"I can't believe he said those things to me…" Jūshirō whispered as Byakuya entered the centre of town. "…I…"

"I did not expect to hear such vulgar things from him, either." Byakuya agreed. He glanced into the rear-view mirror, looking at Gin and Kira in the backseat. Gin was staring out of the window while Kira slumped against him, sobbing. "Shall we stop for lunch before we return back to my home? It will be good to get food into all of our stomachs."

Jūshirō shrugged. Byakuya remained silent as he turned into the parking lot for McDonald's. He didn't like takeaway food and never ate it, but this wasn't about him; this was about Jūshirō and the two kids in the back of his car.

When Byakuya parked the car and turned it off, he looked at Jūshirō. The man was wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand, scrutinising himself in the side-mirror. The Kuchiki felt sick looking at the bruises and cuts that adorned the man's face. There was a splatter of dried blood along the man's pale cheek, probably from when Shunsui cut Jūshirō's face open by pushing his face into the corner of the coffee table.

"Come here…" Byakuya said softly. He leant over and opened the glove compartment and pulled out a box of wet wipes.

Jūshirō flinched as Byakuya's hand rested on his cheek as the other wiped at his face with the wipe. He thought he had already cleaned off all the blood before they left, but he must have missed some of it.

"I look disgusting, don't I…?" Jūshirō whispered.

Byakuya shook his head. A black eye had formed around Jūshirō's left eye and the right side of his face was swollen and bruised from where he had been kicked multiple times. There were bruises around his wrists and neck and cuts all over his face and hands from where he had fallen in broken glass.

"You got him back just as good, I can assure you," Byakuya said softly. He turned back to the two teens in the backseat. "Come in so we can all unwind."

Jūshirō was hesitant to get out of the car, not wanting to be seen like this, but Byakuya was persistent, not wanting food in his precious car. He kept his head ducked as he walked behind Byakuya, hating the way people stared at him in horror. He was trying so hard to be strong, despite the fact that he wanted nothing more than to die right now, but he didn't want to worry Byakuya or the two teens more than they already were.

Shunsui had been so cruel to Jūshirō, and if the Ukitake had ever seen it coming, he had ignored the signs, telling himself his precious Shunsui wasn't capable of doing something like this. But now he been kicked out of his own house, lost his boyfriend, and was now constantly worrying about whether or not Rangiku would be safe with Shunsui.

Kyōraku had been willing to give up everything, but he wasn't going to let go of Rangiku. The girl had stayed silent when Shunsui pulled her into his arms and held her in a possessive manner, growling about how he'd sooner die than lose Rangiku.

Gin had been distressed about this, not wanting to part from his precious Rangiku, but he knew there was nothing that could be done.

Byakuya tensed when Jūshirō's warm hand grabbed his. He was uncomfortable with this, aware of the mutterings going on around them, but he pushed forward, knowing that as long as he could be strong, Jūshirō would do his best to be as well.

Kira clung to Gin as if he were sure the other customers were going to attack him. Gin was quiet, accepting of this, and he stayed close to his father.

"Is he okay…?"

Jūshirō sniffed as the cashier asked Byakuya about his welfare. He felt so… so weak!

"He is fine," Byakuya replied calmly. "There had been a break in at his home so I am taking him and his children out for lunch while the police investigate."

The cashier frowned but believed Byakuya. She took their orders, her eyes fixated on the battered man.

"Let us sit down." Byakuya lead the others to a booth towards the back of the restaurant. He let Jūshirō slip in first and sat beside him while Gin and Kira occupied the other side.

They waited patiently for their orders, and once the food was in front of them, everyone seemed to pick at it, too stressed out to eat properly. Gin and Kira nibbled at their nuggets while Jūshirō and Byakuya shared chips.

"Why would he say those things…?" Jūshirō whispered a few moments of silence. Fresh tears rolled down his face. "…Was he really going to… let others rape me…?"

Byakuya didn't know what to say. It was true that he had witnessed Shunsui holding Jūshirō down earlier in an attempt to force him into sex, but nothing that had happened this morning he could have expected – not in a million years.

"I do not know how to answer your question…" Byakuya looked away, not wanting to see the crestfallen expression on Jūshirō's face. "I do think it is better to try and not think about what happened."

"Shunsui…" Jūshirō whispered, his voice thick with agony. "…I love Shunsui…"

"I know you do…" Byakuya ducked his head. "…I know you do…"

"Why did he do this…?" Jūshirō asked.

"Perhaps he has had a rough life and hid his pain, Ukitake. I do not know the answers to your questions."

"I know he got molested when he was little…" Jūshirō whispered. "…But still…"

Byakuya exhaled. "Ukitake… That in itself is enough to damage someone. I understand that you're hurting, Ukitake, but please do not dwell on this – Kyōraku is not worth it."

Jūshirō didn't know what to say. He couldn't hold back the tears any longer, though; he buried his face in Byakuya's shoulder and cried his heart out.

