Nostalgic Reflections

By: Inverted Raven

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. I am not making any money off of this fanfiction. It is purely for entertainment purposes only. This realization ruins so many of my fantasies...

Rating: PG-13 (on the safe side)

Warning: Angst, language, possible OOC, gore, mutilation, possible character death (depending how you look at it)

Part: 4/4

Spoilers: Manga chapters 377 & 383

Note: This is the last installment :(

Hiyori had not really thought about what she was doing before she charged at Aizen. She hadn't thought about what his Freak Squad, as she liked to call them in her own mind, were doing behind him. She had just simply had enough of his lies, of his taunting, of his arrogance! She had wanted to teach him a lesson, even if she knew how unlikely it would be that her attack would be fatal to him, even if she connected her zanpaktou with his skin.

She hadn't really cared that Shinji had been telling her, and the others, to stand down, to hold their ground, that he'd told her to relax her grip. More or less asking her to trust him, ordering her to think before she leaped

But, as usual...she leaped before she thought. It was normal for Hiyori and her red-hot temper. She was quick to anger and really there was no reason for Shinji to have thought she would do anything less that what she normally did.

She had a fiery, passionate hatred for Aizen. They all did, but Hiyori held a grudge harder and faster than any of them. While the others had been able to listen to Shinji and practice self-control, Aizen had known she was losing her grip on that self-control and had just as effectively and quite as easily said the perfect thing to make her come at him.

And when she had, Ichimaru had been ready and he'd taken her out. With more force and precision than he really had needed to, slicing her in half at about the waist.

It had surprised her, but then again...who wouldn't have been surprised to feel themselves cleaved in half? So easily...so precisely...so effortlessly.

She had barely heard the mocking little taunt that Ichimaru had uttered once he had seen that he'd succeeded in more or less issuing her a fatal blow. It was overkill, really, with no pun intended there. But, what did it truly matter at the moment?

What she had heard, though, was Shinji's cry, she'd never heard his voice sound like that before, and certainly not while calling her name! The next thing she'd felt was when he caught her, and set down on the rooftop of a building.

She was hyper aware of these things, because everything was pain and each movement, even the slightest movement, would increase that pain so far off of a doctor's pain scale that it probably didn't have its own number.

But, it didn't matter, because it was Shinji that had caught her and she knew that he was just trying to keep her from hitting the ground. When she looked up at him, the look on his face prompted her to speak, despite the fact that she knew it was wasting energy to do so. She had never seen a look on Hirako Shinji's face...quite like that, before...

"...I'm...sorry...Shinji...I...was impatient..." she said, doing her best not to sound weak or scared or upset. Doing her best not to sound like she was in as much pain as she was. Doing her best to be strong for him, because that look on his face...

But, as she thought about it...and as at the same time she was sorry that that look had to be there...she was kind of glad that it showed how much he cared for her. She wanted to reach up and touch his cheek, she could see the tears forming, and soon she watched them drip down. But, she was too weak to lift her hand, right now. She must be losing blood very fast. Of course, if she thought a moment, and remembered why she was injured in the first place, it was obvious that she would be losing blood really fast. Half of her body was gone. That was a gigantic wound. Not to mention how much of her innards must have been severed...

She had never realized before that he cared so much. She was his friend, he was her friend, they had a long, long history together. But, she had never thought he cared for her as more than a friend. At the very most as a brother would care for a sister.

It wasn't fair that she only now realized from the look on his face, the look in his eyes, that it was more than that. That she had, for so long, cried by herself about how much she loved him and how he never would reciprocate. But, he had! He had...and she just hadn't realized it.

But, he must not have realized it, either. He must not have realized that she would have loved to hear him say that he loved her. That she would've loved him to show her, even if he couldn't say it. Preferably in private, at least the first time, but...still!

It made her a little angry that they'd both missed so many opportunities, so many chances. That she'd let pride get in her way and that he had probably done the same.

She was still looking at him when she realized she wasn't really hearing much of anything, anymore. She watched his mouth move, saw the frantic panic on his face as he called out, to someone. She wasn't sure, she couldn't really hear. Her vision was kind of getting a little dark, as well, and she found it was impossible to keep her head up on her own.

She also vaguely realized that his hand was cradling the back of her head, now. He was looking at her again. She liked that he was the one holding her. If she had to die, she wanted him to be the last person she saw before death. She wanted him to be the last thing she felt before death.

