Author: tuathafae /Tuathafaerie
Genre: Drama-galore, a smidge of humor, and a whole lotta love (it's valentine's, forgive me)
Pairings: Byakuya/Hisana (but I, uh, kind of ran with the prompt)
Summary: Byakuya Kuchiki is thinking about writing a book. It would, of course, be a bestseller.
Disclaimer: Bleach and all of it's characters belong to Kubo Tite.
How to be disowned. Byakuya Kuchiki could write a novel on the process. In fact, he might have to in order to earn an income to sustain himself and his new family, unless Soul Society granted him a seated position and separate quarters. A tad bitterly, he reviewed the chapters of his imaginary bestseller as he slowly placed his meager belongs into a box. The first chapter would have to be introductory, he thought clinically, to prove that he was qualified to be an authority. It would go over his former position of the sole grandchild of the current Kuchiki clan head.
A tiny, hand-painted chest containing a few sakura blossoms that had been in bloom when he had first mastered his bankai went into the box.
His childhood would be discussed, and there would be discrete but pointed mentions of his hotheadedness in youth and his tendency to lose his cool with one former captain in particular just to show that he’d had the ability if not the whim to be cast out years earlier. But overall that time in his life had been serene, he’d eagerly applied himself to the dictates of his family. Which made his recent expulsion all the more shocking.
Chapter one, he decided, placing an old origami sphere he had made when barely fifty beside the chest, would be titled “They’d Never Seen It Coming.” And honestly, neither had he.
The rest of the book would be split into sections, the first detailing sins of attrition, bad habits and attitudes that would need to be endlessly repeated before your progenitors finally got fed up and released you into the wild. Ignoring your duties, disparaging the family name, fighting with the favored child, etcetera, etcetera, there were endless examples. Byakuya would give a few good, standard methods to employ these techniques, ones that he had never used himself but ones that he had been warned against when he was being tutored in clan politics and had witnessed other children punished for. It could, if he stretched it, make up a good third of the book.
A paper fan was laid precisely in the center of the container, dividing two decidedly less extravagant pairs of clothes from his keepsakes.
The second section would have to contain crimes against society, a truly evil way to end your association with your family. It was distasteful to his nature, but Byakuya would detail those as well. He had been nothing if dedicated to his purpose, and he believed that this parting of ways with the Kuchiki had been the anomaly of his life. Whether it was a lighter crime of theft or embezzlement, or a more serious one of patricide or murder - though, to be cautious, one could only be assured of disownment by the first method if one was not made the last of one’s line - as long as you were convicted there was no doubt getting rid of you would be your family’s new priority. Rebelling against the government was sure to succeed, and a whole chapter, Byakuya mused, could probably be dedicated to Yoruichi Shihouin and her compatriots. It was a small boon, that. Although he hated following in her footsteps, if he had to experience something this unpleasant at least the demon cat had gone before him. The thought would have made him smile sixty years ago.
Now, as he placed his final momento, a beautiful calligraphy his father had painted one year for his birthday, he could only frown. This was what he got for rushing into things. But, and his mouth straightened and firmed with the thought, he could not and would not turn around.
The last and final section of the book would cover those actions closest to Byakuya’s heart: going against the family’s wishes in favor of one’s own desires, and breaking clan law. He knew there were plenty of ways to do it. From joining the wrong squad to aiding and abetting known clan enemies, as long as there was a rule written against it you could break it. Your punishment was based upon the severity with which the action was held. But the last chapter, keeping the best for last, would be the way to exit a family that he knew best, which was to marry against their wishes and law.
One of his hands settled against the top of the lid as he closed the box. This would be all that he was taking back to Hisana, lovely, beautiful, wonderful Hisana who was worth more to him than the family he had lived and breathed for all his life. All he owned, truly owned as Byakuya and not as a Kuchiki, was inside this box. He had been upset when he had come back to her after learning that he was to be removed from the Kuchiki family tree, but she had smiled softly before she hugged him to her and told him that she didn’t need a mansion and she didn’t need money, all she needed was him and she would do her best to be all he needed as well. Hisana, compassionate Hisana, had been asleep that night when he had crept out of their tiny house in the 78th district of Rukongai and wept bitterly with only the moon as witness.
But he would not go back. Byakuya had fallen in love with that tiny woman and her warm smiles months ago, when he had come back from a fight with a rouge hollow that had left a nasty gash across his torso. She had found him crumpled against a tree near her house - shack, really - and had insisted to treat him with her barely adequate medical box that she had surely paid a fortune for. Byakuya had consented, not eager to return to his grandfather when, if he had just kept a level head, he should not have been injured at all, and, as she applied an antiseptic and wound bandages around him all while talking about her life as if it were nothing when in fact it was everything, his heart took a nosedive and never resurfaced.
