Disclaimer: To own is to have, to have is to create, to create is to love, and to love is to hate. See below for an in-depth analysis for why I wrote this as well as for a controversial character comparison between Rukia and Hisana.
Italics refer to Kaien only
Normal text represents Byakuya
Let Sleeping Angels Lie
-She's an angel (a devil)-
Kaien is no fool.
He knows Kuchiki Rukia is alone. He knows that she has no family, knows that she feels no more familial ties to Byakuya than he does for Ichimaru Gin. He can see it when she trains endlessly and ends up only trying harder because there's no one to tell her to take a break, to be proud of who she is. He hates watching her struggle without someone watching her back.
So he takes over.
He becomes her family, the brother that she should have but doesn't, the mentor and the constant companion. Maybe it is a dangerous move, maybe it'll mean she'll only become that much more dependent on him, and god damn it, he won't be able to live forever, but the chance is one worth taking. It's either that or nothing.
There's something bothering him though, the way she looks…a face quite familiar. He shrugs it off and tells her to hold her head up high and keep a steady grip on her sword. He'll ponder these things later.
Byakuya's first memories of Rukia revolve around hate.
Back then, Hisana had been dying and he hadn't been able to stop it. Oh, he'd known (and he knows) what was killing her. Her memories of an abandoned girl had haunted her and had murdered her. But he'd loved his dear wife, his dear sickly and frail wife with the doll-like face and the large, lovely eyes. He'd loved her and he'd hated her sister for causing them so much grief.
"Promise me…you'll find her if she's still alive." Hisana had murmured in the throes of illness, on the threshold of death.
He'd promised, though it hurt to think of even adopting her technical murderess into his family. He'd promised for his dearly beloved's sake and he kept his promise.
It didn't stop his hatred though. He supposed he'd needed someone to blame, and she'd been the perfect target.
The name had tasted bitter in his mouth.
She's on the ground, wiping a trickle of blood away and glaring daggers at him. He wants to exclaim that she's got the perfect look, the perfect attitude of someone who'll grow up to be a superb shinigami. But they've got a battle to fight and she's far from done. Already, she's rebounding, getting back up on slightly shaky knees, fingers tight around Sode no Shirayuki's sheath.
Good, he thinks. Good, she's remembered his advice.
And then she's charging at him, reckless and fast as hell. Nejibana is amused even as he swings the sword to block her furious attack. He knees her gently in the stomach and resists the urge to laugh as she falls to the ground, growling in her special way. "C'mon Kuchiki. You gotta be better than that."
"Mae, Sode no Shirayuki." Her voice is quiet and he licks his lips in anticipation.
"Suiten Sakamake, Nejibana."
He thinks the ice and the water make a beautiful combination.
Shock. Surprise. Fleeting hope.
Her face resembles Hisana's so much that for one, insanely delusional moment, he fancies that she is his deceased wife. But his logical mind robs him of that fairytale and he's left staring at her copy, her sister, her murderess.
"Her name, what is that girl's name?" The advisors do not comment on his rushed words; it is not their place to, and diligently reply with a monotonous answer.
"Rukia. No known last name; she is from the 78th Rukongai District and has shown to be extremely proficient in kidou."
He barely processes the fact that the 78th District is bloody and brutal. His mind is running in circles, cast off the rails through the appearance of one girl who by all means, shouldn't even exist.
"Byakuya-sama. We need to move on, there are more important matters to attend to." The family council's head sniffs disdainfully, peering arrogantly at her through the window. "Just another street rat. She's got no talent. Come, let's go."
"I beg your pardon?"
His lips straighten into a thin and severe line. "No. We will not be leaving; I have some matters to discuss with her instructor." His tone is stern and brooks no argument, because he is the leader of the Kuchiki House and thus must be obeyed. It is one of those times when he is thankful for the title, and though it is an obvious abuse of power, Byakuya really doesn't care.
Kuchiki Rukia, he thinks, does not sound bitter in his mouth at all.
