Rukia doesn't so much as wake up as realize she was somehow not awake in the first place. The vibration of her phone is what coaxes her, but she startles to complete consciousness at the snort close by, the unfamiliar warmth pressed to her side and a wordless snuffle.
She freezes entirely until she gathers the courage to peek over her shoulder and is faced with orange hair and – Nonononono – before a hand comes around, pale and absent of ink, and starts to pat her face. Uncaring whether they're touching cheek or eye or nose, Yuzu whines, "Your phone's so loud, Rukia-nee."
Exhaling a relieved breath, Rukia mumbles back an apology, easing herself out of the bed in the unfamiliar room and wincing against the prominent throb already tattooing a staccato in her skull. A glance over her shoulder reveals the Kurosaki twins passed out on the queen bed beside her, fully clothed minus shoes, and arranged in a seemingly familiar pile of limbs albeit more squished together with Rukia having been in the earlier fray.
A chill goes up Rukia's spine when her loose musing of why leads her gaze to fall on a framed photo of the girls, with Ichigo, displayed on the nightstand.
Her phone, in turn, continues to rumble ominously.
Oh my god.
"Rukiaa," it's Karin's turn to whine, batting at Yuzu like a blind, newborn puppy; getting the young woman to scramble to comply, almost knocking her phone off the nightstand as a result.
Wincing against the crack on the back cover that wasn't there earlier in the night, Rukia flips her phone over, the screen flashing impatiently with the caller ID of Toshirou's half confused, half angry face. Fuck.
The photo Hisana had taken of their younger brother for the sole purpose of embarrassing him and making Rukia laugh doesn't even rouse a chuckle from her now. An impulse that isn't for nothing when he doesn't bother to greet her, and only says flatly, "Where are you."
"Uh," she scrambles, croaking out, "Rukongai?"
His silence is officially the most judgemental thing Rukia's ever experienced, and his follow-up question after doesn't help either, "Why."
"Wanted to go out," she mumbles, his voice sounding too loud, and she feeling too paranoid that it is, and it'll wake the girls up until Rukia remembers that she's the older one between them, Shiro's meteoric ascension through the professional academic track regardless, and asks almost snippily, "Am I late for curfew?"
"No," he huffs, and then puts down the phone right after.
Genius-level IQ or not, Shiro's got the emotional range of a spoon.
She'll feel bad later that he was calling because he was worried, but that's for a more charitable Rukia; a Rukia who is much more sober and far less hungover.
How much did she even drink? She thinks, before deciding it doesn't matter.
She's never drinking again anyway.
In the middle of trying to figure out what to do – Should she leave now that she was awake? How did she even get here? Where are her shoes? How did she get here with Karin and Yuzu? Why were Karin and Yuzu okay sharing a bed with her at all? Where was Ichigo? The door opens with a quiet creek, and it's the devil himself, backlit by the hallway.
He doesn't seem to realize she's awake until he's shut the door quietly with the heel of his boot, and then his eyes widen at the sight of her. Rukia thinks for a fraction of a second that he'll drop the sealed six-pack of water bottles he's got cradled in his hands out of pure shock.
The horrific thought that she'd just…wandered in here and made herself at home is almost enough for her to consider hiding under the blanket, twins lying on top of it be damned, or jumping out the window, but any panic that would threaten either highly ill-advised choices is put to a halt immediately when he murmurs, "Hi."
He's shy? She absurdly thinks and almost recoils in surprise, instead, however, she chuckles and returns, "Hi yourself."
Rukia almost dismisses her initial observation when he closes the distance between them, clears his throat and adds, "I didn't know you were awake." Though his stride is confident, he fiddles with his load, sets it down near the nightstand and crouches down to dislodge one of the bottles from the plastic packaging.
He's near enough to her, practically kneeling at her feet, that she can read the printed words lying on the tendon of his neck advising trust no kings.
"Just woke up," she replies when he offers the sealed water bottle to her. "My brother called."
"Do you need to go home?" he surprises her to ask, and though his task is clearly done, he doesn't get up from his position, seemingly content to look up at her with honey golden eyes and a hint of black flowers sprouting from beneath the dip in his shirt, just below the divot of his clavicle.
She fiddles with the bottle, chews her lower lip in thought. "I'm not…sure…Probably," she decides, flushing in memory and hastening to apologize, "I'm so sorry I fell asleep."
The corner of his lip lifts in a hint of a smile, eyes still unbearably soft in the breaking dawn. "You're a sleepy drunk, it's cute."
Her cheeks are still warm as she recalls snatches of the night: of how Rangiku had cheered at their arrival, how she'd scolded Ichigo with, "I didn't tell you I invited her so you could steal her away, you weren't even going to bring her back up here were you? I should have known, you're wearing your good leather!" before stealing Rukia away to offer her a Welcome shot, or five.
The core group Rangiku assembled were people Rukia didn't know, but they didn't seem to mind her presence which was probably helped in some way with Ichigo silently endorsing her, always a constant at her side even when the twins came up to join them.
