Chapter 9: Two Bodies, One Love...
(Walkure's Birthday Present #3! Whew! I was a little stuck on this, but now it seems to be flowing. Hope you all enjoy! Love Spunky)
Even as Byakuya slept, his mind worked tirelessly at the puzzle of warring emotions that afflicted him. It replayed their lovemaking repeatedly, and each time, brought him to the same confusing conclusion.
I know in my mind that I was with her, but I didn't just see her face, hear her voice and feel her touch. It was like Renji was there too. It isn't just that they are alike, though alike they are. It is like they are one and the same person. I cannot feel for one without also feeling for the other. My heart does not separate the two.
Why is that?
It was easy to fall in love with Wren. My heart read her quickly, and saw the things that I love so much in Renji. And she is female, which I thought was a dividing line between them. I am shocked to find that when thoughts of making love to Renji enter my mind, I embrace them as readily as my thoughts of being with Wren. I had no idea that I might have loved Renji...no, I do love Renji in that way.
But my heart won't exclude Wren either. Still, I feel that there is something about her that needs a balance. And lately, I have felt the same about Renji.
He opened his eyes and looked at Wren in the halflight, enjoying the play of the moonlight across the bold tattoos that ran down her back and onto her lovely round bottom. He let his hands run lightly down her body, careful not to wake her. And oddly, though he did register her softness, the more pronounced curves of her body and the more feminine scent of her, he also felt Renji's leaner, more muscular form, sensed his stronger reiatsu, and picked up his more masculine scent.
This is so confusing.
He slipped free of Wren and walked out into the gardens. Within moments, he stood in the new section, where he had been when he had given in to his desire to kiss Wren. But even as he remembered the moment, he remembered the feeling that Renji had been there also.
I need to know why this is happening...why my emotions for them are getting so confused. I cannot say I love one more than the other, because they register as one in my heart. This makes no sense. I am going to have to force the issue with Renji. If he will not come back and face me, then I will go to him. There is something that explains all of this, and I will know the truth of it!
Kisuke bit at his lips as Renji moved sluggishly, groaning and squinting as he began to wake.
"That's right. Come on, wake up, Moocher. I know you'd sleep all day, but we have work to do, and with Captain Kuchiki chomping at the bit to get hold of you to ask questions, I don't think you have the luxury of being able to sleep in...know what I mean?"
"Ugh," groaned Renji, "I feel sick for real now."
"Come on," Kisuke laughed, nudging him, "I know your dreams were extra hot and you'd like to go back to them, but..."
"SHUT THE HELL UP!" Renji yelled, sitting up and blushing furiously as he remembered.
"Aww, hey, don't feel bad about it," Kisuke said, unable to tame his wide grin, "It happens to the best of us, ne? It's natural and..."
He broke off as Renji hurled a pillow at him.
"I thought you were gonna help Wren and me, but if all you wanna do is screw around, making fun of me, I have better fucking things to do!"
"Heheh," chortled Kisuke, "Like go and masturbate?"
"All right, that's it! I am...!"
"Hey, relax, okay?" Kisuke said, taking him by the arm.
Renji threw his hand off and started to climb out of the bed, but realized quickly that he was in his nightclothes, barefoot and had several electrodes still attached to his chest.
"Oh, s-sorry," said Kisuke, biting his lips to avoid laughing, "Let me get those for you, Renji"
"Leave me the hell alone you freak!" Renji snapped, batting his hand away, "I've had enough of you and your bullshit! Just back off! I'm going back to the Seireitei. You can call me when you're ready to do something besides fuck with me!"
"Hey, take it easy," said Kisuke, shaking his head and holding up his hands, "I was just teasing. Sorry, I know this is serious, and all joking aside, even though the middle of the night arousal..."
"Sorry, Renji...okay, even though it was a little embarrassing for you, it was also revealing."
"Yeah. I'll bet! Damned pervert!"
Renji ripped an electrode off of his chest, then his eyes widened and he howled in pain and loosed a stream of obscenities.
"Oh...ouch, that's got to have hurt. Sorry, I should have warned you about that. Here, I can get the others off."
