Word of warning: if you're a canon nazi that can't stand even a slightest deviation from the original series, of the concept of crossover leaves you frothing at the mouth... Don't read it. Seriously. Just don't. This is AU - not in the manner of the horrible 'high school' fics, but AU none the less. It is also a crossover. Griever and I had fun with it and the whole concept, but some might not like it. We are not going to apologize for it. We have fun with it. And in Griever's own words: "This is canon. We must rape it."

So, canon nazis? Don't even bother.

We don't care.


Disclaimer. We don't own Bleach. Or any other series shown in this fic.


As was its wont, dawn came, the sun rose, and ...


... arrived.

He stretched, quite possibly further than was strictly healthy or even possible for people without a certain degree of flexibility. With a corresponding number of snaps, crackles, and pops from bones and joints that was pretty much loud enough to ...

"Ichi-nii! Don't do that!"

Yeah, that's me. Name's Kurosaki Ichigo, but you can pretty much call me whatever you want as long as it's not 'Strawberry' or that other thing.

The boy smirked briefly at the closing door, reached up to dislodge the feline that had taken up residence on his chest sometime during the night, and rose.

Huh? Nah, nothing all that special I guess. Well, if you ignore the hair. Yes, that's my natural hair color. No, I don't know what sort of freak of genetics it takes to make a Japanese guy have blond hair. Though I'd wager it's pop's fault. He's a freak all by himself.

He took a moment to enjoy the sunlight, before getting on with things and leaving curtains and window open.

Some underwear, a comfortably worn-in pair of jeans, and an oversized t-shirt with a representation of the Tarot's Le Mat - the Fool - later he opened the door to the sounds and smells of the Kurosaki household coming to life.

And sidestepped to avoid a flying elbow-drop.

Speak of the devil, and he will appear ... yeah, well, remember that one for now. You'll get some use of it sometime, I'm sure. Anyway, that's him right there. Kurosaki Isshin, MD, occupation: respected physician; hobby: committing assault and battery on his only son and call it 'training'.

"What the hell ... oh, this again. Quit it, you two, or breakfast will get cold before you're done! You wanna make Yuzu-chin sad?!"

And that's Kurosaki Karin, my little sister. One of two, with the other cooking up a storm, as usual. Yeah, I feel a little guilty about that, come to think of it, but come on, I can assure you, what I cook, you don't want to taste. Or smell. Or be in the same room with. Yeah. Right.

The sight of a little blond girl busy with pots, pans, and various other kitchen appliances while cooking up a storm was by no means alien to the inhabitants of the Kurosaki household - they saw it pretty much every morning.

Kurosaki Yuzu; age 11; occupaton: student/resident caretaker in this asylum; she's pretty much the most mature person in the room right now, I think, and a counterpoint to Karin. Me and her ended up with the weird hair in the family, though hers doesn't have the whole reddish-when-the-light-hits-right thing going, while pop and Karin just do plain black. Oh? Oh, yeah, I didn't say. Yeah ...

Ichigo nabbed an egg-roll before pulling two small cartons out of the fridge, popping one open right there and gulping its contents down. Then he retrieved a saucer, threw a short glance at the room, and went back up with a:

"Be right back. Someone's being lazy."

... yeah, Kurosaki Masaki - mom. She's dead. It's been a few years now, and we're pretty much dealing ... imagine the kindest, gentlest person you've ever known. Like that, and I'd like to think that's not just nostalgia speaking. We pretty much each took it in our own way. Karin decided to go tomboy over it, Yuzu really grew up and has been taking care of us for the past while, pop ... well, he's always been a little nuts, but it still hit him really hard ... and me?

He opened the door with the '15' patch on it - his - and walked back in, finding everything pretty much everything as he'd left it, including the ball of black fur lounging on top of his bed, right in the sun-spot.

Ichigo set the saucer down and poured the milk.

I got a cat.


So, anyway, this is Karakura-chou. Sleepy little town that you really couldn't tell is a part of Tokyo, but somehow it is. It's where we live. To the west is Naruki-shi, which isn't quite as small or quite as sleepy. Well, you get the idea.

Ichigo pulled on a pair of shoes, gave himself a final run-over, then slung his bookbag over his free shoulder.

"I'm going!"

