Koori no Kitsune

Koori no Kitsune
Chapter One

Tōshirō grumbled under his breath, inwardly cursing Yamamoto-sōtaichō and Chamber 46 and anyone else who thought it was a brilliant idea to send him on a mission meant for lower Shinigami. Fifth seats or lower usually did this. Instead, they sent a captain out on reconnaissance, despite knowing Abarai wasn't doing anything useful, as was the case with Ayasegawa. It was the type of thing that irked him, enough so that he unconsciously left little curls of ice in his wake, though they quickly melted in the heat of the sun above him.

For the record, Tōshirō hated gigai, especially wearing them. It always felt as if he were in someone else's skin, even if he knew that they were designed to resemble the wearer. He understood the necessity but that didn't mean he had to like it. And he especially hated this one, since in Karakura, he looked the part of a child and it irked him more.

He had already been asked once if he had lost his 'mommy'. The woman had received a look so scathing in return she had hastily apologized and scurried away. Hmph. Served her right. He was probably three times her age, if not more.

With a furious snort, Tōshirō wandered into the nearby shopping district, checking the small device the twelfth division had shoved into his hands before his departure. For some reason, he couldn't sense the reaitsu himself. It was coming in sharp bursts and popping up randomly. But this machine could pinpoint the location and it beeped constantly to let him know he was on the right path. He was considering smashing it into the ground, just to end the noise.

Lifting his gaze, Tōshirō scanned the crowd, looking for something, anything that could be suspicious. The obnoxious noise grew louder and louder, buzzing in his ears. Obviously, he was getting closer.

A shop to his left seemed to interest the thing so he turned towards it and stepped into the cool confines of the building. The smell of print and ink and paper assaulted his nose. A bookstore then. He should have guessed that from the sign.

Frowning, brow wrinkled with annoyance, he trudged up and down the aisles, looking for the "strange reiatsu" which was beginning to seem like a wild goose chase. All the while, the thing beeped louder and louder. People were beginning to stare. He glared right back. Most scurried away just like the woman.

He hit the back of the store and turned, finding a section with colorful covers that was nearly empty. A few customers stood here and there, thumbing through magazines. None of them seemed interesting. The beeping turned into a drone. Whatever it was had to be right... here...

The boy captain's eyes grew impossibly large, a reaction that was entirely unusual for him and he couldn't help but blink at the sight in front of him. It was... impossible. Ridiculous. Completely absurd.

"What the hell! Ichimaru?"

The tall, thin man whirled on the spot and his customary grin became impossibly wider. “Shirō-kun!" he chirped. "Wanna help me scare the pretty birdies?!" He pointed outside the shop where a few birds were stumbling around on the pavement, looking like they were drunk. A few pedestrians where watching the display and giggling.

The reiatsu couldn't have been very good for the creatures' health.

"Well?" Gin inched closer to him. "If ya don' close yer mouth, ya'll catch a fly!" he warned merrily. "Or a bee." He nodded as if that would convince the gaping prodigy. "Wha' ya doin' here, Shirō-kun?"

Tōshirō's hand immediately groped at his back for a zanpakutō that he belatedly realized wasn't there. His eyes narrowed, teeth clenching together as his hands curled into fists.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he demanded, seething internally.

How could Ichimaru just stand there, grinning at him as if he hadn't betrayed all of Soul Society and tried to kill Hinamori? His fingers itched to grab the Soul Candy and become a Shinigami, but something held him back. He wasn't quite sure what. Perhaps it was the desire to understand, wanting more information.

"And stop calling me that! It's Hitsugaya-taichō!"
"Okay, Shirō-kun!" Gin responded happily. "Well? Ya didn' answer my question! Tha's rude!" He inclined his head sagely, his grin growing to the point that it made one wonder if that was even possible. "Though, I didn' answer yer question, either, did I?"

He held up a magazine. It was the current volume of Shojo Beat. "They don' make deliveries ta Las Noches, so I've gotta buy 'em at the store,” he explained, wiggling the magazine in the direction of the prodigy. "An' I saw the pretty birdies..." He trailed off, shrugging.

