Momo rationalizes, the Chamber of 46 makes a dim decision, Ichigo makes a brighter one, and Aizen takes advantage as they all spiral down, as surely as warmth rises. IchiMomo oneshot, with insane ...
Bleach and its characters belong to Kubo Tite. Good, too, or we'd see more screwed-over characters.
The room was cold. Freezing, almost. She wondered why - after all, the fourth was the medical division, wasn't it? For it to be that cold couldn't be conducive for healing. She had never admitted it, but she hated the cold.
She wondered why he wasn't shivering.
The ryoka boy. The shinigami substitute. The sixteen year old boy that had, over the course of weeks, gone from low-level seated officer to strong enough to beat both Zaraki-taicho of the eleventh and Kuchiki-taicho of the sixth. Kurosaki Ichigo.
She wondered why he was alive.
Shiro-chan she understood. Abarai-kun she understood. Herself, she understood.
But why, she wondered, had Aizen-taicho spared this boy?
He turned slightly in his sleep, groaning as he strained the wounds that Inoue-san had been forbidden to heal, as a scolding for ignoring express orders. She stepped over to his bedside, looking down at the slight scowl on his face that didn't go away, even in rest, and glanced up as his hair, a wild mess of bright, flaming hot orange.
It looked warm, and she was unable to keep one of her cold hands from lifting and running through the luminous stands, just to see if it was as warm to the touch as it was to her eyes. She loved warmth.
Aizen-taicho had been warm.
Strangely, so was Kurosaki Ichigo.
She wondered if that was part of the reason why he was still alive.
She loved Shiro-chan, but he was so /cold/. So cold she wanted to run away and hide under a blanket. Colder than the room she stood in, in which her breath left her as stream. And like the cold, he hated the warmth. Hated Aizen-taicho, for no reason but that warmth was due to rise. It was nature's way.
Aizen-taicho hadn't killed her. Hadn't meant to kill her. If he had, then she would be dead. The point would not have been a fraction off, would have destroyed her in an instant. Had he left her without touching her, no one in the Gotei 13 would believe she were anything but a spy. She would have been hated indiscriminately.
He hadn't meant to kill Shiro-chan. If he had, the cut would have been deeper, sweeping through the hakusui soul sleep and the saketsu chain in one fell stroke. Despite the eternal conflict between the warm and cold, Aizen-taicho had spared her dearest little brother.
He hadn't wanted to kill Abarai-kun. Abarai-kun had merely gotten in the way. Had he wanted him dead, Abarai-kun would have been cut down in an instant, Kyoka Suigetsu flashing through the air too swift to see, too swift to block. Aizen-taicho had let him live, because he, like Kira-kun, was one of her closest friends
Any of their deaths would have crushed her. Aizen-taicho would never hurt her that way.
So why this boy...?
She ran her hands through his hair, smiling when he grunted and shifted, trying to get away from her frozen fingers.
Aizen-taicho had let him live, so Kurosaki Ichigo obviously meant something to her.
Both of them were warm, but Aizen-taicho had risen while Ichigo-kun was still rising.
She had missed the warmth. She had been so lonely without it.
Hinamori Momo wondered if maybe Ichigo-kun was to be her warmth in Aizen-taicho's place.
As Ichigo-kun recovered, Momo made a point to visit every day. Even if only for afew minutes, she would drop by the room that stayed colder than the tenth division office when Shiro-chan was having a bad day, run her fingers through the mess of orange and wish him well.
She wanted him to wake up. She wanted to talk to him.
That was why Momo almost dared to let Inoue-san out of her quarantine so she could heal Ichigo-kun, but one thing kept her from it. Inoue-san's feelings for him were well-known, as was its strength. Ichigo-kun was in his condition because he had defied orders to get her back from Aizen-taicho.
Bundling the small lunch packet (made for two, just in case) and one of Aizen-taicho's favorite books in his old personal haori, she poked her head out of her quarters in the fifth division, peeking both ways to see if anyone was watching. Seeing no one, she scrambled over the threshold, and down the hall.
Shiro-chan didn't like her visiting Ichigo-kun for some reason.
Momo didn't want to upset Shiro-chan, so she just tried not to be seen.
