"When defeat is inevitable, it is wisest to yield."
Hitsugaya and Cold Showers
Hitsugaya Toushirou loved cold showers.
He didn't know very many other people who did though. Most people preferred a warm, relaxing shower. The sort of shower in which a person could just let the water wash over him and lose himself in his thoughts and memories. It was the same with baths. Everyone enjoyed the water much more when it was warm or hot or even steaming.
The thought made the Tenth Division taichou shiver, a shiver that had nothing to do with the cold water.
Kuchiki Rukia was probably the only other person Hitsugaya knew well enough to know that she enjoyed cold showers as well. She appreciated them for a very different reason than he did however. Kuchiki liked cold showers because she enjoyed the bone chilling freshness they had to offer. They rejuvenated her, awakened her, while warm water merely put her to sleep. The icy feeling of the water was simply breathtaking. Not to mention that the cold thrilled her zanpakutou immensely.
Contrary to popular belief, Hitsugaya did not like cold showers because of his zanpakutou's spirit or even because of the refreshing feeling the cold water gave him as it splayed across his bare back. He preferred them simply because they were not warm; they were the exact opposite.
Hitsugaya Toushirou did not like warm water.
This was not because of his zanpakutou either. This was because of a much deadlier force than Hyourinmaru could ever hope to be.
It had only been a few days since Hitsugaya had once again awoken to the world, a world he was not particularly thrilled to wake to. With Aizen, Ichimaru, and Tousen labeled traitor and Hinamori comatose, his world was toppling down around him. Nothing felt quite the same anymore. He didn't really want it too.
It would only serve to remind him of everything he had lost, everything he had so stupidly let slip right through his fingers.
And while he would never admit to succumbing to such vulnerable thoughts as he lay in bed every night unable to sleep, it was obvious enough that others understood exactly what he was going through. So it was really no surprise that when Unohana-taichou had finally released him from the Fourth Division, she had ordered him to take extra time off to relax. He had been reluctant to comply at first, but after everything he had witnessed in the past even he knew better than to disobey one of the infamous Fourth Division taichou's orders. And so here he was, letting the paperwork pile up while he attempted to relax his troubles away at one of Seireitei's more exclusive hot springs.
He did have to admit however, that the steaming water, once he had grown accustomed to it, was incredibly soothing. He could feel his stiff joints unwinding, and his recent insomnia seemed miles away. His eyes slowly began to droop, reveling in the calm and quiet of the evening. He felt himself sink deeper below the surface until only his head was exposed above the springs as he watched the water flow hypnotically around him. Another minute and he might have drifted off to sleep. No such luck.
"What?! Taichou, is that you?"
Slowly, as if the very movement pained him, he turned around. He immediately wished he hadn't. There, right behind him, stood Matsumoto, wearing nothing but a skimpy towel that hardly covered her bulging breasts and just barely passed her posterior. Eyes narrowing disapprovingly, he grimaced.
Matsumoto, on the other hand, was positively beaming.
"It is you, Taichou! Wow! You're the last person I would've expected to see at an onsen!" she exclaimed with a giddy clap before she started to wade in.
"Oi, Matsumoto…" the white crowned boy intoned with that gruff, low tone that he always reserved for when he was displeased with a certain well-endowed fukutaichou. "You do realize that there are separate springs for each gender, yes?"
Ignoring the plaguing distaste she had become immune to long ago, she plopped down right next to him, splashing a bit of the scalding water into Hitsugaya's face. Even as he winced, she merrily replied, "Gender specification shall never succeed in keeping me from my duties toward my taichou!"
With a discontent sigh, he decided to drop the subject before it got too far out of hand. Quite frankly, he didn't want to know the real reason she had come to the men's side when she had so clearly not been expecting him to be there at all. Trademark pout adorning his lips, he sunk back down into the water once more, trying his hardest to ignore her.
This, he knew, was impossible.
"So, Taichou, why are you here anyway?"
"Unohana-taichou," he replied, hoping that would quell her curiosity.
"What does Unohana-taichou have to do with you being at an onsen?" she persisted, full lips pouting at his obvious attempts to dissuade her from anything resembling a decent conversation.
