Author's Note: This story is a companion piece to Hitsu-taichou's fic Reincarnation. It is a great story, and if you haven't read it you should. This is the back story for how Hinamori and Hisagi ended up together. I've had the idea in my mind for about two weeks, and I finally decided to ask her about it. She graciously allowed me to steal her plot, and so here it is. You can read this story by itself, but there are things that are explained in Reincarnation that I don't explain here. I hope that you enjoy.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach or any of it's characters. I just like to mess with them.
Momo Hinamori was sitting by a river gazing out across it. She was drowning in her feelings and emotions. The war had ended a few days ago. It was a time of celebration, but it didn't feel like it to most of the shinigami who had made it out with their lives, and Momo was no exception. She had been discharged from Squad Four earlier, but didn't know what to do with herself or where to go.
She had just walked around for a bit. She had ended up at Squad Five and just stood there looking at the number on the door. She wasn't ready to enter the office she had shared with Aizen. It would cause memories to come forth that she wasn't willing to deal with. Momo didn't feel like she was ready to talk to anyone yet, so when she heard a shuffling from around the side of the building she panicked and ran. That was how she came to be sitting next to a river, on the outskirts of the Rukongai.
It was a place where she had found her best friend repeatedly. She would find him sitting just where she was, staring out across the water , just thinking. In the time before and during his time at the Academy, she would interrupt his thoughts with teasing remarks and stories of her own time there. But once he had graduated and become third seat of Squad Thirteen and later Captain of Squad Ten, she would more often than not just come here with him and sit in companionable silence. After all she herself had her own thoughts to contend with.
She had loved her best friend, and the way he was always looking out for her, even though he was quite a bit younger than herself. He'd had a wisdom in his eyes that contradicted his age since she had found him, shortly after he had been transported to the Soul Society from the living world. It was one of the many things she admired about him.
She would never forget the shock on his face as she attacked him. Her traitorous Captain had left her a letter stating that her best friend had murdered him. And while she loved her best friend she had devoted her entire life to being Aizen's Vice-Captain. She had trusted and admired Aizen since she had first met him in that training exercise. She had trusted Aizen with her life, and if it hadn't been for her best friend and the soothing Captain of Squad Four he would have taken that life from her. These were memories she had thought she had put in the past.
They had made their peace with each other after she had accepted the fact that Captain Aizen had really been a traitor and had tried to kill her. He hadn't blamed her for his injuries even though she knew it had been her fault. She had apologized whole heartedly, but he would hear none of it. He had still been looking out for her.
But her best friend was now gone. He had stepped between herself and the traitorous Aizen who was once again trying to end her life. She knew that he would try to go up against Aizen, and she had feared for him even before the battle had started. He had stepped between her and the blow meant for her and Rukia, and it had ended his life.
All of these memories were playing around in her head. They had been since she had watched him breathe his last breath. She had leaned over him crying for him to come back, oblivious to the battle that had surrounded them. Rukia had finally managed to get her calmed down enough to walk to Captain Unohana's location when she spotted Aizen, who was engaged in battle with the Substitute Shinigami Ichigo Kurosaki, kick the lifeless body of her best friend out of his way. That was the last insult to him that she could take. She started to flash step toward the battle but Rukia just managed to stop her.
Rukia had grabbed her arm and tried to hug her, but Momo just couldn't take it. She fought Rukia's hold as hard as her worn out body and shocked mind could. Rukia had been almost out of energy by that time and she was having a hard time keeping her friend from doing something she would regret later. Momo knew that her friend was trying to protect her, but she didn't care.
All she knew was that she had to get over there and protect him.
She fought as hard as she could to get away from Rukia and go to him, but it just wasn't enough. She was emotionally distraught and her energy was failing. She had almost wrestled out of Rukia's grasp when, in the back of her mind, she heard her call to someone. The next thing she knew she was in someone's arms and being carried away from her best friend and the battle surrounding them. She just couldn't let that happen. She continued to struggle against them, but it was to no avail. She finally opened her eyes and looked up to see who was carrying her.
To her surprise it was Hisagi-sempai. He had her in a steely grip and wouldn't let her go. She pounded on his chest and struggled to get free, but he wouldn't budge. Finally, the magnitude of the day's events hit her and she crumpled against his chest, and let her tears flow freely.
Momo was brought out of her memories, when she heard a rustling of the leaves along the path behind her. She looked back in the direction of the path and after a minute she saw none other than Hisagi-sempai appear.
Hisagi walked toward her and sat down beside her. They just continued to sit in silence both lost in their own memories. Hisagi couldn't get that day out of his mind. He kept seeing this small woman losing control over her best friend and one of the best Captains Soul Society had seen in a long time.
He had just destroyed one of the remaining Arrancar, when he heard someone call over to him. It was Rukia Kuchiki of Squad Thirteen. Hisagi looked over to her, and was surprised at what he saw. Ichigo Kurosaki was engaged in battle with Aizen, Captain Hitsugaya was laying on the ground, and Rukia was trying to hold back a fighting and screaming Momo Hinamori. What in the hell was going on?
He ran over to ask Rukia, but when he got there, she looked him straight in the eyes and stated frankly, "Captain Hitsugaya is no more and I have to get Momo to Captain Unohana before she does something she will regret and I don' t want to hurt her, but I can't drag her there on my own the way she is fighting." This was all said at a rapid pace and he had to concentrate to understand her.
Once he comprehended what she was asking of him he nodded, and proceeded to remove Momo's hands from Rukia's shoulders. She continued to fight them, but it was impossible with his larger frame. To Rukia's relief he proceeded to pick Momo up and cradle her in his arms.
He just let her continue to pound into his chest without saying a word. What could he say really? She had been betrayed by the Captain she had given her devotion and trust to, and he had tried to kill her. Now she had lost her best friend. He didn't know the entire story, but he knew he would hear it later. Rukia was friends with one of his fellow Vice-Captains and friend, Renji Abarai. So he just let her take her anger, frustration, and fear out on himself.
He felt her shift slightly and looked down to see if she was going to try something new to escape, but she just looked up at him, probably to see who was holding her. He saw the surprise in her face and just gave her a small, sad, gentle smile. He saw the tears she had tried to hold back fall, and knew that she was about to relent. Hisagi was unprepared for what she did. It was like all the energy left her body. He felt her crumple in his arms. She grabbed onto the front of his uniform, and sobbed into his chest.
Once again he just said nothing, and let her have whatever comfort she could find. After all he couldn't tell her it would be okay. Not after what she had seen. In her eyes there was probably no way to make this better. He had no idea how many had lost their lives today, but he knew that it was too many.
He proceeded on his way to the medical tent that housed the healers of Squad Four. He didn't think that Hinamori had any physical damage, but she definitely had some mental and emotional damage. Rukia had told him to take her to Squad Four so that was where he was taking her. Besides, he wasn't very good at this sort of thing and he knew that he didn't want to have to deal with it on his own.
Once they had gotten to Squad Four Captain Unohana had taken one look at the situation, and placed her hand on the back of Hinamori's neck and promptly used a sleeping kido. It had worked immediately as he knew it would. The Captain of Squad Four had instructed him on where to put her, but as he went to lay her down, she snuggled even deeper into his arms seeking comfort.
He couldn't help the tightness that seized his chest at her actions, but now was not the time so he proceeded to lay her down. However, he didn't have to tuck the blanket around her with as much care as he did. When he looked back up into her face, he noticed how sad she looked even in her sleep.
Hisagi was knocked out of his musings when he heard Momo speak beside him. It was quiet but it seemed like she was ready to talk.
"Hisagi-sempai. I was just wondering why you would come to such an out of the way place such as this"
He had news to give her, but he was sad that he had to give it so soon. It would make her even more sad to know, but someone had to tell her. When it had came up after the meeting, he had volunteered. He also noticed the sharp look in Matsumoto's eyes as he did so.
The remaining Captains and Vice-Captains had convened to decide on how to proceed with the memorial services, and the Shinigami Women's Association agreed to take over the job of organizing all five services. They were qualified to do so, and he suspected that they had done so to spare Head Captain Ukitake the job.
Realizing he had yet to answer her question he sighed. Knowing that he should just get it over with, he looked her strait in the face and answered, "I have news, and Matsumoto said that you would probably be here as it was his favorite place to come and think."
With a small sad smile she looked back up at him and replied, "I see. Well, we may as well get it over with. What is your news."
She appeared to be in a better mood today, and he hated to ruin that but he knew that she would want to know. So he replied, "The arrangements for the memorial services have been made. All unseated officers will be tomorrow. The service for seated officers will be on Wednesday. The service for Vice-Captains Kurotsuchi, and Izuru will be on Thursday. The service for Captain Kenpachi and Vice-Captain Kusajishi will be on Friday. The service for Captain…."
That was as far as he had gotten, because knowing what was coming she had almost tackled him in her haste to cover his mouth. He was laying on the grass with her half on top of him. She saw the surprise in his eyes as understanding dawned. He nodded and she released him and moved back to where she had been sitting. Her face decidedly more pale than when he had first started. As if in apology she quietly said, "I meant no disrespect Hisagi-sempai, but please do not say the name."
He watched as two silent tears fell down her cheeks, but continued on, knowing that it had to be done. She had to come to terms with her friend's death or it would eat her alive. So he continued, "The memorial service for the Captain of Squad Ten will be on Saturday."
He said this while watching her for signs of distress. He was relieved to see that she didn't crumple into sobs, but he did notice the silent tears streaming down her face as she nodded. And he knew that the road she had before her would be a hard one.
He didn't want to leave her alone with nothing but her memories, so he continued to sit there with her as they both gazed out over the flowing water. He could see why Captain Hitsugaya had liked it here. It was almost as if the water could wash away your worries.
They sat in companionable silence for almost an hour before Hinamori got herself under control. He was surprised when she asked how everyone else was doing. At least all of her mind wasn't in the past. He told her about everyone who had already recovered. He was also able to make her smile a bit when he told her about the huge fuss Ichigo Kurosaki was making in Squad Four. It was a soft sad smile, barely there, but it was there none the less.
They chatted while the sun sat. As she shivered in the slight chill the night brought with it he stretched and said, "Well, It's getting pretty late. I'll walk you home."
With her quiet thank you, he stood and helped her up. They walked the path out of the Rukongai and through the eastern gate. As they headed to her apartment he noticed that she took them in a round about way, bypassing the building that housed the Captain's office. When they got to her door she thanked him once again. He was about to turn around and walk away when he thought of something. They had a week of memorial services ahead of them, and it was probably going to be really hard on her so he asked, "Hinamori-san, I would be happy to walk with you to the service tomorrow."
She knew that he was trying to make it easier on her, but she didn't know him very well. She thought about it for a few seconds, before realizing that it would be a good thing for him to walk with her. "It might be the only thing that gets me there." So she nodded and replied, "I would be very grateful Hisagi-sempai."
She watched him walk back toward Squad Nine and
she couldn't help but be grateful for the fact that he had delivered the news. It was almost as if he had understood how she had felt. Maybe he had to some degree, his Captain had also been among the betrayers.
Momo moved into her bedroom to change her clothes and opened one of the drawers that housed her sleeping yukata. As she looked down into the drawer she couldn't help the sobs that racked her body. Almost every single one of them were colors that reminded her of her friend. One was the light blue color of the ice he fought with. Another was the green color of his sash. In a fit of rashness she couldn't control she tossed them all out of the drawer and onto the floor. As she looked down at the mess she had just made, she saw the last yukata she had thrown. It was the blue, green, teal color of his eyes.
She couldn't hold it in any longer. She dropped to the floor and picked up the teal yukata and held it to her chest as she remembered her best friend once again. She sobbed until she couldn't anymore. She just lay down amongst the yukata that so reminded her of him and let the now silent tears fall. The sun was about to make it's appearance when she drifted off to sleep still clutching that teal yukata to her heart.
Hisagi left Squad Five and was on his way to his own apartment when he met up with Rangiku Matsumoto. He stopped to talk with her for a few minutes, knowing that she would want to know how Hinamori was doing. He also wanted to know how she was doing seeing as how she had also lost her Captain.
"How did she take it," she asked.
He noticed that her smile wasn't as bright as it usually was, but responded, "She took it better than I was expecting. She wouldn't let me say his name though."
