A/N: Hello again, minna-san! Niji here, and welcome to our collabs! If you've read Zanpakuto Therapy, you already know this is a collaboration between myself and Silver Eternity (AKA Silva). Not much outside of the typical Kurosaki household violence in this chapter, but first this is AU, and second, it will eventually contain some touchy stuff. I'm not gonna list it all here, but when they come up in the chapters coming I'll put a warning on the top like I always do. Enjoy!
Chapter 1 – Coming Home
"GOAT FACE! KNOCK IT THE HELL OFF!" A bottle of what could have been perfume form the way it smelled whizzed across the hall to smash into the opposite wall millimeters from the orange haired college graduate's nose. He raised an eyebrow and gingerly peered around the doorway to the living room of his family's home. Having just returned from a backpacking trip through the United States, this was his first visit home in over six years. The 27-year-old could only imagine what his father was trying to accomplish with his siblings. He was only thankful that it appeared to only be Goat Face and Karin, his own twin had either not yet arrived or was elsewhere in the house.
"Is it safe to come out yet?" He called, dropping the backpack that had been his companion throughout the dusty and often crowded country across the ocean.
"Onii-chan!" His blonde sister dashed out of the kitchen, smudges of whatever she was cooking at the moment on her cheeks, to tackle him around his middle.
Karin left off snarling at Isshin to instead run to join her sister and leap upon her brother, giddily greeting his return home. "Ichi-Nii!" As she hugged him hard, she buried her face in his neck. He'd been gone so long! She would never admit to missing him as much as she had, but she sincerely hoped he never left for that long again.
"Hey!" He laughed, and hugged them both. "I brought some stuff home from the states, but I wanna wait 'til we're all in the same room. Where's Shiro?"
His father stood in the doorway beaming, letting the girls lead the assault. Though when Karin pulled away-too much emoting for the tomboy-and Yuzu relaxed a bit, the proud Kurosaki Isshin launched his own tackle, knocking his son to the floor. "AH! MY SON! YOUR TIME IN OTHER COUNTRIES HAS MADE YOU SOFT! PREPARE TO BE RE-EDUCATED BY DADDY'S TOTAL LOVE STYLE!"
"AUGH! GETTOFF GOAT FACE!" They tussled a bit, and ended up with Ichigo standing with a foot placed between his father's shoulder blades, holding the older man to the floor.
"Daddy's so proud!" The black-haired man was still yelling, but muffled in the carpet of the front hall.
"Good t'see mah King ain't lost 'is edge," a watery, and yet pleasant tenor purred from the doorway. Leaning there, golden eyes glittering, leaned Ichigo's twin brother, Shiro. Younger by a mere three minutes, he looked up to and adored his brother; and, like their father, always wanted him to be strong. His methodology was a bit different however...he generally judged by how brutally the other whaled on their father.
The orangette grinned, reached down and grabbed something from his backpack. "Hey Horse! Go long!" Without waiting for the white-haired copy of himself to move, he let loose a CD case. It was good to be home. This kind of insanity was the only thing that gave him inspiration when things weren't always bright.
There was a beeping from the kitchen and Yuzu giggled, grabbing Karin. "Dinner's ready! Karin-chan, come help me set the table."
"LIKE FUCK," Shiro roared, kicking Isshin into the wall and leaping nearly three feet off the ground to catch the CD.
"My other son remains strong!" Isshin crowed with feeble pride before collapsing down against the wall.
"You're not missing dinner, Goat Face," Karin scolded, hauling him up and depositing him in a chair before grabbing plates and utensils to help set the table as her gentler sister asked.
While Shiro looked over the CD, a pre-release copy from the heavy metal haven of Los Noches featuring the town's current up and coming bands, and Isshin danced off into the kitchen after his twin daughters, Ichigo snuck back out the door for a moment. With it pushed around behind him, he said, "Thanks for watching him, Inoue, I didn't want him to witness that as his first exposure to his grandfather." He bent down to kneel in front of a 4-yr-old boy with unruly bright orange spikes that hung into his face in spite of attempts to push them back.
