Author: Battypichugirl2 PM
Shuuhei had always considered the scars running down the right side of his face a mark of shame.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Hurt/Comfort - Shuuhei H. - Words: 2,767 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 14 - Published: 06-27-09 - id: 5171296
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Ahahaha, finally it's ready for you, Shy! Happy Sort-of-Belated Birthday! :'DD I really hope I characterized Shuuhei well for you, since I didn't have much to go off of in my current point in the anime. xD Annnnd, the title is a trope. Ah well, TV Tropes Ruins Your Life, right? xD;
Anyway, hopefully the final product justifies the eleven hours I spent on it. : P Enjoy!
Shuuhei had always considered the scars running down the right side of his face a mark of shame. He took them as a sign of his failure—to protect both his classmates, as well as the underclassmen who revered him as their senpai. He had still been an Academy student then, so one could say he was being too hard on himself…the purpose of the exercise was to prepare the shinigami hopefuls for combat, not throw them in a deadly situation right off the bat. But the fact that the two classmates with him had died, and he would have met the same fate, had Renji, Momo, and Izuru not come back for him after he told the freshman class to run…that fact bore heavy on his soul.
But Shuuhei had resolved not to let the failure get to him, and for many years afterward, the scars were a motivation for him to get stronger so he wouldn't let those close to him down again. They were a constant reminder of a failure he had sworn never to repeat, and as he worked his way up the ranks to become Kaname Tousen's lieutenant, for the longest time he wasn't bothered by the shame the three parallel scars represented to him. Only motivated to get stronger. Only motivated to become a man Kaname Tousen would be proud of. Only motivated to become a man that the Kaname Tousen that was strong and honorable and loyal and would never have even for a second entertained the notion of betraying the Soul Society would have been proud of.
…Only motivated to become a man that could have stopped Kaname Tousen from leaving with Aizen.
At least…that's what he thought. With Tousen gone…he wasn't quite sure what to do with himself. Tousen had betrayed him, betrayed his division, and betrayed the Soul Society…how could he help his division move on if he held to that as his model?
He spent the longest time hanging around the fourth division medical center, trying to figure out what he should do from here—he had been lucky not to have been as badly wounded as many of the others in that battle, but Shuuhei carried his own, new scars as well. Scars that were not visible, as the ones on his face, but were just as, possibly even more painful, and just as lasting. He had just lost his mentor, his idol—the one who had given him direction and something to strive for. The one that had made him feel proud to be a shinigami.
He visited all his injured friends at the fourth division, but more and more he found himself being drawn to Momo's hospital bed, and when visiting hours were over and the fourth division shinigami had to all but threaten him to leave, he usually went to visit Izuru, who could usually be found drinking with Rangiku.
And while he did what he could to keep Izuru away from alcohol so he wouldn't come to depend on the stuff, part of him wanted to just let him do as he pleased; if alcohol made the hurt go away, then he felt like he should let Izuru have it—at least the other lieutenant had found something that helped…
Because Shuuhei couldn't ease the hurt within himself so easily—he felt wounded from the very core of his soul, like his identity itself had been shattered along with the Sokyoku that day. And many days, as he sat on Momo's hospital bed after she had finally regained consciousness and listened to her cry herself to sleep or watched Izuru binge on the sake that he diluted almost completely with water while his friend wasn't looking, he could feel his scars burning with the shame he thought he had gotten over all those years ago. Because once again, he had failed them. Back then, he wasn't able to protect Renji, Momo, and Izuru from a pack of hollows and had to be saved by Aizen, and now he had been unable to protect them from getting hurt by that very same Aizen.
And there were no quick-fixes, no easy answers, so Shuuhei thought that maybe if he went back to his original method of getting stronger—just trying to get as strong as he could without trying to be "like" anyone, might make the loss of his captain, in time, just a little easier to bear.
