Disclaimer- I do not own Bleach or any of the characters however the plot and the OCs are mine.
Do you believe in life after death? Or that the cycle is continuous? Can someone
who died, twice, come back for a third try at life? Ichigo and Rukia are traveling
in the country when they encounter a boy who looks eerily familiar. Is it a coincidence
or something much more miraculous? Follow along as the child changes the lives of
all those around him and they, in turn, change him.
Chapter One- The Child
Ten years had passed since the war with Aizen and the Espada and Squad Five Captain Ichigo Kurosaki was out walking through the countryside with his vice-captain and fiancée Rukia Kuchiki. The pair of them had been battling Hollow a lot lately and had both decided that they could use a break so, leaving the third seat of their squad in charge of patrol, Rukia had packed them a picnic lunch and together they'd set out toward a river where they frequently went to relax.
The two were laughing and talking when they passed by a rather glum looking building. It was a two story brick house surrounded by a six foot black iron fence, which was covered in vines. As they passed Rukia glanced over at the yard and her eyes grew wide. She gasped, gaining Ichigo's attention.
"What is it Rukia?" Ichigo asked, turning to gaze at her.
"Look," Rukia said, pointing toward a large cherry tree.
Ichigo's gaze followed her finger and his eyes grew wide as well. Standing under a tree, dressed in a pair of torn jeans and a plain white t-shirt was a small boy. And it wasn't the child's haggard appearance that held the two Shinigami spellbound. No, this child bore an uncanny resemblance to a friend of theirs who'd died in the battle with Aizen.
"Ichigo, we have to find out what this means."
Nodding Ichigo led the way over to the iron gate. Reaching for the latch, he had the gate halfway open when he and Rukia heard a harsh voice call out, "Shiro! What the devil are you doing out here boy? How many times do I have to tell you not to wander off? One of these days I'm going to. . ."
The small white-haired boy gazed up at the middle aged woman who was hurrying over to him, a scared look in his eyes, but didn't say a word.
"Excuse me," Ichigo said as he and Rukia walked toward the pair.
The woman turned toward Ichigo and the sour look on her face immediately turned into a smile. "How can I help you sir? Are you and your lovely wife looking to adopt a child?"
"So this is an orphanage," Ichigo thought to himself. He offered the woman a charming smile. "Yes. We were walking by on our way out for a picnic when my wife saw this sweet little boy standing in the yard and she simply fell in love with him."
Rukia fought the urge to smile, marveling at Ichigo's acting skills. The man who was talking wasn't even remotely similar to the Ichigo that she knew and loved. Apparently, contrary to the popular opinion of everyone in the Seireitei, Ichigo really could use manners when it suited his purpose.
"Oh," the woman said, her smile fading. "I'm sure you'd be much happier with one of our other children. Shiro is sweet but he's also a little strange. The boy's been here for over six months and he's never once said a word to anyone. And sometimes he just stands around staring off into space with a terrified expression on his face, like he sees things that the rest of us can't."
Rukia and Ichigo turned toward one another and a look passed between them. Both understood what they had to do and Rukia turned back to the woman. "Oh no it has to be this boy. He's the cutest thing I've ever seen."
And to illustrate her point Rukia walked over, knelt down, and threw her arms around the child.
The little boy tensed as the strange woman wrapped her arms around him, as though he expected to be struck. Releasing her hold Rukia stared into the boy's eyes and saw that they were a vivid blue-green, the exact same shade as Captain Hitsugaya's.
"It has to be him," Ichigo said.
"Very well," the woman said, gesturing toward the run down building. "Come with me and we'll fill out the paperwork."
The woman took the child by the hand and practically dragged him toward the building, followed closely by Ichigo and Rukia. The woman led them to a small, cramped office where she sat them down in front of a desk and handed them a mound of paperwork.
"I'll leave you to it," the woman said, pulling the child toward the door. "And I'll come back to check on you later."
And with that Ichigo and Rukia were left alone.
"Damn," Ichigo swore as he surveyed the huge stack of paperwork that the woman had left. "They're on to us Rukia, they know my weakness."
Shaking her head Rukia picked up a pen. "I'll do the paperwork, Captain. I know the strain would simply be too much for you."
Rukia worked in silence for awhile and then she turned to her fiancé, the pen held to her lips. "Should we change his name Ichigo? There's a space here for name and the lady we spoke to told me on the way in here that Shiro isn't actually his name. They don't know what his name is, they just call him Shiro because of his white hair."
