Something that hit me when I was watching Episode 61.

One Shot Fic

Hitsugaya was showing signs of strain.

To a mere passerby, he was still the same. He retained his composure of a Captain, his speech was still laced with slight arrogance and his skills never lost their deadly edge.

In short, he was still the genius Captain who suffered from the lack of growth spurt.

However, there were certain changes that were fast becoming a habit.

Hitsugaya spoke less now, only airing his views when needed. There were occasional short slumbers and he was frequently lost in his thoughts. Fatigue was fast consuming him and his once brilliant green orbs had lost their usual shine.

It was unavoidable. After all, a series of unfortunate events occurred almost simultaneously and Hitsugaya, like any other Shinigami, had been left in shock.

Except that Hitsugaya had witnessed and experienced events, which many others had not.

First came Hinamori's accusation of him being Aizen's murderer which Hinamori ended up unconscious. Next came Aizen's betrayal, in which Hitsugaya's trust in the traitor diminished. Worse still, he had witnessing Hinamori's bloodied state; images of her lifeless body plagued his dreams. What came as the final blow was the defeat of his Bankai. Not only was his pride torn to pieces, reality kicked in as he realized that he was not strong enough to protect his love ones.

Yet unlike Hinamori, he could not release the stress and tension that were accumulating in dangerous levels within his body.

Hinamori was considered as a direct victim who suffered tremendously after Aizen's death and betrayal. Thus, everyone was sympathetic towards her as she went into depression, crying her eyes out. No one complained about Hinamori abandoning her duties as a Vice-captain. Many felt that she was taking a well deserved break to reorganize her thoughts and feelings, and will snap out of her depression in the long run. Duties can wait.

On the other hand, Hitsugaya was expected or needed to be strong. A Captain should not reveal any weaknesses and they were the role models for other Shinigamis. If he were to sink into depression, his entire Division would just collapse. Moreover, Hinamori had been making frequent trips to his Division every night to seek his comfort and assurance.

He had to be strong.

For his division and for Hinamori.

Even then, he was still a young lad, probably younger than Hinamori. Though it was true that he was mentally strong, young lads were psychologically weak. And with barely no one to confide in or virtually no way to release his stress, succumbing to exhaustion seemed like a real avenue in the near future.

At least Hinamori had friends to give her support, with Hitsugaya as her pillar.

But who can heal his wounded soul?

Captain meetings were always a routine. Sitting around a table in random order, various topics were discussed followed by Kenpachi and Mayuri's heated argument which nearly ended up as a brawl.

Today's meeting was no different. Both captains were attempting to outwit each other with words, leaving the other captains stoning in their seats.

Unohana's gaze fell onto the Tenth Division Captain, who was seated next to her.

She was not a medic for nothing. With just a glance, she could tell that he was not too well. With his gaze clouded and eyes half lidded, Hitsugaya was staring at nowhere in particular.

An obvious sign of a troubled mind.

"Hitsugaya-Taichou, is there anything wrong?"

Hitsugaya snapped out of his trance and assured Unohana that he was fine.

Unfortunately, Kenpachi possessed enhanced hearing and instantly teased the white-haired captain, "Brats today have no energy at all. Falling asleep in morning meetings is such a disgrace to us captains."

Hitsugaya just gave an annoyed grunt before retorting, "Don't drag me into your conversation, old man. And just for your information, I have enough rest." Then he leaned against the back of the chair wearing his usual frown.

It was a good half an hour later that the meeting ended. Captains flooded out of the meeting area leaving several captains behind.

One of them was Unohana.

She approached the supreme commander and voiced out her concern respectfully.

"Yamamoto-taicho, it has come to my attention that Hitsugaya-taicho is experiencing certain… problems at the moment."

"It is pretty obvious if you look hard enough." Shunsui piped, "That kid has been looking a little run down lately."

Ukitake added his two cents in, "I bet he must be worn down from those recent events."

"He came to my division a few days back." Unohana recalled, "He requested the use of a room."

Flashback

"Hitsugaya-Taicho?" Unohana was deeply concerned. "Are you injured?"

Hitsugaya shook his head wearily, "Unohana-Taicho, may I rest in one of the rooms? I am a bit… exhausted and Matsumoto is currently having a sake party in Tenth Division."

Unohana briefly glanced at the Tenth Division Captain. He looked relatively worse for wear.

"Sure, Hitsugaya-Taicho. I will ensure that no one barges in."

Hitsugaya flashed a grateful smile, "Arigatou."

End of fashback

"It can't be helped. He is a captain after all. He needs to learn how to take things in his stride." Yamamoto said.

"But he is a young kid, Yama-jii. Oldies like us have loads of experience with stuff like this but he is only about 150 years old."

"I suppose the impact of recent events is starting to show." Unohana remarked, "At this rate, Hitsugaya-Taicho will snap."

Yamamoto remained silent.

"Sensei, you told us that we were like your children. Then what is Hitsugaya-Taicho to you?"

