Rating: T
Warnings: Angst, Character Death, Violence
Pairing: Chad/Ichigo
Summary: Chad had never expected it.

XxXxXxX

Chad had always liked cute things.

Ichigo was no different.

Just like the bird Chad had tried to protect all those years ago, his first insight into the world of Soul Reapers, Ichigo was cute and in need of protection Chad felt he could deliver.

And maybe that had been true, when Ichigo was fifteen, and the only enemies he fought were human teenagers who insulted his hair. Together, he and Chad made an unbeatable team against those vermin.

That was before they came in contact with the spirit world.

Now, Ichigo was powerful. So much more powerful than Chad, and Chad felt like they had grown further and further apart. Chad could no longer even hope to protect him, because Ichigo didn't need it. And against their enemies, Chad couldn't have done much anyway.

Looking at Ichigo as the garganta to Hueco Mundo was opened, Chad's lips quirked into a small smile, unnoticed by anyone. Ichigo was still as cute as the first time Chad had laid eyes on him, beaten, but still fighting, still determined.

That same fire was in his eyes even now, as he gazed at the ominous opening, an army of Shinigami behind them, stirring in anticipation. Ichigo's familiar scowl adorned his face, eyebrow twitched tensely. Both nervous and excited to face their biggest challenge yet. Possibly their biggest challenge ever.

Chad wondered if Ichigo had ever been as attractive as he was at that moment.

And then Ichigo looked over at Chad. And smiled.

Much more than his adorable little frowns, Chad loved Ichigo's rare smiles that blinded the receiver. And Chad loved to be on the end of those smiles, because they made him feel special in a way he'd never felt before. He'd always been 'strange old Saddo', too big to fit in but too quiet to stand out.

But to Ichigo, he'd been different. He'd been 'Chad'.

Chad was suddenly next to Ichigo, as thousands of Soul Reapers swarmed into the garganta and the others being made. He and Ichigo were still as people moved around them.

"Do you still remember that kiss?" Ichigo suddenly asked, voice raspy as if he'd not spoken in days. Chad knew his voice would be equally as hoarse, throat tight with anxiety.

"I can never forget," Chad replied honestly, not looking at Ichigo until Ichigo turned to face him, and tugged him around. Chad found himself staring into Ichigo's honest brown eyes that stared at him so openly, laying bare every last one his feelings.

Love, affection. Fear of losing Chad, losing any of his friends. And a growing need to fight.

And above all that, a raw desperation that was explained as Ichigo grabbed Chad's head and pulled him down for a forceful, passionate kiss that was never meant to be soft or gentle. Just like Ichigo himself.

Chad would have to be gentle for the both of them.

Chad wrapped his arms around Ichigo's waist and brought him closer, tighter, unable to get enough and yet maybe just feeling too much. Hot tears clouded his eyes but he never let them fall because he was so happy.

"Be safe," Ichigo whispered. "Please, please be safe."

"Only... only if you are," Chad replied, equally as quietly, and swallowed harshly.

"Hey, Kurosaki! Get over here!" The atmosphere was broken by the harsh cry from Kenpachi. With one last longing look, Chad and Ichigo separated, hands lingering on each other and unable to tear their eyes away.

Even as Ichigo stepped into the garganta, Chad moments away from following him with Squad 10, their gaze remained on each other. Ichigo gave one last wave.

And as soon as he was gone, Chad was filled with crushing despair.

XxXxXxX

Chad had always known some of their group wouldn't make it.

He'd just always expected himself to be one of the casualties.

He'd certainly never expected Ichigo to be lying on the sands of Heuco Mundo, stained red with battle, surrounded by countless more bodies. Some distance away, Orihime was healing as many as possible. None of them could find Ichigo.

Until Chad had stumbled across him.

Chad felt his breath catch in this throat, and he'd clumsily stepped back, a hand clutching his bloody, torn shirt. For there, lying next to the dead body of Ulquirro Schiffer, was Ichigo. Chest torn open, blood pooled around him, clothing nearly destroyed.

And looking indescribably satisfied.

Chad stared at that goofy smirk for a good few moments. Ichigo's lips were as red as the blood beneath him, and he could see crimson flecks on his chin. Chad still wanted to kiss those lips. But he wanted to kiss them alive.

