No ownies, all belongs to Tite Kubo.

Righty-ho, names are western style, as in surname last (though I may have screwed that up a little in places :D oops) And I've abandoned honorifics I was going for sort of American Suburbia with this, so I didn't want to root it too firmly in canon Karakura.

Oh and warning: Orihime in this...slightly nutty. Don't get me wrong, I think she's sweet as, it's just that sometimes I like to portray her as plain ass crazy XD

And now I have a lovely beta: RukiLex. She has gone over this with a fine tooth comb; hence the re-posting.

Worship her for one day she will rule us all.

Characters: Ichigo and Rukia

Genre: Romance

Summary: Ichigo left for school at 13 without ever seeing his newest neighbour, young widow Rukia Kuchiki. But now, five years later, he's back in town and can he really ignore her for long? Older Rukia, younger Ichigo. AU with a slightly crazy Orihime. Lemons later.

There was a crash from downstairs. Rukia sat bolt upright and looked toward the door the noise sounded like it had come from the kitchen. There followed a soft curse, low enough to be a man's voice, and Rukia's heart began to thud against her rib cage. It jarred her, and she began to shake, a little at first, but soon she felt as if her bones were rattling inside the hollow cages of her limbs while her heart drummed out an erratic rhythm to accompany them.


Her legs were bare and gooseflesh rose on them as soon as she swung them out from underneath the duvet. She knew, heel of the hand into nose, if he grabs you from behind, elbow him in the stomach, stamp on his foot, kick him in the groin, but she still seized Kaien's baseball bat from beside their bed and, gripping the handle tightly, crept out through the bedroom door.

The stairs had been carpeted, and she made nary a sound as she descended, raising her weapon, just in case she had to leap over the banisters, warrior-princess-like, and beat a potential thief/rapist/murderer into submission. Instead, when she pushed open her kitchen door, she saw a tall figure hunched over the counter, rifling through a first-aid box she didn't even know she had. She reached out and flicked on the overhead light causing the boy to yelp and spin around; Rukia almost dropped the bat. He was young as she had thought, seventeen at the outside, and there was a crease between his eyebrows. His hair was a startling orange, the kind of colour you couldn't look directly at if you had just woken up–a colour that blurred with the brightness of the electric lights. Rukia squinted at him, shielding her eyes. She knew this boy.

"Who the hell are you?" he demanded, before she could even open her mouth.

Rukia's jaw dropped. So the kid had broken into her house and was now demanding to know who she was? She knew who he was of course, he was Ichigo Kurosaki, son of her neighbour, Isshin Kurosaki but he was supposed to be a boarding school-a good one too-, he had been there since he was about thirteen.

He had left a few days after she and Kaien had moved in. She had been out on the veranda, sipping a coffee, while Kaien was at work, and it was with startling clarity that she recalled the young boy who had crashed out of the house to the right of the one opposite hers with two little girls attached to his arms. One was screaming and wailing, while the other one was simply digging in her heels and trying to force him back to the house. The caterwauling one had short sandy hair and Rukia caught a few of the words that came through the tears.

"Ichi-please," there followed an explosion of noisy, snotty sobs, "Pl...leeeease, don't go. Please!" and then the crying took over in earnest.

The young boy, dressed in an expensive looking blazer in deep scarlet, which clashed magnificently with his hair, looked in equal parts, irritated and pained. The guilt on his face was not blotted out by the perma-scowl, in fact, it only enhanced it. Following them from the house was the man, Rukia soon learned to be Isshin Kurosaki; he was carrying a trunk and a large suitcase, which were put in the boot of the car as Ichigo continued to try and pry his sisters off him until he finally managed to get free. The sandy haired one,-Rukia now knew her as Yuzu-, began sobbing into her hands while the other one patted her back, throwing her older brother angry looks. He was staring back with a face that said, 'What?', although it was blatantly clear just what was upsetting her. A cuff on the back of the head from his father made him spin around and eye the older man angrily, but at the latter's nod to the sobbing nine year old, his eyes dropped and he bit his lip. She didn't hear the words that followed, they were too soft, but he saw Yuzu's tears seem to slow before she leaped at him and flung her arms around her brother's neck.