Tōshirō found himself blinking in stunned disbelief. The man was here to buy... a magazine? Enough of that, it was time for business. There was a war going on, in case Ichimaru hadn't noticed, they couldn't just be standing here talking like they were friends. He hated Ichimaru! Or at least, he was supposed to.

He waved off the book. "You're the one with the strange reiatsu! I should've known you'd be here just to cause trouble," Tōshirō growled. "What's Aizen planning, Ichimaru?" He was going to get answers if it was the last thing he did.
Gin pouted. "But Shojo Beat's a grea' magazine!" he insisted, shoving the volume into the captain's hands. "I'll show ya!"

He grabbed the stunned captain before he could protest and ushered Hitsugaya with him to the desk at the front.

Tōshirō was given little choice but to stumble after the former captain, the man's thin fingers deceptively strong. "Wait, Ichimaru, stop!"

But his voice was either ignored or unheard as the man continued to babble, completely overriding anything that Tōshirō might have wanted to say. Through paying for the magazine and heading outside, Tōshirō suffered it all, only for them to come to a stop directly outside the door.

"I always come ta Itamichi's Novels,” Ichimaru proclaimed off-handedly as they abruptly halted. He scanned the nearby buildings. "Ya see a nice tea store? I feel like tea."
Tōshirō forcefully tugged his arm free, pulling back from Ichimaru. He rubbed at his wrist, though it didn't really hurt. Ichimaru's words registered then.

"What... tea?" He scowled fiercely, eyes brightening with anger. "Like hell I'm going to have tea with you! Have you forgotten we're enemies, Ichimaru?"
It dawned on him that he was still holding the Shojo Beat and he thrust it in Ichimaru's direction. "And take your stupid magazine. I'm not a kid."

"Well?" Gin pouted. "Coulda sworn there was one here somewhere..." He sighed. "Gotta ask..." He distractedly took the magazine and grabbed the boy's wrist again before starting off down the sidewalk. "Where, where?"

"Dammit," Tōshirō muttered under his breath, wondering why he was allowing the former captain to drag him around.

It was a simple matter. Take the Soul Candy, become a Shinigami, ignore the bystanders, take care of the enemy. But yet, here he was, letting Ichimaru completely ignore everything he said.

Then again, even he could tell that the strange bursts to Ichimaru's reiatsu were far stronger than his could even hope to be ever. It came down to his pride. Ichimaru could probably beat him without ever leaving shikai in his new state. Did Tōshirō really want to go down that easy? And what would it hurt to humor the traitor? He should be used to that by now anyways. Ichimaru had always been like that before.

At least, that was what he told himself. So he sighed and gave up, stumbling along as Ichimaru dragged him around before growing tired of it.

"There's one over there, Ichimaru," he stated sharply, jerking his head towards a nearby building that looked somewhat passable. "If I drink a stupid cup, will you answer my questions?"

"Thanks, Shirō-kun!" Gin chirped, tugging him toward the tea shop and completely ignoring the question.

They stepped in and were ushered to a seat. The store itself seemed pretty plain, and it wasn't that busy so they had a small amount of privacy.

The waitress smiled at Gin and winked. "What would you and your son like, sir?" she asked sweetly once they had situated themselves.

"Raspberry tea!" the traitor answered cheerily. "Two, please!"

Hitsugaya nearly choked, his entire face turning red from his anger. "I am not his son," he hissed, seething internally, not caring that the waitress was just being polite. His hands clenched into angry fists as his brow twitched repeatedly.

The woman didn't seem to notice, too busy giving Gin interested looks. She happily went off to get their order and Gin turned to Hitsugaya.

"So... Wha' were ya sayin'?"

Hitsugaya was speechless for several long moments before he forced himself to take several long breaths, wondering why such a simple thing would anger him so much.

"I want you to answer my questions," he ground out, managing to regain some semblance of calm. "What the hell are you guys thinking?"

