Disclaimer: Don't own shit.
When Ichigo is little, it's a lot easier. His hoard is small, with half of it still unable to walk or talk and the other half prone to staying nearby, anyway. He loves them fiercely, especially now that he is still so small and delicate. He's almost too young to protect his hoard, but it's okay, because his hoard protects him, and they do it well.
Then, his crowning jewel expires.
Masaki, his diamond, dies protecting him, destroying herself in the process, and Ichigo almost shatters like she did.
It's hard to part from one's hoard. Most would rather die.
The real problem with Ichigo's hoard is that his gems are so delicate. Just by existing, they are damaged, and it makes Ichigo want nothing more than to lock them away forever.
It wouldn't help, humans don't work like that. Besides, it would make them unhappy, and Ichigo would never be able to bear that.
Time goes by. Ichigo takes the time to learn how to handle his grief, but never how to cope. His kind never 'cope', they never get over the loss of their treasure, and sometimes, Ichigo wishes he were human.
Only two people are ever added to his hoard over the next five years— Tatsuki, an uncut gem if he ever saw one, and Chado, who's probably the largest pearl Ichigo's ever going to consider, he's sure. Ichigo is a greedy thing— they all are, in the end— but he knows a prize when he sees one, and he is content.
Then he meets Rukia, and he falls in love.
Not in mate-love, not like his mother and father, but in hoard-love. He's never seen someone like her, a glittering amethyst with an attitude like nobody's business.
He considers her one of his hoard almost immediately.
She doesn't seem to mind, and even gives him the pleasure of staying close, curling up in his closet to sleep every night and following him to school in the day. It's natural to become attached so quickly, especially when Rukia is so willing.
"You're weird, Ichigo," she says when he proposes the idea of her staying. "I have to go home. I have duties."
She has family, too, but Ichigo doesn't find that out until her brother nearly kills him, a gilded silver dagger with a broken blade.
Ichigo wakes up under Urahara's care, naked save for the bandages and the blanket he's curled up under.
"What are those things on your hips?" the blond inquires as Ichigo pushes himself up into a sitting position.
Ichigo's never lied about his heritage.
"Dragon scales," he answers, running a hand absently against the soft, tiny indents that curve over his pelvis and down his thighs.
Urahara doesn't look like he believes him, but Ichigo doesn't mind. The shopkeeper is a golden set of scales, encrusted with cracked rubies and always off balance.
Cracks in rubies can be mended. Perhaps Ichigo might see to that.
Encroachment is awful, and Ichigo can't fight it as he likes, with teeth and claws and fury, so instead, he lets it happen, hating himself every minute of it.
When he comes back up, Urahara has more cracks, and Ichigo finds himself taking note in a way he never has with normal people.
Urahara's the first one to become a part of Ichigo's hoard without him even being aware of it.
Inoue and Ishida have places as treasures by the end of Rukia's rescue, cherished just as well as Chado and Rukia and considered just as beautiful. Ichigo's pleased with the rarity of these particular gems, and the kinship that comes along with them. Ishida as good as shares his blood, after all, and Orihime adds a pinkish hue to his hoard that's never really been there before.
Renji asks about his dragon scales, too, when he comes to visit Ichigo in the Fourth.
"Are you serious?" he asks when Ichigo answers honestly, laughing. "Man, Ichigo, you're weird."
It's Renji who's the weird one, as far as Ichigo is concerned. He's never been interested in straight-up jewelry, never mind something that requires piercings.
When Ichigo goes home, he feels like too much of his hoard is too far away.
Masaki kept her hoard deep in the mountains, where the rest of their kind make their homes. He has it on good authority that nothing's been touched, but once in a while, he goes to check on it.
Her hoard was very different from his. She'd lived a lot longer than he did, after all, and had time to collect what she wanted. Plus, her hoard wasn't apt to walk away. That's a good point about paintings.
Ichigo didn't really care for her treasures. They weren't his, after all, and art's never been a real interest for him, anyway.
She knew most of the artists personally, and those she didn't, she stole from. Ichigo walks by pieces by Bernini, DaVinci, Van Gogh and Edward Hopper as he surveys her cave, and decides that, with a few tweaks, it would make a good home. After all— there are hot springs and fresh water, both in separate offshoots of the little cave, perfect for humans and shinigami— should they happen to stop by and stay for a while.
First, though, before anything, he ought to find himself a way to light this damn place. He can see just fine, after all, but some people might have a little trouble (the image of his father stumbling of rolled up canvases older than he is is still quite amusing, though).
It's going to take a lot of work.
Shinji's the first person to take Ichigo's answer to the scale question seriously.
"Dragon?" he asks, arching a thin, delicate eyebrow as Ichigo pulls his shirt back on over his bandages. "Aren't they lizards?"
