Disclaimer: See Chapter One.
A/N: thanks so much for the reviews and rec's -you have blown me away yet again. Ok so this is the deal---it's late, I'm tweaking on mass amounts of halloween candy and this chapter hates me and fought dirty. It's not perfect in my opinion but I'm putting it out anyway.
And just remember guys...I have never had a beta and probably never will because no one seems crazy enough to work with me. And this is a WIP so updates come as I write them and I do have other stories in the works.
And once again thanks to Wolfie and the amazing Phoenix and Nummy at PL. You ladies are my muse boosters.
She heard them before she saw them, that clicking sound of geta that was almost impossible to mistake. But then she turned and it felt like she was crashing through another wall. Tall, blonde, dark green eyes and features that were different but yet still the same. Features she'd known when he was just barely a teenager.
And on his shoulder sat a cat. Oh how many times had she seen that? How many times had she seen him with a black kitten on his shoulder? More than she could count, could remember. There they were. The boy and the kitten were gone and a little more than twenty feet from her a cat and a man stood. Time changes people and the two she'd known were gone.
Across the distance in the rain stood the only two students she'd ever gotten attached to, Kisuke and Yoruichi. With the unconscious form of an orange haired shinigami held in Kisuke's arms. A boy. A boy she knew but didn't. Kurosaki Ichigo, Isshin's son.
“Mimasaka-san.” Kisuke looked almost as thrown as she felt. Not all that surprising really. She'd been gone for a little over two hundred years after all. Stupid portals. Stupid rifts in dimensions and time. Stupid Willow for...just stupid. All of them, herself included. Maybe herself especially. But dwelling on the past wasn't going to do any good. And the present was right in front of her and she wasn't naïve enough to believe that people she'd once known had chosen one town in the human world to be in. They'd picked it for a reason. All different reasons but it had drawn all of them together again.
The ones that were lost to Soul Society. Taken or fled, it didn't matter. They were all there and she still didn't believe in coincidences or leprechauns.
She smiled but she didn't really feel it because it turned out more grim than sunny. “Miss me?”
“Everyone thinks you're dead.” whoa, when had Yoruichi's voice gotten so masculine in cat form?
A nod. “I was.” a shrug followed. “I got over it.” she motioned over to Kisuke's burden. “He won't though.” the boy had maybe half an hour left if they didn't treat him and she wasn't too keen on seeing Isshin's son die.
“Who are you?” the boy couldn't have been more than twelve with bright red hair and air about him that just screamed attitude. Oh goody, just what she needed after a roller coaster of a day.
A lone eyebrow went up at him “Don't be rude to Mimasaka-san, Jinta.” that made her look over at where Kisuke was standing alone in the middle of the shop, Ichigo now left in the care of Tessai. Who had given her a bit of a surprised look before he'd bowed and taken Ichigo away to heal him.
“Just stick with Amaya, Kisuke. I'm pretty sure I left formal behind in Soul Society.” she didn't like admitting that but it was the truth. Not that she'd been overly formal to begin with anyway. She met his gaze head on, it was time to cut to the chase “So you gonna tell me what the hell is going on or do I need to guess?”
“You're very direct these days.” he seemed to have gotten over the shock factor at least. Always a good sign. And there was something about him, something....he was so different than the teenager she remembered.
“Well considering that you've got a friend of mine's kid half dead in the other room and me being able to see hollows and sense spiritual pressure for the first time in a good while I figured direct was the way to go.” not to mention that she knew something was up. She could pretty much feel it in her bones in a way that went past slayer intuition.
It was like her soul was screaming at her to pay attention, NOW.
She leaned back, straightening her legs and using her arms to keep her upright. The last two hours had been long as they'd hashed over things. A lot of really bad things. It was looking like things could easily go to hell in a hand basket. Oh joy. Out of one fight and right back into another. Just her luck. “You were always too smart for your own good Kisuke.” it wasn't a recrimination, not really. Maybe a little but then no one was perfect, she was living proof of that on more than one level.
“Should I be insulted by that Amaya-san?” oh how much people could change over time. The Kisuke she'd known had been a boy, a shy and uncertain one at that. The man sitting across from her wasn't even the same person she'd known. Not exactly a bad thing really, confidence was always good. But the way he'd gotten it, the way he'd changed wasn't exactly sunshine and roses.
But then life was rarely sunshine and roses for anyone.
She let out a sigh and crossed her ankles and looked at them. She'd already reached a decision and she just hoped it wasn't going to completely bite her in the ass. “I need you to find a way for me to get my shinigami powers back.” landing in the middle of a potential fall out was just her luck but it was her choice to step back into the fray.
