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[personal profile] tangodancer
Rating: K+
Type: Oneshot
Fandom: Bleach
Pairing: Aizen/Ichigo/Byakuya
Summary: The Soul Society still needs help. The King steps in, and with him, the new Captain of the Zero Division. Someone who's supposed to have died 150 years ago. How will the family she left behind react? Here goes the promised happy ending. ByaIchiAi
A/N: Jun is Aizen's son, Katsumi and Hakaru are Byakuya's children. In other words, the twins have different fathers.



"Hakaru! Behind you!"

The boy, an Academy student of around sixteen years of physical age, with dark brown eyes and silky black hair held in a ponytail, spun around, his eyes wide, raising his Zanpakutô to parry the blow at the same time. But he was too slow, and the Hollow had the advantage of surprise. And strength. Even if he had managed to oppose his blade to the attack, he would have been obliterated. With a buzzing sound, the Cero engulfed him and collided with the ground, creating a huge explosion and rising a cloud of dust. The students huddled against a wall a few feet away screamed his name in absolute horror and fear, waiting eagerly for the dust to settle down so that they could see if the boy had survived.

"!"

The silhouette clad in a white haori wasn't something they had been expecting. Slowly, they started to see the number on the back of the captain's jacket, and...

Somebody appeared before them, their back to them, and they started. Some of them let out cries of fright, but the man was a captain. And not any captain either: Kuchiki Byakuya, captain of the sixth division, head of the Kuchiki clan. His long hair, so similar to Hakaru's, flowed gently around his shoulders as he turned around to face them, and assessed the damage done to the group by the surprise attack.

His features were blank, his eyes, hard as he looked down at them.

"I see we arrived on time."

Aizen Sôsuke, captain of the fifth division, had walked up to them with a shaken Hakaru, whom he sent back to the group as he too evaluated the injured. He then turned to Byakuya.

"Shall we finish them off?" He asked with a smile Hakaru and his closest friends knew was fake. His eyes remained cold, his features, immediately fell back to their expressionless mask. Byakuya nodded and glanced at the kids.

"Stay here." He then turned around, and unsheathed Senbonzakura.

"Chire, Senbonzakura."

"Kukadero, Kyôka Suigetsu."

Aizen blurred out of sight. And a wave of millions of tiny petal-like blades engulfed the Hollows, utterly destroying them as they were drowned in the flow. A few minutes passed like that, the noble captain standing there as he commanded his blade, and the other shunpoing everywhere at a speed defying imagination, before suddenly, Senbonzakura regained his sealed state, and Aizen reappeared next to his companion, sheathing his Zanpakutô.

"Well," he said pleasantly, "I think they're all gone."

Byakuya nodded curtly and spun around to face the students. Hurt flashed across Aizen's unmarred features for a brief second before he schooled them back to their usual neutral expression, and he focused on the students as well.

"You were lucky they didn't do too much damage." He said gently. "We shall escort you all back to Soul Society. But first..."

He gestured for the wounded to be laid down, and both captains started healing them in silence.

Hakaru watched them, knowing why they had become so good at healing first hand when they hadn't really been experts in the field before.

It was because of the one they all missed.

Because of Ichigo.

His mother.

o-O-o

Both captains, the students decided afterwards, looked like shit. Though they were the epitome of a powerful and devoted Shinigami, they had dark circles under their eyes, looked pale as death, and their hands had been slightly shaking as they healed the wounded students.

Hakaru's friends knew it was no coincidence that the boy didn't look well either, but it wasn't very surprising: everybody knew the story of Aizen Sôsuke, Kuchiki Byakuya and their children, Aizen Jun, Kuchiki Katsumi and Kurosaki Hakaru. It had become an important part of the history of Soul Society, to the point that it had been included in the syllabus of the first-year students in the Academy, and that everybody had to know about them. Kuchiki Byakuya and Aizen Sôsuke were, after all, the most powerful men in Soul Society along with the Captain-Commander himself, both politically and in terms of reiatsu.

And then, there was one last name.

Kurosaki Ichigo.

The Shinigami Substitute.

She had been a human, given Shinigami powers by Kuchiki Rukia, then had become a Vaizard, and an active fighter in the Winter War. But then, she had been exiled and her reiatsu sealed, as had Aizen's, for he had betrayed the Soul Society.

