"You know I don't mean to sound rude or anything sir, but... Why are you still here?" Renji asked one evening at work, finishing up some minor documents he had been running late on. "I mean, I know you work overtime every now and then, but I'm pretty sure you finished the last of today's work like, an hour ago. Shit, I think you've done all the paperwork for the rest of the week, too, actually."
Byakuya kept his face level, "There is allays more work to be done. I know I've heard you complaining that the paperwork never seems to end, so is it so unreasonable that I'm trying to lessen the load?"
"Considering the fact that at the rate you're going you won't have anything left to do during actual work hours for the next week, I'd say it is." Renji leaned back in his chair, stretching his arms wearily. "Besides, you're still human – it's not like you actually want to be crammed in this tiny office any more than me. So what's wrong?"
A small, almost imperceptible sigh escaped the captain. "I suppose you've caught me. I'm procrastinating."
"...You're procrastinating... By doing paperwork? What the hell are you trying to stall that paperwork is the better option?"
Byakuya's face tightened into a frown. "It's... a family issue."
Renji nodded. "Ah. Some big boring clan meeting bullshit?"
The Kuchiki shook his head slightly. "No. I do not shirk my duties to my family out of simple distaste. If it were actually important, I would be there." A pale hand reached up, and fingers began massaging a temple. "In fact, this is far worse than a simple clan meeting."
A tattooed brow rose."Worse, huh? What is it?"
Byakuya eyed Renji for a moment, debating whether or not to continue the conversation. But a few seconds, and he spoke again. "Every couple of months, my grandmother comes to the main house to stay for a few days. And she spends the entire time yelling at me." Byakuya admitted, hand falling form his abused temple to pinch the bridge of his nose. "Last night was dedicated to how I neglected family affairs to focus on work, and how that made me a horrible person. Which means tonight she'll be onto insulting Hisana and Rukia, tomorrow she'll be on remarrying and having children, and then, hopefully, she'll go back to her own home and leave me alone. Or she'll stay another two days, which will be dedicated to how things were different in her day and how my grandfather was a much better man than me, respectively."
Renji, for a moment, had nothing to say. His eventual contribution was a simple "Wow. What a bitch. I can see why you don't want to go home."
"Indeed," Byakuya agreed with a hint of exasperation. "And as I have no obligation to listen to ravings of a senile old woman, I intend to spend as much time away from the estate as possible. At least, until my honored grandmother sends a servant to fetch me; but I have a good forty-five minutes until she resorts to that."
Abarai shrugged. "Well, they'll just come looking in here, won't they? You could try hiding."
Byakuya considered this carefully. Weighed his pride versus the presence of his grandmother. "...But where would I hide?"
"Well, here she is. Home sweet home," Renji announced, holding the door open for his guest. Byakuya stepped inside, casting a critical eye over the room.
All in all, it wasn't as bad as he had expected. A little messy, but not slobbish – just a matter of having not put a few things away after they were last used instead of dirty dishes and worn clothing strewn about the floor as he may have secretly feared. Byakuya nodded to himself in silent approval, stepping inside and slipping off his sandals.
Renji let out a sigh of relief at the reaction. "Well, I don't usually have too many guests – ones that don't immediately beeline for the liquor, anyway. But uh, make yourself at home, I guess. I'm gonna take a quick shower and then make us some dinner, assuming you don't mind."
Byakuya nodded, seating himself on the small couch while Renji wandered off to wash. After a few minutes of polite boredom, however, his curiosity got the better of him and Byakuya began to examine some of the strange objects lying around he couldn't identify – a sign that they had most likely been requisitioned from the World of the Living during his assignment, as so many of the strange things Rukia had were.
The thin tubes Renji used in place of ink and brushes, called 'pen' if he recalled. A flat rectangular device with numbered buttons and a tiny screen; further investigation revealed it to be some sort of electronic mathematics device; which explained how Renji had been getting the accounting done so quickly lately. Books and comic books, similar to Rukia's stash. A tube with a lens on the end that shone a bright light when a button was pushed. A black box with a wire connected to what seemed to be a pair of earplugs.
This one rather confused Byakuya, as the first two buttons he pushed (the one with a square on it and the one with two triangles pointing to the left) did nothing, although the second did cause the box to produce a bizarre whirring noise. The third button, with a single triangle labeling it, revealed the object's actual function, as it caused the machine to emit a noise that surprised Byakuya enough to throw the object across the room. After a few moments of reveling in the embarrassment of that gesture, he retrieved it, and brought the earplugs back to his ears to better distinguish the sound as being music.
