Chapter 2: That Feeling Inside

XXXXXXXXXX

"Well, look who's back from his date with the devil!" laughed Renji, giving Tetsuya a brotherly pat on the shoulder, "Good to see you survived."

Tetsuya sat down at the food laden table, near Byakuya's side and smiled up at Koji as his attendant served him.

"Arigatou, Koji. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Tetsuya-san," Koji answered, grinning back at him.

Tetsuya took a sip of warm, spiced cider and glanced back at Renji.

"Ah," he went on, "Well, Aizen Sousuke is a very dangerous man, however, it is a little easier to manage him when he is securely bound and his powers are sealed away. Although, I did notice while I was there that his powers had begun to leak through the seal.

Byakuya frowned worriedly.

"That is not good news," he mused grimly.

"I reported the matter," Tetsuya assured him, "so they tightened the seal on him. The seal on the hougyoku seemed strong enough, however..."

Byakuya and Renji's eyes fixed on the younger noble, both going deeply concerned.

"It is still dangerous too," Tetsuya explained, "I heard its voice in my mind. I did not detect reiatsu around it powerful enough to allow it to break free of the seal, but it still has more passive abilities that allow it to interfere in more subtle ways...perhaps through suggestion and mental manipulation."

"You reported that as well?" Byakuya asked quickly.

"Of course," Tetsuya affirmed, "It was suspected from the start that some innate powers in both Aizen and the hougyoku would leak through the seal. And that is why they continuously monitor him. They have also installed better protections within and without his cell."

"Which I am sure you were able to help them improve on," Renji said, grinning, "You're pretty damned good at what you do, Tetsuya-san. It's no wonder Central 46 asked for you."

A soft blush rose on Tetsuya's cheeks.

"Thank you, Renji-san," he said, smiling back.

"Hey, enough about work," Rukia laughed, "We're supposed to be celebrating, ne?"

"But I'm interested in hearing more about Tetsuya-san's night with Aizen Sousuke," complained Renji, "Did you get to go in and see him, Tetsuya-san?"

"Eh, for a bit," he admitted, "but one must be cautious not to do so for too long...to avoid his use of more innate abilities that are not subject to the seal on his powers."

"You guys are impossible," sighed Rukia, rolling her eyes.

"Well, this is interesting!" Renji insisted, "So Tetsuya-san, you said that the hougyoku spoke to you? What did it say?"

"Um," Tetsuya said, looking down into his cider glass for a moment, "I actually only said that I heard its voice. Aizen told me that it is sentient. That is part of what makes it so dangerous."

Byakuya's gray eyes fixed on his cousin, studying the hints of discomfort in his expression and quietly taking note. He reached over and squeezed Renji's hand affectionately.

"I think that Rukia is right, watashi no koi. It is a time to celebrate. We can talk about work matters later. Tetsuya has been up all night and needs to eat and wind down before going to get some rest."

"Aww, you're not going to join us at Kisuke's later?" Renji said, looking disappointed, "I have a friend who's going to be there...a really nice guy who's been asking about you, ever since he saw you at the sixth a few weeks ago."

"Renji, knock it off!" Rukia said, throwing a rice ball at him.

"Hey! I was just trying to...!"

"It's all right, Rukia-chan," Tetsuya said, smiling, "Renji-san was just trying to help."

He sipped at his hot cider, then set it down, blinking sleepily.

"When one is in love, sometimes the feelings are too much to contain," he said, remembering.

"Tetsuya, you must be quieter or they'll hear! Please, stop. Don't cry like that. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you!"

"I'm not crying because of that," Tetsuya said, diving into Naoki's arms and burying his face in the other youth's shoulder, "Naoki said that he thinks I'm beautiful. He said that he loves me. I didn't mean to cry, but my heart beat so fast and I was shaking all over and couldn't hold it inside!"

"Ah," Naoki said, rubbing the younger boy's back gently and kissing his forehead, "You scared me, Tetsuya. I thought that I made you afraid."

