MERRY CHRISTMAS, GUYS!
Okay, so here it is! Final chapter! Eeeeeeee! If anybody artistic fancies drawing/ producing a front cover image for this book, let me know! But first off, thanks for sticking with me for so long! It means a lot! (Oh and please forgive my flaws…)
The silence in the air was almost palpable.
Sneaking a sideways glance at Rukia, Ichigo noticed she appeared reserved, keeping her eyes fixed on her brother and her thoughts to herself. Byakuya, although the emotion in his expression was highly limited, Ichigo could tell he was awaiting their reaction with minimal anticipation – which in his case, was a lot.
Ichigo, of course, was the first to break it. Folding his arms tightly, he raised his eyebrows, "Listen, man, I'm appreciative of the fact you chose to share that with us, but there are a couple of things I don't get."
Byakuya inclined his head, willing Ichigo to continue.
"Well," He obliged, leaning forwards slightly, "The thing I'm having most difficulty understanding is what your story has to do with us."
Taking a measured breath, the noble Kuchiki explained, "I recounted my story in order for you to be able to realise that I have empathy with your situation. Except, in this case, I was my Grandfather, and you are Hisana and myself."
"Okay, fair enough." Ichigo responded, "But, if you really had empathy, you wouldn't have put us through that in the first place."
Byakuya bowed his head and focused his eyes on the table before him, "I know. It takes a great deal for me to apologise, and this is hard for me, but I understand that what I put you through was so much harder. Rukia..." His voice lowered to almost a whisper, "...You remind me so much of her... I couldn't let you go. Not when you meant so much to her. I was scared that I would have broken my promise to her if you'd have got hurt. I admit that I had difficulty when you were with Renji, but I'm not going to lie... he is a little more controlled than Ichigo. I couldn't face letting you go to someone who is more powerful than me because if you ever did get hurt, I would have an issue getting satisfactory revenge."
"I think what you're trying to say is that you're sorry. Let's not beat about the bush, Byakuya." Ichigo tossed his orange hair from his eyes and began drumming his fingers against his thigh, irritably. He couldn't be bothered to argue anymore. He just needed to get this out the way of. He had something very important to do that evening.
Very important, indeed.
Rukia, who hadn't said a word, exhaled slightly and Ichigo knew she was becoming more and more uncomfortable.
"Fine." His gaze landed on his sister for a moment before he bowed his head, "Rukia, Ichigo, I'm sorry."
Then, breaking the tense silence that followed, Rukia nodded and opened her mouth to speak, "Ichigo, it's time for us to go."
"Yeah, yeah, you go on ahead. I just gotta quickly speak to Byakuya about some stuff first." He muttered, scratching the back of his neck, and not even bothering to look at either of them. He could feel Rukia's suspicious eyes burning a gaping hole into the side of his cheek, and he just shrugged, nonchalantly.
"Okay, well, I guess I'll meet you later…" She replied, meaningfully, slowly standing up to leave.
Ichigo nodded and waited until the door had closed behind him before he poised himself for a moment, "Okay, first things first…" He snapped his fist backwards before lunging forwards and punching Byakuya square in the jaw, "That is for being an asshole."
A little too surprised to even react openly, Byakuya just blinked as a slow, purple bruise blossomed on his jaw.
After a moment, he inclined his head, "Is that everything?"
Pushing his shoulders back, satisfied, Ichigo shook his head, "Nope. Sorry, I've needed to do that for a long time now. Okay… right… so… I haven't really told anybody about this, and I don't even know if I'm making the right choice in asking you this, considering I don't even like you and you don't like me either. But Rukia… she still respects you even after everything. I know she still holds you in the highest regards and none of this would be the same for her unless I had your permission or whatever." He began to ramble, "It's not like it'll be any time soon; it's just sort of… you know… Kind of something I want to keep quiet until we're both ready. But it's respectable and gives her a little bit of the class you stripped from her–"
"–To the point, Kurosaki." Byakuya interrupted, sighing and brushing his fingers across his jaw. That was going to be painful tomorrow…
"Okay… here's the deal, man, I'm going to do this with or without your permission, but it would mean more to her if you consented. You don't even need to approve or… or anything, really. Just… I don't even know what I'm saying right now, as this is all very alien to me – but, yes. To the point. Byakuya, I'm going to ask your sister to marry me." He took a deep breath and relaxed his frame, slightly slouching forwards.
