Love Not in Vain

By Spunkyone

(This storyline was requested by Liv2luv. Thanks so much for the suggestion. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I hope everyone enjoys! It is going to be angsty, but with a sweet twist!)

Chapter 1: Tetsuya's Secret

"Stop that, Arashi," Tetsuya said, frowning as the black stallion sidled up to the sakura tree he sat beneath, and nibbled at the edge of the book that his shinigami companion was trying to read.

The horse made another attempt and was met with the same response. He retaliated by nipping the hair tie out of the noble's long black hair, sending it raining down in waves into Tetsuya's face and about his slender shoulders.

"Hey!" he objected, brushing the wisps of hair out of his wide, sapphire eyes and glaring up at the stallion, "I am trying to read, baka! Go and find someone else to annoy."

Arashi made a soft, equine snicker and stretched his neck out, so as to reach for the book again, but stopped and perked his ears as Byakuya's voice sounded nearby. Tetsuya continued to read, but couldn't help overhearing his cousin's words.

"I want that as much as you do, of course, Renji," the clan leader said, his voice tinged with sadness, "but unfortunately, there is just no way for two males to conceive. I would be willing to seek an adoption."

"I know," Renji sighed, "And there are lots of kids in the Rukongai who need homes. I'm not against the idea of adopting. It's just that...I love you so much, you know? I didn't know I could love anyone this much. I never thought I'd get married, because I just couldn't see myself being so crazy in love with anyone. But...I didn't count on meeting you...and I sure as hell never imagined that you would feel the same for me. And now that we're married, I just wish that we could give each other that beautiful gift...a baby. A little bundle of trouble that looks like both of us...that gets into trouble every five seconds, kicks hollow ass and doesn't take shit from anyone. I know it's impossible, but..."

"But it is a strong, mutual desire," Byakuya admitted poignantly, "I think it is very natural for people in love as we are to long for that kind of completion...as impossible as it is for those like us."

"Yeah, Kisuke's been working at the problem, but he says there are just a lot of barriers to work with, so who knows when...or if...he'll find an answer. I hope he does someday."

"Me too," Byakuya said softly, "I love you, Renji."

Their voices faded, and Tetsuya heard their footsteps as they continued on the path. He sank back into the book he was reading and was deeply absorbed when the two came around to the place along the garden path where he sat beneath the tree.

"Good morning, Tetsuya," Byakuya said, smiling at him.

"Good morning, Byakuya-sama, Abarai-san," Tetsuya said, looking up at them.

"Good morning, Arashi," Byakuya said, as the stallion gave Renji a playful nudge.

"Hey, Fleabag," Renji joked, patting the horse.

He glanced down at Tetsuya as the younger noble started to rise.

"I thought I told you to call me Renji," the redhead said, grinning, "You're always so formal."

"I like to think of it as showing proper respect," replied Tetsuya, "But as you will, Renji-san."

"Will you join us for breakfast?" asked the clan leader.

"Certainly," said Tetsuya, falling in with them, "But being newlyweds, don't you want to spend time alone together before you have to be off to the sixth division?"

"We just spent the whole night alone together," Renji said, grinning at the light blush his comment brought to Tetsuya's cheeks, "How much alone time do you think we need?"

"I...I don't..."

"Come, Tetsuya," Byakuya said, rescuing his cousin.

He took Renji's hand and started towards the garden patio, where the table was being set. Tetsuya glanced at Arashi for a moment, then moved to follow.

"So, what were you reading?" Renji asked him, "More myths? Family histories? Romance novels?"

"I don't think there is a book among the family histories my cousin hasn't read," commented Byakuya, "And the council isn't needing his services for research at the moment, so I presume it is light reading?"

"I was revisiting the story of the first king's samurai," answered Tetsuya.

Byakuya smiled.

"That seems to be a favorite of yours," he said, taking a seat at the breakfast table.

"I have to confess to being very fond of it," Tetsuya admitted, "It's such a beautiful story...how the samurai's loyalty and commitment so enchant the young king that he falls in love."

"And the mischief those two get into is deeply engaging," added Byakuya, "I have read that story more than a few times, myself."

"Eh, if you want to read it again, you'd better do something quick," said Renji, "because it looks like your horse has developed a taste for that story too!"

Tetsuya looked up in surprise, frowning reproachfully as he spotted the book dangling from Arashi's mouth.

"Arashi!" he exclaimed, jumping up from the table, "Give that back, you wretch! How did you even...?"

The stallion gave a horse laugh and darted away as Tetsuya flash stepped towards him.

"Come back here, baka!" he snapped, "Give that back now!"

Renji chuckled as the stallion jumped the back fence and raced down the forest trail.

"Arashi!" Tetsuya called, following at flash step speed, "Arashi, that's not mine! Bring it back!"

"He's sure a handful, ne?" Renji laughed, taking a sip of tea, "Is he always such a pain?"

"Arashi?" said Byakuya, "He is very precocious, yes. But he is completely devoted to Tetsuya."

"Yeah," agreed Renji, "You hardly see one without the other."

