Author's Note: I apologize for the wait- I was at the Anime North convention this weekend and couldn't get the chapter done for Sunday... then I just procrastinated.


"Kotetsu-san, when you're finished with Hisagi, Renji just passed out from blood loss," Kira stated, his voice seemingly bored and his eyelids heavy with fatigue.

"Keep applying pressure, please," Isane directed, trying to divide her attention between giving instructions and healing the enormous gash in Shuuhei's side. "I'm nearly finished here," she said, mostly to herself.

"That was pretty epic though, don't you think?" Rangiku commented, grinning.

"If you call epic both of our friends nearly killing each other, then sure," Kira muttered.

"Hey- at least Shuuhei released Kazeshini."

"Guys, can we focus here for a second? Bring me those bandages over there," Isane requested, vaguely pointing to a pile of medical supplies that she had had the good foresight to bring with her. Generally, whenever Renji came to her with a request, she knew to bring lots and lots of bandages. She felt Rangiku place the roll of linen bandages in her hand, but didn't look up. Most of her attention was required to keep the high level healing Kidou spell in effect, and she feared that if she took her eyes off of Shuuhei's solemnly unconscious face she might lose her concentration entirely.

Happy to help when the spell had done its work, Rangiku propped Shuuhei up, allowing Isane to wrap his middle and keep the significantly shallower wound from opening again.

"How is Renji doing?" Isane called over to Kira.

He glanced down at the redhead whose head was pillowed on his thigh. "Still out."

Isane sighed. "Well, Hisagi should be waking up shortly, and he's going to be in a lot of pain. He can't stand up right away, so don't let him. There's some pain medication in that bag over there, but make sure he only takes two tablets—he's lost too much blood to be able to handle anything more than that."

Rangiku nodded her understanding and went to sit next to her friend and wait for him to awaken.

Isane shifted her attention to Renji and she frowned sympathetically. Kazeshini had shown no mercy, and it had surprised everyone- least of all Renji, who was caught completely unprepared for the dual blade's myriad of attacks.

Of course, Renji had Bankai, and the damage was reciprocated.

Now they both lay in shambles, and Isane was left to fix it.

She summoned up her reiatsu and a gentle green glow surrounded Renji's slashed up body.


"Kuchiki."

Byakuya glanced up from the papers on his desk, brow furrowing slightly at the intrusion and also with surprise at his visitor. "Hitsugaya."

"Where is Abarai-fukutaichou?"

"The morning is his. I believe he is visiting with my sister—I saw them together a short while ago."

"Kuchiki." The boy's voice was stern. "Where is Abarai?"

Byakuya narrowed his eyes. "What, pray tell, is your interest in the whereabouts of my lieutenant?"

"My interest is less in that than it is in your considerable lack of interest; how out of character for you, Kuchiki-taichou."

Byakuya bristled. "Hardly so. Abarai does not require my constant supervision, regardless of reckless and irresponsible he may be. Of course, I understand how you may think otherwise, as your situation calls for a considerably… different tactic."

Hitsugaya scowled. Though it was true that Matsumoto had a wild streak to her, he would hardly tolerate Kuchiki's belittlement of his lieutenant. "Your opinions of Matsumoto-fukutaichou are hardly called for. If I could, I would like to banish her name from the rest of this conversation—unfortunately she plays an essential part in the reason for my inquiry."

Byakuya gave him a look which begged explanation.

"Where," he ground out for a third time, "Is Abarai?"

The taller captain rose from his seat and settled his gaze steadily on his colleague. "Where is Matsumoto?"

They eyed each other for a moment, trying to reach an understanding.

"Do you condone it?" Hitsugaya finally asked, hoping Byakuya had been able to read his silence correctly.

"I do not. Not only does it breech protocol, but it is completely asinine in execution."

Hitsugaya grit his teeth. "He's a logical solution, as is your own lieutenant."

Byakuya was wise to stay quiet in his opinion, as it seemed the passionate young captain was not to be deterred in his thought.

"Do you condemn it?"

The barest hint of a smile passed over Byakuya's face. "Hitsugaya-taichou, I assure you, if I were to have condemned my fukutaichou's actions, he would be scrubbing the barracks floors rather than out gallivanting with your own troublesome vice."

He couldn't disagree with that—both in the sense that Byakuya must have been lenient in this case, as he had made no attempt to stop the handful of young lieutenants, and that Matsumoto was a heavy handed trouble seeker if he ever did see one.


Shuuhei awoke with a heavy groan. He swiped the back of his hand over his eyes and proceeded to wince at the full-body pain it had caused him to do so. "Gods…"

"You're an idiot."

He squinted and peered at the offending person under the visor made of the hand he was too afraid to replace at his side. "Isane?"

"Yes, it's me."

"You should really work on your bedside mannerisms."

"I'll work on it when I'm actually on duty—on my days off I take every liberty to call an idiot an idiot when I see him." She was sitting cross legged next to him, looking as though she had been watching him in sleep for quite some time; something he would have felt very self-conscious about if it wasn't for the fact that he was sure she was only there because she had been the gracious one who had made his pain significantly less than it had once been. Unfortunately he had been deliriously unconscious in those moments so in his frame of reference, he hurt like fuck now, and it was miserable.

Such as it was, he wasn't in a state of mind to take her comments about his stupidity to heart. He simply groaned and closed his eyes.

"Renji's still unconscious," she said, despite the fact that it looked like he couldn't have cared less. "Kazeshini did quite a number on him."

Shuuhei scowled. "I warned him—that jackass. Don't try to make this out to be my fault—he would have obliterated me if Kazeshini hadn't…" He winced, irritated by a sharp pain in his side.

