Alright, this is practically the last chapter, and by practically, I mean that there's this one, and the next one, and then that's it. It's over. Deal with it. I'm done, I need to move on. I don't know how people can make stories that are thirty chapters long, because after ten, I'm tired of it.

Those who do make thirty chapter stories, bravo, because I don't have that type of patience. Speaking of which, sorry that this chapter is a bit shorter, I just found myself not wanting to beta read it. Whoopsy. So if there are mistakes, shove it, I don't care.

Anyways, I'll try to finish this up fast. I hope they're in character… yadda yadda… might be ooc… blah blah blah… disclaimer… oogity boogity.

Yeah, Ashido might seem to go crazy in this, but honestly, I haven't seen enough of him to know how exactly he'd react extremely pissed off. So I assumed. Deal. Oh, and I truthfully apologize if Ashido is ooc, I haven't watched his episodes in quite a while…


Twice in his life, Ashido had experienced pure fury. The first time, his muscles had sagged with pure exhaustion, as he had defended his friends from the hollows. However, when he had seen his last friend's head pierced by a hollow's claws had changed everything. His fatigue melted away, and pure rage had taken over all of his senses. His body was pulsing with anger, and even the hollows squealed with anger as he took their lives without tiring. Not until they were all gone. Not until he was allowed to mourn their lives.

Now, as he saw Rukia, passed out and gushing blood against the ground, something inside him froze. His heart wasn't breaking, far from it. It was pounding so hard he thought his chest was going to explode or give out. He gripped his sword so tight his fingers began bleeding, forcing him to slacken his hold just the tiniest bit.

Any sense of restraint fell and deteriorated. All he could see was the Adjuchas's grinning face, its claws raised as it planned on grabbing Rukia.

The Adjuchas never used that arm again.

The blood wasn't fast enough for the maroon haired man. His blade slipped through the creature's flesh like butter, and before he was sprayed by the red liquid, he was gone, standing protectively next to Rukia, his teeth bared in an almost animalistic snarl.

The Adjuchas let out an ear splitting screech, and from outside, Ichigo blinked, wondering what exactly was going on, but shrugged it off as he brought his sword down in a slicing motion, destroying another hollow and perhaps endangering the entire species. Although the day he saw Soul Society labeling hollows as endangered would be the day he took a direct post under Byakuya Kuchiki, just to see if he could piss the man off enough to kill him.

Blood splattered the walls, as the Adjuchas threw its head side to side. It fixed its cruel eyes on its target. No longer did it want to torture Rukia. He wanted to destroy this god damn man who had been slaying hollows for centuries on end. It was time to end it.

It lurched forward, slamming its fist into the rock hard enough to crush one of the boulders on the side. Ashido smirked, trying to keep the red on the edge of his vision from hampering his gaze. He braced his body, keeping his muscles stiff. The hollow leapt forward, screeching fury.

Ashido didn't waste time. He feigned to one side, fast enough to slide his sword upwards, cutting through the thing's hand. It howled in agony, snapping back its wrist and pulling the massive appendage away from Ashido. The maroon haired man held no satisfaction, nor any emotion on his face. Any anger or hatred he had there before had melted away, and was replaced with a stoic determination. The Adjuchas hissed, preparing for another attack, readying itself.

Ashido saw it on its face. The thing was actually thinking now, instead of attacking blindly. It couldn't just rush forward to kill Ashido. It had to prepare.

Subconsciously protective, he sidled closer to Rukia, eyeing the Adjuchas wearily. Keeping himself rigid, he cast a glance towards the girl.

From closer up, he could see the way the jagged wounds cut against her pale skin as black bruises formed on her face and limbs. He didn't noticed his knuckles turning white as he gripped the hilt tighter, but felt as his body began to throb with the intent to kill.

As if sensing this, the Adjuchas let out a howl of fury and charged Ashido. The man quickly blocked the attack, and sensed as the creature began to falter to one side. With a roar that matched the creature's, Ashido thrust his sword forward with his strength, pushing against the thing's arm. It hissed while it was forced backwards, the man's strength astonishing. He didn't stop, shoving, until the Adjuchas was trapped against the edge of the cave.

Trapped like an animal, the creature lashed out with its teeth, attempting to seek solace in the taste of his blood. Its teeth met the mark, and it grunted as the delicious metal liquid emptied into its mouth, filling its throat.

