This epilogue contains a slight M-rated scene. Read it at your own discretion.
The marriage happened in that same week. It was a very private ceremony, only for the closest family and friends. They did not want gossip or explanations, and they had no wish for anything fancy or big, they did not need it. Everything they needed was already there. Silent and simple, it was in their eyes and needed no words or proof. It was in their hearts, and occupied them completely.
But that short time was time enough for her to become the most gorgeous bride in the entire world, that much he was certain, as he saw her joining him in the temple and took her as his wife. And as they left it, with her properly hanging on his arm, Byakuya was sure there was no happier man in the whole of Seireitei, and none more proud.
He was careful that no alcohol was involved this time – he wanted her in full awareness that night, unlike before. After the ceremony, she joined him in bed as shy as she had been in all those days they had spent together. There was only one difference.
This time, together with her shyness, there was no fear or jumpiness, but instead, a certain tranquility that came from acceptance.
But she was still nervous, he could feel, perhaps because this time she knew what would happen, so he tried to be as gentle as possible to make her at ease. It was not a hard task, though, because as soon as they started kissing, it all became fluid, natural, simple as it should be, as if the love they felt permeated their every pore and spoke for them, intertwining hearts and body. And naturally he undressed her, and she shyly let him.
It was undeniable that he wanted her very much, had wanted her for so long, so it would be a battle with his self-control, but all he could think about was her and her every reaction. Mindful, he covered her; gently, he took her.
He felt her tensing, holding her breath to silence a gasp, and he wondered if she was well. He awaited. After a moment, she took a deep breath and, trying to relax, she reached to kiss him, and he knew what it meant. He moved inside her, and soon she joined him in a mix of silent moans, scents, skin, breath, hold and release, and as they reached their climax, there was only one mind, one heart, one flesh, one soul.
It was only the beginning.
As dawn gave place to morning and the first signs of clarity entered their bedroom from the opened window, Rukia stirred in her sleep. They were still entangled, her right arm passing over Byakuya, who awakened with her movement and hugged her closer, taking the opportunity to inhale the sweet scent coming from her hair. Rukia noticed his gesture and, after briefly looking at him, closed her eyes a bit, basking in the happiness and warmth of his embrace. But Byakuya was already quite awake and pulled her up for a kiss, which Rukia reciprocated with a smile on her lips.
As sleep was washed away and reality became more vivid, though, Rukia started to feel a little embarrassed, not really knowing how to react to everything that had happened between them, even if it was the most special thing that had ever happened to her. Feeling thirsty, she disengaged from him, searching for a glass of water on her bedside table, while trying to pull the sheets with her to cover her naked form. As she drank it, she heard his husky voice from behind her, almost in a whisper:
"What is... this…?"
Rukia turned around and followed his gaze and his hand, that was now in the place where she was laying a few seconds before, moving the covers to inspect it better…
…and gaped as she saw an undeniable mark of blood on the sheets. Blinking, she looked at him and blushed.
"Erh… that was... my…"
She had forgotten this might happen, and by his face, Byakuya had not expected it.
But he smiled, he was glad. It was a good thing he had stopped them from rushing things some nights before, he concluded.
"Come here," he said, pulling her to him, and kissing her - and soon she forgot all embarrassment and the world around them.
There is one thing Byakuya did not reveal about the day they came back from the shore: he had visited Hisana's mausoleum that day.
Had he been there one day before, he would have not believed his eyes - to look at Hisana's mausoleum and see her alive there in front of him, cherishing her just the same. Now, however, the only impressive thing was the feeling being the same, or perhaps even greater.
His time with Hisana had been brief and melancholic - there was always a shadow over her, as if she wanted to be somewhere else, and Byakuya knew Hisana had never truly loved him like he loved her, the pain of it implied in her last apologetic words. Her mind was always distant, always elsewhere, in the world beyond these walls. He loved her, involved her in his life, with his care, but even their kisses were not as fluid, as if her mind or heart was not there. It was like Rukia was already between them back then. Looking at the sleeping form of his wife, Byakuya pondered on the reasons for things happening the way they did.
The ancients say that Happiness is a willful lady that doesn't knock twice on one's door. In Byakuya's case, though, it seemed her stern brother, Fate, had decided his fortune differently, changing his life and fixing everything in most unexpected ways, giving him a chance of finally truly knowing Happiness.
The only wise thing to do was welcome it, and be glad to have her back.
And that is it. Again, thank you for everyone that participated, betaed, reviewed and followed me in this story until now. My plan is now focusing on Power and Duty, as you guys chose in the pool on my profile (albeit I already have a one-shot that supposedly could fit the timeline after this story... it might be posted in the near future). I hope you enjoyed this one. Your thoughts on it, are, as always, very important and welcomed, so please take your time to review it.
Take care and have a wonderful 2012!