A/N: Okay, just a handful to thank for the Valentine's Day portion: Thunder Claw03, Azelia Sekai, "Anon," darklover, Rukia's Reflection, Dark Dream Angel, Aizawa Ayumu Oz Vessalius, and Assault Godzilla. And thank you to anyone who put this on their lists. I have to thank "Anon" for pointing out the error on my first note. I originally had "homeless romantic" instead of "hopeless romantic." That has been fixed. Anyway, this is over twelve hours late but I hope you enjoy. It is the longest chapter I've ever written. Word says it's twenty two pages.

Disclaimer: I do not own the Bleach characters, manga, anime, movies, etc. They belong by copyright laws to Tite Kubo et al.

Romance Is In The Air

White Day

Rukia knew that Ichigo was up to something. In fact, he'd been up to something since the day after Valentine's Day almost a month ago. No matter how many times she asked him what was going on, he'd wave it off as her imagining things or pull her into a one armed hug meant to keep her off balance and derail her train of thought.

It worked too. The warmth being up against his larger body created sunk into her and she forgot what she was asking about. The petite Shinigami instead wanted to snuggle into his embrace and not move for the next century. Or two. Ichigo, the fool, knew it and used it instead of getting angry and blurting out the truth in a fit of pique.

Deciding that the best thing to do would be to consult with the next best source of information, Rukia had gone in search of his sisters. They had looked at each other, thought about her question and had had to shake their heads. Neither of them had any idea what their brother had going on under that mop of orange hair but now that they knew to look for something, they had promised to search out the truth for her.

Isshin was a bust for information because Ichigo would never trust his dad with sensitive information. Considering that the former Shinigami had kept his previous life a secret up until the last possible moment, it might have been absurd to anyone who didn't know Isshin personally. When it came to the secrets of the Soul Society, he was tight lipped. When it came to embarrassing his son, a person could ask him anything and get chapter and verse on it within moments.

Chad was out for nearly the same reason because if he knew, he would keep it to himself beyond death and the trip into the Soul Society. He was a good friend and would never betray a confidence once it was given. Even if they were nakama, Chad wasn't going to give her so much as a clue as to what Ichigo had up his sleeve.

She could have applied to Renji for information but he and Ichigo hadn't seen each other since Valentine's Day nor had they spoken so unless her carrot top had taken a trip to the other dimension without telling her, that option was no good either. Frustrated, Rukia mentally went through the list of the rest of their friends that might know but came up blank.


"Tatsuki?" she asked hesitantly, the other dark haired girl was just coming back in from eating lunch with Orihime somewhere besides the classroom.

"What can I do for you?" Dark eyes narrowed, wondering what the Shinigami could possibly need from her. Rukia was self-sufficient and independent.

"You don't happen to know what Ichigo's planning, do you?" Rukia saw guilt flash briefly in Tatsuki's eyes and moved in for the kill. "You do!"

"Uh, no, not really, he just asked my opinion on something. Why do you ask?" the martial artist asked, trying to turn the other young woman's attention away from the subject.

"Come on, he's been acting weird for almost a month now."

"Well," Tatsuki began, trying to figure out how she could answer without giving anything away.

"Maybe it has to do with White Day," Orihime interjected as she sat down at her desk. "You did give him chocolates. And he accepted so he might be trying to think of something to get you in return."

"White Day?" Rukia questioned softly. "That's right. Guys have to give girls chocolate and things in return for Valentine's Day." A smile blossomed on her face and the other two girls suddenly felt sorry for Ichigo. "Something about a gift that's two or three times as valuable as what we gave them?"

"Yes, that's usually how it goes." Tatsuki knew that Ichigo had something big in the works but wasn't going to spoil the surprise.

"I understand. Now that I know that he's not planning anything foolish, I can wait." Rukia retook her seat and waited for class to begin. Tatsuki looked at her dubiously but said nothing as their teacher came in.

Patience, Rukia, and Ichigo didn't usually go hand in hand.

Ichigo knew that Rukia suspected that he was doing something behind her back. So far he'd been able to keep things a secret but if he didn't watch what he was doing, it would all backfire. One reason why he'd moved his whole operation to Ishida's. She'd never guess that the Quincy was helping him.

"How much longer are you going to sit there?" the archer asked, stirring the pot on the stove.

"I'm almost done. It's not easy writing a poem, you know."

"Why are you writing one yourself? You chose eight from your favorite sixteenth century author. Surely that's enough."

"Eight's an even number and I have plans for them. I want to put this one in with her gift." Ichigo carefully finished the last character and put the quill pen away. He didn't dare use a brush but had wanted to put an elegant touch on the poems. Nine pieces of paper were scattered on the table top, waiting to be framed in some manner. Ishida had agreed to do that part as he shuddered to think about all of Ichigo's hard work being destroyed by the daiko's carelessness.

"Let me see it," the Quincy ordered on a sigh. "You do know that it's no longer in the correct rhyme scheme." Ishida had to wonder if it even had a rhyme scheme in Japanese.

"It would have been, if Rukia didn't understand English so badly." Although, by the time their final came and went she'd be able to read them with no trouble. Amber eyes watched blue scan the poem.

"Interesting. Complete and utter sap but it fits."

"Hey, I haven't made fun of what you're doing for Inoue, have I?" Red darkened normally pale cheeks.

"I am simply making her a nutritious meal as thanks for the chocolates."

"Uh-huh." Ichigo dropped the subject, knowing that the archer's developing feelings for the flower wielder were a touchy subject. "Well, I'll leave the details to you." He stood, collecting his jacket and book bag.

