Argh! I said I wouldn't put it up for a week...I swore I wouldn't...but I just...couldn't...resist...I hate me!
Summary:Ichigo spent eight years wondering what if. What would happen if one of his 'what ifs' came true?
Author's Note – For those of you who don't hate me for the end of "Worth the Risk," hello! For those of you who do hate me, I'm pretty sure you won't hate me after this. Well, I hope you won't anyway. You might. That's up to you though. Anyways, I'll stop babbling. Story notes:
Note 1 – This story takes place 8 years after the last chapter of WTR, but five years after the Epilogue. Does that make sense? In other words, Kaien is 8 now, Ichigo is 28, and so on. Okay?
Hmn, actually, that's it. Okay, on with the story
Disclaimer – I do not own Bleach. I just own this story idea, and little Kaien Kurosaki. Oh, and good news: Yukio isn't in this one!
"Dad, why don't I have a mom?"
Chapter 1 – Another Day
He could still save her...there was still time...he had to go back, he had to find her, she was there, she was alive, he knew she was-
"Dad?" Ichigo Kurosaki snapped out of his day-dream and looked around at his son, who was standing next to the chair Ichigo was sitting in.
"Yeah, what's up kid?" He said, trying to sound nonchalant, He grabbed the glass sitting on the table next to him to take a sip of water.
"Where do babies come from?" And Ichigo, in the middle of taking a sip, choked and looked down at the boy standing in front of him. Eight-year-old Kaien Kurosaki waited patiently for his dad to answer, his violet eyes shining with curiosity..
"A-Ask Aunt Orihime." Ichigo stuttered, unbelieving. Why the hell did Kaien want to know this now? Ichigo hadn't asked about babies until he was at least twelve (and it had led to the most traumatizing conversation of his life).
"She told me to ask you."
Thanks a lot Orihime, Ichigo grumbled silently as he stared into Kaien's vividly violet eyes, which were shining with an innocent curiosity only a young child could manage. "So? Where do babies come from?"
"Um...I'll tell you when you're older." Ichigo finally settled for saying that. He knew Kaien wouldn't like that answer.
"You're too young." It was an old answer, and Ichigo knew Kaien, being the head-strong child he was, would never accept it.
"Don't you have homework?" Ichigo finally managed to say, though in a meek voice. Kaien scowled and whirled around; he walked away fuming. You could practically see the storm cloud above his head. Ichigo sighed as he fell back on the couch. Crisis averted.
These were the times he really missed Rukia.
Not that she would have handled it any better than Ichigo. But at least Kaien wouldn't have stormed away fuming. Rukia had a way of saying no to a person so that it wouldn't hurt their feelings (unless, of course, the person was Ichigo).
It had been eight years since the nightmare in the Soul Society. Ichigo never told Kaien that his mother had died trying to save him. He was too much like Rukia, and not just in looks. He would have taken it personally. And Ichigo didn't want his son thinking that it was his fault his mother had gone away. Kaien would never be able to live with himself.
Ichigo's eyes wandered to a framed photo on the table next to the couch. It was of Ichigo and Rukia right after they started going out. Both looked so happy it was unreal. That was a lost time, a time of happiness that no longer existed. The moments with Rukia were like something out of another person's life.
Ichigo clenched and unclenched his fists. He wanted everything to be like that again. He wanted Rukia alive and happy, wanted her there to hit and insult him. He wanted things as normal as they could possible be. He wanted Rukia back.
As quickly as Ichigo's temper flared, though, it died. He kept reminding himself, every day, that Rukia wouldn't want him to be upset, that if she ever saw him grieving, she'd turn around and beat him until he begged for mercy.. She would have wanted him to keep living, no matter what, to raise their son and keep him safe.
And for eight years, that was what Ichigo had done. Kaien was as danger prone as his mother (and father), and had kept Ichigo busy over the years. From his first steps to the "I'll eat everything I can get my hands on" phase, little Kaien had given Ichigo a real run for his money. It was ironic, he supposed. One of the strongest Soul Reapers ever, bested by a eight-month-old eating a sock. Fate worked in really strange ways.
"Dad?" Kaien was back. Ichigo wasn't sure he wanted to know what his son was here to ask this time. It couldn't be anything good though. Kaien – again, so much like his mother – questioned every little thing in the world, good or bad. Though normally it was bad.
"How come I don't have a mom?"
Wham. Ichigo felt as if all the air had been knocked out of him. "Emiko and Souken both have a mom." He went on, referring to his two best friends. "Why don't I have a mom?"
Ichigo tried to figure out the best way to answer that. "Well, not everyone has an Aunt Orihime like you do." He finally settled for saying, hoping this would satisfy Kaien, knowing that he was an exception. "You're lucky."
"I love Aunt Orihime," Kaien admitted, looking a little guilty. "But I want a mom. Dad, why don't I have a mom?"
Ichigo could practically feel his heart breaking. "Kaien, we've been over this before-"
"Did Mom love me? Did she leave because she didn't love me?" Dammit. How do you explain to an eight-year-old that his mother died trying to keep him safe, keep him alive? Ichigo had hoped he never had to do this.
