Part 2 of 2
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach.
He took her to a small, family-owned diner Nanao had never been to. It was basically empty, but that added to the charm. The young hostess/waitress called him by name and blushed when he thanked her for seating them. Nanao absently wondered if she looked like that girl to Jyuushirou. The helpless youth that was so flustered by him she could hardly form sentences.
Nanao didn't even know why she was so worried about it. She wasn't even sure if this was a date or not. She wasn't going to ask and embarrass herself more than she already had.
"Nanao, you seem edgy," the white-haired man lifted a brow at the startled look she gave him. "What's wrong?"
"It's okay, I'm fine," Nanao assured him. "I was just thinking."
"About what if you don't mind me asking?"
"It's just—oh, thank you," Nanao paused as the waitress came by to fill their water glasses. When she left Nanao continued. "Why is it that you don't go out or anything like that? Shunsui was telling me that you hardly ever even go out with him any more."
"Ah," Jyuushirou nodded, leaning back in the booth. "Well, it's just that whenever I go out with Shunsui he's always introducing me to some woman he knows and I really can't say I'm interested in them."
There was an awkward silence and Ukitake's face reddened as his own words sank in.
"I mean, I'm not interested in the women he picks out for me, not women in general!"
"I understand what you're saying," Nanao laughed, finding his sudden insecurity cute. "They aren't your type."
"Not at all," Ukitake admitted, still embarrassed. "Usually very pretty, but just not what I'm interested in."
"What are you interested in?" Nanao asked out of curiosity and blushed immediately at the rudeness of her question. "I mean, you don't have to answer if you don't want to."
"No, I can," Jyuushirou carefully played with a strand of his hair, obviously thinking it over.
"Are you two ready to order?" the waitress returned, pad in hand, ready to write. They both glanced at the menu and gave their order, more intent to get rid of the waitress than in the actual interest of the meal.
They were quiet for a few minutes as Nanao awaited his answer, wondering if he'd forgotten about the question.
"Smart," Ukitake said finally, confidently as if he had to confirm it to even himself. "That's what's always is wrong with Shunsui's women. They aren't smart. Some might be clever or witty, but they just aren't intelligent."
"Oh," Nanao was a little surprised with his answer. She didn't want to seem too inquisitive about it though. "Being smart is definitely a good quality to have."
"It is," Ukitake nodded, thinking again. "And I like women who know what they want in life..."
"What do you mean?"
Ukitake looked at her, suddenly looking very unconfident in the seat across from her. He licked his lips as he looked at his hands, fumbling with them under the table. "I'd just like to know whether or not the woman wants me."
"Oh," Nanao nodded, looking down at the silverware by her hand. "That's nice."
Ukitake didn't say anything in return and it quickly became awkward. Conversation faded away and the meal was eaten in near silence, with only a few questions about schoolwork and plans for the summer consuming the talk.
His answer left Nanao silently mulling over it throughout the rest of the night.
The next morning Nanao awoke nestled in her blankets, thoughts of the night before still flying through her head. What exactly had Ukitake meant by women wanting him? A lot of women wanted him. It was obvious from the attention he got that they had to be interested. Even Shunsui's women probably were falling over themselves the moment they saw his sweet eyes and charismatic smile.
Nanao wasn't sure if she should even be interested in him. He was almost old enough to be her father and he obviously had unknown tastes in women if she couldn't figure out what he meant by anything he said last night.
She also couldn't help but feel that last night hadn't gone well...
As she got up and started preparing for her day, Nanao could only be somewhat distressed over the fact that she didn't have to work until Friday. She really couldn't stop there every day after classes, could she? At least not now that she worked there. Hanging around her job on her days off would be a little over the top.
She quietly contented herself with making tea for herself. She wouldn't go to the café until Friday. That way she wouldn't seem too needy to Ukitake or anyone else.
"Jyuu, what's up with you?" Shunsui asked quietly when he went back into the kitchen on the quiet Wednesday morning. "You..." Shunsui wasn't sure how to describe what Ukitake looked like. He wanted to say depressed, but that word just didn't seem right. He said the funniest thing he could imagine happening. "You look like you just got turned down by the girl of your dreams."
Ukitake's face contorted into an almost unattractive scowl.
