Disclaimer: Bleach belongs to Kubo.
A/N: This collection of vignettes are supplementary to my story "Searching". Please read that one first as this contains spoilers and things here probably won't make much sense until you do. So, to the new readers who stumbled in here, I'll be awaiting your return (hopefully, LOL!). To returning friends, I hope you'll find these enjoyable as well…
First Glimpse: Hell's Deliverance
(Thirteen years after the Las Noches invasion, in Karakura General Hospital)
Standing at the end of the hallway and around the corner, he waited with patience. It had already been thirteen years. Another hour or two wouldn't hurt. However, as shady-looking as he was with his eyes hidden under the shadows of his hat and most of his face concealed behind his fan, it was a wonder why none of the hospital staff even questioned him on what he was doing just standing there for so long.
Eventually, when visiting hours were almost over, every last visiting friend and family finally filed out of the room he'd been waiting to enter. When the hallway cleared, Urahara made his move.
Opening the door silently, he peeked in to see the new mother sitting on the bed, smiling softly down at the child in her arms, her devoted husband standing by her bed with his back facing the door. It was a perfect picture of a happy family sharing a tender moment together. Urahara almost felt bad for intruding. He grinned behind his fan. Almost.
"He looks like you," Rukia said quietly.
Ichigo leaned closer to study the newborn. "You think so? I can't tell. He just looks kind of…wrinkly to me."
She chuckled. "Idiot. Well, you're always wrinkly between the brows, so I guess those would be your traits."
He scowled, exhibiting the wrinkles between his brows she was referring to.
"But look at his pretty blue eyes," she continued. "Those would be my traits."
"Rukia, your eyes aren't exactly the same color as his," he said flatly.
"No, but they're pretty," she retorted with a smug and almost cheeky grin.
Ichigo chuckled lightly with a shake of his head. He wasn't going to argue with that one. "Then what about his hair? I swear he's got weird colored hair."
Rukia snorted. "You're one to talk, Mr. Naturally Bright Orange."
"I'm serious!" He ran a gentle hand over the boy's head. He didn't really have much hair yet, and what little hair he did have was too fine for Ichigo to really be sure, but… "Doesn't it look kind of…blue to you?"
"Yes, well, that would make sense," Urahara suddenly spoke up from beside Ichigo, completely nonchalant. "He is the former sexta Espada after all."
Ichigo turned toward the exiled shinigami. His brain was so overloaded by what he'd just heard that there wasn't even room in there for him to be surprised by the fact that Urahara had suddenly popped up out of nowhere. Ichigo wasn't certain but…he could have sworn he just heard Urahara say something about his son and…sexta Espada… "What?" he finally uttered, semi-intelligently.
"Congratulations, Kurosaki-san!" Urahara grinned widely as he slapped his fan shut on the palm of his hand. "Your son is the reincarnation of the strong and handsome, albeit somewhat scary, sexta Espada, Grimmjow Jeagerjaques!" he announced, probably with too much enthusiasm for his own good.
Ichigo stared blankly at Urahara. He even forgot to scowl. Then, after a very drawn out pause, he finally responded…with his fist. He moved so fast, it seemed almost like he was using bankai.
In the blink of an eye, Urahara was on the floor at the other end of the room. "That's…some greeting, Kurosaki-san." He gingerly touched his now broken and bleeding nose with his fingers and winced. "Need I remind you that you're in a hospital?"
Nope. There was no room in Ichigo's brain for common courtesy either. "WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN HE'S GRIMMJOW?!" he hollered, loud enough to reach all ears within a one-mile radius. "How did that happen?! I thought he disappeared!"
Behind him, Rukia frowned thoughtfully at the child in her arms. "Grimmjow? Hmm…"
"Well, apparently…this is where he disappeared to," Urahara explained as he pulled himself back to his feet. "When spirits die, they come back to the living world. That's the way it works. It's not my fault he landed in your lap," he said, wearing his most innocent look.
