Fuitcakes and a Warm Holiday Glow

Word Count: 3,782
Rating: PG-13
Pairings: None, just a lot of crack.
Summary: The shinigami need new uniforms and end up learning a bit about Hispanic holiday traditions. Byakuya is hungry.
Note: This was a collaboration again bewteen Felkwafi and me!


"It's torn."

"It's more than torn, dammit! It's…it's…well shit, look! You can see through it, especially the bottoms! This is the fucking third uniform I've gone through this month."

"Yes, I know," Ukitake told Renji before the redhead got a chance to exhibit the sheerness of his worn Shinigami uniform. "I have gotten other complaints, Abarai-san," the older man said wearily. It was true; a disgruntled Kenpachi had approached him the day before complaining that Yachiru wouldn't stop pointing out the fact that she could see his 'secret place', and even Unohana had protested that the gradually deteriorating uniforms of the Soul Society were a health hazard.

"We need to fucking do something about it!" Renji asserted, knocking Ukitake out of his moment of reflection.

"Well, what would you propose? Making clothing is hardly my area of expertise," replied Ukitake testily. He wasn't sure why everyone seemed to think it his fault the uniforms were so terrible, "These have been used for centuries. I hardly think anything will change over night."

"That's the thing!" Rangiku butted in, "It's time for change! Not to mention, they look terrible on my figure. What we need is a completely new uniform. Something updated to fit the time."

Hitsugaya snorted, "You need one that fits yourself first."

"What? Don't like what you see?" she replied, striking a decidedly provocative pose that left half the room full of captains and vice-captains drooling.

"Ahem, that will be enough Matsumoto-fukutaichou," Yamamoto coughed from the front of the room, "I understand what you are all saying. I myself have experienced certain difficulties with the current uniform."

Iba laughed and leaned over to whisper to Renji, "I'll say he's havin' problems with them. Heard that the last time he fought a hollow the thing caught onto the back of his uniform and ripped the flimsy thing right off. Died immediately." The two snorted with laughter.

The room erupted into a buzz of murmurs of various solutions to the uniform problem until a loud, drunken voice pierced the droning.

"I'll make 'em for ya –hic- if ya want," Shunsui declared with a half clever, half intoxicated smirk.

The room was silenced.

"Shunsui, I think it's time for you to go get some sleep," Nanao muttered, attempting to force the alcohol from his hands and pull him out of the room by the sleeve of his shirt, but to no avail.

"I wanna –hic- help us all out in the best way I can," Shunsui stubbornly continued.

Yamamoto, seeming to be considering the proposition, was seized by one of his fellow shinigami. "Um… sir… before you make any decisions… well… you might consider what the guy himself wears," whispered Renji nervously, staring fearfully at Shunsui's pink and flower-patterned adornments. At this, even Yamamoto appeared to experience a pang of alarm, and quickly stood up to speak.

"We would be honored with your services," he directed toward Shunsui, "but I would hate to give you more work than you already have. In these times of unrest, I must insist that you focus your full attention on the protection of the Soul Society, rather than this issue."

Shunsui frowned slightly at this and took another sip of his drink. "Really sir, it would –hic- be no problem at all."

"I'm sorry, but my decision is final," Yamamoto replied in a tone that left no room for argument, "For the moment, we will merely have to live with the current uniforms," a groan went up all around as he said this, "until we can think of another solution."

"Um, I think I might know of something else we could do," Hinamori called out tentatively from her seat between Unohana and Byakuya. "One of the ryoka, the Quincy, I heard he was good with sewing. Maybe he could help?"

The room grew silent as everyone thought about this solution. It was Kenpachi who finally broke the silence. "Why the hell not?" As if this settled the matter (without words it apparently had been decided that anything was better than Shunsui-brand uniforms), plans were made to send representative to ask the Quincy for a favor.


"50,000 YEN EACH!"

