Rose to Grey
The truth about the Winter War was that it left scars for everyone to deal with. The youngest taicho tried his best to deal with the pain he felt, but the said pain didn't go away like he wanted it to. It remained on his mind constantly and simply festered as there was nothing he could do about anything. On top of this he tried his best to hide the pain he felt from everyone as he feared what they would say if they found out exactly what pained him.
There was of course the fact that he honestly didn't know what he was so upset about. Matsumoto was off in her own little world and the looks she payed him only added to the pain he felt. Ukitake was sickly and it felt awkward going to another captain with the problems he had. And then there was Momo.
When the girl he grew up with as a young child finally got out of intensive care she simply refused to speak to him. There was no chance for him to offer an apology for what happened. If she had to deal with him she would send another person to his division. If he went to her division she would keep her replies short and make it clear she was busy.
Then came the decision to bring back the Vizard as they had previously held positions in the Gotei Thirteen and had been exonerated. When Hinamori found out that her taicho was being replaced the first thing she did was storm over and rant about it to her Shiro-chan. She spoke to him as if he weren't a fellow shinigami and not an officer who would be working closely with her taicho.
"I can't believe they are replacing him!"
"Shouldn't they be?" Toshiro asked.
"It is too soon." Momo chided.
"Perhaps for yourself, but not for your division." The small taicho let out a deep sigh.
"You are not a member of the fifth division so you wouldn't know how any of us feel!" came the continued lecture.
"It isn't as if he is a new captain. Actually, this is the man who Aizen stole the role of captain from." Toshiro said without realizing that this would get him the silent treatment again. He glanced up from his work to find her glaring at him. A few minutes later she turned on her heals and left. The small captain shook his head, not understanding why she had come to see him.
The whole problem continued though for a couple of weeks. Momo would come and make silly complaints about her new taicho. Toshiro would make a logical comment that didn't support her rant. The next thing he knew she was yet again glaring at him and yet again storming off. He never got a chance to apologize for what happened during the Winter War.
Because she was willing to approach him however he finally worked up the courage to approach her at the fifth division. He found himself stepping lightly and heading into the office area. However, this was in time for him to see Shinji and Momo having an argument. The small taicho's shoulder's tensed up upon seeing this.
"I don't understand why you're considering removing me from the fukutaicho position! You could have removed me from the fukutaicho position when you first came back, but you're telling me I am going to have a trial period to see if I'm fit for the job? If I wasn't fit for the job then why is it I was a fukutaicho in the first place? You're just being very cruel because you know how much loyalty I have for that man."
Shinji crossed his arms and looked straight at the small taicho. "Are you going to say something Hitsugaya Taicho?"
"Shiro-chan?" Momo suddenly spun around, her anger suddenly diminishing. "I didn't expect you to come by today."
Toshiro glanced to the side. "Why does she have to be so embarrassing. She's acting like she wants me to rescue her from this situation. But I can't."
"Do you really think you'll be able to rescue her from everything that hurts her, whether it be her physical body or her feelings?" Hyorinmaru spoke up.
The small taicho felt his teeth suddenly grind and his jaw clench up painfully. He heard Momo's voice, almost pleading to him to come to her rescue on this issue. "Shiro-chan?"
Glancing up, Toshiro's teal eyes took in the older taicho. A shiver when down his spin upon seeing the look on the man's face. The look was stern and the child taicho honestly didn't know the man well enough to know if it was just a lecture or an actual look at distaste. "It's not my place to question his decision on this Hinamori. Taicho are allowed to select their own fukutaicho."
The female's cheeks puffed up and she glared at the small taicho. "Shiro-chan! You're supposed to come to my defense!"
"Why? Because of the relationship the two of you have had since childhood." Shinji glared at the two. "I think Hitsugaya Taicho learned the hard way that he can't always protect you Hinamori. Actually, I've been rather curious to know what kind of relationship the two of you have. Neither one of you act like you are simply childhood friends. I've asked Hinamori several times, but whenever I ask her for personal information she clams up."
Toshiro turned to glare at Hinamori. He also watched as Momo opened her mouth and began to argue with the man again. "My personal life is none of your business! You've done nothing to earn my trust."
