Last chapter, it's sad to see it end… But, alas, here we are…

Some serious thanking is needed. For the inspiration and staying up late, but mostly for all those who have supported this story… even with my terrible updating…

Thanks.


ZANPAKUTOS

The late hours of the night seemed to gradually move on, Ichigo holding a sleeping Rukia in his arms, her slumber light.

Kissing the top of her head, he looked out the window. An ordinary summer night crept through Kurakura, a full moon casting shadows through the buildings and windows, leaving a beautifully haunting picture to gaze upon.

Ichigo shifted lower on the wall, sitting on his bed with Rukia leaned against him. It was moments like this that he loved. Sure, a good kiss or saving Rukia from an execution weren't bad either… but just to sit in stunning silence with the girl he loved with him, it was like peace was in the world, and that everything made sense…

He leaned his head on hers, closing his eyes and breathing the scent of her hair, some gentle flower smell, taking in her everything. Everything about her that made everything worthwhile to him.

Again he kissed the top of her head, leaving his lips there, so amazed with the girl in his arms, the one he finally could call his after being through hell and back with her.

A trip he would do all over again if he had to.

A chirping noise was going off, looking on his desk, the hollow tracker was lit and buzzing away, unaware of the sleeping woman in his arms.

He sighed, turning Rukia's chin to greet her face with his, her lips with his, smiling as she gradually opened her drowsy eyes.

"Hey, idiot." She yawned almost affectionately.

"Hey stupid." He replied, some sort of tenderness in the insult.

She looked over, saw the vibrating phone and put her head back into Ichigo's chest, placing a moan there.

"Can't we just ignore it…" She mumbled a groan into his clothes.

"Hey, I was the one awake, miss sleeping beauty." He teased lightly.

She took her head out of his shirt, smirking. "I guess, but maybe that's what made me…" –yawn- "more sleepy…"

"Come on, beautiful." He said, rising off the bed, bringing her with him. "It is our job, after all."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah… fine…" She trailed off, separating from her body as Ichigo did the same, grabbing the phone and smiling at each other before running off to the hollow.

---

"See? Did we really need to come all the way out here, just for that pathetic thing?" Rukia questioned, sheathing Sode no Shirayuki, Ichigo merely placing Zangetsu into the ground, leaving the zanpakuto vertical and upright.

She walked over to him, wrapping her arms around his waist, Ichigo wrapping his arms around Rukia, his head resting on hers.

"We are on duty, tonight…" he half-heartedly fought with her.

"Mm." she sighed back in response, bringing herself closer to his warm body.

They embraced, moon light shining down upon the two, a warm faint wind would half heartedly try to blow the fading leaves from the tree, but with no prevail. She breathed in his sent… that musky, heavy pleasurable smell; barely noticeable now that it was late, closing her eyes to take him in. Tightening her grip on him as she felt him do the same, wrapping each other in the same feeling they shared.

"I love you, jerk."

"I love you too, fool.

She loosened her tight grip on him, and his on her, returning to a soft hold on the other… enjoying the warmth of the other… the bond between them didn't need words or poetry to describe it. It just had to be seen.

"Ichigo… what's wrong?" Rukia questioned as the man she was embracing suddenly started to tense… a small noise escaping from his throat, almost sounding choked…

Rukia pulled away a bit, her arms still wrapped around his waist, looking into his eyes.

"Ichigo, tell me." She inquired, confused violet eyes explored auburn, searching for her answer.

She squinted in confusion, focusing more on his eyes… yellow irises where filling in the brown, and black replacing the white that surrounded the forming yellow…

'His Hollow!' She thought frantically, stepping away, slowly, unbelieving. 'When did that come back?! It's been… years!'

Suddenly, Ichigo's head turned its direction to Rukia in a sick, sharp movement, wearing that sinister smile, leering at her.

"Rukia…" It said, an echo-y sort of twisted voice sounded through its mouth, making her shiver in just hearing it. "Why the King does spend an awful lot of time with you, an awful, awful lot. So what is it that makes you just so special?"

Frozen in the situation at hand, Rukia only looked at him, wide eyed, but slowly determination was filling her.

"Ichigo! I know you can hear me! Fight him! Win, dammit!" She yelled, her voice hurting from the great strength she used in projecting over to the demon in Ichigo's body.

"Sorry, the King's not home, but I'm here! Can I leave your sweetheart a message?"

A cackle rang out on the other wise peaceful night, piercing the air almost as thunder, shaking Rukia to her core.

"I'm not afraid of you!" She told the Hollow. "I know Ichigo will win! He will defeat you!"

"Mm… should we place a wager on this?" He said, plucking Zangetsu out of the ground, grabbing the hilt, turning the blade towards Rukia.

"You gamble your life and I'll gamble Ichigo's life! No sense in keeping him alive if I have to wait a few years to take control again!"

The Hollow's screeched laugh once again shook the skies themselves as Rukia unsheathed Sode no Shirayuki.

