Ghost of a Ghost

by debbiechan

Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach; Kubo Tite created the story and its characters.

Description: This angsty vignette was written for Asmaria and the Halloween exchange at the LJ community Bleach Exchange. The prompts were Gin, Rangiku and sake. I wrote a fic for these prompts and drew a pic which you can find at my deviant art account. Asmaria's rating limit was PG13, which I find pretty hard to maintain for this pair, so this assignment was a challenge.

Thanks for Finnigan Geist for beta-ing

Rangiku settled into a bath that was not as warm as the sake in her cup. She unintentionally heated the water with her own reiatsu. She was in a bad mood these days and given to flashing tiny bursts of energy at random moments.

The man she had known since childhood was a low-down, lying traitor to Soul Society.

Of course she had considered that Gin might be hypnotized. When the Gotei 13 held a meeting to discuss Gin and Tousen's possible motives, a few captains and vice captains had great difficulty accepting that Gin and Tousen had acted of their own accord.

Rangiku didn't.

Not except for those first rushes of how could you and no, you didn't, this isn't you, she believed that Gin was as guilty as sin. Duplicity was in his nature. Saying one thing and meaning another was just Gin. These qualities had been part of him long before he had ever met Aizen.

Rangiku smiled a lopsided, cynical smile. If Gin were here now, he would be telling her that she drinks too much.

She shot back another cup.

In truth, Rangiku didn't drink often, but when she did, she got roaring drunk. Gin never drank at all, although in their youth he had stolen bottles of sake for her--along with the food that souls with strong reiatsu craved. He had always given her the first bite of boiled fish. He had always poured the sake when her mopey expression pleaded again. He would smile that taunting smile. "You drink too much; you're going to regret this." Another cup. Another bite of fish. Then his sharp bony-ness around her as she slept. His elbows poked and weren't comforting, but the fact that he held her was.

Rangiku refilled her own cup now. She hadn't gotten plastered since that night with Kira, and if the two officers had resolved anything about their betrayal by Gin, she couldn't remember a bit of it.

Well, she could remember challenging Kira to strip to his fundoshi and laughing because his legs looked like cherrybark--like maybe he was breaking out into a rash. And she remembered snapping at the poor lieutenant that it was worse to have one's friend lie to you than one's captain--and then immediately taking back the words when Kira's one visible eye began to water.

What sort of special relationship could she really claim with Ichimaru Gin? He had been her childhood companion, her lover, the one who persuaded her to apply to the Shinigami Academy--but had ever been her friend? Gin was too detached and mysterious a character to enter the intimacy of friendship with anyone.

But there had been Aizen.

When Aizen had chosen Gin as his vice captain, Gin's relationship with Rangiku had cooled, and many afternoons Rangiku had seen the both of them, heads bowed over library scrolls, whispering like conspirators, smiling like friends.

"Bastard," Rangiku said to the empty room. Another shot of sake. Enough to kill Kira and send him back to the Living World, but Rangiku could stand more than a whole bottle.

Her skill with her zanpakutou was another story--she was damn good but not on a par with someone like Gin.

In their early sojourns to the Living World, before either of them had become officers, Gin's blade speared twice as many Hollow as Rangiku's. Gin gave soul burials to ten times as many ghosts as Rangiku. He would sense them before she heard them. He said that their loneliness growled.

"You can see it in their eyes. They're afraid of being judged. They're afraid of being sent where we were. They'd rather turn into monsters."

Rangiku had been all business, often whacking her hilt against souls' foreheads before they could protest. Gin would listen to the ghosts' pleadings: "Don't kill me, Shinigami. Don't send me to Hell." Why had he liked looking into these ghosts' eyes? Did he enjoy their fear?

He didn't understand fear--was that it? He made a game of sneaking up on Rangiku with his incredible shunpou (Rangiku's speed was impressive among officers in Soul Society; Gin was triple hers). "Ohiyo" in a lilting voice. A chuckle when Rangiku gasped and dropped her paperwork.

Gin, Gin, you creepy thing. In spite of her lingering anger, Rangiku laughed at the memory of how she laughed alongside him whenever he spooked her.

She tipped the decanter. Empty already? She leaned her head against the tub's rim and felt its solidity challenge her state of mind. From the neck down she was soaking in timelessness, and now her head was spinning with it too.

A spirit sent to the world of spirits and not to Hell. A spirit with a reiatsu strong enough to enter the Court of Pure Souls. A captain of the Gotei 13. Surely someone worthy of admiration, even love.


"You called?" asked Gin. It was a syrupy voice, heavy with insinuation. Her skin goosepimpled to hear it.

Hoo boy. She was really drunk. She made a mental note not to sink into the bath and drown.

"What else can I say? I was a bastard then, and I'm a bastard now."

The figure next to her was a ghost of a ghost. Gin with his silvery hair, white body, taunting smile and a new decanter of sake in his hand.

He filled her cup.

"Why?" Rangiku asked him.

He shrugged as if committing to the absence of choice. "I already said I was sorry."

Then the vision melted into the water. Rangiku's throat felt the sting of alcohol and something elseā€¦.

Guilty. He's been guilty since the day I met him.

Her throat tightened, and the tears that ran down her face were hotter than the bathwater. War was coming, and she was going to have to face her childhood companion on the opposing side.

Confronting Gin in battle, could she kill him? Like any other officer in the Gotei 13, she told herself, of course she could.

But at the moment, she was the only one who wanted to.