A/N: A sizable group to thank for reviews: Iceflame55, briar black death rose, Mugestu Ichigo, mcoyne, 27kirune12, onlytoask, Nocturna Mae, KitElizaKing, Assault Godzilla, Ravenstorm of Riverclan, Ruined Doll, newserkzzz, zitag, and minatoHaiiiiii. And thank you to everyone who put this or its author on their lists. There isn't as much Ichi/Ruki as I wanted in this chapter (and no fluff to speak of) but the chapter got away from me and this is the result. However, we do learn more about some of the others. And yes, I do mean "we." This wasn't what I had planned.
The Kurosaki Affair
Preparations and Revelations
Ichigo took a large gulp of coffee and tried to rub the fatigue out of his eyes. He'd spoken with Rukia the night before concerning the choice of wedding venue and her slight change of heart about the type of wedding she wanted. Or rather, she'd talked and he'd basically just listened. Since he'd originally told her she could have whatever she wanted, it wasn't like he could complain. She could pick two or three venues for all he cared and change her mind about what type of ceremony she wanted right up until the last moment. Western, Buddhist or Shinto, whichever made her happy was fine. Although, if they could arrange it to their liking (and he'd been told that a Buddhist wedding was just that), then it sounded like that was the best option that would suit their personalities and he'd only had one concern. When he'd put forth the opinion that he thought a Buddhist wedding entailed a formal kimono of some sort, Rukia had sniffed and said that even if it did, she was still wearing the dress Ishida had promised her and if the priest didn't like it, she'd ask her brother to bring one in from the Seireitei.
At that point he'd promptly shut up and let her tell him the rest of what she'd decided with Lieutenant Ise's help. Of course, that was after he'd had to hear her complain about what a harsh task master the other adjunct was—for a whole half hour. The prince, by dint of long experience with his petite love knew better than to tell her that she was calling the kettle black. He figured that she wouldn't appreciate it if he pointed out all the times she'd harped at him until he did what she wanted.
When he could finally get another word in edgewise, he couldn't think of anything more that needed to be said. It seemed that his role in this whole planning was basically to get a tux, choose his groomsmen, and show up at the right place and time. He was sure there was more that he should be doing but the women in his life seemed to have everything in hand and until his opinion was specifically asked for, it might be more prudent of him to simply keep out of things.
"Kurosaki, for one so young, you seem to be entirely too exhausted." Ishida senior's voice cut across his musings, the condescending tone entirely too knowing.
"Say, tell me something Ishida-sensei; do you remember the chaos your wedding plans caused?" A little sympathy right at that moment would go a long way.
"I seem to recall a great deal of unnecessary commotion. Of course, that might have been caused by the fact that my mother did not approve of my bride."
Ichigo put his cup down and gazed at his boss in consideration. "Come to think of it, I don't ever remember Ishida talking about his mom."
"With reason," the older Quincy said and turned to go. "The dead should remain dead and you should concentrate on the living, Kurosaki."
And if that wasn't the strangest non-conversation he'd ever had with the man, he didn't know what was. "I'm going to get to the bottom of that attitude one of these days," Ichigo murmured as his friend's dad walked away. The Quincy clan was filled with proud people and from what he had learned from Ishida, had never turned away from their powers. That Ryuuken had was puzzling. Maybe he'd have to ask his dad about that. One of the days when he wasn't up to his ears trying to balance his Shinigami/Soul Society duties with his human ones.
His phone rang just as he was going to return to his shift and he answered it without checking the caller ID. "Kurosaki," he announced, throwing his cup out as he passed a garbage can.
"Did you tell me that Nii-sama was going to go with Chad and Arisawa-san to look at the venue?" Rukia's voice floated across the divide, lightening his mood even though he was sure that he was going to be in trouble for something soon.
"I think I did," Ichigo answered although he couldn't remember.
"I see. Do you really think it's a good idea? Nii-sama hasn't spent a lot of time in the Living World dealing with humans."
"Relax; he'll be with Chad and Tatsuki. Besides, he knows how to act politely with the kinds of people he'll encounter at the hotel. He does superior well. They'll do their version of show and tell, he'll give them that look he has and they'll fall in with what he wants. Of course, they might fall for him too but that could work in your favor."
"Ichigo, I don't think you understand the seriousness of the situation. Nii-sama is good at a lot of things but he is not good with humans."
Like he hadn't figured that out already. "Look, he's coaching me on how to be more like a noble. I'll give him some pointers on how to deal with humans. I'm not able to do very much for this wedding, so at least let me do this."
"Very well. Tell him to take a memory modifier with him just in case."
"Why would they need one of those?"