The people who had stared when they had walked in were now staring ten-times harder, some of them even shooting Byakuya filthy glares as if he were the cause of Jūshirō's misery.

Kira rubbed at his eyes, trying not to cry himself. He hadn't wanted to return back to his own home, sure that his foster parents would be ready to hurt him for having stayed out longer than he had said he would.

Gin wrapped an arm around his shoulder, still pissed off for having been sexually intimate with Rangiku, but knowing that he was being unreasonable; the boy had been drunk at the time and even sober, he desperately longed to feel as if he were loved.

Byakuya didn't know what to do with Jūshirō. He didn't want the older male leaning on him like this, but he knew he would only upset Ukitake more if he pulled away. He sighed and stayed where he was, picking up a chip from the packet and chewing on it slowly.

"Instead of ignoring him, why don't you try comforting him."

Byakuya narrowed his eyes at the cold voice behind him. He turned around, coming face-to-face with an older woman.

"May I ask how any of this concerns you?" Byakuya growled.

"He's clearly distressed in a public place and is seeking comfort," the woman spat back. "Why are you ignoring him? And that blond boy, too! Oh, what is wrong with you?"

Byakuya didn't show it, but those words hurt him. He spun back around, trying to ignore the woman who was now bitching at him from behind. He didn't do anything other than let Jūshirō pour his heart and soul out into his shoulder until he cried himself to sleep, having chosen instead to observe the little touches of comfort Gin gave Kira.

The Kuchiki would never admit it, but he was watching the two teens exchange comfort in order to learn how he himself could help someone. So far, he had decided that kisses on the forehead were automatically out of the question, a hug may be acceptable as long as it was Rukia or someone very close to him such as Jūshirō, there was no way he was going to let someone on his lap, and little pets on the back and shoulder were okay.

"Have you both finished eating?" Byakuya asked the teens. He stood up when they nodded, looking down at Jūshirō. He leant down and scooped the Ukitake up into his arms, not feeling comfortable with this scenario but knowing it would just be cruel to try and wake the older male back up so soon after having desperately wanted to escape from reality.

Once Jūshirō was back in the car and safely strapped in, Byakuya returned to his home.

-XX-

"Izuru!"

Kira flinched as Rukia gasped his name out. He had walked into her bedroom in order to find her like Byakuya had suggested, but he wasn't expecting to find two other familiar males with the Kuchiki female.

"What happened to you, Izuru?" Ichigo Kurosaki questioned with wide eyes. "You look as if you've been crying."

"No shit, dumbass," Renji Abarai said. "You know he's depressed so why would you expect anything more?"

Rukia slapped the red-headed male across the head. She knew that her best friend could be an asshole, but this… She stood up from the bed and moved to Kira, taking the boy's hand in her own. She glanced back at Renji and Ichigo with a stern gaze.

"You both are to stay here and leave us be," Rukia called over her shoulder as she lead Kira over to the spare room. Once they were both situated safely behind the closed door, Rukia spoke. "What happened, Izuru? Are you okay?"

Kira shook his head as fresh tears fell from his eyes. He collapsed to his knees and curled up into a ball, too distressed to speak.

Rukia leant down and placed a hand on the boy's shoulder, truly worried. She shot a subtle glance at Kira's wrists, wishing with all her being that there would be no fresh cuts or reopened wounds. She sighed in relief when everything seemed the same as the last time she had looked at them, if only a little more healed.

A soft knock on the door startled Rukia and it was then she realised she had no idea how long she had been sitting here with Kira. She opened the door, ready to yell at Ichigo and Renji to mind their own businesses, but stopped as Byakuya spoke urgently.

"Ukitake has been taken to the hospital," Byakuya said. Rukia knew her brother well enough to hear the way his voice cracked as he tried not to cry.

Rukia gasped and stood up. "What happened?!"

"…" Byakuya ducked his head and turned to the side, trying to hide the way tears started streaming from his eyes. "…I left him in the living room so that I could prepare tea for him, but when I came back…"

Rukia helped her brother sit down and leant him against the wall. She placed her hands on his shoulders, hating to see him like this. "Was it another attack? I didn't hear any coughing…"

Byakuya shook his head. "…He… I found him in the downstairs bathroom… He has… slashed his wrists and overdosed on my antidepressants…"

Rukia didn't know what to say. She had never thought Ukitake would do something like that; he was always so happy and optimistic… always smiling… It just now dawned on her that it all could have been a mask to hide his true feelings, though…

"I'm going to the hospital with Tōshirō and Gin…" Byakuya sobbed. "…T-they want to be there with him…"

Rukia nodded. She wanted, with all her being, to go with them, but she knew she had to take care of Kira.

"I'll stay here with Izuru, nii-sama…" Rukia whispered. She hugged her brother and kissed him on the cheek before she helped him to his feet. She watched him go before she turned back to Kira and hugged him.

"Izuru…" Rukia sobbed. Kira, despite his own distress, knew that Rukia needed to be with her friends.

Together, they made their way back to Rukia's bedroom where Renji and Ichigo quickly came to Rukia's aid.