Title: Breathing With Him, In Time
Author: Harmony (Silver Harmony)
Pairing: Hisagi Shuuhei/Kira Izuru.
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Not mine – otherwise this pairing would be canon.
Feedback: Very much appreciated, as I would like to write much better Bleach fics. Your concrits mean a lot to me, especially when it tells me what you think of the story and what I can do to improve. Please and thank you.
Author's Notes: What inspired me to write this rather fun fic was actually specifically the scenes showing their half-naked-drunkenness in the anime (or Kira's in the manga) closure to the SS Arc, and the shinigami cup about them recovering from it ... which I thought was just priceless XD (If you can't remember which scenes I'm talking about, feel free to drop me a line).
Summary: Waking up from a hazy afternoon drinking session leads to some astoundingly problematic consequences.


When Shuuhei stirred into consciousness, there was a rumbling next to his ear and a blinding light glaring into his eyes.

His head was pounding. He felt a little cold, too. He squinted, wondering if it was morning; he certainly felt as unwilling to get up at that moment as he did most mornings. He brought his forearm up against the bright light and let the cloudiness in his mind slowly dissipate; a moan escaped his throat before he even realized it.

There was something weird fluttering against his collarbone. He turned his head a little and would have jumped in surprise, if he hadn't been so drained: he'd come face-to-face with Kira Izuru, who was asleep with his mouth slightly open, snoring. Shuuhei wriggled away a short distance, just enough to be out of the reach of the blond's tickling hair. He vaguely registered, from his stiff, sore back, that they were lying on the floor.

Oh, right. We were drinking.

He propped himself up on his elbows and blearily forced himself to take in the surroundings. This was … Rangiku's office. The blinding light had been a bright lamp: it appeared rather dark outside – it didn't seem to be morning, after all. And he and Kira had been stripped down to their undergarments. He realized that that was probably why he felt rather cold.

He was somewhat disoriented and light-headed, but his various aches and pains, as well as the swirling air against his skin, were slowly waking him up. He turned and gently shook his friend's shoulders.

'Oi. Oi, Kira. Wake up.'

The light snores disappeared abruptly. Kira let out a small groan; scrunching up his features, he cracked open an eye and peered narrowly at Shuuhei. He looked very drowsy and reluctant – exactly the way Shuuhei felt. The blond wrinkled his nose weakly and furrowed his eyebrows.

'Hisagi … san.'

Shuuhei nodded. 'C'mon, get up.'

The expression on Kira's face hid none of his opposition against the idea. '… Still tired, 'Sagi-san.'

'You can sleep again later,' Shuuhei insisted, frowning. 'C'mon.'

Kira let out another groan and groggily began to prop himself up on his elbows, too. There were obvious traces of shadows under his eyes. He brought up a hand to rub them: first one, then the other. And then he started surveying the surroundings as well, blinking tiredly.

'… Our uniforms …?'

'No idea,' Shuuhei shrugged. 'Rangiku-san probably put them aside, someplace. We should probably get dressed, either way. Wouldn't want to get told off by Hitsugaya-Taicho again.'

Kira nodded, and they both reluctantly started getting up onto their feet. Shuuhei stretched his arms, faintly wondering how they'd managed to lose their garments. This wasn't the first time; it had happened several times before when they were drinking and, as amusing as it was to think about how it could have happened, neither of them really ever did have memories of it once morning came. This time was no exception – although this time, strangely, the uniforms hadn't been laid in a tangled heap beside them the way they usually were.

So the two vice-captains turned their heads, inspecting the deserted office. Empty jars and cups were strewn all over the floor, lying on their sides. Important-looking documents that seemed to have blown off Rangiku's desk littered half the room, crumpled and unreadable. Other random pieces of rubbish covered the desk and the floor; Shuuhei couldn't remember how those ended up there, or what some of them even were.

'What a mess.'

'I agree,' nodded Kira, rubbing his temples. 'I don't have the energy to clean this up right now, though. Hope Matsumoto-san doesn't mind, just this once. Can you see our uniforms?'

'Not yet,' answered Shuuhei. 'Help me look.'

The two of them walked around the office, poking through the disarray. They looked around the desk, on the floor, on the chairs; they also swept most of the clutter aside and rummaged through the larger shelves. Their uniforms, however, were nowhere to be seen. Shuuhei stood in the middle of the room, his hands on his hips, pursing his lips in thought.

'Would someone go to these lengths to pull a practical joke?' frowned Kira, joining him.

The dark-haired vice-captain shook his head. 'We don't know that. Maybe Rangiku-san took them away to be washed.'

'… But she would've had the common sense to remember to leave us something else to wear in the meantime, right?'

Kira had just barely finished talking when his face visibly fell in realization of his own words.

They stood in silence for a while. Shuuhei felt awkward, especially since he wasn't quite sure what to do to solve the problem. He tried to get his liquor-logged brain to work, to think of something – anything. The situation of two helpless vice-captains standing in the middle of an office wearing only their fundoshi would have been somewhat comical to him if he hadn't been so focused on thinking of what they could probably do to remedy it.

However, Kira solved that problem for him. 'Well, then there's no point sticking around here,' he'd said, wrinkling his nose. 'We have no idea when she'd get back. Let's just hope no one's around to see … maybe we could just find something to wear for now, and give it back later.'


They both turned and made their way to the door. Shuuhei pinched the space between his eyebrows to relieve the steadily-pulsing headache, watching idly as Kira extended a pale hand towards the doorknob and grasped it.

He turned it, but it didn't open. The blond's eyes widened.

'It's locked!'

'What?' asked Shuuhei, astonished. He batted away Kira's hand disbelievingly, took hold of the doorknob and jiggled it. When that didn't work, he pushed at the door with one hand while jiggling the knob again with the other; he felt a little stupid about doing that, even though he knew there weren't really many other options. To his displeasure, it did not give way. In fact, it remained as tightly locked as ever.


'… Don't worry. Rangiku-san wouldn't possibly lock us in without remembering to leave us her spare key, right?'

He turned slightly to look over at Kira, whose face had once again contorted into an expression of complete dismay just from hearing that. Shuuhei frowned in response; however, if he thought about it, he found that he couldn't really blame him. After all, it was true that even though Rangiku was perpetually enchanting, she was also undeniably rather vague. As a result, unexpectedly, a slow wave of sympathy washed over Shuuhei.

'Should we look around? You never know, maybe she did leave us a spare key,' he said hopefully, reaching out to pat the blond's shoulder.

'She didn't,' Kira rubbed his temples again, wincing. 'She usually keeps it either in her own room, or in the unused porcelain teacup on the desk, right? I noticed the cup was empty when I walked past it just a few minutes ago. She either forgot that it wasn't here, or she forgot to go back to her room to fetch it for us.'

