Summary: Sequel to "Sister Hotline"; Isane visits Shuuhei to ask about an overheard conversation.
Pairing:
Shuuhei/Isane
Disclaimer:
I make no profit from this, nor do I own Bleach.
Notes: For anubislover, who inspired me to actually write this.

Hisagi Shuuhei was enjoying his first day off since the end of the Winter War. Running a division was hard work, especially when there wasn't anyone to help pick up the slack. He wasn't the captain, of course, not when he hadn't mastered bankai yet (as if he could, considering his zanpakuto spirit), but no one else had been promoted. He was a lieutenant doing his work and the work of a captain and it was hard, damn it. Not only was he swamped with paperwork, he had to train his recruits, make sure everyone in the Ninth was keeping up with their assignments, and oversee the newspaper his division put out.

It was a lot of work, and some days Shuuhei was tempted to snap and break something, but he always stopped himself. In his better moments, he was even proud of himself for managing to bring morale back up. Captain Tousen had been popular, and his defection had hurt more than just him and Captain Komamura, but Division Nine was recovering, which was more than could be said about the Fifth.

Shuuhei winced as he always did when he thought of Fifth Division. Now that was a division in trouble. Aizen had all but ruined them with his defection and then Hinamori had… Well, she wasn't around anymore. They needed help, badly, and hopefully the Captains' Council would realize that now that the war was over. They'd probably take a good long look at his and Kira's divisions, too. Well, good. We both need help.

Resolutely putting his troubles aside, Shuuhei looked around his apartment and pondered what to do with what remained of the rest of his day off. I slept in, had a good meal, and did the laundry. So, now what?

The knock on the door sounded like an answer to his question. Shuuhei opened it without bothering to check the reiatsu to see who it was, so he was more than a little surprised to see Kotetsu Isane wringing her hands.

"Isane," he greeted her. "Come on in." What is she doing here? I know I didn't miss a check-up or anything with Fourth… Shuuhei carefully locked down his reiatsu so the other lieutenant hopefully wouldn't be able to read his emotions.

"Thank you," Isane murmured, still wringing her hands.

"You can sit," Shuuhei invited, grateful that his apartment was actually neat for once, although that was due more to his absence than anything else. "Do you want some tea?"

"Oh, um… I guess? I mean, if it doesn't put you too out of your way," she managed to stammer out.

"It's fine," Shuuhei assured her. "Sit," he repeated, pointing at the couch before moving to the kitchen.

His tea set was plain but serviceable, and he had some decent black tea that had been a gift from Ayasegawa of all people, so he set to boiling water while keeping an ear out towards the main room. He couldn't hear anything, so Isane probably wasn't pacing a hole in his floor. She's certainly nervous, but that tends to be normal for her, so that doesn't mean much. Probably not business, though.

He poured two cups and carried them back out to where Isane was waiting. Despite sitting down, she still appeared rather tense. "Calm down, Isane. I'm not going to eat you," Shuuhei teased, trying to relax his friend.

"Thank you for the tea," Isane murmured, accepting a cup with steady hands despite the nerves made obvious by her reiatsu.

Shuuhei sat down on one of the chairs, casually dragging it over to face the couch. He blew at the scalding tea, waiting for Isane to gather her courage. When she merely sipped at her drink, he cleared his throat. She looked up, blinking, and he realized he really was going to have to drag it out of her. "Not that I'm not happy to see you, Isane, but this visit is kind of unexpected. Was there something you wanted?"

Isane blanched and hastily set the teacup down so she could begin wringing her hands again. "Oh, well… You see, that's…" She paused, attempted to gather herself, and then folded inwards. "Oh, this was such a stupid idea," she moaned, bringing her hands up to hide her face.

Alarmed, Shuuhei set his own cup down and reached across to the other lieutenant. "Isane? Isane, are you all right? Hey, don't hide your face; tell me what's wrong," he prompted, trying to go for soothing. Don't let her be crying. Please, just don't let her be crying.

"It's so stupid," she protested, peeking at him from behind her hands. At least it didn't sound like she was crying. "You're going to laugh at me for getting so worked up about it, or for even bringing it up at all."

"I promise I won't, Isane," Shuuhei told her. Something embarrassing, hmm? I wonder if Kiyone put her up to something.

Isane finally looked up at him and searched his face. Apparently finding whatever assurance she needed, she straightened and faced him head on. Just as Shuuhei realized that whatever Isane had come for was big, she asked him, "Do you like me?"

Shuuhei gaped, floundering for words. I am going to kill someone. I should probably start with Rangiku and Ayasegawa, and from there I can move on to the other morons. "Where did you hear that?" he managed to gasp out, dimly noticing that Isane had flushed red while he was searching for something to say.

"Um… well, you see… Mondays are Everybody-Attack-Your-Captain-Day for Eleventh Division, so they all end up in the hospital by the evening. Well, they end up in the hospital a lot, anyways, so I've come to know some of them fairly well," Isane explained, her hands fidgeting in her lap.

"I can imagine," Shuuhei growled, silently plotting the murder of Ayasegawa and Madarame. It would be painful and humiliating, and he would do his damnedest to reveal the pair's acquisition of bankai during the process, just to add insult to injury.

"And, well… I, um, I overheard Yumichika-san and Ikkaku-san talking with Renji-san when he came to, well, mock them for getting beat up by their captain and… well, um you came up and… I wasn't going to listen, except then they mentioned my name," Isane told him, her blush growing more pronounced the longer she spoke.

"And those morons mentioned something they weren't supposed to ever tell anyone," Shuuhei growled, well able to guess what had happened. "Probably were taking bets on it or something like that."

"Well…" Isane murmured, and that's really all the confirmation Shuuhei needs. "Are you going to answer my question now?" And there's a flash of steel in her eyes, now, so Shuuhei knows she's serious. He's going to have to answer, no matter how much he doesn't want to answer.

That doesn't mean he has to tell the truth. He should, he knows that, but… Well, he's not completely sure of the reception he's going to get. Still, if Isane came all the way here to ask him about it… That must have took some guts on his shy colleague's part, so the least Shuuhei can do is respect her enough to be honest. "Yeah, it's true," he shrugged, like it's easy to blurt it out.

Isane went red. "Oh. Oh, I see… Um, I…"

"What, you weren't expecting that answer?" he teases, already knowing that she hadn't. "Give yourself some credit, Isane; you're cute, smart, caring, and competent." Shuuhei paused, watching her go even redder. "Did you come over here expecting to hear me say 'no'? Sorry to disappoint, if that's the case."

"What—no!" She blushed harder, but continued, "No, I wasn't sure what you would say, but Kiyone insisted I figure it out so it didn't keep bothering me, and… and here I am."

"Why was it bothering you, Isane?" Shuuhei pressed. He had a feeling he knew why, but it would be better to hear it straight from her.

"B-because… I can do this," he faintly heard her whisper. "Because I like you, too!" she said, all in a rush. "And… and I don't have the courage to ask you to dinner, so I figured I'd just straight out ask you about what I heard."

"Hey," Shuuhei said, catching her chin when she ducked her head again. "Hey, it was plenty brave of you to straight out ask, Isane." He smiled at her, pleased when she returned it. "Come on; let's go grab some dinner."

"Oh, um, yes!" Isane's smile grew brighter as she stood up. "Oh, the teacup, where do you want it?"

"Just leave it," Shuuhei told her. "I'll wash it later." He caught her closer hand with one of his as he followed her out the door, locking it tight behind them. Today is definitely a good day.

I'm still going to kill those morons.