Shunsui blinked, and for once his words caught in his throat. "You—"
"Yes," Ukitake started vigorously drying some dishes that had just been run through the dishwasher.
"When?" Shunsui recovered, grabbing the glass bowl before Jyuushirou could slam it down on the counter.
"I don't know," Ukitake sighed, stopping his drying motions. "I took her out for dinner and..."
"Took who out to dinner, Jyuushirou?" Shunsui finally asked what he was dying to know.
"Nanao Ise," Ukitake said slowly, shoulders drooping as if he were in trouble.
"Nanao?" Shunsui couldn't hide the surprise on his face. "She turned you down?"
"Well," Ukitake tapped his fingers on the counter. "I may not have made my attentions completely clear..."
"Define 'completely', Jyuu."
"Uh, I might have, in a round-a-bout way, asked if she liked me."
"Round-a-bout?" Shunsui sighed, rubbing his forehead. "You didn't even ask, did you, you idiot!"
"You know I'm not good with that kind of thing..."
"Uki," Shunsui took his friend's shoulders in his hands and chuckled, "You have to be the dumbest guy out there when it comes to romance."
"Thanks," Ukitake replied dryly.
"It's okay, I'll help you." Shunsui's eyebrows lowered. "Someone's got to take care of you, and I can't do it my entire life."
"Isn't it usually the other way around?"
"It is, but you have absolutely no idea how love actually works." Shunsui patted Ukitake's shoulder in sympathy. "I am practically a love god."
"I wouldn't go that far," Ukitake crinkled his nose.
"You still think love at first sight exists..." Shunsui paused and gasped, pointing at him like a teenage girl who learned a juicy secret. "You totally fell in love with her at first sight!"
"No I didn't!" Jyuushiro denied, but obviously Shunsui didn't believe him.
"You're a sucker for romance, but you have no idea how to use it," Shunsui decided, laughing at his dear friend's expense. "I'll take care of that real quick."
"I wish you'd just let things be, Shunsui."
"Now where's the fun in that?" His dark hair counterpart laughed and patted Ukitake on the back. "So, she likes older men? She has to considering she actually agreed to go out with you. Unless it was a pity date. Was it a pity date?"
"No, Shunsui," Jyuushiro sighed, decided to just let his eccentric friend take his most likely painful and embarrassing course.
"Are you sure," Shunsui looked at him sternly. "Pity dates are pretty gruesome to see. Guy asks girl. Girl reluctantly agrees after a few minutes. Guy takes girl out. Awkward small talk fades into nothing. Guy pays and they go separate ways."
"What? Where do you get all of this information from, Shunsui?" Ukitake frowned slightly. "You weren't spying, were you?"
"Oooh, it was a pity date."
"Shut up," was Ukitake's brilliant response. "Besides, she claimed that I was the one offering her a pity date and she didn't agree to it right away."
"Well now, that's different. So now our trouble is making sure she likes you. She might not if she thought you were just going out as friends...on Valentine's Day. Wow, mixed signals." Shunsui gave a pathetic sigh. "I wish your life were less complicated."
"Do you have an idea to solve my problem or should I just try to ask her out again?"
"I have an idea, don't worry," Shunsui assured him frowning friend.
"That's what I'm worried about."
Friday afternoon came along dreadfully fast and Nanao found herself dismayed at the thought of going to work. It wasn't until she arrived that she could breathe easy finding that apparently Ukitake had taken a sick day. She got to work serving the customers and getting orders while Shunsui made them. They were short an employee and the workload was a little more than she wanted to deal with at the moment. It was only when she took a short break during a slow run did she notice how worried her coworker looked.
"Shunsui, is something wrong?" She asked slowly, setting a tray of dirty mugs and plates down. "You don't look well. Maybe you're catching what Jyuushiro has."
"No, I doubt that," Shunsui patted her head and faked a smile. "He just gets sick every once in a while and has to stay home from work for a few days."
"Oh, so he won't be around for a few days?"
"Just depends. He'll probably try to come in tomorrow if he's up to it. I do want to see how he's doing..." Shunsui distractedly glanced up at the clock. "Only a few hours 'til close, Nanao."
"Are you going to visit him tonight?" Nanao asked curiously.
"No, no," Shunsui shrugged, looking abashed. "I kind of have dinner plans and can't blow it off."
