"Matsumoto, how many times must I tell you, you don't have to call me that when we're alone." Hitsugaya muttered absently, trying to remain absorbed in the half-done report on his desk.

Unfortunately, that was going to be rather difficult, considering he couldn't even be in the same room with his fukutaicho without his blood pressure rising considerably. In years past, her effect on him would have been attributed to mere irritation, no less considering that half the day was gone and this was her first appearance in the office. However, over the last near-decade, it was an entirely different reason that got his heart rate accelerated when in her presence.

He watched her flounce, undaunted, into the room, and quietly ground his teeth. Going by the playful tone in her voice, he knew she was up to something. A quick attempt to supress a smile went rather badly, leaving him with a peculiar twisty expression on his face; usually, when she was in this mischievous mood, it resulted in some thoroughly irritating distraction that got him frowning up a storm. And that usually led to a thoroughly enjoyable and rather elaborate make-out session. Which normally wouldn't be such a bad result, but he just couldn't deal with it today. Since he was the one insisting on maintaining reservation on the physical front until the height issue resolved itself, he always had to stop things before they went too far, which lately had become difficult to the point of impossible. For some unknown reason, over the last few weeks her determination to wear down his resistance had become almost manic. It was hard enough going through a sort-of adolescence, albeit in the spirit-being sense, without having the most beautiful woman in the Gotei 13 practically throwing herself at him at every possible chance. Just last night she had fully accosted him in the hallway outside his room, and only some quick action and the somewhat desperate slamming of his door had allowed him to escape with his kimono only partially undone. Hers had been positively scandelous.

Dammit all, he grumbled to himself. As usual, she had the worst timing; just a little bit longer and he would have had all the paperwork done for the day. He started writing faster, determined not to get distracted.

"Well, we are in the administrative office, Toshi, and old habits die hard." Refusing to be ignored, she plumped her ample bottom down on the edge of his desk, knowing full well how hard it would be for him not to look.

"Dangit, don't call me that either!" Gritting his teeth, he stubbornly jabbed another hiragana onto the page. She started swinging a shapely leg in a decidedly languid manner and her perfume was starting to make his head spin.

"Well then, what should I call you, my little dumpling?" Rangiku placed one arm on the desk in front of him, leaning into it and giving him plently of opportunity to gaze at her prize-winning cleavage. He couldn't help but see them in his peripheral vision and as usual found himself silently marvelling at how her attire somehow managed to defy gravity. He wondered, not for the first time, if she actually employed kido to keep her kimono on.

"Matsumoto..." he growled in warning.

"Toushiro..." she growled back playfully.

"Hitsugaya!" He finally barked, snapping his head up to glare at her and rapidly forgetting about his reports. Her eyes were especially blue today, a playful glint dancing in them fit to make his blood boil, and he could never get over how dark or how long her lashes were...Swallowing hard, he forced himself to look back at his papers but couldn't for the life of him remember what he'd been writing. "You can call me Hitsugaya. Here. Alone." Ye gods, now he was forgetting how to speak.

"Very well, then...Hitsugaya," If her eyes were a distraction, than that buttery tone in her voice nearly drove him insane. She shifted herself to sit directly on his papers, and now there was no way at all not to look at her assets. Hitsugaya wanted very much to yell at her, but as she leaned in he found his eyes starting to drift closed, his chin automatically tilting up towards the kiss he knew was coming...

Something wet gooshing into his lap made his eyes fly open. A large pool of black ink was spreading rapidly across this desk and dripping industriously all over his kimono.

"Gyah!" Hitsugaya shoved himself backwards, jumping to his feet and staring in dismay at his stained haori. A furious glance at his desk showed Matsumoto's hand resting right next to the overturned inkwell. "MATSUMOTO!"

"Oh gods...I'm sorry..." She gasped. "Here, let me help..." Grabbing a fistful of papers, she started sopping up the mess.

"NO! Those are my...WERE my reports.." He gnashed his teeth, flustered. "Would you just get out of the way?" Placing a hand firmly on her rump and trying desperately to ignore how good it felt, he shoved her away from the spreading pool of ink. As rattled as he was, it really wasn't surprising when he misjudged and pushed a little too hard, dumping her unceremoniously onto the floor.

"Ow!" she wailed, rubbing herself and pouting in an obnoxiously pretty way. "That hurt, Toshi..."

"I said don't call me that!" he roared. Hearing a timid rapping at the doorway, he whirled around and snapped, "What is it!?"

Hanataro flinched and tried to hide himself behind the doorframe. "U-um, excuse me Hitsugaya-taicho...I have a delivery for Matsumoto-fukutaicho..." Holding out a bottle of hangover cure in trembling hands, he seemed unable to decide if he was using it as a shield or as a peace offering. Impossibly, his eyes grew even wider when he caught sight of Matsumoto splayed inglamorously on the floor. "A...are you all right, Matsumoto-san?"

