Chapter 6: Searching
"Please, Taichou…" Renji whispered, "I know I look bad…like I'm going to pieces, but I can do this. I need to deal with what happened…in my own way."
Byakuya left his hand rested lightly against the redhead's flushed cheek and nodded briefly.
Renji's smile strengthened.
"Thank you, Taichou," he breathed, leaning forward and surprising the noble's soft lips with a gently placed kiss.
Byakuya froze, his lips touching Renji's and his eyes fixed on the red-brown ones that seemed to look down inside him. Renji read the instant confusion in his expression and pulled away as Byakuya blinked and touched his lips with a questing fingertip.
"S-sorry," Renji said, looking down at the floor, "I uh…don't know why I did that. It was…"
"An emotional response to everything that has happened," Byakuya said quietly, "You are in an unfamiliar place. It is understandable that you would seek something familiar to comfort you. And we have had a long association. I am not offended."
"That's good," sighed Renji, looking away, "because that would be just one more thing, you know? And I have a lot I'm dealing with right now."
"Then I am glad I could offer you some comfort. But now, we must be on our way. Are you certain, then? You wish to pursue this with me?"
"Yeah," Renji said, his voice strengthening, "I do."
"Then come. We will begin the search in Inuzuri. I'll try to sense my cousin's reiatsu and follow it from there."
"Thank kami you found him, Makoto!" a familiar voice said worriedly, breaking into the heavy silence in Tetsuya's mind.
The noble shifted sluggishly, forced his eyes open and squinted up at the handsome man who leaned over him. At first, his mind was still clouded and unable to remember, but as the man's face came into focus, realization flooded his face.
"M-mitsuro?" he queried softly, "Is that you?"
"Yes, watashi no koi," the man assured him, "It is me. You are very lucky. I had Makoto looking for you after I woke and realized that I had been drugged. I tried to find you, but I could not. Tetsuya, you must realize, we are in a lot of trouble!"
"Not the least of which is because I am carrying the child of a member of a hostile clan," said the blue-eyed noble, "Mitsuro, please tell me that this is your child! Ryuu…he…didn't…?"
"Oh…no Tetsuya! I know your memory is still a bit clouded, but Makoto has counteracted the drug Ryuu used, and soon you will remember that you were already pregnant and the baby is mine. I didn't let him touch you," said Mitsuro, "I couldn't stop him from drugging you or from hurting that friend of yours, but…"
"F-friend?" stammered Tetsuya, looking confused.
"Abarai Renji…Ryuu attacked him when you began resisting him and Renji attempted to interfere."
Tetsuya's face paled.
"Is…is Renji-san all right?" he asked worriedly.
Mitsuro lowered his eyes.
"He is alive and is not in danger of dying, but…"
"But what?" demanded Tetsuya, placing a hand on his abdomen and wincing as a pain passed through it.
"Tetsuya, you must try to stay calm. The drugs that Ryuu gave you were very dangerous, and you are still recovering."
"But…what happened to Renji-san? What…" Tetsuya panted, clutching his abdomen harder, "What did he do? You must tell me!"
Tetsuya froze as Makoto placed a hand on his shoulder and sent a gentle throb of kido through him. Mitsuro caught him gently and eased him back onto the pillows as Makoto shook his head disapprovingly.
"I am sorry for that," he told Mitsuro, "but he was becoming too agitated. You must keep him calm. The drugs your brother used are enough of a threat to anyone, but to one whose body is already taxed with supporting a growing reiatsu…"
"I will make sure he stays calm," Mitsuro said quietly, "But be honest with me. Did the drugs hurt our baby?"
Makoto's lips tightened for a moment.
"They do not appear to have, but it won't be certain for a few more days. The two of you can remain here for as long as you wish, of course. I will come to help care for him until he is well."
"You are aware of what you are risking by helping us," Mitsuro said in a low voice, "If my brother doesn't kill you if he finds out, the Gotei 13 and Tetsuya's clan will have their way with you for concealing a man suspected of a capital offense."
Makoto looked down at Tetsuya and nodded briefly.
"I will take that risk," he said quietly, "but perhaps you could tell me what happened?"