Due to this need to be secretive, it took longer than she would have preferred for her to sneak into the fourth division compound, dodging here and there to remain unnoticed. In fact, it took nearly fifteen minutes when it should have taken less than five, but she got there in the end.
Preparing herself for the sudden rush of cold, Momo pushed the door open, stepped inside, and shivered anyway. Nonetheless, she persevered. Sitting comfortably on the hardwood floor by Ichigo-kun's bed, she threw the haori around her shoulders to stave off the cold, placed the book and wrapped parcels on the floor beside her, and leaned over, playing with his hair.
"I really wish you'd wake up," she murmured.
As if in answer, Ichigo-kun stirred.
Surprised, but heartened, Momo shook him gently. "Ichigo-kun, wake up." He grunted, turning on his side so his back was to her. Giggling, she shook him again, repeating herself.
"Damn it Pops... leave me to sleep for once...."
She blinked. Squirming, Ichigo-kun somehow found a way out of her grip that left him perilously close to the edge of the bed, and she laughed again, amused by the boy's behavior. "You're not a morning person, are you, Ichigo-kun?"
He muttered something she didn't catch. Momo smiled, sitting back and letting him sleep rather than bother him more and maybe cause him to fall off the edge of the bed.
To pass the time, she picked up the book, actually a play, and began to read aloud quietly.
"Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour draws on apace. Four happy days bring in another moon. But, O, methinks how slow this old moon wanes! She lingers my desires like to a stepdame or a dowager long withering out a young man's revenue."
Ichigo-kun stirred again, but absorbed in her reading, she didn't see his eyes crack open.
Her voice changed to reflect a different speaker in the play. Aizen-taicho had always praised her reading abilities, had spent evenings listening to her read."Four days will quickly steep themselves in night; four nights will quickly dream away the time; and then the moon, like to a silver bow, new-bent in heaven, shall behold the night of our solemnities."
The introduction of a new voice caught her off-guard.
"Go, Philostrate! Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments. Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth. Turn melancholy forth to funerals; the pale companion is not for our pomp." Ichigo-kun hid a yawn, eyes still clouded with tiredness. Half-scowling, half-smirking, he looked at Momo. "William Shakespeare, the opening lines of /A Midsummer Night's Dream/. Theseus and Hippolyta..." He frowned. "Who /are /yo- /mmpf/!"
She cut him off with a humongous hug and smiled hugely into his hospital gown when he hesitantly and somewhat awkwardly patted her on the head.
Ichigo-kun, thought Momo, was very warm.
He stood straight-backed and proud, unyielding even to the combined might of the entire Council of the 46. It was common knowledge that whatever verdict awaited him, his punishment would not be light. After all, this was too convenient an opportunity to miss, to drive home that the orders of the Gotei's sotaicho were to be followed without question; Kurosaki Ichigo, no matter his skill, was only a shinigami representative.
In other words, easily done without.
It worried Momo.
The hearing was nothing more than a farce. She was amazed that Ichigo-kun had managed to keep his temper in check amid the repetitions of "the traitor Inoue Orihime," "fraternization with the enemy," and "dereliction of duty." The ever-present scowl was deeper than usual, a telling sign that his patience was running thin. Then there was the posture, one hand unconsciously twitching as if he intended to seize a sword's hilt, giving away his anger at the entire affair.
But nothing gave away his frustration like his spiritual pressure, whipping about him like a bonfire, a conflagration that mesmerized Momo, calling for her to reach out and touch it, stunning her that one else seemed to feel it. Wild, unbound, and shimmering with pure, unadulterated power....
Though unrefined, it reminded her of Aizen-taicho during a time a Menos Grande had gotten into East Rukongai. She'd been sent to deal with it, as reports had pegged it a normal, mindless Menos; instead, it had been a gillian on its way toward becoming adjuchas.
She had nearly died.
Had it not been for Aizen-taicho, she would have been eaten, along with the rest of the district.
"Shinigami Representative Kurosaki Ichigo."
Momo snapped out of her reverie, listening intently to the spokesman of the 46. Sometime during her thoughts the Council reestablished their video connection, and the appointed speaker stood with a solemn expression.
