A/N: An annoying plot bunny that came to me while at work. I had so hoped to work on my other stories.

Disclaimer: I do not own the Bleach characters, manga, anime, movies, etc. They belong by copyright laws to Tite Kubo et al.

Hating the Rain

Rukia sat on the veranda, watching the rain as it covered the gardens of her brother's estate. It was the same spot Ichigo, Renji and she had been in after the incident with the Bounts. They had wondered if fate was a wheel that repeated the same things or if it was a straight line. Ichigo had once wished for a sword strong enough to break that wheel and change fate.

Now, even months after the war, that sword was no more. He had sacrificed not only Zangetsu but all of his spiritual powers to protect those that he cared for and to take down a would-be god. Ichigo Kurosaki had saved both the Soul Society and the World of the Living. He had protected his friends and his family.

And she was nothing but a memory to him. That's all that she would ever be, even upon his death. Without spiritual powers he would never be allowed into the Seireitei again. She could do a konso on him as a favor to an old friend but by the time his soul arrived here, he would have no memory of her. Even if by some miracle he did, there was no telling where in the Rukongai he would end up. She could spend decades looking for him and never find him. Without his large, familiar reiatsu, she had no hope of ever locating him.

They were nothing but ghosts to each other now and it hurt. The pain of separation had never seemed so bad before. Rukia had once thought that she could die in peace knowing he was safe in the Real World. Was this what he had felt when she had been taken from him the first time? A gaping wound that refused to close? A void in her soul and a longing that couldn't be explained?

Focusing on the rain once more, the Kuchiki princess sighed. Grey clouds made the day dreary and Rukia felt that it would never end. He had once told her that it was because of her that the rain in his soul had stopped. She had never had the guts to tell him that the rain in her soul had stopped because of him too.

Soft footfalls drew her attention away from the landscape and Rukia's violet eyes widened at the sight of her dignified brother sitting down and joining her. "Nii-sama," she breathed, unable to say more.

"You miss him," the noble stated without saying Ichigo's name. He rarely did if he could help it. His sister had mourned the loss of the ryoka far longer than he had thought she would. Byakuya had hoped that any feelings the two had shared would remain in his sister's memory as merely friendship. One could mourn the loss of a friend without losing oneself in depression. His hopes had come to naught and he knew that one could not mourn the loss of a loved one without doing so. Not when that loved one was forever beyond the reach of both mortal and Shinigami.

Rukia would often become morose during a rain storm and he wondered if she knew that it was only during these times that she allowed herself to cry. It was only when she was completely alone and she was in the safety of the manor. The wet weather obviously held some meaning to both her and the boy if that was the only time she showed her true emotions. Over the year and more that had gone by, Rukia had become a copy of himself and he did not like it. Byakuya wanted the real Rukia Kuchiki to return.

"I can see him," Rukia whispered. It was an obvious attempt to reassure him that she was all right.

"But he cannot see you. Not without a gigai and that would be unsatisfactory for you both."

"Yes," she answered. How could she go and not want to stay?

"Ichigo Kurosaki knew the consequences."

"Yes," Rukia said again. She hadn't though. If she had known she would have done so many things differently. She wouldn't have told him to save the reunion for later because they had never gotten to have a true "reunion." Ichigo had woken from his month long coma only to have to immediately say goodbye to her before she disappeared from his sight forever.

Silence stretched as the siblings stared out at the torrent that was now making large puddles in the yard. "He hates the rain," Rukia finally said, knowing that her brother would understand.

"Many people do."

"The Grand Fisher killed his mother when it was raining. Even as a little boy he could see ghosts and he thought the Hollow's lure was a little girl who was in danger of falling into the river and drowning. Kurosaki-san died saving his life. Ichigo always blamed himself. Even after he learned the truth he still blamed himself for not being able to protect her. I think that's one of the reasons he was so determined to save me. He only ever attained more power so that he could protect us."

"Indeed. Perhaps I should not mention this now but there have been reports of an odd aura surrounding Kurosaki in the last few days. I have requested permission to take Renji and one other to go investigate. Would you like to be the other?"


"Yes, Yoruichi commented on it when she was here last. That blasted cat was actually quite smug about it, as if she knew something that everyone else did not."

"Nii-sama, could it be…?"

"That is what I wish to determine." Byakuya watched as light began to return to his sister's eyes after nearly a year and a half. He would have to make a note to personally beat Kurosaki into the ground for making his pride cry.

Rukia nodded, wiping her eyes without thought to her brother's presence. He had just given her a wonderful gift. "I would like to go."

"I shall inform Ukitake-taicho. Prepare yourself, Rukia." The rain had slowed to a drizzle, making Byakuya briefly wonder if the weather had been reflecting Rukia's mood all along.

"I hate the rain too, Nii-sama."

"I know," the sixth division captain said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "As do I."

For once Rukia took the chance and embraced her brother. The clouds parted and a ray of sunlight filtered into the garden. "I think though, that it's done raining." Strong arms returned the gesture of affection.

"Indeed, little sister."