Chapter 6: To Die For

Byakuya winced at the sudden muted sound and the rumble of a nearby explosion. He opened his eyes and found himself looking up at Tetsuya, who sensed the direction of the disturbance, then motioned an awakened Rukia to the noble's side.

"Stay with him," Tetsuys said, his hand on his sword as he shifted into a nearly invisible waterform and slipped out into the hallway.

Healers and hospital security dashed up and down the corridors, honing in on the room that the Kuchiki clan leader had been purportedly sleeping in.

"It seems we were correct in believing that his enemy would return," mused the younger noble, turning back.

He returned to the room where Byakuya and Rukia awaited him, and nodded as he came through the door.

"Someone attacked the waterforms that we left in the other room," he reported.

Byakuya met his eyes wearily, thinking as well as he could despite the distraction of the pain that still wracked his injured body.

"We need to let my attacker think that he or she was successful," he suggested, sitting up slowly and accepting a dark colored cloak that Tetsuya handed him.

Rukia nodded as Tetsuya donned a second cloak and helped his shaky cousin to his feet.

"I will go and get things started," she said softly, "Tetsuya-san, please, take care of my brother and yourself."

"I will," Tetsuya promised, invoking his power and making his and Byakuya's bodies become nearly transparent waterforms, "I will not let any harm come to him. Just please remember to only confide this in Nori-san. It must be very convincing."

"I understand," said Rukia, "I will take care of things here."

Tetsuya waited as Rukia left the room, then slipped an arm around his injured cousin and helped him out the door after her. They turned in the opposite direction, and moved silently and unseen through the hospital corridors, a chill inside them as Rukia's wail of agony rose up behind them. They left the fourth division through the back entrance and slipped into the bushes, where Tetsuya paused and listened for a moment, then made a sound of relief as he met the sapphire eyes of his own tall, black stallion, who noted their state and also made himself transparent. Tetsuya nodded in approval and helped Byakuya onto the waiting stallion's back, then opened a family senkaimon. He climbed up behind Byakuya and nudged the horse into motion, closing the gateway behind them as they passed into the precipice world.

"Are you holding up all right?" he asked softly, looping an arm around his cousin's slender waist and peering ahead of them.

"I will be fine," Byakuya answered, his voice shaking slightly, "I am more concerned about Rukia. If the one who set me up to die also tries to attack her."

"I believe that you were the sole focus of the attack," said Tetsuya, but even so, she will be closely guarded throughout the period of mourning over our 'deaths.' And that will give us precious time to try to discover who is behind these attacks on you. The security staff will be monitoring closely during the funeral proceedings and will also be investigating the incident at the hospital I assure you, we will get to the bottom of this."

"It just seems so odd," Byakuya said softly, shaking his head, "While Tsutomu certainly had reason for what he did, I am not sure who would have been powerful and intimidating enough to force the man to work with him or her, and then kill him and injure me as he or she did, right there in front of everyone."

"Try not to worry about that," Tetsuya said bracingly, "You need to focus on getting well. You were badly injured even before what happened at Soukyoku Hill..."

He trailed off at the deeply pained look that crossed the noble's face at the mention of the place.

"Byakuya-sama, I am sorry," he said solemnly, "I wish there had been a way to stop what happened to Renji-san."

Byakuya sighed and closed his burning eyes for a moment.

"There was nothing you could have done," he concluded, "This is a formidable enemy facing us. We have been outmaneuvered several times."

He opened his eyes and looked into the darkness ahead of them.

"It grieves me to think that he died because of me. He haunts my dreams, Tetsuya."

"Try not to dwell too much on it," Tetsuya said tightening his arms around his cousin from where he sat behind him on the stallion's back, "It was not your fault. And if not for this concealed enemy, you would have been able to stop Renji-san's execution. You really did do everything you could."

Byakuya loosed another deep sigh.

"But I failed to do the one thing that would have headed all of this off. Had I but confessed the truth to Renji about being in love with him...while I...had the chance..."

"Please do not do this to yourself," Tetsuya pleaded, "As you have said yourself, this is a very determined enemy. We do not know that any of this could have been avoided."

Byakuya let the back of his head rest against Tetsuya's shoulder as his cousin's stallion walked on.

"I know that you are right," he admitted, "but it offers me no comfort. And I will be honest with you. Hisana's death was difficult and wore on me greatly. But Renji's death stings even more because I never told him how I really felt. And as often as I tell him in my dreams, it pains me that he can never know now."

