Strangers in a Cell

Summary: A spy from an enemy nation and a citizen with too much honor are thrown into a cell, awaiting execution. Not all is as it seems and the light of day brings only despair. Rukia Kuchiki and Ichigo Kurosaki may be strangers but it will only last for one night. AU. IchiRuki Lemon

Disclaimer: Kubo-sensei owns Bleach and all characters, crushing the dreams of fanfic writers everywhere.

The prisoner gasped for air as her head was lifted out of the water. She took heavy breaths as her violet eyes glared up at her tormentor.

"Rukia Kuchiki," the interrogator sneered, "What is your purpose in this country? Give us the truth and you may yet be spared."

The raven haired young woman spat at the man's feet and continued to pant, knowing her fate was sealed regardless. The interrogator snapped his fingers and her face was pressed into the water again. She struggled to lift herself but two men held her down. Her nose and throat burned and just when she felt her body would succumb, she was pulled out again.

Again she gasped for air and glared at her tormentor, who gritted his teeth at her. "If you will not give us your purpose, then we will find another use for you," the interrogator said as he turned and walked away.

The moment he reached the door, Rukia felt a hand on her head and she was forced under once again.

A young man with bright orange hair sat in a dank cell, his hands bound. His simple robes were torn but still sturdy, and his face was bruised and cut. Dried blood lingered on his hands, whether it was his or not, he didn't know. A guard unlocked his cell and dragged him from the room.

He was forced to stand and march down the halls of the Lord's castle, the Lord his family has lived under all his life. His thoughts drifted back to the events that had played out that morning. Particularly, the petite woman with violet eyes lingered in his mind.

The young man soon found himself kneeling before the Lord of these lands, Genryusai Yamamoto. He was an old man with a long braided beard, but the look of his eyes held great power and determination. Beside him stood his most trusted general, Chojiro Sasakibe

A moment later, another door opened and Ichigo saw the guard dragging the raven haired woman into the room. Her arms were bound behind her back and her face was worn and wet, her hair matted. Her black robes were also torn but still held together well. She was forced to kneel before the Lord and it was obvious she had little strength to resist.

"Rukia Kuchiki," Yamamoto's powerful voice echoed, "You have been charged with attacking a member of my army and critically injuring him. Furthermore, we now know you are here to relay information about our clan back to your brother, the head of the Kuchiki Clan, Byakuya Kuchiki. Do you deny these accusations?"

Ichigo looked to the weary young woman and saw her take several deep breaths. She was obviously in a great deal of pain but she persevered nonetheless, it made Ichigo even more furious at his Lord.

Rukia lifted her head, her violet eyes hardening, remaining silent.

"Will you not answer, woman?!" the Lord shouted, "I am not asking you to try to justify your crimes. I only wish to know if you understand the gravity of your actions!"

Rukia lowered her head and nodded reluctantly. Ichigo shifted his gaze to his Lord and sneered. Sasakibe saw that look and glared at the young man but said nothing. A moment later, Yamamoto turned his gaze to Ichigo.

"You are Ichigo Kurosaki, the only son of Isshin Kurosaki. Am I correct?" Ichigo didn't dare to speak, only nod.

"I see," the Lord said, "Explain your reasoning for aiding this woman in attacking my men this morning, and I may yet spare your life."

Ichigo took a deep breath and replied, "I owed her a debt of gratitude. Nothing more."

Rukia's eyes shot to the orange haired youth, unsure of what he meant. Yamamoto noticed the captive woman's confusion and whispered to Sasakibe. The Lord's general slowly approached Ichigo and moved behind him. Ichigo felt his bonds being cut and he was pulled to his feet. Sasakibe pressed something into his hand.

Ichigo pulled his hand in front of him to see a tanto blade in his hand. As he stared at the knife, Sasakibe signaled to the guards surrounding Rukia.

