The dining hall where the Eighth went to fuel up was about two-thirds full. Half of the squad was enjoying a hearty breakfast in order to face the day, and the other half was still trying to recover from the night before. (The Eighth had the only cafeteria in Seireitei where a Bloody Mary was considered a vegetable side dish.)
The two young men who held the ninth and tenth seats were sitting at a table in the corner, nursing their hangover cures and having an argument.
"Look," Tenth said, "I know what I heard!"
"What you thought you heard…" his friend said.
"It was Ise-san!"
Ninth rolled his eyes. "Sure it was…"
The young woman who held the sixth seat came up and dropped her tray on the table. "Good morning. You two look like hell."
"Thanks! You should've seen the other guys."
"The Eleventh again?"
Ninth put a hand over his heart. "They never learn…"
"Good to know the honor of the Eighth is in safe hands." She dug into her breakfast.
Tenth drummed his fingers on the table. "Look, you can sense auras, right?"
Sixth shrugged. "Pretty well, I guess, if they're not moving around too much. Why?"
"Where's the Vice-Captain?"
"It wasn't her," muttered Ninth.
"It was totally her."
"Who was the what now?" asked Sixth, baffled.
Ninth dug an elbow into his friend's ribs. "He claims that he heard a woman screaming in the Captain's quarters this morning."
"Well, that's not surprising…" The three of them lifted their glasses in a silent toast in the general direction of Shunsui's quarters. The Eighth was very proud of its Captain's accomplishments. All his accomplishments.
"Thing is…" Ninth leaned forward in a conspiratorial manner, while Tenth blushed to the tips of his ears. "He says it sounded like Ise."
"Oh, no way! Last I heard they were fighting like cats and dogs."
"I know what I heard," muttered Tenth unrepentantly.
"How would you even know what Ise screaming sounds like?" his friend demanded.
Tenth took a large gulp of his hangover cure and grimaced. "Coupla years back, she was leading my patrol and we got routed by Hollows—you remember? Lost a couple of people, very messy. Would have lost everybody if the Vice-Captain hadn't kept her head. Anyway, at one point she was sitting on this Hollow's shoulders, blasting it right in the skull, and she kept screaming the words for the kido." He shrugged. "So I do know what it sounds like." He took another drink. "Mind you…she didn't sound…err…unhappy…this time…"
Sixth rolled her eyes. "Hang on…" She put a hand to her temple and got the vague, listening look that junior shinigami usually wore when trying to track someone down. "Oh. Huh. Well, she is in his quarters, actually—"
"Ha! Told you!"
"—but I'm sure there's a perfectly logical reason…she's probably putting him to bed after a night of drinking or delivering paperwork or trying to get him to wake up and sign something, or…"
At that point, she became aware that her companions were staring past her with their mouths open and no longer appeared to be listening. She turned in her chair.
Captain Shunsui, wearing hastily belted hakama pants and nothing else, was looming over the unfortunate worker in charge of the drinks. His hair was a tangled mass over his shoulders, which tried but failed to cover a truly impressive series of hickeys. Whatever—whoever—he'd been doing for the last few hours, apparently she'd given as good as she'd gotten.
You could have heard a pin drop in the dining hall.
"This is a direct order," Shunsui said, a man at the end of his patience. "Go under the counter and get me the tin of that gunpowder green that I know you keep under there. The good stuff, damnit!"
"But—" said the frantic worker, glancing past him at a sea of fascinated faces, "but Captain Shunsui—that's Vice-Captain Ise's private stash—"
"Who do you think it's for?" roared Shunsui, in a voice he generally reserved for sword drills.
There was a moment of absolute stillness—and the room went mad. Cheers and catcalls erupted from all corners. Ninth and Tenth stamped their feet and whistled. Sixth threw her head back and howled like a wolf.
The Eighth respected its Vice-Captain a great deal, but it worshipped the ground its Captain walked on.
"Sir!" Tea, teapot and two cups appeared like a conjuring trick.
Shunsui grabbed the tray, turned back, saw his squad giving him a standing ovation, and shook his head. "Oh man….she's gonna kill me…" The sheepishness of his grin could not entirely conceal its triumph.
"Captain!" The fourth seat, who was Eighth's unofficial bookkeeper, had leapt on his chair and was shouting to be heard. "Captain! What time?"
Shunsui put up an eyebrow. "A gentleman does not kiss and tell…"
"It's for the betting pool!"
"Oh, well, in that case…" Shunsui coughed. "Five-forty-five." The room went wild again. He waved and flickered out of the room.
"Well," said Sixth, to no one in particular, "at least he remembered the pants this time…"
"Fine," said Ninth to his friend, "I suppose you were right…err…are you okay?"
Tenth was staring straight ahead with a beatific expression. Ninth waved a hand in front of his eyes, and got no response. "Dude? Dude, are you okay?"
"Five-forty-five," said Tenth, who had just cleaned up on a betting pool half a century in the making. "I'm…rich."
Several days later…
Afternoon in the Thirteenth Division offices.
Light slanted through the windows in bright bars, and the wooden floors gleamed. Captain Ukitate had thrown the screens open to catch the late spring breeze. It was a beautiful day.
It was nearly criminal to be doing paperwork on a day like this, but he'd promised to copy his notes from the last general staff meeting for Shunsui, who'd fallen asleep in the middle of it. He'd been dropping off a lot more than usual lately, which was either a sign of encroaching narcolepsy or an indication that his Vice-Captain was keeping him up half the night.
Ukitate knew which he'd put money on.
As if the thought had summoned her, there was a sudden wash of ozone. Ukitate looked up, and saw Nanao flash into existence a few feet away. She bowed politely to him, said "May I?"
"Go ahead," said the white-haired captain, somewhat resigned and very much amused.
She grabbed one of the low tables in the room, wrestled it into position in front of his desk, said "Thank you, Ukitate-taicho!" and vanished again.
Ukitate began counting on his fingers.
Shunsui appeared, took a step forward, tripped over the carefully positioned table and hit the floor. "Aaaarggh—!"
Ukitate put a hand over his eyes.
To Shunsui's credit, he landed the fall well, did a brief shoulder stand, and rolled to his feet, swaying.
Ukitate's gaze traveled slowly over his friend, noting the fact that Shunsui was soaked to the knee, had mud on his haori, and that his hat was a smoking skeleton of its former self—and that he was grinning from ear to ear.
No, I don't think Nanao needs to worry about being replaced any time soon…
"Well?" Shunsui hopped on one foot, rubbing at his bruised shin.
Ukitate sighed, and extended a hand. "She went thatttaway."
Well, that's the story, and thank you all for reading! I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as I enjoyed writing it--I was almost sorry to wrap it up, but one can only drag out sexual tension so long before one gets an urge to kick the characters in the head. (Still. This stuff is like crack, man. Absolute crack. Now I want to go write even more of it...hmm...y'know, Zaraki never gets any love...)