I do not own Bleach.

I knew that I had to do this. I knew that I could not stay here. I knew, I knew … but, I didn't want to go. I wanted to stay here forever. Is this how Inoue felt before she left for Hueco Mundo? Did she feel lost and helpless, like she couldn't control her life at all? Did she feel like crying? Did she cry? I am not one to show my feelings; after all, I was taught not to, not only as a Kuchiki but also as a shinigami.

Why, then, did I feel like I was going to cry? Why did I feel so lost and horrible on the inside? I felt like venom from some horrible snake was seeping throughout my body, my veins, and my blood. Was leaving supposed to be this hard?

I didn't think so.

His room looked just like it always did; colorless, with the typical furniture of a typical room: dresser, desk, chair, closet, and a bed. And on that bed, was none other than the man who lived in this room. He was sleeping and, somehow, the room wasn't so hotel-like, it wasn't so colorless when I focused all my attention on his soft face and fiery hair.

He always looked so peaceful while he slept; his scowl was demolished, revealing his vulnerability. He looked like a young boy, one who finally stepped out from the past to take over the depressed teenager he was.

He sighed, rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand and turned over in his sleep. I watched; my eyes were dull and very tired. I hadn't been able to sleep in the anticipation for the darkest part of night when I would be leaving … again.

It wasn't like I wanted to leave him … I really didn't. How could I? I wanted to help him to become stronger and continue protecting people. I wanted him to grow up, with me by his side; I didn't want him to do it alone, like he used to do. I wanted to be here. I wanted to learn and grow with him. I wanted us to be old with wrinkles and everything before I allowed myself to say goodbye to him once and for all.

He was only eighteen. I would be leaving him … forever. Until he died, that is. But, he was a strong-willed man, he wouldn't die so easily. He might even try—he wouldn't!—but, if he did, his body would still live on. He would live on to be very old with wrinkles and everything; but he wouldn't be with me.

I mean, it's not like I love him or anything. I just … I mean, I'm not being selfish or anything, but, I gave him those powers. I'm the one who discovered the hero of Soul Society. I'm part of the reason we're all safe now. And yet, I still have to follow my orders. Why couldn't I just break them? I did before … why not now?

Who am I kidding? I know the exact reason why.

"Feelings were not involved last time I broke the law," I mumbled to myself. I lifted myself off of his wall and walked over to his side. I sat down on the edge of his bed and caressed his face with my hand. "I don't understand … you have all these things going for you. You're going to be happy with your friends and family and career and college and everything. I'm the weight keeping you behind because I don't want to say goodbye. I'm such a little baby."

I brushed a piece of orange out of his eyes and smiled sadly. He was so soft and so warm and so … Strawberry, I didn't want to leave that. But, I had to. I have to. I need to.

Feelings of affection, belonging, lust, adoration, are not what I am supposed to feel. I am a Kuchiki and a shinigami; I feel nothing. I have a job to protect and uphold my family's honor. I should not feel this way.

I shouldn't feel like I need him to survive. Could it be?

Could it be that I am in love with Ichigo Kurosaki? Could it be, that after all this time, I finally realize what I've always felt? How could this happen? How could I do this to myself? To him?

I quickly scrambled off his bedside. Hastily I withdrew the curtains from their position which was veiling the night sky, and opened up the window. My head hurt; blood was pounding. I couldn't breathe. I turned around.

My hands tightened on the window seal as he saw him turn over again in his sleep so he was face me directly. This was horrible; I couldn't do this. I couldn't leave.

I have to. I must. It's better for everyone that I go. I wouldn't have to lie at every one at his school and put on that damn facade. I wouldn't burden his family with the meals I eat or the electricity I use. I didn't want him to look at me any more with worry because he knew something was wrong with the way I've been acting lately.

I never want to do such a thing. I never wanted to hurt them, to hurt him. But, I have to, I have to. It'll be better for them. It'll be better for Soul Society.

It'll be better for me.

It was only when I felt a hand brush my tears away that I knew I had been crying. And it was only then that I saw that Ichigo was not in his bed any more. Instead, I was staring at the logo of his sleeping shirt. I looked up slowly, and there he was, staring back down at me.

I did not plan for something like this to happen. It was not supposed to happen this way. I was not supposed to second-guess myself. I wasn't supposed keep looking. I wasn't supposed to cry at the thought of leaving. I wasn't supposed to think. I wasn't supposed to feel.

Damn it, he wasn't supposed to wake up!

"Rukia," he whispered my name. "What's going on?" When I didn't answer he sighed in frustration. He tried again. "You've been acting weird for the past couple of weeks. Why? What's wrong? Why are you crying?" I looked away. "Damn it, Rukia! Answer me!"

He had moved his hands to my shoulders by now and he was shaking me. I felt more tears slip from my eyes. Now would be the perfect time to rain, I thought bitterly. This is just one more night of regret that I need.

