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Welcome to Free Writing!

This is my writing site, a sort of portfolio if you will. I will add my revised original stories here. I might add some fan-stuff too, but the purpose of free writing is to showcase my original work. You will also find writing prompts and challenges here, if you want to do them I would love to hear from you!

All I have left are my thoughts

All writings on this site are mine and are copyright to me (Snow Rayjah). Things that are inspired by anime, games, songs, books, or movies will have a notice with them. All reconizable characters are copyright to their respective owners. No copy right infringement intended. Writing is my passion and I am inspired by a great many things.

III. Thunderstorm

Duncan has stopped talking to me. He tries to hide it, but he cannot hide his emotions from me anymore than I can hide my thoughts from him. My keys clatter onto the ceramic counter as I slip onto the deep red bar stool. Duncan sits on the far end of the bar, still refusing to look at me.

Gramps fiddles with the pasta and the salad, he sets and moves the bread three times. He almost knocks over the glasses of iced tea and water. As he moves them aside, panic washes over his face.

“My little cherubs, you’re not supposed to be home yet!”

I can’t fathom why he calls us his angels. Granted, I suppose he knows a thing or two about monsters. He has the patience of what some might consider a saint. He spoils us, if not for the scars, I’m sure we’d be a lot worse than we are. I have a hard time believing my mother has anything in common with him, it’s hard to imagine she’s cut from his cloth. There are DNA tests to prove it, so I don’t argue the case. It still sits like a boulder in the back of my mind.

It keeps me up a night. It starts as a flash, the growing dread of monsters under my bed or in my closet. I jolt awake, and it roars in my mind like thunder. The storm brews in my heart before it takes over my whole body. When it does, my hot feet slam against the cold floor. I leave the same text message as always.

“You know where to find me.” Recipients: DG, RS; send.

Ryu always finds me at the shooting range, joins me with two cups of coffee – one his super sweet diabetes inducing God-awful mocha, double shot of espresso bullshit, the other straight black, scalding. I drink neither. He mixes them as the bullets fly, the paper feels with holes, and the sun peeks out over the horizon.

I hope it’s not one of those nights. Gramps continues to chirp, his voice like sunshine against the dark clouds on my brow.

“Cherubs,” he says again. “What happened?”

“I have no idea how he got licensed,” Duncan says before he takes a drink.

“I made a pass at the driving instructor,” I answer from my side of the room.

“Your driving instructor was male,” my older brother hisses.

“I was really cute,” I snort. “Plus, I wore a tank top and hot pants.”

“I want to doubt you,” Duncan takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes. “But God knows Ryu probably owns a pair.”

“Hardly a pair that would fit me,” I have to say as I shove salad into my mouth.

“That would fit you now,” Gramps says. “Back then you were about the same size.”

“That’s just what I needed,” my brother groans. “Now I’ll never get that out of my mind.”

“You’re welcome,” I smile and then down half the water.

I push the plate away, I don’t hear the thunder now.

“Did you eat today,” Gramps asks.

“Just now I had three bites,” eating has never been a comfort and I only do so because they make me.

On days when I’ve thought about him, I can’t eat. My stomach churns and the nausea threatens to engulf me. I finish the water and eat the lemon. Beyond that, I have no desire to finish despite all of the good emotion that my loving grandfather has put into the food.

His sigh pierces my heart and pushes my appetite further out of my system. Gramps draws a breath, composure restored. The damage is done, the frown in his eyes gives him away despite the genuine smile on his lips. Duncan’s irritation slips away as my plate of unfinished dinner stares at me.

“You have to eat,” he says. “You had blood drawn today.”

“Did you, now,” the tone in Gramps’ voice starts to take a serious and sterner edge.

“Too much,” I say as my arms settle against my chest. “Not hungry.”

I may as well be twelve again with the looks on their faces. I know they mean well, maybe I’m too stubborn. I can’t choke it down, nor will I try.

“We’ll have to call Ryu,” Gramps mutters more to Duncan.

