Deep Blue Evening
Ukitake slid open the door to Shunsui's quarters and went in without knocking. Although this had occasionally led to embarrassing confrontations – embarrassing to Ukitake; nothing in the world ever seemed to embarrass Shunsui - they'd been in and out of each other's rooms since their Academy days, and the habit was too familiar and comfortable to break. Just in case, though, Ukitake paused by the door and looked around – the room was cool and dim with evening and smelled faintly of the ayame that stood in a jar in the wall-niche.
The shinigami spent a moment admiring their colour, almost the same soft purple-blue as the spring dusk outside, and smiled a little to himself at the choice of blossom. Ayame suggested nobility of blood, and with their sword-sharp leaves and petals like curving banners, they embodied the fierce beauty of the perfect warrior, a boy's dream...
The earthy-looking raku-fired cylinder that held the irises had been placed carefully in front of a hanging scroll – words, not a picture…Ukitake's feet were almost soundless on the matting as he lit a lamp and moved it a little closer to read what was evidently a poem. The bold, easy strokes of the characters were Shunsui's work; Ukitake could almost see him writing it, one hand holding his sleeve up out of the way while the other moved the brush across the paper in a gesture that wasted nothing…his eyes followed the black paths of the symbols, making words of them:
The spring moonlight lies across my bed
How heavy it feels
Without you here to help me bear it
Ukitake went still. "Oh," he said out loud, more of a breath than a word.
"Mmmm," answered a voice close to his ear, and Ukitake would have jumped if two arms hadn't gone around him from behind and pulled him back. He caught the scent of sake and tobacco and peony-soap.
He twisted a little, but the arms only tightened, holding him closer, and a strand of dark brown hair brushed against his cheek. The embrace was familiar, the hands that were stroking him knew everything about him…
The man holding him laughed. "Of course. Who else would you be waiting for?"
"I wasn't waiting –"
Fingers pressed against his lips. "Don't argue with me, I might be drunk. It's a very beautiful night for drinking and looking at the moon, Shiro-san. And for reading poems."
"How drunk are you, Captain of the Eighth Division?"
"Just drunk enough to be sentimental, Captain of the Thirteenth Division, and drunk enough to remember a poem. And you?"
"I remember it."
"Our first year at the Academy…you were called home for something, can't recall what…I thought you'd never come back." Shunsui's hands moved more slowly. "It was a very warm spring that year, and I slept with the door a little open…every night you were gone, the moonlight would fall across my face and I'd wake and reach out for it, thinking it was your hair…that's the sort of thing that will make a boy forget about playing soldiers for a little while, neh, Jyuushiro? The sort of thing that will make him write poems instead."
Ukitake's fingers found Shunsui's and slid between them.
"Do you remember how you thanked me for it? You'd think no one had ever written you a poem before." The fingers closed around Ukitake's. "Stay with me, Shiro-san. The Thirteenth Division can get along without you tonight – I can't."
Ukitake nodded, his heart sounding loud in his ears. How had they let so much time pass?
"Put out the lamp – it would be a pity to waste the moon."
One small, shaking exhalation and the light flickered and went out. The evening came in and wrapped itself around them, deep and sweet and blue as a dream or the heart of a flower.