lost in transit

Ichimaru Gin was severely irritated. He knew that it showed in the way that he paced and the line of his smile, and it amused him coldly when the lesser Arrancar scrabbled out of the way or cowered in the shadows.

This was not how he'd planned for things to go at all.

"It looks," Aizen said mildly, "like a crate. An empty crate. To be precise, an empty crate with my address on it that was sealed but that was then broken open."

Gin smiled hopefully. "Well, Captain, ya see, it kind of got . . . misdelivered."

"Misdelivered," Aizen said.

"Yeah," Gin said. "Spite of all the instructions I gave -- real careful instructions, too -- instead of getting sent to my private quarters, it ended up in the Espada meeting room."

"Ah," Aizen said.

Gin could feel the rope being laid out for him to hang himself with. But keeping silent wouldn't make things any better. At least he'd already eviscerated the subordinates who'd managed to send it astray. "And, see, Captain, the Espada all assumed that it was personal presents for them."

Aizen was silent.

"Or they say that's what they assumed," Gin added. "Which makes it kinda hard to prove otherwise, short of painful torture."

"Let us leave the painful torture for the moment," Aizen said, in a tone that suggested it could be brought up later in the context of Gin himself, should Aizen feel so inclined. "Who took what?"

Gin smiled hopefully at the battered crate, as if that might make it sprout all its contents again. "Well, ah. I think Grimmjow got the beef."

"The Kobe beef?" Aizen said wearily.

"The very same," Gin said brightly, then recalled a second later that this might be the wrong moment to be bright and chirpy.

"Right," Aizen said. "And the absinthe?"

"That one's a real pity," Gin said. He regretted the absinthe. It had been green, which made a nice change from all the black and white. As it was, the only other things round Hueco Mundo that were green these days were the gall bladders in the experimental subjects in Szayel Apollo's laboratories. "Ulquiorra went off with that. Said he wanted to drink it on his own in gloomy melancholy. Totally wasted on him, if you ask me."

"And let me guess," Aizen said. "The rest of the alcohol gravitated to Stark and Barragan."

"Best display of speed I've seen since the last time you had them all trying to kill each other," Gin agreed.

"The artwork?"

"Ah, that one was Zommari. Said he wanted to contemplate his boundless love for his Aizen-sama."

Aizen looked a trifle disturbed at that.

"He took the nature pictures too," Gin added. "I saw him fondling the pumpkin ones."

"Let us leave the squashes," Aizen said firmly. "And all the other vegetables. What about the . . . implements?"

"Which implements?" Gin said innocently.

"The . . . mild implements," Aizen said delicately.

"Ah. Harribel and her fraccions took those."

"The . . . moderate implements."

"Harribel and her fraccions took those too," Gin said, less cheerfully.

"The . . . very extreme implements."

Gin scratched the back of his head while not meeting Aizen's gaze. "I'm guessing that Harribel and her fraccions might kinda have some idea of where those ones are too, Aizen-taichou."

"The rubber ducky," Aizen said hopefully.

Gin jerked his thumb in the direction of the personal quarters of Espada Numero Three and her fraccions.

Aizen sighed. "I suppose it would be too much to hope that the cannabis, the LSD, the cocaine . . ."

"Aaroniero," Gin supplied. "I've put up an all points bulletin that nobody's to go near his quarters for the next week."

"The scented oils?"

"Nnoitora walked off with those, Aizen-taichou. Saying something about how he planned to rub them slowly into his muscles."

"The scientific texts and tomes of forbidden arcane knowledge?" Aizen said, with an expression that suggested he already knew the answer.

"Szayel Apollo Grantz," Gin replied on cue. "He was panting and rubbing his hands together in a real unsavoury way, too."

"The silk scarves and leather restraints?"

"Ah." Gin studied the ceiling. "Ya might want to ask Tousen Kaname 'bout those, Aizen-taichou."

Aizen looked gloomily at the empty crate.

"Oh, and Yammi took the plastic packing peanuts," Gin added. "I think he plans to stick them up his nose."

"Gin," Aizen said, in a tone which combined splendid ominous threat with menacing clarity. "Do you realise just how much I have just been disappointed, because of you?"

Gin swallowed. Now was his last chance. Everything was to win or lose on this roll of the dice. "But, Aizen-taichou . . ."

"Yes?"

"I saved your tea." He held out the small box of tea bricks.

Aizen's face slowly cleared, and the thunderclouds simmering in his reiatsu drained away. He took the box. "Ah, Gin. How very faithful and loyal of you to know what I truly needed."

Gin relaxed.

"Come by my quarters later for painful torture," Aizen added as he turned away.

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