Disclaimer: Bleach is the property of Tite Kubo. No copyright infringement is intended.
Notes: Takes place between Episodes 142 and 146 of the anime or Chapters 238 and 246 of the manga. Includes a passing reference to Byakuya's personality in the "Turn Back the Pendulum" manga chapters. Hopefully, this story is compatible to both manga and anime.
Byakuya Kuchiki did not have to be told that Rukia and Renji were planning to rescue Orihime Inoue, regardless of orders. The moment they stepped foot in Soul Society, he could see their scheme written across their faces. He had no doubt that, if left on his own, Renji would simply run to the nearest senkaimon and head back to the human world. Rukia, on the other hand, was much more cautious—she must have told him to wait while she tried to arrange hell butterflies for the both of them. Byakuya was the only Shinigami willing to help her, but she would exhaust all avenues before asking him. That was exactly the reason why Rukia deserved to be a Kuchiki.
While Rukia did all the work, Renji had apparently headed to the hot springs. Byakuya frowned as he stood outside the private room designated for massages. His lieutenant had grown lazy while in the human world. Renji should be trying to find contacts for a hell butterfly as much as Rukia, but instead, he was receiving a massage from one of his many fans. The boy rubbing his shoulders even had a tattoo on his forehead. Byakuya shook his head and leaned against the doorway. Renji's more approachable personality made him popular with the members of Division Six. None of them ever tried to mimic Byakuya.
Renji and the youth did not notice Byakuya. Renji lay on his stomach, soaking up his massage with his eyes closed. He painted a pretty picture, lying on a table, his tattooed skin gleaming under the torchlight, red hair scattered over his face. Renji did have his virtues, Byakuya remembered.
The youth hung off Renji's every word as Renji chattered away about fighting arrancars. "I think his name was Patros or something, and he was particularly ugly when he released his zanpakutō," Renji said. "He gave me a good work out, but with a little help from a few of Urahara's mod souls, I managed to kill him."
Byakuya approached the youth and tapped him on the shoulder. He jumped and gaped, but he said nothing when Byakuya pressed a finger to his lips. Byakuya motioned for him to leave, and he did not watch as the boy bowed and ran out.
Renji still had not noticed Byakuya—he sounded half-asleep as he described his fight with Patros. "He fired energy blasts at me by unsheathing his zanpakutō. He was really fast, too."
The smell of the musk oil gleaming on Renji's back captured Byakuya's interest. He hesitated for a moment, then pressed his palms against Renji's shoulder blades. Renji's skin felt warm and smooth.
"Don't stop," Renji said. "I've been doing nothing but fighting Arrancars, doing housework, and training with Sado for weeks now. My muscles are really sore."
Byakuya gripped Renji's shoulders and rubbed them hard. Renji groaned in appreciation. "Much better. You had a really weak touch at first, but now you're getting the hang of it. Like I was saying, Patros released his zanpakutō…"
Touching Renji felt intoxicating. It had been a long time since Byakuya had touched another being outside of battle. He ignored Renji's nattering—he had already read the report. It was much more interesting to concentrate on the warmth spreading throughout his body. He worked the kinks out of Renji's back, grateful that the feel of hard muscle did not remind him of his delicate Hisana.
"I have to admit, those mod souls are pretty useful, especially Noba. Urahara did amazing things with the three of them, and their trickery really pulled me out of a few tough spots."
Byakuya slid his hands down to Renji's waist. Impulsiveness was an old trait that he thought had died with his wife, but the urge to go further possessed Byakuya. Perhaps it was a sign of temporary madness, but he could not think of a single reason not to. He cupped Renji's pert ass through his towel. Renji's eyes flew open, and he twisted his head around. "Hey, where do you get off—Captain!"
"You seem rather close to Urahara and his abominations. You did not mention the modified souls in your report."
Renji gulped. His face turned nearly as red as his hair. "I was, er, see, well… Um. Captain, you're touching my ass."
"I'm well aware of what I'm doing." Byakuya lifted his hands. "I wanted your attention."
