So this is based on after Hueco Mundo and the defeat of Aizen and I'm sorry if there are a few errors and flaws. But I hope you enjoy it and please review!
Nothing interesting was happening in Ichigo Kurosaki's life. Usually, there were Hollows to kill, little midgets to annoy... or being annoyed by little midgets... or whatever.
Buteither way, nothing interesting was happening in Ichigo Kurosaki's life.
After the defeat of Aizen, it was true that the substitute soul reaper had lost his powers. Though, about seventeen months after this little mishap, he had managed to gain them back.
Unfortunately, something had... cropped up since then... He didn't care to go into such detail about it... particularly as he was at school and he had to concentrate. Understandable, right?
Or perhaps the truth was that he much preferred to forget about the past altogether.
The reason being he had lost his powers yet again. Due to no fault of his own... but he would rather not go into that just yet... It was still a slightly touchy subject for him.
But, to clarify, at the age of 17, it was definitely safe to say that nothing interesting was happening in Ichigo Kurosaki's life.
Keigo, on the other hand, decided Ichigo's life was far more exciting than his dull, uneventful existence in which the only excitement he experienced was trolling for sushi on a weekend down town.
Just then, the voice of a classmate sounded in his ear, "Hey, Ichigo, what are you doing after school today?"
Turning to the interested girl, he shrugged half-heartedly and replied with the same, automatic answer he gave to everybody, every day, "Studying."
A little put out by his response, the girl turned away and continued writing, frowning lightly.
Ichigo Kurosaki found himself progressing through school with excessive amounts of girl attention. Since his return from the Soul Society, it was obvious to others that he had been doing some kind of work-out programme. When he was younger, he had always looked relatively skinny, but now, his shoulders were broad, his arms were wrapped in muscles and soft battle scars here and there on his well-toned body just increased his rugged appearance. But his modesty beat all – fair enough, he knew he had changed but he would be the last to openly admit it.
"I'm still just the same Ichigo as I was before the summer, alright?" He would remind everyone again and again, irritated at everybody crooning over just how much he'd grown...
His looks seemed to attract girls who he used to consider being way out of his league and now, unfortunately, he found himself trailing through high school with what most people would call a girlfriend – but Ichigo figured that title was a little too formal.
Now, he was never one to give in to peer pressure and he didn't care that people were starting to believe he was gay... but he had to do something to take his mind off...
Well, never mind that.
That was a subject he preferred to push to the back of his mind – but of course, it always found a way to creep to the centre of his thoughts. Everything revolved around it, somehow.
It had been ages since he'd seen her.
Of course, he wasn't referring to his current girlfriend... but somebody entirely different.
The one person his whole life seemed to have depended on... until now.
He had no idea what made him think of her... it wasn't as if she'd made the effort to see him at all, was it?
Maybe it was the fact he missed having somebody to sit next to in class... He wasn't entirely sure.
He'd hoped they'd stay friends at least.
But obviously that wasn't in the cards.
Placing his head down on the desk, Ichigo sighed.
Well, the show had to go on.
The second Ichigo opened his front door, a familiar foot came shooting towards his face and with one single blow he deflected his Father's kick.
"Dad, would you just quit it?!" He growled, angrily, to which his Father just ignored him.
"Hello... who is this lovely young lady?" His eyes rested on Ichigo's not-so-new girlfriend.
"This is Misaki. Misaki, meet my... Father." Ichigo pointed a tense finger in his Father's direction, "Dad, this is my girlfriend, Misaki."
"It's wonderful to meet you, Misaki!" He bowed dramatically before Misaki who gave a small smile and scratched her neck, blushing awkwardly.
"Yeah, good to meet you too, Sir."
"Oh, you might as well just call me Father already!"
Ichigo closed his eyes, deeply aggravated, "Please – just ignore him. He's been on the Sake again."
Isshin widened his eyes, "How rude! I am completely sober, thank you!"
"Then, please, at least just pretend to be drunk for my sake. Come on, let's go."
Taking her by the hand and ushering her upstairs, Ichigo could hear his father exclaim, "I knew you weren't gay, son! How long have you had her?"
"About six months..." Ichigo's deadpan reply caught his father off guard.
In response, he waved his hands theatrically about him, complaining, "And you didn't think to tell me? Your own Father? What is the world coming to?!"
"Well, why would he want to, really?" Karin said, sardonically, trudging up the stairs behind Ichigo and Misaki.
"Did you know about this?"
"Sure. He told me on the same night they made it official." She replied, off-handed, never turning down the opportunity to annoy her father.
"Wha–!? Preposterous! An outrage!"
"Just ignore my Dad..." Ichigo muttered, leading Misaki into his room.
"I hate my parents too." Misaki told him, releasing his hand as they sat down on his bed.
"I don't hate my dad... I just... find him difficult to get along with sometimes, that's all..." Ichigo shrugged and leaned back into the soft pillows. Placing her head down and running her slender fingers along the defined contours of his chest, Misaki sighed.