He sighed softly and closed his eyes, resting his face in the tumbled waves of Tetsuya's black hair and breathing in his warm, sakura scent.

"I touch Tetsuya in the way the guards do, but when I do it, I do so because I want us both to feel the love between us."

"You are wrong, Naoki," Tetsuya whispered, lifting his chin and looking into Naoki's kind, brown eyes.

"What?"

"You don't touch me the way they do. When Naoki touches me, it feels completely different. And while I feel nothing when the guards touch me, one small touch or smile from Naoki makes my heart overflow."

Tetsuya's etes widened as a tear rolled down Naoki's face.

"I'm sorry!" Tetsuya said hastily, "I've made you cry too!"

"You were right, Tetsuya," Naoki said, kissing him, "When we touch each other and speak to each other the way we do, the feelings do overflow. But these are happy tears."

He pulled Tetsuya close and hugged him tightly

"It is...good to have something that can make us cry happy tears. In this place, to know true happiness and love...it is a great gift, Tetsuya. It gives me hope."

"Tetsuya, are you all right?" Byakuya said, breaking into the younger man's haze.

"Oh...yes, Byakuya-sama. I am just...extremely tired. Please forgive me. I really must go and rest now. Enjoy your time in Karakura Town."

Tetsuya rose and exited the room, leaving the others staring after him. Rukia elbowed Renji, making him grunt in surprise and pain.

"Good going, baka! You upset him. Didn't you see the look on his face."

Renji swallowed hard and looked down at his plate.

"I'm sorry," he said in an unusually quiet tone, "It's just that he seems lonely. He's so kind to everyone else. I just wanted..."

"Do not worry," Byakuya assured him, capturing the redhead's hand under the table, "You were trying to help. I understand. It is just that Tetsuya has never really been able to move beyond his feelings of guilt and regret."

"He was very much in love with Naoki," Rukia went on, "And what Naoki felt in return for Tetsuya was enough to make him give up his own life to save my cousin's. Tetsuya always says how grateful he is for that. But...he has not ever forgiven himself. I was at the cemetery once and overheard him apologize to Naoki, and he said that he promised never to make anyone love him that much again. Whatever he had to do, he would not let anyone die to save him again."

"He grew powerful over the years," Byakuya added, "always wanting to be the one to protect, and never wanting to need protection for himself. It is a great weight he carries. But I choose to believe that with time, he will learn to love again. Tetsuya has too gentle a heart to refrain from love. He will find it again, but on his own terms."

"Okay," Renji said, shaking his head, "I'll stay out of it then. But I hate to see the guy being so much alone, you know? It's wrong for someone like that to be so alone."

"I agree," Byakuya said, lifting Renji's hand and kissing it gently, "And if the time comes that we can help him to open that door, we will."

"Until then," Rukia said, looking at the door Tetsuya had gone out, "We can only show him love and kindness, and hope that he finds some happiness in that."

Tetsuya stood outside the dining room door, his back resting against the wall and a look of anguish on his face.

I hate worrying them so. But I cannot allow myself to fall in love again.

Tears flooded his eyes and ran heedlessly down his face. His arms wrapped around his midsection and silent, gripping sobs shook his slender form.

Don't cry.

Tetsuya sucked in a surprised breath and looked up in alarm.

"N-naoki?" he whispered.

No, said the voice, sending a chill through the noble as he realized.

"The...hougyoku?"

You remember that I told you that I would fulfill your desires?

"How can I be hearing it now?" he whispered shakenly.

You opened your heart to Aizen Sousuke, and I am fused to his soul. Your lovemaking bound you to him, and thereby, to me.

N-no!

Don't be afraid. I only want to fulfill your greatest desires. You want to protect your loved ones and you want to end the threat of Aizen Sousuke. Remember? I will help you do that. But there is more.

"Wh-what?"

You are afraid to fall in love again, because your lover died saving you, and you fear it could happen again. Don't bother denying it. I heard the words of your friends, their desire for you to know love again. I can help you to do that.

How?

Think Tetsuya. There is a person you can love who will never die. He can't die. He is immortal.

