I experience the insane desire to laugh out loud as your fingers tighten around my wrist and the cold metal of your sword pres

I experience the insane desire to laugh out loud as your fingers tighten around my wrist and the cold metal of your sword presses against my throat. How the tables have turned. How life has played its cold and sadistic game on the two of us. From two children who depended on each other to survive, who lived only for each other, to two shinigami who were each other's best motivation, to two comrades who could always depend on each other in battle, to two opponents locked in mortal combat. I quell the suicidal urge to laugh – is it out of amusement or sadness? – and turn to smile lazily at my captain.

"I'm sorry, Aizen taichou," I call carelessly. "I guess I got caught."

Your grip tightens. Is to capture me or to keep me there with you, Rangiku? I feel sadness mixed with amusement ripple through me. We have been through so much together. Is this how it will end? Will there be blood shed?

I turn to whisper in your ear a question that I am interested in hearing the answer to. "Why?"

Why, Rangiku? Why is life so sadistically, so ironically cruel? To bring us together and then tear us apart in the most brutal way. Would it have been better if we had never met? We would have been incomplete without each other, but ignorant of the fact, and so perhaps content in our ignorance.

"Why, Rangiku?"

You bite your lip hard and your chin quivers slightly; but your eyes flash with fire, and I realize that your heart is breaking, that it is probably killing you to remain calm and composed right now. You have always valued friendship and loyalty above everything else, and I guess that I have just torn both of those things away from you. The same motions that once endeared me to offer you my food, my hand, my friendship. The same motions that now compel me to touch you, to comfort you, to apologize. But I will not.

For time is precious, so precious, and I know that this is our parting, the breaking of our friendship and everything that we have shared together. From the moment you put your sword to my throat, you told me silently, wordlessly, that you have chosen your captain, and from the moment I just smiled casually back, I told you with finality that I have and will always be on Aizen's side. Two opposing masters; two different sides; our friendship must break and we must part. I don't want to waste time with meaningless words. I just want to remember you as you are now.

At the very moment that we part

Let me see you once more before I depart

So I just study you nonchalantly as you turn my own question back to me.

"Why, Gin?" You whisper in a voice hoarse with pain, anger, choked up grief. "Why?"

I can guess your thoughts; why did I betray you, betray my comrades, betray Soul Society? It is because I am sick of the hypocrisy and cruelty of this place, the awful distinction between classes, the stupid bigotry of stuck-up nobles, the neglect of young children, the corruption and malice that is thick and almost tangible in the air. Because I wonder how much further I can go. Because I wonder what else there is to be gained, how much further I can push against the boundaries, the rules. But you would never understand, with your innocent trust and fierce loyalty; you would never want to understand.

So I answer in the only way that I can.

"Because that is who I am." An answer that is no answer yet so much an answer at the same time.

I watch as your blue eyes narrow in anger, as your mouth tightens, as the anger flashes across your face, and I wince inwardly at the cutting coolness of my words. But I know even as I speak those words that that was the only answer I could have given, that what I just said is the utter truth.

I am myself, Ichimaru Gin, and nobody controls me. Only I would choose to give my loyalty to Aizen despite my being immune to his sword's powers. Only I would betray my friends, people who trusted me so blindly, with such cool ease. And only I would stare at the beautiful young woman that I have loved for so long, the young woman I am betraying with every second that my smile lingers, the young woman that I don't know if I will ever see again. The Arrancar are a fearsome lot, but then, when their immense pride is roused, so too can Soul Society be, I suppose. Will I see you again, Ran-chan? I don't know. I don't know if I can ever return to your side. I don't know if you can ever forgive me. I don't know if we can ever return to what we had once.

Don't know when we will meet again in this world wide;

Or when I can once more return to your side

I glance at your face and see a turmoil of emotions, and I can't help but smile affectionately. That's just like you, Rangiku, to be so passionately loyal to everyone, that you no longer know how to act, to think, to feel. So desperate to love and be loved by everyone that you do not know who to be loyal to anymore. Poor girl. You were always like that and you always will be. I can remember the blazing anger burning inside you when you tended to my wounds as a child, the happy pride you felt when I was promoted to Captain. You never were afraid to let your emotions shine through.

You have always been like the sun: bright, cheerful, open, and merry, with nothing to hide, and I love that about you. But I have always been like darkness, Ran-chan; dark, manipulative, deceptive, and quiet, with nothing to lose and everything to play for, and I wonder if you love that about me. We are complete opposites: we think differently, act differently, and the only thing that held us together was our love, the love that is now disappearing because of our steadfast loyalties to others. Darkness and light will never mix; we can never be truly together - what we had for a short while was a mere whim of fate. And yet, without the other, darkness and light are nothing.

Another sadistic joke of life.

I feel a soft aura pulsing and my grin widens. I don't flinch when the golden shaft of light encloses me, but I do inwardly when your fingers unclasp from around my wrist so swiftly. Am I so very easy to let go? I have been expecting it. My smile never wavers – so few know just how much my smile can hide – and I try not to let myself dwell on the hurt written so plainly on your face.

But I cannot look away. My eyes are drawn to your lovely, tear-stained face, to your hands, red from behind enclosed in the burning golden light, to those wide blue eyes filled with tears, and sadness flickers through me as I rise in the air. This is the end of our friendship, and while I have been preparing myself for it, the brutality of it still hurts like a red-hot knife, mixed with the poisonous guilt that comes with the knowledge that this is all my doing.

But I won't let that show. I am Ichimaru Gin, and I never let my emotions show.

"I'm a bit disappointed," I remark casually instead. "You could have held on for just a little longer."

Let me see you once more before darkness begins its reign;

Let me look upon your tear-stained face once again

And I am. Disappointed that we cannot remain friends, disappointed that this is the end of our love. Disappointed in myself, for not trying harder, for not being the person you thought I was, the person that you deserve. Disappointed that you chose a path different from mine. Disappointed that you couldn't hold on just a bit longer, that you let go of me, of our friendship and our love, so easily.

This is entirely my fault, and so I do not let my sadness, my grief, my anger at the injustice of the world, my regret, show on my face. I do not show any of my emotions. I just gaze and gaze at your face - I can never look at you enough, for this is the last time. I caused you this pain, Rangiku, and I am so incredibly sorry.

"Sayonora, Rangiku."

Goodbye, Ran-chan. The only words that I can say. Meaningless words that cause your blue eyes to narrow. But the only words that I can say. I have to say them, because if we never meet again in the future, even if the result will be that I will only regret not saying the right thing, at least I will never constantly regret not saying anything at all. "I'm sorry." And I am. Sorry for everything that has happened, everything that I have done, sorry that I have left you yet again, sorry for what awaits us in the future.

But this is the final time. Rangiku, I swear to you that this is the last time. If I ever get a chance to be with you again, with you, just you, then I will seize it, and damn everything else. Damn the consequences. The only person that matters is you. I will never say goodbye ever again. I won't need to. I swear, this is the last time that I will leave you without a word, leave you behind. The last time that I will say goodbye - if I can be with you in the future, I won't ever leave you anymore. Ever.

But if fate is not so kind - and fate is normally not kind to star-crossed lovers - then at least now I can remember you in my heart. Forever.

After all, isn't that what you've always dreamt of, Ran-chan? Forever?

Let me see you one last time, just one last time before we part,

I want to remember you forever in my heart.