It's funny: originally this was supposed to be just a random one-shot, focusing mostly on the game of truth or dare at the beginning. And then I bounced this idea off one of my other friends, who's more obsessed with Bleach than I am, and it kind of exploded into epic crack from there. My only defense is that when it's two in the morning and ridiculous amounts of caffeine/sugar have been consumed, I am…open to persuasion, lol. So, blame her for this monstrosity.
Dedicated to my dear friend Gloria, because I love you like hell, and because you fuel my unhealthy obsession. I hope this is exactly what you wanted. Happy (insanely belated) birthday.
The only thing, Ichigo thinks, that's potentially more irritating than having the combined forces of Renji, Ikkaku, Yumichika, Hitsugaya and Rangiku invade his school and humiliate him on a regular basis in front of his other classmates, is their constant insistence on meddling in his personal life. Because frankly, as far as he's concerned, he doesn't give a damn if they're supposed to help protect Karakura and save the world from imminent doom together, they don't have any business in sticking their noses into his diet ("You're actually going to eat that?" Rangiku asks incredulously, gazing at his bento box with an expression of vague alarm), or the clothes he wears ("Who are you trying to impress?" Ikkaku remarks slyly, eyeing Ichigo up and down with a broad smirk), or even his grades ("98%?" Renji demands, glancing between Ichigo and his math test with a look of both shock and slight disgust. "What are you, a total nerd?")
And they especially should not be nearly as fascinated as they are concerning the subject of his virginity.
Ichigo's only defense is that it's all Rukia's fault. As usual.
This new interest in his private life is sparked by one particular evening when Rukia drags him over to Orihime's apartment, where, as he soon learns, the two girls have taken it upon themselves to invite not only Ishida and Chad as well, but the rest of the shinigami currently posted in Karakura for a party. Rukia only smiles innocently when Ichigo shoots her a suspicious glare, and goes skipping off to strike up a conversation with Ishida.
To his surprise, the night isn't so bad. He actually has a pretty good time for the first few hours, listening with embarrassed appreciation as Rangiku cracks dirty jokes, and becoming temporarily engaged in a brief, vicious argument with Ikkaku and Renji about battle tactics.
After dinner, people lounge around. Hitsugaya is the only one who seems slightly put-out, and Ichigo has a lazy, sneaking suspicion that he's only here because Rangiku dragged him along against his will. But even Hitsugaya's disapproval can't put a damper on the warmth that seems to have encompassed Orihime's apartment. Rukia and Renji are laughing, leaning casually against each other; Orihime giggles while none other than Yumichika braids her hair, occasionally commenting on its beauty; Ishida lectures an intrigued Ikkaku—and Hitsugaya, in spite of himself, leans in to listen curiously—on the history of the Quincys; Rangiku keeps trying to challenge Chad to a drinking contest of some sort, although Chad adamantly continues to refuse.
Ichigo watches them together, his usual scowl dissolving to be replaced by a faint smile. He never would have thought that a group of such radically different people could fit together so…so well, and it sets something inside him at peace.
He could get used to this, he thinks.
But that's before it all comes crashing down around them.
After utterly failing to engage Chad in her game, Rangiku turns to survey the rest of the room, a pout on her lovely face.
"I'm bored," she interjects loudly, and Rukia and Renji who are closest to her glance up in surprise.
"Really? Then…what do you want to do?"
"I don't know," Rangiku fires back in exasperation. "A game or something."
Orihime, who has been admiring Yumichika's work in a compact mirror, looks up, her face brightening immediately.
"Oh!" she cries excitedly, and raises her hands, as if they're still in school. "Oh! I have an idea! It's a game Chizuru-chan taught me!"
Everyone else looks around with slight interest and Orihime squirms in anticipation before blurting out: "It's called 'Truth or Dare'! Have you heard of it?"
The responses vary; Hitsugaya's eyes flutter closed, as if he can't quite believe this is happening to him, and Renji says rather bluntly, "Inoue, who hasn't heard of that game?"
But Rukia's eyes light up dangerously in that way that plainly says she's up to no good.
"That's brilliant, Orihime! Can we?" she asks, directing the question to the room at large.
