imitate the action of the duck

Kyouraku Shunsui and Ukitake Jyuushirou, the two shining lights of the Academy, the models for young men, the recently-zanpakutou-ed shinigami-in-training . . .

. . . were naked and in the middle of a pond, hiding under a convenient drape of willow fronds.

"Perhaps they'll go away," Jyuushirou said wistfully, not for the first time.

The happy sound of female voices drifted across the lake towards them.

"Some hope," Shunsui said gloomily. He fingered the spot on his chin where he was trying to grow a beard. It looked even more miserable soaked than it did dry. "I recognise at least three of my aunts out there. You hear that particularly high-pitched neighing?"

Jyuushirou tilted his head. "I was rather hoping that was tinnitus from having got water in my ears."

"That's my aunt Reiko." Shunsui sank further into the water. "Bane of family picnics. You must have one of those. You know. The sort who simply can't move from here, dahlink, my poor ickle tootsies are so tired, but you're a nice big boy, so why don't you fetch your ickle auntie a chair and a footstool and a rug and a cup of tea and one of those simply adorable ickle plates of mochi and then you can tell me all about the fascinating ickle things you're doing at school."

Jyuushirou nodded. A bit of leafy willow branch was draped over his shoulder. He brushed it away and it wobbled back again. "I don't believe the timing."

"Nor do I." Shunsui sighed. "I mean, what are the odds that the Seireitai Ladies Sketching Society would come across this lake just as we'd decided to have a little swim?"

"The gods hate us," Jyuushirou muttered, and coughed.

"Are you all right?" Shunsui slid a nervous arm round his friend's back, trying to support him. "Take it easy, breathe nice and slow, that's right . . ."

Jyuushirou's thin, racking coughs eventually stopped.

"That does it," Shunsui said firmly. "We've got to get out of here."

"We can just hide out till they're gone," Jyuushirou suggested. "They can't be going to be here for more than a few hours. Can they?" he added hopefully.

"You'll get pneumonia." Shunsui thought about it. "I might get pneumonia too."

"No," Jyuushirou said, with renewed purpose and enthusiasm, "because, you see, we'll climb out of the water and perch on that bit of trunk there."

Shunsui inspected the proposed perch. "I wouldn't have thought there's room for one person there, let alone two."

"That's the other part of the plan," Jyuushirou said, giving him a meaningful look from under lowered eyelashes. "We'll have to cling together for warmth."

Shunsui thought about that. He smiled. "Of course, as long as you totally understand that we are just clinging onto each other's naked bodies . . . for warmth."

"Oh, absolutely," Jyuushirou agreed. "I certainly wouldn't be holding onto you for any reason other than for . . . warmth."

"Right." Shunsui waded over to inspect the proposed perch. "So who gets the bark in their --"

The sound of female voices was getting closer. Jyuushirou made frantic hushing gestures. Shunsui stood still and tried to look like a tree stump.

"I tell you it's a duck!" came one voice. "I distinctly heard it quacking!"

"My dear Okano," another voice declared, "I am quite certain that it was a swan. I'm sure I saw a hint of its magnificent white feathers through the willow leaves earlier."

Jyuushirou sank deeper into the water.

"We're doomed," Shunsui whispered, and tried to decide what angle would be least mortifying to be found at. "Wait. I have an idea."

Jyuushirou raised his eyebrows hopefully.

"We do flash step. We'll be going so fast they won't be able to see us."

"But we haven't done that yet," Jyuushirou hissed. "We've only done the theory."

"Don't worry," Shunsui said confidently, crossing his fingers under the water. "We'll be so fired up by adrenalin and necessity that we'll make the mental breakthrough and develop it on the spot."

"Are you sure?"

"It's that or try and look like ducks. Sorry. Swans."

Jyuushirou took a deep breath. "All right. Ready. Calm?"

"Calm."

"Focused?"

"Focused."

"Three, two, one -- go!"

The screams could be heard all the way to Rukongai.

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