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Little Shop of Pleasures

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Renji flopped down on the futon in his guest room at Urahara's Candy Shop, exhausted after another day of endless chores (Seriously, did the floor need swept three times a day?)

And another tomorrow.

And the next day...

Sighing, he rolled over onto his back, gazing blankly up at the ceiling, his lips in a petulant scowl. His red hair was loose, wild and as restless as Renji felt.

I wish something would happen…anything to get out of these gods-forsaken chores! An enemy attack or a summons from the Soul Society, anything really. Just as long as I don't have to wipe down the goddamned walls again tomorrow.

He heard a light footstep out in the hall.

Oh man, that had better not be…

Kisuke stepped into the room and Renji groaned inwardly.

Just what I freaking don't need right now.

"What's it now?" he sighed, rolling his eyes, "I thought I was done for the day. I'm beat. Can it wait till tomorrow?"

"Nope, you need to warm Jinta up," he said, nudging Renji with his sword cane.

"You know, I've had about fucking enough of being your slave!" Renji snapped.

He saw those grey eyes narrow, and his restraint gave way. He slapped the cane aside and shot to his feet, a few inches taller than the elder blonde. Kisuke gave him a questioning look, but let him speak first.

"This is some bullshit! Yeah, I get that I'm a guest and I should pitch in, but you know damned well that your demands are ridiculous! You know what? I think I'd rather sleep on the streets than have to take another minute of this crap from all of you!"

He started to shove past the amused looking shopkeeper, headed for the door.

Urahara forced a laugh.

"Aw you'll be back when you get hungry."

"Like fuck I will!" Renji snarled, and he stalked towards the door.

Genuinely surprised at Renji's odd behavior, Kisuke had to restrain himself from chasing after the tall redhead. Apparently, he'd finally been pushed too far. Now, Renji was leaving, and he had no idea how to stop the younger man.

"Hey'ya Renji, hold on a sec! I was just..."

He moved in front of Renji, and the irked redhead started to push past him, but he laid a hand on Renji's shoulder, stopping him in his tracks and making him glare aggressively.

"Hey!"

The bigger Soul Reaper let out an aggravated breath.

"The fuck you want now?"

"Look, I was just joking around. You usually don't get so hot and bothered about it. Is something up? Byakuya giving you a headache? Is Rukia being a pain? I mean, it seems like more than just the usual stupid stuff."

Renji frowned at him.

"Like you would really give a damn. You're probably just asking so you can make a joke outta whatever I say, aren't you?"

"Now, why would I do that?" Kisuke chuckled, trying to cheer him up.

"Oh, I don't know," Renji snapped sarcastically, "Maybe because you're a goddamned sadist and you like watching me squirm?"

"That's not very nice," Kisuke chided him.

"Well, I guess you get what you dish out, then, right?"

"C'mon, I'm being serious now. What's on your mind? Did you and your taicho have a fight or something?"

Kisuke felt a twinge of sincere concern as the redhead deflated visibly.

"No, Taicho ain't even contacted me since I came here. He don' give a shit that I'm gone. Probably wouldn't fucking notice if I didn't come back."

"Now, I don't think that's true at all," the shopkeeper insisted, "From what I hear, Byakuya's pretty impressed with you."

"Where'd you hear that?" Renji huffed, looking away, "Whoever said it's full of shit. I'm invisible to that man. Always have been. Always will be."

Kisuke felt his eyes widen.

Is that part of the problem? Renji wants his captain to contact him? Oh...things are starting to make some sense now.

"Look, I'll tell you what," Kisuke said in a gentler tone, "I know you're kinda pissed at me right now, and I really didn't mean to get you all riled like that. Why don't we have a bite to eat and I'll pour us a glass of wine? I promise," he said, giving the redhead a little wink, "I'll give you some of the really good stuff. Whaddya say, Renj?"

Renji was surprised by the offer...and the wink. He hesitated for a moment, looking suspiciously at the shopkeeper for signs of it being a joke, then he sighed, his anger draining away.

"You're just feeling sorry for me now," the redhead complained.

"So? What if I am? Nothing wrong with a little sympathy, so, you up for some food and a drink?"

Renji gave him a distrusting look, but he couldn't seem to think of any more objections.

"Yeah, I guess that'd be alright."

"C'mon," Kisuke said, giving him an encouraging smile.

He followed the older man down the hallway towards the kitchen, curious to see what Kisuke would make to eat. Usually it was Tessai or Renji, himself, that cooked. A little of the frustration left him as he noted, in amusement, that the shopkeeper handled cooking, much the way he did his experiments. The kitchen started out looking tidy, but swiftly became cluttered with food and spices all over the place.

He'd better not expect me to clean that mess up, the redhead mused inwardly.

It wasn't long before there was a pot on the stove, radiating a heavenly, meaty scent, and fresh bread warming in the oven. Renji's stomach rumbled hungrily. He was still half-expecting either that Kisuke would shed his kindness like a mask and start picking on him again, or that Tessai and the kids would show up to ruin everything. But the kitchen remained empty, except for the two of them.

"Hey, where is everyone?" Renji asked, frowning.

"Eh, they're around here somewhere," Kisuke answered flippantly, "I think Tessai's checking the reiatsu barriers around the property and the kids are in their rooms, watching TV or something."

He turned back to the pot, and Renji plopped down at the table and rested his face on one hand. He couldn't help but smile a little at the way the shopkeeper hummed to himself as he worked. Kisuke walked to the fridge and opened it, then he stood, still humming and examining the contents. He removed a few herbs and cut them up, then added them to the meaty concoction.

As they waited for the food to cook, Renji slipped into a little daze, his mind going back to just before he'd left Soul Society.

He sat at his desk in the sixth division headquarters, his uniform clean and freshly pressed and his tall, lanky body freshly washed and lightly scented with a cologne that Byakuya had once said he liked, when Renji had worn it before. He had come to work early and finished all of the reports, so that when Byakuya arrived, he would surprise his taicho with that.

Then…

He was expecting Byakuya would arrive at his usual time, but oddly, the noble didn't appear until nearly an hour later. Yet, when he entered the room, Renji was sure he didn't look like anything was wrong. If anything, Byakuya looked even more beautiful and more relaxed and content than usual. He didn't go to his desk right away, but surprised Renji by going to the redhead's desk and sitting down.

"Taicho, good morning," Renji said, smiling widely, "What's going on?"

"Good morning, Abarai," his taicho said smoothly, "I was wondering if I might have a word with you."

Renji almost jumped out of his chair at the kitchen table as Kisuke set a plate of little appetizers in front of him.

"Here, try some of these. They're pretty tasty," the shopkeeper said, seeming not to notice that Renji had been about a million miles away.

The redhead's stomach rumbled again, and he pushed aside the flicker of memory and bit into one of the savory morsels on the plate.

"Damn, that's really good!" he said, taking a closer look before he finished the rest on the next bite, "I didn't even know you knew how to cook. Usually, Tessai and I do the cooking."

"Well, cooking is kinda like science," Kisuke said, smirking, "There's stuff that people have done before, then you just go and add your own little touches to it. I promise you, sometimes I fail badly…but sometimes, I get it just right. This stew I'm making is a living world twist on what guys like you and me, who were Rukongai born, pretty much used as a staple."

Renji stood and moved to join Kisuke at the stove. He looked down into the pot and sniffed the contents.

"That's Rukongai stew?" he asked, "That looks like it would put our fucking stew to shame, to be honest."

"Well, I did put in some high falutin' ingredients like really tasty wine and fresh herbs that don't grow in the low Rukon. That's my living world twist."

"Huh, well, it looks amazing."

Renji moved back to the table and sat down again to finish the appetizers.

"You know, I didn't know you were Rukon," he commented, "I heard that you grew up with Yoruichi's family at their estate."

"Well, I may have been dragged there after Yoruichi-san found me and noticed my ability, but I was actually born in the lower mid-Rukon. Never knew my parents. I heard from the people at the orphanage I was in that they died in a hollow attack.

"Sorry," Renji said, staring at the shopkeeper as though seeing him again for the first time.

Kisuke turned and caught him staring.

"What? Something wrong?"

"Nah," Renji chuckled, turning his attention to the appetizers to hide the little flush on his face, "You just…don't seem like the people I know from the Rukon, that's all."

"People can surprise you."

Renji suffered a sudden flash of returning memory.

"Renji, there is something I need to confide in you…something that will come as a surprise to you," Byakuya said, his dark eyes softening beautifully.

"Yes, Taicho?" he answered hopefully.

Could Byakuya have sensed his desires? The noble was known for being very perceptive, and Renji wasn't a very subtle person.

The noble leaned towards him, taking his hands.

"Renji…"

"Renji?" Kisuke inquired suddenly, "You okay? You went away there, for a second. Geez, and we haven't even started drinking yet."

"Oh right, sorry," Renji laughed, "You were saying people can surprise you."

Kisuke set a bowl of the fresh, hot stew and bread in front of Renji and sat down, facing him.

"You look like you might have gotten a surprise, huh?" he commented, "And it wasn't a good one?"

"Yeah, you could say that."

Kisuke gave him a bracing smile and poured him a glass of wine. Renji picked up the oversized glass and swirled the wine, then took a swallow. As it slid down his throat, he felt a throb of genuine warmth inside.

"This is the really good stuff," he commented.

"What? Did you think I was pulling your leg?" Kisuke chuckled.

"That's pretty much what I'm used to," Renji confessed, "Pretty much everywhere. You're looking at everybody's fool, here. I guess it's just too easy to get one by me."

"Naw, that's not true," Kisuke chided him, "Try the stew."

Renji took a mouthful of the stew and his already watering mouth nearly melted. He broke off some of the bread and dipped it as he saw the shopkeeper doing, and it tasted even better.

"Oh my god!" the redhead sighed, "Why the hell do you not cook more often? This beats the hell outta any stew I ever tasted."

"Well, thanks," Kisuke said, feeling a little blush growing on his own face at the redhead's enthusiasm, "I guess if I wasn't so busy saving worlds all of the time, I'd be able to cook more often."

Renji took another large swallow of wine and dug into the stew wholeheartedly. Kisuke's smile warmed and he filled the redhead's wine glass again. The two devoured the stew quickly, then worked together on the wine until the last drop was gone, and both men were feeling the effects.

"Thas damn good stuff, there," Renji said, wiping the back of his hand over his mouth, "Can' believe you wasted that on someone you ain't sleepin' with."

Kisuke snickered.

"Who says I ain't sleepin' with you?" he laughed, "I don't think either one of us is walkin' to our rooms, so we may be sleepin' together righ' here."

"Did we eat all of the stew?" Renji asked.

"Fuck, you got a bottomlesh spit?" Kisuke drawled.

"I'm about ta pop," the redhead confessed, "It's jus' tha'good."

Kisuke laughed, then got up and retrieved another bottle of wine. Renji's eyes widened.

"Ain't ya had enough?"

The shopkeeper tilted his hat and grinned.

"Maybe I'm tryna get ya drunk. Now, I c'n tell somethin' is botherin' ya, so..."

Renji frowned as the older man poured him another glass of wine.

"I ain't tellin'. 's private."

He downed the glass, then held it out for more. Kisuke smiled to himself as he continued to fill the redhead's glass.

Renji was being swallowed up by thoughts of his last day in the Seireitei.

