Built for Sin is performed by Framing Hanley from the album The Moment.

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Warning: This is not in chronological order. That's intentional, and please do enjoy figuring out how it goes. If you're too confused the order is listed at the very end.

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Built for Sin

There's a train leaving town

If you hurry up I think you just might make it

Dammit I hope you make it

He had planned on asking her to attend Shunsui and Nanao's joining with him, but that was no longer an option. Two months since he had confessed the truth of how he feels for her, and two months since she rejected him. Hitsugaya has seen her only a handful of times since then, and this is one of them. He is seated on one side of the room, she on another, and as much as he knows he should be paying attention to the momentous occasion of taichou and fukutaichou committing themselves to each other in ways that far surpass a working relationship…he only has eyes for Hinamori Momo.

She's dutifully paying attention to the altar; he's looked at it once, so he only knows that the ceremony is over when she moves to stand, because he's so oblivious he hasn't noticed that Ukitake had already risen from his seat next to him to congratulate Kyōraku-taichou and Ise-fukutaichou. Or would that be Kyōraku-fukutaichou? But it's baseless because he really doesn't care and Momo has risen and is already giving them her congratulations and he's frozen in place because her face lifts just as she walks past him to leave. Her dark eyes meet his and time stops for a moment as he thinks he might step forward and ask her to come with him, to give what is between them another chance.

And then time reclaims them and he knows that there is nothing between them because she is still leaving. He's left behind to give his congratulations to the happy couple and to be dragged aside by Ukitake and Kurosaki to be interrogated on what is wrong with Hinamori-chan and what happened between them and it does nothing but irritate him because if they were going to ask why hadn't they asked before, when it happened, and was everyone so afraid because he was injured and she was silent?

But then he knows because they're telling him that no one has had the sheer balls to ask him, not even Matsumoto, because his face has been thunder since he left the 4th. There's not a single soul in Seireitei and beyond who hadn't felt the way his reiatsu is uncontrolled and dangerously high, not even Yama-jii, Ukitake tells him, and Kurosaki glares at him and Hitsugaya glares back and tells them it's none of their business, and if it was they'd already know.

They let him go when the sleeve of his shirt rides up and the glaringly dark scar from what Tobiume did to him is exposed, and he wonders if maybe he shouldn't have worn his shinigami robes instead, because then he could have bound the sleeves of his kosode so no one would see the scar—it's nothing but shame written on his flesh that he loved her and lost her and can never have it back.

He stalks out and doesn't know or care that his reiatsu and Hyourinmaru's as well has pervaded the room and ice is rising up the walls, coating the chairs and freezing people's feet to the floor. Nanao looks after the youngest taichou, concerned, and Hitsugaya would bristle if he knew, but Shunsui tells her and anyone else who can hear him to let the man go, he'll sort it out or Hinamori will and it will be fine because love is something that not even the tensai taichou can run from. There are a few chuckles, but mostly there is still worry because no one present has ever seen Hitsugaya out of control, and they all know that that is what he nearly is.

So he goes to the only place where he can safely lose control because, even though he doesn't know it, Hitsugaya agrees with them. He's out of control, he's no longer the master of his reiatsu and if it weren't for the fact that he and Hyourinmaru have such a close bond then the zanpakutō would rule him or leave him, but the dragon knows how deeply his wielder has been hurt and that these wounds go far deeper than flesh and bone, and so he doesn't fight, he just bides.

The glade where he's retreated is coated in ice quickly and the sky above him is dark and spreading, and he wonders if he shouldn't go farther away from the Soul Society because there is already snow riding the wind and he knows that he's not going to be able to stop it as he is. But he's afraid to go much farther because he's already so far away and how much easier would it be to just keep going and never to go back? He's already left his haori behind, and while he could never set Hyourinmaru aside he thinks he might be able to forget about duty and honor if it means he can leave a place that hurts him every time he breathes.

Then he feels the fire at his back and he's moving, ducking, Hyourinmaru in hand and blocking a fully released Tobiume who is in the hands of a crying Hinamori. She's glaring at him and he's almost impressed with how annoyed it looks but for the hurt on her face. He blocks again and ducks to the side as she sends shakkahō past him, and then she speaks.

"Guard yourself, taichou."

And he does, but nothing she sends at him is hard or strong or dangerous and she's crying and he feels like he's dying because this is the third time the woman he loves has attacked him with his death (or at least severe maiming) on her mind, and somewhere he wonders, where there is no Hinamori or Hyourinmaru or Hitsugaya-taichou to argue with Toushirou, if maybe it would be better to have her way. No running, no fleeing, no fighting. Just a clean death and the last sight he'd ever see would be Momo and he could be happy with that at least, couldn't he?

"Running away," she breathes out harshly as she strikes again, and he parries. "That's not like you, Hitsugaya."

He gives her a blank smile and thinks that none of the things he's been thinking are much like him. But he doesn't know what to say, how to answer her or if she even wants an answer. How can he tell her that he doesn't want her dependent on him like she was on Aizen? The he just wants her to depend on him? He doesn't know if she can understand the difference because he's not sure that he understands it himself anymore. She's so hurt and so angry and he knows that she must believe he was setting her aside, but he can't say that he wasn't because he would if there had been the need to. Except there wasn't because she attacked, she stood strong and on her own and set him aside. It occurs to him that his work is done, that what he wanted for her is accomplished.

So the next time she swings he drops Hyourinmaru and steps into it.

The zanpakutō hits the snowy grass with a faint whoosh and his arms are spread and his eyes are closed and he's waiting for the pain of Hinamori driving Tobiume deep into his body. It never comes and when he opens his eyes he sees her standing there, her pale green yukata is a damp mess that only emphasizes her slender curves and he notices for the first time that mixed between the ivory lilies on the fabric there are dragons weaving their way across it. His eyes dart to hers but his voice is lost.

She's breathing heavily but her voice is easily found, and so are the tears as she shivers and holds Tobiume in her hand scant inches from his throat. "How can you tell me that you don't want me dependent on you? Because I am, because you make me happy and sad and miserable and… and…"

Her voice is lost as she lowers Tobiume and then drops the zanpakutō to the snow beside Hyourinmaru and her hands cover her face and he can't hear what she's saying because the wind and snow and her own hands are muffling the words. But when he reaches for her and pulls her to him, her head finds its way to his shoulder, and he's suddenly very glad that he's not much taller than her because if he was he couldn't feel her breathing against his neck or the words she's murmuring against his ear.

"And you make me love you, Toushirou, and if that isn't dependence I don't know what it is." More tears hot against his neck and shoulder and even softer, "And I want you to depend on me that way, too."

It's so innocent and unexpected that he's nearly in tears himself, because she loves him and he loves her and how can anything be wrong now? He finds her mouth with his and it's heated and desperate and—loving. But when she reaches to pull his clothes off he stops her, shakes his head. It began with impatience, he tells her, and it ended with violence, and he won't have either of those now, he'll be damned if that is how it always is between them.

And when she tells him that it's all she's ever known, she doesn't know any other way, he smiles and kisses her again.

Let me show you, he whispers. I want to show you. And he does.

Conscience is a faint unpleasant sound

You've worried enough but here's your chance so take it

Dammit I hope you take it

"Weak" he spits at her, and Hinamori's eyes flash. He's been harsh, unwontedly cruel, ever since the afternoon where she had confessed to him what seeing his bankai did to her, the things that she had seen before she died. And she is so very sick of hearing him call her weak.

Weak, coward, afraid. All of them things he has said, and she knows what he wants. He wants her to give in, to hear Tobiume and unseal the zanpakutō and unleash the reiatsu she knows he can see flowing like liquid fire behind her eyes. Wants her to hurt him, if only it means her being who she was, being shinigami, and honestly she can't think of any reason for it not to be. She isn't broken anymore, she knows she isn't, just a little strained around the edges. She won't fall apart at the merest mention of Aizen's name, or of the betrayals that Soul Society had suffered through.