"Try not to think about that," Tetsuya whispered into his ear, invoking a gentle throb of kido to make the distressed noble sleep.

Byakuya sagged against him, succumbing almost instantly.

"Rest now, Byakuya-sama. And when you are better, the two of us will see that Renji-san's killer an your attacker does not go unpunished."

He opened a doorway ahead of the stallion and guided him out of the precipice world and down into a quiet, dark park. The stallion followed the park's pathway, that meandered along the river for a time before turning them into a small neighborhood that overlooked the water. He found a small gray house near the water's edge and angled towards it, stopping his mount as they reached it. He slid down off of the stallion's back and gently lifted Byakuya down.

"You are on guard duty, Arashi," he reminded the stallion, "Let nothing approach us."

Arashi nodded briefly and then disappeared into the bushes. Tetsuya carried his cousin to the house and inside, then laid him gently in bed and quickly established a kido shield around their environs. He walked back to the kitchen and made a cup of tea, then sat down at the table and sipped at it quietly, his mind mulling over all that had happened. A knock on the front door, brought him instantly to alertness, and he left the kitchen and approached the front door as a key clicked in the lock and the handle turned. His slender hand on the hilt of his sword, Tetsuya waited as the door opened and a young, ginger-haired youth peeked in.

"Tetsuya-san?" he said, instantly putting the young noble at ease again.

"Ichigo-san!" he exclaimed, relieved, "I didn't know you would be here so quickly. But I am glad. Arashi gave you no trouble, ne?"

"Heh, just the usual," Ichigo said, closing the door and approaching the noble, "He loves to mess with me."

Tetsuya smiled as Ichigo's arms wrapped around him, and the younger man's lips sought his hungrily.

"Arashi is only...mmmm, safeguarding my honor, Ichigo-san," he managed between kisses.

A blush rose on his face and throat as Ichigo's hot, insistent tongue invaded his mouth and sought his, and he pushed the other young man away gently.

"Ichigo-san," he said, still blushing furiously, "My focus must be on Byakuya-sama. As much as I..."

"It's okay," Ichigo said, grinning, "I was just offering you a proper greeting. As much as I hate everything that has happened, I am glad that you are here. You don't come to Karakura Town so often. So despite what's going on, I want to enjoy the fact that you are here."

"Arigato," Tetsuya said softly, "And please do not take offense at my..."

"Stop it, baka," Ichigo laughed, grabbing the startled noble and kissing him again, "It is worth the wait to see you again."

"Ah...Ichigo-san," Tetsuya sighed, enjoying the feeling of being held by the other young man, "I must admit that I am grateful for the chance to see you as well."

Ichigo smirked and stepped back, leaving Tetsuya slightly reeling, and his heart pounding oddly.

"So...have you told your cousin we are seeing each other?"

"N-not yet," Tetsuya said, shaking his head briefly, "There has been so much going on..."

"Yeah, I understand. But...you don't think he'll mind, ne?"

"I do not know. It does tread upon several rules of the clan, but..."

"But it's not like Byakuya hasn't broken a few rules when it came to love, right?"

Tetsuya shivered softly at the word, and he met Ichigo's eyes wonderingly.

"What is it?" Ichigo asked, "I'm sorry, Tetsuya. I hope I haven't offended you."

"Offended me?" the noble repeated, shaking his head and riling his silken black hair, "You think you offend me, referring to what is between us as 'love?' Ichigo-san..."

Ichigo grinned and recaptured the sweetly flushed noble, kissing him deeply several more times before Tetsuya pulled away from him again and turned to make him a cup of hot green tea.

"Yeah," Ichigo chuckled, "I'm not making a secret of it. I love you, Tetsuya-san. And whether Byakuya likes it or not, I'm going to keep seeing you."

"Ichigo-san..."

"Take it easy, Tetsuya-san," Ichigo said, giving him a warm squeeze, "I won't piss him off...erm, not intentionally, anyway. But I am going to keep seeing you."

Tetsuya smiled and handed Ichigo the cup of fresh tea.

"I am flattered, Ichigo-san...truly. But, please tell me...I assume from your presence that word reached here about what happened at the fourth division?"

"Yeah," Ichigo said, nodding, and accepting the tea, "The message that Urahara got was that you and Byakuya were killed in an explosion at the healing center. And whoever did it was pretty damned determined that you would die, because he or she also used poisoned gas in case blowing you two up wasn't enough."

