Chapter 12: Broken Pieces

(Thanks so much to WinterStorm03 (Sousuke is on the way, and what happens when he arrives will be...well, you will see!) and SexyBVirgo (That was a close call, but now that Aizen knows about the baby, fluff and romance/sexy comforting will soon commence!) Enjoy the new chapter!)

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You called me, but I could no longer hear. I lay, quiet and listening, but your voice could not penetrate the darkness around me. You stepped inside to set me free…but were only pulled into the darkness as well.

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Aizen Sousuke slipped quietly past the manor guards and into Byakuya's private residence. He moved through the foyer and out into the gardens, where he imagined the wedding would most likely be held. Oddly, though the wedding should have been in progress, people were milling about and forming small clusters as they pondered what had happened.

"Poor Abarai-san," said one noble woman, "I know Byakuya-sama shouldn't have been marrying a commoner and a male at that, but I rather like Abarai-san."

Did something happen to Renji then?

But Renji stood a short distance away, talking hurriedly with a guard.

"Look, we need to find him. He was overwhelmed by everything. He just wasn't ready for this. The elders pushed him into this and being that he's pregnant and facing all sorts of odd shit, he freaked out a little and bolted. Hell, I think I'd freak out too. These people are nuts!"

So…he couldn't go through with it. Does this mean that even though I misled him…even though I feigned my death and left him behind that…kami…could Byakuya still care for me?

He honed in on the noble's reiatsu and found it heavily disturbed.

He was in great difficulty…because of me. I thought it would be better to leave him behind and let him rebuild his life without me in it…but I didn't know we made a child. And now he's running, but to whom?

He followed the reiatsu trail across the grounds and out of the gardens…down the dark forest trail…to the rushing waterfall, then down the cliff face to the open meadow. And the meadow ran out to near the border, where the crossover point into Hueco Mundo lay. He followed the reiatsu to the checkpoint, then into Hueco Mundo, careful to remain invisible. Once he followed the trail through the base and out again, he realized where the noble had been headed and felt a bolt of panic.

He went…to Las Noches! He came to tell me? After everything…he wanted to tell me? Could he truly mean to forgive me?

It suddenly occurred to him that with him away, the ones who greeted Byakuya could trouble him. He moved in flash steps then, racing across the sand, following the path that the noble had taken before him. He gained the entrance to Las Noches and halted at the guard post.

"Where is Kuchiki Byakuya?" he asked sharply, "I know he came here to see me. Tell me where he is."

The guard blinked slowly.

"Ichimaru Gin ordered him taken to a holding cell…to await your arrival, Aizen-sama."

Aizen frowned.

"I am deeply displeased. Send word that he is not to be harmed and that I am on my way to see to his release."

The guard looked back at him with guarded eyes.

"Hai, Aizen-sama," he said, scurrying away.

Aizen flash stepped into the fortress and paused as Gin appeared atop the grand staircase.

"Oh, Sousuke…back so soon? You have a visitor."

Aizen's frown became deadly.

"If Byakuya has been harmed, you will suffer the same fate as him!"

"What do you mean? He showed up here unexpectedly…an enemy taichou. I had him removed for questioning…and to await your arrival…as is protocol. I was not aware that you had special instructions for him. My apologies…"

A heavy jolt of something that felt like fear passed through the leader of the hollows and he turned and flash stepped all of the way to the prison level. As he reached the guard post, he heard coarse laughter. Anger flaring inside, he drew his zanpakutou and followed the sounds into the interrogation room. As he entered the room, he came upon a group of guards surrounding a prisoner, who laid across an examination table on his stomach. One look at the kido bound taichou and the hollows assaulting him and Aizen's anger became a deadly rage.

His weapon decapitated a guard who leaned over the restrained noble, pushing his thighs apart and attacking him from behind. The ones gathered around died as well, his weapon taking them so quickly, they barely had time to scream before death was upon them. He kicked them aside and shattered the bindings that held Byakuya, turning him onto his back, pulling him close and calling his name.

