Disclaimer- I do not own Bleach
This was written as a companion piece to Reincarnation and tells the alternate story of Sojiro. It's a what-if fic where the boy wasn't abandoned as a small child but was instead raised by his first set of adoptive parents. Jerks. This is the second one that I wrote and I posted them both because I couldn't figure out which one was the better story.
Warning: This fic contains scenes of child abuse as well as attempted suicide so you have been warned.
Child of Sorrow
"I can't believe you, you little bastard!" Those were the words that Akira Hayata screamed at the young white- haired boy who was cowering before him. The large burly man glared down at the small boy, his eyes narrowed and glowing with a look of utmost loathing.
Sojiro had no idea what he had done to incur his father's wrath on this particular day, it could easily have been nothing at all, however he could tell by the slight slurring of the man's words as well as the fury that was contained within them that his father was drunk and that he would suffer dearly for whatever wrong the man was accusing him of. The young boy sighed in resignation as his father grabbed him roughly by the upper arm and dragged him toward his bed. Pain was nothing new to him and he had learned long ago to block out the torture that was a part of his every day existence however despite all of his efforts he couldn't stop the slight tremor in his body as he thought about what he was about to endure. Sojiro's blue-green eyes held a blank expression as Akira ruthlessly pushed him onto the bed and began to strike him. Pretending that he was somewhere else had always made it somewhat easier to bear the abuse and Sojiro curled himself into a protective ball and allowed his thoughts to wander.
The young boy imagined that he was standing on the banks of a peacefully flowing river, surrounded by blooming cherry trees. Sojiro had no idea where this vision had came from, knowing that he'd never set foot in such a place, however the vision gave him comfort and made it possible for him to endure the torture from the man who should have cherished him above all others.
"I had better not see you again for the rest of the night," Akira spat out as he turned to leave the room, glaring at his son in warning.
Sojiro lay motionless on his stomach until he was sure that his father was really gone and then he slowly pulled himself up into a sitting position. His upper lip had been split during the ruthless beating and he tasted the blood that was dripping from the wound however he realized that this was the most minor of his injuries. Breathing caused him extreme discomfort and he knew, from past experience, that at least a couple of his ribs had been broken by the relentless blows that his father had rained down upon him. Tears welled up in his vivid, blue-green eyes as he thought about all of the pain that he had suffered in his relatively short life however Sojiro refused to let them fall. To do so would be to grant his father another victory over him and that was something that he refused to allow.
His father had warned him not to show his face for the rest of the night and Sojiro had no intentions of defying this order. In fact he was determined to make damn sure that the man never saw him again. Getting slowly and painfully to his feet Sojiro walked across his room to the small window that looked out on the back yard. Opening the window the young boy stuck his head outside and gazed around at the ground below, making sure that none of his family members were outside. Thankfully the yard was deserted and, taking a deep breath and steeling himself against the pain that he knew would soon be assaulting his small body, Sojiro crawled through the open window and out onto a branch of the large tree that grew beside the house.
His broken ribs throbbed in protest at the movement and Sojiro had to grind his teeth together to keep from crying out from the pain however he managed to get a grip on the pain and, with much difficulty, pushed it aside. It was only a matter of time before the pain would be banished forever and Sojiro knew that he only had to hold out until then. Ignoring the stabbing pain that assailed him with every movement that he made and every breath that he took Sojiro slowly climbed down the tree and then, when he reached the last branch, which was a few feet from the ground, he took a deep breath and allowed himself to drop.
A blinding pain shot through his body and the young boy was forced to bite his tongue in order to curb the screams that fought to burst forth from his mouth. Sojiro once again tasted the metallic taste of blood and realized that he'd bitten his tongue too hard however he'd managed to remain quiet and that was all that mattered. If his father came out and caught him now then there would be hell to pay and Sojiro didn't think that he could withstand any more physical abuse at the moment.
Gritting his teeth Sojiro quickly walked across the yard and made his way away from the place where he had lived for twelve years and yet had never once called home. His very existence there had been fraught with torture and he was bitterly determined to escape the hell that was his life. Despite the pain that it caused in his battered body the young boy jogged away from his house, putting as much distance between himself and his tormentors as he could.
His quick pace only lasted about a mile however and then Sojiro was forced to drop down into a walk as he began to cough. The violent coughs racked his body, causing his ribs to cry out in protest, and the young boy's eyes widened as he once again tasted blood, a lot of blood. Sinking to his knees Sojiro continued to cough and he felt the blood drip from the corners of his mouth. Apparently the beating that his father had administered had injured him more seriously than he'd thought. This had never happened before.
"Dammit. . ."
Kaien Kurosaki was on his way back to his grandfather's house, having successfully delivered the medicine to one of Isshin's many patients, however he came to a sudden halt as his gaze fell upon someone kneeling under a tree. Hearing the sound of the boy's coughing Kaien was immediately concerned and he quickly made his way over to the spot where the young boy was kneeling.
