"I'm very impressed by your wise decision, Rukia. You are well aware of just how much this benefits our families. To be joined with the Hiroyuki family would end any of the feuds that have been brimming over the past number of decades."
Kuchiki Byakuya's voice echoed through the grand hall of the Kuchiki mansion, but his words fell on deaf ears as Ichigo glared murderously at the man, while Rukia nodded weakly to whatever her brother said. "I understand."
A new tone came to Byakuya's voice as he continued, "I hope, however, that you are not only following the wishes of others… but that you are following your heart as well."
Ichigo scoffed; his expression furious. At this unapproved motion Rukia had to turn around and face the orange-haired teen. His hardened scowl faded the minute he met her gaze; her weak, defeated eyes held more sorrow than he believed possible, "Ichigo…" she shook her head slowly, pleading with her eyes that he might stay peaceful.
"No, Rukia! I don't even know why you brought me along! This is the single most stupid thing you've ever done in your life! And you've stared death in the face…"
His eyes only mirrored hers as he finished that sentence. They were empty; hidden behind the walls he had built up so she would not know his pain.
He had to look away when the eyes he had been staring down turned watery. In a well practiced voice she spoke the next line, "This is necessary, Ichigo."
In a voice completely in contrast to hers Ichigo almost bellowed, "Fuck it, Rukia! Who cares about these family feuds! It's your life and your choice to marry this guy… a guy you don't even know…"
She had taken a step back, not daring to meet his gaze, "Ichigo…"
Said boy turned on heel, his back to her as he spoke again, "It's your choice, Rukia… that's what kills me…"
Before she could look back at him, her friend, her Nakama, and so much more… had ran from the house.
He watched as ripples distorted his reflection in the stream of water. No matter how jumbled though, his scowl was obvious. Ichigo continued to sit there, in silent misery… thinking…
It was a Saturday morning. He and Rukia had been chasing Hollows all the night before. When they had arrived home at around 5am, Ichigo decided it was far too late for Rukia to sneak back into his sisters' room without arousing suspicion.
She would have to sleep in his room. On opening the closet Rukia had discovered that, due to the unusually cold summer's night, his sisters had taken the extra blankets from his closet to wrap themselves up.
"Ichigo…" Rukia sounded frantic. She wasn't fond of freezing her butt off, and she was really tired.
Said boy took a fleeting glance at the empty closet and shrugged, "Guess you'll have to sleep in my bed then…"
Her eyes widened easily to the size of dinner plates as she stared at the boy already half asleep in his bed, "Ichigo! Are you nuts?!"
Ichigo responded by shuffling over and folding back the blankets, "Just get in. And be quiet, I'm already exhausted." She did however notice a hint of a blush staining the teen's cheeks.
A smile tugged at the corners of her lips as she padded across the floor, coming to a halt at the end of his bed, "Alright, but no funny business." She teased, noticing how his eyes had immediately shot open.
"What?!" he hissed.
The raven-haired girl could only laugh as she finally settled herself on the bed, her back to Ichigo as she cuddled a pillow, "Goodnight, Ichigo."
He stifled a yawn, "G'night, Rukia."
At around 5:45am, when she was finally in a deep sleep, Rukia began to move. Something extremely cold made its way to Ichigo's shin, causing the orange-haired teen to gasp and jolt slightly, "What the hell was that?!"
But she made no response. Curiosity got the better of him, and Ichigo edged slightly closer to the girl in his bed. She was shaking, though not in an obvious way. But she was shaking.
When he reached his leg out again, he realised that the cold object had been her small foot. 'She must be freezing…'
Without proper thought, Ichigo wrapped one arm around her slim waist, pulling her back carefully against his chest. He was shocked by how she responded. Rukia's legs seemed to suddenly find his as she began to rub them against his own.
He ignored the tightening feeling in his stomach, and tried to merely be relieved that she was slowly warming up.
Then it happened.
Said boy froze, afraid to open his eyes. Was she angry? Upset? Ready to kill?