Hearing this, Shuuhei closed his eyes and took a deep, slow breath. His head was aching – it was no good, brainstorming this extensively when they'd had so much to drink during the afternoon – but he tried to search his currently half-functioning mind for other answers, nonetheless. He opened his eyes and furrowed his eyebrows.

'We could be locked in here for hours. Maybe we should shout for help,' he finally suggested.

The blond shook his head in response. 'I'd rather not. It'd be embarrassing for two vice-captains with a semi-hangover, wearing nothing except their undergarments, to have to be rescued by lower-ranked officers because they'd managed to get themselves locked into someone else's office. No one would ever take us seriously again.'

'Hmm. I suppose you're right,' the dark-haired vice-captain scratched his head in thought. 'But then that just leaves the window, right?'

The two of them simultaneously turned their heads to look at the single window on the opposite wall.

'… Okay, I've changed my mind. Let's shout for help.'

'We can't,' Shuuhei protested. 'Like you said, no one would ever take us seriously again. Rangiku-san's subordinates would probably have a field day telling people about it if they had to rescue us while we're like this.'

'This is crazy, Hisagi-san. They're going to have even more of a field day gossiping if they see us climbing out of the window in our underwear!'

'—Think of it this way, Kira. If we're careful, we at least have a chance of not being seen,' Shuuhei pointed out persistently. 'We'll just have to make sure no one's around. We can hurry back in through the front door.'

Kira gazed at him, the expression on his face showing something very close to depression.

However, Shuuhei, for once, chose to ignore this and walked over to the window. He tiptoed to its side and slid it open slightly, peeking out. The window gave quite a good view of the Tenth Division courtyard; it was fairly dark outside, but the torches that had been lit around its perimeters were just enough for Shuuhei to see that there was nobody around. He gave a sigh of relief and waved his hand at Kira, beckoning for him to come over.

'Coast seems to be clear. Everyone's probably at dinner,' he said, opening the window wider. 'Come on.'

'Hisagi-san, I really, really don't think—'

But without waiting for Kira to continue, Shuuhei climbed onto the window sill and sprang off on the other side. Instantly, dizziness overtook him and he stumbled a little; even though Rangiku's office was at ground-level and there was hardly much of a height for him to jump down, the effects of the liquor in his blood still had not dissipated. He was just pinching the space between his eyebrows again when he felt a small gust of air near him. Kira had landed beside him.

'Are you alright?' the blond asked, touching his arm in concern.

Shuuhei nodded. 'Yeah. Damn, it's freezing out here. We better hurry – we don't want anyone seeing us, after all.'


The dark-haired vice captain smiled briefly at this response and began walking, crossing his arms to ward off the coldness of the evening air. He stayed close to the wall, making sure to remain as hidden as he could manage in the thin shadows created by the looming sides of the roof. He couldn't help thinking how utterly ridiculous it was that he was behaving like a spy or a burglar; he had to turn his head from side to side, double-checking that there was nobody in the area before turning the corner of the building. It was funny that his heart was actually beating quite fast.

'You're watching our backs, right?' he whispered uncertainly as he continued to creep along. When he got no response, he turned around, frowning. '… Kira?'

To his surprise, the shinigami in question was quite a long way behind him. It was too dark to see much in the particular area in which they were walking, but if Shuuhei focused, he could just see the faint stirring of movement at a distance. Only moments later, he was able to vaguely make out the light hair and the pale skin drawing closer to him in the darkness. He paused in his stride and waited until Kira caught up.

'Sorry,' the blond whispered back. 'Went back to do something.'

'I thought you didn't want to be seen. We will be if we don't hurry. Come on.'

Shuuhei turned forward again and continued under the cover of the shadows, going more slowly so that he could hear Kira breathing behind him. They were close now – in fact, they were approaching the main door already. Shuuhei's heart skipped a beat; they were actually going to make it. He was literally, thankfully, blessedly, only a few steps away from the front door to the Tenth Division primary office building.

And then, the door opened, almost slamming into him.

Shuuhei felt his vocal cords reacting before he could stop them. Within a second after he had almost yelled in alarm, he felt a firm hand clamping his mouth shut; an arm tightly encircled his torso and pulled him back quickly, dragging him closer to the wall. He bit down on his bottom lip, still overwhelmed by the unexpected shock. He could feel Kira's chest pressed against his back. As if they were fused into one being, they both held their breaths.

By some astonishing stroke of luck, it seemed like they hadn't been heard. They both watched apprehensively as, to their surprise, Captain Hitsugaya stepped out of the door, followed by a sensuous woman with long hair whom Shuuhei recognized in the dim light: Shihoin Yoruichi. She and the young captain were chatting together about something, their voices low, almost indecipherable. Shuuhei could feel Kira, whose hand was still over his mouth, inching back slowly; he followed, knowing what was intended.

He saw Shihoin stand aside, waiting for the young captain to close the door behind them. To Shuuhei's slight frustration, Captain Hitsugaya was taking his time with it. The dark-haired vice-captain was so wary that he didn't really want to breathe until they were out of earshot; but just as he was thinking this, Shihoin turned her face to their direction, seeming to look straight at them.

Shuuhei's heart started pounding so hard he could barely hear anything else.

Kira's hand over his mouth went clammy, and started trembling slightly. Shuuhei saw Shihoin take one single step towards them, and he jumped, which made Kira behind him jump, too. He suddenly felt all too aware of how uncomfortably small the distance was between them and the two at the door. Fortunately, only moments later, Captain Hitsugaya called something out to Shihoin; after a too-long pause, she said something back in answer to him. They then turned and proceeded to move off together towards the Tenth Division exit, still conversing all the while.

The two vice-captains stood there for what seemed like an eternity, shivering from the tension and the cold, waiting for the departing figures to completely leave the area. It was only when they were utterly out of sight that Shuuhei started breathing again. He distantly felt Kira releasing his grasp; somehow, that made the evening breeze breathe more coldly over him.

'… I can't believe it. I can't believe they didn't detect our reiatsu. We should have suppressed it instead of panicking,' Kira uttered, his voice a little shaky. 'We would've had a lot of explaining to do if they caught us.'

'Seems like they were too engrossed in their conversation,' replied Shuuhei thoughtfully. 'Consider it luck. Quickly, now.'

They tiptoed back to the front door, a little more wary than before. The cold was uncomfortable, and Shuuhei couldn't wait until he could drape warm fabric over his shoulders. But he was careful not to quicken his stride; the faint crunch of Kira's footsteps behind him told him, to his relief, that the blond was trustingly following his pace. When he was finally close enough, he carefully reached out to the door and grasped the doorknob, feeling the surge of success rise up within him.