"Kaien," Ichigo finally said, not even really sure where he was going. He just knew he had to say something. "Your mother loved you more than anything in the world, I swear. She would have done anything for you. She even left. All for you."
"Will she ever come back?"
Ichigo's heart clenched, and he had to struggle not to let tears build in his eyes as he said, "No. She's gone to a place she can't come back from."
Kaien obviously didn't like that answer. "But why? Why can't she come back? Is it because she doesn't want to? Does she not want to? Or is it something else?"
Ichigo sighed. Kaien had always asked about his mother, this was really no different then all the other times. So then why was it so much harder?
"Kaien, I've told you before. She's...she's dead, Kaien."
Ichigo bit his lip. "Kaien...please just go do your homework."
Kaien left, looking upset. Ichigo leaned back in his seat, running a hand through his hair, still as wild and orange as it had been in his teenage days. And he tried to remember what had happened the first time Kaien had asked about his mother.
-:-:-:-:-Flashback – Four Years Earlier-:-:-:-:-
Ichigo looked over at Kaien, who was standing in the door to the kitchen. He had been playing in his room up until a minute ago.
"Yeah, Kai, what is it?"
"Today at school, the teacher had us make cards." Kaien revealed a card from behind his back, holding it up to show Ichigo. "She said they're for Mother's Day. And when I asked what that was, one of the boys laughed at me and called me stupid. I told him I don't know what Mother's day is because I don't have a mom, and he laughed at me, and asked why I don't have a mom. And when he asked why, I told him I didn't know, and he laughed again."
"Where was the teacher when this was happening?" Ichigo asked suspiciously. It seemed weird that the teacher would just turn a deaf ear on taunting like that.
"He got in trouble." Kaien assured his father. "But it's just that it happened. He wanted to know why I don't have a mom, and I told him I don't know. But I want to know. Please, tell me Daddy; why don't I have a mom?"
Ichigo gulped, and made a mental note to find out which kid was making fun of his son, and have a word with the kid's parents. He hadn't wanted to have to explain this to Kaien until he was older. A lotolder.
"Kaien." He said finally. "This is hard to explain, so stop me the second you're confused. Okay?" Kaien nodded. "You know how you can see people that no one else can see?" He nodded again. "Those people are spirits. They're people who died-"
"When you die." Ichigo predicted his son's question. "It means you're soul goes somewhere it can't come back from. All those people you see that no one else does, they're the souls of people who have died."
"Yeah." Ichigo clenched his fist angrily. "Yeah, Mommy died. Her soul went to a place it can't come back from."
"But...how did Mommy die? Why can't she come back?"
Ichigo sighed wearily. "She can't come back. When a person's soul goes away, it's impossible for it to come back."
"Oh. Okay. So how did Mommy die?"
Ichigo didn't know what to say to that. He wasn't going to tell Kaien that Rukia had died trying to save him. It would destroy the small boy.
"I'll tell you when you're older."
Yeah. Ichigo hadn't handled it any better then than he was handling it now. Four years hadn't taught Ichigo anything.
"Dad?" Ichigo looked around, his hand on the doorknob.
"Yeah Kaien, what's up?"
"Will you tell me a story?"
"Kaien, it's already half an hour past your bedtime."
"Please? Tell me more about Mom." Oh boy. The violet puppy eyes. Ichigo was a sucker for the violet puppy eyes. They were just too damn much like Rukia's. And Ichigo had always been a sucker for Rukia.
"All right, all right." Sighing in defeat, Ichigo walked back over to the bed and sat down. "What do you want to know this time?"
Kaien grinned as he bolted up in bed, "I dunno, tell me anything!"
Kaien knew quite a bit about his mother, as well as about Soul Reapers and every other spiritual thing there was. He had been able to see spirits basically since he was born, and he'd been asking questions basically since he could talk. And Ichigo, having the answers, had filled in the blanks, though he wasn't sure it was the right thing to do; Kaien was just too much like his parents, the chances of him getting into trouble were high. "You said Mom used to hurt you a lot." Kaien bounced up and down in his bed. "Did Mom really used to hurt you? What did she do?"
Ichigo rubbed his head, remembering. "She hit me. A lot. Whenever I annoyed her. Which was basically all the time."
"Did you and Mom love each other?"
Ichigo looked down at his hands. "Yeah. We loved each other. More than anything. She was the first person I ever loved. She was the only person I'll ever love."
"Good." Kaien smiled as he reached out and wrapped his arms around his father's waist, pulling him into a hug. "I don't want you to ever love anyone other than Mom."
Ichigo sighed as he rested a hand on his son's spiky black hair. "You and Mom are the only people I'll ever love. I promise"
Author's Note – Hmn...Ichigo's life without Rukia seems very sad and depressing, doesn't it? Huh. Anyways, next chapter we'll get some Soul Society input. That should be pretty interesting, huh? Well, please review. If you don't think it's good enough, I'll take it down (though I might anyway) – Sam