PIMP JUICE (spikykun) wrote in ninjasofawesome,
PIMP JUICE
spikykun
ninjasofawesome

Light For The Deadvine: Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Present

Ukitake was burning. It felt like there was an iron bar wrapped around his chest, and he couldn’t breathe, the air choking and sputtering in his throat. He wasn’t aware of stumbling across the room; all of him was focused on that motionless, crumpled form, and the time it took to cross the floor stretched into eternity, but he wasn’t all there until he dropped to his knees beside his best friend, his love, Shunsui. The floor was hard beneath his knees, and he didn’t fall gracefully- the jarring pain that shot through his legs was a pinprick compared to the sharp panic and fear that was piercing his heart and skittering throughout his body.

“Shunsui.” He breathed, and the air caught, dissolving the end of the name into a gasping cough. He reached forward, struggling against the constriction in his chest, and his hand hesitated over the slowly expanding red stain on Shunsui’s shoulder, before moving to the left to rest gently on his dark, curly hair, damp with sweat. “Shunsui—please, Shunsui.” He forced the plea past the agony.

He swallowed, and then slowly began to turn Shunsui over. His friend’s face was ashen and his face was lined with pain. What have I done haunted a litany in the back of his mind, but his eyes focused on the slow rise and fall of Shunsui’s chest. His hand drifted over again to Shunsui’s head, his fingers brushing his forehead.

Shunsui’s eyes flickered, and Ukitake’s chest tightened. “Shunsui,” he repeated, running his fingers down Shunsui’s cheek, the stubble rough against his skin. I love you. Please.

Shunsui blinked again, slowly, almost sleepily, but this time his eyes stayed open. His bleary, confused eyes met Ukitake’s. “’shirou?” he murmured.

“Shh.” Ukitake continued stroking his cheek, unable to pull away, even though he knew he should, now that Shunsui was awake, but that fear hadn’t left him yet, and he knew Shunsui was not in the clear yet.

But both of them had been injured too many times, in too many dangerous situations, and Shunsui’s eyes began to clear, his will fighting past the pain. “Jyuushirou?”

He licked his dry lips. “You were… you were shot.” There was no way he could articulate all the meaning of that into words. It had been years since Ukitake had last seen Shunsui shot, but that fear had returned, stronger than ever.

Shunsui grimaced. “That… explains it.” He rasped, and began to try to sit up. Ukitake’s eyes widened abruptly, and raised his hands automatically, wanting to stop him, but not wanting to hit the bullet wounds- one on his shoulder and one on the opposite arm. Shunsui made a sound at him, slumped against a pillar, Ukitake scooting forward, hovering, not knowing what to do. He couldn’t take his eyes off Shunsui. “Have to move. Might be… more of them,” Shunsui managed, and looked pointedly over toward Aizen’s fallen hired guns that were scattered about the large room.

He’d completely forgotten about them. He didn’t even remember shooting Vega, but there was Vega’s body lying off to the side. “I… yeah,” he agreed unsteadily. Shunsui’s gaze turned back to him, and something like confusion flickered across his face. Ukitake can’t even imagine what his own face looked like right now, what Shunsui was able to see in it.

Shunsui winced, looking away, making an aborted hand movement toward the shoulder that was hit. That was enough to snap Ukitake out of it. “Oh god. I’ll… I can…” he stammered, already slipping his shirt off. He looked down, tearing his shirt into strips, unable to meet Shunsui’s eyes, his thoughts a panicky jumble of oh my god I’m getting to old for this, I’m slipping, I’m going to get everyone killed, I’m going to get him killed, I can’t do this, I can‘t do this.

He jerked forward, the strips of cloth gripped tightly in his hands. “Here—I’ll just…” He trailed off, and Shunsui said nothing, just let Ukitake wrap the cloth tightly around his shoulder. At least Ukitake knew how to do this by instinct, because Shunsui’s silence was closing in on him; too many things had been left unsaid between them, and in the silence Ukitake felt like he was going to shatter. He finished the wrap, tying it securely with a knot. He looked down at the remaining strips, and thought that maybe he should wrap Shunsui’s arm as well, though it was a less serious wound, but Shunsui still hadn’t said anything, and Ukitake didn’t know what he was doing anyway.