"Sometimes," Ichigo agrees. "I like to stay this way. It's easier to be near my hoard."
Shinji's a curious sort, one jewel of the many that make up the Visored. Ichigo goes weak at the knees at the idea of having the whole set, and he makes an effort to make it so.
He's successful, of course. Dragons are very talented creatures.
Grimmjow is a special sort of topaz, elegantly carved into something that is very much willing to kill. Ichigo knows it's meant to be when he's saved from otherwise certain death.
He's under the impression that Grimmjow knows it, too.
Isshin comes out to Ichigo the same Chizuru came out to everybody; unecessarily. It's not unexpected, it's not a betrayal, it's not anything except a silly man telling Ichigo what he already knows— it's not like he couldn't smell shinigami, after all.
Isshin has always been Ichigo's iron crown. Strong, well-made, deceiving— and yet, in the end, little more than decorative.
Ichigo has never thought his father to be the smartest person in the room, but that's never been an issue.
What is an issue, though, is the fact that Ichigo loses his powers to a rusty goddamn spoon by the name of Aizen Sousuke,
He's pissed about that, especially when the side-effects include not being able to see his own treasures. His precious things— the only way he'll be able to make sure they're okay is if they come to him, and he has a funny feeling that they won't want him to worry.
Stupid. He always worries.
To distract himself, Ichigo spends his time working on his mother's caves— his caves, now. He fills them with things humans need, like blankets and beds and rugs and pillows. For the most part, he's left alone by the others— they are older than him, much older, and care little for the hatchling that hasn't even breached two centuries of life. But once in a while, he gets visitors.
"Humans are a troublesome hoard," his mother's old friend remarks when she visits, sky blue scales shrinking and morphing to become something closer than human skin. "They fade so easily."
"Not all of them are human," Ichigo says, leaning against a boulder by the entrance. "Some of them are longer-lived."
"They won't like it if you trap them," she tells him. "The sort of creatures that think like humans tend to be… clever."
He shakes his head.
"I don't want to keep them here," he admits. "I want to give them someplace safe."
She smiles at him, patting his head gently.
"You are a foolish hatchling," she tells him fondly. "I can see why you were your mother's favorite."
Ichigo preens at this, even after she leaves.
It's nice to be reminded.
Sometimes, Ichigo wishes his hoard were more like his sisters. Easy to gather, easy to keep safe.
Yuzu's hoard was her cooking. Nothing made her happier than the food she made, except for maybe the way that the people she made it for devoured it. Karin's was even simpler— successes, written down in little notebooks and hidden in a box under her bed. They're both still too little to change completely, minus a lick of flame here or there, but already, their collections were vast, their standing considerable, as far as their kind go.
After their first change, their hide will be strong, their scales will show themselves, and Ichigo won't have to worry as much anymore.
He will, anyway.
Officially, it's Grimmjow that sees Ichigo's other shape first, having followed him to the caves like the little stalker Ichigo had secretly hoped he was.
When Ichigo finally catches sight of him (he'd been aware of his presence for a while), he doesn't do anything, just presses his large, scaled head to the ground and watches Grimmjow calmly with one giant, brown eye.
I won't hurt you, he promises, making Grimmjow start. You can stay here.
The blue-haired arrancar growls.
"I'm just here for a decent fight," he grunts, but Ichigo can tell it's something more. He's not sure what, exactly, but there is.
Ichigo doesn't change back— he won't be able to see him, if he does— but as it turns out, Grimmjow's not that afraid.
He decides to stay.
Ginjo and his hoard of abilities (not people, abilities) are particularly irritating, enough so that Ichigo has few qualms about eating them, one by one.
They crunch beautifully between his teeth.
Four Visored stayed behind, and Ichigo sees them all regularly. It's Hiyori, however, that comes to him every night. She's the one who tells him.
"I always know where you are," she murmurs, curled up like one of his sisters against his chest. "We all do."
That's more than Ichigo expected. He always knew where they were, generally (youth and dimensions made it a little bit fuzzy), but that's his instinct. This is the first time he's ever heard a hoard that an locate him— though, to be fair, he's never heard of anyone ever having a hoard that was both sentient enough and intelligent enough to talk about it.
"That's my fault," he tells her. "You're a part of my hoard, now."
"So what you told Shinji was true? You're a dragon?"
She sounds skeptical, which Ichigo understands, except…
"You can't really think that the only interesting things that exist are dead, right? There's plenty in the universe beyond shinigami and hollows."
Hiyori— she's become calm around him, he's noticed, especially since Shinji left her behind to take back his captaincy— makes a face.
"So why do you look human?" she demands.
"Because I want to," he answers. "It's easier to keep an eye on my hoard."
It's the answer he gave Shinji, which she seems to realize.
"Can you fly?"
"Yeah. Wanna see?"
