Author's Note:

This is dedicated to every single one of you who continued to show support and bolster me with your kind words despite my long absence. Thank you for spurring me to write again.

All my love,


Telling Yuzu-chan the truth, Karin thought, is probably going to be the hardest thing.

Despite the bond between them, Karin had no way of predicting her sister's reaction. Would she be angry that we've hidden so much? Of course she would be, but how angry would she be?

Like everyone else in the family, Kurosaki Yuzu had a temper. And while the girl was normally all sugar and sunshine, Karin knew that an angry Yuzu was no laughing matter. Karin hated to be the one who worked her twin into such a state.

Perhaps she'll understand the danger, understand that it was a necessary evil. Perhaps the shock would temper everything. If she wants to cry or scream or yell at me for hiding things... I deserve it. I'll let her work the emotions out. I'll tell her I love her regardless. That I am sorry. She'll understand. She always does. Yuzu is nothing if not the most loving, forgiving, understanding person in the world. With a sigh, Karin turned to look at the clock. According to Urahara, her family – sans Ichigo – would be arriving shortly. Kurosaki Isshin had already been filled in. Karin knew that her father approved of the plan.

I can only hope this works, she thought. It seemed the most logical route. Even Urahara-san thought so, and of all people, he should know. Right?

. Right?

And there they were. Karin could hear Yuzu's voice echo distantly from the front of the shop.

"Otou-san, can we buy some candy for Karin-chan?"

"Ahh," came Kurosaki Isshin's reply, "why don't you ask her yourself?"

"Huh?" Karin could visualize Yuzu's expression perfectly, eyebrows furrowed, eyes wary, a hand on her hip. "Otou-san," Yuzu cried, "what are you talking about? And, are you sure you know the shop owner? Why are we coming back here without his permission?"

Their footsteps sounded ever closer. Karin found she could scarcely breathe. She fought the urge to pace, settling instead for clenched jaw and fists, mentally berating herself, "Breathe. Deep breat- Oh god, they're almost here. Does Otou-san really have to stomp that loudly when he walks? I hope he behaves. We can't upset Yuzu. We messed up. He better remember that. I don't want that idiot to make Yuzu cry, or work her into a state. I just hope Yuzu doesn't storm o- Stop!"

Karin froze as the door slid open, her brain shutting off for a blessed split second as she took in Yuzu's expression. Wide-eyed, a little confused, but otherwise calm. No cause for alarm. No underlying concern shadowed across her face. Sweet, trusting Yuzu, holding their father's hand as she stepped into the little room that was unofficially Karin's.

Karin took in a deep breath as she remembered to breathe. Right. Yuzu couldn't see her yet; everyone was in agreement that Karin's physical body was still too... skinny. That seeing a gaunt Karin would set Yuzu into hysterics. Karin hoped the machine the odd Shinigami had left behind really worked as advertised.

She caught her father's eye, and moved to stand by the machine as Isshin knelt to look at Yuzu with uncommon seriousness.

"Yuzu-chan," Isshin began, "I'm about to do something... unexpected. And I don't want you to freak out too much, ok? Just give me and Karin-chan a moment to explain."

Yuzu frowned and her eyes did a quick scan of the room before her.

"Otou-san," there was a thread of nervousness in Yuzu's voice, "What are you talking about? Where is Karin-chan?"

The smile on Isshin's face was more of an uncomfortable grimace. "Well, you see..." he started to say, before breaking off. He reached over to the machine. "Well, now you can see." He said rather gracelessly.

The machine whirred to life. Karin didn't feel any different, but judging from the wide-eyed expression on Yuzu's face, the contraption clearly worked as Urahara claimed.

"Karin-chan!" Yuzu cried in astonishment.

"Hey," Karin said lamely.

Yuzu scrambled to her sister's side, grabbing onto Karin's shoulders with enough strength to upset her balance. "Karin-chan! Where... How.. What are you doing here- Wait! What are you wearing? Karin-chan!"

"You know how you always wanted to see spirits?" Karin asked, trying not to wince from the fingers digging into her shoulders.

"See spirits?" Yuzu asked in confusion, "What does that have- Chotto matte, Karin-chan! What are you say-? You're not dead, are you? Karin-" Yuzu was cut off by a steady on her shoulder.

"Karin's not dead," interjected their father reassuringly, "but she's currently in her spirit form." Isshin knelt down by his two daughters to catch Yuzu's gaze. "Karin-chan is a Shinigami, Yuzu-chan. As is your Onii-chan. Both of them have the ability to leave their body, as you can see here."

"Don't forget to include yourself, Otou-san," Karin added, using a sharp elbow jab to jostle her father. "Quit trying to make it like just me and Ichi-nii are guilty."

Leaving her father to tend to his "wounds," Karin turned her focus back to Yuzu. "We're all Shinigami, Yuzu-chan. Onii-chan's been one for a few months now, and I just… it just happened a couple weeks ago." Karin shrugged, hoping the wavering look plastered on her face resembled a smile more than a grimace. "And Otou-san… He's always been one. Which, I guess, is why Onii-chan and I have ended up the way we are?"

