[Bleach] The Ties That Bind

There was a time when Kuchiki Byakuya had not been sound of mind, when he had so carelessly thrown away everything that should have mattered to him for a promise that should not. It made him wonder why they didn’t hate him for what he had done. Three different times, three different people, three different attempts to kill them.

Yet, there they stood, still by his side.

He wondered if this was what people talked about when they said such ridiculous things as blood being thicker than water. Like having friends who would never abandon him. It was unfathomable. It was beyond the comprehension of one who had always been treated with a sense of cold detachment from those who should have given him warm and welcoming arms.

He still remembered how Ichigo and Renji’s blood looked when his own sword spilled it. In his mind, it was a clear moment, one from where he always felt there would be no return. He had rationalized it in his mind. He was convinced that as long as he kept his promise, it did not matter if he lost their respect or their… love.

At the time, it had taken the words of a human teenager, little more than a baby in the eyes of the long-lived Shinigami, to see the truth he had been blind to. Somewhere in the argument between duty and heart, he had forgotten the true meaning of both. He had sacrificed his own honor for a ridiculous vow that couldn’t possibly have been kept.

Rules weren’t created to be followed without second thought. He wasn’t a mindless thing. Along the way, Byakuya had forgotten that, and it had taken Ichigo to remind him. Thinking back on it now, he owed the orange-haired teen for more than the boy could possibly every understand. He had almost lost his sister, someone he had promised himself to protect.

He had convinced himself that fighting Renji until his subordinate had nothing left within him to give was all for the sake of teaching him. But if that had been the case, then he wouldn’t have left him bleeding on the ground, soul threatening to flicker out into oblivion. Renji had very nearly died, if not for the kindness of Unohana-taichou. And all because Byakuya couldn’t admit to himself that perhaps he had been mistaken.

Ichigo had just been his duty. It was supposed to be his task to kill the boy, but at the last minute, he had balked at actually going through with the deed. Certainly, leaving him to bleed to death in the rain with his spiritual abilities shattered wasn’t exactly altruistic, but something had stayed his hand in landing the final blow. It wasn’t just Rukia’s pleading either. It was something instinctual perhaps.

In the end, all three had forgiven him, though he couldn’t fathom why. He expected an awkward tension, an uncertain reaction from each one of them. But Renji had only called him captain, and Rukia, brother. And now, Ichigo called him lover, though not in so many words.

He hadn’t expected for it to be so easy to attain forgiveness. A part of him thought that he didn’t deserve it. But he wasn’t going to cast it aside either. He had made the mistake of throwing away too many things already.

If it were him, he would have hated the man who tried to kill him. He would have wanted to disregard him, place him completely beneath his notice. He really couldn’t understand their mercy.

Maybe it had something to do with those imaginary bonds, the invisible threads that seemed to twist around and bind them together. Maybe it was because they were better men than he, or women in Rukia’s case.

Either way, he had a lot to make up for now and a lot of catching up to do. It was time he tried living again.

Never mind the fact that he was technically dead. It was the principle of the matter.

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