Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. I am making no money from this. Tite Kubo owns all, I'm just playing with them for a while. I also do not own any of the quotes I use at the start of each chapter. They were all found on the internet, and if they have an author I say who it is.
1) I've seen every episode of the anime, which currently means 223. I only recently started reading the manga, and am only at chapter 140 of that. So this story will be based primarily on the anime, although I may take stuff from the manga if I find something cool. Like most HitsuKarin fics, it kinda has to be based on the anime, cause I don't believe the whole thing with them and the soccer game is in the manga.
2) As I do not know how the Winter War will end, or more importantly, who will die in it, I'll probably make vague references to people having died but will not ever say who. I also won't say how it ended, just that it did and Aizen was defeated. I'm really hoping none of the characters I use in this story die in the cannon verse, but if they do, oh well. That's why it's called fan fiction.
3) I watch Bleach, like many people, subbed by Dattebayo, so I'm used to thinking of the characters by the names they use in the Japanese version and my writing reflects that. (When I first started reading the manga it drove me nuts that they use the names wrong.) I also think in terms of Shinigami and Taicho, not Soul Reaper and Captain. I've noticed many fanfics do this however, so I don't think it should be a problem, I was just letting you know. The glossary is at the end, but probably won't be necessary for most of you.
4) And finally, this is my first real story in the Bleach-verse, so any feedback or reviews would be welcome and ever so helpful. All I've ever written for Bleach was a series of short POV drabbles by various characters, and they didn't get many reviews, so I'm not sure what people thought of my characterization. (And yes, Hitsugaya is a little OOC in this chapter, but as that is explained in the chapter I'm not sure it counts.)
5) Anyways, after what might possibly be the longest AN ever, please enjoy…
No Warm Memories
By Lady Callista
Chapter 1: A Heart to Heart
"Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories."
It was a week after the end of the war, and things in Seireitei were finally back to normal. Karakuru Town was back in the real world where it belonged, and most of those who had been injured in the fighting were healed and back on active duty.
Sitting on the roof of Juubantai's main office, one of his favorite places to think, Hitsugaya Toshiro looked up at the stars and reveled in the silence. Finally all of the victory parties were over. This was the first night since the end of the war that he could actually hear himself think.
Not that that was necessarily a good thing at the moment, he mused as he picked out some of his favorite constellations. For all the could think about at the moment was a certain dark-haired human. A girl he'd had no business becoming friends with. And he really shouldn't be thinking of her as more than a friend.
She was a mere child. Although they looked to be about the same age, he was older than, well okay, not than her father, but older than her father would have been had he been just a normal human.
It was just that he'd never met anyone like her. In many ways she was more mature than her older brother, hell, she acted more mature than many of the Shinigami. The fact that she'd angrily kicked a soccer ball at his head the first time they met not withstanding. And she had the same courage her brother did. The same desire to protect those around her.
Yet no matter what attraction he felt towards her, it was forbidden. Shinigami were not allowed to fall in love with humans. Well, to be fair, Shinigami weren't allowed to be romantically involved with humans. You couldn't really make a law saying who someone could fall in love with, but you could certainly make a law forbidding them to act on it.
It was a law that had been enforced only once.
After all, Shinigami didn't often spend enough time in the real world to fall in love with humans, and even if they did it was a one-sided attraction as most humans could not see them. Hitsugaya didn't know if the fact that he was falling for the daughter of the man who had left Soul Society because of that law was funny or just sad.
But even if the law didn't exist, Histugaya knew he would still have a hard time deciding what to do. Putting aside the fact that he didn't even know how she felt about him, he wanted her to have a normal life. Not to sit around waiting for the few and far between times he could make it to the real world. They could not be like *Hikoboshi and Orihime, meeting only one night out of the year.
She should find someone to love. Someone who could have a family with her, grow old with her, make her happy. Even if he followed in her father's footsteps so that he could do the first two, he had no idea how to make her happy. He couldn't even make himself happy. He was always cold inside. She deserved so much more than…
His thoughts abruptly trailed off as he sensed someone approaching the building, and he was unsurprised when he identified the reiatsu of Matsumoto Rangiku. No one else would disturb him when he was up here unless it was an emergency. Except Momo of course, and she was in no mood to seek out anyone's company at the moment.
Histugaya sighed, making sure his face was blank as she alighted on the edge of the roof and made her way over to him. At least she was sober. He didn't want to deal with a drunk Matsumoto right now.
"Not out at the bars tonight, Matsumoto?" Hitsugaya asked as his fukutaicho settled onto the roof next to him.
"Ah, the night is young yet, taicho," Matsumoto replied as she slid a bottle of sake and two glasses out of her shihakusho.
Hitsugaya glanced at the glasses, rolled his eyes at where she had pulled them from, then settled his gaze back on the stars he'd been watching. "Double-fisting already?"
"No, Hitsugaya-kun, one is for you," She said as she expertly balanced the glasses on the roof, filled them, and held one out to her taicho. "I thought we could toast the end of the war."
"It's Hitsugaya-taicho," He said by rote. "And I don't drink."
