Title: Ties of Blood
Characters: Focus on Urahara Kisuke and Shihouin Yoruichi
Rating: T (at most)
Warnings: Many spoilers, dubious familial relations, language, character death, OCs abound
Description: The untold story of the relationship between Urahara Kisuke and Shihouin Yoruichi. It is the truth of their ties, the truth of their bond, the link that connects them. That of half-brother and sister.
The prequel/side story to The Butterfly Effect.
Ties of Blood
She held her breath and stepped very quietly, using every lesson that sensei had carefully taught her. Silent as the shadows and concealed by the black. Yoruichi was absolutely quiet, her small body slipping behind the thick curtains and doors, using the empty spaces that no one ever thought twice about.
The whole manor was aflutter with activity right now. Servants rushing to and fro, a sense of anticipation heavy in the air. Yoruichi knew why, of course. She was getting a younger brother or sister tonight. Or that was what her father had told her when he patted her shoulder earlier and told her to play quietly. She was supposed to stay away from her mother's room, but curiosity overwhelmed her. She just wanted to see her sibling.
No one would have noticed her anyway, not with the way the servants were rushing around; everybody was frantic. As Yoruichi crept closer, finally peering around a thick curtain to see into her mother's room, she could hear her mother's harsh breathing. She sounded like she was in pain. She couldn't see her, however, the bed surrounded by too many people.
Her father paced back and forth across the room, occasionally stopping to glower in the distance before he'd start again. The healers were all talking to each other, giving encouragements to her mother, and servants ran in and out of the room, carrying clean water and towels. Yoruichi stayed out of their way with eyes watching from the shadows.
Muttered whispers filled the room, the aura swelling with tense anticipation. Her mother barely made a noise, but her father still noticed, drawing to a stop only to move abruptly forward. There was a great flurry of motion, and a thin, angry cry rose through the room. The sound of a baby's first breath.
Yoruichi smiled to herself in breathless anticipation and curled her fingers around the edge of the curtain. There was a great sense of relief through the room. She watched as the newborn was passed from person to person, inspected and cleaned, swaddled tightly in warm fabric. Her mother was tended as well, the sweat wiped from her body and clean water offered to her.
"It's a boy," one of the giggling women whispered to another as she hurried from the room with a handful of soiled towels. "He's so cute. Looks just like Kaori-sama."
A second servant, a young girl, nodded exuberantly. "Except for those eyes. They were grey, weren't they? How odd." Her voice dropped to an incredibly low whisper, smile filled with glee at discussing some aspect of the Shihouin family.
They moved quickly by Yoruichi, stepping out of the bedroom and down the hallway, gossiping all the while. She missed whatever the first woman's response had been.
Yoruichi had a younger brother! A smile cracked the Shihouin heir's face. She really wanted to see him now. He was probably adorable.
What glimpses she could see showed that her mother was exhausted, dark circles ringing her usually bright eyes. And then, her father was taking the baby into his arms, peeling back the swaddling clothes to look upon his face. There was a moment where the whole room seemed to draw a breath as her father looked at her mother.
Yoruichi couldn't see his face and couldn't see his reaction, but she gathered enough that it wasn't a good thing. In the next moment, he had pushed the newborn towards one of the servants, despite her mother reaching for the baby.
With an angry shout, her father abruptly turned and demanded that everyone leave. She'd never seen such anger on his face. His eyes seemed even darker at the force of his fury, hands clenched into fists at his side. The servants scurried to flee, even the one carrying Yoruichi's new brother. She stared after his departing form, wondering what was going on.
Yoruichi only caught a glimpse of the newborn, a really small body encased in wrappings, head dusted with pale fuzz. He was so pale other than the red tinge from birth. Nothing like the creamy brown of her father or herself.
And then, her father turned to scream at her mother, who was laying on her bed, impassive with quiet tears falling from her eyes. She responded to everything her husband said in a soft tone, their words indistinguishable to Yoruichi's ears. The girl flinched at the harsh tone that her father used, having never heard him speak to her mother like that before. Ever. He usually seemed so stoic. Not unkind. Just careful with his emotions.
