Chapter 17: The Prisoner

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I cannot tell you how it was that I became love's prisoner. The steps that I took were small and seemingly insignificant, each move forward hesitant. But it is a joy to be suddenly encircled in strong arms, held tightly and closely guarded. We have become entangled, bodies, minds and hearts. And for the first time, I do not long for freedom.

XXXXXXXXXX

"All of my duties have completed as ordered, sir, and the division has been secured for the night," Rikichi reported.

Renji looked up from the report he was finishing and nodded.

"Good. Thanks Rikichi. You can go."

He paused for a moment as Rikichi, bowed, turned and started to leave.

"Third Seat Rikichi," Renji said, stopping the youth, "Wait."

The third seat turned back to face him.

"You know, when I left here that last time, you weren't even a seated officer at all. You were just some kid who'd fought his way out of the Rukongai and used everything he had to just qualify for a place, any place in this division. No one expected you would ever be an officer, and I don't think that you expected it of yourself."

"You're right about that, Abarai fukutaichou," Rikichi said, lowering his eyes, "All I ever wanted was to fight in your division. I wanted to be strong, like you. That's all that mattered to me."

"So…what changed?" Renji asked softly, "What made you get stronger?"

Rikichi swallowed hard and took a cleansing breath.

"After you were captured, I saw how badly Kuchiki taichou was taking it. He hid it from most people, but something made him willing to relax around me. Sometimes when we would be talking about things related to work, I would see him looking at the tattoo over my eye…and I knew he was thinking about you. I knew that sooner or later, he was going to try to go after you. So, I decided that when he did, I was going to go too. I started working harder, learning everything I could from anyone who would teach me what I wanted to know. I went out into the training grounds at night, after the others had gone, and worked with my zanpakutou. I worked every day until I was too tired to stand, and then every night, I tried to follow Kuchiki taichou. After a while, I found out that he was going into Hueco Mundo, preparing for the rescue mission, but also sometimes just standing on a sand dune, staring at the fortress…and I know he was wishing he could tell you that he hadn't forgotten you…that he was coming to rescue you. At some point, he must have seen improvement in me, because just before the rescue, he and Urahara Kisuke set up a test for me, and Kuchiki taichou asked if I would go with him."

Renji met the youth's eyes gratefully.

"Well, Rikichi, I haven't yet had the chance to tell you how grateful I am that you made sure Taichou did not have to attempt my rescue alone, that you provided the protection I would have."

"Oh…I didn't do so much, really."

"Yes, you did. You took care of him when I couldn't. You listened when he needed to talk. And when he came for me, you made sure that he had a competent officer at his back. That means everything to me…and to Zabimaru. Rikichi, Zabimaru wants to reward you."

"Huh?" said Rikichi, blinking in surprise.

"He wants to mark you."

"He wants to…"

"You don't have to let him. He just wants to redraw the marking over your eye and to make one on your shoulder, if that's okay with you."

"Is it okay?!" the youth exclaimed, "Renji, that's…that's unbelievable!"

Renji laughed softly and drew his zanpakutou. A moment later, the spirit inside appeared next to him.

"Zabimaru," Renji said quietly, "Go ahead."

The spirit moved toward the wide-eyed officer. As he reached for Rikichi, Renji caught his hand and glared into his eyes.

"Don't give that kid the shit you usually give me. You make it painless or I'll have your ass."

Zabimaru scowled, but nodded, and turned back to the youth. He slowly perfected the marking over Rikichi's eye, then turned him and slid his shihakushou down off one shoulder.

"Your shikai is an eagle?" Zabimaru asked softly.

"Yes," Rikichi confirmed.

Renji watched closely as the spirit crafted the eagle marking, nodding in approval as he finished and looked up at Rikichi.

"I will see you in the training grounds," he said, before fading away.

"In the training grounds?" Rikichi repeated, mystified.

"Yeah," Renji said, meeting his eyes warmly, "We are going to see to it that you reach ban kai. That is how we want to show our gratitude."

"B-ban kai?" Rikichi said breathlessly, "Wh-what if I…?"

"Hey," said Renji, frowning, "You think Zabimaru would have offered if he thought for a moment that you couldn't?"

"Renji," breathed Rikichi, "I don't know what to say. Thank you doesn't seem like enough!"

"Then do this for me. Taichou is training me for the taichou's exam. By the time I take the exam, I want you to qualify for fukutaichou. Rikichi, I want you to take my place, watching out for Taichou, after I promote."

