31 Moments From The Gotei 13 At The Hot Springs
01. It's just a minor situation that makes me love you.
Shunsui would have been delighted to see her lose the towel, or even to observe it slipping a delicate inch to show the curve of her bosom, the sweet roundness of her hip.
Yet even better than that was to watch her excellent precision as she picked up the tray and brought it across for himself and for Ukitake -- so exact, so delicate -- and at the same time kept the fabric folded chastely around her in perfectly straight lines.
"Next time, sir," she said, setting it down, "please note that fetching your drinks is not an emergency requiring my presence."
02. And this is how it feels when I ignore the words you spoke to me
Renji rubbed the cloth across his Captain's back slowly and luxuriously, enjoying every moment of it. Oh, sure, some day he was going to surpass him, he was going to grind his face into the dirt, he would be utterly superior to him and take Rukia for himself, but right at the moment he was inches away from Kuchiki Byakuya's muscled back, and his fingers were touching that pale skin, and --
"Renji?" Byakuya enquired.
"Yes, sir?" Renji said hastily.
"Did I just hear you say something?"
"Very well. Continue."
Must keep mouth shut while whimpering, Renji reminded himself.
03. Waking up to the sunrise and the radio
"We're going to the hot springs today, Ken-chan! We're going to the hot springs! It's going to be really neat! I'm going to get to play with all my friends and you'll get to play with some of the other Captains too! I'm going to take my pink towel and my blue towel and my towel with bunnies on that Rukia-chan gave me and my rubber ducky and my zanpakutou and some buns and you've got to take your zanpakutou and everyone will get all wet and everyone else will be all jealous and we'll beat them up and --"
04. Now is a never ending thing
It should have been another time and another place. She should have been kneeling behind her lady, holding a towel for when her lady chose to rise from the water, and the steam would have veiled her blushes chastely. And later, in the silence, with a cup of hot sake in her long poised hands, her lady would have allowed her to kneel before her and serve her --
Soi Fong sat by the water's edge and listened to someone playing a lute on the other side of the wall. The steam moved across the water daintily, precisely, like a cat.
05. I want to be captured by you
"I had it from the servant," Renji explained. "There's an underwater passage between here and the women's side. All we have to do is find it, then we swim under and --"
Hisagi sniffed. "I'm not listening."
"Rangiku," Renji tempted, making a vigorous bouncing motion with both hands.
Hisagi's lips pursed thoughtfully.
"Besides, they'd be flattered," Iba put in. "It'd show appreciation."
Kira was looking worried. "But doesn't this mean that the women could be swimming underneath right now and spying on us . . ."
There was a mass scramble out of the water and much desperate clutching at towels.
06. This is the path I'll never tread
"It's so romantic," Hinamori said happily to Isane.
"It is," Isane agreed. They were soaking together in the shallows. "Just like the novels."
"A late-night rendezvous --"
"-- or an assignation in a secluded pool somewhere, out of the way. Lying there with the hot water covering you --
" -- you can just shut your eyes and imagine that out of the mist --"
"-- he comes walking towards you, smiling at you --"
"-- and she bends down to take you in her arms --"
They blinked at each other.
"You know what I mean," Hinamori said.
"I do," Isane sighed.
07. Think twice before you pooh-pooh it
Discussion had slipped among the male vice-captains, as it so often did on these occasions, from Who Can Drink The Most to Whose Captain Is Coolest, by way of My Captain Can Drink More Than Yours Can, and veering into My Captain Is A Man Among Men, Oh Yeah, You Bet.
"Though it's shocking how indiscriminate some Captains get," Oomeda remarked, settling like a whale.
Kira twitched. "Ichimaru-taichou is very discriminate!" he declared. "He just discriminates a lot."
"But what's the secret of his success?" Iba asked.
Kira blushed. "He smiles a lot. Evilly."
"It seems to work."
08. I run for miles and miles and end up getting nowhere
Hitsugaya stretched and folded his hands behind his head.
He flattered himself that it had been just the right amount of objection. Curt, yet with that hint of petulance which signalled childishness. Matsumoto hadn't hesitated to drag her "cute little Captain" along with her to the "women and children" side of the hot springs. The other women had all glanced at his fuming snarl and ignored him tactfully.
