Author's notes: I apologize for the late update, but the holiday's got in the way. However, here it is! This is officially the last chapter of For Blood! Thank you all for taking the time to read my story. The fact that so many of you loved it so much to review and add it to your favorites list makes me so happy! I'm glad that I could give you all something to read that you truly enjoyed.

For those of you who want this story to continue, see a more final beat down of Aizen, and further develop the relationship between Rukia and Ichigo: have no fear! The sequel promises to have more action, more fun, and definitely more romance! If you enjoyed For Blood be sure to keep an eye out for For Love!

Think I've pushed the sequel enough?

P.S. I know I promised a playlist for the chapters for this chapter, but organizing a soundtrack for reading is taking a lot longer than I thought it would. So the playlist will be added eventually (I may even include it in one of the chapter of For Love). For now you'll just have to live with theme song for this particular chapter: Destiny (piano version) by Naoki Sato from the anime X OST. So if you play it while you're reading set it on repeat I think it will really set the mood :).

Anyway, thank you to all my dedicated readers and reviewers!

Chapter Fourteen


Winter had settled over Japan. The South was experiencing a light winter where the snowflakes barely lasted an hour, while the North had nearly two feet fall in one night and promised to stick around for several weeks. Central Japan, which often fell pray to dry winters, was having a rare snow fall, covering the streets and tree tops with several inches. Children, dressed from head to toe in warm winter coats and gloves, laughed as they played in the snow. They built snow forts and stockpiled mountains of snow ammunition before starting an all out war against one another.

Ichigo sat in the back of a sleek black sedan, which he assumed was standard for the Japanese Council, staring out the window and watching the children play. The events of the past couple of days, and the final words of the old man Yamamoto still playing over and over in his mind.

The day following Aizen's attack on the British Council headquarters two members of the Japanese Council and a small security squad arrived, prepared for a small war. The war they had come to fight, however, had already ended and the soldiers became witnesses to Aizen's devastation as well as a cleaning and medical crew. Lady Unohana of the Fourth House apologized on behalf of the Japanese Council for their having failed to notice what Aizen was up to, and their late arrival.

All grievances between the British and Japanese Councils' were to be set aside as reconstruction began, except for two. Rukia was to face the Council to answer for changing Ichigo into a vampire, and he was to pay for continuing to interfere when he had already received a warning, and for being changed. Shinji and a few of the remaining British Council members argued that both Rukia and Ichigo were under their protection, but with their numbers greatly decreased they could do little to stop Lady Unohana from taking the two of them. Rukia, who was ready to take responsibility for her actions, went willingly, and Ichigo was too tired to care.

They had arrived in Tokyo and were immediately separated. Rukia was to remain under house arrest where her brother could keep a watchful eye on her, while Ichigo was to be taken to the Japanese Council Manor. They were permitted two days grace period to completely recover, but they were not allowed to see one another. Why? Ichigo still had no clue. After the two days Ichigo was questioned by Kenpachi Zaraki. He provided them with all answers to all their questions except for what happened when Rukia killed the man called Kaname, mostly because he didn't really understand himself.

His trial, which was originally supposed to take place after Rukia's, had been rescheduled for reasons they deemed him unnecessary to know about.

Ichigo sighed and rubbed his tired eyes.

Old man Yamamoto spoke of his frustration with Ichigo's carelessness, and inability to follow orders despite the danger his life was in. He was lucky, Yamamoto had told him, that he had lived for as long as he had. This would not be his salvation. He had been warned, and he had failed to listen.

"However," Yamamoto had continued, "You willingly risked your life to save a member of this Council, and were a part of the force that pushed Aizen back. For this all crimes will be forgiven."

Ichigo literally felt his heart drop. He had not been expecting the hard hearted Yamamoto to let a Newborn go free, but the soft smiles on the majority of the Council members convinced him Yamamoto had been out-voted on the matter.

"Do not get excited," Yamamoto had scolded him, "I'm not finished. We have chosen to allow you to live, but we ask that you leave the country and not return for one hundred years. Trouble seems to follow you, and we would prefer to return to the peaceful life we had before your arrival."

