Summary: Hinamori took two years to wake from her coma. When she does, no one could have expected the changes needed to bring her back, or the sacrifices one Captain would make to show her the path to redemption.
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or any of its characters!
AN: This story is a much more serious fic about Hinamori and her Captain. I will research and do my best to properly portray everything in this fic because of this some chapters may take longer than others to update.
Also I do not want this to turn out being one of those 'torture Hitsugaya fics' I want this to be a story about overcoming. So the angst and romance will have its place and time so please bear with me!
Shiny new edited chapter! Everyone thank the amazing beta!
This story is very much spoiler heavy. If you do not read the manga, or have not gotten to episode 60 in the anime this story could revel things you don't want to know about!
There was nothing glorious about battle. It was death. It was the smell of blood and infection, the cries of both the wounded enemy and your own, the knowledge that if you do not sleep with one eye open, you faced not waking up the next morning. The absolute paranoia that would follow you into the darkest recess of your mind, the lack of sleep, mud in your food, or worse, and always being either wet or cold, sometimes both. There was no happy medium, no great feeling of justice for fighting for what was right. Only the vague hope that your side would come out on top in the end. That you would survive the blood shed, cold, war cries, and the ever present need to kill to live.
That was war.
War was hell.
There was no peace. There was no rest. There was only battle, blood, and death.
Even in Soul Society where people were supposed to be free and safe from these things, it had almost been two years since anyone had held that delusion.
He watched the battlefield. The most recent skirmish had been over for an hour. He had volunteered to stay behind and make sure all the men that were still alive were able to get out. A captain guarding there backs would make that chance much higher.
It wasn't that they hadn't learned how to guard their own backs. In the last year, they had lost more death gods than they had in the last thousand years. Divisions were sliced in half. There wasn't anyone who hadn't lost a friend to something. Whether it was the blade of an Allankar, one of the traitors, or to any of the elements that had plagued the camps: ambushes, rock slides, cave-ins, and the brutal winter weather; too many had lost their lives and shed their blood for the glorious task of defending what was right, what they had believed in.
Some days he wondered if perhaps they weren't all so full of themselves that they were bringing their whole world down around their heads. A grim look settled across his features at the sight of one of their men struggling towards the safety of the doorway from this cursed place. He singled for Matsumoto. She nodded her agreement and moved forward to help the man while Hitsugaya guarded her back.
He had almost lost her to such an attack once, his vice-captain. It had been a clever trick for a high ranking hollow to force a lower ranking death god to approach a captain and his vice-captain in an attempt to get a mortal wound into either of them. It had been Matsumoto's quick reflexes that had saved her. The battled that had followed had been quick; the hollow had not been interested in a full fight but a simple stab and run. Matsumoto had only received a minor blow to her ribs. They had been lucky, any deeper and he would have had to find himself a new vice-captain.
His eyes narrowed as he focused as much of his attention as he could allow on the man. He would not let a second mistake deprive him of his second in command. The Captains were fortunate, they had lost very few of their higher seated members, and all
vice-captains and captains, except for the traitors, were accounted for.
The closest that they had come to loosing the vice-captain, besides his brush with Matsumoto, had been Ise Nanao, Vice-captain to the 8th division, though she had not been in battle at the time.
There had been several attacks on one of the encampments they had built to ensure reinforcements could arrive with record speed to any area of high hollow concentration. Upon arrival, Vice-Captain Ise Nanao had been asked to check the area for any unusual activity. She and two other death gods had gone up the cliffs around the area to see if there was a vantage point from which the hollows could attack without being seen. One of the recruits had managed to set off an elaborate alarm that had sent Nanao plummeting down the cliff.
This would not have been a large hassle for any of the higher seats in the divisions but the ensuing rubble did not allow for an easy escape. According to her division members she had been caught in the rocks to fast for any reaction. The first landslide caused another to land on top of the area where she went under the rubble and it had taken then nearly an hour and a half to uncover her from the rocks. Captain Shunsui had been torn between being livid with her and being terrified for her. He had dug through a large portion of the rubble moving rocks away as if they were nothing more than little pebbles. He and Captain Ukitate Jyuushiro had been called in to lend a hand because the rest of his division feared he was going to injure himself.
