Bleach Fan Fiction

Shackled

By Kraven Ergeist

Chapter Five

Halibel woke up the next morning and immediately regretted the decision. She squeezed her eyes shut, and lay completely still. She gritted her teeth – a little pain like this was nothing compared to the pain she'd endured as a Vasto Lorde, or as an Arrancar climbing the ranks of the Espada as she had endured beating after beating, year after year. Something as paltry as a headache after a night of excessive drinking shouldn't even be enough to affect her! And yet, she had spent months as nothing more than a soul, spending her days in relative comfort. Mind numbingly boring comfort, but comfort nonetheless. Prison life was softening her up to the point of no return! At this rate, she'd never even be able to regain her previous strength even if she were to be released back into Hueco Mundo.

But she didn't panic. She was nothing if not patient, and this trivial matter with the white haired brat was nothing she couldn't overcome in time. She still didn't know all the variables, and was essentially cut off from everything she had ever known. All that she knew now, she knew by courtesy of the Shinigami. And the Shinigami were the enemy. Their words could not be trusted – no, their words could be wholly guaranteed to be skewed, false, designed to twist her views down the path of hopelessness and despair.

Everything Hitsugaya had said was a lie. None of his sweet words, none of his kindness, none of his compassion…all of it was a trick, intended to turn her away from her true self. Every game of Shogi, every flicker of interest, everything he did for her…it was all an illusion, a trap designed to lower her guard, to make her into one of them

This damn hangover was making her eyes water.

She shuddered. Alcohol was a bitch. Her eyes hurt like hell, and she couldn't even follow the line of the sun through her window as it made its daily rounds across her floor. Gods save her; she was even starting to think of this cell as hers now! This was what she was reduced to. This was her life now! This was all she had!

She ground her teeth in frustration, tears marring her features, brow and nose squeezed together, as if she could squeeze the pain out of her eyes with nothing but her facial muscles. She had to get out of here! Even if it meant her death, she couldn't stay in this room any longer! She wanted something, anything, as long as it wasn't this blank empty nothing that was her life. She shouldn't be feeling this way – her whole life had been nothing but sand and wind and stone for years upon years! Being confined to a temperate room, with a place to sit and lie down, and no threat of predators and death was a paradise compared to Hueco Mundo!

She tugged at her collar. This damn dampening collar was keeping her Hollow powers in check. She was nothing but a soul now, her defenses limited only to what her soul could muster. Was her soul so weak, so withered, so scared and pathetic that this wretched nothingness was enough to break her? Was she so lost, desperate, and alone that all it took was some boy with icy green eyes and snow-white hair to make her feel warm again?

She clenched her fist. She wanted to punch something. Preferably Hitsugaya's face. Damn him – who did he think he was? Offering sympathy like she even wanted such a thing! She was the Tres Espada, damn it! She didn't need anyone or anything! Turning her into this pathetic excuse for a soul was cheating, changing the rules! Anyone could beat anyone if they could take away what made their opponent strong!

It was midday by the time Halibel got up to start pacing around the room. There was a guard stationed somewhere outside, but nothing she ever did ever prompted him to check on her, and she needed to think. She seemed to be getting stronger – that much the brat had helped her with, she admitted – but it wasn't enough. She had to beat Hitsugaya, and it would have to be at his own game. Not Shogi – he had already proved his expertise to be at a level that, for her to master the game enough to beat him at it, he would still essentially be winning by making her into his little pet in the process.

No, she would not be Hitsugaya's plaything. That was not the role that Tia Halibel was meant for! She would get the better of him, easily! By the time she was done, he would be her plaything, not the other way around! She would break his will, make him her thrall! He would give her anything she wanted by the time she was done! He would be hers, to do with as she pleased! If she wanted to be waited on hand and foot, he would do it for her! If she wanted him dead, he would take his own life for her! If she wanted him to put that mouth of his to better use, she would only have to say the word, and he would…

Halibel chewed on her lip. Damn it, now she was blushing! And as long as she was dreaming, she might as well wish for her Fraccion to return to her, bearing her away from Soul Society on a golden palanquin. This was ridiculous! She had no plan, no future, and no hope! All she could do was fume and rage as that white haired brat continued to make a mockery of her! And even her own attempts at seduction were backfiring! Those damn eyes of his were so fucking green! It was like he gave nothing away, when everything she did exposed more and more of her soul to him, until she was all but naked before him.

