I've been wanting to write this for ages, but just couldn't figure out how to end it. Finally, it's done to my satisfaction!

I hope that you like it! Please R&R!

Several months after the end of the Winter War, several shinigami had been sent to Karakura to tidy things up. There had been a large amount of Hollow activity in the past month, coupled with numerous reports of arrancar. Especially with Kurosaki Ichigo currently not having his powers, several powerful shinigami were required to keep the situation in check. The Gotei 13 decided that the group previously sent to the human world would be the best choice. So, Hitsugaya Toshiro once again found himself walking down the streets of Karakura.

Having ditched his noisy companions earlier on, Toshiro savored the feeling of peace that dominated the evening. The sun was setting, bathing the sky in hues of red and purple. The laughter of children walking back from school could be heard in the distance, but he chose to turn into quiet sidewalk.

Before he knew it, he had reached a very familiar place. It was the place where he had first talked to Kurosaki Karin. Sitting down on the banister, memories moved across his mind. About Momo, who was finally recovering from Aizen's betrayal and becoming much stronger than before; about Karin, who tried to defeat a Hollow without any previous training; about Ichigo, who had sacrificed his powers to save them all. To tell the truth, he rather missed the two Kurosaki siblings, though he would never admit it out loud.

"The sunset is beautiful, isn't it?" a voice interrupting his thoughts.

He turned, startled. He hadn't sensed the arrival of another person. The girl hardly had any reiatsu. There were slight hints, but that was it. Toshiro wondered for a moment how she could see him before he remembered that was still wearing his gigai.


"I like coming here to watch the sunset as well. It's so peaceful." The girl had shoulder length brown hair, the fringe held away from her face by a hairclip. Her eyes were kind and gentle. She reminded Toshiro of someone but he couldn't quite place the resemblance yet.

The beeping of his phone alerted him one moment before he sensed the reiatsu of a Hollow. It wasn't an arrancar, but it was still considerably powerful.

He glanced at the girl, worried. "You should get out of here. It's dangerous."

"Huh?" The girl's eyes widened. Strangely, the expression on her face was surprise instead of disbelief. She started to move.

With a curse, Toshiro grabbed her arm just before a thick arm created a crater on the ground where the girl had been a second ago. Gasping, the girl quickly followed his lead to get further away from the Hollow.

Toshiro's hand clasped around the Gikongan dispenser in his pocket. Popping one candy into his mouth, his soul separated from his gigai. He instructed the Gikon to bring the girl somewhere safe and turned back to face the Hollow, one hand already on Hyourinmaru's hilt.

The Hollow roared.

Yuzu glanced backwards as the boy pulled her down the street. In the middle of the road, she could see two hazy forms battling against each other.

She sighed. Sometimes, she felt so useless for not being able to do anything to help in this type of situation. She knew that Karin was working hard to be able to defeat these monsters. She knew enough to guess that her brother's frequent disappearances a while ago were also connected to this matter. He had been acting rather strange recently, however. She worried about him.

Throwing away those thought from her mind for the moment, she focused on following the boy and hoping that whoever was fighting that monster would win. She didn't want anyone to get hurt.

Toshiro froze the Hollow in place and cut it in half. The Hollow shattered and disappeared.

He inspected his right shoulder where the Hollow had managed to strike him. A deep gash had stained the clothes red, which could be seen despite the dark color of the shihakusho. He cursed under his breath. That needed to be heal later.

After making a makeshift bandage from a portion of his sleeve, he set off after his gigai and the girl.

Yuzu knew the moment he reentered his body. Even though they had just met a short while before, she could tell the difference in demeanor of him and his…replacement.

She looked at him with worried eyes. He looked tired and winced slightly as he moved, even though there were no visible wounds on his body.

"Thanks for saving me."

He looked rather surprised. "Do you know what happened?"

"I can see the monsters as a hazy cloud," she told him. "You defeated it, didn't you?"

He hesitated for a moment, wondering if he should tell the truth. "Yeah," he finally answered.

"Thank you." She smiled at him. "Would you like to come to my house for dinner? As a thank you gift for saving me."

