A whimper drew Gin's eyes to the side of the room he was currently calling home.
He had come back from performing one of the side tasks that Aizen had asked him to do, taking care of three men causing trouble, and Shunpoed back to the outskirts of the District they were living in. He always stopped a ways away and walked up, making sure it looked like he had just been out for a stroll. He knew Rangiku didn't believe he was just out walking but he did not need her too, he just needed her not to know that he had been performing his duties as a Seated Officer of the Court of Pure Souls. Unfortunately it had become increasingly harder to keep the two sides of his life apart. He knew Rangiku had Spiritual Powers but they had been growing at a normal rate. There was no need for the Academy or anything like that--not yet anyway. Part of him wished there would never be any of that. Part of him did not want to take her to the Court of Pure Souls. He did not want her to know about the other part of his life, the part where he was Gin the prodigy, Gin the creepy young man--
Gin the monster.
"Ran?" he peered at her face.
Normally when he left if she was still asleep she had pitched the covers off her body. He always made sure she was tucked in. So when he came back and she was not only tucked in but curled in a tight ball as close to the dimming fire as she could get he had been confused. Ran was not above teasing him but not like she was doing now. He had put a hand against her forehead and she had let out a moan, turning her face toward the coolness. He had snatched his hand back, terror racing through him. He knew what fever did to people in their situation. Without help she could die. But part of him had held back, held onto the idea that she could pull through it and that their lives could continue onwards. He had stayed up watching her, wanting to see if he was right or wrong. As the hours slipped by he began to be more and more convinced that it was the latter of the two. Now as he looked at her flushed cheeks and pale features, he knew that nothing good could come of this.
But he had no choice in the matter. Aizen would find out where he had been sneaking off too, the rest of the world would know that Gin the monster actually cared about someone. And Ran--well Ran would be absolutely livid. He never went into depth about what he could do, the extent of his genius and abilities but now it was all going to be blown wide open. She was going to be beyond furious. But one look at her tight features and he knew he would rather have her alive to yell at him than dead. Carefully he reached out and shook her shoulder. She made a small sound of protest and curled tighter, trying to get away from his hand. Gin shook her harder.
"Ran," he whispered, "Ran ya gotta hold onto me, 'kay?"
He hooked her too-hot arms around his neck and slid his hands around her legs, hauling her up onto his back. His robe slipped slightly, her too hot forehead pressing to the bare skin of his shoulder. Worry curled through him as he kicked off the ground and threw himself into Shunpo, focusing on getting to the Court as fast as he could. Her breath was labored as she made small sounds of discomfort as the cool air whipped across her face. Gin swallowed thickly, wishing that there was a way to get there faster. It felt like an eternity before he reached the gates that separated Rukongai from the rest of the world. The guards were quick to let him pass, the Giants having long since memorized him thanks to the comings and goings of the young man.
He raced through the darkened Divisions towards the only one that was still bustling with activity: the Fourth. No-one dared stop him, they had seen much stranger things where Gin was concerned than a young woman clinging to his back with her head pressed to his shoulder. He knew the Fourth would still be busy. A handful of missions had come back today, squads with injuries, all he could do was pray that they would have room for Rangiku. Finally he skidded through the main building where most of the healing took place. Perhaps it was timing. maybe it was fate but just as he raced through the doors Unohana was coming out of a room to issue a report. She took one look at him and the strange girl on his back and within the next instant she was by his side. A heartbeat later two healers were there with a long narrow stretcher to take her to be healed.
"Who is she?" Unohana asked as he moved her onto the stretcher.
"Her name's Rangiku Matsumoto," he said
"Gin," Rangiku's fever clouded eyes snapped open, one hand grasping feebly at his wrist, "w-where are we--" she looked up, wincing at the bright lights, "whats going on--"
"You're gonna be okay Ran," he promised, "ya just gotta let 'em help ya."
"It looks like she's got the fever that's been going around the slums," she said, "we need to get her into treatment right away and you--" she looked at Gin, "we need to get you checked out as well. Its highly contagious."
"Is she gonna be okay?" he demanded looking at Unohana.
"Now that she is here she should be," Unohana replied, "we can treat this--if its caught early."
"She was fine last night," he blurted out, "but when I left this morning she was still sleepin."
"We're going to treat her now," Unohana said, "you as well. You did the right thing bringing her here. You just saved her life."
Gin watched her walk off with the stretcher.
He might have just saved her life but he knew that for them both, life as they knew it had just ended.
Miserably he sat there as the Fourth Division member did a series of tests before making him swallow some conception that tasted as though he had bottled the stench of Rukongai.
"So this is what you have been doing with your time."
