Disclaimer: I wonder if Tite Kubo has ever read fanfiction before...
Notes: I was supposed to write an essay on Lord of the Flies but...this was what my fingers typed out :D
Rated for: Language.

A Little Misunderstanding

I contemplated the options I had that would effectively eliminate the monstrosity in front of me.

When I first my laid eyes on the thing, my automatic response was to unsheathe Sode No Shirayuki and shikai it's ugly existence to oblivion, but that would only freeze its grotesqueness and it would surely come back to haunt me. Then I considered dumping my drink on it, until I realized that I spent a great deal of time opening this juice box on my own, and I didn't want to waste it on such an obscenity. Plus I was really thirsty. Maybe if I could just shunpo out of here…

"Rukia!" Uryu stopped me as he blocked my only exit.

Damn it. I forgot that Quincy's had their fancy Hirenkyaku.

"Where are you going? You didn't even try it on yet!" he frowned. He held the dress up in a way so that if he wanted to, he could easily maneuver the fabric and smother me to death if I didn't to put it on.

Then so be it, because I was not about to get into that thing.

I mean, there were frills. Lots and lots of them. It looked like Uryu had skinned a piñata and used its rainbow strips as the fabric.

I opened my mouth to give him a firm no, but Orihime pulled me aside before I could do that. "Kuchiki-san! You have to wear this dress," she said in a hushed whisper. "He worked really really hard on it and you'd break his heart if you put on something else for the party!"

Break his heart? What in the world…

She suddenly raised her hand to give Uryu the A-OK sign with her fingers. "Kuchiki-san is going to wear your lovely dress tonight!"

Uryu sheepishly pushed his glasses up.

"But I-"

Orihime began to usher me towards the washroom. "Okay, us girls will start to get ready now! You guys should too!" she hollered.

Did I step on a kitten's tail in my previous life or something? What have I possibly done to deserve this?

The party was Rangiku's idea.

Lieutenant Matsumoto was in a drunken state when she swooned, "We just fought so hard! Oh god, we need tooooo I don't know, celebrate life or something! We're all standing here because we kicked ass! Riiiiight, Captain?"

So the party.

(Though Captain Hitsugaya opted out right after Rangiku puked on his haori).

She invited everyone- even that Imoyama- I mean, Kurumadani guy. Honestly, who invites that guy?

Once Rangiku announced that she was hosting this 'celebration,' Ichigo immediately declared that he wasn't going unless I went. Which I thought was very sneaky of him, because he knew that I was against parties in general, so if I didn't go, I would look like the bad guy for keeping Ichigo away as well.

That bastard.

Then suddenly Mizuiro said that he wouldn't either go unless Ichigo went, thus causing Keigo to back out as well because they were a package deal. And Orihime said that if Kurosaki-kun couldn't make it, she actually had some recipes she had been meaning to complete. So Uryu piped up that unless Orihime decided to attend, he needed to finish up sewing a dress for his handicrafts club.

So naturally, Chad said that he simply couldn't go.

And the reason I was here at all was because I had been kidnapped. Yes, kidnapped. Taken against my own will.

Rangiku and Uryu made an unlikely joint effort to whisk me out of Karin's warm bed while I was taking a nap, and they brought me to Orihime's place. Believe me, I really tried to escape from their grasps, but this was just one of the downfalls of being a little on the petite side.

In short, this was all Ichigo's fault. I was being punished due to that stubborn moron's stick in the mud attitude. If I see that carrot-top bastard at the party, I will flay him without hesitation.

So now that I was forced to go (though Ichigo was still nowhere to be found), Orihime chirpily reserved a ballroom for eight o'clock in the evening. It was now seven thirty.

I reluctantly changed into the horrid garb and stepped out of the washroom in a penguin-like waddle. I could hardly breathe in this thing, let alone move.

Orihime clapped her hands together excitedly. "The dress is so pretty on you Kuchiki-san! The lace is such a nice touch!" she squealed.

Uryu nodded in agreement. "It's made from the finest Alençon lace imported directly from Fra- is that a loose stitch on the skirt?" He hurried over to inspect my dress. I felt like a pin cushion while Uryu fussed over the loose thread that the had found.

I wouldn't mind if a hollow attacked us right now. No, really. I could use the distraction.

Rangiku suddenly burst in and practically cooed when she saw me. "Rukia! You look so gorgeous- no, you look sexy! I knew you'd loosen up! All you needed was a little push from yours truly!" she exclaimed. I didn't have the breath to protest. "Well just letting all you guys know that the decorations are finally finished, and I brought sake from the Soul Society! Who's ready to have some fun?"

Orihime cheered. Uryu poked a needle into my dress. I dove for my cell phone when I heard the beep of the hollow signal.

I quickly flipped it open to see where the hollow was coming from, but my last shred of hope was shot when I saw that it was just Kisuke Urahara calling. "What do you want?" I grumbled impatiently into the receiver.

"Wow Rukia you sound tense, maybe you should try some of Tessai's miracle medicines to help loosen up those shoulders a bit," he exclaimed in his raspy voice.

If someone tells me to 'loosen up' one more time, I swear I will kill the next thing that moves.

"Just tell me why you're calling." I inhaled a deep breath.

"Yoruichi wants to know whether she should wear formal attire or not."

I almost dropped my phone. Even Kisuke and Yoruichi were going? This was unbelievable. "Here, talk to Rangiku," I tossed the device to her hands. She juggled the contraption before bringing it to her ear and squealing right into it.

I checked my ears to see if they were still functioning.

Orihime raised her arm and pointed out the window. "Oh the limousine is here!"

A limousine? This was getting more and more absurd. Who was even paying for these expenses?

I suddenly felt someone grab me by the elbow and begin to drag me out the door. "Come on Rukia, let's go to the car first. I need you to sit down so I can sew the remaining sequins on," Uryu said. I was in such a stupor I couldn't even process what was happening. At this point I was ashamed to be a part of this circus.

Once we made it outside, I could see the full length of the black, luxurious automobile that was parked in the driveway. Uryu stepped towards the car and opened the door for me.

