Chapter One: We Live Through Life Under Normalcy’s Flag
The hallway was dark and eerie. Decay was present everywhere. There was a heavy smell of must and mold hanging in the air. Every step taken – the floor crunched. Every breath released – it was visible. This building was like an enclosed icebox with too much kick and frozen left overs. Whispers began to echo, sneering about how she didn’t belong here. She knew she didn’t belong…but she always managed to find herself here from time to time when she closed her eyes. If she had it her way, Rukia would never come to this place. But something always brought he back…and she hated it. She didn’t know why she came here. This building hand no connection to her…so why did she always manage to find her way back?
‘It’s a lot darker than last time. Why is it getting darker?’
Humming rattled off the walls. Rukia froze – knowing what would come after the humming stopped. She frantically searched for the source, nearly tripping over unseen obstacles. She found nothing. And as the humming grew louder…Rukia found a corner and curled up into a ball. She covered her ears and clamped her eyes shut.
‘Please don’t find me! Please please don’t find me!’
“Pretty little girl with the raven hair. Pretty little girl with the violet eyes. Did you know he has his sights set on you?”
‘Stop singing…stop singing!’
“Oh why oh why oh why does he?”
‘Go away! Please go away!’
“Pretty little girl with the raven hair. Did you know…”
A hand gripped at her shoulder. Tears flowed down Rukia’s face. Breathing was on her ear. It was all over now.
“HE WAS MINE FIRST?!”
Rukia awoke with a start – bolting upright in bed. She was drenched in sweat and shivering feverishly. Her eyes darted around, making sure she was truly awake. Sure enough, she was in her room, where the only light was from her Nightmare Before Christmas clock she had been given to as a birthday present a few years back. Sighing with relief, Rukia laid back down in bed. These nightmares…she hated how sporadic they were. First, they were daily. Then, they came once or twice every year. Now…the had been happening once a week. And they were the same. Ever since she was nine…they had been the exact same.
‘I wonder what they’re supposed to mean. There has to be a reason why I’m plagued by the same dream.’
Suddenly, a loud beeping sound went off in the darkness. Rukia shrieked and literally fell off her bed from fright. She clawed her way to her knees – glaring at the culprit. Her Chappy themed cell had been set on some kind of timed obnoxious alarm, most likely done by one of her friends as a joke.
‘I bet it was Renji. I outta kill him for this.’
Sluggishly, Rukia climbed back into bed. She reached over and grabbed her phone from off the nightstand. As she flipped it around to turn off the alarm…the time and name of the event caught her eye. This wasn’t a joke. This was a legit alarm…set by HER.
She flew off the bed, racing to her desk. Frantically, she turned on her laptop and desk lamp. She nearly fell out of her rolling chair, not being able to calm herself. If she missed her chance now…he’d be heartbroken!
“Come on! Load faster!” she hissed through clenched teeth.
The laptop screen lit up, flashing her rabbit themed desktop. Hurriedly, Rukia clicked her shortcut icon to Skype and fidgeted in her chair. She detested waiting, even though her patience was surprisingly well rounded. When it came to this however, patience was tossed into the trash. For a while…it was silent. Then, a small dial tone sound, followed by a name and an icon, popped onto the screen. Rukia sighed with relief. She clicked on ‘answer’ and did some more waiting. But this wait would be a lot shorter. Within seconds the image of a well physique built, moppy orange haired, and soft amber eyed boy around sixteen years of age appeared.
Ichigo Kurosaki…he had been Rukia’s best friend since they were in diapers. They were inseparable as kids. Even with their other friends, they were tightly knitted together. They shared everything with one another. They even had, believe it or not, slumber parties where they played video games and told ghost stories. It was the perfect friendship.