He turned it slowly, and his breath got caught in his chest.

It was locked.

'Shit,' he cursed under his breath. 'Oh, shit.'

'What? What is it?'

Shuuhei turned around to look at the other shinigami. 'It's locked. No wonder Hitsugaya-Taicho took so long just to close a door. He must've set the inside lock into place before he closed it behind him. I was so paranoid about that woman spotting us that I didn't see him do that.'

'You can't be serious,' Kira hissed, a note of urgency in his voice. 'What do we do now?'

'There aren't a lot of options, are there? We can try going out. Ninth Division's closest, so we could attempt to make a run for it. I'm sure I kept some spare clothes in my office … if we could make it there without being seen—'

'But there are guards posted outside both the Tenth Division and your Division, even at dinnertime. There'd be no point trying to pull off this whole stealth thing if we're going to be seen by the guards anyway. It'd be the same; we'd still be the butt of people's jokes come morning.'

Shuuhei took in a slow breath.

'… Okay. How do you feel about going back?'

Kira didn't answer for a while. He seemed to be considering the option. After a few moments of silence, a trace of what looked like defeat started growing on his face; Shuuhei knew he was eventually going to agree, and with good reason – they didn't have very many other alternatives. However, just as Kira finally opened his mouth to answer, his eyes suddenly widened and whatever he had been about to say died in his throat. His mouth hung open, slack-jawed.

'Kira? Kira? What's wrong?' Shuuhei asked, immediately on edge.

The blond lowered his head, raising a hand to his brow in embarrassment. 'I … I shut the window,' he said, cringing. 'I felt bad about leaving it open.'

At first, the dark-haired vice-captain didn't quite make the connection. It was only after a few moments of staring at Kira that it dawned on Shuuhei what he was trying to say: they both knew that Rangiku's window could only be opened from the inside. Shuuhei supposed this was why Kira had fallen behind before. Heavens, his head was pounding. He mentally shook his brain and tried to channel some sense.

'Our choices are limited, then,' he said at last, his voice firm. 'We either stay right here until Rangiku-san comes back, or we try to run to the Ninth Division.'

'We can't stay here. Anyone wandering around will detect our reiatsu in an instant. And how do we run without being seen?'

'By not going anywhere near the guards. We go over the wall,' Shuuhei answered darkly.

Upon hearing this, the uncertain look on Kira's face melted into one of helplessness. Once again, Shuuhei felt that slight pang of sympathy welling up inside him; he knew that they'd really gotten themselves into one hell of a weird and uncomfortable situation. He felt that sympathy growing even more when Kira turned his gaze to the ground, his eyes showing his tiredness.

'… I'm exhausted and dizzy, Hisagi-san. Maybe I shouldn't have drunk so much. I'm not sure I'd have the strength to go over.'

Shuuhei tilted his head sideways. He felt so sorry for him, hearing that. But he knew that they had to get themselves out of this mess somehow; and he knew that Kira knew that, too. So, making the decision for the both of them, he took one of the blond's arms and slung it over his own shoulders.

'I'll help you,' he said softly. 'Let's go.'

He took a deep breath, and looked from side to side to make sure no one was in the area. He just hoped that there would be no one on the other side of the wall, either. It was lucky for them that he was going to do something that shinigami could do, otherwise they'd be doomed. That accursed headache still lingered: he hoped he had enough strength to carry them both over.

'Work with me and hang on.'

And without waiting for Kira's answer, he broke into a run, and soared.

… Hisagi-san? Hisagi-san, can you hear me?

Shuuhei slowly opened his eyes. At first, everything was a bit blurry and murky, and he wasn't quite sure what was going on. However, his vision eventually started to clear: the first thing he saw was Kira's concerned face, hovering in front of him. His back was sore, and he distantly realized that he must be propped up against the smooth stone wall. The dizziness made him feel a little wobbly; he cleared his throat and blinked a few times.

'Kira. Argh – what happened?'

'You … passed out,' Kira answered, unsuccessfully trying to hide a smile of amusement behind his hand. 'Thank you, Hisagi-san. Believe it or not, we actually made it.'

'… Oh. Really? Oh. That's good.'

At least they'd successfully gone over the wall; relief filled him to hear that. Still, he wondered if his limbs would move if his brain wanted them to. He pressed his palms to the ground and began to try to get up. However, Kira – who was kneeling in front of him – tugged him back down, and frowned.

'Just sit down for a few more minutes. You don't look so good,' he said, touching Shuuhei's cheek with his fingertips. 'That took a lot out of you. And the fact that we're standing out in the cold in our fundoshi isn't making things better, either.'

Shuuhei chuckled, still feeling slightly light-headed.

'I'm serious, Hisagi-san. We shouldn't pull a stunt like that again. Neither of us have the energy for it,' Kira said worriedly, moving his hands to rest on Shuuhei's shoulders. Shuuhei was surprised at the sudden warmth that it generated; it was a pleasant feeling, somehow comforting. 'We'll just have to find some other way to enter Ninth Division.'

'Okay. Sure.'

The blond gave a brief, approving nod and shifted back, preparing to rise. The hands left Shuuhei's shoulders, and so did the strange comfort.

The contact disappeared. Shuuhei felt oddly like he had been left alone.

Without really thinking about it, he slowly reached out and took hold of Kira's wrist, and felt the other shinigami jump a little from the unexpected contact. A startled look met him, a look that showed him a fleeting sliver of vulnerability. In all honesty, Shuuhei was a little startled, too; he hadn't really meant to grasp at the blond like that. It had been reactionary and instinctive, and he wasn't sure what had spurred him to do it.

They gazed tentatively at one another for some time, unmoving. Shuuhei did not know how he would ever break this contact without breaking something else that this strange moment held – although he was not entirely sure what it was. A peculiar expression crossed Kira's features; the mixture of the shy look in his eyes and the slight quiver of his lips stirred an odd feeling in Shuuhei's stomach, a small fraction of which, he gradually realized, was guilt.

He released his hold on the slender wrist, and looked away.

'Sorry,' he said in a low voice. 'You were warm.'

He shifted embarrassedly, moving to get up again. Somehow, he couldn't look at Kira; it crossed his mind that the other shinigami must think he was uncivilized, making such an abrupt, unwelcome gesture. Kira had always been so refined, so proper, in the way he behaved. Shuuhei kept his eyes lowered as he pushed himself up, trying to get onto his feet.

However, to his surprise, a pair of gentle hands grasped his elbows and pulled him up, helping him to stand. Shuuhei looked up: Kira's eyes, looking into his own, were touched with compassion; and the vaguest, barest trace of a flush graced his features. The dark-haired vice-captain straightened up, feeling a little confused. However, a faint heat was also spreading inside him, part of which he recognized to be the softness of relief.

