Sleep runs out of his reach that Thursday night, taunting him, yet never letting him be fully pulled into dreams.
Deciding that it was useless to lie in bed anymore, Ichigo grabs his car keys, sneaks out of the house, and grabs a coffee from the closest convenience store.
Although the brew is sloppy and muddy tasting, Ichigo settles once again on the roof to over look the small, sleeping town until houses and trees block his view from seeing any more of it. The school is past the park, his old high school friends are down the street to the left, and everything else is just a glance away.
Taking another swig of the coffee, swirling the contents around in his mouth, Ichigo continues his thoughts that have been in his mind for the past three weeks.
He's changed so much since he left this small town behind him. Not because he left, but because of who he had met. He met Orhime, who in one way or another with ill intentions introduced him to Rukia. Renji, who he brought with him from this town, also gave him a shove towards Rukia. Either way, they were destined to meet.
Yet, scowling deeply at the thought: Where they destined to break up?
Ichigo knew what his main objective was while dating Rukia. Make her fall in love, make her admit it, dump her and walk away victorious and richer. However, his usual tactics wouldn't work with her. He knew they would run in circles if he didn't. So, he was personal with her. Told her a few things, was able to make her tell him a few things, and suddenly, it happened: She knew him, and he knew her.
He knew the reasons behind the scar on her shoulder and the small butterfly placed around it, the start of her games, about her brother, her broken family, her love for Chappy the rabbit, her skill in theatre and ballet, and how easy it was to get under her skin.
But she knew things about him.
Every memory he had with his mother, his family, his guitar playing, his guilt, his reasons for hating the carnival and why he was such a careful driver. She knew how to irritate him and encourage him and make him feel at peace as long as she was in his grip.
This knowledge of each other, this sharing of information and stories and weaknesses… it made everything wonderful into what eats at him now.
Swirling the coffee cup in hopes of awakening some taste, the sky turns a pale pink to his right, the starting of a new day. The birds around him singing louder in hopes of the sun and Ichigo can only think of how he sung in hopes of the sun as well.
She was there, for his last performance. He saw her as she fled, he could never mistake her for anyone else. He doubted his eyes for a second, but he knew it had to be Rukia. Her presence had filled him with hope, so much that when it was replaced with sorrow, Ichigo had to finish his slot by only playing classical guitar.
But… The look in her eyes as they met his before she fled… something he had over looked in his own time of pain, was what he saw in her eyes.
Was she hurt? Why if she was feeling an inkling of what he was feeling, was she not here with him now? Three weeks was a long time to be away from her, let alone with everyone giving him the false hope that she would come back.
Rukia might be hurt, but Ichigo knows that emotionally, she's very strong. Dealing with abandonment of her sister, parents, and even her own brother… Ichigo's sure that losing him is something Rukia's not worrying about.
However, just in case, he closes his eyes and does something usually only Yuzu believes in.
Ichigo thinks of all the good, mediocre, and bad times he has had with Rukia. His feelings for her at every stage of their relationship and after it. He thinks of all the things she told him, what he told her, and everything they know about each other.
With all of this in his mind, Ichigo wishes for Rukia to come back.
Hoping that Yuzu's faith in wishing with all your heart will work, he finishes his coffee and climbs back inside the house before trying for sleep one last time.
After all, he has a celebration party today.
After a restless night's sleep, Rukia is currently sitting, staring at the white envelope that has given her so much grief.
Kaien… He had been a friend, a boyfriend, and a cheater. He lied to her and more importantly, his wife. How long had this been circling in her head? He was wonderful, but truly terrible the entire time. And she had simply pushed everything about him from her mind. About him, about her, and most of all, about his wife…
It's early, still only eight in the morning, yet with steady hands, Rukia gently opens the envelope.
She reads the address, grabs her keys, and locks her apartment door behind her.
When his eyes open, Ichigo realizes how sore he is. Sleeping wrong was not in the plans for today.
Sitting up to stretch his now very tender shoulder, he slowly recaps his morning. His coffee, his thoughts, his wish…
Reflecting back on it all, Ichigo realizes that even though he is missing Rukia, knowing a part of him will always do so, a sort of eerie peace has settled over him.
Maybe this is why Yuzu made wishes constantly.
Maybe they even worked.
Hunger has not helped her nerves in the slightest.
Maybe it was the business traffic, or the fact she was going to a place she was very much a stranger to, or maybe she was subconsciously taking her time, But four hours later and Rukia had reached her destination.
The house before her is beautiful. A bit on the small side, but still homey looking all the same. The house it's self is a nice light blue color; a bike lying is in the front yard, along with one missing shoe a few feet from it.
Slowly getting off her bike, placing her helmet on the handle bar, Rukia combs through her hair with her fingertips and slowly makes her way up the drive way.
She's nervous. Hell, she's visibly shaking. Her feet move slowly it seems, leading her to the walk way that might as well be the downward spiral to hell it's self. Her stomach turns into a dark, never ending pit filled with fire and despair.
However, the door is before her all too soon, so she quickly, she rasps her fingers on the door a few times, loud and clear. If she hadn't done it without thinking, she might be back on her motorcycle already.
Immediately, a dog barks and Rukia takes a small step back.
However, a few moments (or maybe years… Rukia can't tell anymore…) the door starts to open, and her heart stops completely.