Ichigo was sure that Old man Yamamoto's version of "asking" was really a command. They were forcing him to leave Japan, despite the fact that their trouble began when Aizen first arrived in Japan, and not Ichigo's bad luck. However, he was willing to leave the country peacefully under one condition.

The black sedan pulled off the smooth road and onto the rocky dirt one leading to Kisuke Urahara's. It seemed like years since he had last been to Kisuke's when in reality it had barely been a week. Ichigo had left his humanity and his old life behind, and swore his life to revenge. But it was there that his last remaining ties with Japan slept.

The car came to a stop. The driver climbed out of the car and opened Ichigo's door. With a sigh he stepped out of the car and on to the dirt path that made up Kisuke's driveway. He shoved his hands in his pockets and stared at the small house in front of him. The trees surrounding the house had lost all of their leaves, and small sickles of ice hung from the bare branches. What once looked like a beautiful fall scene from a movie now looked like a baron winter land. The snow seeped through the seams of his shoes and into his socks, but he paid no mind. His concentration was focused on the sounds of childish laughter coming from around the back of the house. The sound brought a frightening chill to his heart that the winter weather could not.

The driver told him to take his time, but he ignored him and started walking around the house. The voices grew louder, and now the sounds of snow crashing against bark could be heard. As he rounded the corner he set eyes on Karin and Yuzu, dressed only in long sleeve shirts and jeans, running around the woods launching firm snowballs at one another. Their dark eyes glistened with joy as they chased each other around, ducking behind trees and using their trunks for a shield.

"I see they let you live."

Ichigo blinked and stared at Kisuke who was standing on the back deck with his back against the house. He smiled and motioned for Ichigo to go meet with the girls who had yet to notice their brother's arrival. Ichigo was hesitant. Fear and anger wrapped around his heart, preventing the warmth of the scene from getting to it. He had failed them as their older brother. He was supposed to protect them, die for them, and always be there for them. How could he return and act as though everything was going to be all right when it wasn't?

Kisuke quickly grew impatient and waved to his wife. Yoruichi smiled and stood. She sauntered over to Ichigo and hooked her arm around his, dragging him over to the playing children.

"Yoruichi!" he protested, planting his feet in an attempt to halt their advanced. She easily pulled him along and called out to his sisters.

Yuzu and Karin stopped playing and stared at their older brother. An eerie silence filled the woods as the siblings stared at one another. Ichigo scratched the back of his head and tried to think of something, anything, to say to them. Should he start with an apology? Would an apology be enough? Should he even be asking them for forgiveness?

While he contemplated the best way to approach them, the girls made their own decisions. Yuzu was the first to move. Compared to Karin, Yuzu had always seemed like the slower child, but with her new vampire powers she was lightening fast, appearing in front of Ichigo before he even realized she had moved. She threw herself at him, and wrapped her arms around his waist.

"Y-Yuzu..." he said, his voice coming out in a hoarse whisper.

She buried her face in his shirt and sobbed. He had always been unsure of what to do when she cried, so he always did what he thought best: he gently embraced her.

"I was wondering when you'd stop by," Karin said, her dark brows furrowed into a scowl similar to his own. She had her arms crossed in front of her chest and she kicked the snow as she walked towards him. "That Kisuke guy said there was a good chance you'd chicken out."

"Now, now, I said no such thing," Kisuke argued from his place on the deck. Karin raised an eyebrow and he chuckled nervously.

"I'm sorry, Karin...Yuzu," Ichigo said sadly, his eyes falling on Yuzu's soft blonde hair. "I would have come sooner, but ... I wanted to be able to tell you I got our father's killer..."

Karin scoffed. "Like that matter's."

Yuzu mumbled something into his shirt and Karin yelled at her. "We can't hear you when you're sobbing into his clothes like that, Yuzu."

Yuzu sniffled and pulled away from Ichigo, her hands still clutching his shirt. She looked up at him and tried to smile. "We're just happy to see you, brother. It doesn't matter if you're empty handed or not. You're the most important thing to us."

