A/N: Ugh

A/N: Ugh. I know I know. More than a month I believe. Sigh It's hard. Anyways. This is the next chapter. If you must, skim through the previous to get a hold of it all. When it gets to the flashback the first few lines are from a previous one in the story from Chapter 5. The flashback continues in this one. And it's the one you've all been waiting for I believe. Although it probably isn't anything spectacular. Ugh the more I talk the more it gets worse. Just read, haha. Song is, "23" Jimmy Eat World. The beginning is a lot of instrumental so I'm going to put "SS" when I want you to Start the Song. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: Nah.

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Chapter 11: 23

He sat on the edge of the table in his room. The only light came from his open window revealing the night sky. His leg shook anxiously as his thoughts continued to race. Soon his entire body began to shake and he started cracking his knuckles.

He thought about how his life used to be and how it had changed since then; a lonely life with nothing but the comfort of his bed at the end of the day to a life where he could never feel more alive despite the reality of it all. He had a moment with the one thing that could always turn his world upside down and that one moment was enough to put him over the edge.

Was he ready to let go of it again? Was he so sure that everything would turn out fine when the mission was all said and done? The fact is that he wasn't.

He quickly jumped up from the table and ran out of his room. The morning was quickly approaching and he had to get there before time ran out. He past by squads on his left and right and he made no interest in stopping. Finally, he made it to her residence.

He ran up the few steps and threw open the door. He looked around. There were still many people there from the previous night's party. All were passed out from probably drinking too much; that was Ichigo's conclusion. He ran in and looked around. There was no sight of the raven haired woman and his heart began beating faster. 'Has she already left?' he thought with fear.

He moved into another room, which he found to be the bedroom. He walked closer and noticed a figure under the covers. When he finally got close enough and was about to usher out her name, he noticed his mistake. Rangiku rolled over in her sleep and pulled the covers closer to her body. Ichigo was surprised at first, but then stepped away.

He then had one more option. The orange headed man ran towards her office.


She kneeled on the floor in her dark work space. It was almost time for her to leave. Sode no Shirayuki was placed by her side as she looked out the window. The full moon shined brightly. It was almost as if she was mesmerized by it. It was so captivating to see it in the clear night sky with stars twinkling beside it.

The air she breathed seemed thick though and she knew it was her nerves that were causing this effect. Despite her efforts to relax in these last few moment, her heart and mind knew what the future was going to bring.

She had a duty to carry out. This was something she always took seriously. But ever since she became Vice Captain of the Thirteenth Squad she had dedicated herself into her line of work. She would do what was necessary for her comrades and she would do it efficiently without question.

But her humane side continued to push it's way to the surface. She didn't know if she'd be returning any time soon or if she'd be returning at all. She was risking it all for everyone and regardless of the pride she felt for receiving such an assignment, she couldn't help the fear that penetrated her spirit.

She had so much that she had yet accomplish; things she had not thought of until recent events. She wished to see Renji become the Captain he had wished to achieve for a long time now; something she knew he would soon be promoted to. She wanted to see Uryuu and Orihime's first born child, who she found out about a few hours earlier due to Orihime's recent sickness. And also she wanted to see what Ichigo would decide with his life. Would he go back to his normal life after Aizen was defeated once again or would he continue to be a shinigami? After all, things were different now that they were no longer at each other's throats.

She stared softly at the moon. "Where will time bring me?" she asked pleadingly towards the night sky's sun.

"Are you expecting an answer?" a voice came from her side, which startled her. She turned her head quickly and stared at the man in the dark, who leaned against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest.

"Ichigo?" she asked slightly surprised.

He didn't move, "Hoping it was someone else?"

She frowned slightly, "No…" She paused, "I'm glad it's you."

He smiled slightly, but she wouldn't have been able to see it in the lighting of the room. Rukia spoke again, "What are you doing here though?"

He looked down at his feet. How was he going to say this? He didn't completely think it through. He just kind of acted on it before he was too late. "I- I came to see if you left or not."

