Wrecking Ball

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. That honor belongs to Tite Kubo.

Warnings: Speculation, Spoilers for recent chapters

The air is crisp, cool. But Shinji can hear the sounds of the city from even up here. His legs dangle over the side of the building, but it's dark enough that the humans on the street below couldn't see him even if he were visible to them. Though in this town, he might just be.

Shinji sighs as he tips his head back, and his fingers itch for a cigarette. He doesn't even really like smoking, but it'd at least give him something to do as he sits here. Give him something more than his thoughts to occupy his time.

Everything's a jumble in his head right now. Ichigo, powerless and human once again. Aizen, imprisoned never to see the light of day. He doesn't know what happened to the hougyoku. Doesn't care. Not anymore.

It was worthless anyway.

This is supposed to be their victory. This is supposed to be their celebration.

But Shinji feels worse now than he did before the battle. Almost as bad as a hundred years ago when he woke to the remnants of a Hollow's mask and Kisuke hovering worriedly above him.

And honestly, Shinji never thought anything would be as horrible as that. As horrible as being turned into a monster and then patched back together with happy thoughts and a few band aids. But he does, and he isn't quite sure why.

Aizen is gone. They're alive. They're even invited back to Soul Society. Back to being captains if they want it.

But Shinji isn't really sure he does. He's not the same he was back then. He's not the same person, the same man. And it's probably for the better.

Rose and Love are ecstatic. Hachi is about the same, while Mashiro has only been held back by Kensei. Lisa's already run off with her old captain, and Hiyori is Hiyori.

Shinji just doesn't know what to think. What to feel. He's been here, lived here for the last hundreds years. He can't go back to his old home and his old job and forget that any of this happened. Forget that Soul Society wanted to see them dead. That their friends tried to comply. That nearly everyone still tip-toes around them like they expect to be eaten at anytime.

He doesn't know what to do. Go. Stay. Here, by himself. Without the others. Without people just like him.

Or even go live with Isshin or Kisuke. But those aren't really options either. He can't force the Kurosaki kids to put up with him indefinitely, and as much as he likes Kisuke, it won't be the same.

It'll never be the same. Even if he goes back, even if he scrubs his old office from top to bottom to be rid of Aizen's taint, and sits in his old seat… It won't be like it was. Soul Society is still the same, but Shinji isn't.

And maybe that's the real problem. Not just the Hollow inside him. More like the time spent away. Time where he learned to love the living world and all that's in it. The music, the food, the people.


There's a noise behind him then. Shinji stiffens for a second but eases when he realizes who it is. His fingers twitch again, still wanting something to hold. But it's too late for that now. Too late for anything as two men come up behind him.

"Hey," Kensei greets distractedly. "We've been looking for you."

Shinji gives a shrug as he looks over his shoulder. "I've been up here the entire time."

"Already packed then?" Rose asks, and his smile is too warm.

Shinji shrugs again. "I've got everything I need." He turns back to the city view.

"Good." Rose offers a nod. "It's just about time."

Kensei lets out a chuckle. "Let's go then. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to get out of here."

"Certainly," Rose says, and his voice is so pleased that it almost hurts. "It's time go home." He turns back to Shinji. "Ready?"

Shinji finally stands and shoves his hands in his pockets. His eyes linger though. Take in the city lights and the buildings and even the humans walking below them.

He frowns then, but his back is still turned, and they can't see it.

"Yeah. I guess."

Ever Hopeful,