The noble held his hands and was looking at him so earnestly, Renji felt his breath catch. Byakuya spoke softly, eyes glowing with happiness.

"Renji, you may not know this, but you're very important to me. I value your opinion and I trust you more than just about anyone else."

Renji beamed, so happy to hear this. It was what he'd always wanted to hear.

"Thank you, Taicho."

Then the older man continued.

"Renji, there's someone I'd like you to meet."

Caught up in the memory, Renji didn't notice his glass being refilled again, Kisuke watching him with thoughtful concern.

A beautiful man walked in, almost as pretty as Byakuya. Bright sapphire eyes met his shyly.

"Hello."

Confused, Renji tried to keep the smile on his face.

"Uhh...hi. Taicho, who is this?"

Byakuya smiled at him, then at the blue-eyed stranger.

"This is Tetsuya, my cousin. He is the bodyguard and personal healer that you always sense but never see."

Renji nodded, more confused than before.

"Ok. Nice to meet you, Tetsuya."

Then his superior took a deep breath, still smiling.

"Something exciting has happened. I wanted to tell my best friend first. Tetsuya and I...are engaged."

 

Chapter Text

((Then his superior took a deep breath, still smiling.

"Something exciting has happened. I wanted to tell my best friend first. Tetsuya and I...are engaged."))

Kisuke watched as his redheaded companion sank deeper into his thoughts. He subtly refilled the glass, and Renji drank absently, staring into space. He watched closely, alarmed when tears rose in the cinnamon eyes.

Renji swallowed thickly as the riptide of memory pulled him under.

"Wha-? You...you're engaged?"

The noble nodded, smiling at him in a way he'd never seen before as he pulled Renji to his feet.

Byakuya was...happy.

Renji felt as if he was gonna pass out, but managed to smile.

"Con-congratulations. This is...wow."

"Renji? Hey man, come back to me."

He refocused his blurry vision on the shopkeeper, realizing he had tears in his eyes. Embarassed, he swiped at them.

"Cap'n Kuchiki don' care 'bout me, 'cept as a friend."

He saw Kisuke shift uncomfortably, refilling their glasses.

"And wha's wrong with that? Can never have too many friends, y'know."

Renji sighed loudly, unaware of just how much wine he'd drank.

"Tha's not wha' I wanted with him! I wanted him ta notice me. Ins'ead, 'e's got thish pretty little fiancé an' didn' even realize 'e was breakin' my heart."

"Tha' sucks, don' it? Damn, I'm sorry, Renj."

He frowned, considering for a moment.

"But you kinda had t'spect it, right? After all, Kuchiki's a leader, an' leader's gotta have heirs, so tha' pretty much leaves a guy outta the runnin' don' it?"

"Huh."

Renji closed his eyes and tapped a rough fingertip on the side of his wine glass.

"Not a breath'r male," he sighed.

Kisuke gave him a stymied look.

"What'd you say?" he asked, "Did you say…?"

"I said breath'r male!" Renji spat dizzily.

"Breather male?"

"N-naw, bree-der. Breeder male!" the drunk redhead managed finally.

Kisuke's pale grey eyes rounded and one of his hands thumped noisily on the table.

"A breeder male?" he repeated, shaking his head and making himself sway dizzily, "How d'you even know…? Oh, wait, Kuchiki tol' you."

"Yeah."

"Well…shit."

"Yeah."

Renji tried to frown, only to find his face had gone rather numb.

"It don' matter an'more. Anywaysh, this's some good shit."

He eyed the bottle of wine; it seemed to waver slightly.

He felt so very warm, and he leaned his head back, running both hands through his hair.

"Why's it s'warm? You got th'heat on?"

Already intoxicated and focused on his discomfort, Renji didn't notice the soft gray eyes admiring him over the rim of the wine glass as he stripped off his Red Pineapple shirt, exposing an array of intricate black markings. He flipped his hair over the back of the chair so it wasn't hanging down his back and making him hotter. Still, sweat misted his golden tanned skin.

Kisuke swallowed at the sight of Renji running his hands through his hair. Impulsively, he rose and moved behind the redhead's chair. He gently pushed his hands away and began running his own fingers through the fiery strands. Renji made a little sound of confusion, blinking up at him. Then the younger man seemed to settle into the attention, humming softly while his hair was played with.

Kisuke smiled as he caressed the scarlet mane, covertly admiring the markings he could see. Keeping one hand stroking Renji's hair, he moved the other to lightly touch the wicked black lines on his guest's forehead.

Renji stiffened a bit at the cool feeling of those curious fingers touching him, his whiskey-colored eyes rolling up to peer at the drunk shopkeeper. Kisuke simply smiled and kept tracing the markings, and Renji calmed, resuming his humming.

Kisuke contemplated the redhead. Renji was quite attractive, and powerful in his own right. He was street-smart, and surprisingly sweet. Like the day before, when Jinta had scraped his knee and had been fighting tears, not wanting to look weak. Renji had cleaned the wound and dressed it. He had comforted the boy and distracted him with stories about his own injuries.

Of course, the moment Jinta had felt better, they'd gone back to name-calling and insults. But still, it was a side to Renji that had surprised Kisuke. And there was nothing he loved more than being surprised and learning new things.

His hand subtly slipped lower to stroke the black designs on Renji's neck. The younger man simply leaned his head over a bit, offering the vulnerable area.

He rather reminded Kisuke of a big, beautiful cat wanting attention.

Really, Byakuya just might be a fool for not paying attention to this man.

"Wha-? What'd you just say?"

Kisuke blinked.

I said that out loud? What the heck? Well, no taking it back now.

"I am glad Byakuya has found happiness, but he must be blind not to have noticed you first."

Looking surprised, Renji leaned his head back, looking at him upside-down. The surprise and confusion were so cute on the strong features, and Kisuke leaned down to capture wine-flavored lips.

The bigger Soul Reaper seemed frozen for a moment. Shock? Disgust? Kisuke started to pull away, then a big hand came up and wrapped around the back of his head.

Renji started kissing back, hesitant at first. But as the kiss deepened, the redhead's actions became almost frantic, as if desperately craving the comfort Kisuke was offering. And caught up in Renji's wicked heat and the rush of intense arousal those burning lips caused when they impacted so roughly with his, Kisuke could only return the kisses with equal fervor.

He managed to mumble something about the kids seeing and the two dragged themselves to their feet and staggered out of the kitchen, bumping into the walls and still kissing and clinging to each other as they made their way to Kisuke's bedroom.

The door crashed open and they tumbled through, crashing down onto the floor and stifling a fit of drunken giggles. Snickering, Kisuke kicked the door closed, then he climbed on top of the redhead, pinning him to the floor and ravaging his mouth like he'd never tasted anything to delicious. His pale eyes raked every inch of handsomely bronzed skin and snaked along the black lines that danced everywhere.

"Fuck'n Kushiki don' know wha he's missin' right now," Kisuke muttered.

"Don' say tha' t'me," Renji complained, shifting so that he could feel Kisuke's hot, thick arousal through their clothes, "Jus'…y'know…do it."

Kisuke paused for a moment.

"D'ya know wha' yer sayin' t'me?" he asked.

"I know wha' I'm sayin' t'you," Renji answered, "He don' want me and you do. Go ahead. Fuck me."

"Heheh, naw," Kisuke chuckled, starting to climb off of him, "One've us gotta be sensible. This ain't goin' nowhere. You don't really want me. You want yer cap'n."

"I don' wanna hear 'bout tha' n'more," Renji snarled, grabbing Kisuke and dragging him back down, "an' don' say I don' want you."

He shifted and bucked upward, teasing the man on top of him with his hardness.

"Feel that? That says I do."

He moved his hips wantonly, rubbing against Kisuke's alert cock and exciting a lusty gleam in the shopkeeper's hungry eyes. He stretched out, teasing the older man with the lovely array of tattoos that covered his broad chest and soft belly.

"You wan' it? Take it," the redhead offered, "I'm good with't."

"Y'sure?"

"Yeah. You?"

"If you're offerin,' I'm takin' it," Kisuke hissed, pressing his body down against Renji's and writhing hotly against him, "B-been awhile."

"Don't matter," Renji giggled, "It's like ridin' a bike, ne?"

The two stopped and looked down at Kisuke's fully awakened beast that lurked just beneath his loosened clothes.

"Guess we'll see?" he snickered.

A happy groan escaped him as Renji shoved his pants down, releasing his own flushed and leaking member. Kisuke paused to stare intently at the handsomely tattooed organ.

"God, thas jus' beautiful! Never seen a monster like that. Fuck'n amazing!"

"Like it?" Renji chuckled, "T's yours."

"Holy hell!" Kisuke managed softly, reaching down to run his fingertips along the markings that decorated the redhead's flushed penis and making Renji groan and spread his thighs wantonly.

"What?" Renji asked dazedly, "I ain't no fuckin' Mona Lisa or anything. If I was, cap'n'd notice I was alive."

"Pard'n me fer sayin' so, but I don' think cap'n Kushki ever saw you like this!"

"Fuck no," Renji snorted.

"Unlucky fer him," Kisuke sighed, breathing in Renji's warm, deeply masculine scent, "Lucky fer me!"

Renji felt himself blush lightly at the praise from the older man. Or maybe that was the flush from the wine.

Kisuke leaned close and kissed him again as a gentle hand wandered down his body. Breath catching, he spread his legs more as he tried to force images of his superior from his mind.

The former Taicho began an assault on the soft skin of his throat as slick fingers stroked his puckered opening, then invaded his body, sliding in slowly, thrusting and stretching him. 'When the fuck did he get lube?' he wondered dizzily. He was soon lost in sensation, mindlessly writhing under the ministrations of the inebriated shopkeeper.

"Kis...Kisu-ke!"

The blond man murmured against his throat, "'m here, Renji. I gotcha."

Renji hadn't felt this way in a long time. He'd been saving himself for a while now, waiting for Byakuya to notice him. With only his right hand for company, he'd missed these sensations. Gods, he'd missed them so much!

Profanity fell from his lips.

"That's enough, fuck me!"

"ah'kay, I'm puttin' it in. Relax, ahright?"

"Mmmhmmm."

The fingers left him, only to be replaced with something bigger and harder.

"Ahh! Fuck! Yes, c'mon!" he snarled as Kisuke's swollen cock filled him, and he unconsciously clawed at his lover's back.

Pale gray eyes met his, and then Kisuke began moving. A fast, hard rhythm was set, the aggressive thrusts rocking his entire body. Renji buried his face in the smaller Soul Reaper's neck, a rough growl vibrating his chest.

Kisuke's pounding thrusts intensified as he threw caution to the wind to test the limits of the Rukon beast beneath him. And if Renji had looked beautiful before, he broke new ground as he lunged and thrashed beneath the shopkeeper's writhing body, hips bucking up furiously to embrace each powerful, quaking collision.

"Damn! Feel'sah good!" Renji howled, clawing harder at Kisuke's back until his nails bit into the pale skin, leaving marks for him to find later, "F—uh, oh god! Harder! Faster! C'mon! Fuck m-me! FUCK ME!"

Kisuke answered with a final flurry of movements that found the bundle of sensitive nerves inside the dazed redhead, making him scream with delight as Kisuke's body shuddered warningly, then blazing heat erupted inside him. His own hot seed splashed out onto their sweating bodies as the two collapsed, panting and shaking all over in the throes of completion.

