Here is the sequel to liralen and my RP Giving Grace. We had planned on doing a second part of this from the get go, it's just been really long in the writing. Life does that, grrr. But I am pleased to be posting this today! This was a lot of hard work, (especially for Lira-san with all the edits and changes and dealing with my computer retardedness and busy schedule, so big, BIG round of applause for her,) but it was really, really fun also. Lol, otherwise, I wouldn't have done it. xD

I also have to say a big thank you to one of the coolest people I've had the privilege of working with online, 2metaldog. She took on the crazy task of betaing this monster, and she did an awesome job. You rock Irondog. xD

So here it is, the first chapter. I'll be posting a chapter every two days all this week and next. Hope you enjoy!

A quick note: This piece is the second part of the Hisagi/Ukitake story, but it's actually the fourth in a series. If you would like to read from the beginning, just go to my LJ post for links.


Chapter 1

Ukitake Jyuushiro stretched his sore shoulder in the cool of the autumn evening. The sun slanted, cool on leaves the color of fire all about the compounds of the Gotei 13. It seemed an impossibly beautiful evening after the events of the morning. Ukitake had seen Kira in the infirmary, and had been treated there himself. Ukitake was out, now, declared fit and ready for duty; but warned to take it easy if he was going to report.

Since it was already evening, he debated going in at all.

But then Rukia glided up to Ukitake and fell to one knee before the tall Captain. "I apologize, Taichou for disturbing you so soon after your recovery, but there is urgent business in the real world. May I have your leave to return to Kurakara?"

Ukitake cocked his head. "What is so urgent, Kuchiki?"

Rukia made a soft noise and studied the ground. "Um... well, Taichou... Re- Abarai and Kurosaki-kun decided that, in my absence... they would play a prank on Ishida-kun...

"Go on..."

Rukia felt her cheeks heating up but continued her report. "Sir, it's complicated. All I know is that one of Urahara-san's potions was used and now... Ishida is um..."

"Hmmm... Kuchiki, I am now fascinated to learn the consequences of this. Please do continue."

Rukia sighed softly as her shoulders sagged. "He's a rabbit, sir."

Ukitake gave a shout of laughter and grinned as he asked, "How in the world did that happen? And what are you proposing to do?"

"I really have no idea, sir. And I'm not even sure if the rabbit part is true, the boys were laughing so hard..."

Ukitake chuckled. "The boys... hm. I guess you should go and clear that up, then, Kuchiki. I trust your judgment."

Rukia stood and bowed deeply. "Thank you, Taichou. I will send a Hell Butterfly with a report... when I have one..."

Ukitake bowed back. "Just remember to file it under human activities, no need to stick a Quincy label on it; it'll just get things muddled. Dismissed, then." He watched with a smile as she shunpo'ed away to the Gate as fast as her slender frame could go. He missed her quiet competence in the Division, compared to the noisy Thirds; but it did no one any good to hurry her development.

He continued his walk to the 13th Division headquarters, taking it slow and easy. He might be expected in the official offices in the Court of Pure Souls, but he was in no big hurry to get there. The reports for this morning's activities were all that awaited him, and he had no desire to face them.

There was a lake by the path, and Ukitake was surprised to see Hisagi-Fukutaichou leaning on a tree, just watching the water.

Ukitake debated a moment, but then made his way out to the younger man, moving easily over the uneven ground. Leaves crunched under every step, and the colors of the trees were reflected in the water. He watched leaves whirl as they blew from sudden gusts...

Shuuhei watched the setting sun as it cast the sky into shades of orange and purple. He kept his arms folded tightly across his chest and rested against the hard bark of the sakura tree. The morning had been so relaxing, so productive. But now he was exhausted beyond aching bones and headaches and wishing he had never gotten out of bed. He contemplated going back to his office and burying himself in paperwork, but he knew he wouldn't be able to concentrate.

He sighed softly and ran a hand through his hair.

Ukitake admired the line of Shuuhei's body, the darkness of his hair and the strength of the hand that went through it. He remembered the sensation of those hands on his skin, in his hair and he smiled quietly. He walked so that the sound of the leaves would warn the young man, well in advance of his approach, and when Shuuhei looked up, Ukitake smiled.

"Good afternoon, Hisagi-san. A beautiful day is it not?"

Shuuhei's heart fluttered. Seeing the slender Captain make his way carefully toward him, caused his breath to quicken. He had missed Ukitake deeply in the weeks since his 'lesson' and thought about the older man more than he cared to admit.

He pushed away from the tree and bowed respectfully. "Ukitake Taichou... it's good to see you."

Ukitake bowed back and gave Shuuhei an open smile. "It is very good to see you as well." He moved close to Shuuhei, and turned to look out on the water of the lake. "You've found a marvelous place for contemplation. I hope I have not interrupted you?"

