Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach; genius Kubo Tite does.
Note: Pardon me for the errors.
If there was one thing that the 6th Division lieutenant was cocksure about, it would be the immutable fact that he needed medical assistance right now, a psychiatric treatment to be precise. Alcohol was almost inextricable from his wild night-outs with fellow lieutenants, but at this point he could kill for a fucking slate of sobriety. It was getting closer. He could feel the ever so tyrannous inebriety beaming at him from the other side, beckoning to him and luring him into the snares of full intoxication. And, boy, did he know too well what would be awaiting him once he finally got himself lost into the depths of being stoned.
It had happened more than he could count. His captain would come to his window as he swung maniacally between slumber and consciousness. His tipsiness and the utterly hazy mess that was his mind would only sneer at his efforts to tell whether he was awake or was simply wandering through the jungles of a strange dream. Confirming the reality or unreality of Kuchiki Byakuya's presence there was, if anything, an explicit impossibility. That's because hallucinations and illusions could sometimes be trickier and crueler than actual pranks. Be that as it might, his captain would kiss his brow, caress his face, trace the contours of his chest with his fingertips, and smell his hair. These advances he could not repel, what with his strength and vigilance being too depleted. And in the narrowest and deepest crevices of his mind uninfluenced by alcohol, he wished Byakuya would never go away only to leave him tormented in uncertainty. He didn't want to admit it, but he hoped all was real.
"Renji, your turn." Ikakku Madarame sent the shot glass sliding across the table.
There was a collective gasp.
"You've only downed seven shots, so don't be silly." Iba Tetsuzaemon said dismissively, as though refusing to down a shot was no different from throwing one's life away.
"No, really, I've had enough."
"Yaaaah, tattoo-face! My grandma drinks better than you!" Squealed an out-of-place voice, the kind which one would expect to ring in a kindergarten classroom.
"For one thing, Yachiru, no one drinks better than I do and, for another, Yumichika is not your grandmother. As far as I know, he's as far away from looking like an old hag as you are from managing to ignore a bowl of candies. But most importantly, you shouldn't be drinking at all events."
"Someone mentioned my name? My turn already?" Pretty boy Yumichika Ayasegawa had roused from the sofa where he had been waking up and dozing off every so often. He was now zigzagging his way to the table. He snatched the half-full tiny glass without warning, gulping its contents in one go. No sooner than his head lolled down his left shoulder did his eyes roll off his forehead. Ikakku hardly had the time to catch the 5th-seat officer before the latter completely passed out.
"Yare yare." The 3rd seat officer muttered. Yachiru, on the other hand, was cheering from her seat and was throwing warm-colored confetti in the air, as if swayed by a powerful excitement.
"I'll go catch some breeze." Renji stood up in resignation.
"Hey, Abarai, where do you think you're going?" The 7th division lieutenant asked disbelievingly.
"Tattoo-face is off to join scarface on the balcony to get all sentimental!" The pink-haired lieutenant piped up. Renji wondered if she even had an introductory idea, or at least a general one, about sentiments.
He knew that saying 'no' to his comrades' invitation to intoxication would do him as much good as dipping his head in a toilet bowl, and a proof of that was, right at that moment, Kira Izuru was vomiting his guts out in the comfort room. But Renji just brushed past them, neither retorting to their wolf-whistles nor pleading. He found it hardly worth the effort to tell them anything about his troubles because, to start with, they were evidently too stoned to process anything more complicated than the word 'no'. Furthermore, even in their sober state, the best advice they could possibly offer him was, 'let's have a drink instead'. Thus the redhead extricated himself from the madding crowd, which started to howl after him. For all he knew, they were imparting among each other their crude speculations and presumptions on what was behind his strange behavior. A merry group it was, only he didn't want to be a part of it.
He found Hisagi Shuuhei on the balcony, huddled in a tomblike seclusion, musing on what might have been the end of the world.
The redhead wedged himself beside the fellow lieutenant and they stood there in a confiding fashion. There ensued a weighty silence as they observed the clouds gather; it seemed to symbolize a great, brooding mass of human trouble.
"Say, sempai, there's something that's been bothering me, and I just need to let it all out." Renji started. His voice, Hisagi observed, had this remarked faintness not entirely from reluctance, but it certainly had a part in it.
"Is it something serious?"
"Fire away." The 9th division lieutenant said, and he himself wasn't exactly one might call enthusiastic.
The redhead sighed, forced a laugh and commenced, "Here goes: I keep having this dream…" he could not persuade his mouth to phrase the rest of the sentence.
"A dream about?"