“He can’t make me eat anymore than you can,” way too stubborn for my own good.

“Ryu is a miracle worker,” Duncan says in a way that pierces my skin. “You know that better than anyone.”

1 New Message
Sender RS

Hey Mitri, I know you’re probably not hungry after nearly being some creature’s breakfast. You really need to eat. A new case came in and you can’t function on an empty stomach and no sleep. You have to pick either sleep or food. Since you did not sleep last night, you sure as hell better eat whatever Gramps made you when you drop off Duncan. There’s no excuse, you’re 28 years old. You don’t have to prove that you can only be smart or handsome. I have money riding on that, and if I lose that bet, I will touch the shit out of you.

Crispy salad dances on my tongue. Gramps’ fettuccine is perfect al dente, light and creamy. His cooking is truly restaurant quality, I have no idea how he became the CEO of a monster hunting corporation. More than that, I have no idea how he runs one third of the city. I mean, when the hell does he really have time with running a business and the city to perfect his cooking? What else can he do? Can I ever compare? Do I need to?

II. Starlight

One million thoughts and emotions to match. A handful my own, lost in the cool night air. Still disoriented, mother’s lecture fresh in my mind. Dimitri Grey, you should know better! Alex works hard, not every vampire is malevolent. You should learn to discern the difference. Even Tamashine would give him a chance. You have to learn to control that temper! It’s almost like she’s comparing me to him, and I hate it with every fiber of my being. If the apple never falls far from the tree, where does that leave me? Duncan could talk his way out of such a shitty fate, but the idea terrifies me. Am I going to be everything that I hate? Blood slips from my knuckles as they shine from the steering wheel. Screech! Click. Feet barely find the ground, ding-ding-ding. The lake shines in the moonlight, don’t know when it got dark. Don’t care, the thoughts too heavy to let me stand anymore. Sink into the emerald grass and let the velvet black sky engulf me. The stars dance, almost mocking me. When did I fall into this hole? Will this darkness consume me?

Bella taught me an old rhyme about wishing on stars. I never could get into it, never believed that hunks of burning rock could grant a wish. She’s an optimist, though. Doesn’t matter how old we get, she says it every night at the first star light. Lyn sings along with her, and they always wish for the same damn thing. Bella wishes that wars would stop, everyone would have a friend, and that love would never end. Bless her heart, because she’s the light of this team. Lyn wishes that no more harm would come to Bella. Bless her heart, because she’s in this line of work for her best friend. I try my damnedest to make sure that both their dreams come true, and here I am brooding to myself about the monster I fear becoming.

If shit hit the fan, I’d ruin them both. Who do I have to pray to to prevent that? The stars twinkle, their edges blurred against my vision.

Star light, star bright,
first star I see tonight,
Wish I may, Wish I might,
Make my wish come true tonight.

“I don’t want to be like him.”

My heart slams against my chest with the car door. Run up the hill, shove the gun into the opened window. No one in the driver’s seat.

“You don’t look any worse for the wear,” my brother says with his smooth voice.

Whatever he says feels like cool water on a wound.

“I’m fine.”

“You’ve always been a terrible liar,” Duncan says as he ruffles my hair. “Feeling better?”

“No.”

“Feeling worse?”

“No,” I shake my head, the gun re-holstered as he leans against my car.

“I like the star light,” Duncan says as his arms cross against his chest. “It’s not as harsh as the sun or as sneaky as the moon. I find it soft.” He gives a soft laugh. “They say a frog’s son can only be a frog.”

I clench my fists, afraid of what he might be saying.

“Thank God we were raised by an enchanter,” he laughs a little louder. “Gramps may be old, but he really saved us from the darkened path.”

“I wonder sometimes,” I have to say.

“Oh, sure, you walk the path to keep the darkness where it needs to be,” Duncan shrugs. “But, you only walk it so people like Bella and I don’t have to. That’s not your path because that’s where you’re headed, Dimitri. It’s your path because you’re holding middle ground.”

