a/n: this one-shot is based on the new Bleach Calendar spread; it's the only landscape pic in the calendar, and if you haven't seen it, I suggest you visit my profile and bask in the IchiRukiness before continuing your read.
Rated M for swearing and lemon.
disclaimer: Bleach is not mine, and sadly, the sexy Calendar spread is not mine... yet.
For Cel and Aentee
Ichigo knew he made a mistake.
He knew he made a mistake when he just nodded and let Rukia arrange his so-called 'vacation'. He knew he made a mistake when a wide grin, resplendent and outshining the sun outside his window, lit her dark orbs with diamonds. He knew he made a mistake when she scurried out of the room after planting a chaste kiss on his cheek, exclaiming she needed to contact her brother.
Two hours later, his mistake announced its victory in a boisterous ring emanating from his cell phone, Rukia's euphoric voice booming in his ear, echoing over and over even after the call ended.
"We are going to my brother's summer mansion!"
Which is located in a deserted island, an isolated area floating somewhere amidst the sickeningly blue ocean.
"Ichigo!" He snaps out of his trance, averting his gaze back to the suitcases littering around his feet, then to the raven haired girl stampeding towards him, golden sand splattering around her feet. He returns her disapproving frown with a dejected expression. "You're surprisingly slow today. Here I thought you'd be at least… enthusiastic about your vacation."
Ichigo groans. "Enthusiastic?" His trademark scowl present, he gesticulates at the area — this is the Kuchiki island, a secluded area without polluted air and skyscrapers and howling mob, a place where work is very far away, and palm trees and soft sand and mellifluous waves will lull you to tranquil repose.
"Like hell I'd be."
If Rukia was offended by his harsh response, she didn't show it. Her eyes dilate for seconds, displaying emotions he can't grasp. The tips of her mouth twitch upwards, a grin flashes briefly, and she pivots on her heels, heading for the mansion again. A wave of hand. "You're such a baby today, strawberry sweetie."
The nickname, as expected, elicits a growl from the orange haired man. "Not again. Seriously."
Rukia knows the silly (horrendous) nickname works wonders, and with the perfect ounce of tease, it makes the most sugary glaze that will indubitably nauseate him. And it did. Ichigo lets out a string of expletives, grabs the suitcases and bags, and throws the mansion — standing hundreds of meters away from him, shaded by swaying palm leaves — a virulent look.
He didn't want to go there. He doesn't want to be here. Here, of all places.
A place where internet access is a galaxy away and work extraterrestrial.
He doesn't want to consider himself a workaholic — he's grateful for this short vacation, really, but he's been busy and has a lot of work to do, and transient holiday or not, he needs the internet to keep updated with all the mayhem going around in the office. What if the others can't handle them? The least he can do is help his juniors via the invisible intermediary that is called the internet.
Ichigo's train of thought skids into a stop just as Rukia marches down towards him again, the doors to the mansion ajar, cream colored walls and expensive furniture peeking over her petite shoulders. She takes some of the bags and leads him, playing oblivious to his grunt and scowl.
"You're unbelievably hyper today." Ichigo trails behind her, shoulders hunched.
Rukia slants an eye in his direction, not slowing down. "Why wouldn't I be? It's a vacation, Ichigo!"
"Yeah, more like being incarcerated somewhere in the middle of the world."
She stops at the door and cocks her head to the side, her countenance between solicitous and amused. "Eh, you're unbelievably cantankerous today, you know?"
Her smirk elongates just before she enters the building, his profanities stalking her shadow. Left without any choice, Ichigo finally goes in and the Kuchiki mansion greets him in a swirl of familiarity. Everything is the same as it was back then; the mansion is lavishly embellished with furnishings, the walls are not daubed with dust despite being forsaken for so many seasons (he doesn't want to imagine the maids hired to do the cleaning), and everywhere he sees, all he can glimpse is the Kuchiki's ageless… beauty and grandeur.
Rukia rivets his attention by flinging herself onto a sofa, her eyes brimming with excitement.
Furrowing his eyebrows deeper, he drops the bags and suitcase onto the floor, exhausted all of sudden. "What's with that look?" He queries, and Rukia just beams up at him innocently — far too innocent and guiltless to his liking. And experiences teach him that something impish is laying low under that wide smile. And so, he elaborates; "Cut that out, Rukia. This isn't a second honeymoon or something. Just a vacation. Three days at that."