Unable to control his coughing Sojiro was nonetheless able to raise his eyes toward the voice that called out to him and his gaze fell upon his classmate, Kaien Kurosaki. Damn, he hadn't wanted anyone to see him like this, especially not someone that he knew, and would have run had he been able to. As it was all he could do was stare up at the older boy, a forlorn look in his blue-green eyes.
"What happened to you Sojiro?" Kaien asked as he dropped to his knees beside the younger boy. His searching gaze took in the blood that was dripping from the corners of the kid's mouth as well as the small pool of blood on the ground in front of him.
"It's nothing," Sojiro managed to whisper, finally managing to bring his coughing under control. Sojiro knelt on the ground for a few moments longer, attempting to catch his breath while he wiped the blood from his mouth, and then he fought to get to his feet. Pushing himself up from the ground the young boy finally managed to stagger to his feet and as he did so he offered Kaien a small, forced smile.
Kaien looked anything but convinced as he got to his feet and came to stand beside his young classmate. "Don't give me that shit Sojiro. You're hurt, bad, and I want to know what happened."
Sojiro's gaze went to the ground as he thought back to the beating that his father had given him over nothing. He'd never told anyone of his hellish existence or about the horrors that he suffered at the hands of that man and that wasn't about to change now. No, he'd finally realized the way to escape the torture and that was all that mattered. Talking about the abuse wouldn't heal the wounds of his soul and reliving it wasn't a thought that he relished.
"It was just a fight," Sojiro muttered, deciding on a half truth that might satisfy his classmate. "Nothing major."
"My ass," Kaien growled, glaring at the young boy who was obviously lying to him. "You were coughing up blood, which is an obvious sign of serious internal injuries. I'd say that definitely qualifies as something major. Now tell me who hurt you."
Sojiro shook his head and turned away from his classmate. Kaien reached out a hand to stop his young classmate however Sojiro knocked the older boy's hand aside. The young boy took a couple of steps away, fully intending to continue on his way, however after managing to travel only a few feet he staggered and would have fallen to the ground had Kaien not rushed over and caught him. Placing one hand behind the younger boy's shoulders and the other under his knees Kaien easily lifted Sojiro's small body.
"I'm taking you to my Grandpa's clinic," Kaien said as he scooped the younger boy up into his arms.
"No," Sojiro said, attempting to get free of Kaien's grip. He fought the older boy with all the strength that he possessed however, after everything that he had endured that day, that strength was minimal and it proved to be not nearly enough to break Kaien's hold. "Let me go Kurosaki!"
"Calm down Sojiro," Kaien said as he tightened his grip on his classmate. The teen tried his best not to further injure the younger boy however he was determined to maintain his hold on the struggling Sojiro. "This isn't something that we're going to debate kid. You're going and that's that."
Sojiro made one last attempt to gain his freedom however his attempt was rewarded with another bout of coughing, as well as more blood. The young boy gripped the collar of his classmate's shirt as his small body was once again racked with coughs, causing his ribs to throb in protest. The pain was intense and Sojiro wrapped his classmate's shirt in his hands, gripping it in an attempt to fight the agony.
Seeing the blood and feeling the pressure of Sojiro's hand wrapped in his shirt Kaien quickened his pace. Despite his cavalier words it was obvious to Kaien that Sojiro was seriously injured and required immediate medical attention. "Hang in there buddy. Everything's going to be okay."
When Kaien arrived at the Kurosaki Clinic he burst through the doors, calling out as he did so, "Grandpa Isshin I need your help! NOW!"
Mere seconds passed before a tall, dark-haired man appeared in the doorway. There was an intense look in Isshin Kurosaki's eyes as his gaze fell upon his grandson and the bloody young boy that he held in his arms. Sojiro had long since stopped fighting, having lost consciousness on the way to the clinic, and the kid now lay limp in Kaien's arms. "What happened?"
"I don't have a clue," Kaien replied as he walked across the room toward his grandfather. "I found him coughing his lungs out under a tree and he point blank refused to tell me how he was injured."
"Bring him into one of the treatment rooms," Isshin ordered, turning away from his grandson and leading the way toward one of the small rooms that were reserved for patients. Kaien obediently followed his grandfather and when they entered the room he placed Sojiro's limp form on the bed that was located in the center of the room.
"Wait outside," Isshin ordered, leaning over the young boy.
Kaien nodded and left the room, casting one final glance toward his classmate as he closed the door. The young boy made his way back out into the living room and as he walked by the front door he watched as it opened and his twin sister Masaki stepped inside.
"Kaien what happened?" Masaki rushed across the room and came to stand beside her twin, her eyes wide and horrified as she took in his bloody appearance.
