Plot: She had to give him credit when credit was due. He was handsome, more than what she could measure up to. And he wanted her. Regardless of who was watching. Boyfriend or not. RXI


There she stood in the stretch of beige colored hallway, olive colored lockers lining the walls, green and white checkered tiles paving the road to classrooms as far as the eye could see. He was watching her as she laughed, a somewhat high pitched shrill giggle that could have been confused as a tormented cry for help. He wondered, as he rested his shoulder against the tin lockers, what had been so funny that she had to regurgitate a laugh similar to a monkey's scream. He had heard her laugh before, her real laugh that was nothing short than a soft giggle that defined the pretty features to her round face. Regardless, however, he couldn't help as his tongue passed over his upper lip to wet his dry lips. She looked good cackling like an old witch.

He ran a hand through his blond locks and glanced around the semi-crowded halls. He wanted to talk to her, for even just a minute without anyone noticing. He wanted to run a red strand of her hair between his fingers to feel its silkiness or brush his hand down her bare arm from the short sleeved uniform. If he could do that, he thought, then he would have accomplished something for the day. Without the thought of judging classmates eyes, he casually leaned off of the locker and took a few steps toward the small group of girls, his blue eyes glued to the one girl in particular.

She clutched a textbook close to her chest and bit her bottom lip as he approached but she never made eye contact with him. Her skin, he could see much closer now, was porcelain except for the pink in her cheeks, which blared red every time another giggle escaped her small, plump lips. He took another step, his breath in his ears now, her two friends had their back to him and they hid someone who was standing in front of them. He assumed it was another girl friend and as he went to tap her shoulder he was stopped abruptly. Someone had grabbed his hand and had torn his attention away from the girl with the head of crimson hair. He looked from the girl who had sucked all his attention to meet the chocolate eyes of his friend. She backed away, concerned about something but he couldn't tell.

"Mint," he greeted as he looked back at the girl. She had turned away so he could only see her side.

"Ryou," her voice was low, like a harsh whisper, "What are you doing?"

He looked back at her, those piercing brown eyes, the permanent eyebrow lift and scowl on her face. He understood almost immediately what she meant as he was only a few short steps from the red headed girl. His hand, he realized, was outstretched slightly, as if he were going to touch her shoulder once he was close enough. He recoiled, took a step away, and then back so he was leaning against the lockers again in one fluid motion. As his eyes left his friend and he glanced around the hallways, he noticed how many people had been watching his moves. They all whispered, he could see their questioning expressions.

"What do you mean?" he lifted an eyebrow as if allowing the world to thaw slightly. The question alone, he hoped indicated that it was all mistake. After a moment where his gaze stayed glued to Mint's he realized the air began to ease from the tension. He looked up and noticed that people relaxed although were cautious to move on.

Mint shook her head as she rested her pale hand against the waist of her blue uniform skirt. After a long sigh she looked back at her friend and asked, "What happened there? You looked like you were about to pounce Momomiya."

"Momomiya," the word whispered in his mind, "Ichigo."

"I wanted to say 'hi'. I can't do that? After all, she is my lab partner," he raised his dark blond eyebrows, toying with his friend's guilt. Mint's face flushed slightly and she rolled her eyes, "I apologized, didn't I? And Aizakawa Mint never apologizes."

Ryou rolled his eyes this time before his gaze fell back on the red head a few steps away. She turned and walked away, the same smile plastered on her face as she stared longingly at someone Ryou couldn't see. Mint grabbed the sleeve of his uniform jacket and Ryou craned his neck to watch over his shoulder. Once one of the girls had moved aside to enter a classroom, Ryou tried to get a good look at the person who had his lab partners attention in the palm of their hand. But Mint had gave another little tug to his jacket sleeve and his attention naturally fell back on the girl who was dragging him to class. After a second, he twisted his head over his shoulder in a last, hurried attempt and could only see a ball of brown hair leading Ichigo Momomiya away.

He scowled to himself. Half angry at Mint for keeping him from the girl who had captured his interest for so long. And half angry that the ball of brown hair had a blue jacket uniform belonging to a male student. But his scowling didn't last long as he was pulled behind the corner of another hallway. He pulled his arm away from Mint and cocked an eyebrow, "Are you finished?" his voice was tinted with annoyance.

She exhaled through her nostrils, "Ryou you're going to get yourself into trouble one of these days." It had been the same thing she had been saying for months. But he had realized that he lacked the interest that would have had him thinking twice about who he thought might get him in trouble. In fact, he found the strawberry haired girl to be more attractive. She was an untouchable and that made her desirable. It was no news to himself that he wanted her simply because he could not have her. Now that she was holding the palm of someone else, it only made his attraction to her stronger.

And it drove him insane.

More than insane, it consumed his thoughts.

He wasn't sure when he had ever found Ichigo Momomiya attractive, but he assumed it was the day she laughed. As cliché and bothersome it was to Ryou Shirogane to admit that he fell in love with the tinkling giggle that played from her lips, he couldn't remember when else he had glanced up, saw the squint in her eye of delight, the softened features of her face, the natural pink of her cheeks and really felt something.

And again, it drove him mad.

Maddening, he pleaded. He never wanted a girl like Ichigo Momomiya. Never. And yet, there he was like every morning, having his best friend rescue him from the power that drew him closer to her. He wanted to stop but then he couldn't get enough of the desire and attraction. It was all so new that it refreshed him.

How many girls had he dated that fell precisely and perfectly to his standards? Each face that flickered to his memory became a mesh of colors. Their perfection had to match his and in the end it was Rome. It failed. The relationship went down like a rock sinking through water. And the girls, who were rich, primp, neat, proper, and perfect for him were girls he looked at once with a considerable amount of appreciation before they faded in his mind. Their names? What were they? The names matched the faces, matched the faces, matched the faces, matched nothing he could remember but the goo that had mixed into his mind.

He could remember Mindy if she walked by, her winter jacket neatly folded over her arm as she walked straight and tall through the corridors. Her brown hair was long, straight, and neatly pulled back. Her briefcase never moved in her hand as she glided effortlessly from class to class. Her square printing on paper never fell from the lines as she took diligent and precise notes. She never wasted her money on frivolous things. Ryou wondered, was that Mindy? Or was it someone else? He would know if he saw her in the halls, he would remember. She would be the girl that never would be anything but perfect.

But he liked the perfection. See, he was perfect. He needed someone who was perfect for him. If he didn't then the balance would go askew. He would weigh more on a Justice scale as the lesser partner remained happy where they sat high above him. It just didn't match up. It didn't seem right. The world would not appreciate it. He knew this. The world knew this. But he couldn't find someone who made him seem less perfect. Then where we he stand there? Would she be so perfect that he made him look like garbage? Another reason the scale would go askew, the world would suddenly stop and spin backward! He needed that balance. It was as if it was written from the hands of the Gods. Somewhere on a scroll, he would find the person that balanced him. Who didn't tip him. Who didn't weigh more or less.

He drew in a long breath of air. It was stale. Nothing like what he had felt as he sat in Chemistry, writing the notes their teacher printed on the board in white chalk, only to look over in a spare second to see Ichigo quickly scribbling and jolting down as many words as possible. Her chicken scratch would sprawl across the paper unevenly, as if a three year old was playing with crayons. Her free hand would be tangled in her mess of red hair, her gaze flicking from the board to her paper as if she couldn't keep up fast enough with the teacher's normal pace.

