Pairing/Characters: Byakuya and Rangiku. Rukia also appears.
Summary: As time passes, words become meaningless. That's what she tried to tell him, but he wouldn't understand. But what happens when an unexpected twist makes them change their minds?
Disclaimer: Bleach belongs to Kubo. We all can dare to dream though.
Author's Note: Multiple POVs. It starts off with Rukia and then it switches several times between her and Rangiku. Also, there's many japanese terms, so I added a glossary at the end for the readers that are not acquainted with the terms. I hope you can enjoy my work and pardon the lenght. I got carried away.
It was a day like any other.
After waking up, I got dressed and left my quarters inside the Kuchiki manor, setting out to have breakfast with my brother.
Aside from me, Nii-sama, or as most people call him, Kuchiki Byakuya, doesn’t open up to people. Not that he shares his intimate thoughts and views with me. After all, a reserved man like him won’t indulge in chatter, even if you ask him about his work or the latest happenings of the Gotei Juusantai.
Ever since I met him, Nii-sama has been aloof and private. Not that any of it ever stopped me from seeing through the hard façade he’d built over the years; the consequence of the noble discipline and demands he grew up with. After our issues got sorted and I became aware of his past, understanding him became such an easy task.
He has never noticed my contemplations, and if he did, he either disregarded them or had learned to accept the fact that I can read his tells and worry about him, which is something that apparently no one else does. Despite this, he would pay no heed to my close observation of him, probably due to years of a close but unorthodox sibling relationship.
Our relationship consisted of quiet meals, shared in the Kuchiki manor or in the Rokubantai barracks. We would share tea in the afternoon or a short chat before going to bed for the night. Of course, whenever we spoke, it was me who initiated and carried out the conversation, while Nii-sama would step in from time to time, adding a simple remark like “yes” or “no”, a goodbye or the “Rukia” that he always uttered calmly but with undisclosed sentiment.
For the longest of times, his replies had been blunt and dry, but for a while now, I’ve noticed a change in his attitude. He seems more relaxed and calm, instead of looking burdened and distressed. Even when I was probably the only person in Seireitei that could tell, I was happy for Nii-sama. I don’t know what could have brought about this change in character, but that was irrelevant. It would be safe to assume that the outcome of the war affected everyone in some way or other.
This morning was like any other morning, but when I arrived at the table, Nii-sama’s concerned expression did not escape my eyes, regardless of the efforts he made to hide it.
I suppose he does know I can see through him.
Going against my better judgment, I didn’t ask Nii-sama any questions this morning. We had breakfast as usual, but he seemed distracted, acting as if nothing happened. However, his attempts at hiding were useless, as I could tell he was concerned.
I kept thinking about it throughout the day, wondering what could have been disturbing my brother. I felt guilty for not trying to help him when we both knew that something was on his mind. I usually don’t let him get away with keeping his issues to himself, but for some odd reason, this morning I couldn’t bring myself to ask.
The thought of Nii-sama feeling burdened kept running laps in my mind, keeping me from sleep. He has always been there for me, protecting me from danger and the gossip of the elders, using his power and position to keep me safe. I owe him so much and yet, I can’t come through for him, even when I know he doesn’t want me to.
Right then, I decided it was best that I looked for him and gave him the opportunity to vent in whichever way he feels convenient. Whether that is berating me or dodging the conversation by asking about my training is not important, as long as he feels better.
I knew just where to look for him. Nii-sama always goes out to the gardens to gaze at the moon after having dinner, so I headed outside to look for him. Such was my surprise when I stepped into the grass and found that the gardens were empty. I considered that he might have decided to change locations, so I wondered over to the pond, thinking that he might be looking at the Kois. However, he was not there either.
I tried the other gardens in the manor, his office and even the dinning hall, thinking that he may be enjoying some tea before dinner, but he was nowhere to be found. There was only one place left to search: his bedroom.
I walked through the halls of the manor in the direction of his quarters. While walking, I encountered a servant. Thinking that it was best that I don’t enter Nii-sama’s room, I decided to ask the servant in case he knew of my brother’s whereabouts.
“Excuse me, please.”
“Good evening, Rukia-sama. How can I help you?”
“I was wondering if you knew where Byakuya-sama is. I’ve been looking for him but I haven’t been able to find him.”
“I saw him leave his room just a moment ago, Rukia-sama, although I don’t know where he was headed.”
“That’s fine. Thank you very much.”
“You’re welcome, Rukia-sama.” The man said as I walked away.
I considered what the servant told me and decided to check the gardens again, in case Nii-sama had not taken his nightly stroll already.
Once I arrived at the gardens, I noticed a silhouette moving in the distance, heading towards the front door of the manor. It was Nii-sama.
I decided to follow him outside, thinking in the back of my mind that perhaps I was just taking things out of context and this entire problem was in my head. Maybe he was just behind on his paperwork and decided to return to the office to finish it. However, something in my gut told me that was not the case, so I continued to follow, trying my best to keep Nii-sama from noticing my presence.
I kept a safe distance from him, knowing that it was likely he was heading towards the Rokubantai barracks to follow up on his work. I trailed behind him for a while, paying little attention to the route he was taking. That was until he turned on the wrong corner. Right then, all the warning signs went off in my brain, telling me that something different that what I expected was going on.
