A/N: AU Bleach, D&D influenced. This was somewhat inspired by the half-medusa character in a Forgotten Realms book; the bunnies liked that idea. Style is an experiment here; story is at this point a one-shot, though I've got a background worked out in my head that might lead to future stories.

The bestiaries all say snow-vipers are white.

Rukia's snakes are black, ice-black; so black they shine blue, flecked with white like a midnight snowfall. They coil through her hair and around his fingers like supple shadows, startling-pink tongues flicking to taste the hairs on his knuckles.

If he makes the wrong move now, he's a dead man.

She's a warrior and a comrade and the girl he loves, but above all that she is Kuchiki.

(Adopted, not born to the blood. Here and now it doesn't matter; the snakes are as much a part of her as those cherry-pink vipers are of Byakuya. He was born with them, and the part of Ichigo that will always be a doctor's son has to really wonder about how that works.)

Rukia Kuchiki. Noble. One of the Blooded. Other than human; better than human, all the high families would say.

Half-medusa, the really old bestiaries would say. The ones Urahara lets him poke around in, grinning all the time, knowing Ichigo will use the knowledge there to get himself in trouble. And oh, what trouble Sandal-Hat would get in if anyone caught them with those tomes; forbidden knowledge that says nothing about Blooded and all too much about monstrous transformations...

That's the nobles' secret; the one they've spent centuries making the kingdom forget. The source of their power, the magic that keeps the Sidhe Empire penned up behind the mountains, isn't high and holy. It's no sign of the gods' favor.

It's the blood of monsters.

Stories lie. The scales sliding over his skin are warm as midnight silk. "They're softer than your hair."

...Oh, he did not just say that out loud. He's done some dumb things in his life - taking on Byakuya Kuchiki with a borrowed sword comes to mind - but he is not an idiot.

Or maybe he is, because Rukia's head shifts in his lap, violet eyes giving him a distinctly Evil Look. Which leads to the realization that all of Rukia's snakes are in range of-

Um. Oh boy.

"Well, scales," Ichigo says, in a lame attempt to dig himself out. "You think they're going to be rough, and... um. They aren't."

Oh yeah. He is so dead.

But dark scales keep coiling over his fingers, and there aren't any fangs in him yet. Maybe she's willing to let that slide.


Her lips quirk a little; not quite a smile. "You're still not used to the staring."

He starts to deny it. He's faced her brother and the captains and the whole swarm of noble houses gathered together for an execution; why should a few staring idiots outside the park bother him?

But he doesn't. He turns a little, instead, and looks at Zangetsu leaning up against this friendly old oak with them, Sode no Shirayuki sheathed and peaceful beside him. He can feel the blades singing at each other, ice and snow dancing around the soft lightning-laughter of a storm; the ice-medusa of Rukia's soul humming against...

Well. Whatever inhuman creature Sandal-Hat had infused into his blood. Which he still did not know.

Now that he was pretty sure he was actually going to live through breaking Rukia loose, he really ought to start worrying about that.

"I didn't think it through," Ichigo admits, reaching out with mind and spirit to that steady strength of storm. A few weeks - heck, he can still count the days - and already he can't - quite - remember what it was like, to not have another presence in his soul. Zangetsu is there. Zangetsu will always be there. He can't imagine what life would be like, if he tried to give up the dark-coated spirit.

Which is a good thing, sort of. Because he can't.

"You can tell a noble by the sword," Ichigo mutters. "Heard it all my life. Never really thought about it, until..." He grimaces. "I'm still me, damn it!"

"But you're not a human anymore. And they know it." Rukia reaches up, puts a warm hand over his heart. "We're dangerous with our swords. We're worse without them."

Because the sword helped seal away the beast in noble blood. Helped give it a name and spirit and wants of its own, so a noble could say no.

Or - sometimes - yes.

A noble without his zanpakutou was a walking invitation to disaster. Which meant that either Ichigo walked around town with a huge frickin' cleaver of a sword - thank you, Sandal-Hat - or...

Well. That mess at Execution Hill hadn't exactly been quiet.

Everyone knew. Maybe not the whole story, maybe just the rumors - but everyone knewwhat he was.

It was kind of scary.

"How do you deal with it?" And if she said I am Kuchiki, like that was the answer to everything-

"Renji." She looked wistful. "I remember why we chose to enter the Academy."

"Yeah?" Ichigo dares.

