Shunsui was not sure why his best friend seemed to be avoiding him, but Jyuushiro had declined every invitation the brunet sent to him, claiming he was too ill. Shunsui knew that the younger was lying because every time he went over to sit with him, members of the Thirteenth Division would say that their Captain was not sick at all but had requested to be alone.
Kyōraku knew he needed to talk to Ukitake and find out what he had done wrong, so a week after the pale Shinigami started acting strange, the older Captain found himself sneaking into the Thirteenth Division grounds, standing at the door leading in to his friend's office. Putting his ear to the rice paper, he listened for any signs of life, but he heard none.
"Jyuu-chan?" Shunsui called as he slid the door open, stepping in without summons. "Jyuu-chan, are you in here?"
There was a candle lit on the desk and various forms scattered across the hardwood, but there was no one in the chair tucked neatly into the space beneath the desk. Looking further into the room, Shunsui found his friend curled up on the small couch lining the wall, sitting just underneath the window. Moonlight shone into the room, reflecting off the man's white hair.
"Jyuu-chan, what's wrong?" Shunsui approached the younger male, shrugging his pink kimono off as he did so. He spread it along the fragile figure of Jyuushiro, waiting for said Shinigami to reply to him.
"...I feel sick..." Jyuushiro mumbled, not moving an inch from his current position. His voice was muffled, his face hidden in the brown fabric of the couch's arm.
Shunsui frowned, not sure what to make of this; usually when Jyuu was sick, the man was on his futon, resting as his body trembled violently and sweat dripped down his face. "Is your illness messing up again? Should I fetch Captain Unohana?"
"...It's not a sickness of the body..." Ukitake whispered, turning his head to look at his best friend. His green eyes conveyed exhaustion, his usually pale face as white as a sheet. "...It's a sickness of the heart..."
Shunsui bit his lip, not knowing what to do. He reached out and rubbed the younger's cheek with his thumb, hoping to bring some comfort to his distressed friend. "You like Lisa... don't you...?"
Jyuushiro shook his head. "No... I... I'm afraid..."
"Afraid?" Shunsui moved closer so that he was sitting on the couch beside Ukitake. He tucked his pink flowered kimono tightly around the slighter man, not knowing what to expect. "Of what?"
"...You'll never want to talk to me again if I tell you..."
"That's not true." The brunet took the delicate hand in his, squeezing tightly. "I love you."
"That's the problem." Jyuushiro looked away, a deep remorse in his voice. "...I want you to love me more... But I know you can't... Not in the way I want you to... And now, you've finally gotten a girlfriend... No more flings and one-night stands... I-I'm honestly scared you'll forget about me..."
Shunsui understood. His best friend was gay. His dark eyes widened in realisation, surprised by this revelation, but now everything made sense. This was the reason Jyuushiro had never been known to be in a relationship, never talked about them and kept his love-life a secret.
"...I..." Shunsui's mouth opened and closed wordlessly, still trying to get over the fact that, for over two-thousand years, he had never known his best friend's orientation. Why hadn't Ukitake said anything? Did he not feel he could trust Shunsui with this information? No... he had said so himself; he was afraid Shunsui would leave him. "...I... I'm so ashamed!"
Jyuushiro's eyes closed and his shoulders heaved, trying to hold in the emotions he knew would spill when he opened up to the one person he trusted more than anything. "...I-I'm sorry..."
"Why are you sorry?" Shunsui moved closer and wrapped his arms around the skinny man. He pulled him onto his lap and held him close, smoothing the white hair with a hand. He then realised how the younger had taken his words, and his eyes widened once again in panic. "N-no! I'm not upset or anything with you, Jyuu! I promise! I... I can't believe I didn't realise this sooner! I'm supposed to be your best friend...! I was so stupid if I couldn't see how much you are hurting inside with this secret! Why didn't you ever say anything? You know I would never think differently about you."
"...Maybe you wouldn't have, but others will..." Jyuushiro whispered. His voice was weary, a single tear slipping down his cheek. "...You've seen what has happened to people like me... Growing up, Shun... People were killed... Tortured, because they couldn't help who they were attracted to... We were taught that it was... unacceptable... I'd sit there, listening to our sensei saying they'd kill any of us if they found out we were... that way... and I loved you, even then... I was scared... And if anyone found out, they'd treat you differently, too... I couldn't live with myself if that happened..."
