A Bleach Fan-fiction

Summary: Gin and Rangiku turn back the hands of time to become the parents they should have been the first time around.

Genre: Family

Characters: Ichimaru Gin, Matsumoto Rangiku, Hitsugaya Toushirou

People, Gin decided, had a very strange way of protecting the ones they loved. Take Shihouin Yoruichi, for example. To protect Urahara Kisuke, she betrayed everything she had been born to. To protect Soi Fon, she had kept the other girl in ignorance. But at least in those cases, the two being protected had ended up, well, alive, in the end.

Other people had ways of protecting that caused the ones being protected to be dead.

Take Ukitake Jyuushirou, for example. The man had professed to protecting Shiba Kaien by allowing him to go on a suicide mission.

If that wasn't screwed up logic, Gin didn't know what was.

Of course, he, too, was guilty of protecting the one he cared for in strange ways. He had left Soul Society without saying a word to Rangiku because he hadn't wanted her to be involved in the treachery, just in case their plans didn't work out. He had thought that at best, if they won, he could make sure Rangiku was safe. At worst, they would be executed as traitors and Rangiku would still be alive. Of course, the ones being protected could never fully appreciate what lengths others went through to protect them.

The first time he had talked to Rangiku after his leaving Soul Society, she had given him a black eye.

It hadn't been entirely unexpected. Rangiku was just like that. That didn't mean he wasn't caught surprised, though. The woman could really pack a punch.

It wasn't until years later, when Aizen had finally decided on giving up on the rogue Shinigami that had escaped his grasp, that Gin found out Rangiku had just as twisted a system of protecting as he did.

He had been a father and had never known it.

He hadn't known how to react when he had found out. He supposed it was a moot point. The kid was dead, after all. It didn't affect anything any more. 'Course, it helped to explain a lot of things. Like why Ran-chan loved teasing the little captain so much.

Actually, no. Rangiku was just like that.

In a way, finding out had really changed nothing. He and Rangiku still acted the same way. Of course, now he understood why she would sometimes get that faraway look in her eyes, and now, sometimes, he would feel a dull ache of something that could not be lost because it had never really been his in the first place.

He almost wished the kid was still alive. It would have been hilarious to see his reaction.

Then again, maybe that was why Rangiku had never told him. The kid would probably have given himself a heart attack. Related to that snake-faced bastard? Never!

Gin laughed.

He had wondered why, though. At the time, both he and Rangiku were already Shinigami. Either one of them could have afforded to take care of the child easily. At first, he had thought Rangiku might have been trying to protect his name, but that couldn't be it. Neither of them really cared what others thought of them. Then he thought that maybe the child had been broken. But that couldn't be true either, as Rangiku had so cheerfully pointed out.

"Gin, that kid achieved everything you achieved in half the time you achieved it."

So the child hadn't been defective.

The reason she gave him had been blunt and simple.

"Neither of us were ready to have a kid, Gin. So I asked my captain for help, hid for nine months, gave birth, and gave him away. Simple as pie."

Except it hadn't been that simple. Oh, he knew that she was right. Neither had been ready to take care of a child at the time. The kid would have grown up with some serious issues. But he knew it must have been hard for Rangiku to give him up. She wasn't like him. She couldn't simply leave someone, and never look back.

And he was right.

She had gone back to check on the kid several times. It sounded very much like her, sneaking around, spying on people. She had probably thought of it as a sort of game. Until she saw someone picking on her little bundle of snow.

It had been kind of funny listening to Rangiku reminisce of her first real meeting with her child. How he had shouted back at her with the same spirit she had. How he had had the same raw power as his other parent. He had turned out all right.

Gin wondered if that, perhaps, hadn't been the best way of protecting someone that he knew. The kid had grown up healthy--no mental trauma, thank you very much--and strong. It was all any parent could wish for a child.

But maybe if the kid had known, he wouldn't have sacrificed his life to protect Rangiku's. It was terrible for a parent to have to bury their own child. Then again, the kid would probably have done the same thing, even if he had known. He was just like that.

