Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or the characters.Thanks to CrystalRaindrop007 for Beta'ing! Some things might be AU!


Shadows In The Night — XIV

Ichigo wrapped his fingers around his coffee cup tightly and breathed in deeply, smiling.

"I love coffee," he said, drowning the whole cup in about three gulps then wincing as the hot liquid slid down his throat.

Around the table, Ichigo and Renji were the only ones sitting. Everyone else had gone to bed, but Ichigo had been awakened only ten minutes ago to a screaming Raye, and, intent on letting Rukia sleep before the babies' next feeding, he had gotten up quickly and rocked the little girl until she had fallen back to sleep. Renji had woken up when Ichigo was running around, looking for the diapers, and had smashed his foot on the wall. He had let out an impressive stream of unknown cuss words, too.

Sighing, Renji put down his cup.

"Hmm?" Ichigo asked, turning to the red-head as he poured himself another cup of coffee.

"I . . . Well, I guess I never really said sorry, did I?"

"Sorry? What for?" Ichigo asked, slowly sipping his coffee this time. Renji sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

"For almost killing you, ya know? I guess . . . "

"You loved her," Ichigo said, looking up, a ghost of a smile on his face. "And . . . once, a long time ago, she told me that she loved you, too. But she moved on. And you have to, too."

"She loved me?" Renji mumbled, his eyes downcast as his hands grasped his cup so tightly his knuckles turned white.

"Yeah. But you waited to long. If you had told her years ago, maybe, just maybe, today, she would still love you. But a girl can't wait forever, man," Ichigo said, sipping on his coffee again as he watched the emotions flicker over Renji's face.

"Yeah. I guess you're right. And I'll heal in time. And . . . Ichigo? I really am sorry. Today while I was watching you play with Raye and Michio, I kept thinking: I almost took that away from them. A father. What if I had actually done it? I've lost family, and if I had been the cause for your babies to lose their father, I would have had to live with that for the rest of my life. Ya know . . . when I came to Soul Society, I was about seven. My father had died a few weeks before that in a freak accident, and those weeks were the worst of my life. If I had done that to your kids . . . " he paused and looked up at Ichigo. "I'm really sorry, man. And store this away, because it's the first and only time I'll ever utter those words to you, understand?"

Ichigo let his smile fall as he watched Renji.

"Thanks."

"I just can't believe I was too stupid to tell what was staring me in the face all those years. I wonder, if I had told her how I felt . . . if things would be different now."

"Yeah, probably. But . . . " Ichigo smiled again, attempting to loosen some of the tension between them. "Ya snooze ya loose."

Renji glared at Ichigo and elbowed him in the arm. Ichigo promptly whined, and fell back on the floor, making a show out of it; he blamed it on the four cups of coffee he had drunk. Then, what he said next surprised Renji.

"Am I in trouble?"

But he soon found out that the question wasn't directed at him as he he turned his gaze to Ichigo, only to see him staring up into the strict face of Rukia, who had her arms crossed over her chest. Renji stopped smiling.

"Ichigo, why didn't you wake me?" she said.

"'Cause I thought you could use the sleep."

"No more thinking for you! Don't tire yourself out because I am going to need help with the babies later today. And . . . gimmie coffee."

Ichigo smiled. "Yes, ma'am."

She took his, anyway, and let him drink the newly poured cup. Renji shook his head, raising his eyebrows at them.

Rukia sighed and looked over at Ichigo. She said, "We're in this together, Ichigo. If you need help with Raye or Michio, just wake me. I won't get mad."

Ichigo scratched his head, his brown eyes looking anywhere but at Rukia.

"Yeah, I know. But you've been so tired lately from your hard pregnancy, and I thought-"

"I said no more thinking."

Ichigo growled and rolled his eyes, but said eyes went wide when Rukia laid down and placed her head in his lap, yawning loudly.

Ichigo smiled and looked back up, only to find that Renji had left the room while he was arguing with Rukia. Sighing, he leaned back against the wall and ran his fingers gently through Rukia's raven hair while she smiled, almost asleep.

"Love ya," Ichigo muttered as she curled into a ball beside him. He swore he heard her say something, but he couldn't make it out.


