Chapter 10: The Refusal

(Aizen and Bya will be back in each other's orbit very soon! Thanks to SexyBVirgo (Aizen is already dreaming of his Bya and baby, and will suspect something very soon! In the meantime, there will be some Bya/Ren gentle fluff. Though once Aizen finds his way back to Bya, that 'no sex' thing is out the window!) Enjoy the chapter!)

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Do what you will. My words will never sound for you. You do not wish to hear their content, nor the pain beneath them. I will scream for as long as you desire, but there are some truths that should never be told.

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"Abarai," Byakuya said, sipping at the hot ginger tea and leaning back against the redhead's warm chest, "how is it that you can do this? Most people would kill me on sight if they knew of this. How can you lie there and act as though it doesn't matter in the slightest?"

Renji laughed softly.

"Easy, Taichou. First, I know that you may be kinda cold blooded in a fight, but you are not a traitor. Second, this is a baby we're talking about. The poor kid hasn't even taken a breath yet and already there are tons of people just waiting to be his or her enemies if they learn who the kid's father is. I think the kid will need some backup. Besides," the redhead went on, "You're pretty damned cute when you're pregnant. You're even cute, bent over the toilet, throwing up. I don't know why, you just are."

Byakuya let out an amused breath.

"You are insane, Abarai," he said with mock disgust, "You do know you're going to be right next to me on the Soukyoku when this comes out, right?"

"No way," said Renji, "It will be all right. Just keep quiet about it and everyone will assume the kid is mine."

"Renji…Aizen won't be fooled if he hears. He…"

"Stop worrying over it now," insisted the redhead, "Get some rest and just let things go for a while. You're still in shock over finding out you're pregnant. And the stress is enough already without you worrying and adding more."

Byakuya nodded.

"You're right, of course," he said, barely stifling a yawn, "I haven't been able to think straight since I found out about this. But truly, you have made things much more bearable. Arigatou, Renji."

The redhead smiled.

"You're welcome, Taichou. Now, sleep, will you? I have a feeling that things are only going to get more stressful later on."

He ran his fingers gently through the noble's dark, silken hair and brought his head to rest on a warm shoulder. Byakuya fell asleep to the sound of the redhead's beating heart and the feel of a comforting hand rubbing his lower abdomen.

Long after the two had fallen asleep, Byakuya's abdomen began to glow softly. They woke to the soft pulsation of the area as the reiatsu inside the stunned noble reached sentience.

"What's happening?" whispered Renji, staring.

"It's the baby's reiatsu," Byakuya said breathlessly, "It has gained sentience! I can feel it, Renji…its consciousness. I can feel it!"

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Aizen Sousuke had fallen asleep in his window seat, while staring out at the stars. He moved little as he slept and his breath frosted the windowpane when he breathed out. His eyes moved restlessly under his eyelids and as he remained leaned against the window and bathed in starlight, he began to dream.

"He is lovely, my Byakuya," he said, looking down at their newborn baby boy…a boy with black hair and dark gray eyes, but a face shaped like his and his smile, "and you look beautiful, holding him in your arms."

Byakuya looked up at him with wide, adoring eyes. But something was wrong. The eyes changed as they took him in and the noble's pretty mouth opened in a surprised breath.

"No!" he said, standing and backing away, "Leave us alone!"

"Byakuya," he said softly, "I won't hurt you. I promise you. I only want to take care of you and our son."

"No," gasped the noble, his dark eyes filling with desperation, "Just go away! Leave us alone!"

He reached for Byakuya and the noble stepped back. It was then that it registered that they were standing on a precipice…and as Byakuya moved back, he stepped off of the edge and into blank space. He reached for the noble and caught a slender, pale hand. He could barely hold on, but he held on with all of his strength, looking down into Byakuya's frightened eyes.

He couldn't pull them both up…but he had to try.

"Hold on," he told the shaking noble, then he put everything into pulling.

The soft hand in his suddenly slipped and, in a horrified heartbeat, pulled free. Byakuya fell soundlessly, still holding their child as he disappeared into the darkness.

"Byakuya!" cried Sousuke, sitting up suddenly.

He was still sitting in the window seat. He heard footsteps and his door opened.

"Aizen-sama," said his guard, gazing at him warily, "Is everything all right?"

He sighed and nodded, then waved the guard away. He returned to his bed, but could only sleep fitfully, and was constantly haunted by Byakuya's dark, frightened eyes.

