improper speech

"I have called you here on a matter of some delicacy," Rukia's honoured elder brother said, refilling her cup of tea.

Rukia promptly panicked. Which of her many deliquencies had come to light? Did they know about the incident with Ukitake-taichou and the sword-polishing? Or the shoujo manga? Or the gothloli dresses she'd commissioned from Ishida? "Yes, honoured elder brother," she murmured, and tried not to tremble too obviously.

"About . . . a relationship," he continued.

It couldn't be her relationship with Ichigo. She kicked Ichigo in the head often enough to satisfy even the most rigid upholder of aristocratic priviledge.

Wait. Could he have arranged a marriage for her?

"Yes, honoured elder brother?" she whimpered.

"I require your advice," her honoured elder brother said coldly, his eyes fixed on a spot over her right shoulder. "Regarding the handling of Abarai Renji."

Rukia's worldview took an abrupt one hundred and eighty degree turn. She'd thought that her honoured elder brother knew precisely how to handle Renji. Slap him round the head whenever he did something stupid, and give him a candy when he did something clever. It had always worked for her, anyhow, and she'd never yet had to give him a candy.

"He fails to take suggestions," her honoured elder brother said, a note of exasperation entering his voice. "I have made them. He has not responded to them. Rukia, you are closer -- that is, your relationship with him is on a different level to mine. Has he not yet recovered from the battles during the ryoka affair? Could there have been brain damage?"

Rukia frowned. "Honoured elder brother, might your innocent younger sister ask what type of suggestions, in case she has entirely misunderstood your intent?"

"Specific suggestions," her honoured elder brother said. "Though I flatter myself that I have used all proper forms of courtesy and subtlety in extending them. I would not wish to embarrass him by using the style and tone of his unfortunate origins."

"Ah." Rukia took a sip of her tea while trying to think of what to say and how to say it. "Might your younger sister possibly see an example of these specific suggestions? You will understand that naturally she has no personal experience of such things."

"Of course not," her honoured elder brother agreed in a way that suggested he had never heard about Shiba Kaien's lessons in You're A Cute Little Thing, Rukia, So Here's The Stuff That Men Will Try To Tell You To Get Into Your Pants, or his wife's follow-up course in And Here's How To Handle It If You Want To Let Them. He reached behind him, and passed across a set of folded notes.

Rukia's brows rose. "These are the originals?" she asked.

"Of course not," her honoured elder brother said. "They are the copies which my secretary kept as per standard office procedure."

Rukia opened the notes and began to read.

There was a pause.

Finally, she said, "Honoured elder brother, your writing style is naturally classical and elegant, as one would expect."

Her honoured elder brother simply raised an eyebrow, inviting further comment.

"However," she continued, "I think the grace and fluidity of your eloquence may possibly have confused Renji, since grace and fluidity and eloquence are not his strongest points. For instance, this one --" She held up one note. "When you refer to a desire to 'raid the stored jewel-box of your eyes till their deep obsidian is mirrored with the panting scarlet of your shivering hair', or to 'embrace your temple spire of lust until your deep release echoes the manly passion of my fervent soul', it is conceivable that these flowers of speech were wasted on him."

Her honoured elder brother looked down his nose at her. "Those phrases come from the highest poetical canon. Nothing could be more seemly."

"No, honoured elder brother," Rukia agreed docilely. "And as to this one, when you say that 'each hour of longing will be an eternity, each eternity an age, and each age a kalpa, until at last you lie within the hot and heaving hollow of my arms, laving my fervid body with the sweet magic of your untutored tongue, spending your essence upon the silk sheets', I suspect that he failed to understand the symmetry of your rhetoric."

"Indeed," her honoured elder brother replied, looking suddenly weary. "He inquired whether I meant that he had been late for a staff meeting."

"I see." Rukia put the papers down. "If your younger sister might be permitted to make a suggestion?"

Her honoured elder brother waved a hand. "That was indeed why I invited you to take tea with me."

"It seems to your younger sister that you have two possible choices, honoured elder brother." Rukia folded her hands. "The first choice is that you have Renji tutored in poetic simile and metaphor. The problem with this choice is that it might take several years."

"And the second choice?"

Rukia lowered her eyes modestly. "I believe that if you truly wish to convey your intentions to him, honoured elder brother, then you should seize him by his muscular shoulders, strip the clothing from his willowy body until his marble-white skin and his flowing tattoos are bathed in lamplight, then place your lips against his and thrust your tongue into his mouth, while at the same time clasping him firmly in your arms and agitating your body vigorously against his, running your fingers through his flowing ruby locks, pressing your lower parts against his lower parts, and . . ."

She was aware of a certain lowering of the metaphorical temperature on the other side of the tea set.

"Of course, honoured elder brother," she said with a light and unconvincing laugh, "you will appreciate that all of this is purely in the realm of speculation, and that your maidenly younger sister is quite innocent of all such things. Especially with Abarai Renji."

"She'd better be," her honoured elder brother muttered.

Rukia kept her eyes down. It was much safer than looking up.

Her honoured elder brother pondered, and finally came to a decision. "Thank you for your advice, Rukia. I appreciate your crude, simplistic attempts to help me. Your sympathy is well-meant, even if your standards of poetic criticism require improvement."

"Yes, honoured elder brother," Rukia murmured, keeping her eyes lowered.

"You may leave now," her honoured elder brother said. "And on your way out, send in Renji. He is waiting in the corridor outside."

"Yes, honoured elder brother," Rukia said, shuffling to her feet and out through the door before he could ask her to look at any more love letters.

Renji was indeed standing there, managing to raise looking bored to new heights. "Hst, Rukia!" he whispered as soon as she'd shut the door. "What does Kuchiki-taichou want me for?"

Rukia considered him. She reached out and pulled his hairtie loose. His hair cascaded down over his shoulders. With a quick twitch of her fingers, she widened the opening of his jacket.

"Oi!" Renji slapped her fingers away. "Why're you doing that?"

"Kuchiki-taichou wants to see you," she muttered. "It's urgent. You want to show him that you arrived in a hurry, right?"

"Well . . ." Renji hesitated. "Normally he likes to see me looking neater than this."

"Trust me," Rukia said urgently, "you need to run in there and throw yourself at his feet and ask what you can do for him. Get it?"

"Got it," Renji said, rather confused.

"Good," Rukia said. She heaved open the door, shoved Renji into the room, and slammed it shut.

Then she left.

This seemed like a good moment to be very demonstrably somewhere else for a few hours.