Title: Communicating Effectively
Theme/Topic: More baby antics?
Character/Pairing/s: KenpachixByakuya, Yachiru
Spoilers/Warnings: I guess I could warn for schmoop. (OH AND ALSO MENTIONED MPREG)
Word Count: 3,880
Summary: Companion piece to "Support the Head"- Byakuya tries to teach Soujun how to use his words.
Dedication: juin- you started this and so I feel you should be punished accordingly.
A/N: I really just wanted Kenpachi being casually adorable with a baby, which basically makes this self-indulgent porn for my ovaries.
Disclaimer: No harm or infringement intended.
Soujun's wide, gray eyes stare uncomprehendingly back into Byakuya's matching ones as the sixth division captain holds up a large piece of paper in front of his son's face. Byakuya points to the paper and very slowly enunciates, "Fa-ther," out loud to Soujun, in the hopes of having his son repeat the word back to him. Both the kanji and kana for 'father' are written on the paper as well, large and in Byakuya's neat calligraphy. The ink is still slightly shiny and wet.
Soujun scrunches his eyes up and laughs at the fluttering edge of the paper, reaching out to grasp at it in delight. Probably because he wants to put it in his mouth. He wants to put everything in his mouth lately, which is not only unsanitary but dangerous as well, because Kenpachi tends to carelessly leave sharp objects everywhere.
Byakuya keeps the paper just out of Soujun's reach and sighs, half because everything his child does is painfully cute and half because all the parenting books say that at eleven months old, Soujun should be starting to form his first words already, as his brain begins to match objects to names and his lips and tongue start to gain enough dexterity to pronounce them.
But Soujun hasn't said anything remotely word-like as of yet, only screeching inarticulately on most days and communicating with his parents via the use of vague, frantic gestures and his surprisingly animated face. Soujun's features may greatly resemble Byakuya's aesthetically, but their expressiveness is definitely something that could only have come from Zaraki. The Kuchiki clan is not (and has never been) particularly known for being easy to read.
They are, however, known for being incredibly talented and dedicated learners.
In keeping with at least part of that tradition, Soujun had already taken his first steps at the tender age of nine months, well ahead of the time frame predicted in Byakuya's large collection of child-rearing books. That morning after breakfast, Soujun had used a table leg to prop himself up while no one was looking, and then took two determined little steps towards Byakuya before giving up and plopping down on his rear in order to suck on his fist. Byakuya lists it as one of the most profoundly touching moments of his life. In contrast, it also makes him wonder what he and Zaraki are doing wrong in terms of teaching Soujun how to talk, after it had been so easy to teach him how to walk.
Truth be told, Byakuya wants to blame Kenpachi's half of the gene pool for Soujun's lack of words thus far. Not because he thinks Kenpachi is stupid, mind (he of all people knows that the eleventh division leader is far from stupid), but mostly because Zaraki likes to communicate in a series of surprisingly specific grunts more often than he takes the time to form actual words. It isn't setting a good example for their son for one, and it makes the atmosphere at home twitchy and awkward whenever the Kuchiki family elders come to visit for another.
Increasingly anxious at the thought of Soujun one day growing up to articulate exactly like Kenpachi does (which is to say, rarely and somewhat crudely), Byakuya waves the sheet of rice paper at his son with renewed fervor, possibly with a little more intensity than is strictly appropriate. "Fa-ther, Soujun," he prompts again firmly, and earns a squeal in response this time, as Soujin tips over onto his side trying to snatch the paper from him. "Fa-ther."
A snort in the background interrupts the lesson, making Byakuya scowl and turn to Zaraki, who is lounging by the window on the other side of the room, smoking his pipe and looking bored. "Is there something amusing about this?" Byakuya intones coolly to the other captain, and sets down the sheet of paper. He doesn't have to participate exactly (Byakuya would prefer it if he didn't, actually), but the least Zaraki could do is take any sort of interest whatsoever in their child's cognitive development.
But Zaraki just eyes Byakuya in an extremely unimpressed manner. "He'll talk when he's got something important to say," he tells Byakuya gruffly, and puffs on his pipe again, letting its trail of smoke waft out of the crack in the open window, mostly because Byakuya won't let him do it inside the house proper. It's bad for the children and the furniture.
