Kon from his head. Then, Urahara lifted his cane, revealing the flaming skull on the bottom, and drove it into the back of Kon's stuffed head; that pushed Kon's pill into Ichigo's mouth which made him separate from his body. "Dammit!"
"ALL RIGHT!! HERE I COME, LADIES!!" Kon cheered, happy that he was going to get his chance. Unfortunately, that joy was short-lived as he and Renji both fell to the ground, writhing and groaning in pain as they clutched their noses. "Oh damn! Who cut the cheese?!?!"
"Can someone get me a clothespin or something to plug up my nose?!?!" Renji begged, eyes watering. The women standing near them blinked before Rukia smelled the air around them.
"Ichigo, your smell is stronger now," she said frowning. "It's like that night when you went after those hollows."
"You don't say," Ichigo said slowly stepping backwards, away from the females until he bumped into something soft behind him. Turning his head to look over his shoulder, he saw a smirking Yoruichi staring back at him.
"You know I'm called 'Flash Master' for a reason, right Ichigo?" she asked cheekily. The substitute Soul Reaper proceeded to freak out and fall over, scrambling backwards to get away from the dark-skinned woman, who was chuckling at the display. "You can relax Ichigo. If I wasn't immune, don't you think you'd know it?"
"Not really, no." She smiled as she bent down to look him in the eye. She thought it was endearing how he was trying to protect his innocence while trying to look tough.
"Did you already forget that Kisuke said people who already have definitive feelings for someone are immune? He put that in place so that he wouldn't have to deal with an angry spouse or boyfriend," she explained, putting her hand on his head. "That means I'm safe from you and you me. Besides, as fun as you are to tease-" ('What is she saying? What'd she do to Ichigo?' Rukia thought angrily, 'And why am I angry about that to begin with?') "I see you more like my son than anything else."
Ichigo just sat there, blinking. Yoruichi's statement threw him for a loop. Sure, the two of them were student and teacher, and even friends. Admittedly, he felt he always had to be on guard so that she wouldn't surprise him by changing from a cat to a naked woman just to watch him flip out; still, hearing her say that he was a son to her was surreal and it touched him that she cared about him that way.
That didn't last long when he found her fingers and thumbs were pinching on his cheeks. He could hear the barely stifled snickers from the peanut gallery.
"Yes, you are," She said in a baby voice, shaking his head around. "Who's my special baby boy? That's right; you are. Yes you are!"
'Suddenly, I feel sympathetic to Toshiro's plight,' Ichigo thought bitterly, glaring as best he could at his mockers from his position.
Meanwhile in Soul Society…
"Rangiku!" Hitsugaya's sharp voice cut through the office space, startling his lieutenant out of her daydreaming. "Why aren't you doing your work?"
"Uh, well, you see…" she struggled to find an excuse, "I was just taking time to contemplate the meaning of life? And you know it takes absolute focus to do so, Captain."
"Focus you should be putting on your--ACHOO!" Hitsugaya suddenly sneezed loudly, sniffling as he rubbed his nose. "Dammit. Someone must be talking about me; now as I was saying Rangiku…" he trailed off, looking around a now empty office. "What the hell?" Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the ruffling of the curtains from the breeze coming in from the open window. The whole Seireitei heard his next word.
"As touching as this pseudo-family moment is," Urahara chuckled, waving his fan in amusement, "This new development shows that the smell is originating from his Soul Reaper form and his human body is merely toning the smell down, like a filter."
"NO!!" Kon sobbed, hanging his head as his fantasy was horribly dashed. Everyone else just ignored him.
"In that case, we don't have to worry about Ichigo's classmates going nuts," Rukia thought out loud, glad to find some form of silver lining in this dark cloud.
"Wish I could share your optimism," Renji grumbled, managing to get to his feet. "But unfortunately, I don't have the ability to smell anything past the smog that Ichigo's putting off."
"Oh stop your bellyaching; you deserve it since you caused all this," Rukia snarled, still angry at him for doing this over something like ice cream. 'Although maybe I went a little overboard with the Chappy ice cream…Oh, what am I saying? You can never have enough Chappy!'
"Well, this is fun, but if you and Kon don't get a move on, you'll be late for school," Urahara pointed out, causing the two to scurry out of the store, bowling over Jinta and Ururu in their hurry.
"Let us know if you find anything!" Rukia threw over her shoulder before she and Kon-with-Ichigo's-body disappeared from sight. Urahara then turned his attention onto the trembling Ichigo with an evil smile curling on his lips.
"Well now," he said, pulling out a giant needle from his pocket. "After I take a blood sample from you in this form, you and Renji will spar in the training area for sweat samples; we'll figure out what to do after that."
"Well, that's a clear sign for me to get outta here. See ya Ichigo!" Too bad for Renji, Yoruichi was able to grab him by his collar and threw him back to sit next to Ichigo.
"You're still on punishment, Renji," she stated plainly, "So you're staying near Ichigo while that Kisuke gets his samples." The two males could only shake in terror as Kisuke came closer with his big sticker.
"Now remember, you're to act like Ichigo," Rukia lectured, glaring pointed at Kon as they ran closer to the classroom. "So if you act out in any way that's inappropriate to Ichigo's classmates, I'll tell Ichigo about it and leave you to his mercy."
That threat made Kon cringe in fear. As much as Kon appreciated Ichigo and Rukia for saving him, he was more in favor of showing it towards Rukia. Partly because she was a girl and partly because Ichigo's temper made him slightly scary to the Modsoul, though he'd never admit it out loud.
"N-n-no problem," he stuttered, giving an awkward grin before setting his face into Ichigo's classic permafrown. "Although how anyone can keep their face like this all the time is beyond me."
