Chapter 15: Haze

(This chapter is the last of the re-posts, but guess what? I have another, handy dandy all NEW chapter almost ready to post today too! Be watching for that. Love, Spunky)

"Unohana taichou," Renji said urgently, "I don't understand. Byakuya was in a lot of pain. Those bastards killed our baby! I get that he's going to be pretty damned wrecked after that. But...he's..."

"Catatonic," finished the healer.

"But why?" asked Tetsuya, "How did he become that way?"

The healer sighed, then closed her eyes and raised a privacy shield around them. Tetsuya and Renji exchanged glances, then looked back at her questioningly.

"I want to be certain that we have privacy while we discuss the implications here," Unohana taichou said solemnly.

"Then," said Tetsuya, "you think that something illegal has occurred?"

"I think that most likely," the healer said, frowning, "The problem is the distance between what I sense is true, and what I currently have the ability to prove."

"Please," Renji said in a desperate tone, "just tell me what is making him fall apart like this. I just want him to be all right. He's going to be okay, isn't he?"

The healer sighed worriedly.

"I do not know at this point what Kuchiki taichou's outcome will be. Medically speaking, he appears to have suffered a complete emotional collapse."

"Shit..." breathed Renji, biting at his lips nervously, "Byakuya? An emotional collapse? How can that be right? That's crazy!"

"Abarai-san is right," insisted Tetsuya, "Whatever has happened here, my cousin is exceptionally strong. Despite the termination of his pregnancy, I cannot believe that my cousin would have had such a reaction. As much as I would expect him to mourn, I would think that with all of us around him and his own considerable will, he would manage through the pain."

"I agree," said Unohana, "Under reasonable circumstances, Kuchiki taichou would have had the internal strength to weather this."

"Then..." mused Tetsuya, "you think that he was manipulated somehow?"

"As I said, I have no ability to prove that," said the healer, "Medically speaking, the evidence supports a complete emotional collapse, and the proper medical response, considering that he took the extreme measures of breaking into Central 46 and attacking Aizen Sousuke would indicate a threat to himself and others that would dictate a course of commitment to the psychiatric ward and corrective therapy."

Renji shivered at the thought.

"Tell me that you don't think that's true," he pleaded, shaking his head.

"I do not," said Unohana, meeting their eyes meaningfully, "I do not, for one moment, believe that is the case at all...but someone wants very much for us to believe that."

Renji's lips tightened and his eyes grew intense, his reiatsu burning hotly beneath the surface of his skin.

"Unohana taichou, I want you to tell me honestly. Do you think that what Byakuya told us could be true? Could he be right that Central 46 lied about the gender of the baby and that they terminated it?"

Could it be true?" repeated the healer, "I would say, definitely yes, it could. But for me to act upon that belief in an official manner, I must be able to document it. And someone has gone to a bit of trouble to blind me and tie my hands. Still, that does not mean that I am going to let it happen."

"What can we do?" asked Tetsuya, "If there is no evidence..."

"We need time and to position ourselves to get evidence. But first, we need to help Kuchiki taichou."

"What can you do for him?" Renji asked worriedly, "He's completely out of it!"

"Yes, he is," agreed the healer, "and although it would seem on the surface that stress or intense emotion was the culprit, if our suspicions of tampering are correct, then someone must have used a drug or kido spell to cause him to fall into a catatonic state."

She leaned over the noble, resting her hands gently on his chest and forehead.

"A kido spell leaves a signature, even if the caster's reiatsu fades, and I do not sense the spell or any foreign reiatsu. It leads me to the conclusion that a drug was used. I tested for drugs, but I was not able to determine that any drug was present. Of course, there are several drugs that are capable of inducing this kind of catatonia, and are also difficult to detect, as they dissipate quickly."

"So, you think that it was one of those drugs that was used to place my cousin in a catatonic state?" Tetsuya asked, his expression growing deadly.

"I believe so, yes," admitted Unohana, and I believe that this is not the first time he was drugged."

"What do you mean?" asked Renji, staring.

"You said that Kuchiki taichou's memory of the happenings in Central 46 differ from the official accounting?"

