Hey Everyone. Thanks so much for reading! Thanks for all the reviews! A special thanks to DecemberPie (dA name) for helping me with this chapter!!! Thank you very much, twas kind of you!

Chrosis: Yeah, in my mind it was more of almost being cut in half. Maybe I should've had a little more description with that, I just wanted the scene to be almost from more of Orihime's point of view. I figured since they say 'Reiatsu is a Shinigami's life force' if the Sekiseki had been devouring his reiatsu he'd probably be easier to kill... Thank you! I'm so happy I figured it out, I had an epiphany. I was 'OMG! That works!!!'. Thank you so much for taking the time to review!

Dr Silo: Ah... Hnn... I don't know how that would actually work. I think I see what you mean though, because to destroy a hollow you usually have to break the mask... I'm sorry. I guess I don't really know how to answer you. My apologies, thanks so much for taking the time to review.

I apologize; those are thus far the only two I know how to respond to besides grinning, nodding, and thanking you profusely. I wish I could name everyone... but I probably can't so: THANK YOU SOOO, SOOO, VERY MUCH!!!!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The ceiling fan buzzed with a low hum, its blades spinning slowly around, and around. The local news channel droned on in the background. Karin stared at the door, kicking her feet idly. Several papers were spread across the table in front of her; the days homework, hardly touched. She just couldn't focus. It had been a week and still they hadn't heard anything. She watched the door, silently willing it to open to reveal her missing brother. That tactic had thus far proved... useless... and from the lack of focus her grades had begun to suffer. Suddenly there was a knocking on the door. Startled, Karin jumped out of her seat. She stared at the door, her heart racing, wondering if she had really heard knocking... or if it had been her imagination. A cause of wishful thinking. The knocking sounded a second time and Karin bolted to it. She didn't hesitate even a second before flinging open the front door.

Her heart sunk, the strange blonde haired man with the white and green striped hat stood before her. She couldn't help but look out past him, hoping to see her brother.

"How is he?" She asked instantly, not bothering with a greeting.

"Is your father home?" The man asked, ignoring her question. Karin felt her throat tighten.

"Yeah... he's in the front... I'll go get him. Uh... please feel free to come in." With that Karin made her way to the door into the clinic, in a dazed worry. She poked her head in; her father was busy writing at his desk. He didn't make any signs of having noticed her presence.

"Dad... the man who took Ichi is here." She said. He stood up instantly, dropping his pen onto the desk. Without meeting her eyes he walked in past her.

'The Hat Wearing Man' was standing meekly in front of the closed door. "Sorry it took so long to come. I want to talk... though I'm sure you have noticed."

"I would prefer to talk outside." Isshin said a bit gruffly as he opened the door. The two filed out in a stiff, nervous manner. Karin just stared, the feeling of agony growing in the pit of her stomach. That man's tone... his expression... wrecked of bad news. No. Ichi-nii... Ichi-nii... She couldn't move; frozen in a fearful realization. He's dead, isn't he? Ichigo is gone... just like Mom. He's not coming back. She was surprised when no tears came, even when there was no doubt in her mind that he was gone. Instead of sadness, anger whelmed up inside her. Anger at him for leaving, even though their family was already so broken. Anger at the man who was supposed to be taking care of him. Anger at herself for not doing, or not being able to do anything to stop him. She stumbled backwards and bumped into the table. Instantly she turned around and scooped all of her books and papers off the table, cussing loudly. Yuzu stirred from where she had been sleeping on the couch, Karin waited tensely to see if she'd woken up her sister... but Yuzu seemed to still be sleeping. Karin walked into the living room and collapsed into the fluffy chair. It's my fault, he needed my help... I let him down, I was afraid of him. I was afraid of Ichi-nii... I left him in the hands of that man because I was afraid. And now Ichi won't come back, will he? Please... please, God, let me be wrong. Don't give me bad news.

The front door opened, Mr. Green and White Hat Man had his hat in his hand, clutched to his chest. He bowed lowly to her father who was walking back in. "I'm so sorry, Kurosaki-san."

