A/N: This is a story I wrote about a month ago that takes place after the events of Diamond Dust Rebellion. It is an entry for Larxenethefirefly's contest but also something I just hope everyone enjoys. Now without further ado…
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach.
Momo Hinamori stared up at the closed white door in front of her, wringing her hands nervously, her stomach one huge butterfly's nest. Toushiro had just been confined to the fourth division's quarters the day before as Unohana-Taichou had refused to let him return to the built up paperwork on his desk until he'd had his wounds properly taken care of.
Hinamori had been left out of the recent events involving the twin Hyorinmaru zanpakutous and the second death of Toushiro's friend Kusaka as she was still recuperating herself. From what she had heard however, her childhood friend had been through quite a rough past couple of days having denounced his title of Taichou, been on the run from Soul Society, and wounded both Hisagi and Kira when they were ordered to arrest him, all with a serious wound to boot.
Before things got too out of control however, Shinsui Kyoraku Taichou of squad 8 had cleared his name and after the arduous battle between nearly all of Soul Society and Kusaka, all the blame and punishment was lifted from Toushiro's shoulders. Apparently Ichigo Kurosaki had once again been a huge help in defeating the threat and, according to Matsumoto, had literally knocked some sense back into Toushiro when things looked bleak. Hinamori wished she could have had the chance to thank him for being there for Hitsugaya-kun when she so obviously had not.
Sighing she stared at the door, hesitantly bringing up her hand to open it before letting it fall halfheartedly to her side. Hitsugaya-kun had been through so much lately and she had barely lifted a finger to help him; she was probably the last person he wanted to see right then. Wincing she turned away and trudged back down the hallway, dragging her feet as she did so.
Ever since the incident with Aizen Tai- Aizen, she reminded herself, she had felt a distance growing between her and Hitsugaya-kun. He had been so busy lately with the upcoming war, the countless meetings, and the seemingly never ending mountain of paperwork that the moments they did spend together were few and far between. Then when the occurrences with Kusaka had blown up in their faces he had up and disappeared entirely, leaving her and everyone else behind to worry about him.
Hinamori paused and closed her eyes, resting her hand on her forehead. She felt so guilty about everything. Especially… The girl could still see his wide, confused eyes as she pointed Tobiume at him, convinced that this person, who probably cared more for her than anyone, was her Taichou's murderer. She bit her lip, her heart lurching uncomfortably. How could she have been so blind? There was no way Hitsugaya-kun…Shiro-chan…No way he could have killed her Taichou.
She couldn't bring herself to fully accept Aizen's betrayal and yet she couldn't deny it either; the scar that she bore was proof of that. Even so she couldn't stand hearing her fellow shinigami speak poorly of Aizen; it hurt her heart in ways she hadn't believed possible. It just made the truth of his betrayal more and more evident to her and she still wasn't ready to open her eyes to reality.
Hitsugaya-kun had no doubts about the man's true colors though he had given up talking to her about it. Every time the subject had risen she had clamped up, frustrated tears pricking on the edges of her vision. He hadn't brought it up again yet she knew he wanted to. It was impossible to miss the pain in his eyes whenever he looked at her. She couldn't stand him looking that way because she was convinced it had something to do with the way she had turned her back on him after everything they had been through together, after everything he had done for her… She had trusted Aizen over him, she had betrayed him, just like Aizen had betrayed her.
"NO!" The anguished cry ripped from her throat and she grabbed her head, collapsing to her knees and squeezing her eyes shut. That had been the first time she had admitted to herself the truth of Aizen's betrayal. Her mind horribly rejected the idea, insisting it was Ichimaru who had brainwashed him; yet the pain in her heart told the true story. She was confused, she was just so confused.
She couldn't help feeling pulled in twenty different directions by what people wanted her to believe, what her mind wanted her to believe, and what her heart was trying to tell her. She was so lost, falling deeper and deeper into a black pool of confusion, betrayal, hurt, and utter desperation for someone to reach out a hand and save her.
"Hinamori!?" Her eyes snapped open and she looked up to see Toushiro standing over her, dressed simply in the white of a fourth division patient, a porcelain bandage wrapped around his chest and shoulder. His eyes were brimming with concern, his expression confused; one hand reaching out towards her fallen form.
"H-Hitsugaya-kun?" Hinamori gasped, jumping to her feet and desperately trying to wipe the tears from her face with the palm of her hand. "What are you doing out here? Unohana Taicho told you to rest!" she scolded. Toushiro shook his head.
"I'm fine. What are you doing out in the hall?" he inquired. Hinamori felt her face flush and she took a step back, waving her arms in front of her.