"We, the Council of the 46, have heard your defense and reviewed both your actions and their results, and determined that said actions were reprehensible and inexcusable. Have you any words before receiving your sentence, Representative?"
Her heart jumped in her throat. It was going just as she had feared.
Brown eyes smoldering, Ichigo-kun snorted. "Does it matter? You're just playing at democracy and your minds were made up before the hearing even started."
"Silence," the spokesman demanded. "In that case, Representative, this is the punishment the Council has decided upon. Your status as representative is hereby revoked. You will be assigned directly under Yamamoto-sotaicho but not seated, and your spiritual pressure will be limited on all occasions except upon Yamamoto-sotaicho's approval, starting noon today. This punishment will be concluded upon the death of Aizen Sosuke, and no sooner. You are dismissed."
The overall reaction was one of shock; the sentence was grossly over-the-top, pointedly and shamelessly self-serving. Forcing Ichigo-kun to serve directly under Yamamoto at a fifth his power was putting him at mercy to the sotaicho's every whim, to train him to obey orders. The limiter would only be released when Yamamoto thought his power necessary until the war was over; while the release of the limiter would give him a temporary boost in power, having his spiritual pressure cut in such a way for so long would cripple his full potential.
And that, in the end, was the point of the verdict. She swallowed a surge of righteous fury. They meant to use him as a tool: a weapon to be tossed aside once it had served its use.
The look in Ichigo-kun's eyes was mutinous.
Momo slipped out of the room to retrieve her Hell butterfly. There were still a few hours until noon.
He turned slightly, not meeting her eyes but showing that he was listening. He was shaking just a bit, staring blankly out at the wrecked Sokyoku scaffold, and Momo wished she could see his face, see the emotions flitting through his eyes. His eyes always gave him away.
She walked up behind him, close enough that their bodies almost touched, Seikei fluttering over his shoulder. Fisting her hands in his shihakusho, she felt him tense up at the intrusion into his space and laid her head against his back.
"What do you want, Hinamori?"
The tone was rude, much more like Shiro-chan than Aizen-taicho, but Momo didn't mind. After that despicable ruling, she could take a little abuse. "They're going to try and seal you," she murmured, voice quivering with anger, and frowned when his back stiffened more.
"Like a dog," he replied darkly, obviously furious. "Like a /fucking /dog. Chain it up, and then sic it on whoever pissing you off." He paused, and when he spoke again, his tone was low and hot with still more rage. "No... not a dog, actually. After all, a dog is man's best friend; like a /horse/. Ride it down, take its power for your goals, and ditch it when you don't need it anymore."
It seemed to Momo a strange metaphor, but it fit and fed her own anger. /No one /would ride Ichigo-kun down, no one would keep him from rising. No one would take his power. Never.
"Ichigo-kun..." She looked around his shoulder into his scowling face and stepped around to let Seikei alight on her finger. The Hell butterfly seemed to preen under his scrutiny. "You can't let them do that to you."
Finally he turned fully to face her, and she jumped at the expression on his face, stoic but screaming treachery.
He felt betrayed. In a sense, he /had /been betrayed by the Gotei 13.
"No," he said at length, the dark play in his eyes telling her story after story on why. Was it Inoue-san, a still-perceived debt to Kuchiki-san? Or was it something deeper, something that defined him that he couldn't live without? Was it instinct, or maybe resolve? "I can't."
It was all those things and more.
"Then don't!" Momo clutched at the front of his shinigami uniform desperately. "Go! Seikei can take you away. But..."
Ichigo-kun stared at her in surprise. "Hinamori..."
Softer, almost affectionate. But she wished he called her Momo. She looked up into his eyes, her own welling up with unshed tears. "Just... take me with you.... I don't want to be alone again...."
A beat of silence, in which Ichigo stared at her. Slightly puzzled, slightly wary. Thoughtful.
"What about Toshiro?" he asked. "Aren't you his friend?"
Shiro-chan... She laughed softly, trying not to let the tears fall from her eyes."Shiro-chan's so cold. So /cold/. I don't.... He doesn't...."
She couldn't go on.
Shiro-chan could, /would /go on without her. But Momo couldn't go back into the cold. She couldn't go back, not to a time with no Aizen-taicho and no Ichigo-kun. With no warmth.