Isshin seemed to sort of nod, before shutting the door. He looked at his daughter, his eyes were red and gloom filled. What was he supposed to say to his daughter? Was it wrong to give her hope? Was it wrong to crush it? According to Urahara 'he could still come back'.

Karin climbed out of her chair and ran to her father. She flung her arms around him (ignoring the pain that shot up her casted arm) and buried her head in his chest.

--------------------------------------

The proud Quincy boy walked down the streets, a book bag slung over his shoulder. He couldn't help smile a little, he finally had them back! He could feel his power coursing through his body. Now he'd be ready for whatever mess Ichigo got them into next, he'd be ready for the war. Nothing to do with the Shinigami... his smile fell from his face. How was he supposed to get around that? Oh well... I'm sure I'll figure something out. Coming upon a realization Ishida halted, looking up at the sky. I don't feel that idiot's reiatsu. Did he go somewhere? So he had missed out on 'Kurosaki's Next Big Adventure', hadn't he? He concentrated, pinpointing his other nakama. The shinigami were gone... Ichigo was gone... Sado was gone... but Orihime was still here. That was kind of weird, Orihime really wasn't one to be happy being left behind, no matter how dangerous. Figuring it was nothing Ishida kept walking towards the large, school building.

The school day went by long... slow... and otherwise boring and uneventful, even though he could feel her, Orihime wasn't there. The new kid was gone too... What his name? Hi-Hirio...Hiramu...Hiraku...something like that... Ishida glanced back at Tatsuki, seeing that she looked, well, upset. He simply figured it was none of his business and went about his day minding his own business, but, by the time school got out, the whereabouts of his companions had been nagging at the back of his mind so he approached Tatsuki.

"Do you know where Orihime is?" He asked in a flat tone. Tatsuki looked up at him thoughtfully... and after a second she stood up.

"Yeah, I do. You're one of her friends right? You were always disappearing with them..." She asked slowly. Ishida felt a little confused but nodded in agreement. "Okay, she's in her apartment, you can come with me, if you want, I'm going there in a minute."

Ishida wasn't necessarily used to interacting with Tatsuki, he knew she was Ichigo's and Orihime's friend but hadn't really talked to her a whole let himself. The two walked through town in complete silence until they finally stopped in front of the two-story apartment building. Tatsuki looked up at him with almost a grave expression. "Just watch what you say, she's still really broken up over the whole thing."

Ishida blinked, dumbfounded. "What do you mean?"

But Tatsuki was already racing up the stairs. Sighing, he followed her up.

Orihime invited them in with a half smile, her whole apartment was over all... dark, as she hadn't opened any of the curtains. She invited the two of them to sit down while she poured them some tea. Ishida sat, a little grudgingly, on the floor. Tatsuki plopped down next to him, folding her arms on the table top and resting her head on them like a pillow.

Orihime walked in with a tray holding three, sage green teacups. After setting down their cups she took a seat between them.

"It's been a while..." She said to Ishida nervously.

"Yeah... I was, uh, on a trip with my father." He said, glancing at Tatsuki. He didn't really feel sure about telling the truth in front of her because really now, if he just flat out said he'd been training what would some normal girl think in such a day and age. "Can I talk to you in the kitchen?"

Tatsuki shot him a suspicious look.

"She knows everything." Orihime said, let out a short, nervous laugh. The air was just so stiff feeling.

"Really?" He asked, turning to Tatsuki with an amused expression on his face. She propped her head up on her elbows and proceeded to glare at him. "Well, I was actually sort of curious as to what everyone was doing... I can't feel them."

Tatsuki delivered a quick, hard thump to the top of his head. Growling in a low tone as she did so. "I told you to watch it."

"No, it's okay. He's been gone, he doesn't know..." Orihime said, concentrating hard on her own hands that now lay in her lap. "Kurosaki-kun is... Everyone else is... dead."

"Orihime, wait!" Protested her best friend. Tatsuki understood how hard it would be to talk about for her; it hadn't even been a month. But Orihime shook her head.