"It's no problem, Kurosaki-kun. I'm glad you called me. He's adorable, and it's an honor to have been the first to meet him." The bubbly auburn haired woman smiled brightly, then retreated to her car. She had picked them up at the airport, and brought them to the Kurosaki clinic. With a final wave she drove off to do whatever it was she had originally planned when he called her from Tokyo.
Ichigo lifted the duffle bag that held all of the boy's clothing and favorite toys, then scooped the boy up onto his hip. "Oof! You're getting so big these days. Pretty soon you're gonna have to carry me, huh?"
"NO!" The boy giggled and buried his face into the strong shoulder next to him, as the pair moved back into the house, the older orangette praying that the only one left in the hallway was still his brother.
Isshin and Karin were still in the kitchen, Shiro was still waiting in the hallway on his King. Once he saw the little boy in his brother's arms all nonchalance fled from his pose, he stood ramrod straight, eyes gone wide, mouth dropped open as his shoulders went slack in shock. King and brought home a little Prince! What the fuck?!
The boy stared wide-eyed from his position on Ichigo's hip. He whimpered and clung to the older orangette's shirt. "It's ok." Came the reassurance, but did nothing to release his death grip. "Shiro, this is Kon. My son. Kon, this is your Uncle Shiro." Ichigo's voice was soft, and encouraging.
Kon blinked matching honey-brown eyes up at his uncle. This new person looked weird, and his eyes darted to the duffle bag on Ichigo's other shoulder, wishing he had his favorite stuffed lion toy.
"I...uh...Hi, lil' Prince." It was all Shiro could think to say, raking a hand through his own hair and blinking rapidly, blue tongue flicking out to wet his lips. He followed the boy's gaze to the bag. "Somethin' in there 'e wants, King?"
"Oh." Ichigo reached behind him into a side pocket and pulled a much loved plushie from inside. "Here, buddy."
The boy took it, finally releasing his father's shirt, "Shishi!" He death gripped the lion and peered out from between felt spikes of mane at his uncle. "Hi." He looked up at Ichigo, "Horsie?"
His father laughed. "Yeah. Uncle Horse."
Shiro's mouth pulled into his characteristic wide grin, without the usual touch of malice or insanity and he laughed out loud. "Tha's mah King's lil' prince! How did'e know? Oh, ya tol' 'im about me, I'm so flattered," he mock-swooned, leaning in and kissing his twin's cheek before doing the same to Kon's forehead.
"YEUK!" The little boy wiped his hand across his cheek. "Ew! Uncle Horsie!" He squirmed and sunk further into his father's shoulder.
Ichigo laughed too. "Aw, it's not so bad." He dropped the Superman blue duffle bag next to his backpack. "C'mon, Shi. I'm sure Yuzu will be calling for dinner if we don't get in there soon, and if I hold Kon back any longer he'll start wanting to get down." He moved off towards the kitchen, trying to ignore the butterflies he felt about the upcoming questions about where the boy had come from.
Shiro giggled. "Get used ta it, lil' Prince. I'm a lovin' uncle." He was practically whistling with glee as he entered the room before his King, making Isshin and Karin look at him sharply. What on earth was up with him?
Then Ichigo came in with a little boy on his hip and Isshin exploded. "MY BEAUTIFUL MASAKI, OUR STRONG SON HAS CONTINUED THE LINE AND MADE ME A PROUD GRANDADDY!" As he threw himself at his departed wife's poster, sobbing theatrically, Karin covered her ears and then kicked him viciously and repeatedly in the head.
"Shut up Goat Face, for Kami's sake you're going to terrify the poor boy and make him go deaf!" Isshin finally dropped into unconsciousness with Shiro a cackling counterpoint to Karin's kicks.
Once again the boy's eyes went wide and he clung tightly onto his father's shoulder. Ichigo rolled his eyes. This was why he had asked Orihime to watch the boy for his first entrance. "Did you have to knock him out, Karin?" He moved over to the table and sat down shifting Kon to his lap, though the boy insisted on facing him so he could peer out between his own fringe of orange and the felt brown of his lion toy's mane.
