Disclaimer - I do not own Bleach

A/N- this fic is Hitsu/Ruki although I maintain that Ichigo and Rukia should end up together. A friend asked me to write this and it seemed like a challenge so I agreed. Not sure how often it will get updated but I swear at some point it will have an ending.

Chapter One - War Ends, Sorrow Begins

"Ichigo, NO!" Rukia screamed out as though her heart were breaking as she watched the orange haired Substitute Shinigami fall to the ground, the Hollow mask that was obscuring his face disintegrating as he fell in slow motion. Aizen had fallen mere seconds before and it didn't appear as though he were going to rise to his feet once more however Rukia found that she didn't care about that anymore. The war and defeating Aizen seemed worlds away to her at this point. She ran over to the spot where Ichigo was lying face down on the ground and dropped to her knees beside his still form.

"Ichigo," Rukia said in a voice that threatened to break with every syllable that she uttered as she gently rolled Ichigo over onto his back and gazed down into his pale face. "Please open your eyes. . . Ichigo. . . please. . ."

Rukia couldn't stop the flow of tears as she begged for something that she knew wasn't going to happen. Ichigo was dead, a casualty of the war against Aizen and the Espada, and there wasn't anything that was going to bring him back. The raven haired Shinigami girl pulled Ichigo's upper body into her lap and cradled his head in her arms, allowing the tears that were falling from her violet eyes to fall onto pale face.

"Momo," a weak voice called out from a few yards away on the battlefield causing Rukia's gaze to instinctively shift toward the sound. As her tear filled eyes focused on the blurry forms a few yards away she saw that Captain Hitsugaya was kneeling on the ground, covered in blood and holding a limp and lifeless Hinamori in his arms.

The young captain looked as though he'd just lost his best friend, which of course he had. Hinamori had been yet another casualty of Aizen, ruthlessly killed mere seconds before the arrival of Ichigo. Rukia could tell by the expression on the young prodigy's face that this loss was tearing at his soul in much the same way that the loss of Ichigo was eating at hers.

"Rukia!" a new voice called out from some distance away. To Rukia it sounded as though the voice was coming through a long tunnel and she found that she could easily ignore it. The only thing in the world that mattered to her right now was the man that she held in her arms. Her heart continued to break as she gently rocked back and forth, Ichigo still cradled in her arms. This was all her fault; if she hadn't forced this life upon Ichigo then he would have been able to live a normal life, the life that he should have had.

Rukia felt gentle hands on her shoulders and, unable to ignore it any longer, she gazed up into the kind face of the Squad Four vice-captain, Isane Kotetsu. Tears were falling unchecked down her face and, knowing what Isane intended she tightened the grip that she had on Ichigo. She didn't want to let him go since that would be an admission that he was gone and yet she was desperate for some kind of comfort and a way to escape the pain that she now found herself trapped in. The weight in her chest was threatening to suffocate her and Rukia just wanted it to go away.

"Isane," she sobbed as the Squad Four vice-captain gently pulled her to her feet, forcing her to relinquish her hold on Ichigo. Rukia didn't want to let him go just yet however she was weak from battle, as well as the emotions that were assaulting her, and she found that she didn't have the strength to fight.

"No," a weak voice could be heard in the distance. Wiping away at her tears Rukia once more glanced over to the spot where Captain Hitsugaya was kneeling with Hinamori and she found that Captain Unohana was attempting to pry the lifeless girl's body from the young captain's grasp. Hitsugaya was in even worse shape than was Rukia herself, owing to the fact that he'd actually fought against Aizen, and he too was unable to fight the arms that were pulling him up and away from the one that he had lost.

"Come," Isane said in a gentle voice, pulling Rukia's attention away from the pitiful scene. Isane helped the young woman to walk and gently led her away from the bloodstained battleground.

With one last, forlorn look at Ichigo Rukia allowed herself to be led away from this scene of immense tragedy. She wasn't sure that her life would ever be the same from this point on and to some extent she wasn't sure that she even wanted to continue living.

"Ichigo," she choked out, fresh tears forming in her violet eyes and falling down her face.

With firm hands on her shoulders Isane ushered Rukia back through the Rukongai to the medical tents that had been positioned in District One. This was close to the location where the battles with the Espada had been fought and thus had been the best place to set up the relief station. Only Aizen had appeared farther out into the Rukongai and only two of the four who had faced him would be in need of medical treatment.

"Isane!" a voice called out as the two women approached the Squad Four tent.

Rukia vaguely registered the familiar voice and she gazed up and saw that her childhood friend, Renji Abarai, was walking toward them. She was glad that he had escaped the war with his life however it was hard to feel anything but sorrow after the tremendous loss that she had suffered and she found that she didn't want to talk to anyone, not even her best friend.

"We'll talk later," Isane mouthed as she ushered Rukia past the red haired Shinigami and into the medical tent. She knew that it would further traumatize the young woman if she informed Renji of what had happened in front of her and she wanted to avoid that at all costs. After all the young woman had just lost someone that she cared for dearly and didn't need to suffer through anything else today. The Squad Four vice-captain led Rukia over to a cot that was positioned near one of the walls and motioned for her to lay down.

Rukia complied without protest, wanting the crushing pain in her chest to simply go away.

All things considered Rukia's injuries were minor and Isane knew that what she really needed was sleep so after she cleaned and bandaged the girl's wounds she used a sleeping kidou and watched as Rukia's tear filled violet eyes closed and she drifted off into what Isane hoped would be a dreamless sleep.

