"Rukia-chan?" Isshin gasped, pulling Rukia into the house along with Ichigo, who was still unconscious. After getting slapped by Orihime earlier, Rukia felt she should at least take Ichigo home herself. Rukia laughed nervously, seeing tears of joy streaming down Isshin's face. "Whatever my idiot son did, I'll apologize on his behalf-"
"No, that's fine," Rukia spoke quickly. The one who had to apologize was her, honestly. "Coincidentally, I bumped into Ichigo earlier. He seemed to be..." She glanced at Ichigo, who was asleep on the floor with his butt in the high in the air. Rukia laughed a little. Too bad she wouldn't be around to make fun of him; she sighed.
Isshin's tears returned. "S-So you're not getting back together?" He held a handkerchief to his eyes. Rukia stammered. "It wasn't coincidence - it was fate!"
Rukia wondered what fate meant. Was it her destiny to be with Ichigo? If so, why was it so hard to find happiness with him? "The reason Ichigo is like this is because of me; it's my fault and I'm sorry." Sorry seemed to be the only word she knew how to say now, though, it was the only word she couldn't bring herself to say to Ichigo.
Isshin sighed, knowing he couldn't change Rukia's mind. He threw Ichigo over his shoulder like a potato sack. "Well, I wouldn't want to waste your time any further. Despite how things turned out, I'm glad Ichigo met you."
Rukia looked at Ichigo one last time, feeling calm whenever she'd spot his spiky orange hair. Would this really be her last time seeing him, she thought? This farewell seemed so bitter. It was at that moment, for some odd reason, that something finally clicked. Seeing Ichigo's family, remembering the rainy days she and Ichigo spent together, and just thinking that she could be happy - her home was here.
Rukia realized that if she left now and married some other man, she would only look back to this day and ask herself, 'why'? "I'm glad I met Ichigo too," Rukia replied. "Kurosaki-san, I'll definitely return and make things right again, but I must do something first."
Isshin was a little surprised at Rukia's sudden determination. "Okay then," he nodded, "you do what you have to do. Ichigo will be right here when you come back; trust me, he's not going anywhere with the hangover he's going to have in the morning," he laughed barbarically.
Rukia smiled, "I won't keep him waiting."
The Kuchiki Household
Rukia held her head low, waiting for Byakuya's response. She dared to look up, flinching when she saw his cold gaze. No, she wouldn't look away. She had to do this now; it was now or never. Byakuya glowered, yet he still remained calm. Even so, Rukia could tell he was not pleased. "I said... I'm not going to settle with an arranged marriage."
Never would Byakuya dream that his adopted sister would go against his wishes. Not even a wrinkle was shown on his face. It was like he was so confident that Rukia would back down soon that he didn't even need to bother taking her seriously. He waited, just letting the silence scare her. A minute passed and he was still waiting. Finally, he looked up to see her still there. "You're indebted to the Kuchiki family. Are you still bold enough to refute me?"
Rukia bit her bottom lip. Indeed, she owed her life to Byakuya. If he hadn't picked up her off the streets, she would probably be living under a bridge right now. "Please, nii-sama," she begged persistently, "all my life I've made choices that would please you to just get you to acknowledge me. For once, I want to be selfish and do something for myself." Rukia placed her hands on the floor and bowed, "I'm not a dependent little girl anymore. If you want to throw me out of the Kuchiki family, then so be it."
Truthfully, Rukia was praying that there would be a slight chance that Byakuya would let her have a free will and still be able to be a Kuchiki. Being Byakuya's sister wasn't just a burden that was placed on her. He was her first real family - to lose him would be as equally devastating as losing Ichigo. Despite the fact that she and Byakuya aren't close, there was still something that tied them together.
Rukia frowned, seeing Byakuya stand up and walk towards the exit. He stopped momentarily, looking over his shoulder and to her. "You remind me of myself..." he murmured, probably not intending for her to hear. "Follow me," he gestured her over.
Rukia hesitated, unsure what Byakuya was up to, but followed after him anyway. They both crossed the garden and to another part of the mansion that Rukia had never been to before. Of course, there were many places here that Rukia was never able to explore because she was either forbidden to or she didn't have enough time to search the entire place. Afterall, the place was huge.
After walking around corners and entering new territory, they came to a stop. Without explaining, Byakuya opened the door which lead to a partially empty room. The only thing that was there was a table that was decorated with vases of flowers, candles, and a single portrait. "Nii-sama," Rukia took a step back, feeling like she was intruding.
"Do you know who she is?" Byakuya asked, referring to the woman in the photo.
Of course Rukia knew who it was. The woman was young and beautiful. Her eyes were soft and gentle, much like the delicate sakura petals. "Lady Hisana, she is..." For once, she witnessed a different side to Byakuya. He stared for a long time at the portrait, adoring his late wife. His yearning eyes softened as he turned to Rukia.