A blissful haze settled over the two, and they somehow managed to crawl the rest of the way across the floor and onto the bed.

"Tha' was fuckin' amazin'!" Renji sighed contentedly.

Kisuke smiled warmly.

"No regrets?"

"Heh, no, none," Renji answered.

"Me either," the shopkeeper said, "But…I should probably warn you. The last lover I was with was a real bastard. Luckily, e's gone far 'way now."

"Lucky fer him," Renji drawled sleepily.

"Oh yeah?" Kisuke inquired, looking at him curiously, "Why's tha'?"

"Cause," Renji said, opening one cinnamon colored eye to look at him in the darkness, "If he was 'ere, I'd have to go and kill him for hurtin' ya' like he did."

Kisuke felt an odd sensation in his chest and throat and his eyes dampened. He reached up a hand to brush away the ones that threatened to escape, but Renji's bigger, tanned hand took hold of his.

"He hurt ya' tha' bad, did he?" the redhead asked, "How?"

Kisuke blinked slowly, wondering if he dared admit his stupidity aloud. It was truly the most foolish decision he'd ever made, after all.

"Y'can tell me," Renji urged him, "I won' say nothin' to no one. You got my backside, I got yours."

The two men gazed at each other for a moment, then descended into a moment of drunken laughter.

"Well, you sure as hell got my backside!" Renji giggled, "I ain't got yours yet, but I will whenever you say."

"Well," Kisuke said, turning his head to look out the window, "I'd let ya' right now, but…there's a lil complication."

"S'tha' right?" Renji asked, "The bastard boyfriend? He threaten ya' or sumthin'?"

Renji frowned, blinking to clear his vision.

"Though, I can' think of anythin' tha' should scare a guy like you. You scared a'this asshole, Kisuke?"

Kisuke drew in a deeper breath and let it out slowly.

"Not scared of'm, no. But, when we were t'gether for th'firs time, e'made me promise somethin' to'm. It's tha' promise thas the problem."

Renji scowled.

"Doesn' sound like he kept his promises, s'why should you hafta keep yers?"

The shopkeeper's grey eyes closed, then opened and looked up at the ceiling.

"Cause, the person I made tha' promise ta' was…hey, c'n ya' keep a secret, Renj?"

"Me?" the redhead said, cocking his head slightly, "Yeah, sure. Bout what?"

Kisuke took a steadying breath and Renji could see even through the drunkenness that he was reluctant to share.

"It was Aizen."

Renji blinked in confusion.

"Huh?"

Kisuke bit his lip and started to climb out of the bed. Renji's hand wrapped around his wrist, stopping him.

"You jus' say wha' I think y'said?"

"Yeah. I need more t'drink. I'll…I'll be back."

"Nah, I think you had enough," Renji chided him, "Sayin' somethin' like tha' t'me. Y'let Aizen inside ya'? Thas crazy. Yer shittin' me, right?"

"No," Kisuke answered, freeing his hand and going to look out the window, "I let'im in. I promised no one else would go there. An' th'bastard turned into a fuckin' monster."

"W-well," Renji managed, blinking and staring, "fuck…"

"Yeah."

Kisuke reached into the nightstand and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.

"I didn't know you smoked."

"It's bad fer me, so I usually don't."

"I only tried these livin' world ones once," Renji said as Kisuke handed him one, then lit his own before leaning over Renji and using his lit cigarette to light the redhead's, "I don' usually like'em, but fuck it. We got reasons."

"Yeah," Kisuke agreed, taking a long drag, "We got reasons."

"Wha' is this stuff?" Renji asked, "It's pretty cool. Kinda makes me feel floaty."

"I doctored it a lil," Kisuke snickered, "Don' tell yer cap'n. He might get Central 46 pissed at me again, though, I'm already banished cause of Aizen. Wha' more they gonna do, right?"

"Right."

Renji looked quietly at Kisuke's somber expression, suddenly wanting to erase that serious, almost lost look. It didn't suit the brilliant, confident man.

"Hey, Imma get us some water so we don' get hung'ver too bad. I'll be righ' back."

He slipped his pants on and headed for the kitchen. The walk helped clear a bit of the wine induced haze. He filled two large glasses with ice water and retreated to the bedroom. He saw Kisuke sitting on the edge of the bed gazing out the window, and his chest tightened a little.

Renji handed over a glass as he sat next to the older man. He wrapped one arm around Kisuke's shoulders and kissed his temple.

"Hey, thanks for trusting me with your secret. I promise I won't tell nobody."

The shopkeeper smirked at him.

"If ya do I'll have to kill ya."

Renji snickered and nuzzled messy ash blond hair.

"Deal. C'mon, let's get some sleep."

They finished their water and laid down facing the moonlit window, Renji spooning the smaller man. Thinking about what Kisuke had confided in him, he pulled him tighter against his chest.

As Kisuke's breathing deepened and evened out, Renji began to drift himself, breathing in the scent of pine and incense that the former Taicho gave off.

His mind fading into unconsciousness, his last thoughts were of the man in his arms.

Aizen won't hurt you again.

I promise.

XXXXXXXXXX

Tetsuya knelt quietly at the top of a little, sakura covered cliff, next to a splashing waterfall, his sapphire eyes watching solemnly as the day ended and night fell over the meadow beneath him.

Byakuya would normally be here, watching the sunset and the arrival of the lovely night sky with me. It’s been our nightly ritual, ever since he rescued me from the secret noble prison, where I was incarcerated. Well, on the evenings when he wasn’t assigned a mission like he has been tonight.

When we sat here before, each night, we were like friends, just wanting to be close to each other, to feel each other’s warmth and to enjoy the peace and beauty of the night. It didn’t occur to me that while I was resting close with him, I was also causing him to feel attracted to me.

I don’t understand anything about love.

I don’t know what courtship means, beyond a set of rules I’ve been told to follow.

When it comes to what will happen as we get closer to our wedding, I will only feel more and more anxious, because I know I lack understanding of relationships. All I was taught in the prison was that some dominate and some submit. To the Kuchiki elders, this is “knowing my place.” To my father, it is “something I must trust I will understand better as my engagement commences and the wedding grows closer.”

Tetsuya made a sound of frustration, glaring down at the lake beneath him.

I don’t want to disappoint him.

I’m so confused, though. When he speaks of loving me, there is a light in Byakuya’s eyes and I feel his emotional warmth. I can exude the warmth of friendship, but I don’t know a thing about giving and receiving love.

Byakuya tells me not to worry, that he is happy to accept what I am able to offer. I feel in my heart that he deserves more and I want to offer him that, but…how? Am I even capable of falling in love? Or am I too broken? Is love a thing that can be learned?

I don’t know.

Tears filled the corners of his eyes and above him, clouds began to form in the sky.

“Master Tetsuya?” his attendant called from somewhere behind him, “Master Tetsuya, are you all right?”

Tetsuya sniffed softly and sought the young man’s arms for a comforting embrace.

“Koji, I’m…”

“You’re anxious again, Master Tetsuya,” his attendant said kindly, “You don’t need to be. Everything will be fine, just as Lord Byakuya said. Please don’t be troubled.”

Tetsuya swallowed hard and rubbed his eyes.

“Sorry,” he apologized, “I’m trying as hard as I can. I just…I don’t know how to do any of this!”

Koji smiled gently and touched his hair tenderly.

“Lord Byakuya knows that you have been very sheltered. He doesn’t expect you to act like anyone but yourself. I heard him tell you that. He loves you just as you are.”

“What?” Tetsuya asked, shaking his head, “How can he? How can he when I can’t seem to figure out how to return his love? I tried asking Sadao, but…he just said that I’m intelligent and sensitive, and that my instincts would serve me. He doesn’t understand, Koji. I have no instincts when it comes to love.”

He turned his head slightly to look back in the direction of the family cemetery.

She knew how to be a good partner,” he said softly.

“Ah, now don’t start comparing yourself to Lady Hisana,” Koji chided him, “You are two different people.”

“I know, but at least she knew how to…to make him smile, to amuse him, to touch his heart, to…please him sexually. I know none of these things, Koji.”

Koji rested his chin on top of Tetsuya’s head, holding him gently as they looked up into the sky.

“Well, you could…ask someone who knows more,” the attendant suggested, “Maybe there is someone close to Lord Byakuya who could give you some guidance.”

Tetsuya’s head tilted and he thought carefully.

“Someone close to Byakuya…who knows him well…and maybe…maybe has some experience I don’t?”

“Now you’re talking!” Koji said, nodding, “You see. It will be fine. Tomorrow, while he’s gone, you can just…try going to someone and asking the questions you have.”

Tetsuya nodded, the kernel of an idea forming in his mind.

“All right,” he decided, “Tomorrow, I will.”

 

Chapter Text

Kisuke stirred, groaning at the dull throb in his head. He tried to open his eyes and made a pained sound at the intense brightness of just the morning light coming through the window.

Shit, I got stinking drunk last night, didn't I?

Uggh, that's not good.

A faint sense of nausea washed over him, and he went to move to the edge of the bed. But something was restraining him. He frowned and looked down.

An arm was wrapped around his waist.

His eyes widened and traveled up the arm, and he froze when he saw wicked black lines snaking over handsomely tanned skin.

Renji?

What the - ?

He shifted to look at the redhead's face, relaxed and peaceful. Then his mind caught up and supplied him with images of those strong features twisted in pleasure.

Oh...wow.

We had sex last night. It was...it was good. Really good.

I feel amazing, other than the hangover.

But what will he think? I remember now, we drank...a lot. I didn't take advantage of him, did I?

I should leave.

Kisuke started to shift away from the bigger Soul Reaper, but the arm tightened around his waist and Renji gave a guttural grunt of protest.

Slowly, the auburn eyes fluttered half-way open and focused on him.

"Kis...Kisuke? Wha-?"

The redhead rubbed at his temple.

"Uggh, I'm never drinking again."

Then he froze, staring down between them.

Renji's eyes flew wide as he yelped, "What the fuck?! Why are you in my room? Why are you naked? Why am I naked?"

Kisuke held his hands up.

"Easy there," he said bracingly, "If you'll look you'll see this is my room, not yours."

The younger man glanced around, clearly still partly asleep. He groaned and rubbed his face as he sat up unsteadily. "Ok, so we're in your room. That's not makin' me feel any better, y'know. What the fuck is going on, Urahara?"

Kisuke took a deep breath. "Renji, what do you remember from last night?"

X-X-X

Tetsuya woke to the feeling of his bed moving, and Byakuya's slightly cold body slid in beside him and curled around him. He shivered a little for a moment, but relaxed into his cousin's embrace, blushing as Byakuya's mouth pressed warm kisses to the side of his neck and the back of his shoulder.

"Mmm," Tetsuya sighed sleepily, "you are back early."

"I am," Byakuya answered as Tetsuya turned to meet him for a long kiss of greeting, "The mission took less time than expected, and even had it not, I was hungry for you. I needed to feel your warmth, my love."

Tetsuya blushed brightly and his throat tightened so that he couldn't answer. But he was relieved of the necessity as Byakuya nudged him onto his back and climbed on top of him, then busied his mouth with increasingly amorous kisses. His hands undid the tie at Tetsuya's slim waist, then slid beneath and began to caress his soft, unawakened member. Tetsuya tried not to stiffen, and shut his eyes against the return of harsh memory of another cousin, kissing him roughly and handling him so forcefully that it left his pale, filthy skin bruised and battered looking.

