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Fireworks of the Heart

--

"Huh."

He turned his head to the right, the faintest hint of a small smile just now starting to form. There, arms wrapped around him, lay Nel, her eyes peacefully shut, her breath coming in and out, smooth and easy, her body wrapped tightly in one of his extra large t-shirts, which of course on someone like Nel, barely went past her hips to cover everything.

The gigai, that is, the new faux body she'd been supplied with, was an exact duplicate of her usual self, just minus the skull mask and the horizontal red estigma that usually lined her nose.

Honestly, had he been younger, he would've gotten a nosebleed just by thinking of her this way. But while he was essentially the same in body, he'd seen quite a few good looking women in the three year winter war, so it came as no surprise to see that Neliel was still as beautiful now, as she had been three years in the future.

Ah, now he remembered how they got here. At some point last night, he bid Urahara farewell, citing his lack of proper sleep as the reason for turning away the ex-captain's extra bed must've fallen asleep, and at that point, he'd gone home.

And of course, Nel had come with him, seeing as she didn't exactly have anywhere else to sleep, and since she was way too big to fit in the closet, she of course, had crawled into bed with Ichigo.

They hadn't exactly done anything, they'd both been to exhausted from an all-nighter planning session. She sighed then, turning slightly to the right, a sure sign that she was about to wake up.

Her eyes stayed closed a moment longer, enjoying the feeling of a good night's rest, of the soft blankets she was wrapped in. The sound of a lark's song drifted in through a window, bringing a smile to her tranquil face. She stretched upon the bed and soon buried herself under the sheets again. She didn't want to wake up; not yet. The morning was too pleasant, the bed was too soft, the comforter she'd cocooned herself in smelled too much like Ichigo.

"Hmph." He kissed her on the forhead lightly, content to go back to sleep.

Her eyes chose that exact moment to stir, fluttering open to reveal those dazzling hazel eyes hidden behind her eyelids. She stared at him for a moment longer, before she leaned in and kissed him softly upon the lips.

"I-chi-go." She sang cheerily upon pulling away, "Goooood morning!"

A slight frown creased his face, stern brown eyes glaring at her with a muffled groan.

"Eeeeh, Nel, its too early for even you to be this noisy."

She giggled as he moved to stretch, then realized she still had her arms round his chest, and couldn't move his legs, because her right ankle was hooked in his right, the her fair skin of her thighs rubbing against his rough calloused flesh. She savored the slightly irritated, slightly perplexed expression he wore, then gleefully burried her head back into his chest to hide her own smile.

Even now, she didn't regret falling asleep with him, not once, though sleeping in a bed was much more preferable to when they'd briefly dozed amongst the shattered ruins of Hueco Muendo. Looking at him now, she could see why Orihime and the others had such a thing for was selfless. He was funny. He was brave and he was smart and he was strong.

And he was handsome. God was he handsome.

"Oi." His voice, muffled, reached her ears.

"Nani?" Her head perked up slightly, inquisitively.

"Alright," Ichigo yawned, brown irises shining serenly. "We gotta get outta bed before-

Too late, The bedroom door swung open as two member's of Kurosaki family loudly marched through.

Ichigo froze, swearing under his breath.

After a few excruciatingly slow moments, the two of them reacted. Yuzu's large brown eyes widened almost to the point of extraction. It was apparent that a gorgeous woman, curled around her brother, and in one of Ichi-nii's shirts was the last thing she'd expected to see when they'd opened the door. The look that had splattered itself upon her face was an indescribable mix between confusion and surprise.

Isshin, in extreme contrast to his daughter's reaction, looked absolutely delighted.

"Hello!" Nel chirped, sitting up in bed, not seeing anything wrong with the situation. "Ohayo, Isshin-san!"

And that's when the impasse shattered.

"My boy!" Kurosaki Isshin yelled out, extending his arms out from his chest. "You have finally become a—hey!" Ichigo immediately began shoving his father back through the still open door, halting the elder man's speech in its tracks.

"Finish that line and I'll fucking ruin you, old man!"

"Nani?" Nel just stared as their struggle carried the two men of the Kurosaki household out into the hallway, preceeded by a loud thump as another one of their customary brawls began. "Why are you two fighting?"

Moments later, there was a loud crash, indicating that someone had likely been felled, or in this case, tossed, down the stairs. The tumbling resonated with a loud crash, then all was silent.

"Jeez," Shooing a still perplexed Yuzu out the door, Ichigo swept himself back inside, his face still red with consternation as he leaned against the frame of the archway, before angrily slamming the wooden frame shut behind him. "He can be such a pain."

Only then did he return his gaze to the curvaceous beauty laying on the bed before him. "Jeez, do you have any idea how much of a pain in the ass he's gonna be now?"

"Sorry." Nel pouted, sitting back up again, pulling the hem of her shirt down, just enough to cover her lime green panties. "I was just being friendly."

"Well in case you forgot, he didn't remember you yet!"

"Sorry." She mumbled, hanging her head even lower.

"Ah, don't do that."

