_debbiechan_ (_debbiechan_) wrote in bleachness,

New story by debbiechan: The Ishida Family in 28 Tales, part one

I forget how much LJ hates long fics. Happy birthday to Uryuu in Japan today. I won't be hosting any more Uryuu contests but stay tuned because I will have some Bleach merchandise, some rare, for purchase, and at least two more stories, written weeks ago, due to be posted later in accordance with some rules.

Also, FYI, this community will be up as long as LJ is up, but membership is now closed--that means no one who is not already a member can join. Most settings will be private except for fanfiction and art.  Transformative works celebrating Bleach characters will always be welcome here; please always give warnings and use common sense with engaging with other members and visit the community rules: http://bleachness.livejournal.com/401889.html

Activity has been so low here that I don't think I have to remind anyone how to be civil, but hey, with other Bleach sites dwindling now, who knows.

I have over 100 Bleach fics I may never upload on AO3 but after having an account there for years, I bit the bullet and posted this one there. http://archiveofourown.org/works/8484850

The Ishida Family in 28 Tales
By debbiechan
Thanks as always to my beloved editor, Nehalenia. This long piece was written for the Tumblr Ishida Family Month with a prompt for every day. Thank you to the group maintainers @itsnaruto710 and @je-taime-amira for allowing me the opportunity to indulge my Quincy obsession.
PG, no real warnings except for some curse words, the usual Ishida angst, and if you know the manga, expect references to genocide and death, Ryuuken’s smoking habit, and family strife. Also, IshiHime if you squint.

The Ishida Family in 28 Tales
By debbiechan
Thanks as always to my beloved editor, Nehalenia. This long piece was written for the Tumblr Ishida Family Month with a prompt for every day. Thank you to the group maintainers @itsnaruto710 and @je-taime-amira for allowing me the opportunity to indulge my Quincy obsession.
PG, no real warnings except for some curse words, the usual Ishida angst, and if you know the manga, expect references to genocide and death, Ryuuken’s smoking habit, and family strife. Also, IshiHime if you squint.

  1. Letting Her Go

Souken had learned to let go of his wife day by day when he spent longer hours training, reluctant to come home to the angry and bitter person she had become. He missed dinner. She yelled at him for that, so he came home after she was asleep. Breakfasts passed quickly; she would hand him a plate with a caustic comment, and he would make a remark about his obligation to learn what he could from artifacts he had stolen from the Wandenreich. Their son ate little and hurried to school. Soon husband and wife spoke less.  Breakfasts were silent. The death of a marriage has its own life-force when both partners are in the same room; it oppresses the heart with a cruel weight, and Souken felt that he was less of a man and a Quincy for sitting in that silence.

Upon the passing of his wife, Souken found that he could let go his resentment. He remembered the strong, intelligent girl he had loved once, the girl made fearful by politics and war, the young woman who tried so hard to control the destiny of her family and yet knew she could not. He still loved the girl he married; that girl was somewhere in the body lying cold beside him in the bed. They had not slept apart in all these years. He bent over, gave the shoulders a gentle hug. Then he let her spirit go.

Ryuuken had learned to let go one woman. When he and Masaki were betrothed, he had imagined a life with her that would fulfill every dream—his father’s aspirations for a new Quincy heritage, and of course, Masaki was indisputably the prettiest girl at school.  What boy didn’t dream of her?  What boy would not have traded places with him for the moments she stood on tip-toe, brought her face close to his, winked and called him “cousin” in a teasing, lilting voice.  Ryuuken lost her when a Shinigami entered her soul and destiny. He lost her again when she died, a victim to the Quincy. His beloved wife Kanae took a longer time to die because Ryuuken used every skill as a medical doctor and every secret taught to him by Souken to prolong her life, but in the end, she too was lost. He refused to accept Kanae’s death. The Quincy had ruined everything in his life, shredded his family, taken those he loved one by one. Blind with tears, he carried the body to his home.

He never let Kanae go. He dug in her body until he found the source of her death. He knew from his experience of shooting so many arrows what it felt like to draw back and release. Let go? No. The piece of silver from Kanae’s heart could be the key to taking down the Quincy king who had destroyed so much of his life, and Ryuuken spent hours crafting the arrowhead, but he knew he couldn’t shoot it.
There came a time, though, when that arrowhead would fly away, when the last remaining part of Kanae would fulfill Ryuuken’s promise to her. I will protect our son.

Letting her go would mean believing she had died.  He couldn’t do that. He saw her face every time he looked at Uryuu.

Uryuu noticed the prettiest girl in his school right away because who could not? She was in his sewing club, and soon it became clear that she not only was pretty but smart and kind and possessed of a unique sense of humor.  Sometimes students would make faces at her and walk away puzzled by her non-sequiturs about robots and donut factories, but Uryuu, who was fond of puzzles, began to try to make sense of her.

He began to practice letting her go when he realized she had a mad crush on another classmate and that he was painfully unworthy of her.

He wanted the best for her; he wanted to protected her; he was willing to die for her--over the years, he came close to doing just that.

Many years later, it was she who told him that she was unworthy of his love. “I know what it’s like,” she said, “to love from afar, to want to protect someone.”  She tugged the end of her long ponytail, not a nervous gesture but to make a point. “People have protected me. I grew my hair long as a promise to Tatsuki. So many people were hurt protecting me but…”

She put her hand on his. Her touch was familiar as morning bread to him now, not as electrifying as when he was a teenager. He felt comforted by it, not anxious.

