Disclaimer – I do not own Bleach. Sequel to both Admiration and Sweet, Sweet Child. Contains spoilers for current chapters in Japan, not to mention, a few theoretical ideas of what might happen, that might prove false.
In Soul Society, the winter that was supposed to bring forth the war finally came, and Christmas was creeping around slowly. While it wasn't a tradition that those in Japan traditionally celebrated, it had seeped into the culture, and eventually that of a few of the Seireitei came to celebrate it year to year. For some reason, after having to deal with Aizen, it seemed as if this was a good way to celebrate, to attempt to take away the pain.
The small taicho of the tenth division though, never really thought about the matter, but didn't mind the subject when it was broached by those around him, nor did he mind getting Hinamori and Matsumoto something every year, as they were in truth like family. He also got his grandmother something, even though she really never knew what the reason for him giving her a gift was, as she had no recollection of having Christmas in her youth, it was rather that new of a tradition.
While there had not come to be any replacements for the captains that had betrayed Soul Society, there was the fact that none of the other captains had been lost, due to Inoue Orihime's ability to heal, and restore to the original state of things. This had meant that things in truth had also come to calm down somewhat, even though there was still a lot of pain to get through, and to get over. And that was why he was in truth in the office today.
It used to be that he would complain to Matsumoto about her getting her job done, and getting her share of the paperwork finished. However, there was the fact that now that the war was finished, there was also less of an influx of the work that had been there before. And there was also the fact that Rangiku was in truth one of the few still dealing with the problems with her relationship with the traitors. He thus choose to give her a little bit of leeway.
He was taking a small break, going off into his dream world and actually relaxing for once, when Matsumoto came into the room, full of cheer for once, which seemed to be less frequent then it used to be, but he really couldn't blame her, as forgiving Gin was going to possibly be a hard one. He glanced up from his work as he suddenly felt himself embraced in one of her hugs. "Matsumoto…"
"Nee… taicho… all I did was hug you! You looked so cute there, staring out the window, and so nice and relaxed. There aren't many times people get to see you in such a mood where you're not giving off a cold aura, but a warm one," she whispered into her ear.
Trying not to mention a certain someone, or bring him to mind, he choose to sidestep the whole matter, and bring up something else. "It is actually snowing outside… you'll be sure to wear something warm?"
"You really shouldn't worry taicho!" Matsumoto grinned and headed over to her desk to sit down. "I know I tend to be down in the dumps lately, but truth of the matter is, I can still take care of myself. It is cute though when…"
"Matsumoto!" the small boy turned and glared at her, his cheeks flushing a little with embarrassment.
"Oh… I forgot… cute is one of those taboo words…" Matsumoto sighed.
"No… forget it Matsumoto… I shouldn't have reacted the way that I did." The small taicho picked up his brush and began to write some more on the paper work.
"Is taicho actually procrastinating?" His lieutenant couldn't help but smile.
"Well… it is nice out today, and the work load isn't as heavy as it was a few months ago," the small boy commented. "So… why are you in a good mood today? Did you enjoy drinking with your drinking buddies last night?"
"Ehh…" Matsumoto became quite, and then glanced out the window.
This caused two teal eyes to suddenly turn and stare at her, watching as her mood darkened, much like he had found her when Gin had disappeared on them. "Did I say something wrong Matsumoto?"
"No… I was just thinking…" the woman stated.
"That isn't your strong suit…" the small boy started.
Matsumoto had to of course glare at him and interrupt. "Taicho, that was mean."
"I didn't finish, so it isn't fare of you to come down on me. I was saying that thinking isn't your strong suit, unless it is the really deep kind, with some sort of… insightful thought in there... now that I think of it, I can't explain it in words…" Toshiro muttered irritably at not being able to express what he wanted to.
"No… I get what you're saying. I was just thinking about how to tell you about… something… without you saying you won't go… or telling me that it is rather childish…" the woman smiled.
"Excuse me?" two teal eyes looked at her startled. "Please tell me it isn't another one of your trips to the bath house? If you were my biological mother, Matsumoto, it wouldn't be a big deal, except… you aren't…"
"I… so, it wasn't because the lady called you a child that really upset you?" the strawberry blond woman smiled.
"Well, that was bothersome in its own way… but saying… what you did… oh never mind. What is it that you have planned now?" the white haired taicho remained bent over his work.
"It isn't really my idea… more of Ichigo and the others from the living world's idea. They want to have a Christmas party, to help relieve some of the… from the war…" Matsumoto muttered. "I'll do the paper work, if you'll come taicho…"
"Don't worry… I'll get the paperwork done and I'll go… you don't need to worry about it…" Toshiro shook his head. It was the least he could do for her, because even though she was in a good mood, he could see there was pain in her eyes.