Kaien glanced down at the blood stains on his shirt, his thoughts flashing back to his young classmate, and then he offered his sister a comforting smile. "Calm down Masaki, it's not my blood. When I was walking over here, on my way back from delivering that package for Grandpa, I found Sojiro kneeling under a tree. He was coughing up blood and he refused to tell me who had hurt him."
Masaki shook her head sadly as her thoughts flashed to the young, white-haired boy who had been transferred into her brother's high school class a month ago. "I told you there was something not right about that boy. I mean seriously, how often does he show up at school with fresh bruises and no excuse for how he got them?"
"Every other day," Kaien replied, his words not the least bit exaggerated.
Masaki nodded. "Someone definitely has it in for this kid."
Once his grandson left the room Isshin walked over to a small cabinet, opened a drawer and pulled out a razor sharp scalpel. This wasn't a procedure that he usually performed at his small clinic however he did know how and this boy couldn't afford to wait. Walking back over to the bed where Sojiro lay Isshin used a pair of scissors to remove the boy's blood-stained shirt and then he used the scalpel to make a small incision between two of the young boy's ribs. Then, once the incision had been made, Isshin placed a tube through the hole to drain the blood that was filling the boy's chest cavity. Hopefully this would re-inflate Sojiro's collapsed lung and keep more blood from flowing into his lung through the puncture that had been caused by the boy's broken rib.
Sojiro moaned slightly but didn't stir further.
"I'm sorry kiddo," Isshin whispered as he taped the tube in place. "But hopefully this will make it better."
About an hour after Kaien had arrived at the clinic carrying his bloody bundle, Isshin emerged from the young boy's room, a weary expression on his face and concern in his eyes. The man was instantly surrounded by his grandchildren, who both held identical questioning looks in their eyes. "The boy will survive. I inserted a chest tube to drain the blood that was crushing his lungs and then I bandaged his other wounds, none of which were anywhere near as severe."
As he spoke Isshin made his way toward the couch and when he sat down he motioned for Kaien and Masaki to join him, which the two teens obediently did. "What can you tell me about this boy?"
"Well," Kaien said, thinking about the boy that he'd only known for about a month. "His name is Sojiro Hayata and he's a freakin' genius. He was transferred into my class after he aced the high school entrance exam. He's twelve years old and lives with his parents on the outskirts of town. And. . . that's about it. He's not the most out going person that I've ever met in my life and he really doesn't like to talk about himself."
Isshin nodded, a knowing look in his eyes. "That doesn't surprise me. On top of all of the new injuries that he obviously sustained today, including bruising in the shape of a handprint around his upper arm, there are also signs of a large number of old wounds, with various degrees of healing. It looks to me as though this boy gets beaten up on a regular basis."
Both Kaien and Masaki's eyes widened in horror.
"If I had to guess I'd say that this child's world is a scary one in which to live," Isshin said, shaking his head.
Consciousness returned to Sojiro slowly and as he opened his eyes the first thing that he noticed was the fact that he was blissfully free from pain. In fact his body felt as though it were completely numb and the young boy was grateful for this fact.
"I'm glad to see that you're awake Sojiro-kun."
Sojiro attempted to pull himself to a sitting position as a strange man walked through the door and toward the bed in which he lay however as soon as he moved the pain that he had felt earlier returned in full force and he was unable to keep a small gasp from escaping his lips.
"Settle down," Isshin said in a calm voice as he quickly walked the few steps over to the bed where Sojiro was half-sitting and gently pushed the young boy back down. "You have some serious injuries and you shouldn't move around too much."
Sojiro nodded, his gaze focused on the man who stood over him. He could see vague similarities between this man and Kaien and he recalled the words that his classmate had spoken to him, telling him that he was taking him to his grandfather's clinic. "So you must be Kurosaki's grandfather."
Isshin nodded, his gaze focused intently on this soft spoken young boy. "My name is Isshin Kurosaki."
"Thank you for your help Kurosaki-san," Sojiro whispered, once again attempting to sit up. "But I really have to go."
Isshin shook his head as he once again forced the young boy back into a prone position. "You're not going anywhere until I'm convinced that you'll be okay. Now tell me something Sojiro-kun, who exactly was it that caused your injuries?"
Sojiro gazed up into Isshin's kind face and something about the man had a calming affect on him however the boy found himself unable to speak of what had been done to him and quickly averted his gaze. Isshin saw the tortured look in the boy's eyes and, nodding his head in understanding, he walked over to a small cabinet that was positioned against one wall of the room and pulled from it a syringe and a bottle of liquid. He filled the syringe with the contents of the vial and then walked back over to the bed where his young patient lay.
Sojiro made a move to pull away however Isshin grabbed his arm and gently but firmly held it in place. "It's alright kiddo, calm down. This will help you rest." This said Isshin injected the liquid into the flesh of the young boy's upper arm and then placed the syringe on the bedside table. He stood vigil by Sojiro's bed until the boy had fallen asleep, which took about ten minutes, and then he removed the chest tube that he had inserted earlier, stitched and bandaged the incision and left the boy's room.
