I have been infected by Bleach fever. (AND PEOPLE ON ELJAY AREN'T HELPING. XD) This was written as a gift for firefly, and I hope y'all enjoy. Hehehe.

Smack Down
Kuchiki Byakuya is a man who knows many things, but this thing in particular baffled him.

"Why..." he began, an expression of extreme annoyance--mostly stemming from the fact that he had to ask at all--on his face, "is it necessary to slap on doubles?"

Renji gave his captain one of those "are you fucking stupid?" looks he was so famous for, and was about to respond with something equally insubordinate, but Rukia intervened just in time.

"There's no real reason, ni-sama," she explained, staring hard at her red-haired friend. "It's part of the rules."

"Yeah, you know, because all games have rules--"

"Shut up!" Rukia hissed, her hand over Renji's mouth.

Somehow, despite obvious restrictions, he managed to smirk around her cleverly placed fingers.

Byakuya's eyebrow twitched. He certainly didn't climb the ranks lacking superior observation skills, and his cheeky lieutenant knew it.

"Does the notion of mopping floors with a toothbrush appeal to you, Abarai-kun?" He drawled in a somewhat wooden tone, since the art of comic delivery was new and unfamiliar to him, and, quite frankly, he hadn't mastered it yet.

The -kun he tacked on the end of Renji's name would've sounded dry instead of sinister if he had.

Naturally, Renji was aware of that as well.

"Will it be with your toothbrush, Taichou?" He wondered once he'd pried Rukia's hand away. "I'm a snob when it comes to aesthetics, you understand, and my toothbrush just isn't pretty enough."

Rukia groaned, and leveled a smack at the back of his head. "You're making it worse, idiot!"

But she knew her brother, perhaps better than most, and he wasn't the type of person to allow a slight to pass without getting a word in himself. He had his honor to defend, and Byakuya took his honor very seriously.

"Are you implying that I'm a...a priss, Abarai?" He frowned as if it made his teeth hurt to say it.

Rukia directed a series of frantic gestures at Renji to deter him from replying, though he pretended not to notice.

"Hell no," he scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest. "But you are prettier than me, so it stands to reason your toothbrush would be prettier, too."

Byakuya's frown deepened. Oh, he was not so churlish as to deny his attractiveness, however the connotations of the term "pretty" were usually feminine in nature, and he was almost positive his lieutenant intended the statement to be interpreted as such.

So he desired a battle of wits, did he?

"Go on," Byakuya said, the air around him nearly crackling with energy. "Elaborate, if you dare." He smiled darkly. "Or are you still the cowardly little runt I remember?"

It was a hit below the belt, of course, because Renji had proven his--reckless--courage time and again, but Byakuya was more interested in provoking him now than paying him a compliment.

And it worked.

Renji bristled, skin the color of his hair as he leaned over the deck of cards and got right in his captain's face, jaw thrust forward pugnaciously. "What did you call me?"


"Coward?" Renji said, steam practically shooting out his ears.

"I believe I articulated clearly enough, monkey boy."

Sensing danger on the horizon, Rukia, who had been forgotten throughout the exchange, attempted to restore order before chaos could erupt. "Ni-sama, Renji, don't--"

"Monkey boy?"

They were standing.

"Ah, forgive me. I meant parrot, since you're so skilled at repeating things."

"Pa--" Renji had been about to say "parrot," but he caught himself. "Why you--"


Rukia jumped up, a wild glint in her eyes as she glared at them like they were a pair of naughty schoolboys.

"Would you two knock it off so we can play this game, please?"

Her voice had a screechy quality to it that made both men wince, and they had the grace to appear sheepish.

"Sorry, Rukia," Renji mumbled, returning to his former position on the floor.

And though Byakuya didn't offer an apology, he coughed the way he always did when he was embarrassed or ashamed, and Rukia accepted that as an indirect offer for a truce.

She grinned. "Who wants to deal?"

"I'll do it."


Renji and Byakuya studied one another critically.

"You can, Taichou," Renji said after a few moments had passed.

"No, no, you go ahead," Byakuya told him politely.

"But you spoke first, Taichou. It's all yours."

"I'm afraid you are mistaken, Renji. I must insist--"

Closing her eyes, Rukia grabbed the cards and began to shuffle, her temper on the rise. "I'll do it, okay? Is that satisfactory to everyone?"

