A/N: Day 7 prompt: Shiba Ichigo

Although this is a sequel two-shot, you don't necessarily have to read "Home" to understand what's happening here. All you really need to know is that Ichigo decided to attend the Shinigami Academy and he's staying in the dorms there.


Being back at Shinō Academy wasn't at all like what Rukia expected. Nothing had really changed since her time here. Of course, that was a given seeing as how it took an invasion of ryoka to even shift anything in Soul Society's long history of tradition.

She hadn't spent a lot of time here before being adopted by her brother, and much of the time she was here, she had been lonely. The rich kids had quickly sniffed out that she and Renji were from Rukongai and sought to isolate themselves from the riffraff. They both stuck together like stray dogs, working harder than everyone else to prove their strength. All those soft boys and girls in their classes knew nothing of the pain and suffering outside these protected walls.

Then Renji had qualified for the advanced classes and immediately left her in the dust. He had other friends now. Those from rich families willing to accept him. Others also from Rukongai but so strong that no one dared to mock them for it.

Rukia expected to resent being back here. Instead, she felt a pang in her heart looking at all the fresh, smiling faces. They all had such middling reiatsu. None were powerful enough to even be considered a seated officer. If they trained hard enough, then perhaps. But these droves of young Shinigami trainees would not last a moment against any of the real threats their superiors would force them to face.

She wanted to warn them that it was dangerous to be lax. That they always had to be prepared.

But Ichigo had defeated Aizen, and so the threat of war had soon become a faded memory. They were in a time of peace. They did not need to be strong.

Rukia turned to the eastern section of the academy towards the men's dormitory. She knew Ichigo would not mind if she was a bit early for their date. It wouldn't be anything too fancy. Just her showing him her favorite hiding places around campus. He'd need it if his fans got too overzealous.

A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. Of course everyone knew who Ichigo was. And if they didn't, they quickly learned once they tried to pick a fight with him. Some wondered why he even bothered to attend this academy at all. He was strong enough to become a captain, if he so desired.

Several full-fledged Shinigami also asked him the same thing. Ichigo had respectfully declined the offer, instead opting to learn Kido, the history behind the Shinigami, and other basics he'd missed out on while focusing on pure offensive techniques.

As a result, he stuck out like a sore thumb, and his teachers often teased him for it. Former ryoka, destroyer of the Sokyoku, defeated several of their own captains, Arrancars, and Aizen himself, obtained bankai in a matter of days, and was dating a decorated lieutenant of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads? All in a matter of three years? And he still wanted to be human part-time? Truly an enigmatic figure.

Despite all the glamor such fame held, it came with a price. War was never kind, even to the victors. It had left a large mark on him. On her. As valiant as all that might be to others uninvolved, those people would never truly understand what they both went through to be here now.

Rukia sighed and finally looked up. Much to her surprise, nearly everyone around the dormitory was staring at her. She paused, blinking, only for them all to snap to a bow in the next instant.

"Lieutenant Kuchiki! It is an honor to have you here!" they all shouted.

She glanced at the band around her arm. She had meant to take it off before she left.

"Oh, um, at ease. I'm just here for Ichigo."

"Of course! His room is just down the hallway, lieutenant!"

Rukia already knew where it was, but she dipped her head slightly anyway. "Thank you."

As she walked past them, they started to trail after her. She glanced over her shoulder at them, bewildered. "Can I help you?"

One of the boys rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Uh, well, we wanted to ask Kurosaki-san more about...how he defeated Aizen."

"Yeah! I heard he nearly tore the World of the Living in two!"

"What? He did tear it apart. Right, Lieutenant Kuchiki? Isn't that why he's here?"

Rukia repressed the urge to scold them. They didn't know Ichigo at all. They wouldn't understand how the very notion of splitting his world in two could drive him to despair.

"No. The World of the Living is still intact. Please stop asking him about that battle."

And with that, she used shun-po to close the distance between her and Ichigo's room.

"Ichigo?" she called out with a light knock against his door. "It's me."

He opened the door just enough for his head to poke out, glancing both ways before pulling her inside.

"Hey! Ichigo!"

He released her arm when she was safely inside. "Sorry. I'm just tired of talking to the other students here. They're way too nosy."