Damn it! Damn it all to hell! She wanted out! This place was driving her crazy! Everything about her situation – this damn cell, that damn captain, her own damn body and the way it kept reacting without her leave to all of this, to her loneliness, to her anger, to her grief, to her own damn need for warmth and companionship…

And what the hell was taking that Shinigami so long to come and visit her? The sliver of sunlight had almost completed its route across her floor, and Hitsugaya usually came by around this time of day. What was keeping him? Had she finally scared him off? Her lips curved into a smile – maybe he realized that she was too much woman for him to handle? It was fun to imagine him standing outside her door, wondering whether he had the balls to push the door open and face her again. She knew he wanted her – she could feel the heat coming off his body last night. Then again, maybe that had just been the sake…

Then she frowned. Maybe he had simply given up on. Maybe she had pushed him too far last night – maybe he was done with her. No, she thought. Hitsugaya was too stubborn to just give up on her. He may have looked like a kid, but he was stronger than that! She wouldn't have respected him when they had fought over Karakura had he been timid enough for mere flirtation to get the better of him.

He had told her that he would listen to her! He had told her he would be her friend! He wouldn't just…walk out on her! He wouldn't. He couldn't!

Night came, and all Halibel could do was wonder what she would do if that was to be the end of it. How would she stay sane? She wasn't an Arrancar anymore – she was a soul! She needed human contact! Having received the Shinigami captain's visits for a week now, she had grown accustomed to his presence, aggravating as it was! As much as she was loath to admit it, she wanted to talk to him, even if just or a few minutes!

This was humiliating! Had this been the living world, she would have welcomed the loneliness. It would only turn her into a Hollow, and she would begin the process of becoming an Arrancar again. It would have been a long shot, but the odds were better than they were now. Now, all she could do was stew in aggravation and desperation.

Who did this Shinigami think he was, anyway?

xxxxx

When Hitsugaya stepped into her cell the next day, late in the afternoon, Halibel was lying on her side on the stone bench inlaid on the wall across from the door, facing away from it. At the sound of the door, she whirled, completely taken off guard. She must have been distracted by something, he thought idly as he slid the door shut behind him. She was staring, wide-eyed at him, her eyes reddened as though she had been crying. She didn't say anything as he set down the teapot (no shogi board today), but the indignation on her face was plain as day.

"Good evening, Halibel," he said calmly, kneeling down in front of the brazier as though nothing was out of the ordinary.

Halibel slowly sat up, turning to let her legs drop off the edge of the stone bench, keeping her deadly gaze fixed on him.

Hitsugaya pretended not to notice as he began to brew tea. "Sleep well?"

Halibel crossed her arms, looking for all the world like a pouting child who was just denied candy on Halloween.

Hitsugaya raised an eyebrow at her continued silence, letting the tea steep. "Is something wrong?"

Halibel got abruptly to her feet. She took three slow, deliberate steps towards him, before plopping down in a sitting position, her arms still crossed, her face still a mask of indignation.

"What…" she demanded slowly in a voice that broached no interruption. "…Was that?"

Hitsugaya gave her a smile so innocent that it took all of Halibel's restraint not to punch his smug little face in.

"What was what, Halibel?"

He was clearly taunting her!

"Where were you yesterday?" she demanded, angrily.

"Working," Hitsugaya explained as he began pouring tea. "I don't have the time to visit you every day. You seemed like you needed some time to cool off, anyway. And you haven't exactly been making me feel particularly welcome, you know?"

Halibel was staring in stupefaction. Was he actually going to presume to be the victim in this situation?

"Where do you get off acting the way you do?" Halibel blurted, eyes creased in disgust. "You waltz in here out of the blue, offer me all sorts of empty promises and niceties, and you expect me to act like we're friends? To just forget the fact that I'm a prisoner and you're one of my jailors?"

Hitsugaya frowned, though she could tell he was still toying with her. "I could make a similar query of you, Halibel. You haven't exactly been acting like a prisoner."

"Well, what do you expect?" Halibel guffawed, rhetorically. "You bring me tea and sake and shogi, and expect nothing but humble gratitude? How am I supposed to react?"

"Would you prefer I treated you with scorn and contempt?" Hitsugaya ask, with a quirk of his eyebrow.

Halibel visibly seethed. "You…are beyond cruel, Shinigami!"

This caused Hitsugaya to pause. He blinked and wrinkled his eyebrow. "I'd say under the circumstances, I've been fairly accommodating. Were the situation reversed, do you think I would receive similar treatment from your kind?"