"Toushirou," Ichigo said without hesitation. "In honor of a friend. Toushirou Kurosaki. But we'll keep calling him Shiro because it's what he's used to."
With a nod Rukia filled in the space.
After they completed the massive stack of paperwork that pronounced the young white haired child to be Toushirou Kurosaki, Ichigo and Rukia left the glum looking building and returned to the fresh air and sunshine outside. And tagging along beside Rukia, his small hand held tightly in hers, was the little boy.
Once they were outside and free of the angry looking woman Rukia knelt in front of Shiro and stared into his blue-green eyes. "Shiro, I'm Rukia and this is Ichigo and you don't have to be afraid of us. I promise we won't allow anything to hurt you."
Ichigo nodded, offering the young boy a smile. "You're safe with us kiddo."
Shiro stared first into Rukia's kind face and then up at Ichigo's and, for the first time since they'd laid eyes on him, the young child smiled. It was a faint smile however it was progress and they were happy about it.
"Well," Ichigo said, as Rukia stood up and once again grasped Shiro's hand. "I guess we should go to Soul Society and show Ukitake what we found. It might cheer the old man up."
"Maybe," Rukia said although she was thinking to herself that he would probably think they'd lost their minds.
Ichigo led the way to the permanent Senkaimon that had been set up at his house. Thanks to Urahara this gate to Soul Society was equipped with a converter that allowed the living to travel there without the inconvenience of having to die first. At first Shiro seemed scared to enter the strange gate however with a little coaxing from Rukia he followed her and Ichigo inside. Traveling to Soul Society Ichigo made his way immediately to the Squad One barracks, where he knocked on the door. "Captain of Squad Five Ichigo Kurosaki requesting a meeting."
Ichigo slid the door open and stepped inside the Head Captain's office. Captain of Squad One and Head Captain of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads Jyuushirou Ukitake sat behind his desk working on a large stack of paperwork. He glanced up and watched as Ichigo walked across the office. "Hello Ichigo."
"What is it with you captains and paperwork?" Ichigo asked as he came to stand in front of the Head Captain's desk.
"Us captains?" Ukitake repeated, shaking his head toward the captain of Squad Five. "In case you've forgotten Ichigo you're one of 'us captains' now and we do have a lot of work to do."
"Uh huh," Ichigo said, gazing at the older captain and noticing that he looked sad. This wasn't anything unusual, the Head Captain hadn't been himself since the war however Ichigo noticed that he looked worse today somehow. "Are you okay Ukitake?"
Ukitake nodded, attempting to smile. "I'm fine. Just a little stressed out."
That answer was a lie and Ichigo knew it. Ukitake had been depressed ever since the war with Aizen and he'd nearly had a nervous breakdown at the funeral for Captain Hitsugaya. Hitsugaya's funeral had come at the end of a week filled with the mourning of the fallen and everyone, especially Ukitake, were nearing their breaking point. And listening as his subordinates and friends spoke of the fallen captain of Squad Ten had almost been too much for Ukitake. The little captain had been like a son to the Head Captain and his death had hit Ukitake especially hard. The only one who'd taken it worse had been Momo, whom Hitsugaya had been attempting to save, along with Rukia, when he'd been struck by the fatal blow from Aizen.
"So what brings you here Captain Kurosaki?" Ukitake asked, in an attempt to break the awkward silence that had fallen.
"Rukia and I have someone we'd like for you to meet," Ichigo replied.
"Really?" Ukitake said. "And who might that be?"
"Our new son," Ichigo informed him.
Ukitake's eyes grew wide and he stared at Ichigo in disbelief. "Son?"
Ichigo nodded. "Rukia and I were walking by this orphanage today when she saw this little boy that we just had to bring home. And you know how Rukia gets when she wants something, what could I do? Would you like to meet him?"
Ukitake nodded, at a loss for words. He had never expected something like this to happen. Normal Shinigami did not travel to the world of the living, adopt children and then bring them to the Seireitei. However he'd known for awhile that Ichigo wasn't normal so he wasn't really sure why anything the Squad Five captain did surprised him anymore.
"Come on in Rukia," Ichigo called out.
The door slid open once more and Rukia stepped into the office. And clutching her hand and looking utterly bewildered was a small white-haired boy. Ukitake gasped when his gaze fell upon the boy and he stood up and walked around to the front of his desk.
