(A/N): Sorry that it has been so long. Life circumstances got in the way of my writing. When you have a 94 year old house, some things are unpleasant surprises and since I do a great deal of my own home repair, I got caught up. Really, really, thousands of dollars caught up. I am still working on it. Yikes!

But, I did not give up on the BMT. I couldn't if I tried. This story and you have my total affection.

I have 95% of the next chapter written and am five pages into 41. Chapter 40 has some clean up and fine tuning to be done. It should be out around the third week of February and it is 40 pages. I wanted to write a good piece of them together to keep some continuity and to have a schema to lead into the next story. Further, I wanted to be able to give you another chapter really soon rather than six months from now. I hate leaving you with long gaps. It makes me feel terrible because you guys are so faithful in reading.

I got some scathing PMs and reviews. It used to bother me but, now…meh. I am not Kubo-san and if I were, Bleach would be a totally different story. I will neither match cannon because I cannot be in Kubo-san's mind nor do I want to. I use it as a basis to create my own. This has more depth than cannon on purpose. So, yes, I know that it is OOC and I am totally good with that. If I kept it IC, the motivations would be flat, no one would mature and progress and…it would be Kubo-san's story.

No matter how stupid some people say I am, I do find it funny that they would spend that kind of time telling me so.

For all those that write a book to tell me I suck, please keep this in mind: when you do things like that, it tells me that I am getting the desired result. Otherwise, you would be too indifferent to get so worked up. So, thanks!

Thank you to those that flamed back. LOL! You saved me some dirty work.

If my writing isn't for you, that is okay. No hard feelings. Well, some hard feelings (lol), but I understand.

The title of this chapter has many meanings. Not only does the installment start out at the beginning of the day, but new realizations come to life.

If you hate sap or fluff, I am sorry. But the next two chapters are a little strong so I wanted to give you one more of reprieve.

Rukia and Ichigo are becoming more comfortable with the physical aspect of their relationship and are more open in the emotional realm. They are developing the 360 degrees of a long term relationship. It is playful, sexy and sweet. They know that the specter of danger and separation is ever present, but they do their best to ignore it.

Inoue and Renji…well, even they know that there is a reality that they can't avoid. They are just holding on and needing proof that what they want is really over. On the other hand, I think you can see what is coming in the next story. There will be more foreshadowing in the next few chapters.

Byakuya and Isshin are planners, as usual. They are a good team.

Thank you for the reviews and well wishes. I really, really appreciate them. Thank you to: Darklover, Brialees, schoolgurl95, Kiwifan7, Kireina-Ame, okami11235, linkthewarrior, Bmast, FY, Mr. J, AyumiKanariya, injustice-for-all, KageandYuki, NecroGenesis, , Sorrynearrant, NeoMoonPrincess, March Moon, Cindy, rivera, Rukia's Reflection, nothingspecial33, novicestar, pikachuquemon13, Dylan O'brien, HmmmLOVE, ZeroRose90, necro-wulf, The Ribbon Fighter, Camille loves chocolate, MugetsuIchigo, zgavreel, NieveDrop, ijustloveichiruki, Zana205, Hime the stars shine bright, skstudio and all the guest reviews.

I got back to people this time. Yay!

Okay, I've held you up long enough here is 38 pages before the A/N to make up for my tardiness.

I own neither Bleach nor its characters.

Chapter 39-Awakenings

Ichigo opens his eyes with an extremely groggy mind. He slept so hard, he can't believe it. He doesn't remember when he dozed off. Rukia was rubbing his back, running her fingers through his hair and whispering how much she loved him in his ear. His last recollection was of smiling and purring into her chest due to his emotional bliss.

He had intended to take one more inhale of her scent and turn so that he could face the door. Though he can't recall, he's pretty sure that it didn't happen.

The way he trusts her, blows his mind; really, it does.

When he takes in a breath, he feels cooled air. No extra heat radiating with the fragrance he has grown addicted to. When he flexes his hands, there is no soft body to hold on to; he is alone. Or, at least, he thinks he is until he allows his vision to descend upon the foot of the bed.

There, he finds the shape of a small woman sitting, facing the windows. He has not seen her move an inch in the last three minutes.

Based on her rigidly erect posture, the fact that her arms are to her front, and knowing her the way he does, he assumes that her hands are folded.

When his eyes rise to the outside, he doesn't see anything out of the ordinary. Since the windows of this room allow them to see out and no one to see in, fabric does not disrupt his line of sight.

It is an overcast day and the stone of the mountain side is in full contrast to the snow but the peaks are shrouded in clouds. People aren't even out moving around as of yet.

Amber orbs return to the woman and fix on the curtain of black hair resting against her back. The man decides to stay still so as not to alert her to his awakened state.

Ichigo just wants to watch Rukia for a while. He will let her body language speak to him and tell him of the reality that is inside her. If she is unhappy, he will fix it.

He never thought he would be the type of man who would spend his life trying to cater the emotional needs of another. It was enough to deal with his own. Ichigo never imagined that he would want the extra overhead.

Then, he fell in love with a beautiful girl. Rukia changed everything and he would not want it any other way.

That looks like a puppy…that one looks like a bunny…that one looks like a pineapple…

Rukia's mind analyzes the shapes of the clouds and what they remind her of.

It is beautiful here; nothing to get in the way of her thoughts and the fact that the altitude is far above the rest of the world, strangely, brings her peace.

There are so many things to think about, that her inner voices sound like the shopping district of the lower Rokongai. Every one of them is talking so loud and so much that she can barely make heads or tails of the conversations.

Renji…what is she going to do about him? By now, he must be hearing rumors of her change in status among the Kuchikis. She just hopes that Bya-nii hasn't announced her upcoming change in marital status, yet. She needs to tell Renji, face to face, what is going on. That is right and respectful. He should not have to hear it second hand. That is a principle of friendship and they have been friends for a very long time.

And, after all, she does love him. How can she not love her first brother?

She has to get to the bottom of his issue with Ichigo, however. Up until lately, he had been very fond of Berry. What changed? Why is he so angry? Rukia wants that business settled before Ichigo steps foot into Soul Society.

That is not for him to deal with.

Arisawa and Inoue… What an impressive mess.

Arisawa seemed accepting of the truth, which is a relief. However, she has to have told Inoue. Somehow, Rukia does not believe that the shy girl will take it as well. Rukia wouldn't expect her to and doesn't blame her.

Look how poorly Rukia dealt with Ichigo's dating.

Does she have a crush on Ichigo or does she believe that she loves him? A crush is easier to work through. If Inoue believes that she loves Berry, it will be a horrible blow to her.

Rukia feels a bit of sympathy for Inoue. Regardless, Rukia has to be a woman about this and get it out in the open before they go to battle because she is not giving up her Fruit for anyone or anything. Maybe she can talk some reason into Inoue and get their friendship back.

Last, but certainly not least, there is Ichigo. A violet stare goes up to the highest point of the sky and she involuntarily sighs heavily. She is not looking forward to parting. It will take all of her gumption to walk through that gate. Leaving him is always so hard.

Especially now.

In the beginning, it wasn't so bad because they always knew they would see each other again. Still, she missed teaching him the shinigami way or learning about the modern human world. Rukia would miss the tick in his eyebrow when she drew a bad picture or his scowl when she insulted him. It was fun to have someone to bicker and laugh with at the same time. She loved the way he laughed when she said something silly.

Rukia's lips form a sweet smirk.

Ichigo's laugh is so unlike his public persona. Rather than guarded and reserved, the animated smooth tenor vibrates in great frequency. His perfectly white teeth take over his face and those amber jewels sparkle. When his head goes back, that is a full belly laugh. The top notes are of a higher pitch that is melodic and sweet while his mouth is fully opened. His entire being shakes, his Adam's apple bobs vigorously and he lets go of all the cares in his world.

Her lids fall in the way a person appreciates the quality of a fine symphony; simply reminiscing.

The sound is flawless and fills her. It is as if the heavens open, its light shines down upon him and a song with the delicacy of an angel sighing graces her ears; the reason she calls him 'Angel'.

Eventually, she missed the comfort of their silence and way he looked at her when they shared something about themselves. It was as if he could see the events through her memory.

They never judged or tried to fix anything. Instead, they listened, healed and tried to understand. She soon realized that she loved him in a 'friendly' way. He was and is her confidant and she his.

They found in each other an open box where they could hide all the dark secrets and regrets without fear of them ever coming out in the open…two people who were alone found someone to share everything that worried or burdened them. She and Ichigo had found someone who they were not afraid to let see them…the real them that they were too ashamed to let out. Yet, they longed for that person to be free. Their personal prisons had been unlocked.

Rukia knew that she had found a friend; a real friend. He didn't care who she was or what she had ever done. She didn't care that Ichigo liked romantic tragedies or that sonnets moved him. He filled the empty void in her life and she knew more about him than any of his human friends.

Sometimes, he would look at her and know that she needed ice cream. Others, Rukia understood that chocolate was the only way to make his day better.

When it was time for her to go, they wouldn't talk about it. Ichigo and Rukia would have a heated argument about nothing, go get themselves together, and pretended that the day wouldn't come. Their answer was to stick to each other like glue for a few days then, give each other a nonchalant departure.

It was so much easier when they both lied.

The last time she left and he said 'good bye' is when it hit her. As she ascended to the gate, two years ago, his facial expression told her what she felt for him. The pain she felt was one that comes when you know that your dearest wish will never come to fruition; the one you shield from your mind's eye.

Rukia realized that she loved Ichigo deeply. But, she never let that ring though her conscious except for when she first stepped foot back into Soul Society, if she was feeling lonely and sorry for herself or if she drank a little too much. The nights she would leave the poker game alone and tipsy, she would spend the entire walk to the mansion in tears of heartbreak. Her intellect didn't understand why she was crying, but her heart knew the real answer and she turned her back on it.

