In the Darkness

By Spunky0ne


(For more than a few readers who have PM'd saying essentially "You know Spunky, this is going to sound weird and kinda perverted, but would you consider writing a story that includes an Orochi/Tetsuya I shouldn't love you, but I do romance?" So, yeah, after the last few chapters of Blue Eyes, Silent Tears, the idea became a little tempting. So Bya/Ren, will share the spotlight with Orochi/Tetsuya as a sinful little bonus! Enjoy!)


Chapter 1: The Vessel


Tetsuya immediately recognized the gentle fingertips that touched his face and struggled against the blackness that surrounded him. He dimly registered that, as had been the case when he had been made to sleep, he was still locked into soft restraints at the wrists, waist and ankles, and that whatever he had been given to make him sleep was in the process of wearing off. He scented the odd, sterile smell of the infirmary and deduced that he had not yet been returned to his cell. He forced his heavy lidded eyes open and looked up into the face of the other young prisoner who attended him.

"There now, you're awake," the other youth said, smiling down at him.

"Naoki," Tetsuya managed sleepily, "but how did you...?"

"I had myself assigned to infirmary duty so that I would be here," Naoki explained, "How are you feeling, Tetsuya?"

"It hurts a little inside," the younger teen admitted, "but it is not too bad."

A worried look overtook his youthful features, prompting Naoki to squeeze his hands gently and kiss him lightly on the mouth.

"Were you able to find out what they were doing to me?" Tetsuya asked, "They wouldn't tell me anything."

"I am not sure what they did," admitted Naoki, "but you don't look hurt or altered in any way I could see. I don't know what experiment they were conducting, but it seems that you came through it okay. I'm glad. I was worried for you. But when I came on duty, you were already here and recovering."

Naoki paused for a moment.

"But he was here."


"You know that is Orochi-sama to you, half-blood," said a low, haughty voice from behind Naoki.

Tetsuya flinched within his bonds, and Naoki's hands clenched the younger teen's protectively. Still groggy and in pain from whatever had been done to him, Tetsuya was tempted to defy his older cousin, but seeing the concern for him in Naoki's eyes, he bit back what he wanted to say and forced out the words that Orochi wanted.

"S-sorry, Orochi-sama," he whispered, choking on the words.

Orochi stepped forward and glared down at his restrained cousin.

"That is better," he commented, looking about, as though distracted.

His brow furrowed suddenly, and he looked down at the two prisoners thoughtfully.

"Unbind him," he ordered Naoki, "And take him to my quarters."

Naoki's eyes flared.

"Orochi-sama, you cannot possibly use him for sex now! He was just...!"

Naoki went silent as Orochi backhanded him across the face, sending him crashing to the floor.

"Damn you, STOP!" yelled Tetsuya, struggling weakly, "Naoki! Naoki, are you all right?"

Naoki climbed shakily to his feet, one hand held to his reddened cheek. Orochi's black eyes blazed warningly.

"I won't tell you again," he hissed softly, "Take Tetsuya and the two of you go to my room, now. If you do not obey me, I will have the two of you thrown into the pit for a few days and see how you like that! Now go!"

At the mention of the punishment pit, Naoki went white and quickly moved to loose Tetsuya from his restraints, then helped him to his feet. Seeing how his face paled and he leaned against his brown-eyed cellmate, Orochi scowled, but offered the youth a quick infusion of reiatsu.

"That will keep you on your feet," he said shortly, "Now, move!"

He led them out of the infirmary and down several corridors until they came to the officers' rooms. As they passed through Orochi's bedroom door, Tetsuya noticed that his cousin's personal effects had been removed, and all that seemed to be left was the furniture and bedding.

"Lie down before you fall down," Orochi said brusquely, shoving the two into the room and closing the door behind him.

"Orochi-sama," said Naoki, reaching towards Tetsuya's waist to undress him, "What is going on? Where are...?"

"That's not your concern," Orochi snapped, "And I didn't say to undress him, you idiot. Just put him in bed."

