Rukia was angry.
Actually, to be more precise, she was furious. Working her way towards irate. The entire Kurosaki family was supposed to have met twenty minutes ago, and yet, she was the only one who had appeared.
Rukia couldn’t help feeling a little ridiculous as she stood next to the gates leading to the festival. Outfitted in a beautiful navy yukata and constantly checking her cell phone for the time, she knew she looked the part of a woman who had been stood up for her date. Though a few of those that had passed her had complimented her on the intricate silver stitching on the side of her yukata. Ishida’s work, of which the Quincy had been quite proud. It consisted of several delicate snowflakes, to represent the beauty her zanpakutou. Or so he had claimed.
Inwardly, the Shinigami vowed to strangle Ichigo the next time she saw him. It was his fault entirely. He had suggested it, proclaimed that his father would be hurt if she refused and then had told her when and where to meet. On a crunch for time, she had changed at Ishida’s because she thought she would be late if she had met them at the house. And yet, they were the ones who hadn’t arrived.
It was irksome.
Grinding her teeth, Rukia had every intention of flitting across town and demanding a reason for their tardiness when she felt a very familiar reiatsu nearby. Blinking in surprise, she peered through the crowd still filtering into the as-of-yet-unknown-name-to-her festival and spotted a head of long, white hair. Her heart picked up a faster rhythm.
“Ukitake-taichou?” she exclaimed, pushing between a couple holding hands and making her way to her captain. “What are you doing here?”
He smiled at her as he folded his hands into the arms of his beautiful green haori. “I came to enjoy the festival,” he answered simply, as if she should have already known that. It was then that she noticed he had his hair tied back, making him look much, much younger.
Rukia blinked again and gave her captain an exasperated look. “I know that,” she responded. “I meant here. In Karakura.”
Dark eyes sparkled with amusement. “I thought I would take a break from the rigors of Soul Society. It has been a long time since I ventured here just for fun.”
Inwardly, Rukia sighed. It was something she should have expected from her captain. Ukitake-taichou could be just as spontaneous as Kyouraku when he was feeling well enough to be up to it.
“And on my way here,” he added. “I ran into Kurosaki-kun. He wanted me to pass along the message that they would be unable to make it. An emergency came up at the clinic ,and they have their hands full.”
Despite the fact it was her captain delivering the message, Rukia couldn’t help but find it a bit suspicious. Especially since she hadn’t so much as spoken to the twins or Isshin since Ichigo had mentioned the festival. She peered at her captain.
“Did he look… distracted?” Rukia asked, wondering if she had her brother to blame for this sudden abandonment.
“He looked busy,” he replied, still with that same smile. He offered his arm to her. “But since we are both here, perhaps we could enjoy the festival together?”
Rukia’s heart skipped another beat, never expecting her captain’s charm to be turned her direction. “Of course, Ukitake-taichou. I would be happy to escort you.” She slid her hand through his arm.
“Please, call me Jyuushiro,” he corrected, tone as even as if he were addressing someone he considered an equal. “I feel old when you call me that,” he added as a joke.
She smiled. “Alright, Jyuushiro,” Rukia responded, testing his name on her tongue. It felt so strange but right at the same time.
A shiver of excitement crept up her spine, but she kept it restrained. She didn’t want him to discover the truth, after all. She didn’t dare mess up their relationship. Even if nothing ever came out of her own crush, she always wanted to be friends with Uki– Jyuushiro. He was a great man.
“Good,” Jyuushiro confirmed with a firm nod. He gestured with his free hand towards the festival. “Shall we?”
Rukia smiled. “After you.”
And so, they went.
Later, Rukia would recall that she had never enjoyed a festival so much in her life. It was nice to relax around her captain, not have to worry about maintaining proper decorum, not that he ever held strongly with it anyway. Kaien had always been laid back, and much of it had passed onto Jyuushiro.