Unfortunately, now that he knows how she feels about him and he feels the same way, Ichigo has no qualms about voicing how much he does not want her to go. With their affection out in the open, she can be honest about the fact that she will miss his voice, the way he smells, the quirk in his brow when he knows she is full of shit and the peace on his face when he sleeps…the way he cuddles up and falls asleep against her chest because he is too proud to tell her that he just wants to be held or the tenderness in his kiss when they are alone.

Maybe she can sneak out around two in the morning, while he is asleep. She knows he will be really mad at her for doing so but it will keep her from looking into his eyes when she has to do what needs to be done. Seeing him sad always makes her want to cry and the vacancy in his stare causes her to die inside. Rukia dreads the look on his face that would bid her farewell Monday morning.

She will definitely have to slip out even if she will want one more kiss before she goes. Rukia cannot stomach hurting him like that. My sweet Berry Boy.

His hard exterior protects the soft heart inside; the heart that gives her life meaning.

The bright side is that next Monday, she will see him again. Rukia's heart almost leaps. She will have to remember not abandon her post when she feels his entry into the dimension or to jump into his arms and kiss him when her vision falls on the most beautiful strawberry blonde she has ever seen.

They have to kill Aizen…they must. She doesn't know how they can accomplish this since he has the hogyoku embedded inside him, but she is sure that Urahara will come up with a way.

When they do kill him, he is most definitely going to hell. Even he must know that. The things he has done were horrible and heinous. Regardless of the fact that he is a pure soul, the Spirit King would not take him. He will, most certainly, be condemned.

Though it has never made her happy to see a soul committed to hell, something about this gives her guilty joy. Deep down within her, something about the man tells her that this is what is just. For the terrible things he has done to so many, for the pain he has caused, and the delight he finds in doing evil, this is the most righteous thing to occur.

Taking her ring off of the right finger, Rukia places it on her left. She stares at it with a soft smile before bringing her hand to her face and pressing her lips to the metal. In a few months, it will be she and Ichigo for all of eternity. That fills her heart with a great amount of happiness; a happiness that Ichigo cannot fathom her feeling.

Rukia wishes that she were better at conveying her feelings. She knows that she doesn't properly display how happy he makes her and for that, she is regretful. It is not fair that he lays it out there for her in the open while her limited body language and words can't reciprocate it perfectly. Sometimes, Rukia wishes that she were more of a girly girl.

But, it is hard to show someone what no one but them has ever shown you. She has never been loved the way Ichigo does her. She has never been shown this much affection and appreciation. As such, Rukia just doesn't know what the right mirroring actions would be. How do you show someone that everything they do is perfect to you without sounding corny and stupid?

Ichigo says such beautiful things to her. His command of language is far superior to hers. She can never assemble what she wants to say in a graceful way. Rukia doesn't know how to say words that make his heart melt the way he makes hers do exactly that.

All she ever does is tell him that he doesn't have to do it then proceed to hug and kiss him. She knows no other ways to make it known.

She will have to work on something by the time he gets to Soul Society. She does not want him to feel common because, clearly, he is not.

Not to her…not now, not ever.

Last night was wonderful. From dinner, to the lanterns, to the fireworks, to…

Her hand goes to her necklace. 'Tsuma-sama'… Ichigo is matchless.

Perhaps she can work through something meaningful with kido. She obviously is not at a point where she can completely bind their souls. She still needs Tessai-san for that. However, she might be able to accomplish something…

Waking her phone, she tries, as quietly as she can to have a short conversation.

"Ohayou, Tessai-taicho. Is it possible for you to email me your last two chapters on Reiraku? Yes, just the last two. I am…practicing and want to improve on a couple of things.

Yes, I will make sure to practice in a remote area. Arigato."

She hated to lie to Tessai-san. She wonders if he realizes that she can actually accomplish that level without too much practice. After all, he has been training her and no one would deny that he is a master of masters.

Putting her phone to sleep, she thinks that she has a plan…if Ichigo is willing. Somehow, she doesn't believe he will object.

I hope you can understand how much I appreciate you, Ichigo. You are the love of my heart.

Hearing her favourite man sneeze, she turns to him and smiles.

"Ohayou, Angel."

Two puffy, thick lids retract to reveal raw slits for grey eyes. As she opens and closes them repeatedly, the woman feels the interior skin scrape like sandpaper. So much so that she can barely keep them open.

Maybe I should just go back to sleep.

She would, if she could.

However, once her mind has been made conscious, it drifts back to the recent past and the bile of dread creeps into her stomach. Each vision of a previous event that, at the time, seemed so innocuous has now become evidence in a crime scene.

Like a detective examines the fine details that escape the casual observer, she has come to notice small things in her recollections; moments, glances, seconds, touches, days, absences, years and words

Each one, slight and unnoticeable…a pin prick…has formed the dagger that threatens to murder her heart.

As her lids converge, tears fall once more. What about me? He doesn't even know me? If Kurosaki-kun had taken the time, could he have not learned to love…me?

She doesn't know what to think…or feel.

Her ears detect the beeping of her phone calling her to peel her sight back in order to view the text. Wearily letting her blink linger, she replies in a tone more in keeping with her natural demeanor. She didn't mean to become so hysterical, yesterday. Her emotions just got out of control.

To: Arisawa, Tatsuki

From: Inoue, Orihime

Yes, I am alright. I am sorry about yesterday, Suki. I really am. I am not mad at you and you know that I really love you. I will call you later. I'm just not ready to talk to anyone.

The young woman turns over to stare out the window to the clouds and grey of the city.

She doesn't feel alive. The stone in her chest has lost the will to do anything that could be slightly productive. What should she do? What should she say? To whom? All of these questions just make her even more tired.

The buzzing of her phone does not compel her to answer it. In fact, she doesn't even look at it. She is sure that it is Tatsuki and the straining silence will be more than she can endure. She just wishes that it would stop.

After eight agonizing rings, the noise ceases and she is back to being comfortably numb. She doesn't hate Kuchiki-san. She just can't see either of those people being romantic with each other. Her mind can't envision such a thing.

They care about each other, that is true. No one would say otherwise. But, the kind of feelings and actions that come between a man and a woman when they are in love, the Rikka wielder cannot even make herself assemble between them.

Maybe Kurosaki-kun said that to make Tatsuki go away. Suki is very persistent. Perhaps he was saying that he loved being a shinigami. That is also true.

But, the soft spoken woman cannot mentally formulate the two shinigami in the way that she wants to be with Kurosaki-kun and she surely cannot imagine him saying that he loved anyone, much less, Kuchiki-san. She would hit him for being so sappy.

She closes her eyes and envisions what it would be like to be kissed by him. Is he a timid and shy kisser or a demanding aggressor? Based on his personality, she would bet that he is the latter not the former.

Kuchiki-san would also be too short.

Inhaling deeply, she imagines his embrace. Very strong and protective... A girl would feel safe in his arms.

Kuchiki-san is extremely dominant. She would not want to be protected and she would not let anyone lead her. Kurosaki-kun is an alpha-male would not let any woman tell him what to do and would probably be the deciding partner of any relationship. His bravado would not do well with a woman who always gets her way. He does not know how to stand down.

Tatsuki has to be wrong.

She hears her doorbell ring. If I lay here long enough, they may go away.

Hearing it again, she can't believe that someone is over at 8:00 AM. It is probably Suki.

No, she has a key. She would have just let herself in.

By the third ring, Orihime decides to rise from her bed and answer.

Putting on her robe, she passes a mirror and smoothes her extremely wayward hair down. She doesn't want to scare the person.

Continuing her short lethargic stroll, she can't stop her thought.

I wonder what Kurosaki-kun is thinking about, right now?

Ichigo notices Rukia kissing her ring. He can't help but smile. For Chibs to do something so sweet, makes him ecstatic. She is looking forward to what he is having a hard time waiting for.

Watching her hand go up to her necklace is even more gratifying. She is aware of what he is saying and is accepting and moved by it. He is totally closing the deal.

Listening to her call, he wonders what she is up to. She won't have too much time for training. What is she doing?

His personal voyeurism session is abruptly ended when he involuntarily sneezes. Shit.

At least he knows she is happy this morning. Now, he is, too. Her smile brightens his world.

The young man stretches and yawns. Settling his body to a comfortable state, he answers, "Ohayou, Beautiful. Get over here and give me my morning kiss."

Once Rukia has crawled over the bed and pressed her lips to him, he pulls her body to his and brings the covers over them.

"Ichigo! We have to get going if we want to go the water playground. I don't want to stand in line for all of the good stuff!" Rukia says playfully.

The man laughs and forces her to snuggle down. "That's 'water park'. Besides, five minutes won't kill ya."

"Five minutes? A kiss takes less than a second." Is he trying to go back to sleep?

Once he sets his phone alarm for thirty minutes, he returns to his favourite person.

Ichigo laughs darkly and rolls them so that, while she is on her back and he is to her side, his face is above her.

"Not the way I want to kiss you."

Her eyes widen in mirthful shock with a quick gasp and she breathes, "Kurosaki Ichigo! You are so bad!"

His eyes roam her face to her lips and then back to her eyes. With the guiltiest of smirks, he replies in the same tone, "Oh, Kurosaki Rukia, I absolutely love the way you say that."

Rukia stares up to his eyes with a nearly apologetic expression. "Ichigo?"

"What's wrong, Rukia?" His middle finger idly traces the charm resting between the notches of her collar bones.

She sighs loudly and answers, "I… I want you to know that my heart is always thinking of you even when my mind seems to be somewhere else. I am really clumsy with how to return love the way I want to.

"I promise that I will find a way to make you feel how much I truly, madly adore you. Try to be patient with me."

When Ichigo's face begins to crinkle, she pastes on a baleful smile and adds, "To be older, I have absolutely no experience in what romance means. I only know how I feel about you…around you. You make me make me beyond happy. My heart feels things I could have never hoped for or understood.

