Chapter 6: Light Returning

"Renji, answer me!" Byakuya said, an edge of desperation in his voice, "Abarai!"

He froze, staring as pink light flared softly around his body, and a faint red glow flickered around his overcome subordinate.

Wait a moment.

This is...?

Byakuya gasped softly as his core spirit center flared, and a moment later, Renji's core spirit center responded with a gentler, but still palpable flutter. A second spirit center flared inside the noble, and the corresponding center in Renji's body responded.

Oh! This is...the balancing?

I suspected that as he healed and our bond grew, his spirit centers would seek to balance themselves with mine. But...for all of them to fire at once this way is dangerous!

He reeled as a third spirit center flared, then Renji's flared in response, and as the fourth flared, his head spun and stars began to dance before his eyes. He was barely cognizant when the fifth and sixth spirit centers flared together, and when the last fell into balance, he lost consciousness entirely.

But, this means that...

It means that Renji's spirit centers are healing!

We won't know how fully he will recover until we are able to return home, but...Renji is getting his powers back.

That is...

Byakuya was grateful for the fact that they still rested within the reiatsu cage, meaning that his loss of consciousness would not leave them vulnerable.

But Renji lost consciousness too, and I couldn't tell how well he was handling the balancing.

His thoughts became fuzzy and drifted for a time. He was sure that he heard voices, but could not make himself surface to answer. He felt warm hands on his face, then the touch of a pleasantly cool, wet washcloth. The disembodied voices returned, and Byakuya felt his yukata being opened and warm hands touching his helpless form.

"You said we would have to have sex to force reiatsu from my body into yours. I feel bad doing this while you are so out of it, but you didn't seem to mind before. And it's kinda necessary..."

Abarai, you idiot!

We only needed to have sex to force your reiatsu into my body while your spirit centers were non-functional. This is...

But, still unable to move due to the shock of their bodies' sudden balancing, he couldn't speak or do anything to object. And even if he could have moved, he wouldn't have wanted to do anything to stop the wonderful feeling of Renji's hands touching him, exploring him, gently preparing him, then joining their bodies as Byakuya struggled to remain somewhat aware. And even unable to move or speak, he felt something like laughter inside at the dedication the redhead put into making love to him.

He will not be able to remove the blush from his face when he realizes that he seduced me in a semi-conscious state this way, when it was entirely unnecessary for him to do so. I wonder if I should tell him when I can move again.

Or...should I just let him continue?

"R-renji..." he breathed deliriously.

The redhead's mouth fastened on his, and talking became impossible.

"Oh!" he groaned, pushing against Renji's chest.

Renji blinked in surprise and looked down into his dazed, half-lidded eyes.

"H-hey, are you conscious now, Taichou? You should be okay, right? I put some reiatsu back in you, ne?"

"Ugh," Byakuya moaned, "Y-you...!"

"You still seem pretty out of it, Taichou. I need to rest for a few minutes and then I'll do it again. Don't worry. I'll have you full of reiatsu in no time!"

"N-nnnno, you...!"

"Don't you worry about me, Taichou," Renji insisted, kissing his lips bracingly, "I feel better now. Just let me help you. You're feverish and you seem delirious. Hold on a sec. I just have to..."

Abarai, you fool!

"T-taichou, are you okay? Taichou, why are you laughing? Man, you are really out of it! Okay, I...think I can...yeah, I can do it again now. Hang in there, Taichou."

"Renji," he managed, "Y-you do not have to..."

"Shh," the redhead said, silencing the noble with a kiss, "You took care of me for over a month. Now, let me do this for you."

"But, you do not understand..." Byakuya panted dizzily as Renji's kisses and warm touches stole his breath away, "Renji, you...!"

Renji's mouth clamped down tightly on his, and the redhead moved, derailing his attempts to speak and nearly making thought itself impossible. Byakuya reeled under the force of that strong body moving on top of his, the mouth that devoured his, and the deep, powerful explosion of pleasure that followed. He disappeared into the sensation entirely, enraptured by the intense pleasure, and by the sweet, affectionate expression the redhead wore as he made love to him.

Oh, it is such a temptation to just give up and let him go on forever like this. But...he is recovering from devastating injury...from nearly dying. I cannot selfishly let him...continue to pleasure me this way...

He drifted off and only became aware again as Renji's body took his a third time.

"R-renji, you must stop!" he whispered, "It is...enough!"

"No, Taichou," the redhead said, holding him down and making Byakuya gasp as his body was raked with pleasure again, "You still look like hell warmed over, and you can't even talk straight! I'm going to keep doing this until you're all the way awake and talking to me like normal, you understand?"

I'll never be awake and speaking normally if he keeps on like this.

Renji...

He looked up into Renji's lovely, red-brown eyes and tried to speak again, but was stopped by a soft jolt of kido that moved through him and relaxed his body forcefully into sleep. As he drifted off again, he heard Renji's surprised sounding voice.

"Taichou, I used a kido spell. Isn't that great? I'm getting so much better! Now, I have more energy, I can keep this up for however long you need me to, to make you come out of this. Just, rest for a while."

