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Yearning

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XII.

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"Have you spoken with my sister, Kurosaki fukutaichou?" Byakuya's voice is misleadingly mild as he addresses Ichigo at the meeting.

"No, Captain Kuchiki," Ichigo responds, frowning at the dull ache in his chest at the mention of her name. "But she is not relevant to this conversation."

It has been five years to the day Ichigo Kurosaki was approved as a candidate to marry Rukia; three years since he blasted through the Shin-O academy in a year, two years since he moved to the Seiritei to become vice-captain of the Second Division under Captain Soi-Fon, one year and six months since he proposed to Rukia and she accepted; and three days since he has seen Rukia.

"I understand that you wish to run more patrols in the lands controlled by the Kuchiki family," Byakuya states. "And I received your report, Kurosaki. The request is granted, but you must keep me apprised at all times."

"Thank you." Ichigo drops to one knee, respectfully, then rises to his feet to leave the office. "I will take my leave." Even being in Byakuya's office reminds him of her, and he wants to get out of there as soon as possible.

"Wait." The Captain's voice stops him.

Ichigo pauses, head bowed.

"Do you- still love my sister, Kurosaki?" Byakuya asks, steepling his fingers contemplatively. He notes the dark shadows under Ichigo's eyes, and the slightly leaner look on his face.

Angry gold eyes meet his. "Of course I do. That has never ever come into question, Byakuya." The informal use of his first name means that the conversation has switched gears, but Byakuya is used to this now.

"Then what seems to be the problem?"

Ichigo sinks back on the mat, frustration on his face. "I just… asked her if we should finally set a wedding date. But then I asked if she was going to continue taking dangerous missions after we did. She got so angry."

"I see." Byakuya studies the younger man thoughtfully. "You have, after all, been engaged for some time. Did you tell her she should stop?"

"No," Ichigo scowls. "That's entirely up to her. But if we have children-"

Byakuya imagines red-haired babies with purple eyes and suppresses a shudder. Maybe his sister has come to her senses. But he suspects that she is too far gone over the idiot sitting across him.

Ichigo rises to his feet, a determined glint in his eyes. "May I visit the Kuchiki Manor later tonight, Byakuya?"

Byakuya regards him impassively. "Rukia has banned you from the premises, if you recall. However, I understand there is a gathering of the Shinigami Women's Society tonight to celebrate Hinamori's birthday. They will be on the second floor of the Sword And Lotus tavern in the third district."

Gratefully, Ichigo nods, leaving the room.

 


 

"Really? He wants you to quit after you get married?" Momo gasps.

Rukia takes a swig of her sake. "Yes." Her fingers clench into a fist around the delicate porcelain.

"Wow." Rangiku shakes her head, refilling Rukia's glass. "I can't believe Ichigo would say that. You'd think he'd be more progressive, coming from the world of the living. Doesn't he know that in the Seiritei, a shinigami is a shinigami until you die?"

Rukia downs her second shot, holding the glass out to Rangiku. "I know, right?"

"Oh, I want to kick him," Soi Fon snarls, cracking her knuckles. "He may be my second seat but I'll plant my foot so far up his ass that he'll have to brush his teeth around my toes. I should ask him if HE wants to keep working after he gets married. What an asshole."

"Did his mother quit her job when she got married?" Yachiru inquires curiously, nibbling on the chips.

Rukia's brow knits. "I think so? But she passed away early, when all of the children were really young. I just got so angry when he asked, 'Are you still going to keep fighting after we get married?' It just sounded so condescending." She lapses into silence, sipping her third cup of sake. "I taught him everything he knows. He can't be seriously thinking I would give this up."

Rangiku refills her cup yet again.

"I mean, look at you and Hitsugaya-taichou." Rukia gestures to Momo. "You guys have been married a while now, and he would never think to stop you from being a shinigami."

Momo blushes. "Actually, I am thinking of taking some time off."

Her announcement causes everyone to stare at her. "What?" Isane squeaks.

"Come to think of it, the birthday girl has not drunk any alcohol tonight," Rangiku observes, watching Momo's cheeks light up.

"OH MY GOSH!" Soi Fon squeals, launching herself at the smaller girl. "ARE YOU PREGNANT?"

Madness ensues after Momo nods, blushing furiously. All the women in the room take turns hugging her and gushing, and some eyes are wet. Rukia smiles fondly at her friend, noticing the soft glow around her that wasn't there before. And a pang of envy blindsides her, making Rukia feel uncomfortable. She quickly suppresses it, and joins the crowd of women fussing over Momo.

Later, when the party winds down, Momo finds Rukia.

"Hey, preggo," Rukia greets, patting the cushion beside her. "Happy birthday."

Momo smiles at her and takes the offered seat. "Hey. About your problem with Ichigo… I do understand why you would be so angry." She chuckles. "Shiro-chan is beside himself right now, and I can see he is dying to ask me to quit too. But he won't. I may make the decision for him, though."

Rukia studies her own hands, and the glitter of the diamond on her ring finger reminds her of the night Ichigo gave it to her. She grabs the sake bottle from the table and empties it out into her cup.

"I just wish he didn't assume, you know?" Rukia scowls.

"Oh, I understand. But getting pregnant has put some things into perspective for me. Shiro-chan and I grew up without parents, and I know you did too, so it is not such a big deal for us. But Ichigo, he had a mother and a father, and from what I have heard before, he adored his mother. And she was ripped away from him at such a young age. Maybe he is thinking of your future children, which is why he is asking that." Momo puts her hand on Rukia's arm. "I am not close to Ichigo, but Shiro-chan is, and he always tells me Ichigo is always thinking of others. Do you agree?"

Rukia's eyes fill with tears. "Yes." It is a point that she had not considered before. She should have known he would not be so selfish.

