Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach or any of the characters. That honor belongs to Kubo Tite. The original characters are my own creations.
Jushiro Ukitake hated dealing with drunks. Two of the worst ones were in his own squad. Yes, they were loyal and good shinigami…when they were sober. Jushiro sighed and waited for the second hell butterfly. The hell butterflies were used to ease transportation between Soul Society and the living world. A black butterfly finally showed up and began it's flight to the double doors that lead into the world of the living. The first pair of doors slid open and before they were open all the way, the second set slid open. Jushiro steeled himself for what was to come. When he dragged Renji Abarai's drunk, stupid self back to Rukia Kuchiki, he would be glad never to step into the world of the living ever again.
That was before he met her.
Hinako and Renji were sitting in the grass in a park several blocks from her apartment. They had already polished off a few bottles of sake and were working on the next one. Hinako was drunk, but not "fall down and don't get up again until morning" drunk. Silly drunk, really. Everything Renji said was hilarious to her and her sides hurt from laughing. He was currently telling her a story about Ganju Shiba. Normally, the story wouldn't have been funny, but to two drunk people, it was hysterical.
"And then, that huge pig of his, Bonnie" Renji started to laugh so hard, he couldn't finish the story. He waved his hands at Hinako, making a strange gesture and Hinako fell over, clutching her side.
"Ow, stop it, Renji! I can't catch my breath!" Hinako took great, gasping breaths while she tried to talk. Her long ash blonde hair covered her face. When she fell over laughing, her head fell into a pile of autumn leaves. Red, gold, brown and even a few dark purples leaves, clung to her hair.
She had met Renji though Ichigo Kurosaki. Hinako lived a few doors away from the medical clinic that the Kurosaki's ran. She had seen Rukia before anyone else had. Hinako was shocked to see a young girl in a black kimono with a sword, climb or rather float, into Ichigo's window in the middle of the night. Hinako wasn't drinking that night, so it wasn't that she was having hallucinations. A few days later, Ichigo introduced Rukia as a friend of his and Hinako never told anyone that she had seen the dark haired girl before.
After summer vacation, Hinako had seen Ichigo with a large red haired man with strange tattoos on his face and chest. He was wearing the same kind of black kimono that Rukia wore the first time Hinako had seen her. Hinako approached Ichigo and demanded to know if the redhead was related to him.
Ichigo stumbled around for an answer but when Hinako told him about how she saw Rukia before anyone else did, Ichigo told her a bit about Renji. Before Hinako knew it, she and Renji were fast friends. It was one night a few weeks ago, that Renji got really drunk and told her about Soul Society.
At first, Hinako was shocked but she had always thought something would happen after you died. She was really shocked when Renji explained how the Rukongai districts worked and his and Rukia's history together. She watched his face every time he mentioned Rukia and pretty soon, Hinako realized that Renji was in love with the tiny woman. That was fine by her. She wasn't looking for love. Hinako was happy with her life just the way it was.
She wasn't a teenager or even in her twenties. She was 39, with, as her mother loved to cry about, not a prospective man in sight. And Hinako liked it that way. She had a great job, a lot of close friends, a sister she adored and was happy with her life.
Jushiro heard Renji well before he saw him. Renji was sitting under a tree, a bottle of sake in front of him and there were two sake bowls near the bottle. Jushiro narrowed his eyes at the sight of the bowls. He wasn't informed that Renji was here with another shinigami. Rukia told him Renji came to the living world alone. Jushiro sighed. Now, he would have to deal with two drunk shinigami's.
Coming closer to the pair, Jushiro was shocked to hear a laugh. A female laugh. He closed his eyes and stopped. He put his hand over his eyes. Rukia was going to be crushed. Everyone know the two shinigami were to be married and here was Renji, in the human world, with a woman. Rukia wouldn't be mad at Renji because Jushiro was going to kill him. She would be mad at him, however, but seeing as he was her captain, Jushiro was sure he could talk her out of killing him.
"Why didn't Rukia come with you?" Jushiro couldn't believe his ears. Not only was Renji cheating on Rukia, the woman knew Rukia! Didn't this woman have any shame? Jushiro walked into the park, his anger quickening his steps until they were almost flash steps. He normally never used flash steps, they tended to take too much out of him, but he wanted to confront this woman and get Renji the hell out of here.
"Renji Abarai." Jushiro's soft voice broke through the conversation between Hinako and Renji. "I have come to take you back."
Renji jumped up and immediately went into the bow reserved for Captains. "Captain Ukitake! W…what are you doing here?"
"Lieutenant Abarai, do not speak to me in front of this woman. She cannot see me or hear me and I would like to get you out of here as fast as possible."
"I can see you." Hinako looked up from her position on the ground. Standing in front of Renji was the most handsome man she'd ever seen. He was tall, with broad shoulders and long gray hair that came almost to his waist. Black eyebrows were above his odd copper colored eyes. A frown marred his face.
He ignored her. She waved at him. Jushiro glared at her. Hinako stuck her tongue out at him and giggled. Captain Ukitake's mouth opened in shock. Renji's bark of laughter jarred him out of his shock.
"She can see me?" Jushiro put his hand under Renji's arm and hauled him up. Renji swayed a bit, but kept his balance. "How is that possible? Is she a shinigami?'
Hinako was getting angry. There was nothing she hated more than someone talking like she wasn't there. And no matter how gorgeous this man was, she wasn't going to give him a pass on behavior like that. Pulling herself up less than gracefully from the ground, Hinako brushed her hair out of her face and marched up to the gray haired man. Multi-colored leaves still clung to her long hair.