I don’t understand.

“That’s why I like starlight. It’s got its own fire, does it’s own thing, and it shines bright, but it gives other people hope,” he pushes off from the car and climbs into the passenger side. “I do expect you to drive like a sane person.”

Ding-ding-ding – Slam! “Put on your seatbelt, Dimitri!” Screech! I hear my brother loud and clear. “Dimitri, I swear to God if you get us killed I will take over James’ body and – Dimitri Grey! I will end you!”

I. Introduction (DG)

I: Intro
The borders of few pieces of clothing and toys etched themselves into my poor eyes. I didn’t have glasses then. I hate ice cream and all sugar for the sheer memory of the taste. They were the only things my father kept in the house, because kids like them. We didn’t like them, he didn’t listen. Duncan was too young to buy groceries, and though he was smart enough, we lacked money. When he was home he reeked of whiskey, brandy, tequila – there were others, their names lost to me.

Feeling emotions compensated my inability to see. Back then, I stayed content drawing with the halves of three different crayons, and whatever flat clean surface I could find. Mom brought me paper on occasion, when she wasn’t busy with her new family. At the time, I didn’t know what the emotions she carried in her heart meant. I couldn’t understand the twisted hatred in her bones or the lead in her stomach.

It wasn’t like his, the fire in his body still sends shivers down my spine. It still keeps me up at night. The bastard’s been gone for years, but he’ll be back. For Duncan. For me. When he does, I’ll put the barrel into his mouth and pull the trigger.

I push the shiver down. Where the hell did that come from? The cold air pressed harder against my skin. The grip still squeaks in my palms. Not asleep, not comfortable enough, not quiet enough. The sharp smell of bleach stabs my nostrils. When did I become so forgetful? I hate when Alex draws too much blood. What else can I expect from a vampire?

I sit up and push the gun into his mouth. His body crashed against the table, his words lost on my half coherent ears. Indistinct shapes and people run around me, but no one touches my skin. Not without permission or the intent to kill. Click, the hammer answered my call, the first real sound I hear beyond my own damn thoughts and heartbeat. Assuming, of course, it is my heart beat and not the throb of someone else’s panic.

“Dimitri,” gloved hands take my wrist, cloth to cloth. “I know he broke the rule, but we need him alive.”

It is someone else’s panic, a flash against my eyes. Annoying, white like the hospital. Bright but not comforting. The frames press against the bridge of my nose and the glass pushes sight back into my system. Glass does little for the vampire trapped between the cold steel of the surgical table and the pistol in his mouth.

“Dimitri, please don’t make us call security again.”

Security stands on the other side of the observation window. I could kill him before they got to me. I’d spare them for the sake of their humanity, but not without injury.

“And risk grandfather’s disappointment,” Duncan interjects into my mind. “Not that I like Alex enough to step in for him.”

Flesh against flesh, Duncan’s cool fingers on my wrist, his other hand pushes the gun from the vampire’s mouth. One of the few, probably the only person I can stand to let touch me. My guardian and protector, the only person who gave a shit about me.

“Now, now, Dimitri,” Duncan says with a laugh. “At least pull the trigger more quickly if you’re going to kill him. Don’t tease us.”

Re-holster the weapon, and try to reorient. Panic washes away into pale blue serenity. Sage doesn’t know where to stand and busies himself with work. Alex shuffles back into the shadows as the security guards take a deep breath of relief. Where am I left but back to my thoughts, and Duncan’s when he feels the need to remind me that we’re not fighting monsters today. The frames mess with my eyes, can’t remember the last time I wore them, hate them. A reminder of the past that I don’t need. I have the scars, the memories. I pull them off and toss them into the bucket next to vials of my blood. Edges undefined again, a small hand with a smaller container.

I press the contacts in, sharp edges, clear images. Bleach invades my nostrils again.

“Are you coming back tomorrow,” my youngest brother asks from his microscope.

“Do I need to?”