Rikichi went quiet and his gaze dropped.

"But…"

"Rikichi, I can't leave my position here, unless I know there's someone I trust looking out for him. I know it seems like he doesn't need it, but he really does. And I can't go until I know someone's going to be there who will do the job right. Maybe you were hoping to follow me, but…"

"No," said Rikichi, shaking his head, "If you trust me to look out for Kuchiki taichou, then that's what I will do…sir."

"Stop calling me sir," Renji said, grinning, "It's after hours. We can relax. Now, get out of here. I have to go check on the prisoner. I hope he behaved himself today."

"He did," Rikichi assured the redhead, "I made sure of it."

"Good. I'll see you tomorrow, Rikichi."

"Good night, Renji!" Rikcihi said, smiling as he flash stepped away.

XXXXXXXXXX

Our footsteps echo in the darkened Squad Six hallway as Rukia and I walk down to the cellblock. As he comes into sight, I see that he's sitting cross-legged on the cot, leaning back against the wall. His eyes are closed and his reiatsu is calm, but I know he's awake. He was probably bored as hell, sitting in that cell all day. Or maybe not. He's always been one who could get lost in his head. Makes me wonder what he was thinking about. Whatever it was disappears as we approach. His eyes open and take in Rukia and me, then the baby that I'm holding in my arms.

"Third seat Rikichi said that you behaved yourself today," I tell him sternly, "so you will be allowed visitors."

I open the cell and we go inside. Byakuya remains frozen on the cot, staring at our son wide-eyed, like he's not sure the kid is real. He takes in the sight slowly, his eyes tracing carefully every inch of our little miracle. I hold the kid out and he gives me a helpless look…like he thinks the kid will break if he tries to hold him. Those gray eyes are full of emotion now, full of intense happiness as I move forward and place our child in his arms for the first time.

After that, it's all over. He falls into those gray-rimmed brown eyes and I'm pretty sure he'll never surface again. Those pretty pale fingers touch our kid's darker skin and a tiny hand wraps around one and pulls it to his mouth. He squeals and gurgles happily, staring up at the reason he exists…the reason he and I are drawing breath at that moment, the one who wouldn't stop searching until he knew I was still alive, who wouldn't stop trying to make a workable plan, the one who sneaked in under Aizen's nose and snatched me back from that monster, who wouldn't give up on bringing me back from the darkness I lived in, the one who lowered his pride and worked his ass off to take care of us while we were in hiding, who Ichigo tells me died keeping Aizen from recapturing me, the one who stood, unafraid and unremorseful as Central 46 sentenced him to death, and who was inches from it when I pulled him out of harms way. If I loved him before, I love him a hundred times more now…and if he looked beautiful to me all those nights we worked side-by-side before I was taken, he looks even more so holding our son and smiling that dreamy little smile.

"He's…amazing, Renji," he says breathlessly.

Neither of us can get the smiles off our faces now. It's odd that it should be so warm and that we should be so happy, standing inside a closed cell, everything around us so simple and colorless. But that's what being together like this does for us.

"What is his name?" Byakuya asks quietly.

I give a short laugh.

"What? You think we'd name him without you?" I ask, "I take it back! You aren't behaving. I think that calls for some kind of punishment."

"After we name the baby," chuckles Rukia.

"Okay," I agree, grudgingly, "You name him, Taichou."

He looks deep into our baby's eyes and I can feel his mind working. He sighs softly and smiles.

"You gave us our beginning," he says, kissing our son's forehead, "so we will call you Hajime…Abarai-Kuchiki Hajime."

"Whoa, hang on! Abarai-Kuchiki?" I say, "Did we get married sometime when I wasn't looking, because I don't remember getting married."

"Well, you don't expect us to raise the heir to Kuchiki clan leadership out of wedlock, do you?" Byakuya says archly, "That would be scandalous! We must be married immediately after I am released and before the child's introduction gathering."

"What? A gathering of the whole damned family, just to say 'hi?' What the hell did I get myself into?"

"Abarai, don't swear in front of our son."

"Oh kami, it starts already," I groan, making Rukia giggle, "The ball and chain, the nagging, the expectations…"

Byakuya's smile fades and his eyes start to look wounded. I slip an arm around him and plant a big kiss on his pouting lips.

"I was kidding," I tell him, "Nori already explained what would be expected, and I am fine with all of it. If it's what your family does, then let's do it."

He smiles in gratitude.

