[Summary]: There's trouble; in Soul Society and in the Kuchiki household.
[Word Count]: ~2500
[Beta]: not beta-read
[Warnings]: AU | Implied Mpreg | Angst | Humour
[Notes]: Chiyo-san is an OC I've used a few times in my fics (Os Anos de Renji, Threads of Different Yarns and Building from the Ashes); she is a servant in the Kuchiki family and has served Byakuya since he was a child.
This piece is the the original plot and reason for the fic title, of course it got a bit sidetracked and turned into an angsty ByaRen piece, but it ends fitting the story and giving insight into Senbonzakura's feelings of the whole Byakuya pregnancy and baby. And it took a while to update cos Sen was in a talkative mood.^_^'
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Disclaimer: Do not own Bleach and will not make a profit out of this fic. All characters © Kubo Tite. Save a few OCs product of fangirl brainstorming.
"You've called," Senbonzakura said to Byakuya.
Time was difficult to measure between dimensions, but it had been too long since they had last seen each other. Even if Senbonzakura had been aware of most of what was happening with Byakuya in this realm, some told by Byakuya himself, which Senbonzakura paid undivided attention, others overheard as he tuned in to this world.
Byakuya seemed weary. Not tired physically but there was something in the hard look of his eyes, in the stiff, straight line of his shoulders; things that had been softening since his liaison with Abarai had begun and were a shock to see returned. Senbonzakura looked past Byakuya at Abarai, trying to make the glare evident even through his armour mask. But Abarai paid him no attention, engrossed with the infant.
"Yes. I need a favour from you, Senbonzakura," Byakuya requested.
Senbonzakura looked back at Byakuya and, because there was nothing he would not do for him, inclined his head in assent saying, "at your orders, Byakuya."
"I need you to watch over my son." And he explained the situation.
Senbonzakura sensed the air but it was as Byakuya had described, nothing was obviously untoward with the Spirit Energy but there was something just out of senses' reach. There was, however, something more pressing troubling him. "And how will you fight if the need arises?"
"I will use kidou," Byakuya replied. "Will you assist me?"
Senbonzakura gave a small accepting nod and Byakuya relaxed slightly, but before Senbonzakura could speak, Abarai demanded, "ya'll need to take off that armour and wear somethin' suitable to be around a baby. Hikaru eats every four hours; ya'll ask Chiyo-san to give you the bottle, she knows exactly how he takes it. Also, he likes to be held but not so much the rockin' motion, well unless he's agitated and..."
"I'm certain I'll manage the task, Abarai," he said, although he had never tended to an infant before.
But the red-haired Shinigami wasn't satisfied. "Well, I'm not! Off with the armour."
Byakuya turned the Kuchiki glare at Abarai and then said to Senbonzakura, "if you please?"
He concentrated and in a shimmer of pink light the armour dissolved into a soft purple kimono and his long hair appeared tied in a ponytail; a strict expression on his face and eyebrow raised in question at Abarai.
"I guess it'll have to do," Abarai said snidely, glaring back at both of them.
The lout was never satisfied, it seemed; Senbonzakura wondered if that was why he and Byakuya were so distant. "Your husband is very protective, Byakuya," he said in the same tone as Abarai. There was only so much a sophisticated man like Byakuya could find interesting and compelling in an oaf like Abarai.
The glare softened as he said, "he is." Turning to Senbonzakura he stated, "I trust you with my son's life."
Senbonzakura nodded, a hand cupping Byakuya's jaw in reassurance. "I will guard him with my life."
"Thank you." And he moved beside the cot - avoiding Abarai's enquiring stare, Senbonzakura noticed - bending down to kiss the baby's soft head.
As Byakuya said goodbye to the infant, Abarai's stare shifted to anger as it met with Senbonzakura's. On his turn of saying goodbye, he whispered, "give'im hell, Hikaru. Not a moment's rest, my boy." And kissed the baby's nose.
Another caress to the tuff of red hair and Byakuya rose, sending one last reassuring look at Senbonzakura and left the room with Abarai following him, a dark look thrown over his shoulder before closing the door softly.
Senbonzakura approached the cot, eyeing the baby for the first time. He was fast falling asleep, the eyes dropping shut and staying shut, his breathing slowing. It was still early to see whose face he would inherit, though he thought there were clear Kuchiki traits already but that fiery red hair was all Abarai. No chance of denying the paternity with this one.
