Everything felt ironic to her as she took her time to walk back to Ichigo's house. Her face was set with a grave expression and a deep, heavy feeling that seemed as if it was permanently there to torture her; never, not even the slightest bit of it would go away any time soon. She looked up, the sky mixed with beautiful ranges of color: white then blue then a combination of yellow and orange. Slowly, the warm sunshine began to set beyond the horizon, making the bright, green leaves of the trees and grass turn the light and happy atmosphere into a dull, and colorless one. She closed her eyes as she felt the burden further deepen itself in her chest. She could sense the warmth of the sun around her body and face yet, ironically, she felt as if she were a walking corpse: cold and lifeless. She passed by the park and noticed a couple cheerfully enjoying their time.

"Pass me the ball! Pass me the ball!" she heard the young woman yell enthusiastically. The young man laughed and instead of passing the ball to her, he surprised her by sprinting towards her.

That could have been him and Miyako-san, she thought sadly and focused her gaze back to the road.

She decided, finally, to tell Ichigo what really happened between her and Kaien-dono, and it took every ounce of her courage to confess everything to him the horrifying truth about her sin. She couldn't help it, however, but to run away…again. But this time, away from her trusted friend, Ichigo.

Rukia, she remembered him say. She could tell by the tone of his voice that he was going to apologize and somehow help her ease the pain inside her chest that she assumed had finally disappeared. She didn't want to hear his soft and kind words though. She didn't deserve any of it at all. Because no matter how many people tried to confront and consult her, constantly saying that it wasn't her fault, her heart and mind would repeatedly remind her that it was. Don't look up, she thought at that time, but she did anyways. What she saw was the replica of Kaien-dono's face, but what terrified her the most was the feelings that ran in Ichigo's face: hurt, regret, and pain.

And in that moment-still at the park, her surrounding was strangely dark and empty and no sign of human presence-she remembered everything:

I'm sorry I selfishly dragged you into this mess.

Thump-Thump-Thump-Thump-Thump-Thump.

The sudden memory suddenly stopped her and she forcefully snapped her eyes shut, scared that the tears that had begun to form might suddenly fall helplessly down her cheeks. She then bit her bottom lip hard, so hard that it was enough to cut into the flesh. She dug her nails deep in her forearm in an attempt to stop her memories to further consume her already adverse thoughts.

Kuchiki, thanks to you, I can still leave my heart to you.

Thump-Thump-Thump-Thump.

Don't, she thought weakly to herself, not now, please.

Her mind joyfully ignored her as she vividly pictured the scene that night: Kaien-dono heavy in her arms; the vibration through his chest as he offered her his final words in which at that time did not make sense to her; her hands shaking uncontrollably around on the hilt of her sword; his blood gushing through her hands and unto her feet; his heart-thump-thump-thump—slowly losing its heartbeat. Then finally, she felt his hand that was on her shoulder fall limply back to his side.

Remember that as long as you're in my division, I will stand by you even if I die.

Falling down on her knees, ignoring the stabbing pain of the small rocks that had collided with her skin, she broke down. Her hands grabbed a fistful of her hair, pulling as she tried to calm her mind and her heart down as she battled internally between thoughts. Her pessimistic thoughts had unmistakably won against the strong and confident side of her.

So weak. You're such a weak, useless woman who couldn't even save her lieutenant. You don't deserve to be called a shinigami of the 13th division. You don't deserve a comrade like Kaien who offered you wise and inspirational words that had completely changed you. You'll just end up killing everyone around you. So, who's next? Inoue? Chad? Ishida? What about your other close friend, Renji? Your precious nii-sama? What about Ichi-

"Rukia!" she felt all thoughts fade away at the sound of his voice.

Slowly, she moved her head up, her eyes tried to adjust so she could focus at the form that was headed towards her and unconsciously, her eyes saw orange hair: Ichigo. Instinctively, she lowered her head again, this time she attempted to calm her breathing. Finally, she heard him step close to her but naturally, in her closed state she avoided to look at him. So instead, she examined the bloody nail marks that had formed on her forearm.

"Where the hell have you been?" he huffed, slightly annoyed, but she couldn't help but notice the hint of worry in his voice.

