Well, I suppose I could tell you about how I got sick and ended up in the hospital, or how I moved to a different country, or even how there was just a level ten typhoon that required indoor hiding, but none of that really matters. All that matters is that I'm here now with the next chapter, right?

Disclaimer: Still don't own it.

Here we go!

Chapter 6: Ruminating Rumors

Sousuke Aizen was furious. It had taken everything in his power not to kill the eighth espada on the spot. Such an embarrassing display... How such a thing could have actually occurred with beyond him, it being in another dimension aside. Kurosaki Ichigo, all powerful and... topping him, Aizen? It was simply inconceivable. Unacceptable. Something had to be done.

"Gin." The name was no louder than a whisper as it passed through his lips, but the fox-like captain materialized nonetheless.

"Ya summoned meh, Aizen-sama?" he asked, creeping out of the shadows behind the massive throne his leader sat upon.

"Yes, indeed. Inform Szayel that his punishment will cease if he discovers a way to pull Kurosaki Ichigo out of that other dimension."

"Eh?" Gin cracked open an eye, his smirk widening. "Didn't much like what ya saw, ne Aizen?"

"Personal feelings aside, another Ichigo could be quite useful, I will use him in the battle against Soul Society and the King's Key will be mine."

"And ya're positive you'll be able ta control da other Kurosaki? He's supposed ta be da equivalent ta you."

"True... If we still have the upper hand then it won't be a problem. See if Szayel can create something to limit his power as well."

"As ya wish, Aizen-sama." Gin bowed sloppily and strode out of the room.

"Everything's falling into place. Just you wait, Ichigo..."

Shadow Dimension

"Shall we dine, my pet?"

Aizen held back a gasp and inched backwards, as far from the orange-haired king as possible. Ichigo simply sat there, a knowing smirk on his lips, his head titled to the side, orange locks falling into his eyes. Speech seemed to have left Aizen's usually calm and collected mind. He closed his eyes and nodded ever so slightly.

Ichigo lifted a small piece of bread from the tray and offered it to his prisoner. "I'm afraid that non-liquid items don't agree with me. I'll have to excuse my not eating with you. I'll just be contented to watch."

The brunette accepted the morsel of food, hand brushing with Kurosaki's ever so lightly, causing unwanted shivers of pleasure to run down Aizen's spine. He placed the bread in his mouth, trying to ignore Ichigo's intense stare. The dry human food was tasteless and dull in comparison to the delicious elixir that was blood. It felt rough and awkward as it slid down his throat and did little to curve his hunger. Ichigo's presence, his closeness, was blurring the world around Aizen. Everything was fading away... the food that Ichigo continually handed the brunette, the table with the fine cloth, even the bed with the number 4 etched into its post. They all simply faded away. All that remained was Ichigo's intense gaze, burning into his very soul. Aizen tried to keep his head clear, but when Ichigo gently grasped his wrisp and sucked the crumbs off the tip of his index finger, all attempts shattered. Aizen moaned softly and felt himself leaning towards the king of Hueco Mundo.

The door flew open, and Aizen jolted backwards, dazed and confused. Ichigo looked extremely irritated. "What is so important that you must disturb me?" he growled.

Shirosaki, Ichigo's twin, stood in the doorway. His white hair stuck out in every direction, and from his pale complexion gleamed two gold and black, watchful eyes. "What is so important, you ask?" Shiro huffed, folding his arms across his chest. "While you've been here playing with Sousuke-kun, I've been looking after our prisoners and dealing with the invasion."

"So? Everything's still well, ya?"

"Not exactly. You see, king, Ulquiorra saw Gin and... well, I'm afraid Mayuri ended up having to knock the young hunter out."

"Mayuri!"Aizen seethed, jumping out of his chair. Ichigo tightly locked his fingers around Aizen's wrist, effectively halting him in his advance towards the door.

"Sousuke-kun, sit down."

"I will not! Ulquiorra was to remain safe. That was our deal. He is not safe with that monster!" Anger burned in Aizen's chest.

"He's perfectly fine. Now, sit down." Ichigo pulled the brunette forcefully down into his chair. "If you'll excuse me, it seems Shiro and I need to chat." Ichigo grumpily stood and exited the room, pulling Shirosaki with him. Aizen sat there, stock still, utterly shocked at his reaction to the orange-haired king. He had been seconds away from giving everything up—from giving Ulquiorra's safety up. He had to do something, anything to prevent losing Ichigo's game.

