Disclaimer - I do not own Bleach
A/N- this is a companion piece to my story Reincarnation and is meant to explain how Ukitake and Unohana ended up together. Hope you enjoy.
After making sure that his wounds were healing well, Captain of Squad Four, Retsu Unohana, offered her patient a sympathetic look as she walked across the room toward the door. "I'll be back to check on you a little later," she told him in a kind voice as she reached her hand out toward the door.
The prone figure lying on the bed gave no sign that he'd heard the words spoken to him in that kind, soothing voice. He merely continued to stare blankly up at the tiled ceiling of his room in Squad Four, his mind still reeling from the events of yesterday.
Unohana sighed, slid the door open, and stepped out into the hallway, where she was ambushed almost immediately by Captain Kyouraku of Squad Eight. Kyouraku had been released from Squad Four's care the day before however he'd flat out refused to leave the complex and had been hanging out in the hallway ever since his own discharge. Concern was plainly written all over Captain Kyouraku's usually cheerful face as he asked, "How is he Captain Unohana?"
Unohana heaved another sigh as her thoughts flashed back to the patient that she'd just left. "His physical injuries are healing well enough however it's his emotional wounds that concern me the most at this point. So many perished in the battle with Aizen and Head Captain Ukitake feels responsible for their deaths."
Kyouraku nodded his head in understanding. The Winter War was finally over and they had emerged victorious however the cost of victory was a high one. They had lost so many, among them two Captains, three vice-captains, and countless soldiers both seated and unseated. Kyouraku had been friends with Jyuushirou Ukitake since their days in the Academy and he was well aware that his friend would take the deaths of every single one of his subordinates very hard. "Can I go in and see him?"
Captain Unohana briefly thought about his request and then nodded her head, giving him her consent. "I'm sure that will make him feel better Captain Kyouraku. I'm going to go check on Hinamori-san but if you need anything just call."
Kyouraku nodded and watched as the Squad Four Captain turned and made her way down the hall. Then, once Unohana had disappeared around a corner, the Squad Eight Captain slid the door of his best friend's room open and quietly stepped inside.
"Hello Shunsui," a soft voice called out before Captain Kyouraku had even taken three steps into the room.
Kyouraku offered his friend a smile as he walked across the room and came to stand at his bedside however the smile was slightly more forced than usual. "Couldn't sneak up on you Jyuu. How are you feeling?"
"Not so bad," Ukitake replied quietly although Kyouraku couldn't help but notice that his voice sounded hollow and oddly free from emotion. Plus there was also the fact that Ukitake was refusing to look in his direction. "Tell me Shunsui, how is Nanao?"
A picture of his lovely yet stern looking vice-captain appeared in Captain Kyouraku's mind. "Her injuries were minor and she's already been released from Squad Four. Captain Unohana thought that she should stay longer but you know my Nanao-chan. She wasn't having any of that."
"I'm glad to hear it," Ukitake said in a quiet voice, still resolutely refusing to look at his best friend. His gaze remained focused on the ceiling.
"Listen Jyuu. . ."
"I'm sorry Shunsui but I'm really tired," Ukitake said, obviously not comfortable with the prospect of talking about the war just yet.
Kyouraku wasn't sure whether letting his friend avoid the topic of all those that they had lost in the battle with Aizen was a good idea however he didn't want to push the subject while Ukitake's health was still so fragile. "Sure Jyuu, I'll come back to visit you later."
"Thank you," Ukitake said softly.
Kyouraku nodded even though he knew that Ukitake wasn't looking in his direction and then he turned and left his best friend's room. Ukitake listened to the sound of his friend leaving and then he sighed heavily. He knew that his friend was worried about him and just wanted to help however all he wanted now was to be alone with his thoughts.
"So much tragedy and all because Aizen desired more power. The powers of a Shinigami weren't enough to satisfy him."
So many had perished during the final battle with the Espada and he couldn't get the faces of the fallen out of his mind. And the one who haunted him the most, the death that he was finding the most difficult to bare, was that of the young Captain of Squad Ten. He'd felt protective of the young prodigy ever since he'd entered the Academy and he still couldn't believe that Toushirou was dead. According to the Substitute Shinigami, Ichigo Kurosaki, Toushirou had sacrificed himself in order to save the lives of Hinamori and Rukia, whom Aizen had been targeting.
