Chapter 4: Small Wonders

Unohana taichou gazed into the three worried expressions and smiled encouragingly. Renji gripped Seijun's hand and looked up at the healer worriedly.

"How is he?" he asked quickly, "Did you get him stabilized?"

"Take a breath and remain calm, Abarai fukutaichou. Kuchiki taichou is stable for now, but I do have some important questions for you."

She turned to Renji.

"You and Kuchiki taichou were imprisoned for a time in Las Noches, is that not true?"

"We were," said Renji, "We had to go there because of the parasitic hollow that was affecting Byakuya.

"And who treated him for his condition?"

Renji frowned.

"Well, there was Aizen Sousuke's personal physician and then, of course, Gin. I was there for the most invasive procedures. I was taken away a few times, but Gin was with us when I wasn't with Byakuya. He was attended by the healer at those times."

"And did you notice anything unusual in any of the treatments you saw?"

"Well," said Renji, "not being trained as a healer, I wouldn't know much, but what I saw, I mostly understood. Why?"

Unohana sighed and frowned.

"It seems that something was implanted in his body while he was in Las Noches, and it is important to determine if this thing that was implanted is dangerous. We already know that it destabilized Kuchiki taichou's reiatsu, resulting in the symptoms he has been having and triggering the alert. What we do not know is the exact nature of the implant. It appears to have a reactive cluster of reiatsu inside it and that reiatsu is causing the strange symptoms. At this point, I cannot determine if the reiatsu cluster is some kind of mind control device or maybe a destructive weapon."

"What?" Renji said breathlessly, "D-do you mean…like…a bomb or something?"

"It could be a combustive device or something used to take over control of mind and body. Has he acted unusually aggressive or out of the ordinary lately?"

"Well…" said Renji, "I've been away lately…but when I returned tonight, he wasn't himself. He practically bit my head off just because I was worried when I found him passed out on the floor. And…and also, Rikichi said that he had been spending a lot of time alone in his quarters…not horribly unusual…"

"But not something to be overlooked."

"And on the battlefield, he was having problems controlling his shikai and ban kai."

"Hmmm…" said the healer, "…so there is a raised possibility that Aizen Sousuke may have tried to gain control of his mind. I did not sense anything incendiary, so I think I can ease your fears about that."

"That is a great relief," said Seijun, squeezing Renji's hands, "but it is troubling that something could be affecting his mind. So what will you do to heal Byakuya-sama?"

"The first thing I am doing is that I have called Urahara Kisuke to the Seireitei to examine Byakuya. Having been in charge of research and related things, he will have more specific knowledge of this type of device. He will also be better able to suggest the best means of removing the device without damaging Kuchiki taichou in the process."

"Unohana taichou," said Isane from the doorway, "Urahara Kisuke has arrived."

"Very well," she told the girl, then she turned back to the others, "I will consult with Urahara-san and come back to give you an update as soon as something more is known."

She disappeared into the hallway, leaving Renji, Seijun and Risa looking uncertainly at each other. As they tried to think of something to say to each other, Kurosaki Ichigo appeared in the doorway.

"Hey, Renji," he said quietly, "You hanging in there?"

"Yeah," the redhead said, sighing in frustration, "It just pisses me off that I didn't think of this before. You know, when we returned from Hueco Mundo, we were so focused on getting the cure to everyone that it didn't occur to us to be worried about something like this. Usually, we would have been scanned before entering the Seireitei, but the base got taken out and the guard post was abandoned, so we didn't get scanned. And so much was going on that even though we were examined by healers, we weren't scanned fully. I can't believe we were tripped up by something so foolish!"

"Hey," said Ichigo gently, "Don't worry about it. Byakuya will be okay."

"I wonder what those freaks did to him…" Renji said in a choked voice, "They took me out of the room to have their fun with me a few times. They could have had Aizen's healer do it while they were with me…or…maybe I just didn't see. I was so damned worried he was going to die…"

"But you got away from those bastards and you stopped their plans," Ichigo said firmly, "and the healers will stop this, too…they will, Renji."

Renji couldn't speak over the knot in his throat, but he nodded and let his head drop onto Seijun's shoulder. Ichigo slipped into the chair on Renji's other side to wait. The four sat, exchanging only basic, necessary conversation as the minutes passed. Finally, the door opened and Isane looked into the room.

