Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. If I do, Inoue Orihime would never have existed. just kidding...

Choice

He had never thought he would come to a situation in which he will have to make a choice. Aizen, in his last attempt to have leverage over them, had attacked two of Ichigo's weakness.

He could not remember the time when he had to make such a choice of saving one at the expense of another. But Aizen gave him that dilemma. He could remember the screams, the shout…the horrifying scream…

"Fall back Rukia," he ordered tersely as he held Orihime close to him. The midget looked at him, shocked apparent in her features before understanding dawned on her.

He had never anticipated that to be the wrong move. He remembered the warning from somewhere as he rushed to one. He remembered to hear him for the first time cry out her name. He remembered the fury…

"Kurosaki-kun," the buxom said weakly as he held her close to him, as blood oozed from her.

"Inoue…don't worry…damn it…" he said in panic, his one hand holding her head. He could feel the blood in his hand…could smell the stench of it in his nose…

Everyone was fighting his toughest battle against Aizen, Toussen, Gin and some other Arrancars left even with the Espada defeated already. Not a single Shinigami could afford to be careless at all.

One second of mistake is the death of him or her or of any Shinigami who would as much make a tiny mistake. Byakuya single-handedly faced off against the foxy captain as the rest of the Gotei 13 had their fare share of battle. Komamura faced off against Toussen while the opportunity to fight Aizen was given to Ichigo.

Indeed…everyone was occupied with his own battle that they failed to notice the former captain smiling cunningly as he stared at the ryoka. It was his last attempt to gain advantage over the Shinigami. And he succeeded in breaking Ichigo's defense.

Again, as he stood there, staring blankly at the number of Shinigami doing clean up, he forced himself to remember just what happened a little while ago. The smell…the blood…

"Ah, you seem to like her a lot neh, ryoka," he heard the voice taunt him as he held the buxom close to his chest. His eyes flashed anger as he gently laid her down. A millisecond yet she still got hurt.

"Curse you," he hissed, his voice caught in his throat and in a blink of an eye, he attacked the former captain only to stand in shock when he realized it was his zanpaktou. As fast as realization dawned on him, his eyes flew to one certain Shinigami he had forgotten in a few seconds.

His amber eyes had widened. It could not be happening. This could not be happening. He could not be seeing that dream.

"RUKIA!!!"

He does not know whose voice that was. Was it Byakuya or was it Renji? Only when he was able to come out from the shock did he realize that it was Byakuya who had run to his sister…to save her from a second attack.

Ichigo just stood there…numb…he saw Byakuya lashed out at Aizen who seemed unprepared for a ferocious attack from the most composed captain of Gotei 13.

Ichigo cursed himself for being unable to move. He squinted his eyes, he blinked, he shut his eyes off…he did everything to erase the picture that stood a few meters from him. But no matter what, the picture of his confidante, his best friend, his partner had been stuck to his memory already.

"NO!!!"

The second shout snapped him off his trance and saw Renji cradling the pale body of Rukia, rocking it as if she was a baby. Slowly, Ichigo willed himself to move, he had forgotten about a certain buxom watching with pain and hurt.

"Unohana-taichou!" it was Byakuya who called for the 4th division captain as the last of Aizen vaporized into thin air. Ichigo would learn later that it was Byakuya who killed him with no mercy in his eyes…his every blade cut off through all the hypnosis…

Then he found himself standing there…his eyes misty…he blinked back the welling tears as he fell on his knees…as he stared at her broken form…a sword still pierced in her heart…life from her amber eyes slowly drained out.

"Rukia…"

There was no recognition in her eyes or perhaps she had gone blind. But he knew from the way she tried to move that she heard him…as she raised her left hand to reach him….

The world suddenly composed of only him and her…later, he would learn that Unohana was just as badly injured as the rest of the captains and was still being treated by her vice-captain…Inoue had her powers broken, Hanatarou was so far away from them that he was unable to reach in time…

Later he would learn that he made the wrong choice…that Aizen had precisely took the very important woman in his life next to his sisters….