"She's fine." "I'm fine."

They answered at the same time and Hitsugaya quickly swallowed a howl of frustration. "It was an accident..." Embarrased, he started to rake a hand through his tangled mop, halting himself just short of giving himself an inky black streak in his hair. "Uhm, could you...help her up, Hanataro? I seem to be..."...a complete mess, he finished to himself, dismayed by the dark stains covering himself and his desk.

Hanataro looked as if he had been invited into a Hollow pit, but took a single brave step into the room before Matsumoto forstalled him.

"It's okay, Hanataro. Nothing's broken, I think..." She scrambled awkwardly to her feet, throwing a glare at Hitsugaya. Dropping her voice and speaking between gritted teeth, she intimated, "Someone is going to have to 'kiss it and make it feel better' later, though..."

"Thank you, Hanataro," Hitsugaya said quickly, and loudly. Gods, what if he'd heard that..."That will be all." He was still at a loss as to what to do about his wet inky hands when Hanataro coughed apologetically.

"Uhm...well, there's more..." Trailing off and looking like he wanted to disappear, Hanataro fairly wilted under Hitsugaya's glare. "Unohana-taicho would like to see you right away, please...Hitsugaya-taicho..." He looked like he was sorry he'd ever been born.

"What for?" Hitsugaya was baffled, and the last thing he needed now was to present himself before one of his peers looking like a bedraggled skunk.

"Oh, she never tells us that sort of thing...but she did suggest...that I ask you...to come as soon...as...possible..." Hanataro was shaking like a leaf at this point and Hitsugaya wondered in utter despair why he always ended up scaring the living daylights out of the poor kid.

"Fine," Hitsugaya said through bared teeth, trying to keep his rage to a quiet simmer. "Matsu...I'm sorry, again. Please try to clean this up..." Feeling stupid at the flat look she was giving him, he dropped his shoulders in defeat and, giving up any pretense of formality, without another word he flashed away.

Hitsugaya picked absently at the dried ink flaking off his fingers. He'd been sitting in Unohana's office for the better part of an hour, wondering what on earth the urgency could have been if she wasn't here to meet him. Outside the large window on one side of the room, he could see apple blossoms dancing gaily on the warm summer breeze but gave them little mind. He was feeling decidedly stiff and unpresentable since the ink had started drying and longed at the very least for a wash basin in which to clean his hands. He had just decided to go in search for one, rising abruptly to his feet, when he sensed an approach of considerable reiatsu and Unohana Retsu swept into the room.

"Hitsugaya-taicho, thank you so much for indulging me today." She glided towards her desk, regarding him calmly, and if she registered his ridiculous appearance she gave no sign of it.

"Not at all, Unohana-tacho." Feeling a little ungracious at his impatience, Hitsugaya automatically drew himself up to full hight and tried to cling to whatever dignity he could still claim. "You wanted to see me?"

"Yes, thank you," she replied pleasantly, giving him one of her mild yet oddly disconcerting looks. After a long and pregnant pause, she spoke simply. "Hitsugaya-taicho...how are you feeling?"

Feeling slightly startled and more than a bit put on the spot by the question, Hitsugaya was at a momentary loss for words. "I...I'm fine, thank you, Unohana-taicho." At the keen glint in her eye, he found himself fidgiting slightly and trying to hide his seething frustration. "May I ask what your concern might be?"

Rising from her seat, she glided over to a shelf containing several strange-looking objects. "It has been brought to my attention that you've seemed rather...stressed lately."

"Stressed?" He gaped. "Unohana-taicho, I don't know who has been speaking with you, but I can assure you I am just fine..."

"I am told that you sleep less than usual, have become even more short-tempered than normal and have lost some appetite." Choosing an item from the shelf, Unohana turned and regarded him with an uncomfortably sharp look. "It's been reported that you seem less focused lately and pay little attention to details, which I know is not standard for you." Slowly she approached him, object in hand. "Hanataro just now mentioned some kind of incident that involved an inkwell and your vice-captain, which I must admit made little sense at all - also not like you in the least." Stopping a foot or two away from him, she regarded him closely, eyeballing the stains covering him with significant poignency. "Are you telling me these reports are inaccurate?"

"Completely!" Hitsugaya sputtered, trying to not to notice how defensive he sounded. "I'm perfectly fine, I just...there's been a lot of paperwork lately, and Matsumoto..." Oops, not good to go there; fighting his sudden furious blush, he hurried on, hoping she wouldn't notice. "...well's she's Matusmoto, and...then the ink spilled..." He abruptly clamped his mouth shut, realizing he was babbling. He'd rarely felt so humiliated and awkward in his life.

