This is mostly a vent fic as I've had a very rough past two weeks. That's why there will be a bit of slight OOC, but nothing too major.

For as long as Ukitake could remember, he had always been the fragile, handle-with-care-lest-we-break-him Shinigami. His sickness didn't help with that – especially back in his academy days.

Ukitake had learnt to abhor the look of pity that was always sent his way from teachers and students alike. He resented the way people would always be soft-spoken with him, as if they were afraid he would cry and fear them lest they raise their voices or even worse – fall into one of his attacks.

A simple statement such as 'how are you today' or, 'are you alright' had become a trigger for Ukitake's anger, even several centuries later. The reason for this being that he couldn't even walk into a classroom without a teacher worrying that he would keel over dead within a matter of seconds.

But what had gotten to Ukitake the most during his academy days was his friendship circle. For as long as he could remember, he had always had Kyōraku by his side. He was the one person in Ukitake's life who hadn't changed after witnessing one of Ukitake's attacks; didn't treat the white-haired Shinigami as if he were breakable.

No; their 'friends' were the ones who did that. Ukitake could remember the days where they would all sit around together, whether it be in class, during lunchbreaks, or even after hours for company. He had never voiced his feelings out loud, but the way his friends interacted with each other was completely different to the way they interacted with him.

Ukitake would smile as he watched his group converse loudly with a lot of physical interaction. There would be so much joking around and much play fighting. However, whenever Ukitake was the one intermingling with his group, there were no jokes, rambunctious actions, or even touching. It was the complete opposite. They would check on Ukitake, ask him his opinion on things or what he was doing later, but never the playful spirits that were directed at everyone else but him. Not even the touching…

Ukitake wasn't sure if he was never touched because they didn't want to hurt him or they were afraid of catching his illness, but it had caused a lot of problems for him. He had developed self-esteem issues, believing that he was too ugly or not good enough for others; that he was… different.Whenever he voiced these concerns to Kyōraku, he could only cling to the pink kimono and cry as the elder reassured him over and over again that he was none of these things and that he was perfect and that anyone who believed him to be frail was stupid as he kept the white-haired Shinigami in a tight hug.

Academy days had not changed a bit for Ukitake. He had always been the delicate Shinigami who was in need of protection, the one who was different to all the rest. That's why Ukitake had grown up despising those looks of pity, those words of concern, the avoidance and the sheltering and the… the sense of not fitting in, no matter what he did to try and fix it.

Kyōraku had always been the only one to look past Ukitake's ill appearance and see him for the strong, loving and gentle man that he was inside. He had always been Ukitake's shoulder to cry upon, his source of reassurance and comfort.

Even when Ukitake had become a captain, nothing had changed. He was still treated as an object that would break if not handled correctly. He spent a lot more time in bed due to his Tuberculosis than he did fulfilling his duties as Captain, which only made people all the more dubious about if he were really strong enough for the position or not. There had even been others who had gone to the Captain-Commander, stating that they felt it would be better to give the position to a more able Shinigami.

Things only got worse when Kaien died. His sickness had really spiked up from the stress of mourning, landing him in the hospital with some of his worst attacks yet. Kyōraku had stayed by his side the entire time and, as always, was the only one to never send a look of pity his way.

When he got out of the hospital, he stayed in his room a lot, crying his heart out. His brunet-haired shadow was by his side, naturally. But word got out about the way Ukitake would wake up screaming and in tears throughout the night, calling for Kaien before often falling into an attack.

A Captain shouldn't be so weak, everyone thought. They should be invincible, able to handle anything that was thrown their way – even deaths and especially sickness. The looks had never been as bad as they were after that.

People had tried to offer their condolence to Ukitake about Kaien, trying to touch his shoulder in support. But the way Ukitake had reacted upon physical contact quickly spread.

Ukitake, someone who was not used to touch by anyone other than Kyōraku, had gripped the hand that dared touch him, crushing the fingers in consequence. His eyes were wide, but whether this was from fear or anger, no one had been able to work out. His chest had heaved a few times before Kyōraku intervened, talking Ukitake into letting go out of the hand.

Ukitake had done as asked before he collapsed into Kyōraku's waiting arms in a coughing fit. People were horrified. The Captain, who had only ever shown love and care towards his comrades, had just harmed a fellow Captain, and probably would have done worse had Kyōraku not intervened.

Ukitake remembered talking to Shunsui that night as they lay in bed together. He had questioned his best friend about why he was so different from the others. Shunsui, of course, would have none of this. He reached out and ran a hand through the silky white locks before him as he spoke.

"You're not different, Jū-chan," Kyōraku whispered as he crept closer. "They just don't understand. They have no right to treat you as they do. They can only look at you and see your illness. They can't look past it. They can't look at you and see you for you like I can."

Ukitake closed his eyes, leaning into the hand that was now caressing his face. "…What do you see when you look at me, Shun?"

"Well…" Kyōraku sat up and pulled Ukitake onto his lap. "For one thing, I look at you and I see a pure heart. I see the pain you've suffered because of the foolishness of others and the nasty hand that life has dealt you. But I see a man who cares more about others than he does himself. I see a man who would give anything just to be able to have children. I see a man whose love knows no bounds, who loves everyone he meets – who can always look past the bad to find the good. But most of all…"

Ukitake blushed as Kyōraku kissed his lips.

"…I see a man yearning to be loved," Kyōraku whispered.

Ukitake smiled at these words as he reached up and stole another kiss in a shy manner. Truth be told, he had never been intimate with anyone before. He had never made love or even kissed someone – the one person in the world who had ever touched him in a friendly manner besides his doctors was Kyōraku.

"How long…?" Ukitake whispered back as their kiss broke a few seconds later.

Kyōraku smiled as he cupped the younger's face. "Since I first saw you. I've loved you ever since I saw the frightened expression on your face as people teased you about your hair. I've loved you since I beat the shit out of those little punks for you. My love only grew for you as I called for help after I witnessed your first attack. I've always loved you, and I always will."

Ukitake couldn't help but let tears leak out from his eyes as he nestled closer to his best friend, cuddling up against the strong chest and underneath the man's chin. He sobbed loudly that night, his damaged heart finally beginning to piece itself back together.

Kyōraku had always been Ukitake's rock. He had kept the younger moving forward, even when it seemed too hard. He had talked the white-haired man out of several suicide attempts over the years, had been with him through everything.

That was why it only made sense that Kyōraku was the one who got to take not only Ukitake's virginity, but his heart along with it.