Chapter 16: I Belong with You


Trip over love, you can get up. Fall in love and you fall forever.

- Unknown


Ichigo was late, but it wasn't a surprise to Kish, since his favorite activity had been, and still was, watching her. He laughed quietly as he watched her stumble out of bed, five minutes past ten, before shrieking, "GAH! I'M LATE!"

When she lost her hair tie, Kish almost materialized inside of her room to get it for her until he realized, seconds before he did, that Ichigo probably wouldn't be the happiest if she noticed he was there.

As she scurried out the door, a slice of half eaten toast in her mouth, Kish followed her. He lagged behind slightly since Ichigo seemed to be amazingly aware of her surroundings despite the fact that she was half awake. Every few minutes, she turned around and, at one point, she almost caught a glance of him.

Teleporting barely a minute before Ichigo arrived, Kish made a perfect picture of easiness. Keeping a slightly bored expression on his face, he watched Ichigo run up to him. Stopping, she panted and grabbed his shoulders to keep from falling over while Kish watched with an amused expression on his face. Light danced in his eyes as he said lied, "Finally, Kitten, I've been waiting here for hours!"

"Sorry!" Ichigo apologized, still quite out of it, breathing still ragged. "Sorry, sorry!"

"He gave her a few seconds to catch her breath. "So," Kish asked, accompanied by an inquiring gaze, "how are we getting there? Where's the car?"

"Getting... there?" Still dazed and confused, as well as half asleep, Ichigo blinked a few times. And then it dawned on her. "NOOOO, SHOOT! I left the car at home!" Smacking her forehead, she groaned before nearly collapsing to the ground at his feet. "I can't believe... I forgot the car. And the keys." Ichigo threw her head back, hair swinging behind her in a wild manner. "Wuah! And I ran all the way here!"

Kish laughed, fondling her hair before she smacked his hand away; Ichigo was clearly, despite being out of it, aware of his presence by her side. But her hair was down today, somewhat wavy, and Kish mentally noted that he liked it the best that way: when it was blowing in the breeze, just barely tickling his arm. He reassured her with a laugh: "I've got time. It's fine. We can just walk home."

"Ugh," Ichigo cried before grabbing his arm and pulling him in her direction with a jerk. She walked at a brisk pace, trying to get home as quickly as possible. Kish steadied himself, keeping up with her quick pace until she began to run. He rocketed forward, tripping over his feet from the sudden momentum, collapsing onto her.

"Ahh!" Ichigo shrieked, looking straight into his eyes. She had a far off expression for a moment before coming to her senses. With an irritated sigh, she shoved him off. Brushing the dust off her skirt and adjusting the strap on her purse, she offered a hand to help him up. Kish still maintained a smooth expression as he gazed at her outstretched hand, despite Ichigo's embarrassed face.

"Sorry," she muttered, still offering his hand and keeping her eyes on the sidewalk, "but we're almost home."

With a smirk, he reached to take her hand. Using more than enough force to pull himself up, he over estimated. With a shout of "Whoa!" from Kish and "Oh no!" from Ichigo, he landed on top of her again. Kish took in Ichigo's surprised expression, and the smirk grew. "Koneko-chan," he whispered, "you're bright red. Do I really have that effect on you?"

Ichigo's eyes grew wide. "Uh, what? I..."

He smiled, smoothing a piece of hair behind her ear, before looking up and grinning. "You have to admit though that this is a pretty comfortable position..."

"Kish!" Ichigo shouted, shoving him off her. "Stop it!" Kish chuckled, not promising anything. Ichigo didn't take his hand again. "We're here," she said flatly.

"Great," Kish said, stretching. "You're driving, I guess?"

Ichigo rolled her eyes, pulling open her door and looking at Kish with a doubtful expression on her face. "Unless you suddenly have a driver's license, I sure am- hey, what are you wearing?"

Kish paused, confused. "Uh, clothes?"

"No," Ichigo shook her head, "I know that. But, I mean, what are you wearing? You can't wear that!"

"Why not? There's nothing wrong with this..." Kish brought a hand down over his usual garb, still the same from when they were young teens. "... outfit." Ichigo sighed and pulled her house keys from inside her purse.

"Come on," she grimaced and pulled him into her house, "I've got to get you new clothes."

"Why? Isn't this perfectly normal?" Kish asked innocently and followed Ichigo up the stairs. He surveyed everything.

Ichigo took one look at Kish before laughing. "Ha ha ha! That's funny. Seriously though, we've got to get you changed. This," she pointed to her own outfit, "is normal."

Kish looked her up and down, taking in her more than her clothes as she flipped through what he assumed was her father's closet. She was wearing a tantalizing teal blue skirt with a pair of long laced up brown boots that, in his opinion, showed her legs off nicely. Her top was more modest, striped white and teal blue as well, with rolled up three quarter length sleeves. It clung to her figure and he mentally traced it over. Ichigo turned red as she faced him. "Uh, Kish?"

"Eh, yeah?" He asked, distracted. Absentmindedly he licked his lips.

