Chapter 9: Absolution

(Thanks so very much to Picklez80, Just4Giggles, Princess Moon Shadow, BunnyHopster26 (Soon now! I promise.), Aurelia Cotta (I love their music and listen a lot while writing. Very inspirational!), and Renji-Bya-Lover (Thank you for giving thi story a chance. It's a brave thing to try new things. I am glad that you like what you found here. I am really enjoying writing this too!) Hugs to all! You are the greatest! Enjoy the new chapter!)

"Byakuya-sama!"

The noble heir started at the sound. He sat up in his bed and listened carefully, wondering if the sound had been real. A moment later, he heard it again and felt a twinge of emotional pain inside.

"Tetsuya?" he whispered.

He slipped out of bed and through the garden doors, following the walkway down to where Tetsuya laid in bed in his room. From the doorway, he looked to be sleeping, but Byakuya stood for a time in the open doorway, watching him closely. A moment later, he heard a soft footstep and nodded in greeting to the attendant who appeared.

"Koji?"

"He sleeps, Byakuya-sama, but his dreams are troubled. He calls out to the boy, Naoki and he calls out for..."

"For me?"

"Yes, Byakuya-sama. But also sometimes he says Orochi-san's name. And when he does, he does not call it with longing as he does the rest, but fearfully, as though both wanting and dreading. I do not know how else to describe it, sir."

"Has Michio been by to see him tonight?"

"Yes, and he says that Tetsuya-san suffers from post-traumatic stress."

"Did he say anything about the connection with Orochi?"

"He says that Tetsuya-san is negatively attached to him. What passed between them must have been very dark indeed to be resonating within him with such force."

"Well," said the heir, "Orochi will have no chance to cause him any more pain. He will not set foot near Tetsuya again. I was a fool to trust him. I wouldn't have trusted him, but he was the only one who was able to infiltrate the prison successfully. We bought freedom for many of the mixed bloods, but at the cost of great pain to the son of my father's closest cousin. I am glad that Tetsuya survived, but I grieve placing him in Orochi's path."

"It was not your fault, Byakuya-sama," Koji assured him, "Tetsuya-san is so relieved at having been freed. He appreciates deeply all you have done for him. You freed him and are seeing to his healing...and Sadao-san is going to take him into his sub-family when he is well enough."

"Yes," Byakuya said, studying Tetsuya's troubled face in the darkness, "Whatever it takes, we will make him well again. We will make him strong and give him the home he so needs."

"He deserves it," whispered Koji, tears coming to his eyes, "Byakuya-sama, Tetsuya-san has suffered unbearably! And for someone so gentle, he has borne such a terrible weight!"

Byakuya sighed.

"Well, whatever the weight, we will lighten it," he said softly, "Tetsuya is going to be all right."

"Hai. I will not rest until he is strong again, Byakuya-sama!"

"We will not rest until then."

"We will not rest until then."

"Byakuya-sama!" Tetsuya cried, coming awake and sitting up, his fingers gripping the bedding tightly, "Byakuya-sama, help us!"

Byakuya approached Tetsuya's bed and sat down on the edge, gathering the younger teen into his arms as Tetsuya's fingers dug into his skin and his face burrowed into his cousin's shoulder.

"Byakuya-sama, it wasn't a dream," he whispered, "You came for us. You set us free."

"I set you free," Byakuya agreed, sending a gentle throb of kido into his cousin's bady so that he collapsed against the heir and drifted off again, "Sleep now, Cousin. Koji and I will watch over you and keep you safe."

He held Tetsuya against him, stroking the younger teen's hair and speaking to him in a whisper. When he was sure that Tetsuya slept comfortably, he laid his cousin down again and left him in Koji's hands, yawning sleepily as he headed for his own room.

He had only gone a few steps when Tetsuya's terrified cry shattered the stillness.