Time disappeared into an enthralling mix of powerful, heated joinings, followed by heavy lapses into deep unconsciousness. Byakuya lost track of how many times he woke to the sensation of being kissed into silence, carefully prepared and passionately taken. But finally, the continued joinings seemed to take their toll on the redhead, and Byakuya managed to wake before him, and to extract himself from the arms of his sleeping lover. He sat quietly next to Renji, watching the redhead sleep for a while, then turned away and crawled across the cave floor to where the pieces of Zabimaru laid.

If Renji has begun to regain his powers, then his inner world must have begun to stabilize. I should be able to enter it and see about assisting Zabimaru.

He leaned over the broken zanpakutou and placed his hands over the shattered pieces, bowing his head in concentration as he sought entrance into Renji's inner world. He felt nothing for several minutes, then as the sweat broke out on his forehead and he began to feel convinced that he might not be able to enter, he felt the touch of a ragged mind, then a sharp, desperate pulling sensation. He tumbled down and crashed into the hard ground, then righted himself and looked around.

I have always wondered what his inner world was like.

He gazed up at the lovely nighttime sky and the moon that he sensed was always full.

Interesting...

He scanned his surroundings, noting the jungle-like environs, the feeling of hidden eyes watching him, and the overall feel of wildness to the place.

It suits you well, Abarai, he mused silently as he made his way into the trees.

He reached out with his senses, searching for the two spirits that inhabited Renji's sword, turning and working his way slowly through the meandering trees and long, green vines. After a time, he came to a clearing and found the female baboon and child-snake collapsed on the jungle floor. He knelt beside them and laid his hands on them, first calmly assessing, then slowly infusing them with healing reiatsu.

"It is encouraging that you are able to absorb my reiatsu," he told them softly, not knowing if the two were yet cognizant enough to register his presence, "If your spirit core had been destroyed, then you would not be able to take in the healing energy. This infusion should make you strong enough to connect again with Renji."

He went quiet, focusing deeply on the two spirits and ignoring his own growing weariness.

Because we have become a mated pair, when Renji grew strong enough, his reawakening spirit centers called to mine, seeking to balance our energies. But the balancing occurred too suddenly and shocked my body by draining away half of my core power and feeding it to him. We came into balance, yes, but it was so abrupt that it caused the odd symptoms that Renji mistook for low reiatsu.

"Hey, Taichou," said Renji's voice, startling the noble, "What are you doing here?"

Byakuya had to fight down a smile.

"You are extremely unobservant sometimes, Renji," he said disapprovingly, "What does it look like I am doing here? I am infusing your zanpakutou with my reiatsu so that it will awaken."

"Huh?" Renji said, looking confused, "Taichou, stop! You know, you were low on reiatsu yourself. I know that you were. I stayed up all night having sex with you to force reiatsu back into you. Now, you just give it away?"

Byakuya took an impatient breath.

"Actually," he said, continuing to infuse the two spirits, "I was not low on reiatsu."

"What?"

"Which you would have know if you would ever improve your ability to sense reiatsu levels. And, in any case, sexual intercourse was no longer necessary because your spirit centers reawakened. But I suppose that you had not noticed that, nor have you noticed that the markings on you are no longer the ones I made, but Zabimaru's own."

"Wh-wha...?" Renji stammered, blushing furiously as Byakuya bit at his lips to keep them from smiling, and continued his work.

"Do not concern yourself," he said, off-handedly, "Even if the sexual contact was not necessary, it was pleasant, and it did eventually result in the two of us catching up on our sleep."

"But," Renji said in an exasperated voice, "You were only half conscious, Taichou! If you weren't low on reiatsu, then why were you so out of it? You weren't making any sense at all!"

"Ah...that," Byakuya said, nodding, "That happened because we, as a mated pair, will fall naturally into a power balance."

"Huh?"

"When a mated pair is together, the energies in their bodies fall into a natural balance. But at first, when I brought you there, that could not happen, because of your injuries. If you think of it in terms of the energy being contained in two containers, if you place an open tube between the two, the energy will naturally flow out of the fuller container and into the more depleted one. But since your 'cup' as it were, was mostly empty and mine was full, the balance happened rather forcefully and I was overcome."

"But, erm," Renji said, frowning and scratching his head, "If the exchange was forceful, then why wasn't I affected like you were?"

"Hmmm, I believe that because your body was so starved for reiatsu, that the amount that flowed in only made you 'half-full.'"

"But the exchange left you 'half-full' too, didn't it?" Renji objected, looking confused, "So why did you pass out?"

Byakuya sighed.

"Because losing half of my reiatsu very suddenly was more of a shock to my body than regaining half of yours was to your body. Does that make sense to you, Abarai?"

"Oh...yeah, that does," said the redhead, nodding.

He paused a moment, then laughed. Byakuya looked up at him dispassionately.

"What is so funny?" he asked, frowning.

"Well," said Renji, stifling a giggle, "That means that we just had a lot of great sex for no reason but pleasure, ne?"

Byakuya barely managed to avoid rolling his eyes in annoyance.

"Isn't that why people usually have sexual intercourse, Abarai?"

