Title: In a Moment of Weakness
Author: Peroxidepest17
Universe: Bleach
Rating: PG-13
Pairing/Character/s: Rikichi, with some ByakuyaxRenji and one-sided (sort of) Rikichi+Renji in the periphery.
Word Count: 1,437
Warning/s: Vague spoilers for the SS arc, but nothing important. Also, very possibly OOC and kind of dark but in a cracky sort of way.
Summary: Rikichi sees something he never wanted to.
Dedication: ruebert- your bleachexchange request! Hope it's somewhat fulfilling because I know it's not particularly horror-filled. LOL Also, special thanks to sophiap for the awesome beta work. You are a doll.
A/N: Still not big on writing Rikichi but trying my darnedest. I guess I just see him as kind of like Hanatarou but not as… sad? It was a difficult challenge to make a character I see as purely dorky and spazzy fit this dark theme, but a good challenge all the same. XD Fun to experiment right? The request was "destroying belief in an idol." Apologies in advance.
Disclaimer: Not mine, though I wish constantly.
Distribution: Just lemme know.

When you choose a hero it's because they're something you're not but desperately want to be. You just don't have the courage yet, to try and be it all on your own. Your heroes give you something to aspire to.

They're a hope.

When you choose a hero it's because you know there's something missing from yourself that you admire or idolize or think "isn't that nice?" when you see it. So you find it in someone else and hope—hope—that they'll be strong enough to help find it in you one day.

Rikichi didn't consider himself strong, didn't think he was brave or handsome or smart or particularly talented. He thought he was okay and strove to be better because he was surrounded by amazing people, by his one amazing person.

That person gave him the courage to aspire with all the hope in the world.

Abarai-fukutaichou laughed and ruffled his hair sometimes, told him to keep working hard because he was getting stronger and stronger.

Rikichi heard those words and felt like he could fly, told himself that if Renji said so, he would be just like him one day— strong. If Renji said so, he could do it.

Renji was his hero after all, and he chose him to be his hero for all the reasons anyone ever chose a hero—because Abarai-fukutaichou was everything he was not. Someone to aspire to.

Everything of who Rikichi was as a shinigami rested on that desire. Abarai Renji as the foundation for Rikichi's life and dreams.

And he told himself that over and over and over again, even when it hurt and all he could hear in his ears were the phantom cries of his hero's greatest weakness, burned forever into his memories.

Because he'd heard them one afternoon, through taichou's door—left just a hairsbreadth open in the middle of the day-- when Rikichi was told by other superiors to go and make an important delivery.

Ragged breaths and angry-sounding curses barely bit back were what he'd heard when he got there, vague and shadowy and swirling ephemeral around his heart. But even still, even without looking, Rikichi knew those were Abarai-fukutaichou's gasps, Abarai-fukutaichou's sighs and grunts and pain-filled pleasure-filled curses. Because Renji was Rikichi's hero and he knew everything about the redhead that he could, learned it all and committed it into the memory of his hopeful little heart. How Renji cursed, how he panted, how he must have been gritting his teeth right then and trying not to let the sounds out—Rikichi knew every breath.

And so he stood silently in the doorway for a long while-- stared at it like he could see through to everything filthy going on in the neat little office Kuchiki-taichou kept.

He remembered how he'd slid the papers under the door and walked away very slowly after Renji gave one last, shuddering cry, his vice-captain's desperate, breathy "please" ringing in his ears the entire walk back to his quarters.

He sat in his room thinking for a while afterwards, and told himself that heroes all had their moments of weakness—it was what separated them from monsters. Hearts and needs and desires.

He told himself that Renji had had a moment of weakness. But he was still strong—still something to aspire to.

It was like that moment in his memories when he'd seen the flustered redhead storming out of Kuchiki Rukia's cell, storm-faced and angry, furiously impotent.

"I can't help her," he'd confessed to Rikichi, and clenched his fists.

"You can do anything, fukutaichou!" Rikichi had rushed to tell him.