Tetsuya's body stiffened.

No! Aizen Sousuke is a monster! he thought fiercely, I could never love a man like that. Leave me alone!

He ran down the hallway to his room, waving Koji off as his attendant approached him.

"Tetsuya-san?"

"Not now. Please, just go, Koji-san!"

The attendant watched as Tetsuya closed the door between them.

"Tetsuya-san," he whispered, "What's wrong? Why won't you talk to me?"

Tetsuya ran through the dressing area and into the bathroom, where he abandoned his clothes and retreated into the shower. He closed his mind to the sound of the hougyoku's voice, breathing a sigh of relief as it slowly faded.

It must be weaker because of the seal. But it seemed so close. It felt like it was inside me. And the things it said! It knows why I do not ever want to fall in love. But what it said about Aizen Sousuke! I could never...never love a man like him!

Not ever.

He pushed the thought from his mind and tried to make his mind blank and still. But even as calm began to return to his exhausted body, something else invaded his mind.

"Don't think I am stupid, Aizen Sousuke. You use everyone around you."

Aizen moved forward, smiling as Tetsuya backed away until he was gently trapped against a wall of the cell.

"And you do not 'use' the people around you?" Aizen asked, bringing his lips close to the noble's again, "You use me for company, your cousin Byakuya as your motivation for building your strength...for remaining alive even. Need I go on? Your motives are more pure, but we all use the people around us, Tetsuya. It doesn't have to be a bad thing. And right now is the perfect example."

"What do you mean?" Tetsuya asked, his eyelids fluttering anxiously.

"We are both lonely, using each other for company. And we both long for affection and physical contact, but do not desire love, ne? So, we share a common purpose."

"I did not come here to...!" Tetsuya began, his blue eyes flashing.

He broke off as Aizen's lips crashed hungrily into his and feasted on them voraciously, while the prisoner's hands slipped beneath his clothes, one curving around his bottom and the other seeking his nether region.

"That's all it was," he told himself, closing his eyes tightly and shivering as he felt again the heat, the pressure, the intensity of those hardened, demanding lips, "just the two of us using each other for comfort, for relief from our solitude."

His skin quivered with the memory of Aizen's searching hands, of the tickle of warm breath, and the smooth, deceptively gentle sound of his voice. Hot water rained down onto his bare body, rolling lightly over him and teasing his sensitive areas until he felt an ache in his loins.

He wrapped his arms around the still uncertain noble, plunging deeply into his mouth and teasing his tongue mercilessly until it couldn't help but curl around his. Tetsuya's arms returned his embrace, and he slid onto Aizen's lap, spreading his soft, creamy thighs and letting their aroused members touch as their kissing deepened.

Dizziness and arousal swept over the noble, leaving him shaky and leaned back against the tile wall.

"I have to stop this," he hissed softly, "Stop it! Go away!"

Is this what you want, Tetsuya?

"No! Stop!" he panted softly.

Open your eyes.

"Please! Please just stop. Stop."

Why are you afraid? Just look and let yourself be comforted. You laid down with him for comfort before. Let him comfort you now.

"But...he is in the prison."

Open your eyes.

Tetsuya's eyes opened, then widened in shock as he found Aizen Sousuke standing naked in front of him. He let out a cry of shock and terror and fled the room, then froze as Koji burst into the room. The attendant slid to a stop, staring at his naked and wild-eyed charge.

"Tetsuya-san!" he said in a scared voice, "What happened? I heard you cry out. What was it?"

Tetsuya shivered and swallowed hard.

"N-nothing," he said, turning into the dressing area.

He went quiet, standing more calmly as Koji dried him off and dressed him in a soft, sleeping yukata.

"Tetsuya-san," he said as he tied the belt at his master's waist, "Are you...going to be okay? You look like something's really wrong. Do you want me to bring Byakuya-sama?"

"No," Tetsuya said, regaining his composure, "I will be fine. I am just overly tired from being up all night. Thank you, Koji. That will be all."

