Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Bleach.
General Warnings: AU, language, violence, time travel, gen
Summary: Six months after their exile from Soul Society, Urahara cooks up a machine for a glimpse of the future. As with most of Urahara's experiments, things don't go quite as planned.
Author's Notes: Pointless, practically plotless; I kid you not, but I finished this a few weeks ago, and I haven't posted anything for a long time, so I figured I might as well throw this out.
"Oof!" The orange-haired stranger wheezed as the portal behind him spat him out in front of them before winking out of existence again. He had a Zanpakutou strapped to his back – a black-hilted katana – and he wore a black Shihakushou that extended all the way down to his ankles. The lieutenant badge for the Fifth Division was tied around his left arm. He was lean, slender, but even while picking himself up off the ground, there was a subtle hint of strength in every one of his movements. "What the fuck?"
Lisa was the first to speak as the new arrival got his bearings. "...Kaien?"
"I'm not Kaien," Came the instant response. It sounded like a knee-jerk reaction. Honey-brown eyes studied at them as the newcomer rose to his full height, scanning them all with a mix of bewilderment and dawning horror before they finally came to a stop on Urahara. "Geta-boushi, what the hell have you done this time?"
To his credit, Urahara only showed minimal surprise even as he scratched his head sheepishly and peered down at the machine beside him. "Ah, I might have gotten a few calculations wrong. I was hoping for a glimpse of the future – a major event that might be a turning point for us – but it seems to have brought you to us instead."
The stranger stared for a long moment before bringing up a hand to cover his eyes in a perfect picture of long-suffering resignation that spoke volumes of how well he knew Urahara Kisuke.
"You know," The stranger muttered at last, lowering his hand again. "I'd like to say I'm shocked, I really would, but after all the shit you've pulled over the years, time travel isn't even up there on the list." He frowned. "Just tell me you can send me back."
"Well, it shouldn't be too difficult," Urahara reassured hastily. "I'll just have to reverse the polarity, which might take a while, but the end result should open up the portal again to send you home."
"Oh good," The stranger didn't sound all that enthusiastic, most likely not pleased that it 'might take a while'. "Well then, I suppose I'll be staying here until you get that fixed." He looked at all of them again, considering each of them in turn before giving a semblance of a shrug. "I'm Ichigo, by the way. Nice to meet you."
"Do ya know us then?" Hiyori barrelled right into the heart of the matter, scowling suspiciously up at the newly-dubbed Ichigo. "Who are ya anyway? Why'd the machine bring ya through?"
Ichigo ran a hand through his hair, scowling at the short blonde. "Yes, I just said, and hell if I know. Ask Geta-boushi over there." He paused, glancing back at Urahara. "Though I suppose I can't call you that right now seeing as you don't have either."
Urahara blinked in bemusement at the offhand remark but Ichigo was already turning away again, gaze lingering on Shinji this time. A smile twitched at his lips.
"Somethin' funny?" Shinji drawled, arching an eyebrow.
A half-smile tipped up one corner of the time-traveler's mouth. "Nah, not really. It's just-" He waved a hand in Shinji's general direction. "You have really long hair."
"Shinji cut his hair in the future?" Kensei wasn't the only one who looked rather stupefied. "He's always been so vain about it."
Shinji shot him a disgruntled look. Ichigo chuckled. "Yeah? I didn't know that, though he's always been a flamboyant bastard. His hair only reaches his shoulders in the time I've known him."
Everyone eyed the blond captain speculatively, no doubt trying to imagine Shinji with short hair. Shinji rolled his eyes.
A second later, their collective attention was drawn back to Ichigo again when a blur of purple appeared out of nowhere and attempted to blindside him from the left, only for Ichigo to evade Yoruichi's clutches with an easy half-step Shunpo backwards.
This was the Goddess of Flash they were talking about, and he had evaded her, easily.
"Something I can help you with, Yoruichi-san?" Ichigo asked mildly, though his eyes remained fixed on the woman.
Yoruichi pouted, a gleam in her eyes even as she lowered the hand that had been aiming for the sash that secured Ichigo's Zanpakutou to his back. "Just testing you. Who's your captain?"
Ichigo cocked his head. "Does it matter? It's not Aizen if that's what you're worried about. And I'm a pretty new lieutenant, all things considered. Just became one about two years ago."
