Peace sign. I am so sorry but this will have to be my last update for this story before I go into another temporary hiatus. I will make up for it once I return. Promise.

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters mentioned hereafter.

This is probably the tenth time she scratched something using her marker as she sat at the rooftop, leaving her friends to do their own business. This is the best place to hide what she's after anyway. Or at least she thought she can hide it. So she almost jumped in surprise when she felt someone from behind leaning close to see what she's doing.

"Toshirou!" she shrieked. "You scared me!"

He shrugged and sat down beside her. "You were so serious you didn't even hear the door opening?" He glanced at the paper she was trying to hide from his view. "That's classified ads. Looking for a job?"

Rukia sighed, knowing she can't lie to him. Toshirou is one of the most perceptive friend she has. "Yes. I realized last night that I'm almost running out with the budget. I definitely cannot let Orihime shoulder all expenses since she's like me as well."

"I see. Found one already?" he leaned on the railing behind him. They could hear Renji and Ichigo arguing below. It's possible since the two are yelling at each other. Rukia sighed and placed the ads back at her bag.

"Those two..."

"They argue a lot. It's frustrating to listen to them go about each other most of the time," he said and yawned. "So, how did the meeting yesterday go?"

Rukia's face darkened a little upon remembering how she walked out from the meeting. "Bad huh?" was Toshirou's answer to his own query upon noticing how her mood changed.

"I walked out. Shirayuki-sensei attended till the end. Their attitude is vexing and believe me, even you who seldom lose his temper will probably end up ranting at them. They totally looked down on the other schools especially our school," she related everything and Toshirou would only nod as he listened. This is what Rukia liked about this guy. He will always listen to everything you have to say and would comment later if he has something to tell.

"You betted Ulquiorra Schiffer?" he asked in mild surprise, probably least expecting that.

Rukia gave a short nod and a fond smile curved her lips all of a sudden while Toshirou could only look at her in puzzlement. "Yes. And he agreed to it."

Again, Toshirou was surprised. He pegged Ulquiorra as one who does not let others decide for him so suddenly. "You talked to him?"

Rukia smiled. "He was at that school too. He waited for me outside and I told him and he agreed." She did not have to mention that he also bought her Chappy. Immediately after leaving Isane's shop, he walked her home to leave her things before they returned to school once more. Though it's only Rukia who entered since Ulquiorra chose to absent himself. She momentarily forgot about Toshirou as she recalled yesterday.

"Rukia, we'll go ahead!" Ichigo waved goodbye as he walked out from the room."Call us if you need to be fetched!"

She nodded without looking at her friends as they exited the room one by one. She chose to stay behind to finish up some reports that she left a little while ago due to the meeting she attended with Shirayuki-sensei. Neliel walked to her and gave a faint smile.

"You're working so hard," she commented. "Are you sure you'll be fine on your own here? I can keep you company," she offered.

Rukia looked up and flashed a smile. "Don't worry about me Nel. I'll be fine. Besides, I've been doing this before already. And you don't have to accompany me. But thanks for the offer anyway."

Neliel reluctantly nodded. "I'll be going ahead then."

"Take care."

With that, she continued writing down reports and got lost track of the time until one of the remaining students reminded her it's already seven in the evening. Rukia blinked and thanked the student before she packed her things, going to the faculty room where the teachers were having a meeting, discussing the result of the conference at Las Noches High. Quietly, she left the report at her teacher's table and left the school compound.

She shivered against the slight cold of the night as she stepped out from the gate and continued walking away from the school.

"I was wondering if you have a plan sleeping there," a dry comment came from behind her and Rukia almost shrieked as she spun around to find Ulquiorra with his hands tucked in his pocket. It seems that's one of his habits. He had his hair tied behind his back.

"Ulquiorra!" she exclaimed in surprise.

"Come, I'll walk you home. I met your colorful friends a while ago and learned you stayed behind," he offered an explanation even before she could ask.

"Colorful friends?" she repeated in confusion.

"Kurosaki and Abarai and Jaggerjaques. Colorful. Their hair that is," he commented and they both started walking. It felt so natural to talk to him as if they have known each other for so long and she really felt comfortable with him.

Rukia chuckled at the way he described her friends before she rubbed her hands against her arm. "I did not know you can joke that way," she said.

He glanced at her. "You're shivering."

"Obviously."

Without a word, he kept walking. And they walked in silence, as if they are contented with that. They didn't need words. As they rounded a corner, they saw a group of guys, seemingly drunk by the looks of it, and they were blocking the way.

"Ooh look. There's a cute chic there," one pointed towards their direction as Ulquiorra pulled her away, finding another route instead. But the drunk guys followed them, having found an interest in Rukia.

"Let's take her. It's only one guy. I bet that girly guy cannot do anything against seven of us," one suggested in a slurred voice.

If under other and better circumstances, Rukia would have laughed at the comment about Rukia but she felt his hand suddenly holding hers and tightening its hold.