Conversation flowed remarkably easy between them, finding all manner of things to discuss, ranging from art to food. The topic of the war they were fighting and the pain that still haunted both of them was wisely steered away from.
Rukia laughed as her captain tried his luck in a game, managing not to win a thing. The man gave them a consolation prize, however, in the form of a good luck charm. Ironically, it was for “good health.” She was glad that Jyuushiro found it amusing.
They paused in their walk to watch one of the live performances, a short little show set to beautiful music, and ate taiyaki together. He stopped to buy a souvenir for Shunsui, and though Rukia protested, he got her one as well. She was secretly pleased at the beautiful ornament and grudgingly accepted the carefully wrapped item with a smile.
The night grew longer, and soon, the crowds slowly dispersed as the festival drew to an end, well into the evening.
“I suppose I should be getting back soon,” Jyuushiro claimed with much reluctance in his voice. “While capable, I can’t in good conscience leave Kiyone and Sentarou in charge for too long, else I might not have a division to come back to.”
Rukia tried to hide the disappointment that settled through her. “That’s probably for the best,” she conceded.
He paused, looking at her with those beautiful dark eyes. And then, he led her off to the side, under a tree that was out of the main pulse of the crowd.
“I had a wonderful time with you, Rukia. I do hope we can do this again.”
Her heart skipped a beat again. She wondered if she ought to go to the fourth division since all of it couldn’t have been good for her.
“I did, too,” she admitted. Rukia added with a faint smile, “The next time Ichigo stands me up again, I’ll let you know.”
He laughed, eyes sparkling. “I think I have to admit something. I would hate for you to blame Kurosaki-kun.”
Rukia blinked. “Why wouldn’t I? It’s his fault.”
“Not entirely.” His hands grasped hers, warm fingers rubbing over her palm. “It was only his idea. I merely agreed with him. I thought it was the easiest way to spend time with you without you having opportunity to reject me.”
Her eyes widened in surprise and only then did she notice how close he was to her, how very intimate their position actually was. She remembered telling Ichigo about her feelings for her captain, but she hadn’t honestly expected he would do anything about it. Nor did she think for even one moment that Jyuushiro would return the feelings.
“Then… then you…” she was stuttering, words absolutely failing her.
Luckily, she didn’t need them because in the next moment, Jyuushiro leaned down and kissed her. His lips pressed gently against hers, and she was surrounded by the scent of him, like the air right before a heavy thunderstorm. Crisp and clean. It was only then that she realized he might have been a little nervous, too, the scent proving that he lost some control of his normally tightly contained reiatsu.
When he drew back, Rukia knew that a faint red had to be painting her cheeks.
‘Well, that certainly explained everything,’ she thought to herself.
“I do hope that wasn’t too presumptuous of me,” Jyuushiro said softly, a gentle smile on his lips. “But I’ve been wanting to do that all night.”
The flush grew in force, until she was certain her face must have been glowing. She longed to say something sweet and romantic, but what actually came out was, “Ichigo told you, didn’t he?”
It took a moment, but Jyuushiro grinned wide and laughed, shoulders shaking with amusement. “Yes, he did. In the most roundabout way that I’ve seen in years. But I assure you, everything is mutual.”
Rukia felt a warmth spread through her at Jyuushiro’s admission, happiness completely overriding her sense of annoyance with Ichigo taking matters into his own hands. She could see the truth in her captain’s eyes. He meant what he said.
“And if you do in fact feel the same,” Jyuushiro continued, “I would really like to explore where this could take us.” His fingers still clasped hers warmly, and Rukia found she really liked the feeling.
She nodded. “Me, too.”
Rukia hesitated on her next move but then decided to follow through with it. She kissed Jyuushiro again, enjoying the feel of his lips against hers. It was like a dream come true.
When they pulled apart, a thought suddenly struck Rukia. She looked up at her new beau and smiled.
“Now, we just have to tell nii-sama.”
The look on Jyuushiro’s face at that was absolutely priceless.