Title: An Attentive Older Brother
Universe: Bleach
Theme/Topic: Rukia's Birthday
Rating: PG-13
Character/Pairing/s: IchigoxRukia, Byakuya, Renji in passing
Warnings/Spoilers: None I can imagine.
Word Count: 1,302
Summary: Byakuya does his job with stunning precision.
Dedication: jenkat, covet, and kaeruchan, because I can't think of anyone else I know who likes this pairing. XD;;
Holy crap I realized way too late that Rukia's birthday was coming (LOL my fandom blindness strikes again), so I whipped this up just now as fast as I could. Then I realized I was a day early actually. LOL All I can say on the whole matter is: I AM OUT OF PRACTICE. But whatever, I love big brothers to death and couldn't help myself, and so this is more about Byakuya than IchixRuki, like I'd planned. But you know, it's still in there somewhere. XD
Disclaimer: Not mine, though I wish constantly.
Distribution: Just lemme know.

On Rukia's birthday this year, the Kuchiki household threw her a party.

More than just that, they did it in true style—as only the fabulously wealthy moneyed clans of real nobility could.

There were ice sculptures and winter flower arrangements as big as the guest of honor herself—shining and beautiful in the warm light of the hall— as well as a magnificent buffet table that had particular emphasis on the fancy sweets and cakes Rukia loved most, all prepared by the best renowned patissiers in seireitei. Fine wine flowed freely and there was beer on tap for those of Rukia's friends who were so inclined. The festivities also boasted a full orchestra, servants with coattails, and a seven course meal planned for later. In addition to these amenities, the large marble ballroom had been fitted with all new crystal chandeliers specially handcrafted at Kuchiki-sama's request, the fixtures designed to emulate snowflakes, bouncing their light around in fashion similar to winking ice crystals. Clearly Byakuya had spared no expense in putting the gathering together, managing it all in little less than a week at that. The Kuchiki leader had pulled all manner of strings to make it seem like he'd actually been planning this little get together for months ahead of time, and everyone privy to this knowledge felt as if his efforts had been paid off threefold. Everything was absolutely perfect.

An added bonus was that all the guests present—whether Byakuya knew them personally or not— were having a wonderful time (though truth be told, the sixth division captain didn't much care for what they thought so long as his primary objective was obtained). He didn't mind a little icing on the cake however, as the partygoers smiled and murmured amongst themselves at what a kind and wonderful man Kuchiki-sama was—such an attentive older brother who did the family name proud by caring for his sister so ardently. Rukia was very lucky and really, could not ask for more in life than to live happily with such a brother in such a house for the rest of her days. What a grand evening everyone was having!

Well, almost everyone.

Ichigo stood in the back of the ballroom with a gloomy expression on his face and his hands shoved deep into his pockets, eyebrow twitching periodically in righteous indignation as he glared at the giant ice swan on the table in front of him, as if it had done him grievous harm somehow.

Nearby, Rukia was far too distracted by the impressive pile of pastries and cakes in the buffet line to be indignant alongside him. But then again, she'd always considered herself much more forgiving than Ichigo (especially when food was involved). "You shouldn't have such a sour expression on your face, Ichigo," she admonished as she systematically made her way through the plates of treats. "It's very rude to niisama after he's gone out of his way to be so attentive."

"We went out of our way to tell your brother we want to spend your birthday alone together so he wouldn't do something like this and it's exactly what he does anyway. How attentive is that? And how the hell else am I supposed to look when the bastard goes out of his way to show me up?"

Rukia picked up a perfectly shaped chocolate-covered strawberry that was about the size of her fist, eyes fixated on it even as she listened to Ichigo's complaints with half an ear. "It's nothing personal, I'm sure. Niisama just doesn't like you," she reminded him absently as she put the strawberry on her already overflowing plate, and didn't sound repentant at all for enjoying this party so thoroughly despite her previous plans for a quiet evening out with just her and Ichigo. "He doesn't like you a lot actually, because we've never had birthday parties for me like this before."

Ichigo sighed and crossed his arms. "Whatever."

From across the ballroom floor, Byakuya watched the pair with an air of absolute satisfaction, and was so pleased with himself that he didn't even mind the fact that his little sister's rowdier friends—Renji included— were scuffing the marble and carelessly spilling their free wine and beers all over the furnishings in their overzealous merrymaking.

Those stains could always be cleaned later, and as far as he was concerned, were of little importance in the grander scheme of things.

His primary motive of course, was Rukia's happiness. As an attentive older brother, it could really be nothing else.

The fact that Kurosaki had been quite effectively "cockblocked" (as Renji had termed it earlier) was merely a happy coincidence that Byakuya had no qualms about enjoying alongside Rukia's happiness. It definitely hadn't been a deliberate effort on his part at all, and had absolutely nothing to do with the possibility that after hearing from his little sister that she and her orange-headed ruffian wanted to spend the day alone together, Kuchiki Byakuya had proceeded to do everything in his power to make sure as many people as possible were in the young couple's constant presence during this very important day of celebration.

A day—he might add— that one was supposed to spend in the company of family and close friends and definitely not filthy hoodlum brats who had no respect or intelligence or basic common courtesy and ran about dimensions doing as they pleased while wielding weapons they didn't properly know how to use in the first place.

But he was digressing. As he'd stated, this evening in particular was all about Rukia's happiness and nothing else (well, mostly nothing else), and from the look on her face just now as she'd devoured a particularly enormous chocolate-covered strawberry, Byakuya was happy to note that all was going according exactly to plan. His job as a good older brother done to the best of his ability.

And if—as a result of his carefully orchestrated efforts— the ominous velvet box that he knew was in Kurosaki's pants pocket just happened to stay exactly where it was for another day, another week, another month, another year, then all the better.

He could admit after all, that while Rukia's joy was paramount tonight, he also—understandably— didn't fancy losing his little sister on her birthday (or ever, if he could help it). As such, he had to confess to himself that his meticulous direction of the evening's festivities might—might—have been very slightly inspired by that one thought in fleeting. But to be fair, that was the number one most important duty of any attentive older brother worth his salt and could not be ignored, even under such special celebratory circumstances.

And besides, the realistic part of himself knew that this was ultimately an impossible state to maintain between he and his sister forever. But even still, Byakuya was fairly certain he could—and would— give Kurosaki a run for his money for whatever time it was he had left before Rukia realized certain things for herself.

He could afford more sweets and cakes and seven course dinners than the orange-headed upstart ever could after all, and clearly—as any attentive older brother would— he knew his little sister's heart exceedingly well.

For as long as he could, and for as long as she was smiling just like she was now, Byakuya would do his best to keep her as happy as his role of older brother would allow.

And when the day came when she realized that that was no longer enough—when he was no longer enough— Byakuya would beat the ever loving shit out of Kurosaki Ichigo and attend the wedding with as much grace and dignity as he could muster.

As a brother, it was all he could do.