Gin looked over to see Aizen entering the room. With a murmured excuse the healer hurried away. Gin kept his eyes ahead, shame staining his cheeks as Aizen looked at him. The calm, collected mask he wore around Soul Society had slipped in privacy, the cool, calculating side of Aizen's personality coming out. Gin looked over at his mentor, teacher--probably the only father figure he would ever have and gave a nod. Aizen sighed and toyed with the glasses he did not really need, looking carefully at Gin before he slipped them back on.
"Well taking care of another person is a far better alternative than what Tousen does with his time," he pushed his glasses higher on his nose, "Unohana has cleared you of the illness," he said, "and your friend will be just fine."
Relief swept over him like an icy wave. He pushed himself off the bed and followed Aizen out of the room. Aizen pointed in the direction of the room Rangiku was in. Gin quickly went in that direction, pushing open the door. Ran was in a white hospital bed, laying on her back. Despite Aizen's assurances and his belief in his Captain's words he felt unsure looking at Ran laying on the bed like that, a needle in her arm. Had she ever gotten a shot? Swallowing thickly he walked over to the bed quietly and pulled one of the stools nearby up, the thing gliding silently on its wheels. He sat on the stool and looked at her sleeping features. Her skin was dirty, her cloths were torn--even the ends of her hair were split. He had done his best to take care of her but in the midst of such a pristine place every failure was laid bare. Even so, a part of him wished that they could have stayed in Rukongai for longer.
"She will sleep for most of the night," Unohana walked into the room. He looked up at her, "you need your rest as well. You should return to the Fifth Division and try to get some rest."
He looked at her serene features and then at the Fourth Division Captain.
"I will send word the moment she wakes up," Unohana promised, "go home and get some rest, Ichimaru."
Though he had vowed to stay awake the moment his head hit the pillow he was out like a light. It was not until the next morning when a Hell Butterfly landed on his cheek and told him that she was awake that he woke up. With the same frantic urgency he sprinted to the Fourth Division. He along the same path to her room and raced inside before his courage failed him. She was sitting up in bed, looking out at the gardens. She didn't turn when he came inside, or when he walked over. In hindesight he would have realized that that was a very bad sign but unfortunately at the time he did not. He kept his eyes lowered as she yanked the IV out of her arm and walked forward on her knees, intent on putting him
He probably deserved the slap she gave him.
"You lying bastard!" she spat, her grey eyes blazing even though they were still foggy with the remnants of her fever, "how the hell could you not tell me?!"
"Tell ya what?" he asked, but nervousness was thick in his voice.
"Oh I don't know, how about the fact that you're a Shinigami?!" she shouted, "what the hell were you going to do? Keep me there like some toy?! What was I? A side project?!"
"Huh?!" his head flew up, ruby eyes wide with shock. He knew she'd be upset but this was worse than he thought, "Ran--"
"Don't Ran me!" she shouted, grey eyes swimming, "you lied to me!" she threw out her hand, one finger at the door, "I never want to see you again Gin Ichimaru!" she shouted, "get out of here!"
Then she threw him out of the room.
"This behavior is unbecoming."
Miserably Gin turned his head from the window to where Aizen was sitting, brush poised elegantly over a stack of forms. He raised his eyes and looked at Gin who looked like he was seriously considering throwing himself out of the window and ending the misery that seemed to have come over him. Aizen sighed and laid down his brush, getting to his feet and walking over to where Gin was moping. Ever since that grey eyed girl had thrown him out of the hospital room and told him she never wanted to see him again he had been moping around like a broken-hearted fool which, Aizen was beginning to think, he was.
Truthfully Aizen had decided that what Gin did on his own time was Gin's business. He didn't think that Gin would betray him if for nothing else than the fact that Gin only respected people who were stronger than him. That and the fact that Aizen was the first person to treat him as something other than a freak of nature. Aizen was confident in Gin's loyalty. Unfortunately he had not factored in the possibility that Gin was off actually caring for another human being--someone weaker than him no less! Honestly Aizen had not thought his protege had it in him to accomplish but apparently that was not the case. Ever since the little girl had thrown him away he had been moping all around. He was still one of the deadliest men he had ever met, but now Gin Ichimaru was moping like a lovesick idiot.
"Go and speak to her," he said.
"She's just gonna slap me again," he muttered sounding like a petulant child.
"It is in my experience, Gin," Aizen said, "that women like Rangiku Matsumoto tend to be confused when it comes to men like you." Gin looked at him, "go and solve this problem before you become useless."
Gin pushed himself to his feet and walked out of the Division towards Academy. He knew she had started to take classes there after she had been released. He knew he had probably kept her away from the Academy for too long but she was still one of the younger students there. Even so he knew he had given her more than an excuse to hate him. As he walked he heard people murmur in surprise. He hadn't been back to the place since he graduated years ago. His teachers had been more than a little creeped out by him and he had considered them all idiots. Needless to say there had been very little to motivate him to return. Resisting the urge to slouch down, he forced himself to walk as though nothing was wrong, as if he was not walking towards a very painful beating.