"It's our responsibility to teach him how to say the things he wants to say in the first place," Byakuya reminds Kenpachi flatly, and frowns a little as Zaraki sets his pipe down and slinks over to where Soujun is currently examining his own feet with keen interest, Byakuya's paper long forgotten. They both watch Soujun growl adorably at his prey before lunging at it, the baby managing to pop his toes into his mouth with much more focus than he'd shown his father all day.
Zaraki grins and bends down at the sight, scooping Soujun up with one arm so that the child sort of rolls into the crook of his elbow, bumping his head against Zaraki's wide, scarred chest in the process.
Soujun blows a couple of happy bubbles up at his father and babbles at him in nonsensical greeting. Zaraki tosses him up a little to settle Soujun higher in his arms and is rewarded with Soujun's forehead cracking against the underside of his chin rather sharply.
Soujun shrieks in delight upon impact.
"You wanna go, little man?" Zaraki rumbles back in challenge, and the pressure of his reiatsu suddenly magnifies playfully, blasting through both Byakuya and their son like an unexpected heat wave.
"Bbbbbuuuu!" Soujun squeals, and reaches up to smack Kenpachi's mouth with a tiny, chubby hand.
Kenpachi bites his fingers in retaliation. It's gentle insofar as Kenpachi can be gentle, but he absolutely uses his actual teeth when he does it all the same, mostly because he has no ability whatsoever to treat their baby with kid gloves.
Both child and father simply laugh at each other like that, the fingers of Soujun's left hand in Zaraki's mouth while the right one smacks his father's cheek over and over again rather gleefully. Zaraki looks keenly proud of the baby's audacity, while Soujun has no idea that Zaraki's playful blasts of reiatsu are probably wilting the flowers outside the open window. Byakuya observes the whole interaction with a distinct sense of dread growing in the pit of his stomach, as he realizes that while Soujun may look like a Kuchiki through and through, it seems like everything inside the child is distinctly Zaraki in nature.
Which probably means his son's first words, when he deigns to actually say them, will be something along the lines of 'fight' or 'stab' or 'sucking chest wound.'
Byakuya sighs hopelessly and goes to put away his calligraphy tools before Soujun finds a way to roll around in his ink and leave black stains all over the house like Yachiru had when he'd left his study open for one – just one – minute the other day.
Kenpachi eyes him as he leaves the room with his arms full of writing supplies and a distinct air of resignation about him. Then he shrugs and turns to Soujun, murmuring, "The princess sure has her panties in a bunch tonight, kid."
Soujun makes a tiny clucking sound that can only be interpreted as complete agreement. Then he smacks Kenpachi in the jaw again.
That night, while Byakuya is putting Soujun to bed because Zaraki is grudgingly washing the blood and gristle out of Yachiru's hair after she'd returned from a mission she and Hisagi-fukutaichou had been in charge of this afternoon (the new Captain Commander is proving to be as insane as he is drunk and disorderly), Byakuya takes a moment to very seriously look Soujun in the eye again, and say, slowly, "pa-pa." Mostly because 'father' might be a little bit difficult to pronounce this early in Soujun's life, and also because Byakuya supposes it would be best for Soujun to learn both terms and then assign whichever ones he saw fit to Byakuya and Zaraki respectively. It must be, admittedly, somewhat confusing to have two fathers and a very limited list of titles with which to address them.
Soujun answers by blowing a raspberry at him.
Byakuya sighs and kisses his son good night before padding out of the nursery and back into the bedroom. He sits up with a book and waits patiently for Zaraki to finish bathing his unruly vice-captain, eyeing the clock before determining that the angry splashing sounds coming from down the hall mean it will probably be another thirty minutes to an hour before Kenpachi emerges from that fight (if at all).
He's right, and by the time Kenpachi trudges into the bedroom he's already yawning and grumpy looking on top of that. There's also a slightly oozing gash just starting to coagulate on the ridge of his brow that means Yachiru probably didn't take too kindly to being dunked head first into a tub full of soapy water upon her triumphant return from the field.