Much to Ichigo's dismay, everyone seems willing. Rangiku in particular gives a rather evil cackle and rubs her hands together in a menacing sort of way. Ichigo doesn't actually want to play—he's never been one for games, especially not stupid ones like "Truth or Dare," but everyone else is already shifting into a vague approximation of a circle, and he doesn't want to disrupt the comfortable mood of the evening that's lasted so far. Grudgingly, he gets up from the couch he's sprawled across and takes a spot on the floor between Chad and Ikkaku.
"Since it was Orihime's idea," Rukia begins when they're settled, "I think she should go first." She grins expectantly at Orihime, who immediately sits up with an expression of great importance.
"Ishida-kun," she says, pointing an imperious finger at her intended victim, "truth or dare?"
Ishida, who looks rather startled at having been called on first, shifts awkwardly and glances at the rest of the circle, as if seeking their advice. However, since almost everyone is watching him with eager, wicked smiles, he lets out a sigh and returns his attention to Orihime once more.
"All right, um…truth."
Orihime considers her words carefully.
"Ishida-kun," she says slowly, thoughtfully, "you make a lot of dresses, right?" An abnormally mischievous grin spreads across her kind face. "Have you ever tried one on?"
Ishida doesn't need to answer: the brilliant red flush that stains his pale face is enough, and the room bursts into shrieks of disbelief and howls of laughter.
"Seriously?" Ichigo blurts out and Ishida shoots him a very nasty look. Rangiku wipes tears from the corners of her eyes and pats Orihime admiringly on the shoulder.
"That was genius!"
Across the circle, Yumichika adopts a thoughtful expression.
"But some dresses are quite beautiful," he remarks aloud. "I don't exactly blame him."
If anything, this makes the group laugh even harder, and when the last giggle has subsided, Yumichika and Ishida are looking downright murderous. It's Ishida's turn to go next, though, which appears to be some consolation for him, as his gaze sweeps the circle.
"Abarai," he says at length with great satisfaction, since Renji had laughed the loudest at Ishida's confession. Renji stiffens as he hears his name.
"Truth or dare?" Ishida asks him coolly, and Renji shrugs, adopting a cocky expression.
"Whatever—dare," he tosses out carelessly, and Ishida raises an eyebrow, thinking hard.
"Fine then…Abarai-san, I dare you…to…"
Rukia gives a sudden, high-pitched giggle and leans over to whisper something in Ishida's ear. Whether it's because of her unexpected betrayal, or the sinister gleam in Ishida's eyes when she pulls away, but Renji's confidence evaporates instantly and he looks nervous.
"I dare you to wear Inoue-san's school uniform for the rest of the night."
"WHAT?" Renji squawks indignantly, though he's barely audible over the roar of laughter from Ichigo and Ikkaku. Even Hitsugaya's indifferent expression wavers dangerously for a moment, in an attempt to hide a smile.
"You're not going to back down, are you?" Rukia challenges him, eyes sparkling. Renji splutters furiously, but at long last, is escorted by Orihime to her closet, shoulders slumped in defeat.
Maybe, Ichigo thinks, and sits up a little straighter, maybe this game isn't so bad after all.
The game becomes increasingly more insane as time wears on. When Renji returns, his face as red as his hair and shuffling along in one of Orihime's neat, gray pleated skirts, he immediately exacts his revenge on Ikkaku and Ichigo in one fell swoop by daring them to kiss for thirty seconds. Rangiku, Rukia, and Orihime are sent into hysterical squeals, as Ichigo groans in disgust and Ikkaku seethes, their lips mashed awkwardly together. The dares become more extravagant: Chad is forced to perform a salsa dance while singing a popular love song that he only knows half the words to. Yumichika scrambles up onto the roof, wearing nothing but his underwear and a lampshade on his head where he proclaims his beauty aloud to the neighbors, terrifying several old women who live next door in the process. It's even demanded that Rangiku flash the group, though this dare doesn't particularly seem to faze her (Ichigo, Ishida, and Chad immediately cover their eyes in embarrassment, although Ishida is later accused of peeking, and after the dare is over, Ikkaku has to excuse himself to go to the bathroom, where he attempts to stem a sudden, violent nosebleed.)
There's no safety in picking truth either, since the questions are just as bad as the dares. Rukia admits, face going a steady shade of purple, that out of all the men in the room, she'd date Ishida, sleep with Ichigo, and marry Renji. Hitsugaya, surprisingly, grumbles out the story of his first kiss, which he apparently shared with Hinamori while they were growing up together in Rukongai. No one aside from Rangiku dares to laugh, though, when he describes how Hinamori pulled away too quickly and sent him stumbling face-first into a mud puddle.