Tetsuya's eyes clouded in confusion, but Naoki gave a sigh of relief and helped his cellmate into the bed.

A hell butterfly drifted into the room and Orochi turned away to take the message. While he was distracted, Naoki leaned over Tetsuya and squeezed his hand gently. Tetsuya's wide, sapphire eyes looked across the room to where Orochi stood with his back to them.

"I wonder what is going on with him," Naoki whispered, "Usually, he just starts making us have sex with him."

"I don't know," admitted Tetsuya, "but I don't like this. Why are his things gone? Does it mean that something is going to happen? N-naoki, do you think that...that he brought us here to kill us?"

"Tetsuya, don't say such things!" Naoki whispered reprovingly, "He was probably just worried because word came that Byakuya-sama was going to invade the prison. Now, lie still and try to rest while I think of something to do..."

Orochi whispered something to the hell butterfly and sent it fluttering away, then turned back to the two prisoners.

"Stay here and don't leave this room," he ordered them, "I mean it. If you leave while I am gone, I will have you both whipped to within an inch of your lives. Do you understand?"

"Hai, Orochi-sama," Naoki replied grudgingly.

"Tetsuya?" Orochi said, glaring down into his cousin's frightened eyes and raising his reiatsu warningly.

"H-hai, Orochi-sama," Tetsuya said, tightening his lips in protest.

Orochi nodded briefly and started to leave, but then paused at the door and turned back.

"Just to make sure that you don't get any ideas," he muttered, walking back to the two.

Tetsuya's breath caught softly and Naoki's expression darkened as Orochi bent and bound Tetsuya's wrists to the bedpost with kido, then exited the room, pausing to set a kido lock on the door. Naoki climbed onto the bed as he left and wrapped his arms around Tetsuya.

"I hate him so much!" hissed Naoki, "If it's the last thing I do, I'll get you and me away from him, Tetsuya."

He started to go on, but was interrupted by the sound and rumble of a heavy explosion, followed by the sounds of battle cries and screams. The faces of the two prisoners paled.

"Tetsuya!" Naoki said urgently, "It must be Byakuya-sama! He has come to save us! We have to...!"

They looked down at the kido ropes that bound Tetsuya's wrists to the bedpost. Naoki took a determined breath and grabbed the golden ropes, pulling on them and tearing at them as another explosion rocked the prison and sounds of fighting rose up all around.

"That bastard!" snapped Naoki, "He must have known that Byakuya-sama was coming and he knew that we would be able to identify him as one of the ones who held us here and beat and raped us! He wants us to die, Tetsuya! He brought us here so that Byakuya-sama couldn't find us! But we won't let him get away with that!"

Tetsuya watched with sad eyes as Naoki continued to struggle with the ropes, but after a few minutes, closed his eyes and put a staying hand on the other boy's shoulder.


Naoki froze for a moment, then shook his head determinedly and continued his efforts.

"You should get out of here," Tetsuya urged him, "Please, Naoki, I don't want anything bad to happen to you!"

"Don't be ridiculous," the brown-eyed youth chided him, "I am not going to leave you here for that beast to kill or...or whatever else he might be planning. Byakuya-sama has come, and we are going to get out of here!"

He worked harder at Tetsuya's bonds, his eyes growing frantic as running feet sounded in the hallway, and someone began blowing the doors of the other rooms off the hinges with kido fire. Screams and explosions of power grew closer.

"N-naoki..." Tetsuya whispered tremulously, his sapphire eyes filling with tears, "Naoki, please! You can...climb out the window and escape. Please don't let yourself be caught trying to save me! Please, Naoki!"

Naoki heard the footsteps closing in and stopped his efforts. He moved close to Tetsuya and wrapped his arms around the younger teen, kissing him warmly and brushing away his tears.

"Be calm, Tetsuya," he whispered, "It's okay. We're together. It's okay. It's okay."

He closed his eyes and the two held on tightly to each other as something struck the door, making it explode into splinters. The two watched, wide-eyed as a shinigami stepped into the room, his weapon pointed at them and his body braced to defend himself. He took a closer look at the two as the dust from the explosion cleared.

