A/N: I'm so sorry about all this... I thought things would get easier.. ya know.. updates.. but the twenty-ninth my dog of fourteen years died.. kinda made me hit a road block... sorry once again...
xXx.:."The apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet, black bough.".
Ichigo couldn't help but feel slightly uneasy about what he was going to do, in fact he felt extremely uneasy about it. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his black hoodie and shifted his feet uncomfortably in Rukia's pink chappy slippers. His black and red plaid pajama pants blew against his legs in the fresh summer air. The moon cascaded gracefully across his bright head of hair, highlighting it into a more citrus tone. He pulled a single hand out and let it pound quietly against the wooden door once again. He eyed the hand and noticed his hand once again wound it's way onto his finger, he mused briefly as to what that was significant of.
The door squeaked open and Yuzu greeted him with a happy yawn. "Ichi-nii, what brings you here at two am?"
There were clearly bags under her eyes and she still wore her day clothes. He looked at her with concern for a moment. "I need to speak with dad."
"He's in the clinic... why didn't you call in there?" Yuzu yawned again, this ime bringing her small hand to cover her mouth.
Ichigo sighed. "It's really a private matter."
Yuzu nodded and stepped aside, letting her older brother into the front room of the Kurosaki home. Ichigo sighed upon realising he had the key to the house with him all along. "Sorry to wake you Yuzu.." Ichigo laughed nervously, rubbing his head. "I guess I remembered my key after all."
Yuzu smiled sleepily. "No problem Ichi-nii, I understand just fine."
Ichigo nodded. "So is dad busy?"
"Right now Ken-chan is in charge, so dad should be in his office or in the lab.." Yuzu explained, heading upstairs, seemignly ignoring th fact her blanket and pillows were scattered on the couch. Ichigo sighed, he'd bring them up after he finished talking with his father.
He walked through the halls till he reached the door just behind the staircase and rapped gently against the sign that read: "Do not disturb.. unless grandchildren are involved... that means you Ichigo!"
"Read the sign.." Isshin mumbled from within.
"It's Ichigo.. you're first child, only son.." Ichigo stated.
The door swung open to reveal the tired face of his father. Ichigo peaked over his father's shoulder to see Urahara, Yuroichi, Ryuuken, and much to his shock... Byakuya Kuchiki.
"What is it Ichigo?" Isshin asked, worry etching across his face.
"Is Rukia okay?" Byakuya asked, getting up slightly.
Ichigo nodded. "She's fine..." Ichig looked back at his father. "You and I need to talk really quick... it's important.."
Isshin nodded and turned to his colleagues. "I'll be back in a moment.."
The others nodded and Isshin shut the door. "What is it son?"
Ichigo sighed and shoved his hands in his pockets. "I've gotten myself into a bit of trouble.."
Isshin raised an eyebrow. "What kind of trouble son?"
"Certainly not the bad kind.." Ichigo reassured, "Just I need a little guidance."
Isshin teared, "My son seeking guidance from me! MASAKI!"
Ichigo hung his head in shame. "I really.. really... love this girl you see.."
"and she really really loves me..." Ichigo stated back. "Something may have happened between us..."
"What kind of something?" Isshin askedsomething akin to fear in his voice.
Ichigo rubbed the back of his head. "Good something..." He grinned, "Really good something.. great something."
Ichigo blushed. "Anyway... so something happened... and well now I think I'm in a spot of trouble... good trouble... but trouble nonetheless. So what I'm trying to say is I need your help."
"You'll have to elaborate.." Isshin stated.
"I want mom's ring.." Ichigo stated. "I really love her.. and I think it's morally and emotionally the proper thing to do."
Isshin froze. "Wait... what?"
Ichigo sighed. "I want to marry Rukia.."
Isshin grinned. "MASAKI!"
Ichigo growled. "DAD!"
Isshin stopped crying and grinned uneasily. "What else son?"
Ichigo looked away. "Well the something that happened between us... was... well..."
Isshin grinned at his discomfort. "aaaand?"
"Well... it was.." Ichigo blushed, "Intercourse..."
Isshin smiled. "Way to score my boy."
Ichigo blushed even deeper. "A lot of intercourse... and she may have... I dunno gotten..."
Isshin grinned with excitment.
"A little.. or maybe a lot... " Ichigo blushed even deeper, it was bad enough he was in this situation but now his father wanted an explanation. Ichigo took a deep breath. "enjoy grandchildren.."
Isshin squealed. "Finally!"
"I knew you'd do it soon! We had bets...!" Isshin grinned, "I lost about a month ago... ish.."
"I met Rukia about a month ago.. dad..." Ichigo growled.
"I thought for certain you'd get the job done her first night here.." Isshin stated. "Ya know... in that hot little number.. I wouldn't blame you!"
