notes: I wrote this when I was about to sleep (on my iPod Touch, inconveniently), and truth be told, I'm a little nervous about this one. It's a little different than the other ones I have done for this pairing, in the way that it's more serious, more reflective, perhaps even a little more abstract. It's all in chronological order, though, I hope that's easy to understand.
a hundred years
what the days never know
It had been over than a hundred years since Matsumoto Rangiku was appointed vice-captain of the tenth division, but she still remembered it like it was yesterday.
That first day she had been a little nervous, quite uncharacteristically. She had heard a lot about the tenth division and how it picked up its pace as soon as a new captain was appointed to it, and she had heard a lot about this new captain, too, and the many titles he earned.
When they finally met, Hitsugaya Toushirou's first words were "Oh, it's you," and Matsumoto remembered feeling surprised—so, so surprised—when she recognized the little boy from Rukongai who wasn't so little anymore. She was even more surprised that he recognized her, the boy whose good health and well-being she mentioned in her occasional prayers.
"Hi," she said, after recovering from the initial shock, "My name is—"
"Matsumoto Rangiku, I know," he cut in, looking up at her.
She remembered wondering what he thought of her at that time, but she never dwelled too much on certain things, so she just replied, "At your service, Hitsugaya-taichou."
He had stared at her wonderingly for a few seconds, although it disappeared as soon as it came, and Matsumoto took the time to really look at him, taking in his hardened jaw, his cold blue eyes, his rigid pose. She was sure that this was the boy she remembered, but there was something about him that was different, yet not quite so.
And then he broke the silence.
"Welcome to the tenth division, Matsumoto," he said, and there it was, the slightest ghost of a smile, "I hope it's to your liking."
She smiled, shook the hand he offered, and thought that this was where it all began.
Over the course of the next few months, she learned a lot about him, perhaps even more than he would have allowed, if not for her persistence. Matsumoto was a woman of questions, and sometimes she asked like there was no tomorrow.
She knew he was grateful for this, albeit secretly and not so willingly. It made the whole getting-to-know-your-partner thing much, much easier for the two of them, at least. They soon developed a cycle for it: she'd ask a question, he'd answer it, then she'd ask an inappropriate question, and he'd blush so red she'd giggle and tell him it was fine if he didn't give her any answer as long as she got to see him blush like that.
A day in the tenth division would normally go like this.
"Do you really like watermelons, taichou?"
"When I was young."
"Younger, you mean."
"Do my questions annoy you?"
"More often than not, yes."
"I'm glad you do."
"Yes, well. Hey, do you wanna go for a drink?"
"It's before lunch, Matsumoto, what do you think?"
"Do you really want to know?"
"No, now that I think about it. Get back to your work, won't you?"
"Do you think my boobs are too big?"
Sometimes, Hitsugaya gave up answering.
It delighted Matsumoto when she met Hinamori Momo and found out that this sweet, innocent girl was Hitsugaya's childhood friend and could bring a smile to his face, perhaps the only one in Seireitei who could do so.
She had joked about her then, teasing him about Hinamori and wondering aloud if he had a huge crush on her. He hadn't put as much as a fight as she initially thought he would, surprising her and making her realize that it was probably true and even deeper than what she thought.
She asked him about Hinamori and Aizen, several months after, when they were sitting down eating the fresh apples she brought for him, and the look on his face almost made her swear never to ask him anything ever again, even if she had to bet her life on it.
He'd seen her reaction and asked her if she was fine, and she had told him, very clearly, that if this was the reason he very rarely smiled, then she'd smile often enough for the two of them for as long as he needed it.
Hitsugaya had really smiled then—quick, fleeting, but real enough that her heart skipped a beat and she felt butterflies fly in her stomach, just for a second, surprising herself—and very simply, very calmly, told her that he would be fine, was fine, just fine.
Matsumoto never did stop asking questions—nothing could shut that woman up—but after that night, Hitsugaya started giving her real answers.
And then it happened.
The betrayal of Sousuke Aizen, Ichimaru Gin, and Tousen Kaname during the almost-execution of Kuchiki Rukia had put Soul Society in a bad shape. Matsumoto had found Hitsugaya in the Fourth Division's main infirmary then, holding Hinamori's hand tightly, his shoulder shaking and his eyes closed.
Feeling her hand on his shoulder, he had jerked up, more because of the shock rather than anything else. He hadn't expected anyone to come and get him.
"Matsumoto," his voice was tight.
"It's going to be okay," she said gently, squeezing his shoulder, "She's going to be okay. You know that, right?"
"I'm not sure of anything anymore," he admitted defeatedly, rubbing his temples.
For a moment, he seemed a lot older beyond his years—exhausted, wasted, broken—and all she wanted to do was throw her arms around him and tell him that it was going to be fine, just fine, but she held in, knowing that even if he felt better, he wouldn't feel better forever if he didn't understand.
