Shunsui lay on a white futon, his brown hair now cropped short and fanned out beneath him on the hard pillow under his head. His beard, stubby, had been shaved clean but refused to grow back. The room was warm but he had blankets covering his body and was shivering, with the fire crackling loudly from time to time.
Nanao was sitting by his side, once in a while dabbing his forehead with a damp cloth which he thought smelled vaguely like flowers, but it could have been her perfume too. She cleared her throat. "Taichou....Unohana-taichou wanted me to inform you that you have tuberculosis." He chuckled softly, with a hint of dark tones in it. "So that's why he won't come visit, eh, my sweet Nanao-chan?"
She looked away, unable to respond. "Would you like me to.....call him, taichou?" She asked, and Shunsui wondered when she had ever sounded timid.
"Call him?" He coughed, his voice raspy. "Don't you think I've tried?"
The raven haired fuke-taichou took this as an answer in the affirmative and stood up from her position on the floor subtly. It may have been Shunsui's imagination, but he was sure that he had seen a silver drop slide from under her glasses as she turned away, and fall onto the bamboo floor, where she, perhaps intentionally, stepped on it to make it less evident.
This was it, he thought, after all, I never imagined Nanao crying for anything but my death. She's strong, she is, my sweet Nanao. She smiled a little bit at how she used to hit him on the head with that cruel fan of his if he ever called her, 'sweet Nanao'. He turned his head back slowly to the ceiling, marveling at how peaceful it was; the snow falling in layers outside, and the fire glowing brightly in his room.
It seemed an alright way to die....after all, it's all he deserved, dying in an empty room, especially with how much fun he had in his life between sake, captaincy, women, money, Jyuushiro......Jyuushiro. His thoughts paused on the last word as it pricked the memory of the smiling man's image. Unable to control himself, his lips curled too. He had always said that his lover's smile was contagious, but he had only learned recently that his disease was too.
The very first time Shunsui had kissed the other man; he had felt his mouth taste so different from any of the girls he had kissed before. But dismissing it as 'his taste', he never brought up the topic. He had never restrained his love for the thirteenth division captain before, and he was glad. After all, if you're going to pay a price after decades, who cares?
And when the interaction took a toll on him, he would have rather killed himself than told Ukitake. He learned that a small cough could be hidden as a hiccup from drinking too much sake, and the more serious ones could be due to a sore throat. Clinical reports could be hidden, and medicine could be taken when his lover's back was turned.
After all, he didn't want Jyuushiro to know, now did he? But it all came to this. His lover had still deserted him in death, even after he had promised.......
"...till death do us apart, Shunsui." Ukitake had smiled and pulled the dripping wet
Captain from the thunderstorm outside into the warmth of his house and arms.
He snorted, but chuckled at himself again when even that little annoyed huff made his lungs go up in flames and he lapsed into a coughing fit.
Footsteps heard on the thin bamboo floor seemed to echo even louder then they actually they were really were when one was lying on it. Ukitake entered, disheveled, and Nanao closed the door behind him, locking him in.
The white haired man looked around wildly, before muttering under his breath rather eccentrically, "See, there's no one here, Nanao, no one he-"His words lodged in his throat as his eyes fell on Shunsui and he crumpled. Falling to his knees, then drawing them against his chest like a child, he stared with wide eyes at the man he once loved.
"Jyuu...shiro?" Shunsui asked, his voice raspy from disuse. But the captain wasn't listening. "No...no...no...no,no,no...." He whispered, hands on his ears, struggling but failing to draw his eyes from the sickly captain.
"Look....Jyuushiro..." He chuckled softly. He tried to prop himself up against the pillows, but barely succeeded on dragging himself up halfway before being wracked with coughs, each one overlapping the larger one after it, staining the pristine sheets and crimson with blood and phlegm.
There was a lump in Ukitake throat as he lifted his head from his hands and looked at Shunsui with sunken eyes in the same position he'd been in so many times himself- half way between chocking and vomiting, spitting out his lungs.
Yet the man in front of him was a stranger.
Shunsui reached over and touched the other man's hand, which recoiled. "Jyuu-chan...." He dragged his hand through his locks. "They cut my sexy hair, Jyuu-chan. I look like Aizen." He laughed again, such a pitiful sound, especially when it was loaded with blood-inducing coughs. Covering the crimson stained sheets with his hand, "It's just candy, Jyuu-chan."
A much younger looking Ukitake pulled back from Shunsui in the corridor they were in, both clutching newly given captain's haoris. They were lost in ecstasy when informed by Sou-taichou of their promotion to captainship; they came out and celebrated in the corridor. It started with a happy dance from Shunsui, hugging.....and led to their first kiss.
Jyuushiro regretted it though. "Shunsui..." He pushed the other captain back. "Don't! What if you catch something from me?"
The stubby bearded captain smiled and tucked a loose strand of hair behind Ukitake ear and laughed. "So what? It's not like I'm coughing up blood or anything- it's only candy Jyuu-chan."
Something seemed to snap inside of the thirteenth division captain. "DON'T CALL ME THAT!" He yelled. Shunsui flinched and was once again caught in a violent fit of gasping, spewing up more blood. "Candy, that's all it is, Jyuu-cha......Ukitake-san."