Somewhere a clock strikes the hour and Ichigo represses a yawn. They've been here for six hours or so, he thinks, and he's starting to feel pretty tired. The rest of the circle has settled down, and they're mostly just asking questions of each other now, the thrill of the dares having fizzled the later the night wore on.
"—and that's how I realized I was straight," Yumichika concludes, and the circle nods sleepily. Orihime is starting to doze, her head lolling on Rangiku's shoulder.
"Cool," Renji says and rubs his eyes. "Hey, maybe…maybe we should call it a night?"
Nobody protests, but Rukia, Ichigo noticed, is gazing at him thoughtfully, her head tilted a little to one side. He shifts uneasily under her stare and frowns.
What? he mouths at her, but she only gives him a tiny, impish smile that sends a thrill of foreboding through him and jerks him out of his stupor.
"I have a question," she says aloud, and there's a mutter of acknowledgment from the circle that encourages her to continue. "Ichigo," she begins, and Ichigo has a sudden urge to run at her and clamp his hands over her mouth. He doesn't know what's coming, but he's pretty sure it's nothing good.
"Ichigo," she says again, "are you still a virgin?"
The effect of her words is astounding. Renji sits bolt upright and looks around at Ichigo with an astounded expression. Orihime's head slips off Rangiku's shoulder as she stares at him with wide eyes. The rest of the circle waits, watching him with a level of interest that he doesn't think is at all appropriate.
"That's a stupid question," he snaps at her, even as a steady flush creeps up his neck, turning his ears a faint pink.
"Too bad," Ikkaku says loudly, "answer it."
"I don't have to!" Ichigo protests angrily, arms folding defensively across his chest. His face is burning and he viciously almost wishes that he'd left Rukia to rot in her tower, if this is how she's going to repay him.
"Holy shit," Renji says, voice trembling in disbelief. "You are!"
"I'm—I'm not the only one!" Ichigo yells, suddenly feeling incredibly childish. He shoots a glare at Orihime, Chad, and Ishida. "You guys are too! Aren't…aren't you?" he adds uncertainly, when none of them quite meet his eyes.
"About that," Ishida says stiffly, pushing his glasses higher up on his nose even as he goes maroon. Chad doesn't speak, staring at the floor as if it's the most interesting thing he's ever seen in his entire life.
Ichigo turns on Orihime, half-hoping she'll help him out, but his jaw drops when he sees the guilty, yet slightly pleased expression on her face.
"You're shitting me," Ichigo says, stunned. "With who?"
Rangiku hurls a pillow at his head.
"That's rude," she informs him primly, and Ichigo gapes at her.
"What? You—you—it's rude asking me too!" he cries, outraged.
Rangiku cackles and raises an eyebrow.
"But with you, it's funny! And…interesting," she adds. The rest of the circle seems to be thinking around the same lines as her. Ikkaku and Renji, having recovered from their shock, now dissolve into fits of uncontrollable laughter, while the others survey him with surprised amusement.
Ichigo gives them all a sweeping glare, upper lip curling in a snarl as his gaze lands on Rukia for a second, before getting stiffly to his feet.
"Fuck this," he snaps and storms for the door. "I'm outta here."
It doesn't end there, however.
He should have known.
"Jeez," Rangiku says, shaking her head the next morning as she, Ikkaku, and Yumichika stroll down the street, having ditched school to go drinking ("It's not even eight-thirty yet!" Hitsugaya had snapped when Rangiku extended an invitation to him as well), "you'd think Berry-tan would have done it with somebody already. Boy like him, you know…"
Ikkaku tries and fails to hold back a snicker.
"I can't believe he's still a virgin. He's what, eighteen?"
"Fifteen," Yumichika corrects. "And I thought he and Orihime-chan were dating?"
Ikkaku laughs even harder, if possible.
"Yeah right—Renji says he's terrified of women."
"Terrified of rejection," Rangiku corrects him, "that's what Renji means."
"Oh?" Ikkaku retorts, raising an eyebrow. "What makes you say that?"
"A women's intuition," Rangiku says airily, and as neither Ikkaku nor Yumichika have access to such mystical knowledge, they have no choice but to accept her theory.
