“Line up ya bunch a ingrates.”
The men scramble to make tight lines, following your order. You idly watch them bump into each other, the real focus of your attention standing a few feet behind you, his face blank.
“Straight ta the point. This here’s yer new vice-captain, Sosuke,” you nod over in his general direction, not sparing a glance or a smile of any kind.
The air is tense as they take in his nondescript form. They know him. They just can’t believe he’s been promoted. You can’t believe you did it either but you have your reasons and you feel no need to explain yourself just yet. Suspicion and proof are two very different things.
Aizen steps forward, taking in the glares but bowing with a warm smile all the same.
You keep him close at all times.
Not out of sight and never out of reach, unless you’re asleep. Something about him feels wrong. The most accurate word you would use is…devious.
You treat him coldly. Call him by his first name and without honorifics. There’s no need to bother with pleasantries. You hate him after all, and you want him to know this. You want to make it clear that no matter how many fake smiles he plasters on, you can see right through him.
He’s not fooling you.
You’re on your way to welcome the newest captain personally.
He’s a bumbling oaf who for the life of him can’t get Hyori to warm up to him.
He could easily be mistaken for an idiot but you find him endearing, and after speaking with him even more so, realizing that he – like Sosuke – also, should not be taken at face value. They’re quite similar, projecting an aura of harmlessness while concealing a vast darkness. Unlike Sosuke, his eyes hold warmth, not a pretense of it.
You’re intrigued and you see someone else is too. You know he’s there, hiding in the shadows of his own making. You just can’t figure out why. Spying on him? Spying on you? It’s nice, talking to Kisuke like this privately, you conclude. You like it. You can’t quite put your finger on it but there’s something comforting about him and you’re not sure if you’re hiding it well – that ease he provides. Best to leave now rather than offering easy ammunition for prying eyes.
You take your leave, tearing away his disguise, revealing the sneaky son of a bitch you know he is.
Clearly, in a mocking tone, he remarks on how scary you are.
No more than you are, you think.
You’re supposed to be working but you don’t particularly feel like today. Balancing your chair on its back legs to prop your feet up, you watch him instead, diligently working away.
Occasionally an innocent, slightly bewildered look crosses his face and he stops, uncertain, before continuing.
You hate him. He’s always polite no matter how you treat him and makes a wonderful show of being innocent and hard working.
You’re a bit surprised but impressed that he manages to wear his mask day after day without fail. You admire his dedication. It never slips. He’s crafted it well.
“Captain Hirako, you’re staring,” he says simply without taking his eyes off the work before him. He grins and you hate him a little more.
You’re shirking your work yet again, laughing mentally at the pile of reports you foisted on your vice-captain’s desk and the face he will probably make when he sees them.
It’s a beautiful summer day and in your opinion too nice to waste indoors.
You’ve found the shade of a large tree and sit in the grass under it, admiring the hints of blue sky whenever a brisk gust of wind rattles the leaves.
Eyes closed, you hum the tune of a new song, still stuck in your head when a thought intrudes – how is Kisuke managing? You haven’t been seeing much of him and it isn’t for lack of trying. What he might be up to in that particular moment. Would he say yes if you invited him out for a friendly chat? Or would that seem too out of the ordinary for two men who barely spoke? Would –
“Ah, your hair is so beautiful, Captain Hirako, but doesn’t it make you uncomfortable on days like this?”
You freeze, eyes widening, but when you look over your shoulder, your face is unperturbed as you catch him watching his fingertips trace their way over the nape of your neck, smiling at the way the silky strands catch the light as they fall away from his hands.
“Shouldn’t you be workin’?”
“I could say the same for you, Captain,” he says in what you interpret as an eerie tone.
Later when you recall the memory it sends a chill through your body. You are unable to determine whether it was his voice, the surprising gentleness of his touch, or the fact that you hadn’t noticed him behind you at all.