"It is good that he has Arashi. Tetsuya is overly shy. He always has been, ever since he was freed from the half-breed's prison. He doesn't trust easily. He is close to me, and now you, but he does not seek out other social connections. Instead, he focuses almost solely on my safety, leading the house security forces, but he never seems to seek company for himself."

Renji shook his head, chuckling again as Tetsuya reappeared looking flushed from exertion, but carrying the purloined book.

"I always forget that he was in that place. He's so likable...and it's cute how he is so protective of you. It seems sad to think he's so remote."

He sighed, thinking, then a determined look rose up on his face. He waited as Tetsuya slipped the book back into his dark blue, house guard's uniform, and sat down again.

"So, Tetsuya-san," he said, in a casual tone, "I always see you reading those old myths and hear you talk about how you like the romance in them. You ever think of seeking some romance, yourself?"

"Renji," Byakuya said, frowning, "That's rather personal."

"S-sorry," said the redhead, "I don't mean to be rude...but...you're a sweet, good-looking guy. I just wonder how someone like you could be...unattached."

"W-well," Tetsuya said, blushing, "I...I guess I..."

"Renji, would you be so kind as to cease flustering my cousin? I think he takes enough cheek from Arashi. He doesn't need you tormenting him too."

"Oh, it's all right," said Tetsuya, "I am accustomed to Abar...erm...Renji-san's outspokenness. I do not take offense."

"Well, I do," said the noble, glaring softly at the redhead, "Your choice to pursue or not pursue love, as you will, is up to you alone, Tetsuya. You shouldn't feel pressured to seek it if it isn't in your heart to do so."

"Eh," sighed Tetsuya, "I don't think it is for lack of desiring love...but...just that the right person hasn't crossed my path as yet."

"Well," laughed Renji, "You aren't going to find that person by sitting around here, reading romance stories. You have to go out and look for it. You think Byakuya and I would be married right now if he'd sat in his garden daydreaming and reading all of the time?"

"Abarai," objected Byakuya.

"I'm just saying," Renji went on, "That person you're dreaming about could be really close by, but you have to open your eyes and look around. And I know a lot of unattached people. I could introduce you..."

"Renji," said Byakuya, reprovingly, "If you refuse to stop, I'll have you filing all day and too busy for sparring."

"Ouch!" the redhead said, "Okay, fine. But take my word for it, Tetsuya. You are good looking, powerful and girls love horses, right? Or...um...are you...?"

"Stop, right there," Byakuya said, his reiatsu flaring.

"I think it doesn't matter," said Tetsuya, making the other two men stop and look at him questioningly, "Male or female is less important than what that person is like. But I simply haven't met him...or her. And my heart isn't so much in need of searching for love right now. I have enough of value in my life to keep me occupied, for the time being."

He glanced over at where Arashi had appeared at the back gate.

"If you will excuse me, I'd better exercise him before he has the staff up in arms."

"But you've barely eaten..." Byakuya objected as Tetsuya rose and flash stepped away.

Renji laughed softly and shook his head.

"I don't care what he says, Byakuya. That guy seriously needs to get laid."

"Hmmm," said the clan leader, glowering, "I think you need to learn better manners or I know someone who will be sleeping alone tonight."

XXXXXXXXXX

Tetsuya checked in with the last of the evening guards, then left the gardens and followed a sleepy looking Arashi to the barn. He brushed out the stallion's mane and tail, rubbed him down and added water to his trough.

"Good night, Arashi," he said, patting the horse and smiling as Arashi nuzzled him affectionately.

He left the barn and stood outside for a moment, looking up into the darkening sky, before turning towards the path that led to the waterfall. He reached the place several minutes later, and sat down beneath a sakura tree, overlooking the waterfall, lake and the open meadow below it.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about it all day...about what I heard them say this morning in the gardens. Byakuya-sama and Renji-san want very much to have a child. And they do not know it, but I could help them do that.

But...should I?

I want them to be happy...to have that miracle that I am capable of giving them. But I would have to...

He quivered and blushed, considering it.

And Byakuya-sama might be offended, me suggesting such a thing. I just don't know.

He left off thinking about it and watched the stars and moon appear over the meadow. Soft night sounds lulled him, and being one who loved the outdoors (perhaps, he thought, because he hadn't been allowed out of doors very often while a prisoner), he was tempted to merely spread out beneath the tree and fall asleep on the bed of sakura petals beneath him.

But that is hardly proper behavior, ne? And it is important to accept more civilized ways if I ever plan to...

He dropped down on his stomach and gazed down at the reflection of the constellations in the lake beneath the cliff.

Will I ever find someone who will love me?

I read about love all of the time...how it can sweep a person off his feet and surprise him...how it can upend a person's life with its unpredictability. It is a dangerous thing, love. But don't we all seek it, nonetheless?

"I thought that I might find you here," said Byakuya's voice, startling him.

Tetsuya sat up, blinking.

"M-my apologies, Byakuya-sama, I wasn't paying attention."

"That is all right," the clan leader said, sitting down next to his younger cousin, "I was only looking for you to make certain that Renji did not offend you this morning. He is very outspoken. I had a talk with him this morning to be sure he wouldn't annoy you like that again."