He reached her left hand and enclosed it with his. She looked as pale as an Espada now and just as cold. He felt Byakuya's presence beside him, he could see Renji's gaze on him and he cursed himself again.

"I---chi—go," she mumbled so softly that he had to move closer to her to hear her talk.

"Hush….you're going to be alright," he said, his voice regained its calmness yet despite that, he still felt something twinge inside him.

He saw a flicker of a smile on her face as she blinked so slowly that Ichigo feared the moment her eyelids meet, it won't open again…ever…

"Oi, Rukia, you better hang on," he heard Renji said as he still held her close to him…just like the way he held Orihime close to him a while ago, to shield her from what he now learned as Aizen's hyonosis.

What a fool he was…he should have seen through his plan…

Yet he believed Rukia would be safer as Aizen could not gain anything from her anymore.

"R—en---ji…y-y-you – "

"Don't force yourself to talk anymore Rukia," Byakuya cut her off before she could continue talking. "You're just going to shorten your life span by continuously talking."

Shingami had started thronging over them as Isane had finally joined in. no words were needed as she performed some kidou to heal the midget.

He saw Rukia raised her other arm, her eyes were just fixed ahead as if she could see something there…and Ichigo feared that…she was obviously trying to reach her brother's arm too.

She smiled now while at the same time flinching…it was as if that effort alone took much of her remaining strength.

"Nii---sa---ma…" she said and choked as blood spluttered from her lips. "A—Ari-ga—to."

"Rukia!" he said and held her left hand tightly to his. "You're going to be alright."

"Sa—yo---"

The smile did not leave her face despite the choke…then slowly…so very slowly as he and Byakuya felt her hold loosen…her eyelids started to close…her amethyst orbs….were now devoid of life…she did not get to finish her goodbye.

Isane looked shocked that she was unable to save her while three men, the three closest person to her…thronged over a lifeless soul…

He could hear the gasps from behind…the unbelieving voices…

"Kuchiki-san."

Both two men still held her hand as she slowly turned into spirit particles. Ichigo shook his head in disbelief. This can't be real. This scene could not be real…this is just a nightmare…

He heard Renji sob…he saw Byakuya with apparent look of defeat in his eyes yet the most dominant feeling you could really read is the pain…grief…sorrow…

The Shinigami around them had watched in silent respect to the Kuchiki heiress as she slowly turned into particles that will soon become part of those that compose the Spirit World. her beautiful zanpaktou started to vaporize as well.

His hand balled into fist at this sight as tears freely flowed down his face. Then with no shame, he howled in front, as if by doing so, the howl will bring her back.

Everyone looked away as they wept and sobbed.

It was just a matter of choice. Aizen made him choose between a human and a soul. In the end, even though Aizen died as well, he still had the last laugh for even though he did not win the war, he won still…by damaging the defenses of three men…Renji, Byakuya and Ichigo.

Ichigo stared at the noble man who seemed to have withdrawn even more. His serious face had turned more serious as he looked up…staring at the last remaining particles dancing in the air…

Ichigo looked up too…

"Baka!!! This is also my fight!" she hissed as she shoved him away with Orihime still beside him, confused at what they were both fighting over.

"This is my fight Rukia…I cannot allow him to get Orihime again," he said seriously, his face asking for understanding.

He remembered that fleeting emotion that crossed her eyes before she looked away and he could swear it was something he does not want to see again…that pain….

"Idiot…he'll just use the two of us. let go of Orihime and let me protect her while you fight him," she said with a sigh.

"Are you crazy? How the hell are you going to protect her from Aizen?" he asked, incredulous.

She sighed again as her face turned serious. "I am not saying against Aizen but as you are now, Ichigo, you cannot hope to win against him while holding her. You can't do two things at the same time."

"Rukia…listen here…just fall back and let me finish this fight…"

She looked at him again with her amethyst orbs filled with an emotion he could not fathom.