With many kisses and promises of visits extracted, Ichigo said goodbye to his family and drove away in the back of the black car embossed with the logo of the school he was off to. He didn't turn around to look back at his family so they didn't wave after him.

That was the first and last time Rukia had seen Ichigo Kurosaki, until he stood in front of her in her kitchen, having just broken in through the back door. And, despite the fact that he had broken in to her house, he still eyed her with horror and suspicion. This pissed Rukia off.

"I live here, and you've broken in, Ichigo Kurosaki."

Ichigo's eyes widened and Rukia noticed their brown colour before he blinked. The scowl quickly returned.

"How do you know my name?" he demanded, turning to face her and drawing himself up to his full height. She saw his hand was tucked against his body as if he was protecting it, and his nose looked bloodied. Still, he cut an intimidating figure, and she clutched her bat tighter again. He was not what he had been at thirteen; short, with scruffy hair, sticky-out ears and puppy fat around his face. Now, he was tall, broad-shouldered and slim-flanked, with a clean-cut jaw, ears he had grown into and orange hair that fell into intelligent, calculating eyes. Yet he still raised his chin in defence of his actions, and he took a step away as she moved forward.

"I'm Rukia Kuchiki. I moved into this place just before you left for school. But that still doesn't explain, young man, why exactly you have broken into my house at," she glanced at the clock, "two a.m. on a Sunday morning."

Again, the kid's eyes widened as he searched his memory for explanation.

"Y-you live here?" he stammered, "I-I-I thought- when I was a kid this was Urahara's place."

Rukia stared at him, one thin, black eyebrow raised; Ichigo shifted from foot to foot and let his eyes slide away from hers to the walls opposite and the ceiling. He was clearly uncomfortable.

"He-he moved out." Ichigo finished lamely.

Rukia nodded. This had, in fact been Urahara's home before she had moved in, as well as the sometimes home of his on and off partner, Yoruichi, before Urahara had decided to down-size. She wondered if it was a trick being played on her, selling the house while she was gone, or if it was just lonely there without her. Unfortunately, when she had asked about it the man's damned conniving grin and bizarre choice to wield a fan had stopped her from getting a clear idea.

"Yes, he did." Rukia said, though with a little more snap in her voice than Ichigo.

"It's just that, I knew where the spare key was still on top of the light, but then I tripped over the trash can, so..." he trailed off.

Rukia raised an eyebrow, "Why aren't you at school?"

Ichigo tensed and moved away from her.

"What's it to you?"

"You broke into my house!"

He jumped.

"Alright, jeez, midget woman! Sorry."

The vein that Kaien had always made fun of stood out on her temple.

"What did you call me?" she whispered, her voice dangerous and low. The baseball bat swung off her shoulder and came to rest with a click on the linoleum floor.

"I believe I commented on your height," he said with a smirk, then stopped as she pointed the bat at him.

"Do not ever call me that again," she hissed, looking deadly, even in her tank top and sleep shorts.

"What?" he asked, faux innocent. "Midget?"

The vein throbbed again. This little sod! She was going to kill him. She really was.

"Look, you brat," she grated out. "I have told you once, do not call me a midget, or I will cause you pain. Unless you want me to call your father or the police, I suggest you shut the hell up."

Ichigo sneered, as he observed the dark aura surrounding the woman. With her threat still fresh in his mind, he knew he probably shouldn't be going down this route, but she had pissed him off now.

"Whatever shortcake, I've been in trouble before."

Rukia shrieked in fury and raised the bat over her head. Ichigo's eyes widened and he reacted without thinking. He threw his arms up to catch the wood forgetting that only one of them worked properly. He yelled in surprise and pain and bent over, clutching his injured hand. Rukia dropped the bat and started towards him. Putting her hands on his shoulders, she pushed him upright.

"Let me see," she said gently, and drew his hand towards her. The knuckles were swollen and the skin was broken and bleeding. She caressed it softly, hearing a soft hiss of pain as she did so.

Silently, she took his uninjured hand and pulled him out of the kitchen and up the stairs. She felt him hold back at first, but then begin to follow her, noticing, with some amusement, that he had already removed his shoes. She took him to the bathroom and opened her cupboard. Pulling out iodine, she poured some on a cotton bud from the bag by the sink and wiped it across his knuckles.

"Ow! Shit, that stings."