Then, when they were nine…his mother was killed right before his eyes. He became withdrawn and depressed. Rukia grew up right then and there – being his shoulder to cry on if he didn’t want to confide in his father. Two months after his mother’s death, while on a walk with his family and hers, Rukia tried to show him something. He tripped…falling into the street and nearly getting hit by a car. Unfortunately, the driver was a doctor for people with “certain needs”. With enough connections and sickly persuasion, he got Ichigo thrown into Karakura Town’s mental asylum on suicide watch. He was stuck in there for a whole year – not leaving until the asylum was shut down. Ichigo was badly shaken up from whatever happened to him in there. So much so that he couldn’t remain in Japan with its ghosts. His father sent him to live with his grandparents in America so the poor kid could hopefully recover.
It had been six years since then. Ichigo was still in America with his grandparents…keeping the two best friends apart. But, however, the distance didn’t stop Rukia’s friendship with him in the slightest. As technology grew and shifted over the years, so did how they communicated with each other. Now, in this day and age, Rukia could see Ichigo move and speak in real time instead of just having a picture or a video of him sent to her. She enjoyed this, although she’d rather see him in person. But if this was what she’d had to have until he had the courage to come back…then she’d deal. As long as she could speak to him, see him, hear him…her aching heart would be quelled.
“Morning, Kuchiki-san!” Ichigo greeted, a sly smirk across his lips.
Rukia rolled her eyes. “Evening, Ichigo.”
A soft grin replaced the smirk on the sixteen year old’s mouth, the smile he rarely showed to anyone. “What time is it there?”
“Jeez…can’t believe you actually wake up so early just to talk to me.”
“Why? Because you’re and idiot and unworthy to speak to me?”
“You know that’s what you’re thinking.”
Ichigo shrugged, leaning back in his chair. He slapped on that infamous scowl of his that had been developed over time. Rukia chuckled lightly. This banter…it was how their relationship had always been like. And as years passed on by, it became much more sophisticated in a way but still childish. When she won – he scowled. When he won – she’d puff her cheeks up in a pout.
‘If only we could do this in person…not through a computer screen.’
The orange haired teen sighed, stretching his arms upward. The muscles in his arms and exposed chest rippled, making Rukia’s ears burn. It was at moments like this that she was grateful that he short raven hair hid her ears. Ichigo shifted, arms folded and a soft look upon his face now.
“How are you? How’s being a second year treating you?” he asked in a gentle tone.
The raven haired girl snorted, pretending that the question was stupid. “Fine. Just like the last itme you asked.”
“Sorry for asking, then.”
“It’s fine, but you ask about school all the time. Pick a new topic, fool.”
He placed his hand on the back of his head, a new habit of his when he spoke to her. “Um…what would you like to talk about?”
Rukia leaned in closer to the screen. “How about you? Let’s talk about you. It’s always me we talk about in our conversations. I want to know what’s new with you for a change.”
A blush clearly crept up his cheeks. “Um…I’m moving.”
“You are? When? Where?”
“I don’t know. My grandparents are being very quiet about it. But I know we’re starting tomorrow, and I won’t have internet for a while.”
Rukia’s heart sank. Maybe talking about him wasn’t such a good idea. But she knew he’d eventually tell her about this before they went to bed. That’s just the way he was. “Will we still be able to talk on the phone?”
“Well yeah. I told my grandparents that if they cut off this connection with you, they couldn’t complain about the alternate. I don’t want to go through the same loneliness like…that one time.”
That sentence needed no explanation. They both understood its meaning all too well. An awkward silence was held. Rukia curled her knees to her chest and held them in place. She hated it when this came up accidently in their conversations. It only reminded her that neither of their wounds had healed…
“Decked out in Zim tonight, I see.” Ichigo killed the silence, his voice teasing.
Rukia’s cheeks went pink. “Well, excuse me for falling for your Western oddities!”
He laughed, shaking his head. “I’ll try to stop corrupting you. I’m sure your brother has heart failure every time I throw something ‘weird’ your way.”
“Nii-sama still hasn’t gotten over the fact that you got Hisana and I into The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
“HISANA likes it?! No way! She’s the LAST person I thought would like that kind of stuff!”