"I ran into a few of them on my way here. You wanna escape through the window?" she asked, jerking a thumb to the only viable exit. The other students were closing in, probably to wait outside his door to ambush him with more questions.

Ichigo seemed to sense them, too, and he sighed. "Hold on, let me grab a couple things first."

Rukia's eyes fell to his body resting on his bed. She gently moved one of his legs to sit on the edge.

Ichigo threw a water bottle, money, some assignments, a pen, and a rolled-up scroll into a drawstring bag, pulling it shut and tucking a red box under his arm.

"What's that?" she asked.

He opened his window then held out a hand to her. "A surprise. I'll show you after you show me one of your secret hiding spots."

"Deal." Rukia took his hand and off the two went.

The spot she had in mind was a particularly large tree on the outskirts of the academy. It had the perfect branches for lounging and enough brush to hide them from the sun. Not that anyone would have trouble tracing their reiatsu, but hopefully his fans had the sense to leave them be.

They both sat on the same sturdy branch. It was heavy enough to bear their weight. "So? What's your surprise?"

"Um, it's kind of a lot," he admitted, scratching the back of his neck. "Are you comfortable where you are?"

"Yes, I'm fine."

His gaze became distant. "Can I tell you about my mom?"

Rukia sat up straighter. She had promised to listen all those years ago. If his heart was truly ready to open up, she would be there to accept it.

"Of course."

Relief fell over his entire being. That alone was enough for him to push forward.

"It goes much deeper than that battle with Grand Fisher. I learned more about her from my dad during those seventeen months that you were…." He faltered and looked away. "Well, it was like the week after I lost my powers. Apparently, my dad used to be the Captain for Squad Ten. The day he met my mom, he was sent to investigate the disappearance of several Shinigami in my world."

Ichigo blew out a sigh. "He learned way later that the Hollow killing all his comrades was one of Aizen's weird experiments. Both my parents sensed it immediately and went to kill it."

"Your mother, too?"

He nodded. "As it turns out, she was a Quincy."

Rukia sucked in a breath but said nothing. She hadn't meant to interrupt the first time.

"She was training under the Ishida family at the time," he continued. "Which makes me related to that Ishida Uryu, now that I think about it. His dad and my mom were cousins."

"Does he know?"

"No. At least, I think he doesn't. I'm gonna make fun of him for it when I visit Karakura again."

Rukia laughed at the idea. Ishida certainly would hate to find all this out.

"Yeah, Quincies and Shinigami aren't supposed to get along. Whatever. But my mom saved my dad anyway. Then she openly admitted that she was a Quincy, even knowing what he was. She left before he could really thank her for saving his life. Not because she was afraid of what he'd do, but more because she didn't want the Ishida family to know that she'd helped the enemy. So he came back to see her again."

He leaned his head against the tree trunk. "Things took a turn. My mom was starting to Hollowfy after that first attack. Urahara sensed it and took her, my dad, and Ishida's dad to his shop. The only way to stop her from turning into a Hollow was to have a polar opposite reiatsu by her side at all times. My dad just happened to fit the bill. She was a Quincy and a Hollow. He would have to use a gigai that suppressed his Shinigami powers and turned him human. In order to save this total stranger, he'd have to give up everything from his old life. And the crazy thing was, he didn't hesitate at all."

His eyes met hers. "I mean, I get why he did it."

Rukia smiled at the unspoken words.

They were like me and you.

"My mom meant everything to my dad. He revolved around her. I knew that, even as a kid. I revolved around her, too. So when she died…I thought he hated me. I thought he and my sisters were hiding how they really felt for the longest time. I believed it was my fault she died."

His eyes stayed trained on some far-off point. "Fighting Grand Fisher changed that belief, little by little. So did talking with my dad. He told me how he killed Grand Fisher, and how he thought it would be the only revenge he would need. But it still wasn't enough. In a way, we both blamed ourselves for what happened that day when neither of us were at fault. Knowing what we know now, about each other and my mom, I think she can finally rest in peace."

"Ichigo…."

It hurt, recognizing that they shared similar wounds. To find out that Ichigo carried such a heavy burden this whole time….

But no, looking at him now, she saw no tension in his shoulders. There was a lightness to this telling.

