Chapter 1: The Sakura Petal and the Silver Fang
I wonder if Byakuya has any idea just how cute he looks holding Chisaki close to him, while simultaneously completing paperwork. She, of course, is thrilled that he's doing this. Her dark eyes that look so much like his are sparkling and I keep hearing her laugh. He tickles her chin with one of his unused brushes and rests his face against the top of her head. She laughs again, dribble running down her chin. He stops it just before it hits the report he's working on, and then goes back to work, humming softly. That's one of the things I like most about having had kids with Byakuya. He is really different around them. He smiles more, plays with them, and he hums or sings a lot. I never even knew he could carry a tune. I always knew he was good at storytelling, but Byakuya singing?
"Vice Captain Abarai, is there a problem?" he asks suddenly.
Damn! Caught again.
"Huh? No…no problem, sorry. I was just…enjoying how you look when you're with her."
His eyes soften.
"I see. Well…don't let it keep you from getting your work done. I'd like to be able to take a walk through the gardens before bedtime."
I focus again on my work after glancing down to make sure Takeshi is still asleep. He stirs softly in the playpen, but then starts to snore lightly. Byakuya looks over at him, amusement in his eyes.
"Don't say it…I know, sounds just like me," I say, frowning as I go back to work.
I can't help but wonder at how things have changed. Before I fell in love with Byakuya, I never really thought that settling down and having kids would be fun or adventurous. I thought the idea of being married to someone meant a kind of captivity…and maybe it is, in a way, but being captured by Byakuya Kuchiki, held in those arms night after night…that is a very pleasant kind of imprisonment. And even though I thought of kids as little bundles of energetic trouble, something happened when I looked into the eyes of these children, this embodiment of the love that Byakuya and I share. I don't see them the way I see other kids. Yeah, they drool, vomit, pee, poop, scream, and make us sacrifice precious hours that we could spend sleeping or making love, but Takeshi and Chisaki are a constant reminder of just how much Byakuya and I feel for each other, how far we would go to find happiness.
"Abarai, stop daydreaming!"
He's looking away so I won't see that he's smiling. He knows I'm blissfully happy. I don't think I've stopped smiling since the day they were born.
Well…there was one day I worried about, but it seems to have come and gone without the trouble we were expecting. Although, you never know. When it comes to the council of Kuchiki elders, they could become a problem at any moment…or not at all. Depends on the day.
The day Byakuya and I worried about was a few days ago when he recorded the birth of the Kuchiki heirs. There were two issues in that official announcement that might raise issues with the council. First, because we had to provide proof of his paternity, it was necessary to provide an explanation as to why our children have genetic and reiatsu bonds to Byakuya, Yoruichi, and me. Kisuke Urahara was kind enough to provide written evidence detailing the truth of it. Our children have three parents.
If that wasn't enough to rankle them, Byakuya was also obligated to record our formal contract of life partnership. Not only did we exchange vows…we also did not inform the council until legally obligated to do so…a full year later.
Speaking of which, that makes today our anniversary. Our first. It's been quite a year. We started out with me almost becoming a spirit wolf in Hueco Mundo, then Byakuya nearly died when he was stabbed by Yuudai Kuchiki, one of his ancestors who had become one of them. Then last year, his cousin Hoshi wreaked havoc on his life, kidnapping Yoruichi and leaving Byakuya thinking I was dead.
No wonder Byakuya dislikes his relatives. It seems like one or the other of them has always got it in for him. I think I was right when I speculated that he wasn't really one of them. Byakuya is way too…human…to be a Kuchiki. I know most people figure he's as emotionless and vacant as the rest of them, but I know that is just a carefully constructed façade to keep the relatives at bay so he can live something resembling a life when they're not looking.
Something drops onto my desk, startling me into looking up. Byakuya is standing over me, looking down at me sternly.
"Sign these and have Rikichi deliver them. Yoruichi will be coming to take the twins home. I have a captain's meeting and then I'll be coming home. Abarai, try to get something completed while I'm gone!"
He turns away with a swish of his haori and black hair. Beautiful. I turn back to the twins. Takeshi is still sleeping, but Chisaki just realized that Byakuya left and her eyes are turning stormy…like his do when he's really pissed about something. I take the hint and pick her up, bouncing her gently on my lap as I finish the last of the paperwork. As I hand the papers off to Rikichi, the door opens and Yoruichi walks in.
"Well, all seems to be under control here," she says, "Did Byakuya leave for the captain's meeting?"
"Yeah," I tell her, "Did you and Rukia get things ready for tonight?"
"Yes," she says, smiling, "I'm taking the twins to Urahara's and we decorated the garden as you asked. I also set up the waterfall area for you. Did you think of something to give Byakuya?"