"I wouldn't want to impose…"

"It's nothing! We rarely have guests, so my family will be pleased. It's just my father, brother, sister and I, you see." She looked at him hopefully.

"Well… alright then."

"My house is just nearby." As they walked, she turned to look at him. "Oh, I almost forgot to ask for your name. I'm Yuzu."

"Hitsugaya Toshiro."

When Toshiro saw the sign hanging over the house, he wondered if the world was made of coincidences.

The moment they stepped into the Kurosaki home, a familiar head poked out of a door. "Ah, Yuzu, you're back."

"I'm home, Karin," replied Yuzu cheerfully.

"Eh? Toshiro?" Karin exclaimed at the sight of the shinigami.

"It's Hitsugaya, Kurosaki," Toshiro retorted irately.

"Don't call me Kurosaki, it sounds like you're calling my brother."

Yuzu had been listening to the exchange in surprise. "You two know each other?"

"We met a while ago. There was a Hollow attack that day as well," said Toshiro.

"As well? Yuzu, were you attacked just now?" asked Karin.

"It's fine though. Toshiro-kun saved me."

Karin looked at Toshiro gratefully. "Thanks, Toshiro."

Toshiro opened his mouth to correct her casual use of his name but was interrupted.

"Toshiro? What are you doing here?"

Toshiro had the sudden inclination to bang his head against a wall. Why did all the Kurosakis insist on calling him by his given name?

"Kurosaki," he greeted curtly. "And it's Hitsugaya-taichou to you." As usual, Ichigo ignored him.

"Toshiro-kun saved me from a monster, Ichi-nii."

Ichigo's eyes were sad as he looked at Toshiro. It was times like this when he was undoubtedly reminded of the power he had lost. "For a captain to be sent to Karakura, the situation must be bad."

"Just a checkup on the Hollow activity in the area. We're close to stabilizing the situation but it's still dangerous. Tell your friends to be careful, especially those with untrained spiritual power."

Ichigo nodded. "Alright. Anyway, it's good to see you again." He led the way into the house. "I'm home, Kaa-san."

Toshiro froze as his eyes took in the huge poster plastered on the wall.

"Is there anything wrong, Toshiro-kun?" asked Yuzu in concern. He looked at her in shock, finally realizing the resemblance between Yuzu and the woman in the picture. They had the same kind eyes, the same honey-colored hair and the same sweet disposition. His eyes returned to the photo, gazing longingly at the radiant smile that he had missed so much.

"She's your mother?" he asked, his voice not sounding like his own.

"Yeah…" said Ichigo, looking at him curiously.

"Kaa-san died 7 years ago," Karin told him. Her eyes were sad.

Died… Toshiro belatedly remembered that none of the Kurosaki siblings had ever mentioned their mother before. Died… His eyes began to sting and his hands clenched into the fists at his sides.

"Toshiro?" Karin began, worried about the shinigami's strange behavior.

The sound of the front door opening distracted them. "I'm home!" Isshin called out from the doorway.

"Welcome back, Tou-san," Yuzu replied cheerfully.

Toshiro moved his hand towards his pocket.

"Ah, my children are all home! We-" Isshin never got to finish that sentence, for a sandaled foot slammed into his face without warning and he flew backwards with a crash.

Yuzu's eyes widened. "Eh? Tou-san?"

"What the hell?"

"Toshiro!" Only Karin could clearly see what was going on. Nevertheless, she couldn't understand what had triggered the outburst.

In the hallway, Isshin was looking at his former subordinate in shock. Ice was creeping up the walls at an alarming rate as Toshiro glared at his old taichou.

"You disappear for twenty years, never bothered to inform us that you're living in the human world and now I find out that you couldn't even protect fukutaichou properly!" Toshiro yelled.


"Matsumoto cried for weeks after your disappearance. She drowned herself in sake. I don't think she ever got over your supposed death."

Karin appeared in the doorway, followed by her two siblings. "Toshiro, what on earth…"

"Didn't you ever think of how we felt? You left us behind without a word! How could you? I…" Toshiro's voice broke as he furiously brushed away tears from his eyes. "You and fukutaichou were like parents to me. To Rangiku as well."