"And you've done nothing to earn my trust. I'm actually being very patient with you Hinamori." Shinji let out a deep sigh and began to scratch his head.
Momo turned towards the white haired child and puffed out her cheeks again. "Shiro-chan!"
Toshiro felt his eyebrow suddenly twitch and the blond haired man let out a deep side. "Why do you call him that?"
"It is none of your business!" Momo snapped out again.
"I see a fellow taicho flinching every time you use that name. Actually, I'm shocked that you have this lack of respect for him despite the fact he is a higher ranking officer and you are addressing him in an office in front of people in such a manner rather then using his proper title. From what I hear he graduated in a years time and he's also the youngest to have learned Bankai."
"He's just a little kid!" The female protested while Shinji glared at her. Toshiro opened his mouth to say something, to call her bed wetter Momo, only to have his throat choke up. He caught himself before he made the situation even worse.
"That little kid isn't just a captain of the Gotei Thirteen, he acts like he is twice your age while you act like you are half his." The man then directed his comments at Toshiro and they were harsh. "When are you going to stand up for yourself. What kind of relationship makes it so you put up with this kind of abuse?"
"It is none of your business." Momo snapped."Stop picking on him!"
"I'm not picking on him." Shinji glared at the small taicho. "Are you going to defend yourself? Or are you going to let her walk all over you. Tell me what relationship is that important."
Toshiro simply glanced at the ground. "Could we talk about this in a more private setting?"
The small taicho didn't get a chance to find out if Shinji would agree to this. Momo simply grabbed his shoulder and hauled him after her. He found his balance thrown off as she dragged him off. "Stop picking on Shiro-chan. Come on, he's just a big old bully. We're going shopping."
"Hinamori... I've got work to do!" The protest fell on deaf ears.
They continued along, Hinamori glancing at shops and thinking about buying things only to step back in a frustrated manner as she couldn't find what she wanted. Toshiro's dragon spoke up about this thought that had passed through the small taicho's mind. "Of course she's not going to find what she wants. She wants her world to be like it was before her captain turned traitor."
"I can't fix that Hyorinmaru."
"As that Taicho stated, you should have come to the cold hard realization that you can't always protect her."
"I'm starting to think Hinamori was right about her taicho," the boy grumbled.
"Are you saying this because hearing the truth hurt your feelings? Doesn't that make you just like Momo, unable to listen to the truth. I think that taicho doesn't like how Hinamori treats you. I wonder if her behavior towards you is one of the reasons he is considering not keeping her as his fukutaicho. If she can't show proper respect to someone who she obviously shows signs of carrying about, let alone like she really cares about them, then she actually cares about said person then he honestly feels like she isn't trust worthy."
"You've been giving me a lot of long speeches of late. He rather got on my nerves, that man."
"That's because he's the first person who told you to stand up to your childhood sister and not let her walk all over you like she is. You also don't like the fact he pointed out the fact he told you the conclusion you have in fact come to but are still denying. I think he has a good idea that not being able to protect her is eating her up."
"Are you telling me to make a complete stranger my mentor Hyorinmaru?"
"No. I don't think he expects you to confide in him until he's gotten your trust. However, he does need to be able to trust his fukutaicho."
"Izuru-kun!" Momo suddenly cried out, causing the small taicho to flinch. He glanced up and saw her hurrying over to the blond haired figure. He also noticed that he had allowed himself to fall behind in his steps as he thought things through. To his annoyance, Momo began to explain what she was out doing.
And then came Kira's remark. "You're with Hitsugaya Taicho? Should I really be interrupting your time together?"
"Oi! He's still stuck on that idea that I have a crush on her?"
"I'm surprised that you knew the fukutaicho of the third division thought you had a crush on your own sister."
"Well, it is disgusting to think that. We're siblings Hyorinmaru."
"But not blood siblings. You're always trying to protect her so you may by mistake give others the idea that your relationship is more on the romantic side of things."
"That is absolutely gross! Momo and I would never be like that." Toshiro shook his head. "Is she now griping to Izuru about her taicho again?"
