Report Card Day.
A day Kurosaki Ichigo dreaded when he was a kid, when his psychotic version of a father would turn up in full force at his school to terrorize his schoolteacher and address his decent academic grades. It was an annoying day for Ichigo, especially when the skeptical teacher would question his father if his orange hair really was genuine, and had not been the product of a hooligan stunt. It was also a day when the young Ichigo would wish that he could grow up and be the boss instead.
And finally he was
when he soon became a father.
It was a far cry from what he had expected. He didn't sit like a boss, he definitely didn't feel like one, and it was even more nerve-wracking than the time when he was the one with the report card. Because this was his son they were talking about, for Heaven's sake! Of course Ichigo had to know if that young man was doing okay in school, if he was bullied, if he enjoyed the classes. To hell with grades, Ichigo never found them important anyway, even though his wife, Kurosaki Rukia, did.
Today, the situation had been even more nerve-wracking without Rukia sitting next to him like she always did for every other Report Card Day. She was home, tending to their young daughter's cold and could not make it for the overview of their son's academic performance. It was always much more fun with her around, because she always had something funny to say about the schoolteacher afterward, which both of them would then laugh about (though not in front of their son).
And today, the Report Card Day had been
not too good.
"You're going to be in huge trouble with Okasan when we reach home, Sojun." Ichigo frowned as he walked, his young son in step next to him.
His son looked up, an identical frown on his black eyebrows. "Che," he replied, trying to sound unconcerned.
Kurosaki Sojun was born three years after Ichigo and Rukia's marriage. They had had a hard time deciding on a name for the baby boy, until Isshin suggested the name of Byakuya's father. Sojun turned nine this year, and was a young boy with brown eyes like Ichigo's and pale skin. His jet-black hair was his mother's but as he grew up, the unruly spiky strands of hair soon became characteristic of his father. His personality was a complex mixture of both, which Kurosaki Isshin deemed a very "deadly" combination. Sojun grew up to be a stubborn and impulsive young boy with a loud mouth and cocky personality, yet remained very compassionate and protective of others. He was intelligent (something which Kuchiki Byakuya remarked as "a total opposite of his father", much to Ichigo's annoyance) and also possessed a sharp tongue that his father had no trouble likening to his own mother.
"And what's with the fight with the other kid in class? You trying to be a small punk or something?"
Sojun looked up at his father. "He's always been a bully in our class, and this time he stole something from a girl so I tried to get it back. He went to hit me so I did what I could to defend myself."
"According to your school teacher, you hit him twice. That doesn't sound very much like pure defence." Ichigo narrowed his eyes at his son.
"Well, I hit him once to tell him to stop. But he kept coming back so I was forced to do so a second time." Sojun looked up at his father.
"Is it too hard to back down and maybe run?" Ichigo asked.
"You wouldn't run," Sojun replied and Ichigo had to laugh. "Plus you once told me not to sit and just take crap from anyone, except you and Mum."
Ichigo chuckled. "I see." He bent down to look at Sojun properly, inspecting him. There were no black eyes or bruises anywhere. Ichigo knew his son too well to ask, Sojun never did come off bad from any fight. He straightened up and continued walking with Sojun next to him. "Anyway
that third position in class, that was really good. Congratulations."
"I was working for it, because you told me the prize would be that remote-controlled helicopter we saw in the shop the other day!" This time, Sojun's brown eyes almost glimmered.
"It's not your finals yet."
"I know, I'm just showing you my warm-up skills." Sojun smiled.
Ichigo chuckled. "And I wonder where you get that arrogant streak from." He ran a hand through his orange hair. "Did you beat the Ishida kid?"
Soujun shook his head. "No. Ishida Ryuuki came first, as always."
Ichigo laughed. "That's okay. I never beat his dad when I was your age anyway. Remember to kick his ass when you are older, like I did."
"What place did you come in?" Sojun peered at his father suspiciously.
"Me?" Ichigo scratched his head, looking away. "Pretty
good, I would say. But not the top like Ishida."
"You are lying."
"What do you mean?"
"Okasan said your grades weren't good when you were in school." Sojun smiled cheekily.
"Don't listen to her, she's just trying to cover up the fact that she failed almost every subject in class."
