Disclaimer: All the characters you recognise are not mine.
A/N: I am a very simple writer so please pardon the too simple story-telling and hope you'll enjoy this story (which I wrote in a jiffy after a sudden burst of inspiration) anyway.

"Kuchiki-taichou." Renji gave him a small bow in courteous greeting. "Reporting for duty, sir."

"Renji. You're back." If Byakuya was the least bit surprised by his sudden return, he did not show it.

Renji stared at his superior whom he had not seen for over a month with unabashed openness. Even when buried deep in paperwork, Kuchiki Byakuya still exuded charisma behind a regal façade not many could impersonate, ingrained in the way he held his calligraphy brush...in the way he neither slouched nor leaned in his seat no matter how long he worked...and judging by the falling light of dusk that was starting to paint the evening sky a sanguine, eerie colour, the captain must have been working for hours.

"You're looking well, Taichou." Renji managed a weak smirk, resting a hand on the hilt at his waist.

Byakuya swept aside a stack of paperwork and clasped his hands atop his desk. His eyes calmly roamed over Renji's gangling frame now cutting an awkward figure in his tattered shinigami hakama, which barely resembled clothing fit for a seated officer of his standing.

As presentable as ever, Byakuya thought exasperatedly, resisting the urge to twitch an eyebrow. "Do not take offense if I do not say the same about you."

Renji fussed half-heartedly with his hair in the attempt to fix it; loose strands were escaping his bandanna and hanging over his eyes. He must be a sight, if Kuchiki-taichou had felt the need to comment.

"The Arrancars. I understand you have defeated quite a few?"

"Uhm, yeah…ahaha…quite," Reiji said slowly.

He did not mention how Zabimaru had suffered some serious damage after delivering the fatal blow to the last one he had fought, forcing him to withdraw (temporarily, of course) from Hitsugaya's team. Or how he had almost been killed himself by a stray Hollow while trying to compensate; he should have known better than to merely rely on his Shikai form to stop a Menos. If Rangiku-san had not stepped in...

A blunt Zanpakuto had little use in the face of the rising war; that much he knew. Of course, he had every intention of returning to the living world, once Zabimaru recovered enough to be able to fight again.

So he reluctantly heeded Hitsugaya-taichou's orders to promptly return to Soul Society. That, plus some strange internal bleeding Hanatarou could not stop. Only Unohana-Taichou had the skills to help him, the healer said; to counter the Arrancar poison it would need a specific haemostatic spell, or something or other. Renji had been shrugging off the nagging pain in his chest for over half a day now, he figured a few more hours would not make much of a difference.

Yet Byakuya was only too aware of the sporadic yet erratic fluctuations in Renji's spirit energy level, and the nasty wound just below his breastbone which was threatening to ooze again.

Perhaps the only person who could not see how truly exhausted the 6th Division Vice-Captain was, was the man himself.

"Were the battles that difficult, Renji?" He asked lightly.

Unforewarned of such delicate a question, Renji's eyes involuntarily widened slightly, before shying away from contact. "Nothing I couldn't handle."

Byakuya stayed silent long enough until Renji's gaze reluctantly returned to focus on him. He waited for Renji to speak once again, which he finally did.

"They were…challenging."

The reports from the 12th Division were sitting in front of him, but even without having to read them, Byakuya knew. Years of leading the squad together may not have necessarily warmed him up to his subordinates, but if ever there was a person in Soul Society who wore his battle scars on his sleeve without even realizing it, it was his fukutaichou.

"Challenging enough that you deemed it necessary to lift your limiter, I see."

"Maa, well…" Renji flustered, his eyes glinting with a brief flash of annoyance. He hated this, having to admit his weaknesses, and yes he knew perfectly well he had a few- "I was not exactly in the position to politely decline-"

Renji stifled a cough as his chest rumbled with discomfort, making his breathing arduous. Either his lungs had borne the worst brunt of the Arrancar's attacks, or his treacherous body was finding the sight of his Captain's stern, icy countenance more breathtaking than usual. He surreptitiously eyed his captain again, taking in the hard line of his pursed lips, the slight upward tilt of his aristocratic nose, the sleek black satin of Byakuya's hair...

Renji swallowed hard. Upon his return to Seireitei, despite common sense, he had marched straight to the Captain's office. Their relationship was no longer the exalted ideal it once was, and Renji certainly was not naïve enough to expect Byakuya to actually miss him...

But now, standing here in this immaculate, impersonal office, Renji wished Byakuya could be a little happier at seeing him.

Renji sighed inwardly. Kuchiki-taichou was never interested in showing anything but indifference. He did not know why he was even trying.

Byakuya stared at him coolly. "Judging from your appearance, I see you have foolishly strayed off your course and made a detour."

"It was hardly chartered to begin with, Taichou-" Renji started to say with a somewhat sheepish smile, but Byakuya halted him with a look.

"I have no need of a lieutenant who holds such little regard for his physical condition that he neglects seeking medical assistance when so severely injured."

"Severely injured? But I'm not-" Renji's indignant protest died prematurely when Kuchiki Byakuya rose slowly from his chair, clearly choosing not to listen.

For a seasoned fighter who had been hurt many times before, his fukutaichou really had no grasp on his own recklessness, let alone his physical limitations; too many times Byakuya had stood aside and watched as Renji rushed headlong into heavy battle, only to come out worse for wear.

It was a given that Renji fought with a style, but it was one Byakuya found lacking in…refinement. He always suspected that was why when everytime Renji got hurt, it was always bad.

Byakuya guessed he had no other choice. To bring about the desired results he knew of only one way that was quickest. Renji did not look like he could stay steady on his feet much longer, nor did he look as if he was going away anytime soon either.