"Oh," he said, relaxing and lowering his sword, "You are prisoners."

He moved forward and shattered the kido holding Tetsuya.

"I am Kuchiki Sadao," he told them, "I have come with Byakuya-sama to free you. Come."

Tetsuya and Naoki stood and started to follow, but were shoved back behind the man as two prison guards burst into the room.

"He's helping them escape!" yelled one, taking aim on the group.

Sadao pushed the two boys behind him protectively as the guards fired heavy kido blasts at point blank range. Tetsuya and Naoki held on to each other tightly as Sadao's reiatsu rose and fended off the first volley of kido. But as the dust from the first attack settled, more guards ran into the room and joined the first. Sadao gritted his teeth and pulled the two teens close, firing a flash of kido at the guards to distract them, then holding the boys against him and blasting a hole in the wall behind them. Dragging the boys with him, Sadao launched himself through the opening and started to flash step.

Time slowed to an unbearable crawl for Tetsuya as he registered Orochi running back into the room behind the attacking guards. His staring eyes took in the infuriated expression on his cousin's face and he saw Orochi's hands rise. But Orochi disappeared into a blinding, fiery light that exploded within the room, sending a flare of fire and a hard shock wave through the air. Tetsuya heard their rescuer make a sound of pain, and his hands let go of the teens as the three went out of control and tumbled down, crashing violently into the river below them.

Everything went black and horribly still for a time, before Tetsuya felt strong hands take hold of him and drag him out of the water.

"Rest easy now," said the warm, deep voice of the man who had tried to help them, "You are safe."

"N-naoki..." Tetsuya cried weakly, his head swimming and starting to disappear into the darkness again.

"'re going to be all right," Sadao whispered, his saddened eyes focused on Tetsuya as he started to lose consciousness.

"Jun?" he queried softly to the young man who leaned over Naoki.

"I am sorry, Sadao-san," he answered, reaching down to close Naoki's eyes, "There was nothing I could do."

Sadao gazed quietly down at Tetsuya, remembering the way the two had clung to each other. He lifted the unconscious boy into his arms, then looked back at his companion.

"Bring him."


"Just do as I say," Sadao insisted quietly, "I will take responsibility for him. Come, we must meet up with Byakuya-sama."

The younger officer sighed sadly, lifting the dead teen into his arms and following Sadao to the meeting point.


(102 years later)

Tetsuya came awake suddenly, and sat up in bed, placing a hand on his swollen belly and panting softly through the wave of pain that had gripped it.

"Oh!" he groaned, wiping the sweat from his forehead and closing his eyes.

"Tetsuya-san?" said the sleepy voice of his attendant, from where he slept on a cot in the corner of the room, "Tetsuya-san, are you having more pains? Should I get Urahara-san?"

Unable to speak, Tetsuya merely nodded, sending the attendant scrambling out the doors and down the hallway.

"Urahara-san! Urahara-san!" cried Koji, "I think Tetsuya-san is in labor!"

"Okay, okay, Koji," the shopkeeper sighed, groaning as he glanced at the clock and pulled free of Ichigo's naked and only half-awake body.

"Wh-what's that?" Ichigo mumbled.

"Don't worry about it," the shopkeeper laughed, giving the younger man a frisky nip on the lips, "It's probably just another false alarm."

But whatever he might have thought, Kisuke climbed quickly out of bed and slipped into back into his yukata. He stumbled down into the bedroom where the pregnant shinigami had been sleeping, and found that Byakuya, Renji, Rukia, Kuchiki Sadao and Kuchiki Mai had already arrived and were gathered around him. Tetsuya smiled gamely as Kisuke entered the room, but the shopkeeper could see the signs of anxiety in the young man's eyes as he panted his way through the pains, holding on to Byakuya's hand on one side and his adoptive mother's on the other. Renji sat with his arm around the still pale Byakuya, the two smiling down at the younger relative who was about to give the recovering clan leader and his husband an extremely profound gift.

