Hey... uhm. Hello? oh gosh, it's been so long since my last update. I'm not sure if you guys are still gonna forgive me for leaving off like that.

I'm so sorry. A lot of things have happened this semester and... err... I'll explain later.

For now, here's the overdue-d chapter 4.

Disclaimer: last time I checked I'm not a guy, I'm not Japanese, and My name ain't Tite Kubo.


Pruney fingers.

Exactly how long must one be exposed to water before their fingers start to wrinkle up?

and why do they wrinkle up anyway?

What's the reason behind pruney fingers?

Rukia leaned her head back and raked her brain for past lessons concerning water, skin and…prunes.

That's right… she remembers a lecture about how the human skin is covered with its own special oil (sebum…see-bum? Whatever). How the oil lubricates and protects the skin, and also makes it a little waterproof.

She raised her arms up and watched as droplets of water slid down their length. That's why water runs off… instead of being soaked up. A few more seconds of mindless staring passed before finally dropping her arms back down, splashing soapy water all around her.

And so…? How does this lead to pruney skin?

Rukia closed her eyes and went back to recalling previous lessons, because… staying in the water for a long period of time washes away this oil. Then water can finally penetrate the skin (or at least the outer layer), causing the skin to be waterlogged.

She frowned, remembering how her professor told the class that no one really knows how this lead to wrinkles. Some say it's because the skin expands to allow extra water inside (and the expanded skin ends up looking like prunes?), others say that it's because the skin is tied down to the tissue underneath certain places and when the skin is full of water, it gets puffy (but only in places where it isn't tied down…which makes it look like a prune?).

She sighed and shook her head.

In simple terms you get pruney fingers because,

"You've been in the water for too long."

Rukia sucked in her breath and lowered herself into the water.

"Ojou-sama…"

"Go away." Rukia growled at the intruder.

"You're going to catch a cold… and I can guess your fingers are all pruney by now." Toshiro's voice clearly expressed the exasperation he felt, yet he couldn't pass up the chance to tease her.

He heard water splash, as if someone was in a hurry to get out of the tub. "Shut up Whitey."

Yep. She's riled up.

Despite the nickname, he couldn't help the smirk that instantly formed on his mouth. "I'm right then, you do have pruney fingers."

He heard her cuss and couldn't control the chuckle that erupted from his lips,

"I swear Hitsugaya, If you don't get out of the room this instant I'll…!"

The door he was leaning on jerked open and he almost fell backwards hadn't he managed to grab hold of the door frame.

"What the hell are you doing in my room anyway?" Rukia's voice cut cold.

Toshiro managed to right himself up again. He turned around and looked at the towel-clad Rukia, water droplets still clinging onto her body.

The sight of her wrapped only in a towel was pleasing to the eyes. He had to admit that it surprised him a bit to find the small framed woman had the curves in the right places, one couldn't easily tell when hidden underneath those baggy pants and loose blouse. Except maybe for the chest department but…

"Ehem."

He caught himself just in time and opted to avert his eyes to the side. How old was he again? He felt like a hormone raged teenager, thinking about those things.

Still, he couldn't really blame himself around this woman. After all, she's-

"Oi… pervert, my eyes are up here."

Her words caught him off-guard, he hadn't realized he was staring again. "Tss… as if anyone would take interest."

She narrowed her eyes at him, "Oh you're one to talk!"

"Yes actually… girls go crazy over me." he deadpanned.

Rukia placed a hand on her waist, "mmhm… when you're in your bunny mode that is." she cocked her head to the side, an evil smirk displayed on her pink lips.

Toshiro matched her smirk with one of his own, a more evil version at that.

"Sure. Like what you did back at the garden."

Her face flared a pretty shade of pink, "I did no such thing!"

"Yeah, keep convincing yourself."

He saw a hairbrush flying towards him and deftly dodged the thing.

"What are you doing here anyway? Last time I checked this is MY room, you pervert."

"I was standing guard."

"Standing guard my ass,"

She walked towards the bed and picked up her white blouse. Her nose wrinkled up upon close examination, it had a big brown stain on the left breast pocket. "Get out already; I need to put on some clothes."

"Just so you know, I caught the March Hare trying to sneak in here while you were taking a bath."

