All things, great or small, have a beginning. Some things start out small and grow, gradually, so slowly that no one even notices the change until everything is upside-down. Change, be it good or bad, is inevitable.
One sunny Wednesday afternoon, something began to change.
It was lunch in the office of Seireitei's Sixth Division, and the seated officers were out and about, in the mess hall eating or milling about the court enjoying the brief respite from the daily humdrum of work.
While he would have liked to step outside for his lunch break, Renji had unfortunately fallen behind on his paperwork (again) and was forced to stay in the office to catch up. Thusly, he was reading through files and jotting down notes and signatures in between bites of bento. At least he wasn't alone, even if Captain Kuchiki didn't make for the greatest company in the world.
They were both sitting at their desks, doing their work in silence, when a strange sound quietly washed through the room. Renji paused mid-sentence, unsure if he had heard what he thought he he did, and was about to resume working he heard it again; a low gurgling sound from his captain's desk.
"Uh..." Renji glanced at the Kuchiki. "Are you, uh. Hungry, taichou?"
Byakuya looked embarrassed. "I... had meant to pick something up from the dining hall, but time escaped me. I'm afraid it would be too late now."
Renji looked at him thoughtfully, before glancing at his half-full bento. He held the box out to Byakuya. "You want some of mine?"
A delicate eyebrow raised. "That's... Kind, but I couldn't."
Renji rolled his eyes. "I know you're hungry, sir. I allways make too much anyway so I'm already done. Just take it so we don't have to deal with you passing out on your desk, yeah?" He said, rising from his seat and placing the box on Byakuya's desk with a small grin.
The captain stared at the box before him. It was disorganized, with different kinds of food crammed together unattractively, but it didn't look unappetizing. He could find little fault in the food itself, and he was hungry... A small sigh escaped his lips. "I suppose you have a point. Thank you, Renji." He relented, picking up the clean chopsticks that Renji had put down alongside the box and taking a hesitant bite. After a moment, his eyes widened. He took another bite, and stared at the lunchbox in front of him. "You... Made this yourself, Renji?"
The red-head winced. "That bad?"
Byakuya shook his head. "Not at all, actually. This is... Delicious." He admitted, staring at the box lunch in awe. It was baffling- that foods he had eaten a thousand times or more could suddenly taste so good, just because someone new had made it. He plucked a pickled radish out of the box and popped it into his mouth delicately. "Amazing."
Renji scratched the back of his head, his face reddening. "Now you're just embarrassing me, taichou."
"Do you cook often?" Byakuya asked, ignoring his Lieutenant's embarrassment.
"Yeah. I don't exactly have anyone else to cook for me, so. A few decades will force you to pick some things up. I'm not the only one- I know Kira makes an amazing curry, and Ikkaku's sushi is fantastic; although don't let him near a stove or a fire will break out. And anyway, it's kind of fun. I like cooking."
Byakuya nodded to himself. "It's good to have hobbies. And yours is certainly more productive than any of mine."
A tattooed brow rose. "Yours?"
"Don't you have work you need to be doing?" The Kuchiki countered, thinking of the 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle taking up most of his home office that Renji certainly didn't need to know about.
Renji picked up his pen with a grin. "Of course, Taichou. Enjoy your lunch."
The next day at lunch, Renji dropped a wrapped box on top of his captains desk before sitting down with his own lunch.
Byakuya raised an eyebrow.
"Well, it's lonely to cook for just one person, don't you think?" Renji said, his face turning pink.
An almost imperceptible smile graced Byakuya's lips. "Aa. I suppose it would be."
"Tomorrow, make inarizushi"
"...That's a joke, right?"
As it happened, the next captain's meeting ended at Byakuya's lunchtime- an occurrence he foresaw. As such, he decided it easiest to sit in the yard outside the First Division Meeting Hall with his lunch.
"What're you doin' out here, Princess?" A gruff voice called from behind him. Byakuya looked over his shoulder at Zaraki Kenpachi, hovering nosily.
"Eating lunch," he answered simply, breaking his chopsticks in two.
Kenpachi scoffed. "Where'd you get such an ugly-ass bento?
Byakuya swung between the urge to sigh and stab Zaraki in the eye with his chopstick. Instead he answered, "If you must know, Abarai made it."
Kenpachi stared at him blankly. "You got Abarai to make you lunch?" He scoffed. "You lucky bastard."
A thin eyebrow raised.
"That guy is a God in the kitchen. After he made dinner for Yachiru's birthday, I told him he should cook for us all the time. Little asshole told me to fuck off and that's what the cafeteria was for," he looked at the lunchbox contemplatively. "Can I have a bite of that?"
Byakuya glanced up at Zaraki. "I do believe that's what the cafeteria is for, is it not?"
"Asshole? And here I thought I was a princess."
Kenpachi's eye twitched. Byakuya took another bite.
"If I stop calling you 'Princess' will you share your lunch?"
The Kuchiki looked thoughtful. "Probably not, no."