Disclaimer – I do not own Bleach. Note, this goes along with the AU, Understanding, in which Momo didn't go into a comatose state.

Understanding: A Self Journey

The room felt cold to Hinamori Momo, even though a nice strong sunshine shown through the window, and flitted down onto her bed. Her heart was heavy, and not just because of the huge betrayal that she had gone through, but the betrayal she herself had caused, the betrayal of someone she truly cared a great deal about, who had come to try to help her heal, but instead, she treated him like…

Words of what she had done to Hitsugaya were hard to come across, other than betrayal. Perhaps, what she had done to him, was make him feel like he no longer belonged with her… that had to be definite, as she had told him that she didn't want him to have anything to do with her anymore, and on top of that, she had told him to leave their grandmother alone.

Matsumoto had long since left, and she could still feel the sting of the other fukutaicho's words. She sat in the bed, clenching the sheets as she sat there, contemplating the feelings that welled in her chest, and she knew very well, she had to come to terms with her feelings. She had to find some way, to make it go away, for it to feel better.

"You are the one who abandoned your family Hinamori," Matsumoto had said, after she had slapped the girl hard in the face. Momo had always thought that Toshiro should have stayed home, taking care of their grandmother, until he was old enough to become a shingami, not enter the academy like a spoiled brat, trying to one up her in everything that she had done.

However, as soon as she had heard those words, they stung deep, for they were true. She had left both Toshiro and Grandmother all alone, and there was in no way that they couldn't have been lonely, living in that little house. Grandmother had never been able to get around, so Momo had always assumed it was only Grandmother who had been lonely.

"You never noticed the problems that were arising at home." Hinamori had to think about the older woman's words at this. She had to think about all the conversations that she had with Toshiro when they were younger, right around the time that she had entered the academy. She had always gone back to visit with him and grandmother, but there were some things that, now that she had thought about it, hadn't added up as being right.

Toshiro had always waited for her, and shown distaste when she had spoke up about Aizen, to the point that he had asked her, who cared? Truth was, that should have been a sign to her, for that had been all that she had talked about with him. She never really talked about her friends, except how she hopped they could all be in the same division together.

She had asked Toshiro a few times, how he was doing, but he always answered in offhand remarks, almost as if he was avoiding the subject. She had assumed that he was being his normal self, but there was the fact, that… she had told her friends, and described the boy as being very sweet, not at all the brattish little thing that they really thought him to be.

The battiness had always been there to cover his real feelings, so that he wouldn't have to answer when problems arose. He had always been avoiding telling her the truth, and the only reason why, was because of exactly what Matsumoto had said. "Hell, you never saw how much he was bullied before you left, possibly because he made sure you didn't know so it wouldn't hurt you."

Now that she thought about it, there had been likely many times when she had seen Toshiro come home with a black eye, or bruising. He would always say that he had been klutzy, and not to worry about it, or not to but in. However, the small child was always extremely agile and quick, so this in truth, now that she looked back on it, had all been lies.

"You never saw how upset he was when all you talked about the academy and Aizen, did you!" Those words, she had come to terms with, but she also had to think, what else she could have talked to the small boy about. She wanted him to also eventually come to the academy, when he was old enough to come, but not before.

However, truth was, she should have focused on what he would have liked about the place. He had always seemed to have dove into the books that the teacher at their small school had lent him, though she had always doubted he could really read them, and that he had been pretending, or looking at pictures. Yet most of them hadn't had pictures in them.

Now that she thought of it, he had always been able to copy her handwriting, not to mention others, which meant that he was extremely literate, but he pretended not to be. In addition, the lent books never really came, until he had stopped going to the school, which had been after she had gone to the academy. This had to have been because he didn't feel like he belonged.

"Your little brother really did not ever want to become a captain, to become shingami, to go to the academy," This had come as a surprise to Momo. She had always thought that Toshiro had wanted to go, she never had thought that he hadn't wanted to, that he had been in some way needed to. She thought he was trying to stick it to her, just like all his smart ass comments when she had been home.

Nevertheless, in truth, he hadn't wanted all of the mess that he had been thrown into. He may have even wanted to remain a little child, to remain playful, much like he had been when they were much, much younger, but circumstanced hadn't allowed for that. "I 'had' to explain to him that his rietsu was killing the two of yours grandmother. 'If' he had stayed, he would have killed her!"