Finally, her father snarled something in a vicious tone and whirled on his heels, his fancy haori swirling around him. He stalked from the room, never noticing Yoruichi. He had an intense look of anger on his face, his dark eyes bright with fury and fingers digging into the skin of his palms.
The look on his face was frightening, and Yoruichi shrank back into the shadows until he was far away, the door slamming shut behind him. Silence descended in her mother's room, thick and heavy. She was alone now, not even a servant nearby to care for her. It didn't seem right.
Yoruichi waited a few more moments before creeping out, steps as silent as before. In fact, it wasn't until she got closer to the bed that her mother noticed her presence, reaction tired and drawn.
"Yoruichi," she commented tiredly, struggling to sit up on the bed. Her blonde hair was clinging to her head in sweaty, sticky strands. "How long have you been here?"
She moved to the side of the bed, trying to ignore the disarray of the covers. "I wanted to see him," she explained as her mother reached for her. Yoruichi grabbed the extended hand and entwined their fingers together. "I know you said not to, but I was curious."
Her mother smiled weakly at her. "As curious as a cat," she teased and then gestured with her head. "Climb up here beside me, Yoruichi. I'm a little tired right now."
"Okay." Yoruichi did as asked and cuddled up next to her mother. It was a familiar warmth here, and though the room smelled of antiseptic and blood and other uncomfortable things, her mother still carried her usual scent. "Are you all right?"
Curling her arm around her daughter, Kaori pulled Yoruichi close to her side. "I'll be fine. I just need some rest."
Yoruichi laid her head against her mother's chest and listened to the sound of her heartbeat, slow and steady. She managed to let a quiet minute pass before her curiosity got the better of her.
"Kaa-chan, where is my otouto? Why did Minamono-san take him away?"
Beneath her, she felt her mother stiffen before her hand was patting Yoruichi's back. "I'm sorry, Yoruichi. Your otouto was not meant for this world long. Kami-sama has already taken him back."
Even as young as she was, Yoruichi knew what her mother meant. "But... I heard him cry. He sounded loud. And strong. Why?"
There was a hitch in her mother's breath. "Some things just cannot be explained. It seems he was very sick, and the healer could do nothing for him."
Yoruichi was very disappointed, and she curled against her mother, a sadness welling up in her. She was looking forward to having a younger brother. It was lonely in the Shihouin Estate, and she wanted someone to play with who wasn't careful because of her status. She thought it would be fun. She could teach him all sorts of things and show him all the secret passages. They could have been really close, the best of friends. But now... now, she wouldn't get to do any of that.
"That's not fair," she mumbled as she pressed her face into her mother's chest, comforted by the familiar and soft floral scent.
Kaori gently stroked her back. "I know." Her voice cracked slightly, and when Yoruichi looked up, her mother glanced away, biting on her bottom lip. Like she had trouble maintaining her composure. "It really is."
"Otou-sama was angry." Yoruichi remembered the look on her father's face.
"Yes, he was. He was disappointed, my dearest."
She tilted her head back so that she could look her mother in the eyes. "Because otouto was sick?"
Kaori winced, and her hand settled on Yoruichi's hair, smoothing the dark locks back. "Yes, sweetie, because he was sick. Your otou-sama very much wanted a son." She drew her bottom lip into her mouth.
Yoruichi was disappointed, too. "But kaa-chan has another chance, doesn't she?" she asked hopefully. She really wanted a little brother or sister.
"We shall see," Kaori said instead, neither agreeing nor denying. She patted her daughter and settled against the plump pillows behind her. "Now, go on to bed; it's past the time you should be asleep."
"Awwww." Yoruichi pouted and purposefully pushed her legs under the folds of the blankets, announcing her intentions. "Can't I stay here with you?" She looked up at her mother, making her eyes shine with hope. It never failed to get her what she wanted.
Her mother smiled softly, releasing a chuckle that sounded weary. "I'd like that," she replied. "But just for tonight. Else, your otou-sama will think I'm spoiling you."
