Character: Ukitake Jyuushiro
Summary: Ukitake takes a cup of tea.
Word Count: 466
Authors Note: This is a companion story to A Peek Under the Hat, which was my Shunsui story in order to figure out who he was. I find myself needing to touch base with Ukitake again, and decided to write this. I'd written him in the garden, once, but it didn't sit right, and I always wanted to rewrite his bit. I like this one better.
To everyone else in the Gotei 13 Captain Ukitake Jyuushiro drank a cup of tea on the porch of the Thirteenth Division.
To Jyuushiro, that conveyed nearly nothing of his experience.
For him, the heavy Hagiyaki cup within his hands was a many-layered pleasure. He loved the beauty of its glazing: deep sea blues, caramel clouds, and streaked shadow blacks. The thick, rough walls of the vessel warmed his hands and fit them with a pleasing irregularity and weight. His tea was no ceremonial ground matcha, but a Ureshino Tamaryokucha green, with the rich creamy body of golden chestnuts, the sweetness of muscat grapes, and the lightest tang of tangerines under grassy new-mown summer hay. He loved the tiny leaves and bright emerald color of the liquor, and he relished the astringency that balanced the sweet life of its flavor.
Through the door to the porch, he could hear the Thirds arguing vehemently with each other over the order of the day's schedule, feel Rukia's amused reiatsu as she watched and wrote down what was actually going to happen. The rest of the division calmly went about their duties, and Jyuushiro sipped his tea. After two thousand years of living, Jyuushiro knew that brewing and enjoying his tea centered him amid the wash and flow of his duties, decisions, and demands of his life. The consequences of all his past choices ebbed away against his focus on this small rite, which stilled his mind, calmed his emotions, and soothed his reiatsu.
Within that momentary peace, Jyuushiro weighed his life as he weighed the twin swords with which he fought. Each of his breaths reminded him of his possible death along with the pleasure of every living moment. His call to justice balanced his capacity for mercy. His need to protect those precious to him called to heel his passion for the art of war. His grief at losing those he'd taught did nothing to lessen his pride at their courage and sacrifice. The two sides of his soul spoke of how all these things were true, were real, of how each had its advantages and disadvantages, strengths and weaknesses, and most of all, of how each was meaningless without the other. For all that they might seem opposite, they were all part of the same whole, just as the tea was both bitter and sweet.
He breathed the fragrant steam, sipped the nuanced liquor, swallowed, relishing the liquid heat, and knew, for an instant, that he was present solely in that moment.
When it was time for his staff meeting at 8, Ukitake Jyuushiro finished the last mouthful of his morning tea, stood up, and entered the office, refreshed and ready for whatever the day might bring, and no one else was the wiser.