Character: Ukitake and Kyouraku
Word Count: 1391
Beta: akuni thanks for the help!!
Rating: PG for fluffy boy romance, I needed something fluffy.
Warning: Spoils Chapter 355 of the manga.
Author's Notes: This was part of a writing exercise as proposed by akuni, which was to start with a six-word fic, expand it to a 100-word drabble, and then go for something around 1000 words. The 100-word drabble is set as an afterword, for folks to see how the bigger one veered a bit. The six-word fic for this will do as a summery -- "Ukitake gardens, spring waters bring blooms."
Disclaimer: I do not own nor make money off of Bleach.
The first spring thaws cracked open the ice sheathing Jyuushiro's pond by the Ubandou. Koi swam slowly underneath, nosing hopefully at the open water. Jyuushiro sprinkled food on the surface, and he watched as they greedily sucked the kernels into big mouths. He smiled as he stood and enjoyed the weak sunshine as it flooded his garden.
Winter had scattered rack and flotsam through the grounds. He slowly cleaned up branches, weeds, and scattered debris, stopping to cough now and then. The early spring pollens and the cold, humid air irritated his lungs, but he wasn't about to let that stop him. An early morning rain had cleared the air enough for him to be outside without trouble, and he was intent to take advantage of the break in the weather.
As he cleaned up around the sakura and weeping bellflowers, he found buds forming on the branches, not quite showing color yet, but beginning to fatten with the warmth and spring waters.
The bulbs had already awakened to the lengthening of the days. Crocuses pushed forth flower buds rimmed in yellow, white, violet, and blue. Narcissus and iris leaves cut up through the mulch he'd laid the year before, their blade-like leaves bright green against the blacks and browns that colored the rest of his garden. Delicate-seeming freesia pushed up slender tendrils.
The chrysanthemums all looked dead, but when he parted the debris of last year's growth, there were hints of green amid the black. He left the cover there, to protect the new growth from the cold that could still come. The wild roses and peonies showed buds forming on them, green and dark. He pruned back what he could and kept their feet warm with a thick blanket of mulch, cleaning the weeds from around them.
The few annual beds lay bare from when he'd cleaned them out in the fall--a few weeds, but they were easily dug out of the soft soil. He knelt and dug his hands in only to find that the soil was cold and there were still ice crystals below the surface. He decided against gloves, as his hands were already dirty, but found the curved blade of his digging tool sliced easily into the dark earth.
Jyuushiro dug, not counting the time.
He'd set aside the day to do the work when the weather had cleared. Kotetsu would take care of the Division just fine, and there were no meetings scheduled for the day.
He wasn't going to seed today, there was still too much of a chance for frost, but it didn't hurt to clean out the beds that he could and prepare them. It was his ritual, after the Winter War, after each season of death, to do what he could to prepare for the new growth that always followed. He firmly believed that it helped his heart as much as it helped the landscape around his pond, his offices, and the spirits of his own Division.
As he finished the last of the beds he felt the burst of energy of a shunpo step, and then Shunsui's familiar power flooded into the garden.
Jyuushiro frowned a little, and then stepped over to him. "Are you sure you're up to this?"
Shunsui smiled and waved bento boxes that smelled heavenly. "I brought lunch for you; you've been working so hard, I thought you'd be hungry, too."
Jyuushiro quirked an eyebrow at how neatly he'd had ducked the question. "How about we eat here by the edge of the pond? The sunshine is best here."
Shunsui nodded amiably, and folded his long legs to sit cross-legged where Jyuushiro indicated. Jyuushiro settled by him. As Jyuushiro reached for the proffered box, he realized his hands were filthy.
"Just a minute."
Jyuushiro rinsed his hands off in the frigid waters of pond, beyond the ice at the edge, and grinned at the koi nibbling gently at his fingertips. He dried his hands on the worn edge of his work coat.
Shunsui smiled and passed him his box along with a sake cup filled with white liquor, then balanced his own box on his knee as they began to eat. Their silence was easy, companionable. The sake was smooth and sweet, cool and crisp.
"How are you doing?" Jyuushiro asked.
There was a long silence as Shunsui chewed his food, his face and eyes hidden under the brim of the hat. Then, in his careless voice he said, "Quite well. Unohana-senpai says they've done all they could."
