She came to the Kuchiki house a too-thin girl in a very dark red dress of cheap fabric. The butler showed her into the breakfast room with the air of someone who couldn't understand how he'd let her past the front gate - she stood on the threshold and bowed, deep and low.
"Hisana is most sorry to trouble you with her presence, Master Kuchiki," she said.
He had looked at her. "I do not think I know you. 'Kuchiki' Hisana."
"Hisana believes it is a connection from her grandfather; she is sadly uninformed of the details of her family history."
"Is that so."
"Hisana does not wish to trouble you, Master Kuchiki. It is only that she is trying to find her sister, who is in foster care. However, the authorities are unwilling to release the details of her foster homes because Hisana is not yet of age to be a legal guardian."
Byakuya raised an eyebrow, looking at her. She met his eyes, a calm and strangely immovable fixture against the elegance of her surroundings.
"Your sister," he said, even though he had no reason to hear her story, or suffer her presence here at all.
"Her name is Rukia. We were seperated when our parents died and we entered foster care. She would be eleven now, Hisana believes."
"Ah. And you wish for me to?"
"Hisana hopes for some legal assistance in gaining custody of her sister. We will not trouble you more than necessary. Hisana will provide for the both of us as far as it is within her ability."
She looked painfully young for such a claim.
Byakuya folded the morning paper, ignored the remains of his breakfast, and without a word, stood and turned to the view through the floor-to-ceiling windows behind him. It was a fine morning, cloudless and already beginning to be hot; but that was no interest to him. The girl behind him should have been of no more consequence than the weather herself, but for the vital fact that she carried - claimed to carry - the Kuchiki name.
He had lost his own parents too young to remember them, growing up in the presence of tutors and guardians and an ever-changing collection of relatives instead. He supposed her determination to find her sister was admirable, but the emotion was irrelevant to him.
The door behind her opened to admit a servant and the scent of tea.
"Young master, more tea?"
"Leave it on the table," he said. She was still standing by the door, head bowed - she held herself like a servant, he recognised, and found himself faintly displeased to see the Kuchiki name carried /so/.
She looked at him, and it was not - quite - a servant's gaze.
"Master Kuchiki," she murmured.
"I am fifteen. You will find I am not of the age to be accepted as the legal guardian you require either," he said, walking around the table to the door. Seen up close, her eyes were shadowed, the hands clasped before her strained thin and bloodless. But she did not waver when he looked at her.
"Seat yourself," he said, and passed her. "I have enquiries to make of your identity. If your claim is genuine, we will see what we can do."
Rukia does not remember her family. She knows it's not her fault - she was three when they died, but it doesn't stop Rukia feeling guilty when she looks at the framed picture by her bed, because Hisana remembers, and all Rukia can really see is two strangers she can't remembered meeting.
Her earliest memory of Hisana is being dragged out of a fight teeth still sunk into someone - she doesn't remember who, it could've been Renji - and being shaken off, and a very soft voice she'd never heard before (or at least remembered hearing before) calling her name.
She looked up.
Her first thought, she remembers very clearly, was that she was the most beautiful girl she'd ever seen. Logically, she knows it's not true, but she still remembers, and she still /believes/ it. People tell her they look alike, but Rukia knows that she's not beautiful, not the way Hisana is, because Rukia came out of life with all the wrong angles and too many teeth and it's not that she /minds/ it, but it doesn't make her beautiful, see, not the way Hisana is, Hisana who is soft and kind and quiet, and glows in a way Rukia never will.
She knelt and touched Rukia's dirt-streaked face with her hands. "Rukia," she said, and her smile shook. Rukia stared back at her, struck dumb and wondering by this stranger who wore her heart in her eyes, who looked at her so.
"Hisana... is very sorry," the girl whispered.
Rukia did not understand why. Hisana's fingers brushed her cheek again, then curled into themselves, and Rukia felt suddenly bereft. She caught her hand before she could withdraw it, caught it without thinking. Rukia looked at it and would have blinked and let go again because she didn't know if the girl wanted her to touch her, but Hisana tightened her own grip, so sudden as to be almost painful...
Then carefully, carefully, as if she was afraid Rukia would break or vanish, soft as if Rukia was a dream, she put her arms around her.
incomplete - sort of