"So, how exactly are we going to get them to stop chasing us 'round like idiots?" Ichigo asked, frowning as Michio, who was laying in his arms, began fussing.

Urahara was sitting beside him, smiling.

"We don't. Don't have to. We can avoid a large scale argument that could be dangerous to your family if you let me implant a small chip under each of the babies skin; you and Rukia can control your power, so there would be no need to do the same to you."

"Wait, wait," Ichigo said, closing his eyes as he took in a deep breath. He opened his eyes again and stared at Urahara, who was, once again, hiding his face under his hat. "You want me to agree to let you implant a small chip under each of my children's skin?" he asked, his lips pressed tightly together when he stopped talking.

"I assure you it's completely harmless. It is like the bands we are currently using. But instead of it being in plain view, I would make a small incision on the babies' arms, right below their wrists," Urahara explained, showing Ichigo a small portion of skin about half an inch below his own wrist. "The chip is tiny; as small as an eye contact. It will hide the babies reiatsu easily, but when they grow older the chip would have to be replaced by a bigger one. But it really is harmless. They might have a tiny scar, but unless you want to put your family at risk by trying to fight Soul Society, I see no other alternative."

"Look . . . I just want what's best for my kids. Will this hurt them?"

"No, I shouldn't think so."

"Think?" Ichigo asked, running his hand absentmindedly over Michio's soft hair.

"I know it won't hurt them."

"Have you talked to Rukia about this?" Ichigo asked, sighing deeply and running a hand through his own hair.

"Not yet. I thought I would let you decide what you wanted done, and let you talk to her."

"Thanks, I guess. Let me go do that; I'll tell you what we decide later, OK?"

Urahara nodded and Ichigo stood up, holding Michio gently in his arms as he walked out of the room to where Rukia was sitting alone in the bedroom that they had been given. She was holding Raye in her arms and softly singing to her. Ichigo let a smile form on his lips as he walked over and sat down beside her.

He began explaining to her what Urahara had said, and they spoke about it in low tones. Finally, Ichigo stood to his feet after laying the now-sleeping Michio down on the bed. He walked out of the room, shoving his hands into his pockets as he sat down beside Urahara, and now, Unohana.

"OK. You can do it. But we both want to be there with Raye and Michio . . . if it would be OK with you." Then, turning to Unohana, Ichigo said, "Could you be there, too?"

She nodded.

"We should get right on it, then," Urahara said. "Kuchiki, Abarai and the others have to get back to Soul Society soon and you and your family should be finding a place to stay."

Ichigo nodded again and stood up, walking into the bedroom. He came out with Rukia almost five minutes later, each holding one of the babies.

"I hope, for your sake, that this goes right," Ichigo said to Urahara, gently handing Michio to him as they walked into the small, dark room where the implants would be put in. Ichigo could see the worry on Rukia's face as she bit her lip, trying to see over Urahara's shoulder as he took Michio from Ichigo and gently laid the small child down on the soft, cushioned table. Icihgo leaned over and put his arms around her, letting her lay her head on his chest as she watched Urahara give Michio a drug that would knock him out until the end of the procedure.

"You don't have to watch," Ichigo murmered, running his hands though her hair as she winced and felt tears prickle at her eyes as she watched the blade cut into Michio's skin and the small droplets of blood that came out.

"I have to," she muttered not able to rip her eyes away from Michio.

"I know you like proving you're just as strong as all of us, Rukia, but please, you don't have to prove anything. He's our son, and you don't have to be strong. You don't have to watch; I'll be your eyes and your ears. And then, together, if something happens, we can go to him."

Rukia nodded and buried her head in Ichigo's chest.

She wanted to be strong for Michio, but after everything that had happened in the last few months, if Ichigo was offering his shoulder to cry on or his arms to hide in, what was wrong with going to him?

Ichigo watched, unblinking, as Urahara finished up. It was quick and finished within five minutes. Once the small chip was placed in Michio's arm, the cut was sewn up with two simple stitches and a thin wrapping put around it. And as he started on Raye, Rukia found the courage to watch, and turned around in Ichigo's arms, leaning her back up against his chest as she held his hand tight.

"There. All done. I told you it wouldn't hurt them," Urahara said, smiling as Rukia walked over and gently fingered the small wrappings on the babies' wrists.