At first he was appalled. How could someone be such a complete and utter screw up that they could not even write decent notes at a normal pace? But then he would see her as she blanched, erasing a mistake she made in spelling, as if everyone saw her mess up from their own paper and he would find it...endearing.

She was cute and frisky and a total mess and it simply refreshed him. He was standing on a snowy mountain, inhaling air for the first time. It made him soar with ecstasy.

She was trouble for him and he knew it.

Ichigo Momomiya was clearly the type of girl he could never find himself with, simply out of social standing. It was as if he were the handsome prince and she was the lowly, poor maiden girl. He wanted to rescue her but only found, he could not. Because this girl who was trouble, who would scratch the surface of his perfectly smooth reputation, had strings attached to her like a puppet.

He longed to cut those strings; to take scissors and snip each one so he could brush his fingers through her red hair, bring her body close to his, and kiss her with such a fiery passion that her knees grew weak and she fell into his arms. He imagined her against him, weak-kneed and willing, staring up at him through thick, dark eyelashes, her bright, chocolate eyes swimming in a clear glaze that glittered like stars.

Maddening!

And the one thing stopping him from doing exactly that was one little guy.

"Aoyama Masaya," Mint's voice was like a little bell; A little, annoying, tinkling bell, "will probably kill you. If, you know, he was capable of that type of thing." She had taken a nail file out of her purse and was coarsely grinding the tips of her nails down to a perfect U shape. She paused, looking with a somewhat appreciative satisfaction at her hand before she returned the nail file to her purse.

Ryou sucked in a long breath and released it with a sigh, "I really have no idea what you're talking about." He gave the 'play stupid' idea a shot and unfortunately didn't believe it himself. Mint looked at him with the tilt of her dark eyebrow and asked, "You really believe that I don't think I see the way you look at Momomiya. Please," she sighed and gracefully twirled away, "you practically drool on the poor girl. She's going to drown in you."

Ryou followed suit, trailing up behind Mint as she walked briskly to first class. The bell had yet to ring its deafening, beckoning tone but Mint was always first to class. She liked the security of being on time, it was reassuring that she had control. And what Mint loved best was being in control. She smiled as Ryou joined her side, leaning down as he spoke in soft tones to her, apparent that he wanted to keep what was being said between them only.

"I have you to blame for setting her up with me." He hissed, looking back down the hall where Mint knew he would be searching for her in the crowd. It was only obvious to the world that he was interested. Mint raised her hand just to her chest and glanced down at the silver watch that dangled elegantly from her wrist. Approving of the time, she decided to grant Ryou her two cents.

Although she blanched again from Ryou's statement, she ignored it and cleared her throat, turning towards him in the hall. If there was one thing she hated more than a red face, it was Ryou Shirogane guilting her so that she remembered why she was blushing. She decided to bury the hatchet with her friend and hoped...no...knew that after she said a mouthful, her friend would never speak of her little secret again.

A girl stumbled by them and Mint waved her off as she began, "Ryou, if I have to repeat the apology I will, just so you will cease this constant reminder of that day."

If Mint had expected Ryou to hear anything she was saying, she was wrong. Ryou's gaze of interest had landed on a girl he once dated, who was leaning casually against her locker. Lily, Mindy, Mandi, Steph, Mia, Mint couldn't remember. The names had bled together in a string and she vaguely recognized the girl's heart shaped face. Although her high cheekbones and dark eyes seemed to ring a bell in Mint's mind, she gave up without much of a try and simply chastised her friend for ignoring her.

"Ryou," she hissed and he glanced away from the girl to meet his friend's angered gaze. She glowered and shook her head, deep sapphire locks splashed and curled in waves around her cheeks.

"What? Mint, she called my name, how could you expect me not to look over?" he looked innocent for a second and Mint believed him. Ryou, for as long as she had known him, was most definitely not the type of boy who gazed at women as if they were simply there to admire as nude art. He had some class that she appreciated in a male friend. She rolled her auburn eyes and pranced towards the door to the classroom.

Once she was comfortably at her desk, she turned to look at Ryou who stood next to her. He leaned on the top of the desk, rather than taking the seat and peered down at her. It wasn't his classroom but he usually sat with her before the bell rang. Then he had to hurry down the hall to the next level of the school so he could make it to his senior classes in time. Girls who stood in small groups in the back of the room murmured quietly amongst themselves, blushing every now and then when his clear blue eyes glanced at them curiously. "Now," she finally spoke, patting the top of her desk, "stop bringing that day up. Ryou it was almost two months ago."

"She wasn't supposed to be my lab partner but remember, I took the heat for you." he smirked and she gritted her perfectly white teeth in frustration. She remembered the day. It was all a mix up. She was supposed to be lab partners with Ichigo Momomiya when her teacher first announced that they would be starting lab soon. Despite the fact that she had known Ichigo for some time and was actually decent friends with her, she despised the thought of being partners with her. Well, she despised the thought of being partners with her when Ryou was going to be partners with Zakuro Fujiwara at least.

He didn't even know Zakuro! How could he even possibly think for a second that he would be a suitable partner with possibly the most elegant, beautiful, breathtaking girl in school? He wasn't going to be and Mint was going to make sure that he wasn't. So she did what any devious, high class society girl would do; she cheated.

Mint had an idea of how her teacher clicked and the second she got her paws on the roster when he was out of the room, she switched the names. Unfortunately for herself, the plan had backfired and the entire room had different partners after she had made the mistake of sending it all through the computer system. Originally she had never set Ryou Shirogane up with Ichigo Momomiya. Ichigo was to be partners with Lettuce Midorikawa while Ryou got paired with a young girl she knew would just be ideal for him! It helped her feel better about herself that she was doing everyone a favor rather than for her own selfish needs. But it didn't work out that way and she found herself partners with Midorikawa Lettuce while the cute girl originally for Ryou was partners with the oh-so chic Fujiwara Zakuro then of course Ryou was with Ichigo.

Mint could only huff in annoyance at the memory two months previous. Ryou let out a howl of laughter and spilled on, "I still can't believe you were that envious that you tried to switch names. Zakuro and I would have just been okay together. She's a quiet girl and I'm a quiet guy. We would have just done our work, I don't see why you had to get so jealous."

"Because," she glared, "none of you slime understand Zakuro like I do. She's a delicate flower that must only be spoken softly too. Now that prissy little girl is partners with her while I pine after her attention from across the hall." Mint sighed with admiration.

Ryou rolled his eyes. Mint was notorious for being such a drama queen. So Zakuro Fujiwara was a model and Mint liked that, big deal. But she took it too far and her admiration was suspiciously close to something more. It was a touchy subject he refused to dwell on for long about his friend but there were days when he couldn't help but question. Mint liked men, Ryou knew that much. But Mint also loved power. And no boy in high school was going to measure up to the amount of power she needed to be overtaken for. Mint was a strong, young woman. Ryou could hardly imagine anyone demanding her, making her decisions, telling her what to do. She was in control all the time. Even over him.