Ichigo looked between the two of them, shocked by their understanding of the situation and their lack of rage when it came to what had happened to them. How could they remain so calm when he had felt the world burn around him? How could they be so forgiving when he'd failed them? How?

"Kisuke told us that if you did come to visit you wouldn't be able to stay long," Karin said, the sadness in her voice pulling him away from his own thoughts. He tried to smile, but found that the weight of his heart kept the corners of his lips from rising.

"Instead of sentencing me to death they're sending me away. Apparently I'm too much trouble," he tried to joke.

Yuzu chocked on another sob and Karin rolled her eyes.

"You would piss of an underground coven of vampires."

"W-why can't we c-come with y-you?" Yuzu asked through the sobs, which she tried to hold back by biting her lower lip. Ichigo smiled softly and rested his hand on her head.

"You're safer here with Kisuke. He can watch after you, and keep you safe should anything go wrong." Ichigo looked up at Kisuke who was now standing just a few feet away with Yoruichi. "Right?"

"Of course," he said sincerely. Yoruichi nodded in agreement.

"Why are we safe with him?" Yuzu asked. Kisuke sighed, feeling slightly offended.

"Because Ichigo's going after Dad's killer," Karin answered for her. Yuzu nodded in understanding, but that didn't stop the fresh tears from falling.

Karin and Ichigo looked at one another as Yuzu began to cry again. The two of them had always been very similar. After the death of their mother Yuzu and their father had wept and relied on family ties to keep their spirits up. Karin, and Ichigo, on the other hand, had hardened both externally and internally. They hated showing their grief, and hated feeling it even more. Even after all they had been through, they still thought the same.

"We will be together" was the promise of the look they shared. Their family had been ripped to shreds by a man devoid of human feeling, and was continuing to be pulled apart by others who depended upon their laws to keep any sense of order. Despite all this, they would be a family again.

"I hate to ruin things," Yoruichi cut in as gently as she could, "but there are still a couple of things that need to be addressed before you're to leave."

Ichigo nodded and gently unwrapped Yuzu's arms. The three of them shared one last familial moment together before Yoruichi led him back to the black sedan. He glanced back at his sisters one last time before he climbed into the back of the car. Ichigo stared out of the rear window until the house was out of sight, a heavy weight falling onto his slowly beating heart.

"Why so glum?"

Ichigo spun around and stared, wide-eyed, at a grinning Shinji and an angry Hiyori. Ichigo looked between the two of them before looking at Yoruichi. She grinned.

"Nice surprise huh?"

"What the hell?" Ichigo asked, thoroughly confused, but grateful for a distraction from the grief that had been taking over his heart. "How...when did you guys get here?"

"Magic," Shinji said with a mystical wave of his hand.

"We were waiting at Kisuke's. When you went to talk to your sisters we hoped in here," Hiyori told him in a bored tone.

"Hiyori!" Shinji whined. "You ruined the mystery!"

"Shut up and get on with it," the small blonde snapped. Shinji sighed and looked at Ichigo.

"We have a proposition for you, Ichigo Kurosaki," Shinji said, his grin widening.

Since her return to Japan and her brother's home Rukia had practically locked herself in her room. Several of the servants thought it was her own way of punishing herself for angering the Council, but Byakuya knew otherwise. The blood had been cleaned from the floors, and the damaged walls replaced, but no amount of repair could erase the memories of what had happened the night Aizen had first attacked, Momo had shown herself for the traitor she was, and Giles' death. The only sanctuary she had was in her room.

Which is why Byakuya waited until the very last moment to intrude upon her.

His gentle knock on the door drew Rukia's attention away from the small book of poetry she was reading. She set the book aside, its old and tattered pages falling open to where the binding had been creased from decades of reading, and stood. She cracked open the door and looked up at her brother with dark violet eyes.

"Is it time?" she asked.

Byakuya nodded. She smiled sadly and opened the door further. She was dressed in a solemn black dress and heels befitting of her mood and her expectations of the outcome of her trial. A sober smile was on her lips as she followed her brother down the stairs and out the front door to a black sedan. Pain washed over her heart as she passed the spot where Giles had died. The blood from his head wound had been cleaned away, but she could still remember where his body had lain. With a deep breath she set her shoulders and focused on Byakuya's back.

