Author's Note: I've had a request for Hichigo/Ichigo, so here's my go at it. Enjoy!

Everything started when Ichigo's father bought him an ivory globe.

It was a silly thing, a souvenir his father picked up on a business trip to India. But it was very beautiful. A good dozen spheres, carved as delicately as lace, nestled inside each other. They could all be moved, gently clacking against each other. It was wonderfully soothing and Ichigo smiled as he played with it, his sisters oohing and ahing. They had their own gifts, though, and Yuzu was very happy with her tortoiseshell hairclips, while Karin got a remarkably realistic elephant jewelry box.

Ichigo wasn't sure why, but after that he played with the globe almost every night. Something about the spheres just invited him to touch them, to move them with gentle flicks of his fingers. There were so many ways the openings inside could align with each other, forming patterns on patterns. It was entrancing, like playing with a kaleidoscope. But unlike the kaleidoscope's he'd known, which were good only for a few minutes of attention, this kept bringing him back.

It was odd, but very soothing. After playing with the ball Ichigo never had any trouble falling asleep, and he slept well through the whole night, waking rested and alert. So odd though it was, he continued with his play. Perhaps it was like a form of meditation. His mind did seem to go strange places as he played with the ball…

As the teenager slept, the ball glowed with a gentle light from the spiritual energy it absorbed every time it was touched. The light sank in, finding the core of it, then faded away. And something began to stir.

It took weeks before the thing inside began to return to consciousness. It was a powerful creature, and while Ichigo had the strength to awaken it, the process was long and drawn out. It had to be, for it to be safe for Ichigo, and the orb was not designed with the welfare of the creature inside in mind. No, it was meant for the benefit of the person infusing the energy. The person who would, eventually, have a great and terrible weapon to wield, or a powerful tool to use.

Hnngh. Where am I? The power inside the ball was able to take in some of its environment, now. This place is fuckin' weird. It muttered, falling easily into Japanese. Not a language it had ever used before, but with the endless infusions of power it had gained all the knowledge it would need to serve its new master. What kind of power lives in a place like this? It really was odd. It remembered all of its previous awakenings, and almost every time it had been resting on a cushion in a temple, surrounded by incense and chanting acolytes. Once, it had been in a private room, set on an ivory inlaid table and surrounded by obscene frescos. That one had been interesting. Pulling his mind away from lost times, the presence inside tried to make sense of what he was seeing. There was a messy bed, a little table with something he vaguely recognized as a computer… but what was a computer…? And a chair. The chair had wheels on the bottom, it noticed. Very practical but how had they been made? How long have I been on ice this time? Motherfuckers. It muttered, but without much concern. It would take weeks more of infusions to release it, and by the time it was finally… not freed, but slightly less chained, it would have absorbed all the knowledge it needed. Then someone walked into the room and the presence was electrified by the feel of familiar power. Oi, you! You! Come on, pick me up, I want out of this thing!

As if he heard it, which he probably did on some level, Ichigo picked up the ball and gave it a gentle flick. The power inside was taken aback as it saw a surprisingly youthful face. That put the creature's guard up. It had only had one youthful master before, and that youth had actually been fakery, maintained in ways that made even it mildly uncomfortable. Serving that woman had not been a pleasure. But it had no choice at all, so it just quietly accepted the power it was given as the boy played with the balls. The completely absorbed, happy look on the teen's face did please the power within the ball. And so did the fact that he was male. Its gender was determined by the holder of the ball.

And at least he's cute. It's nice to have a bit of good scenery to look at. It consoled itself. Hope he's not like that bitch, though. It muttered. Hunting victims for her sacrificial rites, well, it was trying to get away from all that. But if the master commanded, it had to obey. Then the ball was placed back on the desk and the spirit within was content. That was a good infusion of power, about what could be expected from a moderately strong wielder.