"When do you pick up the gift?"

"Tomorrow. I'm going to ask Yuzu to make the bento box for Rukia."

"Are you going to give everything to her before or after you go to the Soul Society so that she can get her White Day things from Abarai and Kuchiki-taicho?"

"After. I'm going to take her to dinner and give it to her there. That way she won't be able to scold me for spending so much. I can always tell her that since she made the chocolates she gave me, I can decide what they were worth."

"I still wish I could have seen the full strawberry." Ishida grinned slightly, remembering the large fruit shaped confection.

"It was huge. I didn't know they made molds that big. See ya at school, Ishida."

"Indeed." He watched his friend leave, thinking that there was going to be some interesting rumors floating around school on March fifteenth. "The tough Shinigami warrior is head over heels and doesn't even care."

Conspiring with his sister took no effort whatsoever. Yuzu was quite happy to tell him that Rukia had applied to Karin and her for answers and they'd agreed to be on the lookout for what he was up to. When told the truth, the sandy haired twin's innate romantic led her to come up with a believable story and a promise to help in any way that she could.

Ichigo, glad that he had such trustworthy sisters, was content to leave the details of a bento in Yuzu's hands. He stepped into his room, ready to play twenty questions with the midget of his heart. Rukia was lying on his bed, a textbook open in front of her. "Hey there," he greeted quietly.

"Did you and Ishida have fun?"

"Sure, if you call arguing about methods and execution fun. I swear he let me come along just so that he could try to prove that his way is better."

"I see." She graced him with a smile, shutting the tome and sitting up. "So, shall we do our math homework?"

"You mean, shall I do our math homework? Yes, math it is. You really should pay attention, Rukia. One of these days, our teacher is going to call on you to do a problem on the board and you're going to have no clue what she's talking about." He took out the appropriate materials, and at his desk. "I'd like to see you answer just one equation."

"It's not hard, Ichigo. You simply have to solve for the missing integer, correct?" Intent on proving that she could do the complicated math, she spent the next half hour doing the homework with him instead of copying him when he was done.

Ichigo smiled to himself, enjoying her eagerness to prove to him that although she really didn't need the education they were receiving, she had at least begun to pay attention. He knew that in the beginning it hadn't mattered to her because she was hoping to quickly regain her powers and leave. Even after she'd realized that she was going to be arrested for sharing her powers with him, she hadn't put much effort into things. Her second stint at school had been all about preparing for the war so learning how to solve for "x" didn't seem all that important in the grand scheme of things.

This time though, was a whole other matter. Frankly he'd been surprised when she'd been assigned a semi-permanent post in Karakura. There was nothing he and his friends couldn't handle so having her here was pointless as far as the Gotei Thirteen and Central Forty-Six were concerned. Perhaps that had been their reward for being heroes. Or rather, maybe that had been his reward. Until Valentine's Day, he would have bet that being stuck with him wasn't a very big prize for the raven haired beauty.

"Ichigo, I said I was done." Affectionate exasperation colored her alto voice and he nodded absently.

"I'm surprised. I didn't think that you were paying attention in class."

"I may not need this in the Soul Society but I wouldn't dishonor Nii-sama by doing anything less than my best." Now that she was somewhat more secure in her brother's affection, she was going to do everything she could to make him proud of her.

"Ah," he said as if enlightened. Ichigo didn't tell her that she was Byakuya's pride and that she had already done everything he'd ever require of her. The relationship between siblings had gotten progressively better since she'd given the outwardly cold noble chocolates.

"Well, if you're so intent on doing schoolwork properly, you might want to study our English homework. We have a test tomorrow," he said with a slight smirk.

"What? Why didn't you tell me sooner?"

"Tell you? You were sitting right there when Ochi-sensei said it! Geez, Rukia, you have to get it together. This is the final for the year."

"Final! That means everything…"

"Relax, she gave us a study guide. As long as you can do everything on this list, you'll be fine. Didn't you realize that the last two tests we took were finals too? We're going to be moving up into the next grade soon."

"I'm sorry, I've been distracted. A certain orange haired Shinigami's been taking up a lot of my thoughts." She'd been so busy trying to figure out what he'd been up to that she hadn't noticed the excitement of their classmates.

"Really now? Do I know this Shinigami?" he asked playfully.

"You might," she teased in kind. Pushing aside her books, she leaned against his chest. "He's brave and honorable. He's also kind of foolish and very brash. He has a bad habit of ignoring honorifics and can be terribly impolite when in a bad mood."

"Huh, sounds like a person I'd like to meet."

"Idiot," she said softly, accepting the kiss he dropped lightly on her mouth. Valentine's Day had drawn them closer than she'd ever dreamed they would be. "Never mind the romance, Romeo. We have a test to study for."

"Bossy midget." Grinning at her suddenly all-business demeanor, Ichigo took out their English books. He'd leave the romance until White Day. The daiko wasn't one for big displays so she was definitely going to be thrown for a loop.

The idea of catching her off guard put him in a good enough mood that he didn't even get irritated when she made them sequester themselves in his room to study for the final. His surprise was certainly going to be worth all the trouble of hiding things from her.

Rukia put her pencil down and over turned her test the next day. She was still a little blurry from studying for most of the night but the cramming session seemed to have worked. While she would never be the ace student in the foreign language and had only been "studying" it for less than a year, she thought that she'd done fairly well thanks to the study guide. Looking around the room, she admitted that she was going to kind of miss this particular class. During the breaks that Ichigo had insisted on taking, she had dragged the end of the year basics out of him. She knew that the probability of being with the same bunch again was slim as the teachers tried to make things random but she couldn't stop from hoping. It was so much easier to be herself with the "Substitute Group" nearby than to pretend to be the "good girl" a lot of them thought she was. Bringing out the memory modifier each time she made a slip was tiring.

