Disclaimer - I do not own Bleach
Chapter Fifteen - War Ends, Life Continues
"I'm telling you people for the last time, I'm fine and I don't need to be here anymore!"
"And I'm telling you that it's only been a day and a half and your injuries still haven't fully healed yet!"
Captain Hitsugaya returned to consciousness amid shouts and arguing and he desperately wanted to believe that it was all just a bad dream. Forcing his eyes open, not an easy feat seeing as his eyelids felt as though they were being held closed by weights, the young captain silently begged, "Please tell me that I'm hallucinating this."
Sitting up slightly, propped up by his elbow, Hitsugaya gazed over at the occupant of the bed beside his and instantly groaned under his breath. It hadn't been a hallucination, he was indeed sharing a room with Kurosaki. Who the hell had thought that was a good idea?
"I told you I'm fi. . ." Ichigo's voice trailed off as he noticed that Hitsugaya was awake and staring at him. "Oi, look who decided to rejoin the world of the living, no pun intended of course." He offered the white-haired prodigy a smile. "Welcome back Toushirou."
"Captain Hitsugaya," the boy growled. "And can't you keep the volume down a little bit Kurosaki? You are in a hospital you know."
"It would be quiet if they'd just let me leave," Ichigo countered, glaring over at the two women who were standing at the foot of his bed.
Hitsugaya followed Ichigo's gaze and saw that Rukia and Isane were gazing at the Substitute Shinigami with identical irritated expressions on their faces.
"You're seriously injured," Rukia snapped, glaring at Ichigo through narrowed eyes. "And you need to stay in bed. And I swear to you if you try to get up again then I'm going to break your legs."
"Harsh," Hitsugaya thought to himself as his gaze shifted to the small, black-haired girl. Judging by the look in her violet eyes she was one hundred percent serious about her threat. "Come on Kurosaki, test the theory. I want to see if she'll really do it."
Having just been released from the care of Squad Four Kin was walking slowly down a corridor, unsure about what she should do now. She really wanted to visit her captain but wasn't sure whether it was a good idea or not. The feelings that she felt concerning Captain Hitsugaya were confusing at best and she didn't know how to react to them. "I don't know what to do."
The young girl froze in her tracks as she was seized from behind. Kin couldn't see her captor however she knew exactly who it was. There was simply no mistaking an embrace from the busty vice-captain of Squad Ten. "Hello Matsumoto-san," she said quietly.
Releasing her hold on the girl Matsumoto actually pouted. "How did you know it was me?"
"Oh gee, I wonder," Kin said, rolling her eyes toward the ceiling.
"So are you going to visit Captain Hitsugaya?" Matsumoto asked as the two of them continued walking down the corridor.
"No. . . um I was. . . um. . ." Kin stammered, a blush rising to color her cheeks.
"Come on," Matsumoto said, seizing the young girl by the hand. "He'll be happy to see you."
"Yeah right," Kin thought to herself as she fingered the snowflake pendant that Hitsugaya had given to her.
Matsumoto pulled the girl down the corridor to the room that Captain Hitsugaya shared with Ichigo Kurosaki. Since the two of them were the most seriously injured it had just been easier for Squad Four to put the two of them together but Matsumoto knew her captain wouldn't be happy about it. Hopefully seeing Kin would serve to cheer him up. That was the theory at any rate, it remained to be seen whether it would actually work.
"I swear one of these days I'm going to kill you," Hitsugaya growled from inside the room.
"Well that sounds promising," Kin muttered as she and Matsumoto came to a stop in front of the closed door.
"Yea, the captain has a love-hate relationship with Ichigo," Matsumoto said with a smile. "They love to hate each other."
Kin smiled despite herself.
Matsumoto knocked lightly on the door, to announce their arrival, and then she slid the door open and dragged a reluctant Kin into the room. Captain Hitsugaya's gaze shifted to the door and he watched as Matsumoto pulled Kin into the room. The young girl seemed somewhat reluctant to enter the room and Hitsugaya vaguely wondered if Matsumoto had forced her to visit.
Kin felt awkward however this feeling immediately vanished as her gaze fell upon a bruised and bandaged Hitsugaya. Pulling her hand free from Matsumoto's grip she walked over to her captain's bedside and glared down at him, a look of anger in her ice blue eyes. "What the hell were you thinking? You could have been killed."
Completely shocked by the outburst all Hitsugaya could do was stare up at Kin, his eyes wide in disbelief.
"Aww," Rukia said, breaking the silence that had descended upon the room. "They make such a cute couple!"
Both Hitsugaya and Kin blushed.
"I have got to get out of here," Hitsugaya thought to himself. If he spent much more time with these people then his sanity would suffer.
A few more days passed and then Captain Unohana finally agreed to discharge her two most reluctant patients. Needless to say this news thrilled both Hitsugaya and Ichigo beyond description. Both were thoroughly tired of each other and were more than ready for their incarceration to come to an end. Hitsugaya considered it a small miracle that the two of them hadn't killed each other and Ichigo shared that sentiment whole heartedly.
