watermelon seeds

"I want to save him," she told Toushirou.

"All right," Toushirou agreed smoothly. He passed her a slice of watermelon. "My grandmother sent these --"

She should have gone on talking about Aizen, about what she'd been planning, but habit diverted her. She hadn't been to seen Toushirou's grandmother in months. Guilt pricked her. "How is she?"

"Oh, she's fine. She asked how you were."

Hinamori would have wriggled in her chair and stared at her feet, but she was trying not to do that any more. Aizen-taichou would have disapproved.

He never said anything about it when I did it, but then I so often did do it in front of him, and --

She cut that thought off before it could go any further. "I hope that she hasn't been worrying about me," she said brightly. "I'm quite well now."

Toushirou stared at her, then bit into his slice of watermelon.

"Really," Hinamori went on. "Unohana-taichou said that they were going to be discharging me any day now. And it's a good thing too. I've heard about how you were fighting in the world of the living."

"Mngh gnh just a few of them," Toushirou muttered, and swallowed.

She took a bite from her own slice of watermelon. "This is lovely," she said. "Just right. Just the way --" it used to be "-- a watermelon ought to be."

"She'd be very glad to hear you say so," Toushirou said. "Perhaps if you're going to be taking a few weeks off, you could stay with her --"

Oh, so that was what he had in mind. She was just going to be packed off again, shuffled sideways, got out of the way so that they could do things without her being there. They were going to hurt Aizen-taichou.

"At least you went to see her for once," she said, and heard the anger in her voice, and felt another stab of guilt. It wasn't nice to be cruel to Toushirou-kun.

He hunched his shoulders. "I have been busy."

"So? I always managed to find time."

"Yes, well, obviously Aizen handled things so that you had the spare time to do it," he said bitterly. "No wonder you had plenty of free time --"

Her fists clenched. "That's not true! And it's not even what you were saying yesterday! Yesterday you were saying that Aizen-taichou kept me running around all the time and never gave me any free time! They can't both be true!"

Toushirou looked as if he'd bitten into something sour. "Either way he shouldn't have done it," he finally said.

She smiled a little at her victory. "But I may go and see her anyway," she said. "I like to be sure she's okay."

"Not for your own sake at all?"

"Why should I do it for my own sake?" Hinamori asked, a little confused.

"Well, I thought you liked seeing her."

"I do," she agreed. "But that's not why you pay visits, is it?"

"I'm here because I want to see you," Toushirou told her left shoulder. He didn't meet her eyes.

"I am grateful," she said warmly. "It makes such a nice change to have you here. I try to keep busy, but I can't expect people to stop by to talk to me, and . . ."

"You need a real holiday," Toushirou broke in. "Somewhere that's not Fourth Division. Or Fifth. Or even my grandmother's. Maybe if you went to stay out with Shiba Kuukaku, I could ask Ukitake-taichou if he'd have a word with her --"

"Toushirou-kun!" Hinamori drew herself upright and ignored his sputter of You aren't supposed to call me that any more. "How can I possibly go off doing something like that when there's so much that needs doing here? There's my Division. There's the war. There's --" She was about to say, there's Aizen-taichou, but she didn't think Hitsugaya would understand. "There's that book I borrowed from Ise Nanao," she lamely substituted. "There's you."

"I don't need you looking after me!"

"I don't care if you don't think you do," Hinamori said, with what she hoped was a cheerful little giggle. "I like doing it."

Toushirou frowned fiercely at her. "Can't I make you understand?" he asked. "Momo, you need to think a bit more about what you want. I mean, don't you want to be a Captain yourself some day?"

"Oh yes," she agreed, starry-eyed at the thought.

"With bankai?"

"Of course!"

"Then why can't you take a bit more time for yourself?" His voice rose to a near-shout. "All this running around after him, after your Division, after me -- it's all very nice and good of you, but look where it's got you! If only you'd had someone better as your captain, someone who'd made you remember that you had a life of your own, you might have been a Captain like me by now! It could all have been different! Why, why --"

"I think we'd better stop this," Hinamori said, and she could hear the distance in her voice like an icefield. "I understand what you are saying but I don't think that shouting at me is going to help."

"You make me shout," he muttered.

"I know what I want," she said, "and I know why I want it. I'm sorry, Toushirou, I'm not like you, and even if I am a Captain some day," she ignored the way that his eyes flinched away from her when she said that, "I'm not going to be a Captain like you. I'm not a dragon."

"You could have been."

Hinamori sighed. "No, Toushirou-kun. There are lots of things that I want. But I never wanted to be a dragon."

---