He wondered if Rangiku was pulling his leg. The kid sure didn't act in any way similar to either of his parents. Maybe all that nurture verses nature stuff was for real? He didn't remember Rangiku or himself ever being quite that goody-two-shoe.

Maybe it was because the kid was already dead, but Gin found that to be just a little endearing. Ugh. Maybe not. Just thinking about it made him want to make fun of himself.

Rangiku hadn't been the same, though. And it wasn't just because Aizen had won against Soul Society, and was now close to opening the gate to the King's realm. He would like to think that his supposed betrayal of her had led to her current state, but she would just hit him and say that he was flattering himself. Rangiku wasn't so weak that she wouldn't bounce right back from something like that. It had been why he had decided to leave her behind.

He could tell that she regretted her decision, even if she never said so. Maybe she had been right. They hadn't been ready. But that didn't change the fact that she had wanted to take care of him. She had wanted to so badly...

And because he was an idiot (not that he would ever admit that to anyone but Ran-chan), and because he was an idiot who loved her, he wanted the same thing she did. Maybe they really hadn't been ready all those years ago, but they sure were ready now.

Gin's smirk widened. Ha! Imagine that. The two flightiest people in the thirteen divisions, deciding that they were ready to have a real family. It made him want to laugh out loud.

But it also made him wish a tiny bit that it could be real.

He didn't know if the years had mellowed him or not, but now he wished that he had married Ran-chan all those years ago. Imagine where he would be today. Actually, he didn't see himself taking all that different a path. But still.

It wasn't...regret, exactly. It was just a sort of bittersweet feeling, bordering on nostalgia. One of those "if only" moments.

Maybe he was having a mid-life crisis?

Whatever it was, it was a feeling strong enough that if he had a second chance to make a different decision, he had no doubt that he would take it.

Aizen had only been a few days away from opening the gate to the King's realm when the rogue Shinigami attacked. Not that he was too worried. Aizen could handle himself. All he had to do was "watch" the prisoners.

He watched Rangiku finger the clasp that the tenth captain had used to secure his sword on his back. She was staring out the window again, not really seeing anything. The sound of distant explosions reached them, but neither of them appeared affected by it. He could hear Abarai and Kira in the room behind him, shouting at him to let them out and to fight them like a man. It had been funny the first time Abarai and his meek mannered vice captain had shouted it, but now, it was just getting a teensy bit annoying.

Another explosion, this time closer.

"Is playing with that little clasp really so fun?" he asked. She turned towards him, smirking.

"See for yourself." She tossed the shiny piece of metal at him, and he caught it deftly. It really wasn't all that interesting. Rather ordinary and boring. Just like the owner. He sighed. If he had been there as a guiding light...

His finger brushed against a weird indentation on the back. He squinted his eyes further, trying to see what it was. It seemed as if it was some kind of switch.

"Ran-chan, do you have something tiny and sharp?"

She raised an eyebrow at him, not all that shocked at his strange comments any more. Rummaging through a purse that she had procured from who knew where, she gave him a bobby pin. He stuck the pin into the notch, and the whole clasp opened.

"What the...?" she said as she leaned closer towards him. He placed everything on the table between them.

There was some sort of weird sundial-looking thing hidden inside the clasp. He turned the contraption around, trying to figure out what it was for. Rangiku used the pin to poke out a piece of paper stuck on the inside of the clasp.

"It's a note," she said rather obviously as she rolled it open.

If you ever get amnesia, this is just to tell you that this is my invention. That would mean that it's yours as well. Don't take it out of its hiding place. Use only in emergencies. Spiral. Zodiac. You should know what that means.

He and Rangiku stared at each other for a few moments before they both burst out laughing. The kid was some sort of freak.

" 'If you ever get amnesia'?" Rangiku laughed. "I knew he always prepared for eventualities, but to this extent...!" She continued laughing loud enough to even silence Abarai and Kira next door.

"Seemed like he was fond of puzzles as well," Gin remarked, trying to figure out what exactly the gadget did. " 'Spiral'? 'Zodiac'?"

