A/N: I do not speak French, Mandarin, Spanish, or any other languages besides English and Polish, so all references in those languages (or any others) are thanks to Google translate.
Ichigo barely remembers her. He was… fucked up, he knows, and desperate to do something, anything.
She had ribbons in her hair, he remembers. They were red and bright against her inky locks, and had tickled a memory he couldn’t quite grasp. She’d let him pull them out, let the silk slide out of her hair and across her light skin. Her eyes had been red too, glittering and beautiful and like nothing he’d seen before.
He gave her his number before he left, because she was beautiful and because the act of writing on her bare arm in sharpie left just the sort of mark that Ichigo’s begun to enjoy leaving, just like hickeys and scratches and— on one occasion— cigarette burns.
He never gets her name, and after the first few months, doesn’t expect to ever learn it.
But then he gets a phone call, an important one, and now he’s in a hospital room with the mother of a child he never intended to have.
“I can’t keep her,” the girl— Misami— tells him almost apologetically, but not quite. “My parents will cut me off if I do, and I can’t have that— I’m only a student.”
She tosses her hair absently, and Ichigo notices that it isn’t as pretty when it’s greasy and free to tangle as it pleases around her face. Her eyes are still beautiful, though, just like he remembers.
“Well, I just thought you ought to know, being the father and all,” she tells him carelessly. “I’m putting her up for adoption. It’s probably best for her, you know?”
Ichigo thinks about that for a moment. It’s an easy out, a way to wipe his hands clean of this potential mess and continue the exhilaratingly steep downward spiral his life has become.
Ichigo’s never made it easy on himself.
“I’ll take her,” he says. “I’ve got the means.”
“You— really?” She sounds surprised. “Are you sure? Boys like you don’t usually go in for this sort of thing.”
“Boys like me?”
“Oh, you know—“ she waves a hand. “Thugs. Partiers. Druggies. When I found out I wasn’t even sure which one of you she belonged to— but she came out like a pumpkin, so I gave you a call.”
He can see that. The little thing attached to Misami's nipple has his hair, and a full head of it, to boot. He couldn’t deny it if he tried.
“I haven’t bothered to name her,” she adds when he stays quiet. “You can pick something, if you’re really going to keep her.”
He hums in understanding. He supposes people don’t like adopting pre-named children.
“Do I have paperwork to fill out?” he asks. She shakes her head.
“I just need to sign over custody. It’d be best if I didn’t see her.”
“… Okay.” He thinks that will hurt, later, but right now, he’s still a little drunk from the night before. “Can I… Take her now?”
“No. In a few days.” Misami looks down at the baby in her arms. “I suggest you go shopping and get some baby things. Diapers, a bed, a car seat, some clothes. Whatever it is that babies need.”
He nods. “Yeah. I need to do that.”
He looks at the baby, then back at Misami.
“Anzu’s a good name,” he says with a nod. “If they ask, put that down.”
She agrees, and Ichigo leaves, because now he has a task, he has something to do. He hasn’t had that for a while.
It isn’t until he’s halfway home that he remembers what today is, and when he does, he almost laughs.
Today is June ninth.
His mother’s birthday.
Ichigo is almost twenty. He’s not in school, and his job isn’t something for the books. For the most part, he has fun in the way a young man with no direction and a muddy past is wont to do, and when that’s not happening, he’s working or sleeping.
Now, though, he has a baby in his arms and a box of diapers on the floor. He has a playpen set up next to his bed because it’s cheaper to buy one of those than a full blown crib, plus it gives him a place to put the little brat until he sufficiently cleans his mess of an apartment up.
Kurosaki Anzu is six days old, and a quiet baby.
She doesn’t cry when he sets her in the pen, even when he turns on the vacuum. She doesn’t make a noise, until it’s three hours later and her diaper starts to smell.
He feeds her for good measure, after he cleans her up, because crying children make him uncomfortable, and he doesn’t really want anyone to hear her through the paper thin walls of his apartment.
Questions aren’t something he needs right now. Or ever, really.
He stops going out. With the amount of sleep he’s getting with a baby in the house, it’s not feasible anymore, not to mention the fact that he has no babysitter for her. No one calls, no one stops by to see if he’s alright. He doesn’t care, though. He’s too busy.
Miyamoto-gumi knows about her, but only because Ichigo needs someone to watch her while he’s working. He and the gumi go way back, back to when Ichigo was still little and too slow to throw or punch or dodge one. Miyamoto’s all too happy to have Anzu in his granddaughter’s nursery, and Ichigo’s grateful.
Eventually, she starts to sleep through the night. Sometimes Ichigo watches her, standing over the playpen with a cigarette between his fingers while her little hands occasionally twitch over his old baby blanket.
(Isshin’s never addressed the pattern of little blue crosses on the blanket, probably thinking Ichigo wouldn’t notice.
There’s a reason they don’t talk anymore.)