"All right, who's causing trouble in here," said Kisuke, smirking as Sadao and Mai moved aside to make room for him, "I thought I told you to let us get some sleep before popping that little Kuchiki heir out of you!"

Tetsuya chuckled weakly, then winced and panted softly as another pain passed through him.

"I d-did try," he managed, "but I am afraid that, much like his fathers, he isn't inclined to wait."

"Oh," grinned Renji, "I see how it is. The guy thinks he can get cheeky with us now, just because he's having our kid. I don't know, Byakuya, I think you may need to let me smack him around a little for that."

"Perhaps after Urahara-san delivers our child," the clan leader said sedately.

"Enough, you two," clucked Mai, leaning forward to gently wash the sweat from Tetsuya's comely face, "Don't listen to a thing they say."

"You are doing well, segare," Sadao assured him, "I think that it won't be much longer."

"Oh...that is a good thing," Tetsuya panted, biting at his lips as another sharp pain gripped him, "OH!"

"Easy," said Kisuke, opening the lower portion of Tetsuya's yukata and resting his hands on the young man's slightly rounded belly, "The area has lost enough cohesion, I think, so that the reiatsu cluster can pass through. Okay, folks, I hope you have a name picked out, because we are there..."

"Hah, and you tried to tell me that it was a false alarm," complained Ichigo, stumbling to an open chair near Rukia and giving her hand a squeeze, "All ready to meet your new little nephew?"

"Oh, Ichigo!" Rukia whispered, her eyes glistening, "After almost losing Nii-sama, this is such a miracle!"

"Yeah?" said Renji, looking down at Tetsuya's belly proudly, "Well, we wouldn't have this miracle if it wasn't for your cousin, here. You have no idea how much Byakuya and I love you for this, Tetsuya-san."

"Well," Tetsuya said softly as the pain eased, "If there is anything good that came from my incarceration in that prison, it is that what they did to me made this possible."

"Huh," said Renji, losing his smile for just a moment, "I'm still not gonna be thanking those bastards anytime soon. But...thank you, Tetsuya-san."

"Eh," panted Tetsuya, wincing as another pain came on, "Ah...!"

"Byakuya-sama," said a voice from the doorway.

Tetsuya carefully avoided looking at the man and Rukia scowled.

"Speaking of bastards..." Renji muttered under his breath.

"What is it Councilor Orochi?" Byakuya asked, frowning.

"The council is present and prepared to formally greet the heir upon your order," Orochi said, his eye falling on the pregnant shinigami in the bed, "I have been chosen to witness and verify the birth of the heir."

"Great..." mumbled Rukia.

"What? They couldn't find anyone else?" Renji asked, his reiatsu flickering menacingly, "What about..."

"I did not ask for this dubious honor," Orochi said shortly, "I am obeying the will of the council. That is something that some of us are actually committed to doing, Abarai-san."

"Well, they should have their heads examined, sending you in here!" Renji snapped, "They know all about..."

"Renji, please," Byakuya said, placing a hand on his husband's arm, "Not now. Just, let it go."

Renji's lips tightened, but he fell silent, and followed Tetsuya's example of simply ignoring the man.

"AH!" gasped Tetsuya, his sapphire eyes widening and his hand clenching Byakuya's as white light flared around his abdomen.

He leaned forward, shivering as Renji rubbed his back gently and Byakuya ran his fingers gently through the distressed young man's long, wavy black hair. Rukia clutched Ichigo's arm and the ginger-haired youth smiled widely.

"Here he comes!" whispered Kisuke.

Across the room, where he stood apart from everyone by the door, Orochi's eyes watched Tetsuya closely, his reiatsu pulled in tightly and his expression carefully controlled.

Kisuke placed his hands over the place where the light had brightened to where it was near blinding. He sent his reiatsu into Tetsuya's abdomen and let it curl gently around the thick cluster of golden reiatsu. He paused for a moment, letting the nearly breathless shinigami rest briefly.