"STOP CHECKING ME OUT!"

Kish jumped, falling backwards into the closet. "Gah!" He landed on a pair of dress shoes and he ended up knocking nearly half the rack over, each shirt falling over him. Ichigo crossed her arms in satisfaction; the only part of him she could see was half of a long, pointed ear. Serves you right... "Mmrph, Ichigo, a little help here...?"

She sighed, sitting down on a wooden stool and looked at her nails. "Sorry, Kish, but I don't think so." Under her breath, she added, "You totally had that coming to you."

With an irritated chuckle, Kish slowly rose up. A sock clung to his hair, and Ichigo giggled. "What?" Kish asked, annoyed. His expression- angry, confused, and a bit happy, all at the same time- caused Ichigo to continue to smile and, still laughing slightly, she reached up to take the white sock off of his head.

"Change into this," Ichigo suggested, covering her mouth to stop from giggling too hard. Kish rolled his eyes, but maintaining his usual cocky expression, began to change. Slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, his shirt went off. "Kish!" Ichigo shrieked, throwing a hanger at him. "Get out!"

"But you said to change..." He grinned.

"Not in front of me, you pervert!" Ichigo whacked him with as much force as she could muster.

"Fine, fine," he sighed, walking out into... the hallway?

"Kish, change in the bathroom," Ichigo sighed, clutching her head as if she had a headache.

"Yeah, I knew that," he retorted back nonchalantly, "but you sure you don't want me to change in-"

"Kish!"

"You're missing out, Kitten!" Kish finally said, grinning, and retreated into the bathroom.

Ichigo sighed again. "Oh, today's going to be such a long day..." She stretched before hanging up the fallen rack of clothes.

"I could have done that for you," an oh so familiar voice offered behind her.

"Kish," Ichigo began angrily. And then she saw him. "Whoa."

If Ichigo had ever thought that her dad's clothes were only meant for dads, then she was wrong. The white t-shirt fit practically perfectly on Kish, and the green button up collared shirt merely accented his hair and eyes. The jeans fit well on his boyish frame, and Ichigo had to do a double take upon seeing him.

"Like what you see?" Kish wiggled his eyebrows.

"You ask that too much," she giggled.

"So, do you like it?"

"You look... good," Ichigo appraised him, slight blush creeping onto her cheeks; then, smirking, she added: "For someone who's paler than the white shirt he's wearing."

"Hell yeah, I do," he answered back, ignoring her comment, and Ichigo giggled. Then, she caught herself: what was she doing? Besides, that was so out of character for her to be laughing at Kish... It was like she was some silly school girl or something.

"Come on, you, we've got to get going. We've got a lot to do. Oh wait!" She put her hands on her hips and grimaced. "Is there anything we could do about your ears?"

"Kitten... I go around Tokyo like this all the time. It's fine."

"But someone's gonna notice your ears!"

He laughed. "Trust me, they won't. It's... a Cyniclon thing. They won't notice."

Kish watched her storm away, half smile on his lips: Ichigo was always so feisty. There was, truthfully, no other way to describe her; if anything, she was just like a cat. And he would, by the end of this disastrous wedding at the least, have her. Even if it meant de-clawing the poor thing.

By the time he reached her car, a shade of candy red, she had already started the engine. "So what took you so long?" she asked as she pulled away and into a main street.

"Why are we taking the car anyway?" replied Kish, keen on changing the subject.

"Because," Ichigo sighed, "the shop's about an hour away." She looked at Kish for a split second before focusing her attention back on the road. "Can I tell you something?"

Kish smiled. "It's okay, I know about your undying love for me already."

Ichigo glared at him. "Kish..." she began, warningly.

"I'm just kidding around," he grinned. "Sure, honey. What is it?"

"I... I wanted this wedding to be perfect."

Ichigo paused, reassuring herself, "It is perfect; I'm planning it all out how it should be, how it's supposed to be. The flowers and the cake and the dress and everything." At this point she was talking more to herself than to him. "Masaya's helping, too, of course. But Masaya's busy: he has things to do, and I don't want to trouble him too much or anything. He's busy, I understand that-"

"- but you wanted to be with him," Kish pointed out in a matter-of-fact tone, but not bothering to hide his disappointment.

Ichigo was quiet for a moment. "Yeah," she whispered softly. Kish nodded his head sullenly, about to say more, when she quickly added, "It's not that I don't support him or anything! I really do, and his work means so much to him. And I know that I mean a lot to him, too. But it's just that I wanted things to be a little bit different, y'know?" A pause. "I'm blessed, I know that. I have friends who love me and a great job- well, maybe it could be a little better. But my life is good. And when I imagine my life... I can't imagine it without Masaya."

This time, Kish was silent. And then, regardless of what he felt, he told her: "I understand."

"I've never told anyone that before," Ichigo said in a hushed tone, "not even Mint, or Lettuce, and I couldn't tell Masaya... It would be too much of a troublesome thing for him to worry about. He's already busy enough as it is."