"And now that I am going to be a mother, I find my priorities changing," Momo sighs. "I love being a fukutaichou. But I am determined not to let my children grow up motherless." Her eyes meet Rukia's. "This is a personal decision, of course, and one I would not force on anyone. But maybe eventually I would come back to this position. It would not be fair to my Taichou to have a distracted vice-captain. Still, I will cross that bridge when I come to it."

Rukia smiles, squeezing her friend's hand. "I'm sure you will make the right choice."

The room panels slide open, revealing Hitsugaya and Ichigo. "Excuse me." The white-haired captain announces stiffly. "I am here to take my wife home."

The women greet Hitsugaya enthusiastically, congratulating him on his impending fatherhood. They have a less enthusiastic greeting for the redhead.

Ichigo's eyes lock onto Rukia, his gaze burning into hers as if everything else faded away. She turns her head, breaking their deadlock, as she helps Momo to her feet. He waits patiently by the door, not saying anything.

 


 

With the guest-of-honor leaving, the rest of the party decides to call it a night. Rukia hands over her share of the bill to Unohana, taking her time before walking past Ichigo. All the other ladies file out before her, sending knowing looks to her, with Soi Fon whacking her second seat on the top of his head as she leaves.

Ichigo, used to his Captain's random acts of violence by now, just bows to her. And now it is just the two of them.

"May I walk you back?" Ichigo asks, breaking the awkward silence.

"Do what you want," Rukia says wearily, and takes a step, stumbling from the alcohol. He catches her by the shoulders, gently raising her to her legs.

He smiles faintly. "You're drunk."

Rukia stomps past him, before her resolve can weaken. As it is, she drinks up the sound of his voice and it sends chills down her spine.

He follows her, three steps behind, out into the street. The night is dark and street lamps cast pale white circles on the ground every few meters.

And of course, it starts to rain. At first it comes down as a sprinkle, but it quickly turns into a downpour. Both of them are soaked in moments; Rukia welcomes the chill it brings to her alcohol-heated body. She laughs, remembering her childhood in the slums. Every time it rained meant a free bath for her.

"Baka. You're going to catch a cold if you keep this up," Ichigo mutters affectionately, hoisting her on his shoulder and running for the nearest shelter, which turns out to be an overhang of a closed store. His hands on her skin are so familiar Rukia wants to cry. But she pretends to be offended, banging on his back with her fists.

"Put me down! You are manhandling a vice-captain. How dare you?" She rams her knee into his stomach, but ogles his nice tight backside from her upside down position, rain running up her face and into her hair.

"Funny," Ichigo says, patting her butt on her shoulder. "I thought I was manhandling my beautiful fiancee." She raises her knee again to attack him, but he grabs her ankles under her hakama, holding them straight.

Rukia suffers the indignity of being hauled like a sack of potatoes until they reach the sheltered area. Then he slides her down his chest and pushes her against the wall, holding her up with his body. Her toes don't touch the ground and for some reason this fact really annoys her.

"Let me down," she snarls, her eyes closing as Ichigo's hands grab her backside to keep her up. He leans his forehead against hers, wet hair dripping down his cheek. He feels so incredibly good against her, and it has only been three days. Rukia curses her own weakness as her fingers curl into his shirt.

"Just a minute," he murmurs, nuzzling her cheek. "God. I missed you." Her heart sings at the longing in his voice, and now it is really hard to remember why she was angry in the first place.

"You can't just -" Rukia begins weakly, then he silences her with a kiss and the world disappears.

His lips slant across hers, as he spears his fingers into her hair with a groan. The patter of the rain cannot compare to the pounding in her chest. 'It is always like this,' Rukia thinks before her brain short-circuits again. Her tongue darts out to stroke and tangle with his, and she does not realize she has locked hers legs around his waist.

Thunder and lightning split the night, illuminating the two people locked in an embrace in the dark.

Rukia nibbles at his lips hungrily, seeking more of the man she missed so desperately. His hands tighten on hers as he devours her.

Then they are interrupted by a lower ranking shinigami, wearing a raincoat and carrying a lantern. "Hey. You cannot do that here -" His eyes widen as he sees Ichigo, who is in charge of running patrols for the Onmitsukido.

"Oh- Kurosaki-Fukutaichou!" the man squeaks, backing a full step away and bowing low. "My apologies, I did not see you." Rukia shoves Ichigo back, landing on her toes on the rain-dampened ground. "And Kuchiki-Fukutaichou!" The poor soldier is trembling in the presence of the most powerful couple in the Seiritei. Distantly he wonders if he is going to die now. Ichigo turns, his face red.

"Yes, carry on. Thank you for doing your duty. And- don't catch a cold in this weather," Ichigo rumbles, trying to imitate Byakuya's impassive face. "Dismissed."

The soldier bows, and flash-steps away, his lantern bobbing in the downpour. Rukia looks at Ichigo's face and starts giggling uncontrollably. Ichigo rubs the back of his head sheepishly and joins her, and for a moment, all is well.

They walk in silence in the rain, side by side, until the gates of the Kuchiki Manor. "So," Rukia says finally, turning to face Ichigo. "This is me."

"I know. See you later, Rukia." He leans in to press a light kiss against his forehead. "Don't forget to dry your hair so you don't catch cold. Have a good night."

She nods and closes the door behind her, leaning against it. On the other side, Ichigo raises his hand to touch the door, and then turns to head towards his own division barracks.

 


 

The next day, Ichigo finds himself at the 13th Division at the request of Ukitake. The Karakura town shinigami have been getting swamped with hollow attacks, and as a previous resident, Ukitake thinks that he can provide some insight on the cause. He asks Ichigo to talk to Rukia, who is in the library.

Rukia is scowling at a map when he arrives, and he takes a moment to study her, before announcing his presence. A lock of hair has fallen over her forehead, and his hand itches to push it back over her ear, to touch her soft cheek.

