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Title: Stalled
Rating: PG
Pairing: HitsuSasu
Summary: Adstringendum-verse. Angsty monologue. Hitsugaya reflects on why he can't speak his mind around a certain fire-breathing shinobi.
Author's Note: Obviously takes place before the HitsuSasu confession. I must have been having a bad day when I wrote it.

He had stalled a long time.

An irrational fear clung to the back of his mind in a way he hadn't realized fears could. It was stupid and childish and he hated it. But it didn't go away. And so he had stalled.

He was afraid Uchiha Sasuke wouldn't listen to him.

That was nothing new, really. Uchiha Sasuke rarely ever listened to him. And no matter how many times he'd carted the shinobi boy out of harm's way, that never seemed to change. Nothing Hitsugaya did was ever enough to earn the other boy's trust. Whereas Uchiha Itachi and Izuna had Sasuke's unyeilding loyalty simply because they shared a surname.

He'd labeled those feelings as unnecessary jealousy, locked them away where he wouldn't have to deal with them, and let Sasuke do what he wanted so long as he stayed away from Madara.

But that had only led to the boy's house burning down and his near exile from Konoha over Madara and a misunderstanding. A damn misunderstanding.

Hitsugaya knew Sasuke wouldn't listen to him. He'd talked several people into doing the talking for him - Alphonse Elric, Haruno Sakura. He knew Kakashi had to have talked to him at least once. Anything to convince the shinobi that Sasuke wasn't the threat they thought he was, anything for Sasuke.

He'd given up on seeing Sasuke apologize though. He'd tried to keep those locked away feelings right where they were - locked away. Even when Sasuke dropped everything for an ill Itachi, spent days doing nothing but care for him, when he could have just taken his brother to Unohana-taichou's clinic.

So when Uchiha Sasuke did apologize weeks later - after Hitsugaya had participated in talk of war, scolding from shinigami who weren't even captains any longer, sparring with Zaraki Kenpachi, sleepless nights and tiring days - he couldn't see it as an accomplishment. It was just another piece of evidence, just more decisive proof that Uchiha Sasuke didn't listen to him. He listened to Elric, to Haruno, to Itachi and Izuna.

But not to Hitsugaya Toushirou.

And so he had stalled. And he would continue to stall. He would lock more feelings away - the weariness, the disappointment, the guilt, and that stupid affection, that damn need for Sasuke to notice him, to respect him, to love him. He'd lock it all in a little box in the back of his mind. He'd rationalize it away - it was ridiculous, childish. He didn't need those feelings; he could keep going without them. He could keep supporting the young shinobi - defend him, protect him, watch him from the sidelines - without receiving anything in return. That was what he wanted to do; he didn't need reciprocation.

Maybe one day, he'd finally be able to open that locked box, both of them, and have everything still be okay. But for now, the key was in hiding and would remain in hiding.

Because Uchiha Sasuke didn't listen to Hitsugaya Toushirou.

And he couldn't bear the thought of those three words not being heard.

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