It was strange, though. Over the next few weeks, the power inside the ball absorbed more and more knowledge and power from Ichigo. Nothing he really needed, just imprints of his mind and excess power that he spun off naturally. The teen was completely oblivious to what was happening, and the power inside the ball was beginning to realize that. Normally, when it took in knowledge it also began to get an idea of what the master wanted of it. Now, it was receiving nothing at all in that direction. Only images of the world now, and knowledge of how it worked. The teen wasn't thinking about what he would do with the monster he was bringing forth at all.

How the world has changed. The power in the ball marvelled as it learned about cars, about walk signals, about all the tiny minutiae that would help it be useful to the master. And also about the people dear to his master, the people who had to be protected at all costs. Karin, Yuzu. Isshin, the father. Masaki… no, she is dead. Well, that won't happen again when you have me. It purred to the master, who did not shift at all, completely lost to sleep. If it is your will, they will always be protected, master. That was one thing it did well, functioning as a guard. It could place a mark on those who were dear to the master, a mark that would summon him instantly if they were threatened.

Perhaps that would be what this master would want of him. The presence sensed a deep need to protect in his mind. Yet… his power seemed raw and untrained. That was odd. But it could make no sense of it right now and just gave itself over to understanding the knowledge it had been given.

There was a lot to make sense of.

Ichigo was quietly playing with the ball, sitting on his bed, when it happened.

The teen had always been spiritually aware. He'd always been able to see ghosts and demons. The latter had killed his mother, but he no longer blamed himself. No, it had been the demon's fault, and he'd learned to defend himself since that time.

So he was no stranger to the supernatural. But he still almost wet himself when a white mist began spilling out of the ball. Looking around frantically, he thought about yelling but then stopped himself. Karin and his father might see this, but they might not too. Yuzu definitely wouldn't, and he couldn't endanger them.

The mist solidified into a person and Ichigo's breath caught in his throat as he looked at a negative version of himself. Deathly white skin, white hair and black eyes with gold irises looked at him. A mocking smile curled the lips, giving this man a sinister cast he'd never had. But the face was the one he saw in the mirror every day. Then he blinked as the thing… kneeled?

"My master. How may I adore you?" His copy said, then giggled, a high pitched titter that made Ichigo's hair stand on end. "Would you like a gift of blood? Death? Or… sex?" The albino slowly licked his lips and crawled forward on his hands and knees. "I've had so many masters who demanded sex of me, but I think, with you, I might enjoy it." He said in a heavy whisper and Ichigo's eyes widened as the albino set his face between his thighs, nuzzling him just beneath his shorts.

"Get away!" He shoved the monster away from him then surged to his feet, stomping on it. "You're some kind of demon! Get the hell out of my room!" He roared at the thing, who just looked at him for a moment before crawling for the door. Ichigo blinked. "Hey, where are you going?"

"I'm leaving your room, master." The albino said and Ichigo's jaw dropped at the submissive tone. What was going on? He could tell this was a demon, although something about it was very… off. But why was it acting like this? He'd never seen a demon act even remotely like this.

"Wait, no. Hold on." The demon stopped obediently and Ichigo ran a hand through his hair, looking at the ball for a moment. He needed to know what was going on here, although he had to keep in mind that demons lied all the time. "Tell me what's going on here." He ordered and the albino sat up, taking a cross legged position on the floor.

