Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or any of the characters or setting that Tite Kubo created.

Because it's Orange

Kurosaki Ichigo lived in Karakura Town. It was a nice place and there were lots of nice people. He lived in a nice house, went to a relatively nice school, and he had nice, or at least tolerable, younger sisters. The only things that weren't nice were his father, people who weren't careful and knocked over offerings to spirits, and a few of the students at Karakura High School, which was the one he attended.

There were also strange things in the town, like buns with leeks inside instead of something sweet, and people who loitered about at street corners. Ichigo didn't like those things very much, so he tended to avoid both.

And then there was Kuchiki Rukia, a girl he'd seen walking around the town on two occasions now. She had a petite figure, short black hair, deep indigo eyes . . . and she thought she was a rabbit. Or so the rumour went.

It confused Ichigo as to how someone could truthfully think they were a small fluffy creature with large ears and a small nose. But Rukia did, and that was just plain vexing, not to mention strange.

But Ichigo didn't include Rukia in his list of strange things, she didn't go on any of his lists. It was an annoyance, as Ichigo liked making lists, but it couldn't be helped.

As he walked out of the house, calling goodbye to his nice younger sister, and his cynical younger sister, and ignoring his manic and strange father, Ichigo decided that today might be a good day.

Although since it was a Monday, some of the students at school might almost make it onto his annoying list, because that's what always seemed to happen.

Kuchiki Rukia was visiting Karakura Town. It was an odd place with lots of odd people. She didn't live in an odd house, and she didn't go to the odd school, and she didn't have an odd family. Or any family at all. There were some things that weren't odd, however, like grass, and rabbits, and carrots, which she absolutely adored.

There were also some things in the town that were strange, like sweet things in buns when there should be leeks, and people who walked too fast, so she tended to avoid both. It was sensible, really.

As Rukia walked through the town, wandering along the streets and peering over fences, she saw something on the other side of some bushes that caught her eyes. Eyes that hardly ever saw any colour in the world, although only because of the teenager's perspective.

It was orange, a really bright orange . . . and she wanted to eat it.

With a scream of 'carrots', the girl jumped through the bushes and onto the orange . . . which turned out to be someone tying their shoelaces. All Rukia saw was the colour, when everything was black and white . . . that was orange.

And she adored orange.

'Carrots,' the word was repeated without any intonation.

Rukia had seen orange, and she was going to eat it. No matter what.

Ichigo was scared. He'd just been pounced on, and he didn't want to look up to see who'd done the pouncing. Especially since he'd heard shouting just a second ago. Finally though, he heard something unintelligible and glanced upwards.

'Kuchiki Rukia?' he'd heard someone mention her name while pointing so he had a pretty good idea of who she was, 'What are you doing?'

'Orange,' her tone was lower than he might've otherwise suspected, but it didn't change the word she'd spoken.

He touched his hair, 'What about it?'

'Carrots,' the next word was said in such a deadpan way that Ichigo couldn't understand it. The next second, however, Kuchiki Rukia had launched herself at him again and had wrapped her arms around his neck. Ichigo was frozen, he didn't know what was going on.

And then something pulled his head sharply and he winced.

Five seconds later, Ichigo realised she was chewing on his hair.

'Aaargh!' his shout was muffled by her arm, 'What are you doing?'

Rukia released him and slid onto the concrete sidewalk, and, being quite a bit shorter than him, when he stood up, she seemed tiny, 'Orange. Carrots,'

Two words.

'Huh?' Ichigo worked one thing out, 'No, no! My hair is not carrots! It's just orange!'

'I want to eat it,' her tone was so serious, and her posture, crouched on the sidewalk, was very rabbit-like.

'You actually do seriously believe you're a rabbit?' he hadn't truly believed the rumour, and now his sentences weren't making sense, 'Why do you want to eat my hair anyway? Surely you can tell it's not carrots because it's not orange. No, I mean,' he paused, 'It is orange but it's not carrots, can't you tell because you're saying it's orange and now you're trying to eat it,' he threw his hands up in the air, 'Why?'

Rukia tilted her head to one side, craning her neck to look at the boy properly, 'Because it's orange,'

'That's so not a good reason to eat someone's hair!' Ichigo was getting stressed. He didn't have any lists to sort his thoughts out onto, and that was stressful. He was late for school, and that was stressful. This person was trying to eat his hair, and that was stressful.

'I'm going to eat it,' she forced the words through her teeth, unsure of what his problem was. Sure it wasn't carrots, or so he said. But it was the same colour as carrots, so to her that made it carrots. And since it was carrots, because it was orange, she wanted to eat it.

'No you're not!' Ichigo was panicking. It was one of those panic attacks that take you completely by surprise. He was without paper and pens to make lists on. His doctor had told him to write his thoughts down on lists in order to stay calm. Ichigo wanted nothing other than calm.

'Yes. I. Am,' she said it as though he was the strange one for not letting her chew on his hair.

Finding a pen in his pocket, the orange haired teenager began writing on the only thing available, his own arm. As the pen scraped along his skin, leaving black ink in its path, Ichigo's shaking writing spelt out – Kuchiki Rukia, UNKNOWN list.