Still, he forced himself to hold still and to meet Byakuya for each deep, plundering kiss. He felt a powerful urge to touch his cousin also, but there was a stronger impulse not to dare. With those feelings warring inside him, he found himself more distracted than aroused, and it wasn't long until his lover realized.

Byakuya paused and looked down to find Tetsuya stiffening and starting to turn his head away. A little jolt went through his insides as he spotted tears on the corners of Tetsuya's widened eyes. Instantly, he pulled free of his cousin and sat up, coaxing Tetsuya up with him.

"My apologies," he said softly, curving a warm, gentle palm around Tetsuya's blushing cheek, "I am just very attracted to you, Tetsuya. But you have endured another's cruelty and simply need more time. I don't want you to feel rushed."

Byakuya paused and bit his lips gently, carefully considering his words.

"And…if you do not also feel attracted to me…"

"But I do!" Tetsuya exclaimed, placing a hand over the one on his face, "I do feel attracted to you, Byakuya-sama!"

He caught his breath and hastily corrected himself.

"B-byakuya. I do find you attractive. I want to be with you. I just…don't know how to behave with you. I only know submission. I only know how to lower myself, not how to be your equal as you say I should. Everyone says that it will come to me, that it is instinct and I will adjust, but I don't know if that's true! I don't want to ruin what is growing between us. I am happy we are engaged. I'm just…scared to death that I will disappoint you."

Byakuya let out a soft breath and embraced his cousin tenderly, running his fingers through the wavy strands of misbehaving black hair, then he kissed Tetsuya on the top of his head.

"You will never disappoint me," Byakuya said firmly, "There is no rush for you to learn how to return my affections. Take your time and learn to trust yourself."

He caught his cousin's hand and laced their fingers together.

"I see it, you know," he commented quietly, "the way that you look ready to kiss me or touch me, but then that hint of uncertainty enters your eyes and you hold yourself back."

Tetsuya swallowed hard and nodded.

"Orochi never let me touch him without permission, and I was usually bound or handcuffed when we were together."

"I will never subject you to anything like that, I promise you."

"I know you won't," Tetsuya acknowledged, relaxing in Byakuya's arms and laying his head on his cousin's shoulder, "I trust you…with everything."

"And I trust you as well," Byakuya replied, looking deeply into Tetsuya's pretty blue eyes, "with everything."

Tetsuya felt mingled shafts of guilt and relief as Byakuya simply held him for the rest of the time they had together. The feeling worsened when he couldn't help being even more relieved with his cousin had to leave for work and he was freed to contemplate what to do about his ongoing predicament.

I've been thinking about it ever since talking to Koji last night, and I think I might know where to find the help I need. There is someone close to Byakuya, someone who knows him well, and who also is experienced in love.

Renji Abarai.

He is a handsome man, who is very popular, and he spends time with Byakuya, so he will know what kinds of things would please him. Renji is Rukongai born, so he won't be as stuffy and proper as anyone from a noble house.

Yes.

Renji will have some answers for me. He is a good, kind person. I know he will do what he can to help, and he will be discreet. I recall that Renji was sent to Karakura Town on a mission, and I know he hasn't returned yet, so I will just…go there.

I will ask him.

Tetsuya couldn't help worrying that the redhead might laugh or perhaps try to discourage him.

But, I have no choice. I simply must learn to be a good partner to Byakuya! Renji will help me. He's the only one who can.

So…I will not give up until he agrees to instruct me!

X-X-X

Renji groaned and cradled his head in his hands as he tried to remember.

"Uhh...ok. You made supper, really good stew. Then you brought out some wine. We drank like two bottles. I...hmm. Oh ok, we were talking. I told you about Byak...fuckin' hell, I told you about how I feel towards my Taicho. And that he's engaged to his cousin, who's a breeder male. Fuck."

He turned his head away with a sense of shame, missing the sympathetic frown.

He heard Kisuke ask softly, "What else do you remember?"

Renji sighed. "Alright, alright. Fuck, askin' me questions when my head hurts. Umm...oh. We started kissing in the kitchen. Somehow, we made it in here. We were on the floor...oh gods, I think I practically begged you to fuck me. I remember you were admiring my markings."

He stiffened a bit when he felt Kisuke touch the lines on his back, the older man speaking softly. "They're beautiful, and suit you so well. I just remembered, you even have them down there on your cock. You are magnificent. I still think Byakuya has to be blind not to have noticed you."

Slowly, Renji relaxed into the touch. Determined not to think about his superior, he glanced over his shoulder at the blond scientist, who was still tracing his markings and looking at them with an appreciative gleam in his eye.

"You really like them?"

Kisuke nodded and smiled at him.

"I do, Renji."

Renji hesitated; it'd been so long since he had someone pay intimate attention to his markings, and never with that look of reverence Kisuke now wore.

He licked his lips and shifted to hide his arousal - it had always turned him on when the black lines were stroked, not to mention he'd already been sporting a bit of morning wood.

But the older man seemed to realize what was up, and caught the edge of the sheet, pulling it back to expose him. Renji's first instinct was to curl up and hide, but he forced himself to relax, watching the way those soft, pale gray eyes caressed his body.

Kisuke wouldn't hurt him.

He watched as the former Taicho ran his fingers reverently over the black patterns on his chest and stomach, headed for where he was aching so badly.

When those talented fingers crossed the line to stroke his throbbing member, his body arched into the touch. Gods, had he really been out of the game so long that it was this easy to be undone?

His thoughts scattered when Kisuke began treating his hardened and leaking cock to long licks, interspersed with light suction.

Panting, he let his eyes rove the lithe body of the blond man between his legs. 'I bet he'd look gorgeous getting fucked.'

That thought, along with the lingering ache in his own lower back, prompted him to reach out and stop the lovely attention he was getting. Pale gray eyes met his, looking a bit surprised. He smiled encouragingly.

"Not that you weren't doing a damn fine job, but I wanna show you a real good time like you showed me last night."

Kisuke sat up with a slight frown.

"I told you about my promise..."

Renji caught the shopkeeper's hands as he gently cut him off.

"Yeah, to a guy who betrayed all of us, including you. That bastard doesn't deserve your loyalty. I can make you feel better than he did. And besides," he gave the older man a conspiratorial wink and smirk, "wouldn't breaking that promise with me be like the ultimate 'fuck you' to that narcissistic creep?"

He saw Kisuke hesitate, and was about to back down. After all, he wasn't the kind of guy to force this sort of thing.

Then a mischievous smile curved Kisuke's lips.

"I can definitely appreciate that logic."

Renji scooted closer, smiling at how the blond's fingers continued methodically retracing his markings. He figured Kisuke's analytical mind was likely memorizing the patterns, and something about that was unbelievably sexy.

He slid both hands into the hair at the back of the scientist's head and kissed him deeply, guiding the shorter shinigami onto his back and shifting between his legs.

Suddenly, a horrendous pounding at the door startled the two.

"Mr. Urahara! I can't find Renji! That moocher better not have left without saying goodbye!" Jinta was screaming at the top of his lungs, but Renji and Kisuke just shook their heads and smiled.

"Damned little brat," Renji half-chuckled, "Figures…"

"I gotta teach that little guy a thing or two about timing," Kisuke snickered.

Renji drew in a deep breath, pulling his yukata back around him and fastening it in place as Kisuke climbed out of the bed and walked to the door, wrapping his yukata around him as he went. He opened the door a crack and looked sleepily out at the youthful offender.

"What were you sayin?" he asked, blinking wearily.

"Oh, sorry to bother you," Jinta apologized, looking only slightly penitent, "Moocher ran off without saying goodbye. I was gonna…"

"Renji's here," Kisuke interrupted, "He and I were just having a little…discussion. We'll be out in a bit. Run along, okay?"

Jinta frowned and peeked past Kisuke to where Renji sat on the edge of the shopkeeper's bed, looking sleep-deprived and, the boy guessed, hung over. Jinta's eyes narrowed.

"You caught him stealing liquor from the cabinet?" he guessed.

"That's not your business," Kisuke admonished the youth, "Now, get outta here and get to your chores."

"Eh, fine, whatever," Jinta huffed, "Just don't leave without sayin' goodbye. It's not good manners, not that moochers have very good manners or anything."

"Shut up and get outta here!" Renji snapped, picking up a sandal and hurling it at the kid, who disappeared in a hasty flash step.

Kisuke shut the door and looked back at Renji with a cute, wicked smirk.

"Now, where were we?"

Renji stood up and stalked the elder man, tugging on the tie at his waist and letting his yukata fall open again.

"I'd say we were right about…"

The two men groaned as a knock sounded on the door.

"Jinta, I told you…!" Kisuke began, opening the door as Renji fastened the tie at his waist again.

The shopkeeper paused and sighed as he spotted, not Jinta, but Tessai outside the door.

"What's up?" Kisuke asked.

Tessai seemed not to notice the unusual presence of the scantily dressed redhead behind the shopkeeper.

"Apologies, Boss," he said solemnly, "but Tetsuya Kuchiki just arrived and he was asking for Renji. I…noticed his reiatsu was radiating here."

"Yeah, I'm here," Renji said, stepping forward, "You say Tetsuya Kuchiki wants to see me?"

"Did he say why?" Kisuke asked.

"No, sir," Tessai replied, "only that it was a personal matter, and that he had heard Renji was staying with us."

"Right," the redhead said, running his fingers through his tumbled red mane, "I'm gonna run and get dressed."

Tessai nodded briefly.

"I will serve tea to Kuchiki-san while he waits," he offered.

"I'll be out in a sec," Kisuke added, "I can keep him company too."

"Yeah," Renji laughed, "you probably just want to eavesdrop or something, right?"

Kisuke shrugged and snorted.

"I'm just givin' you time to get ready leisurely-like and not rush. Got to be hospitable."

"Just don't be fuckin' rude to him, okay?" Renji chided the playful shopkeeper, "He's nice and he's my superior officer's cousin and betrothed. You mess with him, I'll probably be the one Taicho blames."

"I'll be nice," Kisuke promised, turning back to the closet to change quickly into his clothes as Renji headed into the bathroom for a quick shower.

Kisuke and Tessai found Tetsuya still waiting in the candy shop, his pretty sapphire eyes scanning the colorful offerings.

"Something look good to you?" Kisuke asked, "Try some, if you want. Samples are free."

"Oh…" Tetsuya said, flushing slightly, "I wouldn't know what to choose. I've…never tried this."

"Huh?" Kisuke said, frowning, "You've never had candy? Ever?"

Tetsuya's face reddened and he seemed to lose the ability to speak for a moment. Then, the shopkeeper remembered.

"Oh right. Sorry, Tetsuya," he said in a sincere tone, "Maybe try one of the chocolates? I can't believe that Byakuya never introduced you to candy before."

"I've had sweets," Tetsuya explained, "just not candy. My education was in sweets as they were associated with formal social functions…banquets and balls."

"All the fancy," Kisuke mused, picking up one of the chocolates with a set of tongs and dropping it into Tetsuya's palm, "But I assure you, some of the best things in life are amazingly simple. Go on. Try it."

