Three short years had passed since that time. But their love was still as strong as ever. Ichigo was stretched out on Renji's couch, snoozing softly, as the afternoon was long and boring. He was eighteen now and he could hardly believe it. It still seemed like a dream that he and Renji were together. It just seemed too unreal, too impossible, to really happen. Of course his boyfriend thought this as well.
Right now that said boyfriend was preparing to head back to Soul Society for a secret mission of his own. The only reason Ichigo knew that he was leaving was that the soft lips brushed softly against his from an upside down position. His eyes fluttered open to find a smirking Renji right in front of his face. Startled he began to sit up only to bonk heads, painfully. "What the hell, Renji?!" He screamed, moving further away to sit up, rubbing his nose where their faces had collided. "Don't do that! Haven't you learned by now?"
He straightened up, looking offended. "Well excuse me, princess."
Ichigo sighed and stood up, placing his hand firmly on Renji's shoulder. "My bad. Anyway. What's up?" Renji's smile returned and Ichigo couldn't help but grin slightly as well.
"I have to return to soul society for a week or so. Until I get done what needs to be done, I can't come back here to the real world. Just thought I'd let you know ahead of time so you didn't freak and invade Seiretei again." They both chuckled as memories from his first visit came flooding back.
"What is it?" Ichigo asked, letting go of Renji's shoulder. It wasn't that he was worried, but since they'd gotten together, he found himself more curious than he used to be. "And how come you can't come back?"
"Hi-mi-tsu." Renji smirked before he snuck a peck to Ichigo's cheek, leaving him both blushing and fuming at the same time. "Anyways, I'll see you in a week." He grabbed his keys off the table and Ichigo watched as he shuffled out the door.
Feeling suddenly lost, Ichigo stared for a few minutes at the spot where Renji had been standing before he shrugged and turned around, laying himself back out across the couch. He'd see the guy in a week. There was no need to worry.... Right?
Back in Seiretei Renji walked with his shoulders held back proudly and a smile on his lips. He was finally going to be able to fulfill his dream of the last three years. Why does it take humans so long to age? He thought. It wasn't a bitter thought but just a thought in general. In reality, he'd always wondered that. On the outside they aged so quickly, changing from day to day. But on the inside they stayed pretty much the same. They didn't officially get older until the day of their birth which only came around once a year. Sure shinigami had this issue but it was still... Different.
As he walked around squad six's barracks he found himself whistling to a tuneless melody. It was pleasant. As he rounded a corner though, he came chest to chest with his captain. Immediately he stepped back and bowed his head, stating firmly, "My apologies, Kuchiki-taichou!"
There was no response but Renji could feel the emotionless eyes on him, observing him like they always did. After a minute of some what awkward silence Byakuya said, "Welcome back, Abarai." There was a questioning tone in his voice and to Renji's surprise, he voiced his curiosity. "Why are you so unusually happy? Did something happen in the real world?"
Although simple, the question made Renji blush to the tip of his ears. Through all the years of being with Ichigo, he'd never once mentioned his relationship to any of the other shinigami. Especially not his captain. There were many things he knew about his captain but at the same time, the things he didn't know, were what scared him. For example he was scared of telling him about having a boyfriend in fear of how he'd react. Being gay, or into guys, wasn't a bad thing but having that thrust upon you suddenly after working together for so many years could still send someone into shock. "W-w-well, ya see taichou I-I-"
"Don't stutter. You sound like an idiot. Spit it out already." Byakuya sounded irritated.
Sighing Renji thought, No point in lying now. "Well... you see... I found someone in the real world... You know. Someone special." The older mans eyes raised in slight surprise but he said nothing. He simply waited, expecting Renji to further explain. "God I sound so stupid saying this so I'll just spit it out. Kurosaki Ichigo. He's my boyfriend and I plan on asking him to-"
Byakuya held his hand up, his eyes narrowing. "Kurosaki... Ichigo?" He said the name as though poison was attached to each syllable. Ashamed now, Renji nodded. "The substitute shinigami?" Again the boy nodded. The air around them was tense. "You realize that this is another man you're talking about..." Although it wasn't really a question Renji nodded again. That was all he could do. There was silence. Just as he was about to open his mouth to say something he was stopped. "I don't care as long as this won't affect your fighting skills, or your job. As soon as it does you will either break things up immediately or relinquish your spot as a shinigami of this squad. Or, if it gets bad, as a shinigami of the 13 Protection Squads. Do you understand?"
Bewildered Renji at first did nothing. Then it sunk in. It'd been accepted. By the stingiest of captains. "Arigato gozaimasu, Kuchiki-taichou!" He yelled, bowing practically in half. "You won't regret this!" Feeling even better Renji jogged away, a slight bounce to his usual straight-forward step.