Rangiku nodded with a sad look in her eyes, and replied, "She is in denial. She doesn't want to hear anyone say his name because to her that will make it real."
Hisagi wasn't sure how it could get any worse if she was in denial now, so he just nodded.
"We will have to watch over her at the service and afterwards. That is what will make it real for her. He would want us to."
Hisagi knew that it was all too real for his curvaceous friend at the moment. She had been one of the first people to see Ichigo Kurosaki carry his small body back from the battlefield. She had just stood there with her own tears streaming. He knew that she would be burying them in sake later. Probably with Captain Kyouraku and Head Captain Ukitake. They always took battle hard considering how much of it that they had seen, but Head Captain Ukitake was taking this one particularly hard due to the fact that he had thought of Hitsugaya as a son, since he had entered The Academy.
"I just walked Hinamori home and we agreed that I would walk with her to the services tomorrow. I plan on doing so all week to make sure that nothing happens."
Matsumoto nodded, "That's probably a good idea, but you don't have to do it all by yourself."
"I really don't mind doing it. I think she might need a friend that doesn't remind her of the one she just lost," Hisagi stated as he saw the knowing look she was giving him.
He was developing feelings for Hinamori and he didn't want to discuss them with anyone until he knew what they were.
With the first bright smile she had worn since the battle ended she said, "Well, If you do find you need help keeping an eye on her you know where to find me." With that said she gave a small wave and headed on her way.
Hisagi continued on his way to his apartment. When he got there he changed out of his uniform into a black robe. He went into his kitchen and got out a bottle of sake and two cups. He poured one for the friend he had lost and one for himself. He and Kira had come to know each other well over the years. They had even trained together since the younger of the two had been promoted to Vice-Captain. He raised his glass in a silent toast to lives lost and downed it in one gulp. He drained a few more cups before going to bed.
Momo woke up stiff all over from laying in the floor in an odd position. She was still curled around the teal yukata. Her face was stiff and her eyes sore and dry. She had cried herself to sleep the night before. She lay there a few more minutes before sighing, and pushing her sore body up off the ground. She proceeded to open another drawer on her chest and pulled out another black uniform. She knew that she didn't have to wear her uniform to the memorial services, but couldn't bring herself to wear anything else.
She drew a bath and proceeded to soak for a little while. The moisture in the steam was helping the dryness in her eyes. When she was done with her bath she got out and dressed in her uniform. She brushed out her hair, and began to fix it in her usual bun when she spotted her hair covering. It was light green. She remembered when her best friend had given it to her. It had been his gift to her when she had become a Vice-Captain. He had only given her a few gifts the entire time they had been friends. His serious nature wouldn't allow it very often.
She placed it in a drawer and proceeded to put her hair up in a ponytail. She tied it up with a short black ribbon. It was about an hour until Hisagi-sempai would be coming to get her. She hadn't eaten anything yesterday. She knew that she needed to eat, but every time she thought about eating her stomach did little flip-flops and she knew it would be of no use. She settled for a cup of tea, and proceeded to make it. While the tea was boiling she went back to her room. She folded the yukata that had ended up on her floor last night and placed them on her bed.
With that finished she moved back into the kitchen and poured a cup of tea. She sat and waited for Hisagi-sempai to arrive. It didn't take him long. She had only been sitting there watching the clock move for fifteen minutes before he had arrived. She heard a soft knock on her door, set down her tea, and went to answer it.
He stood there, also in his black Uniform, and greeted her, "Good afternoon, Hinamori-san."
"Good afternoon, Hisagi-sempai," was her soft response.
They stood in silence for a few seconds before she continued, "Shall we go."
"Yes, but Hinamori-san it looks like you have forgotten your Vice-Captain's badge."
Momo looked down at her right arm in surprise, it was unusually devoid of her Vice-Captain's badge. "Yes I have. You can come in Hisagi-sempai. I will just be a moment."
She hurried back to her room where it was laying in the floor from last night.
Hisagi had noticed two things when she had opened the door. The first was that her face wasn't red and it didn't look like she had been crying. He couldn't help but feel like it was a good thing. He had also noticed that she hadn't been wearing her Vice-Captains badge. He had thought this odd, so he had said something.
He walked into her apartment and stood by the door not wanting to intrude. He just gazed around the room for a few minutes, until he thought he heard a thump coming from her room. What could have caused it he wondered. He listened for another few seconds and didn't hear it again. He had just about decided that it was his imagination when he heard it again. Not wanting to barge in on her while she was in her room, he called out, "Hinamori-san is everything okay. in there?"
Momo hated this. How they ever expected you to tie a badge around one of your arms one handed she would never understand. She had always had Aizen to help her and later her best friend or even one of her subordinates, but now there wasn't anyone. Oh shoot, she had dropped it again. She didn't want to bother Hisagi-sempai with this. He had been so nice to her already. Then she heard him ask if everything was okay. With a sigh she picked it up and headed out to the other room where he was waiting.
"Hisagi-sempai, I know that this might seem silly to you, but could you help me put on my badge, please."
He noticed the blush of embarrassment immediately as she came into the room. With a small smile he nodded and said, "Sure."
She handed the badge to him and held out her arm. "I think I understand why Matsumoto never wears hers on her arm. There is not always someone to help you."
"I think that she just likes to break the dress code," he replied sliding the fabric around her arm.
Momo tried really hard to ignore the tingles his hands left in their wake, but she couldn't suppress the blush she could feel rising in her cheeks. When he finished she let her arm fall down to her side and said, "Thank you," without looking at him.
They walked along in a companionable silence toward the large courtyard in Squad One. He watched as her face paled the closer they got. As they were walking up to the gate to the courtyard she stopped, and he asked, "Are you okay?"
Her reply surprised him, "They were my subordinates, I have to be okay. Or at least look like I am for a short time."
He just nodded in understanding. Squad Five had been hit the hardest in the war. It was as if Aizen had been trying to wipe out his entire squad. He watched her compose herself in silence. He admired her in that moment. As swamped with grief, emotions, and memories as she undoubtedly was, she was still trying to do her duty. She nodded and they walked in together.
Along the back wall of the courtyard were thirteen huge stone tables with pictures of all of the fallen soldiers sitting atop them. They couldn't make out the names emblazoned on the front, but both knew that the names of every shinigami that had been lost would be there. Normally they would have sat in order of squad, but all of the squads had become closer since the betrayal of three of their own. Now friends just sat with friends. Ichigo Kurosaki was sitting between his father and Rukia. Head Captain Ukitake was sitting in between Rukia and his best friend Captain Kyouraku who had left off his pink hoari in honor of the occasion . On the other side of Captain Kyouraku was his Vice-Captain Nanao Ise with her arm still in a sling. Matsumoto was on her other side and finished out that row.
They sat in between Renji and Isane-san on the fist row on the left side, and waited for everyone else to file in. The Head Captain stood up to speak and everyone got silent. Hisagi couldn't remember ever seeing Ukitake as sad and solemn as he did today. As Ukitake spoke, Hisagi let his mind drift to the shinigami his own squad had lost. It hadn't been as many as some, but he would feel their loss. He was brought back to himself when he felt a slight shiver coming from the woman sitting next to him.
Momo had at least remembered to bring a handkerchief. She had lasted all of two minutes before the tears had started flowing. She was trying to be silent and inconspicuous. She didn't want to ruin the ceremony.
Hisagi looked down at her and saw that she was trying to hold it in. No one had asked it of her and yet she had taken it upon herself. Isane was crying, and even Vice-Captain Ise was given a handkerchief by her Captain. Matsumoto was not making any effort to wipe away the silent tears that were flowing down her face. Hisagi wanted to show her that it was o.k. for her to cry. It was part of the grieving process, but he didn't want to embarrass her so he placed his hand over her small one still sitting in her lap. He was rewarded when he felt a small squeeze on his hand, and he felt her relax, even though she still cried silently.
When he looked back toward the front of the courtyard he couldn't help but see the eyebrow Renji had raised in question. He just ignored it.
Once the Head Captain had finished speaking they all rose and broke into their squads in order of rank. They lined up in front of the stone table corresponding to their squad and each placed one of their squad's flowers on the top of the stone in front of the pictures. Once everyone had placed their flowers, they moved back to their seats. Head Captain Ukitake proceeded to place a flower on every stone. As he returned to his seat he stayed standing and everyone else stood. As one they bowed to the stones, honoring each fallen member. After they rose Ukitake informed them that they were dismissed.
As they stood Momo wiped her eyes and placed her handkerchief back into her sleeve. She turned to Hisagi and said, "Thank You."
With a small smile he replied, "Your Welcome."
He motioned for her to go before him, and they headed back out toward the gate that would take them away from Squad One. As they were making their way out they were stopped by Renji, wanting to know if they wanted to go eat with a group of friends. He looked down at Momo expectantly, and she replied, "No thank you."
He informed Renji that he would meet them tomorrow evening after the services and they would have a drink. He pointedly ignored the knowing look his friend was giving him, and they continued on their way.
"Hisagi-sempai you don't have to stay with me. You could have went with them."
"Actually I ate before the service, and I think you need a friend right now," he replied.
With her eyes filled with unshed tears she looked up at him and gave him a sad smile. "Thank you."
Hisagi nodded and decided to change the subject. "So where would you like to go. Back to your apartment?"
"No I was thinking that I would just walk for a little bit, and then go home."
"Alright. That sounds good to me."
For the next few hours they just wandered around in companionable silence, both lost in their thoughts.
Momo couldn't help but be sad that her squad had lost so many. She hadn't been there to help them. As soon as she had felt the reiatsu of her former Captain she had followed it. She wasn't sure what she had hoped to accomplish, but she just knew that she had to. She had lost most of her squad because of that mistake. She had also lost her best friend, and she would never be able to forgive herself. She couldn't help but think that she should be dead right now instead of all those other people.
These thoughts kept running through her mind, and she couldn't stop them. She didn't want to think like that, but she couldn't stop the validity of them.
Hisagi was thinking about earlier. Hinamori did better than he had thought she would. Maybe she was starting to come to terms with the situation. Although only time would tell and they still had four memorial services to get through. The last would be the hardest.
He suspected that he was developing feelings for Hinamori. He knew it probably wasn't appropriate considering the state she was in, but he couldn't help the warm feelings and tightness in his chest that she made him feel. He had started to care for her the last day of the battle and the fated day she lost her best friend. He had told himself that they were feelings of pity or platonic friendship, but now he wasn't so sure. The more time he spent in her presence, the more he just wanted to pick her up and shelter her from the memories and emotions that he knew were about to rip her apart.
He gazed down at her and he could swear that he could see the wheels turning in her mind. He wondered what she was thinking about. He couldn't see any freshly fallen tears, but she had a haunted look in her eyes.
The sun was setting and it was starting to get late. He knew that she would need her rest for the coming week. He probably needed his own to, so he suggested, "It's getting late. How about I walk you back to your apartment?"
She jerked as if just remembering he was there. Looking up at him with those same haunted eyes she replied quietly, "Okay"
They headed back to Squad Five and once again she took them the round about way, bypassing the Captain's Office.
They both stopped at her door and he asked, "I will see you tomorrow? We can walk together again."
She nodded and went into her apartment and shut the door. He knew that she probably didn't need to be alone right now, but there was just no way that he was going to suggest him coming in her apartment. With a sigh he just headed back to his own apartment, hoping that she would be alright for the night.
Momo went into her room and sat down. Her mind was still assaulting her with thoughts. She knew that the blast Aizen had directed at her should have killed her. It very well would have if he hadn't jumped in the way. It kept whispering to her, "You shouldn't be alive right now."
Momo just shook her head and tried to banish those horrible thoughts. She was exhausted emotionally and physically. She removed the ribbon and let her hair fall down to her shoulders. She then removed her Vice-Captains badge. Once she removed it she just sat there staring at it laying in her lap.
She was remembering earlier that day when Hisagi-sempai had smiled at her and agreed to help her with it. She couldn't forget the warm tingles his touch had brought to her skin. He had been trying to take care of her and watch over her since he had borne witness to her breakdown that fateful day. All of a sudden she shouted at herself, "Stop this. You don't deserve to be happy."