He walked past the Nanabantai barracks, and then the Hachibantai. I followed closely, trying to keep my presence hidden from Nii-sama. My mind was full of unanswered questions, and there were even more after I noticed my brother was entering the Juubantai barracks.
I was searching my brain for reasons why he would be there at these hours, but nothing came. All I could do was try to remain hidden and figure out this mystery. Maybe it would have been more sensible to return to the manor and wait for him to come back so I could speak to him, but I was already in this mess and, for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to escape from it. Something inside me kept telling me I was doing the right thing.
Such was my surprise when I watched him from afar, knocking on the door of Matsumoto Rangiku, the Juubantai Fukutaicho.
I was staring absentmindedly at the ceiling, thinking about everything and nothing at the same time. I couldn’t find rest from my conflicted mind, hoping that something, anything, could make these thoughts, or lack thereof, disappear.
It had been weeks since it started; since that argument I had with Byakuya. I kept replaying it over and over in my mind, trying to see where it all went wrong. Is so hard loving a man like him.
After that fight was over, he refused to talk about it, skirting the issue. I tried to bring it up, hoping that it would end the awkwardness between us, but he kept finding excuses to avoid the subject. I suppose that if I was in his position, I would do that too.
But I am not like him. I won’t expect my lover to remain a secret from the world and be happy about it. I would not deem it acceptable to hide him based on the premise of protection.
Protection from what or who? The elders of his family? In my naivety of being in love with him, I might have accepted that if it wasn’t for his former marriage. I understand that losing his wife was hard on him, but I can’t allow that to be his excuse for keeping me a secret, as if I was an embarrassment to him and his precious name. He fought his family for her, why won’t he extend the same courtesy to me?
Courtesy? What am I thinking? He’s not doing me any favors here.
When I heard the knock on the door, I knew that it was him.
I realized that, even after all the thought I had given to the situation, I still had no idea of what I would say to him. It was scary to be in that position, since just one look at him is enough to make me forget everything I had in mind.
However, I walked towards the door decisively, focusing all my strength into keeping my mind in the right place. I won’t allow him to think that I will wait patiently for the day he decides to come around, especially not after two years of secrecy.
Another knock; perhaps he thought I wouldn’t find the strength within me to face him.
If there’s something I’ve learned during my time with Byakuya is that he’s a stubborn, impatient man. I was sure, as my name is Matsumoto Rangiku, that he was feeling restless, although all that mattered to me was that he didn’t sense the same in me.
I grabbed the door handle, and taking a deep breath, opened it.
“Hello.” He said dryly. It was surprising to see the look on his face. It was faint, but it was there.
He stood before me, giving off that aura of disbelief that was so uncharacteristic of him. Even when he’s not a man known for his words, this time the absence of them was completely unintentional. I knew well that Byakuya could be eloquent whenever he wanted to be.
Both he and I felt the same way, utterly speechless. I could read it in his eyes.
We stared at each other for a while, until I couldn’t look at him anymore. It pained me to see the man I love being such a coward in front of me.
At that moment, the last piece of the puzzle fell in place. Why couldn’t he stand up for me? How can he settle for this?
None of the answers that came to mind were acceptable for me. Either he isn’t man enough to fight or he’s been using me all this time. Whichever was the reason, I would not stand for it. Not when it hurts this much.
“You’re not going to do it, are you, Byakuya?”
“Rangiku,” he uttered, almost inaudible, “we need to…”
“Talk? I’ve said all I had to say to you before, and I don’t think you have anything important to add.”
“Rangiku, you don’t understand.”
“Don’t patronize me, Byakuya. We both know very well how you feel.”
“What I said the other day gave you the wrong impression. I don’t think you know how I feel.”
“Then enlighten me, Byakuya, because I feel used. I can’t let you do this to me.”
“I’m not using you, Rangiku. Please, don’t draw such conclusions.”
“Then tell me, Byakuya! How the hell am I supposed to feel?”
Silence. I knew there was no way he could answer that.
“You don’t even know how you feel, do you?”
It was so hard to stand there, looking at his eyes. They made me feel guilty for doing this, for being cruel, but this was beyond my love for him. I couldn’t let him believe that I would stay by his side forever just because I love him.
After all, if he can’t fight for us, why should I?
“I feel guilty, Rangiku.”
That’s nothing new.
“So what do you want me to do about it? Carry it? I won’t do that. I won’t settle for an apology.”
“Then what can I do, Rangiku?” He asked, sternly, which bothered me so much, “I don’t want to lose you, but it seems there’s nothing I can do.”
I had to look away. These confessions are the last things I would expect from Byakuya at a time like this. Although, I’ve always found it funny how we could feel the same way at times, as if we could synchronize our souls.
But what am I saying? Here’s this man, who doesn’t get tired of professing his love to me every night and yet, when the moon reaches its peak, takes his leave from me, whilst I pretend to sleep between the cold warmth his body leaves on my sheets.
“I love you, Byakuya,” I said, lifting my head to gaze at his blurry eyes, “but love isn’t enough.”
“Loving you has to be worth something, Rangiku. Don’t disregard that.”
