Chapter 16: After the Storm

"Wait up, will you?" Renji said gruffly, his hands on the baby sling as he flash stepped after Rangiku, "Taichou's gonna kill me if I drop this little one!"

"You won't drop him!" Rangiku laughed, flash stepping again, "And we are going to have sooooooo much fun!"

"Ah…okay…sure, if you say so…" Renji muttered, unconvinced, "But, just so you know…guys don't really like to shop that much…"

"Oh, don't be silly!" giggled the tenth division fukutaichou, tickling her baby daughter under the chin, "You aren't going to shop anyway!"


"I did you a huuuuuuge favor!" Rangiku told him.

Renji huffed out a puff of air and glanced down at Arashi.

"Now, why the hell don't I like the sound of that?" he mumbled.

"Rrrrrrrrrenjiiiii!" Rangiku called, "Come here…"

Renji chuckled good-naturedly and shook his head, running to catch up with her. He heard her voice around a corner and hurried after.

"So…like I was telling you, he's going to be moving out of Kuchiki Manor soon."

"He and Kuchiki taichou broke up?"

Renji slid to a stop, his mouth open in surprise. The man talking to Rangiku turned and smiled at Renji.

"Well, look who's here!" said Rangiku, "What a surprise! Imagine that…Well, boys, I have to go."

"But…" Renji started.

"Toodles!" laughed Rangiku.

"Shhhiiit…" mused Renji, his cheeks burning.

He felt the other man's eyes on him and sighed resignedly.

"You, uh, going to look up at me, Renji?"

"Yeah," said Renji, laughing nervously, "Sorry about her, Shuuhei. She can be a little…"

"So…I hear you and Kuchiki taichou are going to separate. Are you…okay about that?"

Renji gave him a sad smile.

"Yeah…I knew from the start that it wouldn't last. But, you know…it was worth it…every minute."

"So you two are…parting amicably?"

Renji nodded.

"I'm going to wait a few months…you know, so people won't take me to task over leaving right when Arashi was born. But I'm okay with it. We've known for a while that we were going to split up, but we're still close. He's still my Taichou."

Shuuhei nodded.

"Have you given any thought to where you'll live?"

"Huh? Oh, not really…"

"I just asked, because the apartment next to mine is up for rent. If you want, we can go talk to the manager. I'm sure you'll like it. It's a nice place…and close to Kuchiki Manor, so you can visit Arashi a lot."

Renji smiled.

"I don't know," he said quietly, "I have enough saved to buy a house."

"A house?"

"Yeah…haven't had to pay rent and I've been saving money living at Kuchiki Manor. I saw a nice place not far from your apartment. I was thinking of going to talk to the real estate agent."

"Well, good luck. Let me know when your housewarming is…"

The dark haired shinigami started to turn away. Renji watched for a moment, then looked down at Arashi.

"What should I do, kid? I've always kinda liked him…"

Shuuhei turned back and Renji froze.

"Renji…would you…like to come over for lunch?"

"Ah…I really want to, but Arashi needs his nap," Renji said, looking crestfallen.

"Don't worry about it," Shuuhei assured him, "We can put Arashi down for a nap and…enjoy some time together."

Renji couldn't contain the smile that stretched across his face. He nodded and fell in beside the dark haired fukutaichou, neither noticing the giggling woman who watched from behind the bushes nearby. She looked down at the little girl in the sling.

"Mission accomplished!" she exclaimed merrily, "Now, what do you say we go find some nice outfits for that housewarming! Only I have a feeling we'll be needing two gifts!"

Still quaking with laughter, she flash stepped away.


"You and the others did a lovely job of redecorating the fortress. It will take the hollows quite some time to rebuild it," laughed Gin, tousling Toshiro's hair.

"Will you quit doing that?" the Squad Ten taichou said, annoyed.

"Oh, now, that's not nice. Being so moody when we won't be seeing each other for so long!"

Toshiro sighed heavily, but his lips smiled slightly as Gin continued to stroke his hair and planted kisses on his bared throat and shoulder.

"I'm going to miss getting to touch you like this…" Gin complained.

"I will take leave time to be with you," said the white haired shinigami, "It doesn't have to be so long. And don't waste what time we have complaining. There are better ways to spend our time."

"Oh?" said Gin, licking at the soft white skin.

Toshiro pushed him down and attacked his mouth with fierce kisses. The silver haired shinigami slid his hands beneath his lover's yukata and ran them slowly down the long, slim back. He wrapped his hands around the round white bottom and pulled Toshiro's hips forward into his. He thrust upward, rubbing their lengths heatedly together.

