This is really, really loosely based on my interpretation of the song "Kristina" by Howie Day (which is amazing, by the way, if you get the chance to listen to it). Anyway, I hope it's not too angsty.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach or any of its characters.
"Um, Rangiku-san? I need to take him back now," said Vice-captain Shuuhei Hisagi, motioning towards the man slumped over the seat next to him, his face planted on the bar surface, disheveled blonde hair loudly contrasting the darkness of the wood beneath it. "Is it all right if I leave you here?" Shuuhei asked, gently shaking his shoulders. Rangiku Matsumoto nodded. The man sat up, perhaps a little too fast, and rested his face in his hands
"Oh…I think I'm going to die," he croaked.
"No, Izuru, you're going to be fine…let's just get you to sleep," Shuuhei said, pulling him up by his arm and guiding him shakily out the door. He turned back to Rangiku, shrugging slightly and waving apologetically. She turned back to her small glass of sake, frowning as she realized it was empty. The bartender stopped in front of her, reaching down for another bottle.
"Would you like a refill?" he asked, already knowing the answer. Rangiku nodded, holding the glass out for more, watching it fill with the light liquid.
"Thanks," she said, lifting the glass to her lips. She tilted her head back and let the sake flow into her, burning her already scratchy throat.
"Boy, you sure can take it like a man," chuckled the bartender, watching her skin change color. Rangiku nodded slowly, closing her eyes as her face and neck burned a fiery red.
"I'm just gonna…step outside," she mumbled, pushing herself off the barstool. She stood up slowly; waiting until she could be sure her legs wouldn't give out under her until she stepped forward. She knew the consequences of moving too hastily all too well, and did not particularly feel like spending time with the floor of the bar tonight. Rangiku moved forward, placing one foot carefully in front of the other, grabbing onto the occasional chair for support as she made her way towards the door. Finally, she felt the air of the Seireitei graze her blazing skin. She leaned against the outside wall of the bar, gazing into the distance. When standing became too much of a hassle, she allowed herself to slide down the wall and sit on the ground, her head resting across her knees.
Rangiku struggled to keep her heavy eyelids open, pinching the skin on the back of her hand, hoping the pain would keep her conscious for a little bit longer. At least, she thought, until she came up with a way to get back to Tenth Division headquarters.
"Tomorrow is going to be interesting," she thought, smiling bitterly to herself. Izuru and Shuuhei would laugh off the events of tonight, remembering fondly weeks later "that time when Izuru got really drunk and danced on the tables and passed out on the bar". But for Rangiku this wasn't some rare night of alcohol-induced debauchery, and this definitely wasn't something she'd look back on and laugh about. This was the all to familiar scenario of her sitting alone, outside the bar, pitifully inebriated. Tears crept up behind her eyelids (which she'd resigned to let fall down over her weary eyes). She squeezed her eyes shut and clenched her jaw, determined not to lose what little composure she had left.
"Come on, let's go," a voice said softly to her through the darkness. She felt a pair of arms close firmly around her and lift her upwards, supporting her until her feet remembered that they were supposed to be doing the supporting. Still, she grabbed onto the arm, letting herself fall into this unknown person's shoulder. Her eyelids still refusing to open, she allowed the man to guide her back to wherever he meant to take her.
He seemed too familiar, someone she knew she would immediately have recognized had her brain not been polluted with sake. She knew him; the way his arm firmly curved around her waist, the way he swiftly pulled her off of the ground when he'd first come to claim her, like he'd done it a million times before.
"Gin…" she said, her voice hoarse.
"How did you…"
"When Izuru comes back that drunk I figure you got somethin' to do with it," Gin chuckled darkly. "Besides, it's not like this is the first time…" his voice trailed off. Rangiku stumbled along quietly, pulling open her eyes and turning her head away. She didn't want to look at him, refusing to validate the truth in his words. No, this was not the first time, and it probably wouldn't be the last. She would find herself stranded somewhere, somehow incapacitated; nauseous, dizzy, struggling to stay awake (like tonight), and he would show up, out of nowhere, pluck her off the ground and take her away. Just like the day they met.