Flying with Hiyori on his back is a little like flying with a schoolbag full of bricks on. She doesn't weigh much, but he's still young, small and weak compared to many of his neighbors. By the time they reach the caves, he's out of breath, barely able to turn back and talk without a rest.
"You're really weak," she remarks as he collapses onto a wide couch. "Considering how big you get
"I'm seventeen," he retorts between gasps. "Most can't shift between forms until their forties."
Hiyori is surprised, but she doesn't comment.
"So… this is your…"
"Cave? Yes. It was my mother's." He gestures towards the far wall, where most of her paintings hang. "That was her hoard."
"Yeah." Ichigo rolls onto his side. "God, I'm tired."
Hiyori frowns. "How are we supposed get home?"
Ichigo waves a hand at the abundance of cushions, couches, and other comfortable things of leisure.
"Sleep awhile, then we can go back," he answers. "You're heavy, for a little thing."
She decides not to take offense to that, instead taking a seat on one of the plush, complex rugs by his side.
"So, is it just you?" she asks, tucking her knees under her chin. "Are you the only one?"
"No, no— there are plenty of us up here in the mountains," he says. "And my sisters technically count, too. They can't shift yet, but they'll be able to eventually." he frowns. "In a few hundred years, they'll have caves of their own."
"Are they part of your hoard, too?"
"Are Shinji and the others?"
Ichigo closes his eyes. Grimmjow's out— probably hunting, or something equally masculine and scary.
"Yes. So's Rukia, and Ishida, and Inoue and Chado." he turns his head. "Getaboushi and everyone else at the shop, my father, my mother."
"..." Hiyori thinks about this for a moment. "But... Half of them are in Soul Society."
Ichigo nods. "It's very hard. But, I've built this place for them, should they ever need anyplace safe to hide for a while. Or forever."
Something in his face goes slack, and Hiyori knows he's fallen asleep.
She looks around again.
Hopefully, there's something to eat.
Unsurprisingly, something goes wrong, and Ichigo gets a phone call.
"The Onmitsukidou have been dispatched," Urahara tells him over the phone, sounding ruffled. "Anyone involved with the last two years' worth of events and isn't directly under the thumb of the Gotei or Central 46 is to be terminated."
Ichigo's on his feet in a moment.
"Shinji and the Visored in Soul Society?"
Urahara sounds pissed.
"Imprisoned. They're too close to you, Kurosaki-san. You're the danger."
Something in Ichigo's stomach begins to boil, hotter than any fire he's ever breathed.
"Get everyone to the Visoreds' wearhouse," he orders. "Hachi can keep everyone safe until I can get everyone out."
Ichigo pauses. "Yeah?"
"Have your powers returned?"
"... No. But don't worry. I have this handled."
Everything is on fire and Shinji's not sure what to think about that. The only thought that's really computing is this:
Ichigo is a fucking huge, terrifying dragon.
His head alone is the size of a car, swinging back and forth on a long, elegant neck to breathe a stream of white fire at the oncoming shinigami.
"Did you know he could do that?" Byakuya inquires, putting pressure on a particularly nasty wound to his shoulder.
"He might'a mentioned something about it, yeah— I didn't believe him, though."
"He's very angry," Rose remarks from where he's leaning against Kira. "I don't think there will be many survivors."
"There won't be any," Urahara answers as Ichigo's Espada— Grimmjow, the old Sexta— tears a Garganta in the wall behind them. "But we need to get out of here. Come on!"
Ichigo registers their escape, but is too enraged to really do anything but continue to roast the motherfuckers who dared to touch his hoard.
It's a good thing he's feeling hungry.
When Ichigo returns to his caves, it's the first time his entire hoard has been in the same place. He doesn't even bother changing back, sleepy and full from his feast on spirits and whatever else got caught between his teeth. He curls up right then and there, in the middle of the main cave, and goes to sleep, metallic orange scales glowing slightly in the fairy lights he'd created when Grimmjow became a permanent resident.
"... My son's a dragon," Isshin says blankly, turning to the rest. "Was anyone else aware of this?"
Hiyori and Grimmjow raise their hands, as do the twins.
"It's okaa-san's blood," Karin tells him. "I'm sure Ichi-nii will explain when he wakes up."
"How many days do ya figure that'll take?" Grimmjow inquires, loping over to Ichigo's sleeping, mountainous form. "He sleeps forever when he's like this."
"Give it a week," Yuzu says dismissively. "But until then— dinner, anyone?"
When Ichigo wakes up, he finds himself surrounded by his treasures.
Just like it's supposed to be.
A/N: I got bored and wrote this in a few hours today rather than do dishes. I thought it'd be sort of sweet, especially after seeing all those 'unusual hoards' that are going around on tumblr— check out IguanaMouth's stuff— it's pretty adorable.
All mistakes are mine. This is silly and short and I might expand upon it later. Enjoy.