Chapter 2: Lost Heart

Tetsuya flinched inwardly his breath catching in his sleep, as a powerful vision rose up in his sleeping mind. And oddly, as though a pathway had opened between the two, the images playing out in Kuchiki Tetsuya's head revealed themselves to the mind of the man sleeping in the bed nearby.

He stood alone on a small rise surrounded in creeping mist, his eyes on the full moon that shined brightly above the heavy fog bank. He thought he might have heard the soft scrape of a footstep behind him, and listened intently for a moment. Hearing nothing more, he turned his eyes once again to the radiant moon. He watched as wisps of cloud meandered about above him in the night sky. Clothed in a fine formal kimono and cloaked, his body was warm. There was though, he found, a slight chill on the inside.

"I have felt this several times today," he whispered, "This strange feeling like eyes watching from the shadows. I wonder..."

He was distracted out of his thoughts by the arrival of a hell butterfly, and he nodded to the insect to give its message.

But before the message could begin, a sudden flash of bright light in front of him blinded him. He heard the hiss of a flash step and tried to flash step away from it, but only found himself captured in wickedly strong arms and held tightly. A cloaked man appeared in front of him and snapped a silver band around his wrist, sealing away his powers. An adept fighter, he moved instantly to break free of the one holding him, but the man sent a wicked jolt of kido through his restrained body, weakening his knees and making his head spin and the area around him darken ominously. He heard a few last words, hissed into his ear as he fell.

"Poor bastard. Someone really wants you dead."

He didn't expect to wake again, so was surprised when sensation began to return. He opened his eyes and was soundly shocked to find himself being carried across the unmistakable desert of Hueco Mundo, in the arms of what he sensed was a powerful hollow. He heard the snarl of a feral hollow dog, and heard the hollow that was carrying him mutter a curse. Tetsuya began to struggle, and as the hollow was forced to attend to him, the hollow dog attacked, swiftly firing itself at the hollow's throat and killing him almost before Tetsuya's body dropped from the thing's nerveless hands.

He ran then, deprived of even his flash step and desperately trying to reach the lighted area ahead of him. But as in the worst of nightmares, Tetsuya's feet couldn't move fast enough. Something struck him just short of the light, and sharp teeth began tearing at his skin...

Tetsuya came awake suddenly, and sat up, screaming in pain and fury. His skin still felt the searing burn of the hollow dog's bites and slashes, and at first, his eyes refused to register where he was. He lost all certainty that he hadn't returned to that place in the desert, where his life had nearly ended the night before. He felt someone's arms around him and screamed again, tearing at them desperately, as a warm, commanding voice sounded in his ear, and a heavy throb of kido sent him back into senselessness.

He drifted in and out of consciousness for a time, a feeling like fire on his skin. Several times, he felt the cool, gentle hands of the one he was sure must be Aizen's healer, touching his face as the old man's soothing voice whispered encouragement and soft pulses of the man's healing power flowed through Tetsuya's limp body. He rose up out of sleep some time later, to find himself dressed in a fresh yukata and bundled comfortably into Aizen's bed. Aizen's cool, dispassionate eyes gazed down into his, and the gentle fingers that touched his face sent him off to sleep with a soft admonishment to rest.

Even as he slept then, he felt Aizen's presence, sometimes arriving to question the healer or the quiet attendant who never seemed to leave him, except when Aizen himself returned to the room and settled down next to Tetsuya to sleep. And Tetsuya marveled even in his distant state, how the man could sleep comfortably, although in the presence of a perfect stranger...and a young man who didn't even know himself, if he was a safe person.

He thought again about the dream he had had...about being dressed in an expensive kimono and looking up at the moon.

It seemed in that vision, as though I held a position of some status and importance, Tetsuya mused, But then, I am marked on my body as a prisoner. Itamigiri...honorable pain. How can both of these things be true? And who was it who attacked me? Who gave me to that hollow? Is all of that what really happened to me out there is the desert?

"Ah, you finally appear to be lucid again," said Aizen's calm, smooth voice, making Tetsuya blink to clear the sight that went with the voice, "I am glad to see this, as I wasn't sure that you were going to remain with those of us still living, Tetsuya."

"Wh-what do you mean?" Tetsuya said, his voice shaking slightly, "What happened to me?"

Not many attacked by the hollow dogs are lucky enough to survive the attack," Aizen explained, "but those who do can suffer from a reaction between their reiatsu and that of the hollow dog. When that happens, if quick measures are not taken, the infected being will experience physical discomforts like pain, fever, sweating, nausea and losses of consciousness. Left untreated, the toxin attacks and erodes first the stability of the mind, then it changes the very nature of the body. The infected will, in short, go mad, then die and hollowfy."

"H-hollowfy," Tetsuya managed, his face paling.

"Yes," said Aizen, "But do not worry. My personal healer attended you carefully during your illness, and he was able to isolate and slowly eradicate the invasive reiatsu. You were unconscious and in the throes of horrid nightmares for several nights, but finally seem improved today. I am glad. You have me intrigued and it would have been a shame to have lost you before making myself better acquainted with you."