There was a trace of hysteria in Yuzu's voice as she sputtered, "But, but…" She stumbled a step away from her sister and father, hands wringing anxiously. "A Shinigami is… You're a death god?"

For a moment, Karin panicked, remembering all the ghost stories involving Shinigami. She started to reach out and reassure Yuzu, but-

"How is this fair?" Yuzu cried, brushing Karin aside as she waved her hands about frantically. She looked from her sister to her father, wailing, "Why am I always left out on all the cool stuff?"

Karin didn't know if to laugh or cry.

"It's not like tha - I mean…" Of all of Yuzu's reactions, Karin had somehow not anticipated this despite knowing how obsessed Yuzu was with spirits.

"You may not necessarily be left out," Karin said. "Urahara-san, the man who owns this shop, has a theory about why some of us can see spirits. And he thinks that exposure to things like spirit particles catalyzes one's ability to see and function in the spiritual plane. Ichi-nii has grown in power, in part because of all he's done for Rukia-nee-"

"I knew it!" Yuzu cried. "I knew there was something weird about Rukia-nee-chan! She gives me this tingly feeling ever since she started living with us. But it's not the same feeling that I get when I know a spirit is close by, so I always thought maybe it was just 'cause Rukia-chan was just… weird; you know, the way she talked and stuff? Another spiri- Shinigami! And I never got in on the secret?"

Yuzu paused, taking a heavy breath, the exasperated look on her face slowly morphing to an uncharacteristically shrewd expression. "But," she said, calmer now. Her nose scrunched up as she racked her brain for the name alluding her, "doesn't that mean… Hitsu… Hitsu…" She frowned, a trace of annoyance in her voice as she continued, "I can't remember his name! But the boy with the white hair: he's real, then, isn't he? Tingly feeling and all?"

Karin had a moment to look at her father, whose expression was equally dumbfounded. "Matte, Yuzu-chan, you remember Hitsugaya-kun?"

Yuzu nodded. "Sort of, in hazy bits. I had the weirdest dream about a boy with blue-green eyes last night, but all throughout school today, it kept nagging me and nagging me… like one of those weird recurring daydreams. And it only now… he's not a dream, is he? He's real then? A Shinigami? What about the other lady that was always with him? I dreamt we had dinner together, and we all had fun. She had all this pretty hair. Is she real, then, too? Is she a Shinigami?"

Unable to find the right words to speak at the unexpected turn of events, Karin could only nod in silent admission as she watched Yuzu process all the information. The almost giddy relief she felt a moment ago, of how easily Yuzu seemed to accept the knowledge that they were Shinigami, had given way to absolute dread as Yuzu's expression darkened...

Then that moment of understanding, as Yuzu connected the pieces together, came. Karin winced before words even left Yuzu's mouth.

"And you've… You!" Yuzu shrieked, an accusing finger pointed straight at Karin. "This means you guys been-been" She gestured wildly, squinting, trying to find the words as she raged on, "Like... wiping my memory! This explains all those weird dreams I've had! The monster smashing into our house, the monster that tried to kill us… Those make believe games that always felt real somehow. And you never told me?" Her entire frame trembled with emotion. Tears were welling in her eyes.

"Yuzu-chan!" Karin cried, dismayed. "Let me expla-"

Yuzu turned her back to Karin.

Isshin swooped in to grasp Yuzu's wrists, forcing honey-brown eyes to look at him. His voice was firm. "Yuzu-chan."

Yuzu's lower lip was trembling as she stilled.

Isshin's voice was quiet and gentle, "I'm not saying the decision to wipe our memories was the best one, but I understand – and need you to understand – why the Shinigami did so. The average human is completely unaware of the spiritual world and rightly so. When something happens to compromise this... secret, such as when one of those monsters - Hollows, they're called - attack, people freak out. Mysterious items flying all over the place, unexplained explosions, buildings crumbling seemly for no reason at all… It would lead to chaos; besides, the living world isn't meant to know about or interact with the spiritual realm. It's the Shinigamis' responsibility to do damage-control, repairing buildings, wiping memories, and doing what was necessary, to allow the world of the living to function comfortably. The technology Shinigami use to perform this duty is designed to protect the spiritually blind. But, the more abundant your spiritual power, the greater your immunity to memory modification. It took me time to piece all my missing memories together as well because my spiritual power was still healing. You weren't the only one subjected to their meddling."

Though miffed, Yuzu nodded silently, appearing to calm down as her father talked.

"Imagine how scary it would have been if you had remembered all of that but had no idea what was really happening? It's one thing to see TV shows about bad spirits, but wholly another to nearly be killed by one. And don't forget, the Shinigami healed us, too. We all woke up without a scratch. Better to be healed up and forget, than to be hurt and terrified, right? That's what the Shinigami thought when they did what was necessary. Remember," Isshin said with a smile, using a thumb to brush against Yuzu's cheek, "Most people aren't brave like you. Most people are scared of ghosts."

Still, Yuzu's voice held hurt. "But why didn't you tell me when you remembered? Why didn't you tell me about all of you being Shinigami? Just because I can't see as clearly doesn't mean I should be left out!"

