100 – Distance
Prompt: New Ideas
After Ichigo's visit to Kyoto, life settled into its tracks for the both of them. Rukia kept up with her studies, going to the cram school and doing the exercises administered there almost every evening. She was also in contact on a daily basis. Mostly they just mailed one another, but at least once a week there was a long phone call during which they openly discussed everything and anything, like what they had been doing that day, how the band and the friends were doing, how her studies were progressing and so forth.
The long distance relationship didn't trouble either of them. In a sense, it allowed them to be more open and relaxed with one another, than they probably could have been if they were in the same room. They needed the distance to repair the trust, to really start from square one. And most importantly, they needed the time for themselves. Ichigo was incredibly busy just now, it felt like there was always a gig to prepare for, and if there wasn't, he was working on a new album with Hisagi and the band. He had jokingly told Rukia that at least their fight had some positive consequences; the emotional turmoil had really boosted his inspiration to write.
Rukia probably needed both the time and distance even more than Ichigo did. She had to learn to accept herself – all of herself – before she could even consider committing to a relationship. The problems she had with her own identity would not magically go away if she got together with Ichigo. She couldn't be truly happy with him, if she was not happy with herself. So while maintaining her contact with Ichigo and preparing for the university entrance exams, she continued on her path to self-discovery.
She did at times visit Tokyo, but she always stayed over at Tatsuki's place. Although Rukia and Ichigo had admitted that their feelings for one another were still there, both felt more comfortable to keep their current relationship platonic. When the time was right, they'd take the step together again, but for now there was still so much they needed to work out, both regarding their relationship and their individual matters.
And just like that, the weeks turned into months. Ichigo and the band finished their album, which only made things more hectic for them, because now they had more gigs to perform. He still made time for their phone calls, though.
Finally, January arrived, and Rukia attended the first set of university entrance exams. She had the determination and motivation to match her preparation, so she consciously chose to ignore the fierce competition and what would happen if she didn't qualify. Idle worries would not enhance her performance.
She apparently did well, because some time later she was invited to the second set of exams, these ones administered by the University of Tokyo itself. After that, all she could do was wait.
In March, things were finally quieting down a bit for Deathberry, and Ichigo was looking forward to spending the whole day just lazying about at home, when the doorbell rang. Cursing, he went to open to the door, only to find to his utter surprise Rukia standing on his doorstep. Her deep violet eyes were sparkling and she appeared to be breathless. Ichigo's heart lurched; she had never appeared more beautiful to him as she did that moment. The next thing he knew, she had thrown her arms around his neck and plastered her lips firmly only his. Through his complete confusion and bafflement, Ichigo could feel the pure joy the woman absolutely radiated. He found out the reason for that, when she finally stopped the blissful kiss to catch her breath, and managed to excitedly gasp one single, short sentence.
"I got in."
101 – Very Well
Ichigo was still surprised – although purely positively so – of Rukia appearing on his doorstep like that; without a warning. He congratulated her for her achievement, getting into Toudai was no small feat after all. Then he noticed she was carrying a bag, and asked her about it, one eyebrow quizzically raised. She shrugged and told him that now that she needed to move into Tokyo, she figured it was easier to commandeer Ichigo's spare room once again than to start looking for an apartment. Ichigo blinked. Rukia laughed, and gave him a few more lingering kisses, before rushing off to tell her good news to Tatsuki, Miyu, and everyone else. Ichigo was left to stand in his own doorway, feeling more than a little foolish, and to ponder on all the implications of the things Rukia had just told and did to him.
Her kissing him like that and declaring that she was moving back in with him quite obviously meant that they were back together for real. That they were past the healing and the platonic relationship, that they had reached the point where they had been once before, all those months ago, before the fight had broken everything down. Now they could finally move forward, and brave the future together.
He smirked briefly when he heard Tatsuki's excited squeal from down the hall. Leaning to look into the corridor, he saw the two dark-haired girls hugging another, before heading to the elevators, obviously intending to go upstairs to Hisagi's and Miyu's apartment. Ichigo was sure that there would be quite a lot of celebrating to be done tonight, and while he very much wanted to go join his friends – and his girlfriend – there was still a lone thought bothering him that held him back.
He couldn't help but to wonder if Rukia had been open with her brother about her plans of moving to Tokyo and to his apartment. He knew even after several visits and dinners spent at the Kuchiki mansion, Byakuya still didn't hold him in high regard. He was fairly sure that the Kuchiki patriarch was not happy about the development of their relationship.
He shook his head, grabbed his keys, and headed to Hisagi's.
Ichigo woke up early the next morning, and spend a few tranquil minutes admiring the petite woman sleeping by his side. He got up, taking care not to wake Rukia up, and scribbled her a note in the kitchen. He left the apartment and headed for the train station, only pausing to get a few convenience store onigiri for breakfast.