Momo looked up into his eyes, no longer able to hold back the flow; tears left tracks down her cheeks as they fell. "Ichigo-kun... please...."
The Shunpo was, in a word, exhilarating.
The wind tore her hair out of her bun, leaving it streaming out behind her; it tore from her a scream of enjoyment, and she leaned forward, throwing her arms around Ichigo-kun's shoulders. Never in her life had she moved so fast.
Momo loved it.
She thought Ichigo-kun would have enjoyed the speed as well, had his reasons for pressing himself so hard not been so serious.
The path through the border world was safe, thanks to Seikei, but until they exited it on the other side, the gate would remain open. The longer the gate remained open, the larger the chance they would be caught before they could disappear. As it was, the only chance they had to remain free was Urahara Kisuke. Their only chance was to get to him first.
The end of the path loomed ahead, a bright glowing square on the horizon that drew closer and closer with each minuscule motion of Ichigo-kun's feet.
She tightened her grip as another Shunpo had them clear of the path, holding her breath until it snapped shut behind them. "We weren't followed," she breathed into his orange hair, filled with relief.
"That's good," he replied absently, ricocheting off the side of abuilding to turn to the left. "But they'll be after us soon... it won't take long for those spirit energy storage devices of yours to burn all their energy."
Momo bit her lip and did not contest the point. Like Aizen-taicho, Ichigo-kun had away of spotting flaws in a strategy. The man difference between the two in that sector was that while Aizen-taicho took care to eliminate those flaws, Ichigo-kun was often willing to leave them to chance.
Rising, but not yet risen.
She smiled, and, as they fairly flew across the rooftops of the Material World city, laughed.
Momo would help Ichigo-kun rise and stand by Aizen-taicho.
In the end, Urahara-san had only two options for them. They could run for ahundred years, hiding in the living world. Or they could go to and settle in Hueco Mundo. Both amounted to hiding. Neither Ichigo-kun seemed to care for overmuch.
If he had been alone, Momo thought that he would have gone for running. Not only could he speak Japanese, he was reasonably fluent in English, something that had come up in their conversations about Shakespeare's works. He could get around; and with his power, he could probably manage to get away from anyone he couldn't beat down.
But he was willing to take the other option, for her sake. It warmed her.
Momo finished tucking the supplies the shopkeeper had furnished more neatly into the bag, a habit ingrained in her by Aizen-taicho, who had preferred all things neat and orderly, before she looked up.
Urahara's face was serious as he spoke to Ichigo-kun's back. "Once you go, Kurosaki-san, there is no turning back."
She looked down, frowning. Why had the Chamber of 46 pushed them to this?Ichigo-kun treasured his friends, that much she knew. Yet, the Seireitei's supreme court may have pushed a wedge down between them forever.
Momo would be there for him always, however. Always.
"There's no turning back already, Urahara-san," replied Ichigo-kun shortly, still not turning around. "The garganta."
The shopkeeper studied him a moment before nodding solemnly. "Very well. The garganta." He slammed his cane into one of the platforms jutting out from ahuge mound in the training field. "The stone bridging both worlds lies in my right hand, the sword securing reality in my right. Black-haired shepherd, hair of changed men; with the arrival of the stratus, we strike the ibis."
Pulling the bag over her shoulder, Momo stepped up to Ichigo-kun's side. From her vantage point she could see the familiar scowl but not his eyes, until he looked at her and nodded.
She yelped as she was thrown roughly over his shoulder, and the pair disappeared into the garganta without another word.
Momo had never been to Hueco Mundo before, so she was glad Ichigo-kun was with her, since he had. After allowing her to find a more comfortable perch on his back, he rocketed off, chaining his Shunpo with skill to match the Goddess of Flash, his destination somewhere in the distance.
With the wind howling in her ears, making hard to hear herself think, let alone hear her voice, it wasn't until they were hurdling only the craggy peaks of the Espina of Hueco Mundo that she recognized his intention. The mountains were dotted with caverns, some small, some large; he was looking for one with asmall entrance but a large enough size to be livable.
