Title:

Standard Disclaimers Apply

A/N: This here takes place during the three day training at Yoruichi's playgroup place thing.

Having exhausted his physical reserves attempting to subdue Zangetsu, Ichigo laid down on the cruel dirt floor. Execution...fraility...piece of your heart...your will to fight...random phrases floated in and out through his malfunctioning mind, and he searched for meaning in each one of them.

Rukia.

It was supposed to be a simple break in and rescue, damnit, how had it ended up this way? Scheduled to fight an opponent he could see no way of defeating, not knowing where the friends that had followed him into this whirlpool of madness were, having to face up to the ever present fear of losing...no, damnit, he wasn't going to think about that.

Rukia.

The stupid girl, no, woman, didn't even want to be rescued. So why was he risking life and limb to drag her off to somewhere she didn't want to go? Besides, she'd probably just call him baka and go on about how he couldn't ever strategize before waving his oversized sword around. He'd never get a decent night's sleep ever again, what with her annoying cell phone thing and it's perpetual ring. So why...?

But then a new image presented itself. Followed by a torrent of others. Rukia looking at him with that half amused, half curious expression, Rukia staring down at him as though she knew he could do better, Rukia nearly crying in gratitude for his simply surviving a hollow attack.

And damnit, he was beginning to sound like those sappy male-leads in those sappy dramas.

But really, perhaps that was why he wasn't really that surprised when his bankai turned out small and black.

He wondered if Rukia would get it too.