I was listening to the Juushiro/Kaien duet from the Bleach Beat Collection album as I wrote this. The music and their voices really helped the muse.

There are two types of fights. Whenever we are in battle, we must be one of the two. The fight for life or…the fight for pride.

The atmosphere at the emergency captains' meeting was sombre; the air hung heavily over the thirteen captains, most with their heads bowed. The large room was silent save for a series of soft wheezes coming from a tall, lean man in a haori. The white garment, the symbol of the man's status as a captain, was adorned with the Thirteenth division insignia, which was partially covered by the man's long, cascading sheet of straight white hair.

The gathering of the captains held the air of a funeral. In actual fact, it was not far from the truth. They had suffered a terrible loss that night—one of the most influential officer of the Gotei 13 had lost his life in a battle. The man's name was Shiba Kaien, the lieutenant of the Thirteenth division.

"My condolences, Ukitake-taicho." The silence was shattered by the deep, strong voice from the Soutaicho.

Ukitake Juushiro looked at his wizened teacher and gave a stiff bow of acknowledgement. There was nothing he could say, or rather, he did not trust himself to speak without falling apart. Kaien was very dear to him, more like a brother, or son even, than merely a second-in-command. What's more, he had been there to witness the man's death.

And worst, he had not helped even as he watched the man being overpowered by the hollow. One of the reasons was that his illness had chosen that very moment to strike, the other, however, was a conscious decision that he made. He had stood by and watched his subordinate die, denying the man assistance not only from himself but also from Kuchiki Rukia, a junior officer who accompanied him to the scene.

Sensing the broken spirit in his student, Yamamoto-soutaicho sighed and dismissed the meeting. They could wait until the morning to make whatever arrangements that needed to be done.

The moment Juushiro crossed the threshold of the First division gates, he sank to the ground. He would have collapsed onto his knees if not for the pair of sturdy arms that caught him. Juushiro did not look up; instead, he sagged limply into the embrace.

"Come," Kyoraku Shunsui said, his voice uncharacteristically low and serious. He helped his lover to his feet with ease—the man was so light.

Juushiro stumbled into his room, his body weight almost completely supported by Shunsui, and finally fell to his knees—whatever composure he had left crumbled into dust behind closed doors. Shunsui held his shoulders gently and let the man grief in silence.

Tears flowed, but he did not sob. His throat constricted as though he was being strangled, and it hurt so much that he could not even swallow. His eyes were open but he did not see his room, for all he saw was Kaien—Kaien losing his zanpakutou, Kaien returning to the fight with his bare hands, Kaien being overwhelmed and his body taken over by the hollow, Kaien lying against Rukia with a sword through his stomach, Kaien's body disintegrating...

Before he could stop himself, Juushiro overcame the tightness of his throat and began screaming. There were no words, it was simply a primal need to vent his pain, the sound ripped from the very depths of his soul. He grieved for the young man who had to bear the loss of his wife, the loss of his comrades, and he grieved for his own loss.

Shunsui sat next to his lover, arms wrapped loosely but protectively around Juushiro's shoulders. He, too, mourned for the boy, but they could not both fall apart.

Juushiro screamed and screamed until he was hoarse, until he no longer had any strength left, then, his eyes rolled back into his head and he slumped against Shunsui's body, unconscious.

Shunsui came to in the middle of the night, mind groggy with sleep. He recognized the familiar weight on top of him and the way the pair of lips sucked desperately on the sensitive skin on his neck.

"Shunsui..." The whisper was barely audible, but the single word carried so much need and despair that he immediately enveloped the slim form above him with his arms, pulling the man firmly against his body.

"You did the right thing," Shunsui said softly, caressing the silky white hair as Juushiro lay trembling in his arms. It hurt to see his lover in pieces like this. Ukitake Juushiro was not a weak man, but the way he poured his heart and soul into the people he cared made him vulnerable, and tonight, it was as if a sword had been driven through him and then cruelly wrenched, leaving a gaping wound that Shunsui knew would never truly heal.

