Teaser: “I'd heard it said that one did not love someone for all of the perfection in them but for all of their faults. If that were true, there would always be a hell of a lot to love about Shunsui Kyōraku.”
Inspiration: I'm getting back on my lj! This what what I wanted to do to celebrate! Additional inspiration can be attributed to the song “One Day At A Time” as performed by Cody Longo.
Rating: T, for swearing and male/male kissing
Warnings: -Male/Mail pairings -Bisexual men -Sweary words -SPOILERS (at least right now, haha) -Sappy -Angsty
Setting: In the fictional nation of Kōsei, which the gentle Jūshiro-sama rules.
POV: Jūshiro, since this “side” is all about his feelings. First person perspective.
Summary: I never intended to fall in love with my best friend. I remember the way things used to be, when I was so in love with my wife that I couldn't see straight, when every piece of me was still whole and perfect and complete. Even though things had changed, all I could do was take it one day at a time.
Additional ANs: In this AU, Toshiro is Jūshiro's son. Jūshiro's wife's name was Mizuki –consider it a shout out to my favorite Bleach OC. Also, Jūshiro really seems to use his swear words in this. Donno why; he just does. There's a lot of internal monologue before anything action related happens... not sure how I feel about it, but that's how it came out. I never intended this to be as... angsty as “One More Night” was. The good news is that things will look up in side B, because Shunsui is... well, Shunsui. Despite the angst level, I tried to keep it humorous... Hope I succeeded...!
Universe: One Trick Pony (OTP) Universe! This takes place after the “One More Night” set and runs parallel to part of “One Trick Pony”. I'll get back to you on which chapter it follows.
Word Count: 3018 words about childhood friends trying to figure things out...
Right now, I wished that Byakuya had never met that boy. It was horribly selfish and petty of me, but it was my genuine emotion at th moment, mostly because I couldn't get his blasted words out of my damn head! The journey from Nigotta back to Kōsei was close to three hours long and the boy's words still echoed in my head. If I were to guess why, I would suppose that it was because I didn't want to believe him. I mean, Ichigo had never even met Shunsui! That my son and my student chimed in with their agreements simply made me wish to deny it all the more. I didn't believe it! There was no way in the nine hells that Shunsui Kyōraku, the over-indulgent hedonist that he was, was in love with me. For one thing, he was never shy about his lovers or the quantity of which were in and out of his bed around the same time. I was pretty sure that thousands of people had been... enjoyed by Shunsui –and I was also rather certain that they were all women. But then again, Ichigo never said that, per say. What he had said was “Maybe he stirs things up because he wants more of your attention. It seems he is not content to be a casual friend, either way.” It had been my son that insisted that the only way my best friend could have “more of my attention” was to become my lover. And it had galled me all the more when Byakuya, while holding hands with his handsome new consort, had agreed with Toshiro. A thought struck me suddenly and I frowned. Had that been why Ichigo had been so hesitant to say anything at all? Had he recognized that those small observations would stir such emotional turmoil in me? Had he simply not seen it as his place to say it? I sighed heavily. How was it that this boy I'd barely met, this boy that I'd actually had to pressure to speak to me, could somehow see straight through my deceptions and into me? Much as I pretended I didn't, I knew exactly why Ichigo's words had followed me home. After all, I'd done my best to ignore it for years. I chalked it up to lonesomeness, telling myself that choosing to be alone since the death of my dear wife Mizuki had skewed my perspective and my perceptions. Of course, Toshiro had been five when his mother had died and many years had passed since then. Still, I hadn't even so much as slept in the same bed as someone else since then. Yet it was the day that my son returned from Nigotta bearing all of the signs of new love that I discovered I simply couldn't hide it from myself any longer. I was in love with my best friend. My male best friend. My male best friend who chose to spend every waking moment in a bar, in the arms of a woman,or driving me crazy at the palace when I “had the time” for him –his words, not mine. The fool hadn't yet realized that I would always put aside anything I was working on –even some really urgent matters that shouldn't wait– to spend time with him whenever he made an appearance. I still wasn't sure if it pleased me or depressed me that he hadn't even noticed. I never intended to fall in love with my best friend. Hell, if I'd been choosing who to fall for, I would have stayed the hell away from anyone merely like Shunsui! But wasn't that how love went? It skulked around and then pounced like some sort of ninja. Sometimes, the partners were strangely similar and good at coexisting together. Other times, the partners were complete opposites on first glance but were similar when one looked deeper. It was a cross between the luck of the draw, a sick twist of Fate, and Destiny, and sometimes the results were better than others. From my point of view, all of the changes in my attitude and behavior toward Shunsui seemed so stark, so sudden, so unprecedented. Yet it wasn't as though this change had occurred over the span of ten minutes –it had been more like a decade. The reality of things was that it had all changed so gradually that I honestly didn't realize when I had fallen out of love with my beloved wife and into love with my best friend. Hell, it wasn't even as thought