wow, i can't believe it's been almost 2 months T_T

sorry, i've just been overworked and uninspired...

but here is chapter 18, the title is explained (somewhat)!

it kind of sucks i know, but bear with me ok?

0-0-0

Hitsugaya opened his eyes again. The familiar plane of ice extended infinitely into the distance.

I see that you're finally awake.

Moving his head a little to the side, Hitsugaya could see Hyorinmaru towering over him.

"Hyorinmaru," Hitsugaya replied, acknowledging the dragon. He tried to stand up, but it hurt too much to move. Every single part of him ached. Then his memories rushed back to him. The hollow, their battle, the dragon of fire and ice that he had somehow managed to summon.

"I was about to die, but then you burst into flames…" he said slowly. "How did you do that?"

It wasn't me, replied the dragon. The power came from you.

"Explain." demanded Hitsugaya.

The power that you awakened is unique to those who wield a dragon zanpakuto. Hitsugaya saw pride on the dragon's features. A dragon is not truly strong until they have something to protect. Some people might search all their lives and never find this. But you found yours.

In his mind, Hitsugaya saw Momo's gently smiling face.

Hyorinmaru hummed softly. Yes, she is the one. The one who you would give your life to protect. She is the one who is closest to your heart and so I burned with the fire that she awoke within you. The draconic zanpakuto paused. I guess you could call it your dragon's fire.

Hitsugaya's brain was struggling to take all of the new information in. The power of the heart…the dragon's fire.

Using this power, you are far stronger than ever before.

But Hitsugaya barely heard the dragon's words. "Momo! Is she okay?"

She's fine. You've been unconscious for quite a while, but she hasn't left your side this whole time. She might not have a dragon for a zanpakuto, but she definitely has the passionate heart of one, Hyorinmaru said approvingly. But she is worried about you.

Hitsugaya nodded. "I need to thank her. I couldn't have defeated my hollow without her." he blushed slightly. "And there's something else that I need to tell her."

The dragon smirked. It's about time.

The inner world began to swirl around and around as its master slowly began to return to the outside realm.

0-0-0

When the world came back into focus, the first thing that he saw was a pair of worried brown eyes staring into his. "Shiro-chan! You're awake!" She started to cry silently, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I don't know what I would have done without you…I'm so glad that you came back to me, Toshiro."

He smiled gently at her. "I told you that I would, didn't I?" He drunk in the sight of her, frowning at her pale skin and tear-filled eyes. "Have you been taking care of yourself?"

She glared at him. "You always worry about me! But look what happened to you, you almost died! You always get hurt because of me." Her voice dropped. "I'm not worth protecting."

"Baka," he whispered. "Of course you are. You mean everything to me. You should know by now that I will always protect you, Momo." He loved the sound of her name on his tongue. "You're the one who is closest to my heart." He remembered what Hyorinmaru had said. "The source of my dragon's fire."

She looked quizzically at him. "Dragon's fire?"

"I'll explain later," promised Hitsugaya. "But first, there's something that I always wanted to do."

He reached out, even though his bandaged arms were sore and pulled her towards him.

Then, gently but firmly, he kissed her.

After a second of hesitation, she responded, and their kiss built up in passion until they had to break away. They looked into each other's eyes, their hearts racing as one.

Momo was both happy and surprised. Ecstatic that he was all right of course, but astonished because she had never known that he was such a good kisser.

Hitsugaya was happy too. He had Momo in his arms and the taste of her still on his lips. He had thought that the taste of watermelon was the sweetest on earth. But he had never been happier to be proven wrong.

0-0-0

horrible? i don't think that the last scene came out the way i wanted it to, but i was getting sick of looking at it...

reviews feed my inspiration-starved brain!

till next time,

-stormwolf527