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Chapter Six:

~ The Last Words~

He handed it all with an ease I thought uncanny at the time; despite what had been done to him he seemed to take it with a pinch of salt which he cast over his shoulder without a care in the world.

I was amazed by the strength and will of my best friend, who continued pushing onwards, never looking back. I sometimes wish that I was more like him; I can't let things go just like that, I hold grudges and I get bitter over them. But then, I have already explained that Jushiro is a far better man than I am. I can be cruel and heartless, if not lazy and totally drunk; he is always level headed and caring, he thinks first of others before himself.

It was the best thing about him and without a doubt it was the most important thing which made him one of the best Goeti 13 Taichou.

~ The Last Words ~

Jushiro laid back on the hospital bed and stared out of the window beside him at the rising sun as it peeked above the horizon, illuminating the inside of the room and temporarily blinding him before his eyes grew accustomed and allowed him to see the stunning sight of the pastel shades of a newborn day. Bursts of pink; orange; yellow and baby blue fired into the sky from the point where the sun and the Earth met together and entwined for a few precious seconds before they passed each other by.

How very beautiful it was, to be gifted with such a sight; he was under no illusions and he doubted that anyone else really took note of the world around them enough to pay any notice to the stunning events which happened day after day. They didn't realise what they were missing and he felt very lucky that he might have the patience to see such a thing.

Sleep had been chased away by memories of the night before, Katsuki's purpose and his demise. How foolish he had been to believe that the man had been interested in him at all? He could hardly believe that he had only wanted to devour his reiatsu... Was it that special? What it that tempting? Why would no one look at him and see him rather than his reiatsu or his mannerisms?

A sigh escaped his lips as he watched the sun rise higher into the sky, wishing that he was among the drifting wisps of clouds through the sky above, then he wouldn't have any worries or concerns.

"Did you sleep?" a voice asked from the doorway.

Jushiro looked around and blinked as he saw his brown haired roommate stood there carrying a tray of breakfast, "No... Did you?"

"Not really." Shunsui replied as he walked over and perched on the edge of his friend's bed and offered the tray to him, "Your favourites."

The white haired boy's expression perked up a little and he sat up properly, letting Shunsui rearrange his pillows so he could be more comfortable, he set the tray down on his lap and tucked into the delightful rice cakes which had been coated with sweetened red beans; he let out a small moan of delight at the taste and smiled at his friend who knew him far too well.

"The sunrise was beautiful this morning, wasn't it?" the brown haired teen asked as he gazed out of the window.

Slightly surprised by the question, he paused his eating and swallowed the mouthful of food in his mouth, "I-It was... Each one is so different and yet so similar each day, I can never quite get over how peaceful they are."

Shunsui smiled in his direction, "A bit like us. We are very different and yet we are similar. Heh, that's probably why we get on so well, like Yin and Yang."

"That's not the sort of thing I expected you to say." The bedbound youth chuckled and smiled at him warmly.

"Eh I know," he sighed, "I did a lot of thinking last night. It wasn't like I was sleeping... I was too worried about you."

"Y-you were?"

"Course. You had a lot of your reiatsu drained; I was worried that you would slip into a coma or worse... Lose all your powers." He sighed and scratched his unshaven chin, "I don't know what I'd do if you had to leave the Academy... I don't really have any other friends that I would trust with my life."

Eyes slightly wide, Jushiro's smile widened, "You've gone soft... But I feel the same way. I... For a while last night I didn't know what was happening; as soon as I realised what he was really doing... I didn't think there was a chance that anyone would come and save me. But then you were there and I passed out... You even got hurt to protect me. I owe you my life Shunsui... I was a really bastard to you before and yet you still..." he looked down at his half eaten breakfast, "You still risked everything for me."

"Hey, don't look so glum," the brown haired male grinned, "That is what friends do. Besides, we already agreed to set that behind us. We were both as bad as each other. I am just glad that you are okay."

Jushiro smiled at him again and sighed, picking up his rice ball again and tucking back in as Shunsui pulled out a notebook and wrote and few things in there, a look of gentle concentration on his face. That look suited his face, his dark brows slightly furrowed and his deep walnut eyes focused on the pages in front of him, his lips slightly parted as he he wrote.