Aizen needed a way out. Any way out. Ulquiorra was no longer in a position that allowed him to waste time. He had to find his friend and his apprentice and leave. Every day he spent in the crimson castle left Aizen feeling increasingly drained. It seemed to him that if he didn't escape soon, there would be nothing left to save when his friends finally did manage to get in.

Aizen crept towards the door and peaked through the crack. The coast seemed clear. He pulled open the door and walked calmly down the hall, not wanting to miss even the slightest scent that could lead him to either Gin or Ulquiorra. He walked with his eyes closed, listening to each little sound that reverberated off the castle walls, detecting even the slightest change in the air so that he knew when to hide.

Ulquiorra, he needed to find him. Aizen seethed at the thought of Mayuri laying a hand on his quite, talented apprentice. Things were certainly out of control. He was Aizen Sousuke, the mastermind hunter whom all vampires feared (all save for one), he would find a way. He had to find a way. A comment, soft and hardly heard carried through the air to him. Gin.

Aizen halted in his tracks, eyes still closed and followed a sound too soft to make out, in hopes that it would lead him to his dearest friend and a way out. He rounded the corners, rushing due to his certainty that Ichigo would note his absence and suspect him in mere moments. Dignified, Aizen thought to himself, I'm a dignified hunter. My plans do not fail. His resolve hardened, he would find a way out.

An abrupt turn around a corner brought him to a dead end. One door stood at the end of the red hall. Aizen advanced slowly, cautiously. The world lurched as he neared the door; red stretched, taunted. His hand quivered as it closed down on the knob. If he was wrong... Ichigo would not be pleased when he discovered what his 'pet' was up to. Aizen's jaw tightened as he turned the knob and pushed open the door.

He froze at the sight. Within seconds he rushed forward. "Gin," he greeted softly, pausing before his friend. The fox-like man laid slump, chains holding him up by his wrist. Dried blood clung to his silver hair and stuck to his neck. Deep gashes scattered his body, but visibly no teeth marks were present. "It's alright, Gin, I'm here. You'll be alright."

Gin shifted, looking up at Aizen through squinted eyes. "Kurosaki..." he whispered. "What has he done to you?"

Aizen's hid his burning shame, keeping a cool mask. "Worry not about that Gin, all that matters now is that I have a plan. We shall escape this hell, bear with me a while longer, my friend."

Gin smiled, albeit weakly. "You always have a plan, Sousuke. What do ya need me to do?"

"If they are transporting you somewhere, flare your reiatsu as high as you can the moment you are in your new room. I will find you. If you know anything of Ulquiorra's whereabouts, that would be of great help as well."

Gin shook his head glumly. "I saw the kid, but only for a second." His face turned bitter. "That monster, Mayuri, grabbed him. I've never seen da kid so stressed out, Sousuke, we have ta get 'im outta 'ere."

Aizen nodded, "Indeed, it shall be done. Be patient, Gin, all shall go just as planned." Aizen turned away from his friend. "I'm afraid Kurosaki-sama will not be occupied for long and all could go amiss if he notices my absence. I must be returning." The brunette moved to the door when his friend's voice halted him.

"-Sama, eh? Be careful, he's quite the mind-manipulator. Don't allow yerself to be tricked by his traps."

"Trust me, Gin, I am well aware."

Aizen entered his room and sat down in a chair only moments before Kurosaki materialized in the room. All the food was gone, but the table remained with the chairs still pressed closely together.

"Where has the day gone?" the king muttered to himself. "I apologize for the interruption earlier. Your fellow hunters seem keen on reclaiming you, but they learned quickly that your mine." Ichigo smiled at his helpless brunette. "Every part of you. Mine."

A slight shiver passed over Aizen's spine at the words. He kept his voice flat. "What has become of my friends? No harm, I would hope."

"So worried for the well being of others, quite the compassionate one, I wouldn't 've guessed."

"I simply do not wish for others to suffer because of me. Like Ulquiorra. I wish to see him."

Ichigo tutted. "Sousuke-kun, that was not part of the deal. I can assure you that no unnecessary harm has befallen your beloved apprentice. He has been temporarily taken out of commission, but will resume his lessons and tasks as soon as he is seen fit to do so."

Aizen fumed. He choked back his words, and settled instead to daydream what he would do to the vampire if given the chance. He couldn't risk his plan.

"What to do now... A perfect dinner, ruined, and just when it was getting to the best part..."