It seems like he opted for the wrong phrase because her grin goes wider. "Honeymoon? Whoever says about honeymoon? Oh! You're actually thinking this is a honeymoon? That's so very sweet of you, strawberry sweetie." She simulates an ardent giggle, which sounds just oddly wrong and very uncharacteristic of her.
And he hates that smug look painted across her face.
Ichigo expels a heavy sigh, grumbles, and slouches into the sofa next to her. "Yeah, whatever. I'm tired. Let me get some rest."
As much as he abhors this secluded place, he knows Rukia adores the island very much due to early memories. He bets on his life that she'll climb one of those trees in the forest behind the mansion — that habit of hers, albeit incomprehensible, never fails to amuse him. At least she'll have fun here, he thinks.
Three days. He just has to endure three days. After that, he can go back to work and his personal room in Tokyo. With computer and internet and technology. All that jazz.
The last thing he sees is his wife's understanding smile before he closes his eyes and slumber takes over.
Everything is going according to plan. Rukia feels so proud of it. She managed to make him take some days off; she managed to haul him here. His work is becoming ridiculously overkill, and he's getting more and more detached from his family and friends. And so, she had to do something, didn't she?
She knows his mind is still tethered to the ground and his job, but she's going to make sure that he'll enjoy the short holiday. He needs a break.
She lets him take some nap, and after turning the TV on and lowering the volume as not to disturb his siesta, she goes to the kitchen and scrounges the cupboards and refrigerator for ingredients she had asked Nii-sama to prepare beforehand.
Going here alone without any maids is also part of her grand plan (cooking meals is a guilty pleasure at this point); and because she likes to consider herself as a good wife, Rukia is going to cook something spicy for him tonight. Real spicy. The thought pulls her mouth to a wide, cheshire grin.
Even though all she does is paint, her cooking experience is not bad. She's tried a couple of recipes with her friends, and while Japanese food is her forte, that doesn't mean she can't venture the Western boundaries, right?
Giddy with excitement, Rukia washes bowls and plates, gets out sweet Italian sausage, ground beef, onions and cloves of garlic. Glancing to the recipe and rereading it again, she chops the onions first, then throws them onto a pot along with the beef, garlic and sausage.
There's no one else but them. There's no one else but her in the kitchen — no maids, no butlers, no Nii-sama, no Ichigo. Just her and a mountain of prospective ingredients.
This lasagna is going to be epic.
When Ichigo reopens his eyes, the bright sky had dimmed to faint streaks of violets and oranges, the sun's resplendent light sinking and casting sporadic sequins on the building and windows. Jerking awake, he berates to himself for oversleeping — only to notice that he's in the Kuchiki Mansion living room, on a vacation, sprawled on a comfortable sofa, with… spicy scent wafting over him.
Crinkling his nose, he rises to his feet and staggers in the direction of the smell; it's getting stronger and stronger with each hesitant step he takes.
What he finds out is not what he expected to witness. Maybe 'smell' would be a better word. The refrigerator is half open, there's steam billowing out from inside a pot, and in the middle of the kitchen stands his wife Rukia, who whirls around to return his appalled expression with bliss, sparkling pristine in her dirty apron.
"Who knows that Western food could be so tricky?"
"What?" He winces. The smell is unbelievably... hot.
"Tobasco as opposed to wasabi..." she murmurs to herself and skips toward him, a tray in her hands, ignoring his perplexity.
Ichigo barely pays attention as she drags him out of the kitchen and into the living room. And only when he's seated in a sofa and Rukia puts the tray on the table in front of him does he realize it's a meal. For him.
What the hell is this thing?
Red blocks of…
"What the hell is this?" Ichigo finally voices out the question hammering in his head.
Rukia folds her arms over her chest, affronted. "That's food, idiot. Lasagna. It's my first time trying to cook something western, but I hope I've put enough chili — tobasco? — in it. What a weird name. And I still need to figure out how to use the utensils properly... Western culture is weird." She rambles.
Silence. Apparently, her rambling doesn't fascinate him.
"In the shape of a bunny?"