Tetsuya looked down at the chocolate for a moment, then lifted it to his mouth and savored it slowly. Kisuke's eyes betrayed more than a little sympathy at the younger man's closed eyes and blissful expression.

"Well?"

"It is simple," Tetsuya agreed, "but it has its own charm. I love it! It would be very good even chilled, ne?"

"Yeah," Kisuke agreed, handing Tetsuya a hard candy, "Now, try this one. Just don't bite it. Enjoy it slowly. It's hard, not soft."

"It's very good too!" Tetsuya exclaimed, his face brightening, "Thank you, Urahara-san!"

"It's Kisuke," the shopkeeper laughed, "Come on, Tetsuya. Renji is here, but he'll be a few minutes. Let's go and have some tea while we wait for him."

"Of course. Thank you."

"Right this way," Kisuke said, turning into the hallway.

He led Tetsuya to the kitchen, where Tessai was preparing the tea, and the two sat down at the table.

"I didn't know you and Renji were all that friendly with each other," he commented as the two men sat down to wait.

"I suppose we aren't," Tetsuya admitted, "but Renji is a very good friend and close comrade to my cousin, and I know that Byakuya would like for us to be friends."

"Is that what this is about?" Kisuke asked, "You came to get to know him better?"

"W-well, sort of," Tetsuya hedged, "Erm…I…"

"I'm here!" Renji announced, heading into the room dressed in his shihakusho, with his wet hair braided and tossed over a shoulder, "Hey, Tetsuya, it's good to see you. Tessai said that you were looking for me? What's up?"

"Ah…" Tetsuya said, shifting in his seat and blushing, "it is actually sort of…private."

"What? Kisuke?" Renji inquired, "Don't worry about it. Kisuke is my good friend. He doesn't bite, and he'll keep his mouth shut about what he hears."

The redhead shot the shopkeeper a look of warning and Kisuke gave him the slightest nod in reply.

"I will," he added, "Promise."

"All right," Tetsuya said, biting at his lips and steeling himself, "After all, Urahara-san has known Byakuya a long time too. Maybe…both of you can help me?"

Kisuke and Renji exchanged glances.

"You want him an' me t'help you?" Renji asked, tilting his head, "How?"

Tetsuya took a breath and started to speak, then he seemed to lose his nerve and tried to take a drink of his tea, but spilled it clumsily.

"Sorry!" he managed.

"It's okay," Kisuke said bracingly, "It's just a little tea. You know…it's obvious that something is really troubling you. Renji and I are happy to help. It's okay. Whatever you have to say…"

He trailed off and Tetsuya took another shaky breath.

"Well, you see, I was…I didn't have a childhood like most noble children."

"Right," Kisuke agreed, "I recall that you were a prisoner in Itamigiri before."

"Itamigiri?" Renji asked, frowning.

"It was a noble's prison," Tetsuya explained quietly, looking down at the spilled tea as he spoke, "My parents were incarcerated there with me because my father was a noble son who married a commoner, against the rules of the family. This was long before Byakuya was married to Hisana-sama. The rules were much stricter then. My parents and I were incarcerated. My father was executed when he refused to repent of his sins, and my mother died of illness. I was raised in that place, and I did not escape it until I was a teen. Byakuya was kind enough after my emancipation to take me in and have me educated…but…there is something that was not addressed in that education I was given."

"O-kay," Renji said slowly, "so you want me…us to teach you something?"

"What is it you want us to help you with?" asked the shopkeeper.

"Well," Tetsuya said, gathering himself, "I need to learn…how to please my future husband!"

 

Chapter Text

"I need to learn…how to please my future husband!"

Renji felt a horrid, all over stinging sensation, as though his entire body had been struck again with Byakuya's lovely and deadly, petal-bladed bankai. He tried to speak, but choked on the words and stopped. Noticing his reaction, Kisuke hastily stepped in.

"Ah, you're nervous about that wedding night, eh, Tetsuya-san?" he inquired, good naturedly.

"W-well, I'm sort of nervous about everything," Tetsuya confessed, wringing his hands and looking down at them as his face reddened with embarrassment, "I wouldn't usually confess something like this, but if I do not tell someone, then I am worried that I will disappoint my husband on our wedding night, by not being able to respond properly to his affections. But, I didn't know to whom I should go. I reasoned that since Abarai-san is a close friend of my cousin's, and he has a reputation for being…erm…a charismatic and popular person, perhaps he could help me to learn what I need to know."

"Ugh, I'm not…" Renji began.

"Right, right," Kisuke interrupted, "That makes some sense."

He glanced at Renji and gave him a little nudge.

"Right, Renj?"

"Eh…erm, sorry," Renji stammered, "I've gotta…um…I feel kinda..."

"Are you all right, Renji-san?" Tetsuya asked, giving the redhead a look of concern.

Renji opened and closed his mouth a couple times before he was able to answer. "Yeah, 'm fine. Super."

He wondered how the gods could be so cruel as to decide on this being his fate. Not only was Byakuya even more out of reach than before, now his fiancé wanted...what, sex tips? His stomach churned and he felt hot.

Swallowing thickly, he focused on Tetsuya. The half-noble was looking at him with a shy hopefulness, and Renji knew what he had to do, regardless of how much it devastated him.

Ignoring the urge to throw up, Renji nodded. "Ok, Tetsuya. I'll try my best to help you."

Renji barely choked back an agonized sob at the look of anxiety, gratefulness and extreme relief that Tetsuya gave him.

I guess I know all about the fucking desperation of wanting to please someone I l…stop it! Renji chided himself, It's not love if only one person feels it. God, I so want to hit something or hate somebody, but the truth is no one fucking did anything wrong here. Byakuya fell in love with Tetsuya and Tetsuya loves him back. I didn't tell Taicho I love him, and part of me is glad, because I just woulda been humiliated, while the other part of me is screaming because it goddamned hurts so much!

"Urahara-san…" Tetsuya said tentatively, "Renji looks unwell."

He paused for a moment, blinking as he recalled Byakuya's mention of his lieutenant's tendency to drink too much in his time off.

"Oh!" he said, shaking his head apologetically, "I'm so sorry, Renji-san."

"Huh?" Renji managed, reaching down to rub his belly to ward off the throbs of nausea.

"Byakuya-sama told me once that you enjoy alcohol in your spare time."

"Yeah, well…"

"It's okay," Tetsuya assured him, "I only mentioned it because I can help you with that."

"Aw, no," Renji said, catching Kisuke's eye in a desperate plea for help, "You don' hafta…"

"I'm sure I have a hangover remedy here somewhere," the shopkeeper offered.

"Don't worry," Tetsuya said, smiling warmly, "On occasion, when Byakuya-sama is under stress, he indulges too much too, and I am the one who heals him. It will only take a few moments."

"It's okay," Renji answered, trying to wave him off, "I'm fi…"

Renji paused and his jaw dropped as a cool blue glow rose around Tetsuya's hands.

"May I?" Tetsuya asked politely.

"Ah…uh…" Renji stammered as Tetsuya's hands came closer, then made contact with the side of his face and his aching belly, "…oh…"

He was struck by how soft and smooth Tetsuya’s slim hands were, making him sharply aware of his own big, calloused hands, how his rough palms often snagged his uniform. He cringed thinking how that would feel to Byakuya's delicate skin.

Soothing reiatsu emanated from the pretty healer, and again, Renji couldn't help comparing it to his own bold, tumultuous energy. Tetsuya's would feel much better when Byakuya was settling down after a long day at the office or out battling hollows. And his ability as a healer had some applications in the bedroom that Renji would never dare try because of his tendency to have his power erupt too forcibly. So, once Tetsuya knew what to do with those hands…

He clenched his jaw, working to force the thought away.

"Try to relax, Renji-san."

Renji forced his breathing to slow, but even closing his eyes couldn't help him escape from how Tetsuya looked and smelled and felt so different.

Tetsuya's skin was pale and looked tantalizingly soft and perfect, not splashed with wild, jagged markings. The redhead looked and acted more like some kind of wild animal.

Renji felt his eyes burn. No wonder his superior had never noticed him - he was apparently the opposite of what Byakuya desired in a mate, and being so close to Tetsuya only drove the realization like a sword, thrusting into his heart.

He knew he should be honored that the older man considered him his best friend, but honestly, that just drove the sword in deeper.

His belly and head were feeling a bit better under Tetsuya's treatment, but nothing could stop his racing thoughts. He lowered his eyes guiltily, knowing it was wrong to want Byakuya the way he did when his taicho's fiancé was right there, trying to help him.

Renji sighed. Now, on top of his unrequited feelings and his pain, he had to feel guilty, too? Fucking. Damn. It. All. To. Hell.

Finally, Tetsuya pulled away, smiling innocently at him. "How do you feel now?"

Like death warmed over and my heart has been ripped from my body. "Oh, I feel plenty better, thank you."

XXXXXXXXXX

Tetsuya kept the smile on his face, even as his thoughts tangled up. I know I felt it...another presence in Renji's reiatsu.

Is Renji-san…pregnant?

It was something that only a very well-trained healer with specific knowledge of the breeder male gene would notice at such an early stage. In fact, Tetsuya couldn't be sure that Renji even knew. He looked from Renji to Kisuke and back again.

It certainly wouldn't be right to mention it in front of others. What if this is an unplanned pregnancy? They happen. And Renji-san made no mention of being in a relationship with anyone else.

If he is with child, who is the father?

This is none of my business. I know Renji-san is popular and outgoing. It could be any of his friends from the Rukongai. Byakuya-sama warned me that they lived quite differently than we do, when they were growing up. It's best to say nothing and to hope for an opportunity to carefully broach the subject only when we are alone. Perhaps this training will give me the chance, but for now, it is best left alone.

"So," Kisuke said, breaking the odd silence that had broken out in the room, "Tetsuya-san, when would you like this training to begin?"

Tetsuya blushed.

"I think it needs to be as soon as possible, because Byakuya-sama and I are nearing the end of our official courtship. And…"

Tetsuya paused, blushing more darkly. He lowered his voice and forced himself to continue.

"By council edict, because I am a mixed blood and a breeder male, I must prove prior to the wedding that I can conceive…meaning…in a few days, I will have to…we will…"

Kisuke noted the pallor that had come over Renji's face and hastily interceded.

"I think we get the picture, Tetsuya-san," he said feigning cheerfulness, "Now, how about you give us until tomorrow to get some thoughts together on how best to conduct this training?"

"Oh," Tetsuya said, blinking, "of course. Thank you both so much for helping me. I didn't know what I was going to do. I must go back to Soul Society for now, but I will see you first thing tomorrow."

Kisuke nodded. "Sounds good."

As the lovely healer left, Kisuke saw that Renji was staring after him, eyes shining with unshed tears. He moved closer to the redhead, gently laying a hand on the muscular arm. "Renji?"

Devastated auburn eyes met his, and his chest tightened. "It'll be ok, Renji. I know it doesn't feel like it right now, but it will be ok. I promise."

The younger man didn't react, and Kisuke wondered if his words had even registered.

Before he could repeat the reassurance, Renji leaned close, crushing their lips together almost painfully. Kisuke sensed the desperate bid for comfort - that was something he remembered from the Rukon, that sex could be used in this way.

