Title: Recovery
Characters/Pairing: Gin x Rangiku, hints at Hisagi x Rangiku
Rating: T
Warning: SPOILERS for the end of Soul Society arc
Summary: Rangiku finds it very hard not to get lost in thought these days.
Author's Notes: This was written for a friend of mine, for one of our Christmas exchanges.
Disclaimer: I am not Kubo Tite, thus I do not own Bleach. I do not own these characters. I am only borrowing them for my own enjoyment.


People grieved in different ways. Tears were common, drinking even more so; both at once wasn't unheard of. Some tried to continue as if they were unaffected, which inevitably lead to a breakdown of some kind, physical or mental. Some, unashamed or perhaps simply uncaring, wore their pain on their sleeve, for all the world to see. And some were left in blissful unawareness, spared the act of mourning...for a time.

Everyone had their own way of coping with the loss of the three captains, and the revelation of their intentions. It was a betrayal on such a deep level that it had ripped through Seireitei mercilessly, leaving her bleeding and struggling to heal the wound over. Some felt the pain more deeply than others: the members of their divisions, especially, were considered to be the most hurt and confused by the betrayal. The vice captains were left not only to cope with this pain, but had the perhaps cruel responsibility of taking over the management of their division until new captains could be promoted.

However, even those outside the 3rd, 5th, and 9th divisions felt the sting of Gin, Aizen, and Tousen's backstabbing.

The relationship between Ichimaru Gin and Matsumoto Rangiku was never a secret, though it was never stated explicitly either. It was one of those things that was simply known, a certainty akin to knowing that an apple thrown up into the air would eventually come back down again.

It was unhappy knowledge for many, of course: there were few women in Seireitei as tempting as the 10th division vice captain. One man had once called her pure sex, but even that seemed inaccurate and a bit demeaning: she was gorgeous, there was no denying that, but that wasn't all to her. She didn't hold anything back: she said what she was thinking, was often brass or even crude, and could drink most men under the table. And there was no denying that she was a force to be reckoned with, a strong fighter that left most in awe. There were more than a few shinigami that wished they had her kind of power. In the end, she was more than her body, though that was what most men were enraptured with.

Still, she had been an unattainable goddess, something to be admired from afar but certainly never sought. There was, of course, the simple fact that she only had eyes for the 3rd division captain, no matter how spotty or erratic his attentions were. Even if she had seemed interested in a relationship with anyone beyond the silver-haired fox, there was the matter of the fox himself: namely, that even if Rangiku didn't always have his attention, few were willing to risk trying for a toy that he was not yet done playing with. Taking things Ichimaru still considered to be his was, to put it very mildly, a bad idea. That thought had been more than enough to stop even the most amorous would-be suitors. He had been the dragon between the handsome Prince Charming(s) and the gorgeous Sleeping Beauty.

Now the dragon seemed to have gotten a severe case of Attention Deficit Disorder and was off running around with the wizard, leaving Sleeping Beauty unguarded. Unfortunately, she also wasn't at all receptive to the idea of entertaining any potential Prince Charmings, having been rather fond of her dragon guardian.

Not that this was surprising; considering how long she and Ichimaru had been together, even in a non-romantic sense, his betrayal had cut her deep, leaving her to try and pick through their lives to find the point where things had gone wrong. She'd noticed that they'd drifted apart, but she couldn't figure out precisely when it had started. It would be easy to say that it had all started with Aizen, that events had been set into motion when Gin left her to become the 5th division's vice captain. If she was going to be honest, though, Rangiku wasn't sure she could ever truthfully say that she had been close to him. Even when they were younger, Gin had always kept a part of himself removed from Rangiku.

She found herself falling into pensive moods without awareness to what she was doing, too many memories only too happy to surface and consume her. Any of their firsts seemed to be encounters her subconscious was especially fond of recalling. Their first meeting, the first time they'd stolen food together, the first time she'd seen him naked, the first time he'd seen her naked, their first kiss, the first time they'd had sex, the first time she'd told him she loved him, their first Christmas.

Christmas had been their first holiday together. It wasn't a holiday that was traditionally celebrated in Rukongai, considering the economic state of things didn't pave an easy path to gift giving. Especially for the two of them, since it wasn't like Ichimaru or Matsumoto were comfortably off, financially speaking. Still, it was a day Rangiku's mind never failed to mark, to note on some level that yes, it was a holiday, somewhere in the world.

Their first Christmas Rangiku hadn't said anything to Gin about the significance of the date, simply gone about business as usual. That had all stopped, though, when he'd turned to her with a smile that wasn't yet as curled with secret mischief as it would be in his later life, and offered her an unwrapped gift. Food, because it was the most valuable thing in their lives; an apple so red and so perfect that she didn't want to eat it.

When she'd said this Gin had laughed and told her that apples were meant to be eaten, not admired; admiration should be directed at her, not at food.

