Idiocy 2: Renji

I think I've always been in love with Rukia, from the moment she darted into my life shouting at me to run. I loved her when we were the default leaders of a rag-tag bunch of street kids. I loved her when we were the only ones left on the streets, no longer children, but not yet adults. I loved her when we finally entered Soul Reaper training and were too busy with our school work for anything else. I loved her when the Kuchikis took her away from me, and when I was finally assigned to Byakuya's squadron and I could see her again, even if only rarely. I've always loved her. I was just too much of an idiot to notice. And, though I'll never admit it to anyone else, I still love her, even though it's undoubtedly the most moronic thing I could possibly do.

After all, it can't be anything but idiotic to fall in love with someone who is in love with someone else.

I can see the way she looks at him, the way he looks at her. There's a depth of understanding there, a meeting of souls that is obvious even when they are shouting at one another or sulking afterward. They both deny it, but it's there, clear as day.

Maybe they don't know it themselves yet, but if that's the case the only ones they're fooling are themselves.

And it isn't fair.

Every bad thing that has happened to her in the last two years is his fault. I told him that, and he agreed.

But it isn't true. Rukia made her own decisions, and he's still willing to clean up her mess. He won't let her do it alone, even when she hits him and shouts for him to go away, even when she's cold and withdrawn into herself. Maybe it's because he really believes that it is his fault. That would be like him.

That is why I know I can trust him to take care of her, even if he is just a kid from the mortal world.

But that doesn't make it easy.

I still love her.

I love her for her spirit, which outstrips even mine. I love her for her stubbornness, which I never had the will to stand up to though there was no one else I allowed to lead me around in such a way. I love her for her grace, which was apparent even before she was taken in by the Kuchiki clan and taught the airs of nobility. I love her for her strength, which is hidden inside a deceptively slight frame. I love her for her heart, which always puts others before herself, and is always too quick to take all the guilt and all the blame when something goes wrong. I love her for the fact that she is so protective of all she cares for, but she still knows when not to interfere. I love her for the pain the lesson that taught her that brought her.

I love everything about her: her smile and her stupid obsession with the Chappy bunny and the way she always encourages me and never condemns. I love the look in her eyes when I surprise her by making the right choice, though it's usually completely by accident. I love the feel of her in my arms the few times they've found their way around her, even if she will never know that my actions aren't motivated entirely by necessity. I love the way her whole face seems to glow and her body fill with energy as she speaks, or shouts, or whispers when she's with a certain someone, and how her touch seems to gentle and her whole aura radiates concern when she goes to him after a battle or when he's caught in a world of depression all his own, and I hate that it isn't me these things are directed toward.

I'm such an idiot.

And it's frustrating because we're so alike in so many ways, Ichigo and I, that I almost fear and almost hope that there was a time she was attracted to me and that somehow I blew it.

And it drives me crazy, maybe because I know it might have been me if things had happened only a little bit differently.

I can see a thousand times I might have done something to change the course our lives have taken and stop us from drifting apart, a thousand times I could have saved her.

But I didn't. Even when her life was in danger and she was slated for execution I didn't. I left that to him – I even tried to stop him! Why? Was it the jealousy that surged through me when I saw her protecting him in the living world? Was it because I hated how he had the guts to come after her even when she all but pleaded and ordered him not to? Was it because there was something in their exchanged glances and locked gazes, if only for a moment, that spoke volumes more than clumsy words ever could? Was that why I buried myself beneath the rules I'd never really paid heed, and the role I'd never really had reason to question, and nearly broke our bond? Was I so selfish?

Did I hate him because, though we are so alike, he had the strength that I lacked even though he was untrained and so young? Did I despise him for taking what I'd never had the courage to take? Did I loathe him for accepting what I'd never had the intelligence to accept?

I did. I do.

I blamed him because I couldn't face up to the fact that the blame really lay with me. Because I loved her, but I was too afraid to save her. Because I'd been too stupid to realize my own mistake until it was too late. Because I was stupid enough to keep my distance after Kaien Shiba's death. Because I was too stupid to stop her from going with the Kuchikis that day even though I didn't want her to go and I knew that she didn't want to either.

My relationship with Rukia is filled with my stupid mistakes as far back as I can remember.

But confessing to her will never be one of them.

I love Rukia Kuchiki, but I'm not idiot enough to let her know.

A/N: So short I'm nearly ashamed... but I've posted shorter so... Anyway, since I began this about Ichigo being an idiot, it occured to me that Renji is very similar... and probably very in love with Rukai, so I thought it might round the story out a bit. I don't know... It just wouldn't leave me alone. That's usually why I write things. It's like I fall into a certain character's head, or maybe they fall into mine and I have to write what I think they are thinking...

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