She turns to ice when anyone mentions that she doubted Hitsugaya Toushirou, her oldest and truest friend, a boy—no, a man, he's not a boy anymore and she knows this—who has no reason to help her so much after such a great betrayal that she visited upon him. And yet he does.

Sometimes she wonders about it, as she does now, bring Tobiume up to block his Hyourinmaru as he hurls another insult at her and then sweeps his leg against hers in a low move to try and bring her down. He doesn't, she avoids it, and she forgets to wonder as her reiatsu begins to bleed from behind her eyes and into her finger tips.

Kidō is so very close right now, but her zanpakutō is screaming at her, and Hinamori finds that she can no longer ignore Tobiume's cries, her demands to be recognized, answered, unsealed. The word is involuntary as she blocks again, and Hinamori has tears in her eyes as she looks into Hitsugaya's, and unseals Tobiume for the first time in more than three years.

"Snap, Tobiume."

It's full of triumph and despair, and Hitsugaya's eyes gleam in satisfaction as the sword straightens with a snap, just as the unsealing implies, and he finds Hyourinmaru bound by one of the prongs the zanpakutō has sprouted. He knows that he could free his own easily, but it would mean damaging Tobiume, something he is loathe to do when he's finally brought her this far. Instead, he lets her maintain his zanpakutō in the binding and she is nearly horrified when she realizes that he's allowed her to pin him to the wall of the 10th's training room in order to save her zanpakutō.

And deep down there is the need to prove that his willingness to sacrifice himself for her is misplaced. He's stronger, he's more powerful, Tobiume is nowhere near a match for Hyourinmaru… But she will make him work to win. She will not give him reason to call her weak ever again. And she attacks. Tobiume is withdrawn, but the heat that blazes from the zanpakutō has seared the wound Hitsugaya accepted and no more blood flows. An overhead drive, blocked, a side sweep, blocked, but the underhanded knee to his stomach connects because he apparently cannot think of her as a worthy opponent.

She'll show him otherwise, she tells herself this with iron will. She does.

He bleeds, she bleeds, and she uses Tobiume like he uses Hyourinmaru—without thinking on it, like an extension of her body that weaves and flows and she doesn't feel the nicks and cuts she's dealt, only notices when she makes blood flow on him, makes him strain to hold against her blows, makes him work to win, because she knows he will. It's worth it, every ache and pain is worth it when he finally disarms her, Tobiume locked with Hyourinmaru and wrestled from her grip, but Hinamori doesn't stop there, refuses to let him believe that she is only strong with her zanpakutō.

Kidō glows at her fingertips even as she cries, "Hadō: shakkahō!"

The demon magic speeds at Hitsugaya and, despite knowing that it's half strength (because she has no desire to kill him, just to prove that she is not weak) her heart hammers as she sees that he doesn't move fast enough to avoid the spell completely. He isn't injured enough to make him slow so she believes that he simply can't believe that she would do this, that she would truly take the offensive, and he's charred, his haori scorched and ruined when the smoke clears.

He glares, but she smirks back. "I am not weak, Hitsugaya-kun."

He smiles and Hinamori shivers because it looks like a wild beast baring his teeth. She is reminded forcibly of what happens when Hitsugaya's dragon rides his body, but Hyourinmaru is grounded and she knows this is nothing more than the man whose lover she's become. She gives him the same smile back after a moment, and moves for him, not realizing that she's stooped to seize Tobiume in her hand as she rushes to him and buries it in the wall of the training room only inches from his head.

"Not weak at all, are you, Momo?" he asks, and there is no irony in his voice though she can feel the icy length of Hyourinmaru at her side. Truly, if they were not holding back, they might have killed each other in this one attack.

But Hinamori doesn't care. Her breathing is harsh and heavy and his is too and he is so much what she yearns for that she can't stop herself from bringing her hands up to his face to tilt it down the barest of movements and to kiss him. He isn't ready for it, hasn't expected it, at least from her instead of himself, and her lips curve against his as she lets her body press against his, melding to it like it belongs there. Hyourinmaru is forgotten in a thump of metal against mat as he drops the zanpakutō and wraps his arms around her, drawing her more fully into him.

She can feel the rumble that is his breath in his body and in a moment he shifts them around so that her back is suddenly pressed to the wall, a solid supporting weight behind her as he lifts her. "Toushirou," she says, her eyes meeting his even as he leans in to press an unwontedly gentle kiss to her lips. "Momo," he murmurs back, and she closes her eyes and lets him take control, knowing that she could just as easily wrest it back, but she is content for the moment to let him have it.

There is something to be said for being pressed between a wall and Hitsugaya Toushirou, and she delights in the feel of his hands untying her obi, peeling make the short kimono, snowy kosode beneath it to set calloused fingertips against smooth flesh. She feels her skin tingle with his icy touch and knows that Tobiume's power still rides her because the ice is countered with a heat greater than her own desire for him.

It's there in the way he hisses and his pale skin goes pink where her own fingers drag across it as she brings him to a matching state of undress, and in the way the fabric of what's left of his robes smoke and heat as she pulls and tugs them off so that there is nothing between them but sweat and skin and desire that needs to be answered by him and her and the meeting of wills as they love one another. The wall is coarse against her back, hard and unforgiving, but she doesn't care in the least.

It's marking her back and will leave the most delicious abrasions there, bruises along her spine. She knows that they'll hurt when she moves the next day, and she'll wince and then smile because she'll know exactly what she did to get those small, erotic hurts. It already brings a fleeting smile to her face in the second before he buries himself inside her and makes her scream his name, and her fingers claw against the skin of his back, marking him just as much as the force of him driving her against the wall is marking her.

And he takes it willingly as she moves against him. Hinamori lets her head fall back, lets Hitsugaya and the wall support her completely, because she knows that no matter what is happening, she has complete control.

A heart attack is sleeping in your chest

Waiting until the timing's best

So make a move while you're still breathing

It's been two days since Kurosaki-taichou gave her back her fukutaichou badge and reinstated her officially as the vice-captain of the 5th division. Somehow it doesn't please her as much as she thought it would. Maybe it's because he'd told her that it was nearly a unanimous vote, and for a few moments Hinamori thought that the dissenter might be him. But then Kurosaki-taichou had tried to console her by telling her not to worry because they all thought that Kurotsuchi (and she finds it amusing that he really doesn't use titles for anyone, not even Yamamoto-Genryūsai, and he never wants anyone to address him as taichou because somehow Ichigo or Kurosaki is just fine—unless you're Rukia-san, because apparently Hitsu—he hadn't been joking when he said that their favorite forms of address are 'Midget' and 'Moron' and 'Fool' respectively) was an ass, so she doesn't need to worry.

Which means that he said yes, that he voted her back to her rank. And she had nearly killed him. She wonders if it's shame that eats inside her as she walks slowly to the 10th, but she knows better. It's guilt, nothing but guilt, because when he had tried to do something that he thought needed doing she had done nothing more than take it out on him, knowing that he would never seriously fight her back.

She's heard what they say about it, that he stands by a training accident, and no one has asked her why, if there was an accident that left a taichou that badly injured and dying, then why in the gods' names had she left him without getting help? She has no answer ready in the event that someone asks, but she knows the truth behind it. He hurt her and she had wanted nothing more than to take it out on him.

She doesn't know of any way to explain it to anyone, how to tell him even what had come over her. She doesn't think she ever will because she doubts that he wants to continue on anyone. He made it very clear and she's going to abide by it. Not friends, not lovers. Never mind how she feels about it, he's made another one of his decisions for her and it's going to be the last one he makes, because she is in charge of her life, no one else. The badge on her left sleeve only drives it home with a familiar weight that she wants to find comforting but only reminds Hinamori that it has been four years since she last wore it and that for two of them he has been by her side so that she might wear it again.

