Only A Story

Byakuya and Rukia speak of regrets and possibilities. Drama with Romantic Angst, I-4.

“Tell me about Hisana.”

It was starting to have the comfort of ritual, for them. Rukia thought of it, irreverently, as her bedtime story. Whenever she and her brother shared an evening, she asked.

“She loved growing things,” Nii-sama said, tonight. Perhaps the gardens had brought it to mind, for him; Rukia had insisted he come tell her what kind of flower was blooming, tiny and blue, on one of the bushes. He trailed his fingers through the leaves and flowers, releasing more of the light, sweet scent into the evening. “Many of these, she chose.”

Rukia smiled, kneeling by the bush. She liked finding things she had in common with her sister. Though she doubted she’d ever have the patience to actually choose and arrange a garden.

“Her love of life was more contained than yours.”

Rukia looked up just a bit guiltily, wondering how much of her thought had shown on her face. Nii-sama wasn’t watching her, though; his eyes were distant.

“I’ve often thought that was why she died, in the end,” he said, voice fading into the dusk. Rukia bit her lip. When he finally looked down at her his eyes were sharp again, though. “How much theory of spirit and form did you have before I took you from the Academy?”

“I had the basic course. I was thinking of the advanced one, but…” Rukia shrugged. “Ukitake-taichou taught me a little more.”

Nii-sama’s tone turned precise and scholarly, the way it did when he explained anything. Rukia hid a smile; she sometimes thought it was a shame that he couldn’t have become a teacher. Though he’d have scared his fainter-hearted students half to death, no doubt. “In the human world, spirit is a function of bodies. In our world, bodies are a function of spirit,” he began, and she nodded. That axiom she was familiar with. “Even among humans, regret and despair can kill, if they’re strong enough. Among us…” Rukia’s eyes widened and she reached up to touch her brother’s hand. “They do not have to be as strong,” he finished. His fingers tightened on hers for a breath.

“The stronger the sense of spirit and self, the greater the power,” he continued eventually. “What you may not have learned is that those two things do not always go together. Hisana had a strong spirit. Her sense of self, though, was… injured.” He looked down at Rukia, and the tight line of his mouth softened. “You are strong in both.”

Rukia stood and gazed up at him solemnly. “I won’t leave you.”

An unaccustomed hint of humor quirked up the corner of his mouth and his hand brushed her shoulder as he stepped past her. “You’re also more stubborn,” he remarked. “Though perhaps I’m not one who should say it, when we’re speaking of Hisana. It was my own stubbornness that brought us together. Even had I not been the head of the house, even had I been able to marry, more properly, from the house to be with her… that kind of thing is only appropriate with a spouse of high rank. Or sufficient honor.”

There was something in his tone, tonight, a weight of meaning, of implication, that was unusual. Stubbornness, propriety, marriage from the house… a spouse of sufficient honor. Rukia stared at his back as she worked through the parallel he might be offering her. “Nii-sama,” she managed, at last.

His voice was soft. “The fact that you are strong enough to bear regrets does not mean that I wish you to do so, Rukia.”

She came to his side, then, and caught his sleeve, leaning her head against his shoulder. “Either way, there are regrets,” she whispered.

His arm came up around her lightly, silently, in the dusk.

End