Characters: Kisuke, Isshin, Ichigo, Yuzu, Karin, Kon
Prompt: April Fool's, and "by morning's light"
Word Count: 2644
Disclaimer: I don't own or make money off of Bleach. It's all fictional. Really.
"You want me to WHAT?" Kisuke shouted at Isshin, who was cheerfully sipping tea at his table.
"Baby sit. You know. Go watch the kids for just one night. Their oba-san is coming the day after and will rescue you, she just had to stay home another night for a funeral. So if you could help me out for just the one night, I'd be grateful. I really, really need to make the spring conference." Isshin spread his hands and shrugged. "And I don't want Ryuuken within a nautical mile of Ichigo at this point. You already know, so it's not going to be a problem is it?"
"You don't want me to like enforce curfew on Ichigo, do you?" Kisuke's horror made his voice crack.
"No no... I'm not that stupid." Isshin sounded exasperated. "I just tell him has to be home after school in time for homework and dinner, that's all. What he does in the night is his own business, though... sometimes I check on his body if he's left it. That stupid mod soul sometimes does the craziest things. Why you ever gave him that thing..."
"So what is this going to involve?" Kisuke interrupted with deft timing. "And could I just send Yoruichi?"
"You have to be kidding!! Exposing my innocent ten-year-old girls to Miss Naked Kitty? Not on your life."
"How about Renji? He's hard-working, easy going, and..."
"... and handsome, tattoo'ed, and is a young man that they'd fall for in an instant. No way. It's gotta be you. You're as old as I am and there's going to be no romantic stupidities on their part with you."
Kisuke muttered, "Old man. Damnit, when did I become an old man? I used to be the one fathers worried about."
Isshin paused, startled. "Well, now you're just an old, tired shopkeeper with sandals and a hat. So don't forget that when you're with my girls."
"I wouldn't dare," Kisuke said and Isshin laughed. And that was when Urahara Kisuke realized he'd actually given in and volunteered to, of all things, babysit Isshin's frightening children.
"YOU'RE LATE!!" Isshin cannon-balled out of the blue sky, and his son, Ichigo, stepped to the side and swung a well-timed roundhouse, and Isshin was flattened into the concrete.
Kisuke hid his laughter behind his fan. It was good to see Ichigo using his training so readily.
"Stupid. I'm on time for dinner, it's not like any other classmate of mine has this early a curfew. Besides, I was helping guide that girl who was killed at that corner. I can't believe her ghost was still there after all this time." Ichigo's drawled lazy. But his eye caught sight of Kisuke, went wide for an instant, and then narrowed.
"Who is this?" Ichigo asked, shadows shifting behind those brown eyes, and Kisuke could only guess at what thoughts moved behind them.
"An old friend of mine," Isshin said blithely. "He's going to help us out just for tonight, as oba-san cannot come until mid-day on Tuesday. So please, be good to him."
"Old friend from what?" Ichigo asked, just a little rude in rushing to a question rather than the formal exchange of names.
"The Karakura Business Association, we met when we first set up shop in the neighborhood, and you mother enjoyed his jokes. So shape up and be nice. Introduce yourself."
Ichigo snorted but then bowed, "Kurosaki Ichigo."
"I am Urahara Kisuke. I am pleased to meet you, Kurosaki-kun," Kisuke could play his part as well, and bowed the bow of a simple shopkeeper.
"Hai, Urahara-san. Thank you for helping my family out." The words were right, but the tone... "Though I'm not sure why my father asked you to come when I can take care of everything for just one night."
Kisuke lowered his voice, just for Ichigo's ear, "Even if you get called out on... duty?"
Ichigo frowned at him.
Kisuke shrugged and said softly, "Think of me as backup, if you like."
Ichigo nodded, "No touching the twins, though."
Kisuke put both hands in the air, "No touching, do you see me touching anyone? Your father would..." For a moment, Kisuke had to pause his own thoughts on what Isshin was likely to do to him if he'd betrayed a trust and not let them get past his lips. He shook his head, "I won't betray his trust in me this time."
"This time?" Ichigo asked.
Damned frightening child, Kisuke thought, stupid slip of the tongue. "Right now. This request. I'm good."
That was when a slight body ran into Kisuke's and slender arms wrapped themselves around his waist, "Welcome, Urahara-san. Daddy said you're babysitting us tonight?" It was slender Yuzu, petite brown-haired, gentle-eyed and smiling up at him.
He ignored the look from Ichigo, and hugged her gently. "Yes. I suppose I am."
