Chapter 15: Into the Future

I'm trying to remember the last time things felt so…normal. It seems like forever since Byakuya and I last sat in this office at our desks, focused on paperwork. Things are a little different. The office had to be rebuilt after the bombing and all of the furnishings are new. But if I look past that, there is a comforting familiarity to this.

Byakuya sits at his desk, poised over reports with a hot cup of green tea at his elbow. His shihakushou is clean and perfect, as are the ginpaku kazahana no uzuginu, kenseiken, and the guards that wrap lightly around his hands and wrists.

Even before I was in love with him, I thought he looked beautiful sitting there in front of me. But now it's even better because I know the soft brush of his hair against my face. I know the gentle touch of those bare hands beneath the guards and the taste of his pale skin. I know what it feels like to have those dark eyes meet mine and soften with affection. I see so much of him that no one else does.

Even better, I know how to get past the mask he shows everyone else. With a word, a smile, the lightest of touches, I can bring a smile to that stoic face and light into his stormy eyes. I can melt the ice around his heart and bring him to depths of pleasure that leave us both breathless. I am there to share the best and happiest of times, and I hold him through the bitterness of grief. This is what I think of when I think of having a full life. Byakuya Kuchiki is everything to me.

"Vice Captain Abarai," he says with no emotional inflection.

He's all business in the office…except when I tease him into something…like now. I must have been staring at him.

"Hai, Captain," I reply, trying to sound nonchalant.

"Is something wrong?" he asks.

"No, sir, why do you ask?

He sighs softly and sets down the brush in his hand.

"You are staring at me like a man starved. If I was an ice sculpture, I would have melted by now," he says, letting a hint of passion enter his eyes, "Have I been somehow neglectful?"

"No, sir, of course not. You are, as always, unfailingly…attentive," I say, meeting his eyes with a lusty flaring of my own.

"I see…" he says, shifting slightly in his chair, "And still, you look as though you will be plagued with distraction unless I take some kind of action."

He bites his lower lip gently, thinking.

"Come with me," he says, rising and slipping Senbonzakura into his belt.

"Huh?"

This isn't what I was going for. I never do know quite what to expect from him. He gives me a dismissive glare.

"The proper response is…?"

"Oh…Hai, Captain," I say, jumping to my feet and grabbing Zabimaru.

I follow him out the door and up the street. We head out over the bridge onto Sokyoku Hill, where he stands at a distance and draws his sword.

"Byakuya…what…?

His expression stops me.

I draw Zabimaru. The next thing I know, I'm moving to block his Senka and our swords meet fiercely. I feel the heat of his body close to mine. And this was meant to…help? He slashes and cuts at me, driving me backwards until I fall into battle mode and start to work against him.

I feel his spirit energy rising and block the binding spell he throws, then counter madly as he alternates, clashes of metal and blasts of kido. I love the graceful turns he makes and the fire in those proud eyes.

"Scatter, Senbonzakura."

Shit, got distracted.

"Roar, Zabimaru!"

My sword extends across the distance and crashes into his, stopping his release. Before I can even smile about it, he is moving with his flash step and beginning another volley of kido. Zabimaru catches the fiery blasts and arcs towards Byakuya again. He flash steps away and slides to a stop a little to close for my comfort. I flash step away just in time to avoid his six rod prison of light. I fire red fire blasts back at him, sending him flash stepping away again as I release my Ban Kai.

"Ban Kai, Hihio Zabimaru!"

The skeletal snake curls around me, then screeches and flies towards him.

"Hikotsu Taiho!"

The blast from the skeletal snake pounds the ground he just left when he flash stepped again.

My heart is racing from the adrenaline now.

Byakuya closes in, attacking with for all he is worth with sword, kido and small pink blades. I counter each and we move so fast that it all becomes a blur. Finally, we abandon all but our swords. They crash heavily against each other, ringing with the force of each blow. Byakuya is smiling now. We are both sweating, hearts pounding, driving into each other with all of our strength. Finally, he calls out for us to break off. We hear clapping from off to the side. Captains Ukitake and Shunsui sit nearby, smiling in appreciation of the display.

"Nicely done," Ukitake says, "Renji, you have come a long way to be able to spar on his level like that."

"Ah, it was nothing…He didn't even use his bankai," I say back, smiling in return.