If asked, he would have been forced to admit his surprise at the change in mannerism that Captain Shunsui had gone through. The laid-back man was calm but furious; his normal happy manner was gone. In place was a man with the single-minded determination to rescue his vice-captain. The look that haunted his eyes Hitsugaya had seen more than once reflecting back at him as he looked in the mirror on his bad days. It was then that he realized that Captain Shunsui was in love with Ise Nanao and would rip the whole mountain apart if it meant rescuing her from the rocks that covered her.
He had bent his back to move rock after rock while Ukitate ordered the crews around to ensure that no rocks would slide and cause more damage to the vice-captain than what had already been done. Even with three captains and a hoard of volunteers the work had been slow. When they had uncovered her she had been only half-awake, still dazed by her fall and a quick assessment had shown her cuts, a broken ankle, and broken arm. She had also received a long scratch on her forehead, bruised ribs, and a large number of bruises that were already a deep black. She had been lucky. Several big rocks had landed next to her shielding her from the brunt of the falling rumble, that combined with the small shield she had managed to throw up had saved her life; she would have been crushed otherwise.
Shunsui had taken his elaborate cloak from his shoulders and tucked it around his vice-captain. He lifted her and tucked her against his chest with infinite care, but even then she had hissed in pain at being moved before clutching at his captains cloak as her head spun. They had managed to prevent her from throwing up, but it had been close. Once her head was settled against his shoulder and she was secure in his arms Shunsui had disappeared.
He found out later that she had sustained a rather bad concussion as well. There had been no internal bleeding, but the cut on her forward appeared to have come from the shattering of her glasses. The head wound had healed and the bones set. She was not in the constant wartime procedures that were demanded, and to keep the healers from being taxed too greatly, Captain Unohana and Captain Shunsui had agreed that it would be best to let her body heal naturally. There was still enough fighting going on that the fourth division was taxed to its limits and a cast and healing slaves would take care of the majority of her problems.
This also meant that her Captain hovered constantly when he was not at the battlefield or tending to some other duty. A very good example was when Nanao fell, not used to the awkward gait of the crutches and hampered by her bruises and broken bones, her captain never failed to catch her and carry her wherever she was going. Her cries of outrage were heard through out whatever courtyard they happened to be striding through. No one blamed her. Nanao was used to being self-sufficient and taking care of her captain. These new wounds only hampered her carefully crafted image; they meant that she had to lean on her Captain for assistance.
But Hitsugaya had seen the expression on her Captains face when she wasn't particularly paying attention and he knew it was a lost cause for the vice-captain. Her captain was no more going to let her injure herself than he would have let Matsumoto.
The only good the war had done for anyone was that the 4th division was no longer the least respected and disliked division. The division had done much to gain respect in the last two years. They worked tirelessly to save more of the Gotei 13 than even Hitsugaya had thought they would manage. It was said to be good luck to have a friend in the healing core because they would be the ones to give you the best treatment. So instead of being persecuted for being weak they were now looked at with respect, and called friend.
Captain Unohana's affection towards Captain Kenpachi was now well known. She had made several appearances on the battlefield to heal him when he had gotten himself in over his head. This did not happen often, but the worried expression on the calm Captain while she scolded him for being careless had been the first hint. It had been him showing up with lunch, taking her out on walks when her stress levels were at their maximum, and abusing anyone who so much as looked at her wrong that had been the dead give away.
This also had the added benefit of protection for the 4th division. The 11th division had taken it upon themselves to uphold their captain's affections for the lady by joining in on his abuse towards those who slandered the fourth division with a single mindedness that kept the lower ranks jumping.
He hid his relief when Matsumoto helped the man walk through the doorway back to the Seireitai. He stepped through to follow them. His day was done, another Captain would take the next shift if it came and he was free to head to the fourth division.
Captain Unohana had asked him to come by earlier that day and if he went now he would have time to stop by and see Hinamori before reporting to Yamamoto about today's skirmish.
It was a relatively short walk to the 4th division. He forced the weariness that hung around him like a cloak away. They would threaten him with some sort of restorative drink that would taste far worse than it would smell if he didn't. When Captain Unohana was feeling generous, she would add honey to the drink but it had been a long time since anyone had had time to offer them honey with anything.
Vice-Captain Koutestu Isane greeted him with a weary smile before motioning him forward with a wave of her hand. People were running around calling for bandages or different tonics. The last of the injured had arrived, it seemed. There appeared to be only a few serious injuries, but all of the wounds no matter how small had to be taken into account. Infection had run high over the course of the wars and the fourth division was very much on a crusade to stop it. Most of the people being healed were for minor wounds or cuts that could get infected.
