Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach!! It belongs to Tite Kubo! You're the man, Kubo-sensei!

Your Bandages

Chapter One: Getting Away

The sotaichou stood in front of him, looking the way the old man always did. His bald head seemed strange accompanying the long white beard that stretched down from his chin. The captain-general rarely ever seemed to open his eyes properly, they were always squinted shut.

But it didn't matter so much as to why Yamamoto had squinty eyes; nobody wanted to see Hitsugaya Toushirou right now.

Hitsugaya was broken.

He was so torn apart, so ripped to pieces, so mentally and physically and emotionally distraught and worn out into just a little more than dust.

It had been two weeks after Aizen's betrayal of Soul Society. It had already been this long, and while the Gotei 13 were slowly picking up the broken pieces and cleaning up the remnants of all the trauma; Hitsugaya was unable to recover.

Captain Aizen… had been so well-respected by everyone, especially by Hitsugaya. But it wasn't like he was struggling to grasp the extent of Aizen's monstrous wickedness. He was able to accept that. It wasn't easy to change his set view of the soft-spoken gentle man into the truth of who Aizen really was, but it sure was a lot simpler than what Hinamori asked of him.

Even now. Even now, as Hitsugaya stood there in front of the captain-general, metres apart from the few spectators, they all saw him. And they saw that he could not contain it.

Over the last weeks, he had deteriorated slowly. His hair was as white as ever, but dishevelled more than it had been, hanging limp and messily over his forehead. He was pale, whiter than ever. His cold, blue eyes contained so much pain that anyone who saw him winced. The bags under his eyes were evident, a bruise-like greyness that spread all the way across his face. He had not experienced the blessing of sleep in weeks.

Yamamoto cleared his throat.

Every action of Hitsugaya seemed slow and painful. The tenth captain raised his head and stared dully at the sotaichou.

"Captain Hitsugaya," the old man began, staring at the young boy through the narrow slits of his eyes. "It has come to both my attention and the attention of others that your condition is deteriorating still. I… I know that Aizen's betrayal has affected you possibly the most out of all of us involved, and in addition to that, you hold the guilt of what happened to Hinamori Momo. But surely, you should understand by now, that although she is unconscious, she will not remain that way for much longer. Are you really not able to pull yourself together and watch over your division, Hitsugaya-taichou??"

Hitsugaya frowned slightly as he dropped his head and stared blankly at the ground.

He had… heard this speech, this lecture repeatedly. He didn't need to hear it again.

Yamamoto considered his silence and spoke again. "Captain Hitsugaya, having witnessed your depression and weariness, I've decided to release you."

Hitsugaya was suddenly awake. His blue eyes blinked wide open as he stared urgently and full of disbelief at the captain-general.

Yamamoto's voice softened just a tone. "I'm putting Vice-captain Matsumoto in charge of Tenth Division. And I am sending you to the Living World, Karakura town for a rest. There, substitute shinigami Ichigo Kurosaki and soul reaper Rukia Kuchiki will have the Hollows under control, and you may rest and recover. Is that clear, Captain Hitsugaya?"

Hitsugaya nodded dumbly in response.

Stupid. How would you know anything? The pain in his stomach tightened. You have no idea, dammit. You have no idea…!

In his clouded, blurry worn-out vision, he could make out the figures moving around him. Captain-general Yamamoto was motioning for the soul reapers to open up the gate into the Living World.

My condition, you say? It is not solely because of Aizen's treachery and Hinamori's coma.

"Taichou? Hitsugaya-taichou??"

Matsumoto's worried words didn't make their way into Hitsugaya's ears.

Of course, those two elements contributed a lot to it, but what makes this all infinitely worse…

The huge gates appeared before him.

is her. His heart twisted in so much pain he thought he was going to fall over. Why? Dammit, Momo, why?? Why did you have to go and trust that bastard? And why do you… even now…

His memory of her teary eyes as she looked at him before falling into a deep, deep sleep. Her voice, soft and tender as she spoke of the traitor. Her voice full of forgiving and love for that monster!!

His cold ice-blue eyes widened in an almost terrifying way as he almost stomped towards the gate, struggling to keep his composure.

How could you still love him? Even now??

There was silence, just the occasional gust of wind as he took the seemingly long march to the gate. But he didn't hear or acknowledge the silence; he only heard the furious, pain-stricken cries of his heart.

What I don't get most of all… His steps and fury faltered as something like tears pricked at his eyes. …is how you could have hurt me this bad? How… How, Momo? How could you have ever trusted his words over mine? I was your childhood friend! I was like family!! And I… I loved you!!

The doors opened slowly, sliding outwards.

I did everything I ever could for you. And you tore me down like this. Because you don't love me the way I love you. And because… you chose him.

And bloody hell, you knew that it would rip me into shreds! You knew, dammit, you knew it all along; you knew how I felt, how much you controlled me! And even so, you had to do it. You had to do this to me!

Hitsugaya drew closer to the doors and with a single thought but no hesitation took the first step through.

You chose him, not me. You broke my heart. And now that it has come to this, and he has betrayed every single of us, you still wait for him.

I don't understand how.

How could you look at me like that with those tears in your eyes and that love evident in you face while you asked me not to hurt him? How could you tell me you still love him with the look in your eyes that controls my every emotion and feeling for you?

Hitsugaya felt the uncharacteristic tears well up in his eyes, but he refused to let them fall. The scenery around him changed gradually as he made his way through the gate. The area of Karakura town shivered in his vision until it finally settled and became clear. Hitsugaya stood up straighter and took a deep breath. He didn't turn around to glance back at the gates.

I… can't be near you. I won't be anywhere close to you. Because you have already done this to me… and because I know…

The mist rose up again, half-covering the gates before they slowly slid shut.

I know… I've let you take control of me. You have me tied in you puppet strings, trapped in your tears and pleading… You've already ripped me apart and broken me down this far, Momo…

Even now… even though it hurts so bloody much… why do I ache so much to come running back to you, where I know you'll cut me again?

Hitsugaya struggled to harden his blue eyes and stand up stronger as he glared with frustration in front of him.

No.

I can't.

I will not.

The doors slowly started closing.

I can't let myself return to you. Not like this, anyway. Because I know that if I do, you'll tear me apart so much that I'll never be healed.

And these bandages I cling to so tightly, will never be undone again.

As the gates closed off Soul Society, please, he found himself begging. Please… let all of this pain, fury and turmoil vanish behind those gates as well.

End Chapter One.

Hi to all my hitsukarin fans and readers! Hope 2009 has started off well for ya all! Yeah, I know this first chappie leaves much to be desired, but don't worry, there'll be more to come! Yep, and more of our favourite hitsukarin!! ^_^ yeah! Please review, everybody! emichii