Senbonzakura had tried to understand Byakuya's choice of putting his child first, of actually bearing a child within his own body and subsequently leaving Senbonzakura in his sword form for far longer than usual when uncertain of the effects a Spirit Energy so close and intricate to his own would have on his unborn child, product of an experiment on male pregnancy.
It had been folly and inconsequent and so wanted by Byakuya that no amount of persuasion by any involved (Abarai included) had retracted him from it. Not even the faintly sensed severance from his Zanpakutou.
In the end it had all surprisingly gone right; the child was apparently, and so far, perfect; Byakuya had survived both the pregnancy and the birth with little else besides a scar in his lower abdomen; Abarai was expectedly bewildered at having done little else than provide the seed that Byakuya's body had carried, and nurtured on his own and inanely proud of that garish red hair.
And Senbonzakura had been left a total of twelve months in sword form because Byakuya had been afraid during the pregnancy and too drained of energy after the birth to bring him to the material world, until now. But then again, there was nothing Senbonzakura would not do for Byakuya.
The alarm stopped blaring. Or they had found the source, or shut it down because if it was horribly annoying this far away, he couldn't imagine at the heart of Seireirei. With the baby sleeping and nothing to do for the moment, except dwell on maudlin thoughts, Senbonzakura moved to the doors that lead to the Manor grounds and tested the air. It still felt charged and as if coiled, waiting for the threat to make itself visible and sprung an attack.
He suspected that was the Shinigami and respective Zanpakutou's reaction to the uncertainty of the situation and not the attack itself. He had been away for the longest time but things like these were intrinsic. Someone was testing the waters, timing reactions, observing patterns in the defences of Soul Society, most likely preparing for invasion. The belligerent shadows had crept for far too long, it was time for an open war, anyway.
The time Senbonzakura had spent incorporeal had left his body constrained and stiff with stilted movements and absurd aches, clearly not even fit to protect the Kuchiki heir efficiently, let alone be an effective aid in a war. And with nothing better to do but watch a sleeping infant, Senbonzakura decided to perform a kata  ; it kept him grounded to the physical world, worked his nearly atrophied muscles and revitalized his Spirit Energy.
It had been too long since he had last practiced and while his power didn't depend on practice, his technique did and if the threat was a serious one he might be needed in this form. He moved to the space by the doors overlooking the grounds, keeping a line of sight to the baby and started a centuries old practice, immersing himself in the exercises, blocking out all external distractions.
Still it surprised Senbonzakura when a diminute woman appeared in his line of sight, hands on her hips and a very disapproving look on her face and said, "have you finished your silly moves? Because I was told you were looking after the Young Master and the child has been screaming his lungs out for the past ten minutes."
He had been so immersed in the movements that he had not heard the child's very loud wailing. He bowed to the woman in penitence and said, "I apologise. I became too distracted in my exercises. Are you the one I should ask for the infant's food? Chiyo-san?"
"I don't think the Young Master's problem is an empty belly," she replied, a cunning smile upturning her lips. "And yes, I am Chiyo-san."
"What could... You mean to say he needs his diaper changed?" Senbonzakura asked, trying not to think what that would entail.
"It is most likely." She nodded, pleased with his quick reasoning, but clearly amused by his dismayed look. "It is not time yet for his next meal and Hikaru-sama is extraordinarily accurate with his mealtimes. I will bring you the supplies you'll require to tend to the Young Master." And with that she left the room.
Senbonzakura approached the wailing infant, sniffing the air carefully and immediately his nostrils were assaulted by the foulest of smells. The servant had been right. He just hoped she was only playing him and not actually expecting him to clean the baby.
He was quickly disabused of that notion when Chiyo-san returned with the supplies, setting the small table she carried in and arranging everything neatly, saying, "here you are, Senbonzakura-sama. I need to supervise his bottle making. I should return in no more than half an hour." And she left him there with the smelling infant.
Senbonzakura was nothing if not decisive and assertive, so he picked up the baby, holding him at arm's length, trying to keep the horrid smell away from his refined nose, more accustomed to the delicate scent of sakura petals than to the waste of nursing infants.
The attention seemed to quiet down the Young Master, he blinked slowly at Senbonzakura and seemed calm for the moment, just soft whimpers escaping him. That or the gravitational forces had the offending soggy diaper away from the skin and his troubles were momentarily forgotten.
"I think I understand your plight, little one," Senbonzakura murmured, eliciting a barely controlled head nod, a lazy wink and the restart of the wailing.