"Oh, did I forget to tell you? Nii-sama learned how to summon his Zanpakutou while still in his gigai. Said he saw how you did it and was surprised he hadn't thought of it sooner."
"Thanks for the warning. I have to run, Rukia; my break's over. I'll call you later."
"Very well. I'm supposed to meet Ise-fukutaicho anyway."
"Oh, what's next on the agenda?" Ichigo paused, wondering why he had a feeling of dread come over him. Surely whatever it was wouldn't be as complicated as picking a venue.
"The food, I believe."
The young doctor sighed in relief. "I don't care what you choose so long as there's curry and chocolate on the menu. Those are my only two requests."
"Ichigo…" his bride warned and he knew that this was the part of the conversation where he ended up in the wrong.
"Chocolate I'll give you, but we are not having curry. Your sister agreed to be in charge of the food and you know that she'll be vastly disappointed if you ask for that. Besides, this is our wedding. I don't want something we have all the time."
"Somehow I knew you were going to say that." I don't even know why I bothered to ask, Ichigo thought and sighed. "Don't forget to call Yuzu and let her know your choices. Once we've booked the hotel, she'll have to work with the catering staff."
"I know what I'm doing, Ichigo," Rukia said and hung up without saying goodbye.
"Love you too," he replied to nothing and tucked his phone away as he walked through the doors to the ward he was currently stationed at.
"Did you say something, Sensei?" one of the orderlies asked as he met him coming around a corner.
"No, just got done talking to my fiancée about wedding plans."
"You poor man," the orderly returned and shook his head. "A bunch of us are going drinking later if you wish to join us."
"Thanks for the offer but my future brother-in-law is staying with me and if I come home smelling like alcohol, he'll have my head."
The orderly simply shook his head and muttered, "Poor man," again before returning to his duties.
Poor man indeed.
Chad was waiting for him when he got home. The large man of Mexican descent sat politely across from Byakuya, the elder reading the local paper while the younger sipped from some drink and occasionally took a look at the TV in the background. Out of all his friends, Ichigo supposed that Chad was the one that had changed the least. He still played in a band with three other people on the weekends while he taught music at a school not far from their old one. It had been a school full of delinquents and other troubled teens when the warrior had started but with his gentle demeanor and quiet authority, he had turned many around in his years as a teacher.
Ichigo knew that he still slew Hollows occasionally and that he still practiced his powers to stay strong and able to fight alongside his friends. "Hey, Chad, how are you doing, buddy?"
"Good," the other Karakura graduate answered and took another sip of whatever was in his cup.
"So, what brings you here?"
"Spoke to Arisawa-san. Came to see if tomorrow was good for Kuchiki-taicho." Chad still lived in the same apartment complex that he had during high school.
"Ah," Ichigo asked and sat down in the remaining chair. "This is a huge favor man, thanks."
Byakuya put the paper down and gazed at the younger two gentlemen. "Tomorrow is acceptable. Kurosaki is working until late and I find myself rather bored after all the paperwork is done. What time did you wish to leave?"
"Arisawa-san said she made an appointment for late morning so we should leave here no later than nine. She's coming in her car as my truck doesn't have room enough for all three of us."
"Very well." Byakuya inclined his head politely when Chad stood to leave. Ichigo followed his friend to the door and leaned on the frame to talk to him in private.
"Keep an eye on him for me. Rukia called me earlier and was worried that he'd have problems dealing with the people at the hotel."
"Sure. More worried about Arisawa-san than him, though."
"Well, you know she doesn't like people who look down on her."
"Ah, yeah." Ichigo had sudden visions of his vale tudo champion friend beating the daylights out of a clerk that so much as looked at her the wrong way. She didn't do well with people she thought were snobs.
Tatsuki Arisawa had been through a lot in the last few months and the prince regretted not being able to do very much for his childhood friend. Not that she had let him. Her boyfriend of a year had died in a suspicious accident and the man's parents (well-to-do but nowhere near Byakuya's level of wealth) had shunned her and hadn't even let her attend the funeral. It was only when Tatsuki had discovered that she was pregnant that they had made any moves to include her in their lives.
Predictably, Tatsuki had turned away from most of their overtures, only giving them updates on the baby's progress. She felt that the only reason they wanted anything to do with her and her child was that her boyfriend had been their only son and their daughter had yet to produce an heir for their family.
Ichigo and their friends had gathered around her when everything had come crashing down and they still tended to be slightly overprotective. Especially Orihime and Chad. In fact, it had been because Tatsuki was with Chad the day of the accident that she was even alive. They'd met by chance at a café and had been talking long after she was supposed to have met up with the boyfriend. If she'd been in the car with him, she would have died too, along with the as yet unknown unborn child.