"Abarai fukutaichou," she said quietly, "Kuchiki taichou is asking for you."

"Is everything all right?" Renji asked worriedly.

"Yes," Isane assured him, "He is still in stable condition. Come."

Renji swallowed hard and climbed to his feet. Leaving the others looking after him, he followed Isane to Byakuya's room, noting with relief that the seal on the room had been lifted. He walked inside and let the door close behind him. Byakuya sat quietly, leaned against the pillows and looking calm…but calm, the way he did when there was trouble, rather than just his ordinary calm look.

"What is it?" Renji asked, meeting the dark, shadowed gray eyes questioningly.

Byakuya remained silent, his pale hands set softly in his lap on the surface of the blankets. Unohana taichou cleared her throat.

"There is a complication…and because it is something that Urahara-san has more relative knowledge of…I will leave it to him to explain it."

"Why the hell am I getting the feeling that I really don't want to hear this?" Renji said, his voice trembling slightly.

He felt a pale hand slide into his.

"Renji-san," Urahara said, his voice serious enough that Renji felt a chill go through him, "As you know, Unohana taichou called me here because she found a reiatsu chamber inside Byakuya's abdomen…and inside she found a reiatsu cluster. She was unsure of the nature of the chamber, but she had several suspicions. She called me to consult and I have examined the chamber carefully, while Kuchiki taichou was unconscious. We are lucky enough to be able to rule out an incendiary device and a mind control device. Those would have been nasty, but it seems that those perverts had something else in mind for your pretty taichou, here."

"What the fuck did they do to him?" growled Renji, his brown eyes beginning to burn an ominous red.

"The reiatsu chamber is a birth chamber," Kisuke said pointing to an x-ray on the wall. Inside…is a developing baby."

Renji stared.

"B-byakuya is…" Renji began, but stopped and frowned.

"He's pregnant," Kisuke finished.

Renji gazed down at the still silent noble questioningly.

"W-well…that's a surprise…but, I mean…it isn't a bad thing…is it?"

"Well that all depends," Kisuke said matter-of-factly, "on whose it is."

Renji's face went white.

"Oh my kami…you think they…?"

"We do not know," said Unohana taichou, "We will need to test the paternity of the child. We have DNA from both Aizen and Gin…but we will also need yours."

"W-well…okay, but, I mean…even if it's not mine, it's still just an innocent baby…"

"Renji," said Byakuya in a voice just above a whisper, "If it is one of theirs, I will not be allowed to carry the child to term. It is against our laws for a seated officer to carry on a relationship with or bear the child of a person accused of treason. You know this…"

"Well, yeah…I know, but…it's not like you had a relationship…and if it's your body…your kid too, I mean…should they really just be able to take it away like that?"

"Doesn't matter what they should be able to do," Kisuke said in a low voice, "Rules are rules, Renji-san."

"Well," said Renji, "I was with him except when Aizen and Gin were having their fun with me, so I know the kid is going to be mine. I'm not worried…and you shouldn't be either, Taichou."

"Renji, Aizen and Gin did not have to be present to…"

"They didn't, Taichou," Renji said, cutting him off, "Don't get yourself upset thinking that they did."

"But how do you know, Renji? You were with them and I was unconscious much of the time."

"Well, the only way to be sure," Urahara said, silencing them, "is to have a paternity test done. Once that is done, we will have one important question answered."

"Which brings us to the next complication," Byakuya said softly, "You also know that Taichous are not allowed to have sexual relationships with their subordinates."

"I thought that you said that it wasn't a problem because of your clan's royal privilege…that if you were arrested for that, the clan would just assert clan privilege and…"

"I am not eager for the clan to learn of this…" Byakuya said softly, "They will be concerned then about competition between your child and Seijun's. I am worried that they could rescind their decision to allow us to marry, because it would give this child equal standing with my child with Seijun. Remember, they are fond of legitimate…fully noble children, Renji. If this child were to be born first, then there could be dissent about my heir with Seijun."

"Well…they can name the other kid heir," Renji said, frowning, "I don't think I'd want my poor kid to have to go through what you did. Hell, I don't think any kid I fathered would tolerate something like that!"

"But it's not about how you would feel about it. It has to do with lines of inheritance and those are the territory of the Kuchiki Council of Elders…and me, of course."