“She likes more of those type of things than you think.”
“You know…I should probably feel sorry for being the cause of Byakuya’s mental torture…but I’m not.”
Rukia rolled her eyes. “Are you still sour at him? That happened forever ago, Ichigo.”
“Oi! He stomped on my pet worm! That is highly traumatic for a small child!”
“All things die, Ichigo.”
“You’re just siding with him ‘cause he’s your precious ‘Nii-sama’.”
“Wow. I never pictured you as one to hold a grudge for so long.”
“It takes a lot of talent.”
Rukia shook her head. He was so childish sometimes. It was often cute or amusing, but still childish all the same.
“Oh! Hey! I got you something! It was pretty expensive, so you better like the damn thing!”
This shocked the violet eyed girl for a moment. Then, she unleashed a groan. “I thought I told you to stop doing this…”
Ichigo smirked. “Sorry. I just saw it and couldn’t help myself. It reminded me of you.”
She groaned again. “How expensive was it?”
“I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“It was a lot, okay?! You’re expensive!”
“Only you make it so!”
“Well…if you weren’t a rich, spoiled brat to begin with…”
“Nothing. Nothing at all.” A smile formed – one of his sweeter ones. “I can’t help it. I just feel like giving you gifts helps fill the void because I’m so far away. Besides…it’s not every day I loosen my vice grip on my money for someone outside of my family.” The sweet smile turned into his extremely rare goofy grin, accompanied by a faint blush. “Just don’t freak out when it arrives on Friday. Understand?”
Rukia huffed and puffed her cheeks, pouting. “Fine. I’ll…try.”
He heaved a sigh. “Guess that’ll do.”
His expression became somber. He reached out his hand and placed it on his screen, but low enough so his face was still visible. This was his way of saying “I miss you so much” without speaking. It hurt him to say those words. The first and last time he had ever said them was when he first contacted her by phone from America. By the end of the call…they were both in tears. So he never said “I miss you” ever again. Rukia said it plenty…but Ichigo just couldn’t. Rukia placed her hand on her own screen, touching Ichigo’s hand in mind. Neither said a thing. They just sat there, on opposite sides of the world, staring at each other – unblinking…unmoving…
‘Say it. Say it, Rukia! Tell him!’
Rukia’s heart began to race. She heard it pounding in her head. Normally, she never felt flustered. She was usually the sarcastic and blunt one out of her friends. But when it came to Ichigo…she sometimes lost it. She felt it silly to let everyone know of her feelings for him. Everyone would only tell her that it wasn’t real, and it was from the excitement of him being so far away. But it wasn’t that. She knew her feelings since she was but a child. Those feelings only grew more intense as time went by. She loved him. Rukia loved Ichigo. Now if only she could tell him…
“Ah. It’s late. I better go to bed. And you, too. You have school in a few hours, right?” Ichigo removed his hand – severing the connection. “I’ll call you later, okay?”
Rukia pulled her hand away and set it on her lap. She hid her selfish disappointment with a playful exhale. “Oh, alright. I suppose I do need a few more hours of sleep. Goodnight, Ichigo.”
“Good morning, Rukia.”
And with that…Ichigo’s image disappeared.
“Oh! Morning, sleepy head.”
Rukia yawned, plopping down on a chair at the smaller table within the Kuchiki residence and watching her sister cook.
Hisana Kuchiki was a spitting image of her baby sister, except for the fact that she was taller with longer hair, bluer eyes, and had a much gentler disposition. She was about eight years older than Rukia and had been designing dresses for weddings and other occasions since she was fourteen, trying to make an income for herself and her sister after their parents died.
When she was eighteen, she met Byakuya Kuchiki while designing a dress for his mother to wear at her funeral. At the time, Rukia was on and off staying at the Kurosakis while Hisana was trying to get a lease on a better apartment set in stone and encouraged her sister to date the wealthy and kind man. It wasn’t long before Hisana and Byakuya were married, being truly and madly in love, and took Rukia into their new home where she adopted the last name Kuchiki so she wouldn’t be separated from her sister by name. In fact, Hisana had already prepared a room for Rukia two days before the wedding and arranged for all of her friends to stay over so that she wouldn’t be alone while the two love birds were on their honeymoon.