"Stop staring," she mutters, without looking up. Even while his reiatsu is masked, she can always sense him. Ichigo moves in, trapping her in his embrace. He slides a hand on hers, where it rests on the map, and the other around her waist, resting his chin on her shoulder.

"What are we looking at?" he murmurs against her ear, feeling her tremble.

She stiffens her spine, driving an elbow into his stomach. "We are at work. Behave yourself, Fukutaichou," Rukia hisses. His hand curves to cup her hip, while the other glides across her shoulders. Rukia does her best not to relax into his back-hug, but it really is difficult.

"I just wanted to tell you I'm sorry," he whispers into her hair. "For asking. It really is your decision. But… If we have kids, I would like them to grow up with a parent at home. So I don't mind taking a break if you're okay with it. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Also, to be honest, I was just asking. I didn't think my phrasing through, but it really wasn't an order."

Rukia sighs. So Momo had been right. "It's okay. I- may have overreacted, and I'm sorry too. I should know by now that you aren't the type to push that," she replies, leaning her head back against his shoulder. "And really, we don't have to discuss that now." The thought of having children with Ichigo terrifies her, and thrills her at the same time.

"I love you, Rukia," he tells her, making her smile.

"And I don't know why I love you, but I do, you idiot," she mutters, peeling his hands away. "But now we really have to get on this."

Now that the fight is over, the two of them can concentrate on the task at hand. The epicenter of the hollow activity is at a Shinto temple, located on a mountaintop just on the outskirts of Karakura town.

"That's the same one Nozomi used the natural senkaimon at." Rukia points to the map. Ichigo nods, remembering the place. They set a senkaimon to open there, and make preparations to leave the next day.

 


 

As the two of them stand at the doorway the next afternoon, Rukia slides her hand into Ichigo's. He smiles down at her.

"Let's get married after this mission," she tells him, blushing. "We can set a date and tell our families and send out invitations and stuff. I don't want to live away from you anymore."

Ichigo's grin is blinding. The details have been hammered out a long time ago (suffice to say, he gets to keep his name, she gets to keep hers, she has a sizable dowry as per custom, but he has also been awarded money and lands by the Seiritei in recognition of his services rendered) so, really, all they have to do now is to make it official.

"It's about time," he smirks, picking her up and twirling her around. She squeaks, and shoves fruitlessly at his shoulders. Ichigo leans in to kiss her.

Behind them someone clears his throat. "Ahem." His silver eyes carefully averted, Byakuya stands, hands clasped behind his back. Both of them spring apart guiltily.

"Oni-sama," "Taichou," Both of them chorus, bowing instantly, hands still linked together.

Byakuya clears his throat again. "I see the two of you have made up," he says, surveying the ceiling. "But you are both at work. And Ukitake was wise to let me accompany the both of you. He thought you may be otherwise distracted." He pushes between them, marching into the dark fleshy tunnel, forcing them to let go of each other's hands.

Ichigo flashes a grin at Rukia, and grabs her hand again. Chasing their hell butterflies, they follow the Captain into the darkness.

 


 

After a long vicious battle with a small army of hollows, led by a stray arrancar, the shinigami group emerge victorious. They all gather at the entrance of the temple, with Isshin and Urahara flitting back and forth between Ryonosuke Yuki, who is assigned to Karakura town, Ishida, with a twisted ankle, and Chad, who has sustained a stab wound in his shoulder.

Orihime assists him, casting the golden pod over the more seriously wounded Shino, the other assigned shinigami. She is suffering from a punctured lung and thankfully Orihime gets to her in time.

Ichigo has minor cuts and bruises, but Rukia is fussing over him, using her Kidou to heal a cut on his lip. They sit on the steps of the temple, because of a lack of seating.

"You idiot," she growls, gripping his ear to keep him from moving away. "Why did you jump in front of that Grand Fisher?"

"To protect it from you," Ichigo retorts sarcastically. "Because you're so scary." He yelps as the grip on his ear tightens.

"What if it had gutted you?" Rukia snarls, her nails digging into his ear. "What if anything had happened to you?"

Ichigo winces, but hears the panic in her voice. He eases her fingers off his ear and wraps his hands around her slender wrists, pulling her close. "Nothing's going to happen to me," he chides, kissing her nose. "I fear you more than I fear death."

Byakuya and Isshin stand next to each other, a few feet away, watching the two. "Oh, those two. It's as if we're not here," Isshin remarks affectionately, handing Byakuya a cylinder marked Sapporo. "Those two are long overdue for a wedding. And I want grandbabies. What's the holdup?"

Byakuya stares at it, a frown marring his forehead. "I cannot imbibe while at work," he says disdainfully.

Isshin grins and holds up a paper-wrapped straw. "Why not? I used to show up drunk all the time and they could never tell the difference. And really, the battle is over. Time to kick back."

Scowling, Byakuya snatches it out of the older captain's fingers, popping his beer open. He slides the straw inside, takes a long pull, and then proceeds to snort beer out his nose. "Kurosaki fukutaichou," he yells out, wiping his nose as he hands his beer to Isshin. "Stop molesting my sister."

"Aww, let them be." Isshin grabs his sleeve. The older ex-captain's grip is surprisingly strong.

Byakuya glares at him. "But your son has been stringing her along for five years, Kurosaki-san. I demand that they make it official, or I shall demand that the betrothal be dissolv-" He is silenced by a straw jammed into his mouth by a grinning Isshin.

"Well, my son-in-law-to-be, (since you are the brother of my third daughter)," Isshin pronounces, dragging Byakuya away towards the town, "The more you push it, the less it'll happen, I always say. Unless you're making babies. Wink, wink. Besides, the one doing the stringing along is not my dolt of a son." He all but pushes Byakuya down the hill, following the procession of injured people to Urahara's shop. "Byakuya, we have more important things to discuss. Such as, I want you to call me Daddy after they are married."