My jaw must've dropped to the floor when I saw Byakuya occupying one of the seats along with Renji. They were both dressed in full suits, ties and all. "Brother…what are you doing here?" I exclaimed. He was the last person I expected to see.

Maybe I was dreaming, that had to be it! It was the only logical explanation for all this. I quickly pinched myself, only to yelp from the pain.

Byakuya's expression remained flat, but I caught the slight twitch in his eye. "Rangiku asked me to fund her party," he stated dryly.

I found it impossible to believe that Byakuya of all shinigami would comply with Rangiku's requests. What the hell was going on? "Just get in the car Rukia, enjoy yourself tonight," Renji said as he scooted over to make room for me.

I swallowed hard and stepped inside to take the seat beside him. Uryu followed suit to occupy the spot next to me. He wasted no time to whip out his sewing kit and begin working on making me sparkle, literally.

In a matter of minutes, the limousine began filling up with more people from the Soul Society. Did no one have any work to do tonight? They were all wearing such beautiful garments, I felt increasingly unsatisfied with the dress I was stuck with. Uryu was an amazing seamster, but he had the tendency to go a little overboard with his work sometimes.

Oh who was I kidding, I looked like fucking Marie Antoinette.

The car began to move when Rangiku got in. Her breath reeked of alcohol as she greeted everyone. When there were no more people left for her to traumatize, she finally decided to sit on poor Lieutenant Hisagi's lap. He didn't seem to mind much though. In fact, he appeared to be enjoying himself.

Ugh. Men.

"So where's Ichigo?" Renji turned to face me.

"How would I know?" I automatically hissed. I was still bitter that I was only being dragged to this thing because everyone wanted to see Ichigo make an appearance. I don't know why they were making such a big deal about him anyway. I mean, I've seen him in his natural habitat, and believe me, it is not pretty.

I shuddered at the thought. There were just some things that you could not un-see.

Renji held his palms up. "Sheesh, no need to bite my head off, I just figured that you'd know since you lived in his house and all. Is he coming to Rangiku's party too?"

I fumbled with the roses on my skirt. "I don't know, he's supposed to," I said tersely. "Ow!"

"Hold still!" Uryu scolded. As if it was my fault!

For the total duration of the ride, I gripped onto my seatbelt for dear life. The driver had better not be some maniacal shinigami who wanted to try this 'driving' thing out in the world of the living. From what I've seen, I wasn't even sure if the Soul Society knew what responsibility meant anymore.

Uryu pricked my skin a couple more times before we finally arrived at our destination.

The car was parked adjacent to the enormous building. Everyone began to shuffle out of the limousine in an impatient manner. They all pushed and shoved each other like the barbaric muscle-heads they were. God, even though I was vice captain, I was still a girl. Did chivalry really just vanish off the face of earth? I was this close to being trampled by Captain Zaraki's tree trunks for legs.

Renji pulled me back up on my feet. "Thanks," I mumbled as I dusted my skirt off. I turned around to face the entrance. I could already hear the loud music blaring from inside.

"Rangiku's really trying to throw the best world-of-the-living party, huh?" he commented as we strolled in side by side.

"Yup, no soothing tea time for her," I drawled. We made our way through the atrium until we found the ballroom.

Once I saw what was inside, my breath hitched a little from the sheer allure of it all. We paused to fully take in our surroundings. It was as if I had walked into some sort of shimmery, fairy land…

Twinkle lights were strung across the ceiling, and tea candles illuminated each table. There were spherical lanterns with pretty cut outs that hung right above our heads.

Renji seemed overwhelmed as well. "Holy crap, it actually looks decent. I really thought she was going to turn this place into a strip club or something."

He stole the words right out of my mouth.

But wait- how did he know what a strip club was?

I immediately turned to face him and placed both of my hands on my hips. "Renji!" But his long red hair had already disappeared into the crowd before I could lecture him. I shook my head and sighed. Why did I put up with these people?

I shouldered my way through the throng of shinigami in hopes of finding a quieter area where I could sit and think. Unfortunately, the speakers were blasting music from every corner of the room. I think my head was about to explode. Captain Ukitake would surely be against the bursting of his Lieutenant's head right? Maybe he could get me out of here…

"You look like a nightmare." I suddenly heard an amused voice remark from behind.

I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed that the jerk would just move along and bother someone else for a change.

"Uh, Rukia, I can still see you even if you cover your face. And you're distinctly shorter than everyone else here."

I automatically considered countering with, Well you have orange hair! But that would be childish, and dignified Kuchikis did not stoop to such levels.

I whirled around to glare at Ichigo. He was all dressed up for the occasion as well. One hand was casually curled around a can of pop. "Look who decided to show up," I said testily. I was already in a bad mood, I didn't need him to push me any further.

But I couldn't help but notice how good he looked in his suit.

It made him all the more infuriating.

"I was wondering where you disappeared to this afternoon. I was kind of hoping that you'd back out so that I wouldn't have to go to this dumb thing," he admitted.

I figured as much.

My eyes narrowed at him. Where was my Zanpakuto when I needed it? "I'm not here because I want to be, moron. Unlike you, I was literally dragged from your house." I crossed my arms in a huffy manner. "So spare me the guilt, it's not like we're Siamese twins. You didn't have to come."

Ichigo raised his arm to rub the back of his neck. "I know, I just thought that I'd check it out after all. Rangiku wasn't kidding when she said she had invited the entire Soul Society," he said as he took a quick glance at everyone around us. "Besides, I'm glad that I came, otherwise, I would've missed seeing you in this…unique get up." He didn't even try to hold in his laughter. The nerve of him!

He won't be grinning so smugly anymore when I switch his shampoo with bleach tonight!

"And it better not be for a sequel to Battle Maid Cop or some shit like that, because if it is, count me out. Byakuya was really trying to kill me that time!" he added with widened eyes.

I kicked his shin and watched him hold his leg like a pathetic weakling. And to think that this was the same guy who took down Aizen the Almighty Butterfly Man.

"What the hell was that for?" he cried out.

"For being an idiot, idiot," I snapped.

He winced from the pain. "God Rukia, L-"

I shot him a warning glower. "Don't."

Puzzlement crossed his face. "Don't what?"