"Okay, deep breath," he said, focusing on holding on to the emerging reiatsu, "And...let it out real slow. You're doing great, Tetsuya-san."

Tetsuya nodded wordlessly, ignoring the beads of sweat that ran down his face and throat. He watched raptly as Kisuke applied gentle pressure, very gradually easing the golden cluster free of the opened reiatsu chamber inside him. A happy sob escaped him as he felt the cluster pull free of his body, and the opening that had appeared, immediately began to close on its own.

"Holy shit," whispered Renji, staring and holding Byakuya tightly, "That's just..."

"Amazing..." Byakuya breathed, his hand caressing Tetsuya's as Kisuke lifted the cluster away.

Byakuya's face lit with deep pride and happiness as Kisuke reached across Tetsuya's resting form and set the cluster carefully in the clan leader's arms. Slowly, the light began to fade, and the cluster resolved into a tiny, pale-skinned shinigami baby with a tumble of wavy black hair that glowed a handsome auburn where the light in the room shined down on it, tiny delicate features that strongly resembled Byakuya's, and wide dark blue eyes.

"Oh my god," Renji said breathlessly, "He's..."

He broke off as the baby's mouth opened wide and loosed a howl of displeasure. Byakuya smiled down at him and wrapped him warmly in a baby blanket that Kisuke handed him, then held him close as he leaned over his recovering cousin to offer him a kiss on the forehead.

"Thank you, watashi no itoko," he said quietly, "This is something that I...was not thinking that I would ever experience...especially after my injury in the war."

Tetsuya's eyes filled with sudden, unbidden tears.

"It doesn't begin to express how much I owe you for saving me from that awful place," he whispered back, gazing down at the tiny baby he had carried inside him...aching to touch him, but holding himself carefully back from doing so, "It means everything to me that I've made you so happy, Byakuya-sama."

"You should hold him for a bit," the clan leader suggested, "Renji and I want him to be close to you."

"I..." Tetsuya stammered, searching for the right words, "I can't."


"I am...dizzy," he said, his eyes blinking several times as he settled back against the pillows, "My ears are ringing."

Kisuke leaned over him again.

"A reiatsu drop," he reported, "normal for having just given birth. But, we should allow him to rest."

"Go on," Tetsuya urged Byakuya and Renji, "He needs to be formally acknowledged."

Byakuya looked up at Orochi.

"Go and inform the council that the heir is healthy...and they are invited to come, two by two to greet him."

"But," Tetsuya objected.

"Hai, Byakuya-sama," Orochi said, meeting Tetsuya's eyes for a moment, then turning away.

"You may greet him first, Orochi," Byakuya said, making him stop short.

The others in the room went silent as Orochi walked to his cousin's bedside and looked solemnly down at the baby boy.

"Kisho," Byakuya said, glancing up at Orochi, his eyes cool and expectant.

"Welcome, Kisho-sama," Orochi said quietly, "Congratulations, Byakuya-sama...Renji-san."

"And?" Byakuya said sternly.

Orochi's eyes met Tetsuya's briefly.

"Congratulations, Tetsuya," he said, almost tonelessly, "The elders are grateful for your gift to the clan."

"Thank you," Tetsuya said shortly.

Orochi turned and left.

"Damn," complained Renji, "That guy annoys the hell outta me. Why is he on the council, anyway? How did he get chosen?"

Byakuya sighed.

"Clan rules require that all subfamilies be represented on council. And his father was disabled in the war with the quincys. Orochi is Isas's only son, so was the natural choice for his segment of the family."

"Natural choice, huh?" Renji repeated unhappily, "That guy belongs on the Kuchiki council just about as much as a Rukon-rat like me does."

"Abarai..." said the clan leader, shaking his head, "Enough. Let us not ruin such a day as this."

"Okay," Renji chuckled, kissing the noble on the mouth, then kissing the gurgling baby on the forehead, "But, what about tomorrow? Can I kick the guy's ass tomorrow?"

"We shall see," Byakuya said, smirking.

He looked back at Tetsuya, who seemed to be near drifting off.