"Righ' now?" Gin asked.

Hitsugaya sucked in a breath to calm the rising ire. "Yes," he replied. "Right now. And in the future and-" he threw up his hands, "- everything!"

"Well..." Gin paused thoughtfully, propping his elbows on the table, interlacing his fingers and resting his head on top of it all. "I don' know abou' the future, bu' righ' now..." He grinned. "I'm thinkin' abou' raspberry tea." An amused gleem entered his mostly hidden eyes at the sudden chill in the room. "Wha' abou' ya?"

Hitsugaya was absolutely speechless for a minute until he gained control of himself. He rubbed a hand across his forehead and then abruptly stood, chair scraping across the floor behind him.

"Forget it," he said tiredly. "We'll figure it out ourselves."

Ichimaru was giving him a headache and he simply couldn't handle that on top of everything else. It was better if he just pretended this meeting never happened.

Just as he was about to leave, Gin's hand snaked out and clamped around his wrist. Hitsugaya hadn't even heard the man stand, he must have moved that quickly. It was yet another reminder how much stronger than him Ichimaru was.

"Ya've gotta drink yer tea, Shirō-kun,” Ichimaru said cheerily. He dragged Hitsugaya back into his seat and deposited him there with a faint plop. "It's rude ta leave before gettin' yer drink."

"And it's rude to pretend to be dumb when you're not," Hitsugaya retorted icily, staring grumpily at the former captain across from him. He crossed his arms over his chest. "You have five minutes. Convince me my time here is worth it."

The grin melted from the traitor's mouth. A look of serious intent replaced the normal teasing expression, as if he knew that there was only so much play before he lost his chance. Red eyes slitted open and looked down at the table.

"Ya remember the favor?"

Hitsugaya stilled, racking his brain. "Yes," he said, remembering all too well the fight that had resulted not too long after he woke from the sleeping kidō and caught Ichimaru helping Kira escape. Then Hinamori showed up and everything became a nasty, messy blur that he still hadn't recovered from.

"What about it?"
"I was supposed ta kill all o' ya," Gin answered seriously, without a hint of emotion. "Tha's why Sōsuke-kun attacked ya and Hinamori-chan in the 46 Chambers. I couldn' kill ya, Shirō-kun. Don' know why, bu' I couldn'."

The other captain felt something inside him catch at the words. He would have never expected Ichimaru to sound this serious. Or that Aizen had wanted him dead.

Ichimaru frowned, continuing his explanation. "I made up tha' favor, sure ya'd stray. Tha' way, I'da been actin' righ' and not breakin' the deal. Bu'... Ya kep' ta the deal." He looked up at the younger man. "Why? Why didn' ya try ta kill me?"

The tenth division captain shifted his gaze away from Ichimaru, thinking deeply. Why didn't he try to kill Ichimaru? Was he so angry that he wasn't thinking straight? Was it because of their odd relationship that he couldn't quite fathom? Was it because Ichimaru had asked him for a favor and he'd felt honor bound to carry it? He simply didn't know.

He had been angry with Ichimaru, ready to hurt him for doing that to Hinamori. But had he really ever intended to kill Ichimaru? Now that he thought about it, Hitsugaya wasn't certain he did. Besides, no matter what Ichimaru had done, at that time there hadn't been any proof that he had committed a crime punishable by death. Maybe he was just following the rules.

Hitsugaya sighed and shook his head, fingers gripping onto his arms where he had them folded. "I don't know," he replied honestly and then scowled so that Ichimaru wouldn't take his words the wrong way. "Maybe I just wasn't thinking straight. What does it matter anyways? You're supposed to be my enemy now."

Gin smiled sadly. "Yeah. Enemies." He didn't sound thrilled by the prospect.

“Don't sound so shocked, you guys are the ones who betrayed us. Not the other way around,” Hitsugaya retorted, to his horror, a hint of something betraying itself in his voice. He promptly tamped down on it, not wanting Ichimaru to know his own reactions to that entire matter.

