**Huge Disclaimer**

Alas, I own nothing. I am forced to merely borrow these characters from Tite Kubo and appreciate him everyday for creating them in the first place.


For awhile now the idea for this story has been bashing about in my mind and wouldn't leave me alone. So, I figured I'd try to write it down and see how the fanfiction world likes it. I expect this story will get long, easily over twenty chapters, and I'll probably have to change the ratings to mature eventually. I really appreciate anyone who reads this and to those who take the time to review…I'll love you forever. As everyone knows, there really isn't a better motivation to continue than feedback.

Thanks again for reading!



"Brother…" She began, trying not to fidget as she was unable to hold in her curiosity. "I apologize if you view my question as impudence, I do not mean it so, but is there a reason why you inquiry after my relationship with the leader of Karakura?"

There was another long pause. "Yes."

To her amazement, Byakuya reached down, picked up the drink he had been holding earlier, and took a long sip.

"This morning, Kurosaki Ichigo made a new request during the Peace Conferences. One, I admit, that I did not anticipate." He met her eyes directly.

"He asked for your hand in marriage, Rukia."

The only thing more shocking than her brother using her given name was the words he spoke. Stunned, Rukia suddenly felt light headed and weak, as though she would sink to the floor.

"Pardon?" She choked out, nearly asking if this was a joke. There was no need. Her brother did not jest.

"You heard correctly, Sister. This morning, the Leader of Karakura requested that the two of you should be united in marriage. One that shall be recognized by both our nations." His jaw tightened. "He also insisted this unification should occur as soon as possible."

"How could…that's not even possible..he wouldn't.." Rukia suddenly felt her throat constrict tightly. She didn't understand! How could this have happened?

"But Brother..there's been no Courtship!" She argued. Courtship was highly valued custom in Seireitei in which a man would woo a woman by bestowing gifts and pretty words upon her while their families discussed the details of their union. No man would dare ask for a woman's hand before making clear his intentions.

Following a girl around for a month and mocking her for being short certainly did not count.

"As I said once before." Byakuya responded coldly. "I did not anticipate this."

Rukia bit her lip sharply, and tried to fight the anxious trembles that shook her tiny form.


What Binds us Together

Seireitei was buzzing with nervous energy. It had been three days since the Seireiteian Royal Legions had surrendered to the Karakurans, despite their strong alliance with the Kingdom of Gotei. For three days Rukia had watched her fellow countrymen drape the white banners of peace around the citadel walls while stiff, unmoving bodies were carried in; victims of a brutal fight.

She'd done her best to help during this crisis. Kuchiki Rukia had never been the type to stand still and let reality carry on without her, especially in the midst of so much chaos. She and several of her lady friends had volunteered to help clean the bodies, washing away the traces of grime and blood that clung to their cold remains.

In many ways it was a useless task. In traditional Seireiteian style, the fallen soldiers would eventually be given a proper military funeral. Prayers would be said, bodies would be cremated, and the ashes of the deceased would be scattered throughout the countryside. Though there was no real need to wash the bodies before they were burned, Momo insisted this task must be performed, nonetheless. She had argued that it was an important service to the families who wished to say goodbye to their loved ones. The task had been grim, but Rukia had wholly agreed with her close friend that her people deserved to see their sons, brothers, fathers, ect properly cleansed one last time.

Three days after the final battle had commenced, however, she was pulled away from this particular task and forced to satisfy another duty. One, she admitted only to herself, that she dreaded even more than seeing the broken hearted expressions of newly made widows or hearing the sobs of old men as they clung to the bodies of their lifeless sons.

Instead, she was to stand beside her elder brother, Kuchiki Byakuya, in all her best finery and welcome in the man who had raided her nation and had stolen the lives of her noble countryman: Kurosaki Ichigo, Ruler of Karakura.

The idea of cuddling with the pigs and cleaning the stables with her bare hands was more pleasant. And though she tried, she could not quite hide her dread.

"Rukia! Stop it with that face!" Her lady-in-waiting and good friend, Matsumoto Rangiku, scolded as she dragged a thick, fan shaped brush across Rukia's porcelain white cheeks. "How can you expect to look your best when your expression is icier than a winter draft?"

Rukia sent her friend an even colder glare before scrunching her nose in annoyance. "This isn't about looking my best, it's about looking presentable." She insisted, flinching at the feeling of having so much rouge dusted on her face. Unable to stand it anymore, her hand flew up to wipe it away but was promptly smacked away by Rangiku.

"Ah, ah, ah. Don't even try it. You promised I could make you up." The buxom women reminded her gleefully as she dusted more powder on Rukia's face. "This is just making up for all the times you should have let me use my make up talents on you, but wouldn't."

"Rukia doesn't need all that rogue, Rangiku." A calm voice spoke up, and Rukia felt a sense of triumph knowing that, at the very least, her other friend Momo was on her side. "She's pretty enough on her own." Her quiet friend observed cheerfully while she brushed Rukia's silky black hair with her gentle hands.

That sense of triumph promptly turned to embarrassment especially as Rangiku proceeded to reach forward and pinch her cheeks.

