Hi there! ^_^ This is a re-post of a story I started here: http: //boards. theforce. net/the_saga/b10476/29804993 (remove the spaces when you copy & paste it into the address bar)
This story is borderline K+/T, so just to be safe, I put the rating as T. It also has a VERY prominent HitsuHina theme.
A quick note: This fanfic was originally written for a SW fanfic website (see link above), and thus contains many long-winded explanations of the Bleach universe. So if you are already well-versed in the Bleach universe, I apologize in advance. :)
Enjoy, everyone! =D
Why is it always me? Toshiro Hitsugaya thought in disgruntlement as he sulked towards the Shinigami Research Institute. Why don't any of the other captains get stuck with any of these stupid side-missions? Is it because of my age? It better not be. It was times like these that made him loathe being so dang young. He felt like none of the other captains really saw him as their equal. For some reason, he was inferior to them. And it was all because he hadn't gone through puberty yet, and probably wouldn't for quite a long time.
"Aren't you excited, Captain?" Rangiku Matsumoto, who was Toshiro's Vice-captain (and was also probably about twice his age), was beaming an over-excited-fan-girl grin at him, which was typical of her, and didn't annoy Toshiro nearly as much now as it used to. "You get to go explore a whole new dimension all by yourself! I'm so jealous! I wish they'd let me go with you, there's probably tons of shopping malls, and-"
"Idiot," Toshiro spat. "You have to stay here so you can manage the squad while I'm gone." His tone softened the tiniest bit. "The Research Institute isn't entirely certain how they're going to get me back. I could be stuck in this dimension for quite awhile."
"Well, that just means that you'll get some R & R!" Rangiku patted him enthusiastically on the back. "That's just what you need, Captain! You've been working so much recently, you seriously need a break!"
Toshiro decided that he was now officially annoyed with her. "I've been working so much because you haven't been doing your share of the paperwork!"
Toshiro stopped at the sweet sound of that oh-so-familiar voice. He turned, and sure enough, his bright turquoise eyes were met with the one image they longed for more than anything else. "Hinamori," he said, honestly surprised to see her up and about so early. And that reminded him. His eyebrows furrowed. "What are you doing up at this time of day?" he scolded. "You need to be resting! I told you to lose the panda-eyes, didn't I?"
Momo Hinamori, a.k.a. the only person in existence (excluding his grandmother and the other captains) who could get away with calling him anything other than Captain Hitsugaya, stopped short at this unexpected reprisal. "I-I have been resting!" she insisted. "I just heard that you were going away somewhere on a special mission and that you might be gone for a long time, so I thought that it would be nice of me to stop by before you left to say goodbye!"
The white-haired prodigy struggled to suppress his pleasured smirk. She's so dang cute when she rants like that, he thought.
"Hinamori?" Rangiku asked, obviously surprised to see her fellow Vice-captain up and about. "You're awake already?"
Momo smiled in her characteristically innocent, genuinely sweet way. "Mm-hm," she nodded. "I woke up while you and Hitsugaya-kun were in Karakura Town."
"Really?" Rangiku glanced at her Captain. "You should've called us, you know," she said to Momo. "I'm sure-"
"I did!" Momo insisted yet again. "I spoke to Hitsugaya-kun over the…" she struggled to remember what it was called for a moment, then just gave up and resorted to her only other option. "…over that big TV thing!"
Toshiro winced. He did not want to discuss what had been said during the latter half of that conversation with Momo. "We're wasting time," he said gruffly. "I've got to get to the Research Institute." He swiftly turned and started heading in that direction.
"W-wait, Hitsugaya-kun!" Momo trotted up to her childhood friend. She was between Rangiku and Toshiro in both height and age; she was a teenager, and was about a head taller than Toshiro and about a head shorter than Rangiku. "Can I come with you?" she asked a bit sheepishly.
Toshiro shrugged, pretending not to care. "Sure, if you really want to. It's probably just going to be boring, though." In truth, he was glad she was coming. Heck, he was glad that she even thought to come in the first place. After all, this new dimension was entirely unknown territory. There was no telling how dangerous it might be. The truth was, there was a fair possibility that he might never come back. He wanted to be with her as much as possible before then.
Toshiro stood in front of the place that would soon become the gateway to this newfound dimension. The clothes he was wearing, his zanpakuto (which was safely in its sheath that was strapped across his back), and an inter-dimension cell phone were the only material possessions he was taking with him. His instructions were simple: gather as much information as he could about this dimension for as long as he could, then return as soon as the Research Institute figured out exactly how they were going to bring him back. He was to report his findings in via the cell phone as often as possible.
"Matsumoto," Toshiro said in his usual I'm-the-Captain-so-you'd-better-darn-well-do-what-I-say voice.
"Yes?" his Vice-captain responded respectfully.
"I'll try to call as soon as I get there, but if I don't call within 24 hours, I want you to call me."
He was quiet for a moment. He thought about Momo. She was standing only a few meters behind him. He was worried about her safety. A lot of nasty things had happened to her within the last couple months. In fact, she'd almost gotten herself killed. He had always felt obligated to protect her, but now, after everything that had happened, that desire to protect her felt like it had tripled. What if something happened to her while he was stuck in this dimension? What if she actually did die this time?
Toshiro was startled out of his daze (though he didn't show so much as a trace of it). He looked up to see Momo suddenly standing right next to him, her brown eyes downcast, and her hands gently folded in front of her.
