HAPPY BIRTHDAY, antha_aryn!!!
ILU SO MUCH ♥♥ You are an awesome friend and an amazing co-mod, I'm so glad to have met you through our ShuuKira lurve and squeeage. We need to fangirl more about stuff together! I'm just sorry my schedule has been so hectic recently :'(
I'm a little rusty since I haven't written/posted proper fic for a few months XD but I really hope you'll like this, nonetheless :D Antha I heart youuu ~
Title: Stepping Stone
Author: Harmony (Silver Harmony)
Word Count: Approximately 2,460.
Disclaimer: Not mine, sadly.
Notes: A continuous story in seven parts. Cross-posted to shuukira, asterisk_plus, bleach_yaoi and kurosaki_clinic.
Feedback: Very much appreciated, as I would like to write much better Bleach fics. Your concrits mean a lot to me, especially when it tells me what you think of the story and what I can do to improve. Please and thank you.
Summary: Everything that required the presence of two ...
the faraway onlooker, gazing
I’m not sure what I’m doing, the quavering expression read.
Everything was crisp white, stark, blinding in the Academy infirmary, with cold walls and hard beds, and it was no surprise to Shuuhei to see anyone being intimidated by the surroundings; the other two students – the gruff redhead and the short dainty one with black hair – were loitering somewhere outside, waiting, and only the shy blond one was left, sitting on the edge of the bed with a nervous smile. His fingers bunched uneasily at the fabric of his hakama, and his toes curled inside his white socks.
Standing at the doorway, Shuuhei knew that the kid had taken it hard. It had been his first encounter with real Hollows, after all, and just from looking at him, Shuuhei could still hear the blond’s screams echoing in the recesses of his mind. He must have been more than terrified.
‘I’ve … always looked up to you, you know,’ the blond suddenly uttered with a half-laugh, gazing up at him with something that looked like mild embarrassment. ‘You’re amazing, and so brave. I’ve known about you for a long time, Hisagi-senpai.’
The dark-haired student could feel the deep gashes on his own face prickling underneath the strips of white linen, and that should have been more painful than anything else, but suddenly he could feel something else stirring. It was warm, strange. Maybe, he thought, it was sympathy.
But he put that aside and walked into the room, up to the bed, and slowly sat himself down next to the other student. The blond’s eyes widened in surprise.
‘Tell me your name again,’ Shuuhei said.
Kira Izuru looked alongside at him in awe. And then, slowly, his lips curved into a smile.
hindsight, foresight, insight: a mentor
When Shuuhei looked at Kira, he could immediately sense two things that gave off his signature: he was tender, and he was insecure. The feeling came from so many different things that he couldn’t really pick any particular facet out; it could have been anything – it could have been the way the blond always stood with his head slightly bowed, the way his gaze wavered too respectfully during a match, the way his pale fingers were curled too tentatively around the hilt of his zanpakuto. The private spars were always like this, and gave off a rather unsettling feeling. Shuuhei could almost say that sometimes he was the only one out of the two who felt any real confidence in the blond’s potential.
The dark-haired shinigami sheathed his zanpakuto and wiped the sweat from his brow.
‘Let’s call it a day,’ he said frankly.
The blond student bowed low once, and Shuuhei couldn’t help thinking, with good reason, that he would have been satisfied with just a nod. But the shinigami didn’t say another word. He turned on his heel and walked to the other side of the training room to where his water was, reached down into the corner for the jar, and brought it up to his lips and took a drink.
That’s when Kira uttered: ‘These aren’t just fun spars, are they, Hisagi-senpai. You’re training me.’
Shuuhei turned around at that.
‘What are you talking about?’
‘You don’t have to deny it,’ the blond answered with a shy half-smile. ‘I … can sort of tell. But you’re already a shinigami, Hisagi-senpai, and a seated officer, and I’m still just the struggling student in the Academy. Why are you investing such time in training me?’
Shuuhei wasn’t prepared to respond to a question like this. But he could look into the blond’s eyes and see a deep-seated respect so clearly that it couldn’t have been mistaken for anything else, and he knew what the answer was immediately: It’s not that you’re discouraged; it’s that you’re not confident.
‘Because I’m sensing something in you that I think you can’t sense yourself,’ he said. ‘… Yet.’
A mild flush crossed the blond’s features, and Shuuhei realized that Kira must not get many encouraging statements on his potential at all. He tucked that into the back of his mind and noted that he should make these kinds of remarks more often.
