Disclaimer: Do I really need to say that I don't own Bleach? Well, I don't. I'm just a fan trying to have and share some fun.

A/N: As I mentioned in my other fics, this one is actually my first byaruki fic, the one I started writing about a year ago but never published. I finally got inspiration to pull together the pieces I wrote into a real fic, and I apologize because (as I have almost 3 more chapters to release soon) this one took the time I should be spending on continuing the others.

(BTW, I put a voting pool on my profile, please let me know which fic you want me to prioritize, given the time I have to write).

Now on the fic, I realize that, contrary to the others I wrote, this one's plot is kind of overused – I believe I read at least 4 with similar plots in the meanwhile. Although this discouraged me to write it a little, I noticed overused plots never stopped me from enjoying them when I really love a certain base plot. Also, as much as I enjoyed reading those stories, I've always felt the need to do it differently, things I wanted to see, details I wanted to read, in short, I decided to try my hand at it anyways. If you find it repetitive on some details, especially in the beginning, when my plot is not clear, I apologize. This is more like the fic I've wanted to read, my clumsy handmade x-mas gift to myself, but I hope you can enjoy it too. :)

Also, Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year to you all!



Kuchiki Rukia looked at the dark ceiling of her bedroom and sighed for the third time in a single minute. Her bed had never felt so uncomfortable.

'This is pointless', she thought. – 'I should be sleeping by now. It's probably over two in the morning.'

She moved, shifting positions, but ended up staring back at the ceiling once more. She sighed yet again. 'Kaien-dono, I failed again. I wasn't brave enough to apologize to your family.'

Rukia closed her eyes and the image of a golden field under the sunset rushed through her mind. Suddenly, she was at the Shiba's house once more. The girl looked at the big doors, so quiet. She should go, should knock. But it would hurt, to think, to talk, to feel, it would be like living it all again. Turning her back, she ran away. Again.

'I'm a weakling', she concluded, feeling the darkness and emptiness of the room invading her heart. Then, the girl sighed, with a hint of hope. 'Tomorrow is another day, though.'

She felt that the best course of action would be not to think about it anymore. She needed to sleep. Feeling lonely and particularly cold, Rukia decided to go to the closest living room. The servants always kept the fireplace lit and some hot water for tea. That was certainly what she needed to finally get some sleep.

Rukia left her bedroom quietly, walking a few steps in a dark corridor. The house was deadly silent at that hour. It gave her chills. As she entered the room, she was surprised to find a slim figure staring into the fireplace.

"B-Byakuya onii-sama" she muttered, not expecting his presence.

'I should have put something over my nightgown' was her immediate thought. Should she apologize? Was it really a reason for apologizing to a brother? Blushing, she decided it would be better to pretend not to notice this supposed impropriety.

"Rukia," he acknowledged her in his usual cold tone. While Rukia stood reluctantly at the door, he politely added: "Stay, I was about to leave."

He rested his green and richly detailed cup of tea on the nearby table and stood up. Her mind made a quick remark on how tall he was, compared to her, while she entered the room timidly.

"The elders requested a meeting tomorrow, early in the morning" he started, taking her out of her stupor. "I thought you were already asleep, so the servants were ordered to wake you up."

'The elders?' "H-Hai. Did they mention the subject?" she asked, trying to hide the concern in her voice.

"They did not say anything in advance," he replied, moving towards the door. He turned briefly, watching her for a moment. Her eyebrows furrowed slightly at this. His eyes were unreadable. Turning back to the door he simply added "Have a good night," and left.

"Good night… nii-sama."

She picked a clean cup on the silver tray, poured hot water into it and watched as her tea brewed. Whenever she talked to him she would always end up with the feeling that something was missing, unsaid. She wondered if he really didn't know what this meeting was about. Surely he had at least a guess? Why couldn't he volunteer the information?

'He's always so cold. Just like this house,' she thought, contemplating the fire. She always had this impression since the first time the Kuchiki estate was presented to her as her new home, years ago. Serene and cold. Just like him.

Rukia recalled the occasion vividly, her adoption. When she was told that she was adopted due to her resemblance to his dead wife, she felt wary and scared. Rukia had grown up on the Rukongai. She was far from naïve and wouldn't be surprised if he tried something… inappropriate. The first few nights in the house were sleepless and full of anxiety. She would barely close her eyes, expecting her new brother's visit at any moment. Soon, however, she realized that those were not his intentions. Kuchiki Byakuya, lord of the Kuchiki clan, was a noble, a perfect gentleman. And proud of it. In truth, instead of trying anything improper, he seemed to ignore her completely and address her only when absolutely necessary. The distance between them was like an invisible yet impenetrable wall, and, while it eased her previous concerns, it also made her realize that their relationship would never be that of siblings, at least in her own concept of it. Unlike what she shared with Renji, Rukia never felt comfortable enough around Byakuya. On contrary, she would always wonder what would be the appropriate behavior towards him. Always looking for the adequate words, gesture, place... She was never sure if she did something wrong.

However, sharing this house with her brother for the past few years had helped her adjust to the distance he kept between them. She could even find some comfort in it by now. It was something... familiar, safe, expected.

The rest of the family shared the same traits as her brother – formality and coldness – but it felt different to her. It was more intense. She was sure they made biting remarks behind her back, hidden only because of their respect for her brother. She wasn't oblivious to the fact that her adoption caused some disagreements, and that most of the family had opposed to it. That's why Byakuya's words left an uneasy feeling on her stomach. What could the elders possibly want?

She knew she shouldn't feel unsure around the Elders, but she did. She felt that even Byakuya had problems in protecting her from them or even to stop them from meddling too much in his own affairs.

Staring intently into the fire, Rukia recalled, with worry, a scene she witnessed a fortnight ago.

- Flashback -

"That is preposterous. Unnaceptable," Byakuya said firmly.

Rukia didn't mean to be prying, but curiosity got the best of her and she reduced her speed until she finally stopped, waiting outside a door in one of the Kuchiki mansion long corridors. Who could her brother be talking to?

"The council is not asking for more than your obligation, Byakuya-sama. You are a captain, and although strong, you are not immortal. Most of the clan is already well past their prime and will not be here for much longer. The family needs an heir."

That voice… was it Fujiwara-sama? Rukia shuddered, remembering the cold face of Byakuya's great-uncle. The presence of the elders has always intimidated her.

"I have not found another suitable woman and I see no urgency that would enforce the need to look for another marriage at the moment," Byakuya replied, his voice showing a little more harshness than usual.

"There are –plenty- of suitable options in the noble families. To see them, however, you must put that dead girl behind you." The elder's voice was strong and accusing.

"This meeting is over," was Byakuya's only response.

Rukia turned around and walked back, knowing her brother would open the door anytime soon. She was still close enough to listen to the elder last phrase:

"The head of the Kuchiki clan should remember that his wishes are secondary to the honor of the family. If you believe you cannot be like that, Byakuya-sama, remember that others can."

- End of Flashback -

The thought of the elders summoning her was unsettling already. Rukia stood up and headed back to her bedroom. While her body felt warmer, her insides were cold. She definitely wasn't looking forward to the meeting in the morning.

So that's it for now. I do have something in the oven for you though. ;)

Please review, let me know what you think! It doesn't take so much time but it means a lot to me. I'm really growing fond of writing, especially byaruki, I looooove it! .

Take care,