“I am so sorry for all the times you were hurt protecting me,” she went on. “I always had the power in me to defend myself, but I didn’t understand it. I am not a fragile flower. I understand my powers now. I am a strong woman.”

He let go a fantasy of her. The woman who needed him to die for her. He let go of a fantasy of himself.  Her knight.

“A strong woman?” He covered her hand with his own. “You are even more worthy of my love than ever before.”

She looked at him with gratitude, as if she had been forgiven, although it had not been his intent to forgive her for anything; she had done nothing wrong---she had simply grown up, like everyone does. Her eyes smiled, even as they grew moist with tears. She leaned forward and kissed the corner of his mouth and whispered, “Thank you, Ishida-kun,” as the sky was letting go the day, as the evening breeze was tossing papers and autumn leaves around the sidewalk.

  1. Undercover

Ryuuken knew that his son believed himself to be as well-versed in the art of subterfuge as he was German or mathematics, but Uryuu had always worn his heart on his sleeve.  Uryuu had Kanae’s eyes. In battle, Kanae’s eyes would narrow and look vigilant and hard—one could see her scanning the horizon and strategies aligning in her mind—but when she wasn’t in battle gear? Ryuuken sucked on a cigarette so he would not smile at the memory.  The little girl in her maid’s outfit gazing with delight for the first time at Mother’s heirloom china plates. Her pure love of pretty things—it was more than that Uryuu got from her. The boy’s mouth could lie, but his eyes never did.

Ryuuken hadn’t commented on Uryuu’s predilection for sewing when the boy started making costumes for himself.  Sewing was an essential skill for a surgeon after all, and the time spent making plushies and clothes for his classmates was time Uryuu didn’t spend at his grandfather’s listening to the old man prattle about the old Quincy ways. At first Uryuu had tried to hide his costumes from his father, but one afternoon Ryuuken had walked in on his son swinging a cardboard blade while wearing a super-hero cape. “School project,” Uryuu had lied promptly, his ears red. Ryuuken had told him the hem was un-even.

It was clear during Uryuu’s first year at Karakura hospital that all the staff were in love with his handsome son, and while that annoyed Ryuuken, Uryuu attempted to be stoic about it and yet was often turned into a stammering mess every time a nurse or receptionist gave him a gift “just because” or asked him to lunch (he was always too busy and preferred to eat alone). Uryuu was, however, pleased and proud whenever someone complimented his handmade ties. It showed in his eyes, his eyes like Kanae’s. The vivid delight he couldn’t hide.

Ryuuken could often hide his own facial reactions with a puff of smoke, but it took more than a prop to control one’s emotions. Why hadn’t Uryuu inherited his father’s insensitivity to other people’s feelings instead of his mother’s weakness for displaying emotional reactions?  The worst part was he tried to be cool.  Kanae hadn’t been a pretentious person. Showing some good sense, Uryuu didn’t take up a bad habit like smoking; the habit was truly unbecoming for a doctor, but Uryuu was not cool. How the hell did he get away with pretending to be a member of the Quincy army?  Fortunately, Uryuu did not register at all under the Quincy king’s perception as Souken had suspected or the idiot would’ve been dead before Isshin had talked Ryuuken into bringing the boy the silver arrowhead.

At some point, Uryuu started to pay back the nurses for their little gifts of candy, soap and expensive bottles of sweet sake with hand-sewn handkerchiefs. He quit when the young women began to take the gifts as signs of returned affection. Apparently, soon after that, he began to take sewing commissions on the side.

It had to be commissions. He certainly could not have been doing all this sewing just for the fun of it. Or was he?  Was he giving these dresses to one particular girl? No, there didn’t seem to be anyone at the hospital Uryuu blushed over. Was he selling the dresses to a shop? Perhaps.

But there they were. Ryuuken had been in his son’s office only briefly, after Uryuu left to find some papers at his receptionist’s office in front, and Ryuuken decided to check a closet for said paperwork; what he saw among the usual lab coats and changes of menswear was a dressing dummy on a stand covered in measuring tape and stuck with pins. Further exploration revealed at least five women’s dresses far in the back on a stand-alone rack. His son’s taste had matured. Or perhaps his clientele’s had. The dresses Uryuu had sewn in high school were frillier. These dresses, hanging from padded satin hangers, were tailored daywear in muted jewel tones, not showy but decidedly feminine with embroidered details.

He was so busy as a surgeon; when did he find the time? Here, in the hospital?

His son was an undercover dressmaker.  Ryuuken had patted the pack of cigarettes in his chest pocket at that moment and excused himself to go into the smoking lobby.  He didn’t make it there. No one ever reported him anyway.

Outside the hospital, Ryuuken smashed his third cigarette underfoot. What would Uryuu say if confronted?  A hospital benefit project? Ryuuken would just tell him that his embroidery was a little ostentatious.

