Hehe, I'm trying to get this done A.S.A.P. so I can really focus on my Within The Shadow story… sorry… it's not a Hitsugaya/Rukia pairing. It's an Ashido/Rukia pairing. May seem weird to some people, but for some reason I just think they look cute together. :)

Oh, and BTW, if anybody is wondering why Rukia seems so moody, well, she's pregnant, and just got stabbed and betrayed by her husband. She's going through a difficult time. I mean, I would cry. If you didn't cry, then I'd be worried about you.

Ahem, well. I'm going to move on. You ready for this awesomeness?

Heehee, enjoy!
_

Turquoise eyes stared in a glaze at the glowing light emanating from in front of him. The kind women who sat in front of him had a look of constant worry, which was still normal. Her hands were upon a small girl, slowly healing her nearly mortal wounds.

He was completely numb to the world around him. He couldn't rivet his eyes from that girl's face. Her normally red cheeks were now pale with loss of blood. He felt his hands clenching and unclenching. How would he live with himself if she was really injured? How could he ever apologize to her? And if she lost the baby…

He buried his face in his hands, squeezing his eyes shut. Retsu cast the Captain a glance, feeling regret and sorrow against her soul. She wished she could help him, offer any solace to ease his burden, however that wouldn't happen. The only thing that could fix a tattered heart was the one who had saved it in the first place. And in this case, it was Rukia Kuchiki.

She focused her eyes back down towards the sleeping girl. Her skin, which was sagging before, was beginning to retain some of its luster. Retsu could only hope that Rukia could find the strength inside of her to nurture her child. If Rukia wasn't strong enough to do it, well, there wasn't much Retsu could do to change that.

Despite that, she was certain Rukia would live. Despite the fact she had practically committed suicide, the girl had an incredible will to live. To herself, Retsu wondered whether she had picked that up from Ichigo.

She sighed mentally, wondering what it was that drove everybody around her to do such strange, dumb things. Personally, she wasn't what motivated people around her. She would fight to save any life she could, and would always try to make sure everybody was safe. However, it was when people started running around and doing crazy things and ended up in the hospital that made Retsu sigh in frustration. They were adults with powerful swords and incredible strength, and the sense of children.

She looked out the window, to where the sun was beginning to rise. She practically shivered when she remembered seeing how the sky looked as if it were drenched in blood. Now the edge of the sky was a crispy blue, streaked with greens and yellows. Not as pretty, but definitely not as blood chilling. She practically shuddered when she remembered how she had nearly felt it when Rukia was being stabbed, her bone chilling sadness. Something had made Retsu stay when everybody else had left, and now she knew why. She was here for a dying noble and a grieving Captain.

The changing of Byakuya's spiritual pressure stroked Retsu. Sometimes she wanted to smack some sense into the man, as if that would help. He wasn't a dumb man, but he was as stubborn as a mule, and with about as much sense as one. Please, Captain Kuchiki. Retsu growled. I've been healing one Kuchiki for a long time now. If you come in dead too, I'm going to go insane.
_

Her eyes were shut firmly. She couldn't open them, but she could hear. It was as if her hearing had suddenly become ten times more powerful. She could hear a women over her, and although she wasn't saying anything, Rukia could hear the regretful growls that rolled off her tongue.

But she wasn't concerned about that. Retsu would do all she could to save Rukia. No, she was focused on another sound that seemed to glitter. She could feel the iciness of his presence, but nothing was more comforting nor warmer to her. She wanted to touch him, to tell him it was okay. But most of all, she wanted to tell him she loved him. She wanted to tell him that none of this was his fault. All he did was fight to protect her, and she had tried to stop it. But now, she was causing him pain again.

She wished she could speak, but she couldn't move herself. She tried to open her mouth, but she was fading into black. She wished she could speak to Hitsugaya. But not only that, she needed to talk to Ichigo. She needed to save him. To bring him out of what he had become. He was a good man, she knew that. And one day, he would become the best husband to a women who could keep him absolutely fulfilled. Rukia hadn't known before why he had done that, but now she would have to remember to thank him. If he hadn't of done that, she would have never met Hitsugaya.

I'll thank him. She thought to herself. When I heal, I'll thank him. And I'll save him. It's the least I could do. I'll apologize to everyone. To my brother, to Ichigo, but especially to Hitsugaya…
_

Byakuya's eyes countered Ichigo's glare as they stared at each other. Ichigo's sword was still drawn, with blood still dripping from the point. Yet, if the monster really even noticed what had happened, his face didn't show it. Instead, he simply gawped at the calm Byakuya, with a sneer plastered onto his mouth.