She began to get up and grabbed her zanpaktou before she stood up straight and was facing the orange headed man. She was in no mood to be angry or begin to yell. She was too nervous and dare she say afriad to start anything that she may not be able to finish. She tilted her head slightly in suspision. "Well I'm still here."

"Yeah…" he took a deep breath and rubbed the back of his neck. He walked over to the window as she carefully watched his slow movements. He stood staring out at the night sky while she refused to move from her place.

Ichigo spoke not realizing what was coming out of his mouth. "Do you remember that night? Ya know. That night we ended up messin' everything up?"

She opened her mouth slightly as she stared at his back. 'Was he seriously going to bring that up? Now of all times?' she thought. She sighed, "How could I forget?"

He nodded slowly. "Do you know how much I regretted running after you that night?"

Rukia's heart stopped. Her chest caved in for what seemed like a century until her heart then began to race to make up for lost time. She had trouble finding words to say. Thankfully, she didn't have to.

Ichigo continued, "For almost a damn decade I tortured myself for letting what happened happen." There was a pause before he spoke again. "Every night I would look out my window and see the same moon staring down at me. And every night it would show me something I would desperately try to grab, but know it was just too far out of my reach. It showed who I was before that damn night; it showed who I desperately wanted to be again. But I couldn't be that person anymore," he then turned his body just enough to look back at her. "Not without you."

She felt herself tremble. Her skin tingled and her body found it hard to stand straight up. His eyes stared into her with such an invicible force that she could have easily been pushed over by it.

"But now," he spoke again, but this time he was staring at her. "I feel like I've somehow found a way back to being that person."

"Ichigo," she began, but he interrupted her.

"No, let me finish." He took a deep breath, "I can't let you go on this mission."

Her eyes went wide, "What?"

He exhaled, "I can't afford to let everything crash down again."

She squinted and looked at him before her mouth let out her exact thoughts. He spoke instead, "And 'no' I'm not being selfish. This isn't just about me, in case you were starting to think that."

"Then what is it about?" she quickly asked not getting his sudden goal.

"You can't handle this, Rukia," he said with determination, yet she saw his amber eyes weak.

"Ouch. That doesn't hurt at all," she commented sarcastically. "Do you honestly think I'm that weak? Can you quit trying to fucking protect me?!" And she thought she wasn't in the mood to argue…

He turned completely to her now, "Stop giving me a damn reason to! Everytime you go off somewhere by yourself you're always getting yourself into some shit!"

"You know what? Where were you the last eight years, Ichigo?! Tell me that! Because I've been getting along fine!" she yelled back feeling her body and voice begin to shake.

"Are you fine?! Because ever since I saw you outside my damn house leaning against that same damn lamp post that changed my life all those years ago," he took a breath, "I've chippin' away at that ice you've got yourself barried in!"

She shook her head and rolled her eyes as she crossed her arms over her chest. "What the hell is that supposed to even mean?"

He glared, "You know exactly what I mean. You've locked yourself away from everyone and seemed to have lost any sort of compassion you had!"

"Well if I've become such a cold bitch that doesn't care about anything who do you think is to blame?!" she yelled back.

The two stood in silence. She immediately regretted that and Ichigo immediately felt the guilt. They looked away from each other as the new emotions rolled in and debuted.

She looked back up, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that-"

"Yes you did," he said quickly as their eyes locked. "And it's fine. I deserve it."

"Shut up," she lazily said. "We both are to blame for what happened for each of us. It was a fight between two people. So stop feeling guilty for all of it. I know it's been eating you alive for all these years."

He took a deep breath. "Kind of weird how we both shut ourselves off from the rest of the world, huh?"

She smiled softly, "Not really." He smiled in the same way. They had always been able to understand each other so well. They had always been able to relate so well.

He looked deep into her violet eyes as his smile fell from his face. "I can't let you go again, Rukia."

