Chapter 14: The Third Option

The sun is going to rise soon and I still don't know what to do.

I do know what I won't do. I will not do anything to dishonor the one I love.

I love the way he looks when he sleeps. His red hair is loose and tumbled. His face still wears a faint smile, even relaxed in slumber. His lips and face are still flushed with passion from our lovemaking. His breathing is light and he sighs in his sleep when I trace the markings on his skin. I want to wake up to this every day for the rest of my life.

So I must consider the value of the kenseiken, this symbol of status, the mark of my power. What is its worth? If it was merely a sign of class, I would easily cast it aside, but it is not so meaningless. The kenseiken was first placed on me by my grandfather. He and I shared much in common. He was, like me, one who found that sometimes the rules and laws did not reflect what was right and when he was clan leader he worked to change things for the better. It had to be done slowly over time, because change is difficult in the noble clans. It takes patience and diplomacy. When he set the kenseiken on my head, it was a sign of the trust between us. He wanted me to continue what he started…to effect change for the better over time. This is why I accepted leadership. It is a burden sometimes. It complicates my life because of its demands. But even when things are difficult, I know I chose correctly, when I accepted the kenseiken and the trust that went with it.

"You didn't sleep at all, did you?"

I don't know when his eyes opened or how long he spent watching me.

"No."

"Should I make some tea? Do you feel like talking about it?"

What I feel is blessed.

"Yes…and yes."

A parting kiss, a brushing of his fingers on my skin, then he moves away, slipping a robe around his body. I watch him leave the room. It feels colder. Outside the window, dawn has arrived.

There is a sudden soft sound, a familiar reiatsu, and a black cat appears outside the window. I slide it open and the cat steps inside, and then morphs into a naked woman. I sigh in annoyance and my eyes are focused firmly on hers.

"Put your clothes on, Demon Cat," I snap at her.

She chuckles and puts them on, her eyes laughing. It used to make me blush.

"Why are you here?" I ask.

She smiles.

"I came to help you solve your problem, Little Byakuya."

"Oh? And what problem would that be?" I ask, trying to sound unaffected.

But I am affected. I need to have hope that there is some kind of workable answer.

She laughs softly.

"Put on your clothes, Byakuya. You and Renji need to come with me. I promise you…you won't regret it."

"Yoruichi," I reply softly, "I have only…"

"I know…four hours. I know. Still you must come with me. We'll return in time," she promises.

"Ah, well, what can it hurt," I sigh, "but don't think I believe you when you say I won't regret it. If it involves you, I usually end up regretting it, Yoruichi."

That prompts a bout of giggles. Why does she so love tormenting me?

"That's not very nice," she pouts.

By the time Renji returns, I am dressed. He almost drops the tea when he sees Yoruichi.

"Hey Yoruichi!" he says, obviously happy to see her, "what are you doing here?"

"Taking great delight in tormenting me…what else?" I sigh, half-smiling.

"Don't listen to him, Renji," she laughs, "He's always cranky in the morning."

"And you know that how?" Renji asks, glancing at me.

I cannot hide my scowl.

"I mentored him," she explains, "and sometimes he wouldn't wake up on time, so I…"

"Didn't you say we should go?" I ask calmly.

"But she was just about to tell me…"

"Tea, Byakuya," Yoruichi interjects, "He just brought you your morning tea. I wouldn't dream of disrupting your morning routine. Wouldn't want you to be all out of sorts."

"I'm already out of sorts, Demon Cat."

"Would you two stop?" Renji grins, "I want to know what she did to you."

Yoruichi giggles again. My face feels hotter than my tea.

"Well…" Yoruichi says, ignoring my frown, "Sometimes he wouldn't get up, so I would flash step into his room and upend his bed."

I'm blushing furiously now. Renji looks confused.

"O-kay," he says, "I guess that's funny, but…"

"That's how I found out…"

She giggles again. I will find a way to make her pay for this!

"That's how I found out that Little Byakuya slept only in his bare skin…at least until that day he did!"