"Try not to drop off just yet," he said solemnly, "Just accept the congratulations and blessings of the elders and then you can catch up on your sleep."

"Poor dear," said Mai, touching his cheek lightly and earning a sleepy smile, "It's not like they can't wait. Tetsuya has just..."

"I am fine, Mother," Tetsuya assured her as the head councilor and council record keeper entered the room, "And I will be pleased to receive the council."

"Welcome, Kuchiki Kisho," Head Councilor Nori said, smiling and inclining his head, "Congratulations, Byakuya-sama, Abarai-san, Tetsuya-san. We are grateful."

Tetsuya managed to keep his eyes opened, and a small smile on his face as the rest of the elders took turns filing in and offering their greetings and congratulations. But he was relieved when the last left, and Byakuya and Renji carried the child out of the room to go and see to the official recording of his birth. Sadao, Mai and Koji remained behind as the last of the others left. Mai tucked the blankets in around Tetsuya and kissed him on the cheek.

"Rest now," she told him, squeezing his hand, "You've had quite a morning."

"Yes," Sadao added, "We are very proud of you, segare. And your sisters will be so pleased to hear."

"I wish they could have been here," Tetsuya said softly, closing his eyes.

"Ah, yes," sighed Mai, "but the military is still cleaning up and finishing off some troublemakers. It wouldn't have been safe for them."

"We wouldn't have brought you here," said Sadao, "except that the fourth division was still overwhelmed with war injuries."

"I know," sighed Tetsuya, "but I look forward to going home."

"Yes, me too," said Mai, "The repairs to the house and grounds should be completed in a few days so that you will be right at home again when you come back."

"That is good," Tetsuya yawned sleepily.

"Rest, my dear," Mai said, smiling, "Koji will remain to watch over you."

"As always," chuckled Tetsuya.

He watched as his parents left, then closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep. But one slender hand slipped down to touch his abdomen, and tears filled his eyes again at finding that the area felt as firm and trim as it had before his impregnation. He held back from making any noises or letting the tears fall until Kisuke had come back to examine him and infuse him with more healing reiatsu, and Koji had drifted off again. The house went still, and Tetsuya laid, staring silently up at the ceiling, trying not to think about what he had just done.

But the more he tried to avoid the thoughts, the more they rose up and tugged at his mind. Finally, he slipped out of bed and climbed out the window, whistling softly. A moment later, a tall black Arabian stallion with sapphire eyes like Tetsuya's, appeared in the yard, outside the window.

"Arashi," he sighed, leaning against the horse and burying his face in the beast's silken mane.

Are you all right, Master? the stallion's wispy voice whispered into his mind.

"I will be fine," he assured his mount, "I just...need to get away from here. Could we please go somewhere else?"

Won't they worry about you?

"Perhaps, but I will send a hell butterfly, after we are gone."

You shouldn't do this. You have just given birth.

"I know. But I..."

"What are you doing out here?" Orochi's voice asked suddenly, "Aren't you supposed to be resting?"

"Leave me alone," Tetsuya said in a low, warning voice.

"What's wrong?" asked the noble, his black eyes glinting softly, "Everyone is singing your praises, Tetsuya. You should be proud. You have gifted the clan with an heir they thought they would not have. What could be troubling you on such a day?"

Tetsuya sighed and closed his eyes, ignoring the other man's words.

"It almost seems like they have forgotten, doesn't it?" Orochi went on, "but let me assure you, they have not. None of them. Not even Byakuya."

"Don't you have something better to do than lurk around? Go and torment someone else!" Tetsuya snapped.

"Are you tormented, Tetsuya?" Orochi asked in a cool, distant tone, as though he was discussing the weather, "You shouldn't be surprised. After all, I did warn you before, how quickly your notoriety would fade, once you gave them what they wanted."

"Do not start with me about my mixed blood again," Tetsuya said, starting to climb onto Arashi.

He felt a gripping pain in his abdomen and slid back down, leaning against the stallion as Orochi gazed at him dispassionately.

