He lays the bag in front of Byakuya, alongside his tea cup and waits for the Kuchiki heir’s reaction as he kneels across from him. Byakuya lifts a brow in confusion, especially for the gaudy color of the ribbon tied around the plastic cellophane’s top.
Kisuke smiles at the younger man’s reaction, gesturing to the bag. “They’re one of your favorites, aren’t they?”
There is a pause before Byakuya inclines his head. “I’m surprised you remembered,” he responds, something in his expression softening ever-so-slightly.
“Well, of course I did, Byakuya-bo. How could I forget?”
Grey eyes harden sharply. “Don’t call me that.”
Kisuke chuckles to himself, if only to ease the gentle tension sweeping through the room. “It hasn’t been that long, my dear Kuchiki-sama.”
He receives a frosty glare in return. Kisuke sighs and swipes off his hat, setting it down at his side. He looks at the person sitting across from, having grown into a man in Kisuke’s long absence. He has suffered, and he has matured, but he is in many ways still the same brat.
“You will never forgive me for leaving, will you?”
The man doesn’t answer, simply sips his tea. Kisuke knows why. He had known of Byakuya’s crush before leaving, but the boy had been just that. He didn’t dare cross that line, especially since he was a Kuchiki. No matter how much he had been intrigued. Even if he had always considered Byakuya beautiful and amusing to rile. He can remember fondly visiting the boy with Yoruichi, watching the two of them play tag and ruthlessly cheering for both sides.
He remembers talking with Byakuya, seeing the blush that the young heir couldn’t hide. He remembers advising the boy, sparring with him when Yoruichi was busy. He remembers how lonely the heir had been and how much he had hurt to see Byakuya that very alone.
Like everyone else he knew, he’d had no choice but to leave the boy behind. Yet, Yoruichi had done so as well, leaving Byakuya alone again. With two types of heartache, friendship and unrequited crush.
It is a mistake Kisuke cannot erase.
Byakuya is a man now, however, and he cannot help but wonder if that fire still burns somewhere. Or has his love for Hisana completely erased a childhood crush?
Kisuke wonders. And that is why he is here today with the Kuchiki heir sitting in front of him, sipping at tea.
He is glad that Tessai, Ururu and Jinta are all busy, that the mod souls are helping to organize the basement. He needs this solitude between them because it is not easy. All he wants is to kiss Byakuya, to chase away the frown lines and the pain in those beautiful stormy eyes. But there is a table between them. A table and one-hundred years that cannot be easily crossed.
There is the young Kuchiki’s favorite candy at the table, easy to obtain even for Kisuke, despite the rarity of it. Peppermint… but not the hard candies that children enjoy today. This is soft, melting on the tongue. A subtle flavor that sticks with someone. Kisuke remembers that the young Kuchiki used to eat it as if it were all he needed to survive. That is, when he wasn’t being watched by his elders and parents. A small measure of escape for the young heir.
Kisuke fingers the cup in front of him, wrapping his hand around the delicate porcelain and raises it to his lips. He breathes in the aroma, watches as Byakuya eyes the gift with longing, but he doesn’t touch. Perhaps that is because it will be as if he is conceding, as if he has forgiven Kisuke for leaving him.
“It is not as if I wanted to,” the exile explains in a quiet tone, easily able to recognize the faint twitch in Byakuya’s eyes. They have always been the most expressive part of him, even now when he hides behind his mask of indifference for fear of being hurt again.
“And you knew I could not take you with me.”
There is a tightening of the Kuchiki heirs shoulders. “You left me alone,” he states simply, quite coldly. “The both of you left without a word.”
“I know. And I am sorry.”
It is true. Even though Kisuke understands what he had to do, he still feels guilt for it. For everything that he left behind, for everything that happened before his disappearance. He feels regret for everything that he left unsaid, including his attraction to the young Byakuya.
Those eyes flicker away from him, again looking at the peppermint with longing. The same longing that Kisuke recognizes from so long ago and wishes could be directed at him once again.
Byakuya does not respond to his statement, and Kisuke feels something inside of himself clench. He does not drink of his tea as he watches and longs himself, wondering how that black hair will feel through his fingers. Wondering how it looks without the foolish Kenseikan, how Byakuya will act without his straight back and damned composure. Without the duties of his family pressing on his shoulders.
