Spring 17

"Chire, Senbonzakura," growled Byakuya, his voice deeper but without the otherworldly nature of Ichigo's Hollow form. His sword dissipated as expected, except that the blossoms were no longer pink, but bone-white.

The creature screamed with glee, charging Byakuya down. The shinigami flicked his fingers upwards, the blossoms rising into a shield. "Twin Lotus Blue Fire: Crash Down!"

He rained blue heat and fire on the beast, managing a few hits. But it swiped away the cherry blossom shield, forcing Byakuya to get out of range. The monster followed, and Byakuya covered his hands in white blossoms, deflecting Ichigo's familiar black sword. A particularly vicious strike just missed Byakuya's chest, and he grabbed it. Holding the blade, he put his hand in the creature's face. "Flying Dragon-Striking Heaven-Shaking Thunder Cannon!"

A gigantic blue electricity blast thundered from his palm, knocking back the creature and sending it skidding on its back, howling and holding its bleeding face with its hands. Byakuya followed it, cherry blossoms whirling around him as he pinned the creature's arms down with his knees, curling his fingers under the terrible mask.

"Ichigo is not YOURS!" he roared, tugging at the mask. The creature struggled below him, sending out waves and waves of reiatsu, so much so that eventually Byakuya had to move back or get injured. But the mask was cracked, and Byakuya resolved himself to get it off soon, whatever it took. In a flash, the monster was in his face, and he barely managed to dodge the sword aimed for his throat. With a few shunpo steps, Byakuya created enough distance to launch his next attack.

"Sen—" Byakuya swallowed down the last syllable. He couldn't release that form. He couldn't risk injuring Ichigo's body permanently. The hesitation cost him, and the extremely fast creature laughed as it slashed Ichigo's sword through the air, and blood spurted from Byakuya's shoulder. Wincing, he sent a missile of blossoms at the enemy, one hand going up to press against the wound. Thankfully, the high-speed regeneration kicked in, and the wound was sealed in moments.

He looked at the monster, idly spinning Ichigo's sword. Its eyes narrowed at him.

"Ichigo's gone, old man. He has no desire to come back and face what I've done with his body. But I appreciate the attempt to keep me occupied."

"He doesn't know I'm alive," said Byakuya, slowly building up his reiatsu for another attempt at binding. "And I'm here to bring him back, not to entertain you."

The monster cocked his head to the side, and tightened his grip on the sword. "I never said that you had any say in the games we play."

With a movement too fast to be tracked by Byakuya's keen vision, it appeared behind him, slicing his hamstrings before kicking him in the back and onto his face. He braced his fall just in time, but the monster stepped on his back, snapping the bones of his lower spine. Byakuya grunted but would not scream, and reached his hand backwards. "Hundred Steps Fence!"

A rod of energy shot out of his hand, splintering off into numerous smaller rods, slamming the monster into the ground. It screamed, trying to wrench itself free. Byakuya rolled onto his back, and braced one hand behind the other, palms outwards.

"First Song: Halting Fa—"

The mask cracked, then it evaporated, and Byakuya blinked, his face terrifyingly bare and pain rocketing through him as his half-healed spine shrieked fire through his nerves. But there was no time to be afraid, and he had to act quickly while the monster was pinned. Gritting his teeth, he sat up, ignored the pain and placed his left palm against the back of his right hand and extended his arms.

"First Song: Halting Fabric. Second Song: Hundred Linked Bolts. Final Song: Great Seal of 10,000 Forbiddings! Binding art number 92: Great Seal!"

Spiritual fabric snapped from air and wrapped around the bound monster, and it screamed as metal bolts pierced it. But as the metal cube began to fall and finally imprison it, black energy swelled up and out, blasting off all the bindings and tossing away the cube. Byakuya looked on in despair as the monster stood up. Bruised, bleeding, but that infernal mask had not budged. It laughed and walked over to Byakuya, slamming its foot onto his chest and pushing him into the white rock that was once part of Las Noches.

"Did you really think that your new little power could beat this?" it smirked, and ground its weight into Byakuya's chest. Ribs groaned, and the monster grinned, kicking its heel into Byakuya's sternum and caving in his ribcage. Byakuya howled as the ends of broken bones ground against each other, as they pushed into his lungs and out of his sides. Blood bubbled up his throat and out his mouth, and he coughed, splattering the monster's leg with it.

