"It shouldn't be too much longer Byakuya-san." Orihime had to swallow the nervous giggle she felt trying to escape when he turned disinterested, onyx eyes on her. Thanks to Rukia's pleading, he'd agreed to allow her to heal the injuries he'd received during his fight with Taniguchi. He sat quietly, though not very patiently, beneath her golden dome. The tense atmosphere in the manor was playing havoc with her nerves.

Ishida pushed his lean frame off the wall. "I think I'll go relay the message to Urahara-san that the shinigami has been dealt with."

Ichigo narrowed his eyes at the Quincy's easy retreat, but held his tongue. Rukia's constant shifting and fiddling as she sat watching her brother being treated was testing the limits of his patience, however. He'd been all fired up to punish the bastard who'd caused Orihime and his friends so much pain. Byakuya had taken care of the opponent so his anger had no outlet. He was glad the incidents were now over, but it was disappointing that he wasn't the one to deliver the final blow.

The petite shinigami inched herself closer to the kneeling form of the Kuchiki head and he snapped. "Oi, midget! He's fine so stop your fidgeting!"

Narrowed, violet eyes focused on his frowning face, however, Renji interrupted her before she could speak. "Leave her be Ichigo. She's just worried over Taicho."

"Yeah, and like I said, he's fine. She's getting on my nerves."

"So? Maybe you're getting on my nerves."

"No one asked you pineapple head."

At this, Renji stood and stared Ichigo down. "What did you say?"

"Pine-apple-head," Ichigo stressed each word as it left his mouth. The boys tensed up, drawing closer to one another, but a single call to each of them had them backing down.

"Ichigo-kun!"

"Renji!"

At the girls call, each man grumbled under his breath but allowed the matter to drop.

"Well that's just damn pathetic." There was no mistaking the deep voice that called from the doorway or the massive amount of reiatsu that just descended on the group.

"Bya-kun!" The cotton candy haired fukutaicho launched herself from Kenpachi's shoulders and placed her hands on the golden dome. Byakuya showed no other reaction to her smiling face and cheerful voice other than to raise one elegantly arched eyebrow.

"You two are controlled like puppies and the princess looks all beat up. You can't even handle one damn opponent?"

"Is there any particular reason why you've encroached upon my household?"

The captain's grin looked less than friendly as he took in the sight of the sixth captain being healed. "Heard you found the guy; just wanted to see if it's true, but it looks like you got your ass whipped."

Byakuya flexed his fingers as the cut to his arm finished healing. "It's not even feasible that I should loose to such an opponent, though I don't expect someone of your nature to understand such a concept. That would require more brain power than you are capable of."

A bark of laughter came from the large man leaning in the doorway. "Maybe you should stop learning such big words and focus on learning how to actually fight."

"Is that an invitation to battle Zaraki?" The Kuchiki clan leader actually sounded intrigued by the idea.

Kenpachi took a moment to scan his dark eyes down the man's frame. "Nah, I don't wanna waste my time on someone who already looks half dead." He turned in the door, taking one step away before calling over his shoulder. "Yachiru, we're leaving."

"Hai!" She called happily, dancing away from Byakuya and hopping onto the larger man's shoulders.

Perhaps it was due to his earlier battle, but Byakuya's fine control over his emotions slipped. His narrowed eyes followed the captain's back as he walked away. An angry growl rumbled low in his throat and he went to stand. A shock raced through his body, forcing him back to his knees and his hand stung from the contact with Orihime's barrier. The piercing stare he threw Orihime had her backing away on instinct and stammering her apologies. She immediately lowered her healing dome.

"Sorry, I'm sorry."

He stood up once more, no longer bound by her powers. Without another word, he swept out of the room, Rukia close on his heels.

"Nii-sama! Please wait nii-sama!"

Renji simply shook his head as he fled after the two.


It was oddly quiet in his house, but he wasn't going to complain. Walking in without having to avoid his father's usual shenanigan's was always a welcome relief. He retrieved his body and joined Orihime on the couch in his living room.

"You okay?"