Timing was impeccable. Right then, the phone on Ichigo's desk began to beep; a hollow.

Ichigo leaned over and picked it up. He looked at it for a moment and then looked up at her.

"Don't even think about it. Give it to me," she said holding her hand out.

He looked into her eyes. Her violet orbs swirled in determination. They were begging for him to listen to her. But his mind went in a different direction. 'If I give it to her, it's like I gave her permission to go on without me; to leave and accept that promotion. I- I can't let that happen,' he thought with a weight pressing against his chest.

"I'm not ready," he said out loud as if telling himself his final decision on the matter. He then pulled his substitute shinigami badge out of his pocket and used it to get out of his body.

"Ichigo!" she yelled in frustration.

"Just let me handle this," he said in annoyance as he jumped out the window.

She growled at his retreating form and then began to get out of her gigai.

Ichigo had begun to fight with the relatively simple hollow. He was angry. In fact, he was furious. He wanted to kill this hollow not just because he didn't want Rukia to think she could do things without him, but also because he needed to let out all the aggression and frustration he had buried inside. He wasn't fighting the hollow; in more appropriate terms he was playing with it. He would occasionally strike it and let it feel the slight pains that we would deliver nowhere too critical. But after a few minutes he was getting impatient. He would then begin to cut off limbs, which allowed the hollow to continue to fight as Ichigo watched it in pain.

"Ichigo! What the hell are you doing?!" Rukia yelled running up.

He looked at her out of the corner of his eye as he held Zangetsu up in front of him. "I'm fighting a hollow."

"No shit. I told you I'd get this one though!" she yelled angrily.

He ran and cut off the hollow's leg causing it to go limp on the asphalt.

"What the hell was that? You could have killed it!" she yelled in confusion.

"I know what I'm doing, midget! Just go back home!" he yelled as the hollow got back up.

"Home? You mean your house?" she asked in confusion.

He looked back at her with a saddened look that she could not see. "Yeah," he said softly. This was where he felt was her home; in his house; with him.

"No!" she yelled back, which caught him off guard. He looked at her with a scowl. She continued, "Stop trying to take the fate of everything into your hands! You can't control everything!"

He growled, "I know that! Just at least let me try!"

"And then set you up for false hope?!" she asked incredulously. "Why would I do that? I would rather start you down a road that you can control, you idiot!"

He turned completely to her, "I control which road I go down! If I want something to happen, I'm goin' to make it happen! If I want something to stay the same, then damn it, it's goin' to stay the same!"

"Ichigo!" she yelled as she pointed towards the hollow. He quickly turned and swung. He wasn't ready and ended up hitting it with the wrong edge of the zanpaktou. This made the hollow go flying a few feet as if it were a baseball. The orange headed teenager turned back to his raven haired opponent.

She continued the argument, "You control which road you go down, huh? Well who the hell gave you the opportunity to be a shinigami? Let me give you a hint, it wasn't you!"

"Well I could have easily denied your damn offer! Then my life could have been a little more normal!" he responded.

She rolled her eyes, "Oh don't give me that bullshit. I hate it when you start saying how your life was never normal! I hope you aren't looking for sympathy because I really could care less! I'm dead, Ichigo! How about some sympathy there?!"

"You don't even act dead! I don't count you as 'dead' when you are able to constantly cause me physical pain!" he yelled back.

"Then you have to learn to face facts! We're different! You still have a life! You have to look out for your future! Do well in school! Become a doctor!" she yelled with more of a begging tone.

"I don't want to think about that n- Rukia!" he yelled urgently as he jumped in front of her. To be quite honest, there was plenty of time for Rukia to avoid getting hit, but Ichigo had been deprived of his sense of duty for quite some time. He was urging to play the hero.

The hollow's claw slashed into Ichigo's abdomen as the orange headed man fell to the gravel. He groaned from the impact. Blood was seeping through his robe and he pushed off the street with as much effort as he could.

