mastering the art

"Oi," Ichigo said. "How do you do that?"

Kuchiki Byakuya finished adjusting his clothing with deft fingers. Flick, his scarf lay smoothly round his neck; flick, his coat hung in perfect folds; flick, the plain black and white outfit under it demonstrated a stark, nay, elegant mastery of wearing shinigami gear.

As opposed to Kurosaki Ichigo, who was still trying to get the damn hakama back in line. "I only pulled them off a bit," he swore, "when you were doing that bit when you made me bend over the desk and --"

Byakuya's lips twitched. It wasn't quite a smug smirk, but it was as close as Utter Aristocracy's Stiff Upper Lip might be expected to come to it.

Ichigo's sense of injustice boiled over. "And how did you manage to keep them on when you were sitting in your chair and I was kneeling in front of you and you were --"

"It is only to be expected," Byakuya said graciously. "Even if a brat should gain the ability to perform . . . that is, it can take ten years to fully master the art."

Ichigo yanked at his sash, then tried to pull his neckline back to where it had been in such a way that it wouldn't show the marks on his neck. "You -- you -- you mean that you aristocrats learn that sort of stuff from the classroom up?"

"It is hardly a formal course of study. But indeed, one grows in the art as one matures, often with the assistance of an older friend."

"All right," Ichigo said after a moment's silence. "I don't want to think about that."

"You should. How will you be able to hold the respect of your juniors and subordinates, some day, if every occasion for carnal congress requires an extra half-hour for you to disrobe? And when you are finished, you come staggering out with your clothes disarranged, your sandals undone, your jacket loose, smelling of --"

"Okay. Point taken."

"It is a matter of responsibility to the society around you."

"And where does the sex come into it?" Ichigo said rather nastily.

"Discreetly. Elegantly." Byakuya adjusted the drape of his scarf. "And appropriately."

"Well then, how come Renji's always got his clothes half off and showing his tattoos?"

"Renji," Byakuya said austerely, "has much to learn."