A/N: Another fic for BA's IchiRuki FC ^.^ This one is for the Valentine's Day Giveaway. The theme I chose is 'confession'. Please enjoy!
"You can't laugh."
Rukia leaned up on her elbows, lying on her belly over the grass with her legs raised in the air, crossed at the ankles. Her amethyst eyes twinkled in the sunlight, gleaming with mischief as she looked down at her companion. Overhead, clouds drifted lazily against a blue sky; along with the sounds laughter and gleeful shouts, as well as the mild scoldings of watchful parents, a lighthearted atmosphere reigned among the Karakura town residents scattered over the park.
"Okay." the petite, raven-haired woman agreed at last, after a few seconds of mock consideration.
Ichigo's eyebrows slanted as his typical scowl became more pronounced. "I'm serious. I won't tell you." he said warningly.
She rolled her eyes. "I promise I won't laugh." In an undertone, she added, "Out loud."
"I heard that!" Ichigo growled, starting to rise so he could glare down at her before she reached out to his shoulder and pushed him back down, where he lied on his back over the grass as well, his body stretched out in the opposite direction from hers. He looked at her with narrowed eyes, but relaxed quickly enough as the breeze blew over the park where they had stopped on their way home from school, ruffling his tangerine spikes and blowing Rukia's raven locks around her face.
After a moment in elongated silence, Ichigo finally huffed. "Fine. Its name was Booboo."
A second passed. Then another. One more. Then…
"…Rukia?" Ichigo leaned up on one elbow, twisting so he could face the petite woman. A slight note of concern entered his voice as he started to ask, "Are you-?"; then, upon closer inspection, he saw that the red spots appearing on her cheeks and her apparent lack of breath weren't due to feeling feverish. "Oi!"
Exactly one half of a second later, Rukia burst. She dropped to her side and curled in on herself as she laughed, tears of mirth leaking from the corners of her eyes. She just fell short of slapping her own knees.
Ichigo's frown turned into a grimace as he turned away, grumbling to himself even as he unwrapped the piece of chocolate in his hand and popped it in his mouth. It melted on his tongue with that creamy sweetness that made him think it was almost worth bearing his most recent humiliation.
Normally, Valentine's Day meant a day of awkwardly accepting chocolate from multiple girls, then escaping to his house as soon as classes ended to gorge himself while trying to forget the many giggles and squeals that had accompanied most of the boxes he'd received. On that particular year, however, things had been different for one reason; Rukia was present. And of course, nothing was ever normal when Rukia was around.
So it was that on the afternoon of that Valentine's day, instead of heading straight to his house, he had been coaxed by the petite raven-head to take a detour to a park not too far from Karakura High, where they had settled down to share his earnings. At least, that had been Rukia's initial idea; Ichigo not being one to generally follow along with her plans without at least the pretense of complaint, had declared that the chocolates had been something he had earned and that Rukia had no claim to them. To that she had replied that he himself had really done nothing for them either, so she had as much right to them as anyone. Ichigo had gone on to point out how flawed her logic was, but being Rukia, she had predictably cared nothing for his explanation.
All that was fine, seeing as Ichigo had meant to share with her from the start, despite his outward protests; unfortunately, for once in his life, Rukia had deemed his opinions "somewhat understandable". He had no time to revel in the small victory, however, because she had immediately gone on to propose an idea for how they could both "earn" the right to enjoy the treats. And in her case, 'propose' actually meant 'impose'.
What had she proposed, then?
"Alright, alright!" Ichigo snapped, getting to a sitting position and glaring down at the still-chuckling Rukia. "It's your turn, damn it. Confess."
That's right; one chocolate equaled one confession.
Rukia slowly sat up as well, wiping her eyes as she did. "Who would have ever guessed that the great Ichigo Kurosaki had a blanket named Booboo?"
Heat rose up from his neck to the very tips of his ears, which he could guess were flaring up bright red at the moment. "I was four! And you said you wouldn't laugh!" he accused.
"Relax, idiot." she said in return, calming down herself. "It's not as if I will tell anyone."
Ichigo felt his tension ease and some of his embarrassment draining out. "I know."
They were silent for a seemingly long moment, their eyes meeting and the wind blowing the grass and their hair around them. When it seemed a second too long had passed, Ichigo cleared his throat. "Your turn."
Rukia shook herself lightly, as if waking herself from a daydream, then reached for one of the half dozen chocolates left in the pile between them. She unwrapped the piece and stared at it pensively, like she was deciding on something before saying, "I once accidentally stepped on Nii-sama's scarf."
Ichigo stared at her blankly, showing no reaction for the longest time before suddenly erupting in laughter.
"I can just imagine Byakuya's face!" he cackled, before a thought occurred to him. "Wait, is that why he wasn't wearing one anymore the last time I saw him?"
