Title: Much Ado About Nothing

Disclaimer: My cat owns everything. So, if you're going to sue, sue him.

Summary: Because joining the Kuchiki clan requires a duel. A companion piece to my other one-shot, The Taming of the Shrew.

Dedicated to my fantastic reviewers from my first piece, who inspired me to write this little beauty. So, AnimeSiren, sanriochica333, Perhelediel, angelady, orange-hime, Ahria, Silentwater, deathscythe05, ShinigamiLenne, sillybean28, Misao Shinomori, Kaoro Tsumi, violetctm, aririn, Nilmiel, Sarah Kerrigan, Makino114, Sango Hikari, and Zodiac Eclipse…this one's for you!

By the by, it's really hard to keep Byakuya in character, and make him funny too!

Kuchiki Byakuya appreciated the calm in the simple things. As he watched the servant pour the tea for him and his guest, he found it…agreeable…to view the gentle curl of the steam and to hear the soft click of the pot as it was returned to the tray. As the servant moved silently from the room and slid the screen shut with a soft glide, leaving him and his guest in private, Byakuya reflected on the pleasure that can be gained by a calm, quiet life.

Perhaps that is why his guest...displeased…him so greatly.

As Byakuya brought the cup to his lips, he examined his guest through the steam. Kurosaki Ichigo. The disruptive chaos that nearly brought about a civil war in Soul Society. The crass youth who seemed to enjoy blatantly taunting his elders. The arrogant fool who was currently sitting across from him on the mats, glaring at a teacup.

The violent ruffian with whom his sister, despite what he deemed prudent or wise, seemed taken.

It was concerning this sister, no doubt, which brought this orange-haired hoodlum to his door. Byakuya would wager on it – if he gambled. And though he was aware of the motive behind this visit, it did not mean that he should make it any easier for his opponent.

Study your opponent. Let him make the first strike, so that you may learn of his technique.

Byakuya set his tea down and waited. He was a patient man, one used to examining all angles of a battle.

Like usual, his opponent seemed to be going out of his way to make things difficult. Kurosaki continued to glare at his untouched tea. And he was beginning to look slightly green.

At times, a feint can draw your opponent into an attack position, leaving him undefended in his haste to strike a blow.

"Are you not enjoying the tea?" Byakuya's voice was haughty, cultured. "It is a blend that Rukia often requests when she is here. I had assumed that it would be suitable for even your unrefined palate."

"It's fine," Kurosaki snapped, and to prove it, he picked it up and shot it back. Then cursed as it burned his tongue.

Byakuya merely raised an eyebrow and lifted his own cup, sipping delicately. The first exchange of blows, and his opponent stabbed himself.

With the tea gone, Kurosaki no longer had a distraction, and so he turned his full glare onto the sixth division captain.

Use an opponent's force against them. Let them attack, side-stepping their blows, as they tire themselves out.

Byakuya ignored the glare, and breathed in the aroma of the tea.

"So is this what a captain does all day? Drink tea?"

"There is generally more paperwork involved in the daily running of a division, which I often do enjoy with a cup of tea" Byakuya responded coolly, setting his cup down once more.

To maintain the momentum, engage in limited attacks; not full strength, but enough to keep the opponent occupied.

"However, it is considered good manners to offer a guest refreshments," Byakuya paused, "whether or not they are…expected."

The second pause, left in to allow Kurosaki to interpret the hidden message behind the words. The orange-haired shinigami gritted his teeth.

"Well, this 'unexpected' guest will state his business and let you get back to that hectic schedule of yours." While Byakuya had often been accused of lacking a sense of humor, even he had a firm grasp on sarcasm.

Meet an opponent's fire with ice, and every attack with a deflection.

"Please, do."

Kurosaki opened his mouth and closed it a few times, then blew out a breath in frustration. Raising his eyes to the ceiling (no doubt in prayer to any entity that would either aid him in his endeavor or strike him with lightening to put him out of his misery), he finally blurted out: "Icametoaskforyoursister'shandinmarriage."

"Yes, I am aware of that." Kurosaki's mouth dropped in shock, and Byakuya congratulated himself on a well-placed strike. "Kisuke-san had informed me of your intentions nearly a week ago." He conveniently left out that Kisuke had done so in order for Byakuya to "get used to the idea" before he was in sword-striking distance of the man his sister was quite fond of.

Watch your guard, and do not expose surprise to your enemies. Surprise denotes a lack of preparedness, and this lack is a weakness that may be exploited.

"He did not inform me, however, of why you would want to do so." Byakuya waited for a response, and Kurosaki mumbled something. "I apologize. I do not believe I caught that."

"Because she kicks my ass."

"A fine quality in a sparring partner, I am sure, but not necessary in a wife." Byakuya paused and reconsidered. "Or perhaps I am mistaken for your case."

Do not respond to the foolish taunts of your opponents, for they are merely petty distractions of the true battle.

Kurosaki muttered something that sounded suspiciously like "arrogant bastard," but Byakuya chose to ignore it for the sake of propriety.

After a while, Kurosaki continued, if a bit sulking. "Because she makes me a stronger and better person, and because I love her, dammit."

"If you do ask her, I would assume that it would be more polished then the presentation you have given me?"

"I didn't think I'd have to get all gushy romantic for you." Kurosaki crossed his arms and scowled. "So, is that a yes?"

Byakuya met the scowl with an unruffled gaze, considering a suitable response.

Distraction is a powerful ally in a battle, and will keep your opponent off balance.

"When I first met your father," Byakuya began, "I found him loud, obnoxious, and a bit of a fool. Rather as I saw you. My initial assessment holds true – you are very much like your father."

Byakuya noted the tension in his opponent's posture and the white-knuckled grip he had on his robe. He had to commend the boy for learning composure; the Kurosaki he had first met would probably have drawn his zanpukto on him by now.

And finally, when the opponent is off balance, you strike.

"Your father had one wife, who he treasured above all else in the world." Byakuya felt a slight pang as he thought of his own Hisana – a missing piece of his soul that remained a constant ache. The poorly buried pain, the loss, was a connection he could feel to the Kurosaki men. "I imagine you will be very much like your father in that aspect as well. When I first recognized that trait in your lineage, I conceded that it was one admirable and worthy of Rukia, despite your more grievous flaws. And so I decided that if Rukia is able to tolerate your presence, I will attempt to endure it as well."

Byakuya picked up the teapot. "Would you care for any more tea?"

A master of the battlefield ends the fight not when his opponent expects, but in a perfect spontaneous heartbeat. And after the heartbeat, he takes enjoyment in the simple, elegant victory earned by his superior tactics and skill.

"Wait, you made me go through all of that crap, and you were going to say yes anyway!"

Poor Ichigo, in a battle of wits, I think Byakuya has him out-gunned.

So, you guys keep reviewing, and I might keep writing!