A/N: Dear god. Finally I finished this. Urahara gives me writers block, I swear to god. *sigh* ANyway, super late and I'm really sorry for the wait! Had trouble with this for ages, and then my computer killed the document, then I lost the handwriten draft and...ugh. But never fear, Chapter 8 is finally here! I'll try to get the next chapter around quicker! At least I know what happens next.; Enjoy Chapter 8 everyone~
Warning: Mild teenaged angst. But that's to be expected considering the circumstances... Oh yeah, and copious amounts of a certain ex-captain. ;D
Life is a Deception Chapter 8
Hitsugaya woke to the sound of his alarm. He rolled blearily out of bed and went to shut off the device. Unfocused eyes glanced at the calendar and squinted into darkness to focus. Once they did, and he could make out the date clearly, he froze. In all the drama and chaos that had surrounded the teenager lately, Toshiro had forgotten what today way.
The date of the car crash that had killed his parents.
The sudden wave of emotion that swept over him was overwhelming, and he sank to the ground. Sobs wracked his frame and he curled in on himself, hugging his knees close. Several moments passed before Hitsugaya felt a strong arm encircle his shoulders and pull him close.
"Shh, shh," Ukitake whispered, rubbing his son's back as he sobbed. "Shh, shh, shh." After a time, the teenager's sobs slowly faded to sniffles. Quietly, his father said, "Go back to bed, 'Shiro-chan."
"You don't have to go to school today," Ukitake murmured. "If you go, you'll only be distracted. Bed, 'Shiro-chan."
And suddenly, Hitsugaya was too tired to argue. "Okay . . ." He stumbled to bed and curled up under the covers. He was asleep before Ukitake closed the door.
When Hitsugaya woke for the second time, his clock read half-past noon. He curled his body into a little ball; he hated feeling so defenseless, like something could shatter his heart with the lightest touch.
He swore his father always had impeccable timing. Ukitake knocked on the door to his room and pushed it open. When he saw that his son was awake, he asked, "How are you feeling, 'Shiro-chan?"
"Like I took a soccer ball to the head."
"That good, huh?" When Hitsugaya nodded, Ukitake sighed. "C'mon, 'Shiro-chan. Get dressed in something nice."
"You want to go visit your parents, don't you?"
The snowy-haired teenager sat up after a few moments. "I'll be down in a few minutes."
His father smiled slightly. "Alright. Do you want to go out to eat lunch?"
"I'm not hungry."
"Of course you aren't." Ukitake turned and closed the door behind him. After a few moments, Hitsugaya slowly climbed from his covers to get dressed. He picked a simple dress shirt, black tie and slacks. After a moment of thought, following a glance in the mirror, the teenager pulled a sweater vest over his shirt and tie. He ran his hands through his unruly hair before turning off the light to his room and going downstairs.
Ukitake was waiting for him, leaning on the banister. He was dressed the same as his son, only his dark leather jacket clad his shoulders. "Ready to go, 'Shiro-chan?"
"Yeah . . ." Hitsugaya slipped on his shoes and the two of them walked to Ukitake's car. The ride to the neighboring city town wasn't long, but it felt like a lifetime. The teenager's father parked in the lot of the Rukongai Graveyard and Hitsugaya clambered out.
Both picked through the desolate cemetery until they found the grave of Daiki and Riko Hitsugaya. Ukitake procured incense and a lighter from somewhere and let his adopted son stick the incense into the holder and light it. The sweet scent of the burning incense slowly wafted through the gravestones.
The white-haired teenager bowed his head and closed his eyes. If he tried hard enough, he could imagine his parents. He remembered the good times when they were alive; the times when he was young and light enough to be swung between two adults—although the man who lifted him into the air on one side wasn't his father. Hitsugaya's father had been too stiff and proper to do that sort of thing. The man who had helped his mother swing him was Ukitake.
Ukitake had been the one to lift Hitsugaya's feet of the ground as they walked. Ukitake had been the one to carry his friend's son on his shoulders so the small, white-haired toddler could see the animals at the zoo. Ukitake had cleaned and put a bandaid on the scrape a young Hitsugaya had acquired after falling in the street from tripping over his shoelace.
Ukitake hadn't been the one driving that afternoon. Ukitake wasn't the one who had taken his eyes off the rode to reprimand his son. Ukitake wasn't the one who was now six feet under, pushing up daisies. No, Ukitake was standing beside him now, head bowed and paying his respects. He wasn't dead like his actual father was.
Hitsugaya's hand balled into a fist. "Dad . . ."
"Hm?" Ukitake opened an eye, but the comment hadn't been directed at him.
