Shuuhei looked around at the office where he had worked, slept, and lived for the past five years. It was nothing special, he mused wryly, just four walls, a desk, some cabinets and a window. But it had been the nexus his life had revolved around. The drawers and cabinets had been filled nearly to the point of explosion with paperwork waiting to be done and his desk had constantly been producing rubble from his work: nubs of pens, old ink bottles, scratch paper, and pulverized charcoal.

He sighed and let his stormy grey eyes slide across every well-worn, well-loved surface of the office. He had joked with Renji and Kira that he couldn't wait to say goodbye to the cramped postage stamp but really…it had become a sort of home away from home. The brunette snorted and shook his head at the thought, now that was just sad! Almost unconsciously, he slid one hand over the back of the straight-backed, wooden chair, his hands feeling once again, the comforting grain that had been at his back for years; a constant companion and sometimes a constant pain. He had complained of the stiffness and aching muscles it had given him and yet at the end of a long day he had sat in that very torture device, completely boneless, cradling a cup of gently steaming green tea. From the view through his office window, he would breathe in the calming scent and watch in placid contentment as the sky changed from the vibrant fiery oranges and reds of sunset to the dusky violets and blues of twilight, absorbing the violent colors of the changing sky and loving the vibrancy that could only be found at the beginning and end of the day. He would silently watch it in its glory until the constellations peeked out from the darkness of the velvet night sky and he either rolled out the mat or staggered home to his quarters.

The former fukutaichou sank into the chair with a muffled groan. For a minute he squirmed and adjusted his hakama until he was situated comfortably in its wooden arms then he let his eyes drift out the window. He would not be watching the sunset from here any longer. Across the pale blue sky a pair of birds wheeled and sang to one another, perfectly content in the clear day, playing on the gentle summer breeze.

He sat there, lost in thought and the gentle swaying of the wind, his mind following its slow curls and eddies.

Hitsugaya regarded the bottom of his glass with a frown (though really, what other expression would he be wearing without the loosening effects of drugs?) The white-haired captain sighed and set his glass down on the small table gently. He murmured in his accustomed manner, "Hisagi Taichou seems less enthusiastic than I would have expected for such a promotion."

Ukitake looked surprised. He smiled at the younger captain from across the table, "I'm not sure what you mean, Toushiro". He let his eyes wander to the garden outside the shoji doors where Hisagi taichou and his friends were talking and laughing, his gentle smile lingering on his face a moment longer, "After all those children have been through, I'm just happy that he is smiling". He turned back to his table partner, "Besides, it isn't as though Hisagi has been approved for captainship yet".

"He's as good as!" Hitsugaya snapped.

Ukitake laughed lightly and held up his hands as if to ward off an attack, "That is true enough, Toushiro-kun, but I'm sure that Hisagi does not want to get his hopes up on the off chance that he is denied".

Hitsugaya regarded Ukitake with something that could almost be called confusion, if the small captain would ever admit to being confused.

Ukitake smiled gently and enlightened him, "Hisagi, has been through a rough time, juggling the duties of captain and vice-captain" His eyes took on a sad cast as he explained, "I am sure that, somewhere in his heart, Hisagi is still unsure whether or not he is ready for such a promotion". He held up a hand to forestall any interruption Hitsugaya had been about to make, "All I am saying is that Hisagi may feel that way," he said, his words cautious.

The two white-haired captains regarded the man in question. Hisagi Shuuhei, the acting captain of squad nine looked the very picture of a responsible officer. He reflected nothing but polite attention and quiet respect. His dark eyes somehow reminded Hitsugaya of his own element, of waters that hid their depths from sight with distracting reflections that rippled across the surface; a shimmering silver camoflauge of sorts. He stared at the lieutenant under consideration and tried as best he could to dive down into those hidden depths beyond the reflections of what was expected and see what the young man was really thinking. Hisagi's long eyelashes hid the glimmer in his eyes as he smiled and joked with Renji and Kira, the three scars on his face harsh testimony to a life of hard lessons learned even as he smiled. His dark hair had grown out a bit and it spiked out in almost deliberate disarray that the small white-haired captain could identify with, the unruly locks standing up every which way.

As he watched the poise and quiet assurance that drifted off of Hisagi, Hitsugaya was suddenly struck by how much Hisagi already looked like a captain. They had all taken the dark haired man's work for granted for so long that seeing him in a captain's haori would not seem any different than before. The young man already was a captain in all the ways that mattered, all that was missing was the proud white uniform.

