sub tabula

Kuchiki Byakuya had absolutely no intention of prolonging this meeting any longer than necessary. Despite the friendly -- no, positively obsequious-- behaviour of Urahara Kisuke, the man was still an exile from Soul Society, a dubious character who had put Rukia into danger, and unscrupulous and dangerous in every way.

What was more, he was a shopkeeper. A Kuchiki did not have meetings with tradesmen. (Except, occasionally, to pay them. And even that was something for the servants to do.)

They were sitting around a waist-level table (another decadent Western invention, another black mark against Urahara Kisuke) to discuss the current state of affairs. The Kurosaki brat was present. So was Rukia. Byakuya was spending most of his time staring coldly at the space between them, in the hopes that it would get bigger.

It was then that he felt the foot stroking against his own.

Judging by physical location, it had to be the foot of Urahara Kisuke. Shihouin Yoruichi was the other side of him from Byakuya, and it was unlikely that she had developed sufficient powers of kidou or flash step to be able to extend her leg that far while still sitting upright at the table.

Byakuya's stare tightened to laser-like sharpness and absolute zero (causing the Kurosaki boy to spill his tea, and Rukia to quail), and he withdrew his foot to beneath his own chair.

The intruding foot followed.

It would have given Byakuya great pleasure to draw Senbonzakura and impale the offending foot, spiking it to the floor, while ignoring Urahara Kisuke's shrieks of pain with suitable dignity, but to do so would have revealed the existence of the disreputable foot, and its current location.

Such a thing would have been unworthy of the dignity of a Kuchiki.

He pondered stonily what to do.

The foot sidled across to stroke his ankle, toes parting to massage the muscles of his heel.

"Not feeling well, Byakuya-kun?" Shihouin Yoruichi inquired. "You look a bit flushed."

He could not bring himself to reveal her lover's perfidy to her. "Well enough," he gritted between his teeth. "Continue with the briefing."

The foot began to slide upwards towards his knee.

He stared across at Urahara Kisuke. Urahara Kisuke smiled back at him, lips parting in a smile which could only be described as salacious, lewd, indefinably corrupt, somehow suggestive of depravity beyond the mind of humanity to conceive . . .

"Oi," the Kurosaki brat said. "I've asked twice now. When are we going to do the attack thing?"

With an effort, Byakuya wrenched his mind away from contemplating the many indignities he would like to perform upon the (naked, oddly enough) body of Urahara Kisuke. "When word comes from Yamamoto-soutaichou," he declared. "It would be the height of folly to move before then, or to engage in any sort of reckless solo expeditions."

"Just purely for the record," the Kurosaki brat said, "what sort of reckless solo expeditions?"

Byakuya was distracted by the foot slowly creeping its way up his leg. "Any sort of foolishness such as trying to enter Hueco Mundo as part of an expeditionary party," he said, frowning. "Particularly those involving experimental methods to create gates there or attempts to dispose of Aizen Sousuke as part of duels of honour."

"Oh well," the Kurosaki brat said quickly, "certainly we're not going to do anything like that. Whatever the provocation. Right, Rukia?"

The foot reached Byakuya's knee. He sat bolt upright, spine stiffer than a zanpakutou, and his cheekbones grew rigid enough to hone Senbonzakura, while his breathing quickened dramatically.

Rukia seemed to take this as directed at her. She hastily broke into a stream of reassurances that absolutely they would not do such a thing, never ever ever ever, not even under the most extreme provocation like outright Hollow attacks on town and people getting kidnapped, and nii-sama had absolutely nothing to suspect her of, nothing, nothing at all, it was all lies, malicious lies, she was pure and chaste and would never bring shame on the Kuchiki name and she was sure that Ichimaru Gin was behind the rumours --

Shihouin Yoruichi had a violent coughing fit, and Rukia closed her mouth with an audible snap.

Good. Clearly Rukia had her mind set on the path of duty and virtue, and the Kurosaki brat was going to obey orders. There was no more need to sit here and endure the foot currently squirming in his lap. With flash-step honed reflexes, Byakuya seized the foot and simultaneously rose to his feet.

Urahara Kisuke disappeared beneath the table with a scream of agony.

Byakuya released the foot. "I will see you later," he intoned, and swept out of the room.

He wondered if it was within the dignity of the Kuchiki to have Urahara Kisuke delivered to his house at midnight by the house ninjas. In a sack. Naked.