(I have to give thanks to I have the balls to be queer for requesting a story like this one. I appreciate the suggestion and hope you'll enjoy this idea that came to me after that request. Happy reading! And don't forget to review! I'm anxious to hear what you think! Oh, and just so you know, I'm playing with the characters' ages slightly, making Byakuya and Renji a bit closer together in age than the anime does. I also play a bit with the timeline, so it's a little AU, but still a good story!)
Chapter 1: The Way of the Snake
Orochi watched through gemlike green eyes as his eighteen-year-old cousin and future clan leader laughed and joked with half-noble cousin Tetsuya and several others in the sweet-smelling gardens of Kuchiki Manor. All around them, wealthy relatives dressed in formal kimonos talked, laughed and enjoyed offerings of fine food and drink, the lovely environs and the company of the one they had gathered to honor.
"I only wish my father could be here," Byakuya admitted to Tetsuya, who nodded and smiled sympathetically.
"I know what you mean," he said bracingly, "Being in somewhat the same position as you, I do often think about what my parents might have felt as I take each important step forward. But you do still have your grandfather, ne? And he makes no secret of how proud he is of you."
"I know," Byakuya said quietly, turning out of the gardens and moving with Tetsuya out onto the forest path, "And I appreciate having my grandfather's support, of course. But my father was…different. He didn't see things the way everyone else does. He always seemed to find the good in everyone. And when he looked at me, he really seemed to see me, not just as the heir and future clan leader, but as his son. I miss that Tetsuya-san."
"Of course you do," agreed his cousin, his blue eyes scanning the area around them and settling on a cluster of brush near them.
He turned his head slightly.
"You might as well come out, you idiot," he went on, "I sensed you before we left the gardens."
The bushes emitted a soft, equine squeal and a large black stallion emerged from behind them. Tetsuya and Byakuya approached the huge horse and Tetsuya bounded onto his back. He reached down and pulled Byakuya up, and the heir settled onto the horse's back behind him.
"Let's have some fun, Arashi," Tetsuya said, grinning as the stallion reared, then shot forward, his long mane and tail flowing in the breeze as he ran.
He made the trail they were on disappear in a flash, then as they reached the end of the trail where a stand of sakura trees stood next to a large waterfall, he gathered himself and flew over the edge, carrying the cousins into the air over the lake beneath the waterfall. Arashi soared over the water as the cousins looked down and saw their reflections in the moonlight on the lake's softly rippling surface. Arashi landed smoothly at the water's edge, then launched into a wild run across the expanse of the meadow beyond. They found another trail and followed its path deep into a grove of oak trees, watching glimpses of the starry skies overhead as the horse beneath them continued to run. As they worked their way through the darkest part of the grove of trees, Byakuya's sharp eyes spotted a set of ruins, and he called out to Tetsuya to stop. They turned Arashi and angled closer, then stopped in front of the old gray castle.
"What is this place?" Byakuya asked softly, "I thought that I knew every place on Kuchiki land, but never noticed this."
"That's Itamigiri," Tetsuya said, nodding in the castle's direction, "It used to be the place where the council would imprison and punish family members who transgressed. There are wild stories about the things that happened there, of course. For all that we are a civilized clan, there are dark things in our past, as with most, Byakuya-sama."
Byakuya smiled at his cousin.
"How did I know you would know about it, Tetsuya-san? You seem to know about everything. Do you do nothing but pore over our histories and journals? Surely there are more interesting things…like that girl from the Yamashina clan, Aratani-chan!"
"Don't tease," said Tetsuya, slapping him lightly on the shoulder, "You know that the noble women are off limits to me. If I ever want to marry, then I will have to take a peasant wife. You know that."
"I know," Byakuya sighed, "but I wouldn't give up all hope. I mean, your parents managed to stay together and were able to have you. So some noble and peasant relationships work out. There is hope for you and Aratani then, ne?"
"Not likely," chuckled Tetsuya, "but I wouldn't pass on the opportunity if it presented itself, you know."
"Then we shall hope for that. Come along Tetsuya. I want to explore."
They slipped down off of Arashi's back and Tetsuya sent the horse trotting away to return to the meadow to graze. They lit kido lights in their hands and passed slowly through the aged remains of the castle, shivering slightly at the coldness of the environs, and studying the implements of torment they found with wide eyes.