"He doesn't have that look on his face when he's asleep," Rukia blurted, blinking in surprise at what just came out of her mouth. Kon looked at her strangely hearing this.
"Rukia, do you--"
"IIIIIIIICHIIIIIIIGOOOOOO!!!!" The telltale call of Keigo's daily assault was heard along with the rapid pounding of his feet. When Kon saw Keigo coming, he moved to the side to avoid him. However unintentional it was, as Keigo was running past him, his foot caught Keigo's and sent the poor perverted teen sliding down the hallway, his nose literally rubbing the grindstone or in this case, the linoleum.
"Subtly done," Mizurio commented as he looked on. "A very nice change of pace from your usual abuse of Mr. Asano."
"I hate you Mizurio," Keigo muttered as he got up and moved tentatively towards "Ichigo", sniffing the air as he did so.
"Keigo, why're you acting so silly?" Rukia asked, getting into her school-girl act. Keigo didn't answer at first, his concentration shockingly on something other than girls. When he stopped his procedure and was right next to Kon, his face broke into a grin.
"Awesome! You ditched that awful cologne for us, your friends!" he said loudly, clapping his "friend" on the back. Kon, not knowing what else to do, decided that Ichigo wouldn't let this guy be annoying anymore than he would let Kon himself act like himself; so, he acted according to months of experience with what Ichigo did to him: he threw a punch to Keigo's jaw.
"Stop breathing my air," Kon tried while making sure to keep the frown, since he didn't know what Ichigo said to his friends.
"Hey guys!" Orihime called, waving energetically. Following alongside her was Tatsuki, who started looking uncomfortable when she noticed "Ichigo." The moment Kon saw Orihime though, he almost lost his focus and began to slightly drool. Thankfully, the combination of Rukia's glare in his peripheral vision and the memory of how Tatsuki tore the classroom apart when he kissed her stayed his itching, pervy hands.
"Hi Orihime! Hi Tatsuki!" Rukia waved back. When the two newcomers got close enough, Tatsuki looked over at Kon and smelled the air around him before talking.
"So…" Tatsuki said slowly, "I see you aren't using the new smell today."
"Uh, yeah," Kon replied, scratching the back of his head to imitate Ichigo, "I just felt that I'd take the day off from it, you know?"
"Come on guys, class is starting," Orihime said excitedly. This was enough of a distraction for the rest of the group so they all headed inside. Though sweet and smiling on the outside, however, Rukia was deeply troubled looking at Tatsuki.
'If she was experiencing the same things I did yesterday, why does she seem unaffected now?' she thought carefully, 'I'd better keep my eye on all of the girls, especially Tatsuki, since she's more involved in this than any of the others.' Her fists clenched as she heard the taunting voice again.
Be careful, you're starting to sound less like a concerned friend and more like a jealous girlfriend...But don't you wish, huh?
"All right class," Ms. Ochi called out to the class, tapping the board behind her. "Who here can tell me the solution to this problem I've got up?" Several hands shot up to respond (Kon taking careful caution not to draw attention to himself because he had no idea what was being discussed). "All right, Ryo. What is the answer?"
'So easy,' Ryo thought as she stood up, ready to show everyone why she was the 2nd best student in the class. "The answer is 8.5, Ms. Ochi." The teacher blinked before looking at the problem she wrote before turning back to Ryo.
"Uh…that's incorrect, Ryo." That statement shocked everyone in the room. It was no secret that Ryo was always striving to outdo Uryu Ishida, the number one student in the class. But the real kick to her pride was what happened next.
"Ooh Ooh Oooh! Ms. Ochi, I know the answer!" Keigo called out, jabbing his hand in the air repeatedly. Sighing, Ochi waved her hand, deciding that she wanted some normalcy from this lesson. "The answer's 6 and ¾!"
"That-that's right," she replied, the shocked expression on her face shared with the rest of the class. Ryo was stunned that she was outdone by the dunce. She was so apparently, when she sat down square in her chair she slipped right off the edge.
"Whoa, are you okay?" Michiru asked, helping Ryo get to her feet.
"Yeah, I-I don't know what happened."
"I'll tell you what happened," Mahana interjected. "You've been studying so hard that you forgot which formula to use to solve the problem. Then, when Keigo rattled you by answering the question you couldn't, you lost your balance and fell off your chair. No big secret behind it." Her girlfriends all stared dumbly at her after hearing this.
"Mahana, did you just say a reasonable explanation to something?" Ryo asked.
"Well, you usually let your imagination run wild and end up thinking things that noone else would," Orihime replied, unaware of the irony of her statement. Before they could continue, they each felt the connecting blows of Ms. Ochi's book.
"Girls, whatever you all want to talk about, unless it has to do with mathematics, I'd really not hear it in my classroom," she said sternly. "So save it until lunch, if it's no trouble to your social lives." With that, the girls returned their attentions to their books and Ms. Ochi resumed the lesson. All of this under the scrutinizing gaze of the raven-haired Soul Reaper.
'What Orihime said makes sense; the two of them are acting outside of their usual personalities,' she thought critically, 'Ryo is usually so focused on proving herself to be the best, it rivals that of Captain Soifon and Mahana will always think that, given the right circumstances, anything can be led to have a hidden motive, so why are they acting so different? Not to mention that Chizuru hasn't made a move on Orihime this whole time.'
Her eyes widened silently in realization. 'Could this be more of Ichigo's condition? That if he isn't here, then the ones who already have been subjected to the potion start losing themselves?' Her fingers pressed harder on her Chappy pencil at the thought. 'If that's the case, then Kisuke must be told about this immediately.'