'We should stick close together, then,' the blond uttered with a somewhat bashful half-smile. 'To keep warm.'

Shuuhei smiled at this, even as he felt the tender hands leave his elbows. He felt himself relaxing. He saw Kira's eyes shine pleasantly, and he knew then that the other shinigami had relaxed a little more, too.

'… You're really something, Kira.'

'Honestly, Hisagi-san,' Kira replied, in what seemed to be a mock-admonishing tone; the slight flush in his cheeks had not vanished, however, and somehow it made him look more wonderfully innocent, rather than intimidating. 'Did you think I was too well-raised to approach? You're clearly forgetting that I'm standing here in my underwear, just like you.'

Shuuhei couldn't help but laugh, even through his brief surprise that Kira had somehow known what he had been thinking. 'Just like me?'

'Yeah,' Kira nodded with a feigned huff; Shuuhei found that he really liked this playful, joking side of Kira, a side that he had very rarely seen in recent days. 'As far as our current situation is concerned, we're equally semi-hungover and equally half-naked. We've got equal headaches, bruises and pulled muscles, and we're equally freezing our skins off. It would be right to stick together, wouldn't it? Somehow, it cancels some of those things out.'

'If you put it that way,' the dark-haired vice-captain answered in amusement, turning his head to the side. The two of them then simply looked at one another with a smile, honest and open, and feeling more comfortable.

Shuuhei was just about to say something else when, out of nowhere, a strong, approaching reiatsu pierced his senses.

It had been so sudden that he actually jolted. He looked over at Kira, startled; judging from Kira's alarmed expression, he had felt it, too. There was no way they were going to stick around to be seen - that didn't even need to be said. Instantly, without asking any questions, the two of them gathered themselves together and dashed off. They made sure to stick close to the wall, concealing themselves within its shadows, looking for possible refuge.

If Shuuhei wasn't wrong in his guess, then the two of them definitely didn't want to be out and about with that particular shinigami in the area. His eyes scanned the surroundings as he ran, trying to find a suitable place to take cover as quickly as possible. Within seconds, he spotted an open door in a nearby building and immediately took Kira's hand, pulling him along, leading them both into it; it was small, and looked like a cramped storage building, but he hoped would it be a sufficient enough hiding place nonetheless.

'Reiatsu,' Kira reminded him breathlessly. He nodded, and they both toned their spirit energies down, suppressing it as much as they could manage.

They had just made it inside when the invading reiatsu they had felt spiked up significantly, and the figure appearing in their line of sight in the distance told Shuuhei that he had been right. It was Captain Kurotsuchi. Shuuhei wished there had been time to close the door behind them; they couldn't do it now without being seen, and he knew that the Captain would ask them all sorts of awkward questions if he saw them. He let go of Kira's hand and stood still, feeling the overwhelming tension smother him.

The uncomfortable sensation increased when he saw Captain Kurotsuchi slow down in his steps. Another step, and another; then, he came to a halt. He turned his head, looking from side to side.

The two vice-captains practically stopped breathing.

'… You know, I felt you run away,' the Captain called out superiorly to no one in particular. 'So whoever you are, you should probably reveal yourself. You're mistaken if you think you're the only one who can blend into the walls.'

Shuuhei and Kira looked at each other in alarm.

'Trying to hide, are we?' he continued, his tone rather smug. 'Don't play games with me. I don't know what reasons you have for taking cover, but it's unlikely that you'll be able to remain concealed from me for long.'

Doesn't mean we won't try, Shuuhei couldn't help but think. He felt Kira's hand clutch at his arm, squeezing urgently.

Suddenly, to the complete shock of both vice-captains, Captain Kurotsuchi flash-stepped closer to the building in which they were hiding, seeming to disappear and reappear to the naked eye. Shuuhei's heart almost crashed into the roof of his mouth, and Kira let out a small, strangled cry of surprise that was only restrained in the last second. Instinctively, the Captain whirled his head towards their direction; his face was as eerie and as hungry for prey as it always seemed to be. Shuuhei turned to look at Kira and frowned.

'He'll make a report about this if he finds us,' he hissed. 'And I'd rather he didn't interrogate us while we're half-naked. That's just creepy. We'll have to get out of here.'

Kira was practically sweating. 'But there's only one exit, Hisagi-san.'

The two of them watched tensely as Captain Kurotsuchi took more single, slow steps, his face curious and eager, drawing ever closer to the building. Shuuhei pinched the space between his eyebrows again, trying to relieve the headache which still had not quite faded. Even though he would never raise his zanpakuto against a superior, he still couldn't help but feel powerless without it at a time like this. He turned to Kira once again and beckoned to the doorway.

'Then that's the way we'll have to go,' he uttered.

He poised himself for a quick exit, and saw the blond's anxious and doubtful expression. He knew, with a slight disappointment, that Kira was considering surrendering. However, just as they both opened their mouths to say something, Captain Kurotsuchi unexpectedly flash-stepped again and reappeared frighteningly close to the doorway, startling them both.

His mouth twisted into a spine-chilling smile that raised the hairs on the backs of their necks.

'You're somewhere around here, aren't you?'

Without waiting, the two vice-captains dashed out the door past him, flash-stepping as fast and as far as they could manage. Shuuhei could hear the angry shout behind him, demanding that they stop at once. He pressed his lips together tightly, suddenly realizing how stupid he'd been; they were dealing with Captain Kurotsuchi, who was practically ruthless and undefeatable. Even if they magically teleported themselves, it would take a miracle to still not be caught by him – thinking about it now, he only just grasped the fact that it probably would have been better if they'd surrendered. If they were caught now while they were fleeing, they would be done for.

He could barely see Kira near him, but he could feel his reiatsu close by, and it offered him some comfort. However, his headache was steadily getting worse and he could feel his energy quickly draining away, even though it had only been mere seconds; he noticed that at least, to his relief, they were heading in the right direction. They were drawing closer and closer to Ninth Division. He closed his eyes momentarily, taking a deep breath.

When he opened his eyes, he was startled to see a hunched, aged figure in his line of sight. He gave a cry and stepped aside, expecting to crash; and then, with one final, distant flash-step around the corner, he felt the cold hardness impact against his shoulder and stumbled, landing hard on his knees. He bit down on his lip in pain, his heart still racing from the shock. Within moments, Kira appeared beside him, his eyes wide.

'Hisagi-san,' the blond exclaimed, immediately bending down to help him stand. 'Are you alright?'