"What's wrong?" He asked, sensing there had been something on her mind for a while.
"We've been dating for six months and you still haven't hinted that we'd one day talk about sex. Not once."
Ichigo had been hoping to avoid this topic for a while longer... But when he remained silent, Misaki growled, "Come on, Ichigo. Don't act like I never said anything. Don't you find me attractive or something?"
He took a glance at his girlfriend and her long dark brown locks haloing her narrow face. Two pairs of dark brown eyes glared into his and sure, she was considered the prettiest girl in school. But he couldn't look at her in that way.
So, why he'd been dating her for six months was a complete mystery to him.
He reckoned it just sort of... happened.
"Sure, I do. Do you think I would have been dating you for six months if I wasn't attracted to you?" Ichigo forced himself to lie... again.
Misaki smiled, satisfied but then her brow creased.
"It's warm in here, don't you think?" Ichigo stood up, sensing an immediate need to change the topic of conversation, and walked towards the window. Opening it, he watched as a couple of moths flew into the light, fluttering their wings rapidly. Ugh, he would deal with them later...
He noticed Misaki had turned over to face the other way and within minutes, she had fallen asleep.
As the wind rolled in through the open window, Ichigo sighed.
Sometimes, like moths, he wished he could find his own light. At least they knew what they wanted. They thrived off the light and its warmth. That was what kept them going. He knew exactly what kept him going back when his life actually had some meaning to it. But now... everything had changed. And every time he probed into his mind, searching for the real reason for his existence, his thoughts always travelled back to...
...Oh, forget it.
Kon chose that particular moment in time to leap from the cupboard, "Hey, you! Isn't it bad manners to leave a girl sleeping in your bed by herself?"
"Oh, get lost, Kon; I'm not in the mood."
His furry eyebrows wiggled, suggestively, "Well, I am."
"Oh, do what you want. I'm going." Ichigo leapt from the open window and clambered on top of the roof, huffing angrily.
Why didn't he feel happy? He was in perfect shape, had a girlfriend, achieving well in school... and had been Hollow free for months. Although, he knew he should be grateful for that, he still felt a little bitter towards Urahara.
After all, it was him who removed all his shinigami powers.
"Ichigo, I know you'll hate me for this, but I think it's time you… you forgot about the Soul Society... at least for now." Kisuke looked up from beneath his green and white striped hat.
"Huh? You're joking, right?" Ichigo felt his heart stop. His shinigami power was the only connection he had left with Ru– with the Soul Society.
"You've become distracted and you're doing pretty shocking in school. You need to focus on here and now and stop living in the past."
"I don't know what you're talking about." His lips pressed into one hard line.
"Look, I won't blank your memory, but I need you to stop going out and fighting hollows like you're still a substitute Soul Reaper, alright? It's not doing you any good."
"Do I have a choice?" He raised his eyebrows, suspiciously.
"Ultimately, it's down to you – but you need to come to terms with the fact that Rukia won't be returning. Probably not ever."
"Who said anything about Rukia?" Ichigo growled, standing up, fists clenched.
Defensively, Urahara raised his hands, "Forget I ever brought her up, then. But I would feel like I'd done you wrong if I let you go out of my shop door with your powers."
Ichigo pondered this for a moment. Suppose he did give up his powers... it would mean he would be cut off completely from the only life he'd felt like he'd belonged in properly. But maybe Urahara was right. He couldn't go on living like he was still a sub. Eventually, it would get to him.
"Fine. Do what you will, Kisuke, but answer me something."
In reply, Urahara gave a sad smile, "And what would that be?"
"Will I ever get them back if I need them?"
Shrugging and pulling his hat tighter around his head, he responded, "Who knows? Only time will answer that. But I think the real question iswill you ever need them? After all... you are only a substitute."
"You say that like it's a bad thing."
Urahara shrugged, "You just need to remember that you are human. You've done enough for the Soul Society and it's time they did something for you. They need to let you get your old life back."
And within seconds, it was gone.
Everything he had ever worked for ripped away from him in no more than a second.
And now... now, he was left alone.
Shuddering regretfully at his memory of that fateful day, Ichigo wondered if he had made the right decision.
Of course he had. The people of the Soul Society didn't even want him, anyway. They never really expressed gratitude for everything he'd done for them.
But yet... there was a part of him that longed for the Soul Society; that longed for...
He could barely bring himself to think of her name.
Running a frustrated hand through his mop of spiky, orange hair, Ichigo pushed himself back against the roof before staring up at the stars.
"Help me! Somebody, please! Help me!" Ichigo sat up and saw someone charging through the narrow streets below.
Then he heard an old, familiar howl reverberating off the trees.
"I'd help... but I don't have a zanpakuto anymore, so there isn't a great deal I can do..." Ichigo murmured, watching the spirit flee from the advancing hollow.
Then realisation struck him sharply across the face.
Hold on... he thought, confusion crossing his features, Why did I even hear that? I'm powerless, right?
