A/N: It seems summer vacation was a season for writing fanfics for me, at least when my Internet was down. This was written during one of those times, but then I only uploaded it on my fanfiction.net account. Now, with a bit of revision, I bring you my latest Bleach AU fic, set in the same universe as “Rain”, with exception that the last line of that fic is now null and void and is never brought up in this one. But fair warning, the setting’s a bit… well, weird, needless to say. But meh, part of the setting and one particular element at the very end is based on one of my family’s holiday traditions. Without further adieu…
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach or any other copyright items referenced in this story.
OOC/Screwup Warning: I’m not perfect, and this is an AU. Self-explanatory.
The fifth fight this week, and it’s only Tuesday, Kuchiki Rukia mused silently, watching as people would walk past her with joy in their voices and smiles on their faces. Choirs from churches throughout town were singing carols and hymns on a small stage set up every year specifically for that purpose, contributing further to the mirth of the place. What wasn’t there to be happy about, after all? Christmas was but three weeks away, and the local Mormon temple had the annual display of Christmas lights strewn about the grounds, where she was now. After storming out of the apartment she shared with her brother-in-law, it was the only place to which she could turn, the last place he’d search if he decided to come looking for her. The temple grounds, in this way, had become one of several secret sanctuaries to her, especially at that time of the year. The irony in it all was that she wasn’t the least bit religious.
Tonight, however, her soul was impermeable to the happiness that surrounded her. It just bounced off or only got skin-deep. For how could she be happy? If she went home, Byakuya would continue to rant on how she needed to decide her future immediately. She was only a junior in high school, for goodness’ sake! But then if she stayed out too late, he would reprimand or possibly even ground her. It was a no-win situation. The most she could do was sit there until “too late” came too close for comfort. She stared on at the joyous scene as crystalline lights of all colors hung about the trees and shrubs, highlighting the beauty of the flowers and making the citrus clinging to some of the trees all the more tempting to eat. Even the small reflection pool closer to the temple itself had several small lotus-shaped lights floating atop the water. Curling up into a ball where she sat for warmth, the muffled noise of the crowd and the songs of the choir very nearly lulled Rukia to sleep. Save for the consequences she knew would come of it, she didn’t all too much mind the thought.
Several more minutes and her eyes grew heavier, slowly but surely. It was then that she finally, although reluctantly, straightened from her prior position and stood up, taking the first step toward the temple parking lot where her bike was locked up against a fence, hoping no one had towed it away or stolen it. Yet another step afterward, and then a third. Before she could even finish the fourth step, something pulled on her arm. The raven-haired girl turned her head to face the offender, pulling her other arm back in preparation to smack the creep across the face and run as fast as physical laws allowed her in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, she didn’t realize who it was until she had already completed step one of her two step hit-and-run. Her eyes of sapphire met the perpetrator’s honey-brown, at least for a moment, before she noticed his disheveled, red-orange hair.
“What the – ICHIGO?!” She exclaimed. “What’re you -“
“What the heck was that for?!” He shouted back before she could apologize, rubbing the hand-shaped red mark on his right cheek.
“That’s kind of a natural reaction when you’re grabbed by the arm like that! For all I know you could’ve been some crazy rapist or something!”
“Rukia, look around you! This is considered ‘sacred ground’ for starters, and second, we’re in public. A rapist would have to be crazy to abduct anyone here.”
“Well you could’ve done something else, like shouted my name or something. You didn’t have to –“ she sighed in frustration and dropped the subject, noticing that some were beginning to stare. “What’re you doing here anyway?” Ichigo shrugged.
“Dad takes us out here at least once every Holiday season to see the lights. It’s customary, I guess. But I can ask the same about you, or better yet why your brother isn’t here breathing down your neck for once.” Rukia lowered her head at this question before answering.
“We… got in another fight. I left on my bike without thinking, and he has no idea where I am. I was about to go home, actually, until you came.” Her eyes widened in surprise as she lifted her head and saw him unzipping his jacket. He removed it one arm at a time and placed it on her shoulders. She quietly slipped into it herself over her own.
“The one you brought with you must not be thick enough; you were shaking like a freakin’ leaf! So, what got his fancy pretty-boy hair ruffled up this time?”