Her choice to find a way to get her old powers back. Her choice to put back on the life she'd tried to say goodbye to less than six hours before. Her choice.
And that was the most important part. Her choice.
“You're planning on going back to Soul Society?”
She shook her head. “I'm planning on making sure that the kid doesn't get himself killed when he goes after this Rukia girl.” and he would if he was anything like his father. What wouldn't Isshin do to protect the people he cared about? About the same as herself. And Ichigo was Isshin's son which meant that she would go.
She would walk back into a life she'd tried to let go of. Even if that meant facing things she wasn't sure she wanted to face now. Even if it meant potentially getting herself killed.
“AHHHHHHHHH” the scream caught her off guard and she jerked just enough to fall flat on her back. “Sounds like Ichigo is awake.” she grumbled as she moved to sit up as Tessai called for Kisuke. He stood up and left her as she recrossed her legs and kept her ears open.
“Here, here. That's not good Kurosaki-san. Your wounds still haven't closed. You'll die if you move around too much.”
“Sandal-hat.” the voice, she assumed it was Ichigo's though his alternate name for Kisuke made her stifle a snort. Sandal hat indeed. Geta and that ugly stripped bucket hat. She was so gonna have to talk to Kisuke about his fashion sense at some point. “So this is your place?” well that comment told her a lot.
“Correct.” the sound of a fan snapping shut. Oh yeah, big talk about clothes and accessories. Epic big talk. Kisuke might have turned into man candy but his clothing would have made a teenaged Xander shudder.
“So you helped me.”
“I'm not too pleased with that response. It sounds like you didn't want to be helped.” it did to her too. That said a lot about the kid. Sounded like he had a bit of a complex when it came to protecting people. She met Yoruichi's feline gaze and shook her head. He was going to have to learn that there were some people that you just couldn't protect. Some people you couldn't save. You couldn't just will people to survive if they weren't willing to fight themselves.
She tuned back into the conversation going on in the next room. “Only me huh?” no, not only him. Not only he could save his friend. Fighting alone was a fast way to get yourself killed. “What does he want me to do? Rukia's gone back to Soul Society! How am I supposed to chase after her? How am I supposed to save her?” it was a yell and it just screamed at her how young and out of his depth Ichigo was. Of course there was good chance she was going to be out of her own as well but at least she had years of hard experience behind her.
“There's no way!” oh there was a way. There really was. But he wasn't going to be able to do it alone. He couldn't just stroll into Soul Society and demand back someone with a death sentence over their head and expect to live. But there was a way for him to stand a chance. But it would come at a cost.
A cost to him in blood, in sweat, in determination. A cost to herself as well. She'd just made the choice to walk back into a life she'd never wanted to leave. Only this time she wasn't dead. This time she was human and she had Dawn.
This time things were going to be a hell of a lot different.
She mentally shook her head.
She'd just signed herself up for the long haul.
By the time she made it back to Isshin's it had stopped raining and she found Isshin waiting for her outside leaning against the wall. “How's Dawn?” she moved over beside him a leaned against the wall, the cool of the stone seeping through her clothes.
“Waiting up for you. She's got your stubborn streak.” he sounded like he approved of that. He probably did considering how well they got along.
She shook her head. “Don't I know it.” she took a deep breath. “It looks like I'm gonna need to find us a more permanent place to stay besides a hotel.”
“So you're gonna jump right in huh?” he glanced sideways at her but his eyes clearly said he'd known she would all along.
“You knew I would.”
He looked up at the night sky. “Yeah, I did.” he pushed himself away from the wall, his gaze still on the cloud filled sky. “Your things are already in the spare bedroom.”
“We'll be fine at a hotel until I can find us a place.” he had to know that it would raise questions eventually. She'd gotten the impression from hearing Ichigo talk to Kisuke that the teenager wasn't stupid, headstrong yeah, but not a complete moron.
He just looked at her and she knew that look, time hadn't changed it. It was one of the Isshin specials. The 'worry about yourself' look. She knew she couldn't win against that look, she'd never been able to win against that look. She sighed. “Fine.” she shook her head. “I should probably go have a chat with Dawn.”
He smirked at her. “Might be a good idea.”
She glared at him. “Just wait until you've got a teenaged girl to raise. Let's see how you do.”
“I'll be great at it. The best dad in the world.”
“Yeah right. Don't come crying to me when you get your ass handed to you.” she smirked and headed for the door. She couldn't avoid it, she was going to have to tell Dawn the truth.
