A/N: Had this hanging around and thought I'd add it to my published collection as it is a completed one-shot. This one-shot is canon divergent as it doesn't take anything into account after the Fullbringer arc. Including the fact that it makes no sense for Rukia to be in the World of the Living if she's a lieutenant when there's not an emergency. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Bleach characters, manga, anime, movies, etc. They belong by copyright laws to Tite Kubo et al.
A Normal Day in the Neighborhood
The last day before summer vacation in Ichigo's senior year should have been relaxing. Most of the teachers had foregone any attempt to keep their attention for longer than five minutes and the oppressive heat had finally decided to give the residents of Karakura a break. His friends had been acting rather subdued, whether because of the weather or because they all knew his attention was focused on the short fukutaicho walking at his side, he didn't know. Perhaps they were waiting for the other shoe to drop; Rukia's presence usually indicated that something weird was about to happen and it was likely dangerous. Neither was the case as far as he knew but the quiet was appreciated all the same.
"You sure Gramps won't mind me coming to train?"
Rukia couldn't stop her eyes from rolling at the blatant disregard for Yamamoto's position. "I sent in a request and got permission, as is proper. Unlike most of your visits, you'll have no problems, unless you count the likelihood of you blowing yourself up in an attempt to learn kido."
"Hey! We don't know that'll happen. I know some Shinigami are bad at it but…"
"Like your father. Isshin-san was once told by Unohana-taicho that if he attempted to heal anyone with kido she'd kill him on the spot. His offensive prowess in kido is apparently equally as bad. So much so that he is banned from ever using it again." Rukia shifted her school bag to her other hand so that she could get her Soul Pager out of her pocket.
"Who told you that?" Ichigo asked, curiosity raised more than a little.
"Ukitake-taicho. He was a wealth of information on Isshin-san once the secret was out in the open. He and Kyoraku-taicho know your father quite well, as they were captains together…" Rukia trailed off as she read the message that appeared on the pager. "What did you do?" she growled at the Substitute, violet eyes shooting upward to glare. "I'm gone for a week and you…"
"I've done nothing!" Ichigo exclaimed, raising his hands in the universal sign of surrender.
"Then mind explaining why three taichos and another lieutenant are currently in your living room?"
"Uh…" Ichigo fished around for an answer but came up with nothing. "You got me. Which four?" he asked hesitantly.
"According to Karin, it's an old dude with long white hair, an obnoxious middle-aged dude with long brown hair, someone who sounds like it might be Nii-sama, and Ise-san as she's the only lieutenant with glasses."
"White haired old dude probably means Ukitake-san, the obnoxious one is probably Kyoraku-san since Ise-san is there, and if it's Byakuya… I haven't a clue. I know I did ask Ise-san the last time I was there if she'd help me with kido. She's an expert and she's about the only sane one I'd trust to teach me."
"Unfair! I'm an expert too."
"Yeah, but you have a lot on your plate. Sometimes you have twice as much work to do when Ukitake-san's sick, so I didn't want to add to your work." That and he really didn't want a repeat of her "training" methods.
Ichigo's explanation only earned him another glare. Stopping at the corner to their road, he pulled her against him, trapping her between the wall and him. He dipped his head and caught her mouth in a searing kiss, letting their mutual passion soar briefly before pulling back. Smiling at the unfocused look in her eye, he straightened her tie and grabbed her bag from slack fingers.
"Ichigo!" Rukia hissed when her brain started working again.
"That might have to last a while. Never know what emergency might be looming." Even if there wasn't any life-or-death crisis in the works, just having his dad around Byakuya was enough to worry about.
Yuzu met them at the door, a bright smile and nothing in her demeanor to indicate anything might be wrong. She inquired about their day, moving off to the kitchen to procure refreshments for everyone that had gathered around the kitchen table while Ichigo and Rukia were still on their way. "Onii-chan, you didn't tell me we were having visitors," she chided.
"Didn't know they were coming," the oldest sibling growled, glaring at his father. Something about the way the old man was grinning was setting off alarm bells. "Okay, what's wrong now? Did that mad scientist let something loose or…hell, you didn't let Aizen escape, did you?"
"Of course not, Ichigo-kun," Ukitake soothed. "Aizen is right where he should be for another 19,998 plus years. No, your father invited us to pay a visit and we're taking the opportunity to catch up."