Once he had left Sojiro's room Isshin made his way back into the living room, where Kaien and Masaki sat together in the floor studying. The two teens glanced up as their grandfather rejoined them and Isshin took a seat on the couch. "Your young friend woke up."
"That's great," Masaki said.
Isshin shook his head. "As soon as he woke up he attempted to leave, telling me that he really had to go, and on top of that he wouldn't tell me who it was that caused his injuries. Although I have a pretty good idea and when he wakes up again I'm going to test that theory."
"He went back to sleep?" Masaki said. "But I thought you said that he was determined to leave Grandpa?"
"I gave him a mild sedative," Isshin told his granddaughter. "I had to make sure that he stayed put and that was the easiest way to do it."
"He's not going to be happy when he wakes up," Kaien predicted.
"He'll be okay," Isshin said.
A few hours passed and when Isshin went to check on Sojiro he found the young boy awake and staring up at the ceiling. There was a blank expression in the boy's blue-green eyes and it was almost as if his soul was somewhere else while his body remained in the bed.
"Sojiro-kun," Isshin called out softly as he opened the door and stepped inside the room.
The blank expression immediately left the boy's eyes and he gazed over at Isshin.
Isshin offered Sojiro a smile as he walked across the room and came to stand beside the boy's bedside. "I called your father Sojiro-kun and he said that he'll be here in the morning to see you."
Sojiro fought hard to keep his face devoid of emotion however his heart began to pound at this knowledge. His father would be furious that he'd ran away and then ended up at a local clinic, accumulating medical bills that the man would have to pay.
Isshin saw something flicker across the boy's eyes before Sojiro managed to banish his emotions and he nodded slightly. It was just as he'd thought. "Well Sojiro-kun you should probably get some rest. I'm sure you'll feel better after a good night's sleep."
"Thank you Kurosaki-san," Sojiro whispered as he watched Isshin walk toward the door. "For everything."
"Don't mention it kiddo," Isshin said as he left the boy alone, turning out the lights as he went.
Sojiro lay in the dark, his thoughts racing. Isshin had called his father, who was coming in the morning. That meant that he would have to take action tonight. He lay in bed until he was sure that everyone in the house had gone to bed and then he climbed slowly from beneath his covers, wincing in pain as he did so. Sojiro turned on the small lamp that was on his bedside table and then he walked over to the small cabinet. Searching the contents of the drawers the young boy soon found what he was looking for and once he had a piece of paper and a pen in his hand he walked back over to his bed.
Placing the piece of paper on the small table Sojiro quickly wrote a short message to the family that had been so kind to him. Then he folded the piece of paper and wrote the names of the Kurosaki twins on the back of it.
Kaien was sitting at the desk in the room that was his whenever he stayed with his grandfather, staring blankly at the wall, when he heard a soft knock on his door. Curious the young boy walked over to the door and opened it, revealing his twin sister standing out in the hallway. "What are you doing up Masaki? It's late."
"You're up," Masaki said as she stepped inside her brother's room.
"True," Kaien said, gazing into his sister's eyes. "So what do you need?"
"Do you think Sojiro is okay?" Masaki said, voicing the concerns that had kept her from sleep. "I mean he is in a strange house not to mention the fact that he's hurt."
"Well," Kaien said, placing his hand on Masaki's shoulder. "We can go and check on him if it'll make you feel better."
Masaki nodded and so together the twins left Kaien's room and made their way down the stairs to the small treatment room where the young boy was. They didn't knock on the door, in case Sojiro was asleep, but merely opened the door quietly and stepped inside the room. The small bedside lamp was on, casting a dim light and slightly illuminating the form of Sojiro who was curled up into a ball, his hands stretched out in front of him on the edge of the bed.
The young boy held a piece of paper in his right hand and as Kaien and Masaki made their way closer to the bed their eyes widened in horror as they noticed the large pool of blood that discolored the white sheet. "What the hell?" Kaien exclaimed as he and his sister quickly covered the remaining few feet that separated them from the young boy. When they reached his side they immediately saw the cause of the blood and both gasped in horror at the sight that met their wide-eyed gazes. Both of Sojiro's wrists had been deeply slashed and a scalpel smeared with blood lay on the floor beside the bed.
"Go and get Grandpa!" Kaien ordered his sister as he ran over to the cabinet and grabbed a handful of gauze pads.
Her face completely devoid of color Masaki nodded and dashed from the room.
"Dammit Sojiro," Kaien muttered as he pressed the gauze pads against the young boy's torn wrists, attempting to stem the flow of blood and prevent the kid from bleeding to death. "Why?"
Sojiro's face was a deathly shade of white and yet there was a small smile on his lips. The dying child had an oddly peaceful look about him.
