First frost


by Alialka

The skies over Soul Society were pitch black, enhancing the sickingly pale glow of the moon. Gone were the dark clouds from earlier, gone were the remains of shattered ice. Lights visible here and there, the popular inn of Seireitei buzzing with slurred talks and laughter.

Like nothing ever happened.

Tōshirō rubbed the back of his neck, feeling a painful knot that has formed there, as he walked away from the 4th Division's barracks. He still could hear the older Kotetsu sister complaining about the broken heating system – maybe he shouldn't lose his temper that quickly, they were just trying to do their job - and Unohana's soft voice calming her Lieutenant.

By all means he should go back to his own quarters already, his body gaining weight with each passing minute as the latest events crashed upon him. He needed rest, a long peaceful sleep would serve him the best, and yet he found himself standing still in one of the many stone laid alleys. Heart hammering against tired chest, as the young Captain clenched his hands into fists.

Still anxious, as all what he heard tonight – from Abarai, his own Lieutenant and even that annoying Kurosaki – causing his nerves to sizzle. There was still something he did not understand, something unexplainable that was causing his brain to grind and that was something he would not allow.

A rustle of cloth in the wind, a tap of a small foot against tiles and Tōshirō looked up. He managed to catch the sight of a shihakusho, barely visible against the jet black sky and the Shinigami was gone, at first to the nearest roof, then further and further away. A faint trace only left, a pleasantly cool shimmer in the death god's wake and he followed upon instinct.

Almost like a child's play of tag, one building after another, quick and silent and Tōshirō enjoyed the night's wind against his cheeks. Then, it ended, with a soft stop accompanied by a quiet sigh and a pale face turned towards the skies. Bare feet peeking from under the black robes, amusingly small on the ochre tiles, he noticed, even for such a small girl.

"Kuchiki" he addressed her and she turned rapidly, eyes dark and cautious, her right hand immediately finding its way to the sword at her hip.

She blinked then, once, twice and her shoulders relaxed.

"Captain Hitsugaya" with a small nod of her head, Rukia acknowledged him "Shouldn't you be resting?"

Teal eyes rolled with slight annoyance at the question – was everyone keen on babysitting him today? – as he folded his arms over his chest. White brows furrowed and Tōshirō pinched the bridge of his nose, inhaling deeply.

"I'm fine" came out more as an annoyed bark than an answer, but it didn't seem to faze her at all "Isn't it a little late for running around on your own?"

Respect to her superiors be damned, Rukia decided as she ignored the question and the sudden flash of anger – she wasn't a child! - before turning away and looking up at the sky. Despite the perfected mask of indifference on her face, something inside her was still shaking, quivering like the last leaf on a naked tree. She heard the Captain move, taking one step closer perhaps and his eyes seemed to bore holes right between her drawn shoulder blades.

„I've spoken to everyone by now… you're the only one left" Tōshirō finally spoke out, breaking the silence.

Because Kuchiki Rukia was the annoying something that did not allow his mind to rest.

She remained silent, eyes focused on the dark sky above their heads, even if it was nothing like the one seen from the Human World. It … was different somehow – pitch black, not the darkest blue, and the moon had more of a sickly glow instead of a silver one. But still, it was high up like it used to, stars spilled over the black canvas of the night and she could pretend everything was as easy as it seemed on Earth.

His haori flapped in the cold wind, teal eyes sharp and focused, questions ready in his mind and no words suit to form them.

"Kuchiki!" it came out much stronger, much harsher, way too much cold.

"Captain?" immediate reply, flat and respectful, perfectly trained to react to the sheer call out of her name.

Suddenly, he wanted to grab her arms and shake her.

Tōshirō sighed heavily, his hand coming up unconsciously and brushing against bandaged ribs, as she looked at him over one shoulder. The ever stray tuft of black drawing his attention, a stubborn stroke of midnight across white.

She was small, petite, delicate bones and thin wrists, so underestimated when it came to her real strength.

"Why did you do it?" he asked after a while, causing one brow to arch in wonder.

"Why did I do what?"

"Matsumoto told me"

The Kuchiki girl turned to face him, one hand resting on the hilt of her Zanpakuto, head tilted slightly to one side. Something flashed in the cool violet of her eyes, brief and quick and still catching his interest without any effort. Eye contact was easy to keep up, and the young captain stared without any shame at all.

She could do a lot of damage with those big eyes of hers, he realized then and cleared his throat.

"You're really not a great conversationalist, are you Captain?" her lips quivered ever so slightly as she forced down a smirk.

"As you already know, I usually yell"

His unexpected joke caused Rukia's eyes to widen, pupils dilating in surprise, and her mouth opened a little. It was amusing, to say the least, and if it were anyone different - if it were anything different – he would have chuckled.