He waited for her next words to understand, but she just sighed and cuddled closer to him. "Ichigo…"
Ichigo's eyes had widened, and he wasn't blushing slightly. She had said his name. What did that mean? What kind of dream was she having?
He didn't understand where his daring side had come from, but he soon leaned closer; his lips against her ear as he whispered, "Yes Rukia?"
He watched, mesmerized, as her lips came into a smile. His heart had moved to his throat as she then rolled to her other side so she now faced his chest.
"I love you…"
He shook his head, ridding his mind of that thought. When he had woken up, she was already gone, a note left on his desk for him.
In it she explained she had received a letter that morning; that her brother had arranged that she marry a man of nobility, in order to unite two great families and promote bonds. Rukia felt that she had no choice but to attend… no, that's not how she said it, but Ichigo knew. She had specifically written 'It is my duty.'
That was enough.
She had then requested something that would break him. She asked him to attend the wedding. She asked him for support.
How could he do that?! How could he hope to stand close by while she tells some stranger the same three words she had whispered the night before to him.
It was a dream, Kurosaki. Those words probably weren't for you anyway.
He knew it was most likely true, but he didn't want to believe it. He didn't want to think it after hearing her had made him feel the way he did. He couldn't describe how he had felt. How his stomach suddenly felt lighter, his eyes suddenly seemed to only focus on her.
He could have kicked himself when he remembered his reply.
"How could I have been so stupid?!"
"Ichigo?" her voice sent shivers down his spine, she had found him, and he found himself involuntarily straightening before he turned around, "What now, Rukia?"
His tone had taken her by surprise. Not because he was angry, but he sounded… defeated… the way she felt, "I'm… I just came to apologise…"
He furrowed his brow in response, "Apologise? What for?" Great. Ichigo was being sincere. There wasn't a trace of sarcasm in his voice, and that killed.
She swallowed before continuing, "Sorry for… everything."
They met each other's gaze and she refused to look away, "C-can I sit down?"
Those eyes held more emotion than he was willing to let on, she knew it. His walls, barriers, she knew them all. She also knew how to break them… but she wouldn't. Not yet. Not until she earned the right to have him speak to her, from the heart. He shrugged and she took it as all the invitation she would get.
"So… I saw the man I'm to marry…"
She swore she had noticed him tense. He cleared his throat quietly; "Really?" his voice was like a dagger, slowly piercing her heart. He was angry with her for her decision, mad that she would agree to this. But what other choice did she have?
She nodded, "Uh-huh, he seems nice. A little formal, but nice."
Ichigo scoffed, and she was completely taken aback as he spoke out, "Rukia, you don't do nice." A small smirk graced his face for just a second, but he seemed to remember where he was, and it was gone again.
"Ichigo…" she began.
"Look, Rukia. I'm not gonna lie to you. I'm pissed as hell with what you're doing. I'm sitting here thinking about how I risked my ass to save you, and this is how you live on your life! Marrying a man you don't love, living a life you don't wanna lead…" he muttered something else under his breath, but Rukia didn't catch it.
Her head hung in shame, "I'm sorry. I see how selfish I've been to you… to Inoue, Chad, Ishida and everybody else that came to save me." Ichigo was startled when her fist hit the ground, her body was shaking now and all he could do was watch, "I can't please everybody… all I want is for you to all be happy. But I'm always hurting someone!"
He was mad, he knew that. But he couldn't watch her weep like this. Tears had fallen from her eyes, streams forming along her smooth, pale cheeks. He wanted nothing more than to kiss them away, but…
She gasped when a strong arm wrapped around her, pulling her closer to him as she cried against Ichigo's chest, "Rukia… we're happy… as long as you're happy…"
It wasn't a lie. He knew she wasn't happy with this man, and thus he would never be happy with the result, but she didn't need to know the details behind his words. She just needed to find comfort.
"I need you Ichigo…"
He suddenly found his gaze meeting hers as his eyes widened somewhat, "What, Rukia?"
She wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve, never losing his gaze as she spoke again, "I need you. You've been with me for so long… I… I can't see myself doing something this important without you there… to help me." She had added the last part, though she didn't want to. She had always imagined him there; helping her by pulling back her veil, making heart wrenching vows of everlasting love, kissing her to signify that it was all over.