After a long silence, Unohana spoke, deadpan. "I see." A moment later and, a frighteningly nonchalant smile gracing her face, she reached out and showed him the smooth, cylindrical rod that she held in her hand. "Perhaps, then, you could indulge me just a moment longer? It wouldn't hurt to do a quick scan, since you've taken the trouble to come here."

Hitsugaya wanted to explode from frustration but after a moment's reflection he swallowed it instead. He realized with a sinking feeling how ridiculous he must look and couldn't fault the healer's precaution. After all, it really wasn't like him to be so flustered, or covered in flaky black goo for that matter, and he was feeling rather edgy lately... Nodding miserably, he watched in curious wariness as she held out the rod perpendicular to him and took a deep breath. A moment passed, and then he could feel her releasing a small amount of reiatsu into the object. It started to glow, ever so faintly.

He was always fascinated by the strange little objects she used to do her job, and this one was no different. "What does that do?" he couldn't help asking, a tiny furrow forming between his eyebrows.

"It's an especially refined sensor that provides me with detailed information about a patient." Unohana replied calmly, glancing up at him with a serene smile.

His furrow deepened. "How detailed?"

"Very," she replied smoothly, not taking her eyes off the rod. "Temperature - 98.7 degrees, blood sugar level 115, just a hair above normal, and blood pressure is 110/90, also elevated..." She clucked worryingly at him, which just irritated him further. "...muscle tissue enzymes at .72, height 180 cm, weight-"

"I get it," he said quickly, wishing he'd never asked. "Thank you." He tried looking anywhere but at Unohana while she continued to examine her readouts, finding it nearly impossible to hide either his impatience or the unnerving feeling that he was being mildly violated. He also tried to ingore the distrinct impression that she was amused by him. He ended up looking out the window, watching the petals floating languidly on the breeze, and couldn't help but feel that they were being more than a little insipid. An eternity seemed to pass.

Finally, with one last enigmatic mutter, the wand went out and Unohana lowered it, turning without a word to replace the item on its shelf and return to her desk. Where she placidly picked up her pen and started writing.

Hitsugaya waited several minutes, equal parts mystification and annoyance, before he broke the silence. "Unohana-taicho? Was there anything else?"

"Only one thing, Hitsugaya-taicho," she replied, straightening up and handing him a piece of paper on which the ink was still drying. "I must thank you greatly for your patience and co-operation. Please let me know if there is any further way in which I can be of assistance to you."

Bug-eyed, he stared at the paper. Certainly, he couldn't be reading it right. "You...you could explain this, Unohana-tachio." He struggled to keep the outrage out of his voice. "'Hitsugaya Toushirou is hereby ordered to medical bed rest for the next seven days, at which time upon medical review he can continue in the duties required by his position.' What the hell...?" Hitsugaya broke off, almost as mortified at swearing at his elder as he was at what he was reading. He could feel a vein starting to throb in his temple.

"I would venture to say that the document is self-explanatory," Unohana replied, unfazed.

He continued spluttering, but was stopped by the steely gaze she threw at him.

"Histugaya-taicho, you have been under my care for many years now, and I can tell you that I have never seen you in such a state. Your readings are all elevated, the toxins in your muscle mass are at alarming levels and you can barely put a sentence together." His mouth opened and closed, rather like a fish, but no sound came out. "On top of all that, you are covered, inexplicably, in ink, and so far today you have trashed your office, upended your fukutaicho and frightened my subordinate. Now," Unohana continued firmly as he started making awkward strangled noises. "I would appreciate it if you do not question my authority or my expertise and follow my instructions to the letter. I would further recommend, off the record, that you find some relaxation method in which to engage yourself during your haiatus. It will certainly speed up the healing process and get you back to your normal self in an expeditious period of time. Otherwise," and now the look she gave him was positively threatening, "I may have to extend your sick leave." Calmly, she turned back to her papers. "That is all I have for you at this time, Hitsugaya-taicho. Please report to me in one week if you have any further concerns. Now, I must hurry off, as I presently have a meeting with Yamamoto-sutaicho. Unless," she looked at him pointedly, "there is something you would like me to bring up with the Captain Commander?"

How her serene expression could have so many different and alarming facets, he didn't know. But she had him utterly cornered, and she knew it.

"I didn't spill the ink...and Matsumoto was an accident..." Hitsugaya muttered, making fists and releasing them in turn, absently crushing his medical orders in the process. With a huge sigh, he dropped his shoulders in defeat. "No, thank you Unohana-taicho. There is nothing you need bother the Captain-Commander with..."

Restraining a growl, he turned on his heel and stalked out.

