Okay, so I said I'd hold off on this story, but it's haunting me, and I need to write it!

Summary: They defeated Aizen. They stole the Hogyoku back. But despite all that, she still had one more task. "I promised I'd come back for you, Ashido."

Pairing: Rukia/ Ashido, with other little triangles thrown in there.

If any characters seem OOC, I apologize in advance.

Ooh, and before I forget, I DO NOT OWN BLEACH OR ANY OF THE CHARACTERS. Just had to make that clear. Hehe, trust me, you would know if I did.


Her breathing came shallow, and her eyes watched, thick with distress. Above her, swords clashed as the crushing spirit pressure of two Soul Reapers bore down on her.

But she didn't notice. Her eyes were trained on that man's face, as blood dripped down his body like a second coat of skin. His orange hair fluctuated against his face as he swung that giant sword like it extended from his own body.

Her hands grasped her sword tighter, wishing she could butt him out and take down that Aizen herself. The wretched man had stolen her friend and put countless lives at risk.

She remembered her words as he had faced Aizen, challenging him to a one on one duel. She had turned to him, eyes blazing. "Don't you dare lose, strawberry." She had hissed.

He had smiled in returned. "My name's not strawberry. And I'm not going to lose."

And that had comforted her. When Ichigo swore he wasn't going to lose, he wasn't going to lose, and that was that.

He hadn't lost.

His sword plunged through Aizen's chest, then ripped out sideways. Rukia flinched. Never was he that violent, but she could understand. No chances were being taken.

They both crashed to the ground, bleeding violently. Rukia took a step forward, then realized a hand had been clamped over her shoulder, as if restricting her. She turned, and recognized the large body and crimson hair as her childhood friend.

She glared at him for a moment, until he realized his hand was still on her. He smiled, and pulled away. She responded with a small smile of her own, then she was gone.

She took her place next to Ichigo's torn body. He had managed a huge cut above his eyes, and lacerations all over his chest and back.

When he saw her suddenly next to him, he smiled. "You see?" He croaked, trying not to cough up blood. "I told you I'd beat him. Who's the strawberry now?"

Rukia sighed. "That's too bad."

His eyes widened, and he scowled. "What do you mean? I just beat Aizen, and you're telling me 'that's too bad?' I should take you down next."

"If you're talking like that, you mustn't have taken that bad of damage." Rukia growled, her eyes flashing with amusement, trying to mask the overwhelming sense of relief that had drenched her. "I was hoping he'd damage some brain cells, and maybe you would become a bit more relaxed."

"Why you…" Ichigo shifted, then suddenly exploded into a fit of coughs.

"I said relax." Rukia hissed, pushing Ichigo into a lying down position. "Squad Four will be here in a second to heal your wounds. So hold still. There isn't one more person you have to save, we're all fine."

She used those words as a last resort, knowing he would only relax if he was sure everybody was okay. She knew it worked when he simply nodded, without lashing back. His eyes closed, and Rukia stood. Orihime was running towards him, with Captain Unohana and Lieutenant Isane right behind her.

Orihime bent down besides the now passed out Ichigo, with concern and warmth flashing through her eyes. Unohana approached slowly, her eyes calm.

"Don't worry." She addressed both Orihime and Rukia, who now realized she had been clutching her robes so hard her knuckles were white. "Isane, help Orihime. With you two working on him, he probably won't even have to be put in recuperation. I'm going to work on the other severely wounded."

Rukia forced herself to relax as Unohana strode by. She breathed in, trying to capture the Captain's calm. She was right, Orihime and Isane could heal any wound.

She watched at first as the yellow light enveloped him. She shut her eyes halfway, then decided she was useless here. Orihime would make sure he survived.

Rukia turned, admiring her surroundings. Blood spattered the stone walls, and the injured were being treated. She had to concentrate on not accidentally slipping in a pool of blood.

She looked for her familiar friends. Chad and Uryu were sitting next to each other. Nobody was near them, but they didn't really look like they were in pain. Just tired and a bit dazed.

Rukia realized she felt the same, as if she could curl up and sleep for three days straight. She snorted. As if her brother would let her do that…

Her thoughts cut off and alarm scathed her brain. She whirled around, looking desperately for Captain Kuchiki. When she didn't see him, her heart jolted. Surely, the Captain of the sixth squad couldn't have been killed! Not her brother. He was…

She relaxed suddenly as the sight of his spiky black hair relieved her. She recognized his head piece, and his scarf. He wasn't looking at her, and was simply staring ahead. Rukia took a couple paces towards him, then stopped when she saw Unohana leaning down beside him. Whatever injury Byakuya had, she would heal.

"Hey." A voice cut her from her thoughts. She looked up, and scowled as Renji's grinning face looked down at her. She could almost feel one of his hot headed jokes coming on.

"You look like you just saw a ghost." He chided. When he followed her gaze to where Byakuya was sitting, his grin widened. "Were you scared for Captain Kuchiki? Rukia, that man probably could have torn apart Aizen without a second thought, and would have if it were you that had been captured by Aizen, instead of Orihime."

Rukia scoffed. "You'd think that. He would probably send you off and not think twice about it."

Renji's grin suddenly deepened into a thoughtful line as he studied the shorter girl.

"Don't sell your brother short, Rukia." He reprimanded. "You're probably the only person Captain Kuchiki would fight for."