Sojun shook his head. "Don't think so. Okasan is smart."
Ichigo smiled slightly. "Ah." He chuckled again, as if remembering a long-time memory. "She's just tiny
and don't tell her I said that."
* * * * *
"Okasan, we are home!" Sojun shouted as he dashed through the door. Ichigo locked the door behind him as he stepped into their comfortable, two-storey home.
The floor of the living room was littered with blank papers, crayons and works of abomination that his wife adoringly called Chappy. Ichigo had tried to prevent this particular "talent" from being passed on to the children, to no avail. On Sojun's one-month-old celebration, a Wakame Taishi stuffed toy was delivered from Soul Society to their house, much to the shock of the boy's father. A similar sickening soft toy also appeared on his daughter's one-month-old event, courtesy of the deadly Uncle Byakuya. The two children immediately fell in love with the plushies and Ichigo was left to ponder if art appreciation was something influenced by genetics, and in this case, Rukia's.
Ichigo picked up an art paper where a family of four bunnies smiled up at him. The drawing was definitely not Rukia's, Ichigo was pretty sure his wife knew how to colour within the lines and that his Zanpakuto's name was not 'Fangetsu' as it was currently labeled with lopsided alphabets. This drawing was-
"You are home."
Ichigo looked up to see his wife standing at the doorway to the kitchen. Kurosaki Rukia smiled, the single strand of hair falling over her forehead and the rest of her long hair secured up at the back of her head. She walked over to him, and husband and wife smiled at each other. Then Ichigo could not resist, and his arms reached out to pull his wife into an embrace.
"Sojun is coming back here with his report card so you better let go off me," Rukia finally spoke after a few seconds of comfortable silence.
"Nothing Sojun hasn't seen before," Ichigo muttered gruffly and Rukia laughed softly as he released her. "How's Juri?" His voice now held concern.
"She's fine, the fever's gone down. She's sleeping upstairs now, go on up and see her." Ichigo nodded and walked upstairs as Rukia went to collect the drawing papers on the floor.
Kurosaki Juri was Ichigo's and Rukia's second and currently youngest child. She was born with Ichigo's trademark orange hair but retained her mother's beautiful violet eyes, and as she grew into a toddler, everyone commented on what a pretty girl she was. Rukia let Juri's hair grow long, and tied it into two adorable pigtails. Juri started to detect spiritual presence at the age of two (the same age as Sojun did), when her mother found her shouting out excitedly to the ghost of a kind old man standing at their gate. Juri was much quieter than Sojun, and much more levelheaded and analytical even in her young age. Ichigo secretly thought Juri to be a replica of a child Rukia (except for the orange hair) due to the fact that her bunny drawings look very much similar to Rukia's and the fact that her tiny hands could be rather painful at times.
When Ichigo had finished checking on his sleeping daughter in the bedroom, he went downstairs to see Rukia seated with an excited Sojun who was busy showing off his report card to his mother. There was another similarity between Ichigo and Sojun, and that was the very close attachment Sojun had with Rukia. Rukia was the center of his universe, she could make her son smile even if he fell down, and it was her voice who could coax him into sleep on difficult nights. Ichigo would never forget the one time when Rukia bought Sojun the small hydroponic kit for young children. The blissful look of happiness in Sojun's face as his mother taught him how to grow the plants on water had reminded Ichigo of himself and his own mother, Masaki. That one scene has remained a major driving force whenever Ichigo battled very dangerous Hollows, that he was going to protect his happy family, the family that was his.
"Congratulations!" Ichigo looked up at Rukia's voice and she was hugging a very happy Sojun. When she released her son, she looked at him curiously. "Otousan said there is something else you need to tell me, besides this."
Sojun's happy face faltered for a moment, and Ichigo suddenly wondered if perhaps he should have just lectured Sojun himself. Ichigo wasn't too strict with his children, but Rukia was
sometimes. He walked toward his wife and son, and Sojun took a seat opposite his parents as Ichigo settled himself next to Rukia.
"I was involved in a fight with a classmate," Sojun spoke truthfully, but looking straight at his parents.
Rukia's eyes widened. "Are you hurt anywhere?"
Sojun shook his head.
"Why were you fighting with him?"
