Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters used in this fic.
General Warnings: Rated T for Moderate Language
Author Notes: This story asks the question, "What if Isshin had never separated the Kurosaki family from the spiritual world?" Please enjoy the first chapter! Also, many thanks to my wonderful editor for just being amazing.
Ichigo's family is kind of hard to explain. Sure, he's got his mom and dad like everyone else, and the best two little sisters in the world. He also has Ji-san and his cousins (old and young). But he doesn't know what to call everyone else. But even though little Ichigo doesn't know what exactly to call them, he knows one thing - what they are to him. Family.
CHAPTER 1: A DIVERGING PATH – ISSHIN
As Isshin looks down at his wife, he comes to the conclusion that he is in deep shit.
Years ago, when a beautiful young woman rescued him from certain destruction in this lonely town, Isshin never could've imagined this is how it would end, (or begin as Masaki would correct him). At first, it was Isshin's pride as a man and a captain of the Gotei 13 that compelled him to save the girl to whom he owed his life. After all, Isshin did say he would never be able to look himself in the mirror if he let her die. But as the former Captain continued his duty as her protector, watching over her as she graduated high school and went on to university, little by little the feeling that had sparked inside him the moment she had appeared on the street that fateful night grew to something more, something bigger. And one day Shiba Isshin realized that Kurosaki Masaki was his sun.
'She drew me in… was merciful… guided me with her light… she did all of this without even trying… I was simply… happy to be in her orbit…'
So now, here they were. His wife, sweaty and tired but with the most beautiful smile that was filled with such absolute and pure joy the likes of which Isshin had never seen splitting her face. Isshin, sitting shell-shocked and amazed in the way only a man in his particular position could be. And a little bundle of cloth that currently swathed his firstborn son clutched tightly in Masaki's arms. Masaki was currently cooing at the tiny baby boy, and Isshin was just barely holding in his awe at the new life that lay wailing before him (and Kami, Isshin was a father! Him! He had a son!), when a realization of great magnitude hit the newly christened father. His epiphany was not a pleasant one.
Isshin knew he was at a crossroads of a sense, one that had never even thought to cross his mind in the months leading up to his son's birth, and also one that could completely change the lives of his wife and son in the times to come. Was Isshin going to keep his family involved in the spiritual world, where they could be harmed and killed? Aizen was still out there, still at large, and very much still a threat to Masaki's (and now his son's) safety. Not to mention, if Soul Society ever found out that he was alive, with a Quincy wife and halfling child no less, it would all be over for them. Or, would Isshin cut off all remaining ties to the spiritual world? Could he? Hmmm… Isshin thought, grimacing. Masaki isn't going to like this.
Now that he thought about it, Isshin didn't much like the idea either. Actually, Isshin was pretty sure he hated it. Sure, never being able to return to the Seiretei was pretty bad, but in order to keep his family safe, that meant he had to cut every and all ties to the spiritual realm. That meant no more nightly sake visits with Kisuke, Yoruichi, and Tessai; the Visored would have to stay away (although that was already kind of a thing since Masaki really didn't want that kind of language to be uttered anywhere near her precious baby); not to mention, Ryuuken wouldn't be able to visit, as well as his unborn son. Their son would never know his cousin, and Masaki would never be able to meet her nephew. Isshin would be losing his very best friends, and Masaki, her surrogate brother.
But if that's what it takes…Isshin thought to himself, then that's what gonna have to happen. Isshin knew that both Masaki and himself, though it would be painful, would do anything for their son. If that meant losing their precious people, then so be it. Their son was worth it. Isshin steels himself, gathering the nerve to voice the sentence that would cement their true and final separation from all things spiritual, when –
Isshin blinked. Wha-?
Urahara Kisuke stood slumped in the doorway, head down, one hand still holding onto the door handle while the other was braced on his knee, panting and for once without his signature hat, looking as if the world was ending. Kisuke's head suddenly popped up, eyes haggard and panicked, startling Isshin from his seat. What's going on? What happened? Are we under attack? Is everyone okay?! Isshin's heart stopped, as Kisuke's mouth opened to speak, dreading words that might mean the end when their new life as a family was just beginning, when-
"OUT OF THE WAY, DUMBASS!"
