Prince of Petals
(Thanks must go out to KingHerod for thinking up this magnificent and angsty plot. Be warned…beneath the pretty surface, this story is rife with angst, wickedness, domestic violence and mpreg. Not for the faint of heart, but I, as always, promise a happy ending for our heroes Note: This story appears in edited form here, but I am loading the MA version on AO3 and Aarinfantasy for those who wish to read the unedited version. But please, still review here. This is the site that gets the most traffic, so I would appreciate the revirews!)
Chapter 1: Royal Privilege
Poised on the edges of love, we took that first, breathless step together. With light feet and lighter hearts we moved forward, smiling and unsuspecting…and before the warmth of our first kiss had faded, we were torn apart.
"So Taichou," Renji said, glancing down at his empty plate and nearly empty sake glass, "You said that you had something to discuss with me. It was nice of you to invite me to dinner at your manor, and to be such good company, but shouldn't we get to whatever business there was to talk about? Is it the training program? The upcoming squad competition?"
Byakuya blinked away the pleasant, sleepy feeling that had settled over him after an evening spent in Renji's good company. He couldn't help but notice how beautiful his fukutaichou looked against the backdrop of the colorful flowers, green grass, the koi pond and the scores of tiny lights strung in the trees all around them.
"Ah yes," he said, nodding briefly, "We will get to that, of course. But let us first walk up to the waterfall. There is a good view of the full moon from there. We can talk there…"
"Sounds good to me," Renji said, rising.
He followed the noble down the garden path, enjoying the sweet scent of sakura and the sight of the spinning petals in the air all around them. They walked out the back gate and quietly traversed the forest trail that led to the trees above the waterfall. They stood together beneath a blooming sakura tree, looking out over the cliff at the full moon. Renji gave his taichou another sidelong glance, wondering what they could be about to discuss. It seemed that Byakuya was stalling, and Renji wasn't sure if it was because we didn't want to ruin the lovely mood of the evening, if the news was unpleasant, or if perhaps the redhead's impossible dream of winning his taichou's deeply sheltered heart had somehow come to pass.
"Renji," Byakuya said quietly, "I want to thank you."
"Th-thank me, Taichou?" Renji asked, tilting his head, "Thank me for what? What did I do?"
Byakuya gave him a fleeting smile.
"I am referring to more than a few things…but most especially your loyalty to my sister, and the way you have remained at my side as I recovered from the wound Gin gave me that day at the Sokyoku. You have gone above and beyond what a fukutaichou, or even a friend would do. And I wanted you to know I deeply appreciate it."
Renji felt sudden warmth on his cheeks.
"Well, Taichou, Rukia has been my friend since we were kids…and when it comes to you, sir, well…you are my Taichou…"
"Yes…I am. And your taichou is thankful to have you at his side. But I…"
He stopped for a moment, feeling as though the breath had left his body. He wanted so much to say the words…and had, in fact, thought carefully about exactly what he would say when the time came. But his voice seemed to have abandoned him and he could only stare helplessly at Abarai Renji, outlined in moonlight and waiting for him to go on.
What in sweet kami's name is wrong with me? I feel it so strongly inside now that he must know! How could he not know? I feel like it's radiating in the air all around us.
Is he getting closer?
Kami, oh kami, why can't I breathe?
He felt sudden warmth in front of him and looked up into the fiery red-brown eyes. They were looking into his with understanding…and could it be…affection? Byakuya held his breath as Renji bent slightly and his face came closer.
"Taichou," he said in a voice barely above a whisper, "I think I know why you asked me here, but I need to be sure…"
Byakuya stood frozen, his dark eyes wide and staring. Renji's hands rose and gently cupped his face.
"I feel the appreciation, but I feel something else too…"
"Wh-what do you mean?" said Byakuya, trying to force down the dizzy feeling that was sweeping over him.