He took the bullet train to Osaka, and stood once again behind the intimidating gates of the Kuchiki mansion in less time than he had desired to. He felt nervous about the impending encounter, but felt it was necessary – Kuchiki Byakuya was an old-fashioned man. Co-habitation was rare enough, and he fairly sure Rukia's brother did not appreciate her living together with him, especially when he knew the scepticism and distaste by which Byakuya viewed his chosen profession. Ichigo'd rather tell him the news himself, than let him learn about the turn of events in the headlines. He knew too well how insulting that could be.
Thus he found himself, sitting in Byakuya's office, trying to find the right words by which he could somehow convince the scoffing businessman that he was serious about Rukia. He told the man that he fully planned on marrying Rukia one day, but that he'd rather wait until Rukia would get her degree before taking that big step. He explained that they both still had plenty of growing up to do, and though they were committed to one another, their relationship was still so young that he felt it needed some time to grow and deepen. Finally, he boldly declared that he loved Rukia.
Then, a nervous silence filled the room, and he tried hard to fight an urge to squirm until Byakuya finally responded with a small nod and a neutral "Very well."
102 – Sweet Treat
Four years later…
Rukia put down her book and stretched in hers and Ichigo's bed. It was getting late, but she had trouble sleeping, she could never sleep well when Ichigo was away. This time he was out touring in Hokkaido, he had called earlier that evening to tell how the latest gig had went.
She was sincerely happy that the band was doing so great even after all these years. They had released a new album just six months ago, and Rukia knew how hard Ichigo had worked for it. Still, she kinda wished Ichigo was home. She was bored, and boredom let her mind wander, and her thoughts were poor company.
In just few short weeks, Rukia would finally get her Bachelor's degree, after four years of studying international business at Toudai. The thought made her feel over the moon and utterly terrified – both at the same time. Although her plans after the university were clear, she still felt a little apprehensive about the impending change. Such transitions in life were always filled with a sense of bittersweetness. She had really enjoyed her life as a student, and though she was ready to put it behind and take a step into the true adult world, she felt wistful and nervous about the future.
Still, she was in a very fortunate position – she already had a job waiting for her: as the director of the International Sales department at the Tokyo office of the K Group. That she was looking forward to working in the corporation her family owned, really showed how she had finally come to terms with herself and her heritage. Of course, she knew she would be facing a rough start. People would not appreciate having a brat fresh out of university as a department director. Her being a woman on top of that would not help, and her surname and obvious connections to the company president would send the tongues wagging for sure. Yet, Rukia was not intimidated. She would just need to show that she had earned the position by her merit, not by nepotism.
She had grown closer to her brother since she had moved out to Tokyo – which was curious in itself. Gaining her independence and being allowed to make her own rules instead of following his had improved their relationship tremendously. Still, despite their close ties, Rukia knew just too well that her brother was not the kind of a man who showed favouritism towards anyone. He was a proud man who lived by a strict code of honour.
The doorbell rang, startling Rukia from her thoughts. She looked at the alarm clock by the bedside table, and the glowing numbers declared it was already quarter to midnight. Who the hell was out there in the middle of the night?
Rukia frowned and padded across the living room. When she peeked through the fish-eye, she gasped and then yanked the door open.
"What the hell are you doing back?"
Ichigo smirked and pulled her into a crushing hug.
"I missed you, too," he told her dryly.
Rukia kissed him full on the lips and then pulled back.
"I didn't expect you back until tomorrow! Wasn't your last gig tonight?!"
"It was, but it ended at nine and I rushed straight to the airport after it."
"Why?" she asked, one eyebrow arching in question.
"Because I missed you," he shrugged. He stepped into their apartment and pulled the front door shut. He dug around his bag for a while, before he straightened with something in his hand.
"I brought you a souvenir."
Rukia smiled as she picked up the cup of chocolate pudding. She found Ichigo's thoughtfulness touching. She went to grab a spoon from the kitchen and went to the living room and plopped down to her armchair. She tore the lid open, fully intending on enjoying the sweet treat – only to discover that there was none. The cup was spotless clean, even on the inside.
Rukia frowned and was about to tell Ichigo off about his ill prank, when she noticed it.
She reached in and pulled out a whitegold ring that had an oval amethyst set in the middle, accentuated by smaller diamonds. It was simple, elegant and the colours complimented her.
She pulled her gaze off the ring and turned to pin Ichigo down with her stare.
"Is this what I think it is?"
"What else would it be?" was his casual reply, accompanied by an equally casual shrug.
"So that's it, then?" she asked, torn between indignation and amusement.
"Yeah, I think it was about time. So are you going to put it on, or what?"
Rukia laughed and slid the ring onto her finger, completely disarmed by her infuriating boyfriend-turned-fiancé.
"Come here, you," she told him, reaching from her seat to pull him off the couch and into her armchair.