"Then call me, you fool." A deep voice bellowed in his mind, answering his previous statement.
"Zangetsu?" Ichigo looked uneasily about him, "Is that you?"
"You have forgotten me, Ichigo." Zangetsu's deep voice echoed loudly in Ichigo's mind and he found himself being dragged into a state of unconsciousness. After a moment, his amber eyes flew open and he stared up at a metallic grey sky.
"I've told you before how I despise rain, Ichigo." Swinging himself around to face Zangetsu, who was resuming his usual position on his pole, Ichigo was about to growl when Zangetsu continued, "And recently... that's all it's been doing in this rotten place."
"What? Give me a break! How the hell can you say I've forgotten you? Not a day goes by that I don't think about my lost shinigami powers!"
"You've pushed me away, Ichigo. If you'd have remembered me, you wouldn't have lost your powers in the first place."
"That's not true! I don't see you rushing to help me when I needed you the most! My powers were taken from me. Control is something I don't have!"
"Then how is it possible for me to bring you back here?"
"Oh I don't know – maybe because you've got bored and lonely, you've decided to take the wing again. Well guess what–"
"Why would he be lonely when he's got me?" The sound of his own voice meshed together with a cruel echo of a familiar darkness reached his ears.
"Huh?" Ichigo turned and saw himself – or rather himself as a hollow – leaning casually against his zanpakuto.
"Are you deaf or something?"
"Of course I'm not."
"Then wipe that stupid expression off your face. You heard me."
Ichigo narrowed his eyes and took two steps forwards, suddenly slamming his fist into his Hollow's face.
Staggering back a step and untwisting the bandages from the sword, hollow Ichigo smirked, "So, we're back to square one again, are we?"
"Oh, get lost – I can't be bothered to fight you."
"You're scared of me. Ever since you lost your powers... you've become weak and pathetic."
"Why, you little–"
"–Both of you shut up!" Both Ichigos stopped inches away from the other's face, panting – Hollow Ichigo wearing a smug smile and Ichigo scowling, angrily, "Now listen, Ichigo, let me get something straight with you. Do you want your old powers back? Furthermore, do you want to gain more power?"
"I don't have time for this. Let me–"
"Do you want your powers back?!" Zangetsu's black cloak billowed out around him threateningly, and Ichigo bowed his head, his cheeks burning.
"Yes." He replied, quietly.
"And it is for that exact reason why you are able to be here now. This is the first time you've thought seriously about how it would be possible for you to get your shinigami powers back. Not only that – but I think you'll find that right now, the Soul Society needs you more than they care to admit."
"And what's the catch?" Ichigo folded his arms, suspiciously.
"But, to gain me back, first you must defeat the darkness within yourself. Do I make my point clear?"
"You sure do." Hollow Ichigo smirked.
"Shut up!" Ichigo growled, elbowing him out the way, "What do I have to do?"
"You have to fight your Hollow and regain ownership of me. But this time – you're on your own."
"What?" Ichigo threw his arms out, "With no substitute sword? Are you crazy?"
"Do you want your powers back?"
Ichigo was silent as he contemplated the situation before him.
He could go back to his old life – if he survived... or he could stay the way he was and suffer from no injuries...
"Have you decided?" Zangetsu pressed but Ichigo didn't reply.
"Take your time, moron. I mean, we've got all day, right?" That irritatingly snide voice sneered.
"Enough talking, already, dammit!"
Zangetsu's eyes narrowed, "Don't fail me, again, Kurosaki. We're all counting on you..."
Ichigo turned to face his hollow, fists clenched, jaw set and eyes focused.
"So what are you waiting for, Ichigo?" His Hollow taunted, grinning widely.
Without replying, he shot forwards with raised arms towards his opponent who laughed, coldly, "You'll have to do better than that, Ichi!" He stepped to the side, effortlessly dodging the oncoming punch. Once again, Ichigo headed directly for him, aiming a hit at the Hollow.
"Shut your mouth, you Hollow scum." He swung his fist round and narrowly missed the Hollow's head, "Dammit! I nearly had you!"
"Your efforts are futile, Ichigo – give up now."
"You know what? I think I will." Ichigo doubled over, his hands resting on his knees.
"See? I told you he wouldn't succeed, Zangetsu." The Hollow turned to face the cloaked silhouette who just stared at the scene before him. The Ichigo Hollow was laughing triumphantly to himself, "Guess I win again! But we always knew I would..."
Suddenly, he found himself flat on his front, face pressing against the wall of the huge skyscraper.
"Don't you ever learn?" A foot pressed into the back of the hollow and Ichigo leaned down so his mouth was just next to his opponent's ear, "Let your guard down for one second and you're on the floor before you can even blink. I also would have thought you'd have learned by now that I never give up."
Zangetsu managed a small smirk as he surveyed Ichigo pinning the Hollow's arms behind his back, the sword clattering harmlessly to the ground.
"Well, I guess you won't be needing this anymore, will you?" Reaching down, Ichigo grasped the hilt of his zanpakuto, "Didn't think so."