Anzu is eight months old and likes applesauce and bananas and mushy carrots. She’ll eat Cheerios and oranges and little marshmallows, but hates eggs and beans and anything with squash. When Ichigo first gives her rice, she tries to eat it one at a time, inspecting each grain before clumsily pushing it past her lips. Eventually, she starts eating it by the handful, shoving a fat fist into her mouth in an attempt to eat it all in one massive, gummy bite.
Ichigo dresses her like he dresses himself. He buys her onesies with band logos and brightly colored dresses patterned in stripes and fish and whatever else catches his eye. When he puts her to bed, he sings.
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…
She likes that. He likes it too, because she’s out like a light after that, which leaves him time for sleep and other activities.
Not sex. Research.
The thing is, working for Miyamoto-gumi means a lot of work. It means being a bodyguard one day and a translator another, and Ichigo wasn’t born with a knowledge of French, Chinese, and Spanish. So he has to learn.
Learning takes time. Time Ichigo doesn’t really have during the day, because even if Anzu is a quiet baby, she’s still a lot of work, and he’s got shit to do in between diaper changes, playtime, and everything else that comes with baby girls.
At ten months, Anzu takes her first steps. Ichigo smiles so hard at her he tears up, and bakes little lemon cookies to celebrate. She chews them happily, leaving crumbs on her shirt and in the upholstery of the pull-out couch, but he doesn’t care. Not even when he falls asleep and wakes up with crumbs stuck to his face.
He doesn’t want this to end.
Ichigo is on the phone when it happens.
“Merde, Gerard, que l'expédition était censé être hier. Vous savez mon patron déteste quand vous apportez votre merde à la fin…Oui, il est si difficile d'être vous ."
He’s on the phone for the third time in four hours with the same dick who can’t it together enough to just send the… the stuff that was promised to Miyamoto-gumi. Anzu’s seated in her armchair, chewing on her spoon absently as she watches her father curse at the phone in French.
"Écoutez , faites d'ici vendredi ou je vais briser tous les os dans votre—"
Ichigo freezes, phone pressed to his ear as he turns to stare at Anzu.
She’s smiling at him, arms raised.
“Papa!” she squeaks again, waving her hands.
Ichigo blinks and remembers the phone in his hand.
“Gerard, Je vais devoir vous rappeler,” he grunts curtly, and with that, he hangs up the phone and puts it down.
He picks her up, cradling her close to his chest as she pulls cheerfully at his hair.
“Of course,” he mutters as he runs his fingers across her cheeks. “Of course, out of all the shit I say to you, your first word was in goddamn French. Am I supposed to keep this crap up now?”
She just keeps grinning, wide enough for him to see another tooth poking through. No wonder she was chewing her spoon.
“At least we have the advantage of no one understanding our conversations,” he tells her as he balances her on one hip. “Except for the French, of course. And some Canadians.”
He has to make a call to Miyamoto, tell him about the issues with the package. Maybe he’ll decide that it’s time to get Gerard out of the picture.
Maybe that will give Ichigo some time off.
It’s Anzu’s first birthday. Ichigo bakes her a little cake and decorates it in purple frosting. She gets most of it on her face and in her hair, but Ichigo gets a few good photos, so he doesn’t care.
“Come on, sticky-chan, time for a bath,” he says when she’s finished smearing frosting across her high chair. “Look at your fingers, they’re gonna stay that way if we don’t clean you up.”
She hits him, open-palmed, with a purple hand, leaving a nice, five-fingered print on his cheek. She laughs brightly, then tries it again.
“Oh, no, it’s not nice to hit your Papa, sticky-chan, you ought to know better than that.”
He’s smiling. He’s been smiling a lot more since he first brought her home, and he can’t find it in himself to mind.
One-handed, he turns on the water before setting her down and stripping off her dress and diaper.
“One, two, three—“
Anzu squeals when he sets her in the water. He chuckles at that and splashes her lightly before reaching up for a washcloth.
Her hair grows fast, just like his, and sticks up like his, too. There’s no denying she’s got his blood— though she’s a far less fussy than he was, if he’s honest.
Her eyes are her mother’s. Bright as rubies, they catch every little movement he makes as he scrubs the purple first off his cheek, than off her.
He’s getting her into her pajamas when he hears a knock on the door.
“Just a second!” he shouts over his shoulder, setting her in her playpen. Nobody ever comes to his house— none of Miyamoto’s gaki know where he live, and fuck if he has any friends. This leaves him two options.
Hitmen, or door-to-door salesmen.
Both of these options have Ichigo slipping a gun in his pocket.
The man at the door is dressed in a way that’s painfully familiar, with long blond hair and cold eyes.
“Kurosaki Ichigo,” he greets with a short bow. “I’ve been looking for you.”
Ichigo crosses his arms.
“Now, why the fuck would a Quincy be looking for me?” he inquires.
“Because we have a task for you.” The stranger tilts his head slightly. “My name is Haschwalth Jugram. May I come in?”
“Why should I allow it?”
The blond blinks.
“You are cautious,” he remarks. “It is good, but unnecessary. I am here to talk to you about your heritage.”
“About my mother?”
“Among other things. So I ask again: May I come in?”
Ichigo gives him a long look.
“You have an hour,” he says, stepping to one side.
