"Congratulations on your recent promotion to captain, Kuchiki-taichou." The brown-haired manager currently accompanying the grand sixth squad leader bubbled with awe at the man's grand reserve, his proudly flowing uniform and scarf, the tight style the keiseikan formed in his hair making him the picture of nobility.

"Thank you." Byakuya replied coolly, keeping his eyes focused ahead of him at the looming building where the newly graduated students of the shinigami academy were waiting anxiously to see if any of the recently appointed captains would be willing to take them in for the prized vice-captain spot. They had been working under other captains for a while now, but they were still the last class to have graduated. The captains who had lost their subordinates to promotions had already chosen their replacements.

"Oh, if you don't find anyone suitable from the graduates, don't forget that you can examine other squads' older members, Kuchiki-taichou." His escort reminded him enthusiastically.

"I'm quite aware of that myself, and I would appreciate it if you would not remind me of such things that I've been told constantly." Byakuya locked eyes with him, feeling a slight pleasure at the flinch the other shinigami gave.

Abashed, the assistant hurried ahead of him to hold open the door, and a hush fell over the room at the entrance of another captain. Ichimaru Gin was already far down the line, his attention pausing briefly on a meek-looking blond student.

Byakuya headed in the opposite direction from his fellow captain, his cold eyes making contact with various students, who immediately moved their eyes away or downcast, their hesitation apparent. He was distracted by the quiet whispering of a tall, crimson-haired man to a classmate. He stared at him, but instead of being intimidated, the shinigami straightened up further, tattooed eyebrows snaking into his wildly spouting hair, and returned the stare defiantly. The captain continued down the line at the same pace, examining, testing, and sizing up the students until they reached the end of the line.

"Perhaps you'd like to see the other group-"The helper piped up prematurely, cut off by a deep, commanding voice.

"The red-haired one will do." Kuchiki-taichou stated, sweeping out of the room.


He was from one of the lower districts, the same one as his adopted sister, most likely childhood friends, Byakuya was surprised to find out as he scanned the file. They had entered the academy at the same time.

Abarai Renji.

The defiant gaze of his new vice-captain had not completely quelled even after the badge had been wrapped around his arm. He was polite, if not slightly distant, and was exactly what Byakuya had wanted in a subordinate. This one had determination, and certainly more fight in him than the boy Ichimaru-taichou had chosen, although the look in that…Izuru, was it? The look in his eyes had promised nothing but utter loyalty to his captain, something that Byakuya had found missing in his. And that was fine too because he believed that blind devotion never amounts to anything good in the end.

A knock sounded from his office door.

"Yes?" Byakuya called out, rearranging the papers on his desk as the door slid open. "Ah, Abarai-fukutaichou, good evening. Was there something you wanted?"

Renji headed over to his captain, settling down in one of the chairs by the desk. "Just came to return this file on the latest hollow attacks, sir. "

Byakuya took them, sifting through them as he found surprisingly capable reports. "Nice work on these, fukutaichou." He wasn't much on praise, but he acknowledged credit where credit was due.

"Thank you, Kuchiki-taichou." Renji replied, flushing a little with pride, which Byakuya didn't fail to notice.

"Is that all?"

Renji hesitated a moment, looking uncertain. "Um…I was just wondering how Rukia was settling into your family, sir."

Byakuya scrutinized him silently for a moment. "She's adjusting quite well and has been accepted into the thirteenth squad under Ukitake-taichou's care."

"Is that so?" Renji replied, looking a little sad. "That's great news. Well, I'm off to bed now, taichou, unless there's something else you needed help with."

"No, it's fine. Good night, Abarai." Byakuya said, turning back to his papers.

"Good night, taichou."

He gazed at the closed doors for a moment, wondering if he had been too quick to judge Renji.


Please review! This is my first shot at a ByakuRen fic, so I want to see how it goes over.