Slowly, she retreated. "Ichigo, should you be in a predicament later on, who would you choose?."

With that, she shunpoed and stood far away as she tried to fight off other Arrancars trying to interfere in his fight.

She knew what Aizen would plan next. She felt it that is why she needed to have Orihime with her. To give him the proper time and space to fight against the traitor.

She knew that would happen. She knew. Damn it but why?

Then her words sliced through him like a sharpened blade…it was as if cutting his very soul… "Should you be in a predicament, who would you choose?."

Stupid Kurosaki Ichigo. How many times does it take for him to fail protecting Rukia before he would come to his senses? How many times more does he need before he realized that should he be in a predicament, he would choose her?

How many times more before he would realize that even with that fact, he still chose to protect someone over her?

He is just a dumb idiot.

Aizen knew that between the two women, he would protect Orihime because she was weaker than Rukia but he also knew that between the two women, it was Kuchiki Rukia who had become his world, his strength, his anchor. Of course he knew that by incapacitating her which is very fortunate for him because everyone is fighting his enemy, Kurosaki's world would crumble to dust. Such a tactician…he knew where to strike best…

With a bitter smile, when no one was looking…he looked up again…as his eyes were filled with regret…for not having to choose her…

Everyone was in shock and turned around to see him standing there…looking up…as if he could see her there…Orihime looked away in sorrow…Byakuya looked at him then looked away again while Renji stood there numb.

"Baka!!!" he cursed and rushed to him.

Then, his amber eyes met with Renji's black orbs. "Renji…I made my biggest mistake…a choice I regretted so much."

Renji who is just as close to Ichigo as he is to Rukia could not contain the tears that escaped his eyes, as he felt a lump in his throat…then he pulled Ichigo towards him for a tight hug as his shoulders shook terribly with the emotions he could not control.

"Renji…" Ikakku said in sympathy as he watched his nakama who is giving his parting farewell.

Then, the Gotei 13 sighed in regret and sympathy as the reiatsu faded. It was a terrible loss.

"Say sorry to my dad," Renji heard the last words as Kurosaki Ichigo started to turn into particles as well. "I want to be with her."

"Baka…you…"

"I want to follow her Renji…to make up for it…I caused her great pain a while ago…"

"She will not permit this…she had bade us farewell…"

"She is my world…sorry…tell Byakuya…I'll protect her…if there is still another world waiting for us…tell him this time, I will not fail."

Renji gave Ichigo a hug meant for a friend. "She loves you too much. She wished for you to know that."

Then Renji released his friend as he could no longer hold him…Rukia and Ichigo…

Their love transcended even death…one is willing to follow the other…to wherever world that would be…

It was Ichigo's choice that ended her life…it was the same choice that would end his…one was willing to let go…while one will willingly follow…

Then a year later, a ceremony was held to commemorate the memory of the two who had done so much for Soul Society. As Renji stood in front of the two graves he could not help but glance at his captain.

He knew. Byakuya is also wondering on the same thing. Is there another world waiting for souls who had died already?

"It was a tough choice for him…the weight of his choice is tremendous…I'm pretty sure if there is indeed another world for them, then perhaps, Ichigo would be suffering from ass-kicking."

With that he left his vice-captain who bowed twice before following trail to the noble who had lost the one person he considered his family.

the story is an Ichiruki bordering on tragedy as its main theme. I never liked Orihime. Sorry for her fans but to be blunt…I hate her…she's weak and had no other things in mind except Ichigo and no other words to speak except 'Kurosaki-kun'. She's the typical damsel in distress which I hate from a female character. She has no personality at all…a unique one…so uhm…sorry if I offended some Inoue fans here…

Okay, I am a Kuchiki Rukia fan and I know she should not die but I just wanted to make Kurosaki Ichigo suffer although I like his character as well...sorry for those who loves Rukia,..you have to know I love her too and it was not really easy writing a death fic but I just needed to let out my frustration over the simple fact that Ichigo chose to succumb to Ulquiorra's provocation when he thought Rukia died...