Every Breath

by SkItZoFrEaK

This is about as random as I get. No plot bunny excuses on this one, because that would imply that there is plot. Future-fic (how far? well, what is time to the dead anyway?), Hinamori/Hitsugaya (sorta) and some Matsumoto-lovin' because she's just too much fun. And who doesn't poke a little fun at their friends when the opportunity arises?

For those of you questioning the "Little June" reference, there's an AMV on youtube that uses that song (by Groove Coverage) in a Hinamori-centered video. It's perfect. Go watch.

Standard disclaimers apply. Let there be rejoicing.

"Nighty night, Little June!"

"Good night, Yoruichi-san," Hinamori waved politely as the lithe woman sprang away into the evening shadows. "You know, I still don't have any idea why she calls me that," she said thoughtfully, turning to look up at her companion. He shrugged once, indifferently.

"Who knows why Yoruichi does anything?" Hitsugaya muttered, not controlling his breathing at all. Hinamori had put some sort of scent on tonight, and if the slight evening breeze gusted just a bit, it would brush just enough against his nose to make him aware of it, but not enough that he ought to be aware of it. So he was not trying to avoid inhaling it, because he wasn't noticing it.

They were almost to his office now, where he had a pile of paperwork and in all likelihood a napping vice-captain sprawled across his desk. Hitsugaya mentally rolled his eyes as he contemplated how much work his loyal yet not exactly dedicated second-in-command was probably not accomplishing right now.

"Hmm," she titled her head slightly, half smiling at the now-empty night. A strand of dark hair untucked from behind her ear, and he did not watch as she smoothed it back with one finger. "I guess I can add her to the list of things that I will never really understand." She smiled, and he let himself answer by smiling back. A little.

Not too much, he whispered.

You lack faith in her, Hyourinmaru admonished.

I'm giving her time. She needs it.

Hinamori shook her head, but the smile hovered, caught just at the edge of her mouth. Not that he was paying attention to the nuances of her face. No, he wasn't. It was just that, well, this was Hinamori, and he had always, always been… aware of her. He could look at her – hell, he could simply be in her general vicinity, and no matter what task was on hand, or what else he was thinking about, he would still know exactly what shape her finger curled in as it poked the escaping lock of hair back into place.

"You have a list of that kind of stuff?" he ventured after a moment of silence, wondering if he could somehow tease that smile back out into the opening. "Hinamori's List of Nutty Old Farts and the Weird Shit They Do?"

He did not do the mental happy dance when she laughed.

"No, Himanori's List of Things She Will Probably Never Figure Out In A Thousand Years." She countered, waving a finger at the sky. "Yoruichi-san's strange names for me are pretty high on the list. I mean," she turned her face to look squarely up at him. "my birthday isn't even in June. And I'm certainly not like June, or anything. June nights are supposed to be soft and sweet and perfect, and I think someone like Captain Unohana or even Captain Ukitake fit that description much more than I will…now, anyway."

He heard the drop in her voice, saw the smile slip, and bit down hard on the flash of cold rage that Aizen's memory always sent surging through his veins. "You're fine as you are," he did not say, although judging by the way Hinamori's eyes jumped from the floor to his face and then away again quickly - Damn.

He swallowed, and felt Hyourinmaru shift. You are overcautious. Fear is a liability in battle.

This is not battle.

Isn't it?

"Who wants perfect anyway?" he grouched at last, and he was only trying to drown out the internal chastising, not trying to fill the sudden awkward silence. He turned from her and reaching for his office door (and no, he was not fleeing from her like a green shinigami recruit flees a hollow. It was a tactical withdrawal. They taught you that crap when you were a Captain. Damn dragon.).

He shrugged irritably. "Perfection's not real, and people who pretend at it are irritating."

Her hand came to rest on his wrist, but he had stopped moving long before her fingers reached it. He had felt her shift even as he had turned, and his body had frozen obligingly before his brain could even fully register the movement. She did that to him, forced him to respond to her without even meaning to. She always had, and in all likelihood, always would.

"You know what's at the top of that list?" Her voice was oddly humorous, and he wondered (hoped) if she was amused at him. "You," she answered herself, and this time he could definitely hear the laughter in the word. It shot a little thrill down his spine, and he repressed a shiver. It was hard, and he wondered briefly if this was akin to how his opponents felt when he unleashed his spirit force on them.

