Byakuya was glowing. That was one of the things that Ichigo couldn't ignore. It was a bright pink glow that flickered like a flame and cascaded over his body. The light traveled down Byakuya's arm and connected to his chest, and it seeped deep into Ichigo's being. He felt almost empowered with the reiatsu that was being poured into him, though he himself did not glow that same vibrant color.
Ichigo had been wanting to talk this entire time, but even he could tell that the concentration and passive look on Byakuya's face meant the man wouldn't be able to respond to him. So instead he stood silently and looked at his husband's face. Ichigo never thought that the man was so beautiful before their marriage. Now, though, he could sit for hours tracing every corner and curve of the man's face and still be fascinated. It was strange to think about, he admitted. It truly hasn't been all that long since he and Byakuya married, but his love for his husband seemed to continue to grow. It bloomed just as fast, if not faster than his own spiritual pressure seemed to have grown. It was almost surreal.
To add to it, Ichigo found out that he was pregnant as well. He could feel his face flush and tears in the corner of his eyes at the thought. He pressed his hand to his stomach at the thought and he could almost feel as if his stomach was warmer and fuller than it was before. It could be his imagination, but it felt nice. It felt really nice. A child of his own, one made with Byakuya, felt so special. His head leaned forward onto Byakuya's shoulder and he let the tears that were fired up behind his eyes fall, all with a smile on his face.
"You know, Byakuya," Ichigo began through the tightness in his throat, breaking the silence in the air, "we better tell my sisters that they're going to be aunts when all of this is over. I already know they're gonna freak out, but they'll be elated nonetheless." He was met with silence, but he only laughed. "And goat face will have a ball with this too after freaking out over the fact that his son got pregnant. Just prepare yourself for the beat-down of your life. He's going to talk your ear off for so long about you ruining me that even you will end up annoyed at some point. It's nothing like having to deal with your stuck-up elders, but man, you'll wish you could leave the room."
Ichigo was still met with silence, but he only sighed. Byakuya probably heard him but was too concentrated to speak. That was fine to him, Ichigo will just ask him about it again when they're out of here.
A loud shriek surrounded them and Ichigo winced. He turned towards the creature who was being kept a hostage in his own inner world and his eyes widened.
The shadow was being ripped apart piece by piece, each bit flying into the air and circulating like a tornado. The bloodied tears followed in succession, along with the glowing yellow inside of the eyes. It lasted for a while, so long that Ichigo felt like he was going deaf. Through it all, though, he felt as if he could see a smile on the creatures form. A relieved smile, almost joyful in nature.
Suddenly it was silent, save for the loud ringing that came when one was sitting in a room void of sound. The chaos surrounding them still stirred on, but Ichigo found himself no longer in a constant state of shying away from the noise. He hadn't realized that his hands were over his ears, but he took them off anyways with a furrowed brow. His ears felt warm on his head and a sharp pain stabbed at him from the sides of his head, but he shook it off. He looked at the creature that was still screaming and his brows furrowed even further. He scanned the room surrounding them and could see the darkness being ripped from the walls, but he couldn't hear any of it.
'What's going on?' Ichigo thought to himself. 'Has the frequency become so high that we can't hear it anymore?'
It seemed plausible enough and Ichigo's eyebrows slowly drew away from each other.
He felt something tugging gently on his chin and followed the motion slowly, turning to look at his husband. Byakuya's eyes were open and staring down at him, concern sculpting every inch of his skin. His lips were turned down into a frown and his brows were knitted slightly. His lips moved in an action that made it look almost as if Byakuya wanted to say something but then retracted what he wanted to say. Ichigo waited patiently, but after a few seconds, Byakuya's eyebrows pulled closer together.
Ichigo further studied his face, noticing that the man was much paler than he was before. There were bags that sat heavily underneath his eyes, dark grey in nature. The same monotonous color could be seen underneath Byakuya's cheekbones, giving a sunken look to his husbands face. Not only that, but his shoulder seemed to be smaller, almost as if the lean muscle he had gained over the course of his centuries of life had disappeared. Ichigo lifted a hand, his own brows furrowed, and traced the skeleton-like shape if his husband's face. Worry seeped deep into his bones.
"What happened?" Ichigo asked, or at least he thought he did. His tongue tied in his mouth awkwardly, the vibrations being sent to his brain. He couldn't hear himself speak. He could barely tell if he had even asked the question that he meant to. "What happened?" Ichigo tried again, this time louder than the last. Fear settled in his stomach as realization dawned on him. He couldn't hear anything not because the frequency of the noise became too high, but because the frequency was just high enough to shatter his eardrums.