"But you aren't worried about our kids fighting over who should be heir, right?" Renji asked.

"No…I think that with our guidance, our children will grow up happily alongside each other and will not begrudge each other whatever status either earns. But if something were to happen to us…I would be concerned."

"Why would anything happen to us?" Renji asked.

"Because another clan or enemy knowing about the situation might be able to exploit it. Or…there might be those among the council already at their wits end coping with my rebelliousness. Or we could be killed in battle. Anything could happen. The life expectancy of a clan leader is unnervingly short, Renji. Many leaders die of accident or illness long before their heirs are grown."

"Well, you're not going to…"

"You don't know that. And if I did…and the council, for some reason, divided on who should be heir…"

"Why would they do that?" objected Renji, "You just said that they would favor a fully noble heir."

"But if our child is born before Seijun's as is expected based on my examination, then there are a few members on council, I suspect might try to set themselves up as regents for our child and act to purportedly 'defend that child's rights to inherit,' while actually attempting to win a place close to the heir to control his or her upbringing."

"Well, I wouldn't let that happen…and we'll be married. Doesn't that give me some rights?"

"You are allowed to remain at the manor and raise our child, but council would appoint a regent to manage the child's noble training. I was lucky. When my father died, my grandfather was clan leader, so I was placed in his custody and he controlled my training. But if I were to die, you would be forced to accept a council member training our child. I don't want that to happen."

"Okay," said Renji, "I can see you're worried about a lot of things. But, Taichou, I really think it will be a whole lot more manageable if we just take this one thing at a time."

Byakuya took a slow breath, considering his words and nodded.

"You're right, of course," the noble said softly, "Right now, we don't even know for certain whose…"

He broke off, unable to finish. Renji squeezed his hand supportively.

"The baby is ours," Renji said firmly, "I know it."

Byakuya's eyes remained wide and anxious, but he nodded briefly.

"All right," said Urahara, "Then, we just need samples of Renji's blood and reiatsu."

Renji flinched slightly as his blood was taken, but remained calm otherwise. He frowned and looked away as a long, wicked looking needle was inserted into Byakuya's abdomen and a sample of the baby's genetic material was drawn. Byakuya was silent during the entire procedure, only tightening his hands once when the needle went in. After the samples were taken, Unohana taichou and Kisuke left for the lab and Byakuya was left alone in the room with Renji. The noble sat quietly, but Renji could feel his reiatsu flaring.

"Byakuya," he said, using his lover's name now that they were alone, "You okay?"

"If by okay, you mean, not physically injured, I imagine that the answer is yes, but if you mean otherwise, then I'm not so certain."

"Yeah, well…take a breath, okay? It's going to be fine."

"Thank kami that this can be done quickly," Byakuya said solemnly, "I think I'd lose my mind if we had to wait very long."

"I know," agreed Renji, "I'm on pins and needles too."

"I thought you said you had no doubts," said Byakuya, frowning.

"Yeah…well, I might have a few," the redhead admitted, "but assuming the kid's ours, Byakuya…that's just…amazing."

"Then…you're…pleased?" Byakuya asked softly.

"What?" Renji said, giving the noble an amused look, "Byakuya, I think it would be wonderful…problems and all!"

A deeply relieved look broke out on the noble's face, making Renji start in surprise.

"Of course! What do you think, baka? I'm thrilled."

"As long as it's ours," Byakuya said, his voice shaking slightly, "but what if it's not? What if…"

"Don't worry about it," Renji said firmly.

"But they'll take the baby…"

"Nobody's going to hurt you or your baby. If it's not mine, we'll figure something out. Don't worry about it."

"You're right," sighed the noble, "I have to stop doing that…"

The door opened and the two froze, staring as Unohana taichou and Kisuke walked back in.

"Well fellas, congratulations are in order," Kisuke said, smiling, "You two are going to be parents!"

The next thing Renji knew, Byakuya's arms wrapped around him, holding him tightly. He smiled into the noble's sakura scented hair and realized suddenly that he was shaking all over.

"Renji," whispered Byakuya into his shoulder, "Renji…this is just…"

"Perfect," Renji whispered back, "We're having our own baby!"

"Yes," agreed the noble, still holding on for dear life, "It's perfect!"

None of the four gathered noticed the small hell butterfly hovering in the corner and recording everything.