Sometimes, Byakuya wishes he had never met Rukia.

Oh, not often and even less so now, now that they are truly getting to know each other and the relief of another's presence has become a heady sensation to a man who is finally learning to love his sister. Byakuya had never sought comfort from another; Rukia had always been a thorn in his heart, salt on a wound, but now he saw that she was so much more. Had always been more, though he had been too blind to see it.

But still . . .

Sometimes, he couldn't stand to look at her.

She'd be standing in the garden or smiling at him through the steam from a cup of tea and she'd be Hisana all over again. His eyes would widen from fear of blinking and his breath would catch in his throat; almost as if by sheer willpower he could hold onto the moment forever. Then she would say something or move and it was all gone. Suddenly she would be Rukia again. And he'd turn away and the air would come rushing back into his chest like the thrust of a sword.

Sometimes, Byakuya wishes Rukia had been born first.

Things would have been so much easier, he muses, if Rukia had been the older sister. He knows it would have been just as easy to fall in love with Rukia. Perhaps even easier, after all, Rukia had everything Hisana had and more. She had Hisana's butterfly build, Hisana's moon-shadow face along with her own devastating night-pool eyes. She had Hisana's gentleness and serenity, with a spark of strength and determination that made her far more alive than his deceased wife had ever been. Rukia was Hisana, but even more than her older sister had been and for that he had hated her for a long time, even though now he found comfort in their differences.

Sometimes, he dreams of what life might have been.

And how different it would have been! If Rukia had been the elder sister, she would never have forced him to make that promise to find her younger sister. She would have (she had) impressed his family and they would never have demanded his compliance on the impossible. Rukia would have found Hisana on her own and rescued her without his aid. She would never have fallen to the illness and pining that took Hisana's life. Rukia would have brought Hisana to live with them when she first married him. She would . . .

She would never have abandoned her sister. Rukia would never have needed to be rescued. She could (she had) have gotten out of Rukongai on her own. He would never have met either of them.

Sometimes, Byakuya is actually happy how his life has turned out.

But only sometimes.