"Will you be back in time for dinner, Ichi-nii?" Yuzu asked from the direction of the kitchen while Karin had gone with their father to help open up for the morning.

Pop's pretty well respected over here, like I said. He's good at his job, he's only a nut when he's off the clock. On the clock, he runs the Kurosaki Family Clinic. Karin and Yuzu help out, Yuzu more enthusiastically than Karin, and I do my part when they need an extra pair of arms to lug stuff around or something. No, I don't hate it. It's just that it's never caught my interest. Yuzu's gotten pretty good at it all, though, and pop's been joking about retiring ... well, maybe. I don't think he'd be crazy enough to pull that sort of crap, but with him, you never really know.

"Yeah, I don't think we're going to be doing anything today," he called back. "I'll call or something if not."

Bookbag over one shoulder, cat on the other, he opened the door and stepped out onto the street.

That's not saying much, though. Schedules tend to go to hell in a handbasked around me more often than not.

"Oi, Ichi. Running a little late today?"

See what I mean? Nah, of course you don't. You're too busy watching Tatsuki's legs.

His pace was matched effortlessly, despite his longer stride.

Arisawa Tatsuki is somebody I've known for a long while. Yeah, she's always been a tomboy. Hell, she's kicked my ass a few times. Athletic. So, yeah, they're nice legs. One of the things I'm not upset at Karakura High's uniforms for.

"Eh, we kinda overslept. No big. You?"

"What do you think? Someone has to be around to keep you two out of trouble?"

Ichigo gave her a 'who, me?' look in eerie synchrony with that of the cat, if a cat could even have a 'look', that had her snickering.

Let's just not point out the fact that she gets into at least as much crap as I do here.


They still made it ahead of the morning rush, all claims to being late to the side, so the front yard wasn't nearly as crowded as it would shortly be getting.

And here, in case you missed the sign, is Karakura High. What's it like? It's pretty much a Highschool. If that doesn't tell you anything, then just assume it has the sublime elegance of a brick and the Feng-Shui of a Makudonardo franchise. No, I don't mean either of those in a good way. Plus ...

"... and that way's the cafeteria .. ack! Turn around! Whatever you do, don't look!"

The upperclassman herded someone Ichigo hadn't seen before away with the usual sort of haste, prompting a sigh from him and a grumble from Tatsuki.

"I swear, those idiots ..." the girl muttered in disgust. Then she perked up as she spotted something.

There is that too. Mostly, I just ignore it when it happens and try to keep my grades up to annoy the teachers. I manage, too ... but it never seems to help any. Yeah, my attendance record is pretty lousy, and I don't usually have an excuse I can use, but since I keep up with the work they can't really do anything. Other than frown, and say they're 'disappointed', and that sort of crap. It's probably the hair and attitude, but damn, that's just the way I am and I'm not changing on their say so, teacher or student. 'Course, most of them think I'm some kind of junior yakuza because of that ...

Or rather, someone.

"Chad! Oi, Chad!" she called out.

Actually, his name is Sado Yasutora, but 'Chad' sort of stuck and he's never said anything about it bothering him. 'Course, we're pretty much the only ones to call him that. Why?

The figure levered itself upright from where it had been leaning on a wall, and loomed. There really wasn't any other way to describe it.

Imagine a guy who's around a good head taller than any adult you're likely to run into in the street. He doesn't as much stand as he towers. He's got the build to back it up, too and is pretty quiet, which mostly just adds to the fact that his looks are damn intimidating instead of taking away from it. Hell, most of the teachers are careful around him. And yeah, he's only fifteen too, same age as me an' Tatsu-chin.


Really, I think it was inevitable. The three of us hanging together. We're all pretty much what's considered 'different' ... my hair, Chad's size and looks - he's mixed Japanese/Mexican - and Tatsuki's ... well Tatsuki ... I'd like to think we would have been friends no matter what happened, as long as we met at one point or another. Which, strictly speaking, isn't quite the reason we're like that now, but is close enough.


The rooftop door opened, allowing them to exit out onto the otherwise deserted space.

"... so, anyway, I figure he'd know better, but wouldn't you know it, his wallet said he was from Kyoto or something and mumbling about 'delegation' to the locals," Tatsuki shrugged, disappointed expression on her face. "I swear, the quality is going down lately. Not even a minute. All mouth."