The pain he had felt in his ears when the sound disappeared suddenly made sense. He moved a shaky hand up to his ear and gently placed it right outside of it, feeling the warmth grab onto one of his fingers. He pulled his hand away and brought it in front of him. Bright red blood stained his fingers, trailing down like a river from the point of contact. His eyes widened in fear and his whole body began to shake.
"Byakuya?" He whispered, or at least he thought he did. He looked up at his husband and felt his whole face flush, a fire setting behind his eyes and driving the tears from them. Byakuya tried to talk to him again, but Ichigo couldn't tell what the man was saying. He had no idea how to read lips and he couldn't think straight. He couldn't hear. One of his senses was ripped from him and he had no semblance of how to deal with it.
His breathing picked up and Byakuya slowly tugged the both of them to the floor. Ichigo kept looking at Byakuya's mouth, the other man still speaking to him. He tried to decipher every pucker of the lips, every flick of the tongue, every gnawing of the lip, every clenching of the teeth. His mind whirled, trying desperately to decipher what was happening while in the midst of a panic attack. His chest felt heavy and his head hurt. He couldn't breathe-!
Byakuya made a miming motion, lifting the hand that wasn't connected to Ichigo's chest up while puffing out his own chest. He held the motion and then began to lower his hand, his lips forming a circle as his chest slowly collapsed. He did the motion a few more times before Ichigo registered that Byakuya was telling him to breathe.
He tried to take a breath in, but found that nothing else was going into his lungs. He kept trying but it wasn't working. His head was aching now and the corners of his vision were fading. Byakuya had begun to mimic the action of breathing out over and over, skipping breathing in. Ichigo took a moment longer to realize that the reason he couldn't breathe in was because he hadn't breathed out yet. Ichigo forced the pent up air from his lungs and began to copy Byakuya's movements again. His racing heart slowed and the color returned to the edges of his vision. He began to fall limp and he rested his head on Byakuya's chest.
He could still feel Byakuya's hand on his own chest, the transfer of reiatsu still moving in a comforting heat. His eyes drooped, his head up in the clouds and the thought of rest felt amazing. Knowing that he was still in Byakuya's arms, Ichigo allowed his eyes to close and for sleep to succumb him.
Byakuya took a deep breath in as Ichigo slumped in his arms. Deaf. It was the only explanation that made sense. Ichigo couldn't hear him, added to the fact that his ears were expelling blood at a rate in which a coursing river flowed. Byakuya did wonder why only Ichigo seemed to have lost his hearing. He himself could still feel the unpleasant rattle of screams in his head as time wore on. His bones creaked in his weakened form and he refrained from allowing himself the relief to cough as his lungs began to weaken. He didn't want to wake Ichigo after his panic attack. Ichigo was already stressing from everything that was happening to him in his inner world, and an excessive amount of stress isn't good for the baby, nor is it good for one's physical and mental health.
He continued to push reiatsu into his husband. Senbonzakura had been gracious enough to allow him to use his own reserves in order to save the boy. He himself was left with just enough to be a connection between the two. The flow was weakening along with his own functions. Based on his calculations, though, Byakuya knew they had enough to save his husband. It was just enough for Ichigo, but he would only have enough to keep existing. Senbonzakura would become very weak. Byakuya already knew that he would have to relearn to unlock his Bankai, but that was even if he had the reiatsu to do that. By the time that the transfusion would finish, Byakuya wouldn't even have enough to unlock his Shikai. At this rate, he wasn't sure if he'd ever be able to speak with Senbonzakura again after this whole ordeal is over.
The thought truly saddened him.
He had brought it up with his zanpakuto when they were discussing allowing the spirit to give his energy to Ichigo.
"We may never be able to speak with each other ever again," Byakuya brought up. 'You may never be able to manifest again, and you would be trapped in my inner world with no way to contact me. I may never be able to re-enter my inner world, even through the art of meditation. You may never see the light of battle again. Are you sure you'd be willing to lend your essence to someone you aren't connected to?"
"Of course I am. master," Senbonzakura had replied. "I am forever a part of your soul, even if I do not show myself in a physical form to you any longer. I will continue to exist because we already know that a small part of me will still remain in you once the transfusion is complete. I will never stop trying to contact you, though. Every day I will push to speak with you, even if it takes centuries more to do so. In the mean time, I will take a back seat and watch as you grow into a man with your husband, and then an amazing father to your children. Besides, you know I will continue to live on. If Ichigo were to die today, you'd be living the rest of your life in misery without opening your heart to another soul. I would much rather face an eternity of isolation while watching you continue to be happy and grow than I would watching you isolate yourself and throwing away your own life without compassion once more. Right now, your greatest source of happiness comes from your husband, and just as the two of you would do anything for each other, I would do that same for the both of you."
