Bankai Wing: Renji and Duo and Guns, Oh My
By Mel and Christy, who are still having entirely too much fun with this.
“Yeah?” Renji glanced towards the voice, belatedly recognised who was speaking to him, and jerked his body around to bow. “Uh, I mean yes, sir?”
Captain-General Ukitake smiled cheerfully at him. “Would you mind making a small excursion to the living world for me?”
“Not a problem, sir!” Renji mentally assigned all the paperwork he knew was waiting on his desk to his lieutenant, and grinned happily. “When, where, and what do you want me to do?”
“‘When’ is now,” Ukitake informed him, “or at least today. ‘Where’ is a particular patrol zone that has been experiencing seriously increased numbers of Hollow incursions, with no cause discovered as yet… and an unfortunate lack of response from its assigned squad.”
“Indeed. As for ‘what’, I would like you to visit the area, see if you can determine any clues as to the cause of the increased incursions, and evaluate the response to any new Hollows that arrive while you are there. I realise this would normally be the duty of the Onmitsukidou, but some of the members of the squad under investigation are related to members of the Onmitsukidou, and there is the possibility that previous, more official investigations have discovered nothing because they have received advance notice.”
“…Ouch,” Renji repeated, blinking. “Wow. Well, that explains why you came out to the practice ground to ask me instead of calling me to your office.”
“Exactly!” Ukitake’s smile widened and he drew his zanpakutou. “In the interests of maintaining our camouflage, would you like to spar?”
* * * * *
“Captain Abarai,” Nemu replied, keeping her eyes on the street below until Subject 3 -- Heero -- passed out of sight around a corner.
“Whatcha doing?” Renji asked, coming to stand next to her on the building’s parapet.
“Observing.” One hand tucked the small voice recorder she’d been making her notes on away in her obi.
One eyebrow quirked upwards as he looked sideways at her, half-smiling. “You’re doing the thing again.”
The statement didn’t seem to require an answer; Nemu folded her hands at her waist and looked back at him silently. After a few seconds, he sighed.
“Okay, that was when you were supposed to say ‘What thing, Captain Abarai?’”
“I beg your pardon. What thing, Captain Abarai?”
“There ya go. The thing where you give perfectly true answers that don’t actually include any information,” he told her, grinning. “The thing you do to your Captain a lot, when you don’t think he needs to know something. Why are you doing it to me?”
Nemu blinked. “I do apologise, Captain Abarai. I assure you, I was not deliberately doing ‘the thing’.”
“And that’s the other thing!” he huffed, folding his arms over his chest.
She watched him, blank-faced, until he sighed again, rolling his eyes. A barely perceptible smile curved her lips as she replied, “What other thing, Captain Abarai?”
“The thing where you totally change the subject instead of answering a direct question. Which was, if I remember right, ‘whatcha doing?’ And if the answer is still ‘observing’, the next questions are, ‘observing what?’ and ‘why?’”
“I am observing the close companions of Subjects 1 and 2, previously designated Treats 1 and 2, in an attempt to determine whether their exposure to strong reiatsu will trigger or accelerate the development of their own abilities. My hypothesis is tentatively confirmed. Continued observation is needed to determine in what ways their abilities are developing.”
Renji blinked, processing that, and then broke out into a grin. “Oh man, you mean they’ve got Ichigo Syndrome?”
“Put colloquially… yes.”
“Ha! Well, so long as nobody sticks a zanpakutou through their chests, we should be safe from invasion. --You’re not planning to do that, are you?”
“Not at this point in time, no.”
“Oh, good. It took long enough to rebuild last time, what with the number of buildings he managed to take down in Seireitei before he joined the squads for real… waitaminute. Whaddaya mean, ‘not at this point in time’?!”
“It was a joke, Captain Abarai.”
“That’s almost scarier than the thought of a second Ichigo,” he muttered, then grinned. “Oh well. Anyway, if you’re here to observe them and their friends, that explains part of why I got called in. Assuming they’re the reason for the high numbers of Hollows in the area, that is. I thought this sounded familiar.”
“I believe so, yes.”
“Huh. D’you think it’s their friends attracting the Hollows this time, or do we need to come up with better wards for those two? Seeing as how the whole point of giving them wards was so that they wouldn’t attract attention.”
