The Broken Mirror Gambit

Ukitake Juushiro was just about to finish the last sip of his tea when the peace and quiet of his morning break was shattered by a shout across the lake.

"Juuuuuushiro! Juu-chan, I need you!"

Juushiro sighed and set his cup down carefully in front of him, closing his eyes and trying desperately to hold on to one more moment's peaceful contemplation. The weathered boards underneath him that had performed their function for hundreds of years, the lake in front of him that had fed this valley for thousands, the freshness of the spring air, his own breathing, for the moment unlaboured in any way … the heavy tread of his friend's footsteps on the pier. He snapped his eyes open and let his head droop.

"'Round here, Shunsui," he called resignedly, as the pink haori and straw hat appeared around the corner.

"Ah, tea time, I thought I'd find you here," Shunsui said, throwing himself down beside the other captain in a more or less graceful move. Juushiro pushed down his irritation at being deliberately disturbed during his most treasured part of the day and smiled tightly.

"What can I do for you?" he asked pleasantly enough. Shunsui sighed dramatically and slumped against the outer wall of Juushiro's quarters.

"It's Lisa-chan," he cried, allowing the words to hang in the air. Juushiro knew he was supposed to jump in at this point, but took a small amount of pleasure in sitting silently. Shunsui's eyes slid sideways to look at him expectantly, but when no assistance was forthcoming he huffed dramatically and continued, "She's driving me crazy!"

"I thought she was perfect?" Juushiro asked in surprise. He pictured the young dark-haired girl, her chilly demeanour and sudden bursts of outspokenness, her efficiency in the office and her ability to hold her drink. All characteristics that Shunsui had spoken of in loving terms only days before.

"Of course she's perfect! My Lisa-chan could never be anything less!" Shunsui retorted, throwing his hat on the deck so that he could lean back and look at the sky in what he probably considered to be torment. "But, I've discovered …" he paused breathlessly. Juushiro wondered for the hundredth time why this man was his best friend, then for the thousandth time remembered all the wonderful things about Shunsui and held his patience. "She's in love with me!" Shunsui announced with a final flourish.

"And that's a problem because …" Juushiro asked in genuine confusion.

"Juu! She's my lieutenant! It wouldn't be right!" Shunsui said, apparently shocked.

"But you've made such a fuss about being in love with her …" Juushiro murmured, his fuzzy understanding of the situation coming into sharp focus, but feeling that the words should be said anyway.

"I thought I was safe!" Shunsui groaned, throwing himself sideways so that his head landed in Juushiro's lap. Juushiro pulled his hands up out of the way, but then couldn't resist the temptation to lay them on Shunsui's rough hair and play with the loose strands. Stupid man, he thought, and didn't know whether he was referring to Shunsui or himself.

"She seemed like such an icebox," Shunsui continued, "and you know she can drink me under the table to there was no chance of me taking advantage of her drunkenness." Shunsui turned so that his face looked up into Juushiro's. "But then yesterday day she dropped a pen." Juushiro waited for a moment, expecting more, then laughed.

"She dropped a pen and that's how you know she's in love with you?" he asked in disbelief.

"Nooo, the way she picked it up is how I know." A slight flush crept across Shunsui's cheeks. "You know she wears that short kimono …" Juushiro nodded. "When she bent down to pick up the pen, she wasn't wearing anything underneath." Juushiro bit his lip in amusement at Shunsui's obvious discomfort. "And then she gave me this look over her shoulder. Juuuuuuu," he dragged the vowel out in a whine, "I searched her desk after and she has all these hentai manga."

"You searched her desk?" Juushiro asked, amazed at such casual invasion of a subordinate's privacy. Shunsui's mind was only on one thing, though, and he refused to be distracted.

"It's terrible, you don't know what happens to the women in those magazines, it's so degrading to the fairer sex." Shunsui shuddered sympathetically and rolled again so that his face was buried in Juushiro's stomach. One more roll and we'll all be in trouble, Juushiro thought.