The white haired youth watched with interest, feeling his face warm slightly before he finished his rice balls and licked his fingers clean. He blushed a little harder when he saw Shunsui watching him; he cleared his throat and picked up the glass of apple juice which was waiting with his name on it and he sipped at it.

"So..." Shunsui asked, putting away his notebook again and getting more comfortable on the bed, "How are you?"

"Uh." He looked into his glass and chewed his bottom lip thoughtfully, "I could be worse I guess... I keep wondering why he did it. Why he pretended that he liked me..."

"I don't think he was pretending entirely." The other murmured, a distant look taking over his features.

He frowned in confusion, "Huh? What do you mean?"

"It's just that..." he paused and sighed, "He had plenty of time to finish what he had started but he didn't. Or he could have easily defeated me instead of fighting and knocking me around. But he didn't he gave me... He gave us a fair chance at killing him."

Jushiro tilted his head, "I... I guess so... But that doesn't mean he thought anything of me."

"Yes it does." He rebuked gently, "It means that he might not have wanted to devour your reiatsu. Maybe that was his original intention but maybe... When he finally got to know you and see the real you... He didn't really want to anymore. Maybe he didn't have a choice to start with, we may never know now."

"The real me?"

Reaching out slowly, Shunsui gently cupped his friend's cheek, "The confident; strong; powerful you that hides under a shy and warm exterior."

Jushiro stared back at him in surprise, his breath catching in his throat at the contact against his cheek; he looked back at his friend and blushed faintly, the redness spreading across his cheekbones and the bridge of his nose as he tore his gaze away and smiled weakly.

"Maybe." He murmured slightly embarrassed by his usually brash friend's affection.

Shunsui lowered his hand after a few moments and he sighed, "When do you think you will be allowed to come back to our room?"

"The head healer said that I can leave this afternoon so long as my blood pressure doesn't drop again." He replied as he finished his drink, "I'll look forward to sleeping in a proper bed again!"

"Heh, well you will be able to sleep plenty because I am going to look after you."

"You look after me?" Jushiro grinned sheepishly, "You couldn't look after yourself if I wasn't around."

The brown haired male raised an eyebrow but nodded, "I know I wouldn't, but I can at least try to return the favour for once. And if I start to struggle I'll talk to that scary chick that lives three doors down from us. She's taking medical studies so she would probably help out happily."

"Just don't try putting the moves on her... The last guy that tried handling her assets ended up with a broken nose and post traumatic stress..." he warned.

Shunsui just laughed, "Yeah right! What was her name again?"

Shaking his head at how his friend was disregarding his statement, he sighed, "Unohana. Unohana Retsu."

"Ah! That was it!" he paused and looked at him, considering what had lead to this moment for a moment before he smiled, "I think you're right... I'd like to reach my hundreds with my balls still intact and working."

Jushiro started laughing gently at his words and he erupted into a fit of giggles as he considered the alternative. Calming down after a few moments, he leaned back against the pillows and the headboard and coughed gently, stretching widely and yawning.

Shunsui smiled as he watched him before he got to his feet, "I'm gonna pop back to our room and grab you a spare change of clothes so that you aren't coming home in an open back hospital gown and baring your backside to everyone. I'll be back in about an hour, 'Kay?"

"Sounds like a good plan to me... I'm not sure I'll be showing anyone my backside ever again." He added with a slightly bitter mutter as he looked away.

He faltered slightly and hesitated for a moment before he walked over and put his arms around his friend, holding him close before he pressed a gentle kiss against his forehead, "Don't think like that Ju. You can't shy away from life just because of a few bad experiences. If you do that... You'll never be happy."

Closing his eyes and allowing himself to sinfully sink into the embrace offered, the white haired student sighed contentedly, feeling more at peace in his friend's arms than he had in this hospital bed all night, "Thank you." He said and smiled at him before pulling back and lying down, "I might have a quick nap, try, and grab some of the sleep I missed out on last night."

