Title: Against Protocol
Author: Celeste
Rating: PG-13
Feedback: (yes!) finally some actual RenjixByakuya
Spoilers: Post Soul-Society Arc, but not really any strong mentions of it in this fic.
Summary: Companion piece to "Captain, My Captain" and "Beautiful Friendship"- Renji's always been bad at following protocol.
Word Count: 3,829 (OMFG A MONSTER)
Time: So long that it's not even relevant anymore.
A/N: OMG I know I should be finishing my One Piece story arc. I know it. In fact, I'm 12 pages into finishing, but dammit, BLEACH EATS MY BRAIN. It keeps pumping out ideas, and there are so many awesome characters who I just want to write and write and write for it won't stop. ;; I'm so sorry. I WILL finish the OP stuff soon, I will! And, er, do my English essay that's due on Wednesday. I will. Now if only RenxBya would stop being so goddamn appealing. Wagh!
Dedication: Dave, for drawing me Yaoi PORN. There's something very manly about being able to do that without shame. XD
Disclaimer: Not mine… if it were, I wouldn't have such a hard time getting the merchandise. ;; Well, theoretically.
Distribution: Just lemme know.


Renji was resigned to the fact that he was doomed to forever be mystified by those bearing the name Kuchiki.

It seemed that he had just been getting over his prolonged attachment to Rukia, having seen her in hands more capable than his own (though he wouldn't admit it out loud), when all of a sudden, the strange understanding between he and Byakuya had been born.

At first it was easily acceptable, desirable in fact. There came to be between the vice-captain and division leader a friendly relationship based more on mutual affection than the previous fear and respect that had defined their past interaction. The new understanding was now based on those stronger facets of friendship-building, creating a more solid foundation of camaraderie between the two of them.

In other words, he and Byakuya were getting along famously.

The 6th division leader, for his part, was beginning to open up more to his reckless subordinate, allowing Renji brief, intimate glances at the true character that lied beneath those mountains of expectation and Byakuya's rigid, militaristic upbringing in the caste of super-nobility.

Renji was beginning to think that if Byakuya hadn't been taught to act like an ass, no one would have ever been able to believe he was. Obviously the family elders, snooty assholes that they were, had almost ruined a perfectly wonderful eldest son.

But Abarai couldn't hold it against them, because when people were willing to look closely enough, it was obvious the Kuchiki family council had failed miserably.

When he was shown how, Byakuya was really a very decent guy to spend time with.

So decent in fact, that more and more, Abarai Renji was beginning to seek the other man out in his free time, as if merely working side by side with him were insufficient.

Perhaps it was just an expression of gratitude, or perhaps it was a new manifestation of that deadly combination of kindness and beauty that he had loved in Rukia and which he was now starting to see in the other man, but Renji was beginning to suspect that Kuchiki Byakuya was everyday, becoming more and more important to him.

He was beginning to understand what that almost blind devotion he'd seen (and sometimes disdained) in the other vice-captains felt like.

He really liked Kuchiki-taichou a lot.

And learning more and more as he was everyday, Renji suspected that it probably wasn't going to stay at simply liking him a lot for much longer.

It was all those little things that got to him, mostly.

There was something special about knowing that Kuchiki-taichou could cut hollows in half from several kilometers away and at the same time, had the tendency to nibble on the end of his brush when he was writing a report and was searching for the most appropriate word to describe the procedures of their last mission. He'd usually catch himself before anyone could see, but Renji had managed to get a glimpse of it once or twice out of the corner of his eye on his days off, which he'd spend languishing in the captain's study, trying to wheedle Byakuya into going outside with him.

And there was the fact that the captain had a weakness for sweet things (Renji had been helping with the relocation of some of Byakuya's reference books when he'd found a stash of fruit gummies) even though he pretended he didn't like things like that. That was cute in its own strange way, imagining first, stoic-Kuchiki-taichou and the solemn show of dignified eating he put on when he was in the commissary, and then imagining right after, that in the secrecy of his quarters, Byakuya probably stuffed gummy candy in his mouth like a five-year-old boy.

