One week after Masaki's death, Isshin is dealing with the fallout, and Ichigo is having a hard time coping. Some spoilers for the beginning of the manga.
by: youkai_girl_AKA eternalsailorsolarwind
Disclaimer: Bleach and all of its characters are owned by Tite Kubo, his Japanese publishers, Viz, and several other legal entities whose names escape me at the moment. I only own this fic, and some merchandising.
A/N: Written for the Week 5 prompt at bleach_contest: Embrace. I was not intending to write this when I sat down to work on the prompt, but Isshin hijacked me and refused to let me go until I finished. Extremely dark and angsty, we're actually seeing more of the Soul Reaper captain part of Isshin's character than the more-than-slightly insane doctor those in the living world see. Set pre-manga, a mere one week after Masaki's death, Isshin is dealing with some of the aftermath of her loss. Isshin introspective. Isshin + nine-year-old Ichigo.
The panicked, shrill scream was what woke him. Kurosaki Isshin fell more than leaped out of bed, the covers tangled around him a silent testimony to his own troubled sleep. Fighting his way free of the shroud he'd made of his sheets, he had one thought on his mind: get to his son.
Finally freeing himself, Isshin rushed down the hall to Ichigo's room. He didn't have time to stop and check on the twins, as recent experience had proven that if he didn't get to his son's room quickly, the boy would hurt himself. Indeed, as he threw open the door, he saw what was becoming a very familiar sight.
“Mama, Mama, Mama!” Ichigo cried out for his mother even as he hit his head against the wall.
Eyes clouding with fresh tears, he hurried to pull his son away from the wall before he actually did damage to himself. This had happened every night in the week since Masaki had been killed. Since she'd died defending their son from something she couldn't see, let alone understand.
Isshin wrapped his arms tightly around Ichigo, hoping that the solidity of his body and the embrace would stop the self-destructive urge. The little body in his grasp struggled for a few moments; small fist connecting painfully with his eye, before relaxing into cleansing tears.
“Shh, Ichigo, shh,” he soothed, tightening his arms around the shaking boy. “Let it out.”
Ichigo cried into his neck. He could feel the salty sting of the tears against his skin, and he grimaced. All of this was his fault. No matter how much Ichigo blamed himself, his wife's death was on his shoulders. As a former captain of the Gotei 13, he should have known better than to think that he could handle Ichigo's growing abilities – and the inevitable visit from a hollow – himself.
Isshin couldn't have sensed a spirit if it had come up and bit him on the ass. Which is, in effect, what had happened a week ago. His own pride had caused this, and he loathed himself for it. If only he'd accepted Urahara's offer to train Ichigo to understand what he saw and how to tell the difference between the living and the dead, Masaki would still be here. And his son would not be sobbing in his arms.
Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20.
“I'm sorry, Daddy,” Ichigo whimpered, breaking into his thoughts. “It's my fault Mama's gone.”
Feeling his eyes well yet again, Isshin rocked his son to calm him. “It's not your fault, Ichigo. It was an accident. It wasn't your fault.”
“If I'd been stronger...,” that little voice continued, voice breaking with sorrow.
The former captain wanted to stop that train of thought before it left the station. “You might have been hurt too, Ichigo.”
“But I'm supposed to be able to protect people, like my name says!”
Never had he regretted telling his son that more. “I'll help you learn to be stronger, Ichigo. Stronger so you can protect people who need it. We'll train every day, and you'll get stronger.”
“Thank you, Daddy,” Ichigo sounded half-asleep, worn out from his outburst. “C'n we start t'morrow?”
“Yes, son, we can. Now go back to sleep.”
Putting his son back in bed, he tucked the boy in. Though he knew he should let his old friend train Ichigo, something still held him back. Perhaps it was the knowledge of what Kisuke had been exiled for, but he just couldn't bring himself to trust Urahara with his son's well-being. Maybe when Ichigo was older, and understood what he'd be getting into, he'd allow it. But for now, he'd shoulder the blame for his wife's death and the loss of Ichigo's ability to smile, and raise his son to be true to his name. Maybe then, he'd be able to eventually forgive himself for what his pride cost his family.