She was reclining on the couch, her eyes closed and head laid back comfortably on the plush cushions. A soft smile found its way to her face as she opened her eyes. "Yeah, I'm just thankful this is all over."

He clasped the hand she held in her lap, entwining their fingers and enjoying the peace that allowed him to do so. "So am I."

"It feels a little weird though." She smiled and explained herself as his confused gaze met hers. "Not having to watch our backs constantly anymore. I know there are still hollows around, but for the most part we should be able to just go to school normally once more. With everything that's been going on, it just seems...odd."

"I know what you mean, but we should probably enjoy it while it lasts. Nothing ever goes well for long with us," he added the last part with a sardonic smile. He was rewarded with a giggle from the beauty and she leaned into his comfortable weight.

The stress of the day quickly caught up with the pair and they soon fell asleep on the couch, their hands wrapped around each others and Orihime's head leaning on his broad shoulder.

Isshin made sure to turn off the flash of the camera so as not to wake the pair as he happily captured shot after shot of the couple.


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"Ya know," Ichigo began, his words clipped and irritation leaking into his tone. He slung Zangetsu over his shoulder as he observed the impromptu battlefield below him. "For just once, I'd appreciate it if the hollows wouldn't show up at the worst fucking times!"

Ishida fired another reishi arrow before snorting at the vizard's comment. "Why don't you ask the one creeping up behind you. Maybe he'd agree to come back later."

Ichigo pivoted and brought his sword down in a clean slice through the hollow's head. "Your sarcasm was oh so appreciated, bastard."

"We need to hurry," Sado stated simply before easily defeating the monster before him.

"Yeah, yeah...I know."

In only a few minutes more, the group had finished off the last of the hollows and were waiting while Ichigo preformed a konso on the two souls who been trying to escape their clutches.

A loud gasp caught their attention and Orihime started running in the direction of the school, her loud words reaching over her shoulder. "Come on you guys! If we don't hurry, we're going to miss graduation!"

"Damn useless shinigami representative," Ichigo muttered before taking off after her.

"Did you even tell anyone in Soul Society that this was an important day for us?"

Ichigo cut his eyes to the Quincy easily keeping up with him. "Shut up, so what if I forgot? Like I knew there'd be a damn group of hollows to show up today."

A weary sigh came from Ishida. "How about useless shinigami representative?"

"Why don't you do less talking and more running? How's it gonna look if the top student isn't there to make his speech?"

Ishida raised his eyebrow at his friend. "True enough." With that said, he used his hirenkyaku to leave them all behind.

"I swear I'm gonna beat his ass one day."

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While he thoroughly enjoyed hearing the melodious sounds of Orihime's giggling, his curiosity at exactly what is was she was laughing at needed to be appeased. She sat in front of her small living room table, a discarded envelope off to the side while she held the papers of its contents in her hand. She'd already read it in it's entirety once; Ichigo's eyes had invariably drifted back to her delicate frame as she'd find something amusing written. At the next sound of her laughter, he gave up on the text he was reading and placed the book to the side.

"What the hell are you reading Orihime?"

She turned to him, her eyes glistening from the constant laughter. She wiped a stray from the corner of her eye before trying to answer. "Oh, it's just Masaru-san's latest letter that came today."

"Masaru?"

"Yes," she giggled while recalling the contents of his letter. "He was writing about his absolute disaster of a first date with this girl he met. Oh goodness Ichigo-kun, you have to hear this. Poor Masaru-san." She began laughing all over again before lapsing into his tale. Ichigo was no longer paying attention.
Now, he was well aware that he was the only one in Orihime's heart, just as she was the only one in his. Their two years together had only strengthened the bond shared between them. Yet, hearing that name come from her lips pulled forth a torrent of memories he'd tucked at the back of his mind.

The enthusiasm in her voice as she cheered for him at his soccer game, the laughter she always seemed to share with him, the concert where he had to watch that bastard put his hands on her...

The rational part of his mind understood there was no reason to feel the flames of jealousy burning in his gut, but...well, no one ever accused him of being rational.

