Bleach, Tradition, Ukitake+Rukia, Shunsui, Nanao, PG
Title: Tradition Author: scathachdhu Written for: jaina for bleach_flashfic Characters: Rukia, Ukitake, Shunsui, Nanao Genre: gen Rating: Teen for mention and consumption of alcohol Wordcount: 1748
Thanks to angstymcgoth for the beta.
Ukitake looked up in mild surprise as quick footsteps approached his office. Kuchiki Rukia entered a moment later, stopping just inside the open door. "You needed to see me, Captain?"
Setting the document he was reading to one side, he smiled and waved her forward. "Thank you for coming, Kuchiki. Please have a seat."
Rukia stopped three feet from the front of his desk before sinking to her knees in a practiced movement.
"I hope you didn't rush to get here; I told Sentarou that there was no hurry."
"There was nothing else that required my immediate attention, sir," she said, giving him a small smile.
"Well, then, Kuchiki, I have a favor to ask. Feel free to refuse; I won't be offended."
"Sir?" Rukia blinked.
Ukitake sighed, and steepled his fingers beneath his chin. "Captain Kyouraku has been more...insistent of late that I come out and drink with him."
"I don't understand, sir," she said slowly. "I was under the impression that you met with Captain Kyouraku regularly."
"Yes, but lately I've been sticking with water or tea." He gave her a rueful smile. "He finds himself deeply offended and has insisted the only way to make things better is for me to join him next time."
"Ah," Rukia said, her brow creasing. "And how may I assist you in this, sir?"
"Well, Sentarou and Kiyone came with me the last time, but that...that didn't turn out well at all," Ukitake said, looking pained. "At all."
"Exactly. So if you don't mind, Kuchiki, I would appreciate it if you would come along and keep Nanao company. She can't possibly be entertained listening to two old men go on for hours."
Rukia's eyebrows rose, before she bowed her head. "I am gratified that you thought of me, sir. I would be honored to accompany you."
Ukitake gave her a fond look; he wondered if he would ever get her to drop her formality with him. "Thank you, Kuchiki. I appreciate it."
She looked up, a hesitant smile pushing aside her normal reserve. "I look forward to it, sir."
Ise Nanao raised her cup, allowing the wine to no more than wet her lips before lowering it to her lap. Her captain insisted she have at least one drink on these occasions, and she had long practice in nursing it for as long as possible. Next to her, Kuchiki Rukia sat attentive as their two captains relaxed in one of the Eighth Division's receiving rooms.
Captain Kyouraku lay on his side, head resting on one hand as he held a dish of sake in the other. Captain Ukitake faced him, his legs loosely crossed in front of him and one hand flat on the floor behind him. Neither man wore his captain's robe. This was a gathering of two old friends; such formalities were unnecessary.
The doors to the walkway were open, and the sunset was brilliant over the inner courtyard. As soon as it began to turn cool, Nanao would close the doors and have the small brazier lit. It was nothing more than she had done for every one of their meetings since she began to accompany her captain.
But Kuchiki-san was a new face at these gatherings. Nanao silently thanked Captain Ukitake for leaving Kiyone-san and Sentarou-san behind this time; their competitiveness and alcohol were a bad mix, and certainly did not foster a relaxing atmosphere.
Her heart warmed as she watched him laugh at something Captain Kyouraku said; having grown quite fond of her captain's best friend, Nanao liked nothing better than to see the burdens lifted from him, if only for a short time.
"Kuchiki-san," she said, her voice quiet. "If this wine is not to your liking, my captain certainly will not push you. Please do not feel as though you must finish it."
"Ah," Kuchiki-san said, dark eyes startled as she turned to face her. "I thought that I should make an effort, given that Ise-san is also--"
Nanao shook her head. "I spend the day humoring my captain, this is no different. You should certainly feel no pressure to do so."
"Thank you, Ise-san," Kuchiki-san said, looking at the delicate cup she held against her lap. "But I do not mind."
"Very well," Nanao said. She lifted her own cup to her mouth, once again wetting her lips.
"Kuchiki," Captain Kyoraku called. "How is the sake? This is a particularly fine vintage." He looked up at her from where he reclined on the floor, his ever-present pink robe draped over his shoulders.
She smiled. "I am not accustomed to indulging, sir, but it is very good."
Captain Kyoraku lifted an eyebrow as he looked at her for a moment. "So polite, Kuchiki," he said. "I believe I have something you may like better." He turned to his vice-captain. "Nanao-chan, do we still have that plum wine I got for my birthday?"
"Yes, sir." Nanao rose smoothly and padded to the door, ignoring the way her captain's eyes followed her every movement. He really needed to stop doing that in front of other people; Captain Ukitake was a gentleman, and surely would not make any assumptions, but she certainly did not want Kuchiki-san to get the wrong idea.