She threw her badge across the room and went into her bedroom so she wouldn't have to see it. She moved to lay down on her bed, but at the last minute decided that she didn't deserve to be comfortable. She was thinking about herself and how warm Hisagi-sempai had made her feel. She should be unhappy and uncomfortable. She had caused the death of her best friend and untold members of her own squad. Those traitorous thoughts once again assailed her. She didn't know what to do. Still standing there she picked up the teal yukata and clutched it once again to her chest. In her weakness she just leaned against the wall and slid down it coming to rest sitting on the floor.
She couldn't stop the sobs that racked her body as she finally let go. She cried into that simple teal yukata that so reminded her of his eyes and whispered, "Shirou-chan, I don't deserve to be here."
She continued to sob until she had no tears left. She then slowly drifted off to sleep as the bright sun approached the horizon.
Hisagi made his way over to Squad Five, thinking, "Today I will do my best to take her mind off of her thoughts."
He reached her door and knocked, but he didn't hear anything inside, and no one came to the door. He wondered if maybe she had forgotten that he was going to meet her, but quickly discarded that idea. She had agreed, and he thought she wouldn't want to go by herself. He knocked again a little louder, but their was still no answer. He couldn't help worrying that something had happened. She wasn't in the best frame of mind and when he tested the doorknob he found that she hadn't locked the door or placed a barrier upon it.
His worry won out over propriety and he opened the door and walked in. He didn't see her in the front room although he did notice that her Vice-Captain's badge was on the floor across the room. After struggling with himself for a few seconds he proceeded into her bedroom. He didn't see her instantly, but once he had walked farther into the room he saw her. She was curled up on the floor clutching a teal piece of fabric to her chest.
Realizing that she was just asleep he moved toward her. Once he got to her side he kneeled down. With a tender motion he moved her hair away from her eyes. He knew she must have been tired to still be asleep this time of the day, then again she had probably stayed up part of the night. He didn't want to wake her up, knowing that she needed all the rest she could get, but they both had to go to the services. Both of their squads had lost seated officers, so with the same motion he gently shook her shoulder.
"Hinamori-san. You need to wake up. It is almost time for the service."
Momo could feel someone shaking her shoulder, but she didn't want to wake up yet. She knew that memories and dark thoughts would assault her as soon as she did. Then all of a sudden it came to her. Who would be in her rooms? She quickly opened her eyes to see none other than Hisagi-sempai.
She knew that her surprise showed on her face when she asked, " Hisagi-sempai, What are you doing in my room?"
She noticed his slight blush at her question, and she understood when she heard him reply, "Hinamori-san I was here to meet you for the service, but you didn't hear me when I knocked. I was worried that something had happened, and came to see if you were okay. It is almost time for the services so I woke you up. I'm sorry for the intrusion. I will go wait in the other room."
As he turned to leave what he was saying dawned on her. He was here to walk her to the memorial service for seated officers. That meant that it would be starting soon. She wasn't even ready. "I'm sorry Hisagi-sempai. I will be ready in just a moment."
With that said she flew into a frenzy. She picked out another uniform and ran to her bathroom to change. She put her hair up in another simple black ribbon, and moved back into the other room. As she walked up to him she noticed that he was holding her Vice-Captain's badge. She walked up to him and held out her arm so he could wrap the white fabric around it and secure the badge there.
As she stood there patiently a waive of dizziness assailed her. She was about to lose her balance when she leaned into him.
He just let her lean on him for a few seconds before he asked, "Hinamori-san are you alright!"
He watched as she shook her head as if to clear it, while still leaning on him for support before answering, "Yes. I'm fine. I just got a bit dizzy there." This was said very quietly. He watched her move away from him, wondering what would cause her to get dizzy. He hoped that she wasn't getting sick. Then understanding dawned.
"Hinamori-san, When was the last time you ate?"
He saw her blush of embarrassment at his attention, but she answered honestly, "I'm not really sure."
With a small sigh he said, "Hinamori-san. We don't have time before the service, but afterwards you are going to eat something. You should take better care of yourself."
Momo just nodded, but she couldn't suppress the solitary tear that made it's way down her cheek. She still remembered the last time her best friend had said those words to her.
They once again made their way to the courtyard outside Squad one, although at a slower pace. Once they got there they took the same seats as they had the day before and waited for the service to start.
They sat there as Ukitake once again stood up and delivered his speech in honor of the fallen officers. Instead of waiting for Hinamori to start sobbing he promptly took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. He was a little surprised that she returned the pressure on his own hand. She looked up at him and gave her best attempt at a smile. There were unshed tears in her eyes.
They both looked back to the front of the courtyard and gave their attention back to the Head Captain. She didn't break down today. She just cried silent tears and every so often she would wipe them away with her handkerchief, but he did notice that when Ukitake came to the fallen seated officers of Squad Five the pressure on his hand increased.
When it came time to break into their squads he noticed that she let go of his hand with reluctance. They made their way to the stone tables with the new names etched on them and placed their flowers once again on top in front of the new pictures in honor of their fallen comrades. When they had finished they moved back to their seats, and watched as once again Head Captain Ukitake moved to place a flower on every stone. When he returned to his seat every one bowed to show their respect. When they rose they were dismissed by the Head Captain.
Hisagi was worried that Hinamori-san would get dizzy again. He wasn't sure how long it had been since she had eaten, but he knew that it had to be a while because she couldn't remember when it had been. He was going to get her something to eat and sit and watch her eat it. He knew that this week was going to be hard on her and she needed her strength. Especially since the worst was yet to come.
As they made their way out through the gate he noticed that she had stumbled slightly and reached down and placed his hand on her arm to keep her steady. He noticed her blush, but she didn't say anything, so he left his hand on her arm just in case, as he lead her toward a noodle stand. Once they reached the stand he lead her toward one of the large trees off to the side and told her to sit down. She just nodded and sat down. Wrapping her arms around her knees for comfort.
He walked over to the stand and requested two bowls of noodles. He then made his way back over to the tree and the small woman who sat under it. Hisagi handed her a bowl and a pair of chop sticks, and they ate in silence.
Momo couldn't help but wonder why Hisagi was taking the time to be with her. He was taking care of her like a friend. He made her feel warm inside, and sometimes he almost made her forget her sadness and her memories. As soon as she had thought this her eyes widened in horror. She didn't deserve to feel better. She didn't deserve to be able to forget her sadness. She had caused her best friend's death. She didn't even deserve to be here.
She looked down into her half eaten bowl of noodles. She was grateful for the kindness he had given her, but she knew she was undeserving. As these thoughts rolled around in her mind she felt her stomach start to turn those familiar flip flops and knew that there was no way that she would be able to finish the meal he had given her. She just sat them aside, and leaned back against the tree while she waited for him to finish.
Hisagi saw that she had eaten half of her bowl of noodles, but he knew that that wasn't enough. He knew that if he hadn't demanded that she eat she wouldn't have eaten anything. With a sigh he said, "Hinamori-san. If you didn't like those noodles I can get you something else."
She looked up at him as if he had jarred her from her thoughts, and as he thought about it he probably had. She replied, "Hisagi-san they were great. I just can't eat anymore right now."
Not wanting to badger her, he just replied, "Okay. Are you ready to go home?"
Momo didn't really feel like doing anything else so she just nodded and followed him toward Squad Five. She was a little surprised when he led them the same round about way to her apartment that she had been using since the end of the war. Once they were at her door she stopped and looked at it for a moment. Then she looked up at Hisagi-sempai and then back at the door. The assault of her memories and thoughts would be far stronger when she was by herself. She was almost loath to ask this of him, but couldn't help herself, "Hisagi-sempai would you like to come in?"
Hisagi was surprised that she would ask. He knew that she had probably not noticed his growing feelings for her, but while he didn't want to seem like he was taking advantage of her he also didn't think it was a good idea for her to be alone with nothing but her thoughts. So he looked down at her with a smile and agreed, "Hinamori-san I would love to come in."
He watched as she opened the door and followed her in. They moved into the room and Hinamori motioned for him to sit. He sat down next to a small table and watched as she followed suit. She took off her Vice-Captain's badge and placed it on the table and proceeded to take the ribbon out of her hair. As she ran her fingers through her hair with her eyes closed he couldn't help but be struck by her innocent beauty. She had been through so much and she looked much older than she had just the year before, though she hadn't physically grown.
He had been shocked to learn that his own justice seeking Captain had been one of the traitors, but he hadn't had the type of unrivaled love and devotion to his Captain that Hinamori had. He had had simple respect and pride in his squad and it's Captain.
Having finished finger combing her hair Momo just sat there in silence. She wasn't sure why she had invited Hisagi to come in, but she knew that when she was with him, she felt just a little bit better.
Hisagi was used to the silence that permeated the air when he was with Hinamori. He also knew that it meant that she was lost in her thoughts. Some how she was going to have to come to terms with them, because he knew that if he just left her to them she would drown in them. Thinking that it was a good sign that she had invited him in he hoped that maybe she was ready to talk about it.
"Hinamori-san," he said to get her attention, "If you are ready to talk about it I would be happy to listen."
Then again maybe not, he thought as he saw her instantly pale.
"Hisagi-sempai. You wouldn't want to hear about my worries, but I thank you for you kindness."
"Hinamori-san you can address me by my given name, and I would be happy to listen to your worries and your thoughts."
He was bringing it to the forefront. She knew that if she started talking about her traitorous thoughts she wouldn't be able to stop. He had been so kind to her already and she didn't want to take advantage of him. She held no delusions of keeping her dignity in front of him, she had already lost that days ago on the battlefield.
"I would rather not talk about it. If that's okay. Hisagi-kun," she just couldn't bring herself to address this kind man in the familiar so she settled on a compromise.
"I understand if you feel that way, but I'm happy to listen. It might make you feel better," he stated in a quiet voice in a last attempt to get her to talk about it.
Momo looked up at that last comment. When she saw the gentle kindness in his eyes she completely lost all semblance of control she had. Not being able to look into his peaceful gaze any longer she covered her face with her hands. She burst into tears, her sobs racking her body and causing her hair to sway around her face. She was taken aback when she felt him kneel down next to her and force a small piece of cloth into her hand.
Wishing that he wasn't there to see her break down, she took the cloth and quickly covered her face once again. For almost two minutes the only thing that could be heard inside her apartment was her quiet sobs and even quieter sniffles.
Hisagi wasn't sure what had caused her tears this time, but he decided that he would offer whatever comfort he could. He wasn't sure that it was the right thing to do, but it was the only thing that he could think of so he wrapped both of his arms around her shaking frame. He felt her stiffen and try to turn away from him. She didn't want to accept his comfort. He feared that she felt that she didn't deserve his comfort, but he was not just going to sit there and watch her suffer in silence.
He tightened his hold on her and wouldn't let her move away. She struggled for a short time, trying to push him away. Then finally even that became to much for her, and for the second time in a week she crumpled into his arms. She forced her face as close as she could get to his chest and held onto his uniform. He couldn't help the tears that welled up in his own eyes at the pain he had unconsciously caused.
He moved his hand up to her back and rubbed it in what he hoped was soothing circles. Unfortunately this just caused her to cry harder. Not knowing what else to do he just stated simply, Tell me."
Momo felt him wrap his arms around her, he was trying to offer her comfort. The only coherent thought in her emotionally wrecked mind was that she wasn't deserving of his comfort. She had tried to push him away, but his arms just felt so warm. She hadn't felt warm since that day, and she couldn't bring herself to struggle against him anymore. She buried her face in his chest and grabbed onto his uniform. The tide had broke, there was just no way that she could stop the tears that were flowing.
She felt him begin to rub slow soothing circles on her back, and heard his quiet words. Every thing just flowed out of her. She couldn't stop it.
"I neglected my squad and they died because of it. I betrayed my best friend and attacked him. I devoted my life to a Captain that hid the fact that he was evil and betrayed his fellow shinigami. I even defended him. I was saved from him by my best friend twice. If it wasn't for me he would still be here. He was trying to protect me and he died because of it. It was my fault. He didn't deserve that. I shouldn't even be here," this was said haltingly and in between many sobs.
Hisagi hadn't known that all of this had been bottled up inside her. He had just thought that she had missed her friend. He knew that the problems with Aizen had been hard for her, but he never suspected that she blamed herself for most of it. He just sat there holding her close and continued to rub a soothing pattern across her back. He let her cry until she couldn't cry any more and then they just sat there in silence, with her face still buried in his chest.