For a second, something dark flickered across his face, tightening his features into something careworn and distant. And then it disappeared again, quickly enough that it might never have been there in the first place.
"So," Ichigo looked around. "Where can I stay? I'll settle for sleeping on a couch if that's all you can spare. And what year is it anyway?"
"December 1901," Urahara clarified, expression suddenly shrewd. "And you are from...?"
"June, 2011," Ichigo stated, absently tugging the strap of his sash over his head before rolling his shoulders.
"Are you a Shiba?" Lisa asked abruptly. "You look just like Kaien."
"So people keep telling me," Ichigo offered a wry smile. "Kaien was my cousin."
"...'Was'?" Lisa looked paler than usual.
Ichigo grimaced. "Huh, maybe I shouldn't have said that."
"Wait, he's dead?" Lisa snapped.
Ichigo hesitated, glancing at Urahara before returning to Lisa. "I never met him. Kuukaku-nee-san said he died several decades before I was born."
A tense hush strangled the air in the room, but they all knew there was nothing they could really do about it if it had already happened. Messing with time was dangerous. They had already debated long and hard over whether or not Urahara should've fired up his machine to begin with.
"Several decades?" Shinji echoed, redirecting the topic of conversation. "How old are you?"
Ichigo smirked. "Twenty-five."
"...You mean you look twenty-five," Kensei corrected.
"No, I mean I've been alive for twenty-five years," Ichigo expounded. "Well no, technically I've been alive for twenty-three years, but I am literally twenty-five years old. I was born to a Shinigami father and a Human mother. I had a Human body and everything until some things happened and I gained Shinigami powers."
"And Central 46 was okay with makin' a Human a lieutenant?" Hiyori's expression redefined skeptical. "They were okay with a Shinigami marryin' a Human?"
Ichigo shrugged, and his next smile held little humour. "My old man went AWOL when he decided to go live in the Human World with my mom. Kisuke-san helped him hide. And I'm strong. They can't afford to have me as their enemy. Plus, well, the Shinigami have changed a bit, I think. Rukia says they're nowhere near as strict about their laws now as they used to be. Besides, I'm not a Human anymore; I died during the war."
"What war?" Love was quick to jump in. "A war against Aizen?"
"What? No," Ichigo snorted dismissively. "We finished that war almost ten years ago. I mean the latest war, against- some people." He spun on his heel. "Now enough of that. Do you have anything to eat around here? I'm starving. I was just heading out for lunch when that portal appeared and sucked me in."
"Wait, ya can't just leave us hangin' like that!" Hiyori hollered after him.
"I'm not telling you anything else," Ichigo retorted. "Don't be so impatient, shorty."
"WHO ARE YA CALLIN' A SHORTY, BALDY?!"
"Berry-tan kicked your butt, Kensei!"
"Shut up! I was taken off-guard!"
"Three times in a row? And to a lieutenant? That's even worse than getting your ass kicked."
"You shut up too, Love! I'd like to see you do better!"
Ichigo had been living with them for five days now, and to everyone's surprise (except maybe Ichigo's), he'd fit in like he'd been with them all along. It was clear that their temporary guest knew all of them pretty well, never batting an eye at Lisa's choice of reading material, or Hiyori's violent tendencies of ambushing Ichigo – and the others for that matter – out of the blue, or even Mashiro's penchant for over-affectionate hugs.
"Hey, I have a question," Ichigo landed beside them, sheathing his Zanpakutou. He was frowning at Kensei. "Why don't you unseal your Zanpakutou? I'm not saying you have to or anything, but in the future, when we spar, we usually go to Shikai right off the bat."
A tense silence immediately fell over them like a shroud. It was Shinji who supplied an answer. "Ya should know why we've been exiled. Because of that, we still can't bring out too much power in a battle without goin' off the deep end so ta speak."
Ichigo blinked twice, and then only frowned even harder. "What, you mean the Visored thing? I thought Kisuke-san already stabilized you guys."
It was spoken so casually – like he really did not care about their condition – that at least half of them relaxed instinctively.
"I did," Urahara nodded his confirmation. "However, their Inner Hollows are hard to suppress should they lose control, so I thought it best for them to use as little reiatsu as possible while I look for a way to reverse the process."
