Coffee

He meets her in a coffee shop and she leaves him and returns again in one. AU

Gin always buys coffee in the mornings, black, five sugars, dark as night, sweet as sin, just like how his mama used to make, just that now she's not here anymore and he has to buy his coffee because he can never get the flavour right. This place doesn't make coffee like his mama used to but it's good enough, at least better than the industrial crap churned out by the buckets that's served in Starbucks.

Gin knows most of the people in the place, he knows them by sight because they always come and no one ever speaks to anyone because morning rituals are supposed to be quiet, private little affairs, some brief respite before the tiring, ennui filled day. So, one morning he's pleasantly surprised when she walks in, an unfamiliar face, because only regulars and faux hipsters who come in through the faded green door and that is just plain boring.

The girl comes in just after him, around eight thirty when people are already rushing to get their orders in so they could rush off to work, same boring old cycle, same damned routine. The morning glow embraces her, envelops her in gold, like how they do in those cheesy movies when she walks in. She saunters in, long and loose limbed, graceful.

She has long red blonde hair, he can't really determine the colour, and she has a really pretty face, he wouldn't call it her pretty, just that she is too good looking to be pretty and not enough to be called beautiful, yet she reminds him of old movie stars on monochrome posters and Frank Sinatra.

He kind of watches her out of the corner of his eye, she had one hell of a body, nice legs and the works, big boobs though, he really isn't into that sorta stuff, he's more of a cute-girl kind of guy. Small and adorable, he prefers girls who are too cute for words, innocence haloed around their heads but damn in bed, they are real good screamers.

"The usual, five sugars, black."

The woman at the counter whose name he doesn't know because he really can't be bothered to ask, smiles at him and nods, muttering something about regulars. He can feel the girl behind him raise an eyebrow in shock, three sugars, did he want to get diabetes, she's now probably texting some random girlfriend of hers saying, oh my god the guy in front of me just had coffee with five sugars like what the hell? So he takes a slight peek back in her direction and there she is looking blandly at the board, her red blonde hair curling slightly on her shoulder. His grin drops a nanoinch; he kind of wants her to pay attention.

He watches her from his regular booth, right next to the window so he can see town clock, it's a nice day, Dreamwork blue skies, white clouds and all that jazz. Gin watches her get her coffee, cappuccino, he thinks, she's a cappuccino kind of girl, sweet and bitter, he can see it in her face and the way she moves, fluid, sometimes hesitant. He thinks she's a kind of enigma, a mystery wrapped around another which buries another, he looks at her and thinks, she's not going to be easy.

But of course, he's not going to ask her out. After all, he doesn't know her and he doesn't do the spontaeneous, hey I just met you and this is crazy, kind of pizzazz, he's more of an old fashioned, roses and chocolates guy. And he knows that if he does that sort of shit and she doesn't say yes because she looks like the type, he'll have to get a new coffee place because all the pitying stares and whispers and that would screw up his mornings and make him feel like an even bigger loser.

But then again this is all hypothetical, what if she says yes, what is she says no, what if she's not the kind of person he thinks she is. Hypothesis, guesses strung from one forlorn glance at her from his lonely little booth. For all he knows, she could be another bimbo, another stuck up faux hipster, she could be anything and everything all at once and he likes that.

"Is this seat taken?"

It doesn't take weeks for him to walk up to her, just minutes in fact, because he had learnt from some cheesy self-help book he read ages ago, "opportunity does not knock, it presents itself when you knock down the door. So here he stands, in front of this almost beautiful girl, going to try to flirt and be spontaneous and fun, despite the fact that a lot of girls had the heeby jeebies just by looking at him. Well too damn bad, he decides, here goes nothing.

"There are plenty of other seats here."

The girl gestures, waving her hand aimlessly to the rest of the place. Damn, she's right, he thinks as he desperately tries to scrape up some other cool, smarmy excuse that would charm her off her feet.

"That's erh… because you're not there."

He tries, he thinks that will be something some cool, slick guy will say and falters as he watches her frown deepen, she probably heard that one before. He tries again.

"That's because… from a distance, you look like my friend even though we are at war, from a distance I just cannot comprehend,"

She raises an eyebrow and Gin silently thanks his mama for listening to Bette Midler.

"Comprehend what?"

She asks cautiously, she's been down this road before, he can see it, she looks like a cat, he realises. The colouring of her hair, the pointed face, the large blue eyes, she looks like a cornered cat about to scratch back with some biting words, a witty remark which he probably can't follow because girls are this special breed of things which he doesn't understand. They're not amused by jokes, they don't respond to romantic gestures and they always go with the douchebags, the certain sort of guy which has this magnetism for female attention. He immediately thinks of Aizen and Hinamori and forlorn little Hitsugaya who keeps telling him that if she is happy, he ss happy. Rather pathetic, if you ask him.

"Beauty too rich for use for earth too dear, so shows a snowy dove trooping among crows, as yonder lady o'er her fellow shows."

Shakespeare, Shakespeare always wins the ladies over, he hopes, after all, Romeo and Juliet is the world's favourite love story, she shouldn't be able to resist.