Byakuya chewed on his tongue; Renji humphed.

Silence reigned again until Rukia finished passing out all the cards.

"All right," she said, straightening her pile. "Ready?"

Renji nodded. "Sure."


Byakuya was glancing forlornly at his cards like a lost puppy.

"What...is the object of the game?"

His lieutenant looked away, snickering into his shoulder while Rukia outlined the rules.

"It's simple, ni-sama," she said, elbowing her friend in the ribs--he stopped laughing immediately. "We each take turns throwing down a card, and if you see doubles on top, slap the pile. All the cards are yours then, which is what you want. The game ends when someone wins the entire deck. Oh, and you can slap back in if you lose your pile, so you have to pay attention."

"Think you can keep up, Taichou?" Renji smiled insolently. "I won't go easy on you just because you've never played before."

Byakuya's answering grin was feral. "You have yet to defeat me in anything, Renji. I suspect that will not change here."

Rukia let out her breath in an irritated sigh. "I'm starting," she declared, and tossed a card in the center of the triangle the three of them formed on the ground.

King of diamonds.

Renji went next.

Five of spades.


Eight of clubs.

They went around again. Rukia. Renji. Byakuya. And again. The pace grew faster with every rotation, yet no doubles had appeared. Tension increased, fingers twitched, and finally--


Renji slammed his hand on the pile, Byakuya a second behind him.

He knew he lost, but that didn't mean he lessened the power of the blow.

Grimacing--he'd rather die than admit he was in pain--Renji yanked his hand out from beneath the captain's, knuckles raw and inflamed.

"Oh, how careless," Byakuya remarked flippantly. "Would you like to stop?"

"My ass," Renji snapped, collecting his cards with visible discomfort.

Rukia was horrified. "But your hand--"

"I'm fine. It's your turn."

And so the game continued.

Rukia. Renji. Byakuya.

Rukia won a pile. Renji won another.

Byakuya's frustration skyrocketed.

He refused to let that blockheaded monkey beat him, even if it was only at cards.

Rukia was a different story, though, the sister of his beloved wife long gone, and thus his sister. He had a soft spot for the girl, though he made sure it was safeguarded. Nobody else needed to know. She didn't even need to know.

Absently, he added a card to the pile.

And then he saw it.

Two Jacks.

Two glorious Jacks.

He slapped.

So did Renji.

Ah, vengence.

Byakuya blinked rapidly to prevent his eyes from tearing up while cursing his lieutenant to eternal damnation--though not out loud.

Rukia's face went pale. Maybe it hadn't been such a bright idea to play Screw as a bonding experience. She should've picked something neutral, like Go Fish, because Screw was far from neutral, and surely her brother and Renji couldn't fight over Go Fish...


"Take your turn, Rukia." He ordered, his spoil of war cradled in his lap. "Do it."

She was developing a headache.

"You are both impossible!"

The following rounds passed quickly. Renji actually lost his cards at one point, though luck was with him and he slapped back in--at Rukia's expense. Her hands, like the other participants', were covered with welts, but it was too late to quit now.

She was in the lead, after all.

One more...come on...one more...

And there it was.

Triumphant, she made her move, and it seemed like the whole world reverted to slow motion in that instant.

Byakuya had seen it, too.

As one, they made to secure the prize, the words pouring from their mouths garbled, their features animalistic.

Time returned to its normal pace when their hands touched.

He stared.

She gaped.

Renji ogled.

"'The hell?"

Like startled deer, they sprung apart as if burned.

Byakuya appeared flabbergasted. Dear God...

Rukia couldn't stop looking at her hand. Ni-sama...what were you...?

And Renji was being vocal.

"You had lecherous thoughts about her!" He accused, pointing at Byakuya. "I saw your face, you sick bastard! You wanted to dandy with your sister!"

More silence.

Kuchiki Byakuya, illustrious Captain of the Sixth Division, rose slowly to his feet.


Like a bat out of hell, Renji bolted.

Byakuya followed.

Which meant Rukia was alone.

Still rather thunderstruck, she buried her face in her hands. Both hands. Including the one her brother touched.

"We're never playing Screw again. Not ever."

It was warm.