He remembered how Renji had eyed him for a moment after saying that. "I… he wouldn't…" and then he'd trailed off, run a tired hand through his hair. "Yeah. Maybe."

It had just been a moment of weakness—but Renji had gotten over it. Rikichi remembered after all, running as fast as he could with Yamada in tow, telling him "Hurry, hurry, fukutaichou needs your help!"

Renji had fought strong in the end, even if he hadn't won, and that was what Rikichi thought heroes did.

They all had their moments of weakness—just like everyone else—but what mattered in the end was that they fought for what they believed in. That was their strength, the thing about them that Rikichi didn't have inside himself.

Even if once in a while, they had their moments of weakness.

Rikichi clenched his fists and kept telling himself this-- chanting it like a protection kidoh-- even when it happened again.

Especially when it happened again.

Another afternoon, another stack of papers for taichou, and all he could hear in the universe were the murmurs of desperate pleading and the helpless, needy sounds of want as they came out from his hero's throat, while he stood quietly at the door to his captain's neat little office and tried to remember moments of Renji's strength.

Rikichi remembered holding the reports against his chest and taking a breath, forcing a smile while every part of him listened to those raw noises and saw in his mind's eye, Renji's face, contorted in unwanted pleasure, hating every moment of it but always going back for more.

Just a moment of weakness—Abarai-fukutaichou wasn't a monster after all. He had a heart, needs, desires. So every once in a while was okay, he theorized.

Richiki told himself over and over again that it was all right and felt the foundation of his hope sliding out from under his feet.

Catching the redhead slipping out of his captain's quarters early in the morning, hair loose, mouth-shaped bruises on his neck, hand-shaped ones on his wrists. Looking tired and pained and doing it the next day and the next again anyway. He told himself it was okay.

Watching Renji obey Kuchiki-taichou's every word, seeing how he first fidgeted, then blushed, then shuddered when the sixth division captain looked at him, Byakuya walking by and absently brushing the back of his hand against the white bandages Renji wrapped around his wrists to hide the marks on the mornings after.

He told himself it was okay.

You choose your heroes because they're something you're not—that they're strong and noble and everything you want to be one day but don't have the courage to do all by yourself just yet. They give you hope; give you something to aspire to.

You want to be just like them because you're nothing like them.

They have something special, even in their rare moments of weakness.

Even when their moments of weakness were all strung in a row.

Rikichi swallowed when he saw them, told himself that no matter what, Abarai-fukutaichou was strong.

He was his hero.

And Rikichi thought that maybe he just didn't understand, convinced himself it was because he was weak and cowardly, because he wasn't particularly brave or handsome or smart like Renji was that he didn't get it because of all those things.

Renji was all the things he wasn't after all, and heroes always knew better. It was why people aspired to be like them.

Even when all those people could hear whenever they closed their eyes were the sounds of the person they respected most in the world breaking bit by bit-- and worst of all-- loving every moment of it.

"Maybe I just don't understand," he told himself with quivering lip and hands clenched tight into fists at his sides, trying, trying hard to maintain hope somewhere. To be strong.

But even after all that trying, he found that he wasn't strong enough to maintain anything, especially not when he closed his eyes, when he closed his eyes and heard all those quiet pleading noises, the sounds of aching burning satisfaction ringing in his ears over and over and over again. He wasn't strong enough to maintain hope at those moments—not on his own. And so, in a not-so-rare moment of weakness—people like Rikichi had many more than people like Renji, after all—he found himself visiting Kuchiki-taichou. Hoping, intensely hoping for something—he wasn't sure what.

And in that moment of weakness, in that room where he could still hear the phantom echoes of his hero's pain-filled pleasure-filled cries, Rikichi—with hands trembling— found himself asking his stone-faced captain, "How do I become like you?"

In a moment of weakness, there was betrayal.

But Rikichi knew Renji would forgive him— would one day forgive him completely—because it was what heroes did.

Renji was always a better person than he was, and Rikichi had to believe that.