• Chapter 4


    Hitsugaya had been trying to settle down and commune with his zanpakuto. Hyourinmaru just wasn’t in a good mood lately. Then this one word came.




    Where is she?


    That other dragon has a name?


    It was almost a keening sound.

    Silence. Her name was Silence.

    Silence and Ice.

    “I like her. She has problems, but I like her.”

    Hitsugaya peered out from behind the mound of paper that had reaccumulated on his desk.

    “Excuse me?”

    “That woman. I like her. And evidently she likes you.”

    A carefully schooled blank look crossed Hitsugaya’s features. “Matsumoto, I take that to mean that you took it upon yourself to contact Sharon on your own?”

    “Oh? First name basis, are we?”

    “Answer the question. Did you or did you not choose to contact her in the middle of an ongoing investigation without prior authorization?”

    “Don’t get so upset. I just went to find out what you were so very, very interested in – and nobody had bothered to tell me that she could see us without a gigai. So we had a little woman to woman chat. You do realize she has all but fallen in love with you – and the only reason she has permitted that is because she doesn’t believe you exist.”

    Now that really was embarrassing. But it made sense. A host of conflicting emotions passed over Hitsugaya’s face. He was slowly falling in love with someone who was already in love with him – who was only in love with him precisely because she didn’t believe he was real.

    Well, his concentration was shot, that’s for sure.

    “I’m going for a walk. Don’t think this gets you out of your share of the paperwork.”

    “Aw, taichou…”

    It felt like an earthquake.

    But it was utterly, completely silent.

    And very, very cold.

    So this is what it feels like to be deaf, Hitsugaya thought idly. He didn’t even need to ask. It was time to visit the living world again.

    For a master of ice to have such difficulty approaching that kind of cold… says something about the nature of cold. It was like fighting an intense headwind only he could feel. For the millionth time he wondered, how can these people not notice this?

    After midnight local time, he finally broke through. She was on the computer. Of course. Probably just finished working. But what was that she was reading…

    “It’s called fanfiction. When I’m not reading manga or streaming anime that is. To what do I owe the honor?”

    He took a very deep breath, let it out slowly, and said, “Perhaps you could begin by telling me about tonight?”

    She blinked a few times. “Tonight? I worked. We had supper. I went to the pharmacy to pick up a script before they closed. Got frustrated because homework took too long. Instead of getting down by 8 for some rest, it was almost 8:30. And then…” Her face lost all expression. “yeah.”


    “yeah,” she said listlessly again. “On most of my seven hour days, I do 1 to 6 then 10 to midnight. Which means I try to get some sleep then wake up by 10 to get back on the system. Depending on how fractured my sleep is, my timing isn’t always that great. And then if I’m in the middle of a dream, it can get complicated.”

    “You dreamed?” His face was a mixture of concern, curiosity, and… something undefinable.

    “Well, tonight I did. Must have gotten enough rest to kick into REM sleep. Pretty pathetic, actually. I got fed up with whatever scenario I was stuck in and simply walked away. And in the dreamscape, that can be a complicated thing to do. So I kept walking, and pushing my way through ‘walls’ when necessary. Hard to explain if you haven’t tried it yourself. I’ve had more than my share of chances to mess with my psyche. Survival’s sake, ya know.” She didn’t seem to want to say more, but Hitsugaya knew she was leaving out something important.

    “I really want to know. What happened?”

    “When I’m really, really lucky, and pretending particularly well, I can pretend someone gives a rip, even if it’s only in the dream. Don’t know if you’ve ever seen any of the old Jerry Lewis movies, not the ones with Dean Martin where he plays the stupid guy against his straight man, but his solo endeavors. Usually he’s playing some sweet lovable oaf who gets involved with a girl who doesn’t realize she actually loves him until the last fifteen minutes of the movie. And most of the time it’s because he’s followed her when nobody else would – and cared when nobody else would.”