"Ichigo…" she said softly with a hand over her mouth. Her violet eyes seemed to change red as she pulled out her zanpaktou and ran towards the hollow. She gripped it tightly and with a glorious leap, she cut it clean in two. She ran back towards Ichigo and knelt down beside him.

"You idiot," she said softly as she pulled up on his arm and wrapped it around her shoulder to pull him up.

He groaned again, "I can walk, midget."

"Shut up, Strawberry. We're still arguing. I'm just taking us back to your house to fix you're reckless wounds," she said coldly.

"You mean 'home'?" he corrected. It was her home whether she realized it or not.

She looked straight as she guided them back to the house, which was only about fifty yards away. "Yeah," she said softly.

The walk was silent. He was now sitting on his bed with his head turned away from the raven haired girl, who was currently dressing his wound. The silence was still continuing.

She stood up finally and took a step back. Ichigo got up from the bed and picked up his shirt on the chair near his desk.

"Why won't you think about the future?" she asked seriously with her arms crossed over her chest.

He pulled his shirt over his head and messed with some things on his desk without really realizing it, "I don't know."

"What kind of answer is that?" she asked in annoyance. "At least look at me and give me a pathetic response!"

He turned harshly and stared directly into her eyes, "I don't like thinking too far ahead!"

"Why?"

"Because I don't want to think about a time when you won't be here!" he yelled without holding it back now.

SS

She opened her mouth to respond, but was too stunned by his honesty to say anything. After a few seconds she was able to speak. She disregarded the sentimental moment and became harsh with the subject. "Well you're going to have to get over that. I can't stay here forever, Ichigo," she said in a lecturing tone.

"Enough with the damn lecturing already! I'm tired of you constantly doing that! Don't you think I know you can't stay here that long? I just don't want to have to think about when you do leave!" he yelled back.

"You should learn to deal with it. I could be leaving soon if I take the promotion! And when that happens, it won't be your job to do the local shinigami's duties anymore. You'll have to live a relatively normal life. That's why I'm pushing you to study and do your work. I'm trying not to let you waste your time!" she explained. "Besides! Look at you! You're already a mess from a wimpy ass hollow like that! You're making rash movements just to prove you are some hero!"

"I'm a 'mess' because you're brainless and weren't paying attention! And what do you mean prove I'm a hero?" he threw in her face.

"I mean we know you're a hero, Ichigo! Stop trying to live in the past! Things change! You shouldn't want to constantly fight! It's not healthy!" she threw back.

"Even now when you say I don't have to fight, I am," he said softly. "I fight because if I stop now then it's all over! It'll all stop and everything will go back to the day before I met you! So let me fight recklessly! Let me protect you when I don't have to!"

She looked sadly at him and shook her head, "You should let me do this now. I mean it makes sense considering I am the actual shinigami here. You're just a damn substitute, Ichigo."

That hurt him. More than she realized. "A damn substitute?" he said in a soft growl. "Is that what you think of me? As some low class piece of shit that doesn't belong? And here I thought you were different. But you really are spoiled noble. Guess that Kuchiki attitude has finally kicked in!"

I felt for sure last night
That once we said goodbye
No one else will know these lonely dreams
No one else will know that part of me
I'm still driving away
And I'm sorry every day
I won't always love these selfish things
I won't always live...
Not stopping...

"Screw you!" she yelled back. She hated being called spoiled. Just because she was adopted into a noble family didn't mean shit and she was always ready to jump anyone that dared to say anything about it. "You don't know anything! And you really are an asshole if you thought you belonged! You are so desperate to protect everyone that you do worthless acts like jumping in the way where I could have easily stepped aside! You haven't been able to protect anyone in a long time and its getting to you! Besides! You're human, Ichigo! You don't belong!"

"Just because I'm human?!" he said incredulously. "You've got to be fucking kidding me. Do you know what I have done?! Who ended the war in Hueco Mundo? Who killed Aizen? Who saved your life?!" he asked getting furious and his voice rising in anger.