I took in a deep breath. "Don't tell me to 'loosen up' because I refuse to 'dance' like a gyrating imbecile while drinking gallons and gallons of sake until I pass out and lie in my own pool of vomit!" I spat out. Jesus, why was I still here? Now that Ichigo had arrived, I was free to leave right? I stood on my tiptoes and peered around for the exit.

His eyebrows rose to form a bemused look. "I was going to say lighten up, but okay. Wouldn't want you to get drunk either, because sober Rukia is already enough," he said in a dismissive tone.


"And just what the hell is that supposed to mean!" I squawked angrily. He could be so obnoxiously cryptic sometimes, it made me want to rip his tongue out.

A smirk crept on his lips. "Well…who knows what kind of trouble you'd get into if there was alcohol in your system. And it'd be me who would have to come to the rescue if you happened to stumble across an axe murderer in your discombobulated state," Ichigo said nonchalantly. Like that was bound to happen if I ever got intoxicated.

I curled my hands into fists. "Don't be an arrogant fool! I don't need anyone to protect me, especially not you! I can fight perfectly fine on my own!" I seethed. Hand over a big-ass sword to a boy and he'll think he's invincible.

Just 'cause he achieved a showy bankai…

He started to laugh. Really laugh. Could he be any more irritating? "What's so funny?" I fumed.

"Relax, I was only joking. We all know that the great Rukia Kuchiki is strong," he said teasingly. "I know that you're strong."

I felt my cheeks flush. "Don't mock me," I said as I shoved his chest.

Ichigo stumbled back a couple steps and lifted his hand to rub the part where I had hit him. "I wasn't mocking you, jeez," he muttered.

I inhaled a sharp breath and crossed my arms. "Aren't there some other people for you to bug? You have a posse you know."

He quirked an eyebrow. "A posse," he repeated.

"Yeah, said they wouldn't go if you didn't go."

He took a sip from his drink. "Huh. Not sure if I should be flattered or not…you're not part of this said posse are you?" he asked with a goofy grin on his face.

Just when I thought he couldn't get any more annoying.

"You're delusional," I scowled. "In fact, I think your lunacy is tainting me. I'm getting a headache by just looking at you." I tried to walk past him, but he was quick to step in front of me.

"Hey wait-"

"What?" I snapped in a moody tone.

Ichigo sighed while he scratched his head. "Look, the reason I'm here is because I wanted to…"

He took an excruciatingly long pause. It was as if his usual confident disposition had suddenly evaporated.

"Spit it out already!" I said impatiently.

He took in a deep breath. "I just…thank you," he finally managed to choke out.

I stared at him, dumbfounded. "For what?"

Ichigo looked away uneasily.

"For saving me again I guess." He fixed his stare on the floor. "I mean, no matter what I do…I always end up being this big fucking burden-"

I rolled my eyes and held a hand up. "Stop."

His gaze met mine.

"What did you expect me to do? You looked so disgracefully miserable when you didn't have your shinigami powers…I couldn't just stand around and let you rot into a useless pile of crap," I pointed out ardently.

"Gee thanks, I can really feel your concern for me," he said sarcastically. His eyebrows suddenly creased. "Wait- how did you know that I was…?"

I widened my eyes. Shit.

I am such an idiot.

I quickly plastered a bright smile on my face. "Oh you know! You're pretty famous in the Soul Society, and word gets around quickly…"

It was only once.

Seventeen months after the Winter War, I heard a rumour going around that the Soul Society was starting to send shinigami from the stealth force to 'keep a close eye' on Ichigo. It had been so long since I've heard that name, and I couldn't help but wonder what was happening. I begged Captain Ukitake to tell me what was going on, but all he said was that I "needn't be concerned."

Well of course I'd be concerned. It was Ichigo for God's sake.

So I asked Renji to distract Byakuya while I snuck into the room where the Kuchiki private Senkaimon was located. I knew that it was against the rules, but I needed to find out if Ichigo was okay.

Once I made it to Karakura, the first place I checked was the Kurosaki Clinic. I found him sitting alone in his room. In front of him was the substitute shinigami badge, and he was just staring at it with a dejected look in his eyes. It must've been thirty minutes before he finally got up and crawled into bed to bury his head in a pillow.

I did all I could to refrain from leaping inside and slapping him right across the face to knock some sense into him. He looked so God damn pitiful!

But he also looked sad. My chest constricted at the sight of him. I didn't know this kind of sorrow.

I fled right after my foot accidentally hit the windowpane. I couldn't stand to stay any longer anyway. It physically hurt to see him like that.

"Urahara told me," I lied. "I believe his exact words were, 'Oh Ichigo? He's fine, he just cries himself to sleep every now and then, but we'll whip him back to shape in no time!'"

A familiar scowl made its way back on Ichigo's face. "Mister Hat and Clogs is a liar," he scoffed. "I do not cry!"

I gave him an incredulous look. "Really."

"What? I don- oh." Ichigo grimaced. "Shut up- that was only once, and you just conveniently decided to show up at that very moment," he retorted defensively.

"Uh huh, 'cause Tatsuki told me that you used to be a big cry-baby," I snickered.

He made a low growling sound. "Tatsuki? I'm gonna kill her…" he mumbled.

I fisted the fabric of my skirt and let out a sigh of relief. At least he was back to normal.

I raised my eyes at him. "The point is, don't give me that crap about being a burden ever again." My lips pulled into a smile. "Friends, remember?"

His expression remained enigmatic. "Yeah…friends."

I swallowed hard when his gaze on me intensified.

I willed myself to not look away this time; I didn't want him to know that my heart was hammering wildly within my chest. The people around us limited the amount of standing space we had; Ichigo and I were much too close this time. So close that I was able to take a moment to just look at him. I mean, we were always up in each other's faces, but not like this.

This time we weren't bickering, or impending to rip the other person's throat out like we usually would. I could concentrate on the hard lines on his face, and his stupid perpetual scowl.

He had grown to be so ridiculously handsome in the past three years we've fought side by side; it was almost maddening. Small scars were etched in his skin from all the falls he had taken, but they didn't overshadow his other features. His jaw line was narrow but defined, and oh God, that hair. It'd look silly on anyone else but him.

