Where My Heart Should Be
Chapter 1: Reflection
(This story is dedicated to my RL friend who suggested it. Containing faint notes of such faves as Between Twilight and Dawn and Two Ends of the Spectrum, it carves out its own unique place in the growing library of Spunky stories. I hope you all enjoy. Just to let you know, this is mpreg and will be angsty at times, but as is Spunky's way, Byakuya and Renji will form a strong, unbreakable bond as they face a terrifying situation together...Renji X Bya, some Aizen X Bya, and I plan for some possible Grimmjow X Ichigo as well as hints of other pairings. And yes, for those who enjoy seeing Tetsuya, he will have a role in the story, although the central figures will be Bya and Renji. Thanks so much for reading! ;) Spunky is grateful!)
"Not to complain, sir," said Renji, walking alongside Byakuya as the two approached Las Noches, "but I don't know why the sixth division was chosen for this mission. Isn't blowing shit up and creating mass destruction more the style of the eleventh?"
"Actually," said the noble, "If there is no blood involved, then Captain Zaraki has no interest. And, in any case, I chose this mission, myself."
"You did?" inquired Renji, looking surprised, "Huh...No disrespect to you, of course, Captain, but I also don't see you as one who really enjoys blowing things up either."
"Hmmm," mused the raven-haired captain, "Given what that man put my sister through, I think you and I will both enjoy watching his empire crumble, ne Renji?"
"You got that right," agreed the redhead, "Zabimaru and I will be happy to rain hell down on this place. Just say the word."
"We have secured a general agreement with the new leader of the hollows to end hostilities, as well as clearance to raze Las Noches. The new king has chosen another site for his palace. And, having sacrificed something of himself in the battle with Aizen, the Captain Commander was especially pleased when I approached him with the request for this mission."
Renji blinked questioningly.
"You mean, this wasn't just a mission you accepted, this was your idea?" he asked.
"Yes. I thought that, as a symbolic measure, it would do some good for the ones he damaged. There will be quite a few in attendance, including your friends from Karakura Town."
"Don't you mean, our friends, Captain?" asked Renji, "After what you did to help Rukia and me get..."
"I don't know what you are talking about, Renji," the noble said coolly, "I followed the orders I was given to the letter."
"Yeah, right," Renji chuckled, "You go ahead and stick to that story, Captain. But all of us know just what that small bit of help meant. As bad as things got, it took the efforts of all of us to bring that bastard and his band of merry hollows down."
Renji's smile faded slightly and features darkened.
"Although...as things went, I don't know what the hell I did that mattered. I know you only encouraged me to go to watch over Rukia, but I wasn't even there to protect her against that Espada that almost killed her. And you had to come to Las Noches, yourself to save her from that other creepy Espada that was going to finish her off."
"Stop going on about that, Renji," Byakuya said calmly, "You fought well, and Rukia did not die. Aizen has been brought to justice and we are about to bring down the last of his illusions of power. He is nothing now, and will be forgotten."
"Yeah," agreed Renji, regaining his smile, "That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside."
"It is pleasing to me, also."
They stopped speaking as they reached the gathering of battered towers that dotted the sands where Aizen had held power before. Several of the towers had been badly damaged, and the illusory sunny sky overhead had been broken, and allowed the night to peek through. They entered the courtyard of the main complex and found a crowd of others who had gathered to witness the final bits of the collapse of Aizen's kingdom. And what caught Renji's attention was the presence of a number of powerful hollows who stood with the gathered shinigamis and humans to watch and assist. He wasn't so surprised to see Nel in her child form, standing at Ichigo's side, but the close presence of Grimmjow with the ginger-haired youth left him blinking in wonder.
That guy was so determined to kill Ichigo. But then, he wasn't doing that because of Aizen. And in the end, Ichigo defended him when Noiitora tried to finish him. I guess Nel must have found him and healed him. They both just disappeared after the fighting was over.
Byakuya gathered the volunteers and sixth division personnel together and broke them up into teams. The groups moved off to address their assigned structures...to search thoroughly for any prisoners being held within, then to beat the buildings down until they became one with the cold sands.
Byakuya and Renji remained in the courtyard of the main building with Rukia, Ichigo, Uryu, Chad, Orihime, Nel and Grimmjow. Byakuya turned to look at the building, addressing the group while facing away from them.
"Renji, Rukia and I will explore the top floors of the tower. Uryu, Chad and Orihime can take the central floors and living areas. Ichigo, Nel and Grimmjow will search the lower floors and prison levels. Report back anything you find and we will meet back here in the courtyard when we have finished ensuring that the premises have been cleared. Be cautious, however, as our agreements with the hollow monarchy do not bar rogue hollows from attacking us. Stay together."
The group entered the main building and moved carefully through the damaged black marble entry and up the broken remains of the grand staircase. They turned in different directions, each group moving towards their assigned levels, and all feeling a sense of tension, even in the absence of Sousuke Aizen.