If Byakuya was intimidated, he didn't show it. Instead, he gawped calmly back at the pissed off Ichigo. He didn't even bother to grip his sword. Ichigo hissed, and spat out blood.

"What do you want, you bastard?" He snarled. "Let me go see Rukia!"

Byakuya simply looked back at Ichigo. "You want to see her?" He murmured. "Do you think she'll forgive you? You've hurt her so much, and now you've physically attacked her. What will she think?"

"Bullshit." Ichigo retorted, bending down and gripping his sword with a new intensity. "Hitsugaya stabbed her too. What will she think of that? Maybe she'll look up to her wonderful older brother."

"Keep your voice down, fool." Byakuya hissed. "Or maybe you'd like to end up worse than last time."

"Why would you care?" Ichigo demanded. "I thought you would like to kill me because of what I did. But you haven't even drawn your sword. Are you getting soft?"

A small smirk played the edges of Byakuya's lips. He strode closer to Ichigo, eyes calm. "You're wrong." He said simply. "You didn't do that. Ichigo did. You may be part of Ichigo, but you didn't do any of that. So if I killed you, that would be pointless."

Byakuya halted, only a few feet from Ichigo. "Ichigo, look at yourself." He scoffed. "The man I once knew would fight for what he believed in. For a while, I practically believed you had transformed from a boy into a man fit for my sister, but now I see otherwise. Because, if you were the real Ichigo, you wouldn't hide behind that stupid mask. Instead, the real you would own up to your crimes and fight me. And that's because the Ichigo I knew would never lose himself in such a way, especially if he was fighting for something he loved."

Inside Ichigo, a war raged, close to being finished. Ichigo smirked. "That old Byakuya. He is getting soft."

Swords clashed, and the sight Byakuya witnessed was nothing less of bone chilling, and only the calm Byakuya could watch with a straight face as Ichigo convulsed. His body was bending in ways that he was certain weren't natural.

"Getting weak, Ichigo?" Byakuya leered. "It's pathetic. I should have killed you long ago, when you had first asked for my sister's hand in marriage."

Ichigo snarled at Byakuya. Too much pain racked his body to form words. Between Byakuya spitting insults and Ichigo clashing to win back his body, he felt as if his soul was being torn into pieces.

"Die." Ichigo snarled, slamming his sword into his enemy's chest. The hollow shrieked in pain, while muttering deadly insults.

"You'll never be rid of me." It hissed as it began to disappear. "I'll kill you, and this will be mine. You can't keep me here forever, you need me."

"Shut up." Ichigo muttered, as the screams of the hollow faded into black at the back of his mind.

Byakuya watched, hand finally gripping his sword, as the hollow mask broke away in bits, leaving behinds the boy's face which had been hidden for so long. His eyes blinked as the rising sun skinned his amber eyes, setting his orange hair on fire.

He blinked open his eyes as he staggered onto all fours, breathing heavily. Byakuya looked down at him, as if he were a pesky tic instead of the man who had nearly murdered so many people.

"Still so pathetic." Byakuya sniffed. "Here, I was hoping to get a good fight in, I believe you're past a good beating."

Ichigo looked up at Byakuya, reveling in the ability to meet the man's gaze without feeling a hatred tinged with contempt. In his hollow form, the only person he was able to look out and feel respect for was Rukia.

With a grunt, the boy pushed himself to his feet, allowing the pure feeling of the sun so soak his skin and glint off his face. The greens and yellows that had decorated the blue now were pure blue, splotched with streaks of clouds. It would be a nice day, and Ichigo couldn't help but instinctively want to spend it with someone he hadn't been able to see for real in a long time.

"Tell me, Byakuya." Ichigo growled. "What's in it for you?"

The man growled mentally. "I don't know what you're talking about boy. And it's Captain Kuchiki."

"Yeah, whatever." Ichigo shrugged, waving it away. "What I mean is, why did you fight to get me back? I thought you'd be obligated to kill me."

"You're assuming I did that for you." Byakuya replied. "But I didn't. So don't think you can get away with anything. You still have to deal with the rest of the Soul Society."

With that, the man turned and walked away, looking as stolid as ever, no cuts nor bruises on his now perfectly healed body. Ichigo watched him walk away, knowing who he had to find.
_

Towards the center of the Soul Society, Captain Yamamoto looked deeply into the eyes of the man who was talking.