"I am the most powerful being to ever exist!" it crowed, moving its foot higher up to rest on Byakuya's throat and pressing down. "And all that stupid child ever did was waste his time, power and energy on ridiculous goals and weak people! His links to this world will begin to end now. First you, his adored lover, then his friends in Soul Society, then everyone of importance in Karakura town. Once he truly has nothing left to come back for, then I will have no more limitations. So, die! Die, you stupid shinigami!"

Byakuya grimace, and held his hand before his face. "I would expect such vainglorious prattle form a thief."

He pulled his hand down, and his mask returned. The influx of power washed through his body, rushing over injuries and healing them quickly. Byakuya opened his fist, and his sword appeared in his hand, condensing from white blossoms. He stabbed upwards, catching the monster in the stomach.

Forgive me, Ichigo.

He drove the sword further up, until the hilt stopped at the surface of the skin. Blood ran down Byakuya's arms, and the creature looked down at the wound, amazed to see blood. Byakuya clamped a hand around the leg closest to him.

"Seal."

The monster's arms snapped to his back, tied together with black spiritual fabric before it wrapped around his whole body, spreading out in an X shape and pinned by iron stacks. It struggled, and Byakuya moved out from under it, standing up and placing the very tip of his sword on the top of the mask.

"Your arrogance is what makes you weaker than the shinigami whose body you stole," said Byakuya.

"He is the weak one! He is –"

"Everything."

He carefully, expertly sliced the tip of his sword down the middle of the mask. A scream, then it split and fell, revealing Ichigo with tear trails still bright on his face. Byakuya stepped forward and held him as he cut away the spiritual fabric. Ichigo collapsed into his arms, holding on desperately.

"Byakuya...oh god Byakuya I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to –"

Byakuya lowered him onto the cracked white rock, holding him against his chest. "Hush, Ichigo. You did nothing wrong. It was not you who hurt me."

Ichigo reached up and touched the white mask. "You...you did this for me?"

Byakuya nodded, and whisked the mask away with a brush of his hand. "I put you in this terrible situation in the first place. I could not leave you in it."

Ichigo sat up, and cupped Byakuya's jaw in his hand, his fingers tracing over the fine features. "I thought I was dead," he whispered. "He took over, and I don't remember fighting him. I was in this horrible place, a dark abyss where I didn't even move while he took my body. I wouldn't have noticed if he'd killed anyone I cared about. The pain was that deep, Byakuya. And if you hadn't taken on the forbidden power you did, I would still be there."

Byakuya leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss to his lips. "Ichigo...I don't deserve everything you are. Not after how I've fought you in so many ways. You have suffered so many blows from me, far more than you did in the last few minutes. I cannot bring myself to believe that I am worth the grief I brought to you. But what I do know now is that I will not hesitate when it comes to you, ever again."

"Byakuya..."sighed the teen, before he leaned forward, sinking everything he felt into Byakuya's lips, into his mouth as he settled in his lap, his hands sinking into the black hair he loved to run through his fingers. They kissed like they were trying to climb into each other, hands roaming and pulling the other closer. Familiar heat wound down their spines into their hips, spreading through them with all the softness and warmth of honey. Byakuya fell backwards, tugging Ichigo down with him. He opened his legs on either side of Ichigo's hips, grinding against the teen's stomach. Ichigo winced, and Byakuya broke off the kiss, looking up at him.

"Injury?"

Ichigo smiled as he sat up, giving the sore spot a rub. "It's mostly healed, just bruised. I guess you owe me one."

"Add it to my record," grinned the older shinigami, propping himself on his elbows and kissing the underside of Ichigo's chin. "In fact, let me start erasing some of that debt..."

He sat up, Ichigo nicely positioned on his lap as he tugged off the black jacket and pants with practised efficiency. Ichigo responded by pulling Byakuya's jacket off, their mouths not separating for even a moment. Byakuya pushed Ichigo onto his back, the teen pushing the hakama off his hips and leaving them both naked under the velvet black sky. Ichigo grabbed Byakuya's hand and guided it towards his entrance, but Byakuya made a noise of dissent, instead guiding his hand towards his own entrance. He felt Ichigo's surprise, but did not hesitate, pushing in a finger and wincing slightly with the new experience. Ichigo rolled him onto his back, supporting his weight on his palms as he looked down at Byakuya.

