Chapter 12: Finding The Words

"Here's your tea, Taichou," Renji said, setting the teacup in Byakuya's hands.

"Arigato, Renji," Byakuya said, taking a sip and setting it down.

Renji studied him for a moment, then sat down in a chair next to the bed.

"Are the training schedules posted for next week?" Byakuya went on.

"Not only are the training schedules posted for next week, they're posted for the next two weeks, along with living world deployments, a full inventory for the squad and all of the squad evaluations have been scheduled and confirmed. Now, will you please just rest, Taichou? I've taken care of everything," Renji assured him, "You know you should have stayed in the healing center. I could see that Unohana taichou thought so too."

"She agreed to release me, did she not?" Byakuya said archly.

"Yeah, on the condition that you rest. And you could have done that at the manor, you know."

"Well, I have to keep an eye on you, Abarai. Wouldn't want you sneaking off to play games with Aizen Sousuke and his ilk…again."

Renji rolled his eyes.

"You're just not going to let me forget that, are you?"

"What? That you were wandering around with your guard down so much that this baby I'm carrying could have overcome you and you got caught and nearly defiled by enemy forces?" Byakuya said, smirking, "Now, why would I want to make you dwell on that? I mean, it's not like you did anything stupid or insulting like make love to me and then walk out on me and your child…"

"I didn't even know about the baby!" Renji objected, his face growing red, "And I thought you were just having sex with me to pass the time until you got married!"

"Which was about as true as what you originally thought, when you thought I was dying," Byakuya countered calmly, "Abarai, you and I may communicate perfectly well as taichou and fukutaichou, but more personally, we misunderstand each other on an alarmingly regular basis."

"Yeah…well, you're a lot easier to read during a battle than you are in bed," Renji commented.

"Really?" Byakuya said, raising an eyebrow, "I think that perhaps we needs to do something about that at once, Abarai. If we nearly lost everything over a misunderstanding, we are honor-bound to do what we can to prevent a repeat of it."

"And that means?"

Byakuya motioned for him to come closer. Renji moved his chair closer to the bed and gazed at the noble with sincere curiosity. Byakuya smiled and he felt his heart flutter.

"Renji, you know my thinking and my moves during combat, down to the slightest narrowing of my eyes, and how is it that you came to know me so well?"

"I watched you?"

"You didn't just watch me," Byakuya explained, "You watched me every waking moment, poring over my every move, constantly analyzing, constantly attentive…Renji, we've only been in close quarters with each other and interacting on a personal basis for the equivalent of a few days. And we have done nothing but make a complete mess of things."

"Yeah, well…"

"If we were to spend even half the time improving our interpersonal skills that you spent stalking me to learn my weaknesses…"

"I wouldn't exactly call it stalking!" Renji said, looking offended.

"I would…and in any case, if we directed our energies toward learning each other inside and out…"

Renji's offended stare suddenly curled into a sly smile.

"Wait a minute…Taichou, are you saying…what I think you're saying?"

"I am saying that when there is something you want to excel at, you have to give it proper attention," Byakuya stated firmly.

Renji couldn't fight the huge grin taking over his face.

"So," he said, leaning closer, "you're telling me…that if I want to understand your words, I should talk to you more often…"

Byakuya nodded.

"And," he said, leaning forward and nipping at the noble's lips, "if I want to be good at kissing you, I should kiss you often…"

The conversation halted for several long minutes as the two indulged in a heated exploration of each other's mouths. By the time they pulled away from each other, both were flushed and breathless.

"If I want to know what you enjoy in bed, we should go to bed together frequently…"

"Nightly," Byakuya whispered hotly in his ear.

"Ah…" Renji moaned, climbing onto the bed.

Byakuya captured him and held him at arm's length for a moment.

"And if we are to know each other well enough so that we don't have so many misunderstandings, then we will need to spend copious amounts of time together in a relaxed setting…"

Renji blinked.

"Taichou…are you saying that you want me to move in with you? Now?"

Byakuya smiled and Renji felt a tickle inside.

"Well, I hate to point it out, but we are having a baby together and we are engaged."