Shunsui sighed, knowing he would never truly be able to know how his friend was feeling, but he had to do something...! They were best friends! "...I can't say I understand how you feel, Jyuu, but I can see where you're coming from. There's just one problem..."
"...I know..." Jyuushiro didn't want to hear the brunet say it was unrequited love. "...Please, don't say it... I know you don't feel the same as I do..."
"...I won't say it." Shunsui rested his chin on top of Jyuushiro's head. "...I just don't know what to do... I can't leave you like this, but I have Lisa-chan now. This is so troublesome."
"...I never said anything because I knew things would be hard..." Jyuushiro explained. "...You're trying to do the right thing... But it's okay; you can leave me alone. I'll be alright; I promise. I've survived this long without you knowing."
"I'm not doing that to you, Jyuu. Come on; let's go talk with Lisa-chan about our options."
Jyuushiro's eyes widened with panic. He shook his head. "N-no! P-please, don't tell anyone...!"
Shunsui tightened his arms around the skinnier male, shaking his head. "Jyuu, you know Lisa-chan; she'd love to hear about your orientation. She'd be the first to accept you; I can promise you that."
Jyuushiro tensed before he nodded, knowing he needed to trust Shunsui; the brunet would never do anything he knew would hurt his friend. He stood up silently and followed the older male back to Kyōraku's home, feeling more anxious than he ever had as he thought about how Lisa would take the news. He knew that the woman kept a lot of magazines and was as perverted as Shunsui, but it was still frightening to open up to someone after keeping it a secret for so long.
They walked quietly back to Shunsui's home, and when they walked in through the front door, they find Lisa sitting in the living room, flicking through one of her porn magazines nonchalantly.
"Lisa-chan~" Shunsui engulfed his girlfriend in a bear hug, holding her tight. "Lisa-chan, Jyuu and I have a serious problem~ Will you help us?"
Lisa put her magazine down and looked behind her. She was curious as to why Ukitake was here when he had been avoiding the brunet lately, and about what this 'problem' was. "Yes?"
"Jyuu is gay and likes me, Lisa-chan~!" Shunsui waved his arms dramatically as if to emphasise his point. He missed way the Jyuushiro cringed and looked away as if physically hurt by his friend's words. "I don't want him to suffer, but I don't know what to do~!"
Lisa nodded, understanding the situation. She looked Jyuushiro up and down curiously, never having thought the Thirteenth Captain would like men. "You don't want anyone to know, do you, Captain?"
"No..." Jyuushiro's voice was barely above a whisper. The stressed had aged him physically in this moment; there were dark bags beneath his eyes and creases along his usually-smooth forehead. He looked so ancient, it was almost pitiful.
Yadomaru glanced at her boyfriend before she nodded, understanding the situation. "Here's what we'll do. There is a law against Captains and Lieutenants dating, but I found a loophole. It's only in place for a Captain and their Lieutenant. So while Shunsui and myself are in fact the couple, people will believe it's you and me dating, and Shunsui is only along to keep an eye on things. No one will suspect anything; he is known for chasing away men I have shown interest in."
Jyuushiro frowned and looked away. "...I do not feel comfortable with this..."
Shunsui tutted and moved to wrap his arms around his friend. He rested his chin on the younger's shoulder and smiled lazily up at him. "If there was one person I'd trust my Lisa-chan with, it'd be you, Jyuu. You'd look after her, even though you don't feel that way for her."
Jyuushiro bit his lip. He felt like he were just using Lisa going this route, but on the upside, it wasn't his idea, his secret would be safe, both Lisa and Shunsui were fine with it, and he'd get to spend more time with Shunsui. Maybe... it wouldn't be such a bad idea after all.
Ukitake lifted his head and smiled softly. "...I'll... give it a try..."
"Great~" Shunsui clapped his hands together. "Lisa-chan and I were having lunch tomorrow at noon. We'll pick you up from your office. But don't forget, Jyuu; I get to sit next to Lisa-chan."
Jyuushiro couldn't help but laugh merrily at the protective tone his friend took on. He nodded and smiled. "Of course, dear friend. Of course."