"IIICHIGO!" an energized voice suddenly hollered from our left. Ichigo instinctively held out his arm to stop the brunette haired boy from crashing into us.

Keigo got back up on his feet unfazed. "Ichigo! How could you do this to me? I thought we were best friends but you didn't even bother to say hi when you came after all!" He turned his head and finally acknowledged my presence. "Oh I see, you're trying to court the pretty ladies around here! But I thought that we made a promise to be each other's wingmen every time we spotted a cute girl! Why are you doing this to meeeee?"

I swear this guy was a mental asylum escapee. But at least he had good intentions.

"What the hell? I don't remember making any promises like that," Ichigo scoffed.

"You know, back in the sixth grade when I had a crush on that Eri girl but she always hit me with her…" I tuned out Keigo's winded storytelling and decided to leave the two of them alone. Ichigo shot me a pleading look, but there was no way that I would stick around to listen to the rest of Keigo's trip down memory lane.

I moved past the mingling crowds of people and headed towards the washroom. The corset of this dress was sucking the life out of me; there had to be a way to loosen it somehow. It also didn't help that Ichigo always made me feel like a breathless idiot every time we spoke.

I brought the back of my hand to my cheek. It was still warm.

When I finally found the door marked with the girl symbol, I pushed it open and walked inside. I had been hoping that it would be empty, but there was already a busty figure leaning into the mirror.

"Oh Rukia!" Rangiku popped the cap of her lipstick off. "You look red as a tomato, a little girl like you shouldn't drink too much alcohol!" she said as she began to glide the pink colour over her pout.

I started to take a couple steps backwards to reach for the door from behind. "I'll just um…come back later," I told her softly.

She turned around to face me. "No sweetie it's fine! Stay," she ordered. Her voice was coated with sugar, but she might as well have said, "You will rue the day you walk out of that door."

So I didn't.

"What's the matter Rukia? It doesn't look like you came in here just to use the toilets," she cocked her head to the side. "Come here honey, let's chat." She propped herself up on the counter of the sink.

Reluctantly, I walked over to her. In all the years we've worked together, I've never exchanged many words with Lieutenant Matsumoto. The 13 Court Guard Squads rarely associated themselves with other squad members, so what could she possibly want to talk about? "Is something the matter?" I asked her seriously.

Rangiku let out a laugh. "Oh goodness no, I just want to make sure that you're having a good time! So are you?"

I shifted uncomfortably. "Yeah, of course! I've never had more fun!" My face lit up.

I didn't fake my way through high school for nothing.

She let out a long, blissful sigh. "Good, because love is in the air tonight! In fact, I'm about to go put a little special something in Captain's drink and push him towards Lieutenant Hinamori. The two of them are just the cutest things! I knew Captain would come if I told him she was here."

Maybe I should've walked out when I had the chance. This girl was crazy.

"So Rukia, tell me, how are things going with you and Ichigo? I spotted you guys getting all cozy in the corner of the room a couple of moments ago," she beamed at me.

I started to sputter. "Wha- what? We were not getting cozy!"

Her full lips pulled into a frown. "Awww, does that mean you two aren't dating?"

I gawked at her. "Of course not!" I cried out. "Why would you think that?"

She put her lipstick tube back into her purse. "Oh I don't know, you guys are always standing so close to each other with these intense looks in your eyes-"

"Looks of hate," I screeched.

Rangiku brazenly ignored me. "Ichigo calls you by your first name. And I just find it so adorable how he always fusses over your well-being. And come on, you guys must be attached at the hip if he said he wouldn't come to my party unless you came." She winked.

"He only said that so I would be the one to blame for his absence if I refused to come! He's a complete blockhead," I pointed out bitterly.

She blinked her round, ice blue eyes. "So do you like him?"

I felt my face grow hot. "I just said that he was a blockhead."

A piercing squeal left her lips. "But you like the boy, it's written all over your pretty little face."

I closed my eyes tightly.

It didn't matter if I liked him, hated him, or hated to like him, because we were friends. I would never jeopardize that for something as petty as this. It was better this way.

And besides, Ichigo was already in love with someone else.

I knew this not because he took much longer to get ready in the morning now, or that he always seemed to have this distant look in his eyes, but because I found real, solid evidence.

The other day while I was searching for my soul candy dispenser, I discovered a bunch of crumpled sheets of paper lying under his desk. I shouldn't have read them- and now I wish I hadn't- but curiosity had gotten the best of me and I smoothed them out to look over.

They were love poems.

If I didn't feel so heartsick from reading them, I probably would've laughed until tears came out of my eyes. Because who would've guessed that the strong and macho Ichigo Kurosaki was a closet poet?

I mean, they weren't addressed to anyone in particular, but there were dates labeled beside each one. All of which were written in the time of my absence. He must've met some pret-ty amazing girl at school if she could make him write all these sappy love poems.

(Something about the speed of the world and keeping up with it. I don't know. It was corny.)

"We need to do something about this built-up sexual tension you two have going on! Seriously, someone needs to throw you and Ichigo into a room so you guys can have hot, steamy sex and just get it over with already!" Rangiku suddenly piped up.

Oh. My. God.

"Have you gone mad?" I cried out.

"Oh relax, I certainly hope you don't end up like that uptight prude of a brother of yours. It's quite sad actually. A week ago, I walked in on him kissing the picture of his wife. Isn't that hilarious? He promised to help me with my party if I didn't tell- oops!" she widened her eyes. "Please don't tell Captain Kuchiki that I told you!"

I whirled around and began to stomp out of the room, I was not going to have this conversation. But before I could leave, Rangiku jumped off the counter and grabbed my wrist. "Hey! Let go of me!" I exclaimed as she pulled me out of the washroom.

"Nobody likes an uptight prude!" she sang out.

Rangiku yanked me past all the shinigami until she spotted Ichigo's bright orange hair.

No, no, NO!

If she told him about how I felt, I might just have to move out into a cave situated in the middle of the tropics somewhere and become a hermit. I would ride wild boars like Ganju and hunt parrots for food or something. Actually, that wasn't sounding so bad right about now.

