The Other Side
Summary: The Elders had tried to make Rukia into a noble lady once, when she was first adopted.
I don't own Bleach, any of the canon characters, settings or situations. Don't sue.
A/N: Edited 13.3.11

Courtiers gathered in the gardens of the Kuchiki estate, brilliant butterflies in exquisite robes, haughty and effortlessly superior. Rukia watched from the porch; Byakuya nii-sama stood beside her, dressed not in his white haori but in black silk embroidered with the Kuchiki mon. He had called a gathering and the entire Clan had come, even those who resented him.

"They are very beautiful," she said wistfully. Her eyes were drawn to a glorious noble lady, swathed in heavy layers of embroidered silk, her hair a shining fall of straight black.

"Kuchiki Haruko," her brother said, "Takezo's daughter." Then, cautiously, "If you wish it, the tailors could –"

She snorted. "You know I don't care for such things, nii-sama."

The Elders had tried to make Rukia into a noble lady once, when she was first adopted. It had taken all her failing courage to insist on the Gotei 13, but Byakuya nii-sama had supported her.

The object of their scrutiny, aloof and beautiful, turned towards them as though she knew she was being discussed. Her porcelain face was unreadable; she looked at Rukia in her comfortable kimono, her powerful brother beside her, and turned away.

"Haruko had enough to reiatsu to be admitted to the Academy," her brother said, in his quiet, enigmatic way. "Did you know?"

Her eyes widened. But before she could ask any further questions, a resonant gong sounded from within the residence, a five-minute warning before the beginning of the audience. The mingling knots of courtiers stirred and broke apart.

Before turning to head inside, Byakuya nii-sama had one last word. "You wished to become a Shinigami," he said. "The Elders and the Clan may say what they please; you are my sister."

And then, as if embarrassed by such uncharacteristic vehemence, he swept away. Rukia watched him go, wondering.