Diez Veces

By Stalk Me

- + -

The first time she saw him, he was nothing more than a fuzzy, white blur in her peripheral vision as her anger zoned in on the rude shop keeper that stood before him. He was a kid then, short and skinny and light enough for her to pick up with one hand. The thing she remembered most about him back then, however, was that his reiatsu was so powerful, so untamed and so cold that it burned her.

He was none of those things now. The decades had come and gone, and her little Taichou had grown up. Tall and lean, his muscles were well-defined though not as bulky as some of the other male shinigami; human clothes suited him nicely. Matsumoto leaned against the hallway wall and stared, transfixed, at her Taichou's back; she watched as his shoulder blades cut jagged angles under his gray T-shirt as he wrestled with the key in the lock.

"You'd think that they'd stick us in a nicer place if what we're doing is so important," he muttered as he pulled out the bronze key and jammed it back into the lock in the door, trying once again to get it open.

Matsumoto shrugged, closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall. "At least they put us somewhere. Remember when we first started coming down to the human world? We had to find our own place."

"Don't remind me; I still have nightmares about Orihime's cooking!"

"Mmmm, those were the days!"

A loud clamor reverberated down the hall as Hitsugaya finally managed to get the door open. "Tch, it's not even furnished."

Matsumoto opened her eyes and saw that her Taichou had entered the tiny apartment. He was surveying the room with distaste, his right hand sneaking up his shirt to scratch his stomach as he did so; Matsumoto immediately eyed the fine, white trail of hair that started just below his navel and disappeared into his jeans. And then she felt it…his reiatsu.

What had changed the most about her Taichou was his reiatsu. Yes, it was still powerful – more so, in fact; however, it was tamed, controlled and…familiar. So familiar that most of the time, she hardly noticed it, except for when he deliberately reached out to her with it. He had long given up verbally summoning her to him; now all he did was seek her out with his reiatsu; it felt like a caress to her, warm and inviting. It was how he'd say 'You coming?'.

Matsumoto bent over, picked up her bag and entered the apartment, surveying it with indifference. It was one room, a kitchen connecting to an open space that was intended to double as a bedroom and a living room. It had one window that faced the street. Along the right wall of the room was a narrow door that must have led to a bathroom.

"We'll need something to sleep on, some pillows and blankets. Food. Bath things." Hitsugaya reached into his back pocket and took out a wad of cash, counting out several bills and stuffing them back into his pocket and handing the rest of the cash to Matsumoto. "Can you handle it on your own?"

Her eyes followed him as he made his way to the window and opened it. "And where are you going?" she asked.

He was straddling the window sill, one foot on the fire escape, when he turned back to look at her, a wry smile on his face. "To find this Kai Kurasaki and see if she really is the one with all that spirit pressure that's attracting the Hollows. And if she is the one, to try to talk her into learning to control it."

"Good luck. If she's anything like her grandfather…"

"Yeah, I know; it'll take a massive Hollow attack on her family to get her to agree. So you'll be ok on your own?"

"You know I will. But before you go!" He paused again, one eye brow cocked questioningly. She came forward, reaching into her skirt pocket and pulling out a small envelope. "Here, they said we have to wear these." She handed him the gold band, and he eyed it in shock.

"It's a…"

"Wedding ring," she nodded. "They said you're too big for us to be posing as brother and sister. Humans apparently get suspicious when siblings our age room together." She slipped her own ring onto her finger; it was simple, a very small diamond. Hitsugaya continued to stare, disgruntled, at his gold band.

"You know they're getting a kick out of this, right?" he said as he slipped the ring onto his finger. His scowl was pronounced…and so cute.

She shrugged nonchalantly. "But they do have a point. That old woman who lived across from us the last time kept telling me that we were going against nature's law."

Hitsugaya blushed. "We didn't do anything."

Matsumoto smiled coyly. "She didn't know that. See you tonight?" Hitsugaya grunted in reply as he disappeared out the window. "BRING BACK TAKE-OUT!" Matsumoto called after him. She felt a slight surge in his reiatsu as his reply; she wasn't sure if that meant yes or no, but she took it as a good sign anyway.

- + -

"Couldn't spring for two mattresses?"