When the Captain moved close to Shuuhei, his warmth reached out to the young vice Captain and caressed his bare arm. Shuuhei's eyes traced Ukitake's profile and trailed down the length of the Captain's beautiful hair. "I... don't mind, Taichou."

Ukitake turned toward Shuuhei and quirked an eyebrow.

"So I have interrupted." He smiled. "But I am glad that you are comfortable with my company. I enjoy yours very much. Is there something in particular you are contemplating?"

Shuuhei smiled despite himself and looked at the ground. "You're always so direct; I'm not used to it. People are always..." He shook his head. "It was just a hard day is all, Taichou. I'm fine, thank you."

Ukitake watched the Fukutaichou quietly. While he didn't know Shuuhei that well, there was something about his indirect gaze, the distant formality, the polite hesitancy at the greeting. "A hard day, hm? Shunsui swears there's an old maple, right over there, that's heard all the worries of the world, so nothing shocks it." Ukitake grinned. "It's also very easy to climb into and sit in... if you'd like?"

Shuuhei turned to face the Captain directly and couldn't keep the grin from spreading across his lips. "You climb trees with Kyōraku Taichou?" A chuckle escaped and he covered his mouth with his hand to stifle further laughter.

"Well... it's a little different, now..." Ukitake gave a small smile before disappearing in a shunpo nearly ten feet up onto a sturdy branch. "Fewer scraped knees," he said with laughter in his voice. "Come on up... the view is wonderful."

Shuuhei ran a hand over his face to try and contain his grin and his laughter. "Oh gods, I'm climbing trees with... ah hell." He skipped the shunpo and pulled himself up in one motion. He placed his feet and grabbed the next branch. He pulled himself up a second time, flipped himself around, and sat next to Ukitake. He looked out over the lake from his new vantage point and sighed softly.

"You're right, Taichou. It is wonderful."

Ukitake settled by Shuuhei and gave a happy sigh. "The light on the water, especially at sunset is very nice indeed. Sometimes it's good for me to remember that each day ends, no matter how hard it gets, and there will be another day tomorrow."

Shuuhei stared out at the water, his smile faded and his eyelids heavy. He folded his hands in his lap and nodded slowly. "Yeah... another day..."

Ukitake watched Shuuhei, and then reached over to stroke the hands folded in Shuuhei's lap.

Shuuhei's breath caught at the touch of Ukitake's hand. He felt tears well up behind his closed eyelids, but he forced them back and clenched his jaw hard. He turned his palm up and slid his fingers between the Captain's slender ones.

"I can't hide it from you, can I?" he asked softly.

Ukitake folded his hand around Shuuhei's and shook his head.

"You seem... very sad, my friend. I wish to help if you will allow me to."

Shuuhei's gaze never left the orange glow on the lake's surface. He feared that if he were to look at the Captain directly, see that compassion, that caring in those deep green eyes, he would break.

"I..." he started quietly, "I went to see Kira..."

Ukitake's hand tightened just a little on Shuuhei's and then relaxed. He bowed his head, remembering how Kira-kun had looked when Ukitake had visited him. The poor blond was so badly battered.

Shuuhei looked up, watching the crimson maple leaves sway in the breeze. He blinked a few times to clear his vision and ran a hand through his hair once again. "I hear you saved him..."

Ukitake stilled. If he hadn't played with Kira, Kira might not have been in that situation in the first place. But Gin, being Gin would have found another reason. "They showed up in front of the 13th Division offices, any other Captain would have done the same."

Shuuhei looked back down into his lap and swallowed thickly. "Taichou... Why did Ichimaru Taich… Ichimaru bring him there--to your division? Why didn't he bring him before Genryuusai Soutaichou, or even Matsumoto-san?"

Ukitake took a slow, deep breath. "I will not tell you. But I won't duck your question either and say something like 'who knows the mind of a traitor', either. I just... won't. I have my own responsibilities and reasons."

Shuuhei wiped at his eyes with the heel of his palm. He took Ukitake's hand in both of his and fixated his eyes on a spot somewhere in the grass below.

"Did he come to you?"

Ukitake's head bowed and he simply held onto Shuuhei's hand, as his own heart shook within him. He didn't want to think about losing both young men in one day, but his honor was such that he simply stayed silent.

Shuuhei wanted to cry out at Ukitake's silence. Instead, he turned and reached out for the Captain's cheek. He pulled the older man's face close to his and breathed across his pale lips,

"Please, Taichou, please tell me. Tell me that there's a way to make him happy and not... not hurt him! Tell me that there's a way that I can love him and he won't feel the need to leave me in the middle of the night to find someone who'll beat the shit out of him!" Tears made their way down the vice Captain's cheeks as he pleaded with the older man, but he ignored them. "Ukitake-san... please..."