Ichigo scoffed. "Well, you can give up on that. You're never gonna find one."
"What?" Lisa looked torn between glaring at Urahara and glaring at Ichigo. "So we're still- what did you call us, Visored? We're still Visored over a century inta the future?"
Ichigo shrugged nonchalantly. "Yeah, you're pretty damn strong."
"We're pretty damn strong without it!" Lisa snapped back. "Ya think we want ta be Hollowfied?!"
"I never said you did!" Ichigo actually bristled a little like they'd offended him in some way. "But it's not like there's anything wrong with being a Visored! It's just your darker side manifesting a physical form. It's always been there. That part of you that you're ashamed of, the part that you don't like showing to other people or admitting that you have – that's what your inner Hollow is! It's still you! And you're gonna have to accept that sooner or later; otherwise, you'll lose control anyway, and then you'll really be fucked."
He stopped, looking conflicted for a moment, and then continued in a softer voice, "If it helps, the Gotei 13 won't care in the future. I know they can be bigoted idiots, but Visored are pretty widely accepted where I come from. I mean, it's still a pretty small group but..." He paused again, and then revealed haltingly, "In the last war, our enemies could steal Bankai and use it as their own, so Kisuke-san found a way to temporarily Hollowfy Shinigami since that would introduce Hollow reiatsu into their stolen Bankai as well, and our enemies couldn't take in Hollow reiatsu without their souls being destroyed in the process. Maybe part of it was because they had no other choice, plus Kisuke-san assured them that it would only be short-term, but they were all honestly fine with it. I hear none of them hesitated, not even the captains – Toshirou, Byakuya, Komamura-san, even Sui-Feng, and when I first met her, Sui-Feng was about as by-the-book as anyone could possibly get."
"Sui-Feng?" Yoruichi cut in, golden eyes intent. "She's doing alright then? She's captain in your time?"
Ichigo nodded, features relaxing now that nobody else seemed determined to jump in about how monstrously bad being a Visored was. "Yeah, captain of the Second. By the way, when you meet her again, she'll be really angry with you. Like, literally trying to kill you kind of angry."
Yoruichi laughed ruefully. "I have no doubt. She'll forgive me though?"
"Yeah," Ichigo made a face. "It's a bit weird how much she worships you, but you said it was even worse when you were still captain, which is mind-bogging because it's pretty bad now. I mean, one minute, she's yelling at her lieutenant for being a lazy good-for-nothing idiot, and the next, she's cleaning the dojo floors because you mentioned that you thought you saw a bug on your way in."
"Then I have no worries," Yoruichi beamed. "It sounds like she's doing very well."
Ichigo rolled his eyes. "Only you, Yoruichi-san. Now, if we're all done with the existential angsting over absolutely nothing-"
"We're not angstin', and it's not nothin'!" Lisa huffed. "I don't get how you're okay with this, even if things are fine in the future-"
Ichigo cut her off with a put-upon sigh before raising one hand. "I never realized you people were such morons over this issue. Even I didn't fuss this much about it. Look."
And without another word, he flicked his hand over his face, and half the room went for their swords as red-edged black reiatsu gathered before shattering and revealing a distinct bone mask.
"Holy fuck!" Kensei cursed, leaping back as he drew his blade along with the others, only for them to halt when Ichigo – a Visored, apparently – reached up and took the mask off. The black sclera bled back to white, and his yellow eyes became brown again even as he held his Hollow mask in one hand.
"See? We're the same," Ichigo declared, tossing his mask to Urahara who caught it gingerly like it might bite, and held it up for examination. "In fact, you guys are the ones who taught me how to control my Hollow, so stop freaking out already."
"Aizen got his hands on ya too?" Shinji asked sharply, a flicker of – misplaced – guilt already surfacing in his eyes.
Ichigo opened his mouth, and then closed it again, rubbing the back of his head. "Uh, no. This bit wasn't Aizen."
Never let it be said that the Visored were dense. There was only one other person capable of kickstarting the Hollowfication process after all. As one, they all rounded on Urahara.
"Ya didn't," Shinji's voice was uncharacteristically deadly, and Urahara cringed, looking horrified himself. "He's a kid!"
"Hey, I resent that!" Ichigo interjected loudly. "And it's not Kisuke-san's fault. At the time, there was only one way for me to regain my Shinigami powers – I needed them to go save someone – and the Hollowfication thing was a side-effect."