Captain Unohana looked up at Hitsugaya and motioned for him to take a seat in the chair in front of her desk. "Not that many were injured in the 10th division today." She said.
He nodded. "We are starting to beat them back." There was progress because Aizen was dead and progress because those who were too weak to fight or to scared to lift their swords had been weeded out. It was the harsh reality of war. The only thing they had had against the Allankar had been sheer numbers to throw at them. In the end, they had won. It had come at a heavy cost.
She nodded. Her eyes were distant and he knew she was remembering all the lives that fourth division had been unable to save. All the healers wore that expression these days. They could be sitting and talking to you one moment and the next staring dazedly off into space; with nothing but pain in their eyes. He didn't know what was worse. Being the one who was loosing valuable members of his division or being the one who couldn't save them.
"Hinamori is starting to make progress." Her words broke him out of his own thoughts.
He stared at her. He his eyes were wide with surprise at her words but he couldn't stop his reaction. That was most definitely not what he had been expecting her to say. To update him on the members of his squad who were in critical condition yes. To tell him something had changed towards Hinamori when nothing had changed for so long…
She offered him a small smile. "One of the attendants said she had her eyes open when she went to check on her this morning."
He was staring. He couldn't stop. It had been two years since Aizen had attacked Hinamori. Two years since Unohana had told him that it was no longer physical injuries that held her to her dreams but her mind. That Aizen could have damaged her mind with his illusions in those last seconds before he struck. That there was nothing they could to help or find out exactly what had been done until she woke.
She had not woken. Would not fight past whatever dreams held her captive. Her body was alive because she was a death god and their basic instinct was to fight. And because the fourth division had very skilled healers who could hold the body back from destroying itself. Nevertheless, the healers were loosing the battle to keep her alive. She was wasting away to a shell that was only a shadow of the image that she had been in life.
The nutrients and supplements that they were forcing down her throat would only keep her alive for so long. Her body needed more than drinks and shakes. They were failing. He was loosing her and had been steadily for the last year. It was gradual; a slow decay of her body, in a few more months even if she woke up there would be nothing to save.
She was fading, wasting away to a husk of what she used to be. He was loosing her; his Hinamori. Not even Unohana knew how to bring her back from the abyss that she had sent her mind to hide from the anger and the pain that had descended upon her.
Unohana had been able to explain her reluctance to wake up. Her words had been grave the day the she had told him she might never wake up. Even now, there were nights when he woke with her words ringing through his mind. "Hinamori may never wake up Captain Hitsugaya and even if she does that does not mean the battle for her life has been won. Sometimes when people go through traumatic experiences like this they never fully recover."
But this… "What does that mean?"
"It means she is showing progress." Unohana said. "Right now that is all I can tell you."
He nodded. Ikkaku had recently been placed over that division as temporary captain until the decision could be brought before the captains and his captainship could be announced. The same was for Renji. Because Hinamori was the vice-captain for that division, he had put in a request to be made her guardian while she was in her coma. The council had accepted and so all reports and acknowledgments were sent to him. This also meant that if it came down to making the decision to end the life support, as Inoue called it; he would be the one to do so.
"We don't know what is going on Hitsugaya." She broke him out of revere again. "She has been in that state for so long that even if she wakes now there is no guarantee that permanent damage has not been done to her body or mind."
He nodded. Another problem that had discussed in length over many days; Hinamori had simply been asleep for to long. They would have to start off slow with her if she woke. Health-wise she was a mess and physically, she was even worse off. There were just too many factors to be discussed and worked through. And that was with the assumption that her mind would be intact and in one piece. There was always the chance that her long state trapped in her dreams could have warped her mind and even once she woke, the dream world that she had lived in could have become her reality.
If that happened once reality came crashing down around her, her mind could snap and then she would be lost to them.
Too many scenarios, too many possibilities, and all he could do was sit back and wait to see what would happen.
"Thank you for telling me." He said.
She offered him her small smile again. "If there are any more changes I will have you informed immediately."
He offered her a polite nod and stood. She followed suite. "Is there anything else?"
"Your division members that were injured will be fine with some care and a few days rest."
"They have earned it." He said over his shoulder as he walked out of the room. Matsumoto would be wondering where he had gotten himself off to. Being in the field all day did not excuse them from paperwork and she would have had plenty of time by now to clean herself up and get to the office.
