Written for the June flashfic round of bleachflashfic on LJ.
He was young by Shinigami standards when they first met. But he was clever, cleverer than the other new candidates entering the academy. It couldn't be said that he was exactly smart, because he had problems with math and understanding the dynamics of systems. But he was clever, clever like a rat or a snake.
And when he looked into the face of Aizen Sousuke, he was the only one who saw him for what he truly was and it made him smile.
"That Captain has taken quite an interest in you."
"Oh?" says Gin in that way of his whenever he is pretending not to know what the other person is talking about.
"He's been at the last three practices. He always smiles at everyone but he always keeps his eyes on only you."
"Hmm," says Gin, "how odd."
Matsumoto looks at him piercingly, as if searching for something he is hiding. "Aren't you bothered by it?"
"No." Gin grins. "I'm actually quite intrigued."
"Is that why you're always smiling back at him?" Matsumoto asks later that night.
"Have I been smiling back?"
"Oh," says Gin. "I hadn't noticed."
Matsumoto snorts into her sheets. "You're a strange guy, Gin."
But not as strange as Aizen, Gin thinks.
It is often said that one rat can sniff out another rat. So when they have sniffed long enough it is Aizen who approaches Gin and it is Gin who looks through the illusion and it is not afraid but intrigued.
"You, boy," says Aizen, "what is your name?"
"Gin," he answers. Then adds, "Sir."
Aizen smiles at him and lays a hand on his shoulder and Gin thinks there will be no going back from here.
Gin is powerful. He is no where near a protégé but he is powerful. Moreso than that he is clever and he can smell an opportunity almost as well as he can smell a rat.
"I like you, Gin," Aizen says after their practice. His sweat makes his hair wet and he slicks it back. The change in hairstyle makes him appear more sinister. "I like you a great deal."
"Thank you, sir."
"In fact," Aizen continues, "how would you like to join my squad under my command?"
"I would like that very much, sir."
"Good, good," says Aizen, that ever present smile on his face. "I knew you would."
Gin is silent for a long moment, staring at him. "If I may be so bold, sir," he says finally, "I actually like your hair better that way."
"Do you now?"
"It suits you better."
Aizen peers into a mirror. He chuckles at his reflection. "I think you and I are going to get along just fine, Gin."
"Yes," Gin smirks. "I think we are too."
If anyone was surprised at Gin's rapid succession in the ranks, nobody said anything. Not even Matsumoto noticed Gin's quick rise, she being so wrapped up in joining another division outside his. Gin is almost thankful for this. It will make things so much easier.
"You've come a long way," Aizen comments to him. It is night and the moon is bright through the doorway. They are alone in Aizen's office. "Even quicker than I had expected."
"Oh?" says Gin.
Aizen leans forward onto his desk, his fingertips barely touching each other, and his gaze fully locked onto the other man. Gin knows this will be deadly serious. He can always tell with Aizen, unlike everyone else.
"You've known from the start haven't you?" Aizen says without preamble.
No explanation is needed. "Hmmm," says Gin, "I suppose." His hand ticks near his sword. The final moment has come and Gin knows with every opportunity there can be two very different outcomes. "Do you plan to kill me now?"
Aizen laughs. Actually laughs. "No," he answers. "Not at all. Honestly you're exactly what I've been looking for."
And another opportunity with different outcomes. "A pawn?" asks Gin carefully.
"Hardly," says Aizen with a smirk. "An accomplice."
"You're smiling again," Matsumoto comments the next day.
"Am I?" Gin touches his face. "I hadn't realized. Have I been smiling often?"
Gin laughs at that, which confuses Matsumoto and makes Gin feel damn good.
Gin had never been much of a leader. Power had never been something he desired. It was too much of a hassle to handle and way too difficult to achieve much less maintain. Gin was much more prone on letting someone else do all the work and sit in the power seat while he reaped the same benefits with half the effort. Being Aizen's right-hand man fit the bill perfectly. Aizen did all the planning and conniving. All Gin had to do was what Aizen told him.
Gin doesn't mind following orders so long as he's getting somewhere.
"First," says Aizen, "we will need pawns. Pawns that will do most of the dirty work for us."
"Oh?" says Gin, half his attention on Aizen and the other half on the silent black man beside him. It creeps him out that he can't tell where the black man is looking.
"Yes," says Aizen, "but you won't have to worry so much about that. I will take care of most of it from the background."
"I will not participate in this action," the black man states melodramatically, as if God himself had told him he couldn't.
