I am so sorry about the formatting issues on the last one - FFN has a habit of stripping any formatting I do. If you're having issues, please visit my shared fic journal on LJ, Dumbtasticduo.
"Gin, would you kill them if I asked you to?"
There was a silence. Aizen didn't look up from his paperwork, and Gin's smile seemed frozen in place.
"Why would ya ask a thin' like that, Aizen-taichou?"
"I want to be sure that I can trust you."
Gin would have laughed at his captain's jealousy if the situation hadn't been so dangerous.
"Stop thinkin' 'bout them so much. They don' matter. 'Sides, it wouldn' do ya any good t' have 'em killed now. Be suspicious, that would.
"They ain' hurtin ya none."
Aizen smiled dangerously in response.
"Should that ever change, however, I will not guarantee their safety." His eyes glinted.
Gin hadn't told his captain about the suspicious young sword corps officer who was investigating Momo's death with Rangiku. He was grateful for his own foresight.
"Remember that she is being watched, Gin."
Matsumoto knew that something was wrong when Izuru showed up at her door, alone. She invited him in worriedly, trying not to think about what might happen if Gin found out.
"So, what brings you here, Izuru?" she asked kindly.
He looked down slightly.
"Matsumoto-san, have you spoken with Ichimaru-taichou lately?"
She blinked, confused.
"Not in several weeks, why?"
He paused, frowning.
"I… was afraid of that. Taichou has been… preoccupied, lately."
His captain had been smiling less, and that alone was more than enough to worry him.
"He hasn't been quite himself since the last time you spoke to him. Matsumoto-san… I apologize for asking but… what happened between you?"
She bit her lip – nothing that either had said or done should have upset him at all… Unless she was in danger. Unless she was being watched.
"Has he said anything about me?" she asked.
"W-well… he asked me not to come see you again, actually… But I'm worried about him, Matsumoto-san! I thought… that you might be able to help him."
He looked away, ashamed that he could not help his captain when he needed it most. It did not escape him that she was the only person his Ichimaru-taichou thought of as a friend, not himself.
"I don't know about that, Izuru," she said grimly. "You need to leave. Don't tell anyone that you were here. Lie if you have to." She raised a hand to silence his protest.
"If he told you not to come, then your life is probably in danger. Take the back door. Sayuri will show you out."
Kira, confused but nevertheless obedient, stood to leave.
"Matsumoto-san, truly, do you think that you can help him?"
"Yes," she said, just to see him smile – but even to herself, her promise sounded hollow.
It had been several weeks since the disastrous incident meeting Ichimaru Gin, and Toshirou was surprised do see that he wasn't on any wanted posters. No thugs had followed him down dark alleys to test his skill with swords. He had been sure that Ichimaru would try to do the same thing to him as the man had done to Momo – the fact that he hadn't was almost enough to make him think that Matsumoto was right. Maybe Gin wasn't the man he was after.
He still wasn't completely convinced, however. Something about that man just made him uneasy.
Very few people on the street seemed to know anything at all about Momo, and the only person who might have been a witness could only say that it had been a man, dark-haired and broad-shouldered. But this witness couldn't even be sure if that person had been the criminal or if he had just happened to be out that night. So, Toshirou decided that, given his negligible progress in other areas, and the absence of a bounty on his head, the time was right to visit the government.
Early one morning, he set out for the military offices, where he was sure the secret operations must work. Once there, he asked around for Gin's friends – and failing that, acquaintances – and for people who had known Momo, but came up only with Kira for the former.
However, for the latter, a large group of willing informants eventually found him. None had known her well, but one suggested that Aizen Sousuke might, possibly, have been her superior. After all, he had cried at the poor girl's funeral.
Hitsugaya thanked him profusely, handing the worker a few coins in gratitude, though his own salary was quite small.
When he finally found Aizen's office, deep within the military compound, the stark bareness of it struck him as odd. Despite the man's prowess as a warrior and a leader, the captain's room was stark in its whiteness, with only a solitary painting of sakura blossoms to give the room life. There were no medals, no letters of thanks from the Emperor – Hitsugaya knew the man must have them. The fact that he didn't display them only increased his esteem in the boy's eyes.
Like his room, the man at the desk also seemed quiet and unassuming. The way Aizen smiled as he invited the young officer in automatically put Toshirou at ease.
"Come in. May I help you?" he asked kindly, in an almost paternal way.
"Yes, sir. Are you the Captain Aizen?" Toshirou saluted smartly as he spoke, reminded suddenly of his training as an officer in the presence of such a great man.
"I am," he responded.