It's not until he see Byakuya at a meeting with Yamamoto that he realizes why Rukia looks so familiar.
The knowledge makes him want to swear violently or drink himself into a blissful stupor. He approaches the sixth division captain at the end of the pointless meeting, landing a hand on the noble's shoulder with all the familiarity of a childhood friend. "You and I have to talk." He says, mildly but with an almost feral gleam in his eyes.
Byakuya shrugs off the hand and keeps on walking forward. The dismissal is painful, but Kaien isn't someone who can just be brushed off. "I'd rather not talk about this matter in the public, but I really don't mind dragging out the dirt. So you're either going to hear me out or I'm going to scream my question from the roof of the first division headquarters for all of Soul Society to hear."
The man stops abruptly, turning around so his cold, gray eyes can convey a clear message. Kaien pretends he's unfazed and glares back with determination and sheer cockiness. He knows he's not nearly as high ranking, but he's a Shiba, and Shibas aren't the type to be easily run over through simple intimidation.
"What matter do you have to discuss with me, Shiba fukutaicho?."
"Tell me why Rukia looks exactly like Hisana. This better not be some sick joke."
A flash of anger, quickly suppressed. "You have no need to know."
His hands are at Neijibana's hilt before he can even think, knuckles standing out in sharp relief against skin. He's that angry, that royally pissed off. "I have every right to know, Byakuya. I won't have her used to be some person's replacement."
"You know nothing."
"Then inform me."
Byakuya is not amused as he watches Kaien invite himself into the Kuchiki manor. He is even less amused when the vice-captain turns around with a smoldering grin on his face and a harsh look in his eyes. He does not know what subject has brought up this sudden animosity, nor does he wish to know.
He just wants the Shiba to leave him to his own peace.
"What of Rukia?" He asks blandly, careful to shut the door and dismiss all servants within a listening distance.
Kaien stretches comfortably, lithe with an almost dangerous grace, and flashes a threatening smile. "She looks a lot like Hisana, almost a bit too much for coincidence. Don't you think?"
Byakuya spent his whole life learning about how to deal with verbal spars, how to counterattack and then go for the kill. But the cocky vice captain's words are lethal and they strike straight into the heart of the matter. "What are you implying?" Defend, he must defend. This is not an argument where he can slip up and still manage a win.
A sneer. "You know damn well what I'm implying. But first, what is the connection between your dead wife and your current adopted sister? Don't bullshit me."
He sighs, long and lengthy, and takes a soothing sip of tea. "They were sisters."
The hell? He thinks, all of a sudden fucking pissed at that stupid noble façade and angry beyond belief that Rukia had a sister and didn't even know.
"Explain." He's done with games.
"Hisana was the older of the two and she left Rukia to ensure her own imminent survival."
Kaien tells the disgust to stay far away because that's the last thing he needs right now. "You mean Hisana abandoned Rukia in the fucking 78th Rukongai District." This is not the time for mollycoddling or sweetly disguising words. Byakuya can phrase it as many different ways as he wants to, but Shiba Kaien is not someone who can be fooled by a pretty phrase or two.
"How old was Rukia at that time?" And he almost doesn't want to hear the answer, almost. But he's got to know, because if Rukia was at least old enough to fend for herself, get her own food…
Even Byakuya hesitates with his answer. "She was still an infant, a baby. She hadn't learned how to speak yet."
Oh, God. He thinks. Oh, God.
He gets up and leaves without another word, one hand over his mouth and ashen-faced.
Byakuya remembers the incident with Kaien long after that day.
He tries to rationalize Hisana's actions out of blinded love. He thinks that she must've been starving and near dead, in poor condition, and out of her mind. He thinks that she must've had to do what she did for the sake of survival. He thinks that as an infant, Rukia would not have felt pain had she perished.
He tries to imagine leaving an infant child of his own blood in the streets, abandoned and with no means to survive. He stops thinking about that soon after, unable to fully comprehend how much mettle and brutality that must take.
He does not sleep well that night.