I was only half kidding.

I tried to pull myself in the opposite direction, but she was a lot stronger than I was. She dragged me up to Ichigo and pulled something shiny out of her purse.

"Hey…what's going on?" he asked uneasily with a raised eyebrow.

Rangiku then grasped Ichigo's hand and held it up. "You two," she began as she latched something around his wrist. "Are going to dance." She harshly pulled at my hand and attached something to it as well.

It took me a second to register that they were cold, metal handcuffs.

What was she doing with handc- scratch that, I didn't even want to know.

"What the hell Rangiku! I need to use the bathroom!" Ichigo cried out as he tried to chase after her. Like that was his biggest concern, jeez.

I tripped over my own feet when he yanked me along with him.

"You nimrod!" I yelled in a shrill voice as I crashed into his back. I winced from the forming bruise and rubbed my forehead.

"Nuh uh uh, not until I see you two dancing together," she said while taunting us with the key.

"How do you expect us to dance like this?" I glared daggers at her as I held up the hand that was linked with Ichigo's. Consequently, his went up as well.

"Oh you'll find a way. Toodles!" She waved her fingers at us and headed in the direction of Captain Hitsugaya.

This could not be happening.

"Rukia, what the hell is going on?" Ichigo growled as he pointed to his cuffed wrist.

Okay, that was a bit uncalled for. It wasn't like I was the one who latched these shackles on our wrists. It was amazing how easily he could get under my skin still. "This is all your fault!" I shouted. I jabbed a finger into his collarbone.

His face twisted into an irritated expression. "My fault? And just what the hell is that supposed to mean?" he barked back.

I narrowed my eyes at him. "People think that we're dating because you always stand so fucking close to me!"

He gawked with disbelief. "What? No I don't!"

"See? You're doing it right now!" I pushed his shoulder. But that backfired because he lost his balance and stumbled backwards, thus causing me to slam into his chest. "Ugh!" I grumbled as I stabilized myself.

"Well I don't really have a choice in the matter seeing as how we're handcuffed together," Ichigo retorted hotly.

I hated how I couldn't even storm off because that would only bring the fool with me.

I brought my free hand to my temple and exhaled. "Do you have your Zanpakuto?" I finally asked.

He frowned. "Huh?"

"I said, do you have Zangestsu lying around somewhere?"

He scowled. "Jesus, are you crazy? There's no way I'm going to use Zangetsu to break this chain! He would just blow both of our arms off if that's what you were planning!"

I humphed and looked away. "Well do you have any better ideas?" I scoffed.

He swallowed in exasperation and sighed. "Okay, since Rangiku obviously won't just hand over the key, let's just-"

"Pretend to sway back and forth a bit," I cut in. "And if we're convincing, she'll take these stupid things off."

We both stared at each other uneasily, unsure of how to go with this. I've never had to 'dance' in my life, and I don't think he was that much more experienced.

Oh God, please just strike me where I stand, I beg of you.

I reluctantly raised my free arm and awkwardly placed it on his shoulder. From watching a couple of shows on television, I was almost certain that this was how it was supposed to go. And to my surprise, he slowly lowered his hand and let it rest on my waist. Our linked wrists dangled gracelessly on one side.

"Is she looking?" I whispered as I stole quick glances in Rangiku's direction.

"I don't think it's considered dancing if we just stand still," Ichigo said dryly. He began to guide me towards the dance floor as other couples moved in as well. A slow song started to hum in our ears.

Okay, so he clearly has done this before.

Now I was just mad that he didn't tell me about the girl he was seeing. It's not like I would try to sabotage their relationship or anything.

We began to sway back and forth to the soft melody.

"Is this really what humans call dancing? It doesn't even require any skill! What's the purpose?" I asked, genuinely puzzled.

Ichigo rolled his eyes. "Not everything is about hard work and practice, dummy. And are you seriously asking what the purpose is?"

I looked around at all the other people holding their partner. They were staring into each others eyes like love sick idiots.

And as much as I didn't want to admit it, I was a little jealous of them.

I bit my lip and looked up at him. "Rangiku is probably drugging her Captain right about now." I made a feeble attempt to smile.

"You mean Toshiro? She must be insane, he'll kill her if he finds out."

I nodded in agreement. "God, I can't believe she thought that we were dating! That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!"

I had to redeem myself as a sensible shinigami. In fact, declaring the stupidity of my infatuation out loud was making me feel better already.

He looked as if he wanted to say something, but he never opened his mouth.

I continued to ramble on. "I mean, can you imagine? It'd be like dating my brother." I could totally convince myself this way. "You're this human and I'm a shinigam-"

"Rukia," Ichigo cut in. His eyes settled on my elbow.

"What?" I glanced at my arm as well, but it was nothing out of the ordinary.

"When do you plan on going home?" he asked softly.

I blinked. "I don't know, I guess whenever you decide to leave tonight-"

His eyebrows furrowed. "No not my home idiot, I mean your home…in the Soul Society. When are you leaving this time?"


The this time sounded scornful in his voice.

My fingernails lightly dug into his neck. "Well…my duty here is complete since you defeated Ginjo, so it won't be long until I have to return to the Sereitei and continue my responsibilities there," I said faintly.

His face faltered for a second. "Oh right, you've been promoted to Lieutenant, I guess I forgot. It's kind of hard to believe actually."

I stomped on his shoe. He jerked his foot back and flinched in pain.

"What's your problem? That hurts you know!" he exclaimed with a glare.

"Why is it hard to believe? Do you think I'm not good enough to be Lieutenant?" I hissed sharply.

I felt Ichigo's grip tighten around my waist. Something fluttered inside me. I hated how such an inconsequential gesture could make me feel so damn nervous.

All my efforts of resisting have clearly gone to waste. I felt a tinge of shame wash over me.

"No, it's just that…you've always been Rukia to me, you know? Not Lieutenant Kuchiki of Squad Thirteen," he murmured.

I let out a humourless laugh. "And since when did you care about formalities? You've never called a Captain 'Captain' in your life, so I really don't expect you to start calling me Lieutenant Kuchiki," I smirked.

