Steps to Happiness

Summary: Byakuya didn't know whether to be annoyed or horrified that Yachiru had just declared him a grumpy-bum! And now the SWA's was going to make him happy? Not if he can help it! Senpei will help, right?

Pairings: None really. Maybe a hint of Byakuya/Ukitake if you tilt your head a little.

Disclaimer: Don't own any of the characters associated with the Anime of Bleach, hence I make no profit from this whatsoever.

Warnings: Juushiro Ukitake is dictated as a female in gender in this story. Yes, I am well aware that he is male in both Manga and anime, but work with me here.

AN: Yes, another Oneshot. I know I have other stories that need to be completed, but my muse is an evil bitch that likes to torment me daily. My next update should hopefully be the next chapter to "A Woman Behind These Clothes".

Well, anyway, I hope you will enjoy this ficlet and do let me know what you think. Thank you in advance.

Having the Seireitei Women's Association conduct their meetings within the confinements of his residence was always such a pain in the neck, one of which Byakuya had not grown used to over time.

Their giggling echoing through the grand hallways of his estate was disconcerting as he still couldn't pinpoint their exact location. And the fact that they continued to find a secret place to hold their meetings played absolutely havoc with his pride.

Finding their secret hideouts was no long a matter of maintaining his family's image and the sanctuary of his home; it was a matter of dignity!

And no one was allowed to step on the pride of a Kuchiki.

There was, however, one tiny little bright spot within the nasty blemish; if he happened to be lucky enough to stroll past one of their meetings, he could catch glimpses of their important conversations. Hence, it gave him the chance to interrupt before they put any despicable plan into action or to warn those necessary.

The Women's Association was feared by many and they were intimidated by very few when they were together, but there was one person who still had a bit of influence over them and made them listen when necessary;

Juushiro Ukitake.

Byakuya had forgotten the number of times he had to warn Captain Ukitake that the women were trying to find a way to stick her in a rather revealing dress and give her an impromptu makeover. He figured his should as his senpei much preferred the loose and conservative style of clothing and to be quite frank, he didn't want those peasants out there to be gawking at the gentle captain. She always had enough stalkers to deal with, she did not need anymore.

She was polite, calm, yet firm as well when she confronted them of their plans. And while they are always disappointed by the failure of a plan, they respected her. And were also starting to respect the fact that Head-Captain Yamamoto saw Ukitake as his daughter.

However, a feeling of dread fell upon him when he heard the hushed tones of feminine voices. They were conspiring again, plotting and scheming like they always do, but from this unnerving feeling of unease, Byakuya could not help but feel that they were talking about him.

Looking at his surroundings, but most importantly, searching to see if any of his servants or advisors were not within the immediate area, Byakuya silently shuffled his way to the wall on his left, leaning against in an attempt to understand the muffle words.

No, he was not pressing his ear against the wall in the effort to eavesdrop; he was merely gathering information for future references. If he could not keep up with these devilish women and their heinous plots, then he had no right to be a captain.

Besides, they were in his domain; he had the privilege to do whatever he desired.

"This is the third meeting room this week," the voice of the eighth lieutenant stated in a very displeasing tone, which soon caused her fellow women to join in with their own statements of disproval.

Byakuya, on the other hand, felt a smirk tug at the corners of his lips.

Ah, he figured they'd discuss the total destruction of their last hideout. Sebonzakura did a magnificent job, as per usual.

"He's always so grumpy!" Yachiru squawked in her usual obnoxiously cheerful manner. "He's a Grumpy-bum!"

Byakuya felt a sense of irritation touch him by that insult. And, well, maybe he wouldn't be so grumpy if they didn't continually defy his wishes and break into his estate without permission.

"We should make him lighten up!" Yachiru continued, before she chirped; terrifying and daunting. "I know; we should force him to become happy!"

There was a silence and Byakuya found himself blinking, unsure on how he should feel to such a statement.