"Mmmmmmm…" he moaned, tilting his head back, closing his eyes and shivering softly as Toshiro's teeth nipped hungrily at his throat and started to work their way downward.

He moaned louder, writhing under the play of the young taichou's hands and mouth over his body. By the time Toshiro's hot mouth wrapped around him, he was already wet with passion. He held back as long as he could, looking down at the pale skin and fiery expression, but it seemed like no time passed before he called out his lover's name and watched in awe as his seed flowed in heavy, warm pulses into Toshiro's waiting mouth. The young taichou swallowed every last spurt, then gently licked away the last drops from the wet head of his sated member.

Toshiro crawled up his body and brought their mouths together for a flurry of kisses, then Gin turned swiftly, bearing him down onto the bed and slowly exploring his body with a wickedly skillful tongue and searching hands, not stopping until he had returned every bit of the pleasure his lover had given him. Finally, they collapsed together and started to drift off.

"Will you be here when I wake?" Gin asked softly.

"If you want me to be…" Toshiro mumbled, yawning and closing his eyes, "Soutaichou gave me some time off. I can stay for a while."

"Hmmm," smiled Gin, "Nice of him…and sweet of you…my Yukihime."

Toshiro's eyes flicked open and glared at him.

"You call me that again and I'm leaving…"

"Sorry…" said Gin, none too penitently.


"You're beautiful, Kuchiki Byakuya," sighed Aizen, kneeling next to the noble, releasing the tie at his waist and pulling back his red yukata to reveal the full expanse of naked, pale skin beneath.

He fell on the noble's open mouth, plunging into kiss after hot, wet kiss. His hands wandered freely over his lover's writhing form, touching everywhere, pleasuring and exploring…making Byakuya's chest heave softly as he panted and tried to catch his breath. Byakuya watched with deeply hazed eyes as his lover moved slowly down the length of his torso, touching and tasting, teasing and taunting, until his hips lifted off the bed and he gasped his lover's name almost pleadingly.

"Sosuke! Ah…Sosuke…aishiteru yo…aishiteru yo…aishiteru yo…," he moaned.

Aizen wrapped a hand around his leaking arousal and licked hungrily at the blushing head, making Byakuya gasp and release his name loudly again.


The brown eyes looked up at him with warmth and affection.

"Yes," he breathed, "you can say it all you want to now. You can whisper it…you can moan it…you can scream it…It's okay now…my Byakuya!"

He took the noble's length into his mouth, sliding up and down and pleasuring the soft sac at its base with gentle fingertips. He released the wet member and sucked warmly at one side of the sac, then the other, then kissed his way lower, teasing his lover's tight entrance with a probing tongue. Byakuya's back arched and his words became incoherent. Aizen smiled and knelt between his parted thighs, pulling him up until he straddled his lover's body, holding on to the brown haired shinigami's shoulders and locking eyes with him as he slowly sank down on Aizen's swollen member.

Aizen felt his mind growing as dazed as his lover's eyes looked as Byakuya's body began to dance heatedly against his. He sank into the deep gray eyes, loving the sight of Byakuya, with his tight controls released, face bathed in sweat, eyes glazed over and that sweet body moving so beautifully on top of him. The noble's eyes closed and his hands tightened as hot seed erupted and spilled out between them. He threw Byakuya down onto his back and thrust hard and deep into him, moaning his name and holding him tightly as he emptied himself inside him. They lay quietly afterward, panting against each other's chests, their hands lacing together.

"I don't know what I'll do when you go," Aizen whispered, "It was very difficult, saying goodbye to our Arashi this morning. I can't imagine saying good bye to you now, Bya…"

"We will get through," Byakuya said softly, "We managed to find ourselves here, despite everything that worked against us. I will come to the living world to see you as often as I can. We will have so many quiet nights under the stars…and long walks together. We will manage the time apart for as long as we must. Because I will never be over you, Aizen Sosuke. I tried to get over you, but you are inside my soul. There is no place I can go that your spirit does not reach mine…"

"And I will never be over you, Kuchiki Byakuya. I will dream of you every night…and my heart will send its passion to you through our connection. And every time we meet, I will hold you until the very last moment we have. Aishiteru yo, Bya. I will never another as I love you."

"And I will never love another," Byakuya whispered, "as I love you."

