Author's Name: Empatheia
Requester's Name: YamiPaladinofChaos
Pairing or Character: Hitsugaya/Yachiru
Squicks/Spoilers: Angst. Character death. Alternate pairings. Slight AR. Spoilers for the Soul Society arc.
Summary: When the world is drenched in blue, he can be forgiven for seeking refuge in other colours.
Author's Note: Yami asked for WAFF. I wrote him angst. With Yachiru. And call me a horrible, horrible person, but I kind of like it.
when whitely they whisper
It may have started with a kiss.
Going back even further than the kiss, it may have started because Orihime was bored one day and decided to play matchmaker with the members of the Gotei 13.
More precisely, it may have started because she spectacularly hit gold on her twenty-seventh project: Zaraki Kenpachi and Unohana Retsu. (How she'd known how perfectly they would complement each other no one could figure out. Perhaps she hadn't known at all. In any case, all it took was a little interference from the mischievous Inoue to tip the drastically dissimilar captains precipitously into one another's arms.)
It may have happened because there was a blue moon over Soul Society that year.
It may have happened just because it wanted to. It is, as it almost always is, impossible to tell.
For the sake of history, it shall be assumed that it started with a kiss. Strangely enough, neither the hero nor the heroine of this story were involved in said kiss in any way. Its occurence, however, led to many things that affected both of them.
Three things happened immediately, as soon as the kiss was made public:
First, a serenely smirking Yumichika held out his hand to accept a bag of candy from a fuming Ikkaku. "I told you so," he gloated. "My intuition never lies." Then Ikkaku made a crack about such intuition being a feminine trait, and Yumichika whacked him, and that began a happy tussle in the grass. (Every action leads to something else.)
Second, preparations began for a Society-wide celebration of truly spectacular proportions. The shinigami had precious little to celebrate in those days, and seized on what they could. A union between two highly respected captains was just the thing. Organization was led mostly by one Matsumoto Rangiku, whose penchant for parties and taste for good liquor were well known and well respected.
Lastly, Hitsugaya Toushiro found Kusajishi Yachiru sitting alone for the first time in his rather long memory. He'd known her for decades and had never seen her without her hulking captain companion Zaraki Kenpachi. (Zaraki was, of course, off passionately sweeping Unohana off her feet elsewhere in the Court of Pure Souls. Yachiru, being rather wiser than most people thought her, had decided to stay as far away from them as possible without leaving summoning range. She was still Zaraki's lieutenant, after all.)
Ten years had changed her, he thought as soon as he saw her. Ten years since the Great Betrayal, ten years since the gifted ryoka had made Soul Society their near-permanent residence, ten years since they'd had anything even approaching peace. She was taller, and thinner, and not just a powerful girl-child anymore.
Far from being a fast and dirty battle with Aizen after his stunning treachery, it had dragged out into a decade-long mutual siege littered with casualties and broken hearts. There were very few people who did not regret that, but there was really very little anyone could do. The forces were too evenly matched, even with the arrival of the four ryoka and the formal support and staggering power they brought with them. No one had seen anything like Aizen before, not in many millennia of history.
One of the abovementioned broken hearts was Hitsugaya's own. Hinamori had lost all will to live with Aizen's departure and now spent her withering days staring blindly out her cell window, too dangerous to be free and too weak to be left alone. Unohana cared for her as best she could, but there were wounds that even the Fourth Squad couldn't touch.
Everyone was grieving, it seemed... except Yachiru.
Yachiru was one of the few who had not lost anyone she cared for. She only cared for one person, and that person was damned near indestructible. Hitsugaya suspected she'd thought herself invulnerable. If you only cared for someone unkillable, who could break your heart?
There was, unfortunately, more than one way to break a heart.
Yachiru was not startled. She'd heard him coming, of course. Her rank had not been attained entirely by laughing cutely at the Overcaptain.
She was perched perilously on the edge of a roof near the outskirts of the Court, legs dangling carelessly over the lip. Hitsugaya stayed prudently near the middle, and not out of fear of heights.
He wasn't sure what had made him interrupt her reverie-- he had no news or orders to impart, nothing really important to say at all. She'd just looked so dejected he hadn't been able to pass by without hating himself for it.