"Taichou-?" Renji's forehead furrowed in rising alarm as Byakuya swiftly closed in the distance between them, and within the twinkling of an eye, Renji found their noses almost touching; long fingers had reached down to grab hold of his wrists, holding them securely by his side.

"Kuchiki--" Renji breathed in, his eyes smarting as glossy strands of ebony feathered across his face, "…-taichou…"

Byakuya pressed his torso harder against Renji's belly, feeling the hard muscles underneath contract involuntarily at the sheer intimacy of the contact. Now that he was closer, the smell grew even stronger, cloying and thick. The sickly, tangy odour of blood, a scent he had learnt to associate with his ever-yobbish, fight-loving lieutenant; the intoxicating smell of long, hard battle.

First taking in the pallor of Renji's normally tanned skin, Byakuya's gaze traveled upward slowly to skim over the hollow of his cheeks, before coming to rest in the fathomless depth of Renji's eyes. The look of want in them seared through Byakuya in a heady rush of energy, and he found himself fearing for his own inability to resist-

A finger now ghosted a trail down the side of Renji's face, tentative and delicate. Paralysed now, Renji could only hold his breath as the finger was soon replaced by the gentle butterfly touch of Byakuya's lips.

"Byakuya…" Renji's lips worked to form the name but no voice emanated from his throat.

And Byakuya kissed him.

Renji's heart came to a crashing halt. And his eyes slowly, so very slowly, fluttered closed.

The tips of Byakuya's fingers lightly lingered on Renji's temples, before digging deeper, bolder, deliberately kneading the sensitive area behind his companion's ears with his thumbs in time with each delicate probe of his tongue, his lips soft, dry, yet undiluted honey still-

Renji wrenched his other wrist from Byakuya's grip with ease and boldly slid his hand around the back of the other man's neck, his fingers curling unconsciously around a handful of black hair, grasping it like one would a ball of silk-

His kisses grew hungrier and more desperate; Renji could hardly breathe, his chest felt tight as his pulse quickened with each gasping heave, but this was what he had come back for, what he had forgone in the long month he was gone-

Byakuya yielded with as much give as Renji ever remembered him give, his tongue more teasing than exploratory, goading him to push back even harder.

They broke away for a split second and the sudden rush of cold air made Renji's chest seize with pain, but he did not care. His lips fervently sought Byakuya's again but before he could find them, a hand shot up to put a rein on his searching lips. Aware of the sudden rigidity of the captain's form, Renji very reluctantly pulled back to take a look.

"That will be enough, Abarai-fukutaichou."

But Renji was too far gone to hear him. He leaned forward to try to kiss him again, but Byakuya was quick to grab the sides of Renji's face with both hands, eliciting an unconscious mewl from deep within his lieutenant's throat. Byakuya had to hide a smile as Renji's eyes danced in a tumultuous spark of frustration and sheer discontent.

His desire to tease was still great, but it was also his duty to know when to stop.

Renji stared longingly at Kuchiki-taichou's red, swollen lips as they worked soundlessly around his name.


Byakuya caught a stray lock of hair in between his middle and index fingers; it gleamed red and bronze as it bathed in the fast-disappearing light of day. He smoothed it back behind Renji's ear, and once again Renji found himself staring into the captain's eyes.

They were as cool and disinterested as his voice.

"4th Squad, Renji. I do not like redundancy, so I shall not be telling you again."

Renji turned his head away just in time when his chest seized with another coughing fit.

Byakuya pulled away none too gently, but a supporting hand lingered on Renji's waist as he waited patiently for the spasm to die out. Only when it finally did, Byakuya released his grip.

"See to it that you receive medical treatment as appropriate." With that, he turned around and walked away, heading once more for his desk. He took his seat without so much as another look at Renji.

"Next time do think about washing yourself before showing up to work." A snooty nose tilted upward slightly as if in distaste. "Bleeding all over the floor is not becoming of this division at all."

A flush of colour rose in Renji's face. I just wanted to see you. Jerk.

Much to his surprise, a barely visible smirk tilted one corner of his captain's lips, as if in response to his thoughts.

"Report to me tomorrow morning, Renji. I assume the treatment for your injuries would have been carried out by then."

"But Taichou," Renji started to protest, the annoyance quickly replaced with pangs of dismay; Byakuya must be mad to think he was fit enough to report for duty and knowing his Captain, Renji was positive Byakuya would not welcome his presence either. "It's my day off tomorrow!"

"As is mine," Byakuya answered, in a tone so impassive it bordered on bored. He gave in to a sigh, knowing he would have to forgive himself for some inevitable redundancy after all. "Tomorrow morning, Renji."

Sombre grey eyes looked up to momentarily pierce Renji's hurtful ones knowingly, only to then linger on the general area of his fukutaichou's lips for longer than was necessary.

"Kissing you is only palatable when I do not taste blood on my lips."

A lazy, deliberate blink. "Come again tomorrow."

Renji's heart skipped a beat. There was a finality in Kuchiki-taichou's tone that left no room for any contestation. His lips still throbbed as he bade the captain goodbye, taking his leave for the day with much reluctance, and it was only in the hallway that Renji felt his knees waver; he tried not to think about what just happened, or more importantly what was going to happen tomorrow. He doubted his heart would be able to take much more.

Of their own volition, his feet began to take him in the direction of the infirmary, as was the deal, he finally realised, unconsciously touching a hand to his mouth where it still seared with the remnants of Byakuya's kisses.

Everything then thereafter passed in a blur, but Renji didn't care anymore.

Because Kuchiki-taichou missed him too.