Sado was wearing his usual expression. Ichigo was yawning, and his shoulder lost its occupant a moment later before he stretched as he stepped out into the sunlight. The cat did likewise.

Mm. No, we have some other friends too, so don't go throwing a pity part for the 'outcasts'. Still, mostly, people just think we're 'weird'.

"Eh, no self-preservation instinct," the blond teen said, sitting down and leaning back against the wire mesh fence that surrounded the rooftop before cracking open his bentou. The others did likewise. "Ossan'll likely put it down as 'natural causes' and tell them to send someone who isn't as thick next time. We got anything for later?"

They're not entirely wrong about that one.

"Ueno," replied Chad. "Need to go make my point again, I think. It's been annoying."

"You okay?" this from Tatsuki.

"It's been annoying," he reiterated in that same tone, with a careless shrug.

'Course, he said that same thing when he got stabbed ten times a few months ago ... it does explain why he's been even more taciturn than usual, though.

"Mind some company?" Tatsuki inquired, starting off with her dessert as usual while trying to appear casually disinterested.

She wasn't fooling any of them.

Must still be wondering how we'd react ... silly. She knows either of us better than pretty much anyone else outside of those present right now.

"Ichi?" the girl asked.

Ichigo frowned. "Nah, you go on. Yuzu's fixing her spicy kimchi today. Besides, I wanted to drop by the place on the way and try to get some of the paperwork cleared away. It's been piling up."

He raised the carton of milk to his lips ... and had it snatched away from him almost instantly. His left hand was suspiciously empty and devoid of the sandwich it had been holding just moment ago.

And that's number four ...

Nobody acted particularly surprised.

... or should that be number one?

"Sweet baby buddha on a unicycle, do you have to do that every time?" Ichigo facepalmed. "Next time just say so, I'll grab some extra."

Didn't mean that someone wasn't irritated.

Everybody has important people in their life.

The dusky-skinned, golden-eyed, skimpily clad woman currently taking advantage of Ichigo's milk carton didn't answer for a moment, before she finished drinking down her tasty treat and grinned.

Most have a 'most important' person.

"Aww, but where'd the fun in that be?"

That's Yoruichi.

"Alright, split in half?" the blond stared at his sandwich longingly.

Sometimes, she's a cat.

"Nope, gotta catch me first!"

At other times, she's not.

He was off like a shot, much to the amusement, obvious and not-quite, of the duo who remained sitting. They'd seen this before, after all ... it was almost a ritual during these little get-togethers.

It also kept the school day from being too mind numbing.

"Too slow!" the woman grinned, popping up on top of the stairway building. "Ne, you two, he's been moody today, so I'll just take him out on a little stroll to get his spirits up. Tell the teachers he won't be in!"

Then the two seemed to blur, Ichigo a moment after she did, and they both seemed to disappear.

And I think ... I think she might be mine.

Stray Cat Strut

Home Ground Arc

one: Black Cat Blues

produced by Two Greedy Losers Without A Fairy



Urahara sighed. He knew it wasn't going to be easy.

"No way. What do I look like, a babysitter? No."

"Yoruichi... Please, be reasonable." Kisuke said calmly. "He had a high level of spiritual awareness to begin with, but with the recent attack, trauma and stress... His reiatsu is fluctuating and he's leaking energy left and right. As he is right now, the boy is Hollow bait. You're the only one who can do it."

"No way." The purple haired woman scowled. "Don't get me wrong, Kisuke, the brat's got it tough. I can sympathize, I won't be his babysitter! I wouldn't even be here if I wasn't visiting Yuuko. If the kid's so important, you can watch him yourself or whip one of your gadgets and have him under surveillance or something."

"I can't follow him 24/7 and you know that." He shook his head. "I have far too much work, and I need Tessai here to help me. Yes, I could 'whip something up' as you put it. Quite easily in fact."

"So why won't you?"

"And do what?" He raised an eyebrow. "Watch as he's ripped apart by a Hollow before I can get to him? Fast I might be, but not quite that fast. No."

"Your mod-souls are capable of combat." Yoruichi pointed out.

