Another birthday fic I wrote for a friend! I've been rolling this idea around in my head for a while and thought, 'What better time to post it then for Harmony's birthday!!" Hope you like it. It's set right after the flashback of Renji, Kira, and Momo in the academy when they save Shuuhei.

Shuuhei's Scars

Kira Izuru couldn't sleep. He'd been tossing and turning for over four hours and now the sheets of his futon were rumpled and slightly damp with his sweat. He sat up and ran his hands through his blonde hair; his fingers kneading the tense muscles in the back of his neck.

His mind was full of images from earlier that evening. They ambled through his head like a slow parade. They danced behind his eyes, causing a dull ache in the front of his skull. He replayed the training session… he saw the hollow, relived the near-death experience… Aizen Taichou and Ichimaru Fukutaichou coming to their rescue…

Alright, that was all a lie. He thought about those things, yes… but the images that really flashed though his head over and over again, were memories of his tattooed sempai, Hisagi Shuuhei. That man had ordered them to get away and stood his ground against a real life, flesh-and-blood hollow, alone. He had shown such courage, such selflessness in such a desperate time. He had put himself in harm's way; given himself over as a sacrifice so the students under his supervision could retreat… It inspired Kira to the depths of his soul. He wanted to be like that… a leader… a role model.

Knowing sleep was going to elude him that night, Kira pulled himself to his feet and padded across the floor of his quarters softly. His roommate sighed, but turned over and resumed his even breathing. Kira entered the washroom and closed the door behind him. He turned on the water and stripped out of his nemaki.

As he washed, Kira thought about how he had stood watching Hisagi's white keikogi neckline turn red as it caught the blood running from his right eye. The wound had looked so painful, but the tall, dark-haired man had acted like it was nothing. Kira caught his breath as a thought came over him. Had the hollow cut his eye? Did Hisagi still have sight in both eyes?

A profound and unprecedented worry came over the blonde and he hurried to finish cleaning his sweaty skin. Fourth Division's doors were open to anyone at any time of the day or night. Hisagi had to still be there, the battle had only been a few hours ago and there were many people injured in the hollow attack.

Worst case scenario, if Hisagi had already left, he could just ask someone about his condition and go see him another time. Returning to his side of the small quarters, Kira retrieved a clean uniform, dressed, and slipped out into the night.

X x X x X

As he bowed politely to the guard and slipped inside Fourth Division headquarters, Kira made his way toward the desk to ask if Hisagi was still here. His feet moved forward, but inside his head a little voice started protesting his actions. Where the hell did he get off thinking he could just go and visit an upperclassman? Did he really think he was still going to be here after so long? This was going beyond admiration and curiosity and stealing into the realm of obsession and stalking. Abarai is going to laugh his ass off if he ever finds out about this…

Kira slowed to a stop as a wave of uncertainty came over him. The feeling was quickly taken over by embarrassment and he felt his face heating. What did he think he was doing? It was a good thing he caught himself before he made a fool of himself. Only thing to do now was to quietly go back to his quarters. If someone asked what he was doing, he could just say he had awoken in the middle of the night with stomach pains, but after a short walk they had dissipated. Yes, that would work.

He turned on his heel and ran smack into a small girl with long red hair. She seemed as surprised as he did and apologized profusely several times before Kira could get a word in.

"Did you need something?" She asked with wide eyes. "Are you hurt?"

Kira put up his hands. "No! No, thank you. I was just here to see a friend."

What!? What happened to the plan! Oh, why did you say that!?

The girl perked up and clasped her hands together. "Oh how sweet of you to come first thing in the morning! Who is your friend? I can take you to him if his condition isn't serious."

Kira sighed and ran a hand through his hair. No avoiding it now, might as well see it though now and brave the humiliation later.

"Hisagi Shuuhei," he said simply.

The nurse's eyes widened and Kira was sure she was going to start assaulting him with questions. But she surprised him yet again by grabbing his hand and pulling him down the hall.