"He's so adorable, Onii-chan. What's his name?" Yuzu brought plates piled high with a stir-fry of vegetables and rice, with a side of something baked that was sure to be mouth-watering. How she managed five plates at once was one of the mysteries he chalked up to her schooling at Tokyo's La Cordon Bleu Academy.
"This is Kon, and he just turned four a month ago." He picked out carrots and peas and rice off to the side unconsciously while he talked. It was obvious that he had grown quite accustomed to feeding the boy from his plate as he offered a piece of the orange vegetable to the small figure on his lap after blowing on it several times.
"An th' lil Prince already knows his Uncle Horse," Shiro cackled as he took his own plate, marveling at how good his twin looked with a babe-in-arms. He looked downright natural actually. He always knew he'd make a good father.
"Of course I had to knock him out," Karin replied perfectly calmly, "I couldn't have him scaring the little one there."
Ichigo shook his head. He hadn't realized just how violent his family was before. A darkness settled into his eyes as he alternated bites between himself and Kon, who turned to sit sideways in his daddy's lap so he could get better bites of dinner. Yuzu's cooking winning out over being afraid as usual. He still held tightly to the toy though.
Yuzu joined them also rolling her eyes at her own twin's response, but she couldn't help the smile. She bent down to Kon's level. "Hi there. I'm Yuzu. Do you like my rice?"
Kon nodded, "Aun' 'Zu?"
"Yeah that works." The blonde giggled.
Karin chuckled and reached over to ruffle the youngster's hair gently. "And I'm Karin. I help protect like Ichi-Nii, since Dad- your grandpa- is a little too goofy to do any good," she said with a smirk.
Shiro snorted before swallowing. "Add me ta tha' list, Goat Face ain' good fer much 'roun' here."
Isshin bounced back from the assault and dinner continued fairly uneventfully, everyone eating Yuzu's wonderful cooking with much appreciation. When all had finished, Yuzu stacked the plates, "Karin-chan, Shii-chan, help me with the dishes? Tou-san, could you put the leftovers away?"
Once they left Ichigo took his son upstairs for a bath and a cuddle. He brought their bags up with them, and dug out a beaten up children's book featuring drawings of a stuffed lion that had to help a little boy defend his house from two ghost dogs who were trying to steal his cookies. Kon adored the book for two reasons; one, the little boy had bright orange hair and two, the lion toy looked exactly like the toy he cherished. It didn't take long for the boy to be tired though, and only reading it through once had his little head nodding. So, Ichigo tucked him into the corner of his old bed, the bottom bunk in the room he shared with Shiro growing up, and used their bags as a barrier so if the boy rolled over he wouldn't fall out of bed. Unknowingly he tucked the book under his arm and carried it back downstairs with him to plop tiredly on the couch in the living room.
By then the twin sisters and his father had finished cleaning up, Karin had stolen the shower to clean up before bed, and Shiro stalked out into the living room as silent as the ghost he resembled to sink to the couch beside his twin. Reaching over and taking the orangette's hand in his own, lacing the fingers, he began softly, "Ah'm happy ta 'ave th' lil' Prince aroun', bu' I think there's a story fer mah King ta tell 'is loyal Horse now."
Ichigo leaned into his twin's shoulder. "I missed you too, Shiro." He closed his eyes and sighed. "You remember that post card I sent you from Seireitei a couple years ago? Right when I first set out to backpack across the country?" Honey eyes looked up into gold, and peachy fingers calloused with work squeezed the ivory version.
"Yeah..." The nearly-invisible brows furrowed as he frowned. "It was weird...ya never sen' postcards, ya always sen' letters. Postcards ain't got enough' room ta put eveythin' ya wanna say. I wonnered 'bout tha'..." His hand gave a comforting squeeze in return.
"It was right after Kiara took off." His girlfriend through college had been great, a virtual living muse, and the fun that they had he refused to describe to any but his twin. "She said something about how she couldn't stand the idea of being tied down and that if I wanted the boy so badly then I wasn't the free spirit she'd thought I was." He couldn't understand how she could be open to the idea of his relationship with his twin being a bit 'unorthodox' but couldn't accept that he wouldn't give his son up for adoption just because they were young. He turned his head into his twin's shoulder, mimicking his son's movements from earlier.
