Chapter 5: Don't Look Back

"Wh-why? Why are you doing this?" Tetsuya panted, straining against the bonds that held his wrists, "Aren't we cousins? Why would you do this to your family?"

He stifled a yelp as something snapped across his back once...twice...three times. Then, Orochi laid down on top of him. He leaned down and hissed into Tetsuya's flushed ear as he entered his cousin roughly, ignoring the sounds of his pain.

"You are no family of mine, half-blood! You stole something that wasn't yours! Your whore of a mother blackened something pure, and you are going to pay for that!"

"Orochi-sama, no!" Tetsuya cried, making a sound of agony, "Please, stop! Orochi-sama!"

"Please, Orochi-sama!" said another male voice, "Don't hurt Tetsuya-kun anymore. He has obeyed everything you said! You said that if he..."

"Shut up!" Orochi snapped, swinging the whip that he had used on Tetsuya.

Tetsuya heard a sound of impact and Naoki gasped and put a hand to his face. Tetsuya's eyes widened at the sight of his lover, holding a hand to his reddened cheek and fighting tears.

"Stop, Orochi-sama!" he cried, throwing himself wildly against his bonds, "Don't hurt him! He was only defending me. Stop it!"

"Hold still," Orochi said in a low, tired voice, "I am only healing your arm. It was broken badly."

Tetsuya groaned and shivered, flinching but holding his arm still as the other man continued to heal it. Next to them, Kisho squawked unhappily, then started to cry. Tetsuya pulled the little bundle closer, using his uninjured arm, and hummed softly, soothing the boy while Orochi continued the healing. Gradually, the baby quieted and fell asleep, leaving Tetsuya looking out at the rainy and still dark environs. A soft shiver went through his still feverish body as he noticed the other man stealing glances at him.

"How long have we been here?" he asked, mostly to break the tension between them.

"Who knows?" Orochi sighed wearily, "The rain hasn't stopped and there has been no 'daytime.' Lovely place, this. But then, you aren't really bothered by rain so much, ne?"

"I can't drown and I won't freeze to death, but the cold is still uncomfortable," Tetsuya explained.

"It isn't too terribly cold," Orochi informed him, "That's just the fever, making you shiver like that. I just hope that this rain lets up and we get some light soon so that I can go and find a few provisions for us. As much as we don't require food, it would certainly help you throw off this illness and would help both of us recover more quickly from our wounds."

"Were you injured?" Tetsuya asked, sitting up too quickly, only to be gently shoved back down.

"Don't try to get up yet. You're still feverish. You've put too much stress on yourself too soon after having Kisho-sama."

Tetsuya wondered why the words struck him as odd, then realized.

He doesn't usually refer to us by name when it isn't required. He usually calls him 'the heir, the child,' or 'the boy.' So strange...

Orochi leaned over Tetsuya, taking hold of his injured arm and lifting a length of vine he had pulled from the nearby brush.

"I haven't anything to wrap your arm with as it heals, but this is strong enough, I think, to hold it in place."

"Thank you."

Their eyes met for a moment and both men froze. Orochi shook his head and went back to the healing as Tetsuya noticed a nasty gash on one side of the other man's face. He waited until Orochi was absorbed in healing his broken arm, then reached up with his uninjured hand and touched his fingertips to the wound, loosing a flare of healing power.

"Stop that," Orochi said curtly, swatting his hand away, "You should save your energy."

Tetsuya's lips tightened and he glared back at his cousin, lifting his hand to Orochi's face again. Orochi's black eyes narrowed, but he said nothing as Tetsuya's warm fingertips followed the jagged line of the cut, first easing the sting of it, then slowly making it disappear. He spotted blood on Orochi's near shoulder and slid his fingers underneath the other man's torn kimono, seeking the wound.

"That's enough, all right?" Orochi snapped, pulling away, "I can take care of myself. Just try to sleep. I am going out to see if I can find something for us to eat. And Kisho-sama should have short infusions of reiatsu, as we have nothing to feed him."

"I can manage that."

"Fine," Orochi said shortly, "I will be back."

"Orochi..."

The other man paused, facing away from him, then looked back over his shoulder.

"I won't leave you, Tetsuya."

"I know," Tetsuya said quietly, "I only wanted to say, be careful."

"Hmmm," Orochi muttered, passing through the reiatsu barrier and crawling back out onto the rain soaked beach.

Tetsuya sat up and picked up the sleeping baby, resting him gently against a warm shoulder and humming softly as he watched Orochi disappear into the darkness.

Come back soon.

XXXXXXXXXX

"I think we have established that they set out in the direction of the Seireitei," said Byakuya, "The reiatsu traces support that."