"I can't believe they actually did this to our own family!" Byakuya hissed softly, "I'm glad that things are different now!"
"Me too," laughed Tetsuya, "In those times, my father would have been imprisoned here and my mother would have been sent back to the town she came from, after they drowned me before I took my first breath. We half-bloods are still looked down on, but not with the vehemence that we were before."
"Thank kami for that!" Byakuya said, shaking his head, "I don't know what I would do without you to inject some actual fun into my life, Tetsuya-san. It seems if they could tie me up and only let me live and breathe as they chose, that stuffy old council would do it!"
"I don't think they're that bad!" said Tetsuya, turning them back in the direction they had come.
"This place is spooky," commented Byakuya as they returned to the entrance, "I think it would be that way even during the day."
"I think so too," Tetsuya agreed, looking around and preparing to whistle for Arashi.
He inhaled sharply as a dark form appeared before them, but then relaxed somewhat as he recognized Orochi.
"Great," Byakuya muttered under his breath, "Can't seem to get away from him today, it seems."
"Byakuya-sama," Orochi said in greeting, "I thought I sensed you had come this way. Was the party so boring you had to run away?"
"It wasn't the most interesting occasion," Byakuya admitted, "but we had already made the rounds several times, so it wasn't rude to wander off for a bit, as long as we return in time to farewell the guests."
"Ah," said Orochi, nodding and removing a bottle from his sleeve. He sat down and conjured a small fire, then removed a set of sake cups and set them down, "Come then, I have something to share with you in honor of your coming of age."
Tetsuya and Byakuya exchanged glances of misgiving, but led by rules of propriety, they sat down with their cousin and waited as he warmed the cups of sake and handed them to Tetsuya and Byakuya. He held his cup up and the other two youths did the same.
"To our future leader. May he always lead wisely and well," Orochi said quietly.
He took a sip of his sake and watched as Byakuya and Tetsuya sipped at theirs as well.
"I saw that you were admiring Aratani again," Orochi said to Tetsuya, "Not to be rude, but I do wish you'd quit ogling her like that. She is likely to be paired with me."
"Peace, Cousin," said Tetsuya, his eyes looking oddly sleepy, "I know my exact chances of ever taking a noble wife. I do not delude myself, and if she is not meant for me, I will be content to admire her from a distance…and always in an honorable fashion."
"Ah," said Orochi, watching with gleaming eyes as Byakuya yawned and leaned against Tetsuya, "I understand. And I take no offense, of course."
He continued to watch as Tetsuya and Byakuya sagged against each other and eventually collapsed onto the ground. Laughing to himself, Orochi waited until he was sure they were unconscious, then lifted Tetsuya and carried him into the castle ruins. He placed his cousin in one of the dark, cold cells and locked him inside. After using a disruptive kido to make sure he would not remember how he came to be there, he left Tetsuya's collapsed form and returned to Byakuya.
"If you like peasants so much," he hissed softly, "Let's see how you like being taken by one, ne? This is going to be fun...especially when it gets around and you have to face all of the whispers and rumors."
He lifted Byakuya over his shoulder and turned in the direction of the Rukon.
"Look…I told you, you can't do this. I won't let you!" insisted Renji, taking Rukia by the arm, "I know we're not doing so well, but we're not so desperate that we have to resort to this, okay? We'll find another way!"
"Renji," Rukia said, glancing back at the small group of children sleeping on the floor of the abandoned shack they inhabited, "You know we have to have more food. We are all slowly starving to death! We've put this off for as long as we could. And it isn't like we can keep putting it off. We aren't going to make it if we don't do something. It's almost winter. We need food and we need a way to keep warm if we're going to survive. I have to do something. I know we wanted to avoid it, but it's just a part of being stuck here. You know that!"
Renji sighed and let his hand slide down to take Rukia's. He looked into her eyes for several agonizing minutes, then sighed again in resignation.
"F-fine," he said softly, "but I'll be the one to do it. You stay here. I'll go to Shima-san and I'll come back in the morning with what we need."
"Renji…" Rukia whispered, shaking her head, "It's not right…"
"Like it's any more right for you?" Renji said softly, "At least if I do it, then we won't end up with another mouth to feed here. We can barely manage the ones we have."
Rukia looked back at the other children and squeezed Renji's hands.