Gin turned his head to see a tall man standing there, clipboard in hand.
"Have you come to see the students off for their training exercises?"
"Nah," he said with a grin, "I'm lookin for Ran," the man looked at him blankly, "tall, strawberry blond hair--really big--" he moved his hands upwards on his chest.
"Ah. You must mean Matsumoto," the man said, "she should be getting out of class in a few minuets. Fourth room down the right corridor."
Gin headed in that direction. The hallways were, like most of Soul Society, exactly the same as when he had left. Idly Gin wondered if anything around the place would ever change. Maybe picking off Captain Hirako hadn't been the smartest idea, he at least kept things interesting. The doors opened just as he got there, students spilling out with the same vigor as when he had been a student. It seemed no matter the world, some classes were just painfully boring.
Finally he saw her.
Her hair was a bit longer, though not by much. She had tied the ties of her hamaka in a bow and the top of her robe was parted more than the others. Her eyes were focused on the the papers in her hands, her lip caught between her teeth as she seemed intent on some calculation. Someone called to her her and she smiled, waving before her eyes drifted over to where he was standing. Her eyes widened in surprise before narrowing angrily. She turned on her heel and walked off in the opposite direction.
"Ran!" he followed her quickly, not caring how the people saw him, "Ran--would you wait a second?!" his fingers snatched at her wrist.
"No!" she said moving forward.
He was faster. His hand locked about her wrist. Matsumoto whirled around angrily, unable to break his grasp. Her eyes narrowed furiously but he held fast.
"If you don't let me go I'll scream," she vowed, her voice low an angry.
It was a low move to use Shunpo as he did but he was past the point of caring. She had probably heard far worse about him anyway. Almost instantly they were on the roof of a completely different building, already in the exact same position. Matsumoto's eyes widened as she looked at Gin whose smile had vanished. His hand still grabbed her wrist but it was as though he held it in a silent sort of plea for her to listen. he would never ask her outright, if he asked her at all, but she knew in that moment what he was thinking. Her eyes dragged to the ground as she looked at the Shinigami milling about. They were already in a completely different part of Soul Society.
It had been stunning to find out what Gin really was. Gin the prodigy, Gin the amazing Shinigami, Gin the murderer, Gin the monster. He had always always been just 'Gin' to her. Not a Shinigami, not an Officer, just the ruby eyed boy with a strange name who had saved her life--who continuously saved her life. He hadn't said a word to her. In a way it was comforting to know what he had been doing when he ran off but even so, it was jarring to think that he had an entirely different life, one without her. Finally his grip on her wrist slackened before he let it go entirely. Matsumoto looked at her wrist and then at him, missing the warmth of his touch immediately.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she demanded. He looked down, "why?!" she repeated, her voice harsher. Guilt was plain on his features but he made no move to explain, "tell me why!"
He couldn't. He couldn't tell her why he had kept her away because truthfully he wasn't entirely sure himself. He had wanted to protect her, he had wanted to keep her safe but wouldn't it have been better to keep her in the Court rather than some slum? She had gotten sick there. Maybe because he had been thrown into Soul Society when he was even younger than she was, maybe he wanted not just to protect the girl but the innocence she represented. He knew what the Court did to people, he knew that it would change her just as it had changed him. It was the way of war, of fighting monsters. One had to sacrifice their happiness for the safety of others.
"You weren't ready," Gin said.
"I wasn't ready?" Matsumoto demanded, "how would you know when i was ready?! Just because you're some Seated Officer?" she made a sound of disbelief though they both knew what that meant.
"Yes. I knew you weren't ready. You still aren't or you wouldn't be carryin all those books," he said nodding towards the stack in her arm.
"I'll be fine," she spat, "without you."
"No you won't," he said.
Her eyes blazed as she looked at him, offense written on her features. She knew her basic schooling but there was a difference between that and combat, one she'd have to learn if she was going to survive in this world. Her fingers tightened on the books she held as she seemed to contemplate slamming them full force into his head. Finally her features smoothed and she walked up to him. Gin braced himself, reasoning a concussion wouldn't be the worst thing to happen. Instead he had the wind knocked out of him when she slammed her books into his stomach. His hands caught them automatically as she put her hands on her hips.
"You're the prodigy, help me then!" she snapped.
He stared at her. She was asking him to teach her? Well he supposed it made sense but still, it was a bit odd to think he was going to have to deal with her and learning, learning when he was not her only instructor. Finally his head bobbed up and down.
"Okay," he said, "I'll teach you. Come by--"
"I know you're division," she snapped furiously sitting down and sliding off the roof, jumping onto the walkway, "and this doesn't mean I forgive you!" she shouted after him.
Okay so the next chapter or two will probably be a followup to this one.
I'm considering making this a longer story but I'm not wed to the idea.