And for a while, it worked. Shuuhei put everything he had into training, and poured all his frustration and anger and hurt into the battles with hollows, and for a while, his heart felt just a little bit lighter from having an outlet for the feelings he wasn't sure what to do with. But then one day, the lieutenant got cornered by two Gillians during a mission in the world of the living. As a mere lieutenant, and with the power restrictions that came with the rank when in the world of the living, he stood no chance. He had passed out by the time help arrived, but when he woke up in the fourth division medical center, he found out that Renji and Izuru had gotten permission to go with him soon after the squad nine lieutenant had already departed for the world of the living. Momo had wanted to go as well, but despite her protests, it had been decided that she was not yet ready to re-enter combat.
So yet again, he found himself rescued by the former underclassmen he wanted so badly to protect, and he couldn't even train to get his mind off of things with the wounds he had obtained. He had quickly found lying around to be something he couldn't handle for more than a few hours at a stretch; it gave him far too much time on his hands to think, and the last thing Hisagi wanted at this point was to think about his failures. And so after much negotiating and begging and promising that he would take it easy, he finally convinced Unohana to release him early, based on his arguments that the ninth division needed someone to lead them.
For a moment, Shuuhei couldn't breathe as he felt one of his already bruised ribs snap when he hit the rock formation behind him.
"Hey. Shuuhei, y'okay?" The lieutenant slapped away the offered hand from the one that had spoken.
"Hah…hah…f-fine—nngh—fine…Ikkaku…" he grunted breathlessly in response. And with this assurance, he clutched his zanpakutou and began struggling to pull himself to his feet.
"You look like you're done t'me," Ikkaku insisted, "If you push those wounds too much, you could do some permanent damage t'yourself."
"I said I'm fine!" Shuuhei cried in response, an action which caused him to launch in spasm of coughing that might have rivaled Ukitake's. "I…I told you to—to go after me like…like I was…a ryoka! Don't…hold back, dammit…"
Ikkaku simply resealed his zanpakutou, swung it over his shoulder, and turned to leave.
"You can't train effectively with wounds like those. Pain is getting in your way, and for good reason too. Come back'n talk to me in a week. I'll spar with you again then, a'right?"
"No, come back—dammit Ikkaku—" he called, attempting to go after him but finding that his body would not support his weight as he slumped against his zanpakutou.
"In a week—" the other man said, a severity in his tone that suggested that this sparring match was definitely over, whether he liked it or not.
And then the bald shinigami was gone, leaving Shuuhei with, once again, nothing but his thoughts. Soon, he found his zanpakutou wouldn't take his weight for very long either, and it sagged against the earth and came dislodged from the spot he'd driven it into, causing the ninth division lieutenant to collapse to the ground without the support.
He had to wonder, after a few moments, which would be more embarrassing: being found sometime unconscious on Sokyoku Hill, in blatant violation of the promise he'd made to Unohana, or attempting to crawl back to his division on his hands and knees. With his zanpakutou. It wasn't an attractive proposition.
Then again, neither was letting Unohana find out that he had done the exact thing he had promised not to do and gone out to train again before he was fully healed. If he was forced to lie in a hospital bed for upwards of a week, he was positive that it would drive him absolutely batshit insane. He still wasn't sure crawling was worth it, though, so the lieutenant settled for lying there on his stomach as he was now while he tried to come up with something better.
And while it started to feel like he wasn't going to come up with anything before he passed out, three very familiar reiatsu signatures began to approach. He hadn't quite yet placed who they belonged to in his mind when he heard their voices—Momo…Renji…Izuru. He almost felt like laughing at the irony, as here they were again, helping him out when he couldn't help himself when he was five years their senior and was supposed to be the one doing these things for them.
"What are you guys doing here?" he asked, trying fruitlessly to leverage himself so he could sit up and face them.
And he felt both touched and embarrassed when, even though he failed to push himself up, he didn't hit the ground either, because Izuru had already caught him, and he and Renji were already putting his arms around their shoulders and pulling him up so that he wouldn't have to crawl and he wouldn't have to lie around in a hospital bed with nothing to do because he had broken his promise to Unohana and gone off to train.
"We felt your spiritual pressure drop all of a sudden," Momo explained, and the other two lieutenants keep quiet because they know she doesn't want to take credit for being the first to notice, just as she didn't want to take credit for being the one who first decided to turn back for Hisagi back in their Academy days.
