Chapter 11: Demon Inside Me
(I got the feeling that the previous version of this chapter didn't meet the goals I had for it, so this is the revised and superior version. Thanks for your patience while I sorted this out. :) Enjoy this 'new, improved' chapter 11!)
"Why Kuchiki Byakuya, my sweet little plaything, what brings you to the depths of hell?"
Byakuya approached the heavily bound prisoner slowly, his footsteps echoing softly in the room as he moved.
"Did you miss me?" Aizen went on.
"You refer to this cell, to those bindings as hell?" the noble mused, stopping in front of the man and glaring down at him, "You do not know the meaning of the word, This place is a paradise compared to the damnation that you truly deserve for what you have done."
Aizen's smile was chilling.
"Are you speaking about the crimes I was actually tried for?" he asked silkenly, "or is this about what I did to you personally?"
Byakuya spotted a nearby chair and placed it in front of the bound man, then sat down, facing him.
"I was speaking of your crimes in total, actually," the noble went on, studying him quietly, "And while you will never stand trial for what you did to me, I am relieved that you are here and unable to inflict further damage on me, or anyone else anymore. Yes, that is a great comfort."
Aizen gazed at him appraisingly for a moment.
"Byakuya, why are you here?" he asked, watching the noble's lovely face as he considered the question.
Byakuya looked back at him calmly.
"When one is surrounded by darkness," he said finally, "everything looks threatening, even things that have no power to harm us...a robe on a chair, a bundle of clothing on the floor, reflections of light in a looking glass."
"Ah, you believe that I am harmless now, is that it, Byakuya? You think that you are 'safe' from me?"
"I do not delude myself into thinking that you will ever be harmless, but...you are like the beast that has been muzzled and chained, Aizen Sousuke. You are free to lunge and snarl at me, but you cannot reach me, nor can your teeth penetrate my skin."
"So you believe," Aizen said, smirking, "but you have not answered my question, Byakuya. Why are you here?"
"I suppose that I need what any other would, given the circumstances. I am here to look my abuser in the face, to acknowledge what happened, and to put it behind me."
"But it is already behind you, you understand," Aizen replied, "As you said, the beast has been muzzled and chained. You are no longer an innocent teen, Byakuya. You are a proud clan leader and taichou. You have grown wise, and may I say, even more beautiful. If I was not trapped in this place, I would be enjoying you thoroughly while contemplating the spoils of a battle won. It was my plan, having trapped you in Hueco Mundo, to return and capture you and to make you a 'mother' to my progeny so that they would carry on my power and your beauty."
"And just as before, you felt the need to steal that from me?" Byakuya asked, his frown deepening, "It is ironic, isn't it?"
"What is ironic?"
"It is ironic that had you approached me honestly, I might have loved you."
Aizen's uncovered eye widened.
"I loved the person who I thought you were," Byakuya explained, "the gentle scholar who enjoyed studying history, astronomy, sciences and excelled in calligraphy and art. I found you to be intelligent and wise, kind and thoughtful. When you were not hypnotizing and raping me, you sincerely tried to help me improve in the development of my abilities. And you saw potential in me that no one else seemed to see. Had you put your arms around me and only told me that I meant something to you, I would have given myself to you willingly."
"So, then," Aizen surmised, "In reality, I stole nothing that you wouldn't have given me anyway?"
"No. You stole what belonged to the man you represented yourself to be. Perhaps that person never existed in reality, but he was a part of my reality, and when he disappeared, to be replaced with you, I was devastated."
"But if you understand that Aizen Sousuke, the gentle scholar, was just a construct and that he never really existed, then why come to me, Byakuya? I never loved you. I lured you to me, hypnotized you and took advantage of you repeatedly. When you became pregnant, I killed the child inside you. And perhaps you don't realize, but when you were married, it wasn't the 'hard life in the Rukongai' that killed Hisana."
"What?" Byakuya whispered, his eyes rounding, "You...killed Hisana? You...?"
"Poisoned her slowly," Aizen said quietly, his words echoing chillingly off the prison walls. You never figured that out? How unobservant. But then, the healers never discovered it either, did they? Had they uncovered what was really happening, they could have saved her, Byakuya. Ironic, ne?"
"Why? Why would you do that? If I was a mere plaything to you, why would you...?"
Aizen's uncovered eye blinked slowly.
"I don't appreciate other people playing with my toys."
Byakuya's eyes darkened and his reiatsu rose dangerously.
"Hisana was my friend. My very closest friend."
"She touched something that belonged to me," Aizen said curtly.
"I do not belong to you," Byakuya said, standing, "I never did. What you took from me was stolen. All of it!"