Music that was, he decided, not to his tastes. He pressed another button in an attempt to stop the music, and a small door opened on the side of the device, causing a transparent rectangular object with black ribbon inside to fall out. He looked at it. Looked at the table where he had found the music-machine, where several more ribboned-flat-things sat. Put a different one in and hit the triangle button again.
Ten minutes later, this is how Renji found him. Byakuya glanced up to see his freshly-bathed lieutenant toweling his hair and looking at him with a raised eyebrow.
"What are you listening to?" he asked, after a moment.
"I have no idea, but I've decided I rather like it," Byakuya replied, pulling out the earplugs and handing the machine back to it's owner. Renji winced when he brought one of them to his own ear to see what he had been listening to.
"Seriously? I have Metallica, Yanni, the soundtrack to The Lion King, Elvis Costello, Patsy Cline, and Reggae Christmas From Studio One, and you decided you like the Spice Girls. And you said I have bad taste."
Byakuya frowned indignantly. "I liked it. It's... peppy. And you DO have bad taste, at least in clothing. What on earth are you wearing now, anyway?"
Renji rolled his eyes. "A tee shirt and sweatpants are perfectly normal clothing. Besides, I stole them from Ichigo so you can blame him if they're in bad taste. If you don't like it you can give me back my old yukata," he said, turning around to enter the kitchen. "I'm starting dinner. No more complaints about my 'bad taste' if you wanna eat, Mr. Houseguest."
A tight frown at the rude comment, but Byakuya refrained from a comeback nonetheless. Renji was right – he was currently a guest, and had no right to reprimand anyone for rudeness or insubordination.
Eventually, he wandered into the kitchen to watch Renji cook. "So what was that music-machine, precisely?" he asked after a few moments.
"A cassette player," was the simple reply, Renji not bothering to look back as he chopped a green pepper. "And the things that go with it are tapes," he continued. He pushed the chopped pepper to the side of the cutting board, pulling an onion under the knife next. "Yumi and the girls all wrangled themselves CD players, and Hitsugaya-taichou got one of them MP3 things, but they stuck me with the cheap one. Well- Ikkaku got the cheap one. We never did find him any 8-Tracks to go with his player, actually. Got everything at a pawn shop during one of Matsumoto's many shopping sprees downtown. She and Yumichika just went nuts in those clothes stores, and usually dragged one of us with. Rukia would go with too, but only if they'd stop at a pet store on the way so she could pet the bunnies," he explained idly, throwing vegetables into a simmering pan on the stove. "She just loves those freaking rabbits."
Byakuya nodded, something like a smile crawling on his face at the image of his sister enthusiastically nuzzling a rabbit. "Yes," he agreed fondly. "She really does."
He continued to watch Renji cook, a comfortable silence settling between them. Later, they ate dinner (divine, as expected), and Renji told more stories from the living world; and of Rukia and his own childhood. Somewhere in the midst of a tale wherein his adopted sister kicks Kurosaki in the groin, Byakuya became aware of the small, but sincere smile that had slipped across his own face. Judging from the look in his eyes, he'd wager Renji had noticed it as well.
"Where the devil have you been, boy? I sent one of the servants to fetch you three hours ago! I know you weren't at work, so what kind of Rukongai whore did you find yourself this time, you ungrateful bitch?" The screeching voice of his grandmother, Kuchiki Rika, was how Byakuya was welcomed home. And to think, he had been having such a nice dinner, he had actually forgotten about her for a while.
"Oh, all kinds, Grandmother. It was an orgy, you see, so it was hard to keep track of who was from where," he drawled, not even looking at her as he made his way towards the baths.
The noise that emitted from her throat would have been better suited to have come from an owl. Or perhaps a howler monkey. "WHAT?"
"An orgy, Grandmother. Full of diseased hookers and hermaphrodites. That's what I do now, you see. I have sex with transvestites and other people with varying degrees of gender and make them call me Mary Sue while I bark like a dog."
A massive coronary on her part was the ultimate hope for a reaction. Instead, she threw a vase at him.
It was at that point that Byakuya realized his snide comments would have grave consequences - there was no way she'd leave by the end of the week now.