Two days had passed and Shunsui hadn't seen Jūshirō in that time. He was still looking after Tōshirō, having been informed that Gin and Rangiku would be staying at the hospital with their friend longer than had been expected.

"You are quiet today, Kyōraku."

Shunsui turned to glance at the male next to him. He shrugged. "Just thinking."

The man that was walking with Shunsui looked him up and down. "You do not think. What is on your mind?"

Shunsui shrugged again. "Just this person I met, Byakuya-kun."

"A person?" The male named Byakuya raised a slender eyebrow. "Surely you could spare more detail, Kyōraku?"

"It's a man and he has long white hair." Tōshirō smiled up at Byakuya. "Shunsui brought him home the other day, Kuchiki-sama."

Byakuya stopped walking at these words. "Not Ukitake Jūshirō?"

Shunsui frowned. "How do you know?"

"Matsumoto and Ichimaru informed me out of worry," Byakuya said. "What are you doing bringing drug-addicted prostitutes to your home while you are in charge of a child?"

Shunsui groaned. "It wasn't like that, Byakuya-kun! I just gave him some first aid, a meal and then he left! Like I'd have let anything happen."

"I don't think you need to worry, nii-sama," Byakuya's sister, Rukia said from her position beside Tōshirō. "Kyōraku-san wouldn't let anything happen to Tōshirō or himself."

"That is not the problem here, Rukia." Byakuya frowned. "The problem is that Matsumoto and Ichimaru do not want their child near people like Ukitake. Kyōraku is breaking their trust by doing what he did."

"Lighten up, Byakuya-kun. So I gave him a meal – who cares?"

"There is a reason Hitsugaya is kept away from people like Ukitake," Byakuya reprimanded. "Or have you forgotten that already?"

Before Shunsui could reply, loud shouting ahead of them caught their attention. There was a large crowd gathered on one of the streets, and angry shouts and pained cries could be heard. When a lock of white hair made itself visible for a brief second through a parting in the crowd, Shunsui's heart stopped.

"Jūshirō!" Without a thought to himself or the other people he had with him, Shunsui ran to the group. He pushed his way into the centre and lunged at the man who was pinning Jūshirō to the ground by the throat.

"Kyōraku!" Byakuya called after the brunet, not understanding why his friend would go to such extremes just to help a whore. "Kyōraku, stop!"

Shunsui didn't listen to the younger man and instead moved to stand before Ukitake, his fists out in front of him. He turned to face the person attacking the white-haired male; he was big, with blond hair hanging down his face.

"Leave him alone," Shunsui growled.

The blond man laughed. "Why are you protecting the slut? He wouldn't let me fuck him so I was gonna force him down, but he had to cause a scene."

"That's called rape and I'll kill you if you so much as think about doing it to him." Shunsui took a step forward, angrier than he had been in quite a while. "He's my friend, and I don't take well to people mistreating my friends."

"You must be a very lonely person if you can call a whore your friend." The blond man laughed again and took a swing at Shunsui.

Shunsui ducked it and retaliated with a punch to the man's face. He was expressionless as the male dropped to the ground with his hands over his nose.

"I don't like violence, but I'm not inclined to kicking someone's ass if I have to," Shunsui said. "I think it'd be better for you to just leave."

Jūshirō couldn't believe this; never before in his life had someone stood up for him… Shunsui… really did care…? Ukitake found it hard to believe that if Shunsui truly didn't care he would have stopped the white-haired male's beating – it wouldn't be the first time someone had claimed to care for him and then watch in excitement as he was raped by multiple friends of that person…

"Or what?" the man taunted, getting back to his feet. "You gonna try and hit me again?"

"No," a smooth voice said from behind the blond. "We will tag team you unless you leave."

The blond turned around, finding a raven-haired male standing behind him. He laughed; the raven was so skinny, he found it hard to believe that he could do anything. However, all doubts about that vanished when a powerful kick found itself connecting with the blond's stomach.

Shunsui watched as the male took this opportunity to back out. Byakuya approached him and the two turned to face Jūshirō. The white-haired male had a cut on his cheek and a bruise was forming around his eye. He reached out and gently wiped the blood away, ignoring the flinch he was rewarded with.

"Are you alright, Jūshirō?" Shunsui asked in a gentle voice. He reached out, hoping that Jūshirō would take his hand. "I'm sorry we didn't get here sooner; we could have stopped it before he laid a hand on you otherwise."

Jūshirō was crying, his body shaking. His eyes were wide and fear was the prominent emotion in them. He looked up at Shunsui and then the black-haired man standing next to the brunet. He ducked his head, scared that the raven would hurt him.