"WHAT?" Toshiro didn't think it was possible for a human like her to twirl around that fast. He felt slightly dizzy watching her.

"I'm surrounded by perverts! Perverts!"

"I honestly fail to see what he's so interested in…" He glanced at her sideways, an evil smirk splayed on his lips.

"Dammit HItsugaya! Get the fuck out!"

The White Rabbit didn't need to be told twice as he quickly stepped outside, narrowly missing another object thrown at his direction, and shut the door behind him with a slam.

He slipped his hands into his pockets and walked away, a small smile stretching on his lips.

What now…?

A brown-stained, white blouse flashed through his memory and his next destination was decided.

oOo

FLASHBACK

"I can't believe I'm actually allowing you to drag me into this…"

"It's not like you have a choice anyway." He found himself on the receiving end of one of her nastiest glares, he shook his head and continued walking.

"Would you rather I left you alone and you find your own way around?"

Rukia let out an indignant 'huf' but continued following the man.

A pregnant silence ensued, occasionally disrupted by Rukia's heavy breathing or Toshiro heaving a sigh.

"What's he like?" It was Rukia who broke the silence.

"Who?"

"Your boyfriend,"

Toshiro immediately stopped on his tracks and whirled around. Rukia felt dizzy just from watching him.

"Excuse me?" he looked at her as if she'd grown an extra head.

"The Mad Hatter… who the hell do you think I was talking about?" she raised an eyebrow, her voice monotonous.

He gave her a glare that would've sent chills down the most cold-blooded murderer's spine, except… it was Rukia he was dealing with. Try living with people like Byakuya and glares like these become trivial stuff. She'd witnessed enough number of people subjected to her brother's 'death glares' to be able to develop immunity from such.

"So…?" she pressed him, unfazed by his 'glare of doom'

"So…what?" he turned around and started walking again.

"The Mad Hatter, What's he like?" Rukia was starting to feel her patience waning.

"Mad…"

Fuck, whatever. Rukia turned and headed for the opposite direction.

She heard him sigh, "Ojou-sama… where are you going? You're going to get lost if you stray too far from me."

"Anywhere far from you's just fine" she continued walking.

Rukia didn't hear his reply, instead she heard the unmistakable shuffling of feet and footsteps towards her direction.

"Don't follow me…" Rukia chided the white haired man without breaking her steps.

"…"

BANG!

It took several blinking moments before Rukia realized that she had been shot at, that Toshiro instantly used his body to shield her from the bullet, and that both the perpetrator and Toshiro had their guns aimed at each other's faces.

"Oh~ as expected of the White Rabbit."

Toshiro's face kept passive, Rukia thought his teal eyes couldn't look any colder but the iced orbs staring at the other man proved her wrong.

He kept his gaze steady as he pulled the hammer back.

"What've you got there Usagi-chan?"

She felt Toshiro push her back behind him blocking her entirely from the other person's view.

"I should've known you'd be here..."

"Oh~? And where might you be headed to?" the other man inched closer to them, unfazed by the fact that the White Rabbit held him at point blank.

"None of your business Hare, get out of the way." The two were now standing side by side, the rabbit's gun aimed at the other's jaw.

Rukia found herself locking gazes with a pair of russet orbs which held a fair amount of surprise upon seeing her. She brought her gaze up past his eyes and found herself staring at the reddest mane she had ever seen.

His most distinguished feature however, that would forever be imprinted on her memory, was not the mass of red that sat atop his head but the black ink lines that were, she supposed, to be called his eyebrows. She followed the trail of black and wondered where exactly they ended.

"Histugaya…" his voice lost the arrogance that coated it moments ago, "who-?" the incessant pressing of the gun's nozzle on his jaw cut his words short.

"I said it's none of your business."

Rukia looked at the man who had his back to her. Hearing him utter words dripping with murder for the first time, she shuddered to think what she would see in his eyes if he turned and faced her. She'd been regarding this man far too lightly.

Ought to be careful from now on…

"Hitsugaya," she placed her hands gently on his shoulders and felt his stiff muscles relax under her touch. She let her hand slide down the length of his arm and stopped where his hand connected with the gun.

"Let's go." Her voice quiet as she lowered his hand, not letting go even as it rested on his side.