"You do understand what you're asking, right?" He growled. "That man has injured most of the captains, including yourself, Captain Kuchiki. If anything, I would think you would request to execute this man yourself, because of your own personal involvement."

"I have no use killing a boy who put up a tiny fuss." Byakuya countered just as smoothly. "If you wish to kill him, than do. However, he has shown to be a ready fighter, and we are indebted to him helping Soul Society through the Aizen incident."

Yamamoto shut his eyes, thinking hard. The time ticked by as the Captain Commander thought, but Byakuya stood patiently, eyes trained to his superior.

Finally, the elderly man opened his eyes. "Alright, Captain Kuchiki." He decided. "We will go with what you have said. We are truly indebted to Ichigo, but now we will repay that debt. I will give him today and tonight to stay in Soul Society for recuperation. Tomorrow at dawn, he will be sent home."

Byakuya nodded. "I will tell him that."

"One more thing, Captain Kuchiki." Yamamoto said. "As for Rukia, she must choose where she wants to be. If she wishes to return to the world of the living to stay with Ichigo, she may, but she cannot return here. You may be allowed to visit here, but she will have given up her rights as a Soul Reaper.

"If she decides to stay, then she may not carry on a romantic relationship with Ichigo. Tell her she must choose by the dawn of tomorrow. You are dismissed."

Emotionless, Byakuya turned and stalked out of the door, wondering what motivated him to do things like that. There I was, asking the Captain Commander to forgive Ichigo. If that brat even looks at me the wrong way after this, I'll skewer him alive, I don't care what anybody says.

He walked towards the infirmary, where he could feel the temperature flux dangerously. He knew Hitsugaya wouldn't have left the girl's side, but not because he was afraid of Byakuya. They might have assumed he hadn't noticed, but of course he had. Byakuya was quiet, but he was extremely observant. He had seen the glances between the two. Hitsugaya wasn't exactly discreet at the protective way he looked at Rukia, and Rukia was just a bad actor all together.


Retsu pulled her hands away from the bloodstained girl, and turned her attentive gaze towards Hitsugaya. The normally composed Captain looked like a shadow of himself. His white hair had seemed to lose much of its luster, and his usual bright, intense eyes were now shallow with worry. He barely seemed to notice Unohana as she stood.

"Captain Hitsugaya." She called softly. He looked up, training his eyes into hers. She tried not to smile as his whole being seemed to lighten with hope.

"Will she be okay?" Hitsugaya prompted. "And what about the baby?"

"She'll be fine, Captain Hitsugaya." Retsu replied. "She was stabbed in parts that were barely fatal, and overall she didn't lose that much blood. Expect her to wake up soon, and after a brief check over, she'll be released."

He hadn't realized, but Hitsugaya had been holding his breath in anticipation. Now, he let the air escape with a large whoosh of air. However, he immediately tensed up. "And what about her child?" He asked.

Unohana held him in her steady gaze. "That depends on Rukia." She replied. "The girl has an incredible will to live, and I expect the child will be fine. Again, I'll confirm it when she wakes up. Will you stay with her, Captain Hitsugaya?"

He didn't hesitate to nod. "Yes. I'll call you when she wakes up. Thank you so much, Captain Unohana."

She sighed in reply and strode towards the door. For a moment she hesitated, trying to feel if there was another presence on the other side of the door. Finally deciding there was none, she exited, leaving the grieving Captain and a wounded girl.
_

Renji gawped at the sight of a sane Ichigo in front of him. He had never seen a sorrier sight than that of a man who Renji thought was one of the strongest guys he knew weeping unshed tears.

"Can you help me?" Ichigo muttered, as if it were killing him. Renji hesitated for a moment, unsure on what was the best. Finally, he closed his eyes and nodded.

"Yes. Come with me, we'll find her." Renji turned and led the way, Ichigo following at a few paces back.

Renji turned his gaze towards the sky. He had wanted to kill Ichigo before, but now he could hardly stand looking at the pitiful man. He knew there would be no rest until Ichigo saw Rukia. Even if she rejected him, he just needed to see her one more time.

And as they walked towards the large hospital, Renji didn't have the heart to tell him of the growing companionship between Rukia and Hitsugaya. He would need to find out for himself, just as Renji had.
_

Hitsugaya's eyes were glued to Rukia's face. Her complexion had gained back its luster, and her breathing had became normal.

