A Time for Love

Nanao Ise felt her face flush bright red when the captain of Squad Six entered the office. She would never admit to anyone that she found him quite handsome. Dealing with the Captain she had proved troublesome yet manageable. The calm demeanor of the stoic Squad Six Captain was something that she admired to her very soul: vowing to keep it tucked deep inside, she hoped that she could face him without her admiration making a fool of her.

"Forgive the intrusion, Lieutenant Ise, but I wish to speak to your Captain. Would he happen to be around?"

It was an unusual question, for the man was more than capable of sensing whether or not Captain Kyoraku was there or not.

She pushed her glasses further up the bridge of her nose. "Yes, he happens to be in the squad kitchen with Captain Ukitake - I've no idea what they might be doing, however. He certainly is not in his office, where he's supposed to be working on his mountain of paperwork," she let her ire creep in just a bit.

They bowed politely to each other, and Captain Byakuya Kuchiki left the furiously-blushing Lieutenant Nanao Ise as she made an attempt to calm herself.

Captain Kuchiki was trying to determine how to best ask the difficult and rather personal question of one of the oldest Captains of the Soul Society. Pausing just inside the kitchen doorway, he halted at the unusual sight he had stumbled upon.

Jyuushiro Ukitake, Captain of Squad Thirteen, was sitting on a counter top. The Captain of Squad Eight was tucked between his dangling legs, his large hands planted on the counter top on either side of the white-haired captain. They were laughing quietly together, noses almost touching. Ukitake's legs came up to wrap around the standing man's hips.

"I do wish you'd let me help with that, Shun, I feel silly and guilty just sitting here."

"But you look so cute like that, Jyuu-chan." The larger man turned back to the stove to stir something that had started to bubble in one of the many pots on the hot surface.

Clearing his throat, Byakuya advanced into the room. Two sets of eyes glanced in his direction and suddenly Ukitake's face began to redden, knowing that he had seen them in such an intimate position.

"I...umm, Kuchiki-san," he stopped when Byakuya held up a hand.

"No explanation needed, Ukitake-san, your..." he paused briefly, "...relationship with Captain Kyoraku is most likely the worst-kept secret in the whole of the Seireitei."

Shunsui Kyoraku let out a short bark of a laugh. "Worst kept secret," he sputtered slightly, "ah, Bya-kun, I'll have to remember that one!"

Noting the minute wincing on the young noble's face, Jyuushiro jabbed Shunsui sharply in the ribs with the closest elbow.

"What can we do to help you, Kuchiki-san?" he asked.

Clearing his throat nervously, Byakuya began, "actually, I need to ask something of you, Captain Kyoraku."

"Oh?" Shunsui's eyebrows shot upward in surprise.

Sensing that it was something that it was none of his business, Jyuushiro hopped off the counter and began inspecting something mysterious and unseen on the other side of the room.

"How can I help you, Byakuya-san?" His voice still held a teasing tone, but he was outwardly more respectful of the younger Captain's pride.

"I fear I must ask you a rather personal question."

"Go ahead," Shunsui said, trying to encourage the young man to explain.

"I..." his eyes shifted to the side, "what, or rather how do you really feel towards Lieutenant Ise?"

Shunsui managed to keep his laughter in check as he focused on Byakuya's face.

"She's my precious Nanao-chan."

"I see, well, thank you." The expensive scarf flowed outward as he turned quickly.

Shunsui grabbed an elbow to stop the young Captain from leaving. "Byakuya, why do you want to know?

A bit shocked by the rough treatment, Byakuya narrowed his steel gray eyes. "I merely wished to know how your relationship stands. It's quite dishonorable, the way you carry on around her."

"So you're defending her? Against me?" Shunsui turned and went back to the stove. "Or is it, Bya-kun, that you're interested in her, and are trying to find out if I ever intend to follow through on my lavish behavior?" He resorted to the nickname, feeling a tad spiteful.

Embarrassed that he'd been found out so quickly, Byakuya's face turned a pale shade of pink. "Yes, Kyoraku-san."

"It's about damn time you started showing interest in someone. It's been an awful long time since Hisana's passing." He had said that part a little loudly to let Jyuushiro know it was safe to return to that side of the kitchen.

"Byakuya-san, I think it's safe to say that for all of Shunsui's bluster, when it comes to his Lieutenant, he's quite content with the relationship that he's in."

Byakuya's jaw dropped slightly, and he wondered how Captain Ukitake had heard the conversation on the other side of the room.

Ukitake saw the flash of surprise cross the young Captain's face. "You're wondering how I know what was going on, yes?" Byakuya nodded. "This room has an odd auditory effect, even a whisper can be heard anywhere in the room. It's a little known fact because: one," he held up a finger, "it's a kitchen, so it's rarely this quiet, and: two," he held up a second finger and grinned, "I'm just sly that way." He boosted himself back onto the counter top.

"Is that sauce done yet, Shun?"

Once he got over the initial shock, curiosity overcame the usually-lofty Captain.

"What are you doing in the kitchen anyway, Captain Kyoraku? I had no idea you could cook."

Ukitake made a motion with his hand to indicate the two of them. "We both can, although I had to learn because I came from a large family and it saved time that way."

"And you, Kyoraku-san?" Byakuya asked,

"I didn't need to or anything, at least until I joined the Academy and had to do some cooking whilst out on missions." He paused to taste the sauce he was stirring. "I just got inspired to learn one day."

"Please enlighten me, you've piqued my curiosity."

"Well, ya see," he drawled, "I was moping around the family compound after being turned down by another lovely young lady, when one of the old grannies walks up to me, grabs my ear, pulls me down to her level, and tells me, 'if you really wish to impress a young lady, learn to cook: she'll be much more impressed by that than the size of your manhood'." He held the spoon out for Ukitake to taste the sauce. "So I marched right up to the family chef and demanded he give me cooking lessons."

"The sauce needs just a pinch more sugar, Shunsui."

"Hmm. Yes it does! Anyway, I never regretted those lessons, especially when we were out on missions. Gods, do you remember some of those campfire meals, Jyuu? They were horrible."

Ukitake nodded and began to swing his legs against the cabinets.

"And you didn't take action against the old woman for treating you like that, or what she said to you?"

This time it was Shunsui's turn to look shocked at Byakuya's callous remark. "Typical noble mentality," he muttered.

"You are also from a noble family, Kyoraku-san," Byakuya stated.

"Yeah, but I'm just a second son, I got away with a lot of crap. According to my older brother, there's nothing more useless than a second son, it's one son too many." He scowled slightly. "Besides, what she said was true."

"Now, if you'd be so kind as to get the hell out of my kitchen, and go ask my Lieutenant on a date, I'd be ever so grateful." Shunsui smiled smugly.

Taking that cue, Byakuya left, and immediately headed back to Squad Eight's office.

Not caring if they were spotted following, the two older Captains slipped through the shadows to see if they could catch the answer from Nanao.

Seeing that she nodded in agreement, Shunsui sighed dramatically. "My Nanao-chan's all grown up."

"Don't be silly, she's not your child, Shunsui, and it was bound to happen eventually."

"Still, I watched her grow up, Jyuu. I feel suddenly old."

"That's because you are," Ukitake teased. "We're better suited for each other."

"Yeah, you're right I suppose."

"Shun! The pastries."


They arrived just in time to save them from burning.

"Now, to top them with the sauce you made, and we'll have a perfect dessert."

"I'd rather have you." Shunsui's eyebrows wiggled suggestively.

"But, it's dessert..." Ukitake whined mildly and made a pouty face.

Shunsui gave up and began to feed small portions of the sweet to Ukitake