AN

Oneshot for you all I had lying around and, since I'm not going to have internet for a few days, decided to share. Um, yeah, so pairing I love, a bit on Shinji and Hiyori. Spoilers for, well, everything (as always).

AN

The first time they see each other its not love. Its not really hatred either, more intrigue than anything else. She's short and delicate, with a cascade of blond hair that makes her look like she belongs on the side of a battle, not in the middle of it. But she is and she's winning, beating her opponent systematically. She exploits every weakness, every opening the overconfident man gives her and before they know it he's on the ground and she's standing over him, her foot shoved against his cheek.

She knows who he is immediately. He's Shinji Hirako. He's a fucking legend in Soul Society and he's about to watch her get her ass handed to her by a guy who was only half trying to hit her. At the sight of him she felt, somehow, determined to kick this guys ass, just to prove to him that she wasn't a weakling. So she focused on the battle, on exploiting every single weakness the man in front of her gave her until she won. She glances up and around the room, well aware of the whispers that follow her on a daily basis. They're louder this time, as though they want her to hear and for a moment--just a moment--she thinks she can.

For a moment the gathered students are silent but anyone can hear what they aren't saying. Its clear she's not well liked, that she doesn't fit into what they think she should be. His eyes catch her bite her lip, on the inside, hiding her teeth as though they are something to he hidden. He's always showed his teeth so he doesn't understand why but for a moment she looks small and almost innocent and he feels the sudden need to protect her. Then her eyes catch his. He may be a Captain, he may be respected and feared but the little blond haired student glares at him and releases her lip to enhance the gesture, revealing the small fang she had tried to hide.

She sees him looking at her, his eyes softening. He thinks she's delicate, that she's something that he needs to protect--or so he thinks--so she does the only thing that comes to mind and stares him down. Hands on her hips, chin held high, fang sticking out, she glares him down and presses harder on the man under her foot to emphasis her point. Even though he's older and cooler and fucking famous to everyone in the academy she stares him down until he begins to crack.

Shinji's an old Captain, old enough to like his sleeves long which is a standing joke between him, Unohana, Shunsui and Jushiro. He knew them when Jushiro's hair was dark and the Commander General was an academy teacher. He slacked like the rest of them (Unohana was the only one who did any work) but became a Captain none the less. But for the past hundred or so years he's felt something building, some sense of an adventure about to come. He can't help but wonder if maybe the adventure is her and if it is, well, he might not mind that at all.

After that day in the Academy she vows to become stronger, faster, tougher--to become more so that even if she's a short little blond girl she can still beat anyone who annoys her. She's always been the subject of teasing and always learned her lesson like her mother would tell her too. She tried to be the soft spoken little girl her mother wished for instead of what she got. But from that day forward, the day Shinji watched her, she decides that she won't let everyone make her ashamed of herself anymore. When she walks into class the next day she's gathered her hair up into two bunches and tied them with bright red ribbons, the way she used too. When the boys try to take her ribbons she sends them both to the 4th Division a lot closer to their second deaths.

The next time he sees her its at graduation. He doesn't mind being required to attend the stupid ceremony even though he's always hated it. He spent his own so drunk with Shunsui that it was a miracle the two managed to stagger to the podium. Shunsui had almost been sick all over the poor woman giving the diplomas and he had pronounced true love to her. Yamamoto had been somewhat less than pleased with the two of them and Unohana had been forbidden from helping them through the absolutely wretched hangovers they had the next day. Well, next couple of days without her help. But this time he is intrigued and he gets what he wanted. A name.

Hiyori Sarugaki.

When he walks up to congratulate her she puts both hands on her hips and demands to know his problem. She saw him staring at her and wants to know why. He blurts out the first thing he can think of which is to ask why she has her hair up. She arches an eyebrow and for a second he wonders if she'll go quiet like the day he saw her hide her teeth. The next second he wonders if he has any left when her foot collides with his jaw. There are a few eye rolls but apparently she's known for this sort of behavior because no-one gasps at the fact she just kicked a Captain. At the moment he doesn't feel like a Captain who just got kicked by a recent graduate, he feels like someone who just got kicked really really hard, rank aside. Then she grins and he decides he wants to get to know the girl better--even if she is kind of crazy.

She doesn't precisely mean to kick him, it just kind of happens. What is she supposed to do? Be happy he noticed her? So she kicks him. He seems stunned and she wonders what he'll do, its his move after all, but all he does is rub his jaw and return her glare. She grins, feeling like they're starting a game. Well fine,s he's more than ready to play. She sticks out her hand and introduces herself, even though she's got a feeling he knows her name and she certainly knows his but he plays along. Hiyori may have won this round but the game is definitely not over.

Kirio gets her and he can see the two get along. She brings out the best in Hiyori like she does everyone else around her. Kirio is someone special, someone he, Jushiro and Shunsui will never be. She is good and kind and her patience is endless. He sees Hiyori try to be like her and find shimself spending more and more time at the 12th Division just so that he can catch a glimpse of the spitfire he saw back at the academy. She doesn't disappoint. She beats him constantly and anyone else who stands in her way or infuriates her. He knows thats how she is, the kindness she shows in front of Kirio is more of an act. She's not a saint, neither is he. You don't survive and be a saint, not in the world they're in and its not by sainthood that she becomes the Vice Captain of the 12th Division.