The minute I heard those words coming out of his mouth, my feelings shifted from sadness and disbelief to rage; boiling rage.
“Disregard that? Disregard that, Byakuya?! I have nothing to disregard here! You already did it for the both of us. You made your decision and forced me to make mine. I don’t want to talk! I don’t want words. All I’ve gotten is words for two years!”
I kept my eyes firmly fixated on his, noticing the surprise in his face. If he feels like I do, then why isn’t he stopping me?
“I want you to care. Care for the fact that we’re falling apart here, instead of coming here and showing your face to see if you can guilt me into staying with you. I won’t do that. You won’t manipulate me.”
He was speechless, just as I expected him to be. After all, when it mattered, we always felt the same way.
“I’ve hurt you. It was in my hands to keep you safe and I’ve failed you. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t need that, Byakuya.”
We kept looking at each other, burning down what was left of two years of a love that was not meant to be. It was so ceremonial that it ached to stand there, waiting for the light to fade out.
“So this is it?”
There was nothing left to say.
I was utterly shocked, to such extent I couldn’t bring myself to follow Nii-sama home after Rangiku-san closed the door. I knew that something serious was going through my brother’s head, but this was beyond any assumptions I could have made.
Not only had Nii-sama been courting a woman for the past two years, but it was Matsumoto Rangiku of all people, and they had kept their relationship secret from the world. How didn’t I notice?
I realized Nii-sama was already making his way back to the manor, but I was frozen in my position, resting against a wall near the Juubantai Fukutaicho’s house. I was sure neither of them could see me, but in my mind, I felt guilty for witnessing such event. Not everyday a girl has to see her brother get his heart broken.
I realized that slouching against a wall in the Jubbantai barracks would do nothing to aid my thoughts, so I decided to return to the manor. Perhaps the walk home could help me digest what I had just seen.
The more I thought about it, the more it all made sense. Why Nii-sama had been happy all this time was because of her. In the past, whenever I stopped to consider the reasons why he seemed different, I always attributed it to the end of war. At times, I even considered it had to do with me, thinking that Nii-sama was glad that I returned in one piece, which would grant him peace. However, this makes more sense.
Nii-sama found a companion. Someone he could talk to and who would listen to his troubles. I may not be able to understand the complexities of an adult relationship, but I’m sure she made him happy. My brother is not a man that would string a woman along just to avoid solitude. After all, in over 50 years I’ve known him, he’s never had a relationship before her, and there was never a shortage of female prospects, many of noble blood, eager to get near my brother. Nonetheless, Nii-sama would pay no mind to their advances. He was always so fixated on the memory of his late wife.
This brings me to her, Matsumoto Rangiku. What did he see in her? She’s a great woman and a wonderful shinigami of course, but I would have never pictured him with her. Still, there must be something that only they could understand that brought them together.
So Nii-sama had a lover for this past two years, and more than a lover, they seem to have been very close to each other. The latent hurt in their conversation was evidence to this. My brother doesn’t falter so easily and yet, I could see how he found it hard decide on what to do, perhaps not even wanting to make a decision.
As I walked inside the manor, I could feel the somber atmosphere around me. I reached my door and stopped for a minute before stepping into my quarters, thinking if I should go talk to him. I could see in Nii-sama’s expression that he was truly broken up about what happened.
Taking a deep breath, I entered my room. If I would have talked to him right then, all I would have done was to upset him further, and after all that’s happened, he deserves to be alone for a while.
I found it hard to sleep last night, having watched how Nii-sama and Rangiku-san broke up. I kept replaying the images in my head, trying to piece everything together.
They had an argument prior to last night’s conversation, which I’m sure was what triggered the break up. It seems that Rangiku-san was not happy about being kept a secret all this time, and I can’t say that is an absurd reason to end a relationship.
However, for Nii-sama that’s not something easy to do. For him to admit to the family that he’s been involved in a relationship, with someone outside nobility, is not something he can take lightly. Nonetheless, Rangiku-san was very patient, especially considering that they kept this information to themselves for all this time. Secrecy was probably good in the beginning, but it must have caused wear in the relationship with time.
Thinking of that only made me think of how he could allow that to happen. I’m sure that’s why Rangiku was upset. He was forsaking his love for her in favor of keeping the elders happy.
It always bothers me how he can do that to himself. Why won’t he accept the fact that he deserves happiness? That the elders are not looking out for his best interests, but are only interested in keeping control over him and showing a good face to the outside world. I know that most of the times Nii-sama doesn’t listen to them, but they find comfort in the fact that he’s too hurt to carry on.
Well, obviously, they were wrong.
Last night, for a moment, I could feel some sort of relief once I saw that he had found the way to move on and let go of the memories that kept him from finding joy, but that moment faded quickly as things spiraled out of hand.
I couldn’t believe that after all that’s happened, after the war and the aftermath it left, he could still let silly things like noble rules stop him. I couldn’t believe he didn’t stop what happened last night; not when I’m sure he had every intention to do so.
Thinking about this only made me want to find a way out of this awful situation, but it is not right that I butt in anymore than I already have. He won’t be pleased by my intrusion in his private affairs, but this is what people do for the people they love.