"No." Byakuya stands stock-still, glaring.

"Yes! That way, I can be like, Who's your daddy, Byakuya?" Their voices fade away into the night, the further away they get.

Finally, Ichigo and Rukia are alone in the temple garden, and night has fallen quickly.

 


 

"Oh, look at the moon," Rukia whispers, pointing at the full orb hanging in the sky, casting everything in a silver glow. Ichigo gazes at the wonder reflected in her eyes, thinking that there was no telling Rukia had just gutted and beheaded numerous hollows and arrancars just a few hours earlier.

"The most beautiful thing I have ever seen is right here." Ichigo studies her in the moonlight, holding her tight in his lap. They watch in silence as fireflies light up the bushes and trees around them. "Hey, Rukia, let's get married." He tells her, sliding his hand into hers.

She laughs, her purple eyes glowing. "That's what I said, Ichigo."

"No, I mean, let's get married right now." He turns her face to his. "We're at a temple now, and it's a gorgeous night, and I love you. I don't want to wait any longer."

She breaks into a grin. "My brother and your dad will kill you."

"We can give them their big wedding, but this can be ours, just you and me." Ichigo quirks an eyebrow at her. "Unless you would prefer it that way with the big hat and all."

Rukia can't stop smiling like an idiot. "Let's do this."

He places her on the step, and goes down on one knee. "Rukia Kuchiki, will you marry me? Right now?"

Her smile is radiant. "Yes."

He picks her up, whirling her around happily to the music of crickets.

"Ahem." A voice stops them both and they see the faint outline of a monk, beaming at them both. "My name is Monk Gyatso. I understand that you wish to be married here."

Both of them bow to the spirit. "Yes, Monk Gyatso," they chorus, grinning like idiots.

"Excellent." The monk spirit clasps his hand together, radiating peace. "Will anybody be witnessing your union?"

"I will." A flash of light reveals Sode No Shirayuki, her hair glowing in the moonlight, smiling serenely.

"And I as well," Zangetsu speaks up from behind Ichigo, clapping him on the shoulder. Ichigo grins at the personification of his Zanpakuto.

"I will give you both a moment to prepare yourselves. Meet me up the stairs under the torii." The elderly spirit touches both their foreheads and fades into fireflies that swirl their way to the temple upstairs.

"Wow. Do we have to perform konso on him afterwards?" Ichigo wonders.

Rukia shakes her head. "Monks take a vow and are different. They do not turn into hollows. They are a special class, with gifts from the gods and are exempt. I think he is the guardian of this temple."

Sode no Shirayuki appears, leading Rukia away to get her ready. Ichigo watches her go, feeling his chest fill with excitement. "Well, Ichigo, today, you become a man." Zangetsu whacks him on the back, his eyes crinkling. Ichigo blushes profusely and starts sputtering.

"Well- I - that's not -" He notices the mischievous glint in the older man's eye and closes his mouth abruptly.

"Are you nervous, boy?" Zangetsu teases, wiping Ichigo's face off with a washcloth which he dampened in the drinking fountain at the entrance.

"Not nervous." Ichigo smiles. "I want this more than I've wanted anything in my life."

"More than when you lost your powers and wanted them back?" The older man fixes his shihakusho, brushing off lint and grass and wrinkles.

"Yes." Ichigo smiles his thanks. "Thank you for being here with me, old man."

"Well," Zangetsu clears his throat. "Better me than your Hollow." They exchange a smirk. "By the way, do you have rings?" Zangetsu asks, placing a fist on his hip. Ichigo reaches into his shirt and pulls out two rings on a necklace.

"Yes, here they are." He unhooks the necklace and the rings roll out into his palm. Zangetsu looks impressed. "So you did plan this? Good job."

"I've been carrying them around since she said yes to my proposal." Ichigo holds one up to the light. "This one was my mother's." The delicate band with molded ivy, glittering with diamonds, gleams in the darkness.

"And the other?" Zangetsu studies the man's band. It is solid, and simple, with a black stripe round the center. "It feels- familiar. It has known much power." The older man's eyes snap to his. "It can't be- Is it?"

"Yes." Ichigo takes it back, holding the weight of it in his hand. "It's the same sword Rukia stabbed me with, the one that gave me back my reiatsu and brought her back to me."

"But wasn't Urahara supposed to destroy it?"

"He did. But the metal remained. I asked him to craft my wedding ring out of it. Her engagement ring is also made from the same material." Ichigo looks up as the stairway as the lanterns burst into light, casting a golden glow all around.

"I think it's time." Zangetsu smiles, climbing the steps. Ichigo nods, feeling his heart pound in anticipation.

 


 

When they get to the gate at the top of the stairs, Rukia is already standing there. She turns, and Ichigo's breath catches. She wears a crown of white snow flowers, and somehow Sode No Shirayuki is a miracle worker, because Rukia is dressed in a white kimono, her eyes demurely looking down, and a radiant glow on her face. She has the traditional knife and fan at her belt.

Ichigo is speechless at the sight of her. She raises her gaze to his, and he sees the stars reflected in her eyes. He feels his throat tighten with emotion, as he takes her hand.

Sode No Shirayuki starts playing the flute, and the melody makes the evening more magical.

The fireflies condense, revealing Monk Gyatso. Ichigo can barely hear anything in the ceremony, he is so lost in his bride.

He takes the sake cup that the Monk gives him, sips from it and hands it over to Rukia. She takes a delicate sip, her eyes on him the entire time. They repeat this three times, fulfilling the requirements of the san-san-kudo ritual.

Then, they hold their raised hands, and the monk binds a white cord around them, knotting it three times.

"Please repeat after me." Monk Gyatso tells Ichigo.

