Post Mortem

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

This is for the 5 True Loves community on LiveJournal, #19: Fate; Destiny

The world revolved around possibility, on chance occurrence and coincidence. There were a myriad of paths, all leading to a different destination. And none of it was predetermined. There was no destiny; fate was imaginary, had less substance than that bastard Aizen's illusions.

But sometimes, he wondered. Sometimes, he looked at the extraordinary chain of events that had led him here, to this place and time, and couldn't help but feel that there was someone guiding it all. A hand molding everything to fit some cosmic design.

Odds and probabilities were against it all fitting together as neatly as it had.

Other times, he knew that he had been here before. He looked at Seireitei and remembered. He walked the streets and recalled buildings that were no longer there, shops and houses that should be but weren't. He saw faces and recognized them without introduction, knew their names with a certainty that should frighten him.

Ukitake Jyuushiro. Kyouraku Shunsui. Yamamoto Genryuusai Shigekuni.

Hitsugaya Toushirou.

The name wasn't familiar, but the essence was. The wise and sarcastic dragon coiling beneath the surface. Icy fields and the crisp air of a first snow. Blue and green intermingled. Ageless. Timeless. An echo resounding in his soul. Known in the way he knew Zangetsu.

It hadn't been obvious at first, just a niggling feeling in the back of his head when they were first introduced. Overshadowed by other things, his own near death and the shiver down his spine at the familiarity of everything else. But it was still there, growing ever so slightly with each passing minute as the days flowed into months and then into years as the war stretched on.

And it was something that he couldn't shake, didn't want to lose. A feeling that led him to turn down both Inoue and Rukia and later on several others with firm apologies. His loyalty belonged to someone else, even if all he had were mostly forgotten promises and hazy images.

They were friends of a sort. Comrades in arms. Nakama. Whatever one wanted to call it. But there was a distance between them, one that was there but unacknowledged. A line neither was willing to cross, and it probably would have continued on in that same vein for a quite a while. Yet, chance had a way of working in his favor.

Or perhaps it was destiny, after all.

He was dying. Closer to the edge than he had ever been. Drawn so far into his inner world that even his Hollow was frightened, frantic in a way that he would have found amusing in other circumstances. He had retreated into the very core of his soul, surrounded by the very threads that comprised it.

He lingered there. Memories and remembrances flitting through him at light speed. Too tired and bleeding to think.

He woke up in the fourth division some indeterminable amount of time later. The person in the chair beside him was unexpected but not altogether unsurprising, and the boy started as soon as he stirred, turning to look at him.

And then, Ichigo remembered. All of it came rushing back.

Promises from so long ago. Words broken by blood and pain and death. Countless ages passing in between. Searching. Waiting. Hoping.

And the blue-green eyes staring back at him reflected exactly the same thing. Recollection mixed with heartbreak. Knowledge that he remembered but his other half had forgotten. A deep sadness tinged with longing… and now a slight hope.

Ichigo couldn't help it. He smiled. Full and dazzling.

"Hey, Toushirou," he said in a weak but pleased voice. "It's good to see you again."

The captain simply blinked and then snorted. He crossed his arms over his chest, trying and failing to hide his own thrilled grin. Or how hard his heart was pounding in his chest.

"Took you long enough."

Ever Hopeful,