Taste the Irony
Byakuya consciously suppressed the urge to sigh in expression of the mind-numbing boredom he felt. Yamamoto-dono had just commenced his division’s weekly report and the deep cadence of his words was relaxing to Byakuya’s nerves. He found his mind drifting, drifting…
He was back in the garden of his ancestral home, beneath the willow tree with its trailing branches. Sun dappled the ground around him, and the wind caressed his cheeks. Bliss.
Yamamoto-dono finished, and Soi Fong began. The soprano tone of her voice was like the chirping of a bird outside his window; not interesting enough to pay attention to, but irritating enough to keep him from total immersion in his own thoughts.
He was relieved when, since Ichimaru was gone, Unohana commenced her report. Her voice was a pleasing alto, smooth and sweet, but just like with Soi it was simply too high-pitched to soothe him back into a daydream to pass the time.
Byakuya would just have to distract himself in another way. Her voice in his ears, he took to watching her mouth form the words. He decided he approved of the shape of her lips; they were neither too thick nor too thin, the upper shaped like a bow and the lower just a tiny bit more full.
She stopped speaking; that was his cue to begin; with Aizen gone and no replacement yet selected, division 6 would immediately follow 4. Byakuya gave his own report as briefly as possible; Yamamoto-dono asked no questions, merely nodded and shifted his eyes toward Komamura.
Thus reprieved, with the huge captain’s voice droning away, Byakuya fell back to his contemplation. Unohana had fine dark eyes, fair to brimming with intelligence and compassion. He held back a snort of derision at that—the people she wasted her sympathy on were legion. He himself had a very limited store of that emotion, and chose not to squander it heedlessly.
Her face—itself placid—was framed by shining black hair, smoothly parted in the center and braided under her chin in a single plait. Byakuya nearly found himself frowning as he contemplated it; it had to be the single most unappealing hairstyle he’d ever seen on a woman.
In fact, the more he studied it, the more it vexed him; could it be disguising some hideous disfigurement on her neck? He scrutinized what little of her he could see behind the braid, but there was no indication of anything but smooth skin.
In fact… Byakuya glanced left and right, to be sure no one was watching him, before squinting slightly at her. In point of fact, it would appear to be just the opposite; the curve of her jaw and chin as it flowed down to her throat was entirely pleasing to his eyes, and he felt a stirring of annoyance that that horrible braid preventing him from continuing his scrutiny.
Disgruntled, he shifted his gaze lower. Why was she always wearing such bulky robes? She was one of the few captains who wore the full outer robe, sleeves and all. It gave a mass to her body that Byakuya doubted she actually possessed. If her hands were anything to judge by, she was small-boned and slender.
Why, then, would she hide herself within such a mountain of fabric? Did she not realize the wisdom in making the most of one’s every advantage? It perplexed Byakuya, and he very much disliked being perplexed.
He hated being embarrassed even more. This meant, of course, that Kyouraku had to wave a hand before Byakuya’s vacant eyes with a cheery, “I know our Unohana-taichou is a lovely morsel, Kuchiki-taichou, but the meeting is over and you should go now.” There was such cheerful lechery in his tone that Byakuya actually entertained the notion, however briefly, of killing him.
It would be worth the repercussions, he thought sourly, but gathered around him his infamous reserve and self-control. His disdainful gaze swept dismissively over Kyouraku before resting on Unohana herself. She was watching their exchange with faint curiosity, but underlying it, her serenity remained constant.
Seeing her so unperturbed when he himself had been caught, not only staring at her but mocked by the insufferable Kyouraku, made his anger spike. Unohana walked past him to exit the room, and he touched her arm with his fingertips. There was hardly any contact at all, but it was enough to make her pause.
“Yes, Kuchiki-sama?” On those rare occasions she addressed him, she was always careful to use the proper honourific as befitted a member of the nobility. Suddenly, that annoyed him, too.
“Your hair,” he gritted out.
Her hand fluttered up to the braid twined beneath her chin, the motion reminding him of a small white bird. “What of it?”
“It doesn’t suit you.” Byakuya felt a growing sense of horror as the words spilled free, but couldn’t seem to stop them.” It’s ridiculous and ugly.”
Her eyes widened briefly in surprise before narrowing again, in comprehension and— was that amusement?
“Is that so?” Yes, she was definitely amused. Byakuya wanted nothing more than to throttle her and the quietly laughing Kyouraku. “I fear you are not one to be criticizing ludicrous hairstyles… hypocrite-sama.”
And she detached herself from the scarce restraint of his touch on her arm, sweeping from the room without a backward glance.
“Fufufufu…” Behind him, Kyouraku was giggling. Byakuya’s eye twitched as he turned to face his antagonist.
“You didn’t have to call attention to it,” he said repressively. “You could have remained silent.”
“Could have, yes,” Kyouraku agreed easily, hand on his chin as he leaned against the wall. “But where’s the fun in that?”
“Fun?” Byakuya’s face became, if possible, even more blank. Usually, the utter lack of expression would terrify most people, but it had no effect on Kyouraku. Dammit. “I am not here for your amusement.”
“No, more’s the pity.” Kyouraku pushed away from the wall with languid ease and sauntered away. “One must take their amusement where they can find it, ne?”
Byakuya was left standing in the meeting chamber, alone, clenching his hands and plotting murder.