A hot shower later, Ichigo's shoulder is feeling better. It's almost noon by now, and he runs a dry towel through his soaking hair before heading downstairs to assist the setting up of his party.
"Put a shirt on!" Karin yells at him, hanging up a balloon.
Ichigo shrugs at her. "I'm wearing pants, what else do you want?"
Rolling his eyes, Ichigo heads over to Yuzu, the obvious brains of the operation.
"What do you need me to do, boss?"
His blonde sister looks at him, a sad smile on her face.
"Make Rukia come to the party."
Karin groans. "Yuzu, really. Ichigo's already going through hell, no need to make it worse for him!"
Ichigo forces a chuckle. "Nah, it's okay Karin. But believe me Yu, if I could, I would force her come here."
"Correction: You'd force her to come here again." Isshin interrupts, walking into the kitchen wearing a new, very low v neck shirt covered in neon flowers.
The kitchen is filled with silence before Karin mumbles something.
"Never mind, maybe it is better she stays away."
Isshin snorts before launching into a rant.
"I'll have you know that showing off chest hair is not only the most manly-est thing ever, but it's the biggest reason of baby making because women are looking for a true man! A true man for TRUE LOVE!"
All three Kurosaki children groan.
The boy standing in front of her is about eleven years old, but looks too much like Kaien for comfort. His black hair tossed up widely and he even has the same nose, but his eyes are a chocolate brown instead of a green color and Rukia has to remember why she's here.
"Is… " Her mouth isn't working, and it takes some hesitance before she can finish her sentence. "Is Miyako Shiba home?"
"Oh, yeah, let me get her." The boy says, turning around, petting a particularly fluffy and happy dog who follows him down the hall.
"Mom!" He yells, turning a corner and disappearing.
Kaien and Miyako… had… children?!
"Mooooom!" He continues, as a very womanly voice answers back in a normal tone.
"Hayate, what is it?"
"There's someone at the door for you."
The boy and the dog reappear around the corner and he motions for her to step inside. Rukia hesitantly takes a few steps in the house while the boy, Hayate, closes the door.
Before she can even prepare herself, Miyako appears around the corner.
The woman before her is naturally, carelessly beautiful. Her long straight black hair is pulled back into a messy high ponytail with two pieces framing her face. Her frame is thin and she looks a bit tired as she smiles widely.
"Hello, I'm Miyako, and you must be Rukia."
After fighting with his father to put on an appropriate shirt, Ichigo himself changes into some jeans and shirt, his favorite actually. A plain white shirt that said "Nice Vibe" on it… The one Rukia had picked out so long ago on their first date… If you could call it that.
Heading back down stairs, Ichigo is surprised to see his very old high school friends Keigo and Mizuiro waiting for him.
Feeling like he should be in his old high school uniform and the three should be on the way to school, he smiles a bit and greets his old friends, shaking their hands firmly before leading them to the family room.
"Been a while since we've seen you Ichigo." Mizuiro comments, smiling a bit before running a hand through his chin length black hair, obviously the better looking one out of his two old friends.
"Yeah buddy! Nice to see you smile! Is there a girl in your life or something?!" Keigo asks with as much enthusiasm as he had in high school, reminding him of his father.
Heaving a sigh, Ichigo answers truthfully. "Not anymore, no. What are you guys doing here? It's quite a bit before the actual party…"
"Ichigo, didn't you ever think your old friends might want to actually hang out with you?" Mizuiro asks smartly, giving Ichigo a raised eyebrow.
"Oh, right, sorry." He replies back a bit embarrassed, grabbing a jacket as the old trio takes their leave.
"Please, have a seat Rukia." Miyako says gently, ushering her in, not asking for a conformation on whether she was Rukia at all.
Taking a few steps towards a small sitting room to the left, Rukia slowly eases herself onto the end of the couch as the woman who was married to Kaien sits across from her in an armchair.
"Would you like some tea?" Miyako asks, a small smile staying on her face.
Shaking her head no, Rukia waits a second to make sure her voice won't quiver as her heart continues to pound its way against her ribs hard enough to break them.
"No thank you."
"Well, I'll have Hayate make some anyway."
Nodding her head to the young teen, he groans as he takes the hint and moves out of the room and out of sight.
The room is silent except for a small clock on the wall ticking loudly and the small clink of glassware that could only be from Hayate making tea.
Rukia had always had nightmares of this moment, of how horrible it would be. Of Kaien's wife running her through industrial equipment and yelling everything she already knew was so horrible about herself. But, instead, the woman Kaien was married to, Miyako, sits content and relaxed just a few feet away from her. And sadly, it's still as unnerving and terrifying as the nightmares.
However, after a few moments of an unsettling silence, Miyako finally speaks.
"So, your brother Byakuya must have given you my address."
Swallowing thickly, her answer comes out quieter than she intended. "Yes, he did."
A few seconds pass and Rukia feels the words travel up from her uneasy stomach and out of her mouth before she can rethink them.
"I'm sorry about Kaien."
Miyako's smile fades from her face and a look of understanding takes its place.
"I am… and I'm not."
They fall into silence again as Hayate comes into the room, bringing in a tray of mugs filled with tea and a plate of crackers.