"Alright, alright. I hear you."
Setting the child on the table, a hand on his stomach to keep him from too much motion, Senbonzakura studied all the goods supplied: the clean diaper, the wipers, the cream, the powder. Still as far away as possible, he studied the infant's clothing, quickly unclasping and releasing excited limbs before finally observing the way the diaper was fasten and decided he could do this.
He turned his face away to take a profound, cleansing breath and then set to complete his task as fast as possible with no harm to the child: diaper out, without a second glance at the offending, smelling substance in it; a shunpo speed wiping of the area, efficient in cleaning all the remains of mentioned reeking substance and in reducing the contact of Senbonzakura with the wipe; the abundant application of cream, again at shunpo speed, that had the surprising effect of having the baby giggling - or rather the equivalent in a thing so small – finally followed by applying the powder and the clean diaper, which was surprisingly easy to fasten.
By then the baby was in better spirits, happily gnawing on his left toes. Just to make sure all was in place, Senbonzakura lifted the child and shook him up and down very gently and was satisfied when the diaper held in place and the child let out an excited squeal, legs pumping the air vigorously.
Senbonzakura finished dressing the baby and held him to his chest, supporting the head, as he so often had heard Byakuya demand of Abarai, refraining from any rocking motion as instructed. The child cooed contently, hands grabbing for Senbonzakura's long hair and chewing with intent. He could almost understand why Byakuya had been willing to give all up for this. The satisfaction of a job well done was always elating not matter how menial the task and this - Hikaru - was most rewarding indeed.
He moved to the door to the gardens holding Hikaru close, enjoying the soft baby sounds and the fresh morning air. There was the occasional whimper, an impending doom, Senbonzakura was sure, were Hikaru to give in to the hunger but easily abated for now if Chiyo-san would return quickly.
He was aware when she approached and entered the room, much sooner than the half an hour she had threatened.
"I see you have managed to change him," she said, there was approval in her voice, Senbonzakura was most certain. "And keep him calm. A remarkable feat."
Senbonzakura allowed himself to smile, against a baby's soft head, for the first time since returning to this world, after a long year away.
Chiyo-san set about tidying up the room, removing all offending and foul smelling items and returned with a bottle of milk for Hikaru.
He sat in a chair at Chiyo-san's prompt and cradled Hikaru as she instructed, put the warm bottle to his mouth and just let him gulp it down eagerly under the wise gaze of the old maid, settling him on his shoulder to burp and just enjoy the steady weight on his arms, waiting for him to fall asleep before putting him to bed, clean and fed and immensely happy.
With Hikaru finally settling back down to sleep, Senbonzakura contemplated his day trying to decide if this had been a test to his ability to take care of the Young Kuchiki Master. It seemed to be so to Chiyo-san, the way she had challenged him but could it be that it was also so to Byakuya? Was he preparing Senbonzakura to protect his son if the war became more active and he had to lead his men in battle? He wasn't sure how to react to it. His whole existence was made for war; he was a weapon to be wielded, was he being groomed to be an overqualified nursemaid?
The answer came swiftly to his mind and heart. His love for his wielder, his master, was unbounded, as was his devotion and if this was what Byakuya demanded of him he would comply. Reluctantly, because this was not Senbonzakura's purpose, but he would protect this child in the stead of his father. If the worst came to happen he would guide and teach Hikaru in the ways of the Zanpakutou until he found his own and assist in every manner possible in the ways of the Shinigami.
Senbonzakura would have done it at Byakuya's command regardless, but having met Hikaru made it unfeasible to refuse. Perhaps that had been Byakuya's purpose all along.
Chiyo-san returned to the room then, caring a tray with tea.
"I believe you deserve this,"she said, setting the tea in front of him preparing it with nearly as much attention and devotion as it were a tea ceremony and not a simple refreshment. There were also cookies, the kind he liked most.
She watched him eat and drink and then said, "I believe you will do."
He inclined his head in thanks, his mind settled on accepting whatever role Byakuya would demand of him.
In the back of his mind he could feel Byakuya returning home, his mind uneasy but no longer troubled by the threat of the day.
 kata - an exercise consisting of several of the specific movements of a martial art, especially a pattern prescribed for defending oneself against several attackers, used in judo and karate training. From the Japanese: shape, pattern.
April2011©MarinLiliz«« Prev ||| Next »»