Byakuya led Renji and Rukia slowly through the upper levels, sending the two off to search on their own as he worked his way through the too quiet hallways and living spaces. Several hours later, they joined together again and stood outside the highest room in the tower.
"Beyond this doorway," Byakuya told them, "is Sousuke Aizen's personal quarters. I want you to be cautious as we search it, as we do not know if he may have set traps within. Stay close to me."
He motioned the two off to the side and raised his reiatsu until the building shook with it. He raised his hands and extended them in front of him.
"Hado #33, Soukatsui," he said calmly, releasing a huge blast of blue fire from his hands.
The large double doors blew off their hinges and flew into the breached room, slamming against the back wall and leaving the noise echoing in their ears. Byakuya entered the room first, and handily disarmed several traps, then motioned for the others to join him. Renji moved towards the noble, the hollow ringing still making his ears ache. He stood quietly as Rukia and Byakuya searched the room, gathering a number of files and records that they thought might be useful to the Gotei 13.
"Is something wrong, Renji?" Byakuya asked, noting that his vice captain had stopped and was rubbing the back of his neck and staring at the wall that the entry doors had hit.
"Huh..." Renji said, blinking slowly, "There was...just something odd about the sound...when the doors hit that wall. A hollow sound."
Byakuya's lips tightened and he slowly approached the wall, studying it carefully, and tapping in several places. He moved back, ordering Renji and Rukia behind him, then loosed another heavy blast that destroyed the wall and filled the room with smoke and dust. Byakuya stood aloof as Rukia and Renji coughed and covered their faces. Then the noble stepped forward, staring at a stairway that the wall had concealed. The three made their way cautiously forward, their footsteps echoing as they ascended the stairway and found a heavily locked and sealed door at the top.
"What do you make of that, Captain?" Renji asked, "What do you think is behind that door?"
"I am not certain," Byakuya said quietly, "But we will be very careful entering. It could be a final trap of some kind, or it could hold the deepest of Sousuke Aizen's secrets."
This time, the noble did not employ his power, but addressed the enchanted seals one-by-one, then stepped back and allowed Renji to address the more mechanical locks.
"Looks like my Inuzuri past is coming in handy, after all, ne Rukia?" the redhead chuckled, easily picking each lock and freeing the final bindings on the door.
Byakuya stepped in front of them again and slowly opened the door. The three entered the darkened room and immediately caught their breath in surprise. Where the tower was the tallest one, and seemed to end at the beginning of Aizen's illusion of sky, in truth, the tower had a large glass dome which extended up into the darkness of the natural sky above the illusion, leaving the room bathed in blue moon and starlight. Byakuya gazed silently up at through the glass as Rukia and Renji started into the room, letting their eyes adjust.
"There should be a light switch somewhere," Byakuya said absently, seemingly mesmerized by the starry sky and crescent moon.
"Right, Captain," said Renji, walking the edges of the room to look for it.
Rukia moved slowly forward, heading across the room towards the bed, which appeared to have been left unmade. The lights snapped on suddenly, nearly blinding the three.
"Sorry!" Renji hastily apologized.
He and Byakuya froze and Rukia made a sound of surprise as they realized that the rumpled bed was inhabited. A black-haired person laid, curled around the pillows and facing away from them, unmoving as they approached. At first, they thought the person might have been slain while asleep, a hidden, tragic victim of Aizen's cruelty. But as they reached the person, they could see the soft rise and fall of breathing. Byakuya reached the edge of the bed and scanned it carefully, then extended a gloved hand and touched the person on the shoulder.
A soft, masculine groan issued from the person, and he stirred sluggishly.
"Sousuke?" he said, starting to lift his head.
The three caught their breath in surprise at the sound of the man's voice, and their eyes widened as he sat up slowly, rubbing his eyes, then looking at them as if he couldn't quite focus.
"S-sweet...kami!" exclaimed Renji, looking from the man in the bed to the raven-haired captain of the sixth division, "Captain? He...that man! He looks just like you!"
The man in the bed squinted up at them, blinking as his eyes cleared, then staring up at Byakuya with a haunted expression. Gray eyes met gray eyes and a silent message passed between the two.
"Who are you?" asked Byakuya, glaring down at the man.
"You know who I am," he replied, his face going deathly pale, "I am the man you all came here to kill. I am Byakuya Kuchiki, former head of the Kuchiki clan and former captain of the sixth division. Sousuke told me that you would come...and that you would kill me if you found me. Where is he? Where is Lord Aizen?"
Rukia and Renji gasped in surprise as Byakuya struck the man with a strong shock of kido, making him collapse instantly onto the bed.
"Renji, bring him, and come with me," Byakuya said sternly.
"Y-yeah, sure Captain," Renji said, moving forward and lifting the unconscious shinigami into his arms.