"Against one Hollow? Yes. Maybe two or three. But a dozen?" Urahara snapped his fan shut. "Yoruichi, let me spell it out for you. The boy is a Pure Blood. A natural Shinigami in a human body. More, he seems to have inherited all of Isshin's potential and then some. And we both know just how damn powerful Isshin used to be. The way his power is fluctuating now, he is a biggest, most juiciest Hollow bait of the decade. If he isn't watched by somebody who can protect him ... He. Will. Die."

Yoruichi opened her mouth, then closed it with a sigh.

She took a large sip of her sake, scowling.

"Damnit, Kisuke ..." She muttered angrily.

"If it's any consolation, you won't have to do it for long." Urahara said helpfully.

"Define 'long'." The dusky skinned woman raised an eyebrow.

"A month. Maybe two or a little more. Once the shock subsides and the boy overcomes the worst, his power should start to stabilize." The scientist answered promptly.

"A month or two!? Kisuke, the kid just lost his mother to a Hollow! No kid will overcome that in a month."

"He doesn't know it." Urahara shook his head. "His senses aren't that acute. Yet. But he felt the Hollow. Coupled with the trauma, it's more than enough. He doesn't know what he feels, he's too young, but his soul knows."

"Oh?" Yoruichi leaned in with interest. "Now that's some instinct."

"I told you. The boy IS a natural." Urahara shrugged. "And any Hollow will feel it. You know that Shingami souls are a delicacy. Once a hollow gets close enough ..."

"All right, all right already!" Yoruichi snapped. "Geez! There's no need to guilt-trip me here!" She frowned. "I'll do it. But you owe me for this, Kisuke. You owe me big."

"Naturally!" Urahara said, snapping his fan open. "Of course I do."

"You know, waving a fan with 'flawless victory' on it in my face is a little bit much." She said dryly.

Kisuke smiled cheerfully.

And waved the fan.


Kisuke had been right, the kid did have power. A lot of it. Far more than any human child, no matter how spiritually gifted, had a right to.

It was raw, coarse and kept fluctuating madly like her first attempts at Shunko, but it was there.

'Natural, my ass.' She sighed as she sat on the tree in her feline guise. 'The kid puts out nearly as much power as Byakuya-chan did when he was a brat. And he's still limited by his body. This ain't natural. It's a miracle he isn't aware of it yet.'

It was painfully obvious that the kid was grieving. Even if his empty eyes and depressed, near catatonic demeanor hadn't clued her in, his reiatsu would have.

With no control or restraint it lashed around him, reflecting each and every emotion he felt. The grief he felt, coupled with shock and guilt hung around him in a thick misasma. It was more than enough to cause her a small but persistent migraine from the time she'd already spent there.

And it had just been two days.

'I'm gonna kill that smiling fruitcake.' She thought in irritation. 'Easy as pie, Yoruichi. Just watch him a little, Yoruichi. It'll be over before you know it, Yoruichi ... My exquisite ass!'

She could have simply raised her own reiatsu to counter his. The brat had plenty of power, but it was still immature and comparing it to her freakishly large reserves was like a contest between a candle and the sun. Problem was that if she did that, the reiatsu output in the area would double, inviting any Hollow that would be able to spot it.

Damned if she did, damned if she didn't.

And the worst thing was, she was bored to tears!

When Kisuke had said the boy was Hollow bait, she'd expected some entertainment. Not much, of course, but some.

Look after the kid, watch him and if some Hollow comes by, pound it into itty bitty pieces to kill the time.

Only there were no Hollows in sight.

At all.

That meant she was stuck watching the kid, suffering that damnably persistent emo-born migraine and she didn't have anything to do.

Bored didn't begin to describe it, really.

'I should have brought some crosswords or something.' She thought with a heavy sigh. 'Maybe sudoku?'

The kid could have as well been catatonic. He just sat there, by the bank of the river, staring at the water and not doing as much as moving a muscle.

The only time he had deigned to move was when Isshin had come by to take him form the spot.

He'd gone into hysterics, screaming and crying, until the man had relented.

Then he just kept sitting and staring.

And continuously radiating those emo vibes like some kind of a grief reactor.

She was surprised that Isshin had left the boy there, but then she caught the ex-captain's eyes as he left the river bank.

The man might have lost his powers, but he was as perceptive as always.

He'd just looked at her, with a mix of gratitude and relief, before attending to his crying daughters.

He came by several times to coax Ichigo out of his funk, but the boy had stubbornly refused to move and Isshin had given up after the last attempt.