"Nobody is going to die tonight." She whispered dangerously, well knowing that it could hear her.

The yellow and blacken eyes shimmered in a smile, giving Zangetsu a few swings before taking a stance, that chilling grin on its face.

"We'll see about that, Miss Kuchiki!"

And with that, he took his first step towards her.

---

Running towards her with a gasping laugh escaping before he swung for her, straight and true, but she quickly dodged, sliding further down the road.

"Ah! The girl knows how to play!" It hooted, stopping to turn to face the small woman who was breathing deeply with almost hidden panic.

But as much as Ichigo knew her, he did too. She was a good little creature, a mask that was almost perfected in the art of hiding the emotions of the heart and the shock of the brain. But they both knew that it could easily be broken, shattered with just the right words…

"How are you going to win, Kuchiki?" The Hollow taunted, its eyes flitting from place to place, glancing for any weakness that he might have not paid attention to or looked over.

It bit its tongue between his temporary, almost its permanent teeth. Enjoying the way that he knew if he applied a bit more pressure, it would bleed… but it didn't what the King's blood… it wanted hers.

It wasn't easy breaking a person, but their greatest strength was always their greatest weakness.

The Hollow knew what she had done to its King. She made the sky clear, clouds disappear and the rain stopped, halted, disappeared.

And it pissed the Hollow inside of him off.

Ichigo hated rain, and that meant that it had to love the steady downpour that used to be in his mind and heart. It was the rules of the game. If Ichigo loved something, the inner Hollow had to despise it. It went both ways, though. If he loved something, the Hollow had to destroy it.

And he knew the one thing he had to destroy, and his eyes were looking right at her…

---

'Think… think! Dammit Rukia! Think!' She fought her mind, thinking of a way to get Ichigo… but she couldn't exactly get into his mind, she had a hard enough time doing that without his Hollow wielding his sword against her…

A sinful smile from the Hollow, and it was gone, flashed stepped into nothingness. Turning to her left, she saw him start to emerge, holding up her zanpakuto in time to have the blades crash together.

But what she heard was screaming, of her own Sode no Shirayuki and Ichigo's Zangetsu, screaming as lovers blades crossed in a fight over life, neither would accept defeat or death, not death of themselves… but of their match.

They would not allow the other to die, and in doing so, neither would live…

--

It sneered, its eyes tingling with delight, the small girl before him struggling to keep on her feet as he pressed his sword harder against hers…

…And that's when it happened.

The Hollow could barely hear it, hardly even a sound, but it somehow rang in his ears… the sound of screaming.

One was of Zangetsu, a cry of pain that only a heart could describe to one that had none. The other, a women, Sode no Shirayuki, the opposing sword against his. Her scream told of fury that someone had begun to hurt her match, and yell of anguish of the thought of hurting the one who stopped all the pain that others had caused…

It made a slight quake go through him, that two swords where as united as the people they belonged to, protesting this act of violence against the other. Knowing that there could never be anyone who could fill the void that the other had filled…

Hearts that bleed for the other, the one that matched theirs in perfect tune and rhythm.

The ones that understood a look, a movement… even one simple word.

And the ones that couldn't go on if the other fell.

The Hollow took this all into consideration, wondering for a slight second on how that must feel…

It pressed the screaming sword against its counterpart, savoring as the screams of torment increased their volume...

'Must feel pretty damn annoying…' It thought, smiling as the girl before him trembled of the strength he was forcing out of her.

---

Screaming. He could hear it; somehow it was everywhere, shrieking around him…

He sad up, looking over the buildings he had come to know as…

'Shit...' He thought… it had happened. This sensation of the sinking in his stomach, his head, his heart…

His Hollow had gotten out… and he was right by Rukia when he took over…

'Rukia!' He said… or thought he said. He yelled her name, but not a sound came from his mouth.

'Shit!' He thought again… it seemed as if everything was underwater, blurred into one sound, one thought…

'I need to save her…' He told himself. 'No. I have to save her.'

---

Side stepping another attack, Rukia looked over to the Hollowed eyed Ichigo, he was panting, mostly because he was laughing in-between his heavy breathing.

"Ichigo's not responding to your calls, Rukia! Maybe you should hang up and try again!" He antagonized, throwing with it a signature laugh.

"Ichigo! You better be fighting in there because I'm fighting for you and I will NOT let you die!" She shouted, taking another breath before yelling, "I love you, dammit! Come back to me!"

"You ready for another round, love?"

Rukia froze at the word; the name Ichigo would call her in a moment of deep affection.

Of kisses and long talks.

Of staying up all night to see the sunrise.

Or just in a random, devoted moment of tenderness.

She cringed, gripping the hilt that much harder, determination filled her mind as tears started to fill her eyes.

"You do not call me that." She spoke softly, yet feeding him every word carefully. "Only one person calls me that, and I will only hear it spoken from him!" She finished, yelling. Her stance back into place, ready to fight the demon with every fiber to get back the one who would call her "love" and mean it.

