"I'll let you take care of Rukia, Byakuya."

And with that said, he had turned and walked away.

How dare he.

Such insolence.

Such open disregard and such a strong lack of respect.

If Byakuya Kuchiki did not have the Bounts to worry about at this time, he would have cut down Ichigo Kurasaki right then and there for his impertinence. Sliced him into a thousand tiny pieces with his Senbonzakura. But there were other matters that needed to be addressed at the moment. Still that did not quell the rage that Byakuya felt at Ichigo's words.

Why? Why did the seemingly unshakable and controlled captain of Squad Six loose his temper so quickly because of a simple statement made by a substitute soul reaper?

Some would say that it was because he was a substitute soul reaper that Byakuya had such little patience with him. But that wasn't the reason.

It was the way that Ichigo treated Rukia. Like he was her protector. Like it was his duty to keep her safe. This was what invoked the rage of Byakuya Kuchiki. That this human, this nobody had the gall to think that he was equal to a noble. That he thought he was even worthy enough to be anywhere near Rukia. As if she was somehow his. As if she belonged to him.

The way Ichigo had shot up and demanded to know about Rukia's condition. Nobody made demands to Byakuya Kuchiki. Nobody.

And the way he had left. Like he was allowing Byakuya to look after Rukia. Like she was some piece of his property that Ichigo was unwillingly entrusting Byakuya with. A fresh wave of rage ran through the usually stoic captain at this thought. As if he was only leaving her with him because he had no other choice. As if he was the one that had more important things that he needed to get done.

How dare he.

The phrase repeated itself over and over again in Byakuya's mind even as he stalked away in the direction of Kusajishi.

Ichigo had seemed thankful. Like Byakuya had done him a favor by saving his own sister.

Byakuya had wondered about Rukia's relationship with Ichigo the first time he had met the boy in the living world but had quickly dismissed any thoughts about the two after leaving Ichigo to die. Now Byakuya had to wonder why he had heeded Rukia's pleas and simply left him there when he should have made certain that the boy was dead. But then another thought came to his mind. If he had killed Ichigo Kurasaki that night, Rukia would be dead today for certain.

Yes, it was true that Ichigo had saved his sister. He had also helped show them that the more dangerous enemy had been hading amongst the soul reapers. Ichigo and his friends had been recognized for the aid that they had given to the Soul Society. There was no longer any need for them to be here. Yet they had all come rushing back.

They didn't belong here. Ichigo didn't belong here. And more so then that, Ichigo did not belong with Rukia.

Why were they so close? Byakuya couldn't fully understand their relationship. At first, he had thought that Rukia was simply drawn to the boy because he had such a strong resemblance to Kaien Shiba. Now, Byakuya wondered if it was something else. Ichigo had never known Kaien Shiba. It should not affect him at all that he looked like the late lieutenant of Squad Thirteen. He seemed so concerned. Why?

Surly there was nothing between his sister and this boy. It simply wasn't possible. Rukia was smart and pragmatic enough to understand that they could never have any sort of relationship.

There was too much separating them. For one thing she was a spirit. Ichigo Kurasaki was still very much alive. He could simply chose to leave his body in soul reaper form when ever he wished but that did nothing to bridge the huge gap between them. And even if that hadn't been the case, even if Ichigo Kurasaki was a normal soul reaper, (Not that he could ever really be called normal with the way his power intensified and grew in such small amounts of time.) Rukia was still a noble. And Ichigo was no one. She was the princess of the Kuchiki clan and he was one of hundreds of soul reapers.

A voice in the back of Byakuya's mind whispered hypocrite. Had he not fallen in love with some one who would never have been deemed good enough for him? Had she not been the same as Ichigo, if not of lower status.

But rules were rules. And they needed to be followed.

Still, Rukia gave no indication that she harbored any romantic feelings for Ichigo at all. Was it just a one-sided love? But then she had been so concerned about him. Rukia never showed any sign of weakness no matter how much pain she was in. Yet, she had cried so openly when she thought Byakuya had killed him. She had been willing to increase her punishment by going to his fallen form even though Renji had told her that he was doomed. And before her execution, her only request had been that the ryoka be spared. Yet, when he had come to save her, she had told him to leave. From what Renji had told him of Ichigo and Rukia when he had reported back, the two argued constantly. Renji had carelessly and unsuccessfully hidden the delight in his eyes and voice when he told his captain this little piece of news with out Byakuya having asked. Almost immediately after a look had crossed his face and it was clear that he was wondering if maybe he should not have said that last piece of information out loud. Maybe Renji had not meant to. Byakuya hadn't cared at the time. Now, he did.