Ichigo scrunched his face into a scowl. "Like hell I'll start calling you Lieutenant Kuchiki. I wasn't talking about titles, I meant your role as a shinigami. Your missions, they're…" he paused. "They're dangerous."

I frowned. "Yeah, and being around you is dangerous too. You don't have to keep worrying about me, because I swear to God, if you jump into another one of my battles again, I will kick your ass."

Ichigo growled. "Well excuse me for wanting to keep you in one piece. What, do you want me to wait around until you bleed to death? Because there's no way that I'd do that." His expression twisted into something wry.

I pressed my thumb into his skin. "I want you to let me fight my own battles," I said firmly.

His sullen gaze on me didn't lift.

"Tch, don't look at me like that, it's embarrassing." I rolled my eyes. "Besides, it's not the fighting that I worry about, it's the mountains of paper work that scare me. You are no longer allowed to complain about your measly homework, because that's nothing compared what I have," I said with a smile.

"Paperwork?" a distinct voice suddenly cried out. "You guys are so boring!"

We immediately jumped apart from each other.

"I handcuff you two together and you talk about paperwork? You two need to learn to live a little," Rangiku drawled. She dug around in her purse to pull out a small, silver key. "I would keep these handcuffs on you guys for a little longer-"

"Rangiku!" I seethed.

"But I need them for later," she sighed as she stuck the thin piece of metal into the hole. She twisted it and removed them off our wrists. I immediately retracted my hand.

"I'll see you two later, I have some…business to attend to," Rangiku said with a foxy smile. She waved before turning around and disappearing into the crowd.

I exhaled. "Thank God she kept her promise and we didn't have to, I don't know, resort to bashing our hands against a tree to break the chain or something."

Ichigo moved his wrist in a circular motion. "What is wrong with that girl? No wonder Toshiro has white hair," he bristled.

I laughed. "That actually makes sense."

A brief silence settled between us as our eyes locked.

I couldn't look. But I couldn't look away either. He was hurting me by just standing there, looking all cool and composed with his stupid orange hair and his stupid face.

He didn't even know.

I felt a lump begin to rise in my throat. This was pathetic, even for me. "Well…I'm going to go outside for some air, it's too hot in here," I said, trying not to show that my voice was wavering. I started to head towards the back exit.

I was probably just a mass of sweat under my dress. Disgusting, I know.

But it was also an excuse to get away from Ichigo too, at least until my face returned to its normal colour.

"Wait- I'll come with you." he hollered before I got too far. "I wanted to ask you something anyway."

He really needed to brush up on his mind reading skills.

"Do what you want," I said as I quickened my pace, but he caught up to me in a couple of strides. We walked together in silence as we made our way outside. The crisp air immediately pricked my skin once I stepped out of the building. He didn't seem to be bothered by the cold.

I hadn't expected to walk into a courtyard. Colourful flowerbeds and leaf laced arches adorned the vast expanse of grass. I took a seat on one of the benches. Ichigo shoved his hands in his pockets as he took a couple of steps towards me. "So what did you want to ask me about?" I piped up distractedly.

There were stars tonight. I silently made a wish on the brightest one for Captain Ukitake's health.

When I turned my attention back to Ichigo, his eyes were fixed on his feet. "You're a girl right?" he suddenly asked.

I looked at him with incredulity. "No, I'm a boy and my actual name is Ryouya Kuchiki-" I took in a deep breath. "Excuse me? Are you sure you didn't bump your head too hard during your last fight? Of course I'm a girl you dolt!" He better not have followed me out here to waste my time.

He quickly shook his head. "Shit- that didn't come out right…what I meant was, you understand the neurotic mind of a girl, don't you?"

I squinted at him. "Yeah, and I also understand that you're a little sexist. Not all girls are crazy."

Ichigo inhaled sharply. "Shut up Rukia, this is already hard enough without your snide ass comments," he scowled.

I frowned and chewed on the inside of my cheek. He actually looked troubled. I wondered if this was serious. "What is it?" I asked in a softer tone.

It took a moment for him to answer; he seemed to be growing more and more uncomfortable by the second. His foot kicked a pebble across the pavement. "It's a girl."

I blinked several times. "What's a girl?"

Ichigo let out a prolonged sigh. "Do you act stupid on purpose or are you just naturally this dense?" he snapped. "I think I like a girl, idiot." A pained expression crossed his face.

I couldn't even bring myself to yell at him for being the stupid one because saying "It's a girl" like some moron didn't tell me anything!

But I felt my chest tighten at his words. I knew that I had wanted him to tell me about this secret lover of his, but I didn't realize how much the confirmation would sting. "Okay…so what's the problem?" I swallowed. I scrunched the fabric of my skirt with my fingers.

His expression remained solemn. "Nothing. Everything. I don't know. She's kind of a bitch." He let out an exasperated breath.

So that crossed Orihime off the list. I didn't know if I was ready to find out who this girl was, at least not yet. It might spare me the whole jealousy part. I really, really didn't want to get jealous. Ichigo deserved to be with someone he loved.

I appreciated that he was finally opening up to me though. He rarely talked about his feelings with anyone because he had too much pride up his ass.

"A bitch," I repeated carefully.

He didn't ponder his response. "Yeah. I mean, she's always nagging me to do all these stupid things, and if I don't do them, she kicks me. It's unnerving-"

"And shameful!" I jumped up. "Getting beat up by a girl?"

"Hey and you say I'm the sexist one?" he exclaimed. "For your information, I don't get beat up by her. It doesn't really hurt, but sometimes I just let her think it does 'cause it's amusing. I mean, she fights like a Chihuahua when she hits me."

There was a genuine smile lacing up his lips now.

I wasn't sure how long I could just sit here and listen. I wanted to be his friend so badly, and I really meant that too. I wanted to talk about things like this without feeling sad. I peered up at his caramel eyes. He looked so blissful right now; there were no lines of frustration or anger on his face that I was so used to seeing. I liked this side of him, and if it was all because of that girl's doing, I would have to let him go. I decided that he was going to get this girl tonight, and I was going to help make it happen.

Thank you, I mentally whispered to the girl I owed his happiness to.