"But they also show that someone was after them, and sometimes with them," added Renji.

Look here, said Arashi, indicating a splash of blood on the floor of the corridor, My master was injured!

"I think they headed this way," said Byakuya, turning them down another passageway.

They followed the passage through several twists and turns, then came to a split.

"They went to the right here," Renji said, studying the signs, "But...the trail ends here."

He looked back at Byakuya and shook his head.

"The cleaner's been through here and destroyed anything that was left behind."

Then, we will search this corridor and see if we can find where they emerged.

The three made their way down the corridor slowly, their senses extended and their eyes searching every inch of ground, wall and among the small recesses. Renji caught his breath in dismay as they turned a corner and came to a dead end.

"Shit," he muttered, "What the hell is this?"

He met Byakuya's eyes and read the unspoken concern.

"I'm sure they weren't in here when the cleaner came through," he said, trying to reassure the noble.

"Arashi, please wait here so that we do not lose our way back to this corridor," Byakuya said quietly.

The two shinigamis walked back to the beginning of the corridor and checked several others. Finding no sign of Tetsuya, Kisho or Orochi, they returned to the corridor where Arashi waited.

"There are several exits along here," Renji posited, "They must have used one to escape."

"Kami help them if they did," Byakuya said worriedly, "These are mostly uncharted, and a few have been locked to prevent entry."

"Hey," said the redhead bracingly, "I'm sure they're okay. They just ducked into one of these, and maybe are having a little trouble getting back."

"We shall have to be careful that we do not become likewise trapped as we search for them."

"Well, the good news," Renji said, trying to lighten the mood, "is that the damned cleaner isn't going to get in our way. We have six days until it comes down here again, ne?"

"Theoretically," Byakuya answered, "That is how it is supposed to work."

"Eh? Theoretically?" Renji repeated, looking unsettled, "Taichou...!"

"Byakuya," the noble said firmly, "Renji, I find it disturbing that my husband is forgetting to use my name."

"But...!"

"It will be fine," the noble assured him, "I was just saying that there are exceptions to every rule, so we should not let our guard down."

"You can fucking say that again!" the redhead sighed anxiously, looking around them, "Great. Note to self; Watch out for unscheduled cleaner appearances. Terrific. Just one more reason to love the precipice world, ne?"

Relax, Abarai," Byakuya said, smirking, "I was only teasing you."

"Huh. At least, you think so, right? Sheesh! I still can't get out of this place fast enough. Hey Fleabag! Anything new to report?"

No, the stallion communicated, an irritated edge to his voice as it sounded in Renji's mind, But keep calling me that and you'll find yourself locked in one of these pocket dimensions for awhile!

"Hehe, just kidding with you," said the redhead, "Take it easy."

"I think we're all on edge," mused Byakuya, scanning the corridor wall and choosing an exit.

He studied the door for a moment.

"This one's charted," said Renji, touching several buttons on a scanning device he took from within his uniform, "Do not enter-Poisonous atmosphere. I guess this one's out."

The three moved on to the next doorway.

"Charted also," Renji reported, "Hostile atmosphere, some innocuous living creatures, a scattering of poisonous animals and plants, no intelligent life. Must be that Orochi's 'man cave.' Wanna check it out?"

Byakuya frowned.

"I do not want to waste effort, but as we cannot be sure where they were when the cleaner came through, it could be any of these. We shall have to eliminate them one by one."

"Okay," Renji said, nodding, "I'll take this. You stay here with Fleabag and make sure that doorway stays open."

"Abarai..." Byakuya objected.

"Byakuya, you're still officially on injury leave from the battles with the quincys."

"I am aware of that."

"And as the ranking on duty officer, I'll be checking this one out," Renji insisted.

"Very well," Byakuya sighed, "Just be cautious."

"Hey, I am always cautious," the redhead said, touching the entry door with the tip of his sword.

The exit door opened, and a long tentacle shot through and wrapped around Renji, taking him off his feet and yanking him through the opening.

"Whoa! What the...!" he cried.

"Renji!" Byakuya gasped, watching in dismay as the redhead was dragged into the pocket dimension, "Arashi, make sure the doorway remains opened!"

He flash stepped through the doorway and shot towards the huge, tentacled creature that dangled an upside down Renji over its lumpish, gray body.

"Renji!" Byakuya called to him, "Just stay put. I will handle him."

"Wha-?" Renji yelped, "Like I can go anywhere!"

Byakuya stifled a smile and approached the creature with his weapon drawn.

"You there," he said calmly, "Put my husband down!"

"Oh, like that's gonna work!" Renji said sarcastically, "Does this thing even understand you? I don't think so!"