"Don't you fucking touch me!" Renji snapped, swatting his hands away.
He yanked off another electrode and hissed more profanities.
"Really, I can get those off less painfully."
"Yeah, right!" Renji growled angrily, "Well, I don't feel like sitting here and being teased about something I have no goddamned control over! Guys have wet dreams, you know? Even you have'em, so just shut up about it, okay?"
"Okay, look, I said I was sorry. And I found something out you really want to..."
"What? How fucking adorable I look with a full body blush? How long it takes for me to go from limp to..."
"Hey, I'm not kidding, Renj..."
"I told you," Renji yelled, "Leave me the hell alone! I am not interested in anything you have to say!"
"Well, it just so happens that I am," said Byakuya's solemn voice from the doorway.
Renji froze, still only half-covered, and his face nearly as white as the sheet that was still entangled with his body.
"Sh-shit..." he managed breathlessly, "C-captain."
Byakuya said nothing more, but crossed the laboratory and came to a stop in front of the redhead, his close proximity and the gentle breath of sakura around him making Renji's paleness disappear and sending a flush blazing across his exposed skin. Shaken and unable to make himself meet Byakuya's eyes directly, he gazed silently at the lovely windflower scarf that was at eye level, where he sat.
"Captain," he said again, dazedly.
He could feel Byakuya's eyes on his bowed head, but couldn't make himself look up. A moment later, his insides clenched and his heart quickened as Byakuya's warm, slender hand slipped under his chin and raised his eyes to meet the noble's. Byakuya kept their eyes locked as he spoke to Kisuke.
"Kisuke Urahara, I want you to tell me what is going on with my vice captain. I want you to tell me everything!"
Kisuke glanced at Renji and the redhead hesitated, then gave the ghost of a nod.
"All right...um...Renji showed up here the other day, telling me about something strange that had happened to him in Hueco Mundo."
"Hueco Mundo?" queried Byakuya, looking into Renji's eyes, "This was when I...?"
"You were sick, yeah," Renji said, taking over the telling, "I, ah, went to Hueco Mundo as ordered, and the battle was going fine. But, uh...all at once, this flying hollow came outta nowhere and picked me up and flung me out into the desert. He dropped me in a field of bones."
Byakuya's eyes widened as he realized the implications.
"I remember that there was this weird hollow...humanoid. When I hit him, he...split. His body became two. I didn't give it much thought, beyond getting the hell outta there. I thought maybe the splitting would continue and I would be facing an army of that kind of hollow...or something. I don't know. I was cut by him, but not seriously."
"I remember," said Byakuya, "But you lost consciousness."
"Yeah. And I was brought back to the fourth division. They cleaned up the wound, and they didn't see or sense much but a little hollow reiatsu around it. So, since I seemed fine, they released me. I went home and went to bed."
"And Wren arrived that night, ne?" said Byakuya.
"Well," said Renji, his chest constricting inside and making him feel like he couldn't breathe, "Not exactly."
"But she was there in the morning, when I arrived," Byakuya said, frowning, "When did she arrive at your apartment? Does she know anything about what is affecting you?"
"Well...yeah, she knows some, but...Captain..."
"Renji," said the noble, an edge of dangerous tension in his voice, "I am going to give you one more chance to tell me exactly what happened the night that Wren arrived. And if you engage in any more hedging or resistant behavior, I will contact the second division and allow Captain Soi Fon and her punishment force to interrogate you."
"Hey," said Kisuke, bracingly, "Go easy on the guy. Renji isn't really even sure of what happened to him. He isn't hedging. Just, some of it, he doesn't know."
"I know that I went to sleep alone that night," said Renji, "And while I was trying to sleep, some weird glowing light woke me once. But I wasn't awake enough to care about it. I just went back to sleep. And when I woke up...she...was there...naked...in bed...next to me."
"Wren was in your bed?" Byakuya said, his frown deepening, "Then, the story you told me...about her coming to your door, late at night, about the fire that destroyed her things, about the two of you being siblings..."
Renji lowered his eyes, but couldn't escape the noble's piercing gaze.