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Byakuya climbed out of bed in the early morning darkness and stumbled dizzily into the bathroom. He emptied his stomach, then sat with his back against the wall and his knees drawn up, leaning forward and resting his head on his curled arms. He breathed slowly and tried to doze as the nausea he felt came and went.

After a time, the feeling faded and he stood and moved to the shower. He stood quietly beneath the warm spray, feeling the touch of his baby's reiatsu and the presence of another consciousness inside him. It struck him as odd that, however much he might despise Aizen Sousuke for his lies and his crimes, he loved the feel of the little life inside him. He had resigned himself to the lonely task of admitting there would be no heir and had had to contemplate finding a suitable child among the sub families to bring to the manor for training.

But even having this child, he wondered how the transfer of leadership would work. He would have to name Renji as the child's father and the elders would recognize the Seirei Joumae and, most likely, force him to marry Renji. He didn't find the idea at all unpleasant. Renji had proven to be a very devoted friend and would make a very loving and devoted father. It would likely work out well…as long as Aizen Sousuke never learned that he had had a child.

It was likely that the traitor would die in his bid to overthrow the spirit king…in which case, he need not worry about him finding out. And even if he did not die immediately, the war would take time…and the more time that passed, the less the chance that Aizen would trouble himself to wonder about the noble he had seduced so many years before. Yes, it was better just to say nothing and to let things be as they were. Let them believe that Renji was his child's father and no one would bother about it anymore…

But he wondered if it could really be that easy…

He stepped out of the shower and dried off, reaching down and rubbing the small bump on his lower abdomen and sighing softly. This part, he decided, was not bad. Feeling this tiny life growing inside him was deeply enjoyable. He felt so much less alone in what had happened to him. He smiled as he wrapped a soft yukata around himself and started out into the bedroom. He found that Renji had already left hot green tea and fresh brownies for him before adjourning to the office to begin the day's work. He sat down and was contemplating the brownies, when a hell butterfly fluttered into the room.

"Byakuya-sama, the elders have sensed the sentience of an heir within your reiatsu. We require your presence at a special council meeting at nine o'clock this morning to discuss the implications of this, and to begin planning for the heir's birth."

He had known, of course, to expect it, but the reality of them knowing sent a chill up his spine. He busied himself, drinking the tea and eating the brownies Renji had left for him, then dressed and left his quarters.

He was slightly relieved that Renji was not in the office, but had left for a fukutaichou's meeting. It was easier not having to explain. But not wanting to leave Renji wondering at his absence, he left a short note telling Renji where he would be. He left the office and walked back in the direction of the manor, but then turned off early and made his way to the Kuchiki Council Hall. He climbed the front steps and passed between the solemn sentries, then into the lobby and on to the council chambers. His heart quivered slightly as he noticed that they were all present and waiting, even though he was early. It was obvious to him that they had met ahead of time to plan carefully for their meeting with him.

It didn't bode well at all…

"Byakuya-sama," said the head elder, standing, "we wish you congratulations on the conception of your heir. We do, however, have more than a few questions regarding this."

Byakuya nodded briefly and the two sat down at the meeting table with the rest of the elders.

"As you can imagine, I am sure, we first must know the name of the one who triggered the Seirei Joumae and caused you to be with child."

Byakuya looked up and began to tell them, but suddenly, the words froze inside him and he found he could not tell them. He stared in stunned silence, struggling internally to understand how he had lost control of himself…then wondered if the fact of the Seirei Joumae itself somehow made him unable to lie about it. He tried again, but the words still would not come. The councilors stared in surprise at him and the head elder asked him the question again. Realizing that he wasn't getting anywhere and not wishing to admit to having tried to deceive them, he instead took another avenue.

"I decline the council's request as to naming the father of my child…on the grounds that we are not together and the father does not wish to be a part of the child's life. I will be raising this child on my own."

"Byakuya-sama," said the head councilor, "with all due respect, you must name the father of the child. It will need to be noted in our historical record and in the clan record of his or her birth. You may, of course, ask that the information be kept private, but you must inform this council of the father's name and lineage."

"My deepest apologies," said Byakuya softly, "I regret that I am unable to comply with the council's wishes."

The head councilor stood.

"I think that you know," he said quietly, "that if you refuse such a thing, the council has leave to use force to obtain the information."

"You would torture me for the information?" Byakuya asked darkly, "What kind of beasts are you? I told you that his identity doesn't matter. He won't be involved, so you don't need to…"

"That information is something the clan requires to be placed in your child's records. You must tell us…or we have no choice."