Silently, he moved to the chair Retsu had been sitting in, next to the bed. He reached his hand down and gripped hers, feeling a breath of relief when he felt the warmth of her body was returning.

Rukia stirred as something gripped her hand. She recognized that touch, so icy cold, but so welcoming. Darkness had consumed her mind, but now she was recovering.

Hitsugaya felt his breath catch in his throat as the girl's eyes blinked open, beautiful and glinting dark sapphire.

Her heart jumped when she saw him looking down at her, relief etched over the contours of his face as he squeezed his hand tighter against hers. "You awoke earlier than we expected." He whispered. Rukia smiled.

"I thought I felt something familiar." She murmured, gripping his hand tighter, not wanting him to let go. "I don't even feel tired, though. Did Captain Unohana heal me?"

Hitsugaya nodded, then his eyebrows furrowed. Rukia sighed mentally. She may love the man, but she would have stayed asleep for a little bit longer if she had known she was going to get a lecture.

As expected, Hitsuugaya growled. "You scared us all to death, Kuchiki." Rukia shifted. Hitsugaya only called her Kuchiki when he meant to be serious. "What the hell were you thinking? We could have killed you!"

Rukia turned her gaze away from the Captain and to the outside. "I had to do it." She said softly. "I… I didn't want either of you to die."

"God damn it, Rukia!" Hitsugaya snapped, making the girl shiver. He forced himself to let go of her hand, otherwise he would have broken the bones from squeezing it too tight. He gripped the side of the bed, as the sky began to turn ominously gray.

"When will you understand?" He barked. "You're in no condition to do dumb things like that! What would you have done if your baby was killed, huh? I swear Rukia, if you do that again…" Hitsugaya trailed off, too furious to speak.

Rukia gulped nervously as she looked outside. It was snowing, on what was supposed to be a clear day. She was certain that he wouldn't hurt her, but it pained her soul to see him so angry and upset because of something she did.

"Listen." She said softly, placing one of her hands upon his. "I'm so sorry, Hitsugaya. I didn't mean to worry you. I just… I couldn't sit by and watch you fight for me, to get hurt for me. I don't deserve that."

Hitsugaya smiled, and outside it began to rain. He placed a hand on the side of her face, cradling her cheek in his palm. "Stupid girl." He smirked. He leaned down, and kissed her softly, embracing the fact she was truly alive.

A knock on the door interrupted the two. Hitsugaya moved away, and smiled at her. "I have to get Retsu, I promised to tell her when you woke up. I'll be back in a moment."

Hitsugaya opened the door, and was greeted by a grinning red headed man. Instantly, Hitsugaya scowled.

"Hey, Captain!" Renji grinned. "I heard what happened! I'm here to visit Rukia. Oh, and look who else is here? You'll never guess who talked him out of his hollow form!"

Hitsugaya's eyes narrowed when he saw Ichigo in front of him. The guilty man dropped his gaze, and clenched his fists. The temperature dropped as it began to snow outside.

Renji was still rambling. "It was Captain Kuchiki! Isn't that weird? Anyway, we were wondering if we could visit Rukia. Is that okay? Hey, did it just get colder?"

"No." Hitsugaya said icily. "And visit her if you want. It's not like she belongs to me." He swept down the halls without another word, cursing Ichigo. If you make her cry, Kurosaki, I'll finish what you started.

Inside the room, Rukia smiled as she saw her oldest friend and one time husband enter. She watched them with a placid gaze.

"Hey, Rukia!" Renji boomed. "You're not too banged up, are you? You look just fine!"

"Jeez, can you talk louder?" Rukia bantered. "And no, I'm not that banged up, because Captain Unohana is a marvelous healer. She took care of me herself."

"Good old Unohana." Renji sighed. "Hey, I think Ichigo wants to talk to you. I'll go wait outside. I expect us to talk later, alright, Rukia?"

She sighed. "Alright, Renji. Now get out of here, you weirdo." Renji grinned and winked, then left, leaving a shuffling Ichigo.

He stepped up to her bed and lowered himself into the chair timidly as Rukia pulled herself into a sitting up position. She forced herself to stare into his face.

"Listen, Rukia." He began. "There's nothing in the world I can or should say to make you forgive me, and I don't expect you to. All I wanted you to know was that I love you. I don't know why I did that, you deserve so much more. And I want to prove to you that I can give you more." He looked up at her, hope in his eyes. "I've been given today and tonight to stay here, and I must return tomorrow at dawn. Not only that, but Yamamoto has said that you must choose either to forfeit your Soul Reaper abilities and live with me, or to stay in Soul Society, where you may visit, but we can't have a romantic relationship."

