How to Say I Love You
— Because sometimes, words aren't required to express what lives in one's heart. —
Disclaimer/Notes: For this and any chapters that follow, I do not own Bleach, and can only hope to do its characters a small measure of the justice they deserve. Anyway, I've been having a lot of ideas, not all of which can be put in my other collection, and I decided it would be best to find a place to keep the products of my IchiRuki obsession. The title of this oneshot will be the title for the whole collection, because I think that Ichigo and Rukia say a lot without actually saying anything. Though they may not voice their feelings, I like to think they show them through their actions.
If Kurosaki Ichigo had learned one thing in his extensive amount of time with Rukia, it was this:
When her usually tranquil sapphire-violet eyes took on the tint of steely blue, it was time to shut up, step back, and stay out of her way. However, his common sense had been on an extended vacation since he'd entered high school, so when she looked at him with a gaze that could effortlessly split a block of steel, he stared blankly back, letting a dry smile curve his features.
"Good evening, Rukia," he said, bowing slightly, almost mockingly, as his smile grew.
It almost would have been a normal reunion if the hand that stretched across his abdomen was not covered in his own blood. It would have been normal if his zanpakutou was not dropped carelessly in the red-specked grass beside him, and if the garish illumination of streetlights was not the only illumination on the two people who faced off stiffly in the middle of an empty street.
Unfortunately, Ichigo could not really think of a time when he and Rukia had experienced any sort of normal reunion.
"The pavement," Rukia growled irritably.
Ichigo raised his eyebrows.
"You are bleeding on the pavement."
He grinned. "Oh! That. Nothing serious."
He stumbled just a bit and Rukia's scowl deepened. He thought it a shame because she looked much better smiling.
"Fool," she murmured. "Reckless fool. You allowed yourself to become distracted—"
"You distracted me!" Ichigo interjected mercilessly. "You shoulda called or something! Let me know when you're gonna pop outta nowhere while I'm fighting hollows!"
"—And you allowed yourself to be injured—"
"The hollow did the injuring. Not like I said, 'Bite me, bastard,' or something," Ichigo intoned dryly.
Rukia's heated expression didn't waver. "Hot-headed as ever," she huffed. As she picked Zangetsu off of the ground and returned the blade to Ichigo, she straightened her face and spoke softly. "What's done is done. Come on. You kept those bandages under your bed?" Ichigo nodded affirmative. "Good. Then I'll fix you up."
"I'm not a—"
"Yes, you are a child, Ichigo. Now come. I don't care if you bleed to death but you're not going to do it right here. Wouldn't look good on my record."
"The How-Many-Idiots-Have-Died-On-My-Watch record," she uttered testily.
Wisely, Ichigo didn't question her further. She half-pushed him through his own window and put a towel beneath him so his sisters wouldn't run inside to find him sleeping under blood-soaked blankets. She pulled the old roll of bandages from beneath his bed—placed there because she just knew there'd be times like this—and wandered to the nearby bathroom to grab some antiseptic and other things from the emergency kit Isshin insisted be kept there.
Rukia smiled twistedly. It was almost as if that nutty doctor knew.
"What's taking you so long?" Ichigo called. As an afterthought, she snagged the entire kit and wandered back in. Ichigo pushed himself up in the bed.
"Sit," she ordered, pushing him down with a firm grip on his shoulder. "I'm technically not supposed to be here and you've grabbed enough attention as it is, so I'll use a limited amount of kidou to close the wound, but I'll bandage it anyway. Knowing you, you'll find some way or another to reopen it." Surprisingly, he didn't argue. She eyed the bloodied cloth of his shirt and jerked her head in its direction. "Take your shirt off." Opening the box, she pulled out a few items and lined them up on the blankets.
"I got it from here," he murmured.
Without so much as a pause, she sweetly replied, "No you don't." At his immediate disagreement, Rukia continued, "You said I got you into this, right? The least I can do is make sure you get out of it alive. Take your shirt off," she repeated. "I'm not leaving. Your tough guy act is out of the question."
"Rukia," he said firmly.
"No buts. Come on. You want Yuzu or Karin to wake up?" She took his grumpy silence for an affirmative. "Then hurry it up."
She heard murmured swearing, but without as much fervor as she was used to. This was more like disgust and resignation. Ichigo sat up slowly and peeled the bloodied article away, expertly flicking it into the wastebasket. He'd probably retrieve it and try to wash the blood out in the morning. Looking down at nothing in particular, Ichigo did not meet her gaze.
