Chapter 29: Binding Fate's Hands
"Cousin," Byakuya greeted him, sitting down next to Tetsuya, "after what we've endured, it is inappropriate for you to continue to address me that way. We stand on equal ground. I expect you will address me as such."
"Byakuya," Tetsuya said, bowing his head slightly.
"It is good to see you conscious again…and not just conscious, but feeling well enough to be up and about," Byakuya commented, "I'm quite certain I heard the healers tell Aizen Sousuke to make sure you remained in bed for at least another day or so. He seems to have failed to remember…"
"Oh," said Tetsuya disarmingly, "being that I was unconscious, I must have missed that."
"And Aizen Sousuke?"
"Asleep. Exhausted, I'd wager, from being up all night."
"I see," said Byakuya, "and you choose to repay his dedication to your well being by abandoning your rest too soon? Quite thoughtless of you…"
Tetsuya stopped just short of rolling his eyes.
"I hadn't the intention of disrespecting him, but…I needed to speak to Re-kuhime…and I thought that the lake looked lovely. I couldn't help myself, really."
"An honest answer…and as I wished to speak to you alone, in any case, I won't make an issue of your questionable judgment."
"Let me guess," Tetsuya said quietly, "This is about Sousuke."
"Hmmm," said Byakuya, noting his cousin's choice of words, "I imagine I needn't say anything. You already know the danger it poses to pursue the path it seems you have already chosen."
"Are you here to advise against it, Byakuya?" the blue-eyed noble asked, turning to look out over the lake, "You know that I wouldn't blame you for doing so. It is in your nature to be protective of the ones who you…care about."
Byakuya placed a hand on his shoulder.
"The ones who I love, Cousin," he corrected the other.
Tetsuya turned his head and met Byakuya's eyes in acknowledgement.
"The ones who you love…" he repeated softly, "and who love you in return. But if you think this is a choice…"
"I know it is not a choice," Byakuya said solemnly, "but I do see the danger in it and I know you do as well. Despite the king's intention to pardon Aizen's crimes, there will be those whose hearts will not accept that order. There will be resistance."
"But your heart is decided…and there is no going back."
Tetsuya looked up at him warily.
"You probably think I'm making a terrible mistake," he whispered.
Byakuya gazed at him for a moment, then shook his head.
"Love is not a mistake, Cousin. It comes to us in its own time and in its own way. It leaves us to choose or refuse, but whatever path we take, it affects our course, so even if you were to deny yourself this chance at love…it will play its role in your future, nonetheless."
Tetsuya took a slow breath.
"So is love inescapable?" he asked softly, "Will it take control and have its way with me, however I choose?"
"What does your heart tell you, Tetsuya?" Byakuya asked, squeezing his shoulder.
The noble sighed.
"It tells me to be mindful of the price that love exacts and to move forward with due caution…but to move forward still. Perhaps it's not what you think I should do…"
"But it is," Byakuya whispered, "because I know what I would do…having the same decision laid at my feet."
Tetsuya closed his eyes.
"We are reckless…heedless, when it comes to love, aren't we?" he whispered.
Byakuya leaned close to him. Tetsuya opened his eyes and looked into his cousin's calm expression.
"When I sought permission to marry Hisana, you were instrumental in persuading the council to go along with my request. I do not know to this day how you did it…but I remember what you told me when you agreed to speak to them on my behalf…and I return those words to you, with all of my heart…Love is not a choice…it is a force of nature. It breaks upon the heart and over the senses and takes control. We have no choice, when love is real, but to feel it. No refusal or denial will change what it is…what it really is…when it finds us. So take those steps…and close the distance between yourself and love. Don't let it escape you…or you will always regret it."
He felt a shiver pass through Tetsuya at his words and released him. The blue-eyed noble loosed a sigh and blinked slowly, like one coming out of a dream. He looked up at Byakuya questioningly.
"You remember it, word for word…just as I spoke it."
Byakuya nodded, the edges of his lips curving slightly upward.