"Not even tonight?" She asked quietly, still offering one glass to him. "Aizen is dead. Gi…Ichimaru…is dead. Tosen is dead, although I don't think he ever mattered to anyone nearly as much as the other two did. We won, taicho. Although we took losses, we won. We should be celebrating."
Hitsugaya took the glass, staring into the moon's reflection in the clear liquid as he spoke in his always restrained manner, "I don't feel much like celebrating. I don't feel like doing much of anything."
"You have been quieter than usual, taicho," Matsumoto said as she held her glass up to his, urging him to be polite and do the same. "I think it's been three days since you've yelled at me."
Hitsugaya glanced over at her, seeing the seriousness in her face behind the flippant comment, "When compared to the war we just went through, whether or not you're too lazy or hung-over to do your paperwork doesn't seem that important."
Matsumoto smiled slightly, moving her glass closer to his.
Hitsugaya sighed, and tapped his cup to hers before saying, "Kanpai." She replied with the same, and they both drank.
Hitsugaya took a fortifying breath as the sake burned down his throat. He'd never explained to anyone why he didn't drink, but he was pretty sure Matsumoto had an idea.
She'd been bugging him one time to come drinking with her and the other seats, and he'd asked her what she felt when she drank. She'd gotten as far as saying warm and flirty, then gone quiet and wished him a good night as she left him alone.
They were silent for a moment, and when she reached over to refill his glass he didn't object. That gave her enough courage to ask, "Is Hinamori-fukutaicho still…"
"Unohana-taicho says she's fine physically, but…"
Matsumoto tapped her glass to his as he trailed off, and manners had him drinking as she did. After a long moment of silence, she said hesitantly, "She was still calling him taicho. Even as she fought his pawns, even as she saved my life, she couldn't think of him as anything else."
"I know," Hitsugaya replied even as he pretended to not see Matsumoto refilling his glass yet again. After his earlier thoughts, the burn of the sake was an almost welcome distraction. "Think of how many decades she idolized him. Think of how long she served under him. How long she loved him."
Matsumoto paused as she refilled her sake cup, hearing the pain in her taicho's voice and uncertain as to its cause. She'd always known him and Hinomori were only best friends, despite the rumors that had circulated to the contrary. But he seemed to be mourning more than the loss of a friend…
"Is that what you've been so upset about?" Matsumoto asked finally, having given up on thinking of a better way to phrase her question.
"If you're implying that I love Hinamori, I do, but not in the way that you're thinking." Hitsugaya replied, the sake having worked its way through his system. He was still fully aware of where he was and who he was speaking to, but he knew that despite the fact that his fukutaicho was one of the main cogs in the rumor mill, this conversation would go no further than the two of them. And he had no one else he could speak to like this. "She's been my best friend for more years than I can count. My only friend for so many of those years. And now she's hurt. Hurt beyond anything I know how to fix. I can't help her, because I can't understand her. I've never been in love, Matsumoto, not like she was with that bastard. I don't know how to make her Momo again."
That he'd slipped from his normal insistence on formality and called his friend Momo told Matsumoto just how upset he was. But it was the tone of voice he'd used on the sentence before that one that really peaked her inner curiousness. Yet she knew him very well, so she discarded the dozen thoughts that popped into her head; the thoughts she would have used to tease any of her other male friends had they said the word 'love' in such a telling way. It was rare for her taicho to open up to her, to talk of anything personal, and she knew that if she wasn't careful he'd just close down again.
"Forgive me if I'm being impertinent, Hitsugaya, but you must have an idea of how she feels. You must have, at some point, felt that way about someone."
Hitsugaya was silent for so long that she almost got up and left, afraid that she had somehow opened a wound she didn't know about. But his face showed only deep thought, as if he was thinking of how to best phrase his answer, so she only refilled their cups again as they both stared at the stars.
"Matsumoto, what does it feel like to be in love?' Hitsugaya's voice was so low she barely heard him.
"I'm not sure I know, taicho, " Matsumoto replied, thinking of Gin. "I've had a best friend for so long. I've had someone to love. But I'm not sure if I've ever been in love. And, understand I mean no offense, but I don't really think Hinomori was in love with Aizen. I don't think you can love someone unless you really know them. All of them. She never knew the real him."
Hitsugaya absently drank the sake she had poured for him, barely feeling the burn this time. "What if you can't tell someone everything about you? What if despite the fact that…"
Matsumoto paused with her dish of sake halfway to her mouth. Her instincts had been right that her taicho was having problems with his personal life, but now she was getting confused. She'd been almost certain it wasn't Momo, and he'd confirmed that. Although he was deeply concerned for his friend, he'd been dealing with that for months now. She knew it wasn't her; thank all the gods that she'd finally managed to establish a working relationship with a man who didn't just want to drink with her or party with her or sleep with her. Or all three. But that left her confused as to who he was talking about.
"But you're a taicho. Everyone knows you…"
"Everyone in Seireitei knows who I am. And all of Soul Society, at least by my haori."