Hiyori slammed her hand down on Kisuke's (quite unusually) unprotected and exposed head, using it as a springboard to her launch her way over the mad scientist and into the room. Isshin's panic threatened to physically manifest itself when he noticed a touch of fear alight on the small girl's features. Even if the short, stubborn blonde was scared, she'd die before ever letting anyone know of her plight. So if Hiyori was showing signs of fear, then Isshin shuddered to think of its implications. He opened his mouth to ask just what had happened, when suddenly, the whole room exploded in a cacophony of noise and chaos as bodies barged into the small hospital room.
"YOU SHITHEAD, what did you do?!"
"OYE! What the hell is goin' on 'round here?!"
"Oh my, is everyone quite alright?"
"Masaki! You okay?!"
"The fuck happened?!"
"Where the hell is the doctor! He needs to get his ass over here and do his fucking job!"
"I'm not paid enough for this kind of bullcrap!"
"Where is my little aka-chan!"
"My heart was crying with the wish for thine safety, fair bride of Shiba-san!"
The desperate clamor of voices dwindled until there was naught but silence in the crowded little room. Kisuke lowered his hand from it's previous position in the air silencing those present, and focused laser eyes onto his best friend.
"I'm terribly sorry for all the commotion," Kisuke said, a genial (read: dangerous) smile upon his face before snapping out his fan to cover said smile, "but we were, understandably as I'm sure you would agree," Kisuke quipped, "extremely worried for Masaki and the baby when we were suddenly called by the hospital in the middle of night...with not a single message from you, Isshin-san." Kisuke finished with a deadly glint in his eyes. Isshin's eyes widened, and he gulped. Oh crap. For the second time that evening, as everyone's eyes focused in on Isshin with laser intensity, gleaming with the promise of a slow and painful death for the ex-captain, Isshin became aware that he was very much in some extremely deep shit.
I'm going to die, aren't I? Isshin thought faintly. But as the Visored, along with the occupants of the Urahara Shoten, slowly advanced upon the poor, (and let's face it) undoubtedly doomed man, nobody noticed the dark aura manifesting in the corner of the room...until, that is, it was too late.
Everyone froze in their place as the lethal voice snarled in rage. Eyes slowly turned to take in the terrible sight of Kurosaki Masaki, clutching her baby and long, red hair hiding her face from sight. Suddenly, Masaki lifted her head, and with a face that promised a decidedly unpleasant fate, spoke.
"If any of you dare to raise your voice again around my sleeping son, you are going to have to answer… to me." Masaki said quietly, her terrible smile promising extreme retribution should one incur her... displeasure.
Collectively sweat-dropping, everyone was quick to show their agreement with hurried nods and rushed (but very, very quiet) spoken assent.
Yoruichi, for all her best friend's genius, was the first to realize the full implications of Masaki's words. Her eyes widened.
"Masaki…" she breathed. "It's a boy!"
Everyone paused, taking in the sly woman's words as their eyes slowly slid over to the small bundle of cloth held in Masaki's arms. Then Shinji lets out a whoop, Kensai and Love smiling smugly at one another as they bump fists, as Hiyori humphs in defeat (she wanted a girl, dammit). Mashiro practically zooms over to the side of the bed, cooing at the baby (though of course, Yoruichi beats her to it). Lisa just smirks over at the hospital bed, nodding sagely as if she had known the whole time, while Rose waxes a dramatic poem about the pride of a firstborn son, and Tessai smiles contentedly in the corner. Isshin is dumbfounded as he stared at the happy scene unfolding before him, and so he isn't aware of Kisuke's approach until the man spoke up beside him.
"Congratulations." Kisuke murmured, a soft smile alight his lips. "You must be proud." Isshin stared as a peculiar feeling rose up within him as he surveyed the room and it's strange occupants.
