Pairing: Kyouraku and Ukitake
Genre: Uhm... shonen-ai romance and action?
Rating and Warnings: PG for... uhm... Bleach-like action, and the two guys sleeping together at the end of the day, literally. Not even a kiss. Wow.
Word Count: 3351
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, and I do not make any money off these writings.
Author's Note: This is for Jyuushiro's birthday. Comfort writing for myself. It wasn't beta'ed, so all the mistakes are my own fault.
Shunsui crunched through the snow, not liking the dark, not liking the cold, and really hating the fact that it was the longest night of the year. Still, it was Jyuushiro's birthday; and he and Nanao-chan had gone to a lot of trouble to make this work. He looked around at everyone's expectant faces and nodded before heading across the bridge to the Ubandou.
When he opened the door, the wind took it and slammed it open, and he saw Jyuushiro's eyes sweep up from the reports he was finishing. Shunsui closed the door hurriedly so that Jyuushiro couldn't see past him, and swept in along with a flurry of snow. He took off his geta and walked in, shaking snow off. He could see his own breath in the air of the office. "Jyuushiro, it's nearly as cold in here as it is out there. What are you doing?"
"Finishing the last bits of work before heading to dinner," Jyuushiro said peaceably. "Have you come to take me to Miyako's with you?"
Shunsui stamped his feet and blew on his hands. "Yes. I would not wish to thwart whatever Nanao-chan had planned."
Yet, in contradiction to his words, Shunsui moved further into Jyuushiro's office, and slipped his legs under Jyuushiro's desk. As he suspected, the under table heater was on full-blast. Jyuushiro might remain old-fashioned in the architecture of his offices and practices, including the nearly frozen ink on his ink stone, but he wasn't stupid. "Ahhhh... so that's where you were hiding the heat." He grinned as the warmth flowed into the openings of his hakama and went up his body. "I do like how these are designed to take advantage of how the heat slips up the kimono to the upper body."
"Mmm... yes, I do find these Captain's robes a lot more comfortable with traditional heat. How was your day?" Jyuushiro asked. He sounded absentminded, as if he were trying to just get Shunsui to talk while he worked.
"It was all right." Shunsui said shortly, and suddenly realized he probably sounded odd when Jyuushiro looked up at him with an eyebrow cocked. "How much longer are you going to be?"
"Just one more paragraph." Jyuushiro brushed more characters into place, as Shunsui played with a frog signature stone quietly.
When Jyuushiro had cleaned out his writing equipment, and then ducked under the table to damp the coal fire in the heater, Shunsui got up out from under the blanket and paced as Jyuushiro put on his coat, mitts, and scarf.
"Ise-kun is waiting?" Jyuushiro asked dryly, and looked surprised when Shunsui started at the entirely unexpected question. Then Shunsui realized what it was that Jyuushiro was expecting him to say.
"Uhm... yes. I do dislike getting the sharp side of her tongue."
Jyuushiro paused, and Shunsui could see the cogs start to catch. Oops. Those green eyes narrowed and Jyuushiro asked, "What are you up to?"
"Me?" Shunsui tried to look innocent. "Nothing. I am up to nothing."
Jyuushiro raised one eyebrow. Shunsui busied himself putting on his shoes and coat, and then he bowed Jyuushiro to the door. He was quite relieved when Jyuushiro opened the door.
Jyuushiro gasped at what he saw, and Shunsui grinned in satisfaction as he ducked out behind him.
People were everywhere, and they were all playing in a winter wonderland. The pond and the winter dead forest were now frosted in white, fat fluffy flakes fell from the sky, and an ice castle was built in the middle of the rock hard pond. Torches were lit all along the paths around the pond, and they illuminated a crowd of shinigami from the Gotei 13. They were all bundled up in winter gear, and using ice skates and skis. Shunsui felt Rukia and Hitsugaya's reiatsu everywhere, along with several other ice shinigami's, and their zanpakutous' signatures were writ large against the sky.
What he thought was an ice statute of a dragon, winding up the castle walls, suddenly turned and look at them. Both Jyuushiro and Shunsui bowed respectfully back to Hyourinmaru.
Shunsui laughed softly bumped Jyuushiro with a bag. "Here's your ice skates. We thought you'd like this better than a pile of gifts you wouldn't know what to do with."
"Oh, yes!" Jyuushiro laughed and took the bundle from Shunsui. He promptly sat on a wooden bench, kicked off his sandals, and put on the well-worn skates, pulling his mittens off to get the laces properly tight.