"Of course he would be willing to die in order to save the lives of his friends," Ukitake thought to himself sadly. It was a noble death and had been the young prodigy's own decision yet Ukitake couldn't help but blame himself to a small degree, couldn't help but think that if he'd been a better leader then things might have turned out different for his subordinates.
His thoughts focused on those they had lost Ukitake suddenly found himself feeling restless. Glancing around the room the Head Captain soon spotted a shihakusho folded on the back of a chair. Deciding that he needed to get out of this small room in the infirmary Ukitake got to his feet and walked across the room. As he walked Ukitake couldn't help but marvel at the skills of Captain Unohana. Even though the battle against the Espada had been fought a mere two days ago his injuries were almost completely healed. The Squad Four Captain truly was a master of healing kidou.
Shedding the white robe that he was wearing Ukitake dressed in the shihakusho and then he left his room. The Head Captain wasn't really making an attempt to keep out of sight however the hallway was deserted and no one saw the white-haired captain leave Squad Four.
His thoughts still occupied by the events that had unfolded a couple of days ago Ukitake left the Squad Four barracks and made his way across the Seireitei to his office in Squad One. As Ukitake made his way back toward Squad One he noticed that the Seireitei seemed abandoned and he supposed that all of those who weren't under the care of Squad Four were more than likely out in the Rukongai repairing the damage that had been caused by their battle with the Espada.
"So much destruction," Ukitake thought to himself sadly as he imagined all of the crushed houses and uprooted trees. Luckily they'd been able to evacuate the Rukongai so miraculously there were no civilian casualties. They had Captain Hitsugaya to thank for that as well. He'd been the first one to encounter the first wave of intruders and he'd held them off while Matsumoto and Kin had quickly evacuated that district of the Rukongai. The death toll would have been much higher if the Squad Ten officers hadn't taken these measures.
Once Captain Unohana had checked on Hinamori, as well as a few of her other patients, the Squad Four Captain made her way back down the hall toward the Head Captain's room. Now Ukitake's wounds were almost healed and he was in better physical condition than some of the other Shinigami under her care however he was taking the loss of his subordinates incredibly hard and Unohana was worried about him.
When Unohana arrived at the room where she'd left Ukitake she slid the door open and quietly stepped inside. Her gaze immediately focused on the bed and her eyes widened in surprise at the sight that met her searching gaze. The empty bed had been made and a white robe lay neatly folded on top of it.
Captain Unohana was immediately concerned for her superior. Head Captain Ukitake, much like Hinamori, was suffering emotionally due to the loss of those that perished in the battle and she wasn't sure that he should be alone right now. An image of Ukitake's kind face and gentle eyes flashed into Unohana's mind and despite herself she smiled softly.
Making a decision Unohana left the room that had, until recently, belonged to the Head Captain and made her way down a small corridor. She could hear the commotion coming from that particular room long before she reached it and as she slid the door open Unohana saw that both Isane and Rukia Kuchiki were attempting to keep a bandaged and struggling Ichigo Kurosaki in bed.
"Captain Unohana," Isane said as her superior stepped into the room.
"Are you feeling better Kurosaki-san?" Unohana asked in her soft-edged voice, fixing the Substitute Shinigami with an intense gaze.
"I'm fine," Ichigo insisted, glaring at Rukia who still had her hands on his shoulders. "So could you please tell them to LET ME GO?"
Unohana nodded and turned to the two younger women. "If he insists then it's best to just give in. If he keeps struggling like that then he'll only cause himself more damage."
Isane and Rukia both nodded, although it was reluctantly on the part of Rukia, and released their hold on Ichigo's shoulders.
"Thank you," Ichigo said.
"Isane," Unohana said softly, turning her attention to her vice-captain.
"Could you come with me please?" Unohana asked, motioning for Isane to follow her.
Isane nodded and quickly fell into step behind her captain. Unohana led the way out of Ichigo's room and down the hall to the office that she and Isane shared. Then, once they were inside and the door had been closed behind them, Unohana turned to her subordinate and relayed her fears. "Head Captain Ukitake has left Squad Four and I'm concerned for him."
