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Bleach fanfic: Haori (PG) [November 22nd, 2010, 01:07]
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Title: Haori
Author: menelvir
Fandom: Bleach
Genre: Romance, Hurt/Comfort
Rating: PG
Characters/ Pairings: Matsumoto, Hitsugaya
Warnings/ Spoilers: Set after the second movie, The DiamondDust Rebellion
Words: 1,672, including translation notes
Summary: Matsumoto reflects on the hurt in her Captain's past as she washes his blood-stained haori.
Disclaimer: Bleach owned by Kubo Tite, though I don't think he was the mastermind behind the movie. Whoever that was, it wasn't me.
A/N: Translation note included at the bottom of the fic.

It did not take Matsumoto Rangiku, vice-captain of the Tenth Squad, long to relieve the two gossiping shinigami who were doing the laundry from their duty. While one had been reluctant to leave her station, a wink and an urgent whisper in her ear from her partner soon brought the light of understanding to her eyes. The two stood, bowed hurriedly and ran off, glancing back occasionally at their superior.

At least they have the decency to hide their giggles behind their hands, Matsumoto thought. She ignored the nagging suspicion that rumours of this incident would fly across the barracks of the Tenth Squad faster than she could release her zanpakutou. What so unusual about her wanting to do some household chores, anyway? She was a woman, was she not?

Sighing quietly, she squatted down on the paved stones next to the well, and, rolling up the sleeves of her shihakushou, dipped her delicate hands into the tub filled with soapy water and the one remaining garment left to wash.

Doing the laundry was a simple, straightforward task, but only when the Tenth Division had not undertaken any dangerous missions prior to that particular laundry day. Dangerous missions usually meant wounded men, and torn, bloody garments, and it took at least twice as much effort to scrub away the bloodstains, to say nothing about having to mend the tears.

While the Tenth Squad had not gone on any missions that could be classified “dangerous” in the past month or so, the recent events in Sereitei had left every division with heavy losses. The two that had been assigned laundry duty that day had done a good job cleaning up the garments that had not been marked for disposal – all except one.

Matsumoto’s hands stirred the water absently, creating more and more soap suds, until the surface of the tub was covered with bubbles, hiding from her sight the insignia printed on the back of the white, sleeveless haori soaking in the pinkish water.

Of all the wounded of the Tenth Division, none had been hurt more than their young captain, Hitsugaya Toushirou. He had survived a day and a night, wandering as a fugitive, with a deep sword wound to his midriff. The captain of the Fourth Division, the healer Unohana Retsu, had said it was a miracle that the wound had not festered.

But the deepest wound that Captain Hitsugaya had received, Matsumoto knew, was not physical, but emotional. It was no simple thing, to have lived for years in penitence and guilt at having indirectly caused the death of a close comrade, only to discover afterwards that not only had he survived, but also turned his previous loyalty to Soul Society into hatred for the community that had made him an exile. Worse still, that man had borne a grudge towards they boy whom he once considered his best friend and a worthy rival. Such shock and such hurt; it was surely too much for anyone to bear, let alone the youthful captain.

Matsumoto pulled the haori out of the soapy water and began to scrub the green inner surface on the wooden wash board. The dark dried blood imprinted there proved resistant to the friction at first, but the orange-haired vice-captain persisted. This blood had come from the midriff wound, done by Kusaka Soujirou’s very own hand. What betrayal Hitsugaya-taichou must have felt, upon discovering the identity of the man who had pierced him, Matsumoto mused. As the best two in their class, Kusaka and Hitsugaya must have crossed swords before during training, but this was probably the first time one had wounded the other intentionally. Kusaka might as well have stabbed Hitsugaya in the back. Holding on to the thought, Matsumoto scrubbed with all her might, her anger lending her strength, until the inner lining of the haori was free of blood and very much worn out in places.

The fukutaichou now turned her attention to the white outer layer. Holding the haori up before her eyes, her gaze swept past the kanji for the Tenth, to rest on the large patch of blood on the left side, an ugly, red flower that had bloomed forth from the roots of hatred, jealousy and desire for revenge. Though this blood came from the fatal wound her captain had given Kusaka in their final battle, Matsumoto imagined that a little of the redness had perhaps been caused by Hitsugaya’s own shattered heart. The sorrow it had caused him to put his sword in his friend’s body had probably caused his own little heart to bleed too. Tears sprang to the silver eyes at the thought, and though she tried to brush them away quickly, Matsumoto could not stop some of the brine from falling into the suds. Ashamed at her own weakness, she pushed her thoughts away, applying herself wholeheartedly to the task at hand.