"Do you need something from me?" Aizen couldn't stop the words. Ichigo sent him an inquiring glance. "Why did you return here?"

"Oh, Sousuke-Kun, don't you understand by now?" Ichigo's eyes gleamed as he approached. "You belong to me, you're my property, my pet. When I get bored, it's your job to entertain me."

Aizen forced himself to concentrate, to not lose himself in the mere scent of the king. He tightened his hands into fists and met Kurosaki's gaze calmly. "I only agreed to submit to prevent harm from befalling my apprentice. So long as Ulquiorra is in harm's way, I am not obliged to listen to a word you say."

Ichigo's temple twitched. His grin melted from his features. "Allowing Raven to live was a curtsey, one that can just as easily be taken away. I did not promise that he would escape harm, I merely agreed not to awaken his vampire side. That's what you wanted, wasn't it? A possibility for your apprentice to be able to be a normal hunter, not a vampire? I must have misunderstood, my fault entirely." His crimson eyes narrowed dangerously. "Apparently my kindness means nothing to you. I will be certain to remove it right away." He turned to the door, hand reaching for the lock.

"Wait, stop!" The brunette's words halted the powerful vampire. "I'll... I'll be your pet, just don't steal Ulquiorra's life from him." Ichigo turned and approached Aizen, listening to what he had to say. "It's my fault he's in this to begin with, I could never-" Aizen's eyes widened as his lips were claimed, but his shock quickly passed and he found himself melting into the kiss. Satiating warmth was so close, he need only nibble at Kurosaki's lips and the elixir would be his.

Ichigo pulled away abruptly, a soft whisper escaping his lips, "Don't." Aizen stared bewildered at the king. A smile tugged at the orangette's visage. "The game has only just begun, Sousuke-kun, wouldn't want it to end so soon." With that the king stood up, pecked Aizen's lips one more time and headed out the door, humming as he left.

Aizen stared. "What just happened?"

Canon World

Renji struggled as the a pink-haired espada came at him with a needle. He fought against the chains binding him down, yet to no avail.

"Hold still, this'll only sting a lot..."

"Now I'm reassured," Renji shouted as he attempted to kick the man away. It was a losing fight, one that ended in a needle plunged deep into his neck, its weird glowing green contents being emptied into the redhead's neck.

Szayel stood over him, a triumphant smirk present upon his lips as the elixir began its magic. Renji screamed as it burnt its way through his circulatory system. "At present, my drones are taking over your cells. Soon, I will be able to move you if I so do desire." Renji's head snapped up and he stared wide-eyed at the octava espada. "Worry not, it's merely for experimental purposes. You see, I'm going to send you to another dimension and I can only guarantee your return if I have control over you. Some very important data will be drawn from this... so long as you don't die on the way over..."

When the redhead shinigami ceased in his struggles, Szayel smirked. He pulled a devise out of his pocket and typed in a command. Renji was on his feet in a second's time. Horror flashed visibly across his features in contrast to the espada's exclamation of success. Various commands were attempted until Szayel was satisfied.

"Now for the real challenge." The pink-haired espada fiddled with his tools for a few moments before he seemed satisfied. He turned to Renji and carefully unchained him. "Now, if this doesn't kill you be sure not to attract too much attention to yourself or they might."

"They? Who they? Where are you sending me? Let me go!" Renji attempted to struggle, but found himself incapable of doing so.

Szayel flipped a switch and light exploded out of two beams, a portal materializing in the middle of the lab. "Ta ta for now." With a fluid click of keys, Renji entered the portal and disappeared. The moment he passed through, the gateway zapped shut.

Szayel rushed to a computer, rapidly typing in commands. A sigh of relief escaped him with the Shadow World, as seen from Renji's eyes appeared on the screen.

A knock on the door disrupted his elation. Emotionless green eyes peered in. "Ulquiorra," Szayel greeted. "Has Aizen-sama sent you?"

A curt nod was the response. "He mentioned you needed me for something."

A smile adorned the scientist's visage. "Indeed, come right in."

"Intriguing, ne?"

Honestly, I can't say I saw that coming, which is weird because I wrote it, but hey jetlag and a headcold can really mess with a person's brain. Strangely enough, you can tell me what you think about the ponderings of my brain simply by pressing that review button and clacking on some keys. FF even has this new thing where it'll say the author appreciates your feedback after you submit a review. You should try it ;)