"Did he tell ya about the consequences before puttin' ya through it?" Shinji asked shrewdly.
"Exactly," Shinji said with finality, still murdering Urahara with his eyes.
"I would've said yes anyway," Ichigo defended resolutely. "One of my friends was in danger. I would've done anything to save her. Becoming a Visored was actually a good thing. Byakuya would've killed me if I hadn't had that boost."
"Why would you need to fight Byakuya?" Rose enquired. "I thought you were on the Shinigami's side."
Ichigo grinned, wild and sharp. "The Shinigami and I didn't always get along. One of my closest Shinigami friends tried to kill me before. Come to think of it, most of my Shinigami friends tried to kill me before. In fact, one of them still regularly hunts me down to challenge me. Drives my captain around the bend sometimes; that, or he laughs at me. But the first proper meeting I had with the Gotei 13 was when I broke into Soul Society."
"You broke into-" Kensei spluttered as the others watched on in disbelief.
"Ah, I feel like taking a nap now," Ichigo stretched before waving a hand at Urahara which made the Hollow mask in the scientist's hands crumble. "Remember what I said, okay? I'll even help you out if you need it. It would be irony at its finest."
And then, before any of them could pin him down and force the whole breaking into Soul Society story from him, he turned and Shunpoed away, snickering under his breath as he left a stunned audience behind.
"...Does anyone else get the feeling that we've invited a lunatic into our home?" Love asked conversationally.
He was rather universally agreed with.
This didn't stop Shinji – both because of general principle, and because he had taken a liking to their guest after all the pranks Ichigo had helped him pull on the others – from reaching over to slap Urahara upside the head as punishment for the whole turn-people-into-Visored thing.
Urahara had the decency to look somewhat guilty.
"Oi, we gave ya your own room and everythin'. What the heck are ya doin' sleepin' on the roof?"
Ichigo grunted as a foot dug none-too-gently into his ribs but he shifted sideways obligingly to accommodate Shinji who flopped down with semi-grace on the free patch of roof, golden-blond hair settling around him.
"I just can't get over that," Ichigo said, side-eyeing the long tresses. "When I get back, I'm never gonna let you live this down. I've got pictures now. I'm gonna show them to Rukia, who will show them to the Shinigami Women's Association, and then they'll be plastered all over Seireitei. It'll be hilarious. Might even get a laugh out of Toshirou; he's hated you since you started calling him 'midget'. You'll probably try to kill me with paperwork for a few days but it'll be worth it."
Shinji snorted. "Damn brat, don't insult my hair. And it won't work half as well as ya think; some people will still remember I used ta look like this." He paused. "Kill ya with paperwork?"
Shinji grinned triumphantly, though he sobered quickly enough. "The old man actually asked us ta return ta the Gotei 13? And we accepted?"
"We'd lost three captains after Aizen openly defected with Tousen and Gin," Ichigo explained. "Jii-san did try to fill the positions but those captains all turned out to have chips on their shoulders the size of Rukongai, so after the first war was over, the upper management decided to go with people they could at least somewhat trust not to betray them without really good reason. The old man gave all of you full pardons and an invitation to return. Some didn't. The Seventh's captain is Komamura-san and he's doing a good job so Love stayed in Karakura as part of the liaison team down there, headed by Kisuke-san. Hiyori, Hachi, Yoruichi-san, and Tessai-san all stayed there as well. Only you, Kensei, Rose, Lisa, and Mashiro returned."
"And ya became my lieutenant how?" Shinji prodded with intrigued insistence. "You're strong, and that's without even unsealing your Zanpakutou. You're on the level of a captain, and they just decided ta stick ya in as a lieutenant?"