Yoruichi could sympathize. Dealing with grief stricken children was bad enough, but he had to deal with his own grief as well.

She hadn't known Masaki very well. Isshin had been more Kisuke's friend than hers, but she had met the woman.

It had been almost painfully obvious to anyone who'd spent even five minutes with the couple that Isshin deeply loved his wife, nearly beyond reason. He'd probably have burned the world using his own soul as a match if it could have brought a smile to her face.

Now that she was dead and gone forever, consumed by a Hollow...

Yoruichi winced.

She suspected that, if not for his children, Isshin would have fallen apart completely.

And Ichigo certainly hadn't been helping any.

'Stubborn brat.' She groused, trying to dismiss the small migraine as she shifted on the branch. 'He isn't the only one suffering here.'

'Though guilt...' She looked at the unmoving, blank eyed boy. 'I wonder why? It wasn't his fault and he really couldn't do anything, so why? Eh.' She closed her eyes. 'A little more and I'll be all broody, too. Geez. What a damn troublesome brat. Would it kill him to at least move around a little?'

She was so bored that she contemplated counting the leaves on the tree.


'Sudoku. Definitely sudoku next time.'

She sighed, closing her eyes and waving her tail back and forth.

She briefly entertained the thought of making a quick detour to one of the shops and stealing a crossword or two and a pen, maybe even that gameboy thing, but she dismissed the idea.

If something happened to the kid when she was away it would be a disaster.

She did give her word to protect him form hollows, after all.

She opened her eyes as she felt three new presences enter the clearing. 'Faint, low density. Humans. Young, too. Children, probably judging by the aura.'

True to form, three boys, each at least a year or two older than her charge, walked into the clearing.

She dismissed them, closing her eyes again, only to open them a minute later.

'Oh?' She eyed the three boys surrounding Ichigo curiously. 'And what do we have here? Bullies? Now this just might be interesting ...'

"Hey, brat! This is our spot you're sittin' in. Scram." The largest of the boys said.

Ichigo didn't move, staring forward blankly.

"Yo, kid. You deaf or something? I said ... move!" The boy scowled, shoving Ichigo to the side.

The blond didn't budge.

The lead bully narrowed his eyes.

It wasn't how it was supposed to go. The kid was supposed to look at him, apologize and run away, making him look good in front of his pals.

"What, you wanna play tough, kid?" He sneered, ignoring the fact that the 'kid' was just two years younger than him. But he was twelve, almost a grown up! No little brat made fun of Juzo! "What, you think that you can bleach your hair and you're all tough?"

"Yeah, what's with the hair. It looks stupid." One of the other boys said, snickering. "Look. What is it, orange? What a stupid color. Only moron would do it. Or maybe a girl. Ooh. Look, Juzo! He's a girl! A stupid girl!"

The boys laughed and Juzo smacked the blond over the head, making them laugh even harder.

Ichigo drooped forward for a second, but then simply picked himself up to the previous position.

"Oh look... He's gonna cry." Juzo. "Are you gonna cry, little girl? Cry for mommy?" He simpered.

Ichigo stiffened.

"Dude, I bet he doesn't even have a mom." Jiro smirked. "I mean, if he had, she'd never let him dye his hair like some girl, right?"

Yoruichi's eyes widened slightly as the emotional miasma ... shifted.

"Or maybe she left him." The other boy said. "I mean, look at him. Girly and stupid ... I bet his parents didn't want him cuz he's a girly moron!"

"... take it back ..."

Juzo blinked.

"Oh hey, look! It speaks!"

"Take. It. Back." Ichigo's fists clenched.

"Oooh, Juzo... Look! The girl is ANGRY!" Jiro smirked, grabbing Ichigo's hair. "Are you angry, little girl, huh? Angry? Will you cry for mommy? Go on. Cry. Maybe your stupid mommy will hear you!"

From the emotions the kid was pouring out, the simmering rage mixed with grief, Yoruichi expected the upcoming explosion.

But ... She honestly didn't expect this.

There was a loud, half crazed scream as Ichigo, eyes brimming with tears but almost smoldering with rage, lunged at the nearest of the boys, bringing him down to the ground.

Without any hesitation, the blond started to punch the larger boy time and time again, unloading all of his fury, punch after punch.