"You stood there with Kurosaki, at the Sōkyoku Hill" the surprise on her face dissolved into realization and her lips closed, the girl obviously waiting for him to continue "Why? You're a part of the Gotei 13 Kuchiki, and everyone's direct orders were…"

"They would execute you"

Simple as that, words bearing the cold truth and her fingers curled around the hilt of the sword to the point that her knuckles turned white, fine jaw clenching and her chin stubbornly pushed forward.

"No one would ask you why, they'd just carry out an order without a second of hesitation" Rukia continued slowly, carefully choosing her words under the sharp observation of Tōshirō's eyes "Whether you'd answer or not, no one even bothered. They never do…"


"You started this, Captain. You didn't know for sure what was going on, but you intended to stop my execution at that time" her head jerked slightly into the direction of the Senzaikyū "Even if for completely different reasons…" she added to herself, quietly.

Tōshirō's brows wandered up at that point, before he felt the sudden urge to slap his forehead and moan out loud. He should do something about Matsumoto's drinking sessions with Abarai, or at least sew her mouth shut. Briefly, the genius boy wondered how many things have gotten out that way… Shaking his head, he concentrated on the Shinigami in front of him again, as her eyes never left his face.

What a strange, curious little thing she was.

"Repaying some sort of debt, that's what you mean?"

"Oh no, not like that, Captain. You… I mean… " Rukia hesitated, straightening her back and taking a deep breath before continuing "I just can't see you as a person that abandons the rules of Seireitei without a most important reason. To judge you without knowing anything at all… whenever you were guilty of treason or not… It seemed anything, but justified" she shook her head, the lone stray of black brushing against the apples of her cheeks.

An innocent should never face the burning Sōkyoku.

It hung in the air, unspoken but somehow touchable words and Tōshirō could feel them crawling under his cool skin.

"Besides" a small smile appeared on her lips and her eyes brightened all of the sudden "Sode no Shirayuki would be most upset if she were to be left alone"

He was used to Hyourinmaru's presence all the time, somewhere in the back of his head, but it was the first time he felt the ice dragon's growl of appreciation. It rumbled through his body, powerful and low, causing his reiatsu to pulse and spread without any control. Teal eyes widened in surprise as his hand reached to brush against the guard, a steady vibration felt beneath his fingertips. It disappeared as quick as it begun, leaving the young Captain at a sudden loss of words.

What just happened here…?

"Captain Hitsugaya? Sir? Are you ok?" vision suddenly regaining focus, everything sharpening and still all he saw clearly was the worried shade of violet.


When did she came up?

She was too close and he could feel her breath – warm and moist on his cheek.

Tōshirō jerked back violently to get away from the sudden closeness, from the way her eyes darkened and how her hand moved to touch his face. One foot slipped – where the hell did the ice come from?! – and the youngest Captain in the history of Soul Society , in a matter of few short seconds, found himself cringing at the pain that shot up the entire length of his spine, sprawled on the slippery tiles of an unknown building.

He looked up, wide eyes and lips twisting at the ache in his back, ignoring the annoying little whisper that assured him that he did indeed look like the biggest fool, tripping over his own feet with less dignity than a calf learning how to walk.

And she, that most unpredictable of all souls, laughed as she offered him a helping hand.

"Not a word about this to anyone" he hissed a pained order as their fingers tightened around each other's wrists and she helped him up "You hear me, Kuchiki?"

The corners of her mouth quivered, a sparkle flickering in the depth of eyes, but Rukia only nodded.

"I'd never dare, Captain" she said after a longer while, hands already behind her back.

With one long look, Tōshirō shook his head, a heavy sigh escaping his lips and he turned to leave. He already had his answer, there was no need to linger around… with his pride already suffering.

"You're most welcome, Captain Hitsugaya"

A quick glance over haori clad shoulder, teal eyes sharp and ever observant as he took in the way the blackness of the night seemed to suit the small Shinigami.

"You're a very, very strange one, Kuchiki" voice cold and rough but his lips curled in a satisfied smirk "I look forward to see you dance" and with barely a court nod, he was gone, a crack of ice under her feet and frosted air in her lungs the only signs he was ever there.

Rukia inhaled deeply, looking up at the moon again with a small smile tugging on her mouth. Her heart, beating despite death, regained the slow, lazy pace.

The shaking she felt before...

It stopped now.

Author's Note:

Since this is barely the third "BLEACH" fic (and the first HitsuRuki on top of it!) I've written , I'm still pretty nervous about it - the pace, characterization, plot. However, I hope this does make an enjoyable read!