To everyone who has read the previous chapter, please go re-read it. I had forgotten to copy over the last part from the separate document I had written on my school laptop. It's added now, and it's important. You just need to read the bit after the line break.

Yamamoto was curious as to why Shunsui was the only one who had shown up to the private lesson that afternoon. Ukitake and Kyōraku were inseparable, one never seen without the other. Even during one of the frailer boy's attacks, Shunsui was right by his side, nursing him back to health every step of the way.

So why now was Shunsui showing up alone with a glum expression on his face?

"Where is Jyuushiro?" Yamamoto asked, leaning against his Zanpakutō as he observed his student curiously.

"..." Shunsui fidgeted uncomfortably, noticed by his hawk-eyed sensei. "...He's not feeling well..."

Yamamoto knew he was being lied to, and that was something he couldn't stand. He raised his Zanpakutō, the blade in the guise of the staff, and whacked his student across the head with it. "Do not lie to me, boy. Did something happen between you?"

Shunsui stood still, fighting back tears of shame. He was young, and he didn't have the life experiences older people like his sensei had. He had never been an emotional person, but Jyuushiro was his best friend, his confident, his world. The thought of not having the younger male by his side as he chased after girls and played pranks on his fellow students – especially their teacher – made him want to curl up and cry.

"Yama-jii..." Shunsui looked at his father-figure, wrapping his arms around himself. Yamamoto was the one person in his life who he thought of as a father. His family had shipped him off to the Academy the first chance they got but, even before that, his father had never been a true father to him. But Yamamoto had taken him and Jyuushiro in, treating them like the sons he had never had, inspiring Shunsui to look up to him as the father he had never had.

Yamamoto sighed when Shunsui dropped his Zanpakutō so that he could wipe at his eyes. He approached the brunet and reached out, putting his hand on the boy's shoulder. He had never been a man of emotion, but he knew something must have happened to reduce the laid-back Kyōraku to tears, much less be without his best friend.

"What happened, Shunsui...?" Yamamoto asked, his voice gruff, but Shunsui knew his sensei cared. The old man was taken aback when strong arms wrapped around him. He had seen his student become physical with his fellow students on a number of occasions, his arms seemingly glued around Ukitake's shoulder or when he was flirting shamelessly with a female, but it was the first time he had witnessed the boy seek out comfort in such a manner – no; it was the first time he had seen Shunsui seek out comfort altogether.

"...Yama-jii..." Shunsui's voice was thick with the tears he was fighting back. "...Yama-jii, I did something so stupid... But I can't tell you, or... you'll think so poorly of me..."

Yamamoto didn't reply to this – he didn't know how. What was he supposed to say? Yes, Shunsui, I will think poorly of you and perhaps hate you if you tell me. No, he couldn't say that. Shunsui, I'm always here to listen to you if you need me. That would be lying; Yamamoto wasn't someone to get involved with emotions. This was harder than he had thought.

Shunsui pulled away at the silence. For the first time in his life, he was afraid. He may have just lost his best friend; he couldn't lose his teacher, too! Running over to where his Zanpakutō lay, Shunsui threw several apologies over his shoulder before he disappeared back the way he had come from.

Yamamoto didn't chase after him; why would he? Shunsui would a big boy and he could take care of himself; he didn't need to be coddled or have his hand held. Without a second thought, he returned back to the Academy, knowing that there was no point staying out here; Shunsui had left and Jyuushiro probably wouldn't show up at this rate. He may as well return back to his room and work on the reports he had to write about his two personal students' progress.

~~In Jyuushiro's room~~

Jyuushiro wasn't used to staying in bed all day doing nothing; that was more in Shunsui's area of expertise. But today, he just didn't want to do anything. He felt as if his heart had been ripped out of his chest but, no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't stop thinking about his best friend. He couldn't bring himself to attend the training session solely for the brunet and himself; he was honestly scared of facing the object of his affection.