"Come on Shiro," Rukia said softly, coaxing the child to follow her into the office. "You don't have to be afraid. No one's going to hurt you."
The child followed her, although slightly reluctantly, and she led him over to the spot where Ichigo and Ukitake stood. "Head Captain Ukitake this is Shiro. Shiro this is your Grandpa Ukitake."
Shiro stared up at Ukitake and offered the man a tentative smile.
Ukitake knelt so that he could be at eye level with the child and he stared into Shiro's blue-green eyes. The boy's eyes were the thing that held his attention, the exact shape and color of the late Captain Hitsugaya's. "This is unbelievable."
"We thought so too," Rukia said and Ichigo added, "Now you see why we couldn't just leave him."
"I understand," Head Captain Ukitake said, straightening back up. "Does the child show any other similarities other than looks?"
"Well," Rukia said. "The lady at the orphanage said that Shiro gazes off into the distance as though he can see things others can't but the child doesn't speak so I can't ask what he sees. However if I had to guess I would say Hollow."
"We'll have to test that theory," Ukitake said.
At that moment the group heard a loud obnoxious beeping noise issuing from Rukia's pocket. Rukia pulled her communicator from her pocket, flipped it open and gazed at the screen. "It's your third seat, Ryuu. He has a problem and needs us to come back to the world of the living."
"Dammit," Ichigo said, rolling his eyes as he thought about his third seat. "Can't that guy handle anything on his own? What should we do with Shiro while we attend to this? We can't take him with us into a battle."
"I have an idea," Ukitake said. "Momo should be done with classes by now. Maybe she'd agree to watch him."
"That's a good idea," Rukia said, taking Shiro's hand. "I'll go and ask."
Ichigo nodded and he and Ukitake watched as Rukia and the child left the office.
Rukia led the way across the Seireitei to the Shinigami Academy, where the former vice-captain of Squad Five, Momo Hinamori, was now an instructor. Holding Shiro's hand tightly Rukia walked down the hall to the classroom that belonged to Hinamori. When they arrived she knocked lightly on the door.
"Come in," a soft voice called out.
Rukia and Shiro entered the room and to Rukia's surprise the child, who had seemed shy and slightly anti-social up until this point, pulled his hand free from hers and ran over to Hinamori. When he reached her he threw his arms around her legs and held on for dear life.
Hinamori gasped as she gazed down at the child who was latched on to her legs. "Rukia. . ."
"Ichigo and I came across this child in the world of the living," Rukia explained, anticipating Hinamori's question. "They called him Shiro although the lady at the orphanage told me that wasn't really his name. He was found abandoned and doesn't speak so they don't know what his real name is. And you should feel special Momo. You're the first person he's been that open to."
Hinamori stared down at Shiro, tears glistening in her eyes. "He looks just like him."
"I know," Rukia said.
At that moment Rukia's communicator once again began to issue a series of obnoxious beeps. Not even bothering to look at it this time Rukia turned her attention back to Momo. "Our Squad's encountered a problem and I was wondering if you'd mind watching Shiro while Ichigo and I return to the world of the living to take care of it."
Hinamori nodded, placing a hand on top of the child's white hair.
"Thank you," Rukia said walking over to them and kneeling so that she could be at eye level with the child. "You stay here with your Auntie Momo and I'll be back soon okay Shiro?"
Rukia got to her feet and left the classroom, leaving Hinamori alone with the child who looked so eerily similar to her best friend. Offering the little boy her hand Hinamori said, "Come on Shiro-chan. There's someone we should go and visit."
Releasing his death grip on her legs, Shiro grasped Hinamori's offered hand.
Smiling Hinamori led him from the classroom and together they made their way across the Seireitei. When they arrived at their destination Hinamori knocked lightly on the door.
"Enter," a feminine voice called out from within.
Sliding the door open a fraction Hinamori stuck her head inside. Gazing around the office she saw that Matsumoto was seated behind the desk, a pen in her hand and a stack of paperwork in front of her. This scene caused a small smile to appear on Hinamori's face. The change in Matsumoto since the war was truly amazing. Ever since she'd been given command of Squad Ten Matsumoto's devotion to her responsibilities had increased ten fold. Hinamori suspected that she was acting that way to honor Captain Hitsugaya and make him proud.
"Hello Momo," Matsumoto called out, putting down her pen. "Don't just stand there. Come in."
"I have a friend with me," Hinamori said. "Can he come in too?"
