AUTHOR'S NOTE: They wouldn't leave me alone. You'd be surprised at how annoying Byakuya can be when he wants something written about him. Written from a word prompt category for "indulgence". I do hope everyone enjoys. It was a real treat working on this one!
Kuchiki Byakuya was not a man given to indulgences. He was practical, almost to the point of being cold. Every action, every thought and every activity during his day was well planned and served some functional purpose toward maintaining a structured existence. The precision he showed when facing an opponent carried over into every aspect of his life. Even leisure activities, such as reading, were used for a broader aspect. While some would read fantastical tales, he would read tactical studies or perhaps philosophy should he desire something more intangible.
There were only three things that he considered unnecessary indulgences in his life; his taste in food, his preference for evening walks… and his wife. His preference for spice laden dishes could be explained away as a dietary regulation. Foods containing a good amount of spice increased the metabolism, and therefore his enjoyment in this past time was also of a more practical nature. Any who doubted that his physical prowess was a direct result of coating everything from rice to meat in wasabi would soon learn otherwise at the end of his blade.
Evening walks could once again be rationalized as a health choice. During his day, Byakuya oversaw the entire Kuchiki household, trained his Division and performed the necessary duties assigned to his rank. In addition to those three categories, there was the paper work, all of which he was certain was necessary, that accompanied his different roles. Add to that the many incidents that could possibly disrupt his day and one could understand why he chose to walk at night. Evenings were the only time he had available for this activity. Walking not only served as a way for him to have a few precious moments to himself, but it was required after a particularly strenuous training session to participate in lighter activities in order to allow the body a proper 'cool down' period.
So, really, that only left one indulgence in his life; Hisana. From the very start of his association with her, she was an indulgence. She wasn't wealthy nor of any notable blood line. Her mannerisms, while charming and with good intention, were sometimes a little too rough. Conversations between her and others in the house were strained at best, most mistaking her shy nature as being proud and aloof. Hisana was neither of those things, and he would have words with the first member of his house that suggested otherwise.
Bringing her from the slums of Rukongai into one of the four noble houses in the Seireitei was based completely on his own selfish whim. He hadn't listened to Hisana quietly asking if he was certain about this arrangement. He had ignored the shock on his advisors' faces when he told them of his intentions to marry her. What had mattered to him was having her in his presence, whether directly or indirectly. While the feelings she stirred within him were utterly foreign, he couldn't deny that they brought him pleasure.
She alone seemed to have the ability to make him smile. With Hisana, he could understand to some degree why people would indulge in unnecessities. She adored flowers, and through her enjoyment he came to as well. Because of her, the Kuchiki gardens were famous for their beauty. Reading for her was rudimentary, an art that was overlooked in favor of survival in the slums. In response to that, she would timidly ask if he might read to her. It was this that led to the purchase of nonfunctional literature. Stories of mythical legends, parodies, mysteries… All manner of books that should never have graced his library, but all of which he had come to view as important, if only because of her.
While Hisana had opened his eyes to many things he would have gone an eternity without, there was one thing which he treasured more than he would ever admit in spoken or written word; her time. He only saw his wife in the evening, usually after his customary walk. By that time, Hisana was already in their suite, either teaching herself to read or preparing for sleep. The moment he slid the door closed though, she would turn to him with a smile of infinite gentleness and affection and cease whatever she had been doing in favor of attending to him.
Byakuya had no lack of servants willing to attend to him. Several would give a great deal for the honor. After only two months of marriage, however, Hisana had made a small request; that no servants would be allowed within their private rooms in the evening. He had been puzzled by her question, but he agreed nonetheless. Her happiness was paramount in all his deeds. The first evening after he had mandated this change, much to the shock and outrage of the servants, he found out why she wanted this. That had been the first night Hisana had greeted him at the door to take care of him personally. He understood that, though her actions were ones a servant would perform, she was doing it as a sign of her affection for him. That anyone would desire to spend their time on his needs, without any sort of monetary or political motivation, had been…
Pleasing. It was a strange word to him, but it seemed at that time the best fit to how her actions made him feel. At first, she would only assist him in disrobing and dressing for sleep, her hands shaking slightly to betray her nerves. He, too, felt uneasy at first in allowing his wife to act as his servant, but after the first month of their new routine he couldn't imagine reverting back. Her hands were small, delicately boned and porcelain white. They would touch him almost reverently, always careful and precise in their movements. This wasn't about the physical aspect of their union, and she made certain her actions reflected that difference. Regardless if later that evening he would reach for her and she would respond eagerly to his advances, this one ritual remained completely pure.
