Chapter One - Free Flow

Why is it that whenever someone is dying, it rains? Jyuushiro wonders that every single day. He lays in his bed as the rain falls, wondering it. It puzzles him; it plagues him because he has nothing else to do. His bed chamber is his prison cell, heavy with the smell of death. It's something only he can smell because only he suffers it.

Now, Jyuushiro is quietly awaiting his fate. He stares up at his own ceiling, remembering everything in his journal. Everything he ever wrote down. Subsequently, he is near the last page and must fill it. It is funny, he notices as he writes, that he chose the longest notebook in stock when he decided to start his journal. Did the length of this book play a role in his life span? He ponders it. Is it even possible? Right now, nothing is possible. He is sitting upright because he is pushing himself. He is fighting. He is fighting, but he is still dying. And no one can do anything about it.

He sighs heavily. It's twelve o'clock. Shunsui will soon be in with his saké to drink himself to death. Maybe Shunsui figures that they can be together that way. Jyuushiro silently curses Shunsui for his stupidity. If that was the reason he took up drinking, then Jyuushiro would be truly disappointed. He couldn't help but know that he and Shunsui would be friends forever; Jyuushiro's memory will live on in Shunsui, and Shunsui will perhaps become Jyuushiro's invisible friend. And maybe, the ill Captain muses, maybe Shunsui will still be living when Jyuushiro dies of his illness a third time, turning up in Rukongai a young child all over. He will grow and become a Shinigami, and Shunsui will be waiting for him. Shunsui, Rukia, Toushiro, Byakuya, Kiyone, Sentarou, Unohana, Isane . . . They'll all be waiting for his return, he'd be happy to oblige them because he wants to be with them.

Before this stage in the Tuberculosis, Jyuushiro wasn't afraid of death. He was very accepting of it. Some days, waking to a mouthful of his own blood, he almost welcomed it. He almost couldn't wait. It was almost crazy, now, for him to think that he had accepted death. There was so much to do, so much to see. Now, it frightened him to think that he was going to die. It hadn't before. He knew before that Unohana could keep him safe. The last time her protection could help him was yesterday. She had told him so.

"I'm sorry, Ukitake-san. I can help you no longer. Your lungs are failing so fast that it's almost dangerous to use kido on you anymore. If any more spiritual pressure is added to your lungs, your konpaku will fail and you will die. I'm so sorry. I really hoped I could help you. You have about two or three days at the most. Ukitake-san . . . Jyuushiro, I'm sorry. If I knew how to save you, I would. I'm sorry."

He smiles slightly, remembering how many times she had said she was sorry. Retsu had apologized so many times . . . The smile fades when he remembers her words, though. He only has two days left at the most. He could die right that instant, or go in his sleep. Then again, fear of death will most likely keep him from sleeping. He is afraid of falling asleep and never waking. He is so scared, and he is shaking. The pen in his hand shakes and his mind is away. Jyuushiro is absent. He could not have been in that room at that moment because he doesn't see his third seat, and his medic's younger sister, come in.

"Captain Ukitake? Shunsui's been admitted to Fourth Division."

He looks at her, his copper eyes dull. They question her. Why?

"Alcohol poisoning. Just like you said, Captain. He'll drink himself to death. Nanao's crying. Neither of you two have a very strong chance of making it through the night." She bites her lip and tries to continue, but it won't come. She is crying now. She has to leave and unfortunately, no one takes her place. He doesn't want to be alone, now. Kiyone never could make anyone feel better. It was her curse.

So, once again he is left alone in the dark. There is a candle lit next to his bedroll, but that is all the light his sore eyes can take. The dark is ominous and silent. He is so scared.

He's scared of his bed chamber. He's scared of the candle flickering at his side. He's scared of Kiyone's tears and whimpering sounds which have now died off. He's scared of himself. He's scared of Shunsui's drinking. He's scared of falling asleep. Right now, though, he's mostly scared of the darkness because sometimes he thinks he has passed without anyone, including himself, knowing that he has left and the next person that comes in and brings the light with them is there to take him to the Land of the Living. There is nothing really to be scared of, but he ignores that fact.