"But are the Elders going to be okay with that? I mean, think about the scandal, Taichou!" Renji said with mock seriousness.

Byakuya wrapped his arms around the redhead and pulled him close.

I see nothing scandalous about two people who love each other and are getting married and having a baby together, living under the same roof. After all, Abarai, the cat is out of the bag. I'm already pregnant. There's certainly no hiding what we have been doing."

He captured Renji's lips in a slow, deep kiss.

"And what I find scandalous is that we are lovers…and you insist on calling me by my military designation…"

"So what do I call you…Kuchiki-sama?"

Byakuya gave him a withering look.

"Renji, you are not a servant."

"Hmmm, Byakuya-sama, then?"

Byakuya gave a discontented sigh.

"Hisana always insisted on calling me that…which I thought was less than enchanting after we were married. Add to that, the council refers to me that way."

"Ah, that's out, then," Renji said, smiling.

"Just use my proper name," Byakuya said, "except when we are working."

"Or in public?"

"No," said Byakuya, pressing his lips to Renji's again, "just at work."

"Hai, Taichou."

"Renji…"

"Well," grinned the redhead, "because this is your military quarters, we are at work…sir."

"Speaking of work, don't you have some to be doing, Abarai?" Byakuya inquired.

"Nope, I told you. I finished everything."

"You mean to say that the third seat finished nearly everything while you were wandering around, getting captured and forcing your pregnant taichou to come and save your posterior…isn't that more like it?" Byakuya said, raising an eyebrow.

"Well, yeah…and by the way, Byakuya, arigato…for saving my ass…literally."

Byakuya nuzzled beneath his chin and nipped at his throat.

"Actually," he said in a low, seductive purr, "it wasn't a wholly selfless action."

Renji smirked.

"Really?"

"Really…I didn't so much do it for you as for myself. I saved your ass," he said, licking the redhead's ear, "so that I might indulge in it, myself."

"Hey, wait a minute, Taichou…Byakuya, Unohana taichou said that you weren't supposed to be doing anything but resting."

"Hmmm…" said Byakuya, frowning, "Then, do you mind if I rest my head in your lap?"

Renji laughed.

"I guess that's not a problem," he said, settling down next to the noble, "just behave yourself. You are to have no stress…none."

Byakuya sank down and rested his head on Renji's crossed legs, then laid still, looking up at him.

"No stress," Baykuya repeated thoughtfully, "That could be a problem."

"You think," Renji said, grinning down into his lover's serene expression.

"Yes," Byakuya went on, "because what I find most stressful is boredom…and if I do nothing but lie here, I will get terribly bored and then be under stress."

"You will? Then, I see it as a matter of duty to be sure you don't get bored. And since all of my other duties are seen to, I can assist you for as long as you want…to avoid boredom."

Byakuya smiled up at him.

"I think I would enjoy that."

"So," Renji said, running his fingers through the long, raven black strands of Byakuya's hair, "what will we do to avoid boredom, that will not put strain on your healing abdominal area?"

"Hmmm," said Baykuya, blinking slowly, "I believe I began a detailed exploration of your tattoos while we were at the cabin, but I failed to give proper attention to the ones on your back."

"Yeah," agreed Renji, "I think you became distracted with making love and never got back to looking at them."

"Then, I shall look at them now. Do you mind removing your uniform?"

"I thought you'd never ask," Renji said, slipping out from beneath his head.

Byakuya rolled onto his side, watching intently as the redhead slowly removed his top, baring himself to the waist. He glanced back over his shoulder at the noble's hungry expression and grinned.

"That should be enough," he said, "so you can see what you missed last time."

"Actually," said Byakuya softly, "I believe there are a few more beneath your hakama. And I think I should not miss any of them, this time. I am especially interested in the ones that frame that lovely posterior, which I liberated just in time to prevent its abuse."

"Well," said Renji, slipping free of the hakama, "I guess since you saved it, it belongs to you…doesn't it?"

He climbed back onto the bed and Byakuya pulled him close, wrapping his arms around the redhead and sliding his hands warmly down the length of Renji's back.