His heart nearly stopped at the blank, detached expression in the large gray eyes, at the deep bruising that had turned much of the lovely, pale skin, purple and black, the long, jagged red lines where the hollows' claws had raked his skin. His torn clothes and the kenseiken lay discarded on the floor and drenched with the blood of the dead guards.

He lifted the broken body cautiously and flash stepped to the infirmary, hissing orders to the healers as he arrived there and shocking them into motion. He set the unconscious noble down on the examination table and stood back, allowing the head of his healing staff to examine Byakuya.

"They worked him over badly, Aizen-sama," the eldest healer said in a low, shocked voice, "I am surprised he survives."

"He is with child," Aizen said quickly, "You must make sure the child's reiatsu has not been affected."

"Sir," said the healer, "I am sorry…but I am barely sensing the child's reiatsu. I will, of course, check again when he is stabilized…if he can be stabilized, but I would not dare to hope. It's ambitious enough to hope he, himself will live."

Aizen's face paled, but he nodded, calm slowly returning and inevitability settling over him. He watched numbly as the healers tried to connect with the small spark of life left in the noble. Byakuya's body shuddered softly several times, but for the most part laid limp and still, his eyes closed and his reiatsu dangerously depleted. Gradually, the healing began to knit together broken bones and damaged tissues, to gently erase the heavy bruising and to leave the pale, slender body looking as it had before the denizens of the fortress had laid their claws upon it.

When the healing ended, Aizen sat, quietly fuming, his eyes locked on the noble and his heart broken over the damage done to him. He thought back to the stunned, light headed feeling that had passed through him as he learned of Byakuya's condition…then of how quickly that lovely feeling had disappeared and the darkness had set in around them again. For a moment, it had seemed as though Byakuya had wanted to talk to him, to tell him of the child they had made together…and then…what?

But there was nothing to be done or considered now. However Byakuya had been feeling before, those feelings would be gone now and Byakuya was going to despise him. And, he realized darkly, as much as the beautiful noble might hate him for the loss of their child at the hands of the hollows, it couldn't compare to how much he hated himself for it.

There was, it seemed, no end to the price he would pay for his arrogance. Because, as much as it had been as he perceived it, unfair the way commoners were treated in relation to their noble peers…it wasn't something this man should have had to pay for.

You should never have come here…should never have left the safety of the Seireitei and crossed into this land of monsters. I was strong enough to yoke their strength and to control them so that I could bring them to bear on the vacuous king and the ones who supported him, but in doing that, I exposed myself and anyone who came here with me to their blackness…to the chance they would turn on me and strike me down instead.

In retrospect, he found it odd that to seek fairness and justice, he would turn to creatures both foul and incapable of conceiving of justice and right. He had thought of them as a means to an end, but now realized that the ends didn't justify the means. Here laid a person who had been unique among the nobles, because he didn't hold himself above the commoners. Byakuya had married a peasant woman…and another commoner was a close friend and had almost become a spouse. Obviously, he didn't hold with the idea that nobles were better, in some way than commoners. Yet, while his noble peers sat in their lovely, expensive homes and enjoyed the privilege of being held above the laws of the land, this noble had suffered a brutal attack because he…Aizen Sousuke…one of those commoners the noble had considered aligning himself with, had made a huge error in judgment. It was something he couldn't go back on, now that it was done. He was committed to seeing it through, no matter how his perceptions might have changed, due to Byakuya's influence.

He studied the noble's troubled expression and felt a weariness steal over him. And he wondered why he had been given such power and such passions. He had thought it a good thing to fight injustice…and it still seemed an important thing to do…but what he had learned…in the most painful of ways…was that, even when fighting injustice, one should refrain from using injustice and wrongness to combat the same. It was something Byakuya would have told him, or shown him, had he been open to receiving the message. He shook his head softly, looking down at the unconscious noble and wondering if there was any hope of coming back after falling so far.

He thought back to when he had reached out and become one for the first time with Byakuya. It had, of course, been wrong to take advantage, but there had been beauty in the exchange of their passions. And each time he came close to Byakuya after that, something inside him longed to seek that beauty again. He wondered if he could leave Las Noches and go somewhere safe…if he could wrap himself deeply enough in Byakuya's arms to make everything else disappear, to make the darkness in his heart fade…if he could learn to forgive and to have compassion again.