"About Kuchiki-taichou." He said finally, his eyes determined to miss Hisagi's.
The other lieutenant raised his eyebrows, but was unable to refrain from cracking a suppressed grin which was very demonstrative of some unreserved fondness to teasing, "Why am I not surprised? You talk about him day and night and anytime in between. You can't contradict anything he says, much less displease him deliberately. You follow him around like a shadow in broad daylight. In short, all you do is conduct advertisements in full view of the public on how much you worship him. Now, Renji, I don't see why you having dreams about him should occasion you so much disconcertion as to refuse your sake. Frankly, it's like complaining about the world being round." He finished, his tone of remark sinister.
"You don't understand. He's in my dreams. I see him everywhere. He's in my blood!" And his cool had entirely retreated.
"Get a grip on yourself. Of course he's everywhere; you're obsessed with him. Deal with it, though I doubt if you can."
"Sempai, this has to stop—"
"What has to stop? You, stop thinking about Kuchiki-taichou? Please. Why must you demonstrate that which cannot be otherwise?"
"Not me; he has to stop!" The redhead's composure then and there veered out of control. Finally expelling that very subject, that which was precisely what haunted him and the troubles he used to keep largely to himself, he sighed. The scar-faced lad was left to eye him incredulously, in a fit of trying to collect the sufficient wit to compose a reply.
"He has to stop? What exactly does he have to refrain from doing? Being too cool and handsome for your blood? I have to say, that's rather selfish—"
"He keeps coming on to me! You have no idea what he does when I'm all alone stoned drunk in bed!"
"Let me get this straight: all these happen when you're asleep, apparently in a hangover, when your blood's alcohol level is what, eight? In your dreams, more like?"
"Yes—no—I don't know! They've always felt so real, like there's this scent he leaves behind and he's so tangible. I know this is absurdity carried out to its most ridiculous extremities but, sempai, he may actually be visiting me every time I get drunk."
Shuuhei was staring blankly at him. "Tell me, what exactly does he do to you?" He asked his friend. He considered that the improbable nature of Renji's story could at least be based on or triggered by reality. Perhaps the possibility of the redhead fantasizing too much about his captain was the root of all these.
"He—he—aargh, this sounds silly—I can't say it—he touches me, kisses me, and god knows what else." Renji said in a low manner, as if insinuating himself into a criminal secret.
The idea of his comrade being in love with the noble captain he could at least leave alone, but on the whole he could not quite grasp why the redhead would carry his predilection as far as this…
"Are you saying that Kuchiki-taichou creeps by your room every time you're drunk and molests you?"
"No, jeez. Captain would never molest me, or anyone for that matter. What I'm saying is, he's probably just checking on his wasted fuku-taichou. And while he's at it, maybe he thinks it's not a bad idea after all to reward me with a kiss and a few—"
"That's wishful thinking, Renji, delusion at its grandest."
"What if it's not? I mean, come on, if I had been thinking too much about him, why haven't I had these dreams during sober nights?" Renji persisted, deeming his message not wholly lacking in logic.
"Hey, let me ask you, in these encounters—let's disregard their reality and inclination to fiction for now—, have you once tried to cooperate with him or resist him?"
Renji frowned, "I don't need to answer that. Don't muddle me up; we have got plenty of sake for that."
Utterly cornered, he heaved a sigh, "I've always been too drunk to do either."
"Let me rephrase that; do you enjoy them? Does he turn you on?"
"You see, one look at you and any moron can tell you'd be scrambling to give your captain full access to your pants if he so much as winked at you."
"Are you saying he's a pervert?" Renji almost snarled the words, and color started to rise up his cheeks.
"Are you even listening to yourself? Here I am, catapulting jokes in the air with you being the butt of them, and all you got to say in defense is something that only covers up for your captain. You know, you might wanna consider salvaging your dignity."
"What do you mean by that?" The redhead asked irritably, not ignoring the feelings of intellectual inferiority poking at him.
"Let's put it this way, I bet you a million bucks that if I go about hurling a thousand insults at you and chip in a slight pun about your captain being a sissy, you'll be doing your Bankai on me for calling him a wimp, am I correct? I'm telling you, Abarai, you're seriously in love."
"No two ways about it. If I were you, I'd start sending him roses and chocolates—"
"He doesn't like flowers, except Sakura—"
"I give up. You love Kuchiki Byakuya, admit it or deny it for the rest of your life."
"What's that got to do with my problem—"
"Everything. It means it doesn't matter if he really visits you or if it only happens in your farfetched dreams—you don't want it to end. So, trust me, just keep on drinking, because, believe it or not, you'd be in a pre-corpse state should they stop coming—these actual visits or whatever they are."
