I don't own Bleach or the song, "How Strong Are You Now?" by Rascal Flatts

A/N: I want to dedicate this to a very amazing author LoverofLove. She writes these amazinggg stories that have a song per chapter. It amazes me how she can do that. Hey, I wonder how many times I can say amazing! lol, so this is for you! And of course, any one who is reading this, enjoy!

Whips of dark clouds loomed overhead, making the afternoon seem closer to nightfall. A young man—of the age twenty-two or so, walked along a cement pathway, his hands shoved in his jeans pockets. He had the hood of his sweat shirt over his orange locks, cloaking his originality from the world.

There was a brief clasp of thunder in the distance, loud enough to make his companion squeal and beg to go back to his house. Said companion was no longer there to pester him about anything. She was long gone; back to the place she came from and gone from him forever.

To his right was a stone wall that was about half his size that blocked a vast forest. To his right were rows and rows of stairs and on each level were several stones, marking a person in the afterlife.

It had been a long time since the girl he cared for left his side. It had been so suddenly that his whole world shifted. Ichigo could only remember the day…just three weeks after he along with the Soul Society defeated Aizen and the rest of the Arrancar.


There was a slight knock at this door. Ichigo looked up from the book he was attempting to read as he watched as Rukia walked into his bedroom. She looked nervous—that couldn't be good news.

She walked over to his bed and sat down on the corner. Crossing her legs, Ichigo looked away as just the slightest bit of her pink underwear was exposed. She never knew how to sit like a lady, not ever.

"What do you want?" he asked, his face just the slightest tint of pink.

She looked over to him and crossed her arms. "Ichigo, there's something I have to tell you."

He tried to block out her voice, still reading his history book—cramming for a test the next day. He had been out so late fighting hollows that it was nearly impossible for him to care about school work. And yet, the persistent little Midget kept his grades on top…bugging him about everything relating to school.

"Hm?" he glanced up from is book.

That was not a good idea. Rukia was showing more emotion than he ever thought possible. Her eyes were troubled…like bad news was coming. Her posture—which was usually back straight and mask covering all emotions was ripped away; she was leaning over and her eyes were pleading and fighting for something. Ichigo didn't know what—but it scared him.

"Rukia," he said. "What's wrong?"

She avoided his eyes. She didn't answer.

"Damn it, Rukia! What the hell is going on!?"

:.:End Flashback:.:

At the time Ichigo had been studying to become a doctor. At the time—he thought that his life would finally be normal again. Well, as normal as life ever gets.

He remembered fighting with her. He remembered her leaving, wearing an even miserable look on her face than she had so long ago when she left the first time. She walked to his door and slammed it shut. He never saw her again.

When she told you goodbye you didn't flinch

When she looked back you didn't even budge an inch

You stood there like a stone but now that's she's gone

He remembered standing where he was for a long time. He didn't move for at least two hours, maybe even longer. He stood there, and then he walked over to his bed and fell down on top of his sheets.

He hadn't cried in a long time. But this time…he felt the cool liquid roll down his cheeks and soak his skin. His eyes felt very tired and yet, he couldn't make the tears stopped.

He hadn't ever cried for anyone except his mother…and now, he was crying for her. That girl who had hit him over the head, called him Strawberry, and yelled at him when he got a B on a paper.

How strong are you now without her around

You can't even keep one little bitty tear from falling down

Tell me how strong are you now

Now, it was different. He felt a bubbling in his stomach, something he couldn't help. In that moment, he realized how much he had loved her. No, he didn't love her like a sister or a friend. He really loved her. He was in love with her. At that moment, he wished he could take every back.

He wished they hadn't fought, wished he would have went after her. It had been too late and it was way too late now to do anything to bring her back.

He remembered how many times he said he wouldn't care if she left, if fact it would be better if she had! He remembered her slapping him or kicking him and then she would continue to yell at him about something else he did wrong.

Before she left you told yourself it can't hurt that much

Now your double over like you took a punch

No she ain't coming back tell me how much can you take of that

He remembered everything they had been through. He remembered telling her it was better that she stayed in the Soul Society…if that's what she really wanted to do.

She had smiled and then nodded, telling him it was. He remembered how happy he felt because the rain in him finally stopped falling inside of him.

Now, he thought himself stupid. Now, he wished that he could take her back kicking and screaming, no matter how much she wanted to stay there. He had just saved her for spirits' sake! Didn't he get a say in anything?!

How strong are you now without her around

You can't even keep one little bitty tear from falling down

Tell me how strong are you now

What's that rule that you live by, a tough guy never cries

He never had a say in anything, at anytime. It was always what she wanted to do and where she wanted to go, it was never him. But now, he knew she was doing that for his benefit. All those hours after school studying and when a hollow appeared, Rukia would go get it, so Ichigo could study.

She did everything for him.