To the side, Gin discreetly rolls his eyes. Gin doesn't hate Tousen; just their ideals are so completely different it is hard to agree on anything. Tousen believes in justice for everyone. Gin believes the best justice is whichever one gets him the furthest ahead.
"That's fine," says Aizen. "Gin, I hope you don't mind getting your hands dirty."
Gin's permanent smile widens. "Not at all."
Gin has never been prone on helping others. When he does, it is only because he can gain something himself by doing so. If Gin is truly honest with himself, which he is, he would admit he was a downright selfish person.
The only time he has ever helped anyone is when he saved Matsumoto from starvation. Matsumoto believes he did it because he holds a special place for her in his heart, which he does, but when Gin is truly honest with himself, and he is, he knows that's not entirely true. When she comes to him, bitching and moaning about the heat in her unserious way, and the eyes of Shuuhei follow her like a hawk, Gin can't help but feel damn good. He smiles at Shuuhei, a fake invitation to be friends, and Shuuhei looks at him with such hatefulness and distrust Gin can't help but revel in it.
And when she allows his mouth to press to hers and his hands to wander, Gin knows he didn't save her out of any kindness of his heart. He did it for purely selfish reasons because he wanted her. Gin is only nice when he gains something out of it.
Matsumoto asks him in the morning where he is going. Gin never answers, because he knows she will follow him anyway.
Once, Tousen and Gin had had a conversation that Gin can never forget. He had commented on Tousen's view of justice and how ironic it seemed that Tousen should be following one such as Aizen.
"I want justice and equality for everyone," Tousen had responded.
Gin snorted in disbelief. "You must not understand justice very well then."
"No," Tousen disagreed. "It is you who does not understand."
"Before you can rebuild something to make it better," said Tousen, his sightless eyes staring, "you must first tear it down."
The first time he sees her, she reminds him of a doll. A fragile, innocent doll eager to please and be welcome. A doll that could be easily broken.
She is small, hesitant, and unsure, and when they kill the Hollows Gin can easily read the awe on her face. And the moment Aizen smiled at her, that devilish smile others mistook for kindness, and laid his hand on her shoulder, Gin knew she was done.
Her name is Hinamori and Gin watches her from a distance. "Watch her," Aizen had said. "Watch her and find out what makes her tick."
She seems to be aware of him but Gin is sly and keeps a discreet distance. She is almost always smiling. But unlike Aizen's smile, hers is genuine with nothing sinister behind it. The times she is with her friends – the loud-mouth Renji and the complacent Kira – she smiles the most. She is happiest when she is with her friends and scared when she is alone. Hinamori, Gin understands, can't stand being alone. In the weeks that he watches her he notices that she is always standing in the sun and tries her best to avoid shadows. In the shade, her body starts to quiver.
He watches her friends too but none of them catch his attention like she does. Like Aizen, Gin can see the secret thing lurking inside her. And just like with Aizen, Gin wants to reach out and touch it.
When she smiles shyly at him, Gin doesn't smile back. But then again, Gin is always smiling.
"What is it that makes her?" Aizen asks.
His words skitter across Gin's flesh and his answer is quick. "Love," he says. "Love is what makes her."
"Hmmm," Aizen smiles. "Then that is what we will give her."
Aizen sweeps them under his wing, a good and helpful parent to the inexperienced young. He has the three join his division – Renji, Kira, and Hinamori. Gin doesn't care for Renji or Kira. Renji is obnoxious and Kira is timid. Hinamori though he cannot keep his eyes off of.
More and more she comes about. Aizen is with her nearly all of the time and Gin remains in the background. This is not his job to perform.
Still, he watches and the way she stands, moves, breathes, is an enigma to Gin. It is like watching a tiger trying to be a mouse.
When Hinamori, sweet, kind, and goodhearted Hinamori, excels so well at the demon arts, it surprises everyone, except for Gin. He has known all along.
They have never spoken to each other. In all the time he has watched her and in all the time she has been watched, they have never exchanged words. It isn't what Aizen wants of Gin or her. Communication between them is unneeded.
The night Gin runs into her, hugging herself in the dark and staring at the moon, a coincidence outside of Aizen's plans, Gin can't help himself. "Are you afraid of the dark?"
She looks up at him sharply. She is small and helpless looking. Gin thinks she is even more deceiving than Aizen himself.
"No," she says. She licks her lips.
"What are you afraid of then?"
"I'm afraid of what's in the dark."
"Oh," says Gin simply.
She is quiet for a moment, looking at him. Then, "Aren't you afraid?"
"Because," says Gin, "unlike most people I can see what's in the dark."