Shunsui seemed to sense Jūshirō's discomfort and tried his hardest to diffuse it. "It's okay, Juu; this is my friend, Byakuya. He won't hurt you. Can you tell me what happened?"

By now, most of the crowd had dispersed with only a few onlookers watching. Tōshirō and Rukia made their way over warily, unsure of what had happened but knowing that it was now over.

Jūshirō looked back up, tears falling harder than before. "…I-I… He wanted to use me… but he didn't have m-money…"

Byakuya looked away at these words, sickened by the whole scenario. It wasn't that he didn't like prostitutes or anything; it was that he couldn't fathom why anyone would want to sell their bodies.

"I said no…" Jūshirō continued on. "…I-I usually let them use me anyway if they can't pay, but I w-wasn't in the mood… So he tried to… to force me… in front of everyone…"

Shunsui shook his head, heartbroken by this information. He looked down at Jūshirō's body, only just now noticing that the man's jacket was gone, his white shirt was ripped and the dirty jeans he wore had disappeared, leaving the man uncovered.

Shunsui turned to Byakuya. "Can you find his jacket and jeans, please?"

Byakuya visibly cringed at the request but did so anyway; better him than his sister…

The brunet turned back to look at Jūshirō. He pulled his own jacket off and placed it over the male's lap, hiding him from view. Jūshirō just looked confused; surely by now the Kyōraku would have tried taking something from him…?

The small group of observers gasped in disgust as they saw Shunsui's arms, but not a word was mentioned to him. Shunsui himself just ignored them, focusing on Jūshirō.

Shunsui whispered little words of comfort to his friend as Byakuya searched for the clothing in question. When at last they were found, Shunsui helped the Ukitake redress.

"We were just on our way home from dinner," Shunsui explained to Jūshirō as the still-shaking man stared uncertainly at Byakuya. "Do you want to come home with me and have dinner?"

Jūshirō looked down at his feet as Byakuya sent a glare at the brunet. "…I-I'm not wanted there…"

Shunsui made a soft noise in the back of his throat. "That's not true, Juu. I want you there, and I'm sure Tōshirō-kun does, too. Don't worry about Byakuya; he hates everyone and he'll be returning to his own home, so he won't be there to frighten you, okay?"

Jūshirō looked down at Tōshirō, seeing the way the boy smiled and nodded in an encouraging manner. "…Okay…"

"You had better hope Matsumoto and Ichimaru do not find out about this…" Byakuya whispered as he turned to leave with Rukia behind him.

Shunsui smiled at Jūshirō, hoping that this time, the visit would go better than the previous times they had met.

-XX-

Jūshirō was slightly reluctant to step into Shunsui's apartment, but with gentle coaxing from Kyōraku, he made it through the doorway. He was lead into the couch and, even though he had been reassured he could sit on it just like the first time he had been here, he instead sat on the floor just beside the couch.

"Go have a bath, okay?" Shunsui whispered to Tōshirō after giving the boy a hug. "Go wash up and get ready for bed."

Tōshirō did as he was told, leaving Shunsui and Jūshirō alone. The brunet was sitting on the couch, flicking through the channels on the TV for something to watch as he thought about what he could cook for Jūshirō.

Kyōraku was so lost in his thoughts he didn't feel the hands on his thighs; he was only aware that someone was touching him when he felt someone pull his pants and underwear down from his hips, exposing his flaccid member.

Shunsui gasped and reached down, grabbing at his jeans before they disappeared. He looked into Jūshirō's frightened eyes, not sure what to think.

"W-what are you doing?!" Shunsui found himself blushing.

Jūshirō glanced away as he replied quietly. "…T-thanking you…"

"'Thanking me'? Jūshirō, I don't understand! Please, don't do this to yourself!"

Do this to myself? Jūshirō thought, bewildered. He clearly isn't comfortable with this and he's still thinking about me…?

"…I…" Tears welled up in Jūshirō's eyes as he tried to answer. "…I-I… You've taken care of me… No one else has ever bothered… A-and I know… I need to thank you… But this is the only thing I know…"

"…Jūshirō…" Shunsui's eyes softened. "…You don't have to do this, okay?"

Jūshirō reached up and rubbed at his wet eyes. "…I-I don't… understand you… Everyone wants this… It's all I'm good for… W-why are you saying no…?"