Rukia's eyes snapped up and she slapped him smartly upside the head.

"Ow! What was that for?" he cried angrily, rubbing his skull.

"Don't swear in my house," she snapped back and went back to diligently cleaning his hand. Afterwards, she pulled out the bandage she kept for emergencies and wrapped it around his hands. Tying it off, she looked up at him and jerked her head to signal that he should move, as he was blocking her path. He didn't budge.

"Thank you," he said, suddenly the perfect gentleman.

She felt a smile spread across her face.

"It's fine," she replied. They stood silently for a minute before speaking.

"Are you gonna move, Strawberry?"

Ichigo's scowl instantly deepened.

"It means 'one who protects', actually."

She chuckled. Apparently she had hit a raw nerve.

"Okay then," she said, patting him on the chest and slipping under his arm. He stood, dumbstruck, for a second before her head reappeared in the doorway.

"Come on."

Sighing, he followed. It wasn't as if his night could get any weirder; it had already wandered into the realm of the surreal too many times. Rukia Kuchiki wasn't making it any worse.

"So, are you going to tell me why you aren't in school now? And how you knew where Urahara's spare key was?" she asked, as she came to sit beside him on the sofa.

It was one of those big fancy jobs, plush and cushy, not neat like so many other suburban wives' homes. She had settled back into the pillows with a steaming mug of tea, after handing Ichigo one himself. Now, she was wearing ratty sweats and an old university tee. The top was the right size but the sweats looked like they were for a man. Ichigo looked at the strip that ran down the side while she tucked her legs under herself and inhaled the scent of the sweet hot drink. Then he caught her smirking at him and blushed. Scowling at the floor he ignored his tea and didn't answer. Rukia nudged him with her toe.

"Pick a question," he said.

"Fine, the second one."

"Why that one?"

She rolled her eyes, "Because you asked me to pick. Besides, you should always leave the more interesting story for last." He observed her for a moment as she drank some tea then glanced back at him. "Well?"

Ichigo sighed.

"He used to let me crash here if I needed a place to stay."

"Needed a place to crash?" Rukia looked confused. "What were you doing crashing anywhere when you were thirteen?"

He looked shifty then, and more like a thirteen year old than he had on the day he left for school.

"Well, my dad had kinda given up on getting me home every night by that age, anyway. And if I had been in a fight, Urahara would let me sleep here, then patch me up and send me home in the morning."

Rukia continued to stare at him.

"Will you stop looking at me like that?"

Rukia shrugged then, "Your business, I suppose. Next question."


"Tell me why you're here, instead of in school."

Ichigo closed his eyes and sighed heavily; it sounded as if there was a great weight on his chest and he was struggling just to hold it up and not let it cave.

"Fine, but you probably won't believe me."

"Believe me kid, there's a very little that would shock me."

He sighed again.


Ichigo had been at Seireitei Hall for nearly five years. He had made friends. He had made enemies. In fact, a lot more enemies than friends. They didn't like his hair, apparently it made him look like a punk. After he had been beaten up the first few times someone, a teacher perhaps, had suggested that he dye it, but Ichigo had decided already that, if his hair was a problem for the bastards, they could just go screw themselves. He didn't give a damn what others thought and that was his gift.

This and his laidback attitude had given him a 'bad boy image', something he was as eager to shake as the excess female attention it brought him. Eventually, his constant scowls, rebuffals and rude indifference had given way to a scary persona as opposed to a sexy one, and the girls finally stopped trailing after him. At the age of fifteen, he had had one girlfriend, Senna. They were good for a while, but her parents split and mounting money troubles meant they eventually pulled her out of school. She had said a teary goodbye to Ichigo and he had been sad for a while went on. He was Ichigo Kurosaki, and he didn't rely on people much. Unfortunately, the summer he turned seventeen, it had become apparent that he had not managed to shake all his female admirers.

There was still one girl who stalked him resolutely up and down corridors, to his dojo, to the bars he snuck into with his friends. She was a girl anyone would have given their right arm to be with - long auburn hair, pretty grey eyes and perfect curves. Orihime Inoue was the girl every guy wanted. Every guy except Ichigo.