“Only if you’re going to get attacked or bit,” Sage says without making eye contact.

“See you tomorrow, kid,” I wave, turning away from my brothers. “Tell mom I sent over the album like she asked.”

The door shuts behind me. Deliver it yourself next time, Sage would have struggled to say it. Duncan would have pushed that to me. I’d ignore it, because I still can’t talk to her in a meaningful way. The hatred in her bones, the lead in her stomach, the same as when I was a toddler, but the meaning no longer lost on me. The guilt in her words leaves a sour taste in my mouth, because I don’t know when to keep it closed.

[One Word Prompts] #6 Glasses

They lined the railing, tiny, filled with amber colored liquor. The sun sank into the horizon; Sadin’s shoulders faced his crew. He lifted a shot glass, the liquid scratched down his throat. Seven times he did this; seven times the glasses were filled. Afterwards, Sadin lined his men up beside him. Each took a glass in his hand and drank.

Susumu followed Sadin. Next Scar Face, then Frederick, Baron, Mason, and finally Cyclops. Seven drinks for seven men.

Their twilight ritual, the prayer for the departed. Their prayer for peace, the shot of courage to sail back into the underworld and release the souls from the vessel. Touched by Death they watched the ocean swallow the sun.

“Another day, another shot,” Susumu said as he slammed his glass onto the railing mouth down.

“Another day, another gold,” Scar chirped.

“Another day, another scar,” said Frederick.

“Another day, another soul,” Baron said as he followed suit.

“Another day, another sin,” Mason offered.

“Another day, another adventure,” Cyclops said as he closed his eyes.

Six glasses slept face down. Sadin refused to turn around. Sharp liquid filled his crystal grail and he downed another shot. His crew left him in silence. He stood, eyes focused where the sun had left him.

“Another day, another promise,” he said under his breath.

[One Word Prompts] #5 Coffee

Bitter. Too much like his thoughts. The steam clawed at his nostrils as he took a sip of the deep brown liquid. Terrible, he muttered and spit it back into his cup. The tin clashed onto the table, while the liquid bounced over the rim it did not leave the container. Gold pierced the ebony. Sadin brushed his bangs from his face and shook his head.

“Why do I keep you on board if you can’t make a decent cup,” the captain said.

“Pity,” the silver haired man on the other side of the table said without looking towards the third man.

“Do I have these bouts of pity frequently,” Sadin asked to no one in particular.

“More frequently than you should,” Susumu said as he ran one tanned hand through his platinum locks. “What do you expect of a crow, though? They’re shite at everything.”

“Point taken,” the captain said as the form of the one eyed crow became his focus. “Having difficulty reading the directions?”

“Only on account of the splitting headache, sir,” the man said as he gave a smile. “I can read all the letters, thanks to your graciousness.”

“I am amazing,” Sadin said with a nod. “A headache though, does the vessel overflow?”

“As if that’s any excuse,” Susumu snorted.

“If you wish to keep that tongue, cousin, I suggest you hold it. I have no qualms about sending it to your father,” The captain stood upright and looked down his nose to the man that still sat. “I do not defend the Cyclops because he is important, before you misunderstand.” He put his hand onto his cousin’s tanned shoulder and squeezed the bandaged wound, “but the job is, and if you hinder that, you will join the prismatic vessel before I’ve worn out your uses.”

He pushed the eye patch on the third man’s eye up. Colors in the glass eye swirled in every direction. Sadin pulled the eye from Cyclops’ socket.

“Coffee,” he said.

The eye patch snapped back over the hole and the crow turned around and marched out of the room.

Sadin matched it to his cousin’s eye, “care to see what the crow endures?”

“My apologies, Captain,” Susumu focused on the floor beside him afraid that too much direct contact would put his cousin in a worse mood.

Cyclops entered with another cup of coffee, he handed it to his captain with a chipper whistle.