"Yeah," said Renji, "Central 46 says they terminated the pregnancy, and that it was a girl. Byakuya insists that the baby was born alive and was a boy."

"And you understand," said the healer, "that if, perchance, the baby was born alive, he would have instantly had citizen's rights which would have protected him. At that point, Central 46 would not have been allowed to harm him, nor to keep him from Kuchiki taichou."

"Which gives them a motive to lie and to try to cover up the birth, so that they could..." Tetsuya began.

He paused and frowned.

"But if they were just covering up that the baby was born before they killed him, then the baby would have been killed...but then, why lie about the gender?"

"Shit..." hissed Renji, "Byakuya said a few times that he heard the baby cry! Unohana taichou, could the baby be alive after all?"

"And if so, what is Central 46 trying to do with him?" added Tetsuya.

"Kuchiki taichou broke into Central 46 and he approached Aizen Sousuke, his rapist and the other biological parent of the child. And he did so sensibly, I believe, based on his memory of what happened."

"But, what did he want from Aizen?" pondered Renji.

He caught his breath in realization.

"He thought they might be using the baby to manipulate Aizen!" he concluded, "It makes sense!"

"Yes, it does," agreed the healer.

"And yet, we doubted him," said Tetsuya, his blue eyes saddening.

"It is understandable that you had doubts," said Unohana, "The situation was carefully manipulated..."

"To make Byakuya look bat shit crazy," Renji said, shaking his head in fury, "To turn us against him so that no one would believe him and we'd waste time trying to 'fix' him!"

"Exactly."

"But...if this was a councilor or group within Central 46," said Tetsuya, "then how are we going to find the truth?"

"I am not certain," said the healer, "But, I think that finding the truth must take a back seat to caring for Kuchiki taichou, for now."

"Can you do something to wake him up?" asked Renji, "If it was a drug, can you counteract it?"

"I could try," said the healer, "but without knowing what he was given, and in what quantity, I would be working blind, and could actually do more harm then good. No, I cannot counteract it without more information. However, I do have an idea."

"What do you have in mind?" asked Renji.

"Urahara Kisuke, because of his work in the Maggot's Nest as a jailor, has a great deal of knowledge of behavioral science and medicine. I think that he might be able to isolate the problem and assist Kuchiki taichou in waking. So, I am going to send Kuchiki taichou to him in Karakura Town. And I will recommend that you accompany him."

"But I'm on probation for taking off with him before," objected Renji, "I am not allowed to..."

"I will handle that. I want the two of you to escort the healers who will take Kuchiki taichou to Karakura Town."

"Of course," Tetsuya said quickly.

"Yeah," agreed Renji, "Sure thing, but..."

He glanced down at Byakuya with a haunted expression.

"Unohana taichou, you...do think that he'll be okay in the end, right?" he asked hesitantly.

The healer smiled at him, encouragingly.

"I think that with all of us supporting him, he will recover," she said, resolutely, "We shall simply refuse to accept any other outcome."

XXXXXXXXXX

Why can't I move?

I remember looking into Aizen Sousuke's uncovered eye, clawing at him and screaming. I remember a sudden shock, a stinging sensation, then...two sounds.

My baby crying.

My rapist laughing.

Why is this happening?

I have always been strong enough to overcome whatever tried to hold me down, to force me back, to tear me away. With powerful hands, I always held on to what I protected, and I shielded the ones around me. Because I knew that I could depend on no one to shield me. The ones who tried, were swept away long ago. I understood, once they were gone that I had to be strong enough to stand alone. And up until now, I have been.

But something has wrapped itself around my body, infected my mind and frozen my heart. It holds me so tightly that I cannot see nor hear nor otherwise sense what it is. And as much as I thought that I left it behind, the child I was longs for rescue. For a hand to appear and capture mine, for a warm, loving voice to speak to me...to say, 'I am here for you,' for a loving heart to say 'I won't abandon you.'

"Byakuya."

Renji?

Are you really there?

"I just want you to know I'm right here with you."

It is you...

"I'm sorry, Byakuya. I don't know. Maybe if I hadn't bought into their shit so easily...maybe this wouldn't have happened."