Almost thirty minutes had passed, when he gently picked her up and walked softly into her bedroom. He silently placed her on her bed, and said, "I will be right back."
She just nodded and watched him walk back out into the other room.
Hisagi hoped he was doing the right thing. He had never been in the position to offer comfort to anyone before, and she hadn't threw him out of her apartment yet so he was taking that as a good sign. After all of the crying that she had done, he knew that her throat would probably be sore, so he had decided to make her some tea. He just didn't want to leave her in the floor, so he had carried her to her room. He located the tea she kept in a small cupboard and put the water on to boil. It didn't take long and after locating two cups he poured the tea and headed back to her bedroom.
When he reached the bed he saw her move to make room for him. He hadn't planned on joining her, maybe pulling up a chair, but if she wanted him to he wouldn't deny her. He sat the tea on her bedside table and sat down on her small bed with his back to the wall. When she settled against him once again, he noticed that there was a flush in her cheeks. He handed her a cup of tea as she rested her head on his chest. He knew that there was nothing romantic about the situation, she was just seeking comfort and he had been willing to give it. However, that didn't stop the tightness in his chest making it's appearance known now that they were close.
He watched as she sipped her tea delicately, and waited a few minutes. Once she had downed about a third of the cup he sighed. This caused her to look up at him, as he knew it would.
"Hinamori-san. None of this is your fault. You couldn't help that you were manipulated and deceived by Aizen and the other Captains, many people were. Myself included. Captain…. Your friend loved you and he made a choice. It was his choice to make. It was not your fault."
He watched the shadows in her eyes as she processed what he had just told her.
She thought about his words for a moment and wanted to believe him, but she just couldn't. The voice in the back of her mind was back in full force and whispering to her.
"It is your fault, if you hadn't been there then he never would have died. If Aizen had succeeded the first time he took your life your friend would be alive right now. You shouldn't be here."
Momo didn't want to give away her traitorous thoughts. She was appreciative of what Hisagi-kun had done for her, she just wasn't able to believe what he had said. So she just replied quietly, "Thank you Hisagi-kun," and replaced her head on his chest and continued to drink her tea.
They sat in companionable silence until he noticed that her breathing was evening out and the cup she held was tilting out of her hand. He gently removed the cup from her hands and placed it back on the bed side table. He then pulled up one of the blankets she had folded at the bottom of her bed and tucked it around her with care. He leaned his head back on the wall and let his mind drift.
He still wasn't sure if he had gotten through to her, but he had tried. She had seemed a little bit better at least. She wasn't as tense as she had been earlier, and the shadows in her eyes had lessened somewhat. All of a sudden he remembered that he had told Renji that he would meet him for a drink later. Oh well. Renji would just have to deal with it. I'm sure he found someone else, probably Ikkaku or Iba. For tonight he would just sit here with this small, broken, innocent woman in his arms. He couldn't help his small smile as he felt her snuggle closer.
As dawn approached he shifted Hinamori and rose. He had only gotten a few hours sleep, but it had been worth it. She had slept through the night and didn't show any signs of waking up soon. They had another memorial service to get through today and he had to go get changed. Hisagi made his way to her door as quietly as he could. Once outside he paused to breath in the fresh air before heading to his apartment.
He was almost to his apartment when he was stopped by Renji.
"I thought we were going for a drink last night."
"Sorry about that. I had something that I had to do. We will have to do it another time."
He watched as his friend nodded in understanding, but was taken aback when his friend asked bluntly, "So you and little Hinamori-kun?"
The look on his face must have been funny, because his friend burst out laughing.
He just sighed and replied, "I think I'm falling for her."
All of a sudden Renji got serious, and said, "With everything she is going through, that's going to be a hard battle my friend."
"Yeah. I know."
Renji just smacked him on the back and said, "Well as long as it's worth it."
Hisagi just nodded, and they said their goodbyes. When he got to his apartment he swiftly took a bath and changed into a clean uniform. Having done what he came for, he left and made his way back to Squad Five.
He was halted once again, by Matsumoto. He wasn't the least surprised that she asked, "How is Hinamori doing?"
He proceeded to tell her about the events of last night, leaving out only the part about him staying the night, but considering the look she was giving him she suspected it anyway.
"She is blaming herself," Matsumoto thought out loud.
"Yes she is. That's not what's bothering me though. It's normal for someone to feel guilt when someone dies to protect them. It's that she said that she shouldn't be here."
"I see what you mean. It's like she thinks she should have died instead," Matsumoto replied.
Hisagi didn't have much to add to this so he just nodded.
Matsumoto grew very serious and said, "We are going to have to keep a very close eye on her. In case she decides to do something drastic."
Hisagi didn't want to speculate, even to himself, what something drastic might entail. He just nodded and told Matsumoto that he was heading to Hinamori's apartment. He saw her wave as she went on her way.
He made his way back to Hinamori's apartment inside Squad Five, but went the quickest way past the entrance to the Captain's Office since he was alone. He knocked quietly in case she had woken in his absence, not wanting to startle her. It appeared that she hadn't woken so he just went in. He found her just as he had left her. Curled into a ball still sound asleep. He knew that all the tears and emotions from the previous night had worn her out. He just closed her bedroom door and walked into the other room.
He picked up a book off of a shelf without even looking at it and sat down in one of her chairs. It was an advanced Kido text. He had heard from Matsumoto that she was a Kido Master and considering the advanced nature of the text he could believe it. He had been looking through it for about two hours when he heard the water turn on.
Momo woke warm and comfortable. This was very odd. For the last few days she had woken up with knots in her back and shoulders. She opened her eyes and learned why. She was in her bed. Her memories of the previous night came back to her in a rush. Hisagi-kun had held her as she cried. She felt her face heat up as she remembered. He had let her cry and ramble on holding her the entire time. He had even made her a cup of tea. She must have drifted off to sleep. She remembered the warm feelings he had caused deep inside of her and before she knew it that voice in the back of her mind was whispering to her again.
"You don't deserve the warmth and comfort that he gave. You shouldn't be here. It's all your fault. You killed him. Your best friend."
With a jerk she jumped off the bed. She walked over to her chest and pulled out another uniform, and went to take a bath. All the while with that small voice whispering in the back of her mind.
When Hisagi heard the water start he laid down the book he was trying to wrap his mind around and went into the kitchen. He put a pot of water on to boil and waited for her to finish. He also proceeded to make some rice-balls for breakfast. He knew that she wouldn't eat if he left her on her own, and rice-balls was one of the few things he knew how to make. It was also one of the few things that she had the ingredients for.
When she made her way out of her room she smelled something wonderful. She stopped in the doorway when she saw Hisagi-kun standing there in her tiny kitchen. He had two cups of tea in his hands and was on his way to place them on her small table. She couldn't stop the heat she felt on her cheeks when he looked at her. She had been so lost in her own thoughts she hadn't realized that he was still there.
Flustered as she was she said the first thing that popped into her head, "Hisagi-kun you didn't have to stay. I didn't mean to take up so much of your time."
Hisagi just smiled at her and replied, "Well I did leave for a short while to go change. But I figured that I had to eat and you had to eat so we might as well do it together."
That was when she noticed the table. Sitting on it was two plates full of rice-balls. She felt tears well up in her eyes at his kindness. She replied quietly, "Thank you very much Hisagi-kun."
They both moved over to the table and he placed the tea upon it.
"Hinamori-san, I hope you like rice-balls. I am not very handy in the kitchen so my choices were limited."
With a small smile she replied, "Actually, I really do like rice-balls and you can call me Momo if you want."
Well she did seem to be feeling a little better today. She still had sadness wrapped around her like a cloak, but today it seemed as if she was battling it.
With a genuine smile he replied, "That's great Momo-kun."
They continued to eat for a while. Momo was able to finish two rice-balls and Hisagi hoped that it was a good sign. Once they were finished she picked up her plate and cup and took it to the sink. She was about to turn around to get the others when she felt him beside her. He placed his plate and cup in the sink next to hers.
"Are you ready to go," he asked.
She nodded and said, "Just about. I just have to get my badge."
She walked over and picked it up off the table, where it had remained, and handed it to him.
She held her arm out and let him secure it there once again. All the while trying to ignore the voice in the back of her mind telling her that she needed to get away from him, and that she didn't deserve her time with him.
They left her apartment and made their way once again back to the courtyard in Squad One. Today's service was in memory of two of the fallen Vice-Captains. He knew that both He and Hinamori were close to Kira. Hisagi had met them both in a training exercise that he had supervised. It had went horribly wrong and Hinamori, Kira, and Renji had defied orders to come help him until backup had gotten there. He hadn't known Vice-captain Kurotsuchi very well. She had pretty much stayed in Squad Twelve. He didn't know of anyone that knew her well.
When they entered the courtyard they saw that the previous Thirteen stones had been moved and Two new ones stood in their place. One with the image of Kira with his name etched at the bottom and the symbol for Squad Three in the background. The second was the same except depicting the Vice-Captain of Squad Twelve. Instead of a picture resting on the top of the stone, each Vice-Captain's Zanpakuto was sitting there in a place of honor.
They moved over to take their seats. For the third time Head Captain Ukitake stood to give his speech. As they listened, Hisagi couldn't help, but miss his friend. He felt the tears well in his eyes. He wouldn't cry in public, but he would feel his friends loss deeply. He was surprised when he felt someone take his hand and looked down in time to feel Hinamori give it a squeeze. He just looked back up and returned the pressure. This small emotionally traumatized woman was trying to offer him comfort.
As they all stood up they didn't let go of each others hands. Today their would only be one line. Starting with the remaining Captains, followed by Vice-captains, then all remaining shinigami. When they reached the stones Hisagi could see that their was no flowers on his friends stone. Just a bottle of sake and a lone cup. He poured a single sip in the cup and toasted his friend then down it in one swallow. He watched as Hinamori did the same, and came up spluttering. It had been very strong sake.
They proceeded to lay their Squad Twelve flowers on Vice-Captain Kurotsuchi's stone. They returned to their seats but remained standing. Once everyone had returned they bowed in honor of their comrades, and were promptly dismissed.
Hinamori had made it through this service better than any of the others.
They had just made their way out of the courtyard when they were stopped by Matsumoto, Renji, Rukia, and Ichigo, inquiring if they wanted to go out for a drink.
Hisagi was ready to tell them that they already had plans so Hinamori wouldn't have to decline, when he heard her say in a soft voice, "I would love to go."
Then she just looked up at him expectantly. He nodded, and Renji clapped him on the back. Matsumoto looked at him with a quizzical gaze, and they proceeded to a small bar next to the western gate. Everyone was chatting and giving each other a hard time, but Hinamori just placed her small hand in his.
When he looked down at her, she was looking strait ahead. She's forcing herself to do this he thought. She was trying for the sake of the friends she had left, and probably for her own peace of mind.
Momo wasn't sure what made her agree to come drinking. She didn't even drink. She hoped that they had tea. It had been that voice in the back of her mind, whispering those horrible thoughts at her. She was hoping that if she was around enough people that they would drown out the voice. She wasn't sure what would happen if it got louder.
"You don't deserve friends. Your friends die. You don't want that to happen to them do you? It's your fault that he died. Your fault. Your fault. You shouldn't be here. You don't deserve to be here."
She was afraid that the voice would wear her down. She was becoming afraid of it. She didn't know what to do, but she knew from experience that when she was close to Hisagi-kun the voice would become softer. It wouldn't go away, but she was better able to ignore it. That was the only thing that she had been thinking when she had reached for his hand.
They made it to the bar, and sat down at a square table. She sat next to Hisagi-kun and Matsumoto. Matsumoto was followed by Rukia and then Ichigo, and Renji sat between Ichigo and Hisagi. When someone came to take their order she couldn't help but smile when Renji gave Ichigo a hard time about him ordering tea instead of sake. Momo was glad he had, now she wouldn't have to feel bad when she did. She was also a little surprised by the fact that Rukia had also ordered tea.
When the drinks were brought to the table she was taken aback when Renji had asked for three more cups. Hisagi apparently knew what he was doing though, because when the gentleman returned with the cups he filled two and sat one in front of her. Renji did the same for Ichigo and Matsumoto for Rukia. When everyone had their full cup of sake Renji raised his cup and made a toast.