Orihime's hands were clutching her stomach and she'd abandoned the letter as her peals of laughter continued. "He...the...the ketchup went all over her dress!" She took deep breaths, her smile painfully wide as she slumped against the table. "Well, it couldn't have been too awful. He said she'd already agreed to a second date." A few chuckles escaped her cherry lips as her eyes finally found his. "Ichigo-kun, what is it?"

His eyes bored into her own, their honeyed hue darkening as he held her gaze almost hypnotically. There was no warning when his hand reached out, grasping her slender wrist and pulling her into his arms. She squeaked as he effortlessly lifted her from the floor and sat her in his lap, her legs astride his own.

"Ichigo-kun?"

He said nothing, but pulled her willing body tighter against his own. He kissed the very breath out of her, dominating her lips until she clung to his broad shoulders like a life line. A whimper tore from her mouth as his battle hardened hands caressed a path of fire down her back. He flipped their positions quickly, pinning her smaller frame beneath his on the couch. As he went about shedding the layers of clothing between them, a smirk pulled up one corner of his lips when she begged for him to hurry.

Though he knew he had nothing to worry about with that asshole half-way across the globe...still, it didn't hurt to leave a strong memory with her every now and then.

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The first thing that struck him as odd when he entered their shared, off campus apartment, was the silence that enveloped the room. He'd just returned from his evening class in the lab and knew she should be at home. She was off that evening and they'd already talked about watching the new drama set to start on TV.

"Orihime?" he called out as he hung up his coat and locked the door behind him. He peeked in the kitchen as he went past; that's where he would normally find her, humming a random tune as she made dinner. Finding it empty, he walked through the connecting doorway into their living room. Her bright auburn hair greeted him over the back of the couch. With a sigh of relief, he came to stand before her, his brows drawn down in worry at the absent gaze her face held.

"Orihime?"

"Eh?" she blinked several times before turning her face up to greet him. "Oh, sorry Ichigo-kun. I didn't hear you come in."

His eyes caught sight of the half-empty glass of wine on the table beside her. That alone was suspicious; Orihime rarely drank.

He sat beside her, brushing her hair back from her shoulder and coaxing her to face him. "Orihime, what's wrong?"

"Oh, uh...nothing. I mean, not really anyway."

Her hesitant answer had his customary frown taking root on his face. "Orihime, you didn't hear me come in and you're drinking. Something's wrong."

"Oh, don't say it like that!" she scolded, her hand slapping his knee lightly. "I've only had this glass and it was brought over as a gift."

"Gift? From who?"

She cut her eyes away from him. "Your sister."

"Which one?"

She glanced back at him, her teeth nibbling on her bottom lip. Before he could ask why, her hand reached into his pocket and withdrew his combat pass. She stood quickly and tucked it underneath the cushion of the couch before sitting back down on it. A deep breath passed through her lips and she took a generous drink from the remainder of her wine. He watched her in an odd state of confusion. She looked as if she were fortifying herself for something, so he didn't stop her random actions. When she'd returned the glass to the table, she leaned back on the couch, throwing her legs across his own and staring at him with her stormy eyes.

"I love your sisters so much, but I swear they're gonna be the death of me one day!"

He couldn't help but chuckle at the pout across her face. Knowing it was nothing serious that upset her, he made himself comfortable as well. His hand stroked the silken flesh of her leg as he looked at her with amused eyes.

"I could've told you that a long time ago. What did they do now?"

"I mean...I understand she needs to talk about it and I'm always here to listen to her and help give advice if I can. I want her to come to me; I love being able to support them when at all possible but seriously, I just don't think she realizes the strain that places on me sometimes!"

"Orihime!" he interjected into her rant. "Who came over and what did they wanna talk about?"

Her arms crossed beneath her ample chest and a huff passed her lips. "I really shouldn't tell you."

"Orihime."

"It would be a violation of the trust she shares with me."

"Hime."

"And it's not like she said she was gonna do it. It was just a hypothetical conver..."

"Inoue Orihime!"

She blew out another breath at the stern tone of his voice. He wanted to laugh at the ever deepening pout to her lips, but he made himself hold the strict look on his face. If he lost it now, he'd never get her back on track.

"She wanted to know how old I was the first time we had sex."