"Thank you 'Yate" The young mother says as her son smiles, says "No problem" and walks away, calling the dog before both of them leave through the front door.
Feeling like her heart had finally disappeared completely; Rukia hesitantly asks the question burning in her mind since Kaien had died.
"Did you ever hate me?"
Taking a mug from the tray, Miyako takes a sip before answering.
Nodding her head, the woman across from her answers.
"I did. I really did. The moment I heard your voice on the phone, telling me that your boyfriend had been hit by a car and that as his mother I should know, my world shattered." Watching as Miyako swallows thickly, Rukia feels her own grief surface.
"It felt like you took away his life and the love Kaien had for me in one shot."
Grief threatens to overcome her, but Rukia pushes it away with a few deep breaths. This wasn't her time to be selfish. She deserved to hear whatever Miyako needed to tell her.
A pause presents itself among the two again before Miyako continues.
"I should tell you how Kaien and I met. We where high school sweethearts at neighboring high school to yours. He was the popular one and I was quieter and more reserved while he was loud and demanding. In a way, his interest in me made me special." After a small chuckle, she continues. "Kaien had that effect though. He could make anyone feel important or worthless with just a few words."
Somehow, Miyako's words ring true even though she can feel her breath quicken in pace, her nervousness catching up with her.
"However, we fell in love fast and hard, and made the mistake of becoming teenage parents."
Glancing off to a window of the front yard view, Miyako continues at a slower pace. "Our parents were furious… and traditional. So we were married at seventeen and parents just a few months later. That's how Hayate came to be."
A smile warms Miyako's face as Rukia too glances out the window to watch Hayate play with the fluff ball of a dog before both ladies returned their attention to the current topic.
"For quite some times, things where very hard on us. School, a new child, and living out of my parents basement was not something we had planned as a happily ever after. However, Kaien would always reassure me things would get better, that we had so much more to live for and see and sometimes, I could believe him."
Rukia takes the first sip from her mug as Kaien's wife does the same, savoring in the homey taste in a very frightening setting as Miyako continues.
"When we moved into an apartment close to both our parents, Hayate was already three and we were very poor twenty year olds. Kaien was working two different jobs and I was working one and handling Hayate on the side. The sparks of youth and dreams and love… They dimmed completely. Our problems over ruled our love."
Up until this point, Miyako hadn't made much eye contact with Rukia, maybe a brief moment, but most of her story was spent looking elsewhere to recall everything correctly. However, Rukia's breath increases another hitch as Miyako locks eyes with her.
"Rukia, if you ever get married, or want to keep a relationship strong in general… Don't repeat my mistake. Don't say things are fine when they're not because you know it will make your lover happy. Don't ask for the truth and wish to hear lies of how good everything is. Because it will rip the two of you apart faster than one of your pirouettes."
Feeling her mouth unintentionally drop, the dark haired woman across from her laughs gently, breaking some tension as Rukia tries to pull herself together.
"That's another story to tell you later." She says with another smile on her face as her hand swirls the mug that's still in it. But suddenly, all the seriousness returns.
"Kaien and I would play a game, say one thing to cover another, secrets and lies to spare feelings and truths that would ultimately make us realize that not all fairytales end happily. And, because I can see this now, I was not surprised he cheated on me then."
A small hesitance before continuing, Miyako presses on.
"I have had people, friends, and consolers ask me if I was mad that you where there at his time of dying, or if I felt like you caused it. I'm sure you've asked yourself these questions too… But the answer was always no. No matter how much I wanted to blame Kaien's death on you, I never could. I guess I learned that death will happen and we will never be able to choose the part of when it will or will not happen."
Miyako gently puts her mug down before crossing over the few feet to where Rukia sits. Immediately, Rukia's posture stiffens and breathing is forgotten altogether. She's not afraid of Miyako anymore, but as she sits next to her, all Rukia can see is the gentle smile playing on Miyako's lips.
"Rukia, I don't need to know your side of the story unless you want to share it. Whether that be now or never. Kaien and I would have fallen apart with or without your fate being twisted in ours and I see that after years of blaming myself and you. I had to learn that it's okay to feel. That it's okay to risk everything and loose it all again. And it's okay to forgive yourself for something that wasn't in your control."
Another soft smile graces Miyako's face before she softly whispers words that break Rukia's walls into pieces.
"I forgave you years ago Rukia, when will you forgive yourself?"
And suddenly, everything that had weighed her down was freed. Vanished and gone and not coming back. And just as suddenly, Rukia is crying. She knows this because she's breathing again, gasping for air as sobs shake her body and tears run down her face. The kind of sobbing she should have done after Kaien died. The kind she should have done when she found out he had a wife. The kind of sobbing she should have done when Ichigo walked away from her because her pride ruled her life more than her feelings and she lost him because of it.
Miyako's forgiveness and acceptance is overwhelmingly heartfelt even as the older woman gently rubs her back, and Rukia feels some sort of understanding between the two of them now. They both loved the same man who didn't love them the way they deserved. They both had been broken and Miyako was somehow able to rise from the ashes while Rukia lied around in them.
When finally Rukia doesn't think it's possible to cry anymore and her stomach hurts from all the sobbing, she sits up and dries the final tears off her face.
"Thank you, Miyako, I promise I will tell you my story. But, there is something I need to ask you for."
