Disclaimer- I don't own BLEACH, just Ai, Manami, Shizuko and a few others.

Special Thanks!!! To Illegitimi- I know you didn't want this but you deserve this! She is my muse!

*RyokoSon- My dearest editor! ^^!

7. Understanding

It had been a long night for me. Ai had moaned in her sleep throughout the night and didn't even want to get up this morning. She had seemed particularly thankful when I told her that her Captain had sent someone saying she was not required for training. I couldn't help but pray she would use the time to rest, as her Captain had intended for her to use it. Her face had looked so haunted…It was as though part of her soul had been chipped away. I was left feeling like it was partly my fault. If I could just understand the situation, maybe I could fix something. Who was I kidding? I knew better than to believe any of this was my fault, but why did I get left in the dark?

I was currently sitting at my desk scowling at papers that weren't filling out themselves. On my way to the office this morning I had been informed, via hell butterfly, that my presence was desired for a meeting with the elders later in the afternoon. That was just wonderful… It looked like a day that was not going to go my way. Not that yesterday had been either. Perhaps it was going to be a weeklong trait.

The knock that sounded on my door had me rolling my eyes; couldn't a man work in peace around this place?

"Yes?" When my eyes met that of Mayuri Kurotsuchi, I stiffened. He had been part of the reason I had had such a bad day the day before. Although, I still wasn't sure exactly what he had to do with it. Though, he had said we needed to speak."Captain Kurotsuchi, please sit."

"Yesterday was absolutely ridiculous." The clown's voice was just as shrill as always and I had a headache forming right behind my eyes. "Your ward caused many problems." The glance I shot him was one I used to shut up protests I usually got from those I put on Rukongai patrol. "But that's not why I am here; I'm looking for four of your men. Two of which are named Yana and Reito."

Interesting. "The names of the other two?"

"I have no idea, but they are more than likely always together. Sound familiar?"

My mind went to the group I had been meeting with the day before, "Maybe. Why?"

His eyes narrowed. "I won't tell you that, but understand that I will not leave here until I have spoken with them."

"That is a bold statement." It was not a good day for me and Captain Freak seemed bound and determined to add complications. "But Reito and Yana are about to leave on a routine patrol of the Rukongai and I don't really have time to-"

"Actually this involves that group and the Rukongai. In the long run, it would be better for many if you brought them here. Now."

I leaned forward. He was testing me. What was he up to? Generally he was one to mind his own business; unless there was some type of plan he had swimming around in his twisted mind. "Fine." Taking a deep breath I called for my lieutenant.

"Yes Captain?" he asked sticking his head in. I was well aware his head had pressed against the door trying to listen in on the conversation.

"Bring me the group we had in here yesterday. All four of them."

"Yes sir." He was gone in a flash.

It was good to have a lieutenant that followed orders well. I would hate to be in Hitsugaya's place, his lieutenant was a pistol! I couldn't imagine having to babysit all the time. Well, having Ai in my home was almost like babysitting, but that was different. She was different. From her lavender eyes to her creamy skin, she was unlike every other woman in the Seireitei…

"Daydreaming?" Mayuri's voice dragged me back to reality. I had absolutely no interest in dealing with this man.

"No," I answered doing everything in my power to keep from sounding annoyed, "just considering what you could possibly want with four men from my squad."

When he shook his head I raised a brow.

"It's not my place to release details, but I'm sure you're smart enough to infer."

I was unable to mask my curiosity then. What was going on? "It's my squad."

"The information I have is enough to make it business of all the Seireitei."

What was he talking about?

The knock at my door had me grinding teeth. "Come in." It felt a little better when they four men filed in. "Sit." I gave them all a moment to sit before moving on. "It seems that Captain Kurotsuchi has something to say to all of you…"

I couldn't help but notice that Reito merely looked annoyed as Kurotsuchi stood.

"I have been enlightened as of late about the activities the four of you like to partake in when you are on patrol."

I noticed the shock and recognition register in the eyes of all them. However, Reito seemed to cover his faster.

"What do you mean by that?"

"If I ever hear of you taking advantage of your place again, all four of you will end up as insects on my lab table. You have no right to take advantage of a woman. If she doesn't want your hands on her then they shouldn't be on her."

