Title: A Child is a Clamp
Universe: Bleach
Theme/Topic: Kitten
Rating: PG
Character/Pairing/s: Ichigo, Ishida, Chad (vaguely, possibly OT3ish? I dunno.)
Warnings/Spoilers: None I can imagine.
Word Count: 1,456
Summary: The one thing parents can always agree on is love of a child. Or something like that.
Dedication: hanazuke's pseudo request! Thanks for the donation. Every bit helps! This is a paltry thanks, but I hope you enjoy either way.
A/N: Title taken from the 11th episode of "Tiger and Dragon," though I don't know if it works given that the translation might be off in the subtitles I got for the show? Well, whatever. It makes sense sort of, right? Right. Anyway, I don't know if this is actually readable or not just because the writer's block I am suffering is kind of making it hard to be anything but SUCK. Hopefully I will get over it ASAP.
Disclaimer: Not mine, though I wish constantly.
Distribution: Just lemme know.

Chad is the one who finds the kitten because Ichigo and Ishida are too busy yelling at each other to notice. Their arguing isn't anything new to him, so Chad can tune it out easily enough, can concentrate on other things instead.

That's why, out of the three of them, he's the only one who hears it when it mewls.

It's stuck in a drain and wet and cold and pathetic. It doesn't take much for Chad to pull off the grating over the gutter and scoop it up out of the damp darkness underground. It hisses pathetically and sinks its small teeth into his hand when he picks it up, but he barely feels it. He carefully puts the grate back into place when he's done.

Ichigo and Ishida are still sniping at each other when he comes back, kitten in hand. Ishida says something about the shinigami as a whole that is generally unpleasant and Ichigo says something about how he doesn't care because he's not really a shinigami anyway.

Chad tucks the kitten under his arm after it gives up on biting him and stands beside them silently as they argue.

Ichigo is the first to notice. "What's that?"

Ishida snorts. "A cat, you imbecile."

Ichigo scowls. "I know that. And no one asked you, asshole."

Chad sees the vein on Ichigo's forehead sticking out and the furrow in Ishida's brow that means that both of them are annoyed.

In his arms, the kitten mewls pathetically and clearly does not like the tones they are taking with each other. Chad can feel its tiny claws digging into the skin of his forearm.

He makes a decision.

"I think it's hungry," he says.

Ishida and Ichigo turn and look at him. The cat. For a moment, they forget about why they're annoyed with each other. "Right. Then we should get food."

Ishida adjusts his glasses. "It looks barely old enough to be on solid food."

Ichigo looks at it. "Yeah, but maybe it's just scrawny."

Chad pats its head with his index finger. It shudders at the unfamiliar touch, but stops digging into his arm.

"Milk and solid food," he suggests. "To see which it prefers."

He heads for the convenience store.

Ishida buys the milk and Ichigo gets the cat food and Chad is forced to stand outside with the kitten because the sign on the window says that there are no pets allowed inside. He can't hear either of the other boys from out here, but he can see them through the glass. It's enough for him to figure out what they're talking about.

Ichigo argues that cat food is cat food, and how is he supposed to know what kind is good? Ishida sniffs and says that usually, the cheapest kind is not good. Ichigo snorts and says then they can balance it out for the amazing cost of the organic milk Ishida is buying. They bicker some more and eventually settle on the middle road both ways.

When they come back out again they're annoyed with one another, and the sharp tones they use make the cat start to squirm in Chad's hands. "You should calm down," he suggests to them, when they notice the skittish animal's discomfort as well.

They grudgingly relax the muscles between their eyebrows.

After that they go back to Chad's place because it's the closest. Ishida heats up the milk and prepares the food while Ichigo and Chad try to wash out some of the dirt and grime in the little kitten's fur. It hisses and whines at them pathetically and when they're done, Ichigo has a deep scratch along his forearm and Chad has tiny bite marks on the ends of each of his fingers.