Byakuya also seemed to be afraid of two things, and two things only in all the universes. One was failing in his role of Soul Society's 6th division captain, and the other was the arranged marriages his mother was trying to push on him.

He'd never admit it of course, but Renji's senses were sharp enough to pick up the momentary hitch in all thought-processes that occurred whenever a missive from the Kuchiki compound would come through the 6th division's mail offices, addressed to Byakuya in regal, feminine script.

The expression on the captain's face when an envelope thick enough to contain an entire history of Rukongai was delivered to his quarters made Renji snicker at the mere thought; the perfect cross-breeding of disgust and comedic horror on such a normally placid countenance never failed to make Renji's heart light with laughter.

Renji suspected that Byakuya was long ago decided in holding off such a trivial matter in the hopes that his mother would give up and begin to pin her hopes on Rukia instead.

If there was one thing he'd learned growing up in the Kuchiki stronghold, it was perseverance.

Sometimes, Renji would tease his captain about it, flip through the pictures of various beautiful noblewomen and whistle, nudge the disgusted man in the shoulder and ask him what was wrong with the pretty little things his mama had rounded up for him.

Byakuya would glower at him in a way more tired than annoyed, and tell him in that dry, imperious tone of his, that Renji was free to help himself to them if he'd like.

That always got the vice-captain to stop, feeling somehow indignant about something, and the two of them would leave the matter at that.

Renji was starting to suspect that his indignance had something to due with the increasing feelings of possessiveness he was exhibiting towards his captain and a desire for a sense of reciprocal belongingness.

In other words, he wanted Byakuya to like him back.

Which was going to a problem, obviously.

First of all, Byakuya's rigid adherence to all things classified under the wide-world of protocol meant that relations between superiors and subordinates were, while not expressly prohibited, severely frowned upon.

It didn't stop loose cannons like Kyouraku or Ichimaru, but somehow, Renji didn't quite approve of grouping his captain in with the likes of them.

But day by day, he was getting more and more attached to Byakuya despite knowledge that it probably wasn't good for either of them, and all it really served to do was give him a headache and get him teased a lot.

The fact that, despite his awesome blue funk, Kira had noticed and asked Renji about what was going on between he and Kuchiki-taichou had made the redheaded vice-captain want to crawl into a hole and, well, not die, but be very, very unsociable.

And of course, if Kira knew enough to pick up on something, then that pretty much meant everyone else knew also, and the giggles he was getting from Zaraki and his midget-serving-as-cute-lil-pink-backpack made him almost, almost want to challenge them both to battle just to shut them up.

By the time that idiot Ikkaku noticed, Renji was thisclose to doing something about it. He reasoned that if he let his captain know how he was feeling he could either A- get shot down quickly and brutally, and thus be dead and subsequently, impervious to the teasing of a bunch of asshole shinigami with nothing better to do than heckle a colleague who should have been respected or B- be getting lots and lots of great sex to make up for the constant mockery.

If he didn't look at it too closely, both and A and B were win-win situations.

If he didn't look closely.

But there was that matter of protocol standing in the way at the same time, and the possibility of a C coming into play. C seemed to consist of the possibility that Byakuya reciprocated his feelings but would repress them (as he tended to do) because it was not common or accepted practice in the Court of Pure Souls to allow superiors to…have relations…with subordinates. Especially those that were both…well, guys.

C wasn't really a good-looking prospect, in Renji's opinion.

Which was really the only reason why he hadn't gone to his captain about how he felt already…

"Oi, Abarai-chaaaan… nice going! Kuchiki-sama would be such a hot chick! Teeheeheee!"

Renji elbowed Iba in the face before whirling around and heading towards Byakuya's office.

He knew when enough was enough.


Byakuya was beginning to wonder if time spent idly was simply something that went hand in hand with fondness for Abarai Renji.

He hadn't seen the man all day because of administrative affairs, which he had just returned from, but the fact of the matter was, said administrative affairs were only a rather garbled mess of vague assignments he had to take care of rather than the detailed, point for point memories he was used to having after coming out of those meetings.