"It was a hollow that killed them... it-it attacked while the Shinigami went back to Soul Society..."

Ishida pushed his glass up with his index finger, as his other hand suddenly found the teacup a very interesting object. Dead?! 'All of them'? Who does that include? So is that it? Is this really the end? A hollow! How could just a hollow kill them?! That's insane! They can't really be dead! That's impossible! His grip on his glass tightening every second until, finally, the fragile material gave way and it shattered under the pressure. "I'm sorry. Well, I- I should. Sorry for bothering you about this and for the, uh, the cup..."

Before they could object he left, he ran down the stairs, and farther down the street until the building was out of site. Nooo!!! His mind shouted. This isn't happening! This can't be happening!!! He collapsed onto the sidewalk. Propping himself against the wall he stared out at the setting sun. He could feel it in the air around him, the usually energy he felt was gone, his nakama were gone...

--------------------------------- (Six Months Later)----------------------------------

The classroom was silent, the students had their faces buried in their text books. Ms. Ochita sighed, looking up at her class. It was so good to have it so quiet... her eyes passed over the class, picking out the several empty seats. It was shocking they hadn't been filled by now... they were just burdens adding to her guilt trip. After that day... Kurosaki hadn't returned... his group hadn't returned... She looked up at Tatsuki, who was, like everyone else, reading. That girl hadn't come back for a few days and when she did she had seemed... different. She absolutely refused to say anything about what happened, or about Kurosaki's group. Ms. Ochita could only assume they were one and the same.

Maybe... that day... if she had listened to Keigo... maybe she could've done something, maybe she could've changed what happened.

"Okay," She said from her desk. "When you've completed the passage please answer questions one through five and the critical thinking section on page 64."

-----------------------------------

Dear Tatsuki,

It's always nice to hear from you! Sorry if it took kinda long to respond, I hadn't been back home for a while. I've missed you sooo much! I'm kind of surprised that I've been in the Soul Society as much as I have. It's so relieving, the war is finally over. We've all been working hard to fix it all up, it's sad how much was destroyed...

Even though I'm not a shinigami I've become part of the Shinigami Women's Association, and Unohana-taichou offered me a place in the fourth division! I don't know if I should take it though... I've been working at focusing efforts on reorganizing the Rukongai so that families can be reunited more easily and improve living situations.

I'm hoping that maybe in the summer they'll let me bring you here, if you still want to come. I think you'd love it here! It looks like feudal times but they have computers and lots of other strange devices!!!

I'm not going to give up on him, even if I have to spend the rest of my life here. I know Kurosaki-kun would never have given up on me. He's here, he has to be. Even if it takes time for him to think about it, I now I'll see him eventually.

-Orihime

Orihime read it over and over again. She couldn't help but feel unsure... Annoyed, she crumbled the paper and tossed it into the trash can. How was she supposed to respond to Tatsuki's letter after being confronted about at least taking it a bit easier considering there was a possibility that it hadn't worked. Her first reaction was anger. But as Tatsuki had explained, she'd just been through a horrible, tragic war. Thousands of people had lost their lives, millions their home, and the government had fallen to pieces... This land was slowly being reconstructed through the tearful hard work of those affected. Orihime wanted to defend herself, explain how much these people needed her here, needed this... but she couldn't deny that every second she was out there she was looking for him. Searching through the crowds, peering down the alleys... she just couldn't stop. She was afraid to admit it, but she needed a break. Maybe it would be better if she just let herself forget...

Orihime stood up, and walked out of her little hut. These, hers along with a small group of others like it, were a temporary residence for shinigami reconstructing this portion of the Rukongai. There were little set ups like this all throughout the Soul Society. She turned the corner onto the busy, main street. Several passer-by's greeted her eagerly, she couldn't help but smile. The few shops that were up and running were simply... beautiful. They had been rebuilt and were no longer crumbling apart shacks. She watched children, happily running around their mother. This reuniting system had worked wonders so far, even though they'd only set it up with the 1st District people. She had special computers designed for this, all the members of the district were on the computers, along with their current residence's address. So when someone was looking for a particular family member or friend they could go to one of the several booths around their district and get the information from the Shinigami on duty there. She couldn't wait until all the districts were in the system, because if he was here she could find him. She still checked it constantly since anyone could take a trip here and get their information entered onto the computer.

