Population: Two

"I don't believe this," Rangiku fumed, and thumped her glass on the scarred surface of the bar for emphasis. "That little shrimp's got some nerve. I'm 134 years old! How dare he insist I have a babysitter!"

Her companion's snort of amusement swiftly faded when she turned her ire to him. "And you!" she exclaimed, making him wince. "In my case, at least, I can't refuse because it's my captain! But you… you are the captain. How can you let your lieutenant boss you around like this?"

"Well," Shunsui said cheerfully, "I could tell you it was because no sane person dares go against Nanaochan— and it would be true, even— but I assume you'd like the real reason." He paused for dramatic effect, glancing hither and yon to see if he had anyone's attention. Which of course he did, since he was not only a captain but equally loud in both attire and volume.

"I let Nanaochan boss me around," he said, "because I like it." And to make sure his meaning was inescapably clear, he leaned closer to Rangiku and waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

If he was looking for her to be shocked by his little fetish, he was going to be disappointed; some of the things she'd done with Gin over the years made Shunsui's games pale in comparison. She just huffed out a breath of exasperation and turned back to her booze. "Well, I don't. They've got no right."

Shunsui polished off his sake and gave his empty saucer an exuberant wave to indicate his desire for a refill. "They worry, your captain and my Nanaochan. They care about us. It's so sweet, don't you think?"

Rangiku only grunted around her mouthful of bourbon. "I don't know why you need to drink so much," she grumbled at last. "What problems can you possibly have that compare to my pressing and persistent need to get trashed? Huh? Did you have a childhood friend-cum-lover neglect you for decades, then desert you publicly after secretly conspiring to destroy Soul Society? Huh?"

"Not so much, no," he admitted. "But I've been perishing of love for my beautiful Nanaochan for many years now, and I still haven't gotten anywhere with her." He stared down at his newly refilled saucer as if advice and encouragement were forthcoming from its depths.

"Why do you do that?" she snapped. Banging her glass down on the bar succeeded in sloshing a third of it onto her hand. "Calling her 'beautiful' and 'lovely'. She thinks you're making fun of her when you say that."

The goofy smile didn't fade from Shunsui's face. "Why would she think that?" he asked, his voice both slurred and puzzled.

"W-well," she replied after draining her glass and thumping it at the bartender for a refill, "because you call every woman you see 'lovely'. And also because she's, well, she's not a beautiful woman." It was the truth, and had to be spoken; Nanao had many positive traits, but beauty was not one of them.

Shunsui stared at her a long moment, and then he burst out laughing. "Oh, you mean on the outside," he said at last, waving his hand with supreme negligence.

Now it was Rangiku's turn to stare. Then she burst into tears, and flung herself at him, sobbing noisily.

"Yare, yare," he murmured, patting her back with one hand while sipping at his saucer. "What's all this?"

"That's so romantic," she wept. "That you'd love Nanao even if she were ugly! Even if she looked like, like, like Oomaeda-fukutaichou!"

"Well," Shunsui hedged, looking uncomfortable, "let's not push it that far." With a last pat-pat, he put her back on her own stool and motioned for the bartender to fill her glass, then watching as she chugged half of it down in one gulp. "I don't care if they're ugly, but I like my women to look like women."

Rangiku leered at him, swaying atop her stool. "And how do you like your men?" she asked with a laugh.

"I like my men to be women, too" he replied gravely, then dissolved into his own fit of giggles. "Nothing like a woman!" he declared to those around him, all of whom (besides Rangiku) ignored him completely. "With their—" he held his hands in front of his chest, as if cupping breasts, "so soft, and their—" here, he turned his hand palm-up, his middle finger curling upward, "so welcoming and warm and—"

It took Rangiku a moment to understand what that gesture could be, but when she did, her eyes went wide. "Shunsui-taichou," she began, "you should probably lower your voice, now—"

"Excuse me," the bartender said at this juncture. "I've been instructed by Ise-fukutaichou to cut you off when you started talking about sex." And he removed the glass and saucer from their vicinity.

Rangiku wanted to get belligerent—a bit of bloodshed would do her good, she felt—but Shunsui was feeling more circumspect. The concept of sex, even theoretical, put him in the mood to be scrupulous about his enforced duty at this bar, and he hooked an arm around Rangiku's waist, then hoisted her bodily from the building.