"Rukia, c'mere." Kaien's voice is kind and gruff. It's been nearly a month since he's made the connection and the roiling feelings in his stomach still haven't gone away yet.
She obeys him with typical meekness, nearly flinching when he lays a powerful grip on her thin shoulder. "Hai, Kaien-dono?"
She's so trusting, so tough, so alive. He wonders how that's possible and then decides ignorance is bliss. He opens his mouth to tell her what she has a right to know, but stops before the words can be said. It's not his place to inform her, he thinks regretfully. It's not his story to tell. His only role in this twisted and sick story is to be the parental figure, the mentor, the brother. His only role is to fill the gap in her life and the hole in her heart that she doesn't even know exists.
"Kaien-dono?" Her tone is puzzled, looking at him with carefully masked concern.
He smiles, ruffles her hair and tells her to meet him after practice for dinner.
He argues to himself in the dead of the night that Hisana spent her entire night mourning and regretting her actions. He argues that she died from guilt and grief and remorse. But her actions speak far louder than his words and he finds that the more he tries desperately to stay blinded by love, the more he slips further away from her angelic image.
Kuchiki Byakuya learns to hate Kaien for dragging his eyes open.
Ignorance was bliss.
They don't speak to each other afterwards, merely passing by as if the other doesn't exist.
Kaien thinks Byakuya hasn't gotten rid of that blindfold on his eyes and wonders if the stoic captain ever will. He spends his waking days with Rukia now, giving her a childhood and a loving sibling that she'd never had. Her first taste of candy, her first Moon Festival, her first celebration party. He is there for all of them and takes pride in the fact that he is better than Hisana.
He is better.
But he really isn't.
And as he dies in her arms, Sode no Shirayuki's unforgiving blade through his chest, he laments his own foolishness. He took a chance when he determined to be her sole confident, to be her world. He took a chance, gambled with it, and lost.
The blood bubbles thickly in his mouth and his last ironic thought is one that brands itself on his fading conscience.
He is exactly like Hisana.
They have both hurt her and they have both abandoned her.
He hopes Byakuya will make everything better again.
He hears her footsteps even before he registers her presence.
It is those very footsteps that put him on guard for they are not the slight and graceful walk of a shinigami trained in stealth and speed; they are heavy and squish as if liquid is clinging around the area. It has not rained, Byakuya notes with surprise. He thinks that she may be coming late, tired from a long exercise with Shiba Kaien. Kaien's zanpakuto after all, commands the seas and oceans.
When he smells a tendril of putrid odor in the air amidst the Kuchiki family's incense, he knows that he is wrong. He slides open his bedroom's doors nearly anxiously, worried to find her injured and in need of assistance.
When she turns, he sees only her dead expression and the blood staining her shinigami robes.
"Gomen nasai, Nii-sama. I did not mean to disturb you." Her words are robotic, stated unfeelingly and the fire in her eyes has faded to a dull flicker.
She is not there, he registers in shock. This person talking to him is not Rukia.
He reaches out a hand and rests it lightly on her shoulder, ignoring the blood as it flakes off underneath his touch. "Do not say such foolish words in my presence, Rukia. This blood, how did it come about?"
She tenses and her eyes fill up to the brim with unshed tears and anguish. "K-Kaien-dono. I…I…."
The hell butterfly disturbs her sentence with its gently fluttering wings. The message is clear enough, but it does nothing to alleviate his concern. Shiba Kaien is dead, possessed by a Hollow, and impaled on her blade. Her pristine and innocent blade.
Kuchiki Byakuya is not a man of physical gestures. Perhaps it is because he has never known the comforting touch of another, a pleasure withheld from him by his mother and unreciprocated by his late wife. But he pulls Rukia into a loose hug now, smelling the blood and the stench of death, and wonders how he's ignored her spirit before. She tumbles limply into his embrace and her tears fall hot and heavy on his bare chest.
"He would be proud of you." He murmurs quietly. "I am proud of you."
But she doesn't stop crying, though he knows she hates herself for it.
