ByaIchi, drabble, 690 words
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It’s a very nice place.
The estate does not sprawl, a thin strip of grass between the house and the treeline, the garden kept tight and well-maintained against the walls. Necessary, Byakuya supposes, for how often the house moves. Only the worn stone of the path beneath his feet reminds him that this building was once part of Seireitei, however long ago.
Byakuya has always known, intellectually, that the Shiba family were nobles, once, and are still very highly respected, but, by the time he became an adult, what little remained of the Shiba family had already become reclusive and distant from the rest of the Soul Society. The death of Shiba Kaien no doubt did little to sway the family opinion back in favor of the Seireitei. That he died by the hands of a Kuchiki did even less to encourage the family to retake their place among nobility.
The door is ajar. Shiba Kūkaku must be out, for the house to be so silent. Still, Byakuya takes the time to bow, and to remove his shoes just within the door. He has no desire to be presumptuous, and certainly does not wish to be rude.
For all the exterior gives the illusion of tradition, the interior of the house is really very modern in its layout– the foyer opens into a large room that encompasses the kitchen, dining area, and sitting area in one. The space does not feel empty and vaulting, though. In truth, Byakuya does not think he has ever felt more at ease in his own home, than he feels here and now.
He forgoes the small table– too formal, too intimate, even now– in favor of the dining bar that acts to section the kitchen from the rest of the room. Zangetsu rests against the wood at Byakuya’s hip as he sits, not the demure form of a sealed sword or the curved cleaver of shikai, but the slender, black blade of bankai, unsealed in every way a Zanpakutō can be. Apologies, maybe, for the years he and his wielder have spent apart.
Kurosaki Ichigo. Or, maybe, Shiba Ichigo now? Byakuya is not certain what his familial status is, at the moment. It’s. Strange. They’ve been apart for twenty years now, but it doesn’t feel it. Perhaps, because Byakuya has been there for the entirety of it, one of Kurosaki Ichigo’s Watchers while he lived out the rest of his mortal life in the Living World.
The dark green yukata suits him. Makes him look like the tigerlily he is, bold and bright and beautiful. Twenty years, though he does not look a day older than he had been when he gave up his powers. Physically, at least. He smiles more, now, and scowls less, mellowed a touch with time. Favors one side, now, and that is new, and certainly a lingering aftereffect of the–
Ichigo reaches out with one hand, fingers slipping beneath Byakuya’s hair, pulling him gently forward by the back of his neck to place a butterfly kiss against his forehead.
“Talk to me,” Ichigo requests, simple and soft and with poorly contained joy, and Byakuya feels a great tension that he didn’t even realize he was holding just. Fall away.
Twenty years to speak about, while Ichigo putters about the kitchen, and Byakuya starts with what feels most pressing– Renji and Rukia and their awkward, stilting, incredibly sweet courtship. It will be a hundred years, at this rate, before they make any significant progress. They are already discussing the merits of a Spring wedding.
It draws a laugh from Ichigo, soft and honest, and Byakuya’s breath catches in his chest in a way he’s forgotten it could. Twenty years, watching him from afar, but when Ichigo passes him a plate their fingers brush and everything feels real again. Moreso, when Byakuya reaches out and pulls Ichigo in for a chaste kiss over rice and eggs and simplicity that Byakuya cannot remember ever having.
They part, just enough to rest their foreheads together. Ichigo’s smile curls content, a cat lazing in the sun.
It took twenty years, but, finally, they’re home.