I guess I’ll just have to accept his scolding. If anything good can come out of it, then I won’t even mind that he finds it disrespectful. Deep down, I know Nii-sama will be grateful that I talked to him.
I made my way to the dinning room and noticed that Nii-sama was already there, waiting for me. It all made so much sense now. For the longest of times, I was always at the table first, waiting for his arrival, but today that wasn’t the case. I suppose that if I had noticed little details like this, I would have found out sooner.
I took my place on the table, sitting seiza before my brother. I could see in his face that he didn’t sleep much last night. Also, he was quieter than usual, which is saying much for a man that barely speaks.
This is how he deals with his issues. He keeps things to himself until he’s confronted and owns up to his mistakes. Because that is what happened, he made a big mistake.
“Good morning, Rukia.” He said, blatantly trying to hide his distress.
“Good morning, Nii-sama.”
The servant brought us food and then retired from the room, leaving the two of us alone. In all that time, Nii-sama didn’t speak a word, not even to dismiss the other man in the room. This only showed me that it was necessary for us to speak.
“Itadakimasu.” He said, concentrating as much as he could in the meal before him.
“Itadakimasu.” I replied. I kept trying to find the right way to approach him, but found no answer.
“Did you sleep well, Nii-sama?” I asked. I noticed he looked up from his plate for a brief minute, examining my demeanor. I tried to keep calm and give no hints as to what I was trying to get to, but he’s a perceptive man. If this plan failed, I would have no other option but to renounce to subtleties and be forward.
“I went looking for you last night but I couldn’t find you.”
“I had to go to the office last night.”
“I figured you did, although I went looking for you in the Rokubantai and I only found Renji doing paperwork.”
“You must have missed me, Rukia.” He replied, bluntly, staring at the table.
I realized I was running out of time to talk to him. Nii-sama would shunpo out of the house just as soon as he finished his breakfast, so I decided to gamble.
“I suppose Renji did too, since I asked him and he didn’t know where you were.”
“Where is this going, Rukia?” He asked, dryly, trying to keep me from further inquiring.
Right then, I realized he was ready to leave the house, most likely to avoid my questionings. He was leaving me no choice but to be direct.
I spent most of last night trying to find a reasonable way to confront him, but I couldn’t find any, so blurting it out would be best. That way, I could catch him off guard and maybe get some honesty from him.
“I followed you last night.” I said, watching how his expression changed from impassiveness to surprise, although it was a very faint expression. After all, noble men are experts at hiding their feelings. The last two years attest to that.
He was glaring at me, which was slightly scary since I didn’t know how we would react to this sudden news. Nii-sama had finished his breakfast, so I’m sure he thought that would give him the perfect excuse to leave.
“So, you won’t say anything, Nii-sama?” I asked, trying my best to confront him.
“Do not take it upon yourself to fix what is not broken.” He replied, asking me to drop the subject. With just one comment, he had gotten the idea of what I was referring to, and I expected no less from him. However, I couldn’t believe he said that. After all he said to Rangiku-san last night, was he really determined to give up on his happiness? I couldn’t stand for that, especially not when I knew he would like to find a solution.
“Are you delirious, Nii-sama!? Of course I won’t. You will. How can you say it isn’t broken?”
“The decision is final, Rukia. Please dismiss the subject immediately.”
“I bet the elders would applaud your decision, Nii-sama.” I replied, trying to upset him. If I wanted to get honesty from him, I would have to push.
“The elders are not aware of this situation, and you won’t do anything in this regard, so we can forget it ever happened.”
“Is that what you want, Nii-sama? To forget it ever happened? The elders are not a factor here. They are men who are only looking out for their best interests. Aren’t they the same people who told you it was wrong to marry my sister?”
“Don’t bring Hisana into this, Rukia.” He replied, harshly. Apparently, I was onto something, since he was avoiding my questions.
“I am sorry, Nii-sama, but there is a reason why it upsets you that I mention her,” I said, pressing the subject on him, “and I’m sure that is because she would agree with me.”
“I will be leaving now, Rukia. I expect that you will forget the subject and realize you’re not in the position to argue with me.” He said, walking in the direction of the door.
“I won’t drop the subject, Nii-sama, because I actually care about you. I’m sure you think that if I cared about you, I would not persist and accept your decision, but for two years I have seen a better man in front of me. A man who doesn’t wallow over the loss of his wife or over the burden that nobility represents for him. I saw a man that could enjoy the beauty around him, instead of wonder why said beauty couldn’t move him anymore.”
He stopped before the door, most likely surprised by my comment. However, he did not turn around to look at me, which showed me that I needed to continue pushing the subject on him. He could see I had a point, he was just too proud to agree with me.
“For two years I have seen a better you. A happier you! You can’t deny that all of this had nothing to do with her. You can’t deny that it upsets you the way it ended. And above all, you can’t deny that you long to find a way to fix this issue! This isn’t about Hisana or Rangiku, it’s about how you won’t let yourself be happy. How you allow these rules to keep you from true happiness. You broke them once, and now you refuse?”
“Your sister suffered because she was with me. My love for her wasn’t enough to keep her from falling ill or shield her from the attacks of the elders. I won’t do that to Rangiku. I can’t put her through it.”