"Yeah," I say and I take it from the warmth of my pocket.
It is a sakura petal from the cherry tree he planted to honor Hisana. I've had it encased in gold and placed on a gold chain. The sakura and chain are small and light. I already know they will look very nice against his pale throat. I went for something smaller because it fits better with his personal taste.
"Do you think he'll like it?" I ask Yoruichi.
"Renji…" she says softly, "He is going to love it. Is that a real…?"
"Yeah, from Hisana's tree."
There are tears in her eyes. The hormones are still a bit strong, but even so…I think it is a gift that will strike a chord with Byakuya. I slip it back into the box and put it back in the pocket of my shihakushou. Yoruichi takes Chisaki from me and looks down at Takeshi.
"So has there been any word?" she asks me.
I know what she's asking. She's worried, too. She's from a noble clan, herself, so she knows how they are. She knows to expect trouble.
"No, they haven't said a thing, but it hasn't been that long."
"There's still plenty of time for them to make trouble, Renji," she says softly, "They're just taking their time and trying to think of the best way to throw a wrench into things. You and Byakuya had best prepare for a battle. It will get ugly, Renji. Trust me."
"I believe you. They were pissed enough that he and I became lovers. To know we're married and that my mongrel blood is in our kids is going to send them through the roof. I just hope Byakuya doesn't end up losing his title over this. His leadership is the only thing keeping that council in check."
"I know," she replies, placing her cheek against Chisaki's head, "Ginrei played much the same role when he was clan leader. Those two are the only reason the clan has remained stable. I think internal war would break out if not for Byakuya. He really does handle them well…like his grandfather did."
"Well, he certainly doesn't let them push him around. I think they really didn't know what they were getting into when they chose him to lead."
She laughs at that.
"They, most likely, thought that because he was so young when he ascended, they could control him…but our little Byakuya has never been someone to be controlled. He does the controlling. But he needs to be careful now, Renji," she says, looking at me meaningfully, "They know how to get to people, how to find weaknesses…and where Byakuya didn't have so many before, he certainly has a few now."
"You mean me and the twins, don't you?" I ask, looking down.
"Hey," she says, making me look back up at her, "Don't let that get to you, Renji. You bring Byakuya so much happiness! Don't let those stuffy nobles get under your skin. Just…watch his back, Renji. They will make some move against him at some point."
I chuckle sarcastically.
"Thanks for that ray of sunshine, Yoruichi."
"Sorry, Renji," she says, picking up Takeshi and placing him in the stroller next to Chisaki, "I just wouldn't want them to gain an advantage."
"Byakuya knows what he's doing. We'll be fine," I assure her, but there is doubt in my voice.
"Of course you will."
She doesn't sound any more convinced of that than me.
A hell butterfly arrives just as the captain's meeting ends. I expect it to be from Renji or Yoruichi about preparations for tonight, but instead it is from the council of elders.
"Byakuya Kuchiki," the stern voice of the head elder says, "The council of elders has reviewed the recording of your life partnership and of the birthing of the Kuchiki heirs. As you know, it is our duty to safeguard the honor and stability of the Kuchiki family. It is therefore, our duty to inform you that your life partnership and the questionable nature of the heirs' conception has caused this council to look with seriousness upon the subject of your continued leadership. The council has voted to seek your removal as head of the Kuchiki clan. It is obvious to us that you have little regard for the status and honor of this family and, therefore, we must seek other leadership. A special council will meet tomorrow at 9 AM to begin hearings on this matter."
I cannot claim shock or surprise. This is why I put off recording my life partnership for so long. But it had to come eventually, and now it has. I wonder how I am going to tell Renji. He has worried that something like this would happen.
"Hey, can I walk you home?" Renji says, appearing out of nowhere.
"Only if the reports are finished and filed, Renji," I answer quietly.
"Done and filed, Captain," he says, falling in beside me, "and now the workday is over. Let's go home."
"Very well, then," I say, turning in the direction of the manor, "Did Yoruichi pick up the twins?"
"Yeah, she came in just after you left. Chisaki was miffed about you taking off, you know. You spoil her, Byakuya."
He's right. She has me twisted around those dainty little fingers and we all know it.
"Hey, was that a hell butterfly I saw when I came running up?" he asks.
He doesn't need to have this day ruined. The council timed things as they did to inflict the most possible damage. They hurt me, but they won't ruin today for Renji. I won't let them.
"It wasn't important," I say off handedly, "Come, Renji, let's go home.."
I flash step away and we close the distance quickly. In no time, we are through the gate and entering the new main building. We walk through to the gardens and I catch my breath in surprise.
"Renji…" I breathe, enchanted at the sight.