"Toshiro… I won't deny that I'm at fault, but will you listen to my explanation?" Isshin said gently. He glanced at the doorway at his gaping children. "I guess I owe the three of you an explanation as well. Can we go to the living room to sit?"

Toshiro's face turned red as he realized that someone had witnessed his outburst. Thank goodness only Karin could see and hear him in spirit form. He stormed back into his gigai and fixed Isshin with a hard stare. "Well?"

Isshin sat down on a sofa and gestured for the others to do the same. The three Kurosaki siblings sat together on the longest sofa and he settled down on the last available seat.

"Many years ago, I was a shinigami. Ichigo found out about that recently, but there's something you don't know. I was the captain of the Tenth Division as well, until twenty years ago.

"Twenty years ago, I was sent on a mission to the human world, together with my vice-captain Masaki. While in the human world, we were ambushed by Aizen Sousuke. At that time, he hadn't yet shown his true colors to the world but Masaki and I had suspicions. So he decided to rid himself of a potential obstacle.

"By using a modified arrancar, he injected a poison in us. This poison slowly fed on our spiritual power and rendered us helpless. It corroded our Soul Chain and Soul Sleep. If the process had been completed, we would have died. Luckily for us, Aizen was sneaking away from Soul Society and could not stay for long. He left us there to face the arrancar without any reiatsu. He assumed that we would easily be finished off. He would have succeeded had Urahara Kisuke not arrived at the moment and killed the arrancar.

"Urahara made special gigais for us that would contain the poison from spreading further as he investigated to find the antidote. In short, he saved our lives that day. However, that cut off all communication with Seireitei. We couldn't leave the gigai or else the poison would continue to work. When the antidote proved to be elusive, we decided to settle down as humans. In a few years, we had Ichigo, then Karin and Yuzu. And then Masaki met with Grand Fisher, a powerful Hollow. Without her powers, she stood no chance against it. I blame myself for not being there at that time. Even without reiatsu, I held the responsibility to protect her, as her husband and as her captain. But I failed.

"Recently, Urahara finally created an antidote to the poison, allowing me to regain my powers. I killed Grand Fisher."

"Wait, you killed Grand Fisher?" Ichigo's surprised voice interrupted Isshin's explanation. "When was this?"

"During the time that you were approached by the Visored. Grand Fisher was after you, but Kon was in your body then. I got there just in time."

Toshiro's thoughts were chasing each other across his mind. Was there a possibility...?

His hope must have shown on his face, for Isshin said sadly, "I thought of that possibility as well. After all, our situation is hardly normal. But the chance is one in a million, Toshiro. Even if she's out there, how would we find her? Would she still remember?"

"What's going on?" asked Ichigo. The twins were equally clueless.

Isshin decided to explain when Toshiro gave no answer. "When a Hollow is purified, the souls that it previously consumed will be freed. In the case of Pluses, they will be sent to Soul Society. However, shinigami will disappear, presumably to be reincarnated in the Human World."

"But there's a chance that Kaa-san was sent back to Soul Society?"

"I don't know. Nothing like this has ever happened before."

"I want to hope. I want to believe that Masaki-fukutaichou is still alive."

"Shiro-chan..." Isshin looked at him with sorrowful eyes that held a trace of hope as well. He wanted to believe, too.

Yuzu moved to Toshiro's side and gently wrapped her arms around him. "We all want to believe that Kaa-san is alive. But until we find her, remember that you have us and we have you. You love Tou-san and Kaa-san very much. So you're family. And family always sticks together."

Everyone in the room was silent, reflecting on Yuzu's heartfelt speech. It was so true.

Toshiro felt tears prickle at his eyes again. He smiled. She truly was her mother's daughter.

"Alright! Time for dinner!" Yuzu said cheerfully, heading towards the kitchen. The others laughed and followed her.

Toshiro lingered for a while in the living room, gazing at the smiling face of Masaki. "I'll find you one day. Before then, I'll make sure that your family stay safe."

The Kurosaki's noticed his absence and poked their heads out of the kitchen.





And for once, he couldn't bring himself to correct them. "After all," he whispered at his beloved fukutaichou, "They're my family too." And family did not stand on formalities.

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