“You’ll be fine.”
“No, I won’t. Your brother’s going to come after me with his bankai and when I defend myself, we’ll destroy your manor and then he’ll never let me date you,” Ichigo complained.
“Court,” Rukia corrected, and Ichigo waved a hand at her.
“Yeah, yeah. Court, I got it.” Ichigo dropped a kiss on Rukia’s forehead. “Guess it’s time, then.” He stepped past her toward the door to Byakuya’s office and knocked on the wooden frame. At a sound from beyond the shoji screen, he pushed the door open and stepped inside. The door slid shut behind him.
Byakuya was completing paperwork. As usual, he looked calm – stoic, even – and didn’t have a hair out of place. Ichigo resisted the urge to smooth down the front of the navy blue haori he wore. For a conversation this important, he’d dressed in a black kimono and hakama, with the haori on top. There wasn’t much that Ichigo could do to fix his hair, but he’d combed it as best he could.
At a gesture from Byakuya, Ichigo sat in seiza and waited for the other man to finish writing. He seemed in no hurry, and after a time Ichigo found his fingers clutching at the soft fabric of his hakama. He forcibly relaxed them and subtly flexed his feet, which were already growing uncomfortable.
Finally, Byakuya looked up. “Kurosaki Ichigo. Why are you in my office?”
Ichigo bowed slightly. “Kuchiki-sama,” he said.
Byakuya’s eyes widened slightly at the honorific and he set his calligraphy brush down, giving Ichigo his full attention.
“I hold your sister in very high esteem.”
“As you should. She is a lieutenant of the Gotei and will, in time, be a captain,” Byakuya agreed calmly.
Ichigo frowned at him. “Those things are both true, but they aren’t the only reasons. She is brave and compassionate as well, and kind.” At Byakuya’s raised eyebrow, he added, “She is also a beautiful woman.”
“Hn. And you made an appointment just to tell me this?” Byakuya asked. He studied Ichigo quietly.
“In part,” Ichigo admitted. “I’ve come to ask for your blessing to court Rukia.” His hands kneaded the fabric of his hakama again, but he stilled them when the movement attracted Byakuya’s attention.
“But not my permission,” Byakuya guessed.
Ichigo said quietly, “As you said, she is a lieutenant and will be a captain someday. She wouldn’t thank me for asking for your permission. But your approval matters to her.” He flexed his feet again. “So, it matters to me, too.”
“And your intentions toward my sister?”
Ichigo actually laughed a little before he managed to stifle it. “I took on the entire Seireitei, Aizen, and the Quincy king to keep Rukia safe and happy. I intend to marry her if she’ll let me.” It was sappy, but he added, “Rukia is my light.”
“Hn. You have my blessing, Kurosaki Ichigo.” Before Ichigo could smile, Byakuya held up a hand and added, “But there is the matter of your residence.”
Oh, that, Ichigo thought, and slid a sheaf of folded papers from within his haori. “Taken care of.” He held the papers out to Byakuya, who took them with a touch of suspicion in his eyes and read them over.
“…You might have started with this,” Byakuya said dryly. The papers, otherwise innocuous-looking, declared Ichigo head of a branch of the Shiba Clan. The second set indicated that he was a member of the Gotei 13 and a seated officer in Squad Five.
“Titles and positions have never meant much to me.” Ichigo shrugged. When Byakuya frowned at him, he hastened to add, “I know that it’s an honor. It is. But I accepted because it allows me to stay here with Rukia.”
Byakuya handed the papers back to him. “When did you become a man, Kurosaki Ichigo?” he asked.
A scowl on his face, Ichigo grumbled, “I’m the same person I always was.”
“Hn. Very well. As I said, you have my blessing.” Byakuya rose and Ichigo scrambled up with him and tried to surreptitiously shake the numb feeling from his legs.
“I imagine you want to tell Rukia.” Byakuya gestured, and they walked to the shoji screen door together. Byakuya slid it open.
Rukia tumbled forward through the doorway and fell on her face before either her brother or Ichigo could catch her. She scrambled up and bowed, cheeks flushed red. “Nii-sama!”
Her brother raised an eyebrow and his lips quirked ever so slightly. “Rukia. Were you listening at the doorway to my office?”
Her cheeks burned bright red and Rukia bowed again. “Of course not, I was merely coming to see you and lost my balance!”
The lie was an obvious one, but Byakuya didn’t comment on it. “How fortuitous,” he said instead. “I was just about to invite Kurosaki Ichigo for tea. Perhaps you’ll join us?”
“Y-yes of course, Nii-sama,” Rukia stammered. She looked at Ichigo meaningfully, and he smiled down at her, amber eyes soft as they looked into hers. Rukia smiled back, and Ichigo’s hands found hers. They lost themselves in one another for a long moment and drifted together, lips closing in.
And then Byakuya pointedly cleared his throat. “We will take tea in the dining room,” he said when the couple sprang backward – although his eyes glanced over their still-joined hands.
“Yes, Nii-sama,” Rukia repeated. She shared an embarrassed look with Ichigo.
As Byakuya led the way to the dining room in the Kuchiki manor, Ichigo slid Rukia’s hand into the crook of his arm and they trailed along behind.
Byakuya privately thought that he wasn’t looking forward to negotiating with Kuukaku. But then he glanced back and looked at the way his sister practically glowed as she walked next to Ichigo, and thought, It will be worth it to see her smile like that for the next thousand years.
And so, he sat down to prepare tea for his sister and his future brother-in-law with a satisfied heart.