Isane sighed deeply and turned to leave the tent. Renji would want answers, of that she was certain, and her captain had yet to return from the battlefield with the young captain of Squad Ten. Hitsugaya's wounds had appeared serious, from what she could see from the spot where she was standing with Rukia, and Captain Unohana had most likely decided to treat him in the field before bringing him back here to the medical tent.

"I should probably go and see if she needs my assistance," Isane thought to herself as she exited the tent.

"Isane," Renji said, ambushing the Squad Four vice-captain as soon as she exited the medical tent. "Is Rukia okay?"

"She will be," Isane said quietly, a sad and knowing expression in her eyes. "In time. I've treated her injuries and what she needs the most right now is rest so please don't disturb her."

Looking offended at the fact that Isane would even suggest that he would disturb the injured a scowl appeared on Renji's face as he said, "Hadn't planned on it." Then he changed the subject and his expression grew serious. "So where are Kurosaki, Momo and Captain Hitsugaya? Were their injuries severe enough to cause Captain Unohana to have to treat them in the field?"

Isane opened her mouth to deliver the bad news to Renji however before the words could escape her lips Renji seemed to process the questions that he had asked. "But wait a minute, she's great and all but she couldn't possibly treat three seriously injured patients. Isane, shouldn't you be there helping her?"

Isane sighed once again and shook her head. "No Abarai-kun, there is only one seriously injured patient. Captain Unohana is currently treating Captain Hitsugaya of Squad Ten."

"But. . ." Renji stammered, not fully understanding the meaning of what she had just told him. "But what about Ichigo and Momo? If they aren't seriously injured then why aren't they here? Or at the very least why isn't Ichigo here? I can understand if Momo wanted to stay behind with Captain Hitsugaya since he's her best friend but since it's probably Ichigo's fault that Rukia was injured in the first place he should be here with her."

"Abarai-kun," Isane said in a gentle voice. She didn't want to be the one to give him this news however she knew that he needed to know. "The Substitute Shinigami Ichigo Kurosaki and the Vice-captain of Squad Five, Momo Hinamori, were both casualties of the battle with Aizen. They didn't make it, I'm sorry."

Now the reason for the dead look in Rukia's violet eyes became painfully clear to Renji. Ichigo was dead, killed by Aizen. Renji shook his head, still finding that news hard to believe. He had believed that Ichigo was undefeatable, having won so many battles against opponents that he never should have stood a chance against. How was it possible that the Substitute Shinigami was dead?

"I can't. . ." Renji stammered, at a loss for words.

"I'm sorry," Isane said in an understanding voice, placing a gentle hand on Renji's shoulder. "but I have to go and see if Captain Unohana requires my assistance."

Renji nodded in understanding and Isane made a move to return to the spot out in the Rukongai where she had left her Captain treating Captain Hitsugaya however before she had a chance to use her flash-step she saw a figure approaching in the distance. As the figure drew closer she saw that it was Captain Unohana and that she held a bloody and unconscious Hitsugaya cradled in her arms.

Isane ran over to join her captain.

"Isane," Captain Unohana said in her quiet voice. "You should gather up some of the squad members to retrieve the bodies of Ichigo and Momo. I couldn't bring them back however their bodies should not be left there. They do not deserve it."

Isane nodded and left to carry out the orders of her captain.

Once her subordinate had disappeared Captain Unohana carried the young prodigy that she held in her arms into the medical tent and placed him in one of the vacant beds, a bed that just happened to be next to the one in which Rukia dozed fitfully. She had managed to stabilize Hitsugaya's condition and felt that it would be safe for her to leave him for the time being. There were others who were injured and required her aid however as she left she told one of her subordinates to keep an eye on the young captain.

"Yes ma'am," the Squad Four member said, nodding his head.

As Captain Hitsugaya slowly came back to consciousness he became aware of an immense pain throughout his entire body. Attempting to block out the physical pain the young captain forced his eyes to open and as he did so he saw a small, black haired woman lying in the bed beside him. For one brief moment he thought it was Hinamori however the rational part of his brain soon took over and he forced himself to remember that Hinamori was dead. He had held her lifeless body in his arms and there was no doubt that she was gone. In this moment the physical pain was completely overpowered by the ache in his heart and the young captain panted as he struggled to breath through the tightness in his chest. Hinamori, his best friend since his childhood days in the Rukongai, was gone.

Now that his vision had cleared somewhat Captain Hitsugaya realized that the woman who was lying so still in the next bed was Rukia Kuchiki from Squad Thirteen. He'd had very little interaction with Rukia however he knew that she would be suffering horribly, having lost the Substitute Shinigami Ichigo Kurosaki. Hitsugaya knew that the two of them were extremely close and as he stared over at Rukia's pale features he noticed for the first time that there was a trail down her face where her tears had fallen.

"So much sorrow," the young captain whispered as he felt the darkness approaching and threatening to envelope him once more. Hitsugaya fought the darkness for as long as he could and then, with a sigh, he allowed his body to go limp.

A/N - And this is the end of chapter one of my first ever attempt at Hitsu/Ruki. I'm writing this fic for my friend Lyssa because she really wanted me to (begged even) but I swear one day I'm going to get even with her. Poor Ichigo, I didn't want to kill him but since I maintain that he and Rukia should end up together the only way I could justify writing this fic was to kill him. Moment of silence. I'm not sure about how I feel about this fic but feel free to review and let me know what you thought. Til next time this is Hitsu-taichou signing out.