"To Fallen Friends"
They all raised their glasses, even Ichigo, with solemn faces and repeated, "To Fallen Friends"
Everyone drained their glasses, and Momo couldn't help but wonder why anyone would drink sake for fun. It tasted awful, and she couldn't stop sputtering. Hisagi had ended up patting her on the back until she had caught her breath. Everyone was looking at her in surprise. She didn't know what to do with the attention and it was starting to create tension in the air so she said the first thing that popped into her head.
"That stuff tastes awful. I think I will stick to tea."
Apparently that was all that was needed to break the tension of the day. Matsumoto burst out laughing followed by everyone else in the group. She could even hear a soft chuckle coming from Hisagi-kun.
From then on nothing was said about war, battle, or even lost friends. They all just chatted. She listened as Renji continued to give Ichigo a hard time. Even Rukia was joking around with them.
She was content just to listen to them talk. She was able to hold off the voice for about ten minutes. Then It got louder. Not by much, just enough to get her attention.
"You shouldn't be here. You don't deserve to have friends. They always die. It's your fault he died. It's your fault he's not at this table. It's your fault. It's your fault. It's your fault."
Hisagi was enjoying the talk and the sake, when he noticed that Hinamori hadn't said a word in over twenty minutes. He looked over to her and noticed that it looked like she had withdrawn into herself. She was looking down at her hands that she had placed on her lap. He wasn't sure what had caused this change in her, but he knew that being here wasn't helping. He shared a concerned look with Matsumoto and Rukia, and said, "Well it's getting late."
He noticed that Momo had looked up at his words and he asked, "Are you ready to go."
She nodded and they both stood and said their goodbyes.
They walked quietly back to her apartment and when she opened the door she just looked up into his face. He nodded and they both walked inside.
He asked if she would like some tea, and when he saw her nod he moved into the small kitchen to make some. After he put the pot on to boil he turned around to see that she had taken off her Vice-Captain's badge and placed it on the table.
Momo walked into her room and sat down on her bed. She was still having an internal battle with that horrid voice in the back of her mind. She had even been enjoying herself when she sat with the others and listened to their talk, but as soon as she had begun to relax the voice had came back with a vengeance. It had tormented her the entire way home.
"You shouldn't be happy. You don't deserve to be happy. People died because of you. It was your fault. Your best friend died because of you. Now you are sitting with your friends. Have you forgotten. It was your fault. It was your fault. You don't deserve comfort. You don't deserve to be happy. You shouldn't be here. You shouldn't be here. You shouldn't be here."
Momo scooted as far back as she could and rested her head against the wall. She wrapped her arms around her knees and rested her head against them. Memories of that day were running through her mind. She had been trying to avoid it, but it seems that she would no longer be able to. She just saw his lifeless eyes staring back at her, as he took his last breath. She remembered a time when those eyes had held a fire and determination that was belied by the ice he called forth. As she sat there she continued to cry silent tears. There were no sobs just an occasional sniffle.
Once the tea was ready Hisagi poured it into cups and carried it into her bed room. He sat it down on her bedside table and as he heard a sniffle he knew that she was crying yet again. He wasn't sure what had caused it, but as he thought about it he realized that she had probably been holding it in since they had left the bar. He moved to pull up a chair, but as he turned around he felt a quivering hand on his arm. He turned back toward her and looked down into her tear streaked face. She once again moved over to give him room, and he sat down behind her. She snuggled up to him and he wrapped his arms around her and let her cry.
Once her tears had stopped flowing he handed her a cup of tea, and watched as she drank it. They spent that night much the way they had spent the previous one. Once she had cried all of her tears she curled up against him and fell asleep.
He just sat there and watched her sleep, until he couldn't stay awake any longer. He drifted off to sleep with her warm breath on his skin.
He woke up just a little after dawn, and made his way to his own apartment in Squad Nine. When he got there he took a bath and changed clothes. He made his way to the Captain's Office and sat down behind the desk that had been his, since his own Captain's betrayal. Apparently paperwork didn't stop for wars or emotional meltdowns. There were stacks of papers piled up on the desk.
Hisagi sat down with a sigh. He had about five hours until Momo would wake up, so he might as well get some work done. He had been working for about two hours when he realized that he had read the same sentence over and over. Deciding that he needed a short break, he went and made a much needed cup of tea.
Once he had his tea in hand he made his way back to the office and sat back down. Hisagi was determined not to fall too far behind. He hadn't had much time since the end of the war for paperwork because he had been taking care of Momo, but he didn't want her to know that he had been neglecting his duties. She would undoubtedly blame herself and she didn't need anymore misplaced blame than she already had.
It was about two hours until the memorial service when Hisagi looked up at the clock. He looked back down at the desk with a sigh. He had managed to complete about half of the backlogged paperwork. He stacked the remainder of the paperwork he had been working on and stood to leave. He wouldn't have time to fix anything to eat this afternoon and he new that Momo wouldn't eat if left on her own, so he stopped at a small food stand and got them something to eat. When he entered her apartment, he heard the water running. He sat about laying out their food, and made some tea.
Hinamori sighed. She was sitting in her bath soaking when she felt Hisagi's reiatsu enter her apartment. She couldn't believe that she had never noticed it before. His reiatsu flowed around him in a comforting wave. Granted she had been distracted by her grief for the last few days. Momo realized that she had never paid particular attention to it before she had started to get to know him. He had always seemed like a rather stoic and private person. She would never have guessed that he would care for someone like he had been caring for her.
She knew that it was inappropriate for him to sit on her bed and hold her close. She also knew that she shouldn't allow him to come and go in her apartment. He wouldn't, if she hadn't allowed him to. She just couldn't seem to let him go, to deal with her thoughts and emotions without him. When he was around the voice in the back of her mind would quiet. It wouldn't go away completely, but it would become much more manageable. Just a whisper. When she thought this the voice got louder.
"You shouldn't be with him. You should suffer. You don't deserve comfort. You caused all of those deaths. You caused the deaths of your squad members. You caused the death of your best friend. Your best friend. He died because of you. It was your fault. It was your fault. You don't deserve the warmth of his comfort. You don't deserve it. You shouldn't be here. You shouldn't be here."
When these thoughts coalesced in her mind Momo let out a quiet sob. The voice was right. She didn't deserve him or the comfort he brought. She slid down into the bathtub and let the warm water slide over her head. As she gazed up through the water, she couldn't help but think, "Would not being here be so bad."
She held her breath for as long as she could, just feeling the fire in her chest as her lungs longed for air. When she couldn't hold her breath any longer she sat up and proceeded to wash her hair. She knew that they didn't have long until the Memorial Service for the Captain and Vice-Captain of Squad Eleven. Once she had rinsed her hair she got out of the bath and dried off. She proceeded to get ready for the solemn day that was to come.
Once she was ready she left her small bathroom and went into the living room. She saw Hisagi-kun sitting at the table with food and tea laid out before him.
"I didn't know what you liked, so I got an assortment."
"It looks wonderful Hisagi-kun," she said with a small smile.
As she sat down at the table she heard him ask, "Are you feeling better today Momo-kun?"
Thinking that it would be better not to mention that niggling voice in the back of her mind she replied, "Yes, I am feeling a little better today."
She was happy to see the smile that lit his features, but a little sad that she had lied.
They continued to eat in silence, with Momo pushing most of her food around her plate instead of actually eating it. Her stomach had started doing those flip flops when she had been in her bath. Once they were finished Momo cleared the table and when she came back he was holding her Vice-Captain's badge.
She let him secure it on her arm and they left her apartment for Squad One.
For the Fourth time that week they took their seats. Normally all Vice-Captains would be honored at the same service, and the same with the Captains. However, This time the Shinigami Women's Association had been in charge and they had done it a little different. No one could remember a time when Kenpachi and Yachiru hadn't been together, and apparently the Women's Association hadn't thought that they should be separated in death.
There was only one stone and emblazoned on it was a picture of Kenpachi standing as solid as the stone it was etched upon, and hanging off his left shoulder, as she was so often in life, was his diminutive Vice-Captain. The familiar symbol for Squad Eleven could be seen in the background and both names were scripted across the bottom. He had never known that the Shinigami Women's Association members were artistically inclined. Hisagi knew that each stone that they had seen that week had been created with a Zanpakuto or Kido. He couldn't help, but admire them for the skill and control it took to create something like that.
He hadn't known the Squad Eleven Superiors well, but their strength was known even in the last district of the Rukongai. As far as he knew Momo-kun hadn't known them very well either. He hoped for her sake that she would be able to get though this service okay.
Momo just sat there and listened as Head Captain Ukitake spoke. He was telling everyone about the Captain and Vice-Captain of Squad Eleven. He talked about their achievements in battle, and the achievements of their squad. The voice had dimmed, so that it was just barely a whisper and she was able to concentrate on what he was saying. All of a sudden she felt a slight pressure on her hand and looked down. She hadn't even realized it when Hisagi had taken her hand in his own. She had become used to him in their time together.
Momo rose with everyone else and they walked toward the stone hand in hand. Once they reached the stone she saw that there was once again a bottle of sake and a lone cup. She had to smile at this. She could just imagine the reaction of the powerful, violence appreciating Captain had they placed flowers for him there. This time she just took the tiniest of sips and let it burn down her throat. She then placed a sprig of Yarrow, in front of the two Zanpakuto, on the stone for the exuberant Vice-Captain.
They walked back to their seats and bowed in respect and appreciation to the stone. Momo had made it through the service without sobbing. She had only shed a few silent tears, which had quickly been wiped away by her handkerchief.
When they had been dismissed they left Squad One. As they walked back toward Squad Five Hisagi attempted to start a conversation. It was a one sided attempt, however, as she answered with as few words as possible.
Hisagi knew that the worst was coming. She couldn't stay in denial for much longer. Captain Hitsugaya's Memorial Service was less than a day away. Once they got to Momo's apartment, he went to make tea as she went to take off her badge and brush out her hair. He realized with a small smile that it was quickly becoming a routine. When he had the tea made he went to join her.
Once Momo had brushed out her hair. She went to sit on her bed. That small voice had gotten louder. It was no longer a whisper.
"You don't deserve him. You don't deserve his comfort. You shouldn't be here. You caused his death. It was all your fault. How can you seek comfort? How can you seek happiness with him gone? It was your fault. He died because you were selfish. How much longer can you deny it? You wont be able to deny it tomorrow. He died because of you. It was your fault. It was your fault. You shouldn't be here. You should have suffered. Not him. You shouldn't be here."
The first thing that Hisagi noticed when he entered her bedroom was that she had grown paler. She wasn't crying, but it was a near thing. She looked up at him when he placed their tea on the table, and he could see the shadows that haunted her deep chocolate eyes. This time when she moved over to give him room he didn't hesitate. Considering what was coming he knew she needed all the comfort he could give.
She snuggled back against him, and he let her. Once she was settled he handed her a cup of tea. They sat in silence for a short time, both sipping their tea. He was surprised when she spoke. "Hisagi-kun, what is your favorite color."
He wasn't sure what had caused her to ask such a random question, but he considered it for a few seconds and replied, "I think that it would have to be purple."
She nodded seriously and considered it, "I think purple is a beautiful color."
Momo could tell that he was confused by their topic of conversation, but she could no longer avoid what was coming tomorrow. Once she stepped foot inside that courtyard, she would no longer be able to avoid his name or the fact that he had died to protect her. She knew that it was pointless to try to hold it off as long as possible, but she couldn't help it. She didn't want to go to sleep, because she knew that when she woke it would only be a couple of hours till the service.
Momo was brought out of her musings when Hisagi asked a question of his own, "So what is your favorite color?"
Without hesitation she replied "Yellow."
"Ahh. Yellow is a happy color."
She nodded, and replied with a question of her own, "What is your favorite food, Hisagi-Kun"
"That is a hard question to answer. I like Miso-soup, but it is soup so I'm not sure that it is really a food. I also really like Udon Noodles."
His reply caused Momo to smile, she hadn't heard anyone else put so much thought into such a simple question.
"I like Udon noodles too, but I don't really like Miso. My favorite food is Oyakodon.
They continued talking about nothing in particular until it was almost dawn. Hisagi had been wondering something for the past few nights. They were talking openly and he knew that now might be the best time to ask her about it.
"Momo-kun. I was wondering. I saw all those beautiful yukata, but you haven't been changing before bed. If it is because of me, I would be happy to give you some space."