"Perhaps next time," Byakuya says softly, turning away and motioning for me to follow again.

He leads me back to the office. Now I feel frustrated, but I do feel more focused. Damn! I hate the way he teases me sometimes! I head for the shower in the vice captain's quarters, but as I pass into the hallway, he stops at the entrance to the captain's quarters and takes hold of my arm, propelling me into his quarters and closing and locking the door behind him. As I start to recover from the shock, he flash steps and brings me down onto the bed in a stunned heap.

"What the hell?" I gasp.

Then his mouth is devouring mine and his hands are tearing our clothes away. My hands join his and soon our bare bodies are locked together.

"What was with the sparring?" I ask breathlessly.

"Ah, that," he says, smiling devilishly, "Foreplay…"

He has a wicked sense of humor…but…it did get our hearts pounding. And if it resulted in this, who am I to complain?

"You don't want to take this into the shower? The hot tub?"

"Mhmm," he moans into my mouth, "there, too."

"Ah…what about…the…ah…reports?" I gasp.

"I guess we'll work late," he hisses, silencing me with deep kisses.

"Bya…"

He pauses for a moment, his eyes questioning.

"Arigato…"

He tilts his head slightly.

"For what, Renji?"

I reach up to touch his face, to stroke his lips with my thumb.

"For everything, Byakuya. You gave me everything…I love you."

He takes a small surprised breath, then kisses me again.

"I love you, too…Renji."

As his mouth recaptures mine and his touches on my body bring me to the heights of pleasure, there is no doubt in my mind that we are right for each other, that this was meant to be, and no matter what darkness reaches us, the light here is always going to be stronger.

XXXXXXXXXX

It is nearly dark by the time Renji and I disentangle ourselves, shower, then return to the now empty office. As we take our places and fall back to work, I look out of the corner of my eye and I can see Renji looks much more focused, much more content. That small satisfied smile that refuses to leave his lips displays this. I find myself unable to concentrate now, because I can only think about how lucky I am to have found this, to have found the courage to reach out to him, to have held on despite the challenges. Something important happened out there when we lay together in the rain on the battlefield in Inuzuri. I finally moved on. I finally put the past behind me. I finally accepted that I am not going to think about anything but making this last for the rest of our days.

The door suddenly bursts open and a hell butterfly floats in with Rikichi a moment behind. Renji and I catch each other's eyes and exchange amused glances.

"What is it, Rikichi?" I ask, trying to sound as if I haven't noticed that he is still chasing the fluttering insect.

I reach out and the offending creature floats softly across the room and lands on my extended finger. I smile at Renji as the hell butterfly yields its message. It is from Rukia.

"Byakuya, Renji, hurry back to the manor. Captain Unohana is here. It is time."

Renji is already on his feet and we flash away, leaving the office behind. We are back at the manor in a heartbeat and flash stepping down the hallway of the new main building to the room where Yoruichi waits.

Captain Unohana is leaning over her. Aside from the fact that she is a little out of breath and sweaty, Yoruichi looks like she is handling things well, but Renji and I place ourselves on either side of her and we prepare to play the role we promised to play at the outset of this adventure. Renji sponges her face gently with a washcloth and I take her hand and help her focus on her breathing.

"Nice of you two to get here so quickly," she said, smiling, "I think you set a new speed record, Byakuya. Your flash step may yet surpass mine."

I smile warmly.

"It surpassed yours long ago, Demon Cat," I reply, brushing the hair away from her eyes.

"She is doing very well," Captain Unohana tells us, "but I did notice something you should know about."

She looks at our worried faces and smiles.

"It is a good thing. Don't worry. What I noticed when I examined her is only that instead of one reiatsu, there were two. It looks as though you are having twins."

The three of us stare wordlessly at each other for a moment, and then our smiles grow even wider. Yoruichi grimaces as another contraction moves things along.

"Breathe with me, Senpai," I tell her softly, "and remember, this is not a game of shunpo race. Breathe slowly."

"I don't need you to tell me that, Little Byakuya," she retorts playfully.

I refuse to fake the bait.

"I am not little," I reply calmly, giving her hand an affectionate squeeze.

Renji looks calm enough, sponging off her skin and offering her ice chips now and then, but his reiatsu is highly disturbed. When the latest contraction ends, I look down at Yoruichi, who is smiling knowingly and nodding. I rise and move to Renji's side. He looks up at me curiously.