"Heh. I thought so. You're completely untrained and you woke me by accident. I didn't even know it was possible." The albino grinned before swiping sharp fangs with a blue tongue. "Tch. This is a long story, you should sit down." Ichigo hesitated but then took a seat on his bed, staring at the demon. He wasn't going to let it out of his sight. "Okay. So I'm a demon, you're right about that. But I'm not your usual demon." The albino grinned, showing disturbingly sharp teeth. "Way, way back, I was the most vicious demon in the three worlds." Ichigo vaguely wondered what the other two worlds were, but he wasn't going to ask. "I left a path of destruction behind me, wherever I went, and I defeated every single demon slayer that came after me. I tormented women and children, and I slept on a pile of bones." Ichigo swallowed, hard, as the creature spoke with evident enjoyment. "I make no apologies. That was my nature, then. But then I captured a very powerful priestess. I tormented her, raped her, everything you can imagine. But with her dying breath she cursed me. She was pregnant, you see, and her curse was that I would take the life of her dying child, and know what it meant to have a soul." Ichigo blinked and stared at the demon. Was that why his power felt… wrong? It was difficult to define, but he did not feel like any other demon Ichigo had seen. "Having a soul is a pretty damned unnatural condition for a demon, let me tell you. It didn't make me all sweetness and light, though. No, it just made me really fucking random." The albino's grin faded, turning into a small smile and a shrug. "One moment I would be petting someone's head, the next I'd be tearing their heart out. It was like being insane, at first. I could go from loving someone one minute to killing them the next."

"Then you didn't really love them." Ichigo said harshly and the demon grinned.

"Hah! Too true, too true. But something I thought was love at the time. The only emotions I had as a demon were negative ones. Hate, rage, despair, bitterness. A really powerful demon doesn't even take joy in the carnage, you know. They feel nothing but more hate and bitterness with every kill." The albino's expression became solemn, then. "And when I had a soul, I could finally appreciate that. I could realize that my whole existence was nothing but pain. I didn't even really enjoy tormenting people, I just did it to vent all the hate inside me." Ichigo was spellbound by that. Demons acted like they enjoyed tormenting people, leering and laughing. It was all just an act? "My laughter was nothing but bitterness and spite. My smiles were despair. I was nothing, less than nothing, an existence that never should have been." The albino paused, then smiled. "Does that shock you?"

"Well… yes. I thought demons enjoyed hurting people. You mean they don't?" He could hardly believe it. The demon in front of him shrugged.

"They think they do, but they don't know any better. They can't even understand the pain they are in. But anyway. With a soul, I could finally get it, and when I figured it all out I went a bit… well, completely crazy. I ran away, hiding in the wilderness. Got a bit of a reputation as a fucking crazy demon, mostly harmless but stay the hell away. Then some bastard of a priest decided to catch me and find out why I was different." The albino scowled at the memory. "He was powerful as hell, or I would have fucked him up. But he caught me, and after a LOT of work he got me to stop raving and tell him what happened to me." The demon sighed, leaning back on his arms. "Fucker… he talked to his gods, and they gave him the power to seal me in that thing," He gestured at the balls, and Ichigo noticed his fingernails were black. "But only with a condition. I can escape from it, forever, if I can just fulfil that condition. Until then I'm stuck."

"What's the condition?" Ichigo asked and the albino paused, then smiled.

"Can't tell you. Not even if you order me. It's part of the condition." Ichigo scowled but then noticed the albino's smile wasn't happy. It was a strange, flattened expression, like the demon was smiling when he really wanted to do something else. "Anyway. Fuck that crap. What do you want me to do for you, master?"

"What can you do for me?" Ichigo said, stalling for time. This was unbelievable. Unfortunately, he believed what the demon was telling him. Now that he knew to look, the ivory balls contained a powerful aura. "And what's your name? I'm Ichigo." The demon laughed.

"Yeah, I knew that. I know all about you, master. It's a function of the balls, to make me more useful to you. And I can do all kinds of things." The albino grinned widely, revealing his very white, very sharp teeth. "The one you might like is that I'm a very capable bodyguard. I can mark you, mark the people dear to you, and if anything threatens their lives I will be there. No other demon can defeat me. Would you like me to mark your family and keep them safe?" Ichigo's breath caught in his throat at that offer and he stared at the demon. "Oh, and I don't have a name. You have to name me."

"Uh… I'll have to think about that." What would be a good name for this thing? He had no idea. "And… yes. Mark my family. Protect them with all of your power." Ichigo said firmly, hoping he wasn't doing the wrong thing. The albino's eyes narrowed for a moment, then he grinned.