"Well, that was over a lot quicker than I expected. Well done, Ichigo. It's just as well. It looks as though there's a spirit out there, craving your help."
Ichigo paused, suddenly coming to terms with this new – but old reality.
"Am I as powerful as before?"
"If not more so. Just don't forget me again, Ichigo. No matter what anybody else tells you."
"Don't worry. I won't." Ichigo gripped his zanpakuto tightly, feeling his inner world fade and disappear from around him.
"Well, you'd better get going, Rukia." Jushiro Ukitake placed a hand softly on Rukia Kuchiki's shoulder.
"I don't understand... Why does it have to be me? I'm not even an official seated member of this Squad, yet."
"Yet. But I know better than anyone that this mission is cut out for you. I think it's about time you had a chance to let your light shine, don't you?"
"What if you're making a mistake?" Rukia's mind flicked through her many memories she'd had with... him.
He had seen her through hell and back – almost literally.
He was the only one who knew her perfectly.
But, she was the only one who knew him perfectly, too.
"How can you expect me to defeat the hoard of Hollows in his area? For one, he could defeat them all himself..."
"What do you mean? Didn't you hear? Kisuke Urahara disabled his shinigami. Ichigo Kurosaki is powerless." Ukitake told her, "We're sending you there because you know the area and you're stronger now. These Hollows aren't going to be easy."
"That would explain a few things..." She tapped her chin, deep in thought.
"What?" He folded his arms and surveyed Rukia through interested eyes.
"Well... it's just that I went against Byakuya's orders and I visited him about six or seven months ago. I couldn't bear the thought of never seeing him again..." Ukitake could see the way her violet eyes fought the sorrow as she continued speaking, "He just acted as though I wasn't there and I thought perhaps he was mad with me for not visiting sooner. But even Ichigo isn't one to just ignore me. I knew something must have been wrong..."
"Go on..." Ukitake gestured for her to continue.
"So, naturally I was angry... But then I sensed something wasn't right. I should have realised that there was nothing coming from him. The pressure about him was dead. But I'm always desensitized when I'm around him – I just thought it would be him being childish or something." She shook her head, dubiously, "Captain Ukitake – I don't know if I can do this."
"It is for that reason why I know you can. But make quick work of it. I believe the leader of these Hollows is one you have encountered before... Grand Fisher... am I right?"
The Hollow who murdered Ichigo's Mother... "I never fought him. It was Ichigo's battle."
"I fear this boy has impacted your life more than you would care to admit... Rukia... you have to promise me that you'll go and defeat these Hollows without Ichigo in the picture, alright?"
Rukia purposefully avoided his request, "It would be impossible for me to speak with Ichigo – he won't be able to see me."
"You know I'd send more members of the squad with you, but our squad is experiencing a few... issues, if you will. Besides – I have complete faith in you. You just have to have faith in yourself, Rukia. I know you can do this."
"Thank you, Captain Ukitake." She told him, respectfully bowing her head – even though she wasn't completely grateful...
"Go now. Good luck."
After saluting her captain, Rukia set her jaw and turned from the room.
This mission was going hurt more than ever.
Ichigo's eyes flew open. The stars glistened above him almost encouragingly as he sat up, wiping his clammy forehead. But something was missing.
Darting his eyes about him, he noticed his zanpakuto wasn't in his hand.
"Summon me, Ichigo." He could hear Zangetsu deep voice order.
"Zangetsu – let's just do this!" Leaping up and swinging his arm about him, the zanpakuto landed easily in his fist.
It would take some time to readjust to the shinigami again, but as he attempted flash-step (and succeeded) he felt as though he had never lost it. It was all second-nature to him.
"Well, if it isn't little spiky-head." An empty voice cackled behind him and as he turned around, Ichigo came face to face with a vaguely familiar Hollow.
"You know me, then?" He stared deep into the black eyes of the hollow.
"I thought you would have remembered me, fool. Of course - even someone with as little brain cells as you should remember who murdered their own mother."
"Grand Fisher!" Ichigo nearly dropped his zanpakuto before hearing Zangetsu remind him.
"Now isn't the time to be weak, Ichigo."
Crouching down, he saw the familiar doll dangle tantalisingly in front of him, "Ichigo – don't do this. You know I don't want you to–"
"SHUT UP! I've already mastered your technique once, Fisher! Using my Mother against me won't work again."
"Hmm..." grand Fisher pulled the doll back, "Perhaps I'll have to rethink my tactics... But wait! Aren't you missing someone? Where's that pathetic midget that used to tag along with you gone, hm?"
Ichigo was caught off guard, "Huh?"
"Ah yes, I remember! That Soul Reaper." Snarling, he exposed his set of inner teeth, "Rukia Kuchiki." He mocked, "I'm sure every Soul Reaper and Hollow knows that name."
Then in the place of his Mother, Rukia Kuchiki was standing in front of him, her violet eyes innocent and wide as her lips graced a sentence, "Ichigo – don't do this."