Hitsugaya was far too upset to focus his reiatsu for shunpo, and decided that a brisk walk would help clear his head anyway. During the long trek back to Tenth compound, he reviewed the whole day in his mind, trying to see what went wrong. Clearly, it all hinged on his vice-captain; her clumsiness, her sexiness, the way she smelled so deliriously magnificent...hell her very presence had started this unfathomable spiral into madness. He indulged in a thorough review of every single flaw or awkward moment attributable to his fukutaicho over the years, fuming silently to himself and barely noticing how many shinigami jumped out of his way as he stalked home. His conversation with Unohana was particularly irksome; while he truthfully could not remember a single time he had won an argument with her, he still would have normally put up a more respectable fight. And usually she respected his privacy and let him make his own decisions on his health...

Maybe something is wrong with me, he wondered grumpily to himself.

He was almost to the safety of his quarters when blonde hair and blue eyes popped up in front of him.

"Taicho...?" Worry and something else was simmering in his fukutaicho's eyes and she reached out a hand towards his forehead. "Are you okay...?"

"I'm fine!" he yelled, jerking away from her touch. "Why does everyone keep asking me that?" Hitsugaya started to stalk past her but she grabbed his arm and whipped him around to face her with surprising strength.

"Toushirou, look at me - you're acting like a crazy person!" Her fierce glare made him stop and swallow, and he realized how out of control his temper had gotten. Embarrassed, he tried to pull away but she was intractible. Reaching up to place her hands on either side of his face, Rangiku pulled his head towards hers, tipping it down until there were eye to eye, foreheads touching. Looking deeply into his eyes, she spoke low, urgent. "Toshi...what is wrong?"

To his horror, tears actually started to spring to his eyes. What the hell...I haven't cried since...Slumping against the wall, he pulled loose and let himself drop to his heels, the wall the only thing keeping him up, and rubbed his face with his hands. "I don't know," he said miserably. "I can't think straight, I'm...having all these crazy thought and...feelings, and nothing makes any sense..." He was too humiliated to look at her. "If this is puberty, it's just pure hell..." Gods, was that whiney voice really his? He wanted to sink into the floor.

Matsumoto's face softened in sympathy as she rubbed a hand through his hair. "Well, you have been awfully distracted lately, and you haven't noticed anything important in weeks..." Her other hand started to stroke his neck, and HItsugaya found himself leaning into the caress. It just felt so good, and he could feel the tension slowly starting to melt away...

Jerking, he brushed her hands away. "Well, you're not helping. Everytime I turn around you're...there..." He knew how horrible that sounded, but didn't know how to put into words how jumpy he felt around her lately. His skin prickled, and he felt like it was too tight on his frame. Rubbing his arms in agitation, Toushirou let out a sigh. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like...I like when you're around me, of course, it just...it's..." He gave up, his stomach lurching as his eyes started burning again.

"Oh, Toshi, for a genious you really are dense, sometimes!" He threw a glare at her, was met by laughter in her smoldering eyes. "I've been trying to help you, baka!"

"Well, it's not helping to have you jump me every ten mintutes!" Hitsugaya growled, his body tensing. "Do you really think this is easy for me? That I just have endless resources to resist you? Look at you, for gods sake...!" He realized how loudly he was talking, and prayed to high heaven none of his other subordinates were in the building.

With an exasperated sigh, Rangiku planted her hands on curvy hips. "Toshi, you moron...how tall am I?"

He spoke from behind his hands as he rubbed his eyes. "You're five-ten. How many times do I have to ask you not to rub it in...?"

"Metric," she demanded.

His brain did the calculation in a fraction of a second. "179 centimeters, what difference does it make...?"

Toushirou's whole body froze as the air caught in his lungs. Unohana's voice from earlier that afternoon drifted across his memory.

"...height, 180 centimeters, weight..."

In slow motion, he looked up again at those cornsilk eyes. Launching himself to his feet, he looked at her, his face inches from hers, his eyes just slightly higher than her eye level...

And then he was crushing her to him, kissing her, and the blood was singing in his veins. A distant part of him worried for a second that he might be hurting her, but then she melting into his arms, her whole body pressed against his, and when a gutteral purr rattled in the back of her throat he lost it completely.

They barely got the door to his room open in time.

Two and a half days later, while he was still out of breath, Hitsugaya got just enough lucidity back to realize something was nagging at him.

"Rangiku, I don't understand," he managed. "How did Unohana know...?" The rest was lost as her playful nipping stole all the breath from his lungs in a loud whoosh.

"Silly man," she chuckled. "We're women." His baffled look made her laugh even harder. "Oh, my brilliant Toshi, you have so much to learn..."

Grabbing her head and pulling her insistently towards his, he reached hungrily for her lips.

"Then you'd better teach me..."