On the contrary, I doubt their temperature rises as dramatically as yours has these last few seconds.

I will lock you in the armory, he thought savagely, and tried not to growl as his soul slayer subsided, smirking, back into his subconscious.

"I don't think I will ever fully understand you," she continued, to all appearances oblivious to his internal war.

"What don't you understand?" He managed at last, and ignored Hyourinmaru's mocking congratulations for sounding (almost) normal.

"Well, there's the way you manage to treat me like nothing has changed about me, when everyone else is always so careful with me. You tease me, you get irritable when I call you Shirou-chan, you even roll your eyes and tell me to stop being ridiculous when I get…moody." She frowned, and shook her head almost violently. "But then, sometimes, out of the blue, I can tell that you're hiding something from me, maybe something you want to say or do, and if I prod at it, you suddenly remember pressing business elsewhere and poof" she snapped her fingers, "You're gone."

"I…don't know…"

"What I'm talking about? Well, that makes two of us then.," she murmured. "But if you figure it out first, at least do me the courtesy of telling me why you are so very cautious with me." Her fingers slid off his wrist. "Well, at any rate," she dropped her hand to her sword-hilt, and the smile was hovering again, somewhere just behind her lips where he couldn't see and desperately wanted to look. "I know that I'm not likely to ever figure you out."

"You've got time to try," he said quickly, and vaguely wondered when the hell his mouth had started acting without his express permission. "I'm not going anywhere, so I promise you've got plenty of time-"

"Don't say that."

The sudden heat in her voice burned through the haze of confusion and brought him sharply back to himself.


"Don't ever promise me that you won't leave me!" She said again, and her hand was clutching Tobiume, her eyes were narrow and they burned, they burned. "You don't know – " she stopped, took a shaky breath, and forced her fingers to relax.

He waited while she got herself back under control, while she calmed whatever anger had flared inside her. He waited, and watched. He was good at that.

"You always were the best at getting me all riled up," she admitted ruefully. He said nothing, but he let his eyebrow lift just a fraction. She saw it, and sighed.

"Nobody knows what's going to happen in the future," she said at last. "And even we have to leave here, eventually," her voice was calm again; somewhere inside it was a hint of her old laughter. And he didn't bother to pretend that he wasn't holding his breath as he waited for it to rise. "Nobody can foresee what's going to happen in the next day, the next hour," Hinamori stepped forward, and suddenly he realized that she was close enough that he had to lower his chin to look down at her eyes. "We can't even see what's going to happen in the very next breath."

"For example," she reached out, put a hand on the back of his neck, and before he had time to think – what the? - she was kissing him.

Kissing him.


Hinamori Momo.

HAH! Went the dragon.

Shut up, replied the man.

"I bet," she murmured against his lips, "you didn't see that coming."

And just like that, she was halfway down the hall.

At the corner she looked back. "Good night, Toushiro," she said quietly, and then she did something it almost hurt him to see. She grinned. It wasn't a sad little half smile, or a polite smile, or a gentle lady's smile hidden sweetly behind a raised hand. It was wide and it was real and it was even a little mischievous, and it was so utterly Momo that it made him ache inside. "Don't work too hard," she called. "I will look for you tomorrow." One last wave, and then she vanished around the corner and out of sight.

And Hitsugaya Toushiro, Captain of the Tenth Division and one of the most powerful beings in Soul Society, stood in the hallway outside his office and grinned like a madman at absolutely nothing at all.

She had kissed him, and somewhere in his head the dragon was laughing triumphantly, but more importantly, she had laughed, she had smiled, and for just a few moments, there had been nothing but joy in her.

And every laugh, every smile, every moment when the shadow of sorrow faded under the light of joy, they were all precious little indications to him that somewhere amidst the scars that she bore, his bedwetter Momo was still alive and maybe, just maybe, waiting to come fully alive again. And he no longer pretended to himself that he wasn't holding out for that day with every breath.

Where is Matsumoto? This was longer than I thought it would be, so I moved her bit to a seperate little epilogue(ish) chapter attached to this. I like writing Hitsugaya. I can't help but feel that both he and his soul slayer is probably, despite all the power, authority, and maturity, are at heart just a little bit snarky.