In the weeks that followed he came back, at first with the excuse of a formal thank you and later with no excuse but to see her face, and in that time he grew to know a great many things about her. She was soft spoken but she held strong opinions on family and responsibility that she would defend if prompted, she enjoyed the quiet time between nautical dawn and true sunrise, she was kind, far kinder than anyone he had met in Rukongai, let alone the 78th district, she was so enraptured by the banana Byakuya brought her one day that he arrived with a whole bunch the next, and she had spiritual energy. She had enough spiritual energy that she had to work to obtain sustenance, enough that she would be admitted to the Shinigami Academy if she applied, enough that she was, if not his equal, at least able to understand him on such a basic level. But she had a weak body, and she was a commoner, and so it took Byakuya a full month longer than it should have to propose marriage and then attend the ceremony without permission or knowledge of his family.
He had thought that his grandfather would surely approve when he introduced his new wife to the clan. One had only to meet Hisana to fall in love with her. He had never dreamed Ginrei Kuchiki would meet his excited expression with one of serious sadness and say, “I’m sorry, but this marriage is against Kuchiki law.”
And then, the words he would never forget, “Byakuya, you will be disowned.”
Thank goodness he had had the foresight to go alone to that meeting. He’d thought to prepare the house for her arrival, but he’d left immediately after speaking to his grandfather and he could not imagine the expression Hisana’s face would have held if she had been present during that interview. He did not want to view it in his lifetime, and he would endeavor to make sure he never would. And so he would not go back. He could not go back.
Squaring his shoulders with a sigh, Byakuya glanced around the room for the last time. There was only one thing of value left in it, an ornate wall hanging threaded with gold, but he had sold his one hundred and fortieth birthday gift to purchase the much larger medicine box that now sat in his new home, and he would not be taking it with him. Picking up the box, Byakuya strode out of the mansion for what, he thought, could be the last time.
“I’m home,” he called softly as he entered the small building that had housed him for the past week.
Looking up from where she was carefully mending a tear in one of her yukatas, Hisana’s eyes fell on the box he carried with a look of supreme regret, but when they raised to his face they held the glimmers of one of her gentle smiles. “Welcome back.”
‘This is my life now,’ Byakuya thought as he set down the box and joined his new wife, wrapping one arm across her shoulders, ‘and I will learn to talk about it as if it is nothing when in fact it is everything.’
But two weeks later found him short tempered and clinging to his resolve with slipping fingers. He loved Hisana, he honestly did, and she was worth everything to him, but he loved the Kuchiki, too, had loved them for years and years, his entire life, and parting with them was not easy even if he would not go back. He was by equal turns mad and disconsolate. How could they turn him out like so much unwanted dust? How could they dismiss Hisana without even meeting her? How could his marriage outside of family law to a wonderful woman who was worth ten of anything that had ever come down the Kuchiki tree be a horrible, despised thing? How dare they! How could they! Hadn’t he loved them, given his all for them?
Didn’t they love him?
And he knew, and he hated himself for it, but he could not help it, he was taking his temper out on Hisana. He had snapped at her three times this morning since they had risen, and it had only been an hour. He had accused her of misplacing his uniform when it was right where it always was, he had complained about the lack of variety in their breakfast, and he had replied harshly when she had asked when he would be back that night. After that last one she had gazed back at him seriously, sadly, and said only, “Byakuya-sama,” and he felt cut to his very soul by remorse, but he could not find the strength within him to apologize. He was paying every hour for his sins to the Kuchiki name, they were pulling the sorriness he did not feel they deserved out of him by leaps and bounds, and he could not scrape up an extra, honest amount for his wife. He focused on his food, intent on leaving before he said anything further even though he had no desire to go to the sixth division and face the emptiness of avoiding his grandfather.
But Hisana spoke again before he could finish his meal. “Byakuya-sama, I think we should…” she broke off, took a shaky breath, and then continued even as he used all of his mental power to wish that she would remain quiet. “I think we should rethink our marriage.”
“No,” he snapped back, winced, but did not withdraw the statement.
There was silence for a moment, but he knew that while she was soft-spoken she was not reticent and so it came as little surprise when she went on. “You have been unhappy, and I know that I alone am not enough-”
“No!” he ground out again, flicked his gaze up and locked eyes with her. “No!” he denied, even more forcefully. But he softened when her purplish eyes, eyes that had always told him her emotions, widened with fear and dismay. “No, I will not rethink our marriage.”
