Aizen creates illusions for everyone else; for Gin, he tears them away.
Sometimes Gin will catch a glimpse of Aizen's white taichou robe disappearing down the corridor, and he'll think, Oh.
Then he'll turn to the person beside him, and if it's Rangiku he'll give an appreciative leer, and if it's Zaraki he'll ask to audience the 11th's latest advancements in self-abuse, and if it's Izuru he'll yawn and drag them both off to a sunny corner to nap, where they won't get caught.
It doesn't take much to make him happy. He's clever this way.
Today it happens to be Hitsugaya, who isn't so much walking with him as trying with great determination to walk past and ignore him, eating up ground as quickly as his short little legs can manage, and he could have told the kid that falling back would be a far more effective tactic, but why play nice if you don't have to?
"Shiro-chan," he says instead, enjoying the way the spiky white head is fixed directly ahead, as if acknowledging Gin would be giving up an advantage. "Ne, Shiiiro-chan, let's have lunch together."
"Don't call me by that name." Hitsugaya's mouth tightens along with his fists. Gin wants to blow on his hair, see if he'll bat at it like a cat.
"But Hinamori-chan calls you that, and you haven't stopped her," he allows his voice to go low and mournful, like he's just had his nearest dearest hope shattered into jigsaw puzzle pieces. "I thought we were friends, too."
"Hn," says Hitsugaya; /cold day in Hell/, says his frown, and since it's never actually very cold in Seireitei, the point stands. Hitsugaya really doesn't like him, which Gin thinks is less than fair: Hitsugaya's antipathy is based on the premise that Gin is a complex machinating son of a bitch, when Gin is actually very uncomplicated in his desires, can find joy in a joke, a prank, the way Hitsugaya's hair waves threateningly as he walks.
They reach the 10th division's office and Hitsugaya takes a sharp left with relief so obvious as to be insulting, and he has just a second to wave at Rangiku before getting the door shut firmly in his face, accompanied by a swift air-conditioned breeze that's about as cold as it gets here.
The temperature plummets much lower in Rukongai. Rangiku doesn't seem to remember, with her low-cut robes that bare a greater percentage of her skin than the earth's landmass to area ratio, but there are times when Gin steps up behind her, touches her gently on the soft roundness of her shoulder, and when she shivers he knows that she hasn't forgotten a thing. Like fire, like steel, extreme poverty is one of those elements that leaves its mark.
Down the intersecting hallway Shunsui ambles with his vice-captain in tow, a wine flask in one hand and biscuits in the other, and Gin immediately attaches himself like a barnacle.
"Won't you share your goodies?" he trots forward with a hopeful grin, holding out open palms, and Shunsui laughs good-naturedly before proffering the plate to him. Gin takes five -- one to eat, four to save, and when Nanao-chan gives her glasses a disapproving push, he flashes a glint of canine at her. He's always careful to keep up his strength.
Gin is sleek and well-fed now, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, but he remembers the touch of hunger, after all, remembers fear and desperation well enough to teach instead of merely experience. For all his cheer he's never been very good at simulating sincere friendliness, but the negative emotions he can play like a harp.
It's no mystery to him why he'd been tapped by Aizen. In return, well.
Gin is attracted to power, which always knows where its next meal is coming from, is never left out in the cold, and he hoards it to himself as if the supply could be cut off at any time. Nothing left over for anyone else. Hitsugaya the pure would call it selfishness, but Gin knows it's only prudence.
Sometimes he forgets this in his simple pleasures, temporarily blinded by sunshine, a curling peal of laughter, cradling his head in the triangle of Izuru's lap, but then he'll catch a glimpse of Aizen's taichou robe fluttering away from the corner of his eye and hear the steady, reassuring, reliable tread of his former captain, and the illusion will fall away.
He'll think, /Oh/, and remember.