She let out a soft sigh of relief. Her head was swimming with questions but she decided to put off the desire to assault the white haired man with query until she was sure they were out of the red-head's sight. She was surprised, but relieved at the same time, that Toshiro allowed her to steer him around and away from the other man, and she sure as hell won't blow her chances of getting away without having to risk a fight breaking out.

Her steps were stopped however when she felt strong hands encircle her wrist and pull her back.

"Are you… perhaps…?" the red haired man (what did Toshiro call him again… Hare?) searched her face for something she couldn't place a finger on.

"Hare!" Toshiro's voice was heavy with warning.

Was it her, or did the temperature suddenly drop a few degrees?

Hare's eyes narrowed in understanding. Only a few things distressed the usually cool and composed White Rabbit. For him to be bristling in rage like this… could only mean one thing.

He finally found her.

Much to Rukia's surprise the red haired man pulled her in for a tight embrace. She felt herself flushed against his chest and smelled the mixture of something spicy and musky on his scent.

"Are you really her?" He whispered into her ears. His lowered voice sending shivers down her spine.

"Le-Let go!" she fought down the heat that was fighting hard to break out unto her cheeks. She tried pushing the man away but his grip was stronger than she thought.

He eventually released her from his embrace, but still held her at arms length.

He gazed at her intently making the tiny woman shift uncomfortably. She wasn't used to people staring at her like that; usually they'd avert their eyes when they saw her returning their gazes with one of her 'ice glares' courtesy of the Kuchiki Byakuya.

"I said let go of me! I don't understand what you're saying." She tried to shrug his hands from her shoulders.

"Let go! Toshi-" Her words died in her throat when the Hare brought his face close to her, his breath misting over her lips.

"Can I kiss you?"

Her eyes widened in panic. She raised her hand in an attempt to thwart of the kiss, ready to reprimand the arrogant prick the way she did earlier with that white haired bastard.

BANG!

The bullet flew past between Rukia and the red-head. Their eyes wide as saucers as they turned to the White Rabbit with disbelieving looks.

"What the hell Toshiro! You could've shot me!" Hare's displeasure was apparent as he stalked over to the White rabbit.

Rukia was left rooted to her spot. Sure she was grateful he stopped the lunatic from assaulting her but couldn't he have done it in a… safer way?

Then again, this is Hitsugaya Toshiro they were dealing with.

"I missed." He frowned and looked at the still smoking gun in his hand.

The Hare could only look at him in shock before regaining his senses and pulling out his own gun, "Bastard!"

"Renji."

The three turned around to find a tall, well-built man, standing in the distance. His wavy brown hair hung over his eyes, but the three knew that he was staring at them.

"O-Oi Chad!" the goofy smile on Hare's face was back.

Chad turned his head towards Toshiro and nodded, acknowledging the other man's presence. The White Rabbit raised one eyebrow, but returned the nod all the same.

"Even the Dormouse is here, you guys having another tea party?"

Rukia looked at Toshiro and then back at the man named Chad again, her eyes wide. That guy's the Dormouse?

Chad shook his head, "Hatter's not here, he asked us to look after the place."

Rukia felt a mixture of relief and disappointment. A part of her wanted to meet the Mad Hatter, curious to see if he was as mad as the people she's met so far, or perhaps madder than the rest.

She felt a shiver course through her body, though from fear or excitement she didn't know. A part of her didn't want to find out either.

"Ojou-sama."

"Hmm?" Toshiro's voice brought her out of her stupor.

He was now by her side, and the Dormouse standing in front of her. She peered up at the man whose eyes widened upon locking gaze with her, much like the March Hare's reaction earlier.

"Hitsugaya-san… is this…?"

"Hm." Toshiro watched Chad's reaction closely.

The tall man gently took Rukia's hand and planted a light kiss on the back of it. She was rendered speechless, and although she wanted to hit the man she suppressed the urge to do so. There was no hint of rudeness from his actions, if anything, Rukia even considered his actions polite.

Definitely polite. She turned her narrowed eyes towards the two standing a small distance off.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Ojou-sama."

"Li-like wise…eto… what did you say your name is again?"

"I'm Sado Yasutora. Also known as the Dormouse." He inclined his head towards Renji, "but most of my friends call me Chad."

"A-ah." She gave him an awkward smile, wondering all the while how in God's name he ended up with Chad.

