While Tōshirō and Rangiku sat upstairs in Ichigo's bedroom with Kurosaki and Rukia, they discussed what had happened back at Shunsui's apartment together, concern thick in the air.
"Maybe it's best Tōshirō stays away from him until Kyōraku-san sorts everything out," Ichigo suggested, not knowing what else could be done; he had never been in this situation before.
"Yeah, nii-sama is really upset," Rukia added on. "He's hardly come out of his room since... that happened."
"I just don't understand why Jūshirō would cheat on Byakuya..." Tōshirō mumbled. "I mean... I thought my brother loved him..."
There were murmurs of agreement around the room before Tōshirō clambered onto Rangiku's lap, curling up in her arms. He sighed, exhausted with this whole ordeal.
"I'm tired of this..." Hitsugaya mumbled as he wiped at his eyes. "Let's talk about something else."
Rukia smiled as she tried to change the subject into one she knew wouldn't upset her young friend further. "How are things with you and Rangiku-san?"
Tōshirō smiled as warm lips kissed his temple. "Yeah, they're good. We've started to have sex now."
Ichigo's face reddened as he looked away while Rukia's curiosity peaked. "Really? What does it feel like?"
Tōshirō huffed while Rangiku laughed. "Like I'm going to say!" the white-haired teenager snapped in embarrassment.
Rangiku carefully placed the young boy on the floor next to her as she stood up and stretched. "I'm gonna go grab some sake. I'll be back~"
Tōshirō waved goodbye to the blonde as he turned back to his friends. "Anyway, where's Renji and the others?"
Ichigo shrugged. "Don't know. I guess they're around."
The white haired child nodded. "Yeah."
The three teenagers talked happily for a while as they waited for Rangiku to come back. However, when Tōshirō's phone rang and the woman explained that she would be out longer than expected, the three wondered if something had happened; it wasn't every day Rangiku sounded like something was bothering her.
Rangiku was worried when Nanao had rang her phone and asked for her to come back to the apartment. She had expected that the raven-haired woman would handle things when Byakuya got there, but the usually independent woman was asking for help, sounding stressed.
"What's happening, Nanao-san?" Rangiku asked as she turned the car around, heading back towards Nanao's home.
"Byakuya just won't listen and Shunsui is... more stressed than I have seen him in a while," Nanao explained in a weary voice. "I honestly... don't feel comfortable being here..."
Rangiku understood what the older woman meant. She explained that she would be there as fast as she could and that she had to hang up but would be on standby if something happened.
When Matsumoto arrived at the apartment fifteen minutes later, she hurried to Nanao's home and invited herself in, alarmed by all of the shouting she could hear down the hallway. She found Nanao sitting on the couch while Byakuya and Shunsui stood behind her, yelling at each other. Ise's face was in her hands, and her shoulders quivered in stress.
Rangiku immediately made her way over to her friend and held her close, understanding now why Nanao wanted her to come over. She was glad she had left Tōshirō behind, knowing that this would be stressful to the child.
"Nanao-san, I'm here," Rangiku said as she pulled the raven-haired woman into a hug. "It's okay."
"He fucking loves you!" Shunsui shouted angrily at Byakuya from behind the two women. "And all you've done is treat him like shit!"
"He is the one who cheated on me!" Byakuya shouted back. "I apologise for having emotions! He should be the one making apologies!"
"You don't get it!" Shunsui's arms were in the air as exasperation filled his voice. "You don't fucking get it! He is sorry for what he's done! Weren't you listening?! He tried to kill himself again! He knows what he did was wrong, and he knows he's hurt you!"
Byakuya was silent for a few seconds as his eyes slipped closed. "No, he doesn't. He doesn't understand just how much he's hurt me."
"Then talk to him about it!" Shunsui was close to hitting something. All he wanted was to make things better between his friends, but Byakuya was being as stubborn as ever. "He wants to talk to you about what happened, Byakuya... He... he just wants you back..."
"I do not want him back, though..." A single tear slipped down Byakuya's cheeks at these words. "What he did... How can I trust him to not do it again...?"
"You can't," Shunsui whispered. "I know... But you can at least make a compromise, Byakuya."
"They've been fighting like this for so long..." Nanao whispered to Rangiku, almost as if she was afraid of being caught in the middle. "They just... they can't agree..."
Rangiku held her friend tighter as she offered a comforting smile. "Well, it seems like they're agreeing now because Byakuya just nodded. He's going into Shunsui's room now."
Nanao lifted her head as she felt her boyfriend's presence by her side. Her eyes shone with slight fear – something that never happened to Ise. "...Y-yes...?"
Rangiku let go of her friend and moved back as the brunet instead took Nanao into his arms. Shunsui rested his stubbled chin on top of silky black hair, sighing softly as he squeezed the younger in reassurance.
"I'm so sorry for what happened, Nanao-chan." Shunsui's voice was soft, dripping with guilt. "I know it must have been hard for you to sit here and endure that, but... Juu-chan..."
