Title: Sadness and sorrow
Rating: G / tragedy
Pairing / Characters: Gotei thirteen, Kuchiki Rukia, the late Shiba Kaien
Word Count: 610 words
Warnings: Spoilers for Kaien's death
Summary: Jyuushirou buries Shiba Kaien
A/N: For some reason, I just can't seem to let this one go. Like "I watched him die" the idea of loss is interesting to work with. This one was born because I'm about to attend a psychological scrap booking course on dealing with bereavement. So naturally I had to write this.
FOR ESSY… HOPE YOU HAVE PLENTY MANY TISSUES HANDY…
It rained the morning of the funeral.
Jyuushirou stood at the window, watching the misty clouds, ignoring the way his breath fogged up the glass.
At the soft voice, Jyuushirou turned around to see Shunsui standing behind him.
'Hey,' he said quietly.
For a moment Shunsui studied Jyuushirou's reddened eyes, the grooves on either side of his mouth, the tension in his shoulders, before hugging him gently. For the first time in years, Jyuushirou felt as fragile as spun glass. Jyuushirou allowed Shunsui the hug, but not for long. It didn't seem fair that Shunsui should be burdened with his sorrow and guilt. As if Shunsui had read his mind, he sighed.
'I cared about him too, Jyuu. Kaien was important to all of us.'
At the mention of his former fukutaichou's name, Jyuushirou's mouth twitched as he fought down the tears that were so close to the surface.
'Shun, not now, please,' he whispered. 'I can't think about him now. I have to be calm…'
You don't have to do anything, Shunsui wanted to tell him. He was a son to you, you're allowed to grieve. Instead he said 'the funeral is starting soon. We need to leave.'
Jyuushirou looked at his old friend, clearly considering staying at home but his shoulders sagged.
The sheer number of people who had turned up for the funeral did not surprise either captain. Kaien had been extremely popular with all he had encountered. The sight of Kuchiki Rukia standing with her brother made Jyuushirou's heart ache, and he had to turn away to prevent her from seeing the expression on his face.
Yamamoto glanced at him, an expression of enquiry on his face, and Jyuushirou nodded slowly.
Yamamoto cleared his throat. 'Today we stand together to celebrate a life and mourn the loss of someone who was not just a fine lieutenant, but the perfect example of a great man. Shiba Kaien lost his life in battle, fighting for all that he held dear…'
Jyuushirou bowed his head against the weight of grief that settled on his shoulders, remembering that awful night, the night his own body had betrayed him, the night he had been forced to stand watching as Kaien fought a losing battle…
Jyuushirou tuned out the rest of the funeral, which was nothing but a blur in the first place. Only when Shunsui laid a hand on his shoulder did Jyuushirou glance up.
'It's over, Jyuu,' Shunsui told him.
Jyuushirou blinked. 'Oh.'
'Let's get you home.'
'I want to see his grave first.'
Jyuushirou walked over to the grave, studying the pale grey headstone that he had paid for himself. Tears spilling down his cheeks, Jyuushirou brushed his fingers over Kaien's name.
'Goodbye, Kaien,' he whispered. 'I'm sorry I couldn't protect you at the end, when you needed me most. I'm sorry I failed you when it was my duty to protect you. Wherever you are, I hope you're at peace. Know that even though I failed, I loved you more than life itself. You were the son I never had, the child I would never have believed myself capable of raising. I'm so proud to have known you.'
Lowering his hand, he added so softly Shunsui couldn't hear 'Perhaps, perhaps I'll see you sooner than you think.'
As if in answer, the rain came down in earnest.
Jyuushirou stood still for a moment longer, the rain soaking his robes exactly as it had the night of Kaien's death, and then raised his head.
In silence, the two captains walked away from the ugly brown scar marring the green of the Shiba burial site.