Isshin grabbed his face and cried.
"Shut up dad!" Ichigo shouted.
Isshin nodded. "Look, I gave you this speech when Senna was in labour... honest to God.. I should've given it to you sooner than that. But I want to let you know.. that the feeling you felt when you held Nel for the first time... it's ten fold that when it happens again. When Karin and Yuzu were born... when I first held Karin.. before I knew Yuzu was there... I felt all the emotion from your birth and then hers.. it was bone crushing. It's an amazing experience. Then Yuzu came out three seconds later and about a gallon of blood... your mother almost died.." Isshin stated, a sad smile on his face. "They patched her up well but the next day they told her that she couldn't have anymore children.. it nearly killed her and me to think we'd never have that feeling of meeting these ugly little creatures that we made together. When we brought Karin and Yuzu home and saw you playing with one of our friends children.. when we saw that head of hair and that smile... that stupid grin... we knew that each time we looked at you or your sisters... that we would feel that same rush."
Isshin placed his hand on Ichigo's shoulder. "Next time you see Nel... you'll know in your heart that feeling you felt five years ago."
Ichigo nodded, smiling.
"Your mother and I were so in love," Isshin smiled, "It would make her proud to know that you well enough to know true love when you see it."
Ichigo smiled, "Dad, I swear to God I'll kill yuo if you tell anyone about this." He pulled his father into a tight hug.
Isshin smiled and let his son pull back. "Let me get that ring... oh and you might want to speak with Byakuya about all this... that is his sister.."
Ichigo nodded and shoved his hands back into his hoodie. Isshin left the door open as he headed to his desk. Ichigo waved awkwardly.
"So what bring you here?" Yuroichi asked, smiling.
Ichigo shurgged, "Just needed to talk to my dad."
Yuroichi grinned. "Isshin will tell us..."
Isshin came back a second later and dropped the ring in Ichigo's pocket. Ichigo nodded and looked at Byakuya, "We... you and I... Byakuya.. we need to talk."
Isshin scampered away and Byakuya rose and strode nobe-like out to Ichigo, shutting the door behind him.
"What is is, Kurosaki?" Byakuya asked, anger already written on your face.
Ichigo looked down. "Look, I like you... you don't like me... I understand all that. I know that you'd rather your sister be with some snotty rich guy who can give her the world and then some." Ichigo looked out the window. "I can't give Rukia the world... I can hardly afford to give her a house... and coming halfway on the rent is hardly compensation enough for that. In my world... there are only three things I value above everything else, my family, my goals, and your little sister. That may not be much... my words... but if I had the money.. I'd be her the world.. the moon, the solar system... hell the entire universe... if I could. I can't offer you much... I can't give her much, but I still have my words..." Ichigo looked Byakuya in the eyes, "and those are the most important words... I love her."
Byakuya felt something akin to respect and pride rising in him.
"I know that a four bedroom home in Karakura within the next week to ten months isn't a huge manor, and I know a beat up SUV is hardly a limousine, and piling bills aren't piles of money... all I can offer is my heart... and they don't come cheap, trust me dads on the transplant board." Ichigo laughed nervously. "I can't give her all the things you'd like her to have, and life may get to the point we're living pay check to pay check... but, I love her and I hope.. for you thats enough."
Byakuya sighed, trying to contain the smile that wanted to work it's way onto his usually stoic face, he figured he had gotten soft. "What are you saying, Kurosaki?"
Ichigo pulled in an anxious breath. "I want your permission to marry Rukia. I want you to be aware that despite your answer, I'm still asking her. I just think that you should know.."
Byakuya looked down at Ichigo debating on his answer. He wanted to say yes.. but Isshin would rub it in his face. He would say no but Hisana would be angry if he did. "Very well."
Ichigo looked shocked for a moment. "Really?"
Byakuya nodded, "But no this, Kurosaki.. if my sister gets hurt.. I won't rest a moment until I kill you."
Ichigo nodded, "I'd sooner kill myself than hurt her.."
"You've been warned.." Byakuya stated, "Now leave before she wakes up."
Ichigo nodded. "THank you, I owe you one!"
"I'll remember that at the next family gathering." Ichigo nodded and ran off.
Byakuya sighed and walked into the room. Isshin looked at him expectantly.
"ssooo?" Isshin begged.
Byakuya sighed. "I said yes.."
Isshin nodded, "Even after you found out he got her pregnant... wow..."
Byakuya froze, Kurosaki was a dead man.
Ichigo was already a half a mile away, he knew his father would spill that particular can of beans the moment Byakuya stepped in the door.
Rukia rose before Ichigo could make it back to bed. He had just entered the room when she awoke. She grinned sleepily and stretched slightly. "Hey, you."
Ichigo smiled nervously. "Hey.."
Rukia sat up and yawned. "What're you doing up so early?"