"There's only one way to know for sure…"
Byakuya closed his eyes as Renji's lips found his. The pressure was light and the kiss was sweet and lingering. As it ended, he opened his eyes again and found himself looking deeply into Renji's eyes. He tried to think of something to say, but hadn't the words…and in any case, Kuchiki Byakuya was one more inclined to actions, rather than words. He leaned forward and met Renji's lips again, then moved closer and slipped his arms around his vice captain's slender body. A lovely flush had come over Renji's face and throat, and he looked back at Byakuya and grinned.
"Was that what you wanted to tell me, Taichou?" he asked, letting his arms wrap around Byakuya.
The noble yielded a rare smile and let his head fall onto Renji's shoulder. His half-closed eyes gazed up at the lovely, blue tinted full moon and he nuzzled deeply into the redhead's shoulder.
"Yes, Renji," he said finally, "That is what I wanted to convey. I am glad you understood. I am afraid that I became a bit tongue tied."
"Tongue tied, eh?" Renji said, still smiling widely, "Well, let's see if I can untie it…"
He slipped a hand under the noble's chin and lifted it gently. Then his tongue ran slowly over his lips, teasing them apart, and pushing into his mouth. Byakuya made a surprised sound, but held perfectly still as Renji's tongue stroked his, then went on to slowly explore him more thoroughly. A light moan escaped him as his weight fell against the redhead and he felt as though they had left the ground and were off somewhere closer to the moon…
"Does that help, Taichou?" Renji asked in a deeper, huskier tone.
The moon touched the red brown eyes and made them shine. It added a lovely white aura around Renji's whole body, giving him a decidedly celestial look. Byakuya felt a soft, wonderful stirring in his loins as the redhead's warm, masculine scent brushed over his senses. He let his fingers run lightly over the pattern of tattoos visible in the 'v' of his shihakushou and smiled.
"Yes," he said softly, "I believe that has loosened my tongue…though I certainly wouldn't mind being subjected to more of the same, even now that I've regained my powers of speech."
Renji's light chuckle rumbled delightfully through his body and the redhead buried his face in soft, sakura scented hair. He nuzzled in deeply and found the meeting of throat and shoulder and planted a line of kisses from there to the noble's ear. He teased the earlobe gently and was rewarded with a pleased sigh.
"So…I take it that this feeling I have, this desire for you that I feel…it is mutual, then?" Byakuya asked as Renji's mouth continued to explore his throat.
"Yes, Taichou," Renji whispered, his breath teasing the noble's sensitive skin, "I have wanted to be with you like this for almost as long as I've been your fukutaichou…"
"So…why did you wait so long to let it begin to show?"
Renji paused for a moment, his breath cooling the skin he had been kissing.
"I was waiting for my taichou to show some sign of wanting to be with me. You hide your emotions well, Kuchiki taichou. For a long time, I wasn't sure you could ever love me. You are noble, a clan leader…and you were married to a woman."
"Hmmm…" Byakuya said, considering, "My noble upbringing has made me cautious with my emotions…but that does not mean I lack them. I am only well-trained in concealing them to protect myself. It took me some time to realize that I no longer wished to protect myself from you."
"Well…I'm glad that you decided to let me know what you felt. I don't think I ever would have found the courage to say anything if you hadn't. I mean, it's kind of crazy, isn't it? Someone like you falling for someone like me? In addition to you being noble and me a peasant, we're almost total opposites…"
"Then it only proves the old saying that opposite forces attract each other."
"I guess we're proof of that, ne?" Renji said, sinking into the noble's mouth again.
Their kisses deepened and became rougher, until Renji's eyes took on a wilder, more feral look and Byakuya's skin was flushed pink with arousal, his eyes hazed over and drenched in moonlight. Renji's arms tightened around the noble and slowly eased him down onto a blanket of sakura blossoms. With his mouth still fastened on Byakuya's, he loosened the noble's clothing as well as his own, then leaned over Byakuya, touching his face with gentle fingertips and meeting his eyes questioningly. The noble blinked slowly, taking in the lovely, surreal environs…the blazing blue moon, the deep, white mist that crawled along the ground, the fresh scents of flowers and water, the warmth of the body that waited just above his. He was without words again, but he managed a welcoming nod.