But Zakuro was sleek and tall and gorgeous. Her dark, mysterious features were bold and stood out from the rest of the school. Ryou knew this was what drew Mint to the model. Fujiwara was like no other and everyone knew that. People wanted to talk to her, people wanted to hide from her, people were in love, people were intimidated, and that's what Mint liked. Zakuro had a power she didn't even realize she had with her just her looks.

Her voice in itself was captivating. Ryou had to admit that listening to her when she spoke in soft, smooth tones made him feel calm and attentive. She knew the right words to everything and it passed through her lips naturally, with no amount of hesitation or lack of sureness. Unlike any other models, she was strong as well. Her fuller legs were a mixture of elegance and strength. Ryou had happened to see her on more than one occasion where she pounded dirt, running at full force, flying into the wind during track in P.E. Everyone stopped to watch her. It was like watching a wolf hunt. She was light on her feet, quick, and precise. She would round the corner and strike, sending the last bit of her energy into a surge of speed. She would pass her match, who she had been following close behind for a while, and take the lead, coming in within the top five runners. It was captivating, just like her. Whenever Ryou passed Zakuro in the halls, he noticed she was like a puzzle that every day he found a new piece to. He could, along with Mint and everyone else, go on about her. She was different. She was beautiful. And she was powerful, which was what Mint wanted.

"Besides," Mint would think, "no boy in this school is any way near as attractive as Zakuro."

Her perfectly shaped nails clicked against the desk and she wished that class would already start so she could go through her next two periods and finally fall into the luxury of sharing a class with Zakuro again. Another sigh passed her lips and Ryou rolled his clear blue eyes again before leaning off the desk.

"Why are you all of a sudden so huffy?" he lingered by her for a moment. Sooner or later he was going to have to take the walk back to class. He knew what Mint was thinking but smirked when he noticed her cheeks flush. It was the first time in his life that he had managed to make Mint Aizawa turn the shade of a beet more than twice in one day. She was a composed girl so it was hard for her to even crack a smile, let alone show a vulnerable side to her.

She fumbled over her words, another first for Mint, "I-I just think that Zakuro is so cool," she was telling the truth, "it would be nice to talk to her more often. It makes going to Chemistry remotely enjoyable."

Ryou felt his smug grin falter as an agreeing thought passed his mind. Where else could he see Ichigo Momomiya in her utmost finest; scribbling notes, causing chemical spills, mixing over and over and over again acids and bases although he knew she knew she wasn't supposed to. And everyday, he watched the cartoon like scene play out where she mixed the wrong chemicals and something happened. The tubes overfilled and spilled all over the lab table. The colors turned green rather than red. The teacher had to escort three students to the nurses station. He couldn't count how many times Ichigo had apologized to him for screwing up yet another lab day.

Ryou looked up to watch the teacher walk into the room and stretched his arms above his head, ignoring the stiffness in his uniform jacket.

"Later." he yawned and turned to exit the classroom. Mint rested her arms on her desk, bringing her hand to her cheek as she watched her friend go. He made her so angry. How, out of all of the friend's Mint Aizawa had, could Ryou Shirogane press her buttons like he did? She truly enjoyed his company and friendship but she wondered with an instant sense of regret, if he was really worth her time. She rolled her pretty brown eyes and looked up to the front of the class where her teacher had started to write the lesson on the board, despite the fact that the bell had yet to ring. Mint sat up. Just another reason she liked to class early...

...It wasn't that Ichigo didn't know her chemistry, because she did. She studied all the time! You had to study like she did to get into an advanced Chem/Bio class. But something about the names of the chemicals and the bases and acids played tiddlywinks in her memory and she could never seem to remember exactly what was what during lab. On paper, she could write a magical thesis and ace tests like her teacher never believed. But something about the lab made her hands jitter. She especially couldn't do it when she knew that she would be meeting Masaya after class.

She threw her hands into the air once she started the walk to Chemistry and gave a happy squeal. Her friends, who had been walking quietly next to her, only exchanged looks of confusion before they assumed what was on their ditsy friends mind. Ichigo spun right to her locker and giggled loudly. How could she not? She was only the happiest girl in the school. After months and months and months of studying and taking classes with her secret crush, Masaya, she had finally scored him in a relationship. She had to slow herself down and inhaled deeply as she opened the door to her locker. The words fell from her mouth as if it were unreal to both her and the world.

"I, Ichigo Momomiya, after months of hard labor, can finally announce that I am in a totally amazing relationship with only the cutest guy in school." she looked at her friends dumbfounded before she gave a loud, 'Whoop!' and squealed in happiness. Their response was only a simple roll of their eyes before they too turned to their lockers.

Ichigo sighed, leaning against her open locker and said with a swoon, "I can't believe everything totally paid off. Nights of sacrificing sleep to study to get me into classes like advance placement Chemistry and joining clubs I knew he'd join totally came in handy." She smiled and turned back to her open locker to exchange two books, "I mean, he would never have known of me until I did that presentation on endangered alpacas in Spain last year. But after three months of dating, Masaya Aoyama has finally asked me out."

Ichigo felt giddy. It was like a high she had never known of. Since as far back as she could remember, Ichigo had the biggest crush on Aoyama. It had only been when she finally gained the courage to step into the limelight to impress him in a club that he had cast a glance her way. Then for months she was granted the tiniest bit of interest from him. It was a simple, 'hello' at first that led to conversation that led to hanging out that led to dating that gave the redhead exactly what she had been chasing after since the very beginning.

"A real relationship." She repeated, "This senior year is going to totally rock out. I've got the classes that will send me to probably the best colleges, my grades are high and good, and I have the best boyfriend ever." She sighed at her friends as she shut the door and laughed, "It feels so good to finally say that."

"Don't you think you're over reacting a little? You guys have been dating for forever, it was like you were practically already in a relationship." Her friend pointed out as they started the walk down the long stretch of hall. Ichigo made a face, excusing her friends statements as jealousy. It was true that Ichigo had been dating Masaya for a while, but it had never been made official until just the day before. Ichigo couldn't help the continuous string of sighs as she remembered how Masaya had kissed her after they left their clubs that evening. She couldn't had asked for a better way to have him transition them from 'dating friends' to real boyfriend and girlfriend.

She clutched her book close to her chest and swayed to class as her friends parted their ways. She knew that she was probably acting way too excited about Masaya and her since they really had been dating for a while. Nothing seemed too different than normal except that she was allowed to call Masaya her 'boyfriend' now instead of just saying 'this guy I've been dating'. It felt right to her. It was exactly what she had wanted.

She stepped through the doors to her classroom and looked across the room to her large, over sized, raised desk. Like the rest of the science rooms, she found it ridiculous that the desks needed to be so high up instead of like normal desks. But somehow, she assumed, the desks had to reach the sinks that were lined behind the tables. She saddled up to her stool and looked across the desk at her blond headed partner.

Her throat squeezed and her stomach dropped.

Every time she saw him, since she had first been assigned as his partner, she felt that way. She was consistently confused with the feelings and tried her best to ignore them. The last thing she needed, she realized, were fickle feelings since she had become official with Masaya.

After she had dug into her bag and retrieved her folder and pens, she looked up at Ryou and greeted like normal, "Shirogane."