It has become a troublesome habit that you do not like. This closeness he thinks you both have. When you’re alone or just out of sight of anyone nearby, he has a tendency to run his fingers through the fringes of your hair.
It’s obvious – to you – that he’s up to something. He knows you’re aware he’s doing it. He wants you to be aware. To say something.
You hate it but you say nothing. You can beat him at his own game.
What bothers you though, is that more often than not, you do not notice him, until he touches you. Until he wants you to notice.
You allow it because you want to win. That and because it turns out that an invitation to drink is too out of the ordinary and you were turned down. Good-naturedly but still.
He offered you a drink and you accepted, and for no particular reason, another and another. Your vision now has a blurry outline, the blood in your veins pumping so ferociously that your body feels uncomfortably hot.
“Why don’t cha drop the act,” you slur, glaring at his eight eyes that constantly shift when he moves his face.
He looks mildly puzzled, his hand suspended in mid-air, drink an inch away from his lips. “What act?”
“Hmph.” Were you a different person, you may have actually believed him to be genuinely baffled by what you’re saying. He plays it well but you know better.
He smiles. “Why are you so hell-bent on proving that I’m doing something wrong, Captain?”
“Cuz I know you... I know…” You’re quiet for a moment, waiting for your head to stop spinning.
“You don’t know the slightest thing about me.” His voice is quiet.
“Could care less.”
“Ah, but I don’t want you to…” Cold. Sinister.
You can’t remember him coming so close or why you didn’t object.
You only know that you hear the faint tolling of a bell somewhere in the recesses of your mind.
You hate yourself. You’re drunk.
You hate that his hands are all over your body, teasing, testing, exploring- that it feels great because it’s been so long. Too long. That you’re making sounds you never would have thought you would make in this bastard’s presence. You can’t help yourself and your inhibitions are gone but you still don’t intend to let him win. How the fuck did it come to this? Why is he doing this? Why are you allowing it? It’s all a tangled mess and your head is spinning.
It’s rough and tumbles.
Hard, bruising kisses, bites without mercy, grips so tight they’ll surely leave marks but who cares. You’re enjoying it and you won’t lose, but you’ll come to regret it.
You’ve had a grueling day but something has actually been accomplished. The reports you’ve been avoiding are finally done.
Lying with your head on the desk you feel his presence this time. He rubs circles in your back soothingly while looking over your shoulder at the impressive stack of papers.
You’re too tired to tell him to keep his hands to himself. At this point, you’d be wasting your breath.
“Good job, Captain Hirako. How about a drink in celebration of you being productive for once?”
You close your eyes and sigh when he applies pressure to a sore spot just under your shoulder. It sounds more like a moan and you clamp your mouth shut. Hard.
You hate yourself.
It’s a cold, windy night. You’re listening to a new Jazz record you’ve picked up. Its slow and poignant notes emanate throughout the room. There’s nothing like music. With good sake and a beautiful full moon, its somber tone is quite perfect for a night like this. The only thing missing is good company.
You only have enough time to ponder when the exact moment you became so pathetic was.
He’s in the corner, bathed in shadows. You can’t tell if he’s trying to hide but frankly, you have no time for this.
“No use hidin’, Sosuke. I can see ya there.”
“I’m not hiding.” There’s amusement in his tone.
He doesn’t answer, choosing instead to pull you to your feet, one hand around your waist the other clasping your hand. He leads you into a slow dance, cheek to cheek, rotating in small circles. There’s nothing on your mind at the moment. Not the strangeness of it all or even the reason.
“Your music is somehow very appealing. I’m starting to understand why you’ve taken a liking to it.”
You indulge him for a minute more before steadying your weight. You are not amused. You don’t want to see him. Not tonight. Tonight is for self-pity. For sad introspection about how deluded you are.
“Go away.” That’s what you want. To be alone and if not, certainly not to be with him.
“What if I say no?” he asks playfully.
You narrow your eyes but he remains unfazed. He always does.