He was desperately wishing that she fitted on a list. Any list would have been better than nothing. Still, just writing down that she was unknown to him helped a little in easing his anxiety.

'What are you doing?' standing up and now looking like any other teenage girl, Rukia leaned over, trying to work out what the boy was writing, 'And who are you?'

'Kurosaki Ichigo,' Ichigo replied on reflex, 'And I'm writing a list,'

'Why?' she was curious, and she tried to keep her attention on his hands, not his hair.

'Because I'm stressed and because I'm supposed to,' the teenager kept writing –

Carrots, bad list. Rabbits, scary list. Late for school, bad list.

'Why do you have to write lists?' the girl had to admit that she was positively vexed by the situation now, 'Wait,' she stared at him closely, 'Do you go to a psychiatrist?'

From his appearance, a kind of ever-so-slightly-punkish look, Rukia never would've believed it, but still, the evidence was right in front of her.

'No, I don't,' Ichigo put the lid back on the ink pen and tucked it into his pocket, lowering his arm and briefly wondering whether or not the ink would be too obvious, 'Well,' then he realised what she'd asked and he blinked, 'Ah,' he shifted slightly, 'Er, that is . . . not really,'

'Not really? How can you not really be going to see a psychiatrist?' Rukia was sceptical, not believing Kurosaki Ichigo for a single moment.

'My dad's a doctor, and he knew someone who told him to tell me that writing lists can be a good way of coping with everyday life-,' Ichigo could have gone on and on about his lists, but the teenager suddenly realised that he was being stated at in a rather rude way, 'What?'

'Oh,' shaking her head, the girl shook her head, looking at the ground to hide her smirk, 'Nothing,'

Thinking that it was getting really, really late, and that he'd probably be in trouble, Ichigo sighed and said, 'Hey, I really have to go or I'll be late for school. Well, actually, I'm already late, so I'm going to try not to be even later,'

'Do you always make so little sense when you talk?' Rukia peered at him curiously, 'Or is it just something to do with me being on your unknown list?'

'I don't know,' wondering how she'd read his shaky handwriting, Ichigo shook his head, 'See you round, Rukia,'

'If you say so,' grinning at the oddness of their situation, and still trying to avoid looking at his hair, Kuchiki Rukia turned and walked off, thin jacket fluttering in the light breeze.

Ichigo paused a moment longer, before he sighed heavily and began walking back to his house. After about ten minutes, he realised his mistake, and turned around with a rather undignified yell, taking off at a sprint towards Karakura High School.

A week after he met Kuchiki Rukia in person, Ichigo was walking along the footpath that led up to his house, when he noticed smoke curling out of his bedroom window. Freaking out and wondering if the house was on fire, the teenager rather unthinkingly rushed through the gate, unlocked the front door, and raced inside. Feet hammering a deafening rhythm on the stairs, he took one look at his closed door and wondered if something was going to explode out at him if he opened it. Still, he couldn't just walk off if his house was in danger of being turned into a pile of rubble, after all, it was a nice house and he rather liked it.

Slamming open the door, the first thing Ichigo saw was the origin of the smoke. It was an odd looking trashcan, perched upon his bed, and the smoke was drifting out the open window.

'Hey carrot head,' an oddly familiar voice snapped Ichigo out of his trance like state, and the teenager blinked in shock, 'What's your problem?'

'Rukia?' almost completely lost for words, and wondering why on earth Kuchiki should be in his house, he blinked, 'What are you doing?'

'Burning stuff,' her tone indicated that she thought he was an idiot for not realising that really obvious fact as soon as he saw her sitting beside the trashcan, 'As you should be able to see,'

'What stuff?' hoping desperately that it wasn't his homework, or his birthday list, Ichigo moved further into the room, letting the door close behind him, and sat down at his desk.

'These things,' Rukia held up a piece of paper before dropping it into the bin, and then she repeated the process, 'I thought about this for a whole week, but this is really the only logical solution I could come up with,'

'Wait,' a cold feeling passed through Ichigo's body, 'Don't tell me that they're my-,'

'Your lists,' nodding paternally, the girl continued dumping page after page into the fire, not concerned at all by the tears welling in a certain someone's eyes, 'You can thank me later,'

'Why?' Ichigo sounded absolutely heartbroken, and anyone else would've been hugging him tightly and wondering who on earth had caused such a sweet little boy to cry, 'Why would you do that? I hateyou!'

Rukia was admittedly rather taken aback, but she didn't show it, 'That's rather harsh,' she shook he r head, 'I'm doing this for you. It really is better this way,'

'Why?' the orange haired teenager was grabbing an excessive amount of tissues from a nearby tissue box, and dropping half of them on the way to dab his eyes, 'Rukia! Why?' he didn't seem to notice that he was repeating himself either.

'I couldn't stand it if you kept writing these things all day long,' the girl knew that he spent the majority of his day writing down somethings on scraps of paper, and she also knew that, at night, he took out all the scraps and neatly wrote them into a rather nice notebook. That notebook was the one she was methodically taking pages from and then, in turn, giving them to the hungry flames.