Her eyes wandered over several long scars across his chest. She tried to bite her tongue, knowing questioning would only bother him more, but the words slipped out on accident. "Are those from...?"
He didn't answer aloud, but he nodded as a twisted, self-reproachful smile curved his face. Finally, he whispered, "Yeah. Soul Society. Lotsa memories there."
The softness on her face melted to a wry, humorless smile. "You'd be mad, then, if I apologized?"
He winced as he sat forward. "Hell yeah. Heard enough of your apologies. Not like you made me go or anything. Actually, if memory serves, you threatened violent death and such if I ventured a look-see." He leaned forward. "It's just weird...you seeing them." With an effort, he perked up. "But c'mon, it's like a signed t-shirt! All my new friends left their signatures." He pointed to the largest scar. "That one's Kenpachi." Then to another mark, "Renji." Another...and another...and another—too many. "And your brother left those. See? A veritable map of my journeys."
Rukia's eyebrows knit and she gave him a sad smile. "You're so stupid," she said. But she cleared her throat and blinked her eyes while Ichigo laid flat out on the towel beneath him, and with care, she closed the edges of the wound, cleaning away excess blood while he rested there, arms stretched behind his head casually.
When he spoke, his voice was soft, barely audible above the warm hum emanating from the healing light. "Don't look like that, Rukia," he said. "I hope you know...you're stupid for being all serious about this when I'm not that way at all. I don't regret it. Not one bit of it." He smirked, staring into her eyes until he coaxed the sharp expression from her face. He nodded firmly and closed his eyes again. "Good."
Shaking her head, Rukia smiled faintly. "Just shut up and stay still," she said, even though she knew her words held no conviction.
When the glow of kidou faded from her hands, Ichigo looked up. "So...welcome back and all that."
She looked at him like he was crazy, which was probably not a mistaken assumption.
"Welcome back," he repeated slowly. "I mean...I forgot to say it earlier. I'm glad you're here."
She didn't reply, but her lips curled into a smile beneath the mess of charcoal bangs. She looked at him with gentle eyes.
It was enough for both of them. "Sooo..." he said. "How's it been going over there?"
"As good as can be expected. How are your sisters? Your father; Ishida, Inoue-san?"
"Alive," he replied.
"Good." Teeth bit tenderly at her lip. She was on his bed, less than a few inches from him, and this realization slowly colored her cheeks. What made her blush even more was the fact that it felt natural, and the overwhelming urge to curl up next to him. She bit her lip hard enough to snap back to reality, and stood.
"I'm going to bed, Ichigo," she said abruptly, grateful for the wild locks of her hair as they fell over his face, hiding the furious pink of her cheeks. She brushed off imaginary lint and occupied herself with doing things that had no need at all to be done, but she did them anyway because it gave her time to clear her mind.
If he said anything, God help her, she'd knock him senseless.
That thought cleared her mind surprisingly well.
He spoke quietly. "Hey, Rukia." And darn if she didn't love the way he said her name. "The closet's ready for you."
At that, she laughed. She quietly slipped the door open to find everything as it had always been. He'd made the bed and left a pillow there, and atop the blanket was a little pair of pajamas. She was tempted to tell him that she'd grow taller one of these days and would need her own clothes, but that didn't matter. He'd kept it there, just like he always did, in a silent promise that he'd be waiting for her, that he believed she'd always come back.
She bit her lip to hold back a smile at the heartbreaking familiarity of it all.
If she didn't know better, she would have called this place a home. She would have believed that such a comfort and perfection could only mean that she should stay forever in this place that showed her all the feelings she'd never felt when she was little. But Kuchiki Rukia, shinigami, did know better. Her home was in Soul Society, and forever would be. She swallowed the traces of her emotion and barely turned. "It's late. Get some sleep, fool."
He snorted. "Idiot."
And it didn't matter at all because those were the words that said all the things they couldn't.
She crawled under the blankets, curling into the soft fabric with the light of the moon slipping through the slatted door in lines across her face and the sound of his soft breath tickling her ears.
Author's Notes: If the part when Ichigo is hurt is confusing, in the manga, it says that any injuries sustained in soul form will remain when returning to one's own body. Anyway...I hope that this was okay! I have to say...I had an inexpressable amount of fun writing this, especially the beginning. The way those two talk to each other never ceases to get a smile out of me! Pretty Please Review?