Yet another sigh escaped him as he exasperatedly clarified, "She told me I need to relax more." In his heated annoyance he began to realize just how warm he was getting. He could feel the blood rushing to his fingers, toes, and cheeks as the steaming spring water slowly overwhelmed his senses. He should probably be getting out soon….
"Aw, but everybody tells you that, Taichou!" Matsumoto retorted, sitting as straight as her spine would allow and wagging her finger in his face in order to accentuate her point. "I've said that tons of times. How come you never went to an onsen with me when I said it before?"
"I didn't go with you this time either!" he grimaced, as his frustration once again got the better of him. Man, he really was getting hot….
Matsumoto stared at him blankly for a moment before positively swelling with joy. "Aww! Taichou, you're blushing!" she shouted, hands balling into fists below her chin as she shivered with glee. "You're so … so … adorable!"
As soon as the long, lithe arms began extending toward him, he knew he was in trouble. "Hey! Oi, oi! Matsumoto! Don't you da-!"
Her arms curled around his shoulders and dragged him into her chest as she shook him back and forth blissfully. While this act shouldn't have been too traumatic, seeing as it happened so often, the two of them were currently soaking in scalding hot water up to their shoulders. Hence, Matsumoto's mammoth assets were below the surface. And now, so was Hitsugaya's head.
He tried his hardest to struggle, pushing and pulling, shoving and kicking, but his fukutaichou was determined not to let him go, clutching him ever closer to her breasts. As his oxygen began depleting, he struggled less and less. The heat of the water wasn't exactly helping either. Soon he simply resigned himself to what he had always known would be his inevitable fate.
Many a shinigami male had stated he would have given anything to die this way. But as Hitsugaya weakly attempted one last tug, he decided it was highly overrated.
Matsumoto couldn't stop. She just couldn't. She knew her taichou was going to kill her for this later, but she couldn't help it.
She had just happened to get a good look at his face, and low and behold, as he was desperately trying to talk her into leaving, his cheeks were gleaming red. There was only so much she could take before she just couldn't hold it in any longer. And his darling blush had finally opened that proverbial closet, sending everything packed inside flying outward with dangerous velocity.
"Oh, Taichou! I had no idea you felt that way! That is so cute of you! And just like you too! Hiding all of your little feelings behind your big, bad frown! I knew you had it in you! I just knew it!" she teased delightedly, squeezing him ever tighter as he fussed around trying to get out of her grasp, as per usual.
But then, something happened that had never happened before.
He stopped struggling.
"Taichou?" she intoned, looking down. Her taichou's head was firmly lodged between her boobs, his white hair just barely sticking up over the water's surface. He wasn't moving. Her eyes widened, mouth gaping. "Taichou? Taichou!"
She pulled him hastily out of the water and set him down on the ground, leaning over him to check his breathing. It wasn't there. She vaguely remembered taking resuscitation classes at the Academy, but that had been decades ago. She didn't remember a single thing. There was only one course of action she could think to take.
And so, clothed in nothing but a towel each, she picked him up and stepped into the fastest shunpo she had ever managed. Through the Sixth Division's gardens, over the Fifth Division living quarters, and straight to the front doors of the Fourth Division's taichou.
"Unohana-taichou! Emergency!" she shouted as soon as she released her shunpo and began banging uproariously on the traditionally styled door. It slid open rather indignantly to reveal a weary Unohana. Ebony eyebrows quirked in confusion when she noticed the lack of clothing. When she saw Hitsugaya however, all weariness and chagrin dissipated instantly.
"In. Now." There was no time for full sentences.
Unohana-taichou took the young boy from Matsumoto's arms and set him down before placing her palm about a foot above his forehead.
A moment of tense silence.
Then, Unohana relaxed, a small smile curling itself across her features. Her hand shifted from above his forehead to over his mouth, and a humble stream of liquid slowly began rising from his parted lips. Soon, a ball of the spring water was disposed of, and the Fourth Division taichou nodded in satisfaction. Matsumoto felt her shoulders loosen as she let out a relieved sigh.
It would not have been fun to explain what had happened if he had actually drowned.
Unohana however, seemed far too intelligent for her own good. "So he took my advice after all," she began, smile never wavering. "I wonder if perhaps I should have advised him to avoid one or two more circumstances than I did, ne?" For some reason, Matsumoto felt a disturbing chill spiral down her spine.
"Yup! I guess so," she replied, ever quick to recover.
