we strive for shangri-la without being overtaken by our desires
we kept searching for a freedom covered in fantasies
farewell, azure days

- Soukyuu no Fafner OP


Contrary to popular opinion among the Shinigami, Kuchiki Byakuya did have people he loved. He had loved his parents - in a distant, dutiful way as befitted a lord and lady he saw very seldom, but he had loved them. He had loved his wife - and to his mild surprise he had grown to love the girl he had brought into his household to fulfill his wife's dying wish – in some ways, he thought as he watched Rukia pour tea for him, he loved her more than he had loved Hisana. He did not…love…his subordinates but he had come to realize that he would miss them if they were gone, that he would fight for them if it was needed.

(Part of why he…valued…his subordinates was because they would not ask him to fight for them.)

He had loved.

But he loved in a quiet, lonely way – loved while knowing that he and his occupied different levels of existence. They were not heads of the noble houses, they were not captains, they were not the hopes of too many people - they were not what he was. His father had been the only one who…but they had not been – could not have been – close.

He had walls and cages, built from duty, built from expectations, from tradition. They…did not.

(He told himself he was not jealous. This was not a matter of better, or worse. This was just a matter of difference.)

He had to admit – if only to himself, because denial of something so true was a weakness; as if he could not bear it, and he could bear itthat once he had dreamed of something else. He had been young, he always appended to that admitting, and foolish. Or, if not foolish, then closer to that state than he was now.

He had dreamed of someone who would stand beside him – really beside him, not below or behind or ever a slight distance away. Someone who matched him in all levels, in all things – someone he didn't always have to be so careful with – someone who didn't, at the very back of their mind, fear him.

And that someone had a face, and a name, and eyes that were hot and gold.


They were only a few years apart in age – in Soul Society, a few years was as nothing. Heirs to noble houses both, they had met in one of the various meetings and feasts and visitations that the noble houses engaged in, steps of a great dance of deception.

She had said it was all very boring, and seized Byakuya – as the person most likely to play with her, if only age-wise – and dragged him out to the gardens. When he had sputtered a protest, she had turned to him and told him in all seriousness that if he could win past her to the door, then he could go back inside.

"You won't, though," she told him blithely.

That had pricked his dignity and he had immediately run for the doorway, confident that this silly girl would be left standing alone in the gardens. To his shock, she flashed in front of him, grinning, blocking him from the door. He had immediately stopped at that sudden appearance – almost, to his shame, overstepping his balance – and backflipped away, watching her warily as he landed. She stood in a loose, confident stance – no, it was too casual to be called a stance. Her head was thrown slightly back, her mouth curved in a mocking smile.

"What, is that it," she asked – drawled, calculated to taunt. A wicked light entered those bright, golden eyes. "Byakuya-bo?"

He bristled, and dashed for the doorway again, this time incorporating the speed and movements that training in the Kuchiki style had brought him. She stopped him again, with as little visible effort expended as in the first time. He leapt, rolled, ran, somersaulted, finally lost his temper and tried to force her out of his way – and failed every time.

When he re-entered the manor, he did not do so because he had won, or even because he had meant to – she had flickered inside, her golden eyes flashing at him, and he had chased after her.

When he let himself remember, all his memories of her were of chasing after Shihouin Yoruichi.


But she never had to chase him; he was only a playmate, someone she used to take the edge off her boredom during family events. They were not friends – that honor belonged to Urahara Kisuke. They were not even colleagues, with Byakuya's future firmly within the Shinigami, while she stepped up to the Special Covert Operations.

When she had left Soul Society, left everything behind for that man, he could not even show that he was affected – he was not even afforded that much. He had no claim – he had no right…

He looked at Soi Fong and the angry hurt in her eyes, and he told himself that he did not understand how she felt.


AN

Why are you doing this to yourself? This is not the time to be getting engrossed - re-engrossed? - into new fandoms! Didn't you have a test today? Instead of studying, didn't you read a ten, twelve-chapter fic instead?

...and if you must be sucked into Bleach, does it have to be with such a crack pairing as your OTP?

I wrote this oneshot in the hopes of purging it from my system. Hopefully now Byakuya will stop bothering me long enough so I can go back to writing Nejiten.