Author Notes: Hello again, everyone! For this month's story, I decided on Father's Day which is celebrated on the third Sunday of June in many countries, including Japan. This year, it also falls on June 17, the anniversary of Masaki's death. This story continues from A Happy Children's Day so it will make more sense if you've read that one. Enjoy :)
Disclaimer: Bleach belongs to Tite Kubo.
- o -
Ichigo awoke on Sunday morning, lying on his stomach with his face buried in his pillow. He turned over and automatically glanced at the window beside his bed. Nothing but an expanse of blue sky and fluffy white clouds. Closing his eyes, he pictured the five colourful koinobori or carp streamers that had hung outside his window some six weeks ago.
Every year, he would take them down the very next day after Children's Day. This year, he hadn't. He didn't know if it was because of Urahara's comment about Goat Face's fatherly pride, or how excited Rukia had been to hang hers up, or the happy faces of the others when Urahara added streamers for them (despite Ishida's token protest), or even what Orihime had disclosed about her own childhood.
All Ichigo knew was that he didn't find the streamers outside his bedroom window such an eyesore anymore. Which made it all the more ironic when he came back from school the following Monday to find them gone. He had asked Goat Face who just blinked owlishly at him and said that Children's Day was already over, but he would have left the streamers alone if he had known Ichigo wanted them hanging there until Christmas.
Growling out 'Never mind', Ichigo had fled upstairs before his father could start his usual dramatics. Hopefully, the man wouldn't bring up the subject at dinner tonight... because Orihime would be here.
Ichigo didn't even know how Karin and Yuzu had gotten her telephone number to invite her. He had gone out with her a few times since White Day, including that hot pot lunch at Urahara's, but they were always with Ishida, Chad and Tatsuki. Sometimes with Renji and Rukia, and even Keigo and Mizuiro a couple of times.
Tonight's dinner felt a bit like 'a meeting the family' which was weird since he and Orihime hadn't even gone on a single date by themselves. Ichigo just hoped Goat Face wouldn't make a big fuss about it.
After all, today wasn't only Father's Day, but the anniversary of Masaki's death as well. During their last visit to the cemetery in April, Goat Face had been up to his usual antics, but he was always on his best behaviour on June 17.
Since he hadn't been ambushed this morning, Ichigo hoped the latter would hold true, at least until dinner was over. His optimism evaporated when he went downstairs after getting dressed. Yuzu and Karin were at the kitchen table, packing their old picnic basket with store bought bento boxes, sandwiches, fruit and drinks while discussing tonight's menu and what Orihime-nee-san would or wouldn't like. Goat Face was sobbing to Masaki's poster about how he didn't get to decide on tonight's dishes despite it being Father's Day, but it was fine with him since he would gain a new daughter tonight... and maybe even a grandchild by the end of the year.
That was when Ichigo leaped up from the table to tackle him while Karin face palmed and Yuzu blushed.
After their father, sporting three band aids on his face, went to his attached clinic to see to a patient, Ichigo and his sisters settled down to eating breakfast and finalising the menu.
"Uhm... dessert?" Ichigo asked when the twins gave him expectant looks that demanded some sort of input, Karin's pen tapping the piece of paper before her.
"Oh, Orihime-nee-san promised to bring dessert," Yuzu said, beaming happily.
"She did?" Ichigo said. "Ah. Bet it'll be something with red beans in it."
They stared at him.
"What?" he asked. "She loves red bean paste."
Karin blinked and turned to Yuzu.
"Have you ever seen Ichi-nii look so sappy?"
Yuzu shook her head, all wide eyed innocence.
"Never," she declared.
"Thought so," Karin said. "I know he's never given us that look before."
"That's because we aren't as important as a certain someone," Yuzu decided, adopting a thoughtful air.
"It must be true love," Karin said with a sage nod.
"How romantic," Yuzu sighed, hands clasped under her chin.
"I'm right here!" Ichigo glared at them as they burst out laughing. Then he sighed and reached out to ruffle their hair. "You two are my sisters, you already know how important you are to me."
"Yeah, yeah." Karin knocked off his hand, but she looked pleased.
"It's OK, onii-chan," Yuzu said, catching his hand and patting it. "We know we're important to you, just not as important as Orihime-nee-san."
Ichigo scowled and tucked into his breakfast as they continued to laugh at his expense. He didn't mind... not too much anyway.
- o -
There were only a handful of visitors at the cemetery today when the Kurosakis arrived.
They went straight to Masaki's grave where they cleared away a few leaves that had fallen and offered flowers and prayers. Ichigo was relieved when Yuzu sniffled, but didn't burst into sobs. Isshin lit his one cigarette of the year and stared at his late wife's grave without saying anything.
As for Ichigo, he silently reiterated the promise he had made so many years ago - that he would always strive to get stronger, and that he would always fight to protect others. Once Isshin's cigarette burned down, they made their way to the tiny park nearby to have a quiet lunch.
Isshin stayed in his clinic for the rest of the afternoon while Ichigo and his sisters attended to their homework and got dinner ready. The hours seemed to drag on. Ichigo was done with his homework by three in the afternoon and by four, was too restless to stay indoors. He went to the nearby park in his Shinigami form, hoping to work off some energy. Luckily for him, a few Hollows were there, attempting to have a picnic with a couple of plus souls as their meal.
Before he knew it, it was evening and time to shower and get ready for dinner. The doorbell rang as he was pulling on a clean T-shirt. He thundered down the stairs, almost crashing into Goat Face as they both tried to get the door at the same time.