"Then it is decided. We are mated for life. And the day I become king, I will take your hand in marriage. We will reign over the three worlds and make them a better place to live…for everyone…human, shinigami…and even hollow. Ours will be a peaceful place. And all we will know is love. There will be an end this violence…and it will not take us."

Byakuya turned his head and buried his face in his lover's shoulder, forcing away the worries, the fears that plagued him. He wouldn't worry about whether or not they would see each other again, whether they would be forced to fight each other or if they would lose each other. He vowed to see their love through, day by day, and to remain always hopeful. Despite all of the forces that threatened, the feelings between them were stronger. He clung to Aizen Sosuke and drifted off to sleep, still clinging.


Byakuya woke to the sounds of morning. He had slept later than usual, but it was, of course, to be expected after such a night. He turned and found the other side of the bed empty and a note on the pillow.

My Dear Byakuya,

I hope you can forgive me, but after the perfection of spending the night in your arms, I could not bear to say goodbye to you this morning. I sat at your bedside, looking down at your peaceful, happy expression and wanted that to be the memory I carry with me. I have returned with Gin to Hueco Mundo and will begin the rebuilding of Las Noches in a secret location.

Anytime you steal away, just reach for me through our linked pendants and I will meet you here. I know that loving each other this way will not be an easy path, but I would rather walk this difficult path beside you than to face life without you again. I think we have learned that no matter how we try to forget each other, we will always yearn for each other. It is best we just admit to our feelings and manage our love as best we can…

Take good care of yourself and our Arashi. I will look forward to your contact, so that we can meet here again and spend time together as a family. I want our son to have what you and I did not…two committed parents, who love and protect each other…and their children. I know we haven't talked about it, but I hope someday we can make another child as we made Arashi. I would make a hundred children with you…and wake up each morning to your lovely face…and to a sea of shining brown and gray eyes and flowing dark hair.

But it seems that our dreams must wait. For now, we must be patient and steal what moments we can, looking forward to the end of conflict, when we can be together again. As I wait for the day we can share a home, I will think of you often…and dream of being with you always. Think of me…dream of me…and when the time is right, return to me.

All my love,


Byakuya sighed softly and set the letter on the nightstand. He climbed out of bed and showered slowly, letting the heat wash over him and through him, closing his eyes and remembering. He left the shower and dressed even more slowly, then slipped his lover's note into his shihakushou and turned toward the Seireitei.

"Welcome back, Taichou," Renji said as he stepped out of the senkaimon, "I guess I don't have to ask if you enjoyed your vacation. You look…well rested."

Byakuya nodded.

"Thank you for taking care of Arashi during my absence, Renji."

"Ah, he's a great kid. Shuuhei and I took him to the zoo. He really seemed to like the animals. He couldn't take his eyes off of them…and he was drooling everywhere!"

Byakuya smiled.

"I'm glad you enjoyed your time with him. And I'm glad to hear that you had someone to spend time with."

"Yeah…Shuuhei is great. He really hit it off with Arashi, too. I told him that if he was going to be involved with me, then he'd better get along with Arashi."

"And how did he respond?"

"He loves Arashi. And he and I aren't doing half-bad either. I'm happy, Taichou…really happy."

Byakuya sighed.

"That is a great relief, Abarai. I still feel quite a bit of guilt for dragging you along with me…"

"Forget it, Byakuya. It's in the past. I will always love you, Taichou, but you're not mine. You never really were. I'm happy I could be there to help you…really…and I'm happy the way things are now, too."

He lifted the cooing infant out of the baby sling and handed him to the noble, then leaned forward and kissed Arashi on the cheek.

"Take care, Taichou. I'll see you at work."

"Arigato, Renji."

He flash stepped through the streets and back to Kuchiki Manor, too aware of the silence as he put the baby down for a nap and walked back to the room he had shared with Renji. He missed the easy camaraderie they had shared, but knew that he couldn't rely on the redhead to fill the space in his life where Sosuke should be.

"You're back!" said a pleased feminine voice from the doorway.

"Rukia," he said in greeting.

"I was just about to have some tea in the garden. Would you like to join me, Nii-sama?" Rukia asked.

"Yes Rukia," he said softly, "Tea would be good."

He watched as she flash stepped out the door, then took Sosuke's note and read it again. He smiled and slipped it into the back of his dresser, then turned out of his room to join Rukia in the garden.


(A/N**I am going to write a sequel to this, but have to work out some details and finish a few other things first. Thanks so much for reading…and for managing the long waits between some chapters! I deeply appreciate everyone who read and reviewed! Arigato! Love, Spunky)