On The Way To A Smile

Author's Notes: What happened? Your faithful Ichiruki fanatic, Shachiecoh Hime, is shocked, dear readers! I mean, it's been three weeks since I posted the last chapter and now here I am with Chapter 23! (Hurray! Sorry it took so long.) Not only that, I have received a hundred reviews so now I'm up to 200! Is this real or a dream? I can't believe how much love you guys are giving me. It's so inspiring. Thanks you so much. (Smiles)

With just those three weeks, between chapters, what will I have to talk about in the free talk section?! Oh well, I'm still on the great mood, so I'm sure I can some up with something to go about. So I hope you stick for me with the whole ride. La! La! La! La! Whether you read this chapter here in or saved-it-first before reading I want to say thank you very much.

You probably would find some mistakes on the grammar, punctuation marks, and prepositions in this chapter but I hope you can read it well. Please leave reviews, I need it. It serves as my motivation barometer. Haha. Hey! What are we all waiting for? Here now is Shachiecoh Hime signing on! Here we go.

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. I do not own any episodes of the series Bleach or a hardcopy issue of its manga. I do not own Ichigo, Rukia and Renji, etc. or any Rukia and Ichigo sweetness you are going to witness in this chapter. I'm not the super genius Kubo Tite. I'm just Shachiecoh Hime.

After reuniting, Ichigo and Rukia decided to go home. They're hands are clasping each others. Smiles are all over their faces. "So this what it feels like…" Rukia said in low tone.

"Hmn?"

"…To be in love." She paused for a while. "Hey! Did we used to walk holding hands like these before?"

Ichigo nodded. "Everyday, since we became a couple after the winter war."

"Really? Am I sweet to you?"

"Well…" Ichigo explained. "When we first met we have a unique, complex, and dynamic relationship. At times, we are bickering adversaries, and at other times, despite these quarrels, we have a deep understanding for each other, often giving each other a considerable amount of emotional support when needed."

"I see… By the way, I guess I should tell you about this."

"What?"

"When I was with Kon and thinking about what my true feelings… I remember something."

"Remember what?"

"…Something from my past." Rukia answered.

Ichigo's eyes widen. "You do?"

Rukia nodded.

"Does that mean that you're memories are coming back?"

"I'm not sure. As soon as I remember that I've forgotten it again. My head starts to ache so much."

"Is that so?"

"Yeah. But worry not. I'm sure I'll remember it." She said as she smiles.

"Rukia."

Meanwhile, at Isshin's house;

"They're coming." Isshin said as he hides himself on the window. He also feels Ichigo's reiatsu coming.

"Oh!" Yuzu reacted as she saw Ichigo and Rukia coming. "They're holding each others hand."

"Does that mean Ichi-nii's able to convince Rukia-neesan to come back?" Karin asked.

"It seems so." Renji replied.

"Well done, Ichigo." Isshin cried. He looks at the other people present in his house. "Are you guys ready?"

The other people who are made up of Urahara Household, Nel's fractions, Inoue, Chad and Ishida nodded. "We're almost done." Inoue and Nel said.

"Same here." Ishida replied.

"Alright. Let's begin." Isshin announced.

Renji then turned off the light and waits for Ichigo and Rukia's return.

Back to Ichigo and Rukia, they finally reach the house. "Eh?" They said in unison.

"Why are the lights off?" She asked.

"I don't know." Ichigo answered. "Dad and the others are here when I went out."

"Could they also be looking for me?"

"Impossible. I told them that I'll go alone. Anyway, it's so cold here. Let's get inside."

Rukia nodded.

Ichigo then twisted the door knob and opens it. He switches on the light and as soon as the light envelopes the whole living room, Isshin together with the rest shouted happily. "WELCOME BACK, RUKIA-CHAN!"

Chapter 23: Start of Something New

Ishida and Chad starts playing their musical instruments like trumpets and cymbals. Yuzu and Karin start throwing confetti. Jinta and Ururu pulled out a huge banner that says; 'Welcome back.'

Rukia and Ichigo's eyes widen. They were surprised too see some of their friends present in the house. "Everyone…" Ichigo said. "Why are you all here?"

Instead of answering, Isshin runs towards Rukia and gives her a big hug. "Rukia-chan!" He cried. "Thank you for coming back."

"Mr. Kurosaki…" Rukia calls softly.

"I'm sorry that my son made you cry."

"Ahhh… Kurosaki and I are now okay. There's no need for you to cry. It's a misunderstanding after all."

Isshin tearfully look at Rukia. "Really?"