"Done. They won't come to any harm, I promise you that, master." The albino tilted his head to one side. "Where should I stay, master? Usually there's a room set up for me." Ichigo frowned, glancing over his room. Then a horrible thought occurred to him.

"Wait, can people see you?" He asked apprehensively. Most demons were spirits that could only be seen by him. The albino grinned.

"I'm not some weakling shadow. I'm the greatest of greater demons. Heh… yes, yes, I'm as much physical as I am spiritual." He said. Ichigo rubbed his head, trying to think of what he was going to do. Should he tell his family the truth? They might have a heart attack. But Isshin had bought him this stupid thing. It was his father's fault, really. Satisfied with that, he looked at the albino.

"Just sleep on the floor or something for now. We'll figure it out tomorrow." He said before settling down in his bed. Even if he had a demon familiar now, he still needed to sleep.

Tomorrow would be a long day.

Ichigo sat up in his bed, yawning. Then he pushed himself forward, knowing what was probably about to happen.

"GOOD MORNING SON – " Isshin leapt through the window, passing through the space he'd occupied a moment ago. So his kick completely missed the target. But Ichigo hadn't considered the other person in the room, and Isshin couldn't know. So they were both startled as his father landed his foot directly into the demon's ribs. There was a crackling sound and a loud howl.

"OW FUCK! WHAT THE FUCKING SHIT!" The albino looked ready to strike out at Isshin, but then wailed. "WHAT DID I DO? Master! What did I do to be punished?" Ichigo blinked as he suddenly realized what it had to look like from the demon's perspective. Isshin was one of the people the albino had to protect, so he couldn't even lash out for the pain that had just been given to him.

"It was an accident." He quickly assured the albino, who looked sulky and held his side. "You're not badly hurt, are you?" He kneeled beside the demon as his father stared.

"No, things like that can't kill me." The albino said, in a definitely sulky tone. "And I regenerate fast. He broke my ribs though and it hurts." Ichigo winced at that.

"I'm sorry. We'll – " Then Isshin found his voice and they both flinched at the wail.

"MASAKI! YOUR SON IS HAVING STRANGE BOYS IN HIS ROOMS WITHOUT EVEN TELLING HIS FATHER! COULD OUR SON BE GAY? WHERE HAVE I –" That sent Ichigo bolt upright in outrage as Karin and Yuzu both shot into the room, attracted by the word 'gay'.

"I AM NOT GAY YOU OLD BASTARD! THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!" Ichigo roared back. "YOU GAVE HIM TO ME, YOU IDIOT!" Yuzu and Karin both gaped as the demon crawled over to the bed and tried to hide under it.

"MASAKI, YOUR SON IS MAKING NO SENSE, WHERE DID I GO WRONG? I HAVE FAILED YOU!" To Ichigo's relief, his father ran out of the room to go sob to the poster of his mother. It might be creepy, but at least he was gone. Yuzu was kneeling beside his bed and gently trying to coax the albino out while Karin stared at him strangely.

"So you're gay?" She asked calmly and Ichigo went bright red.

"No! No! He's… he's my demonic servant or something! He was inside the ivory balls!" He said. Yuzu went pale at the word 'demon' and scooted away from the bed. "And you can come out, he's gone." He said to the bed.

"I don't want to come out." The demon growled. "You people are crazy! What the fuck! I haven't seen shit this fucked up since that temple to Kali, and at least that made SENSE even if it was blood and guts everywhere!" Ichigo decided he definitely didn't want to know. But from what he'd said, the albino had to obey him, so he rephrased it.

"Come out right now." He said firmly and there was a whine before the demon extracted himself. Both his sisters stared at the creature and he shifted uncomfortably before glaring at them. "These are my sisters. Treat them as you would me." The demon's shoulders slumped and he looked away for a moment.

"Yes master." He said. Ichigo frowned at the submissive, almost hopeless tone but decided not to make an issue of it.

