Summary: In an attempt to confront Aizen, Hinamori Momo's memory is stolen from her… Except her memories of Hitsugaya Toshiro. It's difficult not knowing who you are. "Shiro-chan, I can't remember… I don't know who I am, but I know that I must have loved you."
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach. Tite Kubo does.
A quick word from me: I am so sorry that I kept you all waiting so long, and that was not my intention at all! *Gets on knees and begs for forgiveness* Thank you, though, for your reviews. They've motivated me throughout the craziness right now. A special thanks to KnowledgeandImagination (1st to review again ^-^), Aiedail's Scepter (Momo isn't getting much smarter in this chapter I'm afraid), Sonozaki-sama (I'm so sorry to make you wait so long!), kRyStAlt3aRz (thank you!), Snowflakessy (long story short: Momo destroys it, she lives but loses her memory. If she doesn't, she dies, her memory intact), CallieTorresFan (sorry again about that…), Colorless Wind (Aosugiru Sora now I see), Zeldafreak17 (Finally Updated…), hitsuhinaeva (hitsu4hinaeva, I do appreciate you reviewing, I swear!!!!), and Kinaia (your sweet review made me realize how long I'd left this story without updating and I felt totally bad…) Again, I can't apologize enough. Okay, enough with that. Onto chapter 14.
Memories of Shiro-chan
Chapter 14: Facing the Truth
"Hello to the both of you," the 4th Squad captain welcomed the two into her office with a warm smile. "I'm pleased to see that the both of you returned safely. I would like to examine you each individually myself, just to be sure, all right?"
The younger captain nodded. "Hinamori, you first. I'll wait here, and then go in after you."
Glancing at her childhood friend, Hinamori gave in. "Oh, all right," she agreed with a sigh. "But don't think you're getting away without your own examination, Shiro-chan!" She threatened.
"Now, now, Hinamori, he knows better than that, don't you, Hitsugaya-taicho?" She said, this time in her no-nonsense tone. No one who knew what was good for them argued with her when she used that tone.
"I'll be right here," Hitsugaya answered, crossing his arms and turning away to stare out the window.
Sighing, Momo followed the leader of the healing division into the office. She sat there as Unohana checked her over.
It was silent for quite some time until finally Unohana broke through the quiet. "All right, you're done. Everything is normal… for the most part. Except for that key is sending out some strange reiatsu, and I don't like it. Hitsugaya-taicho was right. It looks like you're going to have to pay a visit to Kurotsuchi-taicho once again…"
Hinamori's eyes widened. "You mean, Hitsugaya-kun and you both are going to send me over there? Why? I hate it there!"
The captain of the 4th Division frowned. "Neither of us like it either. But, well, Kurotsuchi is your best chance to figure out what is wrong and fix it before something worse happens. That reiatsu could eventually be dangerous to your health, Hinamori-kun."
The girl shook her head violently. "I'm not going back there." She stood, clenching her fists. "I'm telling that to Hitsugaya-kun right now as well!" Momo stormed out of Unohana's office and stood before her childhood friend. "How could you, Toshiro!? Do you have any idea of what he did to me before?!"
He regarded her coolly, then answered her. "Then tell me what's wrong, Momo. And don't lie."
Tears filled her eyes. "Nothing is wrong, Hitsugaya-kun! Why can't you believe me?"
"Maybe because you've had a hobby as of late to lie constantly to me and I don't quite trust what you say anymore, Hinamori," he returned harshly. "I'll trust anything you have to say after this if you go."
"I hate that place, and I'm not going!" She used Shunpo and disappeared.
He shot to his feet and sped after her, using Shunpo as well and managing to catch up to her in moments near the training grounds. Hitsugaya grabbed onto her arm, forcing her to stop. "I don't want to have to force you into going, but I will if I must."
"No!" Hinamori tried to pull away, but to no avail.