It was things like that: small things, but a lifetime of them stored up and perfectly content to surface at every opportunity, whether it was convenient or not. That first night she'd kept herself company with the only other person that might have an idea what kind of pain she was going through; whatever kind of relationship Kira might have had with Gin, there was no doubting his loyalty to the man, and his admiration. If anyone could possibly reflect the depth of her own pain, it would be him.

Hisagi had wound up with them as well, hurt just as badly by a man he'd foolishly placed his trust with. Rangiku had to admit, though, that she never would have pinned Tousen to be a bad guy. She may care for Gin, but that didn't mean she was blind to his faults. She knew how he came off to a lot of people, knew that was what he wanted. He liked having any kind of power over others, and inspiring fear was a fast way to get that power.

Still, at least now she knew why he had been playing the obvious villain. So that the other villain could maneuver more freely. Not that this did anything to console Rangiku, of course, but at least she was aware of the why. Whether or not that knowledge was a good thing was debatable, of course.

"Rangiku-san?"

The paperwork she should be doing had blurred in front of her, her entire being turned inward as she recalled a life that seemed almost impossible now. The voice startled her, and she turned in her seat to see Hisagi standing in the doorway, an uncertain expression marring his already scarred and marked features.

"Shuuhei…" She brushed her fingers over the hair that had fallen in front of her face, standing from her seat and wondering, as blood rushed into her legs, how long she'd been sitting.

"Wanna go for a walk, Rangiku-san?" He said this as if it wasn't really what he'd come to tell her, but had suddenly occurred to him as seeming to be the right thing to say. As if he'd known she'd been sitting inside letting her thoughts rend her immobile for too long, and fresh air might do her good.

Without bothering to ask what might have really brought him to the 10th division, and without really thinking over her decision, Rangiku nodded.

They walked in silence for a while, quiet being Shuuhei's natural inclination and more and more becoming a habit of Rangiku's. It was nice to be out of her office, to be moving, but mobility certainly didn't calm her mind any, thoughts spinning at an almost frustratingly slow speed, dwelling where they shouldn't. Finally, in a bid to drown out her thoughts, she turned to the man walking next to her and spoke.

"How're you doing, Shuuhei?"

It was his turn to look surprised, as if he'd forgotten who he was walking with, or simply hadn't expected her to speak. She could see the question play over his expression, the left side of his face more reactive than his right thanks to the three scars running vertical down the length of that portion of his head. It looked like it might almost be painful, the way his right eyebrow tried to dip down low over his nose the way the left did, but that certainly didn't stop it from trying.

When he answered his voice was soft and deeper than she remembered it being, looking down at the ground between them as they paced slowly down the path.

"Iba keeps ridin' me about bein' down. Says I need to just remember what Komamura-taichou said and to just concentrate on my work right now." He rubbed a hand over his face, smoothing out all the work the right side had done before hooking his thumb through the top of his hakama-himo. "Told him to stuff it."

Rangiku arched her eyebrows at this, tilting her head so that she knew Shuuhei had seen the expression. She knew some people were beginning to whisper about how long it was taking her to get over Ichimaru's leaving. She'd even heard a couple of people mutter that she shouldn't still be this pensive, considering he hadn't even been her captain. And in a way she wondered if they were right, if she had any right to think she might be as hurt as Shuuhei, Kira, or Hinamori were.

"He just doesn't get it. It's hard on you." She finally said, catching her wrist in hand behind her back, keeping her gaze in front of her. She wanted to see where she was going, in the hopes that to do so she would never be caught off guard again.

"S'hard on a lot of people." She could see him nodding out of the corner of her eye, though she couldn't see his expression. "How're you holdin' up?"

Only a soft sigh escaped, curling the fingers of her free hand into her palm. "Better than you, I think. Or I should be. After all, you lost your captain. I still have mine."

Hisagi stopped, and the frown was deeper on the left side of his mouth than his right. When Rangiku turned to look at him, she was struck by how endearing that expression could be, and tried to remember if, when he smiled, the left side rose higher. Except that she couldn't remember ever seeing him smile.

"You lost the guy you were seein'."

"Gin and I were never really together." Her denial was meant to come out stronger than it did, but the absence of conviction was hard to miss.

"You were, in some manner or another." Hisagi was much more firm in his statement, supported by the truth which lent it all the certainty her own remark lacked. "And he left."

Rangiku looked away, shrugging her shoulders as if this entire conversation didn't mean much to her, wasn't effecting her in the slightest. "Yeah, well, I get the feeling people figure I should be over that by now." As if a captain meant more to his vice captain than a lover meant to his girlfriend.

The weight of his gaze felt heavier than the burden of her memories, and just when Rangiku felt like she might finally crumble to pieces, he spoke.

"If you were over him this quickly, I'd doubt how much you cared about him in the first place." There was uncertainty in his step as he moved close to her, and the sudden heat of his hand against her hair froze her in place so that she couldn't even look up at him, could only see, out of the corner of her eye, his forearm as fingers stroked lightly over her hair. "We all recover at our own pace."