I actually wrote this for the Ichiruki calendar on Deviant Art. It was the August entry and BlancaVenus did the accompanying art piece. It was supposed to be for the 'erotic' calendar but... yeah. We both failed. Epically. Go here if you'd like to see the picture:
(Just take the enter spaces out)
Title: Culinary Confessions
Author: MeteorLeopard (HoneyBadger)
In truth, Ichigo really did try. It was to be commended, the way he so bravely raised the chopsticks to his mouth, the congealed piece of... something, gripped gingerly between them.
Ichigo was trying hard not to breathe. The food smelled odd, rather like overcooked butter or fried watermelon. The theory was that if he didn't smell it, he wouldn't taste it. After all, didn't all food taste bland when one had a cold and therefore a blocked nose?
Why did he have to be the only one to suffer such treatment? The useless father, Karin and Yuzu weren't here to endure this with him. Some or other 'prior engagements' as they put it. But Ichigo knew that Karin had caught sight of Rukia's attempt at cooking and swiftly made plans to spend the evening with her soccer buddies. Yuzu - as sweet as she was - didn't stick around either. When Ichigo had tried to follow their example and say that Keigo had invited him out to go bowling or something else equally inane, Isshin had intervened.
As such, here he was, faced with a full plate of Rukia's finest culinary creations and expected to eat it. All of it.
The lavender-eyed cook was sitting at the table across from him, staring intently at the piece of meat - Ichigo assumed that it was meat - and waiting for him to put it into his mouth. His eyebrow twitched. Quite honestly, half of him actually wanted to taste it. He'd watched her prepare the food and the whole process had been so stereotypically 'Rukia' that he was curious about it now. She'd been so excited about Yuzu giving her a chance to cook in the kitchen and had taken to her task of making supper for two with gusto. Over the past few days Yuzu had been teaching Rukia how to cook. At the beginning it had been a freaking disaster. Ichigo still remembered Yuzu squealing about how the eggshells were not supposed to join the egg in the pan. Rukia had replied that she'd figured it'd be crunchier and more egg-citing that way. Now Rukia had tried to prove her mettle on her own without Yuzu's help. Why Rukia had chosen probably one of the hottest summer nights to stand in front of a stove and cook Ichigo would never know. Didn't she realise that she'd only made the whole house hot like that? Even fans weren't helping. Ichigo could feel sweat beginning to form on his back, making his shirt stick to his skin. He'd need a shower later.
In her preparations, Rukia had donned a customized apron sporting an image of Chappy with a knife. Oddly enough, the Chappy rabbit had orange hair and held an object that was somewhat comparable to a butcher's knife. Ichigo tried to think that Rukia wasn't hinting at anything. Her purple eyes had been glowing as she'd arranged the vegetables in a row, each lined up for the chopping block. Then she'd hacked the vegetation to bits with a precision that made Ichigo think that each veggie had done her a personal offense and were now being punished accordingly. That done, she'd hummed in glee as she wondered aloud which of the dissected organisms should be fried and sizzled first.
It had been a violent procedure. But Ichigo had watched the entire show from across the kitchen with a kind of horrified fascination. When the steam had changed colour he'd begun to fidget. He almost wanted to suggest take-out instead, but Rukia had just looked so... happy working on the meal that he hadn't had the heart to do it.
Now he was paying for his kindness. His plate was loaded. Apparently Yuzu hadn't managed to teach Rukia how to estimate portion sizes yet. Some of the unidentifiable - and distinctly oily - sauce was dripping slugglishly onto the table where it was hardening into something lumpy. Ichigo shuddered. He really didn't want to eat this.
"Hey, Rukia," he ventured. "Don't you think that you should take the first bite? I mean, you did cook it. It's only right." Perhaps if she ate it first and saw how disgusting it was she wouldn't make him eat it.
Rukia's expectant expression fell and reverted into its default displeased frown. "Idiot," she admonished him in that domineering way. "I can't take the first bite because I cooked it."
"Huh? How does that work?"
Rukia sighed tiredly, as though she were talking to a slow person. "Listen, I cooked it for you, therefore you have to eat it first. Simple as that."
"Where the hell did you get that concept from?" Ichigo's gaze fell back to the chunk of food in his chopsticks. He wasn't sure, but it might be bubbling.
"I read about it in this book," Rukia mentioned flippantly, brushing his comment off. "Anyway, eat. It's getting cold." Like anything could get cold in this heat.