"Please stay calm and understand me, Rangiku-san," Uryuu insisted, flustered. "I am not in any way trying to cheat here. With the cost of the materials, well, that alone, I'm afraid, in order to create suitable clothing for the purposes— RANGIKU-SAN, WHAT ARE YOU--?"

Matsumoto, apparently, had decided that the only way she would be able to convince the Quincy to reduce the price estimate was through moving extremely close to him and stroking along his chest. "Ooh…such wonderful fabric your clothes are…if only we could afford such things…but, are you sure I couldn't do anything to, you know…cover some of the expenses? I'm sure we both would—"

At this point, the Quincy had, in an acrobatic manner, escaped the seductive woman and moved to a safe place a few feet away from her. "Rangiku-san, I'm sorry, but it is the best I can do for the Soul Society at the price I already told you." His cheeks remained flushed as he continued, "If it exceeds your budget, however, there are several ways, I believe, that you could raise funds."

Byakuya stood against the wall, far away from the little drama going on in front of him. He appeared to be completely emotionless, almost a statue adorning the room. However, if you were fast enough to catch it, he rolled his eyes at the idiots he currently had to deal with. What he wouldn't give to be at home right now eating some curry.

"I believe the price is reasonable enough," Byakuya stated matter-of-factly. Rangiku frowned in disappointment and Uryuu threw her a satisfied smirk. "However, you must realize that it will take time to acquire the necessary funding and then it will only be given to you if we find the design to our liking."

"Fair enough," Uryuu shrugged.

"But, Kuchiki-taichou!" Rangiku whined, "We shouldn't have to pay for them. Why can't we instead-"

"That is all," Byakuya said and then exited the room. If he hurried, he might even make it home in time to eat before the meeting.


As it turned out, Byakuya didn't get his chance to eat before the meeting due to an overly excited Yachiru and the whole incident with the Fourth Division having to evacuate because she was rampaging through their quarters. So, stomach rumbling, the captain sat down at his usual place in the meeting room and waited for it to commence.

Yamamoto cleared his throat promptly. "It has come to my attention that we have decided upon paying the young ryoka in order to have new uniforms." Byakuya noticed that next to him, Renji had shifted excitedly in his seat.

"I would do it for free!" Shunsui called out, frowning slightly.

"However," the elderly man continued, ignoring the slightly put-out captain, "I'm afraid that our budget will not allow us to pay him right away; we need a way to raise money. I have called this meeting in order to discuss possible methods."

"We could sell candy," offered Iba licking his lips at the prospect.

"Or flowers!" Momo suggested.

"Or lingerie," Rangiku said.

"Or prostitutes," muttered Hitsugaya, who received a swift knock to the back of the head.

"Anou…" a tiny voice articulated from the back of the room. Apparently Yamamoto was the only one who heard it, and silenced the rest of the room immediately.

"Yes, Hanatarou?"

"Well…," the medic's face flushed, "when I was around the ryoka, one of them had told me this story and well, it was about something from Mexico."

"Yes? Go on."

"And, well… they're easy to make, and, well, I think that it might be…"

"Are you talking about luminarias?" Yamamoto asked, a hint of excitement barely detectable in his voice.

"Y-yes!"

Yamamoto's eyes lit up in a way that made even the captains in the room shift uneasily. "Why yes! That would be a great idea!"

Hanatarou flushed at the praise, but continued talking in an excited rush, "I was thinking we could make them and sell them to people in Rukongai and people could put them out and it would be beautiful and-"

He was cut off as Renji shoved him unceremoniously back into his seat while waving his other hand to catch Yamamoto's attention.

"Yes, Renji," the old man sighed, clearly put out that they weren't discussing the luminarias.

"Well, um, I don't mean to be rude, but what the hell are you two talking about?"

A murmur rose around the room and it appeared Renji wasn't the only one confused. In fact, all the other captains and vice-captains appeared to nod in agreement, except Byakuya. He just grimaced as he tried to suppress a loud growl from his stomach.

"They are…" Yamamoto started as the whispering ceased, "part of an old tradition that is very important."