The constriction tightened again, and Ukitake hurriedly leaned away, coughing raggedly into the bend of his elbow. He closed his eyes. Dammit, no, not now.

A hand settled onto Ukitake’s shoulder, and he forced himself to look up, struggling to hold back the coughs. And oh god even after all this time, after everything Ukitake had done, Shunsui still was able to have that look in his eyes, so caring and warm and concerned.

“Hey.” Shunsui tugged him forward. “It’s… okay,” he murmured.

Ukitake let himself be tugged forward; he wasn’t capable of doing otherwise. “No. It’s not,” he answered, his voice quiet and hoarse. Shunsui’s hand on his shoulder tensed, and Ukitake looked up again to meet his eyes, and he found his confusion and indecision mirrored in Shunsui’s face.

“We’re alive.” Shunsui replied slowly. “And we… just might have rescued the girl.” One side of his lips curled up into a smirk, and his eyes smiled tiredly at Ukitake, even though he had to still be in immense pain. I thought you were dead. He thought, and he couldn’t stop himself. The next thing he knew his lips were against Shunsui’s and he was kissing him, in the middle of Aizen’s mansion, after everything, and Shunsui was alive, and Shunsui was kissing him back.

Ukitake moaned, pressing into the kiss, all his worries and fears dissolving into the taste of Shunsui’s mouth and the twist of Shunsui‘s tongue against his. He leaned in even further, needing more, but of course he had forgotten about the gunshot, and Shunsui flinched against him. Ukitake froze, and that was enough for reality to come crashing back in, and he remembered with a breathtaking freezing chill that he shouldn’t be doing this and all the reasons why. He jerked back, his eyes painfully wide, and found himself face to face with Shunsui’s shocked expression. His eyes were wide as well, and there was confusion and pain, but yes, there was hope there too, and Shunsui’s lips were wet and slightly swollen. Ukitake ached, deep in his gut.

“Jyuushirou.” Shunsui’s voice was low and rough, and oh Ukitake remembered that voice.

“Shunsui, I…” he stammered, helpless, knowing all the reasons that they couldn‘t, and he knew he’d regret what he’d done later, but there was nothing he could do, now, in the moment, with Shunsui looking at him like that, and his fear still alive in his chest.

He would never find out what he would have said, what other path his road might have taken if they‘d been able to talk, then, because that was when Ichigo Kurosaki stormed back in the chamber, accompanied by two unfamiliar people. “I got ‘er!”
Ukitake’s eyes fluttered half closed, and he tried to regain control, tried to draw his emotions in again. “Is bad timing a trait that runs in the Kurosaki blood?” He heard Shunsui murmur, and he smiled weakly.

“Probably,” he answered, though he wasn’t not sure whether this incident qualified as good timing or bad timing. But he turned away from Shunsui, and it hurt, but that was why he made himself do it.

***

Shunsui thought he should have been happier. His spinal cord wasn't injured, he was bandaged up, and the fight was over. The pain was... well, he learned to fight through the pain. The problem was that Ukitake had just kissed him.

He realized that something hadn't been the same since he's been shot by Vega, or even since Ukitake had said he was sorry. He didn't give it much thought simply because of the fight and the pain, and then because of the haunted, petrified look Ukitake had, one that Shunsui had seen only once, five years ago. He didn't think about the change in Ukitake because every part of him urged him to do anything to erase that expression from Ukitake's face, and then to soothe him after he'd coughed. So he let Ukitake touch his face, he pulled him nearer, he reassured him, and didn't once think.

Then Ukitake's lips were on his and he realized all too late that thinking was completely out of the question. His wound still hurt, but it was nothing compared to the pain in his chest. It felt like every breath was squeezed out of him, his head was spinning, and… maybe the familiarity of it hurt. The fact that even after five years he hadn't forgotten Ukitake's taste, his smell, his touch, that it wasn't overwhelming because it was all rushing back to him, it was overwhelming because he missed him. That was what hurt. That was what had been hurting since their once-final goodbye outside the saloon.