Violet looks directly at him. "We'd had enough of burying our friends."

There wasn't going to be anything left of you to bury.

But he doesn't say it. It's over. He knows, and she knows - heck, the whole town knows - Aizen's not going to manipulate anyone else into being executed.

Aizen's an undercover Sidhe. Damn, it explains so much.

Seelie, Ichigo's guessing, given the traitor captain's all-out loathing for ice-users. Setting Rukia up to be destroyed, leaving Hitsugaya a broken wreck even Unohana had almost failed to save... No doubt about it. Aizen hated the winter powers.

Summer Court hates Winter Court. The only way their empire stays together is by hating humans more.

Well... despising humans was probably more accurate. Humans were supposed to be weak. Servants. Slaves.

Two thousand years ago, the Blooded had changed all that.

And they never forgot it. We're stolen property, and they're going to try and snatch us up like unclaimed freight.

:Over our dead body,: Zangetsu growls at the thought. :Or preferably, theirs.:

Heh. Yeah, he could work with that...

Rukia's poke in the ribs makes him yip. "Don't you dare go off bent on slaughter and random mayhem," she sniffs. "Not unless you invite me along first."

"Oi! Do I look like Zaraki?" he demands. "Since when do I do random mayhem, midget?"


...Well, he thinks, as the world goes gray and wavery, at least it was his wrist she bit. And he's still breathing. If a little ragged, as the chill works through his veins.

Huh. Dry bite?

"You're impossible," Rukia chuckles ruefully, weaving green sparkles of healing magic over his arm. "That would have dropped poor Hanatarou in his tracks. You must be building up a tolerance."

Oh. Good-

She grins up at him, pure evil mischief. "Maybe I can leave you and my brother in the same room alone."

Ichigo winces. "Right. Knew there had to be a downside."

"You like him," Rukia says confidently.

"He's tried to kill me three times!"

"Well, of course!" She sparkles at him. "He is my big brother. And you're an uncouth ruffian, who's obviously out to delude an innocent noble maiden into doing the most horrible, depraved things... if he could only get her, oh, alone in a park..."

Oh gods, someone's let her at the hentai manga again. "Guh?" Ichigo manages. Because Rukia must be right, he ought to feel a lot more paralyzed.

...Or maybe that's just abject terror flooding his veins with adrenaline. Because if Byakuya - prim, proper, Great Noble House of Kuchiki Byakuya - happened to catch the two of them like this, he'd be mincemeat before you could say-

"Scatter," a familiar, measured voice intones.

And the world blurs.


Zangestu's on his back.


Rukia's tossed over his shoulder.


Sode no Shirayuki's through his obi.


Grab the picnic basket; Yuzu will kill him if he wastes her treats-for-big-brother's-she's-not-my-girlfriend.


Too late, they're already gone.

Rukia laughs into the wind as he zips over rooftops. "Did I mention that park is one of Brother's favorites?"

Evil, evil half-medusa. "No."

She giggles. Actually giggles.

Which is, you know, almost kind of worth getting filleted for. Almost.

Still a little shaky from the venom, Ichigo perches on the ball of a flagpole for a heartbeat. Blinking; good for getting the heck out of wherever you happened to be, not so good for staying oriented to regular directions. Like, say, north, south, up and down...

Right. Clinic's over there.

Hmm. Shredded by cherry blossom blades, or embarrassed to death by Isshin crowing over his imminent prospect of grandchildren?

Roof, Ichigo decides. He'll have to figure out we're there to bother us.

Less ants up on the roof than in any park, anyway. Honestly, why hasn't he eaten lunch up here before? The view is awesome.

:Yes, she is,: Zangetsu chuckles, as Ichigo's hand and Rukia's dip into the basket at the same time. Nice hand. Warm hand. With all the familiar calluses that mean swordswoman, and dangerous.

...And it's not just Isshin who can make him blush so hard his face burns.


Wait a minute.

"That's my tako-zushi!"

Which is how Renji finds him wrestling Rukia's snakes for his lunch. And snaps an illusion-still of the scene, before the redhead nearly breaks his neck falling off the roof, still laughing.

Rukia rescues the still before Ichigo can stomp it. Damn it.

He's never going to live this down.

Evil, evil half-medusa.

(But she's his evil half-medusa. She has his back, always, and their swords sing as they cut down their enemies. He wouldn't have her any other way.)

(Even if she does steal his sushi.)