"There's a funny story to that," Ichigo hummed in consideration. "I'm actually a unique case. I've been through two wars in the span of ten years, plus a whole shitload of invasions and terrorist attacks and even a trip to Hell to save my sister – literally, I'm not exaggerating – so you can't exactly say I'm inexperienced. But at the same time, I am kinda young compared to- well, everyone else, I haven't even been through the Academy, and I used to be Human. So right now, I'm actually on loan between you and Kisuke-san while you two continue filling in the holes in my education. Plus, people seem to think the Fifth Division lieutenant seat is cursed or something since Aizen's had it, and then Gin, and then Hinamori who was Aizen's lieutenant as well, and she's still recovering from Aizen's psychological manipulations. There are days when she seriously still thinks that rainbows and sparkles shine out of Aizen's ass, and that we're the ones in the wrong for condemning him." He grimaced, visibly shaking the thought away. "So anyway, sometimes, I work in Karakura where my friends and family live, and other times, I pick up after you." He smirked and ducked Shinji's half-hearted punch. "And on occasion, someone from the Zero Division comes down and drags me off for a mission or two."
"...What?" Shinji very nearly gaped.
"What?" Ichigo looked blank for a few seconds before realization coloured his expression. "Oh, uh, we've all got a pretty close working relationship nowadays – Shinigami, Visored, the Royal Guard, all the Humans in the know – especially after the last war when we all had to pull together. Kyouraku-san even gave my Human friends Soul Tickets so that they can come visit me in Soul Society anytime, and of course, I've got a free pass down to Karakura since I work there as well. I've got Arrancar friends in Hueco Mundo too – Nelliel, Grimmjow, and Harribel are always ripping Gargantas into Seireitei, so much that Sui-Feng goes ballistic whenever she sees them because they're not technically supposed to do that but nobody really tries that hard to stop them either. In fact, Kyouraku-san goes out for sake and steamed buns with Bel whenever she drops by."
He stopped, glancing to the side at Shinji's still features. "What's wrong?"
The blond shook his head, scrubbing a hand over his face before muttering, "Either you're pullin' my leg or the future's somehow turned inta a fuckin' paradise. The Zero Division doesn't come down for anythin' short of the apocalypse, and even that's a tossup, and the Gotei 13 actually bein' friendly with Visored, Humans, and Hollows? That's unheard of."
"For you maybe," Ichigo shrugged nonchalantly like he hadn't the faintest clue how many boundaries had been broken. Shinji suspected that he honestly didn't. "And it's not like there's no prejudice at all, but there's not a lot of it, and the people who don't like the changes keep their mouths shut because there are always people nearby willing to beat the crap out of them if they start shooting their mouths off. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with it. Shinigami, Arrancar, Quincy, Visored, regular Humans – they're all people capable of good or evil. Besides, Nel, Grimm, and Bel were a major help during the second war too so it's not like we could've turned around and killed them afterwards."
Shinji released a bark of bitter laughter. "Go ta Seireitei taday; I guarantee ya that they can and they would. Kill the Arrancar, and wipe the Humans' memories of us if not outright assassinate them; ya get the gist."
"Well then it's lucky they won't in the future, or else they'd have to deal with me," Ichigo's eyes narrowed and turned molten amber under the moonlight. He didn't move from his sprawled position on the roof, nor did he make any grand gestures, and his words had been lightly spoken, but Shinji would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to realize just how dangerous an enemy this man would make.
"...They're all your friends?" Shinji asked thoughtfully. "I know we are, and your Human friends are too, and it sounds like the Zero Division's got a soft spot for ya, but the Arrancar as well?"
"Yeah, though Grimm and Bel used to be on Aizen's side. Nel defected a long time ago after she was betrayed but I bumped into her when I was in Hueco Mundo during the war against Aizen, and we became friends. And I wouldn't say the Zero Division has a soft spot for me; they can be sadistic assholes when it comes to my training, and they're always hauling me around like they think I want to join them on their missions or something. Bastards." Ichigo's smile was fond though before he cocked his head in puzzlement. "Why?"
"Nothin'," Shinji reclined back as well, staring up at the moon. "I understand now."
He ignored the half-confused, half-annoyed look Ichigo sent his way.
So that was why the machine had specifically sent Ichigo to them. Kisuke hadn't completely screwed up after all. Ichigo was the turning point, the lynchpin, the one major piece on the playing field that would turn the tide, and not just for them but for entire races of people as well.
Shinji studied the time traveler out of the corner of his eye.
For the first time since his exile, he could honestly say that he had more than revenge to look forward to.
He closed his eyes and smiled to himself. Tomorrow, he'd shanghai Ichigo into helping him start his Visored training.
"It's fixed," Urahara announced, sweeping a magnanimous arm at the portal swirling in front of them. "This should take you home."
