Anywhere But Home

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. That honor belongs to Tite Kubo. All characters are depicted as legal age.

Warnings: Spoilers for the Soul Society Arc and Beyond

This is part of the 30 Kisses challenge on LiveJournal, #20: The Road Home.

Hitsugaya Toushirou was dying.

Gin knew that he was. Could feel the blood gushing from the numerous wounds in the his flesh. Especially the large, diagonal slash directly beneath his fingertips.

He sent out a tingle of reiatsu, an attempt at healing kidoh, and he watched as the blood slowed significantly but didn't stop. Just as he knew it wouldn't. Gin was a mediocre healer at best. That had always been Retsu-chan's specialty, not his.

Still, it was the best he could do, good enough for now. Hopefully, it'd hold this time, last until he could get help.

It was the only chance Hitsugaya had.

Gin shifted him in his arms, carefully tucking him underneath his chin.

Gin's side ached, a gift of his own injuries as blood soaked into his robes. But he ignored that as he continued on his way, using shunpo as quickly as he ever had. He hurried down the deserted hallways, taking the lesser used paths on the way to the hidden exit only he knew about.

He couldn't summon a senkaimon or even use a Garganta inside the fortress itself or the area around it. Another one of Aizen's brilliant ideas, a means to prevent both invasion and the Arrancar from running amuck. Not that Gin could blame him with that whole Grimmjow fiasco.

At the time, it'd seemed like a good idea. Now, he was silently cursing his foul luck.

He mentally stiffened as he turned the corner, hating the way Hitsugaya's blood was such a contrast to everything around him. He hated how his very weak breathing didn't even echo in the empty corridors. Hated how the person in his arms felt cooler and less alive than the dead air around them.

Of course, that wasn't even saying how much he hated Las Noches itself.

This was not home; this was just some place that he was living.

Home was Seireitei. Home was where he and Rangiku would sit for hours, talking and drinking and laughing. Home was where Izuru gave him that nervous smile of his and brought him tea just the way he liked it. Home was where he could wander, visiting each division and being all but thrown out on his ear by half of them. Home was where his friends were, where his family was, where Hitsugaya should be.

Gin shook the thought away as he went down a flight of stairs and then a long corridor. He stopped halfway through, letting his reiatsu pool in his palm and running his hand across a blank stretch of wall. Instantly, an opening appeared, and he ducked inside with the doorway vanishing behind him. Gin hurried down the shadowed and sloping hall, heading for the faint light at the very end.

Hitsugaya trembled and moaned in his arms, and if possible, Gin went even faster. He raced to the exit to emerge onto a dune and quickly stretching out his senses for anyone nearby.

Stark was close, but the Arrancar couldn't have cared less about Gin, his passenger, or what they were doing. He was too busy napping on a nearby ridge.

Gin gave a sigh of relief, even as he put as much distance between himself and the fortress behind them. He'd already killed enough Arrancar in his rescue attempt for Aizen to be far beyond irritated, and the man would be apoplectic if he took out another Espada along the way.

His side throbbed even fiercer as he climbed a dune, and his breath hitched in his throat as he felt some of his skin give way. The trickle of blood became a steady stream.

Gin didn't even pause for air. He simply grasped Hitsugaya even closer to his chest. But that just elicited another groan.

"Hold on," he murmured. "I'm goin' as fast as I can. But damn if ya haven't got heavy since I've been gone."

Gin weakly snorted at that. He wondered how he always managed to end up in this kind of situation. What a time to switch sides, he decided. What a time to have an epiphany about what was really important.

He'd had doubts before. Particularly when Aizen had almost killed Hitsugaya the first time. But his former captain had spared him, a knowing gleam in his eyes as he glanced at Gin.

Things were different now.

Gin had no idea how Aizen had even managed this. The last he had heard, Hitsugaya had returned to Seireitei after that abortive mission to the living world, but he'd obviously left or been taken directly from there. Not that it was really important now. All that mattered was getting him away, getting him the help he needed to live.

Gin glanced around, seeing Las Noches in the distance but nothing else. Nothing but sand and the lonely crescent moon in the sky.

He should be far enough away now. A fact that was confirmed when he successfully took a Garganta, depositing himself down the street from the Urahara Shouten, the one place he might not be killed on sight. Another swift shunpo, and he was just outside the building.

The two children out front gaped for an instant before springing into defensive positions. Within seconds, Urahara was there, cane already released to zanpakutou form. Undoubtedly, the man had sensed Gin's reiatsu, which he hadn't bothered or even wanted to hide.

Urahara took a step forward but hesitated. His brain was finally registering what was in front of him, and surprise flashed across his stubbly lips.

Gin knew that he had to be a sight to see: half-dead Hitsugaya in his arms, blood all over his white robes, desperate expression on his face.

"Please," he said, all trace of his normal humor and familiarity gone. "Please, help 'im. I can't-"

Gin didn't even get a chance to finish before Urahara was calling for someone. Then, a large man came barreling out of the back of the shop, and the next few hours passed in a whirl of worry, his heart in his throat as Urahara's assistant worked his magic.

And indeterminable amount of time later, Hitsugaya slept in a guest room. Of course, he was swathed in so many bandages that he was barely recognizable bulk beneath the blankets, but he was alive.

Gin sat on the floor next to his futon, resting as ordered. He merely watched his companion, one of Hitsugaya's hands clutched in his, head lowered. He was exhausted. Tired beyond belief.

Urahara-san observed them from the open doorway, eyes unreadable under his hat. There was a noise in the hallway, and he turned away before looking back. He studied Gin for another minute and then finally nodded to himself.

"We'd like to ask you some questions," the man said softly, a sympathetic cast to his face. "When you're ready," he added in an even gentler tone. "Take your time."

Gin made a small noise of agreement as he threaded his free hand through soft hair. Behind him, he faintly heard Urahara-san slide the door shut.

Gin knew that he might as well get it over with. The quicker the better. Then, he could return to his vigil.

He stroked Hitsugaya's hair one final time and squeezed his hand. Without even thinking about it, he pressed his lips to Hitsugaya's forehead. Gin was about to pull away when the hand in his twitched and oh-so-barely squeezed back.

Gin couldn't help the tingle of uncertainty that shot through his spine as a pair of blue-green eyes opened and blearily blinked. His heart pounded in his chest as Hitsugaya gazed up at him for what seemed like an eternity.

"Ichimaru?" he whispered hoarsely. "So… it wasn't a dream?" He coughed before he could even receive an answer.

Gin released his hand and reached for the pitcher of water that Tessai-san had thoughtfully left out. He poured a glass and mutely helped Hitsugaya drink it, grateful for the show of trust when he didn't flinched away.

"Thanks," Hitsugaya said after he was done and was lying back wearily. "For everything… Gin."

His lips twitched in a ghost of a smile, his fingers reaching for Gin's. He didn't quite make it, however. His eyes slipped shut once more.

A true grin blossomed on Gin's face as he reclaimed the boy's hand.

"Yer welcome."

Hitsugaya didn't respond. He'd already fallen asleep.

Gin didn't mind though. He simply squeezed the hand in his, content to sit there. He was in no hurry to leave. To explain to Urahara-san and his cohorts about what had happened.

For the first time in ages, he was exactly where he was supposed to be.

He was home.

Ever Hopeful,