Ignoring a tiny part of his mind that protested being used for sex, he kissed back, parting his lips to let Renji do as he wished. The bigger Soul Reaper deepened the kiss, thrusting his tongue in forcefully and penetrating deeply, his movements needy and desperate. And as meaningless as the act should have been, it caused aching throbs in both men for it to continue.

Then Kisuke remembered they were in the office, and raised a hand to Renji's chest. The redhead groaned in protest, but stopped, meeting his eyes curiously.

He whispered, "Bedroom," and Renji grabbed his hand, dragging him to the guestroom. Kisuke inhaled deeply of Renji's scent that filled this room as the younger man locked the door, then turned to him.

He watched as Renji slowly stalked towards him, auburn eyes intense and burning with a heart rending agony. It was as if his fellow Rukon survivor could see into his soul. Renji stopped in front of him, lifting one hand to his cheek as the other untied his yukata.

Kisuke realized he was trembling slightly, and frowned inwardly. What a ridiculous reaction to have! He was not afraid, and it wasn't like Renji could hurt him. Still, the soft tremors continued.

Renji paused, concern blossoming in his features. "Kisuke?"

He nodded. "I'm fine." To prove his words, he leaned up and kissed the redhead firmly, seeking his own comfort as Renji had sought his in the office.

His companion seemed surprised, but was soon kissing back fiercely, his yukata sliding off as large, rough hands slid over his body. He lifted his own hands to caress the black markings that flowed over smooth bronzed skin.

Intoxicating…

Renji guided him to the bed without breaking the desperately passionate kiss. Kisuke found himself on his back with Renji over him. The younger man shifted between his legs, pushing them wide, and began rubbing their hot, leaking cocks together while sliding hastily slicked fingers inside him to quickly prepare him.

Oh...oh gods this is incredible!

He is incredible!

His hands tangled in the wild crimson mane, holding on as Renji played his body like an instrument. Long fingers caressed him deep inside, finding that most sensitive place, making him gasp and moan, thrashing, before he remembered they should probably be quiet.

Finally, Renji sat up, smiling down at him as he gestured with his hand. Kisuke rolled over, guided to his knees with his upper body resting on the bed. His breath caught as Renji positioned himself. He started with just the damp, flushed head of his thick arousal, running it slowly around the shopkeeper’s anus, then very slowly slipping it inside. He pulled it out again, making Kisuke bite at his lips impatiently, then he pushed in deeper and deeper with a series of agonizingly slow, short thrusts. The shopkeeper was panting hard and grinding his teeth by the time the redhead was fully entrenched in his body, swearing under his breath and ready to beg for what he knew was coming next.

"Ahh, Renji. Mo-move," Kisuke groaned, flushing at the needy sound of his words.

And move he did! The bigger Soul Reaper rocked his hips slowly at first, his eyes riveted and blazing as they watched his cock sliding in, then out of the shopkeeper’s wonderfully tight, white ass. He picked up the pace, growling with arousal, thrusting harder, deeper and faster, feeling a little guilty that Kisuke was probably going to feel it later, the result of such hard, unrestrained fucking.

It’s just frustration fucking…comfort fucking…just to push everything away. Even if I was with Taicho, I wouldn’t be doin’ it so hard and rough like this.

Damn…is Kis…

But a mere glance at the shopkeeper reassured Renji the man was more than happy to take whatever he was handing out.

So, he didn’t hold back.

Kisuke's body rocked from the thrusts, each powerful drive hitting his sweet spot, sending pleasant jolts all through him. It felt so amazing; he'd missed this. And knowing it was Renji making him feel so goddamned good all over…

He moaned into a pillow as Renji gripped his hips and pounded into his ass with abandon, hearing rough panting as the thrusts became more erratic. "Kis-Kisuke!"

The hushed call of his name made him quiver all over as his release exploded out of him and splashed down onto the bed, and the redhead’s scorching cum filled him. Renji stayed buried inside him for a few moments, big hands kneading his hips. Then, he carefully separated their bodies, smiling as he used the soiled blanket to clean them up.

It crossed both their minds to wonder what exactly was between them.

Neither one knew the other was thinking the same thing.

“Sorry,” Renji managed in a low, rough voice, “I guess that was…”

Kisuke retrieved his normal smirking expression and sat up, reaching for his yukata.

“What’re you talking about?” he said off-handedly, You didn’t do anything to apologize for. I think it’s pretty clear it felt good to both of us.”

“Well, yeah,” Renji agreed, “but…it’s kinda shitty of me to…”

“What do you mean?” Kisuke huffed softly, looking away as he brushed off the concern, “Renj, I did grow up in Yoruichi’s noble family, but it’s pretty common knowledge that sex is a good way to find comfort from the bad stuff.”

“Kis…”

“Having Tetsuya ask you to do something like that when you have more than platonic feelings for Byakuya has got to have thrown you.”

“That’s no excuse,” Renji answered, choking a little on the words, “I mean…I know it seems like I was using you, but I…”

“Shh,” Kisuke hissed softly, putting warm fingertips to Renji’s frowning lips, “Let it go, okay? We…did what we wanted to. We’re not with anyone, so there’s no harm, right? It was just a reaction. No harm done.”

“Huh…” Renji said, sounding less than convinced, “I guess you’re right.”

“I kinda feel like I was takin’ advantage of you too,” Kisuke suggested, “I know your feelings are all outta whack and you’re in pain, but when you turn it on like that…damn, Red! You are a pretty fascinating beast.”

“Yeah,” Renji laughed sadly, his face burning nearly the color of his hair, “if I’m so great, then why doesn’t Taicho notice at all?”

Kisuke shrugged.

“Byakuya’s a hard one to figure out,” he mused.

“Not as bad as Aizen,” Renji said with a sarcastic chuckle.

“You got me there,” Kisuke agreed, “We’re a couple of idiots, aren’t we, Red?”

“Yeah,” Renji agreed sadly, “I guess we are.”

Chapter Text

Byakuya stepped out of the sixth division headquarters and immediately found a smile on his lips as he felt the gentle touches of tiny raindrops. The tender brushings that cooled the flesh of his exposed face and hands reminded him immediately of the one who he was sure was already waiting for him in the softly moonlit gardens.

"Goodnight, Kuchiki taicho," his third seat called out as he left the office.

He returned a polite farewell, then headed through the dark streets, his mind slowly setting aside the stacks of reports he'd been addressing, and the various missions assigned to his group, and focusing on more pleasant things, the freshness of the rainy air, the dark clouds and the intermittent openings that gave him glimpses of the stars. He thought fleetingly of his absent fukutaicho and realized suddenly that Renji hadn’t reported in from Karakura Town as expected, so he made a mental note to send a hell butterfly to request an update.

Not that I have any worries about the state of the mission. Renji is nothing if not completely reliable. His progress in both work matters and fighting ability have been improving admirably. He has also proven himself to be an invaluable friend.

We have come a long way since the days of Aizen’s betrayal. Yes, we have become close…so close that he was the first person I wanted to tell about my upcoming wedding.

Thinking about the wedding distracted him from his thoughts about his absent fukutaicho, and his eyes drifted up to the night sky again to contemplate the stars. He could imagine Tetsuya standing quietly beneath the lovely carpet of lights, touched with shadow from the dark, broken clouds, waiting for him, patiently as ever. By the time he reached the front gates of Kuchiki Manor, his heart and mind were peaceful, and he smiled more warmly.

"Good evening, Byakuya-sama!" the guards at the gate called out, bowing as he passed.

He nodded in answer, then proceeded into the gardens. Right away, he spotted Arashi's nearly invisible form, in among the sakura and plum trees. He sensed that Tetsuya was not in the gardens, but seemed to be out near their favorite training spot, a tall cliff with a lovely waterfall that dropped down to a lake and wide, grassy meadow. Byakuya frowned at the edge to his fiancé's usually calm reiatsu and quickened his step. His frown deepened then, as he picked up the reiatsu of another, less welcome cousin, who seemed to be near to Tetsuya. He hastened his step and approached the top of the cliff, where he spotted Tetsuya standing near the edge with Kuchiki Orochi beside him.

"You know Byakuya-sama has said you are not welcome here," Tetsuya said sternly, "You should go."

"Should I?" Orochi answered with an edge of sarcasm, "But I am here on council business. Since your careless fiancé couldn't be bothered with attending to the council meeting this afternoon, someone has to bring him up to date on what took place."

"I will pass on whatever you need to relay," Tetsuya said sternly, "but be warned that your message is all you are to relay."

"Of course," Orochi chuckled, smirking at him in a manner that made Byakuya's blood boil, "You can pass on to Byakuya that the council has given final approval for him to impregnate you immediately."

He turned suddenly, trapping Tetsuya up against a sakura tree and grabbing him under the chin to force their eyes to meet. Byakuya tensed, but held himself back from interfering as he spotted the glint of Tetsuya's drawn sword that was pointed directly at his foul cousin's heart.

"Are you going to kill me, Tetsuya?" Orochi scoffed, ignoring the blade entirely.

"You deserve it," Tetsuya answered in a low, angry voice, "You know very well that I am not the weak little slave boy you remember."

"I know you think that," Orochi mused, glaring down into his cousin's widened blue eyes, "Byakuya may have taught you to dress, speak and act like one of us…"

He slid his fingers into Tetsuya's hair and tightened it, making Tetsuya wince and make a sound of pain at both the discomfort and the memory it caused.

"But deep down, you know you are still my little plaything, and anyone who lays a hand on you…"

He broke off at the sound of Byakuya's hissing flash step and the touch of Senbonzakura's tip touching his back.

"Leave," Byakuya loosed icily, "before I kill you. Tetsuya may hesitate, because he is a gentle soul, but I know you are aware that…I am not."

"Huh," Orochi huffed, stepping out from between the two blades, "Enjoy him."

He waited until he was out of hearing to add, "…while it lasts…"

XXXXXXXXXX

Renji sighed as he descended into the brightly lit training room. The underground cavern was massive, the ground covered in sandy dust. He took off his shihakusho, baring his heavily tattooed breast, then he laid the black garment on a boulder. He warmed up with a scripted set of moves and stretches, then when he was focused and lightly sweating, moved on to his training.

He started off with hand-to-hand combat techniques, hands and feet flying as he attacked the padded training dummies. Despite trying to keep his mind clear, as usual, thoughts of Byakuya kept popping up. That led to thoughts of Tetsuya's request, which led to frustration that swelled in a red glow around him as he howled and turned the emotion on the dummies, leaving black burns on them where he struck.

“Son of a bitch!” he snarled, trying to turn the men in his thoughts to big, nasty hollows to retrieve his scattered focus.

But, how the hell are me and Kisuke supposed to teach the guy what he needs to know?

The thought was promptly followed by thoughts of the shopkeeper. First, his sexy, perverted smirk, then him stripping his clothes off, then him on his knees, moaning and panting and Renji’s hungry dick hard fucking his handsome, raised white ass.

What the fuck is going on there ?

Ok so we slept together. Twice. Ok. So now what? The first time we were fuckin’ drunk and the second time we just wanted, no, needed the goddamned comfort. Still, I wanna sleep with him again, and if we do end up sleeping together again, we’ll definitely be something, whether in a relationship or friends with benefits.

He tried to ignore the part of him that wanted that. He didn't even care who topped, just as long as they did it again.