If his evening walks seemed to become shorter, or if he seemed a little more willing to leave small matters for the following day, no one said a word. He knew the allegations would have been true, though. This evening, for example, instead of walking his customary one hour after dinner, he only walked forty minutes. That was nearly a ten minute decrease since the month before. He had his reason though; his one indulgence, his Hisana. Their night time rituals had changed within the three years of marriage they were entering into. She had, through means she wouldn't disclose to him (much to his annoyance), mastered the art of massage and enjoyed applying it to him regularly. He allowed this indulgence on her part as it meant her elegant hands would be touching him.
From there she had learned that he usually bathed in the evening, and after one such bath in her care the 'no servants' rule had been expanded to this area as well. She was just as attentive in bathing him as she was in the other aspects of their routine, making certain that the encounter was about her caring for him rather than anything of a sexual nature. Though, the tendency for this new addition to turn into a more physical experience happened more frequently.
Then, one evening in their third year of marriage, she had settled a pillow on the floor by the bed and requested that he kneel upon it. At first, he had been bewildered by the change, but had complied as he usually did when the matter involved Hisana. He was still wet from the bath, the matching white robes they were wearing absorbing the lingering water droplets. She had taken a seat behind him on the bed, her legs spread so that her thighs (made bare by her robe parting) brushed against his shoulders. When her slim fingers began to comb through his wet hair, he understood why she requested that he kneel. It was the only way she could tend to his hair.
That was his most cherished indulgence; her fingers gently massaging his scalp as they untangled his hair, her thighs pressed close to him. He never would have considered combing his hair such a pleasure, though he supposed it was more who was performing the act than any inane skill. Even long after she'd taken the polished silver comb through his hair repeatedly, until it ran smooth and uninterrupted by hidden knots, she would continued to run her fingers through it, sometimes allowing a contented sigh to escape her lips. He in turn would rest his cheek against her thigh, occasionally reaching over his shoulder for one of her hands. It was an intimacy of existence for them, of simple touches and no words. They would communicate mutually through their actions and time would pass unheeded. Every so often, he would wake to find that they had fallen asleep like this, his back supported by the bed while she had at some point during the evening curled up in his arms.
It was shortly after this new addition to their routine of indulgences that Hisana had fallen ill. Worn from grief and a little over five years of fruitless searching for her lost sister had finally taken its toll on her beautiful soul. It was equal parts maddening and painful to watch the woman he had married give up on existing. He had questioned whether or not their time together had only been a ruse, her intent to use the resources and influence of the Kuchiki family to find her sister. He had been angry as well that she didn't consider him worth being strong for. But then, she would smile as he came to their suite, and though it was much dimmer than it had been it never failed to assure him that what was happening to her was beyond any of their control.
Her body, always delicate, became frail. Moving from the bed to the chair he had situated near the window overlooking her garden drained her to the point utter weakness. Her lovely eyes, the color of which had always reminded him of a sky just after sunset, lost their spark and vivacity. Her laughter was a rare thing, and was more often than not accompanied by a fit of coughs that would momentarily flush her paper thin skin. She was dying, and there was no help for her. No amount of medication, however much it would cost. No new techniques in healing could repair a broken spirit.
The one indulgence he couldn't rationalize away, and he was losing her. He despised how powerless he was in this regard, how all that could be done was watch their life erode before his very eyes. There was nothing he could do for her, not a single… Byakuya paused in his usual walk, eyebrows drawing downward ever so slightly. His gaze found the window to their room, dimly lit and showing the shadowed shape of someone looking down at him. He had only walked for twenty minutes… but it was sufficient in his opinion.
He left the garden path and entered the house, ignoring the servants who were quick to bow and step out of his direct path. Those that dared glance at his face were amazed at the determination written across his usually frigid countenance. It had occurred to him while walking that there was something he could do for Hisana, something simple and so blindingly obvious he was embarrassed that he hadn't thought of it much sooner. There was no hesitation this time as he slid the door to their suite open, as had started to become his habit when entering their room after she had taken ill.
Hisana smiled at him wearily but did not make to rise from her seat. She had grown too weak for even that small activity. Her smile faded into a concerned frown as he came to her side, her eyes looking worriedly into his own. "My Lord, is something the matter?" she asked, one of her hands coming to rest gently against his waist. Though her body had been ravaged by illness, her hands still remained beautiful and slim, pale against the dark silk of his robes.
Without a word, Byakuya knelt and carefully lifted her into his arms. Hisana gasped, eyes wide in shock. Never during their marriage had he ever carried her so, but it was no surprise to him that he barely registered her weight in his arms. He carried her across the room, aware that she was shivering slightly. Another small gasp came from her when she realized where he was taking her. He didn't set her down as he opened the door to the formal bathing room and walked her over to the enormous sunken basin.