Kyoraku groaned as he took a seat beside his old friend, "Ah, Jyushiro, it's good to see you" He nodded towards the quiet brunette, "Well? What do you think of our new captain? Think he'll do?" His wise brown eyes told them that he already knew the answer.

Ukitake laughed at Shunsui's sly humor, his eyes crinkling at the corners, "Well, I suppose if I have to pass judgment at all, it will be to say that he will fit right in," he smiled and his merry brown eyes twinkled, "After all he has essentially been a captain for what…five years?"

Kyoraku smiled in response and poured himself a cup of sake, "That is quite true," He and the white haired captain laughed gently and fell into a comfortable silence, simply enjoying the calm night, the warm glow of the sake, and the presence of old friends.

This was why he enjoyed sitting with these two, Hitsugaya thought, the companionable silence was a welcome break from his own fukutaichou's ceaseless banter. Not that he didn't enjoy it after a fashion, he mused, it was just that after a long day of uncompleted reports and paperwork lying on his desk with Matsumoto's lazy scrawl dripping off of the pages his patience was worn thin and he was in no mood for chit chat.

The night wore on, with guests coming and going and all the while the dark haired man stood silently, with one ear for his friends and the other cocked to the whispering voice of the wind.

Hisagi Shuuhei stifled a yawn as the last of the guests disappeared for the night, some nearly carrying others. Ukitake and Kyoraku taichou came up to him, the last of the night. He bowed his head respectfully, "Ukitake Taichou, Kyoraku Taichou, thank you for coming".

Ukitake smiled and waved his hand airily, "Now, now, Hisagi-san, I believe we are beyond formalities now aren't we?" He laughed.

Kyoraku smiled his sly smile and drawled, "I would say so, after all now you're a taichou now as well".

Hisagi smiled slightly and inclined his head, "Thank you, Taichou, but I'd rather not count my chickens before they've hatched".

Kyoraku made quirked his mouth wryly, "Perhaps that is wisest, but I hope you know, we have no doubts!"

Hisagi laughed, "Thank you, I am hoping".

Ukitake laughed in his jovial way and gently led the outlandish brunette away, calling back over his shoulder to the young captain, "We are looking forward to it, Hisagi-san!"

Hisagi smiled as he watched them go. They were quite a pair those two. A cold gust of wind slipped beneath the door, nipping at his ankles like a playful cat, swirling up his legs to ruffle the ties on his hakama and obi. The brunette bit back a shiver as the cold laughter of the wind skated up his spine and his shoulders, leaving as quickly as it had come, leaving in it's wake the quiet echo of it's presence. Hisagi Shuuhei stood in a pool of shadow and moonlight, half illuminated and half smothered, listening to the dark crooning of the wind as it freely roamed the dark night sky.

Byakuya Kuchiki was used to sleepless nights. He would prowl the grounds of his mansion, searching for things long lost and things that had never been found into the wee hours of the morning and his restlessness was finally curbed by exhaustion. That was one remnant of his volatile youth that had not been smothered by ceremony and expectation. He had always been restless. That had always made Hisana laugh. She would describe how he would rise in the middle of the night to stalk among the pools and trees, 'You act like a caged animal sometimes,' she would joke. Now she would no longer shake her head and smile at his late night antics but he had gotten used to it. While Rukia slept soundly on the other end of the mansion Byakuya Kuchiki wandered.

The wind shifted suddenly and the proud noble barely repressed a shiver at the touch of its cold hands. In the corner of his eye he saw a shadow against the wall stretch and elongate like a spill of dark ink across a smooth floor. With hardly a conscious thought he spun on his heel and brought his sword to bear. Blue and gold sparks illuminated the dark expanse of wall and the aloof captain was surprised to see the currently acting captain, Hisagi Shuuhei, staring back up at him, his dark eyes startled and apologetic.

"Forgive me, Kuchiki-Taichou," he murmured, "I was traveling by rooftop and one of the tiles on the wall was slick with something…" he shrugged uncomfortably, "I didn't fancy cracking my head open on the street so I directed my fall here, I'll leave as soon as I can".

The head of the Kuchiki household said nothing, his dark enigmatic eyes roving over the younger man and stopping on the dark splotches he could see on the younger man's arms and face. His voice was cold and clinical, "Is that blood?"

Hisagi fukutaichou looked startled but then his scarred face smoothed back out into his accustomed expression of calm, "Yes, taichou" he said.

Byakuya Kuchiki raised one fine eyebrow, "May I ask who's?" his voice held just the faintest suggestion of wry amusement.