"Watakushi wa kono josei to kekkonshi

Fufu to narou to shite imasu

Watakushi wa kenkouna tokimo

Soudenai tokimo

Kono hito o aishi

Kono hito o uyamai

Kono hito o nagusame

Kono hito o tasuke

Watakushi no inochi no kagiri

Kataku sessou o mamoru koto o

Chikai masu.

This woman, I marry

No matter what the health situation is

I will love this person

Respect this person

Console this person

Help this person

Until death

Protecting fidelity

I swear."

Ichigo repeats his vows loudly, his gaze never leaving Rukia's. Then Monk Gyatso asks her to repeat the vows, and she does, standing unwavering and proud as she recites them to Ichigo.

The monk unties the cord, and announces the exchange of rings. Zangetsu steps forward, holding out both rings.

Rukia gasps when she sees the ring Ichigo slips on her finger, tears filling her eyes. "It is so beautiful." She whispers, feeling the metal band warm from her skin. She takes his ring, and recognizing it, smiles. Ichigo swallows past the lump in his throat, as she slips it on him.

"Congratulations." The monk pronounces. "You are now husband and wife."

Ichigo pulls her close, kissing her tenderly as the lanterns blaze with light, floating into the sky. Zangetsu grins at Sode no Shirayuki, who is smiling serenely at the kissing couple. Then, with the monk, they fade into the night as tiny fireflies, returning to their blade forms.

 


 

Ichigo and Rukia arrive at her old apartment in the city.

"Why are we here?" Rukia wonders, looking at the door. Ichigo smiles and fishes out a key, unlocking the door.

"I figured we would want our own place in Karakura Town, my darling wife." He opens it with a flourish, watching her cheeks turn pink. "And we know this apartment well, so why not this one?"

"Wait, what?" Rukia is still confused, as he hands her a second set of keys, and picks her up in his arms. "Welcome home, my bride." He kisses her tenderly but thoroughly as he crosses the threshold, closing the door behind him with his foot.

The sweet kiss turns passionate as Rukia grabs his head to kiss him more thoroughly, sucking on his lower lip and licking at him in slow nibbles. He kisses her back hungrily, slowly stroking her tongue with his as he holds her close. He falls onto the couch, mouths still fused together, and Rukia finds herself kneeling over him.

"Wait." She pulls away, panting, as he runs a hand into her shirt, finding soft sensitive skin in the valley between her not-so-ample breasts. He uses a fingertip to trace a line from her throat down to her navel.

"What?" Ichigo rains kisses hungrily on her neck, tracing her jugular with his tongue. He feels her tremble in his hands when he sucks on that special spot under her ear.

"Are- you-" she gasps, her fingers fisting in his hair. "Hungry?"

She feels, rather than sees, his roguish grin against her skin. "Hungry?" He murmurs, sinking his teeth lightly into that sensitive junction of her neck and shoulder, pulling a shocked moan from her lips. "Yes, I'm hungry." His whisper sends goosebumps skittering across her skin, as he traces his bite marks with soft brushes of his lips. "Are you?"

"Am I what?" Rukia whimpers.

He presses his tongue into the hollow under her earlobe, sending a rush of moisture into her panties. "Hungry," he responds, making her shiver with his hot breath.

"I- I-" With much effort, she pushes him away. "I- Ah, I need to use the bathroom." She gets off him, and scampers into the master bath, slamming the door behind her to hide her sudden attack of nerves.

She washes her face in cold water, to cool down the raging blush, her heart still pounding. Then she scrubs her teeth thoroughly with the brand-new toothbrush she finds in a drawer. When that doesn't work to calm her down, she jumps into the shower, to wash the battle from her hair and skin. She is surprised to find her brand of cucumber and strawberry shampoo in the bathroom, and smiles at Ichigo's thoughtfulness.

While Rukia is lathering up in the shower, the sliding curtain alerts her to Ichigo's entry. "Hi, wife," he greets, shedding his own clothes. "Good idea, mind if I join you?"

With a squeak, she covers herself, squeezing her eyes shut. "What are you doing?!"

With a laugh, Ichigo tips her chin up and kisses her lightly. "Showering with my wife?" he grins against her lips, standing in the flow of warm water with her. "My sexy, delicious looking, gorgeous wife." His honey eyes are mesmerizing as they roam over her nakedness. She feels another hot flush spreading across her body.

"You naughty girl," he purrs, running a knuckle down the side of her breast. She trembles, feeling the hot water rushing down her body contributing to her state of arousal. "Were you hiding from me?"

Her closed eyes and the stubborn tilt of her jaw tell him the truth. Seeing her nervousness, he hands her the soap. "Here, wash my back." He turns around, presenting her with his perfectly muscled shoulders, tapering down to a well-formed waist, and her secret weakness, a tight backside. Almost automatically, she lathers the soap in her hands, and raises them to his skin.

His muscles jump under her fingers, reacting to her touch. Rukia slowly opens her eyes, gazing in wonder at Ichigo's body. She has never seen a body as perfect as his before, which is saying much, since she grew up around men. The years of training have certainly been good to him. He shoots her a hot look over his shoulder, bracing his palms against the wall to keep himself from attacking her.

The intensity in his gaze causes a rush of wetness in her core, weakening her knees. "Eyes forward, Kurosaki," she orders, biting her lower lip, as she slowly digs her fingertips into the tight muscles of his shoulders, giving him a soothing massage. He lets out a muffled groan, and Rukia is heady over his reaction to her touch.

She pauses over two faint marks on his back, one much more dark than the other, where she stabbed him both times. They are not quite scars, but she is secretly pleased to find physical reminders of her on his body. Quickly, she brushes light kisses on them, hoping he does not notice.

She digs her thumbs down his spine, working out the knots in the hot shower. Finally she gets to kneading his butt, marvelling at how firm it is.

