Title:The Wooing of Hinamori Momo.
Summary: Hinamori finally opens her eyes to what she has been missing.
AN: All right, a little artistic liberty has been taken here. Not much, just a little, and so if you don't like something let me know.
He had grown. She had missed it. She was not surprised. She had spent the last fifty or so years trapped in a world of her own making. No one blamed her for that. Aizen had crushed her gentle soul, almost beyond repair. And even now, the sparkle had not fully returned to her gaze, her step no longer held the bounce it once did. Her response to the world was no longer full of the laughter and innocence that had once filled her.
She had changed.
Even if she had not been so acutely aware of it, she would have seen it in everyone else's eyes. It was harder for her to trust now; people had to come to her with more than words before she would jump into things. Even then her steps were light. Her friends had moved on faster than she had. They had done their best to bring her with them, but she had never been quite ready to march at that pace, not anymore.
Matsumoto had changed as well. She still smiled, she still laughed and teased, but her smile had turned a bit wistful and even when she laughed her eyes held a small bit of sadness that she couldn't seem to shake. She drank more now as well. She wasn't sure why Hitsugaya permitted this, but she was thankful. It was his way of taking care of her, she guessed. Defending her from her critics and allowing her the escape she needed.
Even the rumors that should have been there were missing. She would have wondered, but she had seen the lost look that haunted her eyes when Matsumoto was drifting off into space, she wore the same look these days. Sometimes she would come out of her thoughts quickly and sometimes when she thought that no one was looking she would stare out a window for hours, the forlorn expression overcoming all others, until Hitsugaya would order her out of it with paperwork.
She would have been jealous of the look of gratitude that the older, curvier death god threw her captain, but she could remember a time when she would have graced her own captain with the same look. And she found she didn't have the heart to wonder if perhaps the women had fallen for him, it was unfathomable to her. Not when her heart so obviously cried out for Gin.
And for that she pitied her. There was nothing she would not have done for Gin, it was obvious in the way she still mourned the man for the last fifty years. She wondered if Matsumoto would ever completely heal, just as she wondered if she ever would.
Some scars did not lie on the body, but on the soul. And sometimes time wasn't enough to heal those scars. She sighed, her breath creating a light mist on the window she herself had been staring out of for the last hour or so. After the death of Aizen she had been assigned a new captain. He was kind; if not a bit sterner than Aizen had been, and she was thankful for that. Thankful for the differences that were so obviously marked between him and Aizen.
If it would have helped, she would have requested to be sent anywhere else, but the men and women under her had asked her to say. Their eyes had been kind and filled with patience and something akin to a loving friendship when she had sat down to talk with them about requesting a transfer. She had owed it to them after all. She was the only leadership they had left.
"I do not think I can be the vice-captain you need now." She told them all softly. She felt so tired these days, her body was still recovering from the massive trauma she had undergone, while her mind fought for the strength that she needed. Her thoughts were sluggish and prone to wander, always back to Aizen. What she could have done to change what happened.
"What?" Had been the unanimous chorus and she forced herself to open eyes she had not been aware of closing.
"It will take me some time to recover, maybe even years." She replied her voice faint compared to the outraged whispers that were floating around the group. "I might not ever be able to fully come back, and even if I do, one of you could challenge me and win right now."
"Vice-captain Hinamori if you don't mind us saying, we have already come together and discussed this," A tall red-head informed her from the front.
Hinamori struggled to remember his name but right then she just couldn't pull the name she needed from the mass of confusion that had become her brain. "You…" she paused, "you have?"
"Yes we have, and we all came to the unanimous decision that you were as much a victim to Aizen as we were and that you did your best to defend us; trying to take on Ichimaru Gin in order to defend our captain's memory and seeking vengeance for our whole regiment. You followed every clue and link that had been given to you and did so to the best of your ability and knowledge. Because of this, we would like for you to stay as our Vice-Captain. Right now we need you as much as we think that you perhaps need us."
She stared at them for a moment, unconscious of the tear that slipped silently down her cheek, or the concerned gazes of her regiment, only conscious that perhaps, she was not as alone as she had once thought herself.
She managed a weak smile, though it was full of the gratitude she felt towards them and the thankfulness for each of them. "Thank you."
She smiled then, a far cry from the weak imitation that she had given her regiment so many years ago and a definite improvement from the Hinamori that she had been for so long.