"Shouldn't love mean you can tell the other person anything in the world?"

Ichigo smiled. "It does! And I could tell Masaya if I wanted to, before you start getting any ideas! But that would just be something for him to worry about, don't you agree? I don't want him to worry..."

"You shouldn't marry him," Kish started, anger suddenly in his voice.

"Don't say that," Ichigo snapped, "I know that you think that! But you don't get it!"

"What don't I get? I think I get this perfectly: you shouldn't marry him!"

"I have to marry Masaya!"

"Do you have to or do you want to?" Kish demanded, smoldering.

"I want to!" Ichigo snapped back without thinking.

It was silent the rest of the ride down.


Kish found the town to be rustic, charming in a foreign, old world way. It had a romantic, quaint aura around it with flowers in bloom in the fields and in the flower boxes outside the windows of each of the houses. In the middle of the town center was a marble stone fountain, simple but elegant with graceful molding.

"So where to first, Kitten?"

Ichigo was still upset at Kish, walking ahead of him at a brisk pace; she ignored his comment completely for a moment, and then turned around forcefully. "Look, I..." She sighed and then her mood changed. Ichigo looked up at the sky. "Is it any wonder that we argue all the time? I mean, look at us..." She sat down on the edge of the fountain, looking into it and circling her hand around in the spring. "I don't understand you, Kish. I admit it; I don't get how you work, what makes you tick."

Kish sat down next to her with a slight slump to his shoulders. And then, he straightened up and placed a hand on Ichigo's chin, making sure she was looking up at him. "What makes me tick is you, honey. I thought you knew that by now."

Ichigo moved away with him with a huff of air. "No one's life revolves solely around another person, Kish. That's silly."

He half-smiled. "You grew up a bit, didn't you?"

She moved back to face him, a light smile on her face as well. "You have to, don't you? We're not thirteen anymore. We're not even teenagers anymore, Kish!"

"But you still feel like you are when you're with me," he pointed out.

"... Yes." Ichigo straightened up, wiping the water droplets off her hand and onto her skirt. She smiled brightly and offered a hand to him. "So are we friends for a day?"

Kish's ears drooped. "Friends?"

"Of course! That was the condition that you agreed on when I said you could come with me to check out and fix up this wedding stuff!"

His smile dropped, before growing wide. "Oh no! Remember? You said I could act however I wanted to around you!"

Ichigo opened her mouth and then closed it, contradicted. The memory of yesterday, from their almost kiss to their agreement, lingered in her mind. "Deal," she replied, pursuing her lips, before striking a triumphant pose. "But I said you only could as long as you kept it to yourself." Seeing his expression, she laughed. "Ha! Let's go, Kish, we've got some stuff to do..."

"Where to first?" he asked.

"Well," she started, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, cheeks red, "in all honesty, this was supposed to be a date for me and Masaya..."

Kish growled too low for her to hear.

"So, when I think about it, the only thing that we really need to do is pick up my dress, to see if it's finally been fitted correctly and all, and Masaya's tuxedo... I think everything's all right with it, but I remember he said something about you needing to try it on yourself?"

Kish nodded. "I remember that."

"I know we're sampling the food and all today, too!" She giggled. "I'm pretty excited for that, actually... And, well..." Her blush became a dark red. "Like I said, it was supposed to be our date so that would kind of, ah, take up the whole day and all, and, well..."

"Everything's already paid for, right?"

"Yeah." Ichigo fidgeted with her hands, looking down at the brick path under her feet.

"What are you waiting for?" Kish laughed, eyes lighting up.

Ichigo looked at him suspiciously. "What are you laughing for, Kish?"

"What do you think, Kitten? That'd be such a waste of money for you to skip all that stuff... So let's just go on a date ourselves!"

Ichigo froze. "What?"

He moved his hands behind his head. "Think about it. It makes perfect sense."

"I don't think we should be going on a date, Kish-"

"Date, friend get together, whatever the hell you want to call it." His grin went from ear to ear. "But for me, this is totally a date."

"We've still got wedding stuff to pick out," Ichigo reminded him, almost in a warning tone.

Kish paused. "Eh. That doesn't faze me, Kitten!"

Ichigo couldn't help but let out a laugh; when Kish wasn't attacking her for marrying Masaya, his attitude easily caught on. "So, first, we want to get the dress and tux and all out of the way?"

Kish waved a hand in the air. "Sure, sure." He spotted what he assumed was the boutique, spotting a mannequin wearing a white dress in the window. "Let's go!" With a grin, Kish took her hand and began to go off in the general direction.

"Hey, wait, slow down!" Ichigo shouted, trying to wrench her hand from his. Still, she couldn't loosen his grasp. Shaking her head, Ichigo let out a tiny giggle; Kish always had a tendency to get carried away by emotion. One day, she assured herself, just one day should be fine for us to be together...

Reassessing her behavior, she shook her head. What was she doing? She couldn't just lead him on like that! But Kish looked so happy... Inside, she churned with conflicting emotions.