"And we would both do the same in return."
Knowing Ichigo, his husband was bound to help in any way possible to get Byakuya back on his feet. He could tell that the boy already knew that he was becoming nothing more than flesh and bone for him. He'd build Byakuya back up to the form of lean masculinity soon enough, and then he'd pour his own heart and soul into finding a way for Byakuya to quickly build up the reiatsu that he lost in the process of saving him. In a safe way, of course.
Ichigo was also going to blame himself once this whole ordeal is over. Byakuya was sure of it. None of this was his fault. No one expected for Juha to plant a portion of his own soul into the man that had killed him. Now that Byakuya thought about it, the man could see billions of futures that spread out before him. Had he planted himself in Ichigo knowing that it was a possibility he could lose? Was he trying to stay in the man who had the most spiritual pressure Byakuya had ever seen so he could feed on it and become stronger again? It was possible, but the method of implantation was faulty and easily reversible now that it was made known.
A cough exploded from his lungs, unable to be contained any longer. Blood sprayed out in front of him before he could bring his free hand up to his mouth. It caught in Ichigo's orange locks of hair and flew forward onto the void ground they sat on. After a few more body racking fits, Byakuya pulled his hand away from his mouth. His palm, fingers and all, were covered in a thick red layer of warm blood. He turned his hand over, looking at the trails that fell though the cracks in a vein-like pattern.
He clenched his hand into a fist and re-positioned his arm around his husband. It was a wonder that Ichigo hadn't woken up after being jostled so much and the loud hacking that pounded next to his ear-
'Oh,' Byakuya thought in rememberance. 'Ichigo could not hear.'
It would take some getting used to, knowing that he would have to partake in JSL lessons once more, along with his husband. It had been a long time since Byakuya had learned how to speak with his hands, but he hoped to pick up on the language quickly so that he could communicate with his husband when actions failed them. He was unsure if Ichigo had any past knowledge or experience in using sign language. If he did, had he learned JSL or ASL? It would probably be best to learn both forms anyway, just in case Ichigo thought using one over the other would be easier. They'd also have to teach the baby to sign as well once they could understand. That would certainly be one adventure for the two of them. Then, another thought suddenly hit him.
Ichigo wouldn't be able to hear their child's first cry, their first giggle, their first word or sentence. He would miss out on those milestones, all because a power hungry man enjoyed toying with the souls of those who stood in his way towards the rise of power.
It was heart-wrenching and soul shattering realizing all of these things in such a short period of time. It didn't help that all of these problems arose within the span of a few hours.
Byakuya shook his head in an attempt to rid his mind of those thoughts for now. They could both deal with those problems once this situation was resolved.
It was down to the final stretch, Byakuya could feel it. He upped the ante, pouring the last vestiges of what Ichigo needed into the boys soul. He caught sight of the creature not far from them. The chains had been completely released and oily wings spread wide. The shrieking reached a crescendo, and suddenly the creature flapped its wings. With a gust of wind, the creature took flight with startling speed and raced toward the void sucking it in, almost impatient in nature.
Once it was through, the void sucked up the isolated area that they were in before collapsing in on itself. The void disappeared and silence, almost unnerving, greeted Byakuya. Ichigo's inner world took form once again, the mist lost and hopefully never to return. All of the skyscrapers were sideways like normal and the clouds floated peacefully above them. All was normal again. Ichigo was free from the clutches of the old Quincy King. He and their baby were safe once more, as was the rest of the Soul Society, Human World, Quincy Shadows, and Hueco Mundo.
With that knowledge in mind, Byakuya smiled softly. He leaned down and kissed the top of his husbands head, then parted the boy's shihakusho with his free hand. He couldn't reach down to kiss his husband's stomach, so he settled with doing something else to the exposed flesh.
He drew a heart with his blood off to the left side of the boy's belly button.
Them he removed his hand from Ichigo's chest.
Y'all, I've created an OPEN ENDING for this one. I promise that there will be a sequel, but Like Spunku0ne, I've got a lot of stuff going at once (not all story related...) so it may be a while, but it will happen! If it doesn't, then just assume I'm dead or something.