I Won't Say I Love You
(Heehee! Now that it's official that Ichigo is a Shiba, I just wanted to toss this little gem out. Poor Ichigo and Byakuya! But lucky us. This will be a very fun ride...lol! Enjoy the story!)
Chapter 1: The Choosing
"I can't believe that you made me go to this thing, old man!" Ichigo objected, tugging uncomfortably at the sleeve of the lovely, red and black formal kimono he wore, "Most of the people here are freaking ancient! And why in the hell can't I just wear a shihakushou? This thing itches like crazy!"
"Eh, you'll get used to that," Shiba Isshin laughed, looking around, "And look, not everyone is old. There are Kuchiki Rukia and Kuchiki Tetsuya with Byakuya-san. They're youngsters like you."
"Well," said Ichigo, crossing his arms and frowning, "technically, even they are hundreds of years older than me."
"Oh, that's just in shinigami years. Don't worry about that. They are equivalently aged. Now, it's time to take a seat. They will be starting soon."
"Great," Ichigo mused sarcastically, "Sooner it starts, the sooner I can go back home and get this annoying thing off."
"Come on, now," Isshin chided him, still smirking, "You're the heir to the leadership of the greatest of the noble clans."
"Huh? I thought that was the Kuchiki clan," Ichigo said, scratching his head.
He yelped as Isshin smacked him on the back of his head.
"Ow! What the hell?"
"The Kuchiki clan did not have as their family member, the person who defeated the ones who rose up against the king. Add to that, the fact that, as you are now officially a member of the Shiba clan and our name has been restored, our clan's total power exceeds theirs."
"You told me it was mostly because they have less babies than our clan tends to," Ichigo reminded him."
"Ah, don't get lost in the details," Isshin said off-handedly, "Point is, we are the greatest of the noble clans and today you are being introduced to the Noble's General Council. You're an adult now, so they'll have to stand up and take notice."
"Hey, is that Renji with Byakuya, Tetsuya and Rukia?" Ichigo asked, squinting, "I didn't know non-nobles were allowed to come to these things."
"They usually aren't," Isshin explained, "but if they are part of the family entourage attending the presentation of a new heir, then for that meeting, it is allowed. That's why there are so many people. Regular meetings only include clan leaders and council heads for each clan."
"That'd still be a lot of people," Ichigo said, shaking his head, "But I still wonder why Renji came. You'd think someone who didn't have to wouldn't bother. It's going to bore the pants off me, I think."
"Well, Renji-san is your friend, ne?"
"So, he's probably here to see you step up and get noticed! Or maybe it's that he and Byakuya-san's pretty cousin, there are going steady...seeing each other...probably riding each other pretty hard if the rumors are right."
"Wh-what?" Ichigo cried, looking alarmed, "I didn't know that Renji was gay! Not that it matters, but I really didn't think he was, you know? He doesn't seem like he would be..."
"I wouldn't have thought so either. And really, I don't get boys getting it on with other boys. Boy haven't got any boobs on them, hardly at all."
"Dad!" Ichigo objected, blushing, "Sheesh! I think I liked it better when you were just my goofy human dad and you were banished! You're such a pervert!"
"Aw, come on, Ichigo, lighten up a little. I was just joking. And actually, those Kuchikis are all damned beautiful, even the males. But they'll choose a girl for you. Maybe you'll get a pretty Kuchiki of your own. Too bad Rukia-chan was adopted..."
"Whoa! Hey, what are you talking about? No one told me I have to get married! I'm not letting a bunch of old farts pick my wife for me! You didn't!"
"Eh, yeah, you're right about that part, but remember, I was also banished, partly for falling in love with your mother."
"I know, but..."
"Come on. They're starting."
Isshin hustled his still objecting son to his seat, joining the full contingent of the Shiba elders.
"Welcome back, Isshin-sama," the head elder greeted him.
"Hey, yourself," Isshin greeted the old man, earning a tolerant smile.
Well, at least the clan I'm in is less snooty than Byakuya's, Ichigo thought, shaking his head, I think I'd run away screaming if I had to put up with crap like that.
He sat down beside his father, trying not to notice just how many of the others there were peering in his direction.
Gods, I hate this. I didn't ask to be their heir, and unlike Byakuya, I didn't grow up expecting something like this. It's all gotten so complicated. This is nuts.
And now I have to get married?
Shit..I'm only eighteen..
