Uncharted Territory

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. That honor belongs to Tite Kubo. All characters are depicted as legal age.

Warnings: Implied Byakuya/Ichigo, possible spoilers for the Soul Society Arc and beyond

AN: There is not enough love for this pairing. Written in about half an hour.

There are some things in life beyond understanding. Kuchiki Byakuya thinks that this maybe one of them.

There is no logic, no rhyme or reason. All sense fades away. And he is left aching, longing. Tingling with need and want. Desire.

It has been so long since he last felt this way. Burning inside. Something other than ice running through his veins. Mask slipping. Once. Twice. An innumerable amount of times.

He's just a boy. Just a human. A Shinigami substitute. A Vizard. But Byakuya is captivated, drawn like a moth to the fire, almost there but not quite daring to dance within the flame. Temptation is strong, so strong, nearly all-consuming. He manages to hold off, but even he isn't certain how.

And everyone can see it. They all know. Everyone but the very person whose opinion matters most.

His senpai's smile is encouraging. Voice soft and reassuring, easing all of Byakuya's unvoiced doubts.

Yoruichi just smirks, but there is something a lot like relief in her eyes. A growing hope that the little boy she used to play tag with has not been completely replaced by a sense of duty and cold disdain.

He doesn't dare face Renji and Rukia. Too cowardly to see their reactions. Too unsure of himself despite all that has happened.

And Ichigo… blissfully oblivious Ichigo. An addictive drug given human form. Byakuya finds excuses just to be nearby, just to be close enough to feel that untamed reiatsu wash over him. The boy is brash and arrogant and courageous. So very different from Hisana.

Warm where she was cool. Familiar where she was distant. Passionate where she was empty. Alive where she is dead and scattered to the winds.

And Byakuya wonders, contemplates the chance. He hedges on doing something. Anything. On confession. On taking the plunge. On admitting such a weakness. On a chance at happiness.

If he is wrong, this could ruin him. Destroy everything he has worked to rebuild after his wife's death. But if he is right, if the world for once grants him favor, the possibilities are endless.

A choice is laid out before him, and he knows which way he should go. Understands what is expected of him by his family and Seireitei at large. But he simply doesn't care anymore. For once in his life, he wants. He wants and ignores all the things and people screaming at him that he shouldn't. He is by the precipice, poised on the edge, and all he has to do is take the last step.

In the end, it is far easier than he ever imagined. He simply closes his eyes and takes his first foray into the sunlight.

There are some things in life simply worth the risk. Kuchiki Byakuya knows that this is one of them.

Ever Hopeful,