"Force him to become happy?" the tenth lieutenant, Rangiku Matsumoto repeated. "How?"

"Um, we should send him lots and lots of heart-shaped candy! That always makes me happy!"

...He hated those types of candy. How that was supposed to make him happy, he couldn't comprehend.

"Sake!" Rangiku abruptly announced. "Sake always makes me happy. We should slip it into his tea."

...Like he would ever accept a cup of tea from one of those women.

A shiver raced down his spine as more suggestions were verbalized. They...couldn't be serious, could they? They really wouldn't even attempt to try to make him happy by painting his office pink and covering the walls with glow in the dark stickers? They wouldn't try to make him lighten up sending him huge bouquets of flowers from a secret admirer, would they?

Shit, they would.

He could easily chase them off with Senbonzakura right here and now, but that would only make them even more determined to get under his skin and make him lighten him up.

Past experiences had taught him that lesson rather well.

No, this called for more drastic measures and only one had to power to aid him. First, he will calmly exit his estate and approach the only one influential enough to help him, and-

"Alright! Let operation: Ungrumpify Captain Grouchy commence!"

Byakuya swore lightly under his breath. When that pink haired demon starts making up her own words, he knew she was serious about the entire matter.

He needed to!

Shunpo'ding through the streets to his location, a place he knows he would be safe, didn't come without it's interruption, but he promptly ignored all of them. Even his own lieutenant, Renji, was startled by his unwillingness to answer his enquires.

He will deal with them all later. He had something more important to deal with first. His pride was at stake here.

Reaching his destination within record time, Byakuya pushed past a startled Sentaro, Captain Ukitake's third seat, demanding that the younger man tells no one of his presence. He took a moment to search for his senpei, the older captain residing in her room. As he hasty approached her location, he could feel Ukitake become startled by his presence and seemed to be readying herself to meet up with him half way.

However, he got to her door before she could and Senpei looked absolutely startled and confused to see him. There was also an undeniable amount of concern in her posture.

"Byakuya? What's wrong?"

But Byakuya did not answer her questions, instead he ever so slightly pushed his senpei aside to step further into her room, dashing to stand behind a partition she uses to dress behind and stayed there. He furled his Spiritual Pressure tightly against him as he pressed his back against the wall behind him, standing so there won't be a chance for anyone to spy him from the distance of the doorway.

No, he was not hiding. No matter how much it looked as if he was, he wasn't hiding. He was simply...making sure he wasn't seen. Yes, that was right.


Byakuya held his breath. It was that little pink demon; of all the women, he can't let her find him. His pride simply would not recover should he be seen in her company, especially if she was dragging him back to his place of happiness.

"Yachiru-chan," Ukitake's voice greeted cheerfully followed by an 'oof' sound, no doubt just having the wind knocked out of her when Yachiru tackled her in an overly enthusiastic hug. The tiny vice-captain always enthusiastically hugged the older captain, especially if she could smell candy on her.

Speaking of which, it sounded as though Ukitake was currently searching for some candy to subdue the pinkette with. "What some candy?"

"Thanks, Uki~!" Yachiru immediately cheered before making that obnoxious sound of shoving as much food as she could into her mouth with her greedy little hands. "Havhf youfus-?"

"Swallow before speaking, child," Ukitake lightly chided with her well known motherly affection and Byakuya could easily imagine the white-haired captain standing there with a slight frown and a hand on her hip. "It's terribly rude."

A sound of a large gulp was soon heard and a content sighed followed before a chirp; "Have you been Bya-boo?"

"Hmm, Byakuya?" Ukitake asked in response and Byakuya felt himself sink back further against the wall, curling his spiritual pressure tighter around him. Surely his Senpei won't tell that he was here, would she?

"Why?" Ukitake finally asked.

"He blew up our clubhouse again, Uki!"