Rukia nodded. "Anyway, why are so many people here in the house?"

"It's a welcome party for you." Renji replied.

"Welcome Party?"

"You heard it right, Kuchiki-san." Inoue answered. "And it's also a congratulatory party now that you're having a baby." She comes closer to Rukia and holds her both hands. "Congratulations, Kuchiki-san."

Rukia looks at Inoue and smiles. "Thanks, Inoue."

"This guy phoned all of us." Urahara said as he points his finger into Isshin. "He's telling us that he's going to be a grandfather that all of us should be here for a small celebration. God! His voice on the other line of the phone was so loud. My eardrum could be damaged because of that."

"What's wrong with it?" Isshin defended himself. "I just got excited that Rukia-chan's having a baby. Haha!" He then puts his ear close to Rukia's belly and whispered. "Hello there, baby! My name's Isshin. I'm your grandfather. Come out quick, okay?"

Seeing this, Ichigo pulled his father far from Rukia, "Stop it, old man!"

"He's embarrassed." Ishida pointed out.

The rest then laughs.

On the other hand, Nel comes to Rukia to apologize. "Rukia-chan…" She calls.

Rukia looks at her. "Nel."

"I just want to say sorry for the trouble things I brought you."

"Ahhh…" Rukia paused for a while, "Kurosaki told me everything. And I guess I'm sorry too and thank you."

"Thank you?" Nel asked.

"If it weren't for you I wouldn't have realized my real feelings for Kurosaki that is why thank you, Nel."

"Rukia-chan."

"Let's forget what happen, okay?"

Nel nodded.

After that, all of them soon headed at the dining area. There were lots of foods served on the table. There were spaghetti, chicken, vegetable salad, fruits, chocolate cake and other healthy foods which are good for pregnant woman. "Wow!" Ichigo amazingly said as he saw all the delicious food on top of the table. "You guys really cooked a lot."

"Our choices are limited since we only have one hour to prepare all these foods." Inoue said. "But Nel and I really did our best."

"Inoue-chan's right." Nel agreed.

"Yuzu and I helped too." Karin said.

"Really?" Ichigo asked.

"Hey, Rukia." Renji called.

She looks at him. "What is it, Abarai?"

"I tried making your favorite garlic-fried rice. I know it's not as good as what Ichigo's cooking for you but I hope you'll like it."

Rukia smiles at him. "Thank you. I'll like for I'm sure."

"Well what are we still waiting for?" Isshin said. "Let's dig in!"

"Yeah!"

"But before that…" He said again. "Let's congratulate first our Rukia-chan and our Ichigo!"

"CONGRATULATIONS BOTH OF YOU!" They all said in unison as Ishida and Chad opens the champagne and the others starts clapping for Rukia and Ichigo.

"The first child will be named after me!" Isshin said to Ichigo. "But if it's a girl then she mustbe named after my beloved Masaki. After that, the second child can just be named the other name that's not the first's… but if the first and the second are of the same gender," Isshin frowned as he rubbed his scruffy chin in deep thought. Pulling up nothing, he looked at his son in complete horror. "Ichigo! Daddy's confused!"

"Shut up!" Ichigo replied after drinking his glass of champagne.

"Eh! But I need to solve this problem as soon as possible." Isshin said with teary eyes."

"Why don't you just give him an answer, Ichi-nii." Karin exclaimed.

"Karin's right." Yuzu agreed. "If you don't, he's going to go on and on about this until he figures it out, which can be months, I think."

Ichigo sighed. "Whatever."

His friends laugh as they see Ichigo and Isshin quarreled on what name will be given on Rukia's first child. On the other hand, Rukia's been quiet for a moment. Ichigo, who sat beside her, noticed it; "Are you alright?"

Rukia nodded. "I'm just thankful to have a family that's willing to help and support me in everything I do. I feel so blessed to have you."

"Rukia."

"We feel the same too." Renji said.

"Yeah. You're special to us, Kuchiki-san." Inoue agreed.

"Everyone."

"By the way, Rukia-chan…" Urahara called.

The said girl looks at him. "What is it, Urahara-san?"

"I heard from Kon that you've encountered a hollow and you changed yourself into a shinigami to protect yourself and that modified soul."

Rukia nodded.

"What?" Renji asked surprisingly. "You did a reckless thing like that?"

"It's because the hollow was after my baby and as a mother I need to protect him."

"The hollow was after your baby?" Inoue asked.

"But you're hiding your reiatsu a while ago, right? Ichigo and Abarai need to use a kidou to locate you." Nel questioned. "How come it comes after you?"