Both of his hands were on her shoulders now. "Momo, then tell me the truth. Something is wrong, right?"
She was trapped. Either way, Hitsugaya was going to find out. So either she could tell him the truth right then and there, and he wouldn't be so angry with her, or he would find out after long torturous hours with the 12th Division's research captain, and be furious with her for lying. "H-how could you tell?" Momo asked quietly.
"We've been together for years, Hinamori. I'm insulted that you would think that I wouldn't be able to notice something wrong." Hitsugaya looked up at her face. He knew without a doubt now, that Momo wasn't as okay as she'd led him to believe before. "So, are you going to tell me?"
"If I live, I'm going to forget everything, including you this time… But if I die, I won't hurt you by forgetting you, Hitsugaya-kun. I don't want to forget. I would rather die than forget you!" She clasped her hands together over the key that rested against her chest. "I-I don't know what to do, Shiro-chan!" She cried. "I really don't!"
"Oy! Slow down! Why do you think that you're going to die?" He asked, putting a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Tobiume, she told me. This key holds my memories… but… she said it's going to kill me for some reason. Eventually. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but sooner than later."
"Then we're getting rid of it," Hitsugaya said simply, reaching forward to take the key away from her.
She leapt back. "No! I can't hurt you again by forgetting you! I've already hurt you so much, Shiro-chan… I love you. I'd rather die than forget that!"
"Baka! Do you think that I'll be happy to have you die, then? I don't care if you forget, Bed Wetter! It's your life I'm concerned about, here. You and I can stay together if you live. You can even make new memories. But if you die, that's when everything ends!"
Momo leaned forward and rested her cheek on his shoulder. "Hitsugaya-kun, I'm afraid… I'm scared. I… I don't want to go through that again!" She shuddered, causing him to put comforting arms around her shoulders. "And I can't stand the thought of hurting you because of it!"
"It won't hurt me," he whispered in her ear. "Want to know why? Because of what you just told me now. I know you don't want to forget me or anything else, but I'll stay beside you and help you remember for the rest of our lives if need be."
"I'll be there for you, Momo. That's a promise." He pulled back. "We should head down there. I'll go with you to the 12th Division."
She wrinkled her nose. "I thought you said that I wouldn't have to go."
"Even you don't know exactly what is happening to you. Don't worry, I won't allow him to do anything without me there."
The raven-haired girl gazed at him with wide eyes. "You promise, Shiro-chan?"
"I promise, Bed Wetter," he answered, keeping an arm around her shoulder and leading her over to the Research Division.
"Then afterwards, you're going to go get your physical with Unohana-taicho," Momo ordered softly. "No fair that I had to get all of this done, and you get to skip your physical."
The silver-haired captain sighed. "Yes, I will. Right afterward, all right?"
Hinamori nodded, satisfied. "All right…" She followed him down to the 12th Division. She felt the uneasiness from her stay before slowly creep up on her and she scooted closer to Hitsugaya for reassurance.
In turn, he took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. Silently, they walked side by side until finally they made it to the 12th Division. Hitsugaya opened the doors and stepped inside, pulling Hinamori along with him.
"Oh, you're here. I should let Mayuri-sama know," Nemu said softly in greeting. "Please wait just a moment."
"No need, my dear Nemu," he interrupted, stepping out from one of the doorways.
Momo jumped and hid behind Toshiro, squeezing her eyes shut. Toshiro caught her actions and glared up at Mayuri. "This time, if you're going to be doing any tests, she wants me with her," he informed him coldly.
"I work best alone," the researcher snapped back, but sighed in defeat. "I suppose I'll allow it this once. I would like for the test subject to cooperate with me."
Hitsugaya bit his tongue. He wanted to say something, anything, to defend Hinamori's honor and yell at the other captain for simply referring to her as a 'test subject' but managed to keep his mouth shut. He figured that the other captain probably wouldn't put up well with his shouting, and they needed to find out more about what was happening to Momo. "I won't be in the way," he muttered.