Shunsui knew that Jūshirō felt hurt by his reaction. Jūshirō felt sex was the only thing he was good for, right? Perhaps by being denied that, he felt utterly worthless? And it probably came as such a shock to find someone who didn't want what he was offering after the life he had presumably lived.

Kyōraku sighed softly. He lifted a hand, the palm facing towards Jūshirō's face. He saw the way Ukitake flinched, but he held still, waiting for the man to relax again. When Ukitake did, Shunsui moved his hand ever so slowly towards the smaller man until his palm was resting against a pale cheek.

"Jūshirō…" Shunsui smiled as the white-haired male looked up at him with slightly fearful eyes. "I understand what you're feeling, but… I just lost my girlfriend… I still love her very much, and I don't feel ready to look at another person in the way you're expecting me to. Do you understand?"

Jūshirō closed his eyes and pushed his cheek against the hand. He nodded. "…I'm sorry…"

"Don't be sorry." Shunsui moved his hand, rubbing circles along the skin in his palm. "It's not your fault. And I'm sorry if I have upset you by my reaction; I just wasn't expecting it."

Jūshirō nodded again. He had never been touched so gently before, but he liked it. The hand on his cheek… it brought him comfort he had never experienced before.

A low rumbling from Shunsui's chest brought Jūshirō out of his thoughts. He looked up again as the taller male chuckled.

"I almost forgot all about dinner." Shunsui smiled apologetically. "Let me go make it, okay? Do you like spaghetti?"

Jūshirō looked down and licked his lips. "…I have never had it before…"

"Then I guess you'll get to try it tonight, huh?" Shunsui stood up and moved to the kitchen. He pulled out pots and pans, preparing everything excitedly; he really felt as if he were getting somewhere with Jūshirō if their small physical interaction was anything to go by.

-XX-

When Tōshirō had finished his shower and gotten dressed in his blue pyjamas, he came back out into the kitchen. He smiled and sat at the table with Jūshirō and Shunsui, finding a small plate of spaghetti awaiting him.

"I wasn't sure if you were still hungry or not, so I made you a small plate." Shunsui smiled at Tōshirō.

"Thanks." Tōshirō picked up his fork and dug into his meal, very content; he loved Shunsui's cooking.

Jūshirō was quiet as he ate but, to Shunsui's relief, he wasn't picking at his food this time. Sure, he was still eating slowly, but at least he was eating. The Kyōraku was certain that Jūshirō was thinking.

"Juu?" Shunsui called softly. He smiled when green eyes fixed on him. "Would you like to stay the night here? It's cold outside and I don't have a car."

Jūshirō looked down at his lap. He took his chances, nodding silently.

"I'm glad." Shunsui smiled. "I only have one spare bedroom, and Tōshirō is currently borrowing it, so you wouldn't mind sleeping on the couch, would you?"

"…I-I can sleep on the floor…" Jūshirō whispered, still unable to accept the kindness he was given.

"Nonsense; it's floorboard and it will be cold. It's okay; people sleep on the couch all the time."

Jūshirō nodded after a few seconds. …As long as he wasn't going to be yelled at for being on the furniture…

Dinner was eaten in silence. Tōshirō was dismissed to bed with a hug from Shunsui, and the boy surprised Jūshirō by running up to the Ukitake and hugging him tightly. Shunsui just smiled as Jūshirō stood there in uncertainty.

"He really likes you," Shunsui said to Jūshirō once the white-haired boy had disappeared down the hallway. "I think you like him, too."

Jūshirō nodded. He tugged at the sleeves of his sweater as he started to speak. "…I… I like him, too… His name sounds like mine… And he has hair like mine, too… And eyes…"

Shunsui smiled. "I'll go get you some blankets."

"Y-you don't have to…" Jūshirō mumbled. "…I'm used to the cold…"

Shunsui frowned but didn't question the man's words; he had a feeling that Jūshirō didn't actually have a home and probably slept wherever he could.

"I'll get you blankets anyway so that you can get warmth if you want it." Shunsui smiled, heading to the linen cupboard in the hallway. He resurfaced in the living room a minute later, his arms full of blankets. "My bedroom is the first doorway on the left. If you need anything, wake me up, okay?"

Jūshirō nodded as he took the blankets. He would probably not use them anyway out of his uncertainty towards the brunet's kindness, but he figured it would upset Shunsui if he didn't accept them.

"Goodnight, Juu," Shunsui called cheerfully over his shoulder as he left for his own bedroom. "I hope you sleep well."