"Oh, it's so good you're here!" She said as she breezed past rooms. "He's been rather…" she looked over her shoulder and made a pained face as if to apologize for what she was about to say. "He's been rather difficult since he came in. I hope you can talk some sense into him."

Kira felt if the ground opened and swallowed him whole, he would be the happiest soul in Soul Society. This was the worst possible way this could have gone. He had lied and said Hisagi was a friend, so now when his sempai denounced that claim, he was going to get a scolding from this sweet little nurse. Not to mention a reprimand from his trainers for lying to a shinigami and wasting her valuable time.

Oh how he wanted to die again…

The nurse stopped abruptly, opening a door to their left, and pulled him inside. As soon as Kira stepped over the threshold, he was met with a very peculiar scene.

Three nurses stood at one end of the room, their stances spoke of a pending attack but their faces held only confusion and sympathy. Kira followed their gazes and was shocked to see one Hisagi Shuuhei leaning against the wall, a hand pressing a bloody bundle of gauze over his right eye. His posture held no malice, his visible eye seemed calm and collected, but the anger and frustration the young man was feeling was apparent as his reiatsu pulsed through the room. It was painfully obvious he was several times more powerful than all the nurses combined.

Kira took one look at this peculiar standoff and leaned down to whisper to the nurse.

"What's happening?"

"He won't let us heal him," she answered. "He doesn't really attack us if we come close, but he lets us know we'll be sorry if we try and use a healing kido on him."

"Did you call his supervisor?" Kira asked, getting more and more confused by the second.

"Everyone is busy cleaning up after the hollow attack. I can't get anyone in his chain of command." She took a few steps into the room and raised her voice. "Hisagi-san! A friend has come to see you."

Hisagi slowly turned his head, weary as an animal would be surveying the approach of yet another predator. His eye met Kira's and the blonde felt his knees go a little weak. The older man regarded him for several seconds before recognition washed over him and he stood straighter.

"You…" Hisagi whispered. "You were…"

Kira was paralyzed by the pleading look in his sempai's face. His one visible eye called out to him for help. Hisagi was looking at him like an equal, a comrade that would be able to understand his plight, whatever it was, and see it the way he saw it. Kira couldn't resist that look and turned to the nurses.

"I'm sure Hisagi-sempai is not going to die if he isn't treated immediately. Could you please leave us alone for a few minutes? I'll talk to him."

The nurses looked at him suspiciously and didn't budge. Kira understood; this was their job and leaving the patient while he was still injured was going against their training.

The blonde sighed and released a steady flow of his own reiatsu to weave through Hisagi's. He encircled the older student's energy and wrapped a protective barrier around the other's angry flow. The nurses gaped and backed farther away.

"If you please," Kira said calmly. "Accosting Hisagi-sempai like this is not helping to do anything but make him angry. Please allow me to speak with him. Alone."

The nurse that had been his guide, looked at him with a new appreciation. She nodded slowly and motioned for the other nurses to follow her out of the room.

When Kira was alone with Hisagi, he reined his reiatsu back in and stood quietly waiting for an invitation. Hisagi glanced at the closed door behind Kira and, after several long moments, relaxed and sat down on the bed with a sigh.

"Thank you," he said in a deep voice. Kira felt a pleasant shiver at the tone, but held his composure.

"I don't understand what's going on," Kira said. "Why won't you let them heal you?"

Hisagi closed his visible eye and lay back on the hard mattress. "It's hard to explain…" he started.

Kira took a chance and moved closer, pulling a chair from the wall with him to the bedside. When Hisagi didn't object, he moved it still closer and sat mere inches away from the older man. He didn't press the issue. He just sat staring at the floor, waiting for Hisagi to continue.

"I need to keep these scars…" the dark-haired man said softly.

Kira looked up and frowned. "I'm sorry?"

Hisagi sat up and removed the gauze from his face. Kira blinked as he took in the torn flesh and the steady oozing of blood from three long scratches running the entire length of Hisagi's face.