Outside, the night was both smoky and greasy from all the oil lamps burning to light Rukongai's 47th district. Combined with the prickle of bourbon still on her tongue, it tasted gritty, and the urge for violence abruptly drained from her, replaced with exhaustion.

Feeling the fight go out of her, Shunsui released her, then steadied her when she swayed and nearly tumbled to the street. Their walk back to Seireitai was accomplished in near-silence, broken only by the occasional hiccup (Rangiku) or giggle (Shunsui). She was very glad for his solid form beside her, because she spent most of the walk leaning against him for balance and marveling how he kept his footing when he was easily as drunk as she.

"Experience, my dear Rangikuchan," he warbled when she asked, his face so close their noses bumped. "I'm very, very, very, very old. Been getting drunk for many, many, many years. What sort of shinigami would I be if I couldn't make it back to my quarters, I ask you? Hm? Hm?"

"Your caliber of shinigami is a topic best left undiscussed," said a cool voice, and they both swung their heads around to see Nanao herself standing before them. "You were so loud, you woke me up from a sound sleep."

Rangiku blinked, surprised to find herself in the courtyard of the eighth division headquarters. "Oh," she said indistinctly, and gave a discrete burp. "I'm sorry, Nanao-chan."

"I'm not!" Shunsui exclaimed gaily. "Now I get to see my Nanaochan one more time before going to bed!" His eyes rounded in concern. "But first, we have to get Rangikuchan home to her own division, where she'll be as safe and snug as a bug in a rug! Heh. Nanaochan, I rhymed." He grinned stupidly at her, as if he'd accomplished some amazing feat.

She sighed. "Yes, taichou. Come with me, please, both of you."

She linked arms with them and made her way toward the tenth division, where she delivered Rangiku into the hands of the first few people who answered her firm knocking at the door. Then it was time to trudge back to her own division with her captain slung over her, blowing gusts of booze-scented breath in her ear and mumbling affectionate but nonsensical phrases like, "Nanaochan's the cutest little koala I ever saw, but she eats far too many eucalyptus leaves." Nanao didn't even want to know what in the world that could mean in Shunsui's sake-soaked world.

"Rangikuchan thinks I'm romantic," he told her proudly at one point, poking his own chest and then her shoulder for emphasis.

"Because you refrained from molesting her?" Nanao replied dryly, bracing herself to haul him up the stairs toward his quarters.

"No, because I told her I love Nanaochan no matter what she looks like!" He stopped, then, and no amount of tugging could get him to budge. "Even if you did look like Oomaeda-fukutaichou, I would be devoted to you. Granted, it would take some getting used to… perhaps I could buy you a big floppy hat to cover your face… aaaaahhhh!"

He shouted, of course, because she had dropped him, allowing him to fall down the few steps they'd managed to climb.

"Nanaochan is so severe with me," he mumbled, gazing blearily up at her from the floor. "And this time, not in the good way. I've very, very old, you know. You should be more gentle with me."

"You wouldn't know what to do if I were gentle with you," she told him, hoisting him to his feet once more, but the bite was gone from her words. She sounded confused, and perhaps a little resigned.

"Oh, but I would," he insisted. "I've been thinking about Nanaochan for a very, very, very long time, you know. In every situation… every position… aaaaaaahhhhhhhh!"

Now she'd dropped him in the hallway outside his room. "I really do not know what to do with you," she said tiredly. "Just… go to bed, taichou. I will see you tomorrow."

He used the doorjamb to stand once more and lifted a hand, surprisingly steady, to her cheek. "Whatever you decide, my lovely Nanaochan, I am yours," he said, and sounded almost sober. She summoned a thin smile, and left.

Alone in his room, Shunsui shucked his kit and flung himself without ceremony into bed. The euphoria of inebriation was fading, leaving him with a sort of sodden fuzziness that was not entirely unpleasant. He decided that Rangiku-chan was a good drinking partner, if a little maudlin. But he bet with practice, she'd become more fun. It would just take time.

Fortunately, time was something one had in great quantities when one was dead. The idea made him laugh, and he was still smiling when, finally, he passed out.