His eyes would have closed again, but he couldn't stand the thought of missing the sight of the redhead lowering himself onto the paler body beneath him. The heat of him flared all around Byakuya, sinking beneath his skin and warming him to the core. His mouth returned to the sensitive skin of his throat and began traveling slowly down his body, tasting everything in his path, and those rough, calloused hands gently explored him everywhere. He reached up and pulled the tie out of the redhead's hair, loosing the long autumn colored strands to drift down and touch his skin as temptingly as the mouth and fingers that were bringing him such deep pleasure.
Byakuya moaned softly and sank his fingers into the thick, red hair, enjoying the feeling of softness and strength against the skin of his hands. Renji's mouth fastened on his navel, his tongue probing as he sucked hungrily at the area, sending dizzy waves of bliss through the noble's aroused form. He arched upward into the redhead's body, his hands tightening in Renji's hair and his eyes alive with desire. He hadn't been sure about wanting to proceed so soon to lovemaking, but in truth, they had already waited a very long time, just to reach the point of telling each other.
But the full moon and soft night sounds, the lovely scents and the beautiful, warm touches on his skin, made his indecision melt away. He did want this to last…but at the same time, he wanted them to make the most of each minute. Love, he thought, was something fragile and vulnerable…and there were no guarantees. And knowing that, he opened himself, letting the reiatsu loose all around them, sending it curling around Renji, unsettling the petals that fluttered down from the trees.
Renji felt it touch him and dove deeper into his taichou's lovely, pale form, kissing his way down the softened abdomen, then paused for a moment, letting his eyes half close. And as he pleasured the noble with his mouth and fingers, Byakuya thought he might have to stop the redhead or climax would take him too soon, but as though reading his thoughts, Renji rose up over him again and met his eyes lovingly.
"Are you sure this is okay?" he asked, just the sound of his voice sending a soft jolt through the noble's entrapped form, "I know it's kind of fast…just having admitted to what we're feeling, but…"
"But," Byakuya said, "If there is one lesson I have learned, it is that there are no real guarantees. I learned that when I lost my wife. Thankfully, she taught me to accept the blessings of each day…so tonight, I am willing to embrace as much as you are willing to yield, Renji."
The redhead's smile widened and his eyes twinkled happily.
"I hope that doesn't mean that you'll leave me in the morning, Taichou."
Byakuya's eyes narrowed.
"Abarai…I did not remain chaste for fifty years only to offer you a single night of pleasure and then to leave you at dawn. Do I look like such a fool?"
"No, Taichou," Renji whispered, bringing his hardened member to the noble's tight entrance and pausing, "You look like my lover…the only lover I'll have from now on…"
Byakuya graced him with a smile of gratitude.
"Then, if we are to be lovers, I expect you will call me Byakuya…except while we are working in our division."
"I think I can manage that…Byakuya," Renji breathed, taking him in slow, gentle movements.
It was odd, being taken for the first time, but Renji's heat inside him felt astonishingly good and when the redhead's mouth took hold of his again and the heavy, deep thrusting began, the noble found himself made speechless with the pleasure. He moaned into Renji's mouth, inhaling sharply as the redhead's hand began to pleasure him again. Byakuya's breathing shortened and he felt the shallow puffs of Renji's breath against his skin. The brightness of the moon and the sweet smells, their rough, needy thrusts and the low, intense sounds of pleasure brought Byakuya to the brink of ecstasy. He lay suspended on the edges of bliss for what seemed like an eternity, then suddenly, Renji's body shifted and his hardness found the center of pleasure inside him, driving the noble over and into sweet oblivion. A wonderful, searing heat spread throughout his insides, leaving him feeling full and deliciously sated.