  1. Remembering My Mother

Kurosaki’s family made an excursion to their mother’s grave on the day she died.  Every year, June 17th.  Uryuu would learn years later that this was the same date that his own mother fell to the great Holy Selection perpetuated by the Quincy king, but he didn’t know the exact date of his mother’s death.
Memories of her illness were a blur, of staying at Grandfather’s for a long time, of demanding to see her at the hospital, but Grandfather insisted that there was a danger and said to wait. Uryuu started school; he waited; he didn’t want to eat but Grandfather always boiled noodles in the evening and said his feelings would be hurt if Uryuu didn’t have just a little.

What day he was finally allowed to visit the hospital? It was unseasonably chilly; he wore a sweater. Grandfather held his hand past the section where children were not allowed. Grandfather had not held his hand since Uryuu was very small, so what was Grandfather protecting him against now? The staff looked at Uryuu strangely, with gentle eyes. He recognized many of them, for he was a doctor’s son, but there were some faces he did not know, and still those faces were staring at him as if they knew something he did not.

His mother’s room was at the end of a long hallway; there was a thin silver emblem hanging on the left doorpost that Uryuu did not recognize. It looked spidery—but only had six long arms. His father was leaning on the wall outside the room in his scrubs and lab coat. Expressionless.

“She’s awake?” Grandfather asked.

A nod was the response, so Grandfather turned the doorknob and led Uryuu inside.

The room was huge, luxurious, not like any hospital room Uryuu had ever seen. There were dressers and a small dining table and an unmade day bed. Fine furniture among hospital machinery. The latter clicked and whirred, and there were Quincy artifacts everywhere, more spidery silver things, and at the foot of his mother’s giant bed glowed two large tubes like bedposts—only Uryuu knew they were not bedposts and that they were blue reishi encased somehow in vessels.

Mother lay in the fetal position. She was so tiny, wrapped in several blankets, plastic tubes attached to her skinny arms.

Uryuu let go Grandfather’s hand and ran to her.

She had two tubes in her nostrils, thinning hair and sunken cheeks but she looked beautiful still. Her eyes were bright and happy. “Uryuu, you’re here.”

He didn’t know what to say.

“You’ve been doing your schoolwork and going to bed on time?”

He nodded.

“I wanted to see right away.” She smiled and there were tiny wrinkles around her mouth. “I’m very sick. I was asleep for many weeks, and I woke up, but… I’m still very sick. Your father has been working very hard to help me, but there is only so much he can do.”

Uryuu felt his chest tighten. He wanted to throw his arms around his mother, but he didn’t want to upset the tubes. She held out her hand, and he took it.  Her fingers had never felt so fragile, her skin so papery.

“You’re going to be all right,” he said. “Father will save you.”

Her wrist dropped to the mattress, but she did not let go his hand. “Tired,” she explained. “Too tired to even hold up my hand.”

He wanted to do something. He wanted to hold her up with all his strength.

“Don’t be sad,” she said. “You are my heart.”

It may have been a few minutes; it may have been a half an hour, but she lay there, very tired, holding hands with her son, until Grandfather approached and put his hand on Uryuu’s shoulder.

“Thank you, Souken,” she said. “I’m going to sleep for a while. Good-bye to you both.”

Grandfather and grandson passed his expressionless father in the hallway without a word. Uryuu thought it peculiar at the time, but years later he would understand that there were no words to be said to a man at such a time.

“Can we come again tomorrow?” Uryuu had hope. He hoped he would see his mother again and again and that every day her face would grow fuller and one day she would sit up and put her arms around him.

“Let’s wait and see,” Grandfather replied.

The next day she died. It was sometime after the day Uryuu’s father announced that there would be no funeral that Uryuu began to question if this man was a real father or husband. Why was he acting like this?  Cold, not grieving, speaking to no one.

His mother’s body was in their family home, in a guest bedroom downstairs, for many days.  Uryuu was supposed to be staying at his grandfather’s, but he wanted to see his mother again so he escaped to his family home a few times. The room where his mother’s body was kept was always locked.

Until that evening it wasn’t, and he discovered his father dissecting his mother’s corpse.

It would be years before he learned the reason why. It would be years before he held the silver arrowhead fashioned out of what his father had found in his mother’s body and remembered his mother’s words and felt for the first time, his father’s trust. You are my heart.

  1. Father

Souken’s father had been a child after the first war with the Shinigami one thousand years ago; that child’s grandfather had been instrumental in establishing the New Order of the Shadow Realm, a place where the Quincy could live free. The Wandenreich had been a monumental effort in stealing reishi from the Living World, re-aligning it and constructing it into a secret kingdom. The Ishida family was held in esteem; they were entrusted with the keeping of artifacts and special knowledge. Souken’s father was a dazzling soldier and manipulator of spells, well over a few hundred years old when Souken had sat at his knee, listening with enchantment as his father bragged about reishi tricks and secret weapons.

As Souken grew, the stories seemed sadder, no longer heroic. Souken did not understand why Father despised the Living World so much. The people he described seemed to have had fair reason for not wanting souls destroyed. It seemed to Souken that there was so much beyond the tribe of the Quincy, that the needs of other people mattered too.

Souken was not alone in his beliefs.  When he and others began to speak out against the Quincy ways, the infidels were exiled. “Go to the Living World and see for yourself how they will treat you there,” were the last words Souken’s father said to him.

And so he left, his beautiful black-haired wife by his side, her eyes defiant and her back straight. Their small, light-haired son stepped carefully of out of the shadow realm first and pronounced, “looks fine.” He shifted his weight and put down his book-sack. “Father, what did you put in there?”