Rukia struggled as one man held her head still and other pried her mouth open. A third man approached with a pair of iron tongs. They held her steady as the third man used the tongs to grasp Rukia's tongue. He pulled her tongue just passed her teeth and held her firm.

Ichigo's eyes widened as Yamamoto confirmed his fears. "If she will not speak then she is of no use to us. Prove your loyalty to our clan by cutting out her useless tongue."

Ichigo gripped the dagger tightly in his hand as he glared at his Lord, disgusted. The Lord returned the glare and said, "If your debt is repaid, then you owe nothing more to this woman. Now, prove yourself. Or do you wish for your family to be punished for your betrayal as well"

The orange haired youth gasped at the threat and turned to Rukia. He gazed into her violet eyes and saw no trace of fear, only understanding. She knew that her fate was decided and that this could be his only chance to save his family from execution as well. Ichigo's eyes hardened as he approached her.

He grasped the tongs used to hold her tongue and the guard backed away. One last time, he looked into Rukia's violet irises as he raised the knife. Rukia steeled herself but then she noticed something odd. Ichigo smiled gently at her and nodded firmly.

He suddenly smirked and released her tongue, throwing the tongs at the nearby guard, surprising him. The guards holding her head were stunned and didn't expect it when Ichigo turned on them. He smashed his foot into one of them and elbowed the other in the face. He then quickly grabbed Rukia's wrists and cut her free.

She leapt up and blocked an attack from another guard who was about to attack Ichigo with a wooden staff. She then expertly disarmed the guard before driving her foot into his chest and sending him tumbling backwards.

"Thanks," Ichigo said.

"Likewise," Rukia replied as the both readied themselves for another fight.

Ichigo readied the dagger in his hand and Rukia picked up the wooden staff the guard had dropped. Five guards drew their swords and surrounded the duo. Behind them, Sasakibe waited patiently as Yamamoto looked on from afar.

Ichigo glanced to Rukia and they exchanged and nod. They charged toward one of the guards, surprising him. Rukia quickly disarmed him with the staff while Ichigo punched him in the face. Whirling around, the orange haired youth quickly deflected the attack of another guard with the dagger while Rukia smashed the staff into the back of the attacker's head.

A third guard grabbed her staff and yanked it from her hands but she used that time to kick the offender in the stomach. While grunting in pain, Rukia tore his sword from his hand and beat his head with the hilt.

Meanwhile, Ichigo deflected the fourth guard and disarmed him. However, the guard took the offensive and slammed his shoulder into Ichigo's chest, knocking him back. The dagger slipped from Ichigo's hand but he managed to crash his elbow into the charging guards back. Grabbing the guard's shoulders, Ichigo drove his knee into his attacker's face and sent him falling backward.

Rukia turned to face the final guard but found her knees kicked forward and she fell to a kneeling position. Her hair was pulled back and a blade pressed to her throat.

Ichigo heard her grunt as she fell and he turned to see Sasakibe holding his sword to her neck. "Surrender at once. If you continue to resist," he pressed the blade harder into her, "I will be forced to cut her throat."

Ichigo clenched his fists but kneeled and said, "I surrender."

The moment he finished, one of the guards hit the back of his head and he was pinned to the ground. He felt his hands being bound again and he looked up to see that Rukia was being restrained as well. The guards picked them both up and forced them to kneel before Yamamoto once again.

The Lord stood and approached them. "Do you have an explanation for your actions, Ichigo Kurosaki?"

"She didn't do anything wrong," Ichigo answered immediately, "You expect me to cut out her tongue when I know she's innocent, just to save myself? Not in a hundred years would I lower myself to such a level."

Rukia's eyes quickly glanced to him and soften slightly. Ichigo's amber eyes also turned and he smiled at her before they both turned back to the Lord.

The old man glared down at them. "You foolish children. Did you think you would be able to escape from here?" Ichigo and Rukia glared up at him in defiance as a response. Yamamoto sighed and turned his gaze solely to Ichigo. "I presented you with a chance to regain your honor and you repay me with betrayal. Such an act will not go unpunished."