"I'm…sorry," he finally said, head hanging a bit, even though he didn't know quite what he was apologizing about. "Your old senpai must look like a total joke now…" he tried a laugh, but it came out so weak and broken-sounding that he only felt worse, for feeling sorry for himself in front of them when he wasn't the only one who'd been hurt by the departure of the three former captains. Two of them had lost their own captains—Momo had nearly died. Renji's captain was still loyal to the Soul Society, but Shuuhei knew that Byakuya had not come out of the ordeal unscathed either, and he knew that Renji could sense the faith that had been shaken in one who had once believed the word of law to be absolute, and that the sense of uncertainly that his captain now had bothered him too.
"Shuuhei-senpai…" Momo began quietly, the concern rimming those big brown eyes making Shuuhei want to go off somewhere and stab himself for letting her worry about him when she had almost been killed by the captain she idolized.
"No, Momo…I'm all right, really…don't worry about me." He sighed and stared at the ground miserably for a moment before continuing. "I just…you guys shouldn't keep having to help me like this…I'm supposed to—"
"Don't be an idiot," Renji tells him, rather bluntly. "You've saved our asses plenty of times in the past—helping you out is the least we can do, right?"
"Renji's right," Izuru began, albeit slightly hesitantly—he was a bit uncomfortable telling his former senpai that he's being an idiot, but he doesn't disagree with Renji. "We all just have to do what we can, without…our captains." His voice trailed off a bit at the end, but he got his sentence out.
"Plenty of times?" Shuuhei repeated, looking confused and still lost in his self-hate and pity. "When?"
"Like, back at the Academy, Shuuhei-senpai," Momo answered, and each time he heard that sweet, innocent voice, Shuuhei couldn't help but hate himself, for letting someone like that get hurt. He couldn't help but hate himself for not seeing some sign of Aizen's future treachery in the kind, bespectacled man that had given Momo something to strive for when the fifth division captain saved them from the hollows, all those years ago at the Academy. "You saved us…from the hollows."
He shook his head, still too full of self-loathing for letting a beautiful, kind soul like Momo who had nothing but love and respect and kindness for everyone be manipulated and broken around the thumb of a madman to really pay attention to what the fifth division lieutenant was saying.
"N-no…that was—that was Aizen…And then I couldn't…stop him from…well…you know..."
"We woulda been dead long 'fore Aizen got there if you hadn't done what you did for us." He remembered that Renji had always been the free spirit among them, the one who was never afraid to speak his mind. An admirable thing, really—he supposed it had only been nurtured by his time in the eleventh division…
Izuru nodded, and Momo gave him that heart-wrenchingly adorable smile in agreement, and then…began to stand up on her tiptoes, reaching up towards that side of him that was dangling a bit from the much-taller Renji's shoulder towards the slightly-shorter Izuru's. Shuuhei was about to ask her what it was she was doing, but for the fact that she couldn't seem to reach, causing a pout that he couldn't help but find absolutely darling on her to start to form on her lips. The other two lieutenants chuckled a little and bent down on their knees so she could reach, and without having to stand on her tiptoes.
"You did save us, Shuuhei-senpai, and you have the scars…to prove that." His eyes widened a bit, and Hisagi opened his mouth to protest when he was silenced by the sudden touch of delicate fingers to his skin as Momo traced the line of the center one of his three scars which ran from his forehead down to his jaw.
"Three scars. One for each of us that you saved…"
Both Renji and Izuru smiled softly, knowing only someone like Momo could have come up with something so sweet and beautiful to say to him, and like they always seemed to do with these kinds of things, followed her lead, each of them softly touching one of the other two scars and running down their lengths.
"She's right, you know," Izuru agreed gently.
"She's absolutely right." Renji re-affirmed after Izuru with a nod.
Shuuhei's eyes became watery, then, and out of respect, Renji and Izuru put him down, and they, along with Momo turned aside so that their former senpai could have that moment to himself without the humiliation of being watched.
And as Shuuhei worked to wipe away the tears that just couldn't seem to stop flowing, he promised himself that he would see the scars as a symbol of pride and not of shame from now on, that he would just need to get stronger so that he could keep on protecting them the best that he could.
This time, they had given him something to strive for, and he wouldn't let them down.