She confessed to him just after his birthday, and he had to sadly but firmly tell her that he wasn't interested. Her eyes had filled with tears and she had nodded quietly. She had turned and run, leaving Ichigo feeling horribly guilty, but a little relieved, that she wasn't going to trail him anymore. The next day, however, she had brought him a bento, and not only did she present it to him in front of the class so he couldn't refuse, but she had cooked the whole thing herself.

"I had to skip class the next day I was so ill," explained Ichigo, grimacing. Rukia laughed loudly until he scowled. "It isn't funny."

"It sort of is."

"No it isn't. When you are forced to eat liver pancakes with red bean paste and chocolate sprinkles, then you tell me if that's funny."

Rukia could only laugh harder.

"Shut up!"

Rukia dutifully set her mouth into a straight line which only twitched a little-okay a lot-as he continued.

Of course, after Orihime discovered she had poisoned Ichigo, she just had to apologise personally. Ichigo told her it was fine, but she was disbelieving, and so, after school one day, when he was still at the dojo, Orihime Inoue went to his room and collected his laundry. Imagine Ichigo's reaction when he returned to his dorm, where his roommate Ishida was smirking, and found that every single piece of clothing he owned was gone. Marching down to the laundry room, he found Orihime calmly washing his stuff, batch by batch. Yelling over the sound of the machines, he asked her what the hell she was doing, and she explained.

"It'll be done by tomorrow." she chirruped, then turned back to her task.

"Then can I take some clean stuff?" he pleaded, indicating the pile of still unwashed items, which had in fact been through the laundry just a few days ago. Why am I asking to take my own clothes? Damn it! But Orihime was oblivious, so in the end he just snatched them and ran.

Next day, he got everything back, well, almost everything. He swore he couldn't find a few of his tee shirts and, even creepier, a few pairs of boxers were missing.

Ichigo blushed again, as he realised that he had just mentioned his underwear in front of this woman, but she didn't seem to have noticed; she had slipped off the sofa, she was laughing so hard.

"She stole your b-b-b-bahHAHAHAHA!"

"Yeah, okay. I said she was a stalker, didn't I?"

He hadn't confronted her. How could he? Instead he had ignored it. That was, he ignored it until the rumours began. At first, it was a little flutter of a whisper as he passed, then it became a buzz, and by the time he finally decided to listen, it became all-out chatter.

"I am NOT dating Orihime Inoue!"

"What? She told people you were going out?" asked Rukia, her eyes popping wide. She grimaced, "Okay, that one is creepy. There was a girl back in my college who once tried to say that she and my husband were dating and, everyone believed her. In the end, he had to publicly state that they were not, nor had they ever been or ever would be a couple. He humiliated her, it was awful."

Ichigo looked up at this. She was married? Then where was the guy? He didn't know, but he sure as hell wouldn't have been happy about his wife hanging out with a strange guy at twenty to three on a Sunday morning. Glancing at her hand, wrapped again around her mug, he saw there was no band. Oh.

Rukia sipped her rea and pretended she hadn't seen him looking. Ichigo looked up at that point and saw her watching him; he coughed and tried act oblivious-he didn't want her think that he was sneaking looks. But, she continued to sip her tea, unperturbed. Clearly nothing else was going to be said about it. So Ichigo continue with another weighted sigh.

"Well, I wish I had confronted her publically, and then maybe this wouldn't have got so out of hand." He paused, looking worried and unhappy, "So I talked to a couple of her friends. Tatsuki-that's Tatsuki whose family live just down the road," Rukia nodded to show she knew the Arisawas, "she's Orihime's best friend. She said she heard from a couple of other girls that Orihime and I were something serious, and then asked Inoue, who confirmed it!" He looked quite distressed. Rukia was about to reach out a hand to lay on his, but he opened his mouth and spoke again.

"So I went to her room, and her roommate was in there. She looked surprised, but greeted me like we knew each other. So I sort of just blurted out, 'Has Orihime been telling people that she and I are dating? Because its bull, and I want to talk to her about it.' and she looked really surprised. She started sputtering, 'You aren't? Bu-bu-bu-but, she said you guys had something special' or some crap like that. Then she comes out with the real crowner. 'She said you guys had done it. She sleeps in your tee-shirts and boxers."

"That's a little twisted," said Rukia.