She was blushing as he sat her on the marble bench gently, kneeling before her in the process. Her fingers, which had been resting flat against the bench seat, curled into shaking fists as he began working the sash to her kimono free. "My Lord, what-,"
"It is not customary, Hisana, for a wife to question her lord's actions," he stated firmly, the choice of words cold and his tone impersonal to any ears but hers. Hisana understood him, however. She knew what he had meant, and it brought still more color to her pale cheeks. Nodding and lowering her eyes from his, her hands uncurled and remained still against the marble.
She remained silent as he disrobed her, moving only enough to aid in the process. The sight of her nude sent the pain of her approaching death burning through him in a terrible wash. Hisana had always been of a slim build, but never unhealthy. Where once soft flesh covered her bones, he could now count ribs and vertebrae. Breasts that had been small and tight lacked the appealing definition he had been fond of paying attention to. Sharp hip bones jutted out where there used to be curves that had felt made for his hands. This was the first time since his wife's health had taken an ill turn that he had seen her undressed, and the change to her was near staggering.
When she moved to pull her kimono over herself, ashamed that he was looking at her, he stopped her by covering both her hands with one of his. She was his wife, and he would look at as he wished. Hisana's shoulders shook as he lifted her chin with one finger, forcing her to either closer her eyes or meet his gaze. As a testimate to her former strength, she did the latter, allowing him to see the shame she felt in her appearance. He maintained their eye contact as he leaned closer, pressing his lips to hers carefully in hopes that she understood what he couldn't express in words.
The softly muffled sob and the quick splash of a tear on the hand cupping her cheek told him she understood him perfectly, just as she always had. She remained seated, her face turned away as she tried to hide her tears, while he removed all but the simple white robe he wore under the finer silks and prepared for something he had never done before; bathing someone else. By the time the large basin was filled half way with warm water, Hisana was no longer crying. Instead, a small smile traced her thin lips and a bit of her former sparkle had returned to her eyes. That alone was enough to assure Byakuya he was doing the right thing. Her arms circled his neck as he lifted her once again, and there were no trembles to her this time in his arms. She did flinch back a little from the water when her feet touched it, prompting him to stop lowering her further.
"Too hot?" he asked, his concern revealed in the fact that he questioned this, though the tone was the same coolly collected as ever.
"A little, but not so much that it's intolerable, my lord," she replied honestly while removing her arms from around his neck in an attempt to sink into the water. He arched a brow when he caught her biting her lower lip, eyes carefully lowered in an effort not to laugh openly. This was the first bath he'd ever drawn in his entire life, and she knew it.
He made a mild sound of irritation, though whether it was directed at his inability to draw a bath or her amusement over it. He assigned the irritation to himself, if only because this was the first bit of joy he'd seen from her in nearly nine months. Hisana, while always a woman of beauty, had a smile that somehow managed to rob him of breath. She was never shy about showing her emotions, like many of those surrounding him. Her joy was displayed for all to see, and because she shared it so freely, he found it an infectious thing. How anyone could have accused her of being false in her regards for him was absurd. Hisana was the most honest person he had ever met.
Byakuya lowered her into the water, setting her on the sunken bench near the rim as he went to his knees once again. This was the longest he had ever knelt before anyone, and he didn't begrudge a second of it. This was his wife, the only woman he considered worthy of his attention. There would be no second wife after her passing, as his advisors were urging him to seek. He would rather die than show Hisana's memory such dishonor. The idea of another woman in his life was out of the question, as he had bluntly told his advisors before dismissing them. Permanently. He shoved that unpleasant business aside, mentally compartmentalizing it for duties to complete in the morning. Tonight, he would be indulging in his wife in an attempt to say all the things he never found the strength to.
He was careful in washing her, his sleeves rolled past his elbows as he ran a soap covered cloth down her spine. Her sigh was one of pure bliss and seemed to strike him directly in the heart. Her body began to relax into his hands as he worked the cloth over her boney shoulders, down her thin arms and over her small hand gently. She stood shakily when his hands curved around her ribs, standing on the bench with her back to him as he continued silently moving the soap and cloth across her skin. When he was certain she had been washed as thoroughly as he could, he helped her into the water again. His hand supported her between her shoulder blades as she automatically leaned back to wet her hair. It was exactly the same as she used to do for him.
