Author: Lacewood PM
Renji and Rukia, on facing each other, and the spaces betweenRated: Fiction T - English - Renji A. & Rukia K. - Words: 1,302 - Reviews: 14 - Favs: 24 - Follows: 2 - Published: 11-11-04 - Status: Complete - id: 2130998
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The empty practice room was pitch black. Renji had stubbed his toe on the door frame coming in; rubbing it, he muttered sourly under his breath and watched as Rukia set a flickering lamp down on the floor. He didn't ask where she'd gotten that, the same way she didn't ask where he'd gotten the wooden practice swords slung over his shoulder.
Sliding the door shut after a last look outside, she looked at him.
"I thought you said you passed Spiritual Arts," she said, and he could hear the smirk.
She strolled into the light of the lamp and smirked at him properly.
"This was your idea," she pointed out. "What, changed your mind already?"
Seating herself before the lamp, she cupped her hands around its wavering glow and murmured to herself. The flicker steadied to a calm gold, then grew till it ran beyond the circle the lamp had drawn, to light centre of the room.
Renji watched and bit back a snide remark. Oh, sure, she'd topped her damn class in Spiritual Arts - for good reason. Not that he was going to admit it.
Rukia stood and he tossed her a sword. She caught it and hefted its weight, gave it an experimental swing.
"So when's the test?"
He nearly dropped his sword. "What test?"
She snorted and spun her sword, glowering at him. "What test? You wouldn't be sneaking extra practice if you didn't have a test. And you're a terrible liar."
She was still glaring at him, so he shrugged. "The teacher didn't say when. Just said it might be soon." Very, very soon, a small voice murmured and he tried to ignore it. Like tomorrow soon but he couldn't let himself think about that now. He wouldn't have dragged Rukia out here in the first place if he hadn't been this close to blowing a hole in his dorm wall just for something to do.
"It's not fair," she grumbled. "Your class gets to do everything first. My class isn't that far behind."
"Yeah, isn't it just too bad you juuuust missed getting in-"
Damn, she was fast. He jumped back and barely missed her swipe at him.
"Hey, that wasn't fair -"
"What, scared already?" she asked, and closed in.
The swords met with a dull clack of wood against wood. Even the heavier practice swords were too light. Renji wondered what it'd be like to carry a real zanpaktou, one with a name and a form (not just the dead, silent swords they carried for practice). And shoved his sword up, shoving Rukia back.
She leapt back before he could push it further and follow through; her next strike was low and he grit his teeth. Being short was supposed to be a disadvantage, but Rukia had the sense of honour of a rat when it came to this sort of thing.
Strike and parry, block and twist. They'd sparred before, and even if they hadn't, they knew each other too well. Renji had the advantages of size, strength, power; but his technique was wild and his (non-existent) strategy reckless. And if Rukia was small, she also had the kind of flawless technique people wrote textbooks about and a fiendish inventiveness that gave her instructors nightmares.
They had fallen silent. Blood drummed in his veins and drowned out the dull thud and scrape of the practice blades. There was only light and shadow and her quicksilver form, swift and unpredictable and almost elegant.
He caught an opening and dove in. She was too close to duck or leap back now, but somehow, she sidestepped the blow - and now he was too close to duck, and their blades were suddenly useless and clumsy. He tried to scoot back but then her foot slammed into his sword, her hand grabbed his shoulder and she was up.
"Dammit, what the fuc-"
She landed behind him and they both spun, but he was startled, and she was just that little bit faster.
"Like it?" she asked and grinned, wooden blade tickling his throat. He scowled.
"What the hell kind of move was that?" he demanded.
"I'm just using my natural advantage," she said and looked smug, as well she could. She'd practically flown over his head - what the hell kind of...
"Hollows can come in any form, any shape. You can't just expect them to fight like other shinigami. I'm helping you get used to it," she added with the pious air of someone reciting from their textbook.
Yeah, right. Renji snorted, shifted his grip on his sword and with a sudden crash, knocked her sword out of his way and shot up.
She yelped and barely ducked his blow. "Hey -"
"And you can't expect a Hollow to stand still and watch you gloat over them, can you?" he smirked.
"Bastard," she scowled and drew her sword arm back for the blow.
Somewhere beyond the shut door, someone yawned again. Whoever it was on patrol duty must have woken up after all.
A blink and the light went out, lamp and all. Shadows sidled across the darkness to find a window with groping hands, slide it open and slip out. Plenty of time to finish the fight later.
Back in the dorms, Renji fell into bed, slept like a rock and nearly missed the second test in the morning. To this day, legend claims he owes Izuru his life for literally dragging him to the exam room. It was a miracle he passed, everyone told him.
Tomorrow, he will pass the test he hadn't wanted to talk about by the skin of his teeth. He will look for Rukia to tell her the news. He will find her, and lose her, and let her walk away (she was never his to lose). He will meet a man whose power he will dream wildy, hopelessly, of defeating for the rest of his life. And everything will change.
Two months later, Rukia will draw a real zanpaktou (lead in her hands), technique forgotten, strategy useless. She will kill for the first time (second time. Who dies first, the shinigami or the Hollow?) A sword with no name, a death with no honour, a crime with no forgiving.
The Hollow never touches her. It doesn't have to. It has already scarred her in the one place she cannot heal.
Renji will hear vague, oblique rumours about this first fight. He will watch for her in the halls, and think she looks different, but she never looks at him so how can he be sure? She is Kuchiki, she does not need his clumsy, awkward intervention.
Eventually, he will make it to a squad too (not her squad. But he never hoped for that anyway.)
One day, he tells himself as he picks up his sword, he will face her again. When he is ready.
And the chasm between them widens with every step they take.
It will be more than forty years before he faces her again, sword in hand. He is not ready for this; he will never be more ready.
(Her aura is different, wrong, changed. She looks human. She stares at him like a ghost, as if she has forgotten his name. How long has it been since he has looked her in the eye?)
He smiles down at her, all bared teeth and razor-edged words (never show her your weakness, she will use it. And he is watching.)
Zabimaru sings for blood as he draws the blade.
There's work to be done.
They have a fight to finish.