A distinguished young child made his way through imperial gardens of Soul Society, looking to get some fresh air and clear his head. Though he was sure there was something fundamentally wrong with someone as young as he needing to clear their mind, but he had known for a long time the burden his birthright demanded, and he was at least grateful for this reprieve.

He paused in his steps when out of the blue a small bird flitted above him, then landed upon his arm, clinging to his sleeve in its little bird claws. He stared at it, and it stared back, then chirped happily at him.

"Remove yourself," the child said blandly, and when the bird didn't heed him he moved to brush it away. It flew up a moment, but once his hand was gone it again landed, making more happy chirps.

Before the young boy could protest further, another bird flew up and landed on his shoulder. As he turned to look at this one, yet another bird landed on his other shoulder. And every time he tried to shoo them away, they'd just return, making the happiest noises like they'd found the best landing place in the world, and were not about to give it up. And it seemed every time he told them that it would be in their best interest to detach themselves from his person, more would fly up and land on him. He finally gave up when he felt yet another bird perch upon his head.

When Ukitake Jyuushiro took his daily walk through the gardens, he saw the most unusual sight he'd ever seen in his long life at Soul Society. He'd been walking here for a long time - the scent of the flowers helped ease his illness, and the fresh air did wonders for his cough. It helped for a restful body and soul. But he had never before witnessed...what looked like a pile of birds, all almost on top of each other, all trying to claim a piece of some kind of prized territory.

It wasn't until Ukitake noticed the end of a familiar scarf that he realized it wasn't some kind of plant or bush the birds were so attracted to, but a person. A very specific person.

"Byakuya!" He rushed over, waving the birds away and covering the child with his own body to dissuade the birds from returning.

Though the birds were not pleased to be shooed away from their happy place, they weren't about to push it with a full-grown man, and one of the 13 Division Captains at that. So before too long, Ukitake had cleared them all away, revealing a very perturbed little Byakuya.

"Look at you," he said gently as he kneeled and brushed a bit of dirt from the child's face. "You're all messy." But he was smiling at the adorable boy.

Byakuya did not smile back. "I told them to leave, but they wouldn't listen."

"Birds have very little brains."

"They wouldn't leave me alone."

"They like you."

The child frowned. "I don't like them."

Ukitake laughed and stood back up, putting a hand on young Byakuya's shoulder. "Let's get you cleaned up."

Many years later found Byakuya wandering the gardens again, except this time he was a man, and a Captain in his own right. He'd avoided the place for a long time, but when his fellow Captain invited him for a walk among the blossoms, he didn't refuse. And it had been nice, the walking and gentle talking and the scent of flowers that permeated the air. It was pleasant, and Byakuya felt himself more relaxed than he'd been in a while. Probably largely in part of the company.

Until he heard a chirping, and a flap of wings. A fluttering of feathers caught his eye...and then he was gone.

Ukitake looked around, but his companion had effectively disappeared. "Byakuya?" But when a bird flew by, he guessed what might have happened. He was probably the only one who knew about the Kuchiki heir's ornithophobia.

And he couldn't help but smile.

"You can come out now. It's gone."

Byakuya's head peeked out from behind a tree, with a very dour look on his face. "Are you sure?"

Making a show of looking around for potential enemies, Ukitake then replied with amusement, "I'm sure."

Coming out from his hiding spot, Byakuya joined the other man, and they continued their walk. But he stayed closer than before; his shoulder pressed against Ukitake's.

And Ukitake was more than happy to be Byakuya's sanctuary.