Ukitake's eyes went wide at Shuuhei's touch, and at his words Ukitake's eyes narrowed in surprise. It hadn't been the question Ukitake had expected, but at the direction of it, at the pleading behind it he reached up to touch Shuuhei's tears.

"You don't have to cry these. Not... for that."

Shuuhei closed his eyes and let himself be touched. He turned his head into Ukitake's palm and let the Captain's cool skin soothe the heated flesh of his cheeks. He tried to slow his breathing; tried to compose himself after his outrageous outburst.

"I can't help it, Ukitake-san. I said that I would protect him, and he refused me. He said I shouldn't bear a burden like that because of him." He choked a little on his words and leaned into the older man. "But it's an even bigger burden to just sit back and watch..."

"Yes, that would be a heavy burden when you love him." Ukitake frowned quietly, and gently pulled the younger man closer. "Ichimaru did wrong by Kira-kun. That the Gotei 13 was blind to it, still angers me. That you and he believed you were alone in that..." His reiatsu shimmered with something far hotter and sharper than the mild Captain's words.

Shuuhei's breath caught yet again at the feeling of the usually-composed Ukitake Taichou's anger. It manifested around him and tingled against his skin. He shivered and let himself fall forward into the older man's embrace, leaning his head against Ukitake's lean chest. He brought one arm around the slim waist, but left the other tangled with Ukitake's fingers.

He loved that Ukitake cared for his friend, cared enough to be angry at the things that were done to him, and at Shuuhei's own weakness. He loved Ukitake even more for keeping their dealings confidential, even as he begged the older man. It calmed the young vice Captain to know that Kira's dealings would not be made public, and his best friend would not be humiliated in front of the entirety of Gotei 13.

He took a deep breath and tried to ask his question in a way that Ukitake could keep his rule and his honor.

"Ukitake-san," he asked quietly, his voice shaking. "Do… do you think the things we did… the things that you could teach me… Do you think Kira would enjoy them? Could I help him that way?"

Ukitake hesitated. This was very close to simply skirting the edge of confidentiality. He held Shuuhei's hand and stroked his broad back as he thought for a moment, trying to collect his thoughts and understand where the edge lay between what Shuuhei needed and what he had to do to keep Kira safe as well.

He thought a moment and then gently asked, "Tell me, Shuuhei, if you would be so kind, what do you know about Kira's tastes and needs?"

Shuuhei's eyes squeezed shut. He tried to shut out the memories that flooded his head, but they came like a tidal wave, pressing against his skull and pushing more tears from underneath his eyelids.

"Oh, gods, Ukitake-san... He wanted to be... humiliated... He wanted me to hit him and... tell him he was..." The vice Captain's fingers pulled away from Ukitake's hold and he pressed his palm into his eye. "He kept telling me he deserved it. That he deserved to be hit, and tied up, and burned, and raped- that's all it was, it was just fucking rape..."

Shuuhei felt his stomach rolling at bloody memories and he curled into the older man tighter. "Ah... I'm gonna be sick..."

Ukitake stroked gently down Shuuhei's back, but his reiatsu smoldered with quiet anger. "Do you believe what he said?"

"That he deserves it?" Shuuhei sat back, swallowing his nausea, and looked into Ukitake's eyes, anger replacing his agony. "No! Hell no! But he believes it! He thinks he can't... He thinks I don't..." The vice Captain's words were cut off as his throat tightened.

"You don't what, Hisagi-san?"

Shuuhei stared hard at Ukitake's haori and fisted his hand in the soft material.

"He thinks I don't love him... And I don't know how to make him believe me... or if I even can..."

Ukitake took a slow breath. "Well. That's a problem in and of itself, but it seems to lie hand in hand with the other. If he values himself so little, perhaps it's not surprising that he finds it difficult to believe that someone could find something to value in him.

"So I'll ask if you felt valued by what I did in our last session?"

Shuuhei looked up, studying the older man's eyes. He felt a strong pull at his heart as he remembered the way he had held Ukitake in his arms, the way the Captain- one of Soul Society's most powerful, no less- had trusted himself into Shuuhei's hands. The power he had been handed, given without restraint, had touched him and still shook him weeks later.

"Gods yes, Ukitake-san," he whispered. "I've never felt anything like that before... you know that..."

Ukitake smiled his open smile. "How could I know? I am glad to hear it from you. And, from my side, it felt wonderful as well to be able to trust you and have that trust repaid in full. I felt understood, desired, and cherished. I believe that if you can do that for Kira-kun, you can demonstrate your care for him in a way that speaks much more loudly than words or arguments."