The ivory haired shinigami shook his head, mortified both at the use of his formal name and at the realization of the disease Shunsui had. "No....Shunsui....you have...tuberculosis...like me." He said, closing his eyes. His lover's name sounded so strange coming from his lips now, even though through his lifetime, he had laughed it, yelled it, gasped it, moaned it....
"Candy." Shunsui argued, too tired to complete his sentence. "No....you got it from me." His eyes widened in horror. "You got it from me, Shunsui! You're sick because of me! I...I..." He ranted wildly, tears now falling onto his lap.
"Jyu-..Ukitake-san, listen, no, I didn't-" Ukitake leaned over the other man, beating his fists weakly against the broad, but now-frail chest, all the while crying and screaming, "NO! I killed you! I KILLED YOU! GO AWAY! I KILLED YOU!"
Kyouraku made no effort to shield his body from the attacks, but instead, mustering all the energy he could, he grabbed hold of the man straddling his thighs and pulled him into an embrace. Taken aback, Ukitake, did nothing for a minute, but then began to make feeble attempts at escaping. Shunsui only held him tighter. "Calm down, Jyuu-chan."
"DON'T CALL ME THAT!" He hollered. "I'll make you sick! I'll kill you! You'll make me sick!" His tirade went on and on, the utter heartbreaking nonsense of a tormented soul.
Nanao, outside, crumbled against the doorframe and burst into quiet sobs. Kira quietly got up from his spot and gently tried comforting her, with everyone else whose lives the two captains had touched with their wonder, watching.
For really, it was not the death of one man, but of two.
Renji was surreptitiously holding hands with his captain, who was trying, and failing to look composed as more of Ukitake's screams pierced the air. Rukia buried her tearful face further into Ichigo's muscular shoulder, and he wrapped a hand around her consolingly. Even Sou-taichou was standing to the side of the hallway, making a constant effort to lower his reaitsu as not to burden the disheveled bunch.
"NO! KYOURAKU! LET ME GO! I....didn't....I didn't....let me go let me go let me go....Kyouraku....I killed you..." More silent tears slid off of Nanao's face, and Byakuya closed his eyes, hoping to dispel the sudden tears that had welled up from hearing a man he had been friends with for so long, lose sanity in such a pitiful way.
Renji squeezed his hand tighter and even Zaraki didn't dare to make a snaring remark.
Shunsui didn't let him go, even when he accidentally spewed blood on ivory hair, staining it scarlet. "Calm down, it's just candy, Jyuu-chan." He whispered hoarsely to the struggling man in his arms.
"NO! LET ME GO! YOU'LL DIE! YOU'LL DIE FROM ME-"He was silenced this time from his lover's lips on his, tongue gently gliding across of his teeth. Another tear dropped from Jyuushiro's eyes as he closed them slowly, marveling at the familiar but different sensation of Shunsui.
"Hush, Jyuu-chan, its only candy, I told you, didn't I?" Shunsui whispered quietly into the other captain's ear, and closed his eyes. "Hush, Jyuu-chan."
Ukitake didn't know how long he stayed like that. His legs started to ache from being in such an awkward position, but Shunsui didn't release his hold on him, and he didn't ask. Gradually, the hold loosened, but it wasn't enough for Ukitake to get away, or even to draw back to see his lover's face.
Shunsui slumped to one side, falling to the floor with a thump, taking Ukitake with him on the bamboo floor still in his arms. Nanao opened the door after what seemed like eternity, and turned her face again in anguish and a flurry of tears.
Jyuushiro was lying in his lover's arms, quite content, gently singing and tracing the outline of Shunsui's face with a pale finger.
"I'll never let you go now!" Shunsui smiled, laughing and holding onto Jyuushiro's leg as he tried to climb up a tree but was being held back by his best friend. "Oh yeah?" He asked, and resorted to tickling the other man ruthlessly until he was gasping for breath. "Now will you let go of my ankle?" He asked triumphantly.
Shunsui grinned. "Never."
Never let go.......Shunsui's haori sleeves were tied together at Jyuushiro's back.
Ukitake looked up from coughing up a large amount of blood onto his first-year shinigami academy uniform. He often cursed the fact the girls had red in their uniform, which was much easier to hide blood stains on then the wretched blue they were supposed to wear. But then again, most boys didn't cough up daily amounts of blood.
A brown curly haired boy came up to him. "Are you alright?" He asked, the worry showing evident on his face. "Yes, yes, I'm fine!" Ukitake lied in a rush, lest the boy inform the school nurse that he'd been coughing up blood. Then she would come and give him that horrible medicine. "Is that blood?" Shunsui peered around his hand. "Um..no..it's just...um...candy. You know, the red kind, which..uh...makes your saliva go red."
"You like that stuff?" He asked. Ukitake nodded warily, unsure of what else he could do. Shunsui smiled widely, then and on Jyuushiro's next birthday, when he brought a whole batch of the it.
And the birthday after that...and after that. Jyuushiro even started to like that red candy.
How was it? Cute, eh? I was like....stuck with this idea. I couldn't NOT write it. It was too angsty to miss!
If you didn't get it, Shunsui got tuberclosis from Jyuushiro and died. So sad...
Review, OR ELSE.