"Thank you for helping me take care of them. I just couldn't bear to see them waste away like they were. But Renji, I can't let you do this."
"Of course not. I knew you'd say that."
He picked up a white stone from the ground and held it in his palm. Rukia stared at it for a moment, then looked back at her friend in confusion.
"What are you doing?" she asked quietly.
"I'm leaving it to fate," he said, closing his hands and slipping them behind his back, "If you pick the hand with the stone, you go. If you pick the empty hand, then I go."
He let the stone fall to the ground behind him, then pretended to shuffle the stone around behind his back. He placed his closed hands in front of him and nodded for her to choose. Rukia studied his hands for several minutes, then selected one. Renji smiled sadly and opened his hand, revealing an empty palm.
"I guess it's me, then," he said softly, moving forward and hugging her as tears rose in her eyes.
"Don't worry," the red-haired youth told her, "I'll be back in the morning and I'll have what we need."
He let her go and flash stepped away, leaving her there, rubbing her teary eyes and sniffling softly. A moment later, her breath caught as she spotted the white stone sitting on the ground near where Renji had been standing.
"D-don't think I don't know what you did," she cried softly, the tears flowing into her face, "Baka…"
"Your client is in the next room," Shima told the red-haired youth, who stared down at the floor and tried to calm the hard beating of his heart, "You will both be masked, as he does not wish his identity known, nor to recognize you should he see you again. He is the relative of a very wealthy client, so you will make certain that you satisfy him thoroughly. I…assume you are experienced enough to please him?"
Renji swallowed hard and nodded silently, clenching his teeth. He was lying, of course. He had never been touched in a sexual by anyone. But he couldn't bear the thought of failing Rukia and the other children, so he steeled himself against the sickness inside and walked past Shima and into the bedroom that the brothel owner had indicated. He walked inside and shut the door behind him, placing his back against it for a moment as he came to grips with what he was about to do. After a few minutes, he found it odd that the man in the room had said nothing of him hanging about by the door, agonizing. He looked at the person sitting silently on the bed and caught his breath softly in surprise.
He was masked, so Renji could not see his face, but he could tell immediately that the person before him was a boy who looked to be barely older than he was, and had the delicate look of one of the nobles.
He almost looks like he could be one of the royals…
But there was no reason one of them would come to Inuzuri looking for sex. It was surprising that a noble youth like this one would do so, but Renji was aware that sometimes they came to shed their innocence in private…for their own reasons. Perhaps, he thought, it was that way with this young man. He moved closer, admiring the youth's glowing pale skin, the calm, steel gray eyes, slender build and the long, flowing black hair that had been loosed all around him. He rested quietly against the pillows on the bed, dressed in a white yukata that was loosely tied at his waist, his slightly hazed eyes fixed on Renji and a frown on his lips.
"I'm, uh, sorry for staring," Renji said softly, "but I don't often see people like you around here. Not that it's a problem. You're…really beautiful."
The other youth blinked and lifted himself slightly as Renji climbed onto the bed next to him. He smiled at the noble youth, feeling more relaxed knowing that he didn't seem to be the only one who was a bit nervous and innocent. He froze as the other boy's hand reached out and delicate fingers touched his face, then moved on to loose his hair from the hair tie that held it back. He ran his fingers through the freshly washed strands and brought them to his nose to breathe in their scent. Renji found it odd that he chose not to speak, but took it to mean that he didn't want his voice to be recognized. He understood, of course, but as soon as he figured that out, he couldn't help but want to hear the youth's voice. He shook his head at his foolishness, but he couldn't seem to help himself. Not knowing quite what to do, he looked into the noble's gray eyes questioningly.
"Ah…well, you…came here to be satisfied, ne? Would you…like to get started?"
The youth's delicate hand curved around his cheek and brought him in for a surprisingly warm and intense kiss. And as they kissed, the noble's eyes remained fastened on his, looking dreamy and half-focused. A hot, and deliciously sweet tongue invaded Renji's mouth and the other youth's arms wrapped around him, bringing him down onto the noble's body. It felt strange, feeling the hardness of another male's arousal touching his through the thin yukatas they wore, but the contact was not unpleasant. In fact, Renji couldn't help but fasten onto the older boy's sweet mouth again and kiss him harder as they rubbed against each other, and both broke out in a sweat and slowly became breathless. He marveled at how the noble youth continued to hold back from making a sound…to the point where he seemed ethereal…only half real. He wondered if he had just drifted off and was dreaming, but found that the body that thrust upward into his was warm and alive and the youth's kisses were hungry and fierce. His reiatsu burned white-hot around them, sending Renji's thoughts into a beautiful spin as a pale hand moved to loose the ties at their waists and their yukata's fell away.