"Of course," Matsumoto said.
Hinamori slid the door open and stepped inside the office, Shiro trailing behind her and gazing around the room with interest. Matsumoto gasped as her gaze fell upon the child who was holding Hinamori's hand and she walked over to them.
"Where did he come from?" she asked.
"Rukia and Ichigo found him in the world of the living," Hinamori said. "His name's Shiro. Or at least that's what they were calling him."
Releasing his hold on Hinamori's hand Shiro began to walk around the room, gazing around in interest. Sitting down on the couch Matsumoto and Hinamori were soon immersed in deep conversation and no longer paying attention to the child. That is until they glanced up and saw him standing up in the desk chair and reaching for a sword that hung on the wall.
Both women jumped to their feet.
Hinamori rushed over and grabbed the child, but not before he'd placed his hand on the hilt of the sword. Lifting him from the chair Hinamori carried Shiro over to the couch and placed him down. "You could have gotten hurt Shiro-chan. You can't play with swords, you're not old enough."
The child's voice was so soft that it was nearly impossible to hear and Matsumoto's eyes grew wide.
"What did you say?" she asked the little boy.
Gazing up into Matsumoto's blue eyes, Shiro repeated, "Hyourinmaru. It said it's name was Hyourinmaru."
"There's no way," Matsumoto whispered, her wide-eyed gaze focused on the child. "It's not possible."
Hearing Matsumoto's words and mistaking her surprised tone for something else, Shiro glanced up at the Squad Ten Captain, his blue-green eyes wide, and then he backed away from her. "Oh no! I did it again, said the wrong thing."
The child turned away and attempted to flee from the room however Hinamori grabbed him before he reached the door and lifted him into her arms. The child struggled to get free from her grasp however Hinamori held him tightly. "It's okay, Shiro-chan."
"I'm sorry," Matsumoto said softly. "I didn't mean to scare him Momo."
"I know Rangiku," Hinamori said as she placed her hand on top of Shiro's white hair. "It's okay but I think we should go now."
Matsumoto nodded and watched as Hinamori left the Squad Ten office, carrying the small child in her arms. Once they were gone the Squad Ten Captain returned to her desk however she no longer had the concentration required to do her paperwork.
"I really don't get how that child could hear the voice of Hyourinmaru. I didn't even know that was possible."
After leaving the Squad Ten barracks Hinamori made her way home, where she found her husband, Captain of Squad Thirteen Shuhei Hisagi, awaiting her return.
"You're late Momo," Hisagi said as she entered the house. "I was starting to get worried."
"I'm sorry Shuhei," Hinamori apologized. "It's just that I got a little side tracked."
It was at this point that Hisagi noticed the child that she was holding in her arms. "What the. . ."
"Rukia decided she wanted a child," Hinamori told him with a smile. "So she and Ichigo adopted one. Then she needed a baby-sitter so I volunteered."
"I see," Hisagi said, thinking to himself that everyone in the Seireitei was right, the Squad Five Captain really was insane. Seriously bad-ass but insane none the less. "Well since you're home now and I know you're safe I have some work I need to do so I'm going to go back to the office for a few hours."
"Okay," Hinamori said. "I'll see you when you get home."
Hisagi left the house and Hinamori carried Shiro into the living room. Sitting down on the sofa she placed the child down beside her. "Are you okay Shiro-chan?"
Shiro nodded but didn't say a word.
"He's back to not speaking," Hinamori thought to herself. "But at least we know he's capable of speech."
At that moment Shiro yawned and Hinamori noticed that he could barely keep his eyes open. "Why don't you lay down Shiro-chan?"
Shiro obeyed without a word and was soon sound asleep. A small smile on her face, Hinamori went to her room and came back with a blanket, which she placed over the child's small form. Then she sat down beside him, her thoughts wandering away.
"What are you doing!"
"He's gone! DEAD! And it's all because of me. . . IT'S MY FAULT!"
These were the words that Hinamori screamed out when Rukia came into the Squad Five office and found her holding the blade of her zanpaktou, with the tip pressing against her chest. Without another word, Rukia quickly walked across the room and slapped Hinamori across the face, hard. The shock of the blow made Hinamori drop her sword and she stared up into Rukia's angry face.
"I can't believe you have the nerve to even think about committing suicide. Your best friend sacrificed his life to save yours and here you are, mocking his actions and his memory, by trying to kill yourself."
