Title: Land of a Thousand Words
Pairing/Characters: KiraMomo (or more accurately, Kira-- Momo), various other pairings/romantic attractions implied.
Warnings: Angst, spoilers for the SS arc—but really no others that I can think of.
Word count: 2366
Author's note: Title taken from the Scissor Sisters song of the same name. For Karlie ♥
Summary: Silence and darkness and cowardice: Izuru knows them all and he holds them close, in his heart. But he holds Hinamori closer yet.
This is a land of a thousand words / And it seems so few are worth the breath to say
"The captains... they're amazing, aren't they?" breathed Hinamori.
Izuru knew what she really meant—Captain Aizen, he's amazing, isn't he? she was saying, with her wide eyes and new-moon smile and very slightly flushed cheeks. Part of him wanted not to answer, to pretend she had never said it and never meant it; he wanted to just look away from her. But he couldn't.
They were lying on the grass outside, in the cool dappled shade cast by the network of leaves and branches above them. A warm breeze played with the strands of Izuru's hair, blowing bits of it into his eyes and then out again; it tickled, but he couldn't be bothered to brush them away. Besides, the breeze would just continue in its inexorable way. "Yes," he said rather belatedly. "Yes, they are." The classes had ended for the day, and Hinamori had asked him if he wanted to come walk with her; he had agreed, because he was a fool to the bone. Now he just wished he could want, in his heart, to be back in the classrooms with their crowds and rules. But he couldn't.
Hinamori looked at him, smiling a little more broadly now, and Izuru smiled back, although in truth part of him just wanted to cry, silently and privately, holding all the pain close, cool and unyielding and fragile as the chain of a locket pooled in his cupped hands.
He wondered if he could get her to smile at him again (even though seeing it hurt in the way of a day-old bruise pressured anew); every time she did, he worried that it would be the last time. That was stupid, of course, but so was he. It would be so very easy for him to say the wrong thing and then she would never even want to look at him again. Izuru didn't like talking around Hinamori. He did, of course, made himself answer all her questions and smile and laugh—he didn't want her to think he didn't like her. But he never laughed too loud or spoke too boldly. He wanted to ask her about her past, about her parents and her family, did she have any?—what about friends, pets?—did she like just watching the sky with him, or did it bore her horribly, and did she sometimes just want to look at the clouds in silence, what was her favourite time of day, and could he touch her hair?
Of course, Izuru never asked any of those things. He was afraid—he wasn't quite sure what of. It was like how he had been afraid of the dark, once, as a child. Ask him what exactly was so frightening, and he would never be able to say, because it wasn't the dark itself that he was afraid of: it was what any light might reveal. He was afraid of what he couldn't see but might see—but hadn't—so of course it would be impossible to explain.
Over time, he had learned to just remain silent.
Hinamori was playing with a strand of grass, vibrantly green against her pale fingers, which she had plucked from beside her. Izuru watched her and said nothing, afraid—always afraid—that if he looked away she might just disappear. He wondered why she chose to spend time with him, but stopped fairly soon because he couldn't think of a reason; he wondered what her favourite scent was, and if she thought the sky was the most beautiful at sunset, and if she liked rising early, and then wondered what he would ever do with all these questions for which he'd never, ever find answers. "Kira-kun," she said slowly.
"Yes?" Why did he always answer? It would be so much easier if he would just be quiet; but around her, he could never manage that.
"Abarai-kun... he and Kuchiki-san..."
Izuru wanted to close his eyes and let the darkness fill his sight and hearing.
"What about them?" he asked her with a little polite, encouraging smile. He wanted her to feel safe around him. He would never make her speak of him in the same way she spoke of the captains—it was impossible, he could never be a captain (could never be Aizen)—but maybe he could stay at her level and look after her.
Hinamori was silent for a few moments. "Well, do you think that he... likes her?" If only she hadn't asked that. Izuru reminded himself that it was about Abarai and Kuchiki-san, about them—but somehow something was still lodged in his upper chest, somewhere between his heart and his vocal cords. He wanted it to be about him so badly and hated himself for that selfishness.
"It's possible," Izuru said. She wondered if she noticed how he was always watching her. Wondered if she cared. Wondered if she was just too sweet and unassuming to say anything—that would be just like her.
Hinamori worried her lower lip with her teeth, letting the hand which had been holding the grass flop back down onto the ground, fingers relaxing. Izuru wished for the boldness to take it in his own and knew that his willpower wasn't enough; but it was a nice dream, like looking for the shapes of cats and flowers in clouds. "If he likes her," she said, in that same drawn-out, pondering way that made Izuru almost stop breathing out of a desire to hear her, "then he should tell her." She smiled at him, her face as radiant as a destructive kidou gathering in his hand, and once again, he smiled back.
Considering Hinamori, Izuru thought that he was really in no place to say anything, so he didn't, just made a soft noise that could mean assent or dissent or anything—a noise that was like darkness, ambiguous and cloaking and with room enough for anything to hide in. "Maybe we should go...?" he said, tone half-statement and half-suggestion, between the two like twilight between night and day.
"Oh! Yes!" said Hinamori, sitting up abruptly. "Yes, we really should, it's getting late." As they got to their feet, Izuru couldn't help but wonder if she was glad of the excuse to get back to her dorm, away from him.
Making their way back, Izuru walked about two steps behind her; they spoke idly of things which meant nothing in particular, and he found himself glad that she didn't bring up the topic of Abarai again. He thought, as they said their goodbyes, standing there and watching her as she walked away, that maybe he was in no place to say anything. But he would, at least, keep an eye on her.
