The Woman in Me Part 1: Red Fantasy
(Here it is, folks! Spunky's very first gender-bender story! Thanks so much to Airenya for suggesting I give this a try, and to the fabulous Walkure Leaud, who worked with me to come up with a very enjoyable romantic, humorous (with some dramatic tension) storyline. It does include mpreg, just to let you know. And...the most awesome news...a sequel will appear as a second part to this story. So, fasten your seatbelts and hang on. We're trying something new!)
Chapter 1: Worries
Renji heard a muffled sneeze from across the room and looked up briefly at his handsome, raven-haired captain. He opened his mouth to ask if the noble was all right, but was interrupted by another sneeze, a throat clearing cough and a short sniffle. He shook his head and stood, smiling at Byakuya as he sat back and rubbed his paler than usual hands over his face and sneezed again.
"Okay," the redhead said, knowing it was useless to tell the noble what to do, "I know you're not about to listen to me and get out of here. So, what will it be? Tea? Soup? Both? I have your favorite tea and some hot and sour soup that I brought back from the noodle shop earlier...or I can make some chicken soup if you prefer. What's it going to be, Captain?"
Byakuya placed his cool hands on his flushed cheeks to cool them and looked back at his vice captain with what Renji found to be an endearing blend of weariness and gratitude.
Things sure have changed since we got back from Hueco Mundo, thought Renji, And I hate to say it, but Captain is just cute sometimes, now that he lets down his guard more around me. If the guy wasn't noble...ah well, that's not his fault. And it's an old prejudice of mine that really doesn't have to do with him, anyway...
"Do I have to choose?" asked Byakuya, derailing Renji's train of thought and making him mentally backpedal to remember what he had asked.
"Oh," he said, grinning good-naturedly, "No, I can manage both. Which soup? Hot and sour or chicken?"
"The hot and sour is fine," said the noble, "Though it seems silly wasting something that tempting on a person who cannot taste it."
"Eh," muttered the redhead, "I'm not so concerned about you tasting it as feeling better, Captain. We're supposed to leave for that relief mission to the shinigami base in Hueco Mundo in the morning, and the last thing we need is for you to be sneezing and losing control of your petals while we're fighting."
"I never lost control of my petals," Byakuya said, frowning, "The few that escaped didn't do any damage and..."
"Yeah, I know," said Renji, shaking his head, "I'll just...go get that soup. If you won't go and get into bed, you should at least take a warm shower and get some soothing steam into your lungs so you can breathe better."
"Arigato for the advice...ah...ah...Abarai."
He sneezed again and put a hand to his head, groaning uncomfortably. Renji sighed, shook his head resignedly, and left to make the soup. Byakuya watched him leave, then tried to address the work in front of him. But he found himself distracted by the chill that had settled in his veins and the constant feeling of his eyes watering, his throat aching dully, and an urge to enter another sneezing fit. He briefly considered going back to the manor and turning himself over to his personal healer and attendants, but abandoned the idea as it would have meant he would have to walk through the rain and wind...and already suffering from chills and fever, the very thought made him shiver.
Pots and pans clanked from down the hallway, where Renji worked at preparing the soup and tea, and the sound echoed painfully in Byakuya's head until he could stand it no longer. Not wanting to use his voice, for fear of the pain it would send rocketing through his head, he abandoned the office and took refuge in his quarters, slipping out of his uniform and into a more comfortable yukata. He looked longingly at the bed, but wanted more to be clean before lying down for the night, so he walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower.
He sighed in relief as the rising steam soothed his throat and chest, and the hot water chased away the chill inside. Half asleep on his feet, he leaned against the tiled wall of the shower and closed his eyes, loathe to move from the place as long as the hot water didn't cool. His head spun uncomfortably, and he felt his legs weaken, so he lowered himself to the shower floor and continued to lean against the wall with his eyes closed. His mind drifted and seemed to disappear into the heat and steam, and moments later, he lost consciousness altogether and sank the rest of the way to the shower floor.
"Captain?" Renji called from outside the bathroom door, "Hey, ah, you've been in there awhile. You okay?"
The redhead felt an uncomfortable quiver inside at the silence he received in answer. He listened at the door for a few minutes, then decided that it would be better to enter and incite his captain's ire, than to leave things as they were. He set the tray he was carrying on the nightstand, and returned to the bathroom door. Trying the handle, yielded the information that Byakuya hadn't locked the door. Renji sighed in relief, as he really hadn't wanted to add to the trouble he might already be getting into, by also breaking down the door.