"Momomiya." He nodded to her.

"Your swag seemed to be turned on this morning," she remarked, "I couldn't help but notice you and Mint walking hand in hand."

"I suppose I should say the same about you. After all," he smirked, "Masaya seems to be your main attention."

She flushed, "He's my boyfriend!"

"Mint's my best friend." He lifted a dark blond eyebrow.

"Th-There's a difference." She wished she hadn't gotten into it with him this morning. She always seemed to throw such inappropriate, uncalled for remarks at him whenever she was with him. It was like she couldn't help herself. Although she was sure when they first met he had hated her, he had been the one to start their little battle. And since then, she had been the one who constantly ignited it.

"Is there?" He turned to look back down at the magazine he had been reading.

"Yes!" she coughed.

He paused and looked at her, his smirk only growing, "Do I sense jealousy?"

"Please," she snorted and crossed her arms over her chest, "don't flatter yourself. I have an amazing boyfriend who deserves all of my attention. I don't have time to waste on useless emotions like jealousy."

"Surprising. Can't believe you noticed us then." His eyes returned to the magazine and his smirk began to fade. Ichigo shot a look across the room at her old friend, Mint. She sat, like usual, with the utmost sophistication. The stools were incredibly uncomfortable to sit on and usually half way through the period, Ichigo found herself hunched forward, leaning on the side of her table-desk just to support herself up. But Mint always remained perfect on the stool throughout the class. Ichigo didn't think she ever saw Mint sitting any other way than with her back straight and her head held high.

Mint, feeling someones gaze on her, turned to look at Ichigo. Her face remained perfectly blank until Ichigo smiled and waved. Mint, also like usual, gave a grim smile and a bored nod before turning back to face the board. Ichigo looked back at Ryou and wondered how two snobbishly rude people could ever find romance in one another.

Ichigo had always known of Mint's social standing and was used to her attitude. But with the mixture of Ryou, she wondered how their relationship worked out. She tried to imagine both of them smiling and laughing and kissing each other like she did with Masaya and found she had a hard time seeing it.

"Do you and Mint laugh when you're together?" Ichigo leaned down on the table and rested her chin between her upturned palms. Ryou looked up at the red head and laughed inwardly. She looked so cute, like a puppy, the way she was looking at him with her big brown eyes, leaning on the table with her elbows. He tried to keep his expression calm.

"When we say something humorous we do. We are human, Momomiya." Ryou raised his eyebrows.

"I'm just asking," she retorted and sat up straight on her seat.

"Well stop." He made a face.

"Why are you so mean to me? I just want to be your friend." She felt her lips pull into a pout.

Ryou couldn't help the smug expression that washed across his pale face, "Like a friend friend?"

"Yes." Ichigo answered

"We'd be pretty good friends?" Ryou pressed.

"Sure, yes."

"And I'd be your guy friend?"

"Yes, Ryou!"

"So like a boyfriend?"

"Yes!"

Ichigo paused as the information registered. Ryou broke out in a loud, crude laugh and she felt herself flush, "I mean, no! Just a guy friend."

"You said boyfriend," Ryou sneered with a laugh.

"Yes but I meant, just a friend." Ichigo felt her face grow hotter.

"Just admit, Ichigo, that you want to be my girlfriend and I'll say yes." He smirked, "I'd love to explore what hides beneath your uniform."

"Ugh!" Ichigo cried, feeling her face grow hot although her stomach started to flutter with butterflies, "You are a pervert!"

Ryou had surprised himself. He couldn't believe the words as they naturally formed on his lips. He was never known for flirting but with Ichigo, it was as if he couldn't help himself and the words came as naturally as breathing.

"Alright class," the booming voice interrupted and Ryou turned to look at the front of the room where his teacher walked in, "Let's settle down. It's time to get ready for notes."

Ryou looked at Ichigo as her head bowed forward and her cheeks stained red and leaned in on the desk, ignoring the fact that his teacher had just walked in the room. Ichigo looked at Ryou from the corners of her eyes and he whispered, "Don't forget my offer."

"Shuddup," she hissed, ignoring the pain from the embarrassment on her face, "You're gross."

"Amusing," Ryou thought and settled onto his stool, bringing out his notebook. It was far more amusing than he ever thought it to be. He was glad that he had accomplished something for the day. He never knew that he could get a girl to turn the shade of red Ichigo Momomiya was turning. That, in and of itself, was quite an accomplishment...

...Ichigo took the welcoming palm that was held out to her, lacing her fingers through the spaces in between his. Instantly she felt safe and her heart soared with the feeling of joy. She oozed radiant happiness and fell into step as they walked. It was a symbol, she thought with a grin, hiding her face shyly behind the book she held to her chest. A symbol of their relationship. She could tell people recognized that they were officially a couple as they walked through the corridors, his hand leading hers. Now her peers would look at her with him and recognize that they were intimate and only for one another. Her cheeks were on fire. She couldn't tell if it was from Masaya holding her hand or from talking with Shirogane before class a few days previous.

"Stupid Shirogane!" she thought angrily and instantly regretted even having him come to mind, ruining her mood. She couldn't stand that he had toyed with her emotions so carelessly. It had been a few days since she had spoken to him after the little 'lab-boyfriend' event during Chemistry and she was glad to be ignoring him. She wanted to get over it but every time they made eye contact in the halls, or in Chemistry class, he smirked at her, only reminding her of the dumb conversation all over again. Goodness he made her angry sometimes, even while she was with Masaya, walking down the long hallway, preparing to go to home. Their clubs had been canceled for the day and Masaya asked if she'd like to go home and study instead.

'Study' to Ichigo had always really meant...studying. Masaya was never quick to skip the entire aspect of studying and go straight to making out or fooling around or whatever. He seriously just wanted to study. Ichigo thought about her friends teasing her, asking how the 'studying' went and she could only reply with, "Good. I think I'm really prepared for the test." Unsure if their friend was kidding or not, her friends would laugh awkwardly and walk away.

But after watching a movie where the girl invited the boy over to study and no one seemed surprised that the couple instead made out in the parents bedroom, she figured out the hidden meaning behind 'studying'. So Ichigo was eager to test this new found information on Masaya, curious if he would abandon studying for the night and cuddle with her on her bed instead. She bit her lip as her mind spun with the scenario.

"Are you okay, Ichigo?" Masaya asked with a playful laugh after he had watched her stumble over a crack.

Embarrassed, she answered, "I'm fine."

Pausing, he let go of her hand and tapped his forehead, "Oh shoot! I left a book I need for tonight in my locker. I'll be right back. Why don't you go wait for me in the front?"

"Uh, are you sure you don't want me to go with you?" She asked, clutching her books loosely against her chest. Masaya was already half way back down the hall before he waved and was gone, lost in the sea of students. She shrugged and spun around, figuring if they got separated he'd call her on her cellphone.

Outside the air was clear and beautiful. The sky, despite being cloudier that morning, was spotted with white clouds, appearing to make the sky a brighter shade of blue. She shrugged off her school jacket and let it rest over her free arm. Although it was slightly cool, Ichigo enjoyed the bite of the afternoon chill. The air felt so good that she spread her arms apart and began to inhale the sweetness of the day. Then the pungent, bold smell wafted through the air and she immediately recoiled, stopping herself from inhaling so deeply.

