Disclaimer: I (obviously) don't own Bleach. I wish I did though, because Gin would totally still be alive if I was Kubo T.T

Rangiku becomes a shinigami because Gin becomes one.

It's as simple as that, and she's never tried to convince herself otherwise. She doesn't particularly like violence, even when she proves to be pretty good at fighting, and she's definitely more than just a little distrustful of shinigami in general. But when Gin announces his sudden decision, it's the first time Rangiku has ever truly felt afraid of completely losing him.

(Because being without him would be like losing life itself. She's realized this since he first started to go on his spontaneous excursions; it becomes harder to breathe when he's not around.)

So she takes the plunge, making one last desperate attempt to bridge the ever-widening gap between them.

It proves to be in vain though, because he graduates within a year, among awestruck accolades from instructors and classmates alike.

Genius, they call him.

She watches from a window on the second floor when the lieutenant of the fifth division personally comes to escort Gin to his new home.

It's the first time she has ever felt compelled to cry. She understood now, as she watched him walk away, that some distances could never be closed. The world blurs a little, and Rangiku sinks, wondering when they had stopped traveling on the same road.

Gin never looks back.

(I heard she got first in the exams.

Who, her?

Ugh, she probably slept with the instructor again.

I heard she got an offer from the Gotei 13 already, too.

Heard she has a so-called friend in a high position there.

What a slut.

She'd be nothing without her looks.)

She holds her head high, but she's not gracious enough to pretend to be deaf when she clearly isn't. The infirmary's full with injured students before half of the day is over, and she tunes out the instructors when they scold her. The thought of quitting crosses her mind more than once a day now, and the only reason she stays is because she still can't completely let go yet.

Rangiku ties her robes a little looser the next morning, because hey, if they wanted to stare and gossip, she might as well give them something to look at. She was developing pretty well, so why not show off a bit?

Two months before graduation, there are exactly twelve envelopes on Rangiku's dresser.

She's read through most of them, and while they each contained the same message, the handwriting and style of language used in each is a bit different. The one from the sixth division is particularly fancy, all ivory-colored, and written in beautiful, flowing cursive, while the one from the eleventh division looks more like a kidnapping notice more than anything else.

It was the letter from the tenth division that interests her the most. The handwriting is neat and tidy, the words straightforward and to the point, just to her liking. There was something rather fascinating about a division that had learned to operate without a captain, she thinks.

It amuses her, in a way, because she had been so sure that she was going to join the fifth division that she had never stopped to consider that there were other options..

That there were other paths besides the one that Gin was on.

The recruitment letter from the fifth division never comes.

(She hears he's been promoted to lieutenant now.)

Rangiku spends the last two weeks at the Academy leading field training for the third years. It's a remote area in District 20 of Rukongai, ideal for training because of the constant appearances of small fry hollow.

There's a girl in the group that Rangiku immediately takes notice of. She's petite, with dark brown hair and big blue eyes, and an enthusiasm that Rangiku can't help but appreciate. Privately, Rangiku dubs her as mouse-girl, and thinks that it's pretty clear that the girl isn't cut out to be a shinigami. But then again, it wasn't her place to judge.

Before the third years can return to the Academy, they had to undergo a test to show the results of their training. It was a fairly standard and simple examination, in which teams of three had to work together to take down a hollow.

Most of the groups passed without a problem, and Rangiku and the other examiners quickly dispatched the hollows who the students couldn't completely kill. When it got to mouse-girl's group's turn, Rangiku watched, only letting out a sigh of relief when the hollow disintegrated.

She turned away, smiling as she addressed the students who were already done with their exam.

That's when she heard the scream.

Spinning around, her hand on the hilt of her sword, Rangiku watched as what she recognized as a Gillian emerged. She had never encountered one before, had only seen it in class, but it was undoubtedly one, probably drawn out by the fact that there were so many shinigami-to-be here.

Mouse-girl had fallen to the ground, clearly rooted with horror, all the color flooding from her face, as the Gillian stepped closer, roaring.

One of the other examiners was the first to regain his senses, and quickly ordered for the remaining students and examiners to retreat.

"What about her?" Another examiner yelled, pointing at mouse-girl, who the Gillian was now reaching out to.

The answer was drowned out in the panicked screams of the students and the menacing screeching of the hollow, but Rangiku already knew they were most likely going to leave her behind. There was no way they could take on a Gillian, even if they all attacked collectively, and yet-


She felt a piercing pain in her left shoulder as she landed on the other side of the Gililan, mouse-girl safe in her arms. The Gillian shrieked with pain and rage as blood spurted out from where its arm had been, and Rangiku quickly spun around, knowing that unless help came, they were both goners.

She readied her sword, nevertheless, finally realizing now what it really meant to be a shinigami, what it meant to have the ability to protect and defend those who couldn't do so for themselves. And she smiled, wondering why she always seemed to have epiphanies when it was too late.

The Gillian opened its mouth wide now, and Rangiku's eyes widened as she recognized the preparations for a Cero.

"Run!" She screamed at the mouse-girl, who had collapsed in a heap after Rangiku had saved her. Clenching her teeth, Rangiku turned back to the Gillian, knowing now the only way she could at least save mouse-girl was to change the direction of the cero.

She quickly flash-stepped to behind the Gillian, and drew its attention with some well placed insults. It turned, stumbling a bit, and she braced death as the cero became larger, all thoughts fleeing from her mind, save one-

"Shoot 'em, Shinsou."

She's finally released from the fourth division three days later, still somewhat groggy from the medicine that she had been given. She's relieved to be out though, because as much as she likes lazying around, the fourth division wasn't exactly the most exciting of places.

Mouse-girl is there when Rangiku emerges, and Rangiku smiles when the girl stammers an apology for being so useless, her eyes filling with tears.

"You idiot," Rangiku says, pulling the younger girl into her arms, "What on earth could you have done?" She chokes back her own tears as the girl sobs, knowing full well just how much it hurt to feel so utterly helpless.

She sees the flash of silver when she bids mouse-girl farewell, but Rangiku doesn't call him out. She won't thank him either, because if she did, he would probably just say he was just doing his job, and she wasn't sure that she wanted to hear that.

The shinigami who had been in charge of her recovery tells her she's good to go.

"But I hear I'll be seeing you soon, Matsumoto-kun."

Rangiku smiles a little and glances over at the place where she's sure he's standing, "Probably, yeah. I think I'm supposed to be joining in officially sometime next week."

"Oh? What division are you joining?"

She laughs now, and it's the first time she has ever felt so sure of anything, "The tenth 've got no captain, and someone like me prefers some freedom, you know?" She grins at the confused fourth division member and makes her way out of the barracks, going back to the Academy for one last time.

She's nearly out of the door when she suddenly stops.


She knows he's still there, but he doesn't show himself. That's okay. This'll be easier without actually having to see him.

"My life won't revolve around you anymore," She says, her voice clear and loud, with all the confidence of a teenage girl, "I've found my own reasons to live. And to fight. Okay?" She waits a moment, and then she's gone, knowing that she probably wouldn't get an answer either way.

He smiles in the shadows and slumps back against the wall.


(She's learned to breathe again.)