Great. She only came up to his shoulder. Were all of the shinigami men so freaking tall? She tried to focus on his face, but her attention was drawn to his chest. He was really big! It was almost impossible to tell if he was all muscles or if he was fat underneath his clothes. Her head rolled into the direction of Renji. Once, she'd seen him shirtless and he was all muscle. Those tattoos were weird, though, but Rukia seemed to like them.
Hinako's head rolled back to the large man in front of her. Renji called him Captain Ukitake. Well, even though they had not been properly introduced, she was going to give her a piece of her mind anyway. She opened her mouth and was just about to give the speech of her life, when he spoke.
"How can you see me?" His voice wasn't really deep but it was soft. And sensual. Hinako frowned. Why would she notice or care how sensual his voice was. "Ma'am, I am waiting for an answer to my question." Jushiro folded his arms over his chest.
Ma'am? He called her Ma'am? Hinako glared at him. Jushiro glared back. Before she could yell at him for calling her Ma'am, a large hand covered her mouth.
"Captain Ukitake, please forgive Hinako. She can see you because she has slight powers that let her see things like Hollows and shinigami. She can't see anything else or use any powers to fight." Renji saw how upset Captain Ukitake was getting and he was sobering up fast. Now, he wanted nothing more to get back to Soul Society, crawl into bed with Rukia and make love to her until morning. "I know I have no right to ask, but since your mission was obviously to take me back and I am ready, will you make sure Hinako gets home safely?"
Jushiro opened his mouth to say no but the word, yes, came out instead. He looked just as surprised at the woman. Renji removed his hand from Hinako's mouth, stepped back and bowed to Jushiro. Without another glance, Renji took off at a run to the doors to Soul Society. Jushiro watched him run, mentally patting himself on the back for bringing two hell butterflies. He prided himself on his planning, both on and off the battlefield.
Hinako watched the back of Renji get smaller and smaller. That rat ditched her and now she was stuck with a babysitter to make sure she go home alright. The next time Renji came into the living world to drink with her, he was going to have to sit through a very long lecture on manners!
Jushiro watched in amusement as Hinako's face fell as she watched Renji run back through the doors to Soul Society. Her face was like an open book, so easy to read. Hinako started walking in the direction that Jushiro figured her apartment was in. He had no idea how much sake she'd consumed but she wasn't as wobbly as she'd been before…almost.
Hinako was fascinated with watching her shoes as she walked. They looked so pretty in the light. She was so fascinated that she didn't see the large pole with the huge street lamp on top. She bounced right off of the metal pole and into a very large, very solid body. Jushiro's arms came around her to steady her. The scent of cherries and wood smoke carried on the slight breeze. The ends of his long gray hair tickled her cheeks.
But, it was one sound, more than anything else, that stood out in her mind. His heartbeat. She could hear it softly in the quiet night and Hinako turned her body around in his arms to lay her cheek on his chest. It was strong and steady and Hinako realized that she really liked that sound. It was comforting, somehow.
Jushiro felt like he couldn't breathe. He had just watched this woman had run into a pole and now she was snuggled up against his chest, a smile on her face. The urge to hold her in his arms was creeping up on him. He watched as her hand made its way to the opening of his shinigami robes and skin touched skin. Her touch was like a match and his body burned where she had touched him.
For too many years, Jushiro pushed his carnal desires down until they almost didn't exist anymore. He had been too busy trying to stay alive and never lived life. He had convinced himself that he was too sick to find a wife, instead of looking for love and letting the chips fall where they may. He thought back on all of the missed opportunities in his life. Shunsui was always telling him that a life lived in fear, is a life half lived. Maybe his best friend was right.
Hinako put her arms under the white robe with Jushiro's captain insignia on it. She knew that if she was more sober, she would never be doing this. His heartbeat was drawing her in and she wanted nothing more than to stand here all night, listening to his heartbeat, breathing in his scent. Hinako smiled more as she felt his arms embrace her and his hands in her hair.
"You still have leaves in your hair." Jushiro spoke in a whisper. If he spoke too loud, the magic of this moment would be dissolved into nothingness. His strong fingers threaded through Hinako's long, ash blonde tresses, picking out leaves and undoing knots. Her hands were splayed over his broad shoulders, pulling him closer.
Giving up and giving in to pure pleasure for the first time he could remember, Jushiro tilted back Hinako's face and kissed her. There was no jolt from the sky, no electric feelings running between the two of them, no raging passion. Just a feeling of…rightness. A soft and gentle kiss between two people; two lonely people, one who would admit it and one who would deny it until the day she died.
They broke apart, gazing into each others eyes. Hinako's hand reached out to feel Jushiro's heartbeat once more. Strong and not-so-steady because of the kiss. His breathing was heavier, as was hers. She turned away, grabbing his hand and leading him to her apartment.
They walked in silence until they reached her apartment. Hinako's hands fisted in his black shinigami robes and she pulled him down for a searing kiss. Pushing him away, Hinako broke the kiss.
"Well, Mr. Captain of some squad. Thanks for walking me home. When I wake up from this dream, you face will be the first thing I'll think of." Hinako fished a key out of her pocket and unlocked the door. Jushiro could hear her mumbling about how someone named Satomi was never gonna believe this dream.
So, she thought she was dreaming. Jushiro smiled as he watched Hinako open her door and close it behind her, never giving him a second thought. She thought he was part of a dream. He wondered what she would do if she ever saw him again. Maybe there was a reason to come back to this world, after all.