“Okay,” he agrees finally, but he still has his arm around you, still has your fingers enclosed in his hand and his eyes seem to be engraving every part of your face. You become aware of your heartbeat.
You always surrender but that’s because you know you’ll win. This is different. The scales are tipping.
You still hate him. The way his eyes shine with apparent affection does not fool you. It annoys you that his kiss is unnaturally gentle. His lips are soft and his tongue experienced at pulling the most sickeningly breathy moans from you. The way his hands always find your hair and entangle themselves in it while he whispers how angelic the feel of it is and the feel of your clenching warmth.
He’s a liar. You hate him.
But you already know before the night’s end that it will be one you will be unable to forget.
You know at once and without a doubt that he will be your demise. The revelation came to you slowly, dawning on you like a beautiful sunrise.
You see, while you were taking a stroll through the snow-covered streets that morning, you had a certain thought. How much nicer it would’ve been, had he been there to keep your company. Your breath gets caught. You stop abruptly, weak from the sudden realization. You actively think of having him around. It’s like a disease, the frequency in which he comes to mind now without the hateful scorn that usually follows it. Thinking of him in a neutral aspect was one thing. Craving his presence was another.
You realize with a cold lump in your chest that this will be your death.
You’re determined to change your fate. To end the game.
He’s been acting strange lately.
It’s been a while since he’s come to your private quarters – since he’s buried his nose by the nape of your neck and inhaled deeply, since he’s touched you or smiled at you. Or sat and watched you with rapt fascination while you were doing your boring paperwork. And when you’d wake up, unaware you’d fallen asleep, it would be done and neatly stacked and he’d be lying next to you asleep with his hand always touching your own. It’s been a while since he quietly came up behind you and wrapped his arms around your waist and you’d say nothing in protest. And he’d whisper in your ear, and kiss your neck softly, and nudge your earlobe. You’d feel the reactions in your body and his – to which he’d whisper in your ear that it was the result of your effect on it. On him. After this, you’d allow him to lead you to the futon, time of day or previous engagements forgotten. Rational thought never won in these moments.
His answers seem different, shorter, and lacking interest, but it must be your imagination. He’s still the same old boring guy. You take note but you don’t care. You just assume he’s had the same idea – the same revelation, that the game is nearing its end and the time has come for decisive moves. The strategic dance is over and he’s looking to outsmart you before you do him.
You ignore him again. It’s nothing but a game of endurance. You’re better than him. You’re winning.
You never even think that you miss him.
It honestly does come as a surprise.
Your mind is a hive of buzzing. Incredibly noisy as thoughts and ideas and memories bounce around.
You’re thinking so much yet you can’t think clearly.
Half of your face is hollowfied and your vice-captain stands before you. Sneering. Triumphant.
You’re barely understanding what he’s saying, senses muffled by disbelief. He says it’s your fault that this is happening. Your fault that several captains and vice-captains lay partly hollowfied. Even Hyori.
Shit. Your fault.
You don’t understand. You watched him – kept him close to keep an eye on him to avoid this in particular. Your body is shaking from a mix of fury and too many volatile emotions mixing together ready to explode.
“W-Why, Sosuke?” You know why you just never thought he actually would.
“You never trusted me, Captain Hirako. Had you tried to get to know me, to form a bond with me as my captain, you may have noticed.”
He’s so cocky it's eating you alive. You were too focused on beating him at his own game. You feel sick to your stomach. How could he do this?
You thought… What did you think? That things were different? You knew! You knew…
You look him dead in the eye, glaring as hard as you can. You hope he feels your hatred and disgust for him, that it slowly poisons him from within and he withers, as you are now.
“From the beginning, you never truly saw me. You only saw him.” You notice that eerie tone again. You don’t care enough to analyze it or his words. Your heart aches.
You stand in front of the mirror. Your neck feels strange, your head oddly light. It’s liberating. You’re free. All the memories of him lie discarded on the cold floor with the strands of hair that he was so fond of. You wipe your eyes. You fell but you won’t lose again.