"I ain' shocked," Gin denied with a shake of his head, and then quickly shifted the direction of the conversation. "Can I ask ya somethin'?"

"Might as well," Hitsugaya replied, still looking at the far wall. He exhaled sharply in annoyance. "It doesn't look like I'm going anywhere anytime soon."

There was a moment of silence between them where Ichimaru was obviously looking for the proper way to word his question. When he finally spoke, Hitsugaya found that he was actually anxiously awaiting the query. It disturbed him.

"Would ya do it the same way again?" Ichimaru asked. "Look me in the eye when ya answer."

There was something desperate just beneath the surface. It was in the traitor's eyes, his voice. His reiatsu rippled with it. There was something he needed to know. Something he desperately needed to know.

Surprised by the note to Ichimaru's voice, Hitsugaya turned his attention back to the traitor. The smile was gone from Ichimaru's face entirely, replaced by seriousness and... sincerity? He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

He supposed, if it came down to it, he probably wouldn't change anything about the way that night had happened. Except he would have found a way to stop Aizen from stabbing Hinamori. Even though he knew he couldn't be a match for Aizen, he would have found a way.

He had every intention of responding with something sharp and barbed, something to ease the strange thread the conversation had taken, but he found that he couldn't. Instead, a real comment was forming. Something that actually meant something.

He forced himself to look at Ichimaru. "I'd do it all the same," he explained in a gruff tone. "Except I'd probably make you spit out whatever it was you were going to say but didn't."

The corners of Gin's mouth twitched, but didn't turn into a smile. Like he wanted to smile, but his heart wasn't in it.

"I was jealous,” he admitted. "O' the girl. Don' know why, bu'..." He shrugged and looked Hitsugaya in the eye. "It's... weird. I found myself holdin' back. I wanted ta tell ya abou' our plans, bu'... I didn' wan' ya involved. It still confuses me." He leaned back against the booth and closed his mouth as the waitress appeared with their drinks.

"Sorry it took so long. 'Cause of the delay, it's on the house,” she said, winking at Gin. She set their cups down in front of the them, still steaming slightly.

He forced a grin and she departed. The grin vanished again. "Do... ya know wha' I'm talkin' abou'? Or am I makin' no sense what-so-ever?"

Hitsugaya, who had been eyeing the waitress with some level of distaste, turned his attention back to Gin. Something about the traitor's words were very familiar, but he wasn't willing to admit it to himself just yet. That would put him out there, vulnerable, and he didn't like that at all. He was the youngest captain, the weakest. He couldn't afford to show anything like vulnerability.

He grabbed the cup, sipping at the tea to hide his expression. "There's nothing to be jealous about. Hinamori is Hinamori, an annoying friend but just a friend." He wasn't quite sure what he was saying at this point, feeling almost as if he were babbling. His eyes fell away.

He wanted to say that Ichimaru did make sense, that he understood it all too well, but couldn't seem to force the words. Ichimaru was the enemy, after all. He sided with Aizen, he was there when Aizen had betrayed everyone. He wasn't supposed to be harboring strange feelings for the enemy.

Hitsugaya didn't know what he was supposed to do, even if he was willing to admit it himself, he didn't dare admit anything aloud.

As if sensing his thoughts, Gin smiled slightly. "There's a reason Sōsuke-kun did what he did."

Hitsugaya shifted in his seat, eyeing Ichimaru as he sipped at the tea. "Then tell me," he replied sharply. "That's the whole damn reason I dragged you here."

Gin grinned at his choice of words. "You dragged me?" He chuckled. "I think ya have it backward."

"Whatever," Hitsugaya hissed in return. "Just answer the question, Ichimaru."

The traitor inclined his head in surrender. "Alrigh'. Chill, Shirō-kun." He grinned at his joke.

"They wanted 'im dead. He was probably the one captain tha' could challenge Yamamoto. So, obviously, they wanted 'im outta the picture." Ichimaru tapped a slim finger on the table, a touch of anger entering his tone at the reminder of the story. "He foun' ou'. As ya can imagine, tha' didn' sit well wit' Sōsuke-kun. He decided 'e was gonna leave, an' leave in such a way tha' they wouldn' ferge'."

