the blame's compulsory

Renji loathes his Captain. He can't stand him. He hates his guts with so pure and absolute a detestation that he almost welcomes every new action and word and cause that Kuchiki Byakuya gives him to despise him all the more.

It isn't just the Rukia business. Renji is honest enough to admit that he was responsible there as well, that Kuchiki Byakuya isn't alone in guilt, and that even Rukia herself didn't say no, did she? So he doesn't blame Kuchiki Byakuya for that. Not just for that.

It's everything. Every perfect fold of his Captain's clothing, every smooth movement of his Captain's hands, every casual glance, every calm word. Even his hair. Not the hair ornament, the hair. It's too smooth. It's too glossy. It's his Captain's fault that Renji even considers imagining what it would feel like against his fingers.

Renji broods and stares at the clutter on his desk and broods again, and waits for Kuchiki Byakuya to reprove him in that indolently cold voice for failing to meet the standards that he expects of a vice-captain. He can time it to the minute now, but each time it makes him tense and sets a chill up his spine.

He allows his clothing to fall open a fraction further, to show a hint more of the tattoos that sprawl across his chest, and waits to be told to straighten his clothing, such behaviour may have been considered adequate in the Eleventh but it is not appropriate here, Renji.

Renji. The casual insolence of the name offends him. He bristles to hear his personal name so lightly used and so casually thrown at him. Other Captains don't talk like that to their vice-captains. They're polite at the best, and fond at the worst. They're not so offhandedly dismissive, so uncaringly demanding.

He is conscious of Kuchiki Byakuya's eyes on him, weighing him, judging him. It offends him that Kuchiki Byakuya feels that he can judge him.

What does Kuchiki-taichou know about any of it, anyhow? The gutters, he says so dismissively. The slums. Rukongai. The man is blind. He's spent his life among the flowers and never smelt the shit.

All right, so he'll think of the man as Kuchiki-taichou. It means nothing. There are twelve other Captains out there and hardly any of them deserve respect. Swaggering fools, brainless idiots, self-important assholes.

Kuchiki-taichou keeps on watching him. Kuchiki-taichou's probably just waiting for him to make a mistake. The last laugh's going to be on Kuchiki-taichou, because Renji isn't going to make any damn mistakes. He's going to surpass Kuchiki-taichou and get Rukia back and have it all.

That's all there is to it.

And on that day when Kuchiki-taichou's hand falls to Renji's shoulder and he feels Kuchiki-taichou's pulse through the tips of his fingers, he hears the slight quickening in Kuchiki-taichou's breath as Kuchiki-taichou tells him to kneel down and put his mouth to some use . . .

. . . well, of course he does it, but he hates Kuchiki-taichou all the more for having fallen like that. He doesn't blame Kuchiki-taichou for having passions, or needs, or for taking what he wants. But he hates him for having stooped so low as to want Renji.

He hates Kuchiki-taichou. He knows every inch of Kuchiki-taichou. He kneels in front of Kuchiki-taichou and does as he is told.