“You know, people want to kill you quite often,” Ukitake Jyuushiro commented as he sipped calmly at the cup of warm and soothing tea that Kiyone had brought to him not a few moments earlier. “What do you do that is so terrible?”
The captain idly watched Abarai Renji walk hurriedly by his office looking quite perturbed and red in the face. His jaw was set in a determined expression, and if Jyuushiro had to guess, the man was out for blood. Or something close to it.
From beneath his desk, a body shifted. A nervous laugh bubbled up, trying to sound certain but failing miserably.
“Oh, a little of this and a little of that,” Rukia answered flippantly, huddling even further in the small space. “All in their best interest, I assure you.”
Jyuushiro hummed in his throat noncommittally and took another sip of his tea. Somehow, he didn’t believe her. It probably came with the territory of being her captain.
And in that moment, Kurosaki Ichigo chose to storm into Ukitake’s office in a swirl of embarrassed and angered reiatsu. “Ukitake-san,” he growled, though obviously trying to make an effort to be polite and struggling since he was so furious. “Is Rukia around?”
Presenting the perfect picture of placidity, Jyuushiro sipped once more at his drink and tried to ignore the reiatsu shaking his walls. “I haven’t seen her for some time, Kurosaki-kun. Have you misplaced her?”
The boy’s brow furrowed deeply, making the glower lines usually present even deeper. “No,” he denied somewhat stiffly. “But could you please tell her that if I catch her, she’s dead meat?”
Despite the informality of the words, Ukitake was mildly amused. With another probing glance around the office, as if Rukia would be hiding behind the nearest painting or underneath the couch, the substitute Shinigami gave a jerk of his head in farewell and darted back out, obviously returning to the hunt. And breathing with a sigh of relief at the oppressive presence having now departed, Jyuushiro raised a brow in Rukia’s direction.
“The date must have gone badly,” she mused to herself aloud, pondering deeply. “Back to the drawing board, I suppose.”
Despite the situation, or maybe because of it, Ukitake found himself chuckling. “Date?”
However, before she could even begin to answer his question, Abarai-fukutaichou stomped past his office once again, this time choosing to enter on the off chance that Rukia might be within. His reiatsu was more tightly contained than Ichigo’s but not by much, and the thirteenth division captain could tell at a glance that he was equally perturbed as the substitute Shinigami, if not more.
“Excuse me, Ukitake-taichou,” Renji stated somewhat stiffly, trying to maintain his politeness as propriety demanded. “Have ya seen Rukia?” He was red-faced, clashing horribly with his hair, and the look in his eyes promised a long and painful death.
Ukitake was impressed. Regardless, the captain had the unfortunate realization that he might be stuck doing this all day. After all, Renji was only the fourth visit since breakfast.
Kuchiki-taichou had come by earlier that morning looking for his sister. He hadn’t explained why, and his impassive expression didn’t give away much, but Jyuushiro got the impression that it wasn’t to say good morning.
Not long after Byakuya’s departure, Madarame Ikkaku had come to visit as well, which had surprised the white-haired man since he hadn’t much interaction with the eleventh division. But the third-seat had been perfectly polite, if not a little off-color, inquiring about Rukia’s location. He had mumbled something about flyers for hair implants and knowing it was her because Ayasegawa-san wasn’t smug enough before apologizing for the disturbance and leaving, his reiatsu simmering with anger.
No, this wouldn’t be the first time Ukitake Jyuushiro had protected his dear subordinate.
“Not for awhile. Is something wrong, Abarai-fukutaichou?”
Renji shook his head, visibly trying to control himself. “Nothing ta concern yerself over, Ukitake-taichou. Thanks anyway.” He bowed and turned on his heels, quickly leaving the room.
It was then that Jyuushiro noticed the faint limp and stiffness to the vice-captain’s movements. He returned his eyes to the woman marked for murder.
She laughed. “It’s not my fault,” Rukia attempted to assure him. “No one told me she had a boyfriend.”
“I see,” Jyuushiro commented, wondering just who else Rukia had offended lately.
He received his answer moments later when his fellow Shirou-chan strode into his office, burdened down with a huge sack that was practically bulging at the seams. The boy’s typical scowl was in place as he set the bag down with a large thump on top of Ukitake’s desk, nearly scattering his paperwork were it not for the older captain’s quick movements.
“Hitsugaya-taichou!” he exclaimed in both surprise and happiness. He was always delighted to receive a visit from his second favorite captain. “What is this?”
Bright blue eyes narrowed to angry, little slits. “I’m looking for Kuchiki-san,” he said stiffly, glaring ocular fire at the bag on Jyuushiro’s desk, as if expecting it to combust or ice over with just a look. The bag, seeming to sense its impending doom, gave up on its fight with gravity and promptly tipped over onto the floor with a dull thud.
Ukitake sighed. No surprise there.
“Might I inquire as to why?”
Hitsugaya crossed his arms over his chest and looked away, even more surly than usual. “She’s left the human females in Kurosaki’s school with the impression that I adore sweets.”
With every word, Jyuushiro could feel a slight chill creeping into the air. His eyes darted to the sack, able to guess what was inside.
“That was nice of them,” Jyuushiro mused aloud, nearly forgetting who he was talking to. When his fellow captain directed that icy glare onto him, he quickly corrected his words. “I mean, how rude of them to offer such gifts. But unfortunately, I haven’t seen Rukia for several hours. I’ll tell her that you are looking for her when I do.”
With great effort, Hitsugaya found polite words. “I would appreciate it,” he said through clenched teeth, promptly turning on his heels and leaving without another word.