"Well, he should be perfectly fine now. In fact, he should wake up any minute."
"Thank you, Unohana-taichou," Matsumoto bowed. "I owe you."
Unohana merely smiled her knowing smile and left the room for another.
It was right about then that her taichou moaned something profound and slowly, groggily sat up. He coughed. "Taichou! Are you alright?" she called out, rushing to his side.
"Where are we?" His voice was hoarse, but it seemed Unohana was right. He'd be just fine.
"We're in Fourth Division, Unohana-taichou's quarters."
Hitsugaya clamped his forehead, leaning his head down into his knees. "Then…" he trailed off, but quickly began again as if deciding that, yes, he really did want to know the answer, no matter how horrible it may be. "Then, what I think happened … really happened?"
"If what you think happened is that you almost drowned at the onsen, then yes, that's what really happened," Matsumoto replied evasively.
"What I think happened is that you almost drowned me in a death grip at the onsen," her taichou clarified grimly, squeezing his forehead even tighter.
"Well … if you prefer to put it that way…"
"Yes. I prefer to put it that way."
"Then, yes. That's exactly what happened," she nodded in confirmation.
"Matsumoto…" His tone had grown undeniably darker, if that was even possible.
"Yes, Taichou?" she asked guardedly.
"You will never, ever, ever speak of this again. Do you understand?"
"Really, Matsumoto? Do you really understand?"
"You don't, do you?"
"Of course I do, Taichou! Would I lie to you?"
"Yes, you would."
Matsumoto only grinned broadly as her taichou stood up … and realized for the first time that he was almost entirely naked. "You dragged me all the way here in nothing but this?" he hissed incredulously before hastily tightening the towel around his waist. "And … you're not wearing anything either! What are you trying to?! First you drown me, then you … you … You!"
Apparently, she had embarrassed him into utter speechlessness. She took great pride in this achievement.
Luckily, before Hitsugaya could strangle his fukutaichou, Unohana-taichou stepped back into the room, a small cup of cooling tea in her hand. She handed it to Hitsugaya, and Matsumoto saw the slightest tinge of a blush in his cheeks as he became more and more self-conscious of their little predicament. "Drink this, Hitsugaya-taichou. Then, you may leave."
"Th-Thank you, U-Unohana-taichou…" he muttered, barely above a whisper as he took the cup.
"I'm sure I can scrounge up a pair of unused shihakushou as well. Yours may be a bit big, Hitsugaya-taichou, but it's the best I can do for the moment."
Matsumoto's taichou flashed the Fourth Division head a look of overwhelming and sincere thanks before nodding and downing the beverage she had given him. Unohana accepted the empty cup and exited the room once again to get the needed supplies.
"Matsumoto," Hitsugaya began, his back to her.
Her taichou turned around, sporting a very calm and tranquil expression to combat the killer intent she could feel in every square inch of his reiatsu. "If you tell anyone, I swear I will pile so much paperwork on you that you won't see the sun for decades."
Her taichou could be really scary when he wanted to be.
Hitsugaya was finally beginning to breathe easy. It had been a week since the incident, and he had not heard anything from anyone about it. In fact, he hadn't heard much of anything from anyone at all. It felt refreshing, thinking that Matsumoto might have kept her word after all. Perhaps he should go a bit easier on her for a while, give her a break to show he appreciated it. Like he would a dog he wished to train.
As he was debating with himself, he felt another reiatsu approach him. He recognized it easily enough. "Abarai-fukutaichou."
"What are you doing in the Tenth Division courtyard?"
"Ah, well … I … er … Actually, I wanted to ask you a question, Hitsugaya-taichou," the redhead fumbled, looking slightly embarrassed.
Hitsugaya cocked his brow skeptically, but nodded none-the-less.
"How did it … er … feel?"
The atmosphere around the Tenth Division became several degrees colder. "How did what feel, Abarai?" the young taichou asked, his voice strained.
The Sixth Division fukutaichou looked as if he wanted to leave, but seemed to decide that if he'd already begun digging his own grave he might as well go the full six feet under. "Well, you know…" he mumbled, then lowered his voice to whisper the second half, "…drowning in Ran-chan's boobs?"
Deathly silence followed. Then…
Hitsugaya Toushirou loved cold showers.