Nobody truly knew what had happened a hundred years ago, when the Modified Hollows problem had erupted, but it was well-known that the Shinigami had contacted the two exiles, only to find that Kurosaki Ichigo was at an early stage of tuberculosis. She had died two weeks later, after having refused to help them.

Aizen Sôsuke had been reintegrated and his name cleaned as a compensation, though everyone knew he had only accepted for the sake of his children, and of his lover, Kuchiki Byakuya. For the nobleman, the newly-reinstated fifth division captain and the former Shinigami Substitute used to be be a threesome, and while Katsumi and Hakaru's father was Byakuya, Jun was Aizen's son.

o-O-o

They had never been the same after her death. All the people who had known the both of them before agreed on that point.

Byakuya had been cold, yes, but never that aloof, that detached and brutal in fights. Though he was calm, he didn't take kindly to provocation, and was now far more prone to using physical violence if provoked, whereas he used to settle matters by a vicious verbal spike.

And Aizen, despite his mastery of masks and fake smiles, had also become distant, and nobody had ever seen his eyes warm up anymore since her death. Nobody except Byakuya, that is, and it was only in their intimate moments. The same could be said about the noble as well.

Katsumi and Jun had a haunted look to them sometimes, especially when the anniversary of Ichigo's death was around. They had drowned themselves into work and training in the first years after her disappearance, quickly climbing up the ranks until they had both become lieutenants, of squad two and three respectively.

As for Hakaru, he was too young to remember much about her, but it didn't prevent him from feeling sad on the anniversary: he recalled the gentleness of a thin, fragile, sickly woman, the softness of her long strands of multicolored hair, the melody of her voice as she sang him to sleep, and the warmth of her embrace. He remembered the happiness in the house when they were all reunited, the sunsets together, the laughter of his parents, the calm pulse of his father's reiatsu, the pranks the twins used to pull on them, and the joy... The joy, and the light, which had faded from his fathers' eyes at the same time it did from his mothers'.

He wasn't there at the time.

But he had seen his family slowly break down while trying to care for each other after she had died.

He had seen Byakuya and Sôsuke blame themselves endlessly, seen the twins cry in each other arms and the regret and sorrow etched on the Soul Reapers' faces when they saw them, or his fathers', or merely thought about her.

And it was enough to be painful.

o-O-o

The two captains escorted them back to the Soul Society in silence, one at the front of the group, the other at the back. Neither spoke, nor looked at the kids, they merely watched carefully their surroundings, before they finally arrived. The Headmaster, some teachers, and members of the fourth squad were waiting there, and immediately rushed over to them, before stopping dead in their tracks at the sight of the two captains, and bowing deeply.

"There are still a few superficial injuries to treat." Aizen said expressionlessly. "We healed the most serious damage."

There was a grateful outcry before the wounded were tended to, and Hakaru turned to his father, who laid a hand on his shoulder, squeezing lightly, before turning around and walking away, followed by Aizen, who quickly caught up.

Ignoring the stares burning holes in their back, the two captains walked away calmly, long black and wavy brown fluttering lightly in the breeze.

o-O-o

"Report."

Byakuya and Aizen stepped forward and faced the Captain-Commander.

"We went to the Real World as instructed." Byakuya started coldly. "A group of sixth year Academy students was under attack by a large number of Modified Hollows. We cleaned them up and healed the most serious damage before taking them back to the Soul Society."

The old man grunted in thought as the two captain stepped back into the line.

"What do you intend to do, Soutaichou?" Hitsugaya asked.

Yamamoto cracked his eyes open an inch, and said, looking at them.

"This issue is not of my jurisdiction anymore. We will take our orders from above."

"Above? Do you mean Central 46, Yama-jii?" Kyoraku asked curiously.

The doors opened as a new voice echoed in the room, and someone entered the meeting hall.

"That is not what he means. As of today, and seeing how you have failed to handle this matter, I shall be directly leading this war."

The doors closed back, allowing to take a good look at the newcomer. He was clad all in white: white long-sleeved, shirt with red trimmers, white pants with the same red lining, and red obi. His knee-high boots, however, were black, and his Zanpkutô's sheath was black as well. He had green-tinted black hair, and stunning, catlike golden eyes. They quickly dropped to their knees, head bowed in submission and respect.

