I'm BACK! It's been a long time coming, but at long last this story will be seeing regular updates again, my illness permitting! Its been a LONG while since I've dusted off this ficlet, and in that time the manga has gotten farther, plotlines have been revealed, and deaths have been dealt. Rest assured, this little ficlet is going to differentiate from all of, if not most of Tite Kubo's insidious plot.

This chapter is SHORT. And within good reason. I need to dust off my writing skills once more, and hopefully I can continue to better provide you all with the great and gory/fluffy goodness that is Will You Be My Queen. We'll see many reminissions and flashbacks in this chapter, with Halibel's and Ichigo's trist filled past FINALLY being revealed. The idea for this chapter (And the reason I'm finally off my duff) is thanks in part to my good friend, zetherox!

"Ichigo."

Snow drifted slowly to the ground. Everywhere it was white, not one splash of any other color in sight. Although, if you dug into a large clump of snow to the left, you would find a gray stone wall. And within that gray stone wall was a cave. And standing at the entrance of the cave, was the prettiest woman you had ever met. Moonlight radiated off of her, her dusty blond hair practically glowing. Her stark white vestments only added to this, and only her impossibly tan skin and turquoise green eyes served as a fact that she was not completely camouflaged into the snow.

"Ichigo."

The smooth skin of her cheek brushed against his scruffy, whiskered one. Her hair filled his nostrils with the clean scent of delight and disbelief. She hugged him fiercely, the notes of strong hard arms joining with supple firm stomach and back joining with the pure feminine softness of her chest pressed against his making a chord of perfect acceptance.

"Ichigo."

Her hand intertwined with his; the newly gloved digits slipping through to wrest themselves within his hair. He tested the strength of his new limbs, feeling the power ebb and flow within his reformed fingers. Strange. To bear human appearance again would suggest frailty, but nothing could be further from the truth. The ascenion to Vast Lorde had been anything but easy and the bloodied sands behind them would attest to that.

So would her lips.

"Ichigo."

So would the snow.

It never snowed in Hueco Muendo. Never. But this was not snow that fell from the sky; covered in grayish layer. Nay, though the flakes of grity grey swarmed at their feet like a colony of ants, for nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, this was not snowfall. It was ash. Twas ash that fell from the sky, ash which constantly framed the mouth of the cave in which two allies of the unlikeliest of sort made their home, and ash that darkened the night that would shatter their friendship forever.

She wound herself against him; burying her head against the crook of his neck. Her breath hot and rapid; deep and shallow, whilst she trailed a series of delicate kisses upon the edge of his jawline; while the ashes of their latest victims rained down from above.

The death of Barragan had brought the both of them life. The subsuquent consumption of the hollow having brought the both of them to the pinacle of evolution; the cusp of a majesty so tragic, that they had naught to take comfort in it before their exhileration crumbled around them. Adrenaline gave way to anxiety. Anxiety to anger. Anger to sorrow. And sorrow into lust.

And finally, lust into love.

"Say it," She whispered sweetly to him between their frenzied lovemaking. "Say it again, Ichigo." She gasped against him, renewing the memory of their battle; possibly their greatest and crowning achievement against one of, if not the most arrogant hollow in all of Hueco Muendo. He still tasted the sour tang of Barragan's soul on his lips, that old and decrepit charlatan's taste serving to sour the sweet taste of his lover's tongue for just a moment.

"Ichigo?"

He shook himself and stilled at the memory.

His eyes lit with triumph even as the venemous maw snapped shut around him. There was a feral roar louder than the eruption of the vent below them. Hot steam and fat drops of boiling water flew past them a moment before Ichigohit. Then his mailed fist flashed. It caught Barragan above the ear. He fell. He came away with a huge chunk of his face missing, the cracks already reforming what had been lost to the devastating right hook.

"You'll need more than that to-URK!"

Ichigo knocked him down with a viscious kick in the shin. There was a rending sound as the dislocated leg gave way. Still he stomped forward, swiping at the exposed neck of the then adjuchas But his hand went a centimeter inward; then it met a cast iron wall of hardened resistance.

The great white blade shattered naught but a moment later.