Rukia notices something bobbing in the front of his body, and her curiosity gets the better of her, so she sneaks a peek. She has never seen a penis up close, and this is certainly a huge specimen, she thinks. So this is what the big deal is all about.

"Mmm. Curious kitten, you'll see a lot more of that," Ichigo rumbles, his eyes like melted honey. "Do you want to wash my front now?"

Panicking, Rukia straightens, and slips. She might have hit the floor if Ichigo hadn't caught her, and he holds her under the pounding water, laughter in his eyes. He takes pity on her. "Let me finish showering, Rukia, and I'll join you in bed."

Her eyes widen at the seductive tone, and she nods briskly, her face aflame. Rukia grabs the towel and heads outside. The moment she leaves, Ichigo turns the temperature down until the water is ice-cold, but that does not seem to affect the raging lust in him.

When Ichigo finally leaves the cold shower, he makes his way to the gigantic bed in the middle of the room, and smiles. Rukia is dressed in one of his old button-down shirts, and her underwear, sound asleep. A creamy leg is thrown carelessly over the blankets, pink toes curled in slumber. She has her fingers fisted on the pillow next to her and is snoring lightly.

Carefully, he sits next to her and towel-dries her hair. "Crazy wife, you'll catch cold," he tells her quietly, planting a kiss on her forehead. Then, throwing the towel aside, Ichigo lays down next to Rukia, pulling her close. He falls asleep to the scent of cucumbers and strawberries, and the most precious person in the world in his arms.

 


 

In the Seiritei, two fox messengers appear, bearing scrolls. (A/N: In the Shinto tradition, foxes are spirit animals)

One of them scampers into Yamamoto's office, dropping a scroll at his feet. Yamamoto picks it up, and gives the fox a scratch behind the ear, before unrolling the message. He breaks into a big smile, and summons a hell-butterfly.

The other one heads to the Kuchiki estate, where Byakuya is currently sipping his eleventh beer with Isshin Kurosaki.

"What is that?" He squints at the red blur. The fox approaches him carefully, and lays the saliva-covered document on his expensive scarf.

"It's a fox," Isshin booms, reaching for some meat to throw to the animal. The fox catches it with a quick jump, and chews slowly.

"Why would it throw up on my scarf?" Byakuya is confused, and then he takes another sip from his straw.

"Gimme that." Isshin leans over and unrolls the scroll. His eyes widen. "Byakuya."

"Shut up and open me another one," Byakuya orders, scratching under his kenseikan with one finger.

"No, Byakuya, listen." Isshin gets to his feet, using his saliva-covered hand to stroke his jaw. "They eloped!"

"What envelope?" Byakuya eyes the bottom of his can. "I don't think I have anything left in here."

"No, no, Ichigo and Rukia. They eloped." The grin on Isshin's face is blinding. "Who's your daddy now, my son-in-law? And, and…" He bursts into tears. "Grandbabies are coming."

"WHAT?" Byakuya rises to his feet unsteadily, roaring. "They WHAT?"

 


 

Rukia wakes to a tugging on her clothing. Moaning, she rolls over, trying to swat whatever it is away. Her fingers encounter a head, and she jerks up with a scream in her throat. Ichigo grins, biting the hem of her shirt playfully as he leans over her. His golden eyes gleam as he tugs her shirt up, walking two fingers up her flat stomach.

"I-Ichigo." Rukia melts from the intensity in his eyes.

"Good morning, my wife," he says, dropping the hem of her shirt to kiss her lightly on the lips. His fingers dig into her stomach inadvertently, tickling her, and she twists away with a squeal.

"Oh ho." Ichigo slides an arm around her waist, pulling her back into his warmth. "Can it be? My wife is ticklish?"

"Idiot," Rukia mutters, grabbing a pillow and covering her face. "Waking people up like that. Who does that? Seriously, you're turning into your dad."

Ichigo stares at the white cotton between them, smiling. Well, he already knew that Rukia wasn't a morning person. Carefully, he inches his head under the pillow, burying his face into her neck and inhaling deeply. "Mmmm. You smell so delicious first thing in the morning," he murmurs into her skin, rubbing his nose along her jaw.

Rukia's grip loosens on the pillow and he slowly slides it out of her hands, to throw it behind him. Wolfishly, he eyes her vulnerable neck, noting the pink flush of her cheeks. The early morning light makes her skin look extra creamy, and his mouth waters just looking at her.

"I want to find out what you like, my Rukia," he whispers into her ear, running the tip of his nose along the outer shell. He is gratified to see her shiver at the contact, her breathing quicker now. "I bet you like being touched and tasted." He gently strokes a fingertip down her cheek, tracing her jaw to tilt her face to his. Her eyes have darkened to the colour of the midnight skies, and she locks her gaze with his. "I want to hear all the noises you make when I lick your skin. And although I had a brief glimpse of you last night, I want to look at every inch of you and memorize the spots that make you shiver." In a surprise move, he leans forward and pulls her even closer, until her chest is plastered against his front, and she can only stare at him with rounded eyes, noses almost touching. "And then I want to make you beg for more when I feast on you."

He drags the shirt up her ribs, pressing hot open-mouthed kisses all over her neck. Once her pale stomach is exposed, he runs his hands over her skin, careful not to tickle her. His hands slide under the hem of the shirt, nudging the sensitive underside of her breasts, and Rukia sucks in a breath. He gives her a dark grin, and sits up, slowly unbuttoning the shirt, exposing her slowly.

"I wonder why you look so incredibly hot in my shirt," he muses, his fingers slipping the buttons out of their holes slowly. Rukia is mesmerized by the play of his hands, and can only watch in silence as he unwraps her. Finally her shirt is parted all the way, and her cleavage peeks through the gap. He pauses, his eyes roaming over her. "Wish I could take a picture. So you could see how perfect you are."