The truth about a life that she'd never planned on her sister knowing about. That she'd kept from everyone that had once been close to her. Why did she have a feeling that Dawn was gonna have a major fit?
Not dead. His mind kept coming back to that one thought. Not dead. How many times when he had been young had he envisioned her alive? It would be easier to try and count the stars in the universe.
Alive, so very and completely alive. Human. Two hundred years and suddenly there she was, standing in the rain. Standing there like she belonged to the storm, like she ruled it.
“I thought you'd moved on Kisuke.”
He looked down at his oldest friend and then back up at the cloud filled sky with a sigh. “So had I.”
“Where the hell have you been?” oh goody pissed off Dawnie, just want she wanted to deal with. She shook her head and moved over to the full sized bed and sat down.
“I went to go have a talk with a couple old friends.” she might as well just dive right in. Beating around the bush wasn't going to get her anywhere and the sooner she had the hash out with Dawn in English the sooner she could get some sleep.
That earned a look. “Since when do you have friends in Japan?”
She shrugged. “Since about eleven hundred years ago.”
“What!” it was screeched at an octave only dogs and teenaged girls could hear without being in pain. And if you had super hearing? She was pretty sure she was now gonna be partly deaf in one ear.
“Will you tone it down? There are people trying to sleep.” she didn't even think as she said it and it took Dawn's eyes going completely bugged out for her to realize that she hadn't spoken in English.
“You-you-you-you.” Dawn looked like her brain was about to implode. Oh. Bad visual. Icky visual.
“I can speak in Japanese? Yeah. I can also read and write and I'm pretty decent at calligraphy too.” she knew she was using humor as a defense but it was better than getting morose about the past. And it was also easier than having to actually think about speaking in English.
Dawn seemed to gather herself up “Explain, say now-ish before I think I'm hallucinating.”
Ok so no more humor. Though that bug eyed look was going to stay with her forever. She let out a sigh and decided that she needed to force the point home so she opted to just drop forcing herself to speak in what had once been her native language. “When I jumped I died. My human body died Dawn. But my soul, it went somewhere else. To a place called Soul Society.” she met her sister's gaze and for once she just let the act drop, let the masks she'd kept in place for the last two years go away.
She let Dawn see the person she really was and not the person she pretended to be.
It took over two hours for her to explain everything. Well not everything, but all the big points. Dawn had asked questions and she'd answered them. Because she needed to, she had to. She'd made a choice and now she was finally telling the only family she had left the truth.
“Why didn't you tell us?” Dawn seemed to be handling it well. Dawn had seemed to handle everything with more maturity since Sunnydale had fallen. She suspected that being in battle had had something to do with it. War changed you.
She knew it better than most.
She glanced across the distance between them, they'd taken to sitting cross legged across from one another on the bed. “Why didn't you ask?” it was a hash question but it got the point across. They hadn't asked and she hadn't told. She'd never lied to them, she'd never even needed to.
And that was what had broken them in the end.
Dawn went quiet, seemed to curl in on herself and she could practically see her sister's mind working through things. And she was more than willing to let Dawn do it. Sometimes you had to just work through something on your own even if you didn't want to. So she decided to finally get into her pj's and let Dawn have her time.
After all it was a lot to take in.
It took nearly twenty minutes but when Dawn finally said something she knew a decision had been made. “So what do you want me to call you? Buffy or Amaya?”
She blinked and then smiled. “Onee-san works.”
Dawn smiled at her and for the first time in forever she felt like they were close, really close. The way sisters were meant to be. “Guess I'm gonna have to be fluent before school starts for the fall huh?”
She just smiled. Hopefully things would be alright.
She flicked her gaze over to where Dawn lay sleeping on one side of the bed, her sister curled around a pillow. “Beginning is easy, continuing is hard.” Her okaa-san was long gone but the wisdom of the proverb still echoed through her.
She turned her gaze to look out the window into the night sky, her thoughts heavy. Once upon a time her life had been simple. Lead her division, lead her house, live her life by her own standards as well as she could. But things had changed.
So much had changed. Two years for herself, two hundred for them. It might as well have been two hundred for her too. Things had changed. So much had changed. And now things had grown infinitely more complicated. Once upon a time she'd known where the lines in her life were, now she wasn't so sure.
But some things were certain. Some things were always certain. You protected your own. You took care of family. Isshin was family. Not in any traditional sense but for almost a thousand years he'd been in her life and she'd do everything she could to keep his son alive. Even if that meant facing all of the Gotei 13.