Breasts floated all around him at eye level. It was a thing of beauty. A joy forever. And something not to be gloated about too loudly, or it might never happen again.
09. Felt like no one could hear me
The steam changed nothing to Tousen's eyes. Everything was, to his vision, as it had always been.
It was a tangible thing, instead. It was the laying aside of robes and coat like armour, the setting down of the visor which shielded his eyes, the near-nakedness of a towel and then the receiving softness of water and heat.
I've been thinking about Seireitai, about killing people, about another option --
He couldn't say it. He couldn't break the quiet. His words would have been an offence against the perfection of the calm hot water, the steam which washed everything away.
10. I'm feeling like a little girl
"It's the sheer scope and possibility that gets to me," Rangiku declared, gesturing in a way that showed off a lot of her own scope and possibility. "So many handsome men. So many beautiful women. So many bedrooms."
Isane and Hinamori giggled cutely.
"I have my own plans," Nanao said coolly. She flashed the camera hidden in her yukata sleeve. "Tonight, our Association gains never-before-seen photographs of the Captains."
Nemu blinked. "You do not intend to spend the night in fornication like the rest of us?"
"Fornication?" Yachiru asked sleepily.
"It's a new sort of candy, Yachiru-chan," Rangiku said hastily.
11. I'll wait here till the daylight
Yamamoto could remember being young. It was like something seen through the end of a telescope a thousand miles away; too far off, too small, and too vague to be useful.
He could sit back now and let the children play their little games, drink too much, run into each others' bedrooms, and generally relax. Or was that make idiots of themselves? Something along those lines.
Unohana was playing the koto, and Kyouraku was singing.
He had lived a thousand years, and each winter this came again, and each winter it was new; the night, the mingled voices, the laughter.
12. Some were meant to persist
"Ya could always make her happy," Gin said, looking down at the sleeping Hinamori Momo.
Aizen shook his head. "It's not necessary. She's quite happy enough as she is. Dreams are far better than reality, Gin."
"Aww, come on." Gin smiled over his shoulder with a hint of teeth. "I'm sure ya could give her a reality like she'd never dreamed of."
"Only if I wanted to break her."
Aizen's hand closed on Gin's shoulder, drawing the younger man to him. "We both know what reality is, don't we?"
"We're the only real things here, Captain," Gin agreed.
13. This bond between us can't be broken
"Strange," Ukitake said, laying down a tile. "I could swear I hear snoring."
"So do I," Komamura said, holding up his row of tiles and giving a general behind-helmet impression of frowning at it.
Soi Fong slapped down a tile from her own hand. "Can you hear anything, Zaraki?"
Zaraki scowled at the three of them, and adjusted the sleeping Yachiru on his shoulder. "I'm not leaving her with that pack of sex-crazed drunken maniacs out there."
"I'm sure there's at least one sober Vice-Captain out there who's not --" Soi Fong hesitated. "All right. Who threw which tile, again?"
14. Frayed at the ends he breaks
"There is a perfectly good explanation for you being naked, wet, and crawling past my window. Isn't there."
"Er, yes, taichou."
"And it is?"
"There was this rope, see, and, um, it broke."
"And the water?"
"Seemed a better option than falling into the mahjong game, sir."
"And the clothing?"
"Kinda got lost earlier. Sir. There was this bet about how far down my tattoos go, you see --"
"You shame our Division by flaunting yourself before the others like that. And you drip upon my veranda."
"Enter and towel yourself while I meditate punishment."
15. Guess it's true what they say about love
"Love," Hisagi said vigorously, "has a big bosom. A big warm bosom. A big bosom with big --"
He became conscious of the general silence and the looming presence behind him. "Er, hello, Matsumoto-san," he added weakly.
Matsumoto leaned down, grasped him by the collar, and hauled him to his feet. "You have something to say about my bosom?"
Hisagi was too busy gazing at it for her words to penetrate immediately. "It's very pretty," he tried.
With a snort, Matsumoto tossed him across her shoulder and stalked out of the room. Hisagi kicked feebly as he was carried away.
16. Instantly gratified
Scream crash crash crash, scream crash crash, thud, boom.