He motioned for Hitsugaya to come sit in front of his desk, the gesture of an equal, not a superior. The boy accepted, bowing once in gratitude before kneeling.
"I'm here on business, sir. I am a police officer of the sword corps, and I've heard rumors that you might have known Hinamori Momo in some way."
"I did," he responded gently, as if sensing Toshirou's true connection to the girl in question.
"Then you were her captain?"
"I was. Hinamori-kun was a very sweet girl, and served me well. I am truly horrified by her brutal death." The sadness in his voice spoke volumes to the boy.
"I'm investigating her death. Can you tell me about any groups or people who might have reason to do something like this? It seems that it might have been a political killing, based on the message left by the murderer."
His voice choked as he tried not to think about it, about the blood on her skin or the words carved into her lifeless body
"There are a few rebel groups, I think, that might have tried to intimidate the Emperor or myself by such a death. But beyond that, you know as much as I. None have claimed responsibility." He paused. "Truly, I am sorry." He gave the boy a look of such piercing sorrow that he had to look away.
Toshirou rose slowly, then bowed.
"Thank you very much for your help, I wish you luck with your doings. Momo, I think, respected you very much." Aizen's eyes filled with tears that Toshirou could not look at, and with that, the boy turned and walked out.
After leaving, he headed straight for the Department of Internal Affairs' main office. The young man at the front door had seemed friendly enough, so Toshirou decided that he could risk asking some questions.
"Excuse me," he asked politely, "what can you tell me about the rebel groups in the area?"
The man smiled in return, obviously thinking that such matters would be over a boy's head.
"I don't think that this is a matter for you to be investigating, young man. But if you're curious, I'll tell you." He acted as if he were giving Hitsugaya some great boon, and the boy twitched angrily. "There's the Red Army faction in West Tokyo, of course, that's the biggest. The Sekihotai factions are still causing trouble in places."
He leaned down and whispered conspiratorially, as if speaking to a small child.
"But, we're about to unmask a traitor in the government itself! We intercepted a letter from the man a few days ago. Aizen-taichou is in charge of investigation. He'll find the guy. You can be sure of that."
Hitsugaya twitched again at the man's condescending tone, but didn't comment. The man's last words intrigued him, and he didn't want to insult his source. At the mention of traitor, he automatically thought of Ichimaru.
"Can I see the letter?" he asked.
The man gave him a patronizing look, and Toshirou had to suppress a growl.
"Of course not. This is business for the adults. Now go away, before someone important sees you and gets angry at me."
Hitsugaya gave him a look of pure contempt, and he looked vaguely shocked that someone so young would be capable of that look.
"I'm a sword corps officer, you idiot. And I'm sixteen." His tone was menacing, but this time the officer seemed determined not to let him in based on rudeness alone.
"Sorry, but no."
Hitsugaya briefly considered proving just why he had become an officer at such a young age, but decided against it. As satisfying as it might be now, that would be far more trouble than it was worth.
Instead, he stalked off, a plan already forming in his mind.
Izuru had been meaning to speak with his captain for a while, and found the perfect opportunity as he found his captain at a rare lunch break, unsmiling and staring into the distance.
"Ichimaru-taichou?" As soon as Kira spoke, the smile was back up. The boy winced, recognizing a defense when he saw one, and wishing that his captain would decide he didn't need one around Izuru.
"Yeah, Izuru-chan? Somethin' botherin ya?" He had always been extremely good at noticing those sorts of things.
"Yes, sir… Are you alright, Ichimaru-taichou?"
"'Course I am. What makes ya ask that?" He watched the boy with interest.
"You've seemed… preoccupied, lately. I was wondering… well, I had been wondering if it was anything I might help you with." The "you're worrying me" was implied.
Gin's smile suddenly slipped, but it was up again almost instantly. He moved quickly to capture Izuru's lips with his own in a chaste kiss. Izuru smiled into it, putting his arms around his captain as he pulled away.
"Trus' me, Izuru, if ya can do anythin' for me, I'll let ya know."
And Kira smiled at the thought that he might be able to help after all.
A few hours later, he returned to Matsumoto's brothel, having calmed down some after the frustrating incident with the guard.
She was asleep, as was usual for that time of evening, and completely oblivious to the world, until a good swift kick in her side woke her up. She groaned sleepily.
"That was mean, Toshirou… What was that for?" She gave him her best pout look, but he was pointedly not looking at her in order to avoid falling for it.
"I have a job for you, Matsumoto. I need to get into the Department of Internal Affairs tonight. They won't let me in because I'm a kid, and there's something I need to see."