Clubhouse? More like a room of torture to everyone else who resided within the Soul Society. Besides, he didn't blow it up, how barbaric; he shredded it into a million perfectly cut pieces.

"Well, I do believe he has the right to do as he pleases," Ukitake stated in a diplomatic manner. "After all, you of the Women's Association are trespassing on his property."

Byakuya felt a sense of relief momentarily wash over him from his Senpei's understanding. Of course, she probably knew beyond all doubt how frustrated he would become after each and every time they found a new hiding place within the Kuchiki estate. She was one of he could talk to about such a matter.

"He's so grumpy!" Yachiru stated with an air of disgruntlement so it wasn't hard picturing her pouting dramatically. "We're going to make him happy!"

"Oh?" Ukitake questioned in a baffling manner before sounding surprisingly against the idea after Yachiru rattled off some of their...suggestions. "Byakuya is just being Byakuya. You should leave him be."

"But don't you think he's a grumpy-bum, Uki?"

Byakuya felt a surprisingly painful sting when Ukitake laughed at her question before answering. "Sometimes, but he is who he is."

She then became quite sober rather quickly, the sound of shuffling clothes followed as if she was moving to kneel on the mats in front of the pink-haired lieutenant. And as she spoke, her voice was motherly, sounding almost as if she was explaining to Yachiru something important. "We shouldn't try to change someone. You like Captain Kenpachi the way he is, don't you?"

"Ken-chan is the best!" Yachiru immediately chirped.

"Then you wouldn't like it if someone tried to change him, would you?"

Yachiru was surprisingly silent for a moment before answering. "No."

"Well, maybe there are people out there who like Byakuya for who he is," Ukitake said gently, and yet with a sense of sincerity and conviction that it appeared that she really believed in what she said. "So maybe we should leave him be, hmm?"

Another silence fell over the room, Yachiru no doubt taking a moment to ponder Ukitake's words. As was Byakuya himself. He was aware that his noble intentions and up-bringing was irksome to many and he's had more than enough meddlesome individuals inform him to lighten up than he cared to remember. None of which bothered him in the slightest, but this was the first time he has heard someone be so...accepting of him.

"Hmm," Yachiru hummed in thought. "More candy and we'll leave 'Kuya alone! Kay?"

Again, Ukitake laughed airily and made an approval sound. "Of course! Here you go."

A loud 'nom!" was immediately heard before the stamping of feet. "Bye Uki~!"

Ukitake continued to laugh as the young girl ran out of her barracks and then as her presence disappeared completely, she turned her attention to him. "You can come out of hiding now, Byakuya."

Stepping out from behind the partition, Byakuya gave his senpei a subtly sour look. "I wasn't hiding," he informed her quickly.

Ukitake, however, simply smiled at him and tilted her head in a sign of understanding. "Of course," she said before winking at him. "You might be trapped here for a while, though."

Byakuya did his best not to outwardly wince, willing himself not to think about the other members of the Association that could be lurking around, just waiting to pounce. "It seems so."

Ukitake gave another light and airy laugh before placing an expression of thoughtfulness upon her delicate features. "You know," she said as she slowly walked toward him. "I meant what I said."

Something fluttered in his chest, something Byakuya had felt once, a long time ago. What was it? Happiness?

"About people liking you for who you are," she continued as she stopped to stand in front of him, her eyes gentle and warm, as they usually are when they were alone together. They were always so...accepting, no matter what was said.

What he did.

"...How do you know who I really am?" He wanted that to come out defiantly, but instead came out more subdued and...sadder than he had intended.

"I know," Ukitake whispered gently as she carefully framed his face within her hands and smiled that loving smile of hers. "I've seen the real you."

She then leaned forward to lightly kiss his forehead, her lips lingering there for a moment or two. And when she pulled back, she was smiling yet again. "You're free to be yourself around me, Bya-kun."

And Byakuya found himself smiling softly back, feeling happy for a first time in a long time.

"Thank you, Senpei."