This is what happens when I finish a 63 chapter fanfiction that has kept me dangerously addicted for a very long time, and then realize, holy crud, it's over. Oh, yeah. And the movie helped too.

A Thousand Words

How much can be said in a single look?

I thought I knew. I thought I understood. I thought I knew what every wry smirk that came bursting out of Gin's lips meant to the letter, back before he ran off anyway. I thought I could tell when Byakuya was being mildly irritated with my teasing and when he was really angry. I thought I could read every shy glance on behalf of Nanao, every stern reprieve courtesy of Soifon, and even the slight twitch of the lips offered occasionally by a deceivingly stoic Nemu.

But I didn't know.

I never knew the answer to that question until I saw the look in my Taichou's eye before he left me behind.

In one second he said more than he'd ever spoken in a life time. He looked at me, he saw me there, he knew. And then he said it.

He said he was hesitating. He didn't know where to turn or what to do. He knew he had to do it, but he wasn't sure what or why or where or when or how. Taichou never liked hesitating; it made him feel vulnerable, indecisive and undeserving. However much I may have disagreed.

He said he was confused. Something was wrong. Oh so wrong. His trusted logic and reason were failing him. Nothing made sense. Something was in this world that shouldn't have been, and it taunted him worse than any misplaced insult or lack of respect ever had.

He said he was frustrated. Not only was this happening under his watch, not only was it his responsibility, but it had become personal. A Taichou was a single unit within the Gotei 13. He should not even be considering what he was considering; he shouldn't be hesitating, and he shouldn't be confused. But he couldn't hide the fact that it had become personal, and he couldn't treat it any other way. He couldn't allow himself to treat it another way.

He said he was angry. Damn it, why did all of this have to happen now!? Why, when he had finally forgotten, when he'd finally put aside his demons and found a place for himself among the company that had murdered his friend, when he'd finally found something worth protecting? Why was he even hesitating, dammit!? There was no question of what he should do. The only question was what he wanted to do, and that should have never taken priority over his duty. But it did. And he was angry that he'd ever let it.

He said he was having doubts. What had happened didn't make sense, and he wasn't sure if he wanted it to. His division had been attacked, his mission failed. What the hell was he supposed to do either way? What was worth more to him, what could he afford to leave behind? Could he make the right choice?

Then, worst of all, he said he was sorry. He begged me to understand. He asked me not to question, to know he'd be back, and to forgive him. He told me he trusted me to hold the fort while he was gone; he knew I could do what he couldn't.

And all I could do was stare back at the vacant spot where his eyes had been only a moment before, watching the sparks fly mercilessly past and wondering what the hell he had just said and why the hell I didn't know.

And he wonders why I drink so much.