all she never asked for

Afterwards, when the explanation that Gin had given for his motivations got out – well, how could it not? People talked, people overheard, people gossiped, people babbled, people were fools, and she as much as any of them – Rangiku was conscious of eyes on her everywhere she went.

People seemed to think that they had some sort of permission to judge her. No, it wasn't even a permission. It was a right. They thought they had a right to judge her.

They thought that it was her fault.

If he hadn't loved her...

And what if he had? If Gin had even been telling the truth – another uncertainty, another doubt, because lies always came so smoothly and sweetly to his lips, they slipped out like honey and made themselves believed in the presence of all other evidence – what did that make him and her? A pair? A couple? Allies? Both traitors? Both in love?

He'd broken that a long time ago.

If it was true (and oh, Gin, why did he have to make her reconsider even now, why should half her life have to be loving him and the other half of it distrusting him and sure that his every word is false, his every smile is malicious) then what part of it was her fault? Had she ever asked him to do it? Had she ever even known anything at all?

He'd kept his secrets and smiled at her, and loved her. He'd smiled again when he broke with her, when he used words and shrugs to force her away, when she could no longer tolerate the coldness of his presence and the malice of his humour. He'd smiled years ago, when he first saw her in the Academy, him already a seated officer, her just a student in training.

(He'd broken with her before that, too: they had been children together, but one day he was gone, and no knowing where or how, and eventually she had mourned him as dead. It was a habit with him.)

He'd smiled at her that time, that very first time, when he gave her food.

Perhaps that was why she had kept coming back to him. The first taste of anything – food, wine, blood – is not so easily forgotten. Oh Gin, oh Ichimaru-taichou, oh her love, oh her sweet one, her silver one, her lovely cold snake, how could he be such a fool and how could she be an even worse one.

Do you realise what you've done to us both, Gin? I never wanted what you did. You lied and you killed and you betrayed, and perhaps you were lying again when you said you did it for me in the first place. Why did you have to poison us both?

And still she can see him in her heart's eye, with the same smile, the same closed eyes, the same perfect stillness. She can still feel him in the night, draped against her warmth, half-asleep, his pulse against her hand. She can still hear his voice, so perfectly light, so gently affectionate, so utterly heartless.

Rangiku, honey, ya know what I am.