She was in shock by his sudden outrage. 'Did he just hold that against me?' Her sudden shock then turned to anger, but then also… hurt. "I didn't ask for you to come after me! If I recall, I told you not to!" she yelled; now feeling a pain she wished she never had.

He let out a disgusted chuckle. "Yeah, like I wouldn't save you after you saved me; a life for a life." He couldn't believe her right then. 'She's making it seem like I have no business protecting anyone; protecting her; caring about anyone; caring about-'

It was my turn to decide
I knew this was our time
No one else will have me like you do
No one else will have me, only you

She lost her breath. "So after all this time, I finally find out it was all just some sort of debt you had to repay. Some guilt trip you put yourself on because of some stupid thing I did for you?" she was hurt, most definitely. Her chest ached.

"Some stupid thing? So now you regret saving me? Great. Great to know I've been living a lie for the past two years. Silly me; thinking you could feel any compassion. I guess when it all comes down to it; you really aren't anywhere near being human," he said with such fire to his words it burned holes straight through her flesh and into her heart; she in fact did feel after all.

You'll sit alone forever
If you wait for the right time
What are you hoping for?
I'm here I'm now I'm ready
Holding on tight
Don't give away the end
The one thing that stays mine

She swallowed hard; confused of how easily she was being shaken up a mere boy, but her voice was still wavering. "And silly me for thinking you were something more than just a selfish little boy with no conscience."

"Oh please. Don't even start to say I wasn't what you thought I was. I hide jack shit! What you see is what you get! I'm just some rebel that looks out for himself first and others second," he corrected with his chin in the air.

She shook her head and gave a disgusted laugh, "You pretend to be such a badass. When I first met you that's exactly what I thought you were. After all the time we've spent together I thought I was able to see the real 'Ichigo'; a man that would fight to protect just because he knew it was right; a man that had so much potential and would use it for good; a man that actually cared what others thought or felt."

Amazing still it seems
I'll be 23
I won't always love what I'll never have
I won't always live in my regrets

"Well you thought wrong!" he yelled back. His eyes were boring through her. "I'm sorry that I'll never live up to be your precious Kaien," his words dripped off his tongue like venom.

Her jaw began to tremble and her eyes began to water in an angry manner. Her hands quickly clenched into fists by her sides. "What… the fuck is that supposed to mean?"

You'll sit alone forever
If you wait for the right time
What are you hoping for?
I'm here I'm now I'm ready
Holding on tight
Don't give away the end
The one thing that stays mine

He glared, "Don't give me that. I know you just try to relive the life you had with him with me just so you could think you have forgiveness. I'm sorry that this guy you love so damn much is dead, but he's not living through me! So I guess you can finally move on with your life and go get that promotion now!"

"Fuck you, you cold hearted bastard! You don't know anything! Nothing! I could never confuse you with Kaien! Not in a million years! He was never this horrible, nauseating disgrace of a boy that would throw out hurtful words just to avoid how you really feel!" she yelled with her voice shaking.

He rolled his eyes. "How do I really feel then, huh?" he challenged her.

"You're just scared to death of change and are trying to either stop it all together or force it to happen as soon as possible to get it over with! You're saying all of this to piss me off. Well you know what? It's working! So keep going if you really want me to leave now!"

He shook his head with a furious smile, "I guess you have me completely figured out, huh Rukia?" He began to clap his hands, "Congratulations. Ya want a medal now? That's all you ever try to do is analyze bullshit."

"I analyze bullshit because no one can figure you out! You're a mystery to everyone! And you blame it all on yourself because you still blame yourself for killing you damn mother!" she yelled.

You'll sit alone forever
If you wait for the right time
What are you hoping for?
I'm here I'm now I'm ready
Holding on tight
Don't give away the end
The one thing that stays mine...

He gave her a look, "Don't you dare bring that into this conversation."

