Okay so someone pointed out that despite my love for IchiRuki. I haven't do anything exclusively for them. So here you go. It could be viewed as a followup to 'Almost Lovers' but it works separately as well.

She could hear people screaming.

Rukia's fingers tightened momentarily on the hilt of her Zanpakto but her fingers slackened, despite her desire. It seemed terribly strange to her that the sky was such a pretty shade of blue. the world was falling apart, ripping at its seems, and still the sun was shining and the clouds were drifting lazily by. If she just laid there she could pretend the wetness on her lips, the difficulty she was having breathing, she could pretend it was just water. That she was fishing with Renji like they used to do when they were children.

She could pretend it wasn't her blood.

Blood seeping through the fabric of her robes, spilling from her lips, blood pooling in her broken, failing body and making it so very hard to breath. She had fought, she had killed. She had killed guilty people, people who deserved it. So many had gone down under the arc of her blade that she wondered if Sode would ever be white again. These were people who deserved it, not people like Kaien Shiba whose death would haunt her for the rest of her life, however short it may be.

Agony twisted up from some dark, hidden place in her and her cry mingled with the hundreds of others. War cries, death cries, they all mingled together in a horrible symphony. The clash of blades, made wet with the blood they spilt, only added to it. The wave of agony retreated leaving the Shinigami gasping for air in its wake. It was harder to breath, a thousand times harder than it had been before but still she struggled. Still she inhaled and exhaled, still she fought. Her opponents were dead now, the only battle she had to face was one against her own failing body, one against herself. She managed to turn her head to the side to spit the blood out, she didn't want to choke on it and die.

She couldn't die alone, not after what Kaien had said. Even if she deserved it, even if she was unworthy of passing her heart on, she couldn't do it.

She was afraid.

So very afraid and so very cold and the world was flickering on the edges. Not like the blackout she had when she fought the Espada, this was a slow, terrible pull that had a kind of certainty to it she could hardly bare.

A scream echoed nearby, growing closer.

She didn't think anyone would be dishonorable enough to kill her when she was so close to dying but, then again, she wasn't sure. It was only as the voice screaming broke that she realized she only heard the last syllable of the scream. The 'A', as in 'Rukia.' Why would someone be screaming her name? Something else hit her face, not blood, not tears but mud. Mud kicked up by someone falling to their knees beside her on the battlefeild.


"Ich-go," her lips could barely form the name of the orange haired man who looked at her so desperately.

He was battle stained as well, his bright orange hair more red than orange with blood. His coat was more torn than usual and the chain hanging from Zangetsu looked a bit shorter as well. She knew he was bleeding elsewhere too. He had gone and gotten himself hurt but he would be fine.

After all, heroes survived.

"Oh God Rukia," he sounded sick as his hands hovered over her, as though he was unsure how to touch her without causing her more pain, "I'm going to get help, just hold on--"

She wasn't sure how she found the strength to catch the sleeve of his coat, nor how he realized her feeble hold before he broke it but both happened. Rukia knew she needed help, she knew she had to be strong, she knew all that and yet, and yet she couldn't bring herself to let him leave. Something told her that if she let him go now, if she let him run, it would the last time she ever saw him. She managed to give a bare shake of her head. He seemed torn between what she need and what she wanted before he seemed to come to some sort of resolve.

"I"m going to get you out of this Rukia," he said, some of the strength returning into his voice.

"Idiot," she whispered through the blood in her mouth, "don't say such stupid t-things," the agony was back as a choked whimper tore itself from her throat. The world lurched amidst the agony as her fingers dug into cloth-covered flesh. Her head was gently held up, it was easier to breath when she wasn't lying down, "I-Ichig-" she could barely speak between the agony and the fight to breath

"Its okay," his voice was directly above her, "I've got you, its okay," the agony cleared a bit and she realized he did indeed have her. He had her cradled to his chest, his arms supporting her so that she could breath, "just hold on. We're going to get you to Orihim--"

"No," she whispered, "she needs to save her strength," she took a raspy breath, "save her strength for someone worth saving."

"Shut up!" his voice was a desperate, broken plea above her, "you're worth saving! Don't you dare say otherwise!"

Her lips had to quirk up at that one. Her? Worth saving? Hardly. What had she ever done but put him in trouble?

Put his friends in trouble?

She had killed Kaien--twice now.

She tortured her brother with her resemblance to her sister.

She broke Renji's heart.

She didn't deserve to live past this. She did want to live past this. Not with the weight that seemed to be pressing on her chest or the darkness that seemed to be threatening her vision. Ichigo's arms gripped her tightly as Rukia tried to breath. It was so hard, a thousand times harder than it had ever been before. Her own fingers shakily fisted themselves in Ichigo's coat, his chest warm against the ice of her skin. He pulled her tightly against him, as though if he crushed her to his chest he could keep her with him a little longer.

"Our reunion wasn't supposed to be like this," she heard him whisper raggedly above her, "not like this."

"S-sorry," she managed to get out.

"N-no its my fault for listening to you," he said looking down at her. She though she saw him smile but the world was even foggier now, "I'm not making that mistake a second time," She felt the world shift as it finally slid completely out of focus. She could feel the jostling as well but the pain had finally gone away and all she could feel was the unbearable weight on her chest, "stay with me."

"Nakama's a foolish word, don't you think?"

"Don't do this now," his fingers tightened on her as the world darkened, "damn it Rukia, don't do this now. Not like this."

"I guess we were both fools," the world faded to the black of his coat, "I can leave my heart with you," she whispered, though she wasn't sure how much he heard.

The world faded to black.

But not before she heard him whisper.

"Then I'll have to fix it, won't I?"