The Lord looked to his beaten men as they slowly began to recover. "However, out of respect for your bravery and your mercy toward my men, Ichigo Kurosaki, I will spare your family from suffering the same fate."

Although surprised, Ichigo felt such relief hearing that.

"Rukia Kuchiki. Ichigo Kurosaki," Yamamoto announced, "For your crimes against my clan, I sentence you to death by beheading. The sentence will be carried out tomorrow morning. Take them away."

The guards grabbed them both and dragged them away.

The guard's cut their bonds before throwing them into a cell together. Ichigo picked himself up and turned to his companion. Rukia was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall of the cell, panting.

"You okay?" Ichigo asked.

Rukia scoffed and replied, "Yeah, just peachy."

"Did they torture you?" he asked cautiously.

Rukia gave a light chuckle and smirked, "It wasn't as much of torture session as it was a lesson on how to hold my breath."

She continued to breath heavily, obviously worn out and exhausted. Ichigo huffed at her answer and sat down, leaning against an adjacent wall. All was silent aside from Rukia's strained breaths, which slowly began to quiet down. The stone walls of the cell were cool against their backs and the small light from the nearby candle provided just enough light for them to see.

High above them, a window with bars blew fresh air into the cell. However, the sky was overcast and the moon's rays couldn't reach them.

For several minutes, neither of them spoke, until Rukia broke the silence.

"So, why did a peasant like you come to my aid this morning?" She turned and smirked at him, "Or were you just looking to play the hero?"

Ichigo scoffed and grinned back at her. "You're one to talk. Defending those young girls and breaking that soldier's arm like you did."

Rukia shrugged her shoulders, "What was I supposed to do? Let him 'test out his new sword' on the girl that bumped into him?"

"Is that what he said?" Ichigo asked, narrowing his eyes, "You let the bastard off easy if you ask me."

"I don't think his arm's going to heal…ever. I'm pretty sure I left him permanently disfigured."

"Even that's too good for a bastard like him."

"I'd have done worse, given the chance. But some crazy haired punk got in my way." Rukia said with a grin.

"That what you call me rescuing you from that strangle hold his friend put you in?" Ichigo replied with a wave of his hand.

"I had him right where I wanted him, thank you very much!"

"I never figured you were into the whole strangling thing. Does it have to do with your shortness or is that just something you always fantasize about? Sorry if I messed up your fantasy by letting you breathe."

"Yeah, well. If you really wanted to help, you should have taken out those twenty reinforcements that came later. And it's not my fault you're a freakishly tall giant!"

"I'm of average height, thank you! And how was I supposed to take out the reinforcement when I didn't even have weapon!"

"Didn't stop you from charging them like an idiot, shouting at the top of your lungs."

"Need I remind you that you were right next to me the entire time?"

"Must have been your imagination," she said with a grin.

Ichigo's irritation faded and they shared a soft laugh before smiling at each other. Rukia crawled over to him and extended her hand. "I don't think we've been formally introduced."

Ichigo quickly took her hand and shook it. "Yeah. I'm Ichigo Kurosaki. What's your name, female spy?" He smirked at her, introductions when you already knew the other's name was pointless, but it helped take the tension off a bit.

"It's not 'female spy'. I'm Rukia Kuchiki." She smiled at him before returning to her spot across from him. "You know, you never told me why you helped me in the first place. Or was I right about the whole hero thing?"

Ichigo's face became stern and she kind of regretted asking but he replied, "Those girls you defended…were my younger sisters." Rukia's eyes widened as he continued. "I was on my way to pick them up when I noticed the commotion. And there you were, beating down the guy who was about to attack my family."

"I see," Rukia said, "So that's why you said you owed me a debt."