Ichigo glared skeptically. "How do you even know it's him? Where's your proof?"
"Oh, I have my sources," Urahara replied, nonspecifically. "As you know, most of the Espada are still unaccounted for. I've been trying to track them down for a while now, and this is the first one I found," he said, lying through his teeth.
"Ah! I got it!" Rukia exclaimed. "We'll name him Ginjo!"
Ichigo whipped around with wide eyes. "Rukia, tell me you're kidding!"
Rukia, however, was already holding the child out at arm's length, looking him over while nodding to herself with approval. "Yep. You are definitely Ginjo."
Ichigo grabbed his forehead with his hand as he tried to will the headache to disappear. "If that's the case, then we might as well just call him Grimmjow."
"What are you talking about, Ichigo?" Rukia said as she cuddled the child in her arms again. "Ginjo's a great name. A 'silver dawn' is like a new beginning. One filled with potential for all kinds of good things." She smiled at the boy. "It's perfect."
Ichigo looked at her and blinked. He hadn't quite thought of that.
"In any case, it's not like he'll remember anything," Rukia continued. "He's been reborn. He has no memories of his previous life."
"About that," Urahara chimed in casually, "…there's actually a possibility that he might remember."
Two seconds later, Urahara had a black eye to go with his broken nose.
"What the hell are you talking about?!" Ichigo was definitely on a short fuse at the moment. Everything Urahara said just made him want to bash his face in. It didn't help that he was completely confused.
"The reason why some spirits become hollows is because they have an attachment they are unable to let go of," Urahara explained as he nursed his eye with one hand. "This, you already know. So, even though they will lose their hearts and ultimately forget what that attachment was, it doesn't change the fact that hollows are spirits prone to developing attachments. If a hollow of great power, say a vasto lorde, has something he's unable to let go of, he may be able to resist the memory wipe process. And members of the Espada were exceptionally powerful beings. It doesn't happen often, of course. There aren't that many vasto lordes to begin with." Urahara looked from Ichigo to Rukia, making certain to maintain a deceptively serious face. Even though the entire thing was nothing more than a complete fabrication, there was enough logic to his explanation for it to sound plausible…or so he hoped.
"I've…never heard of it before," Rukia said with a pensive and slightly troubled frown.
Ichigo ran a hand down his face with a heavy sigh. Great. If there was something Grimmjow couldn't let go of, it was probably his fight with me…
"Don't worry so much," Urahara said, silently relieved at the young couple's reaction. "I'm merely saying that there is a possibility. Even if it does happen, it won't be anytime soon."
"How long?" Ichigo asked. One could almost see the weight that suddenly dropped on his shoulders.
"I'd say it would take at least ten years of development before he might show signs of memory," Urahara replied.
Ichigo tried to absorb everything as best he could, but he couldn't help but glare at the older man. "Somehow, I just know this is your fault."
Urahara smirked slightly. "Well, if you're that concerned…I can take him off your hands."
"HELL, NO!" both parents said in unison, horrified he would even make the suggestion.
"You're not taking my kid anywhere!" Ichigo added, just for good measure.
"That's the spirit!" Urahara exclaimed, pointing his fan at the younger man. "No matter who he was before, it doesn't change who he is now…isn't that right?" He smirked. "Well then, I guess I should take my leave." Tipping his hat slightly, he headed for the door.
As soon as the door closed behind the exiled shinigami, Ichigo plopped himself into the chair beside the bed, his forehead falling tiredly onto Rukia's lap with a groan.
"Are you worried?" she asked.
He remained motionless for the longest time before finally turning his head toward her with a blank expression. Reaching up, he touched the hand of the child in her arms. When the boy responded by grasping his finger with his small hand, Ichigo found it difficult to relate this fragile child, his child, with his former enemy, the once blood thirsty sexta Espada. It just seemed too unreal. "Ginjo…" he mumbled. "It's a new beginning, right?"