"But, by your own admission, you would have given in to me anyway."
"No. I would have given it to the Aizen Sousuke I knew then, but never to you! And it was not the gentle Aizen taichou who hypnotized and raped me. It was you!"
"Yes," Aizen agreed, "I did all of those things to you. I saw you, a young, lovely and powerful noble heir, and I used that image of the gentle Aizen taichou to deceive you. I waited until we were alone, then hypnotized and raped you repeatedly. I purged your mind of the memories so that I could repeat the crime hundreds of times over decades, Byakuya. And when you were impregnated, I destroyed the evidence so that it would not expose what I was doing, so that it could continue endlessly. I did all of this, and only stopped when I left for Hueco Mundo. But I never felt an ounce of remorse, and I fully intended to take possession of you and use you as a consort, once I became king. You are a noble. You serve the king, ne? So, you would have been my servant. And all of the preparation, the training that I imposed on you would have made you a wonderful servant indeed!"
He paused and studied the noble silently for a moment before continuing.
"But all of this should be obvious to you now, Byakuya. And it does not explain why you have come to visit me today. Are you planning to tell me, or will you just leave me to ponder it on my own?"
"Justice," the noble said softly.
"What?" Aizen said, looking back at him curiously, "What did you say?"
"Aizen Sousuke, there are two things that distinguish my family, above and beyond our title, as granted by the soul king. One is that we are meticulous keepers of the history of Soul Society, and the other is that we are fastidious supporters and enforcers of the law."
"Yes, that is well known," Aizen agreed, "But what has this to do with anything?"
"In order to further our ability to capture and preserve the Seireitei's rich history as it happens, our clan leader is always in possession of the means for doing that."
Aizen's eye regarded him blankly for a moment, then registered understanding.
"I see," he said quietly, "So, you have recorded our conversation. Now what? You will take this to the Central 46 council and do what? Reveal to these delegates who come mostly from the noble houses that the leader of the greatest of the noble clans is little more than a pretty slut that I used to pleasure myself? I am sure that will make you very popular, Byakuya. Just, it may not be the kind of popularity that you want, ne? Such an embarrassment this would be for you. Are you sure that you want to do this? I mean, all that would likely happen to me is that a thousand or two years would be added to my already meaningless sentence. Why open yourself up to the scorn of your peers for so little?"
"Is that all that you think I will gain? That is quite short-sighted, coming from you. I am surprised you wouldn't realize."
"Realize what?" Aizen inquired calmly, "That you would become so desperate to get back at me, that you would sacrifice your own reputation? Really, Byakuya?"
"My reputation will not be tarnished. I choose to believe that when all of the facts are known, others will find it impossible to blame me for falling victim to such a capable liar and manipulator as yourself. And as to what I will gain, know this. First, your freely given, unforced confession will earn you a longer sentence, but that will not be all. In addition to being labeled a foul traitor and murderer, you will also be branded a rapist. Add to that, the fact that I was underage, and you will be known as a child molester. But that is not all."
"Oh?" queried Aizen, raising an eyebrow.
"Remember that I, myself, am recorder of the Seireitei's history. And having regained my memory of those events, I will be sure that none in my family ever forget what you did to one of our most powerful leaders, when he was a naive, young teen. Still, it will not just be my own family, the Kuchiki family archive provides the basis for shinigami historical education at the shinigami academy. Every young shinigami who is educated there, will be taught that you are a beastly traitor, a liar, a manipulator, a murderer and a rapist. That is going to follow you forever, wherever you go."
"That is easy enough to erase, when I..."
"You will never be king," Byakuya said with certainty, "You will sit in this hellhole, watching the dust gather in the corners. And even once your time is served, the judges you face will know, in full detail, all of your crimes, as well as your lack of remorse. Do not fool yourself, they will never let you out of here. The ones who sentenced you knew it would be this way. You will spend eternity, bound and hated here, while I and my children, and their children grow up in a world that is better for you not being a part of it!"
"And who will make those children with you, Byakuya?" Aizen asked, his smirk returning, "For know this, even from within this hellhole, I can strike at you. You will never see it coming. Once again, you will watch the one you love die slowly, before your very eyes. Is that what you want, Byakuya?"
Byakuya felt a jolt of fear clutch at his insides, but kept his face calm.
"It is fortunate, then, that I have made myself strong, and that my lover has proven already to be even stronger than me."
"It doesn't matter," Aizen said mockingly, "It doesn't matter at all how strong you and your lover are, I am stronger yet, and have a longer reach than you know!"
