Story title: The Brat
Disclaimer: none of the Bleach characters are mine…
Warning: Yaoi, character death…?
Ukitake barely had time to doge the attack, had he thought even for a second before reacting he had no doubt would've been impaled on the sword. But it was a long time since he had to think before acting. Years and years of training had erased whatever border he had had between thought and action.
So instead he could whirl out of the way, bring his own sword up and…
Tousen danced back a few steps. Ukitake eyed the dark skinned former-captain with furrowed brow.
Then it hit him like a sledgehammer, and even though he fought to repress it he felt himself fall to his knees, coughing. Once again he was floored by his illness. Blood splattered against his white, trembling hands that were firmly pressed against the ground in a desperate attempt to keep himself from toppling over.
" I would have preferred another solution to this," he heard his former colleague say as if through a fog and Ukitake shook his head to clear his head. It didn't work. "But you give me no choice, Ukitake-taichou. You insist on standing in my way, and justice cannot allow such hindrance. I am truly sorry for this."
Blinking the white haired man looked up through his bangs, watched in something aching to fascination as the other shinigami raised his sword. Tousen struck. Ukitake had no time to react. No more time at all.
Ukitake barely had time to dodge the attack. He stepped back quickly and watched his opponent do the same.
"You're improving," he praised the young man, who gave him a look that said 'Well of course. Whatever else did you expect?'
The young heir to the Kuchiki house had been in his care for almost three months now, and not once during those months had he known the brat to act any less than his status. He knew most people would always envy this young man. Byakuya was born with what would seem like everything anyone could ever want: power, strength, wealth (to the point where money just didn't have any value anymore. He had seen proof of this many times since Byakuya might very well not think twice about leaving behind even the most valuable of possessions) and of course beauty.
Even Ukitake had to admit the young man was striking. He most probably had no problems(or way too many problems) with the girls.
Poor brat… he thought with a smirk.
He opened his mouth to speak again but was interrupted by the taste of blood in his mouth. Suddenly he felt dizzy and the world spun. He gasped once, and then the cough came so suddenly he was surprised himself. He usually got some forewarning but… before he knew it he was on his knees. He could feel hot blood flood his mouth and he couldn't breathe… the world was going dark.
By the time he came to his senses it was already growing dark in the forest. He was propped up against the trunk of a tree, wrapped in a… what was it? Some sort of cloth…?
"Are you thirsty?"
He blinked and looked up towards the voice. Byakuya came walking towards him, shirtless and with a cup of water in his hand. That brat, he thought with a warm feeling in his chest, no one but him would bring cups to a training exercise in the forest. Too high and mighty to drink from anything less than one of the nobility's handcrafted cups…
"Yes," he rasped out, his voice sounding harsh and wounding his already sore throat.
As graceful as his noble birth required the young man kneeled in front of him, offering him the cup of water with a bow.
"Thank you," he smiled warmly. Byakuya merely nodded in response, his face remaining impassive as he watched the other shinigami. The water felt cool and soothing as he slowly gulped it down and he couldn't help but close his eyes in relief. "Your garme…" he began as he lowered the cup and reopened his eyes, but stopped mid-sentence when he found Byakuya's face inches from his own. Those cool grey eyes was staring into his own with such intensity that he found his mind suddenly go completely blank.
Then the younger shinigami slowly, so achingly slowly, closed the distance between them, and Jushiro felt the boy's lips softly touch his. It was soft and chaste, barely more than a peck, and yet it left the captain completely breathless. Mindless. His heart was hammering wildly in his chest. Just as slowly as before Byakuya then leaned back. Ukitake blinked and stared at the younger man with wide eyes.
The Kuchiki heir met his gaze evenly;" You had blood on your lip."
"Oh…" That was all he could say. Damn he couldn't even think, let alone form words…
"Let us go back. You need to rest."
Byakuya helped him to his feet and together they made their way through the forest.
Ukitake had always wondered what that kiss had been about. Not once after that had Byakuya showed any inclination to do anything like that again, and even after many years, when the brat had grown into a man and Ukitake had asked him about it all the other man had answered was; "I was curious."
About what he had never specified.
Something hit him hard in the side, sending him rolling. Away from where Tousen's sword was aimed. Still coughing he clenched his fists and pleaded for the illness to just, this one time, give him time. To his great surprise it did. The pressure in his lungs eased, and slowly but surely the coughing subsided. Gasping for air, he looked towards where he had been kneeling seconds earlier. Where he had been kneeling another man was standing, his handsome face set in a cold expression and his black hair being swept back by the wind.
Both the captain and the traitor ignored him as he struggled to get up from the ground. Shaking like a newborn foal as he reached for his beloved zanpakuto Sōgyo no Kotowari, he took several deep breaths to steady himself. But when he had steadied his senses enough to fully comprehend the scene before him, he froze.
He stared at the two enemies zanpakutos.