"I'm Yuzu! I'll make dinner!" Yuzu said cheerfully. "What would you like?"
"I'm a bachelor, anything you make will be wonderful," Kisuke said pleasantly.
"You look funny and you give me a headache, old man, are you sure you're supposed to be babysitting?"
Kisuke turned to see dark-haired Karin slouched in the hallway. He gave a gentle bow. "No, I'm not sure at all."
That earned him a snort. "Good one."
He had to laugh and, for once, didn't have to hide it behind a fan.
"You gonna take off that stupid hat? You're inside, you know," Karin added, a glint in her dark eye.
"No, there are just some things a man has to retain," Kisuke said huffily and got a real laugh out of Karin.
Isshin left in a flurry of good-byes and hugs and kisses as Kisuke watched from the doorway. The taxi drove off and the three siblings all drew closer together, Ichigo hugging both his sisters gently before they turned back to the house.
Dinner was good. Yuzu really knew how to cook, and he really did enjoy the first meal he'd sat down to eat in a very, very long time, rather than a plain bowl of rice with a few fish from the store and pickles from a jar. Yuzu had carefully prepared five dishes to go with the rice, a sweet and soft egg omelet, a crunchy green bean dish with good spiciness, a couple of delicately savory grilled fish that were crisp on the edges but tender within, a deeply salty cabbage dish, and meaty shitake mushrooms sautéed in butter rounded out the meal. He happily had seconds and offered to do the dishes.
Yuzu refused to let him do the dishes and pushed him out into the livingroom where Ichigo and Karin were yelling insults at each other as they played Ultimate Ninja: Naruto PS2 video game.
Ichigo was playing Naruto and Karin played Sakura.
"What kinda stupid move was that?" Ichigo yelled, when Sakura kicked Naruto halfway across the screen.
"Stupid enough to kick your butt!"
"Why aren't you playing Ultimate Ninja 2?' Kisuke asked, bemused.
"It's the same game, just more people and the storyline's just simpler. I didn't like it as much," Karin said, intently staring at the screen as her character leaped, whirled, and danced around. "I just wished they'd get Karin in, she'd be fun."
Ichigo grumbled, and tried to hand his controller to Kisuke who held his hands up in mock horror.
"Not me, too violent for a poor shopkeeper," Kisuke said,
Ichigo snorted and said, "I'm going to go do homework." He tossed the controller to the coffee table and went up to his room.
"Sore loser," muttered Yuzu.
"He is that, isn't he?" Kisuke found himself saying before he even thought about it.
"You're one of them, too, aren't you?" Karin asked while staring intently at the screen.
"What?" Kisuke said, bewildered.
"One of them. Shinigami," she said and cracked her gum.
"No. I'm not," he said, under his hat.
"Well, you look and smell and feel like one of them," she said. "I get headaches around them, you know?"
"I had no idea," Kisuke said, quite honestly. "I'm not one of them. Not any more, anyway, so you don't have to get any ideas about me."
"Hm... " Karin killed another dozen foes handily. "I'll have to think about that."
The rest of the evening left Kisuke on edge. The girls had come down to the kitchen table to do their homework with him. There were milk and cookies, and lots and lots of quiet while the girls worked away on their work. He wasn't quite sure what he was supposed to do, so he found a sudoku book and started playing with the number puzzles.
They looked at him while he wrote in numbers and both girls giggled at him.
"What?" Kisuke asked.
"You're doing it wrong," Karin said.
"No no, he isn't doing it wrong. He's just... " Yuzu blushed.
"What am I doing wrong? I got these all right..." Kisuke frowned at the numbers in front of him.
"But you're doing it in pen! You're supposed to do it in pencil, that way you can erase them if you get them wrong." Karin said, exasperated.
"But I haven't gotten any wrong," Kisuke protested. He was liking his bachelor's pad more and more, where no one would tell him that doing a simple number puzzle in pen was wrong.
"You will," Karin said darkly.
By the time he was done with the puzzle and could show them that it was all right, it was already bed time. The girls rumbled up the stairs, and got ready in a flurry of activity that Kisuke was afraid to go upstairs to see. So he stayed down in the kitchen and did another puzzle.
Then, suddenly, Yuzu was standing by his elbow. "You have to come read me some chapters to a story and kiss me goodnight."
"Kiss you?" Kisuke blinked. That was clearly against every order he'd been given, but Yuzu was looking at him very earnestly.
"Yes. A kiss on my hair so that the nightmares don't come. Daddy does it every night," she said solemnly.
He blinked and then realized that the young girl probably couldn't see that. "Oh. That's all right then."