…and again…

He snarled, his cinnamon eyes glowing wicked red and his mind filled with the images of the even more wicked things that the two could do to each others’ naked bodies. He could almost feel Kisuke’s hot, wet tongue snaking along his heaving, tattooed breast teasing each dusky raised nipple, and those strong hands that knew just how to touch him to unleash the worst of the angry beast between his thighs.

Renji flew at the cardboard dummies, his mind in a whirl. He couldn’t contain himself anymore, and in a loss of control, he loosed a furious blast of kido that reduced the dummies to ash.

“FUCK!” he howled, dropping to his knees, “DAMN IT ALL TO FUCKIN’ HELL!”

He wasn’t sure how long it took for his body to stop shaking and the tears to stop running down his face, but eventually, the emotion drained out of him and he forced himself to his feet, watching as Kisuke’s training dummies simply regenerated.

“Fuck…” he managed in a ragged sigh, “Ain’t that just how it is…”

XXXXXXXXXX

Byakuya sheathed Senbonzakura, his eyes watching as Tetsuya also sheathed his blade.

"Are you all right, anata?" he asked quietly, "Your reiatsu is very disturbed."

Tetsuya shook his head and sighed.

"I am all right," he reassured his worried fiancé, "Orochi is unpleasant on the best day, but he knows not to overstep the boundaries you set."

"Not while I am looking, in any case," Byakuya said unhappily, "I do not like the way he still tries to corner you when I am not here. Tetsuya, I know very well that you are capable of defending yourself, but I want you to be exceptionally cautious. When you leave the house, I want Koji to accompany you. Perhaps it is a strong reaction, but we will be conceiving our child soon, and that is likely to tease that man into some kind of defiance. You remember how he fought the council on our engagement."

"I remember," Tetsuya assured him, "I am well acquainted with Orochi's temperament. I will be cautious."

"Good," Byakuya sighed, embracing him and closing his eyes as he rested his chin on the top of his cousin's head, "I do not want anything bad to happen to you. You have had enough befall you to encompass an entire lifetime. I only want the best for you."

"You are the best for me," Tetsuya said, blushing as Byakuya's head bowed and his fiancé's warm lips found his. His first kisses were tender, but Tetsuya's heart skittered and raced as they became less restrained and more passionate. Byakuya noticed the sudden tension in his cousin's body and paused, drawing back slightly and running gentle fingers through the misbehaving strands of Tetsuya's black, silken hair. Tetsuya's slim body went taut, his eyes closed tightly and his jaw clenched in reaction. His mind shot back to a darkened room in the guards' barracks in the noble prison, where Orochi had lain with him many times before.

Orochi glared down at the back of his younger cousin's head, sliding his fingers into the long strands of his hair and clenching painfully. He held Tetsuya poised over his swollen, leaking penis, watching his cousin pant and feeling his body tremble at what he knew he was going to have to do.

“First, the head,” Orochi growled softly, “just with your tongue…slide it over the top and around.”

He let out a little, purring moan as his cousin complied, ignoring the tears that slid down the sides of Tetsuya’s pale face.

“Use your teeth now on the edge to tease.”

Tetsuya started to move, then gasped out a pained sob as Orochi’s fingers tightened in his hair, jerking his head back painfully.

“DO NOT bite me or you will only wish that I would kill you,” he warned the younger man.

Tetsuya shivered, but seemed too frozen to struggle. Orochi glared at him expectantly and fresh tears slid down Tetsuya’s face.

“Y-yes, Orochi-sama,” he panted.

Orochi groaned impatiently as Tetsuya’s tongue lathed over the flushed head of his penis again, then his carefully bared teeth carefully teased the satin corona. The move make more pale fluid bleed from the tip of Orochi’s thick arousal.

“Now, suck me!”

He forced Tetsuya's head down, then pulled up again, groaning at the intoxicating sensation of that soft mouth working desperately to bring him pleasure. The sharp, fast motion brought him quickly to the ends of his wits, and he shuddered and groaned more loudly as he came into Tetsuya's mouth and his cousin began to choke and cough.

Byakuya's breath caught in dismay and he released Tetsuya immediately, watching with tragically sad eyes while his cousin fought to steady himself.

"Tetsuya, I am…sorry," he apologized.

Tetsuya shook his head firmly and rubbed at his stinging eyes.

"I'm the one who is sorry," he managed brokenly, "You've never done anything to hurt me and I remain in counseling to help me cope, yet I…I just can't seem to…"

He stopped and took a deeper breath, forcing calm back into his shaking body. He blinked to clear his vision, then made his eyes meet his cousin's.

"My apologies, Byakuya," he said solemnly, "I will try to do better."

"You shouldn't have to try at all," Byakuya answered, cupping a palm around his damp cheek, "I think I've been selfish, considering only my own desires and not what the cost to you would be. Maybe…perhaps, Tetsuya, we should call of our engagement."

"What?" Tetsuya managed his already pale face going white, "No! I'm sorry! I said that I would try harder…"

"This is hurting you too much," Byakuya whispered, as much to convince himself as the younger man in front of him, "I love you too much to hurt you, Tetsuya."

"Then, please…j-just give me a chance to adjust," Tetsuya pleaded, his blue eyes filling with fresh tears, "I only need a little more time and I will be all right."

"But, you know that the council is requiring that we make our child immediately. I am not going to make love to you until I know that it won't hurt you."

"It won't!" Tetsuya insisted, "Byakuya, please…don't give up on me."

Byakuya gave him a tormented look.

"I am not giving up on you," he said urgently, "I…"

"Then, trust me," Tetsuya requested, "I will find the strength to be the partner you need."

A ragged sigh escaped the Kuchiki leader and he held Tetsuya against him, hating the wretched man that had shattered his beloved cousin’s heart.

“Tetsuya, you are a healer. You know well that there is no substitute for time when it comes to wounds of whatever kind. A wound forced into healing quickly will…”

“Will heal imperfectly,” Tetsuya finished, “I know. But, it will heal.”

XXXXXXXXXX

Kisuke balanced a tray of snacks as he entered the training room. Reiatsu like fire flared through the air, the sounds of training echoing. He faced the waves of energy with a smile - if he was just about anyone else, it would've made him stumble or at least catch his breath.

He rounded a rocky formation and stopped. Renji was demolishing the targets in a blinding flash of red, tan, and black. The younger man was breathing hard as he used close-combat techniques on the dummies.

Kisuke watched, admiring the power and grace of the redhead. Renji sprang at a cardboard silhouette, driving his knee into its face before whirling at another. Kisuke tilted his head as he sensed the frustration and confusion in the flaring energy.

Was Renji upset over their...whatever they had? It'd make sense - the younger man's heart was broken, and then Kisuke had gotten him drunk and they'd slept together. Sex had probably complicated Renji's entire mindset, especially after Tetsuya's request.

But try as he might, Kisuke could not bring himself to regret what had transpired between himself and his fellow Rukon survivor. Both times, it had brought desperately needed comfort and relief. He couldn't be ashamed, especially as he watched Renji train.

He stepped closer, and the redhead landed lightly, cinnamon eyes meeting his. For a moment, a storm of various emotions clouded the strong features, then they smoothed out into a mask Byakuya would be proud of.

Kisuke was struck by a memory of another man so able to hide what he was feeling.

"You'll always be mine, even when I'm gone."

Kisuke frowned. "'Gone'? Are you going somewhere, Sosuke?"

A charming smile was sent his way. "Nothing to concern yourself with."

His protests were smothered by kisses, and as always, some tiny part of him doubted this man. And, as always, he dismissed it as paranoia.

"Hey, Kisuke?"

He jolted back to reality, seeing Renji watching him with concern. "I'm fine," he replied, caught off-guard by the coldness in his own voice. He held out the tray, seeing it shake. "Here. You should eat."

Renji frowned at the sandwiches. "Thanks, but I'm not feelin' so hot."

Taking the tray and setting it aside, the younger man stepped closer. "What's wrong, Kisuke?"

He shook his head. "You should get back to training."

Renji touched his cheek, leaning in to kiss him. Kisuke's eyes slid closed as he met the contact fervently.

Then he felt Renji pull back a bit, hearing, "Sorry."

He blinked as Renji continued, "We...we should probably talk."

Kisuke started to reflexively agree, but found that his mouth wouldn’t move to say the words. Instead, he gave the redhead a lurid grin and snickered.

“Lookin’ at you,” he said in a low, sexy tone, “I don’t think talkin’ is what you want to be doin’, Red…”

Renji stared at him for a moment, then before he could stop himself, he crashed into the shopkeeper, taking him to the sandy floor and making a heavy cloud of dust erupt around them. Their clothes were off in seconds and with little thought for preparation, Renji drove his throbbing cock deep into the shopkeeper’s wonderfully hot, tightness.

“S-sorr…”

His words ended in a yelp as Kisuke tightened warningly and hissed, “Shut up and fuck me, okay?”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. We both need it, right?”

“Right.”

The two started to move again, and that was when Kisuke felt Renji's energy plummet.

What the hell?

“You all right, Red?” he asked worriedly.

Renji’s face went white and he managed a short grunt of agony, then he collapsed in the surprised shopkeeper’s arms.

“Renji!”

Chapter Text

Renji groaned, blinking and squinting at the bright light above him. He started to move, only to hear Kisuke's voice soothing him.

"Easy there."

Turning his head, Renji felt a twinge of anxiety at finding himself in the shopkeeper’s lab. He groaned again, trying to sit up.

"Y'better not be usin' needles on me, K'suke."

A laugh answered him, but it sounded strained as a gentle hand coaxed him to lay back down.

"I haven't figured out why,” Kisuke said, frowning and rubbing at his chin, “but you seem dehydrated and a bit undernourished, and your reiatsu is...fluctuating, though it seems to be mostly on the lower end of the spectrum. That must be why you passed out."

Renji flinched at a vague memory of needles piercing his skin. Before he could complain, Kisuke continued.

"It's almost as though something is draining you. I just can't figure out what."

Hearing frustration in the older man's voice, Renji glanced up into storm-gray eyes. Kisuke looked worried. He swallowed to ease the dryness of his mouth and throat.

"Hey, I'll be ok."

The worry vanished behind a mask, much like his superior could do. At the thought of Byakuya, Renji's heart ached.

But Byakuya wasn't here, Kisuke was.

Renji reached out and weakly caught one of the exile's hands.

"I'm tough, ok? Whatever this is, we can fight it."

Kisuke smiled at Renji, noting that his color was mostly normal, if a shade paler than usual. At least he wasn't stark white anymore.

He took a deep breath, letting it out in a shaky sigh.

"You scared me."

He froze as he realized he'd said that out loud. Renji was staring at him with wide cinnamon eyes, apparently rendered speechless.

Quickly, Kisuke recovered, pulling his hand away and speaking briskly.

"You need to take some vitamins and minerals in addition to eating better and drinking more fluids; your system is suffering from quite a few deficiencies. We've caught them in time before any serious effects could take place. As long as you take better care of yourself, starting now, there'll be no long-term damage."

He glanced at the chart he held.

"And taking your reiatsu issue into account, I'd recommend light but consistent exercise. That'll keep you in shape without taxing your energy."

The redhead nodded.

"Eat better, drink more, easy regular exercise, check."

Then Renji caught his hand again.

"I'm sorry I worried you."

Kisuke was about to smile reassuringly, when he felt a brush of pale, powerful reiatsu.