"Arigato, Renji."

"You're welcome," I answer, kissing him again.

After a few more kisses, Rukia clears her throat, softly. She takes the baby and kisses us good night, then heads back to the manor with Hajime. I wait until she and the baby are gone, then stand and glare down at Byakuya. He sits quietly, wearing a penitent expression.

"Now…I think I remember Soutaichou saying that if you left your cell, you had to be bound," I say coarsely.

I slip my fingers under the red collar that's been placed around his throat to seal away his power, and I bring him to his feet. I bring my face close to his, so our lips are barely touching.

"Bakudo #4, Hainawa," I whisper, then we watch as the golden ropes wrap around his wrists, binding them together in front of him.

He smiles and keeps his eyes lowered.

"Is that all of the binding that you think I require, Renji?" he asks, his breath warming my lips and sending a soft jolt through my body.

My fingers curl around the collar and pull him into a heavy, penetrating kiss.

"For now," I tell him.

I turn and pull my fingers out of the collar, then take hold of his bound hands and lead him out into the corridor. He shivers as a draft riles the white yukata he's wearing and chills his bare feet. We walk out of the cellblock and down a warmer hallway that leads back in the direction of the office. I stop him at his quarters and open the door, then pull him inside and close the door behind us. He starts forward, but I turn back and pin him against the door.

"Did I tell you to move?" I ask, holding my body tightly against his, "It seems you are set on misbehaving. I think I have no choice but to tie you down so you'll quit wandering about."

"I wasn't 'wandering about,' he says indignantly, "I was following you."

"Hmmm…" I say, lowering my lips to his, "Argumentative too. You are just adding constantly to your list of offenses. We are going to be quite busy tonight with punishments, I see."

I plunge into his mouth and press forward. As I do, his bound hands touch me through my clothes. It sends a really nice jolt through me…so nice, I hate pulling back. But as his prison guard, I have to keep the upper hand, so I step back and glare.

"Did I say you could touch me?" I ask sharply.

"No."

I look down.

"Well…since you have riled me, I think you'd better take care of that, ne?"

He blinks.

"Where?" he asks.

Damn, I know he's not as innocent as he looks right now, but he's one hell of a actor.

"Here," I say, nipping at a pale earlobe.

"Here, as in…by the door?"

"Yes."

I pull the tie on my shihakushou and let my hakama drop.

"How would you prefer to be pleasured?" he asks.

I smile.

"Well, you seem to enjoy using that pretty mouth of yours for all kinds of mayhem. Let's see how good you are at using it on me."

I sink my fingers into his hair and I can feel myself already leaking. He lifts his bound hands and rests them against my chest, then slides down my front, making a trail of hot, wet kisses as he goes. His hands brush against me as he sinks to his knees, then they catch and hold me as he looks up, as though asking permission to proceed and I give him an authoritarian nod.

He begins slowly, with light touches of his fingers. His hot breath teases me, then an even hotter mouth wraps around me. I love the fact that his fingers are so cool compared to his mouth. The contrast drags a hiss of pleasure out of me before I mean for it to happen. My eyes are riveted, watching him closely as he half closes his eyes and pleasures me with a devilish tongue, riling with lips and light scrapings of his teeth. I can't help but groan as he sinks down again. He clamps down and moans softly, sending a nice vibration through me and making me have to work really hard not to move. I still have my fingers in that soft hair, and I tighten them a little to encourage him. He moves easily under my direction, sucking hard and moaning. My legs start to feel weak and I can tell I won't last too much longer. He pulls back slightly as I climax, closing his eyes and swallowing repeatedly. It takes me awhile to recover, and when I open my eyes and the stars fade, he's looking up at me questioningly. I take my fingers out of his hair, slip them back beneath the collar and pull him to his feet. I push him back against the wall again and fasten my mouth on his, pushing my tongue into his mouth, enjoying the way I taste on his lips and tongue. There's something damned sexy about that. So I hold him there for a long time, pushing my hips forward to tease him, then pulling back when he tries to rub himself against me.

He makes a sound of discontent and his eyes begin to look aggressive. So I back off and slide a hand down his arm, catching him by the bound hands and tugging him in the direction of his bed. I lower him onto his back, then employ another kido spell and watch the golden ropes coil around each slender, naked ankle, fastening them to the posts at the foot of the bed. I kneel next to him and take his hands, then use kido to lock them to the wooden rail that runs along the headboard. I take a moment to open the white yukata he's wearing, revealing all of that lovely pale flesh, then stare down at him, thinking about how damned good it will feel to touch all of that. I give him a stern look.

