Forgiveness(Toshiro & Captain America)
Hitsugaya had had nothing better to do. He had finished his paperwork, Matsumoto was out shopping somewhere and he had no other jobs to do. So he accepted when Steve Rogers invited him to accompany him to the Modern History museum. Apparently the human Captain hadn't quite caught up on all the changes that had happened in the last 70 years. Toshiro had agreed for much the same reason.
He wished he'd said no. He really, really did.
He'd left Steve browsing through the sections on HYDRA and had walked slightly ahead into the next room. What was on the wall made him stop dead in his tracks and sent a deep, twisting surge of primal fear through his guts.
Souls typically don't remember their past lives on entering Soul Society. But they remembered important things, like their family and their name. They also remembered...how they died.
70 years ago
Toshiro Hitsugaya waved goodbye to his grandmother and stepped out of the front door, swinging his schoolbag onto his shoulder. He heard a buzzing sound overhead and looked up to see the black shape of a plane droning across the sky.
"Granma! A plane!" His grandmother shuffled to the door, dishcloth in hand. She squinted upwards. The plane was flying lower now, so it was easy to see, even without her glasses.
"Ah," she nodded solemnly. "Another Amerikan plane. Come to drop more paper, no doubt." She turned to go back inside. "Go to school now, you don't want to be late."
A black dot falling, falling from the sky.
Toshiro froze. It had been so quick, his nerve endings had been obliterated before he could register what was happening. He felt no pain, but he felt the grinding lurch of his body being atomized.
The small boy's head was wrenched back at an impossible angle, as his eyeballs boiled in their sockets, tissue was peeled away and ground to dust and bones melted into radioactive slop. All it took was a microsecond.
Steve looked up from where he had been reading the sign on the exhibit. From the next hall, he could hear concerned murmurs and the sound of someone retching. He walked around the corner and stopped.
Hitsugaya was crying. Crying.
He was bent double over the litter bin in the corner, tears trailing down his cheeks. A passerby was hovering next to him, patting him on the back as he tried to ask the (apparent) child some questions. Where are your parents, are they here? What's your name? Do you have any medication you need to take?
Steve just stood there for a moment, trying to process what he was seeing. What could cause the powerful Soul Reaper Captain to bawl like the child he appeared to be. Then he glanced at the exhibit.
The entire wall was covered in a single photograph, blown up to cover the expanse. It was black and white, and grainy, but unmistakable. Steve had only seen that iconic picture once before; in the dossier about WWII he'd been supplied with when he had been thawed out. It had sickened him.
The mushroom-shaped cloud from the atomic bomb hanging over the Japanese city of Nagasaki.
One hour later
Toshiro ran a trembling hand through his snow-white hair. There was a theory among the Soul Reapers; that if a soul had died a violent death, it's appearance was scrambled during the transfer to Soul Society. It would certainly explain some of the strange hair colours, and the odd deformities in the more dangerous districts. An atomic bomb was definitely a violent way to go.
Calm, master, Hyourinmaru purred in the back of his mind, but Toshiro could sense the Zanpakuto spirit's agitation. Your anger is showing.
With a start, Toshiro realised that he had unconsciously been leaking ice; his tea had iced over. With a sigh he turned his mug over and let the solid block of ice fall with a thud onto the tray.
It was-had been- his third cup.
Steve sat across the table from him. He was reading the menu. Well, actually, he had no intention of eating anything and was using it as a cover to watch Toshiro discreetly. He had always found it hard to wrap his head around the fact that Soul Reapers aged physically at a ridiculously slower rate than humans. He found it even harder when such a powerful being looked no more than 10 years old. But the fact that Hitsugaya remembered the moment of his death and that a date could be placed to it...it kind of drove home that both of them were roughly the same age.
The boy suddenly swore profoundly in his native language and thumped the tabletop with his fist. A spiderweb of cracks appeared, along with a thick rime of frost. Luckily, the rush hour for lunch was over so there weren't that many people there in the diner. Nevertheless, a few caught sight of the ice and gawked for a moment or two before returning to their own business. Don't ask, don't tell.
Hitsugaya groaned, slumping forward, head in hands. "God, I haven't remembered that in a long time. Stupid! Why am I acting like this? I don't deserve to be a Captain."
"Don't say that, son." Toshiro obviously hadn't heard him. He was rambling to himself out loud. Steve couldn't tell for sure if he was talking to his zanpakuto or not.
"Should have known that would be there, idiot. Get over it. Just because he's called Captain America doesn't mean I can blame him for...'"
The unexpected impact of Steve backhanding him across the face jolted Toshiro out of his rambling stupor. The man was glaring at him, blue eyes boring into his brain with enough anger to make a card-carrying member of Squad 11 back down.
"Seventy years," Captain America said quietly. "It's been seventy years since...that. There's hardly anybody alive who remembers these things anymore. There's no doubt that what happened to you was horrific." The words threatened to choke him now, but he swallowed his tears and went on. "But actually, so was the treatment of the American POWs. But it's over."
Blue eyes met teal ones that gazed unsteadily at first, but with increasing understanding.
"Both you and I have come back after seventy years, Toshiro, to find that things have moved on. We can't keep blaming nations for the work of the few and you know that. If...if we can't move on then we'll get left behind."
Steve slumped down in his seat, emotionally exhausted. After a minute or so, he felt a light touch on his shoulder. Looking up, he saw Toshiro. Realising what he'd just done, he began to stutter out an apology; he was suddenly that quiet and sickly wannabe hero from all those years was caught off guard when Toshiro suddenly delivered a short but respectful bow.
"No, Steve," He said, looking at him with respect. "It is I who should apologise. You are right. I should know better than anybody that to survive a fight you must adapt to your opponent. I apologise for blaming those who are innocent of what has happened.
I cannot speak for an entire nation and neither can you. But can can we please forgive each other for what has just happened and move on as friends?"
Steve took a deep breath, and released it. He nodded, and held out his hand. Toshiro reached out and shook it, a smile on his normally stern face.
AN: A chapter in honour of VJ Day, especially those who forgave, and who found forgiveness.