Chapter 5: A Royal Departure
(Another 'Happy Birthday' chapter for alabirdie! Hope you like it! More 'red hot' stuff is on the way. Enjoy! :) Love, Spunky)
"Renji," Byakuya's voice called, cutting through the darkness and bringing the world back into focus, "Renji?"
The words were muffled, and touched with sleepiness, the way Byakuya sounded upon waking in the morning. Still, the redhead was quick to realize that they weren't at home, but lying in bed in a hospital room at the fourth division. He tried to remember what had been happening before everything had gone blank, but couldn't recall a thing. He smiled at the feel of Byakuya's hand gently rubbing his rounded belly, but then caught his breath and started to sit up as he remembered.
Byakuya groaned uncomfortably and clung to him as he moved.
"Lie down, baka," he scolded the redhead in a shaky voice, "You need to rest. Your reiatsu became unbalanced and you lost consciousness. Tetsuya found you and brought you here."
"Tetsuya," Renji muttered, trying to force his hazy mind to clear, "He was guarding Torio, Koji and Rukia..."
"He left them under the protection of the house guards when you failed to return as expected. He found you collapsed near our division. You are very lucky that it was something relatively minor."
"Y-yeah," Renji said, settling back down and coaxing Byakuya's head back onto his shoulder, "I think I remember something about sitting down and trying to talk some sense into this kid. I got up and kept walking, and then...everything just kinda went blank."
"Well, you and the baby are both all right, thank goodness."
"We're doing better than you," said the redhead, kissing the noble's pale lips and stroking his hair, "It's good to see you conscious, though. I guess we should talk about what happened."
"I know I was attacked and sexually assaulted."
"That is what Unohana taichou told me."
"But you don't remember?" asked Renji, pulling him closer and giving him a kiss on the forehead.
"I remember bits and pieces...not much," admitted the noble, I know there was something that struck me as odd about what happened. I remember trying to tell you before. But when I lost consciousness again, it seemed like I lost what little grasp I had on events as they happened."
"Well, don't hate me for being kinda glad you don't remember. I want to kill him for doing this to you...especially after what you did for him, setting things up so that he'd get the counseling he needed. And Haru said he was doing really well in his treatment...right up until he attacked and raped his own councilor. Face it, Byakuya, the guy is really fucked up. He doesn't just attack people, he attacks the ones who are doing the most to help him...the ones who know who he is and what he's done and actually still give a shit about him."
He paused for a moment, biting a his lip uncomfortably.
"That's why you went to see him and didn't wake me to tell me you were going, ne?"
Byakuya met his eyes squarely.
"I will be honest with you," he said softly, "I did, at first, in my marriage, try to put my love for you behind me, and to honor the bond between Tohma and me. I had to, because it was the king's right to arrange my marriage to his son, and it was my duty to make it work. I poured effort into that, and as futile as it turned out to be, it did leave something between us, even after we parted ways. But you sensed that, didn't you, Renji? That is why you chose not to move to the spirit dimension."
"Hey, I didn't want you to have to be bumping into him."
"He was in the tower," Byakuya reminded him.
"He was let out sometimes."
"And he was guarded," said Byakuya pointedly, "In any case, you still did not want me to be forced to return to the spirit dimension, even after Tohma left for therapy."
"I thought there might be bad memories," said Renji, "I know he raped you the day you reported to the palace, Byakuya."
"He didn't rape me, Renji..."
"He had sex with you when you didn't want to...when it was against the rules. Byakuya, he raped you, then disgraced you in front of your own grandfather...and stood watching as the king ordered you beaten like a disobedient dog! No...no one would treat a dog the way they treated you. Why would I ever want to see you have to go back to that place?"
"I won't argue your point of view on things," he said, relaxing against Renji's shoulder, "My own point of view was distorted by my role as a noble servant. I was expected to obey him. And he wanted to have sex with me. Despite the fact that what he wanted was against the rules, I was compelled to obey him, then punished for doing so. Still, regardless of what happened before, things are different, now that you and I are married. As your husband, and a titled prince, I am more protected than I was."
"But I still don't want you, or our kids around those people, Byakuya. Can you really say that you would want Torio and Koichi...this kid, growing up and making nice with the king who ordered you beaten?"
"No," Byakuya admitted, "I do not desire a life at court, not for our family and not for you or me. But as an acknowledged son of the king, and next in line if anything should happen to the crown prince..."