She likes Kirio because Kirio doesn't treat her differently. She's not a freak or underestimated or any of the things she's used to being assumed as. She's another member of the 12th Division. She likes that, she likes fighting to earn her place even if she's not fighting down the sterotypes she so used too. When she becomes Vice Captain Kirio smiles brightly at her and while Hiyori is overjoyed she can't help but think her Captain's smile is not nearly as nice as Shinji's. She kicks him twice just to squash the thought.

She continues to intrigue him. Every single time he thinks he 'knows' her she does something completely different. During a Captain's meeting that's particularly boring he finds himself idly writing things he knows. She likes to fight--she doesn't like her Zanpakto though--she likes the color red but not the yellow of both their hair. When he sees she's a Vice Captain, for some reason he can't quite figure out he buys red hair ribbons and leaves them in a place she's sure to find.

She does and doesn't understand who would give her a present. Her Division likes her because of her abilities, abilities that are neither dependent on nor aided by what she does with her hair. Okay, maybe it would be hard to kick everyone if she had her hair in her eyes but that's completely beside the point. She touches the silky surface of the ribbons and wonders who would give her such a gift. She stuffs the feeling deep into her chest before discarding the old, faded ribbons she's worn forever and tying the new ones into her hair. When she sees him, for some reason, she feels her cheeks heat up and hits him extra hard so that he won't see her face match her ribbons.

He gains a Vice Captain as well. He knows there's something wrong with Aizen Sosuke. Anyone with an illusion-creating Zanpakto needs to be watched. The problem is that you don't always know what (or who, he corrects in hindsight) you're watching. Besides his eyes are already occupied with someone else. Hiryoi doesn't cry when Kirio leaves, she just goes ramrod strait and he watches every emotion but anger disappear from her face. She marches off but instead of looking strong she looks brittle, like a pane of glass that looks impenetrable but if you tap it it'll break into a million pieces too small to put back together, too sharp to try. He walks after her, determined to make sure that she doesn't break.

They walk out to a field, her in front of him. When she turns its not a surprise, he decides he'll even let her hit him (like he does, like he tells himself he does even when he doesn't really). But she doesn't make any move too. The swell of her bottom lip is caught between her teeth and her eyes are wet and bright, making her eyes look like pieces of amber set in the gold of her hair. He's half expecting her to throw herself into his chest and sob, when she moves forward he's bracing himself for it.

Leaving, leaving, promoted, her mind chanted the words with the rhythm of her heart. She had to leave before she really broke down. She didn't know what she'd do if Kirio saw her cry. She was leaving, like Hiyori always knew she would and she couldn't bear the thought. So she leaves, leaves like her parents had, like Kirio was about to. She walks. She feels him behind her but can't care at the moment. This, she thinks, he might understand. She hopes he does anyway. When he looks at her she sees nothing but understanding in his eyes. For a moment she thinks to hug him but changes her mind.

When she kisses him and he's not quite sure what to think. its rough and angry, but there's an underlying sweetness, a gentleness that he can barely feel--much like the girl kissing him. He's older and everything in him is shouting 'break of protocol' but he's never really given a fuck about protocol before and doesn't see himself staring anytime soon. So he does the thing he's been wanting too when he saw her kick that man's ass and wraps his arms around her, ducking his head to give himself better leverage as her fists ball in the collar of his Captain's robe as she uses her strength to heft herself up.

They don't talk after its done. She walks off, unusually silent and he stalks in the opposite direction, ignoring everyone who talks to him. The next day he spends an hour in front of the mirror, praying that she'll kick him, that nothing will change. He's a wreck by the time he gets to the place, he makes excuses to try and get out of it, all of which are denied by his Vice Captain. It only makes him hate Aizen more. The door opens and he finds a foot slammed into his face and he knows everything's going to be alright.

He doesn't really mind Kisuke Urahara, in fact it wouldn't be a stretch to say he was beginning to like him. He spent a lot of time with Hiyori and Urahara didn't seem to have a problem with him. But when he stands in that hall and sees her gone, when he sees Urahara stagger into the room and beg to go, he simultaneously decides he likes and loaths Urahara. Likes him for trying to help her, likes him for believing in her enough to send her and loaths Urahara because there's a good chance she's already dead. Apparently Yamamoto know's he's going and the only question is whether or not he sends him so when his name is called to go after her his mind is on dragging her back. He hears Shunsui tell Urahara its a Captain's duty to have faith and wait but he disagrees. Its his duty to drag her back, even if he doesn't really know why.

He skids in front of her and fights back before she has a chance too. She's light and small and he can't see a Zanpakto on her. He chastises her but her eyes go serious and then he realizes that the thing he just fought is Kensei.He's strong, terrifyingly so. His heart almost stops but he keeps himself calm. He has to protect Hiyori. That is his mission objective and if she won't leave he'll just have to fight. Then Mashiro appears and he finds himself in a one-armed battle with the Vice Captain until Hachi saves his ass. Battles are always confusing and this one is no different but there are a few moments that remain with him, even a century later.