"Oh, I wasn't offended," Tetsuya said, shaking his head, "And I like that Abarai-san speaks his mind...sometimes despite not meaning to. He always does so with good intent."

"But he can offend those of us who have been raised in a different manner. Your path in love, like the other pathways in your life, are meant to be determined by you. You shouldn't be made to feel uncomfortable just because love has not found you yet."

Tetsuya sighed.

"But maybe Abarai-san is right, Perhaps the reason I haven't found someone is because I haven't really tried. Before being freed, the only love I had was Naoki. And we were never able to fully express what we felt...only to exchange stolen kisses and touches through the bars of our cells when the guards were not watching. It was all rather innocent, really. But...had he survived, I think I could have fallen in love with him."

"I think that you were already in love with him, watashi no itoko. Just because you are not able to express love, doesn't mean that it isn't in your heart. Inside your heart is where love first happens. The rest comes in its own time. And it is something that cannot be forced. Renji and I loved each other for a long time before we were able to recognize and express it. Love will reveal itself to you, Tetsuya. Then, you will decide how best to express it."

Tetsuya nodded. then let out a sigh and leaned comfortably against the clan leader's shoulder, enjoying his cousin's strong presence. As much as he did not seek much in the way of company, he did crave being in his cousin's presence. And he deeply enjoyed the close bond between them.

And being close to Byakuya meant wanting to protect him, to share time and space with him, to make him happy...

"Byakuya-sama," he said, unable to stop himself as the words tumbled out of him, "I was...wanting to talk to you before...but I didn't know how to say what was on my mind. I was thinking about it all day, actually...wondering if it was right for me to say anything."

"What were you thinking about?" asked Byakuya, turning his head to look at Tetsuya's moonlit face.

"Well...I really didn't intend to overhear. I was simply reading in the gardens as you and Abarai-san happened by, but...I...heard what you said, and I wondered about it."

Byakuya tilted his head, remembering.

"You and Abarai-san were talking about how much you wanted a child of your own...and it set me thinking."

"Hmmm," said the clan leader, gazing out over the dark meadow, "It doesn't do to dwell on what cannot be, but yes, Renji and I wish very much that we could have our own child. But there is nothing to consider there. We simply know of no way to make that happen."

"But..." Tetsuya said, his voice shaking slightly, "What if I do?"

Byakuya's eyes widened and he turned to look at Tetsuya more closely.

"What do you mean?" he asked softly.

"Byakuya-sama, I know it displeases you to hear of the uses to which my kind were put in the laboratories of the prison," Tetsuya said, hastening as a dark look rose in his cousin's eyes, "Do not worry. I don't mean to suggest you do anything unnatural exactly, but I must confess that while a prisoner in Itamigiri, I was subjected to several experiments and procedures. One undertaken just before you arrived was the placement of a chamber within my body that could be filled with the reiatsu of men...s-so that I could be used to bear children."

Byakuya's face paled at the thought of his cousin being abused in such a manner.

"It is...all right," Tetsuya assured him, "I was never actually used that way. They had only just placed the chamber when I was freed, and I decided it was unimportant, as it would never be used unless I had a male lover, who I then married. In any case, if I am taken by any number of males, the reiatsu and semen will collect in the chamber and mature over time. The child will be genetically linked to me and to whatever persons are involved in seeding the chamber."

He read the shocked look on his cousin's face and backpedaled rapidly.

"B-byakuya-sama, I didn't mean to offend you. Gomen nasai, I only meant to...b-because you and Abarai-san seemed so much to want children. I...I am..."

Byakuya placed a hand on Tetsuya's face, stopping him.

"It is all right," Byakuya assured him, "You didn't offend me. You merely took me by surprise. I had no idea they had done this to you, Tetsuya. The idea of what they planned, sickens me. Yet, I know that there is only kindness and a sincere desire to help us, in your offering. But I will not do that to you. You are untouched...and that gift is meant for someone who can give you the love you deserve..."

"But I want you and Abarai-san to be able to have the child you want so badly. And...I think of it this way. Those men who did this to me, intended it to be a bad thing for me. But...if I use it as a gift instead, it defies the darkness of intent they had. I want to do this, Byakuya-sama. I want to help you and Abarai-san to have the child you want."

Byakuya looked back at him in silence searching for the right words.

"And in any case, I am not so concerned about losing my virginity to you and Abarai-san. Byakuya-sama, I would have no life at all if not for you. It is no burden to offer myself to you for this."

Byakuya shook his head gently and wrapped his arms around his cousin, pulling him close.

"Watashi no itoko, I love you for wanting to help us. But, I cannot accept. Something like this would undoubtedly put a weight upon your heart. And your heart has already been broken too many times by what was done to you. Put this out of your mind, Tetsuya. Focus your heart instead on filling that space in your life There is someone who is meant to love you. That is the person who should receive this gift from you."

The clan leader released his cousin, and the two stood and started back towards the manor, both quiet and contemplative.

I understand why he did not accept. But something inside me believes very strongly this is the right thing to do. So I will be patient and wait to see what happens. I will let him think about it.

Perhaps in time...