"And you might want to discreetly make her relax and eat lunch within a reasonable time period. She sees Dad for her checkups but he can't tell me anything so I have to settle for what she tells me. I occasionally check her spiritual energy but that doesn't tell me anything about the baby."
"I will." Chad nodded a farewell and left.
Turning around, Ichigo was surprised to see Byakuya behind him. The man had concealed his presence from him. "Guess you heard."
"I was not aware that Arisawa-san was with child. Perhaps my sister should have asked someone else if her health is not good."
"Nah, she's in good health. I just worry about her, as do all our friends. Rukia knows about Tatsuki and her situation. In fact, I think she felt a bit of empathy for what she went through with the boyfriend's family. You know, because the Kuchiki elders didn't like Rukia joining the family."
Byakuya didn't comment on that, merely followed him into the kitchen. "You do not call the boyfriend by name."
"Tatsuki asked us not to. It's still too painful. She really loved him and his death, which the police think was murder, hurts her. I think the more 'normal' we can act around her, the better. Her parents support her in the day-to-day stuff and Inoue and Chad check on her the most."
"Perhaps Rukia has included her in the planning for more reasons than simply because Arisawa is a friend of yours from childhood."
"It wouldn't surprise me if the midget has some ulterior motive. Tatsuki and her boyfriend were planning on getting married and ever since his death she's been very against the idea of getting into that situation again. She's fine with the idea of us and Ishida and Inoue tying the knot but she's declared that she'll never walk down the aisle herself."
The thought had a lot of merit and Ichigo made a mental note to ask Rukia the next time he talked to her. It hadn't even occurred to him that Tatsuki might have a problem with helping. She had readily agreed to the favor Rukia had asked and he knew that if she'd been upset by the idea of anything, she would have said so.
"Just in case the person you deal with gets a little too snobbish for Tatsuki's liking and her temper gets the best of her, perhaps it would be a good idea to bring one of those memory devices with you," Ichigo suggested suddenly, as if Tatsuki was the real reason something strange might happen that needed to be covered up quickly.
"I do not currently have one. I would have to go to Urahara's shady store. Is there some reason Arisawa would destroy something?"
"Well, as I said, she doesn't get along well with people who think she's not as good as them and tends to react rather violently now that her hormones are a little out of balance. You shouldn't have any problems but just in case…"
"Indeed. Very well, I will visit the Shoten after dinner. Is there anything else I need to be aware of?"
"Now that you mention it…" Ichigo debated for a moment about whether to tell him something he'd learned quite by accident but in the fairness of male solidarity… "You may want to be careful and announce your presence ahead of time. You see, Tatsuki has been working with Yoruichi-san on building up her spiritual energy so that she'll have an actual power to defend herself with in case she runs into a Hollow. And ever since Tatsuki got pregnant, Yoruichi-san seems to have caught something. Last time I was there, she said something about it being time to carry on the Shihoin name."
"That cat demon was disinherited."
"Yeah, well, I guess the elders of that clan are rethinking things, because of me and my relationship with her, no doubt. Anyway, since the kids are out of the house, and her 'little bee' is all grown up, the idea of having a baby has apparently infected her brain. Urahara seems complacent with the idea so they're quite active, if you get my drift."
"A child of their blood? Who in their right mind would allow such a thing?" Byakuya looked aghast at the thought of Urahara and Yoruichi having a child together.
"It isn't the biology that worries me so much as the actual nurturing. I mean, the kid could come out pretty smart and learn quickly that its parents are nuts but in the mean time… Anyway, just thought I'd warn you."
"You should have notified me immediately upon my arrival."
"Hey, it's none of my business if they want to procreate. I wouldn't have said something if you didn't need to go there again. And I wouldn't have even known if Dad hadn't blurted it out in one of his tirades about not being a grandfather yet." Okay, so he'd had pretty much the same reaction as Byakuya but he wasn't going to deny them a chance to have a family. The clan had kicked Yoruichi out and as far as he knew, Urahara didn't have any blood relatives.
"As the Soul Prince, can you not forbid it?"
" As far as I know, and I'll admit that there might be something I haven't come across yet, no, I can't. If having a child together makes them happy, then they might as well go for it. I'm surprised they don't have one already. The war has been over for quite some time." Although they'd never openly announced their relationship, Ichigo had known almost from the start that they were in a relationship that went beyond childhood friendship. Well, after he'd been home a while and had seen Yoruichi interact with Urahara in her human form.
"Don't be so pessimistic. Look, if it'll make you feel any better, I'll go and get that memory thing."
"The memory replacing device is called a kikanshinki. You should really know this by now, Kurosaki."