"But there was no word on who it might be?" Tetsuya queried.

"There's still no word on that," Ichigo reported, "But don't worry. I am sure they'll figure it out soon. In the meantime, I will help Arashi watch over you. And Hanatarou and Orihime will take turns coming out to check on Byakuya."

"Thank you, Ichigo-san," Tetsuya said, seeking the other young man's arms again, "Byakuya-sama and Rukia and I are very grateful to you and Urahara-san."

"No problem," Ichigo said, sinking into the young noble's sweet mouth again, "It gives me more chances to kiss you."

"Ichigo-san..." Tetsuya sighed, closing his eyes and enjoying the warm thrust of the ginger-haired youth' tongue deeper into his mouth, "I love you too."

XXXXXXXXXX

"Sir, word has come from the Seireitei that Kuchiki taichou and his cousin, Kuchiki Tetsuya were killed in an explosion at the fourth division!" reported the messenger.

"Ah," said Aizen, nodding approvingly, "That is good news. Jun, take a message to Gin, congratulating him."

"Yes sir!" the messenger said, rising and turning away.

"And Jun..." Aizen added, stopping the young man.

"Sir?"

"See that you 'reward' him appropriately."

Jun blushed, but managed a short nod.

"Yes sir."

Aizen laughed softly, watching as the young man left the house. Then, he rose and walked back to the bedroom, where Renji laid, dressed in a white yukata and securely bound to the bed. The redhead's red-brown eyes glared up at him furiously.

"Damn you! It was you all along, wasn't it, you lying piece of shit!" Renji snapped furiously, "Let me out of this! I'll kill you!"

"Ah, good to see you are awake, Renji," said Aizen, "And how clever it is of you to have realized so quickly that Toru was a lie."

"Bastard!" hissed the redhead, "What are you doing this for? What do you want with me?"

Aizen regarded him quietly for a moment.

"I want what I said I wanted," he said finally, "And now you are going to give it to me."

"What? What are you talking about? What are you saying?" Renji demanded, "If all of that shit you spouted at me was a lie, then..."

"Actually," Aizen said calmly, "only Toru was a lie. What I told you about your connection to the royal family is the truth. And now that Kuchiki taichou was so kind as to impregnate you for me, I have everything I need."

"Taichou...?"

"Yes," said Aizen, "Your little meeting with your taichou was 'fruitful,' Renji. You are with child. And that being the case, you carry the heir I was talking about."

"What? What the hell? But the king..."

"Word reached me through a spy in the spirit dimension that the king is dying and has no heir."

"Wh...what?" Renji stammered, his face paling.

"Although I was never able to breach the dimension wall, I do have someone inside. And that person has slowly been seeing to the quiet destruction of the royal family. Although the king, himself, has proved too difficult to kill, his wife and heirs were eliminated one by one...and now, he is dying of natural causes, and has no one to succeed him...no one, that is, but this child you carry."

"That is horse shit!" Renji fumed, "You don't know when to stop! First of all, I'm a guy and I'm not...!"

"You may argue all you like, Renji," Aizen said, smiling at him, "It does not change the facts. You are carrying the heir to the throne. And I mean to use that heir to gain entrance to the spirit dimension. If I have the heir, there is nothing that the king won't do to ensure his or her safety."

"You...you son of a bitch! I'm not gonna help you do that! You can fucking do what you want, but I am not...!"

He froze as Aizen leaned in close, touching his earlobe with hot breath as he spoke.

"You have no choice. You will do what I tell you to...or you will die."

"Like I believe for a second that you'd let me live a minute past when the kid's born!" Renji mused, "But you aren't going to get away with this, you freak! Kuchiki taichou will..."

"Kuchiki taichou is dead."

Renji froze.

It's a lie.

It has to be.

Taichou can't be...

"He died last night in an explosion at the fourth division."

He slipped a silver band around the redhead's wrist, then unbound him.

"But...why don't you go and see for yourself. That band will allow you to return to the Seireitei undetected and my illusions will shroud you so that you cannot be seen or sensed. I will allow you to go back to pay your respects at his funeral, and then, that band will bring you back to me. You will see. Byakuya is dead and no one else knows you are still alive...no one but Gin and me."

"You can't be telling me the truth," Renji said, staring at the band on his wrist, "It has to be a lie..."

"Go now, Renji. I will see you once you have offered your lover a fond farewell."