A/N: My first Fanfic written for my friend's birthday. She's a fan of IchiHitsu and kind of got me into it. This is going to be a gradual IchiHitsu though and there will be chapters. Happy Birthday, Gina. With my slow skills this should be completed next year and you can count it as a two-year gift. XD

Disclaimer: I do not own Tite Kubo's Bleach or the characters. But I do own a more useful one that helps me clean out stains. As for the characters, nope.

The desert floor was littered with bodies. But, needless to say, there were more shinigami corpses than there were arrancar. It was a damned mistake, choosing the enemies' home as their battlefield.

Hitsugaya Toushirou picked his way through the mass grave, his hair a mess and his shoulders sagging as if they held a great weight. And he was covered in blood. His white captain's haori seemed completely dark red, as layers and even more layers coated it. It was now a burden for the young taichou to wear, instead of the symbol of authority and pride it had given him. But he still wore it, grimacing every now and then when his eyes would accidentally make their way down to stare at the stained clothing.

The white desert was endless and no matter how far he walked the distance didn't seem to close. Hitsugaya had his eyes fixed up on a bare tree, its quartz-like structure and white color, like everything else in the desert, his main focus. He would have to rest there, feeling the searing pain in his right arm grow sharper. Because his attention was so drawn to his goal he did not notice the stray body that sprawled out to the side and he felt his foot become caught on something, perhaps the stretched out leg. The next thing he knew he landed on his injured arm, cursing at the pain of the impact and cursing again at his clumsiness. Sitting up Hitsugaya gripped at the desert sand, his eyes shut and his teeth clenched as he waited for the fresh waves of pain to leave. As it did he reopened his eyes and stared at the lifeless body he had tripped on. The shinigami wasn't recognizable but those terror filled eyes were still open and staring, unseeingly, up at the night sky. Hitsugaya would've felt grief and pity, but there was nothing. He had stumbled on to too many bodies previously and was growing used to the sight.

Reaching out he gently placed his hand over the open eyes of the dead shinigami and closed them. "Thank you." Hitsugaya murmured, his head bowing once to acknowledge the service that the shinigami had done for their part in the battle. Though the body was far away from the rest of the corpses, Hitsugaya did not bother thinking about it too deeply. The man might have run away from his duties, and later killed, but could Hitsugaya really blame him? It had been terrible, something he was being burdened with. He had been the commanding officer, and yet… failed. The white haired taichou kneeled there, forcing the battle to leave his head as he had willed it to leave a thousand times over every time he had murmured his gratitude to his fallen subordinates.

Hitsugaya stood, his back turned to the dead shinigami and he continued making his way towards that damned tree.

He wasn't very far from it when he realized that the place was already occupied. Orange hair was visible from the other side of the quartz tree, along with the sleeve of a shihakushou, and a large zanpakutou, its point buried in the sand as it stuck straight out. It could only be one person and the uncontrolled reiatsu confirmed it.

Hitsugaya silently moved forward. The tree blocked his view since they were on opposite sides of the plant, but he was able to see splashes of blood on the sand. "Kurosaki?" He was suddenly aware of how tired his voice sounded. Rounding the tree he was shocked to see the condition the substitute shinigami was in. One side of his face was entirely covered in blood and there were slashes and rips everywhere. The black shihakushou hid the rest of the wounds from Hitsugaya's sight.

"Toushirou? Damn!" Ichigo's eyes had widened in disbelief and Hitsugaya realized that he probably looked no better. Ichigo struggled to raise himself, those brown and startled eyes never leaving Hitsugaya's blood stained clothes. But before he could get very far, a small hand pressed him down firmly and Ichigo slid back to the soft sand.

"Calm down. It's… not my own." Hitsugaya explained, his usual frown deepening. He was referring to the blood he was currently soaked in. A hesitant nod from Ichigo accompanied his words and, once again, he leaned back on to the tree. Hitsugaya removed Hyourinmaru, slipping the sash off his shoulder and placing his faithful zanpakutou down beside him. He sat down as well; his aching legs and injured arm needed this rest. There was an uncomfortable silence that was begging to be broken as they sat there, eyes purposely diverted away from each other. Ichigo had even begun doodling shapes in the sand, or were they actually pictures? Hitsugaya cleared his voice and made himself look back at Ichigo. They couldn't stay here forever, it was enemy territory.

"What are your injuries?" Hitsugaya let his eyes travel over Ichigo's body, taking note of the wounds that he was able to see and especially the ones that continued to bleed. It looked as if Ichigo had lost lots of blood and the human was definitely showing signs of weakness because of it.

Ichigo gazed back at Hitsugaya, his eyebrows scrunching up. "What are yours?" He retorted, ceasing his doodles and crossing his arms over his chest. Hitsugaya made another mental note that something was wrong with Ichigo's left shoulder, noticing the small flinch and adjustment the orange haired human had made when moving his arms. A brief pause. Then Hitsugaya shot him an agitated glare. Now was not the time to be difficult. Ichigo read this clearly and opened his mouth to argue but stopped. "Fine." He muttered, glaring with just as much agitation. "My left shoulder's messed up, I have a cut on the side of my neck that stings like hell, I'm pretty sure I have a cut somewhere on my face too 'cause I'm bleeding there, and…" Ichigo uncrossed his arms and pulled at the neck of his haori, causing it to open and reveal a large, but not very deep, cut on his chest that ran down diagonally and still bled. "… this." He didn't mention his smaller cuts but then again, they had stopped bleeding a while ago.