She stomps her foot and takes the fork and knife, hilarity gone, bursting into rosy shades on her face. "That's called being artistic. I don't have good bunny-shaped stamp with me at the moment, and sculpting food is tricky. Besides, you should thank me for making this for you, you strawberry bastard! You're alone with me here, and you have to deal with my cooking, with or without shape—"
"Fine, fine." Ichigo quickly takes the fork and knife away from her hands. Another fact about Rukia he finds oddly cute and funny is her obsession with bunnies, and no matter how many times he teases her about it, she'll always have either an abashed or protective expression on her visage.
Rukia harrumphs but is no longer shouting, her anger replaced by eager anticipation. Ichigo is fully aware of the fact that her cooking is definitely edible, but the strong smell... it puts him off. The weird shape as well.
At least he has to appreciate her effort.
And so, Ichigo slices the Lasagna-bunny, Rukia's big eyes growing wider and wider as the fork approaches his mouth. He gulps it down and—
His face explodes in volcanic reds, lava burning and flooding his features. Choking, Ichigo instinctively drops the fork and knife, hands flying to his neck. Rukia bends closer, worried. "Ichigo? Are you oka—"
"What the fuck? Are you trying to kill me?"
Taken aback by the sudden shout, Rukia blinks, and recovering from the surprise, she knits her brows and glares daggers at him. "Of course I'm not!" Her voice livid.
An index finger pointed at the misshapen lasagna. "That thing. Do you have any idea how—" He coughs and springs to his feet, running to the kitchen with Rukia in tow, and after searching frantically inside the refrigerator, he finds a bottle of mineral water which he glugs down almost immediately.
It takes a lot of water for the traces of the tangy food to vanish, and even after he's calmed down, the hot aftertaste still lingers and mocks him with blistering sensation prickling his tongue. He finally diverts his attention to Rukia, who's standing a meter away from him, apprehension not veiled by her damp strands of hair.
"Are you crazy or what? That thing could have killed me."
"Oh please, you're exaggerating. There's no way in hell am I trying to kill you, I was only trying to make you something—"
"That thing was as hot and fiery as friggin' hell, Rukia!"
"Hmph, as if you've been in hell! You love spicy food, so I thought—" She blinks, realizing something. "...I,"
If something hinders her rebuttal, it must be his look. Their eyes lock for a moment, violet clashing with hazel, wordless messages and understanding linking their hearts. In a blink of an eye, the ephemeral eternity is gone, and Ichigo realizes the kitchen is suffused with deafening silence.
He swivels around and scrutinizes the refrigerator, grabbing some eggs and getting out a frying pan. To preclude any question coming from his wife, he gives her a slight nod, and with what he hopes a nonchalant shrug and expression, he beckons for her to come over; "If you're hungry, you better help me cooking this time. We're going to eat omelette tonight."
He averts his gaze down again, searching for a spatula and some oil, but he can hear her footsteps closing in, echoing with unspoken agreement. His hand freezes mid-air when her voice, so soft and low he could be hallucinating, lulls his concentration to void; "Sorry about earlier. I didn't mean that. The tobasco and chili..."
Ichigo jerks his head around, only to find her back to him as she busily tries to find something in the cupboard. Sighing, he cracks the eggs and lets them plummet onto the frying pan.
"…I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have… I kind of overreacted," he admits, his voice fading in regret. Maybe he's been too hard on her, maybe he's been an asshole ever since this vacation topic was brought up, maybe he's being selfish while Rukia only wants him to relax and enjoy their short holiday. Misshapen lasagna or not, she's shown her care, whole and intact.
He'll try to be less of an asshole. Just three days… Might as well enjoy his days off while he's here.
"With chili or ketchup?" He finally asks, acknowledging the silence as her answer; she accepted his apology.
"You forget that I'm a better cook than you, don't you?" She takes the spatula from his hand, and he lets it slide onto her fingers, a sign of trust.
The next day, Ichigo wakes up to a familiar ceiling that blinks white at him. Hazel orbs fly to the already opened window before catching the clock on the wall. Nine in the morning. Usually, during normal days, he'll jump out of bed and hurry to work as soon as possible — but here he is, the afterglow of dreams synchronize with the faint hums of waves outside, enticing him back to sleep.