"This is all your fault," the teenager whispered at the gravestone. "You took your eyes off the road and you got into an accident. Mom's dead 'cause of you. You died, too. We never did anything together, and all you did was tell me what to do. And I hated you for it. So I still feel guilty. I feel guilty for hating you, but I hate feeling guilty! I hate it, I hate it, I HATE IT!"
Hitsugaya could feel his adopted father watching him, but he didn't care. He spat a few obscenities at the grave then clenched his eyes to try to stop the angry tears from falling. Ukitake put an arm around his shoulders and hugged him.
"It's no use to reprimand the deceased, Toshiro," he said wisely. "It won't do you any good. Besides, your mother wouldn't approve."
The teenager sniffed. "M'sorry."
Ukitake patted his head. "It's alright, 'Shiro-chan, it's alright."
Toshiro dragged an arm across his eyes. "Sorry, Mom . . . sorry . . . Dad." There was no answer, but he didn't expect there to be. The two stood by the graves for several more minutes before he whispered, "Can we go?"
Toshiro made an about face and walked away slowly while Ukitake muttered a promise to his old friends. Then he followed their son—now his son— out of the graveyard.
"Are you hungry?" Ukitake asked as he started the car.
Ukitake looked thoughtfully. "Would you be interested in stopping someplace?"
" . . . Sure."
His father nodded and pulled out of the parking lot. After about twenty minutes of driving, they passed a sign announcing their arrival into the neighboring city of Karakura. Ukitake stopped the car at an out-of-the-way shop on the outskirts of the busy city center, but still near the suburbs. Two preteens, a red-headed boy and a raven-haired girl were standing outside, sweeping. Another two teenagers, one strawberry-blonde and the other dark skinned and dark haired, were carrying boxes in their arms.
"'Urahara . . . Shoten'?" Toshiro asked, looking at the shop's sign.
"Urahara Shop," Ukitake clarified taking the car keys out of the ignition. "It belongs to an old friend of mine. Follow me, 'Shiro-chan." Hitsugaya nodded before undoing his seatbelt and opened the car door.
"Mister Ukitake!" The red headed waved. "Hiya!"
"Hello, Jinta," the adult said with a smile. "And hello, Ururu."
"H-Hello, Mister Ukitake . . ." the raven-haired girl said shyly, ducking her head. "Nice to see you."
"Is the boss in?" Ukitake asked Jinta.
"Yup. Tessai's in, too. OI, STRAWBERRY."
"THAT'S ICHIGO TO YOU, SHRIMP!" The strawberry-blonde poked his head around the corner, box in hand. "Wha'dya want, Jinta? I'm kinda busy here."
"Take Mister Ukitake to wherever the boss is," Jinta ordered.
"He's in his office, same as always."
"Just take them to his office!"
The elder teen sighed. "Fine." He set his box down on the ground and scruffed up his hair. "Follow me, Mister Ukitake and . . . um. . ." he stared at Toshiro.
Ichigo blinked. "Right, um. . . Toshiro, Mister Ukitake, the boss is this way." He showed them into the store and into the back. He pounded on a door and called out, "Oi, Hat'n'Clogs! You've got visitors!"
"Bring them in, Mister Kurosaki!" came a cheery reply from within. Ichigo pushed the door open and Ukitake walked in, Toshiro trailing behind. A light skinned man dressed in traditional Japanese loungewear was sitting behind a desk; his sandaled feet were propped up on the desk's surface. Messy light-blonde hair poked out from under a green and white stripped bucket hat, his eyes shadowed by the rim. His cheeks bore light stubble and he was sporting a huge grin.
"Hey, there, Jushiro! Long time no see!"
"Hello, Kisuke, it had indeed been a long time."
The blonde shopkeeper kicked his legs off the desk and stood. He shook Ukitake's hand and then looked at Hitsugaya. "Who's this?"
"My son, Toshiro." The storeowner's grin grew and his ruffled Hitsugaya's hair, much to his chagrin.
"Dad who is this?" the teenager asked with annoyance.
"I am Urahara Kisuke, at your service." The shopkeeper doffed his had and bowed ridiculously low. Hitsugaya saw Ichigo roll his eyes.
"Nice to meet you," Toshiro said, eyeing Urahara warily.
"Yes, yes." Kisuke replaced his hat and flashed a paper fan over his face. "So, how can I help you gentlemen?"
"I came to catch up on old times," Ukitake told the shopkeeper. "We also wondered if we could sample some of Tessai's excellent cooking?"
Urahara waved his fan across his face. "I see. Ichigo-kun, please tell Tessai we have guests. He'll know what to do." The teenager slouched out of the room. The shopkeeper shut his fan with a snap and led father and son from his office to a small dining room. "Please, sit."