He watched as the spooked attendant left, then walked out into his bedroom and slid into his bed.

I just need to sleep. I am overwhelmed with lack of sleep. If I just get some rest, it will all go away.

He quieted his mind and closed his eyes, quickly falling towards senselessness. He had almost fallen asleep, when he felt someone slide into the bed with him.

"No, I don't..."

He opened his eyes and froze as they came to rest on a darkly handsome man slightly older then him, with glinting, coal black eyes.

"Orochi," he said, staring, "What are you...?"

His cousin smiled and pulled him close, sliding a hand up his back and touching a hidden place on the back of his neck, beneath his long, wavy hair. A flicker of kido flashed at the other man's fingertips, lighting up a snake-shaped kido marking on the back of Tetsuya's slender neck. As the sigil flared, Tetsuya went still in Orochi's arms, his head coming to rest on his cousin's shoulder.

"That is better," Orochi said, caressing Tetsuya's back, then sliding the yukata down off of his shoulders, "You didn't think that I would forget you in Christmas, Tetsuya, did you?"

"Please, I haven't slept at all," Tetsuya managed, fighting the other man's power that kept him from pulling away.

"We will sleep soon. But don't forget. You still belong to me. Just as it has been since our days in Itamigiri. I own you, Tetsuya. You will please me, and then we can sleep."

Do you want him to stop? the voice of the hougyoku asked suddenly, I can make him stop, Tetsuya. You don't have to do what he says.

Tetsuya's mind whirled as Orochi's hand found the back of his neck and guided him downward.

"Relax," Aizen reassured him, curling an arm around him, "The hougyoku cannot affect your family and friends, only you and me. It can only affect the ones within its range. That is limited here."

"But it still requires caution."

"You are wise to see that," Aizen commented,

Tetsuya shivered, stopping with his lips just a breath away from Orochi.

Do you want to be free of him?

Tetsuya's heart pounded as Orochi made a sound of impatience and forced his head down.

"N-no!"

He felt a flash of power, a scathing heat that burned the back of his neck where the snake marking was.

"What did you say?" Orochi asked angrily, grabbing him by the hair and yanking his head back, "You are mine! You do what I say! Do it now, Tetsuya."

The snake marking flared brightly, then flickered and slowly faded. Tetsuya felt the heavy weight of the sigil's power fade, and his body fell back under his own power again. Orochi's free hand rose and struck at him. Freed of the other man's power, Tetsuya's hand moved and caught Orochi's, just shy of his face. Orochi stared in surprise.

"What?"

"Get out," Tetsuya hissed softly, glaring at his cousin, "You have no power over me anymore. If you ever touch me again, I will kill you!"

Orochi's eyes flared with fury.

"You dare to..."

"GET OUT!" Tetsuya screamed, "GET OUT OR I'LL KILL YOU!"

Kido erupted suddenly from his hands, throwing his cousin off of the bed and sending him crashing to the floor. Orochi rolled to a stop, registering the sound of pounding feet approaching the room, and he glared at Tetsuya.

"You will pay for that!" he snarled, jumping to his feet and flash stepping away as the inner door to Tetsuya's bedroom was thrown open.

A frantic looking Koji ran into the room, followed by Torio, Byakuya and Renji. Tetsuya stared at them in silence, disbelief at what he had done raking his body and overwhelming his tired mind. He swayed wearily and collapsed, falling into Koji's arms as the attendant scrambled onto the bed.

"Tetsuya-san!" cried Koji, "Tetsuya-san, what's wrong? Was it a nightmare? What happened? Tetsuya-san!"

Byakuya bent over his cousin, extending his hand over Tetsuya's body, then sighing softly.

"Torio, bring the clan healer."

He loosed Tetsuya from Koji and laid him down on the bed. Moments later, the clan healer flash stepped into the room and looked from Tetsuya, to Byakuya and back again.

"What happened, Byakuya-sama?" he asked quickly.

"Tetsuya seemed to have some kind of nightmare," Byakuya explained, "We heard him cry out and entered the room, but he collapsed and seems to have lost consciousness. Do you sense anything wrong with him?"

