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Hiruma Youichi had never intended on coming back here. He hadn't spoken face to face with his old man in years, and he'd have been perfectly happy to keep it that way.

But there had been the phone call. And finding out that his old man had been there during the Christmas Bowl.

Hiruma unlocked the door; it creaked even though he eased it open. He didn't bother saying anything.


Youichi gritted his teeth. He really didn't want to be here.

He walked in, closing the door behind him and locking it out of habit. Nobody needed to hear this. Or see it.

The living room was the same -- small, cramped, with a couch that had seen better years. The kitchenette area was the same. Everything was still the same. His father stood next to the window, a dark silhouette against the afternoon sunshine. For a second, Youichi thought his father was facing him, but then he realized he was looking out the window; all Youichi could see was the black hair on the back of his head.

Yuuya was the same build as Youichi, if a bit taller, his frame filled out more. Had Youichi not deliberately dyed his hair, it would've been the same black as his father's. And his father, being locked into the same routine as he always was, still wore the shirt and jeans he'd worn for the past few years. The sunlight streaming through the window almost gave the man a halo, which was irritating, because if there was something Youichi had never done, it was think of his father as being more than human.

"I'm sure you're here about the phone call," Yuuya said calmly. His voice was just like it had been on the phone: calm, firm, possibly even a bit warm. It made Youichi want to punch him in the face, but that wasn't going to get him anywhere.

Youichi grunted, leaning against a wall. "I heard that you were at the Christmas Bowl."

"That's true. Someone at one of the sign-in tables can verify that."

"Since when the fuck do you leave the house?" Youichi demanded, his eyes narrowing. "And since when do you use a fucking phone?"

Yuuya snorted gently, sounding amused. "Had you come to see me, you might have known when the change took place."

Scowling, Youichi stood up straight, closed the distance between them. He reached out, grabbing his father's shoulder and turning him around forcibly.

He'd been expecting a chain dangling out of the man's chest. That was what he'd seen in the past, after his mother had died.

The chain was gone. And there was a blank white mask covering the man's face. The mask would've been pristine if not for the jagged hole over where Yuuya's eyes were, revealing green irises that glittered even in shadow. The jaw shuddered and cracked open to reveal a mouth filled with needle-like teeth.

Hiruma Youichi's eyes widened.

"Hello, son," Yuuya's voice thrummed, the words almost too gentle to have emerged from that mouth.

Youichi blinked, a sneer drawing itself across his face. "So, it finally happened."

The man turned completely from the window, even as Youichi took several steps back. "So it did. Were you ever going to tell me this would happen?"

Youichi sneered. "Why the fuck should I? It's not like I could've done anything to stop it. You're the one who killed yourself when Mom bit the dust."

"For years, we've butted heads." The Hollow who used to be his father sighed heavily. "Can't we have one conversation where we speak peaceably?"

"Y'know what, old man? You're fucking pathetic," Youichi snapped. "You took the easy way out. You gave up going on the attack, and you lost. You kept losing and losing, and look where it fucking got you." He reached down into his shirt and pulled out a chain with a small, silver skull hanging from it. When he grabbed the skull in one hand, he felt his body slump onto the floor.

"You're a Shinigami now?" Yuuya asked, sounding surprised.

"I've been a fucking Shinigami for the past year, fucking sperm donor," Youichi growled. "Maybe if you'd--"

"Maybe if I'd what, Youichi?" the Hollow snapped. "Maybe if I had chased after you, maybe if I had been a better father? You would have kept running. I know you, son. I know you because for thirteen years, you lived under this roof. How was I supposed to know anything unless I broke my chain of fate and saw for myself what was happening in your life?"

Youichi gritted his teeth. "Last I checked, you lost any will to fight while you were still alive."

"You'd be surprised how being dead gives you a whole new perspective on the meaning of existence," Yuuya replied.

"So, why stay here?" Youichi asked, his eyes narrowing. "Why call me? Why come to the Christmas Bowl?"

Yuuya looked at his son steadily, the green eyes that his son had inherited almost sad. "Would you believe--"

Hiruma Yuuya stopped mid-sentence, not because he was trying to be dramatic, but because a very long odachi, serrated from decades of mistreatment, had sliced cleanly into his head, starting from the top of his skull downwards, cleaving the skeletal jaws in half with an audible 'snap'.

The Hollow screamed, its roars nearly knocking Hiruma Youichi on his ass. As he watched, the body disintegrated into black ash, swirling once in a tight circle before disappearing completely.

Youichi looked up to see an enormous shadow framed in the doorway, with one glittering green eye, black robes, and liberty spikes. The blade the shadow held in one hand flashed in the sunlight.

"What's the matter, Hiruma," Kenpachi said with a grin, "you suddenly forget how to fight Hollows?"

Youichi stared at him for a long moment before his eyes slid to where his father-- no, the Hollow his father had become -- had been standing moments before.

Hiruma Yuuya was gone.

And Hiruma Youichi... wasn't sure how he felt about that. The man had been in his life for years until Hiruma had finally gotten sick of him and left the house to live in hotels. When the man committed suicide after Hiruma's mom had died, he stayed there, haunting the same house, the links of his chain of fate clinking together like pebbles on the inside of Mom's favorite vase. And now, he was literally gone forever.

"Oi." Kenpachi frowned.

Youichi's eyes snapped up to meet his.

Kenpachi flicked the odachi once. "Who was that I just killed?"

"Nobody," Hiruma Youichi said. A slow grin stretched across his face. "Nobody at all."

Zaraki Kenpachi stared at him for a long moment, the thoughtful look alien on his craggy face. After a while, he must have figured that whatever he was seeing on Hiruma's face wasn't that important, because he snorted. "He must've been. I don't usually fight pissant Hollows like that, but that one dropped fast. They usually put up more of a fight."

"He was always pretty fucking pathetic," Hiruma agreed, waving a hand dismissively. He found himself wondering if maybe his father had finally given up existing even as a Hollow, and had come to see him because of that. If that was what he wanted, he sure as hell got it. Shaking his head a few times to clear it, Hiruma grinned up at Kenpachi. "So, you finally got a team together, fucking overgrown bastard?"

Kenpachi grunted. "Yeah, but if you ask me, this American football thing would be a lot more fun with weapons."