"Human girls spend a lot of time learning how to attract and please their mates. I have no such education. I am a fighter and a noble. I know how to weather harsh judgment and how to keep others from harming me. I don't know how to make them want me. Before you, I didn't know that they were different."

Reaching up to caress his face, she continues, "It didn't matter because I didn't think I would ever be wanted in someone's life, again. Ichigo...until you came along, I had never been loved like this. Teach me how to make you feel what you deserve to…I will learn to respond the way a real woman would. Give me a little time.

"It makes me sad that I can't do for you what you do for me. Believe that I am trying."

"Rukia, I…" Ichigo looks away to steady his thoughts. He's trying to figure out how to put together what he has to say without making it sound crude, obscene or offensive. The things he needs to tell her are going to be hard for him say for many reasons.

Discussion of a sexual nature, with its adjoining words, usually doesn't scare him… Well, unless it is his dad. And, that is only because Oyaji makes it personal. For most guys his age, sex is the exact opposite. It is an impersonal activity that they engage in but are never immersed.

With Rukia, he is completely submerged in his feelings for her.

As a man, Ichigo has heard every adjective in the book. Though Rukia is very boyish, she is still a woman and a classy one, at that. Rukia is remarkable in every way and someone he cherishes enough to not want her to feel disrespected.

Women don't usually speak with such…bluntness. She is not going to refer to her own anatomical parts the way he would refer to his own. No man calls his area below the belt a 'penis' or his 'scrotum'. They just don't. One, it is too clinical and two every other man would think you were squeamish.

Plus, manliness is measured by the size of your balls and every standard male joke revolves around your dick; the bigger, the better. Some men go to the extent of naming it which is ridiculous. No matter how good you are in bed, your cock does not deserve its own moniker; certainly not anything that starts with 'little'.

Self respecting women almost never refer to their genitalia as their 'pussy'; pretty much none. That is a male term. And, bigger is NOT better. Women come up with euphemisms like 'yoo-hoos' and 'vajayjays'. They call their period their 'monthly visitor', 'the inconvenience', 'monthly', etc. Leave it to guys to call it 'the rag' and crazy shit like that.

Men may say and think crude things, but they never want to hear that from their woman.

Guys, mature ones at least, also have delineation between how the term 'fuck' is used. A fuck is something lacking emotion. It is all biological. To do so, as a verb, can carry love with its primal fulfillment. The motions are usually more about the orgasm but there is inherent respect that defines what is or is not permissible. It is okay to fuck your wife, but you absolutely cannot degrade her…and you pray that she wants to fuck you senseless. Every man wants that to happen.

When you make love to a woman, it is all emotion. Now, Ichigo is no angel. He has every intention of fucking Rukia six ways from Sunday in any position she wants, in a few months. Ichigo is not stupid enough to believe that women don't have sexual needs that must be satisfied. But, at the end of every night, he wants to make love to her for the way she makes him feel inside and the man she made him.

Nonetheless, guys secretly like the fact that their girls keep it above the line.

Regardless, they need to talk about this. If they don't, they cannot go forward. She has never had a boyfriend, he has never had a girlfriend and the places they will go with each other are full of vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

He and she are opposites, in some ways. Rukia is trying to figure out how to mute her brain so she can hear her emotions and submit to her hormones. He is trying to keep his emotions and hormones low enough to allow his brain to hold some of his instincts down because he has to be very careful.

The things he wants to do with her would be shameful in her world which he doesn't understand.

How can the expression of a deep and passionate love be wrong? How can it be…immoral for two devoted people to share their hearts and bodies? Who has the right to deem what he and Rukia have as disgusting? What authority do they have to discount or cheapen her regarding actions taken behind closed doors?

Even though it is still NONE of their business, it would be different if Rukia were the type to sleep around, play the perpetual tease or kiss and tell. She isn't like that at all.

Rukia is a proud and principled woman who is never free with her affections or promiscuous. She does not chase any man or allow her gaze to linger too long. And, while she is amazingly beautiful, her level of modesty, dignity and peerless integrity is what all men long for in the woman they marry.

Kuchiki Rukia has only allowed herself to be caught by and accepted the affection of one man. A man who willingly loves, serves and protects her. A man who worships the ground on which she walks. A man who believes in the sanctity of the committed relationship and lives for the safety that it offers.

Rukia has allowed only one man; this man…me…to be the recipient of her love and honour. Why do people, in this world and hers, have to make something so…wonderful to be so…dirty?

Inside, Ichigo is aware that he is a true romantic. Not in the contrived, fake manner that most men try to emulate but in the sense that he enjoys making her blush. He wants to give her reasons to swoon so that she never has to look outside for affection. He doesn't want there to be any man that makes her feel more appreciated than he does.

What he says to her are not lies and empty compliments. They are the way he really feels about her.

She gives him the chance to be who he is if someone could actually read his mind. Rukia doesn't make fun of his sappiness or his intensely perverse thoughts. She doesn't avoid him for smacking her ass or for almost shoving his tongue down her throat when he momentarily loses control of himself. She didn't reach over and beat him for admitting that he stares at her breasts or backside. He would never fess up to that to anyone else.

The person he is to the world takes effort. With Chibs, it is easy and honest. That is a real woman.

Rukia loves his imperfection which shows him that she loves him. The real her is all he needs.

Ichigo's voice is quiet and sincere. "Rukia, I never feel that you don't show me how much you love me. You try so hard, that I sometimes worry that you are going to disappoint yourself. When you don't try is when it shows the most. You share things with me that I know you don't share with anyone else.

"When we are alone, you let the real you come out more than any other time. You are never selfish and you cater to all of my issues without hating me for it.

"The other night, you shared something with me that you had shared with no one; not even yourself."

He watches Rukia stare back in consternation while taking a deep inhale before trying to continue as his finger tips run up and down the side of her neck. "When you…you…"

Ichigo sighs and looks down for a second to brace himself. Finally, he meets her eyes with sincerity and apprehension. He knows no other way to go about this. "When you came for me, I knew that you had never even given that to yourself. That was big for me. I knew that you were a virgin, but I had no idea that you had never had an orgasm."

Rukia is uncomfortable because she feels like she is four hours late for a party that everyone else plans to leave in five minutes. She is aware that she is developmentally behind. Her face involuntarily changes shades and she averts her stare.

The man turns her face back to his and his scowl is soft and grateful. "Don't. I didn't mean it as an insult, Rukia. Honestly, I didn't. It just made me feel really good inside to be the only person you have given that to. Do you have any idea how special that is for me? It meant that you have never, in all of the years of your life, ever felt that anyone was worthy of that other than me.

"It was me that was honoured to feel it with you; to be with you. I know that I am your only one." He takes her hand and puts it over his heart. When her expression becomes even more confused, he adds, "To have something that no one has had in 160 plus years can cause me to do nothing else but love and adore you.

"The beating you feel in your palm is how fast my heart moves just thinking about it. I know that you love me. You show me that you love me. Don't think you have to do something special."

Rukia stares at her hand against him. She can feel his heart is pounding in his chest. Her eyes finally roll up to his where they stay for a few seconds. She lets her sight fall back to his chest and quietly responds, "Thank you, Ichigo."

She was sort of embarrassed by that. She had no idea what was happening to her body. Though she originally thought it might be a gigai malfunction, she finally realized what it must be and was glad that only Ichigo knew that it was her first.

He always puts her heart at ease…always.

He leans down to gently kiss her lips. When he moves back slightly, he speaks lowly. "No. Thank you. I wish that my first was not alone; I wish I could have given my first to you. I feel like I cheated myself."

After pressing to them again, with more intent, he releases her. When she opens her eyes, he whispers, "But, all others will be with you. My virginity is yours Rukia. No one else will ever have me; only you can touch me that way."

He brings his murmur to her ear, allowing his palms to rub her thigh and hip with obvious desire. "I only want you to see me and make me come. Tonight, I promise to make you happy…as many times as you'd like."

Rukia feels her lips being traced by his warm and insistent tongue. When hers reaches out to touch his, he takes the opportunity to kiss her with deep passion. The heat of his mouth, the rush of his breath and the heaving of his chest instantly makes her skin burn.

The way he devours her causes her to involuntarily whimper.

Ichigo can't stop himself from kissing her. If he had his way, he'd attach his face to hers every hour of every day. He is in love with Rukia and there are no two ways about it. He returns to her ear to whisper words of submission to accessorize an action that would seem dominant if it came from someone else. However, he knows she will understand him.

Rukia's breathing is in a permanent hitch. The way his large hands continually smooth and grip her rear is so fabulous. She almost complains when her kiss is left without a partner. His tongue runs along shell of her ear before a sigh of, "My body belongs to you, Love," and returning to her lips.

Suddenly, he moves her hand on his chest to place it on the bulge in his boxer briefs. At first she is startled until she realizes what he is saying. He wants her to know that she can touch him anywhere she wants.

Rukia is surprised by the hardened roundness and moves her palm up and down out of curiosity. When he groans into her mouth, she comprehends that she is pleasing him. Taking a moment to reciprocate, she moves his hand from her neck and places it over her right breast, then returns to what makes him happy.

Ichigo rips his lips from hers to let out long pent up moan. His hips force into her hand while his fingers squeeze her amazingly soft appendage. From his well massaged morning erection to the wonderful sensation in his palm, he feels like he is in heaven. Up and down…up and down… The hypnotic friction causes him to purr from the back of his throat. "Oh, Rukia. You make me feel sooo good."

Rukia's lips turn up. The way he sounds is beautiful. Her complete lack of experience in the area of intimacy makes her extremely self conscious. She is often afraid of not knowing how to gratify him in this aspect of their relationship. Rukia doesn't want to hurt him or seem childish.

On the other hand, she does not want to be too forward or do something that makes him shy from her, either.

Rukia also does not want him to have a reason to seek this type of bonding somewhere else or feel dissatisfied. She's just sort of lost in this realm.