He's in his office when she arrives, but he's not alone and she can tell why. She can see the thick bulk of bandages at his shoulder where she drove Hyourinmaru seventeen days ago, and she can see the snowy white bandages beneath the right sleeve of his kimono, as white as his captain's haori, where she scored a line with Tobiume. It's odd to see Matsumoto-fukutaichou's desk covered in paperwork and his not, but she doesn't think of it twice, and when she greets Matsumoto formally she finds her once friend arching a pale and perfectly shaped eyebrow at her.

How to tell the older woman that she can't call her Rangiku-san or even Ran-san anymore because of what she's done to the fukutaichou's captain? But she doesn't have to because he orders her out and she goes after hesitating. Hinamori wonders at it, and then wonders that Hyourinmaru is not slung across his back, the green sash that holds the zanpakutō to his body is missing across his chest and is draped on his chair. Then she remembers that she cut his back with Tobiume, and she must truly have hurt him badly because she's never seen him without Hyourinmaru attached to him at the hip since he became taichou, unless she counts all of the times that she was in bed with him, or in the grass or against the wall in the training room or—

Or pressed underneath him on his desk, paperwork scattered everywhere and seeing his eyes staring down at her so full of something, but she can't understand what.

So when she speaks her voice is harsh, hurting, but it sounds so angry that she almost winces. Almost. "Why did you do it? Why do you want me back in the Gotei 13 so badly after what I did to you?"

He doesn't try and stall or beat around the bush so she knows that she can believe him when he answers. "Because you can do it; because I have faith in you."

She can only stare at him for a long while after he says that, mostly because she can't believe he said that to her. Faith, he claims, he has in her, and it hurts more than she can say because the events of seventeen days before are so fresh that she can feel each word he said to her so brilliantly, so clearly, so much like when he first said them. He has faith in her, and yet he seems to think that she's weak, that she depends on him too much, and hasn't she proven that she doesn't? She doesn't live and breathe for him (and if she is lying to herself no one else will know because she isn't sure she knows yet) because she is strong, she can stand on her own two feet with or without him.

And to throw his title in her face, oh that had hurt. He told her that it was over, whether or not he said it, and now he says faith, like it's a simple word without hundreds of meanings and memories attached to it. She knows he's a captain, knows because she doesn't believe for a moment that there was anyone who had been more proud of him for making it into the academy and then for passing through with such speed that it left the rest of the shinigami breathless, and the youngest captain in the history of Seireitei? No, she knows full well that he is Hitsugaya-taichou, but she thought that he would always be Shirou-chan for her, and now he's not, not even Hitsugaya-kun.

After all of it, after protecting her, believing in her, loving her, he sets her aside and then declares faith? She laughs and it's painful in her throat, hard and bitter. "Such faith," she spits at him, her face blank and empty because she's been used and she knows it and she hates him for using her and her for letting herself be used. "Why would you place it in me?"

The smile he gives her is wry, small and cool but so honest that it hurts to look at. "Because I love you," he says, and she feels the sudden heat in her eyes that tells her she's going to cry.

She's wanted to hear him say that, has wanted him to love her, and now he says it and it's too late because she can't believe it. Her nails dig in to her palms and she knows that she's drawn blood inside her clenched fists, but her eyes cool and there are no tears to be seen. She nods once to him, so that he knows she heard him, and then she turns to the door.

"I don't love you," she says evenly, and knows that she's killing him inside but she can't care because she already feels dead herself. "Goodbye, Hitsugaya-taichou." And she walks away.

Say so long to innocence

From underneath the evidence

You taste like heaven

But god knows you're built for sin

You're built for sin

You're built for sin

You're built for sin

When she wakes up, Hinamori learns that pain comes in many forms. It's only natural for her to doubt them, and then to doubt herself, but the evidence of her own body is too much for her to find a logical way to ignore. She's grown thin, pale and wan in the interim of her murder and her resurrection. In truth, in the first few days it's nearly all she can do to simply keep her eyes open long enough to hold a conversation. Not that anyone does that with Unahona-taichou keeping her under lock and key. But she has her visitors.

Kira and Renji. Matsumoto. Even Ukitake-taichou comes to try and cheer her up. She doesn't learn until much later that he's been admitted to the 4th division's care because of his own illness. But learning that certainly does explain why Unahona-taichou has been so quietly furious with him better than anything Hinamori's attempts at explanation have.

And Hitsugaya-kun has come to visit. Often. That is a kind of pain she hadn't realized could exist, not after what had been done.

By the time she's two weeks awake and mending physically in a way she's yet to do mentally, Hinamori is sure that Seireitei has been conquered by the hollows themselves in order to spin such wicked lies as she's been told. It takes days before she can even begin to doubt her unwavering faith in Aizen-taichou. Mostly it's days until her mind clears enough for her to remember exactly what has sent her to the 4th, what has kept her unconscious for so long, what has caused war in the Soul Society. What has killed shinigami who she had named friends.

The protests are expected, that much is obvious. They're there every time Hinamori raises her voice to proclaim Aizen's innocence. How he must have been tricked by Ichimaru Gin (and how odd that she has no trouble discarding his title of captain) because Aizen-taichou would never, ever do these things they've accused him of. Except that at night Hinamori dreams things that can't possibly have happened, that Aizen-taichou smiled at her, comforted her, and then killed her. Blurred dreams of Hitsugaya-kun winging his way towards her captain, his zanpakutō drawn and slashing its way through Aizen-taichou's skin.

Except that Aizen-taichou isn't there, it's nothing but an empty block of ice that Hitsugaya has created and attacked while Aizen-taichou has darted past Hitsugaya-kun with shunpo, and then his zanpakutō is out, flashing in and out of her Shirou-chan's flesh.

She wakes screaming from those dreams and no one has the courage or gall to ask her what she dreams of. She's not even sure what she would say if she tried to give an honest answer. What could she say? That she sees Aizen-taichou and her heart swells with how he smiles, how he holds her and allows her to cry out the days of pain because she thought he was dead.

Maybe she should tell them that her dreams are so coated in the blood of her best friend that she doesn't understand how he's still alive, much less recovered. He was dead. He died. And yet he is still here to visit her with his vague smile or unconcerned scowl, with his sea-deep eyes dark and far away as he looks at her.

Or maybe she should tell them that her dreams are so steeped in revenge that she can barely breathe with the need for it. With the hatred she harbors for them all, and most especially him for painting her taichou a traitor instead of rejoicing that he lives. She hates him for that, and those are the times when she can't think of him as Shirou-chan or Hitsugaya-kun, and she never thinks of him as Hitsugaya-taichou so that title never crosses her mind. Those are the times when her mind substitutes traitor and murderer and names even worse than that, names that she can't give voice to even when she's in the room and the bed and is alone with herself and her nightmares because they're so harsh and cruel and hateful.

But the hate is still there and Hinamori is wise enough to know that she hates him for what he's done, and more for what he hasn't done, because if it's all true, if Aizen-taichou is the traitor and all of Seireitei and Soul Society haven't gone crazy, then he's broken a promise that he swore he would never break, because Hitsugaya, Toushirou, Shirou-chan… God, because Hitsugaya-taichou had sworn to her he would always protect her, and he never broke his promises.

The nights she wakes up thinking those thoughts are not the worst, though, because the sleep that follows those dreams (whether the sleep is immediate or not until the next night, or the one memorable occasion where Unahona-taichou asked Isane to dose her into sleep because she refused for two days and then some) are the worse and the most painful. Those are the dreams where she looks at everything she has already dreamed as memories, horrible memories, terrible memories, but memories, and that makes them truer than true because those are the only times she can admit to herself that she is the one who is holding to a lie while everyone else has embraced the ugly truth.

Those nights she dreams, unfocused and blurry, that Aizen-taichou has killed her, and has killed Shirou-chan, and yet he still brings himself to his knees, one arm dragging uselessly as he pulls himself unerringly towards her so that he can sit there, slumped over and barely breathing, his forehead touching her side and his robes stained dark with their blood. And then he will whisper to her, his eyes empty and dying, that he's sorry, that he broke his promise to her, that he wasn't smart enough or fast enough or strong enough to protect her, and he's so sorry, so damned sorry.

But at least he can follow her into death, he says, his voice beginning to fade from the almost steady rumble she's grown used to, and into something barely there. He can follow her there, just as he followed her to the academy and then to the Gotei 13, and if she never looks at him with the respect he's so craved from her, then it's alright, so long as he can still follow.

The mornings that follow that are cruel and harsh and she can barely look at him when he comes, because she wants desperately to cling to the eroding belief that Aizen-taichou is innocent, that Ichimaru Gin is responsible for it all, so that she can forget everything that has led to her hating him. So that she can not hate herself for ever making the mistake of not believing in the one person who has always believed in her.

And so she hates herself, and she hates him, and she hates that he knows. And she hates him again for knowing.

There's a lie for every truth

If you take these pills I think you just might make it

Dammit I hope you make it

When Hinamori is released he's there to escort her back to her own apartment at the 5th division compound. She's not surprised when Kurosaki-san—Kurosaki-taichou—meets them there. She is surprised when he is quiet and almost gentle as he addresses her, that he is giving her as much time as she needs before asking her to resume her duties with the 5th. For all that has changed, nothing really has, and she feels sick with it as Kurosaki-taichou leaves her to Hitsugaya's care and her to her quarters.

He's gentle with her, asking if she needs anything, offering to prepare dinner and blithely heading for the kitchen even as she tells him that she's not hungry. It's a lie, she realizes as she watches him before reaching out tentatively to take one of the carrots he's slicing with careless ease, the knife in his hand nothing more than an unconscious extension of his body, deft and graceful and something that she's not seen in him before.

She muses on it as she nibbles at the carrot. It's cold and crisp and she has no idea how it or any of the other food in her kitchen got there, but it is and she only thinks that maybe she should find out who had taken care of it for her, thank them. Even as she thinks it she realizes that she is most likely already staring at him as he works in her kitchen without notice.

The food is good, better than the healing pap they fed her at the 4th, and she finds herself almost smiling at Hitsugaya as he tells her some of the things that she has missed in her two year sleep. Tōsen's defection is shocking, but she finds that it doesn't touch her the way Aizen's betrayal has. She also learns of the exploits of her new taichou; his trip into Hueco Mundo, his battle of bankai with Kuchiki-taichou, the apparent wooing of Kuchiki Rukia, which makes her smile since apparently their affections are best shown by abusing each other verbally and physically.

And the stumbling confession that Kurosaki-taichou killed Aizen, and that Hitsugaya helped. She looks up at him through her eyelashes after the confession. It's something that no one has told her before, even though she's asked for details. She can only assume that Hitsugaya has asked everyone to allow him to tell her, since it's not just a story, a history. It's his story, too, and hers because of the past, and she watches him with his head turned down and his eyes almost closed.

She's never seen him look so… She almost thinks defeated, except that this is Hitsugaya Toushirou, the shinigami prodigy, the youngest captain to ever lead in the Gotei 13. Except that this is Hitsugaya-kun, this is Shirou-chan, and he is never defeated.

In the end she decides to say nothing to it and only listens as he begins speaking again, her silence seemingly permission to pretend he never said it, admitted it, and that it is in the past. Neither of them thinks on how she is still part of that past because no matter how much he tells her she cannot simply regain those two lost years in words alone. But it's nice to hear him talking, because he doesn't talk simply for the sake of it often.

She understands him for a moment: he is as afraid of the silence between them as she is.

So much has happened, though, that it near makes her head spin. She hadn't realized that Unahona-taichou and Ukitake-taichou spent time together outside of his trips to the 4th. According to Hitsugaya-kun, speculation is rampant about whether or not they are seeing each other romantically. The smirk he gives her is devastating and devilish all at once as he proclaims that he knows, and she begs him to tell her what he knows. He holds out for all of three seconds.

"This goes no further than you and I, Hinamori," he instructs her as he points his chopsticks in her direction, "but I ran in to Ukitake leaving Unahona-taichou's quarters more than once when I was visiting you. He wasn't sick either time and it looked like he'd been throttled around the neck."

She almost laughs because Hitsugaya is smirking, and she wonders how many other secrets he has that he's never told anyone. Including her. So she asks.

"Hitsugaya-kun? What other secrets do you keep?" Her voice is a little strained, she hasn't talked very much since she woke up. That is strange enough in itself, since she's been awake now for three months. But she hasn't had many things to talk about outside of Aizen and what he's done.

His face immediately closes off and she regrets what she's asked, but the regret only sits there inside her for a moment before resentment flares up, hot and fiery, much like her zanpakutō, only without Tobiume's silver sharp edge. The feeling is foreign to her. In fact the only time she's ever felt close was when she attacked Hitsugaya two years and four months ago, when she was solely Aizen's and no one but her taichou had claim to her in any way. But things change—things have changed—and she raises her eyes to meet his head on, her jaw set stubbornly and her wits honing themselves on the age of her sudden anger.

"What secrets have you kept from me, Shirou-chan, other than the fact that you killed Aizen-taichou?" she asks, and she can see in his face that he has held himself from flinching as she speaks the traitorous shinigami's name. she delights in the sudden pain she sees in his eyes without knowing why, only knowing that it's petty and she doesn't care.

"Not many that I can tell you," he answers her evenly, and she knows from his tone that he's speaking of captain's business, and she has no care for it or for prodding him about something that duty binds him from sharing. She's being cruel, but she's not going to be foolish, not when Hitsugaya has relied on duty as his mistress and lover for so very long.

She tilts her head and considers him, her food forgotten as she looks into his storm colored eyes. "But there is something, isn't there, Hitsugaya-kun?"

This time he does flinch, and she smiles before he speaks. "I have to leave tomorrow night, Hinamori. Kurosaki and I are taking a few training squads to Karakura for hunting. The hollows have been active recently."

Oh, she thinks as she understands that she's going to be alone. She says nothing but he must see something on her face, because he speaks again.

"It's my duty, Hinamori. I'm a shinigami, just like you." Steady again, his voice is, but she looks down because her own thoughts aren't.

She shakes her head before pushing herself away from the table and easing herself to her feet. "Not anymore, I don't think," she says softly before turning away, whatever enjoyment she had in the evening gone. It's needless, but she doesn't want to leave without saying anything else. "I'm tired. I'm going to bed."

Before she can take a full step Hitsugaya is beside her, his hand cool on her wrist where he holds her back from walking away. "You're a shinigami, Momo—don't you think it's time to take back your life?"

It's low and heated and she chokes back a sudden need to cry or scream or rage against him as she tells him that she can't. "I'm not ready," she whispers. She's not ready, she's too afraid. And when he tells her he can she shakes her head. "I can't hear Tobiume anymore," she murmurs (a lie), "It's too hard," (which might be truth).

He snorts at her, an exhalation of disbelief and she doesn't look up. His hand releases her wrist, but then she feels his firm grip on her shoulders, forcing her to turn to face him fully. "You're ready to try," he informs her, unwilling to believe anything else. "If you have your way, Hinamori, you'll sit on your backside like a bump on a log until you die, again, and are sent back to be reborn on earth." She hears him begin to laugh, a low rumbling chuckle inside his chest, and her head lifts, her eyes narrowed at him ready to tell him where he can put his self righteous lecture.

But then his face is close to hers and he's speaking again. "Considering how powerful you are, Momo-chan, that's a long time away. You'll get bored."

She wants to say something, cruel or clever or callous or anything, but all Hinamori can think of is how deeply green his eyes can be, and how she isn't looking down at him anymore. Sometime during her long sleep, little Shirou-chan has grown up, and now he is the one looking down at her.

The realization passes in a moment and she finds her voice, launching into a tirade about how she will decide if she's bored by herself, and she misses the way one Hitsugaya Toushirou looks at her. The girl isn't sitting back blindly letting him decide that she will be shinigami again. It's a change, a good one, that she's found her spine again. She's near to yelling, and he looks so damned satisfied that it's almost embarrassing.

When you were mine was I for you

Just one cheap thrill just to help you make it

Dammit I hope you didn't fake it

The clash of metal as she blocks rings through the air. Hyourinmaru bears down against Tobiume, but he isn't paying so little attention as to not let up the moment he realizes that she's dropping her guard. He steps back, his body trembling with the effort of stilling the dragon within him, and he raises an eyebrow in question. He's forced the training session on her, still intent on bringing Hinamori back to herself and her duties as a shinigami. She fights now, but he has to force it out of her, every kick, punch, cursing attack must drawn out like a mouse coaxed from its hiding spot.

She's afraid, and he knows it.

She doesn't look at him, Tobiume is held carelessly at her side. It's a posture he doesn't approve of—she should know better, he knows that she does. She simply doesn't care, and that infuriates him. He wishes, wants, needs her to care, or he's afraid he'll lose her all over again. But when she drops Tobiume to the mat and turns and leaves he finds that he can't follow her. It's like she's throwing it all back into his face, the time and effort he's spent to try and—

Maybe she truly can't be fixed.

He stoops and his hand closes on the hilt of her zanpakutō. He can feel residual heat from it, Tobiume's natural instincts bleeding out as she calls to her mistress, a call that Hinamori surely must hear because he can feel her reiatsu swelling a little more every day, still powerful and dangerous and painfully beautiful. He swallows against the sudden tightness in his throat before leaving, finding his haori at the door and looping it over an arm as he slips Hyourinmaru back into his sheathe. The other arm doesn't even try to find its way into the empty hole beckoning from the haori, he stalks down the halls from the training room and back to his office.

He scowls at the new recruits he passes, reminding himself that he has no idea who they are. He's let everything slip as he tries to bring Hinamori back to herself—his office is a frightening mess of paperwork that has stacked up. A year since she woke, and he's barely there. Matsumoto can't keep up with it herself, but Hitsugaya knows better than most that the fukutaichou has worked tirelessly to try. Without her taichou's help… Well, they've both agreed that some things are more important that paperwork.

Thank the gods that everyone else does, too, or he'd have little (if any) time to spend with Hinamori.

The veteran 10th members who are with the babies step back, their faces guarded as they warn the recruits off of the captain, and Hitsugaya knows that he should probably tone down the kill lights in his eyes, perhaps ease the tension that he knows is threatening to snap his lean frame. Of course, the sudden caution might simply be because he has Hinamori's zanpakutō naked and gleaming in one hand as he stalks.

His office is empty, not even his fukutaichou is there, but the papers are neat and evenly stacked. He can see that what is on her desk is complete, and the larger mess on his is not. Good, he thinks; it will give him something to do to try and work off the anger and frustration that is rampant inside him. It's well past dark before he manages to sort through it and see what is there to save Matsumoto space, and what is there to be reviewed by him. The normal level of ridiculousness he finds in some of the attempted requisitions is infuriating and he has no trouble writing scathing negatives to requests to help fund a sake party in the 8th, a request to take a 'training exercise' to the mortal world so that the female shinigami in his division can go, of all things, shopping.

At least half of the backlog on his desk is cleared and neatly boxed for transfer to the appropriate recipients when he comes across it. He's worked hard and his fury hasn't abated, but he's tired and he's unhappy and when his hand brushes the thick vellum of the envelope he stares at it like its grown a second head and perhaps a third, because it's so formal. His hand is steady as he pulls the elegant invitation from within it, but his breath catches in his throat as he reads it.

You are formally invited to attend the joining of Kyōraku Shunsui and Ise Nanao.

He's still staring at it when he hears her come in and slide the door closed. His eyes don't even move when she comes to a stop at the side of his desk, but her voice is soft and defeated.

"I can't do this."

Hitsugaya all but bristles at the pitiful words, his eyes darting up to look at her where she stands. She's almost shaking, and her hair isn't even pulled back. There are signs of tears on her cheeks but he can't find her eyes with her face downcast as it is. He wants to yell at her, tell her to stop being a fool, but the tone of her voice makes him purse his lips as he watches her from his desk.

"I'm so sorry, Hitsugaya-kun," she whispers. "I just can't do this. I can't be what you want me to be, what I was. Just let me go." She's pleading as she says it.

His voice is hoarse when he answers, all of what she's saying trying to suddenly topple itself onto him. He has to call on Hyourinmaru in the moment before he speaks, else he's not sure if his question would be steady. "And where would you go?"

"Back to the Rukongai," she whispers, her hand outstretched, her badge as fukutaichou of the 5th proffered to him.

He snorts. "You're stronger than this, Hinamori Momo. You can't let what Aizen did to you rule you for the rest of your life." It's cold, as cold as his blade, and he's pleased that she has no idea of how he truly feels inside, or she might run away now before he has the chance to lose control.

But when she answers it isn't at all what he expected, and he almost topples backwards in his chair at the fury in her. "Why couldn't you just leave me? Why didn't you just let me die?" She's crying, suddenly, but he barely sees it behind the reiatsu that flares in her eyes.

In the next heartbeat the control that he's clung to for a year snaps.

She gasps as he presses her suddenly between him and the desk, heedless of the papers left on it flying about to land where they would. His eyes are dark and unreadable as he glares at her, his breathing harsh and uneven as his face draws closer, and he can see the flash of fear on her face before he's close enough to be able to taste her breath on his face. The smile he gives her isn't friendly, and his voice drops, low and demanding and dangerous.

"What, Hinamori, did you expect me to do?" he demands, his fingers digging into the flesh at her waist. There will be bruises, but he doesn't care. "I won't just sit back and watch you wither away and die. There's not a chance in hell of that. You were mine before you were Aizen's and, dammit, you'll be mine again."

Then he closes his mouth over hers and takes what he's wanted since the first day he's known her. Loved her then, even as a child, loves her now, even as a man, and she's hot beneath him as he presses her down against the desk, more papers flying and sliding and falling from the desk as his hands worry at the knot in her obi. It's undone and gone and her kimono is pushed to the side, and as his hands find the edges of the white kosode she wears beneath that he suddenly knows that she's not wearing bindings. She has come to him directly from her shower, and he aches to taste her now, the fresh clean scent of her skin urging him down to claim her mouth once more.

She doesn't say no. In fact, she doesn't say very much at all other than his name, a whispered please, a low whimpering moan that does amazing things to his body. In truth, he's grateful for it, because he doesn't want her to say no. He doesn't even know if Hinamori—Momo—saying no would change anything. Hitsugaya knows himself well enough to know that he's not sure anymore that he can stop himself, because the only thing he can think of is her, tastetouchsightsmellsound as she whimpers again, moans softly against his ear, and it's his name, "Toushirou," just loud enough to make him push her down on the desk and give a solid tug at her kosode, smiling ferally when the material rips under the pressure he's put on it.

It wasn't necessary to do it, and he knows it, but he can't care as his mouth ghosts down the slender column of her neck to her breasts. It's gratifying to feel her hands tugging at the sash that holds Hyourinmaru to his back, and he helps her tug it over his head and lay Hyourinmaru on the floor beside the desk. He doesn't even notice that as her hands make short work of his own kimono and kosode—his haori has been draped across his chair since he sat down—ice spreads from his feet to make slick work of the floor and the walls, building into miniscule glaciers around the desk, the doors, the chair as her hands skim beneath the waist of his hakama, and his hands tremble a little as he slides her hakama down her legs.

He seems so sure, and she can't even think as she feels his hands burning across her flesh, which is nothing less than what he intends. "Please" she breathes out as his hands skim down the smooth skin of her belly. She's begging, but somehow Hinamori isn't exactly sure what she's begging for. But she's patient because she knows that Shirou-chan will show her.

And he does, fingers nimble as they dip inside of her. She whimpers, then moans. "Shirou," and it echoes in his ears because he's never heard his name fall from her mouth in such a way in as long as he can remember. He doesn't make her wait, but the way she gasps and whimpers, the unexpectedness of the tears in his her eyes, makes him pause for a moment as he realizes that one of his longest held beliefs was in no way true.

She had never been Aizen's lover.

But it's done, and it's passed, and she's moving with him, no matter that neither of them have the slightest idea what they're doing, but it's good and it's beautiful and he doesn't even care if anyone knows exactly what the captain of the 10th is doing in his office in the middle of the night with the fukutaichou of the 5th when her name is ripped from his lips as he empties himself inside of her. His own is dying on her lips, and he finds it a small comfort that she's holding him just as tightly as he's holding her.

Hypocrisy has really aged you well

The white on your nose is your secret to tell

So you should speak while they're still listening

It's frightening, he thinks, how little stands between the rest of the world and her heart. Flesh, bone and blood. Such fragile things, really, and yet she feels so secure in it that she's never really afraid of what might happen, anymore. He supposes that it's because of him, and the way he is adamant about protecting her. It's almost hypocritical, he thinks as she dances about the 5th's training room. Kurosaki has given him leave to train with her here since their most recent training session decimated the 10th's. an accident, but no one could have known that Hinamori's control over Tobiume would slip as violently as it had when he used the barest hint of Hyourinmaru against her in shikai form.

So they train here, and she is ready, he believes. No, Hitsugaya knows that she's ready, that she can reclaim her duties. She is as powerful as ever she was, her bond with her zanpakutō even closer now that she's reclaimed the power as her own. All that awaits is the formal conclave to reappoint her to her rank and duties as fukutaichou of the 5th, and that is only a week away. He hasn't told her that, hasn't told her because he's afraid that she'll notice that the day is exactly two years since the day that she awoke, that she'll think that it's more than a coincidence.

And there it was again, the hypocrisy that was him protecting her when he'd been forcing her to be strong for so long. She was strong, she would be fine, could be fine, he only needed to let go. Except that he was so afraid. It was irrational, but the fear was still there, that he'd made her so strong that she no longer needed him.

He's made a mess of things, he realizes. She's strong, and yet it's not so different than it was with Aizen, is it? She still leans on him, depends on him. And Hitsugaya doesn't ever want to be responsible for turning their relationship (if that was what they could call it) into what she had with Aizen. He doesn't want blind devotion, he wants love, he wants her to need him as badly as he needs her. Except… Except that he can live without her. He did it for so long already, he can do it again. Of course, before, he hadn't known exactly what he would be missing. But he has no choice.

"Hinamori," he calls, and she stops in the middle of her kata and turns to him, Tobiume lowered but held secure and firm, just as she should be. "We need to talk."

She doesn't look worried or particularly concerned as she comes over to him, but he knows that this is going to be shattered. He's about to shove the events of four years ago in her face, and even he, with all of his supposed genius, can't even come close to gauging how she will react. A year ago he would have wagered on tears, a year and a half ago, a complete breakdown. Now? Only the gods could know, but he thought that maybe not even they would be privy to her reaction at this point because only fools would do what he was planning, and the gods never paid much attention to fools.

"Nani, Hitsugaya-kun?" she asks, no worry, no cares, nothing to show she's expecting it, and his body tenses.

Hyourinmaru trembles against his back and Hitsugaya ignores it as he looks at her face. He shouldn't be afraid; Hyourinmaru has already reminded him of that. After the fights he's had with the dragon to release his bankai, little else has ever managed to seem threatening since then. But then, all of those other times when he deemed the dragon more threatening than whatever hollow he faced, his heart was not involved. And it is now, fully and completely committed. It's ironic that even a full vasto lorde class menos is less frightening and dangerous to him than this slip of a girl, but Hitsugaya has never run from the truth before.

And he doesn't stall, either, Hitsugaya reminds himself, because he finds that's exactly what he's doing.

He chooses the blunt route, because that is the route he has always taken. "Neh, Hinamori-chan. Don't you think that it's strange for you to be where you started in the first place?" She looks confused and he pastes an annoyed expression across his face. "I'm not Aizen and I won't be your rock. Grow up, stand for yourself."

The stricken look in her eyes cuts into his heart, but he ignores it as she takes a sudden step back, as if he's struck her. He pushes on.

"You were dependent on him, you're dependent on me. You can't be."

It's so cold, so full of ice, that he nearly believes it himself, no matter how much he needs her to need him. It's not about what he wants, not about what he needs. It about what is best for her, which is another bit of sacrilege that he'll be ending now, too. He has no right to decide what is best for her anymore. So he will break her world apart and make her stand alone, and he'll never choose for her again, never tell her she has to do this, she must do that.

"Sh-shirou-chan, what are you saying?" The tremor in her voice is terrible, but he presses again.

"Hitsugaya-taichou," he says to her. "You never address me properly. It's time you start doing so."

He knows what it must look like, that he's done with her, that he's finished and ready to move on. He can see it on her face and it kills something in him to know this is one piece of her that he's damaged, and it's all his fault with no one else to share the blame for it. He very nearly doesn't comprehend the fury and the words when she challenges him, and he gives her a face that would have been amusing if any other conversation had preceded its presence on his face.

"You heard me, Hitsugaya," she says, and her voice is pointed, driving painfully home that she doesn't give him any form of address, formal or friendly. It hurts more than he expects but the hurt is nothing compared to the way his heart freezes in his chest as she brings Tobiume up in a slicing side cut.

It nearly has him because he never expected her to attack him, but whatever rage she's feeling has obviously been subverted because her moves are smooth, her face is a blank mask so that he can't see the anger and the hurt and the anguish except in her eyes. Tobiume flies again, and this time Hitsugaya uses shunpo to evade, but not fast enough because he can feel a line of fire at his wrist where Tobiume has bitten into the flesh and drawn blood. It flows and makes his hand slick with it and he knows that it has the potential to be dangerous. His grip on Hyourinmaru, who he now draws, is going to be unstable at best, and the blood loss will be difficult in the long run.

But he's ready when Tobiume finds him again, faster than he expected, and he's surprised to find that the zanpakutō is already released because he never heard her perform the release. A whisper then, he understands, because she isn't holding back and she is taking every advantage she can get. It's then that the blast of kidō hits him. Raikōhō, he understands as it hits him. Stronger than shakkahō and infinitely more dangerous because it's in the hands of Hinamori, and she isn't a kidō master yet but one day not too far away she will be. Then he hears her voice for the first time since she started the attack.

"I am not weak," she grates out at him, and he ducks, Hyourinmaru lifted over his head to block Hinamori's strike, but the zanpakutō slips in his hand because of the blood and the only thing that saves him from having two zanpakutō's buried deep in his shoulder is that his other hand is not slipping on the hilt and he barely manages to defend. Blood flows and Hitsugaya can't help the grunt of pain as she draws Tobiume back, readying another strike, and he can feel his flesh gripping the blade of Hyourinmaru as he draws the sword from the gash, moving in a flash to the other side of the room.

There isn't any escape, because this time her kidō is unerring, and the byakurai blast takes him from behind even as she screams at him. "I am not weak! Fight me! I'll show you how dependent I am on you!"

