Smile In Your Last Breath

A/N:According to this story, the fullbring arc never happened. This means, in this story, Ichigo has been powerless for all his life.

As she stood near the door, her mind ran through a myriad of thoughts while her heart felt heavy under a ton of emotions. Her right hand which held the blue, glowing sword was trembling while she stood frozen, just where she was. Her left hand tried to suppress the trembling of the other hand but failed miserably when her whole body began to lightly shake. She took a deep breath. Then another. The trembling lost a bit of its magnitude but it was still there.

"Ichigo," she whispered to herself - An attempt to convince her mind to accept what was in front of her. She took another deep breath but didn't move an inch, her body just wasn't responding to the logical part of her brain.

In front of her was a room with bleached walls. A bed was in the centre and a machine, which beeped in irregular intervals, was on a table near it. The glass windows were closed but the sound of heavy rain and thunder was faintly audible. The whole atmosphere seemed grim, abominable.

But what made her body tremble and her heart wrench was the man that lay on the bed – old, wan and dying. His once bright hair was now a dull grey, his closed eyes had deep lines at their corners and his face was deeply wrinkled. His puckered lips opened every now and then to take in more air while his arms were limp by his sides. The only way to tell that he was alive was by his infrequent breaths.

She willed herself to move forward.

With one small step at a time, she reached where she had meant to. But this time her hands refused to move.

I have a job to do. I shouldn't lose myself to pointless emotions.

But today wasn't a day when her body would listen to her mind. She hovered over him, her eyes examining his face. She forced back her tears and again tried to move her hands, determined to complete her job but froze as his eyes slowly opened.

A light, familiar fragrance, reminiscent of fresh snow, assaulted his senses. He didn't want to open his eyes just yet but did when his mind finally matched the fragrance to its owner.

He thought his tired and aged eyes were deceiving him as he saw a slightly blurred image of her pale face and glistening violet orbs, her ebony hair falling down her shoulders.

"Rukia?" he said, his voice was barely above a whisper.

He saw her nod in response.

This is too good to be true.

He tried to move one of his arms to his face in order to pinch his cheek, but the attempt turned out to be in vain as he realized he had no energy to do it.

"Fuck," he groaned, cursing his lack of strength.

"Is that all you have to say to me after 75 years?" she asked. He decided that he had imagined the quivering cadence in her voice or better, blamed it on his old ears. Rukia Kuchiki's voice was firmer than a rock.

" 75 years and 4 months," he corrected.

She wanted to laugh and she wanted to cry. She still didn't understand what fate had against her, having to meet this particular guy in such situations that it was impossible for her heart to not cry.

A dark chuckle escaped her lips.

"I see you've become a lieutenant," he said as he spotted her Division Badge.

"You didn't think I was never going to be promoted, did you?"

"Well , I guess I did."

"Thank the gods that you're so old or you would have been nursing your bruised nose by now."

"That would have been better than-," he stopped speaking as he broke into a fit of coughs.

She patted lightly on his chest and told him to relax. After a while, he stopped coughing and tried to relax his ragged breathing. His eyes were pricking with unshed tears, the cause of which was not just coughing.

"I was waiting for you," he finally said.

As if someone had rung a bell in her head, her eyes widened as she spoke out, "How can you see me? You aren't supposed to-"

"Ahh, you didn't really think that I could never regain some of my powers, did you?" he raised an eyebrow at her.

"I guess I did," she said with a sad chuckle.

"It's been so long, Ichigo. So long," she gently shook her head.

"It has, Rukia. However, age and time aren't as kind to everyone. You just grew older to become stronger and more beautiful than the last time I saw you and I…"

"Ichigo," she whispered and as if by instinct, her head moved forward so that her face was only inches away from his.

She closed her eyes and leaned even closer to him. A shock ran through both their bodies as she pressed her soft, pink lips to his puckered and pale ones. The tears that she had been holding back finally left her eyes and fell on his face, only to collide with his own. The two rivers joined together and flowed down his cheek as one.

She raised herself and looked at him through her tear-filled eyes, "Here's the end of it, Ichigo. You can become a shinigami again," she said, not bothering to wipe the wetness off her cheeks.

She put a finger on his lips and said, "Smile. You won't be powerless ever again, so smile. Smile in your last breath, Ichigo, these are your last minutes as a living."

And he smiled. She wondered, did he stop scowling as time went by? Did he marry someone and had kids? Did he have grandkids? She smiled at her stupidity and shook her head. She could ask these questions later. She had a job to do.

Her hands trembled again but she lifted them and just when the tip of the glowing sword reached his chest, he said, "I missed you. Just don't leave me again, alright?"

She smiled as another tear trickled down her wet cheek.

"Baka, why would I ever leave you?"

The sword dipped deep into his chest, right through his heart and she wanted to laugh and cry at the irony of their situation. She knew she had done a good job as a strong blue light burst out around them and in front of her stood Ichigo in black shinigami robes with four black vertical lines on his forearms and black, tattoo-like bands crossing over his chest, wrists, and ankles. His eyes were bright with new life and his hair was orange again while his old, frail body was left lifeless on the bed. The beeping of the machine had ceased and a long, continuous sound had replaced it. Outside, the rain had stopped. She looked into his bright amber eyes and smiled.

"Welcome back, shinigami Ichigo Kurosaki."