Author’s Name: idnh-azuresky
Category: Byakuya Fanfiction
Word Count (if applicable): 1641
Spoiler Warnings (if any): Barely there, for TBTP arc
Rating: K+, PG
Kuchiki Byakuya hates cats.
Yet it is a known fact among all stray cats in Soul Society that if you are hungry, hurt, and homeless, you should go to that big mansion around the corner of the huge brick walls. It’s a far trek from the market, which is where they usually hover around, but once you get there, you are guaranteed a warm home and dinner for the night.
When he was younger, he thought hating such common things such as cats was beneath him.
If you run into the large, cold man in the house by any chance, however, beware. He will not even glance at you as he steps over you calmly, but you will not be able to move for hours afterwards, every fur in your body trembling as you try to get over that shock of experiencing pure loathing.
That woman had been a cat demon, nothing less or more.
There was only one damned person in the entire Gotei 13 who would call him that.
“Urahara taicho,” he acknowledged the wide smile of the captain with a terse nod.
Urahara clapped him on the back, and put an arm around him. “May I walk with you?” he asked, despite already doing so.
“Why would I want to do that?” he asked, irritated.
Most captains older than he looked down at him with solemn disapproval at this point, but he didn’t care. He was the Kuchiki Byakuya, who would one day be the head of the clan. He was Kuchiki Byakuya.
Urahara only chuckled, which made him feel vaguely insulted. “Because I want to talk to you,” he said, and before Byakuya could protest, he was whisking away the young boy with a firm grip on his shoulder, chattering away at nothing and absolutely everything.
“And I told Hiyori, well, I was sorry that it happened, but could I help it, really? How was I to know that it was going to explode? I mean, I’ve been reading up on everything I could lay my hands on – oh, I have to tell you about this one book I found on science and religion, it is absolutely hilarious – ”
“Urahara taicho,” Byakuya said, a little desperately, wanting to get out of the man’s grasp as quickly as possible. Really, there was so much he could be doing right now!
Then the captain turned to him with an open, honest smile. “I want to talk about our mutual friend, Yoruichi,” he said cheerfully. “She tells me you don’t like her much?”
“No, I don’t like that demon cat,” Byakuya said, spurred into honesty by surprise, but he probably would have said the same thing any other time. “I’m just glad she stopped coming to my house and annoying me since half a year ago.”
“Really?” Urahara let go of his shoulder then, still wearing that affectionate smile on his face. “I think Yoruichi will be glad to hear that, then. Especially since I don’t think she realizes it’s been a whole half a year since she’s visited you, but it’s a good thing you remember.”
Then the older shinigami was nodding at him in farewell before turning around, trailing that white coat of a captain that Byakuya secretly envied, and it was only half a minute later that he realized they had already arrived at the door of his house.
Shaking his head, Byakuya went in, threw his books onto the floor of his room, and immediately came out to train.
He wouldn’t be surprised if a cat came to play soon, he thought sourly. It was going to ruin his mood, but he was Kuchiki Byakuya and he was going to let nothing deter himself from training.
Nobody came that afternoon, or that evening, and he trained undisturbed well into the night.
And the next night.
Then the next.
After three days since he walked home with the captain of the twelfth division, he heard from his grandfather that a catastrophe had struck Soul Society, and various captains and vice-captains had been lost to either tragedy or treachery.
Urahara had been on the list of treachery, along with Yoruichi.
The next time he saw a black cat on the street, he made sure to kick it really, really hard, then felt completely ashamed at the undignified way he was behaving, and punished himself by training until the moon was well past the large cherry blossom tree in the courtyard of the Kuchiki mansion that night.
Byakuya came into the room without any noise, but the presence could be felt by anyone.
He didn’t say anything, but sat down at his usual spot in the room in that dignified Kuchiki way.
There was still silence.
“I apologize for not telling you,” he said to the air in front of him. He wasn’t apologizing for being a Kuchiki by any chance, but he did feel bad. Finding out that the man you had been hissing at and scratching for weeks was the head of the Kuchiki clan couldn’t be a pleasant surprise.
Hisana stirred then, turning to face him. “You never told me.”
“I didn’t,” he said, simply. He wasn’t going to apologize again, tell her that he understood the shock and dismay she must have felt, that she didn’t have to worry so much. That he was going to protect her. All the things that he could have, and maybe should have, told her; all the things another would have told her.
He didn’t tell her that she was being completely unreasonable, the way he spoke to everyone else. He didn’t tell her that she should be honoured to even glimpse his face, let alone talk to him and be held by him like that time in Rukongai when she had been hurt, hungry, and homeless.
The image of her, curled up in the street, that had made him pause in his steps and wonder if that was the same audacious girl whom he’d met a couple weeks back, suddenly rose up in his mind.
“Hisana,” he said.
She gave him a sad smile then. “I’m a stray cat, Byakuya,” she whispered. “Just a stray cat, who happened to trail behind the right person.”
At that time, he should have held her and told her she wasn’t a stray cat. He might have told her that it wasn’t just chance that she followed him. He might have told her that she hadn’t followed him at all, it wasn’t her taking advantage of the Kuchiki name. Hell, he could have told her that he didn’t allow just any stray cats to follow him, which would have at least made her laugh.
At that time, he was just surprised that she had called him Byakuya to say anything. She hadn’t, for days, ever since she found out.
She never called him that again afterwards.
“If you want to follow, you may, but...”
That smile was the same as she smirked down at him, as if the unconscious boy on her shoulder were not so different from the hair tie she had once stolen from him.
“...Shyunshin Yoruichi won’t get caught so easily!”
For a moment, Byakuya was left staring up at the empty roof. It had been a very, very long time since he had been made to look foolish like that, as only she could.
He stayed for only long enough to give Rukia the briefest of glances before swiveling around and walking away. Dimly behind him, he heard Ukitake call something, but he didn’t really listen.
“I lost my interest. Do whatever you want with them.”
It had been ages since he’d seen her. He hadn’t even known if she was alive, but apparently she had been alive enough to still beat him.
He was going straight home; there wasn’t anything to do around anymore, while all the foolish captains went around trying to find the intruders and lose to them, and even stupider ones being killed by each other. No, he would go home. And when he got there, he would visit the shrine deep inside the mansion, in his private quarters – Hisana’s shrine.
There, he would sit for long hours, meditating, thinking.
Another might have thought it was from guilt of leaving Hisana’s sister to die.
In truth, he just wanted to thank her, that when he allowed himself to be honest like he used to when she was alive, he was more struck by Rukia’s sickened expression than by Yoruichi’s appearance.
Rukia had looked so similar to how Hisana had looked, just before she died.
Yoruichi appearing was a surprise. Rukia’s appearance affecting him like that told him exactly who was responsible for cats being in his house once more.
Then maybe he would allow himself to ponder that Hisana had chosen death rather than live in the society he had forced her into, and that Rukia was more or less doing the same.
He would light the incense for them both, the stray cats who had found their way into his mansion.
Kuchiki Byakuya realizes then that there are no more stray cats in his mansion anymore, and the thought strangely makes him empty.
The sudden pink gleam in the sun makes him hesitate for only a fraction of a second. Then he hears the cheerful voice:
The child is holding all the candy she could scrounge up from his desk to her bosom, waving at him cheerfully, before disappearing through the large doors of the Kuchiki mansion.
Kuchiki Byakuya ignores her and begins his trek towards the shrine. His steps are unhurried, dignified.
For a moment, he imagines that he had seen a stray cat with the most unusual fur in the corner of his eyes.