Orihime stopped walking and tried to brush off all the dust that had gathered on her shihakushou from walking on the dirt road. A hand touched her shoulder, she swirled around, heart racing...

It was one of the shinigami on her team; Kanaye, a member of the sixth squad. He had short, brown hair and light blue eyes. He was always smiling and laughing but never really teased anyone. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you." He apologized.

"No... no. It's fine." She said, straightening up. He placed a firm, but friendly hand on her shoulder.

"We're working on the fifth house down Saikoro Street, four grown-ups, one child." He told her, she nodded understandingly.

"Thanks, I'll be there in a moment. Go ahead without me... I feel like walking." Kanaye gave her a gentle rub on the head that seemed to make her feel calmer. He walked on past her. Orihime grabbed her head and closed her eyes. How come, even when she was talking to people or working with her group, she couldn't stop thinking about Ichigo? That guy had even showed obvious signs of liking her... but still. She continued down the busy street.

It began to feel like something was nagging at the back of her mind. The young human tried to ignore it but gradually she realized what it was. The sensation grew until it felt as if a cold breeze was wafting past her. However instead of the reassurance she thought she might feel it carried a sense of pain and misery. As any doubt that it was just her imagination faded, Orihime froze.

Ba-bump, ba-bump... She no longer heard the idle chatter of the souls walking by her. Only her heart, beating fast and loud, sounded over what she knew was coming. She dared not turn around, she couldn't, her body wouldn't let her.

"...Inoue..." A familiar voice muttered, an almost inaudible whisper. Her eyes flew open, it felt like her heart just stopped beating. It's him! She forced her self around. Heart shouting 'It's him! It's him!' Almost as if there was no one else around, she stared at the figure in front of her. His orange hair, his amber eyes, his tattered shihakushou... there was no doubt, it was him. But all that confidence, all that pride, all of the strength that he held in his composer and expression were gone. His eyes had an emptiness to them. Her heart began to hurt... had their choice really been the right one?

Not being able to stand still any longer, Orihime ran to him, wrapping him in a hug. Ichigo winced as she touched him.

"Don't touch me..." He said, his voice still super quiet, she hardly heard him. She could feel as his body began to tremble, his eyes shot wide open. He quickly pushed her off. "Don't touch me!"

Orihime tried not to feel hurt, he looked... scared. She wiped away the tears that had begun to drip down her cheeks, after all this time, he was finally here. She pulled off the black top of her shihakushou and handed it to him, realizing how tattered and ripped his was. She smiled kindly. "It's okay, Ichigo..."

Orihime reached out to comfort him, but stopped and pulled her hand back. He was so broken... his seams had come un-done. "We should go back, everyone will be so happy to see you."

He just looked her over with a dull expression. "...everyone's dead."

Orihime felt a bit stumped, not sure what she should say. "Not everyone...Your father and your sisters, Tatsuki and even Ishida, Urahara-san and Yoruichi-san... they've all been so worried about you..."

"He killed them... I saw him kill them... they're all dead..." He muttered quietly to himself, his eyes on the ground. "Why'd I come? He killed her too... she's dead... she wouldn't be here if she wasn't dead... I killed her."

"I-I'm not dead, Kurosaki-kun... I'm here for the war." Orihime said slowly, unnerved by the way he was acting. Without thinking she placed her hand on his arm. His eyes shot up to hers, a mixture of anger and fright swirling though them.

"I said don't touch me." He growled. Orihime withdrew, feeling scared herself. He grabbed his face with his hands, which were trembling horribly. He murmured a few curses under his breath. "Sorry... Inoue... I shouldn't have come... I don't want hurt you too... I just... I just...I just wanted to apologize."