The healer leaned over Tetsuya and examined him carefully.

"The poor lad is exhausted, Byakuya-sama," he reported, "He has obviously been pushing himself too hard and merely came to the end of his strength. His reiatsu is abysmally low. I will give him an infusion. Then, he will just need to rest."

"But he's going to be all right, ne?" asked Renji.

"He will be fine," the healer assured them.

"Arigatou, Michio," Byakuya said gratefully, "Koji, you will use the attendant's recess in Tetsuya's room tonight. I want you to wake me if he has any more nightmares or if anything else happens. Do you understand?"

"Hai, Byakuya-sama," Koji said, bowing his head, "I will watch over him."

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Tetsuya woke to darkness in his room and caught his breath in surprise at having slept through Christmas Day altogether. He quickly sensed Koji's presence in the attendant's recess in the corner of the room, and kept his body turned away as he looked out the garden doors to where the snow fell softly.

What happened before? he wondered, Orochi has controlled me, using that snake sigil since our days in Itamigiri, when he claimed me as his and warned the other guards never to put their hands on me. I have never been able to resist the sigil's power, so why did it break now?

I heard the hougyoku's voice inside my mind. Could it have affected the sigil? Can it be affecting me, even now that I have left the prison. And if so, why? Why is it doing these things?

He closed his eyes for a moment, remembering.

Do you want him to stop? the voice of the hougyoku asked suddenly, I can make him stop, Tetsuya. You don't have to do what he says.

A shiver passed through him, though the blankets kept his body comfortably warm.

"How is this happening?" he breathed softly.

You opened your heart to Aizen Sousuke, and I am fused to his soul. Your lovemaking bound you to him, and thereby, to me.

"Could it be...inside me now too? Inside my mind? Is this what happened when I opened my heart to that man?"

He reached down inside himself, searching for the hougyoku's presence, but felt only calm and silence.

Whatever that was, it seems to be gone now. Thank goodness. It was frightening how it made me see Aizen Sousuke. And the way it seemed to take over my body for a moment when Orochi came and tried to assault me. I have never been able to resist the snake sigil before, and I have never been able to defy Orochi. I even threatened to kill him, and I felt a tension in my body that promised to carry through on that threat, had he not left just then.

So, is the hougyoku that powerful, even sealed? Can it be somehow working inside of my body. I don't feel it now, but will it return?

I wonder...

He fell asleep again, still wondering. And as soon as he woke, he let Koji dress and drag him to the dining room for a quick meal, then left Arashi in the warmth of the barn and slipped away from the manor.

XXXXXXXXXX

You are still thinking about him.

"Him?" Aizen repeated softly, "To whom are you referring?"

You know who I mean. He has been on your mind ever since the two of you laid down together. You try to push the thoughts of him away, but it haunts you.

"What do you expect? I have been left nearly alone for a year and now this lovely young man appears and brings back tantalizing pieces of a life I had before coming here. Of course he is in my thoughts. He was lovely company."

That is not the only reason he resonates with you. You saw it, didn't you? The way he opened his heart to you when you made love?

"We had sex," Aizen said, sounding annoyed, "very good sex. But that was all that it was."

Not for him. He suffers now because he realizes that he is not capable of having casual, meaningless sex. The young man opened his heart to you, and in that way, bound his fate to yours.

"Nonsense. I have no fate, nothing at all...not for the next twenty thousand years."

What if I told you that by exploiting your bond with him, you could get out of here much sooner? Perhaps within a few short months.

"Do not play games with me, teasing me with promises of my freedom. You are the reason that I am here," Aizen reminded the hougyoku's spirit, "You rejected me, allowing the two of us to be sealed away."

And just as easily, with the help of Kuchiki Tetsuya, I can get us free again. It won't be long now. You will see, Aizen Sousuke. Trust me. That young man is going to be everything to you very soon.

"Well, as you see, I am going nowhere. Very well, then. If you have the power, then use it to free us."