The garden is a sea of light and color. Flowers are everywhere and cherry blossoms dance all around. The small decorative lights twinkle and dance among the blossoms It is too beautiful for words.
"I hope you don't mind," Renji says, taking my hand, but Yoruichi and I thought it should look special for us."
I answer him with a long sensuous kiss.
"It's perfect, Renji," I say, watching his eyes light up when he sees how happy he made me, "It's beautiful…"
"Not even close to as beautiful as you, Byakuya…" he says, touching my hand.
I follow him down the hall to our bedroom. As I enter, I see lights and flowers everywhere and a sea of sakura on the bed.
"For later," Renji says, taking my hand and pulling me towards the dressing area.
We remove our uniforms and dress each other in soft, light kimonos, perfect for a warm evening like this. I start to lose control and pull Renji into a hard, passionate kiss. He responds readily, and we nearly don't make it out of the bedroom to eat dinner. He finally pushes away from me, leaving me panting softly and aching to feel his touch.
"Come on, Bya," he says, the passion plain in his voice, "We don't want that delicious food to go to waste."
We return to the garden and dinner is waiting. I lose track of what it is, because I can't stop thinking about how much I want to be with him. His eyes tell me he can't stop thinking about it either. We work our way through dinner and then dessert arrives. As we finish, Renji removes a small box from the folds of his kimono and sets it in front of me. I smile and hand him a small box as well.
"You go first," I say.
He opens the box and removes the gift inside. On a silver chain hangs a long silver coated fang. He stares in awe for a moment and then looks at me questioningly.
"Yes," I tell him softly, "A fang of the ookami seirei…one of Yuudai Kuchiki's, to be exact. I had it encased in silver. They are said to bring good fortune."
"Byakuya…when did you manage to go back and…"
"I have my ways…Renji."
I stand and move behind him, fastening the silver chain about his throat. He pulls me in for a very sweet kiss.
"I love it, Byakuya. Now, open yours."
I open the small box and blink in surprise, tears forming. I know what he's done. I catch my breath. I can't look up at him.
"From Hisana's tree?" I ask softly.
Renji nods, smiling. He fastens the light gold chain around my throat and stands back to look.
"Perfect," he breathes, "Will you walk with me, Byakuya?"
I take Renji's hand and we walk along the moonlit path to the waterfall. Flower petals have been scattered all along our path and cherry blossoms swirl around us. I cannot imagine a more beautiful night. We reach the waterfall and I see that it has been lit from inside with blue light. It looks magical under the blanket of stars and the full moon. I turn to Renji and place a hand on his face, bringing him in for another deep, passionate kiss.
"I don't know what to say, Renji," I tell him, "I cannot imagine anything so beautiful as this. Arigato."
He takes my hands in his.
"Happy Anniversary, Byakuya," he whispers.
"Happy Anniversary, Renji," I whisper back as his mouth descends on mine.
We stand under the stars and full moon, beside the blue lit waterfall, with cherry blossoms all around, devouring each other's lips, pressing our bodies close together, and feeling the intense warmth of a lovely spring night.
Finally, we pull away, knowing that if we continue, we won't make it back to the manor before we start making love. As it is, we are barely inside the room before our hands tear away each other's clothes and we fall into the sakura-filled bed. Blossoms fly as we land and Renji's face disappears in them, only to reappear a moment later as his body captures mine and forces it down into the petal softness of the bed. His mouth invades mine, his stroking tongue ravishing everything it touches, first inside my mouth, then down the side of my face, and then all over my throat.
He doesn't say anything, but a feral moan sounds as he slides down the length of my body, heating everything with seething kisses and searching fingertips until my hips rise up against him, trembling with need.
It comes out in a hissing breath because that is all I can manage, but it brings his mouth back to mine and he forces my body back down beneath him, locking his own around it.
"You're beautiful like this," he says, pulling away to look down at me, "Kami, Byakuya, I look at you like this and I can't hold back."
I grab him and reclaim his lips, my hips thrusting hard upward into his, begging for deeper contact. A warm hand reaches down to open my thighs, then he sinks down, finally entering me as I moan incoherently, writhing until he has to take hold of my hip to steady us both. He tries to begin slowly, but is drawn into moving faster as I cry out his name and move against him feverishly and out of control. My hips rise up sharply to meet his and my cries intensify as he finds that beautiful place deep inside me, and strikes it again and again until pleasure explodes through my shaking body and I find myself too breathless to move anymore. I fall back beneath him, feeling his weight settle onto me as he moans my name in a harsh gasp and releases deep inside me. We lie still, staring into each other's sated eyes until we recover enough to continue. It is late into the night when Renji's head drops onto my shoulder and his glazed eyes meet mine as we finally surrender to sleep.