Moments later Isshin burst through the door and ran over to the young boy's side. Kaien stepped aside so that his grandfather could work and Isshin gently moved one of the gauze pads so that he could inspect the damage to Sojiro's wrists. He cursed softly under his breath as he saw the wounds; the boy hadn't been playing around.
"Kaien you should go and stay with your sister," Isshin ordered as he once again went to work on Sojiro. "She's really shaken up."
"Yes sir," Kaien said and, with one last look at his young classmate's pale face, he left the room. The teen stepped outside and he immediately saw his sister sitting in the hallway, her back propped against the wall and her knees drawn up to her chin in a protective manner. He walked over to the spot where she sat and slowly lowered himself to a sitting position beside her. Placing his hand on her shoulder, Kaien gazed over into his sister's tear filled eyes. "Are you alright Masaki?"
"Can you imagine a life so terrible that you would see death as a better alternative?" Masaki asked, her voice breaking as her thoughts flashed back to the young white haired boy who had felt so trapped by life that he had chosen to slash his own wrists. Tears once again began to fall down her face.
"No," Kaien said honestly. Both he and his sister had been sheltered their entire life and he knew that their parents would kill anyone who ever caused them pain and he only wished that Sojiro had known that kind of love. However it was obvious from the boy's actions that Sojiro's life had been far from ideal.
"I knew that something was wrong with him from the moment that I met him," Masaki whispered. "If only I had. . ."
"Stop right there," Kaien said, placing his hand on his sister's shoulder. "This is not your fault. You had no way to know that anything serious was wrong in Sojiro's life. It's not as though you're psychic or anything. You're an empath which is why you knew that he was unhappy. But that could have been caused by any number of things so quit giving yourself a hard time over this."
Masaki nodded, knowing that her brother was right, but at the same time she couldn't help but think that there was something that she and Kaien could have done for the young boy to prevent this tragedy.
"I have him patched up again," Isshin called out in a quiet voice as he stepped out of Sojiro's room. "And I gave him a blood transfusion to help with the blood loss from his injuries. Now I really need some sleep. I hate to ask it of you since I know you have school tomorrow but could one of you sit with him in case he wakes up and decides to try something else?"
"I will," the twins said in unison.
A small smile appeared upon Isshin's face as he heard this reply from his grandchildren. It didn't come as a shock and had actually been the reply that he'd been expecting. "Come and get me if he wakes up alright guys?"
Kaien and Masaki both nodded.
Isshin turned to walk away however he paused as he remembered the slip of paper that he had found clutched in Sojiro's hand and the fact that it had held the names of his grandchildren. "One more thing. Sojiro was holding a note in his hand and it was addressed to the two of you. I didn't open it and I have no idea what it says. You can read it if you want, it's your choice."
Brother and sister nodded once more and the three parted ways with Isshin making his way down the hall toward his bedroom and the twins walking the few feet to Sojiro's room. Kaien opened the door and together he and his sister entered the dimly lit room. Sojiro was now lying on his back in bed and both of his wrists were wrapped with thick bandages. The young boy's face was a ghostly shade of white and his breathing was barely perceptible due to the light sheet that was covering his small body.
"Poor little guy," Masaki said softly as she and her brother walked across the room.
Kaien quickly rounded up a couple of folding chairs for him and his sister and, once he'd placed them at Sojiro's bedside, he walked over to the cabinet where his gaze fell upon a folded piece of paper that bore both his name and that of his sister. Picking up the small slip of paper the teen walked back over to his sister and sat down beside her.
After a moment's hesitation Kaien slowly unfolded the piece of paper to reveal a very short note written in neat script.
Kaien and Masaki,
Thank you for being my friends. I am truly sorry.
And that was it. That was the last message that the boy had intended to leave the world. No mention of his family or of any regrets or final wishes. Merely a thank you for friendship, likely the only ones that he'd had in his short and tortured life, and an apology for what the young boy had done.
"Oh hell no Sojiro," Kaien muttered as he folded the letter once more. "You're not getting off that easily."
Sojiro's eyes felt as though they were being held closed with lead weights and his small body was racked with pain. His ribs throbbed with every breath that he took and both of his wrists felt as though they were on fire. Forcing his eyes open the young boy gazed around the room and saw that the Kurosaki twins were sitting at his bedside. His plan had failed. He had obviously been found before the wounds he had inflicted on himself had been able to end his life of misery and his gaze shifted to his right wrist, which was bound tightly with thick bandages. The same held true for his left wrist and Sojiro averted his gaze from this sight, a forlorn expression in his blue-green eyes.
"Sojiro," Kaien said, attempting to gain his classmate's attention.
Sojiro refused to look the older boy in the eyes. There was nothing that he could say to explain his actions. He knew that his classmate wouldn't understand why he had been willing to forfeit his own life. No one who hadn't endured the same hellish existence that he had lived for twelve years would know why death would be preferable to going back to that life.
"Listen Sojiro," Kaien said in a quiet voice. "I don't pretend to know what you're going through. I have no idea. But I'm sure that whatever is wrong will eventually get better."
