Okay so when I first announced this was going to be a pairing in Silent Force pretty much everyone was like WTF? I later pushed them to the way WAY peripheral of the story. But for some reason I've been getting a lot of requests for these two--and Ukitake and Unohana funnily enough--both from the people who read my longer stories like Arcana and Toro Nagashi and from people who like my oneshots. So, here you go.
Characters might be a bit OOC but I felt given the circumstances it was acceptable. SPOILERS for everything but especially the Turn Back the Pendulum Arc.
"Crash Into Me" by Dave Matthews Band always reminded me of the two of them.
Mashiro Kuna came to consciousness on the floor of a dusty warehouse in the middle of God knows where sputtering and gasping for air like a dying woman.
Her entire body ached like she had just been in a fight. But overriding the ache was an almost unbearable tightness, as if she had been stuffed into skin two sizes too small. It hit her then that she was in a gigai. Not just any gigai but a very good gigai designed for long term use. She tried to stand up but only got as far as her knees before she doubled over, coughing hard enough to bring tears to her eyes as her body once again refused to co-operate with her needs. Eyes stinging she tried to figure out what was happening but all that came to her was a blur of memories even she couldn't make sense of.
Raising her head cautiously she looked up to see Yoruichi Shihon come into the room, her eyes sweeping around it. Cautiously Mashiro followed her gaze and realized she was not alone. Hiyori Sarugaki and Lisa Yadomaru were also there. Both women were heavily bandaged, Hiyori far more than Lisa. The petite Lieutenant's skin was pale and even from where she was Mashiro could hear her raspy breaths as the woman struggled to live. Yoruichi's eyes landed on hers. Apparently she was not supposed to be awake because her gold eyes widened and instantly she was besides Mashiro.
"W-what happened Captain Shihon?" Mashiro asked, her throat raw as if she had been screaming.
"You don't remember?" Yoruichi asked.
"I--" Mashiro began and stopped.
She had been with Kensei. And then they were attacked. There was blood and confusion and she remembered charging someone. But everything was blurry as if she had watched it through a fog from some impossibly long distance away. Throughout it all she had felt was helplessness. As if the clouds had been blown away by a storm Mashiro one image appeared to her with crystal clarity.
Kensei, impaled on someone's sword, his gold eyes wide with surprise at the blade sticking out of his chest.
"Kensei," she gasped looking at Yoruichi.
The former Captain looked down and Mashiro's stomach hit the ground. Before the older woman could say anything, before her body could betray her, she shoved herself up and half staggered, half ran to the only door in the room and threw it open. Her eyes widened in absolute horror. She caught a glimpse of Love, Rose and Hachigen, all of whom looked pale but no where near as bad as the women before her eyes landed on the two who looked the worst. If Hiyori was near death than Shinji was already there. He was even paler, half his blond hair slashed off his face. His chest was bound but red was already staining the bandages.
Then her eyes found Kensei.
She would later realize that none of the injuries inflicted on the others had been done with the desire to murder them in cold blood by a man who knew what he was doing. Tousen was an excellent Shinigami and more than capable of murdering someone. Especially someone like Kensei who he would never have stood a shot against in a fair fight. The sword mark was small but deadlier than any other. Kensei was as grey as the hair he always blamed her for except for the flushed color of his cheeks. His bare chest was bandaged but she could see the red that stained it from where they hadn't fully wiped the blood off.
"Lieutenant Kunai," she heard someone who sounded like Kisuke Urahara there with his hand on her shoulder but all she heard was the pity, like Kensei was already dead, "you shoudln't--"
"No!" she surprised even herself with the shriek. Urahara's eyes widened at the uncharacteristic wobble in Mashiro's normally upbeat voice, "He's not--" her lip trembled before she forced the tears back, "he's my Captain," she shoved past him and walked over to Kensei.
He looked worse up close, like he was already dead. Mashiro felt her lip tremble and quickly bit down on it. Kensei had always told her she was too emotional. Mashiro always told him right back that he was never emotional enough. He glared and she grinned. Now he was lying there and she was sitting there. Her lip trembled even in the snag of her teeth.
They had always had such a strange relationship. They met when he was the Third Seat and she had been just passed the exams to be a Seated Officer. The first thing he had ever demanded was why the hell her hair was green. She asked why his hair was grey and somehow kept the challenge out of her voice. He glared and the gesture was odd on his already strange face and for some reason she found it endearing. Before she could stop herself she laughed. For a moment it looked like he would join in but his gold eyes had glared before he ordered the men to move out.
