6. death and dying
Title: Angel's Raising Voice
Word Count: 865
Rating: PG-13


They were in the middle of a fight, damn her, and she still found time to scold him.

"Ichigo, damn it, don't you dare! If you do something reckless, I swear I'll kill you!"

"Pay attention to your own fight, woman!" he barked back at her, cutting down one of the Hollows cornering Inoue and moving on to the next. Somewhere to his left he could see Yourichi helping Chad as Uraharra moved to intercept a new group of Hollows closing on them.

It was all very routine. A few more opponents than was usual, perhaps, but nothing strange.

Then everything changed so fast he couldn't understand until it was over.

A knot of Hollows had slipped past Uraharra, leaping for him. Off balance and caught by surprise, he should have jumped back for distance. Instead, however, he charged forward to meet the challenge.

He could hear Rukia screaming something else, but he had stopped listening. About to meet the first of the Hollows, he was unprepared for the blow to his side.

It was only much later did he discern what must have happened. A Hollow he did not see in his haste had crept into his blind side and made a lunge. When Rukia's yell had failed to warn him, she took the strike from the Hollow and it slammed her into him, sending all three sprawling from the force in a heap until a careful strike from Inoue killed the offender.

He sat up painfully and in that moment everything stopped and he was only aware of the hard asphalt, of the warm and fragile weight and the hot, sticky wetness it was spilling all over his side and the pavement.

Shaking hands rolled her over onto her back slowly, frightened eyes taking in the red staining black robes and porcelain skin, puddleing slowly in the cracks in the street, and beginning to cover his hands. Ichigo thought he was yelling for Orihime, but he couldn't hear, and so couldn't be certain.

The moment the other girl reached Rukia's other side everything became a blur. Snatches of white masks and black blood snapped before his eyes before the images all settled and he was standing alone in the street, clutching Zangetsu and trembling with exhaustion and something oddly like fear.

Turning himself forcefully, he heard Zangetsu striking the ground, though he didn't recall letting go. And then it didn't matter, because he could see her, and gods the red looked like it had spread much farther than before …

"Rukia." He called, unaware that his voice was shaking as he hurried forward on unsteady legs. "Rukia, get up. I swear, lying down on the job, and you call me an idiot slacker…"

"Ichigo." Uraharra called gently as he neared. The shopkeeper was suddenly at his side, Yourichi at the other, as Chad went to the weeping Orihime. "She can't get up, Ichigo."

"Can't get up?" He repeated, then suddenly was irrationally angry. "What the fuck do you mean she can't get up? If she's managed to hurt herself so bad she can't walk then Orihime can heal her. I don't want to carry her heavy ass home." Please no, I can't do that, I can't take only part of her home, not just what's left of her home…

"She's gone." Yourichi's voice was quiet and struggling, like it wasn't sure if it should be impassive or compassionate. "There was just to much damage. She couldn't be healed. She's de-"

"NO." At that moment he didn't care that he was becoming hysterical, that he was yelling at people who probably didn't deserve it; they were there and convenient and he couldn't hold it back any more. "Don't you dare say things like that! She's not dead! She's going to get up and she's going to kick me and say something snarky and be fine!"

Neither Uraharra or Yourichi backed away from his furious tirade, though Chad placed his hands on Inoue's shoulders as she recoiled from his wrath. They were all utterly silent as they let him scream, as the only voice that would (always) dare to stop him would never rise again.

"She's going to stand up and I'm gonna yell at her for that and drag her back to the house and she's going to be fine and DON'T YOU DAY SHE'S GONE, DON'T YOU TALK ABOUT HER IN PAST TENSE BECAUSE SHE'S FINE-"

Somewhere through his fury, he finally heard the angel speak in the silence. "Ichigo, shut the hell up."

Like everyone else, he could only jump to her side, place one hand cautiously on her shoulder, and feel her life. From far away, he heard Uraharra tell her she should be dead, had been dead. Angel of Death gave him the barest glance, ignoring his 'dying' idiocy, and turned back to him. Crystal clear, he heard what he'd been waiting for her to say. "I told you I was going to kick your ass if you charged in recklessly. You think I'd just die and let you off the hook? When I can feel my arms again, you're dead."

And right then, he knew everything was fine.