Nanao shook her head as she returned the hug. "I understand, Shunsui. It's not your fault. You just want your friend to be okay."
Shunsui nodded. "Yes, but I shouldn't have made things get this bad. I love you, Nanao-chan."
"I love you, too," Nanao said softly. "You should go check on your friends. I'll be alright out here."
Shunsui nodded. "Alright."
Rangiku watched as Shunsui and Nanao shared a gentle kiss before the brunet left to join Byakuya in his bedroom. She smiled, knowing that the two were deeply in love.
Shunsui didn't know what to expect as he stepped into his bedroom. He glanced at the bed where Jūshirō had been when the brunet left to let Byakuya inside. Byakuya was sitting on the side of the mattress, his shoulders shaking in what Shunsui knew was stress, and he struggled to keep his voice calm as he spoke to the older male.
"You hurt me more than you realise," Byakuya said, his voice wavering.
Jūshirō had the blanket pulled up to his chin, his body shaking as tears slipped down his cheeks. His eyes stared at the wall opposite him, never venturing over to Kuchiki.
Byakuya sighed, knowing that he had resembled his friend all too often. It made his anger die down a little, remembering how he had made mistakes because of the pain he, too, had suffered through. He reached out, his heart breaking slightly as Jūshirō flinched away from the hand that was coming to rest on his head.
"You should have just told me..." Byakuya whispered as a single tear slipped down his cheek, splashing against Jūshirō's. "...I would have understood..."
Jūshirō choked on a sob. "I'm sorry...!"
Byakuya shook his head, sighing. He knew he shouldn't blame Jūshirō; this was the same man who had stayed with him for years and never once got angry with anything he did. "...What do you want to happen, Jūshirō...?"
Jūshirō's eyes widened in disbelief; what was Byakuya saying...? Was the younger male giving him a choice...? "...I... I-I want to be back with you..."
Byakuya opened his mouth to reply, but Jūshirō kept talking.
"...But... I-I also want to be with Starrk..." Jūshirō nibbled at his lip as he tried to think about what he wanted. "...I want... for us all to be together..."
Byakuya frowned. Did Jūshirō really expect him to engage in a three-way relationship...? With someone he had never met...? "Jūshirō, I..."
"Please...?" Jūshirō was broken, Byakuya could tell just by listening to the desperate pleading in Jūshirō's voice. "...Please...? It's... what I want... I-I don't know... what to do... so... if we're all... together, maybe I... will understand..."
Byakuya shook his head. Jūshirō was really expecting too much from him, but... at the same time, he was desperate to not lose Jūshirō... If this was what would help them both...
"Fine," Byakuya found himself whispering, his hand clenching by his side. "But I have to meet him and decide first. And if you ever lie to me like you were before to spend time with him and not tell me, I will not be happy, Jūshirō."
"...I..." Jūshirō ducked his head. He knew that this would have been brought up sooner or later. He truly did feel bad about what he had done, but he couldn't help himself. "...I will be truthful to you next time, Byakuya... I promise..."
Shunsui, who was standing by the door, smiled gently. He was just glad that things were being sorted out without as much problem as he had expected from someone as stubborn as Byakuya. He approached the two younger males and sat down on the bed beside Jūshirō.
"I believe Jūshirō has already organised to have lunch with Starrk at their favourite café, so why don't you join them, Byakuya?" the brunet offered.
A small smile slipped onto Jūshirō's face at these words. He nodded as his hand slipped out from under the covers and grabbed the smaller one, holding on tight. "Please, Byakuya?"
Byakuya sighed as he nodded. "Alright. But you have to clean up first. And you have to be honest to me about everything while we are there."
Jūshirō nodded. "I will. I promise."
Shunsui helped his younger friend out of the bed before he walked him over to the bathroom, helping him inside. Byakuya had accompanied them, his expression emotionless.
"I don't know if what I am doing is right or wrong..." Byakuya confessed to his friend once Jūshirō was safely locked inside the bathroom. "I don't want to share him, but I don't want to lose him. And I'm worried about him lying to me again."
"Byakuya, the way I'm seeing it is that he is worried himself about doing all those things, so in his own little way, he's trying to make sure you'll be okay with something he otherwise knows you won't like. Do you understand what I'm saying? He wants Starrk to join the relationship to avoid hurting you in case he messes up again."
"...How do you know that?"
"Believe me, Byakuya; I know how his mind works better than himself." Shunsui smiled. "While you're with him, can you make sure he eats something and looks after his bandages? He's been very neglectful of his body since the breakup."
Byakuya nodded. "I understand. I'll look after him." Kuchiki turned to leave, but Shunsui's voice stopped him.
"And Byakuya? Please, don't be too hard on him. He's trying to do what's right for everyone."
With that said, Byakuya left the apartment. He walked down to his car and sat inside it, just thinking. How would things be between them? Would they ever be the same as they were before? He could only hope so.