How strong are you now, without her around

You can't even keep one little bitty tear from falling down

Tell me how strong, tell me how strong are you now

He knew now how wrong he had been when he left her leave without a word. He now realized that he should have run after her. He now knew that he loved her with everything in his being.

Too bad that he was already three years late. Too bad he didn't fight hollows anymore. He was actually closer to death than any human being on the planet. He worked with sick people, hurt people, and dying people every day, not to mention how dead he was inside.

The rebellious Ichigo from so many years ago vanished along with Rukia. Now, he was more or less an empty shell…going through life like a robot…whatever was asked of him, he did it.

How strong are you now, oh, what's that rule you live by

You say tough guys never cry

Everyone moved on but him. Chad, Orihime, Ishida…even Yuzu and his dad had moved on. Everyone got on with their lives, married, had kids. Helped people when they needed too.

They couldn't help him.

He lost his life a long time ago. And there was nothing anyone could do to bring it back.

How strong are you now?


"I've been asked to become a vice-captain of the squad 13," she finally explained. "They said my abilities during our fight at Hueco Mundo and my ability to reach bankai now, has proven that I should be lieutenant, especially since Captain Ukitake is getting sicker each day."

Ichigo ran over to her and grabbed her hands. "Rukia," he said. "That's great! I can't believe it! I mean, lieutenant!"

She didn't look up at him.

"Why does it seem with good news there has to be bad news?" he asked, sitting on the edge of the bed next to her. For some reason, she needed to be comforted and Ichigo, though he wasn't great in that kind of affection, wrapped an arm around her shoulder trying to do so.

"What's the bad news?" he asked.

"I'm leaving the real world," she told him slowly. "Because I'm a lieutenant, there is no need for me to protect Karakura. They'll get someone else to do it for me."

Rukia felt Ichigo's arm stiffen around her back.

"What?" he asked.

"I won't be coming back here anymore!" she stood up, almost knocking him over. She ran to the door and looked behind him. "Ichigo, I'm not allowed to be here anymore. I'm leaving the real world…for the rest of your lifetime."

He stood up as well. "But they can't do that!" he yelled. "That isn't fair!"

"It's the order of things!" she yelled back at him.

"To hell with order!" Ichigo screamed. "This isn't fair!"

"You'll be normal!"

"I was never normal!"

"Ichigo!" she pleaded. "There isn't anything you can do to stop this! It's the natural order of things! I accepted being a lieutenant because I knew wouldn't allow me not to. Just—don't do anything rash. Stay here. Stay safe. Be normal."

Ichigo stood stunned, he couldn't move.

Rukia stared him down, expecting him to say something, but he couldn't. His throat was clogged. Finally, she turned the knob on his door and walked out, slamming the door shut.

He continued to stand there, without moving. He heard her say her goodbyes to his family below and he heard the front door close. He heard her shoes on the pavement outside, running away from him.

And he couldn't move.

:.:End Flashback:.:

It had taken many months to find this grave. It had taken many websites, many orphanage visits, and many medical records to find this exact spot. He was surprised this certain grave was even in Karakura. It really was a small world, after all.

There were two graves in front of him actually. He was on the very corner of the large graveyard and the graves were tiny, the letters of names barely readable.

They were extremely old.

One read:


Loving daughter, friend, and sister

And the other:


Loving daughter, friend, and sister

It was a simple gravestone. It was a simple way to remember something such as two girls who died. It had been during an automobile accident, Ichigo remembered reading in a newspaper article somewhere.

Rukia's sister and parents were all killed along with herself.

Bringing out a bottle of water from the backpack he brought with him, he dumped half on Hisana's grave and half on Rukia's. And then he leaned over Rukia's and did nothing.

He didn't pray and he didn't speak. The only sound there was the rumbling of thunder above. And then it started to rain.

Pulling the hood off of his head, Ichigo looked up at the sky as rain soaked through his clothing and his hair became wet. It was cold rain but he didn't care.

The kind of closure he was looking for was right here, right now. He didn't move as he closed his eyes, and leaned back over her grave.

"Idiot!" someone called from behind him. He turned his head and saw a girl behind him, with raven-colored hair and wearing a sun dress. She looked so beautiful with her piercing violet eyes and kind smile. "You're going to catch a cold!" She had an umbrella above her head and walked over to him, and put it over him, blocking him from the rain.

He was in shock. "Rukia…?" he questioned.

"Well, it took you long enough to remember!"

"What are you doing here?" he asked, still stunned that she was even here. It had been three years and Ichigo had been full and ready to die here. Nothing was supposed to stop him…and yet she had way of showing up at the right time.

"Sneaking away," she said her voice dropping down to its usual seriousness. "I've been swamped lately so I decided to come and see you."

"But why?"

"Why don't I explain over coffee?" she asked.

"Yeah, okay," he replied. She offered her hand and he took it. When she helped him off his knees, he didn't let go of her hand this time.

How strong are you now?

Whoo! Oneshot completed! LOL

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