For Abarai Renji, everything changed its taste from then on; even sake, which had never been a reliable source of comfort to him, seemed sweet. Here was his friend, awakening the feelings he was trying so hard to subdue. And so his mind soared off to nowhere and out of harmony with the actual world.
"I should get going." He announced.
"All of a sudden?"
"Yeah, before those drunkards further succeed in forcing alcohol down my throat. I'm not getting myself stoned this time. I'm gonna figure this out once and for all."
He made his exit by jumping off from the ledge, landing safely and nimbly on both feet. He waved his hand to Hisagi, giving him a mute farewell. Cursing his alcohol tolerance as he treaded his way home, he found that he tripped every so often on the paving blocks. Indeed the distance between the sake house and his apartment was doubled by his tendency to lose his route. Something like that would never have been possible had he been sober. At long last, he reached his private quarter and instantly collapsed on his bed. He stared at the ceiling, trying to redouble his vigilance with what was left of his sobriety. But seven shots were way past his limits.
The dark of the night assailed him. He plunged into the unknown regions which divided unconsciousness and its opposite. To where he was nearer, he couldn't tell. Shit. Sake is the greatest traitor among all human creations. This is how it is, drinking starts early and concludes late in the evening. Just great. He thought. He held his vigil in that undeterminable state until he felt a sinking weight at the foot of his bed. He opened his eyes, still rather unsure of what was to be presented before him. And there seated majestically on the far end of his futon was his captain; perhaps he was imagining it.
"Captain." His mouth read, but he did not hear his own voice.
Byakuya was watching him. Upon seeing his captain's face, he panicked. He knew he was utterly wasted and was reeking of sake from head to toe; what a sorry sight he was. This was exactly the last appearance he wished to have in the presence of Byakuya. Even so, he made not the slightest of struggles. Meanwhile, the captain drew near, fingers of moonlight creeping on his face. Renji felt his hand rise, as though it had sprang a life of its own. It seemed as though it was trying to reach out to something or to receive an eagerly awaited gift. IN response, the captain wrapped Renji's hand with his own and pulled it to his lips. Allowing his palm to explore the smooth surface of the other's face, the lieutenant smiled. At that, the dormant desire residing in his chest threatened to dislodge. Before long, they were tangled beneath the sheets, unmoving and breathing in slow succession.
"Captain," The redhead still couldn't hear himself evince a sound.
"Yes?" The answer indicated that his voice box had not gone obsolete.
Renji did not answer immediately. Instead he pressed his lips against the other's, which gave no hint of resistance.
"Release your Zanpakotou." The lieutenant requested upon disengaging his mouth from his captain's. He could dimly perceive why he asked for such exhibition and what use it could possibly serve. He sounded foolish. He was being foolish indeed as his disoriented mind would render natural. Or maybe there was more to it.
"What for, Renji?"
"I don't know, but please do so."
"As you wish. Scatter, Zenbon Sakura."
Countless pink petals flew in pattern-less movements across the chamber. Renji felt several of them land softly on his face. These can't be weapons of destruction, he thought. A tickling sensation coursed its way to his body and distributed itself up to the ends of his nerves. It appeared that the released form of his captain's Zanpakotou could also serve as environmental enhancement to create a romantic mood. Then and only then did Renji feel himself gradually surrendering into the encircling slumber. He made a final effort to make a move, leaned on his captain's shoulder, and kissed his forehead. Sleep enfolded him, and he was lost.
He awoke at the sun's glare that penetrated through his window. He sat bolted upright and surveyed the room. All was of the same order as when he arrived last night. There was no residue of an alien presence, no evidence of a thousand petals reveling among the dusts in his room on the night prior. On top of it, no particular scent lingered. Making his way to the bathroom, he tried to distract himself from disappointment. He looked at his face in the mirror to discover what was badly required of him: a good bath. You can't stay sober to save your neck. He reprimanded. Perhaps it's true when they say ignorance is bliss. He sighed sordidly. I guess I'll never know. Maybe Hisagi-sempai was right; it doesn't matter if it's real or not as long as you feel it. He splashed warm water on his face, brushed his teeth, grabbed a pair of fresh hakama, and put it on. With that, he left his apartment to spend the afternoon of his off-duty day with his fellow seated officers.
Meanwhile, a lone pink petal was idling motionlessly underneath Renji Abarai's bed, perhaps awaiting discovery. Or maybe it had found its final abode and would lie there forever undiscovered, to rot away with its secret.
Perhaps it's better not to know.