"Are you sure?"

Byakuya nodded, and dragged Ichigo further up his body, positioning the teen so that his was sitting on his chest. Grabbing the lean hips he took Ichigo's length into his mouth, loving the gasp and the hands gripping his hair. Ichigo's head tipped back and he tried not to thrust mindlessly into Byakuya's delicious, overwhelming mouth. Byakuya swallowed hard around the tip and Ichigo groaned, panting at the sky. When he was sure that Ichigo was slick enough, he edged backwards, and Ichigo obligingly moved to kneel between his legs. Ichigo leaned over him and kissed him deeply, holding himself in one hand as he guided himself into Byakuya's body. He pushed in so slowly, and the black-haired shinigami tried not to wince. When Ichigo was fully sheathed he sighed and straightened up, looking down at the man he had admired for so long, and loved without hesitation. Byakuya blinked up at him, and Ichigo saw his vulnerability, his uncertainty.

"Ichigo? What's wrong?"

Ichigo leaned down and kissed his eyes, his forehead, his mouth, smoothing his hands down the powerfully muscled flank. "Nothing. Nothing at all. Do you trust me?"

Byakuya nodded, wrapping his legs around Ichigo's hips. "I do."

Ichigo kissed him one more time, then leaned back, his weight on his haunches as he hauled Byakuya into his lap, shivering with the unbelievable feel of being inside someone for the very first time. He closed his eyes and thrust, felt the response echo through Byakuya's long, lean body and the tightening of muscles around his length. Byakuya let his head fall back as pleasure rocked through him. He had never imagined that being so filled, and the centre of so much attention, could feel as good as being the giver. He hooked a leg over Ichigo's shoulder and pushed back, his hands finding a broken wall to push against.

The adrenaline from the battle left in their veins was set alight, and Ichigo dug his knees into the ground as he pounded hard into Byakuya, the latter clenching a fist in his hair as he wrapped his other hand around his erection, eyes closed and mouth open in abandon. The sight of such pleasure, of his lover so beautifully wrapped in the moment, sent Ichigo over the edge, and he clutched Byakuya to him as he ground his release into the body of his lover, his teeth sinking into Byakuya's shoulder as he rode out his orgasm. Byakuya followed a moment after, splattering their stomachs with warmth. Their climaxes passed and they collapsed into a sweaty, panting pile. Ichigo made to pull out, but Byakuya held him close, and would not let him. He smiled against the fragrant neck of his lover.

"Just a moment longer. I like how that feels."

Ichigo settled on the surprisingly comfortable chest. "I like it too."

They were quiet for a while, simply enjoying idle touches, the smell of their lovemaking, the silence of the desert. Then Byakuya laughed quietly.

"Well, now you're no longer a virgin."

Ichigo blushed and pushed up onto his palms so that he could scowl at Byakuya. "I haven't been a virgin for a while now! Sex is more than just about dominance, Byakuya."

"I know, I know. I don't know why I hesitated to let you into my body. It felt right."

Ichigo grinned and lay back down, letting Byakuya trace patterns out on his back. "I liked it too, but I like being on the bottom more, I think."

"You are very good either way," said Byakuya, looking at the sky through Ichigo's spikes.

Ichigo's face lost its warmth, and he closed his eyes. "Byakuya...where do we go from here?"

Byakuya sensed Ichigo's sadness and fear, and held him tighter. "To Urahara's shop to heal and rest...and then to our journey together. You made me leave once, Ichigo. Please don't tell me to leave again. I can't go back to Soul Society as a captain. They will never trust me again, not with this Hollow power. But I will still be family head, and this time, I will use my status for something useful. It will work out however we want it to."

A grin that would shame the sun broke out on Ichigo's face as he tipped his head up to look at Byakuya. "You mean it? No more titles getting in the way?"

Byakuya dropped his chin and pressed a kiss to Ichigo's forehead. "Nothing will get in the way again. Now come, Ichigo. You must be exhausted, and I could use a shower. Perhaps we can share a shower before a good nap, and then I'll take you out to Wagamamma's."