They drop the subject until an hour or so later, when they've arrived at the bar, and have downed several plates of food and several more glasses of sake.
"It really is funny," Rangiku drawls as she takes another swig of her drink. "You'd think a kid like that…" She stares into space, struggling to recall the rest of what she was going to say.
"Who?" Ikkaku prompts, and pokes her idly in the side.
"Kurosaki," Rangiku continues, satisfied to find that she remembers again. "You know…?"
"He's not…hideous," Yumichika slurs at length, and coming from him, this is perhaps one of the highest compliments he's ever actually uttered aloud. Ikkaku and Rangiku look around at him, mildly impressed, but Yumichika's already slumped over, snoring, having significantly less practice in the art of drinking than either of them.
"Huh," Rangiku says, and then narrows her eyes contemplatively. "I think…I think we should help him."
"Yumichika?" Ikkaku asks, and bangs his hand on the bar for another drink, which the bartender offers him with a slightly distasteful expression.
"No!" Rangiku sighs heavily in exasperation and then sighs again because she's having difficulty seeing straight. "No. I mean Kurosaki-kun."
"We are helping him," Ikkaku grumbles, "coming over from Soul Society and shit."
"No!" Rangiku interrupts again and waves his comment aside dismissively. "I mean…I mean…" She frowns and thinks hard. "Oh, right. I mean, him being a virgin and everything."
"Oh," Ikkaku says, and then, with new enthusiasm, "Oh!"
"Yeah," Rangiku confirms, pleased that she's finally made her point. Beside her, Ikkaku nods fervently, eyes gleaming with manic inspiration.
"You're right! It's just plain wrong!"
"Not normal," Rangiku chimes in helpfully.
"Very odd," Yumichika agrees sleepily under his breath and then lets out another loud snore.
"It's settled!" Rangiku cries, and lifts her glass in a mock toast. "Death to Kurosaki-kun's virginity by week's end!"
"Here, here!" Ikkaku shouts, and downs his sake in one large gulp, before jumping to his feet. He sways for a moment, and then returns to his seat, propping his elbows up on the surface of the bar.
"Starting tomorrow," he adds, and Rangiku nods drunkenly, and they both order yet another beer.
There are three problems that Ichigo has with it being revealed he's still a virgin. Just three problems, really, but they're enough to make his head pound and his jaw clench as he storms along the narrow pathways of Karakura's park, hands shoved deep in the pockets of his sweatshirt against a sudden chill that swept in from last night.
The first and foremost, is that it's nobody's goddamn business but his. Ichigo has always been an intensely private sort of person. He doesn't mess with other people's issues (well…you know, besides Soul Society and all that) and he thinks that his best frigging friends, of all people, should give him that same amount of space. "With you, it's funny! And…interesting." Is that what Rangiku said? Ichigo kicks savagely at the ground, sending up a spray of gravel. What the hell does she mean, funny? He thinks it's pretty serious. It's his…his virginity, for crying out loud, and even though it might sound stupid, he thinks…he thinks it's something that should be special. Why does it matter, if he wants to wait awhile longer? What's wrong with that?
The second problem, he concludes, is that he's been betrayed: brutally, horrifically betrayed, by none other than Rukia—and in front of Renji, Ishida, and Ikkaku, as if it weren't humiliating enough. Admittedly, she seemed pretty upset. He'd walked downstairs this morning to find a plate of enormous, bunny-shaped pancakes waiting for him, with the words, "I'M SORRY" spelled across them in syrup, and Rukia hovering anxiously nearby, waiting for his reaction.
That was actually why he'd taken a walk. He'd ignored her hopeful expression and grabbed a piece of toast instead, before immediately heading out.
Ichigo shifts uncomfortably. It had felt good at the time, but thinking about it now, he feels like a complete asshole. Not that his anger isn't justified, but…but she'd looked so disappointed, just before he'd slammed the door shut.
Maybe, Ichigo concludes, as he slumps down on a park bench for a moment's rest, maybe he should try talking to her this afternoon. After all, it's Rukia. He's never liked staying angry with her for too long.
But that brings him to his third and final problem: the most uncomfortable out of all of them, and Ichigo lets out a small sigh and tilts his head back, watching clouds drift lazily overhead. Because Rukia's question has thrown into sharp relief something that he's been steadily (if uncomfortably) realizing over the past several years. Namely, that he doesn't…like…girls.