The steam clawed at his nostrils as he took a sip of the deep brown liquid. Terrible, he muttered and spit it back into his cup. Sadin barked out a laugh and pushed three lumps of pure white sugar into his cup. He pulled out a spoon with a skull at the end; it trembled in his hand as he stirred the mixture together. Sweeter now, but still Goddess-awful, he thought. Sadin choked the liquid down. His thumb ran over the crystalline orb.

“What’s the excuse this time,” he said.

“No excuses, sir,” Cyclops said. “Just real shitty coffee.”

.End

[One Word Prompts] #4 Bath

Pharon opened the door and took his jacket off in one clean motion. The wooden object gave a low click. He tossed the clothing on the sofa much like he opened the door and made his way upstairs to tend to the cut on his arm. Should have done this sooner, he groaned.

If cared for, infection could be avoided. The dull throb served as a minor annoyance, and he’d have been surprised if it could seriously cause him issue in the long run. Pharon stepped into the bathroom, he didn’t think it was odd the door was closed, or more he didn’t give it any thought at all. The light smell of roses wafted to his nostrils, but it was not aggravating. The gentle scent eased his senses. He looked to the window and gave a sigh, he didn’t remember leaving it opened, but it was the light breeze that sent the scent of the tall roses throughout the room. When did I get this careless?

He pulled the window shut giving a few choice swear words as he noticed the visible cuts to the tall plant. There was no real damage just irritation that someone had done it. Pharon turned on the faucet and pulled his shirt off. He tossed it into the hamper that rested near the door. His left hand waited under the water waiting for the temperature to rise. He looked up into the mirror to check his physical condition.

“Got the bath all started by yourself,” he inquired to the slender blonde woman with bright blue eyes.

“Mhm, like you said, easy once you know how,” she said as she shifted her position in the water. It gave a soft swish as rose petals danced away from her. Lillia rested her chin on the side of the tub and looked up at him, “You’re home early. Everything okay?”

“Fine,” he replied. “I just need to tend to this scrape.” He turned to face her, “Really, though, you okay in there?”

“I could help,” she replied. “I’m very well versed in healing cuts, scrapes, and bruises,” She sat up, her breasts now outside of the water.

“What about other aches or throbs,” he said as he knelt down next to the bath tub and placed a kiss onto her nose.

Lillia wrapped her arms around his neck and touched his lips, “you should join me and find out.”

[One Word Prompts] #3 Pillow

Perfect white rectangles stared back at him. Once upon a time his mother used to fluff the pillows as he pulled on clothes as he grumbled about not being able to sleep in the library. At some point, his twin sister took over and she did it in such a panic every morning that it would keep him up at night. Pharon took the job from her so that he could wake at a proper time. Even after he got married, he still made the bed and fluffed the pillows. He folded each and every edge with sharp precision.

One of his wife’s greatest joys in the morning was jumping onto the bed and leaving it a crinkled mess. She laughed and teased him, told him to take a nice deep breath because his face would stay in a frown if he left it like that. He pretended every morning to be annoyed by her antics. At the same time he would attend her needs with kisses and cuddles until she reminded him that he would be late for work. Some days, he would send a message saying he couldn’t come in and others he would drag himself out of bed.

Perfect white rectangles stared back at him. Pharon sank onto the bed. His hand glided over her empty spot. He rolled over and pulled the parchment from the nightstand. He jotted down a quick note and stood. As the bedroom door opened he handed it to his second in command.

“Understood, sir,” Sacred said with a nod. “You know where to find me.”

After years of friendship, all Pharon had to do was hand the man a letter. Sacred delivered it to the king and kept the men training. The door shut behind him.

He sat back onto the bed. The plain ceiling judged him. He sat up with a jolt and took the pillows. He threw them across the room. They smashed against the wall and collapsed onto the floor with a pathetic whump. Fire ignited in his heart, he threw opened the window, pulled up the mattress and threw it too. It landed in the courtyard with a slam.

Sacred’s blond hair shined in the light. Next to him black haired Sadin crossed his arms.