Ichigo laughed as he sat back, pulling out of Byakuya and reaching sideways for his pants. "You always come up with the best plans, Byakuya. Let's go home."

***

Epilogue

"RENJI!"

Ichigo looked up from his magazine. "Again?"

"I'll go get him," sighed Byakuya, setting aside his sketchpad, getting up from his chair and going into the surgery. Politely avoiding Rukia's lower half, he bent over and picked Renji up by the back of his collar, giving him a shake. Unfortunately, Renji's eyes remained open and blank.

"I'm afraid he's out, Rukia," he said, looking at his sister. She huffed and folded her arms, ignoring the doctors working around her.

""A little bit of blood and he freaks. So much for his warrior nature. Silly husband."

Byakuya grinned and dropped Renji unceremoniously on his ass. The jolt woke him up, and he blinked as he looked up at Rukia, who leaned over the edge of the bed to stick her tongue out at him.

"Renji, you wuss. Woman up, and keep me company."

"I'm so sorry, Rukia," he said, hurriedly scrambling to his feet and sitting beside her on the bed, taking her hands in his. "It's...it's just hard to watch you bleed and be in pain."

"Idiot," she smiled. "I want you here, and you don't have to look at the blood. Just don't pass out on me."

Byakuya glided out, taking up his seat next to Ichigo. "Renji is a strange man."

"Yeah," agreed Ichigo, closing his magazine. "First, he almost passed out just before the wedding from sheer nerves, then there was that other episode where Rukia had a false alarm and today he's passed out twice from the pressure of it all. How he's become such a fine warrior in spite of this is beyond me."

"Battle is easy, Ichigo. Most things are, compared to relationships and family," said Byakuya wisely. "Achieving the third level of Bankai was easier than our early relationship. I'd never been so confused before in my whole life."

Ichigo laughed, and whacked his partner on the arm with the magazine. "You are cute when you're flustered."

Byakuya smiled, continuing to draw on the sketchpad balanced on his knee. Ichigo leaned over, whistling as he glanced at the calligraphy.

"It's amazing how beautifully you write calligraphy, but your handwriting is like the stumblings of an ink-dipped, drunken spider."

"You're just saying that to get a reaction. I know better than that."

"Damn. And you used to be so gullible."

Byakuya was about to say something about Ichigo's penchant for playful sadism when there was a cheer and the doors burst open, Renji appearing in full, surgical-gear glory.

"Ah hah! I am the proud father of two beautiful, perfect children! Boy and girl!"

Byakuya and Ichigo rose as one, beaming. "That's wonderful news, Renji," grinned Ichigo. "But shouldn't you be in there?"

Renji nodded. "I just wanted to tell you guys. Will show them off in a bit." He spun on his heel and disappeared, and Ichigo looked over at Byakuya.

"Twice the protégés for you."

"Without captain duties, I have the time," Byakuya said. "And clan head duties will ease up now that I have settled the Western group's inheritance conflict. I just wish that I could have my own children."

Ichigo knotted his fingers with Byakuya's. "We can always adopt or have a surrogate mother, Byakuya. But I'm only just eighteen, and a little too stupid and inexperienced for fatherhood. Give me a few years to be a better man, so that I can be a better father."

Byakuya leaned over and kissed Ichigo on the temple, squeezing his hand. "There's no rush, and these two will likely keep me busy enough to forget about having my own children. Now come...let's go welcome the newcomers to the Kuchiki family."

***

Half an hour later, the babies were cleaned up, their umbilical cords tied off and wrapped in matching green blankets before being wheeled with Rukia to her private room. Ichigo knocked on the door and led Byakuya in.

"How are the chibis?"

Rukia and Renji beamed at them, each carrying a tiny bundle. "They're utterly perfect," said Renji, gazing down at the swathed bundle on his arm. "This is our son Ronin."

"And our daughter Kato," said Rukia, pushing the blanket off Kato's head. Ichigo and Byakuya moved closer to look at the infants. Ronin had black hair and Kato had red, both taking Renji's well-defined eyebrows, much to Ichigo's secret relief. Kato murmured and opened her eyes to reveal the storm-grey of the Kuchiki house, and Byakuya was instantly entranced. Rukia looked up and saw her brother's gentle curiosity and admiration, and offered Kato to him.

