Chapter 17 --------

Rangiku is about to knock when she hears her captain call her in. Hesitating slightly, she enters to see the little taichou surrounded by mounds of papers as well as fussing over a pile in his hands.

'What is it, Rangiku?' he says in a bored voice. The busty woman fiddles with her fingers.

'Well, captain, you just recovered from your capture and I don't think it's right for you to start working immediately,' she says carefully. Toshiro just sighs and shuffles the papers into a separate pile.

'That was a month ago. And besides, working is soothing to me, Rangiku,' he explains in an irritated tone. 'Is there anything else you would like to say?'

She is actually about to let it slide but something get's the better of her and she faces her captain with a determined look. They did, after all, share a bond deeper than that of captain and vice-captain.

'Captain, what happened in Hueco Mundo?' she asks suddenly.

'I'd rather not talk about it,' he snaps and begins on a new pile of reports. He says it so quickly it's like he was prepared for questions about his little trip. Rangiku's shoulders drop as if in defeat.

'But-but captain!' she protests but Toshiro holds up a hand to stop her from going further. He looks at his vice-captain and Rangiku suddenly realizes that Toshiro is older than he shows himself to be. Despite being a boy, his face shows that he has a suffered a thousand years and now he wants nothing but to forget it and move on with his life.

'Let's just say, there are some things better left unspoken,' he says tiredly and goes back to work. Rangiku looks at him for a long time before leaving the little taichou to his own thoughts. Despite their 'deep bond' there are some things she will never get about this curious little boy of a captain.

Meanwhile, Toshiro suddenly looks up from his work, his hand tightening on Hyourinmaru on his back.

'Show yourself,' he hisses into the air. From the shadows, Gin steps out, smiling as usual. He tilts his head as he surveys a vexed captain. Toshiro hisses again.

'You have some nerve showing yourself here again,' he swears under his breath. 'How did you get in?'

'Same way as last time,' Gin answers pleasantly. He looks around. 'Nice place you got here. So where do you sleep?'

'Get out of here, Ichimaru.'

'Aw! Is that how you treat your former lover?'

'I never loved you. Not then and not now. But give me one good reason why I shouldn't raise the alarm right now. Why are you here for me now after all this time?'

'I just want to talk, Shiro-chan. I don't want to hurt you anymore.'

Toshiro flinches at that name. It triggered many unpleasant and suppressed memories which he had been forced to share with this man before him.

'What became of Kneeka?' Toshiro forces himself to ask, dreading the worse.

'She's dead. Died trying to save you. Poor girl.'

Gin's voice is devoid of emotion. Toshiro takes a shuddering breath, trying to control the wave of emotion overwhelming him at this moment.

'Do you really hate me, Shiro-chan?'

Toshiro blinks. One minute, he's behind his desk. The next, Gin has him pinned to a wall, his face buried in his neck. He puts his hand calmly on the broad chest.

'Yes,' he answers simply and tries to push Gin off but he just comes closer.

'Would you have loved me if I had treated you differently?'

Toshiro hesitates. 'I don't know, Gin…'

Gin smirks when he hears the taichou refer to him by his first name. He coos softly in his ear and then runs his tongue along the shell of his ear. Toshiro bites his lip to hold in a moan. He didn't want to give Gin an incentive to continue.

'You can't erase the past, Ichimaru,' he says firmly and manages to take Gin by the shoulders, pulling him off gently. 'There is nothing you can do to change my mind about you now.'

Gin stops his antics to absorb what Toshiro has to say. He pauses before kissing his soft cheek lightly, taking the little taichou by surprise.

'I'm sorry, Shiro-chan, for hurting you,' he murmurs softly. 'Love makes us do crazy things. And we can't help doing them even if it means hurting the ones we love…'

'Sorry?!' Toshiro interrupts angrily. 'You think saying sorry is going to make everything better?! Like I'm going to forget everything and start love-!'

But before he can finish ranting, Gin slips his lips onto the parted ones, sliding his slippery tongue in to playfully wrestle with Toshiro's tongue. Toshiro's eyes widen in shock at what is happening. Gin grabs his hands to stop him from doing anything stupid and revels in the familiar taste of the 10th division captain. The kiss extends for a long time before Gin pulls away, leaving the young taichou gasping for air.

'Bastard…'Toshiro pants and scowls at him. Gin just smirks.

'Well I got what I wanted,' he chirps happily and releases the captain. He walks back from where he popped out from. He then turns around and salutes the captain. 'I'll make this memory last forever, Shiro-chan. It's the last time I'll be able to love you openly.' He almost looks sad now. 'I'll always love you, Shiro-chan, no matter what. Don't forget that.'

Then, in the blink of an eye, he has disappeared, leaving nothing but the whispering shadows and waning moonlight as witnesses of Gin at his most vulnerable. Toshiro collapses on the floor, his emotions finally catching up to him as he feels hot tears rising up in his eyes. He hangs his head low. He had never opted for this. Then again, you never opt for what you don't want yet you always get them instead of the ones you want. Toshiro can erase all the memories he wants about Gin from his mind but there is no doubt that the bond they had formed in his bedroom will never, ever go away…