People must get really really really bored of writing this over and over: I don't own Bleach.

Rukia was pacing. Again.

"Kuchiki-san, please be seated, you will agitate your wounds."

Rukia turned and looked down at the fourth division captain who was seated, cross-legged and straight backed on the sand of Hueco Mundo. Unohana's soft grey eyes belied the steel underneath.

The female shinigami paused and began to sink to the floor when she felt something or someone in the distance back towards the huge white palace which now looked a little less pristine in the wake of their rescue attempt.

At least several of Las Noches' towers were in ruins and a number of smoking holes pocked the side of the main structure, not least the huge one that Unohana-taicho had blasted so they could retreat. Anyone who had, had any thoughts about disputing her authority before seeing that had now definitely had second thoughts.

Upon feeling the disturbance Rukia leapt up and ran to the lip of the sand dune to scan the plain between herself and Las Noches. But she saw only Bawabawa who was carrying Nel and Yachiru. Those two had formed a fast friendship in the time they had spent together and had decided to go and play in the time it took for their supervisors to open a gateway to the material world.

She felt sick as she turned back and began to tread her path again.

"She will not listen Retsu." said a soft voice in Unohana's ear.

Unohana turned and saw Byakuya seated besides her having his wrist bandaged by Isane. She smiled slightly, the corner of her lips turning up.

"I know that Byakuya." She said in a voice of equal tone, "But I couldn't call myself a doctor if I didn't try."

Byakuya nodded quickly and looked swiftly at his healer who was slightly shaky at being so close to the captain of the sixth division- Isane was keeping her eyes firmly fixed on Byakuya wrist to stop her cheeks turning any darker. However they were soon both distracted by Rukia running to the crest of the dune again and scanning the landscape frantically.

When it yielded nothing she let out a sound somewhere between a squeak of frustration, a roar of anger and a cry of anguish; then came the cherry of the cake of her emotional storm. She stamped her foot, balled her fists and screamed at the empty expanse.

"If you die Ichigo Kurosaki then I am going to kill you!"

She was distracted by a quiet chuckle from behind her. She turned and glared unabashedly at Unohana who was now laughing covering her mouth with the back of her hand. Then her shoulders dropped and she was dismayed to feel her eyes grow hot and wet with tears of embarrassment and fear.

Seeing her tremble, Unohana stopped laughing and laid her hands back into her lap where they had been previously folded.

"I would not worry Kuchiki-san, I'm sure Kurosaki-san is perfectly alright."

"Of course he is." Rukia hiccoughed, disguising her sniffles rather well. "He's too hard-headed to die easily."

Unohana chuckled again.

"Quite right." She said with a quick glance at Byakuya who was gazing steadily at Isane who was still bandaging even though his hand now resembled a boxing glove.

"But what if he isn't?"

The voice was quiet, shaky and much closer than it had been a second ago. Unohana turned and saw Rukia beside her, her knees pulled up to her chest. Her eyes were glossy yet they seemed dull, simply a dark indigo instead of their usual multi-faceted brilliance. Unohana couldn't help but marvel at the girl. She was like a tempest of energy. Fury, that was so well checked usually, spilling out, washing with the fear and vulnerability of losing her dearest friend. She was gloriously angry at him at the same time as crying because she cared so deeply.

"Rukia-san." She hushed as she reached for her young charge's shoulder. "Ichigo Kurosaki has more on his side than brute-strength and stubbornness."

Rukia looked up, bewildered.

"Well, at least, I'm sure your belief in him will count for something."

She paused and looked at Rukia's trembling lip.

"You do believe in him, yes?"

"Of course I do!" cried Rukia, anger reappearing.

Unohana nodded briskly, "Well that should certainly help him. In fact," the widest smile yet spread across her fine features, "I would say that it already has."

Then Rukia felt it. A warmth that enveloped her heart, as the unmistakable feeling of Ichigo's Riatsu wound around her body and purged the uncertainty from her. Jumping up she ran to the top of the hill to behold three figures making their way towards them from the base of Las Noches.

"So you suppressed the Hollow completely?" asked Uryu moderately as he pushed his glasses up his nose.

"Yeah, jeez Ishida, how many times are you gonna ask? I got it all under control."

Ichigo scowled deeper and continued at the head of their triangle. Orihime was twiddling her thumbs as she walked beside the two of them, head down.

"I am only confirming." Said Ishida, snippily.

"Whatever." Muttered Ichigo, snorting. "You sure it's in this direction?"

"Of course." snapped Ishida angrily.

"Just confirming." Smirked Ichigo. Then grimaced, "Crap, it's actually kinda cold."

Ichigo was still in what he had been wearing when he fought Ulquiorra, that is to say; not much. One leg kept appearing between the folds of his tattered clothes and his entire torso was on show; now smooth and unmarred thanks to the fast paced regeneration.

"We'll be back soon." Said Ishida, less than caring, "Stop bitching."

"I'm not bitching!" Ichigo cursed.

"You are! Anything that would make Kuchiki-san punch you can be classified as bitching. That was definitely an offence."

Ichigo grimaced and turned away. He had to admit that Ishida was right about that. Whining would have done nothing but earn him a punch or a kick or a slap. But what he wouldn't admit was that he would welcome any one of them. If only to know that she had won all her fights and escaped with her life.

"Do you think she-"he began but was cut off by, of all people, Orihime.

"Kuchiki-san will be just fine." She said harshly making the other two jump. "I believe in that."

Ishida and Ichigo exchanged glances and then looked up towards the hill they were heading for. Neither of them were willing to battle Orihime on this point, there was something tougher about her now, almost unchallengeable, or it would have been except for the fact she had been trembling all the way from Las Noches.

Suddenly Ishida smiled and stopped.

"Inoue-san you are perfectly right." He said certainly, squinting up at the far off summit.

Rukia stared for a second, feeling so upset and relieved at the same time she thought she might be sick on the spot, her stomach was churning so.

Then she pitched herself over the edge of the slope and ran, helter-skelter down the shifting sand.

Ichigo only just saw her coming. She used Shunpo to traverse the last one hundred meters before she slammed into his torso and sent him flying backwards. The two slid a short way before coming to a halt.

"Ow! God damn it midget!" he yelled but then stopped because Rukia's arms were wrapped around his bare body and she was sobbing, sobbing, sobbing into his neck.

Slowly, very slowly and maybe even a little nervously Ichigo raised his arms and encircled Rukia, holding her softly to him. Unbidden, a small smile came to his face as he felt her shaking against him.

"Hey, you weren't worried about me were you?"

"No." Came the indignant and muffled response from his shoulder, there was a pause, "Idiot."

He only grinned and squeezed her tighter.

I was feeling inspired so I did this last night between reading the twenty something new chapter updates that built up in my absense. Sorry if Rukia is a little OOC but I just wanted her to have that happy reunion she promised him before they last parted ways.

It is intensly fluffy! (sorry) For IchiRuki fans; but only if you can stomach the sugar XD