In the weddings that she saw… he only had one position to fill.
He was the Groom.
She tried not to remember the dream she had experienced the night before. Another wedding, surrounded by friends and family. He had said he loved her. Even in her dreams he mesmerized her with his voice, his movements, his looks…
"Rukia… I don't want to be there."
Those words burned like the flames of hell. He didn't want to be there… he wasn't going to pull her through this…
He continued, "I don't want to… but I will. Because you usually come before my own preferences… but Rukia… please don't make me do much more than be there. I really don't want anything to do with this."
She nodded, "Thank you, Ichigo."
It seemed like he had cheered up. Ichigo was making sly remarks about food for the reception; he agreed to accompany her to pick music, food, everything except the dress. He plainly stated that he'd rather 'wait for the surprise', though he didn't seem all too excited.
Yes, Ichigo seemed pretty okay after their conversation before, to everyone that wasn't Rukia. She knew something was still troubling him… a lot. But he didn't seem willing to open up.
Rukia heard her Soul Pager buzz and quickly withdrew it from her pocket. She read the message and couldn't help but smile, "Oh, Ichigo! I've found place for the wedding! There's an opening at the Lotus Temple. I've always loved that Temple! It's the single most beautiful place in this world."
Ichigo nodded; a small smile on his face to be polite while he listened to her description of the place that he was most definitely going to hate anyway. Simply because she would be married there.
"Oh! I can't describe it properly! They wanted me to check in there anyway. Come on, I'll show you."
Ichigo shrugged, both turning around and heading back in the Temple's direction.
When they did arrive, though Ichigo was right in saying he'd hate it, he couldn't deny it was beautiful.
As its name suggested; it looked like a lotus. The temple sat atop a shallow lake; a bridge connected it to the mainland. The building itself was beautiful its walls crystallized. Like a rosy crystal it shimmered in the light. Inside was bright and spacious. There were rows of seats, and a variety of various flowers fliied the room with their scent. It looked like the kind of place Ichigo could see them…
He would forbid these thoughts. He no longer wanted to ruin Rukia's day. He didn't have the strength in him anymore.
He noticed Rukia was now talking to a man dressed in traditional robes. He assumed this man to be the cleric.
"Oh, Ichigo," She beckoned him over. When he reached the two Rukia introduced the man as Kawate Enya.
"Kurosaki Ichigo," he held out his hand which the man took.
"Of course I know you Kurosaki-san. I had been expecting to see you two walk through these doors together for some time. Since you rescued Kuchiki-san from her execution. It took longer for you two to get together than I imagined."
Ichigo couldn't help but let his jaw drop, and Rukia couldn't hide her blush as she explained that Ichigo was the Best Man of sorts. She then explained the arranged wedding, much to the disgruntlement of both males.
"I see…" his frown could almost match Ichigo's after hearing her story. Though he soon straightened up, "Well… if you believe it's right, then so be it. I need to get some paper work for you to sign, but I'll be right out. Have you your vows ready, Lady Kuchiki?"
Rukia seemed taken aback by the question, "Uhh, vows?" a light bulb went off in her head, "Oh, no… I haven't decided yet."
The man nodded, "Well, you'll have to think about something. Ponder it while I get the things together. I'm sure Kurosaki-san can help you."
Rukia rolled her eyes, "It's what he's here for."
Once he had left Ichigo let out a scoff that caused Rukia to twirl round and face him, "What?" she demanded.
"How can you not know what to say?" he replied, his tone unimpressed.
She stiffened, "W-well… it's not like I planned this."
Her retort was weak, though she had a point, and Ichigo rolled his eyes, "It's not like you love him either. So it shouldn't be hard to make up a few false vows for your false husband."
"He is not false!"
"Do you love him?"
His question had caught her off-guard, not only that, but the way he said it. It was almost as if… he needed to be sure, "I-I could love him." It was all she could say in honesty.
His relief was obvious, but the pained expression more so.
