Shunsui hated watching Jyuushiro work himself to death, but he knew there was nothing he could do short of suspending him on the spot that would make him stop and take a break – but even if he was suspended, Jyuushiro would still continue to work.
"Jyuu-chan, please stop what you are doing and take your break," Shunsui all but pleaded, knowing his boyfriend was pushing himself beyond what his weak body was able to handle. The white-haired man did it every shift; working beyond his capacity just because he didn't believe in slacking off at work no matter what the circumstances were. "You were very ill last night. You're going to make yourself worse."
Jyuushiro shook his head, wiping at the sweat that dripped down his neck as he fixed one of the stands displaying a new brand of liquor. His breathing was harsh as he replied, "I'm fine, Shunsui."
"Jyuushiro, if you don't get in the tearoom and take your break..." Shunsui started to threaten before he sighed, knowing it was no use. "Please? I hate seeing you pushing yourself like this."
Jyuushiro offered a weak smile at his boss before he nodded reluctantly. "...I guess I am feeling a little tired..."
Shunsui smiled back, knowing that the other had finally agreed to take a break. Jyuushiro would never out-right admit it, but he knew when he needed to stop working and rest; it was just a matter of talking the other into it. Ukitake hated nothing more than being seen as weak and fragile, one of the reasons he always worked so hard; Shunsui was certain he wasn't just proving to others that he wasn't as delicate as others treated him – he was proving it to himself, too.
Shunsui watched as the younger male disappeared out into the backroom before he continued his task of scanning in tickets for the new products. He was the only one out on the shop floor for a few minutes before the door opened and a brunet walked in.
Kyōraku put down the scanner and turned to smile at his customer before he frowned deeply, his eyes narrowing into a glare.
"What are you doing here." Shunsui demanded, his voice thick with hatred. "Haven't you caused enough trouble for Jyuushiro already?"
Sōsuke Aizen smirked, his glasses gone and hair slicked back. His gentle appearance was gone, replaced by an unwelcoming demeanour. "There's no such thing as too much trouble, Kyōraku. Is what the twins told me true? You're trying to take away my Jyuushiro?"
"He doesn't belong to you," Shunsui growled, staying where he was. He wasn't intimidated in the least and he would do all he could to stop the man from causing problems for Jyuushiro here, as well. "He can date whoever he wants."
"He's mine." Aizen glared back coldly at the older male. "He's mine, and no one can have him except for me."
"And you wonder why he broke up with you..." Shunsui muttered. "Look, he –"
"Shunsui, is it okay if I go and grab my lunch from – oh..."
Both Shunsui and Aizen turned to glance at the door that led to the backroom. They saw Jyuushiro standing there, a look of uncertainty on his face.
"Jyuushiro, go back into the tearoom," Shunsui said in a gentle manner.
Just as the pale man turned to do as he was told, he was stopped almost immediately by Aizen's voice.
"Has he fucked you yet, Jyuushiro."
Ukitake flinched at Aizen's harsh voice. He turned back around and lowered his gaze to the ground as he shook his head. "...N-no..."
"It's not your business what we've done," Shunsui said. "Get out."
Aizen chuckled. It was a dark, unsettling sound. "How would Lisa feel if she knew you've replaced her with someone belonging to another?"
"Leave her out of this."
Jyuushiro flinched at his boyfriend's hiss. He had never seen Shunsui angry before; he was always so calm and collected. It was... scary seeing him like this.
"And Nanao?" Aizen continued on. "She'd think you're replacing her with someone else's kids!"
"Leave my family out of this." Shunsui's hands clenched.
"Ah, but I guess you don't care too much about them either way. You only see them once a month. Can't be too upset, I guess."
Jyuushiro glanced at Kyōraku. He was surprised to see a deep hurt shining in Shunsui's grey eyes. He bit his lip; though he didn't know the full story behind Shunsui's and Lisa's separation, he knew it caused a great amount of pain to the brunet to be so distant from them.
"Nanao turns eighteen tomorrow, right?" Aizen continued on, unafraid of the way Shunsui's body tensed and quivered with anger. "Are you going to skip out on that birthday, too? When was the last time you saw either of them for a celebration?"
"Get out!" Shunsui roared, picking up a bottle of whiskey and throwing it at Aizen, almost unaware of the way the glass smashed against the wall behind the brunet. "Get the fuck out!"
Aizen laughed as he turned to leave, but he said one last piece to Jyuushiro before he left. "I wonder how Byakuya would feel if he knew the truth about the twins, Jyuushiro. I guess I'll have to tell him the next chance I get."
