Tomorrow We'll Be Sober
As part of the general celebrations, the entire graduating shinigami class had drunk their way from Seireitai to Rukongai.
By this time there were only two of them left.
"I mean. Mean. Thingy," Kyouraku Shunsui said, working very hard on not spilling his cup of wine. It was poverty-stricken stuff, lacking the beauty that true wine possessed, but there was something natural, no, positively aesthetically perfect in its acidity and natural malignity of spirit that went so well with the atmosphere of the bar that they now found themselves in.
He realised that he'd lost track of his sentence. "You think that people are watching us?" he asked.
Ukitake Jyuushirou was more coherent than his friend. This wasn't hard. It was partly because he'd drunk less (again, not hard) and partly because, as a regular heavy user of a wide variety of controlled drugs due to his tuberculosis, he was used to operating under conditions of altered states, general haziness, and seeing multiple images of other people with pretty coloured halos. "I'm sure of it," he said, and tried to work out which of the cups in front of him was real.
"Then we want to find a place where they can't watch us," Shunsui stated.
"So we can have sex."
"We already had sex," Jyuushirou pointed out.
"Can we have some more?"
Jyuushirou thought about it. "Maybe," he conceded. "If we can find a back alley. But we mustn't do it on the ground or we'll get our nice new uniforms all dirty."
"You look good in black," Shunsui said admiringly. He finished his cup and refilled it without once taking his eyes off Jyuushirou. "It looks so much better on you than white did."
"White would be good if it was a Captain's coat," Jyuushirou sighed. It wasn't the first time they'd thought about that one."
"But without the beard."
"Not that big a beard."
"Maybe just a little beard to, you know, look stylish."
"You could grow your hair out too."
Shunsui prodded thoughtfully at the back of his head. "Maybe if you do as well. We can stand there with our hair blowing in the wind and --"
Shunsui looked up. There were a group of raggedly dressed men standing around the table. They were all carrying weapons. Some of them were carrying weapons that he hadn't even learned the names for at the Academy, though big pointy thing or big non-pointy thing would probably cover most of the details.
"Shunsui," Jyuushirou said, "are these friends of yours?"
"No," Shunsui said. He paused. "Do you want to become friends of ours?" he asked hopefully.
"You damn aristocrats," the biggest of the men snarled. "Coming down here and sneering at us while you get drunk --"
"I wasn't sneering," Jyuushirou said quietly. "I never sneer."
"He doesn't," Shunsui agreed. "It's true. Even when you'd really expect him to sneer -- look, do you want some wine?"
"What we want," the big man growled, "is your money."
The two shinigami exchanged blank looks.
"I thought you had the money," Shunsui finally said.
"No no no," Jyuushirou said hastily. "I did have the money but then you gave it to that girl in Sixty-Fourth with that pink outfit."
"Pink." Shunsui folded his hands under his chin, and his eyes became dreamy.
The big man slapped his hand down on the table hard. Cups rocked. "And if you don't give us your money, you pretty little aristo boys, then something real nasty is going to happen to you."
Shunsui rose to his feet in a flapping of black sleeves. His eyes flashed. "Now look what you've done."
"Eh?" the big man said.
"You made him cough. You're going to pay for this." Shunsui swayed, somewhat like an overweight willow tree about to fall over and lose a lot of leaves violently.
"No," the big man said, attempting to regain control of the situation. "You're going to be the ones who pay us. Eh, boys?"
The men behind him sniggered on cue and fingered their weapons meaningfully.
"Let's take this outside," Shunsui suggested.
The big man shook his head. "I think we can handle you just fine in here."
"Lout." Jyuushirou rose to his feet, undulating gently from side to side. "Have you no shame? Are you going to mess up this fine establishment with a lot of blood and guts and screaming just because you can't be bothered to take a few steps outside?"
"Er, boss," one of the thugs muttered, "I thought you said we weren't going to kill them that much. Just a bit."
"There doesn't need to be any blood if you'll just hand the purses over," the big man said. "And those pretty swords. And those silk robes. Tell you what, we'll let you keep your loincloths."
His thugs sniggered again.
"My swords are very very annoyed with you," Shunsui said gravely. "You have insulted them by suggesting that I place them in your sweaty dirty hands."
Jyuushirou sighed. "Let's just take it outside, shall we?" he said to the big man. "It'll be so much easier in the long run."
The big man looked at Shunsui and sighed. "Fine," he said, and jerked a thumb at a couple of the thugs. "Get him outside."
The thugs grabbed Shunsui by the arms and tossed him through the oilcloth drape that covered the window. It didn't put up much resistance.
Jyuushirou held up both hands. "I'm going," he said plaintively. "I'm going."
Outside, a small group of onlookers had gathered in the torchlit street to watch the convenient entertainment. Shunsui was picking himself out of the puddle he'd landed in. He shook one foot disconsolately, and a dribble of mud ran out from between foot and sandal to land with a splat on the path.
"Now," the big man said firmly. "Hand everything over and maybe we'll let you two brats live with just a few bruises to remind you not to come down this way in the future."
Shunsui's hands fell to his sash. "I will hit you," he said solemnly, "with my two big swords."
"And I will hit you," Jyuushirou backed him up, "with my . . . look, please just accept my word that there will be two of them if this goes any further."
The big man jerked his thumb at the two of them. "Get'em," he told his thugs.
Five minutes later, Shunsui and Jyuushirou were still swaying, but at least they were still upright, which was more than could be said for the scattered thugs.
"'Ere," a loiterer asked tentatively. "Mind if we go through their pockets?"
"Feel free," Shunsui declared, trying to remember how to get his swords back into his sash without cutting it off.
"You're a gent, sir," the loiterer said, leading the general stampede.
"Are you sure that was the proper thing to do?" Jyuushirou asked, leaning forward so that he could prop himself against Shunsui's shoulders.
"Of course it was," Shunsui said airily. "Should we go through their pockets?"
"Of course not!"
"Then clearly they should go through their pockets."
Jyuushirou frowned. A little line appeared between his white eyebrows. "I'm not totally sure about your logic there."
"Relax," Shunsui reassured him, swinging an arm over his friend's shoulders to help with the whole staying upright thing. "It's a beautiful night. It's a wonderful night. There's lots of time for drinking yet before rosy-fingered Dawn spreads the pink silks of her draperies across the sky and then tugs them back to show her pale flesh . . ."
Jyuushirou looked upwards. "Shunsui," he said, "it's already somewhere in the morning."
"And we're going to have to be back early so we can have breakfast and get washed before morning duty."
"And we ought to start moving now if we're going to get back on time!"
"We should!" Shunsui agreed, and tugged Jyuushirou towards the nearby alley mouth.
And when they showed up for duty the next morning ten minutes late, with all the finesse and elegance of staggering hungover drunks who'd just plunged their heads in the water-barrel, Yamamoto Genryuusai sighed and hoped that he wouldn't have another two thousand years of this.