Shuuhei let Kira pull him up and winced, rubbing his knees. His head was spinning; the flash-steps had taken so much out of him that he could barely bring himself to move. He leaned back exhaustedly against the stone wall. He vaguely realized that it must have been what his shoulder had crashed against before.

'What on earth was that?'

'… That was Yamamoto-Sotaicho,' answered Kira cautiously. 'I think he was on one of his walks.'

The dark-haired vice-captain's eyes widened at this. 'Shit. I didn't kill him, did I?'

Kira stared at him, seeming surprised at the answer. A long, silent pause fell between them. And then, out of nowhere, he started laughing; a genuine, rich, merry laughter. It was a sound which Shuuhei had not heard from Kira in far too long, and a sound that – he couldn't help but think – surprisingly suited the blond shinigami very well. The pleasant, unexpected mirth, somehow, filled him with consolation. Kira looked into his eyes and grinned, clapping his shoulder.

'Of course you didn't,' he said, still half-chuckling. 'I don't think he even noticed us. He seemed to be buried in his own thoughts. Seriously, Hisagi-san, this is insane … we've probably broken a million rules just by climbing out of Matsumoto-san's window. I think it's making me a bit hysterical.'

Shuuhei couldn't help but laugh a little at that, too, genuinely amused. 'It must be the pressure. In any case, I'm glad to see that at least we're almost at my Division. And, hey, looks like we evaded Kurotsuchi-Taicho.'

The words had barely left his mouth when he detected two different strong reiatsu gradually approaching, coming from two different directions. The two vice-captains looked at one another in dismay.

'… I think you may have spoken too soon.'

'I think so, too,' Shuuhei answered darkly, looking around. 'Where can we go?'

Kira turned his eyes down the deserted street and, only moments later, pointed his finger. Shuuhei turned his head to look; he saw that, not too far away from them, there was what seemed like a sort of alcove in the straight-running wall – a narrow doorway built like a tight passage, giving the impression of a roofless tunnel through the inward-turned stone blocks. It looked a little too small for comfort, but he knew that there weren't really many other alternatives, especially not when both of them were so worn out. He nodded; Kira nodded back once, and they proceeded to make towards it as quickly as they could.

They slid into the alcove, glad for the cover of shadow it provided, and toned down their own reiatsu again. Shuuhei's head, and his shoulder and knees, were aching; he felt out of breath already, and was simply overwhelmed with dizziness and exhaustion. He knew that he seriously could use some more sleep. It was really only the tension of hiding, as well as the biting cold against his skin, which was keeping him awake.

That cold air blended strangely with the warmth of the body next to him and the heat of their mingling breaths.

'Look,' whispered Kira, pulling Shuuhei out of his thoughts.

The dark-haired vice-captain turned his head, and his heart leapt with hope at what he saw. The other reiatsu that they had sensed before, coming towards them from the opposite direction, had belonged to Captain Zaraki, who was strolling casually into their line of view. If there was anyone at all in Soul Society who could repel Captain Kurotsuchi, it would be Captain Zaraki – for sure. Shuuhei looked over at Kira and saw the other shinigami's eyes shining with similar anticipation.

When the familiar, unwelcome reiatsu had drawn much closer, Captain Zaraki came to a stop in his steps. He stood there, unfazed, as the captain of the Twelfth Division seemed to materialize before him. The two vice-captains watched from where they were hidden, and Shuuhei couldn't help but wonder how amazing it was that he and Kira seemed to be unnoticed; at least, they were for now. The two captains appeared to be more interested in staring at each other silently, taking their time, undisguised dislike showing in their faces.

'… Zaraki,' Captain Kurotsuchi began thickly, breaking the silence. 'Did anyone pass you on the way here?'

Captain Zaraki looked down his nose at the shorter captain and raised an eyebrow.

'Didn't see anythin'.'

'How ignorant,' the smaller captain responded stonily, narrowing his eyes. 'I can still feel them, somewhere nearby. Two of them. I didn't see who they were, but I know their reiatsu went this way.'

Shuuhei felt Kira tensing a little beside him.

But Captain Zaraki only snorted, stretching his arms and looking bored. 'Seriously, Kurotsuchi – anyone'd run if they saw ya. Call me ignorant if ya want, but I wasn' the one who lost 'em while chasin' 'em. Probably only some brats messin' around with ya … kinda childish to indulge 'em, if ya ask me.'

The reiatsu of the two captains, staring at each other, flared up so much more strongly all of a sudden that Shuuhei thought he would be suffocated by it. His heart was still racing, somewhat. Suppressing his own reiatsu was getting slightly strenuous; he had already been fatigued to begin with, so it was even more discouraging that he did not know how much longer he could keep a hold on it. He hoped that this would be over soon.

'This is boring. Who cares about someone ya didn' even see,' Captain Zaraki yawned. 'Give it a rest.'

A long, tense silence deafened the scene. Shuuhei felt dread fill him.

… Oh, no. They're going to take ages fighting.

To his amazement, just as he thought this, Captain Kurotsuchi gave the taller captain a threateningly filthy glare and snorted derisively, before looking away. He then spun on his heel, flash-stepping away into the direction from which he'd come. The two vice-captains momentarily looked at each other in surprise; not only had they evaded being caught by Captain Kurotsuchi, but Captain Zaraki had also driven him away without even knowing that he had simultaneously been shielding the two of them. Kira gave Shuuhei an elated smile, and Shuuhei returned it. They couldn't believe their pure luck.

However, before they could even say anything to each other, Captain Zaraki turned to face their general direction with his arms crossed, surprising them both.

'He's gone. It's okay to stop hidin', already,' he announced.

Shuuhei's smile almost instantly slid off his face. He felt the heat spreading through his cheeks; he'd known that it would have been a miracle for them to completely conceal their reiatsu from someone of captain level, but that hadn't stopped him hoping. He heard Kira groaning softly next to him. It looked like they weren't going to reach Ninth Division completely unnoticed in their embarrassing state as they'd hoped.

Captain Zaraki stood still where he was, still with his arms crossed, seeming immovable. That made Shuuhei groan as well; it was obvious that even though they'd made some very lucky escapes on their way here, there was no way they were going to escape this. Kira looked defeated. The way he looked was the way Shuuhei felt, too.

As if echoing each other's thoughts, they both slunk forward slowly from the alcove, keeping their heads low in mortification. It was bad enough that they were going to be seen by a superior while they were wearing only their fundoshi – but it seemed like they were also going to be questioned right there wearing only their fundoshi. They took one more step into the faint light, and waited meekly while Captain Zaraki stared at them; he had a stunned expression on his face. Shuuhei already knew that that wasn't a very good sign.

A mere few seconds felt a lot longer, and a whole lot more uncomfortable, than it should have.