Byakuya sat up next to Renji, panting softly and feeling his heart pound in his chest. Tetsuya's voice still rang loudly in his ears. A short distance away, Arashi came awake as well, neighing loudly and raising himself onto his hind legs and coming down on stiff, stamping feet.

Master!

Byakuya and Renji rolled to their feet and flash stepped to the stallion.

"Arashi!" Byakuya said urgently, "You felt that as well?"

Yes, I felt a connection with his mind.

"I did as well," Byakuya affirmed, "We are getting close to them."

Renji nodded.

"Sounds like it's time to break camp and start looking again."

The two shinigamis hastily gathered their things and mounted the stallion, who carried them through the senkaimon that Byakuya opened, and back into the precipice world. Arashi snorted and stamped nervously, looking this way and that in the darkness, then taking a few steps. He paused, looking over a series of exits and extending his senses.

He is in one of these places, the stallion said decidedly, And wherever he is...he is afraid. The being I sensed before is close to him. Closer than before. We must find them before it discovers them!

"Then lead on," Renji said, placing a hand on his sword, "Let's get him out of there!"

Arashi thought for a moment and took a step forward, then was nearly taken off his feet as wicked laughter filled the corridor and an explosion rocked the ground beneath them.

"Damn it!" Renji swore, bringing his weapon to bear on the approaching enemies, "Not now!"

Byakuya's reiatsu rose and he positioned himself beside Renji and the rearing stallion.

"Stand fast," the noble said firmly, "We cannot let ourselves be forced from this passageway!"

XXXXXXXXXX

Can this be? Orochi wondered, looking down at Kuchiki Tetsuya's lovely sleeping face, Can this be the one who tore my mother apart inside?

It doesn't seem possible.

Such a small, delicate, fragile looking creature. How could this be the one? He looks as though he might break if I laid hands on him. He clings to that other boy like he has no strength of his own. How could this destroy her?

He moved closer, peering into the darkness, staring endlessly at Tetsuya as he slept.

His hair looks like spun silk and I can see how soft his skin is, how it bruises easily. I wonder what that glow around him is. And why? Why do I feel so strange inside when I look at him?

However innocent he looks, however beautiful, what he has done demands payment. I cannot forget how he ruined my life! He is the one. He is the reason that my mother lost her mind. He is the reason that she came to me and tried to kill me those times. He got inside her head and tormented her.

He...

"Orochi-sama, do you need something, sir?" asked a patrolling guard.

"N-no."

The youth was awake and sitting up. He gazed out through the bars, not seeing the black eyes that glowered at him from within the shadows.

"Gods, such innocent eyes! They are like Kaiyo's. He is the one then. I was right about him," Orochi breathed too softly for the prisoner to hear.

He turned to leave, touching the guard on the arm as he left.

"Have him brought to my room ten minutes before midnight."

"Hai, Orochi-sama."

He returned to his quarters and began to prepare. He showered slowly, breathing in the swirling steam as it curled around him. And in his mind, he planned out each thing he would say, everything that he would do, once Tetsuya was brought to him.

"I have waited so long for this," he whispered into the steamy air, closing his eyes and feeling a shiver pass through him, "I will do this, and then I can go to you and tell you that he has paid for what he did to you!"

He washed himself clean, then stepped out of the shower and dried himself on the warm, thick towels that waited. He slipped a black satin yukata around his body and walked out into his room, where Tetsuya stood alongside a prison guard, his eyes dutifully lowered.

"You are dismissed," he told the guard, "I will call for you to collect him when I am done with him."

The guard bowed and exited the room, leaving the two alone. Orochi glared mockingly at Tetsuya, enjoying how he could make the other youth shiver without doing anything.

"You are Tetsuya, son of Takao and Kiko?" he asked, making Tetsuya shiver again as he struggled to find his voice.

"Y-ye.."

"Look at me when I speak to you, you little wretch!" Orochi snapped, grabbing him by the chin and forcing their eyes to meet.

