While working in the kitchen with Yuzu to make dinner, Rukia cuts herself and berates herself for such a careless error.
Yuzu, a nurse in her own right from helping her father in the clinic, is quick to Rukia’s aide in bandaging her finger when she is surprised to find calluses and voices this out that although Rukia’s hands look petite and soft, they are actually quite tough. Rukia says nothing and Yuzu quickly realizes how this could come as an insult and tries to clarify that she only meant Rukia is very strong.
Dinner is made without any further incident, but Rukia is quiet for dinner conversation.
Ichigo notices the odd behavior, even Isshin had tried and failed to cheer Rukia up, while Yuzu could not keep the look of guilt from her expression. Noticing the dampened atmosphere and Yuzu’s expression, Rukia quickly jerks from her stupor and plasters on her smile and polite responses, which Ichigo and the others can all see through too well but no one comments.
Ichigo manages to find Rukia in the hall, ready to retire for the evening but pausing with her hand hovering over the door knob as she slowly turns up her palm and then the other, studying her hands with a hard look, her brows furrowed together in concentration.
“What did your hands do? Aside from those atrocious scribbles you do…”
Rukia glances at him briefly, clenching her hands into fists before putting them behind her back. Instead of respond with a snarky retort in offense to his insult of her art skills, he is surprised when she only offers a weak smile.
“I’m just tired. You should retire soon, as well. You have school, don’t you? Well, then, good night, Ichigo.”
Ichigo could only stare, mouth slightly agape as Rukia quickly and quietly entered his sister’s room. As soon as the door shut, his mind seemed to snap back into motion as he quickly strode over and yanked it open following her as he quickly shut the door behind him as Rukia spun around in surprise.
He caught a glimpse of a bandaid and snatched out at her wrist, gripping it firmly as he narrowed his gaze on the injured digit. Rukia’s eyes widened as she felt his fingers wrap around the delicate skin of her wrist, feeling the roughened calluses of Ichigo’s palm which reminded her of her earlier conversation with Yuzu.
She ripped her wrist from Ichigo’s grasp before he could examine her hand further, placing them behind her back as she glared at him.
“W-what are you doing, you buffoon?”
Ichigo blinked at the change in Rukia’s attitude before narrowing his eyes further.
“What happened to your hand?”
“Didn’t look like ‘nothing,’ I saw the bandage, Rukia–”
Rukia could not help but sigh in exasperation as she brought her injured hand out to run at her forehead, all too aware of Ichigo’s intent stare following the bandaged finger.
“I cut myself while aiding your sister with supper…”
“You…” Ichigo frowned as he tried to process this information, “you… Cut yourself making dinner…?”
“Yes. So stop your simpering over such a minuscule detail–you know I’ve survived worse!”
Ichigo grimaced as the memories flooded him, his scowl deepening.
“Don’t remind me.”
Rukia merely waved him off before turning her back to him as she pulled open a drawer for some nightwear.
“Then leave. I’m tired and I’d like to go to bed. As I’ve said before, you should do the same…”
Rukia said nothing more as she gathered her change of clothes and hoped the matter was done with. However, she was not surprised to find Ichigo continuing to stand there with a skeptical look. She arched an eyebrow in return and dropped the clothes on her bed near the door.
“Is there something else I can help you with?”
“Cut the crap, Rukia. I know something is bothering you.”
Ichigo crossed his arms over his chest and Rukia sighed as she felt a headache beginning to form as she mimicked his stance.
“Yes. It bothers me that I’ve had to repeat myself in my desire to get some rest, but either you are losing your hearing or unable to comprehend my hints. Knowing it can’t be the former, otherwise I’m sure your father can give you a thorough auditory exam, it must be that you don’t seemed to understand that ‘goodnight’ means 'leave so I can get some rest.’”
Ichigo raised an eyebrow at Rukia’s response, unable to stop the slightest upturn of the corners of his lips as he let his arms drop.
Rukia nearly sighed aloud with relief.
“Once you tell me what’s bothering you.”
“Nothing is bothering me, you fool! Get out! Do you expect I’ll let you watch me change and stare at me as I sleep–?!”
Rukia raised her hands, fully intending on shoving Ichigo out of the room to get her much desired rest when his hands wrapped around hers, fingers intertwining together as he pulled her closer, catching her completely off guard.
Rukia could only stare at him, lips slightly parted as he smirked down at her, much too close than what she was used to or ever dared allowed. It was then his hands squeezed hers, palms rubbing together lightly which snapped Rukia from her shock and a flush graced her cheeks from embarrassment and frustration as she struggled to get free.