In other words, he hadn't been paying nearly as much attention as he should have been. No one had noticed the slip of course, his face being the usual stoic façade he liked to school it into during gatherings with the other captains, but the fact of the matter was he wouldn't have really been able to remember what the meeting was all about if anyone were to ask him.

Unusual.

Though not at all unpleasant, considering his thoughts had been on other things… the nice weather outside, the relatively easy missions as of late, the new tradition he and his vice-captain had started of eating lunch together whenever they could find the time to.

Byakuya was beginning to learn how to appreciate the little things in life.

Renji was solely to blame.

Though being as practical as he was, Byakuya realized that a portion of the blame had to be placed on his own shoulders as well, for letting himself indulge in this closer-than-protocol-might-find-acceptable friendship that had popped up between them. Renji hadn't made any such advances in the past after all, at least not until Byakuya had given indication that he was receptive to such a…friendship.

On that matter, it seemed that Byakuya was far more receptive than even he had initially imagined. He didn't know whether he was alarmed or oddly comforted by the fact that he could still have the capacity for such normal emotions, being as it was with his family and years of rigorous training against falling victim to such frivolous things.

But he was beginning to think that he could live a life that included happiness as one of its primary features.

All the discipline and rules and expectations were still there, he knew that. But suddenly, their weight seemed less stifling whenever he thought of what happiness felt like. It was undoubtedly new in many respects; he wasn't quite sure as to how he was supposed to respond to all the novel things and ideas his brash vice-captain presented to him, but he was beginning to get used to the oddity that must be called joy and as it came to him bit by bit. And with it, he was slowly realizing that even if all of his responsibilities were still there, they had less power over him than he had initially been brought up to believe.

He was beginning to discover that life held more important things than rules and regulations and protocol and propriety.

More important things like friendship, a connection with someone else that went beyond the rigid boundaries his world had been comprised of-- superior and inferior, strong and weak, good and evil.

There were things far more precious when he looked at life with eyes open to things other than absolutes.

He was beginning to realize how important Renji was to him.

And it was making him stare off into space for hours at a time thinking about it and getting absolutely nothing done.

Frowning self-deprecatingly to himself, he realized it was ridiculous to think about how one wasted time thinking about things when he should have gotten right to work upon returning to his quarters.

Allowing a small, uncharacteristic sigh, he shed his captain's jacket, hanging it up neatly before mentally cataloguing the day's work in his mind as his eyes swept the interior of his office space.

He noted in passing that his quarters weren't quite as neat as it used to be.

Renji had probably been fiddling with…

"Oi…Kuchiki-taichou!"

Byakuya winced slightly at the energetic pounding his door was receiving and turned around, equal parts exasperated and pleasantly surprised. "Come in, Renji."

The door was pushed in a moment later and Byakuya found himself face to face with his vice-captain, wearing his usual uniform as well as an expression Byakuya had never really seen on his face before.

The older man's brow knitted minutely. "Renji?"

"Ah…hey, taichou. How was the meeting?" the redhead asked calmly. His posture however, looked to be barely contained.

"It was…fine. Is something the matter?"

"Uh…sorta. Maybe."

"I see. Have a seat, please…" Byakuya instructed, puzzled as to the other man's nervous energy. Usually it was just regular energy.

Doing as he was told, Renji set Zabimaru down and plopped down cross-legged onto the floor, looking up at his captain with a strange sort of intense interest that made Byakuya marginally nervous.

Chastising himself mentally for being such an irrational coward, the 6th division captain seated himself across from his subordinate. "Tea?"

Renji shook his head. "No thanks."

"All right then." Byakuya let his hands fall into his lap, eyes never ceasing his concerned scrutiny of the other shinigami. "Renji?"

"Hmmm?"

"Please don't take this as me being rude, but…was there something you wanted?"

Renji paused in his careful study of Byakuya's hands. "I uh…" he laughed to himself. "Well, there's this…thing…" he started. "You know?"

Byakuya, completely forgetting dignity in his confusion for a key moment, blinked. "Thing?"