"Of course I do," he said quietly, looking out over the water, "It was good advice. I loved Hisana with my whole heart. It was difficult losing her as I did…but I have never regretted our time together…as I would have regretted missing out on it."
The two were silent for several long minutes, staring at the water and remembering.
"Arigato…Byakuya," Tetsuya said finally, "I know it is a struggle sometimes to hear what your heart is telling you over the screaming inside your mind. I've been there…with my mind and my heart at war…I understand and I appreciate you doing this for me. I need you…and I will need you even more before all is said and done."
"You are wise to know that," Byakuya said, rising, "foolish as you may be otherwise, Tetsuya."
He leaned forward and kissed his cousin gently on the cheek, then rose and flash stepped away. Tetsuya turned back to gaze out over the water, his thoughts now firmly focused on the one who awaited him. He climbed to his feet, his body shaking with the knowledge of what was about to happen…but as had always been his way, he shook the feeling off and turned with a strong heart in the direction of his fate.
Renji stood waiting in the King's Garden when Byakuya flash stepped into view. He nodded a greeting and followed as Byakuya started down the pathway. They walked in silence for a time, Renji sensing the noble's need to think about what had happened with his cousin. He ached to ask about their conversation, but knew well enough to respect Byakuya's silence until he had had a chance to process what had transpired.
"Aren't you going to ask how it went?" the noble asked quietly as they approached the area that housed the light-beings.
Renji chuckled softly.
"You think I don't know when you need to think and when you're ready to talk? Who do you think you're talking to?"
Byakuya sighed and nudged his way beneath the redhead's arm as they walked.
"How foolish of me to forget," he said, curling an arm around the redhead, "And to answer the question you didn't ask, I think it went as well as could be expected. It is a dangerous situation he finds himself in…but it will be dangerous, whether or not he follows his heart. And I would not see my cousin come to regret his choices later. I think this that he has chosen will work out for the best, but only time will tell."
Renji stopped at the gate and gazed over the fence at the light-beings who frolicked playfully in the area before them.
"Byakuya," he asked softly, "can you tell me something? What made you come back? I mean…you had no memory of me or of our life together…Beniko…so…what did it? What brought you back through that gate?"
Byakuya smiled thoughtfully.
"The same thing that is guiding my cousin into Aizen Sousuke's arms…the connection between two hearts…two souls…two beings, who were meant to be one."
Tetsuya opened the door to his room, stepped inside and closed and locked it behind him, unsurprised at finding Aizen Sousuke sitting up, rested against the pillows, waiting for him. He stood silently, watching the dark, intelligent eyes that rose and fastened on his.
"So," Aizen said softly, "have you decided then…Kuchiki Tetsuya?"
The noble met his eyes without hesitation.
"There was never any decision to be made," he said quietly, "The decision was made some time ago…amidst our battles and struggles. Our common desire to see evil vanquished cast our steps in stone as we moved and locked us into this future. All I sought to do was to be certain that I did not take my next steps lightly, but more honestly, and with purpose."
Aizen rose and walked slowly toward him, his partly opened yukata revealing the lovely, sloping lines of shoulders and chest, the hint of what lay lower. Tetsuya swallowed hard and tried to breathe normally as the soft, pleasant scent of him drifted over his senses. He was trembling very softly again…not at all in fear, but in anticipation. He was close…and moving closer…intoxicatingly closer. The noble's lips parted and released a breath.
A fine, slim hand slipped beneath his chin and raised his eyes to meet the other's. He gazed down at Tetsuya with nearly painful intensity, testing the heart that beat beneath the noble's pale breast. Tetsuya stared back at him, unwavering, even as the spiritual pressure rose around him. Soft lips hovered near his ear, heated breath tickling his skin and sending shivers down his spine.
"Heedless…" whispered Aizen, "reckless…feisty…determined…unwavering…loyal…"
The lips brushed his throat beneath the ear and he trembled and caught his breath.