It's actually…it's actually kind of a terrible feeling, and Ichigo feels his stomach clench as he continues glaring up into the sky. He wanted to be normal, just once in his goddamn life. He'd tried hard in middle school; tried so hard to think about the way Tatsuki's legs were getting longer, and Orihime's curves, instead of...of guys.
A light breeze tousles his hair, and Ichigo can't help but snort in self-disgust.
He didn't try hard enough, apparently. Otherwise, he wouldn't be in the situation he is now, alone and ugly, and stuck with a secret, stupid crush on—
A tingling of familiar reiatsu reaches him, and Ichigo flushes and ducks his head at approaching footsteps.
Speak of the devil.
"Kurosaki-san?" Ichigo glances up, carefully arranging his expression into one of rude indifference as none other than Urahara Kisuke comes to a stop beside his bench, one eyebrow raised slightly in concern. He's not wearing his typical green samue and hat, but jeans and a t-shirt instead. His hair is even messier than usual and it looks soft in the early morning sunlight.
For a moment, Ichigo loses his train of thought.
"Kurosaki-san?" Urahara prompts gently, and Ichigo jumps a little, blushing at the faint hint of a smile playing on Urahara's lips.
"The hell do you want?" he grits out, a little harsher than he means to in his stumbling recovery. Urahara only chuckles, unfazed, and sits down on the bench beside him.
Their shoulders are nearly touching.
"I was just out taking a walk, and I sensed dark reiatsu streaming through Karakura." Urahara offers a slight grin. "Not in a good mood today, I take it?"
"None of your business," Ichigo grumbles, as his face goes a further shade of pink, arms folding across his chest. Mentally, he smacks himself upside the head. What the hell are you doing? his inner voice screams. Stop acting like a total asshole! Flirt, laugh, make him stay—just do something!
He opens his mouth, ready to blurt out the first thing that jumps to mind (which, in retrospect, might not have been the best plan ever), but Urahara beats him to it with, "The weather's getting colder."
"Um…" Ichigo glares at his feet. "Yeah, I guess."
Oh God, his inner voice is moaning in terror, this is so awkward, what are you doing?
"Has school been going well? Abarai-san's been complaining nonstop about the homework load."
Ichigo stifles a snort of laughter at that, missing, in the process, the way Urahara's gaze softens slightly.
"That's cuz he's a slacker," Ichigo explains at length. "If he stopped bitching and moaning all the time and actually did his work instead, he might not be failing everything. Not that it matters, because, you know, he's not really here for good grades…obviously…"
Stop rambling, his inner voice hisses and Ichigo ducks his head in frustrated embarrassment. Why did Urahara have to show up now, anyway? Why couldn't he have just stayed in his shop, being all aloof and mysterious and hopelessly sexy, and save them both from this awful, ten minute, nightmare of a conversation, why?
Just…get up, Ichigo tells himself firmly. He just has to get up, while being polite, excuse himself, and then bolt for the sanctuary of his bedroom. Go. Now. Please.
"Kurosaki-san," Urahara asks, beating him to the punch again just as Ichigo opens his mouth with some weak story about how he has to help Yuzu go shopping for beets or something. They both hesitate, and then Ichigo laughs nervously and glances away.
"Go ahead," he mutters.
"I was just wondering," Urahara went on cheerfully, "since it is so cold, if you'd like to come back with me to the Shoten for a cup of tea. You're shivering, you know."
Ichigo wants to melt, and fist-pump the air, and go fleeing in the opposite direction all at once. Be cool, he tries to instruct himself, and shrugs one shoulder in an attempt at appearing casual; it comes off more as a nervous twitch, and causes Urahara to raise one eyebrow in uncertainty. Ichigo's face is probably on fire at this point.
"Uh, sure," he finally manages to stutter out. "Yeah, cool. Whatever."
Nice going, dumbass, he thinks dully, and plods after Urahara down the path; though when Urahara lightly touches his shoulder, and then leaves his hand there just a little longer than necessary, Ichigo has to admit that maybe he did something right after all.
"CAAAPPTAAAIN!" Rangiku caterwauls as she stumbles up the stairs of Orihime's apartment building, a bottle of beer swinging from one hand and Yumichika and Ikkaku in tow, their arms wrapped around each other as they sway dangerously from side to side. Ikkaku's belting out some obscene drinking song that he must have picked up from one of his "sparring matches" with Iba, and the neighbors (not to mention half the people on the sidewalk below) are gaping openly at him.