They slid in the back seat of the car and said nothing as they were driven to the Council Manor house. Rukia rested her head against the cold glass of the window, her eyes focusing on the blurring brown and white of the trees and snow. She left her mind blank, afraid that if she tried to think of anything or anyone she would begin to feel the fear of death.

Death is what she knew awaited her. The Council was strict, and they rarely took pity on any case that reached their hands. The law was to be obeyed. She would be no exception.

But a nagging feeling, in the center of her chest, questioned if she could die at all. Aizen had plunged his hand into her chest and crushed her heart between his fingers. It was a blow that no vampire could survive. Yet here she sat, living and breathing as though it had never happened. Aizen was convinced that some of the First's blood had spilled from the crack in the vial and entered her blood stream, reviving her, but could that be true? Could just one vampire's blood be capable of making such a miraculous recovery? And if so would it continue to work? Would the Council be capable of killing her?

No. She would not give herself false hope. She would only do more damage to herself if she allowed herself to believe that there was a chance of survival.

The car pulled up to the large manor and Rukia and Byakuya stepped out of the car. They were escorted through the front doors and to the elevator where they were then left to themselves.

"Rukia," Byakuya said as the elevator began its descent.

"Yes?" she asked, keeping her eyes on the floor like an embarrassed child who had disappointed her parents. She couldn't imagine looking him in the eye now, not when they were so close to the Council and their decision.

"I am very proud of you."

Rukia felt her heart stop. She was sure she hadn't heard right. She looked up from the floor and noticed the subtle curvature on his lips. He was smiling, and had expressed pride in her, two things he did not do. To her great frustration the elevator doors slid open and the private moment between brother and sister was gone. His smile faded and he returned to the law-abiding Council member leading a criminal to her trial.

But fear and uncertainly didn't creep back into her heart as they began their long walk down the hall. Passing the portraits of past and current Council members was not as painful as she might have thought, and she was able to continue with her head held high. Her eyes even fell onto her family portrait without pain. She was sure Hisana's beautiful smile was meant for her at this very moment.

Two guards standing before the large doors bowed quickly before pulling them open.

It had been several months since she'd last stepped through those doors, her role completely different then it was now. The room was still cavernous, still dark, still containing a long, u-shaped table. The only differences were the empty chairs, two abandoned by those searching for power, and one who sought truth.

Byakuya escorted her to the center of the room where a brilliant beam of light shown, making her visible to those seated at the table. Byakuya returned to his seat and clasped his hands together, waiting for the trial to begin.

"Rukia Fumiko Kuchiki," boomed Yamamoto's deep voice as the doors closed, "Last remaining member of the Fumiko clan, adopted sister of Byakuya Kuchiki, and formally Second Seat of the Second House of Japanese Council - you have been charged by this Council with the high crime of transforming a human into a vampire. How do you plead?"

"Guilty," she replied without hesitation, her voice strong and steady.

"Very well. Do you have any last words before you punishment is determined?" Yamamoto asked, neither surprised by her answer, nor moved.

"I do," she replied.

"Speak then."

"I know that I have no right to ask it, but I plead with the Council to forgo its charges against Ichigo Kurosaki." Her words brought many eyes which had been cast down, to look at her. "He was a willing participant of the transformation only because he sought to protect his friends and his family. He would have obeyed the Council's orders to leave and never think on us again had it not been for Sousuke Aizen's attack on the Kuchiki Manor and his own family. His actions are justifiable and should not be punished. Please, find it in your hearts to forgive him and let him live out his new life in peace."

Silence filled the room, and Rukia felt fear grip her heart for the first time since her brother's words.

"The punishment for the crime you have committed...," Yamamoto continued without addressing her last request. Her heart fell and she despaired. His silence meant Ichigo's trial would continue, and there was nothing more she could do for him. " death."

