Characters: Ukitake Jyuushiro, mostly. Some Kyouraku.
Rating: PG (No ship)
Word Count: 761
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach or any of the characters therein.
And of Fear
There are some nights when they sit together on the roof of Jyuushiro’s sleeping quarters, that Shunsui gets serious and they talk about death. And then they talk about Jyuushiro, and Jyuushiro’s ‘little illness,’ and all the sake in the world can’t make Shunsui get off the subject until he gets a straight answer.
‘Unohana says there’s still hope,’ Shunsui says, his words slurred, though as solemn as they’ll ever be. ‘It’s been fifteen hundred years since they found it, you know, and you’re still alive.’
‘Yes,’ says Jyuushiro, because it’s what Shunsui expects, and anything else would be admitting defeat. ‘Yes.’
And then, every single time, Shunsui slaps him on the back and waves a sake bottle in the air and composes a new, garbled verse for The Ballad of Nanao-chan, and then he flops back for several minutes of blessed silence.
And then, every single time, he sits back up and looks up at the stars and asks, his voice soft, if Jyuushiro’s afraid.
A beat. ‘No,’ says Jyuushiro. ‘I accepted it long ago.’ He looks over and pats Shunsui’s back, in the comforting sort of way only a best friend would understand. ‘As should you.’
Sometimes he thinks that, if he says it just the right way, Shunsui will actually believe it.
And then they drink bottles and bottles more of sake, and when he’s just on the verge of getting really, really drunk, Shunsui pulls himself together and stumbles off in the direction of his quarters ‘because Nanao-chan is waiting.’ And Ukitake is all by himself again, and he sits for hours, back straight as a soul slayer, and watches the stars above.
It’s not a constant fear, not really. Sometimes it haunts Ukitake for days on end, and he sinks into a wide-eyed, contemplative depression, only to be dragged out of it by watching two novices spar, or drinking some of Hitsugaya’s awful herbal tea. Sometimes it’s on and off, and Ukitake’s aware of it but not overwhelmed, seeing it merely as another obstacle he must overcome in order to successfully complete his duties.
And then, sometimes, there are days like this: days where everything is going well, and Ukitake goes about his business with a smile, and then suddenly
Suddenly he’s drowning, and his head is too heavy and he falls to his knees and flecks of blood dribble from his mouth to his hands to his haori, and then Shunsui comes out of nowhere and puts his arm around his back and says ‘ye gods!’ so desperately that Jyuushiro wants to laugh. And then they start to walk to the 4th division, until Jyuushiro’s knees give out, which generally takes four or five steps, and then Shunsui picks him up as if he were a child and flash-steps even faster than Byakuya can. And Ukitake closes his eyes and tries to breathe and wonders if he will be dead within the hour, and the thought terrifies him.
Once Unohana releases him to his quarters Ukitake lies there for several days, and besides the visits from those he is blessed to call his friends, he is completely alone.
Ukitake lies on his bed, and with the windows open he can hear the new recruits training and the officers sparring and Kiyone and Senbatsu yelling at each other, hear the days passing on the one to the next, hear the people outside living life as loudly and as hurriedly as possible, and he listens and lies there in silence, unable to join in, and wonders if this is not, perhaps, the true meaning of death, if he is not dead already and the rest is just a memory.
There are nights that he and Shunsui sit on his roof and drink sake and stare out at the stars, and on some of these nights, when Shunsui’s not quite drunk but close enough, they’ll talk about death, and Jyuushiro will answer because he knows he has no choice.
‘Are you afraid?’ Shunsui asks, his words slurred but solemn, the sake bottle sitting, forgotten, at his side.
‘No,’ says Jyuushiro after a slight pause. ‘I accepted it long ago, as should you.’
And then they drink bottles and bottles of sake and forget about the conversation, until Shunsui stumbles off and Ukitake is left, sitting with his back as straight as a soul slayer, staring at the stars.
‘No,’ he says again, rolling the word around in his mouth.
And sometimes, when he says it fast enough, he can almost bring himself to believe it.