"'Should'?" Ichigo echoed with no small amount of apprehension. "I swear to god, Geta-boushi, if this thing sends me to the time of the dinosaurs or something, I will find you and I will kill you in the most creative way possible."
"Of course it won't," Urahara promised bracingly. Shinji was the only one close enough to hear the muttered "I hope". He glared at the scientist. If this thing lost him his future lieutenant, heads would roll, and Urahara's would be last because the idiot was going to have to fix the problem first before Shinji could decapitate him.
Urahara smiled back cheerily, something Shinji would swear that the ex-captain had been practicing in the mirror ever since Ichigo had – regrettably – pointed out that it was really bizarre how much of an open book Urahara was now compared to the one he knew in the future.
"Alright then," Ichigo sighed, sounding rather aggrieved. "I guess I'll see you all in a hundred years or so." He glanced back and offered a wave and cocky smirk. "Don't miss me too much in the meantime."
And to the indignant retort of "who'd miss ya, dumbass?!" from Hiyori, along with an amalgam of amused snorts and return waves, Ichigo hurtled towards the portal, never looking back as he took a flying leap into the unknown on faith alone.
The swirling darkness swallowed him whole, and before any of them could so much as blink, it snapped shut behind him, for better or for worse.
"...Well, that's that," Yoruichi rapped her knuckles against the machine. "Let's hope we see him again one day. He kinda grew on me."
"He's that sorta guy," Shinji agreed, giving the area where the portal had been one last look before turning away and weighing his options. And then he threw out, "Hey, who knows how ta cut hair? I think it's time I get a trim."
"Had a good time?"
Ichigo groaned from the wooden floor where he had landed in a heap of limbs. "You absolute bastard. 'I think it's about time you took a vacation, Ichigo.' 'Feel like travelling lately, Ichigo?' 'Remember, Ichigo, some things are better left unsaid.' You knew, and you didn't tell me!"
Above him, Shinji cackled even as he extended a hand to help him up. "Now where would be the fun in that?"
Ichigo scowled as he straightened his clothes. "Screw you. I'm still spreading those pictures."
"Ya do that," Shinji patted his head condescendingly. Ichigo batted his hand away with an irritated glower. "And I'll be sure ta kill ya with paperwork. Ya've been gone two weeks; it's piled up ta the ceilin' by now."
"That's because you don't do any of it!" Ichigo howled as Shinji sauntered out the door. "And half of it is yours to begin with!"
Shinji shut the door behind him, quirking a fond grin even as Ichigo's voice was muffled.
"Oh, Hirako-taichou," His Third Seat walked by, carrying a new stack of paperwork. Shinji swallowed a laugh. "Is Kurosaki-fukutaichou back from his vacation to the Bahamas?"
"Aa," Shinji jabbed a finger over his shoulder. "He's all ready ta get back ta work, so bring that right in."
And with that said, he ambled away, whistling happily. He was glad for Ichigo's presence in the past and all, unknowingly giving them a kick in the rear in the process, but he had missed his lieutenant, and he hadn't been the only one – Ichigo was the life and soul of the Gotei 13 – so he was certainly glad that the young man was back now, and he wouldn't be the only one.
He halted mid-step when a crash and the ensuing fallout erupted behind him.
"KUROSAKI, THERE YOU ARE! WHAT KIND OF WIMP NEEDS TO GO ON VACATION?! YOU JUST RAN AWAY TO PUT OFF OUR NEXT FIGHT!"
"SHUT UP, GRIMM! I'M BEHIND ON MY WORK! I DON'T HAVE TIME TO PLAY WITH YOU! GO FIND KENPACHI OR SOMETHING!"
Shinji snorted. No doubt, it would only be a matter of time before Sui-Feng came storming over demanding to arrest their latest Arrancar visitor. And for the time being, Ichigo could keep Grimmjow entertained like always, and he didn't even have to worry about paperwork because if Ichigo had just turned around, he would've realized that Shinji had already cleared all the evil papers from the last two weeks off his lieutenant's desk.
Ah well. Ichigo would figure it out sooner or later. And in the meantime, Shinji would snag the other Visored before wandering down to Karakura Town, and perhaps share some sake and take a trip down memory lane with Kisuke and the others.
Please leave a review on your way out.