However, the smell of eggs and butter prompts him to glance around his room. Not to his surprise, Rukia is not there, the other side of the bed already been made. Rubbing his eyes, Ichigo decides to help her serve breakfast.
Stifling a yawn, he totters his way toward her, grabs a piece of toast, and opens the refrigerator to find some juice.
"Good morning, strawberry sweetie."
He grumbles. "I think I told you not to call me by that nickname." A smirk dances on Rukia's face as she passes the peanut butter over, and it's when Ichigo notices unfamiliar bottles on the table. "Wine? " A raised eyebrow.
"Oh, that. Yeah, I asked Nii-sama to get us some bottles of wine for celebration."
Ichigo doesn't know what's there to celebrate, but he won't say no to good wine — God knows his brother in law is picky about them, so he can be sure that he's going to enjoy them. "Having some wine later in the evening would be nice."
"I knew you'd say that." Rukia circles the table, takes the bottles, and with a knowing and victorious look, waves her hand in a businesslike manner; "Say, what about drinking wine at the shores later today?"
The sun dawdles between clouds, sluggishly descending toward the horizon when they reach the shores, and Rukia, dressed in a white summer dress, arrives first, her hems rippling vigorously in the wind that picks up. She has been happy about something, Ichigo muses to himself; he never saw her particularly dressed up unless it came to special occasions.
His train of thought derails from track as Rukia twirls around, raven strands of hair whipping on her face, violet eyes gleaming with joy.
"The sunset will be beautiful from here!"
Ichigo trudges his way through the thick sand, dragging a container filled with ice and bottles of wine. "I bet." He slumps onto the sand. The ocean scent is strong here, reeking of past memories; the waves lap on the shores, serene in their twilight choir; seagulls chirp and pirouette on their stage of overflowing tangerines, the sound of their flapping wings creating harmony with the singing sea.
"You are incredibly happy about something." Ichigo states the obvious, and Rukia turns her head at his sudden statement.
"Well," she starts, positioning herself under a palm tree. "You seem a lot happier too, compared to yesterday, or days before that."
He doesn't respond to that. Rukia is always right, and she is indeed right about him seeming happier today. He isn't sure why, but it's as if something heavy is slowly being lifted from his chest and shoulders, letting him breathe again. He wonders if this vacation is working its miraculous healing and doing magical wonders to his troubled mind and life. Maybe, in a way, it is.
A simple shrug was all his answer. Hands stretched behind him, he stares at the sun, its incandescent light sinking first, dipping low into the water, gilding the indigos aureate. He can describe this 'holiday' in so many words and adjectives, but all his mind can muster is "different".
And as much as he hates to admit, he likes the ambience and atmosphere change. And maybe because she's here by his side, to complete him.
Snapping out of his trance, Ichigo twists his head in her direction, blinking. "What?"
"Geez, spacing out? I've been calling your name! Pour a glass of wine for me, will you?"
He gets the container and curses. "Crap. I forgot the glasses."
Rukia stares at him. "Ah, your memory is getting rusty, it seems."
Shooting his wife a look, Ichigo passes a bottle of wine to her. "Whatever, you can swig from it or something."
She welcomes the bottle, slyness skipping across her lips. "That would be an indirect kiss, you know? Did you intentionally forget the glasses, Ichigo?"
He stops fiddling with the container, stares at her, incredulous. "What are we, twelfth graders? We are married, for God's sake."
Her lips stretch wider until she can hold her laughter no more — her laugh rings pleasantly in his ears, and when she stops, the mirth is still apparent on her countenance. "So you do remember. When you refused to drink from my bottle, no matter how thirsty you were — God, you were so cute back then."
He knows Rukia is teasing him, but he can't help but feel embarrassed, hoping his skin is tan enough to conceal the flames rising to his cheeks. "You don't have to bring that up." He grumbles.
She chuckles and imbibes her wine. They occasionally pass the bottle over despite there are more waiting inside the container, waiting to be taken out. For a while, neither speaks, just silently drinking and enjoying the afternoon as it succumbs and lets the creeping darkness to take over. By the time they finish their third bottle, the sky is already dark and the stars are glinting faintly overhead.
"Rukia," he calls, but she doesn't answer. "Oi, Rukia."
