|Bleach fanfic -- Blood, Red as Cherry (PG)
||[October 31st, 2008, 09:36]
Title: Blood, Red as Cherry
Genre: Angst, Romance
Characters/ Pairings: Matsumoto Rangiku, Ichimaru Gin
Warnings/ Spoilers: Much creative license taken, especially concerning the character's past, and a character death. No spoilers, except unless you haven't finished the Soul Society arc.
Summary: Rangiku confronts Gin with her true feelings...
Disclaimer: Kubo Tite owns Bleach; I merely play around with it.
A/N: Written for bleach_contest Week#34 prompt: "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." - Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821).
There he stood, before my eyes, the man whom I had been searching for, the man who had kept me waiting, all these months. And yet, as I surveyed that fine silver hair and thin frame cloaked no longer in a shihakushou, but in Hueco Mundo white, Reality impressed its firm handprint onto my mind, and my heart sank a little. His leaving had not been a dream after all...
Nothing about him had changed. Nothing about him ever changed: the closed eyes, the bright, friendly grin, and the long fingers on the hand that he now raised in cheerful greeting. The least he could do was look like he was sorry for making a woman wait!
“Fancy meetin’ ya here, Rangiku,” he called, his light, musical voice reaching me over the dry dark desert. That familiar tone drove another dagger of longing into my already aching heart. I wanted to run to him, to decrease the distance between us, and fall into those inviting arms. But duty kept my behaviour in check.
“Gin,” I replied, trying to keep my tone calm. It came out sounding like a curt, sharp bark. I ignored Gin’s widening smile as he noted my failed attempt to conceal my emotions, choosing instead to focus my gaze on his feet. That was how I first noticed that he was moving, taking small, slow steps towards me.
I shifted my right foot forward slightly, my right hand moving simultaneously to the hilt of my zanpakutou, and I stood crouched in a battoujutsu pose, like a tiger, ready to leap at the fox if he got too close. I was prepared, and I would not hesitate to carry out my mission. Such is what I would like to have believed of myself.
The feet on which my eyes were focused on stopped moving, although they were still a considerable distance away from me. I turned my gaze upwards sharply to my opponent’s face. As far as garnering information about his intentions was concerned, however, it was, of course, of no use. Gin’s poker face revealed nothing. A wild thought crossed my mind: perhaps a stab in the stomach would wipe that grin off his face…? I quelled it quickly; I could not spare any time or energy to daydreaming, not when dealing with an opponent this tricky.
“Now, now,” Gin drawled, tutting. He sounded amused. “What’s with the hostile stance? Not happy to meet an old friend, are we?” His feet resumed its pace. I gripped my sword hilt even tighter. Old friend indeed! What friend keeps such big secrets from the other? What friend voluntarily leaves on a trip without telling the other?
What friend guiltlessly commits the same offence against the other, time and again?
I was going to kill this man…
“Let me say this,” I told him through gritted teeth, “I did not come here to have a friendly chat over a cup of tea. We were friends, but things are not the same anymore. We’re enemies now.”
“Enemies, eh…” Gin’s mask did not slip even then, as I spat that word at him. “That’s a lil’ too harsh… Forget the tea; how about we talk about old times over a bottle of sake, hmm?”
Oh, the nerve! His light mockery should not have had such an effect on me, but it did. It was, perhaps, the final push needed to tip the balancing scales of my emotions. For an instance, we were back at the Shin’ou Reijutsuin, engaged in a mock battle. And you could be sure that Gin enjoyed the mocking part of “mock” battles. It amused him, I think, to see me flush in anger. Not to mention that it gave him an easy win. My judgement clouded up too easily when blood was pounding in my ears, like it did now.
Letting my anger and hatred for this fox-faced fellow fill me, I drew my zanpakutou.
Pity filled my heart for the poor, conflicted soul before my eyes. She, who often let her emotions rule her, was not ready for this fight. Right there and then, I should have turned and walked away. If I had, perhaps I would have saved her some agony and pain. But I knew her, the stubborn girl that she was. She would not back down, even if I was the one to concede defeat. She knew, I think, a little of my protectiveness towards her, and resented it.
I approached her slowly, taking the time as well to calm my heart. Aizen-sama would have been most interested to know of how his usually cool subordinate had his heart in flutters over a mere woman. In fact, he might already know, even if he would never understand, not he who thoughtlessly broke poor Hinamori Momo’s heart.
As she shifted her body weight to take an offensive stance, my last hope winked out like a snuffed candle. This was a doomed battle. Desperate to lighten the mood, I tried to joke.
On hindsight, that might not have been the best move. I should have known that her seriousness was not to be made fun of. In fact, I should have remembered the way she used to blush at my teasing. And those sharp slaps across my cheek…
Her frail self-control gave way, and the chain reaction of falling dominoes began…
She drew her sword, and I, valuing my wretched life too much to stand defenceless to her attack, did likewise.
It was just like a battoujutsu duel: the fight began and ended within a span of a second, and she was next lying in my arms, like I had wanted her to be, when I had first seen her across the dull, grey sand. I had been imagining a more joyful reunion, however.
“I’m sorry, Rangiku,” I whispered, “but ya could never win me in speed.” My lips never deviated from their upward concavity, because I did not know how to use them to express any other emotion. Instead, I wept inside, in my heart.
Crimson, as deep a colour as her plump, cherry lips, began to stain her shihakushou and her pink scarf, but she smiled, for the first time that day. She cuddled closer to me, her cold hands finding my cheeks and neck.
“Yes… I never learn, do I? Never… In all our years in school… I’ve never won…”
“And ya still get agitated as easily as ever when duellin’,” I chided gently. “It was always yer biggest mistake when we sparred…”
“No… My biggest mistake this time… was loving you…” Either because she could no longer bear to face me, or because she did not have the strength to keep them open any longer, she closed her eyes and buried her face in my chest. Through the cloth, I felt the wetness of her tears. I had no words for her, so I simply held her closer, as if trying to keep her fragility together.
She spoke again, her voice softer and more muffled: “You always took pride in pointing out my mistakes. You must have known my feelings for you. Why didn’t you tell me to stop my naïve fantasies?”
“Was it not the great French general who said, ‘Never interrupt yer enemy when he is makin’ a mistake.’? And ya did say we were enemies…” I avoided the question, because I could not admit the truth; not to myself, nor to this dying girl in my arms.
“I… I see…” She had opened her eyes once more, those light blue orbs gazing searchingly, imploringly, into mine. “Then let me say this…before I leave… I love you, Ichimaru Gin. Despite all the pain you’ve put me through, I love you. May the knowledge of that haunt you, for as long as you live, you bastard.”
My reply was to kiss her on those cherry lips that were slightly parted, fighting for air. The bittersweet odour of her breath was as intoxicating as the strongest liquor, and I clung onto her, greedily feeding on the giddying scent…
As we drew apart, I whispered in her ear, “In return, let that be somethin’ to remember me by in yer next life… Now we’re even, hmm?”
She smiled, tiredly, but contentedly, and closed her eyes once more. “Yes… We’re even…” Her hands fell limp to her sides, and then all I held in my arms was just a broken doll, the remains of what had been Matsumoto Rangiku.
“’Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.’,” I mused quietly, “especially if it’s one you’re making too…”
Here in the middle of nowhere in Hueco Mundo, with only the dead body of my true love as witness, I let my mask drop, and shed the first tears ever of my afterlife.