by Tari Gwaemir
Shirayuki is possessive.

He woke at the slight touch of cold fingers against his face. They pressed lightly on his eyelids and traced over his cheekbones, as if attempting to read his expression in the dark. He tried to open his eyes but a hand pressed over them and rested there, paused for thought.

"You're uglier than I imagined," said a disdainful voice, its words strangely clear as it broke the silence.

"Who are you?" Ichigo demanded and attempted to get up. The hand over his eyes quickly passed to his throat. It closed around his neck, the nails scraping against his skin. He stiffened and opened his eyes. The intruder sat just out of his range of vision, but he noticed the drift of a long white sleeve, next to his ear. "Who are you?" he asked again, more carefully.

"You aren't afraid. I wonder why. Perhaps you are merely stupid. Or perhaps you are so paralyzed by other fears that you have none to spare for me."

Ichigo's hand crept toward his zanpakutou lying not far from his side. He could almost feel the hilt when the hand abruptly released him, and the sleeve disappeared. He scrambled to his feet and turned around.

Her face was half in shadow and yet it shocked him. Her beauty was not seductive or voluptuous, not ethereal or breathtaking; it was an inhuman beauty that overwhelmed and dominated him; he felt, half-frantically, that he ought to kneel. He forced himself to stand and meet the woman's gaze. She walked towards him, step by step, until her face was so close to his that he could feel the chill of her breath. Her mouth, full and perfectly shaped, formed a slow, secret smile.

"Stop bothering her," she hissed, and Ichigo could feel the air around him freeze--

"Shirayuki," Rukia said sharply from the doorway, and the woman turned, with a defiant look.

"I only wanted to see what he was like."

"Shirayuki," Rukia repeated more quietly, holding out her hand. The woman glided over and clasped it possessively. "Go to sleep, Shirayuki. Leave Ichigo alone."

"I wanted--a taste of his--of his blood," Shirayuki said as she faded away. All that was left of her was a sheathed sword in Rukia's hand, a long tassel hanging from the pure white hilt. She gazed at it fondly before turning to glare at Ichigo.

"Whatever did you do to piss her off?" she asked, adding "Idiot!" for good measure.

"I didn't do anything! Your crazy sword decides to wake me in the middle of the night because it has issues--"

"Oh, as if Zangetsu never has his possessive moments!"

"As a matter of fact, he doesn't because he's normal--"

"Normal, bah! The most psychotic zanpakutou in all of Seireitai--well, with the exception of Zaraki's, who knows what's going on in that one's mind--"

"Your sword practically tries to kill me in the middle of the night! That's not psychotic?"

"She happens to be a little bloodthirsty, that's all," Rukia said with a sniff. "I suppose she still holds a grudge against you for stealing my power--"

"Stealing?!" Ichigo interrupted indignantly.

"Stop scowling or your face might freeze that way, and then you'll look no different from Renji. Just try not to irritate Shirayuki any more than you have to."

Ichigo looked at her in disbelief and threw his hands up in the air. "Fine. Fine. This is the last time I step foot in this house. First your stick-up-the-ass brother, then your homicidal sword--"

"They're only upset because you care about me."

"--what is it with you and lunatics, no, don't answer that, I should have known better than to ask--wait, what did you say?"

"I don't repeat myself," Rukia said haughtily, her mouth pursed primly.

"I--you, but wait, I--"

"Is that all you have to say? Well then, good night." Rukia turned on her heel, about to march out the door, but Ichigo lunged forward and caught her by the elbow.

"You knew?"

Rukia nodded and shrugged off his hand. "Of course."

Ichigo reached out hesitantly to touch her cheek; she looked away, embarrassed. The silence between them became long and heavy.

A sudden frost in the air and a sharp whistling swing. A cold voice spoke, "Hurt her and you die."

"Shirayuki!" Rukia looked as if she was trying to hold back laughter.

Ichigo abruptly dropped his hand and stalked back to his stiff, thin futon. "I am never, ever accepting an invitation from a Kuchiki again."


Bleach belongs to Kubo Tite.

Written for Pei Yi (lacewood), on the word "nightsongs".