"Would you like for me to search for him Captain Unohana?" Isane asked, her gaze focused on the face of her captain.
Captain Unohana shook her head. "No Isane. I think he needs a friend more than anything right now. That's why I want you to go to Squad Eight and tell Captain Kyouraku what happened."
"Yes ma'am," Isane said with a nod.
Isane bowed respectfully to her captain and then left Squad Four and made her way across the Seireitei to the Squad Eight barracks. Once there she went to the captain's office although it was far from a certainty that she would find Captain Kyouraku there. Kyouraku was somewhat of a free spirit and didn't exactly behave like the other captains.
When Isane arrived at the Squad Eight office she knocked lightly on the door, hoping that Kyouraku was inside.
"Enter," a feminine voice called out from inside the office.
"Of course Nanao-san is here," Isane thought to herself as she slid the door open. The ever efficient vice-captain of Squad Eight had been injured in the battles with the Espada however there was no way that something so insignificant could keep her from her duties.
Isane slid the door open and stepped inside the office and as she entered her searching gaze fell upon the vice-captain of Squad Eight, Nanao Ise. Her arm was bound up in a sling however the ever efficient Nanao was attempting to straighten up the office none the less.
"Hello Isane-san," Nanao said, her questioning gaze focused on the Squad Four vice-captain. "Is there something that I can help you with?"
"I'm actually looking for your captain," Isane said, her searching gaze shifting around the office.
Nanao motioned for Isane to follow her and, after a brief pause to debate her confusion, Isane complied. Nanao led the way across the office to a large walk-in closet and after opening the door she stepped aside so that Isane could look inside. There, lying on the floor with his hat pulled down over his face, was Captain Kyouraku.
Chuckling softly to herself Isane called out, "Captain Kyouraku."
If Captain Kyouraku heard her he gave no indication of this fact.
"Captain," Isane said, heaving a sigh as she stared down at the prone form of the Squad Eight Captain. "I came to speak to you about Head Captain Ukitake. Could you please wake up?"
As though pulled by invisible strings Captain Kyouraku sat up and as he did so his gaze shifted to the spot where Isane and Nanao were standing side by side. There was a concerned expression in his dark eyes as he gazed at the two women. "Is there something wrong?" he asked as he scrambled to his feet.
"Head Captain Ukitake left Squad Four earlier," Isane explained. "And Captain Unohana is concerned about him. She thinks that he could use the company of a friend."
Captain Kyouraku was immediately beside his vice-captain. "Will you be all right here by yourself for a little while Nanao-chan?"
Nanao was touched by his concern but knew that he needed to go to his friend so she forced her features into her normal stern facade. "Of course I'll be fine. I'm perfectly capable of being alone."
"Thank you," he whispered as he hurried from the office.
"Nanao-san," Isane said once she and the Squad Eight vice-captain were alone.
"Yes?" Nanao said.
"Funeral arrangements will have to be made for all of those lost," Isane said in a subdued whisper. "And I don't think that the Head Captain will be up to making them. If you are agreeable I propose that the Shinigami Women's Association take on this job."
Nanao nodded. "I agree."
Captain Kyouraku quickly made his way across the Seireitei to the Squad One barracks and when he arrived at Ukitake's office he quietly knocked on the door. The Squad Eight Captain waited for a few moments however he received no reply from within. This didn't detere him as he could sense his friend's reiatsu radiating from inside the room. "Alright Jyuu," he called out. "I'm coming in."
This said Kyouraku slid the door open and stepped inside the office. His gaze surveyed the room and he saw that his best friend was seated at his desk, making a half-hearted attempt to work on paperwork. "What are you doing?" he asked as he walked across the room.
Head Captain Ukitake glanced up at his friend and Kyouraku saw the grief that he held in his kind eyes. "I have to get this done."
"No you don't," Kyouraku said, knowing that Ukitake was simply making an attempt to get his thoughts off of those they had lost. "Come with me and we'll go and have a drink."
Ukitake opened his mouth to decline the offer however, after a moment's thought, he nodded and got to his feet. His friend only wanted to help him and he realized that he did indeed need the help. He was having difficulty dealing with his feelings and could use the company of his oldest friend.