“W-what are you doing? L-let go, fool…!”
“You were staring pretty intently at your hands,” Ichigo commented calmly, the difference in strength obvious as Rukia struggled fruitlessly while Ichigo remained unmoved. He merely squeezed her hands more firmly in his, stilling her movements as he stared down at her, noticing how her gaze flickered to his for only a moment, before turning away.
Curious, but mostly concerned, he continued to prod at the issue.
“Rukia, tell me.”
Rukia halfheartedly tried to tug at his grasp, but he held firm and she let out a deep exhale before relaxing.
Then gave a sharp kick to his shin.
A wheeze escaped from Ichigo as he hopped on one foot, his injured leg wobbling in the air, but to his credit he didn’t let to of her hands and so Rukia found her arms waving tirelessly as Ichigo hopped about, jostling her tiny form.
“You bastard, let go!”
It took some time for both parties to calm down, throughout which an intense glaring contest took place. Never once did either look away or blink as their hands stayed clasp together.
But finally Rukia could not help but look away as the heat of Ichigo’s hands were seeping into her skin. Ichigo’s own face had warmed from the knowledge of knowing their hands were touching intimately, but refused to back down. In addition to this and her insecurities from earlier, Rukia finally relented.
At this Ichigo loosened his grip, now suddenly concerned that perhaps Rukia was more injured than she let on.
Feeling Ichigo’s grip loosened, shame filled her expression and she quickly pulled her hands from his, rubbing them together in front of her as she lowered her gaze, only concerning Ichigo further that he did, indeed, cause Rukia more pain.
“S-sorry, did I–”
“No, ah… I should apologize…” Rukia quickly interrupted to reassure him, but did not meet his gaze. “It’s just.. because of my duties…”
“My hands are… Not… They are the hands of a man.”
A long moment of silence stretched between them and Rukia tensed, eyes cast to the floor.
Until she heard a snort of laughter and glanced up at Ichigo sharply, eyes narrowed as he hands clenched into fists.
“Dummy,” Ichigo chortled as he reached out to grab her hands. She resisted at first but he firmly held her wrist with on of his hands before raising up his other hand, palm facing her and fingers spread out. He urged her captured hand to do the same, which she reluctantly obeyed as their hands paralleled the other, palms touching and fingers stretching out together.
“Look at your hand compared to mine. Your hand is exactly like mind, ain’t it?”
Rukia could not help but bristle at his laughter and what she perceived to be a mocking tone.
“Well, of course your hand would be bigger than mine! I didn’t mean literally like yours or any man, it’s just… Rough and…”
“A warrior’s hand.”
Rukia could only blink before turning her gaze up to meet amused amber.
“The hand of a Shinigami. Of someone who protects and fights.”
Ichigo shifted his hand so that their fingers were now threaded together as he squeezed hers lightly, edging just a bit closer.
“A hand full of kindness and strength. Strength that was given to me and supports her allies with all she has to offer.”
Rukia unconsciously squeezed her hand in Ichigo’s, unable to turn away from his gaze as she stepped closer, pulled in by his gentle and reassuring smile. As he squeezed her hand back she could not help but return his smile.
Karin observes her sister and father from the hallway arms crossed and eyebrow twitching in irritation with a toothbrush in one hand.
“Not that it’s any of my (or either of yours) business, but are they done in there? I’d like to get to bed–”
“Sh! Karin-chan, there’s definitely a mood…!”
“That’s right! If you’re patient and let them enjoy the 'mood’ then soon you two could be aunts and me a grandfather–”
He was staring. He knew he was staring. It was getting
uncomfortable but he couldn’t seem to stop.
Belle’s eyes shifted to one side and then back up to him.
“Ok, I know I probably look like Alice Cooper with last night’s mascara
everywhere but you could give a girl a complex looking at her like that….”
Murtagh shook himself out of it and looked away. “Sorry! No,
you don’t look at all like this Cooper person – at least I don’t think so.
Unless she’s…” exceptionally pretty? Heartbreakingly
Dear God am I in trouble…. His voice had trailed off but Belle didn’t seem
to notice. Instead she giggled softly and shook her head.
He was still searching for the most appropriate word choice
when she pulled herself to sitting, the sheet pooling in her lap. Her arms
stretched above her head and there he was, staring again, like a numptie.
Murtagh’s throat worked as he tried to tear his eyes away
from her breasts. They were perky and firm, ending in perfect rosy little
peaks. He could vaguely remember taking those in his mouth and the little
mewling noises she made when he did so. He felt himself begin to lengthen and
thicken beneath the sheet.