A/N: Thank you Umayar and JadeKurosaki for your reviews last time. This is the last chapter so I extend my thanks to everyone who read, reviewed, and added this or its author to their lists. It's also the last in this little series. I will be finishing the story and series for the other anime/manga I write for and editing all my stories before writing another story for Bleach. I also want to find out what Kubo-san has up his sleeve before making something new. So if you all like what I write for the manga/anime, stay tuned.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Bleach characters, manga, anime, movies, etc. They belong by copyright laws to Tite Kubo et al.
A Little Revenge
...The Winner Is Who?
"You could tell them you know everything," Nanao remarked to Rangiku as they shared a cup of tea after the latest SWA meeting. The two lieutenants watched the faces of Rukia and Momo light up as Toushiro and Ichigo took them to dinner.
"Where would the fun be in that? Momo would just get angry at Toushiro and then my little boy would be sulking for who knows how long? Likewise with Rukia and Ichigo. I like them happy. For many years I couldn't do anything overtly maternal or Toushiro would have caught on to the fact that he wasn't an orphan and he most certainly wasn't from the Living World.
"Besides, the boys were perfectly within their rights to get a little revenge. It's been amusing to watch as they hatched a plot that got by both Yachiru and Kurotsuchi."
"True, and they were kind enough not to involve the rest of us. Yachiru has vowed revenge though. If she ever finds out that they planned it, she'll make their livings miserable, starting with the Quincy boy that came up with the idea in the first place."
"Ah, so you know about that too."
"Little escapes my notice, Rangiku-san." Nanao refilled their cups, taking a cookie that Ichigo's sister had made off of the plate in front of her. Yachiru had taken one look at the offerings and turned green. "How did you find out what they were planning?"
"Orihime. Apparently Ishida-kun talks in his sleep and he had the misfortune to do so when she was around to hear his gloating. I happened to talk to her before she could call Rukia and found out the whole story. What about you?"
"I saw Kurosaki-taicho have a voluntary conversation with Kuchiki-taicho that didn't end in insults. Then the confectioners mysteriously ran out of ingredients to make more candy. After seeing two teenage boys who should have been more interested in perfecting their bankai then consuming sugar, I got suspicious. Shunsui's evasiveness about why he was sending them on errands to the Research Institute clinched the matter."
"Ah, how did you know that Ishida-kun was behind the plot?"
"Your son likes to think such things are below his mentality and Kurosaki-taicho favors the direct approach. Since neither had come up with anything right away, I figured it had to be someone else who'd been victimized. Kuchiki-taicho tends to destroy things when he finds Yachiru's done something to alter his manor but he's yet to make a direct attack on her. Most likely he believes revenge that petty is beneath him. Plus, since it involved Kurotsuchi, Ishida-san was the most logical choice. As long as the scientist doesn't also come to the same conclusion, everything will be fine. I have the feeling that when he dies, the Quincy will have to have an escort to the Seireitei to prevent a battle between them."
"Kurotsuchi has too many on his list of suspects to ever be sure who exactly planned the attack. He's currently of the mind that everyone was in on it together. Nemu is politely staying out of the way until he moves on to some other project." Rangiku rose and began putting the things from the meeting away.
"You're the real winner in all of this, aren't you?" Nanao asked, seeing the satisfied look on her friend's face.
"I believe so. My son is happy, he's acting his age, and he's got a girlfriend that he'll one day marry. Plus, he's got a friend that'll stick by him no matter what happens. What more could a mother ask for?"
"Not much, I don't suppose. You're really going to let them think you don't know what they did?"
"When it comes to keeping secrets, I'm a master. Just this once, I'll give them a pass. It's the least I can do."
"You've really matured, Rangiku."
"Not really, I've just discovered what's important in life." The tenth division lieutenant smiled and bid farewell to the other woman. "Family and friends is infinitely better than wasting my time waiting for a man who thought revenge was better than raising a child," she finished to herself.
Ichigo and Rukia wandered the streets of the Seireitei after enjoying a dinner out. They had passed the time in near silence, without family or subordinates to infringe on their time together. No friends had popped up to interrupt and they liked the peace. Even though they could have flashed stepped anywhere within the Court of Pure Souls, there was no need. Ichigo wanted to enjoy the peace; he didn't want to have to be anywhere at a certain time.
They made their way to the old execution hill and gazed out over the city. Holding the hand of the woman most important to him, the teen exhaled and thought about the last time he had been on this hill. Like his inadvertent discovery of the real traitor of the Soul Society, Ichigo's battle with Aizen had ended here. The escaped convict had made it only as far as this place after killing the soutaicho and Captain Ukitake. Ichigo and his friends had come after he'd regained his powers because he'd gotten a bad feeling. Upon discussing things with Inoue, he'd asked her to try to reverse Aizen's immortality. Her flowers had taken to the idea excitedly and they'd managed to succeed where others had failed. It was the very reason Aizen had feared Inoue to begin with. She could reverse the flow of time and had done so, making killing Aizen with only his bankai possible. His shikai had still been a problem, easily rectified by holding on to the Zanpakutou. Gin had passed that information on in his journal.