"Romeo and Juliet?"

She asks, a smile quirks at her lips.

"That's a first for me."

She motions for him to sit and Gin sits gratefully, he can feel the eyes of every single person in the coffee shop rest upon his being but hey at least he is the one sitting beside this girl who really is not his type but whom he had just used Shakespeare as a pickup line on. This is a first he realises.

"So who are you?"

She bluntly asks and he's taken aback because none of the sweet, cute, innocent girls he's dated before would have been so blunt. How refreshing, he thinks, his smile rising, stretching taut over his face.

"Ichimaru Gin, pleased to meet you."

"Matsumoto Rangiku, amused to meet you."

Sassy too, he never has gone so far with outright flirting and really is too clueless to carry on because roses and chocolates don't and won't seem to work on a girl like her, who is too experienced and knows what those roses and chocolates really mean. He waits for her to continue.

"So why did you come over?"

He's stunned for a minute, why did he come over? He couldn't possibly say, well I saw you from across the room and I thought to myself, well you're not my type but like hey, you seem really damn interesting so here I am, using Shakespeare and Bette Midler as pickup lines on you.

"Well," he thinks for a bit, "You seemed like an interesting kind of gal."

She snorts over her cappuccino and it's the most interesting and different thing he has heard for a long time, so he takes a sip of his coffee and hopes this will not end.

"Gin, why the hell do you smile so much."

They have been having breakfast, coffee whatever you call it for a couple of weeks and she's become comfortable with him, she now swears freely in front him and he has seen her pour liquor, probably vodka into her cappuccino, he thinks it's disgusting but she does seem to enjoy it.

And while he likes people asking him questions because it shows how interested they are in him and what a fascinating character he seemed to be, he really doesn't want to answer her and he knows that she will not pursue this one. Because she has her secrets and she knows the importance of secrecy, he can see it in her, a hypothesis, a prediction but he knows it will be an accurate one. He gives her an answer anyway.

"Smiling makes the world happier."

Absolute bullshit, he knows it, she knows it. She chugs down on her vodka laced cappuccino and rolls her eyes.

"Bull freaking shit, so what do you do? I've never asked you that before."

She adds, smiling. She has a nice smile, perfectly straight teeth, he remembers telling her once that she should have been a model or an actress. She told him to fuck off.

"Lit student at NYU and I spend my time mooning and pondering the meaning of life here."

He chuckles at his new job description and she laughs too.

"Well that explains the Romeo and Juliet quote. Bette Midler?"

She raises an eyebrow; her mouth rises into a smirk.

"My ma used to listen to her."

"Mama's boy."

She teases and pours more vodka into her cappuccino and he tells her once again that it looks plain disgusting and that she needed a proper set of taste buds. She rolls her eyes at him and all is right with the world.

Two months later, they have gained a pattern, Gin comes in first and buys his coffee, dark and sweet, he also gets hers, pale and bittersweet. She'll come in later, moaning and nursing a hangover from some drunken escapade last night that she'll soon tell him about and no matter the number of aspirins she pops into her mouth or the constant grumbling about her splitting headache, she still laces her cappuccino with the sweet acerbic taste of vodka. They always talk till ten and then they separate, Gin goes for his lectures and Rangiku for hers. When she finally tells him that she's a med student, Gin laughs and asks her why she's still drinking if alcohol turns one's liver to mush. She never answers, her face turns pale and he never asks again.

However, she loves to talk about her work, dissecting corpses and rats and all that jazz, she speaks animatedly about it , moving her hand into wild gestures, while he drinks his coffee. He knows she does it just to watch him turn green and sometimes, push the mug away, his smile waning. She's a little, spiteful bitch, he loves her for that.

When she doesn't talk about her work, she asks him questions. She prodes and pulls on the most insignificant of details, he feels appreciated, interesting, it's as if above all the layers of secrets and fears, there is a regular normal person. He likes watching her as he talks, those artic blue eyes shimmering with glee, she looks rather interesting that way, captivating, he should say.

"So Gin, what sort of girls do you like?"

"Why do you ask?"

He counters lazily, taking a small sip of his coffee, it is rather cold today.

"Curious."

She mutters, nudging him for a reply.

Without pausing, he answers sounding bored and amused.

"Cute little girls."

Rangiku almost spits out her cappuccino, no, she chokes on it.

"What."

She coughs, wiping her mouth with as much grace as a drunk sailor.

"Cute girls, like you know Byakuya's sister, Rukia, the philosophy major. Yup, I like my girls, cute and small."

She cringes.

"But she's so innocent, that's almost perverted."

He laughs at her reaction, her face is really too beautiful for words.

"Almost isn't perverted. Besides cute girls are the best screamers."

"You're a pervert."

"Why thank you Mademoiselle, now let's continue to where you left off about castrating one of your corpses."

She harrumphs and crosses her hands over her ample bossom, muttering something about the knife accidentally slipping. He doesn't believe it's an accident but he humours her anyway, telling her that she could be a subconscious sadist.