I will not see them again most likely, he thinks as he lays in wait for another visitor. It is a painful thought, but now all he can think about is his best friend. I do hope he's all right. With Shunsui and me both erased from the Seireitei, the Shinigami would — No, you'll only make yourself feel guilty. Stop it.

As he tells himself this, the door is opened again. This time it's Unohana and Nanao. He is happy to see them. More than they would think, anyway. Nanao's thin face is red and her eyes are puffy. Her cheeks are stained with tears and he remembers what Kiyone told him.

"He'll drink himself to death. Nanao's crying. Neither of you has a very strong chance of making it through the night."

Unohana's usual smile has been replaced with a frown and eyes that make her look like she's about to burst into tears. It's a weighted expression. She's straining herself. Usually she looks light and happy, but no. Not tonight. But she has a reason. Unohana has seen many people die, but she is close with Jyuushiro and Shunsui. She doesn't want them to go.

"How do you feel?" She walks over him and sits next to his bed. He casts a small glance to the side. "Still don't feel like talking, huh?" He nods, though only slightly. Unohana feels the back of his neck, his forehead, and checks the height of his spiritual pressure. "Fever, sweats, chills, low spirit energy. Nanao, can you help me?" Nanao nods, probably not brave enough to trust her voice yet. He imagines that her voice still trembles.

He knows what Unohana means. What she needs help with. She's taking him to Division Four so she can monitor his heath. Nanao and Unohana hoist the Thirteenth Division Captain to his feet and wait for his weak legs to steady. It only takes a few seconds and soon they are walking. It only takes five steps for his legs to give out. Neither Unohana nor Unohana have the strength it takes to carry him, though Kenpachi, who was waiting to see it̀ Ukitake'd be okay, does. He is there immediately to catch the captain. Kenpachi picks up the dying man and shunpo's to Fourth, Nanao and Unohana hot on his heels.

He is put in a room with Shunsui, who is still awake against Unohana's request. He is waiting for Jyuushiro to die so that he can follow. Jyuushiro knows this and looks over from his bed at the other man.

"So, the damned thing finally got the better of you?" Shunsui doesn't sound drunk, his voice is clean and steady. Just considerably weakened, however. Jyuushiro is hurt by this and looks away. "Thought so. Unohana sobered me up so I could talk to you. I know you won't talk back, so it gives me my chance. I won't be able to live without you, buddy. There's no way. Surely no one can take your place. Not as Captain of Thirteenth, not as Unohana's favourite patient, not as Toushiro's role model, not as my best friend . . . . Who'd sit on your roof with me and drink when you left? No one. I'd sit on my roof and sulk. Alone. I have to have you with me or else I'm as good as dead."

He is right. Kiyone and Sentarou will never feel the same bursting down his office door to find an empty desk . . . or even another face. Unohana will never find a patient as courteous, gentle, warmhearted, friendly, or likeable as he since she has tried to pick other favourites, but she just doesn't see any other patients that often. Toushiro won't have to duck and dodge offers of candy and other confections from an older and supposedly more mature Shiro-chan, and he'll probably miss the candy, if nothing else. Shunsui has been his best friend since their days in the Soul Reaper Academy. That was well over fifteen-hundred years ago . . . but he remembers it so perfectly.

Shunsui, a first-year at the time, was trying to sweet-talk some of the third-year girls and he leaned against a window in an attempt to look cool. He didn't know it was open. Of course, it had to be a third floor window and Jyuushiro just happened to be walking by when SMACK! the two collided. Or, more likely, Shunsui fell on him. They both ended up in Division Four for two days, laying side-by-side, as they are now.

"So, you gonna fight my decision?" Shunsui asks with a more serious tone than ever. "I'm waiting for you. I'm hanging on in case this is another false alarm."

Jyuushiro draws a breath to speak, but it leaves him fighting for air through a wicked onslaught of raspy coughs and his own blood. It is a terrible sight, like a murder scene. There is more blood now than ever before, and it won't stop.

11:53AM - 12:30PM

Friday, June 8

Jyuushiro Ukitake

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