A/N: This thought came to me last night in bed. I had to write it down! –winks- Yeah.
Disclaimer: disclaimed, not, claiming, nope, nada, zip, zilch, zero, uh uh, no, Hey guess what? I'm gonna be single this year on Valentine's day. Cause I'm an unattractive nerd. Sob.
It was late. Byakuya was just finishing his document when the door slid open. He looked up, about the reprimand the person for not knocking, when he saw who it was.
"Enter, Rukia," he said softly. She bowed deeply and then got up from her kneeling position on the floor, closing the door behind her.
"I wanted to ask your permission on something, nii-sama," she began, her eyes down at the floor level. She drew a deep breath, seeming to gather up her resolve. "I...I want to get my hair cut," she blurted.
Shock passed fleetingly across Byakuya's face. "What?" he breathed.
Rukia gulped. "Um...I can come back in the morning, if you desire," she murmured.
"Yes, please," Byakuya said firmly, watching his wife's sister's cheeks flame with embarrassment as she quickly bowed and then left the room.
Dazed, Byakuya finished his document and then took care of his materials for the night. He locked the office with shaking fingers and then all but fled the building, shunpo'ing straight home to his room.
Lying in bed, he stared up at the ceiling, his mind spinning. Why had this simple question affected him so? His sister just wanted to get her hair cut. It was not a big deal. Just a snip of shiny scissors and it would be - but no, he didn't even know how short she wanted it. Maybe she just wanted a trim? But if she did, why would she have asked permission?
What was holding him back from saying yes to her immediately?
He closed his eyes. The answer came to him immediately; a beautiful image dancing on the backs of his eyelids. Slender arms raised, wise indigo eyes betraying a deep inner sadness - her hair danced at her shoulders, each lock shiny and dark, splaying out from her neck like a blossom.
If Rukia cut her hair, she would no longer exactly resemble Hisana. And if she didn't resemble Hisana, there was a possibility of him forgetting her face.
No! Of course not. Byakuya would never forget the face of his beloved Hisana - even now, fifty one years later, her features were still as clear in his mind as if she was still slumbering on the pillow beside him even now. Was this due to Rukia's face, refining the details on his memories? Could that be true? Was it even possible for him to forget the face of the one he had loved so much, and still ached for every day?
He shifted restlessly on his bed, his own long hair free and loose with the kenseikan over on his bedside table. He himself had always had long hair: it had never crossed his mind to cut it. Ever since he was a child, his hair had extended past his shoulders. Was it time for him to get a change, too?...Perhaps.
Exhaustion overtook him; he pushed the thoughts of hair from his mind and slept.
Byakuya woke the next morning with resolve in his mind and hope in his heart. He quickly got ready for the day, but instead of going to the office, he instead headed for the squad 13 barracks where he knew his sister would already be up and about, busy with her lieutenant duties under the infirm captain.
"Lieutenant Kuchiki?" he inquired, knocking on the door to her office. He slid it open and bowed.
"Not now, I'm - oh! Nii-sama! I am - I am honored by your presence, sir! What can I do to help you?"
"You can come with me, Lieutenant. I am in need of you. Please, allow me to lead the way."
Obviously puzzled, Rukia stood, biting her lip. "Shall I inform my captain that I have left with you, Nii-sama?"
"Of course. Your captain should always know your whereabouts," Byakuya answered smoothly.
As Rukia went to tell her captain about her absence, Byakuya allowed the corner muscle in his mouth twitch upward in slight amusement - the closest he'd allow himself to get to a smile in public.
Forgive me, Hisana.
He led Rukia out of the door, back to his manor. With strong, confident footsteps he took her to the office of the Kuchiki hairdresser, who did have much to do with the women of the clan, but rarely saw either Byakuya or Rukia.
When Byakuya entered, the hairdresser stood and bowed deeply. "Lord Byakuya," he said to the floor. "How can I serve you today?"
"The two of us would like haircuts," Byakuya said to the man. Rukia turned in shock.
Byakuya closed his eyes. What would Hisana say?
Why was he asking? He knew what she would say. She would put her hand on his shoulder and whisper, Do it. It's for the better.
Byakuya opened his eyes. Somehow, his hand had gotten on his own shoulder, crossing his chest. He let it fall.
"Rukia is first," he told the man. Rukia's eyes sparkled with pleasure.
"Thank you, Nii-sama," she said.
Byakuya watched her sit and talk with the hairdresser, who looked happy that he'd gotten such a willful customer. He stood gracefully in the office, thinking with a smile in his eyes. Hisana would be happy. Rukia would be happy. He would be - no, best not to go there. All he knew now was that he had been foolish before. He would never forget Hisana's face. And if he did, then that was what she had willed.
He felt the whisper of a caress on his shoulder, a breath in his ear. He turned his head.