“Quincy secrets,” said Souken. “You’ll learn in time. We’re going to make a world where Shinigami and Quincy can work together.”

“The Shinigami killed most of the last batch of exiles over a hundred years ago,” his wife reminded him.
“It’s warm here,” said the son.  His eyes were blue as ice as he spoke the words. “It’s not unpleasant.”

As Souken defied his father, his own son would defy him. Ryuuken saw his father’s dream of Shinigami and Quincy working together unfulfilled, and he saw his family members perish one by one in the Living World. There was no mercy anywhere, for not even the Wandenreich, the supposed haven for Quincy, was safe. The Shinigami killed Souken, and the Quincy king himself had been responsible for the death of his wife, so what was there to do in the Living World but pursue his own death? He took up smoking.

In the meantime, he continued to save human lives as a doctor because he still had a conscience to redeem and there was the matter of his own son….

He had made a pledge to his dying wife.  Kanae, I will protect him.

After his mother’s death, Ishida Uryuu did not know what to make of his father’s brittle, silent grief.  The already cold person Uryuu knew as his father became even colder, critical to the point of using words as scalpels—if one look from him didn’t cut you down, a remark like “you have no talent as a Quincy” would open a wound so deep that as your faith bled out, doubt poured in. It was easy enough to leave home when Uryuu was old enough to rent an apartment with the generous allowance he’d saved up. The cigarette smoke around the man would have been enough to drive anyone away.

 Still, the man didn’t let up. “When you are a doctor, Uryuu…  “Because a career is important, Uryuu….” When Uryuu had been but a small child, Souken had placed a hand on his head and told him that one day he would understand what his father wanted to protect.  Uryuu had wondered if it was money that his father wanted to protect, and for years, for all of Uryuu’s affinity for puzzles and his ability to think things through, the truth never occurred to him.

Uryuu had rebelled against his own father because he thought his own father didn’t know what it meant to be a Quincy.

He did.

Ishida Ryuuken had wanted to protect his son from the Shinigami who had killed the Quincy and from the Quincy who had killed the Quincy.

The day Uryuu was entrusted by his father with a silver arrowhead was a day Uryuu knew that, as a son, he had been given charge to protect himself as well as others. Uryuu understood his father that day.

He shot that arrowhead for his father, for his mother, for his grandfather, for all murdered lost and betrayed Quincy, and yes, for himself. It rang from his bow the way perfect understanding flies past generations because its source is from the same true heart.

  1. Sensei

Souken did not, at first, want to go against his son’s wishes and introduce Uryuu into the ways of the Quincy, but the boy was teaching himself how to shoot a bow and he was doing it all wrong.
Uryuu was a fine marksman even if he did shoot with his left hand.

Souken took it upon himself to teach the boy some history and lore, then took him out by a fast creek in a wooded spot and showed him how to gather his reishi from his heart to his hands towards his aim. It was that day that Uryuu called his grandfather “sensei,” and Souken did not express either delight or displeasure, merely said, “oh very well, tomorrow I will teach you something else.”

Uryuu showed up after school the next day with his bow, but Souken had a cooking lesson planned. “Why cooking?” the boy asked, and Souken explained that household skills were crucial to independence.  He showed Uryuu how to bone a fish. He said that what swam in the water with vigor and life in the morning was a sacrifice to the grill in the evening and should be savored as such, that all life has meaning. A little rice wine, he added, was to give the sacrifice more flavor.

The following day Souken showed his grandson how to thread a needle and sew a button back onto a shirt.

“You did that very well,” he said after Uryuu bit off the thread and handed back the shirt.
“Thank you, Sensei.”

“I’ll see if I can find something more challenging for you to do. Maybe we can make a little puppet out of this old towel.”

“When are we going to start training with my little bow again?”

“Soon enough, soon enough.” Souken was cutting the towel with scissors. “Finish the puppet out of the pattern the way I instruct you, and I may show you an ancient Quincy technique called ransoutengai.”

“Ransoutengai?” Uryuu’s eyes widened. “What’s that?”

“Oh very difficult. Not a technique known to this time. Requires talent, concentration. Like puppeteering, it’s a skill.”

“And you can do it?” Uryuu had his needle threaded and was holding it up like a weapon.

Souken pressed Uryuu’s hand down. “Don’t display your gifts. There’s no need to draw attention to what one is capable of until it is time to act.” He handed his grandson two identical bits of cloth. “Here, sew these together and leave a space at the bottom for the hand. You will have a fine puppet.”

“Yes, Sensei.” Uryuu’s eyes were gleaming. “Of course, Sensei.”

It was at that moment that Souken realized that his own son, by not training Uryuu, was not offering the boy a choice. Ryuuken, his future has always been out of your grasp. I am here for him, as I was for you. The Quincy king would awaken one day. Uryuu needed to decide if and how to confront the new armies the Quincy king would gather. Ryuuken mistook knowledge itself for a power that could be denied or imparted, but Souken understood: any choices Uryuu would make would be his own. A sensei does not decide the path for his pupil; a sensei opens the door to the future.