The blush that flared on Rukia's cheeks was answer enough.
The two of them continued like that for some time, though neither of them cared to keep track of how long. The sun was already low on the horizon when, many laughs and embarrassing stories later, the last of the chocolates was unwrapped, and the last of the boxes emptied. Ichigo was surprised to feel disappointment well up inside him when he reached for another one of the treats only to notice this.
"Oh," he muttered, his face falling slightly. "I guess that's it." When Rukia said nothing, he looked up from the ground -covered with discarded wrappers- to her.
"Actually," she said, and he saw her reaching for something within an inner pocket of the gray jacket of her uniform. "There is… one more."
Ichigo blinked in surprise as she held out a small, red box. He felt a warmth spread out from his chest, and he started to smile before starting towards the box when, without warning, Rukia pulled it back and out of his reach, her lips twisting into a smirk and her eyes shining deviously as she looked at him. He gulped, anticipating whatever idea she had in mind.
"Not so fast." she said. "I think that because this is my chocolate, it requires something more interesting."
Ichigo scoffed, averting his eyes when he said, "What makes you so special?"
Rukia ignored him and looked up in thought, still withholding the chocolate before exclaiming, "Aha!" She resembled a cartoon villain as she redirected her gaze upon him. "To earn this chocolate," she began to explain in that no-nonsense tone that she usually reserved for shinigami business. "You must share a secret about myself."
"You heard me." she said, her face dropping into a deadpan. "You," she pointed to him with her free hand for emphasis. "-confess something that has to do with me." She finished by setting her hand on her chest, motioning to herself.
"Wha-? What do you want that for?" he blurted out. "I-it's not like there's anything to say!" The statement might have sounded more convincing had he not stuttered so obviously.
"Come on!" she said, now losing her serious demeanor to look openly eager. "There has to be something you've never told me." She leaned forward on her hands, edging closer to him until her face was mere inches from his. "Isn't there?"
She was teasing him. Only that knowledge kept Ichigo from losing it as she inched even closer to him, so that their noses were almost touching and he could just catch the hint of chocolate on her breath. She batted her eyelashes at him, and he spared a moment to curse the fact that they were so impossibly long and dark and that they so perfectly framed her luminous purple eyes.
At that moment, with Rukia so close to him that he could feel the warmth radiating from her slight body, and with her intense gaze holding his unwaveringly, he felt his own resistance drain away like ice melting under the summer sun. His shoulders relaxed of their own accord, and his eyelids drooped until he was looking back at her through half-lidded eyes.
Before she had a chance to brace herself, or he lost his moment of boldness -or perhaps it was vulnerability, he couldn't be sure which-, Ichigo spoke. His words were soft, leaving his lips in what was barely more than a breathless whisper that would have been carried away by the wind if not for their proximity.
"I missed you."
Rukia's eyes shot wide open and he heard her breath catch, signaling that his admission had, at the very least, caught her off guard.
He didn't explain what he meant; after their seventeen-month long separation, the unspoken words and unanswered questions had been hanging between them, somewhere far in the back of their minds, though neither had ever made an attempt to address the matter. Ichigo knew without a doubt that, despite her surprise, Rukia had understood him.
"Ichigo…" she breathed his name, not taking her eyes off his. The manner in which she said it made it seem like she had spoken the word almost subconsciously; like the sound of his name had been meant more for herself than for him.
Instead of the anxiety and nervousness that Ichigo would have expected to be feeling during those long beats of silence, he was pleasantly surprised by an entirely different feeling. Though there was a tight knot of nervous anticipation in his stomach as he waited for Rukia to respond, what filled most of his body was a sense of lighthearted relief. For months, the knowledge of his feelings at being apart from the woman before him had pressed against him like a dark weight made all the heavier by his refusal to openly acknowledge it; finally accepting the truth both to himself and her was like taking a load off his shoulders.
After what seemed like a short eternity, Rukia finally opened her mouth to speak. Before a single word passed her lips, however, she was cut off by a different, considerably less appealing, sound. In a quick, practiced manner, she pulled out her cell phone and flipped it open, scanning the screen attentively.
A second later, she said, "Hollow."
Ichigo said nothing, inwardly cursing at its timing. He nodded after a moment that felt longer than it really was, and cleared his throat before speaking in a conspicuously nonchalant manner. "What are we waiting for, then?"
He was out of his body and dashing through the streets in his shihakusho before Rukia even had a chance to respond. Not long after, she was trailing after him in the direction of the menacing spiritual pressure.
Neither of them looked back to see the small red box left behind on the grass, the top of it fluttering open in the wind and revealing the untouched, homemade piece of chocolate sitting inside.