It had finally come down to this, Hitsugaya thought grimly.
Aizen was a bastard, there was no doubt about that. But . . . nobody could deny that Hinamori had been in love with him, or at least thought she was in love with him. So, while he wasn't forgetting in any way that Aizen was evil . . . at this point, he was willing to consider that there were lessons to be learned from him.
Hitsugaya opened his desk drawer and looked at the bags of candy from Ukitake, which he sometimes occasionally ate from when nobody was looking, and his own secret stash of amanatto. It all had to go; Aizen had never been known to eat sweets. He was too adult for that, and therefore Hitsugaya wasn't going to eat sweets either.
"Here," he said, dumping them on Matsumoto's desk in the next room. "These are for you."
"But, captain," she said, picking up one of the bags. "Aren't these from—"
"They're a gift for you," he reiterated, folding his arms. "That's all."
"Well . . . thank you!" said Matsumoto, grabbing him and squeezing his face into that place where she often squeezed his face.
And of course it was just as his legs were waving helplessly in the air that Hinamori came in to get him for lunch.
He sat carefully on the grass between Hinamori and Abarai; it wasn't too often that Hinamori brought him when she ate with her friends from the academy, so it was important that he made a good impression.
"Oh, hey, Hinamori," said Kira. "Did you hear about that new ice cream place that opened up in Rukongai? It's only about five minutes from the northern gate."
"Oh, I didn't hear about that!" said Kuchiki Rukia from her place next to Abarai. "Orihime and I used to go to the best little ice cream place in Karakura town on our way home from school," she added wistfully. "Of course, it doesn't taste quite as good in a gigai."
"What do you think, Hitsugaya-kun?" said Hinamori.
"Well, I don't really like sweet things that much," said Hitsugaya. "I'm not that interested in ice cream." It was such a tremendous lie, he could feel Hyourinmaru raising an eyebrow at it. Not only did he like sweet things, he loved frozen things like ice cream.
"Well, I was thinking maybe we could all go and try it out—maybe next weekend?" said Kira. "What do you guys think?"
"Count me in," said Rukia.
Hinamori nodded. "I'll come too."
"Sure, whatever," said Abarai.
Hitsugaya looked down at his lunch. It was very nutritious and healthy and definitely something a responsible adult would eat.
But it would all be worth it in the end.
That evening, he found himself standing in front of the mirror in his quarters. By the marks he'd been making on his wall, he was 4'5" now—a whole inch taller than he had been when the war ended. That was better. But Hinamori was still at least six inches taller than him, and Aizen had been—it was bitter to say it—at least six feet tall. Unohana could tell him to have patience all he wanted, but he'd had patience, and all he got for it was one measly inch. She said it was because he had such huge spiritual power, that his body's energy was going toward controlling his power rather than growing, but that it would happen eventually. Yeah, and how soon would "eventually" be?
There was really nothing he could do about his height, though, short of going to Kurotsuchi, and he wasn't quite that desperate yet. But maybe something else could be changed. He ran his hand over his hair. Maybe if it was less spiky? Aizen's had been kind of . . . wavy or something. Hitsugaya had never been able to make his hair lie flat—in fact, the spikiness had only gotten worse as he'd gotten older—but he was fairly certain he knew someone who could.
"Huh?" said Yumichika as Hitsugaya yanked him into the shadows behind the eleventh division the next day.
"It's me, Hitsugaya," said Hitsugaya, letting go of Yumichika's wrist. "Look, I have a . . . proposition for you. I'm willing to make it profitable."
Yumichika took a step back. "What kind of proposition?"
Hitsugaya gritted his teeth and forced the words out. "You know about . . . hair, right?"
"Hair?" said Yumichika.
Hitsugaya didn't understand why the man was being so dense. "Yes, hair, like . . . stuff you put on your hair and haircuts and that kind of thing," he grated.
"Ohh!" said Yumichika, relaxing. "Captain, do you want hairstyling advice?"
"I just want my hair to be . . . less pointy," he said. "If you can help, I'm willing to compensate you—"
Yumichika waved his hand. "It's no problem. Consider it a service to the Gotei 13."
And that was how Hitsugaya ended up in a chair in his quarters with a sheet tied around his neck and Yumichika examining his head as though it was one of Kurotsuchi's experiments. "Wow, you're not like Zaraki-taichou," he said, lifting a few strands. "He uses soap to make his stick up, but yours does it naturally, huh? It must be a manifestation of your spiritual power. That makes it more difficult, though."
"So you're saying you can't do it," said Hitsugaya, his heart sinking.