Ichigo sighs. "We should head back. It's getting late…" He stands up and goes to where she is, her petite figure shadowed by darkness. Only when he's close enough does he realize that her eyes are… unfocused. "…you're drunk."
She snaps her head up, fighting back as Ichigo tries to pull her up. "I'm not drunk."
"I'm not!" Rukia tries to break free from his grasp, but it's futile — her strength isn't there when she needs it, and her head swirls in a blur of colors as he bends, holds her waist, and carries her away. "Ichigo, let me downnn!"
"Yeah, later when we reach the mansion."
"You bastard." She gurgles.
If Ichigo thinks she's completely drunk and powerless, he's utterly wrong. Rukia, disliking her hopelessness, struggles in his hold, the action catching him off guard.
"Damn it Rukia— your hand is on my face—"
And the struggle finally bears its fruit. Ichigo's stops, only to collapse onto the sand, soft debris flying in all directions. Rukia falls on top of him, the impact causing her throbbing to intensify, and she groans.
Beneath her, Ichigo mumbles. "Great. Just look at what you've done to us."
"It's not my fault! You refused to let me go, and I'm not drunk, Ichigo." She slurs, not bothering to move, their faces only inches away now. "You… stupid bastard. You've been so… grouchy in the last few weeks. Nii-sama sometimes asked me about it. And… I just wanted to surprise you… with this holiday. You've been very detached, and… I don't know! I suppose good wives can always make their husbands happy, huh. Guess… I'm not… one of them."
Her head sinks into his chest.
His heart seems to stop beating.
"Rukia," he finally manages to croak.
"Hn?" her voice muffled.
"I know you're a bit drunk," he knows she is, for if she wasn't, she wouldn't have blabbered like that. "But can you lift your head for a moment?"
Slowly, her face eclipses the dark background of night, and a frown is etched between her violet eyes. "What kind of dumb question is that?"
"Can you still see my face? Clearly?"
She stares at him, scowl deepening. "Imbecile. Of course I can—"
And his face ascends to touch hers, their lips next, his hands tight around her. For minutes unbeknownst to them, they just lay there, no distance, simply enjoying the silent night; he savors her as she trails honeysuckle taste on his tongue.
And he's no longer beneath her. He rises, switches position, and stares at her. "You can see me, after all." A smirk, before he dives into her neck, leaving marks that burn and scorch like summer sun, tracks that won't incinerate even after he leaves them. Her chest heaves up and down, her moans rise and fall in crescendo and decrescendo, her pale hands clutch him for life.
He progresses down, undressing her slowly, his fingers roaming and exploring her. His name slips from her mouth like a clarion call, her broken nails dig into his skin, scraping for attention until he travels up. Their eyes interlock for the briefest moment before she catches his lips in a ride that steals his breath away, his lungs rocketing and plunging downwards in a wild drive.
Her fingers fumble for the buttons of his clothes, and he smiles slightly at the futile attempt — even so, he just lets her try, and asks, "You're wearing lipstick."
"Lipgloss." Their noses almost touch.
"Hmmh. Do you need help with that?"
"No." She persists, and manages to completely unbutton his clothes. "Ha, I won." She hisses.
"Let's see about that." He snatches her hands away, getting rid of her dress — a nice one, he remarks — and letting it aside. His hand wanders inquisitively around her body, pale against the sandy ground beneath them. His head is on her shoulder, biting the strap of her bra and forcing it down. Once it is, he moves downward and teases her with hungry bites, sending chills down her spine, a howl that pierces the somnolent skies with razorblade ecstasy.
She lifts her hands, touches his chest, travels down. Her attempt at undoing his pants is hindered yet again, this time he's separated her legs, his fingers between them, taunting her. She clings to him then, pants forgotten, breaths coming in short rasps, intimate calls that echo over and over, a mantra; "Ichigo,"
The next moment, they're already naked, their hearts thumping stridently, their secrets exposed to vast heavens that watch their entangled cores becoming one. When Ichigo gazes into her eyes and sees the stars reflected in them, he finds his soul among those glitters, luminous, and realizes that his place is nowhere but here, with her.
He loves her.
