He slouched. He scowled. And it seemed he was always deep in thought. She watched this with vigilant eyes, taking in every slump and pinched forehead. It wasn’t that he lacked determination or even the fighting spirit, nor was it that he was worried. No, Rukia was certain that Ichigo was struck with another much more difficult malady.
And while some believed that it was up to her to allay that slight problem, she really didn’t see him in the romantic sense. Ichigo was like the younger brother she never had, and she took great pleasure in beating him up, just like all siblings. Besides, it was sooo obvious that Ichigo was gay. Or maybe she just wanted to believe that.
Either way, Rukia was convinced that Ichigo didn’t need a woman but a man. And preferably someone older who would watch over him, which was why she made it her mission to find someone for him. And luckily, she knew just the man.
“Whaaaaat?” Ichigo exclaimed as she smiled so sweetly at him. “Bitch, have you lost your damn mind?”
She patted him on the shoulder as her eyes sparkled. “Now, Ichigo, be reasonable. It’s okay. You can admit it to me.” Her voice took on that same saccharine tone she usually reserved for their classmates.
He continued to gape at her. “B–but… Renji?!?!”
Rukia nodded as she beamed at him, threading her arm through his and pulling him along with unnatural strength. “Trust me. You two are perfect for each other, and with any luck, you’ll distract him from mooning over nii-sama.”
He had thought to decline or even flat out tell her “hell no”, but like always when it came to Rukia and her crazy schemes, he didn’t even bother to try.
Which was how he ended up standing in line at the local movie theatre with Renji at his side, waiting to see that new action movie that had come over from America. It was something about Greece fighting a losing battle. It was strangely ironic, and thus, the reason they chose it.
Only, Ichigo couldn’t help but feel the odd stares centered on both he and Renji. He knew it wasn’t because they were two men since many people had said time and time again that they looked like family. Or their bright hair color either. No, he was certain that they were staring at Renji’s clothes since Rukia had thought to dress him again.
In the future, Ichigo vowed to lend Renji something to wear, even if he had to borrow from damn goat-face since he had to reluctantly admit that Renji was both taller and larger than him. Regardless, a bright yellow t-shirt with a smiley face on it, dark green camouflage pants, cowboy boots, and that same goofy vest as before clashed entirely with the rest of Renji’s odd appearance. Worse, the vice-captain wore it with dignity… as if it were an expensive business suit.
And the people wouldn’t stop gawking. The bright pink bandana decorating Renji’s expansive forehead might have also had something to do with it.
“Oy, Ichigo,” Renji whispered, leaning down towards the substitute shinigami’s ears as they managed to move a few steps forward in the line. “People’re lookin’ at us, ya know?”
Ichigo shot him a glare and was sorely tempted to explain just why, but then, he realized Renji wouldn’t get it anyways. So he thought of something a bit more understandable for the other male. He settled for a lie.
“Ignore them,” he mumbled, inwardly cursing Rukia with every bit of his mental power. “They’re just jealous of you.” Ichigo inwardly shuddered with disgust, filling a strange tingle deep inside. Perhaps his inner hollow shared the sentiment.
Renji grinned, as full of himself as always. “I’ll bet,” he replied smugly, shoving his hands into his pockets.
Ichigo rolled his eyes as they finally stepped up to the movie window. The cashier greeted them with a bored smile and blandly asked what they wanted.
“Two for 300,” Ichigo answered, shifting slightly in his stance.
Her fingers clacked away on her computer. “3600 yen,” she demanded boredly before looking up at them expectantly. Two pairs of eyes blinked back stupidly at her. “3600 yen,” she repeated.
Ichigo elbowed Renji.
Renji socked him in the shoulder.
“Pay her, man!” Ichigo demanded, scowling.
The older shinigami stared back at him, glowering fiercely, even as a slight tinge of embarrassment decorated his cheekbones. “I don’t have any of yer damn currency,” Renji spluttered. “You pay her.”
Ichigo blinked and then sighed, reaching into his pocket. At least, goat-face had pressed money into his hand before they left. Well, that and condoms, but Ichigo had promptly thrown those back in Isshin’s face, not caring for the “Daddy Gay Sex Talk” accompanying them.
Beside him, Renji slouched and muttered something under his breath as his gaze shifted over the side. As Ichigo handed the money over to the woman, he couldn’t help but think that the blush staining red on Renji’s cheeks was kind of cute, especially since he was usually so brash.
“You’re change and tickets, sir.” Her voice was clipped and clearly annoyed.
Ichigo returned his attentions to her and took both, shaking his head at himself.
And so it began.
Their next stop was the concession stand because Ichigo simply couldn’t watch a movie without chocolate, and he had already heard Renji’s stomach grumble hungrily, much to the older man’s humiliation. Asking for a Coke and some Raisinets, he turned to find a very perplexed Renji beside him.
“What’s this strange thing?” Renji asked, tapping a finger on the popcorn popper.
Ichigo was beginning to have second thoughts about the whole movie experience. “Popcorn,” he explained. “Now, whaddya want? The movie starts in five minutes.”
“Takiyaki,” the redhead replied still staring at the popcorn. Apparently, it fascinated him.
The cashier behind the register was very patient as her gaze darted between the two handsome men, wondering if they were cousins. Or lovers even since that would have been fuckin’ hot.
“They don’t have takiyaki here, Renji. Candy or nachos or hot dogs or popcorn only.”
The older shinigami made a face. “Che. What kinda business’re they runnin’ here, anyway?”
Ichigo rolled his eyes before returning his attention to the cashier. “Jujyfruits, too. That’ll be it.” He handed over the money when asked and swiped their selections off the counter before shoving his gawking date towards the theaters. He dropped the Jujyfruits into Renji’s hand, ignoring the other man’s protests when he tried to discern exactly what it was.
Ichigo just hoped they would shut him up long enough to actually enjoy the movie.
Forty-five minutes into 300, both felt the arrival of a hollow just outside the theater, and Ichigo actually debated upon going to take care of it. Wasn’t there someone assigned to do just that in Karakura? Although according to Keigo, the man didn’t appear to do anything more than run around stupidly and bitch about the fact that so many people could see him.
Renji started to fidget, mouth still occupied by the Jujyfruits as he cut his eyes at Ichigo.
Swords clashed on screen.
The hollow roared.
Ichigo sighed and stood up, much to the annoyance of those seated around him. The theater was quite packed.
What a waste.
They snuck into the bathroom because it really wasn’t wise for Ichigo to leave his soulless body lying around just anywhere. Besides, Renji’s artificial soul was very flaky. Time ticked by as the red-haired shinigami grunted and strained to get out of his gigai.
Shaking his head, Ichigo went on ahead. Luckily, it was an incredibly weak hollow, and he had it beat within seconds. Ichigo returned to find Renji still stuck and cursing futilely at his gigai.
The man washing his hands at the sink looked both perplexed and frightened at the strange sounds coming from the bathroom stall. He hurried from the room as quickly as possible.
Ichigo could only shake his head.
So much for the “heavenly date that would cure all his lonely ills.” Rukia was a damned idiot. And he planned on telling her so.
Right after he untangled Renji from his gigai.