I'd had trouble accepting the change in my sexuality –that had been so easy, so gradual that if felt completely natural to find myself attracted to both genders now. I remembered the way things used to be, when I was so in love with my wife that I couldn't see straight, when she and my precious son had been the center of my universe, when my best friend had been only that, when every piece of me was still whole and perfect and complete. Mizuki had been my very first love. With her, love had been that pure, strong gentle love that seemed to flow like a river out of me. Love had been making her smile, giving her the children she so craved, spending time with her. Of course, like all first loves, I lost her much too soon. Mizuki's illness had been swift and sudden, as had her death. Still, I would always keep every memory I had of her close to my heart. My love for Shunsui was vastly different than that first love had ever been. Loving Shunsui meant wanting to pounce on him and rip all of his clothes off, wanting to smack him when he did something stupid, making fun of him for being drunk or hungover or both. Love meant he got of my nerves and annoyed the hell out of me but I still wanted him near me. Love meant that every room felt empty without his larger-than-life laugh. I knew that I loved him in equal measure to my Mizuki –I simply loved him in a completely different way. As I looked back through the years, I could see how much I'd changed –how much both of us had changed. He was my second chance at love, even if I never told him so, even though the circumstance was somewhat odd. Time and things and people had changed Shunsui, as well. As far as I could see, we'd both grown and changed over time. I was just worried that I would lose him –to one of his women, to his sake, to something, anything, else. Having felt the pain of losing a love before, I dared not welcome it again. That was why there were days in which I was certain that there was nothing so foolish as being in love with your best friend. Yet I had only to look at my son and my attendant to see two men being even more foolish than I. Uryū liked to pretend that he hated Byakuya's most trusted aid, that he had no interest in such a man or even in sex at all. Yet it was impossible for them to hide that both men had a tendency to disappear at the same time and for long enough periods of time that we all knew exactly what they were doing. I loved that archer like a son, but Uryū was about to lose the man he only barely had with behavior like that. My own son wouldn't even talkto me about his lover, whoever it was –I assumed it was a woman. Whatever was happening between the two of them, it was tearing Toshiro apart and it hurt me to see my son like that. When all I'd ever wanted for him was happiness, why did he have to find ways to make himself completely miserable? Perhaps I was better off merely in terms of my (very rusty) experience, or perhaps it was because I could knowledge that I not only had 'issues', I had a freaking subscription. I wanted to sigh once more, but I knew that somewhere out there, there was a petite pink-haried woman who would yell at me if I kept sighing and she caught word of it. Instead, I shifted restlessly in my seat and tried to pull myself out of my thoughts. Looking out from my perch on the balcony, I surveyed the garden quietly. Shunsui was supposed to come and see me today, since I'd just returned home from a week-long stay in Nigotta with the royal family there, but it really wouldn't surprise me if he'd forgotten. He was prone to such forgetfulness –especially when he drank, and he always drank more when I was away– but I'd be damned if it wasn't one of the things I loved about him. I'd heard it said that one did not love someone for all of the perfection in them but for all of their faults. If that were true, there would always be a hell of a lot to love about Shunsui Kyōraku. Turning my attention back to the view before me, I had to admit that this sunset was painted beautifully across the horizon. The last rays of sunlight sifting through the leaves brought a smile to my lips. Closing my eyes for a moment, I inhaled deeply, taking in all all the mingling scents of the flowers still blooming in February The only way this could be more lovely... I reached for the cup of tea that one of the servants had left for me. The fruity and almost floral taste and scent made me think of Shunsui for some reason. ...would be if Shunsui were here with me, like he promised. “Juu-chan!” I set down my tea, pretty sure that I had never been so startled in all my life. Was I missing that stupid hedonist so much that I was conjuring his voice –and that ridiculous nickname– out of my memories? “Juu-chan!” There it was again. Once, I could see imagining. Twice... well, it was somewhat less likely. I turned to look behind me, and there he was. He looked beautiful, if a bit absurd, running toward me. A flush crowned those high cheekbones and his gray eyes shined with emotion. His wavy brown hair bounced against his back and his bangs had to be obscuring his ability to see through his left eye. His clothing was fairly simple for once, just a black kosode and hakema, but a colorful kimono fluttered behind him like a cape. I know that men as old as we are shouldn't be adorable, but he was completely. Shaking my head, I stood up and awaited his approach. Of course, knowing that he was literally running toward me, I should have anticipated that his solution to stopping would be to run into me and knock me on the floor. We landed with a loud thump. The pain in my back was easily ignored for the fact that I was flat on said back and he was on top of me, his front pressed to mine. The kimono that had been fluttering behind him now draped over his back and my shoulders. He grinned down at me like a child and I just