"What?" Ichigo murmured, his eyes fixed on the doll.
"So, I've found a soft spot with you, have I?"
"No – no way! I can still take you on!" But even Ichigo believed that his threats were empty. Somehow it would have been easier to kill Grand Fisher if it was his Mother as the doll simply because he knew she was already dead. But supposing... just supposing this was the real Rukia? Of course it wasn't but... it pained him greatly to see her again.
"Ichigo – if you loved me, you would put your weapon down. Please... For me."
"Don't." He warned, gripping the hilt of his sword tighter, "Don't."
"You left me, Ichigo." She whispered, walking slowly towards him.
"ICHIGO, NOW ISN'T THE TIME TO BE WEAK!" The authority in Zangetsu's voice rang loudly in his mind.
"I know, dammit!"
One delicate finger traced his cheekbone, "Ichigo. Just stop this nonsense."
"Gyah!" Ichigo swung his zanpakuto, slicing the string above Rukia's head and watching as Grand Fisher's expression changed from smug to vulnerable.
"Sorry, Rukia." Ichigo muttered, pulling back his sword and plunging it deep into Grand fisher's face, "But this has to be done."
The Hollow screamed and seemed to shimmer for a moment before disintegrating, leaving behind a trace of one final, ghostly howl.
"It's not over, yet, Ichigo. There's more."
"Huh?" Ichigo swivelled around at the sound of his Master's voice, "I don't sense them."
"Relax for a moment and don't get ahead of yourself. Reach out with every nerve you have. What can you feel?" Zangetsu instructed.
"There's... more? I never noticed them... How come?"
"Never mind that – you have to go find them. Now."
"Piece of cake." Muttered Ichigo, swinging his zanpakuto over his shoulder and flash-stepping from the roof and to the ground in just under second.
"Don't underestimate them, Ichigo. Remember you haven't fought this many Hollows in a long time."
"So exactly how many are there?"
"See for yourself..."
Glancing about him, Ichigo found himself suddenly surrounded.
"Don't tell me... one Soul Reaper who actually has the gall to take us all on?" A gravelly laugh bellowed about the small circle Ichigo found himself in, "How pathetic."
"Don't make me go all Bankai on your asses..." Ichigo threatened, narrowing his amber eyes.
There was a short silence before the whole crowd of Hollows let out chorus of broken laughter that caused even the ground to quake.
"This one knows how to bluff."
"You think I'm bluffing? Tell me why Grand Fisher is dead then?"
One of them sneered, "It's about time that old loon was killed. He was far too big for his boots."
A Hollow... wearing boots? Ichigo snorted at the image that had formed in his mind.
"A Soul Reaper like yourself... performing a Bankai? Where's your Captain's badge, huh?"
"You think I'd insult myself by wearing one of their emblems? Please..." Ichigo mentally prepared himself for whatever was going to happen next because quite frankly, he had no idea. The last time he used his Bankai, unfortunately his inner Hollow had completely taken over. And yes, it may have saved his life, but this time... this time, he was determined to keep on top.
The circle of Hollows enclosed him and closing his eyes for a moment, his fingers gripped the hilt tightly, "Bankai!"
A flash of what seemed to be white light exploded from his zanpakuto before Zangetsu took the wing.
"Let's do this."
A strong release of spiritual pressure suggested there could have been a lot more Hollows that Ukitake had anticipated.
"Just focus, Rukia." She told herself, firmly, "Ukitake knows what he's doing."
Bracing herself, Rukia landed lithely on the soft grass, dew seeping into her sandals. Straightening up and focusing her eyes ahead of her, she could hear an anthem of howls break the once-eerie silence in the night sky.
Then, speeding silently along the twisting roads and paths towards the location of the Hollows, Rukia felt her senses numb as though there weren't any Hollows to even trace.
"Dammit..." She muttered, squinting through the dark.
She was sure this place was cursed, or something.
But then, there was something. It was almost like a path of spiritual pressure leading somewhere – though she had no idea where – and deciding to follow it, she set off in search of the source.
After a few moments, she could feel herself move with rapidly decreasing motivation. She was travelling along familiar paths dangerously close to his house. Confident that she could distinguish between her own desires and the spiritual pressure, Rukia couldn't help but wonder if fate was playing a nasty trick on her.
But there it was.
Ichigo Kurosaki's house.
He'd conveniently left his bedroom window open and forcing herself to put the past from her mind as Ukitake had instructed, Rukia drifted in to his room.
"Piss off, will ya? Jeez." A hand wafted in front of her and attempting to block everything from her mind that was in the room... or in other words: Ichigo Kurosaki and whoever he was talking to at that moment.
Focus on why you're here, focus on why you're here, Rukia thought to herself, angrily. But... why was she here? Why had the spiritual pressure led her to this place? It was definitely not Ichigo's as his shinigami powers were non-existent.
She walked her fingers along the walls, trying desperately to pick up the source of the spiritual pressure but it kept leading her towards...
Well, never mind.
