The truth behind the smile

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1 day before the execution

His execution was tomorrow but it was a pointless gesture. He was already dead. He died the same night she did. Tomorrow they would simply be destroying his spirit body. His heart had died days ago.

"Captain," Kira called, a note of begging in his tone, "Captain! Don't you... don't you want to see them?"

Ichimaru did not respond, just continued to stare out the window at the Sokyoku Hill, where he was to be put to death tomorrow. The Shihoin Clan had finally rebuilt the Sokyoku. It had claimed it's first kill the day before, Tosen Kaname the traitorous former captain of squad nine, tomorrow it would claim its second kill.

"Captain please!" Kira could feel tears stinging his eyes, he was shedding the tears his captain refuses to shed, "Matsumoto-san..."

"Don'," comes the quite command, "And I ain't yer cap'n any more, Izuru. Ya shouldn' call me that. If anyone heard ya, they might think the wrong th'n," he said, his voice barely above a whisper.

"I don't care what anyone thinks!" declared Kira, "Captain, let me bring them. No one would object, especially not Captain Kyoraku!"

The unexpected mention of Captain Kyoraku's name garnered a reaction, Ichimaru turned to face his former vice-captain. They were in the Shrine of Penitence, the last cell of the condemned, "What's Captain eight got ta do with it?" he wondered.

It is then that it occurred to Kira that no one had bothered to tell Ichimaru what was to become of his children. A surge of anger shot through Kira's mind, but he quilled it. It is only to be expected given that Ichimaru had so far shown no interest in the days old infants. Being more pre-occupied with the death of their mother, "Captain Kyoraku has elected to adopt them," he did not add that he himself had begged and pleaded with them all to be allowed the guardianship of his captain's children. However, he never stood a chance. Not against Captain Kyoraku. Indeed Kira request, though heartfelt, was generally regarded as a non-issue and even somewhat selfish. After all, who was Kira Izuru compared to Captain Kyoraku Shunsei.

"He'll make a good father," stated Ichimaru sincerely, "Better than I would've been. They'll have Nanao too, of course. Ain't it funny, Izuru," he said, his trademark mocking grin firmly in place, "Rangiku survives the war, she survives have'n ta deal with me be'n back in Seireitei as a traitor condemned ta die. She even managed ta make peace with me and I..." his grin faltered and for a moment Kira could see the anguish of Ichimaru's soul clearly written on his face, "I didn' mean fer this ta happen. I didn' want 'er ta be alone. I didn' want 'er ta keep cry'n and... she was so happy when she found out she was pregnant. She always wanted a family. She had so much love in 'er. Captain Eleven always had me pegged. He always said me and Kaname were the only Shinigami who were afraid of dy'n. Don' know if we were the only ones but I was certainly afraid of dy'n. But seen 'er that happy I thought ta myself, well at least ya don' have ta worry about leav'n misery in yer wake. I knew she would always miss me, but... she wouldn' be lonely, she would always 'ave a piece of me like she wanted. But..." he turned his back to Kira again, resettling his gaze on the Sokyoku, "Well, I ain't afraid of dy'n no more."

Kira let his legs fold under him and all but collapsed on the ground. He felt as if his whole body had been hit by Wabisuke countless times. "If it is alright with you Captain," he said, his voice meek and exhausted, "I would like to stay here with you... till... till they come for you." Ichimaru did not reply, Kira took that as tacit consent and remained where he was, reflecting on how he had finally gotten the truth behind the smile over the past year...


Exactly one year ago

Ukitake and Kyoraku sat staring into their cups. Each deep in though regarding the Captains' meeting they both had to attend tomorrow, a meeting in which they would decide what was to become of the two traitors that survived the war. "They will be executed," said Ukitake, "there is no doubt about that. But the question is how? Traditionally, captains have always been executed during the Sokyoku."

"Though it's causing a hassle now but I can't say I regret destroying it," replied Kyoraku, smiling a little at the memory of his and Ukitake's dramatic destruction of the Sokyoku.

"Neither do I," Admitted Ukitake, "It is likely they will simply be beheaded by Yama-jii or burnt to ash by his shikai."

"Executing someone isn't the same as killing them in battle. Is Yama-jii really willing to do this?" wondered Kyoraku.

"We don't have a lot of choices. Soi Fon could use her zanpakuto and if ordered she wouldn't hesitate but that's not really any different than getting Yama-jii to execute them," commented Ukitake, "In fact, it might do more damage then good. That girl is too intense as it is."

Kyoraku nodded, "How do you think Hisagi-kun and Kamamura-kun will take Tosen's execution?"

"Hard to tell. They now grasp fully how Tosen had warped concepts and ideology to justify what was essentially his desire to take revenge against the world that took from him the woman he loved but at the end of the day he was still a mentor and Captain to one and a good friend to another," replied Ukitake, "But frankly I am more concerned about Matsumoto-kun and Kira-kun. Ichimaru... well it is simply remarkable the amount of love and devotion they have for him, despite the fact that he is the single coldest, creepiest bastard I know. I mean, Aizen wore a mask of warmth and kindness. Thus it was little surprised that many mourned his death and still refuse to believe that he was the man he was and that he did the things he did. But Ichimaru... it truly boggles the mind."

"I agree. I have also heard a... disturbing rumor," stated Kyoraku.

"Oh?"

"Yes, there is a rumor going around that Ichimaru had in fact secretly married Rangiku shortly after becoming captain. They hid it from everyone, the reasons that he gave her to get her to go along with it varies and really I can't see her going along with any of them. Than again, people have been known to do strange things for love and I know for a fact that girl loves him more then he ever deserved," said Kyoraku.

"That's a pretty outlandish rumor," commented Ukitake, "Can you imagine Rangiku keeping such a secret? I don't know her as well as you, of course, but what little of her I know makes me think she would be insulted at the mere suggestion."

Kyoraku nodded, "But as I said, people have been known to do strange things for love."

Silence. "Of course, in the end it doesn't matter. Ichimaru Gin and Tosen Kaname will die one way or another soon enough and if anyone sheds any tears for them, they should count themselves lucky because neither deserve it. Least of all Ichimaru Gin, who followed not because he believed he was doing the right thing but even though he knew he was doing the wrong thing," stated Ukitake.

"You are of course right. This is all... such a sad story," lamented Kyoraku as he returned his attention to his sake cup.


Author's note: Thanks for reading and reviews are much appreciated!