"I'll carry you home if you are in a deep sleep." He promised before turning and heading out of the room, closing it behind him and sighing inwardly.

Shunsui hesitated for a long moment, his eyes closed as he tried to still his too fast beating heart, Jushiro's small sigh had made his heart accelerate far beyond the normal, and he had felt heat rising in his cheeks. Hence his hastily beaten retreat.

Shaking his head and remembering that it was him thinking with his dick which had led to Jushiro being in hospital in the first place; he wouldn't do that to him again. He was going to treat him properly, be the best friend he could be. It was the least he could do.

Striding out of the Academy medical centre, the brown haired youth hastened to their shared room; upon arriving he was surprised to find their sensei already there waiting.

"Yamamoto-sensei?!" he exclaimed, closing the door behind himself as he bowed to the older man out of respect for him.

"Ah there you are, Shunsui." The esteemed teacher greeted, "How is Jushiro's condition?"

"He didn't sleep very well, but he seems okay, if a little bit down in the dumps. Katsuki was... He thought he was a good friend." He replied, "He will make a full recovery though."

"I am glad to hear he was not too badly hurt and will recover, Katsuki on the other hand deceived a lot of people for far too long, and his crimes have prompted Central 46 into action. if you would collect some clothes for Jushiro, I will return with you, there is something that must be discussed." The bearded; bald man told him without leaving room to argue.

"Yes, Yamamoto-sensei."

He set about father several articles of clothing and stuffing them, messily, into a large duffle bag for Jushiro to choose what he wanted to wear when they finally got back to the medical centre.

When he was finished he slung the bag across his back and looked at his waiting tutor, nodding once before he followed the man out. They headed back from where he had just come from, he was sad that he wouldn't be able to leave Jushiro to nap for the hour that he had promised but it seemed that their sensei needed to talk to them both about something important and that wasn't something either of them could just ignore.

Reaching the room his friend was in; he opened the door and admitted the older man into the room ahead of him and followed behind; closing the door silently. He glanced at the older man before he hurried over to his friend and gently shook him awake.

"Ngh..." Jushiro opened his eyes slowly and winced, "Shunsui? You've not been gone long..."

"No, sorry." He murmured in response, "Yamamoto-sensei wishes to speak to us. Are you up to it?"

"Ehhhh?!" he looked around his friend and his eyes widened slightly as he saw their sensei and sat up so fast he head butted his friend and crowed in pain, "Damnation!" he cursed and rubbed the now red spot on his head, "Sorry Shunsui!"

"Heh... Ouch... It's fine." He pulled over a couple of chairs and sat on one as he watched Yamamoto sit in the other.

They remained silent as they waited for the older man to speak and shared a nervous glance before the silence was broken.

"I was called to a meeting among Central 46 last night, to discuss Katsuki and what we would do to prevent it happening again and this is what they have come up with as decreed by the Soul King himself: I am to form a Protection Squad of the most skilled Shinigami to pass through the doors of Shinoreijutsuin Academy. There are to be Thirteen Divisions in this Protection Squad, and I am to be the Head Taichou of the First Division. The other twelve will be for me to decide in time, when the first branch of Shinigami graduates to my level. With this Protection Squad we Shinigami will seek out Hollows proactively and protect the Souls of those who have departed in the World of the Living and we will sheppard them on to Soul Society where they can be safe from harm." He licked his lips and paused, his ancient voice cracking through over usage, "I will also ensure that one of these Divisions is adept to dealing with traitors and runaways; just in case another event like this one with Katsuki ever occurs again."

Shunsui and Jushiro shared a glance before looking back at the man, "With all due respect, why are you telling us this, Sensei?" Jushiro asked.

"Because I made a request of Central 46." He replied, "I requested that I be allowed to train two students who possess spiritual pressure unmatched by their peers and predecessors, as I desire for them to take the position of Taichou of two of these Divisions when they graduate from the Academy. My request was that I be allowed to tutor them in the ways of running these Divisions as soon as possible so that they might be ready for when the time comes. And these two students are you, Kyoraku Shunsui and Ukitake Jushiro."