Renji reached his destination quickly, feeling lighter than the world as he knocked heavily on the door. A croaky old voice called, "Step in." With confidence he pushed the doors open and stepped in, bowing his low to the person sitting at the single piece of furniture in the room. "Abarai-fukutaichou what can I do for you?"
"Yamamoto-taichou," Renji straightened up to look the captain commander in the face. "I've come to get permission for something of utmost importance."
A look of puzzlement crossed the mans face before it went blank again. "And what is it that you want to ask permission about? It must be important if you find you need my approval for it."
"Yea sir. It's very, very important."
"Spit it out already. I haven't got all day."
"Sir, I would like to-"
Ichigo's foot tapped lightly to the beat of the music that played from his iPod. It had been a week already and he was getting antsy. He never realized how hard it was not to see someone's loved one for long periods of time. It had never crossed his mind before. Now he wondered how people dealt with the loneliness they felt when their special person died. It was probably the hardest thing they had to do.
To appease that loneliness though Ichigo had decidedly stayed put in Renji's apartment, sleeping on the couch. Even if he couldn't physically be near him he could at least feel some sort of presence. He'd been waiting all morning now and once more his eyes shifted to look at the ticking clock on the wall. It felt so still. So ominous. The ill feelings had Ichigo slightly on edge. Maybe I should call home and see if he stopped by there. He probably didn't expect me to stay at his apartment the entire week. It is kind of creepy that I did...
"No!" He yelled, sitting up and grabbing his hair roughly. "I'm not a freak. This is perfectly normal!"
Normal? You call this normal you fag? A familiar voice popped into his head. One that hadn't appeared in quite awhile. Maybe you need to get your fucking head checked. Check into a mental institute. Hichigo laughed wickedly, grinning so wide his face looked like it would split in half.
Shut up you. You don't have anything to do with this.
Hichigo laughed harder. King, I have everything in the world to do with this. I don't want to be ruled by someone who get's fucked through the ass. If I wanted that I would've chosen a hot chick. His cruel yellow eyes stared Ichigo, despite the fact that the orange headed boy couldn't see them unless he closed his eyes.
Like you really had any choice in who you ended up! Ichigo growled, slumping into the couch and glaring at the T.V. And you know you like it you little white skinned freak.
Hichigo stopped smiling and growled. You wanna go, freak?
Then let's do-
Hichigo was cut short when there was a click in the lock and the sound of a front door being opened. It swung open and there, standing in the door, was Ichigo's not so knight in shining armor.
"Ichigo?" Renji looked shocked but not offended. "Dude, what are you doing here?"
Ichigo shrugged sheepishly, smiling. "I decided to stay here this week. Hope you don't mind. It's not like I destroyed anything." Renji shook his head. Ichigo watched him as the redhead placed a small bag next to the door before kicking the said door shut with his foot. "So how'd your thing go?" He asked after a brief minute.
Renji shrugged but not in a way that said things could've been better. It was a happy shrug. One that said, who cares? I'm alive aren't I? "Anyway I have some news for you. I want to tell you over dinner okay?" Renji strutted over to his boyfriend and leaned down to kiss, being caught by surprise when he was grabbed around the waist.
"You can't tell me now?" Ichigo asked, cocking one eyebrow and giving him a quizzical look. God I missed him.... Watching as Renji shook his head, he began to feel sad. Maybe it was bad news. Maybe he wanted them to break up. Or he'd say that it was all just some whacked experiment.
"No. I have to tell you at dinner. Anyway, before then I want you to go home, shower, and change into something decent, okay? No jeans or t-shirts alright?" Pouting slightly Ichigo nodded before letting go of the firm waist and then watching as that same waist disappeared into the kitchen. "I'll come get you around seven okay?"
"Fine." He huffed, standing. "See you then." He slumped out of the room to the front entrance where he slipped into his shoes and then slipped out the door. The ominous feeling had just grown a whole lot stronger.
As he trekked home, Hichigo made another uninvited visit. What's the matter king? Get dumped?
Sighing Ichigo replied irritably, No but I might. No thanks to you. Can't you just get lost and stay lost already?
No can do, king. I'm you and you're me.... Not that it's pleasant. When did you become such a girl? You can kick serious ass yet you're spendin' all this time worryin' about some stupid break up. Maybe you should just get a sex change and get it over with. You make me sick.
Shut up. You're not making this any better. And just cause I worry once awhile doesn't make me a girl. It just makes me a worrier. Ichigo scuffed the ground with his foot. Butt out.
Hichigo laughed again. The only people who worry are girls. But fine. I'll butt out. Just know that when you get your ass dumped, I'm gonna take my chance and kick it. He laughed wildly before fading into nothingness. There were times that Ichigo wished he could literally strangle his alter ego. It made him sick to his own stomach thinking about him sometimes.
He arrived home around three and was greeted by his ecstatic younger sisters.