"I want you to hear me," he breathed in Renji's ear, "You are never to consider yourself a possession…not even mine. We are together, because we choose to be that way, not because of any obligation or because it was permitted for us to be so. If you decide someday that you no longer love me, I want you to be honest and say so. What we have between us is pure and unspoiled…and I want it to remain that way, always."

Renji took Byakuya's face in both hands and stared down into the dark, beautiful eyes.

"Would you tell me something," he said softly, "Would you tell me where the hell you came from? I have to ask, because…there is no way that you are the same stuck up, demanding, overbearing noble who I met when I walked in this place. Where did you come from, because I know you can't be one of them…"

Byakuya kissed him lightly.

"Shh…don't tell anyone," he whispered, "because if the Elders found out that I am slowly trying to inject a bit of humanity into the clan, they would have me assassinated. You see, my father was another, like me, who disagreed with much that the noble houses stand for, but before his death, he taught me just how much you can do to change such things, right beneath their fine, upturned noses. Even my grandfather, who you would think never smiled a day in his life, was one like me, who realized the importance of change for the better. Renji…I think…I think I've figured it out…"

Renji frowned thoughtfully.

"Figured what out?" he asked.

Byakuya smiled.

"The task my grandfather set before me…when he left for the spirit dimension. He told me that someday I would understand…and I think I do."

Renji gave him a puzzled stare.

"Renji…my grandfather was one of the most deeply respected taichous in our history. He led the Kuchiki clan and managed the Elders and raised our clan to be the most powerful and most respected. But his commitment to excellence didn't end there. Because he truly loved my grandmother…not because she was noble or anything surface level, but because they could be themselves with each other. And that's what he wanted for me. I might have to posture for everyone else in the three worlds, but there is one place I don't have to do that…one place I can be myself…not taichou or clan leader, or even noble, just…myself. That place is with the one person who has seen every side of me. That place, Renji, is with you…and our baby. Do you understand?"

"Yeah," Renji said, nodding and smiling, "I do."

He laughed softly.

"Does that mean you'll have that big comfortable bed brought back to the manor?" Renji asked, grinning.

"If you like," Byakuya said, capturing his lips, "or you can tell me what you desire…and I will indulge you…Renji. I want to make you happy."

Renji met his eyes warmly.

"You already have," he replied, returning Byakuya's kiss, "You've given me everything, Byakuya…love, happiness, a future and our baby. I couldn't ask for more than that."

"And," Byakuya said, lowering the redhead onto his back and spreading his long red hair out around him, "I couldn't ask for anything more than you."

Renji stared.

"How do you do that?" he asked as Byakuya's eyes swept over his body and left him blushing, "How do you just look at me and make me feel like…someone…I don't know, just not some dog from the Rukon, but…someone…"

"You are someone, Renji."

"But you look at me like I'm that moon you stare at every night…or flowers in your garden, you know, something beautiful."

Byakuya smiled warmly, admiring the lovely display of Renji's body relaxed, naked and spread out across his bed.

"That's because you are beautiful," he said, reaching out and gently running his fingertips along the redhead's tattooed abdomen, "I don't think I've ever seen anything as beautiful as you the way you are right now…naked and stretched out on my bed. And I think that I would like to see that as often a I go out to look at the moon…or walk in that garden."

Renji blushed an even darker red.

"And is…uh…looking all you want to do?" he asked.

Byakuya turned and brought his body down onto Renji's trapping him.

"I think I would like to do more than look, Renji."

"Ah…but no stress…nothing that will strain your abdominal…"

"I will not do anything to cause myself stress," he said, bringing his lips to the redhead's throat, "You, however, may encounter more than a little stress, I think."

"That okay," Renji said, feeling the breath leave him as Byakuya's mouth pleasured his tattooed throat, "I think I can take it!"

(Thanks so much for reading and enjoying! For those wanting to enjoy Byakuya and Renji's wedding and the birth of their baby, I will be including those in a 'yet to be named' sequel. In this continuation story, the Elders will send a stuffy relative to attempt to 'assist' Renji in adjusting to life in a noble house. Thanks again for your enthusiasm and encouragement! Love, Spunky)