A/N: Just a handful to thank for reviews: AnimeFreak134, hollownature, Rukia's Reflection, MaN6A10v3r, and Assault Godzilla. And thank you to everyone who put this or its author on their lists. Please note that the dates in the title only refer to the dates of the festival, not the days in the story, thanks.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Bleach characters, manga, anime, movies, etc. They belong by copyright laws to Tite Kubo et al.
Obon of the Daiko
July 14th: We Stand United
As much as everyone enjoyed the reunion between mother and children, and friend with friend, there was a large obstacle that prevented them from spending the rest of the Obon festival simply catching up on everything that happened in the last years apart. Yuzu buzzed around the room, aware of the tension but unable to pinpoint a cause. Finally sitting, she sat on the edge of her seat, hoping that she would get answers as her brother seemed happier than he had been in the past few days.
"We should call our cousin, Shuu-chan, Okaa-san. He'd like to meet you, I'm sure."
Masaki looked at her youngest, her brows furrowed. "Dear, we can't let anyone know I'm here. Besides, we don't have a relative named Shuu-kun."
"Yes, we do, I remember him very clearly," the sandy brown haired twin affirmed.
"No, dear, we don't. I don't have any relatives named Shuukuro. I'm sorry, Yuzu, but you're mistaken." The older woman turned to Ichigo and frowned. "Is this the trouble you've been in, Ichigo-kun?"
"Yes, Mom. Shuukuro Tsukishima has a sword whose abilities are disturbingly like Aizen's. He's somehow made it so that everyone close to me believes that he's a close friend or family member. The only one who it didn't work on was Orihime Inoue and that was because of her abilities. She's currently going around and reversing the affects on our friends but hasn't made it here yet."
Rukia listened while typing on her phone, sending a report even as the Kurosaki children and parents began a discussion. "Has anyone been hurt?" she asked, concern for her human friends evident.
"Yeah, Ishida. He got his arm almost cut off. Between his dad and Inoue, it's back together but he was close to dying. I think he was targeted like that because Tsukishima wasn't sure his powers would work on a Quincy." Ichigo finished the bowl of oden in front of him before pushing the rice away. He wasn't hungry anymore.
The petite Shinigami paused in her report, setting the phone aside to lay a hand on her friend's arm. "You felt helpless and jumped at the chance to get your powers back to protect you friends, regardless of the source."
"I was so helpless. They didn't want to tell me anything to protect me but…"
"My son could never stand aside while his friends were in danger." Masaki nodded while Isshin remained silent and the twins continued to argue over Tsukishima's identity.
"You should have told me, Ichigo," Isshin said, serious as he'd been during the final fight.
"You haven't been around. I had no idea whether or not you'd been affected either. Even Unagiya-san has been tricked."
"Unagiya-san?" Rukia asked, sending off the report. She made a note for the Gotei to stand by for when she learned more.
"My boss. I have a job. I plan on moving out after I graduate." Ichigo leaned back in his chair, one hand going to rest on the small appendage on his arm. He couldn't see her clearly but she was there. That would do him for the moment. "Or, at least I did. There was no sense staying around some place that didn't need me and I couldn't protect."
"That's not true, Onii-chan!" Yuzu declared, Karin apparently having convinced her that something wasn't right with their "cousin."
"No? I try to get rid of that bastard and you yell at me. Don't tell me that you believe me over him now." His sisters' betrayal was still fresh.
"Language, Ichigo," his mother scolded before turning to her daughters. "You have an amazing reiatsu, Karin. Surely you can tell when something isn't right with the reiatsus around you. Tsukishima's must be as twisted as Aizen's."
"Now that Ichi-nii's explained things to me, yes, I can but what ever his power is, it's strong. I'm not like Ichi-nii. I don't have a Zanpakutou, or a Fullbring."
"Fullbring?" Rukia questioned with curiosity. She watched as Ichigo took out his badge and summoned part of his power. "I thought your reiatsu was a little darker than normal. It looks like when you're in bankai mode."
"Yeah, that's what I thought." Putting the badge away, he made a mental note to tell her about how he'd heard her voice and ask what she'd been talking about.
"I see." Violet eyes became sad and she was glad that he couldn't see her.
"It's not your fault, midget. Don't worry, while I still don't fully trust Xcution, I will let them help me get my powers back. Then I'll punish that little punk for what he's done to my family and friends." Filled with resolve once again, Ichigo ate the remainder of his rice, keeping Rukia close.
"I believe in you, Ichigo," she said softly and finished her own meal. No matter what anyone else said, she knew he'd never betray them. He might do his own thing, but when it came down to it, he was still a Shinigami in his heart. Protecting was his raison d'être and nothing would ever change that.
Masaki watched the interaction, amazed that the formal and professional Shinigami she'd met last year could be so soft when around her son. Even though he couldn't see Rukia clearly, Ichigo knew just where she was and had even gripped her hand with his own. "They really love each other," she said quietly, the comment directed at her husband.
"Isn't it wonderful? We have a third daughter. She does the Kurosaki name proud." Isshin pretended to wipe tears from his eyes.