Zaraki closes the door behind him and begins stripping off his clothes. Then he takes one look at an expectant Byakuya and glares. "No," he grunts, before Byakuya can say anything. The last of his clothing hits the floor in a pile and he absently kicks it into a corner.
Byakuya closes his book and stares levelly at Kenpachi. "We might have to get Soujun a tutor," he says, without paying any attention whatsoever to Kenpachi's protests (or shameless nudity).
Kenpachi grumbles inarticulately and settles onto his side of the bed, causing the feathery mattress to dip slightly under his weight so that Byakuya sort of falls against him as a result. "No," he repeats, though he lets Byakuya rearrange his impossibly long limbs however he wants before the smaller captain deems their positions acceptable and nestles into the crook of Zaraki's arm for the night.
"The books say…"
"Fuck the books," Kenpachi interrupts, breath ghosting over Byakuya's hair as he closes his eyes and prepares to get some sleep. "Done this before. The kid's fine."
Byakuya frowns. "What was Yachiru's first word? When did she say it?" he demands, mostly because doing this once before doesn't necessarily mean that Zaraki did it right. Maybe Yachiru had been a late bloomer for being in his company as well.
Zaraki cracks his eye open again. "No," he says. Then, more wearily, "I dunno."
Byakuya blinks. "No was her first word, or no, you're not going to tell me because you don't know?" If Soujun learns how to communicate to the world at large from Zaraki they're all doomed.
Kenpachi just snorts noncommittally. "Why, you worried I set a bad example for the kids, princess?"
"Naturally," Byakuya answers without hesitation, mostly because he's long since learned that Kenpachi's feelings getting hurt are not a thing he has to worry about. Ever.
Kenpachi grins. "Well if that's all you're worried about forget it." He closes his eyes again, and is already half-asleep even though the conversation is only half done.
Byakuya reaches out and thumps him on his chest with the heel of his palm. Hard. "I have every right to worry," he says, because it's true. And really, one of them should worry.
Zaraki just sighs and shifts, smashing Byakuya's nose against his collarbone in retaliation. "I said you ain't got nothing to worry about," he repeats stubbornly, eyes still determinedly closed, "Especially if you're using Yachiru as an example."
"I don't understand your reasoning," Byakuya answers, biting the collarbone in front of his face somewhat childishly. It only earns him an appreciative rumble deep in Zaraki's chest, which isn't his intention for the moment. He backs away from that plan quickly.
"Because we can't ever get that idiot to shut up, is why," Zaraki says absently. Then his lips quirk upward and his eyes finally open again. He looks fully awake now and vaguely hungry. "Before long he'll be talkin' our damn ears off all the time just like Yachiru does, and then you'll be sorry you asked for this." Kenpachi pinches Byakuya's side as he speaks, though the look on his face suggests that he doesn't do it for any other reason than the immediate desire to get Byakuya naked alongside him.
It's distracting. Byakuya thumps him in the chest again. "Stop that."
Zaraki only seems to take his glowering as an invitation to continue with his plan of action. And so he rolls over abruptly, pinning Byakuya to the mattress with the weight and the heat of his larger body. His breath ghosts over Byakuya's throat as he noses at the sixth division captain's cheek mockingly. "If you really think the kid's broken," he murmurs, hand sliding down to stroke suggestively along the curve of Byakuya's hip, "I'll try and put another one in you right now. Let's see if it turns out more to your liking."
Byakuya head butts Zaraki sharply in the forehead in response, but all that does is get him a whuff of amusement before Zaraki's wide, calloused palm is sliding down to paw firmly at the curve of his ass. Byakuya squirms in what he thinks is protest, but when he ends up squirming towards Zaraki on instinct he sighs and realizes that maybe this is a battle he's already lost for the night.
"This isn't over," Byakuya murmurs stubbornly, though he relaxes against the sheets and winds his arms around the back of Zaraki's neck in gracious defeat.
Zaraki kisses him sloppily on the mouth around his triumphant smirk and, like Soujun, says absolutely nothing in response.
Despite Kenpachi's assurances that Soujun will speak once he's good and ready, Byakuya finds himself constantly pointing out everyday objects and naming them to Soujun with the kind of obsessive compulsion that he doesn't remember feeling since Hisana died and he began the search for Rukia in earnest.