Rukia opened her mouth to protest; there was no need for Ise-san to go to the trouble. "Ah-ah, Kuchiki," Captain Ukitake said; his cheeks were a faint pink, having easily matched his friend drink for drink this evening. "It's no fun if everyone isn't enjoying themselves. Let us find something that suits you."
She felt her eyes widen with alarm, not wanting to seem ungrateful. "I am enjoying myself, sir."
He leaned over and patted her hand. "Good, good. So tell me, how are things going with Byakuya? I haven't seen him outside of captain's meetings for a while."
Rukia hesitated; her budding relationship with her brother was fragile and precious, and she hesitated to speak of it to anyone else. But these two men had risked their lives and careers to save her, and their open faces showed nothing but gentle curiosity and concern. "Very--much better, sir."
"He's a good boy," Captain Kyouraku said lazily, holding his cup out for a refill. "You know, under all the nobility."
"Yes...he had quite a lot of responsibility thrust on him at a young age," Captain Ukitake agreed, serving his friend as he spoke. "But he is a good man."
Captain Kyouraku took another drink and sighed in satisfaction. "Sooo, Rukia-chan..."
Rukia looked up, raising an eyebrow both at the address and the teasing note she heard in his voice. "Yes, Captain?"
"Do you have a boyfriend?"
Rukia started, wine splashing over her fingers. She hurriedly set down her cup and pulled a handkerchief from her robe to wipe her hand, feeling her cheeks warm as she avoided their eyes and fumbled for a response.
"That is hardly any of your business, sir."
Rukia looked up in relief as Ise-san stepped back into the room from the outer walkway, two bottles in her hands. She set them near the rest of the wine.
"You're very welcome, sir." Ise-san closed the outside doors and knelt to light the brazier that sat against the wall.
Captain Kyouraku looked to be pouting. "Well, when you do, you should bring him by so Jyuu and I can impress upon him the importance of keeping a delicate flower such as yourself happy." He smiled. "After your honored brother does so, of course."
"Captain, that is quite enough," Ise-san told him, her voice crisp as she returned to her seat. "I told you what would happen if you did not behave yourself this evening, and I am fully prepared to make good on that." She turned to Rukia, her bearing less stern. "Shall I pour you some of the plum wine, Kuchiki-san?"
"I...yes, please, Ise-san." Rukia felt pathetically grateful for the vice-captain's intervention, and held her cup out. "Thank you again for making the effort."
"It was no trouble; you and Captain Ukitake are honored guests," Ise-san said, pouring the wine. She looked at the two men. "Captain Ukitake? Sir?"
"Thank you, Nanao," Captain Ukitake smiled.
"Ah, my lovely Nanao-chan," Captain Kyouraku murmured. "The model hostess." His smile grew as she poured him some of the plum wine.
Rukia took a sip. "Oh," she said, blinking. The wine was both sweet and tart, with flavors of honey and lemon sliding over her tongue.
She looked up from her musings to see both men watching her; Captain Ukitake looked almost proud, while Captain Kyouraku seemed pleased to find a new convert.
"Is that better suited to you, Rukia-chan?"
"Yes, sir. This is delicious, thank you."
Captain Kyouraku looked satisfied. Rukia had never before seen a man beam and leer at the same time, but it seemed the captain of the Eighth was a man of many and varied talents. "Excellent. I do so love to make a woman happy."
"Sir," Nanao barked. Captain Kyouraku, as large and powerful as he was, looked immediately cowed by his vice-captain, whose violet eyes flashed behind her glasses.
Rukia couldn't help herself; a low laugh slipped out before she could stifle it. Her eyes flew up to see Captain Ukitake's answering smile, and Captain Kyouraku's woebegone expression grew more exaggerated.
"I don't understand, Jyuu...I love women, want only to make them happy, yet I seem to be nothing more than a handy target for their ire and amusement."
"I can't imagine why," Ukitake said, rolling his eyes.
Rukia watched the byplay, still smiling. A warmth that had nothing to do with alcohol spread through her chest. There were very few places where she simply felt accepted, and she was beginning to think she was fortunate enough to have found one more.
Just then, Captain Kyouraku tried to steal a kiss from his vice-captain, who immediately responded by smashing his hat into his face and shoving him backwards.
Captain Ukitake shook his head and raised the bottle of plum wine. "Another, Kuchiki?"
Rukia nodded. "Thank you, sir."
"I'll make sure we have some more next time, if you'd like to join us," he said as he poured.
Rukia took a deep breath. "Thank you, sir," she said again, not bothering to repress the wide smile she could feel fighting to break free. "I very much look forward to it."