Warning: Slight swearing, underage drinking, and pants-less Byakuya
Spoilers: Around chapter 200
Disclaimer: Apparently, I don't own Bleach.
Ichigo had never liked Byakuya. His coldness towards his adopted sister during her time of need was inexcusable. The fact that the noble had attempted to kill him multiple times did not make the situation any better. However, Ichigo did not want to fight him again. Byakuya had come to an understanding with Rukia and seemed to genuinely care for her now. Maybe cared too much. But, for the yet another time, Ichigo was crossing swords with the Byakuya.
The odd thing about the whole situation was that Ichigo was not fighting for life, for the life of another, or for an ideal. Well, technically, he was fighting for the latter two reasons, but not of his own will. This entire state of affairs made his stomach turn and generally confused him. He kept repeating in his head, over and over again like a mantra: I have to do this. Must do this. No choice. Have to do it.
One thing he did know was that he couldn't let his inner dialog distract him from the fight at hand. Or, for that matter his other inner dialog. The one with actual dialog. For the first time, he and his pasty "friend" agreed on something. And that was the fact that this whole thing sucked! He was definitely glad that he had gone through the training to deal with his hollow. It had left him stronger than he had ever been, allowing him to deal with an irate Byakuya relatively easily. This was, perhaps, the reason his current task had been forced upon him. Ichigo really hated being told what to do.
Byakuya really hated when people got in his way. He usually did whatever he desired and for some one to oppose him meant their untimely demise. He was spoiled. He would be the first to admit that. But that was just one luxury, one right afforded to nobility. For this orange haired punk to tell him what to do, was simply incomprehensible.
The rowdy youth currently in front of him had always been extremely rude towards his elders. Deep down though, Byakuya was actually kind of fond of the boy. At least after everything concerning Rukia's execution had been brought to light. He admired the boy's grit and determination. Ichigo also followed his own moral code, something with which Byakuya had quite a bit of trouble. He also envied the boy for his passion, which was why he was having difficulty understanding the fact that said boy was pointing his sword at him.
"I thought you loved her," Byakuya broke the silence at last. He wasn't sure if Ichigo heard him over the flaring reiatsu because he didn't respond.
Finally, Ichigo responded with a forceful "I do!" Then he paused, his gaze broke from the older man and he continued in a resigned manner. "I mean, I did. I've just been kidding myself. I don't think she ever saw me as anything more than a friend. Maybe she did feel something else, but it was for my image. I heard about how I resemble the man she once loved."
Ichigo's reiatsu dropped considerably, as did his guard. Byakuya; however, did not take this opportunity to strike. Instead he just looked at the young man standing in front of him with defeat in his eyes. Defeat not caused from the loss of a battle. Byakuya sealed his sword and returned it to its sheath. One of the downsides to having gained a heart was that he could not cut the boy when he looked so depressed. "Why then," he asked Ichigo, almost pleadingly, "are you not on my side?"
At this, Ichigo turned bright red and clenched his fists. He drove his sword into the ground as he spoke, "Blackmail!"
Renji and Rukia were just returning from their honeymoon in the living world. They had entrusted Ichigo to inform Rukia's surprisingly overprotective step-brother about their secret marriage. Wait, scratch that, they had forced an angry Ichigo to break the news to the noble and keep him from coming after them. They had eloped for a good reason, and that reason was Byakuya's significant power. Renji had yet to surpass the man he had once served under. That punk kid was good for something after all. It was amazing how Rukia knew just how to get the young hybrid to do exactly as she pleased. It was like having your own personal mercenary. One that you didn't have to pay.
Rukia thought that it was time to talk to her Nii-Sama. Ichigo should have told Byakuya two weeks ago and that should have been sufficient for him to cool down. She just hoped they didn't hurt each other too badly.
As they approached the Kuchiki estate, Renji and Rukia observed the work being done to repair the damage to the mansion. "Well," Renji sighed, "this must have been where Ichigo told your brother."
Rukia nodded in agreement. "Although," she thought, "I expected the damage to be worse." She took a deep breath as she realized they had arrived at the door to Byakuya's study. She glanced at Renji before she closed her eyes and opened the shoji door.
As she and Renji slowly cracked open their eyes, they scanned the eloquently decorated room in search of Byakuya. He was nowhere to be found, which was strange at this time of the day. Now that she thought about it, she could not feel his reiatsu anywhere near the expansive Kuchiki grounds. She stopped a rather nervous-looking servant who was passing by and asked about the whereabouts of her older brother.
"The master and Kurosaki-sama have been out drinking at the sake houses for the past week," the servant informed meekly before bowing and scurrying away.
Renji laughed at the use of the honorific for the vibrant haired punk but, upon realizing what exactly was said, promptly choked.
Rukia was sprinting toward the section of the Seireitei where the sake houses resided. Renji caught up to his new wife and, after slowing her down enough to speak with him, tried to calm her down.
She was definitely worried. "Ichigo doesn't drink, Renji!" she said. "On top of that, I don't think my brother does either! And what the hell are they doing together?"
"Now, I know this is weird, but you have to stay calm, Rukia. I don't think you need to shun-po there. What will you do anyway?" Renji asked. "At least they're getting along."
"That's exactly the problem, Renji! This is beyond weird. I have a really bad feeling about this."