Ochi-sensei smiled at her as she collected the test and returned to the front of the room. The laid back teacher waited until everyone was done before making an announcement. "I have some good news for you. While only about a quarter of you will be in the same class when you come back from break, I will be moving up with you. Those of you who are lucky enough to be in my class next school term won't even have to get used to a new teacher. Aren't you glad?"

Ichigo groaned although he kind of hoped that the young teacher would be his teacher again. She'd been a good sport about his disappearances and if anything dangerous happened again, he didn't want the hassle of having to break in a new teacher to his way of thinking. Or use the memory modifier of Rukia's. It was so much easier just to run out of the room to kill a Hollow and come back than to make an excuse that wouldn't fly with anyone else. She was also an excellent educator despite her own quirks.

The class was allowed free time before the next review session and he leaned back in his chair. "So, midget, how'd you do?"

"Passably well, I suppose. When is the last day of school again?"

"Ironically, it's the fifteenth. I wondered why they just didn't make it the Friday before White Day so that they could avoid all the monstrosities that are sure to happen. New school year begins around April eighth or ninth, I think. Hey, at least we won't have to jump out of windows on the third floor anymore. Juniors are lucky enough to be on the second floor." Ichigo looked over the remaining students in the class. Keigo and Mizuiro were in the back lamenting on not being "young" freshman anymore while Tatsuki and Orihime had gathered the group of girls they usually ate lunch with around them for gossip and wishes. Ishida was reading from the book that he kept in his desk while Chad looked like he was taking a nap.

"I see. And we get a short vacation in between." Believing that she had finally gotten the hang of things, Rukia smiled at him. "And do you have anything planned for break?"

"Well," he began, getting up so that he could lean on her desk. "I was thinking of spending time with my girlfriend but if she has something planned…" About to answer his cockiness with the appropriate response, the duo was surprised when Keigo's voice interrupted the intimate moment.

"Ichigo has a girlfriend?" The screech was enough to pull Ishida away from his book and to wake Chad up from his post-test siesta. "You've broken Rukia-chan's heart!"

"Kuchiki-san is his girlfriend, you fool," Ishida snapped. "Have you not been paying attention for the last three and a half weeks?" The rest of the group watched as the Quincy huffed and put away his book. "It's been obvious to all who cared to look."

"Stop being an idiot, Keigo. We walk home every day together. You trail us a great deal of the time. Don't tell me you missed the signs." Irritated, Ichigo straightened to his full height.

"But you never said…"

"Kurosaki cannot make an official statement of courtship without speaking with Kuchiki-san's brother first." Ishida actually wanted to be there when that happened. He figured Byakuya Kuchiki's look of apoplexy would be worth a few days' worth of amusement. "Kurosaki might be a reckless fool for most things, but he does have his good points." Of course, he had been the one to convince Ichigo that he should inform the captain that they were an official couple. The possible threat of an arranged marriage had prompted the daiko to take his advice.

"Oh, I guess your brother's the traditional type." Keigo settled back down and returned to his discussion with Mizuiro.

"Nii-sama will appreciate that, Ichigo." Rukia felt her cheeks heat with a blush. While she wasn't one for the tradition of her adopted clan, she knew that her brother would look more favorably upon Ichigo if he showed more manners than he had to date.

"Yeah, well, I was going to tell you later." Ichigo shot a look at Ishida who only gazed back with a sense of superiority.

"That's so romantic!" Orihime exclaimed and drew Rukia into the discussion that the other girls had been having. Ichigo took the opportunity to rail at Ishida.

"That was supposed to be a surprise."

"You should thank me. Kuchiki-san will now be too busy thinking about that to wonder where you go this afternoon after school."

"And just where am I going after school?" Ichigo questioned irritably.

The Quincy looked at him dumbfounded. Chad had tuned into the exchange but wasn't commenting. He knew what Ichigo was planning for the petite Shinigami. He also knew what Ishida was doing for Orihime but wasn't going to say anything about that either.

"You have to pick up the gift today!" the archer hissed.

"I know that! You're coming with me, remember?"

"Since when?"

"You have to take the gift home with you! I can't very well bring it to my house. She'll find it!" The hushed urgency of their argument caught Orihime's attention and she frowned.

"Ishida-kun, Kurosaki-kun, is something wrong?" The concerned flower wielder gazed studiously at the two males.

"No, Inoue-san. Kurosaki just needed a little help with something." Because he's apparently incapable of hiding a small box from a woman. Ishida kept the last bit to himself. If he mentioned a gift, it would no doubt get back to the petite Shinigami regardless of whether or not Ichigo brought it home with him. All in all, it probably was safer at his apartment. There were no well-meaning sisters to pry into his business.

"Oh, okay, then." She gave them a blinding smile before returning her attention to Tatsuki.

Ichigo slumped in relief. He spent the rest of the day in a state of agitation, just wanting to go pick up Rukia's present. When Rukia told him that she was going with the girls to Inoue's to study for the math test, the daiko couldn't believe his luck. "Someone's looking out for me. You want to come with us, Chad?"

"Sorry, Ichigo. The band is getting together to practice. I'll see you later." The large high school student waved goodbye to his friends and left Ishida and Ichigo standing at the school gates while they waited for the girls to disappear from sight.