Hisana was a gentle, loving person. Always had been, and probably always will be. But there were moments when she suffered the same bouts of ‘insanity’ that Rukia did. At least that’s what Byakuya called it. He always was a little concerned when he came home and the two sisters were either quoting lines or singing songs from something Ichigo had suggested for them to check out.
“Can you two ever be normal for one minute?” he’d always complain, walking off to his room to get out of his suit.
Of course the sisters would respond with something witty. They were really close. Two peas in a pod, really. Even more so after Ichigo left Japan.
“Up late?” Hisana asked with a hum, busy frying some eggs.
Rukia yawned again. “Only maybe for ten or fifteen minutes at the most.”
“Ten to fifteen minutes?” Immediately, Hisana’s eyes widened. She glanced at her little sister with a giddy expression. “Were you talking to Ichigo?”
The teen instantly became fully awake. She sank in her chair, doing her best to conceal the red on her face. “Possibly…”
Hisana rushed to finish the eggs and threw them on plates. After setting them down on the table in their respectable places, she sat next to Rukia and managed to keep her smugness to herself. “How is he?”
‘Ohhhh….good. She isn’t going to make a fuss this time.’ Rukia sat up properly, poking at her eggs. “He seems alright. He’s moving, so we’re going to have to talk by phone for a while.”
“Really? Where is he moving to?”
“He doesn’t know. His grandparents won’t say.”
“Oh? Huh. Well…that’s a little odd.”
The swinging door that led from the downstairs office into the kitchen opened. Byakuya Kuchiki, CEO of a major company, casually walked in. He was wearing a suit, which meant he wasn’t going to be home too long. Sitting down, he looked at the two women that made up his entire world with that stoic face of his.
“Morning.” he greeted in a monotone.
“Morning, darling.” Hisana said sweetly, leaning over and kissing his cheek.
“Morning, Nii-sama.” yawned Rukia.
Byakuya’s brow rose. “Did you not sleep well, Rukia?”
Like timed robots, the sisters replied almost with panic in their voices, “No no! Slept well!”
Quiet followed. Usually did whenever the sisters did this. And normally Byakuya would press for information. This time, however, he just shook his head and ate his breakfast. The sisters exchanged looks of relief. Mentioning Ichigo was a touchy subject sometimes with Byakuya. No one knew why. Had hundreds of theories, but never knew the real reason. So the fact that he just dropped it easily was perfect.
The Kuchikis ate in silence – all trying to dash to their daily chores. Byakuya had a conference most likely, Hisana had some design deadlines, and Rukia had school. The silence ended with the ringing of the doorbell.
“Oh! That must be Orihime and Tatsuki already!” Hisana said. “You better head off, hun!”
“Way ahead of you!” Rukia stated in a rushed tone. She yanked her book bag from under her chair and bolted towards the front door. “Bye, Hisana! Bye, Nii-sama! See you later!”
Whether or not her siblings responded to her – she did not know. She wasn’t worried about it too much. She couldn’t be late for school again. That was just a bit more important at the moment. She struggled to slip on her boots and open the door at the same time. In hind’s sight…it wasn’t one of her more brilliant ideas. The door nearly hit her head and one of her boots wasn’t properly put on so it slipped off with ease.
‘Damnit! I don’t have the time for this!’
“Morning, Rukia-chan!” chirped the voice of Orihime Inoue.
Orihime was a bubbly, kind-hearted, imaginative girl that had been in Rukia’s life since she was five. She was a beautiful person both inside and out. Rukia was a bit jealous of her, but not completely.
Rukia looked up at her smiling friend, doing her best to smile back as she redid her boot. “Morning!”
“In a rush today?” teased Tatsuki Arisawa, Orihime’s athletic and blunt cousin that Rukia had known as long as she had Ichigo.