He was the Spirit King.

"Oû-sama. It is an honor."

"Indeed." He said arrogantly. "Rise, we can't discuss business if you're like that." He gazed over them quickly, golden orbs settling on Byakuya as he smiled. "And how are you, Byakuya? It's been a long time since we last saw each other, cousin!"

The man remained unfazed.

"Indeed. I am well, thank you. I see that you yourself are healthy."

"You bet!"

The captains and lieutenants exchanged quick glances, shocked at his immature behavior, before he suddenly sobered up as a low voice called out his name in a warning voice. He glanced over his shoulder at the shadows, before turning back to the sixth captain.

"And Aizen Sôsuke. I heard about your loss. Accept my sincerest condolences. It's a shame such a powerful warrior died like that."

"Ryoga. Get on to business and quit provoking them."

This time, the voice was loud enough for all to hear, and they looked around, trying to locate its owner, but to no avail. The King pouted, before straightening up.

"Anyway. I have been through all the data, and it seems obvious that these Hollows are all low Vasto Lorde level, and that they seem to be blocked at that stage of evolution. Their masks, however, are tougher than they should be, which makes them as dangerous as Arrancars, for they have some sort of hierro to them. I have sent someone to investigate Hueco Mundo right now, they should be back soon."

Just as he finished, a gaping Garganta appeared in front of him, and the Soul Reapers all gripped the handle of their sword.

Something blurred out of the portal and landed right before the king, before the passage closed and disappeared. Looking at the figure, they realized it was a woman, clad all in black. She was on one knee in front of the King, her head bowed and two short swords strapped to her back. She was wearing a long sleeved, tight fitting top, with black pants and boots, and a silk black scarf. Long black hair was tied at the nape of her neck with a silver hairband, and dark bangs shadowed her face as she stood without waiting for permission to do so.

"Ah, right on time! Allow me to introduce the Head of my guard, the elite Soul Reapers squad, Division Zero... Kurosaki Ichigo."

o-O-o

The woman turned around, and gasps echoed in the room.

It was really Ichigo. She had the same features, the same hazel eyes, the same spiky hair, though length had tamed them somewhat, and it was now black. A silver medallion dangled on her chest, which they immediately recognized: it was a present from the two of them on the fiftieth birthday of their threesome.

She looked at them coldly, except when her eyes landed on Byakuya and Aizen, and her gaze softened almost imperceptibly,but it was enough.

Silence reigned supreme for a few tense minutes as the three stared at each other wordlessly. Byakuya's eyes were wide, his skin, pale as death, and Aizen wasn't any better. Shock was embedded in their features, though it would only be noticeable to an observant person, and they had almost forgotten to breathe.

They noticed that the King was smirking smugly at seeing their astonishment.

And then, she turned around and whacked Ryoga on the head.

"I told you to get straight to business. Stop messing around, idiot."

Her voice had changed. It was lower, slightly hoarse, yet very melodious at the same time.

And the most shocking thing of all: she had no spirit power. That they could feel, that is.

o-O-o

Katsumi made to move forward, but Jun held her back, shaking his head at the question in her eyes. They looked back at the woman, who had returned to her place a step behind the King, black against white, and hadn't even glanced at them.

"Well... I will leave her here as a Commander and diplomat. She will be representing me, and working with you to handle the situation as quickly as possible. I trust that you will respect her as you would me, and follow her orders diligently. In case you want to communicate with me, talk to her."

He scratched his head. "I think I've said it all... haven't I?"

Ichigo, whom he had turned to for confirmation, sighed and nodded. "You have. Now get back to the Dimension. I'll take care of things here."

A portal opened before them as they exited the meeting hall, and the King stepped forward, before turning around and looking Ichigo in the eye gravely.

"I'm counting on you."

A warm breeze grazed them, making raven black strands of hair flutter gently as she returned the stare blankly, then smiled softly.

"Go."

Ryoga nodded, and disappeared through the doors, which sealed shut behind him, then vanished.

o-O-o

Silence reigned for a second as the Soul Reapers approached her, staring at her intently.