The wait staff at the sake house was at their wits end. Not only did they have to deal with unruly customers all weak, but they could do nothing about it. To reprimand the sixth division captain and the young ryoka would be a mistake. Not just due to their rank or power, but nobility was above reproach. The desperate pleas made to other captains were met with wide eyes and then hearty laughs.
When Renji and Rukia got to the sake house, they had to roll their jaws back up from the floor. Byakuya was dancing on a table in some perversion of Kabuki theatre with one of Ichigo's manifested Vaizard masks. For his part, Ichigo rolled on the floor, struggling to breathe through his laughter. He had used the Kuchiki heirloom scarf to hold Byakuya's kenseiken haphazardly to the top of his head.
Upon seeing the two newlyweds, Ichigo became enraged. Standing and drawing his zanpakutou, he assumed the position that both Renji and Rukia recognized. Steadying himself as best as drunkenly possible, he yelled those two fateful words.
Then he passed out face first into the floor. Byakuya spit out the sake he had just sipped and fell to the floor as well. The whole time yelling "Ban cow!" through fits of laughter.
"Nii-Sama!" Rukia gasped, "What is going on?"
Byakuya started and then looked up from his position on the floor, staring the couple down as best he could in his current state. "Why hello, ssssssiiiiisssssssster." Byakuya said while stressing his words in a petulant yet reprimanding way, "And if it isn't my new brother-in-law, the walking tattoo!" He laughed at his own joke then, realizing the ruckus had died down, poked the unconscious Ichigo until he awoke. After he told Ichigo his joke, and where he was, they shared a hard laugh.
Renji was too surprised to be offended by the drunken jokes at his expense. Instead, he locked eyes with Rukia for a moment and went back to staring open-mouthed at the two on the floor.
Rukia, never one to keep silent, proceeded to berate Ichigo. She would include Byakuya in her scolding, but she valued her life. "Ichigo, what the hell are you doing?" she yelled "You can't drink. You're underage for god's sake!"
That got him out of his jovial mood. He snapped up, still quick no matter how drunk he was. "Listen," he began, "I have lived more in my short life than most humans ever do, in their mortal life or the next. I can do whatever I want, damn it!"
A vein popped in Rukia's forehead and she started in on him again, that is, until Byakuya jumped in between them. "How dare you, Rukia?" he began, "After all you have put this poor boy through."
"First you put him through hell, then you break his heart, and then you take compromising photos of him and blackmail him into helping you and the man you did choose to elope."
"Heart breaker!" Ichigo interjects between Byakuya's tirades.
"Really Rukia," Byakuya continued, "Have you no shame?"
"You do realize that your pants are down around your ankles, don't you?" Renji asks Byakuya.
Byakuya looks down and is momentarily startled, but he plasters that Kuchiki façade back in place and continues. "I am well aware of that, coward! Sending Ichigo to do what you were afraid to do. Shameful."
"And how shameful is it to walk around with no pants?" Renji asks, starting to lose his temper.
"Home wrecker!" Ichigo interjects again.
"For your information, Red," Byakuya says (Ichigo snickers at this), "It is quite liberating and I may do as I please. I may go without pants, as I am doing now, or I may choose to publish these." At this Byakuya produces several sheets of crumpled paper. Renji is suddenly very pale. "I seem to have found these in the trash can during your time at the sixth division." Byakuya smirks and it seems entirely wrong for his face.
"You bastard!" Renji grits out between clenched teeth.
Rukia is curious as to what Byakuya possesses that would cause this reaction in her new husband, but suddenly Ichigo is laughing maniacally.
"And don't think we forgot about you, little princess." Ichigo's grin is more hideous than that of the mask he sometimes wears. He produces a small paper sack and waves it around in front of her face. "Whoops! Where did I find this old thing?"
Renji would ask about what is in the sack, but he does not want to tell what he wrote on the papers that Byakuya holds.
"It seems that the shoe is on the other foot, now doesn't it?" Ichigo is practically giggling at this point, and it is infuriating.
"Now," Byakuya joins the conversation again, this time with his pants pulled up, "leave us. We have much to talk about, Ichigo and I. This, of course, includes what we shall do with these items. That is, if certain requirements aren't met."
They start laughing again and even go so far to slap each other on the back. The last thing Renji and Rukia hear as they leave is a loud crash, a call for more sake, and more insane laughter.
As they walk back to normality, Renji studies Rukia. She has a confused look on her face, but a small smile tugs at the corners of her mouth. Her eyes light up and pretty soon she is laughing whole-heartedly. Before he knows it, he is laughing too.
"Everything turned out okay," Rukia says, "it's a little weird but they seem to be enjoying themselves for the first time in months."
"Yeah," Renji wraps his arm around Rukia, "Byakuya didn't even try to kill me."
Rukia climbs up Renji and rests her forehead against his. "You know, we eloped to escape from how uptight we thought Byakuya was going to be. As it turns out, he and Ichigo were acting crazier than we were."
Renji can't take the proximity and kisses her. When they finally pull apart, he whispers, "I don't know about that." She blushes slightly and slaps him playfully, but kisses him again.
Author's Note: I'm fascinated with Byakuya and Ichigo being best buds. I especially like it when they team up against Rukia. She's got too much control over Ichigo, but Byakuya has some control of her.
Also, I don't know what dirt Renji, Rukia, and Ichigo have on each other. They were too embarrassed to tell. (Or I was too lazy to think of something.)