This would have been up previously, but our internet has been down. Also, bad news; school starts back tomorrow... Year Twelve. Last year. I promised someone important to me that no matter how much I hate school, I'll do my best just because they mean so much to me and asked me to make this year matter, so if my updates start to dwindle, I haven't forgotten; I've just been trying to make good of my promise.

When Jūshirō was told he had a mission to the Living World in order to investigate suspicious Hollow Activity that may have been linked to Aizen, he wasn't very happy; not only did he not like being in the Living World due to his illness, it would take him away from Izuru, and he desperately needed to talk about what they had done the previous night.

I hope he doesn't think I'm avoiding him... Jūshirō thought to himself, remembering how he had woken up that morning alone. I'd think he was avoiding me if he had to leave...

"Are you listening, Jūshirō?" Yamamoto asked, noticing the way Jūshirō seemed to have become lost in thought.

Ukitake shook his head to clear his mind. "Apologies."

"As I was saying," Yamamoto said, patient as ever with one of the two Shinigami he had personally trained, "I want you to investigate the sudden rise of Hollows within in the World of the Living. Seeing as you do not have a fukutaicho any longer, I will allow you to choose whoever you want to take with you. Do to your illness, I will be sending Shunsui and Ise-fukutaicho along with you, just like any other mission that requires you to be away from medical attention."

Jūshirō nodded. "I see. May I bring Kira-fukutaicho along? I understand he's busy with filling in for the missing Captain, but he's the only one I want."

"Hmm. You would not settle for someone like Abarai-fukutaicho who is still under their taicho's orders?"

"No, sir. I believe Kira-fukutaicho is under much stress due to trying to act as both taicho and fukutaicho, and it may do him wonders to get away for it for a bit. I also believe his kido skills are among the best in the Gotei Thirteen and it may come in handy. On top of that, he's been in the Fourth Squad prior to the Third, so his medical knowledge will be good for me."

Yamamoto nodded. "Very well. I will inform Third Division's third-seat to cover everything until your return. Shunsui and Ise-fukutaicho are preparing themselves. Please get Kira-fukutaicho and get ready to leave as soon as possible. The disturbances are in Karakura Town where the Substitute Shinigami is."

Jūshirō nodded. "Thank you, sensei."

With that said, Ukitake left, deciding to get Izuru first before he went back to his Division to get ready. It would take too much time leaving Kiyone and Sentaro in charge of packing for him as nothing except for arguing would take place.

I just hope he agrees to come... Jūshirō thought as he made haste to the Third Division barracks. I probably wouldn't if I were in his shoes...

Several hours later~~

"So what's the plan?" Shunsui asked as he followed behind Jūshirō and Izuru. He yawned and tilted his sakkat, shielding his eyes from the bright sun.

Izuru was walking beside Ukitake, calm and collected. Nothing had been mentioned about what they had woken up to that morning, making him hope that Jūshirō didn't remember it for one reason or another – maybe the Captain had been drunk, too?

"I think we should look around the town first and then find somewhere to rest for the night," Jūshirō said. "We've been here for quite a while and have not found anything unusual yet."

Ise Nanao, Kyōraku Shunsui's Lieutenant, nodded. "Good plan. Should we split up?"

Shunsui looked worriedly at his friend. "Are you up to it, old friend?"

"I feel great today," Jūshirō said. "And I have Kira-fukutaicho with me; I trust in his medical skills if something goes wrong."

Shunsui smiled at the blond before he nodded. He clapped his best friend on the shoulder before he spoke seriously. "I know you have problems with your gigai, so if anything goes wrong, trust that I'll be there as soon as I can."

"I know." Jūshirō moved closer and hugged his oldest friend. "See you soon."

Shunsui nodded and returned the embrace before he left with Nanao at his side. Jūshirō turned to Izuru and smiled brightly. "Let's go, Kira-kun."

Izuru followed silently, pondering about the relationship between Ukitake and Kyōraku. He knew that they had been best friends since their Academy days, but there had been rumours of them being more than just friends. He could see why there were such rumours; the two were far too affectionate with each other than should be considered normal between two men.

"Ukitake-taicho?" Izuru looked up at his superior, his blue eyes wide. Jūshirō smiled down at him. "Ukitake-taicho, what did Kyōraku-taicho mean about your gigai? Will you be okay?"

