A/N: Hey guys! This fiction is in response to "Resha no Kansou Writing Challenge: New Year dare". To those who need help in improving and/or willing to contribute ideas and techniques in how to become better at writing, please visit the forum Resha no Kansou located in the Fushigi Yuugi Section. Writers and readers from all other anime/manga sections are welcome!

To my Collide followers. I hope you guys are still around. I'm sorry if I haven't updated yet. The ideas are there but I think I need to devote more time in developing the story and such. And between Law School and family obligations and personal matters that cropped up, I find that I don't have much of that to go around these days *sigh*. But no worries. That story will not be abandoned.

For now please enjoy this one-shot. It's my first time writing this pairing and I hope it's satisfactory. I did my best to weed out grammatical errors but if you see any please pardon me. English is not my mother-language. Thank you for reading in advance.

Disclaimer: Bleach and its characters are not mine and I make no profit from writing fanfiction.


Mmmm, cold…

Rukia mumbled in her sleep as she snuggled deeper into the warm folds of her blanket and futon. Cold bitter wind that sneaked past the crack of the slightly open shoji caressed the exposed skin of her forehead. It was the last day of the December and a non-working day and it was deathly cold and it was a perfect day to just stay in and catch more zzzz's but...

The sleepy girl grumbled beneath the covers. Ice may have been her zanpakuto's element but it didn't mean she's disposed to sleeping in arctic conditions. But once she gets up to have the door closed, the drowsy sands of sleep would have already left her. Aiko, her personal attendant really knows well how to get her out of bed.

Rukia smiled amusedly at the thought of her sly maid and then got up with a groan.

"Might as well." She thought and stretched her arms high up then opened the shoji to greet the sky a wonderful morning. The scene that met her made her purple eyes go wide with childish delight.

Everything that her gaze touches was covered in white that dazzled more in the morning light. From the beams jutting out of the roofs, to the decorative statues in the garden, to the stone lantern, to the frozen koi pond, to the arms of the bare sakura trees, to the barren ground. They were adorned beautifully with the gently falling snow.

Still in her yukata, Rukia stepped out into the flurry of dancing ice, no longer minding the cold but feeling comfortable in the ethereal display of her element. She twirled round and round and danced with the snowflakes and made merry until she fell onto the ground laughing. It was early morning and none of the stuffy members of the royal Kuchiki clan would be up to reprimand her for this childish ignoble-like display. They have considerably warmed up to her since her adoption but in case, she didn't want to cause trouble to her Nii-sama.

"Nii-sama!" she thought and sat up from the snow-covered ground in alarm. Then fell back down upon a realization. "Oh that's right,"Rukia flapped her arms and legs to make snow angels, "he might still be resting after all the wedding preparations that are currently under way." A small frown of sadness marred her porcelain features.

After more than fifty years since Hisana died, the Kuchiki Lord has finally accepted the Elders' demand that he remarry and produce the heir they were all longing for. The wedding has already been scheduled for this coming spring and the ironic part is that he has not even chosen a bride yet! The elders are not leaving Byakuya any chance of escape so it seems. She has inkling it was a silent ultimatum of some sort.

"Maybe he'll stall and just continue going to the dates the Elders had set up for him and then when the time is due, declare that no woman is fitting to take up Hisana-nee-sama's place as Lady Kuchiki."

Rukia shook her head. "No, Byakuya nii-sama is too honorable for that. Though it would be hilarious if he pulls off a stunt like that. The Elders would probably strip him of his title as Head of the Clan." The amusing thought comforted the raven-haired girl a little as she really does not know how to react to the entire situation yet.

The notion that an unknown woman will take up her nee-sama's place beside Byakuya not only seemed wrong but it also brought a pang to her heart.