"Yeah… you know?"

Kuchiki Byakuya almost blinked back again, but caught himself this time, cleared his throat imperiously instead. "I don't, Renji. Would you…um, care to tell me?"

Renji sighed at Byakuya's instant return to his default safety zone of, "I am the heir to the Kuchiki family, listen to my powerful boom-boom voice, bwahahahahaha". He definitely didn't want this to go anywhere near there.

"Okay…I'm gonna tell you something, taichou…"

"I was hoping that would come into the picture sometime soon," Byakuya drawled, feeling slightly relieved that Renji hadn't completely taken leave of his senses.

"Okay, so there's been these rumors. Sorta…have you heard 'em? Of course not, you'da killed the first bastard that said anything…anyway, it's kind of annoying, but you know, kind of well, not really just a rumor and…"

"Renji…"

"…but either way, I'm just kinda sick of the…"

"Renji…"

"…being made fun of and the strange looks so I figured I'd better just hurry up and get it over with today and…"

"Abarai-fukutaichou!"

"…so, there's this…huh?"

"The point…please."

It was the vice-captain's turn to blink now, hearing the miniscule, barely-there, almost hint of amusement in Byakuya's tone. He looked into the other shinigami's eyes and saw that they indeed, were laughing at him.

Byakuya was laughing at him.

Almost instinctively, he grinned back. Just because he couldn't not. Found himself laughing out loud right back. "Aw, fuckit…"

Strangely at ease whenever he perceived one of his captain's rare shows of open fondness, Renji smiled, closed his eyes and moved forward.

He, quite unabashedly, kissed Kuchiki Byakuya.

Which was probably the last thing his captain had expected him to do next.

It made him kind of giddy thinking about it, made him smile as he deepened their kiss, placing both hands up on either side of Byakuya's neck so that his fingers could curl into the hair at the nape of his neck.

This was probably all completely wrong, and not just as a violation of acceptable behavior as dictated by Soul Society protocol. If he remembered correctly, the natural order of things of this nature tended to be in the reverse of how he'd just gone about it.

You were supposed to secure the other person's feelings before physically intimating yourself with them, weren't you? Well, it seemed like something Byakuya would have expected of him, things like lengthy courtships and other stuff that would be appropriate in the vein of the nobility's ideas of love were probably what danced in Kuchiki's head when he thought about it; that is, if he ever thought about those things, what with the captain's thoughts always so preoccupied with work and appearances.

So, if he was thinking along the right lines, Byakuya probably expected some sort of drawn out, ennobling confession, followed by shy, delicate, almost accidental touches and sweet, secret glances from afar before they'd be at the point Renji had just pushed them to.

Eh. Renji wasn't really competent when it came to following protocol anyway. Kuchiki-taichou had said it himself.

Plus, the possibilities of options B and C were still weighing down on him. Byakuya might've wanted absolutely nothing to do with Renji romantically, and so the vice-captain had to take what he could get. It was like life on the streets all over again, if he thought about it. Steal what you need and run for your life.

They broke apart a moment later, when Renji felt Byakuya's brain catch up with the rest of him as told by the stiffening of the captain's posture against him. Renji withdrew from the other man slowly, eyes still closed because he half expected to be punched in the nose and didn't quite want to see what must have been the unholy fury written all over the nobleman's face as he was getting the life beat out of him.

When the death blow didn't come, the redhead quirked a wary eye. "Taichou?"

That definitely wasn't unholy fury staring back at him, but neither was it star-stricken love.

Really, if Renji could draw a caption for it, it would be something along the lines of, 'what the fuck?' except in prettier language, because he really couldn't imagine Byakuya using the words 'what the fuck' in regards to anything.

"…yes, Renji?"

"Uh… you okay?"

Skin flushed and breathing heavy, Byakuya just stared back at the other man, mouth slightly parted in confusion.

The redhead groaned internally and purposefully averted his eyes, less he lose control of himself again.

Renji decided that Kuchiki Byakuya was at his most undeniably gorgeous when he knew fuck all about what was going on.

"I…I'm okay."