"Im Rukia…" she opted to leave out her last name.

"Oi! That's unfair," everyone immediately turned their heads to the red-head making his way towards the only woman in the group. "Chad kisses your hand and you're all nice, I try to kiss you and you're out to slap me… not to mention I get shot at!"

Rukia blinked twice. Was he… throwing a tantrum?

A bubble of laughter escaped from her lips and she quickly brought up her hands to cover her mouth, smothering up the rest of the sound.

The three men looked at her curiously, their stunned expression doing little to help. A few moments later found Rukia releasing fresh bouts of laughter.

"O..Oi, Ojou-chan…"

She suddenly poked the red-head's chest viciously. "Who the hell are you calling Ojou-chan?"

The red-head instantly shut up, she grabbed his coat's collar and brought him down so they were on the same level.

"Listen Hare…," she sneered at him, continuously poking his chest. "I don't care if you think it's unfair, Chad's the first person who hasn't harassed me ever since I've arrived at this… this nut house!" she narrowed her eyes at Toshiro, "I don't fucking care if you think it's unfair, I'll be nice to whoever I want to and you're in no fucking position to whine about it. Am I clear?" her voice was menacingly quiet when she finished speaking.

Renji's face however, sported an expression far different from the one she expected after her little threat. "My kind of woman. Feisty!"

"Ugh!" she released his collar and shoved him back, "Sick bastard."

"Renji, that's enough." Chad called out to his friend. The red-head stood up and dusted himself, "Ah."

"Ojou-sama," Toshiro turned to address the petit woman, "We have to leave now." The small woman gave him a nod.

The White Rabbit bowed his head slightly to the two men before turning his back on them and walking away. Rukia followed suite and was soon walking side by side with the white haired man.

"Hey wait!" Renji's call fell on deaf ears. He felt a vein about to pop in irritation.

"Hitsugaya-san." Chad had better luck as the White Rabbit and his companion actually stopped and turned around.

"Are you taking the be-"

"Yes," Rukia looked at the man beside her wondering why he cut off the dormouse's words.

"The White King must meet Ojou-sama."

Chad approached the two, Renji close behind. "It's going to get dark soon; you know more than anyone else the dangers of travelling through the forest during the night."

Toshiro gazed up and the unmistakable indigo hue of the evening sky greeted him. The dormouse was right, they can't go through the forest at this hour. It'd be cruel of him if he'd insist they continue travelling through the thicket.

A small defeated sigh escaped his lips, "What do you suggest?" he looked at Chad directly in the eyes.

"Stay for the night," the dormouse faced the petite woman, making his appeal more to her rather than the white haired man, "The Hatter's coming home tonight as well, at least give him the chance to meet with Rukia-sama."

"Why should I?"

"Stop being selfish Htsugaya, the beloved does not belong to you… she belongs to-"

"You've said enough Hare." Toshiro fired a warning shot at Renji, deliberately missing the Hare's left eye.

"You bastard!" Tha March Hare pulled out his own gun.

"That's enough."

Rukia's firm voice stopped the men from bickering. She approached Toshiro and placed hand on his shoulder, "Hitsugaya…"

He relaxed.

Should it come as a surprise how, with just one touch, she can soothe the tension building up inside of him?

"I think we should take them up on their offer," her voice barely above a whisper. "Only for tonight though, come morning Hitsugaya and I will continue to where we're headed." Her words were directed to the Dormouse, who in her opinion, made the most sense out of the two.

Chad simply nodded his agreement.

"One more thing," she walked past the red-head bastard and stood directly in front of the tall man, her hands crossed in front of her chest.

"Keep this jerk away from me," she tilted her head towards Renji "He creeps me out."

"Heh."

"Agreed."

" WHAT THE HELL CHAD?"

END OF FLASHBACK

oOo

She looked at her clothes in disdain.

Really, what was the point of taking a bath if she'd end up wearing the same filthy clothes again?

She could try washing them- one look around and she abandoned the idea completely. Washing was out of the question.

She looked at the pristine sheets on her bed and considered fashioning something out of them, but no. Her rational side won over and thought she'd really look stupid clad in bed sheets.

"Achoo!"