"N-nothing! I was…um…on my back from visiting Kira-kun and was actually just leav…"
"Hinamori," Toushiro cut her off. "Kira's on the first floor. There'd be no reason for you to come to the second floor if you were leaving," he stated bluntly. Hinamori felt her blush deepen as she wracked her brain, trying desperately to think of something to tell him.
"Hinamori…" she looked up as Toushiro said her name again, his icy eyes meeting her own. "What's wrong?" He reached out for her as he said this though she immediately took a step back out of his reach. The young man froze and Hinamori winced at the hurt that flashed through his eyes before once more hiding behind his cool exterior.
"No, it's fine." He gave her his usual side smirk before turning away. "Just…you know where to find me if you need to," he murmured before heading back down the hall. Hinamori watched him leave, her heart suddenly gaining 100 pounds. Why had she stepped away? There was nothing she wanted to do more than throw herself into his arms and sob but somehow…Somehow what? She asked herself. What are you afraid of?
The girl knew that somewhere, in the deepest most secret part of her heart that Aizen had betrayed her; that he had willingly almost killed both her and Hitsugaya-kun. Hitsugaya had tried to protect her; had done everything he possibly could in an attempt to keep her safe and that had almost killed him. So once again, why was she so afraid to open up to the young man who obviously cared so much about her?
Maybe it was because he had never really opened up to her before, but that was to be expected. Hitsugaya-kun was someone who refused to burden anyone else with his problems even if it would make things easier for him in the long run. It was nothing personal towards Hinamori; it was just the way he was. She, on the other hand, was like a leaky faucet when it came to her emotions, unable to keep them bottled away no matter how much she sometimes wanted to. She and Hitsugaya were so different that way.
But no, the thing she feared most was not his unwillingness to confide in her, or even the fact that he never seemed to have much time for her anymore. She knew that she was truly terrified of one day being pushed aside, being rejected so completely by the one person she had been with since the beginning, by the one person she lov… No, she wouldn't let herself go there, not now. To go there was to touch on places of her heart she still wasn't familiar with yet and that scared her too.
"You're being rather foolish Momo…" Hinamori blinked and glanced up only to see Tobiume standing before her, a hand on her hip, eyebrows raised in an expression of mild amusement.
"T-Tobiume…What do you mean I'm being foolish?" she asked, giving her zanpakutou an inquisitive look. The woman sighed, taking a few steps towards the confused shinigami.
"Momo you are so worried about losing Hitsugaya Taichou, so busy beating yourself up about matters that he has already forgiven you for, that you don't realize you are the one pushing him away," she murmured. Hinamori opened her mouth to argue when Tobiume touched her arm gently and the girl found the recent scene between herself and Toushiro playing through her mind again. She saw him reach for her, saw herself step away… Hinamori screwed her eyes shut and once more sank to the floor, burying her face in her palms.
"I don't know what to do anymore Tobiume! I'm so confused…" she trailed off.
"What are you so confused about?" Tobiume asked. The girl shook her head.
"I don't know! I…who to believe…what to believe…" Tobiume frowned.
"If you are debating between your friends here in the Soul Society and the man you thought you knew I should think the choice would be obvious!" she exclaimed, crossing her arms over her chest. Hinamori's head shot up.
"How dare you! Where do you get the right? You didn't know him like I did!" she wailed.
"MOMO HINAMORI!" The girl blinked and looked meekly up at the woman glaring down at her, hair whipping around her face, eyes narrowed to dangerous slits.
"I have been by your side throughout everything that has happened to you. I have felt every emotion you have experienced since becoming joined with you; I know the bond you felt with Aizen. It is understandable that you are deeply hurt, that you have suffered a wound that will take awhile to heal and I'm not talking about the one inflicted on you by the man you are so quick to defend. But you need to open your eyes and realize that you are not the only one who has been affected by this crisis. Think of Kira and Matsumoto, of Komamura-Taichou and Hisagi. You know of the bonds they believed they shared with Tousen and Ichimaru, not unlike the one you shared with Aizen. They have been hurt in the same way you have but they picked themselves back up again and are fighting through their pain. Seek comfort from those who are going through the same thing you are.
You need to open your eyes to the dilemma going on right now and stop disregarding anyone's feelings but your own. Hitsugaya-Taichou just had to kill his childhood friend for the second time after denouncing his title, abandoning his duty to the 13 court guard squads, and forcing himself to fight his comrades all because he felt like he had to carry everything alone! He is hurting just as much, if not more, than everyone else right now yet a couple minutes ago he was the one trying to help you! Maybe Momo, it's time you stepped up yourself instead of being the solo attendee of your pity party. Squad five is in disarray; they need you, Hitsugaya-Taichou needs you…Open your eyes Momo, before you're left with nothing to see." And with those fading words Tobiume vanished, once more leaving Hinamori alone in the hallway.