Yoruichi yawned, finally letting go of the one she'd been holding in all night. "That's because you do," she retorted smartly, curling further against her mother and embracing her familiar warmth. "And otou-sama does, too."
"Yes, dear. Indeed, he does." And then, her mother went quiet, lying back against the bed and breathing into the silence of the room. She really did seem tired, and she was probably very upset, too.
Yoruichi settled a hand on her mother's stomach comfortingly, knowing that her heart must have been hurting badly. But Kaori was too strong to cry, and so she only held it in. Even though she surely wanted to weep. Yoruichi felt like it herself. She really wanted a brother. She didn't even get a good look at him before Minamono-san took him away. It was so disheartening.
Fatigue crashed around her, and her eyes closed. It had been so difficult to stay up and wait to satisfy her curiosity. And now, Yoruichi could feel sleep calling for her. She felt so comfortable, twining with her mother like this. She was rarely allowed to do it anymore because she was getting too old for it. Or so she had been told by her father.
"It's okay," Yoruichi murmured sleepily. "It's going to be okay." And she willed that to be true with every part of herself.
Her mother's arm tightened around her. "Silly, girl. You're too young to be comforting me," she whispered with affection clear in her tone. "Thank you anyway, my dearest."
Yoruichi just grinned and surrendered to the warmth. The last thing she remembered before drifting off into sleep was the feel of her mother's fingers trailing through her hair.
When the knock came, tentative but determined, Urahara Takuya had been surprised. It was late, too late for any normal visitor. And he couldn't think of anyone who would be stopping by his home. The neighborhood children would be asleep by now, his employees – what few there were – either out drinking or also at home. He had few close acquaintances, and he paid his bills on time.
Concerned, a frown drawing on his lips, Takuya moved to the door and brushed his fingers across the hilt of his zanpakutou where it rested in a stand near the door. Ready to be drawn at a moment's notice. And at the back of his mind, he thought of a fairly destructive but containable kidoh. No need to destroy the whole neighborhood in the case of an unannounced attack.
He stretched his senses, trying to see if he could perhaps guess who was on the other side. There were two presences, one he did not recognize that was a bare blip on his inner radar and another that somehow seemed familiar. This second one was young, almost scarily so. And its youthful energies were filled with a burgeoning energy, even at this age.
Takuya's eyebrows crawled up to his hairline.
The knock came again. "Urahara-san?" A voice called through the doorway, and it was accompanied by the sound of a child. Not exactly crying but making its presence known.
"Who is it?" he demanded, attempting to focus. What in Soul Society was going on? And at this time of night?
There was a moment of pause, the sound of shifting cloth. "Minamono Yuuri, a servant of the Shihouin Estate. I bear a message from Shihouin Kaori-sama."
Gray-green eyes widened, and Takuya was quick to throw the lock. The familiarity in the reiatsu suddenly made a lot of sense, and he cursed his inability to realize it before. The door slid open a tad too violently, slamming against the other side with a noticeable bang and making the man on his front stoop jump in surprise.
The dark-headed servant held a bundle in his arms, twitching faintly in the confines of the soft fabric. And he looked up at Takuya with hope in his eyes, as well as a great sense of regret and apology.
"And what has Kaori-sama have to say to me?" Takuya asked, but even so, he couldn't take his eyes off the small bundle. He barely noticed the servant at all.
The man – Minamono – tipped his head into the lowest bow he could manage while still safely carrying his burden. "The child," he explained softly, hands tightening around the infant as though determined to protect the boy, "he is yours."
That was pretty much an explanation in unto itself. No doubt the Shihouin head wanted nothing to do with a spawn that didn't belong to him, even if his very own had brought the babe into the world. Especially since – and Takuya confirmed it – the infant looked nothing like a Shihouin. Not even in the slightest.
Wordlessly, he held out his arms, taking great care in handling. The weight in his arms seemed so slight, the bundle very tiny and fragile. Takuya found himself holding his breath as he carefully peeled back the outer layer, freeing the boy's face entirely. One hand popped free from the tight confines, waving with much exuberance into the air.