"…N-night…" Jūshirō mumbled as he dropped the blankets onto the floor beside the couch. He laid awake for a while, thinking about Shunsui, trying to understand why the Kyōraku was so kind to him. He couldn't come up with much, except for the man being naturally kind – he was good with Tōshirō, after all… Surely someone who was good with a child wasn't cruel… With that thought in mind, Jūshirō fell fast asleep.

-XX-

"Nanao-chan~" Shunsui called as he unlocked the door to the apartment. "Nanao-chan, I have something for you~"

Shunsui kicked the door closed behind him, his arms full of flowers with a bag of chocolate hanging from his wrist. That was strange; Nanao wasn't answering him, despite that it was her day off work.

"Nanao-chan?" Shunsui called. He set his purchases on the couch and headed towards his bedroom, slightly concerned; Nanao wasn't silent like this.

As the brunet approached his bedroom, he reached out in order to push the door open. However, his hand was stilled by a muffled cry and a masculine voice hissing something. Shunsui felt his breath catch in his throat. What was…?

"Nanao-chan…?" Shunsui found himself whispering as he pushed the door open hesitantly. He was prepared for a lot of things, but not this; his girlfriend was tied up on the bed, naked and covered in blood as a man he had never seen before thrust in and out of her.

Shunsui's entire world stopped right there. He couldn't remember moving, nor could he remember having attacked the man. All he could remember was police talking to him as paramedics tried to remove Nanao's now-cold body from his arms as he sobbed hysterically into her bloodied hair.

Kyōraku was unaware of the knife wounds Nanao's attacker had inflicted on him; all that mattered was that his lovely, beautiful Nanao-chan was gone forever, and he couldn't do a thing about it.

But suddenly, everything changed. Shunsui was standing at his girlfriend's coffin during the funeral, crying his heart out. It was just like what had happened during that day, but Nanao's coffin lid certainly didn't swing open during the funeral like it did now.

"You killed me…" Nanao hissed, blood clinging to her face as it had when she had been found. "You let him kill me… I asked you not to leave me alone, but you insisted on going out and buying me worthless shit… It's your fault I'm dead!"

Shunsui sobbed. He fell to the ground with his hands over his ears. "N-no… I-I love you, Nanao-chan! So much!"

"You let her die!"

Shunsui turned to the people who had attended the funeral. They were all glaring at him, chanting together.

"All your fault!" They accused, pointing at Shunsui. "All your fault!"

Shunsui bolted upright with a gasp as a small hand tugged at his night shirt. He panted heavily, wiping at the sweat that had accumulated on his forehead.

"S-shunsui…?"

Shunsui looked at Tōshirō with wide eyes. He tried to steady his breathing before he replied. "Y-yes, Tōshirō-kun…?"

"…I…" Tōshirō looked down at his feet. "…I can't sleep… I had a bad dream…"

Shunsui chuckled softly, reaching out to pull Tōshirō onto his lap. "So did I, Shiro-chan… So did I…"

The two stayed like that for a while, Tōshirō clinging to Shunsui as the man held him.

"Let's get a glass of water, okay?" Shunsui said as he put Tōshirō back down on his feet. "It'll help us both feel better."

Tōshirō nodded. He held Shunsui's hand as he was lead into the kitchen. He flicked the light switch on, but he was surprised when Shunsui turned it back off.

"Jūshirō is sleeping," Shunsui whispered. "I'm sure he needs some rest. Try and be quiet, okay?"

Tōshirō nodded. He waited patiently as the brunet turned the tap on and filled two glasses of water. He took the one that was handed to him and drunk slowly.

"Now let's go wash our faces and try and get some more sleep, okay?" Shunsui said, grabbing Tōshirō's hand again. "No more bad dreams for us tonight."

Shunsui went to walk, but Tōshirō tugged him back. He glanced questioningly at the boy, concerned.

"…Can…" Tōshirō licked at his lips before he asked his question. "…Can I sleep in your bed with you tonight…? I… I don't want to dream again…"

Shunsui chuckled as he leant down and hugged Tōshirō. "Of course you can. We'll go to the bathroom first, okay?"

"Okay."

With that, the two left the kitchen together.

Jūshirō had awoken as the two walked down the hallway towards the kitchen. He stayed silent, a bit concerned about whether or not he would get into trouble if he awoke. He couldn't help but smile softly at how gentle Shunsui was with Tōshirō and how he was thinking of Jūshirō by turning the light back off.

Maybe… Shunsui truly wasn't as bad as everyone else… With that thought in mind, Jūshirō reached down and pulled a blanket up, feeling safe enough to use at least one of the many beside him. He then slipped into his first peaceful sleep in many years.