"And now you want my help getting out of the mess you've created purely through your own idiotic behaviour?" he asked, not unkindly. One brown eye emerged from the folds of his white haori.

"Please? Juushiro, I'll never ask you anything again, I'll be good from now on, I swear," came the muffled reply from his lap.

"Have you tried just telling her you're not interested?" Juushiro asked, already knowing the answer but going through the motions anyway. Shunsui bolted upright, every line of his body screaming that he'd been terribly offended.

"Me? Tell a lady that I don't love her? Impossible!" he cried. "I do love Lisa-chan, dearly, I can't possibly break her heart." Juushiro sighed once more and looked out over the lake.

"So it's the broken mirror gambit?" he asked tiredly.

"It's been a long time," Shunsui said, finally allowing a smile to light up his face

That was how it so happened that when Lisa left the mess hall after lunch and took her usual route to the office, she spotted her captain standing under a picturesque copse of cherry trees. The trees were in full bloom, and soft pink petals drifted gently past the captain. Lisa walked purposefully towards the trees, undeterred by the sight in front of her.

"It's been a long time, Shiro-chan," the captain said, staring deeply into the eyes of the white-haired man he held in his arms. Captain Ukitake blushed the softest shade of pale pink, almost matching the cherry blossoms above him.

"Too long, Shun-chan. My heart has ached for you, my love," he murmured, allowing his fine, white hands to wander up over the strong chest of the taller man.

"Mine too, with equal pain." He stroked Ukitake's cheek with one calloused hand and let it tangle in his long white hair. "How did we end up like this, two halves of the same soul?"

"Two shattered pieces of the same mirror," said Ukitake, gasping as his lips met Shunsui's in a long, perfect kiss. After a few minutes Lisa cleared her throat. The two men broke the kiss and looked down at her in apparent surprise, their arms still wrapped around one another.

"I feel like I should keep up fangirl appearances by shouting 'Moe!' and falling over with a nosebleed," she said dryly. The captains looked at each other sideways.

"Lisa-chan," her captain started quickly, but she waved her hands at him dismissively and he closed his mouth with a snap.

"If you weren't interested you only had to say." She pushed her glasses up on her nose with a habitual move common to glasses wearers in both Soul Society and the real world. "Sex is sex, I don't care either way." She turned on her heel, leaving the now-gaping captains behind her. "And don't go through my things," she threw over her shoulder as she marched off.

Juushiro snorted at Lisa's disappearing back, finding it hilarious that Shunsui had been told off exactly the way he deserved to be for his bad behaviour. Shunsui whipped his head around to look at him, horror etched on his features.

"Lisa-chan," he said mournfully.

"I trust you've learned your lesson," Juushiro laughed. "And you can take off those stupid high shoes, you don't need to pretend that you're that much taller than me any more." Shunsui grudgingly stepped off the wooden clogs he'd been wearing. The two captains looked at each other, now almost the same height.

"Don't make passes at girls wearing glasses?" Shunsui asked, seemingly still thinking about his lesson. "I'll never make that mistake again." He automatically gathered Juushiro back against himself. Juushiro let himself be pulled into the embrace.

"It has been a long time," he said, grabbing Shunsui's haori and pulling the other man in for a kiss that was much less picturesque, but much more passionate and satisfying. They stood for several minutes, rediscovering each other as the soft petals drifted past their heedless heads.

"Ahem," came a worried cough from above them. Ukitake looked up to where Kaien sat on the branch of a tree, a basket of cherry blossoms in his arms. "Can I come down now, Captain?" he asked, his cheeks red. Ukitake nodded with a grin and turned back to Shunsui, who was looking at Kaien speculatively.

"That was a great idea, him throwing the petals down," Shunsui said, a glimmer of a plan in his voice.

"Shut up and kiss me, you stupid idiot," was Juushiro's only response. Shunsui proved only too happy to oblige.