“I don’t want to be late again, Tatsuki.”
“You’re not going to be late. Mom let me use the car today.
A gush of relief swept over her. She had a horrible track record of not getting to school on time. Mostly because she’d get…distracted. As of late, Orihime and Tatsuki decided to help her out. So they’d drop by and make sure she got to school faster. Unfortunately, all that did was make them join her in her lateness. Hearing that Tatsuki’s mother was unleashing her relentless hold she had on the car, even if it possibly was just for one day, was great news. Rukia smiled cheerfully, grabbing the hands of her friends.
“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go!”
Lunch – the best time during school. It was a brief moment of relaxation from the strain of classes. A time when friends weren’t separated from each other. Rukia especially enjoyed this break in her studies. After Ichigo left, being with her friends was highly important to her. She wanted to create memories with them and stories to tell her children later on down the road. They wanted to do the same thing. And, most of their memories were created at school during lunch under a giant decaying tree.
The group of eight was very mismatched. There was Rukia – blunt, sarcastic, deadly honey-sweet on the right occasions, and a horror movie fanatic. Orihime – kind-hearted, bubbly, imaginative, and a little spacy. Tatsuki – athletic, blunt as well, a little crude, and overly protective at times. Uryu Ishida – calm, collective, class representative, and freakishly smart. Keigo Asano – goofy, over dramatic, scared of just about anything, and a little whiny. Renji Abaria – loud, brash, impatient, and at times dipping into not so legal things. Ulquiorra Cifer – quiet, apathetic, observant, and had a monotone worse than Byakuya. And Riruka Dokugamine – hot headed, somewhat playful, highly confident, and a doughnut fanatic. It was a strange group to say at the least, but all of them had known each other since childhood. This group was Rukia’s out of home support system while Ichigo suffered his own issues. And, it was most likely that they’d continue to be her support.
“Lunch roll call!” Keigo announced in a poorly attempted authoritive voice.
“Oh God…not this again.” grumbled Riruka.
“For the last time, Asano, we aren’t going to trade lunches with you.” Uryu sighed, pushing up his glasses on his nose.
“It’s not our fault that your sister can’t make good food.” Renji snorted.
Keigo let out a whine. “Come on, guys! I just want one meal that isn’t plagued with burns!”
“You can have my lunch, Asano-kun!” Orihime offered, holding out her lunchbox.
“Be careful…it might contain jam stuffed into cake.” warned Tatsuki lowly.
“How did you know, Tatsuki-chan?!”
“Don’t care! Anything’s better than what I have!” Keigo squeaked.
Orihime and Keigo switched their lunches, sealing the deal. Everyone watched with concern as the bubbly teen happily munched away at the charred food the very second she got her hands on it.
“You can’t be human.” Riruka commented, a doughnut hovering near her mouth.
“She just has an iron stomach. It’s nothing to worry about.” told Rukia with an eye roll.
“It will be if she gets an ulcer.” muttered Ulquiorra.
“Can you even get ulcers from eating weird stuff?” Renji inquired.
“Do you even know what an ulcer is?”
“No fighting, you two.” Rukia barked sternly.
“Spoiled sport.” Tatsuki and Riruka pouted.
“I don’t think we need another trip to the office this week.” pointed out Uryu.
“My sister would kill me!” admitted Keigo in a hushed tone, nibbling slightly on the odd concoction Orihime created.
“Rukia-chan could get out of trouble again like she usually does.” Orihime mentioned.
Rukia made a face showing how amused she wasn’t by that comment. “I have a feeling that’s all I’m good for anymore.”
Orihime became flustered. “Oh! No! That’s not what I meant! I’m just saying you’re good at getting us out of bad situations!”
“In other words…she’s confirming the statement you said, Kuchiki.” Ulquiorra said in his eerie monotone.
“That’s not true, Ulqui-kun!”
“Careful, Cifer. Looks like she’ll attack if you get her mad enough.” snickered Renji.