  1. Doctor Ishida

Damn giggling nurses were getting on Ishida Ryuuken’s last nerve.  Administrative staff who were older addressed him as “sensei,” which was proper, but these girls fresh out of university--their poorly applied eyeliner smudged by mid-morning--they claimed that “Doctor this” and “Doctor that” was the way they had been taught and it was sooooo confusing to them because there was an elder Doctor Ishida and a younger Doctor Ishida.  Both doctors apparently made the new nurses titter and blush; Ryuuken had never seen such a frivolous fall crop and yelled that he would fire the whole lot if one nurse was so much as three seconds late filing a report or, all the gods preserve their souls, dropped an instrument. They only blushed and tittered more at his yelling. “He’s so handsome when he’s angry,” he actually overheard one say. By that account, Ryuuken decided the nurses were going to witness an Adonis every time they saw him; he was always angry.

And oh my heavens they adored his son.  They exchanged glances when Uryuu passed in the corridor. They invented reasons to speak to him that had nothing to do with patients and endlessly complimented his hair, his ties, and help us all, they noticed his new Italian shoes one day.

Ryuuken and his son were standing outside the hospital one morning waiting for a cab that was going to take them to a conference across town when one of new nurses—they were all indistinguishable, dyed blondish hair, too much eye-make-up--ran up with a batch of papers in her hand. “Doctor Uryuu!” She was breathless. “You left these on the admissions desk!”

“What did you just call my son?”

She batted her lashes. They were weighed down with a ton of mascara so how she managed to flutter them so quickly was a mystery to Ryuuken. “You mean… Doctor Uryuu?” She giggled. “Didn’t you know?

Everyone has started to call him that. It is very difficult to know which doctor one is speaking about when there are two Doctor Ishidas in the same hospital---“

“Idiot.” Ryuuken threw his cigarette on the floor.  It’s a common name. There are always people who share the same name in offices everywhere.”

The young nurse looked startled but not afraid. These girls were indefatigably stupid in a way Ryuuken had not encountered before. Uryuu looked embarrassed for the fool’s sake but was wise enough to be silent.

“Don’t you ever,” and here Ryuuken lifted his finger and pointed it. “Don’t you ever call my son anything but Doctor Ishida ever again. Tell everyone to do the same. Or else ….” He paused for effect. “I’ll make you come to work for a week without fucking mascara before I fire you for insubordination and bad taste.”

“Y-yes, Doctor Ishida,” said the young nurse, a little taken aback this time. She fled from the sight.

“Did you have to--” began Uryuu.

“Stand up straight, Uryuu,” said Ryuuken. “You should’ve corrected those children, not me. Get some respect for yourself. And look sharp at this meeting.”

Uryuu put the retrieved papers in his briefcase. “Yes, Father.”

  1. Nakama Day

Doctor Ishida Uryuu could not get the day off for his birthday, but no matter; he never cared for parties. His friends, however, were fond of them and wildly disappointed that the gang could not go to the new BBQ restaurant grand opening that was also being celebrated this November 6th. Uryuu was certain that his friends would, one by one, bring him boxes of meats all day and that his office would smell like a smoky grill for a week.

Keigo and Mizuiro were there before visiting hours. Keigo was standing in Uryuu’s office with a bouquet of balloons and when Uryuu asked him how he got there, Keigo said that his buddy had given the security guard a massage parlor pass.

“Where is Mizuiro now?”

“Sharing your breakfast with the staff on the first floor. Sorry man, it was a big basket of fruit and candy but those little nurses are ravenous.” He handed the balloons to Uryuu. “Happy birthday and many more. You don’t look a day over twenty-eight.”

Uryuu hadn’t even taken off his sweater yet. He sat down in his office chair. “Thanks.”

“Gotta fetch Mizuiro. Taking him to work. He’s got an early photoshoot by the park. Want the morning light but don’t want the models getting too goose-pimpled. It’s going to be tricky. I brought spare jackets in my car and of course—“ He wrapped his arms around himself and made a smooching sound with his lips. “I have my own body warmth.”

“You’re a good friend. Give him my regards.”

“I have to pry your first floor head nurse off him first. She’s wasn’t after them little candied figs, no—there was cougar in her eyes.”

The BBQ place must have opened around noon because after Doctor Ishida’s routine rounds, he went to his office to enter data and smelled the grilled meat before he saw it.

Then he saw Abarai Renji, a ghost, in black Shinigami garb, sitting on his desk. The smile that broke across Uryuu’s face almost hurt; the glee and the ache of nostalgia surprised him; seeing Abarai there was that much of a rupture into whatever Doctor Ishida’s routine life had become.

“I didn’t feel like paying for anything,” Abarai said, “so didn’t bother with a gigai this time. Dudes said this place was worth it so I picked out the best meat box, forked up some kimchi and there you go—happy lunch.”

“Are you going to join me?”

“Don’t like spicy food. Grabbed me nice snacks out your hospital vending machines. Mmm, you guys have the best stuff.”


“Captain stuff. She said she was coming by later. Oh, I almost forgot.” Abarai dug under his kosode, where his transmitter to Soul Society was supposed to be and pulled out a stunning pair of handcrafted Matsuda sunglasses. Silver frames with a dark blue tint. “I figured these were your style.”

“Abarai! These….” Uryuu tried them on, hoping they wouldn’t fit but they did. “There are like $160 thousand yen a pair.”