This thought caused her stomach to clench and hurt, not to mention tears to spill down her face. She oh so wished that he had told her this, because she would have been there, to tell him it was all right. She wouldn't have distanced herself from him, and would have made sure that he knew she didn't blame him. It felt almost like he felt she would be mad at him, or that she would be so hurt she wouldn't be able to look at him.

She then remembered something that Matsumoto had told her, something about her rietsu and, things about him… things that she realized that she had to learn more about. She thus glanced at the doorway, then slipped out, slipping the shingami robe next to her bed over her clothing. It had been a few days since she had spoken with either Matsumoto or Toshiro. She needed to at least ask for his forgiveness, and get some answers from him.

~oOo~

When Momo arrived at the tenth division, she was surprised to see Matsumoto working diligently on her paperwork, which was not a usual sight. "Rangiku-san?"

Matsumoto glanced up, seeing the young shingami. "Hinamori? Should you be out of fourth division yet?"

"I… snuck out…" the girl stated suddenly. "Where is Shiro-chan… he's usually in his office, when he isn't out performing duties."

"Well… he most defiantly isn't here," Matsumoto stated, continuing with her paperwork.

"It is kind of weird, to see you doing paperwork… it must be some important mission he's on…" Matsumoto suddenly seemed a little more cheerful.

"Hinamori…" Matsumoto again glanced up. "Why don't you take a seat at his desk so I can speak to you."

"Umm… all right… he is all right, and not sick is he," Momo gave a weak smile.

"Your… attitude has changed and become… nicer towards him," the robust woman stated.

"I figure, I owe him an apology," Momo stated.

"More than an apology," the woman stated. "He… is in a way sick. He was really hurt by the fact that you said what you did, and he completely lost it, so he is being made to take a vacation."

"So… I would be able to find him at Granny's?" Momo said hopefully.

"Hinamori… you won't be able to see him for awhile. Sweetheart… they sent him to the living world with the substitute soul reaper, because they feel that he might…" Matsumoto paused.

"Might what…" Momo began to fiddle with one of the drawers, opening and closing it with her foot.

"They are extremely worried about the fact that he couldn't come to an adult about his feelings… they wanted him to also, have the chance he's never had, to be a little kid… because technically, he is one." Matsumoto stated.

"That would be nice... but it doesn't fit his personality…" Momo sighed.

"Does it not?" the woman stated. "Or does it not fit the personality that he prefers to show everyone. I think he has two sides of him, and the other just hasn't been shown." The young fukutaicho noticed a book sticking out of the drawer and pulled it out. "Ahh… Hinamori, that's taicho's treasure drawer… he doesn't like people digging through…"

"I gave him this sketchbook," Hinamori stated, opening it and flipping through. "I kind of also came for some answers…"

"What… do you mean…" Matsumoto frowned at this.

"You said that my rietsu countered his… and that it was killing grandma… How did you know? I mean… he never told me anything… but you already knew that. I just… I don't feel like I know him anymore,"

"Truth be told, there is a lot I don't know about him either… he keeps to himself," Matsumoto sighed.

Hinamori flipped through the pictures. She saw one, where Rangiku was sitting with Gin, and they seemed happy with each other, another with Yamamotto sleeping in a hammock. There was one with Byakuya wearing chappy ears and Rukia smiling at this. She almost laughed at the one of Yachiru stuffing a lollipop into Kenpachi's mouth. Toshiro had in truth, an odd sense of humor.

She then came across a picture that surprised her. It was a similar picture to Rangiku and Gin, but it was with her and Kira. She glanced up at Matsumoto. "Why is it that there is a picture of Kira and me in here?"

"You were possibly to into Aizen to even notice that Kira had a crush on you. Taicho noticed though…" Matsumoto stated.

"Where Matsumoto, can I start looking for answers if I can't meet with him?" Momo asked.

"I…" Matsumoto gave her a weak smile. "When I met taicho, he was about six inches shorter than he is now, and his hair… it was not like it is now, put limp with a slight wave to it. He was at an amanatto stand in the area, and I saw him and I thought… well, what I thought when I first saw him, wasn't really important, it was what came later."

"Why isn't the first important, and the second…" Momo iterated.

"Because, the first one was private and was what made me notice him. The second… was how I suddenly saw him being treated. The little one held out his hand to receive his change, and the man just set it down on the counter… and told him to basically get lost, that he wasn't wanted there," Matsumoto stated.

