See chapter one for disclaimer.
Toushirou woke slowly, feeling like his brain had been soaked in Rangiku's stash of sake and his body wrapped up tightly in thick woolen blankets. Fighting to open his eyes, teal orbs burned with the intensity of the lights before quickly slamming shut once more. It took a few moments before the signature smell of antiseptics registered in his disoriented mind, but Toushirou was able to deduce that he had woken up in the barracks of the fourth division. Sitting up felt like a monumental task, and he kept his eyes shut tightly against the harsh lamps. Once he was fully upright, Toushirou attempted to open his eyes once more, and was thankful when the sight that greeted him was smooth brown floorboards instead of the powerful lights above him. This was also when he noticed that something was very, very wrong.
His hands were too small, his sleeves much too long. Toushirou's clothing was all but falling off of him and he couldn't see his feet because the hakama fell too far past them. Swinging his legs straight out he saw the outlines of his feet but that was all he could manage. Toushirou was freaking out, plain and simple. Later on he promised himself that he would deny it vehemently, but the diminutive captain was panicking. As he began to hyperventilate, Hyourinmaru pulled Toushirou into his inner world to calm the boy down."Master, you must calm down. I know you are confused and frightened by what has happened, but please try to calm down. Toushirou it will be alright, we can figure this out and find a solution, but you need to be able to think clearly first.""Great, just great. First Mo-no Hinamori- disowns me and tells me I can't even go see Granny ever again, but now I've shrunk! I'm the same size as Kusajishi Fukutaicho if not smaller! Wasn't I small enough before? Hyourinmaru, what did I do to deserve this? And how? I don't remember anything after Hinamori yelled at me. Was I wrong in killing Aizen? He was the enemy, I did the right thing didn't I?"
Hyourinmaru never had the chance to reply to his master, because at that moment Unohana Taicho walked into the room carrying a change of clothing for him. He recognized the black fabric as a shihakushou, complete with smaller tabi and waraji on the top of the stack. But she seemed to have something in her hands under the uniform. Toushirou had no idea what it was, as all he could see was a blue bundle.
"Hitsugaya Taicho, I'm glad to see that you've woken up. You were unconscious for two days and I was beginning to worry. I've brought you some new clothes so that you can change into something that fits. In addition to a smaller uniform, Kuchiki Taicho sent this bundle along for you, though I admit that I do not know what it could be."
"What happened to me Unohana Taicho? Why am I so small now? The last thing I can remember is getting into an argument with Hinamori Fukutaicho. I think I went for a walk afterward to clear my head but everything else is fuzzy." Toushirou barely kept himself from wincing at the higher pitch his voice now had. Caring nothing for modesty, he began to climb out of the now oversized uniform he was in and quickly put on the smaller clothing. As he began to tie the waraji onto his feet, Unohana sat down on the edge of the cot and looked at him with one of the most serious expressions he could ever remember seeing on her face.
"You did go for walk after you spoke to Hinamori san, and Kurotsuchi Taicho found you. He had been conducting experiments in physical regression behind our backs. Since you were rather out of it, and unable to defend yourself, he decided to test the serum on you. Not only have you been physically de-aged to the equivalent of a human five year old, you are also human as well. After a thorough diagnostic, I have determined that your reiatsu is still fully intact and at its normal levels. I think that between the de-aging processes that your body went through and adapting to such reiatsu for your new size is the reason that you slept for the past two days. Kurotsuchi Taicho has been locked up in the first division's holding cells pending trial, and he says he has no antidote for your current condition. What is strange is that Kuchiki Taicho seems to have an idea on who might be able to help. Matsumoto Fukutaicho is currently in the world of the living attempting to convince Urahara-san to come back here and take a look at you."
Toushirou sighed heavily, that was just great. He was human again! Would Soutaicho let him remain in the Seireitei? Would he still keep his rank as a Taicho? There were just too many questions swimming through his head, he had no idea which one to ask first. Setting his hand on the cot, he remembered the bundle that was wrapped in blue from Kuchiki Taicho. That was something that could distract him, even if only for a second or two. Toushirou turned so that he was kneeling on the hard bed and untied the dark colored cloth, pulling the flaps of fabric back to stare in shock at the contents of the soft package. A haori, complete with the insignia of the tenth division embroidered on the back. Picking it up he saw that it was a perfect fit for his new stature. Slipping the garment on, Toushirou found himself blinking back tears that had sprung up for no reason. He had never expected such a token of kindness from the stoic sixth division Taicho. Looking up at Unohana, Toushirou was surprised to see the soft look of shock mixed with what he could only just barely identify as a sort of maternal pride. Giving the woman a sort of watery half smile, the small captain was about to ask her where his zanpakutou had gone when the door opened. Looking over in surprise at the intrusion, Toushirou spotted Kyouraku Taicho and Ukitake Taicho.
"Oh you're awake! We're glad to see you up and about again Shirou-chan!" Kyouraku's deep voice was as cheerful as ever as he sauntered across the room to lean on the wall behind Unohana.