"Oh." Jūshirō patted the blond's hair. "No need for concern, Kira-kun; my gigai just doesn't agree with my illness at times. I should be fine."

"Okay." Izuru stared down at the ground as they walked through the crowded streets, trying to find anything Hollow-related.

They were relatively quiet, Izuru not knowing why he even bothered to come on this mission. He remembered that he had been anxious when Ukitake had shown up at the office, thinking that he was here to discuss the previous night. However, when he found that wasn't the case, he had hesitantly agreed.

"Oh, Kira-kun?"

Izuru looked up at the older Shinigami. He offered a small smile.

"Kira-kun, now that we are alone, please call me Jūshirō." Jūshirō smiled again. "It makes me feel like I'm not just a Captain to others."

"...Okay..." Izuru nodded at the thank you he received, his thoughts going back to his relationship with his own Captain. He remembered all the times they had shared together, the good and the bad, and he just couldn't avoid pondering why he had been left behind.

"Are you okay, Kira-kun?" Jūshirō asked, noticing the depressed expression on the younger's face.

Izuru nodded. "...Ukitake-san...?"

"Yes?" Jūshirō wasn't swayed by his title and instead continued offering his support.

"...Have you..." Kira bit his lip, not sure why he was asking this. "...Have you ever... been in love...?"

A pained expression crossed Jūshirō's face but his smile remained. He nodded. "I have."

"...What... What happened between you two...? I-I apologise if I am overstepping my boundaries, but –"

Jūshirō cut him off. "It's quite okay, Kira-kun. I know you just want someone to understand how you feel. I'm sorry to say that my heart wasn't broken quite the same way as yours was. You see... He was my fukutaicho... And he died because I couldn't save him..."

"Shiba-san?" Izuru asked. He had never met the Thirteenth Lieutenant when he was still alive, but he had heard about him. "...What happened...?"

"Kaien..." Jūshirō stopped walking, a thoughtful look on his face. "...He went after a hollow... But the thing is, Rukia-chan and I were there, but... I stopped Rukia from interfering, explaining how it was a battle for pride for Kaien. The hollow... It got him; it took over him, and went after Rukia... I had an attack... I think to myself every day... If that illness hadn't slowed me down, I may have gotten there in time... But Kaien went down by my blade... If I didn't, Rukia-chan may not be here today..."

"I'm sorry," Izuru said sincerely. "I can't imagine what that must have been like..."

Jūshirō offered a small smile. "It was so hard at first, having lost my lover in such a way... It's why my Division still doesn't have a Lieutenant. But Shunsui was there to help me through it."

"...If I may ask... Are the rumours about you and Kyōraku-taicho true?"

Jūshirō laughed softly. "You can say that. We had a physical relationship in our Academy days, though we had never really labelled ourselves as boyfriends. Shun was always after girls, and I was always studying, never having much time for anyone, really. It was kind of an unspoken agreement that Shun could make love to me whenever he thought I needed physical attention. It continued on for years, but we were never exclusive. I was there when Shun needed to make love to someone, and I remained distant in that way from everyone but him. But when I met Kaien, Shun and I stopped. ...After his death... we made love every day to stop my pain. It doesn't happen much these days, but every now and then we'll make love."

"I can tell you both have a very strong bond." Izuru smiled. "I'm glad you have someone like him there for you."

"Thank you, Kira-kun." Jūshirō smiled back. "I am glad we had this conversation; I feel as if it has done me good."

"I'm happy to hear that." Izuru felt better himself. He didn't know why, but having spoken to the Captain about such matters seemed to have taken so much strain off him. "We should continue on, taicho."

"You're right. Let's go."

The two Shinigami continued on their way, searching around the town for any signs of Hollows. They were content in the other's presence, just happy to be together.

I never took Ukitake-taicho to like men, Izuru thought to himself. But then again, I had never really known him to show interest in anyone. And I thought Kyōraku-taicho was as straight as a line. They must love each other very much to step out of their comfort zones like that.

But for Ukitake-taicho to tell me such things, he must trust me... Does that mean... that person Ukitake-taicho said was waiting for me... Was he talking about himself...? If he was, why does it feel so right...?