"Onii-chan! Where have you been all week?" Yuzu asked, gripping the front of his t-shirt tightly in her tiny fists.
"Yeah Ichi-nii. You just left us without saying anything besides the fact you'd be gone for a week." Karin stood leaning against the wall with her arms crossed over her chest like she was angry. She probably was knowing her.
"I was at Renji's." Ichigo replied, setting his hand on Yuzu's shoulder. "I thought I told you guys."
Karin glared. "Obviously you didn't. If you were staying at your boyfriend's how come you didn't call at all, huh?" Ichigo crippled under her accusing gaze. "It's not like it's a secret that you're dating him."
Ichigo shrugged, blushing at the fact that even his sister used the word boyfriend. Somehow that word was even more embarrassing than lover. Though it was probably because lover could be one gender or the other. Boyfriend was a one-gendered word. "Didn't think of it. Didn't think it mattered."
"You didn't think we weren't going to worry?" Karin continued, straightening. "What were we gonna do if you can home a bloody mess again? You kept us worrying the entire week!" Her voice had risen almost an octave in pitch. Ichigo knew she was probably going to start crying. So he gently plucked Yuzu off himself and moved over to Karin. When he was about half a foot from her, he wrapped her in a tight hug. And she broke. Silently she began to sob, futily trying to wipe away stray tears.
"Sorry. I'll make sure to call if I go away again, okay? You're too old and too strong to cry Karin so wipe those tears away." He wrapped her a little tighter, holding her until her body stopped shaking. "Are you alright?" She nodded but said nothing. "Good. I'm going out tonight with Renji so I've got to get some stuff ready. If you need anything just holler okay? You too Yuzu." They both nodded. "Alright. If dad is here tell him I'm home." His grip on his sister loosened and disappeared before he bounded up the steps. At least comforting his sisters was easy. If they hadn't been life would've been one hell of a roller coaster. (Not that it wasn't already.)
Upstairs he quickly undressed before heading to the shower. Hopefully the warmth of the water would let his worries be washed down the drain.
Two hours and forty-five minutes later Ichigo tugged anxiously at his dress pants. They felt too confining, like they were trying to suffocate him. His dress shirt choked him and it was hot. He was regretting let his sisters fuss with his hair now. What if he was too formal? Renji hadn't told him how formal he should be. He had simply told him how informal he couldn't be.
"Ichigo, settle down for God's sake!" His dad muttered, gripping his shoulder lightly. "The worlds not gonna end."
Maybe not for you. He thought, rolling his eyes. "Thanks dad. Sorry. It's fine. I'm fine." He was trying to convince himself, more than his dad, that he was fine. He was too nervous. He needed to relax.
"Don't worry. There's only ten minutes before he arrives." Clapping him twice on the shoulder, and flashing a smile, Isshin disappeared. Ichigos only support disappeared.
Pacing in the front hall, Ichigo began thinking of all the worse possibilities. There were so many things that could go wrong. So many things that he was unsure of. Three minutes before seven there was a heavy knock at the door that startled Ichigo. He'd been too lost in his own thoughts to register it. The person behind the door had to knock again before Ichigo answered it. When he opened the door, Renji stood there wearing clothes that were, thankfully, about the same level of formal as Ichigo's.
"Yo. Did I keep you waiting?"
Hell yeah you did! "No. You're right on time." Ichigo told him, turning to yell down the hall, "See you later dad. Be back whenever." He quickly slipped outside, pulling the door shut behind him. "You don't look like a hippie for once." Ichigo joked, smiling. It seemed to calm his nerves a little. As long as he didn't think about the pending dinner he was fine. But it was hard to not think about it as Renji was very dressed up compared to his usual self. His hair had been pulled back into an actual ponytail, with thin strips of hair being left out to represent some sort of bangs. His "hippie" t-shirt had been discarded and exchanged for a black, striped, button down shirt. The first two buttons were undone, exposing all of his neck. The blue jeans he almost always wore were replaced by a pair of black slacks that covered his feet. The shirt had been tucked in and belt held it all together. His feet were clad in black, round-toed, shoes that pulled the whole outfit together. Although black looked nice on him, it also looked kind of strange because of his shocking red hair.
"And you don't look like a freakin' high school. I could be considered a pedophile for dating you while you were in high school!" Renji exclaimed, exasperated. "I mean I'm only two, maybe three, hundred years older than you."
"Thanks for reminding me that you're going to die long before I do." Ichigo muttered, punching him in the shoulder before he reached up to his own collared shirt to undo two of the buttons. It was less suffocating that way.
Renji chuckled. "Don't mention it."