The man ripped his arm from the Adjuchas's grasp. He was beginning to breathe hard, while blood now dripped freely from the wound, making his grip on the hilt even more slippery. He wouldn't last long fighting this thing. He had to end it quickly.

The Adjuchas, sensing its advantage, lunged again, this time using its mouth as a main weapon. It clamped its mouth shut, but the man had launched himself out of the way. However, in doing so, he opened up an opening. The Adjuchas saw it.

Ashido felt his eyes widen and his grip tighten as the creature bolted towards where Rukia was, planning on using her body as a hostage… or maybe just as a meal. For the third time in his life, Ashido was gripped in pure fury. With a final howl, he launched forward. He forgot about the slipperiness of the sword, of his exhaustion, of his own wounds. His only focus was on the Adjuchas… and Rukia.

The thing didn't have time to register what happened. One moment, it was reaching out, clambering for Rukia's tiny, bleeding body. The next, a wound seemed to appear on its neck out of nowhere. It gasped for air, eying the laceration with suspicion, as if it were strange that he could even bleed.

It didn't have the voice, nor the ability to cry out as blood emptied itself from the creature's body, bathing the walls in the red liquid. This time, Ashido wasn't spared as his body was drenched in the gore. He felt his blade slip from his hands, while he absentmindedly clenched and unclenched his fists. Small wounds trickled blood, but it didn't sting.

He stumbled towards Rukia, more overcome in exhaustion than with blood loss. His vision was blurry, while his hearing was minimal. He knew for certain that if a hollow decided to attack at that moment, he'd practically be helpless. He wanted to close his eyes, curl up beside Rukia, and fall asleep. However, that wasn't an option.

Practically falling over her, Ashido stumbled next to her. Careful and gentle, he pulled her bruised and broken body into his arms. Conjuring up all of his strength, he mumbled a short kido spell. Instantly, a blue light emanated from his hands as he held it over her deepest wounds.

He watched in practical desperation as they fought to close. Slowly, painfully, the bleeding began to slow. Her breathing became more regular, albeit still shallow.

He studied her, as her bruises began to fade. He was sure his own hair was as matted and tangled with blood as hers was, but he doubted he looked quite that bad. He smirked, slightly, when he thought of how she would react if he told her that. Hopefully she'd have enough strength to rebuke him. That would make everything worthwhile.

A sudden pain made him glance at his left arm. Strips of flesh had been torn off where the Adjuchas had decided to try and make a meal out of him. Not that it mattered much, that was a wound easy to heal. What worried him now was his fading stamina. That fury had shaken him of his endurance, and now he had to force his eyelids to stay open as he sealed all the serious wounds. She still had a fine bruise underneath her right eye, and minor cuts here and there. Nothing too terrible, everything was fixable.

He pulled his hand away from the cut on her shoulder, and pulled her closer to his body. He pressed his nose into her hair, inhaling her deep scent, which was sweet despite the smell of blood. He closed his eyes, cradling her close, as he reassured himself that she was here. She was alive.

Rukia had never felt so warm. Even sitting on a beach, awhile ago, wrapped in the summer's heated rays with the sand against her skin, she had never felt so safe, so protected. It was like being wrapped in a blanket that didn't let go.

Her second thoughts made her realize how shallow her breathing was. Suddenly feeling asphyxiated, she attempted to take a deep breath. That was an immediate mistake, as pain slammed through her body full force. She erupted into a weak coughing fit, managing to hack up blood. She felt a hand, warm against her cheek. She slipped open a singular eye, and was met with the most beautiful sight she could have ever hoped for.

The hollows were panicking as they tried to flee from Ichigo's blade. He spared few, but let the rest scamper away. After all, he didn't want any complaints about the lack of hollows after Aizen's event.

That didn't mean he hadn't felt it though. Rukia's spiritual pressure dying, while Ashido's spiked, a couple of times, to an alarming rate. Yet, as the Adjuchas's presence suddenly waned, so did Ashido's. Not to the point of disappearing, but to where Ichigo instinctively knew it was over.

Byakuya had a head ache.

Not just a head ache, but for the first time, he contemplating taking medication for the few pounds of stress that managed to cuddle in right above his left eyebrow, accompanied by an annoyed eye twitch. Of course, that was only when he was alone. He'd never get the end of it from the elders if the infamous Byakuya Kuchiki had an incurable eye twitch.