"It wasn't true...none of it," he admitted, his heart pounding.
Byakuya's eyes widened and his reiatsu swelled and pulsed painfully around Renji.
"You mean to tell me...that a complete stranger simply appeared in your bed, one whom you had no knowledge of whatsoever...and you not only didn't report it as required to the Gotei 13? You didn't even tell me?"
"You knew that I took to her instantly...that I was interested in her! Did you think for a minute that if someone was trying to attempt to reach me, that the surest way to do so would be to go through someone I entrust my life to on a daily basis? That they would seek to use a family member or a close friend to reach me?"
He thinks of me as a...close friend?
It's the first time that he's ever come out and said that...
"Renji, if what you are telling me is true, then that girl I just went to bed with could be just about anyone!"
"Whoa!" said Kisuke, making a sudden connection, "Renji, does that mean that last night you..."
"Captain," said Renji, quickly cutting the scientist off, "Wren isn't my sister, but she also isn't some...spy or enemy, trying to get to you."
"No," said Wren, from the doorway, "I am not."
She walked into the room and sat down next to Renji.
"I don't know exactly what I am...but I do know that I am not your enemy, Captain Kuchiki," she said solemnly, slipping a hand into Renji's, "I think it has to do with that hollow that attacked us."
"Us?" repeated Byakuya, "That is an interesting choice of words, Wren. You act as though you were with Renji when it happened."
"That's because she was," said Kisuke, "Wren isn't Renji's sister, nor is she an enemy. From what I've divined from examining Renji, Wren and the corpse of the hollow that Captain Zaraki provided for us, Renji and Wren are essentially the same person."
"What?" queried the noble, a glimmer of comprehension rising in his eyes, "What are you telling me?"
"Renji and Wren are the same person," Kisuke repeated, "When Renji was attacked by the splitting hollow, he was infected with its reiatsu through the wound it gave him. It is my summation that this is a kind of attack it uses to dispatch enemies more easily. Come with me. I'll show you."
Renji and Wren stood and followed Byakuya and Kisuke to the next room, where the two halves of the hollow laid on examination tables. Kisuke sat down in front of a large computer console in front of the hollow and called up schematics of the hollow's two halves, and then Renji's.
"Look," said the shopkeeper, "You can see here that in both cases, there is one male half and one female half, ne?"
"And the male appears to carry the full strength of the spirit centers," Byakuya observed.
"While the female," Kisuke went on, "has very little reiatsu...essentially no powers."
"But, this is an attack?" mused Byakuya, "It still leaves at least the male portion at nearly full strength...although separating the body must interfere with the use of the zanpakutou."
"But this hollow doesn't rely on his zanpakutou when using this ability."
"Does it, perhaps, split off pieces at a time and wear the enemy down that way?" asked Byakuya.
"Actually," said Kisuke, "Captain Zaraki discovered that if you kill the female portion of the hollow, the male portion dies with it. You can see here that the female was obviously killed by a sword, while the male's body is fine...fine, but just as dead as the female. It's my conclusion, then, that this hollow splits the enemy and attacks the weaker part. The two parts don't know right away what happened, and so the stronger male assumes that since that female look-alike just appeared during the battle, it is an enemy. He might dispatch it himself, or if more cautious, simply force it away and focus attention on the hollow. It is unlikely it would occur to him that there was a need to protect it...if he wasn't able to recognize it as a part of himself."
"Nasty little bastard!" Renji said, sounding disgusted.
"So...this hollow," Kisuke went on, "cut Renji, and was likely not expecting Renji to escape so quickly. It seems that if kept in battle, the raised reiatsu causes the splitting to occur more quickly. Renji escaped quickly and calmed down, so it took longer for him to split. He woke in two pieces, with no idea what had been done to him."
"We realized pretty quickly that we both had my past memories, my experiences, and that Wren didn't seem to have her own."
"Because, being the same person," Byakuya concluded, "You actually had the same past."
"Yes," Kisuke answered, "Wren was part of Renji, the gentler, more emotive side."