Rukia got up and dusted off the snow from Yukata and pushed the uncomfortable feelings at the back of her mind. Maybe she was just being sad because she had just started to really get to know her Nii-sama but his attention is already being threatened to be transferred to somebody else. "I'm being selfish; I should be happy for him instead. I am happy for him. Because he would finally have someone to share his life with. He'd been alone since Nee-sama died and no one deserves to be lonely that long."

There was really a lot of snow around. She smiled brightly to herself and proceeded to gather lumps of snow into her hands, clumped it together and patted it into snow figures that grew bigger and bigger on the ground.

I wonder who he will choose.

But her mind was no longer on the figures she was forming on no matter how much she wanted her thoughts to remain on her work. It flew to images of a woman with a blurred face, the unknown future Lady Kuchiki in the foyer waiting for her nii-sama to come home from working late at night at the Gotei Headquarters, then, greeting him with an embrace when he finally shows up…her, tending on his wounds after a battle and looked upon by Byakuya with tenderness…her, serving him tea…her on his bed, sweaty and writhing and moaning out Byakuya's name…

Snap!

The dried twig in her right hand snapped into two.

"Oh!" the distracted girl exclaimed. She did not notice that her hold on the stick tightened considerably into a tight-fisted grip.

"Rukia…"

"Yiiiii!" the startled girl yelped and jumped three feet into the air at the baritone voice; the head of the fourth snow figure she was forming fell in consonance.

"Nii-sama! W- Wha-" Rukia flustered at the sudden appearance of the object of her thoughts before her.

The stoic man eyed her for a moment then removed his Captain's haori and draped it around her shoulders with remarkable gentleness.

Rukia looked down to hide the fiery red that burned her cheeks in embarrassment. His hands are yet to leave her shoulders.

"Nii-" she started out hesitantly, bit her lip then gulped to clear her throat and find her courage, "How was…the date with Soi-fon Taicho last night?" Rukia gulped again in panic. It was the first thing that popped into her mind but she did not intend to voice it out. They had gotten to know each other and had grown really close these past years but recently, there are some things she felt uncomfortable talking to him about. Like his impending marriage and what is to be expected of her, among other things.

"It went…well."

Rukia looked up, violet eyes wide, for she never expected him to answer.

Byakuya finally removed his arms from her shoulders, only to have one of them land on the small of her back to guide her to the porch where a steaming kettle of tea was waiting for them.

"Let's get you warm, you've played in the snow long enough." He said, handing her a cupful. The warm tips of his fingers briefly brushed against her cold ones when she reached out to receive her cup.

The small woman reddened again. "Had he been watching?" Without another word, she drank the tea grateful that she has the cup this time to hide her blushing face into. Rukia felt her insides glow in happiness at the warmth the liquid brought and momentarily forgot about her previous discomfort. Unbeknownst to her, Byakuya was observing her from the rim of his own cup in a half-lidded gaze.

He had indeed been watching her all this time. He was in his routine early morning walk and was about to call out to her when she stepped into the garden. But when he saw her dancing in the snow in such delight, he did not have it in him to bother her. So he hid his reiatsu and just contented himself by drinking in her ethereal presence from afar. He took note of all her untamed but graceful movements and even noted all of the expressions that played across her face while she was lost in thought. It was when she looked truly disturbed that he made his presence known, worried that something was wrong. What was the reason of her distress?

"Rukia," he called out again. "What are those?" he eyed the snow figures in the garden: a snowman with pigtails, a cat missing a tail, a motherly looking snowman, another small snow figure which looked as if it's holding a candy, and a headless snowman, and a figure of the Seaweed Ambassador standing in their midst.

Rukia followed his line of vision and reddened slightly.

"W-well..." she smiled sheepishly and swung her arms in the direction of the snow figures in a helpless gesture. How can she explain that she had been wondering about his bride-to-be?

Byakuya cocked an eyebrow at her. Before, Rukia would have taken it as a hostile gesture but in the course of their growing friendship, she learned that this was his way of saying that he was waiting for an explanation.