    He nodded. Just because he had no idea who Jerry Lewis was didn’t mean he couldn’t understand what she was saying.

    “Well, something somewhere must have been going right, because even though the dreamscape was actively trying to keep me from running away from the predetermined plot du jour, there was a vaguely Jerry Lewis-like character following me. Heh. When I’m in the middle of a dream, I can actually briefly believe someone cares. That’s a bit of a stretch for the waking world, though, I’m afraid.”

    “And then something happened.” He said it in a flat monotone.

    She couldn’t help wondering why a mental creation of her own cared what happened next. “Yeah, something happened all right. When I’m in that sort of not quite light sleep not quite awake borderline where my body knows I have to get up even though my mind hasn’t caught up yet – meaning it was close to 10 pm and I knew I had to get up for work even though I strongly preferred to stay in the dream – aw, blast it…”

    She paused and took a deep breath.

    “Damn it all. It happened again. Ok maybe not as severe as the time he thought it was sooo funny to wake me up with his cell phone ringing at full volume while I was stretching. That one kept me twisted up for a few hours. But it still hurt. He’s not stupid; he can tell when I’m not-quite-awake like that. And he deliberately came in and said something that entered the dream in the form of ‘it’s at least ten after eleven’ or something. At least 11:10 was the time that made it through to the conscious-me in the dream. Which of course jolted me out of sleep. Which of course made me spasm. Again not as seriously twisted up as that other time, but it still hurt. And him with that stupid mocking grin on his face. And he could barely contain himself. He said ‘oh, I guess it’s only about 10 after all’ and went to the other room – he was barely out the bedroom door when he was giggling so hard he couldn’t stop. Damned deliberate cruelty. Damned hell of a way to break a good dream – for once. Damned hell of a way to start work for the night.” Her teeth were gritting. Then her eyes closed in resignation. “He gets so much enjoyment out of my pain. I just can’t stand it. And he knows I won’t suicide, no matter how much I want to. And he knows I won’t run, no matter how much I want to. And he knows I don’t believe in divorce, and believe me, right now I’m close to changing my mind on that one. So that leaves me with nothing. And I can’t even explain it to anybody that would do any good. SO… I got up and gritted my teeth and went to work. I didn’t yell. I didn’t scream. I didn’t let him have the satisfaction of seeing me cry. I just went to work and felt like living death. But sometimes I can put part of me to the side while I work, especially if I’m trying to see how much I can get done before end of shift. Blasted stats – always too many of them and not enough of me.”

    Hitsugaya had very carefully blanked his expression during her explanation and closed his eyes. He drew a long, steadying breath. There was really nothing else for it –

    “And reading ‘fanfiction’ helped calm you down, but you couldn’t do anything like that until after your work was done.”

    “Astute of you, Sherlock. Yes, reading calms me down, especially if I can pretend to be someone in the story sort of vicariously who gets to express love to another person. But if I’m on a deadline, I really can’t indulge in that sort of thing. Gotta keep up the productivity stats, for one, and if I take out time for it, it trashes my incentive pay. Stuff costs too much nowadays to risk that.”

    He seemed lost in thought for a moment. Yes, there really wasn’t another choice at this point.

    “How would you like to come with me for a while?”

    “Are you asking me on a date, Toshiro?”

    The question and the use of his name made his cheeks burn, but he didn’t let that stop him.

    “Nothing like that. Just… it seems like this is a very bad place for you right now. I want to find a way to help you somehow.”

    “And how am I supposed to just up and leave? I can’t leave my son alone…”

    “Don’t worry about it. As far as you know this is all in your imagination, right? So let’s go walking for a while, stretch your legs, clear your head, that sort of thing. Just chalk it up to falling asleep in your chair and dreaming.”

    She got a thoughtful expression on her face. “Okay, I guess I can live with that. As long as I’m not doing anything to risk him. My son is a large part of the reason I put up with this garbage, after all.”

