It was least expected when two large hands slammed down upon her desk, causing her head to snap upward and meet the fiery gaze of the Ichigo Kurosaki.
In any other situation, and if it happened to be any other shinigami, Rukia would immediately jump to the conclusion that perhaps there was an emergency within the barracks.
But seeing that this was Ichigo, she figured that there was just something on his mind; or, to her displeasure, maybe he was just here to make fun of her drawings some more.
Releasing a low sigh under her breath, Rukia calmly placed her sketchbook down and allowed her gaze to drift upward to meet his. She pursed her lips and knitted her brows, finally showing him that she was clearly annoyed with his abrupt entrance.
"What is it, Ichigo? Can't you see I'm busy?" She watched as the scowl on his face only grew deeper when he glanced down at her sketchbook.
"Oh yeah, you're real busy." Rukia felt the corners of her lips twitch downwards, her patience was slowly dissipating with every aggravating breath he took. "Busy drawing your stupid rabbits all day." At this, she finally allowed her self control to snap when she moved into a standing position with her arms placed on her hips.
"I'll have you know that I am working on a project for the Women's Shinigami Association! It's not often that they allow me to draw anything for them!" Rukia countered, lifting her arms to fold them across her chest. Her brow gave an immediate twitch when she heard him mutter something along the lines of 'Tch, I can see why.'
Reaching downward, Rukia gripped the sides of her sketchbook and snapped it shut, closing off her current work from his scrutinizing gaze.
"What do you want? Are you causing Nii-Sama trouble again?!" She hissed, recalling how ever since Ichigo decided to spend the week in Soul Society—and in her brother's mansion no less—he had been purposely getting under her adoptive brother's skin. And her own, might she add.
"What? No! I haven't seen your stuck up brother all day!" At this point, she found herself rubbing at her temples in an attempt to fight off both her own irritation and the oncoming headache from such frustration.
"Then what do you want?!" At this, she watched as Ichigo leaned further on her desk and creased his brows downward with determination.
"Teach me how to use kido." Rukia was immediately taken aback with his sudden, unexpected suggestion. He seemed to have a habit of taking her off guard lately.
"You want me to teach you kido?" His fiery, molten brown eyes bore into her own with unhindered resolve. How could she say no?
She pressed her lips into a thin line, taking notice that he followed every movement she made with a fixed gaze.
After a few prolonged moments, she released an exasperated sigh accompanied by a roll of her eyes.
"Fine, not that you really need it anyway." She watched when his frown was replaced by an upturn of his lips, and found that she had to fight the urge to roll her eyes once again.
"So, can we begin no—ah!" Rukia gripped him by the earlobe and dragged him toward the door.
"So impatient," she stated, though an amused smile graced her features, "From here on, I am known as your kido master, and you must do as I say!" The vice-captain paused long enough for Ichigo to reach out and grip her arm, managing to detach her deadly hold on his ear. He scoffed at her.
"Rukia," he gave a warning growl, but before he could protest, she was quick to correct him.
"That's Kuchiki-sensei to you!" With that, she continued to drag him along. It was quite noticeable that the substitute shinigami was far from pleased, despite her enthusiasm on the subject.
Then an hour past.
. . .
Which then turned to two hours.
. . .
And now it was six hours.
Long before now, Rukia had to deem him hopeless when it came to kido.
"Concentrate!" Ichigo's head whipped in her direction as she stood with her arms crossed as she gave a prominent frown. She could tell that he was frustrated, beyond frustrated. But the fool just wasn't getting it.
"How can I concentrate when you're yelling at me every two seconds?!" Rukia heaved a sigh. By this time, his frustration carried over onto her. It was more that she was annoyed with herself. Despite her position as a vice-captain, she just couldn't seem to teach him even the slightest of kido techniques.
She watched him struggle for a few more moments before parting her lips, breaking the sudden silence between them.
"Why do you want to learn kido so bad?" It had been a question that was eating at her from the start. And despite his determination, Rukia had never thought of Ichigo as a shinigami who knew kido. He just didn't need it, he never needed it.
And he never will.
Ichigo halted his movements and tilted his head, watching her expectant form. His jaw clenched and his hands curled into fists at his sides when he averted his gaze elsewhere.
"To get stronger," he began in a low, rough voice. "I want to be able to protect everyone with everything that I have! If learning kido is what I have to do, then I'll do it!" Ichigo finally turned on his heels, facing the woman before him with a look that held complete resolve.
He knew the feeling of powerlessness and despair all too well.
He had seen his friends fall before him countless times at his mistakes. He had watched, and even felt them fall. Ichigo would be damned if he allowed it to happen ever again—especially to her.
Too many, there were simply way too many times in which he had failed them; failed her.
Ichigo sucked in a breath when she took a few steps toward him. He watched her carefully as she grasped both his arms below the elbow and moved them accordingly so that his right arm was pointed straight, and his left held onto his right.
He gave a thick swallow when she softly trailed a finger along the side of his outstretched arm until she found his hand, adjusting it so that the flat of his palm faced outward.
"Idiot," he glanced at her through the corner of an eye as she moved around him, running her hands along the areas of his arms that needed to be adjusted, "you don't need kido in order to protect. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. While sword fighting came easy to you, kido turned out to be your weak point."
"I don't want any weaknesses," he found himself grumbling, earning him a glare from the kido master herself.
"There is no such thing as a shinigami with no weakness!"
"Tch, you'll see. I'll blast that damn target to bits."
"Perhaps if you were more patient!" Rukia retorted, then gathered herself before she spoke once again. "Close your eyes."
At this, he allowed the lids of his eyes to drift downward until he saw nothing but darkness. Silence then followed, and all he could hear was light shuffling of fabric, indicating that Rukia was right beside him.
"Now take a deep breath, and concentrate." Parting his lips, Ichigo took a deep breath and inhaled, then slowly exhaled.
He had this.
"Whenever you're ready."
He was going to do a kido spell, without flaw.
The moment his eyes shot open, he felt his reiatsu spike with resolve as his dark gaze bore down on the target before him.
"Hado thirty-three, Shakkahō!" A bright red blast of flaming energy flew forward and cracked down upon not only the target, but on everything that seemed to be in its way.
A smirk spread wide on his face, and when he turned to face Rukia, he noticed that her own smile mirrored his own.
"Well, I think that's enough excitement for today."
He had no idea what had gotten into him.
He didn't even know what had possessed him to wrap his arms around her waist, and it was only at her gasp of surprise that he realize what he was doing.
Despite this, Ichigo couldn't seem to stop himself when he reached up with his hand to caress her short raven tresses between his fingers as he leaned downward to capture her lips within his own.
"I-Ichigo," he felt her murmur, but she didn't pull away. Instead, to his surprise, she pushed her own lips back onto his.
Today, he mastered not only mastered a kido spell, but he was now considered the master of taking the Rukia Kuchiki by surprise.
And he wouldn't have it any other way.
Just as long as she stayed by his side, he wouldn't mind having a weakness.
Because she was his strength.