Even if she was loathe to do such a thing. Once upon a time she'd been Mimasaka Amaya, Captain of the Tenth Division and head of a noble house. Once upon a time she'd been a shinigami. Beginnings were easy. But she would continue. To whatever end she'd made a choice.
She'd begun a life as Mimasaka Amaya and she'd continue it. Whatever that meant.
“I just know this is going to bite me in the ass.” she shook her head and sighed. Out of the damn frying pan and into the fire. Maybe she was nuts.
She didn't know what was funnier; the look on Ichigo's face at Isshin acting like a complete nut case talking to the poster of his late wife about having a new 'daughter' in the form of Dawn or Ichigo's 'what the hell' expression at them sitting at the table eating breakfast while Isshin's daughter Karin kicked the crap out of Isshin for being weird.
“Why are they still here?”
“Cause we were invited strawberry boy.” oh lookie at that, Dawn could pull of smart ass in Japanese. She hid a grin as she took a drink at Ichigo's expression. And a swell of pride.
“Who the hell are you two?” Ichigo was still clearly not happy about his friend Rukia disappearing and she noted that Isshin didn't try a sneak attack of any kind because it was clear to anyone who knew what to look for that Ichigo's injuries hadn't fully healed yet.
“Nee-chan, play nice.” she didn't want Ichigo asking too many questions and Dawn had been told very clearly that Ichigo was to be kept in the dark about any connection to Isshin.
“Whatever.” Ichigo rolled his eyes and walked out the front door, ignoring Yuzu calling at him to eat breakfast. Buffy just sighed at the teenager's apathy, as though she didn't have enough of that with Dawn.
She didn't want to admit it but she was pretty much terrified of what she was asking Kisuke to do. Seperate her soul from her human body. Hello being way too close to vampire like for her liking on one level. Only she knew it would put her body into a coma.
Still. Soul out of body.....not exactly in her comfort zone as a slayer.
“Don't look so nervous Amaya-san.” Kisuke had a teasing note to his voice and she glared at him about half a second before she grabbed him by the front of his green jacket and pulled him down to meet her gaze. “I'm sorry but when was the last time you got your soul knocked out of your human body?” he didn't say anything. She let go. “That's what I thought.” she sighed and prepared for the worst, after all she could remember how she'd initially reacted to getting her soul shoved back into her body and it'd hurt so much.
“My, my, so cranky.” he brought his cane up and she glared at him. “Don't make me...” the cane went through her forehead and instantly she was down on her knees. It felt like she'd been hit by a truck and then run over a dozen times. Like every piece of her was screaming. It felt like she was dying all over again.
Breathe, just breathe. In. Out. In. Out.
Gods she hurt.
It could have been minutes or hours that she just sat there on her knees trying to deal with the pain and oblivious to everything else but eventually it began to ebb away enough for her to think again. To focus on something besides her next breath and the screaming through every fiber of herself.
But slowly, piece by piece she became aware of things. Important things. Essential things. Of the feel of her uniform, of the smell of sakura and sand and rain. Of the face right in front of her.
Right in front of her!
She flipped back onto her butt with a yelp as Jinta and Ururu's faces finally registered. “Don't do that!”
“Hey, she's out of the trance or whatever.” Jinta called across the empty space of the huge training room Kisuke had under his store and home.
“Oh so you're finally able to concentrate again Amaya-san.” Kisuke flipped his fan open and she glared at him as she tried to stand up. But she felt...
She felt weak. Very weak. She shouldn't...she'd never felt so weak before. “What the hell is wrong with me Kisuke?”
He tipped his head and his eyes became even more shadowed by his hat as he snapped his fan shut. “Your reatisu has been severely damaged.”
Her eyes widened, no. NO.
“Nothing permanent but it will take time to heal.” he smiled at her. “But, like a muscle that's been too long out of use, it's atrophied. You'll have to exercise the muscle again.”
Great. Just great. She was screwed. The only two people she knew who she could use to fight with to work her 'muscles' were going to be busy with helping Ichigo to get his powers back. Though he was currently in his last day of school for the semester so she might be able to convince Kisuke to help for a few hours. But that wasn't going to be enough.
“So who am I supposed to fight to get back into my old shape if you're busy with Ichigo?” cause there wasn't exactly a long list of people she could just call up and ask for help.
Kisuke smiled and she had this sudden sense of dread as she met his green eyes. “I believe I know a few people that can withstand the only dual powered zanpakutō in Soul Society's history.”
Why was she suddenly very very worried?
*Chapters will start conforming to my self imposed limit of 3000 words or more from now on.
And review please. They feed the muse.