"He took something from a girl so I tried to get it back. That was when he fought me so I defended myself."
"Do you like the girl?"
Ichigo turned to Rukia in disbelief at her question. Okay sometimes, his wife wasn't strict, she was just downright strange.
Sojun shook his head. "She was a spirit. The boy had taken a brooch that was a gift from her relatives near her memorial area."
"A spirit?" This time, it was Ichigo who spoke. "You didn't tell me that."
"Did you ask the boy to give it back to you?" Rukia asked.
This time, Ichigo interjected. "How was he going to tell that stupid boy to give it back? Tell him a dead girl asked him to? What a brilliant idea
Sojun watched as his mother's right hand shot out toward his father's chin. But his father was speedy and bent backward, avoiding the would-be punch, taking an opportunity to smirk at his mother. His mother simply drew her hand back and landed a hit to his father's midgut.
His parents never once hit him in the midst of their fighting, but Sojun somehow enjoyed watching their antics. Sometimes, he even secretly memorized the moves and then practiced in his bedroom. Sojun often marveled that his pint-sized mother could take down his father in five seconds flat, with a few strategic jabs to the ribs and a finishing stomp to the right foot.
But Sojun knew his parents were never serious when fighting with each other. They would hit and jab and annoy each other with a few casual kicks to the backside, yes, but even those were done in a strangely affectionate manner. His mother almost always won
except when Otousan employed those kissing tactics where he would suddenly grab Okasan and kiss her hard in the midst of fighting. Sojun never understood, were sudden kisses like that meant to be punishment? Because it did certainly serve to silence Okasan, and stop whatever she was doing. Maybe those kisses
hurt? (though he highly doubted it, his father loved his mother too much)
Sojun himself loved his parents very, very much and were very proud of them (even though he refused to let them know). They were both strong warriors, and Sojun aspired to be like them when he grew up. And they were never boring parents.
"Okay, so then
Sojun hurriedly shifted his attention back to his mother who was now smiling at him. His father sat to the side, massaging his stomach.
"Just do it discreetly the next time." His mother winked at him, as his father looked up from his pain to flash Sojun a thumbs-up.
* * * * *
"Alright, it's Saturday tomorrow but you still need to sleep early." Rukia smiled as she tucked Sojun in to bed, before sitting by his side. Juri was recovering from her cold, and thus slept in another bedroom in the meantime.
"Can I hear a story first?"
Bedtime stories were a specialty in the Kurosaki household, because both parents could spin out wonderful tales of magic and enchantment. Every night, the children would eagerly change into their pyjamas before jumping into bed to await the stories. It did not matter if it was Ichigo or Rukia who came in to do the storytelling, the children would always be smiling in their sleep by the end of the story. Even a conventional fairytale could be turned into something much more by both Shinigamis.
Rukia laughed. "You are just trying to worm your way out of bedtime, young man."
"No. Gramps said to ask for a different story this time, so I'm going to do so. Gramps said to ask about you and Father."
"Me? And Father?" Rukia's eyes widened for a bit before she smiled. "Okay, what would you like to hear?"
"Gramps said you gave birth to me during battle, while Otousan battled two thousand Hollows single-handedly!" Sojun's eyes were big.
Rukia laughed. "Don't listen to your Gramps, he's very farfetched. When I was pregnant, your Father would barely let me reach a kilometer within a Hollow without screeching like a little girl. He was very fussy." Rukia waved her hand dismissively and Sojun laughed.
"I gave birth to you in a normal hospital
and at that time, your Father seemed to be having a baby of his own as well
"Kurosaki, calm yourself!" Ishida shouted as he watched the cracks start to appear in the ceiling. A muffled female shout echoed from the paneled doors, and that immediately triggered a particularly large crack to travel through the floor.
"KUROSAKI!" Ishida shouted again, holding Ichigo's collars. "Calm yourself, Rukia is in good hands! She needs you and I can let you in to see her, but I need you to control your reiatsu or you will destroy everything in the labour room!"
It was Rukia's first labour.
After five minutes of vigorous shaking and shouted words, the expectant father was finally allowed through the doors. He caught sight of the frail pale woman on the hospital bed, her two feet propped up and wide while the doctors stood close to monitor the birthing progress.