"I kind of like him." The small taicho spoke up, the words coming out of his mouth without realizing it. "All of the taicho who have returned seem very nice and I look forward to working with them more."
"I didn't lie just now."
"You lied to me. Of course, I knew you were lying when I talked to you, but now I have proof."
"She's going off on me again and I didn't do anything wrong."
"She thinks so."
"Yes... well..." the small female continued. "Ichimaru isn't in the records as being manipulated by Aizen."
"She's bad mouthing Ichimaru after what happened to the man?" Toshiro overheard Kira say he didn't want to talk about the man, but his words came out of his mouth despite this. "Ichimaru isn't on the records as being manipulated because he was a double spy Hinamori."
And then came another tirade which went to a place the small taicho didn't like. "Hinamori... don't you dare talk about my fukutaicho like this!"
To his surprise, Kira spoke up again. He watched as Momo ate up his words and didn't have anything negative to say to him. "I knew Kira had a crush on Momo, but I didn't think it was the other way around too."
"She was so focused on Aizen that you weren't the only person she was neglecting. This is why you can't protect her from getting hurt. I know you've been thinking, 'I'm the only one getting hurt by what she is doing', but that really isn't true."
"The substitute shinigami? I'm glad that he is out of our lives."
"Hinamori!" Her words honestly brought back a great deal of pain that he had tried to bottle down inside of him. "She never met Ichi-nii, so why is she bad mouthing him."
"Funny how you call him that mentally but you still refer to him by his last name. I think you and I both know you're upset that he lost his powers and you lost another person you got close to. You've referred to him more and more by that name ever since he's been gone. You and I both know that you think of him as your sibling. Do you need Momo anymore?"
"Shiro-chan... whatever is the matter." It wasn't really a question for her, more like a statement as she never had cared before.
"It's Hitsugaya Taicho! You know that!" The boy grumbled as he glanced away. "Why did we have to have this conversation now? She's finally speaking to me like a sibling should."
"But how long is it going to last? You know how she is"
"I don't know why you are so upset with me. It isn't as if this substitute shinigami was an important person." The female spoke up, looking him straight in the eyes.
"Hinamori!" Toshiro knew he was losing his temper with her. "He may not have been an important person to you, but he is an important person to me. How come you got to talk about your precious Aizen? I mention him and you shut me up. It's almost as if..."
While his mind froze, Hyorinmaru finished his sentence. "... she has an inkling of how you feel about Kurosaki."
"If it weren't for the substitute shinigami a good deal of people would be dead and this includes many of us," came Kira's defense for Ichigo.
"I got that. Shiro-chan won't stop talking about him as if he was a some sort of hero." Momo stated.
"She actually heard what I said about him?"
"Actually, he simply won't stop talking about him."
"I don't talk about him that much."
"In her mind you have. And actually, you don't usually talk about things you like or dislike, so you talking as much as you do is something else."
"I wouldn't call that 'won't stop talking' though."
Kira's next words surprised the young taicho. "Hitsugaya Taicho, do you miss Kurosaki?"
Two teal eyes suddenly went wide from surprise. "He picked up on that?"
"I think a lot of people other then Momo have picked up on the fact you miss the substitute shinigami."
"Yes. I do miss him."
It was then that Momo's anger with him suddenly boiled over. She had likely been thinking that the substitute shinigami had in-crouched on her area. "Why? Why would you miss him? He was a complete stranger."
Toshiro glanced at the ground and found himself beginning to fidget. "She's going to find out the truth. She isn't going to like hearing what I have to say."
Again Kira came to his rescue. "That's because Kurosaki isn't a stranger to Hitsugaya Taicho." The fukutaicho knew he was heading into personal territory and glanced away from the child's gaze. "Which is strange as you aren't known for getting close to people."
"I know that."
"So the two of you became friends." The tone of Momo's voice indicated she had an idea where this was going and she didn't like it one bit.
"I can't tell her!"
"She needs to know. She deserves to know. It might hurt her feelings, but you know full well you can't always protect her."