"I know that, Momo, but look how beautiful she is now!" She exclaimed before she dramatically spun Rukia around on her stool to show her off. In her enthusiasm, she pressed the back of the petite girl's head against her large chest. "She's looks like a doll!"

"I told you, I don't need to look like that!" Rukia insisted stubbornly, pulling away from her larger friend. "Brother has required me to wear my best finery and to look respectable. I've done all that." She said, motioning towards the gown she was wearing. It was one of her best dresses, colored a deep royal blue and was embroidered with small, white snowflakes. Upon her head Momo had been in the process of attaching a long matching veil that flowed down to her waist, typical of Seiteiteian noble fashion.

"Ah, but you might regret having not done more once you see Lord Ichigo." Rangiku told her in a casual tone, but Rukia could see the mischief in her eye that she always got whether there was good gossip in circulation. She stubbornly decided not to take the bait, but Momo was clearly drawn in.

"Why is that, Rangiku?"

"Well…" The strawberry blonde began in a hushed tone, her pale blue eyes sparkling. "There is a rumor going around that Kurosaki Ichigo is a very dashing man. Tall, intense, with bright orange hair and a body cut sharper than a soldier's blade…"

"And the blood of good and noble Seireitei men dripping from his hands." Rukia interjected with a frown, annoyed that Rangiku would ever try to paint this man in a good light when she had seen firsthand the effect he had upon their country. "Pardon me if I don't swoon over that particular quality."

"Ah, that's true, Rukia." Rangiku replied with a nod. "He does have the hands of a warrior, but you're your innocent now. One day you'll appreciate the kind of pleasure that sort of hand can bring a woman."

Rukia's mouth dropped open while Momo squealed and covered her ears. "Rangiku!" She screeched while the buxom women laughed boisterously at her friend's innocence. Narrowing her eyes, Rukia saw an opportunity for revenge. There, tucked into Rangiku's sash belt was a small handkerchief. After snatching it, she began to rub it across her face, quickly wiping away the gunk Rangiku had so proudly smeared on her.

"Ha! Ha! Freedom!" She called out victoriously while Rangiku's laugh broke off. Glancing down at the kerchief in her hand, Rukia's eyes suddenly widened with shock when she saw the nearly inch thick smear of rouge she had cleared away.

"Rangiku!" She yelled, turning on her buxom friend, waving the small cloth in the air. "How much gunk did you put on me?!"

"What? A little blush is just what you needed to come alive." The endowed woman insisted. Pouting for a second, she turned and picked up a bright red concoction off the table and prowled towards Rukia like a cat stalking her prey. "Now get over here. We still have to stain your lips with a little berry juice, dust some ash over your eyelids, line your eyes with a little coal and…"

Rukia put her hands in the air defensively and shook her head. "No way!"

"But you'll look so pretty!" Rangiku assured her, coming at the petite girl with that unidentifiable crimson glob.

Snatching up a jar of filled with another mystery substance, Rukia kept her friend at bay. "Come any closer and I'll pour this over your head." She threatened, preparing herself for attack.

"But pink is my color, not blue!"

Momo giggled in the background.

Rukia and Rangiku were still circling around each other, pretending to strike at any moment when there was a sudden knock on the door. Instantly, Rukia's body stilled. Placing her jar down, she raised her head while Momo and Rangiku exchanged excited and nervous looks. She collected herself.

"You may enter." She commanded in a low, authoritative voice.

After an awkward moment of hearing the door rattle as though the person outside couldn't quite figure out how to get in, one of the household servants, Hanataro, burst into the room and nearly face planted on her stone floor.

"Lady Rukia!" He called out, panting. "Lady Rukia! Your brother requests your presence! Lord Ichigo of Karakura is already here inside the citadel!"

Rukia nodded grimly, knowing her time to play perfect lady and hostess had arrived no much how much she had been dreading it.

Timidly, with his downturned eyes filled with fear, Hanataro leaned forward and whispered. "Forgive me, my Lady, but they say he is so sinister that a black and red aura surrounds him at all times, burning all who comes too close!"

Rukia's large violet eyes narrowed slightly as she smoothed the non-existent wrinkles out of her dress and straightened the veil on her head. Gone was all trace of the playfulness and humor she had shown before as she was no longer Rukia, but Lord Byakuya of Seireitei's noble little sister. Composed, collected, and cold, this was the face most people saw.

"If that's true then the only way to fight fire is with ice." She stated plainly, repeating the lesson her brother had instilled in her many year ago. She then straightened her tiny shoulders and trained her face so that it was devoid of all emotions.

"Let's go everyone."

Rangiku and Momo, who knew her well enough to understand her sudden change didn't say a word but, instead, glanced over at each other as they watched their lady, and their beloved friend, walk out of the room with her head held high.

It was time to meet Kurosaki Ichigo.


For a first chapter, there is surprisingly little plot but that will change, I promise! Next chapter Ichigo and Rukia will meet…and they will quarrel, as is only natural. Thanks again to everyone who read and an especially enormous thanks to anyone in advance who writes a review. I don't like flames, of course. They're painful to read but constructive criticism is certainly welcome.