Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or any of its characters.
Characters: Byakuya, Nanao
Setting: Modern Japan
Warnings: AU...that's about it.
Twenty minutes wasn't long to wait. He could handle it. He'd already been waiting twenty-two days for her return. Someone of his upbringing could afford to be patient. It was expected of him.
Time seemed to creep by too slowly for him when she was away. He'd come up with small useless tasks to do while waiting for time to go by, but of course they only took his mind off of things for a few hours. He'd grow increasingly bored and end up thinking about her halfway through whatever task he'd dreamt up.
She had told him in an abrupt message on his answering machine what time and where he should meet her. He decided to meet her right away, because, as far as he knew, she would be there when she said.
She always kept her promises to him.
Byakuya without doubt knew her that well.
He sat in the café, swirling his cup of tea absently as he thought, watching the trails of steam waft through the air. Only fourteen more minutes until she would be back into his arms and away from the danger of the world. Only fourteen minutes left to clear her mind. He should be grateful she'd agreed to think it over, but a part of him knew that he was dreading her answer.
No woman should ever have to think over how much she loves a man.
He blamed her restless spirit for that. She always wanted to travel, but complained that he never took her on any of his business trips. He'd given her a few of his credit cards and told her to take some time to think it over.
She had left him in utter shock at the table.
She hadn't even bothered to say goodbye.
He had put the ring box back into his pocket.
He checked his watch again. Only seven more minutes until he would see her again.
A bell jingled. Byakuya's eyes flickered to the door, watching as an elderly man escorted his wife into the café, shaking off their umbrella and leaving it by the door to dry out.
His heart clenched a little at the sight of the couple as they shed their coats and sat down far away from his lonely corner table. Byakuya looked at his cup again.
The man's wife had a lovely smile.
He was envious of him.
When he asked Nanao to marry him, Byakuya had honestly expected her to cry out in delight and whisper her answer to him between kisses, not stare impassively at him while wringing her napkin in her hands. It was acceptable for a woman to refuse such a proposal, but she hadn't even answered him.
She had shifted her glasses as he slid the cards across the table and told her to take her time.
Her mouth was in a straight line as she carefully avoided his hand to take them.
She ignored the stares the occupants of nearby tables were giving her as she picked up her purse and quietly walked away.
Byakuya's hope seemed to spiral downward when he realized she wasn't coming back.
He didn't notice the bell jingle and only looked up from his tea when a figure sat down across from him.
"You're early," he said, setting his cup down on a coaster and forcing his eyes up at her face. He was startled to see she was soaked to the bone, not having even bothered to wear a coat. Streams of water trailed down her neck and Byakuya handed her his handkerchief silently. She took a moment to wipe her glasses dry before moving to her face and arms.
Byakuya didn't want to hound her immediately, so he started conversation awkwardly. "Where did you go?"
"Kakunodate," Nanao answered, folding the handkerchief and handing it back to him, "for the Sakura Matsuri. It was beautiful."
"I'm glad you enjoyed it," Byakuya said, looking at her. "The cherry blossoms are most striking this time of the month, I believe."
"They are, Byakuya." Nanao took his hand, wrapping her cold fingers around his dry ones. "Thank you for giving me time to think. I apologize for any confusion or doubt I may have caused. I just needed to take care of some things before I made a commitment."
"Then you have come to a decision?" Byakuya questioned her, apprehension overwhelming him.
"Yes, I have," Nanao said sullenly. She placed his credit cards on the table and smiled gently. "I have the utmost respect and admiration for you, Byakuya, but I have no intentions of settling down with a man who has to hold himself back in order to accommodate me. You are not that man," she looked up at him, dark blue eyes piercing him. "But you are the man who is so far ahead of me that I look foolish in his presence. I do not wish to be taken as a fool."
"You aren't," Byakuya said, gazing at her, wondering what she was going on about.
"I just don't want to be forgotten."
Byakuya's mind stopped as he took in what she just said. "Why would I ever forget you, Nanao?"
"Because you get caught up in your work, Byakuya. You don't think twice about the people around you. You ignore them."
"I cannot deny that," he said honestly, knowing that she stated the truth. He gripped the cup tightly, wanting her to come out and say it. "Please continue to what you have settled on."
"I will marry you, Byakuya." Nanao said, ignoring the way his head shot up in surprise. "But only because I love you and you can't live without me. There's no other reason."
"I can't live without you?" Byakuya almost smiled at this, her answer still wringing in his ears.
"It's obvious," Nanao said airily, looking at him sternly. "I stood outside watching you for a while and all you did was stare at your tea, moping. It's obvious you need me."
"Do I?" Byakuya's mouth twitched in amusement.
"Yes," Nanao sighed. "You've been so pampered your entire life you don't know what to do by yourself."
"What did you do while I was gone? You probably sat around doing nonsense. I can't believe you couldn't find anything useful to do with your time. You are such a disappointment and I couldn't—"
"Yes, Byakuya." Nanao whispered as Byakuya's lips met hers in a soft kiss. "Byakuya?" she asked between kisses.
"Where's my ring?"
AN: Kakunodate is a lovely little Japanese town in the Akita Prefecture that hosts a yearly cherry blossom festival called Sakura Matsuri. Anyway…yeah…Byakuya x Nanao…perchance a bit odd, but it was on my list to do, so I did it. Anyway...wrote this in thirty-five minutes because I got bored. Um, it was AU.