To add to matters, he does such a fine job of seeming to effortlessly know how to make her feel things that she didn't know she was missing. He knows just how to explore a part of her that is amazing and wonderful. Ichigo brings her sexuality to life.

Right now, her skin is covered in goose bumps. Each of his touches is a strange combination of fearlessness and restraint. Every sensation makes her both anxious and impatient. Her breasts ache in longing for his attention…wanting it…needing it.

His mouth swoops down to lick and suck her neck while softly tracing her hardened nipple through the fabric with his finger tips. He hears her say his name and his mind almost goes blank.


His pulse increases by double and the man grabs the back of Rukia's head with his spare hand. Before he smashes his lips to hers, his dilated glance captures hers and he heavily exhales, "Take me."

Rukia allows him to kiss her with the force of his heart. He is aggressive, yet tender at the same time. His tongue explores her mouth thoroughly as his palm and fingers massage her modest mound. The young woman can't stop herself from moaning in the back of her throat. She wishes he would give the same attention to the other side.

If any other man had grabbed her here, she would feel scandalized. With Ichigo, she wishes it to continue.


The feeling of being touched this way makes her tingle and he has never said anything negative about their lack of size; the main reason she is afraid of letting him see them. Yet, he seems to appreciate her limitations without complaint.

In response to the elation she feels, Rukia gives more diligence to the hardening mass in her palm. When she increases her pressure and speed, she does not get what she initially wants but she is rewarded nonetheless and her belly tightens in desire and nervousness.

Ichigo releases her chest and pulls her to him with a dark growl. Fuck, his entire being is engulfed. He breaks the kiss just to breathe. Though he knows that she has never been with another man, the way she plays his body is masterful. The intimacy he shares with Rukia is not just physical. It contains something that he could not live without again.

Gripping her thigh, he brings her leg over his waist, moves her hand from his growing hardness, takes hold of her rear and begins grinding his pelvis to hers. When he and Rukia are moaning and whimpering together, he feels more unified to her than ever. There is an inherent openess that he can have with no one else.

Rukia's head whips backward, she groans with depth and reflexively presses her knee into his side. She is almost embarrassed by the level of pleasure coursing through her. His erection is rubbing against her nub of nerves in a way that causes her to do only three things: pant, moan and reciprocate.

"Aaahh, Ichigo."

When she exposes her neck, Ichigo dives forward. It is amazing that, even though this is only their second time together in this way, it feels right; it is real. It isn't a negotiation or a charade. He doesn't have to worry about what she expects him to do or that she will tell someone about what they have done.

Even when she does something as simple as… "Hell, yes, Rukia." A small hand is working his ass cheek like dough which invites him to grind into her even harder. Ichigo almost rips the neck of her sleep shirt, trying to get to her shoulder. The need for more skin to his lips overtakes his mind. His lungs burn in a different level of satisfaction and need.

Each impassioned sound from her throat makes him feel more alive. Her moisture in their grinding friction with the underwear between makes his skin prickle. The nerve endings between his legs traitorously lull his hips forward. He is becoming so sensitive, that he can feel her nub distending and hardening against him.

Rukia is consumed by the enchantment of their entanglement. It is not vulgar or distasteful. Only with Ichigo does something like this feel like a merger of the heart. Strangely, each touch begs for another and the conscious of self fades. The most important thing is the pleasing of the person who holds you to them with desperation.

Raising the band of his undershorts, Rukia resumes the rhythmic constriction of Ichigo's rear. The heat of his bare skin consumes her and his raw grunt arouses her. It reminds her of the few remaining boundaries between them and leaves her wondering why they still exist.

What can be more beautiful than the smells, sounds and sweat between them?

Yes, Baby, yes. His beautiful wife has no understanding of how perfect this feels. His whole body shudders and his breath shakes. The man breathlessly begs, "That's right, own me." She is starting to get into it and do what she does best; control him.

Goddamn, she is sexy. Ichigo longs to have Rukia mark and posses him.

Make me yours.

Tonight is too far away. He wants to make her shiver and moan harder than she ever has. He wants to hear her gasp with the same pleasure he feels. He wants to lick the sweat between her breasts and demonstrate just how much of her servant he really is; the lengths he will go to make her scream his name.

He prepares position himself above her-

Beep! Beep! Beep!

Both people freeze in heavy breathing as the alarm goes off. The stark, repetitive sound brings them back to the world around them.

They open their eyes to each other and smile, but Ichigo is the first to speak. "I hate time and schedules." He smiles even more to Rukia's chuckle.

"For once, I agree." Gently removing her hand from his shorts, she puts it to his cheek. "I promise to give you what you need tonight." She will give it the best effort she can offer.

Begrudgingly doing the same, he agrees, "Me, too." Damn it. Life always gets in the way. He stops the noise from the night stand and returns his vision she who lives inside his heart. Moving her beautifully wayward bang, he makes a request. "Rukia?" Knowing what he is going to ask, he steels his nerves to continue.

In an assuring but gentle manner, she answers, "Yes, Berry."

Making sure to look her dead in the eye, he asks, "May I…may I… see all of you, tonight? I mean, you would see me, too. But…" Maintaining eye contact, he pauses and resumes. "I really want to know what you look like and I want you to know what I look like. I know our agreement and I won't violate it.

"I would just like for tonight to be as honest as it can be. I don't want it to be some haphazard removal of clothing that we deny seeing later. I think we deserve one night to be intentionally shameless and truthful."

Rukia nods in agreement. The other night and this morning have been fantastic, but it was just clanging pots turned into a symphony. Neither has had any intention of it going the way it did. Besides, she says that she trusts him. This is where she proves it.

After a major deep breath, she answers, "Yes. Just don't laugh. Okay?"

Ichigo laughs lowly. "I won't. I might cry when I see what I am letting leave me for a couple months. When you see me, just don't scream, okay?"

She smiles back. "Why would I do that?"

Scooping her up in his arms and hugging her tightly, he replies with a nervous laugh, "You'll see."

He is thankful that she was too caught up in the moment to realize that all of him is rather… large. Ichigo is never ashamed in any locker room.

Returning his gesture, Rukia retorts, "Ichigo, there is no part of you that I would ever find unsightly. No more attractive man has ever lived. To me, you are perfect."

Ichigo feels the warmest levels of love take over his being. He has found someone who takes care of him inside and out. Marrying Rukia is such a no-brainer.

"Thank you, Love."

He will be sure to take extra care to make her feel special tonight. She will feel desired, adored, loved and sexy. Tomorrow, she will not conceal her body from him or apologize for any part of it.

By sunrise, between them, clothing will be optional.

Renji's sight meets the sides of his long time friend and can't help but ask, "What the hell happened to you? What is on your side, dude?"

As Shuuhei prepares to change clothes after their sparing exercises, he looks down at his skin and shakes his head. "Nothing, man. Don't worry about it." He's not really in the mood to talk about what got him his embossed tattoo.

Pulling his red locks back up to their rightful place, the other lieutenant replies in a mirthful tone, "If I didn't know better, I'd swear that they look like 'K's'. I can't imagine my taicho doing that number on you. Who did you piss off?"

The dark-haired man stares straight ahead for a few seconds. He is in a bit of a bind.

Shuuhei promised Rukia that he would not tell of her and Ichigo's impending engagement. However, he doesn't want Renji to take on the same level of punishment he took. Renji wouldn't back down and Ichigo would kill him.

Do I betray Rukia or save Renji?

Choosing not to move, he hears Renji address him.

"You okay over there? Who's boyfriend are you worried about? It better not be someone in the squads. You don't need that kind of heat so close to a battle. That's just dumb." Renji wasn't born yesterday. That causes issues that will come to a head at the most inopportune times.

"Renji?" Shuuhei has still not looked in the direction of his friend.

"Yeah?" Renji responds, pulling on his tabi.

"When was the last time you got into a fight with Ichigo?"

Said man rolls his eyes and continues constituting himself. "I don't know. It's been a while. There's really been no need to be, I guess. Why do you want to know?"

Shuuhei closes his eyes tightly and takes a deep breath. He's trying to angle this as carefully as he can. "Don't, okay. Just…just don't give him a reason to want to fight you."

"What are you talking about? I have never been scared of Ichigo. He was always really good. But, I never ran from him. Why would I start now? And, what does that have to do with your side?" Did he and Shuu spar too hard?

"Red, he's really good now. In fact, I would not use the word 'good'. I'd use 'scary'."


Shuuhei turns to Renji and sits on the bench across from him. "Renji, a few days ago, I took an assignment in the Living World. I tried to get a date with Rukia."

Renji laughs out loud. "She totally turned you down."

The other man nods. "Yeah, true. But every time I tried to make an advance on her, Ichigo got mad. I thought it was kind of amusing for a while. When I pushed him too far, though, things got critical."

Renji is somewhat taken aback and his expression mirrors that confusion. "What business is it of his if you and Rukia go out on a date or if she declines? If anyone gets to be mad, it's me. You know how I feel about her, you back biting ass."

Oh, my gods, you are dense. Renji and Ichigo have heads like Sekkiseki stone. "Renji…" Shuuhei closes his eyes and pauses. This is for his friend's own good. "Renji, Ichigo and Rukia are together…Rukia belongs to Ichigo…Rukes told me so." At least he didn't technically tell the part about them being engaged.

"What fucking planet are you on? That would never happen!" No. He isn't hearing it. He can't believe it. It can't be too late.

"Dude! He almost killed me! The only reason that I am alive is because he decided not to! If it weren't for Tessai, these scars would be the least of my worries!" How dumb is Red?

Standing quickly, Byakuya's fukutaicho collects his things to leave. "You're crazy. You misunderstood some things and had a bad fighting day. I'll talk to Rukia when she comes back and get everything straightened out."

As he rushes to make an exit, Shuuhei grabs him by the collar and slams him to the wall. "Renji, don't go fucking with Ichigo. He and Rukia have an understanding that he takes really seriously. I didn't get caught slipping with my guard down. He is one of the best fighters we have ever encountered. You are one of my best friends. Don't make him kill you."