The woman before her smiles warmly. "I will wait for your story then for a different day. What can I help you with now?"
Inhaling a shaky, post crying breath, Rukia exhales her question.
"Do you have a map?"
Keigo and Mizuiro keep him distracted up until it was time for his celebration. Luckily for him, Mizuiro didn't ask too many serious questions and Keigo was so full of energy it felt like he couldn't contain himself and it took Ichigo a few rough punches to sober him up. However, after another length of time he would start back up with the uncontrollable energy.
The guys did what they tended to do in high school, and in a way, Ichigo almost felt like they were ditching class again, at the mall eating half assed noodles while Keigo would harshly criticize the women that walked by while Mizuiro would just gain phone numbers from them.
"Awh , come on! I'm a respectable, attractive, oh so charming guy! Why don't girls offer their phone numbers to me?!" Keigo whines as another so deemed 10 walks away, blushing as Mizuiro smiles at her before turning his attention to Keigo.
"Honestly? Because most girls have in intuition on whether a guy is a jerk or not. By, say, rating them on a one to ten scale on attractiveness?" Mizuiro says with an air of authority and knowledge.
"Oh now you're just being mean!" Keigo complains, looking to Ichigo for help. "Come on Ichigo! You know a ten like me can't settle for anything less than an eight right!? AmIright?!"
"Actually Keigo, you're about a four tops and you should probably take what you can get."
Another bout of protests follow after this and Mizuiro laughs. Ichigo can feel his own lips twitching upward into a small smile as his friend continues his antics.
Yes, today felt like just another day in high school. Where he was still on top of the world and didn't have heartbreak staring him in the face and whispering reminders of hurt to his heart.
Leaving the house with a map in hand, Hayate salutes to her as he tosses a tennis ball for the dog to fetch and Miyako walks her to her motorcycle.
"Until the next time, Rukia?" Miyako asks, opening her arms slightly.
"Of course." She responds, stepping into the brief hug, releasing to easily swing her leg over her bullet bike and strapping her helmet on. Revving the engine, Miyako laughs at her son's whoops of excitement. Rukia, however, speeds off to the quickest way home.
Making a mental checklist of everything she would need to do, Rukia thinks of it briefly as the street signs fly by without meaning.
That's as far as she goes until the first three are completed. It was already half past one and it felt like the day had just begun.
Like a new chapter had begun.
By the time Ichigo and his old buddies make it back to the house, the place is filled with streamers, balloons, food, and a cake that looks large enough to feed what had been his cousins wedding party.
As he rounds the corner with even more confusion, he is surprised to see a large group of people already there. Over half is made up his family, but the rest consists of friends. Renji slaps his back as they push through the slightly crowded Kurosaki house.
Catching a glimpse of Keigo and Mizuiro already finding their other, less close high school friends, Ichigo makes sure to say at least hello to everyone. Most people shout a "Congratulations!" Or "Congrats!" at him as they pass by them.
However, Ichigo does a bit of a double take as he sees that Zangetsu is tucked away alone in a corner, reading a book vacant of any title at all. That, apparently, isn't the teacher who had decided to show up, however.
"Ichigo!" Shouts a very rambunctious Rangiku, diverting his attention as the strawberry blonde drags Orihime after her.
"Hey, I didn't expect to see you two here." Ichigo says truthfully as he feels Ishida nudge him from the side, coming out of nowhere to remind him to have manners.
"Well, you invited us, why wouldn't we come?"
Deepening his scowl with confusion, Rangiku laughs.
"Either you or Rukia. Can't remember really!" And just like that Rangiku marches off elsewhere, towing Orihime behind her who waves gently at him.
Shrugging off their sudden appearance, Ichigo finds that he doesn't mind their intrusion. Not a difference to him as his Father suddenly appears, announcing for everyone to settle down.
"I know I'm not the most serious person alive, but I want to make a toast to my son."
Everyone scrambles for a glass of either cheap champagne or cider and holds the glasses at chin length before Isshin continues.
"I want to toast Ichigo, for getting his bachelor's degree on his way to be like his old man. And for making his family, his friends, and his mother proud. Congratulations, son."
A bit stunned by the seriousness of his father's speech and the respect of the people around him who parrot "Congratulations!" before taking a sip, Ichigo too drinks to his own toast.
And not so suddenly, Ichigo now knows how to respond.
"I too, would like to add something." He steps forward to take the spot light, an odd thing for him. Yes, he had played at Ishida's café, yet seeing all eyes on him without a distraction soon became unnerving. However, he continues his somewhat pre-thought out speech.
"I just want to thank everyone who's shown up. Your support means everything to me… But, I don't think I want to be a doctor." A small whisper scurries through the gathering and few gasps are let out before Ichigo hurriedly continues. "Correction, I don't think I want to be a doctor right now. I've been thinking for so long about where my heart lies, and it's placed in very important people…" He takes a pause to search for his sisters and nods at them. "However, it's also placed in a thing. I think I will be switching majors, so I can further my longing with writing and playing music."
A few of his family members wear sour expressions. Ishida looks shocked and Zangestu surprisingly wears a face that makes Ichigo feel like his mentor knew this would happen eventually.
