Decoy: Chapter 14

I don't own Bleach, Tite Kubo does.

The color black stood out, the boy pondered.

Even as he closed his eyes all he saw was darkness. The boy held the girl's hand with a firm grasp, as if to feel planted—as if to convince himself this moment was truly happening.

He took a deep breath while listening to the speaker's words. 'Who was this man?' the boy thought.

Overhead the sunlight's rays beamed. Consequently, he reminisced of the rain clouds and showers that passed a few weeks ago. The boy held to her hand tighter—black was the color of the sky when his mother died.

"I want to go." He tugged the girl's hand, leading them away from the crowd. They made it toward the outer perimeters of the property where there had been less people to listen to their conversation.

The girl's expression remained composed, though her eyes had been tinged red. "Is it hard for you to breathe?" She didn't let go of his hand. "Or is it because you feel that you need to cr—"

"No." He answered while staring at the ground.

Instantly a surge of warmth overlapped his body as she leaned against his embrace. Her face buried within the small crevice of his neck. Still their hands intertwined. "Because if you really want to…you can."

He gulped hard, immediately feeling the dry lump behind his throat. He'd ignore the sensation earlier—but now, but now as the boy closed his eyes he'd choked back and heaved, his restless breathing becoming more noticeable against her eyes.

Tears fell.

Tears that he didn't realize still remained present regardless of all the times he'd cry by himself, of all the nights he'd cried himself to sleep. This instance felt different. Of course he knew that this person wouldn't give him a pitying gaze or false hopes. Maybe that's why it'd been so easy to cry, so easy to share his innermost feelings with his girl.

He didn't know what love felt like for a person apart from his family members. So he wondered now, if this in fact was what one feels when loving another?

A small smile surfaced from his lips, "Thank you." The boy whispered in between sobs.

The girl didn't respond. Instead she continued to lean against him, her free hand lightly grasping his shoulder.

"Well, this is a surprise." Isshin said as he walked downstairs, "I didn't expect for you to come home."

"Why can't I?" Ichigo's toned matched his father's, which in this case had been a serious one. "I don't know…" A pause, "I just felt like talking to mom."

The two made their way to the living room where Masaki's private mantle was located. It was spotless with vases of beautiful, lush flowers beside the picture frame. Ichigo bowed in respect before sitting beside his mother. The scent of incense filled the room as he closed his eyes and clasped his hands together—reciting a short prayer in a whisper.

When Ichigo opened his eyes short after he immediately felt a warm shroud, which he knew was his mother's presence surrounding him. A faint smile appeared from his serious expression. He took a sharp breath in, only to exhale into a fit of laughter.

"Hi mom."

Ichigo reached his hand forward, as he had done so in the past whenever he and Masaki walked together. No matter what sort of grief he felt as a child, whenever they held hands its as if the negative feelings were automatically lifted from his body. He missed his childhood, but more importantly, he missed her.

"Med School is going well. I can't complain." His hazel eyes matched those of his mother's, though in this instance they appeared hazy. "But that's not the reason why I came here."

Isshin stood behind him.

"Mom, I had a dream recently. Though I cant remember it now, all I can picture is my younger self wearing a black kimono." A click from a lighter and cigarette smoke, it definitely overpowered Ichigo's senses. "Do you have to do that right now?"

His eyes didn't meet his father's. "Only because I'm beside Masaki." Another drag, another cloud of smoke. "I told you this is the very first image of me she fell in love with."

Ichigo's response ceased as Isshin's free hand lightly tapped the back of his head, "It's not healthy to reminisce about your mother's funeral Ichigo. Besides, wasn't it your decision to only remember the happier times?" He flinched inwardly, "Or is it because you forced yourself not remember anything at all?"

Isshin sighed loudly. "Whatever the case may be, I'll tell you now you'll be surprised if you continue to pry something unwanted. I wonder if you'll come to learn and accept it as well?" The last sentence left his lips in a whisper, though there was no doubt that his son had heard it.

"Stop talking nonsense old man." Ichigo stood up and looked directly at his father. He'd hope for a snarky remark, but there was none.

Only another question. "Tell me Ichigo, Ryuken recently told me that his son is back from America. Is that true?"

"Yeah, so?"

"Do you remember Uryuu before your Middle School years?" Isshin's dark-brown eyes flickered with curiosity. Another pause, "Well?"

"Like I already said, stop talking nonsense old man." Ichigo motioned to move pass his father, pass that curious stare that gradually made the pit of his stomach uneasy.

"And like I said, will you come to learn and accept it?"

He wasn't used to this.

He wasn't used to Isshin talking to him in this manner. Ichigo had wanted to move, but found himself unable due to his father's unrelenting gaze. Whenever they bickered, whenever they argued—it had been too easy to spit out a comeback. But now?

Isshin's lips formed a straight line, "Where's Rukia?"

The atmosphere didn't feel the same, Rukia knew, which is why she endured the awkwardness of not meeting his stare.