"Ha! I wouldn't let something like that stop me," said Yumichika. He selected a pair of scissors from one of the many, many scissors he'd arranged on Hitsugaya's table. "We'll just need to do a lot of layering . . . texturizing . . . really take the weight out of it. Did you have any idea of what you wanted it to look like, Captain? Other than not spiky?"
"Well," said Hitsugaya. "I want it to be kind of . . ." He made wavy motions with his hands.
"A softer look," mused Yumichika.
"Exactly," Hitsugaya said with relief.
"Don't worry, Captain," Yumichika said. "I've got it all under control."
Hitsugaya had to admit, Yumichika came through on his word. He examined his hair in the mirror, turning his head from side to side. It definitely wasn't spiky like it had been, and there were more bangs in the front, rather than that one bang that would always flop forward into his eye. It wasn't exactly like Aizen's, but then his hair wasn't naturally wavy like Aizen's, and anyway he didn't want to be too obvious. Yes, he thought. This was definitely a step in the right direction.
He slipped on his haori and headed to work.
Matsumoto pronounced his haircut "cool" and "different," which Hitsugaya considered to be good (and she hadn't cooed over how 'cute' it was, which was extra good), but he still couldn't really concentrate on his work. By lunchtime, he decided just to get it over with and head to the fifth division to try and find Hinamori.
He saw her heading out of the gates as he approached, and tentatively waved.
Hinamori squealed and ran over to him, grabbing him in a huge hug. "Oh, Hitsugaya-kun, your hair!" she said. "I love it."
"Oh, well," he said gruffly. "Thanks."
"It looks exactly like it did when I first went off to the Academy—do you remember?" she said. "You look like you're about to spit a watermelon seed at me on your grandma's porch." She giggled. "Well, got to go to training—see you later!"
Hitsugaya was left standing in the street, motionless.
At some point he found his way back to his office and just sat down and put his head on his desk.
"Captain?" Matsumoto said, sitting up blearily on the couch. "Why is it so cold in here?"
"Go away, Matsumoto," Hitsugaya said into the desk. "Just . . . go away."
After an afternoon of layering frost over every surface in his office, Hitsugaya sat up and told himself that he wasn't going to give up. Wasn't he a captain of the Gotei 13? Didn't he have the strongest ice zanpakuto in recorded history? No, he was going to persist. He just needed to try even harder.
What was that stupid place that Abarai and Iba were always talking about?
Hitsugaya finally tracked it down—he rarely went shopping in Seireitei—and tried to explain to the salesperson what he wanted.
"No, not goggles, not sunglasses, just normal glasses," he repeated.
"But your vision doesn't need correction," she said.
"I know," he said in frustration, pushing his annoying bangs out of his face. "I just want them, okay?"
"Okay, okay," she said. "Well, here's our wall of normal glasses."
He found Aizen's type of glasses, disturbingly still sitting there, but discarded the thought at once. Maybe just a thin metal frame, he thought, trying on a pair. He cleared his throat. "Uh . . . what do you think?"
"Oh, it's so cuuute!" she said, clapping her hands together. "It's the most adorable thing I've ever seen. Mihane! MIHANE! Come have a look at this! He's like a tiny professor!"
Hitsugaya put the glasses back on the shelf and slunk out while the saleswoman was distracted.
He went directly home, flopped on the floor, and said, "What am I supposed to do now, Hyourinmaru?"
Hyourinmaru didn't have an answer, and neither did Hitsugaya. He literally couldn't think of a single other thing he could do to appeal to Hinamori except . . .
He could still go to Kurotsuchi and ask him for help. He was sure Kurotsuchi would know how to make him older.
Was it worth it?
He'd been trying to get Hinamori's attention for decades now, and nothing had worked. Even worse, he'd been noticing signs that Kira was making a move on Hinamori, and Hinamori seemed to be reciprocating.
Desperate times called for desperate measures.
It was a little worrisome how Kurotsuchi's eyes had glittered when he'd sat down in his office and told him what he wanted, but he told himself again that surely Kurotsuchi wouldn't do anything too disturbing to him. He was another captain, after all, and people would notice if he went missing. Anyway, it was necessary, and if he woke up with small horns like that one of Kurotsuchi's subordinates . . . well, he'd take out Hyourinmaru and freeze the entire division until they were removed.
As the days passed until the scheduled appointment, he felt anxious but resolved. His request for a week's time off had been approved; all he had to do now was explain to Matsumoto what he was doing. That was something he'd been putting off for too long.
He finished putting his desk in order and called Matsumoto in from her office across the hall.
"Captain?" she said. "Captain, why does it look like you're packing up to leave?"
"I'm not leaving," he said, and she eased a little. "I'm just taking a week off."
"Oh! Well, that's good. You're going on vacation?"
"Not exactly," he said. He'd considered lying to her, but, for one thing, it would hopefully be pretty obvious when he came back. "I'm going to have surgery."
