He waited until seven to get out of bed. He slipped from Rukia's embrace and tucked her back under the covers, admiring her sleeping form. He crept across the apartment quietly and pulled on a pair of jeans and a white t. In the kitchen, he chugged a glass of orange juice and snatched an apple from a bowl on the counter. He shoved his feet into sneakers and grabbed a hoodie before exiting the apartment, making sure the door was securely locked behind him.

It was spring, and the morning air was still brisk. Half the street hadn't even seen sunlight yet. He walked further into town, not really sure where he was heading. He needed to think, needed to breathe.

Uneasiness still loomed over him. It was a feeling he couldn't shake. Morning had helped; it had been like a beacon of assurance, trying to rescue him from his self-dug hole. But even now...he was fine. More importantly, she was fine, but something was wrong. He just hadn't found what he needed to stab to make everything all right again.

He came to an intersection. Right would take him to the Urahara Shoten. Left would take him towards the parks and the river. He knew he definitely would not be able to think in that crazy shop and started left. Shopkeepers were unrolling awnings and setting up displays on the street. Elementary children ran past him in clumps, carrying packs and books that probably weighed more than they did.


Ichigo looked up. Across the street, a young man was waving towards him. Ichigo didn't recognize him.

The young man crossed the street and approached him, clad in a green apron and khakis. Ichigo's scowl deepened as the kid smiled at him like a fool. "Yo," he offered, a little annoyed.

The kid looked shocked. "Don't you remember me? It's Tanaka Tarou."

The name didn't ring a bell; neither did the face. Ichigo just looked at the kid, uninterested and mildly bored.

"I-I dated your sister...for two years," he stammered, no longer as self-assured.

"Huh," was Ichigo's only response. He shoved his hands into the pocket of his hoodie. "Which one?" If either of his sisters had dated anyone seriously, he would have known about it, and more than likely, this kid would have run the opposite direction when he'd spotted him.


Ichigo shrugged. "Cool." He began to head back down the street.

"Wait," the kid called. Ichigo sighed. "H-How is K-Karin? I h-haven't s-seen her in a w-while," he stuttered painfully.

Ichigo scratched at his four days worth of scruff, making a mental note to shave tomorrow morning. "Fine, I guess. I've gotta go."

"Of c-course," the kid said to Ichigo's back. "Is she s-still at the u-university?"

Ichigo thought deliberately before answering, carefully choosing his words. "Yeah, she's at school. Probably won't be home for a while." He paused before adding, with a flippant wave of his hand, "She's got a boyfriend; a punk with weird white hair who wouldn't think twice about kicking your ass. I'd stay away if I were you."

When the kid didn't respond, Ichigo looked over his shoulder, curious. The kid had disappeared. He smirked slightly but kept walking.

The mundanity of the world of the living was beginning to irk him. Everyday was the same when there was no shinigami work to be done. Hollow appearances were relatively under control, especially in this town, so he often found himself bored. Life was not boring enough to permit him to live a normal human's life, nor, however, was it chaotic enough to let him live the life of a full-time shinigami. Besides, the old man had rejected his request to move to Soul Society. Twice.

It really pissed him off. The old man really needed to pull the cane out of his ass. He'd let Karin attend the Academy, so, technically, she, a human, was living there. And he'd allowed Rukia to live in the world of the living. What was the problem?

The second time his request had been rejected, he'd flown into Rukia's room in her brother's house in a fit of irrepressible fury, his spirit pressure fluctuating wildly, making the servants in the house sick.

"Who the hell does he think he is!" he'd demanded. "He can't just tell me 'no' without discussing it! After all I've done! He has no right!"

Rukia just sipped her tea. His entrance hadn't even fazed her. "Actually, I believe he does have the right, being the head of Seireitei and all."

"Shut it," he bit as he collapsed next to her. "He's not my boss."

"No, you're right. And it would be absolutely no problem for either one of us if you got on his bad side," she retorted sarcastically.

He harrumphed and folded his arms across his chest indignantly. "Stupid Soul Society. Stupid rules. Stupid Yama-"

"Complaining won't get you anywhere," she interrupted.

"Yeah? And what do you suggest I do, Oh Wise One?" he mocked, still misdirecting his anger.

She kicked his shin under the table and threw him a dirty look. "If you'd just listen," she hissed behind clenched teeth.

He rubbed the point of impact, the same place she always kicked him. He looked up at her, preparing for another verbal sparing match, but she was looking away, seemingly miles away in thought.


"Why do you have to make things so difficult?" she whispered.

"What?" he asked, truly taken aback. "I...I thought you wanted this? Wanted us-"

She shook her head and smiled a little. "We'll find another way. It's not solely on your shoulders."

He sobered, realizing the effect this would be having on her as well. She had given up the past few years of her life living, with him, in the world of the living. It had been his idea to request living in Soul Society; he wanted to give up something for her for once. But...did she not want him to? Did she not want him to live in Soul Society?

"I don't get why you're not fighting this," he stated honestly.

"Because we don't need to fight."

He furrowed his brow in response.

She stretched and kissed the tenseness from his face. She leaned back and made him look her in the eye. "I'm fine with staying in the world of the living if you are."

"But is that what you want?" he asked doubtfully.

"What I want is you," she said, placing her hand on his chest, over his heart. "Nothing else matters. I don't care where we live...as long as we're together."

She made it sound so easy.

He'd stared at her for a minute, silently. He admired her for her strength; she was definitely the strongest, toughest, most stubborn woman he'd ever known, and yet her strength was subdued, understated, and controlled. But he loved her for her heart; he loved her because she believed in him.

"Well, you've got me," he mumbled, trying to downplay the emotion in his voice.

She smiled, satisfied. He leaned in to kiss the smile off her smug mouth. He put his hands on either side of her hips on the floor and leaned further over her. She had to grip his kimono to keep from falling over, which only pulled their bodies closer. He lay her gently back onto the floor and she bit her lip, relishing the pleasure flowing through her body as his lips explored her neck and collar bone. She had just slipped her hand beneath his kosode, her hand had just touched his hot skin when she froze. Ichigo instantly felt her body stiffen beneath his.

"What's wrong?" he questioned, his voice slightly hoarse.

She pushed him off of her and rolled out from under him, putting at least a meter of space between him. She frantically began attempting to smooth her tousled hair and straighten her clothing. "Nii-sama is home," she said hurriedly.

He then felt the none-too-subtle presence and spiritual pressure her brother exuded that she'd keenly sensed moments before. He rolled his eyes. He would come home now.

Her brother had entered the house with all his entitlement and regality, subtly commanded they both stay the night in his mansion--with Ichigo in the furthest end of the estate, of course--instead of the Squad 13 barracks, and Rukia did not let him touch her the rest of the night.

Maybe living in the real world won't be so bad, he'd thought, sleeping alone that night.

Yes, that was a definite plus about living in the world of the living: the fact that her brother did not.

The result of insomnia and a migraine...but I like it

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