Chapter 18: Delineations of Beauty

Tetsuya felt the odd sensation of one coming out of a dark tunnel and returning into bright light. He caught his breath and groaned uncomfortably. A voice cut through the fog in his mind, and he felt that he was in bed and sitting up, with his back resting against his cousin's bared chest. The back of his head rested against Byakuya's shoulder, and he could feel that his cousin's arms were wrapped around him.

"Tetsuya?"

After the long silence, the voice sounded overly loud and echoed strangely. He felt a flash of disorientation, then intense nausea. He tore free of his cousin's arms and turned towards the bathroom, but gasped in dismay as his legs instantly gave way and he started to fall. Byakuya was there in a moment, his echoing voice saying something about going back to bed. Tetsuya tried to form words, but couldn't seem to force any out. He placed a hand on his abdomen and froze, staring at the small bump that had formed on his abdomen. He tried again to speak, but was overwhelmed with sickness. His stomach clenched, then convulsed and he barely managed to grab and position a small wastebasket in front of him, before his stomach heaved and he expelled its contents violently.

His ears buzzed and lights seemed to flash around him. Byakuya's voice was unintelligible, but his hands took hold of Tetsuya and coaxed his senseless cousin back into bed. Byakuya leaned over him, placing his hands on Tetsuya's bared chest and abdomen, sensing his spirit centers and feeding then a gentle stream of calm, healing reiatsu. The voice in his ear faded and he slept for a time. He woke and emptied his stomach again, less violently, then fell into a deep sleep. And as he slept, soft whispers reached into his hazed mind.

"He is through the worst of it now, Kuchiki-sama. But he may continue to have relapses. When he does, the bonding I showed you can ease it to some extent. As soon as he wakes, you must encourage him to eat. The reiatsu cluster is healthy, but his own systems are showing signs of strain. And we do not want him to start showing signs of a hollow transition."

"I will see to it that he eats properly," Byakuya promised.

Tetsuya felt the bed move and opened his eyes. His vision slowly cleared and Byakuya's handsome and worried face came slowly into focus.

"Tetsuya," the clan leader said, bringing his face close to Tetsuya's, but stopping short of kissing him, "It is good to see you awake again."

"H-how…long?" Tetsuya managed, his voice sounding odd and disjointed.

Byakuya's eyes filled with relief.

"You were unconscious for two days, then senseless and silent for a week. I was worried, but you will be all right now."

Tetsuya gave him a weak smile.

"I…think…tea would be good."

"And some hot soup?"

Tetsuya's smile widened.

"And perhaps…a sizable serving of warm, freshly made bread."

A gentle, pleasant twinge tickled his insides at the pleased look that Byakuya gave him. Tetsuya reached for him and kissed him on the cheek, then on the lips. He felt hesitation in his spouse and looked into Byakuya's calm, gray eyes. He felt a pang of guilt at the worry he found there.

"Byakuya," he said softly, "You can kiss me. I will not break. I am sorry that I worried you, but…"

Byakuya met his blue eyes warmly and ran his fingers through the short, wispy strands of his cousin's slowly growing hair.

"I am sorry if my reticence hurts you, Tetsuya, but understand…we were making love when you had this setback. And although I do not blame myself for your condition, I am concerned about causing more of these situations."

"How could you not be?" Tetsuya said, his eyes reflecting understanding, "But if the alternative is to be without your love, I would risk the setbacks willingly. And in any case, I will not heal more quickly by avoiding all situations that cause me pain. Byakuya, the setbacks are painful, but…they are also a sign of healing."

Byakuya gazed at him for a long moment, then let out a long breath and nodded in agreement.

"But, we cannot blunder forward recklessly. We must approach our couplings with more caution. I will rely on you to let me know when you have dark feelings. You must be honest, both with yourself and with me, Tetsuya. You must promise not to overexert yourself in your attempts to accommodate me."

Tetsuya smiled and nodded in reply.

"I will be cautious, and I will be honest with you."

"And to be certain that our lovemaking does not result in what happened the last time, I am going to follow your lead. If you are up to being with me, then I will respond to you. And if you feel the darkness closing in around you, you need only say the word and we will stop."

Tetsuya smiled and curled into his spouse's strong arms, breathing in the soft, sweet sakura scent and rubbing his face against the pleasingly soft skin of Byakuya's naked throat and shoulder.

"Agreed," he said quietly.

They rested in each others' arms as food and tea were prepared and brought to them, then ate slowly, enjoying the fresh breezes that came in through the garden doors as the sky clouded up and the rain began to fall again.

