Once suggestion and doubt have etched their way into someone's mindset, can they ever be saved from it? Does Ichimaru Gin even want to be saved?
Warnings: Mind fuckage, angst, depression, foolishness
Notes: I was recently inspired to write a little bit more than I have been and so this piece of work came out of the leftover inspiration. It's the usual fare. Gin angst for the most part, tempered with Aizen's smug assertiveness.
Awash in a sea of sand, he stood. One hand lifted to shield his face from the sun while the other fingered the small pouch he carried. Inside, were two steamed buns and a tightly tied package of konpeito, which he had to practically beg his comrade for. Aizen had found it for him seemingly out of nowhere, as there was no travel between Hueco Mundo and the living world, as far as Ichimaru could tell.
“I'm goin' for a little walk, Sousuke.”
He had said, after the elder shinigami had handed over the gift pouch. A face without a smile turned from the brunet but it hardly worried the arrancar lord. Gin was prone to meaningless wandering, as he had found out when the other was his fukutaichou and as he had remembered a few scant months before, when Gin had gone missing for more than a week. Grimmjow had been the one to find him, angrily hefting the fatigued and sunburned defector over his shoulder and carrying him back to the palace.
He had been scolded then, as he would be scolded this time. Nothing had been happening in the great white world for quite some time but still, Aizen wanted him close by. Wandering for two days in the desert was not staying close by.
“I don't wanna go back though...” He said softly, to a tree that looked to be made of bleached animal bones. “I just sit around and do nothin' anyway.”
No answer came from the sand and wind decimated foliage so Gin turned away from it, shuffling his feet through the dense sand. The ridge he was standing on gave him an overview of the dune valleys below. He feared them. Monsters lived in the sand that even a shinigami wouldn't have a chance against. During the first few weeks in the desert realm, Aizen had described the creatures to both Ichimaru and Tousen, outlining the dangers and safeties within their new home. Tousen was wise and remained inside the encapsulating walls of Las Noches and Aizen spread his time between his throne room and the private chambers of the Espada.
Gin however, disliked the Espada and the chilly floors in the grand palace. He hated the sun about the same amount, but at least when he was outside of the suffocating walls, he could breathe more easily and his soul didn't feel so tethered down. Strong as he was, even Gin needed to rest and to eat so after finding suitable shade behind one of the boulders that seemed so out of place in the sandy world, he sat down and opened the small bundle, immediately inhaling one of the buns and simply staring at the other.
From the side of it oozed a thick red paste. He loved the texture of it and the sweetness only honey and steaming could create. The rich flavour of the adzuki beans stuck in his mouth while he licked at his teeth and lips, savouring the taste before he would devour the second treat. It seemed a shame to waste it by bundling the pouch up but he didn't know how long he would be gone just yet. Taking a palmful of the konpeito instead, he tied the pouch back up and then secured it to his obi, under his flowing white jacket. There, the remaining snacks would be safe from the sun and he would be sure to have them for later.
“Oishii...” He murmured to himself, popping a few more of the coloured sugar bits into his mouth. The konpeito had little to no taste at all but the sweetness was what Gin thrived for. They were small, easily taken on trips and they lasted a long time out of their little packages. Perfect traveling food.
Only one candy remained in his hand when he finally stopped walking from his previous resting place. He eyed it speculatively, almost as if he were trying to ascertain its existence. The candy was pink. His hand was a pale peach that so reminded him of the sugared porridge he used to eat on sick days in the squad house. The sugar danced in his palm when he tossed it into the air and then caught it again, watching with some semblance of happiness as its pointed corners prevented it from ever landing straight. One more toss and he'd eat it for sure.
But the sand enjoyed it much more quickly than he did.
Ichimaru let out a strangled noise of anger as the blowing dust covered the little pink ball, his digging only causing it to sink deeper. He was aware of the monstrous caverns below the surface of the sand and it angered him to know that the Menos who got his candy would not enjoy it as it was meant to be enjoyed. The sun was hot on the back of his neck as he knelt in the raspy sand. The grains blew into his face because he was so close to the ground but he didn't seem to care. His hands were buried up to the wrists and yet he was loathe to remove them. Gin knew that he had more candies in his pouch but even one wasted one was a shame. Years of starvation in Rukongai had made him hard on the inside and weak to the wasting of food.
The silver haired shinigami choked slightly, when a familiar reiatsu niggled at the back of his mind. His shoulders slumped from the weight of it, despite his own strength.
“How appropriate.” The lush, deep voice afforded. “You've again allowed a weakness to leave you vulnerable.”
“Leave the candy to the Menos, Gin.”
The younger male wanted to refuse but he ultimately knew better and withdrew his hands from the now burning sand. He got to his feet without flourish and fell into step behind the brunet, watching his back with a hatred-filled scowl. Now, he never hated Aizen, of course he didn't. He only hated the man's ability to see through him; to be able to diagnose and put his finger on the very things that caused Gin to be the way he was.
It also bothered him how Aizen had known exactly where he was in the grand desert, despite mastering the ability to hide his reiatsu so effectively. It was odd how Grimmjow had found him the same way, months before. When they had gotten back to Las Noches, the blue haired Espada had taken his captive to Aizen's throne room and had deposited him there, leaving before being dismissed. Never once, had he and their lord spoken together about the location, nor did they discuss what Gin had been doing when he was discovered.