"I should," Ichigo admitted. He'd been a witness to it enough times. "Anyway, do you want me to go?"
"Perhaps that is best," the older Shinigami allowed. He really wasn't in the mood to put up with an amorous duo at the moment. With his luck, the she demon would tease him mercilessly about it much as she used to tease him about other things when he was younger.
"Okay. Say, what do you think about ordering in? I'm not really in the mood to cook."
"If that is what you choose."
With a sigh, Ichigo dug out his cell and called up one of his favorite places. Within thirty minutes there was a piping hot collection of white boxes littering the table and the two began eating without regard for plates or more formal chopsticks. It had been a long day filled with a great deal of information that the elder man hadn't known about so he supposed Byakuya was giving him a break on manners.
Afterwards, the young man left the house and walked down the familiar road to the Urahara Shoten. He let his spirit energy roll along in front of him so that they'd know he was coming and at least be half way decent by the time he got there. Tessai had taken a temporary leave from the store as he had been asked to be a guest kido lecturer at the Academy. With the place all to themselves, his mentors were no doubt making good use of the space.
As he had hoped, both were presentable by the time he got there and he stood awkwardly in front of them feeling like the teenager he hadn't been in many years. "Yo," he said for lack of anything better.
"What can we do for our favorite Shinigami daiko/Soul Prince?" Urahara asked, waving his infamous fan in front of his face.
"I need a kikanshinki. Byakuya's going to go with Tatsuki and Chad to check out the place that Rukia wants for the wedding. Rukia's afraid that Byakuya will do something that will require a memory replacer and Chad's worried Tatsuki will."
"Ah," the genius murmured. "You're in luck. I've just upgraded my line of kikanshinki. Would you like the latest model?"
"What does it do?" Ichigo asked warily, unsure if the latest model was a good idea.
"I'm glad you asked, my good friend. The latest model not only lets the user choose what memory to replace the old one with but it is also designed to work on people with enough spirit energy to block the old ones. You remember how Inoue-san was able to remember that incident with her brother's spirit in the beginning despite Kuchiki-san's efforts."
"That might be all right. Yeah, we'll borrow one of those."
"Excellent! I'll be back in a moment." Urahara left him alone with Yoruichi, the former Stealth Force commander watching him closely.
"Spit it out," she ordered when he rubbed the back of his head nervously.
"Dad accidently told me you and Urahara are trying to have a baby."
"So? It wasn't a secret."
"I told Byakuya."
"Ah. Let me guess, he panicked." Yoruichi uncurled herself from her position on the floor and walked over to him. "Don't worry about Byakuya-bo. He won't have the same reaction when it's time for you and your bride to have a child."
"It's not that. To tell you the truth, Yoruichi-san, I'm a little worried too. How are you going to raise it? As a member of the Soul Society, or as a human?" He wasn't going to mention the sanity issue.
"Ah, what a fine leader you'll make. Kisuke and I haven't figured that out entirely yet. I suppose we'll have to take it one day at a time. That's all right with you, isn't it?"
"Sure, you guys deserve to have a family together if you want. I really don't have the right to forbid it, even if I have the authority. So long as you don't let the kid or kids invent a world altering/ending device, everything should be good."
Yoruichi laughed heartily and ruffled his hair. "I'll make sure that doesn't happen. So, is the kikanshinki the only reason you popped over?"
"Well…" Ichigo paused and looked over her shoulder. "I know you've been looking for Mom on the other side and I appreciate it."
"And what gave you that idea?"
"Something one of the girls said the last time they were home. I just wanted to tell you that you can stop now, especially if you're trying to get pregnant. If you haven't found her by now, then it means she's been reincarnated. I just have to hope that she's happy in her new life."
"Ah, well, if that's what you really want."
Yoruichi smiled, glad that he hadn't figured out that their plan had been a success. "Then it's settled. I suppose I really should concentrate on this baby business more. Your dad said I only had about eight more months to get things situated after all."
She waited for the light to dawn and couldn't keep the grin off of her face when the color leeched out of his. "You're still so fun to tease. Relax; I'm not going to make you babysit if you don't want to."
"Very funny," he groused, just as Urahara came back with the memory replacer.
"Ah, did you tell him our news, my dear?"
"I did. Lost all of the color in his face."
"Ha, ha. You can stop laughing now," he said when they'd both broken out into chuckles. "I need to get going. Congratulations, you guys." Ichigo left them still laughing at his expense.
When he returned home, he merely looked at his soon-to-be brother-in-law and tossed him the device. "We're doomed," Ichigo affirmed. It looked like the elder man had already feared as much because there was a bottle of alcohol on the coffee table and two saucers.
Byakuya, knowing exactly what he was referring to, merely poured more sake.