"Oh Captain Hitsugaya," Unohana said as the young captain pulled on his haori and prepared to leave Squad Four.
"Yes?" Hitsugaya said, turning his teal gaze to the Squad Four Captain.
"Head Captain Ukitake asked me to inform you that there's going to be a meeting for all captains, acting captains, and vice-captains this evening," Captain Unohana told him in her customary quiet voice.
"Right," Hitsugaya said. "I'll be there."
Captain Unohana nodded and then watched as the small, white-haired captain turned and left the small room in Squad Four.
As Hitsugaya made his way slowly toward the Squad Ten barracks he thought about the meeting that Captain Unohana had told him about. It was almost unheard of for the captains and vice-captains to have meetings together however Hitsugaya was certain that he knew the reason behind it. He'd heard from some of the Squad Four members that several Shinigami had perished in the battles with the Espada, two captains and three vice-captains among the casualties, and as sad as that fact was replacements would have to be found. Not to mention that permanent captains would have to be named for Squads Three, Five, Nine, Twelve and Thirteen.
"So much tragedy," the young captain thought to himself.
"What's that look for?" a voice called out, breaking into Hitsugaya's thoughts.
"I was just thinking about those that we lost," Hitsugaya replied in a rare moment of complete openness.
"Oh," Kin said as she came to stand beside her captain. The funerals for all of the fallen had been held a couple of days ago and life was just now beginning to return to normal although the sadness was still felt by everyone. "I'm sorry."
Hitsugaya shook his head. "Don't worry about it. So, is Matsumoto around?"
"She was taking a nap in the office the last time I saw her," Kin replied.
"Shocking," Hitsugaya commented dryly. "Guess I should go and wake her up. The two of us have a meeting to attend in a couple of hours."
"Good luck with that," Kin said as she turned to walk away.
"I'll need it," Hitsugaya muttered as he entered the barracks. The young captain made his way down the corridor to his office and as he entered he saw that his vice-captain was indeed sound asleep on the sofa that was positioned in the center of the room.
"Matsumoto!" Hitsugaya snapped.
Instantly awake Matsumoto jumped to her feet. "Yes captain!"
"Relax," Hitsugaya said as he walked over to his desk and sat down. "I just wanted to tell you that we have a meeting that we have to attend in a couple of hours."
"Both of us?" Matsumoto asked in surprise.
Hitsugaya nodded. "All captains, acting captains, and vice-captains."
"Well that sounds important," Matsumoto said, picking up a magazine and beginning to thumb through its pages.
"Yes," Hitsugaya said, doing his best to ignore her.
Hitsugaya passed his time attempting to finish a stack of paperwork that had piled up during his absence from Squad Ten however he didn't manage to get very much accomplished. His mind kept wandering away from his work and back to a certain pig-tailed Shinigami girl. It was true that Kin often yelled at him however she also cared about him, in her own way. Hitsugaya's teal eyes widened at this realization. She really did care about him.
Hitsugaya jumped and turned toward his vice-captain. He'd forgotten that she was even in the room. "What is it Matsumoto?"
"It's almost time for that important meeting that you said the two of us had to attend," Matsumoto pointed out.
Realizing that she was correct Hitsugaya got quickly to his feet. Together the two Squad Ten officers left the Squad Ten barracks and made their way across the Seireitei toward the Squad One complex. They were two of the last to arrive and quickly took their places among the others assembled in the Squad One conference room.
Once everyone had arrived Head Captain Ukitake took his place at the front of the group. Clearing his throat Ukitake surveyed the room. "As you all know we lost two captains and three vice-captains to the Espada. We all feel their loss however for the well being of Soul Society those positions will have to be filled. This meeting is to determine who will take over as captain of each of the squads that is currently without a leader."
Hitsugaya nodded, having already realized that this was the reason behind the meeting.
By the end of the meeting all of the positions except for one had been filled. Ukitake cleared his throat once again and addressed the squad that he had, up until this point, been avoiding. "And now the only squad without a captain is Squad Five. Acting Captain Hinamori has informed me that she no longer wishes to be a member of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads so therefore Squad Five needs both a captain and a vice-captain."
The news that Hinamori didn't want to be a member of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads came as a surprise to some however Hitsugaya was not among this group. Hinamori had already told him that she'd talked to Ukitake and that he'd offered her a position teaching kidou at the Academy. She seemed happy about this appointment and Hitsugaya thought that it would do her good.
"I have a couple of candidates in mind for these positions," Ukitake said. "However they aren't here at the moment. I wanted to find out how you felt about it before I told them. I think Ichigo Kurosaki should become Captain of Squad Five and I think Rukia Kuchiki should be vice-captain."
There was some random muttering among the assembled Shinigami as the Head Captain's words sank in. Hitsugaya was somewhat shocked by this proposal however as he thought about it more it didn't seem like such a bad choice. It was true that Kurosaki was obnoxious however his powers could not be denied. Besides Rukia could probably bully him into doing his job should he become a captain.
That thought effectively made up Hitsugaya's mind for him.