“But brother,” Sadin called from the ground floor. “Where will you sleep?”

“In the library,” Pharon snapped as he slammed the windows shut.

He sank onto the floor, the defeated bed frame jumped from his vision. Dead pillows, almost perfect in form stared back.

[One Word Prompts] #2 Thunderstorm

She used to climb next to him. She would hold on to him and watch the lightning dance as she stole his warmth. Lillia made small talk, asking him questions about the weather, why it was thundering, if it had been dangerous to fly in, why he risked it to join her, if the Goddess was mad. Pharon’s patience with her dived into depths that he didn’t know he’d had. They talked for hours and she would fall asleep in his arms. He carried her to bed as he feigned annoyance and wondered why he’d ever bothered to put up with her when she couldn’t keep up with the conversation. He knew why. He mulled over his patience as he watched her sleep. Worse than coming to terms with his patience was the realization that he had no desire to be like this for anyone else. She used to do many things, and her absence brought a deep pain to his heart.

Pharon handled being stabbed, broken, and beaten. He’d been shot, crushed, and drowned, but nothing compared to the emptiness that filled his heart. The clouds rolled in to mock him. Lightning raced across the sky as if to press the dagger into his chest. His patience left his body as the warmth lingered. The steady growl of thunder and rain the only sounds to trap in his ears. It would be days before he realized that half of the thunder that pounded in his skull was his heart.

[One Word Prompts] # 1 Starlight

The scratching of pencils, the washing of dishes, and the sound of a rag against the counter indicated the closing of The Mad Tea Party for the evening. After washing the last of the dishes, Alice would prep ingredients for the next day’s work. Tristan wiped down every counter and table top, forcing Peter to move from his spot three times. The little boy picked up his wooden case filled with paper (plain and construction), pencils, crayons, markers, a pair of scissors, an eraser, and two pencil sharpeners.

In addition to his art kit, Peter had tracing paper, a calendar, and an astronomy book. He settled for the final time and pushed the book onto its spine. First he placed the tracing paper over the pages and traced every prominent star. Peter labeled them with his nicest handwriting, and set the sheet aside before he repeated the process on the second page. He copied every page of the astronomy book, labeled every star, and labeled the seasons and dates in which they appeared before he closed the book.

Once he finished that, he pulled the thick construction paper from its plastic confinement and pulled out every single black sheet that he could find. He had four pages per season; he frowned as he wrote down the math problem on the side of one of his blank sheets of paper.

“Sixteen,” he said to himself. “I wonder if it’ll fit.”

Peter’s spine touched the back of the chair as his arms crossed against his chest. Blackness took over his eyes and he shook his head. The large window of the bakery stared back at him.

“Well, I’m just going to have to test it. I can make it smaller if I have to.”

He went back to work. Once he counted out sixteen sheets of black paper, he started paper clipping the edges of the traced sheets onto the construction paper. The stack of papers stared at him as if trying to intimidate him into quitting. The papers flittered under his exhale.

“I’ll come back to it tomorrow.”

Peter picked up his supplies and went to bed. The next evening he brought them all out. He brought extra tools with him. He brought a small cup of pins with him. He sat on the plush carpet in his aunt’s study. As she worked, he poked the pins into the tracing paper, making more prominent holes on larger stars. When all of the stars had been poked into the paper, he pulled off the tracing paper, and began to write down the labels in white colored pencil. He worked on two pages a night. After a little over a week he finished the second part of his project.

He looked at his papers and tried to imagine how they might look pinned up. His window, now that it was in front of him, looked too small to hold each page. His pride deflated as he sat onto the floor and pushed the papers away from him. He climbed into bed, his footsteps heavy as he stepped onto the pages and ignored them.

The pages scurried away in the night.

His sour mood worsened as he searched for the missing pages. After a half an hour he gave up and went downstairs. His frown weighed down his steps as he climbed into the chair next to his uncle. When asked what was wrong, Peter answered “nothing.” He ate his breakfast, found his favorite book, and climbed into the cabinets as his mother began her work for the morning. After dinner that evening, Mikey pulled him out of his hiding place.