'… Don't tell me,' the captain said eventually, turning his head away. 'I don't wanna know.'

Shuuhei was so overcome with humiliation that he still felt like he had to explain, somehow. 'I know how it looks, Zaraki-Taicho. Our uniforms—'

'—I said, I don't wanna know. Get goin'.'

He was surprised; that was not the answer he had expected. Kira's hand lightly touched his arm, and he glanced over at the blond, who nodded once, however uneasily. Captain Zaraki was still not looking at them. It really seemed like some strange fortune that it was him they'd run into and not someone else.

Kira had bowed respectfully to the captain and was already poised to move off. Shuuhei lowered himself and bowed as well; he was just straightening back up when, out of nowhere, an idea unexpectedly came to him.

'… Zaraki-Taicho?'

'Ya don't have to worry about me tellin' anyone,' the captain growled, looking surprisingly uncomfortable with the situation. 'As soon as I walk away from here, I'm gonna forget I ever saw anythin'. Really.'

Hearing this, the dark-haired vice-captain couldn't help but smile in slight amusement. It appeared as if Captain Zaraki had been mentally scarred by even the thought of two half-naked male shinigami hiding away together. He probably would never be able to look them in the eye during combined captain and vice-captain meetings ever again. In any case, Shuuhei was filled with gratitude.

'Thank you, but that's not what I was about to say,' he pressed on. 'We were wondering if Kusajishi-Fukutaicho is around? Could we borrow her?'

Surprisingly, Captain Zaraki actually broke his determined-not-to-look state and turned to stare at him – regardless of the fact that his expression was disapproving.

'… What the hell for?'

'We want to get back into Ninth Division. We could really use her help getting past the gate,' continued Shuuhei, glad that his voice resonated the maturity and rationality that he had always been known for. 'Would it be too much trouble to send her here? We'll try our best to pay her back with a bag of sweets tomorrow morning.'

Kira's eyes were bright with approval, and Shuuhei, secretly, couldn't help but feel an inner pleasure in seeing it. However, it must have shown on his face without him intending for it to, because a momentary disturbed look – or maybe that was a traumatized look – crossed Captain Zaraki's features; he gruffly turned and started to walk away from them, without looking back.

'Stay in that doorway ya hid in,' he called out, 'An' don't come out until ya see her. Yer a freakin' eyesore.'

Despite the outer hostility and unfriendliness, Shuuhei and Kira still smiled.

The two guards looked bored out of their minds. The guards of each of the Thirteen Divisions always had their mealtimes later than everyone else; the fact that everyone would have been busy eating and gossiping during that time meant that nothing interesting ever happened – at least not until everyone returned from their meal. There wasn't really anything to watch, and there wasn't really anything to guard. It was a bothersome, tiresome, boring job.

So when a small, pink-haired figure started screaming excitedly out of the blue while bouncing towards them, it was to be expected that the expressions on their faces would be no less than pure shock. The two guards stationed at the entrance to the Ninth Division stared with wide eyes, having almost drawn their zanpakuto.


'What are you doing he—'

'I found something cool,' she squealed, her eyes bright. 'Come on, come on. I just have to show someone.'

The two guards looked at each other hesitantly.

'We're not allowed to leave our post, Kusajishi-Fukutaicho,' one of them said timidly, as the small vice-captain started pulling on both their sleeves. 'We'd get into trouble.'

'How boring,' Kusajishi admonished, dragging them both along with incredible strength for her size. 'Come on, I have to show you. We'll only be gone for a second! It's really exciting. You just have to come. If I don't show someone now, I'll be hyper about it all night!'

Both of the guards' faces, slowly, started bearing traces of apprehension. Kusajishi grabbed at their clothing and pulled them down towards her face.

'Do you want me to go hyper all night?' she questioned in a sugary way, looking straight into their faces. And without even waiting for their answer, she flash-stepped away from the area with the fabric of their uniforms still bunched within her fists, letting the two shinigami practically fly behind her, her excited squeals drowning out their cries of alarm.

Silence filled the area that they left behind.

From out of the shadows on the opposite wall, two figures stirred, and cautiously started to move. They hurriedly tiptoed across the pathway, looking left and right to make sure there was no one around. Fortunately for them, they reached the entrance surprisingly quickly; with focused quietness and carefulness, they opened the doors just a crack, before sliding inside, unnoticed. And then they closed the doors again silently behind them, and it was as if nothing, no one, had ever been there.

Shuuhei and Kira gave simultaneous sighs of relief.

'Come on,' the dark-haired vice-captain whispered, as they walked further inside. 'Everyone's going to be back soon. My window's over on that wall. It's a good thing I never lock it.'

Kira looked at him in confusion. 'Can't we just use the front door?'

'We shouldn't,' answered Shuuhei, shaking his head. 'I don't know who's still inside. It wouldn't be very good to just saunter into the hallway when we're like this. I'm not sure I should give them an eyeful of their vice-captain in this kind of dress.'

The blond nodded in understanding, and they both made for the shadows against the wall: it was almost second nature to them now, creeping along in complete silence. Shuuhei was utterly tired, and dying for a rest; but a part of him – although he would never admit it – felt strangely sad that their odd, ridiculous adventure-of-sorts was coming to an end. Keeping hidden with Kira, together within the shadows, as though it was a secret they shared. Breathing with him, moving with him, in time. After this, Kira would probably head off, leaving him alone. And Shuuhei didn't know how he would ever be able to express that he wasn't looking forward to that at all.

They reached the window, and opened it, careful to be as silent as possible. They could see that the office was dark inside. Everything was silent around them. Shuuhei tried to climb up first, and suddenly felt the familiar pain in his shoulder and in his knees; he winced, leaping back down again.

'It still hurts?' Kira asked, looking at him with concern.

Shuuhei nodded. 'A little.'

'I'll help you up,' the blond whispered. To Shuuhei's surprise, he felt Kira's fingers curling fleetingly around his wrist; he'd graced it with a light squeeze, before letting go. It was a gesture that Shuuhei had not expected at all, a gesture that was tremendously personal, frighteningly intimate. He felt heat spreading across his cheeks once again. He was glad that the other shinigami was too busy climbing up the window to notice.

Once Kira was inside, he turned around and bent down slightly, grabbing Shuuhei's arms and pulling him up. It was not that much of a struggle to get up, but he was sore all over, and his body was begging for a break. He did not feel at rest until he had gone completely over the sill and inside; he let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd held as he heard Kira closing the window behind him. The biting coldness of the outside air was suddenly cut off. The still air inside the room settled around them.

'Wow, that was intense,' Shuuhei panted, touching his own shoulder. His persistent headache was far from gone, and his muscles were aching even more after climbing the window. 'I have so much tension that needs relieving.'