But tonight was somehow different…the way she couldn't look at him, the way he didn't tease her for being unable to walk straight. He was cold, distant, breathing in every so often as if to speak but immediately constricting his voice. All these small alarms cried out desperately, weaving tension through the night.
"Where are we…?" Rangiku asked sleepily, stopping in front of an unfamiliar building.
"You're stayin' here tonight," Gin said, focused on unlocking the front door. He fumbled with his keys, refusing to take his eyes off them.
"Any special reason?"
"You don't wanna get into it with your captain, do ya?"
"Then don't complain," he said, slightly irritably. He finally managed to open the door and led Rangiku into his office, setting her down on a couch by the wall.
"What's with you?" she asked, burying her face in a pillow, trying to block out everything spinning around her. She squeezed her eyes shut, refusing to look at the walls, but still felt her head turn. Gin placed something on the coffee table in front of the couch. Rangiku moved her head and reluctantly opened her eyes. A glass of clear liquid sat in front of her, cart wheeling along with the rest of the room. She reached out for it, holding it to her face hesitantly. "What is this?"
"It's water, Rangiku. Do you honestly think I'd give you anythin' else right now?" asked Gin, sitting hunched over in a chair across from her. "You should drink it." Rangiku didn't argue, now sitting up slightly. She glanced at Gin, and saw his face for the first time that night. His usual smile pointed downward into a frown, his typically closed eyelids opened slightly to reveal quiet, light blue eyes. He gazed sideways at the table, not really noticing it, eyes remaining perfectly motionless as his mouth twitched ever so slightly.
"Do you have something to say?" Rangiku asked, swirling the water in her now half empty glass.
"Not tonight," Gin answered, his voice floating, somehow disembodied from the rest of him, an automated response while his mind focused elsewhere. "Lemme know when you're done with that."
"If you have something to say, just say it."
"You're not gonna remember anythin' I have to say to you anyway so just let it go," he snapped. "We'll talk tomorrow."
"What has gotten into you?" demanded Rangiku, placing the glass sharply on the table. His tone agitated her. Gin sighed and walked towards the door.
"Go to sleep."
"I will not," she spat back, "until you tell me what is going on." Gin continued walking. Rangiku burned with anger. "Who does he think he is?" she muttered bitterly, watching the back of his haori disappear down the hallway.
"Listen to me!" she shouted angrily after him, standing up quickly. Too quickly. She took a step forward to chase after him, but stopped, suddenly aware of how very quickly the room spun around her. "G-Gin Ichimaru, I swear…I swear I…" but the rest of her threat diminished as she knelt down on the floor, frustrated tears tumbling down her face. She faced down, gasping for air between quiet sobs, reaching for anything that wasn't revolving around her. She tried to stand up, placing one hand on the table for support, but finding that her muscles couldn't be bothered to function. Her arm quivered and slid back down, covering her face.
Dizzy, hurt, and unable to move herself very far, Rangiku crouched on the floor, gradually slipping into a panic. Nothing that happened tonight made any sense. Granted, the large amount of alcohol in her blood did not help her comprehension, but she understood well enough that something was wrong. She had never seen Gin's eyes so sad, nor a smile so absent from every corner of his face. His voice, usually laced with childlike amusement, sounded hollow, exasperated, regretful. She sucked in air in short, harsh gasps, her hands and face losing feeling, her ears consumed by a fuzzy ringing. Someone came in quietly and knelt next to her, drawing her in.
"Y'can't…you can't keep doin' this," Gin murmured softly into her hair. Rangiku pressed her face into his shoulder, breathing deeply as blood rushed back into her numb fingers. In that moment, there was no one she loved, or despised, quite as much as this man. He was her constant, yet tonight he'd failed miserably in being so.
"Ta-take me back to Tenth Division," she pleaded, her voice muffled by his shinigami robes. She wanted to go back to something normal, something routine. Something to make her forget the fear and unease she felt upon seeing Gin's solemn face as he helped her back onto the couch. Her captain shouting at her for a few hours should suffice.
Gin said nothing. She turned away from him, once again burying her face into the pillows, letting her eyelids finally drop down over her eyes, surrendering to exhaustion.
There will be at least one more chapter in the near future (I can't really imagine there being any more but who knows)...I just have to, you know, write it...anyways, thank you for reading!