Ichigo sighed, leading Renji and Rukia to his house. As they arrived at the front door, he rubbed his eyes, leaning against the door frame for slight support.
"Kurosaki? You all right?" Renji poked Ichigo's shoulder, with Rukia behind him. Rukia's face lined with worry. "Ichigo..." she began.
Ichigo waved his hand, dismissing the matter. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just a little tired." *Actually, I'm exhausted,* he thought to himself, *ever since Maiko was born, it's been constant work and taking care of Maiko. I don't know how Hime does it...& Smiling to himself, he turned to the two Shinigami. "Kids take a lot outta ya. You'll learn that soon enough," he explained.
Rukia's eyes widened in shock. "Ichigo! You have a child? When did that happen?!" she cried. Her face lit up with a small blush. *Did I really just ask that?*
Renji chuckled. "Rukia, I don't think you need to ask that," he teased.
"Idiot!" Rukia bantered. "I just need to catch up!" Smacking Renji hard on the back of his head, she left him rubbing his head, wincing.
Ichigo took a deep breath. "I can see you two haven't changed a bit," he muttered, watching the two quarrel. Suddenly, he heard rapid footsteps running towards the front door. *Maiko...* he grinned, thinking of his precious little girl who looked like his beautiful wife. Turning, he faced the front door, waiting for it to open.
* * *
"Mommy! Daddy-kun is out there!" Maiko's excited voice seemed to disappear quickly. Orihime whirled around from the window, watching her daughter run into the living room, getting up on her tiptoes, and reaching for the doorknob.
"Wait, Maiko-chan!" Orihime shouted, trying to catch up with the energetic two-year-old.
Maiko turned, her hand just inches away from the doorknob. Her caramel eyes filled with innocence and confusion. "But Daddy-kun..."
"Daddy Ichi-kun may be out there, he may not be. You need to ask Mommy before you open the door," Orihime scolded gently. Looking through the peep hole, she smiled as she saw her handsome husband leaning against the door frame. "He's waiting, Maiko-chan," she murmured. Picking Maiko up, Orihime opened the door.
* * *
Ichigo's eyes lit up as he saw Orihime carrying Maiko in her arms. Maiko extended her arms out to her father. "Hold me, Daddy! Hold me!" she squealed. Ichigo lifted Maiko from Orihime's hold with ease, he kissed Maiko's forehead.
Rukia, who had just landed another hard blow on her husband, paused from her fight. Looking at Maiko, her eyes filled with wonder at the beautiful child in Ichigo's arms.
"Rukia," Ichigo began. "You look like you're staring at Chappy. What's up?"
Rukia blushed, embarrassed. "Is this your daughter, Ichigo?"
Ichigo smiled. "Yeah. Say hello to Maiko." Maiko turned, facing Rukia. Crying out in delight, she scrambled down from Ichigo's arms, running over to the tiny Shinigami. Lifting her arms up, she giggled. "Pick me up!"
Rukia, flustered, started to mumble. "Oh-okay." As she bent down, she felt a tiny kick inside her belly. "Ohh!" she exclaimed, standing up quickly.
Maiko tilted her head. "What happened?" she asked, her eyes worried.
Rukia smiled, affection for the toddler pouring out of her. "Nothing, sweetheart. My baby just kicked." Taking Maiko's hand, she placed it on her extremely round stomach. "Just wait." A minute later, a slight flutter came across Rukia's belly.
Maiko's face seemed to light up with her huge grin. "That's so cool! Mommy-chan has a baby in her tummy, too!" Pointing at Orihime, she bounced up and down in happiness.
Rukia laughed. Looking at Orihime, she waddled over to her good friend, giving Orihime a hug. Breaking away from the hug, Rukia realized that Orihime really was pregnant.
"Rukia-chan!" exclaimed Orihime. "How are you?"
"Great, Orihime-san!" smiled Rukia. "How are you gonna deal with two?"
Orihime blushed. "I guess I'll manage."
Renji, who had finally recovered from Rukia's hits, sat up. Watching Maiko, he smiled. "Imagine when our baby gets her age, Rukia-chan. I just hope he'll be as perfect as she is."
Ichigo, his competitive spirit strong, jumped at the spot. "No one's as perfect as Maiko," he defended.
Rukia rolled her eyes. "You boys are such idiots."
Ichigo and Renji, who had been bantering about whose child was more perfect, didn't hear her. "Come on, Orihime," Rukia sighed. "They're hopeless."
"Right!" Orihime said, taking Maiko by the hand. Turning, she smiled. "When you guys are done, just come inside! I don't want you to miss dinner!"