Ichigo knows that a few of his family members, hell, maybe his dad even, will be disappointed as the room turns quiet. However, Ichigo knows that if he didn't switch his majors and chase something that meant so damn much to him, he could never forgive himself for it. So after years of thinking whether he'd be happy as a doctor or not, the past few months made him see that writing and singing was where he needed to be.
And when he makes eye contact with his father, he is surprised to see him smiling.
"That's my boy!" Isshin booms, causing the room to turn attention to the male Kurosaki's. "Finally taking a damn risk to what he should have been doing all along! To Ichigo!"
"To Ichigo!" The room parrots again, taking another sip as the supporting friends and family applaud, smile, and congratulations to his change of direction.
However, the smiles slowly fade and Ichigo is left with confusion. For some reason, the room is dead quiet. Finally turning around to see what caused it, Ichigo finds her just a few feet in front of him.
Rukia is here.
Today had been a walk on hot coals, on needles even. A trip that shattered every bone in her body and then left them half mended. However, to say that Rukia could only fix half of her broken picture would be a lie.
She needed the entire thing, or it would still just be shattered remains of what she could be.
So she checked off the first three items off her list and made a bee-line straight to the Kurosaki residence.
Slipping in through the door as a few other late comers join in the celebration, Rukia's adrenaline rush leads her straight to where Ichigo is standing, back towards her, to his little sisters and Renji.
However, the room goes silent and Rukia knows that she's the cause of it… and not in a good way.
When Ichigo finally turns to face her, his eyes looses the laughter that might have once been in them before she arrived.
And suddenly, nothing matters anymore. Because Ichigo is looking at her and she's staring back. For how long? Years. Years where a barrier has been placed between them and one of them has to break it.
Her heart is heavy. This could very well end horribly. She doesn't have the words to ask for anything of him, so all she does is reach out her hand and hope the words find a different means to get their intentions across.
After telling everyone that it was over, after knowing that he would never have any memories with her ever again, after trying to picture a life without her, she's here.
And that's all that truly matters.
His first instinct is to kiss her, but that is ridiculous. She left him… Then why is she here? His pulse is racing and everyone is too quiet, letting everything go numb.
As he keeps his eyes locked to hers, he notices something… Something he wished he would have noticed a while ago. The night he sang, the song that he wrote for her, her eyes held the same look it did now. Something about the darkness of the café must have made him blind, because the pain in Rukia's eyes is the exact same kind he saw in his. The weeks alone made his reflection look less angry and more sorrow filled.
Pain, sadness, and regret. So she too went through it all… Maybe worse.
And just as Ichigo wants to open his mouth to say something, Rukia keeps her eye contact with him and reaches into her pocket. Slowly unfolding her fingers so her hand lays flat, Ichigo dares to look at what she holds.
A ring, pretty simple, lies in her palm. Two thin gold bands lie on either side of a thicker black one.
He knows. He knows what she means. He also knows that he could destroy her the way she destroyed him. To crush her hopes and dreams and feelings that she so very much ignored until she already lost him. To give her another round and taste of hell of having the very thing you want take its self away from you.
So really, there's only one thing to do.
As his eyes flick down to her hand, and back to her eyes, Rukia swallows hard. Keeping her gaze with him, she has no idea what will happen. If he rejects her, than she deserves it. She knows it will be the hardest thing she will go through in life yet. She'll deserve it and find a way to subsitute what Ichigo was to her... But somehow, the answer won't be final until Ichigo finally does something. Anything.
And, he does. Slipping his hands around the collar of his shirt, he starts pulling out a long chain from under his shirt. Grasping the end of it, he holds it out to her.
Rukia's eyes keep to his until she finally glances down at what lies in his hand. In between his thumb and pointer finger lies a silver band with a white diamond and two smaller ice blue ones on either side of it.
When she makes eye contact with him again, tears are already in her eyes, and Ichigo crosses the three foot difference to drop the ring in his grip and place his hands on either side of Rukia's face.
His lips meet hers and nothing else matters. The feeling of his heart bursting as Rukia wraps her arms around his waist, responding to his kiss as a small sob escapes her, is the only thing in the world that matters. A few tears run down her face, but its okay, because he has won. They have won. No more games, no more foolishness, no more trying to deny and cover up feelings that where so pure and beautiful. And everything that was once broke and shattered is suddenly fixed.
And suddenly, the sound turns back on and he can hear Rangiku shout "YEAY!" before the rest of the guest cheer as well.
The roar is deafening, but all that matters to him is the girl in his arms that would always stay and belong there.
So, as in the words of emperor Kuzko, "It's my birthday gift to me! I'm so happy!" Okay, so, my birthday was technically ten minutes ago (it's technically 12:09ish while I update this) so… yeah.
And besides, didn't you guys know that March is the new August?! Pish-yeah!
Also, thanks for all the reviews and PM's that told me to get back and write more. They helped. I promise.
Anyway, next chapter is technically the LAST! 8( Besides a bit of a bonus chapter that I don't think really counts. Either way…
falconrukichi: Haha, I'm glad someone missed me! :) And I'm glad some of you can wait for me as long as you do! I don't know how you'd like it to end so it's accomplished, but hopefully it happens for you anyway!
