Matsumoto sighed deeply, her breath sending ripples across the cup of sake sitting on the table in front of her.

She was making every effort to drown her misery, but drinking alone only made her more miserable. The two cups she had choked down through withheld tears had only served to make her feel angry, bitter, and self-pitying.

She had poured another cup, hoping the third time would be the charm, but the sight of it made her want to scream. Here she was, trying to drink herself into a stupor over the pain of failing to keep her best friend and lover from betraying her and everyone else, and she was failing at that as well. Irate, she gave the full cup a sharp shove, and it tumbled off the edge of the table.

The cup shattered, sending ceramic shards skittering across the wet floor. Matsumoto felt the sake splash her bare feet, and she felt tears starting to splash her cheeks. As if things weren't bad enough, the door creaked open a sliver just as her vulnerability was rolling down her face.

"I heard a crash," came a voice from the doorway. Rangiku couldn't see who it was, but at this point, she didn't care. She barked out a harsh response, little more than a growl.

"Tsk, tsk," replied the voice, undeterred. "No one as beautiful as you has any business crying."

The door creaked again, and then the floor boards, and Matsumoto looked up from where she had been hiding her face in her arms to identify the intruder, fully intending to make them leave, even if it meant getting Haineko involved. She was unprepared to see Yumichika, tiptoeing around the sharp pieces of sake cup strewn across the floor.

He sat across from her, and before she could speak, reached out. He caught a tear on its way down her face with the back of a gentle finger, smiling sadly. "You shouldn't dull those vibrant eyes of yours with tears, Matsumoto-san," he said simply.

Rangiku wanted to be angry at him for intruding on her, for seeing her break down. But she was broken to the point of yearning for company, any company, and she hung her head in shame and quiet frustration.

Her bangs fell in front of her face, and Yumichika brushed them behind her ears. Rangiku found herself leaning into his hand as he did. "Why?" she whispered desperately.

"I wonder that myself," he replied softly. "Only someone who kept his eyes closed so often as Ichimaru did could have left such breathtaking beauty behind."

Matsumoto sighed. He meant well, and honestly the compliments made her feel better in some superficial way, but it didn't really mean anything. Whether she was beautiful or not, Gin had traded her for the white and black scenery of Hueco Mundo.

Yumichika's hand dropped to her shoulder, squeezing lightly. "But," he continued, "he can have no excuse for leaving someone so strong, and joyful, and radiant, and spirited. I don't understand how he could do it, but I want you to understand that it was his own failing. He made those choices for himself, and if he couldn't see what he was giving up, then he doesn't deserve to mar your lovely countenance with tears."

Rangiku looked up at Yumichika, shy surprise replacing the angry glare she had intended to give him earlier.


"Please. Yumichika," he corrected, "Or Yumi if you like."


"Rangiku. You are a beautiful person inside and out. Now, dry up those tears, I'll dry up this spill, and we'll go out and get a proper drink together and make everyone jealous of how beautiful we are."

Matsumoto broke into a small smile, wiping her face on a corner of her scarf as Yumichika began gathering the broken pottery from the floor.

She wasn't going to have to drink alone anymore.