"Abarai-san, do not blame yourself. You are not alone in having been taken in."

Tetsuya.

Of course you would be at my side.

"He's right, Renji. We all tried to convince Nii-sama that he had to be mistaken."

Rukia.

I still don't understand how you forgave me, much less how I earned your love.

"There are some pretty intense games being played here. We are going to have to be careful getting to the bottom of this."

Shihoin Yoruichi?

Hmmm...

"I have some ideas, but this is going to take some time."

Urahara Kisuke.

Odd...

"If anyone can get to the bottom of what's going on, we know you can."

Kurosaki Ichigo.

I think my pride may be bent by that one.

But perhaps I was wrong.

I thought before that I had to stand alone. That I stood in the path of all adversity and cut it apart to shield the ones that I protected. But the truth, it appears, is quite different. Because, just as I protected them...

They now protect me.

It makes me cringe to need that.

But...

It also makes me that much less alone.

Thank you.

All of you.

XXXXXXXXXX

"Urahara-san," said Tetsuya, watching as the shopkeeper mulled over the results of the tests he had run, "did you find anything to indicate what was done to my cousin?"

Kisuke frowned and nodded.

"You know," he answered slowly, "I always say that what isn't there is as telling as what is. And even with nothing to show it, everything in me agrees with what Unohana taichou relayed to me. Kuchiki-san was drugged. And whatever it is, it is still able to affect him without remaining in detectible levels in his system. Luckily for us, there are only a few compounds with that effect, so I should have a fix on what it is soon."

"Can you do anything to help him in the meantime?" asked Rukia, "He can't even move."

"I already gave him something that should bring him around. But it will be a while before it takes full effect. And even once it does, he is going to be weak. You know he's not going to like that very much, so he will probably be out of sorts...not himself. But at least we'll be able to see if he remembers anything about what happened."

He leaned over Byakuya and examined him briefly.

"Looks like his reiatsu and the baby's are falling out of balance again," he commented, "but other than that, he seems stable enough, for now. I think we should call it a night. Renji, why don't you use that bonding you do with him to settle his reiatsu? Ichigo and Tetsuya-san, you two can be on first guard duty."

"You think that someone might try to get to Byakuya here?" asked Ichigo.

"They went to a lot of trouble to keep him quiet," said Kisuke, "And I'm working on a few theories about who and why."

"Obviously, at least one Central 46 councilor must be involved," said Tetsuya, "One would have to be to explain what happened when Byakuya-sama was apprehended."

"I agree. And with the information you gave me, I will have a list of possible suspects soon. It will help if we get Kuchiki-san working on at least a few thrusters. Anything's better than this. Shit that can do this to him is just scary, I tell you."

"I agree," said Yoruichi, "but we'll get to the bottom of it."

She turned and nodded to Rukia.

"You should go in and check on Orihime. She was pretty wiped out after working on Byakuya."

"It was damned freaky to see something she couldn't easily reject," said Ichigo, shaking his head.

"Well, she made progress. I think between the healing she did and what I gave Byakuya, we should have some kind of positive response by morning. We should all get some sleep."

"He's right," said Yoruichi, "Ichigo? Rukia and I will relieve you and Tetsuya on guard duty in a few hours."

"Okay," said the ginger-haired youth, turning to Tetsuya, "C-mon Tetsuya."

The noble flinched at the more casual use of his name, but nodded and followed. Renji watched as the others left the bedroom, then slipped out of his shihakushou and pulled the hair tie out of his hair, letting the long red strands drop down onto his shoulders. Too weary to braid it, he left it tumbled and loose, and he laid down in the bed, next to his sleeping mate. He curled himself warmly around Byakuya's resting form, sliding his arms around the noble and closing his eyes as he began the gentle bonding.

Even still incapacitated, Byakuya felt the warmth of his husband's body, the tickle of red hair against his skin, and he registered the deep affection in the hands that caressed his lower abdomen as balancing reiatsu flowed into him.

I want to move.

I want to tell you how grateful I am you are here, Renji.

Why can't I move?

"I love you," whispered Renji, kissing his earlobe.

I love you too.