But those were things reserved for those for whom hope had not been lost…for those who had endeavored to preserve peace in their society, while also doing their best to change what was wrong. He had thought it necessary to throw off the entire system, to use the strength he had been given to make things wholly new. And he had thought that sacrificing the lives of the corrupt councilors of Central 46…of using the evil hollows was just a necessary evil in his attempt to make things better. But now that he looked at it again…the councilors themselves did not make the laws, but simply enforced them…and the hollows, though allies for now, were not friends…and would not support him once he became king.

And his whole attempt to right things had, ironically, it seemed, darkened his own soul. And that being the case, who was he to think that he would be any better than this king who shut himself away in the spirit dimension and did not trouble himself with the quality of the lives of the ones he led? Shouldn't a leader care about all of his subjects, noble or not?

And who did Aizen Sousuke care about? Had he shown his commitment to caring for his people by murdering some of them to make a point? And was it caring for them to use such creatures as the hollows against them just to obtain a higher position? He had thought of these as necessary sacrifices, but were they really? And if they helped him to become king, did the end then truly justify the means he had used to achieve it?

"Aizen-sama, there are shinigamis marching out from the base," a messenger told him, "The others wish to know what action you desire we should take."

So now the hollows will take more lives, irrespective of whether it is right or not, whether the ones taken are good people or not. And how does this bring us closer to the vision I followed?

"Monitor their movements and repel whatever attacks they make."

"We should not go out to meet them?" the messenger asked.

"Of course not," he said quietly, "Why waste effort and lives going to them when it isn't necessary. Let themselves waste their effort and lives as they will. They will not breach the fortress."

"As you wish, Aizen-sama," the messenger said, turning away.

I hear it clearly now…he thought darkly, the grudging tolerance they give to me…respecting my power, but not truly aligning themselves with me. They are dangerous allies, these hollows. If I didn't see that before, I see it now. It is inscribed on Byakuya's body, even though the signs have been erased with healing light. This noble…this shinigami…this person…may lose something dear because of my arrogance…and there is nothing I can do to take it back. When he wakes, he will hate me for it…but in the meantime, I will hold him and try to remember what beauty feels like. Because that, more than anything else, is what I am losing, in taking this path I have chosen.

He slipped his hand into the unconscious noble's and rested his face against it, closing his eyes and sighing softly.

"I am sorry," he whispered, "I would never have wished this on either of us…but now, it seems that we are perhaps fated to be joined in loss. Rest now. There is time enough to hate me for what I've done later."

He let everything fade from his mind then and focused deeply on the silent, sleeping reminder of what had once been, but had been lost and would not come back to him. But even in the darkness of the moment, there was some hope. As long as Byakuya still lived and breathed, they could move forward. And as long as he lived and breathed, he could continue to try to right the things that had gone wrong in between them…

It wasn't much, but he held onto it stubbornly as was his way…

"Aizen-sama," said the healer, interrupting his thoughts and gazing at him through troubled eyes, "Kuchiki taichou has stabilized, but will need a long period of rest to recover."

"And the child?"

"He is still alive, but there is a problem."

He?

A son?

"Kuchiki taichou's body was heavily damaged and cannot support the pregnancy. A decision must be made about what to do."

"What to do?" Aizen asked wearily, "What do you mean? Are you asking me to choose between them?"

"Not exactly," said the healer, "There...is another option."

"Oh? You don't mean to hollowfy them?" Aizen said, frowning, "Byakuya would rather they both died."

"I wasn't speaking of hollowfication," the healer said, meeting his eyes respectfully, "I was speaking of the means the hollows have used in some situations like this to implant the child's reiatsu within a surrogate parent."

"A surrogate?" Aizen mused, "You can do this? And our son will survive?"

"Yes. In this way, it is possible to save them both...but...we would have to find the surrogate quickly, sir. Kuchiki taichou is barely stabilized and could decline quickly if we do not act soon."