stared back, wondering what in the hell he was thinking. “Juu-chan, I missed you.” He offered me a gentle smile as his hair glanced my face. I blinked at that, trying to ignore the feel of his broad chest pressed against mine. “I was only gone a week, Shunsui.” He shrugged. “I always miss you when you're away. Why can't Bya-kun come and see you here, like he used to?” Torn between two emotions, I had no idea which to express. On one hand, my heart-rate had accelerated at his admission. On the other, I found that stupid question of his adorable. “He has duties there. Also, I'm not so sure how his new consort would take to his prince traveling –or traveling here with him.” It was Shunsui's turn to blink owlishly. “Bya-kun has a consort? When did that happen?” “Apparently on Byakuya's birthday. Oh, and he can sure pick them: his consort is the Kurosaki boy –Shiba. Damn it, I don't know if I can get used to that.” I shook my head. His eyes widened. “Misaki's son? Is he as pretty as his mother?” It didn't shock me that he had known Ichigo's mother: after all, they were both nobility. “Ichigo is his name, and he seems to take after his mother quite a bit. His hair's the same color, even.” I wiggled, uncomfortable under the weight of his body. “Can you please get off of me, Shunsui?” He shook his head. “Nope. If I move, you'll vanish again.” Hold on a moment. That, ladies and gents, was a weird reaction for the man who's only characteristic behavior was that he had no characteristic behavior. What in the hell did I say to something like that? “And if you don't get off, you're going to squish me,” I grumbled, deciding that pouting might get me what I wanted this time around. Some days, he could be surprisingly simple. He shifted, propping the weight of his body up on his elbow and his knees. With a gentle hand, he brushed the hair out of my eyes. “Better?” Worse. Why did I feel like I had been pinned here because he wanted to have his way with me? Immediately, I shoved that thought out of my head. There was no way in hell. Sniffing the air, I caught a scent of sake, but he wasn't acting like he'd been drinking. What is going on with him? I wondered. “Ah, well, at least I won't be squashed.” I looked back up at his gray eyes, searching them for a hint of what he was thinking. Frowning up at him, I reached up and touched his cheek. “Shun, are you alright?” “I'm fine, Juu-chan. Better, since you're back.” More of the earlier strangeness. “Have you been drinking, Shun?” I asked softly. Now that I thought about he, he did make statements like that sometimes, but only if he'd been drinking something other than sake. And that was always a worrisome behavior on Shunsui. He smiled. “A little sake. I'm fine. Just... in a weird sort of mood, I guess.” I snorted. “That's all you ever have. Will you let me up? I would like to walk in the garden with you. I have missed walking with you while I was away.” He shook his head. “I rather like you here. You look beautiful like this, you know? Your hair all splayed out around you, your eyes wide, your cheeks flushed...” I swallowed hard. Wh-what in the hell?! “Shun?” I inquired slowly. An enigmatic smile crossed his lips. “Yes, Juu-chan?” he returned, his tone playful. Closing my eyes for a moment, I prayed for patience. And restraint. When I opened my eyes, those curious gray eyes seemed closer than before. “If you wish to pin me to the floor of a room, could you have selected a more private one?” I ground out. “I have at least one servant who will be checking on me. When she does, I would prefer to not be pinned to the floor, if you don't mind.” “Why, Juu-chan, are you telling me this sort of behavior is okay in your bedroom?” His voice was harsh but sensual. His voice was almost more familiar than my own: I knew exactly what that edge meant. What in the heck is he mad about? I am the one pinned to the floor! “Moron! Like I've ever been pinned to the floor by anyone but you!” I huffed out, turning my face away from his probing gaze and praying I wouldn't blush. After a moment of silence, he reached out and traced the line of my jaw. I gritted my teeth and locked my jaw, still angry, still upset, and goddamn it if I still didn't love the bastard! He made a soft sound –sad in tone. The fingertips that had been at my jaw now stroked one side of my brow and I felt my anger slip. “Juu-chan?” he asked, his tone soft and apologetic. “What?” I bit out, not quite ready to let go of the anger that was my shield. “I'm sorry.” His voice was small, like he was afraid. “Will you please look at me?” Swallowing hard, I turned my head and looked at him again. Shunsui looked as though he was going to cry and I felt it that in my heart. Gods, what in the hell was I doing? Biting my lip, I reached out and stroked his brow, willing some of the tension and emotion to ease. Sliding my hand down, I caressed his strong jawline with my thumb lightly, scared that he would pull away. I would have deserved it. Instead of pulling away, he startled me by leaning into my touch and closing his eyes like the feeling was intoxicating. My hand traveled across his face to stroke his other cheek. I'd hurt him. God knows how or why, but I hurt him. I didn't know how to fix it, which was scary territory, considering the fact that Shunsui and I had been friends since we were toddlers. If I didn't know how to fix it, it couldn't have one of the usual solutions. As far as I could figure, I could only come up with one thing that might startle him out of this. Taking a deep breath, I made sure his eyes were still closed before shifting a bit. Tentatively, I leaned forward and pressed my lips against Shunsui's in a chaste kiss. “I... I love you, Shunsui Kyōraku,” I admitted softly. Those gray eyes fluttered open in shock. “Now. Get off of me so I can run away and we can pretend I never did that.”