None of them care, and Rangiku kicks open the door of Orihime's apartment, beaming expectantly.
"Captain! I've got it! I—"
The front room is empty, and she pouts unhappily.
"He ain't here," Ikkaku observes.
"Well-spotted," Rangiku mutters grouchily under her breath. Damn. And she'd so been looking forward to sharing the brilliance of her latest plan with her captain. Damn, damnity-damn, damn and a half…
Yumichika finally disentangles himself from Ikkaku and staggers forward a few steps, eyes narrowed hazily.
"Maybe…maybe there was a Hollow."
"We would have known," Rangiku corrects him. She wanders over into the kitchen, bottle still dangling in her grip, and checks the refrigerator, in case Hitsugaya's hiding in there. After all, she figures, it's cold, it's small, perfect right?
"He could have gone back to Soul Society," Ikkaku suggests.
"Cuz Captain Yamamoto might have—"
It clicks together in Rangiku's otherwise addled brain and she whirls back toward the other two in excitement.
"I know where he is!" she exclaims, and then immediately goes barreling for the side room with the screen connecting them to Soul Society, and where Hitsugaya has spent most of his time on Earth lurking. She kicks down the door again (Orihime's probably going to be pissed, part of her warns vaguely) and storms inside, a broad grin splitting her features as Hitsugaya turns around, eyes widening at the sight of her.
"Matsumoto," he begins in confusion. "What are you—?"
"WE'VE DONE IT, CAPTAIN!" she informs him loudly, and envelops him in a crushing hug, his face smashed against her breasts as she spins him around several times before releasing him. "We've come up with a devious plan to help rid Kurosaki-kun of his virginity ONCE AND FOR ALL!"
She cackles triumphantly, and then gazes expectantly at him, waiting for…well, a congratulations or something. But Hitsugaya just stands there, with a funny, pained sort of expression that she doesn't quite understand.
"Matsumoto," he says at length.
"Yes, captain?" she replies immediately, puffing herself up a little. Here it comes!
"Why…why do you do this to me?"
Not exactly what she thought he'd say.
"Whaddya mean?" she demands. Hitsugaya, whose face is going a rapid shade of humiliated purple, only jerks his head slightly. She glances up, only to realize that the screen behind him is on at the moment, and that not only Yamamoto is standing at the other end, but Unohana, Kyouraku and Ukitake as well, all four blinking in a rather bewildered sort of way.
Rangiku cocks her eyebrow at them.
"Hi, there," she offers politely enough. This is apparently too much for Hitsugaya to bear, and he wastes no time in immediately shoving her out of the room once again and slamming the now-broken door as best as he can.
A plaintive wail starts up on the other side, Rangiku whining about him being cruel, or something, and beyond that, he can faintly hear Ikkaku and Yumichika arguing at the top of their lungs about God knows what.
There's a brief, horrible silence behind him, and Hitsugaya has a sense of impending doom, before:
"So," Kyouraku begins rather conversationally. "Is he really a virgin?"
Ikkaku, Yumichika, and Rangiku's plans are initially set back, mostly because they emerge from semi-comatose states to splitting hangovers the following day after they make their "pact." Hitsugaya is, of course, completely unsympathetic after being humiliated in front of four other captains, and spends a decent hour ranting at them: Yumichika falls asleep, Ikkaku passes out, and Rangiku starts weeping halfway through, begging Hitsugaya to please, please be merciful and not talk quite so loud.
He's deaf to her pleas, and sends them out to fight a group of Hollows later that morning, resulting in a near mental breakdown on Ikkaku's part and another wave of sobbing from Rangiku.
"Little twerp," Ikkaku snarls to himself over and over again, although Yumichika has enough sense to smother him once they get back to the apartment, in case Hitsugaya overhears.
By mid-afternoon, and several mugs of herbal tea later, though ("You're an angel, Orihime-chan," Yumichika proclaims with genuine tears of gratitude in his eyes, and Orihime blushes at the praise), they're starting to function normally again. Luckily, Hitsugaya is called into another conference with the captains in the other room—Ikkaku is almost tempted to belt out another rude song in an act of revenge, but Rangiku and Yumichika convince him otherwise—and this gives them a good opportunity to sit down and map out their plan of attack.