It took several seconds for Jyuushiro to realize that the boy had inadvertently, or perhaps on purpose, forgotten his immense bag of candy. The man opened his mouth to question Rukia on this particular event until he was interrupted by a loud call echoing across the thirteenth division headquarters.
Ukitake sighed as there was the sound of feet pounding across the wooden floors. He set down his tea, lest he spill it in the glomping he was sure to expect, and awaited the approach of his oldest and dearest friend.
Shunsui appeared in his doorway, missing an eyebrow and appearing quite scorched. The end of his captain’s robe was blackened and ragged, and his usual pink haori was noticeably absent. His hair was frazzled, and even his hat seemed to have a few charred holes in it.
“Shunsui!” Jyuushiro exclaimed in surprise, blinking. “Whatever happened to you?”
The other man was immensely relieved at seeing his best friend. He did a double take at the huge bag of candy and was about to question it when he remembered just why he had come here in the first place. He hobbled into the office, missing one sandal, and leaned heavily against Ukitake’s desk, smelling burnt and looking in desperate need of a good drink.
“Jyuu-chan, you haven’t perhaps seen dear Rukia-chan today, have you?”
“Why?” The white-haired male somehow wasn’t surprised.
Shunsui sighed heavily, an unusual sound for him. “Well, you see, Nanao-chan is under the mistaken impression that I…” he trailed off as he cleared his throat noisily before continuing. “Never mind what she thinks I did. The point is, I know it wasn’t me but in fact something orchestrated by dear, sweet Rukia-chan.” The last came out growled and through visibly clenched teeth.
Jyuushiro was shocked by the vehemence and put just a few inches of space between he and his homicidal friend. “I see,” he said somewhat breathlessly. “I’m sure if you just talk to Ise-fukutaichou, she will forgive you and listen to reason.”
The other captain didn’t look as if he thought this were at all possible. “I don’t believe it’s that easy, Jyuu-chan.” He stood up and tried to restore his state to something resembling dignity, looking mournfully down at himself. “She took my favorite haori and did unspeakable things to it.”
There was a muffled noise from beneath Ukitake’s desk which might have been laughter. Jyuushiro himself raised a brow, wondering what Shunsui would ever qualify as “unspeakable.”
Coughing into his sleeve to disguise his own peal of laughter, Jyuushiro carefully schooled his face into something much more serious. “Now, Shunsui, it can’t be that terrible. I suggest apologizing and perhaps getting some of your work done. That should appease your lovely vice-captain.”
His dearest friend looked positively pained at the thought of having to remain awake and sober long enough to do his own paperwork. He debated the virtues of doing either, even going so far as to dance from foot to foot, before his shoulders slumped and a look of pathetic defeat crossed his features. His lips even pouted in a fashion that Jyuushiro found endearing, even after all these years.
“I suppose you’re right,” Shunsui acquiesced with such a depressed, heavy sigh that Ukitake was once more forced to disguise his chuckle as a cough, and if anyone had knew how often he had done that over the years, they wouldn’t think he was sick at all.
Instead, the thirteenth division captain nodded sagely. “Of course, I am. Now, I believe your vice-captain is awaiting an apology.” He sipped at his tea and regarded his companion over the cup.
Shunsui tipped his head in goodbye, hand touching the brim of his hat, before he shuffled out dejectedly, acting like a man being led to his doom. It was so very amusing that Jyuushiro couldn’t hide the twinkle in his eyes. He exhaled exasperatedly and looked down at his subordinate.
“I’m not going to get any work done today at this rate,” he declared, deciding in that moment he did not want to know what she had done to Shunsui.
She patted his knee in thanks. “That should be the last of them,” Rukia responded, pursing her lips as she thought deeply. “For today, at least. I’ll just slip out your window and be on my way.”
Skeptical, Jyuushiro nonetheless slid out of the way and let her clamber out from under his desk, inwardly vowing that this was absolutely the last time. “In the future, perhaps you could practice a bit more discretion in your attempts to aid others.”
“Of course,” she said with a big smile and a nod of her head, failing to look the least bit contrite as she hefted herself onto the ledge of his window. “Thank you, Ukitake-taichou.”
“You’re welcome, but this is the final time.”
She didn’t even argue as she jumped out of the window and landed outside with barely a sound. He returned his attention to his work, which had not been touched since that morning when Rukia had rushed in and had begged him to hide her. And Jyuushiro had just managed to pick up his pen and read the first symbol when the sound of a terrified squeak floated to his ears, as well as the noise of many knuckles being cracked. His lips quirked into a smirk.
So they had found her, after all.
“Ukitake-taichou!” Rukia squeaked. “Help me!”
In his office, Ukitake Jyuushiro chuckled under his breath and pretended that he couldn’t hear. He hummed to himself and inwardly cheered them on, calmly moving on to the next line in his long overdue paperwork. He couldn’t exactly trust Kiyone and Sentarou to it.
After all, he had been none too pleased to open his mail last week, only to discover naked pictures of Kurosaki-kun, Abarai-fukutaichou, Kuchiki-taichou, and several others. One of Rukia’s attempts to find him a date. Still, it wouldn’t have been so bad if Kiyone hadn’t been standing there at that very moment, looking over his shoulder and catching a glimpse of every single picture. His third-seat had then gleefully offered to help him find true love, if that was where his interests lied, her eyes gleaming with evidence of fangirlism.
Jyuushiro had the distinct feeling that he’d never live it down, but he couldn’t bring himself to care as he heard a high-pitched shriek and a rather odd thump just beyond his window. The captain leaned back in his seat, smiling to himself and thinking of the very same pictures that were even now tucked away in a secret drawer of his desk, and there was a second, more muted screech outside followed by blessed silence.
Life was good.