Hinamori, in a move very bold for her, raised her hand tentatively and whispered, "But…um…what are they."

"Well," Hanatarou started, blushing a deep red at receiving this much attention, "you take a bag, and fill it with sand…and then put in a candle."

Renji stared at him for a second before stating very matter-of-factly, "The. Fuck."

Yamamoto sighed, "I think we'll have to call in the ryoka for help on this one."


Most of the Shinigami anxiously kneeled on the floor, watching intently (with the exception Yachiru who was repairing one of the bells she had knocked off Kenpachi's hair previously). The subject of their attention was the ryoka named Chad, to whom they had provided a paper bag, a container of sand, and a single candle.

"Please, go ahead," Yamamoto said calmly, masking his own excitement.

Chad looked at him for a moment, then carefully picked up the bag and creased along the top. He then folded over the edge twice and put the sand inside the paper bag. Finally, he placed the candle on top of the sand. He looked back at Yamamoto.

"This is how you make a luminaria," he said dully. "Why do you need to know?"

"It is not of concern to you, really, but we thank you for your aid." Yamamoto bowed, his forehead to the floor, prompting some of the other Shinigami to follow (though Yachiru was still climbing on Kenpachi's head).

Chad stared at the old man for another moment before standing up to exit the room. As soon as the door closed behind him the gathered shinigami began to murmur amongst themselves.

"Okay," called out Yamamoto, "so now you've seen how it's done, so get to work."

No one in the room moved, all of them content to sit and stare at the heaps of bags in front of them. Finally, Shuuhei raised his hand and shouted out, "One last thing. Why the hell are we doing this? Who would actually buy these things?"

"I wanna sell candy!" Yachiru cried out and there were many heads nodding in agreement.

Yamamoto sighed and glared at the shinigami in front of him, "Remember, we are doing this to raise money for new uniforms. We are selling luminarias because the budget only allows enough money for us to buy bags and candles."

"And," Kenpachi growled, "I'm sure they would love to buy them." He emphasized this by pounding a fist into his other hand.

All the gathered captains and vice-captains sat there staring dubiously at Yamamoto for another moment before he screamed, "So get the hell out of here!" With a squeak of surprise, everyone rushed forward to grab a bundle of bags and then fled the room.


Rrrrrrrip.

"…"

"Renji… are you sure you don't want to take a break? You've been folding those for hours, and I think it's going downhill—." Rrrrrrrrip. "Um…" After being interrupted by yet another failure at folding the paper bags, Kira looked to Byakuya for support. The captain knew automatically what was required of him; he stood up, deserting his own stack of paper bags, and took the next paper victim from Renji's weakened hands. Renji did not complain; he stared up at his captain with cloudy eyes, turned away once more, and stared at the wall.

"How many more do we have to go?" asked Shuuhei, attempting to break the near-silence (it was only broken previously only by the crinkling of bags).

Hitsugaya gave a bloodshot glare. "Ten. Hundred. Dozen," he said hoarsely, and turned around to face the lazy shinigami behind him, "And speaking of how much we have to do, why aren't you working?"

Matsumoto looked up from where she was filing her nails, "Bite me."

For a second Hitsugaya stood there hissing in rage for a second before turning red and storming off, muttering something about "insubordination" and "lazy good-for-nothings with more boobs than brains."

"Ahh," Matsumoto sighed as she returned to filing her nails, "I wish I were still young enough to just act like a brat and be thought cute."

Byakuya, whom she had been addressing, said nothing but stood and watched the emery board moving back and forth across her nails. Making them…so smooth…and rounded. "Where can I get one of those?" he asked breathlessly.

Matsumoto looked up and raised an eyebrow, "Huh?"

A beat.

"I said, get to work, now," Bykuya amended. To emphasize his point, he increased his spiritual pressure slightly. Renji tumbled head over heels off of his seat and sat spluttering on the floor.


"What do you think you're doing?" Shuuhei asked, glowering at the fourth division members standing in front of him.