The noble sat up and pulled Renji onto his lap, still attacking his mouth furiously and loosing a beautiful, light moan that made the redhead rock hard and restless to take things further. He rubbed harder against the other boy, making him thrust heavily upward and tighten his hands on the redhead. He groaned, wanting more than anything to push the noble down and love that beautiful body until he screamed with pleasure. But he wasn't allowed to take a client without permission. And he wasn't allowed to ask…only to give what was asked of him.
But the youth had come to be pleasured, and despite how he had felt before, Renji couldn't help but enjoy this joining with such a lovely being he would never be allowed to touch in any other situation. So he climbed off of the youth's lap and buried his face in the soft skin of the noble's throat, loving the sound of his gentle, pretty sighs as Renji bit down on his throat and reached down to stroke his swollen member. He pushed the youth into a more reclined position and crawled down his body, touching and tasting every inch of that porcelain skin. He traced the perfect lines of the youth's slender torso, gently tormented his erect, pink nipples, then descended the rest of the way until his flushed face rested on a creamy inner thigh, just inches from the noble's aroused length. He felt a shiver move through the noble and looked into his eyes, wondering at the haze of confusion he saw there.
He probably took something to ease his nervousness. That's why he seems a little off…
Smiling up at the noble, he turned his head and gazed at the other youth's flushed nether region. All of a sudden, Renji's nervousness returned. He had never been with another guy…had never really thought about what it would be like. He wondered if it would be unpleasant, but before he could get too anxious about it, that soft, pleasant hand touched his face and he found himself moving forward. Ignoring the tickle of fear that shot through him, he closed his eyes and began a warm stimulation. His tongue encountered slightly salty fluid, but he found that it didn't have an unpleasant taste. He continued his ministrations and the youth made a sound of intense arousal. Pleased to know that he was succeeding at pleasing his client, he moved faster, intensifying the contact. The noble quivered beneath him as Renji placed his hands on the soft inner thighs, opening them wider and continued his amorous attentions as the youth moaned and writhed fitfully.
Gods, he's beautiful! I've never seen anything like him…and I don't think I ever will again. I guess if I had to be with someone like this for money…for survival, I couldn't have fallen into sweeter arms…
The noble turned and pushed Renji down on his back, then plunged into the redhead's mouth, seeking the pleasantness of their mingled tastes. His hips ground into Renji's roughly and his hands slipped down to position himself at the redhead's entrance. Renji held his breath and clenched the older youth's shoulders, waiting for the shock of pain, but the noble youth showed gentleness and restraint, moving slowly in slow, measured thrusts until he was fully buried in the redhead's body. The pretty gray eyes sought his again and the lovely body on top of Renji's began to move…slowly at first, then with increasing speed and depth as their arousal intensified. And even though Renji had thought it would be embarrassing, he couldn't stifle his loud moans, or his hungry cries as the noble struck the pleasure center inside and had him almost instantly seeing stars. He hadn't been able to think about what it would be like before. But the reality of it was amazing and heartbreakingly beautiful when the one he was with was like this boy…shy and reserved, calm and gentle, delicate, but beautifully strong. He felt tears in his eyes thinking that this would be their only time together…that this youth was just there to leave his innocence behind and then to return to normal life as though it had never happened. But Renji couldn't be with someone like that and just forget afterwards. He knew he would remember this night and this other beautiful boy forever.
The noble's hips thrust deeply into his and Renji's cries of pleasure grew and peaked in a hard scream of completion that he was sure must have been heard all through Inuzuri. Renji screamed again at the explosion of heat inside him and the burn of strong reiatsu around them. The noble's heaving body collapsed heavily onto Renji's and the two exchanged a flurry of intense, biting kisses before settling in each other's arms and drifting off to sleep. Renji woke later and found the noble still sleeping peacefully in his arms. He smiled and studied the carefully masked face, longing to see what he looked like. But as he started to reach for the mask, a tap sounded on the door and Shima entered the room. He looked at the two entwined forms on the bed and nodded in approval.