There was only one thing left to do and that was to keep looking.
"Like I said, it would be a piece of cake." Ichigo told Zangetsu, not remotely aware that he was being followed, "I'd almost forgotten what it was like to be a Soul Reaper."
"Don't get too ahead of yourself, Ichigo. But, rest now. You have done well."
Flash-stepping to his body in one quick manoeuvre, Ichigo pondered the night's events. It was true, he had done fairly well considering he was a little rusty where shinigami was concerned...
When he returned, he slipped in through the window quietly, hoping not to wake Misaki or he'd have quite a bit of explaining to do as to why he'd taken so long out there...
Then another damn moth fluttered in behind him.
"Piss off, will ya? Jeez." He swatted angrily at the moth who dodged him easily and perched carefully on the wall. "Oh, whatever!" He removed his shirt and trousers before pulling on his pyjama bottoms.
Suddenly, he could feel some form of pressure surrounding him – it was a familiar sensation.
But, it was just his mind playing tricks on him. The Soul Reaper who radiated that pressure would never show her face again.
Just as he was about to slip into bed beside Misaki, a sweet, recognisable scent decorated a light breeze that danced softly beside him.
The impossibility of it all rooted him to the floorboards. It couldn't possibly be – but...
Hairs standing up on the back of his neck, Ichigo forced himself to turn.
A small, cloaked figure was facing away from him – searching for... hell knew what. It's light fingers were tracing patterns on the wall and suddenly, it pivoted on it's foot, staring straight through him.
"Dammit, Ichigo." A familiar voice growled, beneath the black fabric. Turning itself around, Ichigo felt his breath hitch in his throat as Rukia – no, Rukia wouldn't be here – as the imposter stared at Misaki through violent purple eyes.
He was about to respond but had difficulty bringing himself to actually speak. As he examined her closer, searching for an imperfection in the almost perfect disguise, something unreadable flashed through her violet eyes.
Hurt? Anger? Regret?
Well... Ichigo had to find out who this intruder was. It wouldn't be Rukia – but merely some clever trick devised by some idiot... or something...
Only one way to find out.
Just as he was about to reach forwards, Ru- No... The imposter breathed deeply, "Oh, I am going to be in so much trouble..."
"Jeez, calm down." Ichigo muttered, folding his arms, but she appeared not to hear him. Her hand rested on the hilt of her own zanpakuto as she took three strides across the room towards the window. Ichigo, that isn't Rukia – let's not forget that it's an imposter! Get her!
"There was a Hollow very near here... But just one... So where are the others?" She murmured at the exact moment her Soul-pager or whatever the hell it was beeped in her robe.
"Listen, Captain, I came here to seek – but I can sense no trace of their spiritual pressure here." Her voice cracked, before she sat down.
There was a faint buzz on the other end and Ichigo decided to remain silent as he watched 'Rukia' grip her hair tightly in her hands.
"No – there is something but it's tracing back to Kurosaki's house. It does seem familiar... Yes... No, of course not!" She blushed, heavily, "At the moment, he's standing there like an idiot, as usual... No, I don't think so, Captain. I'll scour the area. But I – yes, of course, Sir." She slipped the pager back into her robe and stood up, about to make her way to window.
Now was his only chance and just at the moment she was about to step from the room, Ichigo's hand sprang out from him and he grabbed her roughly by the shoulder. Pulling her towards him, he backed her against the wall, "Now see here, imposter, who the hell are you?" His face was dangerously close to hers and her wide, violet eyes got wider still.
"What's the matter? Cat got your tongue, or something?"
The exact same thoughts running through Ichigo's mind seemed to be what Rukia was saying to him, "Who are you?"
"I asked you first!" He protested much to Rukia's disapproval.
"Listen, I don't know who you are but I'd suggest you unhand me right now!" Shoving him back with all her might, Ichigo backed up about half a step before forcing her back against the wall.
"This is my house, dammit!" He growled, angrily.
"This is Ichigo Kurosaki's house!"
"Well done, bright spark! I am Ichigo!"
"You're missing a few major details, you inexperienced soul." She shot back, sarcastically. Ichigo watched her as she opened her mouth to shout, "Sai!"
Unable to think fast enough to dodge Rukia's quick hands, Ichigo found himself sprawled out on the floor in a familiar position – his hands bound by an invisible force. Stepping – or rather leaping over him, Rukia shot a glance behind her before poising herself by the window, ready to escape at any second.
Ichigo grunted as he squirmed about on the floor, concentrating desperately on wrenching free of the Bakudō.
"Ichigo, what the hell are you doing?" Misaki sat up and rubbed her eyes. Sending an exasperated glance in Rukia's direction, he muttered something unintelligible.
"What was that?" She narrowed her eyes.
"I'm... doing my stretches... You know... helps me be relaxed before going to bed. I'm not feeling so good so I'll probably take a quick walk about outside. I'll be back soon."
With one final lurch of his arms, Ichigo broke the binding spell and stood up, sweating profusely.