"W-well, he-he, I was thinking…about the women Byakuya nii-sama were closes- er, who knew Byakuya nii-sama most."

"And?" he prodded when she did not continue.

"A-and, and what each would be like if they were to be nii-sama's choice for his wife." Rukia fidgeted but answered honestly after a moment's hesitation seeing that there was no way out of it, her voice growing smaller at the end of the sentence.

"What was your conclusion?" Disinterested as he seemed, Byakuya was never one to let a topic go until he's satisfied. Especially if it concerns her thoughts.

Rukia sneaked a peek at her adopted brother's face and she could have sworn she saw a smirk tug on the corner of Byakuya's lips.

Emboldened by the lack of reprimand on Byakuya's part, Rukia felt herself relax into the conversation. "I thought that Soi-fon Taicho would be a wonderful choice."

"Do you?"

"Yes!" her head bobbed too enthusiastically. "She's also a noble so the Elders would not be against her. She is also a good captain and loyal and strong and very much like Nii-sama."

There was a short pause and a chilly breeze swept between them then Rukia burst out laughing. Again Byakuya quirked an elegant eyebrow in inquiry.

"You and Soi Fon Taicho would give Ichigo and the rest of us hell, hahaha!" It was no secret that though the formidable Kuchiki Lord was a stickler to rules and protocol (though he had broken them many times for Rukia's sake), Soi Fon can still give him a run for his money when it comes to her loyalty for Seiretei and steadfast adherence to the Soutaicho's orders. Which Ichigo, Rukia, and the rest of the ryoka always run against in pursuit of their own ideals of peace and justice. And if said rogue-hater woman married the stuck-up rule-stickler Byakuya… oh gods, she can see it now: the powerful Sixth and Second Division Captains together hot on their tails.

"Hahahahaha!"

"I suppose you would find that amusing." The stoic man commented drily though a small smile graced his perfect lips.

"Hai!" Rukia tried to compose her brash snorts rather unsuccessfully so she just gave into another fit of laughter.

Fifty years ago, the thought of her laughing out loud like this in his presence would never even cross her mind, and if somebody told her that she would be spending considerable time freely conversing with her stuck up ass of an adoptive brother, she would have probably sent that person to a mental asylum.

But that all changed ever since he had saved her from her execution in Soukyoku Hill. The progress was not easy of course; it had been greatly awkward even. Most of the times she was afraid to displease him and offend his status with her normal rough and untamed behavior, and thus had always acted like the proper Kuchiki lady she was expected to be.

Until that one slip-up after the commotion with the memory-reaping hollow, when he had forbidden her from going out on a friendly get-together with Ichigo in the real world. It was an outing that she utterly looked forward to after her recuperation and she was greatly disappointed when Byakuya used his position to imprison her within his manor. Her inborn stubbornness leaked through the properly mask the Kuchiki clan forced on her and she talked-back to Byakuya.

She can never forget the slight shock, anger, and amusement that graced his features that day and they've been close friends ever since. Her angry outburst seemed to have finally brought down that invisible barrier that had always separated them. Though that is not to say that she now treats Byakuya in the same way she treats Renji and Ichigo. She can now act like herself around him yes, but there would always be the slight tension between them, the nervousness she feels especially when they were alone, or when his hand would accidentally brush against hers or when he was just merely observing her through his half-lidded gaze like what he is doing now. Like a predator watching his prey.

"And I assume that the cat is Yoruichi?"

Rukia tried to ignore the butterflies in her stomach that his grey eyes were causing. "Uhrm, y-yea."

"Why would you think that old hag would make a fair match for me?"

"Nii-sama, you do realize that Soi Fon Taicho would gut you if she heard you calling Yoruichi-san old hag?" she teased him and looked around to emphasize that one of the Oni guards might be listening in on their conversation.

"You made a mistake then, the were-cat should have been in Soi-fon's potential mate list and vice versa, not on mine."

