Soi sank to the floor by her writing desk with more of a thump than she would have permitted herself anywhere but her own rooms. Her eyes slid wearily over the report that she had left half-written, there; she should finish it tonight. Well, perhaps another paragraph, at least. She rubbed the back of her hand over eyes that insisted on drooping.
Perhaps she’d feel better after she got out of uniform.
She managed to knot the ties of her yukata decently and got about half way through undoing one of her braids before she ran out of energy again.
"Look who’s wilted! Will it help if we put your feet in water?"
Soi jumped half out of her skin, but didn’t make it more than a few inches around before her visitor wrapped an arm around her shoulders from behind, laughing in her ear. Soi slumped. "Yoruichi-sama," she murmured. Strike one more set of intruder tell-tales that obviously didn’t work well enough.
"Your hair will snarl if you leave it like that," Yoruichi-sama told her, plucking the half-unraveled braid out of Soi’s fingers. Soi blushed a little, but sat meekly while Yoruichi-sama undid her hair with swift, warm hands. "What’s going on that’s got you so worn out?"
"What isn’t?" Soi sighed, brushing her fingers over the pages of her report. "It almost seems like…" she bit her lip.
Yoruichi-sama reached past her for her comb. "Hm?"
"Like the Captain-General is losing control," Soi finished, softly. She didn’t like the thought; it meant that she must have failed in her duty. But… "Some of the Captains are getting very involved in politics," she admitted. "And nothing has stopped them. Not warnings, not lectures, not keeping them busy with assignments. I haven’t been ordered to act against them directly, but…" She twisted her fingers together in her lap.
"If you’re ordered to do that, it will mean war within Soul Society, worse than last time." The flat tone in Yoruichi-sama’s voice contradicted the gentle stroke of the comb through Soi’s hair. "And the Captain-General has no right to give you such an order without the decision of the Forty-Six. The Onmitsukidou are not under him."
"Does it count if it’s the decision of the Sixteen?" Soi asked, bitterly. And then bit her lip again; that wasn’t becoming to her position…
Yoruichi-sama chuckled, and patted her shoulder. "Exactly. You’re learning, girl."
Soi ignored the tug of the comb to turn and give her superior a scolding look. "Yoruichi-sama…" But Yoruichi-sama only grinned, teeth gleaming in the dusk, and Soi sighed. "And then there’s Kuchiki," she added, one exasperation reminding her of another.
"Which one?" Yoruichi-sama pushed her back around and resumed combing, separating Soi’s hair to make a single braid.
"Both of them!" Soi glared at the wall, aggravated. "But Rukia mostly. I just don’t know what she’s doing."
"Getting pregnant?" Yoruichi-sama suggested. Soi could hear the smirk. "Has to happen sooner or later, with those two."
Soi sniffed. "Everything but that, it seems." She ticked off on her fingers. "She’s been confirmed as the vice-captain of Thirteenth Division, and is still training hard, though at least half of it is in private. She goes for tea, or sake more likely, with Shiba Kuukaku every few weeks, and that’s where she met the Commander of the Kidoushuu; they seem to be getting along famously. She’s studying our law, of all things, with her brother, though I can’t get anyone close enough to tell how far she’s gotten in it. And she still makes time to go out with the other vice-captains, and sometimes captains too, and for some reason she’s trying to coax Nemu to join in." Soi threw up her hands. "It’s like she decided she wants to do over her time in the Academy!"
"The advanced course, maybe," Yoruichi-sama murmured, plaiting Soi’s hair snugly. "What’s Byakuya doing to annoy you?"
Soi rubbed her eyes again. Yoruichi-sama’s hands were soothing, and her eyes were starting to get heavy. "He’s… just waiting. He must know, by now, that he’s the most likely choice for Captain-General, when Yamamoto-san retires. That’s the part that really makes me wonder what his sister is doing; and what he’s thinking." She tried to stifle a yawn.
"There, now." Yoruichi-sama rested a hand on Soi’s shoulder. "I said you were learning, didn’t I?" The hand guided her firmly down, and Soi was sufficiently tired not to wonder too much about the odd lap-like shape her pillow seemed to have transformed into. Yoruichi-sama’s hand, stroking her hair, lulled her into sleep even as she mumbled a protest about finishing her report…
Soi woke up when the sun from her open window started to shine in her eyes. Leaning up on her elbow she found that she’d been tucked up on her futon. And that Yoruichi-sama was gone again. And, as the breeze fluttered pages on her desk, that her report was completed.
At the end, in her own handwriting, was a suggestion that Hitsugaya Toushirou be considered for the position of Captain-General.
The new note, tucked under her inkstone, was in Yoruichi-sama’s hand.
"That should confuse them all enough to slow them down. Hurry and catch up!"
Soi pressed the note to her cheek and smiled.