As soon as Kish entered the store, the high-pitched jingling bells ringing, the atmosphere changed. The smell of fresh rose petals wafted inside, and Ichigo inhaled deeply. The store was an utter, pristine white with red rose petals decorating the counters nearby the register. Ichigo smiled: it was like every little girl's dream, this bridal shop, and such a perfectly romantic setting. It was part of the reason why Ichigo had chosen there to search for the perfect gown, in this small little shop in the middle of nowhere. The only reason she had ever even seen the shop was because of a small ad in the corner of a Tokyo newspaper sectional; even from the small picture, it had reminded her of a place where magic really did exist.

Suddenly, Ichigo realized that Kish was still holding her hand. She blinked a few times, surprised by herself how comfortable that felt, before shaking her head and giving one final pull to get her hand free. It wouldn't budge. "Kish," she hissed, "let go of my hand."

He ignored her comment completely. "Oh hello!" He said charmingly to a short young woman with a sleek black haircut. "We're just here for some fitting and final pick up." With a light grunt, Ichigo finally got her hand free.

"Ichigo Momomiya," she said with a smile on her face.

The woman gave a nod and flashed a cheerful smile at Kish before departing into a back room behind a red curtain. The curtain swished, rustling, before finally standing still.

Using all of her strength, Ichigo stomped on Kish's foot. Hard.

"Ow!" he shouted, unable to muffle his voice.

"You jerk!" Ichigo whispered in a fierce voice to him. "Why wouldn't you let go of my hand?"

"Why would I have let go of your hand?" He counteracted at her. "There's nothing wrong with holding hands."

Ichigo felt as if steam was coming from her ears. He was so infuriating! "There's something wrong with holding hands when it means to you something more than it should!"

Kish moved away from her with a sigh. Ichigo went to follow him, placing a hand on his shoulder to turn him around to face her, when she tripped over a snag on a rug. "Aieeee!" she hollered, as Kish easily turned around and caught her in his arms. Their lips were so close, and Ichigo felt her own begin to tingle. "Ah," she breathed as Kish let out a smirk of his own.

The same woman who had ventured into the back room poked her head out from behind the red velvet curtain. "Is everything okay out there?" she asked with a worried expression on her face.

Ichigo let out a false smile. "Of course! I just tripped, that's all."

"There's absolutely nothing wrong," Kish commented cheerfully, not bothering to take his eyes off of Ichigo and clearly pleased with the current situation; Ichigo's cheeks flushed pink and as soon as the woman disappeared again, after one last unconvinced look, shoved Kish away.

"No, come back," he whined, reaching his arms to her.

"Shut up, Kish," she muttered, "it's not like I collapsed onto you on purpose or something."

He spun her around to face him, Ichigo's mouth in an "o" shape from shock at the sudden movement. "Whether it was on purpose or not, Kitten," he purred, "even you can not deny that you enjoyed that." The smirk on his face was back once again.

Without hesitation, Ichigo moved to slap him; she stopped promptly when the woman came back once more. Behind her were two men, in formal clothing, with her dress in their arms. "Oh!" Ichigo breathed, giving a real smile this time.

One of the men smiled; he was cleanly polished, and Ichigo naturally assumed he was the owner of the store. "Hello!" he chimed, his voice smooth. "Always glad to see a customer satisfied! But it truly is a beautiful dress. You have excellent taste." He clapped his hands together. "Mariko! Come, please lead the young lady... I'm sorry, it appears as if I've forgotten your name it's been so long." He gestured to her for her name.

Ichigo waved a hand in the air. "No, I understand, it's been months now; my name is Ichigo."

"It suits you. My name is Suguru." He smiled, and turned back to the woman, Mariko. "Please help Ichigo find her way in the back to a dressing room."

The red haired girl gave another smile as the woman gestured her over towards the left side of the store, where a crimson curtain fell over an entranceway; Ichigo was so happy about her dress that she was nearly bouncing.

"And what are you here for, sir?" the man who had not spoken yet asked Kish, polite in tone and appearance. "My name is Yoshi. How can I help you?"

"Oh, I'm just for some fitting," Kish replied, stretching.

"Ah!" the owner, Suguru, said, lighting up. "You must be Aoyama Masaya!"

Kish's grin faltered for a few moments, near grimace on his face. "Yes, I'm here for fitting," he repeated firmly, his mouth flat.

"Well then," he boomed, "it's a pleasure to met you, sir! I was unable to meet you the last time, if I remember correctly but I assure you that I heard the very best. You are as handsome as they said, sir! Although..." His smile dropped to a frown for a moment- he could have sworn that he heard that Ichigo's fiancée had black hair- but then reappeared. "Nevermind! Right this way." He lead him to the same way Ichigo had came in; behind the veil was what appeared to be a dressing room, with a vanity mirror on the very end corner. There were only two dressing rooms, and Kish could overhear the animated conversation Ichigo was having with Mariko very clearly. Still, despite that, the room in itself was spacious enough for fifteen or so people to fit comfortably inside. "Just wait here," the owner said, the second man who had not spoken yet nodding his head. "I'll be back in a flash with your suit."