The serious way he said it only made the Rukia's bright violet eyes light up further in laughter. It was Urahara's fault really; him and his big mouth accidentally spilling the pig-tailed captain's secret admiration for the goddess of shunpo.

"Nii-sama is enjoying himself," Rukia commented, a shy smile dancing on her lips as she poured Byakuya another cup of tea.

"I always enjoy my time with you Ru-kia."

Rukia nearly dropped the kettle. She gripped the earthenware tighter to keep her hands from trembling and carefully placed it back on the tray, thankful that not a drop of tea had been spilt. It was the way he said the words and her name. Like he was swirling it around his tongue in a manner one would relish delectable wine.

And he was looking at her again in that unnerving way of his through half-lidded eyes. "You mentioned that they were women who knew me the most." He continued their conversation seamlessly, "Who are the other three?"

"Er," Rukia squirmed under his eyes. Amusement that would not have been evident to others was dancing in those intense orbs. She really could not take any more of this; she was conflicted between wanting to run away from them and desiring to drown in them.

"The third one is Unohana Taicho. I know she might be too old for you but she knew you the longest so er," Rukia was aware that she was already rambling, "the fourth one is Kusajishi-fukutaicho whom I'm aware of as underage. I just added her out of amusement at how she seems to always have one up against you and er, thought how she'd be a handful in a few centuries time, and the fifth one is just a representation of all the other noble ladies that Nii-sama might have been interested in? Err…" Rukia bit her lip and looked down. She had never felt so embarrassed in such a long time and in front of him of all people!

She had decided to answer hurriedly to spare herself from the discomfort she was feeling but it seemed that she only dug herself deeper in humiliation.

A pale hand reached out and cupped Rukia's chin, a silent order for her to look up. The troubled girl fought to keep her eyes down but was eventually drawn like magnets to the man with an inscrutable expression before her.

"I find it strange and amusing that you have included even Kusajishi-fukutaicho yet have forgotten someone important." Byakuya said evenly.

"Wh-who?" Rukia, confused.

The Kuchiki Lord released his hold on her and raised himself slowly. "The future Lady Kuchiki. I will present her to the clan in tonight's New Year celebration." And with that he walked away from the wide-eyed Rukia, leaving the young girl bewildered.

.

.

It was finally night time. The Kuchiki elders decided to hold the celebration for the coming New Year on the hill within the woods beyond the manor. Both the woods and the hill were still within the Kuchiki grounds and Rukia had to admit that the location was indeed perfect for watching fireworks. Even the breeze was perfect; just strong enough to blow away the smoke that would emanate from the burnt gunpowder but not enough to put into disarray the light shows that would grace the sky that night.

On one side of the clearing small tables were set up and on the other side was the table where a feast of the most sumptuous dishes was placed and kept hot on special serving trays. Since the festivity was being done outdoors, it was decided to hold the meal buffet style and have everything brought out of the kitchen and into the open. Pretty lanterns lit up the surroundings. Everything down to the tiniest detail spoke of the power and affluence of the Kuchiki clan.

Nothing was out of place except maybe her. Rukia felt out of place. Because she was terribly knotted and nervous within while the people around her buzzed with the excitement and to her thoughts, it was not only because of the holiday but because of impending announcement of Byakuya's engagement to the whole of Seiretei.

Yes, the whole of Seiretei seemed to be there, for she can not only see the lined and grey faces of the domineering Kuchiki elders amongst the clan members from the lower houses but the air also rippled of the reiatsu of the captains and vice-captains of the Gotei thirteen. But the Kuchiki Lord was nowhere to be seen.

Maybe he was still out to fetch his future bride.

Again Rukia felt that pang in her heart, so much so that it seemed to rise into her throat where it stayed and formed into a small lump that made breathing difficult. The anxious girl was so lost in thought that she did not notice at once that the friendly chatter amongst the guests died down into an excited hush. It was only when somebody whistled that Rukia snapped in attention and she felt her heart sink to her stomach. There at the entrance of the clearing was Byakuya…and walking behind him was a woman dressed in one of the most elegant kimonos Rukia ever saw.