"The Noble's General Council will now convene," said a stately old man that Ichigo remembered as Aomori Daisuke, "It is our honor today to present to the council, the newly returned Shiba family. And we are doubly pleased to welcome their new heir, Shiba Ichigo to our ranks."
"Ah, I prefer to be called Kurosaki Ichigo," the young man said, standing.
Daisuke went silent, sending the massive meeting hall into an unnatural silence.
"I understand that I was only given my mom's name because my father had been banished, but that's the name I'm used to...the one I've always gone by. And that is the one that I am keeping...sir."
Isshin yanked Ichigo back into his seat, sweat drops rising on his forehead.
"What are you doing?" he hissed in a whisper, "Sit down and be quiet. You're just here to be introduced and to have a fiancé chosen for you. Don't go off on tangents."
"Hey, I'm not letting them sweep it under the rug that, hero or not, noble heir or not, I am damned proud of who my mom was, and I am not going to let everyone pretend like she didn't matter!"
"Hey," Isshin said reprovingly, "I'm the last one you need to remind about what a great person your mother was, but give me a break here! This is the Noble's General Council!"
"Yeah? Well, to me, they're just a bunch of old farts who want to tell me what to do and who to marry. And I don't want any part of that!"
"Your objection is duly noted," Daisuke said in a stately fashion, "And outside of this place, you may go by whatever name you wish. But here, in the heart of the seat of power of the noble families, you will be called Shiba Ichigo. That is not subject to argument."
"We understand," said Isshin, gripping Ichigo's arm and holding him down in his seat, "Here, he will be referred to as Shiba Ichigo."
"Very well," said Daisuke, "The council welcomes Shiba Ichigo, heir to leadership of the Shiba clan."
At the pronouncement, the nobles gathered in the meeting hall applauded politely, before stopping to allow Daisuke to continue.
"Now that we have welcomed the new heir, it is this council's solemn duty to announce the name of the person chosen to be wed to him."
"Hey, uh, sorry to interrupt," Ichigo said, dodging his father's grabbing hand, "But, you see, I don't want other people playing matchmaker for me. I just turned eighteen and I'm not ready to think about settling down and having babies and all that. I'm not saying that I won't. I'm just saying that I'll do it when I feel ready for that."
"Shiba Ichigo," Daisuke said, frowning down at him, "While this council understands that you are a human and you were not raised here, you were given the choice of whether to accept the mantle of leadership in your father's clan."
"Yeah, well, it really meant something to him for me to do that. I don't know yet what it means to me. I just haven't gotten there yet. But when I do, I will be glad to marry the person the council chooses, I guess. I just don't want to do it now, you know? Surely, you can understand that, right?"
"Shiba Ichigo," Daisuke said sternly, "You are new and still being educated in our ways, so I will forgive your rudeness, and the fact that you continue to resist the will of this council. But remember, young sir, that you did willingly accept this position. And when you did, you agreed to obey this council. That means, accepting the hand of the one who our delegates have decided to be the one most worthy of you."
"Fine...whatever," Ichigo sighed, dropping back into his seat, "I think I have more sympathy for Byakuya now...But wait! How come he got to choose his bride? You didn't marry him off to some girl when he was eighteen! How come I have to...!"
"The council approved a waiver for Kuchiki Byakuya, as there had been upheaval in his family when his parents passed."
"But you let him marry a commoner!"
"Shiba Ichigo, our past decisions and the reasons are matters of council and not up for deliberation! You will cease interrupting now, or we will have you removed from this proceeding and have your father just deliver you the name of your intended!"
"Like it matters," Ichigo muttered under his breath, "I don't have any say over it anyway, so who gives a fuck..."
"Shut up, will you?" his father snapped softly, "Just sit down and be quiet. You are making a mockery of our clan!"
"Says the guy who got them banished!" Ichigo shot back.
"Now then," said Daisuke, "The council has gone to a great deal of trouble to choose a person of good quality from one of the five great clans for you. She has been groomed carefully to take a place at the side of the next noble leader. She comes from my own Aomori clan and..."
"Hold on a second," said Isshin, "Are you talking about Aomori Asa?"
"Yes, actually," answered Daisuke, "Asa is a well mannered and distinguished young lady."
"No way!" objected the Shiba clan leader.
"What are you doing?" Ichigo complained, "They wouldn't let me object. Why do you think they'll listen to you?"
