It was quiet. The battle to save Karakura Town had ended in a deafening silence. Bodies of arrancar, shinigami, and vizard alike lay strewn and prostrate across the pavement. Death hadn't played favourites – each side had suffered heavy losses. With the fighting finally over, the sombre silence hung all around them and hammered that final point home.

Benihime had sung its last song and lay lost somewhere in the fray. He didn't normally treat his zanpaktou so carelessly, but for the moment he had something more important in his hands. He walked as far from the battleground as his feet would take him. He needed to find somewhere unpolluted by death, somewhere where it could just be the two of them.

He tried to ignore the incessant drip, drip that dogged his every step and the warm stickiness of the blood coating his hands as he walked. He'd barely travelled three blocks before she furrowed her brow and sluggishly opened her eyes.

"Kisuke… Wha-?"

A ragged cough tore through her and she turned her head away to spit out a mouthful of blood. Her eyes lifted to his stern features once more and lingered on his serious frown.

"That bad huh?" she observed softly, suddenly feeling small and meek in his embrace. She watched his mouth press into a firm line before he sighed and asked,

"Are you in pain?"

She thought it over a moment before slowly shaking her head 'No'. Funny that. She'd expected to wake up to find a world of hurt and found only him. He nodded silently and seemed to breathe out a sigh of relief.

"Good. I'm glad."

He finally found the courage to meet her gaze with his own and the heavy sadness she saw written behind his eyes shocked her. Those solemn green orbs spoke volumes about how little time they had left. She wasn't accustomed to admitting defeat, but today it seemed she didn't have a choice.

With a humourless smile she quipped, "At least Byakuya can finally lay claim to having the fastest flash step in all of Sereitei." Kisuke didn't smile at her attempted joke. With his eyes glued to the horizon he pressed forward toward their unknown destination.

Content for a moment to let him carry her, Yoruichi slipped her fingers into the folds of his kimono and rested her weary head against the strong perch of his shoulder. The dizziness was getting worse now, and the peripheries of her vision were starting to blur. She blinked her eyes to clear them to no avail. Stubborn as she was, even she knew it wouldn't be too much longer now.

She let her eyes drift close to ward off a wave of dizziness and asked, "Who?"

His voice was like steel, laced with his rage and the guilt that he hadn't done more, "Aizen."

"Did I-?"

She heard the smile in his voice and knew it was there without opening her eyes.

"Of course," he lied. "I wouldn't have expected any less from the former Commander of the Stealth Forces."

She smiled and coughed lightly to clear the heaviness from her lungs. It felt like she was breathing through a straw, each breath more difficult and laboured than the last. Feeling light-headed she clutched his kimono a little tighter and asked,

"Kisuke, can we stop? Maybe under that tree…"

His footsteps slowed to a halt and he glanced over at the tree in question. It was a large weeping willow with long swaying branches that draped softly to the ground. With a quiet nod, he made his way there, stopping to sit only once they were hidden beneath its leafy canopy.

Her body curled instinctively into his while he held her in his lap. There was silence between them for a long while as they listened to the sound of each others' breaths and memorized the feeling of their bodies pressed close. When the wind whispered against her cheeks she closed her eyes and welcomed its caress. As dying moments went, she could have done worse.

She felt his cheek brush her temple and lazily opened her eyes to meet his. He was watching her with such intensity, but there was a tempered patience there as well. He'd always been far too laid back. Thankfully the sadness she'd seen in his eyes before was gone, replaced now by the openness she remembered so well and the mischievous glint that'd attracted her in the first place.

Holding her a little closer he spoke quietly. "There's one thing I've always wanted to know," he began haltingly, "All those years ago, why'd you follow me here?"

She smiled up at him and shook her head against his shoulder. "Dummy," she teased, sounding like her usual playful self, "Isn't it obvious?"

He smiled a little at that. There was something poignant about finally knowing how she truly felt after so many years, even if it was a little late. His smile faded slowly as his eyes lingered on her peaceful expression. She was gone. He had to commend her for being her usual stealthy self, even in death. She hadn't even given him a chance to say 'good bye.' Only fitting, he supposed, since the only person who hated 'good byes' more than he did was her.

Using his fingertips, Kisuke the hair from her forehead and settled back against the tree. The pain in his side had long since ceased to ache. There was a nice collection of blood accumulating on the grass next to them as well. He was just thankful she hadn't noticed. She'd spent far too much time troubling herself over him as it was.

As he watched the wind stir the branches of the willow tree, Kisuke felt nothing but the peace of mind that comes with the acceptance of one's fate. This park was tranquil. The war hadn't touched it and it remained a pristine, unblemished thing of beauty. It figured she would've wanted it to end this way.

With his eyes growing heavy, he rested his head back against the nobby bark of the tree, closed his eyes, memorized the feel of her in his arms, and pulled in a long, slow breath.

As last moments went, he could have done worse.