"Sword," he says, gesturing to Zaraki's zanpakutou as the eleventh division captain slices the air with it, in order to shake the blade clean of the ugly, black blood currently staining its edge. The hollow he'd just slain dissolves into nothingness behind him.
Kenpachi rolls his eye when he hears Byakuya and sheathes his zanpakutou again.
Byakuya ignores him. "Onigiri," he persists, and picks up a triangle of seaweed-wrapped rice from their picnic basket. He holds it up for Soujun's benefit.
"Umeboshi!" Yachiru plays along, throwing her hands up over her head in delight as she snatches the onigiri from Byakuya's hands. "Thanks, Byakushi!" she adds dutifully, though only after half the onigiri is being chewed in her mouth all at once.
Soujun burbles and tries to climb into the basket head-first.
"Basket," Byakuya says. He picks Soujun up and out of the basket.
"Pain in my ass," Zaraki adds next, as he ambles back over and puts a hand on Byakuya's shoulder. "Pain in my ass."
Yachiru bursts out laughing. "Ken-chan you said ass infronta the baby," she chastises without really chastising at all. "Everyone tells me ass is a bad word."
"It is," Byakuya agrees.
"It's a fuckin' donkey too," Kenpachi says, because he is apparently determined to be an assright now.
"It's a fucking donkey," Yachiru agrees sagely, and is probably committing the phrase to memory now, most likely so that she can casually throw it out at the next vice-captain's meeting or in front of other small children so that their parents can look at Kenpachi and Byakuya judgmentally afterwards.
Soujun, thankfully, seems more interested in getting rice in his nose and all over his face than he is in Yachiru's vocabulary lessons. He determinedly paws the uneaten half of Yachiru's onigiri from her hand and smashes it into both of his over enthused ones. "Nori," Byakuya points out next, when Soujun starts peeling the seaweed off of his rice ball in distaste.
Zaraki picks Soujun up and props him on his shoulder, taking the half-eaten onigiri from his son and removing the seaweed from it for him. "Worst damn picnic ever," he tells Soujun in the same stilted way that Byakuya has been speaking to him all morning.
"I'm sure there's more hollows deeper in the woods, Ken-chan," Yachiru hums at him placatingly, because the one he'd killed clearly hadn't been enough action to put him in a good mood.
"You think?" he asks hopefully, while Soujun stuffs his face with rice from his seat on Zaraki's shoulder. Belatedly, he offers a mashed up, spit-covered fistful to his dad as an afterthought.
"No thanks," Kenpachi grunts at him, and reaches into the picnic basket for a salmon onigiri instead.
Pleased, Soujun pops his sticky hand back into his mouth again and finishes off his rice with relish.
"Fingers," Byakuya says automatically.
Zaraki groans and tosses the onigiri back into the basket. "I'm going deeper in the woods now. Yachiru, you wanna come?"
"You betcha!" Yachiru jumps to her feet and is perched on Zaraki's other shoulder in the blink of an eye. "Let's find a whole family of hollows, Ken-chan!" she cheers, like they're going on a rollicking scavenger hunt and not on some bloody monster slaying quest in the middle of what was supposed to be a pleasant sojourn into nature for the purpose of enriching both Soujun's and Yachiru's lives.
Zaraki grins and hands Byakuya the baby before standing up and heading straight for the darkest, most ominous part of the woods. Byakuya settles Soujun into his lap comfortably and points to Yachiru's hair as the duo disappears into the trees. "Pink," he says, hopefully.
Soujun makes an unimpressed face and patiently waits for his father to realize he needs a diaper change.
Later, once Byakuya has changed and burped his son and is trying to teach him the word for leaf, an explosion of reiatsu from the heart of the woods levels all the trees within a kilometer of their picnic spot. Byakuya can hear Yachiru's high-pitched laughter in combination with the squelch of bodies in their death throes, which means that Zaraki and his vice-captain have indeed found that entire family of hollows they were so eagerly searching for. The warm, familiar wave of heat that accompanies any and all bursts of Zaraki's spiritual energy practically sets the entirety of Rukongai on edge, crackling the air dry and feeling like the prelude to a looming wildfire.