"Haha! Knew the lil' sucker could do it!" Shinji gloats at Hiyori, eyes gleaming with delight. The short blonde grumbled, and reluctantly withdrew her hand from her jacket pocket, a wad of money clutched in her fist. Shinji swiped the cash from her hand, cackling with glee. Isshin blinks. Did they just…bet on my child's gender?! His mouth dropped open, then shut as the man shook his head in exasperations. Figures Shinji would pull something like this.
"You'll be godmother, won't you?"
The noise died down once more as everyone's attention switched back to quickly focus on the hospital bed. Masaki's hand was on Yoruichi's arm, the other clutching her son. Yoruichi drew back slightly, a faint look of panic flitting through her eyes with the famed Shihoin speed.
"Masaki… I couldn't…" Yoruichi looked away. Masaki only smiled gently.
"Who else could?" she said, a tinkling laugh stealing itself from her lips. Yoruichi's eyes flew back to Masaki, mouth already open to protest when she stopped clear in her tracks at the small bundle of cloth held out towards her. She glanced nervously at the bundle, then back at Masaki. The new mother's eyes held no hesitation as she silently urged the Shihoin princess to take hold of her child. Yoruichi's eyes softened, and she smiled as she gently drew the small bundle into her arms and purred at him as she began to rock the child lightly in a smooth, even pattern.
"There, you see? You're a natural." Masaki told her. Yoruichi's cheeks reddened. Embarrassed, the normally self-assured woman stared determinedly out the window, refusing to meet anyone's eyes. "And you will be godfather Kisuke?" Kisuke started from his position beside Isshin, mouth momentarily dropping in surprise as his hand twitched, as if he had aborted the unconscious movement to go for a fan to conceal his face. That twat. Isshin snorted. As if we would ask anyone else to do it. And then what he had thought in the privacy of his mind sunk in and he realized it's implications. Their son couldn't have Kisuke and Yoruichi as godparents if they were to separate from the spiritual world.
Isshin surveyed the room and all of its occupant's happy faces. Those of the Visored, who were ready to take on their new little brother after discovering Isshin's true purpose for staying in the Human World. To Tessai, who had slowly become a silent but steady companion in Isshin's self-banishment to the Human World, teaching him some healing kido to get him started at the clinic. To Kisuke, his best friend who he shared sake with on late nights when Isshin felt nostalgic about his old life, and constantly poisoned him with his tea or other manner of food (Isshin had never really classified those creations as actually edible, so it might be unfair to call it food). To Yoruichi, who had constantly teased Isshin ever since his arrival but whom he knew would protect Masaki with unwavering loyalty. To Masaki, his sun who guided him with her beautiful and strong light. And finally, to his new-born son, so little and small, who so desperately needed his protection. Needed all of their protection. And as Isshin looked around the room once more, saw the smiling and happy faces of the people surrounding him, he thought to himself, how could he have ever imagined leaving all of this behind.
"Wouldn't have it any other way," Isshin said brightly, clapping his hand on Kisuke's shoulder. "Wouldn't have it any other way." Kisuke sighed, and replied sufferingly.
"Well, when you put it that way…" Finally producing his hat from who knows where, he placed it on his head for the barest of moments, before he swept it from its perch and gave a bow. "I would be honored." Isshin were family, and family protected one another. Mashiro took this time to interrupt.
"So? What's his name!" She whispered excitedly.
Isshin glanced at Masaki. She smiled, and nodded at him. Isshin made his way over to his wife and son as everyone crowded closer in circle surrounding the hospital bed, an unwavering wall between them and the rest of the world. No, Isshin thought, they were all staying together. As a family. Isshin put an arm around Masaki and looked down at his son, and smiled.
One who protects.
As a family, they protected one another. Now that Ichigo was a part of that family, they would protect him to their very last breath. And someday, Ichigo would protect them in return.
"His name is Ichigo."
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AN: I am taking requests for this story, so please PM me! I would love to hear any of your wonderful thoughts and ideas!