She turned around.

They all looked at each other.

"Are you really Kurosaki?" Hitsugaya asked disbelievingly.

Her eyes flickered over to him before returning to the group her lovers and children formed.

"Yes."

Silence.

"How are you alive? We all saw you die!" Soi Fon protested.

Ichigo's lips twitched in amusement at her bluntness. "Ryoga intercepted me and managed to heal me. I owe him my life."

"Then why haven't you come sooner?" Katsumi exploded. "Do you have the tiniest idea of how much we suffered because of you? Do you know how much Father and Sôsuke-sama blamed themselves because of you? Did you even think about us all this time? And Hakaru who had to grow up without a mother! How could you do to him what you suffered so much from as a child?How could you? Did you love us at all?"

Hazel eyes closed wearily for a few seconds as she withstood the accusations. The tension was almost palpable as everyone waited for the answer with bated breath.

"As I said, I owe Ryoga my life. He saved me, and asked me to lead his guard. I accepted as a way to repay my debt. However, that involved a lot of training, complying to the Zero Division secrecy rules, and being by his side night and day to protect him from any attempts on his life. There wasn't a single occasion for me to leave in the years I spent there."

She took a step towards them, now speaking to them and only them.

"And for this... I beg for your forgiveness."

She knelt down humbly, head bowed in submission, and fisted hand on her breast as a way to emphasize her sincerity.

o-O-o

The two men felt their fingers twitch as they saw the woman they had loved and grieved for so much over the past century and a half kneel down, begging for their forgiveness. What could they say? They supposed they would be overjoyed to see her alive and well once the shock had worn off, but right now, they felt numb, and too thunderstruck by this revelation to react appropriately.

They could see the delicate arch of her neck as she bowed her head, the soft strands of hair framing her face, and yet, they couldn't answer. They glanced at each other.

The apology was public and enhanced by a physically humbling gesture, something Ichigo would never do, for she was far too proud to lower herself like this. And yet, here she was, trying to convey her sorrow and repentance...

"We shall talk about this later." Byakuya declared in an emotionless voice.

"Indeed. Now is not the time." Aizen added much in the same distant tone.

They turned to the Soutaichou.

"If that is all, Yamamoto-soutaichou?"

He nodded, and they turned around, leaving in a flash of Shunpo.

The twins glanced at their still kneeling mother with equally resentful eyes, then left as well.

Seconds ticked by.

Ichigo stood up.

o-O-o

They understood the depth of the recently departed people immediately. Her eyes were cold, lifeless, as opposed to the fierce hope and determination that had still been burning there a few minutes ago. She held herself very straight, her face carefully blank, but they could clearly see that the rejection had hurt her to unspeakable amounts, and that she had been so crushed she would most likely never stand back up again.

When she spoke, it was in a monotone.

"I will go inspect the defenses and layout of the place now, Captain-Commander. Have a nice afternoon."

She blurred away.

o-O-o

"Kurosaki? Kurosaki Hakaru?"

The boy and his friends looked up at the person who had called, and jumped at the sight. She was clad all in black, with twin short swords strapped on her back, and a silver medallion dangling on her chest. Long black hair fluttered gently in the breeze, and hazel eyes softened when they landed on him.

"It's me. May I ask who you are? You look familiar."

"Are your friends trustworthy? Pardon me," she corrected instantly, "I didn't mean this to sound so insulting, I meant... are they really close to you?"

He nodded, startled at the strange question, and saw how she gazed at all of them carefully, as if assessing them. She looked very familiar, fearfully so, and...

"Okay. This may be very sudden, please don't freak out and listen to what I have to say, okay?"

He nodded again, completely puzzled by the request.

"May I sit down?"

She lowered herself onto the grass at his agreement, then started talking, never looking away from him, as if drinking in his features.

"A long time ago, there was a woman. She thrived to protect her loved ones, and got the powers she had longed for since her mother's death. She became friends with spiritual beings, and eventually got involved in a war between the former Shinigami captain Aizen Sôsuke, and the Seireitei. But she was captured and taken to Hueco Mundo, where she fell in love with the man, who revealed the true nature of his plans.

