It is around six years after the war, and everyone has moved on with their lives. The Earth turns as it allways has, and though they stay in touch, everyone inevitably must go their seperate ways. The Shinigami return to Soul Society, and have limited contact with their old human allies. High school has ended, and college and work inevitably tear apart friendships through the simple cruelties of time and space- not enough time, and too far apart.

Ichigo is just finishing a paper for class when he gets a call from Orihime. When he answers the phone, he almost calls her Inoue out of habit, but she isn't Inoue anymore. She got married just after a year after entering college, and recently even found herself with child. In fact, when Ichigo sees her name flashing on his phone's caller ID, he is certian that is exactly why she's calling- to deliver the happy news of it's birth.

However, when he greets her, her voice on the other end of the phone is hesitant, almost like she can't believe she's really responsible for her own words. "Ichigo..." She begins, before pausing.

"Orihime? Is something wrong? Oh god, don't tell me somehting went wrong-" Ichigo starts, fearing the worst for his friend's child.

"O-oh, no! Nothing's wrong! In fact, I called to tell you that everything is just fine! It took a long time and it really hurt, but Makoto and I have a son, now! Isn't that great? Ten fingers and ten toes and everything!" She chirped. Ichigo couldn't help but notice that soemthing sounded a little off, still. He decided that if she didn't want to say what was bothering her, he wouldn't force it out of her. New mothers are often unpredictable, anyway.

"That's great! I can't wait to see him. Does the little guy have a name, yet?" He asked.

"No... He doesn't. Um, Ichigo..." There it was again- the note in her voice like somehting was troubling her. "You're a Shinigami, so... You know what happens to people after they die, right?"

Worry instantly seized him. "Yeah... They go to Soul Society."

"And when someone dies in Soul Society?"

"They're reincarnated back here, Orihime. Look, is somehting-"

Her soft voice cut him off. "And when you kill a Hollow, Ichigo?"

He frowned. "They're spirits are cleansed, and they go to Soul Society, too."

He let the silence be for a moment. Her voice broke through the phone once more. "Then... What happens to an Arrancar when they die, Ichigo?"

He blinked in surprise. "I... I don't know. I guess... They either go to Soul Society or here. Same as Vizoreds, I imagine. Or maybe the opposite from them. Us. Er. Orihime? What's going on?"

"Ichigo... You're really the only person who I thought of that could understand.... I don't really know... Look, could you come over here? I think that's the easiest way."

He glanced at the clock. Too late tonight- Orihime and her husband lived an hour away in good traffic. "I can be there tommarow after class. Is that soon enough? I can come right away if it's an emergency-"

"N-no! Not at all! Tomorrow will be fine. Thank you, Ichigo. A-Anyway, I still have a few people to call- while I was still oin the hospital things were going so fast I didn't even think call anyone! I'm sorry!"

"Don't apologize! Although I admit it would have been nice if you'd had him in the clinic, but some things just aren't possible, yeah?" He laughed, trying to lighten her mood and lessen his own worry.

She laughed softly. "Maybe next time! I'll see you tomorrow, Ichigo."

"Don't go thinking about having another yet, you only barely got this one out! Bye, Orihime."

He snapped his phone shut. He didn't feel like anything was really wrong, and the truth was that if it hadn't been for the strange questions she asked he wouldn't have worried. As it was... Well, he could only wait until tomorrow to see.

--

The next day, he showed up at the Mizuhara's apartment at about two in the afternoon, after his morning classes. The door was answered by Makoto, Orihime's husband, who grinned when he saw Ichigo.

"Hey! Just couldn't wait to see my son, huh? I don't blame you, the little guy's absolutely perfect." The new father beamed proudly.

Ichigo gave him a lopsided grin. "Yeah, Orihime called me last night and since I had some free time today, I thought I'd come meet him." It wasn't quite a lie.

"Well, 'Hime's got him now." Makoto said, glancing over his shoulder into the hallway behind them. "'Hime! Ichigo's here!" He called.

"Oh, allready?" Her voice called from the hall. She flounced out, skirt flush as she walked. "Ichigo! It's good to see you again." She said, beaming. All the traces of the worry were gone from her voice, replaced by the warm glow of a happy mother. It looked good on her, Ichigo decided. "He's in the nursery. Come on."

He followed her inside the nursery, the walls of the room painted a mint green with pale yellow accents. A white cradle lay under the window, with a teal, green and blue mobile hanging above it. Inside, a tiny child lay inside. Orihime gently picked him up out his bed, cradling him in her arms and tickling his chin with one finger.

"Come on, baby. I need you to wake up for a second so Uncle Ichigo can see your pretty eyes, okay?" She said. The baby cooed, and his eyes fluttered open, and Ichigo drank in the sight.

Downy black hair sprinkled his head messily- Ichigo knew Orihime had been hoping for a redhead like her, but it seemed her son had gotten his father's black hair. He had pale skin, almost white, but a healthy pink flush covered his round cheeks. The most striking feature was by far the eyes, though- large eyes, opened wide, but shaped in such a manner that they looked half-lidded in sleepiness in even while awake, their color a rich, startling green.