Rukia took a steady breath. She was well prepared for the sentence Yamamoto had declared, but she continued to feel sorrow for what was to come when Ichigo's trial ended. His involvement in everything that had happened was entirely her fault. She didn't separate herself from him soon enough. There were so many things she could have done differently to keep him out of danger. Why, she asked herself, why had she not done more to protect him?

"However," Yamamoto continued, "taking into consideration that you acted only to help the Council fight against the traitor, Sousuke Aizen, as well as defended the entirety of the British Council, and successfully killed one of the traitors, Kaname Tousen, previously of the British Council, the death penalty will not be applied." Rukia stared up at Yamamoto with wide eyes, her heart stopping for several slow beats. "Instead you will be exiled for a total of one hundred years."


Exile. She had spent the last two days preparing her heart for the dismay it would feel when she was sentenced to death. She had gone through waves of emotions, and had painstakingly reached a type of acceptance. Now, after everything they were going to exile her?

A new type of pain enveloped her. She was being forced to leave her country, home, friends, and family. She would no longer be able to drive through the tall mountains, or run with the team of Hunters. If only she have considered this as an option, then she could have prepared herself for this new feeling of loss.

And worse yet, she had still failed to stay Ichigo's trial. Could she continue to live knowing he had most likely died?

"You are to leave immediately," Yamamoto's voice cut in, "You're assets have been froze. The only assistance we will give you is to provide you with a car and a jet to remove you from the country, and take you anywhere you desire."

Rukia nodded dumbly. Two guards appeared beside her, and escorted her out of the chamber. As the doors began to close Rukia peeked over her shoulder for one last glance at her brother, but their eyes never met as the doors began to close, and the Council prepared for the next trial.

The returning journey to the elevator was not how she had seen it. It was supposed to lead her to her ultimate death, reunite her with her dead husband, and free her soul from the turmoil of this world and Sousuke Aizen. Now it only served to torture her. There would be no freedom, no relief, she would feel only sorry and continue to be haunted by the man who had destroyed everything she loved.

But as she passed the portrait of her family, and gazed up into her sister's eyes Rukia felt a new feeling, something she hadn't permitted herself to to indulge it. Hope. If she lived there was still hope that she could find Aizen and rid the world of his existence. She could seek retribution and revenge for those who could not. She would finish what she had started, and bring peace of mind to herself, many others, and to two young girls who had lost just as much as her.

Determined to make something of her new life Rukia walked proudly to the elevator, but that determination began to waver as the elevator ascended to the main floor. Daylight mocked her as they as the doors opened. The last of her strength disappeared as she wondered what kind of world allowed someone who had lived one hundred and fifty years to live, but ended the life of a boy who was only eighteen? How was that fair?

The double doors were opened for her and black car sat in the driveway. Standing at the top of the stairs was Renji. He was dressed in the black suit and tie of the security squad, but his obscene red hair was still spiked in a ponytail. His arms were crossed in front of his chest, and his eyes were cast down.

Rukia stopped and smiled up at him softly.

"Why the long face, Renji?" Rukia asked. He glanced at her, but could do nothing but sigh. "Don't worry, I'll only be gone for a century, and it's not like you can't visit wherever I decide to settle."

Renji tried to smile, but found it difficult to find any sort of joy out of the situation.

The driver hoped out of the car and held the door open for her. She glanced at him, but didn't move from her spot. She glanced back up at Renji and tried to think of something to say to him to bring his mood up, but she couldn't find the words.

"I'll see you around, Renji," she managed to say before climbing down the stairs and into the car. The door closed, and she sighed. She rested her head against the window.

She had hoped to see Ichigo one last time, but it appeared they were keeping him in his room until the Council was ready for him. Perhaps, she thought to herself, as she heard the car engine start, it was for the best. She couldn't stand to see him knowing that he would most likely die. But, questioned a nagging corner of her heart, was there a chance they be as kind to him as they were to her?

"Aw, that was such a sad goodbye."

Rukia snapped her head around and stared at Yoruichi who was reclining in the seat across from her own.

"What are you doing here?" Rukia asked, forcing her thoughts as far to the back of her mind as possible.

"Is that anyway to greet a friend, Princess?" Yoruichi asked playfully.

