Sakura no Eda

Chapter 10

Byakuya never expected to wake up again. Though he left behind some regrets, he was at peace at the time. And yet, against all expectations, he opened his eyes. And nearly choked on hot water. He spluttered and felt himself sinking.

He was still weak, but someone helped him keep his head above water. Small hands grasped him around his ribs. He panted for a moment, then lifted his gaze. His mind was still working slowly, so he merely leaned against her, closing his eyes again.

"Rukia…" he whispered. As best he could, he wrapped his arms around her small body. But he wasn't even lucid enough to ask where he was, let alone why she was here too.

"Nii-sama," Rukia said, and she sounded immensely relieved. "He said you would be all right, but I didn't believe it. I'm so glad you've opened your eyes again. You scared me so much." She held him tightly.

Since he was still not fully in control yet, to his own surprise he felt a tear roll down his cheek. He rested his head against her, and was lost again for a while.

He opened his eyes some time later to find himself sitting down in what seemed to be an onsen. With his memory still foggy, he was a little unnerved that he had been unconscious in a bath. And then he remembered.

"Rukia…" he murmured, searching for her.

She was sitting a few feet away and snapped to attention as soon as she heard his voice. "Nii-sama!" she said, smiling with great relief. She came a little closer. "How do you feel?"

He thought for a time, examining the feel of his wounds, which were frighteningly fewer than he thought they had been. "In too much pain to be dead, I think," he murmured philosophically.

Rukia laughed helplessly. "I know how you feel. But he saved us, a member of the Zero Division. That's where we are now."

Though he was still a little woozy, Byakuya was taken aback at that one. "How can that be?"

Rukia grew quiet. "He didn't really explain it very well, but I think it's because of Ichigo. The Spirit King thinks we will need Ichigo's bankai to…" She paused and looked searchingly at him, and then sighed. "You shouldn't be worrying about this right now. Go back to sleep, it's all right."

Byakuya lifted his eyebrows sardonically. "How can it be all right to sleep while bathing?"

Rukia shook her head. "I don't know, but it is. Apparently, we were all unconscious up until a few hours ago, except for Ichigo. But really, Nii-sama, don't worry about any of this right now. Go to sleep. It's all right, I'll watch over you." She smiled gently, but at the end of it, Byakuya was sure he saw a flash of pain.

Rukia started to return to her seat when Byakuya grabbed her wrist. She looked back at him in shock. Then, further confounding her, he drew her against his chest, causing her to sit on his lap underneath the water.

"Ah…Nii-sama…" she whispered helplessly.

"Rukia," he murmured, pressing his lips against her hair. "I'm so sorry. I should never have let you go."

She seemed at a loss, and then she rested her forehead against his chest. "Nii-sama…what are you saying?"

Byakuya took a deep breath. "Rukia. I didn't think I would live, and so all I could think about was how sorry I was that I never said it. I tried to do what was best for you. But it seems I'm a petty man who cannot let go of a woman he cares for, even for her own sake." He took another deep breath, closing his eyes.

"I love you."

Rukia's whole body went stiff, and he heard her breath hitch.

"I'm sorry if it pains you to hear that, but I needed you to hear it. At least once."

Byakuya waited a long time, with his heart pounding in his ears, waiting to hear her response. She stayed stock-still for a long time. Then her head lowered. His chest ached, because he could tell she had started to cry. She pushed away from him with shaking hands, and he had to release her.

"…-pid," she murmured, so softly he could barely hear. Then she sobbed. "Stupid Nii-sama, stupid." She sobbed again. "I'm not the one you should be saying that to."

"And who is?"

She sniffed, wiping her eyes in embarrassment. "I don't know. Anyone. Someone who suits you."

He lowered his head for a moment, still unsure. "Does that mean you don't return my feelings?"

Rukia stopped crying for a moment. Then she looked tortured. "How can I answer that?"

"Truthfully. Or you break my heart."

More tears streamed down her cheeks. She took Byakuya's hand in hers, and then pressed it against her cheek. "You are first and only in my heart. Love is too shallow a word to say how I feel about you."

Byakuya's heart flew into his throat. His eyes widened, and he felt himself blushing. How could he have prepared for a confession like that? Though it still pained him to move forcefully, he snatched her up in his arms again.

"Rukia…" he murmured sweetly.

"Yes?"

He was about to embarrass himself by saying more loving words. Then his eyes briefly flicked open again. He paused for a long time, thinking. Finally he said, "Rukia…are we both naked?"

"Umm…yes. Yes, we are."

He considered this for a moment. "Well. It saves time, anyway."

Then he held her close and kissed her deeply. "Mm!" she moaned against his lips. She patted his shoulder hastily to get him to let go. When he finally did, she gasped and said, "Nii-sama, you're still gravely injured! You can't move around too much or-"

"Rukia."

"…yes?"

"Stop talking."

With that, he returned to his task of making her dizzy with kissing. Though she had been seated side-saddle on his lap, underneath the water he took hold of her hips, and then spread her thighs around his waist. She moaned again in embarrassment, but then he could hear that moan turn to one of excitement. Her hips moved clumsily against him, as she was excited but still inexperienced. He felt his body growing hot with her every reaction.

Then his hands curved around her butt, causing her to moan delightfully against his lips. With one hand, he squeezed her there softly. With the other, he continued around until he reached the hottest place at the apex of her legs. Rukia broke the kiss to cry out, her whole body trembling. He took the opportunity to bite down on her neck. She moaned again.

He explored her there gently under the water, remembering how he formed her only to him, and blushing at the thought. And then, he couldn't wait anymore.

"Sorry…Rukia…" he grunted, and then pulled her body down on top of him.

