“I was waiting, you know,” Shunsui said to the stark silence of the room. His voice echoed along the walls, sounding just as empty.
His hand clung to another, thin and pale, seemingly gentle but for the strength that it had once possessed. His nose twitched at the scent of antiseptic and cleaner, the sterility of a medical facility. He’d always hated them, but he’d endured for the moment. He had to be here; he was the only one alive enough to care.
“I thought eventually that you would come back. I suppose Kira-kun and I are much the same like that,” he added with a low, bitter chuckle.
Kira-kun was gone though. And so was Matsumoto. Which was why only Shunsui was here and why only his hand was clasped around another, nearly swallowing the slim digits. His dark skin so obvious against milky pale flesh. Skin he remembered as being soft and smooth, almost womanly but for the lithe muscle it covered.
“I never forgot,” Shunsui continued, and if his voice caught on the words, he pretended that he didn’t notice. Just like he didn’t notice the warmth that trickled down his face and the dampness staining his shihakushou.
Just his shihakushou. No pink haori. No captain’s haori. Nothing to signify the man he was outside this room, the position he had taken, the place he now stood. Here, he was just Kyouraku Shunsui, a man with a thrice-broken heart.
“I believed that there had to be something else because I knew you. A lot better than that bastard did; that was for damn sure. So I thought… all I had to do was wait.”
The words lingered in the air, hanging in the stillness. They were the utter truth, which was probably why they hurt so much. And he wished to kami that they were being heard by someone other than himself. He wished that he had said them sooner, everything but the three little words that never meant much to him.
“And I did. I waited.” Shunsui paused, thinking of cold beds and tasteless sake and empty words of flattery and eyes always, always watching the sky. “I waited and I-” His voice broke then, and he dropped his head, his entire body slumping forward.
He was tired. He was just really tired. Everything, the past decade, the war and the pain and the tears… He was really tired.
There was a feeling there of wanting to go back and change the past. Of fixing his mistakes. Of acting sooner and speaking louder, of doing something more than nothing. Of clinging more tightly to that which was precious because once lost that sort of thing couldn’t be regained.
All the power in the world, and he couldn’t hold onto the thing that was most important to him.
A quiet knock on the doorway. “Kyouraku-soutaichou? It’s time,” his vice-captain – a woman he barely knew – called through the wood, not daring to enter.
Swallowing thickly, Shunsui nodded, though she couldn’t see. “Very well. Give me a moment.”
He heard her footsteps as she padded away, no doubt to wait for him down the hallway.
Time was up.
Chewing on his lip, Shunsui rose to his feet, fingers tightly clinging to the cold hand in his. Always cold, he remembered. Too thin to maintain his own body heat.
“This time, it really is goodbye,” he murmured, leaning over the still form on the bed.
His free hand slid through soft silver strands, and he pressed a kiss to the pale forehead. He wished for one last time to be able to see those beautiful blue eyes, shining brightly at him. To have that honestly happy smile cast his direction. To feel long limbs taking over his bed, stealing his body heat, clinging tightly.
Shunsui wanted to linger. He didn’t want to let go. But he forced himself to do so anyway, uncurling his fingers from the dead ones and stepping away from the bed. He resisted the urge to return, his fingers last caressing one thin cheek.
His eyes traced the figure of his former lover for one last time. And then, he turned, opened the door, and stepped into the hallway. The door closed with a quiet snick behind him. He paused just outside, the emptiness inside of him growing with unnatural strength.
An unseated Shinigami was waiting for him – one Shunsui didn’t recognize – his arms laden with two familiar haori and a straw hat. He also held Shunsui’s zanpakutou, the captain not wanting to take them into the room with him. The Shinigami stepped forward at Shunsui’s appearance.
Shunsui shook his head and reached for the white fabric, shoving his hands through the arms and sliding it onto his shoulders. The first division fell across his back, immeasurably heavy. Katen Kyoukotsu slid into his obi, a welcome and familiar presence. Comforting. And then, Shunsui turned down the corridor to where his vice-captain was waiting for him.
“Leave it for him,” Shunsui answered, raking fingers through his significantly shortened brown hair. He swallowed over the lingering lump in his throat. “He’ll get cold.”
No questions asked. The unnamed Shinigami just obeyed.
Taking a deep breath, Shunsui didn’t look back. He didn’t dare else his waning control would fail him.
At the head of the corridor, his vice-captain – a pretty young woman who reminded him a lot of Nanao – turned to greet him. She adjusted her glasses, and her pale green eyes lifted to his face. She bit her bottom lip briefly before speaking.
“Let’s go.” He shook his head, cutting her off before the question emerged because he couldn’t answer it honestly and hold together. He simply couldn’t.
Shunsui didn’t dare look back. There was nothing to wait for anymore.