Soi Fong could have identified the voices, and even the footfalls, but quite frankly she couldn't be bothered. This was one night when she didn't have to worry about traitors, spies, covert operations, or anything like that. Whatever idiocies the other officers got up to were their problems and not hers.
There was, of course, a certain technical curiosity as to who had mistakenly entered Kurotsuchi Mayuri's bedroom and had an unwanted and gelatinous encounter, but on the whole she preferred not to know.
She might laugh. Which would never do.
17. Don't you want to love yourself?
Gin smiled at his reflection in the water.
Everything was sleek as sleek could be. His hair, his sweat-dappled skin, his towel, the smooth muscles of his shoulders, the long suppleness of his fingers.
He liked reflections. They didn't lie. They might misrepresent just a little bit every now and again, but that was the onlooker's problem. Nothing to do with them. Wasn't any of their business. Why should it be? They just showed what they were given.
And the best thing was, they gave absolutely nothing away about what was beneath the surface.
Gin smiled. His reflection smiled back.
18. I'm just a little shy of not quite caring
Kurotsuchi Mayuri brooded, leaning on the window of his room. What a waste of time this was. What an abominable, appalling, time-consuming waste of his capacities, to be dragged out here for the purpose of leisure. There was no such thing as enjoyment in leisure. True enjoyment was in work, with one's hands in the guts of a problem.
There wasn't even anyone sufficiently intelligent here to be worth talking to. Why, he could almost wish that Urahara Kisuke were here, to compare thoughts with, to discuss lines of research --
It must be the hot water, making him maudlin. Bah.
19. Can't hear myself singing the same sad song
The world was a sad, tragic place, Hitsugaya reflected. Bitterly broken and utterly without hope. Meaningless and desperate. Everything seemed to dissolve into a shade of grey that wobbled faintly at the corners.
You say he was trying to prove that he could handle the same stuff that Kyouraku-taichou was drinking?
It was wobbling even more now.
He cuddled into the ambient softness.
Um. Busy, Unohana-taichou.
Bring him over here.
Momo was next to him now. Sleepy Momo. He curled up and hugged her. Nice warm Momo. She'd take care of him.
They're so cute.
20. Leaving fragments of a man so broken
Kira loitered by the empty jugs and cups, waiting for Ichimaru-taichou to come and tell him what to do.
He could have joined the dice game, but that felt like dereliction of duty. Ichimaru-taichou might want him to do something. Anything. If he drank too much, if he got involved in other things, then he wouldn't be there when Ichimaru-taichou needed him, and that would be wrong.
"We can wait together."
He turned. Kurotsuchi Nemu was kneeling close to him, quietness round her like a mantle.
She offered him a cup of wine. "Until we are called for," she said.
21. Something happened long ago
"We were all so much younger," Soi Fong was explaining to Nanao, who had been forced to sit there and listen politely.
Nanao nodded and prayed that Soi Fong would get over this sudden urge to confide. Especially given what she was confiding.
"And then," Soi Fong went on nostalgically, "there was the time when she made me stand there in the window holding the curtains open, and her hands were all over my body, and as her delicate aristocratic fingers played over my --"
And especially, Nanao prayed, Soi Fong would not remember tomorrow morning what she had confided.
22. You got your karma, I know I got mine
It was something that both Tousen and Komamura had reason to consider. For the same reasons, it was something that neither of them would discuss.
If life prior to Soul Society had caused Komamura's current form, Tousen's current blindness -- what then? Did they have some sort of karmic obligation to their past or their future?
What other sins did the other Captains have? What might they do penance for?
But for the moment, they played chess and let the past drift away on the night winds. Within these walls, it was warm and quiet.
Time would tell. It always did.
23. You'll never share in love until you love yourself
Sheet clasped around himself, Renji crept down the corridor.
It wasn't as if Kuchiki-taichou had told him to get out, but there had been something in the other man's eyes, his bearing -- he didn't have to say it. Renji could feel it. Renji could sense it like atmospheric waves beating down on him, like floods of sakura blossom . . .
(Perhaps he shouldn't have had that last bottle of wine.)
Him and Rukia. Out of his reach. Forever.
In a melancholy gloom, Renji collapsed on the tangle of quilts in the corner, and discovered too late it was already doubly occupied.