When Hiyori starts coughing he loosens his grip on her waist and blames it on the dust. Then she screams and the sound is deep and angry and definitely not her voice. He's so terrified and confusedthat he doesn't even feel the slash that takes off his hair and opens him from his left shoulder all the way to his right hip. He's numb. Numb and deaf but he can still see. He watches them fall, one by one until the terrible truth slams into him like a ten ton truck. He's more angry at himself truthfully, angry that all the little signs Aizen left for him were ignored, angry that he was such a fool. But he's plenty mad at Aizen as well and he staggers to his feet with the intent of murdering Aizen, consequences be damned.

But he doesn't, he can't. He can just feel the agony that starts on the left side of his face and chest, spreading as it tries--and succeeds--in consuming him. He hears Hiyroi choke out his name and tries to reach her but Tousen cuts her down before he figures how to move his deadened limbs. The weight on the left side of his chest and face is crippling. He can't move as AIzen mocks him, as his friends die, as Hiyori bleeds out behind him. All he can do is swear as their faces flash through his mind. Then Kisuke appears and gives him the kind of smile that makes him thing that maybe, just maybe, this is a battle, not a war. They can loose this, they can loose this one and then come and win the war.

When he's conscious again he's in his own living hell,fighting himself. On the list of "a million things Shinji Hirako will never do" fighting himself is definitely not on it--or if it is, it's pretty damn high on that list. But he approaches it like a battle, makes sure not to look at his own face as he exploits every weakness that he prays his opponents don't see (his left side is weak, his hair gets in the way) and emerges victorious, gasping for air on the floor of a dusty shop that's seen better days. Urhara is there and helps him roll over onto his back. Tessai comes in and out of his vision but all he can wonder is if Hiyori is alive or not. If the darkness that's always been inside her has finally won.

It hasn't. If there's one thing Hiyori knows its that she is not dying because of Aizen Sosuke and she is especially not going to be killed by herself. She's angry, she's livid and she takes every last little frustration she has out on herself. She hurls insults and toys with the thing. It does the same for her but in the end even the darkness inside her is no match for her anger as she beats herself to a bloody pulp. When she comes out Yoruichi is gasping for breath and she's holding her Zanpakto in a death grip and Urahara is looking almost boneless with relief. She staggers and he grabs her and she lets him, too tired to care about looking weak in front of him. He guides her into a different room and helps her sit on a mat. Everything in her screams for sleep but the thought of closing her eyes is unbearable.

They're drawn together like magnets. Opposites pulled by a force that neither understands. She let it draw her in like it had just once before instead of fighting it. She curls up against his side as he draws her closer. Just for tonight, they think, we can stop fighting. Its out of character for them both but it doesn't matter, their world has been ripped away, they cannot even think strait much less act the way they should. So she curls against him and he hugs her tight and together they keep the nightmares away, if only for a little while. They have know way to know the ripples of what Aizen has done, the tidal waves that will roar up and soon engulf them. They only know what is happening in the moment.

The days start to blend together as they fight to control the strange gift they've been given. They're fighters trough and through and it doesn't take long. Except for Mashiro who seems to be strangely in touch with her inner Hollow and needs almost no training at all. The oddness of their situation slowly ebbs away as they all adjust to the new life they've been given. Hiyroi quickly finds a new use for her sandals, showing him just how weird she thinks his newly short hair is before she leaves a hat on his bed and tells him to cover the damn thing up, muttering how she didn't think he'd find a way to be uglier. He buys her new hair ribbons and leaves them on her bed, telling her that they can be uglier together. She wears them and he wears the hat and somehow they make whatever the strange thing they have together work.

None of the others comment on them which is a good thing considering they'd probably kill them for it. They all seem to need comfort in this strange world even if the deny it. He buys them all Manga and makes them read to figure out how to speak without sounding strange. Hirako masters it very quickly, apparently the modern language gives her a lot more names to call him and swear words to express her displeasure at the world. The others learn as well. The fighting of themselves they could do, the learning to live in a strange world was harder. There was no actual fight to engage in, no enemy to fight. Their enemy was miles and worlds away, waiting until he was able to finish his work. Patience was a virtue they were forced to adopt, not one any of them were born with.

He knows this is a long war, one that will take many many years until its over. Some of them, alright most of them, will probably not stand victorious. So they do the only thing they can. They live. It is as though they are standing on a time bomb, not knowing when their lives are going to end. So they live as much as they can. Urahara doesn't think anything of it, he just asks that they don't do anything that will let Soul Society know where they are. They don't, they just live.

And when the war comes, they are ready.

After they win (which they will), as the people cheer around them, Shinji will kiss Hiyroi. They will collide like magnets only this time they will not be pulled apart, not by psychos or criminals or any force in any world. Instead they will collide and they will stick together.

And they will finally realize that that, after all, is what they have been doing all along.