She sounded kind of disappointed, like she wanted to believe he came to help her for some other purpose. She felt kind of foolish really, thinking that a handsome young man had come to her aid completely of his own free will. After all, they were complete strangers, at least at the time. What would he gain by coming to her aid?

"I would've done it anyway."

Rukia's head snapped up as she looked to him, "Excuse me?"

"I said I would've come to help you anyway. I'm not about to just stand around while the guards attack an innocent traveler," Ichigo replied with a smile, "So don't worry about it so much."

Rukia lowered her head and she looked away. "I'm not exactly innocent." Ichigo raised an eyebrow as she continued, "What they said is true. My brother, Byakuya Kuchiki, sent me here to gather information about your clan."

She took a deep breath and turned back to him. "Recently, we've received reports about Yamamoto's soldiers encroaching upon neighboring lands. While my clan is still unaffected by these movements, my brother thought it best to send in someone expendable to see if the rumors were true."

"And what they hell does that mean?" Ichigo protested, "You're his sister aren't you? How can you call yourself expendable?" He seemed upset by her demeaning herself. Rukia smiled and felt somewhat comforted by his attitude.

"I'm a member of the Kuchiki Clan through my sister's marriage to Byakuya. He's actually my brother-in-law but since I was formally adopted by the clan after my sister's passing…" She shook her head and chuckled nervously, "Let's just say being a noble isn't as glamorous as it appears."

"Either way, it's wrong." Ichigo replied, shocking her. "I don't see how anyone, even if they're not related by blood, could treat their family as a pawn. It's just…wrong." He sighed and scratched the back of his head. "I mean, my family isn't exactly the picture of normalcy either, especially since my Mom's passing, but at least we all care about each other. "

"I suppose it would seem odd to you," Rukia surmised, "Unless you're born or adopted into a noble family, it wouldn't make much sense—".


"It's the truth. You don't know how the nobility see things…how the Kuchiki Clan views the world and the people around them." Her eyes were downcast and it made Ichigo scoff.

"I'm not exactly a peasant, you know." His words shocked Rukia.

"You're telling me that you're from a noble family? I don't believe it," she chided, smirking at him.

Ichigo grinned right back and said, "I may not be from a noble house or anything, but my old man used to be samurai. I don't know the details but apparently he was the personal guard for some Lord or whatever."

"So, you're peasant samurai?" she joked with a chuckle.

"What did I just say?! I'm no peasant! I may not seem like much but at the very least I intend to die like samurai tomorrow!" His boasting brought the reality of their situation back in full force and both of them fell into silence.

"I suppose it doesn't matter now, does it?" Rukia said, making Ichigo turn to her. "Whether I'm a noble or you're a samurai, it doesn't matter when you go against the Lord of the land. I'm just ashamed that I couldn't even be of use to my clan—".

"If they don't appreciate you, then they can go to hell." She snapped her head at him and frowned. Ichigo shrugged in response and said, "All I'm saying is that you shouldn't feel ashamed because of those bastards. If anything you should be upset that we didn't at least get in a shot at Yamamoto before they took us down."

Rukia's eyes widened but she quickly laughed. "You really know how to cheer people up, don't you? I guess you have a point though. No sense in worrying about the past when you have no future."

"I wouldn't say that," Ichigo grinned, "We may not be able to change our fate but at the very least, I don't plan on making it easy for them tomorrow. I plan to die with my head help high."

His cocky attitude and defiant nature would normally have irritated her, but considering the gravity of their situation, it was comforting. Even now in this dark and dank cell, he refused to give up and the strength in his voice and words renewed her own. If he could find the courage of a samurai in the face of death, then so could she. Rukia was a proud warrior of the Kuchiki Clan and would let it be known when they came to end her.

Fate certainly was a curious thing, pairing these two together on their last night of life.

Rukia smiled to herself before turning her gaze to Ichigo. "Hey, Ichigo." He glanced to her to see her smiling seductively at him. "Wanna do it?"