He lowers his head until their lips are almost, but not quite, touching. Her rapid breaths kiss the surface of his lips as he rolls her underneath his long, muscled body, his eyes searching hers hungrily. "Ichigo." She breathes, overcome with wanting.

"May I kiss your breasts?" His voice comes out harsher than he intends, and it is a testament to how close he is to losing control. Rukia's breath hitches, and she nods, her eyes on his.

Carefully he peels his shirt off the sensitive peaks, handling her as if she were made of glass. "So fucking gorgeous." He mutters, gently bending down to flick one nipple with his tongue. Rukia bites back a cry, covering her mouth with a hand. He sends her a sexy grin, and then closes his lips around her nipple, watching her head roll back helplessly, as she unconsciously offers herself to him. He laps at it with the flat of his tongue, while maintaining the suction of his lips. Ichigo notes that Rukia's other fist is strangling the pillow, and her heels are digging into the bed on both sides of his waist, her hips rocking unconsciously against him.

"My wife is so delicious," he whispers, releasing the now dark red peak with a soft pop, and blowing on it. The trembles start from her spine, and wrack her body. He reveals her other breast, nipping the underside gently with his teeth, while circling the first breast with his fingertips.

"Does this feel good, darling Rukia?" he asks, sucking hard enough to leave a mark on her soft pale skin. A broken cry answers him, making him smile. He carefully rubs his day-old stubble across her sensitive skin, and the roughness drives her mad.

"Please," Rukia whimpers, squeezing her eyes closed futilely against the unstoppable assault on her senses. His long fingers pluck at her nipple, pulling out a helpless moan from her throat.

"Please what, sweet wife?" Ichigo teases, rubbing a cheek over her other nipple before licking it slowly. "Please lick you more? Please bite you? Maybe you want me touching you in other places?"

Rukia lets out a wail against her fingers as Ichigo uses his other hand to grab her ankle, pulling her leg up until she is exposed and vulnerable under him. Her knee is raised, and he turns his head, rubbing his stubble against the soft flesh of her inner thigh. She raises shocked eyes to his as he opens his mouth, nibbling on her tender, unexplored skin. "Ichigo, what - Please don't -" She covers her lips with both hands, trembling under the onslaught. He nibbles on her inner thigh, working his way down slowly to that secret place that is drenched in her honey, and he can tell by the wet cotton between her legs, that she wants more.

"Does it ache, my darling?" he asks hoarsely, rubbing a knuckle along the elastic of her panties. She jumps, all nerve endings on hyper-alert, as he traces the circle of the cloth around her leg, his fingers coming to rest at the junction of her thigh and hip.

"I- Please," she gasps out, as he closes his lips over a spot on her hip, sucking hard enough to leave another red mark. "Ichigo."

"What would you like, Rukia?" He nuzzles her navel, releasing her leg. He stabs his tongue inside the indentation, and he can feel her stomach muscles clench in response. Languidly his fingers slip inside the leg of her panties, rubbing circles into the skin right above the trimmed curls. He glances at her face and pauses, taking in her flushed cheeks and glowing eyes, her hands plastered above her mouth to stop any wayward noises from embarrassing her.

"You are so adorable." He smiles, pulling his hand out of her panties to peel one of hers away from her mouth. Bringing it to his lips, he rises on all fours, nibbling on her fingertips. "Every inch of my wife is delicious." Her fingers quiver as she holds them up to his lips, feeding them to him as if he were a wild animal. Her lids slide to half-mast, as she watches him press kisses to her palm.

Then, with her other hand, Rukia reaches for him, running it over the muscled planes of his chest. She watches Ichigo suck in a breath, as she teases his flat nipple with her fingertips. Growling, he sinks his teeth into her wrist, sending a fresh surge of dark pleasure down to her center. "Little girls who tease the big bad wolf get eaten." He tells her.

Intoxicated by the power she has over him, Rukia grows bold and trails her finger down the ridges of his stomach, down to the waistband of his boxers. Then, her eyes snapping back to his, she strokes the hard bulge in the cloth. At first he stands there, unable to believe her impudence. Then, like lightning, he grabs both her wrists, trapping them above her head as he stretches out on top of her, skin to skin. Their breaths mingle, a heartbeat before Ichigo recaptures her mouth again, swallowing her cry. His erection notches perfectly into the folds of her wet panties, causing Rukia to buck under him helplessly.

"Ichigo," Rukia whimpers, as he starts grinding against her, completely surrendering to his assault. She rocks her hips in time with his, kissing him back desperately, tongues and lips tangling. The pleasure rises sharply, obliterating everything in it's path. She doesn't hear the broken pleas falling from her lips, nor the naughty things he whispers. All there is left is the white hot light behind her eyes, and the unbearably delicious tightening of her body, as he thrusts against her, rubbing all the right places. Ichigo fights to maintain control as he watches her come undone, finding her release, sobbing helplessly as she arches under him.

Gritting his teeth, he holds her tight, raining kisses on her trembling body as she comes back down to earth. When her breath finally evens out, she opens her eyes, and stares at him with wonder. "Ichigo, that was -"

His dangerous grin has her heart kicking up again. "What are you -?"

"Look at you, coming apart even before I touch you." He presses a light kiss on her lips, loving the adorably confused look in her eyes.

"Wait, wasn't that touching?" Rukia protests, not liking the predatory grin on his face.

"Not directly." He smirks. "My clothes are still on. And your panties too." Rukia blushes, seeing the huge wet spot on the front of his boxers from rubbing up against her. A thought occurs to him. "Did you think we were done, wife?"

She shakes her head, averting her eyes. "Of course not. Even I know that you haven't reached orgasm yet, Ichigo," Rukia stammers out. "I mean, t-technically, we haven't consummated the marriage yet." His tongue sweeps in, silencing her. She kisses him back, sliding her arms around his neck. "I love when you talk dirty like that." Ichigo tells her playfully. "Say 'orgasm' again. It's so hot. "

"No." She wrinkles her nose at him. "I'm not a dog you can just command."

