Title: Stranger's Insight
Characters: Ichigo, Hitsugaya
Rating: PG
Warnings: none
Disclaimer: Don't own nothing!

A/N: Alright so this is my first time writing a Bleach fic. So don't go burning this story and trashing your computer if its downright horrible. Reviews, criticism and comments are welcomed! The outline of the story is a bit complex, so sorry for the confusion. Basically, Ichigo is taking a walk down Seririte and remembering his visit to the Tenth Division (Past tense and present tense are used to distinguish events).


-

-

With a soft breeze tickling his orange hair and the sun beating on the streets, it seems that no wrong could befall. But then again, Ichigo couldn't quite get rid of this nagging feeling and the more he thinks about it- the more his mind seems to fall back on the recent series of events.

Since the entire betrayal of that Aizen-guy, apologizes and expressions of remorse were given to Rukia; and all of a sudden the destructive ryoka that had caused terror and panic were seen as heroes. It was a nice feeling since Ichigo was all too used to the constant whispers behind his back of his bleached hair and the scowl on his face and that he must be in some sort of gang and illegal activities- no he wasn't. Any way he figured that he rather enjoyed this rare form of acknowlegement without those wary glances thrown in his direction.

When he mentioned this out loud, Ishida- as usual- didn't exactly agree. "Do you honestly think that? Everything is really the combined efforts of many individuals, not just one."

Ichigo grumbled because really Ishida didn't have to ruin his good mood like that.

"Kurosaki, could you really have fought all of Soul Society by yourself?"

Putting it that way, Ichigo realized that maybe he couldn't have. After all, in the likelihood that he did beat all of Soul Society now, what about the aftermath? How would they be able to open a portal to the living world? Would more shingami follow them to the living work? Would Rukia quit nagging and let him rescue her?

In the end he realized that though he might beat Soul Society now, he'd have to spend the rest of his life watching his back.

Thinking that he should at least acknowledge those individuals that put in their share, Ichigo sought out Ukitake-san since Byakuya still wasn't awake. The man laughed slightly reassuring him that he had only done what he could for his subordinates.

"Ukitake-taichou is so modest!" Kiyone and Sentarou said in unison their eyes filled with stars, worshiping their captain.

Eventually he sought out Unohana-san next to personally thank her for discovering the truth and having his fukutaichou rely to message to everyone else. He found her in the white hospital, sighing in exhaustion. She looked up at him with her kind, motherly eyes and invited him to a cup of tea. There was a pleasant atmosphere around her, quiet and calm like the pitter-patter of rain on the roof.

When he expressed his gratitude, she held up her hands, and answered in that soft voice that she really hadn't done much. It was Hitsugaya-taichou that should be credited for investigating the strange circumstances surrounding Rukia's execution and what's more attempting to stop Aizen single handed. She had merely transmitted his findings.

"But he's still in the hospital as of now and I would hate for him to be disturbed," she said in an overly sweet tone.

Ichigo merely smiled- thinking damn how did she suddenly get so scary?- and reassuring her that he would visit when he was released.

So he spent a week in Seririte, messing around with Renji and avoiding Kenpachi like the plague. But the more he thought about Hitsugaya-taichou the more he couldn't help but think what type of person he was. "Hey Renji," he asked one afternoon after they finished a spar. Ikkaku was with them, lazing under the shade of a tree and occasionally criticing, which was nothing more than nonsense. "What do you know of this Hitsugaya?"

"The genius?" he asked after setting his zanpakuto down. "He's the Tenth's captain."

"Genius?" Ichigo questioned. Already his mind pictured an Ishida figure with large glasses and an obnoxious attitude.

Ikkaku rolled his eyes. "Why are you worrying about the shrimp? If anything watch out for his fukutaichou! Countless men have easily fallen into that spell of hers." He grabbed his favorite jug, frowning when he found it empty. "Oi who drank all the booze!" he roared, smashing the empty bottle on the ground. "Go buy me some more Ichigo!"

"What the hell!" Ichigo roared back. He was underaged! And beides Ikkaku was the only one lazing around all afternoon.

"Fine we'll have to fight over it!"

However the fight ended too soon as Kenpachi appeared behind them, chuckling evilly that at last he would get his rematch. Ichigo ran and ran until he bumped into Inoue.

"Ah Kurosaki-kun I was just looking for you!" she answered cheerfully. The black standard shinigami robes somehow clashing with her bright personality. "Ukitake-san just told me that Hitsugaya-taichou was released. I heard you wanted to visit him?"

"Yeah," he mumbled.

"I'll go with you!" Inoue answered, eagerly following a step behind him.

It took quite some time finding the Tenth Division's office doors, of which included corridors and corridors of maze, annoying receptionist and Kenpachi (he lost him again though). But at last they found the correct doors. Politely, he knocked on the door.

"Who is it?"