Ichigo's eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets as her words echoed in his head. "Uh…excuse me? Did you just ask me if—?"

"Yes, sex. You wanna do it?" His mouth hung open and no words formed. However, his eyes scanned her petite frame, making Rukia suddenly scowled and narrowed her eyes, "What? Am I not good enough for you?"

"Wha—No! No, that's not what I meant."

"Then what did you mean?"

Ichigo's cheeks burned and he averted his gaze. "It's just—That's a really…uh, a sudden thing to ask, you know?! I mean, you just didn't seem the type to offer—".

Rukia scoffed and replied, "Just because I'm a woman, doesn't mean I don't enjoy a little pleasure now and again."

He shrugged in understanding, "Yeah, I get that but…why would you—?"

"Is it so wrong…that I want to feel alive one more time….before I die?" Her voice was shaky but her eyes were determined. Ichigo found himself drawn to her as she turned away from him. "If you'd rather not, I understa—".

"I never said that," he answered, trying not to sound perverted. "I was just surprised is all. I mean, you are a noblewoman, after all." He smirked and she chuckled at his insight.

"Since I was street rat before being adopted into a noble family, you could say I'm not exactly a typical noble." She returned his smirk and pulled at her robes a bit.

Ichigo shook his head and smiled. "Yeah, I can tell that much already." By the time he finished, Rukia was already inches from his face, grinning. "Either way," he said as she wrapped her arms around him, "I think I'd enjoy feeling truly alive, one last time."

Rukia took that as a yes and pressed her lips against his. Ichigo circled his arms around her and pulled her body closer. She breathed in his scent as they pulled back, both smiling. She sat in his lap as she pulled him down and kissed him again. Her tongue licked his lips and he returned the favor. Their tongues battled in her mouth for a moment before she pulled back, panting.

"Let me thank you, for not cutting out my tongue."

She began suckling at his neck and he shuddered as she kissed her way down to his collar bone. Ichigo's hands reached down and untied her obi as she nuzzled his neck. Her own hands untied his sash and pulled the material away before she lifted her head back up to him. They stared into each other's eyes for a moment before hungrily mashing their lips together.

As Rukia forced the tongue battle into Ichigo's mouth. They both pulled the other's robes from their shoulders leaving them half-naked. Ichigo's hands found Rukia's pert breasts and he gently began to run his fingers over her nipples. She suddenly gasped at the attention, breaking the kiss. Before she knew it, Ichigo lowered his head and began kissing the top her left breast.

"No…you shouldn't…" she wheezed in ecstasy. Her face flushed as he stopped and glanced up at her.

"Why not?" he said seductively, licking just above her nipple, making her shudder.

"I-I don't…know" she shuddered as she spoke, "It's…embarrassing…"

Ichigo pulled back and gently cupped her face. He pressed a passionate kiss to her lips before smiling gently. "Don't be embarrassed. They're perfect."

Rukia blushed fiercely and turned away, embarrassed even more. Ichigo turned her face back and kissed her softly. She melted into the embrace and relaxed. He pulled back and lowered his head again. She gasped loudly as he ran his tongue over her nipple before gently beginning to suckle. She gave short, quick gasps as Ichigo messaged her other breast while his lips continued their work.

Ichigo quickly switched between them and began working on her other breast. Rukia wrapped her arms around his head and held him there, moaning. Under her, she felt his erection press against her thigh. He began rubbing himself against her leg and she felt her sex burn with desire. Ichigo pulled back from her breasts and placed one hand behind her head and another on her lower back.

Rukia moaned loudly as he pulled her body completely against his own and ran his hand through her hair. He held her in a tight embrace, reveling in the feeling of her soft skin against his own. Rukia pushed on his chest and slid off his lap, much to both their chagrins. Her black robes slipped off her perfect body and lightly cushioned her as she lay down completely nude in front of him. Ichigo pulled off his own robe and crouched down to her. He placed his hand behind her head and lifted it up enough to slip his robe under her head as a pillow of sorts.