Good to finally know. An odd kind of calmness passed over him, and he parted Ukitake's lips. His breath hitched at the moan that brought out of his love, a surge of heat spreading in him, and oh, how he hated himself for flinching. It was too much excitement for his freshly-injured body, and he jerked involuntarily, that heat becoming pain at a dizzying speed.

Ukitake immediately drew back, breaking the kiss and Shunsui's daze. The problem with those kinds of calm moments is that once they were over, the thoughts came crashing back. Unwanted thoughts like, you're weak or what the hell, or does he really even want me?

Shock settled over him instead. Ukitake had just kissed him. After he yelled at him the previous night, after he'd resented him, after the confusion and hurt that had lingered between them, which prevented Shunsui from even contemplating touching him, and then Ukitake felt like he could kiss him?

Will I stop him if there's a next time?

“Jyuushirou.” He wasn't even sure what to say, but with no outlet for his thoughts he knew he would be driven mad. Before he could let anything else out Ukitake spoke, stammered, said his first name, looked at him that way, and Shunsui forgot everything again. The sharp pain still flooding him made everything that much harder, made it hard to hold on to the memories of Ukitake kissing him. He knew that if he was supposed to say something it was to ask about the severity of his wound, but he was afraid that if he opened his mouth all his thoughts would spill out.

And of course, that was when Ichigo Kurosaki stormed in, accompanied by two unfamiliar people. Shunsui could have cursed as he sat there, watching Ukitake compose himself, watching all the pieces of the mask he'd become familiar with for the past week come together.

He looked away, ignoring the little twinge in his chest when he felt Ukitake turn away from him. Time for my own mask.

"Took you long enough," he croaked, his voice still scratchy from the fight and his words were still a struggle to compose as he kept thinking about the bullet still inside him. It felt like he was being torn apart, but he'd felt that way so many times by then that it made it just bearable enough to give Ichigo a long look.

The boy was sweating and bleeding, but there was a big smirk on his face. At least one of us got what he wanted tonight. Shunsui lowered his eyes to the girl walking next to Ichigo. She fit Rukia's description—short, black hair, big eyes. He thought she was a good match for Ichigo, but Ichigo wasn't looking at her, he was looking at the strange man walking next to him.

A man who fit a whole other description. "You're the redhead that kicked his ass?" Shunsui asked, his eyebrows rising. Why the hell is he with them?

Ukitake apparently had the same thoughts, as Shunsui felt him reach for his pistol. No. Stop focusing on him. After all that had just happened, Shunsui knew that if he really focused on Ukitake he just might drown in it and they would never leave that goddamn palace.

Ichigo and his new companions were a good enough distraction for now. The boy was scowling at Shunsui in seconds and opened his mouth for a snarky retort, undoubtedly, but was stopped when the redhead put a hand on his shoulder, and took advantage of Ichigo's hesitation to fit in his own reply. "That's me. Are you… from the south?"

Shunsui's eyes widened and his hand immediately went to Ukitake's arm, signaling him to lower his weapon. He ignored the effects that touch had on him, and then ignored the searing pain moving brought, as well. Instead, he focused on the man. If it really was the code… "Why?"

"I was told you can be trusted," the man answered, his tone still cautious, his eyes alert under his white cowboy hat. The south. That's Starrk's code. That means Starrk found the man trustworthy enough to let him know about us.

"He's safe," he muttered to Ukitake while Ichigo finally shook the man's hand off him and cursed silently. The man turned to glare at Ichigo, straightening up so he was basically towering over the kid. Shunsui could feel the antagonism there, and, truly, even his patience was beginning to drain.

"Weren't you the one who took her in the first place?" There was probably a more subtle way to present that question, but with the pain still ringing between his ears, Shunsui honestly couldn't think of it.