"Scars are reminders for us all… reminders of what we did wrong." He pointed to the wounds. "I need these scars to remind me… I messed up today. I was careless and I got my team killed. Keeping these scars won't let me forget that. Every time I look in the mirror I'll think about it."

Kira stared in awe at his sempai. He was even more intriguing than he had first realized. To think Hisagi cared this much for his comrades, cared so much he was willing to let himself be disfigured as a reminder of them. But on the other hand…

"But isn't that unhealthy?" Kira asked. "Isn't that like dwelling in the past? Not moving on?"

Hisagi shook his head. "It's just a reminder. It's a means for me to want to improve… want to make myself better." Hisagi gingerly touched the sensitive flesh around the cuts and smiled softly. "And it's not just a bad reminder…"

"What do you mean?" Kira asked.

Hisagi looked up from the floor and his smile grew. "When I see these scars, I'll also think about how my comrades saved my life. You guys didn't have to come back for me, but you did. I want to be the kind of leader that inspires people to do that for each other…" His gaze returned to the floor and after several long moments, he said in a soft voice. "I owe you three my life… I hope someday I can repay you…"

Kira's heart raced. On top of being selfless and beautiful and courageous, he was kind and honorable like no other Kira had ever met. Kira knew if he wasn't careful, he could easily fall in love with this man.

"Um," Kira said, shaking himself and dying to change the subject. "Here, let me clean the cuts for you."

Hisagi looked up at him wearily.

"I won't do any healing kidos," Kira put up his hands. "I promise."

Hisagi nodded slowly and relaxed as Kira gathered hot water and slave. Luckily, none of the cuts had hit his eye and the dark-haired man was going to be able to see just fine. The center of the three wounds needed stitching though.

"Would they have things for stitching here?" Hisagi asked.

"Probably not," Kira said as he dug around in a few drawers. "But that's not what I'm- ah! Here." He pulled out a small sewing kit from the bottom of a large bin and headed back to his seat.

"You're going to stitch me up with a uniform repair kit?" Hisagi asked incredulously.

Kira opened the kit and selected a small needle and black thread. "Do you have a better idea?"

The older man seemed to think about it, but then his shoulders sagged and he relented. Kira soaked the needle and thread in hot water, then set to work, quickly closing the cuts where the bleeding refused to stop. He moved fast with sure movements, not realizing Hisagi had been staring at him for almost ten minutes.

"What's your name?" Hisagi finally asked.

"Kira," he replied. "Kira Izuru."

Hisagi smiled and closed his eyes. "You smell really nice, Kira."

The blonde faltered and almost pressed the needle directly into the cut. His heart had started beating painfully against his rib cage and he could feel his face burning once again. Good thing Hisagi had his eyes closed.

"Thank you, Hisagi-sempai…"

Twenty minutes later the two men emerged from the hospital room, Hisagi clean and bandaged, and Kira following close behind. They waved to the stunned nurses and flashed out of the building. When the two reached the academy quarters, Hisagi turned to Kira and graced him with another one of his dashing smiles.

"Well, thank you again, Kira. I'll hopefully see you around? Don't be a stranger."

Kira nodded. "Goodnight, Hisagi-sempai."

The blonde made to turn around, but Hisagi was suddenly right there in front of him. Kira's breath caught as he felt the warmth radiating from the taller man's body. He felt his knees get weak again and it was all he could do to stay upright.

"You don't have to be so formal," Hisagi whispered. "You can call me Shuuhei when it's just us."

Kira nodded. "A-alright… Shuuhei…"

"Goodnight then."

Kira swallowed. "Goodnight."

He watched Shuuhei's back as the handsome man turned and headed towards his quarters. Kira knew he was never going to be able to look at Shuuhei's scars and not think of this night. He hoped the future 

would bring him closer to the captivating person he saw before him. He also hoped that someday, he would be worthy of his praises and the two of them could stand on even ground together as friends.

Friends, and hope against hope… maybe something more.