She looked up and across the sidewalk to see the young man leaning against the black school gates. He took a deep drag from his cigarette, filling his lungs with the nicotine until he released it through his nostrils. Ribbons of gray circled his pale face, masking him in the faded smoke. He let the white stick dangle carelessly between his thumb and forefinger as he relaxed against the iron doors. He released the rest of the fumes from the corner of his mouth, waves of curling, spinning residue poured from his lips like gray clouds of vapor. With a swift breath he blew the strands of smoke away into the clear atmosphere, as if he were blowing the white, fluffed seeds off a dandelion.

Ichigo felt her face twist into a scowl despite that the fluttering in her stomach and lower abdomen began to tickle instantly at his sight. Bringing the cigarette to his light colored lips for another quick drag, he turned to look at her. Their eyes met; his pale blue against her chocolate brown.

Ryou Shirogane held the gaze until his lungs were full with heat, then he smiled a toothy grin at her. Biles of hazy, gray-white tinted smoke tumbled from his teeth, blanketing his face and mouth in the cigarette fumes. She couldn't help but sigh with disgust, "Ew." she said to him from where she stood by the sister gate.

He chuckled and blew the the last of the smoke away, dropping the butt of the cigarette on the floor. She felt her lip curl. "Can't he just throw that away?" she thought. He remained against the opposite gate, leaning against it with his leg up. He soaked in every bit of the sun. It may have been the ending of winter but Ryou didn't trust the weather just yet. He could feel the moisture in the air, thick and heavy. The smell of rain wasn't far off along with the thunder clouds that loomed in the distance.

"Well hello to you too Momomiya," he finally said without looking at her. She studied his figure where where she stood about eight feet away. He was tall and thin, with nicely shaped, broad shoulders. His chin was pointed and masculine. He legs were long and albeit, thin, but she knew he was a fast runner. Next to Zakuro Fujiwara, he was the best in the class. She saw him at P.E. Everyone saw the track team. It was hard to miss their graceful, light stepped jogging from anywhere.

She bit her lip as her eyes wandered to his hands. Out of everything, if she had even remotely liked Shirogane, his hands captivated her. Unlike the rest of his body, his fingers were not that long and not that skinny.

Masaya's hands were long, angular, and skinny, with bony, knotty fingers. They were also cool to the touch with a thin palm. Her hands were short and stout so together, she thought they looked a little funny. But the coolness of Masaya's felt good against her hot hands. She felt like he cooled her down.

He was her water.

But Ryou's hands she loved the best. They were average in length and smooth while his nails were shaped like cones. His palm was broad and large and looked incredibly soft. Her mind often fantasized him holding her with his large hands, caressing her cheeks and shoulders and then lower. Her lips parted and she blinked frantically to snap out of her fantasy.

Shirogane had moved to walk in front of her and she swallowed before she straightened her shoulders, holding her head high to meet his sharp gaze. He drove her insane with his eyes. They displayed his emotions so clearly but he was still a mystery to her. She couldn't figure him out ever. His beautiful hands, she noticed, had moved to the pockets of his uniform and her gaze flickered quickly to where he hid them and back up to his face.

"What do you want?" she asked with a scowl, the best scowl she could put on at least.

His thick eyebrows made her wonder if he was laughing at her as he smiled and shook his head, "I've been waiting for you." he answered, his voice low.

"Why?" Heat had gathered undesirably in her cheeks and she bit the inside of her cheek, hoping they wouldn't deceive her hardened expression.

"Because, Ichigo," he had leaned down slightly to be eye level with her, which was insulting in and of itself but she ignored it, "we still have to finish our lab."

Her memory instantly clicked in and she felt her brown eyes grow wide as she remembered. Because another lab had failed once again, they had to start over, leaving them only half way done with what they had started to do. Their teacher had allowed them access to the back room as long as they didn't disturb the chemistry club after school. Ichigo couldn't believe she had forgotten!

"Oh!" she cried and brought her hand up to her forehead, brushing her red bangs back against her head, "Oh no!"

He smirked, "Don't tell me you've forgotten?"

There was a shifting sound to her left and the soft voice she recognized so well came as a great dismay to her ears, "What," Masaya asked as he walked up to the two, "have you forgotten Ichigo?"

Ryou's eyes fell upon Masaya and Ichigo watched them as they turned a duller shade of blue. She whipped her head to look at her boyfriend and felt awful for two reasons. For one, she was going to have to ditch him for the afternoon to finish working on a chemistry lab with one of her least favorite people. For two, she really didn't feel that awful about doing it, which made her feel bad in a different way.

Sighing inwardly, Ichigo plastered on a smile and began with a sigh, "Masaya-"

"She just left her pencil case in the chemistry lab today, but I picked it up for her. It's in my locker so she can get it tomorrow. I was just curious if she wanted to get it now." Ryou cut in and answered for her. She felt her mouth drop as she looked at Ryou.

"Why did he cover up for me?" she wondered and turned to look back at Masaya. He smiled, grateful for his girlfriend and went to her side, wrapping his long fingers around hers possessively.

"Well that was nice of you," He said with a grin and looked at Ichigo as she tried to hide her shocked expression. She smiled and nodded, "Yeah, thanks Ryou. I appreciate it."

"No problem," he brushed his hand through his blond hair. The sun caught and held the strands and they glittered like a soft halo around his head. Ichigo felt her heart pang painfully against her chest . She hated herself. She already knew the feeling that had planted itself like a seed in her brain and grew roots to her chest.

"Well," Ryou began, "I have a few things I have to take care of in the chemistry lab so I'll see you later." he nodded to Ichigo and took off past the open gates and up the entrance of the school. He disappeared behind the doors as he entered and Ichigo hoped he would at least turn and look at her before he was gone from her view. He didn't and the disappointment weighed down on her chest.

"Well," Masaya had already began walking, pulling her along with him, "I was thinking we could study for Psychology class. We have a test next week that we should prepare for."

"Right," Ichigo mumbled and gripped onto Masaya's hand. If she didn't, she was afraid she was going to fall deeper into the hole she had started digging herself in. It was bad enough that Ryou had gone to work on their lab by himself, but now she was certain she was having conflicted feelings about him.

Of all the people, she wondered, why him?

She had just began an amazing relationship with Masaya and was happy. Now, at possibly the most wretched time, Ryou had strutted in casually, with the same smug look on his face.

Ichigo tilted her head to look at Masaya with his soft, less defined features. His light golden-brown eyes lit up his face as he smiled. It was the first thing she ever recognized and felt herself attract to when she met him. His smile was as radiant as his shining, perfect personality.

She loved Masaya.

Loved him.

Even if she wasn't in love with him, she loved him.

She always had, since Junior High when he swept in and smiled like he did to her nowadays. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw him and she knew she wanted him. He was what she needed. Someone perfect. Someone who would fix her chaotic life. With her outrageous family and wacky friends, she needed some sort of organization. He calmed everything down, people looked to him as a leader, he took her life and made it perfect. The high school she had gotten into was for prestigious, rich, perfect students. She never belonged there because she wasn't perfect. But Masaya was. He molded her, helped her find a balance. She could be what he needed like he was to her.