Rukia threw her head back, gasping for a moment. It had been a while. It would not be surprising if it hurt at first. Instead, he felt her muscles flexing and twitching around him, and then she cried out loudly as her whole body tensed. She trembled afterward for a few moments. His eyes went wide. Did she just…

Rukia was blushing badly. "I'm sorry, Nii-sama…I just…"

Byakuya's face went bright red, and he could tell Rukia was staring at him in surprise at the vibrancy of his expression. Then he stopped her observation with a kiss so deep that it bent her slightly backward.

"Mm!" Rukia cried again, and he felt her hips twitch against his own.

This was too much. Byakuya broke the kiss, panting, and held her hips tight to drive himself inside her again and again. Rukia was panting desperately, but her moans, expression and the fluidity of her body told him she was in just as much pleasure as he was. However, he still had less control than usual, and his passion was audible in his voice.

"Ah…ah…" he panted, losing his propriety completely. "Ruki…a…ah…ah!"

He gasped, thrusting in deeply one last time, trembling and panting for many long moments afterward. To his surprise, Rukia tensed and trembled again. Then she was breathless as well. Once again, he blushed. First, she had come from him entering her. Then, from him climaxing inside her. Surely, this was cheating a little bit.

"Ok, ok, nicely done," came a voice from the other side of the onsen. Both Kuchikis nearly jumped out of the water in shock, Byakuya especially because he had never seen this person before. This gangster lookalike was in fact Kirinji Tenjirou, the Hot Spring Demon of the Zero Division. However, the next thing he said was, "It's true you'll heal faster that way, but consider my delicate sensibilities." Saying this, he popped open a can of beer and sat down on the rock walkway with one leg swinging in the water.

Byakuya glared at this man, and they exchanged a long, tense glance. The whole time, Byakuya held Rukia protectively against him. Then Byakuya narrowed is eyes. "A rhinoceros…" he muttered under his breath, gazing at that enormous pompadour.

Kirinji practically fell into the pool with shock, then he turned an enraged expression on Byakuya and shouted in a gangster dialect, "Hey! It's supposed to be a kirin, okay?! The least you could do is say 'unicorn' or something, where do you get off with 'rhinoceros'?!"

Byakuya narrowed his eyes again, this time in annoyance. "Giraffes have two horns," he muttered dubiously. ('kirin' = homonym meaning both 'giraffe' and 'kirin', a type of Asian unicorn)

"The other 'kirin', jackass! You're doing it on purpose aren't you, you humorless bastard." The Zero Division officer sighed heavily and then sat back on his hand, taking a sip of beer. "You, Peach-chan, are free to go as soon as you're fixed up. Though you're welcome to stay." He directed his beer at Byakuya. "You, cowboy, have got some work to do. Once we're done with you, there won't be a Quincy alive ain't terrified of you. But in the meantime, you're both going to sit tight, or I'm going to do horrible things to you. Clear?"

Byakuya's rage was reaching its peak. "From what did you derive the nickname, 'Peach-chan'?" he murmured in a deceptively soft voice.

Even Kirinji flinched a little bit. "Oops. You figured that out quickly."

"Make your peace with whatever deity you worship," Byakuya said, glowing with his dangerous pink reiatsu and starting to rise.

"Wait, wait, Nii-sama!" Rukia said, patting him gently on the chest. However, this had the unintended, but successful, effect of reopening a small wound near his collarbone. He gritted his teeth. This alone was not enough to stop him of course, but making love had seriously reduced whatever attack strength he might have gained back from being healed.

"Peach-chan has it right, Kuchiki bastard," Kirinji grunted, taking a sip of beer. Though he rose Byakuya's ire by using that term again. "After all, you wouldn't want to fall too far behind Kurosaki Ichigo, right?"

That made Byakuya pause. His gaze slowly moved down to Rukia. If he had been stronger, none of this would have happened. That, and now that they were out of danger, it was seriously mortifying that a human had saved them all again.

"Very well," Byakuya replied darkly. "And I assume you know what will become of your innards if you ever speak a word of what you saw here."

Kirinji picked his teeth with his tongue in annoyance. Then he waved a hand dismissively. "As if I have the time to keep up with all your Seireitei drama. Oh, and Peach-chan."

Rukia blinked. "Oh. He was talking about me," she murmured almost inaudibly.

He took another pensive sip of beer. "I can tell this one's not going to take well to the bridle. But he'll have to if he wants to get stronger. You'll make sure he listens to reason now and again, huh?"

To Byakuya's annoyance, Rukia smiled. "If I can," he said.

"Okay, then," said Kirinji, getting to his feet. "You two rest up and get stronger. And careful how much you do that stuff, you'll go blind." Having said this, he sashayed back to a building nearby the pool.

Byakuya sighed, heavily. He leaned back and flinched as he felt another small wound reopen on his shoulder. He tried not to be impressed with the strength of his own bankai. Then he noticed Rukia sitting oddly silent beside him.

"Nii-sama…about what I said earlier…it's okay if you forget that. If you want to."

He frowned. "Why?"

She took a breath. "Because it's true. Because I can be anything you need me to be. And you shouldn't feel any responsibility to me because of what I've just said."

Byakuya sighed. "I'll tire of this very quickly," he muttered.

Rukia's gaze snapped up in fear.

But Byakuya merely held her face gently in his hand. "I won't say the same, you know. If you want to leave me, you'll have to fight me." This had the intended effect of making Rukia chuckle a little. He kissed her nose. "I think I'll love you as long as I have breath in me."

Several tears rolled down Rukia's cheeks, though she was still smiling. She kissed the palm of his hand and then clasped it against her chest. "Then I'll stay with you until neither of us does."

Byakuya smiled. He kissed his beloved deeply, and held her until they both fell asleep.