"Dad needed some help at the clinic this morning... just a consult of sorts.." Ichigo stated, nervousness seeping into his voice.
Rukia swung her legs over her bed only to find her slippers missing. "Where are my slippers?"
Ichigo inwardly swore. "I'm...wearing them."
Rukia grinned. "Really!"
Ichigo blushed, "THey were the closest shoes!"
"You strolled into a clinic..." Rukia grinned, "Pulled off your hoodie to reveal your naked.. sexy chest... put on a lab coat... and strolled into a lab wearing... chappy slippers and plaid pajama pants.." Rukia laughed.
Ichigo frowned. "No.."
Rukia pouted, "sounds kinds sexy to me.." She strolled over to him, placing a hand against his now exposed chest. "Doctor Kurosaki."
Ichigo grinned slightly and placed his hands over her hand. He leant in slightly. "Hmmm.."
Rukia smiled, "I could use a check up..."
Ichigo licked his lips. "That can be arranged."
"I like that sound of that.." Rukia purred, pressing a kiss against his lips.
Ichigo pulled away and removed one hand to waggle a finger. "You'll have to set up an appointment with my secretary.."
Rukia grinned. "How about tonight?"
Ichigo grinned. "Sounds good."
"Full body exam..." Rukia suggested.
"You know, it's kinda against policy to sleep with a pateint.." Ichigo grinned.
Rukia pulled back appalled, a grin still on her face. "... I never said I was going to sleep with you!"
Ichigo sighed, "Yeah, right... who could resist this?" He pointed to his face.
Rukia planted her palm against his face and pushed him back. "I could..."
"Guess the appointment is off tonight.." Ichigo pouted.
Rukia smiled. "Oh but Doctor... I need to know if I'm healthy.."
Ichigo smiled and kissed her cheek. "I love you."
Rukia smiled for a moment. "I love you too... carrot top."
Ichigo pulled back. "So anyway.. I was thinking about taking today off... dropping Nell off with dad and just hanging out."
Rukia smiled. "As long as I can go see Matsu... and Uryuu and Orihime... I have been craving her bean paste on chocolate cake.."
Ichigo frowned, he hoped that Rukia wouldn't get insane cravings, he supposed it was too late.
"Okay... we'll stop by and see them." Ichigo stated.
Rukia smiled, "Thanks Ichigo."
Ichigo scowled as Matumoto and Rukia chatted about shoes and clothes and boys. Matsumoto grinning and drinking her coffee, Rukia sipping a lemonade.
"I'm so glad I'm not tied down to one man.." Matsumoto grinned, "Dating around it just so much fun!"
Rukia laughed, "Yeah... but I really can't imagine myself with anyone but Ichigo..."
Matsumoto sighed. "You said that about Kaein, Ashido, and Renji."
Rukia rolled her eyes. "Only about Kaein.."
Matsumoto moved her hand to fan the thoughts away from her. "okay okay, yeah on Kaein... what makes Ichigo different?"
Rukia looked at her lemonade. "I dunno... with Kaein it was a giddy feeling, a rush. With Ichigo it's a gentle feeling, it's soft... and it's meaningful.. but at the same time.. it's face paced and crazy... like I could settle down with him and still feel that giddy day after day."
Matsumoto grinned. "You are so in love!"
Rukia blushed. "Yeah, I am.."
"So has he popped the question?" Matsumoto asked, grinning.
Rukia looked away. "No, and I doubt he will...soon at least. He has baggage...and some things that he isn't ready to talk about... I think once he gets them out... we can get somewhere."
Matsumoto smiled. "I dunno, look at him just stare at you, not listening to what we're saying... I think he's readier now than he'll ever be. I say tonight or tomorrow night."
Rukia blushed. "You think?"
"I know.. and don't let that secret of yours get in your way of happiness, he'll understand.." Matsumoto stated.
Rukia hugged her friend before looking at her watch. "Shit, I'm meeting Uryuu and Orihime for lunch..."
Matsumoto nodded. "Go off young princess... with your little pauper prince in tow!"
Rukia grabbed Ichigo and he jumped slightly before waving at Matsumoto and dropping a few bills on the table..
Ichigo and Rukia wandered into Uryuu's lab, the cold making Rukia cling against Ichigo for warmth. Uryuu could always be found down in his father's lab or at the underground training room at Urahara's.. where they trained for track in their old high school days.
He walked further into the chilly lab where he knew Uryuu would be and caught sight of his friend. He cast his gaze aside and blushed. Rukia got on her tiptoes to see past his large frame and she too looked away and blushed.
Ichigo coughed into his hand to alert them of his presence.
Uryuu shot his head up and immediately blushed. "Oh.. Kurosaki...Kuchiki..."