Renji dropped his hand and sat up, an expression of excitement with an edge of fear on his face.

"Taicho?"

A light knock sounded from the door to his lab. Kisuke frowned as he said, "Enter." The door opened, and Byakuya stepped in. The noble approached them, and Kisuke sensed Renji practically trembling as the redhead asked, "Taicho? What's wrong? Why are you here?"

Kisuke noticed a slight tremor of worry in the captain's reiatsu as Byakuya replied quietly.

"I sensed your energy plummet, even from the Seireitei. I came to check on you."

Color roared over Renji's face.

"You were worried? About me?"

XXXXXXXXXX

Tetsuya sat back against the pillows on his bed, playing idly with the ends of his sky blue yukata while Koji opened the doors into the garden, then turned back to sit in a chair near the bed. The attendant noted the slight agitation in his charge's sapphire eyes and thought quickly of how he might soothe his cousin's nerves.

"Michio said that he'll be here very soon," he said reassuringly.

"Have you heard from Byakuya-sa…erm, Byakuya?" Tetsuya asked, biting at his lips anxiously and blushing slightly, "He said that he would be back for the appointment. He can't have forgotten…"

"Oh, I'm sure he didn't," Koji insisted, "He's probably on his way now. Any minute, he will…"

The attendant paused, feeling a touch of mingled sympathy and worry at the sight of a hell butterfly entering through the garden doors. The dark colored insect fluttered over to Tetsuya and hovered in the air as it delivered its message.

Tetsuya, you have my deepest apologies for the delay in my arrival.

Tetsuya's face fell.

An issue has come up at work, and I have to make a short visit to Karakura town to investigate. I would like for you to note any important information regarding your examination. Upon my return, I will meet with you to discuss the final preparation for the seeding of the heir.

Tetsuya swallowed hard, blushing more darkly at his cousin's words.

Again, I apologize. I had meant to be with you for the final examination before the ceremony.

Tetsuya shivered and his head bowed. Koji gave him a sympathetic look and squeezed his hand.

"I'm sure that whatever happened is very important, for him to have to miss something like this."

"Yes," Tetsuya agreed, half-heartedly, "I am sure you're right."

"Good afternoon, Tetsuya-san," the clan healer greeted him, as he entered through the inner bedroom doors, "I'm sorry it took awhile. A few of the house staff have come down with a rather nasty fever."

"Oh, I hope it isn't serious," Tetsuya said in a concerned tone, "Do you need any help with the healing?"

"No, no, my boy," Michio said, shaking his head, "I managed it fine, and besides, it isn't good to be exposed to that when you are about to be carrying the heir. You must safeguard your health carefully, after all. Male pregnancies are more risky than female ones, and with your personal history, you are more prone to having complications, as you were raised in poor conditions."

"I am aware of this, and I will be careful," Tetsuya assured the old man.

"I wonder if Byakuya-sama has given proper thought to this," Michio continued.

"Of course he has," Tetsuya answered firmly, though he knew well that they had touched on the subject only once, and Tetsuya had downplayed the seriousness, anxious that his cousin would change his mind about their marriage, "and even if we did have reservations, it is a condition of our marriage that I prove my ability to bear his children."

"Hmm, yes," the old healer agreed sadly, "He faced a similar decision when he married Lady Hisana. We all knew that she was too weak of body to bear his child, but the elders were angry at Byakuya-sama's rebelliousness in marrying her without permission, so they refused to seek other options and threatened to dissolve the marriage if there was no child."

"I remember," Tetsuya said softly.

And that's why there must be nothing in this final examination that concerns him. If Byakuya has even the slightest doubt about my safety, he will end our engagement. He is already unsettled because of my emotional problems.

Tetsuya's eyes closed against the seeming mountain of difficulties.

Maybe I should just…no. I can't give up on this. I have loved Byakuya since the moment he broke down the doors of Itamigiri and freed me. I have been completely devoted to him. There has to be a reason that my heart tells me it's right for us to be together. Sometimes you have to fight very hard for what is right.

That is all that I am doing.

"But," he continued, "I am not Lady Hisana. I have strengthened myself since my emancipation from the prison."

"Of course you have, my boy," Michio said kindly, "You have become very strong. I am only concerned with making sure that you are as well prepared for this endeavor as is possible. Come now, let's begin the examination. I'm sure it's not helping your anxiety any to sit and wait."

Tetsuya let out a shaky breath and nodded.

He remained quiet and composed, calmly answering the healer's questions. At the end of the examination, Michio took Tetsuya's hands in his, and the younger man felt his heart sink.

"What is it?" Tetsuya asked worriedly, "Michio-san, I have been examined numerous times. There has never been anything suggesting that I have any risks beyond that of any other breeder male."

"I understand," the old healer assured him, "but you must remember that there are very few surviving breeder males…"

"Because of the massacre hundreds of years ago," Tetsuya insisted, "Not because of any unsuitability."

"I am not saying that your body is unsuitable for the challenge," Michio said soothingly, "Only that much is not understood about the breeder males' systems, so…"

"So, there is a certain amount of added risk, but mine is not any higher than that of any other breeder male, is it?"

Michio looked into Tetsuya's almost desperate eyes, sighing.

"There may be some difficulty for you because the location where the spirit chamber in your body is likely to form is a bit closer to your spirit core than I like. As the pregnancy progresses, the chamber could put pressure on your spirit core…which could endanger you and the child."

"You say it may be?" Tetsuya asked.

"Well, there is no way to know for sure, because, as I said, the number of breeder males we have to study is so low now…"

"That doesn't mean that I am going to have difficulty," Tetsuya argued stubbornly.

"No, it does not, but Byakuya-sama asked for my honest assessment, and I think there is enough reason to be concerned. Tetsuya-san, I do see what is at stake here for you. You are understandably worried that any hint of a problem will cause Byakuya-sama to call off the wedding."

"Maybe we should call off the wedding," Tetsuya said, looking down at his hands, "The elders don't really want to accept me as Byakuya's clan wife, Orochi-san keeps trying to interfere, and even if not for that, neither my body nor my mind want to cooperate."

"I am sorry there is so much complication," Michio said, shaking his head, "but I am not saying that you should give up."

Tetsuya stood and walked to the garden door and gazed out at the softly falling rain.

"I am not the one with any choice in this," he admitted bitterly, "There is only one person whose decision matters, and he couldn't even trouble himself to be here for the details."

Michio slipped his medical supplies back into his bag and crossed the room to join Tetsuya.

"I am sure that what happened in Karakura town had to be important to keep him away."

"Of course," Tetsuya sighed, "Thank you, Michio-san."

"Feel better, my boy," the old man said affectionately.

He left Tetsuya looking out at the falling rain and walked back along the wooden walkway.

Hmm, maybe the young master would benefit from some trusted advice.

He summoned a hell butterfly.

"Sadao-san," he recorded into the waiting insect, "I've just finished Tetsuya-san's final examination for the ceremony, and I think that the boy could use some guidance. There was nothing alarming in the exam, however, I do have some concerns I relayed to him, and that has left him unsettled. I think he would appreciate having someone to talk to."

He sent the hell butterfly on its way, then paused to look back in the direction he had come.

"Poor thing. It has never been easy for him."

XXXXXXXXXX

"Why haven't you been making your daily reports?"

Renji hesitated, sensing a slight chill of disapproval from his superior.

"There hasn't been anything to report, really. And I've been...busy here."

Byakuya gazed at him, and he averted his eyes, only for them to land on Kisuke. To his surprise, the shopkeeper was glaring at Byakuya's back before turning and fiddling with some lab instruments, shoulders stiff.

Renji looked back to his captain, sensing a thread of worry as Byakuya spoke. "You will take the next week off to recover from whatever is wrong with your reiatsu."

Renji shook his head.

"I don't wanna take time off."

Kisuke stepped up, his expression determined.

"I was going to suggest some time off, myself. Byakuya, in addition to the reiatsu issue, he is undernourished and dehydra-"

"Kisuke! Shut up!" Renji snapped, making the shopkeeper’s jaw drop for a moment before he controlled the impulse.

Byakuya held up a hand.

"Be still, Renji. As your superior officer, I order you to take at least a week off. Kisuke, has he not been eating?"

The blond shook his head.

"Actually, he eats like a horse. It's as if something is draining him."

Renji definitely sensed worry now as Byakuya spoke quietly.

"I will send our family healer to confer with you about Renji’s condition, and I will check with you in a week to see how he's doing and if he needs more time off."

Kisuke nodded stiffly and returned to his work.

Renji watched as Byakuya refocused on him.

"You are not just my fukutaicho, Renji. You are my best friend - I can't lose you."

His superior reached out and gently touched his arm.

"Take care of yourself."

Then the noble turned and walked out. Renji curled up on the bed as his eyes burned.

He would only ever be a friend to that man. It was time he accepted that.

XXXXXXXXXX

Tetsuya waited until Koji had gone to make him some soothing tea, then he slipped into a waterform and opened a senkaimon. He passed through into the precipice world, his mind so troubled that he failed to notice the dark reiatsu of the man who followed him.

“Tetsuya.”

The blue-eyed Kuchiki whirled, a chill filling his insides as he relinquished his waterform and faced his black-eyed cousin.

“Byakuya told you to stay away from me!” Tetsuya snapped, summoning his weapon to hand.

Orochi frowned, but remained at a careful distance as he observed Tetsuya’s angry face in the dimly lit corridor.

“Didn’t I hear him also tell you not to leave Kuchiki Manor without an escort?” Orochi asked, smirking, “It seems that neither of us listens very well. Perhaps you were hoping I would intercept you?”

“I don’t want anything to do with you,” Tetsuya replied icily, “Leave me alone!”

Orochi huffed out a dismissive breath and narrowed his eyes.

“Aren’t you supposed to be meeting with the family healer?” he asked, eyeing his agitated cousin closely, “I thought it strange that while you were present for that, Byakuya…seemed to be otherwise occupied?”

“That is none of your business. Byakuya doesn’t need to account to you for his whereabouts and neither do I!” Tetsuya hissed, his temper making the sword in his hand glow with blue light, “Now, get out of my way or I will remove your head! You have no cause to impede me!”

He pushed past his still smirking cousin, who watched as he disappeared down the dark pathway.

Soon you will pay for your insolence, Tetsuya.

Soon…

Tetsuya wrapped a waterform around himself and hurried on to the Karakura exit, where he dropped down into the shopkeeper’s underground training room. He started to head up to speak to Renji, but stopped short as he sensed his fiancé’s carefully cloaked reiatsu nearby. Piqued, he slipped up into the shop with his waterform still in place. He felt his cousin’s presence in the shopkeeper’s laboratory, and headed to a window outside the room.

He frowned at hearing the voices inside the room and listened closer, peeking in cautiously. Tetsuya stiffened as he spotted Byakuya standing beside Renji, who laid on an examination table in the lab.

"You are not just my fukutaicho, Renji. You are my dearest friend - I can't lose you."

Byakuya reached out and gently touched his subordinate’s arm.

"Take care of yourself."

Tetsuya turned away from the window, hand over his mouth.

This is why Byakuya missed our appointment?

The words repeated themselves mercilessly in his mind as he suddenly remembered the second reiatsu hidden just beneath Renji's.

Could it be?...Is the baby Byakuya's?