Hinamori doesn't ask him what's in the dark. She doesn't ask him if he can see what's inside her, if he can see her for what she truly is.
Gin is dying to tell her. It's like an itch he can't scratch. He wants to tear away her flesh, expose the bones beneath and allow the sinister thing inside her to come out. He simply wants her to know.
But Hinamori doesn't ask. That's her style, Gin is learning. She'd rather keep it hidden deep inside and not let anybody else know it. Love is what helps her, the simple act of focusing on someone else so she doesn't have to focus on herself. This is why she is so afraid of being left alone.
The next time he sees her, she is with the silver-haired child-captain and the looks they give him make his smile widen.
"I've heard that you've achieved your Bankai," Matsumoto says.
"Oh?" says Gin.
"I've also heard they're planning to make you a Captain soon."
With Aizen's help of course it had come about. Aizen needed him in a position of power so he may move around freely. Gin could have reached Captain status on his own but not this soon. "How interesting," says Gin merely.
"Does it make you happy?"
"Hmmm," says Gin, "'not yet, but I think it will."
Aizen informs them of the tasks they will need to do in the following weeks. Renji, the loud mouth, was too much of a bother for him. He would be sent him away to Byakuya's division. Kira and Hinamori on the other hand were much more manageable.
"You will take charge of Kira," says Aizen to Gin. "He's taken a fair liking to you. He will be yours to handle. Make him trust you, make him believe you, make him want to help you."
"Not a problem." He waits but Aizen says nothing more. Gin can't contain himself. "What about Hinamori, sir?"
"Oh her." Aizen leans back in his chair. "I've found something much more sinister in her than love."
"And what is that, sir?"
Aizen smiles. "Admiration. I will make her unable to live without me."
"Then you plan to destroy her."
"Will you rebuild her?"
"Whatever what I do that for?" asks Aizen and for the first time since Gin has known him he sounds surprised. "She's just a pawn in this whole thing, hardly worth the effort. She will serve her purpose then we'll let her go."
"Ah," says Gin. Aizen, he realizes, does not see what he sees. But that was Gin's gift. Or curse maybe.
The plan is set up flawlessly. Hinamori stays with Aizen and Gin, disappointedly, gets Kira. Kira is easy to manipulate and easier to gain the trust of. He believes just about everything Gin tells him. Regardless, Gin feels a little respect for him. His fierce loyalty is especially heroic, if a little misplaced.
"I will protect you with my life," Kira tells him.
Gin thinks it's all very foolish. He also thinks it's quite funny, in a mean spirited sort of way.
Gin doesn't follow her anymore. The time for that is done. But, like the time of that night, it does not stop him from taking advantage of circumstances. He looks at her and grins whenever she turns his way. He tries to convey without words what he knows.
Hinamori though is no rat. She can't smell him. Shyly, she ducks her head and waves.
Gin hates her for it.
"What do you want most in the world, Gin?"
It is night time. The time to strike is upon them. The ryoka running rampart through the streets is enough a distraction to ensure they won't be caught.
The three men stand between the pillars of white stone. The door is in front of them and, before they enter, Aizen asks his strange question.
Gin hums to himself. "I suppose," he says, "luxury."
Aizen laughs. "Is that why you're with me?"
"More or less."
Aizen chuckles, amused at Gin's honesty. He unsheathes his sword.
Gin turns to look at him. "And what is it you want exactly?"
Aizen smiles. In the moonlight Gin can see his teeth flash white. "Everything."
It was easy really. Even too easy. The room was so secretive nobody would dare question their authority and Aizen was so trusted no one would dare accuse him of murder, much less evil. And Tousen, justified Tousen, would never dirty his hands like that.
It is Gin who must be the decoy, the suspicious one, the one people will point fingers at. He is not the handle, nor the blade, nor the hand that guides the blade. He is simply an anomaly in a sea of generalizations. And maybe that is why people have always feared him and don't trust him.
And maybe, Gin thinks, that is why Hinamori tries so hard to hide herself.
Aizen has a bad habit of going overboard with things. He has a flair for dramatization. His 'death' is no different and Gin has to roll his eyes at the grisly scene. The sword in the chest, the blood sprayed across the white stones, the high perch the 'corpse' sits on for all the world to see: it's all a little too theatrical for Gin's taste. He prefers the quick strike, the concealed stroke, the ambush.
Regardless, it's immensely lifelike and the gasps and screams of shock are simply delightful. Especially Hinamori's, who's is so heartbreaking and terrifying that it sends a shiver up Gin's spine.