Ichigo walked over to Rukia, took her hand and wiped the beads of perspiration off his wife's forehead.
"You aren't worried, are you?" Despite her pain, Rukia managed to smirk just a teeny bit at her husband.
"Why would I? Women give birth everyday."
But when Rukia's eyes jammed tight at a sudden painful contraction and she involuntarily cried out, Ichigo's hands tightened onto her smaller one until his knuckles turned bony white.
He soothed soft kisses on her temple, never taking his eyes off his wife, keeping the unbearable anxiety and fear from ripping through his body, and telling himself he would never get her pregnant again.
Those were the longest ten minutes of Ichigo's life
and the most beautiful. For when the first raw cry of a new life echoed in the delivery room, Ichigo felt the most inexplicable feeling dawn in his heart. He turned to look at a wide-eyed Rukia, who was breathing heavily and looking just as moved as he was.
He was a father.
Rukia had given birth
to their child.
The doctor cleaned and wrapped the newborn in warm white towels and carried the baby to Ichigo, who held his first child for the very first time. The baby boy gurgled softly, and tiny arms raised themselves in small movements. Ichigo placed the baby next to Rukia, and knelt beside his wife and child.
Her short hair was disheveled, and beads of perspiration still dotted her forehead. Her pale lips and even paler skin made Rukia almost ill-looking. But her happy eyes glowed with pride as she looked at her newborn son, and she softly kissed the little wonder as she held him.
"Beautiful," Ichigo had whispered and Rukia turned to look at him to agree, only to find him gazing gently at her. He leaned in and kissed her on the forehead, whispering a soft 'Arigato, Rukia' in her ear. His lips trembled on her skin for a fleeting second, a moment's worth of gratitude and fear.
But when he drew back, however, a smirk painted his features. "See? Told you it was going to be a piece of cake."
That one time, she was unable to hit him.
* * * * *
It was another night, and another bedtime story. A healthy Juri had also joined her brother by now, and both were clad in adorable bunny pyjamas. Two pairs of eyes gazed curiously at both their parents who sat on their bed.
"How about a story when you were a baby, Sojun? You were quite a handful back then."
"Was not." Sojun grumbled.
"You bloody were," Ichigo chuckled and Rukia jabbed her husband in the ribs. She never did approve of him using less-than-polite words in front of their children.
"It wasn't until you developed a liking for your smelly bolster that you stopped bugging us about your milk bottle." Ichigo laughed and Sojun's eyes narrowed as he hugged a brown, battered bolster in his arms defensively. "Yep, the very same." Ichigo poked the bolster, and Sojun glared at his father.
Rukia smiled affectionately at her son. "It is alright. You were very cute back then."
"Was not." Sojun turned red but his voice was grumpy.
"You alright?" Her husband's just-out-of-bed voice whispered into Rukia's ear. One firm, muscled arm snaked around her waist to hold her against his solid body, and Rukia leaned back into Ichigo's build.
"It's fine, Sojun was just hungry." Rukia motioned to their baby, who was now tucked between her bosom. "Go back to sleep, it's two in the morning." She tried to push her husband back with her shoulders but his arms only tightened around her.
" Ichigo murmured and Rukia felt him move the strands of her hair to the side to expose her neck. She then felt his familiar lips touch her bare skin, sending a jolt of electricity down her spine.
"What are you doing?" Her voice came out squeaky.
Ichigo continued to nuzzle at his wife's neck. "You know that stupid class my Dad asked me to go to?" He sprinkled a trail of feathery kisses down Rukia's neck, a satisfied smile curling on his lips as he noticed the way she unconsciously arched her neck back. "The one about husbands with wives nursing babies? Well, they said the breastfeeding period during early hours in the morning were the most stressful periods for a woman. And then
the idiots spent a whole bloody two hours lecturing us on how to relax our wives."
Rukia chuckled and suddenly had to bite down a pleasured sigh when she felt Ichigo lick at her skin. "S-Stop it!"
Her husband ignored her. He realized now, that the moment Rukia was rendered unable to hit him was the moment when her two hands were occupied with their baby. "No." He let the word hang out in a sultry whisper, and continued to kiss Rukia's neck. "I thought to myself
I bloody know how to relax my own wife."