Pleased that his friend had agreed to accompany him Captain Kyouraku led the way out of the office and across the Seireitei to the courtyard in front of Squad Eight. The space was filled with large trees and many flowers and was the Squad Eight Captain's favorite place to sit and think.
The two friends spent a couple of hours sitting together, drinking sake and talking, and by the end of this time spent together Head Captain Ukitake had learned that it was Captain Unohana who had sent his best friend to comfort him. Learned that she had been concerned about him.
The Head Captain hadn't meant to worry the kind and gentle Captain of Squad Four and as soon as he and Kyouraku finished their drink together Ukitake made his way back to the Squad Four barracks. In hind sight he realized that it had been inconsiderate of him to leave without telling anyone and he wanted to apologize for that and thank Unohana for her concern.
When Ukitake arrived at the Squad Four barracks he entered and made his way to the Squad Four Captain's office. Hoping that Unohana was inside Ukitake knocked on the door a couple of times and then stepped back to wait.
"Come in," a soft voice called out from within the office.
Head Captain Ukitake slid the door open and stepped inside the office. His gaze shifted around the room and came to fall upon Captain Unohana, who was seated at her desk. The Squad Four Captain glanced up to see who her visitor was and she smiled as he kind eyes fell upon Head Captain Ukitake. "Head Captain Ukitake," she said in her customary soft-edged voice.
"Captain Unohana," Ukitake said. "I just wanted to come and apologize for my rather abrupt departure." The Head Captain paused at this point and then added, "And to thank you for your concern. It seems you knew exactly what I needed."
Captain Unohana's smile widened. "Our strength is in our friends. They are our support."
Ukitake inclined his head to her in respect. Then he gazed back into her eyes and saw something there that he'd never noticed before. The kindness in her eyes had always been apparent however their beauty was something that Ukitake just now noticed. And the sight took his breath away.
Noticing the strange look on Ukitake's face Unohana crossed the office toward him. "Are you alright?"
Later Ukitake would wonder what made him act so bold in that moment however he didn't think of any possible repercussions as he wrapped his arms around Unohana and pulled her into a tight embrace. And after recovering from her shock Unohana returned his embrace with surprising strength.
"Forgive me," Ukitake said as he released his grip on Unohana. Now that the moment had passed he was afraid that he might have offended her and that was the last thing that he had intended to do.
"You have nothing to apologize for," Unohana said in her soft voice, a light appearing in her eyes.
A smile appeared on Ukitake's face. Perhaps this was what would take away all of the pain that he was feeling over the loss of his subordinates. It would be easier to deal with if he had someone to confide in, someone to share his pain with.
"Maybe life will still be worth living," Ukitake thought to himself. "Maybe I can learn to forgive myself for the deaths of my subordinates." This thought was interrupted however as Unohana once again wrapped her arms around him, this time gently touching his lips with her own.
"Who would have thought you would be the first one of us to get married," Kyouraku said as he stood with Ukitake, awaiting his bride. "I mean you never even mastered the art of flirting with women and yet here you are."
"Perhaps that's the reason I'm here," Ukitake said quietly, a light of happiness in his kind eyes. Life had been so much happier since he and Retsu had finally admitted to the feelings that both of them had possessed for quite some time. She had done so much to ease the ache in his heart caused by the loss of his subordinates and for that fact alone he would love her until the end of time.
"I think that's exactly what it is," a feminine voice said from a couple of feet away.
Both Kyouraku and Ukitake glanced over to the spot where Kyouraku's fiancée Nanao was sitting beside her best friend Matsumoto. Although she had finally admitted her feelings for her captain the two of them had yet to chose a date for their own wedding.
Everyone laughed at the shocked expression on Kyouraku's face however all noise ceased as Unohana appeared, dressed not in her shihakusho but instead in an elaborate kimono in a beautiful coral color. Ukitake's eyes brightened even further as his gaze fell upon his bride. Yes, life was definitely worth living. He had found the cure for his broken heart.
A/N - the end. hope you enjoyed this little one-shot. feel free to leave a review and tell me what you thought.