"Yes, everything I did was wrong. Yes, I deserve to be killed for my sins."

"I know."

"But why do they have to punish you, too, Hitsugaya-kun? Don't they see that when one of us falls, the other does the same? Isn't that what happened when I first betrayed Soul Society?"

Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach. I'm just borrowing.
Spoilers for both Soul Society and Hueco Mundo arcs!
A/N: I think this story may need a little bit of explaining. This story is HitsuHina, it just might take a tiny bit of your time (which I'll work really, really hard not to waste, promise!) to get there. It also is a Dark Momo fic, as in Hinamori does join Aizen. But don't leave just yet, Aizen haters! I believe in Momo and I'd never let her die without changing that first!

This story describes what ensues after the Arrancar Army is taken down. Hinamori returns from Hueco Mundo to be executed along with the other defected captains. When she reunites with Hitsugaya, old feelings still have not died. What can be done to stop her death when even they both know she's still a traitor?


P R O L O G U E: How We Deal With Pain

A N G E R

Ever since she left Soul Society, there's been blizzards in Seireitei.

They all know it's him that's causing the frostbitten weather; they shrink away as he passes with a chill. He knows they are whispering about him, because though their lips barely move he can still see their breath hanging in the air like a question mark.

After the first few storms he lets slip in his sleep, he knows he no longer has to suppress his fury. No shinigami, captain or otherwise, has approached him about his mental health. The Gotei 13 cannot afford to put him into the Fourth Division's psychiatric ward, not after losing three captains and a vice captain. His support is invaluable.

And so Hitsugaya, on nights when she haunts him the most, sheds his apathy and allows the dragon inside to rage with all his might.

Matsumoto faithfully watches as her captain becomes a different person. She may be lazy, a flirt, even a drunk, but she's no moron. She can tell the once soft-hearted, distant boy has become something one would easily liken to a machine. He's ruthless in practice. The Tenth quickly rises to the top as the most skilled in war, overpowering Division Five's kido skills and matching Division Eleven's sheer force in a matter of months. (They also become Division Four's most regular members.)

His subordinates are admittedly a little frightened when he trains. He does it for hours, you know! they buzz when he isn't around. And the way his muscles constrict and snap, it's freaky. Especially on him; he's under five feet, you know! But the look in his eyes—those are the worst! They are scary, scary, scary. One has to wonder when someone like him will snap under the pressure!

He doesn't hear them say these things, thank God.

But Rangiku does.

She presses her fingers against the rice-paper door before leaving work for the night. There's no point in waiting for him to finish; he refuses to stop filing paperwork (refuses not to keep busy, not to stay distracted) until sleep becomes absolutely necessary. The blonde-haired woman sighs as she slides on mittens and knots a scarf around her neck, and decides to brush off her feelings with an excuse: My captain has finally become an adult.

But the part of her Matsumoto doesn't have enough will to restrain whispers quietly anyway: Hinamori's betrayal has pushed him into a maturity of terrifying magnitude.

D E N I A L

Four months.

That's how long she waits to awaken in her captain's arms, how long she waits for an explanation.

She feels no doubt this apology is coming, so Aizen-taicho is as good as forgiven.

But when her eyes flutter open, he is not there. The scene before her is not stained with dark browns and reds she remembered, but sterile white. Her robes are not saturated with sweat and blood, and her hair is braided neatly behind her back.

Waking up in the fourth division is something all shinigami experience throughout their lives, herself included. The bandages she feels wound around her chest, the oxygen mask enclosing her mouth and nose, and the numerous tangled wires are, put mildly, a novelty, but at least she knows where she is.

But where is he?

Where is Aizen-taicho?

It is night outside. Gales of wind rattle the glass in its panes. Hinamori breaths tiny, shallow breaths that cause the machines beeping around her to fuss and whine.

She opens her mouth to cry out for Unohana.

But then she hears them speaking:

"It is only a matter of time before the other divisions start telling us to pull the plug."