"Oh... okay..." Misaki lay back down on the bed, confusion creasing her face.
"Shouldn't be too long. Sorry for waking you up..." He hurried after the retreating figure of Rukia after jumping from the window. She glanced behind her and could see nothing. She'd managed to lose him, finally – whoever 'he' was.
"Going somewhere?" Looking up, she saw Ichigo standing before her, his zanpakuto shining before her eyes. Before she was able to respond, Ichigo had taken hold of her arm and literally dragged her up onto the roof of his house, using a quick flash-step just because he could.
Placing a hand on each of her shoulders and forcing her to lie on her back, he straddled her thighs and glared furiously into her eyes, "Who the hell are you?"
"It's me – Ichigo!"
"No… I'm Ichigo." He rolled his eyes, "You're an impostor."
She closed her eyes in irritation. It really was Ichigo… "No, idiot, it's me, Rukia."
"Prove it!" Ichigo pressed down on her shoulders harder.
Emitting a whimper of pain, she closed her eyes in thought, "And exactly how do you want me to do that? You saw my Bakudō."
Thinking for a moment, Ichigo paused before speaking, "Alright then... answer this. There was something you found incredibly difficult to do when you first came to school. It was at a lunch break and it took you ages before you finally asked me to do it for you. What was it?" Almost confident that this intruder wouldn't know the answer, it came as quite a shock when Rukia replied.
"I couldn't open the juice box."
Ichigo's eyes widened in shock, "Rukia...? But what the hell are you doing here?"
"If you'd kindly remove yourself from me, I might be more willing to answer that question."
Glancing down at Rukia's rigid frame, Ichigo suddenly understood how inappropriately they were positioned. He rolled off her and lay flat on his back, staring up at the stars.
What the hell was she doing here?
Rukia sighed, and sat up, "What happened to you Ichigo?"
"Oh, no, you've got to answer me first. What are you doing here, huh?"
"It doesn't have anything to do with you." Rukia spoke, hugging her knees to her chest.
"Ah, it doesn't, huh? I guess that would explain exactly why you were snooping around in my area, in my house in my bedroom. Wow, it all seems to make so much sense now." Ichigo shot back, sarcastically much to Rukia's annoyance.
"No, you fool, let me finish. I came here to destroy a hoard of Hollows, alright? But when I arrived, they were gone. Then after that, I could sense some kind of spiritual pressure and I traced it back to your house. I didn't want to be there purely just to spy on you or anything like that..." Rukia took a deep breath, "And that's it. But what about you? Ukitake said your powers had been disabled."
"Yeah, they were."
"So how is it that you can see me?" Rukia's expression was turning more and more bemused by the second.
"I just open my eyes..." Muttered Ichigo, wryly.
"Oh, hilarious, Ichigo." Aiming a punch at his arm, Rukia couldn't help but smile a little.
"I thought I was completely stripped of my shinigami powers but then tonight, something was different and I was back in my inner world with Zangetsu and... my Hollow. I had to defeat him so I could regain my powers. It turns out that there was a load of Hollows and so I defeated them. Simple as." Ichigo finished, shrugging indifferently.
"So... you just strolled over to a huge hoard of Hollows and just… casually beat them all?" Rukia couldn't get her head around it, "How did you manage it?"
"First, I killed Grand Fisher." His eyes narrowed into a dark glower at the memory, "Then I used Bankai on all the other bastards. Simple as."
"Grand Fisher? Did everything go okay?" Rukia's eyes were wide with genuine concern and Ichigo shrugged.
"Nah, I died halfway through."
"Ichigo – you know what I mean!" Rukia rolled her eyes, "What happened?"
"I just..." Ichigo paused in remembrance of who the doll had turned into, "...ignored the doll and focused on killing him."
She looked at Ichigo, evidently impressed before breaking away from his amber gaze, "Listen – I have to let the Captain know about this."
"What makes you say that?"
"He will want to know why I didn't defeat the Hollows... surely you don't want me to take credit for your handiwork do you?"
"I don't really give a damn about what goes off in the Soul Society, just so long as I don't have to have anything to do with it again..." He replied, bitterly.
"So, what do you want me to say to Ukitake?"
"You can tell him the truth if you really want... but I don't care what you tell him. If you told him you'd done it – it would save them all finding out about me and stuff."
"But I can't lie to my Captain."
Ichigo breathed deeply through his nose, "Then tell him whatever you want..."
"I'm sorry, Ichigo..." Picking up the pager-thing and sighing, Rukia began to talk, "Captain – yes I'm fine. It's just that when I arrived, all the Hollows had been defeated... Yes... well, it was Ichigo Kurosaki, Captain... I know, I was also shocked. I'll explain when I return..."
Ichigo could hear Ukitake's voice buzz on the other end and he felt himself switch off to everything around him... except the way Rukia's delicate lips graced her words and – Ichigo!
Shaking himself in anger, he turned away from the Soul Reaper, staring bitterly ahead, trying to block out the mental taunts of his inner Hollow – who hadn't taken kindly to losing the battle between them.