"I see," said the leader of the hollows, "Then, prepare for the procedure."

"You...already have someone in mind?" the healer asked, looking surprised.

"Yes," Aizen said calmly, "I do."

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Byakuya felt the darkness recede and beneath his closed eyes, felt the taking and leaving of breath again. He was still alive then. He hadn't been sure the hollows wouldn't simply eat him and leave no trace behind.

Aizen Sousuke, then, must have returned in time to stop it. But although he had been spared, he felt the disappearance of the baby's reiatsu…the soft retreat of that soul that had grown beneath his. He was alone again…and surrounded by enemies…far from home and even if not for that, lost.

He wondered how it could be that a creature who had never even drawn breath, but had lived the whole of its brief existence inside him…how could that tiny being have taken so much upon its leaving? Because he didn't just feel the loss in his heart. It was experienced over the whole of his newly healed body…and it left him unable to move or speak, trapped within this silent reverie. And as hard as he tried, he couldn't break it. It was as though his body knew that his heart and mind weren't strong enough yet to shoulder the weight of it. So he remained removed from it, locked away from the outside world in this safe place where nothing could reach him.

Things registered…touches, voices, thoughts…all whispers in the deep calm around him. But they held no power and had no bearing where he was now. He might, he thought, just drift in this place forever. While here, he didn't have to think about the cost of what he had done. He knew that whatever Renji might say, his choice to run…and to run to Aizen Sousuke, had to have hurt his fukutaichou.

No, he thought, It hurt my friend. He was unselfish enough to sacrifice ever having a lifelong love of his own…and I showed him my gratitude by running…and running to Aizen Sousuke.

I deserve this misery…

I brought it on myself…

Why am I still here?

Why am I still breathing?

Why did I not disappear with that beautiful dream that just couldn't be?

Why?

"Byakuya," said Aizen's voice, and he felt a warm hand slide into his, "Do not despair. Despite what you think, there is still hope...for you, for me and for our child."

Aizen's hand guided his to touch soft, heated skin, and shock flooded his resting body as he felt again that throb of life resonating gently under his limp palm. New life flooded his tormented body and he forced his eyes open. They traveled down the length of his arm to where his hand rested, then rounded as his breath caught and disbelief sent a jolt of numbing shock through him.

"A-aizen Sousuke!" he gasped, stiffening, "Sousuke, what have you done?"

He stared in amazement at where his hand rested, in beneath the other man's clothes.

"You were injured too badly to carry our child to term," Aizen said quietly, "So, I had him taken from your body and put into the safest place that exists here. Our child will not die, Byakuya. You, the child and I will all survive. I promise you, we will all survive this. You have my word."

This cannot be happening!

I must be dreaming.

The baby was lost and my mind snapped in its desperation.

It cannot be.

It couldn't be.

Aizen Sousuke, betrayer of Soul Society and would-be usurper of the three worlds...cannot be holding our child inside him.

I couldn't bear the loss and I have slipped into a daze, because he can't be looking at me with those eyes and making these promises. It is only what I wish could happen. My broken mind aches for hope that isn't there anymore. The child is gone...lost...and I must be dying. That is the only answer, the only possibility.

Because there is no way...

no way, by any stretch of the imagination,

that his wicked body could protect and nurture something of such beauty.

Not even the Seirei-Joumae could make that happen...ever!

"Byakuya?" Aizen voice said questioningly, as the noble's eyes slid shut again and the monitors around him began to complain ominously, "Byakuya...Byakuya, you are not going anywhere. I might not yet be king, but I am determined that none of the three of us is leaving. Byakuya? Byakuya!"

Am I really dying?

I have never, ever heard Aizen Sousuke sound like he was afraid before.

(Yup, you're not dreaming! I stepped over that line and I am not going back. You read it here first! Starfire is going to make Aizen Sousuke the strongest, sexiest mpreg ever. I am trying new things, so let's see how this flies, okay? And Walkure, thank you so very much for the inspiration. You've got me breaking all kinds of mental chains now. When I'm through being petrified, this will be really great! *hugs*)