"The Espada wouldn't taunt you like this!" Halibel slammed her fist into the stone floor next to her as she blared at him, red faced. "They wouldn't dangle these brief glimpses of a life you'd never have in front of your face every day, and then yank it away every time you reached for it!"

Hitsugaya's face was hard an unreadable as usual, but the smug look was gone. He was honestly considering her words.

"The thing is…" he began. "I'm not convinced that you actually are reaching for it."

Halibel frowned. "What?"

"Everything I've done," Hitsugaya held his arms out. "Everything I've offered, everything I've brought to you, you've essentially scoffed at the first chance you got. You're not interested at all in what I have to offer you."

Halibel resumed pouting, her hands held together on her lap. "I liked the sake well enough…"

Hitsugaya rolled his eyes. "And promptly used it as a pretext to try to seduce me."

Halibel's familiar, carnivorous smile was back. "What do you mean, 'try?'"

Hitsugaya's eyebrows went up. "Oh please. You're about as subtle as a brick. Every maneuver you pull, every angle you work, it's clear that all you want is to get me to lower my guard so you can try to spring out of here."

Hitsugaya leaned forward.

"What I want, Halibel, is to try to get you out of here legally."

Now it was Halibel's turn to raise her eyebrows. "Wait…what? What are you talking about, Shinigami?"

"My name is Captain Toushiro Hitsugaya," the small captain said. "If you want to get out of here, I'm your best hope. So I suggest you start being more polite with me."

Halibel pursed her lips. Just what was this Shinigami playing at?

"Listen," he said. "I'm petitioning to get you relocated to somewhere more open. Some place with sun, with fresh air, with common amenities. You'll still be our captive, but no one should be stuck in some tiny jail cell for the rest of eternity."

Halibel's arms were still crossed as she wrinkled her nose. "What's the catch?"

Hitsugaya shook his head. "No catch. But it's as I said before – if my help is unwanted, unwelcome, than I won't continue to waste my time. You have to want this life I'm offering you, Halibel. And it is life, in comparison with this place."

"Let's say I believe you…Captain…" she spat out the last word. "Which I don't, by the way…but…why? Why would you do this for me? Your enemy?"

Hitsugaya shook his head. "Because maybe I've moved beyond thinking of you in such simple terms as friend and enemy. Maybe I'm trying to set a good example for the other Shinigami. Maybe you shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth."

Halibel snorted. "Fine example you're setting, Captain," Halibel rolled her eyes as she said the title. "All you're doing is proving to the others how soft you are."

Hitsugaya inspected the tea, deciding that it had steeped enough, and took a tentative sip, eyes closed.

"Maybe…" he allowed, savoring the flavor. Ginseng. Delicious. "Maybe I am just a soft, sentimental child…"

He opened his eyes, and those deep, piercing green eyes met her own, and Halibel had to suppress a shudder. She saw the barb coming before he even lobbed it.

"But from where I'm sitting, you need me a lot more than I need you."

Halibel ground her teeth together. How could she be so blind? That was the real reason for his absence yesterday! He had been testing her! Or just making a point! Either way…she would not let it work.

"That still doesn't explain why you're doing this…" Halibel snorted, indignantly. She suspected there was more at work here than mere goodwill. She just needed to get him to admit it, the show it somehow. To give himself away. She was so close to getting him to slip. She could feel it!

Hitsugaya sighed. "Is it so hard to believe that a Shinigami might show you kindness? You need to get over yourself."

Halibel ignored the jibe and smirked back at him, haughtily. "Uh huh…you sure you just haven't fallen for me?"

There! A slight reddening of the cheeks, a little extra tension in the neck muscles. She had hit the nail on the head.

Hitsugaya recovered as quickly as anticipated, and shot back with a predictable retort with equal promptness. It made no matter. She had seen his reactions enough to know how he ticked now. She had won this round, even if he didn't realize it.

"You, lady, are far too accustomed to being at the top of the food chain," Hitsugaya sighed in exasperation. That much, at least, was genuine. "A shark may be the deadliest predator in the sea, but once a fisherman hauls it out of the water, it just becomes another fish."

He put his hands on his hips.

"You're not in the sea anymore, Halibel. And even my patience has its limits."

"Now, now…even out of the water, a shark can still bite…" Halibel smiled widely, flashing him a carnivorous smile that displayed her pristine white teeth to emphasize her point. She leaned over, shifting her weight to sit on the side of her hip, her legs off to one side, leaning on her elbow. "So tell me, Captain…" she said, eyes full of evil promises. "Where shall I bite first?"