“I can not bear to see you in pain,” Hisana admitted, her line of sight dropping to her lap.
Inhaling sharply, Byakuya forced himself to calm down before he continued. “If I am forced to go back to the Kuchiki without you I will hate them far more than I ever loved them. Hisana-san,” and he waited until she glanced back up at him, “I will not rethink our marriage.”
Her bottom lip trembled, then firmed. “I refuse to ruin your happiness.”
“You are my-”
“I cannot be your whole life, Byakuya-sama.” Her expression grew fierce, something he was unused to seeing in her face. “Don’t ever let me be that. I will be the woman who loves you the most in the entire world, but I want to be who you come home to, who you want to share your happiness with, not the sole determinant upon which it is based. You need to speak with your family.”
“I was disowned. You are my family.” When she made to object again, Byakuya stood, his temper flaring. “We will speak of this later!” If she abandoned him, too, what would he have left?
After a moment spent staring at their half finished meal, she nodded quickly, her eyes averted from his face. He wished she would have looked at him, he wished she would have given him one of those heart melting smiles, he wished she would have told him she loved him, but he would be satisfied with her agreement because at least that meant she would stay.
He quickly used Shunpo without another word.
Soon after he arrived at the sixth division he found an excuse to leave it again. There was paperwork to be delivered to the Eighth division, and while he held no fondness for Matsumoto, the recipient, at least she was notorious for taking a very long time to reply and he was therefore guaranteed at least a few hours respite. Byakuya quickly volunteered. As an added bonus, it seemed his grandfather had been called out by a report of several hollows appearing in their patrol area, and Byakuya might manage not to see him the entire day.
With a significantly lighter step he walked the distance to the Eighth’s quarters and, when he was interrupted two hours later by a Hell Butterfly coming from the Third division, he decided that it was his duty as an able bodied shinigami, as the message had requested, to report immediately to the vice captain of the division for assistance. He managed, in fact, to stay away from his own division until almost five in the afternoon and by then he only intended to stop by and drop of the Eighth division’s completed files before returning home, so it was a surprise when the lieutenant, a man he had known for near a hundred years, stopped him in the hallway with a hand on his shoulder.
“Byakuya-sama, you should see the captain.”
A crease marred Byakuya’s forehead. “I was on my way out. Is it something that will not wait until tomorrow?” A month ago he would have gone without hesitation, but a month ago he was still a Kuchiki and held responsibility in his work at a high standard. Now, well, obviously it did not matter as he had no clan to dishonor by putting it off.
The man before him let his mouth tighten almost imperceptively before pulling him towards an open room. “Byakuya-sama, if you are not aware, your grandfather was seriously injured while fighting earlier this morning. We had sent a Butterfly to find you when he was brought to the Fourth division. I can only assume that it did not.” His eyebrows raised and after a moment Byakuya realized his mouth was hanging slightly open. His grandfather had been around forever, it seemed, and it was not conceivable that he was actually mortal.
Byakuya abruptly closed his jaw. “Where is he?”
The lieutenant inclined his head. “He is currently resting in his private room in the division barracks.”
And with a turn of his heel that was almost imperial, the young ex-Kuchiki heir strode further into the offices and down familiar hallways until he reached the door behind which he had found his grandfather far more frequently than any in the Kuchiki mansion. Resting his fingers on the door catch for a few moments to gather his thoughts, Byakuya knocked politely and then slid the door open.
Ginrei Kuchiki was sitting behind his desk, his chair facing the window behind him, and he did not turn as he asked, “Yes, Byakuya?”
“I,” the young man started, then abruptly stopped, swallowing harshly. It was far harder to stand in the presence of the man he had loved like a father after his own parents had died, the man who had disowned him with barely a sentence, and control his emotions. “I heard you were injured,” he managed eventually, his voice surprisingly even to his own ears.
“Yes,” Ginrei acknowledged. “I was caught by surprise,” and his tone still reflected the emotion as he explained, “and one of them cut me under the arm and across my stomach.”
“Are you…?” Again the uncomfortable pause came as Byakuya rethought his every word. “You are healed, I hope.”
“Yes,” his grandfather repeated. “I spent nearly an hour under Captain Unohana’s care. And another,” he continued as he spun around, “with your wife.” At Byakuya’s sharp indrawn breath he paused, as if waiting for an interruption, but when none came he went on. “She did her best to entertain me as she made me drink herbal teas with a story about a young man who received a similar wound but did not want to come to the Fourth division.”