"Ah yes," Isane noted, but she didn't bother to move except to get a better look at the wound that was causing him such strife. "That was a particularly deep one. I wouldn't squirm around if I were you—Kazeshini leaves a very difficult bite to heal."

Shuuhei grunted. "You mean Zabimaru."

"No, I mean Kazeshini. Zabimaru did this;" she poked hard on one of his ribs, causing him to cry out.

"Shit, Isane, that hurt!"

"See the difference?" she quipped, her voice annoyingly light and cheery. "That is a broken rib, or it was. I've healed the bone, but it will hurt for a couple days. This here-" she ran a light finger over the closed up wound on his side that started on his back and curled around his torso just above his hip bone, "is a severe laceration."

He winced. "Yeah, so?"

Isane just smiled.

"You're infuriating."

"I know."

He wanted to roll over and ignore her, but he had a feeling it would cause him an astounding amount of pain—something he wasn't willing to face at that given moment. Instead he observed her quietly, trying to ignore the smug look of amusement on her face.

"So who had the foresight to call you again?"

"Renji," she replied. "He had the good sense to flatter me until I had no other choice."

Shuuhei snorted. "Flattery is how he gets most of what he wants. You shouldn't appease him so, `Sane."

Isane grinned at the nickname. It had been a while since she had heard him use it—not since she had been promoted to lieutenant shortly after he had resumed his position as vice captain of the ninth. It made her grin to know he still thought of her like he had when they attended academy together years and years ago. "It's a good thing I did this time—if I hadn't been around you and Renji would be dead."

Shuuhei winced. "It was really that bad?"

"Brutal," she assured him. "I couldn't see very well for all the dust, but we could all hear (and quite clearly) the two of you scream when Kazeshini outsmarted you."

Shuuhei jerked forward, trying to sit up, but cried out instead, lowering himself back down. "What are you talking about?" he hissed.

"Don't act like you don't know. You weren't about to release Kazeshini on Renji, Shuuhei. I know you too well to believe that. Kazeshini released himself."

"That's impossible," he spat. "Do you honestly think I have that little control over my own zanpakutou?"

Isane bit down on her lower lip to keep from commenting, but the incredulous look on her face couldn't be hidden.

Shuuhei grunted.

"Renji said he never even heard you say its name," Isane whispered.

"It was a little more complicated than it looked, okay? Don't go assuming I don't know what I'm doing, alright?"

Isane laughed lightly. "Of any of us, Shuuhei, I expect you to know what you're doing."


Kira watched from as distance as Shuuhei and Isane conversed, an exchange which eventually devolved into Isane laughing and Shuuhei scowling at her with a positively acidic look on his face.

He turned with a sigh back to Rangiku who was sitting quietly in reflection beside Renji, who was still unconscious; bandages covering most of his bare torso.

"Hisagi woke up," he informed, and he saw the blonde's shoulders sag with relief.

"I've never seen anything like that before."

Kira quirked an eyebrow. "You used to cut yourself with your zanpakutou all the time."

"Hey, it's a freaking cloud of ash, okay? It's hard not to get cut. I still do, every now and then." She absent-mindedly scratched a recent scar on her arm. "I meant about what Renji said before he passed out… about how Shuu-san didn't verbally release Kazeshini."

Kira chewed on the inside of his cheek. "Perhaps he just didn't hear him. It's hard to hear anything over the roar of Zabimaru."

Rangiku nodded, but she didn't look convinced. There was something about the look on Renji's face when he came stumbling away from the tangle of chains and limbs that was Hisagi – he was genuinely shocked.

Kuchiki-taichou taught his lieutenant a number of things, and one of them was to always expect the unexpected—expect, despite trend, that your opponent will always perform the least likely action, and then you will be prepared for it.

The worst of it, however, was that although it was shocking that Renji had been surprised by Kazeshini's Shikai form swinging toward his neck, it was all the more disconcerting that Hisagi, too, had been caught entirely off guard.

Rangiku looked up when she heard her name, finding Isane had helped Shuuhei sit up slightly, and he was calling to her.

"Hai, Shuu-san?'

"How is he?"

She looked down at the red-head lying seemingly in peace next to her. "He's fine- just being lazy."

Kira stood and straightened his shitagi. "Someone needs to tell Kuchiki-taichou. Renji is supposed to lead drills this afternoon, and with that much internal bleeding, he'll require at least a day's rest."

Of the remaining conscious members of the group, all of them exchanged hesitant glances between them. The only one of them that was in the least bit not afraid of standing up to Byakuya was currently unconscious, having been quickly patched together by the lieutenant of the fourth on her time off, no less.

"Well, Izuru, he dislikes you the least…" Rangiku started, but Kira's sharp glare cut her off.

"Why don't you do it," he spat back. "This was your idea."

"It was not! If it was anyone's idea, it would have been Renji's!" She turned to Shuuhei. "You're the one who knocked him out, you should tell him."

"He can barely sit up, let alone walk!" Isane defended.

"I'll go."

Isane's eyes widened and she waved her hands in protest. "Hisagi, you can't. You need a few hours of rest your self—and in this state Kuchiki-taichou could glare at you and you might fall over."

"He can do that with a glare even when I'm in perfectly good health." He batted her hands gently away and tried to get up, accepting her frantic attempts to aide him.

"At least let me go with you," she insisted. "I wouldn't be a very good healer if I let my patiently wander away without being properly taken care of."

He tried to protest, but he nevertheless shifted a great deal of his weight on her shoulder. "No one was doubting your abilities, Isane," he assured her.

"Don't let him look you in the eye!" Rangiku called, watching the two of them hobble off toward the sixth. "Be careful!"


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