Overcome by a fresh wave of emotions at hearing Shunsui's words, Juushiro bit down on Shunsui's neck, drawing a sharp hiss of pain from Shunsui. "Did I really?" Juushiro asked, his lips brushing the teeth marks that he left behind.

"Yes," Shunsui said, cradling the back of his lover's head. "If you were Kaien, you would want that too, won't you?"

Juushiro sighed into Shunsui's curly brown hair.

"You may not have saved his life, but you protected his honor," Shunsui continued, closing his eyes as the image of deceased lieutenant appeared in his mind. "And sometimes...that is more important."

"Why?" Juushiro clenched his fist, clutching a part of the robe covering Shunsui's chest.

Shunsui opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. Why indeed? He thought for a while, carefully choosing the right words to use. "Because...at the end of the day, our name is all that's left behind when we die."

Juushiro tightened his grip, then with a low sob, he yanked Shunsui's robe open and dug his nails into the muscular chest beneath. The warmth from the exposed skin brought on another wave of sadness and guilt—Kaien was warm too, just hours ago, and now he's gone. One day his spirit would be reborn into the world again, but that would not be Kaien. Not the Kaien he knew.

Shunsui winced as Juushiro dragged his nails down his bare torso, then those cold, trembling fingers tugged at the thin sash of his robe, searching desperately for the one thing Juushiro knew would bring him the comfort that he knew so well. It would not heal his wound, but it would soothe the throbbing ache in his heart, even if it was just a little bit—a temporary escape from the paralyzing grief he was drowning in now.

"Juushiro..." Shunsui ran his fingers through the long white strands obscuring his lover's face from view. If this could numb Juushiro's pain, then he would let him take whatever he needed. Despite his heavy heart, the feeling of Juushiro's body rubbing against his own stirred his loins, and he was soon arching his back to press himself into the body above his, grinding his hips against Juushiro's hardness.

Juushiro bent down and latched his teeth on Shunsui's shoulder, marking his lover's skin with another ring of teeth. His robe slipped off one shoulder, revealing his pale and smooth chest, as he reached down and roughly shoved the rest of Shunsui's robe aside. Closing his eyes, he rolled his hips, drawing a rumbling growl from the man beneath him. "Shunsui..." he moaned, voice raspy.

Shunsui clutched the narrow hips straddling his body, then, with a strong flex of his body, he flipped them over. Juushiro fell onto his back with a breathless groan; his cold limbs were finally warm now, his face flushed pink from the increasing need for release. He whispered his lover's name again, and smiled weakly when Shunsui nodded in understanding.

Leaning down, Shunsui claimed Juushiro's mouth, sliding his tongue between welcoming lips. Juushiro whimpered into their kiss as his legs were nudged apart, then his eyes rolled back into his head as Shunsui entered him in one smooth, firm stroke.

Breath coming in low, ragged pants, their bodies rocked in time with Shunsui's slow, gentle thrusts. As they slid easily into their familiar rhythm, the soft moans from Juushiro's lips dissolved into sobs, hoarse and broken.

"Shhh..." Shunsui pressed his lips into his lover's hair.

In response, Juushiro wrapped his legs around Shunsui's waist, driving Shunsui deeper, harder. The sobs became choked cries, urgent and breathless, then, with a gasp, Juushiro's body arched off the mattress and his legs tightened even further, trapping Shunsui flush against his body.

Shunsui's arms trembled as he clenched his jaw and continued to move his hips slowly. He held off his own release, letting Juushiro ride out his peak for as long as he could, then, as Juushiro's body relaxed, he let out a groan and finally spilled himself into his lover.

The sensation of Shunsui pulsing inside of him sent a feeling of completion washing over Juushiro, and he sagged into the mattress, spent.

"You did the right thing," Shunsui said again, resting his forehead against Juushiro's. The man beneath him was still for a long time before finally nodding.

"Goodbye, Kaien."

Kaien's death scene was one of the saddest moments in Bleach to me, and I could never get it out of my mind. I can't imagine how Juushiro felt during and after the incident, but I like to think that Shunsui was there for him. :)