Wanting to change the subject, Rukia retorted, "And what gives you the right to demean me! It's not like you could make up a bunch of vows on the spot!"
A small spark seemed to return to Ichigo's eyes as he met her gaze, "Is that a challenge?" he spoke in a low, daring voice that sent shivers down her spine.
Her own eyes narrowed, and in her best school-girl voice she replied, "But of course."
She hadn't expected his next move. Within seconds Ichigo stood before her, and she could no longer look away from his gaze. It was soft, kind, caring. All the things she needed it to be.
"Rukia…" his voice; so velvety and smooth. The way he said her name seemed to caress her. His expression was thoughtful, only for a second. Then he spoke again, "I see death everywhere… since the day I was born. All I've ever wanted to do was to protect everybody I could; my family, my friends. I was never strong enough, and I lost someone very dear to me as a result."
His words, they were pure, and she hung on every line that came from his lips. Feeling all the pain and the emotion that he spoke with; not leaving his gaze. He surprised her then by taking her hand, "Rukia, they say you can search forever and never find love. Imagine my surprise when the woman I would cherish the most for the rest of my life found me. You gave me strength. The strength I needed to protect the ones I care the most for. The strength to fulfil the promises I had made so many times.
"Now, my beloved Rukia, let me make a promise to you. I promise to hold you in love and never let you go, even on those days when your little midget butt gets on my last nerves. I promise to protect you, to place my life in front of yours. Because without you… I would seize to exist."
There was a long pause after that. He had closed his eyes for a lot of what he had said. And when he opened them again, he was shocked to see Rukia's tear filled eyes staring back at him.
She tore her hand from his, "You jerk!" she snapped.
"What the hell, Rukia?!" his voice was raised now, though he was only shouting to hide how raw he still felt. He had just laid his heart on the line, and this was her response?
Her glare only intensified, "Those weren't just any stupid vows! They were the most beautiful words I've ever heard in my life! Why did you have to go and say all that?!" she glared back at him, her anger drowned in her own bewildered expression.
He didn't know what to say. He didn't want to upset her anymore, to confuse her further by telling her the truth. Rukia only grew more frustrated by his silence, and before she knew it she had reached a hand out to slap him.
He caught her, grabbing her wrist and pulling her into his arms. She struggled against his hold, using all her strength to break away, but he wouldn't allow it, "Ichigo, let me-"
"Because I love you."
She froze, her face against his chest, her eyes wide, "W-what?"
Ichigo could have laughed, she was so easy to understand, "I said all that… because I mean it, Rukia. I love you, you idiot."
He let her move away, but kept a gentle hold on her arm, "And I know you love me too."
She gasped. He had known all along. He had known, and he loved her too. "Ichigo…"
She didn't know what else to tell him. Instead she hopped up into his waiting arms and crushed her lips against his. He took no time at all in responding, pulling her up off the ground. His arms winded around her waist as he pulled her as close to himself as was possible. Savouring every touch, every emotion at that moment.
She had found him. He would never let her go.
When they parted, Ichigo planted gentle kisses all over her face. He stopped; his voice gentle, "Please, Rukia… don't marry this guy… I'm not strong enough to let you go."
She placed a small kiss against his lips, hoping to reassure him, "Don't worry, Ichigo. Now that I have you… I'm not letting you go either." She paused, suddenly looking a little uneasy.
Ichigo bounced her a little in his arms, grabbing her attention once more, "What's wrong now?" he sounded a little worried, but he still couldn't hide the pure joy in his eyes.
Her voice was quiet, obviously anxious, "Well… I was a little worried about… how we're going to pass up this arranged marriage."
Ichigo stunned her by winking, and in the most godlike of voices he replied, "Leave that to me." With that he called for Kawate Enya. When the man appeared his expression was neither shocked, nor troubled by the position he found the two of them in, "Can I help you Kurosaki-san?"
Ichigo nodded, "Yeah. How are you with emergency, on the spot weddings?"
This caused the man to only grin wide, "I thought you'd never ask."
A/N: Hope that was nice! I thought about it while I was in the car and messed around with the story for ages after, hehe!
Anyway, enjoy and please Review!