Tears flowed down Hinamori's face and, without warning, she threw herself into Rukia's arms.
Rukia wrapped her arms around Hinamori and held her as she cried. Placing her hand on the back of Hinamori's head, Rukia rubbed her hair and whispered, "Everything's gonna be okay. It'll take some time but I promise you, you'll find a reason to smile again.
Hinamori was brought back to reality by the feeling of a small hand on her cheek. She opened her eyes and saw that Shiro was standing up on the sofa, his hand wiping the tears from her face. "Oh Shiro-chan!"
Hinamori threw her arms around the child and felt him tense up for the tiniest moment before he relaxed in her arms. Not even aware of the problem the child had sought to comfort her and Hinamori clung to him as the tears slid down his face.
His work finished for the evening, finally, Hisagi made his way back home and on his way there he ran into Rukia.
"Good evening Captain Hisagi," she called out to him as she fell into step beside him.
"I've told you about a million times that you don't have to call me that," Hisagi told her.
"I know," Rukia said. "But it's okay."
Hisagi shook his head slightly and continued on his way with Rukia following him. He would prefer for her to call him Shuhei, or at the very least just plain Hisagi, since he owed the life of the woman he loved to her but she refused. Hinamori had suffered from extreme depression after the death of Captain Hitsugaya and had been on the verge of suicide until Rukia had stepped in. To this day Hisagi had no idea how Rukia had managed to get through to Hinamori when no one else could however he was grateful none the less.
"So tell me Rukia," Hisagi said, deciding on a change of topic. "What possessed you and Ichigo to adopt a child?"
"You didn't see him did you?" Rukia asked, knowing that he wouldn't be asking that question if he had.
"Briefly," Hisagi replied. "But not up close. Why?"
"You'll see," Rukia said. "I'll introduce you when we get to your place."
However the introduction would not be necessary. When they arrived, they found Hinamori asleep on the sofa with Shiro in her arms. Hisagi's eyes widened as his gaze fell on the child. "I don't believe it. . . he looks just like him."
Rukia nodded. "And that would be what possessed us to bring him home with us."
Leaning forward Rukia touched Hinamori lightly on the shoulder. Hinamori's eyes opened slowly and she gazed up at Rukia. "You're back."
Rukia nodded and carefully lifted the sleeping Shiro into her arms. "Thanks for watching him Momo."
"You're welcome," Hinamori said. "If you ever need a baby-sitter you know where to find me."
Rukia nodded. "I'll keep that in mind. And I apologize for being gone so long. Our Squad was under attack by a couple of Menos Grande, which Ichigo took care of in no time, however on our way back we realized that we didn't have anything for Shiro except for the clothes he's wearing. So the two of us went to Ichigo's dad's place and his sister Yuzu went shopping with us. It took longer than I thought it would. I'm really sorry."
"Don't worry about it," Hinamori said softly. "And Rukia, the child can speak."
"He spoke to you?" Rukia asked in surprise.
Hinamori nodded. "It was the most amazing thing. I took Shiro-chan to Squad Ten, to see Rangiku, and he was fascinated by Toushirou's zanpaktou. Rangiku has it hanging behind her desk, as a sort of shrine to Toushirou, and Shiro-chan climbed up on the desk chair and touched the hilt. I grabbed him before he could do anything else, because I was afraid he would get hurt, and scolded him for touching the sword. That's when he said Hyourinmaru."
Rukia's eyes widened in shock.
"His voice was so soft we thought we might have heard wrong so Rangiku asked him what he said and Shiro-chan replied, It said it's name was Hyourinmaru."
"The zanpaktou spoke to him?" Rukia asked, her voice filled with disbelief.
Hinamori nodded. "There's no other way to explain it. He couldn't possibly have learned Hyourinmaru's name any other way. However, unfortunately, something about our reaction scared him and he hasn't spoken since. I'm sorry Rukia."
Rukia shook her head. "Don't be sorry Momo, it's not your fault. All of this is strange to him, plus he's surrounded by people he doesn't know. He just needs some time and for the people around him to be patient and caring."
Hinamori once again marveled at Rukia's wisdom. For some reason she always knew how to make things better.
"Take care Momo," Rukia said as she turned to leave. "We'll most likely be seeing you soon."
"Bye Rukia," Hinamori said as she got to her feet. She placed a hand on Shiro's soft hair. "Bye Shiro-chan."