"Yeah," agreed Ichigo, his nose wrinkling, as well as his brow. "Anyway, I didn't take this well. I barged past stutter girl and stripped Inoue's duvet, and there are all my things that went missing from the laundry. My 'Nice Vibe' tee. My other stuff, and then the pictures."

"Oh, lord."

"Yup, she had reams of them, all of me."

"What did you do?"

"I freaked."

"I'm not surprised."

"I told her roommate that when Inoue came in, she needed to come and speak to me, that I'd be in my room. So I went back."

Rukia was on tenterhooks. This was better than a movie. It had been a long time since she'd been allowed to gossip like a teenager, and this was good fun. Fun? With the guy who broke into your house? You're crazy Kuchiki.

"Anyway, she showed, and she looked all expectant and happy. That quickly changed."

Ichigo opened the door to see Orihime standing there, rocking back and forth on her heels with her hands clasped behind her back. Her eyes were shining, and she had a slight, knowing smile on her face, as if they shared a secret that he was privy to. Ichigo couldn't help it, his nose wrinkled in disgust, but she seemed totally oblivious. Stepping back, he let her in and she scurried inside. After he shut the door, he turned and saw her already kicking off her shoes and sitting on his bed, testing its springs.

"Inoue," he began.

"Yes?" she said, looking up, her hands going to her shirt buttons and undoing the first two. Ichigo faltered as he watched her -he was still a teenage boy after all.

"I-uh...I've been hearing stuff," he said, rubbing the back of his head with a hand. "Look, uh...people are saying that we're dating, and-"

"Oh, I know, it's so funny isn't it?"

"Uh, not really," said Ichigo, arm dropping.

Inoue stopped laughing.

"Oh, so you think that it's a good idea?"

"Wha-? No!" he cried, but she was already smiling again.

"Oh, Ichigo!" she cried, her name tripping awkwardly off her tongue, "I'm so glad you've come around! We'll be so happy together!"

And she leapt from the bed and grabbed him. Ichigo stumbled back into the wall before he felt her arms encircle his neck, her legs go around his waist and her wet lips press hard against his. So hard, he could feel her teeth through the contact.

"O-wri-h-heeme!" he forced out, putting his hands on her waist and physically prising her off him.

"What's wrong, lover? I know you haven't had a girlfriend since that air-head skank who left last year, but it doesn't matter."

It took Ichigo a moment to register that she meant Senna, and then he really did push her off. Her feet hit the floor with a soft pat-pat.

"Look, I don't know what the hell you've been doing," he ground out, "and frankly, I don't want to know. I saw the pictures in your room and I spoke to your roommate. You've been spreading stupid lies. I told you once I wasn't interested, and you didn't get the message. So let me say it again; I don't want to be with you. You, of all people, have absolutely no right to call anyone an airhead, let Senna alone, and how can you call her a slut or a skank, or whatever that was? You're crazy and vicious, and if you don't get the message soon, then I'll make sure you do."

The threat was unintentional, but still there. He took a deep shuddering breath. "You are absolutely the last person I would ever choose to be with," he snorted derisively, walking over to push open his bedroom door. "Now please don't talk to me again."

He turned and saw the girl who was standing barefoot before him. Her head was hung low, and she was shaking. For a second, he thought she was sobbing, but her clenched fists told him different. Then she raised her head and showed him her suddenly steely eyes, brimming with furious tears and her clenched teeth.

"I-I gave you everything!" she hissed, "Everything!"

"What? You gave me nothing!"

She sneered this time. Then she said, in a deadly whisper, "You know, I'll make you regret this."

"Oh, I bet." He bit out sarcastically, before she strode past him, still barefoot. He slammed the door after her, then he leaned against it and slid down to the floor. If only he had known just what she was going to do...

"So, what did she do?" asked Rukia, agog. Her tea was forgotten now, as she stared at Ichigo, who was glaring at his own cup as if it had done him wrong.

"Next thing I know..." he stopped abruptly and turned away from Rukia.

"What?" Rukia asked, concerned.

He began shakily, "My roommate, Ishida -within twenty minutes he's banging on the door, which I had locked, and yelling at me to open up. I do, and he punches me, right in the face. Luckily, he has a girly arm, so I slugged him back, and then asked the crazy bastard what he was doing. He looked all fraught then, and took off his glasses. He says, 'Tell me you didn't do it, Kurosaki.' And I don't have a clue what the guy is on, so I'm all like, 'Huh?' and he says 'Tell me you didn't rape Orihime Inuoe.'"