Much better than living in the desert itself, since they wouldn't have to deal with sandstorms. Momo smiled at Ichigo-kun's thoughtfulness, so like Aizen-taicho's. In a place like the Hollow world, it would be better not to settle, but he apparently planned to.
He dropped out of Shunpo above a cave entrance, looking down deeper into the rock, searching for spiritual presence. There were several, and he motioned Momo to get off his back and let the bandage wrap fall away from his zanpakuto's blade.
"It's like a colony," said Ichigo-kun quietly, as they both felt several of the presences move, approaching the entrance. "None of them are very strong, but there's a lot of them. Stay behind me."
Momo swallowed, nodding as she backed away, gripping Tobiume's hilt. This was the first time she would see Ichigo-kun clean house, but it was far from the last.
Ichigo-kun had left the cavern to patrol the area, so Momo took the time to widen out aroom off the main cavern that had a floor of soil rather than sand. Urahara had supplied them with some seeds that would sprout an engineered form of many Material World fruits and vegetables that took in ambient reishi rather than sunlight; unless they planned to cannibalize Hollows, they would have to rely on what they grew for their food.
Using a zanpakuto as a plow was probably not the grandest use such a blade had ever borne, but Momo didn't think Tobiume minded, lovingly brushing the dirt from her edge before she dropped the seeds into the furrow and closed the warm soil over them. That was the last of what they had been given, and dormant they wouldn't sprout until Ichigo-kun returned, with his wild, raging hot, nearly limitless spirit energy overflow.
It made her somewhat sad that her own placid spirit energy wasn't strong enough to break the seal on the seeds. Momo would have loved to have a fruit salad ready when he got back.
There was a warm nudge at the back of her mind, and she glanced down at the sealed Tobiume in surprise. She might not be able to have a fruit salad, but maybe...
"Snap, /Tobiume/." In a surge of warmth, the katana morphed into apronged jitte-like weapon, and Momo reversed the grip before driving it hilt-deep into the ground. As she concentrated her spirit power into the blade, gritting her teeth against the sudden, jagged pain, Tobiume shattered, melting into the soil.
Where the blade had been was a sapling that grew and grew at an incredible pace, slender branches becoming longer and thicker and blooming beautiful, delicate lilac blossoms. As the growth continued, the petals dropped to the floor, dark green leaves appearing in their place.
And lastly, round fruit formed, green ripening to a yellow scored with a slight red flush.
Ume. Prunus mume. Japanese plum.
The bladeless hilt fell from limp fingers. It was hard to breathe.
Momo dropped to her knees, feeling like she'd just run a marathon, but found the energy to smile as she felt Ichigo-kun's comforting presence at the edge of her senses, closer and closer with every thudding of her heart in her ears.
She forced a hand up to the tree and plucked one of the luscious fruit.
"Hinamori!" A pause. "What the/hell/?"
Momo forced herself to her feet, turned and smiled tiredly at Ichigo-kun. She held out the fruit. "Are you hungry, Ichigo-kun?" He stared at her, but took the plum after a moment, studying it suspiciously as if expected it to transform and bite him. "It's good, I promise."
Scowling, he took a nibble, and then a larger bite. Surprise registered on his face."Yeah.. It is. Really good." He took another bite.
Momo plucked a fruit for herself, hiding the hilt with her leg, smiling more cheerfully.
Ichigo-kun liked the taste of Tobiume.
Aizen-taicho had liked Tobiume as well.
The hours turned to days, and the days into weeks. Life settled into routine. Ichigo-kun ran a patrol of the area three or four times a day, Momo fixed the meals and kept the cavern tidy as a cavern could be, and they learned from one another; Ichigo-kun picking up the finer aspects of controlling his reiatsu, including some kido, while she improved her zanjutsu by leaps and bounds.
On top of it all, she finally got him to call her Momo.
"You have to catch the blade, Momo! Ducking only means you're scared!"
"Momo, capture your opponent's blade and move it aside. Have no fear. Tobiume will not fail you."
She smiled, fond memories mixing. Ichigo-kun and Aizen-taicho, Ichigo-kun and Aizen-taicho. Ichi- "Ichigo-kun?"