"I shouldn't have," the man said solemnly. His expression seemed a bit sadder when he looked at Rukia after speaking, so Shunsui knew that must have been hard for him to admit. It still wasn't quite enough to convince him, even after looking so closely at the newcomer.

Ichigo cleared his throat. "He's telling the truth. He helped me get her out."

"One more friend for you, then," Ukitake muttered next to him, and Shunsui chuckled weakly. It would have been so easy to laugh, or lean on him, or kiss him again. It seemed that finally he was able to think about that without so much bitterness or pain. Without those he was left – confused. He just wanted to know why Ukitake did what he did, but there was no way to ask.

He tried not to sigh; he wasn't old enough to sigh, like his father used to when he just got tired of them. He was alive. He was with Ukitake, after a successful quest and with an unforeseen road ahead of them. There was no turning back now, not after finding out that those men had known they were coming, that Aizen wanted Shunsui, Ukitake and Ichigo dead. Unfortunately for the sheriff, the three survived and killed all six of his henchmen. Unfortunately for them, that made the situation a whole lot more dangerous. They were wanted men now, and had no clear destination, but Shunsui would figure it out.

And I have one more friend. "What's your name, then?" he asked. It didn't bother him as much as it should have to be sitting on the ground while speaking to them, grimacing in pain aside. After all, Ukitake was sitting just like him.

"Abarai," the man answered, raising his rifle from his shoulder in a kind of salute to Shunsui. He… still didn't like that weapon. He'd spent so much time ignoring or disliking unpredictable people with guns, let alone his own painful experience with rifles; it was hard to trust Abarai. Then again, they were all in it together. He knew there was no way that man would return to Aizen after helping them.

"Are you ready to be on the run?" he asked, resignedly.

Abarai nodded. "Knew what I was getting' into. Well, other than this idiot's temper; that was a surprise."

"What—"

"I'll show ya a way outta here, too," Abarai cut off Ichigo's indignant reply. "But… is there somewhere safe for her?"

"Renji…" Rukia muttered, sidestepping Ichigo to stand next to Abarai. Shunsui couldn't hear the next words she told him, which left him room for thought. Abarai was right. As much as Shunsui appreciated the female gender, he knew he wouldn't be able to fight with her around. Ukitake sure as hell wouldn't. They would both be distracted trying to keep her out of harm's way.

Shunsui took a deep breath and turned around to look at Ukitake for the first time since the kiss. All remnants of it were gone from his friend's face, and instead he looked like himself—calculated, kind, and tired. He looked back at Shunsui immediately, and for a second Shunsui could have sworn he saw a flash of something, something lively in his eyes, but it was gone. Shunsui realized his hand was still on Ukitake's and he removed it quickly, remembering all too well Ukitake's detached look when Ichigo had shown up minutes ago.

"Do we know a safe place?" he asked quietly.

Ukitake thought for a moment, biting his lip. "Ah, of course!" he suddenly said, straightening up and, oh hell, Shunsui suddenly remembered he wasn't wearing a shirt. He looked away quickly and tried very hard to ignore… everything. Control yourself. You're not a teenager.

Abarai looked up hopefully at Ukitake's exclamation, and even Ichigo seemed a tiny bit relieved. Rukia looked annoyed, but… it was hard for Shunsui to read her. Every expression didn't look like it fit on her, like she was faking them, like she'd been… What the hell has Aizen done to you?

"Let's get outta here, then, while the boss ain't home," Abarai said. From Shunsui's brief acquaintance with Ichigo, Abarai seemed to be the only one who could get him to shut up. The thought made him smile.

It faded in an instant when Ukitake said, "Let me help you up," and wrapped his arm around Shunsui's shoulders. It felt like getting burned. It felt like too much. But Ukitake asked, and what could Shunsui do?

He leaned a bit into Ukitake and tried not to cry out when he got onto his feet. Ukitake's hand squeezed his like it always used to, and it helped, and for a moment Shunsui knew something really hadn't been the same. He squeezed back. Maybe they would figure it out together.



Epilogue
Tags: light for the deadvine
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