Pulling a chair in from just outside the door, Ukitake came and sat next to the bed. "How are you feeling Hitsugaya-kun? You've been through so much it hardly seems fair for this to have happened to you too, but I doubt Soutaicho will strip you of your rank. I think by now I know you well enough to tell that you were worried about that. What is somewhat puzzling is the fact that Hyourinmaru took your blade back into himself, I can only guess he is attempting to resize his own physical manifestation to better fit you as you are now."
Feeling completely disarmed by Ukitake Taicho, a regular occurrence to anyone who talked to the sickly man, Toushirou found himself more relaxed and admittedly more resigned to what appeared to be his new fate. He didn't know why, but at that moment all he wanted to do was curl up in the lap of someone who cared and not worry about anything for a while. With a deep sigh he shook his head and tried to shake the urge to forget his troubles off too. Toushirou couldn't push his problems away, he was still a Taicho after all, and his squad would need him to be strong. Maybe Urahara-san will be able to fix this and get him back to normal. Before Toushirou could ask if anyone had heard from Matsumoto about if she had gotten in touch with the lazy shop keeper, a hell butterfly landed on Ukitake's shoulder, calling the four Taichos to a meeting in the first division in half an hour.
"Well, seems to me we had better head out if we want to make it there on time. You up to walking or would you like a ride on my shoulders Shirou-chan?" Kyouraku asked with a smile.
"Normally I'd just walk there myself but im not sure I would be able to keep up so I think I'll take you up on that offer Kyouraku Taicho." Toushirou couldn't help but stare at his feet when he answered, being so small made him feel so helpless. Not really expecting it, he just about jumped out of his skin when he felt Kyouraku's hat land on his head before he was lifted up and set upon the man's wide shoulders. After all that he had already been through, the rapid altitude change nearly made him ill with dizziness. Since no one seemed inclined to speak, Hyourinmaru found it to be a perfect chance to talk with his master. Toushirou wasn't even surprised when his view changed from the crown of Kyouraku's head to an icy field.
"Master, everything will be just fine. Ukitake Taicho is right about why you have no blade for me, but I'm not sure if I will be able to alter myself well enough for you. Right now we must rely on the other taichos.""You're right Hyourinmaru, much as I may not want you to be."
Toushirou's brow furrowed at the snort of amusement issued by the ice dragon. "Unohana Taicho did say something about Kuchiki Taicho knowing someone who might be able to help."
"That is true. Hopefully all of our questions will be answered at this meeting. Now wake up, Kyouraku Taicho is about to put you back down."
Sure enough, just as Toushirou woke up from his trip into his inner world, Kyouraku Taicho set him on the ground just outside the hall where the meeting was being held. As he handed back the hat, Toushirou smiled gratefully at the kind man. Ukitake Taicho had opened the door for Unohana Taicho, and the sickly man gave the young boy a reassuring grin while motioning him inside. Toushirou did a bit of a double take once his eyes had adjusted, never before had he seen Urahara-san without his striped hat, yet here he was in full shinigami regalia, haori and all. Taking his place at the blonde's left while Kyouraku Taicho stepped up to the space between Kuchiki Taicho and himself, Toushirou took a deep breath to calm down before Soutaicho spoke.
"You are all aware of the reason behind this meeting. As I hope you have all heard by now, Kurotsuchi Mayuri has been placed under heavy guard in the first division's holding cells. In light of his betrayal, and the revelations about the origins of the Vizards, Urahara Kisuke has been re-instated as Taicho for the twelfth division. Urahara Taicho, have you made any progress in researching his latest experiment?" Nine sets of eyes turned toward the blonde.
"Unfortunately I have not. Kurotsuchi kept no notes about the serum he was making. He was very protective of it though, as it appears he made only enough for one trial. Not even Nemu-chan was allowed to work on it with him. Without Kurotsuchi's cooperation, I don't know how long it will take me to find a cure. And that's assuming a cure even exists."
'Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry.' Toushirou chanted mentally as his eyes screwed shutand his fists clenched tightly at his sides. His body chemistry was changing, he knew, but Toushirou never expected to become so emotional.
"That is sad news indeed, Urahara Taicho. But I expect that you continue working on a solution to this problem."
"Of course I will, Soutaicho! Have you ever known me to turn down a challenge?" Several chuckles were heard.
"Now, Kuchiki Taicho, I believe you stated that you may know of someone who can help?"
"Yes I did. I also understand that by confessing such knowledge, I am going to be admitting my guilt of consorting with a mortal." Murmurs of surprise ran through the hall at the nobleman's confession.
"In light of recent losses, as well as your social authority, such an indiscretion will be overlooked. Please continue."
"Very well sir. I have, for about four years, been acquainted with the two most powerful withes in recorded history. I would like to take Hitsugaya Taicho to London so that they can analyze his condition and determine if the effects of Kurotsuchi's illegal experiment can be reversed. I also invite Ukitake Taicho to join us, as they have been working on a cure to his illness that is designed to work specifically with the unique physiology of shinigami."