He heard Kira's footsteps behind him approaching.

'Here. Let me give you a hand, Hisagi-san.'

He was just turning around to ask the blond what he meant when he suddenly felt Kira's fingertips on his shoulders, massaging tenderly. He tensed, at first, having not expected the contact; whatever he had been meaning to ask slipped from his mind. However, he felt the knots and the tension slowly fading, gradually draining away, little by little. It crossed his mind briefly that he didn't really know whether it was because Kira was unexpectedly good at what he was doing, or because it was Kira who was doing it – or both.

Shuuhei felt his face warm up again, unable to believe that he was even thinking that. But the contact felt incredibly accurate, remarkably right, and it didn't help that the blond had somehow known what to touch, how to touch, to relieve the dull aches. Shuuhei closed his eyes.

'Oh,' he breathed. 'Oh, that's good.'

'Plenty more where that came from,' uttered Kira into his ear as he patted one shoulder affectionately, satisfaction laced in the tone of his voice.

However, before he could resume what he was doing, Shuuhei opened his eyes and turned around, slightly surprising the other shinigami. They both hesitated momentarily. In the stillness that surrounded them, they gazed wordlessly at one another for a while, not really knowing what to say; it took only one look at Kira's face, eyes gleaming with a trace of wonder and curiosity, before Shuuhei felt that faint sadness again, that slight disappointment that Kira would probably return straight to his own Division once he'd gotten dressed – that this surreal day would be over. And he dreaded that loneliness, without really knowing why; it had never been such a big deal before.

So, he asked: 'Can you stay tonight?'

He felt himself blushing in embarrassment. It had sounded so abrupt, and he felt so clumsy.

But Kira touched his arm, and he looked up reflexively. He hadn't even realized that he'd turned his gaze to the floor. The blond's eyes were soft, as soft as he had always been; the dark-haired vice-captain felt hopeful, seeing that. Kira had always been so thoughtful by nature, so compassionate.

'You'll bring out the old futon? The one that I like?'

Shuuhei couldn't help but smile in sudden amusement and relief. He saw Kira's warm gaze and his gentle expression, and suddenly, he knew he hadn't needed to feel ashamed. Kira seemed to understand, and hadn't felt the need to ask any questions. Shuuhei was comforted by the fact that the other shinigami had simply opted to ask for the spare futon he'd always liked; it was a futon that Shuuhei always laid out for whoever stayed the night, a futon which the blond once protested was much softer than his own.

'Of course,' he answered mildly. 'I'd like you to be comfortable, after all.'

'… And I obviously didn't bring any clothes.'

'It's not like you'll be needing them, anyway,' Shuuhei raised an eyebrow. 'Not in bed.'

Kira grinned. 'Sure, then. I'll sleep with you tonight.'

A loud, strangled cough, sounding awfully like someone choking on their saliva, made them both almost jump out of their skins.

They whirled their heads to the doorway in complete alarm. Standing there, in the darkness, was Abarai, Hinamori and Rangiku, staring back at them with equal shock; their eyes were wide with disbelief, practically mirroring the expressions of the two inside the room. Shuuhei blinked in astonishment, feeling very quickly conscious of his half-nakedness. Abarai was still coughing, beating at his own chest with his palm.

'Okay, that was way more information than I needed to hear,' he practically rasped. 'That was just – whoa. That's just – I'm just – I didn't know you two were—'

'Neither did I,' Rangiku stared, looking totally stunned. 'Since when—'

'What are you talking about?' Shuuhei interrupted with a frown, finally getting a hold of his senses. 'What are all of you doing here, anyway?'

Rangiku shook her dark blonde hair back. She seemed to be attempting to pull herself together, and was doing quite a good job of it - she looked like she had almost recovered from her initial reaction of surprise. She ignored Abarai, who was still spluttering behind her; Hinamori was patting his back, looking somewhat sympathetic.

'Waiting for you. We'd finished dinner early and thought we'd check up on you two,' the busty vice-captain answered, pouting her lips sensuously. 'But by the time I'd unlocked my office, you two were gone. And Ninth Division is obviously closer than Third Division, so we'd figured you'd turn up here sooner or later.'

Kira gave her a look of disbelief. 'Why did you lock us in? You didn't leave us a key.'

'… Oh. Didn't I?' she asked, laughing heartily. 'Must've forgotten.'

The expression on Kira's face changed into something close to misery.

'Don't look at me like that,' Rangiku scolded, although in a playful manner. 'It's not like I could leave the door unlocked where anyone could easily walk in and see you there in your underpants. I don't see what the complaint is, since you managed to get out anyway.'

'Through the window, Matsumoto-san,' said Kira, sounding unexpectedly patient. 'And where were our uniforms?'

She pressed a hand to her ample bosom, laughing even more merrily. 'Well, you were both so out of it that you'd been spilling the liquor all over each other. It wouldn't have been nice to wake up in a disgusting, sticky uniform, would it? So when you both passed out, I thought I'd take them off you and send them away to be washed. You should be grateful that I went to so much trouble.'

Shuuhei felt himself blushing. 'You … you actually undressed us?'

'Of course. You couldn't undress yourselves,' she raised her chin pointedly. '… Or each other, for that matter.'

He stared at her in confusion, not quite getting what she meant.

'Speaking of which, we should really leave them to it,' Hinamori uttered as she tugged on Abarai and Rangiku's sleeves, her face red. 'We're so sorry, Kira-kun, Hisagi-san. We shouldn't have just barged in like that.'

'Wait!' Rangiku protested. 'I'm still curious—'

'—That's their business, you pervert. Give them some room,' Abarai hissed to her, his voice hard, his face red as well.

The two of them then proceeded to argue in low whispers, as Hinamori tried to pull them away with a look of urgency on her face. At this, Shuuhei took a deep breath and tried to get his brain to absorb what was happening.

'Don't go yet. We were still talking before; don't change the subject,' he stated evenly. 'What does whatever it is you two are debating about have to do with anything, anyway?'

The three vice-captains at the doorway stopped mid-stride. One of them looked indignant; the other two seemed sheepish and embarrassed. Hinamori started speaking again, but she seemed too shy to even look at them. There was a slight tremor in her voice, and her words were almost too quiet for Shuuhei to catch.

'We … heard too much, I think. We heard enough, anyway, since we'd been standing there for a while. Maybe we should've alerted you to our presence instead of, well, watching, just because we didn't want to interrupt. Maybe not interrupting was a bad idea. Well, yeah. Okay. We should go now.'

And she continued to swiftly walk off with a strong blush, dragging the other two bickering vice-captains behind her.