Renji's crush on Rukia was not a secret. And after the last Ryoka invasion, anyone that might have doubted Renji's feelings for Rukia had been proven wrong. But Rukia's attitude towards Renji had never changed. She was still just as impartial to him as ever.

Rukia was not so apathetic when it came to Ichigo. Byakuya could easily recall the look that had passed through her eyes when she had been given orders to go back to Karakura Town to deal with the strange happenings there. Her eyes had brightened. It was a fleeting light that she had quickly ensconced but that momentary look had been lasted long enough for Byakuya to notice. Rukia had bowed and immediately set off to her assigned post. Even then, Byakuya had not allowed himself to be bothered.

Was there something between the two? They had seemed so formal with each other during the time before the Ryoka were set to leave the Seitreitei. What had changed? Or had the awkwardness been created by the fact that they knew that they would not seen each other again. At least, that had been the plan. Who could have predicted that the bounts would chose to attack now and that Rukia and Ichigo would wind up fighting together again.

Byakuya vaguely recalled something that Ukitake had said to him a few days after Ichigo had left the Seireitei. He had asked Byakuya if it were possible that Rukia had Ichigo were some how linked because Ichigo had only gotten his soul reaper powers through her. Byakuya had dismissed the theory immediately. After all, he had severed the red ribbon when he had first attacked Ichigo that night and that should have broken any spiritual connection that Rukia and Ichigo may have had. Jyuushirou had agreed with Byakuya when he had learned this and had wondered if they had seen the last of Ichigo Kurasaki, his fondness of the young man evident in his voice. Byakuya had replied that he was certain that they would not be hearing from the boy again. At the very least not any time soon. Jyuushirou had chuckled at that and dropped the subject, sensing Byakuya's distaste for the boy.

Byakuya wondered if Jyuushirou knew something about Rukia's relationship with Ichigo. Has she confided something in him? It was possible. Jyuushirou seemed almost friendly with his subordinates. He was not as strict or as formal as some of the other captains. While the members of squad thirteen had great respect for their Captain, they did not fear him. Byakuya knew that Jyuushirou had spent more time with Rukia after Kaien's death. And on the topic of Ichigo… had they perhaps had some discussion on him? Something about his uncanny resemblance to the deceased lieutenant? But if Jyuushirou knew that Rukia had feelings for Ichigo, surly he would have brought it up with Byakuya at some point. He never had.

No, Byakuya decided. There was nothing to worry about. There was nothing between Rukia and Ichigo Kurasaki. They were simply... allies? Partners? Friends? Two people that had worked together because they had a mutual purpose in destroying hollows. While fighting for their lives together, it was only natural that the human would come to worry and care for Rukia's well-being. And Rukia cared about Ichigo's well being because he had risked his life to save her. There was no romance there. There couldn't be. Rukia was too level headed and realistic to fall in love with a human.

Calmer now, Byakuya came to a stop in front of the leader of the Bounts. He would deal with Ichigo Kurasaki when and if the time came that his intervention was necessary. Right now he needed to take down this Bount whose ally had almost taken his sister from him. Right now he needed to uphold his position as a captain of one of the thirteen court guard squads and destroy this enemy of the Soul Society.

Ichigo Kurasaki, his feelings for Rukia, and his blatant audacity could wait.

Wow. I never thought I would actually write a Bleach fic. I don't really know how this will turn out. This was totally spur of the moment. I was just looking at IchiRuki pics and I found this one of Ichigo holding Rukia and they were both in soul reaper garb and Rukia was all cut up. And then I just remembered the quote that starts off the fic. It's set in episode ninety four, after Ichigo leaves Rukia with Byakuya to go looking for the Bounts. It's all just Byakuya's thoughts while he's walking towards Kariya. I haven't read a lot of Bleach fan fiction and I've mostly only seen the dubbed version of the series so sorry for any mistakes. I'm 75% sure I spelled ryoka wrong. It's 2: 30 in the morning and I should be in bed but I haven't been inspired enough to write in so long and since I wasn't sleepy and this idea just popped into my head, I figured why not? So I hope that it's not too terrible and I hope that you enjoyed this fic. Please let me know what you think. Was it good, or okay, or did it totally suck? Reviews will be greatly appreciated.

Ja Ne,
~Crimson Breeze