"You have it, that's for sure." Renji sat up and draped the towel over his lap, his gaze darting around the small room. The stone walls and steam from the nearby hot springs did not seem to provide him with the answers he wanted. "Why are you here?"
Byakuya felt cold now that he longer touched Renji. A part of him was horrified that he had stooped to such a base level, but another part of him wanted to touch the rest of Renji Abarai. He stared at his hands as he spoke. "Do you happen to know where Rukia is?"
Renji flinched. He probably thought he and Rukia's plan had been discovered, and Byakuya would not disabuse him of that notion just yet. "Rukia? Why would I know where Rukia is?"
"You two are friends, are you not?" Byakuya raised his gaze to study Renji's face. Renji would have liked to be much more than Rukia's friend, but she had not allowed it. Byakuya often wondered why—she could not hope for a more devoted lover, not even with Ichigo, whose affections seemed scattered amongst his friends.
"I don't know. Maybe she's training."
"I see. When do you think she'll return?"
"Uh, tomorrow? I really don't know."
Byakuya crossed his arms. "Then I'll wait until tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm curious about these modified souls of Urahara's. Come to my mansion tonight to give me a full report."
"I do not feel like sleeping in the division lodgings tonight."
"Till tonight, then." Byakuya spun on his heel and walked out. When he glanced back, Renji stood up, clutching his towel. He blushed when he saw Byakuya and turned away. His brilliant hair cascaded down his shoulders, creating an interesting complement to his sun-kissed skin. The image burned itself into Byakuya's mind.
Byakuya kept walking, realizing he had a lot of self-reflection to do.
Ever since Renji had displayed his bankai, Byakuya had been intrigued. Though he had always noticed Renji's attractiveness, Byakuya had ignored that fascination, just as he had with many other men. But Renji's surprise display of power, so unusual for a man of his age and rank, was not ignorable.
Byakuya sighed. He stood before his wife's shrine, staring at her picture. Only Hisana had ever commanded his affections. He felt vaguely guilty for his indiscretion with Renji, though it could hardly be called adultery, even if Hisana were alive. He wondered what had possessed him.
It did not take long to realize it was Ichigo Kurosaki. Something about the youth had infected all of Soul Society, and Byakuya had been no exception. Ichigo's raw power still surprised him. Byakuya had not been defeated in a long time. The defeat left him feeling alive again, reminding him that he still had things to strive for. Acknowledging Rukia sealed the hole in his heart left by Hisana's death—Rukia's company made him feel like a hollow purified by a zanpakutō. Being able to look at Rukia, to see Hisana in her, allowed Byakuya to remember his wife, to say farewell. He could almost hear Hisana telling him to move on, as she had asked him on her deathbed, after begging for him to find Rukia.
Byakuya took a deep breath of the burning incense he had lit in memory of his wife. He wondered where she was in the human world, if she enjoyed her new incarnation. She had moved onto a new life, as the balance between Soul Society and the human world dictated. Perhaps he should move on, as well. Aizen's rise to power broke every rule Byakuya lived by, and he would have to break rules as well if he wished to defeat him. He understood that now—Ichigo had taught it to him through sword and blood.
The door to Byakuya's mansion slid open. He could hear rain falling outside. Lightning flashed and set his darkened room aglow. He smoothed his haori out and stared down at the wood-paneled floor. Three heartbeats passed before Renji spoke.
Byakuya turned around. Evening had fallen quickly—winter and war drew closer every day. The drumming sound of the rain suited Renji's sober expression. He had gotten wet in the rain, and his ponytail stuck to his neck and the sides of his face. The raindrops running down his cheeks made Byakuya think of tears.
"Come in, Renji."
Renji stood and slid off his sandals. When the door shut behind him, it blocked out the sound of rain. Byakuya lit a lamp as Renji knelt on the floor. Renji stared straight ahead. He concealed his nervousness well—to anyone but Byakuya. He still probably feared Byakuya had found out his and Rukia's little plan to help Ichigo save Inoue.
Byakuya dropped a towel over Renji's head. He crossed his arms and stood in front of Renji. Renji did not look at Byakuya as he toweled his hair and face dry. He glanced around the room, peering at the blank walls and polished wood. Renji's gaze froze on the shrine to Hisana. Byakuya walked back over to the cabinet and snapped the doors shut.