He had barely stopped the slash before fingers dug into his right elbow, hitting the pressure point and enervating his arm. A hand grabbed his hair and smacked his face against the floor again and again, breaking his nose with the first smack. On the third time Barraggan's descending face caught a glimpse of platinum blond in his peripheals. Then his eye came down on a rock. It ripped into his left eye. Then he was rolling over and over.

He thrashed with his reaitsu and hit nothing. Then his arms were behind his back and with a swift jerk upward, both shoulders were dislocated. Barragan screamed. When he next thought to thrash, he found his arms and legs tied together.

"Well now." Someone snarled out just above and beyond his vision. "Lets see how you like it!"

From his remaining eye, Barragan finally caught sight of his assailants. A blond adjuchas with an arm that ended in a now broken blade. A battered looking lizard-like adjuchas that bore a deep trench running from shoulder to hip; further marring his chalk white flesh with scarlet. Having no flesh of his own to speak of, the King of Hueco Muendo was rendered impotent as his pursuers flopped him onto his back.

Wobbling, clearly exhausted, but still pulling Barragan across the scaffold by his cloak. He thrashed again, trying to kick something, anything, trying to stand. Halibel dropped him on his back and the king bellowed as it put pressure on his bound, dislocated shoulders.

Ichigo stood over him.

Barragan gathered his strength to try another kick.

Ichigo's foot streaked down first, breaking Barragan's shin. Barragan screamed again against the exploding blackness of pain that threatened to make him fall unconscious, and when he looked again, Halibel was kicking a section of the floor that would ultimately lead to Las Noches.

Flames erupted before his vision.

"You filthy little ants!" Barragan roared, straining against his restraints as the light from the cero continued to bulge and swell. "You won't get away with this!"

"Then you'd best pray." Ichigo said, his voice pitiless. "Pray for someone to save you from your own hell." Halibel did something with Barragan's cloak. For a moment, nothing happened. Then the cloak tightened and a blur of orange and yellow and red streaked past the emperor's vision. There was a great, rending tear as teeth sank into the hollowfied bone that comprised his right shoulder and abdomen.

Then he was flung into the flames.

The memory faded quickly as her lips clapsed against him again. A memory within a memory, dredged up from the blackness by the increasingly cold climate of their ascent. A fleething thought within a thought, one that ended all too soon. Regardless of the fact, Kurosaki Ichigo found himself wishing for warmer weather as he came back to the here and now; his thoughts returning to the present as he recalled the reason for this blond vixen being in his lap.

"I...adore you." He choked out the last part with a squelching sound, changing it at the last instant. She peered upwards at him, and he was struck speechless. They'd stripped themselves of their gigai prior to this bout of frenzied lovemaking, and as such, there was no mistaking the deadly gleam in her eyes. He tried to force the dreaded "L" word from his lips, but it simply refused to come, even as another gout of cold air assaulted the cabin in which they would be spending the last day on sunnier shores.

Needless to say, Halibel was not pleased.

"That's not the word I wanted to hear."

Her hands had had made their way around his cheeks and clamped down.

"You're daydreaming." She snapped tersely."Again. About the past."

"Perhaps." His gaze cut across at her, just for an instant. "But I can't just say that out of the blue." He protested weakly. "Girls always run whenever you use the "L" word, or do you not remember Hal-

His words were cut mercilessly short as a sandal collided with his face.

"Ow!" He whined, his gaze slipping to the perpetrator. "What the hell-

"!"

"What the fucking hell is going on?" Loly demanded suddenly, her black pigtails jerking back and forth; a puppet severed from its strings as her head peeped through the door that had been shut nearly an instant before. Pushing past her, of course, were the rest of Halibel's fraccion, as well as his own. For a moment, there was silence, sadly, it took littlr more than that moment for the temperature to drop noticeably.

"Since when the hell did you two get to be on such friendly terms?" Came the unanimous question, once everyone noticed who was laying who's lap.

Ichigo sweatdropped.

"Ah, shit...

Flashbacks and fluff next chappy! Reviews make me happy, reviews keep me alive and writing; so won't you please give me them? Next chapter will be much, much, MUCH longer, I promise!

~Nz