"That explains you two," Ichigo gestured to Rukia's captain and his old classmate who was nursing a beer. "Doesn't explain him," he said pointedly, watching Byakuya with wary eyes.
"I too was invited. The opportunity to inspect Rukia's accommodations while in this world did not appear until now." Byakuya nodded in thanks at Yuzu when she placed a cup of cold tea in front of him.
"I assure you, Nii-sama, the Kurosaki family is treating me quite well."
"Indeed," her brother commented, his tone foreboding.
"Rukia-chan is my beloved third daughter! Of course we're treating her right!" Isshin wrapped an arm around the petite Kuchiki, giving her a tight squeeze.
"Isshin-san," Rukia sighed in exasperation. Really, did he want her brother to kill him? Isshin had lost a great deal of power filling that reiatsu sword and she didn't think he was quite back to normal yet. Then again, he had been a captain, and a Shiba, so maybe he was at full power again.
"Your 'third daughter?'" Byakuya questioned, a slight snarl in his voice. What batty idea had the old coot gotten into his brain this time?
"Certainly! I instantly scooped her up when she came to us all those long years ago…" Isshin trailed off, his arm still around Rukia.
"Idiot, it wasn't that long ago and get your arm out from around her. I'm surprised she hasn't fainted from the smell of your armpit." Ichigo pushed his father away, putting himself between her and Isshin. Karin snickered from the couch where she was playing video games and pretending to ignore the conversation. Nanao choked on her tea, tears appearing in her eyes as she coughed. Yuzu delicately patted her on her back, her brother's words not bothering her in the least. Kyoraku and Ukitake tried to hide grins unsuccessfully while Byakuya looked like he wanted to pull Senbonzakura out and unleash it on all of them.
"What gave you the idea a Shiba could take a daughter from the Kuchiki?" Byakuya hissed angerly.
"Calm down, Byakuya," Ukitake ordered quietly. He was probably one of the few that could. "Isshin's just baiting you. My lieutenant has been treated respectfully while here. You know the Shibas tend to take people under their wing that they take a shine to, as obvious by Ichigo's actions. It's no different with Isshin."
"Yeah, you should have seen the performance. Rukia-nee pretended to be without a home and this doofus pretended like he believed her. Looking back, I can't believe I fell for any of their mutual act." Karin wandered into the kitchen to grab a drink. "It's Ichi-nii you should worry about. He moped around here for the entire time he was without his powers because he couldn't see her. Found this the other day in a pile of mail," she continued, pulling an envelope out of her back pocket. Placing it in front of Byakuya she returned to the couch and settled in to watch the drama unfold.
The Shinigami leaned over the white paper, reading with some difficulty the words printed on the crisp surface. "What is a bank?" Kyoraku asked.
"A place where we store our money," Ichigo responded absentmindedly before his brain caught up with his mouth. "Hey, that's my bank…!" he uttered, making a grab for the incriminating evidence.
"This is addressed to Kuchiki-fukutaicho," Nanao admonished and swiped it up before the daiko could. The tiny hole in the table might have been an indication that she had a bit of help from her knowledge of kido. Handing it to her fellow adjunct, the older woman waited while Rukia opened the envelope.
Rukia read the contents, prying a plastic card off the paper while she did so. "Ichigo?" she questioned, her tone of voice a demand.
The adults present watched as Ichigo became as red as his misinterpreted namesake. Filled with embarrassment, he rubbed the back of his neck in discomfort. "I wanted you to be able to get some money from this world without having to go to Urahara all the time. Your money from the Soul Society doesn't work here so usually you need me to buy you something if you run out. This way you don't have to worry about things. We don't usually use cards, but this will allow you to pull money out without having to go to the bank. I'll show you how it works later."
"How thoughtful, Kurosaki-kun," Nanao mused. She could feel the Kuchiki head simmering with anger. Granting Rukia free access to his money was a sign that Ichigo felt far more than friendship for the short Shinigami. In fact, by the blush gracing both their faces, their relationship might already be more than previously thought.
"It truly is," Ukitake put in. "You know, we haven't thought things through in that regard, have we? Sending our money along to those stationed here really isn't a good idea, is it Shunsui? If they end up stuck in a gigai, there's no way for them to attain what they need to recover. I will have to bring this up to Sensei."