"Ehh… well, if you don't go for that idea… Karin might be there… hold on… you said that you would go without me doing anything?" Matsumoto suddenly became confused, and then hopped up to go feel his forehead.
"I'm fine, Rangiku-san…" the boy muttered. "True, normally I wouldn't give in easily, but… you are looking forward to me going, and you needs something… to keep you mind off certain things. Now, why exactly did you bring up Kurosaki's sister to try to convince me to come? I mean, I doubt she would be there, considering her brother doesn't realize how much she knows…"
"Taicho… I thought you liked her…" the woman sighed, going back to sit down behind her desk.
"Like her… as in a friend. I guess so. I mean, before Kurosaki came around, the only friend I had was… Sojiro… I mean… Momo and you are like family," Toshiro attempted to not look her in the face.
"No… taicho. I meant that you liked her more than a friend…" Rangiku pushed the issue a bit further.
"Matsumoto…" Toshiro paused at this and closed his eyes. "I don't get why you think that I like her."
"You stalked her in the real world…" Matsumoto stated.
"I did not…" came the expected protest.
"Never mind… perhaps you're not old enough to understand yet…"
This caused his head to shoot up to protest again, yet he had the chance to see Hinamori come in, and because that happened, he felt it best to suddenly close the subject. She gave him a small grin. "I know that… it is… it is…"
"Lieutenant Hinamori… what exactly are you excited about?" Toshiro groaned.
"Well, the Christmas party…" the older girl smiled.
"If you are here to try to get me to go, I've already decided that I am, so don't worry about it," the small boy sighed, running a hand through his hair.
"No… I know that Rukia and Orihime were the ones who personally asked me to go to the party, but Izuru-san invited me to go with him," the girl smiled.
"Oh… so… like a date!" Matsumoto suddenly became excited, and winked at her small captain, who had a rather shocked look on his face.
"Ehh… I don't think so… just as friends… I mean…" Momo's foot suddenly began rubbing the floor.
"Hinamori Fukutaicho, I think it is supposed to be a date…" Toshiro suddenly spoke up, rather bewildered that Kira had finally found the courage to ask her.
"Ehh… no… Kira doesn't like me that way…" Again the foot moved nervously on the floor.
"Did he ask to just go as friends?" Matsumoto suddenly asked.
"He said, if… if I just wanted to go as friends, then that would be fine with him," Hinamori stated.
Suddenly, the second of the tenth division laughed, as her small taicho rolled his eyes. "He finally gets the courage to ask her out, and he says something like that…"
This caused his childhood friend's eyes to go wide, and Matsumoto to laugh harder. "Taicho… you said that out loud!"
"Nani!" the small boy glanced at Hinamori's somewhat horrified face. "Ehh… Hinamori… Kira has had a crush on you since academy…"
"But… there is no way…" again with the denial.
"I think… and this might just be me, with some amount of experience under my belt, compared to the two of you combined… that Kira was possibly attempting to make Hinamori less uncomfortable, and trying not to rush into a relationship, as he doesn't wish to hurt her feelings," the older woman laughed.
"I could have sworn it was because he was afraid that Momo would say no to an actual date," came the rather grumpy reply.
"Shiro-chan! I would not have! I just can't imagine why Kira would like me of all people!" The younger of the two females puffed out her cheeks.
"Ne… ?" Toshiro looked her straight in the eye. "It's Hitsugaya Taicho, and yes… I've noticed that he's liked you since I met him. And I approve of him… to say…"
"Why do you have to approve of him!" This statement caused Momo to become a little miffed.
"Because, we grew up together in the same house, which makes me the closest thing you have to a brother, which means it is my job to make sure that no guy like… like… Kyoraku Taicho… gets near you…" the white haired boy's two teal eyes had a slightly menacing look in them. However, both females burst out laughing, catching him off guard. "What is so funny?"
"Taicho…" Matsumoto shook her head.
"I better be going. I hope your Christmas wishes get fulfilled this year!" Hinamori chirped, turning and leaving the room.
"Christmas… wish…" at the mention of this, Matsumoto's eyes glazed over.
"Rangiku-san…" Toshiro's voice suddenly filled with concern, knowing that she had slipped back into her depression.
"Ehh… I was just thinking about how my Christmas wish will never be filled…" the woman stated.
"If it's any consolation, neither will mine," the small boy stated.
"Taicho… don't be silly. This is one place that being so young has its advantages, doesn't it?" the woman smiled. "What is your Christmas wish?"
"I am not telling, because I know you want to try and make it come true, but it is one of those things that is impossible, Matsumoto. It's just something that I wished for since I was really little." Somehow, she had managed to put him into a dark mood too.