Mitsuro sighed and sat down next to his sleeping lover, taking Tetsuya's pale hand in his.
"It's stupid really," Mitsuro said softly, looking down at his lover's troubled face, "I knew better than to get involved with one of their clan members. But…one day, the Kuchiki council came to meet with ours and Tetsuya was attending his cousin. I had never laid eyes on him before, but when I did…and he looked back at me, it was like…it was as though the very floor had dropped out from under my feet. He was so handsome, Makoto! And he was quiet and shy, not at all like the others. I cornered him while council was meeting and he opened up a little. I told him before we parted ways that I felt something for him, and that if he returned my feelings, I would be at the Velvet Mist Dance Club the next night. I didn't expect at all that he would come to meet me…but he did. I only meant to dance with him and perhaps share a few kisses. Just that much, I thought, would be safe. But we ended up in one of the rooms there at the club, and we gave in to our desires that night. It wasn't supposed to happen, but we were drinking and abandoned caution. And a few weeks later, he told me that he had been impregnated during our joining."
Mitsuro touched Tetsuya's face and kissed him on the forehead.
"I knew that Tetsuya's clan would punish him, and that if my brother found out, he would punish me and hurt Tetsuya somehow. So…I planned for us to disappear. It grieved Tetsuya to think of leaving his family, but he knew better than to let them learn of his pregnancy. We agreed to meet at the club that night with our things packed. We were supposed to leave from there and never return. But…Ryuu somehow found out we were together there. Luckily for us, he did not know Tetsuya was pregnant. But the bastard found out we were seeing each other and he threatened to reveal it to Tetsuya's clan…unless we agreed for Tetsuya to spend the night with him before we left. I tried to refuse, but Ryuu ordered his attendants to beat me until I had learned my lesson. When my brother's attendants took hold of me and began hitting me, Tetsuya was afraid that they meant to kill me, and he told Ryuu to stop them. My brother asked him if that meant that he would agree to spend the night with him, and Tetsuya agreed that as long as he would then release us both unharmed and allow us to disappear together, he would go along with it. Ryuu had me held back and told Tetsuya to dance with him, which Tetsuya did. I think that Tetsuya's friend, Kuchiki taichou's fukutaichou, passed by the club and saw Tetsuya dancing with Ryuu, and Ryuu beginning to remove Tetsuya's clothes, there in front of everyone."
Mitsuro's voice failed him for a moment and he cleared his throat softly.
"He was going to have sex with my lover right there in that crowded club, where everyone could see. We were going to have to disappear without a trace and never allow ourselves to be found by either of our families after such a disgrace. But Abarai-san flew up the stairs and tore Tetsuya away from him. My brother told Tetsuya that if Abarai-san interfered, the deal was off, and that the two of us would never see each other again. Tetsuya shoved Abarai-san away and yelled at him to leave. But he wouldn't leave. My brother and his attendants waited until he was distracted trying to talk to Tetsuya and then attacked from behind and dragged him into one of the rooms. He forced Tetsuya to watch as he beat and sexually assaulted his 'protector,' then rendered Tetsuya unconscious and planted evidence on Abarai-san to make Tetsuya look guilty. He drugged them so that they would not remember, then he told me that if I wanted Tetsuya, he would have to follow through on spending the night with him first. I don't know what happened after that, except that I woke and couldn't remember things at first. But as things came back, I realized that Tetsuya was missing, and now wanted for beating and raping his own friend. I was afraid that Ryuu had killed him…and it looks like he tried to. Thank kami you found him, Makoto! I was worried sick about him!"
He looked back down at Tetsuya with worried eyes.
"But now that I have found him, I am not letting my brother find us again. As soon as he is strong enough, we are getting out of here. I won't let him hurt Tetsuya again…not ever!"
"He should be well enough by tomorrow that you can leave with him. Just make sure that nothing disturbs his rest. He is very much at risk right now, of losing his child."
"I will," said Mitsuro, looking up at Makoto gratefully, "Thank you, Makoto. Thank you so much for keeping our secret!"
