A/N: I've had this idea playing around in my head for a while, so I decided to actually sit down and put it into words. Updates will be (hopefully) fairly consistent since I should have a little bit of free time before I have to go back to real life and stop thinking about Bleach so much. Reviews make me write faster. Enjoy ;)
"Shinji," Hiyori repeated, less patiently this time.
Shinji did not look up from where he was crouched on the sofa in front of the television, attention focused on his video game.
"Get up, I wanna watch TV."
"I'm busy. Why don't you go make me a sandwich or something instead?"
Love looked up from his new edition of Shonen Jump.
"Hiyori, what did Hachi and Mashiro say they were bringing back for lunch?"
"Beats me," Hiyori answered from her lazy sprawl on the couch, picking her nose and flicking the contents at an incapacitated Shinji lying on the floor.
All eyes looked up as the front door slid noisily open.
"We brought food!" Mashiro exclaimed proudly, immediately passing out the bento boxes to everyone except Kensei, enjoying the vein in his head grow noticeably bigger as he angrily and unsuccessfully tried to grab it from her.
"Hachi, come join us," Rose offered kindly, as one of the few who wasn't all but inhaling his food.
Hachi was still standing quietly in the doorway, offset by the yell of triumph Kensei uttered as he finally secured his lunch.
He held up one of his colossal hands in a placating manner.
"That's alright," he declined hastily. "I think I'll save mine for a little later."
He tried to make a speedy escape.
"What do you have behind you, Hachi?" Love asked, curiosity overcoming his hunger.
"Probably a cat," Hiyori proclaimed through a mouth full of food she had stolen from Shinji's bento box. "Get rid of it already."
Wide brown eyes peeked out behind one of Hachi's massive legs.
"I found her wandering around all by herself. She clung to my leg and wouldn't let go."
The vizard were crowded around Hachi now, lunch forgotten (or in some cases, already consumed). The orange-haired girl sat on the floor, absorbed in the loaf of bread she was devouring.
"Isn't she so cute?" Mashiro squealed, bending down to pat the girl on the head. "Can we keep her? Pleeeease? I'll make sure to feed her and take her on walks and—"
"She's not a puppy, Mashiro!" Kensei barked, his arms crossed, features knitted in a scowl. "What do you know about taking care of a little human girl? Hachi, take her back to where you found her. I bet her parents are looking for her."
"You're so mean, Kensei!" Mashiro pouted, throwing herself on the ground and clutching his legs in a show of childishness she knew was sure to irritate him.
Love stepped in at that moment to break up the tantrum and argument he knew would follow.
"Kensei's got a point, Hachi. You don't know that the girl's parents aren't looking for her."
"I don't think she has any parents," Hachi answered, launching into the story of how he and Mashiro had gone to pick up lunch and ended up bringing back more than bento.
"Killed by hollows?! Are you sure?"
Hachi nodded in confirmation.
"All the signs were there. No doubt about it."
"If that's true, how is it this little twerp survived?" Hiyori pointed out, not actually caring about the answer. She was crouched next to the child, eyeing her with distaste.
"She must have some kind of superpower!" Shinji exclaimed. "Laser eyes!"
"Super strength!" Mashiro joined in.
"Or maybe she just ran and hid," Lisa pointed out sensibly.
The girl didn't offer any information. She had moved on to her next loaf of bread. Her cobalt blue barrettes glinted in the pale light seeping in through the broken windows.
"I still think it's laser eyes."
"It looks like you were right, Hachi," Kensei reluctantly admitted to the enormous vizard. "It was a hollow. Everyone thinks the whole family is dead. Parents, brother, and the little girl."
Kensei, after listening to ten minutes of arguing and nothing getting decided, had gone off to do his own investigation. He had found the house and the yellow tape enclosing it, trapping out the crowd of curious neighbors murmuring sympathetically about the poor family who had just moved from out of town.
"So it looks like the poor girl lost her entire family in one day." Rose glanced compassionately at the girl's slumbering form on the couch where Love had gently placed a blanket over her.
"Though it doesn't appear that she even realizes it," Lisa said, eying the empty bags and food wrappers that attested to the child's enormous appetite.
The orange-haired girl had contently finished her loaf of bread and then promptly fallen asleep in the middle of tearing apart a red bean bun. Its mangled form lay forgotten next to the wrappers, the red bean innards oozing onto the floor.
Hachi had gently scooped up the girl and placed her on the couch amidst Shinji's grumbling about being forcibly removed from the sofa for the second time that day and just wanting to beat the next level in his video game.
Hiyori watched the compassionate exchange through eyes narrowed to slits.
"Who cares, anyway?" she muttered dismissively and shoved her hands in her pockets, turning around to walk away.
Kensei and Love had made dinner, and it was Shinji and Rose's turn to wash dishes. They worked quietly for several minutes, until Rose finally broke the silence.
"What do you make of all of this?" he asked, carefully drying off a dish Shinji had just handed him.
Though Hiyori would vehemently deny it, and though the vizard had no real hierarchy or leader governing their group, it was Shinji's opinion that mattered most.
Shinji sighed, serious for once.
"It's a difficult situation, isn't it? A human child part of a group of exiled soul reapers with dangerous hollow powers. What is there to do? We could send the child back to the human world, but if the hollow is still out there and looking for prey, we could be sending her to her death. We are the only ones who know what happened to her family and she deserves to know that when she is old enough to understand."
Shinji acted like an idiot most of the time (especially when Hiyori was involved), but that didn't mean he actually was.
"But at the same time, it might make her resent us for our powers, which would be impossible and impractical to hide from her if she were to stay with us for a long time," a voice behind them added.
Kensei was standing in the doorway.
"The kid's still asleep. We're having another meeting."
Discussions were had, arguments had been made, and it was now time to cast the final votes.
Mashiro and Hachi both gave emphatic yeses, Rose and Love quickly following suit. Lisa said she didn't care any which way as long as she could just read her magazines in peace, and Kensei didn't say no, which basically meant yes. Shinji also voted yes, as long as the kid promised to show him how to use her laser eyes.
Hiyori listened to the discussion with arms crossed, her permanent scowl even more pronounced.
"This isn't daycare," she complained. "There's no room for brats here."
"Why are you here then?" Shinji muttered to himself. He was rewarded with a swift kick to the rear.
"We're all going to do our part Hiyori," Mashiro said soothingly. "You don't have to do anything if you don't want to."
"Whatever," Hiyori said finally. "Just don't expect me to change any of the brat's diapers."
"They say it takes a village to raise a child," Hachi said, adding his own patient opinion. "And what are we if not our own makeshift family?"
"You call this group of circus freaks a family?" Hiyori muttered, and stalked off.
The girl was still sleeping, so it wasn't as if they could have a proper celebration just yet. The vizard weren't much for parties anyway.
They moved her into Mashiro's room for now, until they set up another place for her. Kensei swore he could hear Mashiro still squealing in delight over the arrangement three doors down and he secretly pitied the girl a little bit.
"Did she say what her name was, Hachi?" Rose asked upon realizing that now that she was officially part of their merry group, they could call her something other than "the kid" or "the girl."
"Orihime, though she didn't give a last name."
"A princess, eh? The princess and the vizard. Sounds like the name of a terrible band," he mused.
Leave it to Rose to compare everything to music.
"How many villages did you say it took, Hachi?" Love asked tentatively.
"Errr, just one I think."
"We might need more than that," he said, watching Mashiro excitedly sketch a design for a matching jumpsuit and scarf for their new family member.