Title: A Simple Game of Tag
Rating: G
Pairing/Character/s: Byakuya, Yoruichi
Word Count:
Warning/s: Spoilers for Ep 42 of the anime.
Summary: The Shihouin house visits the Kuchiki clan.
Dedication: Christine- thanks for the drink today!
A/N: I was catching up on my Bleach anime yesterday and OMG there is a line in Ep 42 when Yoruichi calls Byakuya "Byakuya-bo" and makes reference to playing tag together in his youth. SO CUTE I had to write something.

Byakuya was, no matter how much his parents loved him, the first son of a noble house.

A child meant to be seen and not heard, to be admired and critiqued, watched and spoken about but never truly spoken to.

In other words, not a real person until his coming of age.

He remembers how he had felt, like some prized pet on display as guests and day visitors from various other noble houses paid his home a visit, asking with barely veiled envy, how the young master was doing in his studies, how he was faring in his training, etc., etc.

A part of him had expected some of the visitors to walk up to him and pull his lips back to examine the quality of his teeth or to grab him by the jaw and peer into his face to determine how bright his eyes were.

It was a childhood fraught with expectation. And he worked hard with that burden on his shoulders, did his best to make his parents proud, to do well for the Kuchiki namesake.

And so the Kuchiki elders watched him and pushed him into that role while the expectant eyes of the other noble houses loomed over him, waiting for him to fall, waiting for a reason to ridicule the great Kuchiki name like the turncoat sharks they were.

He worked very hard to show them that he was a child befitting of his noble family, appeared in front of every guest as the perfect genius-child, the flawless future successor of a great wealth.

And every guest turned their noses up to him and gave him a pat on the head, telling him to keep up the good work, before dismissing him like the object of momentary interest he was.

It was how it had always been.

Until the day visitors from the Shihouin house called upon his family.

Old men, most of them, there undoubtedly to have barely-veiled hostile communications with his parents under the guise of loyalty and friendship. Prepared to make his rounds as the Kuchiki's perfect son once more, Byakuya had bowed and greeted each of the guests, they eyeing him and asking how his studies were going.

"Very well, sirs. Thank you."

And that was supposed to be it, really, his cue to leave as his parents and the family elders saw to the visitors in his stead.

He remembers to this day, how it had felt as he'd turned around to leave and instead, came face-to-face with a young woman some years his senior, smiling playfully as she looked straight at him rather than through him.

Slightly startled, he'd blinked at her for a moment before remembering himself and bowing. "Ah, good afternoon."

She'd smirked. "Well, aren't you the perfect little bocchan?"

"Excuse me?"

She, obviously delighted at his confusion, grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him to the side. "Come with me."

"Who are you?" he'd asked. "Please let me show you to the tea room…."

"Yoruichi," she'd responded quickly, casting a look over her shoulder to make sure they weren't being followed. "And for all the tea in seireitei I wouldn't be caught dead in that room fulla old fogeys."

It was the last thing he'd ever expected to hear from a member of any noble house.

He'd very nearly laughed.

Eventually she led them outside, into the vast garden, and breathing in relief, perched herself on a large rock like a cat, happily basking in the sunshine.

Byakuya patiently waited for her to say something.

When she didn't, he'd frowned and asked, very carefully, "Why did you bring me here, Yoruichi-san?"

She'd winked at him. "'Cuz you looked bored too."

He remembers blinking, alarmed at the prospect that he'd lost face and shown some sort of ugly emotion to the guests.

"Don't worry, bocchama, I could just tell," she'd assured him, reading his mind. Then, "So… what do you do for fun around here?"

"Train," he'd responded automatically.

She rolled her eyes. "Well, that's absolutely boring."

"Physical mastery of one's body and reiatsu are essential…"

"Blah, blah, blah," she'd drawled, dismissing him with a wave of her hand. "How about a game? What games do you like, Byakuya-bo?"

He'd scowled slightly at the distasteful moniker. "I don't play games," he said stiffly. And it was true too. As much as his parents loved him, he was the first son of a noble house, and games were beneath his station, beneath the expectations his family had of him.

The servant children played games.

She, obviously, had no idea what being the firstborn of a noble clan entailed. Either that or she didn't care, because the next thing he knew, she was right in his face and smiling again, one fingertip on his nose.

He hadn't had the time to hide his bewilderment.

"I know a game we can play," she started.


"Tag. You're it." And then she tweaked his nose playfully before dancing backwards, disappearing in a flash of movement too fast for him to follow.

He'd stared incredulously, nose twitching. "Tag?"

"Catch me if you can, Byakuya-bo!"

Hours later, when the guests were gone, young Kuchiki Byakuya allowed himself the ghost of a smile in the privacy of his own room. He'd failed to catch her, utterly failed, and while normally that sort of result in his training frustrated him to no end, today was different somehow, and as he picked out leaves and grass from his hair and wiped the mud from his knees, he thought that maybe this whole game-playing business had something to it after all.

Inexplicably, he couldn't wait for the next Shihouin house visit, telling himself that next time, next time he'd definitely catch her.

And though he will never admit it if asked, to this day, it was always Yoruichi's visits that he looked forward to most growing up.