Great. She knew it was only a matter of time before she'd catch a cold. Rukia brought a hand up to her forehead to check her temperature. She felt a little hot for her own liking, or maybe it was just her being paranoid?

She needed clothes… and she needed them fast. She was starting to seriously consider washing her clothes in the tub, and voluntarily locking herself inside the room until they were dry and were fit to be worn.

2 knocks on the door broke her train of thoughts.

"Who is it?"

"Rukia-sama, I have brought clothes for you." A soft, feminine voice called out from the outside.

Rukia cautiously opened the door, positioning herself so that she could instantly slam the door shut if needed.

She peered cautiously through the small gap. Paranoid much?

A maid with light-brown hair stood in front. Her eyes kind and her smile warm. On her hands were several garments piled on top of each other, much to Rukia's delight. She had to stop herself from dragging the girl inside the room, instead she opened the door wider and beckoned the girl inside.

"May I?" she smiled meekly at Rukia.

"Please do."

The girl's smile widened at her invitation. She rushed past the dark-haired woman, almost knocking her down on the process.

"Oh this is great! Rukia-sama you have no idea how excited I was when Hitsugaya-sama asked me to bring a new set of clothes for you," The young maid dropped the pile of clothes on the bed and started sorting them out, "I mean, you have no idea how everybody was surprised when Hare-sama and Dormouse-sama arrived with you and…"

Rukia smiled at the young girl's enthusiasm. She tried her best to listen to the girl's story, making out as much as she could from the rapid string of words that the young maid spouted.

"…we couldn't help but stare until Hare-sama scared us off! And… oh wait 'till you meet botchan*! He's one of the hottest men here in wonderla-"

The young maid looked at Rukia and her eyes suddenly widened with realization. She winced and immediately clamped her mouth shut.

"My deepest apologies Rukia-sama, I did not realize I was chatting your ears off!" she bowed her head

The dark haired woman felt sorry for the young girl whose face painted a pretty portrait of embarrassment. She reached out her hand and patted the young girl's head, "Please don't apologize. I actually enjoyed listening to you."

The young girl looked up to find the petite woman smiling at her, "Oh thank goodness…" she released her breath.

"Just do me a favor," Rukia walked towards the bed and picked up a red frilly dress, she regarded it with distaste and set it back down.

The young maid visibly stiffened at Rukia's words, "Anything for you Rukia-sama"

A soft sigh escaped from her lips followed by a small smile, "Stop calling me Rukia-sama… Rukia would be just fine."

"Oh but I can't really-"

"Please? And you don't have to be so formal around me," Rukia scratched the spot behind her ears in a nervous habit and her smile turned into an awkward grin "It kinda makes me uncomfortable."

"Oh…" The young maid stared at her with wide eyes for a considerable amount of time before her face broke off into a wide smile, "then Rukia-san would be fine?"

Rukia nodded her agreement, "Yeah, that'd be fine…. Eto… what's your name again?"

"My goodness, where are my manners!" The young girl bowed her head respectfully, "My name's Chiharu, yoroshiku onegai shimasu*."

Rukia smiled and bowed her head as well, "Yoroshiku. Now then, how about helping me out?" she held up a blue sundress, "I'm kind freezing here."

The young maid chuckled lightly and made to help the petite woman.

oOo

"What's taking her long?" Renji paced left and right impatiently.

"Will you just sit down? You're starting to make me dizzy." Toshiro brought the cup of tea to his lips and sipped slowly.

The lazy afternoon found the three males engaged in a tea party.

Their table was set up in the middle of a large pool, situated at the back of the similarly large house. The table was large enough to sit a dozen people, but only the Dormouse and the White Rabbit were occupying seats.

The March Hare has yet to cease pacing back and forth.

The pool underneath the party could be mistaken for a very large mirror, the water undisturbed despite the objects suspended above it. The liquid remained still under the March Hare's feet, perfectly reflecting the sky above and making it seem as if the Hare was walking on clouds.

"Maybe Rukia-sama decided to stay put in her room" A lone Sakura petal landed softly on the Dormouse's tea, the pink creating a startling contrast with the dark green.

"You think so?"

"I did mention to Ojou-sama that you tried to sneak into her room while she was bathing." Toshiro sipped his tea casually, his eyes closed in an attempt to savor the rich flavor.