"Do we know if he likes anyone?" Rangiku asks straight out. "That's maybe the most important thing to consider."
Yumichika and Ikkaku glance blankly at each other, then at Rangiku.
This is going to be harder than they thought.
Half an hour of brainstorming later, they're still at a loss, and Rangiku is starting to feel her headache from earlier creeping up on her again when Orihime walks in, bearing another tray of tea and various sweets. Ikkaku and Yumichika immediately start stuffing their mouths, and Orihime, with a giggle, turns to Rangiku expectantly.
"I see you're feeling better," she notes cheerfully, and Rangiku gives a weak grin.
"Yes…but we're a little stuck."
Orihime cocks her head to one side, frowning.
"Stuck," Rangiku says again, and runs a hand wearily through her hair. "See…you know how a few days ago, when everyone found out Kurosaki-kun was still a virgin?"
"That wasn't very nice of Kuchiki-san," Orihime murmurs unhappily, flushing a dark, embarrassed red.
"Yes, whatever," Rangiku agrees, flapping one hand impatiently. "But it got us thinking. We want to…help him, if you know what I mean."
Orihime's eyes widen and, if possible, she goes an even deeper red.
"I don't…" she begins uncertainly. "I don't know if Kurosaki-kun…wants you to—"
Abruptly, something clicks together in Rangiku's head, and she sits up with sudden glee.
"That's it, Orihime!" she shouts triumphantly. "I've got it!"
"Got what?" Orihime asks, almost warily, as Rangiku seizes her by the shoulders and shakes her a little. Across the table, Ikkaku and Yumichika glance up in surprise.
"Kurosaki!" Rangiku hollers, momentarily forgetting about Hitsugaya in the next room over. "Don't you see? Kurosaki-kun doesn't want us to, because—because—" And really, this is so brilliant, she can't believe she didn't realize it sooner "—he thinks nobody wants him!"
There is a brief, confused silence.
"That doesn't even make any sense," Ikkaku points out at length, and Rangiku rolls her eyes in immense exasperation.
"Of course it does! He wants to lose his virginity, because really, what teenage boy doesn't? But, and here's the thing, he thinks nobody would want him back. Oh!" Rangiku cries mournfully, "Poor, poor Kurosaki-kun, feeling so alone and unattractive!" She pauses dramatically as Orihime wipes a few tears from the corners of her eyes, and Yumichika and Ikkaku manage to look somewhat sympathetic.
"So," Orihime asks, eyes shining with compassion, "how can we help Kurosaki-kun understand?"
"Well it's simple!" Rangiku informs her gently. "We just announce to everyone that Kurosaki's a virgin. That should get someone's attention."
"That doesn't seem entirely right to me," Yumichika begins, but Orihime has jumped to her feet, hands planted determinedly on her hips, and Rangiku has the wonderful feeling that she's found another recruit to help with what she has tentatively decided to call her DKV Project (Destroy Kurosaki's Virginity.)
Come tomorrow, she thinks, extremely pleased with herself, and Ichigo will be thanking her from the bottom of his heart.
"I'm not mad at you," Ichigo informs Rukia when he jogs downstairs the next day for school and finds her waiting, knuckles white from where she's clutching at her book bag.
"Really?" she asks hopefully, and when he nods, her face lights up.
So maybe he's still a little annoyed, not to mention nervous about having to face the others today after last Friday. But tea with Urahara on Saturday hadn't been a complete disaster. He'd actually stayed for an hour and a half (an hour and a half! he crows mentally, and then smacks himself for being such a loser), and they'd just talked—about anything, everything. It'd been…amazing, and Ichigo had been feeling slightly more charitable toward Rukia when he'd returned home. Unfortunately, she'd been gone for the rest of the weekend, called back briefly to Soul Society for some issue or another with Byakuya, and he hadn't gotten a chance to make up with her.
Ichigo takes in her delighted expression and decides that it was well worth the wait.
"I thought you'd never talk to me again," Rukia admits later with a sheepish grin as they walk to school together. "It was incredibly stupid of me. I was just trying to make people laugh, and…" She cringes apologetically. "I'm very sorry."
"No, it's okay," Ichigo assures her. "Really. It's not a big deal. I mean…" He chuckles weakly. "They've probably forgotten about it for the most part. I mean, aside from Renji and Ikkaku, but…you know, whatever. I can deal with it."