"It's just like Rukia said." Yoruichi answered. "The hollow wants the baby inside her. Urahara, you explained it."

"The baby inside her is the fruit of Ichigo and Rukia's love." Urahara explained. "Both are having a high level reiatsu as well as their family." He's talking about Isshin here. "It seems that their baby inherited those powerful spiritual forces making it the reason why the hollows want to eat it."

"It can't be." Inoue cried.

"Does that mean many hollows aside from that one will come after Rukia?" Renji asked.

"Probably." Urahara answered. "That's why, Rukia-chan you have to take care of yourself."

Rukia nodded.

"Don't worry." Ichigo said as he joins the conversation. "I'll protect Rukia and our baby no matter what."

Rukia looks at him.

"Just have faith in me. Okay?"

Rukia nodded. "Uhm!"

After the dinner, Ichigo's friends decided to head back home. "We'll be going now, Kurosaki-kun." Inoue said.

"See yah, Ichigo." Chad said to him.

Ichigo waves a hand at them. "Thanks for coming." He then watches them as they walked away from his house. Urahara and his household together with Renji then bade their goodbye also.

"Aren't you happy, Ichigo?" Urahara told him.

"Huh?"

"Everything turned out well, right? For you and Kuchiki-san."

Ichigo smiled. "Yeah."

"Anyway, I'll be making some herbal medicine for your wife. It will help her during this time of her pregnancy."

"Thanks."

"Well then, we'll be going now."

Before Ichigo says his goodbye to them he remembers what Rukia had told him on their way back home. "Anno…"

"Uhm?"

"I have something to tell you."

"What is it?"

"Rukia said she remembers something from her past."

"She did?" Renji asked.

"Does that mean her memories are coming back?" Yoruichi asked.

"I don't know. Rukia told me that as soon as she remembered it she had forgotten it right away because her head starts to ache so bad."

"Is that so?"

"What do you think Urahara-san? Are her memories really coming back?"

"We can never really tell."

Ichigo paused for a while.

"What's wrong?" Renji asked him.

"The Hogyoku." Ichigo answered.

"What about the Hogyoku? You know we can never let the Hogyoku be out of her body, right?

"I know. What I'm thinking is it's the Hogyoku that made her memories disappear, right? What if the Hogyoku itself can make it comeback?"

"What do you think Urahara?" Yoruichi asked.

"I'll try studying about what you said." He answered.

"Really?" Ichigo asked.

Urahara nodded.

"Thank you so much."

Ichigo then went back inside the house. His sisters as well as Nel are busy cleaning up the table and washing the dishes. Isshin is already passed out due to drinking too much. He is on his way to his room when he met Rukia. "You're still up?"

Rukia nodded. "Did they leave already?"

"Yeah."

"I see…" Rukia paused for a while.

"What's wrong?" Ichigo asked. "Are you tired? Why don't you sleep now?"

"I'm scared." She said in low tone.

"Scared of what?"

"That when I closed my eyes and sleep everything will be gone at the time I opened my eyes tomorrow."

Ichigo comes closer to Rukia and gives her a push towards him. "Is that what you're thinking? That everything is a dream?"

Rukia gently nodded.

"Don't worry. It's not." He said as he caressed her hair. "I'll be here as soon as you open your eyes tomorrow."

"Really?"

"Yeah. It's a promise."

"I see. Thank you, Kurosaki."

"No problem. Well then, I'll escort you now to your room."

Rukia nodded. But before Rukia closes the door of Yuzu and Karin's room, she said to Ichigo. "Hey."

"Uhm?"

"Good night."

Ichigo smiled. "Yeah. Sweet dreams, Rukia."

To be continued.

Notes:

Wow! That's all we have for this chapter. I'm looking forward that you like it. Hehe. Please leave reviews. I need it. Hehe.

By the way, I'm finally decided on how I'm going to end this story. Haha. I'm so happy and excited that I wasn't able to sleep for three nights. Haha. I just hope that I'll be able to finish the rest of the chapters before I spend my whole time doing my thesis paper. (Argh! What a drag!) hehe. But worry not, I'll manage my time so that I'll be able to update just for you guys. (Wink)

So I'll see you guys next time. Keep tuning on this story okay? Aren't you getting curious whether Rukia's memory will be back or what? Hehe.

Arigato Gozaimasu

Don't forget to greet me and Kurosaki-kun a Belated Happy Birthday, okay? Haha.

(Bows)

Shachiecoh Hime