Only after ensuring they were comfortable did Ichigo reach for a new beer, and at Rangiku's goading, was pressed to open some bubbly because, "We're alive, that's a celebration!"
And Rukia, already more confident and comfortable with the vodka in her system, slipped in to offer in his place. Suitably impressing them when she opened the bottle with a satisfying pop and spray of bubbles; an old party trick she learned purely for Byakuya's wedding in a bid to terrify Hisana's creeping cousins (and the one uncle) with the threat that she knew how to wield a knife and wouldn't be afraid to use it.
Inoue Orihime, Ichigo pointed her out against her ear as he closed the already minuscule space between them, was an orange haired woman almost as buxom as Rangiku, who loitered and lingered and glared just outside the group, was promptly ignored out of apparent habit.
The group of them hadn't bothered with drinking games for a good time (to Rukia's relief, she knew none of the rules and she didn't want to make it obvious how lame she was). They were seemingly content to pile on the couch watching terrible made-for-tv horror movies and cheering as each actor was killed in increasingly baffling ways.
It was – despite the consequences – exactly what Rukia needed and had always wanted out of going to university at all: a bunch of people she could spend time with, with no expectations. And, though she'd already decided she wouldn't drink again, maybe Rangiku wouldn't mind her hanging out with them again?
That is, if she didn't embarrass herself entirely out of that invite.
Rukia clears her throat, "How did I…?"
"Get here?" Ichigo supplies, and the smile curves more comfortably around his mouth, "You wanted to say goodnight to the twins, and for some reason, everyone decided they wanted to say goodnight too and before I know it the whole place is clearing out. Somehow you got them to peacefully shut down the party without anyone getting alcohol poisoning first."
She groans. Yup. There it is. Definitely not getting invited back. "Jesus, I didn't realize I was that much of a killjoy."
"You aren't. Half of them were already passed out," he informs with a smirk. "Rangiku's asleep on the table."
"So, what were you doing?"
Rukia's bafflement is apparently amusing to Ichigo because he snorts. "I had to turn some of the guys on their sides, and force some water on the others. There was a round of Kings you missed and there were casualties."
"Well, where were you going to sleep if I hadn't woken up?" she demands.
"The girls stay here sometimes, there's a futon in the closet." He shrugs like it doesn't matter, adding, "If you don't mind sleeping in the closet, you can use it. I'll steal a sleeping bag from Chad."
"You should drink that," he continues, tapping at the bottle as he stands from his crouch. "You need to stay hydrated."
"I should probably go home," she says in return, and though Ichigo pauses like he'd forgotten that Rukia didn't have to stay, he gives an aborted nod. "Alright, well, I'm kind of too fucked to take you on the bike, you don't mind walking?"
Rukia figured she'd have to. Shiro would give her too much shit if she called him to pick her up, not to mention Byakuya-niisama's reaction and Hisana-nee's completely opposite response. No, she was more than fine with walking.
As she put on her shoes, Ichigo set aside two bottles of water on the nightstand before digging around the jacket Karin was wearing, thrown carelessly on Ichigo's desk. He fishes out her phone and fiddles with it. When Rukia gets caught staring, he shrugs. "They've got classes at ten."
He grabs another leather jacket out of the closet and carries it out, apparently willing to walk her to the door which she can already see him regretting as Keigo, one of Ichigo's friends, slurs, "Oh my god, did you do the deed? The deed was done?"
Keigo drapes himself all over Ichigo who stands stock still against the questions, a terrible dark scowl at his mouth. Rukia flushes in a mixture of embarrassment and anger at the implication before Keigo attempts to throw himself at her and ask, with the stink of beer on his tongue, "Can I have a turn?"
For all of Ichigo's momentarily status as a furious breathing-David statue, he's quick to grab Keigo by the collar of his shirt and throw him against the wall, a growl rumbling through his throat in warning.
"Stop, stop," Rukia says, pulling him off and though for a sluggish second, Keigo thinks he's off the hook, Rukia's quick to turn around and clock him.
Ichigo's expression is pleasantly surprised, though that hint of anger still darkens his brow, and any remark he has is interrupted by Hinamori, one of the few people Rukia does know at Rukongai. The usually quiet TA for the university's resident douchebag professor, Aizen Sosuke, looks a little worse for wear, make-up slightly smeared and clothes runpled, but she's definitely in charge of her full facilities when she gasps, points at Rukia and declares, "You're even cooler outside of work!"
To that, Rukia doesn't say anything, too surprised that anything of note has even happened in the scant few seconds since they've left Ichigo's room.
Ichigo, thankfully, makes a decision for her and leads her away by the hand, dismissing Hinamori entirely.
When Ichigo doesn't stop at the front door and instead hands Rukia the extra jacket he'd taken out of the closet, Rukia decides that she's too hungover to question anything that's happened tonight.
That'll be sober Rukia's problem.