"When she tried to explain to her friends, she was shunned and betrayed, and the couple's powers were sealed as they were exiled. Sixty years later, though, the Shinigami found themselves in a pinch, and decided to call them back. The woman, unfortunately, was very sick by then, and died two weeks later, leaving three children and two lovers behind."

She paused. "What nobody knew, however, was that a young man named Ryoga, had managed to intercept her soul on its way to be reincarnated, and resurrected her, healing her at the same time, thus putting her in his debt. He asked she lead his personal guard, and she could only accept, thus agreeing to respect the status of secrecy this very special corps falls under.

"She trained for thirty years, then became the division captain, and as such, got to protect the young man night and day in fear of an attempt against his life, for you see, this young man was the Spirit King."

She stopped, and the young man, who had gone from pale to paler to pale like death as she spoke, stared at her unblinkingly, before finally managing to choke out an answer:

"You don't mean... you are... how is it possible... but your hair... how... what... why...?"

She chuckled gently, her eyes filled with sorrow and infinite tenderness.

"Yes. My name is Kurosaki Ichigo. Hakaru... I'm your mother."

o-O-o

The students gaped in astonishment, staring openly, before looking at their friend, waiting for his reaction.

"It is very likely that you remember very little of me." She went on softly. "But I'm not lying. Everything I just told you is the undiluted truth, and I beg your forgiveness for doing to you what I suffered from so much as a child. I forced you to grow up without a mother, and for this, I am truly, deeply, terribly sorry. I do not expect you to grant me your pardon. But I wanted you to know the truth, and that I am back. If you wish for me to leave and never come back, I will obey, without further argument."

They sat here in silence for a few more minutes as the boy mulled over the information he had just been given.

Then, slowly, he looked up into the warm hazel eyes he remembered so vividly from his early childhood, and whispered tentatively:

"Mom...?"

She smiled, all the love of the world burning in her eyes.

"Hakaru... my baby..."

Sincerity. Love. Warmth. Tenderness. Love. Love, love, love. That's all there was in her voice, in her words, in her eyes, in her posture, and it was overwhelming, and his eyes grew hot with tears, and suddenly...

"Mom!"

He was in her arms, hugging her fiercely, his face buried in her chest, as he clutched at her dark clothes tightly.

"Mom!"

o-O-o

She was surprised when he jumped on her out of the blue, and even more so when he embraced her tightly, seemingly never wanting to let go. Then, a smile bloomed on her lips as hope lit up her eyes at the thought that maybe, just maybe, her youngest child wouldn't hate her, and she would still have something to hold on to.

She wrapped her arms around his trembling form carefully, before tightening her grip on him, enjoying the feeling of this silky hair -Byakuya's, against her skin, the warmth of his skin, the gentleness of his sincerity.

The other students, her son's friends, looked on with a slightly puzzled look for the males, and stars in their eyes for the females, who looked like they were on the verge of yelling "KAWAI!" at the scene.

She reluctantly but gently pulled away after a few minutes, her hands on Hakaru's shoulders as she looked him in the eye.

"Thank you," she murmured, "thank you so very much. You don't know how much you mean to me, how much your acceptance means to me. Thank you, my love. I'm so sorry I missed so much of your life..."

"That's not important, Mom! You're back, and that's what matters! I'm so happy! Of course, I don't resent you! I love you! You're my mother! I'm so happy!" He repeated, and she chuckled at his antics.

"So? Will you introduce me to your friends?"

The boy bounced over from where he had gone jumping in joy and excitement, and started naming everyone, before concluding proudly. "Everyone, this here is my okaa-san, Kurosaki Ichigo, former Shinigami Substitute, and Captain of the Zero Division!"

"Pleased to meet you!" They chorused.

"You know you have a whole chapter dedicated to you in history books, don't you?" Hakaru said excitedly. "The teachers absolutely love to tell your story, because that's the only lesson everybody listens to and participates in instead of sleeping through."

She grimaced.

"I'm a historic character? God help me."

"Yup, and you even have a fanclub!" The boy added smugly.

She face-palmed good-naturally, making them laugh.

o-O-o

"So, do Father, Sôsuke-sama and the twins know? They'll be overjoyed!" Hakaru asked a little while later, when they were finally alone, and she was walking him back to the Academy dorms.

She froze, and he stopped as well, looking at her in surprise.