He paused as Rukia digested the words. She bit her lip, fighting back tears. She rested her hands on her protruding stomach, feeling for the child inside. It responded with a kick.

He stared hard at her. "Please, Rukia." He said softly. "It isn't fair of me to do this, but I must. Please. Will you come back with me?"

Rukia didn't respond directly. She had to wait and regain her composure, fighting hard not to let her voice be hoarse and refused tears to slide down her cheeks.

"I've forgiven you, Ichigo." She whispered. "But you've caused me this pain. And I'm sorry, for I should have stayed and talked to you about what had happened instead of rushing away. I'm sorry I made you do that, but while I've been here, other things have happened…" She cut off as she remembered the feeling of Hitsugaya's lips against hers. His protective voice and comforting scent would writhe around her, and she couldn't refuse him.

"I'm sorry, Ichigo." She murmured. "I… I loved you so much, and I could never understand how you did that to me. I have many regrets, but one of my largest is that my child will not know his real father. I can't go with you, Ichigo."

Ichigo opened his mouth, ready to argue, certain he could win her over, than stopped. She didn't want him to win her over. And how could he blame her? He wouldn't.

He stood up, bent down, and kissed the top of her head gently. "I'm sorry, Rukia." He whispered. "I love you."

She shivered, but didn't answer. He turned and left, fighting to look back.

Ichigo stepped out of the room and nearly crashed into Hitsugaya and Retsu coming down the hallway. Renji had disappeared.

Hitsugaya kept his eyes downward and walked past Ichigo without even glancing his way. Retsu blinked in confusion, but didn't argue as the orange haired man swept down the hallways, which was the last Retsu ever saw of him.

Hitsugaya pushed into Rukia's room, and was instantly at the girl's side as she silently shed tears. He sat at the edge of her bed, eyes sparkling with worry, as Retsu loitered at the doorway.

He pressed the back of his hand to her cheek, and she flinched, as if she had barely noticed his presence. She turned to look at him, eyes wading tears.

"I refused him." She said softly. "I told Ichigo I wouldn't go back to the real world with him. But… was that the smart thing to do?"

Hitsugaya looked gently at her. "You need to do what your heart tells you, Rukia. You never let it stop you before."

She smiled through her tears, and turned her gaze upon her hands. "So, Captain Unohana, is there something you wanted? I… I don't want to keep you waiting."

The gentle Captain stepped through the doors, understanding in her gaze. She had never really seen Hitsugaya being so gentle, especially with Rukia, who he hadn't really known before. She would never mind waiting for them.

"Yes, I just need to perform a quick check up. Captain Hitsugaya, it would be best if you waited outside. Is that a problem?" She addressed the two. Hitsugaya shook his head, and exited the room, leaving a rather subdued Rukia.

"This'll be fast." Retsu addressed Rukia. "Do you feel faint at all? Any parts on your body that hurts? You don't look pale, and your skin feels normal temperature. What about the child? Is there any reason you would think of that would put it at risk?"

Rukia shook her head to all these questions, and rested one of her hands on her stomach. "I felt it kick earlier." She replied. "I think it's just fine."

Retsu nodded. "That's good. I'll release you, but I want you to come back immediately if you feel any pain or anything concerns you. Is that understood?"

Rukia nodded, thanking Retsu deeply as she was allowed out of the room, feeling calmer with the kind women's presence.

Outside of the room, Hitsugaya waited. His eyes looked as if they were staring into a faraway place. Rukia approached him slowly, as if she were afraid of startling him. He smiled gently at her, reaching his hand forward to grip hers.

"You're not running away, are you?" He teased softly.

Her eyes focused onto his, and she stepped forward. He obliged, wrapping his arms around her and pressing her closer to him. She kissed him softly, yet ravenously, searching for a haven that had denied her for so long.

"No." She whispered into his ear as she snuggled closer into his grip. "Never again."
_

Woot. How does that look? My longest chapter so far, and probably the longest you'll get. Maybe I'll write epilogue if everybody really wants me to, but if not, I'll turn my attention to my other story previously mentioned in another chapter. How cool does that sound.

Please review, even if you didn't like. Actually, that's a lie. How about, even if you didn't like it, leave a nice review, and if you did like it, leave a nicer review. Everybody wins, especially me.

Hope you enjoyed it!