But it didn't rain.

"Ichigo …" I mumbled. He stopped shaking me and I looked up at him. His amber eyes were sad and terrified. Wow, I never thought Ichigo could be terrified. He had done so many things for Soul Society and never once had he looked afraid.

Now, he looked like I pictured him as a little boy, when his mother died: terrified, lost, hurt, confused, regretful, and worried. He was staring me down. I had to say something.

"Ichigo … I – I have to go. Soul Society needs me for another assignment," I was surprised of how calm I sounded, so defeated. "There haven't been any hollows in Karakura for nearly six months; Soul Society believes that the local shinigami can handle any threats for now. So, I'll be heading back to my division …"

He growled. "You're leaving again, aren't you?"

"I—I … yes, Ichigo. I have to."

He looked me over. His hands tightened on my shoulders and I winced. I knew if he found out that I was leaving, that he would do something like this. I hoped he didn't throw a temper tantrum. I was wrong.

"Rukia!" he growled. "That isn't fair! Who gave you those orders?"

"Soul Society … I don't exactly know who made the decision." I tried to keep myself composed and emotionless; to not waver my emotions. I did not want him to see how hurt I was really was. "Ichigo … I need to go." I struggled to set myself from his grasp but I couldn't break it. "Ichigo – let go!"

"No!" he shouted. Immediately, I recoiled and looked him straight in the eye. "Please," he said, his voice wavering on begging. "Don't go again."

I looked away first. I could feel his eyes boring into me. He knew that I had to go; I know he did! He was making it too damn hard to leave. It wasn't fair! Why would he do this to me!? Couldn't he just accept it and get on with his life! I'm not important … "I'm not worth that much," I whispered, my tears stinging my eyes. "Please I-Ichigo … let me go. Let me go."

He wrapped his arms around my shoulders and pulled me close. My face was buried in his chest and I knew that, if I stayed like this much longer, I wouldn't be able to leave. I wouldn't be able to face the decades of pain and loss, like I was originally planning to do, anymore. I would stay here and disobey Soul Society, my brother … all for him.

I tried to push him away but he was too strong. So, I didn't breathe, I didn't want to be suffocated his scent. I squeezed my eyes shut, I didn't want to see him standing before me. I tried to block out all my sense, so I didn't have to feel his presence.

I couldn't.

But I still tried. I tried and I tried. Sooner or later, he lessened his grip around my shoulders; he moved his fingers, so they were resting beneath my chin. He moved my chin up so I was looking at him straight in the eye.

Then, he moved both of his hands and rested them on either side of my head. He pulled himself close, so close I thought he was going to kiss me, but rested his forehead on mine. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. I watched him.

I realized then, staring at his face that he wasn't scowling. No, he wasn't scowling at me or anything. He looked hurt and scared, sure, but he wasn't scowling. He was in deep thought and I wished that I knew what he was thinking about.

Finally, he opened his eyes and looked at me.

I never spoke.

He leaned in the rest of the way in and pressed his lips up with mine. I could feel that he had no idea what he was doing. He wasn't moving his lips; he just rested them there with mine. Then I grasped the fact that he was only eighteen and had never had a girlfriend let alone kissed anyone.

So, though I knew it was against my better judgment, I started kissing him back. I moved my lips up and down. At first he seemed stunned, but then, he started to respond.

After a while … was it seconds, minutes, hours? … I'm not really sure but when we finally broke apart I knew that I couldn't leave any longer. I knew, deep down in my heart that I would never be able to go away from him again … or even attempt to.

He would fight for me. He would be with me. I would fight for him. I would be with him. I wouldn't run away. Not now, not ever. I couldn't.

"Rukia … you can't leave," he whispered. That's right. He can't read my thoughts; he didn't know that I had already made my decision. "I – I love you. Please, please don't go."

Though I should have been surprised or worried or scared, I wasn't. Instead, I opened my eyes—when had I closed them?—and looked up into his eyes that were screaming at me to say something. The corners of my mouth twitched up into a slight smile before I replied.

"I won't leave," I said. "Because … I – I love you too."

For now, the worries of tomorrow would be at rest. For now, it wouldn't matter what happened in the next minutes, hours, days, weeks, or months. For now, we were living for this moment.

For now, and for always, I would love him. And I knew, in the deep depths of my heart, that he loved me too. And that was all there was to this life. To his life.

To my life.

A/N: Since it's my first year on anniversary of being on I decided to write a oneshot for celebration! So, yay! Thanks so much for all my faithful reviewers/readers. I'm so thankful for anyone and everyone who ever looked at my stories. So, thank you!!

I have a poll in my profile about what story I should write next. Please go vote!!

Please, check it out! Hm, I believe that's all. Oh! PLEASE REVIEW.