"He's gone, Kurosaki-kun."

"Don't fricken' screw with me!" He shouted, his voice shaking. People were stopping in the streets now to watch the scene, though the two center stage didn't really notice. Cold metal touched the side of his neck, a figure moved between the two, placing the tip of his Zanpaktou at the side of Ichigo's throat.

"Kanaye!" Orihime exclaimed. He stood protectively in front of her, glaring at Ichigo.

"Is this boy giving you trouble?" Kanaye asked in the sternest voice she'd ever heard him use.

Orihime stuttered for a moment, stumbling over her words. "He-he's good... I mean, he's not giving me any trouble or-or-or anything like that, at all! That's, ah, the person I've been looking for..."

Although his sword didn't budge an inch, Kanaye grinned widely. "Kurosaki Ichigo, really?! I finally get to meet you! Orihime's told me all about you! Now why don't you go back to where you came from, get yourself cleaned up, calm down, and we can have a nice little get together like how it should be done! I'm sure yelling that her in the middle of the street isn't how this should start out, besides... I don't really appreciate you doing that."

Orihime watched her orange haired friend, holding her breath as she waited for his reaction. Ichigo's hands fell back to his sides as he stared into Kanaye's eyes with what Orihime recognized as urging him on, encouraging his sword forward. Orihime felt herself trembling, she finally had him back! He was finally back! But he was so afraid of what had happened, afraid of himself. Now, because of her, he had to live with that for the seeming eternity he might live in the Soul Society, all because she was too afraid to let go.

"I'm sorry... I'm so sorry about everything..." Ichigo said to her and the turned back to the shinigami. "I shouldn't have tried to talk to her, I had no right. I should go..."

When something's broken, you fix it...

Orihime grabbed the hilt of Kanaye's Zanpaktou, taking it from him, she lowered it away from Ichigo. Her eyes were lowered to the ground as she stepped past him. Both arms outstretched. Despite his instant rejection, she hugged him tightly, burying her head in his chest. "We can fix it, it can be alright. He is gone, Kurosaki-kun. Urahara destroyed him..."

"D-destroyed? B-but that's impossible... that's ...that's..." He trailed of, his eyes gaining a sort of distant look to them as well.

"Inoue..." Kanaye said slowly, feeling a little uncomfortable. Not really sure what to do or say...

"If we work together... do you think we can fix it?" Orihime asked, closing her eyes. His body was so tense, she could feel it. Maybe, with time it will heal.

"Fix it? Fix what!? They're still dead... I killed them, Inoue, how are you going to fix that?! You can't... it's over... they're dead. They're all dead... They're all dead... all because of me." Ichigo said, sort of going into a rant.

But if you can't fix it...

Orihime drew a deep breath. I was selfish, I knew he wouldn't be normal again... but deep down I wanted that to be a lie so bad... I hung onto him, and hung onto him. But I'm really just hurting him. This isn't what he wanted, he wanted to stop a long time ago so he wouldn't hurt anyone else. So is it really fair to say it's his fault Renji and Sado were killed? It's ours, it's mine... I made a mistake again. She squeezed her eyes as tight as they would go. I even said so myself, but as soon as they were gone I denied it... because I felt so alone. Now what's left of him?

"I should be the one saying 'I'm sorry'. If we make a mistake we should do our best to fix it, right?" She said, adjusting her hands behind his back.

But if you can't fix it... all you can do is...

"I'm so sorry for trying to do that to you." She said. Before he could think about a reaction he stopped, a sharp object poked into the area between his shoulder blades. A few tears escaped from her sealed eyes. "I love you, Ichigo." ...but I need to let go.

She shoved the sword up with all the force she could muster, running him through to the top of his head.

throw it away... and learn how to live without it.

THE END

Well, that's it! I enjoyed writing for you guys! Sadly, this is it for this one. I hope I will be able to work with you again in the near future with my next project "Revision of the Regrets". As for a sequel or epilouge I don't have any planned but... maybe. Bye!!!