Disclaimer: Bleach is © Kubo Tite, Shueisha Inc., Studio Pierrot, etc. This is a fanwork and should not be viewed as making a claim. That said, please don’t plagiarize.

Small Blessings
by Fushigi Kismet

She’d never thought about it before.

“Isn’t he precious?” Orihime was babbling, bustling about industriously and settling the tea kettle on fire. “I sewed all his clothes myself, of course. Today he’s dressed as Destrader King of the alien clowns!”

“Hmmm,” Rukia said noncommittally, watching as Orihime doused the flames with a handy nearby watering-can.

“Oh!” Orihime said, hand flying to her mouth. “I need to stop by the quickmart and buy some milk. Could you stay here for a minute? Thanks!”

Then she was out the door with a flap of her coat and scarf and a twirl of her purse. And Rukia was left alone with the baby.

He squinted up at her from his cradle, spittle bubbling from his mouth, and curled a tiny hand around her finger.

She’d never thought about it before. What it was like to hold a baby.

She’d sent many children on to the next world. Some crying, some resigned, some frightened, some calm. But she’d never been tempted to hold or comfort them. She hadn’t thought she’d known how. Not she who had never felt a mother’s gentle touch. Yet, she had always taken care that the tap of the handle of her Zanpakutou was as light as she imagined a kiss of benediction to be.

The baby smiled up at her and laughed, and she reached down to pick him up, space ruffles and all.

When Ichigo came to pick her up it was already dark and Orihime was gallantly working her way through her second attempt at making dinner. The baby was sleeping, arms curled in a chokehold around a stuffed bear his father had made for him.

Orihime dumped a saucepan of slightly blackened green beans and marshmallows onto a plate and invited them to stay for dinner but Ichigo took one look at Rukia’s stoic expression and declined with some excuse about not impeding on family time. Orihime replied with a, “Pish! Tosh! You probably just want Rukia-san all to yourself as usual,” which made Ichigo color but to which he had no response.

They passed Ishida on his way in and only paused a moment as they heard him yell, “Wait! I’ll get the fire extinguisher!” before the door shut behind him.

It was a silent walk. Snow had begun falling and she watched the flakes dancing in the glow of the streetlamps. Ichigo’s hands were shoved deep within in his pockets and he kept up a brisk pace. Rukia kept close to his side, taking a moment every so often to blow on her mittened hands and watch her breath rising, frost-white, through the air.

“I want one,” she said suddenly.

“What? Huh?” He looked around, his head turning to take in whatever it was she had seen. Five years now and still she found something new and charming about this world all the time.

He glanced down at her as her hand slid into his pocket and she wrapped her hand around his.

“I want one,” she repeated shyly, flakes drifting down and alighting on her eyelashes, her cheeks flushed from the cold. “A baby.”