She took her seat on the chair beside him and fiddled with the ends of Hinamori's blanket nervously, watching Hitsugaya watch her.
"I..." she began, letting go of the blanket, "I raised my sword against Gin, too, you know."
He looked up.
"I think I would have tried to... kill him if you had needed—wanted—me to do so," she continued, swallowing, and for a moment she felt so, so confused at herself.
Hitsugaya frowned, "Matsumoto, I... I don't know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything," she replied as she bit her lip, her voice cracking, "You don't always have to have the answers, you know."
A half-smile flitted across his face, bitter, "What do you mean, Matsumoto?"
"That doesn't make it okay."
"No," she said slowly, "Maybe not. But it might make it better if you... understand."
"Understand," he repeated.
"Yes. If you understand," she said, "What I'm trying to say is... Hinamori was just doing what she had to do, taichou, what she thought was right. Aizen was her captain, and she looked up to him, respected him. She had to be loyal to him, because that's how it works. She was just doing what she thought right." She bit her lip, and then continued, a little more softly, "I would have done the same thing, taichou. Gin might be my best friend in the whole wide world, but my loyalties lie with you."
"Aizen wants to destroy Soul Society," Hitsugaya insisted, "I just—"
"It's blind faith, taichou," her smile was bitter, sad.
He froze at this, his eyes staring blankly at Hinamori's weakened form, lying on the bed, breathing but barely living.
"Tell me, Matsumoto," he said, his voice so soft she could barely hear him, "If I want to do what Aizen wants to do... would you have followed me still?"
It didn't take her long to answer it, and when she did, her voice was firm and resolute, "No."
"No," she repeated adamantly, "But I would beat you up a thousand times over until you realize what you're doing is wrong, taichou."
He had to smile at that, "And if that doesn't work?"
"It will work, taichou," she returned his smile, persistent, "It will work because I know what kind of person you are and it will work because I know you'll listen to me."
"You're very sure," Hitsugaya commented mildly.
"Of course I am," she nodded, "Besides, I would have seen it coming anyway."
"Wouldn't I?" she challenged.
"You wouldn't," he said, smirking slightly, and then held up his hand when she opened her mouth to protest, "You wouldn't, because I would never do that. Never. Matsumoto, do you hear me?"
"Clear as day, taichou," she smiled.
It was silent for a while, until he asked, "How... how do you feel?"
It took him some difficulty to get it out, "Ichimaru."
She had laughed then, shrill and not quite there yet, "I'll be fine."
He turned to her, quiet for a moment, calculating. "Matsumoto," he said quietly, "I want you to promise me something."
"What is it, taichou?"
"I want you to promise that if—if—I ever make a mistake like Aizen or Ichimaru, I... I want you to beat me up a thousand times over until I realize that what I'm doing is wrong," he looked at her, his eyes fixing hers as he took her hand, "Can you do that for me, Matsumoto?"
"You wouldn't do that, taichou."
"Promise me, Matsumoto," he growled, voice rough, his grip on her hand becoming tighter, "If I ever do something to hurt Hinamori like that—to hurt you like that—I'd never forgive myself. Make the promise, Matsumoto. Now."
She put her hand above his, "I promise."
"I... I'll need you to do that for me."
"I know," she smiled, and then, more quietly, "You're the only one I have left, too, you know that?"
"Yes," he kissed the back of her hand softly, just for a second, and then looked at her, "But you have to trust me."
If many things were easier said than done, this one was easier done than said.
Now, a hundred years later, Matsumoto was still asking and Hitsugaya was still answering.
These days, however, it was usually very, very simple.
"Do you really like watermelons, taichou?"
"I like apples more, now," he replied, the twinkle in his eyes betraying it all.
"Do my questions annoy you?"
"Hmm, well, that's hard to change," she said, shrugging it off carelessly, before her eyes lit up, "Hey, do you wanna go for a drink?"
He paused thoughtfully at this, and then, "We can have drinks if you want to, but they'll have to be over dinner."
"Are you asking me out, taichou?"
"Just for dinner. Do you accept?"
"Get back working for now, would you?"
She was silent for a while, but silence was never her forte, "Hey, taichou?"
"Do you think my boobs are too big?"
If years ago Hitsugaya had turned beet red so quickly and choked on air violently until she had to help him drink every time she asked that question, now all he had to do was give her a boyish, charmingly handsome smirk to get her to turn beet red so quickly and choke on air violently until he had to help her drink.
"Well," he would shrug after her choking episode was over, "More to hold, more to love."
And it would always end with what Matsumoto thought as the simplest question in the whole world, and what Hitsugaya thought required an insane amount of courage to answer.
"Taichou, do you love me?"
This question was, however, always a lot simpler than anything else, so he always gave her the answer she wanted to hear and he wanted to give.
"More than anything else, Matsumoto. More than anything else."
A lot can happen in a hundred years.
notes: Yep, that's it. I hope you enjoyed it or at least it gave you some food for thought. (: