Alright everyone, here's the story I promised at the end of "On the Wrong Foot." I've finally got the plot sorted out in my head, so I decided it was time to start writing. I re-wrote this chapter three times, and I'm still not so confident that this was the best way to start, since it's a little dark but…well, you'll see what I mean. This story is kind of twisted, I know, but hopefully something good will come out of it. After "Reincarnation" and "On the Wrong Foot," I feel like I have a lot to live up to. I hope I can meet your expectations for me (bites nails nervously). Anyway, let's get started!
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or any of its characters. I only own my own characters and ideas.
It had been seven months since Aizen's rebellion, and Soul Society was still contemplating a newfound piece of information; that the hougyoku would take a year longer to awaken than anyone had previously thought, so Aizen had postponed the war. Not canceled, just postponed. This gave Soul Society more time to plan and train, but it also gave Aizen that same time, something no one was particularly excited about. But tonight was a time for celebration. Everyone had been on edge, waiting and wondering when Aizen would attack, and the knowledge that it wouldn't be for another few months eased some of the tension that had been building and festering.
But one person was not appeased by this news. If anything, it made him more anxious. Hitsugaya Toushiro sat in his office, staring unseeingly at his paperwork, his mind focused on something that most certainly was not located on his desk. Matsumoto had taken off an hour ago to toast the news with her drinking buddies, leaving Hitsugaya with his worries. Not that he would have shared them with her even if she had been here, but she may have been able to distract him from them. She had that uncanny ability.
Sighing deeply, Hitsugaya reluctantly reached for a brush to actually begin working, when a hell butterfly flitted in through the door. Curious, and glad for the excuse to put off paperwork just a bit longer, Hitsugaya held out his finger for the butterfly to land and listened carefully to the telepathic message.
"To 10th squad taicho, Hitsugaya Toushiro," came Unohana's calm voice. "It has begun." Hitsugaya felt all the blood drain out of his face as the topic that just been bothering him was jolted to life. Literally.
"What?!" he thought desperately, dropping everything and shunpoing towards 4th squad as fast as he could. "How? It's too soon! Way too soon!"
Hitsugaya thought back to the conversation he had had with Unohana, almost four months ago. The day that had added another worry to his ever growing list. But this one had been placed at the very top.
"Ah, Hitsugaya taicho," Unohana said sweetly as he entered the squad house. "Thank you for coming."
"Is everything alright, Unohana taicho?" Hitsugaya asked professionally. It was standard practice for a taicho to be informed of all injuries incurred by his or her squad members, but usually a memo or a hell butterfly sufficed. It was much less common for a taicho to actually be summoned to 4th squad. Unohana's face was as blank as always. She smiled sweetly and told Hitsugaya to follow her to her office.
Once they were alone, Unohana let her warm expression falter, as she looked at Hitsugaya with compassion and concern.
"Hitsugaya taicho," she began, "I asked you to come here in person to inform you that Hinamori fukutaicho is pregnant." Hitsugaya froze. He was convinced his heart stopped beating right then and there.
"Wh…what?" he asked in a shaky voice. "Pregnant?! But how?!" Pregnancies were so rare in Soul Society to begin with and Hinamori had never, at least to Hitsugaya's knowledge, had any opportunity to become pregnant. Well, clearly he was wrong. The thought disturbed him greatly.
"Then I am right in assuming that you are not the father," Unohana said, gauging Hitsugaya's reaction.
"Of course not!" Hitsugaya spat. "Hinamori's practically my sister. She's not my lover and never will be. But then, who…?" he trailed off, not really wanting to know the answer that question. He thought it would be safer for everyone involved if he didn't. Unohana sighed.
"I was hoping I was wrong," she said sadly. "I ran a paternity test, but I still hoped there was a chance that the child might be yours."
"Who's is it?" Hitsugaya asked, bracing himself for the worst. Unohana paused before answering.
"Aizen's." Hitsugaya balked. Aizen's!?! Hinamori was carrying Aizen's baby! It was too horrible to comprehend.
"That bastard!" Hitsugaya growled, feeling more hatred than he had ever felt in his life course through his veins. But he had to calm down. There were more pressing matters to deal with.
"Does anyone else know?" Hitsugaya asked, closing his eyes as he tried to regain his composure.
"No," Unohana replied. "She's still in a coma, so she's had few visitors. I noticed the possible signs of pregnancy, which is why I ran the tests, but I have informed no one else. I understand the implications of this as well as you do. The baby's existence must be kept a secret from Aizen." Hitsugaya nodded. He agreed completely.
"For now," Unohana continued, "I will move Hinamori fukutaicho to a more secure room under the pretense that she needs intensive care. I will have sole access to that room. No one will find that unusual, I do it for special cases from time to time. I also think it's best if we tell no one. The fewer people that know, the better. Hopefully, the war will be over before the child is born, and this will not be an issue."
They had told Yamamoto soutaicho of course. They had to. But other than the three of them, no one knew of the pregnancy. Unohana suspected that even Hinamori herself didn't know, as she hadn't been far enough along with her pregnancy when she was injured and placed in her coma. She said it was a miracle that the child had even survived, but apparently, Aizen's sword had missed it.
Hitsugaya had hoped and prayed that Unohana would be right, and that the war would end long before the child was born. But that had been before the pronouncement that the war was delayed. And now…
"It's only been seven months!" Hitsugaya thought as he quickened his pace. "How could she be in labor already?!"
He finally reached 4th squad and had to do his best to appear cool and collected, something which was usually perfectly natural for him. But at the moment, he was having difficulty.
He pretended to be going on a routine visit to see injured squad members, nodding politely in recognition of everyone who addressed him, and headed for Hinamori's room. She had been moved to intensive care, under Unohana's instructions, and he alone had been taught how to pass through the kido barrier Unohana had erected around the room. He took a deep breath, not sure of what he would find inside, and entered.
It was remarkably calm for a delivery room. Hinamori was sleeping peacefully, as always. Hitsugaya thought for a moment that he had misunderstood Unohana's message, but the enlarged lump that had grown in Hinamori's belly was noticeably absent. Unohana was leaning over something in the corner, but she looked up when Hitsugaya entered.
"Ah, Hitsugaya taicho!" she said brightly. "I'm glad you came."
"What's going on?" Hitsugaya asked confused. "I thought she was in labor."
"She was," Unohana assured him. "But because she can't deliver a baby in her condition, I did a C-section. It didn't take very long."
"But isn't she too early? It's only been seven months…"
"It was too difficult for her body to carry the baby to term. He is small, but otherwise perfectly healthy. Would you like to meet him?"
Him. The baby had a sex. That made him real. He was no longer some figurative idea floating around in Hitsugaya's head. He actually existed. Hitsugaya took a deep breath.
"Sure," he replied. Unohana smiled at him and indicated the small stand she had been hovering over. Hitsugaya approached it with apprehension. There he was. Hitsugaya had never seen a newborn before. Everything about him was tiny; his hands, his mouth, his ears. His nose he had undoubtedly inherited from his father, but from what little hair he had, Hitsugaya could see that it was onyx colored, like his mother's.
Hitsugaya felt many emotions run through him as he gazed at the baby. Fury that Aizen had put Hinamori through this, sorrow that Hinamori wasn't awake to experience this moment, and compassion as he looked at an innocent child who he knew, by circumstances beyond his control, would have a harrowing future. But above all, Hitsugaya felt protective. Regardless of who the father was, this was Hinamori's son. His nephew in a way. And, just as he protected its mother, Hitsugaya knew he would guard this baby with his life.
"We should inform the soutaicho," he said at last. Unohana nodded.
"I'll stay here," she decided. "Someone should look after the baby." With one final glance at the sleeping infant and a thank you to Unohana, Hitsugaya made his way to 1st squad.
"What are we going to do now?" he wondered. "Caring for a child is entirely different from simply hiding a pregnancy. Unohana taicho and I can't do it alone. Not without arousing suspicion."
He reached 1st squad and requested an audience with Yamamoto. He didn't have to wait long before he was admitted access.
"Hitsugaya taicho," Yamamoto acknowledged him. "What brings you here?"
"I have a matter of vital importance to discuss with you, Yamamoto soutaicho," Hitsugaya replied respectfully. "In private." Yamamoto's fukutaicho, Sasakibe, stiffened in indignation, but he nevertheless bowed himself out.
"Now," Yamamoto began, his eyes boring into Hitsugaya's. "What is so urgent and important that you deemed it necessary to come yourself, without subordinates?"
"Hinamori has delivered," Hitsugaya replied, skipping all pretenses.
"I see," Yamamoto said in a rather bored voice. But despite his tone, Hitsugaya knew Yamamoto was thinking hard. The existence of this child threw a wrench into all their plans.
"Soutaicho," Hitsugaya stated, "if the child is to remain hidden from Aizen, which we all agree is necessary for everyone's safety, then I do not believe that keeping him in Seireitei is the wisest option. Babies are rare enough as it is, and the birth of one is a momentous occasion. If the child's presence is made public, Aizen will know at once. However, the thought of keeping him in hiding in Seireitei is neither practical nor safe."
"What are you suggesting, Hitsugaya taicho?" Yamamoto prompted. Hitsugaya sighed. He hoped it wouldn't have to come to this, but he could see no other choice.
"I believe the safest option at the moment would be to hide the child in the living world. Babies are common there, he will blend in without too much effort." Yamamoto nodded.
"I agree," he said. "But the child will still need a guardian. We cannot abandon him to the whims of living souls. Besides, he will need protection in case his true identity is discovered. Do you volunteer?"
"Me?" Hitsugaya knew that he was the only choice, since Unohana could not possibly be spared and they still wanted to keep the baby a secret, but this was no standard bodyguard mission. He didn't know the first thing about caring for an infant.
"Word will be put out that you are on a top secret mission relating to the current situation," Yamamoto continued, ignoring Hitsugaya's outburst of surprise. "Since you have been to the living world before regarding the Aizen situation, no one will think it strange. In addition, I suggest that you enlist the assistance of the shinigami representative, Kurosaki Ichigo. His extensive knowledge of the living world may be invaluable to you." Hitsugaya suppressed a groan. This mission was sounding worse and worse by the second. Not only would he have to look after a baby, but he would have to stay with Ichigo. The man annoyed him to no end. But, for the sake of the baby, he would manage. Somehow.
"I will leave at once," Hitsugaya said with a bow.
Good? Bad? Ugly? Crazy idea I know, but I thought I'd give it a try. I apologize both for the slow start and the lack of Karin, (she'll be in the next chapter, I promise), but it's a weird stage to set, so I thought this chapter needed the background so you all aren't horribly confused. Don't worry about the tone, it will lighten up, at least for a while. The whole story is not dark and depressing. Please let me know what you think of this idea, I think it may be my strangest yet.
On a side note, is anyone else annoyed by the constant rearranging of things in this site? I don't like the new organization, it's too hard to find things. But then again, it'll probably change again tomorrow.