24. I'm dying for new life
Gin and Matsumoto have found themselves a corner of the baths. He makes great play out of sniffing her neck, her bosom, all down her body. "I can smell another man on you," he growls.
"So?" She affects disdain. "I can smell another man on you."
He puts his hands on her shoulders, and tilts her backwards till her hair floats across the surface of the water in golden tendrils.
"I'll wash you clean," she says, and drags him down to join her.
"We're too deep for that," he says; his eyes are open and desperate as she holds him.
25. You could cast the color on me
For all her words about the Shinigami Women's Association and photographs, Nanao could wish for other things tonight. She can still taste the wine that was being passed around earlier. The cold air winds itself around her bare feet and ankles, and it is almost without surprise that she finds herself walking down the passage to a particular room, whose door still stands open.
"My Nanao-chan must be cold," her Captain says, and he tosses his pink robe over her shoulders before closing the door behind her. Ukitake-taichou looks up to smile at her.
She kneels to pour the wine.
26. My best surprise
Zaraki would, if drugged and interrogated (torture wouldn't have worked) admitted grudgingly that the trip hadn't been that bad. The booze was good. The company was tolerable, once all the lightweights had gotten drunk and wandered off to screw in corners.
And strictly between these four walls, with Yachiru asleep and nobody else from Eleventh around, he could almost get used to playing mahjong, sitting back and listening to the others singing, shit like that.
Maybe one day of this once a year wouldn't turn him into a cherry-blossom-wielding poncy aristocratic moron with his head stuck up his backside.
27. It's like we're on our own
He walks through the building like a ghost, confident in his power. Though he steps quietly from habit, he does not need to. He could tear down the walls and walk among them like thunder, and still they would not see.
Power is nothing; control is all.
He pauses for a moment by Gin and Matsumoto, to watch them together and smile at them paternally.
Even Yamamoto, perfect in his power and his rigid virtue, is blind to him.
He is an appreciative audience for their little dramas. Soon they will be his actors. And never know it.
28. And in her innocence
Hinamori carefully disentangles herself from Toushirou-kun -- he would be so embarrassed if he woke up like that -- and pulls the quilt over him so he won't get cold.
She feels like a child again, wandering among the adults in the dark.
Yamamoto-soutaichou, Soi Fong-taichou, Komamura-taichou, and Tousen-taichou are still sitting and talking by the brazier. Iba-fukutaichou smiles and makes room for her next to him, and passes a cup of tea as though she had a perfect right to be there with them.
When she falls asleep again, leaning against him, he is careful not to move and wake her.
29. Perfect shadows lie behind us
Disentangling the sequence of events the next day, it was found to be a perfectly natural combination of Yachiru-fukutaichou having a screaming nightmare, Zaraki-taichou dismantling the kitchen while looking for cakes, Hitsugaya-taichou waking up in an incoherent condition and assuming the worst and then acting on it, Ichimaru-taichou's apparent belief that it was an unexpected demon ninja attack, Kyouraku-taichou's pink flowery kimono showing up in an unexpected location, and a number of people trying to get back to their own rooms as fast as possible and without being noticed.
At the time, however, things were more than a little confused.
30. Out of sight, out of mind
When he wakes up in the darkness, Ukitake is beginning to speak, to continue the conversation that he began in the dream.
I shouldn't go out on rainy nights, Ukitake-taichou, Shiba Kaien said, and his beautiful lady raised her fingers to her lips, concealing a delicate smile. I'm going to catch a cold like you one of these days, and then where will our Division be?
Ukitake has the words I'm sure we'll manage on his lips, and they become a cough as he chokes them back.
There's nothing new about it.
And he would not want to forget Kaien.
31. Sometimes, I find pictures of me left behind
Some Captains took their breakfast in their rooms, where they could apply cold damp towels and try to stave off hangovers. Others ate publicly and cheerfully and with appalling morning attitude.
"When I'm a Captain," Renji muttered to Kira, "I'll be more damn understanding."
Ise Nanao sniffed as she carried a large tray past the two of them.
"When I'm a Captain," Hinamori chirped, "I'll support my Vice-Captain just as Aizen-taichou does me."
Hisagi swayed slightly, but tackled his rice with determination and a faintly green face.
"When we're all three Captains . . ." Kira said softly.
They clicked their cups together.