disclaimer: disclaimed.
dedication: to That Guy.
notes: what is wrong with me, i turn something as happy as "rainbows" angsty. & set it in a bar. come on, sara, really?
notes2: same verse as the ultimate fling, go read that first. or don't.

title: letters from a thief
summary: AU. Let her down easy. — Gin/Rangiku.

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Sometimes, Rangiku looked up from wiping tables, and stared out the skylight.

The sky was blue, the day the letters started coming. Bright blue, the colour of a robin's egg, and glimmering just above her, through the skylight.

Almost taunting, really.

"Ran, there's a letter for you. On the bar," Ukitake called, softly.

It wasn't even noon.

Rangiku wiped her hands on her apron, and went to the bar. Stacked there was the usual carefully constructed crystal castle of glasses. The sunlight filtered through the skylight, catching on motes of dust in the air and turning the shaft of light to liquid. It splashed through the glasses, scattering glints of rainbow light across the glossy wooden counters.

The letter sat there, innocuous and white. She blinked down at it; stared at the handwriting, a disgustingly happy feeling bubbling in her stomach. She knew that scrawl better than she knew her own name.

And there was no return address.

He really was going to be the death of her, one day. Rangiku exhaled broken dreams, and opened the letter, knife sharp and pointing out as it sliced through paper.

'Lo, Ran-chan,

I hear you're working at Shunsui's bar. How's that for part-time?

Rangiku stopped reading for a moment, took a silent breath, and hated his guts for a solid minute before she gathered the courage to continue reading.

It was so hard to hate Gin.

I'm far away. Farther than last time. The boss-man needed me in Shibuya, so I went the other direction just to annoy him. Hah, I know you approve.

Did you know that jade hairpins are worth a lot of money?

Hoping you're well,

Gin

Rangiku looked at the note, then back down at the envelope. There, wrapped in three layers of tissue, was a perfect little dragon hairpin. It was jade, and it was perfect, and Rangiku sighed because she didn't even want to know where he'd lifted it from. She especially didn't want to know who, because when Gin gave gifts, they were never actually paid for, and it was always better not to ask where they'd come from.

She'd learned that a long time ago.

Rangiku pinned the clip in her hair with a shake of strawberry-blonde curls, and went about her day.

/ / /

Rangiku had never been the type to have a permanent address. She lived week-by-week in one of three apartments above the bar. She would never find out how Gin had found out where she was staying.

Then again, Rangiku never understood how Gin came by half of his information, and knowing him, he likely had someone keeping tabs on her.

If the entertainment value was anything to go by, the guy was probably getting paid in gold.

(It explained why she'd thought she'd seen Tousen three and a half weeks prior.)

Either way, the letters came periodically after that. Sometimes there would be a present; a pendant, a bracelet, a jewelled clip.

Sometimes, Rangiku would wonder how much her jewellery collection was worth. She never had it appraised, and likely never would. There was good reason; Gin had told her long ago that if he ever gave her something, keeping it quiet would likely keep her alive.

So it was just safer, that she didn't.

For her birthday, he sent her a ring.

(It looked, suspiciously enough, like part of the English crown jewels. The missing English crown jewels. Rangiku sighed, resigned.

He was never going to change.)

/ / /

Rangiku kept all the letters.

She was pretty sure he would be offended, if he knew.

(He probably did know.)

They were evidence.

If anyone ever came looking, those letters were enough to incriminate them both; the jewellery was enough to have her locked up for a very long time.

But Rangiku couldn't help it.

She'd always fed on scraps of news. The sight of his handwriting, messy as it was, still gave her shivers. It would always remind her of all the things that made her happiest, and she couldn't just give that up.

Live, love, laugh, she'd once been told.

And then he'd ran off to play mob boss, and Rangiku had taken up drinking.

She tossed the gin back like a pro, and thought that the burn had nothing on what he did to her insides.

/ / /

The phone rang.

Rangiku shot a glance over her shoulder. Neither Shunsui nor Ukitake was anywhere to be found.

The phone rang again.

Crap.

She hated answering phones.

"Hello?"

"'Lo there, Ran-chan,"

Rangiku nearly dropped the phone. "What are you—why are you even calling me?"

"If I di'n't know better, I'd think ya di'n't wanna talk to me," he chuckled, and Rangiku could imagine the sick grin that was probably stretched across his mouth.

She really hated him, sometimes. "I don't want to talk to you."

"C'mon, Ran-chan, y'know ya love me."

"Says you."

"Says me. Ran-chan, watch where ya step. Ya might want to watch over yer shoulder, while yer at it. Don' want'cha losing that pretty head of yers."

Rangiku's breath caught in her throat.

Gin was bad at warnings, but there was real worry in his voice. The usual sarcasm masked it, but Rangiku had known Gin her entire life, and she knew when something was making him nervous.

"I'll watch myself if you watch yourself."

"Good girl. Don' die."

That was as good as be safe from Gin.

"Bye, Ran-chan."

The phone line went dead, and Rangiku stood in the empty bar, and listened to the sound of static. She shook her head. Gin's forever-cryptic warnings always gave her headaches.

But there was no helping it.

She would have to be more careful from then, on.

Rangiku reached across the bar, and poured herself a shot of vodka.

She needed a drink.

/ / /

When he turned up three weeks later, Rangiku wasn't really all that surprised.

He was wearing a dark suit, jacket open over an immaculate white dress shirt and loose black tie. He smirked at her across the bar-top, smile curling up like wisps of smoke and Rangiku was not going to punch him.

"Ran-chan."

"Pick your poison."

"Pour me whatever yer drinkin'."

Gin and tonic, then—and the irony was not lost on her. She slid the frosted highball glass across the bar to him, full up with clear liquid and solid cubes of ice. The thick wedge of lime hung on the edge, and Rangiku watched long, nimble fingers pluck it off the glass, and drop it into the liquid.

The dragon pin suddenly felt like a million tons of guilt nestled in her hair.

It wouldn't be the first time he'd guilted her like this.

"What do you want, Gin?" Rangiku asked, slowly, dragging her fingertip along the bar-top.

"S'not what I want, Ran-chan. S'what you want," he said, propping his chin on his hand.

But Rangiku didn't want anything. She wasn't running from anything, wasn't running to anything, wasn't… she wasn't anything. She wasn't looking for the sun, anymore, but telling Gin that was an entirely different story.

"There's… nothing, Gin. Nothing."

The languid grace in his body sent shivers up her spine. "What'd'ya say to leavin' with me?"

Rangiku looked at him for a very long minute. Did he have any idea how long she'd wanted him to ask that? Did he know that she still woke with nightmares, his blood all over her hands? Did he know that she could still taste the last time they'd kissed, lips hot and hard, tasting of cigarette smoke and sin?

Did he know that she still loved him?

"I'd say no."

Gin's perpetual smile blurred and stretched ever wider. He knocked back the gin and tonic, and slipped off the barstool. "Good girl, Ran-chan. You finally know what's good for you."

He dropped something on the bar between them, but Rangiku didn't take her eyes off him. She knew that if she did, he would disappear.

(Just like last time.)

He turned to leave, and panic set in. "Will you ever come back?"

Gin stared at her over his shoulder. "Dunno. Will I?"

Then he was gone.

Rangiku was left with the distinct feeling that that had been a not very subtle goodbye.

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fin.
notes3: happy start of the weekend, guys! please leave a review if you liked it. :)