He followed her slender frame as they went upstairs. "Does Karin have the same routine?"
"Oh, no, she'd probably kick Daddy in the head if he tried. She's not as afraid of the dark as I am," Yuzu said stoutly.
Kisuke hid his smirk. "That makes sense."
She had him sit down and read from a girl's book about girls in an all-girls middle school and the chapter about their trials and tribulations with a class play. It was sweet and quiet and Kisuke read it aloud for her. Yuzu clearly enjoyed it and smiled at him when he finished. "You did the voices really well."
He grinned. "Thank you."
Then she snuggled into her covers and watched him with wide eyes until he leaned over her and, very gently, placed a kiss on her hair, just above her forehead.
"Thank you very much," she said with a smile. "That will help a lot."
"Good," Kisuke said. "Have a good sleep."
"Have a good sleep!" She said, and turned onto her side away from him.
He turned out the light, and went out the door. That was when he felt the small burst of reiatsu as Ichigo popped out of his body. He felt it through the door and he hesitated before knocking lightly on that door. It slid opened, and it was Ichigo's body that answered, and then nearly jumped a foot in the air in surprise, "What are you doing here?"
"Kon, I'm here babysitting."
"Babysitting? What the hell do they need a babysitter for? I'm here!" The mod soul thumped his chest.
"Actually, that's one of the reasons why Isshin asked me to stay for the night," Kisuke said, tiredly. "So you don't go running off and doing something stupid."
"Right. So you, stay here. I know how to take you apart if you don't," Kisuke said menacingly.
Kon cowered, "Right."
"Maybe you should finish his homework or something?" Kisuke said, frowning. "Do you usually do stuff like that?"
"Nah, he was pretty unhappy the last time I tried that. Said I should know better than to make up the answers. It's not like I've had time for school except when he's busy." Kon kicked the doorframe gently. "Well, anyway... I guess I'll just lie on the roof or something and watch the stars go by."
"Hm. That sounds like a good idea," Kisuke said thoughtfully. "But don't stay up too late, he needs his sleep."
Kisuke couldn't sleep even after the kids were all asleep. He was wound up too tight and worried too much about how they were doing, if thieves might come in the night, if any noise in the strange house, the strange kitchen was an intruder. Worrying about the kids was so different than taking care of his own shop, of the things and people he'd made and whom kept him company. He wasn't responsible for the shop, Tessai, Yoruichi, or the two mod soul combined with gigai "children". They could always take care of themselves. These children on the other hand...
He sighed. He could watch from the roof as easily as from inside, and command a greater view of the surrounding area.
So he got a quilt from the bedroom and ended up on the roof, wrapped in something Masaki had probably made from scrap clothing and old cotton. He felt as if he were wrapped in memories, ghosts, and old love.
A few hours later he felt Ichigo's reiatsu approaching and slipping back into the house. He sighed quietly at that, at the fact that the boy hadn't come to talk with him. It was probably better that way. He felt the small pop as Ichigo got back into his body and then the stilling of that fiery reiatsu edged in black as the boy finally lay down to rest.
A few hours later the dark sky started to lighten on the Eastern edge, growing silver even as the rest of the sky lay in velvet night. Slowly, gradually, the black shadows that were all the things in the world started to lighten, to gain color as the sky grew an impossible shade of dark blue, and then paler and paler until it burned clear with real sunlight. The edge of the sun peeked up over the horizon and then blazed full.
Kisuke's celphone rang, startling him. He almost dropped it off the roof in his haste to find it and open it.
"Hey! Kisuke! You're awake!" Isshin shouted in his ear.
Kisuke nearly flung the phone off the roof in disgust. He took a breath. "Yes. I am."
"Thought you might be," Isshin chuckled. "Hey! Can you watch the kids for the rest of the week? Their grandmother came down with a cold."
"AGGGH, NO!" Kisuke said into the phone.
He got a earful of laughter in return rather than the pleading he expected.
"What?" Kisuke said to the laughter.
"What!" Isshin laughed some more. "You should have heard yourself. They wear you out that much, you old man?"
"Well... it wasn't really them," Kisuke said quietly.
"It was worrying about them, wasn't it?" Isshin said back.
"I... I guess so," Kisuke said. "I... I don't think I can take any more of this, especially not a full week of it."
"Well, it's your lucky day then," Isshin said, chuckling.
"April Fool's!!" Isshin burst out laughing again. "Their grandmother is just fine. She should be there as soon as you get them off to school."
"Off to school?! WAIT! What do I have to do to get them off to school?"