Nemu cocked her head slightly to one side, considering. “I believe it to be due to a combination of circumstances. First, subjects 1 and 2 are almost certainly still developing in power, and thus may be growing beyond their wards’ ability to suppress and camouflage their reiatsu. Second, subjects 3 to 5 are indeed developing their own reiatsu, and will begin attracting notice soon if they have not already.”
“Gotcha,” Renji muttered, squinting down at the street. “I’ll talk to the Kidou Corps, get them started on making stronger--”
“Third,” Nemu continued, going on as if he hadn’t interrupted, “all five subjects have remained in one place in the three weeks since Subject 1’s injury, and the resulting accumulation of reiatsu in the environment has--”
“--what?! Injury?!” Renji yelped, spinning to stare at her again. “Subject 1 -- that’s the one with the hair, right? My one?”
“--yes, Captain Abarai. Subject 1,” she paused, “the one with the -- ah -- hair, was injured just over three weeks ago. I regret that I am unable to report on the precise nature of his injury, but it was serious enough for medical personnel to be called in. Subject 1 has not left the building since they moved here immediately afterwards. I hypothesise that he--”
Renji was gone.
“--is on bed rest,” Nemu finished, following the black flicker left by him flash-stepping across to the other side of the road with her gaze. After a moment, she pulled her voice recorder out again.
- - - - -
Now that Renji was looking for it, he could feel a vague patina of familiar reiatsu smudged over the general area, like fingerprints on glass.
Given what Shirosaki said about how those two smell to Hollows, that’s gotta be like pouring gravy over half a dozen city blocks, he thought, landing on the elderly apartment building’s parapet and peering down into the alley beside it. There isn’t a clear source for them to concentrate on and ambush, so we aren’t getting mobs of 'em like the first time these guys showed up, but they’re still poking around the area and hoping…
The wards given to the ‘treats’ camouflaged their owners’ precise location from Shinigami as well as Hollows, but they had their own reiatsu signature… and right now both of them were in the same area of the building, about three floors down.
I can just take a look, Renji told himself, eyeing the window closest to where ‘his’ human’s ward was resting, humming quietly to itself with the rhythms and resonances of a body at rest. That feels like he’s asleep. The other one isn’t close enough to be in the same room, I’ve got the stupid strong kidou seal keeping my own energy under wraps, and if one of the other three is there… well, they’re not as strong as my guy or Ichigo’s blond kid. No way they’d be able to see me yet.
So I can sneak in, make sure he’s okay, and sneak out. Nobody the wiser. No harm, no foul.
- - - - -
Duo snapped from a light doze into full awareness as the catch on the window unlocked with a nearly-inaudible *snick*. He didn’t move, didn’t open his eyes, and kept his breathing perfectly steady as the window slid upwards; the window itself made no noise (And how is whoever-the-fuck-that-is managing that, when the damn thing sticks every half an inch and scrapes paint off the runners every time Quatre opens it for the nonexistent fresh air?) but the quality of the distant traffic noises changed, no longer muffled by the glass. The sounds changed again, blocked as a body climbed through, and there was the faintest possible whisper of cloth on cloth as the intruder stealthily approached the bed--
The red-haired ghost went cross-eyed as he tried to focus on the gun muzzle tapping him right between his tattooed eyebrows, and Duo groaned. “Fuck sake, dude, just let me know you’re coming for a visit, will ya? What are you trying to do, make me pull my stitches out?” He settled back onto his pillows considerably slower than he’d moved to counter the possible threat, wincing as assorted injuries protested, and slid the hideout gun back under the blankets.
“Uh. Sorry about that,” the ghost said, eyeing him warily. “I, uh, thought you were asleep.”
“I was,” Duo muttered. “Did you really expect me to stay asleep through someone sneaking into the room? --Hold that thought,” he interrupted himself, holding up one finger and turning his head towards the door. “False alarm, Q! It’s a friendly!”
There was the quiet metallic click of a safety being engaged just outside the door, and then it opened to reveal Quatre, gun in one hand pointing at the floor. “I thought it felt familiar,” he said, looking the embarrassed ghost over. “‘Tats-man’, I presume? And may I say it’s a good thing that Heero just went out shopping, or else he would have been the one responding to the window alarm?”
Duo snickered, shaking his head. “Oooh, talk about a narrow escape! I’d say good timing, but seriously dude, unannounced visits, not good around here. Also, that was a totally shitty thing you did, breaking into our safe house to leave a frickin’ anonymous note instead of showing up in person to, I dunno, maybe say thank-you for me saving your ectoplasmic ass?”