"No. I wouldn't call our relationship really friendship. Kurosaki is like an older brother. Except the funny thing is he is younger then me." The drizzle that Toshiro hadn't noticed until then suddenly poured down upon his shoulders. "Shouldn't you go after her?"
Toshiro glanced up and saw that Momo was slowly walking away. He then glanced at Kira and decided to simply be truthful about his feelings for once. "Shouldn't you be the one going after her?" He then found himself explaining things in the only way he knew how, despite the fact it was awkward. And unfortunately Momo over heard part of the conversation.
Despite the fact his division was farther, they found themselves back at the tenth. In all likely hood, Momo didn't want to face her taicho anytime soon. Upon arriving at the division though, Rangiku took one look at them and began to lecture them about being out in the rain like that and taking their sweet time to get back. Toshiro found himself simply sneezing in reply, proving her point.
He changed in his own room while Momo changed in the room next door which happened to be Matsumoto's own room. He was almost all the way changed, his hair still sopping wet when the woman opened the door between the two rooms fully. "I'll let you two talk for a bit."
"You're leaving?" Toshiro found himself panicking. Every conversation he had with Momo ended badly. However, she simply slipped out of the room.
"What did you mean by that, Shiro-chan?" Momo suddenly spoke up.
"About the substitute shinigami being like a brother?"
"About Izuru-kun and me needing to admit something?"
The small taicho opened his mouth. "That's really something you need to figure out for yourself."
"Stop acting like you're older then me!" The small female snapped.
"Then start acting your age."
"That is so cruel!" The female puffed out her cheeks. She turned to leave the premises but then realized for once she couldn't. "Shiro-chan... why can't you be the one thing that doesn't change and stays the same. I don't want you to grow up."
"Are you stupid?" Toshiro let out a deep sigh.
"It's Captain Hitsugaya," he grumbled.
"Why are you so mean to me! I didn't do anything wrong!"
"Mean to you?" Toshiro closed his eyes for a few seconds, remembering the fact her taicho asked the small taicho when he would stand up for himself. "You're the one being mean."
"What do you mean?"
"You're taicho... he's right about the fact that I need to stand up for myself against you. Because to be honest I am really tired of you doing this to me."
"I'm not doing anything wrong!"
"You're the one who just told me not to grow up." Toshiro sat down on the edge of his bed.
"I don't want you too!"
"You're asking for the impossible!"
"No it isn't!" Momo shut her eyes.
"Hinamori! I'm not the little kid you can sit on your lap anymore! I haven't been that kid since before we entered the academy, but you've been unwilling to see it!"
"There is nothing to see!"
"How about the fact I'm now only half a head shorter then you?" Toshiro stated.
"What... no you aren't! You come up to here on me... and..." Momo found herself watching as the white haired youth stood up. He walked over and carefully moved her hand from below her shoulder area to half way at her face level. Her mouth opened and tears dropped down her cheeks. "You're not a half-head shorter then me."
In disgust he simply pulled away and went and flopped down on the bed. "I can't believe you're in this much denial that I have grown. I mean, the place you had your hand wasn't anywhere near where the top of my head was. I'm seriously sick of you treating me like I'm a baby though, because I'm seriously not. That's the difference between you and Kurosaki. He does treat me like a kid at times, but he doesn't baby me and he doesn't look down on me."
"I don't look down upon you!"
"So says the person whose unable to acknowledge the fact I graduated the academy in a year because I graduated in the same year as her. So says the person who is also unable to acknowledge my rank as captain and the fact I learned Bankai. The fact is, the reason you don't want me to grow up isn't because you don't want me to change like you don't want other things to change. You don't want to admit that you're jealous of me."
"I'm not jealous of you! Why should any one be jealous?"
"That's what I've always asked myself. Why would anyone be jealous of me? I have this freaky hair and eye color. My personality isn't the best and I'm anti-social. My reiatsu still leaks all over the place despite the fact I've achieved Bankai. Graduating early, my rank... learning Bankai... those have never been important to me."
The next thing he knew, Momo was leaning over him with her cheeks puffed out. Toshiro's teal eyes suddenly narrowed. "Are you angry at me?"
"You aren't a freak." The girl stated firmly.
