Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach... bleh...


Fade Away

"Are you sure you want to dodge it?"

Gin's soft voice caused Hitsugaya to look up in confusion as Shinsou flashed over his head, blood staining a cut just over his eye.

"The girl… will die."

Hitsugaya's eyes widened, and he whipped around as Gin's trick was reviled; Shinsou raced to the unconscious, defenseless Hinamori; Hitsugaya knew he wouldn't make it in time to block it.



Matsumoto saw what was happening only a split second before her Captain; she'd known all along that Gin would pull something like this, and she withdrew Haineko, sprinting from her hiding place in the shadows…

There isn't enough time!!

Even as she ran Matsumoto knew precious seconds would be lost to lift Haineko and block the speeding blade of Shinsou; and those seconds could easily cost the young Assistant Captain that lay before her.

So, as she sprang between the flash of light and the defenseless girl, Matsumoto used the next best shield.

Her body.



The whisper was choked; some part of Hitsugaya realized dimly that he should be relieved, because his Assistant Captain had intercepted Gin's attack and saved Hinamori.

He would have been, too, if Shinsou's blade hadn't pierced through Matsumoto's flesh like it was thin paper; the wound didn't even gush blood, just a few small streams of red dripped down from where the sword had impaled her, going clean through her chest and pushing out through her back. Matsumoto gazed down at the wound with wide, clouded eyes.

"Matsumoto," Hitsugaya repeated weakly. Matsumoto slowly lifted her head at his voice, wincing a little.

And she smiled.

Gin chose this moment to withdraw Shinsou, his face blank; as the blade slid out of Matsumoto's body, her smile wavered and a choked whimper escaped her; she fell soundlessly to her knees, bring her hand up to her chest as blood spilled out onto the ground beneath her.

The sight of blood—her blood—broke the spell that had been cast over Hitsugaya; with a hoarse cry he lurched to his feet, forgetting Gin entirely, and ran to his Assistant Captain. "Matsumoto!"

Everything seemed to freeze, even time itself, as Hitsugaya knelt next to his Assistant Captain, gently lifting her into his arms. In the moonlight her face was pale, the blood on her chest seeming almost black; her breathing was shallow and rapid. "Why?" he whispered. "Why did you…"

Slowly, she opened her eyes, blinked. Wincing, she lifted her hand, gently touching his cheek. "Captain… why do you look so sad? I… I saved Hinamori…"

"By sacrificing yourself, you idiot." His voice shook. "What were you thinking?"

"… I wasn't?"

He almost laughed, because it sounded so much like her; he almost did, but didn't, because his throat felt too tight. "Idiot," he repeated weakly.

"I had to save… Hinamori… for you…"

"You didn't have to do this, though!!"

Tears had blurred Hitsugaya's vision, and one actually leaked out, gently sliding down his cheek; Matsumoto gently caught it on her finger and wiped it away. Her fingers still felt so warm, even with the life draining out of her…

"Don't cry, Captain." Her voice was soft. "Please… don't cry… I like it better… when you smile…"

More tears threatened to spill out, but Hitsugaya managed a weak smile, gently touching Matsumoto's hand with his own. "That so, huh?"

"Yeah… like that…"

Matsumoto's faded away until there was only silence; a soft sigh eased past her lips, and her eyes closed. Her hand went limp against Hitsugaya's, slowly slipping away to fall to the ground with a soft thud. For a moment, he just stared at her, his smile slowly fading.



"Matsumoto… stop playing."

He knew this wasn't a game, and she wasn't playing.

"Wake up, Matsumoto."

He knew she would never wake again.



... The end? Maybe not... I'm not sure yet, I might make this a two-shot... What do you think?

Read and review, please!