"Some girl is more important than the wellbeing of your best friend?" Nanao frowned.
"Yeah, my mother." Shunsui looked horrified. "The woman's always after me to get married. Does she know how annoying marriage is?"
"Is your mother married?"
"Then she knows."
"Oh, right," Shunsui chuckled. "So are you planning on getting married, Nanao?"
"Well, yes, eventually."
"That's a lovely idea coming from you," Shunsui pouted. "I don't suppose you'd marry me to get my mother off of my back. You're smart and pretty. She'd love you."
"I'm afraid you'll have to tell your mother you're still unattached," Nanao couldn't help but laugh at the look of fear that crossed his face.
"Fine," Shunsui's lip jutted out further before he burst into a smile. "Then you'll visit Jyuu for me tonight, yeah?"
"What?" Nanao blinked in surprise. "I can't do that!"
"Why not? Do you have plans?"
"No, it's just..."
"Do be quiet, Nanao," Shunsui shook his head. "If I give you the keys to his apartment could you just drop something off for me? He usually sleeps when he's sick, so it's not like you'll wake him or anything. Just let yourself in, drop the bag on the kitchen table and pop your head into his bedroom to make sure he's still breathing."
"You're not serious." Nanao stared at the very serious look on his scraggly face. "You are serious!"
"Very," Shunsui frowned. "Please say you'll do it! I like for him to be by himself when he's having one of his sick spells. It worries me!"
"Fine," Nanao sighed, not wanting to see another frightening pout.
"Really?" Shunsui's frown fleeted away and was quickly replaced with a happy smile as he nodded happily. "You're such a wonderful young lady!"
As he wandered over to wipe down a table, Nanao frowned and wondered what Shunsui had just managed to convinced her to do.
Ukitake's apartment was further away from the café than she had realized. Why would a man want to walk twenty blocks in downtown Tokyo just for work at some little café? Of course, it might be the closest place he could find, Nanao thought as she went up the third flight of stairs. Fourth floor, apartment 4D. She carefully balanced the box in her hand as she unlocked the door as quietly as possible. Thankfully it didn't squeak as she pushed it open. She slipped off her shoes as she shut the door. It was dark so she flipped the light on in order to see where she was going. She still managed to catch her foot on the rug and had to stop to smooth it back into place. She took a breath and settled the box on the kitchen table, still thinking it was idiotic for her to come here just to deliver some pastries, but when she mentioned this to Shunsui he just smiled and told her raspberry Danish days were Jyuushiro's favorite and Nanao caved.
She took a glance around the apartment, enjoying the homey atmosphere it seemed to have. Of course, she could catch the tang of sickness in the air and worried, she hurried towards Jyuushirou's room.
It was cracked open and Nanao peered inside, but it was too dark to see anything. She couldn't even tell if he was in there. The blankets were piled up in a heap and she couldn't tell whether or not a body was under them. A pillow had been tossed on the floor. Nanao took a step inside, breathing shallowly just incase he was a light sleeper.
She almost cried out as a hand landed on her shoulder.
"Nanao, what are you doing here?"
Hearing his slightly hoarse voice, Nanao turned her head to look at him. His hair was down and disheveled, falling over his shoulders and down his back. Shadow enshrouded parts of his face, making him look mysterious and beautiful at the same time. He only wore loose pajama pants and long cotton robe that had apparently only been slipped on for the purpose of getting out of bed seeing as it was hanging open.
Nanao gasped, unable to take her eyes off of him. He was incredibly sexy.
"Nanao?" he looked worried, flipping on the light. Nanao blinked against the harsh glare and managed to shut her mouth.
"Excuse me for intruding, Jyuushirou, but Shunsui wanted me to—are you bleeding?"
Ukitake's hand immediately went to his mouth and he wiped it with the corner of his sleeve. "I'm fine, don't worry."
"You..." Nanao wasn't sure what to say. "I'll leave now."
"No," Ukitake frowned, taking her arm before she could leave. "Please stay for a little while. Talk to me."
"I couldn't impose...especially not when you're sick."
"It's not imposing if I invite you," Ukitake led her into his living room, where he had apparently come out of moments before. He sat her down on the couch and sat across from her, staring at her quietly. "I'm sorry Shunsui put you up to this, Nanao."