A soft smile on her face, Rukia left Hinamori's house and made her way back across the Seireitei to the Squad One barracks where she'd left Ichigo in deep conversation with the Head Captain. When she arrived back at the office Rukia slid the door open and stepped inside and the first thing she noticed was the brooding look on Ichigo's face.
"What's the matter with you?" she asked her fiancé as she walked across the room.
Ichigo pointed an accusing finger at Ukitake. "The old man felt the need to tell me that Shiro deserves a normal upbringing and that I have to try really hard to provide that for him. He's making it sound like I'm not normal."
"Ichigo," Rukia said, shaking her head. "You're not normal."
"What the hell is with you people?" Ichigo demanded, his voice steadily rising. "I'm normal and if I'm not then it's your fault."
"That's true enough," Rukia said as she felt the child in her arms jump. "And you're going to have to learn to keep your angry tirades to a minimum Ichigo or else you're going to traumatize the poor child."
Ichigo gazed over at Shiro and saw that he was now wide awake and gazing around the room, his eyes wide and frightened.
"I'm sorry Shiro," Ichigo said. "It's okay kiddo, you're safe. And I'll try to keep my big mouth shut from now on."
Shiro relaxed a degree and Rukia placed him down on the floor. Kneeling in front of the child Rukia placed her hands on his shoulders. "Shiro, tell me about Hyourinmaru."
Both Ukitake's and Ichigo's eyes widened in disbelief however Shiro's gaze went to the floor and he refused to speak.
"It's okay Shiro," Rukia said kindly, running a hand through his unruly white hair. "You don't have to say anything you don't want to." Getting to her feet Rukia turned to her fiancé. "Ichigo would you take him home? I have a few things I need to discuss with the Head Captain but it's getting late and he's already sleepy."
Ichigo nodded and got to his feet. He walked across the office and held his hands out to the child and, after a moment's hesitation, Shiro held out his arms and allowed Ichigo to pick him up. "We'll see you at home Rukia."
Rukia nodded and watched as the two of them departed. Then, once they were gone she turned her attention to Head Captain Ukitake.
Ukitake gazed at the Squad Five vice-captain expectantly.
"You asked me earlier if his similarity to Captain Hitsugaya was merely his looks," Rukia said. "And now I can answer that question. He heard the voice of Hyourinmaru."
"Is that even possible?" Ukitake asked, shocked.
"I wouldn't have thought so," Rukia replied. "However Shiro was able to tell Momo its name after touching it so that's the only plausible explanation."
"Remarkable," Ukitake said. "We'll have to keep a close watch on this child."
"So are you and Ichigo really going to raise Shiro as your own?"
"Yes," Rukia replied without a moment's hesitation. "Knowing what I know there's no way I could give him to a stranger. And although I think Momo would take him in a heartbeat Shiro can't live in Soul Society. We have no idea how that might affect him so that only leaves me and Ichigo."
Ukitake nodded. "I wish you the best. Keep me informed."
With that Rukia turned and left the office. She made her way to the edge of the Seireitei, where she summoned the Senkaimon. When Rukia arrived at the home that she and Ichigo shared she found her fiancé sound asleep on the sofa with their new son in his lap. Shiro had his head leaning against Ichigo's chest and Ichigo had one hand resting gently on the child's hair.
"Ahhh," Rukia whispered as she stared at them. "That's adorable."
Leaving the two of them sleeping Rukia made her way upstairs to the room that they'd decided would be Shiro's. Up until now they'd used it as a guest room, so it had a bed and all of the other furniture, all that was left was for Rukia to put away the things that she and Ichigo had bought for the boy. Picking up the shopping bags Rukia pulled out the clothes that they had bought and placed them in the dresser, all except for a small pair of pajamas.
A smile appeared on Rukia's face as she unfolded the pajamas that Yuzu had picked out for Shiro. They were light blue with snowflakes all over them, the irony of which was not lost upon the Squad Five vice-captain. Rukia placed the pajamas down on the bed and then went back downstairs to wake Ichigo. Touching him lightly on the shoulder, Rukia nudged him until his eyes opened.
Careful not to disturb the child who was sleeping in his lap, Ichigo slowly pulled himself to a sitting position. "What time is it?"
"Ten o'clock," Rukia replied. "Past Shiro's bedtime although I have no idea why you're so tired."
Ichigo shrugged. "No clue. Maybe it's stress related."