"It would have gotten better," Sojiro said in a voice that was barely above a whisper, still resolutely refusing to look his classmate in the eyes. "If you had left well enough alone."
Masaki heard the sound of pure pain in the voice of the young boy and her heart broke. "Sojiro. . ."
"Please just go away," Sojiro whispered, turning his head away from the twins.
"I'm sorry pal but we can't do that," Kaien said, his gaze focused intently on the young boy who couldn't look at him. "I know what you'd do if we left you by yourself and I can't allow it."
Sojiro made no further attempts to rid himself of the two teens who were keeping vigil at his bedside however he refused to look at them and he couldn't stop the tears that fell from his vivid blue-green eyes. He didn't know what he'd ever done to have earned such suffering in life, surely no one deserved this hell.
Kaien and Masaki listened to the sound of Sojiro's soft sobs and they couldn't help but feel bad for the kid. Sojiro had done an amazing job of hiding his pain while at school, neither of the twins had ever suspected that his reality was this harsh, however the wall had broken at last and now they heard the sound of his pain, even though he was still trying his best to hide it.
When morning came Isshin made his way back to Sojiro's room to check on the young boy and when he opened the door he found Kaien and Masaki still at the kid's side and Sojiro fast asleep. Isshin made his way silently across the room and knelt beside the chair that Kaien was sitting in. "So he still hasn't woken up?"
Kaien shook his head. "I'm sorry Grandpa. He did wake up but we didn't come and tell you. Sojiro wanted us to leave so that he could finish what he started and then, when we refused, he actually cried himself to sleep. He was trying to hide his sobs but he couldn't."
Isshin nodded. "I'll watch over him for awhile if the two of you want to get some sleep. I know you have to be exhausted."
"We have school," Masaki said quietly.
Isshin shook his head. "Take the day off. I think your parents will understand."
"We'll stay home," Kaien said, his gaze still focused on the sleeping form of his young classmate. "But I'd rather stay here a little longer if that's okay with you Grandpa."
"If that's what you want to do," Isshin said, getting to his feet. He quickly checked his patient's vital signs and then changed the bandages that were wrapped around his savaged wrists. Sojiro moaned softly as Isshin wrapped clean gauze around his wounds however he didn't wake up. The poor kid was exhausted both mentally and physically and not even the pain from his wounds was enough to wake him at this point.
The day passed in much the same way that the night had. Kaien and Masaki sat vigil at Sojiro's bedside, keeping an eye on the young boy who refused to wake up. Exhaustion had finally gotten the better of the kid and he slept fitfully, tossing and turning as though in the throes of nightmares but never once opening his eyes.
Isshin came in to the room to check on his young patient periodically however for the most part he left the three children alone. He knew that if the child woke up Kaien and Masaki would be able to do more to ease his mind than he himself was capable of.
When evening arrived Isshin was sitting in the living room, a magazine held in his lap but his gaze not really focused on it's open pages, when he was suddenly jarred back into full alertness by the sound of his front door being violently opened. Now this meant one of two things; either his house had just been broken into by a very inept burglar or, more likely, Ichigo and Rukia had returned from their mission. Deciding to go with the second of his two options, Isshin closed the magazine and waited and sure enough within minutes his orange haired son burst into the room, a furious expression on his face.
"Welcome back Ichigo," Isshin said calmly, appearing completely oblivious to the irate look on his son's face.
"What the hell kind of baby-sitter are you?" Ichigo exclaimed, glaring at his father through narrowed eyes. "I leave you in charge of my kids for three days and then I come home to find out that they've started skipping class."
Now secretly Isshin thought that Ichigo was the last person on the planet who should say anything about skipping class, considering how often he'd done it in his own youth, however he chose not to point this fact out to his son. Instead he held up his hands in a placating manner and offered Ichigo a smile. "Calm down Ichigo, it was only one day and I promise you they had a good reason."
"What could possibly warrant both of them skipping class?" Ichigo demanded, knowing that they couldn't be sick or else his dad would have told him so.
"They were up all night so I told them that it would be okay if they didn't go to school today," Isshin informed his son.
"You what?" Ichigo exclaimed. "Why the hell were they up all night and why would you give them permission to skip school because of it?"
"Because it was my fault they were up all night," Isshin replied with a sigh. Thinking back on the events of the previous day he knew he was at least partially to blame for what had happened with Sojiro. True he hadn't thought that the kid was desperate enough to try taking his own life however he'd had his suspicions about the kid's home life and had tested this theory without completely thinking about the possible outcomes. "We have this new patient and he's a friend of Kaien's from school."
"Really?" Ichigo asked, some of his anger beginning to diminish.
Isshin nodded. "Kaien found him yesterday, badly beaten, and brought him here to the clinic. The boy, Sojiro, wouldn't tell us what had happened or who had hurt him however his body bore signs of old injuries so I guessed that he was probably abused by one or both of his parents. This was confirmed when I told Sojiro-kun that I had called his father and that he would be here today."