Shuuhei's heart pounded hard against his ribs. He wiped away the last few tears still clinging to his lashes and slowly relaxed back into Ukitake's hold. The Captain's words were so profoundly soothing, that the younger man felt almost weak with relief at hearing them. Even if Ukitake was wrong in his assumptions, and Shuuhei was relatively sure Ukitake knew more than he was willing to say, there was still a sliver of hope that Shuuhei could grasp on to. That was something he had not had in a very long time.

"Thank you, Ukitake-san..." Shuuhei whispered softly.

Ukitake gave a quiet sigh of relief as his offering was accepted, and he kept up his slow strokes. "You are very welcome, Hisagi-san," he said softly.

Ukitake quietly held Shuuhei as the sun inched down to the surface of the lake and the trees on the far side. The tree cradled them gently, whispering and swaying in the breezes that ruffled the water. The clouds in the sky, lit from underneath, blazed brighter than the leaves all about them, and turned purples, pinks, and gradually deepest, darkest blue.

There had been so many sunsets in his lifetime, and yet each one was new, different than all the others. Like the lives that touched on his own, each bringing something unique to be treasured. His arms tightened for a moment around Shuuhei, thinking of his strength, his passion for his loves, and he found himself glad to have this moment.

Shuuhei rested against Ukitake, his warmth surrounding and comforting. He breathed in his scent and remembered what it had been like the last time he had held this powerful yet gentle man.

Then a thought struck Shuuhei and he started to chuckle. The chuckle turned into a full on laugh, and he gripped Ukitake's Captain's haori tight in his fingers.

Ukitake blinked. "What?"

Shuuhei smiled into Ukitake's neck and pulled away slowly. He wiped at his eyes and looked down at their intertwined fingers.

"I'm sitting in a tree. Sitting in a tree, crying on the shoulder of one of the most powerful people in Soul Society." He shook his head. "Oh, if Abarai and Ikkaku could see me now..." He made a face. "Oh gods, or Ayasegawa..."

Ukitake laughed softly at that. "Ayasegawa-kun would have spread it across the Gotei 13 before the sun was up again. Or sooner... perhaps." Then whimsy touched his mood, "Well, better than being caught kissing in the tree..."

Shuuhei laughed harder. "That, Yumi wouldn't think twice about. I have a reputation after all, even if I don't know where half of it came from."

Ukitake grinned and eyed Shuuhei. "Hmm... I can guess where some of that came from."

Shuuhei felt himself blush as the Captain's eyes flickered to the ink on his face. "People always assume things when they see people with tattoos. Look at Abarai. He's had maybe two lovers. Ever."

Ukitake brushed the tattoo of the '69' on Shuuhei's cheek. "But Abarai-kun's tattoos aren't quite like yours, either."

Shuuhei squeezed his eyes shut and grinned. "What? This is... a long story! Abarai looks like Yakuza!"

Ukitake laughed at that last. "I'm not sure looking like Yakuza means that bedding him would be..." Ukitake suddenly swallowed hard as a flood of memory washed over him at just what it had been like to have Shuuhei make love to him.

Shuuhei's laugh faded and he finally looked up at the older man's face. He frowned softly in confusion, but kept his smile.

"Be what, Ukitake-san?"

Ukitake shuddered quietly as want for the younger man bit him hard, and his voice dropped low, "Be so intense, so arousing, that just the memory of it still haunts me."

Shuuhei became very still, stunned. His heart started to pound against his ribcage at the implications Ukitake was voicing. "Ukitake-san..." he breathed.

"Yes?" Ukitake looked into Shuuhei's eyes.

Shuuhei stared back, not sure what he should say, what he should do. His desire for the older man suddenly hit him, and he prayed that the Captain was talking about what Shuuhei himself was thinking. Unfortunately, Shuuhei didn't know how to ask. Or rather, how it would be proper to ask.

Finally, he took a breath and reined in his thoughts. "Ukitake-san," he said quietly, "Please speak what's on your mind? I don't like guessing games. I have to deal with them all day, and this day has left me in ruins."

Ukitake leaned forward and kissed Shuuhei full on the mouth and then smiled. "There, your kiss in a tree. I've missed you and want you. Far more than I would anyone that looked like Yakuza. I would love to fulfill my promise to you, to give you what you've given me, and, perhaps, teach you techniques you might find... useful."

Shuuhei's breath left him at the kiss. He was shocked into stone at the Captain's words. The idea that he might be wanted by someone more than the highly coveted Abarai Renji, with his fantastic body and his long, fiery hair... It humbled him and brought the heat back to his cheeks. Shuuhei had spent the greater portion of his life in Seireitei, being a little jealous of his red-headed friend.

The fact that Ukitake wanted him, wanted to show him how to help Kira... it was almost too much. He felt his heart swell and he whispered against the older man's lips.

"Yes, Ukitake-san... please teach me..."