Jyuushiro wrapped his arms around himself, afraid and unknowing of what to do. Ignoring the threat against himself, he focused more on his partner; Shunsui had never acted like this before and it terrified him. His heart wrenched upon watching Shunsui slide down the wall and put his face in his hands. He didn't even realise tears of his own welled up in his eyes when he heard Kyōraku's strained sobs.
"Shunsui...?" Jyuushiro whispered as he approached slowly, nervous of the fact that he didn't know what to expect. He took it as a good sign that Shunsui didn't do anything other than continue crying. The ill man knelt next to his partner and placed a tentative hand on the taller male's shoulder. "Shunsui, are you okay...?"
"...I love them..." Shunsui choked out amidst his tears. "...I love them so fucking much... I had to leave... I had to protect them, Jyuushiro... But if I could go back... I'd have never let this happen..."
Jyuushiro nodded. He sat down next to the older male and rested his head on the quivering shoulder. He didn't know what to say or how to make Shunsui feel better, so the best he could do was sit with him and listen to what Shunsui had to say while leaving him only to serve the odd customer.
Jyuushiro had never thought he would see Shunsui this way. The man was just too happy and carefree! Seeing him this way... i-it just didn't... Shunsui should never be upset; it was just too out-of-character for him.
But when the stubbled brunet soon fell asleep leaning against Ukitake, the smaller man realised something; Shunsui wasn't as strong as he pretended to be – just like how he was weaker than he would care to admit.
Maybe... they were destined to take care of each other. Perhaps there had been a reason Shunsui had been so desperate for Jyuushiro to return the feelings. Perhaps they... were just meant to be.
Jyuushiro always looked forward to the last half-hour of his shift where the store was closed to customers and all that was left to do was Shunsui counting the tills and Ukitake cleaning up around the store until the brunet finished.
They worked in silence, Shunsui counting the money under his breath and Jyuushiro scraping the occasional bottle against others as he faced them properly. The quiet was soon broken by Shunsui directing his voice towards Jyuushiro.
"Thank you for staying with me today, Jyuu-chan..." Shunsui mumbled, obviously uncomfortable with having to talk about what had transpired earlier that day. "It... really means a lot to know that you're still willing to be with me after seeing me like that."
Jyuushiro turned back to smile at his boyfriend. "It was the least I could do after everything you've done for me over the years, Shunsui. I'm just sorry he's involving you in this."
"Nonsense, Jyuu-chan." Shunsui put down the money he had been counting and moved to Jyuushiro's side. He wrapped his arms around the younger, holding him close so that Jyuushiro's back was resting against his chest. He turned Ukitake's head so that he could place a gentle kiss on the pale lips. "I love you and I want to look after you. I'm not going to let you go through this by yourself, of course, and as for what he was saying to me... I was just caught off-guard is all. I won't let him ruin our relationship. I love you too much to want to let you go after having finally gotten you."
Jyuushiro was unresponsive to the kiss for a few seconds, but he eventually found the courage to press back against the man's mouth. He didn't usually kiss his partner so early on in a relationship, but something about Shunsui made him feel like he were truly loved and safer than he had felt in any of his previous ones.
When they broke apart, Shunsui smiled brightly at the white-haired male before he placed a tiny kiss on the pale nose before him. He sent a crooked grin at Jyuushiro when the other pouted in what he could only find was an adorable manner.
"Jyuu-chan~" Shunsui sung, tightening his arms around the other's waist. "Jyuu-chan, tomorrow I am going to visit Nanao and Lisa for Nanao's birthday. Will you please come with me? I want to introduce you and the twins to them."
Jyuushiro frowned and looked down at his feet. It was true he had met Lisa a handful of times over the years he had worked for the man, but he didn't feel as if he should be going to such an important event while he had no true connection to either Lisa or Nanao.
"...I... I don't feel comfortable with the idea..." Jyuushiro muttered, knowing that he was hurting his partner's feelings. "...I don't know them..."
"But you're my boyfriend and I love you and I want you to know my family," Shunsui whispered, resting his chin on Jyuushiro's shoulder. "Please? It would mean the world to me if you came along."
"...Okay..." Jyuushiro could literally feel the way glee wafted from Shunsui. He smiled to no one in particular, knowing that he had just made Kyōraku happier than he could have any other way.
"They'll love you," Shunsui said, starting to ramble in his excitement. "They'll love you so much and they'll be so happy to meet you and the boys. I already have Nanao's present at home. I can't wait to see the look on her face when I give it to her. And Lisa's, too. She'll be so glad that I'm there and I have so much to tell her, and..."
Jyuushiro smiled, listening in fond silence to everything Shunsui had to say. It was heart-warming to hear the way Kyōraku talked about his family with such obvious love. Ukitake soon found himself hoping that one day Shunsui would talk about him to others just like he was talking about his family now.