Hisagi lifted his eyes from the ground and his dark eyes glittered in something Byakuya suspected was wicked laughter at the older captain's attitude, "Some hollows, taichou".

Byakuya considered the younger man for a moment, then made a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat and sheathed his sword. The movement was so fast that Hisagi had to catch himself to keep from bowling forward.

His shocked face still angled towards the ground, Hisagi heard the usually cold captain say in a tone that sounded suspiciously like he was smirking, "Watch yourself, Hisagi fukutaichou, I would have thought your skills more than competent for that."

Hisagi sheathed his own sword, gaining back some of his composure as he did so. When he looked up at the pale captain he smirked, his usually somber mouth quirked in the hint of a wicked grin, "Normally I would be perfectly capable," he said, "but then again, normally, I do not usually play jokes with captains". The younger man began to heave himself to his feet then winced and swayed slightly.

The Kuchiki noble's tone immediately became brusque and businesslike, "Are you alright, Hisagi fukutaichou?"

Hisagi breathed in deeply through his nose, letting the air hiss back out in a quiet stream. He nodded and replied, "Yes, Kuckiki-taichou, just a little out of breath".

Byakuya raised an eyebrow, this time in thinly veiled skepticism, "Really?"

Hisagi was about to give an emphatic reassurance when his air seemed to slip from his lungs of his own accord. Suddenly there wasn't enough air to breathe and the world around him swirled like a crazy watercolor painting.

The aloof captain was just quick enough to catch the dark haired lieutenant as he keeled forward, his sword falling from his nerveless fingers.

When he woke it was to the delightful softness of silk against his skin and the relaxing warmth of cotton sheets, freshly heated, draped on top of him. Hisagi turned his head and touched his chest hesitantly, searching for the wounds he had received on his nightly hunt but the dried blood was gone leaving behind only a series of very professional stitches across his torso and the scent of something light and flowery, like honeysuckle or jasmine. From his left he heard a deep detached voice say, "I see you are awake now."

He whipped his head to the side and met the dark hooded gaze of the head of the Kuchiki clan. Byakuya Kuchiki sat seiza style, a lightly steaming cup of tea cupped between his perfectly manicured hands. His lips twitched as he took in Hisagi's stunned and embarrassed expression, the light flush of red already fading from his fine cheekbones.

After he had regained some of his cool demeanor Hisagi gently pushed the blankets off of his body, silently mourning the loss of warmth as he sat up, readying himself to leave, "Thank you very much, Taichou," he said, averting his eyes, " I appreciate your taking care of me."

From his left he heard Byakuya's wry drawl, "Is there some reason why you are in such a hurry? Does the bedding not suit you?"

Hisagi jerked his head up waving his hands frantically, "No! No! Of course that wasn't what I meant! I only—!" He stuttered to a halt as he met that implacable dark gaze, he let his eyes slide to the side, murmuring, "I just, didn't want to overextend your generosity." He chuckled nervously, "I would hate for you to be irritated with me."

Byakuya paused as he sipped his tea and considered that. His next words were characteristically to the point, "Why would you care what I thought of you?"

Hisagi looked at him, flabbergasted.

If one could ever pin an emotion to the cold captain's expression, it would have been the slightest irritation, "Something wrong?" he asked in icy tones.

Once again Hisagi tripped over himself trying to explain himself, "N-no! Absolutely nothing!"

The noble's gaze was frigid, "Then answer the question," he demanded.

Hisagi found his gaze wandering again but this time he dragged it back to the detached captain's, "I care what you think because…because you are a commanding officer."

Byakuya considered this. His next point was simple, "That would make some sense, if it weren't for the fact that you are a captain yourself."

Hisagi Shuuhei choked on his reply and swayed slightly where he sat. For a moment, the noble thought that he was passing out again but the young man steeled himself and met his gaze. Hisagi's expression was a sight to behold. He looked like he was recovering from a lightning strike, "Taichou," he murmured, "I am surprised that you are so certain of this".

The Kuchiki noble snorted lightly and sipped his tea, his gaze fixing on a faraway distance, "It is only logical," he concluded, "You have been a captain in all but name for some time now and since you attained your bankai nearly a year ago it would be foolish of the central 46, or the head captain to ignore your candidacy". He glanced back in time to see Hisagi's gaze sink to the floor.

The young man's voice was surprisingly soft, "I wish I were so sure".

Byakuya frowned, "How could you doubt it? It is the only logical conclusion".