I told you I wasn’t in a gigai. I just lifted them. I know your face. Every guy needs a pair of shades.”
“I don’t know what to say.”

“Eat your lunch. I saw someone else on her way while I was flash-stepping here so I’ll get going. You need to pay a visit to Soul Society sometime. Captain Kotetsu still talks about the clothes you made for her. Everyone would be happy to see you.”

Through the blue-tinted glass of his expensive new glasses, Uryuu watched Abarai leap out the open window. “Wait—I—“

The door flung open at the same time, and a beautiful woman with cinnamon hair carrying a giant cake box appeared. She shut the door behind her with her foot. “Is your birthday supposed to be some sort of secret because the hospital staff didn’t seem to know a thing about it!”

“I never tell anyone,” Uryuu said.

“The welcome desk had a clue. Mizuiro gave them a fruit basket? I think the word’s getting out. I heard that nurses are scrambling during their breaks to run out and buy you presents.”

“Oh no.” Doctor Ishida ran his hands through his hair.

“Nice glasses,” said Orihime. “They bring out the blue in your eyes. Oh, is that kimchi I smell?”

She ate the kimchi. She had always lived for spicy vegetables in school. Uryuu ate the grilled fish, which he had to admit, was very good, and he would recommend the restaurant to paying customers. The cake Orihime had made was ridiculously huge and of course it would be shared with staff later, but it moist and tangy, with just the barest layer of lemon frosting. Uryuu ate one piece and pronounced it a “cheery cake.”

“Birthdays should be cheery,” she said.

“Why?” He shrugged. “They seem like such a bother. My father always sends a card and a check. That seems easy enough, not very personal perhaps, but ….”

“Birthdays are also for your friends to show you how much they care for you—and you have so many … different sorts of friends.”

The paper plates went into the waste-basket. “Thank you so much for the beautiful cake. But I’m so sorry—Really, I need to get to my follow-up work now.”

She gave him a brief hug goodbye and took the waste basket lining out with her before he could protest. “You don’t want it to smell like fish in here all day,” she explained. “It’s chilly in here—do you want me to close the window?”

“Uh, no, that’s fine.” Uryuu couldn’t help but smile. “Expecting Shinigami company later.”

Hours later, Uryuu had completely forgotten it was his birthday and was deep into the file of a patient with reoccurring viral pericarditis. He was still wearing Abarai’s sunglasses, which weren’t prescription, and wondering if for some reason his monitor needed to be replaced because the text looked a little blurry. The patient on file was young; her condition seemed easy enough to treat but more vigilant after-care was necessary if she was to make a complete recovery.  He was typing instructions to the discharge department when a small gray tabby kitten jumped on his desk and said “meow.”

He looked up and there was Sado-kun.

I smuggled Rosita in my back-pack past the front desk,” he said.  “I do that for the pediatric ward all the time. Ichigo’s dad doesn’t mind.”

Uryuu petted the kitty’s neck. “No, I’m sure he doesn’t. Ever since he’s been made head of the pediatric ward, things have been very different there. He practically lives there. He has his own room.”
Sado stroked the cat’s tail while Uryuu scratched the cat’s neck. “I’ve asked your dad about allowing therapy animals in there, but ….”

“My dad is slow to change his ways, but he wants to help people. I’ll do my best to persuade him. It’s not like the animals will be living here and staff will be emptying litter boxes, right?”

“Right. Doctor Kurosaki even said that. He doesn’t want to clean up cat poop.”

“No, no, no, doctors don’t clean up poop,” came a female voice from the windowsill. There was Kuchiki-san, sitting in her captain’s robes but waggling her tiny feet like a girl on a high branch in a tree. “There are always subordinates to clean up poop, whether you are a people doctor or an animal doctor.”

“Supposedly that’s the way it works,” began Uryuu, “but sometimes on the operating table, stuff happens….”

“There are not always enough hands to catch what can come spilling out of—“ Sado started.

“Stop! I don’t want to hear it!” You two can tell your yucky doctor stories to one another later. “Chad, I think it was really nice of you to stop by Ishida’s on a workday for his birthday.

“You came all the way from Soul Society,” Uryuu said. “I’m honored.”

“Oh, I stopped to bring a box of the BBQ from the new restaurant,” Sado said. “I put it in my knapsack on my way to the pediatric ward with Rosita but ….”

The large man face looked genuinely sorry. “The little cat ate all the BBQ fish in the box.”

“Aw, forget it, I brought some BBQ myself,” Kuchiki-san said. “Who’s in the mood for steak and grilled vegetables?”

Uryuu figured that since Kuchiki-san wasn’t in her gigai, she stole the food as well. He was going to have to go the new restaurant tomorrow and leave a large tip to make up for his thieving ghost friends.
“Enough for everyone!” Kuchiki-san pulled out a few boxes from under her billowing robes. “If you have a human appetite, if you’re over-worked and skinny like Ishida here, or if you just happen to have a massive reiatsu that likes cucumbers even when they’re all burned up and mooshed up with meat— “

“Meow,” said Rosita.

“I think you’re full,” said Kuchiki-san to the kitty.

“Is there enough for me, Rukia?” asked Kurosaki Ichigo. He was sitting  on the opposite side of the window sill in his Shinigami robes.