    He reached out and grasped her hand. She was genuinely surprised; not only could she feel the pressure of his hand in hers, it was… warm. “Obviously dreaming, really well for a change. I can actually feel your hand.”

    He just sort of half smiled at her, and led her on a waking dream, to the edges of Soul Society.

    She looked really worn out. It hadn’t been that far of a walk, as far as Hitsugaya was concerned, but obviously she was not physically capable of it. He found a quiet grove and a place to sit, and let her rest.

    “I need to check on something for a few minutes. Will you be all right until I get back? You don’t need to move or anything, just rest and I’ll come back to get you.” Hitsugaya could tell from the distortion in the air there was still something badly wrong. He needed to find out the current situation first hand from Unohana, pronto.

    “I guess so,” she said, a bit short of breath. “I know better than to walk that far, even with the cane, without resting first. And after. And on the way.” She chuckled mirthlessly. “Even my body knows it’s time to give up.”

    “Don’t say things like that,” Hitsugaya said sharply. “Don’t go anywhere, ok? Just wait for me. Please just sit and wait for me. Can you do that?”

    “I can sit and wait. It doesn’t require motion.”

    Unconvinced, Hitsugaya left Sharon sitting quietly, at a corner of Soul Society that was isolated but not too terribly far from the 4th Division complex.

    As to be expected, Unohana was angry in that oh-so-polite-never-raising-her-voice-but-still-ear-blistering way she had. This time, it was over the news that Hitsugaya had brought the still living counterpart to her patient to Soul Society. “Have you completely lost your mind? What do you think will happen if Part A finds Part B out there? She’s obviously had some kind of schism or we wouldn’t be in this mess – the two parts are bound to have friction when they meet again, and the recent disruptions are going to seem like some kind of tea party.”

    Hitsugaya ran his hand through his hair for what felt like the hundredth time that conversation. “I know, I know, I didn’t know what else to do. I was afraid given her current state that she would melt down again if I left her alone, and I don’t know her part of the living world well enough to take her somewhere safe there. I could only really think of one safe place sort of near here, and it’s isolated enough that she shouldn’t cause any trouble. Not that she could cause trouble in her current physical state. She was already worn out before we came, and now she can hardly walk. She should be all right until we decide what to do and I can –“

    Silence again, “go get her” dying on Hitsugaya’s lips. But this time it wasn’t just from the focus in 4th and radiating outward. It was resonating. The Silence was resonating with the living woman.

    He didn’t need hearing to understand Unohana’s eyes. Looks like Part A just found Part B.

    He flash stepped his way out.

    The silence almost had weight. It felt… like the air before a thunderstorm… like a courtroom before a judgment… like it was waiting for something.

    Hitsugaya found he couldn’t flash step closer, or even run. The heaviness of it slowed him to a fast walk. And surprisingly, the closer he got, he could “hear” something faintly. It sounded like a song.

    But it wasn’t in his ears. It was in his heart.

    Whatcha doin tonight
    I wish I could be a fly on your wall
    Are you really alone
    Who’s stealin your dreams
    Why can’t I bring you into my life
    What would it take to make you see that I’m alive

    Damn it. Damn it all.

    If I was invisible
    Then I could just watch you in your room
    If I was invincible
    I’d make you mine tonight
    If hearts were unbreakable
    Then I could just tell you where I stand
    I would be the smartest man
    If I was invisible
    Wait, I already am

    You’re not to me!

    Saw your face in the crowd
    I call out your name
    You don’t hear a sound
    I keep tracing your steps
    Each move that you make
    Wish I could read what goes through your mind
    Wish you could touch me with the colors of your life

    The music was getting louder. He could see her… too far… what was that… glowing?

    If I was invisible
    Then I could just watch you in your room
    If I was invincible
    I’d make you mine tonight
    If hearts were unbreakable
    Then I could just tell you where I stand
    I would be the smartest man
    If I was invisible
    Wait, I already am

    Pain. Unbearable pain. Grief. Despair. Flooding through him and nearly knocking him from his feet.