Thus, it was a total shock when she turned around, splattered him with the hugest smile she owned and squealed "Shiro-chaaaannnnn!"
"It's a nice day, isn't it? All sunny and stuff. Great day to sit on the roofs."
Her face had lost much of its babyish chub over the last few years. (Battle tended to do that to a person.) She had not, however, lost any of her bubbling charm. It was merely tempered with much greater depth now.
"Er. Um. Are you all right?" he asked awkwardly. Romance and women were not his strong suits. He hadn't even managed to get Hinamori to look at him twice in twenty years. Broken hearts scared him terribly.
It was wrong that she should sound so cheery while saying something like that. She had a long finger pressed against her lips, an old habit, and she was smiling fit to crack her head right open. She was not remotely 'all right.'
Hitsugaya took three steps to close the distance between them. From up close, he could clearly see the tracks of tears down her cheeks and the fine mist of red in her eyes. She was trembling.
He was not by habit a generous person, but he was kind when the situation would allow nothing else. So it wasn't really even his decision to take her gently by the elbow and flash-step them both to his favourite hiding place outside the Wall.
Yachiru barely even blinked when he sat her down on the little stone shelf high up the cliff wall. It was a little bowl in the landscape, like a giant's heelprint, and very beautiful. Down the high side ran a wide waterfall into a quiet round pool full of stepping stone. A little stream ran out the shallow side. Everything in between was full of green, a shade rare in the mostly-dead world of Soul Society. Such growth was only possible where the world of the dead came close enough to world of the living to almost touch. This was such a place. It was full of flowers.
"Pretty," she hiccupped at last.
His mouth twitched in something that in anyone else would have been a grin. "I come here when I don't want to talk to anyone," he offered.
"Oh," she said. "That's good then. I don't really want to talk to anyone either."
Hitsugaya could take a hint. He floated down the cliff to the edge of the water and started skipping stones idly. Whether or not she wanted to talk, he knew she wouldn't want to be completely alone.
Skipping stones was harder now, he'd noticed, that he was finally as tall as he'd always wanted to be. Five years ago he'd shot up like a bamboo sapling and was easily Gin's height now (not that he thought about Gin ever in any light but murderous red). Skipping stones was easier when one was short and closer to the ground, closer to the surface of the water.
So absorbed was he in re-perfecting his old favourite past-time, he didn't hear Yachiru until she crouched beside him and whispered "How do you do it?"
Skip stones? he thought stupidly, knowing that couldn't be what she was talking about. "Do what?" he asked bluntly. His tact only went so far.
"Not break while you watch her leave you," she said, even more quietly, drawing in on herself as if to vanish altogether.
Hitsugaya was thunderstruck. "I thought you didn't want to talk," he said coldly just to give himself a little more time to deal with the question she'd hurled at him so unexpectedly.
Yachiru recoiled as if struck. "I didn't think I did, but now I can't seem to stop. Sorry."
He relaxed. "It's all right. I just didn't expect the question, that's all."
"It's okay if you don't answer," she said hurriedly. "I shouldn't have asked. I just..."
"It's all right," he said again, then squatted on the stones next to her. Somehow it was a little easier to think about Hinamori here, where there was only clear water and brown-grey stone and growing things of green. Hinamori's colour was blue, and there wasn't much of that here. "I guess... it's different for me," he started, feeling off-balance. "I knew all along that what I felt and what she felt would never match up. I resigned myself to watching her leave even before watching her walk towards me. You, though... your situation is so different. I don't know what to say to help you."
"I thought we'd be together forever," Yachiru said, almost calm. "Just him and me, him having fun fights and me patching him up afterwards. I don't even remember how to walk without him... I got so used to his shoulder. I never loved him the way you love Hinamori, but I never thought he could love anyone that way either so it was okay. Until he did, of course. Now I don't know what to do."
He'd never heard Yachiru so serious before. She was always giggling madly and causing havoc, never showing anyone the possibility that she might be a woman and not merely a mischievous girl.
"I don't know what I'm going to do either," he confessed. "When she finally dies, I mean. She's been dying for so long, I just got used to it. I don't know what I'm going to do when I can't visit her anymore and have her ignore me like she always does."