"Is that so?" Byakuya asked, his voice taking on the mocking edge that Aizen's had, "Then, if you can strike at me, strike me down now."
The noble came to his feet and stood quietly, gazing back at the prisoner, with calm eyes. A long silence followed, in which each looked back at the other and waited.
"I see," Byakuya said finally, "Then, that concludes my business with you. I take my leave of you now, Aizen Sousuke. Enjoy the torment that you have earned."
He turned and started towards the door, unaware as Aizen's one uncovered eye blazed and his reiatsu rose suddenly. Sensing the change, Byakuya looked back just in time to see the bonds on the other man shatter as Aizen Sousuke came to his feet. He took the noble to the floor, one hand wrapping around Byakuya's slender neck.
The door to the cell opened and flash steps sounded all around them. Aizen's glared down into Byakuya's widened eyes and started to tighten the hand that clutched the clan leader's throat. He froze as the point of a sword touched his back and a familiar voice sounded.
"Don't even think about it," Ichigo warned him, as the guards surrounded him and recaptured his hands, freeing Byakuya, who came to his knees and watched silently as the prisoner was dragged back to his chair and his bindings were replaced and set with a more powerful seal.
Ichigo sheathed his blade and returned to the noble's side, offering him a hand and helping him to his feet.
"You all right?" he asked, his eye still on Aizen, who gazed at the two of them hatefully, while the guards finished binding him, "I thought he was going to snap your neck before we could get to you."
"I am fine," Byakuya assured him, the fingertips of one pale hand touching the bruised area of his throat, "I will be fine. I have what I came here for. That man is going to pay for what he did to me."
"Really?" Ichigo asked, a smile touching his lips, "That's good. He should pay. He hurt you and he deserves to pay for that."
"Thank you, Ichigo," Byakuya said, lowering his eyes.
Across the room from them, Aizen's one uncovered eye narrowed.
"So, this is your new lover, Byakuya? How very interesting. This is a surprise!" he hissed softly.
"I think it is a sensible decision," Byakuya said, meeting the prisoner's eyes squarely, "Who better to protect us from the wicked Aizen Sousuke than the man who is most responsible for putting him in Muken, where he belongs?"
"This place will not hold me, Byakuya. You can count on that! And whether it is while you are alive and I come to destroy him and reclaim you, or it is later and I dig up your brittle bones just to spit on them, I will humiliate you to the end, Byakuya! You can depend on that!"
Byakuya's eyes blinked slowly as he considered the words, then slipped a hand into Ichigo's and turned away.
"Sink back down into the abyss, Aizen Sousuke," he said softly, "I have what I want, and I am done with you."
Wicked laughter followed the two out of the cell, and a relieved look overtook the noble's face as the cell door closed, cutting off the sound. Ichigo turned and slipped his arms around Byakuya, meeting his eyes bracingly and seeking the warmth of his mouth for several kisses.
"You sure you're all right?" he asked, pulling away slightly.
"I told you. I am fine," Byakuya assured him again, "That beast is where he belongs and what I took from him in there will make sure that he never leaves that place, and that he will be known for the horrid criminal he is. Not just because of his betrayal, but because of what he did to me. Thank you, Ichigo, for being here. I don't know how you knew to follow me, but I am glad that you did."
"Yeah, well, I had a feeling you weren't just running off to work. There was something in your eyes that told me different."
"Well, I am grateful," the noble said, meeting Ichigo for another long kiss.
He pulled away and removed a small device from with in his clothes. He handed it to the watch commander and nodded.
"Please see that this reaches the Central 46 council. Have them contact me for a personal statement. I will be happy to provide one."
"Hai, Kuchiki taichou," the man said, bowing, "I will see to it personally."
Byakuya led Ichigo back up, out of the depths of the prison and into the brightness of a lovely spring day. He noticed Ichigo laughing to himself and gazed at the younger man curiously.
"What is so funny?" he asked curiously.
"Heh," Ichigo chuckled, "Did I really hear you say that I am stronger than you?"
"Well, you did defeat me. And you defeated Aizen Sousuke, who I could not have. You are stronger than me."
"Well, it took something desperate on my part to become as strong as Aizen, you know. I had to sacrifice my powers altogether to fight him on equal ground, so yeah, I was as strong as he was...but only long enough to weaken him so that Kisuke could seal him away. And when I fought you, you know I only won because my inner hollow came out. It was his strength that overcame you. It wasn't really a fair fight."
Byakuya gave him a rare smile.
"Then, I am glad that it was not a fair fight that day," he said softly, "I won far more than I lost in conceding to you, Ichigo. I never forget that...not for a moment."