Title: Reflect

Characters: Renji, Ikkaku, Kira

Rating: T

Warnings: Language

Words: Far more than I'm supposed to have (811)

Description: Conceding defeat and accepting defeat are two entirely different things.


Renji was tired.

Getting his ass kicked by that pink-haired floozy was not really something he had been expecting or that he planned to ever repeat. Then again, he should have known not to underestimate someone in pink. Yachiru was the perfect example of that.

His body more than ached. It felt as if it had been beaten, stabbed, slashed, ripped, stomped on, and then set on fire for good measure. Which was probably what had happened, he couldn't be sure. A lot of the fight he couldn't remember, other than the painfully embarrassing part about having to be saved by Kurotsuchi.

Ikkaku was never going to let him live it down.

He trudged him with a sort of weary stumble, trying to ignore the tattered nature of his clothing and the ache of wounds that were healed but still throbbed beneath the surface. Orihime was back home, and what had he done? Just about nothing useful. The only fight he had managed to find had ended with him flat on his back, bleeding profusely.

As usual.

He would have to train harder. Renji knew this. He couldn't beat his captain the way he was, not even get close. He had only managed to get the man to one knee, while Ichigo had done so much more. It seemed he was always going to be a few steps behind the prodigy, who always saved the girl, always defeated his opponents and always came out the hero. Even if he didn't want to be.

It wasn't fair, and Renji often wondered when someone decided that nothing in his life could be.

With a sigh, Renji reached up and ran a hand through his hair, wincing at the dried blood caked in it. He would need a bath soon but not before stopping by his home for a change of clothes. He thought about the others, who they would be coming home to. Friends and family and loved ones. Thought about how much he wished he had been able to do more than come out the loser again.

Life really sucked sometimes.

He arrived home not long after, sliding the door open with a weary grunt. It was dark inside as he had expected since he hadn't been there in some time. He hadn't even had time to stop by after Kuchiki-taichou and Zaraki-taichou had brought them back from Karakura.

He tugged Zabimaru from the ruins of his obi and set him against the wall near the door. He was already reaching for the tattered remains of his shihakushou, in the midst of locating his yukata to change into, when the sound of knocking filtered through to his thoughts. He frowned, not really expecting any visitors.

The redhead turned back towards the door and slid it open.

"Renji!"

"Abarai-kun!"

Before he knew it, he was being swept into a bear-hug by Ikkaku and greeted by Kira. Renji blinked, drawing back as Ikkaku patted him on the head, paying no mind to the grit and grime.

"Guys?" he questioned, secondly noticing the sake jug in Ikkaku's hand. "What're ya doing here?"

Kira smiled at him. "We heard you were back, and Ikkaku figured you'd want a drink."

Ikkaku nodded, pushing his way inside without so much as an invitation. "Hisagi an' Tetsuzaemon said they'd be by later. Yumi's on the way now."

Renji could only stare in slack jaw surprise. He had expected to spend the entire evening alone, to trudge into work the next day. He watched mutely as Kira lowered himself slowly to the floor, and Ikkaku plopped down gracelessly, already popping open the jug.

"Tell me about them Espada," Ikkaku began. "Man, it sucks. I wanted ta fight one."

Renji shook his head, joining them on the floor and reaching for the jug. He remembered his own fight, recalled pathetically losing. "It's not as fun as ya think," he put in bitterly, downing a swig.

His senpai watched him for several long moments. "Y'know, Renji, taichou told me something once. If ya die, ya can't fight again. So losin's not that bad." He grinned. "I added that last part."

Renji snorted. He understood what Ikkaku meant, but still…

"Anyway," Kira interrupted cheerily. "We're all alive. Orihime-san is safe, and there's still a war to be fought. No need to be depressed so soon."

" 'xactly," Ikkaku agreed with a firm nod. "Let's drink."

Renji couldn't agree more.

Maybe Ikkaku was right; maybe Kira was. Maybe all Renji needed to do was train just a bit harder.

And maybe he would be able to beat Kuchiki-taichou, after all.

He supposed a guy could dream.

--

a/n: And thus this is the last in the series. It sort of... trickles off on the end. I'm not fond of the ending at all. But the build-up/set-up I like. Any thoughts?

Thanks for reading!