Yachiru stood suddenly. "We should do something," she said.
Taken aback, he merely looked up at her. "Like what?"
"Start a society or something."
"Society for the Cruelly Jilted and Unfairly Dumped!" she proclaimed, fisting the air triumphantly. "For short, SKUJD." It sounded like 'skewed,' which was appropriate and unexpected.
He laughed. It was a real laugh, rare for him. She grinned down at him, a true golden Yachiru Grin.
"We'd have lots of fun! Enough fun to make them sorry they ever went away. We'd make them see what they were missing and no mistake."
"Just the two of us?"
"Ishida could join too. I don't think he's gotten over Orihime and Renji yet. And maybe Rangiku. Poor, poor Ran-chan."
Hitsugaya winced. He knew firsthand all about his lieutenant's pain. Gin's departure had not been easy on her.
"Sounds like a plan," he said wryly, and ruffled her hair.
She beamed sunnily at him. For a few minutes, it was almost as though everything was okay and nobody was hurt or broken.
like willows, we weep
If Hitsugaya Toushiro had any sobering effect on Kusajishi Yachiru whatsoever, it was not noticeable to human or shinigami eyes. However, the reverse was easy to spot. Every day that he spent in her company, she loosened him up a little more, until eventually he could be spotted madly dashing about the rooftops and helping her set up pranks and easily keeping up with her level of mischief.
She'd taken to riding on his back occasionally like she'd once done with her captain. Hitsugaya was not nearly so large and she not nearly so tiny as she'd once been, so it was really nothing like her old habit. Had it been any other twosome, people might have whispered in corners about how scandalous the position really was, her knees clutching his hips and her torso pressed to his back like that. It was them, though, the babies of the Gotei 13, so no one even thought it, let alone bothered gossiping about it.
Aizen's forces had gone into remission after a crushing defeat at the ryoka's hands, so there was almost peace in the Afterlife for once.
It was the closest to happy they had been for years. Hitsugaya and Yachiru leapt joyously around the Court, causing mischief and spreading laughter as only they could. It was idyllic and they found themselves growing closer to each other almost organically, like creeper vines twining around each other without plan or destination.
Then Hinamori finally died, and everything changed again.
shades of blue for remembrance
Hitsugaya reached out with steady fingers and pulled her paper-thin lids over watery eyes. All the colour had drained out of her years ago. This cardboard doll was all that was left of her. Leaning forward to kiss her forehead, he felt nothing but cool dry parchment, not skin. That kiss was both an ending and a beginning, he realized.
All he could feel was relieved.
Yachiru stood near the doorway, respectfully silent. She'd been coming with him to see Hinamori for months, and usually chattered her head off trying to keep him from spiralling into black depression, but now she couldn't seem to find anything to say. Most of the times before he'd wished she would shut up, but now all he wanted was to hear her natter on comfortingly in the background. She still remained silent.
He picked his Momo's frail form up with ease and walked out of what had been her prison for a decade. She hadn't cared, hadn't even seemed to notice that she couldn't leave. She'd never tried.
Hitsugaya carried her out to a place outside the walls and burned her body. Not the waterfall, that was a good place that shouldn't be spoiled by Momo's acrid smoke. Somewhere else, somewhere stark and hidden without even a hint of green and growing things.
Paper burned well.
When there was nothing left of her but a faint residue, he turned and walked away. His eyes were dry.
When he got to the waterfall, Yachiru was already there, as he'd expected. She was flawlessly skipping stones on the calm surface of the hollow pond. It looked bottomless in the light of the blue moon.
He went up to the ledge and sat silently for hours, until it got dark and Yachiru gave up trying to break her record of twenty-seven skips.
"Are you going back?" she asked quietly, smiling as usual.
"Not tonight," he said, and lay down on the stone to sleep. She curled up behind him, her back warm against his.
He dreamed of stones that skipped into infinity and rooftops that stretched on forever beyond the horizon, and everything was hazed with blue.
risen, a cornflower moon
The Overcaptain was next to go, consumed in flames of his own making. He took Tousen down with him. Aizen's face would never be the same either. It was a mighty death, if any death could be said to be mighty. He still ended up a greyish pile of ashes in a red-glazed urn, all that could be retrieved of him after his suicidal conflagration.
