In Memoriam

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. That honor belongs to Tite Kubo. All characters are depicted as legal age.

Warnings: Spoilers for the Soul Society Arc and Beyond, Implied Character Death, Very Light Yaoi

This is for the 5 True Loves community on LiveJournal, #30: Shadow; Light

There is no grave and most certainly no marker, but Hitsugaya comes here, nevertheless. It is his quiet place, his sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of the Gotei 13. He is away from everyone. No Ukitake to shove candy at him. No Matsumoto to squeeze him to death. No Hinamori to look at him with hopeful eyes.

He can think here, just be left alone to his thoughts. He can remember, allowing his mind to wander down familiar and solitary paths.

He can grieve.

No one expects him to mourn a traitor, to feel like his heart has been ripped from his chest. And perhaps it is better that they don't know, that they never know. They wouldn't understand. Matsumoto might, but the others could never fathom what he truly feels.

Hitsugaya closes his eyes then, blocking out the sight of the surrounding trees and the darkening sky above him. He exhales haltingly, too many emotions churning inside him. And after an eternity of standing, the breeze rustling his haori, Toushirou finally sits, tucking his legs beneath him.

There was so much opportunity, so much potential, and he let it slip through his fingers. There are so many regrets, things he could have said but didn't. Things he should have said but could not find the courage to speak. Perhaps things would have been different; maybe Hitsugaya could have changed his mind, changed everything. Made him stay.

But he'll never know. He'll never know if there was more than the mere possibility, if the potential would have actually grown into something meaningful.

And maybe that's what he regrets the most. Never knowing.

The sun begins to sink beneath the horizon, but he doesn't stir, too wrapped up in his own thoughts. It will be dark soon, and he should be heading back. Matsumoto and Hinamori will worry, but he can't bring himself to care as the wind ruffles through his hair in an oddly familiar and very reminiscent gesture. One that actually makes the corners of his mouth twitch upwards in remembrance.

"Goodnight, Gin," he tries to whisper, except it comes out more of a choked sob than anything.

There are no tears, not anymore. But that doesn't mean it hurts any less. Too many things inside of him are threatening to come bursting out, and he needs his visits here just to center himself. He comes here when he can't breathe anymore, drowning in his own office, even as he lectures Matsumoto about doing her share of the paperwork. Visits when he can't focus, mind drifting to places that it shouldn't during meetings with the other captains.

He just needs something to hold onto, something more real and solid than the phantoms he's been left with. And it's a truly sad day when that something is an empty clearing in the woods of Rukongai that Ichimaru had probably never even been to, but it's all he has.

For now, that's enough.

He exhales, one hand toying with the soft grass beneath it. The air around him grows chillier, and Hyourinmaru stirs in his sheath, delighting in the cool breeze. The dragon coils in his mind, a comforting presence in the deepest corners of himself as regret fills him.

There are so many things that he should have done differently. So many things he would change if he could, but regretting will not shape the future.

Still, he can't help but wish. Dream of the possibilities.

Night descends all around him, and the stars slowly appear.

Hitsugaya Toushirou simply stares at the ever darkening shadows and thinks of what might have been.

Ever Hopeful,