"YOU DID WHA-?" Renji's hurried footsteps did nothing more than to create small, calm ripples on the pool's surface.

"The young Lord and Mistresses are here, Abarai-sama." A maid interrupted the worked up Hare.

"Finally!" The Hare immediately strode past the servant to greet the arriving party, "Friggin Kurosaki going away for so long."

Chad and Toshiro followed suit and also made their way inside the house. At the same time, the raven-haired woman was descending the spiral staircase.

"Hey… what up?" she gave the three males a curious look. The three men stared back at her, their gazes a little too intent for her own liking. She suddenly felt the need to tug on the end of her knee-length sundress, but she still felt a little too exposed.

Was it too late to go back and change? She suddenly missed her jeans and white blouse, maybe they were dirty but at least they didn't leave her feeling exposed. Rukia sniffed a little, she even missed her worn out sneakers. She had to trade them in for a pair of flats because she looked stupid wearing sneakers with a sundress, not to mention orange would clash violently with blue.

"Nice gloves" Renji greeted her as soon as she reached the landing.

Her answer was a kick to the shin, "Shut up. Chiharu insisted I wear them," she eyed her 'gloves' dubiously. They were the same shade of blue as her sundress, 'cept for the black and white stripes that circled the material. She doubted Chiharu asked her to don them to protect her from the cold. Even though the materials were long enough to cover up until her elbow, they were still short-finger gloves that left her digits exposed.

Instead the young maid said something along the lines of, 'to protect you from the branding light', which of course left her more confused than ever.

"Will you stop staring already?" she snapped at the three who immediately turned their gazes away.

The main door suddenly burst open and a little girl with short light brown hair rushed in.

"Renji-nii!" she flung herself towards the red head.

"Hey, welcome home!" Rukia smiled at the tenderness in his voice.

The little girl detached herself from Renji's embrace and proceeded to wrap her arms around Chad's neck, "Chad-nii, we missed you!"

The gentle giant patted the girl's head affectionately.

"Yuzu, there's someone we'd like you to meet." Renji placed a hand on the little girl's shouder.

"wh- oh! Hitsugaya-sama's here." She bowed slightly to greet the older man

"Domo*."

Toshiro motioned for Rukia to step forward, "Kurosaki-san, may I introduce Rukia-sama."

The petite woman bowed her head politely at the mention of her name, "Yoroshiku onegai shimasu, Kurosaki-san."

The little girl's eyes widened upon seeing Rukia, "Yo-you…a-are you…?" she looked at the March hare and the Dormouse for confirmation.

The two men nodded and the girl flung herself to Rukia without a second thought, "It's you! It's you! I can't believe you're really here!"

To say that Rukia was shocked would be an understatement. She fell down, her butt hitting the floor but the little girl kept clinging onto her. She seemed intent on crushing the petit woman in a tight embrace.

"Oh you smell so good, as expected from the Beloved!"

There it is again… Beloved? What the heck is that supposed to mean?

"Yuzu!" both Rukia and Yuzu looked up to see a dark haired girl, about the same age as Yuzu, standing at the doorway. A hint of surprise and something unrecognizable passed through her face as her gaze landed on Toshiro.

"What's going on?"

"Karin-chan!" Yuzu ran over to her twin and practically dragged the girl towards Rukia, "Karin, this is Rukia-sama."

Yet again, another look of surprise was thrown at Rukia's direction. "You're…!"

"Karin! Yuzu!"

All the occupants of the room turned their heads towards the doorway.

That deep, smooth voice could only belong to one person.

"Hatter." Chad and Renji said in unison.

"Ichi-nii!" the twins ran to their brother's side and each took hold of his hands. They dragged their brother forward and stopped in front of Rukia, who was still sitting on the floor.

The raven-haired woman brought her amethyst orbs up to meet the auburn gaze of the one they called Hatter. She could've sworn she saw tiny specs of gold glint in his eyes as their gazes locked.

Then her attention was caught by the mop of orange that sat on top of his head. She wondered if hair bleach also existed in wonderland, but then took notice of his orange eyebrows and decided that it was his natural hair color.

"So you're really here," a grin graced his masculine lips.

Rukia never imagined a simple grin could look so sensual.

