When people ask her why she does not go to people's world anymore, she laughs and says it's time to give others the chance for adventures. Her laugh is so well trained even Renji cannot hear any false note in it. Then she changes the topic. It's easier that way. If a person is persistent and keeps asking, she explains it's too long of a story to talk about. Which is true, indeed.

She knows the expectations. Eyes watching her carefully, she's become used to it. After all, she is a member of Kuchiki clan. She's aware she doesn't deserve it, she never will. A child from the lowest class possible, grown up on her own – how can such a person be a noble? But she tries, she tries really hard. She doesn't want to see disappointment in her brother's eyes. Not again. She's a Shinigami and Shinigamis are strong, they do not lose. She's a warrior and her job is to protect others. She does what her captain asks her to do and she would rather die than disappoint him. He was good to her after her coming back. He was the only one who understood.

Nobody knows Ukitake ordered her to come to see him right after her return. He stared at her for a long moment and asked one simple question. Why did she do that? She was prepared for that and gave him a long speech. She was needed here, her division needed her and she should be the support for her brother. Ukitake remained silent so she went on explaining that her mission in people's world ended and she was unnecessary there. He raised his eyebrow and she, more and more desperately, tried to convince him and herself that it was the only path she could choose. She was a part of Soul Society; she couldn't mess with lives of others who belonged to some different world. His gaze was heavy and demanding the truth, still not satisfied with what he heard. Asking herself how was it possible that he seemed to know her heart inside out, she whispered that yes, she had been too afraid. She chose the easier way. She remained by the side of a person who loved her. And yes, she loved him to. In some stable, friendship-like way. Big romances last for some time and then end in a desperate way. "How do you know?" he asked. She couldn't lie to him so she held her tongue. "How do you know it was just a romance?" he inquired, peering at her watchfully. She wasn't able to answer. She isn't able to do it now and there are few days when the question does not return to her. Ukitake sighed and told her that she should choose well because she had only one chance to do so. He assured her it wouldn't change anything within her relationships in Soul Society. That he, her captain, was giving her his blessing. "Do what you feel you should do, girl, and be happy. It's the only thing we should do with our immortality," she won't forget his supporting smile. Never. But she already knew better than that. She remembered how few people remained by her side when she had been arrested. She won't survive such loneliness once again. That's why she decided to return.

She didn't want to change his life anymore. She decided it would be better for him if she weren't there, with him. She never asked about his opinion.

She is happy here; she doesn't let herself feel otherwise. There is always so much to do for a Shinigami of her status, or for a noble. She helps Byakuya, she does her best. She takes up all the missions they propose her unless they're in human's world. They joke she knows no fear as she engages herself in all the most dangerous missions. They do not know she is the biggest coward in the whole Soul Society. She just doesn't care that much anymore. Renji thinks he understands. After all she went through, a person can have a different perspective towards life and death. To some extent, he's right. She's lucky he gave her his feelings and she does everything not to hurt him. Their love is a solid thing, based on a friendship and years of being together. She never thinks about a betrayal, she values him too much. And only sometimes she feels guilty, when in the most passionate moments she must be on her guard not to call him by a wrong name. The name that always comes to her mind when she sees stars beneath her closed eyelids.

She tries really hard to please them all and she believes she's successful. She finds her happiness in it, too. When she thinks about future she sees it exactly in the way her present life looks like. She doesn't deserve anything better. Even now she possesses more than she's ever thought she will.

Only late at some nights, when the moon is bright and full, Renji is sleeping by her side and everything is quiet she lets herself be a weak woman. Not a Shinigami, a warrior, a supporter, a partner. A woman who sits on the windowsill and dreams about her different life that she could have if she had chosen the other path. About the one who owns her every night sky.

In the morning, she is the same as usual. Maybe her eyes are a bit more circled with shadows than usual. She smiles and engages in her daily duties. She does appreciate her life.

November 6, 2009