Title: Traveling through Life
Contains: Reflections on six pivotal moments in Shunsui's life where he chose to keep going and the seventh, in which he decided to stay. Originally posted for the Week of Love challenge on LiveJournal. I don't own Bleach, in case there was any doubt. Prompt: Travel.
The first time Shunsui decided to move on was when his family sent him away to study under Yamamoto. He had been a boy then, surrounded in the compound by adults who were more concerned with the affairs of the Soul Society than of providing a family for a lonely child. Charm, Shunsui found, always worked well at home and this place was no different. Anything he wanted he got, except for the one thing he most desperately craved: to go home. He had tried to run away, a month or so after arriving. Yamamoto had caught up with him and firmly, though not meanly, marched him back to his room. For days Shunsui had dreaded the letter from home, the reprimand and severe displeasure of his father, but it never came. To a boy, that was almost worse. Thinking his father must be so sick of him that he didn't warrant noticing anymore. It was not until centuries later that Shunsui finally realized that the reason no reprimand came was because Yamamoto had kept the incident quiet.
Ukitake's arrival brought light to Shunsui's world, and they became inseparable almost immediately. Shunsui still remembered the day when the large family had arrived to see off their oldest brother. He had never seen so many children in one place, much less from one family. Ukitake's youngest brother had taken to Shunsui instantly and had clung to the older boy's leg when it was time to leave, leaving Shunsui blushing and unsure of what to do. The child only agreed to leave after their parents made Shunsui promise he would come and spend new years with them. To a boy who hadn't been home in over two years, he had almost broken down in tears.
Shunsui's first girlfriend was a pretty young shinigami, with light brown hair and deep brown eyes. After his reputation at the Academy, their relationship shocked all of Shunsui's friends, including Ukitake. The girl, young and carefree, appeared eager to find a husband, leave active duty and settle down. Ukitake had not approved. In reality, Kyouraku knew the the match was unwise. He was too astute to miss the subtle warning signs, the furtive glances when she thought he wasn't looking, the gossip that swirled after she returned to the barracks drunk. He had pursued her anyway. After a year of courtship, he finally worked up the courage to introduce her to his family. What exactly happened behind his back, Shunsui never fully knew. Only a few months later she and Shunsui's brother announced their official engagement.
He had considered swearing off all other relationships after that, but then it had occurred to him what he would miss if he did. Afterwards he gave his heart less readily.
Becoming a Captain almost right after the Academy sent shock waves across most of Seireitei. The ever present gossip mill raged for months. The evening after the promotion ceremony found Shunsui celebrating in true Kyouraku form at the local sake houses. Only Ukitake and their new mentor, 11th Division Captain Unohana, saw through the facade. Shunsui later confided to Jyuu that he could have done without the honor, after all a simple soldier does terrible things because it is his duty, as a Captain, it is an obligation. Ukitake had smiled his gentle smile as he reminded Shunsui that they do what they do so that those who come after won't have to. They both had made a pact that night, to friendship and to living each moment fully. It was not until later, after they were both happily tipsy that Shunsui showed off his new pink haori. Ukitake wondered idly how Yamamoto would react to the outlandish garment, as Shunsui proposed a toast to living the future richly.
The fifth time Shunsui made the decision to move on with life was a day hardly out of the ordinary. A birthday. Ukitake passed the sake around, lifting his glass in the final toast and spoke of life, of living each year to the fullest. Grinning, Shunsui had answered setting down his sake dish and grabbing the bottle, proclaiming the virtues of alcohol and longevity. Everyone had laughed, Yamamoto had glared without any real weight, and they had partied long into the night. Later that night Shunsui confided to Ukitake and Yamamoto that something still felt amiss. Yamamoto snorted and chalked it up to too much sake. But Shunsui told Ukitake afterwards that he felt like he was adrift on a great journey, the only problem was he didn't know what it was he was supposed to be looking for.
The closest Shunsui ever came to stopping completely was over 150 years ago. In fact a big reason why he hadn't given up entirely was because of the little shinigami girl who he ran into that night. Nanao had clung to him, not literally, but had followed him everywhere for several weeks afterward as though she was afraid he might leave her. No one knew how close the little girl had been to having those fears realized. At first he had considered transferring her to another division. Logically he knew it would be best for her. But he couldn't bring himself to part with her, with one of the few things in his life he was really proud of. He had mentored her from then on, at first feeling like it was his duty, and then because he didn't want to share her attention. Secretly he reveled in her voracious love of learning, cherished her smiles and the ways her eyes would light up at each new discovery. In the end, he accepted that this was her home, that the path of the 8th Division would be shaped by them working as a team. Years later Yamamoto thanked her for saving the Soul Society without ever meaning to.
Life, Kyouraku Shunsui knew, was filled with twists and turns, opportunities to live to their fullest. The day Shunsui married Nanao Ise was the day the journeying stopped. It was a beautiful day, filled with sunlight and the sakura blossoms in full bloom. None of that compared to Nanao. As she stepped up to the shrine to meet him, dressed in the traditional garb of a bride, Shunsui felt his world stand still. Thankfully Ukitake was standing close enough to poke him in the back and remind him what to say next. He was blessed, Shunsui realized, beyond what anything he could have imagined or deserved. Regardless of whatever journey life had left for him, Shunsui knew that this time he was here to stay.
A/N: I really wanted to write some more Shunsui centric pieces, since most of my writing has focused on Nanao's perspective. This is one of my attempts. It's more reflective than any of my other writing so far, hopefully not too much so. Thanks for reading!