Rukia giggled and said, "Such a gentleman…" before wrapping her arms around his neck.

"I aim to please…" Ichigo replied, lightly kissing her as she lay back down. This situation may not have appeared to be much, but to these lovers, it was the most romantic and wonderful experience they'd ever had.

Ichigo positioned himself at her heated entrance and hesitated for a moment. For a second, Rukia thought he may be having second thoughts but it was quelled when he lowered himself down to her again and passionately kissed her. She returned the kiss and smiled.

As Ichigo pulled back, he whispered, "You're so beautiful…"

Rukia gasped at the love and sincerity in his voice and she wrapped her arms around his neck again. Pulling herself up, she smiled and replied, "Thank you."

Ichigo nodded and slowly pushed his member inside her. He moaned as her tightness encased him. Rukia gasped at the ecstasy that coursed through her. She grasped him tighter as he slowly began pumping in and out of her. She dug her nails into his back as she squealed, "Harder!…Faster!"

She began to moan as he increased his pace and pressed harder. Her voice echoed through the cell and Ichigo thought the guards might come to see what was happening but it quickly vanished from his mind. Rukia bucked her hips against his assault and he moaned as pleasure wracked his body as well. Ichigo suddenly felt the walls of her sex tighten even more and he knew she was close.

"I-I-Ichiiigo!" she cried out as her orgasm came and she loosened her grip on him. He continued to press into her as he felt his own orgasm approaching. Rukia lost her will to hold on and she fell back to the floor as he rammed into her. Suddenly, she heard him moan and he wrapped his arms around her as his hot seed burst inside her.

The burning sensation caused her to moan even louder but she was quickly silence when Ichigo pressed his lips to hers again. It was passionate but tender, and Rukia wrapped her arms around him in return. He slowly pulled out of her and smiled against her lips.

"So, how's that?" he chided before kissing her again.

Rukia would have laughed if his lips weren't encasing her own. Instead, she pressed her body against his and pulled back enough to reply, "I certainly feel like alive right now…" She lightly kissed him again pulling back and giving a final moan of satisfaction.

"You certainly were experienced," she chided as she ran her hand through his orange locks, "I never would have guessed."

"Speak for yourself," he replied as he pulled her to him again. "Should a noblewoman be moaning a peasants name like that?"

Rukia smacked him on the back of the head, surprising him. "I thought you were supposed to be a samurai? Don't talk about me demeaning myself then turn around and do it yourself. Don't you have any pride?"

Ichigo chuckled, "What good is pride when I'm gonna die tomorrow?" He paused, looked into her violet eyes and smiled. "Thanks…for everything."

She grinned and said, "I don't think the sex was that good…"

"I meant everything you've done for me and my family," he groaned, "You saved my sisters and let me keep my honor. And you weren't so bad yourself—OW!"

She rapped him upside the head again and scowled, "Personally, I thought I did pretty great. Best I've had for quite a while."

"Must have been a long while—ow!"

"Stop ruining the moment."

"Yes, ma'am."

Ichigo began to pull away when Rukia latched onto him, causing him to look in her eyes. Her bright violet eyes shined as she gazed into his burning ambers. "Please, just for tonight…" she pressed herself against him and refused to let go.

"What happened to the brave noblewoman?" Ichigo chided as he placed a hand on the back of her head, pulling her into his chest.

"Just shut up and hold me," Rukia ordered as she nuzzled into his chest. "Just this once, let me feel what it's like…" she trailed off as his rested his chin on top of her head.

"You scared?" he asked in a whisper.

"Would it matter if I was?" she whispered back.

Ichigo smiled beside himself, wishing he had more time to spend with this amazing woman.

The next morning, the guards came to fetch the prisoners and found a heartbreaking sight.

