A/N: Hey everyone. I really feel like we need for fanfics depicting Shinji and Hinamori's camaraderie, so this is my contribution to the lot. Enjoy!
Chapter One – Frayed Ends
Shinji lets his feet guide him to the quarters, allowing instinct to take his hand and guide him back home. More than an entire century since last coming to these barracks, and what do you know? His mind snapped back to the old days like a light switch – pop goes the weasel! And he still has that mental map of Soul Society drawn up a few decades ago cluttered away in a dusty corner of his mind.
Everything's practically the same way it was before That Night. The same peach tree stands humbly in the courtyard – considerably taller now but missing his favorite branch, probably felled by a thunderstorm or something. The same little crack peeking beside the door to the ladies' bathrooms, which was made about one hundred twenty years ago during a frenzied game of baseball. And not to mention the crimson stain on the north wall of the dining hall, courtesy of Shinji himself (too long of a story involving being under the influence of cranberry wine).
Shinji sighs. He missed the old days. Being a Shinigami, slicing away at Hollows like cutting sushi, gossiping about Kyouraku behind his back – or directly in front of him, depending on the bastard's state of inebriation. Sure, the entirety of having unlimited freedom in the World of the Living – no rules, limits, or regulations, whatsoever – along with seamlessly slipping himself into the human culture was a pretty decent experience. He learned quite a bit of useful things in the Human World like how to tie a tie and how to play a humble game of poker. But all the same, Shinji preferred the sweet days of the Fifth Division. Nothing could compare to them.
His hand grasps the handle to the Captain's office. A century ago, he would open the door to find Aizen Sousuke working industriously at his paperwork, maybe even proceeding to help Shinji on his own, considering how much he had procrastinated over the week. The sound of smooth jazz would waft through the air, much to Aizen's distaste. Psht, fuck him. And the atmosphere would just be comfortable. No tension, no drama, no bullshit. Just Hirako Shinji's classic, calm atmosphere.
But that's all gone now. The Fifth Division reeks of the remains of Aizen's reign, and the atmosphere feels like a total control freak. Shinji shudders at the thought of how much the place has changed. It's scary. It's completely the opposite of when he had the Fifth under his hand.
Taking a deep breath, Shinji slides open the door to his old office to reveal a petite girl with gentle, dark eyes, her hair tied neatly into a little bun.
"Whoa there, whatcha doin' here?" Shinji demands, slightly leaping backwards. He brushes aside a startled strand of hair from his face. "And who're you s'posed to be?"
A stupid question really. He can, just from a fleeting glance at her Fifth Division Lieutenant's badge, who she is.
The girl bows slightly before addressing, "Welcome, Hirako-taichou. I am Hinamori Momo, Lieutenant of the Fifth Division."
Shinji recomposes himself. "Hey, hey, hey." He holds up his hands in a yielding gesture. "No need to get into the formalities – I ain't that kind o' tightwad. The name's Shinji – and that's what you will call me, nothin' more than that . . . Hinamori, is it?"
The Lieutenant nods quietly and stares at the floor. Shinji frowns. Looks like the Lieutenant is tad bit shy. Heck, he wouldn't blame her. It's probably an acceptable reaction to meeting the new Captain: the random guy with the cool haircut. Maybe a little conversation will lighten up the mood.
"So," he continues, striding casually into the office. He can feel the Lieutenant's stare on the small of his back. The new, crisp haori flaps behind him officially. Shinji has always liked the Captain's haori; it made him feel epic and badass at the same time – but this particular one's too new; it flutters frantically like butterflies instead of flowing fluidly like an 80's comic strip superhero cape. Shinji had asked if he could use his old haori – he's saved it all these years – but Yamamoto, the old fart he is, obviously turned it down. Apparently, "hand-me-downs" lacked dignity.
He clears his throat. "Didja know that I used to be the Cap'n of this popsicle stand?"
Hinamori nods, silent again. A little too shy for his tastes.
"Yeah, and you know, before this entire mess happened," Shinji slides suavely onto surface of the desk, shiny and smooth, currently clear of paperwork (but not for long), "Aizen was my Lieutenant here."
Hinamori perks up at the mention of Aizen. "A-Aizen-taichou?"
"Aye. You were under him, right?" he inquires.
Shinji frowns. "Oi, I said to call my Shinji. We ain't at a cocktail party, 'kay?"
Hinamori looks down, redness flushing her cheeks. "I apologize, Hirako-tai – I mean, Sh-Shinji. When Aizen-taichou was here, we were taught to address the higher-ups with great respect and . . ." Her voice trails off.
"Listen, Hinamori," Shinji looks his new Lieutenant in the eye. "I ain't a stuck-up, 'cause I go by this motto: treat other the way you wanna be treated. I wanna be treated like an everyday guy, so I'm treatin' everyone else like an everyday guy or gal, so to do that, I just call everyone by their everyday names. Sounds confusing, but really, it isn't rocket science."
"Yes, Taichou." Hinamori stares shamefully at the floor, her shoulders quivering ever so slightly – which is kind of weird. Why would you be shivering in weather laying smack in the mid-seventies?
Shinji shrugs and settles himself into his desk. He wriggles and scooches around the hard wooden chair, in vain however, unable to find a comfortable spot. He's always hated the working behind the desk. It was too confined; too formal. He much preferred field work, missions, and that sort of job; it was way more exciting because who knows? Maybe you'll meet a striped pig along the way. Or a pretty rock. He sighs, responding, "Yet then again, if ya wanna call me that, go ahead. I really don't care . . . " He picks at an irritable cuticle. "So what's first on the agenda for this beautiful Monday mornin'?"