"Shh! I'm a clan leader now. You're just a wannabe clan leader. Shut up and let me do this, okay?"
"Oh, that's the last thing I need is you screwing with who I'm going to marry!"
"Shut up! And sit down. I'll take care of this."
"Shiba Isshin, would you care to make an argument to explain your objection?"
"Yeah, I'll explain," Isshin went on, "Asa might be a sweet thing, but the problem is, the girl's a mouse! And she hasn't got enough up top to keep my boy interested long enough to get to the altar!"
"What? DAD!" Ichigo cried.
"You're not giving my kid a wife that's beneath him. I want you to go back and find someone who is powerful, beautiful and spirited enough to please my son."
"Gomen nasai," Daisuke said, his reiatsu flaring, "Did you refuse my cousin because her breasts are too small?"
"Her breasts are too small, she is a weakling and she isn't really all that smart, you know? But you find me someone like I described and I'll let you marry my boy off like you want, okay?"
He turned back to Ichigo, who was blushing furiously and trying to disappear into his chair.
"There. Now, they'll have to go back to the drawing board and..."
"Shiba Isshin," Daisuke answered, making the clan leader turn in surprise, "The council has already considered an alternative, in case our first choice did not meet with your approval."
"There's no way that you..."
"This person is captain class, is considered a very attractive person, and has proven to be spirited enough to give this council reason to suggest the person as an alternative. And it is a member of the Kuchiki noble family."
Isshin's eyes widened.
"See!" he whispered to Ichigo, "Dear old dad comes through. You didn't want that little mouse anyway. A Kuchiki! Kami, I wonder if it's Kuchiki Kazumi! It must be! She's beautiful, Ichigo. Beautiful, smart, busty and can take the head off an Arrancar, no sweat. You'll love her!"
"You crazy old man!" snapped Ichigo, "I hate you for this. I don't want to get married!"
"Does this person meet with your approval, Shiba Isshin?" asked Daisuke.
"She doesn't meet with mine!" complained Ichigo, "Why don't you just give a little while...a year or two, a few months...a day? Something?"
"The Shiba clan humbly accepts the choice of the council," Isshin said, bowing his head, "Thank you, Daisuke-san. And no offense intended about your cousin."
"Oh, none taken," Daisuke replied, giving Isshin a smile that made a chill go through Ichigo, "As the council has agreed to this match and the Shiba clan leader has happily accepted, I am pleased to announce the engagement of Shiba Ichigo and Kuchiki Byakuya."
Ichigo and Isshin froze, staring at the head councilor as applause broke out all around the room.
"Wh-what?" Ichigo whispered dizzily, "Did...did that guy just say that I...have to marry Byakuya?"
Isshin stared back at Ichigo, at a loss for words.
"Come on!" Ichigo shouted, stepping forward and glowering at the head councilor, "You can't be serious! You think I'm going to marry Byakuya? I mean, I could understand a woman, but Byakuya? He's a guy! And I am not gay! How can you make me marry a guy? And isn't the marriage all about having kids? How are two guys going to have kids, huh? Tell me that! You guys are fucking crazy. I'm not marrying Byakuya. No way!"
"Your clan leader has already accepted," Daisuke said firmly.
"But that was only because you tricked him into thinking it was that Kuchiki girl with brains and a rack!"
"Shiba Ichigo, sit down! I will eject you from these premises if I have to."
"But what about Byakuya? I mean, he can't have agreed to this, right? Byakuya's not gay. He was married to a woman! Tell him, Byakuya," Ichigo pleaded, "They can't make you get married to me."
Byakuya stood, and Ichigo went quiet. The room went still around them as the Kuchiki clan leader turned to face his affianced. He met Ichigo's widened eyes quietly and nodded briefly in acceptance.
"I have no objection to this arrangement," he said calmly.
"What?" Ichigo managed, blinking in surprise at his answer, "Really?"
"Very well, then," said Daisuke, "We will adjourn this meeting so that the Kuchiki and Shiba clan representatives can meet to plan the wedding. The courtship will commence tomorrow, with the wedding to take place in sixty days."
"Sixty days," mused Ichigo, "That doesn't give a guy time to arrange to have his life destroyed."
He glanced over at his father, who sat with his head in his hands.
"Come on, Dad," Ichigo said, nudging him, "I guess we'd better go and talk to Byakuya. There's something weird about this. I want to know why he agreed to this wedding!"