"Why do I feel that your words have several meanings?" mused the younger man.

Aizen's lips twitched slightly in amusement.

"Because you are an intelligent young man, Tetsuya," he answered, "As innocent as you are in body, your heart is far wiser than should be for one so young. I can only conclude that it is the influence of the events surrounding your incarceration that opened your eyes to the more complex nature of people."

"You mean that I have learned to place my trust more selectively?"

Aizen took a soft breath.

"You show great courage, beginning to loose yourself from the need to 'trust' or 'have faith' in others, Tetsuya. Not everyone has the strength or conviction to do that."

"I am not convinced that I would," replied Tetsuya, frowning, "I do not know, of course, but I think that perhaps my incarceration merely made me more fearful of trusting. But even then, I think I must have been close to someone."

"But if you were, then why are you still virginal?" Aizen asked, smirking.

"You seem very interested in my innocence of body," Tetsuya said, blushing, "And do not think that I do not understand that you fully intend to deprive me of it. Though what trick or deception you will use is, as of yet unclear to me, you were clear enough in what you said when you imprisoned me here."

"When I imprisoned you?" Aizen queried, looking amused, "Why Tetsuya, I told you before, it would not have done to simply let you go. You couldn't have survived to reach the Seireitei or living world, and in fact, cannot reach those places on your own. You were badly injured and needed medical care and rest."

"Which you have decided I must receive here, in your room, and in your bed," Tetsuya mused.

"Yes, well, I am sure that in your first moments alone, you concluded that I was not lying when I told you that my bedroom is really the safest place for you in all of Hueco Mundo. There are many dangers here that I can protect you from."

"How kind of you," Tetsuya said skeptically, "as long as I do not mind having you manipulate me into giving myself to you."

Aizen sighed.

"What makes you so sure that I will deceive you?" he asked, shaking his head, "I have been open with you about my intentions and although I admit that I will make advances, I have already said that I prefer seduction to force. And I have no plans to hide anything as that seduction commences. In fact, let us take that first step, Tetsuya."

Tetsuya gave him a dark look.

"I told you that I am not stupid," he said, an edge of anger in his voice, "This seduction began as soon as I was lucid. Every word you have said to me, every bit of our interaction has been a part of this intricate game you play with me. But as much as you will perhaps possess my body in the end, you will never possess the part of me that is far more worth having. But then, engaging one's heart is a terribly dangerous thing, is it not, Aizen Sousuke? And all of your talk about trust being a thing that only weak people do? Is it really not to hide your own fear of letting someone close to you?"

Tetsuya went still and silent as Aizen turned so that he laid partially on top of the younger man, took firm but gentle hold of his wrists and held them down, then brought his lips close to Tetsuya's blushing earlobe.

"You should be more careful in the things that you say, Tetsuya," he said in a chillingly calm tone, but one that somehow still conveyed in no uncertain terms that the younger man had overstepped a boundary.

Tetsuya stared up into Aizen's still serene expression, quivering inside at the glint of dangerous malevolence in the man's narrowed eyes.

"First of all, I clearly remember informing you that I am to be called Aizen-sama. Secondly, when I spoke to you of seduction, I wasn't simply speaking of convincing you to part willingly with your virginity. As protected as you think it is? Your heart is already dangerously close to falling. Third, I do not fear anything, least of all someone opening the doorway to my heart, because that slammed shut years ago. And finally...going back to the seduction? It did not need to wait until you woke, Tetsuya," Aizen breathed hotly into his ear, "The seduction began the moment that you fell at my feet."

Tetsuya opened his mouth to speak and instantly found it claimed by one that was hot, commanding and decidedly wanton. Aizen's tongue thrust in between Tetsuya's parted lips, snaking along his, curling around it and sliding up and down, before thrusting in deeper. Tetsuya groaned in protest, his body twisting to try to free itself, but only trapped more firmly as Aizen's hips pressed down, and he felt the heat and pressure of the other man's hardness through their clothes. He felt a sudden strange flicker inside his belly somewhere, then gasped as a shock of blinding pain ripped through his body, sending him crashing back into blackness.

Aizen stared in surprise and quickly summoned a healer. A few moments later, the healer who had seen Tetsuya through his illness returned to the room.

"What is it, Aizen-sama?" the man asked, "Has Tetsuya-san had a relapse?"

"I am not sure," replied Aizen, leaning over the unconscious shinigami and touching his face gently, "He seemed to be much better, but then suddenly he made a sound as though he was in horrible pain and he passed out."

"And what was he doing at the time when he lost consciousness?" the healer asked.

Aizen smirked.

"I was kissing him," he answered sedately.

"You were...?" the healer began, "Aizen-sama, did Gin-san not tell you that this man was fitted with a device to control his sexual behavior?"

"Hmmm," said Aizen, "He did say that there was a device or seal that protected Tetsuya's virginity, but he did not say how it worked, of that it would harm Tetsuya if I kissed him."

"Ah," said the healer, "The technology is complicated, especially considering that it was placed some time ago. We haven't been able to work out exactly how to neutralize and remove it."

"You can't just shatter it, as you would a normal power seal?" asked Aizen, "Gin should have had the power to do that."