Funny though, she never thought that anyone with a mop of bright orange for hair, seemingly permanent scowl and that stupid grin, would've been able to pull anything but sexy under those circumstances. This man however, pulled it off and managed to look twice as hot as he's supposed to be.

He practically reeked of sex appeal, it was almost a crime.

A friggin sex god. She added quite bitterly.

Rukia felt a spark moments ago when their eyes met for the first time. Her attraction to this man cannot be denied.

She only prayed that she kept it well hidden under the steady gaze of everyone around her.

"I could smell you all the way from the entrance." His voice was soft and low, the grin never disappearing from his lips.

"Excuse me?" the dark haired woman felt deeply offended, she couldn't believe this man just told her she reeked. Even after scrubbing herself until she was slightly sore and pink!

"What're yo-?"

Her words died in her throat when the Mad Hatter captured her lips in his own. Her eyes widened as he felt him press his lips down harder on hers, forcing them to slightly part. He wasted no time as he captured her lower lips and gently nibbled on it.

She gasped and tried to push him away, but he had an iron grip on her.

She felt light-headed, like everything around her wasn't real. Who knew a kiss could have this kind of effect? It wasn't like she hadn't kissed before, hell some of her kisses were more… heated than this one before, but no one had ever had this effect on her.

Before she could react any further, the Mad Hatter broke of the kiss just as easily as he had started it. He made no effort however to distance himself from the stunned Rukia. Their foreheads were still touching, their lips still pressed lightly against each other.

"Welcome home Beloved." He whispered softly into her small lips.


Definition of terms:

'yoroshiku onegai shimasu'- 'pleased to meet you', not a direct translation though. It lit. means 'Please favor me'

'Domo' - a very convinient word used frequently by native speakers (basically it is an adverb meaning "very").
this word can be used when visiting someone, the visitor can say 'domo' instead of "how are you doing?"


And that concludes chapter 4, my dear wonderful readers. If you find any lapses please do forgive me.

As to why it has taken me this long to update... well, first off the University has been anything but kind to me. Going back to campus and setting things straight has taken up a lot of my time hence less time for me to actually write and update (btw, do cross your fingers for me dear readers as I hope to graduate the following semester ^^).

As I was saying going back to the University drove me up the wall and about mid-semester, school finally took its toll on me and I suffered from a breakdown. I was forced to undergo counselling being diagnosed as a potential threat to myself and to others. Hence another reason I couldn't update, I simply had no motivation to write. I felt like I left my body and my soul went on vacation grande for a long time.

So what am I doing here you ask? after months of undergoing counselling, my counsellor advised me to try writing once again. She told me that perhaps writing can be a form of outlet to overcome and recover from my breakdown. So here I am, at three in the morning, updating and ranting off.

I must say, though, I missed doing the 'Author's note' corner :)

and there you have it dear readers, I'm terribly sorry for not updating for such a long time. Rest assured that I will try to update more often now that I am back, that is assuming that I don't suffer from another massive writer's block. :)

one more thing, I am so sorry for the late replies to your reviews! I'll try to answer reviews as often as I can from now on.

AvedlyTres: Thanks for the review of chapter 2 :) sorry for the late reply. and yeah I've read Heart no Kuni, it's actually one of the inspirations for this fanfic. Note any reference to the manga? I'll give you virtual cookies (redeemable for real life cookies if we ever meet ^^) if you can spot some.

IchigoRukiaforever: Thank you for the review :) hope chapter 4 was up to your liking.

StarPrincess999: Thank you for the review! I'm guessing you're a HitsuRuki shipper? (no duh!) I'll try and throw in some scenes between those two, they're just too cute to be left alone by their lonesome :)

xdayanarax: Hey! thanks for the review :) so how was the UPCAT? OMG this is soooooo late, I'm so sorry. Have they announced the results already? God I'm so lost when it come to my own school XD what course did you pick and what UP campus?

wickedsistah1024: Have I told you that I love you? You review after every chapter! Thank you Thank you so much :) I always look forward to you reviews, they really help when it comes to motivation. For that I give you virtual cookies! yaaaay! :)

And that's it, please R&R guys, you're reviews=motivation,inspiration. So no reviews=no motivations,inspirations=no story.

Plus, free cookies for everyone who review! yaaay!

Till next time!

-Chi