Orihime and Makoto both had brown eyes. More importantly, he knew those eyes- Ichigo had seen them in his nightmares for years. He imagined Orihime did, too.

"Oh, my god, Orihime. I... I think I know what was bothering you, know."

She sighed, looking at her son. "So I'm not crazy. You see it, too."

Ichigo nodded. "This is... Maybe it's a coincidence?"

She turned her eyes to him with a frown. "A coincidence that my first child is the spitting image of Ulquiorra Schiffer?"

He looked at her. "You know, if I didn't know the situation, that sentence would have me concerned about his parentage."

"Ichigo!"

"I'm kidding!" He looked at the baby again, contemplatively. "Well, so what if your son is the reincarnation of an arrancar? It's not like he's gonna kill me or cut off Ishida's hand when he grows up. He's still a human, and he's still your son."

Orihime blinked in surprise, looking at Ichigo, and then back to the baby in her arms. Tiny fingers curled around a strand of hair sliding down her shoulder and tugged gently. She giggled. "You're right. In fact, I like the idea. This time, I can take care of him, and raise him the right way." She smiled gently. "Look at him. My son. I wanted him to look like Sora or Makoto, but... This is okay, too. I like this."

Ichigo smiled. "So, what are you gonna name him?"

She looked thoughtful. "I don't know.... I guess Ulquiorra doesn't work. Urukiora... Ooh, how about Uru?" Orihime walked to the door to shout down the hallway. "Makoto! How about the name Uru?"

"You mean like your friend Uryuu?"

"Um. No?"

"I thought we were naming him after your brother."

"I like Uru, though. It suits him better."

"Well, you're the one who went through nine hours of labor, so I guess I'll let you have this one. But if we ever have a daughter, I get to name her Chiako."

"I love you too, honey."

Ichigo laughed.

--

Mizuhara Makoto was, in general, very happy with his life. He had a loving wife, a good job he actually usually enjoyed, and three beautiful children. But there were still some things that bothered him.

His wife was a bright and beautiful woman, full of life and joy, and he had fallen in love with her within days of their first meeting. But through her cheer, she still had moments where a great sorrow would overcome her- as though the shadows of hell were hovering behind her, reminding her of horrors he couldn't even imagine but she had lived through.

And his firstborn son, Uru. He was a quiet boy, and very intelligent, even if he never really made any friends. He loved Uru just the same as he loved Sora and Chiako, but there was something a little odd about him. His eyes were a deep green that no member of his family had, but he supposed he had never met any of his wife's relatives, so there was still a way to explain away the unusual trait. It wasn't even really Uru himself that bothered Makoto, but rather how his wife reacted to him.

The first time he had opened his eyes to gaze upon the world, Orihime had frozen. A recognition had seized her face, as well as a spark of horror, and she had brought the baby close enough into her bosom that she would no longer be able to look him in the eye and asked the nurse next to her bed a question she had allready answered to distract herself. The same look had passed over her friend Ishida's face when he first saw Uru, and sometimes when Ichigo looked at his son he would absently rub a spot in the middle of his chest, just below his collarbone.

Once, when he was very little, Uru had run crying into their bedroom in the middle of the night with claims of a nightmare. When Orihime had gently had held him in her arms and asked him what the bad dream had been, his son had told of a cold white desert with a black sky and a scary man with a kind-looking smile that felt like a lie. When she heard the story, his wife had had the most sickening look of terror on her face, and she and her son cried together.

The worst part, though, was easy. It was that Orihime never told him anything. When Uru had the nightmare that frightened his mother more than him, Orihime had called Ichigo the next morning. He overheard the conversation, just bits and pieces, the words "back then" and "that place" and "Him", and Makoto didn't understand the conversation and knew he never would. She even called Ichigo the first time their son had had ever brought home a friend for them to meet; a wild-looking boy with hair gelled-up and dyed teal blue (although both boys immediately proclaimed that they were not friends, and that Uru had simply pitied him for not being able to even afford dinner to which the other boy replied that if he was ever looked down on again he would tear his fucking eyes out, and it was nice to meet you too Mrs. Mizuhara, thank you for the hospitality). Makoto could understand the shock at their son befriending such a strange thug-like young man, but the recognition was there again, too; a look Makoto had come to associate with an impending phone call to one of her old friends, most usually Kurosaki.

He didn't like that Ichigo seemed like he knew more about his son's life than him, or that Orihime got that sad, distant look on her face which all friends seemed to share, or that she refused to elaborate on even how she had become so close to these people, but Makoto knew there was nothing he could do about it. There were some things about his wife that he would never know, even if her friends did, and eventually, he had just come to accept that.

And right now, his family was having dinner together, and Chiako was teasing her oldest brother about being sixteen and having never had a girlfriend, and Sora and Orihime were laughing as Uru ignored them with the same blank stare he usually held, Mizuhara Makoto decided that life was pretty damned good.

--