Orihime giggled. "Kurosaki-kun, Kuchiki-san!" She quickly did up her shirt and ran over to them. She wiped at her smudged lipstick and pulled her hair back into a pony, her signature asterisks still in place. "I forgot to tell Uryuu you two were stopping by for some dessserts..."
she blushed. "Uhm.. Uryuu... you just stay behind there till things calm down.." She scampered over to a table and picked up a bento box. "Sorry Rukia.. but uhm... we are kinda busy.. if you don't mind.."
Rukia nodded and took the bento with a grin. "I understand.." she winked.
Orihime giggled. "It was nice seeing you two!"
Ichigo and Rukia nodded and bowed before running like hell out of there.
"Guess it's just us two for dinner then.." Ichigo muttered, driving his SUV into a parking spot outside the Karakura pier. Rukia grinned at all the rides and games. The festival never seemed to end, this one wasn't the same she and Ichigo has gone to but it held the same air of joy and happiness. Rukia gripped Ichigo's hand as they left the car adn pulled him along the pier.
Ichigo however took the lead and pulled her where he wanted to go, surprising Rukia, the usually dominant of the two.
Ichigo pulled her to a booth and grinned. "I, Kurosaki Ichigo, will win you that huge rabbit."
"God.. Ichigo.. this is too cliche.." Rukia blushed.
Ichigo grinned, "I'd endure a cliche for you.."
Rukia laughed as Ichigo handed the man three dollars and the man handed him balls.
"Look..."Rukia laughed, "You finally have some balls of your own.."
Ichigo laughed, "Oh and baby the things I can do with em."
Rukia laughed again.
Ichigo threw the ball and hit one of the targets, he took the second and missed, and then went for the third.. and missed again. Rukia laughed at the man handed Ichigo a dinky booby prize fish. Rukia laughed and took the bag. Ichigo pouted.
"Do't fret.." Rukia laughed, "I love him... I'll name him Scott.."
"Scott?" Ichigo asked.
Rukia laughed, "Yes Scott."
Ichigo laughed with her and then ended it with a kiss before pulling her to another booth.
"Rukia," Ichigo muttered, "Because I love you.. so much.. you can let me have any temporary tattoo that man has to offer."
Rukia grinned, "In the chair, mister." She pushed Ichigo into the chair and the man smiled.
"Which one, miss?" he asked, smiling, his bald head shining in the setting sun.
"hmm.." She put a finger to her lips. "I want, on his left cheek.. a strawberry shaped like a skull...with a skull face.."
The man nodded adn started his work with the paint. Ichigo smiled and Rukia laughed. When they were done Rukia marveled at the mans work and Ichigo handed him money.
He pulled Rukia along to get two corndogs, an American delicacy he thought she'd enjoy. She grinned before taking a bite and then spit it out.
"Sorry.." Rukia muttered with a blush. "I just don't like it."
Ichigo nodded, "Well how about the ferris wheel?"
They sat atop the ferris wheel the entirety of karakura to their right and the ocean to their left. Rukia smiled and looked to Ichigo who seemed slightly nervous. She smiled. "What's wrong?"
Ichigo jumped a little. "just freaked out.. don't you think we've been up here a little too long?"
Rukia noticed now that they had been at the top for about ten minutes. "Hmm you're right.."
Ichigo nodded, "HEY!'
He could see from the top the small ant like ride runner arguing with another man. Rukia held back a disgruntled moan.
"Guess we're stuck here.." Ichigo muttered, looking out at the end of the pier and the slowly setting sun. He bit his lip and fiddled with the ring in his pocket. He was supposed to bring her down to the pier five minutes ago.
Rukia sighed and leaned against him for comfort. Ichigo grinned down at her. "Ahh the grand cliche that is life.." He mused, running a hand through her hair.
She laughed, stuff like this happened only in cheesy romance novels and romantic comedies. "I suppose you're right.."
Ichigo looked out at the sun again, almost winding down to a purple, pink, and orange mix beneath the horizon.
"Look, Rukia.." Ichigo stated, "I hope you enjoyed today."
Rukia smiled sleepily. "Yeah I did.. from coffee with Matsu, interrupting Uryuu Orihime sexy time, and the deathberry... everything was fun..."
Ichigo smiled. "Good."
Rukia rolled her eyes.
"So I was thinking.." Ichigo muttered, rubbing the back of his head. "We should get married."
Rukia smiled. "Yeah I already agreed to that.."
Ichigo nodded, "I mean within the next three weeks to five months.."
Rukia looked at him confused. "Really?"
Ichigo nodded, not looking her in the eyes. "Yeah..."
Rukia smiled. 'Mmmkay."
"I guess you'll want this then..." He placed the ring in her hand and looked away again, blush creeping up on his cheeks.
Rukia looked at the ring, slightly agape. "You're serious?"