She stiffened when she heard his question and he could have smacked himself. She had relaxed so much, and now his question had inadvertently caused her to tense.
"Hisagi-kun," she said with a blush, "It is not because of you. It's just….." She had to pause to suppress a sob. It's just that all the yukata I have are shades of blue and green."
It took him a minute to understand. He remembered the day he had found her curled up in her floor with that teal yukata clutched to her chest. She couldn't bring herself to wear them because they reminded her of Captain Hitsugaya.
"That's okay. You don't have to explain it to me."
Momo nodded and lowered her gaze to her hands that were placed in her lap. She had been trying so hard to keep her mind off of what she knew was to come, but he had unintentionally brought it to the forefront of her thoughts.
He decided to try to rescue her from her thoughts.
"Momo-kun. What is your favorite flower?"
She looked up as if startled and thought for a moment before she replied, "I really like Lilly of the Valley."
He couldn't help but notice how apropos that was since Lilly of the Valley was the flower for Squad Five."
Momo was about to ask him about his favorite flower when she had to stifle a huge yawn.
"Momo-kun, we have been talking for quite a while. Why don't you try to get some sleep."
Momo didn't want to go to sleep. She had initiated this whole conversation in the hopes that it would last all night. She didn't want her friends memorial service to come any faster than it had to.
"Hisagi-kun. I don't want to go to sleep. I don't want it to come any sooner than it has to," she replied in a barely audible whisper.
Hisagi had suspected this. He had watched her stifle yawns until she couldn't anymore, but she would just force her eyes open wider and ask him another question.
"I understand, but going with out sleep might make it harder for you."
She nodded, but refused to relent. He saw a stubborn light come into her eyes as she asked him another random question.
He realized that it was just no use to try to get her to go to sleep with words, so he moved his hand up her back and started to rub slow soothing circles across it. They continued to talk, but he could see that it was working. She was having a harder time concentrating on the conversation and her eyelids were starting to droop. He finally felt her breathing even out as her head fell to his chest.
He waited for a while to make sure that she would stay asleep ,and to make sure that she wouldn't be plagued by nightmares, before laying her down on the bed. He left her apartment as quietly as he could and went to his own to bathe and change his uniform.
On his way he spotted a small clothing shop. It wasn't anything special, just everyday things, and an idea struck him. He could get her a gift. It might even cheer her up a bit. Without putting to much thought into what it would look like to others, he entered the small shop. When he walked through the store he was assaulted by Kimono, Hoari, Yukata, and Hakama of all colors. He stopped suddenly unsure of himself. He must have had a funny look on his face, because a small, middle-aged woman walked up to him chuckling.
"Sir is there something I can help you find?"
"Uh.. Yes I was looking for a gift."
"Okay. I'll be happy to help you. Is it for a lady-friend?"
He could feel the slight blush as it made it's way into his face, but replied, "Yes."
"That's great. We have a wonderful selection of Kimono and yukata."
Remembering what Momo had said about her yukata, he stated, "I think I want to get a yukata, but it can't be blue or green."
The shop keeper seemed to be puzzled by his odd request, but she quickly recovered.
"That's not a problem. We have other colors. Come with me."
Hisagi followed her over to a rack of brightly colored yukata, and was a little taken aback when she asked, "Is there any particular color that you do want."
"Ummm," he replied, but then he remembered their conversation about favorite colors, "I think that I'll take two. One yellow and one purple."
The shop keeper nodded and once he had told her what size he followed her to the small counter in the back of the store and proceeded to pay.
With that done he continued to his apartment and sat the yukata filled package on his small table. He got ready and made his way back to her apartment. He didn't bother with food today. He new that as nervous as she was their was no way she would be able to eat. He half suspected that she had only eaten to placate him anyway. He let himself into her apartment, but didn't hear any running water, or her moving around.
When he went into her bedroom he saw that she was still curled up, where he had left her, sound asleep. He moved to wake her, but hesitated. It was going to be a long day for her and he was loath to begin it. Today she was going to have to come to terms with her best friend's death. They had had a rare moment last night when they had talked. The conversation hadn't been about anything important, but he had enjoyed it all the same.
With a sigh he brought his hand down on her shoulder, and shook her awake. When he saw her chocolate eyes open he said, "Momo-kun, It is almost time for the service."
"You let me fall asleep," she asked as she shot an accusing gaze at him.
"You were so tired, I didn't have the heart to wake you up," he responded quietly.
Momo realized that it wasn't his fault, he had only been trying to help, but at the same time she knew that she wasn't ready for what was rapidly approaching.
With a sigh she replied, "That's okay. Hisagi-kun. It's not your fault. I'll just go get ready."
Once Momo got to the bathroom she couldn't hold the tears back any longer. Today it would become all that more real. Oh, she knew that he was gone, but a small part of her still expected to see him. To hear him reprimand her for talking to him in the familiar. She started the bath water and sank into it's warm depths. The voice was back. It had been oddly absent last night when she had been talking with Hisagi-kun, but she couldn't ignore it now."
"You shouldn't be spending time with him. You shouldn't have warmth and comfort. You should suffer too. It's your fault he's gone. It's your fault he died. It's your fault. It's all your fault. You shouldn't be here. It's your fault. He should be here. It's all your fault. He died because of you. It's your fault."
Momo couldn't suppress the tears that streamed down her face and fell to mingle with the bath water. The voice was getting louder, and she couldn't help but agree with what it was saying. She stayed in the bath until the water was no longer warm. She didn't want to go out there and face the death of her friend, but she knew that she couldn't avoid it forever. She also suspected that if she stayed in the bathroom for much longer Hisagi-kun would start to worry, so she finished getting ready. Momo took her time and put her hair up with that solitary black ribbon with the utmost care.
Hisagi had already made tea, and had been sitting there for quite a while, before he heard the bathroom door slide open. He suspected that she was trying to take as much time as she could in the hopes of being able to wait longer, before she had to concede and go face her best friend. His thoughts were confirmed when she walked into the room as slowly as she could. He just handed her a cup of tea, and watched as she slowly drained it.
Once he had helped her put on her badge, he managed to convince her that they needed to go. If she was moving this slowly it would take them twice as long to get to Squad one as it had the previous days. He watched as her face became paler the closer they got. When they reached the gate he couldn't help but wonder if her blood was circulating at all.
They stopped at the gate. He waited for her to compose herself as their friends walked by them. He shared a concerned glance with Matsumoto, but just shook his head when she was going to speak. Momo wouldn't go in until the last possible second and she had a death grip on his hand. He could no longer feel his fingers, but let her take her comfort where she could.
As they walked in he heard Momo gasp. He looked down at her and saw that she was staring wide-eyed in the direction where the stone should be. When he gazed up to the front of the courtyard he saw what had caused her gasp. In place of a stone table there was a large slab of ice. Even though it was made of ice, Hisagi knew that if he were to touch it, it wouldn't be cold. One of the members of the Women's Association, probably Vice-Captain Ise, had put a very strong kido barrier around it. Even though it was made of ice, it would never melt no matter how hot it got. It was the same size as the stones that they had seen previously, but where those stones had been the dark gray color of granite the slab of ice was the clearest blue he had ever seen.
He could just make out the image of the Squad Ten Captain etched on the front if it. With the symbol of Squad Ten emblazoned in the background and his name on the bottom in the same elegant script. Captain Hitsugaya's Zanpakuto, Hyourinmaru, was placed on the top in it's place of honor. It was not lost on Hisagi that the ice table was almost equal in height to the small Captain.
Hisagi placed his other hand on Momo's shoulder and that brought her back. They moved over to take the same seats they had occupied all week. When Head Captain Ukitake moved to take his position for the last time, Hisagi handed Momo a handkerchief. He didn't think that she had been in the presence of mind to remember, and he had known that she would need it.
As Ukitake began to speak, her tears started flowing. She couldn't look away from that image of him etched on the ice. It was a familiar sight, but the first time Ukitake said his name she flinched and covered her face with her hands and the handkerchief Hisagi-kun had given her. The second time Ukitake said his name she couldn't control the heartbreaking sobs that racked her body. She felt Hisagi-kun wrap his strong arms around her and she buried her face in his chest, completely oblivious of everyone around her. That voice was back, and it was louder than it had ever been. It was almost shouting at her.
"It's your fault. He died because of you. He should be here now. It's your fault. It's all your fault. You shouldn't be here. It should have been you. Not him. He did nothing but good. You defended a traitor and raised your blade at your friend. It's all your fault. You shouldn't be here. It should have been you."
The voice was so loud that it was drowning out everything else. She did manage to hear some of what Ukitake was saying through the roaring in her ears. Words like, "Honor, Duty, Friend, and Ultimate Sacrifice."
This only caused the voice in the back of her mind to shout louder.
"It's your fault. It's all your fault. He had honor where you did not. He put his duty above all. It's your fault. You raised your blade against him. It's all your fault. He was your friend. It's your fault he died. It's because of you. You deserve nothing. He died because of you. You didn't deserve that honor. It's your fault. It's all your fault. It should have been you. Not him. You should have died instead of him. It's your fault. It's all your fault."
All Momo could hear was the voice now. She could feel her tears fall from her eyes and her body trembling in the wake of the words in her head.
Hisagi wasn't sure what to do, but as he saw the first sob rack her body he wrapped his arms around her to offer her comfort. It was the same act they had shared almost every night since he had met her by the river. Every time he had done this before now, it had helped. The force of her sobs always lessened, but this time they increased. He wasn't sure what he could do. He had know that it was going to be bad, but he wasn't prepared for her pure unadulterated grief.
As Head Captain Ukitake continued to speak, he felt her start to tremble. He brought his hand up to her back and rubbed small soothing circles across it. This usually calmed her some, but this time it was as if she couldn't even feel it. They stayed like that for another ten minutes, until her trembling and sobs had escalated to the point that he didn't think it was safe for her to stay.
He calmly stood and gathered up her small, shaking frame in his arms. He was sure that the Head Captain would understand, and as he moved to walk back to the gate he shared an understanding look with Matsumoto who had tears streaming down her face. He nodded to her and carried his precious bundle out of the courtyard. He walked slowly so as to not frighten her and when he passed the gate he moved to the side and sat down. He cradled her in his lap and leaned against the outer wall.
Momo couldn't get away from the voice.
"It's your fault he died. It's your fault he's not here now. It's your fault. It's all your fault. You shouldn't be here. You shouldn't be alive when he's not. It' s your fault. It's all your fault. You shouldn't be here. You caused it. You don't deserve to be here."
Momo felt Hisagi-kun pick her up but she couldn't spare a thought as to what was going on outside her mind. She was lost in her thoughts. She was drowning in her emotions. She felt Hisagi-kun sit down and place her on his lap, but she couldn't escape her doubts.
"It's your fault he's not here now. It's your fault. It's all your fault. It's your fault that he died. He didn't want to go yet. It's your fault Shirou-chan died. It's your fault he's gone. It's your fault. It's all your fault. Shirou-chan didn't want to die. He was your best friend and your caused him to die. It's your fault. You shouldn't be here. You should have died instead. It's all your fault."
Momo took a shaky breath and thought, "Your right" She knew what she had to do, but first she had to get away from Hisagi-kun. He wouldn't understand and he would undoubtedly try to stop her.
Hisagi looked down in surprise when Momo stopped trembling all of a sudden. He just stared at her for a few seconds, before she looked up. When she spoke he was confused by her words, "Thank You for everything, Hisagi-kun. It meant a lot to me."
Her flair of reiatsu was the only warning he had, as she placed her hand palm down on his chest. He tried to push her back with his own reiatsu, but she had already made contact. Had he not been fighting to stay conscious he would have admired the power behind her kido. His reiatsu had saved him from the full force of her sleeping kido, but it had not been enough. As he felt it take effect he heard her whisper, "Please forgive me, Hisagi-kun."
That was the last thing Hisagi knew, as his eyes slipped closed.
Hisagi tried several attempts to open his eyes and on the fifth attempt he succeeded. As he looked up he saw three women leaning over him, Matsumoto, Rukia, and Ise-san. He tried to speak, to tell them that they had to find Momo, but he couldn't. When Ise-san saw him try to speak, he heard her say, "Hisagi-san, It will be just a minute before you can speak. I am breaking the Kido, but it is not easy."
