A few days at best, Genzai-sensei had said, dark eyes full of pity. She doesn't have much time left, Young Master.
Hisana was sleeping now, her breath soft and light. He could barely see the rise and fall of her chest and once, for one long and frightening moment, he thought she had stopped breathing altogether. But still she remained and Byakuya couldn't help but hope.
There was a knock on the shouji and he felt Hisana's reiatsu flutter with every tap.
She was disturbing Hisana. "What is it?" he said curtly and pressed a light hand against his wife's throat, checking her pulse.
"Ginrei-sama requests your presence for tea today, Young Master." Too weak and too fast. Byakuya pulled his hand back and ignored the sudden prickling he could feel in the corner of his eyes.
"Tell him I'm not to be disturbed for the rest of the day. I am otherwise occupied."
"But, Young Master, Ginrei-sama—“
"I said leave, Aiko." Anger flared in him, hot and overwhelming, and for a brief moment, Byakuya lost control. His reiatsu flooded the room, escaping his tight restraints. In the back of his head, Senbonzakura stirred, her words whisper-soft. Byakuya, she said and a flutter of images (hail and ice and cold winter days, snow on the tip of a tongue, icy cold mochi with Hisana) passed through his mind, as quick as the life of a cherry blossom. Stop. Control yourself.
Byakuya bent his head and breathed in deeply. She was right. He was being—childish. Distantly, he could feel Aiko's reiatsu forced to the ground, almost overwhelmed by his own; if he pressed down any harder, he would smother her life instantly.
Carefully, he drew his power back into the confines of his soul, winding it into neat coils and tucking it away, deep inside him. Good, Senbonzakura breathed and settled back into place with the sound of rustling silk. Grandfather would have been upset if we lost another servant.
Grandfather is already upset. He—he—
Byakuya reached out reflexively and brushed Hisana's hair back with a gentle touch. She was still here. She was still here. She wasn't—gone. Not yet. He still had her.
Byakuya-love, Senbonzakura whispered, her voice a thousand sighs of the wind. Don't do this to yourself.
"She's my wife." His voice echoed in the large room and his words were thrown back in his face, a mocking imitation of what they were meant to be.
And so she is mine. She is ours, Byakuya-love. But she won't stay for much longer and you know that. A few more days and she'll be gone.
"But not yet. She's still here. Another minute, another hour, another day, that's all I—“ But even to Senbonzakura, he could hardly speak the truth. What if she leaves when I'm not here, he wanted to say but could never voice, not even to himself.
No matter how long you watch over her, you can't make her stay. Hisana will go, no matter how much you wish otherwise. Senbonzakura's sorrow rang in his mind, heavy and sharp with grief.
He lifted his head and watched, mesmerized, as Hisana opened her eyes; they were beautiful, the haunting blue of midnight skies and nightingale feathers.
“Don’t strain yourself.“ Byakuya leaned over and took her trembling hand in his own. She had small bird-bones, light and fragile. Sometimes, he was afraid that he would break her if his grasp were too tight. (Sometimes, he wondered if she was already broken.)
“Byakuya-sama, I must…I must tell you something…”