“Do you think you’re really doing her a favor by leaving her? By making her believe it was her choice? You forced her to do it, Nii-sama. You can change her mind! She’s a strong woman. Don’t underestimate her.”
“It’s clear that you don’t see the point, Rukia. If you knew who Rangiku is, you would know that she doesn’t make rash decisions. If she says it’s final, then I can’t change her mind.”
Knowing him, he was thinking there’s no way out of this other than telling the elders or giving up his position as leader of the clan. He must have been conflicted these past days, having to decide between the woman he loves and the path he’s been taught to follow since his childhood. The interesting thing is that he doesn’t have to give up on neither of them. All he has to do is stand his ground. I had to convince him to act, if only because that’s what he really wants.
“I was happy to realize that you were not the man you were before the war. Who cares if the elders get mad? Do you think they care if you are unhappy?”
“Rukia, don’t persist, please.” He replied. I could tell he was still hurt by what happened from the way he asked me to stop, as if I was telling him something he already knew. However, there was no time to waste. The longer it takes him to come to his senses and act, the less it will mean to Rangiku.
“Nii-sama, this isn’t what my sister would have wanted for you. You gave her a blissful life, so I’m sure she would want nothing else than to see you happy. You even went against the rules by adopting me, keeping your promise to her. Do you think that now that you have fulfilled your commitment to her, she can be at peace? That your misery is irrelevant to her? Have you ever wondered, in these past two years, if she would be happy for you?”
He didn’t reply. Right then, during that brief silence, I was sure he would convince that part of himself that held him back from following his true wishes to oblige to his heart’s desires. After all, Nii-sama may be stubborn, but he’s also a reasonable man.
“Rukia, you flatter me. I appreciate that you have put yourself in this position. I find comfort in knowing that you worry about me. However, anything that I could say to her won’t mean anything. I failed us both with my passiveness. I fear she will not understand, so the best that I can do for her is to stay away. I can only hurt her.”
I could see our conversation was reaching its end, and I was yet to convince him. In fact, I thought there would be no way I could show him the error of his ways. In his eyes, he’s doing what’s best for her. There’s not much that I can do to change his mind if this is what he feels is best.
However, I had to exhaust all options, so before he left the manor I decided to share my last opinion, even if he disregards it.
“Nii-sama, I don’t think she could feel more hurt than she is now. I may not know her like you do, but I‘m sure that what she found in you, she won’t find in anyone else. If that matters at all to you, then you should do something, anything, because I’m sure that what she gave to you was also unique, and you won’t find it elsewhere.”
Silence is all I got as he walked away. It seems I failed my brother, after all.
I didn’t want to wake up. Not to this reality.
When problems arise, there was always a solution: Sake. It was always such a comfort for me.
When my Taicho yells, and the paperwork piles up, I could always count on sake to make me feel better. Even after Gin’s betrayal, sake gave me clarity. The same “clarity” I had when I got that delusional idea of Byakuya in my head.
That was after the war ended. Seireitei was riddled with injured people, and of all people, I end up sharing a room with the snobby Kuchiki-taicho in the Yonbantai. You think the man would arrange things so that he could spend his healing time in his manor, but he actually surprised me and the elders of his family, when he decided it was best that he stayed with all the wounded shinigami for moral support. That is what he told the elders.
We started talking during the time we spent in the Yonbantai, and for some odd reason, I seemed to be amused by his presence. He started noticing little quirks of mine, which intrigued me since I had no idea a guy like him could be that perceptive. In my eyes, he was always a jerk.
Little by little, the days passed, and soon we were discharged. I left first, and once I returned to my house in the Juubantai barracks, I had this strange feeling settling in the pit of my stomach.
In came clarity, or in other words, sake. I shouldn’t have been drinking so soon after being released from the hospital, but what is a girl to do when she’s feeling sad but drink sake?
Of course, I got blatantly drunk, to the point I could barely stand. That made what happened next even more complicated.
I was ready to pass out somewhere in Seireitei, as I had so many times before. However, when I was wondering aimlessly through its white halls, I encountered him. I was sure it was nothing but my mind playing tricks on me, but it really was him, as I could verify when yours truly was ready to hit the ground and the snobby Taicho shunpoed to my position, breaking my fall.
He offered to escort me to my house, which I thought was only his way of saying thank you for keeping him entertained during our stay in the hospital. Of course, leave it to me to do something stupid and decide that maybe, just maybe, that man was worth trying to seduce, if only to kill my boredom.
Two years later, and he was gone. That was two birthdays, two holidays, and two anniversaries, all of which seem meaningless now, since he decided I was not worth fighting for.
This takes me back to sake, and the supposed clarity it can provide. I feared that if I indulged in drinking, my drunken brain might try to convince me of taking him back, and for me, that was not an option. I love the man, but no man is worth losing yourself for, not even him.
So I didn’t want to leave the bed, because it was easier to stay there and drown on his leftover smell. It was easier to sleep and pretend that last night was a nightmare and, that come night, he would appear at my door, ready to be the Byakuya that no one else sees. My Byakuya.