‘Same time tomorrow,’ the dark-haired shinigami said with a nod, and walked off.
beside one’s colleague
Shuuhei was the first one to come around to his office: it was clean, and tidy, and so like Kira, even with the few unpacked boxes sitting in the corner. There was a smell of crisp new paper, of a new everything; the vice-captain’s badge sat in the middle of the desk, upon the soft layers of the armband’s white fabric, and Shuuhei wondered how Kira would look when he put it on. He thought it’d suit him.
‘I still feel somewhat out of place in an office like this,’ Kira uttered jokingly.
Shuuhei leaned back against the edge of the desk and gazed at him.
‘You don’t look out of place.’
The blond smiled at that; he lifted a few books out from inside one of the boxes, brought them to the shelves, and began to arrange them. Shuuhei watched silently. The blond was so careful in everything he did, right down to the barely-there fingertips unconsciously tracing the printed words on the spines of the books. The dark-haired shinigami couldn’t stop his own fingers from involuntarily imitating the action, brushing against the side of the desk.
‘It’s … strange,’ the blond suddenly said, without looking up from his books. ‘Thinking that we’re in the same position now.’
‘You’ve worked so hard and you have what it takes,’ answered Shuuhei. ‘You deserve it.’
Kira turned around and looked at him. ‘At heart, you’re still my senpai, you know,’ he said persuasively. ‘You’re patient and brave and I still look up to you. I don’t think I’ll ever stop looking up to you.’
‘That’s okay,’ the dark-haired lieutenant replied, ‘even if we’re equals now. It’s comforting, knowing you feel that way about me.’
The blond paused. And then he chuckled. A light of admiration crossed his eyes and Shuuhei read: You always know the right thing to say.
They entered the vice-captains’ meeting room two hours later side by side, and Shuuhei couldn’t help glancing sideways at his colleague and thinking that Kira’s face was so much brighter when it was lit with that smile.
little lapses; true friendship
‘I don’t know what word I should use here,’ Kira pressed the end of his pen against his lower lip, and leaned back further on one elbow on the grass. ‘What sounds better, Hisagi-san, ethereal or otherworldly?’
Shuuhei eyed him. ‘How should I know? I’m not a poet. I shouldn’t interfere in your terrain.’
‘But this is going to be in your publication,’ the blond said, carefully putting his small notebook and pen down; he then lay down on his side, his head propped up on one hand, mirroring Shuuhei’s pose. ‘I don’t want to give you an ugly poem.’
The dark-haired shinigami raised an eyebrow. ‘I told you, I have no experience with this stuff,’ he said frankly. ‘Do you want to hear some of my music instead?’
Kira had to hide his chuckle behind his free hand. He failed miserably.
‘… I think you should practice first before you play for me,’ he said. ‘I mean practice a lot.’
Shuuhei’s brow furrowed at that. ‘I’m glad you can be so honest with me.’
The blond gave him a joking look, and the other shinigami couldn’t help but think how comfortable this felt, this space that the two of them were sharing, this tranquility and playfulness and peace. Shuuhei knew that they would have to leave shortly and, seeing the contentment in Kira’s expression, he half didn’t want to go; it was relieving to him at ease when he was, by nature, often so uneasy. They wordlessly gazed at the patch of turf between them for a while, fingertips playing with the tendrils of grass, and something about it felt personal and cozy and secret.
‘Abarai-kun is going to come and pick us up soon,’ Kira finally said tenderly, breaking the silence. ‘It’s been a while since we’ve all had dinner at the Tenth Division. I wonder what Rangiku-san’s planned.’
‘Does it matter?’ the dark-haired lieutenant raised an eyebrow. ‘It’s still going to end the same way. We’ll all drink, get sloshed off our faces and wake up tomorrow in a pile dressed only in our underwear, without any memory of what happened the night before. What are friends for?’
Kira shook his head with a smile, but his gleaming eyes said it all: I’m looking forward to it.
Shuuhei could feel the corners of his lips twitching upwards. Me too.
the enemy in front of you
Every shinigami was taught: they are Gods of Death. Death is their duty, their gift. It was wise to be wary, logical to be merciless, natural to treat a known enemy as one. Clemency was for the weak and irrational. They had nothing to live for but their obligations.
It was Shuuhei who led Kira to the holding cells and imprisoned him, prior to the revelation of Soul Society’s greatest betrayal. Later, it was the traitorous Captain Ichimaru who had freed him. But it was Shuuhei, too, who came back for him after the city crumbled, waste-laid remains of grey debris and hurt and loneliness.
Kira was shivering where he was slumped against the wall, and Shuuhei could only think of how similarly fragile he looked to the time he had first encountered Hollows as a student. The blond rubbed nervously at his arms where Matsumoto's attacks had struck him, knocked his bones and bruised him.