For a second or two, two boys stood in a shocked stupor, before grabbing the smaller boy and tearing him off their comrade.

Ichigo kicked, screamed, punched and even scratched, and one of the boys cursed as he got hit straight in the nose, blood flowing almost immediately.

Another jumped back, his face scratched and bleeding slightly.

Juzo hissed, his eyes almost crossing as one of the wild kicks reached his stomach.

Juro stood up dazedly, touching his nose gingerly.

It wasn't broken, but it was bleeding profusely.

His hands shaking, tears of pain in his eyes, he swept the blood off his lip, looking at it.

"... kill you ... I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU FOR THIS BRAT!" He roared and lunged forward, bringing the slighter blond to the ground and attacking him viciously.

Yoruichi had to give it to Ichigo, the brat tried. Even as he went down and the kicks started, he still tried to give as good as he got.

Tried being the key word.

The kid knew next to nothing about combat. His punches were wild and wide and Yoruichi winced each time he connected. With a fist made like that, he probably hurt himself more than he hurt the three bullies. It would be a miracle if some of his fingers weren't dislocated after this.

His kicks were... well, pathetic. He kicked, to put it bluntly, like a girl, losing almost half of the momentum before he connected. And he kicked the legs, which was a fucking stupid move.

He also tried to wrestle his attackers. Which was even more idiotic.

'Damn ... does that kid have no instinct?' She wondered. 'I mean, not only are they are bigger than him, there's three of them! It's common sense to not try to grapple like that! He should punch them where it hurts and deal with them one after another, not try to just randomly whale around like that...' She winced as he grabbed the leg of one of his attackers, probably to try and trip him up, only to get a boot to the face for his troubles. 'Now that, he was just asking for. I mean, how stupid can you be, trying to catch a kick mid swing while lying down?'

The kid, even as young and undeveloped as his reiatsu was, had more than enough power to crush a grown man like an overripe melon with a punch if he harnessed the energy correctly. And here he was, getting pounded by three boys barely two years his senior with no skill whatsoever.

It would be utterly hilarious if it wasn't so sad.

The three bullies kept on kicking the blond for a while, until they got their anger out.

The biggest spat at the blond, giving a one good kick to the torso, before they left.

Ichigo laid there, unmoving, but conscious, though his eyes were closed.

Yoruichi closed her eyes.

'And that's that.' She sighed. 'Dammit, kid...' She looked at he battered child, exhausted both physically and emotionally.

'Well, he won't be moving for a while.' She decided. 'And aside form some bruises he's all right. Those three were kids, after all. So I guess I can catch a nap for now.' She curled on the branch comfortably. It's not like she didn't want to help the kid, but she was here to protect him from Hollows, not bullies. She was a guardian, not a babysitter.

A minute or two later, there was a ragged, muffled sob echoing in the clearing, followed by another.

'Oh great, now he's going to cry!' She thought with a twitching eyebrow.

Yoruichi felt her migraine increasing as the miasma thickened the longer the boy sobbed.

She grit her teeth, listening to the ragged sobs as the boy cried.

Then there was a whimper.

"... Mom ... I'm sorry ... I'm sorry ... I'm so sorry ..."

She felt the reiatsu spiking as the boy's mood worsened even further.

'All right! Enough is fucking ENOUGH!'

"Yo. Brat." She snapped. "Mind keeping it down? I've got headache because of you as it is and I'm trying to sleep."

The boy kept on crying.

"Brat! I'm talking to you!"

No answer beyond muffled sobs.

Yoruichi's eyebrow twitched.

'All right. He asked for it!'

With one graceful motion she was off the tree and trotting towards the child.

She cocked her head, looking at the sobbing mess, before she unsheathed one of her claws.

'Not listening? All right. I have other methods of persuasion here.' She thought gleefully.

Then she casually swiped her paw.

The sobbing stopped, as the boy looked at his lightly cut palm in shock.

"Listening now?" Yoruichi snarked.

The boy looked at her, stupefied.

"You ... You're a cat!" He exclaimed finally, shocked.

"Why thank you, I didn't notice." She said dryly. "Imagine that."

"But ... but you're a cat!" The boy pointed at her with a shaking finger.