"Very good," he said softly, "His cousin is here to retrieve him."
Regretfully, Renji pulled free of the noble's sleeping body and accepted the money that Shima held out to him. He was shocked to find that it was enough to get them through the long winter months, and then some. He turned back to gather his things as Shima left the room. He started to leave, but then turned back and placed a last, gentle kiss on the noble's soft lips.
"Arigato," he said in a choked voice, "Because of you, our whole group of kids will have a warm place to stay and food for the winter. I'm very grateful. I know we'll never see each other again…but…I want you to know…it was…amazing being with you. I'll never feel anything like this again, I know. But it's worth it to have had just this small amount of time with you."
He kissed the noble youth harder and felt tears form in his eyes. The gray eyes opened and met his, looking lost and deeply confused. Unable to bear the swell of emotions inside him, Renji fled the room, leaving the youth looking after him.
Byakuya watched the door close behind the other boy and stared at the closed door, trying to remember how he had come to be in that place. His head ached fiercely and his body shook all over. He looked down at his exposed body and smelled the heavy scents of sakura and lovemaking. A shudder went through him as he realized what had happened to him. He rose and moved to the door, listening.
"He seemed very satisfied with the service. He's in there."
Byakuya didn't wait to see who had come for him. Terrified of the dishonor of being found in such a state…in such a place, he climbed out the window and flash stepped back to the Seireitei. Upon his arrival in the meadow near the manor, he heard Arashi's pealing cry and waited as the stallion ran to him and slid to a stop.
"A-arashi," he said uncertainly, "Arashi, what's wrong?"
He remembered then, being at the castle ruins with Tetsuya. He remembered nothing beyond coming out again and meeting someone. But he didn't know who had met them or how he had ended up in the Inuzuri brothel afterward. What he did know was that he was going to be in awful trouble with his grandfather.
"I have to find Tetsuya-san and get back home…" he said softly.
He climbed onto the stallion's back.
"I need to find Tetsuya-san," he told Arashi, "Take me to Tetsuya-san."
The black horse jumped forward and flash stepped away, moving back in the direction of the ruins of Itamigiri. They reached the ruins quickly and Byakuya slid down off of the stallion and conjured a kido lamp. He went back into the ruins and searched them carefully, calling out Tetsuya's name. Finally, as he searched the prison cells, he heard a return cry and found his cousin locked inside one of the cells.
"What happened?" he asked, shattering the lock on the cell and freeing his shaken cousin.
"I don't know," Tetsuya said, shaking his head, "I only remember us coming out of the castle and meeting someone. I don't remember who it was or what happened after that! What happened to you?"
"I'm fine," Byakuya assured his worried cousin, "but we have to get back. I am going to be in the worst trouble of my life!"
They left the ruins and climbed on Arashi's back, racing through the oak grove, through the meadows and back up the cliff to the forest path. They climbed off of Arashi and left him there, flash stepping back into the gardens and finding the place in a fit of activity. The head of security spotted them and gave a gasp of relief.
"Kuchiki-sama!" he cried, "Thank goodness you are safe! We weren't sure if maybe you had been injured when the hollows attacked!"
"H-hollows?" Tetsuya began, but Byakuya cut him off.
"Where is my grandfather?"
"He reported to the sixth division after the attack to go after the one who sent the hollows. It seems it was directed at killing you. But I will send a message to tell your grandfather that we found you and you are all right."
"Come," said Byakuya's attendant, flash stepping forward, "Let's get you bathed and comfortable."
"Arigato, Torio," Byakuya said, turning to follow the servant, "Tetsuya, come along. You should spend the night."
"Ah…certainly," his cousin said, falling in with them.
"Kuchiki-sama," said Torio, "What happened to your clothes?"
Byakuya looked down at the thin white yukata he wore and shook his head.
"Nothing…it's not important," he said quietly.
No one knows what happened except the boy in Inuzuri and me…and we were masked. Someone drugged me and set me up to be found there…to be dishonored. I wonder who would do such a thing…
Orochi stood in the distance, watching as his cousins followed Torio back inside and wearing a devilish, self-satisfied smirk.