It was amazing that Ichigo was still conscious and able to move and talk after all that. But then again, the human boy was full of surprises.

Hitsugaya growled something under his breath, regretting not taking medical supplies from the bodies of the 4th squad shinigami he had been leading. At the time Hitsugaya's own wounds had been treated and he didn't think he would end up seeing another being so far out into the desert. After all, his own team had been a search and rescue group sent out after the first battle, so when they had been ambushed… He pressed his fingertips to his temples and once more blocked out the memories.

"… Toushirou?" Ichigo's worried tone brought him back to attention.

"It's Hitsugaya-taichou!" The smaller boy snapped in annoyance and reflex. Why couldn't that idiot remember a simple thing like addressing someone by their proper title? He wanted to fume in silence but knew that would get them no where. Where were they again? Ah, yes, the injuries. Hitsugaya had his healing kidou but he would also need a bandage or cloth of some sort to make sure the wounds Ichigo had wouldn't reopen. And suddenly, the answer became all too clear. Without hesitating he slipped out of his bloody captain's haori and began ripping it apart into long strips. His eyes narrowed as he did so and his jaws tightened, it wasn't a very pleasant thing to do, ripping up something that he had worked so hard to accomplish.

"H-Hey! Stop that!" Ichigo's surprised voice rang out and a calloused hand was all of a sudden grabbing Hitsugaya's own. They both paused, staring at each other.

"Remove your hand, Kurosaki. I know what I'm doing." The icy tone had no effect on the substitute shinigami.

"Yeah right!" Ichigo scoffed, his grip on Hitsugaya didn't loosen. "That's what all you taichous wear! Doesn't it mean anything to you?" After a moment, an amused look came over Hitsugaya's face but he stopped it from coming any further. So Ichigo was one of those people that thought items had symbolic meanings? It wasn't that Hitsugaya didn't think so himself, it was just… he wouldn't have expected it out of a person like Ichigo.

Hitsugaya pulled away from Ichigo's grasp, his hands ripped another strip of cloth before he looked Ichigo square in the eyes. "It can be replaced." Unlike you. Hitsugaya kept the last part to himself, not really knowing what had made him think such a thing and concluding that it was just because Ichigo was a valuable ally. Satisfied that he wouldn't interrupt anymore, Hitsugaya continued ripping apart the haori, trying to think of something else while he did so. But every sound of stitching coming undone would only cause him to ask what he was doing. And then, he came up on the 10th squad number. It was, like almost every other part of the haori, covered in dry blood, but if he squinted he could make out the number and its diamond design that encased it. Hitsugaya hesitated, his hands holding on to the cloth. He took a look at the design, and then at Ichigo. And to his surprise Ichigo was looking right back at him. Had he been this entire time?

"I'm sure this is enough." Ichigo motioned to the strips of clothing, a small grin was offered at the small taichou. He knows. Hitsugaya thought. His heart was thumping in his chest. How easy it would be… to just stop shredding his captain's haori. Hitsugaya went back to staring at the 10th squad number and after a moment's pause he ripped it right down the middle. He had started something; there was no reason to stop.

"One more wouldn't hurt." Hitsugaya muttered, tossing that strip into the pile and avoiding those worried eyes of Ichigo's. He folded up the torn captain's haori and felt somewhat… free. Maybe it was because he was no longer wearing something so hideously bloody or maybe it was because he no longer felt tied down to the responsibilities of a captain. How a single destruction of a captain's haori did that, Hitsugaya had no idea. But he… liked the feeling.

Selecting the cleanest pieces was difficult and Ichigo wasn't much help, seeing as he always picked the dirtiest strips.

"This one?" Ichigo asked. His voice was a bit hopeful after having his selections continually denied.


"You didn't even look at it!"

A sigh and a quick glance from the pile to the bloody strip Ichigo held up. "Kurosaki, are you blind? That's the worst one out of them all!" Came the exasperated reply from one very irritated taichou.

"Hey! You said the same thing about the other ones I picked so there has to be some difference." Ichigo growled, wanting to prove to the smaller boy that he really wasn't an 'incompetent moron' as Hitsugaya had put it.

"Then you must be choosing the same one over and over again."

"No way!" A pause. "Do you… do you really think so?"

Hitsugaya looked up to see a serious and slightly horrified look on Ichigo's face. "I mean. What are the odds of me picking out the exact same one? Right?" Ichigo was squinting at the cloth now, but keeping it away at an arm's distance. As if it was going to jump him and strangle him to death.

Hitsugaya had to turn away, the corners of lips turning up ever so slightly, yet he fought to keep his smile down. The sight was so ridiculous and as he rolled his eyes at Ichigo's constant stream of words Hitsugaya couldn't help but feel his horrible encounters that day slowly smooth out. The ambush, the pain on his right arm that had returned not long ago, and the responsibility of loosing his group were all being pushed back and away, into some far place inside himself.

"Are you even listening to me, Toushirou?!"

"Damn it, Kurosaki. It's Hitsugaya-taichou!"

Getting back safely was going to be one hell of a job with Ichigo around.

A/N: Whoo. Next chapter Ichigo will be treated and maybe (if I feel like it?) it will be explained as to how Ichigo is alone and more information on Hitsugaya's ambush. Reviews are much appreciated as are critiques since I'm new at this.