Disclaimers: As is the usual case, I have no claim to anything that is not my own.
Soundtrack: DeVotchKa's "I Cried Like A Silly Boy"

It catches on his coat before the empty months-a thin, red thread of thought that he carries through the school day and then back home again. Small impressions, ghosting sensations. He pauses at his front door and Karakura-town fades into the thought. In it, the rooms are cream-colored. The air is tinged with hibiscus flowers and the smell of hot sand. And there is a hum, its lilt feminine-it takes him a moment to find its source, walking through the cool hallways. And there Rukia is, lips puckered at her own reflection. She works a white flower into her hair.

Ichigo watches her, leans against the door jamb. "What's that?" he says.

"Eh?" she says, and pauses in front of the mirror.

"That," he says. He gestures at her face. She frowns at her reflection. "Here," he says. And then he has crossed the short space and his thumb is pressed to the plump of her wet lip.

"Stop that," she says and shoos his hand away. "Oh, you ruined it." She glares at him and pops open a little tube of color. She rolls it back and forth over her bottom lip.

"Since when do you do that?" he says.

She snaps shut the tube. "Special occasions."

"Oh," he says and smirks. "What's that?"

Her grin is sneaky. Her cheeks are sly. "Hm?" she says. She glances over her bare shoulder and the pounce comes quick. Ichigo fends her off and takes her little hand in his own. The bones are bird-frail and he grips them almost too tight. She shakes away. "Come on," she says. "They say it's a pretty place-I don't want to miss it."

They drink the dry straight from the bottle. Ichigo relaxes, rolls up his pant legs, walks into the water and out again. The sun dries the salt to his feet and he stretches his toes. Rukia watches from the shade.

"Come out into the sun," he says. He swigs from the bottle and then works it back into the ice. "It's nice."

"I'll burn."

"No," he says. "Not all of you."

"Oh?" The sneaky slyness comes back into her face, but tempered now by something other. The tension in Ichigo's brows lifts. Patterns of palm fronds move over her shoulders. She pushes herself out of the sand somewhat and he notes its imprint in her skin, the sheen of it on her dress. He leans back on his palms, a warm sort of dizzy in his heart.

Ichigo grins.

Rukia kicks up a foot and shifts. Her coral necklace bunches beneath her. His fingers curl. He begins to push off of them.

And then the thought fades away. He is at his front door again and there is no sand, no champagne. He shakes his head at himself and goes in. He slips out of his shoes and upstairs before his father can find him. He is about to go into his room when he hears a girlish hum, followed by Rukia's deep chuckle. "I like this one," she says.

He hesitates, then sets down his bag and follows the sound to his sisters' room. Rukia and Yuzu sit together on Rukia's borrowed bed. Yuzu rolls lip color over Rukia's face.

"What's that?" Ichigo says. He puts his hands in his pockets.

"Eh?" Rukia says.

"Make-up!" says Yuzu. "They were giving away samples!"

"Oh," he says. Yuzu has chosen a pink. It suits her. Rukia's lips are more neutral, but they shine. His thumb throbs in his pocket. He decides to not look at them. He frowns. "You're too young for that stuff."

"Are not!" Yuzu says.

Rukia folds her arms and raises one indignant finger. "The young women of the modern world must practice their arts," she says.

Yuzu gives her a weird look and Ichigo rolls his eyes. "Okay," he says. Whatever thread of thought still clings to him, he shakes it off and tries to forget it. "Well, Yuzu's too young. And you don't have anything to wear it for."

"For?" she says.

"A special occasion," he says, and he swallows a sudden lump. Rukia has grinned, and the look is familiar.

"Well maybe I will," she says.

"Whatever," he says. He turns away in a huff so he doesn't have to hear their conspiratorial whispers and giggles. He lays face down on his bed. The sun shines through the window and warms his back. The dizzy works itself out of his pounding heart. And in the empty months that will come, he will almost convince himself that he has forgotten the thought, the dizzy, the different warmth.