No she was not the Hinamori that had grown up in a world of love and kindness but neither was she the broke Hinamori that had woken in confusion and anger; the Hinamori who had been in so much physical and mental pain that she no longer understood her world. While the feelings of betrayal, loss, loneliness and anger at herself had haunted her for months, the only constant that had been in her life had been Hitsugaya, and even then her beloved Shiro-chan had changed.
She had seen it the first time she had awakened. It had been in the middle of the night. She had been strangely thankful for the familiar dark. All the dreams that she could remember had been full of the dark with Aizen's taunting words echoing through out her brain. She heard him explain his plot to her over and over again, her mind no longer able to shield out the world, she had been helpless to the call of defeat and it had taken over her dreams.
Every now and then she would feel a comforting presence and a soft call would bring her from the nightmare that she never seemed to be able to escape. During those rare moments of almost peace she would only partially be aware of words she could not hear, but meanings that echoed in her brain calmed her, even if she couldn't understand them.
No, her regiment had not abandoned her. In fact they had been a strong influence on her those first few weeks during her recovery. She had been forced out of her own thoughts to tend to them. With Aizen gone she was overloaded with paperwork but more than one person had stepped in to give her a hand while deliberations over a good captain for her squad continued. She was aware that Hitsugaya had requested that a good chunk of the paper work that belonged to her division be given to him instead. Unfortunately, she had never had the courage to ask him about it.
That was perhaps her greatest downfall in all of this, Hitsugaya. Oh how she had longed for their childhood moments early during the first weeks of her recovery. She would escape into her memories of him when nothing else seemed to work, memories of 'bed wetter Momo', never failed to make her smile, and would pull her away from the depression that could so quickly sneak up into her life.
He had been such a delightful child.
Always hiding behind his gruff manner and quick wit even then, hiding his innocence behind his then unknown genius, he had brought her so much joy when they had been younger with his constant declarations that he was the one who was supposed to be protecting her. She smiled fondly in remembrance.
Of course, being who he was, he had never needed her to wipe tears from his eyes and remove the streaks of dirt that had collected there before anyone else would have noticed. Nor would he have needed someone to hold his hand when he realized that he was afraid of something new. And she had never comforted him when it seemed like the whole world was falling apart at his feet and he was powerless to stop it. No, he had of course, always been the strong one who was there for her, never her for him.
And yet, it was that attitude precisely which had drawn her so strongly to him.
For the short time that they had lived there, those had been the happiest days of her life. He had been her constant companion, and she his. That was all that either of them had ever needed. Only she had not recognized the signs until she was already over halfway through her death god training and by then Aizen had taken over much of what he had once been.
Of course, she had ruined so much of what was left with of their relationship with hastily laid accusations and Tobiume's tip. Another sigh of air and her window was covered once again. She smiled faintly to herself before quickly writing in delicate scrip on the now covered window, 'Shiro-chan'. She paused with a small smile at her whimsicalness. Shiro-chan was no more, not for her anyway.
She could still remember it like it was yesterday. Waking from her long sleep, finally breaking free of the dreams and the darkness that had held her under for so long, it was a day that brought many feelings: mostly regret.
Her eyes fluttered open, the movement was almost simultaneous with them closing once again, and she felt the air rush out of her lungs in a frustrated sigh that she was not even aware of emitting.
There was a slight rustle to her right and she suddenly wondered if she was really waking up or if she was just trapped in another dream.
She knew that voice, her eyes fluttered again and this time they stayed open, much to her relief. She tried to tilt her head to the side but couldn't muster the strength, thankfully she didn't have to. The moment her eyes opened a familiar pair of green eyes were thrust into her vision.
She decided right then and there that something was wrong with her Shiro-chan, his voice was way too soft and he looked like he wanted to cry, had something happened?
"Sh…" her voice cracked before she could finish her sentence and then his hand was gentle covering her mouth.
"Don't speak, stupid." His eyes softened either further, and she was almost certain that water was forming in his eyes. He moved out of her line of sight for a moment before he was suddenly there. An arm slipped behind her back and helped her sit up, before a cup was lifted to her lips. "Drink this."
The water was cool and sweet to her parched mouth and she gave a content sigh as he helped her settle back into her pillows. "Get some sleep Hinamori; I will let Unohana know that you have woken."