"Now, it's time for your punishment, Taichou."

"I thought you already punished me," he objects, "What was that over by the door?"

"Huh…that was just to teach you not to argue with me. It looks like it didn't quite do the job. I'll have to use a firmer hand next time…or maybe I won't wait until next time."

I lean over him, sliding a hand down his body and stopping a hair away from touching him. I hear him catch his breath, and I smile down at him.

"Something wrong?" I ask.

His eyes flare, but he doesn't say anything.

"You are a quick learner," I say, rewarding him with a hard, open-mouthed kiss, "And I will be equally quick to reward good behavior."

He gives me a demure look.

"Then I shall endeavor to behave myself," he promises a bit too contritely.

I take my time, then, starting by running my fingers through his hair and placing light, breathy kisses on his face, then teasing his earlobe with my tongue and nipping and licking at the skin of his long, vulnerable throat. I bite down and suck, and his breath quickens. I glance down at him and smile. I give him a look that promises completion soon and crawl down his torso, biting, kissing and licking everywhere, but carefully avoiding all of his most sensitive places. He lets out an impatient moan and his eyes look like they've gone feverish. He loses it a little when I thrust my tongue into his navel. The sound he makes sends a feeling like electricity through me and I start to harden again. He groans as I bypass his nether region altogether and start tormenting the sweet, white flesh along his inner thighs.

"R-renji!" he hisses, "For the love of kami, are you trying to drive me mad?"

I move in close to his riled length and blow hot breath on him. His hips rise off the bed like I hit him with a jolt of electricity. It's so fucking beautiful to see such a wicked, primal reaction in that usually carefully controlled body that I forget about tormenting him and all I can think about is feeling that wonderful white body laid out beneath mine, moving with me and seeking our mutual ecstasy. He pulls against the restraints, and if he wasn't wearing that reiatsu repressing collar, he would have shattered the kido holding him down and I think I'd be the one tied up and being tormented. It suddenly occurs to me that eventually, this week will end and he's going to be able to retaliate. It gives me a shiver, but more one of excitement at the prospect, so I decide to really earn the honor.

I climb on top of him and attack his mouth and throat again. I keep my hips raised, so even when he arches up into me, he can't rub against me. He gives me a withering glare, but can't hang onto it as I lower my hips and brush teasingly against him.

"Abarai!" he gasps, "That's…"

I do it again and he stops talking. He's panting for breath and I can feel how hard his heart is beating. I look down at him with an expression that tells him the games are over. I slide my body down his and move down between his parted thighs. He breathes and moans like he's delirious, and his body writhes beneath my hands. I release his hip to start preparing him. He groans at my touch and arches his back, panting hard when I hook my fingers and stimulate the bundle of nerves inside him. I keep him suspended on the verge of completion until his words have disappeared into incoherent moans and his body glistens with sweat. Finally, I smile at him and release him. I feed him a tender barrage of kisses before moving into position in top of him. He looks up at me through lovely, sated eyes.

"Renji, as much fun as I can see that you are having with this…I want to put my arms around you," he whispers.

How am I supposed to say no to that, ne?

"Well," I say, "the only problem is that Soutaichou said that if you are out of your cell, you have to be bound. Don't want to break the rules."

"I have an idea about that…" he says, smiling.

A moment later, I thrust into him and at the same time, shatter the kido holding his hands and feet. As his arms close around me and our bodies move together, golden ropes form and wrap themselves around us, slowly binding us, one to the other. Even after climax takes us, after the flurry of kisses in the afterglow and the affectionate whispers preceding sleep, the kido ropes keep us locked together.

As I feel sleep coming on, I wrap my arms around the best thing that ever happened to me, and I know for a fact that even the worst kinds of pain happen for a reason…or many reasons. I'm not going to waste another minute thinking about the hell Aizen put me through. I'm holding all of the reassurance I need that there are good things and good people in life. And it is with an unburdened heart that I choose to move forward.

"Byakuya?"

"Hai."

"Why did you come for me? I mean, I know why in general, but what made you go through with it?"

He looks at me through sleepy eyes and smiles.

"Because as I saw you fall protecting me, as I was pulled away from you…for just one moment, our eyes met, and it was in that moment that I made you a promise. I promised that I would come for you. I would find you. I would bring you home. I did it because of that promise."