"You may wish to give Arisawa-san more than a box of pocky. I believe it was her suggestion that gave you the opportunity to avoid detection all together."

"I would, if it wouldn't look suspicious. She's been bugging me to spar with her, so I think I'll agree as a way to say 'thank you.' I guess me being a big time Shinigami has her interested in how much stronger I am than she is." Ichigo shrugged and walked the rest of the way to the store with the archer silently.

The clerk looked up and smiled when the two young men came in. She had waited on the taller of the two when he'd come in nearly a month ago. Her boss had been trying to find something unique to create and the orange haired teen had provided that. He'd pulled out a piece of paper and on it had been an intricate drawing. He had been unsuccessful in acquiring anything remotely like it in all the shops he'd previously visited.

Frustrated boyfriend had met inspiration-less artist and had instantly hit it off. For a fraction of what it would have cost him otherwise, Ichigo Kurosaki was now in possession of a one of a kind piece that would be worth a small fortune in the future. While her boss would never duplicate the gift, she had gotten permission to make a collection based on his drawing.

"Good day, Kurosaki-san. Your girlfriend's White Day present is ready. Sensei is particularly pleased with this one. I think you're going to be pleasantly surprised." Bringing out the white silk box, the clerk opened it to show the two young men.

Ishida stared at the gift and whistled softly. "I have to hand it to you, Kurosaki. You're certainly out doing yourself this time. It's quite unlike you." He'd never know the daiko to make large sweeping statements of devotion or even be romantic. The love between Kuchiki-san and Ichigo was deep and abiding; something that stretched across dimensions and could never be broken. They had never needed to voice what they felt.

"She deserves it," was all Ichigo said before nodding at the clerk. "Thanks."

"You're quite welcome. Would you like me to wrap it?"

"Nah, Ishida will do that. I have something I want to put in with it first." Ichigo flushed darkly when the clerk cooed at his romanticism. He ignored Ishida's snickering until they were out of the shop and then sent a fist the Quincy's way, which the archer promptly dodged.

"Kuchiki-san's got you so wrapped around her finger, it's almost frightening, Kurosaki."

"Yeah, I guess so. I've been under her delicate thumb from the beginning, I suppose. From the moment I met her, I was fascinated. If you don't count the part where she kido'd me and subjected me to her awful drawing."

Ishida would have liked to have teased him about that but the girl he was fascinated with didn't have much drawing capability either. "There's her horrible acting too." The dark haired adolescent adjusted his glasses and turned towards his apartment.

"Why people can't see through that is beyond me."

"I knew from the beginning what she was."

"Yeah, so you've said." Ichigo glared at him, sensing that he wanted to rub the fact in. "Never mind that, just make sure this is wrapped in silver with a purple bow. My poem should fit in the cover nicely without too much cropping." He placed it on the kitchen table where his poems still sat. Some of them were framed by cardstock; others hadn't yet been put on the colorful pieces of thick paper.

"I will see that it is done, Kurosaki. Do not fear." The Quincy waited until his friend was gone before laughing. "If I didn't know that he was trying to show her he was just as capable as her brother, I'd be worried about his sanity." Poems, chocolates, gifts, and dinner was certainly going overboard as far as reciprocation went. At least he wasn't trying to convince anyone that's what his actions meant.

Now that would have been too embarrassing to watch.

Rukia's White Day started at precisely twelve thirty in the morning. They'd been out late slaying Hollows and had returned only a half hour prior. She'd immediately commandeered the bathroom, eager to shower and get to bed. There was a sense of anticipation that she couldn't squelch no matter how hard she tried.

Wanting to simply falling into bed, she was prevented from a neat, rectangle piece of what looked like scrapbooking paper. On closer inspection, her blurry mind was able to piece together the fourteen lines' worth of poem:

"When most I wink then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected,
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Then thou whose shadow shadows doth make bright
How would thy shadow's form, form happy show,
To clear the day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would (I say) mine eyes be blessed made,
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade,
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me."

Tears slid down her face, the poem bring back memories of all the times they'd been separated. "That idiot," she whispered, not wanting to wake the twins.

"Well, yeah, but you're the one dating him, Rukia-nee," Karin muttered, one eye on the older girl. Having given her opinion, the younger girl rolled over and went back to sleep.

Outside the girls' room, a tall teen smiled before going to take his shower.

Rukia's first clue that she was in for a special treat was Yuzu's giggle as the younger girl came out of bathroom as she was going in the next morning. Moving immediately into the shower, she didn't see the poem attached to the mirror until she came out and was wiping the steam away from the mirror where it had been stuck into the corner. Bringing it down in front of her, she read the words to herself quietly.

"What is your substance, whereof are you made,
That millions of strange shadows on you tend?
Since every one, hath one, one shade,
And you, but one, can every shadow lend:
Describe Adonis and the counterfeit,
Is poorly imitated after you,
On Helen's cheek art of beauty set,
And you, in Grecian tires are painted new:
Speak of the spring, and foison of the year,
The one doth shadow of your beauty show,
The other as your bounty doth appear,
And you in every blessed shape we know.
In all external grace you have some part,
But you like none, none you for constant heart."

Who is Adonis? And this Helen? "What is that idiot trying to say?" She pondered the poem's words carefully as she dressed; her brow furrowed the entire time. Rukia adjusted the tie to her school uniform, giving one more look at the script before leaving the room she shared with the twins.