"Strong…fiery…relentless…passionate…stubborn…wise…affectionate…" he went on, "These are the words that come to mind when I think of you, Kuchiki Tetsuya. You are all of these things and many more."
He brought his lips achingly close to the noble's and held them there…unbearably close. Tetsuya held perfectly still…waiting.
"There are many things that I used to be, but who I am now is still not clear to me," he breathed against Tetsuya's lips, "So look at me…and tell me what you see."
Tetsuya's heart began to race.
"I see my lover," he whispered against Aizen's lips, "powerful…intelligent, protective and good-hearted. I see you, Aizen Sousuke…and I see my future."
The warm lips smiled and pressed firmly against his. The other's body moved in close to his and Aizen's arms encircled him.
"You see through all illusion," Aizen whispered, "to the very heart that rests beneath. And I tell you now that the heart you see was as untouched as you are. You are the first to push aside the illusions and to reach me. I trust that heart is safe with you and I promise that yours will always be safe with me. I swear it on my newly cleansed soul."
A soft hand found his and laced their fingers together. The pressure on his hand was light and inviting. His heart racing faster and threatening to burst out of his chest, he stepped forward. Aizen led him as far as the edge of the bed, then stopped and wrapped his arms around the noble, rubbing his lips against a soft earlobe.
"Are you certain this is what you want, Tetsuya?" Aizen asked, looking deeply into the noble's dark blue eyes, "because if we choose to fall now, we will fall all of the way."
"Then let us fall," whispered the noble, "and pray we land softly."
Aizen's mouth fastened on his and an eager tongue extended, passing between his parted lips and claiming the sweetness within. Tetsuya's mind disappeared into a barrage of deep, slow kisses…and he felt the rise of Aizen's power around him. He wasn't sure how it happened…how one moment he was on his feet and fully dressed, and the next, he was bared and lying on his back, that hot, wonderful mouth still exploring his, the warm hands exploring and caressing, teasing and enticing, the eyes of his lover threatening to devour him as he lay there, drowning in the intoxicating heat. Lightly placed fingertips stroked his throat, tilting his head back, as Aizen's mouth broke free of his and worked its way downward, treating his throat to long, wet caresses and pleasantly warm suction that made his hips rise against the body that lowered itself and came to rest on top of his.
He felt the hardened length of his lover's arousal come to rest against his and a hard shiver passed through him. Dark brown eyes found his and saw the sudden flash of uncertainty. Aizen's hips moved and Tetsuya inhaled sharply.
Aizen smiled warmly.
"That's right," he whispered, "It helps to breathe…if you can remember how…"
He would have laughed, but he hadn't the breath for it. The intense pressure and friction of their thickened members as they moved up and down each other's lengths left him unable to think, let alone worry about breathing. Aizen's fingers brushed against his lips and pushed slowly into his mouth, and he stroked each with his tongue, coating each with saliva. He shuddered softly as they were withdrawn, and slid down the length of his body. Aizen followed them with his mouth, crawling slowly downward, tasting every inch of the noble's fine skin as he went. He sank his tongue into Tetsuya's navel, watching and smiling against the soft abdomen as his hips rose and he moaned breathlessly. He gave an anxious gasp as a finger touched his entrance, lightly teasing, then slowly working to prepare him. He was already shaking, but nearly lost awareness entirely as a warm mouth pleasured him as well, sinking down and sending his mind spinning in dizzying waves of strokes and heavy suction. He groaned as a second finger entered him, and felt his lover's mouth move to plant light kisses on his abdomen, before capturing him again and sucking hard as a third finger joined the other two. His eyes closed and his back arched, a pained moan falling from his lips. His mouth opened and he took short, gasping breaths as the fingers continued their preparations.
"Relax," Aizen's pleasant voice whispered against the inside of one pale, trembling thigh. He found himself unable to respond.
It was hard enough to breathe…
Finally, the other's fingers slipped out of him and he sensed Aizen rising up over him. His lover's fingers brushed his cheek gently.
"Open your eyes," whispered Aizen, pushing his thighs open wide and settling between them.