"Are you saying you have no idea where my sister is?" His voice had dropped to a level that was dangerously low, even for the Kuchiki, while he tried to suppress his eye twitch. He was sitting, having tea, out beside his koi pond, (which was suddenly becoming very low on koi fish) when a member of his squad he had instructed to locate Rukia, had appeared with this unacceptable news.

The man swallowed nervously, feeling pure anger radiate from the older man. "W… well sir." He stammered. "Th… they've found her, but they aren't quite sure how to get to her."

Byakuya opened his eyes and sent a death glare to this man which began to drill holes in his head. "It's obvious, isn't it?" The man glowered, his stone gray gaze turning icier than normal. "Find an exit. Send a Hell Butterfly (A/N: I personally don't know if Hell Butterflies can be used like this, or if their names are capitalized, but for the sake of this story, deal with it. Please don't comment about it.) to them, so they can get out."

The man bowed deeply, trying to escape from the man's evil gaze. "Yes, captain!" He practically squealed, before bolting.

Byakuya sighed, and sipped his tea, before closing his eyes again. Now to solve the mystery of why his koi fish were disappearing.

Of course, as he heard the giggling of a certain pink haired lieutenant on the other side of the manor was a hint.

Ashido couldn't help but smile as her eyes opened, and she gazed upwards at him. Despite the fact her body was in pain, she couldn't help but try and snuggle deeper into his grip, feeling at home.

He raised his hand and brushed the pads of his fingers across her cheek. She leaned into the touch, and unconsciously let go of a breath she had been holding onto. Breathing was suddenly easier, as her body relaxed.

"You're really messed up, you know that?" He murmured to her gently, cupping her cheek in the palm of his hand. His face returned to a normal, stoic one, but she could see how his eyes shone, and the remains of a smile against his lips.

She poked him halfheartedly in the chest, still smiling. She planned on pulling back her hand, but changed her mind, and curled her little hand into a fist on his clothing, tugging slightly. "Your hair's redder than usual." She remarked, tiredly playful. However, as she said it, she realized it was true. His whole body was coated in drying blood, while his hair was, indeed, looking more like Renji's and less like Ashido's.

She gripped him tighter, suddenly worried. "Are you-"

"Hurt?" He cut her off quietly, in that soft voice of his. "You should have seen the other guy." He joked, ignoring as she jabbed at his chest slightly, in a gentle warning. He smirked, removing his hand from her cheek and curling his fingers around her own.

"I've got a minor wound on my arm." He admitted, absentmindedly plucking at her fingers with his own, still too exhausted to fully realize Rukia was okay, and they were both going to leave. "However, most of this blood isn't mine. It's the Adjuchas."

Rukia nodded slowly, shivering as she recalled the pain of being crushed under its claws. However, she was determined. She tugged at the sleeve of his other arm, until she saw the wound. Blood dripped from his other arms, somewhat dripping onto her neck. She could admit, though, that it wasn't extremely serious. The wound was long, but not deep, and had already clotted in most areas, causing it to scab. Still, she frowned.

"You'll need to get that check out." She persisted, still looking at it. To her surprise, Ashido chuckled lightly, shaking his head, as he pressed his knuckles into her cheek. "What?" She demanded.

"Here you are, you had broken ribs, bruising, you were bleeding to death, you look terrible-" She huffed at this, "-and you're worried about a flesh wound. You are something else, aren't you?" He looked at her gently, albeit curiously.

Rukia let herself blush lightly, but she wasn't letting him get off that easily. She reached upwards, almost having to lean (damn tall people) and mussed his own bloody hair. "And you killed that thing, only gaining a flesh wound." She murmured, suddenly tired, as she pressed herself closer into his chest.

Ashido couldn't help but smile softly, as her eyelids began to flutter close. He leaned down, hand cupping her cheek, and pressed his lips to hers, slowly and softly, tasting all of her sweetness, as she inhaled his musky scent.

He felt her wrap a small, skinny hand around the back of his neck, deepening the kiss. She felt her heart thaw as he held her close, protected, as she practically melted in his arms underneath his husky, admittedly well toned body. Of course, who wouldn't be well toned after living for years in that sort of place?

Ichigo opened his mouth, ready to call out Ashido's name, before suddenly stopping in mid step. Ten feet away, Rukia's frail body was wrapped in Ashido's strong arms, while the two engaged in a lip lock. Ichigo immediately scurried away, feeling hit face heat up. However, it wasn't in anger, as he had expected. Rangiku was always right when she accused him of being innocent, he'd simply deny it ferociously whenever she brought it up.