Matsumoto was even more confused as he stopped speaking, then slowly she started to realize what he meant. "But in the human world…"
Hitsugaya glanced at her for an instant, then looked back up at the stars. He took a deep breath before deciding to continue the conversation. Normally this would have been the point where to told her to leave, or where he just stopped talking. But this had been rolling around in his head for so long that he could no longer keep it in. "I suppose it's not that I can't tell her, after all she knows about Shinigami and everything, but I don't want to. She should have a normal life. Well, as normal a life as possible, considering her powers."
Matsumoto's mind was whirling. She could only think of a few girls that he'd met when they'd been down in the real world in the weeks before Orihime's capture by Aizen, and most of them had been Kurosaki's friends. But only Orihime really had power…
Kurosaki…Matsumoto's mind suddenly latched onto the name…Kurosaki Karin. She'd met the girl only once, after Hitsugaya had saved her and her friends from a Hollow, and had been amazed that the girl could see them as Shinigami. She'd been more amazed when she'd heard the girl call him "Toshiro" without getting at least a glare in return. It had been obvious that wasn't the first time they'd met.
She couldn't help but chuckle at the first thought that popped into her head as she thought of Hitsugaya liking the girl, and he glared at her even as she spoke, "Ichigo would really hate that."
The glare faded, and Matsumoto was blessed with getting to see one of her taicho's rare smiles. "I know."
She laughed out loud this time, then stopped as a thought ran through her head. It explained perfectly why he'd been so upset for the past few days. "But she's human, and…"
Hitsugaya nodded, and said quietly. "I can't give her a future, Matsumoto. It could be years before I'm sent back to the real world. It could be decades. And I don't even know if she thinks of me as more than a friend. But there was just something about her, something so captivating…"
Matsumoto looked over at him as he trailed off, amazed at the emotion in his voice. She'd been trying for years and years to get him to mellow out a little, to not be cold and serious every single moment, and in a few days Karin had somehow done it. Not only was he feeling something, but he was expressing it. It was so out of character for him that Matsumoto didn't know how to react.
So she reacted the way she normally would. With a joke. It was guaranteed to end their talk, but that was probably a good thing. He'd obviously been thinking about Karin before she disturbed him, and would be doing so after she left. And she didn't really have anything helpful to say. So she laughed, "Wow, if I'd know all it would take to get you to talk to me was a few glasses of sake, I would have poured some down your throat years ago."
The glare returned, his frozen mask falling over his face as he replied, "Weren't you going to meet some of your friends at the bar?"
Matsumoto sighed as she tucked the cups and sake bottle back into her cleavage. "I think that's the first time you've ever told me to go out drinking."
He didn't reply, so she stood and started to walk away from him. She was just about to shunpo off the roof when she heard him speak again.
"Rangiku, thank you for listening to me."
Matsumoto's face broke into a beaming smile, although she kept her back to him and responded in an equally quiet voice, "Anytime, Toshiro, anytime."
Then she left him alone with his thoughts.
To Be Continued…
Omake - Radio Kon
Kon: So our guest tonight is Hitsugaya Toshiro, Juubantai's taicho. Does anyone have questions for the boy genius?
Hitsugaya: What? Matsumoto told me I was required at a meeting…
Kon: So our first question comes from someone who says you've been her favorite character from the moment you were introduced. "Hitsugaya-taicho, what's it's like to be young forever?"
Hitsugaya: I'm not young! I'm over 40 years old! Haven't you ever heard that you should never judge a book by it's cover?
Kon: Which leads very well into our next question. "Shiro-chan, what do you hate the most about being the youngest taicho in history?"
Hitsugaya: It's Hitsugaya-taicho. And that's part of the answer. Everyone in Soul Society is older than they look, but for some reason everyone forgets that when dealing with me. And don't even get me started on what happens when I go to the real world… [microphone turns to ice and then shatters]
Kon: Well, unfortunately that's all the time we have for tonight. Thanks for listening, and hopefully I'll be talking to you again soon. Thanks for talking to us, Shiro-chan.
Hitsugaya: *stress mark* It's Hitsugaya-taicho!
* Hikoboshi and Orihime: The two lovers in the legend of Tanabata, who can only meet one night out of the year, and only if it's not raining. They are represented by the stars Altair and…oh, just go and wikipedia the word Tanabata if you don't know this story. It'll be much easier.
Fukutaicho: literally "Vice Unit Commander." The manga uses "Assistant Captain" and the official dub, I believe, uses "Lieutenant."
Haori: An item of clothing, normally a man's over-garment. Used in Bleach for the white taicho's "overcoat" with the number on the back that all of the taicho wear.
Juubantai: Tenth Division, led by Hitsugaya
Kanpai: "Cheers!"; a toast when drinking.
-kun: A suffix used with young boys, or with boys that you are close to. Orihime, for example, uses this with all of her male friends. Although they are close enough that it wouldn't be strange for Matsumoto to call Hitsugaya this, he always insists on formality, hence his objection when she uses it.
Reiatsu: Spirit energy, each person's is unique.
Shihakusho: Shinigami uniform; the black hakama and gi/haori that all Shinigami wear.
Shinigami: literally "Death God," one of my least favorite things about the English version is that for some reason they use the translation "Soul Reaper."
Shunpo: Flash-step in the English.
Taicho: literally "Unit Commander." The manga and anime both say "Captain."