"Mom?"

"They know." She started softly. "I came here on a mission, Hakaru, so Ryoma -the King, assigned me to the case of the Modified Hollows. He introduced me at the captains meeting. It didn't go well. At all."

Anger seeped in those dark brown eyes, as he understood what she meant.

"They rejected you? How dare they!"

She chuckled weakly, and lay an appeasing hand on his shoulder.

"Listen to me, Hakaru. Do not mention any of this to them. They have suffered a lot because of me for the past century and a half, and it is their right to do this. I won't make them suffer any more than I already have."

"But you suffered as well! Do you think I can't see it? It's obvious!"

She kissed his forehead gently.

"Do not worry about this, darling. I am very happy that you accepted me, and having you with me is enough for me to live on. Thank you."

"They're idiots."

She shook her head, amused, but her eyes were full of sorrow.

"Don't worry, Hakaru. Everything will work out in the end. Just don't talk about this with them, okay? And if they broach the subject, keep your true thoughts to yourself. I don't want you all to fight because of me. Do you understand?"

He nodded reluctantly. They were at the dorm gates by now, and she hugged him tightly, despite being smaller than him, and kissed his cheek.

"My, you have grown so much." She laughed gently, and he smirked smugly.

"Yep! I'm as tall as Sôsuke-sama now!"

They stood in comfortable silence for a few minutes, content with just looking at each other, and then, she ruffled his hair lovingly.

"Sweet dreams, brat. Do your homework."

"Mom!"

She chuckled, but he could see that even though her joy at seeing him was genuine, she was still very much hurt and saddened by the others' reaction to her return. Embracing her suddenly, he kissed her cheek.

"I love you Mom."

And then he Shunpoed away. She watched his retreating back for a few seconds, unmoving, before shaking her head lightly, a soft smile on her face. He was as soft-hearted as Yuzu had been. And as fiery as Karin, if his outburst against the rest of the family was anything to go by.

The family...

She looked up, in the direction where she knew that the Kuchiki mansion stood. Should she go talk to them?

She desperately wanted it.

And yet...

There had been no emotions in their eyes when they had ignored her formal apology. No joy, no confusion, no anger... Just plain disdain. And it hurt her so much that she felt her heart had shattered in a million pieces which kept breaking in a thousand shards themselves with each passing second.

She had loved them, loved them still, would forever love them, with all her heart, body and soul. She had fought and betrayed for them, she had given up her powers, her dignity, her life even! But they weren't willing to listen and accept.

She inwardly slapped herself at her selfishness. She had been the one who had made them suffer for more than a century. She may have sacrificed a lot for them, but it was all willingly, and she had been happy afterwards, whereas after her "death", they had been hurt,and alone. She had left them, and consequently, it could be considered as betrayal.

It was a betrayal.

And a formal apology would never be enough to make amends.

She understood perfectly.

But she loved them desperately.

She needed...

… To see them one last time.

And then...

She would disappear for ever.

She wouldn't cause them any pain.

She wouldn't be selfish.

She would... leave them to their happiness.

Nobody deserved it more than they did.

o-O-o

"Sôsuke-sama, father."

Byakuya looked up from his paperwork and rose a questioning eyebrow at his daughter, who was hovering uncertainly in the doorway.

"What is it?"

"There's... You should go and... look through the window at the gates... Discreetly."

The two men shared a confused glance, but stood nonetheless and headed towards the front door. They saw, in the dark, Jun and Katsumi leaning on the window to look at something. Seeing them, though, they straightened up, and pointed at something in the dark.

"There."

It was raining cats and dogs. They could barely see through the constant downpour and the night obscurity, but after squinting, they managed to see a silhouette standing there, in front of the door, frozen under the storm.

Dark strands of hair were hanging pathetically down her face and back, and her soaked clothes clung to her skinny frame, while she didn't do a thing to prevent the water from pouring down on her. She was standing very straight, except for her head, which she had bowed, seemingly staring at the ground.

"She's been standing there for an hour or so." Jun said quietly, never looking away from the delicate silhouette.

Byakuya and Aizen shared another glance.

"And she hasn't moved since then? At all?" The brown-haired captain asked.

"No. She's done nothing but stand."

