Title: Winter

Summary: Hitsugaya Toushirou, as the new tenth captain in the Gotei 13, earns the respect of his peers. Pre-series

Genres:
General, Drama, Action

Rating:
Everyone

Notes: I originally intended this story to be a long one-shot about a single incident that earned Hitsugaya respect in his place as captain. When I sat down to write it, however, I quickly realized that this was not a reasonable course of action. Respect cannot be earned instantaneously, especially when working against stereotypes of inexperience and age. This is what resulted from that.

There are a few major themes in this story. Ostensibly, the fic is about Hitsugaya's quest to become a peer in the eyes of his fellow captains. Beyond that, it is what might be considered a "coming of age," story, because I do not believe that it is an easy thing for a child, even a prodigy, to take on a leadership role in an adult world. That said, his inherent maturity and responsibility would necessarily lead to a disconnect between him and the rest of his age group. On top of his own isolation, Hitsugaya deals with his changing friendship with Hinamori, and even gains a few new friends.

I am posting this as a WIP, despite the fact that I know this isn't generally a good idea, because I wanted to get something up. Updates will therefore be sporadic. Don't be afraid to IM me or contact me privately to remind me to continue, or if you have any questions.

Also, if you use LiveJournal, and prefer reading fic there, this is being posted in my community, which is linked in my profile.


Kurotsuchi Mayuri had moved forward when he had begun speaking, and did not turn, so during the twelfth captain's monologue, Hitsugaya Toushirou could only study the small the man's back and his arms, which he folded carefully behind him. His skin was uncalloused, brown instead of white, and his fingernails were picked down to the bone but carefully manicured. In each hand, he grasped the opposite elbow, drumming his fingers against the hard bones of his arm. His feet seemed caught between the desires to pace dramatically and to stand resolute and still. Beyond everyone, the evening sun shone orange through the window and played across the tile floor.

"As I was saying," his voice echoed in the corners of the room, "the twelfth's monitors have, for the past six and a half months, observed an unusually thin concentration of hollow activity in any particular area. I, myself, hypothesized that this resulted from a shift of the spatial axis between the human world and Hueco Mundo." Kurotsuchi paused meaningfully and straightened his shoulders. His shadow, definite against the brightly lit floor, lengthened with his posture. "Of course," he glanced at Sousuke Aizen and Ukitake Jyuushiro, "the fifth and thirteenth divisions are already aware of this." The two mentioned offered gracious but shallow bows of their heads.

There was a definite pause before Tousen Kaname stepped forward, chin raised slightly higher than appeared comfortable and one ear turned toward Kurotsuchi. "Is it wise for only two divisions to cover such a large area? Shouldn't more squads be stationed in the human world?" The question appeared to be addressed to Yamamoto Genryuusai, but the Captain Commander only nodded his head once to the twelfth captain.

"Not necessarily." Kurotsuchi's grin widened as he spoke, and hearing him, Tousen stepped back. "Luckily, I was proven correct. We predict that the axis will settle within the next three to four months in the Nordic region. The most likely location is Oslo, Norway." The reactions to this news were somewhat varied. A few perked up with interest, while the others remained expressionless or visibly sagged. Hitsugaya resisted the urge to roll his eyes at that. It was not as if they would be given time to sightsee, so he didn't know what the problem was. The only real issues were the environmental hazards and benefits, and the citizens. He looked around at each of the faces and then stepped forward.

Yamamoto's eyes widened, and after a beat, he said, "Toushirou!" in a tone not unlike a surprised but distant grandfather. The expression mirrored in each of his companions, their wide eyes full doting, annoyance, or pity in turn. Hitsugaya pursed his lips, breathed in and allowed one fist to clench at his side, but otherwise did not outwardly respond. "Captain Kurotsuchi, Captain Commander." He nodded to each respectively. "What do we know about Oslo? What are the population density and relevant environmental factors?" He stepped back.

Kurotsuchi looked at Hitsugaya with an unreadable expression before speaking. "The city is large and mostly wooded, but the population is rather low for a capital, which leads me to believe that there is a high concentration of spiritually aware humans… or an unprecedented amount of deceased souls. It will be very cold and very wet." He said the last part almost directly to Hitsugaya, as if he knew that the information had solidified his resolve. He probably did. Hitsugaya was still relatively new and had not worked with most captains directly, but his young age had guaranteed a high attendance to his captaincy test. His affinity for water and ice were therefore well known.

'Not,' said a small voice in his head, 'that you'll get it anyway.' Hitsugaya shoved it back into a musty, unused corner of his mind, but the observation had been well made. When he had achieved his captaincy, he had been expecting more of a trial by fire. That was what everyone had told him would happen. Instead, for the past few months, division ten had been made to "partner up" with other squads. The result was that the other captains effectively had a whole squad's worth of extra people to do their work, and that Hitsugaya's newly won responsibilities extended almost exclusively to filling out paperwork. He had told himself repeatedly that they were just being generous, that the other captains were simply being nice and helping him out while he grew accustomed to his new position, but as time went on, the actions felt less charitable and more and more patronizing. It sat heavily in the pit of his stomach.

'And if you do anything about it, you'll look like a petulant child.'

The Captain Commander cleared his throat. "That may be the case, but I am more inclined to agree with Tousen. Two squads are not enough to ensure the safety of such a large area. As such, the thirteenth squad will settle in Oslo until further notice. Ukitake, if your health permits it, join your squad there, as we do not know the severity of the hollows' interest in the area." Ukitake bowed his assent. "Third will join them. Fifth, remain in Istanbul until the completion of the shift. Twelfth," he shifted his attention once more to Kurotsuchi. "Station squads six through nine in the areas between that are most likely to pose a problem. The eleventh will remain on alert and provide assistance to earthbound squads in addition to taking care of hollows in unprotected areas." Kenpachi nodded, but his eyes were narrowed and his lips a thin line. "Toushirou, you will assist the eleventh squad." Hitsugaya stiffened. He could feel something coiling in his chest, cracking like ice in his veins and his knuckles, but he breathed deeply and nodded.

"Yes, sir."

Yamamoto's posture relaxed considerably against his staff. "Very well," he said, his voice considerably brighter. "If there is nothing more, you are dismissed."

The atmosphere lightened immediately. Kuchiki led as several of the captains swept quickly out of the room, robes billowing behind him. Kenpachi's steps were slightly heavier than necessary. The muscles in his neck were lined with tension, and his hands balled into tight fists. He would not be pleasant to work with, Hitsugaya surmised, suppressing the urge to scoff. Work with? Work for, more like. In his belly, it felt like the endless pit was consuming Hyourinmaru, who fought back in a scaly, terrifying rage. The muscles in his jaw had begun to lock from the tightness. 'I'll go train after this,' he decided. Aggression had built up, and he needed to get it out.

The other captains who had not left had gathered in small cliques, but Hitsugaya didn't bother to see if they had gathered to discuss the assignments or personal matters. It didn't matter anyway. He noticed that Yamamoto must have had left by a different exit, or else his situational awareness had faltered too. The light on the floor had dimmed at some point, and the others were starting to migrate toward the door.

There was nothing else to be done, Hitsugaya told himself, forcing himself to inhale slowly and deeply. He could only hope now that circumstances would arise that allowed him to prove his capabilities to the rest of the thirteen. In the mean time…

Hitsugaya felt hunger stirring, but brushed it aside. Training, then food. But first, he would have to stop by the tenth's offices, wake Matsumoto and tell her whose paperwork they would be filing this time.