Taking a fortifying breath, Ichigo steeled his will. It was better to get it over with. Bringing the chopsticks to his lips quickly, he opened his mouth and had the blob of goo halfway in when he caught a whiff of it. An automatic gag reflex kicked in and - protecting itself from foreign substances - Ichigo's body rejected the toxic waste.
"No way! No way am I eating that! It smells worse than rat pee!" It took a minute for him to realise that he'd actually said that out loud. When he did, he almost expected the ticked off face that was now looming over him. Rukia had stood up - though her short height made this seem like a rather irrelevant gesture - and had her hands slammed onto the wooden tabletop. Ichigo could almost see the threatening aura swirling around her.
"Excuse me?" Rukia's voice implied that she'd heard exactly what he'd said.
Hurriedly, Ichigo tried backpedalling. "What I'm saying is that... it doesn't look right." It sounded like more of a question than anything else.
"I did it exactly like Yuzu taught me," Rukia retorted, still clearly miffed. "And you haven't tried it yet either. You can't complain until you've tasted it." With a determined scowl set firmly in place, Rukia took up her own pair of chopsticks like a weapon for battle and plunged them deep into the sticky mess on her own plate. A gob of goo came away with an ominous squelching sound. Rukia's eyes fixed on him and Ichigo flinched. He could almost hear the static transmission from her brain saying: Target Acquired. Lock On.
"Eat." She commanded.
Ichigo drew back quickly, his arms raised to block the oncoming chopsticks. "No."
"Eat," Rukia repeated, leaning over the table now to try and shove the chopsticks into his mouth.
"I said no! Like hell I'm letting you feed me! Stay away from me, woman! You'll take my eye out with those sticks!"
"Well then stay still and I won't have to!" Lunging over the table, Rukia slammed one of her hands into his shoulders and making the tilted chair topple backwards. Ichigo felt the jolt as his back hit the floor and then he saw the ceiling for an instant before a Rukia's angry face obscured it. Pinning him, Rukia finally managed to shove the piece of her cooking into his gaping mouth. Then, tossing the chopsticks over her shoulder, she clamped her hand onto the bottom of his jaw to keep it shut and the other over his nose. "Chew or Choke," she hissed malevolently into his ear.
The taste was hideous. Even with his nose forcefully shut and unable to smell, Ichigo could literally feel the concoction burning away his taste buds with a muffled fizz. Ichigo could almost feel his muscles go into spasms because of it. He was running out of air but he refused to swallow. Who knew what would happen if he actually swallowed that? Food poisoning would be the least of his troubles!
"I'm not letting go until you swallow," Rukia threatened. "I don't care if you pass out or not! I'll make you swallow."
She poked him in the side then and Ichigo, not expecting that, lurched forward. Involuntarily, he swallowed. Satisfied, Rukia released his jaw and nose. Spluttering, Ichigo gasped for breath, trying to suck in as much precious oxygen as his deprived lungs would allow him to. Coughing, he turned on the diminutive woman who was still pinning him down. "Are you freaking trying to kill me?!"
Rukia sat up then, crossing her arms over her chest and looking rather proud of herself. "Well, you wouldn't eat. I had to force you."
"Anyway, how did you manage to cook this so badly? I didn't think anybody would mess up more in the kitchen than Inoue, but apparently you can. What is this? It's disgusting! The worst I've ever eaten! If I die now it's your fault." He knew he was throwing a tantrum and just making himself look silly, but he had to get his opinion on this out. Rukia, however, seemed to find it amusing.
"You're already half dead, idiot," she pointed out.
That smug tone made Ichigo grit his teeth. She'd attacked first. He was justified in biting back. "Well, your cooking is helping the other half along. It's toxic!"
"So it's not perfect yet," Rukia said airily, dismissing his words. "Get over it and eat." She gestured to the table top as she spoke. Ichigo craned his neck to try and glimpse the top of the table, though that was impossible from his position on the floor, still sitting in the overturned chair with his backside on the seat of the chair, now standing vertically with the legs sticking out horizontally into the air. He did however catch sight of the edge of his piled plate still sitting neatly on the table. Somehow Rukia had managed to lunge over the table and knock him and his chair backwards while still avoiding the food on the table. What the heck?
"Come now," she said again, grabbing hold of his collar with one hand and lifting half of his body up. "The longer you wait the colder it's going to get." With her second hand, she took hold of his pair of discarded chopsticks and, reaching up towards to table, picked up another mouthful. Ichigo felt his stomach roll in protest just at the sight of the gunk.