"Ah…good." Renji trained his eyes on the floor and tried to remind himself that that breathy little voice that his captain was using wasn't on purpose.

Silence reigned for a while, quiet between the two of them save for Byakuya's slightly labored breathing.

Renji decided to take the loss-of-words as a sign that maybe his captain didn't quite feel the same way he did, but was feeling magnanimous enough to not be angry at the red-head for it. An option D, so to speak.

He wondered how long that was going to last.

Finally decided that maybe beating a hasty retreat would be wise. "So…yeah. That's all. I'm just gonna go…let you uh, finish up your work," he posed, chancing a glance back up at his superior.

Still gorgeous. He hastily looked away, licking his bottom lip to clean up all the taste left there. "Yeah. I'll uh, see you later, taichou…"

As he moved to leave, Byakuya managed to find his voice again, just barely, and croaked out a very bewildered, "Why?"

Renji laughed at the sudden query and rubbed a hand sheepishly to the back of his head. One deep breath later, and he managed to meet his captain's gaze again, managed to find some sort of equilibrium in the ridiculousness of everything. "Uh…why what? Why'd I kiss you, or why'm I leavin'?"

Byakuya, still pink around the bridge of his nose, took a deep breath to steady his voice. "…either, Renji. Preferably…both?"

The vice-captain grinned a little. "Yeah, well, if I stay while you're lookin' so goddamn cute I'm probably gonna get tried for capital punishment when I lose control and rip those robes right offa ya." Which was too close to the truth for comfort, but he managed to lighten the statement with a wink and a disbelieving chuckle. "Uh…yeah."

His words had the (partially unconscious, though desired) effect of making the 6th division captain turn slightly redder around the ears and neck, but in the end, didn't help really Renji's resolve any.

He cleared his throat, looking away from Byakuya's, and continued. "As to why I kissed ya…well…that should at least be pretty strategically obvious, taichou…"

The older man frowned at the comment and Renji's inner self-preservation voice told him to hurry up and get out before he insulted the other man irreparably (if he hadn't already).

"So I'm just gonna go now…"

He stood, gathering Zabimaru in hand, and made to move towards the door when he heard, "Renji…"

"Uh…yeah?"

Placid as ever save for the remaining flush of embarrassed pink on either cheekbone, Kuchiki Byakuya sat up straight and regarded his subordinate appraisingly. "It's… not a capital punishment unless it's nonconsensual," he informed the younger man, looking and sounding like he was reading right out of the Soul Society rule book for his vice-captain's benefit.

It was the gleam in his eyes that really told Renji everything he wanted to hear anyway.

Eyes widening, the red-haired shinigami took a step forward, setting Zabimaru down again. "That so?" he asked conversationally, though at the same time, probing for a definitive answer from his mystifying team leader.

"It's written in chapter seventy-four, section sixty-two, sub-section two, sentence…"

Renji stopped him with a hand before he got too worked up over the semantics. "So lemme get this straight…" he insisted, gesturing to his still regally seated superior officer. "Only if it's nonconsensual?"

A nod, and the pink returned to the tips of Byakuya's ears, though he remained regal as physically possible, having no intention of letting anyone know he knew he was blushing.

Renji was absolutely, completely mystified. "So if I were to… ah, you know…I wouldn't be…"

A shake of the head, eyes cast demurely downward.

Renji wanted to dive-bomb and start ripping away right that second, find out how low that blush on his captain's throat went down.

He managed to hold himself in check…barely. "So you're sayin'…yes…" he pushed.

Byakuya shook his head. "No."

Renji's face fell. "No?"

Prim as ever, Byakuya smoothed the invisible wrinkles from the black material of the hakama covering his lap. "You will not 'rip' any of these robes off of me," he announced calmly. "…you will take them off one piece at a time, in a civilized manner."

"I will…" Renji trailed off as it all began to sink in. Blinked. Grinned. "Like a civilized person I'll…"

A nod of that imperial head, followed by an almost, almost, shy smile.

Renji pounced.

He'd never really been good at following protocol anyway.

END