But I’m a Fukutaicho, so I don’t get such privileges. I don’t have the chance to wallow over the loss of my lover or drink myself into numbness. I have work to do. So I left the bed, thinking that some day soon, I’ll have to give the idea of moving on some thought.
I walked into the office I share with my Taicho and noticed he was gone. I was slightly relieved by that. After all, he has the same annoying habit that Byakuya has, which is the nagging necessity to work until there’s no work left. Countless were the times I found myself in his office, dragging him out so he could have some time for himself, but with me, of course.
I guess those days are long gone now.
I wasn’t in the mood to do paperwork, which is habitual in me but not for the same reasons I had today. Today I just wanted to feel numb, so that nothing could remind me of the fact that he was no longer my Byakuya, which was proving to be nearly impossible.
I sat down on the couch inside the office, and pretty soon I found myself laying down, thinking about him more and more as each second passed. The fact that our relationship ended and that he decided that, after two years, I was not worth his trouble anymore doesn’t mean I don’t love him or I don’t think about him. It only means that doing those things were more painful than they used to be.
“Matsumoto-fukutaicho, Kuchiki Rukia is here to see you.” Said an officer from the other side of the door.
I had to take a minute to consider how incredibly unfair it was that, as I was trying to rid my mind from anything related to Byakuya, his sister decides to drop by and visit. I could only take comfort in the fact that I knew she was not aware of my relationship with him. I knew that at least that remained the same, since Byakuya would be the last guy that would go running to his kid sister in search for help, even if she’s the only person he can actually go to.
However, I still had to let her in. I had no idea why she was visiting me today, and to be quite honest, I was hoping that for some reason, she would have news about Byakuya. The masochistic side of me was eager to find out anything about how he’s been doing.
“Let her in, please.” I called out to the officer. I sat up in the couch and took a deep breath. Something inside me was telling me that I would not like this conversation at all.
“Good morning, Rangiku-san.”
“Good morning, Rukia-san,” I replied, trying my best to hide my surprise at her visit, “What brings you here?”
“Straight to the point, I see, Rangiku-san. Am I taking up your time?”
I realized that I was startling the young girl with my forwardness, so I corrected. “Not at all, Rukia-san. My Taicho is not even here yet, so I’m not getting to work until he does.”
“Then I’m terribly sorry for intruding in your personal time. I apologize.”
“It’s okay, I don’t mind,” I answered nonchalantly, or as calmly as I could under the circumstances, “Would you like to have some tea?”
“That’s not necessary, Rangiku-san, I just had some in the manor. Plus, I can’t stay here that long, and I would like to talk to you before Hitsugaya-taicho gets here.”
“Very well then. What do you need to talk about?”
“I have a confession to make, and I hope that it will not be so insulting that it will detract from the relationship we have. I truly am sorry for what I did, but there’s nothing I can do about it now.”
“What are you talking about, Rukia?” I asked, once again noticing that feeling in my gut that told me that this would be a conversation I wouldn’t enjoy.
“I’m just going to say it, so forgive my forwardness please.”
The girl took a moment before resuming, inhaling deeply before speaking.
“I know you were involved with my brother,” she said, which triggered every alarm in my head, “and also, I know the two ended your relationship not too long ago.”
I was stunted by Rukia’s confession. It was the last thing I would expect Byakuya to do, which led me to believe he might have sent her here to talk to me and see if she could convince me to take him back. Because of this, I had to question her further.
“How did you find out?” I asked, trying to keep my voice from sounding as surprised as I felt.
“Here’s where the awful part of my confession comes in, Rangiku-san. Turns out that I noticed Nii-sama was feeling slightly different than usual, so I followed him last night, when I noticed he left the manor after having dinner. I was curious and I happened to listen in to your conversation.”
So Byakuya didn’t tell her about us. Go figure! I guess it makes sense now, since he would never dare speak a word of us to anyone.
Regardless of this, I had to keep my head clear. I didn’t know exactly why she was here, and I could even dare speculate that she came here to convince me of getting back together with him. Not that Byakuya knows about this turn of events, of course.
“With all due respect, Rukia-san, you only listened to our conversation last night. I don’t believe I can do much to help you if what you’re doing here is trying to fix what happened yesterday.”
“I’m sorry, Rangiku-san, if you are getting the notion that I’m here for that,” She said, dismissing my previous comment, “my reason for being here has nothing to do with helping my brother win you back.”
“Then, what brings you here?”
“I wanted to thank you.”
“Thank me? For what?” I asked, utterly surprised by Rukia’s comment.
“For loving my brother,” She replied, acting as modest as a Kuchiki can, “I know very well that he’s not the easiest man to get along with, and that he can be very closed off as well, but for the past two years, I’ve seen a side of him that I didn’t know existed. I had always attributed it to the end of war, but I never stopped to think that there could be another reason for it.”
I couldn’t speak. I had no way to reply to what Rukia just said. One would think that after two years of close proximity to a Kuchiki, I would know how to handle them, but this was completely unexpected.
“So I wanted to thank you, because at least he was reminded of what happiness is. In all the 50 years I’ve known him, never had I seen him at peace nor could I watch him genuinely enjoy the sight of spring. He was truly happy, and it was all because of you. It saddens me that it’s all over now, but I understand your reasons. It might seem sudden my being here and telling you all of these things, but I just thought you should know that his feelings were genuine. I know that his shortcomings must have been too unacceptable to bear, but I still wanted you to know that he was happy.”