The hand stroking her leg stilled as the cogs of his mind came to a screeching halt. Of the million things that crossed his mind as possible topics of their conversation, that was not one of them.

"Wha..." was all he managed to force through his still open jaw.

She scooted towards him a little, making sure more of her weight pressed onto him. "Like I said it was a hypothetical conversation. She was just...curious."

Her head tilted slightly as she studied the ever darkening red hue running down his neck. Should she be concerned about his blood pressure? She was quite sure she'd never seen him turn that color before.

"Who was it?"

The question was hissed between clenched teeth and she nearly missed it. "Ichigo-kun, calm down."

"It was Karin wasn't it?" He was so involved with his murderous thoughts that he didn't even notice her moving to sit completely on his lap. "I knew she was hanging around that loser that works at the convenience store too much!"

"Ichigo-kun, you're letting your temper get the better of you again." Her statement was ignored. His hands gripped her shoulders, pulling her closer to his face.

"Was it Yuzu? Please don't tell me she's thinking about t...but, it's Yuzu for crying out loud!" His head hung in defeat as a weary sigh passed his lips. "Orihime, I've got to know what asshole thinks he's gonna touch my little sisters," he pleaded with her.

She was glad his head was still down as he missed her eyes rolling at his words. "Yes, they're your younger sisters, but Ichigo-kun...the twins are 20 years old now. They aren't children anymore."

"And you think that changes anything?" his incredulous voice cried out as his head snapped up. "You're gonna tell me. Don't think I'm gonna let you hide this from me. I don't care how old they think they are. Just wait, if I have to..."

Orihime threw her arms around his shoulders and hid her smiling face against his neck. He was still lost in his verbal tirade about his sisters purity. He might not admit it, but he was a lot similar to his father than he thought.

She would let him vent his anger for a while longer before she tried to calm the storm she had unwittingly unleashed. It would take some convincing, but she was pretty positive she could get him to let this one go. After all, who were they to judge?

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He nearly bit off his tongue trying to keep silent as the giggling women finally left the room. Angry eyes met the Quincy's curious face. "Every single time you're in here they do that shit. Can't you make it stop?"

Slender fingers pushed his glasses back into place. "Once again, your powers of observation are severely lacking." The disdain practically rolled off his tongue as he spoke. "Those women were staring at you imbecile."

Ichigo sputtered for a moment. "Bastard, quit trying to pawn this off on me."

A tired giggle came from behind where the two men stood. "He's right Ichigo-kun. They were looking at you this time."

His cheeks flushed and he turned away from the auburn beauty. "Whatever," he mumbled. "Like this is really a time for any of that shit."

Ishida stared blankly at the vizard. "I realize you get older as I clearly recall getting forced into going to your birthday parties, yet you never seem to get any wiser."

"Stuff it Ishida. Like I would ever force you to come near me."

"I never implied it was you. She's the culprit." He indicated the healer with a nod of his head. "Your wife has an uncanny ability to manipulate people into doing what she wants them to."

"Eh?" Orihime's gray eyes locked onto the pair of men. "But all I did was say please."

It was silent for a moment before Ichigo let loose a chuckle. "Yup, that would be the look."

"Huh? What look?" she asked in confusion.

"The look one would expect to see on a small, fluffy animal of some sort." Ishida answered. "It's practically kryptonite on poor Sado-kun so I would ask that you use it sparingly. Speaking of which, where is he?"

"He's already been by, but he had to go to work. He said he'll be back later." Never one to miss an opportunity to rub his friend the wrong way, Ichigo smirked before adding, "He was one of the first ones here. That's how a real friend acts."

A twitch in his left eye was all the confirmation Ishida would give that he'd struck a nerve. "You know very well I'm on call. Since I've begun my surgical residency I have very little time to spare."

"All I'm hearing are excuses from your pompous mouth."

"Were those words too big for you? Perhaps I should dumb it down for your primitive mind."

"Why don't you..."

"Boys!" Her irritated voice pierced their ever growing argument. "Can you not argue directly over my baby?"