"But Unohana-taicho—this is only the seventeenth week! Even regulations say we wait twenty at least before taking her off life support, and she's been improving! Please, Unohana-taicho, don't listen to the other captains!"

Isane. Begging.

"I agree with you, Koutetsu-fukutaicho. But if she awakens, what will become of her? The man she affectionately called her captain is a traitor. While she sleeps, the entirety of the Gotei 13 is training to defeat him, along with the other defects. I have no intention of taking her off of life support, I just worry that either way, Hinamori will not meet a good end."

Momo clamps her mouth shut and squeezes her eyes closed. I cannot scream, I CANNOT SCREAM! Just in time, her hands fly to her sides as the silhouettes slide the door to her room open. She instinctively masks her kido to imitate an unconscious state, and regulates her breathing.

She feels Unohana pause.

Oh, please, no. Please, please, please don't let her notice.

"What is it? Is something wrong?"

"…No, Isane, everything is alright. Replace the saline bag on the IV, will you? We don't want Hinamori-fukutaicho getting dehydrated."

"…Oh! Of course!"

As Isane moves closer, Hinamori represses a shiver. This is calling it a little too close for her tastes.

But finally the creeping moments pass-

-and they vanish from the room just before she can no longer contain her shuddering. She twitches and spasms and shoves her fist in her mouth until she senses the healers are far away enough from her room for her to release the pressure that is welling up inside her.

"Aizen is NOT a traitor!" she rasps, making sounds that do not at all resemble the words she had formed. Seventeen weeks… a third of a year. No wonder, she hasn't spoken a word in months. Four months, four months…four months too long! she decides. If the other shinigami have been training this long, who knows who might have mastered Bakudo 90 or achieved Bankai! Who knows who could have become a threat to her captain while she lay there like an idiot?

Training to defeat Aizen-taicho…to kill Aizen-taicho… It could not happen. She would not let it. Obviously there is a misunderstanding, perhaps even it is Soul Society that is in the wrong.

So she holds on tight to where her chest aches and, after only an hour of solitude, makes her escape into the deep black that is night.

I G N O R E | I T

"Hinamori-san, Renji-san, Kira-san, I welcome you all into the Fifth Division," Aizen said warmly, a genuine smile on his face.

Momo beamed. "It is an honor, Aizen-taicho."

"I'm glad to hear it, Hinamori-san," he replied, putting a hand on her head. "Your hair is getting long. It may be a good idea to shorten it, for safety purposes, naturally."

Blushing, she looked at the floor. He was right, but she would miss her hair. It was so smooth and pretty in comparison to her too-skinny body that never seemed to grow or develop, even as she got stronger. But if her captain asked…

"Hinamori-san? Is everything alright?" the tall man asked.

"Yes sir!" she lied.

"Ah… I think I have an idea." The captain turned to face his shelf and peered inside one of the boxes. While he grabbed a soft blue cloth out of it, he ran his hands over the volumes on the lower shelves and faced her again, producing two items.

"There you go. Try putting your hair up with this. And I thought you may also want to read this book about being a female shinigami. Women weren't always allowed, you probably know. I don't know if you are the reading type, but—!"

She clutched the precious items to her chest and nodded vigorously. "Thank you so much! I'll enjoy this book a lot. Thank you, Aizen-taicho!"

She stayed up late the same day delving deep into the history of Seireitei, about the noblewomen who had dared to cross the lines and become soul reapers. But she made sure not to be late for practice the next morning, and her hair wasn't in her eyes.


A/N: I hope you thought the prologue was okay! It really, really means a lot to me if you leave a review, even if it is as short as "I liked it/thought it was alright/think you need a beta." Flames will be used to roast chestnuts over an open fire and suggestions will be taken to heart. So pretty please with Soul Candy on top, review? And if you liked it...maybe even check off those little alert and favorite boxes? (Although that is too much to ask!) I'm really nervous about this fic, so I humbly implore you to leave your thoughts for me.

Nervously,
Rowena