“Excuse me?” Toushirou’s left eyebrow twitched. He was so certain that he had heard his fellow captain wrong.
Across from him, Unohana Retsu smiled pleasantly, her hands curled daintily around a teacup that he’d managed to scrounge from somewhere. “If you don’t have a preference, I would be more than happy to choose for you, Hitsugaya-taichou.”
“Preference for what?” he asked, trying and failing not to sound perturbed. His eyebrow quivered but didn’t quite twitch again.
She was confusing the hell out of him. Showing up in the middle of his busiest day and asking him if he’d decided their plans or not. He didn’t even know what she was talking about!
“Something authentic might be nice,” the healer continued, gaze drifting around his office and taking in his unusual décor – Matsumoto’s handiwork and not his. “Or the festival in the second district. I hear that it’s rather lively.”
Toushirou worked his jaw for several moments as he wished that he could make sense of the situation. “Unohana-taichou,” he began with slow and careful enunciation so as not to leave any room for misinterpretation, “if you would kindly explain to me what you are talking about, maybe I could actually answer you.”
Her eyes practically glittered. “Why, our date of course, Hitsugaya-taichou.”
He spluttered. “Date?” And dear kami, how long had his voice been this high and squeaky?
She sipped lightly at her tea, enjoying the smooth flavor before responding, “Yes, you don’t remember?” For a moment, the happy expression she had been harboring seemed to falter, flickering briefly towards disappointment. “I thought for sure I had read that letter correctly…”
He had the sudden and frightening thought that she would weep, which seemed entirely opposite of Unohana’s character. She seemed so… excited by the prospect of this date that he didn’t remember asking her on. It had to be some sort of mistake. Maybe a letter from someone else in his division. Or from another captain. Or… dear kami-sama, something Matsumoto had done.
Even as his stomach sank to rest somewhere near his ankles, Toushirou struggled to clear up this misunderstanding. “It’s just that I don’t remember sending a letter.” But he faltered when that flicker turned into complete disappointment, her hands lowering until her teacup sat fully in front of her.
Maybe he had sent something and didn’t remember. Or possibly, he had composed something entirely innocent and Matsumoto really had altered it in her never-ending quest to “help taichou get a life.” Surely Unohana-taichou couldn’t be mistaken. And if she wasn’t mistaken, the fault had to lie with him then.
His resolve crumbled as she looked at him, the smile on her face fading away in the wake of discontent. There was something to her eyes, something almost hopeful that was dying a painful death.
“I see. I was mistaken then.” She sighed, and it was full of so much regret that Toushirou felt his own heart give a painful tug. “I apologize.”
In that instant, he felt very much the villain here. And really, what could it hurt? One day was all it took right? And it seemed he had promised in some way or another, even if he couldn’t quite remember. It wasn’t like he had anything better to do. And it might prevent him from committing a homicide when Matsumoto turned up.
Unohana-taichou set down her cup and was making motions as if to rise, perhaps to excuse herself. Eyes downcast and cheeks faintly pink as if with embarrassment.
“I may not recall,” Toushirou inserted before she could stand, “but that doesn’t mean I should rescind my offer. The festival sounds like fun.”
The sparkle that returned to her eyes was so hopeful, and she smiled at him, looking quite beautiful for it. In fact, it was as if the disappointment had never been there at all, so quickly did her expressions change.
“That’s wonderful, Hitsugaya-taichou. Shall we meet Friday then?” She practically glowed at him, beaming happily.
He had the distinct impression somehow, that he’d just been played for a fool. But it was too late to back down now.
Toushirou rubbed hands over his forehead and felt a strange migraine beginning to develop. “Friday is good,” he replied and thought that it sounded a bit weary. Or wary. Or both.
Unohana-taichou smiled at him again. And Toushirou thought and hoped – and prayed – that this might not be so bad, all things considered.