The addressed man slaps the other's hand away. "I don't need your warnings and I don't need you to speak for him or Rukia. I'll get this settled myself."

As he walks away, his friend calls out to him. "Renji! Don't be stupid, for once! Listen to what I am saying!"

Renji only returns, "And, I sure ain't afraid of the Strawberry. I'd meet him anytime; anywhere. I am no puss. I back down from no one."

Shuuhei simply shakes his head and lowly returns, "That is what I am afraid of."

Rukia comes out of the bedroom into the living room area of the suite, braiding her second pig-tail. "So, you got everything planned out, Berry?"

Ichigo is looking over the attractions and tries to decide what they need to hit first. "Yeah. I think we hit the ones that all of the teenagers like then move toward the more low key ones after lunch. We can do the slides right before we have to get back here.

"What time is dinner?"

Rukia answers casually, "I think the reservations are at eight. I want to get back here by five so I have time to get ready."

Ichigo finally looks up with an incredulous frown that softens immediately. She is sooo cute with the pig-tails. Her cover up is adorable, as well. It is a white hooded dress that reaches mid-thigh. He can't help himself. "Come here."

She makes her way to the couch and he pulls her to his lap.

"No, Ichigo! We are leaving!"

He laughs out loud. "Come on, now, what do you think of me?" When she raises a brow, he laughs harder. "Okay, you have a point. But, even I know when to give it a rest." Maybe.

"Good." Sure, ya do. She grabs the brochure from the sofa and looks it over. Suddenly, she gasps and points at a picture he has circled. "What is that?"

He spies her attention and replies with happiness, "That is a bungee jumping platform. I knew that would interest you." Pulling her to his body, Ichigo snatches the pamphlet from her.

"Hey!" That was rude!

"The rest is a surprise. Now, what takes so long to get ready?" It only takes him about an hour. What does she have to do that takes enough time to watch a full soccer match?

Rukia crosses her arms, points her nose in the air and huffs. "I am a woman. It takes time to do everything I need to. I have hair to curl, make up to apply, jewelry to secure, a form fitting dress to zip and new heels to practice walking in. If you knew anything about those types of shoes, they may need adjusting. Not to mention a strapless brazier to work out.

"I have a lot to do and my attendants will be coming to assist me."

As she continued to speak, Ichigo watched her indignant expression and almost laughed. She was trying to look tough. But, as of late, he finds that expression cute on her, as well. Plus, his mind envisioned her in all of those things and he is totally in favour.

Definitely worth the time.

He can't believe how attracted he is to Rukia, anymore. He went from no hormonal readings to off the damned charts. At this point, Ichigo doesn't know how he kept it under wraps around her for so long. Every time he sees her, she is prettier than before and his libido has awakened from a seventeen year old coma. The man is almost embarrassed to admit… I can't keep my hands off of her.

Rukia will be hot as hell, tonight.

"Two thousand, one hundred and twenty-five! I can barely keep up!"

Unfortunately, Shiro is right.

You better learn to count faster.

Furthermore, Ichigo can't wait until Rukia feels comfortable enough to dominate him in bed. Her bossy ways will be amazing when she starts to tease him and-

"Wow! I'm impressed! I didn't thing you had it in you!"

Ichigo is guilty as charged and he so not ashamed. He can't wait for Rukia to torture him in the most delicious ways.

About that time, he hears the cackle of his hollow and Ichigo chuckles lowly in response. Very seldom do they agree.

Collecting himself, he responds, "We'll leave there at four thirty to be back here at four forty-five, Midgie. Happy?"

She gives him a sideways glance and begrudging smirk. "Yes."

Putting her to her feet, he stands as well. "Alright. Let's get going, woman."

As he turns to pick up the bag with necessities, Rukia looks over his board shorts. They are black with the grim reaper on the leg. She can't contain her snort. "Sort of ironic, no?" A death god with that on the side is just too wrong.

His eyes follow hers and he smirks. "I know. What can I say? I love what I do." He looks down to her feet while she puts them in flip flops and returns, "That is rich coming from the person with hell butterflies on her feet."

She raises a brow. "Mine is artistic. Yours is just ego."

Opening the door to usher her out, he retorts, "I prefer the term creative self expression. After all, I am damned good."

Rukia rolls her eyes and exits the door while texting her head attendant. That he is. "You are a jackass."

"Oh, but I am your jackass, Tsuma-sama." He slips a satisfied smile on his face as he grabs her hand.

The woman simply shakes her head.

It is so true.

"Thank you for informing me. Please wait until six o'clock to arrive."

Byakuya disconnects the call and looks over at Isshin. "We need to be at the hotel by four forty five."

Isshin nods. Byakuya came over to make sure that they were ready and left on time. "Ah. That is fine. Yuzu is going to keep Karin company at a soccer team outing and slumber party. But, we are coming back tonight so that they have no idea that I was gone that far away.

"We need to get going by two to be sure that we don't run into bad traffic."

The other man nods then adds while sipping his tea, "You do know that she is going to run, don't you?" Rukia is a top grade escape artist.

The older nods, "Yes."

"How do you plan to stop her?" Byakuya can't wait to hear this one.

Not bothering to look up as he signs his charts, he replies, "You are going to tell them about the contract."

The noble does a double take. "Have you gone mad?"

"Nope. While she is reading the names and processing, I will do a quick explanation," Isshin expands, finally bothering to look up and read the other man's desire to decline. "When she exits the hall for fresh air, which will be her escape act, I will snatch her."

Manicured brows crinkle. "How do you know she won't leave her gigai and make a run for Soul Society?"

Isshin declares cooly, "Because I will already be out of mine before I leave the room so that I am ready for her. I'll bind her, if I have to."

"I thought your kido was below par."

"It was. I have been working it back to standard. It took me a while to get my concentration back. I figured that while the kids were training, I should, too. There is no way she will escape me and I don't want to corner her in a room and scare her. This assures success." The physician is very confident.

Byakuya sighs. This should work well. But… "What am I to do with Ichigo? He will most certainly want to chase."

Isshin nods again, "Tell him to sit still for a few minutes until I return with Rukia."

"Oh, yes. How could I forget that he always does what we tell him?" Byakuya's tone is sarcastic. "He won't at all be in processing overload from this, too." Mimicking Isshin, he mocks, "'By the way, I am really a noble, your mother was a Quincy, you are a Shiba, and your fiancée killed your cousin.' It sounds like a dramatic tragedy." Isshin is insane!

"Knowing Ichigo, he will be stunned for a few minutes. Rukia's reaction will alarm and upset him. Your job is to reassure him that it will be fine."

Byakuya wants to strangle Isshin. He never stays on plan. "Last night, you said we would go up at dinner and tell them together! What happened to that?"

"Well, my over reacting friend, Tessai tells me that Rukia called him this morning."

Unable to understand why that matters, Byakuya asks, "And?"

In a tone that is very matter of fact, Isshin replies, "She asked for his last chapters on Reiryoku."

Oh, for heaven's sake… "Your point is? Maybe she needs to train."

Isshin stands, walks calmly around his desk to Byakuya and smacks his head. "Those are the chapters on binding, dipshit. Since she cannot attain soul binding on her own, she plans to bind their Reiryoku until she can give Ichigo what he wants and get the full job done.

"What if we were to help them out with that so it is done right?"

The other man rubs his head and scowls. "Can't we wait until after the Yuniou? There is this thing called order. Perhaps, you have heard of it."

Isshin sighs, "Come on, Bya. The first part of tonight is going to suck. Let them have a moment of happiness. It will take both of their anxieties down a few notches while they await the next couple of months."

The Kuchiki sighs and nods. Fine. With a level of deadpan resolution, he acquiesces. "I will call Tessai to let him know that we will be picking him up."

Ichigo grips Rukia's hand in excitement as they approach the entrance doors. She is going to be blown away by the water park. He is for damned sure that they don't have anything like this in Soul Society.

Rukia is unable to stop looking around. She has seen many people dressed as she is leaving restaurants with their children. This playground must be very popular.

She notices that the temperature gets drastically warmer once they step to the ticket booth and a strong chemical smell reaches her nose. "Ichigo, what is that odor?"

Her companion snorts and reaches for his money clip. "That is chlorine. It keeps the water clean with all of the people using it."

Her brows crinkle in confusion. "And, no one has died from ingesting the stuff?" That just seems strange. The chemicals that protect you smell this foul but don't cause you harm?

Ichigo laughs lightly, "No."

The small woman shakes her head. "Odd."

Ignoring her, Ichigo speaks to the teenager at the ticket booth. "Two adults and one locker."

The young man nods, punches in the codes for the cash register and announces, "1500 Yen."

Though Ichigo can hear his bank account crying, he passes the man his card without a hitch.

"Ichigo, that is a lot of money. This better be worth it." She can't see inside the tinted glass doors and wonders what could be so awesome to make Berry part with that kind of money.

After all, he is a model tightwad.

Dutifully tilting her chin up and gently kissing her lips, Ichigo replies, "It will be, Love."

His attention is brought back to the cashier who passes him his receipt, card and locker key and states, "Please enjoy yourself." When his eyes travel down to Ichigo's date, the boy whispers, "Does she have any sisters?"

Ichigo's chest puffs in pride to go with his smile. "Nope."

The boy respectfully retreats. "Damn. You are a lucky S.O.B. Have a great time, dude. I'm jealous."

Giving the cashier one last wink, Ichigo replies. "Thanks." He's not stupid. He knows that Rukia is super cute. Nothing makes a guy feel cooler than watching other guys be envious of his woman. Period.

The young woman follows Ichigo inside the doors she has been trying to spy into and… Holy Hell Butterflies!