A smile erased the frown that had stolen Takuya's lips, a swell of happiness taking over his heart. His son. This was his son. The physical truth of the feelings between he and Kaori, love he could no longer act upon. Shihouin-sama had made certain of that.
"Will you take him?" Minamono pressed, expression filled with hope. Clearly, he worried he would have no choice but to take the infant to an orphanage.
Takuya couldn't have that. Not for any child, much less his own flesh and blood. Not for his son, who he couldn't seem to stop looking at. He was so tiny and quiet, staring up at him with surprising strength. Eyes the same shade as his own.
"He's my son," Takuya answered with absolute awe, cradling the infant carefully in my arms. He finally tore his gaze away, directing it towards the servant. "How is Kaori-sama faring?"
A sense of relief cast down on the servant, who inclined his head. "She is well and will recover fully."
Takuya felt more at ease to hear that. He could still remember delicate but strong Kaori, who he loved as he never had another. Who was beautiful and playful with eyes golden as the sun. Lovely Kaori, who he'd been forbidden to see seven months ago. He'd known all along who she was and just how many rules he – they – had broken, but he'd ignored the risks. In fact, he was partly surprised he hadn't been killed in some mysterious way that would never be tracked back to the Shihouin. Perhaps the master of the house just didn't care to get his conscience dirty.
Or maybe she had begged for his life. Begged for the man who'd seen her for herself and not as some token, some political bargaining chip. Useful only for procuring alliances and producing an heir.
But that was all past now. This boy – their son! – was the present. The future.
"Did she name him?" Takuya wondered aloud at the same time he realized just how much of a responsibility he was accepting. Nothing would be the same for him anymore; everything would become complicated. Even so, he would not give his child up.
"She was not given the opportunity."
Takuya snorted, not very surprised. No doubt the moment her husband realized the boy was not his, he'd sent the infant away. He wondered if Kaori was even allowed to hold their son before he was ripped away.
Looking at the boy, Takuya thought that he deserved a good name, despite the circumstances of his birth. His son was a blessing to him if not unexpected. And though he'd only known him a few minutes, he was already making a niche inside Takuya's heart. His precious child.
Takuya lifted a hand, gently touching a finger to the light hairs that dusted the crown of the infant's head. "Kisuke." He smiled as the child made a noise in his throat, twitching in his hold. "I will call him Kisuke."
"A good name," Minamono agreed, and a smile touched his lips as well. He was certainly relieved for the infant's… for Kisuke's safety. He actually cared. A rare thing indeed.
"Thank you, Minamono-san," Takuya said with the realization that he owed this man his gratitude. He rocked Kisuke as the infant stirred, probably fussy and hungry. "You carried him with care."
The servant bowed. "It was my honor. Please, Urahara-san, raise him well." With that, he straightened and turned, leaving Takuya with his new son.
Kisuke gurgled and fidgeted again, sounding very distressed. Takuya shifted back into his house, trying to settle the infant by wrapping him more firmly in the wrappings. Kisuke should have been fed already, but no doubt Sujin-sama had wanted the child out of his manor as soon as possible. He wouldn't have stood to look at the evidence of his wife's affair, at a child who did not share his blood.
Takuya wondered for just a moment how he was going to do this. A father without any warning, suddenly on his own, newborn in arms. It was a daunting task. Where was he going to find milk at this time of the evening? How was he going to do this by himself? He wasn't prepared, had nothing for the babe. No clothes or food or anything really.
Yet, he looked at his son again.
It was going to be hard, yes. Probably the most difficult thing he had ever done. But he wouldn't turn Kisuke away either. He couldn't abandon his son. Not ever. Somehow, he would make this work.
Just a few minutes with the boy and he was deeply loved already.
a/n: And so I begin another series. Why? Why do I subject myself to this? Ah, these plot bunnies that just won't fade. Luckily, this one should be rather short, a collection of eight (possibly nine) ficlets/oneshots, all prequels to my other long fanfic The Butterfly Effect.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this rather bizarre attempt at creating familial relations. More to come! Comments are very much welcome! As are theories.