He just shut his eyes and waited. He wanted to scream, he didn't know where Momo was or what she was doing, but he knew that he needed to find her as soon as possible. He remembered Matsumoto's words from a few nights ago, "In case she decides to do something drastic."
He tried once again to speak and this time it worked, "Where's Momo."
They were all surprised at the lack of diminutive on her name, but Matsumoto replied, "The last time we saw here she was with you."
He watched as Matsumoto looked to Ise-san. "Can you find her reiatsu?"
Hisagi was quickly cursing his lack of attention, "Don't bother. She's kept it hidden since the war."
He could see the dawning horror in the women's eyes, and they came to understand just what he was saying.
"Are you telling us that Hinamori knocked you out with kido, then left, and we can't find her by reiatsu," Rukia asked.
"That's exactly what I'm saying. The only warning I got was a flare of reiatsu. I tried to block her sleeping kido with my own reiatsu, but as you can see it wasn't enough."
He was taken aback when he heard Ise-san state, "It's a good thing you did, had you taken the full brunt of her kido, I probably wouldn't have been able to break it this quick. It wasn't just a sleeping kido, it had a binding kido mixed in and that's why it's taking so long for you to be able to move."
"How long have I been out?"
"We don't know. The service just ended when we found you," replied Matsumoto.
"We have to find her. We can split up."
Ise-san apparently still had her doubts, because she stated, "I'm not sure that you can stand yet let alone flash step.
"I can. I have to."
The three women watched as he forced himself up and then to stay on his feet.
Ise-san stated, "I will check Squad Ten, and see if she is there."
"I will check the river. She might be there remembering," Matsumoto replied sounding hopeful.
"I'll go check the Squad Five Offices," Rukia responded.
Hisagi just nodded and said, "I'll go see if she returned to her apartment. He didn't think that she had. It was something about the look in her haunted, tear-filled eyes as she has said that she was sorry.
Momo knew what she had to do. She left Hisagi unconscious and sitting against the wall. She had to hurry. She flash stepped away toward Squad Five. Her Flash step wasn't the fastest, but it would be a while before he woke. She moved steadily closer to her apartment. She just had to make one stop. When she got to her apartment she opened her door and made her way inside. She went strait to her room and picked up her Zanpakuto out of the corner. As she was turning to leave her gaze caught on the bed.
She had sat on that bed for the last three nights as Hisagi offered her comfort. She hoped that he would be able to forgive her one day, but she understood if he couldn't.
Shaking her head to remove that train of thought, she continued on her way. Once she left her apartment, she moved toward the Squad Five Captain's office. It only took her a couple minutes to get there. She stood there for a while staring at the number five emblazoned on the door. She had been so happy when she had become Aizen's Vice-Captain, and for the longest time she had loved sharing this office with him. Now it only stood as her mistake. Her best friend had died because of her. She knew what she had to do.
She slid the door open and proceeded into the office. No one had been in here, since the war. The office was empty and cold. Not even her memories of her time there could warm her. She kneeled down parallel to and in front of the desk, and lay her Zanpakuto down in front of her. She bowed to it in respect and slid it out of it's scabbard. She placed her hand on the hilt and turned the blade on herself. With shaking hands, she rested the tip of it at her chest right over her heart. With a sad smile she thought of the comforting warmth of Hisagi's arms. After a shaky breath she thought of the lifeless eyes of her best friend and moved to plunge her blade into her heart.
She was interrupted by a shout, "What are you doing?"
It was Rukia. As soon as she saw her the voice came back and she shouted in return, "He's Gone. Dead. And it's all because of me…. It's my fault!
She was surprised when Rukia didn't say anything else. She just walked toward her and slapped her so hard across her face that it brought tears to her eyes. The force of the blow knocked her Zanpakuto from her hands and she stared up into Rukia's angry face.
"I can't believe you have the nerve to even think about committing suicide. Your best friend sacrificed his life to save yours and here you are, mocking his actions and his memory, by trying to kill yourself."
And just like that the voice was gone. Momo just broke down. Tears flowed down her face, and without warning she threw herself into Rukia's arms. Rukia wrapped her arms around Hinamori and held her as she cried. Placing her hand on the back of Hinamori's head, Rukia rubbed her hair soothingly and whispered, "Everything's gonna be okay. It'll take some time but I promise you, You'll find a reason to smile again."
Momo just cried. She had let her doubts and guilt get the better of her. She had almost disgraced the sacrifice that Shirou-chan had made. She continued to cry as Rukia comforted her. She cried and cried until she couldn't cry anymore, but for the first time since the end of the war it actually made her feel better.
Hisagi had made his way to Momo's apartment. He hadn't thought that she would be here, but he had had to try. He was about to go find the others when he noticed that Rukia's reiatsu was still in the Squad Five Captain's office. She had gotten there before he had got to the apartment. She wouldn't have stayed if Momo hadn't been there. With a burgeoning hope he started toward the Captain's office.
When he got there, he heaved a sigh of relief. No one had bothered to close the door so he could see them clearly. They were sitting in front of the desk. Rukia was holding Momo as she cried. He noticed the Zanpakuto laying discarded on the floor. In that moment, he thanked every deity he knew of that they hadn't been to late. He just stood there and watched Rukia give a comfort that he couldn't to the woman that he had come to love.
Hisagi couldn't say how long went by, before Rukia looked up and spotted him. She nodded at him with a sad smile, and he nodded back in understanding. Hinamori needed comfort from someone other than him. It hurt him to turn around and sit down in the hallway, to offer them privacy, but for her he would deal with it. He sat there listening to the quiet sobs and the whispered words.
Almost thirty minutes had gone by, when he spotted Matsumoto and Ise-san walking towards him. He shook his head and stood. They stopped and waited for him to meet them. He told them that Rukia had found her and was with her now. He didn't tell them about the unsheathed Zanpakuto that had been hastily discarded and forgotten, but he could tell that they probably suspected. After soothing their worries, he told them that they should go ahead and go back to what they were doing. Rukia had everything under control and after all she wasn't letting anyone else in the room, himself included.
As the two women turned to walk away Matsumoto stopped and called over her shoulder, "Hisagi I think that the two of you make a great couple."
He didn't know what to say to that, but the look on his face must have been funny because she burst out laughing, and even the strait-laced Vice-Captain of the Eighth didn't bother to hide her smile. He watched as they went on their way. After tonight's events he wasn't sure if they would ever be a couple. He couldn't help but hope that maybe one day Matsumoto's statement would come true.
He walked back toward the office and sat down in the same spot in the hallway.
It was almost an hour later when Rukia came to the door. He stood up once again and went to her.
"How is she?"
"She was having a hard time, but I think that she will be okay. It's just going to take time. It's hard to get over the loss of a friend that you admired."
Hisagi couldn't help but noticed the personal nature of her words. Almost as if she was talking about herself, but he just nodded.
Rukia told him that he could go in now, and that she was going to go check on Ichigo and Renji. She had left the two together when they had spotted him. She left him with the information that she would be at Squad One if he needed her. He thanked her and watched as she walked off.
With a deep breath he walked into the office. She was sitting there in front of the desk leaning up against it. She looked up as he entered, and he could see fear in her eyes. He kneeled down next to her and she averted her eyes and he heard a sniffle.
In a whisper he said, "What is it Momo-kun?"
She didn't reply, just kept her eyes down and shook her head.
He placed his hand on her chin and raised her face so he could meet her eyes. "It's okay. Tell me what is wrong and we'll try to fix it."
He saw tears well up in her eyes as he spoke.
"Hisagi-kun. I'm so sorry. Can you ever forgive me?"
He watched a solitary tear fall. He caught it on his finger and said simply, "I already have."
She launched herself at him and hugged him so tight that he could barely breath. Finally, it was without tears.
After a few minutes she pulled back from him and said, "Thank You Hisagi-kun."
He nodded and asked, "Do you want to go back to your apartment?"
He was a little surprised at her reply, "No. I don't want to be anywhere near Squad Five, there are too many bad memories.
He nodded in understanding and scooped her up in his arms. He couldn't suppress a large smile as he heard her chuckle for the first time. "Hisagi-kun. I can walk."
He looked down at her with a bright smile as he walked toward the door, "I'm sure you can, but it's much more fun this way."
Momo heard his chuckle deep in his chest as she just sighed and rested her head. His arms were wrapped around her and she was starting to feel little tingles where skin met skin. He had stayed by her during the worst week of her life. He had cared for her without demanding anything in return. Even though he had lost his own friends. She didn't know anyone who would have done the same. Well, she had known one person that would have done the same, but he had cared enough for her to make the ultimate sacrifice.
She would always have feelings for Shirou-chan. He was her best friend, and she would miss him terribly. But she couldn't help but think with Hisagi-kun in her life maybe Rukia was right. Maybe she would find her reason to smile again.
Momo was a little surprised when they ended up inside Squad Nine at the door to his apartment, although she wasn't sure why. She had said that she didn't want to go back to hers, his was the only other option. Her mind just hadn't caught up with her yet. He went to set her down to release the barrier he had put upon his door when she said, "That's okay. I'll get it."
She reached toward his door and released the kido. It only took her about ten seconds. He looked down at her and chuckled, "Well that shows how much good that would do."
She just smiled at him and let him carry her inside. This was the first time she had ever been in a man's apartment. Well, excluding Aizen and Shirou-chan that is. They had been her Captain and her friend. She was starting to suspect, now that she had a clearer head, that the feelings she felt for Hisagi-kun might go beyond friendship.
He sat her down and went to make some tea. He could use something stronger after the day he had just had, but he didn't think Momo would want sake, and he didn't like to drink by himself.
Momo just walked around and studied his apartment. There were shelves with books on them and a small table in the center of the room. His apartment like all Vice-Captain's was laid out the same as hers.
He brought her a cup of tea and they sat at the table to drink it. They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, before she asked with a blush, "How did you wake up so soon?"
"Well it wasn't really my own doing. I tried to block you with my reiatsu, but it didn't really work. Ise-san had to break the kido, but she said it would have taken a lot longer if I hadn't tried to block."
"Oh. I really am sorry. I wasn't really thinking straight."
"It's okay. I understand."
That had broken the tension that had settled around them and they proceeded to talk of random things much like they had the night before. The day had taken a lot out of them, and they hadn't been getting much sleep anyway. After watching her stifle a rather large yawn and having to stifle one of his own he asked, "Are you ready for bed?"
This caused her to blush, but she nodded. He picked up the package he had purchased earlier that day, it seemed so long ago, and handed it to her.
"I got you this earlier. I hope you like it."
Momo was surprised that he had gotten her a gift. It was really nice of him, but he had been so nice already.
"Hisagi-kun. You have been so nice to me, I couldn't accept a gift."
"It's alright. It's not much. You might not even like it."
She smiled up at him, and opened the box. She could see purple and yellow fabric. She picked up the purple piece first, because it was on top, and sat the box down. As it came unfolded, she realized that it was a yukata and sash. He had remembered that she couldn't wear hers and gotten her two new ones. One in her favorite color and one in his.
The kindness of this simple gesture brought tears to her eyes, although she was overemotional anyway. She looked up into his eyes and smiled. "I love them. They're beautiful."
She tugged him down for a hug and placed a single chaste kiss on his cheek. Realizing what she had done, her face broke out in a fierce blush.
"Okay. I think I need to get some sleep."
With a small chuckle he showed her to the bathroom so she could change. As she did he changed into a black robe in his bedroom, and placed her remaining yellow yukata in a drawer. She might go back to her apartment tomorrow, but he liked things neat. When she came out of the bathroom his breath caught in his throat. She was beautiful in that bright purple yukata with her hair down falling around her face. He led her over to the bed and when he pulled the blankets down he couldn't help, but notice the blush moving up her neck and into her cheeks.
"Would you be more comfortable if I slept in the other room," he asked quietly. After all she had had a traumatizing day and he didn't want to make her uncomfortable.
Momo thought about this for a few seconds and realized that she was being silly. They had slept in the same bed for the last three nights, and she knew that he would never do anything improper. So she just shook her head and replied, "No. I think that we will be fine."
She crawled into bed and moved over to give him room. When he laid down he made sure to leave a good six inches between them, but was taken aback when she snuggled closer, lay her head on his chest, and rested her hand above his heart.
