The air was hot and dry. It stifled all life and forced what was left into hiding. There was no refuge from the burning wind as it whipped through the desolate town. A lone figure walked barefoot through the deserted alleys, imprisoned by dilapidated wooden structures on either side. The dust swirled up from the barren earth in tiny whirlwinds to dance around his ankles. He was alone. He'd always been alone. He'd never known love, or the warmth of a mother's touch. From the moment he'd awoken to find himself in this place, this desolate hole on the peripheries of civilization, he'd fought to survive.

In the distance he could see what the others called Soul Society. It was rumoured to be a great city full of important people called Shinigami. He would sometimes sit and watch them wander in and out of their great white city wearing black robes. They looked proud and strong. He longed to belong to their world, but there was no place behind those perfect walls for one such as him. So unlike him, the buildings were tall and pristine. Their white walls reflected the bright sunlight and surrounded the city with an ethereal glow. They invited him in, taunted him with thoughts of what he could not have and what he would never know.

Gin they called him - the ones who stalked him through the streets pretending he was their prey. They taunted him with it as they beat him, laughing at the unusual silver colour of his hair. It bothered him at first, being beaten for no reason other than the fact that he looked different, but soon it too became a regular part of the life he didn't understand. With time he discovered ways to avoid the gangs and learned which alleys were safe to traverse along.

He'd learned the ways of the world quickly. He had to, for there was no one to teach him and he would have died otherwise. He was like a ghost, drifting from one place to the next as the mood struck him. He traveled with no one and needed no one. For the entirety of his short, traumatic life he'd been shown that there was no good in the selfish hearts of others. They weren't worth caring about or associating with. They disgusted him and he scowled at anyone who perchance happened to pass him by.

On this day he was in a particularly foul mood. His lunch had been stolen (again!) and his stomach ached from the blows he'd received trying to get it back. His hand rested overtop the tender, bruised skin of his gut and his young body stooped from the pain as he walked. He grimaced and blew his bangs out of his eyes with a great huff of breath. He wanted to stop and sit down but his feet urged him forward. They moved him farther and farther away from the shanty town, with its broken down houses, haphazard family units and roving thugs. It was no place for a child to be and he did not long for it even after leaving it far behind.

It took several days of walking before he was far enough. By the time his aching feet finally came to rest he was surrounded by nothing but rocky, barren terrain. Lifeless trees dotted the landscape here and there, their snarling branches twisting towards the sky, but apart from their rotting trunks there was not a spec of life to be seen. Even the ground was cracked and brittle, lacking life and water. Turning his eyes to the sky he noticed that though it was perpetually grey and bleak, not a single drop of rain ever spilt to the earth below. It puzzled him, but he did not bother to dwell on it. What did he care if it rained?

It was then that he heard soft muffled cries coming from a tiny depression nearby. Curious, he stepped towards the sound, experience warning him to be wary. As he crested to the top of the hill his eyes widened with surprise to see a young girl, alone like himself, and crying bitter tears.

He stared at her in fascination for some time before making a move to approach. He debated turning around and leaving her be. He had no need for a companion, much less a girl. She would only slow him down and create problems for him when he eventually returned to the village. He wanted to leave, willed himself to, but his stubborn feet refused to budge. They remained firmly rooted to the earth and would not go anywhere unless it was forward to her side. With a sigh of resignation he gave in and stumbled down the shallow embankment until he was standing in front of her.

Hearing his approach she sniffled and ceased sobbing. She turned her face upwards to peer at him curiously. Her eyes were sapphire blue and swimming with tears. A few escaped down her cheeks and tiny droplets clung to her lashes like dew drops to a spider's web. Gin held his breath. Her eyes were open and inviting. They didn't speak to him of malice or cruel intentions, merely a kind heart and a willingness to trust. She did not fear him, but did not make a move to approach him either. He stepped forward cautiously, approaching her as one would a frightened animal.

Though he didn't know her, he was overcome with a desire to shield her from the life he'd lived thus far. He couldn't bear to see the innocence he saw in her eyes, her blind faith in the inherent goodness of man, vanish like they had from his. He stopped in front of her and tilted his head to the side inquisitively. She looked hungry. Reaching into the inner folds of his kimono he retrieved a bread roll and held it out to her.

"Hungry?" he asked, his voice dry and tight. She nodded her head and with wide eyes snatched the offering from his hands. She devoured it quickly and when she was finished she beamed up at him, a warm and grateful smile. He returned the gesture easily. It was the first time he could ever remember smiling and was surprised his face knew what to do. That seemingly inconsequential moment, a simple smile shared between two new friends, would shape the course of Ichimaru Gin's life, though he couldn't possibly have known it at the time.


Author's Note: This is going to be a Gin and Rangiku fic. It's an introspective lead up to volume 20 (episode 62 of the anime series) where Rangiku tries to hold Gin back from leaving with Aizen. I want to try and explain why he did what he did and what their relationship is actually like since they don't get into it too much in the anime.

At the time this was written I hadn't read the manga yet (bad me! I know!) so if there are any inconsistencies because of that I apologize!

I'd love to know what you think about what I've written so far so please take a second to review. Thank you!!