She held back swallowing the hardness in her throat. Although, perfect people didn't need anyone. She held onto Masaya like he was the only life raft.

She needed him.

She skipped dating any other boy in high school and focused mainly on catching him. And finally, after years and months of studying, she had caught his interest and could call herself, his.

Her work had paid off and that was all that mattered.

She nodded in agreement and flashed a smile at Masaya as they entered her house. Ichigo was going to look at the positives. She peeled off her shoes and skipped merrily into the kitchen, pouring herself and Masaya their usual iced tea to drink. She had known him for so long that she knew he took one tablespoon of honey in his tea and preferred it stirred three time with heavy ice. She pulled out the honey and noticed he was watching her while she prepared their drinks.

"What?" she smiled at him.

He grinned back, making her head spin with enjoyment and stood up.

"Ichigo," he began and joined at her side, "what kind of honey is this?"

Ichigo twisted the container over and read the side, "Just normal liquid honey." she answered, "Why?" she was confused. Did it matter?

Masaya stifled a sigh she caught anyways and pulled the honey out of her hand, "I think I'll just skip the honey in my tea today." he put it back up on the shelf.

Ichigo stared at Masaya, "Oh, alright. Why? You've always loved honey in your tea." she had always thought it was stupid since the honey never really mix well in cold tea (especially with heavy ice) but figured everyone had their own tastes.

"It's liquid honey, the extractors force it from the bees comb. *Sometimes bees can remain in the comb and in the process they are harmed. I would prefer comb honey is all." Masaya answered with an easy smile. Ichigo stared and managed to laugh, slightly embarrassed from her boyfriend's random preference.

"Oh," she looked at the floor, "Sorry."

He laughed and patted her shoulder, "Don't worry Ichigo, I don't expect you to know that. It's just something I learned. Now," he stretched his hands above his head and began towards her bedroom, "shall we study?"...

… Her heart was hammering in her chest. It wouldn't be the first time they kissed but as a new couple, it would be the first time they'd make out. She felt herself leaning closer towards him. She had tried to her best to dress herself up for him in her bathroom. She let her long hair fall messily from the clip she had it held in earlier to spill down her shoulders and her chest. She applied the perfect shade of lip gloss over and over. The waste basket was filled with tissues she had used to wipe off the color from her lips. Her mascara gave the perfect lift to her long eyelashes and she had tossed the uniform tie and jacket into the hamper. Her final touch left her revealing the bit of cleavage she had as she unbuttoned the first few buttons to her uniform shirt. Looking at herself in the mirror, she felt ready.

They were sitting on the floor against the wall. Masaya had been reading for at least fifteen minutes before Ichigo had gathered enough courage to begin. Curling her legs in, she breathed lightly on the side of his exposed neck.

Strike one.

He didn't even realize she did anything. He continued to read the root words that would be on the test from the book. Without giving up hope, she ran her hand up his arm. He looked up, smiled, and went back to reading aloud the words.

Strike two.
She clucked her tongue in disappointment but raged on, continuing to crawl her hand along his arm to his shoulders. She leaned against, him pressing her breasts against his arm, hoping he'd catch on to at least some of her advances. His reading slowed but no avail.

Strike three.

But she wasn't out. No, Ichigo continued to press against Masaya and she pretended to read over his shoulder as he turned to glance at her.

"Ichigo?" He finally paused and looked at her. She turned her eyes towards his and blinked slowly, the best she could in terms of flirting. There was silence and excusing the awkwardness of it, Ichigo leaned in and pressed her lips to the side of Masaya's mouth.

He could only stare at her questioningly.

She moved in further, trying to kiss his lips. He turned his head towards her and she pressed her full lips to his. Her hand found the book he was still holding and she pushed it down, out of his hands. Then her arms wrapped around his neck and she drew him closer, tilting her head as she kissed him. After a moment, Ichigo realized Masaya was remaining completely still, and she pulled back to stare at her boyfriend.

"Are you finished?" he asked.

"Uh," Ichigo could only reply with as she unwrapped her arms from around his neck. The instant rejections from Masaya was like a slap in the face and Ichigo pulled away like a hurt puppy. He turned his attention back to the book as he picked it up and flipped to the correct page, his long fingers carefully turning each page until he found the correct one. Ichigo leaned back against the wall and stared with parted lips at Masaya.

"What?" she thought with confusion, "What is he doing?"

He began to read then paused and said, "Actually, Ichigo, I need to get home. It doesn't look like I'm helping you here and I'm not studying very well either."

He stood up and Ichigo watched him with her mouth wide open. She could have been catching flies for all he cared. He placed the book carefully into his briefcase bag, snapped it shut, and walked towards the door with his shoulders back.

Masaya looked at Ichigo where she continued to sit quietly, watching him with questioning eyes, and finally said, "See you tomorrow." Before he left the room. And moments later, the house.

Ichigo felt the tears well in her eyes and she stood up, throwing the door open to her room. She looked around the house, searching for Masaya only to realize that he was gone. Her hand found its way to her lips and she sucked in a breath of air and released it with a sob.

"How could he!" she screamed and wiped the tears that had gathered in her eyes.

"What a flipping jerk!" she raged on, stomping from her room to the front.

"I can't-I can't believe him!" she was pacing now, trailing from room to room, picking up little things and placing them back. She had found herself finally at the front door, her bag in her hand as she slipped on her shoes. She marched out the front door and slammed it behind her.

"What the hell was that about! I mean, really, I kiss him. Kiss him! And he just leaves," she wiped another angry tear as it fell from the corner of her eye and kept marching on until she was facing the familiar, black iron gates. Ichigo walked up the stairs and followed the hallways until she came to a stop in front of the closed Chemistry room doors.

Pushing through them, she looked around the empty room and felt her heart sink to her stomach.

No one was there.

She walked up to a vacant desk and threw her bag up on top of the smooth, black table. Swallowing another sob she felt coming, she sat up on the stool.

"What was I thinking?" she thought and rested her head against the cool desk, "That I'd just come here and see Ryou and throw it all away with Masaya because of one awkward moment where he left after I kissed him?"

She exhaled a heavy breath of air and wiped her eyes again. It had to be the most confusing day of her life. But there she was, feeling stupid, feeling fickle, feeling alone.

Alone.

It echoed in her head.

Alone...

… Ryou looked at the red vile of liquid and sat it back down on the rack. He lifted the blue vile of liquid next to it and scribbled a few notes down on the pad of paper on the small table. It was usually Ichigo's job to be mixing the solutions and his to be writing the notes. That was what the teacher had assigned them to do from the very beginning, but he stood there in the back room by himself, doing both of their jobs because she clearly had plans with her boyfriend. Ryou ignored the pang in his chest.

He could have called her out on it, in front of Masaya too. But as he looked at Ichigo's shocked expression and watched as she pulled her hair back and away from her face in a manner of stress, he felt like he needed to cut the girl some slack. She was an air head and she had forgotten. And she was standing there with those big brown eyes. And she had been checking him out. And she had that look like she admired him, wanted him even. And he enjoyed it.

So he gave the afternoon to her and decided to finish the lab himself.