The girl squeezed her eyes shut, knotting her fingers in her hair. Tobiume made it all sound so easy. How could she possibly just push aside all the years she had spent worshipping and working under Aizen? How in the world could she just forget those memories? How could everyone else have forgotten all the good times? Aizen-Taichou had given Hitsugaya-kun his birthday for heavens sake! How could he just forget that?
Momo shook her head, trying to clear all those suffocating thoughts from her mind. She couldn't stay in that hallway. The blank walls felt like they were pressing in on her, looming claustrophobically overhead. Her mind drifted to Hitsugaya who was probably going crazy on his strict orders to remain restful for the next couple of days. He had lost a lot of blood between his wanderings in the world of the living and the last fight with Kusaka and now he had to let his body recuperate whether he liked it or not. Hinamori sighed, knowing how frustrated he must be and decided that she would go visit him after all and apologize for her earlier behavior.
Sighing she stood and trudged back to his door, her feet dragging slowly behind her. Pausing outside the whitewashed doorframe she took a deep breath before knocking quietly and pushing it open.
"Hitsugaya-kun?" she called softly, frowning when there was no response. Shutting the door behind her she took a couple more steps into the room, concern beginning to mix with her confusion. Hurrying forward she paused at the empty, neatly made bed and bit her lip, her hair blowing in the slight breeze coming in through the open window. Wait…open window! Momo's eyes widened and she ran to the pane and looked out, leaning into the open air and scanning her eyes across the ground below. He was nowhere to be seen.
Dusk had already fallen upon the Seireitei, long shadows creeping across the ground while glowing lights trickled out from behind windows and under the cracks of various division doors. Biting her lip, Hinamori nervously shifted her weight from foot to foot, wondering what in the world to do now. Clearly Hitsugaya had wanted to escape the confinement of the fourth division but there was no way he was well enough to be out and running around yet. Worst case scenario he would re-open his wounds and have to spend even more time in the fourth squad's barracks.
"What do I do?" Momo murmured to herself, knowing Unohana-Taichou would want to be informed immediately but was also aware of the fact that Hitsugaya would be furious with her if she did so.
'Hitsugaya-Taichou needs you…' Hinamori froze as Tobiume's words echoed in her mind. Hitsugaya-kun never needed her for anything. What had she ever done to help him? He was always the one who was looking out for her, protecting her…saving her. What could she possibly do for squad ten's taichou? Closing her eyes she took a deep breath and thought of the little silver haired boy who used to sit on the porch and spit watermelon seeds at her. 'Bed-wetter Momo…" he'd always called her with a scowl. It was painfully obvious Hitsugaya-Taichou didn't need her…but maybe, just maybe, Shiro-chan did.
Concentrating she tried to feel Hitsugaya's reiatsu, knowing he was probably concealing it but figuring there was no harm in trying anyway. Just as she expected however, she couldn't feel an ounce of his spirit energy. Rocking back on her heels she opened her eyes and furrowed her brow, trying to figure out where he would have gone. Because of his long absence he was bound to have a mountain of paperwork that had to be done so there was a slight chance he had returned to his office in the tenth division. It was an unlikely option if he had been trying to escape confinement, especially considering the fact he was supposed to be resting under Unohana-Taichou's strict orders. There was no way Hitsugaya could hope to avoid being dragged back if he returned somewhere as obvious as his own division. Even so it couldn't hurt to check and there was the slight chance that she might run into him on the way.
Jumping out the window Momo used shunpo to race across the various roofs of the fourth division, not slowing her pace until she reached the large barracks of squad 10, the building that contained Hitsugaya-kun's office. Her heart pounded in her chest and she paused to catch her breath, her long period of absence clearly having taken its toll on her stamina.
Pushing aside her exhaustion she threw open the door and pounded down the hallway, ignoring the startled looks she was receiving from many of the squad 10 shinigami. Rounding a corner she flew down the corridor, skidding to a halt outside Hitsugaya's large office door. Not wasting a second she pushed it open, stumbling inside and calling: "Hitsugaya-kun!"
There was a startled yelp from behind three huge piles of paperwork, followed by a loud crash as the chair behind the desk toppled over, revealing a very disgruntled looking Matsumoto.