Rukia stares up to the top of the dome and realizes that the entire 'beach' is inside. "This is crazy!" No one in Soul Society would ever believe it! There is sand everywhere broken up with a few paved walkways along with all kinds of rides, restaurants, pools and stands. She is ready to run around like a crazed nut! She can hardly keep herself standing still.

Ichigo smiles like a fool. Unloading all of their stuff to the locker and keeping out the waterproof camera they borrowed from Oyaji and the airtight bag for his money, he prepares himself to give Rukia the best day she has ever had.

"Alright, Midget. You ready?"

"Yes, yes, yes!"

"Let's go get on a ride or two, and then we will get something light to eat. Remember to drink a lot and keep the junk food to the later part of the day. Got it?" Ichigo tries his best to hide his inner glee. He is looking forward to seeing Rukia have so much fun and he is dying to see her swim suit.

Rukia simply nods and points to a tall platform. "Let's go over there!"

"You wanna bungee jump first?" Really?

"I can jump from there?" This is fabulous!

"Yeah. Come on Shortness."

When Rukia finally gets to the ramp that takes her to the top, her excitement turns to a bit of wariness. Her head tilts upward and the platform must be five stories high.

Ichigo notices her expression and tries to get her ready. Shedding his shirt and flip flops first, he instructs, "Take off your cover up and leave it with your shoes right here."

The Kuchiki continues looking upward and asks, "Should we get out of our gigais first? What if the cord snaps? If we aren't in human bodies, we won't die."


She turns to her future husband and her brain cells stop processing. What a gorgeous chest. While the addressed woman ogles him and blinks, she returns a weak, "Huh?" Ichigo is so tan and muscular and…purr.

Rukia licks her lips and imagines running her nose along his skin between the sinew…inhaling his dark sweet scent…letting her tongue dip into his belly button…

Kurosaki Ichigo…I'm going to give you a different kind of scowl…

Ichigo smiles at her with a red face. She is staring at him like she is going to jump him at any minute. If only they were not in public…

The second thing that makes a man feel cool is when his woman stares at him like he is extremely hot. "Kurosaki Rukia."

Bad Ruki! Bad Ruki! Reconstituting herself, she answers intelligently. "Yes."

"Lose the sandals and dress. We have to get in line."

"Oh, of course."

Quickly, she kicks off her sandals, unzips her dress and passes it to her mate who slaps his hand over his face to keep from having a nose bleed. Damn, she's beautiful!

The bluish purple two piece suit is perfect. Yes, he has seen her in a two piece before. But, she didn't look this good. It looked like the type of suit his sisters would wear.

This one has high cut briefs that rise just below her belly button which her rear expands wonderfully; nice and round. Her top plunges in the front with a racer back. Her breasts aren't busting out. Yet, she fills it in its entirety.

The periwinkle color is just right for her pale skin, black hair and purple eyes. Not to mention, her body is perfectly tight. Good god…your shape is so amazing. Arigato, Yoruichi-san!

Rukia takes a deep breath to calm herself. She is going to the top of this platform and jump. That is all there is to it. The rope will not break. She will not plunge to her death and she will resist the urge to put soul candy in her mouth.

I will trust him.

Finally turning to Ichigo, she declares, "Let's do this."

Ichigo simply nods and follows her up the ramp. Never in his life has he ever been so content to simply watch her walk.

They are three couples back from the top of the platform and Rukia finds herself so nervous she might vomit.

Each couple who has gone before her has been screaming non-stop until the next couple takes their turn where the screaming resumes.


"Hmm?" He is so caught up in staring at her in that suit that his mind is totally on overload. He could care less about jumping. He has done it hundreds of times over the years. He welcomes a reason to have her body pressed to his.

Maybe he missed it, but he never remembers Rukia looking this good in beach attire.

"Are you sure I don't need some soul candy for this? Has anyone ever died from this contraption?"

Even he laughs. "You love high places. You like to dive and jump. What is your deal? Is someone being a wimp?"

She crosses her arms over her chest and points her nose upward. "No. I am just a stickler for safety." Slowly sneaking a glance down to the ground, she scowls and adds lowly, "I just have never jumped like that without the safety of my natural state. I have no control over this situation."

Pulling her close to him, Ichigo forces her to look him in the eyes. "Listen, Beautiful; I will not let something happen to you. Know that I would give my life to save yours. I will never put you in danger. Trust me, okay?"

The woman follows the amazing eyes that she loves and finally nods.

"Alright. We are up next. This will be fun. You will want to do it again, believe me."

Once they are put into their adjoining harness, they place their arms around each other as instructed. Ichigo would be thrilled if Rukia wasn't squeezing him so hard that he swears that she will break one of his ribs. She is wrapped around him like a second skin…with her eyes squeezed shut.

"Are you ready?" the operator asks.

While Rukia shakes her head 'no', Ichigo nods 'yes'.

"On the count of three?"

Ichigo replies, "Yes," but holds up two fingers.

The man gets the idea and nods back with a smile. "Okay. One, Two-"

Ichigo jumps, sending them off the platform and sailing down with gravity.


"Ah, Ohayou, Inoue-san. Arisawa-san said that you were not feeling well and I came to be sure that you were, in fact, alright. I called, but you didn't answer. I became worried."

Orihime simply blinks at the bespectacled young man at her door.

Adjusting his glasses, he continues, "I brought you some soup. May I come in and heat it for you?"

Gathering her calm, Orihime quickly replies, "Oh, yes! Please, Ishida-kun, come in! I forgot my manners!"

Stepping aside and letting the man in, she takes the bag from him while he removes his shoes and coat. "Would you like some tea?"

Once the man is upright and devoid of his garments, he retrieves the bag and declines. "No, Inoue-san. I came to take care of you. I will make you some tea. Please, just sit and be comfortable."

The woman blushes prettily and looks down. "T-thank you, Ishida-kun. But, you don't have to. I will be fine."

Uryuu uncharacteristically smiles in return. "I want to. Think nothing of it."

"Oh, Okay…If you don't mind, I want to get cleaned up. I know that I look terrible. I will be out in fifteen minutes." Inoue saw her reflection again in the mirror by the door and wanted to cringe.

The man nods. "Do whatever makes you feel better. But, don't do it on my account. I think you look lovely as you are."

For the first time in several hours, Orihime smiles. "Thank you, Ishida-kun. You are so kind. I will be right back."

"Take your time."

As Orihime closes the bathroom door, she wonders why Kurosaki-kun couldn't act like Ishida-kun…just once.

After Rukia plunges deep into the water only to be pulled out again by the recoil of the rope and dropped in 3 more times, she has to say…it was fun.

Once they are disconnected from the harness, they are left in water that is still relatively deep. The line is up to Ichigo's chest and Rukia's shoulders. The walk back to the edge is a bit slow. As they trudge, Ichigo asks, "Now do you trust me?"

"Yes! Let's do that again!"

He chuckles. "We will. But, let's do some diving first. You up to it?"

Rukia is totally game for whatever, now. She knows she can't be hurt. "Sure! Where is it?"

Ichigo points to a man-made cliff that has a waterfall right next to it. It is about a 30 foot dive.

Oh, for sure. "Come on, Berry! Let's make some splashes without a splash." Rukia does know how to dive. There is a miserable noble league for that.

"You have diving experience?" He is compelled to ask.

"Of course. I will make you look like the horse's ass. Best dive gets to pick desert." She feels confident enough that she will win.

Stopping and yanking her to him, while sneaking in a discrete and gentle grope of her posterior, he whispers hotly into her ear, "What if I told you that I am already holding my desert?"

While she should be shocked enough to jump, the woman decides that two can play this game. Lightly and slowly, Rukia runs her fingers down the small of Ichigo's back earning goose bumps and shivers from him. She then laughs lowly, "I was talking about the restaurant. Later on, we'll see."

She precedes let her hand run under the waistband of his board shorts to make soft patterns near the crack of his bum.

Ichigo instantly tightens, internally gasps and his amber orbs go wide. Rukia! Ichigo has never been in a situation of being chased by girl and really liked it. Loving it.

Attaching a wide smile, Rukia continues quietly, "Don't you know that ladies get to go first? After all, you are a deliciously handsome man, Kurosaki Ichigo." With wet, dark orange hair, a perfectly tan torso, and broad shoulders, being hugged up next to him is a stupendous vision.

Kissing his extremely hard belly and sides sounds like heaven.

The young man feels his face turn several shades of red. He was afraid that his favourite midget might back away from him after this morning. Instead, she is just as engaged in the chase as he is. Oh, Honey…you just don't know how dangerous this is.

Rukia is so amazing. He feels appreciated for the way he looks rather than shunned. She makes his whole life do a 180 degree turn.

Even for being a guy, his hormones aren't nearly as strong with Rukia as are his emotions. But, damn it, if she doesn't totally turn him on.

Once they are out of the water and they have collected their things, Ichigo grabs her hand and kisses her cheek. I love you, Chibs.

Ichigo stands on the rock platform. He is going to impress Rukia if it kills him.

It isn't that he lacks coordination. He knows that he is graceful or he'd be unable to fight so well.

It isn't that he doesn't want to win their little competition because the gods know he hates to lose at anything.

He just wants her to feel proud of the fact that her guy is really good at something humans do since, after all, he is half human. Plus, he's a man and no other man is allowed to show him up in front of her.

He is aware that she can see him since she is farther back in line. She needed to go to the restroom and no one would let her cut in.


Ten feet from the edge, he imagines the motions of what he will perform when he meets it. Closing his eyes in calm, he refuses to look at her or he will lose his concentration.

In a second, he will make as close to a perfect dive as he can.

Rukia watches Ichigo get himself together. Really? This isn't like a clan competition.

No matter what he does, it can't be like watching Omaeda's fat ass do a belly flop. Even if Berry did a cannon ball, it would be…cute.

This must be one of those male moments. She doesn't ever remember him showing off just for her before they were together together. In fact, he used to tell her that he didn't care what she thought.