Yet both times, Gin had been a mile west from the largest rock in the Upper Valley and his hands had been buried in the sand. The first time however, he had not been searching for a lost candy. He had suddenly dropped to his knees and began to dig, selfishly trying to find the underground forest he had been told about. Aizen had confronted him openly about his failed discovery, asking him whether or not he had wanted to die. The Menos forest was haunted by the great Hollows and though they were relatively easy for a captain-class shinigami to kill, more than a million of them coming toward the same location at once, may have proven much harder to tackle. And now Sousuke teased him about it, by telling him to leave his candy to them. As if the vicious monsters could even appreciate the sweetness and the complexity of the simple sugar treats.
The reason of course, had been the use of Aizen's Kyouka Suigetsu. He had used it numerous times on the silver haired shinigami and had kept the secret to himself. He could easily creates forms and other creatures to do his bidding, if only in the victim's mind and not in the real world. The sword was a tool with which Aizen worked, carving away the mindset of fear, loathing and doubt, and creating a loyal, devoted thought process.
“You were nearing the third day, Gin.”
“I was gonna come back before it got too late.” He said simply, his head bowed even as they entered the gaping doorway that led into their vast home. “I didn't want ya worryin' about me again.”
The once-bespectacled shinigami turned to look over his right shoulder, a smirk playing at the corner of his mouth. “I never worry about you, Gin. To worry about someone means that you love them.”
The words stung his heart the way the sand stung his eyes when it blew too hard. He felt the all too familiar tears begin but he ignored them, choosing instead to silently weep, as he had been taught to do so many years ago.
“You have to keep everything bottled up inside, Gin. You don't want anyone finding a weakness they can exploit. Do you understand?”
The young fukutaichou nodded and then smiled, pleased with the training his captain deigned upon him. No other division below the first was as trusted as the fifth and it was all due to their unwavering loyalty to the glasses-toting leader and the personal skills he shared.
Never show fear. Never admit defeat. Never let a weakness be your undoing. Never repeat the same mistake twice. Mistakes, though part of human nature, were only allowed once, provided they did not break the four simple rules.
“A mask is the most important part of your persona. Create one that cannot be broken, even during times of stress, worry or sorrow. Be it a smile, a frown or a simple blank stare, never let it waver.”
And so Ichimaru had adopted his grinning fox-face, a symbol of his sneakiness as well as his unwavering devotion to the craft Aizen had taught him. Why should the mask ever change? He had let it fall on numerous occasions but they had never made a difference. During the confrontation with the Academy away group in the living world, he had opened his eyes but remained smiling. Again when he had fought Hitsugaya after being accused of hurting Hinamori, he had opened his eyes but this time scowled. In the privacy of his own chambers before his eventual betrayal of all he held dear, he had broken character and wept on occasion. The final incident during his past life as a shinigami captain, he had frowned and apologized to Rangiku. All were failures in Aizen's eyes and they counted like strikes against him. Strikes which Sousuke never let him wipe clean, no matter how much he offered.
In Hueco Mundo, a land so desolate that even the creatures that live there hide and flee from the utter absence of everything, Gin had failed twice. He had been afraid of the Hollows that roamed the outskirts. He had admitted defeat by falling from fatigue and hunger in the desert. He had let his weaknesses; for sweets and curiosity, be his undoing, and he had repeated the mistake twice. Surely he would be punished!
But then why did Aizen simply allow him to leave his side when they finally entered the hall housing the private chambers of the Espada? He watched as the man neither called him to his side to follow once they reached his rooms, nor did Aizen turn to address him. Gin took the silence as a sign and ducked into his quarters, immediately kicking his sand-filled sandals off. The feeling irritated him. Grinding and scouring between his toes, where the sand had made it past the tight weave of his black tabi. When he sat down on the overstuffed Western-style bed he grunted, tugging the remains of his pouch from his obi. The steamed bun had been ruined by the trek back. It's fillings had squeezed through the crack in its surface and it stained the cloth bag. The konpeito, so tightly packed when the little package was full, had been ground into powder by the weight of the manju and the space left by the already eaten sweets.
Gin blinked as he stared at the handful of candy powder he held, leaving the manju in the bag to be tossed away later. The sweet little bits; blue, green, yellow, pink and white, looked like a forlorn bit of mash in the peachy hand. He shifted his hand to watch it slide around into the cracks of his fingers and the lines in his palm. He wanted to taste them, to eat as much of it as he could so that they wouldn't go to waste, but the once spiky-shaped little candies bothered him now. He found that they too resembled the sand which he loathed so much. It wouldn't please him to have a mouthful of sand, regardless if it was sugary or not.
Walking to the window, Ichimaru lifted his hand and dumped the crumbles out into the breeze less air, keeping his eyes closed and his head turned so he couldn't see the tastiness disappearing. The sugar would no doubt be untraceable amongst the grains of sand surrounding the palace come the next day, so there would be nothing for him to hunt for.
But why then, was Gin so sure that he would have his morning tea and then venture out into the 'sun' of Hueco Mundo to dig in the loathsome sand looking for his lost sweets?
He smiled suddenly then, undressing to change into less sand-filled clothes. His lord loved things that were a constant; things which would either change very slowly and then quickly change back, or which would never change at all and remain the same. If Ichimaru were to change now, Aizen would lose interest in him. Both men knew it was a dangerous game but as long as Aizen controlled the whole of his world, Gin was willing to sadden himself and cause great inward misery to stay the way he was expected to be. Aizen didn't want him to follow the rules, now that he had set up a routine and rhythm to go by.
“But there never was a fifth rule, was there? It was only a suggestion given by force...” He mused.
“Rules are meant to be broken.”