“Take a guess.” Rukia rolled her eyes.
“Another ‘Your future is more important than the present and therefore you should spend all your time preparing for it’ lecture?” Rukia nodded in affirmation.
“I know he wants the best for me and all, but…” She sighed heavily before continuing. “I wish he’d get it into his thick skull that not everyone leaves high school with the rest of their life planned out.”
“And you haven’t stood up to him because…?”
“Like he would listen anyway. It’s like he thinks I’m a spitting image of my sister in every aspect, but I’m not! I can’t live up to what she did; I can’t be the prodigy that she was! I’m not her ‘successor’ or any stupid crap like that, I’m just… me.” A small tear trickled down her face, barely making it to the lip line before Ichigo wiped it away with his index finger.
“Hey, no fair. You know I –“
“Hate it when girls cry?” Rukia answered, smirking and rolling her eyes again. “Not once have I ever heard you say that.”
“Because it doesn’t apply to just any girl.” He began to walk ahead in the direction Rukia initially took. “Dad should be waiting at the truck for me with the twins by now. If you want, you can catch a ride home with us and put the bike in the back.” For several minutes, neither of them said a word. He finally continued walking, taking her silence as a no and waving behind him. “Well, later.”
“What now?” He turned and stopped dead in his tracks. Rukia now was holding out the folded up fleece jacket to him. “Oh, that thing? Keep it; I’ve got another one at home. Besides, it looks like you’ll need it if this weather keeps up.”
“It’s not just that…”
“Look, do you want a ride or not?” Ichigo asked bluntly. She nodded quickly. Smiling again, he beckoned Rukia to catch up before continuing in the same path alongside her.
“By the way,” Rukia spoke up again, facing Ichigo as they walked. “Thanks a lot.”
“For the jacket? Seriously, it was nothing.”
“No, I mean for hearing me out. I really appreciate it.” Ichigo couldn’t help but chuckle a little at her words. Instead of responding with the customary “you’re welcome”, however, he had different intentions. He leaned in closer toward her for a kiss, until…
“Well, well, our Ichigo’s finally becoming a man!” A rugged man with dark hair and a stubbled five o’clock shadow pat Ichigo hard on the back, nearly causing the couple to fall to the ground. “And who’s the lucky lady?”
“DAD!” Ichigo shouted at the man, his face growing red with embarrassment, fury, or perhaps even both.
“Getting embarrassed won’t help your case, you know,” a short, black-haired girl remarked as she approached the group. “We all knew the stupid-hormones would kick in eventually.”
“What hormones?!” Ichigo cried in denial. “How did you know I wasn’t just –“
“Getting a bug off of her face? Yeah, you typically use a hand or a fly-swatter for that, if you even dare attempt it at all. And I could’ve sworn I saw your lips pucker up…”
“That’s not what I was talking about!”
“Stop teasing him, Karin,” a girl about the same height as Karin but with shorter, mousy-brown hair said as she caught up with the group.
“Come on, he so had it coming,” Karin retorted. “Decided to start making out with a girl, and he got caught.”
“WE WERE NOT MAKING OUT!” Ichigo finally screamed. “By the way, Dad,” Ichigo pointed to Rukia. “This is a friend of mine from school. She rode her bike out here and needs a ride back. Now if you’re willing –“
“Of course, anything for your newfound love~!”
“Excuse me, what?” Rukia asked, perplexed by the flurry of events.
“Now that they’ve actually calmed down (except Dad, the idiot…),” Ichigo started, “This is my dad,” nodding his head in his father’s direction, “And these are my sisters, Karin and Yuzu. Guys, this is Rukia.”
“Nice to met you, Rukia-san,” Yuzu greeted her politely. “Say Dad, if we’re taking her home, is she coming with us for ice cream too?”
“Actually,” Rukia said, “I don’t have any-“
“Don’t worry about it, it’s on us tonight,” Ichigo reassured her, followed by another wise-crack and denial exchange between him and Karin.
Same old Ichigo, Rukia thought with a small smile. Always covering up the obvious, and failing miserably.
Even if the ice cream stop would make her even later getting home, it seemed worth the risk.