Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach.
"Where are you going, Kurosaki?"
He had been asked this question enough times this evening that he felt compelled to reply, "None of your fucking business."
And he did say it. And meant it. Even as he turned to face his inquisitor, came face to face with the unkempt blonde hair and the mildly amused gray eyes and realized at once what the question really meant.
He hadn't planned on being caught. In and out, get the soul candy and be on your way, the voice in his head told him repeatedly. Twenty minutes of that looping in his head was enough to make him numb and slow; he had to have knocked over every display in the shouten looking for his quarry. And of course the noise brought out the storekeeper.
Fortunately for him, the shopkeeper was not inclined to contact the authorities. The other man merely gestured him to sit. "Is this really what you want to do?" Urahara asked, settling on his haunches.
"She's dead," the burglar said.
Urahara looked at him, his face an inexplicable mix of sadness and control. Of course he had to shut out the feelings. One of them had to remain sane.
Isshin shook his head. It felt good to sit, he conceded in his head. He had not been seated for at least six hours. He couldn't. He just knew the minute he stopped he would go to pieces.
Especially here, with his children elsewhere. And his wife nowhere.
Masaki was always very punctual. At five fifteen every Tuesday she went to collect her firstborn from the dojo. At five thirty they would return home. She would scoop up one or both of the little girls who scrambled up to her. She would call her husband's name and tell him it was time to eat. He would grouse for several minutes about being too busy to eat and she would call his name again, this time in a tighter tone. Then he would shuffle out of his office and to the table. And they would eat.
Today, Isshin felt a pricking in his neck. Goosebumps. But why? He didn't know. And then he looked at the clock.
He wandered out of the office. Karin and Yuzu were on the floor with their coloring books. Neither of them looked up. Isshin scratched his chin and went back into his office.
Another twenty minutes and there was a pounding at the door. The twins looked at him as he came out of the office again. As he looked down at them and smiled, he knew he didn't want to answer the door. Masaki never knocked. The girls looked at him expectantly. He went to the door.
There was a policeman there. "Kurosaki Isshin?"
"Is your son Ichigo?"
The policeman nodded. "Could you come with me please?"
Isshin didn't bother to ask what it was about. He merely looked past the policeman to see the ambulance with light but no sound. And then to the cab of the ambulance. He could see the orange head in the passenger seat. The passenger seat.
Isshin moved with a will that wasn't his own. Ambulance. Ichigo in the passenger seat. If he was in the passenger seat, then he must not be injured. Then who--
There were two paramedics. One was already telling the crowd that materialized around the ambulance to disperse. They weren't budging. So when he arrived at the back and the door was open, barely a crack, there was a gasp to see that beautiful, thick hair. Attracted not to the beautiful head of his wife, but to the head of a body. A corpse, evidenced by the bloodless skin and the chest that was no longer moving. Dr. Kurosaki, for the first time, felt like he was going to be sick at the sight of a corpse. But the cadavers he'd worked on in medical school were not his wife.
This clearly was. Before he could even be asked, he said it. "This is my wife."
Someone in the crowd gasped. "Masaki. . ."
Isshin did not get any closer to the body. He simply turned and went to the cab of the ambulance, where Ichigo faced forward. The boy did not look at him, even when his father opened the door and reached for him. He simply slid from the seat into his father's arms. He was wet and cold. "I need to take care of my children," Isshin said.
One of the paramedics nodded. "We'll take her to the nearest hospital, Dr. Kurosaki," she said.
His mind snapped. What for? She's dead. He inhaled the delicate scent of his son. Mixed with--
"Kurosaki-san," said one of the neighbors. He didn't know her name and Masaki could not remind him. "We can take Karin and Yuzu for the night, if you like." The offer fell on his ears in a strange way. Something in him told him this needed to happen. "They haven't eaten yet."
"Don't worry," said the neighbor. "Anything we can do to help."
Isshin nodded and as the ambulance disappeared and the crowd wandered away, he carried his son inside.
The neighbor had collected Yuzu and Karin and was gone before he even realized he'd been followed into the house. He carried his son upstairs. The boy was almost shivering. Isshin carefully set him on his feet and turned to get him dry clothes. His pajamas would do. The t-shirt and pajama bottoms were too small, but they were Ichigo's favorite. It wouldn't hurt him to wear them one more time. As long as he was no longer wearing wet clothes that reeked of hollow, Isshin could not bring himself to care.
His son reeked of hollow.
So had the body.
Ichigo sat on his bed for several hours, not speaking. Finally he lay down. Then he went to sleep. Isshin laid his hand on the boy's chest. The heart beneath his hand was beating wildly. Ichigo was still frightened, even in his sleep. Of course he would be. A hollow killed his mother.
A hollow killed Masaki. A hollow killed your wife. And you weren't there.
Sometime around two a.m. Isshin left the clinic and headed for the shouten. He hadn't been there in years, hadn't needed to be there in years. But he knew he needed something in order to act. The object he needed was now cradled in his left hand and he was staring eye to eye with the man he stole it from.
"I'll pay you for it," Isshin said.
"No," Urahara said.
"What? Do expect me to do nothing? My wife, damn you. It killed my wife."
"And you'll kill your children if you do this." Urahara did not blink at him. "All this time hiding, and you'll throw it away for your dead wife and abandon the children she bore you. One of whom," Urahara said with a sigh, "she died for."
Isshin blinked. The shady bastard was right. Had it not been Masaki, it would have been Ichigo. Neither loss was acceptable. But now his children had no mother. And he had no wife. The loss of their mother did not stop him from being their father. It was as simple as that. There was no place here for revenge. Only for Karin and Yuzu's tears, and Ichigo's too, if they ever came.
Isshin got up. He tried to hand the soul candy to Urahara. Urahara shook his head. "Keep it for when it's actually convenient to use it," he said.
Isshin took a deep breath and moved toward the door.
"Where are you going, Kurosaki?" Urahara asked again.
"Home," Isshin said.