"Rest now," Makoto said, moving to the bedroom door, "I will make sure that no harm comes to you here."
"You are a good friend," he said softly, "It is good to know that there are some among the family who recognize what a bastard he is. I don't know how I have made myself obey him all of these years! I was a fool, Makoto. If the price of opposing him was death, I should have been strong enough to face it long ago."
"Don't be so hard on yourself," the green-eyed shinigami said gently, "Ryuu is very cunning. I doubt anyone really knows the full lengths to which he will go. But you will be all right now. I am sure that once you are out of his reach, he will forget about the two of you quickly. And you and Kuchiki-san can start a new life together with your child."
Mitsuro smiled and nodded briefly, then slid into bed next to Tetsuya, watching as the healer left the room and closed the door. He had nearly drifted off when he heard Makoto's voice speaking softly through one of the house vents. Climbing out of bed, he moved closer, straining to hear.
Makoto left the bedroom and walked across the house to the living room and dropped down into a chair. He poured a glass of sake and lifted it with a hand that trembled softly.
I hate this!
I hate myself.
But if he finds out that I helped them, he will kill Gia and our children. The man is beyond ruthless and he wants to use Kuchiki Tetsuya against his cousin. He will stop at nothing…
His hands shook harder as he flipped his phone open and dialed a number. He swallowed hard as the phone rang once, twice and a third time before someone picked up.
"It's Makoto," he said softly, "I have confirmed that the man I found at the hotel is Kuchiki Tetsuya. I lured Mitsuro here and they are sleeping."
"Good," said the voice on the other end, "Very commendable."
"Do you want me to knock them out?"
"No, we will be there soon."
"Ryuu, there is something you should know."
"Kuchiki-san is pregnant."
There was a long silence.
"I see. That makes sense of things. Keep them there. Do not allow them to leave. We are coming for them."
Mitsuro backed away from the vent and moved back to the bed. He heard approaching footsteps and slipped back into bed, feigning sleep as Makoto looked in at them, then closed the door again. As the healer's footsteps faded, Mitsuro slowly brought Tetsuya awake.
"Wh-what is it? What is happening?" Tetsuya moaned softly.
"Tetsuya, we have to get out of here! Makoto has betrayed us. Watashi no koi, we must go to your cousin and tell him the truth about us. We will be punished, but perhaps I can convince your council to accept me as a refugee. They might…"
"N-no," Tetsuya said, shaking his head, "They won't listen. They would hurt you."
"But Makoto was the only one I knew I could trust!" whispered Mitsuro desperately, "Who can we go to?"
Tetsuya thought for a moment.
"There is a man in Karakura Town who is powerful enough. He is friends with my cousin, but he is not tied to clan rules as my cousin is and he will help us. I know he will."
"Then we must leave now," said Makoto, helping the blue-eyed noble to his feet, "I am sorry to do this when you should be resting, but Ryuu knows you are pregnant with my child now. Makoto told him. There is no chance now of fooling him into thinking the child is his so that he would protect you. He only wanted to spend the night with you to impregnate you as a way of using you against Byakuya. If he could have convinced the Kuchiki council that Byakuya knew and didn't say anything, he could have caused the Kuchiki council to remove Byakuya from leadership. That's all he really wanted all along. He doesn't care about what happens to you or me. He only cares about his own damned ambitions! He has always been that way!"
Mitsuro followed Tetsuya to the window. As Tetsuya slid the window open, a soft chime sounded, and Makoto's footsteps sounded in the hallway.
"Hurry!" exclaimed Mitsuro, following Tetsuya outside and hastily opening a senkaimon.
"Stop!" shouted Makoto as the two stepped into the precipice world.
Mitsuro looked back at him with devastated eyes.
"I trusted you…" he said sadly.
"I am sorry," Makoto said, lowering his eyes, "I deserve the fate that I will get for not stopping you, but…know that it was only because he threatened Gia and my children. I despise him."
"I know," answered Mitsuro, raising a hand and gathering his power, "but he will not harm them if it looks as though you tried to obey him and merely failed."
Makoto closed his eyes and did not move as Mitsuro's kido blast struck him and sent him crashing to the ground.