Hyouton Inuki: It happens more often now that someone will start Games more recently and not miss me, so yeah, it's totally okay. :) However, welcome to what I think has become a cult. ;)
.Squirrel: Wow! Glad that you like the story enough to read it 1) in three days and 2) to say that it's the best fic you've read, really makes me smile. :)
Hikaru: I'm totally not a romance type person either. However, I do tend to enjoy stories more when Ichigo and Rukia are the couple. ;) And pray tell, what does "faito" mean?
Shaybo27: An update! Happy again?
IchirukiLullaby: You are very sweet! I'm glad that you where roped into what I think has become a cult... Or at least something addictive. I'm glad you've enjoyed the story thus far and thanks for reviewing!
Black Sun Upon An Icy Sky:... Maybe I should learn more German... I'm better with French though! Not spelling... Just speaking. Me = no talent. :(
cake or death: I did come back! ... And then died... and now I'm back again! It's like a zombie thing I think...
Shikata-ga-nai3012: You where lead to believe correctly, this story had a big bang effect from that one, mishap of finding a random quote. And of course I would never give up on this story! I think I'm prolonging it so I won't have to say good bye. ;) I honestly didn't mean for Zangetsu to have such a big effect when I was writing chapter outlines, but as they went on, I knew both their mentors would teach them more than just song and dance. And I'm glad to get reviews like yours! Thought out and long. :) I hope to see your review next chapter! It would be a glorious sight to see!
Phantomm: I have honestly read so many books and fics alike where characters suddenly develop a relationship with someone too fast and too lovey dovey. Where is the realisim in that? So, maybe why Games' romance is slower paced is because I was sick of those scenarios. However, I find more people (like you!) appreciate my pacing rather than critize it. (So, thank you very much for that!) And of course men and women each have to have their own way of expressing themselves, and thus, Zangetsu and Shiryuki where created to teach them how. ;)
Spellbound Daydreamer: Hahaha! I will forgive you for being a previous IchiHime shipper... Mostly because I know a few people who started that way and converted to IchiRuki anyway. Point is, you're on the good side now. :) Yes, I know of Kingdom hearts, and I'm honored that my fic is the first you've read for Bleach, I hope it doesn't let you down. And yes, I know, the first three chapters are very... boring-ish? And yes, Mediocre, but I am such with many things and writing is one of them. However, I do have moments where my writing isn't too bad, neh? ;) Anyway, please know that I don't "skip" reviews or misplace them. I respond to all long and short! And I'm happy to have your detailed review! Thank you!
curio cherry: I think I made Rukia's pain worse because of a few things: besides the guilt with Kaien, she also faced a hidden guilt with Ichigo and realized it slowly. (or so I hoped to make it seem...) So, she inflicted her own pain and thus, it should be worse because of that. And I missed you too! Haha! :)
cloudy eve: Shirayuki and Byakuya where always Rukia's biggest supporters... Maybe she just didn't realize it. ;) And my oppion has changed for the better for Hunger Games, so I hope you enjoyed it!
Mari Kia Aishiteru: I love getting updates that make you smile like that! Always a good feeling! (although fanfiction hasn't been emailing me when a story updates NOR my reviews. :( Sad day!)
kaiserkawaii: I know! And it's probably ages again since I've updated. :( But, better late than never, neh?
Amulet Misty: Thanks for the condolences. Somedays are harder than others, but, ces't la vive! And Ichigo's song to Rukia was one of the things I was most excited to write! I was very glad it was so well liked by everyone :)
chellythemadhatter: Haha! Yes, I do tend to update at random times! Hahaha! And I would not delete this story... A few of my never to finish stories? Yeah. This one? NEVER. I think I'm too attached to ever delete it!
noicestar: A download festival? So, live bands and such? Do explain! And yes, Byakuya has always been there for Rukia... Just not in the ways she needed or how he knew he needed to take care of her. Sometimes, that's all people can do for each other.
xxxevil cookiexxx: Haha! I'm glad you're enjoying it! Hopefully this newest chapter doesn't disappoint!
Wawa: Yes, we are winding down... And it's sad for me! (I don't know about reviewers! They might be glad the end is in sight ;) And I'm not cheating! I just don't know if I'd have the steam to respond to everyone's review via singular email. Not cheating... More like laziness. ;)
LittleRuu: Wow, you're wonderful! You're one of the few who has the intuition to know that something had to die (the bet) so something else could be born. (...Feelings?) I also agree Rukia deserves to be having a harder time. Self inflicted pain should be more hurtful. Hahaha! And cliffhanger me? I'm sorry! It happens. :( A lot of people have voiced that they hope the chat with Miyako is not long! Uh oh! It was! However, I NEVER read authors notes, yet write quite the speech. Drat! And thanks for liking Byakuya in that chapter, him, Isshin, and Rangiku are hardest for me most of the time!
shnizlefritz: I'm compared to a movie? What a compliment! Thank you :) I'm glad this flowed smoothly... Like a montage, for you :)
Kaileychicago: Thank you for listening to the song with the story! When I write those scenes with Ichigo playing, I listen to the songs until the scene is done, so obviously, the feel is there and they're important! :) I like Gin with Rangiku... I like him better with Rukia. I know, I'm a sadist or something. ;)
DeeDubb: I UPDATED! I know, I'm bad. :( And yes, Rukia probably had to kill herself a bit to rise from the ashes. I always lived by the motto that in life, you build, break, and build again. I think I applied this to Rukia. And actuall review or not, it's still very much appreciated :)
JustGrace-Lunacat13: Hanataro is actually very important, and it shall be revealed later as to why. However, I do agree that my style has changed, but most likely from rusty writing. Forgive me?
