Journey's End

Ichigo settled into the train seat, glad to be rid of the luggage he'd be hauling around since his father dropped them off at the station, and glad to be rid of the father who insisted on staying until the train left and who was now dramatically wiping tears from his face with a large pink handkerchief. His small companion had managed to beat him to the window seat; she grinned and dumped her tiny backpack onto the table as she plonked herself into the seat next to his. "I do like trains, you know," she commented nonchalantly, "I know you like to fly home and this is basically torture for you sitting here for 6 hours, but think of it as a pause in time, a therapeutic silence in this short journey from one familial horror to another," she tilted her head in the direction of the old goat as the train began to creep forwards.

"You are far wiser than your height suggests Midget, now wave to the old man!" She grinned at him before turning to Isshin and pulling her own little lace handkerchief from her pocket, overdramatically drying eyes and waving exuberantly.

"I know he drives you mad, but I'm really glad you took me to visit him for the weekend. I miss him since he moved back to Karakura." She settled back in her seat as the train pulled away, blocking her view of Isshin, and pulling out a book from her bag.

Ichigo closed his eyes, "Yeah, I nearly miss the old fool too, but there's nothing like spending the weekend with him to remind me that the feeling isn't healthy. See, your problem is that he dotes on you the way he does with Karin and Yuzu. " He turned to face her, pushing his glasses up on his nose, "For example…" he trailed off as he realised she wasn't listening; her head buried deep in the latest manga procured for her by his father at the station.

Typical.

He sighed and reached into his bag pulling out his netbook. He was too much of a pushover.

Opening up his laptop, he accessed his calendar for the next few weeks and groaned as a reminder popped up. He had papers to grade, and currently had no excuse not to sift through them.

They were nearing the end of the journey. Academic nuisances dealt with, Ichigo stepped off the train feeling good. Small feet alighted beside him and skipped along the marble floor of the platform.

"See I told you it would be good for you, that long therapeutic train ride! And besides…" she trailed off as someone caught her eye.

"Yes?"

"I can see mum! Oh, and look, the second horror of your weekend awaits you!" She grinned at Ichigo and pointed in the direction of a stoic figure conversing with a raven-haired woman near the entrance to the platform, setting off running to greet them. "Byakuyaaaa! Muum!"

Ichigo grinned slyly as a hint of a smile formed on his brother-in-law's face in recognition of his beloved niece. The raven-haired woman caught Ichigo's smirk and raised an eyebrow, smiling back. Ichigo walked towards the three of them, hearing but not really listening to his daughter's animated chatter as he bent down to greet his wife with a short kiss.

"Hello," He smiled at her. "I missed you."

"Missed you too," she smiled, warm eyes twinkling up at him. And even after a long weekend with his father, and with a weeklong visit from Byakuya only just beginning, everything was how it should be. He put his arm around Rukia and nodded to Byakuya in greeting.

"Byakuya."

"Ichigo." A small nod. "I trust you had a pleasant trip."

"As can be expected."

Byakuya nodded, and then his attention was back on the twelve year old girl by his side who was tucking her hands around his arm and chatting away to him about school and the latest kido spell Rukia had helped her master as they headed towards the exit of the station. Ichigo and Rukia followed a few footsteps behind.

"Nii-sama has suggested that Saki stay with him for a couple of weeks at the start of the summer holidays. I think he would like to teach her more about her Kuchiki heritage."

Ichigo snorted, rolling his eyes, "More like it will help him keep control of his future heir; stomp out those Kurosaki traits! But I suspect I will be heavily outnumbered in voting against it. And besides, I can't pass on a rare opportunity for a journey with the other member of my midget harem-oof!" He grimaced as she elbowed him in the ribs.

"Less of the 'midget'!" She gave him a haughty look but it didn't last long as he hooked his free arm round her waist, pulling her into him.

She was too much of a pushover.

"You are too easy to tease." Ichigo let his eyes close as he bent down and kissed her again, his mouth lingering by her lips when they parted; luggage discarded on the floor as he stroked her cheek with the thumb of his other hand. She smiled against him, tilting her head up to connect their lips once more, hints of a promise of another meeting, later, in the dark of the night.

Of another journey he would take.


Author Note~

I had the thought for this whilst sat on the train watching the world go by. Thank you for reading!

Bleach characters are owned by Tite Kubo, of course.