"Something about Momo?" She rolled onto her stomach to look at him.
"I think so." Though he had no real proof, he had a suspicion that Momo's killer was a part of the government, someone who had known her, and probably also had something to do with Ichimaru Gin.
"Alright then. I think I already know what you have in mind." She grinned slowly, thinking that this, she might enjoy.
Later that evening, Aizen called Gin into his room.
"I have an assignment for you, Gin. I want you to kill someone. A young, white-haired police officer by the name of Hitsugaya Toshirou. He's been investigating Hinamori's death, and I'm afraid he might be too clever for his own good."
There was a pause, and Gin's smile faltered.
"I don' think that would be a good idea."
Aizen fixed him with a piercing stare that made him very uncomfortable.
"And why might that be?" he asked sharply.
"Ah… I've met the kid, see. Doesn' like me. Likely he'd star' yellin' 'bout who it was, minute he saw me, covered up or no. I'm kinda distinctive, see."
"And how does this boy know you?"
"I wouldn' say 'know." He asked me once 'f I knew anythin' 'bout Hinamori-chan. Said I didn', don' think he believed me."
"How did he find out who you are? How did he find out where you were? You tend to move around unnoticed." Aizen sensed that Gin was hiding something, and did not like it.
"Dunno. Blind luck?" Gin's response was entirely too quick for Aizen's tastes.
"You're lying." Suddenly his hand flew up, hitting Gin's face with a loud crack. Gin fell to the floor easily, almost as if he had been expecting it.
"Not lyin', Aizen-taichou." His smile didn't leave as he sat up and touched his red jaw gingerly.
"You are. This has to do with that woman of yours, doesn't it, that whore!" Aizen's voice hadn't been this angry for as long as Gin could remember.
Aizen hit Gin again, harder, and blood bubbled over his lower lip.
"Call your puppy. He was there when you met the boy, wasn't he. Send someone, actually. I want to hear what he has to say." His voice was calm now, but rage boiled tangibly under the surface.
Gin did so quickly, and moments later Kira arrived at the door, eyes widening in shock as he took in Aizen's uncharacteristically angry expression and his captain's bloody face. He automatically began to run to his captain's side, but Aizen's hand stopped him.
"Answer me honestly, Izuru," Aizen demanded. "Have you met a young boy by the name of Hitsugaya Toshirou?"
Kira looked towards his captain for reassurance. From behind Aizen, Gin nodded, giving him permission to tell the truth.
"Yes, sir. I have." Aizen smiled, threatening.
"And did this have anything to do with a woman, a blonde prostitute named Matsumoto Rangiku?"
Kira saw his captain shake his head almost imperceptibly. He bit his lip, knowing the consequences for lying, then took a deep breath and spoke.
He didn't know what was going on, why Aizen had so much control over Ichimaru-taichou, or why the man was so angry, but he would continue to follow his captain's wishes until the last.
Gin nodded at him, reassuring, and Izuru almost smiled. But Aizen's face had become stormy, and hatred rolled off him like thunder.
"You lie. You both lie. I can feel it!" he growled menacingly.
As night fell, Rangiku and Hitsugaya were standing at the front of the Internal Affairs office. The guard had let them in easily enough when Matsumoto purred that they both had been called to see to the Minister. Once they were inside, he hit her for that.
The Minister's office was easy enough to find, and thank the gods the Minister still seemed to be in there. Toshirou hid himself around a corner so as not to be suspicious, and Rangiku knocked on the door, putting on the sultry expression that had earned her reputation. When the Minister opened the door, eye-level to a set of magnificent breasts, he nearly passed out.
"Hey, sweetheart. Someone told me you wanted a little… attention." She ran her hand up and down his arm, smiling as he turned beet red.
He gulped loudly.
"Uh… I think I know a room we can use…"
As he led her off, she grinned over her shoulder at Toshirou and nodded her head in the direction of the man's now open office. He wasted no time getting inside.
Gin had never seen Sousuke this angry, and it disturbed him a little. If the man didn't get control of his anger soon, he was likely to ruin all of his carefully-laid plans. Gin watched, unmoving, as his captain hit Kira to the floor in a rage.
"Taichou, see some reason…" he said in a halfhearted attempt at Izuru's defense.
Aizen's anger switched targets more rapidly than Gin would have thought possible.
"So, they're more important to you than I am?" The threat was unspoken, but all the more dangerous for that.
"No, taichou… I never said…"
"Then how do you like this?" he snarled. He drew his sword and in one smooth motion, stabbed Izuru in the stomach.
