New chapter.

He remembered.

The fact that Unohana-taichou was telling Isane measurements to who knows what didn't matter. Matsumoto's reiatsu outside was hardly important. What mattered was he remembered.

He had died… like that. Not knowing blood, not understanding anything. Failing to protect again. The after-life is like life itself. Life was hardly fair. He died failing. This was what he feared.

Hyourinmaru was stirring. He could see the icy scales, reflecting ice back at him. And the red eyes, deep and hard. Like frozen blood.

You have seen. Now conquer.

"Hitsugaya-taichou?"

He tried sitting up, but ended up falling back on the rather comfortable bed. He hissed lightly. Pathetic. Having no choice, he rolled his body to face Unohana and Isane. Unohana looked mildly amused.

"Isane. Please bring the medicine in the third section in the seventh shelf."

"Hai."

And so, they were left alone.

Unohana sat on a stool, much like before. The hint of amusement that lingered in her eyes disappeared. She faced her patient solemnly.

"Did you remember Hitsugaya-taichou?"

Hitsugaya didn't want to face her now. But his pride held him.

"Hai." He replied in a crackly voice.

Unohana nodded. There was silence and Hitsugaya could hear running water from the garden outside. He rolled to lie on his back.

"Does everyone," he hesitated, "remember like this?" His voice sounded uncomfortably close to a frog trying to speak. Paying no heed to this, Unohana smiled and slowly shook her head.

"No. It seems you are quite special." Hitsugaya frowned lightly. He didn't feel so honored.

He sighed. He was drained. He knew he probably hadn't done anything physical, but he was still tired. The trouble sitting up gave him was a proof of that. That had hurt what little pride that had strayed to the back of his mind.

"Particular souls are very strong. Even before they learn to be shinigami. Did you know that Hitsugaya-taichou?" Unohana asked. Slightly surprised, Hitsugaya leaned his head towards the 4th division captain's voice, all the while ignoring his neck's protests.

"Those souls have the power to seal their memories if they wish," Unohana continued, "If they had undesirable deaths or lives, they subconsciously seal it as they become reborn into Soul Society. Of course, the mere entrance to this world permits a possibility of other memories to be lost." She shifted in her seat, checking Hitsugaya's temperature with a cool hand. "There are incidents where souls seal their whole lives and never remember them. There are even seals that are purely accidental. After each new level in reiatsu the soul obtains, the seals decay bit by bit until they eventually break."

Unohana paused, merely looking at the young captain.

"Is there more?" Hitsugaya croaked. As if waiting for this, the older captain continued.

"It seems when the seal breaks, the soul suffers; it is either through shock or sudden deterioration of health." Unohana smiled reassuring to Hitsugaya. "But they are temporary." Hitsugaya held in his sigh of relief and answered with a nod.

"Unohana-taichou."

Both captains looked up to see Isane. She had a large bottle in one hand with water in the other.

"I've brought the medicine for Hitsugaya-taichou."

Unohana took the objects from her and set them on the night table. "Thank you Isane. The 8th ward should have one of the squads waiting for your approval."

"Hai!" Isane bowed to Hitsugaya, earning a nod from the said captain. "Hitsugaya-taichou. I hope to see you well." She immediately closed the door.

Once the vice-captain left, the two captains returned to their former conversation.

"Do the souls ever remember their entire lives?"

Unohana let her mouth curve into a smile. "Yes. Most likely. Soul Society believes some memories offer wisdom to the shinigami." She found herself rather charmed by the bout of innocence in the vast green eyes of her peer. She secretly wished to see more of it, though it would contradict his icy nature.

"I'm sure they will be happier memories."

Hitsugaya took those words to heart and thanked the captain for her counsel.

"That was not a problem Hitsugaya-taichou. Anything I can do to heal. Now…" she lifted the medicine bottle that lay forgotten. "As soon as you drink this, you will be out in an hour or so Hitsugaya-taichou." She poured a foul smelling liquid into the water. She handed the now black water to Hitsugaya.

"The whole cup if you please."

Hitsugaya took the cup, knowing full well that 'if you please' was not an option. Since she had told him so much, he decided to down the drink without complaint. Not that he ever would.

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Gradually, the days became normal. Hitsugaya's tiredness and migraine went away to be replaced by the perpetual headache he had whenever he saw his vice-captain slack off. Hyourinmaru was a lot less talkative. His patience was being tested every day. Yes, everything was back to normal.

Stretching, Hitsugaya allowed himself a small break from paperwork. He was in his rare good moods; he had had a nice dream last night. He glanced at Matsumoto. Sound asleep and thank God, not drooling on the papers. Without a sound, he left the office carrying a small package. Taking the most discreet path out, he walked quickly to the rock garden behind the office.

It was empty as usual. No one seemed to quite appreciate the solidity and peace the rocks represented to him. Looking around once again, he walked over to a secluded corner of the courtyard.

Over the few days, he had managed to put together a make-shift grave for his family. They were likely here, but it would be nearly impossible to find them in the bustle of Rukongai. They could even have died. Carefully, Hitsugaya took out some incense that he had bought on one of his regular bar searches for Matsumoto. He counted them and set them on the ground before the stone. Putting his hands together in respect, he bowed. However he could not stay in this comfortable silence forever.

And so, with a rustle of his cloak, he left it behind.

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The delight in everyone's eyes. The joy. And the overall comfortable happiness. It was almost too good to be true. But it was all there, in one room.

He graciously took Toushirou's sheet of paper, smiling at the mess of ink and smudges on it. He patted his son's head.

"Good job! My son's got talent with the brush!"

Toushirou grinned, half out of joy and half out of pride. His green eyes widened and sparkled in the warm light. It was all there.

Happy birthday, Otou-san!