"You should really stop that, dear. The children might think you're insane."
"Too late," Karin informed her mother and hooked a thumb at the large poster of her mother. "He's had that up ever since you died. Every time he thinks we've been mean to him he goes and wails at it."
Turning to follow her daughter's pointing, she had to stifle a giggle. "My, that is devotion for you."
"You fool!" The sound of a chair falling over brought her attention back to her children and she was surprised to find Rukia towering over a prone Ichigo, her fist raised in anger. "Why didn't you go to Urahara immediately? He might be a shady shopkeeper and a mad scientist but at least he could get a message to us. You could have been killed!"
"And they're off," Karin commented, smirking at her mother's stunned expression.
"Isshin, dear, is our son an M?" she asked in a hushed whisper.
"Nah, that's just how they show their affection for each other," he answered with a grin as Rukia stomped on Ichigo's foot and he in turn picked her up by her obi.
"Oh, I see," she said, noticing that while Rukia was free to hit him, Ichigo was actually quite gentle with the small woman.
"How was I supposed to know you guys would help? I haven't even had so much as a stupid Chappy drawing to let me know you were still alive!"
"My drawings aren't stupid!" That comment earned her a snort of disbelief and a foot to the shin for him.
"You violent midget!" Masaki stood silently as Ichigo hefted Rukia higher in his embrace and stormed out of the room. She heard the slamming of his bedroom door and the muffled argument that continued.
"Well now, that was entertaining."
"Ichi-nii's happy," Yuzu said, sadness on her face. She had thought he'd been okay until a few days ago but it was the first time he'd shown so much emotion since the end of the war. "I wish he'd been that happy when Shuu-chan arrived…"
"For the last time, Yuzu, he's not our cousin!" Karin, apparently having the greater power, was able to break the hold Tsukishima had on her memories.
"Really, dear. Who's more believable, your own brother who sacrificed everything but his life and would have died if necessary to keep you and everyone safe, or a person who claims to be a cousin and that even if he was, you hadn't seen in years?" Masaki watched as realization dawned.
"Ichi-nii must hate me."
"Ichi-nii doesn't hate you, he's just angry. Now that Rukia-nee's here, she'll straighten him out. She always did in the past and I'm sure now is no different." Karin slumped in her seat, tired from arguing. Now that she had freed herself from Tsukishima, she couldn't wait until her brother got all his powers back.
That bastard had done enough damage.
Alone in his room, Ichigo and Rukia continued to argue. She had gotten free, taking the opportunity to stand on his bed so that she could be eye to eye with him. "Show me," she finally demanded. There was no sense in wasting her breath any longer trying to make him apologize for not seeking aid from the Soul Society earlier. She also couldn't fault him for believing that they had abandoned him.
"Show you what?" he asked in return, taking a breath. Who knew that it would feel so good to fight with her again? His heart rate was up and he felt alive. Ichigo had to admit that he hadn't felt that way in a long time.
"Are you going to tell the Gotei about this?"
"I have to, Ichigo. They were beginning to think that you had chosen to betray them."
"Why the hell would I do that? I gave up my ability to protect my family and friends to take down Aizen for them." Agitated, he sank into his desk chair and ran his hands through his disheveled hair. "I gave you up."
"Stop being depressed. This isn't the time for you to sink into one of your funks. I can sense Inoue and the others coming this way. Show me the Fullbring."
"I haven't named it yet." Standing, he summoned his power, giving a small smirk as Rukia came into better focus and he saw her eyes widen in surprise.
He was cloaked in power. The Fullbring had clothed him in a shield and gave him a sword that made him a warrior once again. "I know of a name," she said quietly, reaching out to touch the pieces that surrounded his eyes. His larger hand came to cup her smaller appendage, squeezing it in comfort when he felt it tremble.
"What is it?"
Looking at the blade that he held in his other hand, Ichigo nodded. "Yeah, that fits." Amber eyes rising to meet violet, Ichigo tugged Rukia into an embrace. "You always change my world for the better, midget. Please, don't ever stop."
"Che, someone has to keep you in line." She felt the Fullbring retreat and clutched at his shirt. "I suppose it's my fate to be your keeper."
"Aa," he returned. "And someone has to protect you." She was once again a blurry apparition but he could feel her reiatsu meld with his and touch her so he didn't mind. "I think that was the hardest, not being able to know that you were all right."
Unable to think of a suitable response, Rukia settled for silence. She finally pulled away, aware that should any of his family see them, they might misconstrue the embrace as being romantic rather than comforting. Pulling him towards the door, she threw a superior smile his way. "Come on, Strawberry, our friends are here. It's time to come up with a plan to defeat Tsukishima. Any ideas?"
Ichigo didn't say anything, allowing her to pull him downstairs. Once in the living room, he gazed over the assembled company. Ishida stood near Orihime as she "rejected" Tsukishima's memory modification in his sisters while Chad had taken up sentry near the window. Isshin and Masaki sat on the sofa, holding hands and talking softly.
"Yeah, I have an idea. We do what we always did."
"And what was that?" Rukia asked, smiling at their friends.
"We stand united."