He was trying desperately to read her body language. "What?" he asked, in a tone that clearly meant, "Oh come on, just spit it out already."
She lifted her gaze to match his. She looked like she was on the brink of tears. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, she half-tackled-half-fell on him, wrapping her arms around him and obviously struggling to stop herself from bawling.
Toshiro's eyes shot wide open in utter surprise. He couldn't remember the last time he'd hugged someone, but he was sure that it was sometime before he'd even entered the Shinigami Academy. Everyone pretty much knew that he didn't like to be touched. "Hina-"
"You're… you're coming back… right, Shiro-chan?"
Shiro-chan… He used to hate that nick-name. But the last two times she had called him that (this time included), it had rubbed him a completely different way than it used to. Shiro-chan meant she cared about him. It meant she still considered them to be friends. It meant that he was special to her (after all, she hadn't given anyone else little nick-names like that). But perhaps most importantly, Shiro-chan meant that, in at least some small way, she needed him.
He sighed. "Idiot," he scolded, his voice just barely soft enough for Momo to tell that he wasn't really annoyed with her. "Of course I'm coming back. I'm a captain, remember?"
Momo let go of him and wiped her watery eyes. "You're right," she said through a forced smile.
Rangiku watched this whole incident through a puzzled look. He… he let her hug him? What's with that? He always gets annoyed and pushes me off when I try to hug him!
Toshiro turned to see that the Vice-captain of the Research Institute had *finally* returned. "Is it ready now?" he asked flatly.
"Yes," the young man replied. "My deepest apologies for making you wait."
Sincere, deep, highly respectful apologies like that were just one of the many quirks that Toshiro thoroughly enjoyed about being a captain. Even though he was still a kid, pretty much everyone who was a lower rank than him was expected to give him the same amount of respect that they'd give to an adult.
"We can open the gate as soon as your ready," the young man said, "but we can only keep it open for a few minutes."
Toshiro nodded. He reached into his haori and pulled out a small, folded strip of paper. "Matsumoto," he called officially as he held the paper out, signaling her to step forward and take it from him.
Rangiku was completely surprised by this gesture. Captain's…? She obediently did as he implied, then unfolded the strip and read it to herself. Her surprise melted into understanding as she read the single, four-word command: "Take care of Momo." She folded it back up. "Yes, sir."
"I'm ready now," Toshiro said officially. "Tell them to open the gate."
"Yes, sir." The young man trotted to an adjacent room, then began shouting orders at his subordinates.
Toshiro stood perfectly still as the newly constructed gateway to the newly discovered dimension opened in front of him. He had no idea what kind of realm separated Soul Society from this dimension, but was soon pleasantly surprised to see that, as far as he could tell, it was a short realm that could be easily and quickly traveled through. He stepped up to the edge of the gate, then set one foot on the other side of the opening to test the pathway's structural integrity. Then, assured that it could easily hold more than ten times his weight, he darted off, leaving the familiarity of Soul Society behind, and pressing on towards a new and uncertain world.
The passageway was completely black, and looked, in essence, like a tunnel made of black glass suspended in space. At the end of the tunnel, Toshiro could see a faint glow, which vaguely reminded him of what a large city looked like if you approached it from above. He also noticed that, as he got closer to the glow, the walls of the tunnel became more transparent, and he could gradually see what looked like stars and a number of… machines? Vehicles? Floating buildings? Anyway, they were gargantuan, man-made things that were floating in what was more and more obviously outer space. As he looked ahead, he deduced that the glow at the end of the tunnel was probably the atmosphere of a planet. He let out a silent sigh of relief. The last thing he wanted was to die in the vacuum of space.
He decided to use Shunpo to increase his speed as he approached the planet's atmosphere. The tunnel was almost completely transparent now, and Toshiro was worried that it might end a little sooner than he had anticipated. The added momentum from the Shunpo would hopefully push him over any gaps there might be between the tunnel and the inside of the planet's atmosphere.
Fortunately, the tunnel didn't disperse until after Toshiro was within the safe levels of the planet's atmosphere. He braced himself perfectly for the pull of gravity, pulling his arms back and using the tension of the spirit particles in the air to control the speed of his descent. So far, so go-
A large object suddenly crashed into him at an astonishingly high velocity. His body tumbled clumsily over the top of it, having completely lost his composure. Before he could fully grasp what had just happened, another object of the same sort and traveling at the same frightening speed crashed into him. Toshiro began to plummet, his descent constantly interrupted by countless collisions with these strange UFOs. He swiftly began to lose consciousness, and by the time he crashed onto the planet's paved surface, he was out cold.
Obi-Wan was already looking in the direction Anakin was pointing. He almost couldn't believe his eyes. "What in the Force…" He started running towards the person (or thing, he still wasn't quite sure which it was) that had just literally fallen right out of the sky, and had collided with several speeders on its way down. As he rounded the corner of a deserted street, he saw what looked like a young boy (probably about Anakin's age) with white hair, very strange clothes, and a long sword in a dark blue sheath on his back. Obi-Wan quickly knelt by the unconscious juvenile skydiver, checking first for signs of life, and then for any life-threatening injuries. To his amazement (and great relief), the boy was breathing fine, and didn't appear to have any serious injuries.
"Is he okay?" Anakin asked as he stood by his Master.
"Miraculously, yes," Obi-Wan replied. "He might have some internal injuries, though." He pulled out his comlink. "This is Obi-Wan Kenobi," he said urgently. "I have a young boy who needs transportation to the Temple's medical facility immediately."