Her troubled violet eyes locked with his cool grey ones for a moment before Rukia turned her head away to hide the tears brimming in her lids. The nobles moved towards the entrance to pay their respects to their clan leader but all Rukia could think of was how to slip away from the crowd unnoticed.

Rukia finally realized why she was so uneasy with Byakuya's impending wedding…why she cannot bring herself to accept that she might be sharing his attention with another woman…and a lot of other why's. Somehow, she had known the answer then but she did not entertain it fully because she was afraid and so unsure. But seeing her Nii-sama with that woman finally brought all of her feelings into the surface. She was in love with her Byakuya Nii-sama. Was it even proper to still call him Ni-sama?

The elders will look for her for sure, but she needed to get away, if only to compose herself before facing him. Just for a short while, to…

"Ugh.."

"Careful." Sturdy arms went around Rukia's waist to prevent her from falling. Rukia looked up and met Urahara's ever-present smile. "You're not planning on giving up are you? That would be so unlike you Rukia-chan!" he said cheerfully.

"Huh?"

"Follow your heart; like you always do."

The addressed girl stared confusedly. Urahara had always seemed like he knows more than he lets on. Rukia was about to ask for an explanation but his eyes were no longer on hers.

"Urahara Kisuke. I don't remember inviting you," came the baritone voice.

"Ah, Kuchiki, ever the paragon of genteelness." The older man's grin widened ever so slightly at the way Byakuya was pointedly looking at his limbs that were still wrapped around Rukia.

"Rukia, come."

Reluctantly, Rukia freed herself from Urahara's hold. And followed Byakuya towards the table reserved for the main branch of the family.

"Possessive ain't he?" Shihouin Yoruichi commented as she sidled next to the former Captain. Urahara opened his fan and laughed behind it.

.

.

Upon arrival at the table, Rukia was surprised to observe that the woman Byakuya arrived with was not seated with them. She secretly gave a sigh of relief at the thought that she need not deal with his fiancée yet.

The festivities went well into midnight. During the meal, Rukia kept stealing furtive glances at Byakuya, unable to keep her eyes away from his radiant face; her curiosity as to the absence of his fiancée at their table mixed with her admiration of him. The Kuchiki Lord was silent as customary; simply nodding and commenting from time to time to whatever the Elders were saying. But he seemed more relaxed than usual. More than once he caught her looking his way and the corner of his lips would move in a way that was only noticeable to her. And then she would look down and blush and then he would make small talk to her or include her in whatever he and the elders were discussing. Petty moments but they meant a lot to Rukia for it meant that in some way, she was a part of his world.

"Kuchiki Byakuya-sama, it's near midnight," a servant announced to them. "Please do the honors."

It had been a family tradition among the Kuchiki that the Head of the Family light up the first firework that will adorn the New Year sky to symbolize his leadership and glory as well as his promise to take good care of the clan. A ritual which the Lady of the House would usually assist him with. And the Elders hope that this would be the last time that Byakuya would be alone in lighting up the sparklers.

Byakuya stood up and the Elders followed suit. Byakuya instructed them to go on ahead of him with the wave of his hand as soon as they were out of earshot, he turned to Rukia.

"Rukia," he said; as if imploring, his grey eyes bore deeply into hers, "please wait for me there, beneath that tree near the edge of the hill."

Unable to find her voice, Rukia simply nodded. She expected him to turn away at once but he lingered a moment longer. Misty grey orbs searched her ethereal violet ones. And when he seemed satisfied did he only leave to perform his last familial duty as bachelor.

.

.

Blues. Reds. Puple. And Gold.

In traditional patterns and shell-like patterns. In butterfly-shapes and fan-like shapes.