"That man never said anything when it was just Toshiro and me," Momo sighed.

"Possibly because you are easily liked, for your cheerful personality," Matsumoto stated. "Anyways, I go over and lecture the man about it, and taicho got startled, and turned right around. I was slightly bent over, and now that I think of it… a little to close…"

"Close?" Hinamori shook her head.

"He turned around and ended up with a face plant," Matsumoto stated as she watched Hinamori's face contort with surprise. "He stumbled backwards and then hit the back of his head on the counter. He had tears in his eyes, and his nose was bleeding. Most guys, it would have been because they were perverts, but the poor kiddo hit his head so hard… I told him to stop crying, and to tell people what was on his mind, instead of letting them push him around like that…"

"But that doesn't explain how you knew," Momo muttered, having taken the sketchbook and closed it.

"I… he took off on me, and I didn't think I would see him again, even though he was a sweetie, but as I went around, I felt his rietsu, and so I went to investigate. Your grandmother was frosted over while he had been asleep. He… had heard his zampaktuo calling him for some time."

"Isn't that unusual?"

"Yeah… I asked Gin, and he said he hadn't heard his zampaktuo call him until academy. And Kaien even said the same thing. Both were attracted to taicho becomes of that," Matsumoto stated. "Are your questions answered?"

"Not completely…"

"Hinamori-san?" a voice came from the doorway. "Unohana is looking for you."

"Kira-kun!" Momo set the sketchbook down.

"Since I found you, I might as well escort you back," the young man stated.

"I don't want to go back yet," Momo muttered.

"I may be your friend, but I am also Hitsugaya-taicho's, even though it has always been hard for him to see that, what with the way he was treated before he joined the academy…" Kira stated.

"Ehh… you knew… when I didn't," the young female glanced at the ground dejectedly.

"Momo… you said he was a certain way… and you don't lie. Sure, he acts like a brat, but I've also seen that other side come out at times… like recently, when he tried to protect you. It hurt me seeing you treat your family like that. Come on… let's get you back."

"No… would you help me with something?"

"I am not happy with you right now…" the blond sighed.

"I need to find out… some things… it is important," Momo had a dejected look on her face.

"I think it might make it easier for her and Toshiro if you help her," Matsumoto stated.

"All right… I'll help you. Let's get going though,"

Matsumoto watched them hurry over to the door and leave. She then went over to the sketchbook, and flipped through it before going to put it away. One picture made her smile. It was of the current and former taicho, and there was an actual smile on the artists face. "I've seen yourself portraits before, this is the first time I've seen you actually portray yourself well…"

~oOo~

The man at the amanatto stand was having slow business, and glanced up as a shingami approached. The man was a fellow with blond hair, and a shorter shingami stood next to him, their head hooded. "Ahh… another of the great shingami… we've had a few of our own become thus."

"That is very interesting," the young man stated. "Perhaps I know of them?"

"Ahh… well, the only one of importance would have been Hinamori Momo… she became a lieutenant…"

"Ahh… I actually went to academy with her," the blond boy stated. "She would constantly tell me about her little brother, and how sweet he was. I guess since he was a little brother, he had to have been, what six to eight years old at the time?"

"Hitsugaya Toshiro…" the man grumbled. "Haven't seen him since the year before our Momo-chan graduated. The boy probably ran off, which is good for that granny of his. He was… different…"

"Is that really fare to say about him, to treat him like he wasn't wanted…" the second one suddenly pulled back the hood, revealing the fifth division lieutenant, rather irate.

"Hinamori-chan…" the man blinked a couple of times. "I… didn't realize that you were there…"

"Didn't grandma tell you about what Shiro-chan's been up too, all these years? She's known exactly where he's been,"

"He's a jinx child, an icy demeanor…" the man stated.

"A child with the warmest hugs, if one just got to know him," Hinamori stated. "I really can't believe that what Ran-chan told me was true. Well, I knew, but I thought by now, hoped that things would have changed… that you would have come to at least respect him for what he's done…"

The man laughed. "What do you mean? That child was practically worthless…"

"Actually," Kira spoke up. "Hitsugaya-kun is considered quite gifted. He entered the academy Hinamori and my final year, and managed to graduate with us, the top of our class."