"We were t-taking your l-l-luminarias to the collection point," they stammered, unable to face the vice captain's wrath.

"The hell you are! Trying to steal my bags," he shouted, chasing after the terrified smaller shinigami while yelling and waving his arms around.

"I think…we've been doing this for too long," Hitsugaya muttered before being lost under an avalanche of folded bags. Renji mumbled something about 'only five hundred dozen to go'.

Matsumoto toppled over, eyes wide and disbelieving. Would this never end? She lost consciousness listening to the constant ripping and shouting coming from where Kenpachi was working.


Five days later:

"Last one."

"Yeah."

"Then we're done."

"With folding them."

"Whatever, just hurry up and fold it."

Shuuhei took a deep breath and deftly (from all the practice) folded the edge of the paper bag down twice.

All Byakuya could remember about that night was the look on Izuru Kira's face when he watched, mortified, as the jubilantly out of character captain chug an entire bottle of sake.


Yamamoto had called a meeting.

"I would like to congratulate all of you once more on your swift action on folding the paper bags to make," he always created a dramatic pause before this word, "the luminarias." The room erupted with cheering.

"However," Yamamoto continued, "you all know that we are far from finished." The bags under Byakuya's eyes darkened dramatically. "We must organize a meeting, only one day long, where we shall dedicate ourselves to filling the bags with sand, adding candles, and delivering them to their owners. One day is all it takes, but I need your agreement."

The room buzzed with unhappy agreement. "Very well. Tomorrow, then?"


Nobody remembered very much from luminaria day. Only that it was cold, very cold, and windy, face-stingingly so. Even after several hours working, the pile of sand they were to use didn't seem to decrease. The day became a monotonous cycle of filling bags with sand, putting in candles, putting the bags in boxes, and placing them in the "to be delivered" area. Some of the shinigami were even in such a stupor that they didn't notice when they put two candles in one luminaria. Oh well, it would be a special bonus for whoever bought it.

"So, uh, who's gonna deliver these things?" Renji called out, over the din of some very excited shinigamis playing in the sand, erm, making luminarias.

"I will!" Kenpachi shouted, walking up to tower over the vice captain.

Renji looked around, hopefully, "Anyone else?"

"I can do it myself," the formidable captain frowned for a second before smiling largely, "I'm sure loads of people will wanna buy some. I can guarantee it." Renji flinched at the way the other man was shining his sword and was glad this wasn't his problem.

A disturbance was breaking out over at the table where people were putting candles in the luminarias. "Fer fuck's sake, does he have to do this with every goddamn one?" Shuuhei yelled out loudly, gesturing angrily over at Yumichika.

"What's he doing?" Byakuya asked, really wishing he was at home. Eating curry. In bed.

"That is not beautiful!" Ayasekawa shouted out, "The candle was must be in the center! Standing up! How ugly!" he was nearly spluttering in rage at the heinous…luminaria?

"Every fucking luminaria. There's no way we'll finish if he keeps this up," Shuuhei shouted at Byakuya, who looked attentive, but was really planning dinner, "All you gotta do is chuck the candle in! That's all!"

Yumichika turned around to glare at the other man and patted the hilt of his sword, "Would you like to argue this further with me?" Shuuhei gulped and turned away. Byakuya still just stood there.


Nine hours had passed since the entire Soul Society had started to work on the final stage of manufacturing the luminarias. And finally, after those nine hours, their work paid off, and without a word or anything more than a weary glance at the ocean of paper bags in the "to be delivered" area, the shinigami departed to take a well-earned nap. Or two. Byakuya actually wanted to watch some television as well. He didn't dare miss Desperate Housewives again.


The holidays were a quiet time for the Soul Society because even the hollows, it seemed, had decided to retreat to themselves, take a nice break, and eat some fruitcake. Speaking of fruitcakes, it struck Byakuya on December 23rd that Unohana had given him a particularly finely-made one, and went to have another slice. The fourth division WAS useful sometimes, he thought. His reverie was interrupted violently with an angry and testosterone-filled shout that could only come from Zaraki Kenpachi himself, coming from outside.

"WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE LUMINARIAS! WE LEFT THEM HERE, I REMEMBER!"

An equally loud Yachiru shouted exuberantly, "Ken-chan lost the luminaries! Ken-chan lost the luminaries!" before Kenpachi covered her mouth with a hand.

"The fuck you yelling about?" Shuuhei came wandering out yawning and scratching his butt, "Thought I heard something about those damn luminarias."

"Nothing. Get back to bed," Kenpachi barked out, glowering at those beginning to come and see what the commotion was.

Yamamoto came through the crowd of shinigami, parting them easily. Despite the slice of cake from earlier, Byakuya's stomach rumbled. Yamamoto took one look at the place where the luminarias were supposed to be and broke down sobbing, "But why are they gone!"

Everyone seemed slightly at a loss of what to do. And everyone seemed greatly at a loss of the very items they had worked on for days. Weeks. Hell, they had put large portions of their souls into making those paper bags. This only fueled their inner fire: the fire to retrieve the luminarias.

"I'm calling a meeting with the captains," Yamamoto declared, wiping tears bravely from his eyes. "Now!"


"As I'm sure you all have noticed, the luminarias are gone," Yamamoto paused for effect, something which was ruined when Shunsui hiccupped loudly. The old man glared at him and then went on, "Also, as I'm sure you all have noticed, we have no idea where they are," another pause for effect.

"Would you just get the hell moving?" Zaraki roared, to many murmurs from the others. "I needa go fix my hair," indeed, it was not in its usual spikes, but a hair net.

"Ahem, as I was saying, we need to determine who took them, or just give up," Yamamoto's lip trembled before he burst into renewed tears and collapsed onto the floor. Unohana came up to help him into a seat.

"All in favor of giving up on the damn things and never saying the "L" word again say Ay!" Shuuhei shouted from his seat to a resounding chorus of "Ay"s. And that, apparently, was that. Everyone exited the room silently except for Yamamoto, who cried in his chair for a few hours before returning home and eating the entire fruitcake Unohana had given him. God, she made good fruitcakes. It almost made him forget about the luminarias. Almost.


"Oi, Ichimaru," called Aizen from the chair in his secret base that had been dubbed 'The Evil Chair' after he, Gin, and Tousen betrayed the Soul Society. "What the hell did you just bring in here?"

"Luminarias."

"Why?" Aizen also wondered why he knew what luminarias were. He supposed that was just something evil masterminds had to know.

"'Cause I stole 'em from the Soul Society," the smiling man said, getting a glass of water, drinking it, and getting a box of matches.

"Why?"

"'Cause it made the Soul Society angry," he replied, exiting the room. "And because they bring a warm glow to any holiday."

"Ah, yes," Aizen cackled evilly, "Very warm indeed…"


"So, Hitsugaya, how did it go in the new uniforms," Renji sidled up to the young captain. It looked as though he was trying to keep from laughing.

In the blink of an eye Hitsugaya turned around and whipped out his blade, holding it up to Renji's throat, "Not another word."

As he turned around to leave, Renji couldn't help calling out, "Yeah, I'm sure they were great. After all, little pink flowers are i very /i manly."

It was just Hitsugaya's luck to run into Shunsui on his way home. He couldn't pull the same stunt he did with Renji and was therefore forced to listen, "I suspect -hic- the hollow was defeated?"

Hitsugaya muttered before looking up to the other officer, "Yes. Very quickly."

"Oh really?" Shunsui raised his eyebrows.

"He died laughing," Hitsugaya turned around and trudged off to his office, muttering about 'idiot hippies' and 'too drunk to know better'.

Owari


Note: If you want to see what a luminaria looks like, you can find some here-

http(colon)(slash)(slash)en(dot)wikipedia(dot)org(slash)wiki(slash)Luminaria

Please read and review! Thanks!