She doesn't say anything when his hold on her tightens and he stays with her for the rest of the night.
Good, Kaien thinks from his place on the other side.
At least Byakuya will never leave her.
Hisana was beautiful and loving, but guilt-ridden. He stands before her neglected shrine, not as a blinded fool, but as a man who can see her for what she was. He cannot deny that he used to love her, but he knows now that she wasn't an angel.
"Nii-sama…" Rukia's face is flushed from disturbing him, but he doesn't mind and turns around with a content expression on his face.
"Rukia," He warns, almost light heartedly.
"Uhm, ano. Byakuya-sama, it's going to rain soon." She fidgets, but he breaks the awkwardness with a soft smile.
"Ah, then we better go."
He closes Hisana's shrine for the last time and locks it carefully before blowing the candles out. She was his first wife, and for that, she will always have a place in his heart for her. Nonetheless, he understands now just how fatal their marriage was from the start.
He turns around, slipping a hand to hold Rukia's own warm one and slides the door shut behind them.
It's time to let the past go.
"Rukia, you're sweeping the leaves the wrong way." His tone is stern, but only on the surface, and she can easily tell that he does not mean any harm by his words.
"Kaien wouldn't care." She shoots back, fighting down the urge to stick her tongue out childishly and continues brushing vigorously at the smooth, marble stone.
"Well, it is his grave." He comments dryly, watching as her movements only agitate the leaves in messier piles.
She smiles and leans in to give him a hug, an embrace that he returns with equal feeling. "But I'm the one sweeping it. So he really shouldn't be complaining and neither should you."
The raindrops feel cool on her forehead as she finally sets down the rake with an almost reluctant expression on her face. "Mou, it's raining now. I told you we should've left earlier. Now we're going to have to come back tomorrow and clean his grave all over again." The corners of her lips turn down into a teasing frown, but the light in her eyes give her away.
"So it would seem." He responds, shielding her from the wetness as best as he can.
From the skies, Kaien watches them with laughter in his eyes and a wet Nejibana in his hands. He twirls it faster, watching as the extra droplets dot her bright expression and outline Byakuya's slight smile.
It rains, but it cleanses away the past and cleaves open a brighter future.
"Let's go home."
Author's Notes: As it is no doubt obvious to the readers by now, I hold a rather strong dislike for Hisana's character. It is my belief that Byakuya must have loved her to the point where she became perfect in his eyes, even after she told him her story. As an honorable man, I don't doubt that had Byakuya not loved her, he would've seen her actions as cowardly and quite repulsive. Kaien, as a brother/mentor/one-sided crush to Rukia, would've been quite unaffected by Hisana as a whole. Thus, I think that if he were to have known the connection between the two and the abandoning of his pupil by her hands, he would've reacted quite angrily. It makes sense, since he was the closest to her at that point in her life.
It doesn't matter how some people rationalize Hisana's actions. The point is, as I see it, Hisana left Rukia to die in the streets as a baby. Sure, Rukia survived and grew to become the amazing woman she is today. But this is a fortunate series of events and did not happen because Hisana abandoned her. I see Rukia as the type of person who would hold no grudge towards her sister regardless of the woman's despicable actions, and this is why I admire her character so much. Hisana, on the other hand, I am quite glad to say is deceased. Her character's lack of mercy is appalling even though she did end up spending the rest of her life withering away from guilt. This does not appease me in the least. After all, guilt does not erase the cold-blooded crime that she committed. She also did not love Byakuya in a very arduous manner, as somewhat implied by the manga. Yet she still married him. I think this speaks for itself. I think the fact that she married him and spent the rest of their marriage causing him grief speaks for itself. I think the fact that she pretty much committed the act of murdering her own little sister speaks for itself.
In short, I know I will get complaints about my small rant and complaints about this story in general. Nonetheless, I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my hest by writing this and saying what I said. This is my opinion. Feel free to state your own ideas on this issue as well as on my story in a mature way. I will not tolerate flames.