"H-Hinamori? What are you doing here?" Matsumoto asked, righting herself and placing the chair back on its feet. Momo couldn't help the disappointment welling up in her stomach. Even though she'd known the chances of Hitsugaya actually being here were slim, there had still been that tiny sliver of hope that just maybe he might have been.
"Hinamori?" The girl blinked and glanced up to see Matsumoto cocking an eyebrow at her, clearly curious regarding her reasons for barging into Hitsugaya's office like a charging menos. Momo flushed and immediately dropped her eyes.
"I was, um, looking for Hitsugaya-kun but I guess he…isn't…here…" she trailed off, hoping the other woman would buy her excuse.
"He should still be resting in division four; he's not supposed to leave for another day or two according to Unohana-Taichou," Matsumoto told her, giving the girl a strange look. Momo nodded rapidly.
"Oh of course! I knew that! Naturally he's still recovering, silly me…" she snuck a peak at the squad ten fuku-taichou only to see her looking more suspicious than ever. Attempting to change the subject Momo spoke up again.
"What about you Matsumoto-san, what are you doing here? I would have thought you would be out drinking with Hisagi-san and the others," she said, taking a careful step towards the door. This time it was the other woman's turn to blush.
"Right well I uh… Hitsugaya-Taichou has been through a rough time lately and being fuku-taichou and all I figured the least I could do was complete some of that paperwork for him; even if it is the most obscenely boring, tediously dull thing I could be doing right now. Hopefully it'll make life a little easier for him when he comes back," she answered. Hinamori blinked before a genuine smile broke out on her face and she nodded.
"I'm sure he'll appreciate that very much Matsumoto, thank you," the girl murmured. Rangiku cocked a brow.
"For what?" but Hinamori had already disappeared down the corridor. Hurrying back through the halls Momo ran out the front door and paused as she tried to think of where to go next. Storm clouds were furrowing overhead and by the look of them, it wouldn't be long before they opened up and dumped their contents onto the ground below. The rapidly approaching darkness and potential storm would make finding Hitsugaya-kun all the more difficult but Hinamori was determined to try anyway. If there was even a tiny chance that he needed her, she had to make sure she was there for him.
Just…you know where to find me if you need to. His words echoed in her mind and she shook herself, pounding on her head with her hands.
"Think Momo think! Where would he go to get away from…Oh!" her eyes lit up and she whirled around, running in the opposite direction of the squad ten barracks and instead down the pathway leading to the outer districts.
The first drops of rain fell as she ran, splattering her shoes and shihakushou with pools of brown water. She ignored it, using shunpo to close the distance between herself and Rukongai. He had to be here. If he wasn't, she had no possible idea of where in Soul Society he could be. Racing through the outer districts she ignored the surprised looks she was receiving from some of the other souls, clearly startled to see a shinigami so far from the Seireitei. Five minutes later however, the roads had cleared of anyone but herself, the storm and late hour having chased them all inside.
The houses spaced out and it wasn't long before she was running down a rural path towards an old looking cottage tucked comfortably away in a small grove of trees. Quickening her space she shunpoed the final length of the trail and paused, gasping for breath in front of a familiar wooden porch.
"Hinamori?" Momo glanced up and almost fell over with relief when she saw Hitsugaya sitting on the porch, his usually stoic expression unusually startled.
"Hitsugaya-kun!" the girl exclaimed, trying to smile between gasps. "I found you!" The boy blinked at her before shaking his head.
"Why would you follow me all the way out here? Stupid…" Hinamori sat down next to him, doing her best to look stern.
"You're supposed to be resting! Why did you come here?" she asked him. Hitsugaya looked away, remaining stonily silent, his expression giving away nothing. Hinamori sighed and dropped her gaze. I guess he didn't need me after all… she thought sadly.
"I can think here." The girl blinked having not expected an answer and starting upon receiving one. Immediately she felt bad, wondering if perhaps she should have left him alone after all. He obviously didn't come to their old home so he could be around people.
"I-I'm sorry Hitsugaya-kun. Obviously you want to be alone right now so I'll just g-…"
"No I don't care, you can stay," the boy murmured, not meeting her eyes. Momo stared at him before a soft smile appeared on her lips and she nodded.
The two sat in silence, each mulling over their own thoughts. Momo snuck a glance at the boy next to her and was surprised to see his fists clenched, a somber expression replacing the blank mask he usually wore.
"Hitsugaya-kun…" she murmured, hesitantly raising a hand and resting it on his shoulder. He didn't react but he didn't brush it off either. Momo took a deep breath, deciding to go out on a limb.
