The kenseikan taunted her as Yoruichi stalked her prey, the bone-white porcelain practically glowing under Soul Society's sun as her prey sat in his garden, practicing his calligraphy. The hair-noodle-things (in the old days she hated them and refused to wear them even after she became the Head of her House) were harder to remove then a simple hair-tie, but that only made it more of a challenge. Her fingers itched to unlatch them--she could remember the way his hair used to snag ever so slightly when he had been working out, catching on her fingernails and the tie. It had been a challenge to undo it without pulling his hair, back then. And now…?

She gave him a considering look from her perch on his roof. Now, well, it would certainly be fun.

Yoruichi shook her head, ruefully. He was a captain now--she no longer was. They were both older--had seen more, done more, then they were the last time she teased him. It was, she supposed, beneath his dignity (but then, a gleeful little voice whispered, that was half the fun). It would be harder to goad him into a chase.

"Yoruichi. Is there something you need?" Byakuya-kun asked, the tone of his voice making it clear that this was nothing more than a polite dismissal. She chose to ignore the tone and answer the words.

"Oh," she said, lazily. It wasn't as if she had been trying to hide her reiastu. "Nothing much, I just came to visit my old friend, Kuchiki Byakuya," she said, rolling his name around in her mouth in a way that had been guarantied to send him into a rage when he was a child. Now of course, it wouldn't, but she could read the mild annoyance in the stoic set of his shoulders. She grinned and flexed her fingers. And pounced.

Oh, he was fast. Ten times--no--a hundred times faster then when he was child. But, and this was interesting, not quite as fast as that day on the bridge, when she had saved the boy from being gutted by Kuchiki Byakuya. Perhaps it was merely that this was not a life-and-death conflict, his honor was not on the line, only a portion of his dignity. The links holding the kenseikan in place popped loose and the whole thing fell into her hand just as he struck with his brush. She dodged his attack--such as it was--easily and just as quickly flashed back to her perch, the memory of his silk hair still on her fingers.

He looked up at her, and for a moment she thought he would give chase, but no, this Older!Mature!Byakuya merely sighed ever-so-slightly, dipped his brush into the ink and went back to work as if nothing had ever happened, his loose hair flowing freely. She watched him for several long moments before sighing herself, and slipping down from her place on the roof, seating herself across from him. She could almost see his thought-process as she insisted upon making herself at home. She was too fast for him to chase, and in any case it was beneath his dignity to try. He knew he couldn't intimidate her with his power or prestige--she had both, and threw them away. So he was just going to ignore her, and hope that she was going to go away on her own.

Good luck with that, Kuchiki.

Yoruichi watched him write. Long, graceful, perfect strokes, like the kind she used to make when she was the Head of her House. The same kind, she suspected, that every noble kid had drilled into them until they could write in their sleep. Boring, she always found it, but some people (not to name any names) seemed to like it. Or perhaps they only liked it because they were supposed to like it, using calligraphy as a badge of Noble Pride, like private tutors or skipping the entrance exams. A servant came and went, leaving behind a pot of tea and a couple of cups for Kuchiki-sama and his guest. Yoruichi stared meditatively at this bent head, clinking the kenseikan between her fingers.

"What are you writing?"

The words came out and it actually took her a moment to realize that she was the one who said them. A bad habit, she thought, and certainly one that she would never have had if she hadn't lived among humans for the last century. Ah well. For a moment it looked like he was going to continue pretending she didn't exist, and then, to her surprise, he spoke.

Or perhaps the governor was off his mouth, too.

"A letter for my wife."


Yoruichi never met Hisana, the little Kuchiki lord had apparently fallen in love with a peasant woman sometime after she had abandoned Soul Society (and little Soi Fon her conscious whispered, and her duties) for Urahara. She had no idea how those two had even met-- little Byakuya, High Noble that he was, would only go to the Rukongai when Yoruichi lured him out during Chase the Devil. Stuck up and short tempered, it seemed unbelievable that the little lord would even notice a mere peasant, let alone fall in love with her.

And yet… and yet if the little lord Byakuya was going to do just that, forcing his family to accept the girl, and then forcing his family to accept her sister was just like him. That short-tempered brat had a spine of steel, but somewhere along the line he had grown a façade of marble. She wondered if that brat was still in there.