That did not necessarily mean that she would be there.
The lights were off when he arrived. Matsumoto would be off drinking, probably with Kira, then. Nights like these when they returned were especially hard on his vice-captain, he knew. Gin had done as strong a number on her as Aizen had done on Hinamori. Unlike Aizen, Gin had loved her. Loved her enough to let her make her own choices and enough respect for her to not try to dissuade her from her own path. It had cost them both; Gin with his secrets; never telling her his plans, and she for believing in the childhood friend against the odds.
In the end he had died with what little honor he had left. Captain Shunsui had been the one to bring the smiling mad man down. He had not been there. He knew from reports that Matsumoto had spoken with him and that Gin had said things in return. She had not offered what had been said and he had not asked. But the haunted look in her expression was fading from her eyes now. And while he knew she would grieve for him for some time she was not consumed by the loss of him. He could almost have thanked Gin for that. He and his vice-captain had been through much, he would not have wanted to loose her to the madman.
Aizen had been different. The man had died with as little grace and dignity that they could offer him. It had taken three to defeat him and his newfound abilities and skills. In the end it had not even been he who had struck the last blow, but Captain Ukitate. The seemingly gentle captain had not spared Aizen. The blow had been quick but it had, by all accounts, been a slower painful death. In the end, the a brilliant mind had died with the taste of his own blood on his lips.
It was fitting.
He felt no remorse for the lost captain and by the end of the war, not even his division had asked for the funeral rights for him. He was left alone, and soon he would be forgotten as anything but the man who had tried to destroy Soul Society and had failed.
He cast a scowl at the paperwork that had accumulated on his desk while he was in the field before picking up one of the many brightly colored pens on his desk. They had been a gift from Matsumoto after the war. They were annoying but he rather guessed that Hinamori would have liked them if she ever woke to see them. These reports were going to Shunsui anyway and Nanao seemed to like the different colors they produced.
He sighed as fingers curled around the pen that he was using to write out one of the several reports that would go to the divisions about today's skirmish. He needed her to wake up, to look at him one more time with her bright joy filled eyes and tell him that it was going to be all right; just once.
Unohana would not give him false hope in this. She knew how hard he had fought the other divisions to keep her alive, to give her this fighting chance. Some, including Mayuri, had wished to cut off the support and see if she could survive on her own. Unohana had informed the creepy captain that she would not have any of her patients tested upon. He had been thankful. In the end it had been Ukitate and Shunsui's support that had won him the right to watch over her while she dreamed.
Now all they could do was pray she would tire of her dreams and come back to the living world before it was too late. Today he had been given hope but it did not promise a recovery.
He looked up at Matsumoto, "Kira not in a drinking mood tonight?"
She shook her head. "He has patrol." Well that explained why she was here.
His fingers motioned towards a stack of paperwork. "Make yourself useful then."
She nodded before picking up the stack of papers that he had motioned towards. Her eyes were dull with her grief and so he nodded and went back to his work. She needed her space and he would give it to her.
They worked in silence. Both were trapped in their own thoughts, and the only sound to be heard was the slight scratching of pens on paper. He liked it this way. Some nights when she slept, she would toss and turn for hours distracting him from his work and forcing his thoughts to wonder what could possible make his sturdy help whimper so in her sleep. Those thoughts always lead him back to Hinamori. And then work would be beyond him for the night.
But when they were both awake and working their demons were exorcised for the time being. Matsumoto escaped in two ways, drinking and working; he only ever allowed himself to work. During the war, he had always worried that if he allowed himself to become drunk he would do something rash; like go after Aizen himself. Now he had not taste for it.
And so he spent most of his nights working or planning and when he no longer had any paperwork or anything to plan he would go and sit with Hinamori and talk to her. Some days he just sat and listened to her even, never changing breathing, other nights he told her stories. Anything was better than dreaming.
"Captain," Matsumoto's voice broke him from his thoughts. He looked up at her a brow rising at the sight of the death butterfly on her finger, its wings gentle flapping. He had not felt it come in this evening. That was unusual. Reports were normally felt before they arrived.
"Yes Matsumoto?" he questioned setting his finished stack of papers to the side and picking up another to work on. At her silence he looked up and quirked one brow upwards in question at the expression on her face.
"Hinamori is awake."
And then his world came crashing down.
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