"My god, you really think that they could cure me?"
"I think through sheer stubbornness if nothing else."
"Very well. If Ukitake Taicho wishes to accompany you he may. I want one other taicho to accompany you on this trip."
"I wish to invite Soi Fon Taicho to join us."
Ebony eyes widened in surprise as Soi Fon stepped out of the line to stare at Kuchiki Taicho. "You want to bring me on this meeting? I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but I hardly expected to be your ideal choice."
"Have you ever had the chance to spar with a vampire slayer?"
"Are you telling me I'll really have a chance to spar with the slayer, Kuchiki Taicho?"
"Not at all, Soi Fon Taicho. I'm saying you'll have the opportunity to spar with any of over a thousand slayers. All the potential slayers in the world who were over the age of twelve were activated six years ago when the Hellmouth in California was closed."
Toushirou leaned forward to peek past Kyouraku Taicho and saw the excited smile adorning the diminutive woman's face. No one knew it, but Soi Fon was actually one of his best friends, and Toushirou was glad to see her look so excited.
"Faith-san has been pestering me for some time to bring her a 'proper' opponent." His hands might have been behind his back, but no one missed the sound of implied quotation marks in Kuchiki Taicho's voice. Toushirou giggled a bit, the action having been completely unconscious on his part. Almost immediately, he realized that the sound had come from him, and Toushirou quickly slapped both hands over his mouth in embarrassment.
"There is one thing I wish to request while we are gone, Soutaicho. In the current graduating class at the academy are two women I would like to have assigned to my division. Their names are Anya Jenkins and Tara McClay. They are American, so I am not sure if they have become accustomed to introducing themselves by their last names instead of first names."
"I will pass your request along to the head of the academy. Urahara Taicho, how long for gigais to be ready for traveling?"
"Well, since Soi Fon Taicho will want a gigai strong enough to face a slayer, I'll need two hours."
"Then if Kuchiki Taicho will provide the appropriate coordinates, I expect you all to be ready for departure by then. This meeting is adjourned."
Toushirou decided that he would wait for his fellow Taichos to leave the hall before heading to say goodbye to officers for the time being. Having drifted off into his own world for a bit, he was understandably startled when strong hands lifted him to settle against their owner's hip. Blinking his eyes into focus, Toushirou found himself staring at Kuchiki Byakuya and feeling oddly comforted by that. Giving into the temptation to act like the child he had become, Toushirou let his head drop to rest against the nobleman's shoulder, letting his worries and fears overcome him for a time. The change in his mood did not go unnoticed though, and he absently noted that the arm supporting him had tightened its hold just a bit. Before he knew it, Toushirou had drifted off to sleep.
Waking slowly, Toushirou privately mourned the loss of the strong, warm arms he had been in as he slept. It didn't take much to realize he was lying on the couch in his office, as the fabric under his face smelled heavily of Matsumoto's light and clean scented perfume. Sitting up and rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Toushirou became aware of voices in the room.
"Don't worry about a thing, Kuchiki Taicho. I will take care of the division, and I swear all the paperwork will be done on time. Just take care of Taicho please?"
"I will Matsumoto Fukutaicho. I will warn you though, at the first sign of late or missing paperwork, my grandfather has spoken to Soutaicho about stepping in as the provisional Taicho for this division. And you should know that I am a very lenient man compared to him."
Toushirou grinned from his place on the couch. Matsumoto must have been sitting at her desk, since the conversation sounded like it was being held behind him. He managed to not jump in surprise when Kuchiki Taicho walked around the couch to sit on the low table in front of it. Looking into the gray eyes of the man before him, Toushirou saw many emotions he never expected. This great man, his secret role model, was looking at him with such empathy and compassion that he almost couldn't keep from crying in gratitude. Toushirou was very proud that he didn't gasp aloud when Kuchiki Taicho smiled softly at him.
"I'm sure you're very worried about what is going to happen once we get to London, but you don't need to be. The people I'm taking you to go see are very kind. When I heard what had happened to you, I told them immediately. They couldn't offer to help fast enough. Toushirou, they have never met you but they've spent the last two days arguing about who will get to be your legal guardian for the identification papers that Willow-san is making. As far as I know, no decision has been made because they all want you. They already consider you family, and that isn't something to be taken lightly. They won't abandon you Toushirou, I can promise you that. I won't lie and say that they're perfect either. Just like any family, there are problems, but that doesn't mean they love each other any less."
"What do you mean they all want me? Why would they say that when they don't even know me?" Toushirou was very confused; no one had ever wanted him since Central 46 had assassinated Kusaka. He felt the cushions dip as Matsumoto sat down and pulled him into her side.
"Taicho, they will love you. Right now I think they just see someone in need of a few good friends. Let them be that, ok? But right now you need to get going. The Senkaimon opens in ten minutes."
Yay! Chapter 2 is done, and it's the longest one I've ever written. For those of you looking forward to the entrance of the Buffy characters, they will be in the next chapter. Until then, I bid you farewell.