    Reach out
    You don’t even see me
    Even when I scream out
    Baby, you don’t hear me
    I am nothing without you
    Just a shadow passing through…

    Silent lightning. A figure stood before the seated woman. He had a very strong feeling the figure from 4th was gone.

    This… woman… looked like she was dressed in one of those uniforms like schoolgirls wore. Only it was strange. Pure white, with indigo collar and skirt, and an obscenely large midnight blue bow on the front, with another on the back. A gold head band coming to a point just above her eyebrows held a glowing jade. Long red hair swept back in a ponytail brushed over her shoulder. A pearl the likes he had never seen was pulsing violet, tied by an indigo ribbon at her throat. And mounted on the front of the bow… an opal, at least the size of his fist or maybe larger, and it was radiating light. She had elbow length gloves in pure white with indigo bands around her upper arms. She was wearing knee high boots, again in deep indigo. When she turned to look at him, he saw… her eyes… not ordinary eyes, but like fields of stars. And in her hand – he had half expected some kind of zanpakuto. But this was – what was it – he found the word from the figure’s mind. A “glaive”. And this figure apparently had taken this form from the images in her mind from a favorite anime from years ago. But she wasn’t going to stay in this form for long, he could tell.

    The song was still echoing from her heart. If I was invisible. If I was invisible. As if she wanted nothing better than to be invisible, no trouble for anybody, no bother, and most of all, not available to be hurt when it was convenient. It would feel so good to not feel anymore. To die.

    The figure raised the glaive high over her head, arched her back and let out a scream. A silent scream. And then she took her true form. A great indigo dragon, laced with cracks of red and black, shooting up to the sky.

    Hitsugaya’s back arched as Hyourinmaru released himself and leapt to follow her.

    He was shaky, but saw Sharon was in far worse shape. She had collapsed when the indigo dragon took flight. Of course. Oshidamaru. Released from the dragon’s spell, he ran to her, stumbling. She would have no possible way of knowing this was going to happen. Hitsugaya fell as he reached her. He could already tell, Hyourinmaru was in for the battle of his life, keeping Oshidamaru from simply winking out of existence.

    He carefully cradled her head in his arms.

    She looked up at him, weakly chuckling at the irony of it all. “You know what, Toshiro?” she gasped. He was visibly alarmed. Her lips were going blue and her eyes were glazing over.

    “Don’t you dare die on me, you hear? Don’t you dare!” His voice was choking.

    “I’m not that lucky,” she wheezed. Her voice was getting weaker. “I really have to tell you. You know, there’s two things they say about living sacrifices. One is their unnerving tendency to crawl off the altar.”

    “Don’t mind that now, just stay with me, please? Don’t… don’t…” More gently than he had ever held anyone in his life, he tried to sit her up.

    She coughed a couple of times. “The other… thing… they say… it’s a… damn… sight… harder… to live… as a sacrifice… than to die… as one.”

    “Don’t you dare even think about that!” His heart was crushing. He didn’t even see the fireworks he could feel from Hyourinmaru. It was almost as if Hyourinmaru were having the same conversation with Oshidamaru.

    She closed her eyes, and a few tears slid down her face. “messed up… glasses… sinuses… again… gets… so… hard… to… breathe…”

    Tears were coursing freely down Hitsugaya’s face. “Don’t you dare die on me. Don’t you dare.” He had his face buried in her hair.

    “…so… tired…”

    In a blue white explosion of light almost as bright as day, the two dragons had coiled together high in the sky. He knew what it was. He could feel the heat deep within himself. The haze, the recoil from their mating flight. And all he could think to do was to kiss her.

    It was at the same time the tenderest and gentlest kiss, but also the most passionate. Worlds of emotion, far beyond capability of verbal expression, were poured into that kiss.

    “Don’t leave me,” he whispered.

    And they both lost consciousness, warm under the brilliant velvet of the night sky.