Of course she noticed the barest pink that stained his cheeks so she trotted after him happily.
He continued to be the incredible commander he proved himself to be their first mission together. If nothing else she could respect the way he was able to fight a battle, both one on one and with groups of men. The men respected and trusted him, she could see that too. They listened to Kensei more than they did their own Captain who always was more than content to sit back and fool around with his Lieutenant and let his Third Seat take most of the work.
The first night she had seen the other side of Kensei was the night someone died. She didn't know him personally, he was another warrior in a sea of black robes but Kensei did. She had gone to see if he was alright and found him hunched over his desk, his eyes not seeing the wood in front of him but the blood of the man who died in his service. Mashiro had approached him carefully, half expecting him to yell at her. He didn't even move. With the same almost trepidation she walked over to him and gently put her arms around him. He continued to stare blankly ahead as she hugged him. Just when she was about to pull away his own arms came up around her and held her tightly against him. Anyone else would have called it a hug but Kensei Mugurama did not hug.
When the Central 46 finally got off their asses and realized Kensei was practically running the Ninth Division, they finally promoted him to the position he should have had years ago. She had gone to offer her congratulations right before his promotion ceremony and he had barked out that she was late and he wasn't going to look like an idiot in front of the other Captains because his green haired Lieutenant was being lazy. She had been beyond stunned, even when he had thrust the Lieutenant arm badge under her nose and shouted at her to put it on so they could go already. She had wanted to know why he chose her and he gave her a look and demanded to know who else she wanted him to choose. Perhaps because she had started to see something else in him since the night he had returned her embrace she saw the hint of uncertainty in his eyes. She grinned and took the badge and called him Kensei-meanie before they went out to the promotion ceremony.
Of course that night the 9th Division celebrated their new Captain and Lieutenant in true Soul Society fashion which mean despite his staunch control Kensei was a sucker for a challenge and he got just as blitzed as everyone else. Drunkenly Mashiro had tripped forward and found herself pressed against Kensei's very warm chest. Before either of them could think of the reasons not too she stood on her tip toes and pressed their lips together. Kensei had hefted her up because Kensei was nothing if not strong and her legs went easily around his hips and somehow they staggered to his room in a tangle of green and grey, of calloused hands and soft lips.
Given the history with the previous Captain Kensei made it very very clear that the Division came first. In a show of uncharacteristic seriousness she told him she felt the same. It was handy that half the time they infuriated each other, her with her flippant attitude, him with his seriousness. Somehow they made it work, the Ninth Division becoming respected instead of a joke. If people noticed how Mashiro smiled at Kensei's tattoo like someone remembering a fond memory or how Kensei would always pull Mashiro's scarf up if it was in danger of slipping, they knew better than to say. It wasn't Mashiro's fault she knew that 69 could be used in more than one meaning anymore than Kensei loved the sounds Mashiro made when he left a trail of red marks down her neck.
But now, now Kensei was lying pale at her feet and Mashiro was trying hard not to cry. This was Kensei, Kensei who fought everything and everyone who challenged him. But now, now he was fighting himself. She couldn't help him with this battle, not in any way she knew. Her fingertips trembled as she reached out and touched his forehead. His skin was clammy but also unbearably hot. She snatched her hand back like he had burned her before she caste her eyes about. Why wasn't anyone healing him?
"Hey," Yoruichi appeared nearby.
"W-why isn't anyone--" she looked at the Captain, her eyes swimming, "what's going on?!"
Yoruichi explained what happened, explained how they were trying to keep them alive until Hachigen or Tessai could heal them. Both the Kido Master's Spiritual Pressure was almost non existent for a variety of technical reasons that she didn't fully understand. Mashiro felt like she had been standing on a cliff but fallen over. She felt like the floor was gone, she was falling and falling with no end in sight. Kensei always caught her, the always caught each other. But he couldn't catch her this time. They were both falling with no end in sight.
"K-kensei," she touched his too-hot shoulder, "you gotta wake up now, 'kay?" he gave no response, "come on, please?" he continued to lay there, "y-you're such a meanie just laying there like that while I'm all scared," he didn't move, "if you don't move I won't forgive you," she said crossing her arms and looking away sharply, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that," she said quickly turning around and looking at him, "wake up Kensei."