"Does this bother you?"
"No," he replied as he brought his hand up and started to rub those familiar, soothing circles across her back. He listened for a few minutes as her breathing evened out and she fell asleep. He hadn't got much sleep in the last week either and soon followed her.
They spent the next day just talking. They didn't get out of bed except to eat. Apparently Momo was feeling better because her capacity to hold more than a few bites had increased drastically. She had eaten three rice-balls for breakfast and hadn't missed a meal yet. He told her stories of him growing up, and she in turn told him about growing up in Rukongai with "Shirou-chan". Hisagi could just imagine the look Captain Hitsugaya would be giving them both now if he knew what she had been telling. He still saw sadness in her eyes as she spoke of her best friend, but he knew that one day she might be able to speak of him without it. It would just take some time. Since they had slept most of the day away, they stayed up talking late into the night. She said nothing about going back to her own apartment in Squad Five, and he hadn't brought it up. He liked having her here with him.
The next day they were awakened by a messenger from Squad One requesting his presence in two hours. When he heard this news he couldn't help but wonder what Head Captain Ukitake wanted him for. Momo heard this news and promptly stated, "I'll go with you." She took longer in the bathroom so he went first. He was just fixing a pot of tea when she came out of the bathroom wearing an odd expression on her face. It looked like she might have just had a revelation.
She walked up to him and said, "I can't be a shinigami anymore."
He wasn't sure what had brought this on, but he was sure that Head Captain Ukitake would never tell her she couldn't be a shinigami anymore. So he asked, "Why can't you be a shinigami anymore," in a very controlled voice.
He was taken aback at her reply, "I can't go into battle with you."
"Sure you can. We have done it before. Even before the war."
"No. I can't go into battle with you and have you become distracted by me."
Ahhh. Understanding finally dawned. She feared that the same thing would happen again, only this time it would be him instead of her best friend. He couldn't deny the fact that it was a possibility. This tiny slip of a woman had wormed her way into his heart, and he wasn't about to try to push her out any time soon.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. Not only that. I don't think that I want to be a shinigami anymore."
He sighed and said, "If you're sure then when you come with me you can talk to Head Captain Ukitake."
A smile brighter than any he had seen from her since the war split her face and she replied, "That's a great idea."
They made their way to Squad One and it was like a weight had been lifted from her. She had made her decision and she was glad that she had.
Once they got to Squad One Momo sat down in the lobby to wait on him. They had just made it on time, because of her revelation and Head Captain Ukitake was ready for him when they arrived.
Hisagi walked into the Head Captain's office wondering once again what had brought him there. Head Captain Ukitake was sitting at his desk looking drawn and haggard. He to had sadness wrapped around him. Hisagi knew that he had thought of Captain Hitsugaya like a son, and he was apparently taking his death very hard.
Ukitake motioned for him to sit so he did. In one word Ukitake completely baffled him, "Congratulations"
It took Hisagi almost a minute to regain his voice, "I'm sorry sir. Congratulations for what."
"Oh the messenger must not have told you. He's been telling everyone else. You've been made Captain of Squad Nine effective immediately."
Hisagi was in shock. He must not have heard correctly. "Sir. I don't think I heard you right. What did you say?"
With a chuckle Ukitake repeated, "You've been made Captain of Squad Nine. You have all the necessary requirements and you displayed your Bankai effectively during the last battle. Besides you have kept your squad afloat since the defection of it's previous captain."
Hisagi couldn't believe what he was hearing. He was now Captain of Squad Nine. "Um… Thank you sir. Can I just sit here for another minute."
He heard Ukitake laugh and say, "Sure. It must have came as a shock judging by the look on you face."
"It did indeed sir."
Ukitake gave him a couple of minutes before he stood and handed him a White Captain's Hoari. Hisagi stood and took it from the Head Captain's outstretched hand as Ukitake said, "I've had the previous Captain's things removed from the Captain's Quarters. You can move in whenever you like."
Hisagi nodded and walked with the Head Captain to the door.
"Sir," Hisagi asked, "Momo-kun came with me and if you have a moment she would like to speak with you."
Ukitake nodded and replied, "I needed to speak with her, but I didn't know if it would be too soon."
Hisagi promised to send Momo in and made his way back to the lobby and the woman waiting for him there.
As Momo sat there she couldn't help but wonder what the Head Captain had wanted to speak to Hisagi-kun about. He had been in there for almost twenty minutes when she saw him approach. He was carrying something white over one arm and she could just make out a number embroidered on it. It only took a few seconds for realization to dawn. He had been promoted to Captain. She was so happy for him.
She couldn't suppress a small squeal of delight as she ran towards him and threw herself into his arms. She wasn't really thinking anymore, especially about where they were or what she was doing, when she placed her lips on his and kissed him right there in front of everyone.
Hisagi was so surprised by her actions that he had no hope of deflecting her and he was glad of that. He didn't particularly want to evade this kind of attack from this woman. For a minute they both lost themselves in the sensation of velvet on velvet. They came back to themselves, however, when they heard clapping and cheering. When they broke apart they were both sporting a rather heated blush.
To her credit Momo just went on like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. He told her that Ukitake would see her now, but she wouldn't go until he had put his new Captain's Hoari on and let her look at him. She finally relented and went to talk to him.
Momo wasn't sure exactly what she would say, but she knew that she couldn't be a shinigami anymore. She was coming to terms with the death of her best friend, but she would never forget what she had cost him, although now she understood that it had been his choice to make. She walked into the Head Captain's Office and sat when Ukitake gestured for her to do so.
"How are you doing Momo-san?"
"I am doing much better Head Captain. Thank you."
"Hisagi-san said that you needed to speak with me?"
"I do sir," Momo replied. When she saw that she had his attention, she took a deep breath and continued. "Sir, I no longer believe I am suited to be a Shinigami. I think that it would be to the detriment of my squad for me to continue."
Ukitake gazed at her in understanding, "Are you sure?"
When she nodded he sighed, "I had thought that this might happen. If you are sure then I will not try to change your mind."
"I am sure sir," she stated with certainty as she took off her Vice-Captain's badge and handed it to him.
"Now that that is over with, I have a new position open in The Academy."
"Toshida-sensei has made me aware of his intentions to retire. He taught Basic and Advanced Kido at The Academy. Would you be willing to take his place?"
Momo was completely speechless. She had walked into this office knowing that she would be giving up her position and status as Vice-Captain and Shinigami. She had never expected for the Head Captain to have a new position ready for her. Teaching. Momo thought about this for a few minutes.
Ukitake just sat there and waited for her to make up her mind.
"Yes," he stated patiently.
Ukitake knew he had chosen correctly when her face lit up with a bright smile.
"I think that I would like to teach."
Ukitake replied with a soft chuckle, "I think that you would be very good at it."
"Now onto my next order of business."
Ukitake picked up something from behind his desk and sat it on the surface. She felt her smile slowly vanish as she realized what it was. It was Shirou-chan's Zanpakuto.
"Matsumoto has asked me if she could have custody of Captain Hitsugaya's Zanpakuto, so she can display it in the office in honor of him. I told her that I would get back to her with my answer. I wanted to know if you had any objections."
Momo sat there and thought about that for a few minutes. Matsumoto had appeared lazy and disrespectful upon first impressions, but in reality she had admired and respected her friend a great deal. She'd had a tremendous loyalty for him.
"No sir. I have no objections. I think that it would be a great idea to place it in that place of honor."
Ukitake nodded and rose.
"Well that's all I really needed to talk to you about. Is there anything else that you needed."
When Momo shook her head. He handed her a small red armband. She remembered from her time there that all teachers at The Academy wore them. The colors represented the subject that they taught. As she walked toward the lobby where she knew that Hisagi-kun would be waiting for her she couldn't help marveling at the days events. She had never thought of asking for a teaching position.
When Hisagi saw her he was happy to see that she had a smile on her face. She reached him and held out a piece of red cloth and it took him a minute to realize exactly she was telling him, but when he did a smile broke out across his face. Ukitake couldn't have found her a better position.
"So you're going to be a teacher huh?"
They made their way back to his apartment he couldn't help but think, "Now instead of her Vice-Captain's badge, I get to help her put on her Academy Armband."
They were almost to his apartment when he said, "So when do you want to move into the Captain's Quarters?"
When Momo heard this she just stopped walking. She had been staying at his apartment and before that he had stayed at hers, but she hadn't thought that he would ask her to move in with him. Maybe she had misunderstood.
"Hisagi-kun, are you asking me to move in with you?"
"I sure am."
He was getting used to her tackle hugs, but the kisses were still a surprise.
They moved into the Captain's Quarters of Squad Nine two days later.
It had been six months almost to the day when Hisagi found himself at his friend's memorial stone.
"Kira, You're not going to believe this, but I'm getting married today. I know your probably just as surprised as I am. Your probably wondering who the girl is huh. It's little Momo. I know. I know. I can imagine that your laughing right now."
Hisagi chuckled as he looked three stones down. His wife-to-be was standing there at that large block of ice holding a single daffodil. She had wanted to come and tell "Shirou-chan" the good news. He wasn't sure it was a good idea seeing as how it was the first time she had came, but he hadn't had the heart to deny her.
Momo wasn't sure what to say, so she just stood there looking at the image of her best friend emblazoned on that massive block of ice. She read the name at the bottom and said tentatively, "Captain Hitsugaya. I'm sorry Shirou-chan it just doesn't sound right. I know I haven't been here before to see you and I'm sorry. I just wanted you to know that I'm getting married today. Shuhei-kun is very nice to me. I can see that he loves me, and I know that would be important to you. I just wanted you to know so if your looking down you can see. There will be a chair for you."
Momo wiped away a solitary tear and looked toward her soon-to-be husband. She saw him walk toward her and hold out his hand. She took it without hesitation and they walked toward Squad One where the ceremony would be held.
It was time, she was getting married. She walked down the aisle, wearing a beautiful yellow kimono with Oleander blossoms embroidered on it. She saw Hisagi standing at the front of the courtyard and smiled. She had insisted that while all the groomsmen, Hisagi, Renji, and Ichigo, would wear traditional garb it would not be black as they all had enough black every other day. Her bridesmaids, Matsumoto and Rukia, were wearing purple kimono with the same Oleander blossoms.
It was a small ceremony with just their close friend in attendance and the Head Captain presiding. As she made her way to the front of the courtyard she gazed at the lone empty chair. Laying on top of it was a single Daffodil.
Once she made it to the front they started to say their vows. Momo couldn't help but throw her head back and laugh when the first snowflakes began to fall. Even though he wasn't there in body, her best friend was definitely there in spirit.
Hisagi could feel his wife's hand in his, her excitement was palpable. They were crouched down behind a table full of birthday gifts in the dark, waiting for Shiro-chan to arrive. As they waited he couldn't help but remember Momo's reaction to the small boy. It was almost like she had gotten a second chance to be with her friend.
He knew that she had never expected to see him again. Matsumoto had his Zanpakuto displayed in a place of honor behind her desk, so they knew that his soul still existed. It had just moved on and kept the balance of souls that all shinigami protected. That little white haired boy had done the one thing for her that he himself had been unable to do. He had erased what was left of her doubt and guilt.
Sure, she had started smiling again, and took much pleasure in her job teaching at The Academy, but he had still been able to see the sadness in her eyes on occasion. However since he had came home that day over a year ago to find her asleep snuggled close with Shiro-chan, he hadn't seen that haunted sadness.
Momo was crouched behind that table full of gifts, holding Shuhei's hand. She was so excited. It was Shiro-chan's birthday. She loved that boy. Even though he was the reincarnation of her best friend, the two weren't completely the same. She hadn't known Shirou-chan when he was that small, but in the time that she had spent with Shiro she could tell that the two had distinctive personalities.
Her best friend had given up his life to save her own, and now he had been reincarnated into a small boy, who had had nothing but fear in his eye's. Of course that had changed quickly, now she was more likely to see mischief in his eyes than anything else. She along with her friends were looking forward to giving this small boy the best childhood that he could have. It was something that her best friend had never been able to have.
Author's Note: Well there it is. I hope that you enjoyed your ride on the emotional rollercoaster. This ended up being the longest fic I've written so far, and let me just tell you that I have the biggest desire to go write some pointless fluff right now. Feedback is welcome and appreciated. Please Read and Review.