They stared for a long moment before looking at each other in astonishment at the news they had been brought. They were to be Captains? Leaders of other Shinigami? Tutored personally by Yamamoto Genryusai?

"This request has been granted by Central 46. However I must ask, are you prepared to take on these studies and the duties which will follow?"

"Yes, Sir." Jushiro replied almost instantly, desiring to be able to help others avoid the same fate he had with Katsuki.

"Yes, Yamamoto-sensei." Shunsui replied with a nod just after his friend had complied, desiring to become even stronger so that he could protect Jushiro from further harm and guide others as well.

The old man actually flashed a small smile and he nodded once, "I am pleased to hear it. Your lessons with me will begin next week and they will take place at six O'clock every evening except for Saturdays and Sundays."

"Yes, sir." They replied together, dual pride echoed in their words, determined to do well and to live up to the obviously high expectations of their Sensei.

"Excellent. You will have no lessons for the rest of the week, give yourselves a chance to recover fully and next week you will be presented with new time tables because you have been allocated to a higher class due to you having both called out your Zanpakto successfully."

"Thank you, Yamamoto-sensei." They said in unison again before they watched as he left.

Silence befell them for several moments as they came to terms with what had just happened before they both exploded with excitement and disbelief. Shunsui half leapt onto the bed in front of Jushiro and they crowed together like a couple of sugar hyped teenagers.

They both froze suddenly as they realised they were in close proximity, their faces only inches apart the heated passion from that night swelled between them again. A gently blush rose against Jushiro's pale skin and his tongue darted out and moistened his lips as his eyes flitted across Shunsui's uncertain face.

Shunsui took his life in his hands and leaned in, closing the minimal gap as he slowly pressed their lips together.

It was sweet and short, passions quelled for the time being as they shared a tender exchange of licks and nips at each other's skin. Shunsui pulled back slowly, he was shocked by his own actions, but he wasn't going to fly off the handle like he had that night and he certainly wasn't going to isolate and belittle Jushiro this time; he couldn't do that to him again not when he had only just truly forgiving him

"S-Shunsui..." the white haired youth stammered nervously.

"Shh, it's alright." The brunette murmured, "I won't hurt you again. Just... live in the moment alright?"

"O-Okay..." he whispered and leaned in, kissing him again softly, sweetly, tenderly.

The kiss was returned, not deepened, or forced; it was simple and... Warm. The two relaxed in the presence of each other, revelling in the familiarity of each other's mouths and lips, hands and fingers as they brushed together and comforted the aches from the previous night's battle.

When they parted, they did so as equals. There was no accusation or hesitation in their eyes, merely equal agreement and harmony. Jushiro shuffled forwards slowly onto his friend's lap and curled up, resting his head on his shoulder as he felt safe within the encirclement of his arms.

"Go back to sleep Ju." The brown haired youth murmured, holding him firmly but gently, "I will look after you."

"Ju?" the white haired male asked his eyes already half closed.

"Yeah, Ju. I like it."

He smiled sleepily and closed his eyes fully, "Me too... Shu."

"S-Shu?" the man repeated before he relaxed and chuckled as he watched his friend fall asleep, "I like that." He whispered and pressed a final kiss against the sleeping young man's forehead, "I will look after you from now on, I swear it on my very own life. No one will hurt you again."

~ The Last Words ~

I did my best to keep my oath, though there were occasions which I could not prevent, such as the Winter War battle with Coyote Stark where Ju was hurt in the fight. But he survived, as he always does, and he kept on living.

It goes without saying that I could never function fully without my comrade, my best friend; my... Purpose for fighting. If I ever lost him, I think it would not take long for me to follow him. In many ways we are like twins, tied together by bonds so strong that nothing could shatter them; I believe that we will stay together until the very end, when the last bell tolls and the birds sing their last. We will continue together, an unstoppable force and an immovable object. I'm the object if you were wondering; Jushiro will always be the unstoppable force in my eyes.

Heh, he is stronger than me emotionally, and although frail physically I certainly wouldn't want to get on his bad side. Believe me when I say, he has turned into a pushy little sod in old age. But... I wouldn't have him... Any other way.