She reminisced of the time when they both stood beside one another inside the vast greenery that was New York's ever famous: Central Park. The mood back then had been light, simple, so much so that the conversations among them seemed to continue with ease.

Sure, years had passed. But friendships were supposed to endure time, because that's what it meant to be friends and that's just how it was. Rukia clenched her hands tightly, while watching the glass of lemonade with ice cubes melt slowly due to the warm weather. Why did she choose to sit outside? It was too warm for all of this, she concluded.

"So the point of meeting was to talk right?" Uryuu's voice was calm, indifferent, which mimicked his character perfectly. "I understand if you didn't want to speak to me initially, but at least look at me Rukia."

She felt her heartbeat, her loud heartbeat, thump inside of her chest. It wasn't the type to make one feel breathless or sweat profusely, but the type to feel the person who caused the sensation to be painfully present. She hadn't felt that sensation in a while.

"Don't talk to me like I'm a child," was all she managed to speak out loud.

"Heh." Uryuu grinned, "At least I got something out of you."

He sat across from her, knowing the physical distance would help in weakening the intangible walls that separated them. Rukia, he knew, needed to be persuaded. Not forcefully, but at her own will, at her own pace—at their own pace.

"Do you want to know why I picked this place to have our first meeting?" Uryuu reached for his iced tea and sipped. He took the silence as a means to continue, "Just look at the desserts."

Rukia flinched as his hands inched closer. Uryuu pushed the laminated menu and pointed towards something specifically. She blinked once, then twice, before reverting to her normal tone. "Is that Chappy?"

Before she could even ponder to think, her hands had unclenched and reached for the menu quickly, touching Uryuu's hands in the process. She didn't mind. Actually, she didn't even notice.

"I wasn't even paying attention." Rukia said in awe.

"I didn't think you would have, but it helps a little…doesn't it?"

"What do you mean?" Her eyes looked directly against his.

That effortless action gave him the opportunity to finally look into those purple depths. Instinctively Uryuu adjusted his frames, his large hands covering his face longer than usual.

He felt hot, and it wasn't due to the summer weather either.

"It doesn't compare to the Mom and Pop bakeries I used to take you to in New York, but…" Uryuu removed his hand away, feeling the flush of his cheeks lessen. "I figure we can start a new tradition, seeing is that we're both in Tokyo now."

Rukia fell silent.

She turned away, pretending to read the menu. "What am I supposed to say?" She couldn't take the silence, especially just after Uryuu's bold statement.

"I don't expect anything Rukia. You of all people should know that." He felt it, the unrelenting wall that divided them both.

And, he didn't like it.

"Am I supposed to just agree like nothing happened?" Really though, what was she trying to read? Her eyes just couldn't seem to focus. "We haven't seen each other in years."

"Does that matter to you?" He questioned honestly. At the same time removing the menu from her grasp, which forced her to look directly upon those dark-blues. "I mean we're friends."

"Is that supposed to be enough?" Rukia matched his stare. Her hands unmoving and conveniently reaching across the table for a reason she'd already forgotten. "Uryuu, if we're friends then why did we stop talking in the first place?"

"Because I didn't have a choice." Quickly he reached for her free hand, already knowing what her immediate reaction would be. Rukia flinched, her brows furrowed as she gritted her teeth while Uryuu held her still. She wanted to run away, she wanted to yell out loud like before, but they were both in a public setting this time and she just couldn't bring herself to become the center of attention.

He knew this as well.

"I didn't have a choice Rukia." He repeated, as if saying the statement for himself to hear.

"Bullshit." She cursed between her teeth.

At that moment Rukia fell back a bit as Uryuu surrendered his hold. His eyes hidden under his bangs, "Think what you want." He said it in a low whisper only for her to hear.

She reached for her wallet and dropped a bill that exceeded both of their orders. Without a word, she passed Uryuu. This time he didn't choose to stop her.

"Damn it." He stared at the space she'd previously occupied. "That could've gone more smoothly."

Uryuu reached for his phone. He wanted to text her an apology. Rather, he really wanted to come after her and say the apology out loud. But he also knew that the timing wasn't right.

Besides, Rukia was probably making her way to see Kurosaki right now. The feeling of loosing control stayed within him, and all he could do was ignore it.

Ignore it, like he had done those years they were separated.

"Damn it." He said it again.

Uryuu reached for the paper bill and tucked it inside the pocket of his jeans. He motioned for the waitress and paid with a credit card before making his way towards Tokyo U.'s Medical Building.

It wasn't until Rukia reached for her phone that she ultimately felt a wave of relief. She'd miss a call from Ichigo, which registered as Strawberry-kun under her contact list. Consequently, she also had a contact picture of him that she took when they had vacationed with his family. The picture of his candid face brought a smile to her lips.

If not anything, she really wanted to hear his voice and touch his skin just to solidify that fact that he was there. But her hands didn't stop shaking, and her throat felt so dry that if she talked to Ichigo right now he might just end up worrying about her. And she didn't want that.

A text, she figured, would suffice for now.

She mentioned that he should come over her place tonight, and to bring something sweet because she was already on her way to buy dinner and drinks.