Shiro was quick to wrap his free arm around his twin, a low, soothing croon he'd always made when his brother was distressed automatically erupting from his throat. "Some people're stupid," he murmured into his twin's hair, "they see parent'ood as a restriction, a jail, instead 'a th' amazin', unendin', love-saturated adventure in life tha' it is. Bein' able ta teach an' love an' protect an' nurture, bu' th' morons o' th' world see it as gettin' tied ta a little creature tha' takes all their time an' energy an' doesn' let them 'ave their dangerous fun," he spat the last word with anger, "'cuz they got someone who needs 'em now."
"I know, but being a single dad meant that it took me almost a year longer than I wanted to be gone to earn enough for the plane ticket back. I haven't heard anything from Kiara since she walked out. I think if it wasn't for Shishi I'd probably still be in New York trying to make it home and living on packaged ramen." Ichigo sighed again, and shifted so he could lay across his twin's lap. "Kami I wish you'd have been there."
Shiro barely controlled his snarl of rage. "I wish I'da been there too, King," he murmured, teeth clicking together with anger. Kiara would've walked away but she would never have walked anywhere again. "But this 'Shishi' ya mentioned...who wazzat?"
"Oh! Here." He pulled the well-loved book from the pocket of his jeans. The title was Shishi and the Dogs. On the bottom of the cover in English was written, 'story and illustrations by Ichigo Kurosaki'. "I have the storyboards drawn up for the next one, but the sales from this one got me enough to bring Kon home."
Shiro gaped at it in open-mouthed wonder for a moment, then gave a loud, happy sound and pulled his twin in, giving him a noogie and then kissing his forehead, cheeks, and mouth over and over while insisting between kisses he'd always known his big brother had it in him. Ichigo had always been an amazing artist and storyteller even as kids (he could spin a yarn that got anyone out of...or into trouble whenever he felt so inclined) and as soon as he'd gone for anything more, in particular to get published, he'd gotten his goal.
Ichigo laughed. "Ok, okay! I get it!" He bopped the white-head on the nose. "They weren't too happy with me being Japanese, but the kids love it. Kon insists that we read it every night because he knows that the Shishi in the book is his Shishi." He sighed, flipping the book open to one image he was particularly fond of. The little boy in the story was sitting against the wall, and the little lion toy was holding a kitchen knife straight out in front of him, a scowl on his plush face as the all-white dog with glowing eyes and a hole in its chest growled but backed down. It was right after Shishi banished the creature, sending it to the afterlife to be happy and at peace with a single swipe of the butcher knife. No blood or gore of course because it was a children's book, the ghost was dissolving into black particles.
Shiro's breath caught in his throat. "King- tha' looks like...m'I goin' crazy? Tha' looks like us." He shuddered, swallowing down the lump in his throat. The ghost dog looked like the monsters he used to have nightmares about. The ones Ichigo had promised to fend off for him, and once when Shiro had woken from his afternoon nap and hallucinated seeing them everywhere, his twin had taken one of their mother's knives and attacked right where Shiro swore it was. And it had dissolved in black specks- the psychologists had said it was because he'd finally been reassured he was safe and would never be in danger from them again.
"Yeah. I couldn't stop thinking about you, knucklehead." He elbowed his brother. "Then I remembered that dream you had, and it just sort of worked. So, I put the most important parts of my life into it. You and Kon." He nuzzled the pale neck above him, eyes closed and sighing deeply.
Shiro gave a happy purr as he settled down with his twin, eyes gone soft and gentle as they did only for his family. "I'm glad we were able ta save ya, King. Ya've saved me, an' yer lil' one as well, enough times tha' anythin' we can do ta pay ya back is a miracle."
"I'd go to the ends of the Earth for you and him, Shiro. You guys mean everything to me." Sleep was beginning to claim the orangette, as travel from the United States back home was a long trip. He yawned, and wrapped his arms around his brother, succumbing to the pull of velvet darkness.
Shiro settled him comfortably on the couch and when, not long after, he heard Prince Kon wake and call for his father, brought him to the couch to share the twins' laps as he snuggled into his brother, tucked a blanket snugly around them all, and succumbed to sleep himself.