He realises something is wrong one day when she comes and doesn't touch her cappuccino. She just sits opposite him and twirls the spoon through the thick foam of her coffee, watching him cautiously with those blue eyes. He averts his gaze, her eyes disturbs him, they were not their usual iridescent pools of shimmering blue, they were not sad, not happy but flat. He feels that she has to tell him something today but she says nothing, so he talks for her and tells her about those literature lectures, of Euripides and Dramatism and literary techniques and of the guy with the ball spot who sits in front of him and how that particular spot shines under the bare fluorescent light.

She doesn't laugh and when she smiles, it's wane, it's sapped of energy, it's tired. It dead.

Dead.

Dead.

Dead.

He knows that repetition numbs the mind into submission, so he continues talking, repeating happy insignificant things so that this cheerful happy Rangiku can return.

Smiling makes his cheeks ache, his eyes squint and strain under the tug of his muscles but he knows that this prevents her from seeing that he knows of the purplish blue puncture marks on her arms and that he can see how she has started to wear long sleeve shirts.

She pulls down one sleeve over a wrist entwined by silver vines which snake across the purple blue of her veins whenever he comes to close.

She doesn't come one day and he worries. He knows what the silver scars are, what purple blue puncture marks mean and he knows what happens to people with these things. His little brother, Kira had been one of them, and he had wasted away into a thin, emancipated skeleton who see his brother as a monster and screams, screams like a child on fire every time he sees his face.

There is nothing he can do, so he waits. He sits at the table, smiling his absolutely tiring smile, straining until his jaws hurt. He sips his coffee until it's ten. He doesn't leave.

He misses the lecture on irony that day.

It had been a lovely day with a Dreamwork sky.

Three months, she hasn't returned once. Gin still sits at their regular table, he never returns to his original booth, he still sits till it's ten but he always leaves for his lectures because he has to. Leaving, he tells himself is a common, natural process, he's had his fair share of people living, his father with another woman, his brother with acid, his mother with a thick rope and pills after she saw her youngest son, his friends with time. He too, makes himself leave, however, he comes back during his lunch breaks, sometimes he orders a cappuccino, most times he gets coffee, black as night, sweet as sin, and a cappuccino with extra milk, just the way she like it, and he leaves it at her seat and tells the old lady who asks that he's waiting for someone special.

He always brings his laptop, tells himself that he comes here to do his work and projects because of the quiet ambience. Most of the time, he writes, poems and stories about a girl with red blonde hair who looked like an old movie star but is really just an enigma.

He doesn't miss her, he just misses the company. The two are starkly different.

….

She comes in after months of absence. Her hair is longer, she's lost weight, she's wearing black and that makes her red gold hair look like fire and sunlight. He's typing at the table, rushing to finish his midterm project when she walks in and asks for a cappuccino.

Surprise, she smiles as she sits back down at their table and slips out her flask of vodka and pours it into her coffee. She seems more tired and when she looks at him, her eyes are sad, sad clear artic blue, lined by black coasts of sand.

He wants to ask her where she went, why she went, why she went without even a word, how she got the puncture marks on her arm, the scars on her wrist which now have blossomed into an underground labyrinth of silver walls but he doesn't ask. He keeps his secrets and she keeps hers.

She sips her vodka laced cappuccino. She's finally beautiful. The glow of the morning sun catches her and immortalises her, her skin turns ivory, the hollows under her eyes become darker. She's a greek tragedy, he realises, as her lips curls, recoils from the scalding liquid.

"You alright?"

He asks and realises how insincere it must have seemed that his smile never seems to falter, he hates himself for that. He watches as her eyes thin in disdain, he knows he should never have asked.

"I was just worried."

He had crossed another unspoken boundary, he can see it in how her grip on the coffee cup tightens, she swallows her mouthful of cappuccino, her lips thin.

"I want to help you, Rangiku."

He tells her with all the sincerity he can muster behind his mask and even though it's not enough, he hopes it is sufficient. He wants to help her, he wants her to love him, this cheerful and crude, this sad and quiet girl with the artic blue eyes that can be pools of light, that can be flat cardboard.

If this was another day, another girl with fewer secrets and wrapped under layers of normality instead of mystery and fears, he will tell her that he wants to hold her hand, he wants to kiss her, soft, slow and tender, that he wants to drink coffee with her everyday of his goddamned life. He will show her his puncture wounds and tell her how he got each damn one of them and how he blacked out every night to get to sleep because sleep and darkness were terrible things.

He will tell her that he is a fucked up, broken human being with too many things that he cannot and will not say, that he is a sinner, an unrepentant hell bound sinner and that he knows that she will heal him and make him whole.

But she's not, she's just as fucked up, maybe even more so. He watches as she drinks her cappuccino with those sad sad cardboard eyes, he watches as the sun's rays illuminate the silver of her scars which crisscross over her hands on to her arms, he watches as she struggles to smile and to laugh at his jokes.

He realises that if she is not this fucked up, broken, vodka laced cappuccino drinking girl, he will never have loved her.

She's not his type but he loves her anyway.