He leaned in and kissed her then, sliding his arms around her waist and pulling her tight against him. She swelled with happiness at the feel of his lips as her hands reached up and held onto the sides of his neck. They broke apart, his brown irises shining down into her hazel eyes serenely.

"Well, I guess we're awake now, huh." He grumbled.

Neliel, already leaning up to kiss him again, could only giggle.

--

The fireworks festival.

Everyone sat by the riverbank, though Ichigo and Nel did earn some rather odd looks as a few students wondered who this mystery girl was, and when the hell she'd hooked up with Ichigo.

"Cheers." She smiled, raising her cup.

Ichigo stared at the sky for a moment longer, then smirked, raising his glass high.

"Cheers." He replied, clinking it against her own.

--

The garganta whirled before them ominously. Two men, clad in the stark white robes and hakama stood in the tooth filled maw, listening intently as the cloak garbed shinigami painstakingly outlined the plan.

"Remember our deal, shinigami." The second dark figure, the taller of the two snarled. "If you break it, I'll know. If you break it, I'll kill you!"

"So I have your word then?" Ichigo turned his attention to first figure, who had remained silent thiu far. "Arrancar?"

"Hmm." The first nodded, extending a hand to shake with Ichigo, and in doing so, exposed his face, that of the soon to be primera espada, Coyote Starrk. "You have my word then, shinigami."

The second arrancar grinned unpleasantly, exposing pearly white teeth from behind an amused visage. He refused to shake, but he made no move to attack, not this time.

"Don't slip up, soul reaper. I'd sleep with one eye open, if I were you."

"They're coming." Ichig jerked his head towards the ladder.

"Then we'll be off." Starrk replied, turning back to the garganta, with the other espada following after him. Ichigo watched them go for a moment longer, waited until the garganta closed, then exhaled heavily.

The hogyoku.

He stared at it silently, lightly amused that something so small, could cause such a world of trouble. This little orb, this tiny, seemingly insignificant sphere, would the source and cause of so much trouble and strife three years from now.

This time, however, Ichigo aimed to use its tainted properties for good. And he had the injuries to prove its use. If not for Orihime's Shun Shun Rikka, he'd have a nasty scar on his jugular right now.

A small price to pay for his deed.

Aizen would still get the hogyoku, but now...he had a few surprises of his own.

'Man, this brings back memories...

The portal opened before them, and Urahara sighed as he saw the faraway look in Ichigo's eyes, which now slid shut. Apparently, the boy was deep in thought, and best to let him be, for now. Tatsuki looked on in mute sympathy, deciding to just leave him be, lest she upset him further.

'Ichigo...

Yoruichi stretched her paws, and yawned. "I suppose we can wait a bit."

Yet Ichigo looked straight on ahead, and saw but one thing.

"Rukia... He murmured, his hands clenching into fists at his sides. He already knew what would happen once they stepped through the Senkaimon. The enemy was already waiting for them, unless Urahara had come up with something new this time around. At last, his eyes burst open, gone was his fear, gone was his regret, replaced by a firm resolve.

'Whatever, I don't intend to lose anyways.'

He undid the bandages around his forehead, and with a flick of his wrist, tossed it behind him allowing it to fall in the wind. He watched it go, be carried away into the wind, and then out of sight.

"Hang in there, Rukia. I'm coming.

"Ichigo."

Next to him, stood Chad, a grim look on his face, his gaze trained into the depths of the dark portal.

The two exchanged a brief nod.

Strapped to his back, Zangetsu lay, ominously silent in preparation for the coming battle.

"Alright everyone, It's time." Kisuke's voice broke into their thoughts.

The strawberry nodded, and the familiar surge of adrenaline began to pump through his veins.

"Just stay out of my way, Uryu."

The last Quincy snorted in mild contempt, glaring unflinchingly into the abyss, refusing to be swayed by words, at least this time. Silently, he pushed up the spectacles he always wore, then he too, released a pent up sigh. "Yeah, same for you.

To Ishida's right, stood Inoue Orihime, determination reflecting in her greyish violet eyes, her usual outfit discarded for the basic attire of a pink t-shirt, and light blue jeans, that were stretched taut against her well endowed frame.

Twin light blue hairclips glinted in the sunlight, as her long hair swayed in the breeze, wafting in and out of her eyes. She too let out a deep breath, exchanging a glance with Ichigo, who nodded slowly in reassurance.

"Everybody ready? There's no turning back after this-"

Ichigo, fully aware of the emotional pick me up everyone needed, clapped his hands firmly together, interrupting Urahara's speech about the odds that were sent against them, and the like, speaking for everyone.

"Enough already. Then we'll just have to win!"

As one, they all nodded in agreement.

"Right!"

Yet, their thoughts were soon interrupted by Tessai declaring the portal's readiness.

With a bright flash, the portal now fully opened, and the five teens, along with Yoruichi tensed, ready to jump at just the right moment, as Urahara gave the basic explanation of the Senkaimon turned reishi converter. If one of them waited just a second too long, or moved a hairsbreadth too early...

"NOW!" Shouted Urahara, and as one, a simultaneous spring, they all leapt forward, into the light, disappearing with a flash.

And thus, they began the journey of a lifetime.

All over again.