But he doesn't release Hyourinmaru and the dragon doesn't ask for his freedom, only the icy coolness that moves from the zanpakutō up his arm, blood freezing on his skin and at the wound there so stop it from flowing. Farther up to his should and across to the other, biting into the wound there and searing it off with ice. He gasps at the painful cold, but he doesn't ask Hyourinmaru because Hinamori isn't stopping and he doesn't want to hurt her, but he wants to survive her anger.

Even as the dragon is trying to help the cold along his limbs takes its toll and he is too slow in lifting Hyourinmaru to parry the straight thrust she's sent at him. His breath is stolen from him as Tobiume pierces his good shoulder, guaranteeing that he'll never lift Hyourinmaru again in this fight, before the zanpakutō is ripped back out and flows downward with unerring precision to sear itself across his thigh. Hyourinmaru is still in his hand as he drops to his knees, and he leans hard on the zanpakutō's power to use shunpo one more time.

This time he's stopped mid-step by another blast of kidō, this time no spell just an uncontrolled release where she must have thought he would be. A good shot, he can admit it through the pain, and he wonders if maybe he should unseal Hyourinmaru because she might kill him if he doesn't start fighting back soon. Then there is fire across his back and Hitsugaya can't breathe because it hurts and there aren't many things that have ever hurt him like this.

"H-Hinamori," he manages to gasp as Hyourinmaru finally falls from his fingers. He waits for the final blow, the end, because he knows now that he's pushed her too hard, too far, and that whatever is inside her right now mercy is not it, and he wants so desperately to tell her how much he loves her, and how sorry he is for all of this, but it was the only way he could think to do it, and—

It doesn't come.

Instead he feels the hum of reiatsu as Tobiume is sealed and Hinamori's voice, cold and hard and cruel. "I am not weak, Hitsugaya Toushirou. And I don't depend on you the way you must have thought. Not anymore, if ever I did."

Her footsteps are loud and then fade and he finds himself face down on the mat in blackness. When he wakes he's limp across Kurosaki's shoulder and the other captain is shouting for Unahona and Hitsugaya can't bring himself to care that god only knows how many people are being roused by Kurosaki's shout to see him in the condition he's in. Once not long ago he would have cared, would have found it embarrassing, but now he can't think of anything but the fact that it was his Hinamori, his Momo, who did this, and that hurts worse than all of the wounds that stretch themselves across his body.

He tells them that it was a training accident when they ask, but he knows that they'll recognize it for a lie because training accidents don't leave taichou's unconscious and bleeding to death on the floor of a division's training room, with their fukutaichou opponent gone and off somewhere knowing that said taichou is dying. But a training accident, he says, and everyone knows that Hinamori did it, and everyone knows that he didn't really fight back, and everyone knows that he's in love with her and that she… That she hates him.

The pity hurts worse than he could ever have imagined.

Say so long to innocence

From underneath the evidence

You taste like heaven

But god knows you're built for sin

You're built for sin

You're built for sin

You were built for sin

His supposed infinite patience has long since snapped, and he's finally stopped letting her make excuses. It's been eight months since she woke up and Hitsugaya has dragged her outside of her quarters, where she spends most of her time, outside of Seireitei where everything is simple and familiar, outside of Soul Society, where she at least knows she might possibly belong. He finds himself dragging her to his second favorite sparring meadow, ignoring her protests that she manages to voice as he extends his shunpo, making her sick and dizzy with the speed they move. He won't listen to her, all that will do is invite her to beg him to stop, to let her be, and that is something he refuses to do.

She's shinigami, and she'll act like it, goddammit, or he'll renounce his haori and head back to the Rukongai. Of course, he'll drag her with him if he does.

"Shirou-chan," she gasps as they come to a halt in the middle of the meadow. She looks around and he stares back at her before unslinging Hyourinmaru from his back and then tugging off his haori.

"Don't call me that," he tells her coldly as he begins untying his obi and then shrugging off his kosode, kimono and hakama, folding them neatly and sparing her a glance. She's red in the face from his actions, seemingly flustered even as she realizes that he's wearing clothes from the human world beneath his shinigami robes.

She tucks her arms into her sleeves and looks down. "I don't want to do this. Which way is Seireitei?"

He doesn't answer and instead lifts his hands and frowns at her before saying, in a deceptively soft whispers, "Hadō: hanki."

The blast of kidō that hits her sears through Hinamori's body, and she shudders with it. It isn't painful, she realizes, but it feels as though she's been cut off from herself. She gasps, a hand reaching to her chest, and then to her throat as she looks up at him, her eyes welling with hot tears as she realizes what, exactly, Hitsugaya has gone to her. "How could you?" she asks, and he only lowers his hands.

"Guard yourself, fukutaichou," he commands, and she tenses as she sees the muscles in his arms tense before he launches himself at her in an all out attack. He doesn't waver as one hand cuts through her sudden defensive posture. It's nothing more than her hands thrown up in front of her body, face ducked behind her hands in fear, and Hinamori gasps when his fist makes contact with her side while his other hand is open palmed at her throat.

It's a killing blow, and she knows it, and she would be dead if he hadn't pulled it so forcefully so that it barely touches her. Her side aches where he's hit it and her heart is hammering inside her chest and Hitsugaya can taste the fear she exudes with every rushing pulse of her blood. He steps back, hands clenched at his sides, and says, "Again. Guard yourself, fukutaichou."

This time, even knowing what's coming, she can't do much more than stumble backwards to try and avoid the punishing blows he throws at her. Her side again, the self same place he hit before, and she knows it will bruise. When he turns a duck into a leg sweep she gasps as it catches her behind the ankles and sends her weight driving down to the unforgiving earth. She tries to scream, to cry out, to say his name or ask for help, but the world goes black before she can.

When her eyes open again Hitsugaya nearly sighs in relief, but keeps the carefully schooled coldness to his face lest she know how badly he hurts for doing this to her. There is a touch of blood drying in her hair at the back of her skull, but he's healed it already and has only been waiting for her to regain consciousness. She has, and he stands, one hand on hers to pull her unceremoniously up from the ground and settle her on her own two feet. She wobbles once, sways, and his hands stay at her waist before she has her footing and he lets go.

His mouth tightens, and he says, "Again. Guard yourself, fukutaichou." It is a phrase he is already growing to hate.

She winces a little and he makes no move. He knows that under her shihakushō her side is still bruised, and her back, too, because he refused to heal those. They aren't life threatening and the pain will do much to motivate her. He plans on aiming for the spreading bruise on her side constantly to hammer home the point that he will hurt her if she continues to shuffle about without any real attempts to defend herself. She looks at him and it's all Hitsugaya can do not to go to her when he sees the despair in those deep brown eyes she's turned on him. He can remember those eyes from when they were children living in the Rukongai, when he would give in to her every wish if she turned those eyes on him, wide and deep and dark.

Not this time, and he takes an offensive stance. He doesn't tell her again to guard herself, she should already know that he's serious. He attacks again, no hesitation as he strikes out at her. He very nearly smiles as her hands move to block him, her body twists to protect her maimed side from him. But it's not enough, she's not truly trying, these are just instinctive moves. He can tell because she's off balance, and as he relaxes back from the attack she slips and falls again, this time her leg twisting beneath her as Hinamori cries out with the pain of the sudden wrenching.

He doesn't go to her in the heartbeat that she screams, doesn't flinch at the sudden tears as she clutches the leg gently. Instead he is smooth, serene as he walks and kneels at her side, his face schooled into disapproval. "Your own fault, shinigami," he mutters coarsely as he reaches for it and send his own kidō into it, finding the muscles that are swelling and driving the cooling demon magic through it exactly as Unahona-taichou and Isane-fukutaichou have shown him.