Yuzu smiled at her, obviously delighted with what her brother had carefully written for her enjoyment. "Wasn't that sweet? It's such a lovely poem."

"What does it mean?"

The sandy blonde blinked, a spatula held aloft. "You didn't understand it? Ichi-nii's trying to say that he thinks you're beautiful."

"Hn, it would be much easier to understand if he'd put it in Japanese. English still gives me trouble." The one on her pillow had been in English too.

"Oh, well, he probably thought that it wouldn't come out as nice if he translated it." Yuzu sympathized with the petite Shinigami. If her brother hadn't explained it to her earlier, she wouldn't have understood it either.

"I see. Where is Ichigo, anyway?"

"He said that he had something to do at school before classes so he'd meet you there."

It was White Day and he didn't even give her a box of chocolates? Was his whole scheme just to give her poems from his favorite bard, in English no less? "I see." Miffed that he hadn't done anything more romantic, Rukia decided to linger over breakfast. It wasn't as if they were doing anything important on the next to last day of school. She found another poem under the edge of her plate. This one proclaiming that she was a muse that inspired more than all the others. "'The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise.' Huh, pain is right. Whoever heard of leaving poems all over the place?" Even though she pretended to be annoyed, she was starting to think that Ichigo was setting her up for something truly romantic.

"I really like that one," Yuzu admitted. Karin, who had joined them simply scrunched her nose in disgust.

"What's so great about an English poet who lived in the sixteenth century?"

"Karin! You know Ichi-nii's always liked William Shakespeare. And just look at this one. It describes how Rukia-nee's been his inspiration through everything. It makes sense that he'd borrow words from his favorite author since he's never been good at sharing his feelings."

Rukia clutched the poem in her hand, the other tucked into her book bag. The idea of finding poems all over the place was starting to grow on her. It was true that when it came to feelings, Ichigo was reticent, unless it had to do with something he disliked. Despite the image he gave off, he was a deep thinker. Sometimes he even over thought things.

"Karin, Yuzu, stop fighting about this. It's a beautiful expression of his feelings. All three of them are. It's like him not to do anything clichéd or expected. I should have known that when I saw the first one." Finishing off her breakfast, she smiled softly at the thought of him being so overtly affectionate. Any member of his family could have seen the poems and jumped to the correct conclusions.

"You better make sure Goat Chin doesn't find any more hanging around or he'll never let our brother forget it. The news that Ichigo's a closet poet will be all over the neighborhood." Karin leaned back in her chair, dropping the argument with her sister.

"I'm sure he thought of that. I better get going. Have a good day, girls." Rukia gathered her belongings and stepped out the door. The early spring morning was bright with promise and she smiled up at the sun. A year ago she would never have thought that she'd feel more at home in the Living World than in the Soul Society. For years the raven haired young woman had only known the desolate environs of Inuzuri and then the restrictions of the Kuchiki clan.

"Who would have thought that a fifteen year old human could change that?" He had turned sixteen during a time of struggle and while he would be seventeen that July, Ichigo Kurosaki was far older than his years on Earth suggested. Rukia had hesitated to share her feelings because of their age difference but when it came down to it, wasn't he older than her? She hadn't even seen her first birthday in the World of the Living before dying and being sent to the Soul Society with her older sister. If one was counting years lived, that made him older. Their souls had certainly been in existence for a long time and had probably been intertwined from the start.

Of course, if he heard her talking as if she were "dead," Ichigo would yell at her until he ran out of breath. Being a Shinigami seemed to put her in a different category than all the other souls in the Soul Society. Or maybe it was just her.


The dark haired young woman whirled to face the shout and found Keigo running up to her with Mizuiro following at a slower pace. "Good morning, gentlemen. How are you today?" Suddenly she wished that Ichigo had waited for her. She really wasn't up to fending off advances from the two boys.

"It is a fine day! For the first time in my career as a man I can celebrate White Day." The exuberant teen pulled a box out of his bag and held it out. "Will you accept, Rukia-chan?"

Rukia studied the box of chocolates, trying to decide what to do. It was slightly larger than what she had given him. Knowing that it was the practice to give at least twice as much back, she hesitantly reached out. "You're giving me nothing more than tomo-choco, right, Keigo?"

"Of course! I know that Ichigo's the only one allowed to give you honmei." Keigo laughed nervously and continued walking. "Speaking of Ichigo, where is he?"

"At school already." She looked to her side where Mizuiro had held out a small box. "Thank you, Mizuiro." The young man was too much the player to mean anything other than friendship by the gesture.

"You're welcome."

School was a buzz of activity, girls giggling and sharing secrets with their friends, hoping to receive chocolates from the ones they liked. Boxes of chocolates fell out of shoe lockers and the excitement rose. Rukia opened the door that housed her own shoes and she almost didn't find the next poem. Ichigo had carefully placed it so that it wouldn't fall out onto the ground. Telling herself she wasn't eager, the petite Shinigami devoured the words. She read silently, only speaking out loud the last two lines. '"Fair, kind, and true, have often lived alone/ Which three till now, never kept seat in one.'"

"What was that, Kuchiki-san?" the girl next to her asked, standing after tying her sneaker. "Oh! You got a poem! It's in English, though."

"I don't mind," Rukia returned, smiling softly. "It's the language it was originally written in, after all." She left the girl that was supposed to be her upperclassman in confusion and made her way to the classroom.

Ichigo was waiting for her, his eyes lighting at the sight of her. Not wanting to see how mushy his poems had made her, Rukia kept a straight face her brother would have been proud of. He stepped back, allowing her to see the three boxes of chocolates. One was significantly larger than the others. The two smaller ones were no doubt from Ishida and Chad.

