Contemplation on the Subject of Death

Author's Notes: Written for a theme in the LJ Community 31 Days: "Return my heart when I am dead".Also for Tin Mandigma's mile-long pole fic challenge. Yes, I have never written Bleach before. And fics for this pairing are also really hard to find, too…

Set somewhere around Volume 12, because that was the last volume I ever got around to reading.

"There are so many ways to die, Nanao-chan."

She sighed to herself, seeing in her mind the mounds and mounds of paperwork that were piling up on her desk this very second. She mentally berated herself never to say to her taichou ever again, I'd sooner die than do that, for a simple 'No,' would be just as effective, and would give her taichou little cause to waste her time.

"Technically, taichou," she said lightly, although privately screaming mental abuse in her head, "All of us here are dead."

"I don't even remember how I died." He continued to chew on the single blade of grass sticking out of his mouth, leaning back further on his arms. "I hope I didn't die because of an accident that could have been prevented if I had only listened to a warning, or if I hadn't been stupid enough to be at the wrong place at the wrong time."

"I wouldn't be surprised, taichou," she murmured.

"I suppose you're right, Nanao-chan." He removed the blade of grass from his mouth, and with a wrinkle of his nose reached for another one. "But I would rather have died for something. Maybe a cause I believed in. Or for the life of another."

"Nanao-chan," he said suddenly, his tone suddenly plaintive on that last syllable. "If I died, will you stop being cruel to me?"

She adjusted the thin frame of her glasses with one hand, so that her narrowed eyes were momentarily invisible. "First of all," she said, in carefully measured tones, "I was never cruel to you, taichou, because if I was, I would leave you to deal with all the problems you have caused because of your own carelessness. Second, we are accomplishing nothing with this conversation, and intruders are running amok in our premises now as we speak, and you are called on to stop them. Third, there has been no recent documented cases of death in the Soul Society for a long, long time."

"But it can still happen, right?" He kept chewing the new blade of grass with the same fervor as before, until she lost patience and pulled it right out of his mouth. "Remove someone's hakusui with a soul cutter," he went on, absentmindedly reaching for the blade of grass she now held in her hand. "Or injure certain organs enough. Cut the heart right out, I suppose."

"Really? Why, taichou, I would certainly like to try. Could you stand still there while I just bring out my soul cutter?"

It was at that point that he suddenly stood up, almost knocking her off her feet in her surprise. He placed both hands on her shoulders, gazing directly into her eyes, his cloak wrapping itself around her.

"Taichou—"

"Nanao-chan," he said, all trace of flippancy gone from his voice. "If this happens, will you give me back my heart?"

For once, she lost the power of coherence altogether, unable to organize into words the thoughts running in her head. She stared at him, for how long she could not say.

He shrugged, and continued: for her, time finally went on, at last. "I mean, it isn't very pretty to be laid to rest with a hole in the middle of my chest. Unless you would agree to patch it up as nicely as possible, then it would certainly be fine for me."

She threw the book she held in her hands at him as hard as her strength allowed her to, landing with a solid thunk on the right side of his head. He did not even so much as flinch, and only stood up.

"I suppose you're right," he said. "They'll be scolding us if we don't hurry."

"We?"

"So it's just me again, huh?" He tilted his head to the side, smiling slightly.

"Taichou." She picked up her book from its spot on the ground, and ran up to catch up to him.

"Nanao-chan?"

"All right," she said, with a defeated sigh. "I agree."

The grin on his face stretched from ear to ear, and he stopped in his tracks. "Really?"

"I think I know how to create that swirl of flower petals for your entrance in your battle," she said, eyes heavenward. "Now let's go. Goodness knows how much time we've wasted."

And as she listened to him tell her his plans for his dramatic entrance, she made another mental note to herself to never take her taichou seriously, and yet also to never dismiss him entirely. He was that unpredictable, and one of these days, he will catch her off her guard again.