"So then, I take it, it isn't finally being able to make friends?" Rangiku sighed, leaning back. "I bet you can guess mine…"
"Do you want me too, because I feel that it is a subject that I've been avoiding unless you want it brought up," A sudden change in her aura told him that she was going into a rant.
"Well, why shouldn't I be mad, with all that he has done. And all he got was basically a slap on the wrist, stuck in the jail cell until Yamamoto decides he has spent enough time there. He abandoned all of us taicho… tried killing you. His betrayal dug deep… I thought we were close… I guess that is the best way to describe my Christmas wish," came the bitter tone.
"So, it does deal with Gin," the small taicho shook his head.
"I wish that we could be close like we were before," the woman sighed.
"Ne… maybe if you go visit him…" Toshiro glanced up from his paper work, hoping she wouldn't try to bite his head off for what he just said.
"No… taicho, the wedge that drove us apart, it started being wedged in a long, long time ago. I just didn't realize it, until it was too late," Matsumoto closed his eyes. "But… I wish… that. I wish that I could know that he wouldn't run again, that I could trust him."
"Time?" came Toshiro's response.
Only to have her laugh. "I shouldn't have brought you into this. It is just… Gin and my relationship has always been complex, even though it has always been broken. I'm going to go see what I can find for the game they call white elephant…"
"All right Matsumoto…" However, to the small taicho, it didn't seem right to leave things the way they were.
That was in fact, why he ended up outside of Gin's cell that day, bringing a small Christmas present with him. Why his mind came up with the idea, he had no clue, but someone had to start with somewhere. He watched as the man sat there, staring at the wall, leafing through the book he had in his hands. "Hello, Shiro-chan."
"How could you tell it was me?" came the irritated reply.
"Because, you have a very distinct aura, that I can feel even with my powers sealed," the man stated, refusing to look at the small boy.
"Do you disdain me that much?" Toshiro stated firmly.
"No… your friend Momo-chan was nice enough to give me this book for Christmas," Gin stated, causing the small boy to wince. "Don't worry… I am not trying to trick her like Aizen did. She is the one who approached me. It was her way of healing from all the bad things that happened. She simply came to forgive me, no strings attached."
"Even though you tried to kill her and me?" the small boy glared at the man, his two teal eyes darkening.
"As I told her, the only one I ever tried to kill was her, so she couldn't bother to try to forgive me for trying to kill you." It was then that Toshiro realized the man was without his customary smile.
"How can you say that," two teal eyes were furious that Gin could make such comments.
"Because I knew you would dodge, child," came the humming reply. "So what brings you here? I expected Ran before you, and nowhere near this close time wise for either one of you."
"Ran… Lieutenant Matsumoto Rangiku is deeply aggrieved by what you did. What I have against you is just a small trifle in comparison," Toshiro stated.
At this, Gin glanced up, his two eyes opening up, revealing pale teal eyes, rather than the red one that Toshiro had come to know. "A trifle in comparison to her. Then again, you don't know everything, and don't realize that you out of all people should be the one angriest at me for what I've done over the years."
"Don't they say that those who are young, and haven't experienced the atrocities that their elders have, tend to be more forgiving?" the logic was there.
"Shiro-chan, please get to the point of why you are here?" Gin stated.
"I decided to give you a gift for Christmas, for Ran's sake… and not the kind where she is supposed to give you one, but the kind where it is one to attempt to make sure you don't wound her heart again." Two small hands slid the box across the cell floor.
Gin picked it up, and opened the box, pulling out a silver locket. He snapped it open to look at the picture of Rangiku that Toshiro had put in there. "Now, chibi-taicho… what exactly is your logic behind this?"
"My theory is, if you carry that on you, you might remember to think about Ran's feelings, and not do something that will hurt them again." The small boy's hands gripped the cell bars.
"Your logic is slightly flawed, little one…" Gin stated. "And might I ask why there isn't a picture of you in here too?"
"Ehh…" This suddenly caused Toshiro's face to suddenly pale. "What are you, a sick perverted pedophile!'
"Never mind. Please leave before I say something I regret," came the sharp reply.
"I've heard myself called names before…" However, Toshiro found himself interrupted.
"These are things I don't think you're ready to hear, and that would hurt who you currently think you are, the concept of who you are," Gin snapped. "Leave… before I make a racket that will get me sedated."
"Fine… please… just think about Rangiku. I can't think of anything that would be worth hurting her like this…" the small taicho stated, turning to leave. He now, even more than before, couldn't understand why he had even tried to be nice.
"Oh… and it is the twentieth today, isn't it… happy birthday," Gin stated, causing shivers to run down the child's spine.
"What is the point, when that is a lie?" came the grumbled response.
Author's note - At the time of writing this, it is still unknown who will live or die. Also, some more of the theoretical stuff comes into play in later chapters. Plan on getting all of it done before Christmas! :)