Disclaimer: Bleach © to Kubo Tite.

.1.

Before it's Too Late

Where had his morals gone?

A tall, lean figure slashed violently through a row of ten Hollows as he jumped high into the air, finishing them all at once. His snowy white hair and black and white shinigami robes blew back as he landed gracefully on his feet, his expression calm, almost bored. Aquamarine green eyes narrowed as he searched for any last traces of the Hollows' reiatsu, but felt none.

What the hell is this, sending me to the real world to finish off a bunch of pathetic Hollows, he scowled mentally. TchDon't they have anything else better out here for me to kill?

He killed ruthlessly now. There was no mercy anymore when he sliced away the lives he had been ordered to take away. All his anger, frustration, and anxiety were taken out during his battles.

There was no more desire to defend, to protect...just to kill.

He sheathed Hyorinmaru onto his back just as he felt the small communication device in his pocket vibrate. He flipped it open.

"What?"

"Taichou? I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"

He sighed, recognizing the female voice at once.

"Matsumoto. What is it?"

"You must return to Soul Society now, taichou. I have important news for you."

He scowled.

"I'm busy now, Matsumoto. Tell me when I'm finished with my work."

He heard her sigh over the phone. "This isn't 'work' that they sent you to do. I requested that they sent you out so that you could take out some of that built up frustration inside of you."

His scowl grew deeper.

"You were the one who made me come out here and waste my time killing—?"

"Just come back, taichou, please," said Matsumoto, talking over him. There was a note of urgency in her voice. "I assure you, you would not want to miss what I have to say to you."

The talk ended. Hitsugaya felt an urge to crush the little device in his hand.

"...God dammit," he muttered darkly to himself as he placed the device back into his robes. He then used shunpo to quickly head back to the Urahara Shop.

But she was right, he reluctantly admitted to himself as houses and buildings flew past him. His vice-captain knew him better than he knew himself; he didn't know where the frustration kept coming from, or why he was so affected by it that even others around him could sense the change in his reiatsu.

Deep inside, however, a small part of him knew what triggered these emotions. But the other part of him refused to acknowledge them, shutting the thoughts away deep inside the corner of his mind. He had to shove them away; there wasn't any other possible means to move on as he did now.

Little did he know that it would come back to haunt him much sooner than he realized.

--

Matsumoto was already within sight and waiting for her captain as Hitsugaya approached the tenth division. He marched up to her and glared at her icily.

"What—"

He stopped. Looking closely at his vice-captain, he took notice of the pale expression on her face, a mixture of worry and agitation, as well as a change in her reiatsu. He quirked an eyebrow.

"...Matsumoto?"

She shifted uncomfortably, her blue eyes avoiding his green ones. But she seemed to notice his thinning impatience, and said quietly, "It's...him."

Hitsugaya gave a sigh. He was not in the mood to listen to useless information or whatnot at the moment.

"Who the hell are you talking about, Matsumoto?" he asked, trying to control his agitation.

Matsumoto closed her eyes and took a breath, rubbing her upper arm nervously.

"Gin...Ichimaru Gin. He's back."

Hitsugaya's eyes widened in surprise. A strong feeling of fury rose up in his chest as he clenched his fists tightly. That traitor...what the hell is he doing back here after betraying us all with that bastard Aizen

"Where is he?" he asked coldly.

"In—In the Shrine of Penitence—"

Without another word, Hitsugaya turned swiftly on his heel, his mind made up on giving the traitor a good beating until he was satisfied. A hand shot out and grabbed his arm, stopping him.

"Wait, taichou! You can't go see him, he's already being sentenced—"

"Don't tell your captain what or what not to do, Matsumoto!" he snarled, wrenching his arm away from her grip.

"Wait, taichou!"

But the white-haired captain had already disappeared in a flash, speeding his way across buildings and over alleys. He could sense Matsumoto following closely behind him, but he paid no heed. His flaming anger was all that drove him now.

The two sped up the stairs, reaching the narrow, long bridge in only a minute's worth of time. The guards stationed at the entrance of the tall tower barely had time to register their movements as they passed them before they entered and came to a stop.

Hitsugaya narrowed his eyes, sensing a weak reiatsu not far away. Matsumoto appeared behind him a second later after confronting the guards, panting slightly from the effort of running.