Ichigo glanced at Inoue. It was a woman's voice, heavy with sleep. He wondered whether it was all right to fall asleep at work when you clearly could at school, without having Sensei beat you with a ruler that is.

"Um... we we're wondering if we could see Hitsugaya-taichou?" Inoue answered awkwardly rocking on the balls of her feet.

"Taichou's not here right now."

"Do you know where he might be?" Ichigo asked. So far it was coming to be a long journey just finding this captain.

"He'll probably be back in a few minutes." The door opened then, a tall woman standing in front of them rubbing her eyes sleepily. "You can come in and wait for him," she answered shutting the sliding door behind her, her footsteps fading away.

"Wow this is such a big office, isn't it Kurosaki-kun?" Inoue questioned.

Books covered the walls, from the ceiling to the floor, while a large window stood open in the far corner letting in the night air. A large comfy couch faced them with a blanket and pillows spilling onto the carpeted floor and a few bottles scattered on the ground.

Behind the couch was a large oak desk, every inch of the desk covered in even more books and a hectic load of important looking documents, many of which had fallen on the floor or where rolled up into paper balls. Only a small corner remained free of the desk and that was used for a small tea cup. Not too far was another desk though it wasn't quite covered in paperwork, instead even more bottles and lotions and perfumes and the like. A large bundle of candies were scattered throughout the floor.

In short if Yuzu had seen this office she would have fainted.

They only had to wait for a few minutes.

"Masumoto, how many times do I have to tell you not to write all over my books!" A rather small looking boy entered the room with snowy white hair and piercing green eyes. Behind him stood the same woman though she certainly seemed more alert now.

There was an indigent gasp. "I did no such thing!"

"You're name's written all over it," he showed.

She laughed sheepishly before quickly pointing. "Look we have visitors!"

"You let strangers into the office?" he sighed before looking at them. "Well what do you want?"

"I'm looking for Hitsugaya-taichou," Ichigo answered.

"Yeah," the boy answered setting a handful of books in the clustered desk. The woman taking a step behind him.

"Yeah... I'm looking for Hitsugaya-taichou," Ichigo repeated in case the boy hadn't heard. "Can you tell him that I want to speak with him?"

"Yes I am Hitsugaya-taichou."

"No you can't," Ichigo reasoned to the errand boy.

The boy looked at him, this time his voice rising slightly. "Yes I am."

Huh? Ichigo stared at the boy in front of him. His eyes bugled out, mouth opened slightly until he finally burst out in laughter. "Y-you can't be Hitsugaya-taichou!"

The boy gritted his teeth, a vein popping on his forehead.

Ichigo stopped his laughter glancing at the boy for a moment. "You can't be any older than Karin!" Again he burst out in laughter.

"Kurosaki-kun," Inoue said thoughtfully. "Maybe he really isn't as young as Karin-chan maybe he's just one of those midgets!"

"I am not a midget! I'm just short!" He fumbled for a minute with his words- no doubt angry with himself for using the taboo word.

His laughter stopped sharpily when he felt something hard him squarely on the head. "Oi! Carrot top!" the woman said getting in front of him, setting her hands on her hips. Her gray eyes looked at him angrily, not at all cheerful as they had been moments ago. "You've got some nerve talking to taichou like that!"

Ichigo blinked realizing that the woman was very close to him.

"I'm sorry ma'am."

Though his eyes couldn't help but stare down at her overexposed cleavage. Within a few seconds his eyes began to sting from not blinking. They were so big! So that's what Ikkaku meant about a spell, really he should have given him a better warning.

"The conversation is up here, carrot top," the woman said harshly snapping her fingers in front of his face and breaking the trance. He turned his eyes up at her face and though she was mad she still looked absolutely beautiful.

"Who are you to question taichou like that?" she continued hands on her hips, making Ichigo feel like some misbehaved boy getting scowled by his school teacher.

"What division are you in, so I can give a good long complain to your captain?" She paused as she glanced over at Inoue just about ready to scowl her too, but then paused a moment of understanding rushing over her.

"Ah! Your boobs are almost as big as mine!"

Whatever thoughts he had of being scared of this woman vanished out of thin air. Inoue looked at her, scratching the back of her head in embarrassment. "I guess so."

"They're like my junior counter part!" she continued. "Taichou! Taichou! How big do you think they are?"

"How the hell should I know!" Hitsugaya roared.

"Anyway I'm Masumoto Rangiku!" she said happily. "And that is taichou," she said pointing at the boy seating behind his desk. He looked about ready to break something but then he took a deep breath, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"You're the ryoka," he stated, approaching him. "Kurosaki Ichigo."

"Y-yeah," Ichigo said a bit spooked at how this boy knew his name.

"I want to thank you," he continued and his voice suddenly seemed tired, too tired. "Because of you... because of you Aizen showed his true ambitions. I didn't notice this, instead I had my suspicion on..." He shook his head. "Thank you," he said bowing his head slightly. "For saving Soul Society."