"No," he agrees, pulling her knees apart slowly. "You're not the dog, I am. I'm the wolf who eats teasing little girls." He grins before burying his face between her legs, his golden eyes gleaming up at her. Caught unprepared, her fingers fist in his hair, trying to pull him off her, twisting under him as he licks at the drenched cotton. He watches her whole body shudder with every flick of his tongue on the firm little bud buried in her folds, and smiles as she shrieks hoarsely when he traces the folds of her femininity with the tip of his tongue. "My wife is so deliciously wet," he rumbles against her, nibbling with his lips until she is a quivering mass.

She is breathing hard now, eyes clenched shut as he takes her panties in his fists and rips them off her, studying her exposed secrets with hooded eyes.

"Look at you," he whispers, parting the drenched folds gently with a fingertip, making her whimper. "All creamy and pink and wet for me. I'm going to make you come again," he promises, cupping her ass in his hands to help himself. His lips close around the little nub, making her arch with a scream. He works his magic on her, building the delicious pressure in her center until she cannot bear it.

While he has her sobbing under his mouth, he slips a finger into her tight warmth, gently pushing into her, working his tongue so she cannot even think. He works her into a frenzy, and when he feels her pulsing, he pushes a second finger inside, scissoring them.

The combination is too much for her, and Rukia comes apart again, convulsing helplessly in his arms. He can feel her quivering under his tongue, and changes his strokes, soothing her with light kisses until she collapses bonelessly back onto the bed.

"Mmm. Can't get enough of you." He climbs up her body and slants his lips over hers, gently eating at her mouth. Her flavour on his mouth makes Rukia moan restlessly.

Finally, he positions himself at the entrance of her body. "Come for me one more time, wife?" Ichigo asks, cradling her hips in his hands. Rukia can feel the size of him, and for one terrified second, considers pushing him away. But she sees the concern in his eyes, and kisses him again instead.

"Okay, husband," she replies, smiling bravely.

"It's going to hurt. I'm sorry." Ichigo kisses her forehead and eyelids. "You're so tight. I wish there was a way where it wouldn't hurt." The misery in his eyes has Rukia springing to action, pushing him onto his back, and carefully lowering herself on him.

"Let me try it this way," she tells him, her fingers twisting in his as she eases down on the head. She has never felt this before, this strange stretching. Her moisture eases him inside her; she watches Ichigo clench his teeth, sweat beading on his forehead.

"You're - ah-," he groans, sliding his hands to her hips to hold her steady. Rukia rocks against him slowly, leaning her forehead against his, sliding him deeper and deeper with every motion.

"So tight." Ichigo growls, fighting not to take over and thrust inside her all the way. Her brows furrow as she sinks down, forcing him deeper inside her, and slides back up again, pain written on her face. He takes her face in his hands, kissing her gently. "Don't force it, love," Ichigo tells her, his heart twisting at the pain in her eyes. "Do it slower."

She nods, pausing as her body fights the unwanted intrusion. "Please touch me," she begs him. Ichigo kisses her sweetly, his lips on hers as one of his hands cups her breast, and the other slides down between them, to where her flesh is stretched out over his.

"I love you," he breathes over her lips as his thumb finds her pulsing clitoris, and starts stroking it gently. He feels her clench around his shaft in response. Taking that as a sign, he laps his way down her neck, marking her with his teeth. Her involuntary cry is music to his ears; her bracing hand tightens on his shoulder. A rush of moisture on her swollen folds makes it easier for her to sink deeper around him, and he holds her close as he closes his mouth around a pert nipple.

"I love you," she gasps back, feeling him entirely inside her. There is still pain; not the blinding ache of earlier, but a burning that is now subsiding. Her muscles grip him tightly, and Ichigo tries to tamp down the rising pressure building in him.

"Is it getting better?" he asks huskily, lapping at her nipple.

Rukia nods, feeling him move inside her. And then he hits a spot deep inside that gets the pressure building again. He smiles when he sees her gasp. "Good?"

She moves again, repeating the motion. "Yes," Rukia says, her voice rising as that spot deep inside her gets stimulated again. She starts moving faster, her breath coming in shallow pants, matching his.

"Good girl," Ichigo groans, resting his forehead against her shoulder, letting her take charge. "That's my good girl." Their movements become more frantic, as she rides him, the pressure building in both of them. "Come with me, Rukia," he urges, "I'm so close. Oh God, you're so hot and wet and tight."

Rukia throws her head back as her pussy starts clenching around him, sinking her teeth into her knuckles to keep from screaming. Seeing this, Ichigo flips them both around again, ramming himself into her until she breaks. With a groan, he empties himself inside her, feeling her flesh milk him as her own orgasm consumes her.

Almost mechanically, he continues to thrust inside her, until the trembles subside. Then, Ichigo collapses on top of her, pressing light kisses onto her face and cheeks.

"Hey, Ichigo," Rukia breathes, her eyes closing from exhaustion.

"Mmm," he responds, already half asleep.

"Now," she yawns, curling into his body,"we're really married. No annulments."

Ichigo pulls her against him, spooning himself around her. "Love you, Rukia." They both drift off, limbs tangled around each other.

 


 

The two of them link hands as they face the Senkaimon.

"Are you ready?" Ichigo asks the blushing Rukia. She nods, and leans up on her tiptoes to kiss him.

"Now, I'm ready, husband." She grins. Hand in hand, they rush through the doors, and into the light, where all of their friends are gathered.

For some reason, it is raining sakura petals, even if it is mid-summer, thanks to Byakuya. Ichigo smiles sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head.

"I guess there are no secrets in the Seiritei." He smiles down at Rukia.

She smiles back at him as Matsumoto and Abarai run towards them, huge smiles on their faces. "I guess not."