TingBlingKing: Haha! Papa Roach? No forgiveness! Ah, you reviewed, so you get a bit of it. ;) And I know! I figured a lot of people had to re-read... But, hopefully that's not too bad! And I'm glad I was your introduction to Ichigo and Rukia! That's a scary thing in a way! However, let's see if I can keep that favorite IchiRuki story of 2012 ;)
Chubaca Jones: SO GLAD YOU LISTENED TO THE SONG! I was so excited to write that chapter and I only listened to that song writing the scene, so, it's important, neh? ;) And yes, just like the show/manga, Byakuya is always the good guy with not knowing how to be. :)
KurukiXV: Hopefully your patience with me didn't run short! I know it was a long wait for an update! Hopefully, it was worth it!
quiettreaper: It's okay! I'm glad you updated! If you couldn't be here for the ride, at least I get to see you at the end if that makes sense? :)
orange zebra: I hate boredom! And it tends to a constant companion. :/ However, I don't think Rukia needed to be confronted more than she already was. Guilt was previlant as is! ;) Thanks for your review!
hunterofcomedy: Polls are just fun for me. They usually answer questions I have mulling about in my head and I love seeing the answers for them. :) However, I'm glad I'm not too predicitble and if you can't tell what will happen in future chapters. :)
wynnsy: Haha! Thank you very much! I thought having chapter titles with actual game/sport relations would be a fun idea. However, one chapter doesn't match in the drop box, but, I left it anyway. :) Loved the AMV by the way! Didn't see this before I wrote it though! I promise I wasn't copying! Oh my gravy, can I just say that I HATE when authors do that! "Oh no I'm pregnant, you're dying, and everything is left UNSOLVED." Grr! I call those cheap endings. And Kenpachi is one of my favorite people to write with... I think. :) Thanks for such a lovely review!
Rukiakuchiki9: Many thought Rukia would win! I'm glad you had some faith in Ichigo! :)
abiecula: I loved writing that scene! I was so excited to do so! It was planned from the beginning of writing the outline of Games. :) And I haven't been keeping up with the manga! I so should though! Maybe you've inspired me to go catch up! :)
1290r5: A million babies with Ichigo? Well, Isshin would be overjoyed to say the least. ;) And I hope people are okay with the dark Angst of the last few chapters. We went from mostly super funny to some tragedy. :( Sad day!
Crazy Otaku Fangirl: Haha! Many where surprised for the update! I just lie about them apparently. :( And you already knew the song! That's a good thing, because I find it to be so so beautiful. :)
Mokimoki-chan: Haha! The kokoro? Do I need to know what that is? o.O Anyway, everything good comes to an end... But that just makes some space for something more wonderful to take it's place hopefully! :)
jenaca: I UPDATED! Glorious, neh? ;)
OnepieceX3: You are so sweet! You'd wait till October? Well, that's actually not too far away, but I updated! So, that's all that counts, neh? :)? And thank you for a nice review. :)
bubbles171: Rubber ducks, eh? Maybe I should work that into a chapter or somethings. ;) Anyway, I took French for three years... I use bits and pieces when I'm with friends (like a code of sorts) but I'm not fluent... Wish I could be though! What is "Please update?!" in french?
ocdanime: Loosing someone is hard, but loosing someone while they are still alive is even worse. Thanks for your condolences and your support of Games. :)
CrossroadsofLife: Haha! They've only been apart for two or three chapters? We need them back together that fast eh? ... Well, it is cannon, so, I guess you're right. ;)
calliecature: Hanataro in the anime seemed to be a very crucial part of Rukia expressing her feelings, even if it be just to a cleaning boy of squad 4. However, he also made her realize some feelings and that was his job once more in my story. What can I say, I love the sweet, shy guy that is the good friend Rukia needs. :) And can I just say, you telling me that "this chapter passed my expectations as 'just a Rukia POV post-break up'" is one of the best compliments I think I could have gotten? Thank you, very very much. :)
Guest: What to do when the story is over? You find a new story to stalk of course! ;) I also wished Shirayuki and Zangetsu could be in here more often as well, however, I also know that they are not the main focus. However, they have a bit of a spotlight in the next chapter. :)
CSMbleached: Hanataro is always sweet and always should be! In manga, anime, and even fan fics. He's one of my favorites in a very subtle way. :)
huffyPoohBear: Of course Rukia had to face Kaiens wife! She couldn't move on to a future with her past still troubling her! And I too missed her from the manga. :(
icyangel27: Haha! Ichigo walking around broken heartedly and Rukia stumbling upon him? I never even thought of that possibility! However, I hope the way I wrote their reuniting was satisfactory to you!
NaomiTheClone: I didn't update quickly, but I hope you forgive me!
xmytrinhx: I'm glad you think it gets better each time! I usually see chapters I love and those I could have done better on. But, that's life, neh?