"No way! Stop it! I refuse! Damn it, midget! I said stop! I'm not eating that poison!" Ichigo was batting her hands away, trying to keep the 'food' as far away from him as possible.
"It's not poison!" Rukia protested, looking angry and only getting more determined to shove the stuff down his throat.
"Damn straight it is! Besides, how do you not know how to cook? I'd figured Byakuya would have made sure you knew how to cook so that you'd make a good bride someday!"
Rukia's bristles went up, as they always did when he called Byakuya by his name. "Do not refer to nii-sama so casually! And I'm perfectly fine as a bride! You take that back!" Briefly, Ichigo thought that she looked rather cute with her one cheek puffed out in a childish pout. Then she shoved the vile-smelling stuff under his nose again and any such sweet thoughts were flushed away.
"I refuse! Damn it, get off of me, woman! You're so violent! You definitely won't make a good bride!"
"I will! And it has nothing to do with you, idiot! Besides, you'd make a terrible husband!"
"And I don't give a damn!" Ichigo had one hand on her face and was holding it away from himself now. Anything to keep the midget - and the food - away! "You're still the worst for marriage! Ow! Stop hitting me!"
Rukia was flailing blindly. Ichigo wasn't even sure where the chopsticks had gone to but just in case she was still holding them he was going to keep her away. Rukia was spitting mad. "Get used to it! Whoever you marry will be driven to hit you eventually! You idiot! And my food isn't so bad!"
"It so is! And whoever marries you will run away because of this poison! Besides, you're the only one violent enough to actually hit me! Get off of me, maniac!"
"You jerk!" she screeched. "There are others who'd hit you! Besides, if I was your wife, I would poison your food!"
"Yeah? Well if you were my wife I'd eat it!"
"No tact!" Rukia yelled, getting a grip on Ichigo's cheek and tugging hard until he yelped. "With that kind of mouth nobody will look at you twice!"
"Who cares! Now get off!" With a final shove, Ichigo managed to get the small woman dislodged and sat up quickly, huffing. "Like a freaking pitbull terrier dog. Never let go."
She was glaring at him, her lips turned down into a pout and her eyebrows pulled into an unhappy frown. She wiped at her chin with the back of her hand. Somehow, during the tussle, the chopsticks had been tossed away and were now lying forgotten on the couch. Yuzu wouldn't like that.
Rukia crossed her arms again. She was obviously still sulking. "I could be a good wife."
Ichigo only rolled his eyes. "Right. I'm sure you could."
"I could!" she insisted, getting up and bearing down on him, making use of the opportunity to be taller than him while he was still sitting on the floor. Her small hands were curled into delicate fists and shaking angrily. Ichigo almost smiled. She was a small creature but she probably packed more punch than anyone else that he knew. "Okay, so maybe I can't cook," Rukia muttered, still disgruntled, "but here's other things a wife is good at."
For some reason, Ichigo found his mind slipping to entirely inappropriate gutters. Rukia looked at him in concern, leaning forward. "Is something wrong, Ichigo? Your face is red."
"Ah, no-" He was stuttering, he knew it. His mind scrambled for a way to divert her attention to anywhere but him. "So, the other things that a wife is good at..." He trailed off, hoping that she'd take the hint and carry on with the conversation.
Rukia was still looking at him a little oddly, but she began counting them off on her fingers regardless. "Like laundry. Or sewing. Then there's also shopping, flower arranging, bearing children-"
Again, his face lit up like a Christmas Tree. He couldn't help it. The whole situation was just so awkward and somehow the idea of Rukia as a wife was just...
Rukia had no problem with the topic though and had apparently already lost interest. She was frowning down at her clothing, noticing for the first time a few stains. Apparently her dive over the table hadn't been as clean as she'd hoped. Brown sauce was smeared over the front of her dress and on the hem of the bottom. "What a mess," she muttered, tugging on the fabric. "Ichigo, I'm going to shower. Clean this up," she said, pointing to the kitchen in general.
Ichigo was about to speak up and tell her to clean her own damn mess when he noticed that she'd already left. He could vaguely hear her footsteps ascending the stairs to the bathroom. Sighing in irritation and scratching his head, Ichigo warily eyed the kitchen. It looked like it had seen a massacre of vegetables and meat. Then there was the mess that Rukia had made trying to get him to eat the product of said massacre.
Well, at least he didn't have to eat it anymore.