Hitsugaya was getting redder by the second. He tried not to imagine the way her lips would feel against his own, but it was difficult with her sitting right in front of him, shifting back and forth, licking her lips.

"You need to stop…" Hitsugaya warned darkly, his eyes growing colder.

"What's wrong, Captain?" Halibel breathed, her voice as smooth as silk as she leaned forward, letting the collar of her white robe loosen, revealing enough caramel-toned skin to make Matsumoto do a double take. "This 'fish' too much for you?"

Hitsugaya wrinkled his nose and shook his head. "Stop it, Halibel. Stop angling for an advantage. Stop trying to get under my skin. There's no advantage to be had, and you're going to end up driving away your only hope for a way out before you ever get me to where you want me."

Halibel edged closer to the Captain until he could feel her body heat, until he could smell the captivating aroma of her hair, until he could see the smooth perfection of her milk chocolate skin.

"Oh…I think you're exactly where I want you right now…"

Hitsugaya ordered himself to stand, to distance himself from the sultry minx before he fell into her trap entirely. But his legs refused to answer him. His heart was pounding in his chest, and he could feel sweat beading along his forehead.

"You're playing with fire, Halibel," he breathed, her face inches from his own. "And you don't even realize that it's already burning you."

Her breath tickled his skin as she giggled. "I can take a little heat, Toushiro…" she leaned in closer, her wicked green eyes fixed on his. "Can you?"

He would have answered, but she was so close, he could nearly taste her. She was moving ever so slowly, but keeping her lips just inches from his, teasing him, daring him to close the distance himself.

She wanted him to put the nail in his own coffin, he realized. It would be one thing for her to try to claim him. He could always continue to resist if she tried that. But to make him come to her…there would be no turning back. Everything that happened after that would be his doing.

Well…two could play at that game.

He reached up to cup her cheek in his hand, his thumb running along her lower lip.

"Tempting…" he smirked, once again in control. "But you've got to do something for me first…"

She blinked, not quite dissuaded yet. "Oh? And what's that?"

Hitsugaya stood up and looked down at her.

"I'm risking a lot by sticking my neck out for you…" he frowned. "I need you to meet me halfway. I need to know I can trust you to behave yourself."

Halibel was still coiled like a lounging cat, but she could already tell that Hitsugaya wouldn't be breaking tonight. But she had made progress, she knew. It wouldn't be long now.

"Me? Misbehave?" Halibel winked, playfully, her voice a purr. "I wouldn't dream of it."

Hitsugaya's frown deepened. "I mean it, Halibel. I need you to work with me, here."

He reached down to offer her his hand.

"Can you do that?"

Halibel smirked like a cat and took his proffered hand. Maybe it was just the fact that she was just a soul now, with barely a fraction of her former power. But his grip felt so strong, so reassuring. If she ever did manage to bend him to her will, she might have to take the time to enjoy it, she decided.

"Fine…" she agreed, grabbing his hand and hoisting herself to her feet, letting one hand come up to take him by the shoulder to steady herself. "But you need to do something for me too…"

Hitsugaya's body went rigid as once again they were inches apart.

"What?" he asked, stiffly.

His eyes flew open as she stole a quick kiss.

She was…warm. Alive.

He yanked away from her quickly, and she didn't pursue him.

"That?" Hitsugaya demanded. "Is that all you wanted?"

"No…" Halibel looked away, red-faced, her lusty voice gone in an instant. "What I wanted…what I wanted was…"

"What?" Hitsugaya glared at her hesitation, but he could not have appreciated how difficult the next words she said were.

"Don't…don't leave me drifting like that again…" she muttered, looking ashamed of herself.

Hitsugaya blinked. He could detect no lie from her. In fact, from everything that he'd learned about her, she would have been far too proud to have possibly admitted that she had actually missed him yesterday.

But she'd said it.

He smiled. He was making progress too.

"I won't," he promised, and began to collect his things.

As Halibel watched him leave, she felt an odd feeling overcome her. She was actually looking forward to seeing him again tomorrow, but not just for the chance to further twist him around her finger.

A part of her was actually kind of missing his company.

Unfortunately, another part of her was also really missing his company. She waited for a few moments after he departed, and then stood, twisting her legs uncomfortably. She had really, really expected him to break by now.

"Mmmh….damn it!" she whined out loud to herself, red faced as she shuffled back to her cot to lie down and take care of herself. "You are beyond cruel, Shinigami!"