Kuchiki Byakuya was, predictably, made Overcaptain after the funeral. He took his place at the head of Soul Society's finest with hardly a ripple of dissent. Despite his pale, hard demeanour, he was a leader that inspired respect and sometimes even love. It was easy to follow him.
Matsumoto Rangiku was, not predictably, enlisted to take over the Sixth Division for him, leaving Hitsugaya bereft of his lieutenant.
No one was really surprised when Yachiru requested the position despite still being secure in her old one. Hitsugaya knew all of her reasons and could not bring himself to disagree with any of them. Her request was granted almost immediately.
Zaraki Kenpachi said nothing about the loss of his lieutenant, of the girl he'd raised from the blood she was born in. No one had really expected him to, but Hitsugaya knew that Yachiru was still wounded by his silence.
They met at the waterfall and she cried, and then went swimming to disguise her tears. He watched her slip silver through the water like a lithe, rosy mermaid. She stayed underwater so long he caught himself wondering if she really was a mermaid and didn't need to breathe at all.
When she finally surfaced, she was grinning again, a grin that warned him of what she planned even as he realized he could never move fast enough to avoid her. As he toppled into the water with the aid of her grasping hands, he sighed resignedly. It would take ages to dry his uniform.
The water felt wonderful, though. His home element. Once he'd turned the whole thing to ice so Yachiru could demonstrate something Orihime had taught her called 'figure skating.' She had done it with inevitable grace, tracing patterns like spilling hair onto the pale ice.
She swam the same way, leaving shimmering trails behind herself to whirl in the currents. It may have been his element, but she took it and made it beautiful in a way he never could.
In his hands, it was very good at killing things.
In hers, it was art.
your tears are sapphire snowfall
Four months and seven days later, the war was won. By kind miracle, almost no one died in the final confrontation. Almost no one. The ryoka came back covered in bruises, burns, and suppurating slices, supporting the almost-unrecognizable form of Ichigo between them. It seemed to fit, actually, that he and Aizen would take each other out in the end.
It didn't make Orihime cry any less hard, or Chad any less pale, or Ishida any less broken to know that it was inevitable. Yachiru cried a little, too, because Ichigo had been Ken-chan's fight-friend and that still meant something to her even after all that time.
Hitsugaya bowed very low as they passed.
Then he turned and disappeared, knowing Yachiru would follow him.
The waterfall looked exactly the same. Nothing changed in the world of death, so of course it wouldn't look any different. For some reason, though, he expected it to. The war was over, after eleven years. Shouldn't the trees stand a little taller? Shouldn't there be more flowers, bigger and more colourful?
It was exactly the same, even though everything around it had changed. It calmed him down a little.
Yachiru snapped into existence behind him, emerging from her flash-step completely unruffled despite the tearstains on her face. She walked up to him and put her arms around him from behind. "What now?" she murmured into the nape of his neck.
"We try to remember what 'normal' is, and do that," he replied after a while. There was so much sunlight pouring in from above the trees, drenching the flowers, lighting the water in shattered facets of gold, that he felt he was drowning in it. There was no hint of blue anywhere but his eyes, and those he could not see. Yachiru was a rosy presence behind him, and everything else was blessed, blessed green.
He felt the absence of blue not like a loss, but like he'd finally excised something that had festered within him for years. He felt utterly perfect.
"Sounds like a plan. Can I stay with you?"
He stilled, not from surprise but to savour the moment and those words coming from her mouth. He felt her hands tighten in the fabric across his chest. "Where else?" he said at last.
She giggled, the most welcome sound he'd ever heard. "Just thought I'd check."
did you know?
It may have begun with a kiss.
It may have been the blue moon, too.
Probably, it began because it was meant to, and who can argue with that?
A/N: Forgive me, for I have sinned. XD
I couldn't find a poem to use for headers, so I made one up. You won't find it anywhere else. Here it is in full:
when whitely they whisper
like willows, we weep
shades of blue for remembrance
risen, a cornflower moon
your tears are sapphire snowfall
did you know?
All hail YamiPaladinofChaos, king of the shiniful land of Winawesome.