"About time you got here, midget. I thought you were going to skip today when you didn't show up sooner."

"What did you think I was going to do? Run out of the house without breakfast after receiving three measly poems?" Giving him her trademark haughty look, Rukia sat down and put the boxes in her desk.

"Not really. Oh, and you don't have to worry, I returned all the unimportant gifts." He had in fact glared at any male not within their circle of friends until they'd gotten the message and gone away. Ishida and Chad hadn't bothered to hide their laughter.

"You're so helpful, Kurosaki-kun," she trilled in her "innocent school girl" voice just to irritate him. Surprisingly, he just scowled and turned away.

They were handing in their textbooks when she found the next one. Ochi-sensei had told them to shake out the pages just to make sure they didn't leave anything important. Rukia should have known something was up when the teacher had stared laughingly at Ichigo. This one hit her hard, bringing back the night she'd been arrested by her brother and Renji. Orihime, sensing her disquiet, reached over and took the poem from her lax fingers.

'"From heaven to hell is flown away/'I hate' from hate away she threw/And saved my life saying 'not you.'" Orihime replaced the poem and offered a handkerchief to the emotional Shinigami. "That's really beautiful, Kuchiki-san."

"I said a lot of mean things to him that night," Rukia whispered so that the others in the class couldn't hear. "But I couldn't say I hated him."

"Of course not."

Their last homework assignment yielded number six. He'd apparently tried to be funny by drawing sketches of a clock, a lion that looked remarkably like Kon, a tiger, and a phoenix. At the bottom of the page was the question, "How's my drawing?" She ignored him for the next hour for that one.

Ichigo sat back and hid his contentment from the others. Her little hitches of breath when she found his poems sank into him and pooled in his stomach. The whispered exchanged with Orihime had been observed but he'd politely said nothing about the tears that she'd wiped away. About to doze, his teacher clearing her throat warned him she had something up her sleeve.

"Okay, kids. This is what I'm going to do. Now that tests are over and we've pretty much determined who's going on to the next grade, I thought I'd give you a little treat. I'm even in a good mood so in celebration of White Day, I'm going to recite a poem to you. Kurosaki has inspired me." Several of the boys in the back of the class tried to hide their laughter but failed miserably.

"Let me not to the marriage of true minds,
Admit impediments, love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken'
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come,
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom:
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved."

Ichigo wanted to slide down in his seat and disappear. The girls who understood the most English sighed in wistfulness while the others grabbed for their dictionaries to search for words that they didn't understand. After a few minutes, the ones that had been confused followed their peers in thinking that he was the most romantic guy on campus.

"There goes your reputation, Kurosaki." Ishida didn't bother hiding his amusement.

"Wasn't that lovely, class? Kuchiki, maybe you can tell us who wrote that," Ochi-sensei said while placing the poem on her desk. She'd filched it earlier.

"The sixteenth century English bard William Shakespeare."

"Excellent! And you're just the example of what studying hard can achieve. Your ability to comprehend such intricate artistry has improved greatly since your arrival."

"Thank you, Sensei." Rukia glared at Ichigo behind her back, promising him that she'd get even for letting the class hear such private words.

It wasn't until lunchtime that she realized she'd left the house without her usual bento. Since it was still too cold to eat lunch outside, the boys set up the desks for the girls to enjoy lunch. Ichigo didn't tease her about forgetting, merely handing her a bento that she knew he hadn't made. The seventh poem was taped to the lid of the meal, this time comparing her to a summer's day. The rest of it seemed to be a bunch of nonsense but she peeled the card away and tucked it in with the others.

She watched as the other girls dug into their lunches and chocolates, making note of Orihime's blush when she saw the meal that Ishida had made for her. Each chocolate that was tasted was white and she guessed that it must have been the tradition. Poem number eight appeared in between the layers of her confection box and she thought it fitting that it mentioned desserts. This one was particularly complimentary and Rukia decided that she'd forgive him for allowing their teacher to say a poem meant only for her. Particularly since the chocolates all resembled Chappy.

Ichigo ate his own lunch in silence, content to watch the flush in her cheeks and the glow in her eyes. For as long as he had known her, no one had ever praised her for either her beauty or her intelligence (if one discounted Keigo and he did). They thought her Zanpakutou the most beautiful in the Soul Society but they seemed to have forgotten that the sword spirit was a reflection of her soul. He might have gone overboard with the number of love sonnets but he needed her to know that even if no one else saw her worth, he did.

They left school shortly after lunch, chocolate boxes in tow. "Ichigo, thank you. The poems were lovely." The simple expression of gratitude was the only thing he needed to hear.

"You're welcome. Are you ready to go see what your brother and Renji came up with? We have to be back by six. I arranged it so that we could eat out."

"Sure. Renji probably forgot."

"I doubt your brother would have allowed him to." Ichigo would personally pound the red haired menace into the ground if he had. The same went for Byakuya but he doubted the noble ever forgot a debt.

"You're right."

The Seireitei was a hive of activity when they arrived; briefly making the two Shinigami wonder if something was wrong. As it turned out, the eighth division's lieutenant had declared it a day for spring cleaning and the entire squad was currently looking for their captain. Since none of the unseated officers could find him, they'd begged and pleaded for their friends' help.

"Should we tell them that he's probably deep in the woods by now?" Ichigo asked casually, hoping not to get caught up in the chaos. They really didn't have time to hang around. Luckily the sixth division appeared unaffected by the happenings outside their headquarters.