And he descends into her like a shooting star, fast and strong and burning and full of dreams, clandestine secrets that are chanted and weaved into mere names. He moves, and she moves with him, a harmonized orchestra. They call each other's name, desperate but brimming with possibilities, foreseeing the future cradled by the glistening firmament.
They are one.
Separated by nothing but their skin, he falls onto her, breathless, their hearts beating together.
She calls out, and he answers, this time from somewhere deep inside him. And her soul smiles and hollers him home.
The constellation above them flickers, and then sighs in the afterglow.
"I love you."
A kiss is her answer.
Ichigo punches the right buttons, presses the telephone against his ear — thank God it's still working, he mentally thinks — and waits for an answer. By the third ring, a low, masculine voice reverberates in his ear; "Kuchiki Byakuya speaking." And then, "Kurosaki Ichigo? What business might you have in a such early morning like this?"
"Nah, nothing important, really… Just, actually… could you drop us some food supplies tomorrow?"
There is silence. Ichigo twirls the cord of the phone, waiting. In the same monotone, Byakuya finally speaks again, "And why would that be?"
"Well… we've been experimenting with new recipes and all that, and we are low on supplies—" Ichigo sighs, deciding there's no use in hedging; it's Byakuya after all, his brother in law who apparently can't be fooled in one and many other ways. "Actually, we're planning to prolong our vacation."
"I see." As succinct as always. "I take it that it's going well for both of you?"
"Yeah, of course."
"Protect and take care of my sister, Kurosaki Ichigo."
Ichigo snorts. "It's been a year, Byakuya. Trust me, will you?"
"Very well. I'll make sure that you're properly supplied."
"Cool. Thanks. See you, Byakuya."
"Farewell, Kurosaki Ichigo."
The call ends and Ichigo is about to call another person when Rukia, still dazed, blinks against the morning sunlight, yawning and walking over to him. "You're early." She slumps into the couch, trying to stifle another yawn in vain.
"Well, yeah. Aren't you supposed to be in bed? The hangover—"
She glares daggers at him. "I wasn't drunk."
"And what's with that phone? Are you trying to call someone at the office? Work, already?"
"Ah." Ichigo, remembering that he has to make a call, resumes pressing the buttons. Rukia rises and approaches him, her eyebrows knitted in disapproval. "Yeah, I need to call someone—" the ring is picked up almost immediately. "Mizuiro? Hi. Yeah, we're both fine. Actually," Ichigo turns to evade Rukia's hands as she tries to seize the telephone away, and he lifts it higher away from her reach; she glowers.
"Actually, we are planning to prolong the vacation. Yeah. Hmm, about two weeks, maybe. Not too long, right? I'm sure you guys can handle the stuff there. Tell Keigo I'm going to cut his salary if he refuses to take a bit more of work." Rukia's hands are no longer searching for the phone hungrily. "Okay then. Bye."
Ichigo swivels around, only to be greeted by a shocked Rukia. "What?"
"You heard that right. We're going to be stranded here for another two weeks, so—"
"Ichigo," she lowers her voice, tone tinted with disbelief. "Are you sick?"
"Of course not." He walks past her, in the direction of the kitchen. Noticing she isn't following, he glances over his shoulder. "Bacon with eggs or not?"
Her steps take her into his arms.
"As if you need an answer to that."
He laughs; it rings in his ears and in the room and in the peace that follows.
And they march forward, their hearts drawing the map, the world cradled between their hands.
a/n: BA members and I can't unsee the "honeymoon" we saw in the spread. XD
A lot of people have asked me to write something based on the spread, so here it is! It feels weird attempting fluff after writing so many angst fics in the last few weeks... but I hope you enjoyed this.
**side-note: the new spread is OFFICIAL. Kubo drew it.
On the cooking thing: I've rewritten the Rukia cooking/kitchen section. I never read the Bleach Rhapsody book, so I didn't know she was a good cook. It was never my intention to "downgrade" her in any way. However, in this fict, for someone Japanese who adhered herself to customs and such (especially Nii-sama's breed), it was natural for her to "fail" a bit at first try (considering this is the Western (Italian) cooking). But it wasn't a complete failure either: just a wrong put/measure of chili/tobasco and Ichigo's overreaction, his grumpiness the whole day (added some bits to that section as well). Hope we're clear now.
Thanks very much for reading, and reviews would be greatly appreciated!