A Fukutaichou's Duty

She hadn't forgotten. Those first few days, when it was all new and different, for the second, for the third, for the fourth, fifth time (and then how new and different could new and different really be). Back when Matsumoto was beginning to think it was her fault that her captains kept dying off, one by one, each to be replaced with yet another too immature, too hotheaded, not ready for the realities and dangers of the position. The captaincy was cursed, and she with it. Cursed to start over, yet again, new orders given, new voice disrespecting, new hands groping her every night. She couldn't save face with the squad.

Then he came along. The boy-taicho, the child-man, the prodigy. He won't even last a day, they had mocked. Shortest and shortest-lasting captain ever!

Don't say it like it's funny, she had chided. If a child's coming here to die, this isn't a reason to celebrate. It's a reason to weep. He was just a kid.

But he wasn't just a kid. She looked at his face and he was her kid and then she looked in his eyes and he was a man. He killed the hollows and trained the squad and he stayed alive. And then it had been a week and she couldn't put it off any longer. Pity, she had gotten used to being treated like a human being.

Did you want my body, too, Hitsugaya-taichou? she asked him late one night. Offhand, like it was no big deal.

He paused, looking at her face, only ever at her face, his eyes sharp and brows furrowed. No, Matsumoto-fukutaichou, that won't be necessary. But thanks for the offer.

She asked him the following night, then the next and the next, but he always declined and thanked her for the offer, as if she had a choice in making it. He was so consistent that she almost began to believe it herself, standing a little taller. She even stood up for herself when a squad member taunted her for being a whore, something she hadn't dared to do in years.

Hitsugaya-taichou had heard the screaming-match that ensued and come out of his office to give the squad a lesson in respect that they would never forget. That was when his name dropped from her vocabulary and he was just Taichou, her taichou.

She knew her reprieve couldn't last forever; she couldn't help but wonder about the barrier that was keeping him from taking her up on her "offer" and worry about what would happen when that barrier went away.

At first she thought it was because he was so young, and she waited for the grown man to grow up. He charged ahead into battle, she fought beside him, watching his back, and he saved her life so many times she lost count. Gradually he shifted the worst of their subordinates into other squads until there was no one left who remembered her life as it was before; or at least no one who was foolish or cruel enough to bring it up. She waited ten years—like a dream, a warm, safe, comforting dream—for him to change his tune. He didn't get any taller and he still didn't come to her at night.

So she thought maybe it was their history. That he saw her as an older sister or, kami forbid, a mother. That was when she started flirting. Lowering her neckline just that extra half inch, holding his face to her breasts just two seconds longer, flashing him her best sleepy doe-eyed look three times a day.

More years passed, but still nothing.

And now Aizen. And Hinamori. And Kurosaki Ichigo was in Hueco Mundo and they wanted to go too but preparations had to be made, and one night the stress, the powerlessness finally exploded. She was drinking when he found her. She played twice as drunk as she really was, just for the fun of it, and then it happened. He looked at her, when he thought she wasn't looking or wouldn't notice or he just slipped up or whatever it was, but he looked at her like a man looks at a woman and she knew. He wasn't impervious. So she gave him that you can have me if you want smile that she used to be so good at, only it was different this time because she hadn't used it in 15 years and for once it was free of resentment. And he smiled back, shyly, an acknowledgment and a milestone and not just another Tuesday night.

She really thought he would come after that. She waited up for him two nights in a row, and on the third day she turned to him, exhausted and confused. "I really thought you would finally come to me. Why didn't you? I know you want me!"

He was silent for a moment, cold eyes thoughtful. "Why should I come to you, Matsumoto?"

She gaped at him. "B-because, well, you know! For sex, Taichou."

He raised an eyebrow, but his expression didn't change. "Ah, yes, that. Let me rephrase: Why do you want me to come to you, Matsumoto?"

She stuttered. "W-well, it's y-your right, Taichou."

"Wrong. That's about me. My question was about you. Try again: why do you want me to come to you?"

"I just—you've done so much for me, been so good to me, I—"

"—want to say thank you?" he finished for her.

She nodded. Kind of.

He turned back to his paperwork. "Send a card. I also appreciate completed paperwork. Now, if that's all—"

"No, Taichou, that's not all!" she shouted, leaning over his desk and slamming a hand over the document he was trying to read. "You're not listening to me! That's just it! You've been so good to me, and all you want is a good lieutenant and completed paperwork and I just can't seem to do that! I know I'm a horrible lieutenant, and you only put up with me because you're so kind, and I know that no one else would, but—"

"Stop. What brought this on? You're a damn good lieutenant, and you and I know it, no matter what everyone else thinks. Who's been getting into your head?" he demanded.

"—but I just can't seem to finish the paperwork. The words start moving on the page and it all runs together and I just get so depressed! And so I try to fool myself, thinking I'm good with battle, and training, and resolving disputes between squad members, but it's all a lie. I can hardly manage to back you up against the Arrancar . . . in our last fight I was a liability instead of an asset."

He shook his head but she ignored him knowing that he was only being nice and that, if she wanted to get this out, she had to do it now while he was still shocked into listening.

"I don't want to be a liability to you, Taichou! So there's something I can actually do, a duty I can actually perform, that can help you relax and de-stress, that can bring you pleasure, but I thought you didn't want it. And now I find out that you do want it, that you do want my body, but you're holding back, protecting me again." She glared at him. "Well I haven't asked you to! Why won't you let me do my duty? Why won't you come to me?"

He was quiet for a long time. When he finally looked at her it was with sad eyes. "It's because this has nothing to do with duty, Matsumoto. Your body is just that. Yours." He paused, clearing his throat and glancing away. "But if you decide you want to share it with me, you're welcome to come to me." He stood up and, with a shy parting glance, walked out of their office.