Rukia gasped as Ichigo's whole face seemed to harden. His jaw was solid, teeth gritted, and his eyes scrunched in anger and pain.

"Oh, my God," she whispered.

"The crazy bitch was in the student cafeteria, yelling about it."

His voice cracked and he dipped his head. Rukia's hand flew to her mouth; he was shaking now, so she set down her cup and shifted up the couch to sit beside him. Wrapping her arm about him, she rested her head on the crook between his neck and shoulder. She felt him tighten up before his hand flew up and he wiped his eyes. Then he moved firmly away from her.

"Thanks," he said hoarsely, before he settled back onto the couch and carried on drinking his tea.

Rukia exhaled slowly and shut her eyes.

Getting mixed up in others problems again, Kaien, she thought. You were right, I just can't help myself.

"Well, I guess you'll just have to stay here for now."

She said as if it was a given. She saw him start out of the corner of her eye, and fought the urge to smile.


"You like that word tonight, don't you?" she smirked, when he scowled and sat up. "Just for tonight. You can 'crash' here." There was a sly smile and a twinkle in her eye. "Tomorrow, you can explain this to your father. If you want, I'll go with you."

Ichigo was doing a very good impression of a goldfish.

"You serious?" he asked, incredulous.

"As a heart attack," she replied, now straight-faced. "Nobody should treat you like that. Besides you look like you need a place to sleep."

She eyed him, taking in his bandaged hand, his torn up, grubby, long sleeved white tee shirt and muddied jeans. His sneakers, now set beside his feet, were nothing short of ragged and there was a twig in his hair. She picked it out and flicked it over the back of the sofa.

"Well, do you want to stay here or what?"

"I-uh, yes!"

"Well then...," she hopped off the cushions and beckoned him. He jumped up and followed her up the stairs, "If the school haven't called your father he probably won't know your gone until tomorrow. So I'll call him now and you can head home in the a.m."

Ichigo nodded gratefully as she opened the door to a spare room. Then his mouth fell open.

"Holy crap!" He dodged his punishment for cursing -a well aimed jab at his chest- and stepped into the room, "This place is a palace."

The room had a king-sized bed with a white canopy and a mahogany writing desk. A balcony with French shutters opened out to look over the road, though it was hung with a gossamer curtain to stop nosy suburban wives from seeing inside.

"I'll call you tomorrow morning," she said, as she watched him flop onto the quilt and stretch. He was probably asleep before she even shut the door, but still she whispered, "'Night kiddo," before she clicked it shut.

"Hello," came a bleary voice from the other end of the line.

"Mr. Kurosaki."said Rukia. "I am so very sorry for the lateness of the hour but I had to call you. It's Rukia Kuchiki from across the road.

There was a pause. Then, "Rukia Kuchiki?"

Yes. I have said my name, she thought, as she listened to him yawn, then reprimanded herself, it was three a.m, after all. He had much more right to be short with her than she with him.

"Yes, that's me," She confirmed in a softer tone. "I was just wondering if you had heard from Seireitei Hall tonight."

He was alert now.

"No, I haven't."

"Well, please don't be worried, but your son showed up at my house tonight."

"He WHAT?"

"Please stay calm, Mr. Kurosaki! Don't be alarmed. He thought Urahara still lived here and used the spare key." The key I wasn't aware existed, she thought irritably. "He ran away from school, because a girl accused him of something he didn't do."


Rukia sighed. "She accused him of raping her, Mr. Kurosaki."

"WHAT?" he yelled again. "Ichigo would never-"

"I know, Mr. Kurosaki. The whole thing is bull, from what I can tell. He jilted the girl and she took it very badly."

There was silence.

"Is he still there?" the man sounded tired and resigned.


"Right, I'm coming over."

"Oh, no Mr. Kurosaki," cried Rukia. "Please, it's absolutely fine. I let him stay in the spare room. He's fast asleep. I said I would call you now, just in case you were worried, but he's coming home tomorrow, so don't trouble yourself."

