Byakuya causes there to be romance, like it or not. Fiat Romance, I-3

Pairing(s): Rukia/Renji

The last thing Rukia expected to see, when she was summoned to her brother’s rooms on one of her afternoons off, was Renji sitting beside him, stiff as a board, uncomfortable and looking clueless. Having finally learned a little about how to get around her brother, though, she took a seat on the third pillow lying out without asking anything.

In retrospect, it was obvious that she hadn’t been the only sibling learning how to handle the other.

“Rukia,” her brother said, without preamble, “Abarai Renji, captain of the Fifth Division, wishes to marry you. Given his accomplishments, and the current leadership balance of Soul Society, I judge that this would be a good alliance for our house. Prepare yourself for your betrothal a month from today.”

It took Rukia a few moments to process what he had actually said. When she did she turned a blistering glare on Renji. After the hell she’d gone through to reach some peace with her decision… Her hand clawed at her waist for her absent zanpaku-tou.

“It wasn’t my idea! I didn’t say a thing!” Renji protested, waving his hands in vehement denial, eyes wide.

“Then what,” Rukia growled, “gave him such an asinine idea?” She pointed a violent finger at her brother.

He set a hand over it, pressing hers down. “Recall your manners, Rukia,” he told her severely, “and your position. You are of Kuchiki, and you have a duty to me as the head of this House. And I,” he added with a stern look, “have a duty to the House as a whole.”

Rukia stared at him. Wasn’t it duty to the House that kept she and Renji apart? “Nii-sama, what… why… what are you thinking?” she finally burst out.

Her brother’s face was expressionless. “The influence of the common-born among us begins to approach that of the noble houses. Balance must be maintained. You will marry out of the House, of course. But you will keep the name that is yours, Rukia. Kuchiki Rukia. Keep it and remember the House that you belong to.”

Rukia sank back, arrested by the phrase marry out of the house. She remembered the conversation she and her brother had had in the garden one evening, about regrets and stubbornness, and spouses and honor. Her heart couldn’t decide whether to stop beating or to race. “Nii-sama…”

Her brother rose. “This is my order, my sister. I am the head of your House. You will do as I say.” His only concession to the softness of her voice was the brush of his fingers over her hair as he passed her. He paused in the door, back to them. “Though, it being you, I will not be surprised if you return frequently, in an attempt to continue the argument with me.”

The door closed with the barest whisper of sound behind him.

Rukia laughed, small but true, and scrubbed a hand over her eyes, hard.

“Rukia?” Renji asked, cautiously.

“Looks like we’re getting betrothed,” she told him, casual tone not completely successful. She did manage something close to a grin, though. “Figures a girl would have to be ordered to marry you.”

For once, Renji didn’t rise to the bait. His eyes were serious as he asked, “What did you to really just say to each other?”

Rukia’s smile was turning watery, despite her best efforts. “That he’s always my brother,” she answered, softly.

Renji looked at her for a long moment. “Well of course he is,” he said at last. His tone was gentler than his words, and when he rested a hand on her shoulder she leaned into it.

She did shoot one last dire glare at him, even though the film of tears. “Don’t you dare think this means you can coddle me.”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it the first time,” he murmured, pulling her against his chest. “You and him,” he added as she finally let herself cry, worry and happiness and stress and release all wrapped up in saltwater. “You’re two of a kind, these days. You used to know how to let yourself feel things, Rukia.” A chuckle rumbled through him. “Looks like you taught him how to be something besides an icicle, though, even if he isn’t very good at it yet, so I bet you think it’s a fair trade.”

“It is a fair trade,” she insisted into his damp shoulder. She managed an even breath and chuckled with a hint of teasing coming back into it. “Though I guess he did get a bargain. After all, he traded me you.”

“Oh, right, make it sound like I’m some kind of second-hand clothing,” he protested, indignantly. He was grinning when she looked up, though, eyes brightening as the point of the whole interview finally started to register.

Though the brightness was underrun by a thread of wry exasperation.

“Only he would be so roundabout,” Renji muttered, brushing her cheek dry.

Rukia shrugged. “He’s like that. But it’s his stubbornness that found a way for us, too. I…” she bit her lip. “I didn’t believe there was one.” In answer to that, Renji’s arms tightened around her until she gasped. “Renji, you big oaf, not so tight!”

“You can’t expect me to let go now,” he said, voice rough, not lifting his face from her hair.

Rukia smiled, leaning against him again. “No. You don’t have to let go.”

They were still sitting there when the housekeeper came in to light the lamps after sunset.


A/N: Based on my best guesses from the sources available, this kind of marriage-arrangement, in which a highly ranked daughter is married off for alliance purposes but retains her home-clan affiliation (her name), would be fairly unusual but not unheard of or ‘against the rules’. Especially for the first noble family. This also works on the assumption that the Court of Pure Souls more or less runs on the Sengoku-esque political practice that military rank equals de facto nobility, and the degree of nobility depends on how high a rank is achieved. And how many people the individual can get to agree to his re-written geneology. Admittedly, the first practice is more a Heian sort of thing. Think Fujiwara meets Toyotomi Hideoshi. *evil smile* The results should be kind of similar.