Hitsugaya sat and was quiet as the two adults caught up. He listened to everything they said, keeping notes in his head. They seemed to be skirting a certain subject, but he couldn't figure out what. The orange-haired Ichigo arrived twenty or so minutes later with three bowls which he sat in front of each person at the table. Hitsugaya looked at the contents; it appeared to be a stirfry of some kind, layered over rice. The smell was mouthwatering.
"Ah, thank you, Ichigo-kun."
"Thank you, Ichigo."
The teenager shrugged. "No prob. . . anyway, I'm clockin' out, Hat'n'Clogs. Yuzu'll freak if I'm late for dinner, an' we're packing up the house for the move."
Urahara raised an eyebrow, although the shadow from his hat made it hard to see. "Your father acquired the job?"
"Yeah, at the hospital. Gotta go. Later." Ichigo turned to leave, but Urahara called him back,
"Ichigo-kun, get us some water while your over there."
"Sure." The teenager returned shortly with three glasses of water then left with a lazy wave.
While Toshiro tasted the stir fry, which he found to be excellent, Ukitake asked, "That was Isshin's son, wasn't it?"
The shopkeeper nodded. "It was."
"Amazing. He's grown up so much since I saw him last . . . granted, that was at Masaki's funeral . . ."
"That was a long time ago."
Ukitake nodded, a faraway look in his eyes. "Yes, it was. . ."
They ate in silence until Urahara spoke. "So, Jushiro, what are you doing here in Karakura? You usually stay in Seireitei."
The long-haired writer tilted his head at Hitsugaya as he said, "We went to visit two old friends."
Ukitake's hazel eyes hardened dangerously. "Kisuke."
Gray eyes flitted to Hitsugaya, who returned the gaze stonily. Kisuke's eyes widened. "Ah. Sensitive subject. My apologize, Hitsugaya-kun."
Ukitake changed the subject after a pregnant silence. "How are you and Yoruichi getting along?"
Urahara's fan appeared from nowhere and flashed over his face, hiding his expression. "Just as you and Retsu are."
A dark brow was raised. "Really now?"
Hitsugaya had finished his meal and was listening to the conversation with interest. It did not look it; he was slumped in his seat, eyes half closed, but every word spoken was absorbed. The teenager's mind was racing; was the Yoruichi they spoke of the same woman who sponsored the track team and taught physical education at his high school?
"Well," Ukitake said suddenly after another half hour or so of conversation, "it looks as if my son is falling asleep. We should go."
The three stood and Urahara called Jinta to clear the dishes. As the three walked, Ukitake reached into his pocket and retrieved his wallet. Opening it he asked, "How much do I owe you for the meal, Kisuke?"
Urahara flapped his hand. "Don't worry about it, my treat! You'll probably pay me back later if I know you."
Ukitake laughed. "Probably. However, I will buy some caramel from your confectionary shop."
"Ah, still have a sweet tooth, I see! Very well, come along." Urahara led them to his shop and Ukitake picked up a package of caramel. Urahara told him the price and Ukitake passed him the bills. "Thank you, Jushiro."
"No, thank you, Kisuke." The two men shook hands. "I'll try to come visit sometime soon."
Urahara nodded. "Make sure you bring your son, too."
"I will." The two shook hands again and Jushiro and his son left the shop and walked to Ukitake's car. The two got in and Ukitake started the engine as Hitsugaya fastened his seatbelt. Ukitake fastened his own, shifted the car into gear, and pulled away from Urahara Shoten.
They drove in silence. Hitsugaya watched the sun setting, sending bueatiful colors to split the sky.
"Hm?" Ukitake didn't take his eyes off the road but acknowledge his son. "Yes, what is it?"
"Can . . . can we go back to the cemetery? Please?"
Ukitake raised an eyebrow but agreed. He merged into the exit lane and followed a maze of back streets until they reached the parking lot of the cemetery. "Go ahead," Ukitake told him, "I'll be right there."
"Okay." Hitsugaya found himself running through the gravestones towards where his parents were laid to rest. There were silhouettes gathered around his parents' grave, which troubled him. As he grew nearer he recognized the respect payers and stopped short. Renji, Momo, Kira, Shunsui, and Nanao stood in front of the grave, heads bowed.
Renji looked up and nudged Momo's shoulder. She looked up and saw Hitsugaya. She ran to him and once reaching him she enveloped him in a giant hug which nearly knocked Hitsugaya off his feet.
"Momo . . ."
She squeezed him and whispered, "I'm sorry, 'Shiro-chan."
Toshiro squeezed back a bit and said, "Its fine. . . I'm fine. Don't worry about it." Momo squeezed him again before letting go. They walked back to the grave where the others were standing.
Hitsugaya kneeled in front of his father's grave. He touched the smooth headstone and said quietly, "I forgive you." Then he stood and allowed himself to be enveloped by his friends. Ukitake joined them and the group remembered Toshiro's parents.