‘Does it hurt?’ Shuuhei asked softly.
Kira shook his head, but didn’t look up. ‘It’s okay.’
‘Are you alright?’
‘… I’m fine.’
‘Come, lean on me,’ said Shuuhei, and snaked an arm around the blond’s torso and steadied him. Kira smiled weakly at him in gratitude, and Shuuhei had never felt more ashamed of himself than he did then. It was a surprise that the blond could still even smile.
For even a short period of time, they had been in the position of enemies. Shuuhei had been bound by his duty and Kira had been one of the accused. There were no shades of grey in Soul Society: the dutiful were good, and the bad were punished. And yet, the dark-haired lieutenant realized, three traitorous captains escaped before anyone could stop them because everyone was blinded by black-and-white. Just like their uniforms. Just like their obligations.
‘I’m sorry,’ Shuuhei said.
‘Don’t be,’ replied Kira immediately, and Shuuhei felt weak fingers squeezing at his shoulder. ‘You were only doing your job.’
The dark-haired lieutenant tightened his grip around the blond’s waist, and vowed never to be his enemy again.
the condition of a brotherhood
Kira’s eyes were blank when he secured Wabisuke to his side, and Shuuhei couldn’t blame him. Kira had always been insecure about himself, and the events of the betrayal didn’t do much to give him any more love for himself; and now, they were being sent out with Madarame and Ayasegawa to guard the four pillars, where either of them could encounter their former captains, and Shuuhei feared Kira’s insecurity more than anything in that respect. The blond hadn’t wanted to talk about it at all, and Shuuhei didn’t know exactly how he would react.
‘What if you see him?’ Shuuhei asked.
Kira didn’t look at him. ‘We’ve always been told never to mix personal feelings with our work.’
Something went cold in Shuuhei’s stomach at that. He grabbed Kira’s wrist; the blond turned suddenly and looked at him in surprise.
‘Personal feelings?’ he asked in a low voice. ‘For Captain Ichimaru?’
He didn’t know why he’d said it, but by then, it was too late. He pressed his lips tightly together, wondering if he should have said anything at all. Feeling abruptly awkward, he let go of the other shinigami; Kira looked away, and closed his own hand around his wrist where Shuuhei had touched him.
‘Are you jealous?’ the blond asked.
The dark-haired shinigami furrowed his brow; it was a surprising and unexpected question. I don’t know. ‘No,’ he replied, a little too quickly.
To Shuuhei’s surprise, Kira’s expression softened; the blond reached out and touched his hand briefly, before letting go. Perhaps, in all these years, he had never seen Kira become so much of a soldier and a warrior as he was then. And it made his heart beat strangely faster.
‘We’re going to defeat them, Hisagi-san,’ he uttered. ‘All our opponents, including them. And then, we’re going to come back here alive and in one piece. Together. So please … look for me.’
The dark-haired lieutenant didn’t say anything. But he couldn’t help but think: I have never done anything other than that.
They separated at the pillars, where Shuuhei saw Kira’s determined expression and knew that the blond was far from insecure; and maybe, he realized, there was never anything to be jealous about in any case.
lovers (without definition)
He’d never know when things would end, exactly, because the race of the shinigami lived endless years and they always had their duties and the fighting lives on, danger comes back and their purpose isn’t lost. Even then, he didn’t want to think of any end but one of contentment; he thought they had won, but he might be wrong, and whatever the case may be, he didn’t want to waste any more time shouldering any kind of uncertainty.
So at the end – one of the ends – he stood beside Kira, dirty and bloody, and it was proof of their endurance; they were meant to survive, at least for now, at least to fulfill their promise to look for one another.
‘You look awful,’ Kira said softly.
Shuuhei raised an eyebrow. ‘So do you.’
‘My arm hurts pretty badly,’ the blond winced, rolling his shoulder. ‘Let’s never get involved in a stupid war like this again.’
‘Kind of defeats the purpose of being a shinigami lieutenant, then,’ grinned Shuuhei in amusement. ‘Besides, it’s kind of exhilarating. And I get to fight with you – you’ve come a long way since the first time we fought together. I want to keep watching you.’
The blond smiled warmly. ‘Funny that. Before that time, and ever since then, I was the one who always watched you.’
And they both leaned in as if it was the most natural thing, hands curling around each other’s, and their kiss was feather-light and barely a kiss at all, but it was everything – and more.
They went home soon after, filled with relief and peace and not a trace of doubt or insecurity within or between them – colleagues, friends, brothers, kindred spirits, every kind of warmth that required the presence of two. Maybe even lovers.
And yet, Shuuhei later realized with a smile, they still had a long way to go.