"You still didn't properly answer my question. What's the equation that we have to solve? Is she interested in someone else…or do you not know if she likes you back…?" Not that I was an expert at relationships, but I figured that his situation couldn't be that complicated.

Ichigo suddenly became extremely fascinated with the willow tree behind us. "There are a lot of…boundaries between us. And I don't know how to tell her how I feel without receiving a kick to the head or a smack to the face."

I stifled a giggle, maybe I could get along with this girl after all. "Ooh, she seems like a violent one."

"And that's how she treats her friends," he said dryly.

"Maybe you could try being sweeter to her. Send her flowers or something; a lot of girls seem to like that stuff. I mean, you're rude to people ninety percent of the time, and the other ten percent you're semi-rude to them. Girls don't appreciate your snarky remarks," I pointed out blatantly.

Ichigo snorted. "Shut up! As if you're any better. And our relationship…it isn't like that. She'd only get suspicious if I started being 'nice.'" He clenched his hands. "It's just so damn frustrating! Sometimes I'd get so mad at her that I can't breathe, and other times it's hard to even concentrate when she's in the same room as me."

I stared at his aggravated countenance. More pebbles skidded on the concrete pathway.

Ichigo loved her.

He would never admit it, but he didn't need to, I could hear it in his voice.

"What's she like?" I inquired nervously.

He finally trudged forward and took the seat beside me. Hands gripped on the wooden ledge of the bench. "Bratty. She gets angry when she doesn't have her way. " His eyes looked straight up at the canopy of blinking lights. "And sometimes she talks too much." A chuckle escaped his lips. "Completely insufferable."

"Then why do you even like her?" I asked breathlessly. I couldn't hide the disdain in my tone.

He turned his neck to face me. My lungs were beginning to close in. "I don't know…she doesn't put up with my shit. She's loyal...and smart...and she always finds a way to pull me out of a funk." He shook his head. "But…I don't want to risk crossing any lines. I mean…"

His knuckles were beginning to turn white from clasping onto the bench so hard.

"I wanted to resist feeling this way, and I really did try to get over her, but I couldn't. Fuck, it was so hard because she never let me forget why I liked her so much. She would always flaunt how great she was right in front of my face so how was I supposed to just forget someone so freakin' irritating?"

I wasn't sure if his little tirade was sarcastic or not, but that didn't matter. This was pitiful, especially for Ichigo.

I let out an exaggerated sigh and aggressively pulled him up on his feet. He snapped his head up in surprise and stumbled to regain his balance.

I jabbed his chest with my hand. "Why don't you just tell the girl that you like her? Because frankly, your useless crying won't get you anywhere. And to be honest, you're starting to piss me off with that wistful look of retardation in your eyes. I can't even stand look at you because you're being such a pussy," I declared angrily. "You didn't train so hard to come out as a coward, did you?"

His eyes glazed over as he looked at me pensively.

"Well did you?"

Oh jeez, he really had morphed into a pitiful wimp.

"No! You didn't, and I refuse to watch you turn into one!"

I reached out with both arms and began to straighten out his tie. "Look, all you need to do is wipe that pathetic look off your face and just make the first move already!" I exhaled curtly and yanked on his tie to tighten the knot. "God don't just stand there, GO!" I tried to push him, but he grabbed a hold of my wrist before I could.


Then he bent down to kiss me.

My heart immediately began to thump madly as he leaned in closer. He dropped my wrist and gingerly brought my face towards his with his hands. I could feel the warmth of his hold radiate off of my already flustered cheeks. My head was a mess of jumbled thoughts, but the moment his lips softly brushed against mine, I instantly snapped back to my senses. I mustered every ounce of will I had to pull away from him. My hand raised to slap him right across the head.

Ichigo's hands flew up to hold his throbbing skull. "What the hell!" he wailed.

"What about that other girl?" I screamed at him.

He glared at me with a look of disbelief and began to sputter incoherently. "Wha- YOU DUMBASS! There is no other girl damn it! Jesus Christ-"

"Kurosaki-kun! Kuchiki-san! There you two are!" a high pitched voice suddenly hollered from behind.

We both whipped our heads around to face a very spirited looking Orihime. Ishida and Renji were following close behind her. "We have cake! Rangiku and I baked it!" she chirped in a cheery tone.

I stole a glance at Ichigo. Orihime had already grabbed him by the arm and was beginning to pull him back inside.

"Rukia, come on, we have to figure out where to hide the cake so we don't have to actually eat it!" Renji whispered in my ear as he dragged me along as well.


I planted my feet on the ground. "Wait, Renji," I said.

He looked at the door, the three of them have already disappeared inside. "What is it?" he asked as he released my elbow.

I diverted my gaze. "I just…is it possible for you to take me home? I'm feeling really exhausted and I'm really not up to finding pig intestines in my cake," I smiled half-heartedly.

Renji immediately clasped his hand on my forehead. "Are you sick of something? Do I need to take you to Captain Unohana? 'Cause if you are-"

I placed my hand over his and slowly removed it off my head. "I'm fine Renji, just help me get back to Ichigo's house. Please?"

Renji looked skeptical, but his expression eventually softened."Yeah." His eyes rested on mine. "Of course."

I rode on Renji's back as he used flash step to speed over rooftops. I kept my arms around his neck and rested my cheek on his shoulder blade. My eyes were starting to droop, and it was getting increasingly difficult to stay conscious.

Once we arrived to the Kurosaki clinic, he gently let me down on the balcony. "Are you sure that you're okay? Because I can stay…"

I shook my head. "No, it's fine. Thank you Renji," I said as I began to make my way inside.

"Alright then, sleep it off Kuchiki," he smiled before launching himself into the sky.

It was as if the weight of everything had suddenly decided to crash down on me all at once. I didn't want to think, or do anything. I felt so tired , and the only thing I could do right now was collapse.

I quietly padded toward Ichigo's room and flicked the light on. His bed remained unmade as usual, but other than that, it was generally clear of any clutter. I absorbed the familiarity of my surroundings, trailing my finger along his desk. Ichigo's musky scent coated every surface of his belongings.

