The morning routines of Momo and her zanpakutou--and how they intertwine with Aizen and his. Pre-Soul Society arc; no explicit spoilers.
This is slightly AU in terms of the way the zanpakutou interact, but I've tried to keep it as in-character as possible.
Bleach is the creation of Kubotite. All innuendo belongs to him.
When Momo drifts in the cobwebbed limbo between sleep and wakefulness, when she can feel the morning's light on her eyelids but imagines it to be part of a dream--
--that is when Tobiume takes her leave of her with a gentle bow, flowing away in a shimmer of purple hair and velvet wings. That is when Tobiume has the morning ritual to attend to.
She follows the indigo bridge to the other's realm, and she walks through the cool fog. When she feels it begin to dissipate around her, she closes her eyes.
Tobiume would never risk opening her eyes around Kyouka Suigetsu in its home. The mist-blade is a dewy and delicate thing, and Tobiume's eyes smolder when they are open. There is fire within them. She fears that she would cause it pain, or worse, leave burn scars on its delicate skin.
She has never seen its bare skin, but she has touched it, felt it shiver at the warmth of her hands and their plum-colored claws.
"If you cannot see me," Kyouka Suigetsu said at the beginning, when it first started going out, "then no one shall."
It has since been Tobiume's task to wreath Kyouka Suigetsu in its veils, and to do a little bit more besides.
She reaches the place where the mists become quicksilver-water lapping at her feet, and she holds her hands out and waits.
After a moment, she feels those soft, strange hands gently setting the first of the veils in her grasp.
Momo wakes up with the first of the sunlight slanting across her eyes, blinding her to all but the way that the rays turn to amber on the hair of the man sleeping next to her. This is how she wants to wake up every morning. She doesn't, not quite, but it's this way most mornings, and she's willing to accept that--for now.
She picks up her captain's glasses from where he left them so carelessly by the bedside, folds them neatly, and places them on the nightstand.
"Thank you, Hinamori-kun," he murmurs.
She steps over him and out of bed. "Please don't get up yet, Captain," she says as she pulls on one of his robes. She weaves her way down the hallway and to the countertop stove, where she left the ingredients for tea last night. She fills the teapot and sets it to boil.
(Tobiume is not in residence at the moment to murmur the secrets of plum tea in her inner ear, but Momo has them memorized, and in any case, she would not begrudge Tobiume her time with Kyouka Suigetsu.)
Momo hugs the robe close around her as she makes the tea. It is far too big for her, but she has grown used to keeping it out of the stove's flames.
"I am ready," whispers Kyouka Suigetsu. Tobiume, with her eyes closed, nods in agreement. This is the first part and the best part.
It isn't just about putting on the veils.
Before she puts on the first set of veils, the ones that hang about Kyouka Suigetsu's waist, Tobiume reaches down and does something a little thrilling, a little inappropriate, a lot pleasant. She grasps the mist between the other zanpakutou's legs, and she curls her fingers around it, dents it with her claws, draws it into curls with strokes of her thumb.
The fog around the two of them trembles and whispers with excitement, and after a while the cool body nestling against Tobiume begins to shake, and breathy little cries come from its throat. Its legs bend at the knees, and it begins to rock back and forth against Tobiume's body as she curls and uncurls her fist.
In the end, its feet slip on a ground that's gone slick, and Tobiume catches it and cradles it. She gently presses the very points of her teeth against its shockingly smooth skin. For a moment, with her eyes closed, she feels like the mist is cradling her.
Then it is done, and they are both on their knees. Tobiume begins to tie the first veils onto Kyouka Suigetsu.
"Careful, Captain," Momo says as she holds out the tea to him. "You don't need to get up--but the tea is hot. Please be careful." She worries about burning him sometimes.
He takes the tea, and he takes a cautious drink. After a few sips, he pats the empty place in bed beside him. "You don't need to be up so early."
"I remembered the tea," she explains, but all the same she pulls off the robe and settles back into bed.
He has put his glasses back on while she was out of the room making tea. They fog up in the steam rising from his cup. Momo plucks them from his face and wipes them off with the blanket.
"Oh," he says. "That's right, Hinamori-kun." He holds his hand out for the glasses.
"When you're finished with the tea," she chides him.
Once, after one of Kyouka Suigetsu's reserved outings, Fujikujaku gave one of her feathery little laughs and said, "Isn't it the cutest?"
"I don't think that's the right word," Tobiume said.
Fujikujaku's feathers pulled into an indulgent smile. "You're cute around it, too. The shy mist-blade and its pretty guardian!"
Now, as she pulls the second layer of veils into place over Kyouka Suigetsu's body, Tobiume says, "Fujikujaku thinks you're shy."
"I do not take offense," Kyouka Suigetsu murmurs in reassurance.
"Are you sure you aren't shy?" asks Tobiume.
"No," says the other blade. "There are so few things to be sure of."
Tobiume begins to drape the veils over its face.
"I should go now," he says, but he does not yet rise from the bed. Instead, he rests a warm hand over her closed eyes, to feel the flickering movement beneath her lids.
It is all right. Dozing gently against his side, she knows he will not leave for a while yet. After a moment, his hand eases up from her face, and she sleepily leans up to kiss the corner of his jaw. With her eyes closed, she knows exactly where to find it.
"Ah, Hinamori-kun," he says. He gently curls his hand into a loose fist, and he rests it atop her heart.
"What are you thinking of, Captain?" she asks the warmth.
With his thumb, he strokes her breast right over her heart. "Only of you, Hinamori-kun," he says. "Only of you."
Tobiume ties the last veil into place, shrouding Kyouka Suigetsu's eyes.
"I am ready," it says.
She nods and gathers the other zanpakutou in her arms. Together, in synch, they walk forward.
When they are clear of the mist, Tobiume will open her eyes and see the veils she put in place.