"Just ignore them."

She nodded and they continued walking down the streets until they reached a quiet spot. To Rukia's surprise, the drunk guys followed them even there and she suddenly felt terrified that these guys will do something bad. Not that she can't put a small fight. She'd been taught by Ichigo and Renji a thing or two about fighting but that's only to protect herself.

"Hey!" they called and Ulquiorra finally stopped. Rukia glanced at him in question as he released her hand and turned fully to face the seven guys who smirked at them, confident in their own strength.

"Is there something you want from us?" Ulquiorra asked in his unnerving tone which made the guys shudder a little. But that wasn't enough to deter them.

"Mind sharing us your girl?" they slurred.

Since Rukia wasn't looking at his face, she did not see how his eyes hardened at the suggestion. "If I don't?" he asked back.

Their smirk widened. "Then we'll simply get rid of you."

"I'd like to see you try," he welcomed them and Rukia suddenly remembered Neliel's comment before when Ichigo was about to challenge Ulquiorra upon learning of their 'kiss'. This guy loves to fight and he'd welcome any one who could put up a fight against him.

Her hand held the back of his shirt to call his attention. He only tilted his head to glance at her. "What is it?" he asked.

"Let's just go home. Let's ignore - "

"The mere fact that they followed us all the way here means they are persistent. See, it's not good going home on your own especially at night," he had the galls to comment the latter part in a smug tone.

"But - "

He only pushed her back gently and Rukia was surprised at how gentle he is towards her. Then without a word, he stepped forward and was about to talk as one attacked them when suddenly someone called from another direction.

"Oi, Ulquiorra is that you?" the voice was loud enough especially in that place where it is so quiet.

"Ulquiorra?" one of the drunk guys suddenly uttered the name and turned to his attacking friend. "Oi, stupid! Don't attack..." he stopped as the guy they were following simply sidestepped and knocked his friend unconscious in a matter of seconds. "...him." He turned to the rest of his friends who were about ready to lunge. "Don't be so stupid! Haven't you ever heard of his name?" he growled making them all stop to look at him.

"Whatdya mean?"

"He's Ulquiorra! The strongest fighter in the street who also beat Nnoitra before. And the two are friends now..." he trailed off and he looked over his shoulder as he found three newcomers raising their brows towards them. "Aw shit! Make a run for it!" He said and fled away. His other friends followed.

The scene was somehow amusing and Rukia heard the guy's comment. She gave Ulquiorra a glance. Strongest fighter in the street? He's acting so delinquent.

"What was that all about?" one of the newcomers asked as they approached Ulquiorra who was now looking at them in boredom, the guy he knocked was still flat on the ground.

"Really, did you have to come and ruin the fun?" he asked them, obviously disappointed. "And here I thought I could warm up a little."

"Our apologies. We did not know the situation," they said and glanced at Rukia who was looking at them in confusion.

"Hey, Ulquiorra, are you some sort of a gang leader?" she could not help but ask while the newcomers laughed at the question.

"No miss. He's not even part of any street gang. Ulquiorra he is..."

"None of your business," he stated in a flat tone. "We'll be going ahead. Take care of this guy," he pointed to the one still unconscious.

"Okay."

With that, he pulled Rukia's hand and they started walking once more. "I'm friends with their boss who owns this turf. It has its perk," he stated.

"Neliel was right. You loved to fight," she exclaimed.

"Only when I am in the mood. It's not like I really welcome any fight at all," he answered without looking at her as he led the way while all the time holding her hands. "I've been called many names since I was young so I often get into fights. Does that scare you?" he asked and glanced at her to gauge her reaction.

She shrugged. "Not at all. I'm just surprised. You strike me as one with so much calmness."

"Heh. You're really something, Anasiak."

She frowned. "Call me Rukia."

"Hmm."

And another fifteen minutes before they finally reached the gate of their house. Orihime was standing at the doorway, waiting for her in worry.

"Rukia!" she sighed in relief as she opened the gate. "Oh, Ulquiorra-kun."

"Evening," he greeted and gave a short nod before turning to Rukia. "Next time, be aware of your time." With that, he ruffled Rukia's hair much to her chagrin before he left them. Orihime gave him a look which she managed to hide from Rukia who was just shaking her head.

"That guy. I'll never understand him," she murmured. "I'm sorry for making you worried, Orihime. I lost track of the time."

Orihime smiled forcefully, feeling that pain in her heart. "Don't worry about it. I'm glad you came home safe."

"Earth to Rukia," Toshirou called her attention as she remembered last night. He even waved his hand in front of her and when finally sure she still is deep in her own thought, he poked her forehead. "Oi."

She reacted and blinked at him. "Wha - Oh, I'm so sorry. I just recalled something," she apologized with a sheepish smile. He shook his head.

"I better get going," he said and stood up. "Break is almost over."

Rukia nodded and smiled. "Sorry again."