The room suddenly seemed to get much quieter and he noticed that Rangiku-san was also bowing her head down slight along with her captain. And it wasn't supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be the other way around, he was supposed to be thanking Hitsugaya because really he hadn't done that much.

The boy raised his head again and Ichigo noticed the hospital bandages were still visible underneath his robes, his palms were scared- no doubt from holding his zanpakuto so tightly- and the grief. There is grief behind those piercing green eyes.

It came to him suddenly. This boy- this boy that looked no older than his sisters- had fought Aizen single handed. Aizen that powerful beast that had stopped Renji's zanpakuto with one finger and stopped a captain with a simple incantation and had allied himself with the hollows- this boy he fought him all by himself.

"Its nothing," Ichigo answered looking off.

-

As Ichigo continues down the brightly lit streets of Seririte, his mind wanders back to his first encounter with Hitsugaya. And that nagging feeling continues in his mind.

"Ichigo!"

He turns his head sharply, noticing Rukia waving at him. She wears a purple kimono with flower petals dancing on the silk. Scowls at him, the petite girl stands as tall as she can. "Where have you been?"

"What can't I go for a walk in peace?" She still looks angry and goes off into a detailed story how he had nearly destroyed Seririte last time he wandered off alone.

"I was running from Kenpachi!" he yells indigent.

But she doesn't pay attention to this, instead Rukia's goes on and on about the destroyed hospital and plaza, not realizing that Ichigo isn't even paying attention- he can only hope that she doesn't ask him what she just said otherwises he'd be in big trouble.

"Ah good afternoon Hitsugayua-taichou, Masumoto-san!"

His mind comes back and he notices both Hitsugaya and Rangiku-san approaching their direction. Rangiku-san greets them happily, whereas Hitsugaya merely mutters their names in acknowledgment.

And Ichigo thinks. He thinks that maybe he can figure out this nagging feeling surrounding him. There is some sort of understanding, Ichigo realizes, he knows exactly where he has seen those grieving struck eyes, where he has heard that tired sigh and felt that depressing, gloomy atmosphere.

Suddenly he gets a sharp jab in the ribs and he looks angry at Rukia who stares angrily at him.

"What? What are you staring at me for Kurosaki?" Hitsugaya questions looking rather annoyed. Rangiku-san giggles. "Maybe he's fallen in love with you taichou!"

"NO! NO!" Ichigo yells, earning a few individuals to look at the commotion. "I don't go like that!"

"Don't be ridiculous Masumoto," Hitsugaya answers annoyed at her teasing. He looks at him now. "For the last time I am Hitsugaya-taichou. I'm not some errand boy."

"Yeah I know that," he answers awkardly. "Actually... I wanted to talk to you about..." .

"See taichou! I was right my woman's intuition is always right!"

"Masumoto you don't have a woman's intuition! Now be quiet!"

She pouts slightly.

"Okay, listen, so I definitely don't like you or anything," he begins. "But we weren't properly introduced. Kurosaki Ichigo."

Rukia glances at him as though he's lost his mind. Hitsugaya's eyebrows rise in confusion but he blinks back, composing himself into that cool mask of his. "Hitsugaya Toushirou, Captain of the Tenth Division."

"Toushirou?" Ichigo questions, amusement in his voice. "Well then... good afternoon Rangiku-san, Toushirou," he greets with a nod of his head and continues along. Rukia gaping not to be left behind. 'Its Hitsugaya-taichou!' he hears, Toushirou's voice echoing off in the distance.

"That was weird," Rukia comments and then grabs a hold of his hand. "C'mon we have to hurry! Nii-sama just woke up and he's furious with you!" she said in a sing song voice.

"Oi what did I do?" he questions as he runs along side Rukia.

And he sees it. Ichigo sees it so clearly that nagging feeling is understanding.

He glances down to look at Rukia's face.

He saved Rukia. He went through many trials both physically and mentally, travel to distant lands, fought opponents he would have never have imagined in his wildest dreams, and in the end through the combine effort of many individuals he was able to save Rukia.

But Toushirou hadn't been able to save that important person, Ichigo realizes that. He understood that pained expression, as though he was looking at a mirror. It was the same ache he had to go through when Rukia was arrested and taken away, and he couldn't do anything as he was dying in his own pool of blood.

But, Ichigo thinks, Toushirou is much stronger- and from what he's heard much smarter. So maybe the boy is suffering now because he couldn't save that person so dear to him. But that's alright. Because as Ichigo knows these trials and obstacles only make you stronger.

And then in the short future Toushirou will be able to save this person and if he needs help, then Ichigo will be more than willing to help.

-


A/N: In case it hasn't been clear, Hitsugaya's important person that he hadn't been able to save is Hinamori.