Aug 222008
 

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 Disclaimer: Bleach is the property of Kubo Tite. I just borrow his characters and play with them.

Title:
This Is How It Feels To Be Free
Authors/Artists:
Ywain Penbrydd
Fandom:
Bleach
Characters: Ishida Uryuu, Ukitake Jyuushirou
Rating:
T
Warnings:
Non-sexual nudity
Notes: Two men and a river; heavy art, heavy philosophy.


Ukitake swept up a relatively large wave with one arm and sloshed Ishida, dousing the boy thoroughly. Ishida sputtered and dropped below the surface for a moment, struggling to regain his hold on reality. As he bobbed to the surface, again, spitting water, Ishida squinted suspiciously at Ukitake.

"This is exactly why my grandfather taught me never to trust a Shinigami," he spat, and a smirk crept across the corner of his mouth as he returned fire, splashing the captain, who simply laughed, in return.

"You think about too much at once," Ukitake accused, ducking under the water, to surface again behind Ishida. "And you do it far too often." He delivered another splash from behind and then ducked around in front of Ishida as the boy glanced over his shoulder. "It’s ruining your reflexes."

Ukitake watched the irritation spread over Ishida’s face. The boy was touchy about his skills, especially now.

Ishida’s eyes gleamed in cool amusement as enlightenment struck him with the force of a speeding freight train. As the Zen two by four realigned his neurons, he dropped beneath the water and drifted in an almost lazy-seeming way past Ukitake, only to splash the captain with his feet at the most unlikely moment. Control, he remembered, was the key, and poise, the root of all things.

Ukitake laughed and wiped the water out of his eyes, as Ishida surfaced, cocking his head in a challenge. "I know you," the captain said, simply, and the battle began in earnest — or as much earnest as a splash fight can be said to entail. The two whipped and glided about each other in a constant glittering mist, swirls of water rising and falling, like the essence of Yin and Yang — the heart of the world revealed in two men playing in the river, like children, albeit very serious children.

Ishida was nothing more than a man, anymore, and Ukitake seemed to be determined to prove that was enough — suppressing his own instincts toward kidou he would have used with Shunsui, the captain faced the former Quincy, one cripple to another. That very thought moved him to a moment of distraction, and Ishida scored another fantastic slosh.

Finally, Ukitake began to cough again, and as his blood faded into the water, Ishida held out a hand to help him back to shore. Although he didn’t need the assistance, Ukitake accepted, knowing it to be a sign of progress. The bitter boy had come a long way in a short time, and continued to look as though he might get even calmer, wiser, and more sensible as the day wore on. Ukitake frequently considered returning to the academy to teach, when he could no longer properly command a division, and days like these made him look upon such an opportunity even more brightly.

But, now, Ishida knelt beside him, wearing nothing but glasses, and looking concerned about only his health. It was a step in the right direction.

He spit into the river and pulled on his haori, before reaching for the teapot again, and putting up more water to heat. "Thank you." The captain patted Ishida’s shoulder, and offered him a cup, again. Ishida nodded and accepted the cup with no more than a tilt of his head — a nearly unnoticeable query into the Shinigami’s health. Ukitake flicked one hand, turning back his sleeve and answering the unspoken question — it was no worse than usual.

Ishida settled back, kneeling on the grass, and looked terribly dismayed as he realised he wasn’t wearing pants. His distress and uncertainty were plainly written on his face as he struggled with the idea that he was naked, but that his clothes would stick to him horribly if he put them back on. Ukitake watched quietly, from the corner of his eye, as Ishida regained something like his composure. It was a poor impression, but it was definitely more dignified than a mad bolt for his clothing.

"Jyuu," Ishida asked, after many minutes, "it’s all an act, isn’t it? Shunsui wears his apathy, so he can’t be unsettled, right? So many Shinigami speak of him as being lazy, but there was nothing lazy in the way he fought Chad."

Ukitake smiled and poured the tea. "You’re getting closer. It’s not an act, any more. He has a very quick mind for decisions, and won’t waste time on things that aren’t his problem — or on things that are his problem, but he doesn’t see them as problems. He was once as passionate in every action as he is in speech." The captain shook his head fondly and sipped at his tea. "It wasn’t practical — or more importantly, practicable."

"He doesn’t seem very practical, now," Ishida offered, doubtfully, considering his tea.

"No, he doesn’t, but I’m secretly the irresponsible one," Ukitake made a silly face at Ishida before he continued. "It’s the worst kept secret in Sereitei. Everyone suspects, but no one can prove it."

Ishida laughed, astonished, and drank his tea as he watched the light over the city turn to gold. It would be several minutes before he could ask the question that fluttered at the edge of his mind — before he could catch it, to see what it was.
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