RukiaDeathberry: Haha! Your friend is glorious! Give him/her a high five, or a cake. Which ever they'd prefer. And I tend to see Byakuya as a caring brother, just so lost and unsure on how to express it. (like... I dunno... in the manga/anime! Haha!) And I could twist the fic however I wanted... But, I'm not that cruel. ;)
Zankuro-sama: Hahahahaha! Cliffhangers are wretched! I know people who won't read a story until it's finished because of them! Sorry you where left hanging! But, There's more, so enjoy! :)
Darkkiss15: Glad you enjoyed Ichigo's song! And your guess to the ending is very similar! Just, no rain in this chapter. :)
ricejames: Yes, you should work on your fics. And yes, Rukia got a bit more lemon in her life from the heartbreak. Self inflicted pain always hurts the most, neh? And I tend to never read authors notes... Because I'm a delinquent. And you already knew? Che! Doubt it!
broken-hearted heart-breaker: I'm glad you've enjoyed everything! And I'm also glad you trust me not to screw the ending up! Hahaha! ;) (Honestly, I'm still hoping I don't screw the story up! o.O)
fokker333: I don't tend to see Byakuay as being cruel... More like a brother who doesn't know how to express his good intentions and thus covers them up for something grander. Three days for all those chapters? You, good sir, get a cookie. What the address, I'll mail it.
erdene: Wait, you're imploring for an update with Renji's naked body in your hands? I updated... I expect a naked Renji at my doorstep. ;) Other than that, sorry for interupting your sleep! :(
TheFalconMoon: Of course Rukia is hurting! She screwed herself over! ;)
Nanashi113: Thank you! I hope you enjoyed this most recent chapter!
Hardthingstosay: I'm not too great at English either... and it's my main language! So, I'll forgive you if you do the same for me. :) Thanks for your review though!
ichiruki: I think this story is like a drug... Many people tell me they are addicted! We might need a Games rehab, neh? ;)
morebleachedfruit: I updated! Don't spear me with all those demands of updates! ;)
anonymous: A new chapter! Glad to know what happends? :)
evenstar lady: Your review was so so sweet! Thank you! :) I tend to get annoyed with fics that have the character too much out of their usual selves... I just am glad many think I keep them within their boundaries... Well, except for Isshin... But does he have any boundaries?
thyme spirit: Not a high school setting! Ichigo and Rukia are in a University! However, you where very kind in your review! And I'm glad you're enjoying it so much! I hope this chapter didn't disappoint you!
jessica: *applause* Already caught up?! Congrats! And welcome I suppose. :)
Guest: You cried?! I actually love fics that make me cry. I usually take it as the author being victorious!
Milly567: An update! Hopefully you still love it!
ZANGETSU30: I usually hate romances... But being able to write them is a good thing, eh? :)
santaclaus: I could no sooner abandon this story than I could my left leg. I love both very much! ;)
adamxero: Wow, Rukia to justice? Well... I guess she did have something similar to that! Haha!
Ninjaofthenight: I updated! Don't cry! I'm sure that's what the past two chapters where for! Hopefully this chapter can act like a tissue!
Guest: Wow... Have you stayed up waiting for an update? I think that can kill you! ;) And TURN OFF THE CAPS! ;)
MarcusRigante: This story tends to cause a lot of people who read straight through insomnia... I will buy you all coffee! ;)
blooded wyngs: So WOW. You reviewed to so many of my chapters! Thank you for each one! They make my heart happy. :) And you're right... Rukia's been getting more beat up than Ichigo... Maybe it's karma for hitting him and such so often. ;) I'm very happy so many people enjoyed the song! It was one of the parts I was excited to write because I wanted it to make an impact. :) And again, thank you so much for ALL your reviews! That's rare and glorious of someone to do! THANK YOU!
purplepam: Tell you what happens in five years? Isn't that what imagination is for? ;) I tend to write long authors notes... and I'm horrible because I rarely read them. :(
Cisusi: Haha! Your guess to the ending was very close to correct! :) And I'm glad you can appreciate watching people fall in love in a fic! I always hoped I pulled it off! ;)
thegurlwhowrites7865: 2 days of all 34 chapters? *slow clap* Impressive! Haha! ;) I also smiled to know you read the author's notes... Even if you didn't have say in them! However, I'm just a gabber... even over the internet apparently! And thank you for the review! It made me smile. :)
SereneButterfly23: Haha! I didn't let it rot! And your review was funny! "Don't just leave the story there to rot!" Hahahaha! You're wonderful! :)
Tara Jake: I updated! I promise I wouldn't leave! As in the words of Aladdin, "Do you trust me?" ;)
Good boy-chan: If I was in a wormhole, I would be having all sorts of fun! But, unfortunately, this is real life and I'm just having all sorts of stress. ;) And I agree! IchiRuki or nothin'! Kubo should so make it a thing! And I updated! For you and every review around you! :)
fire tribe grl: I updated! Don't die! Haha!
Mjgmjgmjg: Hey! I got to it! OKAY?! Just kidding, but I truly did update! *see above story*
Review and subscribe please! (For my late birthday? :)?
NEXT CHAPTER due When I feel like it. Just kidding. Let's aim for... Sometime in October. That's better.
Review for broken hearts that mend!
Whose point of view would you like to read from in "Games"? (This has already been predetermined as to whether or not this will happen, just a heads up)