Renji collapsed onto his sweat-dampened chest, breathing heavily and too exhausted and happy to move. They lay beneath the fully risen moon, breathless and completely absorbed…so absorbed, they didn't notice the arrival of a hell butterfly. Annoyed at being ignored, it flitted down and lit on Byakuya's nose, startling into sitting up and capturing it. Renji sat up as well, squinting slightly and noting the odd look to this hell butterfly.
"I've never seen a hell butterfly like that," he mused.
"It is from the royal family."
"Oh," said Renji, "You want me to leave you alone for a sec?"
Byakuya shook his head.
"You're fine. It isn't confidential."
He gazed at the waiting butterfly and nodded.
Kuchiki Byakuya, His royal highness, Prince Tohma, is pleased to summon you to the king's palace. The royal family extends a warm welcome to you and is delighted to announce Prince Tohma's intent that the two of you shall be wed in the spirit dimension in two week's time. You will report to Yamamoto Soutaichou tomorrow morning and he will open a royal senkaimon for you. We look forward to your arrival. We have much to celebrate…
The two shinigamis watched in stunned silence as the butterfly floated away, into the darkness. They stared at each other in silence, neither knowing what to say. Both knew that there was no recourse. It went without saying that the royal family had the right to arrange marriages at will with members of the noble clans. And the chosen nobles were supposed to be delighted at their choosing. It was an esteemed honor to be chosen to become a part of the royal family.
Renji cleared his throat softly and began to set his clothes back in place. Byakuya sat frozen, his clothes splayed out on the ground, and his mind as scattered as the petals all around them. He barely felt it when Renji finished dressing himself and moved to help him dress also. He was silent as his fukutaichou sorted him out, then gently helped him to his feet. Renji slipped an arm around the spellbound noble and turned him quietly in the direction of the manor. They exchanged no words until they reached the gate and Byakuya felt the cold return of breath to his body.
"I'm…so sorry," he whispered, "Renji, I swear, I was never given a hint that this would happen…"
"I know," Renji answered with unusual calm for such a fiery person, "You would never have fallen for me if you had been aware. I know that, Taichou."
"Please…" Byakuya said softly, "Call me Byakuya. No matter that we cannot be together, Renji. You are still…"
"Stop, Taichou," said Renji in a gentle tone, "We both know how it has to be. That was a royal summons…and you belong to them now. I'm sorry too…because I know it would have been beautiful."
"It was beautiful, Renji," Byakuya whispered, "even if it was only this night. I won't ask any more of you. I know what you must be feeling…but I would feel your kiss one last time before I have to go."
They met open-mouthed, pouring everything into that last exchange of affection and parting reluctantly. Renji brushed a tear away from his eyes and knew that Byakuya's tears only waited for him to leave. The noble was proud and would never break down in front of him…but he felt the tremor in the strong reiatsu, the iron will that held everything back. He looked back at Renji solemnly, betraying nothing of the pain that flared beneath his skin.
"Goodbye, Taichou," Renji said softly, "I hope I will see you now and again."
It went without saying that he did not expect Byakuya would come back. The royal family lived in the palace. And while Byakuya might return to conduct Kuchiki family business, such visits would likely be rare once he was married to the stood silent, unable to respond as Renji gazed at him for a moment longer, then flash stepped away.
Alone outside the gate, Byakuya felt his heart quiver and a pain rose up that threatened to overwhelm him. He flash stepped back along the trail and up to the place by the waterfall, beneath the sakura tree where he and Renji had made love. He dropped down into the tumble of petals and dissolved into heavy, silent sobs.
He wasn't certain how long he laid there beneath the tree, enveloped in tears and regret, before a gentle hand touched his shoulder and the trembling voice of his attendant broke the silence that had fallen over everything.
"Kuchiki-sama, come…I will make you some tea…"
"Arigato, Torio," he managed in response.
He gave himself over into the youth's hands and let himself be led back to the manor and hastily bathed. He fell into bed and barely managed a few sips of his tea, before falling into a troubled sleep.
But even knowing as he dreamed that it could never be, his body replayed again and again, the sweet memory of Renji's body taking his…