• Chapter 9

    Hitsugaya was not having a good day.

    OK, that was an understatement. “You control her, or we seal her.” What in hell was he supposed to do now?

    Unohana had “suggested” he spend a few days in the healer retreat. He would say “ordered”, except she hadn’t really threatened him. Just said that everyone would be better off if he sorted through things by himself for a while – and gave his body a chance to heal as well. He took an experimental stretch… he was still sore from that hit he took. Damned Arrancar. Getting driven into asphalt is never fun.

    He found the retreat a rather comfortable place. Intended for individuals or small groups to get away from the stress of patient care, it had a few bedrooms, a great room, well stocked kitchen… and a large bath which someone had conveniently filled with steaming water for him. Well. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad after all. He nearly fell asleep soaking.


    Hitsugaya opened his eyes wide just in time to see Sharon’s very, very red face before she swung around, her back to him. Her hair was down – why hadn’t he noticed before how much he liked that shade of red? – and she was wearing a loose deep blue kimono with silver butterflies outlined on it.

    “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know anyone was here, I just woke up and needed to go to the bathroom and – ”

    Hitsugaya pulled a curtain to separate the bathtub from the rest of the bathroom. “It’s not your fault. Obviously nobody told you I was coming. Do what you need to do.”

    “I’m sorry, I’ll hurry – “


    A pause. “Yeah?”

    “Matsumoto, right?”

    Another pause. “Rangiku-san brought me. Said we needed some ‘girl time’. She had me soak for a while – it really does help with the soreness – and then she was playing with my hair. She finally just let it hang down. I got so sleepy, she said I should just rest while I could before going back… and I just woke up and didn’t expect anyone else here but us. I mean Rangiku-san and me. But she obviously left – and you’re taking a bath – “

    A very long pause. “Um, I really think I should be leaving now…” She flushed and was at the door when the curtain moved a little.

    “Sharon.” She slowly turned and looked into Hitsugaya’s deep blue-green eyes. Her face was turning all kinds of shades of red. “You’re supposed to be trained in medicine, right? Why are you so embarrassed? Haven’t you seen a human body before?”

    She blinked several times before daring to answer. “You really don’t understand, do you?” she whispered. “You aren’t my patient and you aren’t my family. You are… you are… a man I’m trying very very hard not to be more in love with than I already am, and I walk in and see you… like that… and all sorts of barriers are breaking down inside…”

    “Barriers!?” Hitsugaya stood up. Damn it.

    “What?” Sharon stopped. “There’s… something… it kind of sounds like blue and gold and pink and olive and silver and white and…”

    He stared at her. “You can sense it?”

    “Well, it kind of comes like a song or pretty colors, but there’s something there. And it sounds as if it’s meant to keep us in here isolated for a while.”

    Hitsugaya stared off in the distance. “We are inside a barrier, and a very powerful one, set up by four captains. And given how we were both lured here – “ Unohana, I swear I’m not letting you forget this – Matsumoto neither – “it seems obvious they intend us to settle things, one way or another. Yes, we’re meant to be isolated, but this is also shielding us from detection, which means we don’t have a lot of time, especially since you aren’t supposed to be here.”

    “I really think I’d better leave now… please put something on before you come out…”

    The door closed quietly behind her. That’s when he noticed the kimono that had been left for him, a beatiful emerald green with cranes outlined in gold on it. They had so totally been set up, and he had fallen for it completely. It’s as if… they expected… no, they wanted... him to seduce her. Damn. There simply had to be another way. And there had to be a lot of people involved to pull this off, all of whom were on his hit list once this was all over…

    “Is this better?” Hitsugaya asked. He was dressed in the kimono and joined Sharon in the great room. “I’m sorry to have upset you so much. That really was a dirty trick they played on you. On us.” He couldn’t look her straight in the face, not yet. “And they got captains involved. Kuchiki, Unohana, Ukitake, and Kyoraku. They expect –“

    “They expect us to sleep together.” Sharon wasn’t looking at him, either. She was staring down at hands and pulling nervously at her fingers.

    “They expect us to do something about the dragons. And since they are obviously… mated… it seemed natural to expect us to… well… follow suit, I guess.” Hitsugaya was visibly uncomfortable discussing something like this, much less with someone he had decided he wasn’t planning on entering that level of relationship with. The problem was, he wanted to. He ached to hold her close and burn away the memory of all that had been done to her. To cherish her. To love her. To be loved in return.

    “So they – this conspiracy of people who care very much about you and your happiness – set us up big time.” Sharon let out a nervous laugh. “Trying their best to break us down so we do what we already said we wouldn’t, huh.” She was looking past Hitsugaya, over his shoulder. “They even left flowers. How enchanting. I bet there’s food, too… I’ll go look.” When she headed for the kitchen, Hitsugaya looked at the flowers, two yellow daffodils, stems crossed, left in a vase on a side table against a wall.