I was shocked. I couldn’t even react to what just happened, because it was all so sudden, and yet, it seemed to be so obvious.
I glared at Rukia; my mind completely blank after her revelation. It was so simple I had to wonder if my brain was still functioning, since I couldn’t do as much as nod at her comment.
“Well, that’s all I came here to say. I don’t want to take anymore of your time, so I’m leaving.”
“Ahm, thanks for coming, Rukia-san.” I said, slowly coming back to reality.
I watched Rukia walk out of the office and, as soon as the door closed, I flopped on the couch. The masochistic side of me would be glad to hear about Byakuya, and then the rest of me would release its frustration by letting out a sigh; a very painful sigh.
At that moment, against my better judgment, I had to wonder: Did I make a mistake by walking away?
I was utterly drained. I couldn’t bear the thought of him anymore. Everything around me seemed to urge me to think about him, and it was starting to be too much.
I conjured an excuse to leave the office. That was the only moment of the day I felt that it was good to be me, since I knew just what to say to my Taicho so that he could give me the afternoon off. It didn’t take much convincing after all. I was barely concentrating on my duties and my Taicho saw that he would get things done faster without my help.
All I wanted was to flop down on my bed and disappear from the world. I did not want to wallow on his absence, but I couldn’t avoid the feeling of it either.
And right I was, when I opened the door to my house and there he was, in my living room, sitting on my couch.
“Byakuya, what are you doing here?” I asked, clearly irate. All I’ve wanted throughout the day was to not think of him, and it’s almost as if he’s more present today than in the previous two years, “How did you get in?”
“A long time ago you presented me with a key. I forfeited the use of it, but I remembered today that I never gave it back. I never wanted to force myself onto you, which is why I always waited for you to open the door instead. The key became nothing but a mere symbol.”
“You could have sent someone else instead, Byakuya. Also, you could have waited outside.”
“You will find what I’m going to say absurd, but I needed to be here, in your house, one more time.”
“You’re right, Byakuya. That sounds ridiculous.”
Silence ensued, and in that moment we couldn’t escape the heavy feeling that surrounded us. I couldn’t help but feel I was fate’s toy, thinking that only I would be forced to relive a moment as painful as last night was.
As much as I wanted him to stay with me and never leave, I couldn’t let Byakuya think that only one night of missing him would be enough to make me think I made a mistake by letting him go. No amount of loneliness or thought could make me see his actions as something other than cowardice.
I was ready to asking him to leave, regardless of me losing my sanity or denying my feelings. I couldn’t have the single greatest disappointment I’ve ever felt sitting in my living room couch, as he had so many times, reminding me of why I felt this way.
“Well, thanks for bringing the key, Byakuya,” I said, stretching out my hand, asking for the key, “but you have to go now. I have things to do.”
Byakuya stood up from the couch and walked slowly to where I was. For a brief moment, I thought everything would be alright and he would leave, granting me any amount of peace that I could have received from this. However, I should have known that if he was capable of pulling something like this, he was not here to just return a key.
“I know I’m late in saying this. That right now, this is irrelevant. I know that love is not enough for you, and frankly, I have to admit that it isn’t enough for me either, because loving you didn’t prevent me from failing us. I’m not here to apologize, Rangiku, because you would only disregard it. However, I do want you to know I was sincere.”
As I had found myself so many times today, I was speechless. Byakuya was two feet away from me, and everything that he said left my mind in a blank. That was such a difficult position to be in.
“I don’t need to tell you who I am, Rangiku. You know me better than I do, which is why you feel so hurt, because you feel I am betraying myself above all else,” He said, moving closer to me and taking the hand that was outstretched in his, “I’ll forever be sorry for putting you in the position of listening to this, but I must exhaust all options before letting you go.”
This was slowly becoming too much to handle. The feel of his hand, the words that he said, the look on his face and this misery that seemed to grow exponentially as I realized what I would be missing if he never returned to me.
It was all too much, but I still couldn’t forget why we were in this position in the first place. Sure, he could say he felt sorry and he could be eloquent enough to make me see his point, but none of that means he will change. I deserve better than being a noble man’s mistress and, if he truly loves me, he would see this.
“Byakuya, I would want nothing else than to have you with me, because the happiness you gave to me was something that I never experienced before,” I said, feeling betrayed by my own feelings, right when I was hoping to fight his eloquence with my own, “but this is beyond you and me. What you’re asking me to do is disrespect myself. Demean myself. Just to be with you, and I simply can’t do that.”
“Rangiku, I feel I have been scheming to be by your side since the beginning of our relationship, and it’s because of this that I find myself here, because I feel guilty for being so selfish towards you.” He said, disregarding everything I said. It annoyed me to no end whenever he did that, but today, it was all the more painful, “You never noticed, or perhaps you didn’t want to accept this as true, but back when we were in the Yonbantai, the only reason why I wanted to stay in that room, was you.”
I tried to release my hand from his hold, but in all honesty, I wasn’t trying too hard. I felt as if my brain was the only one pledging allegiance to me, since the rest of me had surrendered to the words he said, and the feelings that bloomed from them.