"Was it hard? Having to deal with Kusaka-san's death again?" By the way he flinched she knew she'd hit the nail on the head. Not knowing what to say or do she simply sat there, wishing there was someway he would let her help him.
"Why did you come all the way out here bed-wetter? You're supposed to be recuperating yourself," Toushiro murmured. Hinamori blinked.
"Well I…uh that is…you see I…I wanted to find you," she stammered. Hitsugaya gave her a questioning look and she pressed on. "I wanted to apologize for earlier. I know you were trying to help me and I acted so cold; you didn't deserve that. I'm really sorry I've been acting like such an idiot lately," she murmured, focusing intently on her hands folded in her lap.
Right at that moment a gust of cold wind whipped past, drowning out Hitsugaya's response and sending her body into compulsive shivers. Tucking her knees up she wrapped her arms around herself in a futile attempt to keep the cold at bay. A moment passed before she suddenly felt a warm arm snake around her shoulders, pulling her into an even warmer chest. Momo felt the heat rush to her face and she glanced up in confusion.
"Hitsugaya-kun…?" He didn't meet her eyes, instead content to stare out into the stormy weather.
"Sorry, I forgot how easily you get cold," he murmured. Momo smiled and snuggled into him, all chill lost in his arms. For some reason the thought to go inside never occurred to either of them.
The rain poured down all the harder, drenching the grass and pathway leading up to the cottage. It was Toushiro who eventually broke the silence.
"Are you doing okay, Hinamori?" The question was almost tentative and Momo knew he was wondering whether or not he was treading on thin ice.
"Yes; a lot better than I was," she replied, pulling out of his arms so she could look at him, her eyes meeting his. "But I didn't come looking for you to talk about me." The corners of Hitsugaya's mouth turned down in the slightest hint of a frown, his gaze leaving hers and instead focusing on the ground below them.
"Hinamori I…" But she shook her head, cutting him off.
"I can't think of a time when I've ever needed you and you haven't been there. I'm so lucky to have you here with me, thank you so much!" The girl hesitated and began to fiddle with a loose thread on the sleeve of her shihakushou. "But I feel like it's kind of one sided. I can see you hurting no matter how hard you try to hide it and I feel like there is never anything I can do to help you! You're always protecting me but I want to protect you too! Not necessarily physically," she quickly said, seeing the expression on his face. "But maybe…emotionally?" It came out sounding like a question and Momo wanted to smack herself in the head.
"What are you talking about Hinamori?" the young man asked, his body suddenly tense, ice green eyes weary.
"You never let anyone in! I know…I know how upset you are about losing Kusaka again but you refuse to let anyone be there to take some of the weight. Everyone's worried about you! Please…" her voice broke and a single tear slid down her face and dripped onto the ground. "Please Shiro-chan, let me help you."
The silence that followed was broken only by the ever present sound of the rain cascading down from the gray sky and seeping into the ground below them. Toushiro stared at Momo, a hundred emotions flickering through his eyes at once. The girl stared back at him pleadingly, tears making little trails down her cheeks before dripping onto the already sopping ground beneath their feet. Looking away she whispered:
"I don't want to force you to say anything that you don't want to; I just wanted you t-…" but she paused as Toushiro rested a hand gently on her arm, his touch sending warmth shooting through her veins. His fingers curled around her sleeve and Momo could feel his hand shaking.
"Hitsugaya-kun…" she whispered, and suddenly he was in her arms, his head on her shoulder, body trembling with the effort it was taking to keep his emotions at bay. Momo embraced him, wrapping her arms around his shivering frame and resting her head against his as Toushiro Hitsugaya cried for the first time that she could ever remember.
Momo closed her eyes, holding him closer to her and wishing there was some way she could lift away all the pain he was carrying and get rid of it for him forever. Knowing this was impossible she contented herself with merely being there for him, determined to stay this way for as long as he needed her to.
The storm slowly began to let up, the rain having run its course and moved on to leave a freshly bathed world beneath it. Toushiro slowly lifted his head up off the other girl's shoulder, his eyes brimming with more emotion than she had ever seen there before. In a voice barely above a whisper he murmured:
"Thank you Momo."
"For what?" the girl asked. Smiling, Toushiro pulled her closer to him, brushing his lips against her own for the briefest of moments, turning her face a brilliant shade of crimson as he did so.
"For finding me."
There you go. I wrote this over the period of about a week after watching Diamond Dust Rebellion and being rather unsatisfied with the lack of Hinamori in a movie based mostly around Hitsugaya. Hopefully you enjoyed, let me know your thoughts.