Soujun claps his hands a moment after that, when another wall of volatile energy hits them and destroys more woodland. Byakuya sighs helplessly and moves to pack up their things before the whole forest is ablaze with Zaraki's energy. "Basket," he tells Soujun, as he's putting their leftovers back into it. "Basket."
Soujun says nothing, but reaches out with one chubby hand and pats clumsily at Byakuya's index finger with it. Byakuya wonders if his son is trying to console him.
In the distance, something explodes out of existence with a wet, miserable sounding splatter. Soujun throws his hands up and cheers.
A week later, Soujun finally says his first word.
It is on a day when Zaraki has charge of their son during working hours simply because the hard-looking men of the eleventh division all have some sort of ridiculous soft spot for adorable infants and don't mind taking turns babysitting them. Byakuya is visiting for lunch and finds Yumichika and Ikkaku on the back porch, the fifth seat holding Soujun happily while the third seat sits beside them much less happily, covered in glitter and glue and broken tufts of what had once been Soujun's favorite stuffed giraffe.
In the yard, Zaraki is blindfolded and unarmed. He is also surrounded by a group of his men, who are circling around him nervously as they play at some sort of bizarre exercise wherein the sole purpose seems to be trying to stab their captain in an attempt at group assassination. Well, it looks like they're supposed to stab him from what Byakuya can tell, given that at the moment, all that's really happening is a lot of anxious circling and pessimistically doubtful expressions all around.
A brave-looking first year is the one to break the spell. He gives a small warrior's shout before drawing his sword and raising it above his head. He charges at Zaraki somewhat stupidly, going head on and full throttle in a way that just screams eleventh division (and bloody horrible death).
Before the rookie can even bring his sword down, a familiar wave of energy begins to build around Zaraki, the yellow glow of his reiatsu starting to distort the air around him, making it look as if the distant, crackling heat of a scorching desert is rising up from his very skin. Byakuya knows this moment well; it's the threshold between calm and explosion, before the switch is flipped and the fire roars to life.
Soujun, apparently, knows what this moment means as well, because as the rookie's sword heads straight for Zaraki's neck, the eleven month old baby suddenly claps his hands together cutely and shouts, at the top of his tiny lungs, "Boom!"
Byakuya only has a moment to be stunned before the entire yard erupts into a supernova of angry fire and the startled screams of Zaraki's men make it impossible to hear anything else.
"Boom," Byakuya murmurs afterwards, as an unscathed Zaraki tolerantly allows an equally unscathed Soujun to crawl all over his head while the three of them sit in Kenpachi's sparse office together, leaving Yumichika and Ikkaku to deal with the emergency crews of fourth division shinigami currently triaging the surviving trainees out in the yard. "Our son's first word was boom."
Zaraki grins proudly and reaches up to pat Soujun's rear as the baby tugs on Zaraki's hair in order to play with the shiny bells at the end of each spike. "Told you he'd talk when he felt like it."
"Boom," Byakuya repeats, dully. He wonders vaguely if it had been Soujun's best attempt at trying to warn him.
Zaraki just shrugs like it doesn't matter, causing Soujun to tumble off of his shoulders and towards his lap, where he catches the kid with both hands before grinning down at the wildly laughing baby. "Boom," he agrees, in a way that means he is clearly laughing at Byakuya's pain.
Byakuya sighs and takes their son away from Zaraki before he accidentally breaks him. He studies Soujun instead, and when Soujun beams innocently back up at him, Byakuya finally feels something a lot like like pride start to overwhelm him, to the point where it slowly begins to outweigh the sheer ridiculousness of the whole afternoon. What matters is that his son finally spoke for the first time today.
Zaraki watches them both, still smirking shamelessly. "My offer to knock you up again stands if you're still disappointed, princess," he says around a leer.
Byakuya glares at him.
From the cradle of Byakuya's arms, Soujun takes one look up at his father's irate expression and sagely declares, "Boom!" once more.
Byakuya supposes that given who Soujun's parents are, 'boom' really might be the only way to put it.