"But ... but you're a boy!" She mocked him. "Or at least you're supposed to be, anyway. I've yet to see boy being such a damn crybaby. Sheesh! I've seen girls who cried less."

"What do you know?!" Ichigo snapped, defensively, his eyes becoming misty again.

'Oh NO you fucking don't!' Yoruichi thought viciously.

The three bullies might have been morons, but they'd allowed her to see just which buttons to push.

Grief was all fine and well, but the kid was bottling it inside of him. Which was never good.

Not to mention it meant more migraines for her.

She was not going to tolerate more of this. She'd endured it for two days. If she was to guard the kid, things needed to change or she'd go crazy and murder the brat herself.

"I know that your mother wouldn't have liked you to play spoiled princess and cry the whole day long." She snapped."So pull yourself together, princess, and act like a man. Or did your mother like her son to be a little crybaby, huh?"

'And here it is!' Yoruichi thought with satisfaction as the teary, blank look was once again replaced by anger.

Bruised, battered and dirty, Ichigo nonetheless lunged at her.

'That's it, kid!' She thought jumping back. 'Good! Let it loose, let it flow. Let it run it's course.'

Unless the boy let go of at least some of his grief, it would fester and grow. Not healthy in the least.

But healing could begin only after the boy crashed and burned it out of his system.

He might have been able to overcome it on his own, children were tougher than adults gave them credit for. But if the last two days had been any indication, it would be a slow, arduous process.

She was never one for slow.

She jumped away yet again, leaving Ichigo to go crashing on the grass.

"Pathetic." Yoruichi commented, sitting on the grass. "That's all you've got? Hmm. Pity. I thought you wanted to defend your mother's memory."

"WHAT DO YOU KNOW?!" Ichigo screeched, getting up.

'Heh. That's right kid. Get that anger, let it burn!'

She danced around the boy's blows, mocking him with both words and her proximity.

In his reach, but so far beyond it she might as well have been on the other side of the world.

They went back and forth, jumping all over the clearing like rabbits on amphetamine.

And Yoruichi swiveled, Yoruichi swayed, Yourichi taunted relentlessly.

"Missed me. Missed me. Missed me ag-... Whoa. That was close. Oh, well it WOULD have been, anyway, if I'd been standing still."

She ducked under a mad swing.

"Wait, no, it is YOU who's standing still. My bad!"

She jumped over his kick, twisting around his leg and brushing it mockingly with her tail.

"Are you even trying? I've seen lazy shopkeepers moving faster."

The boy growled, lunging at her tail, only to taste dirt.

"Ouch. Now that HAD to have hurt. Tell me, is dirt part of your diet? It sure looks that way. And my, my ... you seem to like it a lot!"

Ichigo panted, face in the dirt.

His hands and legs burned with exertion, his whole body hurt and felt like a giant slab of lead.

"Had enough already?" Yoruichi tsked, trotting to the fallen boy gracefully. "How sad. And here I thought you kids were supposed to be full of vigor and all. For the record ..." She leaned forward. "Your stamina sucks. To call your speed pathetic would be an insult to the word. And you have all the coordination of a pregnant penguin. A severely overweight, pregnant penguin at that."

"... why are you doing this to me ...?" He finally chocked out.

"I told you why." She sat in front of his prone body. "I can't sleep when you're bawling your head out."

"... just leave me alone ..." He whimpered.

"No. Can't do that, I'm afraid." She said, sitting in the 'sphinx' position. "You see, when you get all 'boo-hoo', it interrupts my sleep. Worse, your endless moping gives me a headache. So ... you're stopping both."

Ichigo grit his teeth, closing his eyes as he felt his limbs shaking, the adrenaline leaving his system, taking the rage with it.

Then he yelped, feeling a sharp stab of pain in his hand.

"Oh no you don't, brat!" Yoruichi snapped, sheathing her claws. "Don't even think about it! You've been doing the zombie impression long enough!"

"... what do you know?" Ichigo growed out.

"What, you think you got some kind of monopoly for grief, kid?" Yoruichi said calmly. "That because your mother died you can just close yourself out to the world? Well, I guess you can. Fuck, you want to spend rest of your life as a zombie? Be my guest. But not when it gives me the headache."

"... then go the fuck away ...!"

"Ooh. Language, language, kiddo. I bet your mom wouldn't be too happy to hear you speaking like that." Yoruichi snarked.