"Do you think it doesn't matter?"

"Byakuya-sama's husband is a commoner!" Tetsuya hissed, "And the heir, himself, is mixed blooded as well. You waste your time, annoying me with this! Get away from me!"

"You are barely on your feet," Orochi said, shaking his head disapprovingly, "Go back to bed before you lose consciousness, Tetsuya. There is plenty of time to realize I was right, and to run away from your problems tomorrow."

"I am not running away! I just...want to go home."

"Weary of the living world?" asked Orochi, "Or just trying to forget?"

"Shut up!" Tetsuya snapped, his blue eyes flashing.

Arashi stepped forward, his eyes glinting malevolently. Orochi smiled.

"Oh, don't get riled. You wouldn't want to faint and freeze to death out here."

"You wish!"

"Tetsuya-san?" Koji's voice queried from within the room, "Tetsuya-san!"

"You'd best go back and rest now," said Orochi, "You'll have them all up in arms if you keep up this odd behavior. They really think that you have bought into their lies...that you believe that your mixed blood is not an issue. But then...if it is not...then why aren't you in there, holding baby Kisho and acting like a proud parent with our leader and his husband?"

"Damn you, for the last time, that was my choice!" Tetsuya cried, surprised at his own loss of control, "I did this for Byakuya-sama, not for myself! When I find the right person...I...!"

"The right person?" Orochi repeated, "And who would that be? The noble women don't want to marry beneath them. And the peasant women would not want to be pariahs within our family. Face it, Tetusya, your parents ruined any chance of you finding happiness when they crossed the lines and..."

"Tetsuya," Byakuya's voice cut in, making Orochi go silent, "Come back inside."

Tetsuya turned to find Byakuya and Renji standing behind them, glowering at Orochi.

"C'mon," Renji urged him, moving past Orochi and slipping a cloak around his shoulders, "You've gotta be freezing. Come back inside and get some rest."

Tetsuya sighed and followed a sputtering Koji back inside as Byakuya gave Orochi a scathing glare.

"You are not to speak to him like that again."

Orochi gazed back at Byakuya silently.

"That young man has done nothing to deserve the despicable things you say to him, and you will cease taunting him, or you will deal with me! I will not have you making him feel inferior!"

"I was not making him feel inferior. I do not have to. Tetsuya knows the truth of things...even if some people do not want to admit it."

"You can keep your damned, twisted version of the truth to yourself!" Renji said, plaicng a hand on Zabimaru, "No one wants to hear it."

"Understandably," said Orochi, "My apologies for disturbing your rest...Byakuya-sama."

Orochi turned and flash stepped away, leaving Byakuya and Renji glaring after him.

"What the fuck is that guy's problem?" Renji asked, scowling.

"He is not the only one who feels that way, I am afraid," Byakuya said quietly, "Class hatred is something that will return to us that the war has ended and things are returning to normal. I did warn you when you married me that not everyone would be welcoming."

"I know," said Renji, "I'm okay with that. But...I will kick the shit out of anyone who puts Tetsuya down in my presence. I'm not going to hold back. That man did something for us that was more than a miracle...and no one is going to hurt him without paying for it."

Byakuya couldn't quite contain a small, gratified smile.

"I am of a like mind," he said, nodding approvingly, "Now then, let's go back inside. I think that we should have a talk with my cousin. We are going to need to be sure that he does not continue his distancing himself from us and from Kisho. I understand being respectful, but he is becoming too remote."

"And we're not going to let him get away with that, ne?"

"No," Byakuya agreed.

Renji slipped his arms around the noble's still too slender body and fed him a long, open-mouthed kiss. He turned with Byakuya to go back into the house, but glanced back over his shoulder at Arashi and tossed him an apple.

Arashi caught the fruit nimbly, and nickered gratefully.

"There's more where that came from, Fleabag," Renji promised, "But I want you to keep an eye out for Tetsuya. You let me know if anyone bothers him and we'll trash them, okay?"

Arashi let out an equine snicker and continued to chew.

For once, something we agree on...