"My brother would fight for a lot of things!" Rukia growled. "He'd fight for what he believes is right."

Renji smirked, and patted Rukia on the head, mussing her hair. "You stupid girl." He teased.

Rukia glared at him, then delivered a kick to his chin. He yelped as he dropped to the floor, grabbing his chin. Why did the tiny girl have to hit so hard?

"All I was going to say was, if you were listening properly, you would have remembered me saying that you were the only person Byakuya would fight for. I said nothing about the laws."

Rukia blinked, refusing to blush. She glanced at her brother, wondering if what Renji said was true.

"Oi, Rukia!" A voice suddenly called out. The girl turned to see the man who had been lying on the floor just a while ago now jogging towards her.

"Hey, it's carrot-top." Renji greeted Ichigo, who had now halted beside Rukia. He glared at the crimson haired man.

"I just killed Aizen, and what do I get? A smart ass remark! I think Orihime is the only one who has actually thanked me." He steamed.

"You should be thankful." Renji retorted. "People say things they have known for a long time are comforting. And since you've always been called that, I would think it would have been a nice gesture."

"Nice gesture my ass." Ichigo muttered.

Rukia sighed. "Oh shut up, both of you. Seriously, you guys sound like an old married couple. It's disgusting."

Both the men glared at her, but before they could say anything, a cold voice interrupted them.

"Well, it seems you're having fun. Meanwhile, people are dying of their injuries."

They turned their gazes, to see Byakuya glaring at them, eyes hard. Renji gulped.

"Um… yeah." He stammered. "I was just going to help. I'm right on it, Captain Kuchiki."

Byakuya didn't utter a sound as Renji skidded away as quickly as possible. Rukia blinked after him in annoyance. He didn't even say goodbye.

Byakuya turned back to Rukia and Ichigo. "As for you two." He began. "The healed soldiers are going to be leaving soon. I suggest you join them."

"We will, brother." Rukia spoke, giving Ichigo a death glare. Ichigo blinked back at her, and made a mental sigh. He knew that look of determination.

Byakuya didn't reply as he walked away. They hadn't thought so, but Byakuya noticed the fire in Rukia's eyes as well as anybody else. Well, he wouldn't intervene.

If she gets hurt, Kurosaki, I'll destroy you. He growled mentally. Ichigo didn't hear him, but he could have sworn the older Kuchiki was sending him a look of pure evil.

Rukia had her eyes narrowed as she watched her brother walk away. She felt Ichigo's curious eyes on her, and tried to will him to just go away. Maybe if she tried acting as if nothing was happening, he wouldn't question her, and he would believe her.

Yeah, when hell freezes over. She muttered mutinously to herself. She knew Ichigo Kurosaki, and no man could be more persistent than him. Sometimes, it was useful, and sometimes she just wanted to smack him. Of course, she did that anyway.

"Alright, I'll bite. What are you planning?" Ichigo's voice broke into her thoughts, as he attempted to stare holes through her brain.

"What makes you think I'm planning something?" Rukia retorted, glaring at him.

Ichigo snorted. "Give me a break. I know that look."

Rukia almost asked what look? But knew that was useless. Besides, all she was doing was stalling herself.

"I'm going back." She said in a steely voice. Ichigo blinked in confusion.

"We're going back where?" He replied in a testy voice, trying not to get mad at how she was planning on leaving him behind.

"I'm going back to the Menos Forest." Rukia growled, wondering if the snarl she put on the word would get through his thick skull.

Ichigo gaped at her for a moment, briefly wondering if she was kidding. The next sound he made wasn't a word, but something in between a, "What?!" and a "Why?!"

Rukia tried not to laugh at the idiotic expression on his face. That probably wouldn't be a great idea. Judging on the spluttering noises he was making, he'd probably get pissed and scream at her, drawing everybody's attention. That wouldn't end well.

Finally, Ichigo managed to choke out an intelligible phrase. "What in the hell do you need to do there?"

"Want to say it a little louder?" She hissed. "I don't think all the Captains heard you."

He glared at her, but lowered his tone to a little bit over an angry whisper. "Why are you going to the Menos Forest?"

She glanced at him briefly. "Ashido." She replied softly.

Understanding crashed over him. Ashido, the maroon haired Soul Reaper who had been living in the Menos Forest for so many years. Rukia had sworn to come back for him.

He blinked at the women standing before him, eyes ablaze and hands clenched into fists. If he could have gotten away with it, he would have smashed some sense into her brain.

But, that wasn't going to happen. She was just as stubborn as Ichigo. She had set her mind to something, and it was going to happen, whether he liked it or not.

He gritted his teeth. "Alright. We'll go get Ashido. God knows the man needs to be saved." He hissed, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

Rukia looked at him sharply. "And who says you get to go?" She challenged.

He gave her a platonic look, and she sighed. Knowing him, if she refused to let him come, he would probably pick her up and drag her to Byakuya. Damn Ichigo and his tallness.

"Fine." She muttered. "But we're not there to kill hollows, alright?"

"What, do you think I'm an idiot?" Ichigo snapped. Rukia rolled her eyes, letting a placid smirk be his answer.

First chapter, yay! Sorry if it seems kind of long and pointless, but it just needs to be done. Sorry if it seems a little weak, I'll try harder on the next chapter.

Next chapter will be done soon enough.

Please review!