"... Why can't you leave me alone?!" Ichigo screeched, his voice breaking. "What do you want from me?!"

"I told you what I want brat." She said calmly. "I want you to stop feeling so damn sorry for yourself. Your mother died. It sucks. I can sympathize with you. I won't claim I know what you're feeling, but I can understand you're upset. You have a right to. But shutting yourself and festering in your grief isn't the answer, kid. You are alive, because your mother brought you to this world. She gave you life. And you know what you're doing? You're running away from it. From your mother's gift."

Ichigo froze, eyes wide.

"Your mother is gone, but you are here. So are your sisters and your father. You aren't alone. And even if you were, you'd have your life. The world keeps on going, brat. You can keep doing what you're doing now, stay in place and rot like a coward, squandering the gift your mother gave you. Or you can stand up on your own two legs, face the world and walk forward. And keep on going forward. Walking, running, crawling or damn CLAWING, but walking forward." She looked at him, her golden eyes boring into his.

"So, are you a coward or will you walk forward, brat?" She asked after a long moment of silence.

"... Ichigo ..." The boy muttered.

Yoruichi leaned in to catch the muttered words.


"My name. It's Ichigo. Not 'brat'." Her eyebrows shot up as she felt the boy's hands catching her tail. "I'm Ichigo. I ain't a coward!" The boy looked at her, gripping her tail. "And I'm gonna kick your ass!"

'Heh. Kid's learning. Almost a pity to ruin such a cute moment.' She though, grinning inwardly.

"Well then, Ichigo. My name's Yoruichi." She drawled lazily. "And I'm going to show you a fun trick."

Ichigo's eyes widened as the black talking cat seemed to, for all intents and purposes, vanish from his hands.

His face met the dirt yet again a fraction of a second later as the feline's weight settled on it, calmly.

"This is called shunpo. Or rather it's first, slowest and most basic stage." Yoruichi walked down his head onto the back, curling there comfortably after a moment. "If you ever manage to catch my tail again, I just might consider teaching it to you."

The last shock, coupled with last traces of adrenaline, emotional strain and physical exhaustion caught up with the blond as his body went into the rapid crashown.

He was out like a light a second later.

Yoruichi settled on his back, curling the tail around herself. The boy's back was warm, and it was a nice spot in the sun. Ideal for taking a nap.

And best of all, that damn migraine was gone.


She closed her eyes, following the boy into sleep, warmed by his body heat and her own feeling of smugness as only cats could.


Kurosaki Ishhin was not a man to easily lose his composure.

That said, he hadn't expected this. No, he hadn't expected it at all.

For various reasons.

They were all different. Try as you might, that sort of event leaves its mark, and though things were no longer as bad and as ... tense ... as they'd been in those early days a few months ago ...

Karin and Yuzu were putting on a brave face, but he could tell it was mostly for his sake. He loved his daughters dearly, and it killed him just a little bit at a time, every time he wandered around awake, late at night and heard faint sounds of muffled crying from their room.

Yuzu-chan had even gone as far as to take care to be awake before any of them even stirred, and ... well, one morning he'd simply come down and found her busy in the kitchen, her face a mixture of sadness and determination, and egg-batter. Karin was on her tip-toes and setting the table for breakfast.

He'd never been quite as proud of his daughters as he was at that moment, when he realized that no matter what happened, they'd weren't going to be broken by this.

In a way, he considered, they were stronger than he was.

Ichigo, though ...

That was another thing altogether, and Isshin honestly didn't know what to think of it.

The door opened and his son walked into the kitchen, waving and muttering a sleepy 'Yo' to him and his sisters as he shuffled, seemingly half-asleep and with some awkward looking stiffness to his limbs, towards the fridge.

Opened it.

Retrieved two small cartons.

Opened the first and proceeded to down it without looking as if he'd taken a breath throughout it all.

Opened the second and poured part of it into a saucer, then sat down with both of those at the table.

One hand proceeded to claim some of Yuzu's lovingly prepared breakfast for his plate.

The other had been raised to just around his forehead, keeping the saucer of milk steady to the black cat that was sprawled, front paws hanging limply and nearly covering his eyes, on top of his head.


Kurosaki Isshin had definitely not expected this sort of development.


END black cat blues