Kira screamed, and his eyes rolled back in his head, showing only bloodshot white.
Gin did nothing, did not move or blink as he watched the boy fall. Izuru's last thought as his world slipped into blackness, was that he was glad he could die in his captain's service, maybe even saving the life of the woman his master loved most.
It didn't take long for Toshirou to find the letter. The handwriting was plain and choppy – impossible to identify, he thought disappointedly.
The paper said something about the "upcoming coup," which didn't interest him as much as what was scrawled below it. An inventory, it seemed, with women's names and… prices, for each. He shuddered as he realized what that meant.
He had been putting the letter back where he found it, carefully removing any sign of his presence, when he noticed the corner of a paper sticking out from under the thin top layer of wood on the desk. It was an almost microscopic hideaway, more than enough to make Hitsugaya suspicious.
Slowly, he pulled the paper out, wondering what the minister needed to hide in such a secretive place.
And suddenly everything made sense.
He had to get out. Quickly.
Even as Izuru slumped to the floor, eyes unseeing, Aizen turned to Gin again. He raised his dripping sword in Gin's direction, challenging him to think even one thought against his master. Neither moved.
Suddenly, a man slammed the rice-paper door open with a force that snapped the thin wood.
"Sir, someone has snuck into the Minister's office and found your letter!" The messenger was too terrified to notice the contents of the scene before him, or the meaning of the raised weapon
Aizen cleaned his sword with a swift flick, not even bothering to sheath it. He had a feeling he would need it before the night was over.
"It was a white-haired boy, wasn't it?" the man nodded, and Aizen turned back to Gin.
"Follow me if you wish, but you will be here when I get back, one way or another."
Gin nodded slowly.
"'m still loyal to ya, Sousuke," he said quietly. The other man didn't respond, but instead turned away.
As soon as Aizen was out of the door, Gin moved to Izuru's side. He brushed a thumb over the boy's cheek, then kissed him, softer than he ever had in life. A reward, even in death, he thought. Fitting, for the boy who had so well defended his master.
He pulled away slowly, then gave a start as he realized that he could feel a shallow breath on his bloodstained lips.
Quickly, he gathered the boy's limp body up in his arms. He knew one doctor, at least, who would take the boy in, no questions asked.
Gin knew he owed the kid that much, at least.
Toshirou quickly grabbed both papers as he ran out of the room towards where he knew Matsumoto would be. He slammed open the western-style door, ignoring the tawdry scene within, and yelled for her to follow.
There was a quick scream from the minister – he didn't want to think about what she'd done to elicit that pained response – and then she was beside him, hurriedly clothing herself.
"That guy's been bought off. He's working for a traitor – bought off with prostitutes for his personal use. It's all right here." He pointed to the letters in his pocket.
Rangiku went pale. Giving prostitutes in return for loyalty – it seemed horribly familiar. Much too familiar.
"The room has people watching it, too. He was another 'gift.' Guards are probably on their way. Or worse – the guards and Aizen Sousuke. It seems all of this is his doing. I bet," he growled, "that he had something to do with Momo's murder after all."
Rangiku swallowed. Now, she knew who Gin's mysterious superior was. Everything made sense.
Realizing their limited amount of time, they began to run in the direction they knew the door would be.
"Toshirou… I think you might have been right about Gin. I think he's been working for Aizen… Making sex slaves is something he has done in the past, and I don't doubt he's still doing."
"Those bastards." His face went livid. He had suspected that Gin knew more than he was saying, but decided not to pursue it, and now they were both in danger.
They reached the door quickly enough, bursting through and ignoring the guard completely. But before they had taken ten steps, Toshirou heard a familiar voice.
"Going somewhere, are we?" Aizen's words came from behind them, making them that much more terrifying.
Hitsugaya spun around, furious, to meet the gaze of the traitor, whose eyes burned with the same anger as his own. Matsumoto turned to watched, then backed up several feet, so as to be beyond the reach of a sword.
She felt relief fill her body when she realized that he had not noticed her. She briefly thought of running, but she knew she couldn't leave Toshirou to meet his fate alone.
"You bastard. You know who killed Momo, don't you?" Hitsugaya snarled.
"I wouldn't say that, exactly." He paused. "More like, I killed her myself." Aizen grinned, expression turning manic as it grew wider. Toshirou put a hand on his sword.
"I enjoyed every minute of it." His words dragged slowly, and it took Toshirou a minute to register what he was saying. "She begged so prettily, did Momo. At the beginning, she begged for more. By the end, she was begging for death."