Promise me that you will not harm Kuchiki Tetsuya...that once you are free, you will protect that young man from any threat.

A smile found its way onto Aizen's lips.

"If he proves to be the one who can bring about my freedom, of course I will protect him. After all, he has power and connections."

Yes.

And he has something else, the hougyoku thought to itself, Something that you will die to protect, Aizen Sousuke!

Aizen started to speak, but stopped as voices sounded outside of his cell. A moment later, the cell door opened and Kuchiki Tetsuya stepped inside.

"Kuchiki Tetsuya," the prisoner said, smiling up at him, "You have come to see me again so soon?"

"Leave us," Tetsuya told the other guards.

He waited as they left, then moved forward and placed his hands on Aizen's bound forearms, leaning over him and glaring down into his one uncovered eye.

"Tetsuya?"

"Tell me!" the young man snapped angrily, "Aizen Sousuke, tell me what you did to me!"

"What are you asking me?" Aizen queried, "I don't understand."

"How is it able to do that?" Tetsuya asked desperately, "How is the hougyoku able to speak to me, even when I am not here!"

"What?" Aizen asked, looking surprised, "Tetsuya, I assure you. The hougyoku should not be able to any such thing. You must have merely imagined hearing it."

"No," Tetsuya said, shaking his head, "It...did something!"

"What did it do?"

Tetsuya closed his eyes against the memory.

"Tetsuya? What did it do?"

"There was a kido sigil on the back of my neck, a concealed one that only I and one other person knew about. Back when I was a prisoner, my cousin, Orochi was a guard there. He placed the sigil on me so that he could overpower me at will. Even after Byakuya-sama stormed the prison and freed us, Orochi would use the sigil to overcome me so that he could have sex with me."

"And you told me that you did not have a lover," mused Aizen.

"Do you think this is some kind of joke!" yelled Tetsuya, gripping Aizen's wrists "That man has been overpowering and raping me for years, and yesterday he tried to do it again. But the hougyoku's voice sounded in my mind and then the sigil shattered and lost its hold over me!"

"I would say that is a good thing," observed Aizen, "Only, it would have been better if it had killed him too."

"Don't say that!" Tetsuya hissed, fear coming into his widened eyes, "He may be a horrid man, but he is still my family. I would wish him to pay for his crimes towards me, but I don't want him to die! And yet, after the sigil lost its hold on me, I felt something else rise up inside me, and I threatened to kill Orochi myself!"

"A good idea, if you ask me."

"It wasn't me saying the words! Are you hearing me?" cried Tetsuya, "That thing did something to me! It..."

"Tetsuya," Aizen said quietly, shaking his head, "The hougyoku has no power to do things like that in a body where it does not dwell. Look at my chest. You will see it is still trapped there, fused with my body. It is likely that you merely imagined it was there, and it was your own power that overcame the sigil. And what you said to your cousin was a small loss of control on your own part. You were likely very overwrought, realizing you had suddenly gained control of the situation. Your mind is playing tricks on you. You are not being affected by the hougyoku. Go home, Tetsuya. Go home and forget about what happened between us."

"And what about that voice I keep hearing?" the noble asked, shivering, "What do I do about that?"

"Nothing," Aizen advised him, "Ignore it. It is your own subconscious, playing games with you. Go now. I am sure that you have things to do in the world outside."

Tetsuya gazed at him in silence for a moment, as though to test his resolve, then he straightened and turned away, starting for the door.

"Tetsuya," Aizen said calmly, stopping him with his back to the prisoner, "Thank you for your company on Christmas Eve. It was a lovely diversion from my rather dull existence here. I hope that it was pleasant for you as well. But we should let it go. I think that it is not good for you to come back here. It seems that you are a bit fragile of mind. It is better for you to forget. Let it go."

Tetsuya remained silent, facing away from him as his hands clenched for a moment, then relaxed. He left the cell without saying anything more.

Why did you lie to him?

"I don't mind using other evil people, or even gentler ones who I will kill before they know they've been deceived.