Mouth slightly open, inhaling through his mouth as if tasting the air; she recognized the odd posture Ichigo-kun took when he was searching out foreign spiritual pressures. The scowl followed, brown eyes narrowing... he knew the intruders, knew and didn't like them. It wasn't like when Nel-san and her adoptive brothers appeared. These were enemies.
Momo followed his line of eyesight, brandishing Tobiume in front of her.
"Ulquiorra," spat Ichigo-kun, and she saw the trailing one bandage curl around his upper torso and arm, instantly setting off warning bells. All he had to do was push at his power, and he would release bankai.
Ulquiorra... that was that name of the arrancar that served fourth rank in Aizen-taicho's army, wasn't it? It was the arrancar that had taken Inoue-san to Hueco Mundo under Aizen-taicho's orders. It was the arrancar that had called him trash.
Momo understood that Aizen-taicho might have to teach Ichigo-kun lessons from afar.
But the gall of an arrancar to call Ichigo-kun trash...
Her grip tightened on Tobiume's hilt, the material heating in the palm in response the zanpakuto's own anger.
Then she blinked, and Ichigo-kun was gone, a surprised non-quite yelp, and there was the clash of metal on metal. Behind her. Momo whipped around, and stumbled back.
It was like night and day clashing. Only, she wasn't sure which was which.
Donning his Hollow mask, Ichigo-kun forced the black-haired arrancar a step back, before disappearing with a swish that was pure speed instead of Shunpo, slicing down at his white-clad back. Ulquiorra blocked, only to be forced into Sonido asecond later, hardly missing getting a Getsuga Tensho to the face.
She could hardly track either of them, but Ichigo-kun was far harder.
Ichigo-kun wasn't even in bankai. Why was it only his bankai lauded for its speed?
Getsuga Tensho met Cero and Momo barely managed to counter the energy outburst created from the two colliding with a quick Umehana. Swords clashed and held.
"Surprising to see you here," Ulquiorra said tonelessly. He had the greenest eyes she'd ever seen, like those of a cat. It was creepy; they said more than his words. "The woman is gone, your mission accomplished. And yet you return."
The eyes read: 'It's no surprise. Soul Society was doomed to turn on you, and you were a fool for thinking otherwise.'
Ichigo-kun's jaw tightened, as did his grip, and his spiritual pressure reacted.
Momo blinked and missed it.
All she saw was Ulquiorra's chest splitting in a shower of blood, before she was hoisted into the air, blade perilously close to her throat.
"Kurosaki," her captor said shortly. It sounded female. "Step away from the fourth. Or the girl dies."
Nothing but white sand. She looked down, saw the black shihakusho. Ichigo-kun? But she hadn't seen him move, even felt him grab her, or anything. Such speed was ungodly. Or godly. Like Aizen-taicho, but dare she say it... faster.
"Die, will she?" he taunted. Momo felt a blush appearing on her face, his voice almost in her ear, finally feeling the warmth of his body holding hers, if over his shoulder. She tried to look behind her with some difficulty."Then come and kill her then."
The woman arrancar stood by the downed Ulquiorra, and looked down with a look of quiet contempt. "Your orders were to investigate, Ulquiorra. Not to deliberately antagonize him."
"How's this for an order?" said Ichigo-kun darkly. "Get the fuck out of here before I kill you."
The woman looked speculatively at him for a second, and Momo's fist clenched. If she didn't get her eyes off him... Nel-san had been the same, but she at least had been his friend.
"Very well, Kurosaki Ichigo," the arrancar said politely, nodding slightly. "You have greatly improved. Perhaps even the first would have trouble. I, Halibel, salute you."
Ulquiorra got to his feet shakily, his gaze rapt and assessing, but he reluctantly turned away and disappeared with the static sound that identified Sonido. Halibel followed.
Aizen-taicho meant for them to investigate?
Momo smiled. Maybe that meant Aizen-taicho wanted them both with him soon.
Ichigo-kun was rising swiftly.
The weeks turned into months. Fall into winter. Though war was on their doorstep, Ichigo-kun refused to do more than patrol what he had come to think of as his territory. She could tell, however, that the decision gnawed at him. He was acreature of battle, and purposely denying himself left him short-tempered.
