Theme/Topic: Baby antics
Spoilers/Warnings: MENTIONED MPREG? Spoilers through chapter 516.
Word Count: 2,275
Summary: Companion Piece to “So You’re Expecting”- Byakuya isn’t really good with children. It is kind of mortifying that Kenpachi is the parent in this relationship who is.
Dedication: juin- HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I am probably late because you live in the future, but I am on time in the present. Early, even. XD
A/N: DON’T JUDGE ME. I already judged myself, okay.
Disclaimer: No harm or infringement intended.
Byakuya has never been good with children.
When he’d been with Hisana, the very mention of a baby had her paling and shuddering into herself, her guilt over Rukia waylaying her frail body just as successfully as any one of the myriad illnesses that constantly seemed to plague her. It always left Byakuya feeling frustrated and helpless for not being able to ease the pain of either his wife’s physical or emotional scars.
In that period of Byakuya’s life, everyone in the Kuchiki household had been expressly forbidden from speaking about children. Many of them, if not all of them, subsequently gave up hope of the young master and the mistress ever filling their home up with the happy sounds of children and family again. Hisana had died eventually, whether from her regrets or her weak constitution, no one could tell for certain.
After, Rukia came into the house and made it less lonely, but she’d been far from the infant Hisana had suffered through nightmares of every single night, already a young woman mostly grown, rough around the edges but hearty from enduring the unending fight for survival that came with living in the Rukongai slums. She certainly never needed her older brother to baby her, and Byakuya had never tried to, at least not directly.
Then one day, some years past, Byakuya had inexplicably found himself in Zaraki’s bed after succumbing to the constant challenges the eleventh division captain made against his fighting prowess, following his utter defeat at the hands of a single, pathetic Stern Ritter. It had been a well known fact at the time that Zaraki himself had slain at least three Stern Ritter during the first invasion, and that Zaraki, more so than any of the other captains – besides, perhaps, the late Captain Commander – was henceforth considered the strongest shinigami within the thirteen divisions. The defeat had burrowed under Byakuya’s skin in those months, his failures as a soldier, as leader, and as a brother all burned irreparably into his brain. Zaraki had known it and had picked incessantly at Byakuya’s guilt and insecurities over it, refusing to let the scab of those memories heal over as he issued challenge after challenge after challenge for a fight with the captain of the sixth division. It had been, now that Byakuya can stop to think about it rationally, a rather masterful combination of timing and maneuvering on Zaraki’s part, in order to force him into finally finishing the fight they’d started during the zanpakutou rebellion.
Like a violin string tuned too tightly, Byakuya had finally snapped one morning, after just the right sneer and just the right taunt from Zaraki. While the ensuing battle had been devastating to seireitei at large in terms of sheer property damage, Byakuya maintains that the end result had been much more devastating for him personally. One minute swords had clashed, Senbonzakura’s thousand blade attack wrapping around Zaraki’s nameless, coarsely maintained zanpakutou like a noose, and the next, Byakuya had been doing the same thing with his body, snarling and enraged as he’d wrapped himself around Zaraki head on. To this day he still blames the fury and blood loss for his wild delirium in those moments.
Because Byakuya knows he kissed Zaraki first.
Neither of them can remember who’d won the fight, in the end.
Needless to say, after what that battle had inexplicably morphed into, with Zaraki quite literally storming the halls of Kuchiki manor with Yachiru on his shoulder and declaring their shared intent on never leaving, Byakuya subsequently put all thoughts of babies and heirs and parenthood from his head permanently. Because despite being constantly underfoot, Yachiru hardly counted at this point anymore, in the same way Rukia hadn’t, already shaped immovably by the harsh environs of Rukongai and Zaraki both, a strong, independent force unto herself. Even if Byakuya had adopted Yachiru as his own, she would never truly need him. As it stood, Zaraki and he both probably needed her far more than she needed either of them.
From there, and from their vocal disapproval of Zaraki, the family’s elders had likewise given up on any hopes that Byakuya might continue the Kuchiki line in a respectable, traditional sense. At Byakuya’s insistence, they have since named Rukia’s child, should she have one, as the proper heir.