She frowned slightly at his words. "I … y…u…"
He leaned forward, and hesitated for a moment before leaning down and placing a kiss on her forehead. "Go to sleep Hinamori; do not argue with me on this one… please."
She sighed, her eyes closing at the contact of his soft lips on her skin, and she found she could not argue with him. Not when he was acting this way, she had never been able to argue with him when he dropped down that shield he cherished so dearly. .
She never remembered falling asleep.
Regret, yes definitely regret. She regretted that whatever had been between them in that one single moment in time was lost to them both now. Soon after waking had come the anger, the pain, and the fierce need to remove everyone from her live who had ever been involved with anything that reminded her of Aizen, much to her constant remorse and lack of foresight, the person she had pushed the hardest against had been Hitsugaya.
"Hinamori?" her name jerked her out of her mental wanderings. She turned her hand rising to wipe the name from the window as she shifted her position. She felt her gut clench as her brain registered whose voice it was that had called out to her, even as her eyes rose to meet his gaze.
"Hitsugaya-kun," She acknowledged, forcing down her wayward thoughts she offered him a smile.
He leaned against the doorframe a brow quirking upwards, and she felt her breath catch at the look on his face. It was nothing new, that slight curving of his lips, the quirk of his brow, the mask that he constantly wore, this was Captain Hitsugaya Toushirou, of the tenth division, and yet…
"You missed vice-captains meeting, Matsumoto was worried."
She let the sound of his voice wash over her; it had deepened over the years to the point where he could quiet the most irrational of his division with a soft word instead of the deep scowl he had adopted when he was younger. She had discovered that once she had noticed the timbre of his voice it was constantly moving throughout her head. It was just one of the many things about Hitsugaya Toushirou that she just didn't seem to be able to ignore anymore.
"Tell Matsumoto that I am sorry I worried her, I was lost in my thoughts." She paused at the slight quirking of his brow, "and I am afraid I did not notice the passage of time." She continued in a slight rush, desperate to get her reason out before he managed to fluster her, again.
He straightened from his position, another reminder of how tall he had grown. His head came to rest just under the door jam. He was taller than Renji now. "You seem to be caught in your thoughts more often these days Hinamori."
She smiled. "It's nothing to worry about Hitsugaya-kun." She was no longer able to see past the mask he wore, now when she would have given anything to know what he was thinking that path was no longer open to her. So she was left with old games, and out dated moves that were slowly starting to fail her. She just didn't know how to read him anymore, and so while she played the game, she prayed that he never discovered her secrets.
She sighed softly. 'You brought this upon yourself Hinamori, its time to sleep in the bed you made.'
He moved to the window next to her. "So your sudden relapse into your thoughts has nothing to do with today's date?" His voice was the same neutral tone he took with everyone else, but the almost too casual way he was standing led her to hope that perhaps he still worried about her.
But that also explained why he had come instead of Matsumoto. Hinamori shook her head before turning her eyes back out the window. Today was the fiftieth anniversary of Aizen's attack on her. The day that she had fallen into a comma, the day she had realized that the man she had worshiped and loved was nothing more than an illusion.
"No." 'No, Aizen will not grasp me from the grave, I have moved on further than that.' "I simply lost track of the time, I apologize, Captain."
That caused him to pause, his gaze sliding across her features and she pushed the blush down that threatened to rise up into her cheeks at his scrutiny. "Is something wrong Hinamori?"
'Everything, nothing,' "No, everything is fine. If you will excuse me, I need to go report to my Captain as I am sure he will want to speak to me and since I missed the meeting, I will need to find someone and play catch up quickly." 'You could ask me to stay.'
"Of course," He nodded, "I will pass on your message to Masumoto."
She smiled again, tilting her head back to smile into his eyes. Appearances after all had to be maintained, instead she found herself threatening to turn bright red as something that she could not read slithered across his eyes and sent her scuttling for the door as quick as her feet would carry her. A quick, "I will see you later," and then she was gone.
Hitsugaya paused as her retreating figure disappeared. A quick glance about the room to confirm that he was alone and a slight touch to Hyourinmaru, and the frost re-created itself on the window seal. 'Shiro-chan', appeared reluctantly on the window seal. One brow quirked upwards before a slow satisfied smile started to work its way up the corner of his lips before he pulled his mask firmly back into place. His fingers moved upwards to trace lines next to the name he had not heard from her in so long.