"I don't doubt that I'll get the post," he whispered, his dark shaggy hair falling into his eyes and obscuring his face, "I'm just not sure…that I want it."

The silence stretched between them, poignant and as easily ignored as a circus elephant in a too-small tent. Byakuya spoke slowly, "I am not sure I understand."

Hisagi glanced up, his dark eyes as unreadable as the captain's, "Don't get me wrong," he reassured him, "I would be honored and proud…more than I can say" his eyes dropped to his hands that were unconsciously moving through the air as he talked. Byakuya found himself watching the gentle grace of those slim hands as the lieutenant continued, "But I'm not sure if I am ready to take on that responsibility". Byakuya waited… "I'm not…" Hisagi twisted his face in concentration and he gestured pointlessly with his hands, searching for a way to express himself that didn't involve such elusive slippery things as words. He huffed in frustration and finally said, "I'm not ready to be tied down." His dark eyes were hard and certain as he said this and suddenly Byakuya was reminded of the young man's zanpaktou; a wind demon, a flitting creature of the sky that bowed its head to no one and no thing. A position such as captain would indeed hinder the freedom that all souls covet.

Hisagi was adamant, his expression set as he continued, "I…I've been feeling so…restless of late," With that confession, the lieutenant's usually stoic face slipped and Byakuya saw the discontent and pure need to move plain as day on the dark-haired lieutenant's face.

Hisagi glanced up, expecting to see an expression of disdain or contempt on the noble captain's face but was startled to see a sympathetic look. Byakuya seemed to muse to himself, "Yes that can be…a difficult feeling to overcome".

Now it was Kuchiki who was avoiding eye contact. He watched the steam rising from his cup as he murmured, "When I was appointed for the position I was extremely proud, arrogantly so. I was ecstatic to finally be taking my grandfather's place as captain and head of the Kuchiki clan that I completely missed how I really felt until it was too late." The normally uncommunicative captain's eyes were dark and his voice was heavy with regret for decisions made too rashly, "I realized that I did not want to answer to another for my actions" he raised his head and for a moment, Shuuhei saw the ghost of the arrogant young man that the proud head of the Kuchiki clan had once been, "I valued my independence, I valued my privacy, and much of that was sacrificed when I became captain." He sighed and carefully set his cup of tea aside. "I too…" he murmured, "Did not like being, 'tied down' as you call it".

They were silent for a moment, with not even the wind outside to fill the space between them. Hisagi's voice was rough and hesitant, "How did you manage? I mean, you obviously didn't let that stop you".

Byakuya's voice matched the younger man's, slow and quiet, as though reluctant to speak, "I kept myself busy. I did all that was asked of me to the best of my ability, I tried to prove to myself that I could find satisfaction in the many facets of a captain's duties". He sighed and his dark hair slipped forward to trail over his shoulder and down his chest in silky locks, "I…I tried to find something that equaled the sense of freedom that I had lost".

Hisagi spoke in a hoarse whisper, as though he were afraid of the answer, "And did you?"


Hisagi's shoulders slumped and his head bowed forward under the Kuchiki captain's answer. Suddenly he felt a cool hand on his shoulder and the captain was beside him, gazing at him with those surprisingly expressive eyes. His voice was still calm and uninflected but now Hisagi felt a certain comfort in his words, "No decision has been made yet, Hisagi-san." Kuckiki taichou murmured, "If you tell the head-captain of your desires, he will listen. No one will judge you, one way or the other for whatever decision you make." At Hisagi's continued silence the captain sighed and whispered, "You're life is yours to do with as you please, Hisagi-san. You should never assume that your choices are limited by someone else".

Hisagi Shuuhei raised his head and glanced up at the captain; his dark-grey eyes glimmering from beneath his full lashes. The Kuchiki captain felt a small shudder run through the younger man as he sighed and laid his head on Byakuya's shoulder. His words were so softly spoken that Byakuya had to cock his head to hear them, "Thank you, Kuchiki-san".

Somehow a slight wind wound its way beneath the door. It was a strange wind, unlike its wilder cousins outside it drifted where they snapped, and skimmed where they raked and clawed. Byakuya found himself staring into the younger man's eyes, those dark liquid orbs whose color seemed to ripple and swirl from black to grey to darkest green like a spill of mercury. The young man reminded the noble of the wild outside the order of Seireitei, a small piece of it, hidden inside flesh and bone, and only now rising from its hiding place to take part in the world around him. At his side, Byakuya felt Senbonsakura shiver in his sheathe as it too felt the faint breath of the untamed along its back, a touch that both had long since forgotten. In his inner world the proud warrior spirit of his zanpaktou reached out and very carefully grasped the arm of a dark wordless spirit outlined in red, drawing that wildly beating pulse closer to his heart under the grove of sakura trees. The sharp excited breaths sending the deadly and beautiful petals whirling through the inner spaces of his master's soul on the violent winds of Kazeshini.