"What?" he asks.

I lean over and capture his lips in a gentle kiss.

"Renji," I say quietly, "Your reiatsu is off the charts. You need to breathe correctly too. Do I need to remind you how, or can you do this on your own?"

His smile is precious. He clamps down on his soaring reiatsu and kisses me back.

"Get back over there and do your job, Bya, I have things under control."

"I see," I reply, moving back to Yoruichi's other side, "I just don't want to come back over there and have to revive you when you lose consciousness from lack of breathing…although…"

"Shut up!" he laughs.

"Focus, you two!" Yoruichi laughs, gasping softly as another contraction begins.

They are getting closer together and Yoruichi is having to focus more on breathing through them. I lean forward and take her face in my hands as they intensify. Captain Unohana steps in and examines her briefly.

"Everything is progressing well. It is time to push."

I slip my arm around Yoruichi's shoulders and she leans forward pushing, then breathing with me, pushing, then breathing. Renji holds her hand and speaks to her in a soft voice, reassuring her that everything is going well. It seems like we continue for a long time, before Yoruichi gasps softly and Captain Unohana smiles widely.

"You have a baby girl," she says, taking the tiny newborn into her arms.

A tiny cry sounds and the three of us stare at each other in amazement at the sound. It is stunning to me that so small a sound can impact me so greatly. It sends my heart racing and a beautiful, dizzy feeling passes through me. I can see it's having the same effect on Renji and Yoruichi. The feelings only intensify as Captain Unohana returns and sets the infant gently in Yoruichi's waiting arms. I have only one thought as I meet my daughter's eyes for the first time. She is perfect.

Her skin is a lovely darker shade like Renji's and her hair is black, like mine. Her eyes are also steel grey like mine, but there is a sparkle, a joy in them that can only have come from Renji. She shares the fine petite bone structure of Yoruichi and her hands and feet are small and finely formed. She has a very calm demeanor and she stares up at Yoruichi, not crying, just taking in everything around her. We all gaze intently at our little miracle and then Captain Unohana recaptures our attention and reminds us that the miracle is not over.

She checks Yoruichi again and says the second child will come very soon. Yoruichi hands our daughter to Renji and he sits back in the chair next to Yoruichi, his focus now firmly fixed on his daughter…our daughter. The look on his face is beautiful. I don't want to tear my eyes away from the image of them sitting there, the world having disappeared except for the two of them. Yoruichi squeezes my hand and I look down at her. Her smile is lovely, despite how pale and sweaty she is. I sponge her face gently and talk her through the next series of contractions. It isn't long, before I wrap my arms around her shoulders and support her again as the second child enters the world.

"You have a son," Captain Unohana announces.

She quickly cleans and examines him, then brings him for us to see. I catch my breath and tears form in my eyes. He has a shock of bright red hair. His wide eyes are a lovely shade of brown. His skin is somewhat pale like mine and he has the aristocratic definition of his noble forebears. Captain Unohana hands him to Yoruichi, who enjoys a few minutes staring into those beautiful eyes, then hands him to me. I can't believe how tiny he is…how soft. His eyes meet mine and a loud cry sounds, but it is not one of fear. The eyes are strong and the cry sounds more like a battle cry. I look up at Renji and he steps across the room, still carrying our daughter. Yoruichi and Captain Unohana's faces are lit with smiles. Renji and I close the distance and meet in a very tender kiss as we hold the first of our children. I rest my cheek against Renji's and we look back at Yoruichi in deep gratitude. She blinks softly and returns our smiles.

"Do you have names picked out for them?" Captain Unohana asks softly.

Yoruichi smiles.

"I've done my part. Why don't you two sort this part out," she says.

I look down at the boy in my arms who looks so much like Renji. He needs a strong name, one that speaks to the strength of his father.

"We shall call him Takeshi…fierce warrior," I say softly.

Renji smiles widely. He knows why I have chosen this name. He looks down at the girl and then back at me.

"We'll call her Chisaki…a thousand blossoms," he says, his eyes on mine.

I nod, unable to speak.

Captain Unohana smiles and steps out of the room, leaving our little family alone to savor our first moments together. Renji and I take our places on either side of Yoruichi. We know now that the three of us will be joined for life by the two tiny creatures we hold so close in our arms.