"She really looked a lot like Rukia," Renji said. "It's like they were identical twins."
"Separated by two decades." Byakuya slid his hands across the wood. He sighed and turned around. "But I did not summon you to talk about my wife."
Renji cast his eyes downwards and worked his jaw. Byakuya studied him. Renji was handsome without wandering into the effeminate, though his strange tattoos and fierce mannerisms preventing him from being considered beautiful. Renji possessed what could only be described as animal magnetism. He seemed primitive, as if he belonged haunting the jungles of the human world, not wrapped in the shihakushō of an orderly Shinigami. Byakuya had never met another man like him.
"You wanted me to tell you about the modified souls?" Renji asked after a long moment.
Shaking his head, Byakuya stroked his new scarf, so like the old one. "I don't give a damn about Urahara and his experiments. I'm actually more curious what happened to the ginpaku kazahana no uzuginu I gave you after our battle. I never see you with it."
Renji's fingers tightened around the towel. "I left it behind when I went to save Rukia. I don't know what happened to it."
"I see." That stung. Byakuya did not give a token of respect so easily, though he supposed he could forgive Renji's reasoning now.
Renji licked his lips and studied the floor. Byakuya stared at Renji's mouth for a long moment, noting its fullness. Renji maintained the silence. He seemed completely different from the friendly man he presented to his subordinates. Byakuya had seen Renji act every inch the fool, but, at times, Renji seemed as serious as Byakuya himself.
Water. Byakuya realized that Renji reminded him of water. Moodiness was a sign of a water-type personality. Even though Renji had been born a Virgo, he was proof how useless the human zodiac was in typing personalities, for he acted nothing like his sign. Most people would compare him to fire, but that was too simplistic. His personality shifted based on the company he kept. Around Kurosaki, he became irascible, around Rukia, he preened, and around Byakuya, he became more sober than usual. He was like the tides of the ocean, influenced by the moon.
Renji wiped his cheek with the towel, even though his face had dried. The silence was apparently getting to him. "Look, Captain, just say it. You think Rukia and I—"
"Do not presume to tell me what I think."
Renji worked his jaw again.
"Do you still wish to defeat me one day, Lieutenant Abarai?"
A flash of fire in Renji's eyes. "Of course, Captain. I just need another ten to fourteen years, you said?"
"Why? Is it because of my power? Or is it because I took Rukia away from you?"
"What are you talking about?" The towel twisted in Renji's hand.
Byakuya tilted his head. "I know all about your past. Rukia told me. I find it odd that we have the same taste in women."
Renji froze. "W-what?"
Though both men both had connections to Rukia, she did not connect them. Byakuya's interest in Renji had nothing to do with Renji and Rukia's childhood friendship. His interest lay in the discovery that Renji was not a mangy beast, after all, but a fierce, determined man with his own set of principles. In many ways, Renji reminded Byakuya of himself a hundred years ago.
Byakuya circled Renji. "Never mind." He yanked off Renji's white headband and stared at the cloth. Renji stared at him, but did not protest. His jagged tattoos made him seem half-angry.
"Rukia is just my friend," Renji said, his gaze following Byakuya as a rabbit's gaze would follow a circling wolf. "Nothing more."
"Yes. And she will always merely be your friend. But you realize that already. Her affections lie elsewhere—perhaps with that orange-haired fool she is so fond of, but perhaps not."
Renji tossed the pieces of the torn towel on the carpet. "I'm tired, Captain. I request permission to leave."
"Permission denied." Byakuya yanked out Renji's hair tie.
Renji yelped as his hair fell past his shoulders. "What in the hell?" He rubbed his head. Byakuya resisted the urge to stroke the scarlet locks.
"You look better without them." Byakuya glanced at Hisana's shrine cabinet and bowed his head. He could not do this here. He was not even sure when he had decided to do this at all. After dropping Renji's head gear on the ground, he walked towards the hallway leading to his room. "Follow me, Renji."
Renji stomped after Byakuya. "Damn it. Captain, what do you want with me?"