Hitsugaya blinked. "They... were going to kill him?" he repeated in shock, then gathered hold of himself.

It didn't seem like Ichimaru was lying but... this was Seireitei! The Shinigami! The people whom he had pledged his loyalty to.

"All because he was as strong as the sōtaichō?" Hitsugaya shook his head. "Why... why would they...?" But he was at a loss for words. "How did you even know?"

Ichimaru was silent for a moment, debating whether he should reveal their source of information. "Well... Urahara's a sneaky bastard, is all I need ta say,” he relented. Hitsugaya would never listen to him if he proved to be too sketchy on the details.

"Urahara," Hitsugaya practically growled, thinking of the conniving shop keeper. "I should have known."

He fell silent then, absorbing all he had learned. It didn't sit well with him, what Soul Society had planned. Though he should have expected it. Considering the Quincy and the Bount and all other manner of people who'd had to be "dealt with" over the centuries...

He should have seen it coming. A thought occurred to him and he lifted his gaze back to Ichimaru.

"You said Aizen wanted me dead though, didn't you? So how am I supposed to feel sorry for him if he was going to kill me?"

Gin dismissed that with a snort. "Yer the kinda guy tha' follows yer superior's orders no matter wha'," he pointed out. "He didn' wan' ya ta detain us. In case ya didn' notice, ya're still alive."

"Yeah, but not because of him," Hitsugaya insisted. "Because of you. And that's a big difference! And it's not like I'm a blind follower!" His denial came out a bit louder than he'd intended, echoing in the tea shop and he immediately quieted his voice before the other patrons began to stare. "I was too busy with Hinamori to even think about actually stopping you. If you'd just left her alone, I wouldn't have known to do anything," he added in a much quieter voice.

A shadow passed over the traitor's face at the mention of the girl. "Her voice is annoyin',” he dismissed. He shook himself out of the seeming reverie and grinned at Hitsugaya. "Sōsuke-kun le' ya live! He's generous!"

"Right," Hitsugaya agreed sourly. "Generous."

He could still see Hinamori's blood on the floor, could feel his own blood leaking out of his body. Admittedly, he had attacked Aizen first, but Aizen had tried to kill Hinamori. The sight of her injured, her tears, had spurred him into reckless action. He hadn't even been thinking then, just reacting. Especially to the feelings of betrayal that were suddenly striking through him at the time.

He was stuck at another impasse. "Fine. I get your story. He wanted to leave in a way they wouldn't forget. So what're the plans now?"

"Well... Sōsuke-kun wanted me ta tell him how this all wen', then we'd go from there," Gin replied blithely.

Hitsugaya eyed Ichimaru. "What does it matter what I say?" he demanded. "Aizen can't care about my opinion that much."

"I do," Gin replied seriously. "And Sōsuke-kun cares abou' wha' I care abou'."

The captain was stunned. "Why do you care?" he asked, the question slipping out before he could stop it. "And what does it have to do with me?"

Gin's grin returned full force. "'Cause Shirō-kun's my bes' frien'!" He responded cheerily, his normal demeanor making a comeback. "We're buddies!"

“That's knowledge to me,” Hitsugaya muttered, thinking sourly of all the unwanted visits Ichimaru had pressed on him in their history.

Intentions for tea, to chat, to avoid his paperwork, just to sit there and tease him all day, Hitsugaya could hardly remember a week where Ichimaru wasn't in his office on some day. The man was always there, doing something. He seemed impervious to Hitsugaya's moods and tempers, seemed easily able to push aside any protest Hitsugaya would have made.

And Hitsugaya always relented in the end, simply because it was easier on his head.

He wouldn't exactly call that strange string of associations a friendship. Then again, from the outside viewer, it would certainly appear that way. And Ichimaru was right, he hadn't exactly given their fight his all. Did Ichimaru really see them that way, as friends?