"Now, come with me downstairs." He ordered, and the demon pulled himself to his feet. Ichigo could see his clothing now, and noticed it was a mirror image of his pajamas, all white and black. "Uh… can you change your clothing?"

"Oh sure." The clothing turned into a jet black version of his school uniform. Ichigo blinked at the effect. It actually looked really good on his double. Shaking his head, he grabbed the ivory balls and started downstairs.

This would take some explaining.

"…So that's it." Ichigo finished his explanation. It had taken a bit of calming down, but Isshin had finally managed to really listen. His father was gripping a mug of coffee and frowning at the balls. His two sisters were looking at the albino, who was just staring at the wall with no expression at all.

"So he's going to be protecting us? I don't need protection, you know, Ichi-nii." Karin said with a scowl and they all looked as the albino laughed.

"Humans always need protection. You're so fragile. What if a car hit you, Karin-chan?" The demon made a mockery of her name and Karin scowled. "I can stand in front of a car and walk away. Can you say the same?"

"Stop that! Don't tease my sisters." Ichigo snapped and the demon looked away again. Then he blinked as Yuzu suddenly stood and went to the albino's side. The demon looked at her warily then blinked as she suddenly put her arms around him.

"Don't be sad. Ichigo's really nice when you know him, he's just a bit upset now." She said encouragingly and Ichigo's draw dropped. "He doesn't mean to be nasty to you. You'll be fine here."

"Yuzu…" Ichigo didn't know what to say. Nasty? She thought he was being nasty to the demon? But he was a demon, what else did they understand? And he didn't think he was being nasty… But Karin seemed to understand.

"He has to obey you, Ichi-nii. Your wish is his command. So you might want to be careful what you say to him." Karin said and Ichigo blinked. He had given the demon lots of orders this morning, and that last one, well, it might not be really fair.

"You can tease my sisters if they tease you first." He amended it and saw the demon blink. "How's that?"

"Okay I guess." He said, sounding a bit lost. "You people are strange." He muttered but gently patted Yuzu's shoulder. Ichigo was surprised to see that, but the demon did have a soul. It seemed to make a huge difference. Yuzu let go of him and gave him an encouraging smile.

"I'm going to make breakfast while Ichigo thinks up a name for you!" She said before flitting towards the kitchen. Ichigo tried to think of something and came up completely blank. Then Karin came up with something.

"How about Hajime?" She suggested. "It means 'beginning' and this is definitely a new beginning for him, right?" Ichigo thought about it for a moment, then nodded before glancing at the demon. He hesitated a moment before carefully phrasing his words to not be an order. He had to remember that the albino would always obey his orders, without any questions.

"Does Hajime sound like a good name to you?" He asked and the albino tilted his head, thinking about it a moment.

"Yeah, actually, I kind of like it. Hajime. That'll do." He finally said. "So do you have any chores for me to do? I'm used to being really busy, actually. My other masters never let me just sit around." Ichigo sighed to himself. Keeping a demon busy was going to be a pain, and he wasn't sure he wanted Hajime finding ways to occupy himself. That could get dicey.

"I'm sure we can find some things for you to do. But I need to go to school." Ichigo stood and went to the breakfast table, noticing that Yuzu had set out four plates. "Do you eat?" He asked and the albino shrugged.

"I can. I don't need to. I sort of feed off your spiritual power, all the time. That's why only strong people can wake me." He said. Ichigo blinked and frowned. He couldn't notice any difference in himself. "Don't worry, you have power to burn. If you were trained you'd be a great priest."

"Uh, thanks." Ichigo said, although he had an idea that that 'priest' meant something very different for Hajime than it did for him. "Well, come have some breakfast, if you want. It's nice and hot." Yuzu was already putting down the little bowls of rice porridge, topped with broiled fish and eggs. Hajime hesitated then came to the table warily, almost as if he suspected a trick. But he ate and drank willingly enough. When that was done Ichigo went to school, leaving the demon behind in his home.

Despite this weirdness, he still had his normal life to attend to.