It was no longer a question of "when." It was a question of "if." She wasn't much of a linguist but "if" was suddenly her favorite word.
Because "if" isn't written in stone. "If" is never definite. "If" cannot hold her to her word, not in the way "never" holds him to his. So she could spend the rest of her days thinking how "if" saved her life.
And it did, she knew. Kuchiki Rukia owed her existence to a two letter word.
Sometimes, late at night when the twins were asleep, he would wait for her to slip down the hall to his room, and she would make him promise over and over again. He was all too willing. And she was glad of it. And a little proud of herself.
And, she concluded, as she lay with her head on his chest, rising and falling slowly as he drifted off to sleep, a lot in love with him. Which was necessary. But pleasant.
She knows his promise is only as strong as his resolve. She knows there is no guarantee. She need only keep his resolve alive and burning as fiercely as her own.
She swore to herself she would not waste another tear on him. Ever.
A/N: Yes, folks, this is the end. It's been a rollercoaster and I'm totally grateful you all came along for the ride. There's more to come, just not soon, 'cause let's face it, I need a short break. :) Happy reading and writing, guys, and I'm watching for all of you.