Clink. The kenseikan slipped through one set of fingers to the other, smooth porcelain clicking together, the thin silver chains connecting them brushing her fingers. This new, non-bratty, Byakuya ignored the sound and continued writing, just as if she wasn't there, his loose hair falling into his face. Another silent servant appeared and handed his master a simple hair-tie, making Yourichi grin as he paused to tie his hair back.

"And what are you going to do with the letter?" she asked, trying not to laugh.

He flicked her one, cool glance. As a child he had insisted, often and loudly, that he was better then everyone else, now, as an adult, he didn't need to state it--one glance said it all. She tried (and failed) to stifle her grin. This was fun.

Impulsively she dropped the kenseikan and flashed over to him again, leaning over his shoulder to read his letter. She felt him stiffen under her hands and ignored it as she read. Her eyes widened--this wasn't the traditional offering letter the High Nobles like to write--those were almost an art to themselves, following rigid rules of poetry and prose. No, this was the sort of informal letter one would write to a distant, but still living! loved one, revolving around something his wife would, presumably, be interested in. Mainly, her sister.

Interested, Yoruichi snatched the letter out of his hands and flashed up the roof. Byakuya uttered a small sound of…was that annoyance? and stood and glared at her. Which she ignored.

Yes, definitely their sister. He seemed to be proud of Rukia, it was oddly touching, actually. Most of the letter was about the girl, some of it about Kurosaki and Renji and Ukitake (from the content of the letter it seemed that this Hisana considered the latter a friend), and only very little was about himself. Well, that wouldn't do. She whipped out a pen and flopped down on the roof, the tip posed over the letter.

Byakuya appeared. There really wasn't any other way to put it. His shunpo as a child had been a thing of much speed, but little grace, and watching him today showed her exactly how much he had changed. His shunpo was a deceptive thing, seeming to be nothing but a series of still lives--with all the animation of a statue. But he was fast…

She barely snatched the letter away in time, springing away in a random direction, trusting that her feet would find something to stand on. They'd never let her down before, and didn't now. A tree, the wall around his home, across the Seireitei, and through the gates (not over, not even she could go over without help). He followed fast, hard on her heels. Another grin spread itself across her face, this was what she had been itching to do since returning to Soul Society. Yoruichi took off in another random direction, dashing through a tea shop and catching Byakuya-kun by surprise. She was out the back (leaving a trail of teapots, boiling water, and curses behind her) and away before he could follow.

She wouldn't lose him, of course, but it would buy her time.

Several flash-steps later she was out beyond the perimeter of the town and into some fields. She remembered the area from her younger days, there was a creek nearby, and a tree…

Ten minutes later Byakuya found her, just as she was finishing up the last touches to his letter. "Too slow, Kuchiki," she laughed signing his letter with a flourish. Her calligraphy wasn't up to his standard--it used to be, but that was before--but she didn't care. He stood below her. She was sprawled out on a branch, her favorite branch as a child, and grinned down at him. Byakuya looked, well, not quite out-of-sorts, but it was clear that the marble façade was starting to crack ever so slightly. The hair tie had come loosened and stray bits hairs framed his face as he glared at her.

Then he gathered his reiatsu and flashed up to her perch.

This time she let him take the letter, after all, she was done with it. To her mild surprise he took a seat next to her on the limb, and she had the distinct pleasure of watching him sigh ever so slightly (and, was that a blush? it was!) as he surveyed the damage she had wrought.

Damn him, but the man was attractive. Why did he have to be in love with a dead woman?

She rolled over onto her back, stretching against the rough bark. Why was it that this tree seemed much more comfortable when she was a child? It was hard to tell, that man had certainly worked long and hard on squashing any evidence of emotion, but Byakuya seemed to sigh again. From her position he looked upside down so she gestured vaguely at him.

"What happened to you?"

He looked at her. It was clear he had no idea what she meant.

"I mean, you were such a bratty kid, always were, hot tempered, snotty, obnoxious…"

He snorted at that. "I grew up."


They were silent for a moment, listening to the creek roll by. He disappeared out of her line of sight as he leaned back against the trunk. There were birds chittering in the branches and she resisted the impulse to change to cat-form to chase them. She closed her eyes, enjoying the warmth of the day and let her mind drift away…

Fingers suddenly jerked the ribbon out of her hair and by the time her eyes flew open he was well away. A startled laugh burst from her as she surged to her feet, already reaching out to trace his retreating reiatsu. In a flash, she was gone.

It was a nice day.