The rain had finally cleared away, leaving him in dewy sunlight to pick up something new. And through all of that, he chose to share it with her.

"There's something else, too."

Rather than open the red box, Ichigo tugged the bag open and unfurled the scroll.

Judging by the gold stamp at the bottom left and a glimpse of the Head Captain's signature, this looked pretty serious. She took it from him, careful not to wrinkle it.

The message was short and formal, stating that the noble status of the Shiba clan had been officially reinstated.

Rukia slowly curled the scroll again with a grin. "This is great news! But why are you showing this to me? And why do you have this, anyway?"

"I wanted you to be the first to know. Well, outside of the Head Captain and some other officials, of course." He took a deep breath. "I'm a Shiba. Technically. On my dad's side."

Her smile soon fell away. Ichigo was…a Shiba? He always bore a striking resemblance to Kaien, to be sure, but to think the two were actually related….

"I think the hardest part for me to believe about my dad's past was that he used to be a part of this noble clan." He made a face. "I mean, it's weird enough to know I'm also related to Ganju and Kuukaku. We're cousins, apparently."

The air grew thin around her and she clutched the bark tightly in her hands. "I see."

Did he know about Kaien? Did his father know?

"Rukia?"

She knew that she was doing a poor job of hiding her panic from him. Not that that would do any good. He always knew when she lied to him.

"What's the matter? Did I say something wrong?"

She looked away. "Not...wrong. It's just…."

Would it bring her peace to tell him about Kaien? Could she ever escape it?

Rukia jolted when he put a gentle hand on hers.

"Hey, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to," he said, nudging her shoulder. "I just wanted you to know about her. And about me."

Without another word, he set the red box in his lap. One quick flip of the top revealed intricate mochi pastries. They were definitely from Yoshida's, a classy patisserie located close to the academy. She and Renji could never afford even one during their time here, so they tried to avoid it at all costs.

Her mouth watered. Even now, she had yet to try one for herself.

She plucked a purple one from the box, careful not to spill any crumbs. It was warm and filled with jam. She'd never tasted anything quite this sweet.

The two ate every last pastry in the box, splitting it evenly between them. Ichigo had strategically ordered two of everything so there was no reason for them to fight over who got what.

He then stood up, dusted himself off, and held his hand out to help her up once more. "I was thinking of visiting Ganju and Kuukaku today. They deserve to know about all this, too. Did you wanna come?"

Rukia hesitated. Of course she wanted to be there for him. Of course she wanted him to know about her own ties to the Shiba clan.

Of course, of course, of course.

"If you're busy—"

"No."

There was far too much to say. But how was she to start?

His eyes stayed trained on the ground below him. "Oh."

She pushed herself to her feet. This was happening too fast for her to comprehend. That was how it always was with Ichigo.

He had changed so much about Soul Society. Changed so much within her. All with that unwavering heart of his.

So she would not waver, either. She would not abandon him in this delicate, wounded time.

"I'm not busy," she amended, taking his hand in hers.

His calloused hands had seen too many battles. They had bled and fought and cut and killed so many enemies. And yet, entangled with hers, she had never felt so safe and assured.

Rukia lifted their intertwined hands up to her lips, pressing a slow kiss to the back of his hand. A bright glow spread across his face when she looked up at him once more. It made her heart ache, and so she reached a hand up to his cheek.

"Shall we go?"

Ichigo's gaze softened. "Yeah. Thank you."

She shook her head. "There's no need to thank me, idiot."

"No, really." He turned to kiss her palm before leaning into her touch. "Thank you, Rukia."

That look in his eyes made her heart ache all the more. In time, perhaps she would find the words to tell him about her own past with the Shiba family. In time, perhaps she could be a part of it without the awful burden of guilt at her heels.

Rukia squeezed his hand a little tighter. It was all she could give him for now. Everything but the words. Everything but the rain.

"You're welcome, Ichigo."


A/N: Initially, I planned for this to be a one-shot purely from Rukia's POV, but I ran out of time to finish the latter half (and decided it would better fit Ichigo's POV), so I split this into a two-shot instead.

I hope you enjoyed my Ichiruki fics this Ichiruki Week 2021! The second chapter for this fic will be out shortly!

*Crossposted to AO3.