"So the kid admitted that his father was abusive?" Ichigo asked.
"No," Isshin said, shaking his head sadly. If only that had been the case. "The boy thanked me for my kindness and then, after everyone had gone to bed or at least he thought they had, Sojiro-kun slit his own wrists, both of his wrists. If not for the fact that Kaien and Masaki went to check on him that little boy would have died last night. After that the twins agreed to watch over him and keep him from repeating his suicide attempt."
"I see," Ichigo said, no longer concerned with the fact that his children had missed a day of school. "So do you have any idea who his parents are?"
"From the information that I gathered from Kaien their last name is Hayata," Isshin told his son. "And they live on the outskirts of town. I don't know any more than that."
"That's enough," Ichigo said, turning to leave. "I'll be back later for the children."
Isshin nodded and watched as his son walked out of the room.
Ichigo knew that what he was planning was crazy and probably wouldn't work out the way he planned however he was still crazy enough to try it. However he did have a Plan B and even a Plan C just in case things didn't go according to plan. He quickly made his way across Karakura Town to a small shop that was owned and operated by a friend of his. Ichigo needed some information, quickly, and he knew that Urahara was just the person to provide that information, after all the man knew everything.
After his brief but none the less helpful, visit with Urahara Ichigo quickly made his way to the outskirts of town where he came upon a modest house with a mailbox bearing the name Hayata. From the information he had gotten from Urahara he knew that Akira Hayata lived in this house along with his wife Hatsue and their son Sojiro.
Ichigo walked up to the front door, adjusting his collar as he did so and thinking to himself that there was no way that this plan could possibly work in a thousand years, however he was going to try it anyway. After all he preferred Plan B anyway, it was much more in his nature however Urahara had suggested that he try this approach first and Ichigo had finally relented. It had been the easiest way to gain the information that he sought without a fight against his old teacher.
Ichigo knocked on the door and then stepped back, awaiting a reply. A few minutes passed and then the door opened and a broad shouldered man a few inches shorter than Ichigo appeared in the doorway. He glanced briefly at Ichigo and then offered the man an artificial smile. "Can I help you officer?"
"I'm here to talk to you about your son, Sojiro," Ichigo told the man, his intense gaze focused on Akira so that he could judge the man's reaction to his words.
"What has that little brat done now?" Akira snarled, his eyes narrowing and plainly showing the hate that he held for the boy.
"That little boy ended up in a clinic across town with internal bleeding," Ichigo said, barely managing to keep the venom out of his voice. "And I know that you're the one responsible for his injuries."
"I don't know what my son told you," Akira began, making a conscious attempt to keep his hatred for the boy out of his voice. "But he's somewhat of a juvenile delinquent, always out to cause trouble. He must have gotten into a fight with someone. . ."
"He didn't TELL me anything," Ichigo snarled, no longer able to hide his disdain for this man. "Sojiro refused to tell anyone who had caused his injuries however when the doctor told him that he'd called you the child slit both of his wrists. The fact that he'd rather die than face you spoke volumes."
Akira opened his mouth however Ichigo held up his hands. "Don't even bother to deny the accusations or make excuses. And don't worry, I didn't come here to arrest you. I actually came to make a deal."
"What kind of deal?" Akira asked warily, eyeing this strange orange-haired man.
Ichigo reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. "Relinquish your parental rights to Sojiro and I'll walk away and never darken your doorstep again."
Akira briefly debated what he should do and in the end decided that he really didn't have much of a choice. He could sign over custody of the child that he loathed and have this whole mess simply go away or he could refuse and go to prison. No contest. He rued the day that he and his wife had taken that boy in and it wasn't as though he would mourn the loss of that poor excuse for a son. The man snatched the piece of paper that Ichigo held out to him, pulled a pen from the front pocket of his shirt and quickly signed his name at the bottom of the piece of paper.
"Thank you," Ichigo said as he placed the piece of paper back in his pocket. "We'll never trouble you again."
"Good riddance to the brat," Akira muttered under his breath as the strange policeman walked away.
Unfortunately for the man Ichigo had excellent hearing and this insult to an innocent child who had suffered horrors that no child should ever have to endure was something that Ichigo couldn't handle. The man whirled around and, before Akira even had time to react, he found himself gasping for breath.
"I really did like Plan B better," Ichigo snarled as he wrapped his hands around the man's throat. "Don't worry though, I'm forbidden to take human life. I am however going to give you a little taste of the hell that your son has endured his entire life."
This said Ichigo drew back his fist and struck the obnoxious man square in the nose. "How DARE you strike an innocent child," Ichigo snarled as he drew back his fist and prepared for a second blow. "That's the most cowardly, the most low. . ."