Kish merely nodded his head, focusing on the conversation between Ichigo and Mariko.

"You must be so exciting for your wedding, miss."

"Oh, yes, you have no idea!" Ichigo giggled, and trailed off. "I just..."

The woman's voice sounded as if she was smiled. "I understand. You look absolutely spectacular in this dress, miss."

"You think so? Oh, thank you! I really hope he likes it."

Kish let out a sigh and crossed his arms. He hated the fact she was talking about Masaya.

"Did you hear something?" Ichigo asked.

"Mm, probably just the sound of the satin of the dress or-"

"Here you are, sir!" the second man said, startling Kish; he jumped with a start and turned to face him.

"Oh, thanks," Kish said, venturing into the next dressing room across from the one he assumed Ichigo was in.

"So," Mariko continued cheerfully, "how long have you and he been together?"

"Since we were in seventh grade, actually," Ichigo giggled.

"Aw! That's so sweet!" Mariko said, smiling.

"Yeah," Ichigo said, "he's really... He's been the love of my life for a while now."

With a tug, Mariko tied the bow in the back of Ichigo's dress. "All right, miss, it's all right for you to step out now!"

"Thank you," Ichigo said.

With Mariko walking behind Ichigo, she advanced to the center of the room, where a large vanity mirror and elevated platform sat. Ichigo couldn't help but smile and giggle. She wondered what Masaya would think of her in her dress, but she had a feeling he would like it- she certainly loved it. But then another thought crept into her head, one that she couldn't shake out of it no matter what she tried: what would Kish think of her in her dress?

It was so stupid, so moronic, to think something like that. But she couldn't help it. Her mind was in somersaults and the butterflies in her stomach were threatening to fly into her heart and out of her mouth. Ichigo, what are you doing? she asked herself.

And that was when Kish walked out.

"Oh, no, it's bad luck to see the bride before the wedding!" said Mariko, running to advert Kish's eyes from Ichigo's, but the damage was already done.

He was gorgeous. Oh god, he was so gorgeous it shouldn't have been possible. The way his eyes flamed, how the white of the tuxedo managed to blend with his skin, the slight half-smile he had on his lips in the brief second he'd seen Ichigo...

She could go on for hours, for days, for eternity, just describing how perfect he was in that one moment.

"Come, miss," Yoshi said, and gestured for her to go back inside her dressing booth, "Mariko will help you change out of your dress and package it up for you."

Ichigo followed his orders, in a daze. Since when did Kish look so amazingly spectacular? Why that moment? How come she hadn't quite noticed until now how beautiful he was, in a strange exotic sort of way? All of a sudden, she was fascinated by him. Simply fascinated.

When she came out again, the men were with Kish again. "It looks great!" said Suguru, practically beaming. "Absolutely great! Only a minor change with the shoulders, but nothing that can't be fixed in two hours."

Kish turned around, slowly, turning to face Ichigo. She felt as if she was blinded. He held out his hands. "How do I look?"

For seconds, she said nothing. Kish's smile began to falter. But then she murmured, "Good." She bit her lip, wanting to stop herself but couldn't. "You look good."

When Kish's face lit up, Ichigo felt like her heart would burst.

Happy. That was the only word she could use to describe him. He looked so impeccably happy.

"Well!" the second man said. "All that's left to be done would be the payments, but if you two come back in two hours you can pick up and pay then."

"Great, thanks," Ichigo said, still dazed. When they lead Kish back to the dressing room, she almost didn't want them to take him away. But he came out about five minutes later, stretching and his usual self.

"How long have you two known each other?" one of the men asked.

"Since we were kids," Ichigo said. Kish's hand had automatically crept towards hers, but Ichigo hadn't noticed.

"And how long have you been together?" he asked, smiling.

And how long have you been together? That was strange. What, wait? Kish and I... have never been together!

"Huh?" Ichigo said, confused; her brain wasn't processing what the man said. That couldn't be right. Kish, however, understood the meaning behind the man's words immediately.

"How long have you two been together?" the man repeated.

"Oh no! I..." Ichigo began to say, but Kish's eyes gleamed and he cut her off.

"We've had a history from day one," Kish grinned, "because the first day I met her, I kissed her. And she was awfully mad that she lost her first kiss."

Mariko clapped her hands together, slight smile on her face.

"Yep," Kish said, grin from ear to ear, "it was definitely an eventful day. Truth be told, I'm not sure if Ichigo's ever forgiven me for it."

Ichigo was frozen. She tried to jerk away from him, but couldn't.

"If you don't mind me saying this," said Yoshi, "but you both really make such a good couple! You have to be one of the, well, best I've seen in years."

At this point, Ichigo's stomach had stopped feeling so floaty; now it was churning like the sea. Kish's nerve! How could he dare say something like that, and lead those people on into believing they were together? She could strangle him. She really could strangle him. Ooh, as soon as she got out of that store she would-

"How about a kiss from the couple?"