Followed the swords' glittering blades with his gaze. First Senbonzakura's gleaming steel that was firmly planted in Tousen's chest, and then also the dark skinned man's zanpakuto, Suzumushi, from where he held it in trembling hands to…
"Byakuya…." He heard his voice whisper, as his gaze was glued to where Suzumushi's dreaded edge was buried in the Kuchiki lord's stomach.
Byakuya made a sudden arch with his sword and for a moment the air was painted with red liquid that glittered in the pale light from the winter sun. Tousen fell to the ground. Dead. The zanpakuto that had been buried in the Kuchiki lord's stomach fell to the ground, and he watched Byakuya clutching his stomach where the wound had to be.
His limbs felt heavy and awkward, but still Ukitake somehow managed to cross the distance between them in time to catch the other man in his arms when he fell. The additional weight was too great for his weakened body to hold up though, and they both fell to the snow covered ground.
Byakuya felt heavy in his arms.
"I'll get you to Unohana," he promised and struggled to drag the other man up. He slung Byakuya's arm around his neck and dragged him up. Once again he cursed his frail body as he stumbled and fell. Too weak. He was too weak… always to damn weak to aid those he cared for. Kaien… and now also his late fukutaichou's friend. His…
"They'll be here soon," he whispered, forcing his voice to sound firm and sure even as doubt flooded his heart- threatening to choke him.
Jushiro heart froze in fear. He had never before seen Byakuya smile… and that he did so now sent a shiver of alarm down his spine.
"Please don't do that…" he found himself whispering, tightening his hold on the younger man.
"I am sorry, Ukitake-san…" the dark haired man said in a pained whisper and coughed once or twice so that blood splattered his lips in tiny red beads. He didn't stop smiling.
Desperate to make that smile go away, Ukitake slowly he bent down and tasted those blood stained lips with his own cold ones. He felt rather than heard Byakuya gasp against his lips once, but then he kissed him back in kind.
"They'll get here…." Ukitake whispered against the other's lips, still tasting his shallow breathing on his tongue.
"Yes…" the other man agreed, but the look in his eyes said: 'but not in time…'
Trembling both in cold and exhaustion, not to mention the strain of illness, Ukitake hugged the other man close, trying to give him some of whatever little warmth his body and reiatsu still possessed. Even then he could feel the other's body grow heavier in his grasp… could feel the red, hot blood that streamed out of him and melted the fine quilt of snow on the ground.
As the other's breathing stilled, ever so slowly, Ukitake found himself unable to look down at the body in his arms. Instead he hugged the body closer, staring like a man possessed at the discarded zanpakuto lying by its master's side. The formerly gleaming steel had dulled. It held no more life. It now was nothing but soulless, lifeless steel.
As his strength slowly ebbed, and the world grew dark and fuzzy as he slowly descended into unconsciousness he never heard the calls of the approaching people.
The world slowly seemed to come back as his senses caught on. Before he opened his eyes he was certain that he was still in his bed in his own apartment, but then he sensed the all too familiar smell of hospital. Sighing inwardly he slowly opened his eyes, groaning as the bright sunshine mad them sting and water. He quickly closed them again.
"Ju-san," a familiar voice said from his side, "Are you awake?"
"Yes…" he murmured, touching his forehead with the tip of his fingers. "Why am I here?"
"As opposed to where?"
"My own bed of course, why am I in the….?" He trailed off as the memories flowed back to him, and suddenly a lump of emotion had taken residence in his throat. "… Byakuya…"
"Yeah, the brat sure has been in a mood… I don' think he likes hospitals, Ju-san, He keeps glarin' and scowlin' at everyone, but that's what he usually does, ne?" Shunsui chuckled and flopped back down in the chair.
"He's… alive…?" Jushiro breathed, already struggling to get out of bed.
"Byakuya? Yup. Unohana-san said it was a close call but…"
Whatever else his old friend said Ukitake didn't hear for he had already stumbled out of bed and run out of the room. A member of the 4th division yelped and nearly dropped the tray she was carrying when the flustered 13th division's captain came barrelling out of the hospital room, a wild smile on his face. He came to a halt outside the room Byakuya had been in the last time he had been hospitalized, and knowing Unohana she'd most likely put him there again. She was a very organized woman.
He reached up to open the door, but hesitated when he heard voices from within the room.
"Ya know Byakuya, there are other ways to save people than to get yourself stabbed on a regular basis," he heard the unmistakable voice of Ichigo Kurosaki say in a huffy tone.
"Ouch! What the hell, Rukia?! Stop kicking me!"
Snickering both out of amusement and nervousness the white haired captain slid the door open. Inside the hospital room time seemed to come to a sudden halt. Two sets of wide eyes turned towards him as their owners froze on the spot. Apparently the young Kuchiki and the ryoka boy had been moments away from begin a screaming contest, possibly accompanied with a kick or two.