"Yuzu-chan," Karin started hesitantly, "I really didn't want to become a Shinigami. Believe me. I didn't mean for you to be left out; I didn't want to hide all this from you. But it happened so fast, and I didn't have a choice. Remember all those storms we had a couple weeks ago? The awful one where the power went out in school? I caused them because my spiritual power was out of control - which is part of the reason I became a Shinigami. It was too dangerous for me to just let stuff like that happen. I needed to learn how to control my power. Yoruichi-san and Tessai-san offered to help me with that, but that meant I had to train as a Shinigami."

The revelation had Yuzu hesitating. "T-that was you?" The girl asked finally. "All that awful, scary thunder and lightning?" The expression on her face was unreadable, but she unconsciously shifted her weight away from Karin to lean into her father.

Karin felt her heart break.

"Yuzu-chan," Karin said helplessly, holding her hands up, palms exposed, "It was an accident. I swear. I didn't know what I was doing - didn't know I could do that." Her voice raised, the words coming out faster and more frantic as she tried to say something, anything, to have Yuzu stop watching her with fear and anger. "It just happened. I fell asleep in class and I had a dream, and my soul was waking, and because it was upset, and I was upset, and because I have a strong relationship with these spirit particle things in the air- I didn't mean to make it storm. I didn't even know I- I'm so sorry. I didn't-"

Yuzu's quiet voice cut off Karin's rambling, "I know," the girl said, "I'm not blaming you. I'm just…" Yuzu took a deep breath, and shook her head as though clearing her own thoughts. "It must have been scary for you, wasn't it?" Yuzu reached out and place her hand tentatively on Karin's wrist. "Did you feel very alone?"

Karin felt her entire body sag with relief, heart warming and melting. Sweet Yuzu, even now thinking of Karin first."I- I had Tōsh- help," she corrected herself, flushing. "From people. Like Otou-san. It wasn't too bad." She reached to place her hand over Yuzu's, moving Yuzu's hand and her own over her chest and heart. "I'm so sorry I couldn't tell you. I just didn't know how. I wish I could have said something sooner."

Yuzu remained quiet, eyes searching Karin's. Her lip was no longer trembling.

Unable to stand the silence, Karin forged on. "There are Shinigami… and there are rules. When all of this first happened, they made you – they tried to make us – forget because of the danger. They didn't want us to get involved, to go chasing monsters." Karin smiled wryly. "So okay, maybe I'd be the one chasing monsters and you'll be yelling at me to stop, but it was for our protection. But now, I have decided – we have decided – to tell you the truth. Because you deserve to know all of it."

"All of it?" Yuzu asked. "Promise me, Karin-chan," Yuzu tightened her grip on Karin's wrist. "No more secrets."

"No more secrets," Karin repeated.

And with those words it was as if a dam broke, tears falling freely down Yuzu's face as her shoulders shook.

Alarmed, Karin pulled Yuzu into a tight hug. "Hey!" she exclaimed as she cradled Yuzu's head against her shoulder, "What's wrong? I promise- I do! No more secrets-"

"No, no," Yuzu said, sniffling. She pulled away from Karin's arms to wipe at her eyes and nose. "It's not that. It's just… I always thought these were just nightmares – those horrible monsters and the awful feeling they gave me. And now… now they're real? It's not just something that I can forget once I crawl out of bed…"

"If you rather not hear it-" Karin began to say.

"No, tell me!" Yuzu's eyes blazed, even as she hiccuped trying to take in her next breath. "I just… I just remembered how awful it was when I thought all of us were going to die. And that means… you are all in danger, aren't you? So I'm just… now I'm just scared for what happens next. Because those things will come back, right? And you're telling me you have to fight them… I understand, I do- but I feel so helpless, Karin-chan. And I'm scared. Not for me. But for you, and Onii-chan, and Otou-san…"

"Yuzu-chan," Isshin broke in, "how about we all sit down and have some tea, and Karin-chan and I can explain everything for you better. Like how your siblings are training, and how there are many more shinigami here to support them. And perhaps we can even find a way for you to help out, too."

"Me?" Yuzu turned wide eyes to her father, while Karin felt her heart plummet.

"Otou-" Karin started, but Isshin shot her an uncharacteristically serious look that had her protest die in her throat. Yuzu didn't seem to notice the exchange.

Isshin smiled at Yuzu. "Yes, you. We're in this together. We are a family. We help each other. We need you. We are all part of this."

Yuzu sniffled, but reached her hand out to take Isshin's. "Ok, Otou-san."

"Come on, Karin," Isshin said. "Tessai should be just done with setting out tea and snacks. And seeing how this story all starts with me, why don't I do the talking?"

Karin swallowed, aware that both Isshin and Yuzu were watching her.

"No secrets," she finally said.

"No secrets," her father said firmly.

There. I've done it. I've posted. There's no turning back now. I probably should have proof read this a couple more times, but consider this ripping the proverbial bandaid off. I can always edit later, right?

I welcome your feedback, or if you just want to chat, PM me.