He opened the door silently and peeked around the edge, then let out an exclamation of dismay at seeing that his captain had collapsed onto the shower floor. He abandoned all other concern, and rushed to the shower, opened the door and turned off the water. Byakuya remained still on the floor, the soft rise and fall of his breathing, the only reassurance that he was still alive.
"Captain!" Renji said, ignoring the fact that his uniform was getting soaked as he dropped to his knees and leaned over the unconscious noble.
Byakuya stirred softly and groaned miserably. Renji gave a sigh of relief and summoned a hell butterfly.
"This is Vice Captain Abarai. Captain Kuchiki has become ill and lost consciousness. Please send a medical team at once to the sixth division headquarters...Captain's quarters."
He sent the hell butterfly off, then grabbed a towel and hastily dried the noble off, then dressed him in a light yukata he found in the closet. He lifted Byakuya carefully, smiling at how the noble moaned and nuzzled into his shoulder.
"You are totally out of it..." he chuckled, "Let's get you into bed, Captain."
He laid the senseless noble in his bed, then pulled a sheet and light blanket over him, and prepared a cool, wet cloth to lay on his forehead. Byakuya sighed softly and opened his eyes into slits to gaze up at the person who had relieved the uncomfortable warmth.
"R-renji?" he moaned, reaching up to touch the redhead's face.
"Yeah, Captain," said Renji, chuckling again, "You're going to be fine, now. The healers are on their way. just rest, okay?"
He watched closely as Byakuya sighed again and drifted off.
Damn, he's adorable like this...really cute. I swear if he wasn't noble, I'd...
But he stopped himself as he remembered the other noble who had caught his attention that way.
He was cute too...at first. Cute, charming as hell, damned sexy...and one of the best examples of why peasants like me should just stick to our own.
The man's nasty, parting comments rang in Renji's ears, making his stomach and head ache with the memory.
"You think you're hurting me by walking out on me, Renji?"
"I think I'm just doing what I have to do. I have spent the last five years listening to you, looking up to you, dressing how you wanted me to, meeting people you said I should. And all that time, I thought we were getting somewhere...that after some time, we would move things forward. But tonight just proved that you never had any intention of moving anywhere."
He caught his breath in surprise as the handsome noble began to laugh.
"Well, Abarai," he said mockingly, "It took you long enough to figure it out."
"What?" Renji said, his fists clenching, "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Huh, you really are as completely empty-headed as you look, aren't you."
"Bastard!" Renji hissed, his reiatsu glowing red around him.
"You want to know what I was thinking when I chose you?" asked the noble, "I was thinking that you were young, sexy and stupid enough to fall in love with someone way out of your league. You're a good fuck, Renji. I've never had an ass like yours. But it's not like the Rukongai isn't full of guys like you...poor, struggling, desperate, lonely guys who would lie down and part their legs for anyone rich and pretty who says, 'I love you.'"
"Damn you, Masato!"
"Where are you going? Back to a shack in the Rukongai? To the eleventh barracks? Lovely options you have, ne?"
"Shut the hell up!" Renji yelled, "Sleeping in a fucking mudhole next to a filthy pig would be a step up from sleeping with you!"
He reeled as the noble backhanded him across the cheek, and his attendants caught Renji's hands and held him back as he tried to retaliate. He doubled over and dropped to his knees as the other man's fist slammed into his midsection. The noble's booted foot connected with his face and blood splattered onto the floor beneath him. The noble grabbed his hair and dragged his head back, glaring down into Renji's shattered brown eyes.
"You are nothing, Renji. And you will always be nothing. Get out. And if you change your mind and decide to come crawling back here, begging for forgiveness...forget it. I'm done with you!"
Byakuya's fingers touched Renji's face and the redhead flinched uncomfortably.
"Y-you look t-troubled," the noble said, his eyes blinking open and meeting the redhead's for a moment, "Are you...all right?"
Renji was grateful when Byakuya's words faded into nonsense again and his eyes glazed over.
"You're asking if I'm all right?" he laughed softly, "That's just cute, Captain."
He looked up as Hanatarou tapped on the open door.
"Come on in," Renji said, "I got him in bed and tried to cool him down a little, but he still has a high fever and he's really out of it. He collapsed in the shower and hasn't been really lucid since."