The man sitting in the bed had the same expressionless face as usual, and Ukitake had never been quite as happy to meet that chilling gaze as he was now.
"Ichigo, come on," Rukia snapped, her voice taking on a gentler tone as she dragged out the bewildered boy of the room.
"Wha… Wait! Rukia, why…?!" he heard Ichigo protest before the door shut behind them and left the two captains alone.
The room remained silent, and as the silence grew it started to grow tense and Ukitake could almost feel the way it weighted down on his shoulders. He moved slowly, walking up to where the other man was resting in bed. Byakuya was following him with his gaze, seemingly as calm as always but Ukitake didn't miss the way the other man's pale hands were gripping the white hospital quilt.
Was he… nervous?
"I thought you died," he confessed, somewhat in awe of the very fact that his former student was sitting in front of him rather than being dead and buried. He saw his own hand reach up as if by its own violation and touch the younger man's face with the tips of his fingers. He let out a breath he hadn't been aware that he'd been holding.
Jushiro held that grey gaze for a few moments where neither spoke, and his fingers continued to caress that pretty face. He thought back to that time in the woods, and for the first time he realised that that was where it had began. That was the first time he had… but as a captain he had decided not to pursue the younger man. And then, even hen the boy had grown into a man, there had always been a distance between them. Something that kept them apart. Perhaps it was time, he thought. Time to end this.
He leaned in slowly, and tilted the younger man's chin up. He only gave the matter another few moments of thought before leaning in and kissing those sweet lips. It occurred to him that, in truth this was their first real kiss. The first one that didn't have a stale aftertaste of blood.
"Oh, I'm… eh… sorry…!"
Ukitake jumped back at the sudden voice and whirled around towards the voice, but he only had the chance to see a few spiky strands of vividly red hair before the door closed. Suddenly feeling rather weak in the knees he sat down heavily on the bed and heaved out a heavy sigh. He glanced over at the 6th division's captain, who looked as serene as ever, and not the slightest concerned about the intrusion or the rumours that would surely roam through Seireitei soon enough.
"Well… I suppose that keeping this a secret is out of the question," he commented.
"I would imagine so," the younger man agreed, nodding.
Silence again. Ukitake swallowed hard, trying to work up a certain amount of courage to ask that which he dreaded to ask.
"Do you mind? If they know I mean," he eventually asked and reached for Byakuya's hand, caressing it softly with his thumb. There was another pause, and as he gazed at the other captain he could see the way he was going through the situation in his head, weighting the pros versus the cons. Always considering every last little consequence before reaching a decision.
"Not really," the answer eventually came, and Ukitake smiled. "But I am not holding hands with you in public," the brat added resolutely, and Jushiro couldn't help but laugh fondly.
"I'd never expect you to," he answered and kissed the other captain again.
Renji looked up at the eagerly grinning captain, and felt himself blush deeper yet. He was rather certain that his face was now about the same colour as his hair.
"Yeah, Kyoraku-taichou?" he choked out, hoping that the captain wouldn't ask what he suspected that he would.
"What were they doing, Renji-san?" the older man insisted, a note of impatience in is voice. He folded his hairy arms in front of an even hairier chest and glowered down at the fukutaichou.
"They… eh… they were… uhm…" Renji stammered, looking around wildly to make certain that no one else could hear him, "They were…kissing…." The last word came out as a strangled whisper.
He watched as the tall man leaned back on his heels, and a look of satisfaction dawned on that unshaven face.
"Well then…" the man said eventually, turned and sauntered down the hallway the same way he had come. Towards a group of, so far, unsuspecting female nurses.
The redhead merely stood there, staring after him for a moment. Then shook his head violently to try and get certain images out of his head…
He needed a drink.
A strong drink.
A large drink.
And then everything would be alright.
Author's notes: Hm… Well people keep dying in my oneshots, so I decided that this would not be the case this time around. Byakuya deserves a happy, sappy ending dammit, even if it makes him a bit OOC, especially after what I wrote about him in 'The Sacrifice'…
I really, truly don't know where this came from… just some odd random thought I suppose. But I like odd pairings, it's a lot more fun writing than the more common and popular pairings. You know there really are too few Ukitake/Byakuya fics anyway.
More odd pairings I say! …next time perhaps I'll try writing something with Gin and Byakuya… or Kenpachi/Byakuya…. Ah… the possibilities!
Haha, well anyway… hope you enjoyed this little ficcy, and please do tell me what you thought and review!
It makes me happy, and a happy author is a productive author.
Zanpakuto- Soul Slayer
Sōgyo no Kotowari- Ukitake's zanpakuto, the name means Truth of Pisces
Suzumushi- Tousen's zanpakuto, the name means Pure insects, or Bell Bug (depending on the translation)
Senbonzakura- Byakuya's zanpakuto, the name means A Thousand Cherry blossoms