Head Captain Ukitake took a vote and Ichigo and Rukia were named Captain and Vice-Captain of Squad Five. "Excellent," Ukitake said with a smile. "Now all that's left is to inform the two of them. Thank you for your time. You're all dismissed."
With these words the occupants of the room began to scatter however Head Captain Ukitake quickly intercepted Hitsugaya and Captain Kyouraku of Squad Eight before they had the chance to leave the room. "Could I get the two of you to deliver messages to Ichigo and Rukia?"
"Sure thing Jyuu," Kyouraku said.
"Great," Ukitake said. "Shunsui I need for you to go and inform Rukia of her promotion. I think she's currently at the Kuchiki manor. And Toushirou, I need for you to travel to the world of the living and tell Ichigo that he's been named a captain. We can only hope that he accepts the appointment."
Both Hitsugaya and Kyouraku nodded and left the conference room.
Thinking that he was finally going to be able to get a measure of revenge for all of the grief that Kurosaki had given him Hitsugaya traveled through the Senkaimon to the world of the living. The young prodigy quickly traced Ichigo's reiatsu to the small clinic that his family operated and once he arrived there he climbed through the window into Ichigo's room.
"Oi!" Ichigo exclaimed as Hitsugaya sat on the window sill. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to tell you that you've been named Captain of Squad Five," Hitsugaya said in an emotionless voice, his gaze locked onto Ichigo.
"What?" Ichigo exclaimed, certain that he'd heard the young captain wrong. That couldn't' possibly be true. After all he wasn't even technically a Shinigami. "What are you saying?"
"Just what it sounded like Kurosaki," Hitsugaya said with a sigh. "Head Captain Ukitake decided that you would make a good captain. And on a related note Rukia Kuchiki has been promoted to vice-captain."
Hitsugaya neglected to tell Ichigo that Rukia was going to be his vice-captain and he could see the wheels turning in the Substitute Shinigami's mind. This was great, better than he'd anticipated. Ichigo thought that he was going to be parted from his girlfriend and he seemed unable to handle that thought.
"Thanks for the message Toushirou," Ichigo said. "If you'll excuse me I have to go speak to Ukitake."
Hitsugaya nodded. "I have to go back to Soul Society as well so I'll set up the Senkaimon."
"Thanks," Ichigo said.
So Ichigo and Hitsugaya traveled to Soul Society and, once there, Ichigo quickly made his way to the Squad One barracks. When he arrived at Ukitake's office Ichigo knocked on the door and then stepped back. After a few moments a voice from within called out, "Come in."
Ichigo slid the office door open and stepped inside.
Ukitake smiled as he watched the Substitute Shinigami walk across the office toward him however his smile faltered as he noticed the look on Ichigo's face. "What's the problem Ichigo?" he asked, confused by what he saw.
"I'm flattered that you think I'd make a good captain Ukitake," Ichigo said, fixing his gaze on the Head Captain. "But I'm afraid I. . ."
Ichigo's words were cut short however as the door of the office once again slid open and a certain black-haired Shinigami girl entered the office without even bothering to announce her arrival. "Head Captain Ukitake I must speak with you. I appreciate your faith in my abilities but I can't be a vice-captain because. . ."
Rukia's voice trailed off as her gaze fell upon Ichigo and the two of them stared at one another in confusion.
Head Captain Ukitake sighed, shaking his head. In retrospect he probably should have found someone else to deliver the messages. "I think some vital information may have been left out when the two of you were informed of these appointments. Please allow me to clear things up a little bit. Ichigo you were named Captain of Squad Five and Rukia is to be your vice-captain. If you both accept that is."
"I'm going to kill that little. . ." Ichigo growled, clenching his hands into fists.
"Now Ichigo," Rukia said, relieved that she wouldn't be separated from Ichigo and now happy about her promotion. "I kept telling you about karma."
Ichigo merely shook his head.
"So," Ukitake said. "Do you accept?"
Ichigo and Rukia gazed over at each other for a split second and then nodded their heads simultaneously.
"Great!" Ukitake exclaimed. "And I've decided to make Squad Five a living world liaison squad so that Ichigo won't have to leave his family. After all he isn't technically dead yet."
"Thanks Ukitake," Ichigo said.
Ukitake nodded. "You guys are dismissed. And Ichigo. . ."
Ichigo turned back to face the Head Captain.
"Please don't kill Toushirou," Ukitake said. "We've finally managed to name captains for all of the squads and I really don't want to have to go through that again for a long time."
Ichigo let out a long suffering sigh. "Fine."
Ukitake couldn't help but laugh as the new Captain and Vice-Captain of Squad Five turned and left his office. Yes, with Ichigo joining the ranks of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads things would definitely be lively around the Seireitei. "I hope we all survive," the Head Captain thought to himself with a chuckle.
A/N - and that's the end of volume three. I know that I said at the beginning of this story that it was the end of a trilogy however it's now turned into a series. The next installment is a one-shot focusing on Toushirou and Kin. The title is Of Snowflakes and Watermelons. Hope you enjoyed this fic, feel free to review and let me know what you thought. And make sure you check out the next one. This is Hitsu-taichou signing out.