… WHAT?

"Oh yes!" Mariko clapped her hands together, an odd habit of hers Ichigo had began to realize.

No, no, no, that won't do!

Kish himself was actually frozen this time, half smile still left on his lips; it was almost as if he was so shocked that someone was asking him to kiss her. And, in that brief moment, Ichigo felt...

Hurt. Ouch.

But now, slowly, Kish was turning to face her, taking and drawing out his time. His eyes were almost watching her, gaging her expression. He rested a hand on her cheek.

"I..." Ichigo started to say, but her voice choked. He was going to kiss her; oh yes, he most certainly was and she was going to be unable to do anything to stop him and she was scared. She was so scared. Why?

Because she wouldn't be able to stop him. She knew that, it was a fact she couldn't deny.

But somehow, fate was on her side (or maybe against it) and the store bell chimed. Another couple had walked inside.

And something in Ichigo snapped. Blinking her eyes, she said, "Oh no, we are not a couple!"

"You mean... he's not..." Yoshi started.

"No, of course not! What would make you think that?" Ichigo said, forcing a goodhearted laugh into her voice. But she felt shaky all over, and her legs felt like jello. "We have to get running," Ichigo said, turning away. Her eyelashes cast shadows over her cheeks and her voice was soft but sure.

"Of course, clearly understandable," said Suguru, jumping over the subject completely. Yoshi nodded his head.

"Don't forget to stop in later, you two!" Mariko chimed in.

Kish's hand still in hers, Ichigo raced out of the store. But not before they both heard, "I could have sworn they were together..." The sun was shining, but Ichigo felt as if it should have been raining. She wretched her hand out of his with a jerk. "What the hell!" she screeched. "What happened in there? What is wrong with you? Don't you get it? Don't you get that I'm marrying Masaya and not you? And you have the audacity to convince them that we're together?" Ichigo continued on, infuriated, "But, no, you just tromp right in there and tell them we're getting together! And-"

"- I didn't convince them that we were together!"

Kish's eyes were flaming, his teeth barred. He spat out the next words. "Did you you really think I'd want to be Masaya for even a second? I hate him. I hate that guy!"

Ichigo was silent. Her mouth fell open.

"They assumed I was him! And I wanted to avoid humiliating you, Ichigo! Okay? So, sure, hate me all you want but I did it all for you!"

"But they wanted you to kiss me-"

"- It's not like I try to convince everyone that we should be together, Ichigo! It's not like I minded it or anything but, hey, they said it themselves, not me."

Ichigo was dumbfounded. "You mean... You didn't tell them to say that?"

Kish sighed and a ran a hand through his hair; when his eyes met hers, it pained her to look at them. "Do you really feel like we couldn't be together?"

"I don't know," she whispered, "but I know I shouldn't." Ichigo cleared her voice. "I'm sorry, Kish. I'm sorry. I shouldn't... think down on you so much. It's not right."

"It's okay." Brightening up in one of his sudden mood changes, he added, "But, Koneko-chan, you have to admit that they're right and we're a cute couple!"

"Shut up!" Ichigo said, flustered, and smacked him. This she could deal with. This she would be able to handle: it was times when Kish was melancholy that couldn't cope. "Come on, we've got people to see and places to go!"

After that, time passed quickly; much quicker than expected. And Ichigo found that... she actually really enjoyed Kish's company. When he wasn't blatantly pursuing her, it was nice being with him. He was funny, and made her laugh, and there was this air about him that drew her in. They bickered, almost constantly, but it was a good kind of bickering. Ichigo had no way to describe it. There were many occasions where Kish's hand oh so casually slipped into hers. And there were many occasions when Ichigo did not bother to remove it.

It felt good, holding his hand. At first, she felt uncomfortable; but then, after a while, she became used to it. His grip was sure, was warm, was surprisingly comfortable. Ichigo didn't want him to let go, as much as she tried to push that thought out of her head.

And Kish, of course, didn't.

This all reminded Ichigo of something... because what was happening seemed vaguely reminiscent to her for some reason, almost as if she had dreamed all this up once upon a time.

But this was such a nice dream she was having... She didn't want to wake up.

"We need to pick up your dress before we leave," Kish whispered in her ear.

Ichigo jumped surprised and a little bit dazed; this whole day was like a dream. "Oh, right! Um... yeah, let's do that now."

It was near closing time for the store, but all three of the general management perked up when they saw the pair and ignored the afternoon's embarrassing incident. Kish and Ichigo picked up her dress without hassle. They went to Ichigo's red car, placing the dress carefully in the backseat.

And then, Kish said: "Come on, I'll take you to dinner."

"What?"

"Yeah, come on, Koneko-chan!" Kish pulled at her hand. It felt so natural at this point that she didn't bother tugging away from him. "Let's go to dinner!"

Ichigo gave a light giggle. "No, Kish, really... We need to get home soon."