"I was attempting to establish contact, as is required by our rules for making contact with a species of unknown intelligence," the noble stated calmly.

"Contact hell!" Renji objected, yanking his sword free, "I'll make contact! Let me down, you big, smelly son of a bitch! There, see? Same reaction as to your nicey-nice a...AUGH!"

Byakuya inhaled in surprise as a huge, toothy hole opened up on the top of the creature, and it began to lower the struggling redhead towards it.

"Oh, shit! Shit! Shit! Byakuya!"

The tentacle released him suddenly, and Renji began to fall towards the creature's mouth.

"RENJI!"

XXXXXXXXXX

Tetsuya came awake suddenly, frowning at the odd silence, then realized that the rain outside the barrier had stopped. He set the sleeping baby down and slipped out of the protected area, onto the beach, peering about in the darkness for any sign of his cousin.

"Orochi-san?" he called, looking around.

He closed his eyes and extended his senses, casting about for the other man's reiatsu.

"Orochi-san?" he said again, angling towards where he heard some splashing and commotion.

He heard a male voice cry out in pain, then saw a dark form fly through the air and crash down into the water.

"Orochi!" Tetsuya cried, flash stepping forward.

He dove into the water, slicing through it easily, honing in on the body of his cousin, that was sinking down into the water.

Orochi!

The body in the water ahead of him struggled for a moment, then fell still and began to fall farther down into the blackness.

No!

Tetsuya dove down, his uninjured hand reaching out and grasping. He took hold of Orochi's wrist and pulled his cousin close, wrapping his protective power around the other man, allowing him to breathe under the water. He pulled Orochi to the surface and looked around.

Oh my kami!

His stunned eyes found a large, fur covered beast pacing the shore, and looking out over the water with malevolent, glowing red eyes. The eyes glowed more brightly as they spotted him, and the creature snarled viciously. He picked up a boulder and hurled it out across the water in the direction of the two shinigamis.

"Oh!" gapsed Tetsuya, pulling Orochi down into the water and turning back towards their place of concealment.

I must get back quickly. Kisho-sama is safe inside the barrier, but with a beast like that wandering about, we should use a stronger reiatsu cage instead of a simpler barrier.

Orochi stirred within his grasp, struggling until he realized that he was having no trouble breathing beneath the water's surface. He held on tightly to Tetsuya's hand, kicking with only one foot and favoring the other. They emerged onto the beach, coughing and sputtering as they expelled the water from their lungs, then crawled to the barrier and fell inside, panting harshly and peering out into the darkness.

Tetsuya quickly strengthened the protective barrier as Ocrochi bared his injured foot and gazed down at his swollen ankle.

"What happened?" Tetsuya asked softly.

"I found some berries that are safe to eat," Orochi explained, "I had picked some and was about to head back, when that thing came out of the brush and attacked me. I imagine it felt that I had infringed on its territory and didn't take kindly to me helping myself to its berries."

He shook his head ruefully, looking down at a large, dark stain on his torn kimono.

"It looks as though the ones that were not smashed in the fighting must have slipped out of my pocket in the water."

He slipped out of the kimono, leaving him in a white yukata that had been underneath.

"Well, this looks done for," he muttered, "I'm glad it wasn't a favorite."

"I am glad you weren't badly hurt," said Tetsuya, leaning forward and infusing the other man's injured ankle with healing reiatsu.

Orochi flinched and looked as though he wanted to speak, but tightened his lips and watched in silence as Tetsuya healed him. Tetsuya finished the healing, then started to administer a pain block.

"Wait," Orochi said, stopping him and placing a hand on the one that rested on his ankle.

Tetsuya looked at him in askance.

"The pain block will dull my senses," Orochi explained, "and we have to be ready to fight, if need be."

"Very well," Tetsuya said, looking down at their touching hands.

Orochi followed his gaze, then lifted his hand away from Tetsuya's and turned away to face Kisho. The Kuchiki heir looked up at him through pretty blue eyes and gurgled happily.

Tetsuya smiled.

"He is grateful to you for taking care of him," he said softly, "And...I am as well."

"You shouldn't be, Tetsuya," Orochi said, still facing away from him, "All I have ever been to you is a torment. You should hate me more than I thought I hated you. The things I did to you, thinking that you deserved it..."

He swallowed hard and shook his head firmly.

"You should despise me, Tetsuya."

"But why?" asked the younger man, "I never understood what made you hate me so, Orochi-san. What did I ever do to you?"

Orochi let out a sarcastic puff of air.

"Nothing," he said, closing his eyes, "It turns out that you never did anything at all."