Most of the cleaning went quickly. He could scratch most of the food into the bin, wipe off the counters and toss away the wrappers, but the stove proved to be a formidable adversary. Brandishing the scrubbing brush, Ichigo only barely managed to make a dent in the thick grime that had accumulated on its surface throughout Rukia's stint in the kitchen.
Finally finished with his task and wondering why on earth he'd even obeyed the midget in the first place, Ichigo trotted up the stairs himself and let himself into his dark bedroom. He didn't bother putting on the light. He knew where everything was and the moon was shining in through the gap in his curtains, giving him enough light to see by. Swiftly tugging on a loose shirt and pants to sleep in, Ichigo flopped onto his bed, his back hitting the mattress with a dull thud. It was therapeutic to lie in the silence. For the first time in a few hours, he was able to collect his thoughts.
His reverie was broken rather subtly by the soft creak of his door opening. Light from the passage spilled in and Ichigo cracked an eye open on reflex although he was almost certain that it would be Rukia returning from her shower; he'd heard the water running until a moment ago. He'd go for a shower next. It was still stinking hot.
It was Rukia, as he'd suspected, and the girl entered the room, towelling her damp hair and padding over the wooden floors on bare feet. Her legs were bare too, he noted idly as his eyes climbed up her frame. Her dress was too short and too baggy to be one of her normal ones. In fact, it was barely reaching her mid-thigh. The sleeves were too long for her he noticed as he watched her push them back over her arms. He could almost feel the weight of his heart in his chest grow heavier and his breathing become difficult as he absorbed the sight. Then his upbringing - respect women - that his father had beaten into him kicked in. Mortified, Ichigo shot upright on his bed, eyes wide open as he stared at the midget. "What do you think you're wearing?"
Rukia looked up at him, confused as to his scandalised tone. "A shirt that I found in your cupboard. Is that a problem?"
Ichigo was having trouble stringing two sentences together. "Damn right it is! Who said you could wear my shirt? And women shouldn't show that much skin until they're married! Put some pants on!"
Rukia was looking at him as though she was somehow pitying him. "You've been really fixated on that all day, Ichigo. Don't tell me... this is your way of proposing to me?"
All blood drained from Ichigo's face as shock made him feel faint. He was choking on his words and shaking his head. Rukia was still standing over him beside his bed, hands on her hips and a questioning frown on her face. Her eyes, Ichigo noted through his panic, weren't on his anymore though. Instead they were travelling over his body and she was leaning to the side, as though trying to get a better view. Then her hand shot out and yanked his shirt up.
"Wha-" Ichigo felt himself being shoved back into the mattress before a soft weight settled onto him. His shirt was still being shoved over his head. Registering that he was in fact being attacked, Ichigo managed to grasp hold of the hands twisting his shirt over his head and force them down. Rukia's head popped up, disgruntled at being interrupted.
"Stop moving, Ichigo," she instructed in all seriousness.
"Like hell I can stop moving! What are you doing?" It was an awkward position to be sure. It was costing Ichigo all his might to focus on Rukia's face instead of allowing his mind to dwell on exactly how she was sitting on him. Rukia, however, was still showing no signs of discomfort whatsoever. In fact, she seemed rather content where she was, trying to rip his shirt off.
The girl had lost interest in his fit and had again lifted his shirt and was shoving his torso to the side, exposing his ribs. "Where is it?" she muttered to herself before changing tactics and twisting Ichigo around the other way.
"Where is what, you crazy wench?"
Ichigo drew a blank on that, trying to understand. "What ring?"
This was apparently worth Rukia's attention since she lowered his shirt again and returned both hands to safer territory, though she still remained sitting on him. "The one that you're going to propose with." Ichigo wasn't breathing anymore. "Isn't that what happens in the World of the Living? The man carries around a ring in a classy velvet box and waits until the right moment to propose? So where did you hide it? Or did you stash it somewhere in your room?"
It was her expectant face that finally cracked him. She took it all so seriously, misread the whole situation and fabricated a romance from the stories that she took to be absolutely true. And then to top it off, she was convinced that she was right. All previous awkwardness forgotten, Ichigo threw his head back and laughed. He laughed until his sides hurt and his chest was heaving and tears were gathering on the corners of his eyes. It was even funnier when Rukia slapped him and called him an idiot, demanding that he stop laughing at once and tell her where the ring was.