"Are they . . . are they OK? Can I hold them?" she asked, her free hand still grasping Ichigo's. Urahara nodded, and Unohana handed Raye, whom she had been holding, to Rukia.

Urahara reached over and took the bands off from the babies wrists, and Unohana immediately went in search of the reiatsu Urahara was so sure she wouldn't be able to find.

She confirmed such only minutes later, and everyone left the room, Rukia fussing over the cuts on Raye and Michio's wrists. Ichigo rolled his eyes, smiling, as he watched her.


An hour later, Rukia, Ichigo, Urahara, Yourichi and Isshin were waiting at the gate, saying good-bye to Renji, Byakuya, Isane and Unohana.

"Hey, are you guys gonna get in trouble for helpin' us?" Ichigo asked, shifting Raye in his arms as she began to wake up. Byakuya walked up to him and shook his head.

"We should be fine. No one but our friends saw us helping you, and they should remain faithful to us. And Kurosaki . . . " Byakuya trailed off as Ichigo looked at him, his eyes intense and serious. "Take care of Rukia. And your family. Family is a precious thing that shouldn't be wasted. Make the most of your time with them, because time can disappear in an instant."

Ichigo nodded.

"Yeah. I know."

"Good-bye."

"Yup, bye."

Renji said good-bye to them all quickly, giving Rukia a hug, before disappearing through the gate behind Byakuya. Soon, everyone was through and the gate shut down, leaving them all alone in their thoughts until Isshin busted in, saying,

"Well . . . Ichigo, Rukia-chan, where do you plan on staying? Because you could always stay at the clinic. There will always be enough room for you."

"Thanks dad," Ichigo said, but then shook his head. "But no thanks. I think . . . I think we need to find a place of our own, right Rukia?"

She smiled and nodded.

"Yeah. So we can start our new life."


Three months later, Michio and Raye were beginning to sleep through the night.

They had just finished moving into a small, three bedroom house. It was small, but it was beautiful. In the city, but on the outskirts so they were the only ones around for about a mile. There were trees and beautiful flowers in the yard, and the walkway up to the door was made of stone. The entrance to the small house was round at the front, giving it a cottage look, and it was comfortable inside. Rukia had gone wild decorating; the nursery was done in wild pinks and purples in one half, and oranges and blues on the other side. Raye's clothes, crib, dresser and rug were all bright, blinding girl colors while Michio stuff was darker, but still cute. The colors contrasted, but all in all, Ichigo thought it was perfect.

Ichigo and Rukia's bedroom had been done in a simple off-white, creamy color for the walls, and the carpet was so soft that your feet sunk several inches into it when you walked barefoot. A single, queen sized bed stood in one corner of the room with a bedside table next to it, and on the other side of the room was the closet and the dresser.

The kitchen was the only thing that Ichigo had really done by himself. He had painted it a sky, creamy blue color and the tile on the floor looked like actual wood.

And, as a month and a half ago, in a small church with a small guests list, Rukia had become Mrs. Rukia Kurosaki.

Right now, both babies were sleeping, and Ichigo and Rukia were watching them, content smiles on their faces.

"I'm glad we did it," Rukia said, fingering the tiny scar on Raye's wrist.

"Hm?" Ichigo asked, breathing out onto her soft neck. She shivered when his hot breath made contact with her skin.

"For Michio and Raye. I'm glad we went ahead with the implants. They can live normally now."

Ichigo nodded and held her tighter around the waist.

"Yeah. I know."

"Hey, Ichigo?"

"Hm?"

"Are you happy?"

"Yeah." He smiled. "Yeah, I am."

A new page opened in life, and a new path taken. Where they would go from here, they woudn't know until they got there. But, perhaps, Ichigo thought as he watched the shadows from outside dance across the walls, they would become more than just a simple shadow in the night.

THE END


Were you happy with it? Yes? No? Don't . . . get any closer to me with that knife . . .

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AUTHORS NOTES:

GUESS WHAT? I made asequel! (Squeaks loudly) I hope everyone will read it! The name of the sequel to Shadows in the Night is Whispers in Your Heart -- pleasse drop by my profile.

—P.S. If you liked this story, go vote for it in the poll on my profile page!—