The office was plunged into a much more noticeable silence after the three of them were gone.

Kira was still looking at the doorway, seeming to be absorbed in silent contemplation. The surroundings, even though they'd had time to adjust to it, seemed fairly dark; Shuuhei moved towards his desk and lit the lamp there, amazed that he had grown so used to sneaking around in the shadows that he hadn't considered it before. Without really thinking about it, he turned his eyes to the shelves behind his desk, glancing distantly. He had just been wondering if his spare garments were still folded on one of the shelves there when, out of nowhere, Kira let out a strangled sound; a traumatized look crossed his face, his eyes wide with bewilderment.

'What is it? What's the matter?' asked Shuuhei, startled.

The blond turned to look at him. 'No wonder they'd seemed so embarrassed,' he almost stammered, starting to blush as well. 'Our conversation ever since we'd come in sounded like – they thought that we were going to—'

And he couldn't say any more. He didn't need to say any more, however, because the dark-haired vice-captain suddenly understood what the other shinigami was trying to say, anyway. The heat crept into Shuuhei's cheeks again; he took a deep breath and massaged his temples. It had only been minutes since his headache had eased slightly, and he could already feel it resurfacing now.

'Don't worry about it. We can clear it up tomorrow,' he said, trying to be as reassuring as possible. 'We can trust Rangiku-san enough not to tell anyone else about it in the meantime, right?'

The moment the words left Shuuhei's mouth, he saw Kira's face fall in dismay just from hearing them.

And, realizing what he'd said, he felt his own face fall in dismay, too.

By the middle of the next morning, more than enough people had already been kindly informed of the embarrassing incident that had unfolded in the Ninth Division vice-captain's office. Shuuhei had no idea how much of Seireitei had heard about it; in a way, he didn't really want to know, either – he knew he'd just get depressed if he asked. Besides, he'd had a pretty good indication of how bad it was merely from the people he'd passed within the first fifteen minutes of waking up.

Kusajishi Yachiru, thanking him for his bag of sweets by chirping that she was glad to hear the two of them had enjoyed themselves. Captain Hitsugaya, coming up to him only to ask him where Kira was, as if he was a walking radar for the blond. Captain Kurotsuchi, peering at him as if he wanted to dissect him. Random shinigami, smirking, whispering, staring, pointing at the numbers on his face, or all of the above. Especially the women.

… Thank you, Rangiku-san. Thank you.

There was no chance for him to explain himself to Rangiku even if he'd wanted to. Every time he'd so much as opened his mouth, she would rub his shoulder pityingly, saying: 'It's okay, Shuuhei. Don't be ashamed. It's something we all need. And what better way to accept that than by having all your friends know about it?'

He sometimes wished she wouldn't be so direct.

Abarai and Hinamori, thankfully, had been a lot more understanding – if shooting sympathetic looks and explaining the obvious (Rangiku-san couldn't keep her mouth shut anymore. She just couldn't. She said it was the same suffering as not breathing) could be seen as more understanding. Shuuhei couldn't really blame them, though; he knew they'd been honest when they claimed they'd tried their best to stop her. It was a shame that they didn't really believe him when he'd insisted they'd misinterpreted his conversation, however. And Kira had managed to share his thoughts on the irony of the whole situation.

'All this fuss,' he'd uttered in embarrassment later that afternoon, 'was exactly what we'd tried to avoid when we climbed out the window. Actually … this is even worse.'

'I know,' Shuuhei answered, patting the blond's back lightly as they walked together. 'It doesn't matter, though. It can't be helped. Everyone will forget about it in two weeks, anyway.'

The other shinigami let out a tired sigh.

'If only I could be as mature as you. You're always so rational and calm, Hisagi-san.'

The dark-haired vice-captain shrugged, but felt warmth spread inside him at the compliment. 'Well, it wouldn't do us any good if we worried about it, right? Gossip isn't really such a big deal, after all. We know the truth.'

Kira stopped mid-stride.

'What is the truth, Hisagi-san?'

Shuuhei stopped, too, and looked over at the other shinigami, whose head was tilted to the side in thought. And his mind couldn't help but jump to snippets of lingering memories: of the faint flush across Kira's pale cheeks as he said keeping together would ensure their warmth; of Kira joking around, claiming that they were no less than equals, especially not in the ridiculous situation they had gotten themselves into; of Kira's hand, squeezing his wrist before climbing up the window; of Kira's gaze as he agreed to keep him company for the night. Despite the mess they had created for themselves, Shuuhei didn't really regret any of it. He knew he didn't truly need to say anything, because he was sure that Kira remembered those moments, too.

So, in answer, he grinned and nudged Kira once with his elbow, before wrapping an arm affectionately around his shoulders. At that moment, that was something he could offer Kira and he gave it, even though he half-expected the other shinigami to tell him off, to tell him to be more serious. However, to his secret delight, Kira did not admonish him: in fact, the blond had nudged back, his eyes twinkling good-naturedly. The remnants of the worry and doubt were slowly fading away from his features, and he looked more at ease.

'There, that's better. You look more attractive when you smile like that,' Shuuhei told him honestly. It surprised him at how easy it was, now, to say such a thing; how much less, now, the sensations behind the words frightened him. He knew that it was partly due to the genuineness and sincerity behind them - how he'd meant them. Kira's face started to show the familiar traces of the shy flush, but his smile did not disappear.

'Same goes to you,' he answered. 'And that's the truth.'

Shuuhei raised his eyebrow playfully, knowing that whatever comfort it was that lay between them was something that they both knew existed, something which, indeed, bore their truth – no matter whether or not they would ever be able to put it into words. Not that it needed to be: Shuuhei knew that that smile and that gaze were open and honest, and that they were for him. And it amazed him to realize that no amount of gossip or absurd adventures-of-sorts would make him want it less.

He heard a distant voice calling their names, and spied Rangiku, Abarai and Hinamori in the distance, walking towards them. He raised a hand in greeting. The three of them waved back.

'Looks like everyone's here,' he smirked. 'So. Shall we go drink?'

Kira clicked his tongue and gave him a mock-disapproving look, furrowing his eyebrows. 'Honestly, Hisagi-san. I'm not looking forward to having a repeat misadventure of last night, you know.'

'We won't have one,' he laughed in amusement. 'And even if things end up exactly like last night, you and I would have each other for company. We'd be able to face anything. Or – run away from anything, depending on how you look at it.'

The blond chuckled and rapped his knuckles warmly against the arm that was around his shoulders, but said nothing more. They both then turned and walked off together, towards their waiting friends.

Captain Hitsugaya found the two of them on the floor of his vice-captain's office several hours later, passed out, dressed in nothing except for their underwear.