"It's not going to happen," Renji said, stopping him with a kiss, "So don't even go there. My blood may be royal, but my heart grew up Rukon...and I'm not changing that."
Byakuya smiled affectionately and started rubbing the redhead's protruding belly again. Renji studied his tired eyes and the unsteadiness with which he moved and traced his cheek with a finger, bringing the noble's eyes back to his.
"Hey...are you okay? You need another pain block? You're looking kinda shaky."
"I will be fine," Byakuya assured him, nuzzling closer, "I have all that I need here."
They went quiet for a time, resting in each other's arms and looking out the window at the darkening sky.
"You know Tohma escaped, ne?" Renji asked, breaking the silence.
"I won't let him hurt you again, Byakuya. As soon as I'm stable enough to get out of here..."
"Renji," Byakuya interrupted in a soft voice, "I want you to let the royal guard handle it."
Renji frowned and let out a frustrated breath.
"Look, if it's about the baby, I'll be careful not to overdo it. But I'm not letting that bastard get away with this. I swore after the last time that he..."
He paused as the door opened and Unohana taichou entered the room.
"Is someone disobeying my orders?" she asked, smiling.
"Actually," said Byakuya, "he is only contemplating disobeying your orders, Unohana taichou."
"Well," the healer said, turning her gentle eyes and sweet smile on Renji, and making the redhead cringe, "I am sure I can convince you to rest, ne? I wouldn't want to have gone to the trouble of taking care of you, only to have you lose consciousness, due to your own recklessness..."
Renji's eyes widened and he swallowed hard as a smirk rose on Byakuya's lips.
"I think you had best abandon any thoughts of pursuing Tohma," the noble said, sounding amused.
"You should listen to your taichou," said the healer, "Despite the fact that he usually neglects himself, he is not about to let harm come to you while you carry his child. Now...will you rest willingly, or do you need something to help you sleep?"
"Oh...I'm tired enough on my own," Renji assured her hastily, "I'll be asleep in no time...but, will you check out my husband, here? He's looking pretty unsteady."
"Renji..." Byakuya objected.
"Of course," Unohana said, smiling and nodding.
Byakuya sighed in resignation and turned onto his back, while the healer slowly scanned his body. She finished and gave him a brief nod.
"Well?" asked Renji.
"He is doing well, considering what he has been through. But there is something..."
Renji groaned and rolled his eyes as a royal hell butterfly floated into the room and lit on his finger.
"Sorry, Unohana taichou," he said, frowning.
"That is all right," the healer assured him.
"All right," Renji said impatiently, "What is it?"
Prince Renji, said a male voice that Renji recognized as the head of the king's council, We are sending an armed escort to bring you to the spirit dimension immediately. I understand both that you are encumbered by being with child, and that Prince Byakuya was recently injured. However, an emergency has arisen here. King Tatsuo and the crown prince have fallen in battle, and you must come to the palace at once to take your place as king. We dare not delay, as things are in a precarious state, and we need to reassure the King's Council and Royal Guard Forces that things are still under some amount of control. Please be prepared to leave as soon as your escort arrives...and to prevent panic, please only tell those whom you must.
"Oh my kami..." Renji said breathlessly, his face going horridly pale and his red-brown eyes going wide, "The spirit king and prince are..."
Unohana taichou's expression became troubled and she placed a hand on Renji's shoulder.
"I will leave you and Kuchiki taichou so that you can talk alone before the royal guard arrives."
"Arigato, Unohana taichou," Byakuya said, his worried eyes fixing on Renji.
They watched as the healer left the room, then Renji started to climb out of bed, but paused and put a staying hand on Byakuya's arm as he tried to follow.
"Look," he said softly, "Byakuya, you know that you are in no condition for a trip like this. You were badly hurt. You haven't had enough rest and healing time..."
Byakuya's lips tightened.
"I cannot let you go alone," the noble objected, "Renji, you are going to have our baby soon. You have already been under great stress. You..."
"Byakuya," Renji said, turning back and capturing the noble's lovely face in his hands, Watashi no koi, I love you so much for wanting to stand by me. But, I have to know that you're okay. And as hurt as we both know you are, you are not up to this. I promise you, I will take it easy. I'll take Koichi and the others with me and put them under guard at the palace, so that they will be well protected and you can just focus on getting better. Please, don't fight me on this. You know damned well that I'm right."