"I don't have a ring!" he blurted between gasping breaths. He still found it all hilarious. "Me? Marry you? Oh, that's priceless. If you're looking for a ring from me, you're going to be waiting a long time, Rukia." He'd calmed down by now and the haze of hilarity was fading. He saw Rukia's face still hovering above him in the semi-darkness of his room but for the first time he noticed the hint of humiliation swimming in her eyes. The corners of her mouth were twitching like she was fighting to keep a straight face. The hands fisted into the collar of his shirt that were lifting him up - he hadn't even noticed when she'd grabbed onto him - were shaking.
"Who..." Her words trailed off softly towards the end and Ichigo pushed himself up to support himself with his arms. Concern was beginning to nibble at his conscience.
Her head snapped up to meet his; teeth gritted and eyes furious as she roared, "Who the hell wants to be your wife?!" Shoving him roughly, she vaulted from him and was out the door before Ichigo gained his bearings.
It was much too hot to sleep. Even with the window open, the summer air was making it impossible to doze off. Stickiness in the air and a clenching guilt in his gut was making Ichigo restless. Rukia still hadn't returned to the room and Ichigo kept tossing hopeful glances at the door every time that he heard a sound. Most of the time it was just him imagining things, he knew. His reaction to Rukia's misunderstanding had been harsher than he'd thought, apparently. But he'd figured she'd shrug it off and make up some kind of ridiculous excuse that she'd try to pull off with that unimpressed pokerface of hers.
Ichigo's stomach growled again, reminding him that after the fiasco in the kitchen, he still hadn't eaten anything. His skin was sweaty from the heat but he couldn't quite summon up the enthusiasm needed to go take a shower. His stomach protested again and, sighing, Ichigo finally pushed himself from his bed and set his feet on the floor. He'd go into the kitchen, scavenge something from the fridge and then go back to bed. Perhaps exhaustion would get the better of him and finally make him pass out despite the summer humidity.
Scratching his head, Ichigo descended the steps and entered the kitchen. The blast of cool air from the refrigerator was a blessing and for a minute or two he simply stood in front of the open door, soaking in the cold mist. Knowing that Yuzu would kill him should the contents defrost, Ichigo took a tupperware of some of Yuzu's leftover cooking, planning to eat it cold regardless of how it tasted. It was as he was straightening up again from bending down to the fridge that he caught sight of Rukia lying on the couch. She was still only wearing his shirt. Now that she was still and he wasn't totally unprepared, he could appreciate that she looked good in it. Very good. She appeared to be dozing with both of her hands tucked beneath her head and her legs curled slightly. Now that he thought about it, the lounge was actually cooler than his small bedroom.
Walking towards the girl with the food still in his hand, Ichigo leaned over the back of the couch to watch the girl for a while. She really was pretty, even if she still retained a bit of her scowl in her sleep. "How long are you going to stare at me, idiot?"
Her eyes had opened and she was staring up at him, watching him watch her. A wry grin made its way onto Ichigo's face. "So you can't sleep either." It was more of a statement than a question. Rukia nodded regardless, making herself sit up. She patted the cushion next to her, inviting him to join her. Setting the tupperware down on the low coffee table, Ichigo took the offered seat. Both stayed silent, staring off into their own respective spaces, trying to clear their minds enough for sleep to take them.
"You know," Rukia began, her soft voice seemingly very loud in the quiet house. "Shinigami in the Soul Society don't really get married. Not often, that is. We're… too busy killing things to worry about settling down."
Ichigo allowed that to sink in for a while. Perhaps marriage was more of an impossibility for her than he'd thought. Now that he thought about it, weren't all of the books that Rukia read here in the World of the Living about romance and love that defied the odds? Ichigo sighed, tilting his head so that he looked up at the ceiling instead. She really was a closet-romantic in every sense of the word. "Idiot. Getting married doesn't mean you have to settle down."
He felt more than saw Rukia turn her eyes towards him questioningly, so he elaborated. "If both people are Shinigami, then they can stay busy together. Or something like that."
A soft smile settled onto Rukia's lips then and Ichigo watched from the corner of his eye as she seemed to relax again. "So cheesy."
"Shut it, midget."
Their eyes met for a moment in a fond way, a kind of underlying promise passing between them.
Then Rukia delivered a sharp jab from her elbow to Ichigo's gut, making him yelp in pain and double over. Smirking, Rukia fixed her violet eyes on him. "Don't call me a midget."
So, that was my attempt at Ichiruki. Do leave a review on your way out. :)