Nearly senseless, the noble locked hazed blue eyes on the ones that looked down at him. He felt pressure as his lover slowly entered him, teasing his way inside, while distracting him with hard, penetrating kisses. He pulled his mouth away and bit down on the noble's throat, pushing the rest of the way in, then stopping as Tetsuya gave a pained cry and his hands tightened painfully on the other…undecided in whether he was pulling his lover closer or pushing him away. Aizen held him tightly, bathing his lips in kisses and stroking his hair. He held still, waiting until the noble drew a deep breath and he felt the strong body captured beneath his relax.
He moved experimentally, watching the dark, glazed eyes for any sign of pain. The movement brought a gasp of pleasure from the noble's lips and an eager response in his body. Aizen sought his nether region to continue to pleasure him as he moved in and out of the slender, beautiful body beneath his. Tetsuya's hands released him and slid down his back, his nails scraping the skin and sending hard shivers through Aizen, teasing him into thrusting faster and harder. Something suddenly seemed to give way inside the noble and the uncertainty, the restraint…all signs of control disappeared. His eyes clearing, he writhed against Aizen, back arched, hands clenching, and moaning unintelligibly. Aizen thrust heavily into him, finding the center of pleasure and tearing a hard cry of pleasure from his throat. Hot seed erupted and flowed out onto their sweat-slicked bodies as Aizen thrust in deeply one more time and emptied himself into Tetsuya, kissing him repeatedly as the noble laid, panting and shaking with bliss.
Aizen rolled onto his back, pulling his lover onto his shoulder and breathing words of affection into his hair and the skin of his throat. Tetsuya closed his eyes and held onto his lover tightly, decided in his future, but breathless with the weight of knowing what it might cost him. Yet, as he sank down into oblivion, he knew beyond doubt that he had chosen well. He sent up a silent prayer that if they had to be parted now, that he wouldn't live to see the sun that rose the following day. He pushed the thought away and dropped off to sleep, his lover's hands holding him close and that wonderfully pleasing voice whispering softly into his ear.
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather stay and allow yourself more time to heal?" Byakuya asked Tetsuya as his cousin slowly mounted Arashi.
Tetsuya shook his head firmly.
"I have to return and make a full report to the council. And I need to do so in advance of the king's proclamation. There will be pandemonium upon the announcement and I need to be there to mitigate it. I also need to feel out the council and see where we need to apply pressure. I assure you, this is necessary."
Byakuya nodded and pulled free of Renji, stepping forward and patting his cousin's mount on the black, silken neck.
"Very well, then. Renji and I will see you when we return in a few days."
Byakuya noticed that his cousin's eyes had risen and were looking back behind them. He followed the other's gaze to a palace balcony, where a tall, slender man dressed in a hogosha uniform looked down on them, smiling in farewell.
"Things are about to undergo some dramatic changes," Byakuya said softly.
"Yes," Tetsuya replied, his eyes still on Aizen Sousuke, "and I'm going to do my best to see that they change for the better."
"Farewell, Cousin," said Byakuya, "Be safe."
Tetsuya nodded and put his heels to the stallion's sides. The warhorse leapt forward, loping off down the trail, leaving a cloud of dust in his wake. Byakuya slipped back into Renji's embrace and the two turned back toward the palace.
"Well," the redhead sighed, "We'd better not get too used to this peace and quiet. All hell's going to break loose all too soon."
"Perhaps," the noble replied, turning his head slightly to see Tetsuya disappearing into the distance, "but as long as we face it together, we'll get through."
"You sound like Tetsuya," commented Renji.
"Do I?" asked Byakuya, "I think that's a good thing, don't you?"
He thought for a moment.
"Hey…I was kind of wondering. What happened to the Interim King…you know, after we returned?"
"Oh…the Spirit King said that the death of the wraith caused him to be freed of the unusual emotions he had been experiencing. He is inside the prism…at peace."
"Until the next time."
"Let's hope there isn't a next time," Byakuya said quietly.
But both knew there were no guarantees.