"She didn't seem gentler to me," Renji said, shaking his head, "She tried to beat the hell out of me."
"And because you are a powerful fighter," mused Kisuke, "I'd say she probably made an impression."
"Yeah," said Renji, blushing, "she might not have powers, but she does know how to compensate with her hakudo skills."
"But even if all you say is true," said Byakuya, "It seems an awkward method of attack for this hollow..."
"Well," said Kisuke, "Renji informed me that the hollow split immediately. It also knew what was happening, unlike Renji, and it knew to protect the separated piece of itself. That gave it some advantage...though apparently not enough to save it from Captain Zaraki's marauding blade."
"Was Captain Zaraki cut by the hollow?" asked Byakuya.
"No," Kisuke answered, chuckling, "Otherwise we'd have a male and a female Zaraki, running around Soul Society and killing everything in sight. And who needs that, ne?"
"So, you have established that killing the hollow will not reverse the splitting effect?" asked Byakuya.
"That's right," said Kisuke, "And since this hollow's dead, I can't observe how they put themselves back together, let alone how to put Renji back into one piece."
"Troubling," whispered Byakuya, shaking his head.
"I have some ideas I'm working on. I'm looking over the schematics of the four and studying the data I've collected. But while I do that, Renji needs to make sure that he and Wren stick together...erm, stay close to each other."
"They are staying at Kuchiki Manor," Byakuya replied, "And now that I know what is going on, I will make certain that they are properly protected."
He turned to look at Renji and Wren.
"I will not make an immediate report on this," he told them, "I want Kisuke to have time to come up with a way to handle this without getting that sadistic fool from the twelfth division involved."
"Aw, Captain Kurotsuchi's not so bad," Kisuke chuckled, "Not as long as you watch your back and don't eat or drink anything he offers you...oh, and you don't breathe the air around him, look into his eyes or leave any part of your skin uncovered."
"That guy is the scariest, most perverted creep to ever wear a haori!" complained Renji, "I'd kill myself before trusting him to 'help' me!"
"I imagined you would feel that way," said Byakuya, "Thus, my offer to see to you until Kisuke has concluded his research."
"All right," said the shopkeeper, "I have what I need, for now. I'll just spin the information through the grinder and see what I get. I'll be in touch. You kids take care of yourselves...and play nice..."
The three left the laboratory, and Byakuya and Wren waited in the hallway as Renji changed back into his uniform, then joined the other two for the walk back to the manor. They exchanged only necessary words on the trip back, letting what they had learned from Kisuke settle in their minds.
I'm just glad Kisuke didn't spill the information about me also receiving Wren's sensory input, thought Renji, It's embarrassing enough with just him and me knowing about it. And...if he isn't able to put me back together, something like that would make things horribly awkward.
He barely noticed as they passed through the manor gates and into the gardens. Byakuya led them out the back gate and up the forest trail to a quiet cliff, overlooking a large waterfall that tumbled down into a lake, then opened into a wide meadow beyond. The three sat down beneath a sakura tree and looked out over the meadow. Renji searched his mind for something to say to either Byakuya or Wren and couldn't think of a thing. Wren seemed equally tongue tied and Byakuya seemed to be deep in thought. When Byakuya did speak, his words took both Renji and Wren by surprise.
"Renji...Wren," he said quietly, "I have a confession to make."
The two gave him the same, wide-eyed, questioning look, making the noble catch his breath softly.
"This situation is terribly unfortunate, and I wish it had not happened," he went on, "However, one truth has come out of it, that I cannot deny."
"What's that?" Renji and Wren said together.
The two looked at each other and chuckled.
"I have fallen in love with Wren, but...the reason I fell for her so easily...is because..."
Renji's smile faded as Byakuya paused and lowered his eyes, his cheeks coloring slightly.
"It is because...I was already in love with Renji."
The redhead inhaled sharply, nearly choking.
"But...," Byakuya went on, "I would never have known that, if Wren hadn't come to be!"
"So...you are saying...?" Renji began.
"I am saying that I am in love...with both parts of you...with all of you!"
"Holy shit..." Renji and Wren breathed together.