“Ya know. Tha' day we fought... Ya said ya would kill me fer makin' the girl spill blood.”

Ichimaru's almost hesitant beginning into conversation, which steered away from the original topic, dragged Hitsugaya's attention back. He looked at the other man, finding that as fast as the grin had appeared, it had vanished. It left behind the serious Ichimaru again, one that Hitsugaya was uncomfortable with because he didn't know how to handle him. He didn't know how he was supposed to react.

Those eyes slitted open and found the table, all sense of teasing gone. “Yet, ya still didn'. Even though yer friend lay unconscious on the groun', her hands bleedin', ya didn' really attemp' ta kill me. Made a good show for anyone watchin', but it wasn' real." He was obviously lost in memory.
Tōshirō made a noncommittal sound in his throat, but was otherwise silent. He couldn't think of anything to add to what was appearing to be another one of Ichimaru's monologues. The words settled heavily inside of him, the reminders bringing him back to that time as well, to the chill from his zanpakutō and the sight of Hinamori on the ground, cheeks still stained with tears. Besides, Ichimaru was plenty capable of carrying on the conversation all on his own. Tōshirō secretly suspected the man practiced talking on the arrancar, driving them insane in the process.
And Gin was glad for the silence, because he wasn't quite finished yet, not with so much more to say. There had been so much bad blood between the two since Gin had attempted to take Hinamori's life that he just wanted the opportunity to speak. Even if he was secretly under the strict opinion that Hinamori was a manipulative demon in disguise, trying to get close to Hitsugaya.
It made him hurt deep in his chest; a metaphysical wound that wouldn't go away. It was a heavy weight right on top of his heart. And the worst part was that he didn't understand it. He wanted to tell Hitsugaya about it. Wanted to make the boy see it and understand. Maybe even... but that was too strange a thought, even for Gin.
He looked up at the scowling prodigy and gave him a true, sincere smile. "I wanna ask ya somethin', Shirō-kun. Somethin' serious. Do ya think... ya can answer?" he asked. And added quietly "It's jus' a 'yes' er 'no' question.”

Hitsugaya's frown deepened unconsciously, still uncertain with this new and oddly serious Ichimaru. “What is it?” he grated out, conceding to answer the question. He didn't know how else to respond.

Ichimaru was silent for a moment, obviously debating his query. But he had to know, so he was going to ask. He needed so badly to know if Hitsugaya would.

And if the boy said no, he'd convince him. He'd do whatever it took to get Hitsugaya out of the range of fire, probably even hurt him to do it. Though that thought made the pain in his chest sharpen to the point that he was struggling to keep his breathing even.
This in itself surprised Gin, not that he'd admit it to anyone, not even Sōsuke-kun. He did have pride of his own, after all.
Gin swallowed. He was going to ask.

"Hitsugaya," he started, only ever calling the prodigy by his last name when the following words were of utmost importance. "Will ya mee' wit' me?" He peered at the suddenly stiff boy hopefully. "Come mee' me at a church down the road? Wednesday a' midnigh'? It's importan'," he pleaded, hoping three days would be enough for the prodigy to make up his mind.
Hitsugaya was startled by the near earnest note in Ichimaru's voice. "Meet with you?" he repeated, trying and failing to hold back his surprise. "What's the point? I'm here now."
Gin leaned forward as if he didn't want them to be overheard. "We ain' alone,” he said seriously. "Qui-kun's just outside. He's in the tree." He motioned with his eyes to the tree by the window. Sure enough, a small section of white cloth was visible if you looked close enough.
"Is this supposed to be a secret from Aizen or something?" Hitsugaya asked suspiciously. "Are you going to betray him, too?"