"Yes," Rukia replied in her usual, displeased tone, her eye twitching once. "Now answer the question."

"Oh I'm having my usual bit of fun," she said jokingly.

Rukia stared at her, her brows furrowing as Yoruichi avoided giving detailed answers. "Anything specific?"

"Well...I was kind enough to find you a place to live," she finally answered, checking her nails for dirty. "I got you this great flat in London. It's got a wonderful view of the city."

"How thoughtful," Rukia replied in an uninterested tone, not at all surprised that Yoruichi was already aware of results of her trial, "but I was planning on saving what little money I have in my pocket and not waste it on rent."

"Pish Posh," Yoruichi said with a wave of her hand, "you need a place to sleep. Besides, you'll have plenty of money for rent and many other things."

"My assets were frozen," Rukia bluntly informed her.

"Your assets were moved," she said with a grin.

Rukia stared at her. "What are you talking about?"

"A little birdy transferred the majority of your funds into an account established in your original name at the Bank of England before your previous account was frozen." Yoruichi tucked her hands behind her head, a proud grin on her lips. "You're all set for living the English high life."

Rukia continued to stare at her. "But...why?"

"Because your brother loves you," she replied, her smile softening. "Did you honestly think he would just send you off into the world without a bit of help?"

Rukia hadn't really thought about it. Despite his words of pride she was sure he would follow the rules of the Council to the tee. No exceptions.

Yoruichi laughed, "Well despite what you may think of him, Byakuya would give his life for you given the chance. And he was beyond pissed when he couldn't get away from the Council to get to London. He tried to weasel his way into Sousuke's group but Yamamoto wouldn't allow it. Anyway-," the car pulled up to a private runway owned by the Council. A Jet was sitting on the tarmac, and a small group of people waited at the bottom of the narrow stairs leading to the door of the jet.

"Is that...? Why are Shinji and Hiyori here?" Rukia asked, nearly pressing her face to the tinted windows.

The driver pulled open the door and Yoruichi pushed her out of the car. Rukia fell backwards unceremoniously onto the black top. She looked up and glared at the older woman, who simply grinned and pointed behind her. Rukia set her jaw and glanced over her shoulder. All she saw were a pair of jean-clad legs. It took her a moment before she inclined her head and looked up at Ichigo's towering form, his hand extended to help her up. She stared, wide eyed at his hand, then his face. After another moment she took his hand and he lifted her with ease to her feet. She quickly let go and dusted herself off.

"What are you doing here?" She asked, her tone more harsh than she intended it to be. She had, after all, just spent the last few hours fretting about his trial, and his life, and for what? He looked like they had patted him on the back, said "good job" and let him go on his merry way. "You're supposed to be having your trial right now."

"They rescheduled it. Something about 'having more important things to do then worry about a human'," Ichigo said with a shrug.

"And they let you go?" She asked, completely shocked and a little miffed that she had done all that worrying for nothing.

"The old guy said that, even though I didn't listen to them when they told me to get out of dodge, he was glad I stuck around. Something about rescuing some Council Member," Ichigo grinned and rolled his eyes. "So because of that, coupled with my help in England, they said I was free to go, but they want me out of Japan. I think they're getting tired of seeing me."

Rukia couldn't help but stare at him and his goofy grin. How could he act so carefree when he just barely escaped with his life? Her anger, fear, worry, and grief were too much for her to handle anymore, and all merged and settled on one emotion. Frustration. With a huff she punched Ichigho in the arm.

"Ow! What was that for?" he whined clutching his arm.

"You could have told me, and then I could have saved my breath trying to have the Council overlook your crimes," she grumbled, crossing her arms. Ichigo's smile softened and his eyes grew more sincere.

"I'm sorry, but after their ruling I had some place to be." Rukia glanced up at him. His eyes glistened with unshed tears of sadness and she immediately knew where that "somewhere" had been. Her frustration immediately evaporated. "Thanks for sticking your neck out for me."

"Yeah yeah, whatever," she said with a wave of her hand.