"Ichigo has always been one to show us the error of our ways," the dark-haired man returned. "Wasn't that nice of him, Byakuya-kun, to think of your sister in that regard?" Naturally, in their old-fashioned society, the only one unrelated by blood to provide for a noblewoman was her husband unless she was a Shinigami. Then she could provide for herself.
"My son has always been considerate of her needs!" Isshin nodded sagely, as if his words were not going to be taken the wrong way.
Karin cackled and leaned forward as Rukia's brother was coming to his boiling point. "He's very considerate," she said, just to add fuel to the fire.
"Kurosaki," Byakuya growled, rising from the table. He didn't think he'd been this angry when they'd first met.
"Yes?" father and son echoed.
"Prepare yourself," the noble ordered and removed himself from his gigai before chasing the males of the household outside. The others followed to watch the spectacle, Nanao calmly pulling out a Soul Pager to request assistance in order to protect unsuspecting souls from danger.
Ichigo and Isshin had lost their bodies somewhere along the way, Chad, Orihime, and Uryuu appearing with them a few minutes later. Coming along side Rukia, the student body president adjusted his glasses and watched cherry blossoms shoot across the sky. "What happened?"
"Nii-sama came to visit."
"Unusual but I knew the Soul Society had allowed people here. I meant, what happened to cause the fight?"
"Nothing new. Dad just being Dad," Karin chuckled, gazing up at the sky. "Oh, and I may have made a comment Kuchiki-san took the wrong way."
Rukia sighed as a Getsuga Tensho cut the horizon in two. Whether it was from Ichigo or Isshin she didn't know but the lovely clouds that had provided the cool day were now gone. Tomorrow was sure to be a scorcher. "You knew that was going to happen, Karin," she scolded. "We've told you that my brother doesn't like Ichigo."
"Yeah, you did. Guess we shouldn't mention what that little ring on your hand means then, should we?"
"Somehow I do not think your brother will let it slide," Ishida murmured. Ichigo had asked Rukia to marry him in front of several friends in an unexpected burst of spontaneity shortly after their reunion. The small ring on her left finger was an amethyst that would normally go unnoticed by others.
"Which is why we are not going to say anything," Rukia ordered, in full Kuchiki mode.
"Certainly," Ishida affirmed.
"We promised, after all," Orihime said, coming to squeeze her friend's arm. Chad nodded his agreement, placing the bodies on the house lawn.
Nanao raised a brow at the conversation but kept her own council. It wasn't any of her business what the two had been up to so long as it didn't endanger souls or the Soul Society in general. The two captains that had stayed silent until that moment, were another matter entirely. As two of the biggest mischief makers the Academy had ever seen, Nanao wasn't the least bit surprised when they began to make a fuss.
"A ring?" Shunsui inquired, squeezing in between Ishida and Rukia before lifting the latter's hand to get a better look. "Oh, isn't that the most darling thing. Look, Juushiro, your lieutenant has a nice little accessory."
"It certainly is a pretty ring. What does it mean?" the white-haired captain asked Karin, wondering if she'd give him the details freely. The young teen glanced at him warily before making a zipping motion across her lips. Obviously, she had done enough for the day to complicate matters.
"Oh, come on, spill!" the head of Squad Eight whined. "You can trust us; we'll keep it to ourselves."
Nanao couldn't stop the snort that came out, an echoing one made by the Quincy. "Highly unlikely," she put in. "I would not trust these two with anything but state secrets; and even that is pushing things."
"Now, now, Nanao-chan. You know I can keep my council," her captain chided.
"Perhaps," she relented. "However, I believe you would deem this under the term 'gossip' and spread it everywhere. Kurosaki-kun and his father are already at the mercy of Captain Kuchiki's Zanpakutou. I cannot imagine what would happen if Lieutenant Kuchiki's brother found out what that little ring means."
"Did I hear the word ring?" Isshin butted in, coming to a brief stop next to everyone. His eyes alighted on the amethyst that Shunsui was still holding aloft. "My third daughter, you have kept something from Daddy! My ungrateful progeny has finally asked you to marry him!" In his deluded excitement, the former captain forgot to keep his voice down, the information drifting to Byakuya with no difficulty.