“Byakuya, I don’t want words. I don’t need anymore of that.” I said, weakly, trying my best to remind the rest of me of why we were in this predicament.
“The interesting thing is, Rangiku, that you are right. For two years, I had nothing else to offer than words, and yet I find myself with nothing else,” he said, firmly grabbing my hand so I wouldn’t walk away from him. Damn him and his knowledge of me.
I wanted to reply. I needed to reply. I had to counter his offensive if I wanted to have a chance to win this, but it was all too ridiculous. He was not mine anymore, and yet I only wanted to kiss him. I wanted to punch him, but if I asked my spare hand to do so it would have betrayed me and caress his cheek. Like I said, damn him for knowing how to get past my defenses.
“Rangiku, I don’t want to offer words anymore. This past two years stemmed from my own selfish necessities, and I fear that is what brought us here. If you ever knew how happy you’ve made me, I fear you would understand just why I tried to keep you all to myself,” he said, walking the small distance between us, “You don’t want my apologies, but I urge you to bear with me. I’m sorry, Rangiku. I have been selfish towards you, and that is my sin.”
I could have hated him forever for doing what he did, and knowing me, I would probably do so, because when he held me in his arms, leaving the key in my hand, I was done. My brain was starting to rebel against me and it was aided by the smell coming out of his shihakusho. That scent I had learned to love throughout the years.
“If I had the chance to change things, I would have thought more about you, instead of giving weight to irrelevant things,” He said, resisting the urge to caress my hair, which I appreciated, “If I could change things, I would fight even myself to save us, but my words are meaningless I know, so I’m afraid you’ll have to hear me say I’m sorry one more time.”
“I’m sorry, Rangiku. I only hope the next man who gets the privilege of being near you learns to appreciate you better than I ever did.”
And he let go of me. His arms pulled away as they had so many nights, but this time it felt definitive. I had no defenses left and the idea that I would never hold him in my arms again was doing nothing but torture me.
I had to know, if only to appease the selfish side of me that needed to know the truth.
“Byakuya, did you mean all of that, or was that your selfishness talking?”
“There’s nothing selfish in me walking away, Rangiku. Every word I said was true.” He replied, slowly walking away from me; his voice dimming with every step he took.
I knew I would regret it the minute I thought about it, but then I had the same thought two years ago, when I coerced him into my bed. Loving Kuchiki Byakuya is the kind of thing that was meant to be regretted forever, but damn did it feel so good.
I launched a flailing arm in his direction, hoping I could grab a hold of any part of him to prevent his departure.
“Byakuya,” I said, holding the sleeve of his shihakusho as tightly as I could, “If I gave you the chance to change things, would you do right by me?”
He stopped in his tracks, taking a deep breath before replying. That brief moment felt like an eternity to me.
I turned around and launched myself towards his body, holding him tightly against mine. I couldn’t help but feel blissful when I realized my Byakuya had returned to me once more.
“I hope you honor your word, Byakuya.” I said, pressing my face against his back.
He held my right hand tightly as I hugged him from behind. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I didn’t notice when he opened it and pulled the key that was hiding inside it.
He released himself from my hold, turning on his heel to look at me. “Rangiku, this key is the key to the manor. It would mean the world to me if you could turn it around.”
“The key to your house? What about the elders, Byakuya?” I asked, staring deep into his eyes.
“They don’t matter. I should hold no respect for men who hold no regard towards my feelings.”
“Was all of this a trick?” I inquired. My brain was slowly succumbing to my will again.
And then, as I had seen so many times in the past, he traveled the short space between us, leaning down to kiss me in a way that I had never been kissed before. Maybe it was because of this feeling I had, or perhaps it was the honesty with which he did it.
“My last act of selfishness, I promise you.” He said as he pulled away from my lips. He leaned down once again to kiss my cheek before taking his leave from me.
It would never cease to amaze me how we could feel the same way in any given moment.
As he walked away, I knew he would return, but more importantly, I knew I could be with him anytime I wanted to. This sparked a thought in me that I just couldn’t live with.
“Byakuya,” I said, glaring at him, “What if I said no? Would you have taken the key back?”
“I told you, Rangiku, the key is a symbol. It’s the key to my house. Think about it.” He said, showing the slightest of smirks across his face.
“How did you know it would work?”
“I didn’t. I had faith. It was you who taught me that, remember?”
I knew right then that last night would be the last time I would ever find myself saying goodbye to him. I had gone through hell and back, but now everything was in its right place. His words meant something once again.
Juusantai - Gotei 13.
Nii-sama - Very respectful older brother.
Rokubantai - Sixth Division.
Juubantai - Tenth Division.
Hachibantai - Eight Division.
Nanabantai - Seventh Division.
Yonbantai - Fourth Division.
Shihakusho - It's the top of the shinigami uniform.
Seiza - is the traditional formal way of sitting in Japan.
Fukutaicho - Vice Captain
Taicho - Captain
Shinigami - Soul Reaper
Itadakimasu - Meals in Japan traditionally begin with the phrase itadakimasu, which means "I humbly receive"
Seireitei - Court of pure souls.
Shunpo - Flash steps.