The day Renji returned the gigai to Urahara's, he took Arisawa with him. He hadn't intended to. He woke up with her hand clenched in his own and could not, for the un-life of him, let go. Even when she smacked him with her free hand and ordered him to release her. When he threatened to throw her over his shoulder and carry her along, she grudgingly agreed to accompany him. They must have made an impressive sight, he stalking in the autumn dusk, practically dragging an irritable woman-child behind him. She would not speak to him, would not look at him. Yeah, yeah, he thought to himself nostalgically. I love you too.
The preternaturally astute Urahara was waiting on the front stoop. "Ah, freeloader-kun! And you've brought a little dragon with you! I knew today would be a good day," he beamed at Arisawa, who looked like she might launch herself at him and claw his eyes out. Urahara cheerfully feigned indifference. "Abarai-kun, if you're going to return that today you need to check it with Tessai. Looks a little scuffed up."
"Well you are returning it, are you not?"
Renji raised the hand with which he clenched Tatsuki's, examining her fingers. He could untangle himself, could not, she would only run away if released—then she stomped on his foot, which made letting go much easier. She stepped deftly away, scowling. "I'll stay, you ass," she snarled. "Just go." He stared at her for just a moment, disbelieving. Urahara's already wide grin expanded as he stepped behind her. He winked. Renji looked back at least a dozen times as he trudged into the store. At the last check, Arisawa was standing very still with Urahara's hand on her shoulder. Before Renji's blood could start to boil at the idea of the ex-shinigami feeling up what was soon to be his ex-girlfriend, he was nose-to-nose with a mustache and glasses.
"Abarai-kun," Tessai intoned, "you have not been very charitable to this gigai." The larger man gripped his shoulder and pulled him into the back.
"Blame the soul candy," Renji gritted out. "Every time it opened its mouth I wanted to kick its ass."
"Oh? That brand is the most well-mannered there is."
"Exactly." Renji had already begun to pull himself free of the false body; his heart was beginning to twist. This was it. He would walk out there in his true form, tell Arisawa goodbye, and that would be it. Forever.
"Abarai-kun." Tessai frowned at him. "We know about the sparring."
"Who doesn't?" Renji huffed.
"I may be out of line to comment, but was bringing your lady friend here the best idea?"
Renji looked at him. Tessai rocked back on his heels. "Oh, I see." A pause. "Go ahead and get that off. I'll be back to inspect it in a moment." And just like that, Renji was alone again with his thoughts. And the comments of others. "Be a man," the Quincy had said. "Make it merciful," his captain had said. He was a man and he was capable of mercy. Why did the two things, when put together, have to be such a monumental pain in the ass? He'd already been anything but merciful in dragging her here. A protracted goodbye could not possibly be good for her.
But damn it, he needed it. He could make it up to her, couldn't he, for indulging himself like this? This was a store, in any case. He didn't have a lot of human money, but maybe he could work out something with Urahara—he sighed, finally free of the gigai, and put it aside. This is it, he thought to himself again. Make it quick. He knew at he could not just leave her empty handed and vacant. Perhaps a little present was just the needed thing.
He came into the storefront, absently scratching the back of his neck and pulling at his collar. "Urahara-san," he began.
"Ah, Abarai-kun!" The shopkeeper waved his fan dramatically. "Just in time. Arisawa-chan wanted to give you something." He ignored the horrified expression on the girl's face. "Now, now, I know it's a private thing, these little lover's gifts, but she asked me what she could give you that you'd be able to take with you. Fortunately, I have just the thing. And you'll be able to carry it with you always."
Urahara was a man of many talents. Not that Renji wasn't aware of that, but it shocked him mildly to discover that tattooing was one of his many talents. And he didn't even use a gun. Instead he brandished what looked like an expensive fountain pen. "Your wrist, Abarai-kun?" presented with the required body part he pulled at it, yanking Renji forward until his ears were at his lips. "I understand you intended to purchase a keepsake for the lady as well. I'm killing two birds with one stone here—and at a reasonable price, too!" Renji gazed into those sparkly eyes. And cringed again. They were almost sexy in their excitement. Renji barely had the time to register the shudder that shot through him with that last thought when Urahara released his wrist. "All done!"
Tatsuki stepped forward, indignant. "You can't possibly be finished." She grabbed the wrist in question and Renji flinched at pain that didn't come. Tatsuki paused. "That didn't hurt?"
Renji blinked at her. "Uh. . . no."
Her eyes narrowed and she began to squeeze. Nothing. She blinked, shaking her head. "But I paid for—"
"Arisawa." Renji reached for her with his free hand. "Look at me."
She sniffed, rubbed her nose with her sleeve. "No," she protested in a muffled voice.
"Look," he said, raising the tattooed wrist. In plain hiragana was her name, family and given.
She blinked. "That isn't—that isn't what I asked for." Her eyes were wet.
Renji took a breath, touched her chin. "But I like it," he said. His hand slid to her cheek, the other hand following suit and caressing the other. "I like it a lot."
She bit her lip, frowning. "Idiot."
"Idiot-lover," he smiled at her before kissing her. And it was by far the best kiss ever.
That is, until she went limp and collapsed ungracefully onto the floor. Gazing down in horror at the girl, he saw himself, gasping and sweating, and small slender hands striking at his neck. But no. Himself, walking along with a slushie, turning to smile and say, "Thanks, Arisawa." Renji damn near fainted himself. Is this how she saw him?
"You're supposed to catch a fainting damsel, Abarai," Urahara chuckled, snapping him out of his reverie.
Renji looked back at Arisawa sprawled on the floor, then at the horrifically amused Urahara. "What the hell did you do?"
"I put her mark on you. Complete with all her memories of your time together. I know it's a weight you don't want her to carry, is that correct?"
"You talked her into the tattoo."
"Not really. Perhaps she loves you so much because she knows next to nothing about you. She was wondering what would be appropriate, and I mentioned you had an ungodly amount of body art. She agreed with me that you really like tattoos, she mentioned that if she could, she'd get you another one. So I stepped in."
"So you can give tattoos that hold people's memories?"
"No. I can transfer memories by attaching them to an object touched by the donor and then the recipient. The ink was the medium this time, but really, I could have used anything. I won't bother explaining the method I used to select the precise memories from Arisawa-san's mind; it would only confuse you." Urahara grinned. "I am a genius, you know."
Renji knelt. "Oi, Arisawa. Tatsuki-chan. . ."
"Best not wake her. She'll wonder why the hell you're manhandling her in a place she's never been before. You should get her home. Shunpo would probably be helpful here," Urahara said, suddenly quiet in his speech.
"Urahara-san—" Renji started, gathering her up.
"You can give them back to her when she gets to Soul Society—if you choose. Go. I'll make sure the right people know about it and don't wreck things." He turned away.
Renji took a breath, rubbed his chin against Arisawa's exposed neck. Then he moved out into the night.
Even in flash step, it was an endless trip. Down the main street, up the millions of stairs, into the bedroom he woke up in just this morning. Arisawa did not stir. He laid her gently on the futon the stood up straight, taking in the slender legs and soft, dark hair. Then bent back down, breathing in her breath. Pressing his lips to her forehead. There was no point in saying anything. She would not hear him, and if she did, she wouldn't understand. But he did it anyway. "I'll be waiting, Arisawa."
As he opened the gate and crossed over, he gazed at his wrist. If nothing else, he knew how to pine over women.
Hopefully, this would be the last time.
A/N: Aaaah. That was a hard one. All my thanks to all of you for travelling the long road with me.
P.S. And hey, if anyone is interested, there's a poll in the profile. Do me a favor and vote, won't you:)