Byakuya jumped when he felt the smooth lips of the young man, tracing the fine curve of his cheekbone. The commanding noble locked eyes with the younger man and Hisagi felt himself shiver with something like anticipation as the beautiful and deadly captain spoke, "That was very…forward of you, Hisagi fukutaichou".

Hisagi flushed lightly and let his eyes drop, fighting disappointment. He murmured, "I suppose so, Kuchiki-Tai—"

But he never finished that sentence. His lips were locked with that of the noble's in a passionate kiss. Suddenly Shuuhei felt as though his blood were on fire as Kazeshini screamed in jubilation in his ear. The noble dragged one well-manicured hand down Shuuhei's face applying just enough pressure to the three scars so that an unconscious mew of pleasure escaped Shuuhei. He whispered hoarsely into Hisagi's ear, "I didn't say I disapproved".

Shuuhei groaned as Byakuya continued to kiss and stroke his face and neck. Their tongues tangled in one another's mouths in a fight for dominance. With a gasp Shuuhei surrendered control of the kiss to the noble allowing the man's nimble tongue to plunder his mouth. As they pulled apart to gasp for air, Shuuhei turned his head and nipped the captain's ear lobe, gliding his tongue along the delicate shell of the other man's ear. He smirked against the captain's cheek as the elegant man gasped at the sudden sensation.

With a playful smirk Byakuya pushed Shuuhei down, loosening the ties of the kimono until the lieutenants gasping sides and pale legs were exposed. With what Hisagi could only describe as a wolfish smile, Byakuya lowered his head and began working his way up the lieutenants legs. Small nips and licks were generously layered upon the soft skin of the younger man's inner thighs causing the lieutenant to gasp and moan so beautifully it was like listening to a sensual song. As Byakuya came to the junction between Shuuhei's thigh and torso and began to untie the obi Hisagi pulled himself together and leaned down as far as he could, draping his slender arms across Byakuya's shoulders and pulling his kimono open as well. He bent his head, the dark coarse silk of his hair tickling the exposed skin of Byakuya's shoulders as he rained kisses on the thick muscle between neck and shoulder.

Hisagi could feel the approval radiating off of the noble in his arms through the way the kisses, that had progressed to his hips, became rougher and more insistent. Shuuhei moaned and let his head fall back in a graceful arch as he felt Byakuya reach his nipples. The noble kissed one prominent collar bone, raking its length with his teeth and then sliding over it with his tongue. With slow deliberation, Byakuya blew gently on the damp skin, raising gooseflesh along the slender lieutenant's body. With a quiet growl, Hisagi arched his back rubbing their erections together and wringing a beautiful moan from the noble captain's throat. Instinctively Byakuya ground back against the younger man, smirking at the moans that spilled from the dark imp's lips as he leaned forward and attacked that sinful mouth.

Hisagi reached between their grinding bodies and between folds of the noble's kimono and grasped the captain's leaking cock. Byakuya broke the kiss with a gasp as Hisagi smirked and fisted the hard member, whispering hoarsely, "For shame, Kuchiki-taichou, to think that something like this, would leave you so helpless…" he murmured.

Byakuya chuckled deep in his throat at that, and Shuuhei decided he loved the sound. When the captain's arm slid around his waist, holding him fast against the Byakuya's chest the captain whispered, "You may catch me off guard, Shuuhei, but helpless I most certainly, am not!" With his legendary speed, Byakuya took both of Hisagi's hands in one of his own and pinned them above the lieutenant's head, stretching the younger man out beneath him.

Hisagi gasped in surprise, his normally hooded eyes a lovely pale grey that reminded Byakuya of clean steel. The noble bent down, placing one hand on the younger man's chest and began licking and sucking on his nipples. Disregarding any thought for lubrication, the impatient noble began to open Hisagi's body to him in by thrusting shallowly between his spread legs. The carefully controlled thrusts both teased and stretched Shuuhei in the most amazing ways, they made him gasp and crave for more and just as he breathed out in relief Byakuya pushed deeper sending him into a frenzy all over again.