“You didn’t come to lunch.”

“I wasn’t hungry,” Peter said as he closed his book.

“Or dinner,” the older boy said.

“Still wasn’t hungry.”

“We saved your food,” Mikey said. “Even if you don’t care about it. I’ll bring it up with us. I wanted to show you something.”

“I just wanna read.”

“You can read in the playroom,” Mikey put his hands onto his hips. “I’ll drag you if I have to.”

“Okay,” the sigh escaped as he stood up and followed his uncle into the large playroom.

The big window stared at him. The evening sunlight pushed through the window in a different way than normal. It struggled to push through the tiny dots in the construction paper. His fine handwriting labeled each and every star.

“The bedroom window was too small,” the dark headed boy said. “I started putting them up after you went to bed. I finished this morning and wanted to show you.” He poked his nephew’s cheek, “but you bailed right after breakfast!”

“You got them all to fit,” Peter said as he tried to push his tears into his core.

“Yeah, it’s important to you,” Mikey clapped him on the shoulder and turned out the lights in the playroom.

The glow of the setting sun pushed through the construction paper to create Peter’s star map.

Emperor

I do own own Bleach. This is based in a dream that I had. So please, ignore any inaccuracies as far as story goes. Just enjoy the writing?!

His responsibility had been to trying. He had become emperor, but, his heart was not in it. His voice locked in his throat and he longed for peace. He longed for the silence of winter. Byakuya Kuchiki had become the emperor, loved and respected by all. His blade a driving force of justice and reason, art flourished, the economy soared, he had issued in a golden age of prosperity. Melodramatically, he wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. Byakuya had fought tooth and nail for this position, this lifestyle, this serenity. The lonely years flew by; he locked himself in his room. Writing and the view from his window his only means of escape. One fall morning he received a gift from his most trusted servant. The red head seemed to be concerned about his master’s waning health.

Renji Abarai set the cage gently onto the small wooden table. When Byakuya did not look up, Renji sat on his knees. He pulled the cloth from the cage and waited for the Emperor to say anything. Half an hour of no response Renji knew that nothing he could do would save him. He stood and looked down at the man he had once respected and hated. This palace, this life – it was too much like this bird. With a sigh Renji gave a nod and a prayer.

“Emperor, forgive my saying so, but I worry about your health. I will handle all of the affairs that I can. Hisagi has been helping me lately, so I think we can manage while you recover. It’s not much, but we found this little bird – broken and alone.” Renji looked at the pale song bird and sighed, “If anything we hoped that it would be within your Divine Grace to help her.”

Renji dismissed himself, but he took his time in shutting the door. Byakuya’s hand opened the caged door and lifted the small bird from her resting place. She hopped along the table unable to fly, and for a moment the emperor thought she was nothing more than a trinket to distract him. He rested his firm hands around her and released a minimal amount of energy. After several moments she flapped her wings but did not fly. From that moment, they were never separated. Byakuya marveled in her snow white feathers, etched in aquamarine, her eyes a deep and soul piercing gray.

“I shall call you Snow.” Byakuya spoke, his voice rough and ragged from not having used it in what seemed like an eternity. “You are the only one who understands me.”

His dark hair fell into his face, his hands effortlessly attended to work that he wanted to do. One more image, the painting of snowflakes, the destruction of spring, the dismissal of summer. He sighed about the chaos outside of the four thin walls. Life was no longer beautiful or magnificent. If not for the red head, he would be swept into the abysmal sea of despair. Byakuya tilted his head, Terrible, he thought correcting himself, if not for my dear little song bird. His pen set down onto the low wooden table, his eyes glanced over to the winter feathered companion. She was small and fragile. Byakuya was reminded of loss, her song was reassuring, mournful, and it made him relive a time too simple and heartbreaking.

