Darn it all! I should be working on TIW, but no! I just had to read RadiantBeam's little ficlet, Innocence Lost instead.

The idea of Matsumoto needing that parental love was one that I simply could not resist. It's such an interesting concept. And being me, I just had to throw Hitsugaya into the mix as well. So, here we go.

All inspiration for this came from the above mentioned one-shot, Innocence Lost by RadiantBeam. I even ripped off the title. I'm sorry!

Innocence Gained

Matsumoto Rangiku often did everything in her power to avoid her job. Rarely did she actually take the time to ask for a day off. But when she did, Hitsugaya always complied without even a single complaint. She wasn't exactly sure whether that was because he was too stunned to say anything else or whether it was because he could always tell when she truly needed a break. Not that it really mattered either way. She had been given the day off, and she was going to do what she had intended on doing.

And so the Tenth Division fukutaichou was currently marching along one of Rukongai's many dirt roads, searching for a decent place to sit down. The way was cleared for her at every turn due to the shihakushou she wore, seeing as she hadn't been in any sort of mind to think ahead this morning. A piece of paper, folded and bound, stuck out stiffly from her slender, tightly clenched fist.

She sighed, pausing at a crossroad. Even she didn't know exactly why she was doing this. It was incredibly pointless, and she knew very well her hopes had no chance of becoming reality. It was utterly impossible. Yet here she was, reciting "Eeney, Meeney, Miney, Moe" to decide on whether she should turn left or right.

It was that stupid dream, she grumbled silently to herself as she went decidedly left. She had woken up from that dream with an entirely indescribable urge that she had not been able to brush off despite her most flamboyant efforts. There was no way out of this other than to follow through with that desire. That bittersweet, unattainable desire.

Finally, she found a sort of community park surrounded by trees and lined with stone benches. Sitting down, shifting her position ever so slightly so as to attain maximum comfort, she settled herself for a long wait. And then began it.

More people were daring to come within eyesight of her now that she seemed to be of no imminent threat. A little kid or two peeked up at her from behind bushes, and even a few adults couldn't help but stare as they passed. Matsumoto only watched as life in Rukongai once again continued as usual, solely excluding the most recent addition clothed in shinigami garb and a thick, pink scarf. The peeking children soon began a game of hide-and-seek, and whenever the child who was "it" glanced over at her, she smilingly pointed to another's sacred hiding place. Every once in a while, a passer by waved.

Several hours passed by in this matter, and soon Matsumoto could no longer hold on to the threads of consciousness. Just as the children began leaving, grouchily complaining to motherly women, she closed her eyes and fell asleep, clutching the sheet of paper close to her heart.

"Oi, Matsumoto. Just what do you think you're doing?"

Rangiku jumped, hastily looking every which direction to find the origin of the gruff and disapproving voice. Wow. It really was him. "Taichou!" she just managed to utter through her surprise. The white crowned boy, arms crossed across his chest and eyebrows furrowed, merely grunted in reply.

"What are you doing here, Taichou?!"

"I could ask you the same question," he answered without really answering.

"Ah! Well … I … I wanted … to take a nap … out in the fresh air?"

Another dissatisfied grunt. "If this is what you do when I give you time off, you won't be getting any more for a long time."

The note held tightly to her chest kept Matsumoto from her usual happy-go-lucky response. Instead, she merely grinned unconvincingly as her taichou raised a brow in disbelief at her poor acting skills.

"What's wrong?" he finally spoke, breaking the silence awkwardly as he suddenly felt the need to look away from her.

Rangiku's wavering grin finally withered to be replaced by a far-away blankness. "Taichou … I know it's a little … stupid to ask, but … do you ever think about … your parents? From … when you were alive … I mean."

Hitsugaya was silent. Matsumoto could not see his expression, but she had a sickening feeling she wouldn't like it if she could. She knew very well she had encroached upon forbidden territory. Hastily, she stood up. Time to right some wrongs. First, this attitude of hers. "Naw, don't worry about it, Taichou! Like I said, it was a stupid question anyway," she whimsically brushed the topic aside with a smile. "And even though I'd really like to nap here some more, I think two shinigami sticking around for very long might just be too much for Rukongai to bear."

Her taichou's gaze returned to her once more, housing its characteristic aloofness as he wordlessly nodded and began walking back toward Seireitei. Matsumoto took one last look at the piece of paper before, with a soft sigh, she dropped it into a nearby wastebasket. Oh well. She had known it was impossible anyway. She had always known. Ever since her arrival in Soul Society. Taking a deep breath, she turned back to Hitsugaya, the smallest of smiles alighting upon her full, ambrosial lips before she hastened to fall into step beside him.

Silence reigned for a long while, but just as they were in sight of Jidanbou's gate, her taichou spoke. "Watermelons," he muttered, barely above a whisper, once again refusing to face her.

"What?" Matsumoto frowned.

"My mother … always smelled of watermelons."

Then again, Rangiku grinned genuinely, maybe it wasn't all that impossible after all.

A middle-aged woman, long, black hair held behind her head in a fringed bun, stepped out from behind one of the many clusters of trees. She slowly approached the now vacated bench, watching the two shinigami's retreating backs. When she was sure they would not look back, she reached into the waste basket and pulled out the discarded parchment.

Pale, blue-violet eyes skimmed its contents as tender hands unfolded it. A large smile grew across the width of her face, eyes welling up with salty tears at the flawless handwriting. Quickly wiping the wetness away, the woman stowed the paper in her traditional robes and continued on her way.

"Happy Birthday, Mom."

"Mommy! Mommy!" came the childish giggles as the little girl ran gleefully into the next room She was met by a broadly grinning woman, crouching down to her eye level. "Guess what today is!"

"What's today?" the woman asked playfully, brushing wavy, golden hair from her child's wide and happy eyes.

"Happy Birthday, Mommy!" the little girl beamed as she handed her mother a piece of paper with those exact words printed crudely and with numerous spelling mistakes upon it. The small child was unimaginably proud; to have been able to write all of that in kanji! Sure, Daddy had helped a little, but it had been her who had written it.

The woman looked at the piece of paper blankly for a second before looking back down at her daughter. The emotions swelling within her chest were just too much to hold in. In a fit of motherly passion, she reached out and grasped the little girl in a firm and loving embrace.

"Thank you so much, Ran-chan! It's beautiful!"

"Next time, it'll be even better!"