"I'll beat Renji up for you," she promises, and Ichigo can't help but grin.
"I'd love to see that."
"Consider it a present," she offers, and they both laugh as they trudge through the front gate of the school.
They attack at 10:32, halfway through the history period, the first day of the DKV Project, although Orihime spends a fair amount of the time fretting about ditching class.
"And I don't know," she adds for the third time in fifteen minutes, as she, Rangiku, Ikkaku, and Yumichika lurk about in the hallway outside, waiting for the perfect moment to burst in and break the news. "I don't think Kurosaki-kun would want this—"
"Orihime," Rangiku explains soothingly. "This is the only way. He'll never be able to do it himself. We're just trying to help, remember?"
"Y-yes," Orihime replies, looking thoroughly unconvinced.
Their teacher has been droning on now for a good twenty minutes about the Tokugawa period when Rangiku decides it's time to make their move. She signals to Ikkaku, Yumichika, and Orihime, who gather in around her.
"Now when I count to three," she instructs, "we all burst in at the same time and announce it to everyone."
"Right," Ikkaku and Yumichika agree, nodding. Orihime still looks doubtful.
"—and it was at this point that the emperor decided," the teacher goes on, "that it had become absolutely necessary to—"
"Wait a minute," Yumichika says suddenly, "what is it exactly that we're all saying?"
"Three!" Rangiku cries aloud, and flings the door open, the four of them tumbling forward. Everyone is staring blankly at them. The teacher's mouth is still hanging open from being interrupted in the middle of a sentence; from his desk, Ichigo glances up in bewilderment.
"We would like to inform you that Kurosaki Ichigo is still a virgin," Rangiku announces, at the same time that Yumichika says, "Kurosaki-kun, being not entirely hideous, is in desperate need of assistance with his virginity," and Ikkaku bellows, "Oi, Ichigo! We're here to help you get laid!"
There is a brief, stunned silence; then Orihime, her face a brilliant red, squeaks out (rather redundantly, Ichigo thinks weakly as he sinks down in his seat, face burning) "Kurosaki-kun has not had sex," and then immediately dissolves into frantic apologies.
The room erupts.
"You're a virgin?" Keigo splutters, over the roar of laughter from the other guys and the squeals of shock from the girls.
"What the hell are you trying to pull with Orihime?" Tatsuki snaps protectively, jumping to her feet.
"Matsumoto!" the teacher barks, slamming her fist down on her desk. "What is the meaning of this, barging into my classroom—?"
"You're a virgin?" Keigo repeats blankly.
"They're all lying!" Rukia shouts out determinedly, though she only succeeds in prompting more giggles. Renji, at his desk, is convulsing in a fit of hysterical laughter; Chad is blinking at Ichigo's increasingly purple face in concern, and Ishida looks torn between laughing along with the rest of the class, and snarling for all of them to shut the hell up so that they can get on with the lesson.
"—screaming out all sorts of nonsense about Kurosaki's virginity, as if it's a matter of national importance," the teacher continues to rant.
"It is a matter of importance!" Rangiku maintains stubbornly.
"Not normal!" Ikkaku adds.
"V-very strange," Orihime murmurs, prompted by a rough jab from Yumichika's elbow; this in turn prompts Tatsuki to hurl her textbook in Yumichika's face.
"You're a virgin?" Keigo is now shrieking repeatedly at the top of his lungs, for the rest of the classes in the building, and any random passerby on the street who didn't hear it the first two times. Other classroom doors are slamming open, one by one, and now there's even faint laughter coming from the halls.
In the midst of it all, Ichigo, his face now a shade to rival an eggplant, decides it would be a very, very good idea to leave school right about now, and proceeds to dive-bomb out the nearest window. His feet hit the ground with a dull thud and he goes flying across the school grounds, but not far enough that he doesn't hear Rangiku hollering after him, "Wait, Kurosaki-kun! We're only trying to save you from embarrassment!"
I'm going to kill her, Ichigo thinks furiously, I'm going to kill her, I'm going to fucking kill her.
To Be Continued…
So…hopefully this was funny, and you're at least somewhat interested in reading more. I dunno. Sometimes I wonder if my sense of humor's a bit skewed. Tried my best, lol.
Reviews are greatly appreciated—especially because I'm unusually self-conscious about this fic. Probably because I've never attempted crack/fluff before. :)