Toshirou cut him off with a roar, sword slashing toward the captain's head in a blind rage. But Aizen's sword was already unsheathed, and he blocked in half an instant.
"Don't be so overconfident, or you'll meet your friend in death. Or is that what you're looking for? An easy suicide?" he asked pointedly, every word burrowing into the boy's mind and making the experience almost unbearable. Aizen's grin did not falter – he realized that the boy was distracted. Within seconds, he was disarmed and on the floor with Aizen's sword at his neck.
"Say hello to her for me. After all, like you said, she did respect me so very much." He raised his sword to cut the boy's neck, but stopped as another person entered the scene. He recognized the man at once, without even looking.
"Gin. How very nice of you to join us." Aizen motioned to the terrified door-guard that he come restrain the boy, for the moment, after which he turned to meet his subordinate.
Gin was unsmiling, which surprised Aizen some – and he stared at Rangiku with something akin to horror. Aizen took one good look at Gin, then at Matsumoto, and realized what he had missed. He gave Gin a long, sinister smile.
"So this is your woman, then." He paused.
"You said you were loyal to me, Gin? Prove it. Kill her."
Gin's face drained of what little color had been left. Rangiku stared at him in disbelief, shock – and shame, for ever having trusted him.
Gin remained frozen to the spot. A few moments later, he seemed to collect his head, and spoke.
"I can' do that, sir."
Her face flooded with relief, but Aizen's grew livid with rage. He took two steps in her direction, and in an instant, Gin stood before her.
"You… you would dare to stand against me?" he asked, quietly, but more threatening than ever.
"Not standin' against ya, Taichou. 'm standin' in front o' her." His voice was soft, but deathly serious.
"Don' make me choose, Sousuke."
"You shouldn't have to choose." As soon as Aizen spoke those words, there was an explosion of red – and Gin crumpled to the ground, Aizen's sword still in him, blood staining his blue kimono black.
Aizen, manic grin still on his face, looked down to gloat over his victory, and instead of a defeated face, saw a blade of bright silver protruding from his gut. Aizen Sousuke's fall was slower, more controlled, but Toshirou didn't move an inch from where he had stood when he killed the man.
Matsumoto, oblivious to the captain's demise, was instantly down by her friend's side.
"Gin, you stupid bastard, I never thought you'd do that for me. I never needed you to do that for me." Her voice shook, pained, and she wiped in vain at tears that she could not control.
"I told ya, I don' wanna see ya hurt, Ran-chan." His voice was steady and his smile soft, for once. The injury was too great for pain.
"Izuru's at a hospital, with a doctor I know. Take care of 'm, will ya? He mighta saved your life today, and I don' wan' both of us ta die doin' that, yeah?" He paused.
"Sousuke… 's important t' me, too. Don' think too bad of me, now, 'kay, Ran-chan?"
And with that, she kissed him, and he couldn't say he minded, because every movement was like an apology.
But mostly, this time, it was a goodbye.
A few days later, Gin was buried in a small cemetery near the capitol.
Matsumoto Rangiku cried at his funeral. Kira Izuru did not attend. His grief was beyond tears.
None of them believed that they deserved the medals that the Emperor gave them in light of the thwarted traitor.
Kira argued that he had done nothing. Toshirou said he had only been out for revenge, and Matsumoto said that she had actually hidden evidence of the upcoming betrayal. No-one listened.
Rangiku threw hers away. Kira kept his locked in a box with his string bracelet, neither of which he would ever be able to look at again.
Toshirou put his on Momo's grave.
It was several weeks before the three of them met again. The group was mostly somber –Toshirou had finally had time to mourn his lost love, and Kira was just beginning to mourn his own.
Rangiku slapped them both on the back and suggested a party.
It was time to move on, to dust of the pieces of their lives and put them back together. As she glanced back towards Kira's solemn face, she thought that some might need more help than others – but they would come through alright.
She would always come through. Nothing anyone ever did to her would break her. She was stronger than that.
So as they set a blanket on top of Gin's grave, and Rangiku produced sake, she had only one thing to say to him. Thank you.
Because thanks to him, everything would be alright again. Maybe not perfect, maybe a little emptier, but alright.
Author's note: If you've made it to the end of my baby, thank you very much. I only hope that by the end, you cared half as much about the characters as I did.
Please comment, feedback is like water to me. Indispensable.
And to an anonymous reviewer going by the name of "…..," thank you for your glowing review! Words can't express how flattered I am. I swooned for at least half an hour. I would be honored if you would look me up occasionally and read what I've written. And if I ever get published, you'll be the first to know.
Thank you again, so very much. Everyone.