The fully clothed pair sat on the floor. Ichigo leaning against the back wall with Rukia's head resting on his shoulder, holding hands with their fingers intertwined. The guards hesitated for a moment, not wanting to disturb the sight. However, dawn had come and it was time.

The guards unlocked the gate, awakening the pair. Rukia lifted herself off him but smiled when she realized their hands were still intertwined. Ichigo yawned and lifted their hands together, forgetting he was still holding her. He smiled at her and slowly let her hand go, reluctantly. The guards tied their hands behind them and stood them up.

They were led back to the Lord's chamber. The moment the door opened, Ichigo noticed a familiar sight standing beside Yamamoto.

"Dad?" he whispered in surprise. Rukia looked up to see a man with black hair and a deep scowl on his face looking down at them. He was wearing a long haori with the Yamamoto Clan's symbol on it. Even from that distance, Rukia certainly saw the resemblance to Ichigo in the man's features.

Ichigo wanted to call out to his father but knew it would be better to stay silent. No doubt his old man was ashamed of his son for attacking the Lord's men, even if it was to save his sisters. The pair was made to kneel before the Lord and awaited the announcement of their execution.

Yamamoto glared down at them and said, "Rukia Kuchiki. Ichigo Kurosaki I have reconsidered your punishment."

Their heads shot up at this development. Relief and confusion washed over them as they tried to understand what would become of them. Yamamoto stood up and approached them, he signaled to his guards and their bonds were quickly cut, much to their surprise.

"Rukia Kuchiki. Your brother sent an envoy to me, it arrived just this morning." Rukia looked up at him in surprise as he continued, "It explained that you were here to investigate a spy that escaped into my lands and that you were sworn to secrecy on the matter. If the envoy had not been delayed, I would have been made aware of this much sooner."

Rukia bowed to hide her confusion. Had her brother sent the envoy upon hearing of her capture? But how would that be possible? It had been less than a day since her detainment. Did that mean that he sent the envoy ahead of time, as insurance? Was it to ensure her safety if anything unfortunate occurred? She smiled to herself, now assured that her brother truly valued her well-being.

"I must apologize for your cruel treatment," Yamamoto said, "However, you still attacked my officer and that is a grave offense. As a result, I have decided to forgo your punishment and merely sent you back to your land to report to your brother. We will conduct a search on your behalf."

"Thank you for you leniency, Lord Yamamoto." Rukia replied, bowing to the floor.

Yamamoto gave a slight bow in return and turned his gaze to the other captive. "And now for you, Ichigo Kurosaki."

Rukia sent a worried glance toward Ichigo but he remained firm, not expecting to be spared for attacking his countrymen. The old Lord shot a glance back at Isshin, who nodded.

Yamamoto turned back to the orange haired youth and said, "It has been decided that your crime does not warrant death. Instead, you are hereby exiled from our lands. If you ever return, you will be considered a wanted criminal and will be arrested on site."

Ichigo's eyes instantly shot to his father. Isshin glared at him and shook his head, prompting Ichigo to remain silent. Yamamoto turned back to Isshin and said, "Isshin Kurosaki. Please escort these two to the carriage outside. Return to me immediately afterward, we have much to discuss."

"Yes, Lord Yamamoto."

Ichigo and Rukia stood and followed Isshin as he led them out of the room, Yamamoto glaring their way all the while. A nearby guard returned Rukia's sword and Isshin led the pair toward the front gate and outside. Just before reaching the carriage, Ichigo finally lost his temper.

"What the hell, old man?!" Although Rukia was startled at his outburst, Isshin seemed to be expecting it. "Why did you do it? You said you'd never go back to being a samurai!"

Rukia's eyes widened. Could the Lord that Ichigo's father once served have been Yamamoto? Isshin turned around and tossed a sack to his son. It hit Ichigo in the face and he pulled it away to shout again when Isshin removed his sword from his belt. Suddenly, Ichigo's face softened as his father held their family's ancestral katana out to him.