What did Byakuya want of Renji? They had not had much interaction since Aizen had betrayed the Shinigami, but something had changed in both of them—and between them. The more Byakuya looked at Rukia, the more he remembered how much he had once enjoyed laughter and the touch of a lover. The desire for a lover never overcame him with Rukia—she felt every bit Byakuya's younger sister—but every time Byakuya looked at Renji, he yearned for touch.
"Captain, answer me!"
Byakuya walked into his bedroom. It was as simple and undecorated as the rest of his house. The beauty of it lay in painted panels of Seireitei's expanse against the back wall. Rain continued to pour down, drumming on the roof. Byakuya lit another lamp and stared at his empty futon. The white blankets lay smooth and neat. Though changed every day by his staff, his bedroom had been empty for many years—he usually slept in the division lodgings. He decided he did want this, that he did want Renji.
Byakuya turned around and studied Renji. Renji's face was flushed, and his eyes narrowed to gleaming beads. Strips of hair hung over his face. It occurred to Byakuya that he should find out if Renji wanted him. He did not think it would be too difficult to discover reciprocal feelings—after all, Renji had expressed a fascination with Byakuya numerous times. A sexual development should not be foreign to Renji, especially since Byakuya knew from the way Renji looked at men that he shared Byakuya's tastes in both genders.
Renji crossed his arms. "Captain. Explain yourself."
"Oh?" Byakuya raised an eyebrow. "Since when do I have to explain myself to a subordinate?"
"Fine. Then let me go home. I'm tired."
"You could rest here. I'm sure it is more comfortable here than in your quarters."
The look on Renji's face made Byakuya wish he could have taken a picture and framed it. Yachiru would have treasured it for all eternity. Renji's eyes widened, his mouth dropped open, his face burned red, and he gasped for air. Byakuya allowed the ghost of a smile to play on his lips.
"You're joking." Renji's voice cracked. "Like you were about cutting your hair with your zanpakutō, right?"
"I joked about cutting my hair with my zanpakutō, yes."
Renji took a moment to work that out. "Captain, I'm not sure if you realize that it sounded like you just invited me to sleep with you."
"You think me a fool, Renji?" Byakuya unwound his scarf and draped it over a chair. "Do you really think I don't realize what I said?"
"No, sir, I just…" Renji gulped. "I just can't believe it."
"What's to believe?" Byakuya laid his haori over a chair and walked over to Renji. He leaned towards him. "You need not look so flustered. I give you permission to leave now. You can either sleep here or go home. Sleeping with me is not an order, but a choice."
Renji gaped, but made no move towards the door. He put up no resistance when Byakuya untied his obi. Renji's kimono fell open, revealing his tattooed torso. Byakuya pressed a hand to Renji's flat stomach. Despite the dampness from the rain, Byakuya warmed at the feel of Renji's skin. He looked into Renji's eyes, wondering what he was thinking.
Blushing, Renji averted his gaze. Byakuya slid Renji's wet kimono off his shoulders. It folded over his hakama with a rustle of cloth. Renji's chest rose and fell, and Byakuya could feel Renji's heart pounding all the way down to his stomach.
"Did you hear me?" Byakuya traced Renji's stomach tattoos with his finger. "I gave you permission to leave. If you want."
"I heard you."
Byakuya pushed down Renji's hakama until it slid to the floor. Zabimaru clinked when it hit the floor. Renji stood nude but for his socks, his gaze burning hot, every bit the primitive beauty. He balled his fists and stared Byakuya, almost in challenge. Byakuya studied his face, resisting the urge to glance down at Renji's cock. He would not be so crass. Not yet.
"Will you train me how to use my bankai better?" Renji asked after a long moment.
Byakuya's finger froze over an abdominal marking. He did not allow his doubts to appear on his expression. "Are you so disinterested in me that you wish me to bribe you?" His stomach flip-flopped. Had he misjudged Renji's interest in men?
"I didn't say that." Renji took a step forward, his body heat setting Byakuya aflame. He smirked. "But if you're interested in me for this, why not for that?"
Byakuya rolled his shoulders, his stomach settling. He grabbed Renji's arm. "After you return from Hueco Mundo, I'll consider it."
