When morning came, Ukitake couldn't help but be thankful that Starrk was here with him; the brunet was so kind to him, much more so than he should have been considering they were enemies.

"Thank you, Starrk; that was delicious." The white-haired Shinigami handed back the bowl he had been eating out of, a small smile on his face.

Starrk took the bowl, his face expressionless as he grunted in response. He put the dish on the bedside table next to them, yawning as he did so. He ran a hand through his shaggy hair, sighing before he spoke.

"I have to go out today," the brunet said simply. "Aizen has orders for me."

Ukitake couldn't help but frown at these words. If Starrk was leaving... then who was going to stay with him? "...I..."

As if reading his mind, Starrk spoke again, a slight hint of sympathy in his voice. "No one will bother you if that is what's worrying you."

At the mention of something possibly bothering him, Jyuushiro's voice hardened. "I'm not worried. I just... I... I'm starting to get used to you, that's all. I... You're different from the expectations I had for this place. And... in a way... you remind me of my partner... It's comforting..."

Starrk nodded in understanding, trying to put himself in the other's shoes; if he had been separated from Lilynette, he'd probably be the same way. "I will not be long. I will be back in a few hours. Just stay here."

Ukitake sighed. Why was he trying so hard to make his enemy stay with him? That was what they were; enemies. They shouldn't be getting along as well as they were; they should hate each other, try to kill each other, just... not be like this. Especially not be reminded of his lover.

Slumping his shoulders, Ukitake spoke again. "...Alright."

Starrk didn't reply as he turned around to leave the room. Without a second glance, he exited, closing the door quietly behind him.

Ukitake lay down on his bed, curling up into a tight ball. He sighed again, his mind full of thoughts about his lover.

"Shunsui..." Ukitake whispered. "...I miss you..."

Closing his eyes, the white-haired man went back to sleep, dreaming of the life he had been taken from.

~~Later that night~~

Ukitake was surprised that he had not been bothered at all by any other Arrancar during Starrk's absence, but it made him realise that the brunet probably was a truthful person. Maybe... just maybe... the other could be trusted, even if it were only to believe in their words.

When Starrk walked back into the white-haired male's room a few hours later, he couldn't help but let a tiny smile form on his face as he noticed the way the Shinigami was curled up in the sheets, sleeping peacefully.

The Primero Espada stepped forward, reaching out a hand. He didn't exactly understand his own reasoning for doing this, but he soon found himself running his calloused digits through strands of white hair.

Ukitake let out a soft whisper in his sleep, a name that was unfamiliar to the brunet. He pressed against the fingers massaging his scalp, a bright smile highlighting his features. He mumbled again before he lay silent, his breath coming in gentle gasps.

Starrk pulled his hand away and moved back to the chair he had been occupying since Ukitake's arrival. He mused over what he had done, trying to find a logical explanation for suddenly wanting to touch the other. However, he could come up with nothing except that, for the first time in his life, he had found himself wanting someone to be more than just a comrade to him; he wanted a lover.

~~Soul Society~~

Shunsui Kyōraku awoke with a loud gasp, sitting upright as the vivid nightmares took over his mind. Ever since his lover's disappearance, all he could think about was the other's safety. He was terrified that Ukitake was hurt – or worse. He wanted nothing more than to be there with him, to bring him home, but how was he to do that when he had not even the slightest clue of where to search?

With a sigh, Kyōraku pushed himself off the futon he shared with his lover, hoping that his Lieutenant was awake. He pulled a sleeping kimono over his otherwise bare body before he left the bedroom in the back of the house he lived in with Ukitake. Maybe the woman he loved so much would be able to help him calm down and get back to sleep; there was no point in trying to find Ukitake when he couldn't think coherently.

To the Captain's immense relief, the woman was awake and, strangely enough, welcomed him into her home, something she never did. Kyōraku was sure she was just being sympathetic to Ukitake's disappearance.

"I don't know what to do, Nanao-chan..." Kyōraku whispered, his usually cheerful expression dulled down to a frown. He was standing in the doorway to the living room, too heartbroken to do anything else. "...I... I miss him so much..."

Nanao Ise was sipping at a cup of tea, understanding her superior's distress; everyone associated with the Gotei Thirteen had taken the white-haired Shinigami's abduction painfully. It was no surprise that Kyōraku, the one with the most emotional attachments to him, took it hardest.

"Captain, I think you should just rest," Ise tried to instruct; she could sense the man was in no shape to be awake lest he make himself worse.

Kyōraku shook his head. "...I can't sleep, Nanao-chan... I..."

The woman closed her eyes, knowing immediately what the man was getting at. She nodded after a few seconds before she stood up and gestured to the couch she had been sitting on. "You can sleep here for the night, sir. I'll get you some blankets."

Kyōraku couldn't even offer a smile as he trudged over to the couch before he dropped his weight on it. He mumbled a thank you, acknowledging the fact that his Lieutenant must be very worried if she was allowing him into her home – especially to sleep in said house.

When the black-haired woman returned with a blanket a few minutes later and said goodnight, the brunet was left alone to wallow in his thoughts. He wondered if he would ever see Ukitake again and, if he did, what state it would be in. Would his lover be too injured? Dying? Scarred for life? Oh, so many possibilities...