Finally, Byakuya was fully sheathed in Shuuhei's tight heat. Byakuya groaned and dropped his head to Shuuhei's shoulder as both adjusted to the feel of the other. Shuuhei body was coiled so tight and hot that the feeling of being in him had Byakuya gasping for breath. Shuuhei was aware of none of this as he tried to relax his inner muscles to take in the formidable person of Byakuya Kuchiki, the noble's hot cock pushing against his prostate even as they lay there in a tangled sweaty heap on the floor.

Byakuya raised his head, still gasping slightly, to see Shuuhei watching him with hooded eyes. Just as Byakuya was about to begin the real motion of the night the young man grinned wickedly, his dark eyes sparkling and locked his legs around Byakuya's hips. With a mighty thrust of his own, he turned them over in the blink of an eye, leaving himself impaled on Byakuya's length with the noble spread out and stunned on the floor beneath him.

They both groaned as the sensations rippled through them from where they were connected. After a moment Shuuhei grinned, exposing the sharp glimmer of his canines as he bent forward to lock lips with the captain. They teased one another with tongue and teeth as the wind whistled across the eaves of the roof. As they separated Hisagi laughed in a breathless pant and whispered, "Are you ready, Byakuya?"

Byakuya let a rare smile grace his features as he traced the younger man's spine with his fingers, relishing the appreciative sighs and groans that came from the mischevious minx above him, "Always".

Shuuhei began to roll his hips, slowly undulating his lithe body with Byakuya's length nestled snugly within him. Every movement brought a rush of friction and heat as their pleasure rose higher and higher. Hisagi's gasps turned into cries as his partner began to roll in counterpoint, driving his thick cock deeper into the slim body above him.

Those cries that seemed to be almost wrung out of the younger man's throat were the straw that broke the camel's back. With a groan so deep it seemed to come from his toes Byakuya let the thin vestiges of his control break. He thrust his hips upwards with a snap that drove the air out of Shuuhei's throat in a husky whimper. The noble sat up halfway and wrapping his hands around the slim hips straddling his own he pounded into his lover. Shuuhei cried out and groaned with every thrust to his prostate, his back arching with the white-hot pleasure of it. He clutched the Byakuya's shoulders in an effort to keep his balance as all his strength began to drain from his body, each thrust robbing him of his thoughts.

The heat wound tighter and hotter between them, each powerful thrust sending sparks through their minds as the pleasure drowned out all else. As the fire grew to an unbearable burn Shuuhei cried out and arched his back at a near impossible angle, his entire body shuddering as he came with unseeing abandon, his inner walls shivering and clamping down on Byakuya's cock, the friction dragging his lover after him into white hot oblivion.

As their senses slowly trickled back to them Shuuhei turned to his lover. He nuzzled under Byakuya's chin, his spiky dark hair delightfully soft against his skin. With a pleased hum Byakuya tossed aside the soiled sheet and lifted the others, pulling the younger man beneath them with him. They lay there in one another's arms boneless and serene their eyes drifting shut to the wind's gentle sighs of contentment.

Head captain Yamamoto watched the promising lieutenant with hooded eyes, trying to find any uncertainty in his face. "Are you certain of this, Hisagi fukutaichou?" he asked.

Hisagi nodded, his face the picture of calm and assurance, "Yes, Head captain. I appreciate the thought, but I would like to have some time yet as a lieutenant before I think about becoming a captain".

Yamamoto watched the young man intently, intrigued despite himself. The young man was utterly serene, completely at ease with all that had been said. Finally the Head captain nodded, banging his staff onto the floor. "So be it," he said, "Hisagi fukutaichou, I give you six months before you undergo a reevaluation for the position of captain. Until then, carry on your usual duties". He waved his remaining hand, "Dismissed!"

Byakuya walked towards the balcony where he could hear the lieutenants of three and ten gossiping but froze when he heard the subject of their conversation.

"He did WHAT?"

Matsumoto frowned at Kira, her bouncy tirade cut short, "He turned down the position before it was decided! I heard he told the head captain that he wasn't ready for it yet, or something like that!"

Kira growled and slapped his forehead in exasperation, griping, " 'Not ready for it' my ass!" He sighed and moved off with his fellow lieutenant muttering dryly, "Whatever, as long as he is happy with it, I couldn't care less!"

Byakuya waited until their laughter had faded away then stepped out onto the railed walkway, high above Seireitei. He stood, his haori waving in the wind and his scarf trailing on the breeze. He stood still and silent and listened to the wind that twirled and capered through the air like a joyous dancer, unfettered and joyous, content, with the world as it should be.