The captains are amazing, aren't they?
Izuru would not forget Hinamori's words, and more so her reverent tone, not through all the slip-sliding decades. He thought, sometimes, that maybe he should go to her and talk to her—there was no-one he could imagine who would be better to talk to. Who he would want to talk to more. But he could never bring himself to, because of those words.
The captains were amazing. How could he even dream of shattering the glowing worship on her face and in her heart when she had spoken those words? How could he tell her about Ichimaru's smile always in the corner of his eye, and Ichimaru's fingers ghosting feather-light over the nape of his neck, and Ichimaru's sing-song words of mockery, and Ichimaru's hands closed over his biceps and Ichimaru's standing behind him with his chest almost close enough to touch Izuru's back? How could he tell her about how he found his inkwell, which he was sure he had refilled only an hour beforehand, empty, and the papers on his desk which no-one but Ichimaru would have been able to touch rearranged? How could he tell her about how Ichimaru looked at him, and how could he tell her about how he thought he was going crazy, and how he was so afraid? How could he break her faith?
He couldn't. He was too weak.
So he said nothing and smiled when he had to, and wondered if Aizen had taught Ichimaru how to smile just like Ichimaru had taught him, and he worried, and he watched Hinamori from a distance.
When Ichimaru told Izuru that he had to help, and that he had to keep Matsumoto occupied while Ichimaru and Aizen did whatever it was they intended to, Izuru said nothing at first. Then Ichimaru mentioned that if he didn't agree, Hinamori would get hurt, and that was enough to silence any questions Izuru might have had about Aizen and Ichimaru's plans.
As Ichimaru walked away, Izuru still wished that he hadn't answered (willpower alone still was not enough; he wondered if it ever would be). He wondered also if this was the nature of the darkness, and the fear it contained: it knew you inside out, but you could never begin to comprehend it.
"Raise your head, Wabisuke," said Izuru later, and he realized that he had known all along that it would come to this, and that he knew what he was doing was useless—Ichimaru could not be trusted—and he wished that he couldn't even see any more—although he wondered if he ever had been able to.
Izuru did not visit Hinamori's bedside. That was a privilege for Hitsugaya, who had protected her; not for a boy who was afraid of the dark. Izuru was afraid that if he visited Hinamori, if he saw her lying there in silence and night, he would start talking and he wouldn't be able to stop. He would tell her everything, and there would be no place left to hide.
So he didn't visit. Besides, he couldn't find it in himself to face her constant watcher; Izuru had come to know just what a coward he was. He did not speak to Hitsugaya, either; he avoided the captain's eyes whenever they passed each other (the captains are amazing, aren't they?).
Izuru did not speak much to anybody, really, in the days after an event he could not and did not want to put words to. He did not want to think about it; he just wanted to look away. (But then, said a small voice, he had looked away from Hinamori, and what had happened?—she had disappeared, just as he thought. Always a coward, running into the dark, and what good did it do him? He still hurt.)
He was angry, too. Izuru was furious in a way he had thought he would never be furious: furious at Aizen, and at Ichimaru, and at Tousen. He wanted to tear them apart with his bare hands, wanted to drive a steel-like wedge of something hot and burning bright right into the very core of them. His anger was like brambles in his chest, and he could do nothing about it: he was too weak to do anything about it.
So Izuru drank, with Matsumoto, to forget himself in the sake-fogged blankness where there was no noise and no vision, and where he could shut himself off into a private sanctuary where nothing else existed, where nothing infiltrated—no prying fingers or eternal smile, or even soft gentle brown eyes.
One morning he woke up to find the sunlight streaming in through his window across his face; he watched the light, and realized that he could not really see it, not in the way he could see darkness. All he could see was the bare ceiling and hard lines of the room; so did the light, the light he could neither touch nor see, the light which did not try to press into his mind through his ears and nose and mouth, really exist? Would Hinamori ever see it again, either?
And, in the pale dawning sun, Izuru wept.
Abarai-kun and Kuchiki-san... do you think that he... likes her?
The sun was setting and Izuru was frozen, watching the sky; he had forgotten what it was that he was supposed to be doing. Paperwork, he thought, maybe, as he stood motionless at the window. All the paperwork, sheets and sheets of paper as white as Ichimaru's skin (he couldn't really escape, could he?).
Izuru was thinking about Hinamori. He did that often and had done so ever since he had first met her. He was thinking about Hitsugaya, too, and Aizen and Ichimaru, and himself. There was too much to think about, and he would never be able to say any of it.
He was thinking about Abarai, too. He was thinking about standing against Captain Kuchiki, about saving Kuchiki-san, about love and about power.
Izuru wondered about Hinamori and Hitsugaya; he wondered if Hitsugaya would be able to protect her or if he, too, would look away one day. He wondered if there would even be anything left to protect. He wondered what would happen if Hitsugaya betrayed Hinamori, wondered who would be left for her then. The doubt lurked in Izuru's mind, that it would happen again, that Hinamori would be hurt over and over: he was not sure if he could trust even Hitsugaya. He was not sure if he could trust anybody, any more.
Bowing his head, Izuru laid his hand on Wabisuke's hilt. He thought about betrayal; and he thought that maybe he would have to trust himself. That thought left him breathless for a second; he wanted to hide and cover his eyes and never look out again. But he couldn't. "I cannot be selfish any more," Izuru told the setting sun. He had Hinamori to think of.
And one day, Izuru told himself as he turned away (no maybe about it, not any more) and reached out to Wabisuke with his mind, he would be able speak of those thoughts, to her.