Jyuushiro rolled his eyes at the evasion, then took a more direct route. "And Ise-kun?"
A chuckle came from under the hat. "You'd think no one had ever skipped a few therapy sessions from how she acts."
"Yare yare, you're not going to start, are you?"
Jyuushiro swallowed the hot retort that rose to his lips. Long experience told Jyuushiro that approach wouldn't work; it would only hurt Shunsui and leave him even more defensive and hidden. Instead, he took another slow sip of the sake to buy thinking space and give Shunsui some silence to fill.
Eventually he heard a slow sigh from Shunsui, and another glug from the sake bottle.
"After what happened with the Tenth and Kurosaki's nakama, I have little to complain about."
Jyuushiro nodded, understanding the truth behind the admission. "I lent them Kuchiki to help out as she's fine with managing things while she's recuperating, and I know Ise-kun was already doing a good deal of the paperwork for them and the Fifth."
"Yeah, she and Hitsugaya hit it off while they worked together, and she's pretty worried about the little guy."
Jyuushiro waited for Shunsui's admission that maybe worrying her more wasn't a good idea.
"When she scolds me for missing sessions, she seems happier for it, especially when she gets me to go."
Shunsui studied the cup in his hand before setting it down to eat a little more, seemingly oblivious to Jyuushiro's shamed surprise. Then he looked at Jyuushiro, meeting his gaze from under the hat, and quirked a grin. "You're worried, too, aren't you?"
Jyuushiro, caught so blatantly, simply nodded. "Yes."
Shunsui sighed and bowed his head, hiding his eyes again, and Jyuushiro could feel the mild rebuke even before anything was said.
Jyuushiro added quietly, "I'm sorry. I don't mean to weaken you."
There was soft laughter. "Ah, Shiro-san, I thought of all people, you'd know..."
"Know that the ties the heart makes are strong, stronger than any mere malaise of body or soul. I've been with you for so long, you don't resent my worrying about you and your goddamned lungs, do you?"
Jyuushiro sat there blinking as Shunsui laughed and pushed aside the remains of their lunch. He rose and swept toward Jyuushiro, and Jyuushiro couldn't help but compare him to a spring flood river, shouldering through and breaking up the ice crust of winter. Then he was engulfed in warm silk, a strong embrace, and the heat of Shunsui's body against his.
His breath caught, his body arched, and he pressed up against Shunsui's warmth as Shunsui gave him a slow, hot kiss. Jyuushiro kissed back, hungry for the big man's warmth and life, his deep good humor and hope, even as his hands ran over his still-bandaged body. The purring shiver the big man gave at his touch encouraged him and he hugged Shunsui close.
Jyuushiro laughed. "I won't ask if you should be doing this."
"Good, Jyuushiro. Knowing what I shouldn't be doing might be all the incentive I need..."
A slow, firm, knowing stroke made Jyuushiro gasp, pressing even closer. Jyuushiro began, "Mmhmm... so telling you that this is likely bad for you...?"
The sudden strength of will, of the body that pressed against his own made Jyuushiro moan a soft, "Yes," even as he clung to the warmth before him.
"... might make me do something we'd both regret," Shunsui finished with that wicked smile that always left Jyuushiro weak in the knees.
"No... never regret," Jyuushiro said softly against Shunsui's lips. "Never."
Shunsui smiled and kissed him again. Jyuushiro yielded to the spring thaw of his lover's heat, the tenderness and care as life-giving as the spring waters feeding the tentative first greening of his garden.
Just for posterity's sake...
The 100-word Drabble
The first thaws cracked the ice of Jyuushiro's pond as the sakura tree, with its late-winter's bravado, put forth fat buds.
Jyuushiro was out assessing the state of his garden. Green blunt heads of crocuses pushed forth, along with the blade-like leaves of wild iris, but the rest was bleak, damp, and still bare.
He knelt by a bed to prepare it for seed, when there was the pop of shunpo.
A familiar reiatsu flooded the garden, and Jyuushiro turned just as Shunsui poured a cascade of mid-summer flowers on him.
"What is this?"
"You were looking for flowers... "