Byakuya's expression remained straight and inexpressive.
"Well? Do I get your consent, or what?" Ichigo asked, a little irritably.
Then, to his utmost surprise, a small smile spread across the noble's lips and he gave a short laugh, "You really just asked me my permission?"
Blinking a little in shock, Ichigo nodded, "Yeah, I… I guess so. What's so funny?"
"I know that no matter what I say, you will still go ahead and ask her, but… I just wasn't expecting you to ask me after everything I put you through."
"Just answer me, dammit." Ichigo pressed, grinding his teeth at Byakuya.
Shaking his head, still smiling a little, Captain Kuchiki replied, "Of course you may have my permission – and my blessing; though not that you want that either."
Standing up, hurriedly, Ichigo held out a hand, "No, your consent was fine – but I'm sure Rukia will be… slightly pleased to hear the last part. Okay, now before my brain implodes with severe awkwardness, I'll be leaving…"
Byakuya bowed his head and watched Ichigo sprint from his office, his ears burning as bright as his hair.
The late night sky cloaked Seretei completely in darkness, yet Rukia did not feel tired. She was waiting up for her boyfriend to return, standing on the balcony. Suddenly, she realised that he might not actually have a clue where she was.
But, he wasn't an idiot; he'd find her.
At least he wasn't an idiot all the time…
Catching herself smiling fondly, Rukia rolled her eyes as the breeze danced through her raven hair.
She had a good idea why she felt so serene that night; it was likely because after so much stress, conflict and confusion, things were finally beginning to settle into place. Maybe they could even get their old squad back and start building up their life again.
Maybe Byakuya would even let them live together in the mansion.
…Or maybe she was being a little unrealistic there.
He'd probably get Ichigo a house of his own, eventually. He wasn't the kind of guy who agreed with living together before marriage.
In that case, they'd probably never live together… Rukia gave a small laugh at the thought of Ichigo actually proposing. Not that she wouldn't mind getting married – in fact, she loved the idea of having a husband, except… Ichigo probably wasn't too keen. He was a young man, after all…
Why were all these thoughts coming into her head now, though?
Not that you haven't thought about it before...
Well, perhaps similar thoughts had entered into her mind a couple of times before. But she was a female – it was only natural.
"Kinda warm out tonight, don't you think?"
Rukia's smile stayed comfortably in place and she turned to see the man himself leaning against her door post, sending her a crooked grin.
"Hey, I was beginning to think you got lost." Resting her back against the railings, she folded her arms, "What did you talk to Byakuya about?" She asked, feeling that rush of emotions she often experienced when Ichigo was near.
Pushing back from the doorway, Ichigo headed towards Rukia and placed his hands on her hips, "Walk with me?"
Immediately, her expression turned suspicious, and she slid her hands up to rest on his chest, "You didn't tell him I'm pregnant again, did you?"
"Oh, no… hell no." Tilting his head forwards, he kissed her cheek and leapt off the balcony, holding her against his side. After flash-stepping his way to the ground, he set Rukia down beside him and took her hand in his, "Well, there's something I ought to tell you… or well, I want to tell you, in fact…"
Smirking a little, she raised an eyebrow, "You're pregnant too, aren't you?"
"Dammit, how did you guess?" He returned, sighing in defeat.
With her free hand, she teasingly patted his stomach, "I think you're starting to show."
He laughed, lightly, "Ouch. That burned."
"I'm sorry…" She smirked, not sounding the least bit apologetic, "But go on, you were saying."