"What are you thinking about?" Rukia asked, feeling his pensive nature.
"Aizen's defeat. When I came back to the Soul Society with the others, I had the feeling something was wrong. We thought the war was over but even after all that time, he was still plotting. If it wasn't for Inoue's ability to reverse time, I don't think we could have killed him."
"Anything is possible. The Gotei Thirteen gathered together in full strength. He didn't have the opportunity to wear us down fighting Arrcanar first."
"Except for Gramps and Ukitake-san."
"They were the only casualties that day. When altogether, friends can accomplish anything. You proved that when you returned. Thank you."
"What are you thanking me for? I was only doing what I was meant to do. Being a Shinigami is my destiny. And it's hereditary, apparently." Ichigo grinned at her smugly.
"Baka. We couldn't have won without you." Frowning, she became somber. "I'll be eternally grateful for your return."
"Did you think I'd let another second pass if it was possible before coming to see the woman I love?" Leaning against a tree, he pulled her into his embrace. Front to back, they eased their breathing until they were in sync with each other. "You are my soul mate, Rukia Kuchiki, the other half of me. Living a 'normal' life without you is impossible. I never wanted that."
"You're hopeless without me, carrot top."
"Midget," he returned with equal affection. "You're right though, I am hopeless. You are the only one who can get the rain in my soul to stop. Zangetsu would tell you that it was a deluge without you around. If he had been there to see my inner soul scape. Hichigo wasn't too happy about being left alone to endure. I guess he was too waterlogged to try to take over my body during that time."
"Your Zanpakutou worked just as hard to get back to mine as you did to get back to me."
"The sun can't be without his moon. He is nothing without her, you know. Zangetsu would do nothing but brood without Sode no Shirayuki."
"Like you're nothing without me? That brings up another interesting point, Ichigo Kurosaki. When are you going to ask me to marry you?"
Dead silence filled the late evening as the shock went through the captain. "Excuse me?" he sputtered, not quite believing he had heard her correctly.
"Don't be an idiot, I know you mean to. We may have long lives, baka, but I don't want to wait another fifty years while you get up the courage to approach my brother."
"Byakuya already knows of my intention to marry you. I was waiting until you were ready for me to ask you and for me to turn eighteen. Do you have a problem with that, midget?" She turned in his arms, and glared up at him.
"You were going to wait until July to ask me? After all that we've been through, how could you possibly think that I'd need time to decide whether I wanted to marry you or not? Besides, nobles get married young. I'd rather have a promise from you sooner rather than later. Before my brother or the clan elders decide that it would be better to make an arranged marriage with some other house while you were dithering."
"I do not dither!" he shouted at her and thus began one of their arguments that degenerated into chaos. The topic went by the way side as they bickered, their voices carrying on the wind. Eventually she got fed up and kicked him in the shins, ready to flash step away.
"Oh, no you don't, midget," he growled, gritting his teeth against the pain in his legs. "You're not turning up your nose and swanning off this time. If you want me to propose, I'll propose."
"You don't have a ring. And you're not on your knees."
"I'll get you a ring, and as for on my knees, that should bring me eye to eye with you." So saying, the orange haired hero got to his knees and held onto her hands tightly. "Rukia Kuchiki, princess and witch, will you marry me?"
"Witch?" she asked quietly, wondering how he could ruin a perfectly good proposal with that one word.
"From the moment you entered my life, you transformed it. You have a power no other does, be she Shinigami or human. I want to spend the rest of eternity with you." Ichigo gave her his most charming grin, hoping she would understand what he meant.
Gazing upon golden brown eyes that held strength and vulnerability, Rukia nodded. "You did the same for me. I'll marry you." She let out a surprised shriek when he rose suddenly and picked her up.
"Thank you." After sharing a kiss, he tucked her tightly into his arms. "Now we just have to explain to your brother that you wouldn't let me wait any longer to say anything."
"Nii-sama can be reasonable." If there was one thing that Byakuya would not be reasonable about, it was Rukia's future. "We'll go in the morning."
"As you wish. In the meantime, what do you say about clearing some of the Chappy merchandise out of the office?"
"Maybe, after you speak to Nii-sama." Ichigo groaned but didn't complain. If there was one thing he couldn't win against, it was the cartoon rabbit. When it came right down to it, the rodent would always win any contest.
"As you wish," he complied as they made their way home.
"Of course," she rejoined, giving him the superior look she was famous for. "Strawberry."
"Midget." Most wouldn't hear the love those two nicknames held but the captain and lieutenant of the thirteenth division knew what each other meant.
Their life together would not be peaceful but it would be filled with love and trust.