Tetsuya set his empty plate on the nightstand and sank down under the blankets, sliding out of his yukata and smiling as Byakuya's equally bared body wound around his. He closed his eyes, enjoying the gentle play of his spouse's hands over the warm expanses of his pale flesh and the feel of Byakuya's lips as they trailed kisses down the length of his spine. He captured the clipped braid and ran his fingers down its length, then used the strands at the end to gently tease the tender flesh of Tetsuya's throat and shoulder as his lips captured an earlobe and sucked it provocatively.

"Byakuya," Tetsuya sighed, closing his eyes, "I love the way you touch me…but…it makes me ache for more."

He felt the instant reticence in his lover's hands and turned onto his back.

"I want you inside me," he whispered against Byakuya's lips.

"But," the noble said, looking into his cousin's hungry blue eyes, "You only just woke from…"

"I know," Tetsuya said, linking Byakuya's lips and coaxing him into a soft storm of deep, wet kisses, "But that didn't happen because of you. It happened because Orochi, and a group of hateful others desecrated my body. Where they tormented my flesh with cuts and strikes, you soothe it with your fingertips…your lips…your tongue. Where their hatred burned a pathway into my core and poisoned it, you bring the softer flow of healing that makes that poison disappear. Where they poured their hatred into my ears and broke my heart, your words melt warmly over the scattered remains and mend it. You are nothing like them, and my heart…deep down, knows that. It only needs you to help it remember. Byakuya, touch me, and help me to remember what love feels like!"

Tetsuya's insistent hand wrapped around his husband's wrist and lifted it, bringing Byakuya's fingers to his cousin's parted lips. Byakuya sighed as Tetsuya's mouth closed around them, and he watched as the large blue eyes drifted shut and that sweet mouth bathed them in saliva. Tetsuya smiled and opened his eyes again as they slid out of his mouth and down the length of his slender torso, stopping to tease an erect, pink nipple and dipping into his navel as they descended.

Byakuya leaned over Tetsuya, running a wet finger around the ring at his entrance and falling on a hungry mouth that only seemed to exist to devour his. He pushed inside slowly, watching his cousin's hazy eyes for any hint of pain. Tetsuya moaned and raised his hips, seeking friction against the lovely body that rested partway on top of his. Byakuya pulled away for a moment, then descended on his cousin's flushed and leaking arousal, sucking it into his mouth, letting it slide partway out, tormenting the slick head with a hot, devilish tongue, then sucking hard again and making Tetsuya's hips rise off the bed, as he pushed a second finger inside and teased the sensitive cluster of nerves there.

"B-bya…kuya!" Tetsuya moaned, his lovely eyes taking on a feverish, desirous shine and his fingers sinking into his spouse's hair,

He pushed down on Byakuya's head to encourage the up and down motion and thrust gently into his lover's sucking mouth. Byakuya rose and fell on his length and his fingers gently prepared his cousin, as he watched the pleasure spread across Tetsuya's features, his chest heaving softly and his body quivering with approaching bliss.

He withdrew his fingers and positioned himself at Tetsuya's prepared entrance, watching his cousin's face carefully as he entered him. Tetsuya's contented smile widened, and he wrapped his legs around his lover's torso as Byakuya's mouth found his, and the clan leader's powerful hips began thrusting. Tetsuya moaned and arched upward into each heavy thrust, his eyes going dark and glazy. His breath shortened and his body quivered again as Byakuya's hand wrapped around his thickened member, pumping it in time with the motion of their bodies, until Tetsuya's body seized, and hot seed pulsed onto their naked skin. Byakuya thrust in deeply, assaulting Tetsuya's mouth with hard, penetrating kisses as he held himself inside and emptied himself into his cousin's heated core.

They fell still, panting softly and watching and listening to the rain that poured down outside the open garden doors. Tetsuya rolled onto his stomach, smiling as Byakuya sprawled across his back, resting his face between his shoulder blades and continuing to gently explore him with caressing hands and slow, searching fingertips.

"Thank you, Byakuya," Tetsuya sighed, "Thank you for helping me to erase the awful things that they did. Every time you touch me…every time we make love, the memory gets farther and farther away. I hope a day will come when I can forget…when I will regain my powers and win back what was taken…if…if that is possible."

Byakuya made a line of warm kisses along the back of his neck.

"I believe it is possible," he said into the pale shell of an ear, "Your body may have been weakened by what they did to you, but your heart is still strong, Tetsuya. And it is your relentless heart that will get you through this, and help you regain your powers."

He broke off as footsteps sounded on the walkway, moving in the direction of their room. The two men sat up and tied their yukatas back in place, watching as Urahara taichou appeared outside the door.

"Urahara taichou," Byakuya said in greeting.

"Sorry to intrude," Kisuke said, stepping into the room, "But I have news. I have spent a lot of time with the hollow Breeders, and I have made some advances in learning how to stave off the hollow transition. I will have to give Tetsuya periodic injections of a compound we created to hold his body in a stable balance. It isn't a cure but it will help."