"Hmmm," said the healer, leaning over the noble and examining him briefly, "He seems to have the flu that's been going through the squads. It's a pretty virulent one...really knocks the ones who get it for a loop. I'm afraid that Captain Kuchiki will need to be hospitalized for the night. He seems to be coping, but we don't want his fluids and reiatsu to become depleted."
"Oh," groaned Byakuya, coming awake again, "P-please don't take me to that p-place! I abhore that place..."
"Aww, come on, Captain," Renji said, trying to lift him, "If Hanatarou says that you should..."
"Please, Renji," the noble moaned, his hands reaching up to take hold of the redhead's shoulders, "I will...drink buckets of t-tea and eat all of the soup you want, j-just don't let them put me in that awful place..."
Renji couldn't stifle an amused laugh.
"It's not that bad, Captain, really!"
"I won't be able to s-sleep. It's...the...ever since Hisana..."
The smile faded from Renji's lips at the mention of the noble's late wife. He bit his lip gently, then looked up at Hanatarou.
"You heard the man," he said calmly, "He doesn't want to go."
"So, you'll just have to stay with him tonight."
"I'll stay up and help. And I can get help from the manor if we need it. I'm sure he'll be more comfortable in his own bed, ne? And we can coax him into drinking enough tea and juice to keep him hydrated. Come on, Hanatarou...Captain wants to stay here. What do you say? Can you help us out?"
"W-well, I guess we can't force him to go to the fourth division if he doesn't want to, but I can't stay. There are just too many sick people. So..."
"Fine," said the redhead, "Then, I'll stay with him and you can just check in a couple of times tonight, okay?"
The healer looked as though he wanted to object, but he thought the better of it and nodded.
"All right. I will come back and check on him later. But if he gets any worse, we'll have to transfer him to the healing center. This is a really bad strain of flu and it can get serious."
"I'll make sure he drinks fluids and gets lots of rest," Renji promised, settling at the noble's side.
"Thanks Renji," said the healer gratefully, "We're all really swamped tonight!"
"All right. Get out of here. I've got this," Renji assured him.
"Are you sure?" Hanatarou asked, looking worried, "If not, I..."
"Go on," Renji urged him, "I can take care of him tonight."
"Okay. Just call for me if he gets worse."
"I will," Renji said, nodding.
He watched as Hanatarou left, then looked down at the dozing noble. Byakuya's eyes opened again and slowly focused on him.
"Would you mind handing me that tea?" Byakuya asked.
"It's probably cold by now. I can go and make some fresh and warm up that soup," the redhead offered.
"N-no," said the noble, "I think I want it to be cool. I feel terribly hot."
"You are hot, Captain," Renji said, handing him the teacup.
Byakuya drank deeply, emptying the cup, then handing it back to the redhead.
"Oh...oh thank you, Renji," Byakuya moaned.
"No problem, Captain," Renji said, settling in the chair next to the bed and turning off the light.
"I don't think you should remain in that chair all night," Byakuya mumbled, "If I am still ill, you will have to lead the relief mission to Hueco Mundo, and I do not want you to be overtired."
"I'll be fine."
"Just get in on the other side of the bed," said the noble.
"What?" said the redhead, laughing, "Are you still delirious, Captain? You'd kill me if you woke up and found me in your bed!"
"Well...I do not have an attendant's recess here, so you will have to just sleep on the other side of the bed. There is enough space. Go ahead."
Renji let out a soft breath, considering. It was true that he was tired as hell after working all day and that Byakuya's bed looked awfully comfortable. And the noble would likely sleep soundly, once he fell asleep.
"Take a yukata from the closet and lie down, Renji. I won't have you tiring yourself out, looking after me all night."
"All right...all right, you win," said Renji, raising his hands in mock surrender, "But don't think this means we're dating or anything. I'm not looking to be in a relationship right now."
"That is good, because neither am I," sighed Byakuya, drifting off again.
Renji rose and walked to the closet, where he picked out a dark red yukata, then returned to the bed. He watched for a moment, to make sure that Byakuya slept comfortably, then slipped in next to him.
"Good night, Captain," chuckled Renji.
"Mnmmsnsnmmmmm," Byakuya mumbled.
Renji laughed softly, then curled up around the soft pillows and dropped off to sleep.