"Well, my little Taichou was a genius, you know," Rangiku said playfully. Gin's eyes slitted open in surprise as he recognized the symbols carved around the dial.

"Well, well. He'd have to be to pull this off," Gin said, impressed despite himself. Rangiku cocked her head in question. He gave her one of his infamous grins. "If my guess is correct, this little baby can rewind time." She gave him a look of disbelief.

"No way. No way Toushirou would ever invent something as rule breaking as that."

Gin shrugged. "Well, he didn't use it, did he? So he didn't break any rules."

Rangiku scoffed.

"And just how do you know he didn't use it?" she questioned. He put the device in her hand, letting her feel the minute amount of spiritual force flowing through it.

"I'm guessing that if he did use it, this device would go bye-bye." He gave her another grin. "And I'm pretty sure that the li'l tenth captain didn't get amnesia any time during his life, so he wouldn't have any reason to open the clasp once he closed it."

"That's assuming that he only made one," Rangiku said seriously. He shrugged again.

"If he did, how are we supposed to know?" He gestured for her to give the gadget back to him, and she did. "In any case, think of what fun we could have with this!" Rangiku grinned in response.

"Now, now. I'm sure Hitsugaya-taichou would not appreciate you using his 'emergency' device for such trivial things," Rangiku teased. Gin pretended to look thoughtful.

"That's true. We could probably only use it once," he mused, actually contemplating the possibilities semi-seriously. Toushirou really was a goody-two-shoe if he never used such a remarkable device. The sad thing was, Gin was fairly sure that the kid genius really never used it. If he had, he wouldn't have let Hinamori get injured like she had. Heck, the kid could have stopped Aizen in his tracks. The kid really adhered to the rules too strictly. He needed to be taught differently.

He looked up at Rangiku and their eyes met. Somehow, both knew what the other was thinking.

"Gin..." she said slowly, "are you sure?" He gave her a grin.

"Well, things have been getting a bit boring around here, what with Aizen about to become God and all," he joked. A half smile formed on her face, but he could tell that she was being serious this time. He didn't know. He didn't know if he was sure. He just knew of the possibilities.

"Ran-chan," he said, sounding serious, for once. "Are you sure?" She frowned, crossing her arms and looking away. He waited patiently for her, the distant sound of explosions like a far away dream. In this moment, there was only him and her.

Finally, she spoke.

"I want to be able to hold my baby," she said, barely a whisper. "I want to watch him grow up, even if he never gets higher than my breasts," she said, humor infusing her words despite the seriousness. She turned towards him, her grey eyes alight with gentle affection. "And I want you to be by my side all the way."

For a moment, Gin almost forgot his customary grin. But damn, he was such a sap.

"Am I to consider this a form of proposal?" he joked. Rangiku batted him playfully.

"Answer seriously now," she teased, but he could hear the underlying, "or else."

"Well, in that case, 'I do'."

She laughed, shaking her head.

"So how far shall we go back?" he asked. "Before or after he's born?"

"Ugh, after," she said immediately. "Pregnancy is one hell I don't need to go through again."

"So when?" he asked, trying not to laugh, and not quite able to imagine her a mother.

"December 21. You know the year."

He did.

He wound the dial to the correct year, month, and date. He reached his hand towards Rangiku.

"Just in case this thing needs contact in order for us to retain our memories," he said, winding the dial to the hour of their arrival. Hour of the Dragon should do. Seven to Nine in the morning was surely too early for even Rangiku to be out shopping.

"You ready?"

She took a deep breath, then nodded. He placed the dial between them, careful not to let the hand on the dial start moving.

"Here goes nothing then."

He released the hand. It spun wildly, and scenes and sensations flashed by him too quickly to comprehend. He could feel Rangiku hold his hand tightly, unwilling to let him go. He was surprised. He had half expected it not to work.

Then suddenly, Rangiku's hand was jerked from his grasp. Time spun even more capriciously, and before he even had a chance to yell, he slammed into something and everything became dark.

Author's Note: I was inspired to write this story from Neko Oni's crack-fic Onsen 3, and then from a scene from Enchantable's Toro Nagashi.