    Daffodils. The symbol of the Tenth Division. The symbol of… the seals…

    Hitsugaya had an idea.

    Sharon had set out some fruit she found in the refrigerator. Canteloupe, strawberries, watermelon – Matsumoto, again, she knew how much he loved watermelon – and pitchers of water and tea, and a few bottles of –

    “Coca-Cola. Gotta hand it to Rangiku-san. She said they were well stocked, and she was right. Thank God for this. Coke does wonders to calm my stomach.” Sharon took a bottle and sat it by her plate. “What would you like?”

    “Tea, please,” Hitsugaya replied. Way to avoid the subject…

    “OK. Help yourself to the fruit.” She took a slice of canteloupe and started in. He slowly took a slice of watermelon and stared at the seeds before taking a bite. This really was good… Matsumoto must have gone to a lot of trouble to remember this kind of detail…

    Sharon was idly picking seeds out of her canteloupe slice. “Did you know that where I come from, people use a lot of words with sweetness in them to talk about the people they love? ‘Sweetheart’, ‘honey’, ‘sugar’, and the like. But I was looking on the Internet for equivalent endearments in Japanese and couldn’t find any. All kinds of terms of respect, but not of affection.” She watched him take another bite of watermelon. “I found one – ‘ane-ue’ – that apparently is meant to apply to siblings. It sounds very much like the same root word that my son’s name is derived from. Andrew… ‘dear one’. A Welsh word that comes from the same place is ‘annwyl’.” She took a bite of canteloupe and chewed thoughtfully.

    “Then again, I fould this term in one anime – ‘danna-sama’ – that a wife used for her husband. That’s not really right either… it means ‘master’… it really has all the wrong connotations.” Her face flushed, this time only a little. “Did you know that until today, one of the barriers I had in my mind was the fact that you are at least a foot shorter than I am and could pass as a junior high kid? Until a while ago that is. You are unquestionably adult. Blows that one out of the water. Er – sorry – that could be taken a bit too literally.”

    Hitsugaya couldn’t help smiling. She really was trying to put him at ease, even joking about her own discomfiture. Somehow, from her, he didn’t even mind the remarks about his height.

    “I won’t remember any of this later, will I,” Sharon said quietly.

    “There will be a memory modification done, yes. But don’t worry, I’ll never forget you.”

    He picked up a napkin and wiped watermelon juice from his fingers and face. Then he reached over and used another to gently wipe canteloupe juice from her chin. It was as if a spark had leapt between them. They both held perfectly still for a moment. In a low voice, he said “I think I have a way to let Hyourinmaru and Oshidamaru have one more time together before she has to leave. Are you willing to trust me?”

    Sharon’s eyes were locked on his. She nodded mutely.

    Very gently, very slowly, he got up and walked to where he was standing in front of her. His head was just above hers if he was standing and she was seated. He cupped her cheek in his left hand and her eyes closed. Then he tilted her face upward and kissed her.

    Hyourinmaru and Oshidamaru broke free. They were rising, higher and higher, against a glorious backdrop of stars.

    Tears were coursing down Sharon’s face, and Hitsugaya was trying to kiss them away. She held on to him tightly. She whispered “Toshiro, I want to… I want to so bad… but I can’t… I just can’t…”

    “Hush, love. Just trust me a little while longer. I want to… I want to start at the top and work my way down and kiss away every bad memory until there is nothing left but my face, my lips, my touch. I want to soar with you to the heavens. I want to take you to the heights again and again.” It was obvious their bodies agreed; in the tension of the moment, they could both feel his firmness between them. “When you forget everything else, remember this: You are loved. When your mind refuses to remember, your body will. Remember what this feels like, being held close. Remember the feel of my kisses. Remember… you are loved.” He had his face buried in her hair.

    He could tell the dragons were getting close. Just another moment or two. He slid his right hand down just into her kimono, over her heart, while holding her tight with the other arm. Just another moment… and… When Hyourinmaru and Oshidamaru reached the height of release, he pulled her power down and whispered “Sennen genkai.” Strict Guard of a Thousand Years. An emblem blossomed on Sharon’s chest – a daffodil, just like the one Hitsugaya himself wore when his reiatsu limit was in effect in the living world. It pulsed with her heartbeat as Oshidamaru was sealed within. When she was gone and all was still, Hyourinmaru keening his loss high above, Hitsugaya rocked Sharon back and forth, holding her tight. By the time it was over, she was already unconscious. He knew once he let her go, he wouldn’t be able to hold her in his arms again.

    Long after, when all was silent and the four captains disbanded the kekkai, they found him there, stroking her hair, eyes closed, trying hard to gather all the memories his senses could hold.