How could he complain? He'd been there for less than an hour and every now and then the Chemistry club came into the back room and helped him out. He was just now doing the last check of the work and had one last question to answer before he was finished. The chem club had dispersed and left fifteen minutes early so the outside room had been quiet for the most part.

Ryou hated himself. And he hated Mint. Especially Mint. If she hadn't paired him together with the redhead, he wouldn't be dealing with all this stupid shit. Ichigo wasn't even his type. And there she was, driving him insane with the way she talked, the way she walked, her air headed personality, her stubborn attitude, the color of her hair, her eyes, the way her face lit up at anything remotely sexual, the way her hips swayed. She was perfectly imperfect. The opposite of any girl he had ever even considered dating. She was what he needed.

He needed her.

Ryou swallowed as he realized this and then sighed angrily, which came out as a sound similar to a groan. He didn't want to think about her. He didn't want her to control his thoughts like she did. He didn't want to be driven insane anymore. He clearly liked her and that's what made it worse. She couldn't return his feelings. Not while she was with Masaya. But he tested her and he knew that he drove her somewhat insane. Whether she was swimming in a sea of conflicted feelings or dying on the inside because she thought she maybe liked him, Ryou didn't know. But if he even ran through her mind at all like she did through his then he would be beyond happy. If she suffered even remotely like him from the entire situation then, he again, would be amazingly happy.

But he didn't know.

He couldn't even get her to stick around long enough to talk to him. Not since a few days previous when he had teased her about being his girlfriend. She had refused to talk to him since. He grinned. He couldn't help himself. She was funny to him. Funny and cute. Ryou pulled back from his work and shook his head.

He wanted to stop. Stop everything right then and there.

Ichigo Momomiya was no longer going to control his thoughts. It was pointless for her to. He was damn determined to sweep her off her feet though. Regardless if she had a boyfriend or not.

Ryou picked up the tubes of red and blue chemicals and disposed of them properly. He worked in silence until he paused as he heard someone enter the front room. Figuring it was one of the chem club kids who left their stuff, he continued to work and moved quietly about the room. Then he heard the sob, quiet and low. He couldn't mistake the sound from anywhere. Curious to who it was, he glanced around the wall to the front where all the desks were.

And then he saw her.

"Damn!" he thought angrily, "Damn! Damn! Damn!"

He had just sworn off her. He didn't want her to control his thoughts. And there she was. His imagination, he thought, had conjured up her sitting in the room across from him. She was leaning against the table, supporting her head in her hands while her elbows were propped up against the surface of the desk. She inhaled in stutters as she cried and after a minute, she pulled up from the desk and wiped her eyes.

"Stupid," she said out loud, "This is stupid. Stupid of me. Stupid of... Masaya. And stupid of Ryou."

His ears perked as he heard her say his name and he moved from the door frame to the room.

"I hate crying like this. I'm such a cry baby." she shook her head and rubbed her eyes dry against the sleeve of her jacket. Ryou couldn't help but notice she looked amazing.

Her hair was down and long and messy. Her lips were swollen and pink from where she bit her bottom lip consistently. Her shirt was practically unbuttoned just to taunt him, exposing most if not all of her cleavage, the pink of her bra just barely coming into view. Then her eyes, he noticed, although pink from where she was crying, were the most vibrant of auburn he had ever seen. She looked messy. She looked amazing.

"Ichigo," he finally started, softly. She jumped and screamed, pressing up against the desk. Upon seeing him, her terrified face eased into relaxation and then more. Her heart beat painfully in her chest and not just because he had practically scared the life from her. She pressed her hand to her chest and sighed.

"Ryou," she looked around the room, "you scared me."

He moved towards her and she watched as he approached. Her lips parted and he grabbed her face, cupping her cheeks in his warm, soft hands. She felt her legs turn to goo instantly and she had to grip onto his jacket sleeves just to support herself up. He stared at her with those clear blue eyes and she went insane with wondering what he was thinking. They stood there in silence until he finally spoke, "Ichigo you drive me fucking insane. I never liked you. You were never my type of girl. You're not perfect. But I want you. All the time, everyday. I see you and I scream inside my head. I don't want to plan my future with any girl but then I see you and I do. I see Masaya and I want to rip his head off with jealousy. I need you." his eyes were pleading with her. "I know it's strange and sudden but I feel it. I know you feel something as well. So please..." He trailed off, letting Ichigo fill in the rest for him.

She was trembling. He made her tremble like a new born horse. She was slipping into the black hole she had so desperately tried to avoid even digging. She didn't want to let go of Masaya. But she saw the look in Ryou's eyes, felt the feeling that rose like fire in her chest, and knew the feeling Ryou was speaking of.

A moment passed as they stared at each other in silence and she shook her head, "Oh fuck it." and she gave herself to him.

His lips were immediately against her, frantic and fiery. She tilted her head as he tipped her back, drawing the deepest kiss from her lips. Her arms wrapped around his neck, pulling him closer as they deepened the kiss. Then they were stumbling, stumbling across the room to the back.

Her fingers caught in his hair, touched his shoulders, his back, his chest, every inch she could cover without having to pull away. He tangled his hands in her long locks of hair before he shoved her playfully up against the wall. A sigh of pleasure escaped her lips and he pulled away from her lips, moving towards her neck. He used his arms to support himself up against the wall, trailing kisses from the side of her neck to her nape. She felt her hands pull to his chest when it struck her.

"What am I doing?" she thought and glanced nervously around the classroom, "Am I actually doing this?"

Before she could feel Ryou press on any further, she applied the pressure of her hands against his chest and gently shoved him off. Ryou, feeling Ichigo push him off, pulled back to look the red head in the eye. She bit her lip, blushing, and tore her gaze away. The silence passed over them swiftly before Ichigo took a step back as far as she could into the wall. Despite that the fire was burning out of control, she brought her gaze back to Ryou's and grinned weakly, hoping he got the signal. It had been a moment of passion, she realized, that raged within her body. She wanted nothing more than to grab Shirogane again and pick up where they had left off but she stopped herself. She exhaled a heavy breath and ran her hand through her mess of red hair.

Ryou met her gaze and let the silence simmer the fire they had built. After cooling off considerably, Ryou took a seat on one of the many stools in the classroom. He regarded Ichigo quietly, watching as she said nothing but rather leaned against the wall. He wanted to say something but realized there was nothing to say. He had said it all already. There was no taking back what he had said before he kissed Ichigo and part of him didn't particularly want to anyways. It was moving fast, he realized, they were moving fast. Everything was so sudden. Their attraction was so sudden. He knew it couldn't have ended well. Not with her infatuation with Masaya and his persistence. He was examining the back of his hands when Ichigo finally cleared her throat and he glanced up.

In the window behind her, the clouds Ryou knew carried rain built up and covered the sun. The room went instantly from light to dark and Ichigo leaned on the desk next to Ryou. She pulled another hand through her hair before she tangled her fingers within her wavy locks and twirled the strands mindlessly around her fingers.

"I guess," she began, "we should pretend this never happened?" It was less of a suggestion and more of a question, Ryou realized as he watched her carefully. She refused to look at him but instead stared at the cool, black counter top of the raised desk. With her free hand she pressed her palm against the top and curled her fingers in to make a fist.