“Why did you come, Byakuya?” Kisuke asks softly, wondering if it is foolish for him to hope for something like a happy ending.
The captain has come to see him, after all. He has no other reason to be in Karakura. Rukia is safe and unharmed; there is no immediate threat at present. Byakuya has not been ordered to patrol in the human town. He is here of his own volition, showing up on Kisuke’s doorstep and surprising the former captain.
There is a faint clink as Byakuya sets his cup down, one hand reaching elegantly for the plastic bag of peppermints. “Has enough time passed?” Byakuya asks, untying the twist tie and reaching in, drawing out one of the small candies. “Or am I still nothing but a child?” He stares at the small bag as he parts his lips, pressing the peppermint inside.
Kisuke’s heart picks up a rhythm. “Only a man would properly understand how to forgive,” he counters.
A faint smile twitches at Byakuya’s lips as he chances a glance at Kisuke. “Still manipulating even now, onii-san?”
The very fact that Byakuya has not responded violently or scathingly gives Kisuke more hope than he dares know what to do with it. He sets his own cup, watching the Kuchiki heir from across the table. He wants to kiss him, the sound of being called onii-san with the same affectionate tone taking him back more than a century. It makes him warm on the inside, even as his stomach does little flips of happiness.
“Only if you would let me,” Kisuke murmurs, gauging the distance across the table.
It is not far, shorter than his own arm and easily able to be crossed. If he leans forward and Byakuya leans forward, their lips could touch. He could curl his fingers in those black strands. It is that easy.
Kisuke wonders if he dares.
One hand, gloved in white like the other, curls around the bag of peppermints. “You should know by now that I have never needed your manipulation,” Byakuya answers, swallowing thickly and very nearly sounding the young, uncertain boy he had once been. “All you need do back then was ask.”
Licking his lips in anticipation, Kisuke decides to go for it. He has never been one to shy away from a challenge and isn’t going to begin now. He lifts a hand, reaching forward slowly and tentatively. When Byakuya doesn’t even begin to pull away, just watches and waits, Kisuke knows he has been given permission.
He leans and curls his hand around Byakuya’s neck, fingers tickling against soft hair. He gently urges Byakuya to come forward. There is warm breath on his lips smelling faintly of peppermint as the Kuchiki heir responds to his direction. And then, they are kissing, just a faint press of open mouths. But it stirs everything inside of Kisuke. Something he has long considered for a good many years now, finally coming to pass.
Byakuya’s lips are soft and smooth, speaking of the great care he must take of his entire body. There is a light scent of cherry blossoms surrounding him, his reiatsu simmering beneath the surface with nervous tension. It would be unnoticeable to anyone but Kisuke, who prides himself on being able to read people. Byakuya has shuttered his eyes, but Kisuke keeps his open, watching the emotions flicker across the other’s face. There is no disgust present, nothing but satisfaction and relief. It gives him something else to hope for, that maybe there is something like happy endings, even for men as abject as he.
The kiss ends, probably shorter than either would like, but a century has passed. It is too soon to jump into anything that has just begun. There is a faint smile touching Byakuya’s eyes, and Kisuke knows his own lips are curling into one of his ever-present grins. They draw back to their own sides of the table respectively, and Byakuya again reaches for his favorite candies.
“Well,” Kisuke says, the first to break the silence. “How about-”
“Kisuke and Byakuya-bo, I always knew it!” A voice interrupts with startling volume and causing both to jump in their seats.
Before either can effectively react, a body is barreling into the room, arms wrapping unapologetically around both of them. They are driven to the floor as Yoruichi’s body crashes into the table, creating a fine mess of tea and peppermints and broken wood. But she doesn’t stop embracing either, heedless to the fact she is nearly choking them.
“My two favorite men,” the rarely dignified princess coos. “How absolutely adorable.”
Kisuke and Byakuya sigh in tandem, giving themselves up to the storm that is Yoruichi. The exile doesn’t mind too much, however. There will be plenty of time for discussion later. So he relaxes and lets Yoruichi babble, watches Byakuya as he tries to maintain his dignity, even with tea beginning to stain his haori. The blush trying to steal onto his cheeks is adorable, and Kisuke simply smiles.
After all, things have only just begun.