His late entrance is not missed and his callous remark makes Hinamori go crazy. Even more amusing is when Kira blocks her attack, hopelessly loyal and dedicated to his superior against even those he cares about.
When Hinamori unleashes her sword and truly attacks, showing herself and her true power for the first time Gin can remember, it makes his smile widen at the beauty of it.
"They are all so suspicious of me. Especially Hitsugaya." Gin yawns and scratches his arm. "Plan succeeded."
"Good." Aizen settles cozily into one of the chairs. The blood and bodies surrounding him in the small room don't seem to bother him in the least.
"The outsiders are causing enough disturbance that no one will notice the change in Rukia's execution date," Gin continues, "and your death has gone almost wholly unnoticed."
Aizen grins at that. "And how is dear Hinamori?" he asks. His tone shows the topic doesn't mean much, just a way to satisfy curiosity about a prank one has pulled. "How is my little poppet after seeing my grisly corpse?"
Gin takes a moment before he answers. "Profoundly disturbed," he answers at last.
"How tragic." Aizen sighs. "I think it might be best to end her miserable little existence. A dog can't survive without its owner after all. No one likes a stray."
"No," Gin agrees softly. "No one does."
Aizen has a rather sick sense of humor. And his flair for extravagance is not missed in that area. He also thinks of everything.
The letter he had written is sick and ironic. Aizen can be horribly cruel.
Gin travels at night. Kira follows him, not knowing any better, believing Gin when he says he'll save him. He believes Gin broke him out of prison to help him. He will believe anything. He is another tragic dog. He doesn't even move when she shows up, crazed and nearly broken. He says nothing when she clashes swords with her dearest friend, the silver-haired child-captain, and he is foolish enough to get himself frozen.
Gin doesn't move either, not until the last moment when the ice is surging to engulf him. He wants to see the beauty of her and whether or not she will use it to its full potential. He is disappointed when she is beaten.
Hitsugaya is strong, perhaps stronger than Gin himself, but Gin is smart. His sword should have killed her. Gin wants it to because she is too weak and fragile and he's pissed off that she won't realize what she is and let it be, why she won't shed her outer flesh and be the wonderful sinister thing inside her soul.
Unfortunately Gin is not Aizen. He does not think of everything and Matsumoto's sword blocks his own.
She strains but will not back down. There's too much fire in her for that. "I will be your opponent," she proclaims.
His smile disappears for a long moment and when it reappears, it is wider than ever. He withdraws.
Gin has always been selfish. Nothing will ever change that. He will never hurt Matsumoto. Never, ever her. He's too selfish for that.
"Really," Aizen remarks when Gin delivers the news. "What a troublesome thing. How bothersome."
"My apologies, sir," says Gin, "for not succeeding."
Whether or not Aizen cares if Gin is sincere or not, he doesn't show it. Gin is not even sure himself if he is or not.
"It's all well and fine," says Aizen. He waves his hand idly. "I'll take care of it. I do have another errand for you to make though. Dear Rukia needs some comfort after her ordeal. Why don't you go give it to her?"
Aizen is good at breaking people down and Gin is even better at carrying out those operations.
When Rukia falls to her knees screaming, Gin knows the plan is moving ahead nicely.
"Things are moving quite fast now." Gin stretches.
Kira huddles in the corner. He trembles. From what Gin is not sure. Fright, anticipation, or something else. It reminds Gin of Hinamori on the night when he found her shivering in the dark.
"The final move is about to happen. Are you ready for it?"
Kira swallows. "As long as…as long as you promise not to hurt Hinamori."
"Of course not." Gin's tone is breezy. "Why would I do something like that?"
Kira breathes a sigh of relief. "Good."
Easily, easily he is convinced, so eager to trust. It is almost enough to make Gin want to slap him. Or laugh at him.
There is a short silence between them before Gin breaks it. "Kira," he says, stretching out the word like a death sentence, "I have one order that you must carry out."
Gin is looking away from him, towards the buildings and the rampart fighting going on between comrades and friends of the Gotei 13. "You must get Matsumoto away from here."
"Get her away from Room 46. Don't let her be here for long. Keep her away."
"How will I do that?"
Gin shrugs. "However you want. Just do it. Kill her if you must."
Kira stares at him, silent and penetrating. Gin pretends not to notice the inquisitive accusation. He could careless what Kira thinks or believes and he could careless what the youngster does to distract Matsumoto. So long as she isn't around him. He can't have another interference like last time.
"Very well," says Kira.
Though Gin will never admit it, silently he is relieved.
Kira does his part well. Hitsugaya and Matsumoto chase him without second thought.
Hinamori enters the doorway. At the sight of the carnage, she clutches the front of her robes.