Except that Byakuya, quite suddenly, finds himself with a child anyway, very much to everyone’s surprise.
To be fair, no one could have predicted Soujun.
The baby takes after Zaraki in that aspect, Byakuya supposes. Their very existences are both complete impossibilities, and yet, somehow, here they remain.
And while Byakuya understands Zaraki at this point, in as much as Zaraki Kenpachi can be understood, he still feels a little lost around this baby, around the entire idea of this baby that is his.
The pregnancy itself had been more to Byakuya’s style. As strange and sometimes upsetting as it had been, it had been routine. Captain Unohana had told him what needed to be done and he had done it. The physical aspects of obeying orders are nothing new to him, even if the experience itself had been somewhat harrowing in its own ways.
It is the after that he seems to be having some problems with. There are just too many possibilities, and all of them are terrifying.
He blinks down curiously at Soujun, tiny and fragile and young, lying in the ridiculous bassinette Renji and Rukia had presented them mere hours after delivering his son in the fourth division headquarters.
Soujun is currently wailing in a truly impressive manner, face red, nose scrunched up, and eyes wet with tears. From all the screeching, Byakuya is afraid that something is currently trying to kill his son from the inside out.
What is worse is the fact that Byakuya isn’t quite sure what to do about it. Or if he can even do anything about it at all.
He thinks there’s a book in the study that he’d picked up from the fourth division during the early stages of his pregnancy that is supposed to tell him exactly how to deal with this in way that will be good for the baby. He thinks he needs that book right now, because Byakuya has no idea what he’s supposed to do for his son. All he knows is that he wants – fiercely – for everything that he does for Soujun to be good for him. It has to be exactly right, because Soujun is far too precious to him to treat otherwise.
Soujun, clearly not comprehending Byakuya’s inaction, only wails louder.
Byakuya determinedly spins on his heel, intent on marching into the study to find the parenting book so that it will tell him how to handle this in the correct way. He knows it’s there somewhere because he’s already read it cover to cover once before, but for the first time in his life, he can’t immediately remember anything in it over the sounds of his child’s plaintive crying. It is incredibly disconcerting.
His hasty progress to the nursery door is suddenly impeded by a wall.
A Kenpachi-shaped one.
Byakuya looks upwards amidst the heart wrenching sounds of Soujun’s keening sobs to find Zaraki blinking back at him, expression a combination of irate, sleepy, and bewildered as to what, exactly, Byakuya is doing.
Byakuya’s interpretation of Zaraki’s face is only confirmed when Zaraki scowls and says, “What the hell’re you doing?” in a completely boggled way, before he lumbers past the sixth division captain and to the side of the bassinette, where Soujun is still determinedly shrieking at the top of his lungs.
Byakuya opens his mouth to protest when Zaraki reaches in and draws Soujun up by a handful of very expensive baby clothes. Byakuya only has a second to be bewildered and protective at once before Zaraki does something even more bizarre, blearily lifting Soujun higher into the air so that he can nose inquisitively at their son’s rump.
Zaraki frowns while Soujun’s cries die down a little bit, though he is very obviously still sobbing. “Didn’t shit himself,” Zaraki reports, when he turns and sees Byakuya looking at him like he is an alien.
Byakuya blurts, “You can’t hold him like that. You have to support his head.” He remembers that from the books, anyway.
Zaraki scoffs at him. “Watch me,” he says, and then nudges the dangling baby with his free hand so that Soujun spins until he is face to face with his father. “He ain’t hungry, cuz I fed the little fucker already tonight.” He glares at the baby. Byakuya is certain that was also on the list of things not to do in the parenting handbook. It's not good for their son’s emotional health.
Except Soujun immediately quiets, now that he’s eye to eye with Zaraki, his sobs die down into a single, heart-melting little noise of intrigued confusion as he reaches out to try and swipe at his father’s nose.