She smiled gently. "Ah."
"...I like that." He thought another moment and returned the smile. "We'll make it work."
(One year later, in a hospital somewhere on the other side of the world)
"…and so, that's basically how it is," Urahara grinned as he wrapped up his explanation. "Just thought I'd give you a heads up."
Ishida Uryuu, with his newborn son in his arms, stood dumbstruck. As if it wasn't weird enough that Urahara knew where he was, knew that his son was born today, and even came in person to visit, the shinigami had to tell him this unbelievable story. "…Espada…you say…"
"Yes," Urahara nodded with a smile. "Ulquiorra, to be exact."
"…I see…" And with that, Ishida fainted.
Urahara reached out and grabbed the child as his father crumbled into a heap on the floor. "Hmm…that was relatively painless." He looked over to the bed. It was a good thing the mother was asleep. Then he chuckled as he looked at the child in his arms. "Your father seems a bit fragile. You should look after him."
He stepped over Ishida and placed the boy back in his crib. "Well then, Ulquiorra-san. Best of luck to you. I'm sure we'll meet again."
(Another year later, in Karakura General Hospital)
"Look at her eyes," Ichigo said proudly, standing beside the bed. "Those are my traits for sure."
"No," Rukia retorted, sitting on the bed with the newest addition to their family in her arms. "Her eyes are pretty, so they're my traits."
"What?!" He rolled his eyes. "Ok, fine. Then the bright orange hair…definitely mine."
"I'm afraid not," she smiled smugly. "They're pretty, too, so it's mine as well."
Ichigo scowled. "You know, from the way you talk, it's like you think I look like crap."
She laughed. Seeing his scowl deepen at her lack of denial to what he just said, she changed the subject. "Well…she's wrinkly."
"That's just because she's a newborn," he said incredulously. "That goes away in like…a day."
"Oh, so you figured that out, huh?"
He was about to retort when the door opened.
Ichigo's fist was in Urahara's face so fast, he didn't get the chance to finish.
"What did I do?!" Urahara inquired with a slightly hurt expression.
"It's just a precaution," Ichigo said, still holding up his fist. "You better not be here to tell me that I got another Espada on my hands!"
Urahara placed a finger to his lips. "Shh!! Don't say it like that. You'll hurt Ginjo's feelings! Look at him. He's such a good boy." He went over and crouched beside the toddler who was sitting on the floor playing with some colorful blocks. He reached out a hand to touch the boy's face. "Hey there, Gin—"
Ginjo's teeth clamped down on Urahara's hand so fast, he didn't get the chance to finish that time either.
"Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow…!!" Fearful that he might hurt the boy if he jerked his hand away, Urahara was forced to just bear with the pain.
Ichigo folded his arms with a grin. "Better watch out, Urahara-san. He's in the 'bite everything in sight' stage."
Urahara turned his head towards Ichigo. "Thanks for the warning," he deadpanned.
Ichigo arched a brow. "Come on, Ginjo. Work that teeth."
Hearing that definite go-ahead from his father, the little devil bit down even harder, chuckling in the process.
"Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow…!!" Urahara winced as he inhaled.
Ichigo almost couldn't hold in his laughter that time. "You're right, Urahara-san. He is a good boy."
Eventually, Urahara used his free hand to tickle the boy's tummy. When the kid opened his mouth to laugh, Urahara made his escape. Blowing on the teeth marks on his hand, the exiled shinigami went over to Rukia's bedside to see the newborn baby girl in her arms. "I assure you that this child is not an Espada, but she is special."
Ichigo frowned. "Special how?"
Urahara smiled, eyes on the child. "She is Inoue Orihime."
"Inoue?!" the couple said in unison with gaping wide eyes.
"That's right," Urahara confirmed as he reached a somewhat hesitant hand out to touch the child's arm ever so gently.