"Should we?" He asked calmly, softly, forcing Ichigo to look up at him. His gaze had returned to his hands where he fumbled with his fingers. Ichigo stared at his hands, examining each pale finger with the pointed nails and smooth knuckles.

"I shouldn't have come like I had," She looked back up at Ryou's face, "Masaya and I had a little bit of an awkward moment and I took it personally," she paused and continued on in a mumble, "like always, and I came here purely to have you fix it."

Ryou felt a smirk of satisfaction pull at the ends of his lips but he restrained it, trying his best to keep his face blank. Ichigo sighed and pulled up from the desk to turn towards Ryou. She still felt the fire deep within her core. She could feel it burn her insides, leaving warmth all within her. Nothing changed with how she felt about Ryou. Still confused, still aroused, and still upset that she knew she liked him more than she should have.

"Did I fix it?" Ryou finally asked and turned on the stool to face Ichigo. With his hands pressed against one another in the awkward fumble, he stared at her. She stifled a sigh.

"No," she was being honest, "this only made it more complex. I should have snuffed out every feeling I had for you from the very beginning and ignored it." Her gazed flickered to her feet then back up to meet Ryou's now disappointed stare. Despite that he had attempted to keep his expressions stone cold, Ichigo managed to see past it and a flash of disappointment darkened his sky blue eyes.

This time she did sigh out loud and shook her head, "I don't know what to do anymore."

"Neither do I." He replied.

Ichigo rubbed her fingers over the side of her face, pulling down her cheek as she leaned back against the desk. The clouds over the sun found a clear patch and the room lit back up, sending rays of light through the strips in the blinds. Although making out with Ryou had made things complex, Ichigo smiled.

"I will admit that you may be a total perv and jerk," Ichigo twisted her head to look at her partner, "I still really like you. Even though I'm with Masaya. Even though I feel bad that I cheated on him when I kissed you. Even though I only came to see you out of a way to release my frustration. I still kind of want to be with you."

She turned back towards Ryou and took a step forward, reaching out to take his warm palm in hers, "Maybe not now," she went one, "Or even next month for all I know. But soon. Because I know I feel electricity when I hold your hand like this," she ran her thumb over his knuckle, "And I'd like to think that you feel somewhat the same. My throat dries when I talk to you and my stomach drops to the floor and my mind goes foggy. When we argue, when we laugh, my heart swells. I'm sorry it's only now that I've figured this all out but with some time I'd like to hope that we can find ourselves like this without being held back."

Ryou fell silent and stared down at where Ichigo's hand wrapped around his. He felt what she felt and she felt what he felt. All the time he had held back, being stopped from talking to her, knowing that someone, somewhere would be judging him harshly for his feelings for her all melted away as if ice on a hot stove. He had liked Ichigo for so long and there he found himself, staring her in the eye as she came to terms with how she felt about him. It was something that despite being frowned upon, was what he had hoped for since the day in class when he knew and understood his feelings for the strawberry girl.

He managed to swallow the dryness in his throat. Although she was willing to leave Masaya to be with him, it was as if she were dangling it in front of his face, only to pull away when he reached for it. Not now. But soon. Soon.

"I won't wait for forever." He pressed, testing her.

She grinned, "I don't expect you to wait for me for forever. And I particularly don't want you to either."

He reached over and took her free hand in his. Her auburn eyes fell to his hands and after a moment, she smiled, lighting her cheeks up in their natural rosy hue. He admired her, taking in every feature of her face from her clear glazed, amber eyes to her pale pink, pouty lips. He inhaled.

"How bittersweet," he thought as her eyes traveled to meet his, "how bittersweet that this girl who I would have never wanted, I desire most. How bittersweet that she wants to be with me although she is with who she's always wanted. How very bittersweet."

Her small hands released his and found their way to his neck, where she pulled him close. He brought her in and wrapped his arms tight around her in an embrace. He held her despite that he sat on the stool, resting his head against her warm chest. She buried her face in his fair locks, breathing in deep his clean scent. She could feel the fire that burned brightly. It built and built until it consumed her, enveloping her in it's warmth. It stained her cheeks red and made her hands sweat.

He was her fire.

Ryou was Ichigo's fire, she realized. And as she inhaled deeply, feeling the fire that spread through her lungs, she knew there was no way of dousing it.

Not even Masaya. Not even water...

… Masaya looked at Ichigo. He hadn't had the courage to talk to her that night he left. So he could only stand there watching as she laughed, tossing her head back as her giggle tinkled like a soft bell the next morning.

She looked amazing, he realized. But she always had. That was why he noticed her. She wasn't perfect but he was willing to accept her for how she was.

Today, she looked different though. Her deep red hair cascaded down her shoulders to her back in wavy, untouched locks. Her lips were slightly swollen. Her eyes were round and vibrant. It was the way she held herself that looked different. The way her shoulders were rolled back, the way her uniform fell across her thin body, the way her chin pointed upward as if she held herself with dignity.

He had to approach her. He had to pull her to the side and apologize. She would understand. She always did. He walked up to her and tapped her shoulder softly, "Momomiya?" he asked quietly. She turned to look at him and smiled, although her grin didn't light up her eyes like they usually did. He decided to ignore that and smiled back, "Would you mind if I spoke with you for just a second?"

"Sure, Masaya." She nodded and looked back over her shoulder at her friends. They giggled and turned away. He had led her down the hall until they were standing in front of a deserted locker when he spun back around to face her. She was still grinning with curiosity, probably wondering why he hadn't called her last night to explain himself.

"I want to apologize for not kissing you back the other night." Masaya bowed his head as he spoke, "I don't know what came over me. I really don't. I guess I was just nervous."

He took her palm in his, "Can you forgive me?" She looked down at his hand holding hers and nodded.

"Yes Masaya, I forgive you." she said with a side grin.

"Great!" he exclaimed and smiled brightly, "Then maybe tonight we can get together to study again? I'm sure we'll ace that Psychology test no problem if we just stay focused."

She nodded, "Yeah, sure, anything you say." Then he watched her as her gaze fell from his to Ryou Shirogane walking by. She watched him and he watched her, a smug smile tugging on the ends of his lips. She grinned back and chewed her bottom lip, something she always did when she watched Masaya. Their gazes remained lock with one another until Ryou had disappeared into the hallway full of students. Ichigo gazed at nothing until she finally turned to face Masaya again.

"I just hope you don't mind liquid honey in your tea." She said with a shrug and turned around, walking down the hall where she eventually came to Ryou's side, taking his hand as they walked imperfectly perfect down the hall, hand in hand...

...end...


A/N: enjoy.

This originally was going to have a few lemons in it but I chickened out last second and ended up deleting all the sexually explicit scenes. Whoops.:( Then I added a lot more for the hellavit! Haha! Anyways, I hope ya'll enjoy regardless. Pretty much your typical, cliché romance. :) My favorite. For those who are wondering about Disarranged and Misfitted, don't fret! The next chapter is coming soon. I just finished finals and am looking forward to completing the series during my break. Thanks! -Kristen.

* (Astrix) I don't know if this is true. I made it up. Don't chastise me if I'm wrong please. Many thanks. ;P