"Ah, yes…" Ichigo began, not sure if he had the courage to speak or not. Picking up the pace, just as a method to distract himself, he stared in anticipation at the ground, "Okay… Well, I just hung behind to have a very quick chat with your bro… and stuff… just to make sure he's cool with it and he is… he's totally fine about it all… I mean… I know maybe I should have spoken to you about it first but I hope I only do this once and dammit, Rukia – I will make sure it's done properly!" He stopped walking, and turned to face her, taking both her hands in his.
"Ichigo, what on Earth are you talking about?" She asked, creasing her eyebrows, "What did–"
"–I'll explain in a minute." He told her, glancing to the side, collecting himself. Exhaling deeply, he shifted his gaze to her eyes.
That was all he needed.
He knew this was what he wanted; waking up every morning to see those eyes.
Once he'd allowed himself to picture this inviting image of being bonded to Rukia for eternity, he knew he was ready.
Swallowing, he crouched down on one knee, keeping his eyes fixed on hers.
She waited for him – though he had no idea that frantic thoughts were currently powering through her mind.
What – why was he kneeling down?
Surely, he wasn't planning on… He wouldn't do that, would he?
"Rukia Kuchiki…" He began, his voice softer than a sigh.
Well, maybe he was – she'd been wrong before…
"We don't have to decide when or how right away, because none of that matters at this moment. All that matters is you… and me. So… What I'm really trying to say is…" He broke away for a moment, cursing under his breath, "…Sorry, I'm not very good at this…" Nervously, he swallowed again, "It's just you're the most amazing… being I have ever met and I would be nothing without you. Look, I want to be with you forever, so… Rukia Kuchiki, will you do me the pronour – I mean, the hivilege – no, wait… Rukia, will you… do me the honour and the privilege of becoming my wife?" He released a breath of relief and let one of her hands go as he delved into his pocket, pulling out a small box, slightly clumsily.
In the box was his mother's ring.
Before they left, Isshin had slipped the box into Ichigo's pocket unbeknownst to the young man. However, upon discovering it, he knew that it was what he wanted.
He wanted to see that ring on Rukia's finger.
But he hesitated, the fear and doubt suddenly creeping into his mind.
What if after all this time she didn't want him?
What if he had spoken too soon?
What if – "It's beautiful, Ichigo." She told him, earnestly, hardly daring to touch it, "And of course. I would love to have the pronour and hivilege of becoming your wife." She spoke, her deep violet eyes shimmering slightly with tears of (what Ichigo hoped to be) happiness. But judging by the wide beam on her lips, she was pretty damn happy.
"Really?" He asked, in slight disbelief.
She tilted her head to one side, "No. I was just joking."
Ichigo's face fell, "Right… I guess that's fair enough. I mean–"
"– Of course I will, you dummy!" She pulled him to his feet and slid her dainty hands along his powerful arms and clutched onto his robes.
He laughed, a slightly exhilarated or bordering on hysteria laugh, but a laugh none the same and returned her embrace, dazedly, "Do you want to try the ring on?" He asked, "It was my mother's, but it's been resized for you."
(At least that's what his father had told him in the note he'd left in the box)...
She nodded, and pulled her left hand away, holding it cautiously out to Ichigo, her eyes still brimming with tears.
He gently took the ring out of the box and slid it gently onto her fourth finger.
It couldn't have looked more perfect on anybody else's finger.
Her breath caught in her throat, "Ichigo… It's… It's beautiful."
The white gold was woven with intricate patterns and designs; sitting deftly in the band was a petite, delicate amethyst.
Ichigo loved it because it was precisely the same colour as Rukia's eyes when she was happy.
He'd done it.
Maybe a little messily, but he'd still done it and he was damn proud of himself!
"Do you have a ring?" She asked, to which he shrugged, "Not yet. But I guess it's no hurry, right? I'll just get one next time we go to Earth."
"Don't be ridiculous. I'm going to get you one and it will be of my choosing."
"–Sh. I don't care if you don't like it or not. You will wear it because I chose it for you." She muttered, in a failed attempt to be stern.
Ichigo sighed, "Well, if you choose it, I'm sure I'll love it."
