Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach and any rumors saying that I do are just plain mean.

It was no longer a matter of "if." It was a matter of "when." What was once a timid question had become a bold statement, buzzing in her ears and screaming in them when she least wanted it to. Sometimes she would shake her head and blink hard, a physical incantation against it that never really worked. And then the tears would come. Kuchiki Rukia had been reduced to a sobbing idiot.

Of course Ichigo had started it. He had no tears of his own. She would give him hers.

That night, the Allankars gone and all the others having retreated to their own shelters, they walked home in the moonlight, speechless, exhausted. He wanted to carry her. She snapped at him. He fell silent. This was not his natural state and his quiet made her worry all the more. She had seen him. She had seen "It." Ink in the eyes, wisps of bone in the hair. Had the fight gone on much longer he would have given in to it. This they both knew but would not say out loud. And so their muteness ruled them all the way back to the clinic. They managed to climb in through the window, as usual, and he slipped back into his own body while she wandered into the bathroom to examine herself.

Between the farce she liked to call her breasts was a tiny, pink scar. Far less than she expected, but hell, Orihime did good work. She marveled at the smoothness of it as she ran her fingertips across it, one by one. She was so engrossed in this activity that she did not hear him come up behind her.

Damn. She'd forgotten to close the fucking door and here he was, all pubescent and shirtless, gazing at her. Not gawking, in the way she'd seen him do at some naked girl book he'd gotten from Keigo. Gazing. His mouth hung slightly open and his fists were clenched. It wasn't until she turned to throw a tart word in his direction that she caught his eyes.

The gleam in them was unbearable. "Rukia," his voice rasped, all his guilt spilling over her name. He had failed her. She was hurt. As her tongue fumbled for the right soothing words, his hands reached forward and touched that spot. The fresh symbol of his helplessness.

But the shiver that shot through her had nothing to do with despair. Her eyes flickered from his hands to his eyes. Her mind was indignant-- watch those hands, you orange haired bastard-- but the gigai knew what other uses a human body had. Some of them were not work-related. It reacted to the now exploring teenage hands with something close to hunger, without the telltale rumbling in the tummy. She was musing on how easily the faux body could lead the mind astray when she felt he wetness in her eyes spilling over to her cheeks. And then the hands wandering upward. She could not look away from his face. How the brow knit just so when his thumbs brushed away the stupid tears, and how he licked his lips before setting them to her forehead. And then his hands sliding down her neck and lower, stopping at her waist and pulling her forward. It was only when her face was buried in his chest that she finally closed her eyes. She felt his lips again on her temple and then listened to his slowly calming breath. And then he said it.

"Promise me you'll end it if he takes me."

That's when she went cold. That's when the tears started.