His hand stretched out, she jumped from her perch to his finger, chirping her affection to a somber smile. Byakuya pulled his hand closely to inspect her, after a moment of her singing his smile faded and he blinked slowly, as he placed a gentle kiss upon her head. Snow started to sing again, her wings flapping minimally as he sat with his eyes focused on the outside world. Byakuya looked back to her when her song stopped

“Snow, you warm my heart.”

The door opened to reveal his servants, one with red hair, and one with dark. They bowed and joined him at the table to a half stretched hand.

Snow looked to Byakuya then between Renji and Hisagi. She turned her shoulder refusing to sing for them, instead focusing on Byakuya. Her wings fluttering lightly as she rocked back and forth.

Hisagi cracked a small smile, “So stubborn. I have heard rumors that her songs heal.”

“But have never actually heard her song,” Renji continued. “Troublesome, maybe even a little bit arrogant.”

Byakuya’s face lightened, his hand reached to his shoulder and she jumped from his delicate fingers to his strong shoulders with ease.

“Forgive us for intruding, Your Holiness.” Hisagi started, “But we came to check on your health.”

“Your color has returned your strength looks as though it has never left you.”Renji added, “We’re happy to see you in such good spirits.”

Byakuya shook his head, his hair disturbing his small white companion, “I still won’t be joining the court for anything.”

“We didn’t think so.” Hisagi and Renji voiced together.

“But your mother is insisting on your finding a bride. And before too long the court will decide that your ways are old and tired. If you do nothing, your kingdom will crumble beneath you.”

“I have no need for tired laws and brides. For women who will only live to kill me.” He sighed heavily his hand absently rising to his shoulder. Snow jumped back to his finger, and he brushed her with his thumb. “No one understands that this was supposed to be simple. You two have worked too hard for something you didn’t want. There was only supposed to be freedom.”

“There is no such thing as freedom.”Renji lightly argued, “There are only cages – bigger, smaller, and all engulfing. We’re all trapped in this life. Some of us choose it, others do not.”

“Which are you Renji?” Byakuya inquired softly his thumb still rubbing against soft feathers.

“Choice.” Renji sternly nodded, “I am here because I want to be.”

Hisagi answered, “Choice, as well.”

Her chirps caused Byakuya to smile, “Yes, I suppose I did make the choice to be here as well.” He exhaled slowly, “But I have also chosen not to weave the webs of this life. My choice has been inconvenient for you?” His eyes glanced up, focusing on the two men across the table.

“Of course it has.” Renji griped as he crossed his arms, “But I chose to stick by you.”

Hisagi rested his hand on the sword at his waist, “And we will fight for what you want because we think it is the best notion. We merely await your orders.”

“There’s no need for that.” Byakuya tiredly replied, “I do not wish for bloodshed to stain the beauty of this otherwise blank canvas.”

“It will not remain blank forever.” Hisagi warned, “Someone will try to take it from you, and when they do, we will not hesitate.”

Renji stood, “We will promise that we will try to do things your way. We have lived by the simple laws you have set – but we implore you to consider what is going on.”

Byakuya waved his free hand growing weary of the warnings and grim faces. Snow looked up at him, gray eyes too honest and piercing.

“Do you think that I am doing the wrong thing?” He inquired, his thumb softly brushing against her again.

’I think, that as long as you choose to stay in this cage, you will be painting your canvas in gray. You dream of peace and serenity yet hide your wings. I am no different than you, Byakuya, and this is why I can sing for you – why I can tell you the truth. If you choose to wither, then I will fall with you into the abyss. But just as assuredly as we can fall, we could soar into blue skies.’

Byakuya took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He slowly stood his knees wobbling beneath him. He set his companion onto the top of the cage and pulled on his white haori. He pulled on his gloves, his sword rested against his hip, and he sighed as he reached back out for her. She jumped onto his finger and began to sing once more. Her tune was lively and reassuring, something that reminded him of battle and definition.

“If you say the skies are blue, then perhaps it is time that we fly.”