Uryuu’s stomach was still full from the lunch he’d eaten earlier, but now his heart was full. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been with Kurosaki, Kuchiki-san, and Sado-kun in the same room. Had their lives really become so adult and complicated? There was still a bouquet of yellow balloons floating in the corner of his office.

“There’s cake,” Uryuu offered, a little more excitedly than he intended to sound. “And paper plates. I think I have a bottle of sweet sake one of the nurses brought by earlier.”

“Oh I can’t drink on the job,” Sado said.

“Don’t like sake,” Kuchiki-san said.

“Ok, Kurosaki.” Uryuu said. “Just one? I’ll have one, go back to my reports and call it a night.”

“Pour me a shot glass,” Kurosaki said. “I want to make a toast. And lose the sun-glasses. They make you look like a pimp.”

“They were Renji’s idea,” Kuchiki-san said, almost apologetically. “I think they look nice, but maybe not indoors.”

“They’re my birthday glasses and I’m wearing them,” Uryuu said defiantly. He poured himself a glass and handed another to Kurosaki. He petted the cat while Kurosaki raised his arm to make a toast.

“To friendship,” said Kurosaki with some of the drama he’d been famous for as a teenager.
Sado and Rukia nodded.

Rosita went “meow,” and when Uryuu gave her neck an extra loving rub, she erupted into deep happy purring noises.

  1. First Encounter

Common sense will tell you that the best marriages begin with friendship, not worship, but the first time Katagiri Kanae saw the person who would be her husband, she was small child and a servant; she had expected that devotion was a job requirement; she did not expect her feelings to surge past duty.

She had been chosen from many other girls for her housekeeping skills and social adeptness, taken from the small house where she had lived with an elderly aunt to a vast estate with many floors; she was nervous, awed by the spaciousness of every room she passed through and worried about the exact nature of her responsibilities.  The lady of the house brought her to the chief maid who then led her upstairs to the young master’s door, walked her right in without knocking and there he was, a boy her age with messy white hair, glasses, and a look of perfectly focused intelligence.

“You are to serve Ishida Ryuuken,” the maid explained. “You can begin by cleaning his room. Do what he asks, and he will call for you and dismiss you as he pleases.”

After the maid left, the young master gestured to small trash basket. “There’s only that. I like to keep things where I put them and don’t like other people touching them.”

“Yes, young Master.”

“You can dust tomorrow, I suppose.” He plopped on his bed with a book. “Do you go to school?”
“Yes, young Master. I’m supposed to attend to my duties after you return from school and all through our school vacations.”

“That’s a lot of time,” he noted. “I’ve never had a personal servant follow me around before. Do you like books?”

Kanae picked the trash-can lining and knotted it at the top. She was stunned by the question. “Yes, young Master, I like books.”

“You’re dismissed. I suppose you have some settling in to do.”

She left the room on a cloud. He’s smart. He’s kind. He asked me if I like books.

It took years, but the young Master became a young man and the child servant became a woman. He did not confide in anyone; he read books and kept to himself, but he often asked his constant companion a question and listened to her advice. He trusted her opinion.  Her worship of him waned naturally because of their proximity; she saw him for the sheltered, tense, guarded loner he was. She loved him anyway.

Occasionally they disagreed on a subject.  His eyes always flashed as if he liked being challenged.  “You are a very principled person,” he would say, almost as if that were a criticism, and then he would smile. Her heart sang at such moments. Did he say such things to anyone else?

There came a time of much suffering and on a night when the sky was thundering and the rain beating against the windows, the young Master fell into the arms of the woman who would forever be in his heart, and a little over a year later they had a child. The boy was named Rain Dragon. Upon her first encounter with this new Ishida, Kanae also felt immediate worship.

“He looks like you,” she said.

“More like you, I’d say,” said the father. “Something about the eyes. Look how open they are already.”

“Your mother’s mouth.”

“Yes. I hope he doesn’t turn out to be a bitter old boss-lady though. What type of person do you suppose he’ll be?”

Kanae smiled, remembering the day she left the young Master’s room on a cloud. “I don’t know.  Smart? Kind? He’ll like books.”

  1. Life of a Mother

Kanae was pregnant at the wedding, which she had wanted to be a small civil ceremony but Ryuuken knew that his mother would object to the union, big wedding or small wedding, and insisted on a big one. “Whatever you want,” he told her. “Five hundred roses, all the Gemischt servants seated as guests, a Western holy man or a Buddhist priest conducting the service, it doesn’t matter, the Ishida lineage is broken, I’m not a Quincy anymore—“ He had smiled while saying this. “I am a better man for joining my life with yours.”

They had compromised with an elegant wedding at the Ishida estate. Kanae wasn’t showing much, her belly hidden in the folds of a simple, sleeveless white dress that fell no farther than her knees. It was early summer, unusually hot for the season, and no one suspected why she looked so flushed—brides were given to bright cheeks and having to sit down suddenly, overwhelmed with emotions.

No one would have suspected that the bride was not a pure-blood the way she was treated by family, guests and servants. Souken’s very presence in any room set the precedence for the graceful behavior of others, and even Mrs. Ishida, as full of grief as she was over her son marrying his own maid, had been somewhat mollified when Ryuuken had told her that out of respect for the Ishida family, for the way of life passed on to them by the Quincy, for the hospital built by Father with his magical knowledge and Mother with her keen talent for investing money and hiring the best people—for all these reasons, Ryuuken and his bride were not going to elope and wanted to start their new life in the family home.
“A toast!” proclaimed the head of the household, and before Souken scarcely had begun expounding on the virtues of marriage, Kanae fainted dead-away.