"Good. Now, Momo dear, come here," Kurotsuchi said, beckoning the girl to him with a little crook of his finger.
She obediently stepped out from behind Hitsugaya, glancing to him helplessly as she passed him to approach Mayuri. "All right," she murmured, her head bowed.
"Please, Hinamori-san, don't worry," Nemu spoke soothingly. "You won't feel a thing. Just lie down here and relax." She led Momo over to the bed and had her lay back.
"I won't protest this time. Please, don't strap me down," Momo begged.
The Head of Research raised an eyebrow at her, lifting a hand that held a needle and syringe. "All right, then I'll need your full cooperation, Momo," he said.
She swallowed hard, but held her arm out to him, allowing him to inject her with the shot. Moments later, she was out.
Hitsugaya sat opposite of Kurotsuchi with his arms folded. "What is it?"
"We're keeping that key," Mayuri said simply.
"She's dying!" The boy captain shouted. "If we keep that key she will die!"
"Yes, most likely," the elder captain returned. "But I have analyzed the key, and I found that not only does a vital part of Hinamori's spirit energy exist within it, but also a great portion of Aizen's. You know what that means." It wasn't a question.
Understanding dawned on Hitsugaya's face. "It means that Aizen, as he is now, is as vulnerable as Hinamori." He was quiet a moment as he thought this over. He spoke up after a moment. "But what about Momo? As she is now…"
"Since you seem to care so much, then we'd best start planning our offensive strategy," Mayuri snapped. "It won't kill her so soon. It's going to take some time. And we need her to win, don't doubt that for a second. She is directly linked with Aizen, after all. They are both tied to that key, and whoever is in possession of the key has the upper hand. However, whoever has possession of the key also runs the risk of the key overtaking them, thus resulting in their own demise. She will link with the key and become one with it. Becoming the one true 'Boundary Key'. If that happens, we will have no choice but to destroy her. I believe this is what Aizen wished to accomplish while using her in the first place," he explained, as if he were speaking to an ignorant child.
The younger captain nodded. "I understand. So that's what Tobiume must have been talking about. But then, say we're able to defeat Aizen. Will destroying the key really solve everything?"
"That's what we're going to have to find out for ourselves," Mayuri answered. "At the very least, she will stop resonating with both the key and Hueco Mundo, even if her memory loss is permanent. She will at least be allowed to live. If not, she will become a dangerous entity. One that will have lost itself completely, and its only reason for existence will be the destruction of the worlds. That is what the key to the boundary is. It opens the door to millions of separate worlds, dimensions, and even timelines. Ones that are never meant to come into contact with each other. In doing so, the balance is interrupted, and the worlds will be thrown into chaos, and eventually destruction. Imagine what would happen if all of this were to become Hueco Mundo… The only world that could possibly survive this whole mess would be Hueco Mundo, since it thrives on negative energy and chaos."
Hearing enough, Hitsugaya stood. "I'm not going to allow that to happen," he declared.
"Where are you going, boy? Didn't you promise to stay here with the girl?"
"I did, but… some things are more important than promises. If what you say is true, then we don't have much time to waste, do we?" He turned to Nemu. "Give my apologies to Momo. When you both are finished, send her to my division. I'll meet up with her there. But we're going to have to call an emergency meeting on this."
The other captain stood and nodded to Nemu. "There is one other thing I can't stress enough. We need that key. Not only is Aizen weaker without it, but we can use it against him as well."
The boy nodded. "I understand. Thank you, Kurotsuchi." He turned and rushed out, headed for the First Division.
Voices… I hear voices. Momo opened an eye slowly.
"Oh, good. You're awake," Nemu said, reaching forward and helping her up. "Please, hurry, and come with me. We don't have much time to lose."