He waved his hand dismally. "Nah."

"By the way, you won't mind joining the debate club? I'm gunning on you to represent our school in debates."

He stopped for a moment to think over it then he shrugged. "I won't mind."

Rukia grinned in delight. "Great!"

.

.

.

He was busy reading a book when she entered class that afternoon. He did not mind the noise around him as he focused reading, his one leg over the other. He looked so comfortable. "That's new..." she murmured.

"Agreed," the melancholic voice of Nel was heard behind her. He glanced at Ulquiorra. "He's actually reading inside the classroom."

Rukia nodded. Then suddenly, Ichigo called her attention. "Oi, Rukia, I heard something interesting," he gave her a teasing smirk though only Renji and Grimmjaw would understand the feeling behind.

"Eh?"

"Remember Yumi? He said he saw you yesterday afternoon with a big stupid rabbit - Ouch!" he exclaimed as one book hit his head without preamble.

"It's a bunny and it's not stupid," she corrected and crossed her arms together.

Ichigo scratched his head. "Right. Anyway, said you were able to buy it?" he asked.

"Ah..." she gave a discreet glance towards Ulquiorra who appeared not to be listening since he's listening to music once more while reading. She pointed at him. "He bought it for me."

The reactions were all the same as every one in class stared at him in shock. In school, even though many respected and adored Rukia, no guy ever had the courage to make a move towards her since they are afraid of Ichigo and Renji's protectiveness. Not to mention Grimmjaw too.

Neliel glanced at Ulquiorra who ignored all the stares he was getting. A slow smile curved her lips. There's no doubt about it. Ulquiorra only does those things when he likes someone. And he likes Rukia.

"U-Ulquiorra-kun did?" Orihime whispered softly and felt that familiar pang of pain.

Rukia ignored their reactions and went towards her seat. "And he also helped her last night. Good thing he was there or else Rukia would have been in trouble," Grimmjaw piped in from the doorway as he yawned and stepped inside.

Ichigo turned to Rukia. "What happened last night?" he asked.

"It's nothing to worry about. Some guys just tried to get me. Good thing he was there," she answered and gave Ichigo a warm smile, knowing he was worried. In all the years that they grew together, he delegated himself to be his protector until she finds someone who would protect her the same way he does to her and his siblings.

Ichigo sighed in relief then walked towards Ulquiorra. The latter raised his head and took off his headset. "Is there something you need, Kurosaki?"

The orange-haired sighed before he extended his hands. "That makes you formally my friend. Thank you for helping her."

"No problem," he stated and returned his gaze back at the book. Thankfully, the bell rang and everyone settled to their proper seats as Ise stepped inside and started her lesson for the whole afternoon.

The rest of the afternoon passed by with no unusual events happening. She was packing her things as her friends did the same when suddenly, Ulquiorra approached her. The others watched with hitched breath. Ever since learning what happened yesterday, the students have suddenly entertained the idea of their future president and the quiet guy hooking together. Besides, it's obvious she has an effect on him since she's basically the only one aside from Neliel whom he talks to.

"You should probably walk home with your friends. Don't stay behind when you don't have anyone to accompany you," he suggested as he sat on the desk near her.

She smiled at him. "You're acting strange," she said. "But I really have to stay behind. It's one of the cons of being an officer of the school. Another meeting to go."

He nodded and stood up once more. "I'll fetch you later then," he said and once again ruffled her hair as everyone gaped at the interaction. It's as though they are so comfortable with each other. Their actions towards each other are so natural and no malice.

"Stop doing that," she swatted his hand away but she was actually chuckling.

Orihime looked away. Ichigo blinked before he shrugged. He knew it in his gut, this guy suits Rukia. And he'll be fine with it as long as it's this guy. When did Rukia ever smile like that? A smile of a girl who obviously is unaware that she likes the person.

Neliel whistled softly and made it a point to call Ulquiorra's mother and tell her about this. Things are getting interesting now. Ulquiorra is subtly making a move towards Rukia.

Ulquiorra removed his hand from her head and tucked his hands at the back pockets of his pants. "See you later."

Rukia nodded even though he wasn't looking at her. She doesn't know why but she completely trusts the guy. "I'll wait for you then. Thanks in advance."

He waved his hand once before he was out of the room. The moment he left, every girls in the class except Orihime who was feeling a heartache, squealed.

"Kyaa! Rukia-chan! You two are so cute!"

"Come to think of it, it's only now that I realized he is really handsome even though he always looks like he's brooding!"

"Does he like you?"

"Do you like him?"

"How lucky of you to receive something from him!"

Rukia flushed at all the comments and tactfully escaped the room thanks to Grimmjaw who pulled her away from the group of girls and led her outside. He smirked.

"Heh. You and him does not sound so bad."

And naive as she is, Rukia could only stare at her retreating friend in confusion.

..

Thanks and sorry for another hiatus thing. Take care guys and thanks to those who reviewed.