I do not deserve your mercy.
You are a better man than your brother will ever be.
"Are you certain that you don't remember anything else that might help us find him?" asked Byakuya, "Even something that might seem unrelated, but could shed some light."
"He is in a lot of trouble, ne?" asked Michio, glancing at Noa.
Noa returned his gaze solemnly and nodded briefly in agreement.
"Well," said the healer, "I do not know if it will help for you to know. And because it seemed private, we did not say anything before, but…Byakuya-san, your cousin is pregnant."
Byakuya's eyes widened and he caught his breath softly.
"Tetsuya is pregnant?" he asked softly, "Are you sure?"
"I am positive," said Michio, "I had to be careful in my treatment of the poison in his system, so as not to harm the developing reiatsu. And he was not in a fit state much of the time, so I do not know if he knew or not, but…he is definitely pregnant."
"Taichou," said Renji, "That might explain why he was angry that night. If he and Mitsuro were seeing each other and he became pregnant…"
"Tetsuya would have known then that all opportunities for forgiveness were gone. The clan rules are very clear that in that case, Tetsuya would be expelled from the clan."
"The poor thing," Noa said softly, "He is a gentle man, Byakuya-san. You would not allow him to come to harm, ne?"
Byakuya's eyes betrayed a fierce internal struggle, but he bit his lip gently and shook his head.
"No. I have no intention of letting on that I know. I only want to find him. From what you said, someone tried to kill him and left him in a reduced state. I will find Tetsuya, and then I will take him to safety. I will deal with all of the other questions once that is done."
Renji watched quietly as the internal fires continued to burn in Byakuya's eyes. They took their leave of the healer and his wife and stepped out into the street. Renji gazed at Byakuya's solemn face, then moved closer and touched his arm lightly. Byakuya turned his head and met the redhead's eyes questioningly.
"Tell me something," he said quietly, "What will happen if the clan elders learn that you knew Tetsuya was pregnant…and it turns out the kid is Mitsuro's?"
Byakuya let out a resigned sigh.
"Then, I would be removed as head of the clan and given a trial to determine my fate. They could impose imprisonment, banishment or even a death sentence. Tetsuya will be expelled from the clan…his name unwritten from our house's records. None of the clan will be allowed to speak his name, nor help him in any way…on pain of death. The rules for such a betrayal are absolute."
Renji's eyes darkened with emotion.
"And you would risk this…for him? For your cousin? You must really love him, Taichou…to be so devoted."
Byakuya didn't answer, but only looked back at him silently. Renji moved closer and brought tentative fingers to the noble's porcelain cheek. Byakuya froze in place, staring into Renji's eyes like a frozen deer.
"I thought that I knew you, Taichou," Renji said quietly, "but all of this time…it's like you've been hiding yourself away from everyone. You work so hard at following the rules and setting an example…but inside, you have too much heart to let the ones you love be hurt. You protect Rukia…Tetsuya…and you protect me. And that makes me wonder. I know you love them, Taichou…and you have said that you very much respect me…but…is that where it ends? Or have I been overlooking something much deeper?"
Byakuya's hand rose and captured Renji's, and the deep gray eyes fixed him in place.
"I respect you as a fighter…and as a leader," he said softly, "but I would be lying if I told you that is where it ends. I don't think I realized what was happening, but I see it now. I think it has been there for some time."
He paused and kissed Renji's fingertips gently.
"But…you have endured too much. And there are things that must first be resolved. Then we can look into our hearts with opened eyes…and see what more is there."
He released Renji's hand, then inhaled sharply as Renji's arms wrapped around him and the redhead's mouth found his. He stiffened for a moment, then slowly relaxed in Renji's arms and returned the redhead's kisses tentatively. After several kisses, they pulled away from each other and stood, quietly looking into each others' eyes as the people around them blithely went about their business. Finally, Renji smiled.
"I'll be glad once we find Tetsuya and we get all of this straightened out. I am looking forward to getting to know you as you really are, Taichou."
Byakuya looked back at him, as stoic and quiet as ever.
"Come Renji," he said calmly, "We need to find my cousin."