"My late wife... and also your biological sister." Rukia's eyes lit with surprise. Before she could ask, Byakuya continued, "She abandoned you when you were an infant, but never stopped looking for you. Hisana loved you more than anything in the world." He turned back to the portrait, lost in thought.
Tons of questions raced through Rukia's mind, but she couldn't find a single thing to say.
"When I decided to marry her into the Kuchiki family, I broke the rules. I swore I'd never break another rule to my family, and then I found you. Hisana wanted me to find you; it was her last wish. When I adopted you as my sister, I broke the rules again."
Rukia blinked stupidly. "I-I'm sorry," she said awkwardly.
Byakuya scoffed. "You're a Kuchiki now; do as you wish. If you want to break the rules too, then that's on you."
Rukia gaped, gawking at Byakuya. Was he really giving her consent? Despite the way he phrased it, she could tell that he was fine with whatever choice she made. It was his own way of showing that he cared. "Thank you, nii-sama... but before I make a choice, I want to know from the man whose footsteps I may experience soon. Did you have any regrets?"
"Marrying Hisana and adopting you into the family were one of the prouder decisions I made in life."
"Oh my god..." Ichigo groaned, pushing his palms against his eyes, rubbing them to somehow get the headache in his head to go away. Beneath him, he could feel the warmth of his bed and sheets. "I shouldn't have that last drink," he rolled to his side, wincing even more when it felt like his brain was being stabbed with heated needles. Ichigo's eyes slit open halfway. He saw a familiar figure sitting beside him. "And now I'm hallucinating," he deadpanned, seeing Rukia.
Rukia sat in Ichigo's rolling chair with her arms crossed. Her brows were slightly raised in worry and her lips were pulled down so that she was frowning.
"Are you happy? The reason why I'm like this is because of you," Ichigo accused, glaring at Rukia's 'doppelganger.' Her eyes only seemed to narrow. "I almost slept with this chick last night, but unfortunately I just couldn't get in the mood; she called me gay for not being able to get it up," Ichigo laughed, pointing to his groin.
"I'm sorry," Rukia apologized.
Ichigo blinked stupidly. He reached out with one hand, tapping Rukia's thigh with his finger. "Y-... You're real?" His eyes widened as he scrambled to explain himself. "I- You- ah..." He scratched his head, blushing with embarrassment. Goddamn. He didn't want her to think he was useless without her, but now that he just practically admitted it... "What are you doing here?"
"I promised I'd be back, didn't I?" Ichigo blinked stupidly, remembering the promise Rukia made to him when it was snowing the night she left with Byakuya. "Sorry, I'm a little late." Her lips curved into a regretful smile. She was embarrassed to be here like this. She hurt him so much and here she was just waltzing back into Ichigo's life.
"You're here... to stay?" Ichigo asked, just waiting for this wonderful dream to collapse any second now.
Rukia nodded, "That is... if you haven't changed your mind."
Ichigo narrowed his eyes, still holding a grudge. He held his nose in the air and crossed his arms, "Only if you have a satisfying apology speech to deliver."
Rukia glared, already knowing that this was coming. "Okay, I'll make this quick and easy." She stood up from her chair; Ichigo widened his eyes when she got on her knee.
"Y-You don't have to beg-"
"I'm not begging," Rukia replied cooly. She reached into her pocket, pulling out a small black box. Carefully, she opened it, revealing two matching rings, "Will you marry me, Ichigo?"
There was a long silence before Ichigo barked out in a slow laugh. He waved his finger, "A proposal? This has got to be the first. You really are going to extremes to seek my forgiveness, aren't you?" Rukia didn't laugh. "A-... Are you serious?"
Rukia blushed, looking away shyly. "Do you still recall the day we first met? You were sitting outside in the rain and I came up to you with an absurd request for you to help me find love and in return, I'd give you a home."
Ichigo chuckled, remembering the details clearly. "How could I forget? The lonely businesswoman asking me, a stray dog, to help her... how classic."
Rukia laughed along. "Little did I know though that the love I was searching for would be you. And I never gave you a home; you gave me one. Because of you, I finally have a place to come home to." Rukia held the rings higher, "I can't say this in a romantic way, but I love you. So please... marry me." Ichigo grabbed Rukia by the waist, helping her to her feet. "Ichigo..." He swiftly pulled her into a deep kiss, colliding against her. In the kiss, it was almost as if she was begging him, begging him to forgive her.
Finally, the kiss ended. Rukia looked into his eyes, "Say something, anything..."
Ichigo grinned, "So that nonexistent girl still exists... and I'm still madly in love with her." He leaned in, kissing Rukia again.
A/N: And so our journey ends here :')
Sorry if it seemed abrupt, but I decided that the angst needed to die out and so I added lots-ah love in here, because we all know that love is the cure to anything :)
And I do apologize, but there will not be an epilogue because lord knows I suck at writing them.
Again, thanks so much for everyone who has read my story from beginning to end. And as promised, the happy ending was reached!