His knees sank into the sand as he collapsed beside Ichigo and bent over, tears gathering in his eyes before finally escaping to hit Ichigo's cold face. With desperate, choking sobs, he gripped the remains of Ichigo's uniform and dragged the torso up, shaking him.

"Ichigo!" he cried, voice breaking he was sure of it. "Ichigo, answer me!" Lifeless eyes stared at him, and Chad gasped brokenly as he realised that the fire was gone. The determined fire was completely missing.

Where the hell had it gone?

"Ichigo..." Chad mumbled, gently setting the body back onto the ground, previous anger completely shattered as a cold numbness spread through his chest and squeezed his heart. He wished he could reach past his ribcage and rip it out.

Much like Ulquirro had done to Ichigo.

"Chad, move out of the way buddy." Renji grasped Ichigo's body... his corpse... and sat him up as Chad stared, wondering why Renji was daring to put his hands on his Ichigo.

"Chad-kun, calm yourself," a soothing voice whispered in his ear. Urahara was crouched next to him, eyes not as triumphant as they had been during battle when he'd ripped Aizen apart. Now they were fixed on the aftermath of war.

A consequence not one of them had ever expected.

Unohana and Orihime gathered around Ichigo, almost as if they could force him back to life. Maybe... maybe it would have been possible, for Orihime, if she hadn't just sapped her power during battle and extensive healing.

As it was, no matter how hard she tried, or how many tears she shed, his cute Ichigo just wasn't coming back.

Chad stood swiftly. Urahara looked up at him slowly, making no move to stand with him, as if his legs wouldn't support him. Chad wasn't sure how his were even letting him stand.

Chad threw his head back, looked at the fake black sky, and let out a roar so deep and loud he wondered if those back on earth would be able to hear it. Wondered if they'd even know what it meant.

Had anyone else even felt pain so crushing as he did at that moment? He knew the answer was yes, and yet it felt like the pain was so consuming no-one could live through it.

"Please, please be safe."

"Only if you are."

Ichigo was no longer safe.

XxXxXxX

"Kill me," Chad begged weakly as Urahara shuffled into the room, a tray of food in hand.

It had been five days. The pain hadn't lessened. In fact, it had only grown, the hole in his heart so great Chad kept looking down to see if it was visible, to see if he were turning into a hollow. He'd failed to protect Ichigo, maybe he deserved to turn into a disgusting, soulless monster. He felt like one.

"No," Urahara said, just as he'd said every day Chad had asked that. He was currently residing in Urahara's Shouten. Urahara had felt he wasn't safe on his own, and he was right. Chad had made no move to care for himself since he'd been brought back to earth.

Maybe he would die from starvation, or maybe dehydration, if Urahara would stop Tessai from shoving food and drink down his throat.

"Why?" It was the first thing Chad had said, asides from begging to be killed. It gave Urahara pause, and he turned his gaze from setting the tray down on a low table, to Chad's tense face.

"Why what?" he asked carefully. Chad was like a ticking time-bomb. So different to the Chad of before, the calm, gentle Chad, who hadn't even wanted to use his strength to fight. Ichigo's death had destroyed him.

"... Why him? Why Ichigo? What did he ever do wrong? And why won't you kill me!" Chad roared, suddenly punching the table, fist driving straight through it. Chad couldn't feel a thing.

"I can't tell you why Ichigo had to be the one to go. He knew the risks he was taking, you all did. And there was always more risk for Ichigo than anyone." Chad didn't reply to Urahara, lest he bite his head off, because what Urahara had said was a load of crap. And Urahara knew it.

"And I won't kill you..." Chad's breath held. Finally, he would know why Urahara refused to end his pain. Would it be some ridiculous reason, like Chad would 'get over it eventually'? "Because Ichigo still lives."

Chad froze. He just couldn't make his body move. Urahara's words had knocked all energy out of him completely. What... what did that mean?

"When a soul dies, they never really die. It just means they go back to the human world, reincarnated, if you will, in another body."

Urahara offered him a bright, true smile, eyes not hid in the shadows of his hat, blazing bright with happiness. It was the first honesty Chad had ever seen from Ichigo's mentor.

"We just have to find him."

For the first time since Ichigo died, Chad felt hope.

XxXxXxX

Aww, see? I'm not completely mean.

This was just a oneshot, however, so whether Chad ever finds Ichigo is up to your imaginations I'm afraid ;)

Did you like it? Think I could improve? Tell me in a review!