Overall, it was peaceful. But like all peace in the midst of war, it was short to last.
Brought to an end by an icy chill.
Ichigo-kun nimbly dodged the ice dragon, dodged the chain, and blocked the sword. He met Shiro-chan's furious eyes with a dark scowl. "Long time no see, Toshiro."
"Don't call me Toshiro!" snapped Shiro-chan, the air shivering at his fury. "What did you do to Hinamori, Kurosaki?" He snapped into Shunpo, attempting to attack from above, but Ichigo-kun countered the reformed dragon with a Getsuga Tensho, swept his feet from under him, and pinned him down.
Momo blinked in surprise; why did Shiro-chan think Ichigo-kun had done something to her?
Why was he attacking Ichigo-kun?
Why was he... trying to /kill /Ichigo-kun?
"I didn't do anything to Momo," Ichigo-kun replied hotly, using Shunpo and his own dexterity to dodge Toshiro's attacks, "she offered to get me out of there. Before that stupid court of yours broke me!"
Dai Guren Hyorinmaru and Zangetsu clashed.
Toshiro leaned into Ichigo-kun's face. "You know what your decision did? Using Hinamori? Inoue's in the Shrine of Penitence, branded a traitor. Had the Sokyoku been standing, she'd be dead. Kurotsuchi-taicho finds Sado most'interesting.'"
Momo was shaken, and from the look on his face, so was Ichigo-kun.
"And Ishida? Rukia? Renji?"
What about Abarai-kun?
It was Ichigo-kun's shock that allowed Toshiro to bring first blood, but Momo saw the raging fury light up his eyes before a single slash had Toshiro's bankai shatter into a thousand shards of ice that melted in the heat of his spiritual pressure.
"On death row, under experimentation and in exile," Ichigo-kun summarized to the barely breathing form of her little brother. Or was it her little brother? Her little brother would never attack Ichigo-kun.
His hand fisted.
"And only... one way to save them."
Ichigo-kun swallowed, scowled, and blasted Toshiro with a memory-binding kido Momo had taught him. "Momo, let's go. We're going to see Aizen."
He was tense, had been since his talk with Aizen-taicho in Las Noches. She understood; even after all this time, they both still had some loyalty to their friends. But now Ichigo-kun would be fighting Kira-kun and Rangiku-san. Fighting everyone. For Aizen-taicho, as was fitting.
Momo wanted to make the tenseness go away.
Walking over almost soundlessly, she sat down next him. Looking up to where his gaze rested, in Tobiume's lush branches, still heavy with fruit, she leaned on his shoulder and wrapped her arms around him. Months ago, when they first began to settle in Hueco Mundo, he would always seize up or get away from the contact, but he had grown accustomed to it over time.
"You're going to war, Ichigo-kun," she murmured, saddened as she realized that meant he wouldn't be home, wouldn't be with her. Could she fight by him? But he wouldn't let her.
He wouldn't let her.
Would he go? Would he leave her? But then she'd be cold again, alone again.
Momo swallowed, blinking away the tears that sprung up in her eyes.
"For Aizen." The way he said it made it sound like a bad thing, and she was fairly sure he was scowling. But as far as he'd come, Aizen-taicho was still above him. Momo forced a tremulous smile, scooted over until she was in Ichigo-kun's lap. He jumped in surprise and tried to get out from beneath her, but she leaned into his chest and held on. "Momo... get off."
"Ichigo-kun. Please, don't make me go." She met his startled brown eyes, traced his jaw with her shaking right hand as though trying to commit it to memory. "I want to... stay with you."
It was forceful, it was desperate, and Ichigo-kun pulled away in shock. "Momo -what the /hell/-"
"Please, Ichigo-kun! Don't leave me behind again! I don't want to be alone!" Like a dam had been broken, the tears poured from her eyes, and she brushed them away roughly. "I - I just... Ichigo-kun, I...." Why was it so hard to say? Why was it so hard for the words to come? "I... love you...."
He stared at her, a little wide-eyed. "Momo..."
She cut him off with another kiss. "Please," she begged quietly. "Even if it's not the same... let me stay with you..."
Momo didn't want to lose this warmth. There would be no replacing Ichigo-kun.
A beat of silence.