When he sees that, Byakuya might make a strangled sound in the very back of his throat that is suspiciously like one of the noises that had come out of Rukia when Soujun had wrapped his tiny fingers around one of hers for the first time.
Zaraki hears it and turns to Byakuya, completely unimpressed. Byakuya composes himself quickly. “What was wrong with him?” he asks, after a beat of Soujun spinning lazily in Zaraki’s grasp like his toy mobile.
“Nothing,” Zaraki says plainly, and before Byakuya can scream at him, casually tosses Soujun in his direction.
Byakuya panics and fumbles, but ultimately has an armful of squealing little boy. He glares daggers at Zaraki, almost quivering with rage even as he tries to keep his reiatsu in check, rocking the laughing child automatically against his chest in a manner he hopes is soothing. “You can’t just…”
Zaraki, as per usual, is not moved by Byakuya’s anger. “He’s fine,” he grumbles back, scratching absently at his belly and yawning once. “Yachiru did the same damn thing before,” he adds on Byakuya’s incredulous look, like that will somehow make his throwing their infant son around acceptable. “Sometimes she would just wake up crying in the middle of the night for no damn reason at all. Babies just do it to see if you’ll come, I figure. They’re needy little shits.”
Byakuya scowls at him, but Zaraki is too busy stepping forward to poke at Soujun to notice. “Once she figured I was still there, she’d always settle,” he finishes, while Soujun reacts by grabbing his father’s finger and stuffing it in his mouth, happy as Byakuya has ever seen him again, like the crying fit to end all crying fits he’d partaken in just now had actually been a figment of his father’s imagination.
Zaraki makes a deep rumbling noise of satisfaction from his chest at the kid’s gumption before looking at Byakuya again and grinning in a way that’s equal parts amused and mocking. Byakuya frowns back, but keeps rocking the baby gently. “Looks like he’s fine now that you finally picked him up,” Zaraki adds, like a punch to the face.
Normally, Byakuya is perfectly content to lash back out with his own words at Zaraki’s casually stinging ones, but in that moment Byakuya can feel nothing but mortified at himself, because if it had been left to him, Soujun would still be crying pitifully in his crib, waiting for someone to come and just hold him. Byakuya is a horrible parent. He feels a little nauseated at the thought that someone so obviously inept at childrearing is going to be responsible for the emotional wellbeing of the perfect infant currently in his arms. He’d never been made for this.
Zaraki seems to sense his reservations, because the stupid grin on his face gets even bigger somehow, and he is suddenly surging forward, smacking his forehead against Byakuya’s rather sharply, though not enough to draw blood or even bruise. It’s just enough to get Byakuya’s attention again, really. “Unbunch your panties and get Soujun back to sleep, princess,” he says plainly. “If he’s really my kid, he ain’t gonna die like a weakling just because you’re taking your sweet ass time learning this shit.”
Byakuya glares daggers at him.
Kenpachi doesn’t care. He stands straight up again, reaches out to flick Soujun’s nose with surprising gentleness, and then brushes past Byakuya and out of the room, padding silently down the hall and back to bed without a backwards glance.
Byakuya remains in the nursery, staring down at a delighted Soujun while the child’s wide grey eyes laugh happily up at him from the cradle of his arms. Byakuya sighs and leans forward to press a kiss to his son’s forehead impulsively, and when Soujun responds by smacking him sharply in the eye with a tiny, chubby hand, Byakuya supposes that yes, Soujun really is Zaraki Kenpachi’s son after all.
Which is both deeply terrifying and strangely relieving all at once, if only because it means that it’s more than likely that Soujun will be able to survive just about anything Byakuya does to him, no matter how bad with babies – and children, and one day, teenagers – he happens to be.
Byakuya huffs in mild amusement when that thought soothes over him, releasing some of the tension gathered between the blades of his shoulders. Eventually, he takes a seat in the rocking chair Yumichika and Ikkaku had dragged into the nursery last week and tries to get Soujun to sleep again.
It takes him an hour and some singing, but eventually, he gets him there.
Back to So You're Expecting//On to Communicating Effectively