“She’s so delicate,” Mrs. Ishida muttered. “Masaki never caught cold not a day in her life. Such a shame she’s tainted now. “

Souken hushed his wife with a look as Ryuuken carried his bride out of the room, but Mrs. Ishida didn’t listen.

“He’ll be too busy protecting her to mind his studies in medical school,” she added.

The baby was born five months later in a hospital in Kobe City where Ryuuken and Kanae were living in a modest apartment. Ryuuken took it upon himself to make the phone-call one day after the birth, made the announcement that the boy’s name was Uryuu, that he was healthy, that the mother was fine and back in her own bed. Mrs. Ishida took the three-hour bullet train from Tokyo that very day.
Kanae could hear mother and son outside the balcony. No comments about a pregnant bride.

“Are you sleeping well, Ryuuken? You look tired.”

“I’m fine, fine. Yesterday was just a bit of a day, you know. Baby and all. It was a normal delivery. Labor was only six hours.”

“This is terrible housing. Surely you can find something nicer even it’s a little further from the university. I’ll speak to Souken about it. He’ll send a man over—“

“No, it’s fine. We’re very comfortable. There’s even a play-room for Uryuu. Kanae set it up months ago.”

Kanae wondered if she would ever be that obsessed with her son’s eating and sleeping.  Uryuu had only been in the world for a day, and so far there had been nothing to worry about. When he cried, she nursed him. After she nursed him, he slept well. She knew it had to be more complicated eventually, but so far ….

“You look good for a woman who’s just given birth,” Mrs. Ishida said upon entering the bedroom.

“I told you, Mother,” said Ryuuken.

Kanae sat up, a little startled by the compliment. Uryuu was in her arms. “Do you want to hold him?”
Amazingly enough, Mrs. Ishida did. The old woman who never seemed pleased by anything opened her arms and took the baby, the tiniest of newborns wrapped in a heavy blanket because it was November, and held him as if holding babies was what she did every day. She reached under the blanket and gingerly patted a tuft of jet black hair. “He has your hair and complexion,” she said to Kanae.

“I think he looks a lot like you, though,” Kanae said. “Look at his mouth. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Ryuuken’s mother inspected the baby’s face. “I believe you’re right.”

It was pointless to ask the old woman to spend the night; she would not accept a futon on the floor, and when Ryuuken asked her if she had a hotel room, she said she had to return home, that she had work in the morning, many “particulars” to attend to. She did stay to drink a cup of tea but refused any dinner. She did not, by any stretch of the imagination, appear cheerful, but she seemed softer.

Her parting words were to Kanae. “The life of a mother always brings suffering, but it is the suffering you get on your knees and thank the gods for.  You were blessed with a son, never forget how blessed you are.” She was still talking on the balcony as she walked with Ryuuken. “He’s an attractive boy. Yes. Pretty little baby.”

  1. His Eyes

Most people who wear glasses look vulnerable without them; Ryuuken did not. He was possessed of extraordinary senses, the ability to detect reiatsu and be aware of the shapes of objects around him merely by their emitted thermodynamic frequencies. Sometimes he took off his glasses to wipe them and did not break his authoritarian stare when addressing a nurse or another employee.

Sometimes at night, if Uryuu was sick (the boy was prone to coughing fits that Ryuuken had already diagnosed as a seasonal pollen allergy, but Uryuu was also given to many colds his first year of school, even after allergy treatments, both traditional and Quincy), Kanae would pace the hallway between her son’s room and her husband’s.  Uryuu’s reading had already earned him pronounced myopia and he’d been prescribed glasses at age four.  The little round spectacles lay on the dresser next to the glass of lemon water, and Uryuu never slept soundly while Ryuuken always slept well; it was as if Ryuuken turned himself off at a certain hour, dead to the world for six hours, no more, no less.

They had the same blue eyes, husband and son, but when shut, they were so different. Ryuuken’s eyes held a slight frown even in sleep, and Uryuu’s eyelids were smooth, so pale that the veins made them look like translucent shells underwater.

Uryuu slept so little, the same six or so hours as his father, and Kanae knew that was not nearly enough for a child, and especially when that sleep was interrupted by coughing.  The medicines Souken sent didn’t always work. She worried, especially at night, when problems seemed deeper, when the darkness and fatigue made her imagine worst case scenarios.

But every morning, without fail, Uryuu showed up for breakfast, sometimes chirping his “good morning” with a hoarse voice, but his eyes were clear, his chin was held high, and Kanae saw in him his father’s strength. She knew, without having to be told by either Ryuuken or Souken, that Uryuu possessed a special Quincy ability to sense the world around him; in fact, the boy’s sensitivities exceeded those of his father and grandfather. Strength, a special strength. Uryuu would survive a cold; in fact, he could survive anything.

She could see that in his eyes.


Tags: ishida, ishida family, isshin, kanae, madame ishida, masaki, orihime, ryuuken, souken, the ishida family in 28 tales, urahara
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