The black and gold eyes merely shimmered with anticipation.

"Love, don't you get it?" he smiled, if possible, wider with more wickedness seeping through, "I've just been playing, now's the real fight!"

And with another wild cry of laughter, he came to attack her.

---

'Rukia… RUKIA!' Ichigo was roaring, frantically trying to find a voice in a world that suddenly seemed underwater…

His mind was in pursuit of how to get out, to get back in control and find a way to get to her, the only one that really mattered…

"Rukia!" He whispered, suddenly realizing that it was said, barely audible above the screams of his Zanpakuto and hers…

And suddenly, with that one word, he felt as if he was already closer to getting back into his body, his life, their life…

"Rukia!" he kept repeating and it kept growing louder, each time reverberating in his chest…

"Rukia!" He roared, though it came out more as if he were speaking normally…

"Rukia…" He returned to a whisper, "I WILL NOT LET YOU DIE!" He finished with a yell, feeling something picking him up as white engulfed him…

---

Rukia saw the attack coming, the Hollow not even using a Flash Step, but instead was giving her the opportunity to see the attack.

The laughter, that sickening laughter, it was killing her.

"Good bye, Love!"

She held her sword in a futile attempt to block the assault knowing it would never hold, the Hollow in the air, ready to come down upon her, when she faintly heard it, a yell from Ichigo…

"I will not let you die!"

---

Ichigo was in his body, but something felt wrong, something was terribly wrong.

He felt his vision take place, from the flash of white to the darkness of the night, the full moon casting its haze into the night sky…

He gasped, something was very wrong…

He looked down, and into his chest was a sword, one of pure white, one that was as beautiful as its wielder.

And that's when his eyes met hers. She was smiling with closed lips, but her eyes… they were full of pain…

Then he realized the Zanpakuto in his hands, the blade running from his hands on the hilt, to the end, somewhere buried deep into her chest…

"Ichigo…" She panted, still keeping that pained smile. "Welcome back, dumb ass. Took ya long enough…"

With that, she took her sword out of him, causing him to give into a slight moan, standing long enough to withdraw his from her flesh.

They fell, side by side, the same way, landing with their faces inches apart.

"Rukia…" He felt tears in his eyes, pricking the corners as breathing was getting harder to do with each trembling gasp.

"You could've been happy…" She cut him off, squinting her eyes shut as a wave of pain hit her, opening them again to look him in the eyes. "You could've been a normal person with no danger, had a typical life, not to have… dealt with me…"

"I didn't start living until I met you, Rukia." He said, lacing his fingers with hers painfully, the tips of his fingers loosing feeling and warmth. "I didn't know how to live until I met you."

He paused, tears now rolling off his face. "I didn't have a reason to live until I met you."

She too smiled her eyes also over flowing with tears.

"I'm so sorry… If I had been stronger… quicker… you wouldn't… we wouldn't…"

"Ichigo…" she cut him off again. "I wouldn't have it any other way; I couldn't live without you anyway."

And for some reason, the guilt of killing his wife left him, leaving him like the feeling in his legs… feeling a cold numb take over…

But somehow, this dying was peaceful; the end was near, the final of the show… No deep regrets, no feeling sorry or scared…

And even though it hurt like hell, he scooted closer to her, resting his head against hers, breathing deep rattling breaths.

"Life was a rush, huh?" He said, grimacing in pain, gritting his teeth together.

"Only with you." She said; her eyes now flooded with tears, her body shaking with deep unnatural breaths.

"What happens after this, Rukia?" He asked, afraid now that there would be nothing, that he would lose her, forever. He didn't know if he could handle that thought right now…

"I don't know… but this isn't the end… not for us." She responded, her body shaking, weakly coughing, blood running down the side of her mouth…

Suddenly, two shadows loomed over them; one was of a man, the other a woman, shadows against the moon light…

"Ichigo." He heard Zangetsu, low and almost mournful.

"Rukia…" Sode no Shirayuki said, a deep hurt in her voice.

He couldn't glance over to see them, but knew they were there.

"Hey guys, came to join the final farewell?" He said, giving into a sudden gasp of pain.

"You have mere minuets…" Zangetsu said, Ichigo seeing his shadow turning away from him.

"Enjoy what time you have left…" Sode no Shirayuki finished for him, her also turning away, the two Zanpakuto spirits leaving together.

For some reason, even though Zangetsu was gone, Ichigo still felt some of him with him, some of him residing in his soul, a piece with him forever. He raised a corner of his mouth, and somehow knew that Rukia still had some of Sode no Shirayuki with her too.

"I love you." Rukia said, panting, words where becoming harder to form, harder to say.

"I love you too, Love." Ichigo said softly, finally pressing his lips against hers in one last goodbye… gentle and intentional, lingering there as he felt the world starting to go fuzzy and black…

He pulled away, his world darkening without his consent, feeling his eye lids close as Rukia's did, following him into their next adventure.

He squeezed her hand, one last time, feeling it being returned as the world dimmed from view.


THE END