"That isn't possible…" the man chuckled. "They wouldn't let a child in that young…"

"There were extenuating circumstances, but then… no one noticed that…" Momo gave a sad look. "I… I mean… didn't you notice that while Toshiro was still around, that…"

"That your grandmother was sickish…" the man stated. "Becoming thinner… we knew it had something to do with him… as I said, he's a jinx."

"So… the child with the strongest ice zampaktuo, and youngest to become captain, basically got turned away…" Kira stated. "Come on Hinamori… we still have your grandmother to visit…"

"You're telling me that child became a captain… you must be kidding me…" the man laughed suddenly.

"Ask who the captain of the tenth division of any shingami, they will tell you who it is," Kira stated. He walked along with Momo, as they got closer to her grandmother's house. A few tears trickled down her cheeks. Suddenly, two people from the house next door came hurrying out."

"Ahh… Tecchin… A-chan…" Hinamori muttered, giving her old friends a smile.

"Momo-chan… we didn't think that you would be visiting so soon," the older boy stated, smiling at her.

"Why didn't… never mind," Momo gave them a weak smile.

"How is… Toshiro doing?" the female suddenly asked.

"I possibly hurt his feelings, and he possibly won't ever forgive me," came her reply.

"That's sad to hear…" the boy stated.

"I am not going to be as kind as Hinamori about this," Kira sighed. "Exactly did you treat Hitsugaya when he lived here?"

"Well…" Ayumi glanced at the ground.

"Hinamori already knows the truth about how people treated him around here…"

"This… isn't to say he wasn't or isn't a good person, but… something about him always…"

"You thought he was a jinx?" Momo suddenly imputed.

"No… a lot of people said that and worse, but…" Ayumi paused. "He was kind of scary…"

"You guys were scared of a little kid?" Kira stated.

"No… it possibly was his rietsu level…" Momo stated. "I'm not mad at them, but Shiro-chan really isn't someone to be afraid of, not if you're his friend. Oh… he gets mad if you don't call him by his proper title… he defiantly earned it I guess…"

"What title?" Tatsukichi blinked a couple of times. "You've only told us about your experiences, and that captain of yours, and that you didn't like the captain of the division that Toshiro was in…"

"Something happened to his captain, and so… Shiro-chan is now captain of the tenth. Actually… he's been captain of the tenth for some time…"

"Why didn't you tell us?" Ayumi suddenly asked. "I mean… we may not have been friends with him, but I would think it was important to you."

"I figured that Toshiro's achievements were already known, as they are in the Gotei thirteen… especially now that he is a captain," Momo gave a weak smile.

"No… actually, almost everyone around here avoids speaking about him," Tatsukichi frowned.

"We have to be going now," Ayumi gave a weak smile, then the two hurried off.

"I think that, if they had gotten to know Hitsugaya-taicho, they wouldn't have run away from him," Kira stated, as they stepped inside.

"Ahh! Momo-chan! It is good to see you? Is your brother with you? I haven't seen Shiro-chan in a couple of months now," the old woman smiled.

"Gomenasai, grandmother, it is only me… and a friend," Momo gave a weak smile. "I need your forgiveness for… hurting Toshiro like I did. I would have asked him first, but… I am not able to speak with right now. And it isn't because he is ignoring me… just that he is unavailable."

"I see… I do forgive… are you here for anything else?" The old woman asked..

"Umm… Toshiro… why did he leave?" Momo asked suddenly.

"I promised him I wouldn't say anything…" his grandmother frowned.

"Granny… I found out from his lieutenant that… he… she said that she convinced him to become a shingami," the girl glanced at the ground.

"There was a reason that Matsumoto-san told Hinamori about what had happened. She would have talked to Hitsugaya taicho about this, but he is unavailable at this time…"

"That child… that sweet child. He knew he should go to the academy, but he never wanted to leave me alone. But when he found out about him killing me… I don't think he would have gone otherwise. I told him, he shouldn't hurt himself like that. I love him, but he was in tears before he left that day. That is… actually the last time I've seen this boy really cry… or act like a little one… though that taicho of his… almost succeeded…"

"Didn't he visit you soon after he became taicho? So you know what happened… right?"

"Well… yes. I was surprised he wasn't crying… but I knew… inside he was. He was still hurting, yet, there he was, yet again trying to act like he could handle the whole world, if it meant that no one else would be hurt. Yet… I don't like him like that, hurting himself, to keep others from hurting. He holds to much in."

"Thank you grandma…" Hinamori felts some tears fall down her cheek, and she rubbed a few away.