"Normally, I would agree," said the healer, "and Gin-san was set to try that. But, I noticed protections on this device. It is bonded with Tetsuya-san's core spirit center and removal will be extremely tricky. I am not saying that it is impossible, but it is much more involved than merely shattering a seal."

"I see," said Aizen, shaking his head and smiling down at Tetsuya, "So, it seems my plans for him are on hold until this is seen to."

He slid out of the bed and began to dress as the healer gently infused Tetsuya's body with healing reiatsu, then slowly brought him awake. Tetsuya's eyes opened and blinked several times, before coming to rest on the old healer."

"Are...are you the one who saw me through my illness before?" he asked softly.

"Why, yes...yes, I did heal you," said the old man, "My name is Sato Michio. I am Aizen-sama's personal healer."

"I see," said Tetsuya, "Well, thank you. I am grateful to you for healing me."

"Oh, Tetsuya-san, I was just doing my job. It was no trouble."

"Perhaps not," said the young man, "but I am only still alive and breathing because of your intercession."

"All's well that ends well, young master," said the healer affably, "Now then, you had a bit of a shock to your spirit centers. It seems that your former jailors fitted you with a fairly complex device that incapacitated you when Aizen-sama attempted to kiss you."

"Ah," said Tetsuya, sitting up straighter and brushing several strands of wavy black hair away from his eyes, "I wonder if I should be furious with them, or thankful in that it seems to have protected my virtue."

"Is it such a horrid thing to imagine?" Aizen said, sliding Kyouka Suigetsu into the belt at his waist, "I assure you, I am a very adept lover, Tetsuya. I am sure that when we dispense with that device, you will not be disappointed."

Aizen's lips curved into a wicked smirk.

"You may, however, still be unconscious in the end."

"Ugh," sighed the noble, rolling his eyes as Aizen returned to his bedside and gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek.

"Now then," said Aizen, "Your attendant will be about soon to see to your needs. And if you wish, you may have him take you on a walk to stretch your legs. After all, I am sure you do not wish to be cooped up in this room for the rest of the time we are here."

"I thought that you said that it was the safest place for me here," said Tetsuya, frowning.

"You will be safe enough as long as you are attended," Aizen assured him, "Just, do not stray, Tetsuya. The hollows, I will warn you right now, will not hesitate to kill you if you do."

"I will keep that in mind," Tetsuya said, looking down at himself for a moment.

"Is something wrong?" Aizen asked.

"Well," said the younger man, "I was wondering if you might have something other than this yukata for me to wear."

"Yes," said Aizen, regaining his smirk, "I imagine it would be inappropriate, and too much temptation for the hollows around here, seeing you in that luscious yukata. Your attendant will provide something for you. You can save that lovely yukata for me."

He laughed softly at the flush that returned to Tetsuya's face and throat, and left the room. The healer concluded his examination and exited a few minute later, leaving Tetsuya alone. He slipped out of bed, returning to the window seat to again look out into the darkness. As he gazed up at the moon, he caught sight of something moving in the distance, and caught his breath softly.

A short distance away, a tall black stallion stood on a small rise, looking in Tetsuya's direction through eyes that reflected a lovely blue hue, much like his own.

"That is not a hollow," he mused, looking more closely.

The beast met his eyes again, and Tetsuya again heard something odd buzzing in his mind, just beyond his ability to register. He shook his head and sighed in frustration.

"What does this mean?" he whispered, "Whose are you? And why are you here?"

He was distracted for a moment as the bedroom door opened and a young male hollow stepped into the room. Tetsuya couldn't help but wonder at the youth's long, wavy and wild white hair, pretty silver eyes and kind, boyish face.

"Tetsuya-san," said the youth, "I am Miki. Aizen-sama has ordered me to attend you."

He set down the tray of tea and snacks that he had brought, then surprised Tetsuya by sitting down in the window seat and pouring tea for both of them.

"What were you looking at?" he asked, sipping at the tea as Tetsuya did the same, "Was there something outside?"

"I saw a stallion," said Tetsuya, "It was all black."

"A hollow horse?" asked the attendant, tilting his head curiously.

"No," said Tetsuya, "This was a real horse."

"Odd," said Miki, "I have never heard of one coming here before."

"Never?" asked Tetsuya.

"Never," the hollow said, shaking his head.

His eyes followed Tetsuya's and he smiled.

"Ah, you were teasing me," he laughed, "There is nothing there, Tetsuya-san!"

"But..." Tetsuya said, blinking, then realizing that the youth was right.

"It is all right," Miki said, bracingly, "Tetsuya-san has been very ill. It must have just been an odd reflection. Pay it no mind, young master. Come now. You should eat. Perhaps your malnourishment is causing you to hallucinate."

"But, I didn't..." Tetsuya began.

"I was joking, Tetsuya-san, but still, you should eat."

Tetsuya turned to look out the window one more time, but found, once again that the stallion was gone.

Maybe I am seeing things, he mused, seeing things and hearing things...not good.

Sighing softly in resignation, he turned away from the window and joined Miki in indulging in the snacks that Miki had brought.