Tetsuya's eyes rounded, and Orochi felt a heavy jolt pass through him. His heart pounded in his chest and his fingers slid down and curled around the youth's slender throat.

Maybe I should just kill him now...

He stared down into Tetsuya's frightened eyes and started to tighten his grip on the youth's throat. Tears rose instantly in the wide, pretty blue eyes and his hands rose and grabbed at Orochi's, trying to pull them away. With an effort, he loosed his hand and shoved the boy towards the bathroom. Tetsuya's shaky legs collapsed and he fell to the floor. He pushed himself up and started to regain his feet as Orochi motioned in the direction of the bathroom.

"Go in there and wash that filth off of you," he ordered his cousin, "Don't touch any of my clothes. Wash, Dry yourself and come back here naked."

"H-hai, Orochi-sama," Tetsuya answered in a trembling voice, fleeing into the bathroom.

Orochi watched as the door closed between them, then walked to the bed, sat down and waited. He heard the water running and drifted off into his thoughts for a time, emerging as he realized it had been some time since Tetsuya had gone into the bathroom. He rose and walked to the door, then tried the handle.

The door was locked.

It can't keep me out, though...

He sent a flash of kido into the handle and opened the door slowly. Steam obscured the view as he slipped inside. He froze as he heard a soft sob and a few broken words.

"I'm sorry, Naoki. I cannot be strong like you said. He frightens me so that I cannot breathe. He hates me. He makes me want to disappear. Why can't I just disappear?"

Orochi moved forward, then paused outside the shower door, barely able to see the youth cowering on the floor in the corner inside the shower. He listened to the mingled sounds of falling water and muted sobs for a time, then opened the shower door, startling the youth and making him press harder into the corner. He turned off the shower and stepped inside, approaching Tetsuya and pausing just short of him.

"What are you doing?" he asked in a low, angry voice, "I told you to shower and come to me naked. Do you not understand how to follow orders? If not, I can certainly teach you, Tetsuya. Get up!"

Tetsuya cringed under his hand as Orochi grabbed him by the arm and dragged him to his feet. His eyes blazing, he struck the younger boy across the pale cheek, sending him tumbling to the floor of the shower and leaving him huddled miserably at his older cousin's feet.

"Get up!" Orochi growled, dragging him to his feet again and shoving him out of the shower.

Tetsuya reached for a towel, but Orochi grabbed him by the wrist and dragged him, still dripping wet, out of the bathroom and into the bedroom, where he threw Tetsuya down on the bed and bound his wrists to the rail at the foot of the bed. The boy was shaking all over now, but he managed to remain silent and held himself still as Orochi leaned over him.

"You need to learn your place, Tetsuya," he said into his cousin's ear, making him quiver, "And that is to say that you have no place among us. You are a living abomination! I feel the familial power growing beneath that seal. It is stolen power, Tetsuya. It doesn't belong to you. Your whore mother stole it when she seduced your father away from the noblewoman who should have borne his child!"

"B-but, my parents loved each other!" Tetsuya objected, "Why shouldn't they...?"

He cried out in pain as Orochi's hand struck the same cheek he had earlier, making it turn a deeper red.

"Did you hear me?" Orochi yelled, grabbing his cousin by the shoulders, "He didn't belong to her! She stole what belonged to someone else! And you were the result. You drove her insane..."

"What? What are you talking about? There was never any...!"

"Shut up, you trash!" Orochi hissed, forcing him down on his belly, "You are about to begin paying her debt. Remember that when it stings, Tetsuya! Tramps and filth from the gutter don't belong in a noble home! When they mix, we get abominations like you!"

Orochi felt himself sink into the depths of the fury that had been pent up for so many years. Unfettered, he loosed it in bruising touches, hard, biting kisses and finally a barrage of heavy, punishing thrusts into his cousin's restrained body. He lost all contact with reality, burying himself in the release of emotion and barely hearing Tetsuya's cries, and then screams.