Now, they're both laughing. I am not. I clear my throat and they look back at me, pause, and burst into laughter again. I sigh and finish my tea…scowling.

XXXXXXXXXX

I don't know what Yoruichi has in mind, but I do know that if Byakuya is going along with whatever she's up to, then he has to be really worried about what's going to happen at that meeting. She's brought us to the living world and I can tell by the path we're taking that we're going to Urahara's shop. I think Byakuya knows this. His scowl just got deeper.

We flash step to the door and Yoruichi lets us inside. She takes us into a room where we gather around a low table and Tessai brings tea. After a few minute, Kisuke walks in. He smiles at Yoruichi.

"Ah…you got them here. Thanks, Yoruichi. I was hoping they'd be interested. Welcome gentlemen."

I have to wonder just what he's up to. You never know with Kisuke Urahara. He sits down and takes a sip of tea. His eyes are twinkling…yup, definitely up to something.

"Yoruichi tells me you two have a problem," he says, looking at Byakuya.

"Yes," Byakuya says, looking fairly unruffled, but I know he's wary, "The Kuchiki elders have heard that Renji and I are lovers. They are concerned that this will jeopardize my ability to fulfill one of my duties as a clan leader. When I took the vows of leadership, I did agree to bring forth heirs. This ensures the continuance of the power I wield."

"Right," Kisuke says, smiling, "but now you have a problem, because you and Renji can't do that…right?"

Byakuya looks a little nervous.

"Right," he agrees.

"I may be able to help you. You see, you are not the only male couple with issues like this, and although I can't change the fact that reproduction requires some things only found in the female gender, I found a way to let couples like you have children."

I wait for all hell to break loose, but the room gets very quiet…too quiet. I look at Byakuya. His expression is odd…a blend of disbelief and what looks like hope. I am so busy thinking about him, it takes me a moment to realize what that means for me. I know I must be wearing a similar expression.

"How?" Byakuya asks softly.

Kisuke smiles cryptically.

"Well, I discovered a process that uses genetic material from two males along with the necessary components from a donor female. With that and some spirit particles from all three, it is possible for you and Renji to have children."

"How…?"

"Ah, yes, it does require a surrogate to carry the child."

I'm feeling so many things all at once that I don't know what they all are. I mean, I'm a little nervous, because Byakuya and I just got together and we haven't had a day of normal life as a couple. We've been dealing with his power loss, my abduction, not to mention the fact we almost got killed escaping from Hueco Mundo. I'm wise enough to know that how we handle normal life is just as important. We have a ways to go before …

"And I imagine you have tested this…and there is…an assurance of success?" Byakuya asks.

"Of course. I wouldn't have offered if I didn't already know it would work. I can definitely provide proof."

"I see," he says softly.

I look at Byakuya's face and there are a thousand emotions crossing his features.

XXXXXXXXXX

I am not quite sure why, but Byakuya wants me to be at this meeting. I'm more than a little nervous, because I've never been to a clan council. I don't have any idea what it will be like. All he told me was to sit calmly beside him and only speak if I was directly asked questions.

Byakuya is in full regalia, of course. He looks fantastic. I'm thinking that last night helped to raise his spirits, because his eyes have a lively shine to them. He looks perfectly calm. I still wonder how he does that. If someone was trying to dictate my future I wouldn't be so calm. But then, he isn't always what he looks like on the surface.

I wonder what he'll say. I don't envy him having to do this.

"The council is seated, sir," the council officer tells Byakuya.

He nods and turns to follow. I am a step behind him. I hear a few very soft whispers as we enter, but the room is, for the most part, silent. Byakuya moves to the head of the table and I sit down in a chair to his right. The head elder calls the meeting to order. My mind drifts a little as they talk briefly about a few unrelated clan issues, then the head elder stands to speak.

"Byakuya, we've come to this council to address a matter of great concern. According to information provided to this council, you have established an intimate relationship with Renji Abarai. Is this true?"

"It is," Byakuya says softly.

"And you are aware that when you accepted the kenseiken and leadership of the clan, you did promise to provide the clan with heirs to safeguard the continuance of our power, did you not?"