"Oh my gosh," she said, sinking onto the back of the couch. "Captain, I didn't know—what's the matter?"
He bent over to pick up the bag he'd packed. "I'm not sick, I . . . I asked Kurotsuchi for his help. He's going to make me older, that's all."
"You can't be serious," said Matsumoto. "You're going to let him experiment on you? You know what kind of things—he's insane—Captain, you can't!"
"I have to," he said, swinging the bag over his back. "Just take care of things while I'm gone, okay?"
"Is this about Hinamori?" she said.
Hitsugaya stopped. "I just don't want to be treated like a kid any more," he said. "Because I'm not. I might not completely be an adult yet, but I'm not a kid either."
And with that, he made his way to the twelfth division. He could have gotten there in seconds using flash steps, but somehow it felt right to take the time and walk.
He turned around just as he felt her hand on his wrist. "Hinamori. What are you doing here?"
"Ran-Rangiku-san found me," she panted. "She said you were going to the twelfth division."
"I am," he said, feeling himself blush. Damn that Matsumoto! Hinamori was the last person he wanted to explain himself to.
"Are you really going to let Kurotsuchi-taichou operate on you?" she said, biting her lip. "Just to become taller?"
Hitsugaya adjusted his bag on his back. He might as well just be honest, right? "It's like I said to Matsumoto," he said. "I don't want to be treated like a kid any more. I'm a captain, and I—I know I'm not an adult, but I'm not a child either."
"But, Hitsugaya-kun, he's crazy," she said. "You don't know what he'll do to you! He might hurt you, or—or anything."
"I don't care," said Hitsugaya.
"Well, I care!" said Hinamori, still hanging onto his wrist. "You can't treat yourself so carelessly, it's—it's too important. And . . . I don't want you to be different, Hitsugaya-kun. I really don't."
"Why not?" he said, knowing he was going to hear something about being like her family.
"Because I'm the same as you right now," she said. "I don't want you to be grown up . . . because I'm not. I realized after the war . . . I am partly still a kid. I'm not totally grown up like Rangiku-san or Nanao-san. But I don't really mind." She let his wrist go. "I'm just scared, I guess. I don't want you to be so far away from me that I don't know you any more . . . like I didn't really know Aizen."
"But you liked him," Hitsugaya said. There was quite a crowd of spectators gathering around them, but he tried to ignore it.
"I . . . I think I only liked him in a naïve kind of way, like a student with a crush on her teacher," she said. "I thought about it a lot, and . . . well, it was kind of stupid, really, wasn't it?"
Hitsugaya took her hand. "It wasn't stupid," he said. "A lot of people liked him. He did everything he could to make people like him."
"Hitsugaya-kun," she said, and he realized that she was wiping at her cheeks with her sleeve. "Please don't go away like that. I want you to, to come eat ice cream with us . . . with me. I want to grow up with you."
"Hinamori," he said gruffly. "You know I like you, right?"
She held on to his hand tighter. "Will you go out with me?" she said quietly. Her hair was coming out of her bun, hanging somewhat wildly around her face.
"Yeah," he said.
"Good," she said. "Because I don't want to date Kira-kun. He's too tall! It makes my neck hurt."
"Oh, seriously! So that's all you're interested in," said Hitsugaya, pretending to scowl.
"Well, I want to be able to do what Rangiku-san does!" said Hinamori, putting her hand to her front.
"You've got a while to go there," Hitsugaya said, and dodged a blow.
"You're turning red, though!"
"Yes you are! You never turn red like that when Rangiku-san does it!"
"Yeah, well, of course not," Hitsugaya mumbled.
Hinamori looked at the ground. "I like you too, Toushirou," she said.
"All right, all right, show's over," said Matsumoto, shooing the gathered spectators away. "You'd better all get out of here pretty quick unless you want an ice dragon biting your butts."
"Hitsugaya-taichou," said an unpleasantly familiar screechy voice. "You are six minutes late to our appointment." Hitsugaya noted with vague discomfort that Kurotsuchi was already wearing scrubs, but had his zanpakuto tied around on top of them.
"Oh. Damn," said Hitsugaya.
"Just don't ever think of doing something stupid like that again," said Hinamori. "Or I'll break up with you."
"Sure, whatever," said Hitsugaya, unable to suppress a small smile. He looked over at her. "Run?"
"Definitely!" she said, and they took off, with Matsumoto close at their heels.
A/N: If you are adding this story to your favorites, please review as well? I would like to know why you liked it (or just what your thoughts were.)
So this was supposed to be humor but somehow it all turned serious at the end. How strange!
Who knew I had such strong feelings about Hitsu/Hina? Not me, that's for sure.