When Gin awoke early the next morning, he was surprised to find that he was still at the table. He groaned and stretched, feeling very uncomfortable. He raised an eyebrow when he realised that someone had draped a blanket over him throughout the night.
It was dark outside; the faintest splash of red could be seen along the horizon. Ichimaru scoffed. It had been months since he had seen a sunrise, having been stuck under the forever-black sky of Hueco Mundo.
"It's prett'er than I remembered…" Gin mumbled to himself. He moved to the window and sat down, content with staring at the sky. He didn't know how long he had sat there for, but he had been there long enough to watch as the sky turned the lightest shade of blue.
"What are you doing?"
Gin jumped and whimpered at the unexpected voice. He got to his feet and turned mid-air, slamming his back against the wall behind him. He ducked his head, showing his submission.
"A-aizen-taicho!" Gin sputtered as he fiddled nervously with the tekko along his wrists. "I-I…!"
Ichigo and Rukia were silent as a wary head was raised and a single blue orb looked at them. It took seconds for Gin to drop his head and close his eyes once again.
"We're not mad or anything…" Ichigo tried to break the silence, not knowing what to say. "We were just curious as to what was holding your interest…"
Gin licked his lips but made no move to reply.
"You seemed very peaceful," Rukia tried. "You can keep doing it if you want."
Gin frowned. He hesitated before he lifted his head and looked out the window, but was disheartened to see that the sunset was over. He sighed and ducked his head again.
"What do you want for breakfast, Ichimaru?" Ichigo asked as he moved to the pantry.
"H-huh…?" Gin's frown widened. Never, in his entire life had he been asked something like what he wanted for breakfast. He had never had a choice when he was young. It was whatever he could find, and then it became whatever he was given once he enrolled in the Academy. "…I… I don't understand…"
Ichigo raised an eyebrow. "What is there to understand? You either want something or you don't. What is it?"
"Ichimaru!" Ichigo was starting to get impatient. He had never met someone like Gin before, and he really didn't know how to deal with him.
"I'll handle this, Kurosaki."
Ichigo started at the voice, but Rukia just smiled brightly. "Nii-sama!"
Byakuya stood in the doorway to the living room. He had clothing strewn across his arm and a small bag at his side. He stepped into the kitchen and headed straight for Gin.
"Are you hungry, Ichimaru?" Byakuya asked as he lead the younger to the table. He pulled the chair out and gestured for him to sit as he patiently waited for the reply.
Gin nodded a few minutes of thought. He avoided eye contact, sure that he would be in trouble for having asked for food.
"Was there any food you wanted in particular for breakfast?" Byakuya sat on the chair next to Gin, carefully laying the clothes out on the table.
"…" Gin's voice was weak as he whispered his desire. "…Toast…"
Byakuya raised an eyebrow. "Is that all you want?"
Byakuya gazed over to Rukia and nodded. His sister understood immediately and grabbed the bread from the corner of the counter.
"Did you encounter any problems last night?" Byakuya asked as he surveyed the younger Soul Reaper.
Gin shook his head. In all honesty, he had hated his stay once Byakuya had left, but he didn't want to make himself seem weaker than he already had to the Kuchiki. He didn't know why, but the thought of being looked down upon by his elder made his heart ache more than it already did.
"I got you some clothing before I came." Byakuya gestured to the small pile of clothes he had on the table. "I also received some medical aid from the Fourth Division. When you eat your toast, we will go into the bathroom so I can treat your wounds."
Gin shivered at the thought of exposing himself to someone, but he nodded anyway. A lone tear dripped down his cheek.
It was silent until Gin got his toast, the only sounds of the youngest three eating their breakfast.
Gin didn't eat much. He nibbled and picked at his toast, finishing hardly even a half of one piece. He pushed the plate away with a sigh, not used to eating so much in one go, despite having barely eaten anything.
Gin looked up at Byakuya with a frown before he nodded. He got to his feet and followed his saviour upstairs, feeling unusually… calm, despite knowing what was in store for him.
Byakuya closed the bathroom door firmly, making sure it was locked before he turned back to Gin. "Strip."
Gin flinched and shivered at the familiar command, but did as he was told anyway. He knew that what was going to happen was worlds better than what he was used to; he was actually going to receive care for his wounds.
"Hold these." Byakuya handed the younger the clothes in his arms so that he could open the bag he had with him.
Gin nodded. He trembled slightly as he watched Byakuya dig through the bag for a few seconds before his hand surfaced with ointment.
"Unohana said that this will sting," the raven-haired explained as he popped the cap open and poured a generous amount onto his hand, "but she said that it works wonders."
Gin nodded absent-mindedly, self-conscious about his situation. He didn't like the fact that he was standing bare in front of the first person who had ever tried to help him; it hurt to know that things had to escalate to such a terrifying degree before anyone tried to stop the torture he went through.
Ichimaru gasped and hissed as Kuchiki's hand touched his bare skin, but whether it was from the stinging of the ointment or the physical touch, he couldn't work out. He was ashamed that nearly all of his body was covered in bruises and cuts, believing that they proved him weak.
The fox was quick to get used to the stinging as pain was something he had known his entire life. He was surprised to find himself relaxing under his elder's touch, soothed enough to fall limp against the wall as his mind focused only on the calming hands on his skin.
"Does it feel better?" Byakuya asked. He wasn't surprised when the silver-haired Shinigami nodded. "Unohana said it's a relaxing thing."
