a dragon's vanity

When Hitsugaya heard that Hinamori had been complimented by Aizen-taichou (and oh, how she blushed when she admitted to it), he couldn't help feeling a tiny, irritating, squirreling little worm of jealousy.

He'd heard about all the Captains. Not just from Hinamori's happy anecdotes and reported sayings, but from the rumours and gossip that constantly ran through the back streets. He'd heard that Kyouraku-taichou was a drunkard (but at least he paid for his drinks), that Komamura-taichou wore a weird mask, that the current Captain of Twelfth was just as dangerously insane as all his predecessors, that Ukitake-taichou was definitely going to die of his lung disease this year (the previous twenty years had all been false alarms), that Unohana-taichou wouldn't turn a hair if you dropped a mountain behind her. All the usual stuff.

Everyone liked Aizen-taichou. The people who he'd met said that he was -- nice. (If such a word could be applied to a Captain.) Friendly. Pleasant. Easy to get on with. Easy to obey. And oh, so competent, so skilled, so powerful, so very effective in every way.

Listening to Hinamori's story of how Aizen-taichou had showed up and saved them all, Hitsugaya couldn't help thinking that if he were, just possibly, to become a shinigami and join the Academy and get into a Division and everything, then Aizen-taichou might not be too bad a person to serve under. And if Aizen-taichou appreciated Hinamori, then surely he'd appreciate Hitsugaya even more.

He wasn't the sort of person to deliberately indulge in daydreams. He wouldn't waste his time constructing fantasies. If he did at any time think that Aizen-taichou would be sure to notice his name -- after all, the Fifth was known for spotting promising youngsters who later became vice-captains and captains -- then he firmly put the thought aside.

Everything was cold and clear; he would be worthy of recognition, and recognition would come. Hinamori's devotion had an uncomfortable tang of the personal to it. It was far too warm and messy. Hitsugaya's own admiration and respect for a worthy and capable captain was something much more . . . much more professional, he decided. Something that Aizen-taichou himself would respect, given how intelligent and dedicated he was.

He never once imagined how Aizen-taichou would congratulate him, man to man, on his skills and ability and zanpakutou and everything else. He left that sort of fluffy thinking to Hinamori, who was trailing about in Fifth with her noisy friends.

And then he became a captain himself, and Aizen rested his hand on his shoulder and said, "I expected no less," and the note of deserved praise, of honest respect, of sincere admiration in his voice . . .

It was everything that Hitsugaya had dreamed of.

(Except that of course he hadn't gone round dreaming about it.)

And Momo gave him a box of sweets, smiling and genuinely glad for him.

He did admire the way Aizen-taichou let her learn from him. Maybe, some day, he'd be able to do the same for a vice-captain of his own.

Maybe some day Momo would get the same respect from Aizen-taichou that he did.