"T-taichou—"

Her words were barely out of her mouth when the tenth division captain disappeared again in a flurry of his robes, whisking across the endless spiral staircase. Sighing with frustration, Matsumoto followed his steps, halting to a stop when she caught sight of her captain and...him.

Ichimaru Gin was not standing near the window and gazing out at the Soukyoku as a prisoner in the Shrine should have been doing. Clad in plain white robes with a red collar on his thin neck, he sat in a shadowed corner with his forearms resting on his knees and his head slightly bowed, his face covered by hair that had long since grown out. Sensing the presence of his visitors, he lifted up his head, with his trademark grin plastered on his face.

"My my," he said blandly in his accent, as though they were merely greeting each other on the street. "Hitsugaya-taichou...Matsumoto-fukutaichou...long time no see, eh?"

Matsumoto caught a glimpse of her captain's fist tightening before it violently pinned the ex-captain against the wall by the collar of his robes. She could only stand before the scene, unmoving and unwavering.

Gin was neither surprised nor unperturbed by Hitsugaya's actions. In contrary to the white-haired captain, his grin only grew wider.

"It seems as though you've grown quite a bit since I last saw you, Hitsugaya-taichou," Gin commented airily. "My! How fast children can grow these days."

"Why the hell are you here?" Hitsugaya seethed as his eyes flashed, ignoring the other's comment. "You should dead, along with those other bastards."

"Here? No, I had no intention of being here at all!" Gin said dryly. "I merely wanted to come back and visit some old friends. Is that wrong to do, Histugaya-taichou?"

Hitsugaya's free hand flew to his Zanpakuto.

"Taichou!" Matsumoto cried out, moving forward as she realized her captain's intention.

Gin's head turned to wards her direction, and she immediately stiffened.

"Matsumoto-fukutaichou," he said softly, not forgetting to grin. "Still the loyal vice captain of the tenth division, I see. How ya been?"

He allowed his eyes to open suddenly, something that she had rarely seen him do. She coiled slightly under his gaze, his reddish eyes boring into hers.

The white-haired captain raised a snowy eyebrow, glancing from his shocked vice-captain to the traitor in front of him. Sensing the tension in Matsumoto's reiatsu, he released his grip from Gin's collar none too gently. As much as he despised the man, he didn't have the heart to see his vice-captain hurt.

How sad...he thought sardonically.

Without another glance at either of the others, he turned his back, his captain's robes swishing behind him.

"We're going, Matsumoto."

"...Yes, taichou."

Before they could take a step, Gin's accented voice rang out through the chamber again.

"I'm surprised ya didn't hear about the reason why I'm here in the first place, Histugaya-taichou. You'd be very interested, I'm sure."

Hitsugaya stiffened.

"...What the hell are you talking about?"

The ex-captain's grin only grew wider.

"...I met her along the way here."

Hitsugaya's eyes widened. Her could only mean...

...Hinamori...

Gin chuckled, as though he knew exactly what was going on in the captain's mind. "That's right..."

There was something wrong in the way the traitor had said it. Realization dawning upon him, Hitsugaya's expression darkened immensely and his knuckles whitened.

"What did you do to her?" he said, fighting to keep the fury out of his voice.

The doors to the shrine suddenly burst open, letting in a flash of sunlight. The captain snapped his head around, shielding his aqua eyes from the blinding light, barely able to make out a small profile in the doorway. Then his eyes widened.

This reiatsu...

The profile slowly came into view, drawing nearer to the three.

There's no mistaking it...

Gin's grin widened slowly.

"Hello...Hinamori-chan..."

Hinamori...

Dark, flowing hair, now much longer than he last remembered, swayed slightly around her framed face. Her face was no longer childish; it was matured, but still soft. But the thing that struck out the most to him was her eyes; fiery and wild, not unlike a century ago when he witnessed her fight with Izuru Kira. Her arm was extended in front of her, gripping her Zanpakuto in a tight hold.

Then her gaze fell onto the tenth division captain, and her eyes widened in recognition.

"Sh-Shiro-chan..."

He hadn't heard those words once for more than a hundred years.

But now, everything was back. Those years didn't matter anymore.

It was as if everything had changed...overnight.


Memo: Erm, the next update will be in the very far and foggy future; maybe after a miraculous source of inspiration hits me.

My original inspiration came from the beautiful song OVERNIGHT by Aya; it's also the ending theme of the anime Le Chevalier D'eon.

Please review, no flames.