She ignored it. She wasn't afraid of him. "It was a hollow, Ichigo! Not you! Your mother is dead because of a hollow, so stop blaming yourself thinking you killed your dear old mother!"

"Stop it!"

"You sulk over the same damn thing once a year, even after you found out it was Grand Fisher! Get over it!" she continued without listening to him.

"Shut up!"

"Stop being such a damn baby about things and start to live with them!" she yelled combining more issues into the subject.

"Get the fuck out!" he yelled finally. There was silence between the two of them.

She looked deep into his raging ambers as her violets revealed pain and realization. "If I leave I'm not coming back. But I guess you planned this, didn't you?" she said knowing him too well.

"Leave," he said with finalization. Violets stared into ambers for a moment that seemed to last forever before she walked towards the window. She wouldn't leave through the front door; it would cause his family to ask too many questions. She would leave without another word.

She brushed by Ichigo with the slightest contact that shot tingles up both of their spines. He turned slowly as he watched her open the window and sit on the ledge. She took a simple glance over her shoulder towards him one last time before dropping down out of his sight; out of his life.

He thought she would end up coming back hours later. He was angry; yes. But he didn't necessarily want her to leave so soon. This was an argument. He figured she understood he didn't really want her to leave.

He took in a few breathes as his mind agreed with the conclusion that she would come back. Then, he looked over at his desk where he saw his school books. He would listen to her if only to achieve some unknown forgiveness; he would do some studying.

"You never came back when I told you to go the first time," he said with his eyes sad as he took a step closer to her.

"You told me to leave, idiot. Why would I come back?" she asked almost with a laugh at the end.

He shrugged, "I figured we were just arguing. We didn't mean what we actually said." He paused, "And then you actually left, so then I thought you actually did mean it."

"And I thought you meant it that night, so I threw in some more things I didn't mean just to make it even," she explained. She let out a laugh at the misunderstandings and looked down at her feet.

He reached up and tilted her head back up to look up into his eyes. "I never did say I'm sorry, did I?" he said with a sad smile.

"I- uh-" she didn't know what to say. His voice was so soothing and his touch was so gentle. She was rendered speechless.

He cut in. "I'm sorry." He paused, "I know you said it a long time ago. So I'm sorry I took a longer time to say it," he added with a chuckle.

She put a smug grin on her face, "I always beat you anyways. It should have been a given."

He glared with a smirk as his hand fell from her chin back to his side, "Cocky, midget."

Her face then got serious again, "I'm going on this mission, Ichigo."

He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. He was shaking his head.

"I'll come back this time," she added with a smile, which caused him to stop rubbing his neck and meet her eyes again.

"You don't know how long you'll be gone though," he added.

She shrugged. "I'll come back," she reassured. Her gaze settled on him. "You can't always be the one to protect me. Let me do this on my own," she said somewhat in a begging manner. "Please."

He sighed and broke eye contact. She added in a joking gesture, "You'll end up running after me sooner or later anyways. At least let me get a head start."

He chuckled as she began to chuckle as well. They fell silent; enjoying a comfortable silence. He tilted his head to the side, "Be careful."

She raised an eyebrow. "Since when am I not? You're the one that goes storming into uncharted territory without thinking," she laughed.

"True," he agreed with a grin.

She then smiled sweetly and turned to make her way towards the door, but he grabbed her wrist hastily to stop her. She froze quickly feeling an amazing sensation on the skin he was touching. She looked back at the orange headed man questioningly.

His amber eyes pierced into her violets, "Meeting you could have never been an accident." He paused, "I wanted to make sure you knew that." He added in order to correct a past mistake.

She smiled back at him, "I know, Strawberry. I know." And with that said and done she walked out of the room and left him with a satisfied smile in her now empty office.


Ichigo was standing next to his Karakura comrades as they stood in the main hall with the rest of the Squad Captains.

Ukitake continued to talk, "With my Vice Captain off on her mission with the Spirit King, we can finally focus on our Aizen threat."

