This may be a well discussed topic or it may not have been, but I'm wondering what peoples' perspectives on Byakuya and his relationships with people in general. This is largely inspired by rewatching the SS arc for completely unrelated reasons, though it crops up from time to time and makes me think.
I'm delving back in time a little bit with this since I've been rewatching the SS arc, so bear with me *lol*
I've always felt that Byakuya's apparent dislike of Ichigo is not only rooted in the fact that he's wilfully breaking the rules and causing his turmoil over Rukia's sentencing to be much more complicated. It's always occured to me that he dislikes Ichigo for befriending Rukia with so little effort...Rukia is willing, essentially, to sacrifice her life in Soul Society in order to protect Ichigo from Byakuya's blade. Ichigo's also willing to put himself out there and fight for something he believes in strongly, without all of the ties and restrictions that Byakuya has to deal with. The banter they have when they're first reunited in SS is one of those moments, when Ichigo yells at her that he's going to save her and that she has no right to object, etc. Byakuya just doesn't seem able to have that kind of conversation with Rukia or really with anyone. Plus though in the end he's willing to die to protect her (and again, I think, when he comes to her defence in Hueco Mundo), it's never suggested that Rukia feels this strongly about Byakuya since she's usually trying to stop him killing someone else, not protecting him.
I really don't think that Byakuya hates Ichigo - especially since he 'let' Rukia and Renji go to Hueco Mundo to help him save Orihime - but I do think he's envious of that rapport. He's obviously never been very good at expressing his fondness for her because Rukia doesn't think he cares about her at all - or maybe it's just too painful for him to constantly have a reminder of Hisana floating around the house. Hisana does say something about not being able to return his love - I;ve never been sure if that's because she's about to die and leave him alone, or whether it's because he fell in love with her and married her but she never loved him in the same way.
I also reckon that his dubious relationship with Renji stems from the same problem as with Ichigo - since Renji is also very close to Rukia.
The thing is though that though Byakuya the adult is extremely reisei and almost flat in his approach to people - it's hard to tell who he actually likes most of the time. But the Pendulum story gives Byakuya as a hot-tempered little whelp who shot his mouth off a fair bit to Yoruichi. So is he sitting on the real him because of his position? Does he feel so suffocated by the whole noble Kuchiki-ke situation that he thinks the whole world is watching him and waiting for a slip? But then again he's not entirely caught up in what being noble born means, since he went against his family's wishes in marrying Hisana and then in adopting Rukia.
Or did he just pull his emotions into himself after Hisana died? After all, he went against his family's wishes to do so...is she perhaps the only person he's ever opened up to at all, or could he not even do that? Is he hoping to somehow find something of Hisana in Rukia, just like the parallels are always being drawn for Rukia with Ichigo and Kaien?
The fight between Renji and Byakuya is also interesting to me because of the way Byakuya reacts at the end. Why does he take off his shawl and drop it on Renji's body? Does Unohana find Renji of her own free will by tracing his spirit force's sudden fall or has Byakuya actually reported Renji's injury to someone in order to save his life? Did Byakuya drape the shawl there to indicate that the injury was his doing...? Or was it a sign of acceptance of Renji's growing skill? (The fang having reached him). I don't know if there's any further explanation for this anywhere, but it almost seemed that this was a tiny fragment of emotion from Byakuya...especially because Renji's fighting for Rukia which he feels he can't do himself.
I've always felt that when he turns his head away at the execution ground it's not because he's denying his connection to her - even though it's a brief instant, he looks truly pained by it as though he's really suffering and can't bear to meet her eyes because he knows he's betraying her. (Of course he's been to Hisana's shrine before that, and he knows he's betraying her also). Yet even though he's really suffering over it, he's really vehemently active in preventing rescue attempts and preventing the execution.
Even if he wasn't going to try and save Rukia, he could have sat back and just let things happen, including Ichigo's invasion. There's no reason for him to get so actively involved in keeping her in prison, or for him to fight his own vice captain, shred Ganju or any of the other things. Is he punishing himself or trying to prove to everyone else that he's not involved in any conspiracy to free her? Even though he does save her from Shinsou in the end, it's still almost too little, too late...
The other thing I wondered about was what kind of relationship/connection exists (once existed) between Byakuya and Ukitake. It interests me whether or not there's a reason why Rukia was drafted into Juusanbantai and not any of the other squads, including Byakuya's own, since the family rushed through her graduation for that purpose. It's also Ukitake who manages to stop Byakuya in mid-attack on the walkway to the prison tower (name eluding me) yet Byakuya doesn't react to him in the same way he reacts to Yoruichi. Yet, when Ukitake accosts him about the last change in the execution date, Byakuya takes a dig at him about Kaien's death, as though he blames Ukitake and his constant dodgy health for having put Rukia through some trauma by not having dealt with the situation properly.
Minor aside - I love Ukitake, but erm, why is he a Captain if he's that physically ailing? I can understand he has been captain a long time, but the indication is that he's been weak all his life...so surely letting him take that role was always a risk?
Byakuya's not my favourite character (one of them, probably, but not #1) so this is really just my vague musing. I find him really interesting because of his lack of outward emotion, especially when so much is obviously going on inside that laced up head of his.