Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or the characters. Song: Concrete Angel by Martina McBride. Thanks to CrystalRaindrop007 for beta'ing!

P.S. The "T" in Tsubasa is silent. It's more like "Subasa".

Through the wind and the rain...
She stands hard as a stone
In a world that she can't rise above.
But her dreams... give her wings,
And she flies to a place where she's loved.
Concrete angel.

Concrete Angel — EPILOGUE

—20 Years Later—

October 11th, 11:30 AM — 2028

"Has it really been that long?"

A quiet whisper filled the air, and the young child blinked up at her older brother, her little fingers in her mouth as she smiled and shrugged. She didn't quite understand what had happened, or why her big sister and brother cried lots when they came here, but she understood to be quiet and be a good girl.

"Has it really been that long since mom passed away?"

The older boy smiled softly, taking his little sister's hand into his own. She grinned a toothy grin and bounced in place as another young girl came over to join them. She was a big sister, but she was a smaller bigger sister.

"Kanade-chan!" the littlest girl said, violet eyes wide and orange hair messy. "Hold me!"

Kanade grinned and ruffled her little sister's hair as she picked the four-year-old into her arms.

Even though all of their hearts were filled with pain and sadness, it had dulled over time and even their father, who they had never seen cry in their lives, had stopped shedding so many tears. But even now, he was sitting beside his wife's grave, his hands clasped together and the cold, October air flowing through his orange hair. The leaves swirled around him with the wind, and to a child's mind, it seemed as though he was being enveloped by the beauty of fall.

"Is Daddy sad?"

"Yeah, Aiko, he is," the oldest boy, Tsubasa, said quietly, smiling and letting his eyes close as the wind blew hard. It was a beautiful day out, and it somehow didn't seem fair that such a sad day—October eleventh, exactly four years since his mother had died—could be so beautiful.

And Kurosaki Ichigo, father to two daughters and a son, sat and stared at his wife's grave with a smile. There were no tears this time, only smiles.

He always wanted to remember her with a smile. To remember her hair, her eyes, her laugh... The way she lovingly held their first son, and the way she pouted when she told him she wanted a daughter, too. How she would sing to Tsubasa, how she would play dolls or teatime with Kanade so gently and with such a beautiful smile, and the way she held Aiko with no regret as she closed her eyes for the last time only minutes after their second daughter was born.

Cut off from his thoughts by a a far away, "Is Daddy sad?" from his youngest daughter, he felt his smile slip. Yeah, he was sad.

Reaching a shaking hand out, he let his fingers trace the words on her gravestone.

Kurosaki Rukia
Loving wife, mother and friend.

Below that, in tiny, beautiful letters that Ichigo had carved himself, stood the lyrics from the song that Rukia had heard and cried over when she had visited Byakuya in jail for the first time.

Through the wind and the rain...
She stands hard as a stone
In a world that she can't rise above.
But her dreams... give her wings,
And she flies to a place where she's loved.
Concrete angel.

In some ways, Ichigo blamed her brother for Rukia's death. In ways, he blamed himself. After Kanade had been born, they'd promised no more children because giving birth twice had almost brought her to death.

But then... then she'd become pregnant with Aiko, and they'd gotten into a screaming match over whether or not to go through with the pregnancy. After their fight, when he found Rukia crying in the living room, he had regreted the things he had said. He'd never wanted to kill their baby, but he knew that, in the end, this would probably kill her.

And she knew it, too.

All throughout her pregnancy, she'd grown weaker and weaker. The doctor had informed them that the reason her body was so weak was because of complications from her pregnancy with Tsubasa, or even before that... when her father and brother had raped her repeatedly. The doctor had also said that, unless they induced labor at six months, she would die.

And during the extra three weeks that she had tried to hang on for her baby, they had prepared Kanade and Tsubasa for mommy's death. They'd explained that mommy might not come back after Ichigo brought the baby home.

And they'd never seen her again after that.

"... Daddy?"

Ichigo was snapped out of his thoughts as Aiko slowly shuffled over to him, her sneaker clad feet making tracks in the colorful leaves all over the ground. It was only then, when she reached up and wiped his tears away with her tiny, baby fingers that he realized he was crying again.


"Yeah, baby?" he asked, pulling her into his arms as he bottom lip trembled and tears began to form in her own little eyes.

"Don't be sad! I not sad! I strong, so Daddy be strong, too. I strong, see?"

She pointed to her tear-filled eyes as she loudly proclaimed her strength. Ichigo couldn't help but smile a tiny bit as he hugged her tighter. Kanade and Tsubasa slowly walked over to their father and baby sister as Ichigo stood to his feet, Aiko in his arms. He let his amber eyes linger on Rukia's grave just a little bit longer before turning to his children.

"Thank you, Tsubasa, for being so strong for your baby sisters. Thank you, Kanade, for holding Aiko so tightly when she would cry. You're all strong... stronger than I am. I know you all miss mommy, but she's watching over us, all right? She's always with us, now and forever. She'll never really leave us, because she loves you all too much."

"I know, Daddy," Tsubasa said, wrapping his arms around his father. It was the first time he'd called his father "daddy" in such a long time, as thirteen-year-olds never said daddy, you know. "I know she's with us, and she wants us to smile. So I'm gonna. What about you, ya big crybaby?" he asked, gently patting nine-year-old Kanade on the head.

"Me, too!" she said, reaching up and grabbing Tsubasa's hand as she hastily wiped tears from her amber eyes with her free hand. "And I'm not a crybaby, Tsu-Tsu!"

Aiko laughed, then hiccuped, which made her laugh harder.

"Me three! Three me, me three, me me!"

Ichigo smiled at his youngest child and let Tsubasa grab his free hand. Kanade was still holding tightly to her big brother, and as they walked off into the sunset, the wind began to blow again and the final words on Kurosaki Rukia's gravestone shone in the glow of the sin as the leaves blew away.

"We love you."

OK. Here is how I look at it. YOU didn't write it, YOU don't complain. I wrote another story like this once (Not on FF) and I got nothing but flames for the end. Come on, no one but me spent months working on this. If you have a flame, keep it to yourself.

Sneak preview:

Far Away (Subject to Change)
Rating: T
Summary: AU Thirteen-year-old Kuchiki Rukia met Ichigo in the streets of Rukongai. He was rude and never smiled. She was determined to change him, but falling in love with him was never part of the deal.

Coming soon to Fanfiction! (Will take forever to get up...)

———If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all - Phil Kearns———

I know I'm going to get flamed to hell for that ending, but who cares? Look, the lyrics I posted in the beginning of almost every single chapter should have given you a warning that this wasn't going to end all happy and fluffy.

—P.S. If you liked this story, go vote for it in the poll on my profile page!—