While leaning back in the water, Hisana's eyes met his before her lips spread into a full out smile, one that conveyed her warm nature and caring for him so clearly. It made his throat strangely tight as he traced her lips with one finger, as if to memorize the expression through touch as well as sight. Hisana's eyes flickered a little warmer at the touch, her lips laying a soft kiss to his fingertip. Byakuya helped her to sit up once again, using the movement as a way to hide the flare of sadness he couldn't keep from his face, no matter how skilled he was at assuming a mask. He took a moment to collect himself, his hands resting on her shoulders briefly before reaching for the soap again to finish washing her hair. Once done, he stood to collect the thicker cotton robe that was folded on the bench.
He lifted her easily from the water, wrapping her quickly in the robe when she began to shake. It wasn't until too late that he realized he'd chosen his own robe, one that was easily three times too large for her frail form. Byakuya scowled at his mistake, his eyes meeting hers when a chuckle escaped from her. Hisana was quick to look away, though not soon enough for to catch the amusement in her eyes. Ignoring the error and her laughter over it, he picked her up once again and carried her back to their bedroom. It did much to ease his slightly bruised ego when she tucked herself closer to him and said softly, "Thank you for allowing me to use your robe, my lord." As always, she was aware of his thoughts and mood exactly. It was something that had immediately drawn his attention from the start, the fact that she could read him so easily where others who had known him longer still failed. In response to her words, he tightened his arms further around her, being mindful of her delicate condition but assuring her silently that he appreciated her effort to save his pride.
Hisana hugged his robe around herself as he deposited her on the edge of the bed, going over to slim standing chest that was to one side of the bed. He lifted the lid and removed comb resting against the pale blue silk interior. He settled himself behind her and, starting with the ends of her hair, began working the tangles free. If he pulled too hard during a particularly tough section, she didn't show any sign of it. Byakuya fell into the rhythm of his actions, understanding now why she seemed to take so much enjoyment in doing this for him. There was something both soothing and secure in the simple act, odd though it might seem. He continued combing her hair, a warmth that he associated only with her spreading through her as her damp hair began to dry around his fingers.
He paused when her hand reached over her shoulder and circled his wrist on a downward stroke. She brought his hand around, removing the comb from his fingers before pressing her cheek to his palm. Turning his hand over, she brushed her lips across his knuckles to express her gratitude for his care. Her free hand came to her eyes, but not fast enough to stop the tear from falling onto his hand. Byakuya wrapped his arms around her from behind, holding her close to him and letting her know she was free to cry if she chose. Hisana's fingers tightened around his forearms, her nails digging into his skin as hard sobs shook her shoulders. He closed his eyes and fought to breathe evenly through the closed-off feeling in his throat.
She knew she was dying and that there was no chance of recovery. The fact terrified her, though she had tried to hide it for his sake. Byakuya held her as she cried, her sobs silent as her body shook from releasing the strain. He offered whatever small comfort he could through his presence and remained quiet as her tears began to eventually slow, the shivers moving through her body easing ever so slightly. Her hands relaxed around his arms as her shoulder curled forward a little, her body drained entirely from her display of emotion.
"Forgive me, my lord," she whispered, her voice hoarse and thick still with her tears. "You've been so kind to me, and I show my thanks with such a display."
"Hisana-," he began firmly, only to have her hands squeeze around his arms once again to silence him. He sighed, kissing her neck just beneath her ear, allowing her words to remain unchallenged. She was, after all, his one true indulgence. "You're tired," he continued, substituting other words for what he truly wanted to say. Hisana nodded as her fingers relaxed once more, satisfied he wasn't going to continue further. If it was easier for her not to hear the words, then he would honor her silent request and keep things as they always had been. Keeping his arms around her and despite the fact that she was still wearing his robe, Byakuya settled her back onto their bed, pillowing her head under his shoulder while his other hand stroked down her back and arm soothingly.
Hisana smiled, but there was no joy to it. If anything, it made her sadness more poignant and choking to him. She sighed once again, closing her eyes as she arranged herself closer to him, her arm draping across his waist. Byakuya layed awake long after her breathing slowed and became steady, simply watching his wife sleep along side him. Five years... was that truly all he would have with her? Only five years of her smiles, her gentle hands, her honest nature? Was he only to have five years of indulging himself with his her?
Byakuya tucked a few stray pieces of hair behind Hisana's ear, tracing his fingers softly over her brow and along the curve of her cheek. Even in sleep, she responded to him favorably by murmuring his name quietly and turning her cheek into his palm. He smiled though the pain of his limited time with her felt near to breaking him. He kissed her cheek, pausing to close his eyes and savor the feel of her against him. It was strange to think of how he had lived before her, and even stranger now to think of living without her. But, for five years he'd had the pleasure of his one indulgence. The happiness Hisana had brought him was the most precious experience he could have ever hoped for.