"Kensei!" she wined looking at him like he had a choice in the matte, she shook him but his head just lolled, "wake up! Kensei!!"
She felt someone try to pull her back but she fought back with the strange too tight body. She had to get to him. She had to wake him up. they had lost everything, titles, homes--it was all gone. All they had was each other and he was slipping away. Mashiro pushed against them trying to get to him. He was going to leave her. She knew everyone in the rooms but she knew them as Lieutenants and Captains, she didn't know them like she knew Kensei. Loud, brash Kensei who balanced her like no-one else. He couldn't leave her, not like this, not to someone who had cost them everything. He couldn't take Kensei too.
"Kensei!!" she screamed his name again, desperate for him to do something, to do anything but lay there. Somehow she broke free of the grasp they had on her, or maybe they let her go but she ran to him and dropped to her knees, "Kensei wake up!" she put her hands on his too hot chest, "Kensei!"
Tears fell from her eyes. As she cried it seemed that all the anger drained out of her, leaving behind only sadness and an unbearable sense of loneliness. Her tears continued to fall, hitting her hands and sliding onto the planes of his chest.
"Kensei," her voice broke as she repeated his name, "wake up," she whispered bowing her head and pressing their foreheads together, squeezing her eyes shut, "I'm scared," she whispered low enough so only he could hear her. She could barely feel his breath on her lips, "Kensei please," she never pleaded with anyone, least of all him, "don't leave me."
He continued to lay there as she knelt at his side, her forehead resting against his as she pleaded with him not to leave her alone.
The insult was breathy against her lips and barely audible even as her face was so close to his. Mashiro's eyes flew open to see fever-clouded gold ones looking back at her. She shrieked and jumped back. Kensei glared at her, wincing at the high pitched noise before Mashiro dove forward and he found himself crushed in her embrace. Agony shot through and he must have made some sort of sound because he found himself dropped to the ground, the motion sending agony through him yet again. Mashiro gasped, her hands flying to her mouth as she stared down at him. He still looked horrible but he was awake, he was alive.
He called her stupid.
"Why're you crying?" he demanded before he realized she cried all over him, "Mashiro!"
"I thought you were gonna die!" she wailed.
"Why'd you think that?" he demanded looking over at her.
"Because--" her lip trembled, "B-because I did!"
"I ain't gonna leave you," he said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"B-but--" she began.
"I said I ain't gonna leave you!" he barked out, his voice harsh to her blubbering.
"Kensei!" she threw her arms around him, careful to avoid his injury.
If there was one thing Kensei did not like it was when Mashiro cried. Though prone to hysterics she didn't do it often and when she did it absolutely killed him. Between the tears on his chest and the ones he could feel from her face buried in his neck. It hurt of course but he lifted his arm to wrap it around her shoulders. The action only caused Mashiro to cry harder.
Urahara watched them with a sigh of relief. Truthfully he was unsure if the former 9th Division Captain was going to wake up at all. Though the rest of them had yet to wake up he was more optimistic now that the one farthest in the woods was on his way to recovery. He felt someone grasp his ankle. He looked down to see Shinji open his eyes. He dropped to his knee next to the former Fifth Division Captain.
"Where's Hiyori?" came the raspy demand.
"She's in the other room--" he looked over his shoulder to see Yoruichi peak in and give a quick nod, "she's okay," he struggled to keep his eyes open, "try to get some rest."
"Mashiro stop crying damn it!"
"Or, you know, not," Urahara said looking over at the two of them.
Mashiro pushed herself up and looked down at him, her lip still trembling. He had obviously scared her enough for one night. His arm was still around her shoulders and it took only a little more pain and effort to slide his hand to the back of her head and close the distance between their lips.
"I'm going to be fine. Stop crying."
"Okay," she said dropping next to him before wrapping her arms around him and putting her head on the non-injured side of his chest, "I'm tired," she said happily.
"Go to sleep," he grumbled.
"I'm glad you're okay," she said.
"You too," he muttered, though she knew better than to comment on it save for giving a happy grin and shifting so her green hair tickled his chin, "Mashiro!"
It was how they worked. She was one side, he was the other and they crashed in the middle. Neither was delicate enough to 'meet' really, but neither cared. If there was anything really gentle about them they wouldn't be them.
Urahara watched them together and for the first time since they had escaped he felt the stirrings of hope.