"What… is going on?" Momo asked slowly. "Hitsugaya-kun!" Her eyes widened, and then a look of hurt crossed her expression when she realized that he wasn't there. "He promised…"
"He was called away for a conference. You are to join him as soon as possible," Nemu explained gently. "It wasn't his wish to leave you. Please, we must hurry." She ushered Momo down the hallways.
The dazed girl simply followed wordlessly until the rest of the effects from whatever the captain of the 12th Division had given her had worn off. They reached Hitsugaya's office, only to find it empty. "I thought Hitsugaya-kun was supposed to be here," Momo said, turning to Nemu.
"Perhaps he hasn't finished with that conference as of yet." The other woman turned to leave. "It would be best for you to wait here. He will be along shortly." She left without another word.
The young girl sighed and sat down in one of the office chairs dejectedly. Why didn't he stay with me…? I know he was probably called away for something important, but why do I feel so hurt?
"Hinamori…" His voice startled her from her thoughts and she looked up to see him. "I'm sorry that I had to leave so suddenly before."
She shook her head. "It's all right, Hitsugaya-kun, you don't have to explain yourself." The tone in her voice showed that she was upset, however, and was silently demanding an explanation.
"I had to meet with the head captain," he said suddenly. "We're planning an all-out attack on Hueco Mundo. With what we have, we're confident that we can defeat him."
"With what you have?" Momo parroted. "What do you mean, Shiro-chan?"
"I spoke with Kurotsuchi and that crystal key you have there holds immense power. It actually holds the majority of Aizen's power, meaning that it's in your hands, Hinamori," he said softly, placing a hand on her shoulder. "You're going to have to come with me. I don't like it… but it's the only way."
A smile graced her lips. "I get to stay by your side, right?" She asked.
A nod. "Yes. We're leading the attack. Together." His cheeks tinted slightly pink with a blush, but then it faded and he turned to her, placing his other hand on her other shoulder. "But afterwards… Momo, afterward, you have to promise me that we're getting rid of that thing." His eyes trailed down to the key. "We have to hurry to defeat Aizen and put a stop to his plans… or it'll be too late for you." His eyes narrowed and his grip on her shoulders tightened. "I'm not going to lose you."
"I don't want to forget you, Hitsugaya-kun. I'm frightened," she whispered, breaking the eye contact.
"I'll be right here by your side, helping you. Why isn't that enough?" He asked quietly. "Don't you trust me?"
"Of course I do! But I don't want it to hurt you anymore!" Momo cried.
"Promise me, Momo. If you die, that's when I won't be able to take it. That's when it'll hurt. As long as you're alive, that's all that matters to me. We can take one step at a time from there." His teal eyes searched hers for an answer, she saw. Begging, pleading with her from within their depths.
"You'll stay with me…?" She asked finally.
Her brown eyes were blank for a moment, then she smiled. "Then, I promise, Toshiro." Please, forgive me…
As the preparations for the raid were being made, all of the leaders of the mission were given a couple of days to prepare. Momo and Toshiro had spent most of their free time together. They both had recovered from all their prior injuries, and they were trying to rebuild their uncertain relationship.
When Momo had left Toshiro, they had finally acknowledged and shared their feelings for the other. They had finally taken the big step forward. And Momo had thought by leaving that she had ruined everything. She was thankful for Toshiro's forgiveness. Part of Momo feared the battle with Aizen. Not because of the battle, but what would transpire afterwards. Toshiro was trusting her to not run away, but to hand over the Boundary Key and destroy it. But in doing so, Momo knew she was going to lose all of her memories of everything. If she forgot Toshiro, she knew without a doubt that he would be hurt far worse than ever before. How wouldn't he be? To have the one person he loved more than anything forget that he even existed, and not return his love? How would that not be miserable for him?
If she could die loving him, at least he could take comfort in the fact that she actually remembered and loved him to her dying breath… She let out a sigh and gazed out across the buildings of the Seiretei, leaning over the railing.