Kish's stomach groaned and Ichigo let out a louder giggle. "But I'm hungry."

"Fine, you big baby," said Ichigo and Kish began to lead her toward the only restaurant in town. It was charming, as was the rest of the town, but for whatever reason... It was especially charming that night.

Why hadn't Ichigo seen how easy it was to be with him before? Was it because she was always pushing him away? She had her reasons; she knew that she had her reasons. But Kish was actually a good person. Underneath the whole bravado, he actually cared. He actually gave a lot. She wasn't going to sugarcoat it: Kish was selfish. He was so very selfish. But maybe...

Dinner, like the day, ended sooner than Ichigo wanted.

"Let's walk around for a little bit," Kish suggested.

Ichigo stretched. "Mm, I don't know about that, Kish... We really need to get home."

But he noticed the tone of reluctance in her voice. "Come on, we'll just walk around for a little bit. Let's stay until the sun sets!"

Ichigo rolled her eyes; it was nearly dusk. But she didn't quite want to leave either... Not just yet.

"How come you never liked me when we were teenagers?" Kish asked.

"Excuse me?" Ichigo said, scrunching up her face in amusement.

"No, seriously! How come you were always getting so mad at me all the time?"

"Are you kidding me?" Ichigo laughed. "I still get mad at you."

"No, but it's different now."

Ichigo stopped walking to look at Kish; the light behind him cast shadows on his face. "Oh really? How?"

"Well," he said, taking her hand and intertwining her fingers with his, "for starters, you never would have let me do that."

Ichigo froze. She looked down to their hands. Slowly, ever so slowly, she moved her gaze from her hands to Kish's eyes; they were glowing. "I shouldn't have let you do this." She tried to loosen his grip, but he wouldn't budge.

"Yes, you should have," Kish said.

"No, I shouldn't!" Ichigo insisted, struggling to let her hand go.

The dream was over at this point; Ichigo had woken up.

"And why?"

"Because I just shouldn't!"

"That's not a kind of reason, Kitten!"

"Don't call me that!"

"Why shouldn't I?"

"No, Kish, stop. I shouldn't be doing this," Ichigo pleaded. "I shouldn't have done this. I can't believe I let this go on so long."

"There's a reason you would, Ichigo. Face it. You want me."

Ichigo was livid. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me. You want me." Kish smirked. "You want me."

"That's ridiculous," said Ichigo, beginning to walk again at a brisk pace. Kish followed in her wake, and his long strides soon caught up to hers. "Why would I want you?"

"Because I'm attractive," Kish said in a matter-of-fact tone, "because my devilish charms caught up to you in the end, because of my incredibly sexy personality, because... I could go on for a while, honey. Would you like for me to continue? Or would you like to fill in a couple of the blanks yourself?"

"You!" Ichigo fumed. "You are the most arrogant, stubborn man I have never met. I can't believe that you'd even be so rude to assume that I actually feel something for you!"

"Oh Kitten, but you know you do!"

"No, I don't!"

Ichigo's walking had quickly brought them from out of the village center and the neighboring garden surrounding it to a field. They were in the country, as evident from the wide roaming space. It seemed as if it continued forever past the town. And then, there was a lone tree in the midst.

"You say that you don't love me so much," he scoffed, "that you actually almost believe yourself."

"Ha! I don't need to believe myself." Ichigo sniffed. "I know the truth."

"And what's that? That you're madly in love with me?"

"Wipe that smirk off your face! I am not madly in love with you! That's stupid. After everything you've done to me? Oh, really, Kish, that's a good one. I won't believe that I'm in love with you until you can prove it. And you can't."

Ichigo knew she had made a mistake in saying that. It was first the fact that she said she wouldn't be in love with him until he could give proof. And then she had added on that he couldn't. Of all people, she knew that Kish was stubborn and determined; he wouldn't stop until he got what he wanted.

He proved this to her in the next two seconds, because the next thing Ichigo knew was that she was pressed up against the lone tree in the clearing, her wrists pressed up in Kish's grasp.

"It's time to face the music, Kitten," Kish growled. "Because we both know that you're into me."

Ichigo's voice was shaky. "You're fooling yourself, Kish. This is a waste of time."

"I know I'm right. And you know it, too."

"Kish, stop deluding yourself!"

He sighed. "Stop denying the truth, Koneko-chan! If you didn't want me so bad, why did you even agree to today?"

Ichigo was silent.

Kish smirked, leaning his face closer to hers. "Exactly. You want me. Don't resist it, it's okay to give in. We both knew you would sooner or later."

"Ooh, you jerk!" Ichigo snarled. "I was actually having a nice time today until you decided to go all jerky on me!"

"Oh, but you like that about me, too," Kish said, grinning.

"No, I really don't," Ichigo spat. "I hate that you're like this. If you didn't have my hands over my head right now, I would have smacked you by now."

"I would have liked it," said Kish lightly.

"You're sick!"

"No, I would have liked it because that's a passionate feeling. And I know that it's so easy for humans to confuse hate and love... especially you, Kitten."

