Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach, Tite Kubo does.

Author's notes: Please give me any suggestions or comments you can, and of course, enjoy The False Valediction!


Rukia Kuchiki's eyes slowly opened to the sunlight streaming through the slightly open the shoji of her room. She delicately rubbed her eyes, trying to remember the dream that ended so suddenly. She couldn't remember most of it at all… but something about it bothered her. Ever since Ichigo had left Sereitei, things hadn't felt right. Orihime, Chad, Ishida…and Ichigo had all somberly left after the returning from Hueco Mundo victorious. She had been by their side, fighting desperately as they each clutched on to what shards of their life they had. Each sting of metal that broke their skin, each pang of powerful attacks that collided with their bodies, they had stood up against. Even as their spirits drained with each droplet of blood, they had left Hueco Mundo alive, a barren path of destruction behind them. It all seemed so heavy, even as they left. Despite the celebrations back in Soul Society, none of them had been able to accept the end of that chapter in their lives. They had each mastered their own façade, but struggled with the same question: When can you truly move on? As Rukia stared at the plush bunny that lay limp against her arm, she remembered her last moments in Hueco Mundo.

Her arms were heavy. Her legs shook, burdened by the rest of her shaky body as she stood trembling with her Zanpakuto, eyes fixed on her assailant. Blood dripped in her eyes, she drew each breath with utter difficulty. Yet her eyes never parted from the narrow gaze of AizenFrom the very first moment she laid eyes on the betraying captain, her blood curdled in hate. Yet he evaded every one of her attacks, retaliating with unspeakable power. Lifting Sode no Shirayuki, her bloodstained zanpakuto toward his throat, she charged with all the spirit she had left in her soul. Aizen's smirking lips left her line of sight as she flew yards away from where he stood.

Everything around her had a strange tinge of red from the dark hue of the blood in her eyes. She gripped Sode no Sirayuki, but could not lift her arm. Her shinigami uniform was ragged, and a dark red began to soak the cloth covering her abdomen. As the shadow of a figure approached her, she felt her own blood pool around her fingers, staining the white ribbon wound around her wrist.

"NO! RUKIA!"

It was Ichigo's voice… the words had come out with such a fierce growl, she trembled on the cold floor.

"Damnit, Rukia. You can't do this to me.Damnit, you idiot!" She felt his hand grab her wrist, and slide her bloody hand to the side of his face. Wet tear droplets stung her cheeks as she watched the stoic shadowed face of Ichigo above her. His eyes were pleading her. She couldn't leave him.

"Ruki….a…"

That had been nearly a month ago. She had awoken in the care of the fourth squad, to her brother Byakuya's somber gaze. Everyone's faces had instantly lightened; Ishida and Chad smiled from across the bed at her, Renji smirked as Orihime beamed. Only Ichigo sat in the corner of the room, his gaze fixed on the shoji doors, stern and mysterious.

She never understood why he didn't say goodbye. The lack of words had haunted her since he had parted Soul Society. She had called his name as the doors shut, to receive the silent stare of his deep golden eyes."Why should I care?" Rukia thought. "It's just Ichigo." Squinting against the line of sunlight from the shoji, she lifted herself up to prepare for her routine formal breakfast with Byakuya. Her heart panged with a sharp pain as she stood.

Ichigo was to return today.

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Ichigo swept his books of his desk with a deep furrowed brow and the same distant look he had worn since he had left Hueco Mundo. He managed to smile at Orihime, nodding at Chad and Ishida as he walked with them out the classroom door. His month in the human world was over. He would now shed all of his duties here to train in Soul Society. Then in a month, he would return.

"Kurosaki-kun, isn't today when you head back to Sereitei?" Orihime questioned with a small pout.

"Yeah," muttered Ichigo, a small smirk on his lips. "Gonna miss me?" She slipped her arm around his and squeezed him.

"Of course!" beamed Orihime. Ichigo sweatdropped.

Ishida laughed. "Just don't get too hot-headed during your training at the Academy. They won't put up with your complaining as much as we do." He adjusted his glasses with a grin on his face.

"WHAT?!" Ichigo scowled. "I AM NOT that hot headed!"

Orihime giggled. "You are sometimes, Kurosaki-kun."

A small laugh spread over the group, and Ichigo muttered incoherent babblings as they walked out of the high school and into the slightly sticky summer air. They all had returned from fighting just in time for school to start, so the weather was still hot. Chad pulled at his shirt uncomfortably. "We can always help you get ready. We don't have anything that important to do."