Everything went suddenly black and quiet, and Orochi relaxed into the silence, feeling empty and horribly, awfully cold. But somewhere in that darkness, another body laid itself against his, still shaking, but soothed by his closeness.

Who is this? Orochi wondered, What was it that was happening before?

He opened his eyes and found that it was already morning. Tetsuya laid, still bound to the foot of the bed, but pressed warmly against him, his soft waves of unruly hair tickling Orochi's face and throat. There were streaks where tears had dried on his face and splashes of blood on his bruised thighs, and his wrists had bled under the restraints. Tetsuya stirred and whimpered in his sleep, pressing closer to his cousin. Orochi stared in confusion, touching Tetsuya's hair, then stroking his still flushed cheek. The lovely sapphire eyes opened, and for a moment, looked sleepily into Orochi's. Then, fear flooded them and Tetsuya rolled onto his knees, pulling desperately at the restraints. Orochi shattered the kido and watched the youth crash to the floor at the end of the bed.

"I'm done with you," he said coldly.

He summoned a guard, then sent Tetsuya into the bathroom to dress. He watched as the youth emerged from the bathroom and joined the guard at the door.

"Happy birthday, Cousin," he said, glaring, "Now that you are an adult, you will earn your keep. You belong to me now. And in exchange for clothing you, feeding you and keeping a roof over your head, you will serve me...and only me. No one else is to touch you. Do you understand?"

"Hai, Orochi-sama," Tetsuya said, looking at the floor.

"Get him out of my sight," Orochi hissed.

The guard shoved Tetsuya towards the door, making a sound of annoyance as the youth fell, then scrambled back to his feet. They disappeared and the door closed behind them, leaving Orochi alone in the room.

Orochi laid still on his bed, the blankets still tangled around his body. He shivered at how much blood mixed with the semen that stained the sheets, but consoled himself with the thought that it was justified.

"He ruined my life. He hurt my mother. And this...it is not nearly enough..." he whispered, a tear escaping onto his face, "Is that why it still hurts? It seems it hurts even more. What will stop it? How far do I have to go?"

"It hurts," Orochi whispered against Tetsuya's soft cheek, "It still hurts."

Tetsuya's head lifted off of his shoulder and the lovely blue eyes fastened on his bracingly.

"If it hurts, then let me heal you."

"Tetsuya, it is not..."

"Shh," the younger man said, pressing his fingers against his cousin's lips, "You will wake Kisho-sama."

Orochi went silent as Tetsuya's hands slipped beneath his clothes and his arms embraced his cousin more tightly. Tetsuya's lips brushed his cheek, then tentatively sought his lips.

"You're trembling," Orochi whispered, closing his eyes against the memory that raked his mind, "You're still afraid of me. And you should be, Tetsuya."

"I am not afraid of you," Tetsuya whispered back, "I know what Orochi-sama needs."

Orochi took him firmly by the shoulders and gazed into his eyes.

"What did you call me?" he asked quietly.

Tetsuya smiled.

"You are a subfamily leader," his cousin explained, "That places you above me in the family. I am only showing you the respect you are owed for that."

"I haven't been officially named head of my household yet," he answered, shaking his head, "Just, Orochi would be fine."

"Orochi," Tetsuya whispered, seeking his lips again.

He froze just short of kissing his cousin, his eyes widening as the malevolent reiatsu they had sensed before moved closer to them. Orochi's hand closed painfully around Tetsuya's arm, forcing him deep into the corner of the enclosure as he picked up Kisho and pressed in close, wrapping himself protectively around the baby and Tetsuya.

Kami, he mused, not daring to make a sound, This beast...is this death itself?

Orochi's hand found his sword as they heard a footstep on the sand outside the enclosure. Then, a devilish hiss froze the blood in their veins.

I won't let you take them, Orochi swore silently, Death take me first before I will yield them to you!