Captain Hitsugaya Toushirou of the Tenth Division sat at his desk in his division headquarters, his white brows furrowed together as he read the casualty report from the recent incident in Sereitei – an incident he felt responsible for. So much bloodshed, he thought. If only…

He pushed away the thought quickly. No point thinking about it now; no point brooding on the unchangeable past. The only path left to him now, was to accept his sins and work at atoning them…

A soft knock at the door. The young captain sighed. Probably Matsumoto again, with some crazy plan up her sleeve. Ever since his return, the vice-captain had been trying her best to cheer him up, suggesting activities that ranged from outdoor picnics to outrageous drinking parties. If Matsumoto really does miss me as much as she claims, he thought, then she should stay here at the headquarters and do her share of the paperwork.

Without looking up, Hitsugaya called, “Come in.”

The door slid open to reveal, just as Hitsugaya guessed, his well-endowed fukutaichou. Balancing the tray she held on one hand, she closed the sliding door behind her.

“Where have you been, Matsumoto?” he asked, a little more impatiently than he had intended. “There’s much to be done today.”

“Oh don’t be such a spoilt sport, Taichou,” Matsumoto replied, setting her tray down. She spoke in good semblance of her usual happy-go-lucky manner, but having known her for many years, Hitsugaya noticed the slight strain of emotion in her voice. Looking up past Matsumoto’s bust line into her face, he opened his mouth to ask a question, but as his gaze dropped again to the tray bearing a cup of some hot infusion of herbs and flowers, and to his lieutenant’s hands, the skin red and raw, resting on the edge of the tray, he decided to drop the matter. Matsumoto, he realised, had also been strongly affected by this incident, and just as he liked to use his work to take his mind off things, the other shinigami had her own methods of coping with emotional stress. It was not his place to enquire into her private affairs.

“Thank you, Matsumoto,” Hitsugaya said, lifting the cup off the tray. It was only when he did so that he noticed the piece of paper stuck to the bottom of the cup. Curiously, careful not to spill the tea, the white-haired boy peeled the paper away from the cup, and unfolded it.

The pink piece of paper held a simple message*:

“Matsumoto, you…” Despite his usual cool composure, Hitsugaya could feel the tears coming to his teal eyes. He looked back up at his lieutenant, who stood on the other side of his desk, her hands fidgeting anxiously.

“Thank you, Matsumoto,” he said again, this time with more gratitude. Lowering his head, he brushed the back of his free hand across his eyes.

Smiling with relief that her captain had not reacted violently to her boldness, Matsumoto took her affection for her superior a step higher. With a rustle of cloth, she moved to the other side of the desk to stand beside her captain. Before the youth could react, she had put her arms around the small head crowned with white spikes, and pressed it to her ample bosom, not in a suffocating manner, as she often did in jest, but gently, lovingly.

Captain Hitsugaya Toushirou had never known anyone as a mother. His life in Soul Society had begun as a wanderer in Rukongai, without a family. Later, he came to treat the old lady who looked kindly on him as a grandmother, and his childhood playmate, Hinamori Momo, as a sister, but never, for as long as he could recall, was he on the receiving end of a mother’s love. But now, inhaling the sweet floral scent that adorned his second-in-command’s scarf and clothes, he knew that this must be what it feels like to be held close by a mother.

The young captain of the Tenth Division could not recall, too, the last time he had cried, but he did so now, quietly, his salt tears soaking into the black material of Matsumoto’s shihakushou, as the latter stroked his soft hair tenderly.

Matsumoto’s note reads “Atashi ga iru kara, hitori janai.”, and translates to mean “You’re not alone, because I’m here.”

List of Japanese words used in this fic:
- Shinigami: lit. Death-god
- Zanpakutou: a shinigami’s sword, which is in turn a reflection of his or her soul
- Shihakushou: a shinigami’s uniform, consisting mainly of the white under-robe and black kosode and hakama (err… the shirt-ish thing, and the pants)
- Sereitei: lit. Court of Pure Souls; situated in the middle of Soul Society, and where the shinigami live
- Haori: the long overcoat that the captains of the Gotei Juusan Tai (the Thirteen Division Imperial Guard) wear, as a symbol of office
- Taichou: captain
- Fukutaichou: vice-captain
- Rukongai: lit. Town of Wandering Spirits; where dead souls go

[User Picture]From: afteriwake
December 29th, 2010, 06:16 (UTC)
How could no one have commented on this? This was such a lovely story, it really was. I'm just sad it took so long for me to find the link hidden in my LJ inbox. If you've written any more with those two, could you link me to it?
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From: xewiixia
April 15th, 2011, 17:55 (UTC)
great post as usual!

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