He peeked around the corner, and began to smirk. He wished he had a camera, Byakuya would have a field day if he knew Rukia was involved with a man he had yet to meet. Yet, perhaps the stoic man would feel a bit better if it wasn't Ichigo himself.

Ichigo didn't feel remorse, no jealousy. He had always known she had never exactly belonged to him. Hell, it was Rukia, she didn't belong to anyone! As if one person could every contain that. And if that one person was Ashido, Ichigo gave him his blessing, he didn't want to deal with the pain in the ass midget Soul Reaper with a habit of beating him up.

Taking in a deep breath, he called Ashido's name loud, to give him fair warning. He didn't want the two to get freaked out. Maybe one day he'd be able to get the snap shot of a life time, but not now. Yet that midget hadn't seen the last of him.

Both Ashido and Rukia jumped as Ichigo's coarse voice called them. She simply smiled softly, the blush settling from her cool cheeks, as she rested her head against his chest. Ashido closed his eyes, letting her feel his heartbeat, before stumbling to his feet. He had to wobble for a moment, waiting for his brain to adjust after a rush of blood to his head made him black out momentarily. Yet, he was strong. Breathing in deeply, and secretly thankful that Rukia was extremely light, he stepped, lighter than he felt, out of the cave.

Ichigo hid his smirk underneath a scowl, but it broke slightly when he saw the two of them together. He contemplated bringing something up, but one look from the exhausted looking Ashido changed his mind. Instead, Ichigo ran a hand through his spiky hair.

"Well, we got her." He growled. "Where's this exit I'm so excited to hear about?"

Ashido swore mentally. Of course, he didn't find out where the exit was, and he couldn't trudge through the forest for forever. He'd either tire out or they'd be attacked by another Ajduchas's formation, which they didn't have the strength for. Ichigo's smirk melted back into a scowl, which was deeper than normal.

"This is damn ridiculous." He snapped, somewhat seething. "Could we get a little help here?" He seemed to yell at no one in particular. Ashido doubted that would do much for their situation, but didn't say anything. It was hard enough holding onto Rukia without passing out, let alone getting in a fight with the orange haired man.

Yet, it seems that Byakuya's efforts were not wasted. Through the darkness slipped a darker, fluttering object. Ichigo squinted through the trees, grasping at his sword, not sure if it was a friend or foe. That was, until it neared, and the man felt like jumping for joy, a trait which was much unlike him.

"A Hell Butterfly?" He questioned, holding out his hand. The creature complied, landing delicately upon his finger tip.

Ashido tightened his grip on Rukia, waiting as Ichigo received the message, before the butterfly turned and fluttered away, somewhere into the unknown.

Ichigo turned, smirking at Ashido. "It seems as if Rukia's brother wants us back." He said. "Come on, I know the way out."

Ashido followed Ichigo. They walked slowly, mostly for the man's benefit. Ichigo offered to carry Rukia, but Ashido couldn't let her go. Not that he was afraid Ichigo would take her, it was just he couldn't comprehend letting her go after what happened. He didn't want her to fade away.

During the end of their walk, Rukia's eyes opened, and peered upwards. Ashido met her gaze, all kindness in his gaze. She smiled, content and calm, before closing them again, her breathing matching his, as with their heart rates.

He pressed her further into his arms, holding her tighter. He watched the trees shift with the groans of hollows, while their hunger lurked in the background.

Bring it on. He hissed mentally, to no one in particular. You're not taking her from me.

She's mine.

Hm, somewhat possessive, eh?

Ah, well, I'm excited it's practically over! For anyone who is curious, I will be writing an epilogue, after I update Soul Business. If you like Ichi/Ruki as well as Ashido/Ruki than check it out, you'll like it.

Anyways, thank you for all your guys' support. I know this pairing isn't very big, but most people have been kind enough to review, and kept be writing, even when I really didn't want to. I liked how this story turned out, and I'm just happy that everyone has been urging me on. It's awesome.


Ha! Take that world! I PWNED you!

Now, to focus on my new story, anyone who is interested. Anyone? At all? HELLO?!

Please review, it'll make me happy, and the epilogue shall come sooner. Whoot! I'm celebrating!