"I think I'll be fine," Ichigo answered confidently.

"Until you get there," mocked Ishida.

"HEY!"

"He's only kidding you, Kurosaki-kun!"

Orihime looked brightly up into his eyes, clutching a small fistful of his shirtsleeve. Ichigo laughed nervously, and lightly brushed her off. "Right, right…" he mumbled. Chad motioned toward his watch. "You should hurry. Urahara is probably waiting." Ichigo nodded, and slipped his book bag over his shoulder. "Well then, don't do anything stupid until I get back." The three companions nodded, and watched as he ran toward Urahara's candy shop.

Orihime waved after him, a sad smile spreading across her flushed cheeks. She hated to see him go, but she knew part of him belonged in Soul Society. Ishida, noticing the sadness in her smile, tugged her wrist. "It's okay, let's go."

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Ichigo reached Urahara's shop rather quickly. He was anxious to get to Soul Society, but not to face what he had left unanswered. He was to begin learning kido at the Academy and attend the necessary classes to become a full shinigami. He would also train extensively with each of the 13 squad captains, who each had a different lesson for him to master. He also would be deeply focused on learning to control and maintain his inner hollow under the observation of the twelfth squad. They would be doing extensive research on his abilities in order to understand the Vizards. However, Ichigo did not mind any of those things. He eagerly awaited his rigorous schedule. What he dreaded was Rukia Kuchiki's eyes.

Just one month ago, he watched her fall. As he and his friends took on Aizen, he watched each of them take their own fall. The sound of each body hitting the cold floor was enough to make him insane. But watching Rukia fly across the room as Aizen simply kicked her aside was more than he could take. Just thinking about it sent an eerie chill over his hot skin.

His hollow mask sheltered the left side of his face and his yellow eyes glared at his target. His flash steps easily outdid any shunpoAizen could try, and his last fierce cry, "GETSUGA TENSHOU!" had finally connected with Aizen's traitorous flesh. He stood across the room, Zangetsu hungrily lunged toward Aizen, longing for the clash of steel, for the tear of slicing through the black fabric of Aizen's kimono, and most of all, more contact with his enemy's flesh. With the scattered bodies of his friends around him, he had to protect. Aizencooly smiled at Ichigo, and turned away. "That bastard," he thought, "I am his enemy!" That's when he noticed the white, blood-stained ribbon of Rukia's zanpakuto flying behind her torn uniform. Quicker than the small, dark-haired girl could anticipate, Aizenshunpo'd and drew his zanpakuto against her abdomen. He kicked her away with a wry grin on his face, sending her flying through the air.

"NO! RUKIA!"

He screamed another attack, yelling with as much pain as bestial vigor. It was enough to buy time, to run to her side, to see if Rukia was okay…

When he reached her side blood had already begun to pool around her. Ichigo dropped to the floor beside her, his stomach wrenching inside of him. His mask shattered apart as a cold realization came over him. He had failed her, he couldn't protect her…again. "Damnit, Rukia!" Tears uncontrollably poured down toward the fading gaze of her cerulean eyes. He couldn't let himself lose her, no, he couldn't lose her at all. He couldn't take it.

"Ruki…a…."

He glared at Aizen who laughed across the room. And as he left her on the floor, he swore he wouldn't let Aizen laugh again at the blue eyed Rukia who lay on the floor behind his panting body. He would protect her soul, and the souls that lay dying around her. Flash stepping forward with guilt and rage pounding his heart, a warlike cry growled from his chest as Zangetsu flickered toward the greatest opponent he would ever face.

Shaking his head, Ichigo looked to the candy shop ahead. "Things are fine," he reassured himself. He had beaten Aizen, and somehow gotten Orihime to heal each of his companions enough for them to get out on their own. The only one he carried was Rukia, while Orihime's'SotenKisshun'cast a healing yellow glow over her limp figure. Ichigo shook his head again. He couldn't worry anymore. Rukia was most likely completely healed by now, and as long as he kept her away from him, away from danger, nothing like that would ever happen again. Not as long as he could help it.


Well, I hope you enjoyed the first chapter! Please let me know how I'm doing and how you like the story. Criticism is welcome!

A preview for the next chapter will come soon! Comments puh-leeeeeeeeeeeze! begs