'This has nothing to do with you! And how do you know that? Have you been following me?' Ichigo was getting very, very stressed. Rukia had suddenly appeared in his life again after being who knew where for a whole week. And she just happened to have appeared to destroy his most treasured possession.

'Oh I know it's got nothing to do with me,' giving him a piercing look and tossing three more pages into the bin, at the same time as ignoring his other questions, the girl briefly wondered why he hadn't just jumped up and tried to snatch the remains of the book from her, but it wasn't like she wanted that to happen, 'You don't need to say it again,'

'I'm getting really angry,' it looked more like he was sinking deeper into depression, 'And I want you to give that back,'

'What?' her tone was sickeningly innocent, 'This?'

Tilting the bin slightly, Rukia allowed Ichigo to see the ashy remains of a lot of hard work, and also the slowly disintegrating pieces of more hard work, and then she dropped in another two pages. It looked to her like there were only sixteen more pages with text on them, so she didn't have that far to go.

'Argh,' the anguished, but soft, exclamation did cause Rukia a little regret, but she wasn't going to give up her heartlessness, not just yet, 'I can't believe you. The first time we meet, you try to eat my hair,' Ichigo looked up sadly, 'And the second time, you turn from bunny to arsonist and start destroying something very precious to me,'

'Don't mention rabbits,' Rukia could feel her barely concealed wish to chew on his hair again, stir, and she clenched her teeth. She was sure that this was going to cure the both of them, because when certain things came into play, nothing was impossible. But that wasn't the only reason, of course. She could have lived with rabbit like instincts forever, but he couldn't have, obviously.

'Oh, sorry,' forgetting that he was supposed to be very angry at that moment, Ichigo sighed and apologised politely.

There was a pause, and then Rukia reached out and put the bin on the ground, to one side of the bed. Then she picked up the remaining pages of the ruined book, noting that the paper was only just attacked to the spine, 'Fine, here you go,' she knelt at the edge of the bed, holding out the notebook and trying a small smile, 'Come on, take it,'

Ichigo could hardly believe what he was hearing, 'What?'

'Take the book before I have second thoughts about giving it back to you,' Rukia's smile vanished and she scowled ferociously, 'Hurry up, you fool!'

'Sorry,' standing, Ichigo made his way over to the bed, eyes locked on the book in the girl's petite hand. Suddenly Rukia drew back her arm and Ichigo gasped in terror.

'There's one condition,' her tone was completely serious.

'I knew it,' feeling despair beginning to tug at him, Ichigo felt like sitting on the floor and never getting up again.

Rukia didn't speak again, she just put down the book and reached out to Ichigo, pulling him to her and kissing him carefully. So what if this was their second official meeting? She could tell that they were real soul mates, and that no one else would be her corresponding piece other than Kurosaki Ichigo.

A few moments later, Ichigo leaned back and stared at Rukia in mild surprise. Then he grinned suddenly, looking completely different to the sobbing little boy who'd been tearfully accusing her of arson and the likes.

'Hey, let me write one more thing down,' his tone was completely honest, undisguised emotions clear, 'Please,'

Somehow he could tell that she was always meant to appear in his life, and he knew neither of them would be the same. Still, he found himself slightly glad that she wasn't going to suddenly go rabbit ever again, and he was also strangely relieved that he wasn't going to need to write down his thoughts any more. After all, now he had someone to tell them to.

'Of course,' Rukia was smiling tentatively, and somehow she looked more perfect than anything Ichigo had ever seen before.

'Hold out you hand,' as she did, albeit slightly hesitantly, Ichigo flicked the lid of the pen he always kept in his pocket, and wrote on her arm carefully.

Kuchiki Rukia, first and foremost on the list of things I love.

'Ichigo,' suddenly very sombre, the change of tone made the orange haired teenager blink, and he wondered if he'd done something wrong . . . and then Rukia held up the remaining sixteen pages, 'Let's get rid of these, alright?'

Taking fifteen, and noting the indirect reference to his name, which kind of annoyed him, and kind of pleased him, Ichigo left Rukia holding the last page, 'Alright then!' he let the paper cascade from his hand and into the trashcan.

Rukia couldn't help but grin as she let the final page join the rest, 'Say goodbye to your old life-,'

'You too,' Ichigo interrupted with a smirk, 'No more rabbits, I'm serious,'

Rukia ignored his comment, 'And hello to a new one,'

'One with you?' it was a question, asked in a very sweet and endearing way.

'Always,' Rukia laughed lightly as the flames flickered and died, along with the last pages, and the remains of an old story.

Author's Note:

A little short story that was a strange idea, admittedly, but most of my stories like this seem a bit odd . . . maybe? Still, it was fun, although I think I made Ichigo into a cowardly, pathetic, hopeless - continues ranting - immature person . . . sorry Ichigo. And Rukia, well, apart from the rabbit persona, she really seemed to have fun burning all of those things, is that why she's so good at Shakkaho . . . ?