"I couldn't let you die, Ichigo. I begged Yamamoto to spare you." He handed the sword his son. "We agreed that if I returned to his service, he would spare your life and ensure safe passage for the both of you to the border."

Ichigo glared at the sword, almost unbelievably. "But…what about Yuzu? And Karin?"

"They'll be moving into the castle, with me. Yamamoto promised to ensure their safety as well."

Rukia was stunned that such a stubborn Lord like Yamamoto would be so lenient with his subjects. Then again, just looking at Isshin explained most of it. He appeared ready for battle at any moment. Isshin must be a great warrior if Yamamoto was willing to do so much just to have him return to his service.

Isshin turned back to the carriage and said, "We don't have much time. You need to go, before Yamamoto's benevolence runs out. I wish we had more time but—".

Ichigo didn't wait for him to finish, pushing past his father with a deep scowl on his face. As Rukia moved to the carriage, Isshin rested a hand on her shoulder, stopping her. "Miss Rukia. I know it's asking a great deal but…will you please take care of my troublesome son, if you can?"

He smiled wide at her showing his teeth. Rukia was overcome for a moment before she returned the smile.

"I'll do what I can. I promise."

"Thank you," Isshin whispered as he helped her into the carriage. "You would have made a great third daughter."

She turned back to him, unsure if she heard him correctly. However, he closed the door to the carriage. Before it departed, Isshin stuck his hand in the window and shouted, "Take care, son!" His voice was so happy and jovial that it made Rukia giggled.

Ichigo scoffed but reached out and grasped his father's hand. "Don't die on me, old man!"

Isshin retracted his hand and the carriage began to pull away. Rukia settled in and noticed that Ichigo was looking away from her, trying to hide his eyes. She smiled sadly when she noticed his hand wiping away something from his face.

After being escorted past the border and into the Kuchiki Clan's territory, Ichigo tied his father's sword to his waist and slung the sack over his shoulder.

"Well, what now?" he question aloud, staring up at the afternoon sun. "A samurai without a Lord isn't much of a samurai, is he?"

"Well, if you're looking for work," Rukia said with a grin, "You could always offer your services to my brother. And if you beg me, I might put in a good word for you." She winked at him and he groaned.

"Any good word you put in would probably get me killed—aahhh!" He shouted as Rukia kicked his shin. "What the hell was that for?!" he shouted down at her.

"Your pathetic face, that's what! You're a man! Take some responsibility and decided what to do for yourself!" Rukia shouted, folding her arms.

Ichigo scowled at her but quickly sighed. He turned back to gaze at the border of his former home.

"Do you regret it?" Rukia asked, suddenly appearing at his side.

He turned to her and scoffed. "If I did, would it really make a difference?"

"No, I guess it wouldn't." Rukia's voice showcased her disappointment, making Ichigo sigh loudly.

"Actually," he said with a soft smile, "I don't regret it. Any of it."

She smiled gently back at him and replied, "Good. I'd have to kick your ass back to your country if you did."

"I guess we'd better get going then. I certainly hope your brother's in a good mood," Ichigo said as he adjusted his sword, "Oh, and if you mention anything about our stay together..."

Rukia slowly slipped her hand into his own and laced their fingers. "What will you do to buy my silence, Ichigo Kurosaki?"

Ichigo tightened the grip and smiled down to her. "I'm sure we can work something out."

They walked down the path that led toward the Kuchiki Clan's castle, hand-in-hand.

The End

Hello my beautiful readers! It's not much of a Christmas fic but this idea has been floating around in my head for quite a while and this was my best excuse to get it out. I'll be posting more of my usual chapters soon, the holidays have given me more time to write. Odd, isn't it?

Either way, leave a review if you like and I hope you all enjoyed the story. Take care and have a happy whatever the heck you celebrate this time of year! Merry Holidays!

-Hunter of Comedy