He knows the swelling is gone when he removes his hand. Even if she hadn't relaxed and stopped crying, he would still know because his own kidō is still coursing through her leg with wild abandon making sure that anything that might have been truly damaging is gone, soothed away in a rush of icy magic. He stands, reaches down and jerks her upright roughly, his face now frowning, scowling down at her as she again struggles to regain solid footing on the terra. His fingers clench on her arm for a moment, but he jerks his hand back quickly, too quickly, afraid that she'll know from the bruising strength how he feels about what he's doing. What's he's going to do.

He steps back, and this time his voice is a ruthless whisper as the command trips off his tongue. "Again. Guard yourself, fukutaichou."

And so it goes. Attack, pitiful attempt at defense, blood-bruise-cut-wrench, healing kidō, again. And again, and again until she is sobbing with weariness and her eyes are begging him to stop, asking him why, why is he doing this to her?

Her mouth opens and he knows that she's going to ask him, finally, and he darts in front of her, a heartbeat away from her face, the swiftness of his shunpo leaving her near breathless as his face comes from nowhere to fill her eyes. "If this were before Aizen," and he leaves any honorific off of the former captain's name to drive home his opinion, "you would still be fighting back, instead of curled here on the grass like someone who needs to be protected."

Tears come now, and he makes no move to brush them away or comfort her. He can see on her face that she knows it's true, that he's right. He would never lie to her. He doesn't lie to anyone, his greatest fault is his honesty and Hitsugaya gives her that honesty in full measure.

"We have a lot of work to do before we fix you," he tells her, and this time his voice is gentle and his hands are already on her side, the bruise shrinking and fading as cool numbness spreads. "I won't let you make any more excuses, Momo."

As he takes care of her healing he pretends that he cannot see her crying.

You can scream out loud, but your panic falls on deaf ears

This is where you brought yourself, this is what you've always been

There's a faceless crowd with no sympathy

So you can scream out loud, but there's no one listening

The day has been unseasonably hot, much like the last few weeks. Not that it's stopped him from seducing her nearly every night in the interim. But it has made the training he's dragged her out for miserable. They've both prepared for the heat and have given in to it, she by peeling off her shinigami robes in an unintentionally erotic display to nothing more than the human clothes beneath. Shorts and a shirt that clings to her like a second skin to leave nothing to his imagination, not that he doesn't already know what her body looks like beneath the things she wears.

He's only let it go so far as wearing his hakama pants and sandals, preferring the easy way he can move in them to anything the human world has that he might consider wearing in this weather. They've been in the forest for hours, the shade making the air itself seem like it's oppressing, suffocating, and Hinamori has told him (and he was so pleased over the exasperation she showed to him that he couldn't muster any reprisal at all) that she is done training and is taking a break. She's hot and she's tired and she's thirsty, and why doesn't he train by himself for a bit because she isn't giving him a choice.

He practices his hakuda by himself, his imaginary opponents swift and dangerous, but none so dangerous as the thought that is forming in the back of his mind. He's never been as good at hand to hand as he has been with his sword, he knows it and finds no shame in it because there are few that are his equal with a blade and perhaps only two who can handle him when he has summoned his bankai without being so lost in fury and illusion that defeat is inevitable. It pleases him that he can say that Kurosaki and Yamamoto-sama are the only two who can still hold against him when Hyourinmaru is in full release.

It pleases him even more to wonder how much longer it will be before the two of them fall beneath his ice. It's conceit and pride to wonder it, he knows, but he can't care, because Hitsugaya knows that his power is still growing. He's young, for a shinigami of his rank and position, barely more than a century, and he still has more power to grow in to. He knows it just as he knows Hyourinmaru has dealt out what he has even as he can handle it. It will be good to wake up one day, sometime in the future, and know that he has the power to protect her from anything that comes.

But the idea that has formed in his mind is given free reign as he stops still, his hakuda forgotten as he draws Hyourinmaru. The dragon is as eager as him because the hilt of the zanpakutō all but leaps to his hand. His stance is casual, but his grip is firm as he murmurs, "Soar in the frozen sky." The air is already coalescing into cold mist, tiny icicles forming in the sweat of his body before he whispers his zanpakutō's name, and the dragon within becomes the dragon without.

The air freezes about him, the ice comforting, calming, and he smiles as Hyourinmaru unfurls himself within the blade. He waits another moment, no longer, before tensing and the lunging into the air as he cries, "Bankai!" is swallowed in the roar of the dragon. Ice meets at his shoulders, great wings that hold him aloft, and he can feel his zanpakutō's spirit hovering close by. His eyes are closed and he knows that if he opens them he'll find the dragon staring at him, the reproach Hyourinmaru will give him an effective reminder that caging the great beast, even for Hinamori, is an unwise move.

The power ripples through him, almost painful, and he knows that Hyourinmaru is in accord with what he wants. Clouds begin to form overhead and before he can even think, Hitsugaya has turned his face to where the sun no longer is and relishes in the first drops of rain that splash across him before the sky truly opens up. Hyourinmaru has been sealed for too long, Hitsugaya knows. The dragon has taken the simple request for rain to new heights and it looks that the whole of Soul Society is benefitting from the sudden rain. It takes effort to keep the dragon from making it snow, but he reins Hyourinmaru in before it goes that far.

Then a scream cuts the air.

It's Hinamori and the sudden fear in her cry breaks the control he has on Hyourinmaru. Within seconds the air drops by twice a dozen degrees and Hitsugaya finds himself on the ground without thinking it, his arms around the girl he so loves as she shivers with closed eyes. He isn't sure, but somehow he knows that she's not afraid of him, but for him. His intuition is rarely wrong, it was the only thing that gave him the advantage of Gin, even if he'd never suspected Aizen. His intuition isn't wrong now as Hinamori, as Momo, tells him in stuttering, halting words, of her fear.

It's a memory, not a fever dream as she once had hoped, and his careless release of bankai has brought the events of three years and two months ago roaring back to the surface. The pain of seeing Aizen-taichou—and his insides freeze as she unthinkingly uses her worshipful name for the traitor—pinned to the wall like a bug on display, of reading the letter written with nothing but lies and just enough truth to make her believe. Raising her sword to him, and then finding her taichou, alive and hale and… Not the man that she had once believed he was.

She doesn't tell him of when she was attacked, just that one moment she was standing there in Aizen's embrace, and the next his zanpakutō was through her. And then she tells Hitsugaya of himself, even though he can't understand how she knows, because she was dead, or the next thing to it when he arrived.

It was the first, and the last, time that she saw his bankai. One of a handful of times she's ever seen him out of control. And she saw him cut down, saw him die, and she doesn't want to see that. She never wants to see that because it might kill her if he was dead, and the moment he hears her whisper that Hyourinmaru stills in the air, the ice and snow melting back into rain, even if it's wild and violent in the sky as the dragon rides the clouds. She cares, even if she can't bring herself to admit it, she cares, and the dragon inside of Hitsugaya roars in possessive triumph.

When he reaches for her now it's not just him, not just his want and desire and need, but the dragon's need to possess, to claim his treasure, because surely that is what Hitsugaya's dragon sees in Hinamori Momo. A treasure to be worshipped and adored and protected and loved. The first mark is his, his lips finding purchase on her shoulder before teeth dig in enough to leave a perfect imprint. A growl breaks from his throat, nearly human but not quite, and it's answered by her own mouth, claiming his and bringing him to the wet ground with her.

It is not gentle, it is not kind, but it's rare that he finds it so between them. But it is so much more this time, because she is meeting him, matching him, move for move, mark for mark, and when they finally come together she is just as much in control as him, a battle of wills that they've never had before. She is fighting, for herself, for him, he cares not who for, just so long as she fights.

Say so long to innocence

From underneath the evidence

You taste like heaven

But god knows you're built for sin

You're built for sin

You're built for sin

You were built for sin

xXx

9, 6, 8, 1, 2, 4, 7, 3, 5.