"Would you like to hold her, Nii-sama?"

Byakuya leaned back and folded his arms, a tiny blush creeping over his nose. "I...I wouldn't know –"

"You won't drop her, Byakuya," said Ichigo.

"This is more intimidating than facing a Menos," grumbled Byakuya under his breath as Rukia placed the terrifyingly fragile baby in his arms. He swallowed as he straightened up, carefully cradling Kato near his heartbeat. Renji placed Ronin in Ichigo's arms, and Ichigo took to it like a pro. Byakuya traced a finger over the tiny nose, let it be gripped by the perfect little fingers and couldn't imagine that anything else could be so profound as a new life. Renji leaned over and kissed Rukia, smiling against her lips.

"You are an artist," he said. "Look how you've bowled Byakuya over."

But Byakuya didn't hear him, and moved to sit down on the edge of the bed, and thought about what Hisana's daughter might have looked like. What his son might have looked like. Kato yawned and curled towards Byakuya's chest, and Byakuya smiled.

"Congratulations, Rukia, Renji," he said quietly, carefully placing the child back in her arms. "It will be honour to train them both, and be a part of their lives."

Unohana glided in, and bowed slightly to the group. "Kuchiki-san, Ichigo-kun, I'm afraid you will have to leave for now. There is much that needs to be done. You are welcome back later this evening."

They nodded and said their goodbyes, closing the door behind them. Ichigo took Byakuya's hand as they left the fourth division barracks, and they took a slow walk back to Byakuya's mansion, passing the 6th division with only a short glance. Byakuya missed being a captain, but was grateful that he was still allowed back in Soul Society and accepted by his family. His energy signature had changed enough to announce his acceptance of Hollow power, and Genryuusai had flatly refused to allow him to remain in the Gotei Thirteen despite the protests of Renji, Ukitake and Kyoraku. Even Zaraki had looked annoyed. It had devastated Byakuya for a long time, and Ichigo knew that it still hurt his lover to be so rejected. Byakuya had been a proud captain, had been driven by his division and his role to play in maintaining the safety and order of Seireitei. Byakuya's family, however, respected him and had asked him to stay as clan head. It had been the only thing to salvage his pain and Ichigo was glad that the Kuchiki House had been more understanding than the obstinate and ridiculous old man.

The nipping cold of the winter's sunset swept through Ichigo's shinigami robes and he leaned against Byakuya. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing, really," said Byakuya, putting his arm around Ichigo's back. "Just the usual thoughts. I miss my division, and I wish that so many of the captains would stop ignoring me. But there is some joy amongst all this." He smiled and pressed his face against Ichigo's. "We can be together because my family realises that I will not change my mind, and now we're both godparents. Kato and Ronin are beautiful, and I have no doubt they will grow up to be powerful and intelligent."

"Training them is going to be exciting," agreed Ichigo. "And for all the noise and mess they make, babies are still fun. You should see the ones at my Dad's clinic...I've watched so many of them grow up."

Ichigo moved so that Byakuya could open the double-doors to the mansion, and followed him to the lounge, where a huge fire was crackling and a variety of snacks sat waiting on the low coffee table. Ichigo sat in front of the fire, holding his hands towards the delicious warmth and shivering as the heat began to warm him. Byakuya sat behind him and took his hands between his, rubbing them gently with his palms to warm them. The teen leaned back against his lover, tipping his chin up and smiling at Byakuya.

"I miss this, during the week."

"I do too," Byakuya said, pressing a kiss to the side of his neck. "But it will be the holidays soon, and I will not let you leave here."

"I have no intentions of doing so," murmured the teen, lowering Byakuya's hands to his waist before lifting his arms up to wrap them around his lover's neck. Byakuya licked the fragrant skin as his hands smoothed under Ichigo's hakama, brushing the skin of his thighs.