"I did."

"The council requests that you explain your actions and how you plan to keep the promise you made."

I don't know about him, but my heart is pounding. I feel the weight of their eyes on us. Byakuya still looks calm…serene.

"There is no question," he begins, "that a noble clan must concern itself with continuance of the clan. But even pursuing that, the council must remember that a clan leader is still a person…and that no person's rights should be taken away. This includes my right to privacy. For as long as the clan has assurance that the promises will be kept, it can move on to concern itself with other matters. I have given my promise that I will bring forth heirs…and I will. I offer you no further explanation. Simply put…it is not your business how I will fulfill that obligation."

The head elder scowls.

"Byakuya, in light of your current…relationship, you must provide…"

"I have already said that I will honor the promise I made," Byakuya interjects calmly.

I feel the tension soaring between them. I'm worried for him. These people are kind of scary.

"Byakuya, it is within the rights of the clan to set an agreed on amount of time to keep your promise."

"I understand," he says, nodding, "I will agree to provide an heir within the next ten years."

He glances at me and smiles.

"Byakuya, we have already waited while you dallied with that other peasant…"

The room just went completely quiet. His spirit energy is rising quickly and the council members are beginning to look very uncomfortable. He glares at the head elder and I'm thinking this guy's going to sink through the floor. But he just stares back, looking a bit more pale.

"Who I choose to be with is not this council's concern. And I would warn the members of this council to treat the memory of my wife with proper respect. In addition, you will not disrespect any who I choose to love. As I said, I have given my word that my promise will be kept and, pursuant to the clan rules, I have set a reasonable time limit. This council has no grounds to continue this session. I move for dismissal."

The room erupts in chaos. Byakuya looks at me apologetically. I know he feels bad about what the head elder said. But it wasn't his fault…and it felt good to hear him come to my defense. The head elder calls the members back to order. He looks pretty pissed, but he also looks whipped.

"Byakuya," the head elder says, "I find your continued rebellious behavior disturbing. While the council will be dismissed at this time, we reserve the right to recall you here on this matter as the council feels the necessity."

"Of course," Byakuya says smoothly, his eyes blinking slowly.

"This council is dismissed," the head elder growls.

Byakuya gets up and I follow him out of the council hall. His strides are long and his reiatsu is still flaring. If I was on that council, I wouldn't be too quick to cross him again. I notice that he's not heading back to the 6th division office.

"Hey, where are we going?" I ask, practically jogging to keep up.

He notices how fast he's walking and slows a bit.

"I thought we would go to the manor, Renji," he says, glancing at me.

"But I thought that…"

"Now that the council has met, there is little need for posturing, Renji."

"So that means," I prompt him.

"It means that we don't need to concern ourselves with what anyone else thinks. I'm almost glad the council pushed for this meeting. I think it ended up working in our favor."

We arrive at the manor and he asks for lunch to be served in his private garden in an hour. Then he starts down the hallway. He looks back to see that I'm following. I have this funny thought as we head towards his bedroom. I remember when Rukia and I were searching it…how good it would feel to sink into that very comfortable bed. I had no idea back then that it would ever be a possibility.

"Renji?"

I stopped walking. Oops.

"Why are you smiling like that?" he asks.

"Oh," I say, "I was just thinking about when Rukia and I were looking for clues to where you went."

"Yes?"

"I was…thinking about how comfortable your bed looked…"

"I see," he says.

Now he's smiling too.

"Would you like to find out if it is as comfortable as it looks?" he asks, opening the door and standing back to let me in.

"Well, if you insist."

The bed, it turns out, is even more comfortable than it looks…especially when we share it. We'll have to get up soon. They're going to have lunch ready for us in the garden.

"So," I ask him, "are we ever going to talk about what Kisuke said?"

I've been wondering ever since we left the living world. He hasn't said anything at all.

"Of course, Renji," he assures me, "I just didn't want either of us to feel rushed. Remember, we have ten years to think about it."

I'm thinking that it's going to be a fun ten years.