That wasn’t the case. Instead, Tatsuki and Rukia were the ones to deliver hits to HIS head. Ulquiorra didn’t receive any.
“’Yeow!” Renji shouted, lurching over and shielding his new bruise.
Everyone either smirked or chuckled at his pain. The crimson haired troublemaker always had it coming. He wasn’t too good at controlling his running mouth the majority of the time. It didn’t help with his already delinquent status since he had incredibly long hair, was riddled with tattoos, got into fights, and did some others things that possibly weren’t too legal. He began mumbling about how he was the one everybody just had to pick on, glaring at his friends as he picked up his fallen lunchbox.
“You ask for it every time.” Uryu stated bluntly.
“Can it, four eyes!” Renji snapped.
Rukia rolled her eyes for the heaven knows how many times today, nibbling on her strawberry pocky. Her group of friends were so weird. Sometimes she felt like she didn’t belong with them. Unlike her…they had less baggage to carry. Suddenly, Rukia let out a yelp and jumped.
“Spazzing out today?” joked Riruka.
“My cell’s going off.” answered Rukia, reaching into her boot where her phone resided.
“Who would be bothering you at school?” asked Keigo.
The petite girl shook her head. No one ever called or texted her during school. Not unless it was an extreme emergency, but even then it was more likely that the office would be contacted instead. If this was an emergency, it would have to either be Hisana or Byakuya, or the police in a worst case scenario. Instead…it was someone else. Someone that made her heart leap into her throat. Quickly, she answered the call, holding her cell to her ear and attempting to act natural.
Everyone in the group froze in the middle of their activities. Each of them had known Ichigo at one point or another – all of them missed him, but would never admit to it. Except Keigo. He admitted to a lot of things. They waited, with baited breath, for time to move forward.
“Yo.” Ichigo replied.
Rukia unconsciously tucked her hair behind her ear, looking both excited and anxious. “Umm…isn’t night or something over there? Aren’t you supposed to be sleeping?”
“No, Mom. I’m not supposed to be sleeping. I just woke up, so I thought I’d call.”
“I’m at school.”
“But it’s lunch time, right?”
“Yes. Wait…how did you know?”
“When you have a friend living miles away from you, you try to figure out the time gap so you can find the perfect moment to talk to them.”
“Sounds like you have too much time on your hands.”
“Sometimes.” He sighed, and the sound of a bed creaking followed. “Having a good day so far?”
“Yes. It’s been slow, but not bad.”
“Sounds pretty good.”
“Well…I just woke up…so I’m doing good.”
“Ah. I guess that would be good then.”
“You think?” He chuckled, then sighed again. “You know…I hate this.”
This surprised Rukia. “Hate what, exactly?”
“Not seeing your face. I feel awkward on the phone.”
“Well, blame your grandparents. They’re the ones that wanted to move.”
“You know…I’d like to…but then I might get in trouble.”
“Who knows? It’s my grandparents, Rukia.”
“True.” She bit her lip, unsure how to continue this conversation. “So…about that gift you’re sending…can I have a hint as to what it is?”
“What?! Hell no!”
“Awww! Why not?”
“Because a hint turns into a spill! Just wait till Friday!”
“You’re so mean.”
“Nooo…what’s mean is the puppy dog pout you do to make me cave in! But since I can’t see your face, I can resist your little tricks. So ha! Payback!”
“Wow. Very mature.”
“You’re just mad because I won this time.”
A blush crossed her face. “N-no! Jeez…you’re such an idiot!”
“You’re not helping your case.”
“Laugh it up! I’ll get back at you for this!”
“And I’ll be waiting.”
Rukia wished she could deck him right now. She hated it when he’d get smug. It was annoying and often took an arm and a leg to get him off that horse.
“Well…I better let you go. Don’t want to take up your entire lunch. Later, Rukia.”