"Hey, didn't anyone ever tell you not to frown like that? Your face will freeze that way, you know," Toshiro teased.
Smirking back, his childhood friend retorted, "Really, Shiro-chan? Are you speaking from past experience or something? It wouldn't surprise me if that's what happened to you."
Dropping the light conversation, the young captain turned serious, following Momo's stare out to the horizon. "We're leaving tomorrow. Are you ready?"
"Even if I wasn't ready, it's not like we have a choice to stop this," the dark-haired lieutenant replied quietly.
Captain Hitsugaya eyed her worriedly. "Are you saying you aren't prepared?"
"I really don't know, Toshiro," she answered, eyes falling to her feet. "I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize, Momo," he said softly, placing a hand on her shoulder. "If you're still unsure, it just means that I'll have to work harder to make things easier for you. I will. That's a promise."
"Toshiro…" Tears threatened to spill.
His aqua eyes widened with concern. "Momo, is something wrong?" He leaned forward, inspecting her. "Are you in pain? Is it that?" He indicated the key resting on her chest. He thought he sensed a warning spike in her reiatsu, but perhaps he was mistaken.
Hinamori shook her head, and the first tear finally fell, followed by another, and another. "It isn't that… Don't worry about me. You always worry about me. You're always putting yourself in harm's way, and thinking of me first. Toshiro… you're the best friend I've ever had, but… I don't deserve someone like you…" She brought her hands up, covering her face as she wept. Especially not with what I'm about to do to you…
Warm arms went around her and she lowered her hands, opening her eyes only to see that she was resting against a captain's haori. Meekly, Momo turned her watery gaze upwards only to see his intense icy emerald stare upon her. "Baka. I'm doing this because I want to. This means something to me. Understand? Don't make me repeat myself."
"H-hai…" A couple more tears fell when Momo squeezed her eyes shut, and she gripped his haori. "Arigato… Shiro-chan… for everything. You've done more for me than you'll ever know, and more than I can even hope to try to repay."
The boy captain knew that he wasn't very good with emotions. He was proficient with logic, numbers and battle strategy. He also knew that Momo was completely the opposite, and that she operated almost completely by her emotions. But nonetheless Hitsugaya Toshiro would do anything for Hinamori Momo. If she needed him to show some emotion to her, he would try. He leaned forward, placing a kiss on her forehead, and tightened his arms around her, resting his chin on her shoulder. "Momo… This isn't about repaying something. We're together. We're facing everything from now on as one whole, right? That's all that matters." He whispered into her ear.
Hinamori would have responded, but she gasped and held a hand up to her chest. Her knees buckled beneath her and her entire weight fell against Toshiro. "Shiro-chan… sorry… it's back…" Was all she managed before the pain took over and unconsciousness claimed her once again.
Hitsugaya caught her and lifted her in his arms. He'd noticed that these attacks that she'd been having were getting more and more frequent. And he'd begun to notice that just moments before the attacks, her reiatsu level would change drastically. He frowned. There's no more time. Momo's getting sicker. We have to finish with Aizen and fast. That's the only hope Momo has left to live. He thought as he carried her back to Squad 4. This only served to strengthen his resolve. He would kill Aizen. No mistakes. Hitsugaya couldn't afford to think of any possible mistakes. Momo's counting on me to live. I can't… I won't let her down!
Author's Note: I swear that I am not dead. I haven't been online too much. Wow… so much has happened to me in these past few months… I swear in all the confusion I never forgot any one of you. *Hugs* I only hope that this sort of makes up for the long wait. My writing is a little rusty, I'm afraid, but I'm working on it, so please bear with me! The reviews you guys all gave me actually kept me going. I did say in the beginning that the updates would be sporadic, but even then I didn't realize that I would be moving, changing jobs and dealing with a seriously ill family member. I will try to do better though. That's a promise. Even if it takes a little bit to get a chapter out, I promise that I won't quit so please don't give up on me, okay? --Hallie