"Shunsui..." Jyuushiro moaned. Why was this so hard? He was such a happy, optimistic person and he had no reason to be down in the dumps. "...Shunsui..."

When a knock sounded on his bedroom door, Jyuushiro found himself, for the first time in his life, wanting to be alone. He turned on his side, his back to the door, and he pulled the covers over his head. But when the knock sounded again, he knew who it was.

"...C-come in..." Jyuushiro called, trying to rub the tears out of his eyes and pretend that he wasn't hurt at all by Shunsui's reaction.

The door opened slowly and a messy brunet head soon poked into the room. Shunsui looked around, confused as to why Jyuushiro would be in bed like this, but he then remembered what Jyuushiro had told him last night. Man, he had really fucked up.

"Jyuushiro, can we talk about this, please?" Shunsui asked, closing the door behind him. He glanced around the room, almost as if he were frightened someone would be in there, listening in.

The lump under the blanket was still for a few seconds before it slowly rose, a messy head of white hair appearing. The younger male kept his back to Shunsui, pulling his knees to his chest as he rested his chin on them. "...Talk about what...? There's nothing to talk about..."

"Bullshit." Shunsui made his way over to the bed, but he hesitated before he sat down. He knew he was being stupid, but he was afraid to get close to his best friend. He didn't know what it was about the smaller boy, but something about Jyuushiro's confession had made him disgusted by the idea of physical contact with the ill male. "I hurt you. I know I did. I shouldn't have reacted the way I did, but... I honestly discovered – before we even got so far – that I just don't like boys, Jyuu. I know I should have stopped it when I started feeling uncomfortable, but I didn't. And I'm sorry."

"...Why didn't you...?" Jyuushiro whispered. His shoulders trembled before he spoke again. "...Why'd you let it go so far...?"

"...I wanted to keep going for you, Jyuu..." Shunsui whispered back. "...I knew you didn't know your orientation, and I just wanted to help you..."

"...You should have stopped...!" Jyuushiro sounded as if he were crying again. "...You should have stopped so I didn't realise how much I love you... If you did, I wouldn't be in this pain..."

"Jyuu..." Shunsui reached out, ready to put his hand on the frail shoulder – something he had done many times before – but then stopped, wincing in repulsion. It was true he had never met someone who was gay before, and he had believed he had no problems with them. Well, he was half-right. He accepted gays for who they were – but when they started lusting for him... Well, lines had to be drawn.

"...Can't you love me back, Shunsui...?" Jyuushiro knew he was pleading, but he couldn't stop himself. He was desperate for the older boy. He understood that Shunsui was straight and he accepted that; it made the brunet who he was. But after having discovered just how much his heart ached for Shunsui's embrace... "...Please...?"

"I can't..." Shunsui frowned; he didn't want to hurt his friend, but he couldn't return the other's feelings. He couldn't. "...Jyuu, I can't."

"...I don't care if you don't love me back..." Jyuushiro couldn't stop the tears falling down his cheeks. "...Please... Y-you can use my body if you want, o-or anything you want, Shunsui... J-just... at least tell me... you love me... Even if you don't mean it..."

Shunsui sighed. He knew that this would be hard, but he had no choice. He had to leave before his abhorrence towards Jyuushiro's feelings got the better of him and he made another mistake like he did last night. "...I have to go, Jyuu... I'm sorry, but I have to... I don't want to hurt you..."

Jyuushiro just bit his lip as he watched Shunsui leave his room. He curled back up underneath the blankets and cried his heart out, hating the feeling of unrequited love.

But why was Ukitake feeling so weak...? He had never felt so stupid before over something so silly. He was used to females asking him out on dates, and the odd male hitting on him, but he had never felt pain other than the guiltiness associated with having to turn them down. But now... he was acting like a toddler not getting the toy it wanted from the store. For the first time in his life, Jyuushiro found himself crying over something he couldn't have.

Maybe more damage had been done the previous night than either of them had realised.