"How long is this reunion going to take?" Hiyori demanded from the stairs of the jet. "We have a schedule to keep you know!"

"Why are you two here anyway?" Rukia demanded, ignoring Hiyori's exclamation.

"Well," Shinji said, patting the fuming Hiyori on the head, "we're here to escort our new Council Member home to England."

Rukia raised a curious eyebrow and thought for a moment. She glanced over her shoulder as Yoruichi climbed gracefully out of the car. "You mean Yoruichi?"

The older woman laughed as she stood. "Hardly. I've had enough of the Council politics. Japanese, British, Mexican, the States, they're all the same. No offense Shinji."

Shinji shook his head, "None taken."

"I'm just the escort," she finished with a bemused grin.

"Then...who?" Rukia asked, genuinely confused. Ichigo smiled down at her knowingly, and she could feel her frustration levels rising once more.

"You, Princess," Yoruichi said with a grin.

Rukia said nothing for a moment. "You're kidding right?"

"Nope," Shinji said sincerely, "We've lost three Council members in the fight with Aizen, and have no one to replace them. With your previous experience on the Japanese Council you'd make for a decent start."

"An exile?" Rukia said doubtfully.

Shinji shrugged. "We weren't the ones who exiled you. Hell, if we had had it our way, you and Ichigo here wouldn't have left England to begin with, but that Unohana lady is scary."

"Uh huh. And will I be required to live in the building?" She asked, slowly piecing things together. Shinji nodded. Rukia glanced over at Yoruichi, "So the flat you were talking about was-"

"A Council Suite near the top of the the B.C.'s building," the woman said with a mischievous grin.

Rukia finally looked over at Ichigo. His usually harsh features were soft, his scowl no where in sight, and a small smile was playing on his lips.

"So are you just here to say goodbye, or did he make you the same offer?"

"No and no," he answered. "I'm too young. Apparently eighteen is old enough to kill vampires and save two Council's asses, but not to help make political decisions," he said with a grin. "Course I'd rather stay out of that whole mess."

"And you're not here to say goodbye?" she asked, her frustration levels still growing. When would she get clear and concise answers?

"Nope. I'm going with you, and will be acting as your personal body guard from here on out," he said with a large grin, clearly proud of his position.

"My...what?" Rukia gawked at him.

"Shinji tells me every member of the British Council is assigned one personal bodyguard who goes with them everywhere," Ichigo told her, her disbelief not dissipating, "I figured if you take the job I could be yours. It would give me something to do, and be a nice change in venue."

"Isn't eighteen still a little young to be a personal bodyguard," Rukia argued glancing at Shinji. She looked back at Ichigo. "I mean you lack a great deal of experience. It should be me protecting you not the other way around.

"What can I say," Shinji replied with a shrug, "the kid's got a great resume."

Rukia raised her eyebrow before returning her attention back to Ichigo.

"What about your sisters?" she asked, her voice in a hushed whisper and her tone much softer.

"They're all taken care of," Ichigo replied. His smile faded some but the corner of his lips were still slightly upturned. "Kisuke finally took them off the medication a couple days ago. They're already running around in the snow."

"They aren't coming with us?" She asked, noting the sad glisten in his brown eyes.

"Nah. They need structure, something close to a real home, and I can't give them that right now." Rukia said nothing, but she understood his meaning. He still sought revenge for the death of his father and what happened to his sisters, and he wouldn't rest until Aizen was gone. In that state of mind he would be unable to give the girls the attention they would need. "Kisuke said he and Yoruichi would look after them like they were their own..."


"Don't worry about it," he said with a rejuvenated smile, "When they're ready Kisuke will bring them to England to visit."

Rukia studied him for a moment before nodding. She had no place to tell him what he should or shouldn't do with his family. If she still had familial ties she would keep them as close as possible, but at the same time she could see his logic.

It seemed that while she had been locked away in her room, reading poetry and preparing herself for death, everyone around her had made plans and set things in motion to start a whole new life. Arguing would get her no where, so she would simply have to stop fighting against the current and let just let the river guide her.

This next century was going to be an interesting one.


Next time...

For Love (now being posted)