"I searched everywhere," he continued, not even giving her a chance to say anything, but in this state, it was unlikely for her to say anything anyway, "I even called Inoue, Ishida, and Chad, they're all looking for you, you know."

"Uh, yeah," she croaked, her head bowed. She noticed how pained her voice sounded and hoped that Ichigo wouldn't notice, "Sorry."

He knelt in front of her and asked lowly, "For what?"

That made her look up to him. She expected to see the face he made when she told him everything, but instead he had his signature scowl. She could feel his amber eyes pierce through her amethyst eyes, which seemed to try to read her. A moment passed, and she must have looked dumbfounded at his question because he looked away and cleared his throat.

"For running away or for telling me?" He clarified as he scratched an invisible itch at the back of his head.

What?

He turned to look at her, this time his face soft yet his eyes were determined to get rid of the storm inside her.

"It wasn't your fault," he began, "I know my words might not seem useful and might even sound empty to you, but I would have forgiven you."

No, she argued, softly shaking her head.

"No" this time out loud, her voice sounding so weak and strained.

"Yes," he retorted simply, "To me, it sounded like you saved him, not killed him."

"You don't understand," she focused yet again on her nail marks, her tone startled Ichigo and herself, "I took his life away. He wasn't supposed to die. If only I had gotten there early, before that bastard of a hollow took over his body. I had the chance to save him, but I was too much of a coward to save him. I should have been the one to-"

"Shut up," she stopped, stunned at how venomous Ichigo's voice sounded, "He made the right choice of trying to avenge his wife even if it meant sacrificing his own life away. And he made the right damn choice to protect and stand by his subordinates. Because trust me, anyone would have done the same thing."

I know I did, he added thoughtfully.

"You don't understand," she repeated desperately now, unable to stop all the words that spilled out of her mouth, "Everyone around me, they're in danger of dying because of me. Of trying to save me. Damnit, I almost got you killed, Ichigo!"

She could hear the crickets around her, the flies around the lamppost buzzing. It was completely dark now in the park, and the warmth that she had received from the sun a few minutes ago was long gone. A passerby examined them suspiciously, but quickly looked away when Ichigo glared at him. She didn't say anything nor did he for a while. The silence stretched painfully between the two, until one finally broke the silence.

"Look at me," he ordered. When she didn't he said it again furiously, "I said, look at me!"

She faced him warily and in an instant, she saw Ichigo's hand reach out to her. She felt his hand clutch the back of her head and directed the side of her head onto his chest. Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump thump-thump. Her eyes widened, shocked at his sudden action.

"Do you hear that?" he asked softly, his anger quickly gone from his voice.

Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump.

She decided not to say anything. She was terrified. Terrified because it might expose everything: her inner thoughts and feelings. She was afraid to let Ichigo in. No. She didn't want to get Ichigo involved anymore. He knew too much already, he shouldn't—

"I'm still alive" he interrupted her thoughts. He had, yet again, surprised her.

They both knew what those three words really meant: I'm still here for you.

I know, she grabbed a fistful of his shirt and couldn't help but release a sob. She could feel his warm reiatsu enveloping her as her body visibly relaxed at his presence. She uncharacteristically buried her face farther on his chest. He moved his hand on top her head and lightly knocked her head with a fist. He gazed at the sky, the stars shining brightly down them and watching them.

"You need to forgive yourself because I bet he forgave you a long time ago."

I know. I'm sorry.

"Thank you," she whispered so quietly, but Ichigo heard her nonetheless.

OMAKE

Rukia: -wipes her nose frantically on his shirt- Thank you, Ichigo. I feel much better.

Ichigo: -looks disgustingly at her- Pretty sure you do after wiping that big snot on my shirt. Disgusting. What kind of female are you.

Rukia: -blows her nose more harshly onto his shirt- You're welcome.


Yup, so it's been a long time since I've uploaded something. And this little storyline was just…I just couldn't get it out of my head. I know, this one seems a little different from my other one shots, I usually write super sweet fluff, but I was just dying to write an angsty one. And I tried, hope you guys like it! :D Sorry in advance from any grammar mistakes or awkward sentences!