Last chapter people, I'll like to thank all my readers for sticking with me thus far and give special kudos to my reviewers for giving me the motivation I needed to continue. I really wish I could have kept this story going a bit longer, but I felt that this would be the best place for it to end. Again thank you all for reading, leave me a review to let me know what you thought of it.

~Itami


Chapter Eight: Loving Ever After

Previously in Change of Hearts:

"I never once thought of you as a replacement for Kaien!" It was such an out of character thing for Byakuya to raise his voice that it silenced anything more Ichigo had to say. "I never once thought of you as his replacement." Byakuya said again, "Admittedly it was you resemblance to him that initially caught my interest, but not in a good way. You drug up memories I'd rather forgotten. You made fresh pain I thought I'd gotten over. I wanted to push you as far away from me as possible. I thought you the devil incarnate sent to put me in my own personal hell. But then I started watching you and how you behaved with you friends and all my preconceptions of you vanished. You were nothing like Kaien and at the same time so much like him I couldn't understand. It was like all the good traits in Kaien had been taken and put in you, but you added a fire to it, powerful, dangerous, and beautiful. The more I watched you the more I realized that you weren't Kaien and the more I began to fall for you. I fell for you Ichigo Kurosaki, not because you look like Kaien, not because you acted like him, but because you had such a kind and caring heart, the ingrained will to protect all who were close to you and disregard your own self to do so, you had patience and temperance among friends, but still burned with a fire unlike any other. Once I realized I was falling for you, I never for a second thought of you as Kaien's replacement. Kaien is dead, I loved him first that is true, but I love you now Ichigo and I love you more."

Ichigo was melting. Byakuya's words caused him to flush a bright crimson and just melt into a big puddle of goo right there on the living room floor in front of his entire family. He didn't know what to think. He didn't know what to feel. All he could do was stand there feeling like a fool staring into Byakuya's hard determined eyes, "I- I uh."

"Please Ichigo," Byakuya said closing the distance between the two of them and gently caressing Ichigo's cheek, "If you're going to hate me, hate me for loving you too much. If you're going to leave me, leave me for needing you too much. If you want to catch an attitude and kick me out, do because you know that there's no other way to make me leave. Make it clear to me your reasons if you want me gone, for otherwise I will spend forever chasing after you if there's even the smallest reason to think you'd ever take me back. I would never do anything to hurt you Ichigo; I would rather die first. If my staying by your side will cause you pain then I'll leave in a heartbeat no matter how much it'll kill me to do so. But if the only reason you're pushing me away is because of something that I didn't even say, then you'll have to lock me up before I ever falter in my love for you and even then my love will continue. What others say shouldn't matter Ichigo. Know that I love you and that will never change. I love you Ichigo Kurosaki, not some phantom of a dead lover. So please, please say you love me too. Please say you need me as much as I need you. Please tell me to never leave your side. Please."

Such heartfelt emotions were reflecting in Byakuya's lighting eyes. His eyes were like black holes, pulling Ichigo in and allowing him no escape. His heart was a black hole, for Ichigo would never escape it now that he had fallen in. Yet still he was hesitant. He didn't feel worthy of the love and devotion Byakuya was offering him. He didn't deserve this man.

As if reading the thoughts in his eyes, what Byakuya said next chased away all hesitations, "All those fears and insecurities you feel, allow me to allow me to chase them away; I'll make sure they never come back. All the demons that haunt you, allow me to fight them; I'll make sure they never bother you again. All those thoughts that whisper you're not good enough and you don't deserve, allow me to confront them; I'll call them a bold face lie. Ichigo let me be you strength when you are weak. Let me be your courage when you are afraid. I'll be your friend when you are alone. I'll be your voice when you don't know what to say. I'll be your light in the darkness. I'll be your guide when you loose your way. I'll be the fire that warms you when you are cold. I'll be the medicine to take away your pain. I'll be all of this for you; as you are all of this for me. Just let me love you Ichigo; you above all else are worthy of my love."

"Byakuya," Ichigo's voice trembled and then he lost all strength and collapsed into the other's hold, "Byakuya I'm so sorry. I never want you to leave me, I need you so much. Please stay with me, I won't push you away again; I promise." Ichigo had no clue as to when he'd lowered himself to being such a weak needy being, but that didn't matter to him as he clung to Byakuya and let tears he didn't even know was there spill from his chocolate colored eyes."

"Shh, Ichi, my Ichi, don't cry, I'm here." Byakuya ran a soothing hand up and down his back.

"Byakuya," Ichigo said in a low voice, "I love you so much."

"I love you too Ichigo."

Ichi pulled back a little and peered into Byakuya's gunmetal grey eyes, "Byakuya," he said softly, "kiss me."

The man's lips were light against his own, gentle and loving, yet the ignited a fire deep within Ichigo and he knew that no matter what happened to him everything would be right in the world as long as this man was by his side.

"Ah, Misaki out little Ichigo has grown up so much." Isshin's loud voice cut through the world that Ichigo and Byakuya had drifted into and reminded them that they had an audience. Ichigo blushed bright red at the sight of his sisters watching them, Yuzu looking as if she was going to explode with joy and Karin as if she was going to be sick from the mushiness of the scene. Isshin was clinging to the annoyingly large poster of his wife on the wall with tears spilling from his eyes. He pulled away from the poster and with a comically serious expression turned to them, "Byakuya we need to talk."

::-::-::-::

"Oi, Ichi your lover boy is here!" Karin's voice called up the stairs.

"I'm coming!" Ichigo called back, grabbing his jacket and bounding down the steps.

A large smile spread across the teen's face when he saw the man waiting for him by the entrance it took all his self control not to rush over and kiss him senseless; Byakuya had set rules of no kissing in the Kurosaki house or anywhere else they might be seen by Isshin or the girls, so Ichigo would have to wait until they were out in the car before he could greet his lover the way he longed to. "Hey Byakuya," He said pulling on his shoes, "Ready to go?"

Byakuya nodded.

"Guys I'm gone, see ya tomorrow!" Ichigo called to his family before rushing out the door.

As soon as the two of them were in the car with the door closed Ichigo all but jumped across the median and pressed his lips against Byakuya's. Byakuya kissed him back hungrily and the two of them stayed like that until the needed to come for air.

"Seatbelt," Byakuya demanded as Ichigo fell back into his own seat. Ichigo silently complied as his thoughts remained on that mind blowing kiss.

::-::-::-::

"…just by being here today you've all have taken the first step in getting off the streets." Jyushiro smiled, "Now let's all welcome Mr. Ichigo Kurosaki who will tell you of his experiences in the Change of Hearts Program."

There was only five teens in this group and they all clapped half heartedly as Ichigo too Ukitake's place in the front of the room. Ichigo smiled at the group, "I know you're all thinking that this program is just a waste of time and not too long ago I would have agreed with you." He started by saying, "I must have set the record for the number of times a person can fail this program. I went through more times than one could count and always ended up back on the streets afterward, I thought this was the most useless program in history, but even as I thought it I knew I was wrong. See the program only works as well as you allow it to. It's really your on resolve to get off the streets that allows it to work, this Program really only help to smooth out the bumps along the way. I never had much resolve to get off the streets, because I felt that that's where I belonged. You see someone very important to me…"