Author's Note: I wrote this because it appeared to me, at least, that a marriage between Rukia and Byakuya would have never been a successful or happy one. There are some that would argue that eventually, Rukia would've thawed his heart out because of her inner fire...but it is more than likely that her inner fire would be smothered by his blanket of coldness. I have no idea how long this will be, but it will definitely not have a happy ending. Review if you like it, it really encourages me.
Disclaimer: Bleach is not mine and it will never be mine.
The Wedding That Could've Been
Never pretend to a love
which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to
"I know it isn't my place to tell you this, but I think it's time you consider another marriage." Ukitake looks pensive, as if the thought has occurred many times before but was always shoved down under eventually.
Byakuya wishes it would've been shoved down sooner because the thirteenth division's captain has a way of being bluntly honest. "You speak out of line. It should mean very little to you what goes on in my own affairs." Senbonzakura gives a little shake of her head in the back of his head, clucking her tongue with sharp disapproval in her crimson tinted eyes.'Byakuya, you know better than to treat an elder like that. He means well and he has very little time left in this world.' He ignores her, one of those rare times, because admitting that he was rude means admitting that Ukitake is right.
Ukitake manages a weak and watery smile from his position in the fourth division's bed and coughs up a spray of blood. "But it does. Forgive me if I'm troubling you unnecessarily, but don't you think it's time for Rukia to assume my position?" It's an odd statement and it echoes in the room for a while before Byakuya realizes that the man's expecting an answer. He tears his eyes away from the drops of red covering the bedsheets and part of his captain's haori to fix a blank stare outside the window.
"She's not ready."
Ukitake laughs, a hollow sound that rattles in his chest, the laughter of a skeleton. He covers his mouth with his pale hand and coughs again, a deep wracking cough that sends more red spraying across his palm. Byakuya pretends that he doesn't notice and remains still, unmoved by pity or remorse. "She's been ready for a long time. She's been ready since Kaien died by her hands and by my careless actions. I've already informed Yamamoto about my decision to have her take over my position once I'm gone. You can't protect her all the time."
There's a shifting of clothes across a hard, wooden chair as the sixth division's captain stands up, back rigid and a frosty glare freezing his expression. "But I can stop you from placing her in needless harm. Goodbye Ukitake." The door closes behind him with a sharp click, the wooden frame covering a dying man's last words of advice. Somehow he can't bring himself to feel just the slightest bit sorry.'Well, that was handled without your usual grace. You should just let her take over; she's capable enough. She's not Hisana.' Senbonzakura's voice is dripping with acid and a biting tone that drags up memories from their graves. She sits placidly in her corner in the back of his head and smiles a poisonous smile, rose red lips stretching into a thin and unpleasant grin. 'You're not her father and she doesn't think of you as one either. The amount of love you show her everyday has been dwindling exponentially since she came back from Hueco Mundo after your heroic save. Grow up, admit you love her in a less-than-innocent way and stop acting like an ass.' Her legs are crossed neatly as she throws back her head and laughs brightly. The sound is haunting and vaguely mocking, her pale white hands digging deeper into his mind, nails scratching out moon-shaped crescents on the memory of a petite and small woman who never smiled.
He tells her to shut up and closes his eyes against the harsh glare of sunlight on snow.
'She even looks like Hisana. Same eyes, same hair for heaven's sake! She's just as small and her eyes are the exact same shade of deep violet that you and I both love.' Senbonzakura's brow is furrowed in a look of pseudo concentration as she twirls a strand of pitch-black hair, figure sprawled gracefully in her throne of cherry blossoms and twisted branches. 'Would it be so bad?'
He imagines her in Hisana's wedding kimono with her lips painted a faded shade of pink and her hair twisted into a pair of elaborate buns. He imagines her as she walks down an aisle of his dreams, small feet treading delicately over an ornate red rug. He imagines the feel of her lips against his as the priest announces their marriage to all the nobles of Soul Society.
They're related through her sister, he's her brother-in-law and she's his sister-in-law, he's an esteemed and powerful noble, and she's a street rat that was left to die in the streets of Rukongai. 'So? Hisana was a street rat too. And she left Rukia to die all by herself in a deserted alleyway as a baby. I'd say that's worse.' Senbonzakura murmurs softly, drawing pictures of falling snow and frozen blossoms in the air with a slender finger. She draws a picture of an infant, sleeping and innocent, cradled by the shadows of an abandoned alley. She draws a picture of a woman and a man saying their wedding vows to each other while a hungry child clutches the remnants of her stolen teddy bear, a child forced to grow up too soon. She draws a picture of a shrine with a framed photo of a delicate and frail woman while another woman stands in front of three graves with a red-haired man by her side.
'Sode no Shirayuki tells me things, of which I may only speak of a few to you. She is nothing like Hisana, and I trust that you can see the differences between them. For even a fool blinded by first love can still see, however skewed his vision may be. Rukia will never replace that hole in your heart, Byakuya, but she will make life more bearable for you. You do not choose who you love, but you can choose what you do with a second chance.' And just like that, she stops speaking to him, quiet and as dignified as the day he first met her in his dreams. A queen trapped within the confines of a breakable blade.
When he finally goes to sleep that night, Byakuya dreams of a memory of a girl with raven hair and too-large eyes standing on the edge of a cliff, ready to fall.
A queen, fallen from grace.
-And this is how the story begins-