I didn't even bother brushing my teeth. And I couldn't anyway, my lips still felt bruised from when Ichigo accidentally bit me after I hit him.

I felt my cheeks set aflame again. Stupid idiot.

But I couldn't stop the smile that was threatening to break on my face.

I slid open his closet/my ex-bed and pulled out a tee shirt and shorts to change into.

The moment I turned the off the lights, I crawled into his bed and cocooned myself inside the sheets.

Sorry Ichigo, you get the closet tonight.

It didn't take long before I dozed off.

The sound of a snoring elephant reverberated in my ears.

I sat up in the bed and groggily rubbed my eyes. Sunlight was already streaming in through the window, but I had no idea what time it was.

When I stepped down from Ichigo's bed, I felt something soft beneath my foot.

"OW!" somebody grunted from under me. I quickly retracted my leg and peered over the edge.

On the floor was Ichigo's sprawled body; he was stripped down to a ribbed tank top and shorts. He rubbed his back as he slowly rose from the ground.

"What the hell are you doing on the ground like that? You scared the shit out of me!" I shouted. He dismissively stretched out his arms.

An extended yawn was projected from his mouth. "Would you stop that squawking? It's the morning. And I didn't want to wake you up so I slept on the flo-" He paused, then squinted at me. "-is that my shirt?"

I looked down at my clothes. "Yes…no...maybe." I quickly pulled the sheets over my shoulders to cover what I was wearing.

Ichigo growled at me. "Why are you sleeping in my clothes?"

I narrowed my eyes. "I can't steal from Yuzu forever you know!"

"So you thought that you'd steal from me instead? Give it back!" he demanded as he tugged at the sheets. I finally stopped struggling and let him pull the covers off. He staggered backwards and crashed into the closet.

"Fine you want it? Here!" I pretended to pull his shirt off by lifting up the hem.

Ichigo turned bright red and held out a hand. "Okay fine whatever, just keep it on!" he grumbled. I beamed triumphantly.

He got back up and began to walk out in a huffy manner, but his figure suddenly paused and lingered by the door frame. "Yuzu's probably cooking breakfast right now. So if you're hungry you can come down and eat."

I didn't respond.

Ichigo exhaled and scratched his head. "Look, about yesterday- can we just forget about the whole thing? It was stupid and-"

"I have something to say," I finally managed to squeak out.

He turned around to face me. "You really don't have to. I'd actually prefer it if you didn't-"

"I like somebody too," I burst out before I could change my mind.

"What?" His body immediately stiffened. He only stared at me. I got up off his bed and took several long strides toward him. Two could play this game.

"Yeah…he's kind of dumb, but he makes up for it by always being there for me," I breathed out. Ichigo leaned his shoulder against the wall and scoffed petulantly.

"You…like somebody," he pronounced slowly.

I rolled my eyes as I began to comb the tangles out of my hair with my fingers. "Actually, he's really dumb. So dumb that sometimes I need to literally beat some common sense into his thick skull."

"And you're sure that you're in love with this guy," he said sarcastically.

I glared at him. "Uh huh, even if he is incapable of being sweet. He's hard-headed, and always jumps into things before looking. I hate his impulsivity-"

"Gee, seems like a person you normally wouldn't get along with," he interrupted bitterly. He waved his hand and stood up straight. "Look Rukia, I'm sorry but I can't listen to this-"

"Let me finish you insensitive jerk!" I huffed as I pulled him back. He looked unwilling, but he didn't move another muscle. I took a deep breath. "I hate how he's reckless, but he's only reckless because he listens to his heart. And he has a really good one." I smiled to myself. "Of all people, I didn't think that I would end up feeling so strongly for such a fool…" Tears began to prick at my eyes as I thought of all the stupid and wonderful things Ichigo has ever done for me.

"Rukia…" Hurt flashed in his eyes. "Don't…"

I bit the bottom of my lip. I decided that I had to let him off the hook now, otherwise I'd probably either burst out laughing or break down bawling. Neither of which I wanted him to see.

I curled my fingers around the drawstring of his shorts. "Here's a hint," I whispered, collecting all the courage I had. "He has funny coloured hair."

I nervously waited for his reaction.

Ichigo's face twisted as he registered what I had just said.

"Wait-" He jerked backwards. "You're in love with Renji?"


I stared at him incredulously.


Could he be any more obtuse?

He began to pace around with his hands gripping at his hair. "I knew it! Of course you'd fall in love with your best friend. He's rash, he's a total dumbass, and what is up with that hair? But you've known him your entire life, and I guess I've sort of figured because you two were always together and… how could I be so stupid?"

I waited impatiently for him to stop fidgeting. But when he didn't, I extended my arm out and aggressively fisted the cloth of his shirt. His eyes widened in surprise. "No you moron! I like you! You and that useless pea-brain of yours! Not Renji, not Ishida…" A look of bewilderment crossed his face.

Ichigo then put a hand over my fist and unclamped it from his shirt. I felt his eyes settle on me. "Rukia."

He could probably hear my heartbeat at this point.

"…not Chad, not Head Captain Yamamoto for God's sake, not-"


"What?" I snapped.

"You're still a complete bitch," he scowled. His arms slipped under the shirt I was wearing and wrapped around my waist tightly. "And you still talk way too much."

He was gazing at me too intensely now. I turned my head to hide the blush that was furiously creeping on my cheeks. "Well you have orange hair!" I grumbled feverishly.

"Is it okay if I kiss you right now?" he murmured.

I felt my face heat up. "Why would you ask?"

"Because I don't want you to hit me agai- OW!"



Meanwhile, Karin and Yuzu chewed on their eggs silently as another loud crash was heard from upstairs.

Yuzu was the first to speak up. "Maybe we should check up on them or something…I'm getting a little worried."

Karin put another forkful in her mouth. "Don't bother, they're always like this. Come on, Ichigo's a teenager. Ugh, it's so gross."

Another thunk echoed throughout the house. Yuzu looked up at the ceiling nervously. "Karin! Ichigo isn't like that! And it sounds awfully lou-"









Did Kon finally find a paradise where he could ogle at women all day?

Anyway, I should probably get my head out of my ass and write something serious for once, but in the mean time, please leave a review :)