There was a sigh, a shuffle and then an 'alright'.

Rukia let out a breath.

"Thank you, Mr. Kurosaki."

"Rukia, my dear, I ought to be thanking you."

"Alright then, I'll let you go back to sleep. Goodbye."

"Goodbye, Rukia." He sighed heavily, for a second sounding just like his son.

Rukia put the phone down and stretched. She could get a few more hours of sleep before she saw Ichigo off. So, she flung herself back on her covers and went to sleep there.

She woke up at half past five, so wrapped up in her duvet that she could barely move.

Next morning, Ichigo descended the stairs and was met by the wonderful smell of fried bacon. It smelled just like Yuzu's, and he was keen to see if it tasted as good.

It was very light in the house. White and fresh, morning sun came through the window in the lounge where a small breakfast table was sitting, places already set. Ichigo couldn't fathom why people didn't just eat in the kitchen, which was what he had always been happy doing.

Then the small figure of Rukia Kuchiki appeared; she was putting pancakes on a plate. The step creaked below him, and she turned around. The window showed him her willowy silhouette and, for an instant, he fancied her a girl of no more than fifteen.

"Hey, sleepy head," she intoned, with a smirk that he could hear even if he couldn't see. Then she moved out of the light and the illusion was gone. He saw the developed figure, small but clearly that of a woman, and eyes that belied their beauty.

"You want some breakfast?" she asked, jerking her head towards the table. He nodded vigorously then scowled, as he realised he had just reverted to childhood again. But of course, she hadn't noticed. She had already turned, seated herself and was hacking at a pancake, smothered in syrup beside the bacon which had filled the house with that glorious smell. He seated himself beside her as she shovelled the first forkful into her mouth and chewed noisily. There was syrup on her chin.

"I cawlled yur farther," she semi-choked, as he took a knife and fork and began to eat his own food. She swallowed before attempting the next sentence.

"He's expecting you this morning."

Ichigo said nothing, but looked down at his plate, prodding the bacon now, as if it had somehow wronged him.

"Hey," she said, her eyes softening again, "it'll be fine."

"I know!" he snapped, then looked down, ashamed, "Sorry. I'm just-"

"I know." She sighed, looking out of the window, "Believe me I know."

Rukia leaned on the veranda, exactly as she had done five years ago, on the morning she watched young Ichigo Kurosaki leave the house for school, but this time Ichigo was walking down the steps, a piece of wholemeal toast between his teeth as he pulled his discarded sweater over his head. When he reached the bottom, he turned around and opened his mouth, catching the toast before speaking.

"Listen, thanks, Ms. Kuchiki," he began before stopping, not sure how to carry on. Rukia sighed in a way that was a little lofty, but still kind.

"It's fine kid," she said, "And don't call me Ms. Kuchiki. It makes me feel old. I'm only twenty eight."

"Sorry lady, by my book that is old."

Ichigo saw the vein stand out on her head again and grinned, "What do you want me to call you?"

She stared down at him, her eyes narrowed, before she let one last smirk slide onto her face.

"You can call me Rukia."

He nodded, then smiled for a fraction of a second. Rukia could already see Isshin waiting at the door of his house, so she nodded towards it. Ichigo turned, looked back, nodded once more and ran across the road.

"Goodbye, Rukia."

"Goodbye Ichigo," she said, with a smile, the first of many for quite a while.

Phew, chapter 1.

I am so tired my eyes hurt. But on the upside, yay! I don't think I have ever written an opening chapter this big before. This is quite a new thing for me :D

Decision to write this came from the nasty kick in the butt I got when I saw that someone had used one of my ideas in a fic (and that is they had thought of the same thing not that they pinched it XD) So I was thinking 'what if someone else thinks of this...eep!' and I got my lazy butt in gear. And speaking of my lazy butt, I apologise in advance for my lousy editing skills. You see I want this out there before tomorrow (unlikely) so I'm really blasting it out. It will be multi-chapter but those of you following Loves, Lies and Promises don't worry I won't neglect one for the other...hopefully :) I also apologise for some of it being rushed. But I really really want it out by tomorrow.

Please inform me of any continuity errors and I will endeavour to correct them before next chapter. Remember to review the fic. This is how I live! Dependant on the praise of others XDXDXD


*passes out*