Author's Note: Bleach isn't mine.

Note: Genshu is the Japanese word refering to a particular type of sake that has not been watered down to reduce alcohol content. So, it's really, really strong sake. XD

One more file, one more form, one signature required from one Kyoraku-taichou and then she was finished. Then she would go home and have a long bath and read another chapter in the book she had borrowed from Rangiku; one about passion and forbidden romance in the Rukongai.

Her captain had surprised her earlier by offering to stay and help her with some of the mundane paperwork he otherwise avoided like the plague; she guessed he had ulterior motives or at very most a lack of anything better to do. She dismissed him harshly, insisting she could better finish it herself without him there to, in all honesty, distract her. She flagged the top of a page with a yellow post-it for her captain's convenience, so that he could skip all the boring bits of the report and get straight to the portion that needed to be reviewed and signed.

There. Now she would just put papers needing her captain's attention in his inbox, tidy her desk, water the plants and lock up for the night.

Then, freedom. Or something like it.

She should have known there would be complications. She should have known he would sweep in at the last minute, a blaze of pink glory.

"Taichou, I was just on my way home," she tried explaining, pointing helplessly toward the door.

"Nanao-chan, look what I found!" he exclaimed, ignoring her. He thrust forward a bundle of blankets.

Nanao's eyes widened. "Sir, is that an infant?"

He paused, momentarily confused. "What? No. My Nanao-chan is silly." He plucked at a corner of the swaddling to reveal the head of a small kitten.

"It's a cat," she noted.

"It is a precious kawaii kitten," he corrected, pulling the bundle toward him and cradling it against his broad chest. "I've named her Genshu," he proclaimed, rubbing the kitten's head between her ears with the tip of his forefinger. "We'll have to raise her here at the division, so she can be familiar with both her mother and father."

Nanao blinked. "I'm sorry?"

"We'll keep her food and water dishes in the kitchen, and she can have a little bed in our office, near the couch and she and daddy can nap together, and when she is hungry, I will send her over to mommy and you will feed her warm goat's milk in a saucer until she is old enough to eat real food."

"Mommy?" Nanao repeated.

Kyoraku glanced up, away from his precious cargo for a mere second. "Well of course. It's only right to assume that since I am Genshu's daddy, you then are her mommy."

Nanao's eyebrows twitched slightly at his logic, and she bit her lower lip. Something stirred inside her that she didn't quite want to examine; something that was overwhelming her with the need to smile.

"We can't keep it," she said, squashing the feeling ruthlessly.

Her captain looked up at her with the saddest most pathetic expression she had ever seen in her entire life. She even had to look away to avoid the entrancing abilities of his dark, deep, sad, chocolate brown eyes. "But Nanao-chan," he disputed, voice small. "She needs us."

"The office is not a suitable home for an animal."

"Nonsense. There is almost always someone lurking about; and she'll be quiet, I can tell; she is serene and focused like her mother." He shifted the bundle, and gazed at the cat fondly. "Plus, you could use the company when you hang around here late at night."

"I would rather you just do your paperwork so I wouldn't have to stay late to finish it for you," she muttered, but the words passed over him ineffectively.

"How could you possibly say no to this face?" he exclaimed, extending the kitten toward her.

The blankets had fallen away enough for her to see that the small animal was tiny enough for her captain to hold in one hand, his fingers curling to keep the curious entity from wandering too far.

Inquiring blue eyes blinked slowly at her.

"She's so young," Nanao whispered.

"Yare," he stepped closer, the kitten comfortably tucked in the space between them. "Her mother must have abandoned her. I found her in the street on my way back from Jyuushiro's."

"She can't be older than three weeks."

He hummed his agreement, and when he dipped his head, a stray strand of his hair brushed against her forehead.

She cleared her throat and eyed the cat critically. "It's a wonder she's survived this long."

He shook his head slightly. "I'm not surprised. She's a fighter. Tough as nails that one." His free hand lifted and he ran a finger down the kitten's spine, eliciting an appreciative squawk from the cat.

Nanao's hand rose as if on its own accord to tickle the kitten's chin. She had to commend the creature for enduring on its own, at least long enough for her captain and his big heart to happen across it.

It wasn't the first time he had taken a fancy to a stray, she mused, remembering her own origins.

"But as strong as she is, she needs a home and someone to look out for her," he murmured. The hand that had stroked the kitten lifted to stroke his vice captain's cheek. "She may think she can survive by herself, but even the strongest people need someone to depend on."

Nanao looked away, trying her best to imagine herself anywhere other than where she was in that moment; trapped under the stare of one Kyoraku Shunsui, her captain and caregiver for as many years as she had known him.

"I think you meant to say cats," she offered weakly, turning her face to deter his touch. His fingers brushed along her jaw as his hand slipped away.

He said nothing, but she was translating his silence well enough for him that he had no need to say anything at all. He had a way of doing that; making her think she was thinking for herself, but he had put the ideas there himself, because he knew she'd never listen to his advice if he voiced it out loud.

"Genshu is a stupid name," Nanao said after a long pause.

"She's spunky, like strong sake," he replied plaintively.

She rolled her eyes. "I need to feed her and get her warm," she said, glancing up at her captain.

"I'll stay with her here tonight," he offered, delicately folding the blankets around Genshu like an envelope.

Nanao's hand hesitantly touched his arm, stilling his movement. "I'll stay with you."

The kitten was momentarily forgotten as they watched one another; sharing secrets that had never really been secrets. He looked like there was a question on his lips, one she was sure she had heard before, whether from him or from herself she couldn't remember anymore. Maybe both.

"Are you sure?"

She felt like she wasn't sure of anything anymore. But maybe that wasn't such a bad thing. She'd find someone to lean on if she ever needed help surviving.

"I'm her mother; she needs me," Nanao said by way of explanation, quickly turning away to busy herself with finding the kitten a bed and a heat lamp, and to avoid seeing the goofy grin that she had no doubt was spreading across her captain's face.

One that, no doubt, matched her own.

His free arm hooked around her waist before she could get very far, and she was pulled back against him. Before she could try to escape, however, his hand that was cradling the young kitten settled in front of her and she blinked at the small ball of fur who was gazing at her fondly. "Daddy needs his Nanao-chan, too."

She relaxed for a mere moment, her body language telling him what her words would not. She knew he understood, because he was still wearing a silly smile when she plucked the kitten from his grasp and pushed her way out of his embrace, scolding him venomously.

"Your father is an idiot," she said to the cat, cradling it close to her bosom.

Genshu squawked complacently.

So did Shunsui.

Author's Note: /stupid grin