The impressive light shows first graced the sky atop the Kuchiki grounds and as if choreographed, Seiretei and the rest of Soul Society followed suit in a breathtaking display of dazzling light and booming sounds.

The small crowd that gathered there cheered at the night show as they greeted each other a happy new year.

But his eyes nor ears were not on them. But on the woman beneath the sakura tree, in whose eyes the entire sky was reflected.

"Beautiful…"

"Nii-sama." Rukia's voice called him out of his musings.

.

.

"Beautiful…"

Rukia thought she heard a voice and when she turned to the direction where it came from, her view was greeted by Byakuya making his way towards her. "Nii-sama."

"Happy New Year Rukia."

"Happy New Year Nii-sama. The Elders outdid themselves this time." She commented, her gaze returning to the sky.

"Indeed."

Silence.

"Nii-sama mentioned that he will present his bride to the clan tonight," Rukia added shyly. When he did not comment, the small woman turned her full attention to the Kuchiki Lord.

And then blushed when she found that he was again looking at her in that intense half-lidded way of his.

"That is true."

Rukia bit her lip and looked down. "Oh why did I have to bring it up? But I have to know..at least know who I will lose him to…to make sure…that he'd be happy."

"Th-then, then w-where…" Byakuya reached out and gently cupped her chin to make her look at him.

Rukia inhaled sharply upon realizing how near he was. Enough for him perhaps to feel her raging pulse. She wanted to run away. Run away and hide but how can she tear her gaze away from his eyes that were silently imploring her…for what? And at the same time communicating…tenderness?

The confused girl gulped to gather her courage and wits.

"Follow your heart; like you always do."

It was all too much. He was all too much. And her tears were threatening to fall.

"Your fiancée Nii-sama." Her eyes darted to his lips that would never be hers. "I want to meet her. Where is she?"

"What are you talking about?" Byakuya's other arm wound around her waist. Rukia's eyes widened at his action and it flew to his misty orbs in askance. But his eyes were now intent on her lips. "My future bride…" he inched closer, "is right here. With me."

And with that he closed the distance between them and captured Rukia's lips in a heated kiss. The last of the fireworks display blessing them in their union.

Her shock was only initial. But when Rukia realized the meaning of Byakuya's words, she responded to his kisses with the same ardor and emotion. As if the floodgates that held back all those years of longing within both souls were opened and then washed away by the moment's bliss.

A few minutes into the kiss, the couple heard the clapping of hands and when Rukia broke away, she found the Kuchiki elders and the Vice-Captains and some members of the lower houses joining together in cheering them from some distance away.

Unperturbed by the audience, Byakuya cupped her face in both palms, his forehead pressed against hers. "I have longed to tell you. Marry me Rukia." Byakuya whispers, his voice steady yet a little rough with emotion.

"Don't I get any say in this?"

Somewhere from the crowd Yoruichi shouted, "Just say 'yes'! Dammit!" to which some laughed.

Rukia searched Byakuya's eyes. They were clear and bright and so full of tenderness and promise for the future. In her mind she had turned back to all those times that he had saved her life, protected her. Laughing with her, reprimanding her. Loving her. It was now clear to her. And even if he had chosen somebody else, she would do everything to ensure his happiness. But he chose her. Rukia grinned, her heart felt very light.

"Yes, I will marry you Kuchiki Byakuya."

As thus, their engagement was announced right there and then and all would agree that none had ever seen Byakuya or Rukia happier than before.

THE END


A/N: And it's a wrap! Whoohooo! Just in time for Chinese New Year too, hee. To be honest, I'm not satisfied with ending. I've tweaked it, polished it but that's that. I did my best. I was never good at happy-endings anyway; I lean towards tragedy, lolz! That's why this one-shot was such a challenge. And it was my first time to write ByaRuki too!

Please tell me what you think okay. Again, constructive criticisms are welcome and flames would be used for making smores.

Kung hei fat choi!