He moved over and stood near the doorway, holding the senseless man as Rukia and Byakuya completed their search of the room. The three then descended the stairway and worked their way back to the entry, and out to the courtyard, where the other search groups were waiting. Gasps and harsh whispers erupted at the sight of Renji, carrying the unconscious man who looked like the redhead's own captain. Renji felt the man shiver and glanced down at him, surprised he could have awakened so soon. He turned back as Byakuya ordered everyone out of the courtyard, and carried the man to the top of a nearby sand dune. The dark gray eyes watched and he trembled softly as Byakuya's petals enclosed and vaporized the building.
"Just tell me," the man said, barely audibly, "Is he dead, Renji? Did they kill Sousuke? I know that you despise me, but do me one last kindness before you have your revenge on me...and tell me. What happened to Sousuke Aizen?"
Renji glared into the man's eyes, searching for signs of what must be Aizen's illusions around the man. But for all his eyes could see, he was looking at his own captain, albeit rumpled and dressed in only a soft, white yukata, barefoot, and his raven colored hair tumbled. He had never seen Byakuya Kuchiki look so vulnerable, not since that day in the hospital after the confrontation with Aizen on Sokyoku Hill.
"That son of a bitch can't die," Renji said in a low, hateful voice, "So they have him locked up in the deepest, darkest corner of Central 46...which is where you will be if you are found to be his accomplice. Be quiet and do what you are told. They might let you live."
"I do not expect so," the man said, sagging against Renji's shoulder.
Renji caught his breath in surprise as the man burrowed more deeply into his shoulder, breathing in Renji's scent and closing his eyes.
"Will you do something for me, Renji?" he asked calmly.
The redhead looked down at him warily.
"I am powerless. I am defenseless, and everything has been taken from me. I have lost my home, my family, my place as a captain, my zanpakutou...even my self respect, as I was forced to accept help from the last man in the world I ever thought I would. And I realize now that I should have just died that day. So...I ask you to undo that mistake. While we are alone and my former friends and family celebrate Sousuke Aizen's fall and my capture, I ask you to finish what you started that day. End this now...please."
Renji was quiet for a moment as the man's dark eyes opened and looked up at him again. His lips tightened and he shook his head firmly.
"I don't know who the fuck you are," Renji said in a low voice, "but I know you are not Byakuya Kuchiki. For one thing, my captain would never have gotten into bed with the man who hurt his sister and his friends and fellow captains. And for another thing, my captain would not have asked for a cowardly, quiet execution. He would have stood proudly, even as they led him to the soukyoku. And Byakuya Kuchiki would never, under any circumstances, shed tears."
He brushed away a tear that had strayed onto the man's face and looked more deeply into his shattered eyes.
"And if by some ridiculous chance, you are my captain?" the redhead went on, "I don't want to know. I want to remember you the way I know you...proud, unyielding, strong. You are nothing like that man. And if you are convicted of siding with Sousuke Aizen, then you will suffer every bit of punishment Central 46 hands down."
He was surprised again by the man's reaction. His stricken eyes held Renji's as though they couldn't break away, and from somewhere inside, new strength emerged and bolstered his faded pride.
"You are right, of course, Renji Abarai. Thank you for bringing me to my senses," the man said, his words sending a hard chill down the redhead's spine, "Despite everything, I am glad for the time that we had together as comrades. I know that you pursued me only to try to destroy me...but...you love my sister, and I know you will take care of her when I am gone. I will trouble you no more."
He rested his head against Renji's shoulder again, watching as Las Noches passed into ashes. Then Renji set him on his feet, gently binding his hands behind him and bringing him along as the shinigamis passed through the open garganta and into the training grounds beneath Urahara's shop. They opened a senkaimon and passed into Soul Society, emerging at the main senkaimon doors and making their way to the gates of the Seireitei. They passed through and paused for a moment as Byakuya approached Renji and the restrained man.
"Should I take him to Central 46?" asked Renji.
"No," said Byakuya, "He is to be fully examined at the fourth division, then placed under guard at the sixth division."
"Whoever he is, he appears to be of my family. If such is proven, then he falls under the jurisdiction of the noble clans, not Central 46."
"But, I thought that if there was treason..."
"He has not been accused of that crime, and in fact, there is no evidence, as of yet, that he was anything but a captive of Aizen's. That he was sealed in that room is evidence enough that he was Aizen's prisoner. We will analyze whatever we are able to learn about him and decide from there, what to do with him."
"Now, escort him to the fourth division. And wait there until I come for you. I will be along after I make a report to the Captain Commander."
Renji turned the prisoner towards the fourth division, shaking his head at the oddity of it all, and wondering what Aizen had been thinking when he locked the man away.
It must be how he's getting a last laugh in, messing with our heads like this. This isn't my captain. I would know if he was. I know Byakuya Kuchiki like no one else does...