It was worth his bruised shoulder though, Ichigo thought as he opened the door to Orihime's bright smile and happy eyes. And if that was a sappy thought, then he didn't care. Too much, anyway.
"Good evening, Ichigo-kun," Orihime greeted and held out a cake box.
"Orihime. Come in." Ichigo took the box and stood to the side as Orihime entered and removed her shoes. She saw Goat Face and bowed to him.
"Good evening, Kurosaki-sensei, and Happy Father's Day."
Seeing the growing shine in Goat Face's eyes, Ichigo quickly grabbed Orihime's hand and led her to the kitchen.
Yuzu and Karin had outdone themselves with deep fried chicken wings, grilled mackerel in teriyaki sauce, Japanese curry, stir fried vegetables, eggplant miso soup and rice. Dinner was more enjoyable than Ichigo had expected, but just as embarrassing as he had feared.
Goat Face was back to his usual behaviour, which meant he made one allusion to it being Father's Day every fifteen minutes and gaining an additional daughter every thirty minutes. Ichigo wanted to face palm as many times, but thankfully, Orihime didn't seem to take offence. She just blushed, smiled and continued eating with admirable calm.
Which didn't actually help matters since Goat Face took that as encouragement.
Karin saw how close her brother was to exploding and started kicking their father under the table. Poor Yuzu sat in between them and her ankle got the brunt of one such kick which made her cry out, and Orihime to look at her in alarm.
Apart from that, Ichigo was pleased to see Orihime getting along so well with his sisters. She wore a knee length dress today and looked wonderful with her long freshly washed hair still damp and curling around her shoulders.
Ichigo's fingers itched to touch her amber locks. He also wanted to brush his knuckles against her flushed cheek, and hold her dainty hand which always felt so small in his. He didn't realise he spent most of dinner looking sideways at her, much to his sisters' and father's delight. He also couldn't remember what his dinner tasted like only that it had to be delicious, looking at the cleared plates before him.
He did remember dessert though - a delicious chocolate cake frosted with a silky ganache made from dark chocolate and red bean paste.
- o -
After dinner was over, Karin and Yuzu chivvied Ichigo and Orihime to the living room to watch TV and smilingly rejected Orihime's offer to help clear up.
When Goat Face announced he wanted to watch the news, the twins glared at him until he got the hint and retired to his room, complaining to Masaki's poster on the way about how cruel one's own daughters could be despite it being Father's Day, but it was fine with him since he had gained a new daughter tonight.
Ears burning, Ichigo gripped the TV remote tightly and glanced at Orihime. She was sitting in an armchair and staring at the TV screen with a blush on her cheeks. He cleared his throat.
When she swung to him, he patted the seat beside him and raised his eyebrows in silent invitation. She smiled, glancing at the kitchen doorway before getting up to join him on the sofa.
For the next hour or so, they sat there with Ichigo's arm around Orihime's shoulders, oblivious as to what was showing on TV or the two pairs of excited eyes peeping at them from the kitchen.
- o -
Ichigo walked Orihime home, their fingers entwined, content to remain silent with their shoulders occasionally brushing the other's.
When they stopped at her gate, Orihime waited for Ichigo to bid her goodnight. Instead, he unlatched the gate with his free hand and walked her to her door where the dim porch light bathed them in a small circle of pale gold. Orihime turned to Ichigo, her heart beating a little faster.
"Would you... would you like to come in?"
Ichigo's fingers tightened around hers before he released it.
"Thank you, but I'd better not," he said.
"Oh." Orihime stared at him for a moment before smiling. "Well, goodnight, Ichigo-kun."
He took a step forward and pressed his lips to her forehead.
Orihime stared at him, lips parted in surprise.
Ichigo regarded her for a moment before bending his head again, this time giving her a gentle peck on each cheek before straightening up. He shoved his hands in his trouser pockets with a nonchalant air, cheeks faintly pink.
Warmth flooded Orihime's body and pulsed in her cheeks. She thought she might melt.
"You... you may kiss me, Ichigo-kun," she managed, her heart beating even faster.
He frowned at that.
"I don't want to overstep my boundaries."
"You won't. Not if it's just a kiss."
"But that would make me want more."
Orihime's legs trembled. She didn't think it was possible for her heart to melt even more for this boy.
"Still." Ichigo rested his hands on her shoulders, gazing deep into her eyes. Then he closed the gap between them and sealed her lips with his own.
Orihime gave a little gasp, her own hands lifting to clutch at his arms, feeling soft cotton and hard muscle underneath. More warmth flooded her, starting from her lips and spreading out until she was tingling from head to toe as the kiss went on and on and on...
Until they ran out of breath and had to part, panting softly. Ichigo lifted a hand to run his knuckles down one of her flushed cheeks.
"I was right," he said unsteadily.
"About me wanting more."
Orihime couldn't help laughing at that despite how cheesy it was. Ichigo sighed, lips twitching before he kissed her forehead again.
"Goodnight, Orihime. See you at school tomorrow."
"Goodnight, Ichigo-kun," she replied.
He went out the gate and latched it before looking at her again, his raised eyebrows making her smile before she went inside and closed the door behind her. She leaned against it, fingertips lifting to touch her still tingling lips.
Ichigo Kurosaki had a reputation for being a thug despite his good academic records, but he had never acted less than gentlemanly towards her. Tonight was no different.
Smiling to herself, Orihime went to get changed and prepare for bed. That first kiss was the latest jewel in her collection of memories and the brightest one yet!
- Story End -
A/N: Thank you for reading! Please leave a review if you enjoyed it. The sequel to this is A Happy Birthday :)