Ichigo couldn't help but wander off the conversation. His mind was processing that morning's conversation with a raven haired woman. She had left and was most likely traveling around in Hueco Mundo by now. As time passed by, he found it harder and harder not to think about her or worry. It had only been a few hours and his thoughts were engulfed with nothing but her.

"As if I'd ever think of her that way!" he responded in irritation.

Chad just nodded, "Mhm."

"What the hell do you mean, 'mhm'?" Ichigo questioned urgently.

"Suit yourself, but knowing the way women are, I believe they like to hear when men are being protective of them," Ukitake said on the contrary.

"Yeah, well Rukia's never been in the same category as 'women'."

"But maybe after all these years of questioning things, she might need to hear it in order to believe things haven't changed…" he said putting in his two-cents.

Ichigo sighed, "She's so damn complicated."

"No, no, no. That would be the general description of women, my boy."

"No, why is it so surprising?" he said not giving up.

Rukia sighed, "It's not that I'm surprised. It's just… some things I guess don't change, no matter how much time goes by," she said calmly.

Ichigo looked down to his lap and let a small smile grace his lips; a smile Rukia was shielded from.

"What do you think, Ichigo?" Ukitake asked breaking through his memories.

Ichigo shook his head and blinked a few times, "Huh? What?"

"Pay attention, Kurosaki," Byakuya growled with a superior tone.

Ichigo glared at the older man as Ishida leaned over to Ichigo and whispered from the side of his mouth, "Trouble with the in-laws?"

"Screw you, Ishida," Ichigo growled back as the archer chuckled under his breath.

Ichigo rubbed the back of his neck, "Sorry, Ukitake. Can you repeat that?"


The winds were harsh in the white desert, but she had already traveled a great way. It was so desolate; she remembered it was, but it had been so long since she had last been here. It brought back terrible memories yet it brought back memories when she was with him.

She was on her mission now and she knew her mind should be focused. She needed to block out any thoughts that could possibly distract her from either completing her mission or surviving. But she couldn't help it. Ever since she saw him leaning against her open door in her dim lit office she has been having trouble not picturing his mesmerizing figure in front of her. The feeling of his skin touching hers when he lifted her chin or when he grabbed her wrist; it has been quite the struggle.

"Wait," he interrupted. "Take this," he said holding his hoody out to her as they continued to walk.

"I'm not taking your sweatshirt," Rukia said knowing she would feel guilty if she took it.

"I'm not even wearing it, so take the damn thing before I put it on you myself," Ichigo said in annoyance.

She took it and put it on. It was way too big, but it was comfortable and most of all, warm. She smiled as she watched her fingers feel the soft fabric.

"So I can go kick his ass for laying a finger on you!" Renji said very brute-like.

Rukia let out a chuckle, "Oh please, Abarai. The day he ever lays a finger on me is the day I start to believe that Aizen is our savior," she said casually with another chuckle as she passed by the redhead.

He turned around to look at her, "Who is this 'he' you're talking about?" he questioned with suspicion and a raised eyebrow.

Rukia froze with her back to Renji. "I wasn't talking about anyone in particular. Who were you referring to?"

"What you feel is different from what you think. Let yourself feel again and then you'll heart will clear your way to better judgment."

"So how long have you been in love with him?"

Rukia's back straightened and her body froze when her last memory hit her. She brought her palm to her chest and felt her heart racing just from the thought of it.

Then, she heard something rusty or metallic creak open. Her head shot up in the direction and noticed a door was swinging open. She squinted at it as she held her hand up above her eyes to block the wind from her eyes. She took a deep breath. This was it. They knew she was here and they were welcoming her; daring her to continue. She wasn't backing down now.

Rukia gripped one hand on her zanpaktou and walked steadily towards the open door, which would lead her further into the heart of Hueco Mundo.

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And that is the end of this chapter. Where am I going with this? Do I even know? Well I should hope so. Well anyways. Tell me what you think. Later