“Hey, I’m not the one who ran like a rabbit instead of hanging around for a conversation,” the ghost objected. “Also, we have rules about not interfering with normal humans, so I wasn’t allowed to do anything else.”
“Oh, like we’re normal,” Duo muttered, rolling his eyes. Re-holstering his gun, Quatre quietly sidled back out of the room and headed towards the kitchen.
The ghost apparently decided to ignore Duo’s comment, making an expressive gesture that took in the bed, the crutches leaning against the wall, and the general sickroom atmosphere. “Nice to see you again, by the way. I’d say ‘under better circumstances’, but what the fuck is all this?”
“I hadda go and be a frickin’ white knight -- against my better judgement, I gotta say -- and save a couple of OZzies from a Hollow that was lining up to munch on them. It munched me a bit, and then the OZzies got all shooty, so they ended up dead anyway. Shoulda just let the stupid thing have them.”
“You got a Hollow bite? How bad?”
Duo shrugged. “Hurts like a bitch, but it didn’t hit anything vital,” he said, gesturing towards his leg.
“Mind if I have a look? They can be nasty. I may not be great with healing kidou, but if it needs something more I can haul someone from Fourth squad down here.”
“Okay, but if you’re going to see me in all my boxers-clad glory I want some introductions first,” Duo grinned, sticking out his hand. “Hi. I’m Duo Maxwell, Gundam pilot and all-around awesome person. Who the hell are you?”
Renji grinned back, shaking hands. “Hi. I’m Abarai Renji, Captain of the Fifth Squad of the Gotei Thirteen, Shinigami and all-around awesome ectoplasmic guy. Nice to meet you.”
“Quatre Winner,” the teenager in question said as he pushed the door aside with his shoulder, both hands occupied with a tray. “Gundam pilot, strategist, and possibly the only person who is keeping in mind the fact that barring unforeseen circumstances, Heero will be back in twenty-five minutes precisely. Until then, I have tea and biscuits, and so long as you give me the cups back five minutes before he returns I promise to wash up the evidence.”
* * * * *
Ukitake looked up from his paperwork and smiled at the spiky-haired Captain peering around his door. “Captain Abarai, welcome back! Do sit down and have some tea.”
“Just a small cup if you don’t mind, sir. I just had some half an hour ago.” Renji settled down on the opposite side of the table and grinned, laying his sword beside him. “Really good tea, too, and the biscuits were pretty awesome as well.”
“Do I want to know?” Ukitake asked, raising one snow-white eyebrow as he poured.
“Uh… that depends. Do we still consider the Treats to be ‘normal humans'? ’Cause if we do, I kinda need a pardon for breaking the rule about not revealing ourselves to ordinary mortals.”
“‘The Treats’? --Oh.” The eyebrow went up higher. “No; given that they can see us, I think that rule doesn’t apply. I gather they were involved?”
“Yup.” Renji picked up his cup and sipped, sighing in appreciation. “In both halves of the problem. I need to get them better wards, because they’re leaking enough reiatsu to make their location smell really interesting to Hollows if they stay in one place for more than a couple of weeks, though it’s not as urgent as you might think because they usually don’t stay in one place for more than one.”
“Noted. And the second half of the problem?”
“The assigned squad has been getting really slack about tracking Hollows, since at least half the time they get there just as their target vanishes… because the Treats have started teaching two of their friends to hunt. Also, Vice-Captain Kurotsuchi has been staying in the area ‘observing’ them, so she might’ve been taking out targets on the side. I forgot to ask.”
Ukitake smiled as he picked up his own cup. “‘Observing’?”
“I think she’s taken them on as a private project. She was doing that thing she does when she’s avoiding actually reporting to her Captain.”
“The completely uninformative yet truthful answers?”
“And the subject changes.” Renji sipped his tea again, frowning slightly. “He does know she does that, right?”
“Oh yes,” Ukitake assured him. “I’m fairly sure he lets her get away with it because he trusts her to have a better sense of priorities than he does. If she doesn’t tell him about interesting-but-unadvisable research subjects, he isn’t compelled to investigate them, and doesn’t get into trouble. Or dissolve half of Seireitai.”
“…Ooh. Let’s not mess with what works, then.”
Bankai Wing 5
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