"Well, you're not doing a very good job of it." Rukia pushed him again with her shoulder.
A small, contented sigh escaped from somewhere near Rukia's chest and both parents immediately stopped to look down at the baby.
"He's done." Rukia smiled and fixed her clothing. She placed the baby gently to her shoulder to burp him.
Ichigo smiled at his son, who now was fast falling asleep and drooling on his mother's shoulder. "Want me to do it?"
"No, it's fine." Rukia slowly rubbed gentle circles on Sojun's back. She hummed softly to her son. Her eyes widened as she felt her own husband's arms circle around her as she burped Sojun. Slowly, his hands mimicked on her back what she was doing to their son.
She looked up at him. "Now what?"
"Relaxing my wife." Ichigo rubbed soothing circles on Rukia's back as she did on Sojun. Rukia chuckled but allowed him to do so, closing her eyes in the process.
"Hey you little fella," Ichigo whispered to his son as he embraced his wife. "Try not to wake Mummy up so often, okay? She gets grouchy in the day, and then I suffer."
"Shut up." Rukia whispered and then she heard the unmistakeable sound of Sojun burping. She carried the baby to the cot and tucked him in. "There you go." Rukia smiled and dropped a kiss on her son's head. "Good night." She turned away from the cot and rubbed her own eyes.
It was tiring.
She had just turned back to Ichigo when suddenly both her feet were lifted up from the floor. "W-Wha-"
"Let's go." Ichigo smiled as he carried Rukia in his arms.
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING???"
"Not so loud, stupid! You are going to wake Sojun up. I'm carrying you back to bed, because you look like you might fall asleep mid-step."
"Nonsense. Do you think I'm that weak?"
"Weakness has nothing to with this." Ichigo carried Rukia back to bed. "Just this once, okay midget?" He looked down at his wife, because she hadn't retaliated in typical fashion.
Rukia was fast asleep in his arms, her head lolling off.
Ichigo smiled softly as he lowered his wife down onto the mattress, before getting on next to her. He covered her with the comforter, she did not even stir.
maybe a little bit." Ichigo smirked.
* * * * *
"Otousan, you don't like Uncle Byakuya very much, do you?" Sojun asked, his eyes wide, the covers pulled up to his chin. His sister nodded next to him. It was another night, and yet another bedtime story session.
Rukia nervously turned to Ichigo, who was now wearing a dangerous expression as he looked at his son. "And for very good reason," Ichigo spoke, baring his teeth.
Juri squeaked and held onto Sojun's arm, prompting her brother to hold onto her protectively.
Rukia sighed. "Ichigo, you're scaring the children. Nii-sama is not as bad-"
"Uncle Byakuya is a monster," Ichigo spoke with a manic glint in his eyes. Rukia knew there was no telling her husband off when he was affected this way, particularly since the children loved her Nii-sama very much.
"N-No, he's not," Sojun replied, even though he looked nervous. "He's very nice, and sends us gifts very often!"
"That's how much you know," Ichigo replied, his expression almost manic now. "It's like a wolf in sheep's clothing-"
"Enough." His wife shoved him a little, before turning to smile at her children. "Otousan and Uncle Byakuya have had a lot of problems even back when I wasn't married to Otousan yet."
Ichigo shifted slightly on his sitting mat, feeling the back of his neck prickle in discomfort
It had been ten months after Sojun was born, and today was the day both husband and wife was visiting the Kuchiki mansion with their son for the first time. Now Ichigo watched as Rukia gently transferred Sojun to her Nii-sama's arms.
Ichigo twitched slightly and Rukia shot her husband an annoyed look. 'Relax! It's not as if Nii-sama is going to hurt Sojun!' Her eye stare told him.
Ichigo replied with one of his own. 'This person tried to kill me fucking four times, and the last was at our wedding! I'm not taking chances!'
This silent exchange of glares went by unnoticed by Byakuya who quietly bent over the baby. Rukia gasped as Sojun suddenly reached out with his small hands and tugged on Byakuya's longer hair strands. "Sojun, bad! Don't do that! Nii-sama, I-"
Ichigo was too busy muffling a chuckle to reprimand his son.