"P-please," Akira gasped as he felt the blood flowing down his face from his broken nose. "Please have mercy."
"How many times did he say that?" Ichigo asked as he punched the man in the solar plexus. That would effectively put an end to the man's whining and begging. Kind of hard to plead when it was all you could do to breathe. "And how many times did you ignore it? Consider yourself lucky you low life bastard. You're only going to have to endure this once."
Sojiro forced his eyes open once again and as he did so he realized that his pain had diminished. True it still hurt to breathe and his wrists still felt as though they were on fire however his body was no longer racked with pain and he found that he could move without pain shooting throughout his entire body.
"Welcome back to the world of the living," Masaki said in a kind voice once she noticed that the young boy's eyes were open.
Sojiro offered Masaki a small smile however it was only half-hearted and didn't reach all the way up to his eyes. He wanted to be grateful for what these kind people had done for him however he knew that things would go from bad to worse once he went back home and couldn't bring himself to feel happy that he was still alive.
When Ichigo arrived back at the house where he had been raised he found his dad once again sitting in the living room, this time with his eyes partially closed, half asleep. "Dad," he called out as he walked across the room.
"What?" Isshin snapped, not really appreciating the rude awakening but thinking to himself that, considering past events, he should probably be grateful that Ichigo hadn't resorted to violence in order to wake him.
"Is Sojiro's condition stable enough to leave the clinic?" Ichigo asked, fixing his dad with an intense gaze.
"Yes," Isshin replied slowly, wondering what his son had planned. "He's in no immediate danger from his injuries however if you take him back there then he's only going to do it again."
"Go and tell him that it's time to go home," Ichigo said, not commenting on the second part of his dad's statement.
Knowing that his son had something planned, although not quite sure what it was, Isshin got to his feet and made his way down the hall to the room where the young white-haired boy was. Kaien and Masaki were still sitting with Sojiro and they both turned questioning gazes up to their grandfather. "Kaien, could you go and get some clothes for Sojiro-kun? I know that they'll be too big but he needs something to wear."
Kaien got up to obey and Masaki asked, "What's going on Grandpa?"
"Your father's here," Isshin replied. "And he's going to take Sojiro-kun home."
Sojiro's eyes widened upon hearing this news and although he knew that he would endure an unimaginable hell when he got home at least there was the small comfort that he wouldn't have anyone to stop him from freeing himself from his torment.
When Kaien returned carrying a pair of jeans that had been stored in the room for years and a long sleeved t-shirt he offered the clothes to Sojiro. "Thank you," Sojiro said softly as he accepted the clothes from Kaien.
Kaien and Masaki both left the room so that the young boy could get dressed however Isshin remained behind to help him and also to keep an eye on him incase he decided to attempt something drastic once again. Sojiro dressed silently, without complaint, and once he'd put on the t-shirt and jeans, which were both a couple of sizes too large for him, Isshin led the way out of the room and down the hall where Ichigo was waiting with his two kids.
Ichigo's eyes widened as his gaze fell upon the young boy who was trailing sullenly after his dad. He'd never met the young boy that Kaien and Masaki often spoke of however as his eyes focused on Sojiro his mind flashed to another young boy with a dark past. A young captain who had died in the war with Aizen, died to save his best friend Hinamori as well as Rukia. Captain of Squad Ten, Toushirou Hitsugaya.
As the boy came to a stop in front of him Ichigo stared down at him, wondering whether or not Soul Society knew anything about him. He thought not or else surely they wouldn't have allowed him to endure the hell that had been his life. "Well guys come on. We have to take Sojiro home."
Wanting desperately to run away and yet at the same time knowing that in his current condition there was absolutely no way that he could out run them, Sojiro reluctantly fell into step behind this man who so closely resembled Kaien. The pain from his injuries wasn't as great as it had been however the burden in his heart was greater. The young boy realized that this family was only trying to help him however it seemed to him that they were inadvertantly making his situation worse.
"I just want it to end," he thought to himself as tears appeared in his blue-green eyes. He refused to allow them to fall however and merely followed along behind Ichigo, making sure to remain completely silent. He didn't trust his voice not to betray his true emotions and thus decided that it would be better for him to simply not talk.
Ichigo led the way silently across Karakura Town and as Kaien and Masaki realized where it was that they were heading they couldn't keep the smiles from appearing on their faces. The group came to a stop in front of a modest two story house and Sojiro stared up at Ichigo, confusion evident in his blue-green eyes. "Where are we?" he asked as he gazed up into the eyes of his classmate's father.
"Home," Ichigo replied, offering the young boy a smile.
A/N - and this is the second version. same plea as the first one; review the one you like the best. I decided that Sojiro should inevitably end up with the Kurosakis although it took longer in these fics. I just wrote them because the idea popped into my head and wouldn't go away. I am a humble servant to the muses lest they abandon me and leave me to fend for myself. Hope you enjoyed and this is Hitsu-taichou signing out.