Ichigo glanced down at the tiny bundle in his arms. The red haired cherub was still fast asleep, wrapped tightly in his blankets. "Sorry," Ichigo mumbled to his son. "Don't worry, you'll do the same thing to the bastard in a few years."

Orihime sighed, but shook her head with a smile. "Ishida-kun, you haven't even held your godson yet."

The doctor's neck snapped over to her, eyes wide in shock. "Godson?"

"Yeah," Ichigo replied for her. "Tatsuki turned down the whole godmother thing the moment it left our lips. She said since he's her nephew, her role was already taken. You think I'm gonna argue with Tatsuki?" he added, his voice daring Ishida to think otherwise.

"That's why we decided to have two godfathers!" Orihime pipped up from her hospital bed. "Sado-kun already agreed and I just knew you would too Ishida-kun!"

Ishida stared down at the sleeping babe for a moment, refusing to acknowledge the faint tint appearing on his cheeks. "Let me see the child."

Ichigo passed his child over with exaggerated care, his eyes never leaving the baby even after he was securely in his friend's arms. A knock sounded and the door opened, Isshin peeking around it with glowing eyes.

"You're not breast feeding are you Orihime-chan?"

"Shut up and get in here old man!" Ichigo shouted. The rest of the Kurosaki clan entered, the twins arms loaded down with gifts while their father went to Orihime's bedside to once again praise her for her hard work.

"That old bastard, he never misses an opportunity to act like a jackass."

"I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't curse around my godson."

Ichigo smirked at Ishida's frowning face. "I take it that means you want the job?"

Ishida looked down to the tiny bundle in his arms. A soft smile tipped his lips up. "Well, someone has to make sure he doesn't grow up to be an idiot like his father."

Regardless of the words spoken, Ichigo laughed.

"Come on you guys," Yuzu called, her hands pulling out a camera from one of the many bags she'd deposited on the table. "I wanna get lots more pictures of my beautiful little nephew!"

The baby was returned to his mother and, despite initial protesting, Ishida took the camera from the twin and coaxed the entire family to gather around Orihime's bed. Ichigo sat next to his wife, his arm draped possessively around her shoulders while she held their newborn.

"Maybe it's in the genes," Isshin remarked as he smiled down to the pair.

"What's that dad?"

"You two make a beautiful baby just like Masaki and I did."

Light brown eyes peeked open as his little hands escaped the confines of the swaddling blanket. Orihime placed her finger in their path. Her radiant smile could not be contained as the tiny fingers wrapped around hers. Ichigo laid his hand atop his son's crown of red hair; the joy he felt at that touch nearly overwhelming him.

"Everyone ready?" Ishida called.

As one, the group surrounded the newest Kurosaki, allowing the camera to capture the pure happiness flowing through the family on film forever.

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A/N:

There are so many excuses I could use for the nearly 2 MONTH delay in putting this out, but how about I just skip all those...

It hurt me a little to mark this story complete. I've been working on it for so long and have thoroughly enjoyed creating it. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I have to thank you all so very, very much for the continued support I have received during this long project. The wonderful reviews I got have kept me going and been a source of inspiration to me. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Gonegalt was wonderful and posted this story on their website! You can find it at www-dot-autarkis-dot-us.

Thank you so much gonegalt!

Though this is the end of Pain of Remembrance, I do already have the plans for my next Ichi/Hime story outlined. However, it will be a little while before I began truly working on it. I am going to focus more on my SkipBeat and Naruto fics for the time being. I will be writing more Bleach, as it is a major love (obsession) of mine, but it will be in the near future.

(nope the shameless plug is not over yet)

I posted a oneshot for Ichi/Hime in celebration of Tanabata for FLOLs contest. It's titled Steadfast and you can find it by just clicking up there on my profile. I'd really like if you'd give it a read and let me know what you think. It IS my first oneshot for Bleach after all.

Thank you all once again for your support and I'm so glad so many of you enjoyed this story! I would really love to hear your thoughts on this last chapter and the story in general so I will once again beg for your reviews! Thank you so much for helping this to be my most reviewed fic yet! (Way to give me that nudge Van Pat :)

Love you all!