The silence stretched on and still Byakuya said nothing. His wife had been here? But why? Had she know that his grandfather had… And then he remembered, sharply, the undelivered message of the Hell Butterfly, only it had been delivered and Hisana had the authority after their marriage to receive most of the missives addressed to him.
“She is charming and very kind,” Ginrei said softly, his mouth a tad sad, a touch remorseful, but mostly, mostly sympathetic. “You chose well, Byakuya.”
“I know,” he replied, because her kindness and her charity were part of why he loved her, even if he currently was torn between being grateful that she had cared enough about his Kuchiki family, the family that had refused to even meet her before they made a decision about her worth, to come and check on his grandfather and wanting to shake her for not checking with him first. Because if his grandfather gave her a reason to make that terrible, hurt expression he never wanted to witness, so help him… “Excuse me,” he said abruptly, turning to leave.
“Byakuya,” Ginrei called, making his grandson stop. “Byakuya, by being old and injured I have accomplished the goal I have been working on for weeks. I can revoke your disownment.”
Fingers still poised at the door, Byakuya grew very still. His heartbeat thudded so loud in his ears that he was sure the entire room must echo with it, but slowly he forced himself to turn back. “What?”
“I will revoke your disownment,” the old Captain of the Sixth division said clearly, “if you wish it. I have spoken with the Kuchiki elders, and we will change the law. I am old and near death, and I have trained you as my successor for years and there is no better candidate. Your aunt, certainly, has had no children and you are my only grandchild.”
Byakuya’s grey eyes met his grandfathers and all his anger and all his fears from the past two weeks compounded into that look. “Why now? Why not when I told you I was married? Why did I know nothing-?!”
“I was afraid that I would fail. To change a law takes time and persistence.” A gaze so similar and yet so much more sorrowful than his own stared back. “I could not lose you twice.” And then swiftly the Kuchiki mask was back in place, and Byakuya felt his own expression smooth and close up in response. “Byakuya, I request that you consider coming back to the family. I wish it, and I know your wife wishes it, since she asked me to please overlook your marriage even when she had no idea that I was already on your side, but ultimately it is your choice. And there will be conditions upon your return.”
His face remained impassive as he replied. “And they are?”
“First, you must adhere closely to the remaining Kuchiki law, as repeat transgressions will not be so easily overlooked, especially in the head of the family,” Ginrei said, sitting despite injury straight in his chair. “Second, you must resume you training to succeed me and follow through with all diligence. And finally,” the old man smiled as he finished, “you must do your best to produce an heir swiftly, if not several, since obviously this family wavers precariously with the loss of a single man.”
Slowly, Byakuya smiled in return. But he‘d gotten very used to talking about his life as if it was nothing when in fact it was everything and so his reply was simple. “I accept the conditions.”
“Then I will expect you in my office tomorrow morning and your return to the Kuchiki mansion with your wife within the week.” With a cough and a complacent shuffle of paperwork, Ginrei dismissed his grandson. “You may go.”
And Byakuya intoned a quiet, “Thank you,” before leaving the Sixth division and using Shunpo back to the 78th district of Rukongai.
He found Hisana behind their house, picking herbs from their small garden, no doubt to replace the ones she had used earlier that day from their medicine chest. He watched her for a few minutes, enjoying the sight of her examining leaves for bugs or disease before placing them into a small bag, then called her name, with no honorifics added at all.
She looked back sharply in surprise and blushed, then looked down at her dirty hands. “Byakuya-sama. I’m still working here, but I’ll be finished in about half an hour.” She let out a sound caught between a squeak and a laugh when he strode quickly forward, barely minding the plants, and lifted her up by her waist. “What’s wrong?” she asked, a bit breathlessly.
“Nothing’s wrong,” Byakuya replied, smiling as he carefully picked their way out and put her down on the small table she had outside to dry picked herbs in the sun. He placed a hand on the table and leaned towards her. “You visited my grandfather today.”
Hisana’s expression immediately shuttered. “I-I’m sorry. I got the message this afternoon and-”
“Don’t apologize,” he cut through instantly. He should be the one apologizing, after all he’d put her through these last few weeks. And he should be thanking her profusely for asking for what he couldn’t on his behalf. And telling her of how their life was going to change, and how wonderful she was, and how much he loved her, and why he could not imagine life without her. Impulsively, he wrapped his arms around her, unsure of where to even start. “I am so happy right now.”
And he could feel her smile back against his shoulder.