When Ishida offers food the cat calms down and hungrily laps at the milk before experimentally nibbling on the food. It decides it likes both before too long, and the three boys watch it eat.

"Both were right," Chad says as they watch.

Ishida clears his throat. "We should take it somewhere," he suggests.

Ichigo looks at his watch. "Most places are closed by now, I think." And that makes sense, because it's dark outside.

Chad glances between them then, and for the moment, it looks like they are thinking together, about what to do. He gets an idea.

"I can't keep it here," he says.

Ishida and Ichigo look at each other, expectantly.

A moment.

Then, "My dad is crazy," Ichigo explains.

"I have a box it can sleep in," Ishida sighs after that.

"I'll bring some extra blankets from home," Ichigo finishes.

Ishida takes the cat home—right after Chad confirms that it is no longer an 'it," but can be safely called a "she"—and from there, Ichigo jogs home to get stuff.

He comes back with more than just blankets, because apparently he saw a pet store along the way and figured that the cat—she—should at least be comfortable for the night before they take her to…some place.

The next day at school, Chad notices that the first thing the two of them do on the way—for once— has nothing to do with arguing.

"How is she?" Ichigo asks, casually.

Ishida looks tired. "She peed all over my floor."

Ichigo bursts out laughing.

Ishida glares, but is too weary to put up much of a fight. "I spent a few hours trying to show her how to use the litter box you brought, but I don't think she understands the concept quite yet."

Ichigo grins. "Maybe you're not teaching her right."

Ishida glares. "Then please, by all means."

That afternoon, Chad tags along and watches Ichigo try to teach a kitten how to use a litter box. She just seems to want to play in it.

Ishida ends up smirking at Ichigo this time, but by the end of the week, their combined efforts are rewarded with a cat that is, for the most part, house-trained.

"I can't believe we are standing around watching her use the bathroom like it is the greatest thing ever," Ichigo murmurs, after she finishes and looks up at them expectantly.

Ishida adjusts his glasses. "And now you can clean it up."


She jumps at Ichigo's shout.

Ichigo quickly lowers his voice. "How is that fair?"

"Because it was your wonderful methods that finally got her to cooperate. Or so you were saying," Ishida tells him. "I'm going to go get her food ready."

Ichigo grumbles as Ishida walks away, but doesn't yell after him like normal. As it is, she is still skittish from his tone just now, and she backs away a bit when he kneels over the litter box. He sighs. "Sorry," he tells her softly, and begins to clean up. She forgives him when he scratches between her shoulders.

Later, they watch her eat—both milk and solid food—and after a moment, Ichigo blinks. "Oi, weren't we supposed to take her someplace?" he asks.

Ishida looks at the clock. "Most places are closed by now, I think."

It's dark outside, so Ishida is probably right.

Ichigo sighs. "Alright. Tomorrow."

"Mm," Ishida agrees.

Chad watches them watch her and looking at them like that, he can't help but remember an old rakugo story he heard once, about how a child held parents together just like how in the older days, builders would use a wooden clamp would interlock one pillar with another pillar, to make sure that the building wouldn't fall apart.

The next day, when they are supposed to take her to some place, Ichigo brings a collar with a little bell on it.

Ishida holds her while they slip it on and Chad smiles because afterwards, she is cutely annoyed with them until Ishida brings the food.

By the time they remember that they're supposed to be taking her anywhere at all, it's too late again, and they blame forgetting on each other until she gets bored with their bickering and hops into Chad's lap, rolling onto her back and demanding a belly rub.

She mews when Chad doesn't move right away, and it's so cute that Ichigo and Ishida pause to look at her and they completely forget that they had been arguing at all.

Chad scratches her belly obligingly while they watch her and thinks that it is nice to finally have someone on his side of the fence that is much better at keeping them from throttling each other than he is.

After a while, when he decides that this so-called someplace the two of them keep talking about is never actually going to come, he looks up at them and says, "What should we call her?"