"Well, yeah," Renji said amiably, "That and making babies. But we did that already, so that just leaves pleasure."

"Yes."

"So...did you enjoy it, Taichou?"

"Do you want me to hurt you, Abarai? If so, keep this discussion on it's current course, and you will get your wish. I promise you..."

"Aww, don't get mad," Renji said, looking amused, "You were really great."

Byakuya blushed brightly.

"Renji...!"

He shook his head and refocused on Zabimaru.

"That will be quite enough," he said brusquely.

"What? Talk or sex?" Renji answered, earning a deadly glare.

"Sorry, just couldn't stop myself," Renji chuckled.

"Well, do try," the noble said dryly.

"Sure thing, Taichou."

"And Renji?"

"Hmmm?"

"We have had sexual intercourse...?"

He paused and frowned.

"Renji, how many times did we have sex last night?"

The redhead consulted his fingers and bit at his lips as he counted.

"Oh, I would say...um...about...oh...ten? Give or take a couple?" he answered, wincing at the look Byakuya gave him.

"W-we had sex t-ten times?" the noble said disbelievingly.

He shook his head numbly.

"No wonder we slept well."

"Well, you were married before, ne?" Renji queried, "So, how many times did you and your wife usually have sex in a night?"

"That is an extremely personal question," Byakuya said, glaring, "I will thank you to mind your own sexual life and leave mine be."

"Well," Renji laughed, "The two are kinda connected now, aren't they?"

"Do you want me to start asking you about your sexual conquests, Renji?" Byakuya asked, pointedly, "Not that I am at all curious, but..."

"I was a virgin when I...you know, when I had to..."

"Ah..."

"And, well, I dated Hisagi Shuuhei for a little while, but we broke things off just after Aizen left."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

Byakuya met his eyes questioningly.

"Why did you decide not to stay together?" he asked softly, remembering Renji's constant presence at his side while he was in the hospital, "I am sorry if the question seems invasive, but given the change in our status..."

"You want to know that I don't still have any feelings for him, ne?" finished Renji.

Byakuya gazed back at him quietly, but said nothing.

"Well, don't worry. I don't. He...showed a really...different side of himself then, and I decided that I didn't like the fact he turned out to be such a jealous type."

"He was jealous?" asked Byakuya, "Of whom?"

Renji bit at his lip nervously and didn't answer. Byakuya caught his breath softly.

"It was...because of your devotion to me?" he asked softly, "Because you were so insistent on staying with me while I was in the hospital?"

Renji looked back at him silently and Byakuya's expression darkened.

"Renji, I am sorry. I did not realize that your loyalty to me cost you your relationship. I did tell you that you didn't have to..."

"But don't you get it?" Renji asked, shaking his head, "Shuuhei was right to leave me."

"What? Renji..."

"Taichou, I think I was already in love with you and I just didn't know it yet."

"But...you...there was no way to know that I would ever return your affections, Renji. You were in a good relationship. You didn't need me."

"But, I did. I do. I have for a while."

Renji moved closer and knelt beside him, slipping an arm around the noble as he continued to infuse Zabimaru with healing energy.

"And," Renji went on, bringing his face close to Byakuya's, "I think that you were thinking along the same lines and didn't know it."

"What makes you think that?"

Renji smiled.

"Maybe the fact that you broke your promise to always follow the rules because saving me was more important to you, Taichou."

"Byakuya," the noble said, frowning, "We are..."

"Lovers," Renji said, capturing his chin and feeding him a lingering kiss, "And okay, I'll call you Byakuya."

"When we are alone," Byakuya added.

"When we are alone," Renji agreed, smiling, "Which looks to be a hell of a long time since we're sealed in this cave in a restricted area that we may never get out of."

Byakuya shook his head and focused harder on Zabimaru.

"We are going to get out of here," he said firmly, "You will regain enough power so that we can work together and..."

"We can't break the seal," said Renji, "You know that would give whatever they locked away in this zone a chance to escape."

"Then, we will locate whatever it is, kill it, and then break the seal."

Renji gave him a startled look.

"Do you even know what is in here with us?"

"Not exactly," said the noble, "but I sensed its power. I will be able to find it when the time comes. In the meantime, we will work at putting you back together, piece by piece."

He looked down at the drawn faces of the two spirits he worked at healing.

"Whatever it takes, we will do, Renji. I came here to save you and to bring you home. And that is exactly what I am going to do."

Byakuya left off speaking, catching his breath in surprise as Zabimaru's reiatsu suddenly flared under his hands, and the two spirits' eyes opened. They stared up at him in silence for a moment.

Then, before either could speak, the spirits' eyes flashed, and green vines erupted all around the noble, pulling him away and binding him securely to a tree. The noble tried to shatter them with his reiatsu, but found that something within the vines was able to completely suppress his powers.

"Zabiamaru!" Renji gasped, "What in the hell are you doing? Let him go!"

A chill went through him as the baboon and snake boy looked back at him with no recognition in their eyes.

Renji stared in shock as more vines exploded from the trees around them and closed in on him.

"Shit!" he breathed, "What's wrong with you, Zabimaru?!"