Byakuya gave him a tormented look, but forced calm and acceptance into his features. He placed a pale hand over Renji's, where it rested on his cheek and turned his head to kiss the redhead's palm.
"I understand," he said softly, "I will remain here until Unohana taichou gives me clearance to leave. I would insist on accompanying you, however, you have enough to be concerned about. I do not want to add the stress of you having to worry over me, as well. I am healing just fine. And it won't be long until I can join you in the spirit dimension. Just...Renji, be sure that Haru and Tetsuya also go with you. They are still potentially in danger."
"But who will stay here with you?" Renji objected.
"I will be among friends and colleagues, Renji. And I will not leave myself vulnerable. You have my word."
Renji hesitated, looking into his lover's dark, quiet eyes.
"Byakuya, please...be very careful."
The noble smiled.
"I promise you, I will," he assured the redhead.
"Okay," Renji sighed, looking somewhat relieved, and beginning to dress, "Okay...that makes me feel a lot better, knowing that. But, shades, Byakuya! The king and crown prince are...? I mean, how can they be dead? This is crazy! I'm just some kid from the Rukongai. I'm not a damned king! I don't know the first fucking thing about running the three worlds! How the hell do you run the three worlds, anyway? Kami...!"
Byakuya gave him the ghost of a smile and touched his face as he continued to dress.
"You have been to the spirit dimension and you have been given instruction in use of your royal powers, Renji," Byakuya said soothingly, I am certain that with the guidance of the King's Council and the intercession of your father's advisors, you will be all right."
He kissed Renji's lips lightly and looked into his eyes.
"I know you are worried, and that you question your ability to do this, Renji," he said softly, "But...having sought the shelter of your arms many times in these past months as I recovered from what happened to me, I know that our worlds will be kept safe by you. I always feel safe with you."
Renji tied the belt at his waist and leaned over to slip his arms around Byakuya again, and to hold him tightly. He closed his eyes and took slow breaths to calm his pounding heart.
"I'm glad that you feel that way. I just hope that I don't disappoint you. I never...not even knowing that I could be made king, thought that it would happen, Byakuya. This is just...insane. It's like the world has turned upside down and..."
Byakuya smiled bracingly and squeezed his hand, then kissed him again, as the door opened and the royal guardsmen entered the room. Renji paused, touched, all at once, by the sadness in their faces, and the slim branch of hope they found in seeking him. Byakuya looked up at him and sought his eyes again.
"Renji," he said, letting go of the redhead, "You may not feel ready, but...you very much are. You have a strong heart and there is much that you protect. And when you protect someone...that person couldn't be in more capable hands. Trust your heart to lead you correctly, watashi no koi."
"I will, Byakuya. And you be careful. When we get to the first division, I'm going to send word back to our division to keep you well guarded here. Don't forget that you could still be in danger."
"I will not take any chances," Byakuya promised solemnly.
Renji gave him a troubled smile and a final kiss and long embrace, then turned away and followed the royal guardsmen out the door. Byakuya's eyes followed him to the door, then after he left, looked out the hospital room window. He was unsurprised when the door opened again, just after Renji had left, and Unohana taichou returned to the room. His eyes sought those of his longtime colleague, and his expression told her that he knew what he was about to hear.
"How are you feeling?" she asked, "Do you need another pain block?"
"No," he said quietly, "I am coping well enough. But...I think that you have not come to me for only that."
"No," the healer admitted, "There is more. But I wonder if you should not wait until Abarai-san returns to..."
"We both know that if the king and crown prince have indeed died, that Renji will not be coming back to the Seireitei, but that we will be moving to the spirit dimension. And with all of the uproar and being so late in his pregnancy, Renji is too overwhelmed to take on any more."
"But what I have to tell you is not something that you want to struggle with alone, Kuchiki taichou."
Byakuya gave her a tolerant smile.
"My father and grandfather did not raise me to be weak of heart. Whatever you have to say, I am capable of managing. And in any case, I think I know already."
He paused for a moment, steadying himself.
"You are going to tell me that I am with child, ne?" he queried softly, "And because both Renji and Tohma's seed was in my body, either of them could be the father."
"I am sorry," the healer said, meeting his eyes sadly, "But we will not be able to determine the father for some time. Because of this, and also because of the attack on you, I will offer you the option of ending the pregnancy now."