"Excuse me?" His eyes suddenly blinked in surprise.
"You're hair and eye color are very pretty Shiro-chan." Momo commented, remaining as stubborn as ever.
"I'll remind you her that I am a guy. I'm not supposed to look pretty Hinamori." The small taicho glanced to the side, not liking where things were going.
"You're amazing though. Not many people graduate from the academy. You're the youngest to have ever done so. You are the second youngest to ever achieve the rank of fukutaicho and the youngest to have done it by your own skill. You're the youngest to have achieved Bankai and the youngest to become captain."
The shock of her saying this was a surprise. Slowly he turned his head to look at her before swallowing. "You've never acknowledged the fact I've done these things before. When ever someone brings the subject up you find a way to change it."
It was Momo's turn to look away. "You were right about the fact I'm jealous of what you've done. I'm the older one, so I should have done something first. I should have done something better then you. But that never has happened. I've been trying to compete with you this whole time, but you're way out of my league you know... on everything. You're very lucky you know."
Toshiro closed his eyes. "No I'm not. You honestly think I'm good at everything, but I'm not. There are things that you are good at that I am jealous of too. To me, they're way more important then being the best at anything. Like for example, your ability to make friends with anyone you really want to. Or your ability to say what you're really feeling."
"Shiro-chan... you've got friends. There is Abarai, Izuru..."
"They're not my friends Hinamori, they're your friends. The reason they're always kind to me is because they know I'm your younger sibling."
"But what about Matsumoto and Ukitake Taicho?"
"They're not friends either, they're family that looks out for me. You need to remember there is a big age gap between me and most of the shinigami of the Gotei Thirteen."
Toshiro paused for a few seconds, thinking about that one. "I guess you could say we're friends of sorts, but we're far from being close friends with each other. You've always been able to make a lot close friends. Me... I've got familial relationships and even those I'm not always very close too. It doesn't help that I'm afraid."
"You? You're the bravest person I know."
"No I'm not. I'm terrified of losing the people I get close to. I..." Toshiro paused for a few seconds. "I almost lost you... no lost you these last few months. You were right there in front of me and I couldn't reach you." He felt a few tears trickle down his cheeks and he reached up to wipe one side away. "I don't understand. I don't cry like this."
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Momo sit up and he expected her to leave. However, he found himself being lifted up and into her arms. "It's all right to cry if you're hurting you know."
Two teal eyes blinked a couple of times. "Momo-nee's back..."
The girl let out a laugh. "What are you talking about? I've always been here."
His small arms wrapped around her back and hugged her back. "No you haven't. I kept seeing you a lot, but you never saw me or anyone. You never saw anyone but..." Toshiro paused, flinching suddenly. "If I say his name, she'll freak."
"You're trying to tell me I haven't seen the people around me because I was to focused on Aizen." Momo let out a deep sigh. "I guess there is some truth to that."
"You haven't noticed Izuru either you know."
"What does that have to do with anything?" The female let out an exasperated sigh.
"Just promise me something. If you ever have to choose between Izuru and me, pick him Hinamori."
"Why would I ever pick him over family?" Momo had a tone of disgust.
However, Toshiro remained calm like he had before. "Believe me when I say, if you choose me over him you'll be regretting it the rest of your life. I know you don't get what I'm talking about and I don't expect you to understand for a long time. However, believe me when I say you'll regret it.
Author's note – And there is the second part. This is the reason why I had to break it down into three parts.
6-8-2012 - Thanks for the review CherryPython467. No, I don't consider your review a flame at all. I'm writing the author's note here because you are an anonymous and because you do bring up some things that may very well concern other readers. While it is true that Momo is one of the sweetest characters in Bleach she's also got a temper on her and a very childish outlook on life. I actually dislike it when people write Momo as always being sweet only because she isn't that way. Also, Momo wouldn't attach taicho to Aizen's name if she was really over Aizen. And while it is true that Kubo says that they have a trusting relationship that doesn't mean they always did. Just because I note that this fic will have spoilers for the last arc doesn't mean what is going on is occurring in the final arc yet. That's not going to happen until part three which I am currently working on.