"What—?" Before Renji could finish his question, Byakuya yanked Renji forward and pushed him towards his bed. Renji tripped over his fallen clothes and fell on top of the futon. Byakuya's smooth blankets rumpled.
Byakuya removed the rest of his shihakushō and set aside Senbonzakura, watching as Renji struggled to disentangle himself from his own shihakushō. The wetness of his clothing apparently made it difficult, as did Renji's frantic movements, for by the time Byakuya had fully disrobed and found a bottle of oil, Renji had only just freed himself.
Renji flushed again as he watched Byakuya approach him. The flush spread down his entire body. Byakuya let his gaze roam over Renji's nude form, appreciating the long legs and sculpted physique. It helped that Renji was nearly Hisana's physical opposite. There could be no comparisons, no confusion. What happened with Renji had nothing to do with Hisana. Her memory would remain pure.
"Captain Kuchiki, I…" Renji trailed off and pressed his palm to Byakuya's stomach. He licked his lips again, giving Byakuya a small thrill of anticipation.
"There's no need to talk at this point," Byakuya said. He put an arm around Renji's waist and flipped him over. Renji was on his hands and knees, and Byakuya hardened at the sight of Renji's shapely backside.
Renji glanced back at Byakuya through a curtain of his red hair. Byakuya opened the bottle of oil and slipped his fingers down the cleft of Renji's ass. Renji gulped, and his blush deepened across his back. Byakuya wondered if Renji had ever done this before, but he would not ask. It was not his business what Renji did before him.
The lamplight flickered and dimmed. Renji squirmed when Byakuya slipped his fingers inside of him, stilling only at the press of Byakuya's hand to his belly. When Byakuya pushed his cock inside Renji, Renji's fingers tightened around Byakuya's blankets. Renji gasped when Byakuya was fully sheathed, and his muscles contracted around Byakuya's cock. Byakuya found it difficult to have any focus beyond the heated tightness surrounding his cock.
Once Renji relaxed, Byakuya thrust his hips, letting nature command his rhythm. He wrapped his fingers around Renji's cock and tugged it with each thrust. To his satisfaction, when he glanced over Renji's shoulder, he saw that Renji's tattoos extended even to his cock. Renji gasped out small noises and hid his face behind his hair, almost as if in embarrassment. Byakuya smiled, taking the animalistic sounds and hidden hair to mean that Renji enjoyed himself.
Pleasure soon swept away all pretensions of coherency. It had been a long time since Byakuya had sex, and it took all his control not to simply pound into Renji. Instead, he moved with the younger man, holding Renji to him. Fragments of thoughts passed through his mind, flashes of oceanic tides and tamed beasts, of red and white, of water and fire, of silence and solitude, of want and desire, of Renji then and Renji now.
The intensity built until Byakuya could take it no more, and pleasure colored his world white. He shuddered and came, his body releasing everything he had hidden for nearly fifty years. When his senses returned to him, he realized Renji had not come yet. He kept thrusting as best he could, busying his hand with pumping Renji's cock. Within a couple of minutes, Renji came as well, moaning prettily. Though spent from his exertions, Byakuya thrilled at the sight of Renji's mouth open, his hair cascading across his eyes—it was a debauched sight worthy of immortality. Byakuya lifted his fingers and licked Renji's warm come off them. Renji tasted appropriately bittersweet.
Renji turned. He shivered when he saw Byakuya lick come off his fingers. His Adam's apple bobbed up and down, and his flush had not departed. Byakuya bowed and then sat down on the futon. He sighed and re-adjusted his blankets to the way he liked them.
"That's it?" Renji demanded.
"Should there be more?" Byakuya inclined an eyebrow.
Renji looked away and mumbled something that Byakuya could not hear. He started to stand up. "I guess I'll see you later, then."
"The invitation was for you to rest, which implies sleep. There is enough room here for two people. Why are you leaving?"
Renji chewed his bottom lip and shrugged his shoulders. He crawled next to Byakuya and flopped down on his stomach. He watched Byakuya from beneath his red locks. He looked a bit like a lost puppy.