"You don't know anything about me, Kish! Now let me go!"

"You care about me though, don't you?"

Ichigo shook her head, confusion clear in her eyes. "Kish, what are you talking about?"

He swallowed, voice hard, and closed his eyes. "Don't you care about me, Kitten?"

Ichigo opened her mouth and closed it. "Kish, I really have no idea what you're talking about." His eyes flew open again.

"How can I make you realize?" In a rare moment, Kish seemed flustered and frustrated. "That, all along, you've cared for me." Ichigo moved her mouth to say a word, but Kish took one hand down to shush her lips. "No, shh, don't say anything. You've cared for me since you've met me, Kitten, otherwise the first day I kissed you never would have affected you so much whether it was your first kiss or not."

"Kish," Ichigo said, cocking her head to the side, "I really don't understand what you're trying to say."

"Let me prove it to you, let me prove it to you, Ichigo..."

"Prove what? Kish...?"

"We both know this is true-"

"- Kish, you have no idea what you're talking about-"

"- and the truth is-"

Ichigo suddenly realized what Kish was going to do. "Kish, no..."

"I belong with you, Koneko-chan," Kish whispered, eyes boring into hers, "and you belong with me."

There was nothing to stop him from kissing her this time. No distractions, no boyfriends (strike that- fiancées), no glittering rings to keep Ichigo on the path of goodness. But since when did he care about all that?

Kish kissed her.

He hadn't changed at all: he was still forceful, still passionate and still full of life. And as he kissed her, roughly and desperately as if today was the last day, Ichigo was frozen. She was stiff as a board, arms wrapped tightly around his neck, while he pressed her tighter against him, urging her to kiss him back.

Ichigo realized she hadn't been kissed by him in a long time. Seven years, to be precise. The opportunities had been present, but never carried out. By herself, at least. Why? This was nice: his warm arms around her, surprisingly strong, kissing her in a way that knocked the wind out of her. That knocked her out of her senses.

Maybe that was why she did what she did. So, forgetting about everything, she kissed him back just as much as he was kissing her. She felt Kish's happiness and jubilation, felt his smile through their kiss.

And it made her happy. Linking her arms tighter around him, touching her lips tenderly to his, she kissed him, losing count.


A/N: And you guys thought I forgot all about you, didn't you? No, no, I haven't forgotten! Just taken a... five or six month hiatus? Yikes. Here is the long awaited chapter of PtC!

Ouch. Sorry, everyone. Anyway, I mostly spent the summer with both writer's block and a general desire not to write. Which really shocked me! I had brief moments of inspirations, but could only write about a paragraph or two at a time. I have my reasons for this though: I have a feeling it was the result of a very rigorous year or high school.

BUT THEY KISSED! Finally. XD

Here's a few tidbits about the chapter: Suguru's name means eminent, Mariko's name means circle, and Yoshi's name means righteous. So, their names do have a kind of meaning actually haha! Suguru was named for eminence because PtC has hinted that a relationship between Kish and Ichigo is eminent, especially now that Masaya's off teaching the world about the environment. Mariko's name, meaning circle, shows that Ichigo's caught in this kind of circle relationship between Kish and Masaya. And Yoshi... Well, Ichigo's trying to kep her morals. She's trying to be righteous. But without somewhere there, it's a bit hard for her to do so.

Thank yous: First of all, I'd like to give a big huge thank-you to Brown-eyed Wolf. This girl is simply a sweetheart! She left the absolute kindest review I think I have ever received, and I'd like to dedicate this chapter to her. Thank you so much. :)

KisshuFan!: Hey there, thanks for the review. :D And, well, hey, give Masaya a chance. Trust me, I think you'll like him by the end of the story. :) Or I hope so, at least! I'm so happy to hear you like the KxI, and don't mind the Betrayers haha. As far as Coconut, his powers ARE kind of like Jane's from Twilight! I actually never really thought of that, but it's quite similar. However, I do have a secret to reveal so... We'll see! Thanks so much for reviewing! :)

Heart: Thanks again for reviewing. Gosh, you are just SO dedicated. Keep it up!

Cherrie S. xx: Because I know you wanna be mentioned too. XD

Well, in my absence, PtC had plenty of reviews and favorites! Crazy enough, story stats were still pretty high too... especially considering I hadn't updated in half a year! So hello there to any newcomers, and hey again to everyone who's stuck with me from the beginning. :) If you guys are still around, I'm so amazed!

All I can say, though, is that I'm overjoyed by the amount of hits and reviews that this story got during its time! So, as a thank you to all reviewers, for every review I receive [logged in reviewers, of course, although I love anonymous reviews as well!] the reviewer will get a thank you back with a snippet of about two sentences to a paragraph of the next chapter. [Unless you don't want me to spoil anything, of course! In that case, you'll receive an interesting fact about the story. Just let me know in the review]! Sound good? :)

Thank you so much to everyone! You are all what make this experience so enjoyable. :) I can't wait to publish the next chapter!

~ Bunny