"Rukia!" Renji shouted in surprise. He'd been expecting her later.

"Hello, Renji. I trust you have my gift."

"Ah, yeah, sure. I left it in my room. I'll be right back." The tattooed man flashed stepped away, hoping that the chocolates he'd ordered were ready.

"He either forgot to get you anything, or he hasn't bought anything left," Ichigo growled.

"I reminded my lieutenant earlier of his mistake. He has since rectified that." Byakuya Kuchiki stood from his desk and came towards his sister. The noble made note that the ryoka boy backed away to give them some privacy. While he doubted that Kurosaki would ever leave his sister alone, he wasn't crowding her. Perhaps he trusted that the captain wasn't going to hurt her.

"Nii-sama!" Rukia smiled widely, bowing in respect. She looked over her shoulder briefly at Ichigo, rolling her eyes at him for his rudeness. "You are well?" she asked her brother.

"I am. I trust that you are as well."

"Yes, thank you. The Kurosaki family takes very good care of me."

"Indeed." Byakuya reached into his sleeve and pulled out a small box. He watched his sister open it eagerly and had to fight to remain stoic. The chocolate inside was handcrafted to look like her favorite cartoon character.

"Chappy! This is wonderful. Thank you, Nii-sama." Puzzled because she had expected more, Rukia nonetheless bit into it and came into contact with a metal object.

Ichigo heard the clank of teeth hitting metal and cringed. "Rukia?" They really didn't need to be visiting Captain Unohana so that she could repair chipped teeth.

"I'm all right. Nii-sama?" she questioned. She carefully pulled the rest of the metal object out of the chocolate, gazing at the simple key in confusion.

"I thought hard about what I wanted to give you. The fact that you made the chocolate candies that you gave me required a gift whose value was at least twice as great. That key goes to the lock that will go on the door to the house I am having built for you in the World of the Living. Since I assume that you will still be assigned to keep track of Kurosaki and his friends, it only makes sense that you will be going to the human version of the Academy. The house will provide all of your friends with adequate shelter for the years you will be required to attend that facility." Byakuya paused for breath, not used to saying so much at once. He didn't notice the stunned silence his announcement created.

"You may think that it is too much but I must disagree. You are my little sister, Rukia. My wife, your sister, gave you to me as she lay dying. Kurosaki once asked me if I was your older brother because he didn't understand how an older brother could turn his back on his younger siblings. I have made many mistakes, Rukia. When I gave Hisana my promise, I should have realized that she was trying not only to protect you, but she was also trying to give me a family. Someone that I could cherish because my own family was no more. You are my pride, Rukia, and I regret never telling you that."

"Byakuya-nii!" Rukia cried, unable to bare his confession any longer. Clutching the key tightly, she embraced him, tears clogging her throat. "I accept, I accept!" It hurt to hear him try to tell her how he felt but she was infinitely glad that she had two such men who love her as much as Byakuya and Ichigo did.

Ichigo stood stunned, unable to believe that the stoic, cold lord was expressing his feelings in such a manner. The words "I love you," might never make it passed the captain's lips but the orange haired daiko could no longer deny that Byakuya loved his sister. Even if he had just given her a house. "A house? You're building her a house? Where, may I ask is this going to be? You do realize that the probability of all of us going to the same university is astronomical. Tokyo University has four or five campuses alone."

"The location has not been chosen. When you have chosen the university, then the construction will begin."

"I see," Ichigo said and stayed silent for several minutes. There was no comeback for that type of statement.

Renji returned shortly after that and presented Rukia with a box of chocolates. She smiled and thanked him. The redhead looked at the poleaxed daiko and groaned. "I missed it, didn't I? I really wanted to see the look on your face when you found out what Taicho gave her."

"Well, my expression really hasn't changed in the last ten minutes. I still can't believe it," Ichigo said and had to put up with Renji laughing at him. "Oh, shut up. Rukia, why don't you go change into one of your fancy kimonos? I need to talk to your brother."

"Huh?" Rukia blinked, still a little shell shocked. "Oh, all right. Excuse me, Nii-sama, Renji." She left them, using her shunpo to go to the manor as quickly as possible.

"Renji, I believe you have work to do. I will be with Kurosaki. Walk with me," Byakuya demanded and led Ichigo out into the courtyard. Sakura blossom trees were still flowering and the orange haired teen tried valiantly to ignore the symbolism. "You have something to say," the noble intoned and it wasn't a question.

"I thought that you'd like to know that I'm dating Rukia. Officially, I mean. It's standard practice to announce it to family and friends but I wanted you to know first."

"I see," Byakuya murmured. "Do you love my sister, Kurosaki?"

"I do," Ichigo said; his voice strong and true.

"I was afraid of that," the noble sighed. I'm never going to be rid of him.

Once back in the Living World, Ichigo showered and changed, his sisters making teasing remarks about the suit he'd put on. Isshin stood to one side, speechless with happiness. Both young adults hoped that it would stay that way. Inside his jacket pocket, Rukia's present was secure. He briefly wondered how it could possibly compare to Byakuya's gift but then shoved the thought aside. A gift a brother gave and a gift a boyfriend gave occupied totally different places in the girl's heart.

"Ichigo, are we going or not?" Rukia demanded, her fists clenched as if she were having a hard time from placing her hands on her hips. The light blue kimono looked good on her and he had a vague memory of telling her so. Right after he'd picked his jaw up off the floor. Of course, his response had been laughed at once again by the sixth division's lieutenant.