It wasn't fair to him, though, was it? That he should have to see her this way, that he should have to go through her dying in his arms...But, she supposed she'd been selfish all this time. She could be selfish a little longer. It comforted her to have him holding her right now, bent over her in such a way that she felt both safe and protected, even if she was suffering from a fatal wound and was likely to die from it before long.

He was the one person that she loved more than anything...more than anyone...in either world that they'd belonged to.

The other Vaizards, Urahara, hell even Ichigo and Isshin...they were important to her, she liked them, they were her friends. Even if she didn't always show it, and had never outright admitted it. And she felt confident that they knew.

But, oh it was Shinji that meant the most to her. She loved him...she'd just never realized until now, until this very moment, that he loved her, too.

She wondered if they'd ever get a second chance. She could see, she could look back very easily, on their life together. Their life in the Rukongai. Their life in the Academy. Their life in Seireitei as members of the Gotei 13. The fateful night that changed everything. The underground training grounds that Urahara had in Soul Society, and how they'd worked their asses off to achieve some normalcy about themselves again. Escaping to the Living World and all of those many years there. Many years to humans, anyway.

Everything up to now, and the whole time through all of the taunting, the silliness, the sadness, the betrayal, the hopelessness, the sorrow, finding strength in each other again, her tough attitude and Shinji's nonchalance, everything had been a testament of what they'd meant to each other. She had just never stopped and truly looked long enough to notice it, to realize it.

Fate might be kicking them both in the ass right now, but would she perhaps be nice enough to give them another shot in another life?

She had always thought that when you were about to die, you always felt so serene. It was true she'd moved past the pain now, she felt calmer, and more clear-headed than she probably really was. But, she didn't really feel...serene. She felt accepting of her immediate fate, that she was going to die, and she felt comforted by Shinji's presence. No, not just his presence, but his touch. His gaze.

But, it was what happened after that that was bothering her, just a little bit. Whatever was going to happen would happen, but she was still hoping that they could be reborn. Though, she still hoped that he didn't die in this battle. Just that when it was finally his time, hopefully not until he was older than Old Yama was right now, that they could both be reborn together, around the same time. There was no reason to think that she had to be reborn right away, none of the Shinigami knew precisely how rebirth worked, just that it did occasionally occur.

Their life here was full of missed chances and squandered opportunities, but couldn't they have...one more shot? Just one more? To get it right? What was meant to be would always find a way, right?

She couldn't bring herself to think they weren't meant to be. Just because she was an idiot and he was a retard didn't mean that they should lose all chance, did it?

Hiyori couldn't help but wonder, vaguely now, what he was thinking. Was he thinking the same thing? Or something else? She wished she could muster the strength to speak again, to ask him.

Would it be right, if she could, to tell him how she truly felt for him now? No...no, she didn't think so. Why burden him with even more than he was going to be haunted with already? She could be selfish, but she could be a bit merciful at the same time, couldn't she?

She noticed him turn away, to look somewhere above. Was someone speaking to him? Was it Aizen? She didn't know. She just knew that in one instant when he looked at her, she saw the boy he used to be. She wondered if he was seeing the girl she used to be.

And his face looked so anguished, so haunted, so helpless. Was he blaming himself? He shouldn't do that...there was no way he could've stopped what happened from happening. She was just too hot headed and she had let it get the best of her. She'd put herself in this position.

Poor Shinji...for all his nonchalance, he really was a compassion and sensitive person deep down. She knew it was his way of acting tough to pretend to be so nonchalant about things. But, he didn't fool her with that. And she realized that she probably had never fooled him with her tough girl routine, either.

Heh...what a joke their stubbornness turned out to be. Their fears had led them to all of this regret. It was their fault, mutually, but her actual death was her own damn fault.

As her vision faded to black, at least for now, she found she didn't have the strength to fight it anymore. As she found herself unwillingly succumbing to the darkness that was closing in on her eyes from the sides coming toward the center, she thought she felt him gently setting her on the cement that made the roof of this building itself.

Why was he doing that? Was he going to fight Aizen? Alone? He couldn't...he'd be killed...but that was exactly something he would do, wasn't it?

Her retard in shining armor...if she'd had the strength, which she currently did not, she would've smiled as she lost consciousness, at that simple thought. She still held hope that he would survive this, even if she didn't...but either way, she hoped they would be reborn together, rather than becoming spirit particles or something of that nature.

She just wanted...one more chance...to get it right...

~Owari~