"I know! His grandson." Shunsui added helpfully, with a tad too much enthusasium. He must be drinking sake earlier this morning. "Then we must be his aniki!"

Unohana looked disapprovingly at Shunsui, knowing full well that alcohol is bad for the liver.

"Err right." Ukitake mused, "So a grandparent must cheer his grandson up when his grandson is feeling down."

Yamamoto raised an eyebrow as Ukitake concluded.

"It is just the right thing to do."

For the first time in Hitsugaya's life, Yamamoto called for his presence in the First Division.

It just seemed weird. Why would some old man have business with him?

It was a fifteen minutes stroll to his destination and he was not in the mood to use his flash steps.

Soon, the enormous doors of the First Division loomed before him. He made his way to the main house and was greeted by three captains.

"Ano…" Hitsugaya was at a loss for words.

"You have finally arrived, Hitsugaya-taicho!" Shunsui rushed towards him, dragging a very stunned Tenth Division Captain into the room.

"Drink, young lad!" Shunsui offered Hitsugaya a bottle of sake, "A bottle of sake a day chases sorrows away!"

Hitsugaya threw a terrified stare at the drunken man before pushing the bottle away as it was hovering dangerously near his lips.

"Iie, I don't drink. I am underage."

"Always so strict with yourself! Just like my Nanao-chan…"

"Shunsui! Our main purpose was not to convert him into another alcoholic!" Ukitake yelled as he freed Hitsugaya from the Eighth Division Captain's death grip.

The ten bottles of sake within Shunsui was obviously taking effect as he started to sway dangerously as he muttered about his Nanao-chan, scaring Hitsugaya in the process.

Someone could not take it anymore.

"Both of you leave at once!" Yamamoto raised his voice, "Ukitake, bring him to Unohana."

Unohana-taicho will not be pleased.

Shunsui had been "hospitalized" for the ninth time this week due to high alcohol content within him. Ukitake steered his best friend towards the door.

"Demo Yama-jii…" Shunsui whined.

"NOW."

The door closed leaving a confused Hitsugaya and an ancient relic.

Yamamoto sighed inwardly. For the past thousand years, he had been dealing with people of upper ranks and making life or death decisions. Never was he asked to act as counselor.

He took one last look at the list of "Things to say to Hitsugaya-taicho by Ukitake and Shunsui." before discarding it. He had an image o maintain and never will he sprout such sappy, improper… stuff to the kid.

"Come lad." Yamamoto pointed to a seat next to him. "We have things to discuss."

Hitsugaya did just that, with his puzzled expression ever present.

"Being a Captain is rather taxing and it is inevitable that one will bottle up their feelings."

Hitsugaya had no idea where this conversation was heading, "Ano…"

"Several captains noticed that you were suffering from the effects of the aftermath."

Hitsugaya's eyes widen in realization before a slightly downcast expression followed.

"Oh, they were pretty observant. It is not much really. I just need some time."

"Well, spit it out. What is troubling you?"

Flashback (earlier on)

"Sensei, you must coax him to tell you about his problems! He will feel better that way." Ukitake ranted.

"That is an invasion of privacy."

"You have to!" Ukitake argued followed by a coughing fit.

Yamamoto sighed before he agreed.

End of flashback

Hitsugaya hesitated before he answered, "Too many unfortunate events happened at the same time and I don't seem to be coping very well… Aizen's betrayal, Hinamori's near death experience, my defeat…" Hitsugaya closed his eyes as he sighed deeply, "I am not strong enough to protect others."

Yamamoto sighed gravely, "Betrayal is a harsh thing. Unable to protect means weakness, which is difficult to accept."

The scene of Hinamori's bloodied form kept repeating in Hitsugaya's mind.

"She nearly died and I wasn't there to protect her…"

Yamamoto stared silently at Hitsugaya. The young chap's pride of being a captain and protector had been torn to shreds.

Hitsugaya continued pouring out his troubles before pausing abruptly when he felt a hand on his head, ruffling his hair.

"Yamamoto-taicho…"

"Ukitake was right, you are still a young kid after all…"

It was during their contact that Hitsugaya felt his burden had lifted tremendously. There was someone who understood him, someone who could share his pain.

"If you do have any worries, feel free to pay me a visit."

Not as your commander…

But someone who merely lived a thousand years longer than you.

"We can't have any Captains suffering from mental breakdowns just when Aizen is about to attack us."

Hitsugaya smiled and bowed low, "Arigatou gozaimasu, Yamamoto-taicho."

It was unexpected.

Yamamoto had became Hitsugaya's pillar of support.

There to lend a listening ear and to heal his wounded soul.

End of Story

Yup, this is my take on Hitsugaya so far. He suffered a great deal too.

This is kind of like a grandfather-grandson relationship between Yama-jii and Hitsugaya.

On why Yama-jii was a little tactless, just recall the scene in the anime where he was scaring Nanao off. He was awfully tactless then, thus I concluded his personality.

I know this may not be that good, but I would love to hear from you. Reviews will be much appreciated. This is also an early xmas pressie. Merry Xmas!