He removed a syringe from his clothes and sat down on the bed next to Tetsuya. The blue-eyed noble flinched as the needle bit into his flesh, then settled again and leaned quietly against Byakuya as Kisuke went on.

"I also checked every reference I know of, hollow and shinigami…even sent Yoruichi into your archive to research, but we found no references to anyone ever being able to repair a torn soul ribbon. It doesn't mean there's not an answer, but as soon as Tetsuya has delivered your baby, we will need to explore that more."

He glanced at Byakuya questioningly.

"How is the pregnancy progressing?" he asked.

"Everything is going smoothly now," Byakuya reported, "The healer did have to switch him from the full seal you gave us to a gentler limiter to accommodate the child, but as long as Tetsuya is not having reactive episodes, the baby's reiatsu is remaining stable and he is tolerating the pregnancy well. However, the healers are worried about the level of stress his body is under. If it remains within a manageable range, things will progress well, but should anything add to the pressures he is under…"

"Yeah," said Kisuke, "It's like walking on a tightrope. It's a good thing that your cousin has good balance and is so determined, ne?"

"Yes," Byakuya agreed, nodding.

"I have a few references I want to run down while I'm here. I was hoping that you wouldn't mind joining me down in the archive."

Byakuya glanced at Tetsuya.

"Do you think that you can manage to stay out of trouble while I am gone, Cousin?" he asked smirking.

Tetsuya gave him a look of gentle reproach.

"I will lie here and content myself with watching the rain fall," he said, frowning, "I do not think that I will get into any trouble whilst doing that."

He watched as Byakuya and Kisuke left, then dropped back down onto his stomach, turning his head to the side to watch the rain fall. His eyes drooped sleepily and he drifted off for a time. Byakuya was still gone when he woke sometime later, and the rain continued to fall steadily. He heard a soft, lonely neigh from the direction of the barn and sighed in frustration.

"I know, Arashi," he whispered, "I feel restless too."

He tried to relax, but heard Arashi sounding again and climbed out of bed. He slipped a heavy, hooded cloak around his shoulders and moved towards the doors. Stepping out onto the walkway, he looked around, and seeing no sign of Byakuya, he started out into the rain, crossing the gardens and passing through the back gate. He walked the wet, forest trail up as far as the barn and hurried inside. Arashi gave a soft nicker of welcome and nuzzled him as he stepped into the stall.

"What has you so restless?" he asked softly, "You've never been anxious about storms."

He picked up a currycomb and slowly groomed the horse, humming softly as he worked, and smiling as Arashi relaxed and seemed to doze off. He took his time combing out his mount's tangled mane and tail, leaving them silken and shining.

"There, is that better?" he asked, looking into a calm, blue eye, "Were you worried about me? Well, I'm fine. As fine as I can be, considering…"

Arashi lowered his head and nuzzled Tetsuya's cheek, letting out a sweet, hay scented, huffing breath.

"But there is still a ways to go," he said, resting a hand on his abdomen, "But we'll stick together. We'll put things right."

Tetsuya returned the grooming supplies to their shelf and refilled Arashi's supplies of hay and water, then patted the stallion and left the barn, starting back through the falling rain. His heart was in a lighter mood as he made his way along the dark, forest trail and back into the gardens. He heard voices as he entered the gardens, and stopped as he heard his name.

"It's awful what they did to him," said one male voice, "Just awful. He was so powerful. He could have been a taichou."

"Now he walks around here, looking like a ghost, and as weak as a kitten," said a second male voice, "He used to be Kuchiki-sama's greatest protector. Now…"

"I heard he is pregnant with Kuchiki-sama's child."

"Yes, it's quite the miracle. I'm sure that it is a relief to him that he is still able to serve Kuchiki-sama in some respect…although it's tragic to see him reduced to that…a child bearer…a Breeder. He used to be so much more…"

Tetsuya felt a flare of anger inside and bit his lip gently. He raised his hand and studied the limiter for a moment, then slipped quietly across the gardens and back into the bedroom. He sat down on the edge of the bed, looking into the mirror on the wall, staring at the short, uneven wisps of raven black hair, the large blue eyes that had once radiated strength and pride, but now only looked sad and lost, and the too slender body that had once been strong, but was now pitifully weak.

"Just a child bearer…a Breeder," he whispered, placing a hand on his abdomen and blinking away tears.

"Tetsuya?" Byakuya said questioningly as he re-entered the room and saw his cousin staring into the mirror with tragically sad eyes, "Tetsuya, are you all right? Did something happen?"

He sat down beside his cousin, looking at their reflections.

"How can you love me, now that I'm like this?" Tetsuya whispered.

Byakuya wrapped his arms around Tetsuya, bringing his cousin's head to rest on his shoulder.

"Watashi no koi," Byakuya said, holding him tightly, "You are beautiful to me…just like this!"