Gin nodded again, feeling himself drifting off to the relaxing hands on his body. He was just about asleep before Byakuya's calm voice woke him up.
"Stand up so I can dress you." The Kuchiki said in monotone.
Gin blushed scarlet as he obeyed, getting back to his feet. He couldn't help but tense as he watched his carer wash his hands under the faucet before clothes were grabbed. He vaguely wondered where Byakuya had gotten them from but didn't voice his question.
"I borrowed these from Ukitake," Byakuya said as if he had heard the thin male's thoughts. "He had a stack in his wardrobe, though I do not know where he received them from."
Gin blushed darker as he raised his arm. The clothes were just a little too big on him, his hand disappearing in the sleeve. He thought that this was odd seeing as Ukitake was only half a foot taller than him, and these clothes were definitely far too big for even the white-haired man himself.
"…Does know why yer have them…?" Gin whispered as he cracked an eye open to observe the smaller male.
"No. He did not ask why I wanted them."
Gin sighed in relief. Part of him knew that even if he had been told about Gin, Ukitake would keep it a secret, but the fear of being found out and taken away from Byakuya was still there.
It was silent again until Gin was fully dressed and his wounds treated. He was happy, knowing that Byakuya had been the one to break through his walls. The thought of being touched was unbearable, but for some reason Byakuya's hands brought him comfort he had only ever known with Matsumoto.
"Are ya goin' back today?" Gin asked as they left the bathroom. Byakuya shook his head.
"Abarai is doing the paperwork today," Byakuya explained.
"I see…" Gin bit his lip. He had wanted to ask this question for a while now, but he had been too afraid to ask it until now. "…How is… Rangiku…?"
The raven-haired male glanced at Gin with grey-eyes. He studied the younger in curiosity. He and Matsumoto had always shared a peculiar relationship. "She is fine. Why do you ask?"
Gin just shrugged. "No reason…"
Byakuya chose not to comment on a blatant lie, knowing that he had done the same when it came to disguising his love for his sister. Instead, he opened the bathroom door and walked down the stairs, knowing that Gin would follow him.
"Kurosaki." Byakuya's cool voice rang through the cold morning air once he found Ichigo and Rukia in the living room. He waited patiently until all attention was placed on him before he spoke. "I am taking Gin into town. He needs new clothing."
Rukia tilted her head as she surveyed the clothes on both males. Gin was wearing a blue Hawaiian shirt that hung down past his waist and swallowed his arms. The black pants he had were baggy and kept slipping down his hips. They were long enough for Gin to keep tripping over them.
Byakuya wore a simple black button shirt and trousers that fitted snugly to him, very apt for a noble.
"Nii-sama…?" Rukia bit her lip as she spoke to her brother. "…Why is Ichimaru wearing Kyōraku-taicho's clothes…?"
Byakuya was silent for a few moments as understanding hit him. No wonder they had been in Ukitake's closet. "…Oh…"
Gin tilted his head. "What…?"
Rukia and Byakuya turned to look at the confused Shinigami. Ichigo, however, was the one to voice that confusion.
"What are we not getting?" Ichigo asked. "So Ukitake-san had someone else's clothes in his closet. What's so bad about that?"
Rukia turned wide eyes to Ichigo next. "You don't know?!"
"What is there to know?" Ichigo asked. "They're best friends, aren't they?"
Byakuya sighed. "Ukitake and Kyōraku are partners, Kurosaki."
"O-oh…" Ichigo fell silent at this, embarrassed.
Gin just blushed and tugged absent-mindedly at the shirt. He sincerely hoped that the clothes had been washed…
"Wait, if Gin didn't know this, then does everyone know?" Ichigo asked.
Rukia shook his head. "Just nii-sama and me. I went to give my paperwork to Ukitake-taicho and found them in the bedroom…"
"Oh…" Ichigo couldn't help but feel sorry for Rukia having walked in on her captain like that.
Byakuya, starting to grow impatient, turned to leave the living room. "Come, Gin. We are leaving."
Gin jumped slightly before following Byakuya out of the house. He shivered slightly at the thought of leaving the building and being around so many other people, but at least Byakuya was there, right?
"Where are we goin'?" Gin whispered as he fell into step beside the Kuchiki.
"To buy you clothes, for one." Byakuya glanced at the clothes that draped across the tall male. "And to put you into school."
Gin stopped and opened his eyes. He stared incredulously at Byakuya, unable to believe what the older male wanted him to do.
"You want… to put me… into school?" Gin whispered.
Byakuya nodded. "Yes. You need to learn how to interact with others. It will be good for you. I will be with you if I can."
Gin gasped. "You… are willin'…"
"That is what I said, is it not?"
Tears welled up in Gin's eyes. He had never expected Byakuya, the master of the cold, I-hate-the-world-and-care-about-nothing attitude and the world's most loyal follower of rules to drop nearly everything for him.
"I cannot have you being unable to socialise properly," Byakuya said as he started walking again. "I want to teach you that not everyone is like Aizen."
"…" Gin couldn't help the tears that flowed down his cheeks. Out of all the people that could have found him, he couldn't have been happier than he was to know that it had been the Kuchiki. "…Byakuya…"
"Come, Gin. We have places to be."
Gin couldn't help but smile – his first genuine smile in what felt like forever. Yes, he definitely felt his attachment to Byakuya growing by the minute.