Placing a kiss on his chest, Rukia murmured, "Of course you will. Oh… and did you really ask Byakuya's permission?"
He nodded, resting his chin on her head, "Yes."
"How did you get out alive?" She teased, feeling the joy and elation still rising in her body.
She and Ichigo were to be married.
She didn't know when and she wasn't too bothered – but the fact that they were going to be was all that mattered in that moment.
"I ran, screaming." He answered, softly, "But you know… I punched him first… so maybe he was scared to say no. Except, he also said that he knew we probably wouldn't want it, but not only does he give his consent, but also his blessing."
Rukia stilled. Fair enough, she was still angry at her brother, but she could see from what Ichigo – her new fiancé – had told her, that he truly was repentant. Even if it would take time, she would find it in her heart to fully forgive him – because nothing else mattered anymore. She had Ichigo back in her arms and she didn't want anything else.
"Rukia…?" Ichigo murmured, leaning down to press his lips to her head.
"Yes, Ichigo?" She asked, her eyes closing.
He took a deep breath and asked, quietly, "Are you… happy?"
Lifting her head up to look at him, she partially closed her eyes, a gentle smile forming on her lips, "Yes, Ichigo. I have never been happier." She told him, honestly.
Cupping the back of her neck with his hand, he angled his lips towards hers, hovering them only millimetres apart. Just as he was about to close the distance, he murmured, "You know… I'd really, really hate to ruin your happiness right now… but this opportunity is far too good to miss."
Rukia could only find the time to open her mouth in question before she felt herself being pushed backwards and her entire body being consumed by a moderately cold, wet substance.
Treading the water to keep her head above the surface, Rukia could see through her wet tresses of black hair a retreating figure, which happened to be releasing manic laughs as it disappeared into the distance.
Splashing angrily about in the pool in an attempt to climb out, but through her seething rage, she could not see where she was heading.
Although, eventually, once she'd hoisted herself up onto the bank, shaking the clear water from her shivering frame, she yelled, shrilly, "I-ICHIGO KUROSAKI! YOU A-ARE IN – SO – MUCH – TROUBLE! I THINK YOU'RE FORGETTING THAT I'M PREGNANT, YOU ORANGE-HEADED… IMBECILE!" Narrowing her furious eyes, she sped off after her idiot husband-to-be, the adrenalin powering through her entire body.
"What was that? Could you please just say that a little bit louder? I don't think the citizens of Rukongai quite heard you!"
"ICHIGO! YOU JUST WAIT UNTIL I GET MY HANDS ON YOU – YOU ARE SO DEAD! AND I AM SO – VERY – WET!" She could feel herself gaining on him, but he quickly changed direction, suddenly feeling very much like her prey.
…Which is exactly what he deserved to be right then.
"Well, I always said I was good at getting you wet!" He returned, his wicked laughter echoing through the gardens.
Oh, he was so, so dead.
"WHAT?! YOU GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW! I AM GOING TO MURDER YOU!"
He didn't doubt it.
And neither did Byakuya…
He was surveying the scene from his balcony, raising his eyebrows at the exchange between the couple.
So, Rukia was pregnant again, hm?
Well… that was… interesting news.
But the real question to ask was… would Ichigo even still be alive for this oh-so-joyous day?
Only time could answer that, he concluded.
…Only Rukia could.
AHHHH! It's finished!
Sorry it was only a relatively short chapter – but hey; better than none at all (I hope).
Thank you, thank you, thank you all so much for being there for me and supporting this story – it wouldn't have made it this far without you guys!
So, look out for the sequel which I will upload when I get writing it – please leave me your thoughts, views and ideas on whatever you want :D
The sequel will be called (and this is a total spoiler, but never mind) The Girl With The White Mask. For those of you following me, you'll be notified when it is published.
Also, I've uploaded the first chapter of the story I mentioned in my last chapter and I would really appreciate it if you guys took the time to give it a quick read, and a little review! It's called Trying Not To Love You (Kind of nicked the title from Nickelback's song because I love it…)
But anyway, please review my darlings!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!