Now I understood. In a way. He was standing up for Manami. Had my men touched her? Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. It all made sense. The way the blood had drained from Ai's face yesterday. The words she screamed at me. "You will not touch me! Never again!" As the understanding sunk in, bile began to coat my throat. The scars…Did my men cause that?

"I'm afraid you have been misinformed." Reito's face showed nothing.

Barely able to cover my anger I spoke up, "Be that as it may, this accusation will not be taken lightly. Until it is looked into completely, you will all be on duty around here. If any one of you so much as looks at someone the wrong way, you'll all be behind bars. Am I understood?" When they all mumbled a yes sir I growled, "Get out. Lieutenant Abarai, find replacements for the Rukongai patrol." A faint 'yes sir' drifted in from the other room as my men shuffled out. Anger had my blood boiling. I wanted to hit something, but that wouldn't fix anything. I glared at Kurotsuchi. "I'll be in touch with you."

When he only nodded and stood, I couldn't have been more thankful. As he walked out I felt all the air in my lungs rush out. All I could do was rest my head. This was all happening so fast. She had been attacked. Raped. So why would she sell herself? It didn't make sense to me…she was the exact opposite of what I thought a rape victim should be like. Strong and self-important. Is exactly what she was. Not helpless and cowering as one would assume a victim to act. Who was I kidding, I saw Ai yesterday. The strong-willed spitfire had crumbled and in her eyes I had seen a hurting child…what had started her out on this life path? My men. I would not stand for it.

Anger rushed, like a dam bursting. It consumed me, from my very core, clutching at my throat as if trying to strangle me. I stood. I needed a walk. I needed to see her. If only to assure myself that she was ok, just one look. Turning, I put a few papers away. The opening door had me ready to curse. I pivoted on my heel prepared to brush the intruder off; however that was short lived when my eyes met those of my great uncle Satoshi, an elder of my family. It seemed I didn't make my visit to the elders fast enough.

"Yes uncle?" I prompted him.

"Sit Byakuya," he ordered, "There's something we must discuss."

I had to take a deep breath to keep from conforming or being "unacceptably" rude. "Actually, I'm in a hurry. If you don't mind could this wait?"

"No." he answered flatly…of course he couldn't.

"Fine." I crossed my arms over my chest. I would not sit. "What did you want to discuss?"

I had the satisfaction of watching him square his jaw, as he often did when he was annoyed, "It has been brought to my attention that you're allowing a whore to live within the walls of the Kuchiki household." His gaze was, I suppose, meant to pin me in place, but licks of rage had me standing firm even when he continued. "You have a bad habit of allowing those of poor background into our home. Though, it seems your taste only continue to worsen."

I had to swallow. Did he have any idea how pompous or self-righteous he sounded?

"Ai is being housed because of an agreement between Captain Fon and me. It is not something that will be changed until the allotted time is up."

I saw the anger flash in his eyes, but he stayed seated. "Shizuko Fon is not the person to be making agreements with. She has done quite the job of ruining her reputation within a few days." He seemed to be holding his ground today, but that was expected from a Kuchiki elder.

Perhaps reason wouldn't work. As the head of the house, it was my job to lay down the law. "I am going to say this once and only once." I had, frankly, had enough, "Ai Takahashi stays in my home until I say otherwise. I am the head of this house now and it is time that was recognized. Do not speak of a Captain that way in my presence again. She may be new and a little questionable, but she is still a Captain. I will not stand for such speak. Now if you don't mind, I have somewhere to be." With that I walked out and made my way to my home.

Thoughts of Ai were circulating through my mind. Her eyes, her scent, her will. She had no right to take over this way, but it seemed for now she was unavoidable. Had I known about her what I now knew, would I have been more understanding with the circumstance? Let her off easy? Or would I have approached her to help? No. no, I wouldn't have tried to help. I wouldn't see it as my problem. So why did I see it that way now?

So I think was the shortest chapter I have ever written…however I fought with this chapter for forever! And I am very aware that it took me FOREVER to update, but hey! Shit happens and this shit, just happened to be life. By the way, if this was a little bit OOC, all I have to say is: I COULD PUNCH BYAKUYA KUCHIKI IN THE FACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He is sooooo hard to get in the head of!

AND! Please check out Majestic Harlot! Its Ai's story!


Scientific Love! It is the story of Manami and Captain Kurotsuchi!

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