"Its fine," Nanao said, looking down at her hands. "I wanted to see how you were doing, too," she admitted, permitting herself a peek at his face. "I was worried."
He just stared at her for a moment, contemplating something. "Can I try something? Just tell me if you don't want me to and I'll stop."
Nanao's breathing almost stopped at the look in his eyes and she found her heart hammering in her chest. "Okay," she heard herself murmur, unable to look away from him, especially when his eyes were locked on her mouth.
He moved closer, mouth poised over hers for a moment, as if hesitating in his decision. "Tell me no and I won't do it," he said again, as if trying to convince her that she didn't want this. "Please."
Looking up at him, Nanao shook her head and lifted her chin to meet his lips. They were soft and warm, something she expected from a man like him. She opened her mouth to let him explore further, but pulled away at the tangy taste of blood that entered her mouth when he did.
"I'm sorry," Ukitake immediately pulled back and apologized, unsure of what he did wrong.
"It's not your fault," she said.
"No, it is," Jyuushiro shook his head. "I shouldn't have put you in that position, Nanao."
"It was my choice," Nanao assured him. "Anyway, it wasn't that."
"Then why did you stop?" he asked, looking at her worriedly.
"It's just that I wasn't expecting the um, taste." She tried to answer honestly. "Blood. Did you bite your lip?"
"No," Ukitake frowned, looking down. "I guess you should know. I have a lung ailment similar to tuberculosis. Before you have the chance to look appalled or worried, it isn't contagious. It's just something I've had since birth and I occasionally have some bad days where I cough up the blood that's managed to leak into my lungs. Today is one of those."
Nanao processed the information quietly before turning to look at him. "In other words you're dying."
"Slowly, but yes, I will probably die from it someday."
"I see," Nanao nodded and leaned forward to kiss him again. "Well, I guess I can keep you company until you do."
"That's very sweet of you," Ukitake smiled again; somewhat glad he didn't have to resort Shunsui's ridiculous plan. There was no way he was prepared to wear that sketchy leather outfit that Shunsui had produced for him. Besides, he thought as he put his arms around her and Nanao pressed herself against him; this was nice enough for him.
Fifteen months later they married. Shunsui was the best man and Nanao's friend Rangiku took on the role of maid of honor. During one of the shoots for the wedding photos Shunsui groped her and Rangiku slapped him. She let him take her out to an expensive restaurant the next week to make up for it. The two tied the knot three months later in a flashy, over-the-top wedding that Jyuushirou and Nanao attended, along with Shunsui's extremely happy mother. The two are now the exhausted parents of three adorable girls and one very flirtatious little boy.
Nanao and Jyuushiro decided it was best not to have children, but instead got a large, white dog that Jyuushiro named Yamamoto. He and Shunsui seemed to think it was a hoot, but their wives seemed a bit confused as to why that name was so entertaining.
The two men still ran their café, happy with their humble living. Nanao graduated college and landed herself a job as a journalist of all things, writing about things happening overseas. She hated leaving her husband alone during her travels, but his mysterious sickness was all that was needed to block his chances of getting a passport, but Nanao managed to talk to him everyday despite everything that was happening around her.
Ukitake's condition grew rapidly worse.
She was in Italy when she received the call of a surprise attack and several hours later she was seated next to Shunsui at his bedside, clutching his hand as she watched him pass away.
January 21st, 2021, at the age of fifty-one, Jyuushiro Ukitake died of an illness he was unfortunate enough to be born with.
Her husband had always claimed that he loved her more than life itself and when the time came for him to pass on; he would wait for her.
Nanao didn't tell him she loved him as he died. He knew that.
Nanao didn't tell him to try to hang on. He knew that would be futile.
Nanao didn't tell him goodbye. He didn't want it to be so final.
Nanao Ukitake did not cry. He wouldn't have wanted her to.
She didn't regret not being there for him enough because she knew he wouldn't have wanted her to. Regret meant you weren't content with what you had or hadn't done. When she was away Jyuushiro was happy for her and when she was with Jyuushirou she was happy.
As long as both of them were happy there was nothing to regret except maybe that they never had enough time.
End. Sorry for any prior mistakes.
I might do a little one-shot of the RangikuxShunsui thing sometime.