From behind her, Gin approaches. He leans over her shoulder and welcomes her home.
"We are nearly there now. Not too much longer.'
Through the white stones they walk. Gin offers no explanation for what has happened or about to happen. Hinamori doesn't ask for one either. For the majority of the time she is quiet.
At the stairs to their final destination, she finally breaks the silence.
At the soft spoken word, he turns to face her. Her arm is across her chest, clutching the other upper arm as if hugging herself. She shakes, a fragile leaf nearly broken.
"You told me once a long time ago," she says, "that you could see what was in the dark."
"Ah," says Gin. He feigns ignorance. "Did I say that?"
"Yes." Her hand around her arm tightens until the knuckles show up starkly white against her black uniform. "What…what is it you see?"
Gin smiles. Finally, finally in the last moments. At last.
Slowly he descends down the steps to her. He reaches out. His long fingers caress her cheek. "I see you, sweet Hinamori," he says. "I see you."
She lowers her face. Her shoulders hunch. Slowly he can see her barriers falling one by one. She is crumbling before his very eyes.
In order to rebuild something you must break it down.
"Why do you care for Aizen so much?" he asks suddenly.
Hinamori sniffles. "He keeps me sane," she whispers into the flesh of his palm. "He quiets my soul, keeps me from getting restless. He cleanses me."
Gin stares at her. There is no smile on his face.
"That is why I cared for him so. He keeps the darkness at bay. That is why I went crazy when he died. I can't do it alone. I need him so I don't become what I don't want to be." She straightens. Her eyes meet his own. "He was my world."
If it had been any other person, he would have said Hinamori's world must be too small. But because it is Aizen, Gin thinks Hinamori's world is simply too big for her to seize.
Gin takes a step back. His palm falls away from her face. His flesh is wet from her tears.
It's all very tragic. Gin thinks this is the kind of thing people tell stories about late at night when they're trying to scare each other. Or a grand play that will be talked about for centuries.
Aizen's sword slices through Hinamori's body and she falls out of their embrace. She had been embracing a cobra and finally it had bitten. There is no better way to destroy someone than a betrayal.
Aizen's face is ridiculously indifferent. He shakes the blood off his sword. "Let's go, Gin."
Gin doesn't move for a minute. He stares at the body. His fingers itch to rebuild her now that she has been completely destroyed. But there is no time for that. Not in Aizen's plan. Slowly Gin turns away.
"Yes, sir," he says, "Captain Aizen."
The little charade with Rukia, Renji, and the ryoka on the top of the hill is tremendously humorous. It is even more humorous as Aizen explains everything. Gin has to admit he is impressed. He doubts even he could have concocted such a wonderful scheme.
Funnier still when Komamura arrives and Aizen beats him with a simple spell.
It is not so funny though when Byakuya, bloody and exhausted from his fight with the ryoka, shows up and stops the death of Rukia. And Yoruichi and Soi Fong and the three gate guardians and Jidanbou with Kuukaku on his shoulder…
"How chaotic." Around him the earth itself is splintering. Gin waves his hand in the air. "What to do…"
It is Matsumoto who seizes him. Her hand encircles his wrist. She tells him not to move.
Gin isn't surprised that she would target him instead of Aizen. Matsumoto was like that. Always she came to him and no one else.
"I'm sorry, Captain Aizen," Gin says pleasantly, almost teasingly. "I got caught."
The Gotei 13 appear around them, the whole lot of them. It's all very exciting.
Aizen seems unruffled by it all. The threats make him chuckle. "It's time."
The light of negation comes pouring down. The Menos Grande split the sky like an over ripe fruit. In the forefront, Aizen smoothes his hair back, like the day of his training with Gin. "I will be the one to stand in the heavens," he states in his overdramatic way. How typical.
Gin looks at Matsumoto for the last time. "I wouldn't have minded being bound for a little while longer." He smiles ather wounded expression. "Sorry."
Like always he leaves without telling her where he is going. Only this time she won't be able to follow him.
If anyone had bothered to ask Gin if he had any regrets, he would have said two. First there is Matsumoto, with her fierce love that won't allow her to let go of Gin and won't allow her to keep him. And his love for her, which isn't strong enough to detour him off his path but is enough to make him feel sorry.
Then there is Hinamori with her untapped potential and hidden sinister darkness. Hinamori who is stronger than anyone can rightly give her credit for thanks to Aizen. Hinamori who Aizen so soundly broke down.
Gin has never been a perfectionist. Still, he can't help but think a destroyed house is simply nothing but a ruin.