None of them moved, just looking at the immobile figure through the window.

Seconds, minutes, hours maybe! ticked by, and she merely stood there, unmoving. At some point in time, they noticed that she hadn't been staring at the ground, but at something in her hand. They couldn't see what it was, though.

They had the answer after some time.

o-O-o

The sudden resurrection of the statue under the downpour startled them: they had almost grown accustomed to merely staring at her while she just stood there.

But the statue was alive, and ever so slowly, she rose her head. They couldn't see her face as she walked closer to the house, and gently knelt before the door. They thought for a second that she would knock, but she didn't. Instead, she pulled something out of her uniform, and laid it down, weighing it down with whatever had been in her hand.

She knelt like that for a few minutes, blindly staring at the door, before abruptly standing there and starting walking back. A few steps away from the entrance, she stopped, and looked back, her lips forming words that would haunt them for a long time.

"Goodbye."

o-O-o

The things she had left there were a letter, preserved from the rain by a simple spell, and the silver medallion they had once considered as a token of their love. A wedding ring of sorts.

They all sat down comfortably to read the letter, a task they trusted Byakuya to accomplish, since, as a noble, his diction had to be flawless. Laying the medallion on the table, the man opened the envelope and started to read.

Katsumi, Jun, my dearest children,

Byakuya, Sôsuke, my beloved husbands,

Please, do not burn this as of yet. I still have things to tell you, and I beg you to read all of this before tearing it apart and cursing me. Please.

I know you suffered because of me.

First I will address you, Katsumi, Jun. I know what my "death" most likely did to you, because when my mother died, I never truly recovered either. Hakaru was too small and didn't really remember. I also know that you can never forgive me, because while my mother's death was partly my fault, you had nothing to do with my disappearance, and my staying away sounded to you like a betrayal.

It was.

I should have found a way to sneak out, to tell you I was alive, to reassure you. I didn't. I am sorry. I beg for your forgiveness. I know you won't give it to me now. Maybe, with time, you will understand a little what went through my head during all the time I was away. With time comes age, with age comes wisdom. It is well-known. Believe me when I say it is true.

I understand that you do not wish for me to return to you, and I will respect your wish. But before we come to this, I have things to tell your fathers, and also, one last declaration to make.

I love you.

Those were my last words, and I will say them again today, because they are the expression of the truth of my heart. I love you. With all my heart, with all my soul, with all my body even. You are, and always will be, my children, the flesh of my flesh, the blood of my blood, the heart of my heart. Nothing is more precious than you are. I always considered you as a living token of the love I felt for your fathers and I. The love we shared.

I love you. Please never forget this.

It goes for you as well, Byakuya, Sôsuke.

Yes, I called you my husbands earlier, despite our never having officially married, for that is truly how I considered the both of you. You were, and still are, the most important figures in my life, in my heart, in my existence. It was true back then, it still is today. I may have... disappeared and come back, but I am still very much the same person.

I love you. I will never stop cherishing you, for you are the most precious to my heart. I told you before but I will once again: my body, my heart, my soul are yours, and this will never change. For as long as I am alive, for as long as I exist, my love for you will never die.

Yet, it was not enough: I did exactly what I had sworn never to do. I hurt you. I caused you pain. And for this I will never forgive myself. I will not ask for your forgiveness, because I do not think I deserve it. I just wish to express my deep, genuine wish for you to be happy together.

I heard you formed a couple after my death.

I am glad.

And if you are happy, I will not take that peace away from you.

May you live a long, loving and peaceful eternity together, that is all I ask for. As long as you are all alive and well, I will be satisfied. I know it is selfish but... people cannot change so easily, now, can they?

You probably noticed the pendant. I give it back to you. I figured that since I hurt you so much, you would not want to be reminded that I actually ever existed, and that you are linked to a creature you despise still.

I give it back to you. Consider it as a token of my letting you go. You two are free to live, free to move on, free to forget me, free to love each other without restraints or bothers.

I am leaving. I am walking out of your lives. Because I believe that is what would make you happiest.

I am not saying that you wish for my immediate departure, though. However, in the long run, my presence would only cause trouble. I would not be present a lot if you ever decided to talk to me ever again, and my duties as Captain of the Zero Division would not allow me to have a lot of family time.