She mentioned that she was really craving Thai dishes, and that's what she was going to order.

She mentioned that it was nice he made time to visit his family, especially because he'd been so busy with the upcoming semester.

She mentioned all of these in multiple messages, because there were so many things racing through her mind. She continually thought about what happened with Uryuu, and how she ran away like a coward. Really, she mentioned all of these because she wanted to forget about it already.

Rukia took a deep breath.

She read the message, which stated that Ichigo would be at her place in about an hour or two. Her heartbeat calmed, her breathing slowed as she closed the message window. Her thoughts occupied elsewhere, like what the name of that new Thai restaurant that recently opened next to the University?

And that she should probably order something not too spicy because Ichigo can't handle too much spice. The thought made her giggle. Rukia continued to walk in a moderate pace towards the direction of a local liquor store.

Ichigo couldn't shake the thought of Isshin's expression right before he motioned to leave. His father asked him a question, "Where's Rukia?"

It didn't bother him.

If anything the question caught him off guard. Only because he really did make an attempt to accompany Rukia with him. She responded half-heartedly about the whole situation, and mentioned something about already having plans. At that point he figured letting it go would be best. Truthfully, he wanted to formally introduce his mother to Rukia—in the same sense if she were alive today.

The smile that formed from his lips didn't feel comfortable.

Ichigo leaned against the bus window with his eyes half open. He could fall asleep now, which is what he needed in order to numb the feelings that sat heavy against his chest. But Rukia texted him recently requesting for him to come over for dinner, and since he needed to pick up something sweet he figured making a quick stop to the bakery would be best.

Ichigo exited the bus in a slow pace. The sun was beginning to set behind the busy intersection, as college students and professors walked idly by without a care. And still all he could think about was Isshin's expression. He sighed heavily while brushing the nonexistent hair that blocked his vision.

"Watch it." Came a sharp response.

Ichigo's eyes focused towards the person before him, and immediately felt the rush of blood pulsate hotly under his skin.

It was Uryuu Ishida, just as his memory served him.

Uryuu and his sarcastic tone. Uryuu and his lucid and indifferent gaze—this instance wasn't any different.

"My bad." He didn't want to seem affected, because this time they didn't confront each other inside of their advance placement (AP) Biology classroom. This time professors had replaced their teachers, and these professors wouldn't hold them back whenever their arguments escalated. Ichigo waited for Uryuu to move pass him, his eyes focused and unblinking.

"Not even a simple hello, huh?" Uryuu stepped forward, "You've heard from Renji, from Orihime, from Chad? I'm assuming."

"That you're back from the States." Ichigo couldn't help match the ridicule of his tone, unintentionally that is. "Forgive me if I didn't respond more enthusiastically."

"I don't really care."

"So why ask?"

Another pause, "What I am curious about is—" Uryuu pointed to the bakery parallel to where they stood, "I don't remember you ever having a sweet tooth. Much less choosing such a childish place like this."

Childish? It took a couple of seconds for the statement to register in Ichigo's head. His expression fell as his gaze landed to the Chappy the Bunny mascot. The bakery was promoting something or other about the recent season that just aired, and were giving samples with any purchase.

"It's not out of my own free will." Ichigo sighed, quickly feeling conscious of his heartbeat. "I would've preferred something simpler, especially because you'd just eat it anyway."

"Especially because it's Rukia's favorite?" Uryuu scoffed. He laughed a bit before the indifference returned within those dark-blues. "Wasn't that what you really wanted to say?"

Ichigo couldn't counter fast enough.

"Wasn't it?" Uryuu's tone bothered the hell out of him.

So much so that he had to intentionally hold his instinct back of grabbing the perfectly ironed collar of Uryuu's button-down, and pushing him back against the brick walls. Instead Ichigo tucked his hands inside the pocket of his jeans and walked forward.

"Aren't you curious about how I know?" Each words coated his ears annoyingly, he couldn't stand it.

"How?" Ichigo answered with a grimace.

"Hmm." A smirk, "I guess you can say Orihime mentioned it. But if you want my suggestion, I'd buy something without Chappy's face."

The statement caught Ichigo off guard. "What are you talking about?"

Dark-blue met Hazel, "I don't think Rukia would have the heart to cut Chappy's face in half. It's like ruining a perfectly drawn picture." Uryuu walked forward as well, standing beside Ichigo. The next few words left his lips in a whisper, "Just get something small like a cupcake. She prefers to treasure those types of things and savor it slowly, am I right?"

Ichigo was speechless. And certainly not because Uryuu's statement had been undoubtedly correct, or because the way his lips had curved into a slight smile knowing that he had, in fact, been correct—but because Ichigo wholeheartedly expected for Uryuu to tell him these things in a sarcastic manner.

But right now, he didn't. And as Uryuu walked away Ichigo could only stand there in silence.

A/N: I say bring on the more and more ANGST! Muhaha! : ) Hope you guys like the update. And I know that its not typical to pair Rukia and Uryuu, but I just can't help it LOL!