"Dadada!" Sojun released the strand of hair and smiled up at Byakuya, before reaching out to him. Rukia gasped in delight as her husband frowned. Given his mutual dislike to the nobleman, Ichigo did not think his son would favour 'Uncle Byakuya' all that much. Apparently, he was wrong.
Ichigo and Rukia watched with wide eyes as the cold nobleman slowly lowered his index finger toward the baby, who latched onto it happily with tiny hands. Sojun smiled happily up at Byakuya ("Dadada!"). Something crossed Byakuya's grey eyes and he slowly reciprocated with the ghost of a smile on his thin lips.
Ichigo only looked on with a sour expression.
* * * * *
It was Sunday night, the night the kids loved the best because this was the night where both their parents came in for bedtime snuggle and stories. All four of them sat on the bed, Rukia and Ichigo in the middle with their backs against the headboard. Juri laid in her father's arms, and Sojun on his mother's side, already under his covers.
"And then the prince climbed up Rapunzel's hair to reach her high, high up in the tower." Rukia was speaking in a slightly majestic voice. Ichigo chuckled, as Sojun looked up at his mother with awed eyes. Juri was already fast asleep in Ichigo's arms.
You can take Rukia out of the drama, but there's no taking the drama out of Rukia.
The young boy wrinkled his nose. "It's strange though, Okasan. Wouldn't it hurt if someone climbed up your hair, even if it was really really long? Wouldn't it break?"
Ichigo wondered if as a child, he himself had asked so many questions to his parents. Sojun definitely was very bright and had been asking questions for as long as he could start talking. Ichigo just smiled and leaned toward Rukia's neck out of the sight of his son, and nuzzled his wife with his nose. She would take care of this, she always did.
"Now that you said it, it didn't actually go that way in the real story," Rukia spoke in a theatrically hushed tone to Sojun, as if they were sharing a national secret. "The prince didn't really climb up Rapunzel's hair to get to the tower."
Sojun's eyes were wide, as he hung onto his mother's every word. "Oh."
"He used a grappling hook!" Rukia grinned victoriously. Ichigo could not help laughing softly.
"It's a hook attached to a rope, which people throw up at high walls to hook at the end. Once the hook has caught securely onto a building, the person can climb up the rope. So, the prince would bring a grappling hook, tell Rapunzel to step back from the window and throw the hook up to the tower. Then he would climb up and join his love."
Sojun nodded in wonder, eating up his mother's words. "Wow." Sometimes, his wife's well-placed logic catches Ichigo off guard, and that has remained the reason why the children often go to her for answers first (even if it dents his pride as a father).
"What about her hair then? So she just kept it long?"
"No!" Rukia put an index finger up into the air. "She cut it off a long time ago, because as it grew, she had trouble washing her long hair and it started to smell and was infested with lice and dandruff."
Ichigo paused in the midst of kissing his wife's neck, as distaste marred his features. Lice? Really?
"She cut it all off so her hair was short. The prince saw her after that, and still fell in love with her. Then he sang to her, and told her to step back so he could use the grappling hook again."
An hour later, both parents exited the dark bedroom quietly where both Sojun and Juri were tucked up, fast asleep.
"Lice, honestly? You just about changed the entire fairytale." Ichigo trailed Rukia back to their bedroom.
"Well, you didn't seem to be offering any explanation when Sojun asked about the long hair." Rukia walked down the hallway. "So I improvised on the spot, I did like my own version though." She opened their bedroom door and turned on the lights. "Plus, I wanted Sojun to not take things at face value, and that the hero can also fall for the short-haired girl."
She turned back to look at Ichigo, as the accidental symbolism of her final sentence sank in for both of them. Ichigo watched as a subtle pink tint appeared on Rukia's cheeks. It was in these moments that he found his wife utterly adorable, and moments that he helplessly felt like kissing her over and over again.
And as usual, she was too quick for him. "I'm going off to bed." Rukia hurriedly turned off the lights and jumped into bed, pulling the covers up over her head.
And that the hero can also fall for the short-haired girl
"The hero already did," Ichigo whispered in the dark so Rukia would hear him, and he swore he could almost feel the hot warmth of his wife's face emanating from under the covers.
And like his children, Ichigo decided he really did love his wife's bedtime stories.