Hinamori jerks in surprise, and retrieves a clipboard from her own desk. "Ah . . . yes! We have to attend a ceremony to – " She hastily flips through several pages. " – We must attend the new Captains' orientation meeting at nine o'clock sharp this morning and afterwards – "
"Orientation?" Shinji leans forward in his chair. "What the hell for?"
"New C-Captains, sir," Hinamori manages. "I-It's for the senior Captains to demonstrate the proper procedures for the new heads."
"The hell? I was a Cap'n, like, a hundred years ago! I don't need any of this 'orientation' beeswax!"
"T-Taichou! It's just a standard procedure that all Captains follow!"
"It's a damned stupid procedure if ya ask me. I'm ditchin'." Shinji props his legs atop the desk and slouches backwards in his chair. "I think I'm gonna take a quick nap."
"Taichou!" Hinamori insists quickly. "We must go! It's mandatory and the Soutaichou will have you – "
Shinji waves her off with a flick of his hand. He wants to sleep, after all, it's been a long morning, navigating to and fro the twists and turns of Seireitei to find his old quarters. He wonders how the others are doing back in the Human World – Love, Hacchi, Lisa, Hiyori. From the likes of it, they are most likely lounging around the city, looking for some place to eat, for Hiyori had probably complained about cooking all three meals. Then, they will proceed to go to the public baths for a comfortable afternoon wash and thereafter, splits paths – Love buying groceries; Hacchi reading at a café; Lisa and Hiyori wandering around. And finally, when the sun winks its last rays, they foursome will reunite for a warm and enjoyable dinner provided by a griping Hiyori. The same as usual – just without the addition of three deserters and one tagalong.
Shinji finds himself dozing into a light nap, and from the corner of his eye, spies Hinamori flipping furiously through the clipboard before exiting the room in a rushed frenzy. Little overachiever. She ought to unwind a bit, relax a little. It'll take those undesirable circles under her eyes for sure.
"Oh, he's horrible!" Hitsugaya lifts his gaze from Matsumoto's paperwork to find Hinamori, almost in tears, scurrying into his room. "Shiro-chan, he's just so . . . horrible!"
"What do you want."
"Oh, Shiro-chan!" she throws herself over his desk, ruffling the forms and reports from their near stacks in the process. "I can't stand it!"
"Get off the desk. You're soiling all my work – er, Matsumoto's work." Hitsugaya rolls his eyes. He's got Matsumoto putting aside her field reports for a late-night drink with the other Lieutenants and now this. Are all the Captains as overworked as he is? Kyouraku doesn't seem the least bit frazzled. And not to mention Kenpachi – yet then again, he sits on a different caliber all together.
Hinamori laboriously drags a chair to his desk and sags into it like a rag doll. She looks distant and miserable, very unlike her usual cheerful self.
Hitsugaya sighs and slightly sardonically, "What's the matter, Hinamori?"
"It's my new Captain . . . Hirako Shinji."
He sips his tea. Everyone says he's too young for tea; that's bullshit.
Hitsugaya narrows his eyes in disgust. "Quit calling me that. 'Hitsugaya-kun' is pushing it, but 'Shiro-chan' is just crossing the line."
"I'm sorry, Hitsugaya-kun, I guess I'm just really tired, that's all – "
"Get on with the story. I don't have all day." He gesticulates towards the mountains of work piled between them. "Spit it out or go away."
"Hirako-taichou . . . he's so . . . different!" Hinamori moans, rubbing her eyes. "I don't think I can stand him for another century!"
Hitsugaya nods. Hirako always looked like a flake to him with that asymmetrical haircut and quirky straight teeth. "Yes, he's quite different."
"And too relaxed! He ditched the orientation meeting this morning! And the Soutaichou will come to the Fifth and have us disbanded – it's horrible!" Hinamori buries her head into her arms, stifling a sob.
"Why are you crying?" Hitsugaya scowls. He grudgingly scoots himself out of his chair, walks around his desk, and awkwardly puts a hand on Hinamori's shoulder. "This all just comes down to getting used to things. Who knows? Maybe Hirako's actually a really good Captain."
"I just can't!"
Hitsugaya sighs, exasperated. Hinamori has been such a headache a few days before, rushing in and out of his office, chirping animatedly about her new Captain and how amazing he is going to be. She visited him at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, providing excited updates on how many days till her new Captain comes. New Captain this. New Captain that. She even sent a hell butterfly into his room at two in the morning, announcing the hours, minutes, and seconds until his or her arrival.
And now? Constant bugging about how horrible her highly anticipated new Captain is going to be. The young Shinigami runs a hand through his spiked hair. It's starting to get a bit too long; maybe he should get a haircut sooner or later.
Hitsugaya crosses his arms and heaves a sigh. "Alright, I get it. He's horrible. What do you want me to do? Talk to this Hirako for you?"
"Will you?" Hinamori's head bobs up, her eyes bright. "Will you knock some sense into him for me? Please, Shiro-chan?"
"Dammit, Hinamori, how many times do I have to –" Before Hitsugaya can finish, Hinamori squeezed him into a bear hug.
"Thank you so much, Shiro-chan!"
"Get off of me!"
Hinamori waves and without another word, bounces out his door, almost bumping into Matsumoto who enters, doing a double take.
"Taichou!" his Lieutenant exclaims, seeing him frazzled and distressed. "What in the world just happened there?"
"I have no idea," Hitsugaya answers listlessly. "Apparently, I've got to 'knock some sense' into this Hirako newbie for Hinamori because otherwise, she'll have another emotional breakdown on your paperwork."
A/N: How did you all like it? It would be really helpful to leave a comment or something in the review section, but it really is up to you all. Keep a heads up for an update sometime soon!
So tell me guys: what's Hiyori doing right now? What do you all think? Leave an answer! I'm curious to know!