"Yeah, yeah, hang on a second." Putting his wallet into his pocket, he turned back to his family one last time before leaving with Rukia. "We'll be back late. Don't wait up."

Rukia walked by his side silently, her purse dangling from one wrist. Ichigo brought her to the train station. She had been there before but they had never gone anywhere outside of the town. "Ichigo, where are we going? There are plenty of restaurants in Karakura."

"Yeah, but there's less chance the old man will follow us if we leave. I searched around and found a nice place. It's small but I think you'll like it."

She smiled, hooking one hand around his arm. "I'm sure I will."

The restaurant was full. Any guy worth his salt had taken his lady love out and the place buzzed with soft conversation. Even though they were young, they were treated as adults, even being offered wine at one point before the manager caught the waiter's mistake. The raven haired beauty was surprised when a menu wasn't put in front of her but an appetizer within minutes of them getting their drinks.

"I hope you don't mind but I already ordered a dinner for us. Everything's planned and they'll bring our dishes out as we want them." Ichigo drank deeply from his water glass, suddenly nervous. "Have you liked your gifts, Rukia?" She had said she'd liked the poems but he wanted her opinion on the entire day.

Rukia pretended to think about the matter. "Well, it was rather interesting. I have to admit that you can be quite the romantic when you want to be. It was rather embarrassing to have Ochi-sensei read that one to the class but other than that…"

"Sorry, she must have seen where I put it and snatched it when I wasn't looking."

"That's all right. I'm glad that she enjoyed herself. Do you think we'll have her again?"

"I hope so." Conversation petered out, their dinner progressing quietly. Ichigo enjoyed watching her as she tasted the unusual dishes. Her violet eyes shown in the candlelight and he thought that he could sit there all night and look at her. She'd put her hair up, clipping her stray bang away from her face.

It was when dessert was being brought to them that he pulled out her gift. "Ichigo, you shouldn't have! You've already given me so much…" Rukia put a hand on his and felt his callused hands envelope hers. His knuckles had been taken down to the bone several times over the course of the war and he would have scars if it weren't for Inoue's healing.

"I wanted to, Rukia. Besides, your gift was handmade and therefore I got to choose how much it was worth. Nothing compares to having you by my side, though. You changed my world, Rukia Kuchiki." His normal scowl became a tender smile as he watched her open the present. The muted silver wrapping was undone carefully and set aside with the purple ribbon. He'd have to thank Ishida later. The white gift box opened and her deep eyes widened in surprise.

Tiny white butterflies rested against snowflakes in a dance that reminded her of her Zanpakutou. The bracelet had a flat band and was secured by a delicate chain that could be sized. It was obviously a custom piece. "Ichigo… It's beautiful."

"I said you changed my world, but I should have said that you change the world of everyone you meet, and even some that you don't. The artist that made that was having trouble coming up with inspiration. I showed her what I wanted and you've given her a whole new direction to go in." He saw the moment her eyes landed on the poem that he'd written her.

Stunned beyond words, Rukia's eyes flew over the kanji. With tears clogging her throat she whispered:

"Once the rain fell,
My soul submerged, my heart dark.
Not a one could tell,
That my world was stark.
Then shone a light,
Out of violet eyes.
To take away the blight,
Covering my life with its lies.
They call you the White Moon,
To match my Black Sun.
I ask that you not leave,
But stay and have some fun.
And while doing that,
Let it be me you smile at."

"You wrote this," she choked out. "You wrote me a poem."

"I did. I wrote it in English first and it fit the Shakespearian rhyme scheme but I didn't want you to miss one word so I translated it into Japanese. I call it 'Ray of Light.' You stopped the rain," he said simply.

"It's perfect, absolutely perfect." Rukia wiped the tears from her face with a handkerchief wordlessly supplied by the waiter who set their strawberries in front of them. He'd had to do that more than once that evening. "I love you, you fool. You know that right?"

"Yes, and I love you. You'll never be rid of me." Bringing her hand forward, he put the bracelet on her wrist before kissing her fingers. "And if you think otherwise, then I'll just have to tell you the same thing that I told you when I rescued you the first time. All of your opinions are rejected."

"Now there's a romantic memory," she said wryly. "Well, I guess if I can't get rid of you, then I'll just have to keep you. Does Nii-sama know?"

Ichigo grinned, remembering the noble's resigned sigh that afternoon. "Yeah, he knows." That meant that he'd never be rid of the captain either but for Rukia, he could put up with her stiff older brother.

"Oh, was that why he looked like Yachiru had eaten his prized koi again?"

Ichigo just laughed, unable to answer. He'd once thought that Valentine's Day and White Day were to be avoided at all costs. Now, sitting across from his soul mate, he silently admitted that they had their uses.

And their benefits, as he found out later.

A/N: White Day was started in 1978 in Japan as an "answer day" to Valentine's Day. Traditionally a man who received chocolates returns the favor two to three times over. Such returns include white chocolate, jewelry, white lingerie, and marshmallows. I kid you not about the marshmallows. Now the Shakespearian sonnets that appeared here either in their entirety or by reference are as follows: 43, 53, 38, 105, 145, 19, 18, and 17. For anyone who is reading "Saying I Will," they'll recognize numbers 17 & 145. The rhyme scheme for the sonnets is abab, cdcd, efef, gg. My poem, "Ray of Light," fits that scheme in English. In Japanese however, according to Google Translator, it misses it by a mile. Oh, and when Ichigo says that eight's an even number, he'd referring to the fact that even numbers aren't considered lucky in Japanese culture.