“That will be more than enough time.”
The apartment seems even smaller with Jugram in it, but Ichigo doesn’t care. He sets about making tea, pausing only to run a hand through Anzu’s wet hair.
“You have a child,” Jugram remarks. “I was not aware.”
Ichigo nods stiffly.
“This is Anzu,” he introduces. “You touch her and I’ll strangle you with your own hair.”
“I would not harm a child.” Jugram keeps a respectful distance anyway, much to the orangette’s satisfaction.
“Papa, qui— qui—“
“Hush, mignonette,” he murmurs in the same language. “Don’t be so rowdy.”
Jugram is quiet until Ichigo sets down the teacups. It’s peppermint, something to calm his nerves while the Quincy speaks.
“Why do you not speak Japanese to your daughter?”
Ichigo blinks, surprised by the question.
“… She picked up on French faster, I suppose,” he says with a shrug. “Anzu knows Japanese words, too. Maybe I’ll get lucky and she’ll be bilingual.”
“Like her father.”
“I speak Mandarin and Spanish, too,” he says. “For work. And I’m learning German.”
“… German will be helpful to you,” Jugram says. “It is your mother tongue, in a way.”
“Yeah. You’re going to have to explain some of that,” Ichigo informs him flatly. “Besides the obvious fact that my mother was a Quincy, I know nothing.”
Jugram frowns at that, but acquiesces.
“Your mother was an orphan, adopted by the Ishida family some thirty years ago…”
Three hours later, Ichigo is very, very pale. He gets up without a word, fingers fumbling for his cigarettes. Standing over Anzu’s playpen, he lights up. The smoke feels gritty and good in his lungs, the smoke icy when he breathes out.
“That’s bad for her, you know.”
Ichigo doesn’t answer. His head is bowed, his eyes on her round, sleeping face.
“We’ve waited these last three years to see what move the shinigami will make,” Jugram tells him quietly, stepping closer. “We were unsure what sort of position you would be put in, based on your… connections, with Soul Society. We were certain they wouldn’t rid themselves of such a powerful ally.”
A slightly hysterical giggle slips past Ichigo’s lips.
“Oh, no, they dropped me faster than hot glass,” he assures the blond. “All my friends fucked off the moment I wasn’t something special. Even—“ he shakes his head.
“It doesn’t matter. My answer is no.” He looks up from the playpen. “I’ve got a little kid to take care of. I don’t need to get mixed up in a war like this— even if I am some sort of heir.”
“We would be able to make accommodations for her,” the Quincy says. “You are not the first soldier to have children to care for.”
“All the same, the answer’s no,” Ichigo repeats. “I have no interest in this war— either side of it.”
“You understand it is likely they will have someone set on you,” he says. “To make certain you do not change your statement in favor of shinigami.”
“Good thing I won’t.” Ichigo taps his cigarette, letting the ash flutter to the ground. “The only way I will ever involve myself— well, it won’t matter unless it happens. You can leave now, Jugram-san. It’s late.”
It’s rude, Ichigo knows, but the Quincy obeys anyway, quietly shutting the door the apartment as he goes.
So, Ichigo’s the several times great grandson of this… This Ywach character.
So, sort of a prince.
“Guess that makes you a princess then, huh, Anzu?”
She doesn’t stir. Ichigo’s grateful.
Sighing to himself, he finishes his cigarette and falls into bed, too exhausted to bother with even pulling off his jeans.
Today’s been a big day for both of them.
Ichigo could use some sleep.
Nobody else comes to try and convince him, but he can’t help but notice the shadow he gains. It’s not that he sees them— no, they’re very careful, always out of sight, nearly out of mind— but he knows they’re there, the same way he knows the difference in Anzu’s cries of hunger, pain, and discomfort.
Usually, though, he just ignores them, and in turn, they leave him alone. The only difference in his life at all, in fact, is the weekly visits from Jugram, who is quickly becoming Anzu’s favorite (only) uncle, and Ichigo’s only real form of social interaction.
“Why do you associate with Miyamoto-san’s group?” he asks after four months of visits.
“He helped me out when I was a kid,” he says simply. “Taught me how to take care of myself, and the girls.”
It’s October. The leaves are turning, the air crisp and cool against Ichigo’s cheeks. It’s Sunday, Ichigo’s first real day off in nearly two months, and he’s celebrating by bringing Anzu to the park.
She’s been content in the sandbox for the last forty minutes, so he figures this was a good decision.
“So you feel that you have an obligation to him.”
“Not quite. The money’s good, and the job’s not hard, really— it’s a convenience.”
“A convenience that goes against your personal morals,” he remarks. “Is it worth it?”
“…” Ichigo watches Anzu carefully make her way up the ladder, all three steps of it, and slide down again.
“It took some getting used to,” he admits after a moment. “But it… Filled my time, let’s say. I didn’t take it well, when I lost my powers.”
“It is hard to admit defeat.”
“It fucking sucks.”
Jugram seems to realize he’s hit a nerve, and consequently stays silent after that.
Ichigo appreciates it; there’s no need to dig through what he’s long since put to rest.