"I'll be there as soon as possible." Rukia stood herself up and moved quickly towards the edge of the roof but before she could leap from the building, Ichigo reached out and grabbed her by the wrist.
"Where the hell are you going?"
Her large violet eyes sparked with irritation, "Get off..." After pulling her arm free, she continued, "I'm going back home."
Finding it difficult to let her go again without so much as a friendly embrace, Ichigo picked himself up and towered over her, "Will I see you again?"
Averting her eyes, awkwardly, she replied, "I... don't know... It depends on the Soul Society."
"Well, it shouldn't have to."
"Regardless of that fact; it does." She replied, coldly, snatching her arm from him.
"Wait... Rukia..." His voice adopted an uncharacteristically subdued volume and he extended his fingers, gently brushing her flushed cheek.
Her eyes softened at his touch before he pulled away, "You'd better get going."
The second time they let each other go was the hardest but neither of them would admit it.
At least not out loud.
Perhaps not ever.
And with one lithe leap, Rukia had disappeared into the night leaving Ichigo Kurosaki alone once again.
The next morning, Ichigo awoke from a very restless sleep to see Misaki sitting cross-legged on the pillow beside him. She was wearing a soft, almost resigned expression and Ichigo pulled himself up, "You alright?"
"Listen – Ichigo... I've been thinking a lot about... us... and... I think we should break up."
Ichigo couldn't bring himself to speak, so instead he just opened and closed his mouth a few times in shock.
"I know you were never really in to me to start off with, were you? You're always so distant and... well, I don't know if there's someone else you'd rather or if I'm just not the right one for you." A teasing smirk played at her lips, "Or if you are into other guys."
That seemed to loosen Ichigo's tongue and he spluttered, "Of course I'm not! I just – I... I'm just confused about my life right now. I've gone through a bit of a difficult time and I'm not myself... Misaki, we can still be together." He climbed towards her, and although he may have not been entirely interested in a relationship with her – her friendship was something he valued.
"That's probably the deepest insight to your feelings you've ever given me." She laughed a little harshly, "I guess I was just kidding myself into thinking that you cared – I mean… you're a great guy. You have a lot of admirers and I can see why. But I think it would be best for both of us if we just quit with this sort of wasted relationship. I mean, I've enjoyed the time we've had together."
Ichigo thought back to all the times they'd been together and admittedly, he had enjoyed it. He just couldn't let go of –
Cutting his own train of thought off, with a little help with a jab from his Hollow, Ichigo frowned, "Well too late, moron, she's gone."
He cursed inwardly at his Hollow before returning his attention to Misaki, "Yeah... so have I." If it wasn't for particular reasons, Ichigo probably would have found his relationship with Misaki would have been successful. He gave her a small smile and she sighed, her own smile still in place.
"But, we can still be friends, right?" She asked, standing up.
"Sure. I'd like that. Listen, I'm starving – let's go and get some breakfast, yeah?"
She hesitated before nodding, "I guess so."
"So, you're telling me that Kurosaki regained his powers by himself?" Ukitake mused as Rukia finished recounting Ichigo's story.
"Yes, I believe so." She told him, avoiding his eye.
"I knew he had remarkable strength... but this... this is phenomenal. I know your brother will want to hear about this. In honesty... I did wonder if something like this would happen."
"Did you suspect it?" Rukia asked, quirking an eyebrow to which her Captain just smiled kindly at her.
"We will go right away."
Rukia waited for a moment, pondering her Captain's words before she turned and followed him out the door.
"Bring him to me. I don't care how, but I need him here as soon as possible." Byakuya addressed Ukitake, facing away from both him and his sister, "If you wouldn't mind."
"Of course." The Captain replied, placing a hand on Rukia's shoulder, "Would you be willing to do that?"
Rukia pushed away memories of the previous night where they hadn't particularly 'got on' the way they should have.
It was difficult for her. She hadn't seen him in so long.
Rukia had always buried her emotions – yet it seemed to always be Ichigo who would help her find them again – whether she liked it or not.
"Of course. Right away." She paused as Byakuya turned to face them finally.
"Oh, and Rukia..." His steel grey eyes stared hard at the younger Kuchiki, "...don't get sidetracked." His tone was thick with implications and instead of acting as though she didn't understand, she nodded once and spun on her heel, brusquely exiting the room.
"So, this shouldn't take too long, should it?" Ukitake asked and Rukia shrugged.
"Well, he's a bit stupid, so probably not... but I can't be too sure."
"I'm sure that's not true. Just do what you can and if he isn't compliant, then... well, I'll come and get him by force. Byakuya isn't one to be disobeyed..."
"I know that." Sighing, Rukia clutched each side of her head desperately, "I just hope he knows what he's doing."
I know Grand Fisher is already dead and everything, but I thought adding him in would be a nice way of showing how Ichigo feels about Rukia. Thanks for reading, and please review! Don't be shy to let me know your thoughts!