I will end this now, if you even bothered to read this until the end, I thank you. If not... well, there is nothing I can write that will actually be read, is there? So, as a conclusion...

I apologize with all my being once more for causing you pain for such a long time.

I love you and am yours, body heart and soul,

Yours for all eternity,

Kurosaki Ichigo

o-O-o

Silence fell upon the room. Katsumi had tears running down her face. Unbeknownst to him, Jun was crying as well. Aizen was staring at nothing in particular. Byakuya was still looking at the signature.

His hands were shaking.

A lone tear ran down his pale face.

Aizen bit his lip to prevent himself from bursting into sobs.

o-O-o

At the top of the Sokyoku Hill, in the middle of a storm, a lone figure was standing very straight, twin nodachis strapped to her back and silver-streaked black hair flapping around her face violently despite being weighed down by the rain pouring from the darkened sky. Thunderclaps echoed from time to time, the interval between them getting shorter and shorter by the minute, and lightning persistently tore the dark heavens. She had her arms crossed over her chest as she looked down at the sleeping Seireitei, and most specifically at the area where the Kuchiki mansion was located.

She had made the best decision.

Hakaru would be saddened, but she had left him a letter to explain, and had sworn to visit often. A promise she intended to keep.

But for her and her husbands, as well as her eldest children, it was time to let go. She had been away for too long.

And they had learned to move on and build a life without her.

A life in which she had no place.

And no right to try and come between them.

While at the origin, she had been the one bringing them together, they had learned to really appreciate each other, to the point that they had become a couple.

She would never break that. Ever.

They deserved to be happy.

And for that reason, she was leaving.

She uncrossed her arms, and turned around, slowly.

Reaching out, she concentrated the tiniest amount of reiatsu at the tip of her finger, and groped for a hitch in the spiritual texture of the air, before pulling at it and ripping it open, revealing an abyss of darkness.

She took a step forward, then another, and walked quietly up to the portal which would take her back to the King's Dimension. One hundred and fifty years ago, she had said goodbye to this world without really being prepared.

But now, she was fully accepting of her fate. She had chosen it. She was living willingly, of her own accord, and with the genuine belief that it would make her beloved ones happier. So forward she walked, ready to abandon everything she had once fought for.

They didn't need her anymore.

So she would leave them alone.

She stepped into the portal.

o-O-o

Something tackled her to the muddy ground, and she hit her head against a sharp rock, making her vision go temporarily blurry. She gasped in pain as she jumped to her feet, the portal closing a few feet away from her, and pushed whatever was pinning her down away. In a few seconds, her blades were out, and she had eased into a well-practiced battle stance, eyes narrowed and Zapakutôs crossed in front of her face.

Then, she saw who it was.

Standing there, getting soaked from the storm, were none other than Kuchiki Byakuya and Aizen Sôsuke.

She straightened up slowly, and sheathed her weapons, warily looking at them all the while.

o-O-o

Looking at them, seeing her perfection, and remembering that they had once loved her, was painful. She felt her chest constrict and her throat tighten, and she gritted her teeth so as not to burst into sobs at the mere idea of not seeing them again for who knows how long, and never ever being touched by those gentle hands ever again. At the idea that never again would they look at her with the same gentleness, the same passion, the same love they had once used, and now had one for the other, but not for her anymore.

There was no place for her here.

So she waited for them to speak, wondering why they had stopped her from leaving.

And she stood under the rain.

o-O-o

She had been standing under the rain again, it was obvious.

And from the looks of it, she was freezing, but hadn't even noticed: her lips were blue, her skin, pale as death, and she was shaking violently.

But she was still the most beautiful creature they had ever seen. A creature of such beauty, be it physical or moral, that they couldn't believe she had actually chosen them as the loves of her life. The man who had been willing to kill his own sister just to go by the rules. The man who had made her miserable for so long.

She had loved them.

She still did.

She may have become an expert in masks, but they were as well. And her eyes shone in the dark as she looked at them, shone with pain, shone with longing, shone with suffering, with love, with tenderness, with protectiveness, with resignation, with love again.

She was theirs.

But at the same time...

They were hers also.

And it would never change.

They took a step forward at the same time.

The End




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