Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach, or any of the characters used in this fic. They all belong to Tite Kubo. I only own any of my original characters that I choose to include, as well as any of my own original plot ideas.

Black And White

A/N: Written as a holiday request for a friend on LJ; pre-series.

They never had any say as to which recruits went where. All those decisions were made by the top brass at the Academy. It was just as well. It wouldn't do to have arguements about which student would go where. Not that she could even imagine such a thing, given how structured their system was.

And, as required by the system, there was a day set aside each year where the captains would rotate through the Academy to observe the students who would graduate in oncoming months.

But, of all the others, there was one boy who'd struck her as being particularly able. Retsu remembered that, during one of the preliminary Academy exercises the recruits had been put through, he had simply whizzed through the practice, realigning various bones and joints to a near perfection.

When it came time for his graduation, word got back to her that he'd been named the top of his class. And, without so much as a peep from her, the boy, named Seinosuke Yamada, was promptly placed under her supervision.

But, when the ceremony had ended, there had been another little boy, much smaller than Seinosuke, who had promptly plastered himself to the elder's leg.

"You can't go!" he'd cried, eyes wide and nose wet. "You can't! It's not fair! If you leave, I'll never see you again! Don't go away, Sei-kun!"

"Don't cry, Hana-chan." Seinosuke had simply pulled the younger boy off his leg, lifting him into his arms. "I'll come back to see you again, so you better work hard. That way, when you're old enough to get through the Academy, you can come and work with big brother."

The sobbing little boy had quieted down then, wiping his nose with a sleeve. Seinosuke set him down, and patted him on the head.

"See? Don't you feel better, Hana-chan?"

A nod. "You really think I can be like you, Sei-kun?"

"Of course you can."

As his brother was led away, Seinosuke had smiled, looking to her. He'd known that she'd seen everything.

"They're just words," he said matter-of-factly as he passed her by. "They don't mean anything unless your heart is in them." He had sighed then, smiling as his brother was carried away. "He's a good kid. But if Hana-chan weren't such a crybaby, maybe he'd have a chance. Maybe he'd be able to make something of himself. To be as good as I am."

Conceit had been the only word in her head that day.

Looking at the two of them now, it was plain to see that both held a natural ability. But the dfference between the two was stark. The first had closed himself off to the world, obsessed with his own talent and wellbeing, while the other had opened his heart and given it freely.

Brothers they may have been, but the two of them were as opposite as black and white.