Matsumoto glanced up from the magazine that she was reading to see Hitsugaya climb in through the window. He closed it promptly, cutting off the chilly, winter air; the apartment didn't have very good heating. He carried a white, plastic bag that had what appeared to be two take-out boxes in it, and he raised the bag slightly, nonverbally asking her if she wanted some. Matsumoto set her magazine aside and got up from the mattress she had bought and put on the floor.

"We want to save as much money as we can for food," she explained as she approached the kitchen counter. "Mattresses don't come cheap, you know. Besides," she cocked a sly eyebrow at him as he pulled out the food and deliberately refused to look at her. "It's not like we haven't slept beside one another before."

Hitsugaya handed her a paper plate filled with meat and noodles. "Eat your food," he muttered, handing her a pair of chop sticks. Matsumoto's sly grin widened.

"Do you remember the first time we slept next to each other?" she asked.

"We were in the woods or something on a mission," Hitsugaya replied through a mouthful of food. "It was cold that night."

Matsumoto nodded. "You kept me warm." She dodged the piece of meat that Hitsugaya had flung at her with his chop sticks.

"I used my reiatsu to keep the air around you warm," he explained. "Don't make it sound like I was spooning you or something."

Matsumoto smiled as she bit into a piece of meat. The truth was that he had spooned her before. They had found themselves having to share mats and mattresses ever since the beginning of his captaincy, and during those early days, he would lay as far away from her as possible, his posture completely rigid, as if he was afraid of accidently touching arms in their sleep. As they grew more comfortable with each other, however, he began to relax to the point where they were kicking each other and fighting over the covers. Then, as Hitsugaya grew older and had relationships with other women, Matsumoto found herself waking up more often than not in the crook of his arm. Neither ever acknowledged the fact out loud.

"So did you find her?" she asked, changing the subject to one that wouldn't make her Taichou blush.

He nodded. "Didn't get to talk to her, though. She's popular; I couldn't get her alone."

"A social Kurasaki?" Matsumoto asked, shocked. "Must be a recessive trait." She laughed at her own joke, then stopped, and sent a curious look to her Taichou. Hitsugaya had finished his food and was leaning against the counter, his hands gripping the edge of it as he stared at the lone mattress on the floor.

"I'm going to take a bath," he said suddenly, pushing himself away from the counter and heading towards the bathroom. "Did you buy towels?"

"Yeah, but we have no hot water."

She thought she heard him say 'good' as he slammed the bathroom door. Smiling to herself, Matsumoto finished her food, cleaned up the kitchen and walked over to their bags, intending to change into some sleepwear. She had brought a short, silky nightgown, unaware that it was winter in the human world. While she figured that Hitsugaya would keep the air around them relatively warm, she also decided that silk and sleeveless was not the best option for a chilly night. Therefore, she walked over to Hitsugaya's bag, pulled out a pair of his boxers and a T-shirt and slipped those on instead.

She was already in bed, buried under the covers, when Hitsugaya came out of the bathroom, one hand firmly grasping the towel around his waist. As soon as he saw that she was in bed, he reached out his arm and turned off the light. It took several seconds for Matsumoto's eyes to adjust to the darkness, and when they did, she saw that her Taichou was closer to the bed, leaning over and rummaging around his bag with one hand. He pulled out a fresh pair of boxers and straightened. Their eyes met briefly before he turned his back to her and dropped the towel. A corner of Matsumoto's lips pulled upward; she had seen him naked before too, on missions when they had no choice but to bathe in a river together. It was because of this that she was the first one to realize when he had hit puberty. It was shortly after the war, and they were bathing quickly in a stream when she noticed that his limbs were longer, her shoulders broader and that an Adam's apple had formed in his throat. It was then that she realized that someday, her Taichou would catch up to her.

'He's obviously caught up to me,' she thought as she watched his muscles work as he pulled on the boxers.

She made room as he got into bed with her, but once he was settled, lying on his back with his arms folded behind his head, she moved closer, wrapping an arm around his stomach and resting her head on his chest. As if on cue, one of his arms immediately curled around her shoulders, his fingers absentmindedly playing with her hair.

And neither said a word.

First part of a three chapter fic! Chapter two coming soon!