Choices. It was strange to have them. She hadn't had a choice when Gin had deserted her to join the Shinigami and hunger forced her to sell her body just to survive. She hadn't had a choice when, shortly after she became a lieutenant, her first captain learned of her past and decided to invoke his ancient, seldom-used right to have her in his bed. Or when each subsequent captain caught wind of her prior arrangements and invoked the same right, subjecting her to ridicule and scorn from her own squad mates.

No, she wasn't used to choices. But it was fitting that he gave them to her. He was her taichou after all; he couldn't be held to other men's standards. Could she really go to him, surrender to him of her own volition?

She hemmed. And then she hawed. And somewhere in there she realized that none of this had been about him. At first fear motivated her, then duty, at some point pride, and then the desperate need to prove herself worthy. Of him. Because she wanted him.

He was everything she wanted.

He didn't taunt or make some snide remark when she slid through his partially open door that night. She had half expected him to.

He was sitting in bed, staring across the room at her. Now that she was there, she didn't know what to do. It was so different, having a choice, being a participant in something more than just teasing or dutiful submission. Bombarded by doubt and fear of rejection, it was all she could do to keep from bolting.

"Come here," he whispered, giving her the gentlest look she had ever seen on his face. When he held out a hand and the sheet slipped down to his waist to reveal a bare, muscled torso, she was lost. Or maybe found.

Either way, she couldn't stop herself from walking toward him, reaching out a hand to touch those chiseled abs. The tiny amount of his reiatsu that he didn't suppress caressed her fingertips, felt cool and familiar on her palm. She stopped, a hairsbreadth away from his skin.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

He looked like an angel spread out for sacrifice. Pale skin, small frame, huge, dark-rimmed eyes the color and depth of the sea, round cheeks, childlike features, all crowned with that mane of thick, unruly white hair that couldn't possibly be as soft as it looked. Beautiful. Innocent. Unspoiled.

So perfect, her mind screamed. Too clean for you.

Somehow he knew. "I'm just a man, Rangiku."

Oh, her name should drip off those lips like that ten times a day. Minimum. "You could never be just a man, Taichou." You're my everything.

His entire body pulsed, and it was like a door slammed. "Ah. Well. I thought I had made things clear. My mistake." he clipped, standing up and grabbing his haori. "I'll sleep at the office; feel free to stay here."

"Taichou, don't leave!"

He refused to look at her. "I don't want you to come to me out of duty, Matsumoto. I thought you understood."

"Must you misunderstand everything I say? It just isn't that simple, Taichou!"

"Then explain it to me. I'm not an idiot."

She opened her mouth and then closed it, unsure how to make him understand. "When I look at you, I don't see a man."

"You see a child." A muscle ticked in his jaw.

"No, Baka, I see you! Hitsugaya Toushirou, my taichou, the only man I've ever been able to completely trust in my entire life! Someone who sees more when they look at me than red hair and big boobs! You're strong and honorable and you make me feel important and you're sexy as hell with that hair and those eyes and that body! You're you, Taichou! Never just a man!"

Pause. "You like my body?" he asked, sounding skeptical. "No one likes this body. I'm built like a twelve-year-old boy!"

Chuckle. "No, Taichou, I'm pretty sure little boys don't have shoulders that broad or hips that narrow or abs I could wash my unmentionables on. And I bet I'd find a few surprises under your hakama if you'd ever left me take them off. You're a statue come to life, then compressed to only the good parts and none of the filler."

She couldn't quite believe what was coming out of her mouth, how she was baring everything to him and it just wouldn't stop. It was embarrassing and freeing and she was terrified that he was going to turn out like all the others, or that he wouldn't want her, or that she was actually going to find out which outcome was worse.

He cupped her face in both hands, drawing it down to his. "Want me that much, huh?" he mocked.

His cocky tone shattered her into tiny bite-sized pieces and left her for dead. Hitsugaya had won. He got what he wanted, what the others had wanted, what all men wanted, and he humbled her in the process.

He came in for a kiss, his breath just about mingling with hers, when his beautiful turquoise eyes met her deadened ones and he sighed, nuzzling her instead. "I love you too, Rangiku."

And she was on her knees, sobbing, holding that perfect body with all her strength, and didn't he know she'd do anything, anything for him?

And then he fell on her, and they were kissing, sweetly, chastely, then all hunger and need. His kisses were raw, untutored, a little bit sloppy. Based on information, not experience.

He had taught her so much about life, about loyalty, about honor and how to have faith in people. Now there was finally, finally something she could teach him. Licking her lips, she settled in for a good long kissing lesson, complete with lots of practice.

Not that he needed it. She knew people weren't exaggerating when they called him a prodigy, but she had never seen his genius mind at work. He caught on to every minute movement of her lips, every hitch in breath, every stroke of tongue. He paid attention, copied her technique, then made it his own. He nibbled at her lips, sucked on her tongue, thrust his tongue boldly into her mouth. He kissed like he fought, like he did paperwork: all deliberate intensity coupled with meticulous attention to detail. It was thrilling, heady. It was him.

He didn't like how she moaned "Taichou!" when they finally broke apart, gasping for air.

"Toushirou," he insisted. It was a gift she wasn't sure he'd ever given anyone else.

But she wasn't sure she wanted to use it. Because he wasn't just a man. He was…

Taichou.

Her taichou.

Her lover out of choice. Not duty.

He drew her into bed with him, spooning up against her and wrapping his arms around her waist.

"B-but," she protested.

He nestled his head in the crook of her neck. "Shh. Just let me hold you tonight."

"Don't you want to—?"

He chuckled. Actually chuckled. "Of course. But your body isn't the only thing I want from you, Rangiku. There's no rush."

Her love.