Rukia studied the older man as he looked upon her daughter and saw a fondness in his expression that she had never seen him wear before. "Do you want to hold her?"
Urahara blinked, slightly surprised. "…May I?"
Rukia smiled as she handed the girl over to him.
Even though Urahara Kisuke was knowledgeable and experienced with many things, babies were not one of them. It was undoubtedly awkward to be handling a newborn, but he did it with as much care as possible.
Ichigo did not miss the expression on his face either, and it stirred up old feelings that he had been trying to bury for years. He will never forget that night in Las Noches when, after all the fighting, Urahara showed up in that half-demolished throne room with a lifeless Orihime in his arms and told everyone that she had rejected the hougyoku. Ever since then, something had broken down between himself and the exiled shinigami.
They had kept in contact over the years, but it was more because of shinigami business than anything else. Somewhere deep down, there was a part of Ichigo that had never forgiven Urahara for letting Orihime go through with it. Even though he knew it had been her choice, even though he understood the whole thing about the greater good, a part of him simply could not let go. Then there was also the part of him that knew he had been trying to shift the blame, because he himself had been unable to fulfill his promise to the girl…the promise to protect her. They may have claimed victory that day, but Ichigo had failed his mission.
Looking at the blond-haired shinigami now, however, it was obvious that the one who had placed the most blame on Urahara for what happened to Orihime was Urahara himself. There was such a mixture of affection, guilt, relief, and sorrow in the man's usually deceptively cheerful features, it was almost difficult to watch.
Ichigo sighed as he made a decision. "Urahara-san, if you do it right, I'll let you name her." He looked over at Rukia as if to ask if it was all right with her.
"Ah," Rukia agreed. "I think she would like that."
"Can we call her Kisuke Jr.?" Urahara asked with a grin.
"I said do it right, damn it!" Ichigo snapped.
Urahara could not hide his smile as he looked thoughtfully at the child in his arms. "Himeko," he finally said, because to him, she will always be a princess. "Will that be acceptable…Kurosaki-san?"
"Kurosaki Himeko, huh?" Ichigo grinned. "Sounds good to me."
"Ah, Ichigo!" Rukia suddenly exclaimed with urgency as she pointed to the toddler they had almost forgotten about. "Stop him! Stop him!"
With multiple crayons in each hand, the little blue-haired devil was currently in the process of redecorating the hospital room walls.
"Crap!" Ichigo immediately went over to pick up the boy who then tried to draw on his face instead. "Stop it, Ginjo!" Ichigo said while trying to bat away his son's hands. That, however, only succeeded in encouraging the boy to try harder to get at his father's face, chuckling as he attempted to get past Ichigo's defenses.
Rukia sighed with a shake of her head. "Why'd you bring crayons, idiot?"
"I didn't!" Ichigo denied, still fending off the crayon attacks. "He smuggled them in!"
While the parents were busy fussing over the toddler, Urahara kept his attention on the one in his arms. "Everything will work out this time," he said with a small smile, loud enough only for Himeko to hear. "You'll see."
A/N: While these vignettes will not necessarily be in chronological order, I thought it should at least start at the beginning. The first few chapters will probably revolve around childhood times, too, just to avoid too much confusion. And since this isn't a linear story, I decided to name the chapters.
In case anyone missed it in the notes last time, Gin means "silver" and Jo means "dawn". That's what Rukia was talking about. And I'm not a Japanese expert, so don't take my word as gospel.
Updates will probably be more sporadic. This is one of those 'as ideas come' sort of project. I'm also trying to balance this with my DA account, cooking up a sequel in my head, and that thing I keep forgetting about called life.
Random question: Is it just me, or does that glasses wearing guy in the anime's new filler arc look like Szayel's un-evil twin? Haha!
And to m o o g l e d a i m e, if you're reading this… (hands you a bucket and a towel, just in case. LOL!)
Hope you liked! Thanks for reading! Reviews appreciated!