But, truly, she knows that is B.S. He could have just saved her from the Sokyoku and gotten the hell out of that dimension. But, no. He wanted to stand there and prove how strong he'd gotten.

Ichigo has always been a damned show off. Yet, it is flattering to have him do that for her, alone.

He doesn't have to be. She doesn't need reasons to be proud of being with him. She doesn't need to justify it to anyone.

His legs look so strong. Even his gigantic feet look like they belong with his body.

The man has no fat. His sides, his rippled belly and… Though his board shorts are loose, his butt is shaped the way all fantasies hope to portray.

Her husband is attractive by any definition. If the scale went from one to ten, with ten being most desirable… The number 15 fits him well.

Her ears perk up when she hears some girls talking just ahead of her. Are they talking about my Ichigo?

"Who is he?" A tall, slender but shapely girl asks.

"I don't know. But, he has a great body," her friend replies.

"His hair…do you really think it is orange?" The original girl asks.

"That isn't the right question." A third female interjects. "Did he come with a girlfriend or with his guy friends?"

All three look around throughout the line and down below.

The second girl announces, "I don't see anyone that would be his girlfriend. Boys like him have girls like us as girlfriends. He must be here with guys."

Rukia internally snorts. They are definitely talking about Ichigo.

"Maybe I can get his number when we get down from here." The original girl reasons.

Her third friend deduces, "Why not? Then, you can find out if that hair is natural."

All three girls giggle and Rukia smiles. It is definitely natural.

Unlike Berry, she doesn't need to get into a fight due to stupidity. They will see soon enough.

Suddenly, Ichigo runs top speed and jumps from the ledge.

Rukia watches him tuck his knees in and spin twice. Then, his body straightens out and his hands spear the water, breaking the tension for the rest of his body to his pointed toes.

It was a superb dive.

Rukia nods and smiles with satisfaction. She has to make this one count. Good job, Handsome.

Her concentration is broken by squealing.

"Oh, my gods! Did you see that?" The first girl asks her equally excited friends.

The second girl answers, "He is a god!"

Rukia smiles again. Yeah, a death god.

"Okay, I am definitely going to get his number. How do I look? What dive should do? Should I look like I know what I am doing or like I need help?"

The second and third girls answer in unison, "Look like you need help."

As the other girls plan their ruse, Rukia plans a dive to impress the same guy the other girls are trying to impress. The difference is she already has his number, knows his name, lives at his address, sleeps in his bed and shirks off his help as much as possible.

And she will be the one next to him, tonight, both naked as the day they were born.

Her face turns beet red just thinking about it. For the first time in her life, she will present her completely unclothed body to someone. What will she do when he stares at her? Will she freak and hide? What will he say about all of her scars?

On a guy, scars are manly. But on a woman? Surely, human women don't look as marred as she does. Then again, he hasn't said anything about them so far. Maybe he hasn't had a chance to notice.

What about him? She isn't supposed to be a dolt and stare but she… She does want to see his entire form. Not just in that way but…she is curious. What does the perfect body of a man look like? Is it like statues? Will he be put off she touches him? What will she want to do?

Palm his butt. Stop it! Stop it! These are not the thoughts of a noble lady!

She just hopes that she is not stupid enough to stare at his crotch like a complete moron.

She should have paid more attention in that portion of biology so she wouldn't be so mystified. And, I would know exactly how to please him.

Her concentration is broken when she realizes that it is her turn.

Alright, Ruki, show time.

Ichigo watches three girls go right ahead of Rukia. One of them does the worst dive he has ever seen.


Shortness is next and he watches her stretch. Good girl. You only pull muscles and end up with cramps if you don't lengthen your muscles.

Not only is she flexible, but she has great balance. Her fighting has really improved.

An orange eyebrow rises. That can also come in extremely handy outside of battle.

When he sees her tonight, he has to have some self control. No matter how badly he wants to stare at and lick her body like a melting ice cream cone, Rukia should also feel like he has mad love for her.

Indeed I do.

If Rukia doesn't feel loved, she'll get self conscious and that is no good. He wants her to need this like he does and to trust him.

It took all of his nerve to ask for this and he is not going to waste it. This will be the first of many hot and sweaty nights with wet kisses, matted hair and sticky skin. Her body writhing and wrapped around him…her mouth panting…her deep voice moaning and screaming his name…

He feels all of his blood starting to drain his groin and instantly starts picturing Chappie. Fluffy bunnies! Fluffy bunnies! Carrots! Keigo! That last image almost his dick shrivel; not that the bunnies weren't working but not fast enough.

Okay, better.

Bringing his mind back to the event that should have his attention; Ichigo watches Shortness step to the edge of the platform. Bending forward, she does a controlled and graceful hand stand.

Once she seems to have command of her limbs, she allows herself to fall backward.

Quickly but fluidly, Rukia touches her toes, and then makes her body straight as a pin with her legs trailing her head.

The amount of splash is so minimal, that Ichigo is surprised, to say the least. His eyebrows ascend and all he is left with is, "Wow."

His moment of wonder is cut when one of the girls Rukia had watched makes her way over.

"Excuse me."

With Ichigo's standard lack of external perception, he answers blankly, "Huh?"

She holds her hands folded in front of her and bats her eyelashes prettily. Her large breasts are pressed between her arms while shifting in a pseudo-shy manner as the girl starts her story. "I am sure you saw my terrible dive. I was wondering if you could-"

When his bride rises above the water, Ichigo's eyes dart that direction. "Excuse me for a second."

Ichigo walks to the edge and holds out his hand. Once she is within reach, he pulls her out to wrap his arms and a towel around her. "That was excellent, Beautiful. You are such a cocky little thing." Anyone who can see the side of his face knows that his smirk is warm and happy.

Rukia smiles. "So, does that constitute a win?"

After a good kiss to the cheek, he relents. "You won. You can pick the desert for dinner."

Suddenly, it occurs to him… Oh, yeah, I forgot.

Ichigo turns around to the girl he was previously talking to who is standing dumbfounded. To say that she is embarrassed is to put it nicely.

Plainly he asks, "Was there something you wanted to ask me?" His arm is around Rukia who looks up to her with an innocent smile. Her right brow darts up and falls quickly. Surprise.

The girl is red and stuttering. "N-no. Never mind." She was standing in front of his girlfriend all along who was listening to her plans to make a fool of herself. The tall girl backs up and returns to her friends who are equally as shocked.

Ichigo simply scowls in confusion. "I wonder what her deal is."

Shallowness, stupidity… Rukia pulls him by the hand toward a second run through the line. "I'm sure she'll figure it out." In a few years.

Orihime leans back and puts her head on one the unused pillows lying on the floor. Smiling gratefully at her guest, she offers, "That soup was wonderful, Ishida-kun. With the addition of some peanut butter, it would have been perfect."

The man almost turns green at the notion, but simply nods. "Arigato, Inoue-san. I learned to cook early in life."

The young woman, full and warm, blinks slowly and asks innocently, "Oh? Why is that?"

Uryuu, clears his throat and replies, "Because my mother died when I was about nine."

Auburn hair drags on the cushion as Orihime abruptly raises herself. "Ishida-kun! I am so sorry!"

He shakes his head nonchalantly. "No, nothing to be sorry for. Things happen to us all that we wish hadn't. My father spent most of his time at the hospital and my nanny was a terrible cook. So, I figured out how to make things on my own. With a little experimentation, I learned what things go with what."

Letting her eyes fall to the floor, his conversation mate asks, "Do you still miss her?"

Slender dark brows rise and fall quickly. With a shoulder shrug, he answers, "I don't know. I suppose so. She was very quiet and kind."

Adding an uncharacteristically dark snort, he adds, "The exact opposite of my chi-chi." Pompous asshole.

"I still miss Sora."

The Quincy's eyes slide over to Orihime. "Was that your brother?"

Grey eyes soften sadly with a slowly bobbing head, "Yeah." She really does. He cared for her, loved her and protected her. She wishes he were alive right now. He always made her feel important.

Uryuu feels awful for Orihime. He learned to deal with loneliness. Perhaps, she never did.

Deciding to change the subject immediately, he asks, "Are you feeling better Inoue-san?"

Putting on her bright face, she comes back with, "Yes! Arigato!" Yet, feeling that she is an imposition, she adds, "Ishida-kun, I know that it is noon on Saturday. I am sure you have things to do. Don't feel like you have to keep me company."

The man smiles genuinely, "Do not be silly. This is no problem at all. Would you like to sleep while I wash the dishes?"

Orihime can't believe that he is so sweet. "You don't have to do that. I can do them later. Would you like to play a game or watch a movie?"

The bespectacled gentleman declines. "No, no. I will take care of them now. I am here to take care of you and I hate to let dirty dishes linger. However, if you would feel so inclined, please keep me company while I take care of the chore."

Strangely, with Ishida-kun, Orihime doesn't have to work so hard at being herself. It is quite nice. "I'd love that."

Uryuu stands and takes the bowls to the sink. Rolling up his sleeves and running the dishwater, he asks, "Does Arisawa-san have what you do?"

Orihime is glad that his back is to her. Her eyes screw tightly. She is a despicable person for being so mean to Tatsuki. She just couldn't stop herself. Guiltily, she answers, "Yeah."

Satisfied with the answer, the man nods again. "There seem to be quite a few viruses going around, this year. You need to get yourself better before the situation with Aizen comes about."

Aizen, Kuchiki-san, Kurosaki-kun… As guarded as she can, she inquires, "Do you think Kuchiki-san will be back after all of this is over?"

Uryuu stares out of the window. Most definitely. "Yes."

Not wanting to give anything away, she follows up. "For how long, do you think?"

For a very, very long time. "I can't see her going back until Kurosaki is ready for her to do so. Why do you ask?" He knows the reason; as painful as it is to pretend that he doesn't.

Orihime tries to recover quickly. "I-I was just wondering. She was gone for so long the last time and didn't come back until she had to.

"Once Aizen is gone, why would she come back?"