"You're just like a kid, sometimes, Jyuushiro," Shunsui rumbled softly, as he put his own skates on.
Jyuushiro grinned. "I'll beat you to the ice, slow poke."
Shunsui shook his head. "I'm sure you will."
Shunsui took his time, watching his slender white-haired lover stand and stomp the blades into the snow to get good balance on the way out to the smooth surface of the pond. The first step Jyuushiro took turned into a glide as graceful as a swan's, robes and hair flowing behind him. The circles he turned around Rukia and an awkward-looking Renji made Shunsui grin in delight. Ichigo was bombing about at high speed, and much of his nakama was here, bunched together until Rukia and Renji barreled in started introducing them to others. Orhime and Rangiku together made Shunsui just sigh over the gathering of their... uhm... assets all in one spot. He was surprised the ice still held firm under them.
Finally, Shunsui had his blades on. He went a little more gingerly than Jyuushiro, but then he was gliding as well. He followed Jyuushiro amid the crowd now on the ice. Most of the Vice-Captains and some of the Captains along with their rank and file were now out, more than half were trying out ice skates, others simply walked the paths around the pond or explored the ice castle. Laughter and animated conversations filled the air.
Abruptly, the trees lit with thousands of points of soft light and everyone oooo'ed and ahhh'ed as one man grinned at his zanpakutou's sparkling spirit. Traditional paper lanterns were being put up between the trees, and they glowed and flickered in a more comforting way. Shunsui grinned as Jyuushiro practically flew toward the man who had done the magic, and how graciously the slender Captain thanked the now beaming shingami. Other people, gliding by, chuckled and watched.
It amused Shunsui that Jyuushiro probably wasn't even aware of how popular he was, given how many people had come out, not only to attend, but to help set up the whole thing. His intensity when helping someone else out, the pats on the back, the disarming piece of candy here and there, and most of all the way he simply listened to people with every bit of his attention, all seemed to add up in people just liking and trusting the mild man. When Shunsui and Nanao-chan had gone around Soul Society with their invitations, they had met not only enthusiastic acceptance, but many offers to help with the surprise and festivities.
He'd been surprised by all the food vendors that had clamored to show up. Jyuushiro seemed to frequent a lot of the local eateries. There was a whole line of carnival food booths set up along the perimeter of the grounds, and the smell of hot chestnuts, grilled meats and skewers, and of course a huge pile of roasting sweet potatoes by the fire. There was a ramen stand with a man furiously working with a wok to stir fry all the ingredients together to heat the soup with each order. There was a stand with just sweets of various types wrapped in sticky mochi. All the food was free, and the shinigami crowded about eagerly.
There was even a booth with hot sake, and Shunsui wobbled up in his skates to get a covered, warm mug of it to take with him back to the ice. His reasoning was that it would make it easier to skate, and when the first, hot swallows found their way down his throat he found himself much happier with his progress across the ice.
Shunsui looked for Jyuushiro and found him skating around the pond with Hitsugaya, the younger man earnestly talking to the older. The expressions on both faces was remarkably similar for all their differences in height and age, and Shunsui snuck up from behind to simply skate behind them and listen.
"So you would have moved to the fore?"
Jyuushiro bit his lower lip. "Yes. I think I would have, the greater forces in the initial meeting would have allowed the forward group more time and instilled more confusion amid the oncoming horde. They're not very well organized."
Hitsugaya skated a few more steps in silence. "The development would have slowed getting to the main forces, giving them time to set up better?"
The two of them clasped their hands behind their backs and after three steps, Shunsui started laughing, startling both of them. "What are you two strategizing? War games?"
Both men glanced at each other and Shunsui chortled as Jyuushiro blushed. "Well, it's a... uhm..."
"Simulation. It's a battle simulation, Kyouraku-taichou."
"You mean it's a video game," Shunsui took another slug from his mug, and saw the initial cringe in Hitsugaya and the grin from Jyuushiro.
"It's a lot of fun, Shunsui," Jyuushiro said, "You should try it. With your reflexes, I bet you'd fly through the levels."
Shunsui chuckled and accepted the neat riposte. "You're probably right, Jyuushiro. It might be a fun way to battle without real blood flying."
Jyuushiro looked at him, and Shunsui could nearly hear him think that when there wasn't real blood on the line it was a lot harder for Shunsui to get serious about anything. The slender man moved closer, and Hitsugaya looked away as Jyuushiro wrapped his arms around Shunsui for a moment. "You don't have to, I know what you're like about practicing when it's not for real."