He couldn't help feeling a bit uncertain as to what Ichimaru wanted from him. Their relationship had always been shaky at best and now the former captain was acting strangely. Combine that with all the other whirling knowledge he had gained and Hitsugaya felt like he was treading on uneven ground.
"Nah," the thinner man replied, sitting back again. "I'll tell 'im afterwar'. I jus' don' wanna escor'." He grinned. "An' Qui-kun's creepy sometimes. He's go' this whole 'starin' problem. He stares an' stares an' never gives up. Don' ya think tha's creepy?" He guzzled down the rest of his tea. "Besides, I figure yer tryin' ta absorb all o' this, anyway. We mee' on Wednesday an' you'll have everythin' settled in tha' mind o' yer's." He nodded sagely.
"Brigh' as it is," Gin added after a moment.
"Like you're one to talk about creepiness," Hitsugaya retorted with a snort. He fiddled with his tea. He wasn't sure what he was going to do. "If I don't show up, will you drop it? The whole thing?"
Gin didn't reply for a moment. Didn't he think earlier that he wouldn't? He wasn't going to lie.

"No," he replied finally. "Like I sai', it's importan'."
Hitsugaya sighed. "If I don't come, then you're just going to keep stalking me?" He wasn't sure he was looking forward to a future like that. He frowned deeply and sat forward, now completely ignoring his tea. "I'm not promising anything, Ichimaru. Only that I'll think about it. And in the meantime, this meeting never happened. Understand?"
Gin nodded. "Okay... Can I tell Sōsuke-kun? I was supposed ta make a repor'..." He blinked bemusedly at the boy across from him.
The tenth division captain rolled his eyes and rose to his feet. "Tell Aizen whatever the hell you want, I don't care. But if Soul Society finds out and I get punished, there won't be any prison to keep me from coming after you." He turned away from the table, shoving his hands in his pockets, only to pause and glance over his shoulder. "You come after me if I don't show up, we'll be enemies. I will promise that much."
Hitsugaya didn't know what he was going to choose just yet but he wanted to make that clear to Ichimaru. Even if he was starting to believe the other man's story, even if something strange was twisting inside of him, he couldn't just easily play both sides. Hitsugaya would have to choose between one or the other without even knowing that he would have had to make the choice to begin with.
It wasn't a decision he could make in a split second, and not with Ichimaru looking at him with strange glances and odd tones in his voice. Hitsugaya never could understand the traitor before and he certainly didn't now. It left him unsteadily balancing and that, most of all, made him uncomfortable.
Sometimes, he couldn't help but hate the way Ichimaru made him feel.
Gin nodded eagerly. "O' course! I don' like Seireitei, anyway..." He smiled slightly. "An'... I don' wanna be enemies..." He frowned. "If ya decide not ta come, then... promise ya'll at leas' keep in touch wit' Urahara. Tha' way, he can tell ya if ya need ta ge' outta there. Okay?"

He seemed anxious for some reason. And he was. If Hitsugaya didn't show up, which Gin was pretty sure would be the case, at least he'd be relieved in the knowledge that the boy could get out of the line of fire. He wanted to keep the prodigy far away from everything in this war.
Hitsugaya furrowed his brow. "Urahara is essential to the war and as liaison between Kurosaki and Soul Society I am required to keep in contact with him," he replied, wondering at the strange note to Ichimaru's voice. It was almost like... concern. Hitsugaya shook his head, forcing himself to clear away the strange thoughts.
"We're through here," he added, turning back around and picking up his motion to exit once more. "Thanks for the tea." It struck him that he was probably being a bit rude and cruel, but he was already foundering. He wasn't sure he could handle any more of Ichimaru's strangeness or even his own confusion.
He needed to get out of there before he acted anymore strangely than he already was.
"Biya, Shirō-kun!" the traitor chirped, satisfied. What the boy said was true. And he was happy with that.

Hitsugaya stepped out of the tea shop, somehow feeling lightened in the bright and warm sunlight. Being in Ichimaru's presence had the tendency to make him feel stifled, especially when the other man was acting so strangely.

He frowned, shifting his hands in his pockets as he turned away from the shopping district and headed towards Orihime's house. He had to make his report to the soutaichou, and somehow keep this meeting a secret.

The last thing he needed was to be accused of being a traitor as well.

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