"Perhaps I can warm you up faster," he said, trailing a finger up the hardening length. Ichigo hissed at the contact, arching against him. Byakuya licked the shell of Ichigo's ear as he eased his hands up over the carved, scarred torso, his palms flat against the warm skin as he pressed against the cobbles of Ichigo's stomach, the curve of his ribs and the muscle of his chest. Ichigo leaned into the touch, his eyes closing as his hands pressed over Byakuya's. The older shinigami nipped at Ichigo's shoulder as he brushed his fingers over the hard nipples, over the sensitive skin of his neck. He was rewarded with quiet gasps and the avid response to his touch. The crackling of the fire kept them company as Byakuya enjoyed the simple pleasure of exploring his lover's body just through his fingertips, his mouth occasionally joining in. Ichigo guided Byakuya's hand to his shaft and long fingers closed over it firmly, a thumb massaging the tip.

"Byakuya," he breathed, and the sound almost undid Byakuya's will. He eased off their clothes, and turned Ichigo to face him, kissing him as he circled his lover's entrance with one finger, then pressing it in to prepare him. Ichigo clutched his shoulders and worked his hips against the perfect touch, his spine twisting as arcs of pleasure shot through it with each brush against that little nerve centre Byakuya so loved to torture. Soon Ichigo was ready and Byakuya took a moment to lick his hand and slick himself before slowly pressing in. Ichigo buried his face in Byakuya's neck, and let his older, generous lover hold him up. Byakuya smiled against his shoulder as he wrapped one arm around the narrow waist and hitched up one of the insanely long legs with the other.

"Comfortable?"

Ichigo nodded, kissing Byakuya's pulse. "Nowhere else I'd rather be."

Byakuya leaned back on his haunches and thrust up into the tight, hot body of his lover, felt Ichigo's hands clutch his back and provide leverage. Ichigo moaned and tipped his head back, and Byakuya drank in the sight of his lover so enthralled and so pleasured. He kept his thrusts even and deep, and smiled as Ichigo tried to beg for more and harder without any breath. He lowered Ichigo to the ground, dug his knees into the soft carpet and thrust harder, Ichigo's voice hitching up a notch and long legs clutching his ribs hard enough to bruise. Byakuya lowered his mouth to Ichigo's chest as he picked up the pace, loving the hands that clutched at his hair, his back, his ass, and answered his lover's requests.

"Ichigo..." he sighed, then sunk his teeth into the junction of his shoulder and neck as he climaxed, his feet pushing against the ground as he tried to bury himself deeper. Ichigo panted out something that sounded like Byakuya's name as he splashed their stomachs, his fingers digging into the muscles of Byakuya's arms. They were locked in that tableau for a moment, then their muscles relaxed and they lay together, Byakuya gently pulling out and moving to lie at Ichigo's side.

They lay in the warmth and light of the fire, and admired the flicker of orange over muscles and the reflection off Byakuya's ebony hair. Ichigo smiled, and pillowed his head on Byakuya's chest, looking at the flames and enjoying the fingers that stroked up and down his back.

"Byakuya?"

"Mm?"

"I'm glad you decided to continue training me in spite of my stubborn ways."

Byakuya smiled, and kissed the top of Ichigo's head. "And I am glad that you cared enough to ask. Now come, Ichigo. We haven't eaten all day, and I want to show you the scrolls I drew this week to hang up in the dojo I had built for Rukia and Renji."

Ichigo sat up and reached for a blanket off the couch. "For someone who tries to act hardcore, you're the biggest softy I know."

Byakuya stood up, reaching for his heavily-embroidered gown hanging over the back of an armchair. "I am only making sure that the future of my family is secured."

"And their happiness," said Ichigo, standing up and sliding his hands under Byakuya's gown and kissing the underside of his jaw. "It is one of the things I so admire in you, no matter how hard you try to hide it. Now, let's eat, Byakuya."

FIN

An: This chapter goes out to Katrina Tora, who was the only person to suggest names for the next Kuchiki heirs! I hope you enjoyed the story, and I thank you for reading all the way. All those sneaky hundreds and hundreds who read and didn't leave even a line of review...sadness becomes this author. But the few who did, chapter after chapter, thank you. It made the journey worthwhile. I will make sure you get the threesome short I am writing, to thank you for your efforts and time.

Next up: Winter

Ichigo and Byakuya have been together for three years, much to the surprise of most of Soul Society. But Byakuya's gone back to talking to Hisana's picture. Fortunately, Ichigo might know what's wrong, and how to fix it. Whether Byakuya will forgive him is the risk he's willing to take.