Byakuya indulged himself and stroked Renji's hair. It felt every bit as silky as it looked. Despite his common origin, Renji had hair worthy of a noble. Byakuya smiled and lay back. "Sleep well, Lieutenant."
To Byakuya's surprise, Renji rested his head on Byakuya's chest and splayed a hand across Byakuya's stomach. "You, too, Captain."
Byakuya stroked Renji's back and closed his eyes. Outside, the rain continued to drum against his roof.
Renji left in the morning, before Byakuya awoke. Byakuya went about his morning routine, knowing it would not be long before Renji returned with Rukia. It gave him time to make quiet arrangements for them.
They arrived before lunch. Rukia did the talking, and Renji stood in the background, a slight flush to his face. He would not look at Byakuya, instead staring at the walls of Byakuya's office. It was just as well, for most of Byakuya's attention was focused on Rukia.
"I see," he told her when she finished explaining why it was so important that she save Inoue. She fell silent and stared up at him. She looked so earnest, her eyes glittering in the sunlight streaming into the office. For a moment, she looked exactly like her sister. Swallowing the lump in his throat, Byakuya turned his back on her and picked up the smaller of the cloaks.
"I was only ordered to bring you back. I wasn't ordered to do anything with you once we returned. Do as you like."
The hell butterflies that had been resting on Byakuya's desk fluttered over to Rukia's and Renji's shoulders. Byakuya handed Rukia her cloak. "Wear this to keep the dust and sand off you while in Hueco Mundo."
"Nii-sama," she whispered. "Thank you."
"Do not thank me. That filthy brat will never survive Hueco Mundo if he's left to his own devices."
Rukia snickered and bowed. "Thank you," she repeated.
"Hey!" Renji cried, watching Rukia slip on her new cloak. "Don't I get one?"
Byakuya crossed his arms. Rukia's eyes widened, and she glanced between Renji and Byakuya in alarm. "Erm. I think I'll sit this one out. Renji, I'll be waiting outside." She scampered out of the office.
Once the door slid shut behind Byakuya, he fixed his gaze on Renji. Renji returned to staring at the walls. He, too, had his arms crossed. Byakuya waited for a few moments, but when Renji would not speak, he picked up the second cloak—it was much larger than the one he had given Rukia.
"I would almost think you didn't enjoy last night."
Renji glanced at Byakuya, then back at the wall. "Hmph. Did you enjoy it?"
Byakuya held out Renji's cloak, but when Renji reached for it, he snatched it away and grabbed Renji's wrist. He pulled the other man towards him. "Do not ask me stupid questions, Lieutenant. I haven't time for them."
Renji's mouth worked as he stared down at Byakuya. After a moment, he darted forward and pressed his lips to Byakuya's. The kiss sent tingles down Byakuya's spine. He did not realize he had closed his eyes until he opened them and found Renji grinning at him. Renji's teeth looked sharper than usual.
"You fucked me, but I wasn't sure if you liked me," Renji whispered, and tugged on the cloak.
"What makes you think I do?" Feeling contrary, Byakuya tightened his grip on the cloak. Renji yanked at it again, scowling when he realized Byakuya was not letting go. He backed up to get some leverage, but he wasn't strong enough to break Byakuya's grip.
"If you keep this up, you're going to rip it."
"I'll have Ishida fix it!"
The door slid open again. "Renji! Are you done yet?"
Rukia's re-entrance surprised Byakuya enough to lose his grip on the cloak. Renji fell back onto his ass, clutching his new cloak. He winced at first, then grinned so wide that Byakuya was surprised his face did not split open.
"Thanks, Captain!" Renji cried, fixing the cloak around his shoulders as he ran towards the door. "Rukia, hurry before he changes his mind!"
As Renji disappeared out the door, Rukia sighed. "Idiot."
"Hmph." Byakuya crossed his arms. "Be safe, Rukia."
Rukia beamed up at him. "Always."
Byakuya stood at the doorway, watching them run down the street. The sky was clear and blue, and the sunlight soon obscured Renji and Rukia's passage. As he walked back into his office, Byakuya wondered when it would rain again.