The line on the other end went quiet. Rukia ended the call, feeling a sense of loneliness. She looked up, meeting the eyes of all of her friends. With haste, they adverted their gazes – resuming their previous activities. Rukia shook her head and continued to munch on her treat.
‘Hmmmm…I wonder what it is that Ichigo bought for me that’s so expensive and so secretive?’
Friday had arrived all too soon. The hours ticked by slowly. Dusk began to approach. That was when Ichigo decided that he should head out. But first, it was probably a good idea if he showered first. He found that on days when he didn’t go to school, he found that he slept too much and didn’t do anything too productive.
‘I should really kick that habit.’
He undressed and climbed into the shower. He shuddered as the water connected to his skin. It was something he always did now. Ever since he had rejoined society after being in that asylum for longer than promised…he gained some odd habits. Shuddering upon impact with water was one of them. It was just a reaction to having to take frozen showers almost three times a day or sometimes getting sprayed in the face with a spray bottle as if he was an animal instead of a human. It was a reaction his body just couldn’t shake.
That asylum…it did a lot of harm to Ichigo. For starters, the reaction to water. Then those years he had to take so many different pills for his anxiety and these horrible random panic attacks. And the fears he developed for needles, hospitals, doctors, empty enclosed spaces…and the dark. Some of these recovered from over time. Obviously, the water was still an issue. He was better with hospitals and doctors, but still felt a little wary of them. He didn’t have to take the pills anymore, but renewed his prescriptions when they expired just to be safe. He didn’t have panic attacks anymore – not once in almost four years. Empty enclosed spaces didn’t faze him at all anymore. But the needles…and the dark…Ichigo was never recovering from those. And, about two years after getting out of that godforsaken place, Ichigo found that he developed a nervous twitch whenever he heard little girls singing nursery rhymes. That place threw him out of whack so badly…but he was fine now. He cpuld function normally and not break down in the middle of public. He was fine. Mentally stable now.
‘At least for the most part it seems…’
Ichigo got out of the shower, throwing on a Black Ops II shirt and black bondage jeans. He felt all nice and clean now, but still had to finish up. Sluggishly, he completed the other hygienic tasks he probably should’ve done earlier. By the time he was done, and back in his room, he saw that it was starting to get dark out. He grabbed a small flashlight from off his desk and slipped it into his pocket.
“Okay…I’m all set. Now…where did I put that damn thing?” Ichigo stood there for a minute, thinking about where he had placed the package. “Oh yeah…I put it in the closet.”
He turned to face his closet and just stared at it. It was dark in there. He would have to be quick with opening it. Shakily, he reached out his hand. He was afraid…afraid of what might shrivel up in the light after being exposed. He ripped the door open, bracing for impact. When nothing happened and he saw that there was only extra bed matting and the package he had placed in there earlier in the week…he let out an exhale of overwhelming relief.
“Maybe I’m finally safe after all…”
Smiling gently, he plucked the package off of its spot, stuffing it under his arm. He left the closet door open and exited the room, skittishly turning off the light. He went out the front door with little incident, his family a bit too absorbed with their game show. They were still not used to having him around, even after a few days. And, to be quite honest, he wasn’t either. He was lucky that he remembered his way around Karakura. The last thing he wanted was to rely on his dad to give him a ride to Rukia’s.
Rukia…it had been six years since Ichigo had seen her in person and not by other means. And, the last time he had seen her in person…she was crying. He would be lying profusely if he said he wasn’t nervous about seeing her again. He wasn’t sure what she’d be more pissed off about – the fact that he lied a bit to her even thought it was for a surprise or the fact that he spent the bulk of his money buying her a few presents as well as for his plane ticket. But did that matter in the end? He had missed her. Was done with being separated by a computer screen and a continent. Sure, he had missed his father and sisters terribly…but he had missed Rukia the most. Funny what distance could do the heart…
It wasn’t long before he had reached the Kuchiki residence, a rather large house in his opinion. He released a quivering breath. This was it. No turning back now. He managed a soft smile, and proceeded up the stairs that led to the front door.