Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, its characters, etc. etc.

How I Love, Jyuushirou

By: Tyson Granger

Part 1: How I Deny Him

For the longest time I could not define the feeling that stirred within my gut every time I saw him. It would have been simple to call it adoration, affection, or even something as common as respect. Such emotions and thoughts were not uncommon for shinigami in my current position to hold for their superiors. After all, a captain was the noblest, most powerful, and most respected position in all Soul Society. From the moment one discovers their spiritual power there can be only one goal…captainship.

But that didn't explain why I found him beautiful.

Anybody would have been awed by the power he held, or the grace with which he wielded his zanpaktou. I heard once that he was somewhat of a prodigy, trained by the Commander-General himself in his days at the Shinigami Academy. Such skill was only natural for a person like that. Of course, Kyouraku-taichou had trained with him as well, but for some reason I never found his own release quite so appealing as my captain's. But it wasn't his zanpaktou that claimed my adoration.

It was his smile. Warm and comforting, ever present even in the face of a crippling disease that would shorten his life by millennia. One could scarcely tell if the knowledge of his own impending doom bothered him in the slightest, so rarely it was that he frowned. No matter the situation, in his presence I felt safe…comfortable. It was as if his aura engulfed me…held me within itself…whispering promises of stability and protection from the outside world. His smile could light the whole of Soul Society, I was certain. Instead, it was reserved for our division alone. I couldn't have imagined sharing, anyway.

His smile wasn't the only thing that caught my eye, however, and the more time I spent in his company I began to notice all the different things that drew me to him. White hair, its hue stolen by sickness, still held an appeal that I could neither place nor define. I would have loved to run my fingers through its length, over and over, and allow him to relax into my touch. I wished he could feel with me as I do with him…safe and comfortable…warm. I think it was the way that he carried himself that kept me near him.

Kyouraku-taichou often called him boring, and warned him that life was too short to be spent working. But my captain would always smile at him, wave a steady hand, and tell him that not everyone could hope to be so fantastically outgoing as him. He would tell his friend that he was content with his division, and that he should worry about his own problems, such as a certain bespectacled lieutenant he had been chasing for the better part of a century. That always ended the conversation, and when the two parted ways, they both seemed infinitely rejuvenated by the jovial discussion shared with a childhood friend. I never understood their relationship, but I admired them both for their strength and will.

Even when others questioned my captain's lifestyle his responses were always dignified, evasive…as if nothing in the world could bother him…or as if he were entirely comfortable and certain in his chosen path. I couldn't understand how a man like him could settle for such a simplistic existence. Working daily in his division and sharing in the company of good friends always seemed enough for him. I always thought that he could have so much more. I felt like he deserved more…a promotion, a family, a wife. I couldn't understand why he never sought such things when they were so obviously there for the taking.

He could have been with Unohana-taichou, I think. The two of them were close, at least, as close as two serious professional-minded people could be. Whenever discussing matters of importance, the two would meet and share tea, talking of the most important matters as if it were the most casual of conversation topics. There was a quiet ease about them, and I secretly envied their casualty. I supposed that because Unohana-taichou shared her rank with him that it was a bit easier to be at ease with the man, and that I did not was the ache in my chest began.

Nevertheless, the two seemed content to remain at least colleagues, friends at best…never more. I was unspeakably relieved the day Kyouraku-taichou questioned him about their relationship and my captain told him as much. It was only during a discussion between Unohana-taichou and Isane-fukutaichou…that I only vaguely overheard on a night I was recovering in the 4th from an overzealous training session…did I learn she might have wanted more. I pitied her then, and never again did I envy the kind healer. I could understand what it was like to want something you could never have…to desire a greater relationship with the gentle enigma that was my ailing captain.

It was probably in that time that I realized that I loved him. Somewhere between the casual dinners he shared with my brother and I, the affectionate patting of my head he often offered when I visited his office, and the awe I felt watching him in his rare moments of combat, I knew that he was more than my superior. Every time he touched me I felt my face burn, and I lost my will to look him in the eye. When he began to notice, he called me into his office and spoke with me at length in hopes to put my mind at ease. He thought I was afraid I had displeased him in some way. His warm, brown eyes looked deeply into my own while his beautiful, smiling lips promised me that he was just as proud now as he was the day I came to his division.

I blushed, and I knew I loved him. It was that simple…that easy.

Defining it was harder than it should have been. The man was old, millennia in fact, while my own life barely covered a fraction of that time. Problems like that were always present in Soul Society, because time moves differently when you are dead then when you are alive. I probably should have seen him as a father figure, or as a sage to which you are drawn when you need advice. Either relationship would have been more acceptable than what I wanted. But then, I wasn't sure what I wanted.

Ok, that was a lie, I admit. I knew exactly what I wanted…but it was much easier to avoid that reality than to accept it. Because accepting it meant I would have to deal with the social pressures of loving a man over a thousand years my senior, and that he would have to deal with my immature feelings. Admitting it would be to bring my foolish desires before the ever-scrutinizing gaze of my brother, who would almost certainly reject any feelings I held towards his sempai as "improper" or "embarrassing". I didn't want to make things complicated between us…or them...and I didn't want to ruin the amazing friendship he had offered as a captain to his subordinate. I was not so selfish as to want to bring such hardships upon a man who had offered me nothing but kindness, and the first place I could call my own since I had lived in Rukongai. I was being selfless, really, by not telling him.

That was how I denied him. Much easier than admitting it, right?