"What?" the noble bellowed before dropping his sword into the pavement below. "Bankai, Senbonzakura Kageyoshi," came the deadly second release. The area quickly became surrounded by deadly pink blades, Ichigo halting in midair in confusion.
"Bankai, really? Don't you think this a little much, even for…?" the teen trailed off when he noticed everyone focused on Rukia below. She was looking at him in apology, her hand clutched in Kyoraku's tight grip. Obviously, the cat was out of the bag. "Ah, hell."
"You have stepped on the pride of my clan for the last time, Ichigo Kurosaki. Shiba relative or not, you are not a fitting match for my pride."
"Uh, don't you think Rukia should be the judge of that?" Ichigo asked, getting ready to summon his own bankai. "I mean, she was made a lieutenant. Surely that means her judgment can be trusted," he continued to stall for time.
"Of course, Ichigo-kun!" Ukitake called from the ground, a look at fatherly pride on his face.
Great, they're going to make things worse, Ichigo thought. The trio of captain class Shinigami on the ground looked ready to wax poetic about something annoying if Ise-san's expression was anything to go by. His friends just stood next to Rukia, looks of commiseration on their faces. Giving into the inevitable, Ichigo was about to call for Tensa Zangetsu when the air suddenly began to get colder.
A lot colder.
One by one Byakuya's blades began to freeze over, crumbling to dust. When the air cleared, the collected company could see Toushiro standing in the air, his dragon wings giving testimony to his bankai state and the reason for the suddenly cold temperature.
"On behalf of Yamamoto-soutaicho, I am here to tell you to cease this nonsense!" the young captain bellowed. Snowflakes drifted in the breeze, his temper adding to the sudden wintry conditions. "All Gotei personnel are to return to their squads immediately, save Lieutenant Kuchiki. She and the two Kurosaki men are to show themselves to the soutaicho first thing tomorrow morning. Is that understood?" Teal eyes brooked no argument.
"Took you long enough," Nanao muttered, but popped out of her gigai and opened a Senkaimon right in the street. She ushered the two older captains through, pinching her superior's ear when he continued to lament leaving his friend.
"Me too?" Isshin questioned. "I can't just leave my girls all alone."
"You do not need to fear, Kurosaki-san," Ishida reassured. "The rest of us will look out for the twins in your absence. We had already agreed to check on them while Ichigo was away training."
"I'm sure you won't be gone long," Orihime soothed. "I'll help them with their summer homework. They won't even have time to miss you."
"Not that I would anyway," Karin snickered.
"Karin-chan! Don't worry, Daddy, we'll be fine. You can trust Ichigo's friends." Yuzu smiled at her father. Privately she was looking forward to having the house free of men.
"Do you wish to know the consequences of your dereliction this time, Shiba?" Toushiro snarled.
"Calm down, kiddo, I'll be there. Just have to make a few adjustments to my schedule. Now, Chad, where did you leave my body?"
The large teen merely pointed to the side yard, moving to the side silently so that Byakuya, then Toushiro could go through the gate. When the passage to the other world closed, he gave a sigh of relief. Shouting from down the road drew his attention and he glanced backward to find Tatsuki running their way.
"What the hell is going on?" the martial artist demanded angerly. "I felt this huge surge of power and then all of a sudden it was cut off and I couldn't reach you guys."
"Oh, you know, the usual," Ichigo said, coming to join his friends and family. He slipped into his body, rotating his shoulders to get the stiffness out.
"Yeah, Dad was an idiot, Byakuya hates my guts, and Karin has a smart mouth."
"So just a normal day in the neighborhood."
"If you call your fiancée's brother trying to kill you for no apparent reason, your father acting like he lost his sanity several centuries ago, and a bunch of Shinigami leaving their gigai lying around like dead bodies normal," Tatsuki's childhood friend replied. The departed three captains and one lieutenant had done just that.
"For you, Ichigo, that is normal."
Rukia, who had been silent for several minutes merely smiled and relaxed into Ichigo's side. "And you wouldn't want it any other way," she murmured.
"No, I wouldn't," he agreed and chuckled along with anyone else. His brand of normal might mean craziness for the rest of his life, but it also meant happiness.
What could beat that?