A/N: I promise you, despite the fact that Da Aprocalips and I jokingly call Ukitake Captain Pedo, there is NO Pedo or yaoi in this fiction. In fact, this is to dispel those very nasty rumors about our beloved white-haired captain and the very motivations that have lead to those rumors. And GASP, could it be Captain Kyoraku slaying the rumors?
Captain Hitsugaya had lingered for just a few moments after the captain's meeting. He should have known better. He should have ducked out faster. He should have sat further away from Captain Ukitake.
As it was he trudged out of the meeting room with his usual arm-load of candy and sweets. There was more there than he would eat in a month alone. He wasn't even sure there was room in his desk drawers anymore. Possibly the bottom one.
He grumbled under his breath, debating on just letting Matsumoto eat it all and be done with it. He knew however, that would lead to candy wrappers in the cushions of the couch in his office and quite possibly a repeat of the gum in her cleavage incident. Yes, his vice captain actually could not walk and chew gum at the same time.
A hand landed on Hitsugaya's shoulder and he bristled visibly. If anyone said one word about the candy or some shiro-chan related comment...
"Hey, Captain Hitsugaya. You've got your hands full there, but I thought maybe we could get a drink. Talk."
The short captain let out a gusty sigh and turned to face the pink-robed captain behind him. "Captain Kyoraku, I really think..."
The older man smiled and draped an arm around Hitusgaya's shoulders, making it clear there was no real choice. "No thinking now. Hear me out, then you're going to do the thinking. I should have done this years ago."
Seated on the balcony of the eighth division headquarters, Hitsugaya blew delicately on the surface of his tea to cool it, warily watching the captain across from him. "I'm listening."
Kyoraku nodded slightly, his gaze distant as he sipped his tea. "In a moment." He turned to scowl at the door and raise his voice. "Nanao-chan, pretty things such as you should really be above listening at doors!"
There was an audible huff and quick footsteps fading in the distance. "She's a sneaky one, my Nanao," Kyoraku sighed happily. Then his expression turned serious.
"I want to tell you a few things about my friend , Jushiro." He waved a hand languidly, cutting off whatever objection Hitsugaya was going to make. "Listen, remember?" He nodded and went on, sipping his tea carefully. "Shiro's always been sick. Maybe that's why he can be so damn cheerful about it. Can't be bitter because that's all he's got."
Squirming uncomfortably, Hitsugaya kept his eyes focused on his cup. He didn't like being reminded that he had uncharitable thoughts about someone who was ill.
"But that's the thing about him," the older captain mused, leaning back on his elbow and tilting his hat to shade his face. "He can cough blood all over your haori and smile, cracking a joke about buying you a replacement. He loves people... all people and he'll do whatever he can to ease their discomfort, keep them from taking his illness too much to heart."
"But how does that..." Hitsugaya frowned, unable to keep from interrupting what could turn into a very long story if he didn't.
"Have anything to do with you?" Kyoraku chuckled. "Impatient. I asked Shiro once why someone like him, who women obviously love, had never settled down. Why someone who handles children so well had never raised a brood of his own. He said it wasn't fair. He wouldn't let a woman into his heart and into his life when he couldn't make or keep promises of always being there for her. He wouldn't want to pass along his life, his illness to any children they might have."
Silence fell between them as they both sipped their tea. Hitsugaya was unwilling to ask again what all of this information had to do with him specifically.
Kyoraku finished his tea and carefully set the cup on the ground beside him. "Now, the rest of this, this is just what I have observed. I'd like to think I know him well enough to know this much about him though. When he looks at you, I can see something in his eyes. There's a sadness and a longing that doesn't belong there.
The prodigy captain of Gotei 13 blinked in surprise and then frowned. "But I've never... he doesn't..."
"He looks at you and sees a kid. A talented kid with white hair and a name that sounds like his just enough. Maybe like something he'd name a son. He sees something he can't ever have, but wants to be responsible for in some way." The laid back man's voice roughened and and he quickly cleared his throat, masking the emotion with rare sharpness. "So don't you ever roll your eyes or grit your teeth at him where I can see it again, you little wet behind the ears whelp."
Hitsugaya sat frozen, trying not to notice that the eighth captain had teared up, or show that his words had made such a deep impression on him. He had never considered the things that he'd learned, nor thought about Ukitake much at all beyond the superficial. "I'm... deeply sorry if I have offended you, Captain Kyoraku, it was never my intention."
The older man lay back, tilting his hat further over his face and waving a hand airily. "I said my piece, I'm done. If you have something more to say, it's not to me."
After a moment of thought, Hitsugaya nodded and left quietly, his brow furrowed in thought.
The Tenth Captain faced the scowling Thirteenth Vice Captain Kotetsu. "If I could only speak to him for a few minutes."
Her death glare was impressive he mused to himself. Where could she have learned it. "The captain is resting. You have no idea how much meetings tire him out! Especially when he lugs all that stupid candy around!"
"I..." His voice trailed off awkwardly. "I just would like to talk to him for a few minutes."
Her glare increased by tenfold as the door behind her slid open and there was a soft cough. "Kiyone."
She spun around, wide-eyed and hurried to his side. "Captain, you were supposed to be resting!"
Ukitake shushed her gently and smiled at Hitsugaya. "How can I rest when I have a visitor?"
The young captain truly wished he could sink into the ground and disappear. "If... I could come back later..."
"Nonsense. You can come sit with me for a while. Then, Kiyone can stop hovering, I can rest and visit at the same time."
Hitsugaya followed, sitting in the chair positioned to the side of the bed, as the ill man settled back slowly and let out a raspy sigh. "There. Now, what could possibly bring you to visit me?"
Looking at his hands folded in his lap, the young man cleared his throat. "I wanted to say thank you, and to tell you how much I appreciate the candy, gifts and attention you have always spared for me."
There was a long pause, ended when Ukitake's hand covered Hitsugaya's clasped ones and squeezed gently. "You're welcome, Toshiro. Thank you, for indulging me."
The tenth captain looked up, meeting the eighth captain's eyes and returning his warm smile with a crooked one of his own.
Ukitake coughed again, a hard wracking sound.
"I should go," Hitsugaya murmured softly.
"No, stay. I don't get enough company. Probably because I'm a horrible host and usually fall asleep on my guests, but I would like for you to stay for a while."
The young man eased back in his chair relaxing. "For a while."
Eyes drifting closed, Ukitake's smile widened. "Thank you..."
An easy peaceful silence settled between them, only the sound of the older man's uneasy breathing between them. Surrounded by his thoughts, one stood out to Hitsugaya among the many others. He could see why Ukitake inspired such strong blind loyalty among those who knew him best, and more than that, he now wanted to be among them.