"Maybe," Rukia said, gazing down at Shiro. "We gained a ton of responsibility in the span of a few hours. Most new parents have months to plan but, like everything else, we just couldn't do it the normal way."
Ichigo shrugged but made no reply.
"Did you fix him something to eat when you got back?"
"Yes," Ichigo snapped, although he managed to keep his voice low. "I'm not completely stupid you know."
"Okay, calm down," Rukia said. "I was just making sure. Guess I'll put him to bed then."
Ichigo nodded and handed Shiro to her. The child shifted as he was passed from one to the other however he didn't wake up. Ichigo's eyes followed Rukia as she carried the little boy upstairs and his hand went to his forehead. "I can't believe we did this. They're right, I'm not normal."
Rukia carried Shiro into his new room where she pulled off the shabby clothing that he was wearing, promptly threw them in the trash, and then dressed him in the blue pajamas. Pulling back the blankets Rukia placed Shiro in bed and then tucked the covers in around him.
"Sweet dreams Shiro-chan," Rukia said softly as she turned out the light and left the room.
Rukia made her way back downstairs where she found Ichigo still sitting on the sofa.
"So Rukia," Ichigo said as his fiancée sat down on the sofa beside him. "Who are we going to get to baby-sit when we have to battle Hollow? We really didn't plan this out very well."
Rukia had already been thinking about the problem and she replied, "Orihime will probably be willing to watch him, since he and Kasumi are around the same age, and for those spur of the moment battles there's always Ryuu."
A smile spread across Ichigo's face as he imagined his third seat acting as baby-sitter. "Yea, that'll work."
"I thought you'd like that idea," Rukia said with a smile. "You know I think we should pay a visit to Uryu and Orihime tomorrow. We haven't seen them for awhile and Shiro might benefit from being around Kasumi."
"Alright," Ichigo said with a nod.
So the next morning the new parents awoke early and, after breakfast, they set out for the home of their friends.
"I hope they're home," Ichigo said as he knocked on the door.
A few minutes later the door opened and a dark haired man appeared in the doorway. "Kurosaki."
"Hey Uryu," Ichigo said. "We were in the neighborhood and we thought we'd drop by."
"I see," Uryu said. "Well come in. Orihime and Kasumi are in the living room."
Uryu stepped aside and Ichigo and Rukia, with Shiro in her arms, stepped inside the house. The man's eyes widened as he noticed the child that Rukia held in her arms however he held his tongue until they were all assembled in the living room.
"So who's your little friend Ichigo?" Uryu asked once they had all joined Orihime and Kasumi in the living room.
"Our son," Ichigo told his friend.
"Son?" Orihime exclaimed, gazing at the child Rukia held in her arms.
"Okay, I know it's been awhile since we last saw you," Uryu said. "But it hasn't been that long."
Ichigo chuckled. "Our adopted son. This is Shiro."
Rukia sat down on the sofa next to Orihime and placed Shiro on her lap. The little boy gazed around at the strangers with a slightly apprehensive look in his eyes.
"Hello Shiro," Orihime said, offering the child a friendly smile.
Shiro shrank back away from the strange woman.
"It's okay Shiro," Rukia told him in a comforting voice. "This is Orihime. She's our friend and she's really nice."
Shiro gazed up at Orihime and offered her a small smile.
Taking his actions as a sign of progress Rukia placed Shiro down on the floor and as soon as she did so Orihime's three year old daughter Kasumi walked over and took Shiro by the hand.
"Come play," Kasumi said as she pulled Shiro toward her toy box.
Shiro looked confused however he allowed himself to be led across the room by the girl.
"That's adorable," Orihime said, before turning back to Rukia. "So tell me about Shiro."
So Rukia and Ichigo once again went through the story of how they'd came across Shiro and their theories on his background. Orihime and Uryu listened intently while the two children played on the floor.
"So now you're parents," Uryu said, raking the couple with a scrutinizing look. "I can picture Rukia as a mother however thinking about Ichigo as a father is just scary. This kid's gonna end up seriously messed up."
"Hey now," Ichigo exclaimed. "If you can do it then so can I."
"Well if you need any help you know where to come," Orihime said.
"Thank you," Rukia said.
A/N- this is the first chapter of a rather long fic that I'm currently working on and I'm posting it now to judge what kind of reaction it gets. If the reaction is good, more chapter are to come. If not, well my friend enjoys it and that's all that matters. Hope you enjoy the story. Please read and review.