"No…"

The head councilor closed his eyes and bowed his head. Power flared around Byakuya as the council members combined their spirit energy and froze him in place. All were well aware that the clan leader was capable of breaking the hold placed on him. But determined to accept the consequences of his choice, He made no move to free himself. The head elder moved to his side and sealed his spirit energy away, then bound his hands. They rose together and led him out of the room.

He realized very quickly where they were headed and a hard chill went through his body. He tried to speak, but they had left him unable, so he was forced to walk silently along the streets of the Seireitei and back to Kuchiki Manor. They moved out through the garden, down the forest trail and past the waterfall. They crossed the meadow and led him into the forest beyond, then turned him toward Itamigiri.

He still remembered when Ginrei had brought him there after Aizen had taken him. He remembered as well that this was where he had learned of the Seirei Joumae. He followed the elders into the old stone building, up the long staircase and into the punishment room. They forced him to his knees and surrounded him, then the head elder stood in front of him and asked him again.

"Byakuya-sama, we will ask you for the last time…Who fathered this child?"

Byakuya bowed his head.

"I cannot tell you…and trust me…you do not want to know!"

"Insolence!" hissed the head elder, "You have always seemed to think yourself above the rules! You married a peasant and then forced us to accept another peasant into the family. You refuse to tell us what we must know. You give us no choice but to inflict pain to loosen your tongue."

Byakuya's eyes flared.

"You would endanger the heir!" he objected.

"No," said the head elder, "The punishments are carefully constructed so that we can inflict pain without endangering the heir. You must be made to understand that as our leader, you must set an example for others by conducting yourself according to clan rules. It is bad enough that you have become pregnant out of wedlock, but to refuse to give the father's name insults this council and invites shame upon our house. The punishment for this is the inflicting of pain until you give us the father's name so that it can be recorded in the family histories."

He turned to the other councilors, who now stood in a circle around him. All of them drew their zanpakutous and pointed them in his direction. They raised their reiatsu and one by one their weapons began to glow and created a white circle with him at the center. Light exploded around him and it took every bit of self-control he had not to cry out.

It felt as though a thousand knives had been driven into his unprotected body. He would have fallen, but the white ring held him frozen as the power rose around him and the pain assaulted him again. He held against it a second time, sweat breaking out on his forehead and his body shaking. The power struck him a third time and his control began to slip. A cry of pain erupted from him and he saw the resultant looks of smug satisfaction on the councilors' faces.

Another shock of pain registered and he felt his mind disappearing into it. He had reached the ends of tolerance and now quivered inside at the sound of his cries of pain as they echoed against the cold stone around them.

He could hear the head elder speaking to him again, but his chest heaved for breath and he couldn't answer. He sagged in his bonds as the pain struck him again and felt the room beginning to fade away around him. He thought he heard a loud, screeching roar and the room rocked from end to end as the rock walls seemed to explode around them. The councilors gasped in surprise, then scattered, breaking the circle around him and loosing him to fall, exhausted and still shaking onto the floor.

He heard what could only be Renji's voice, shouting at the councilors, and he could have cried at the sound of his fukutaichou defending him. He felt another familiar reiatsu with Renji and managed to lift his head slightly. Rukia stood at Renji's side with her weapon drawn. The skeletal snake curled around the three of them and Renji flash stepped closer and shattered the bonds that held him. He pulled Byakuya close and the words he said next warmed the aching noble to the core.

"You bastards are so fucked up that you've forgotten right from wrong! What the hell are you doing, attacking your own leader like that?"

"The clan is required to place the name of the father in our records," insisted the head councilor, "Byakuya-sama refused to do this and broke our rules, earning him this punishment. Now…unless you wish to taste our wrath, Abarai-san, you had best leave!"

"I'm not leaving without him! You freaks can do what you want, but I'm taking him!"

He wrapped an arm around Byakuya, pulling him to his feet and releasing the seal on his spirit energy.

"It's you, isn't it!" hissed the head elder, "You are the father!"

Renji just glared at the head elder, pulled Byakuya close and flash stepped away with Rukia just behind him.

"Renji…" Byakuya whispered breathlessly as the redhead carried him back to the manor, "Renji…arigatou…I don't believe you…that was outrageous! They could have killed the both of you!"

Renji laughed softly.

"Screw those old bastards! I wasn't going to let them do that!"