Shunsui chuckled into Jyuushiro's white hair and hugged him back, accepting the reassurance.
They moved on, Hitsugaya and Jyuushiro talking as animatedly as before, and Shunsui trailing along as a shadow. Nanao-chan cut a direct line across the ice to him, and came to his side.
"Taichou, there's a bit of a problem..."
Jyuushiro alerted as much by the tone as the words half turned toward them. Shunsui waved him off, "I'll deal with this, it's your party."
He followed the slender form of Nanao-chan, and as they got away from Jyuushiro she said breathlessly, "There's a Hollow alert at the walls of the city."
"The on-duty personnel should be able to take care of that," Shunsui said, frowning. "Isn't the Eleventh on that?"
"They are, like fleas on a dog, but there's a Vasto Lorde with the horde, and Kenpachi-taichou, as usual, is not calling for backup. Yamamoto-soutaichou has asked that the other Divisions be called to alert in case the thing slips through the walls."
"After Ichigo and his gang I wonder if those walls are all they were cracked up to be. Alert, hm?" Shunsui sighed. "Damn, I forget all the designations, what does that actually mean for everyone here?"
Nanao pushed her glass up on to her nose and the light flashed from the lenses. "The barracks have been notified, but there isn't a requirement that everyone be there. Still everyone needs to be notified of the alert and there has to be qualified personnel to get the word out should there be a need for everyone to go."
"You're qualified personnel, aren't you, Nanao-chan? You know the Soaring Net of Heaven," Shunsui said quietly.
Nanao-chan gave a short nod. "That is true. Do you wish me to alert everyone then, sir?"
"Yes." Shunsui knew what the alert might do to the mood of the party, but he knew it would be even more inexcusable to leave people in the dark about what was happening.
"I need to find a solid floor I can draw on, then. This snow will not hold the shapes I need." Nanao-chan said quietly.
"How about on the ice? It'll be a good, flat surface, and you can use my coat to kneel on to not be so cold." Shunsui offered, shrugging off his extra coat, exposing his vaunted Pink, and folding the drabber quilted coat to pad his Nanao-chan's knees. She accepted it without a word and got to work drawing the diagram on the flat expanse of ice and her arms before she flooded the small area with her reiatsu.
Shunsui watched all around her, and managed to catch one of the lesser shinigami that got too close and fainted from the weight of Nanao-chan's power. He laid the boy gently on one of the benches by the pond, and went back to stand guard. Nanao-chan was oblivious to everything around her as she chanted, and then Shunsui heard her even voice speaking to everyone in the area around the Ubandou.
Various people drifted away, not all, as Nanao-chan was clear about stating that people weren't required to be at fighting stations; however, when Shunsui went looking for Jyuushiro, there were people making their farewells to the guest of honor. To his regret, he saw that Jyuushiro had taken off his skates, no longer playing at his party. Shunsui settled on a bench nearby and took his skates off as well as he unabashedly listened in on the conversations around Jyuushiro.
"Hitsugaya-taichou said that even a Captain can't stand up to one of those things," Kira said doubtfully. "And Kenpachi-taichou... isn't he handicapped by not being able to use his zanpakutou?"
"That didn't stop him from killin' the old Kenpachi, so I don't think it's gonna stop him now," Renji drawled. "I think it'll be just fine, but you know Kuchiki-taichou, he just wants to be sure. Sorry, Ukitake-taichou, I guess I got to go."
"It is entirely understandable, Abarai-kun, I'm grateful for your attendance while you could," Jyuushiro said. "And good luck if you are deployed."
"Thank you, Sir." The tall red-head sketched a salute and strode away.
Jyuushiro looked stern as others made their regrets, and gravely thanked them for both celebrating with him and for their service. They both watched the various guests disappear in the direction of the deployment field for orders.
Of course, that was when the hungry reiatsu flooded in, and the slender, bone-white figure bounded over the near trees.
Both Jyuushiro and Shunsui didn't waste any time, they simply drew and released their zanpakutou. It couldn't be helped that a dozen or two of the lower ranks around them just fell over in a faint; but Nanao-chan, Hitsugaya, and Rangiku all released as well.
"What did I say about those damned walls?" Shunsui asked the air.
Hitsugaya was the one who chuckled and said, "Calm yourself, sir. We have three Captains, that should be more than enough."
Shunsui grinned, reminded of when they'd been caught in Ryūjin Jakka's fire ring.