The slender man chooses his words carefully. He can't give away what Rukia-san asked him not to. She gave him her trust. "Because he is as special to her as she is to him."

There is that word again; 'Special'. Maybe she can get a better definition from Ishida-kun. "What do you mean by 'special'? Kurosaki-kun cares about all of his nakama."

Trying his best to seem preoccupied, Uryuu lets out his reply and the dishwater with a casual air. "I mean that Kurosaki has no interest in living a life without Rukia-san in it. I am certain that you noticed who he had become over the last two years. She is, by all accounts, his safety net."

Orihime frowns. Why is it that no one wants to give her a conclusive answer? Maybe she is asking the wrong question. Quietly, she asks, "Do you…you think he loves her?"

Uryuu decides that the inquisition is making him as uncomfortable as it must be for her to make the inquiry. This has to stop because he is dying to hurt her…to tell her the truth. Not because he wants to see the beautiful girl of his dreams in pain but because he wants her to be free. He needs her to let go so that she could possibly love someone else.


He redirects with a question. "Why are you asking so many questions about Kurosaki and Rukia-san?"

Pasting on her happy expression, she does a mental about face. However, she did not miss the fact that he now calls Kuchiki-san by her given name. "Oh! No reason! I am just curious, that's all! What would you like to do next?" She knows that she cannot ask any more questions. If she does, she runs the risk of her secret being out.

Turning to her, grateful for the end of her questioning, he answers with a soft smile. "Whatever you would like to do, is fine with me."

"Okay! How about television? There are some reality shows that I never miss!"

Though Uryuu would rather eat his eye than watch such low brow programming, he reasons that it would be something girls watch and Inoue-san is definitely a girl. "Sure."

Orihime smiles brightly. "Great! The cooking channel has all kinds that I love!"

The man almost breathes a sigh of relief. He can live with feeling that he is learning something while watching someone else's petty drama. "Well, let's get tuned in. I hate missing the beginning of anything." His demeanor is calm and caring.

"Me, too!" She and Ishida get along so well.

Seating himself next to her on the floor, he relishes in time alone with his favourite girl devoid of the shadow of Ichigo.

Rukia takes a sip of her cola slushie and enjoys the gentle sway of the water. Though the position of her body should be uncomfortable, the buoyancy keeps her from falling through the hole in the middle of the strange circle she is sitting in.

Her feet almost stick out in the air. She can see her toes and her elbows are nearly straight out.

When she looks over at Ichigo, his face is serene with his eyes closed. He is sitting in the same inflated circle, but his feet are dragging in the water.

After lunch, he talked her into this weird, man-made, moving stream that seems to go around the park. At first, she thought it was dumb. What kind of ride does nothing? But now, she is loving it.



Ichigo doesn't even feel like opening his eyes. This is totally relaxing. The water is warm, the inner tube floats for him, and it is a lull in mental stimulation.

Entertaining Rukia has been fun, but he needs a break. Her un-ending energy is tiring. Maybe she has so much because she doesn't have as much body to fuel.

He smirks. But, he wouldn't change her if he could.

"Why is this called a 'lazy river'? This certainly is not a river and how can an inanimate object be lazy?"

With a snort, he returns, "Because everything in the Living World is personified. It is how people describe and relate to things. Does Shirayuki have snow on her sleeves?"

The small woman mulls it over for a second. "Well, no. But, she can send ice and snow from her hands seemingly coming from out of her sleeves," she reasons.

"So, the water goes around the entire property like a river and it moves much slower, therefore, lazy."

"Oh! Now I get it!" Rukia is proud of herself for understanding human methodology. She then scowls. "But, wouldn't this be more like a moat than a river?"

Ichigo cracks his eyes open to her with a light laugh. "If you weren't so cute and far away, I'd bonk you on the noggin." Rukia is extremely literal… And, technically, she'd be right.

Splashing water over on him, she proceeds to stick out her tongue. "Then I would have to kick you in the shin so hard, your children would feel it."

Deciding to give her a little pushing, he adds, "Our children."

That sets Rukia aback. "Ooh, I wouldn't want to hurt my future babies. If they needed a good butt swat, they'd get one. But, I wouldn't kick them until they were too tall for me to swing at."

He laughs because he can envision his future adult sons catching it to the leg for pissing off their okaa-san. However, Ichigo is unable to contain his curiosity. "How many kids would you want?"

Taking a deep sip, she shrugs her shoulders, "I don't know. Maybe two or three."

Quickly wedging in, he asks, "How do you feel about four?"

Her brows go up. "You want that many children?" She'd be pregnant forever!

Actually, I want more than that. This is where he starts his convincing early. Though it will be a very long time before they are parents, it will take Rukia just as long time to see his perspective. "Well, if we had twins twice, that would be four."

He has a point. Twins do run in his family. "That is true." She then decides to ask about the other side of that. Not everything in life is sunshine and rainbows. "What if I can't get pregnant? What if there is something wrong with me?"

Ichigo's eyes open fully. His amber meets their violet opposite with a very meaningful look. "Rukia, if it is not meant to be, that does not mean that you are defective. I will never see it as something being wrong with you. Don't ever say that again."

She looks away. "Sorry." Her tone is contrite. Rukia didn't mean to upset him. She just wanted to know how he would deal with the possible disappointment.

Now, he feels like an ass. It just angers him that she always sees fault in herself.

Steering his inner tube towards her, he is finally able to take hold of her hand. "Rukia, I love you as you are. Good and bad. We will deal with life the best way we can and hope for all of the best. If it doesn't turn out the way we want, we will always have each other."

She smiles softly at him. Why is he so sweet? "Hai. But, if we have children, I guess I will have to learn how to cook. I wouldn't want them to only remember what the clan chef makes. I want them to have memories of me."

Ichigo returns her expression. "I already know how to cook. I got that covered. They will know you, Rukia. You can teach them kido. I think you will make a great ha-ha."


He nods. "Really. With your temper, they will be well behaved." Ichigo then gives her a teasing smirk. "It will allow me to always be the good guy."

It is her turn to giggle. "You suck. But, I do think you will be a great otou. And, your temper will be legendary. I can't imagine if our son got smart on you or if our daughter brought home a date."

Ichigo's brow goes up. "I'd slap the hell out of my boys and cut off the pecker of any guy that came to date my girls."

Rukia shakes her head in humor. "Bya-nii would be right in line behind you. They will find that, on the clan compound, there are many eyes. They can hide from no one."

Ichigo has always been curious about that. "So, when we get married, where will we live in Soul Society?"

She answers in a resolute tone. "We will live on the compound. We will get our own plot of land and Bya-nii will probably give us a house on it as a wedding present. Noble clan members live within the same vicinity. It ensures safety. That is especially true once they are married and/or have children."

"Can I ask you a question?" There is something he has to know.


Ichigo sighs then starts his questioning. "How badly do these people want you out of the way? How serious is your safety situation? Be honest with me, Rukia."

Woah. That came out of nowhere. Deciding that she needs to be open about what he is about to get into, she answers as calmly as she can. "Ichigo, I can't lie. The rest of the clan is really, really angry. If I were to 'happen' to die, they could insert someone else in my place; someone they want…someone like them.

"They don't like me. They never have. I am poor Rokongai trash. They saw my sister the same way. The idea that they have to serve a person that should be their servant, feeds a deep hatred.

"So, I guess you could say they want me dead; post haste.

"Sorry. I know it is kind of scary."

Ichigo's expression hardens. Things are going to be very different around there. He's got news for those fuckers. If anyone looks like they are a danger to Rukia, it will get quickly crucial. "Rukia, while I want you to be extremely careful, know that I will protect you; fiercely.

"Do what you need to. Leave the rest up to me. I will not let you down.

"I know that you worry about not wanting me to be exposed to shinigami life. But, you need to understand that I have no qualms about what that means. I will kill anyone I have to without blinking."

Tightening his hold on her hand, Ichigo concludes with compassionate disdain for the clan, "I am not afraid and I will be damned if you life that way either. Those sons of bitches will fear you and the consequences of betrayal."

His scowl is soft and sincere. "Not only will I always love and honour you as my wife, but I will be loyal to you and serve you.

"We are in this together; I am your guardian. Don't ever forget that."

Violet eyes linger on those of the previous speaker for few seconds. Rukia knows he is serious and that causes a fear in its own right. She wants to keep his soul as clean as possible and she does not want him to become so paranoid that he changes who he is.

In a low volume, she speaks of her true fear; that the guardian becomes the predator. "Ichigo, there is nothing that I would not do for you. You are more precious to me than anything I own, including my life. Whatever happens, let your heart remain the same. Your sense of justice and compassion are the most important things to me.

"I have gained nothing if lose you; the privilege of loving you sustains me. Do not fall victim to the darkness that will surround us. A broken heart will kill me faster than any weapon that can be brandished.

"Power is not of value to me…you are. Do you understand, Shujin-sama?"

Scowling in acceptance, he nods, "Hai, Tsuma-sama. I will never fail you."

Adding to their growing list of fearless pacts, he accepts the fact that if he fails her, he fails himself.

"Angel." Rukia can tell that his mind is swirling a million thoughts. This is why she held this discussion off. She doesn't need him stressing about what he cannot control.

Not realizing that his attention was diverted, he answers in slight surprise. "Yeah, Love."

Her smile is soft as her thumb rubs his hand with gentleness and adoration. "My life is yours and yours is mine. We have been through hell and survived it all to be near the other. You and I are tough enough to make it many more centuries.

"It will be okay; we will be okay. Don't worry about future villains we can't see or plan for. Let's just enjoy each day and be grateful that, soon, only when our lives are over will we be over.

"This is what we fight for. Do not ruin our peace by planning for war. Okay?"

Ichigo stares at her in total appreciation. She always puts things into perspective. "'Kay."

Still, he can't help the feeling that what they have will be put to the test more than once in the next few months.

I plan for war because peace can only last so long.