They were not surprised by the ceros that came right at them from the slender figure. Jyuushiro redirected the immense blasts back at the jumping Hollow.
When one of the blasts knocked the figure off its center of balance, Hitsugaya leaped in and swung Hyourinmaru. A wave of ice flowed over the struggling figure, and everything froze solid about it. The figure stilled for just a moment, but Shunsui could see muscles suddenly straining against the weight of the ice.
Shunsui didn't waste any time. He called, "Black." He struck for the deep black shadows of the empty eye sockets of its mask. A tiny twin target, but Katen Kyōkotsu cleaved both in two as cleanly as slicing a grape in half.
The Hollow burst into dust and the threat of the return strike was never realized; that was when the horde of lesser Hollows swarmed in. Shunsui gathered Nanao-chan in with a look, and he followed Jyuushiro's lead as the white flag of Jyuushiro's hair and Shunsui's pink coat provided a very visible rallying point on the field. The flagging shinigami took courage at the sight and soon they were turning the tide.
When the ever-effective Soi Fong and her crew suddenly appeared alongside the fighting Eleventh and the elegant Sixth; the Hollows turned in an utter rout, and were cut down from all sides. As the last of the Hollows were cleansed, there was first a sigh of relief and then a shout of triumph and soon everyone gave a ragged cheer at their small victory.
Jyuushiro stood back with Shunsui, both of them just watching. He was standing close enough to hear Jyuushiro say softly, "And so the goddess Amaterasu was lured from her cave by the noise; and sent the forces of darkness into confusion, bringing back the dawn..."
The lines of the mid-winter story made Shunsui smile, and then, just because he could, he mused, "Do you think Soi Fong would deign to play Ame No Uzume?"
Jyuushiro snorted and then laughed involuntarily at the thought. "No, I think she'd be able to play Amaterasu much better, though she'd probably die of mortification at being asked to play that high a goddess."
"Maybe I'll just have to ask Rangiku... she would do gloriously," Shunsui said with his mild voice.
Jyuushiro laughed. "I'd like to see you do that."
"Your wish is my command," Shunsui said bravely; and then got to see the laughter in Jyuushiro's eyes as Matsumoto nearly took his head off with her slap.
At least that got him out of the paperwork for the night's work, though he got both an ice pack and a scolding from Nanao-chan, it was worth doing.
Later that night, he wrapped himself about the cool slenderness of Jyuushiro's silver beauty and held him through a small coughing attack. After the first couple of decades, the fear of death by the lung disease had eased for both of them. Jyuushiro's spiritual strength had held it back for two millennium. They'd long ago both agreed that the disease would never kill him, that it would only happen if he gave up. Shunsui privately believed that the dark would win all the Earth before Jyuushiro ever gave up.
That didn't stop it from being damned frustrating sometimes.
Shunsui asked quietly, "Did you have a good birthday?"
He felt the relaxation of taut muscle, the deepening of the breaths against his throat, as that formidable mind started on a track away from the present state of his body. "Yes, it was very good."
"What things did you like best?"
A soft huff of laughter, and he got his answer in short descriptions between breaths. "The takoyaki were crisp, right out of the fryer.... I loved the sight of the snow... against the dark sky... I enjoyed being able to speak with Hitusgaya-taichou freely... It was also magnificent watching you deal the final blow."
Shunsui, of all people, heard the odd note of reluctance in the voice against his throat. "But..."
The body within his embrace stiffened for just a moment, and then he felt the warm sigh. Then another soft huff of laughter, followed by a cough or two. Then there was stillness until he wondered if Jyuushiro had fallen asleep.
Finally came the words. "I think... I think my most favorite thing... was seeing you nearly panicked when I asked you what you were up to... You always have that sudden shift of the eyes as you suddenly realize who you're trying to fool."
Shunsui couldn't help it, he laughed and laughed and hugged Jyuushiro hard enough to make him grunt.
"I should do that more often, if it delights you."
"Shunsui..." The dryness of Jyuushiro's voice made Shunsui laugh even harder.
"Or perhaps not... that was a damned lot of work, you know. I have a reputation to maintain, and running thither and yon with my Vice-Captain bargaining every vendor within an inch of their lives just doesn't help that at all."
"Shunsui..." The tender amusement in the voicing of his name made Shunsui blush and be glad of the darkness. "Thank you, my friend, for risking your reputation to make my birthday a celebration for everyone."
"You're welcome, Jyuushiro. You're more than welcome. Happy Birthday."