The reached the restaurant shortly, and Ichigo's mood had picked up a little bit. The ominous cloud above his head had begun to disappear. But the thing that made it all that much better was that Renji had taken him to one of the fancier restaurants in town. In fact it was fancy enough that you had to make reservations before hand. It was intriguing. They were seated as soon as they entered, being brought back to the table furthest back in the corner. It was a tiny, round booth, not big enough for more than three people. The seats were a black plastic of some sort with a sparkle to it. The small table was also round and there was a single candle sitting in the center. In shock, Renji had to gesture to Ichigo to sit before he sat.
Ichigo started to laugh though when he looked at Renji after they were both situated. "Renji." He giggled. "You're blending into the seats!" His giggles turned to a snicker. He held his stomach as his laughter grew more painful and covered his mouth to try and stifle the sound. It was useless. He felt Renji's eyes on him. They felt... Agitated. Quickly he forced himself to stop laughing. "Sorry dude. I d-didn't meant to laugh." When he looked up to meet the older mans eyes he saw irritation that slowly turned to joy. He let out a snort and then began laughing.
"You're such a joke, Ichigo. How the hell am I supposed to respond to you?" He slapped the table and received weary glances from other patrons. "I shouldn't have been mad. It's just how you are." Ichigo stared and then rolled his eyes shrugging. Things would never change.
As Renji's laughter subsided a waitress came with the menu's. After she handed them to the boy's, she stood there staring at them with a goofy look on her face. It quickly became uncomfortable.
"Is there something you need?" Ichigo asked, folding the menu and placing it on the table. "If not could you leave?"
Her eyes got bright and she opened her mouth only to ask, "O.... M... G...! Are you guy's like, dating? You're totally hot. I've never met gays before. So have you done it before? That would be like... Totally hot and totally awesome!"
Their jaws dropped. How could they even begin to respond to that?
"That is none of your business, lady." Renji growled, placing his menu on the table as well.
Her eyes grew brighter. "I totally knew! Oh my God that's like, awesome!"
Renji growled and leaned his head back. "Kid, if you don't get going I'm gonna demand ta see yer manager and you won't like the result." His hands curled into fists on the table. Ichigo, even though he knew it was only going to egg the girl on, reached out and placed his hand on top of them.
Turning to glare at the girl he demanded, "Leave. You're ruining a meal. And get a new waitress. You're not supposed to butt into business that isn't yours." The harshness of his voice seemed to snap the girl out of her trance. Obviously embarrassed, she bowed low and apologized before rushing away. "Chill Renji. She's gone."
Renji let out a sigh to relieve himself. "Smart thinking. How rude could you get?"
"Not much ruder than that."
"Humph. Damn right. Anyway. Let's get deciding." He picked up his menu and Ichigo followed suit, letting go of the slowly untensing hand.
They quickly decided on individual meals. They ordered (with a new waitress) their food. As they ate they chatted about different things, both keeping certain important things to themselves. After dinner was over, Renji let out a long burp before sliding down in his seat.
"Man that was good. You humans certainly know how to eat." He smiled, staring into Ichigo's eyes. It made him blush and turn away.
God. Just from him smiling I blush. What the hell? "Yeah? You've got food like this in Soul Society."
"Nah. There ain't nothin' better than this." Renji replied, straightening up a bit.
A slightly awkward silence filled the air. Unsure of what to do, Ichigo sat and played with his fingers, looking every where except Renji's face. When the silence became deafening, Ichigo started to speak but was interrupted.
"You go first!"
"Nah. It's fine. You go."
"Just go Renji! I'm not doing this." Ichigo crossed his arms firmly.
Renji sighed. Oh well. This is as good of a time as ever. He slid out of the booth, only to slide in next to Ichigo. After getting comfortable, Renji took the boys left hand in his own and stared at him with a.... Not quite a frown... on his face. His eyes were gentle though so he obviously wasn't angry which made Ichigo a lot less tense. But taking his hand in public was definitely new. He never did that. (Except in move theaters when it was dark.)
"Ichigo, we've been together for three years now right? Well, I can still remember getting together for the first time like it was yesterday. I can still remember getting rejected all those times before you finally said yes. That day, the day you finally accepted it me, was the happiest day in my entire life. It meant the world to me. And, as these years have gone by, we've had our ups and our downs. More downs than ups, but ups all the same. And I want to be able to continue like that forever."
Ichigo felt his eyes welling up with tears. It was rare when he cried and it wasn't a feeling he liked. Especially because it made Renji hesitate. Even though he knew what was coming, Ichigo wanted to, needed to, hear it from this man's lips before he believed it to be true.
"Ichigo, are you alright?"
"Fine." He replied in his usual voice.
"If you say so. Anyway, as I was saying, Ichigo. I want to know if you'll spend your life with me? Whether it be short or long, will you be mine from this day forward? Kurosaki Ichigo, will you marry me?"
They couldn't be held in any more. The tears burst like waterfalls from his eyes and a sob escaped his parched throat. "Damn right I will Renji! Who do you take me for, huh?" He watched Renji grin before he yanked his hand away only to wrap Renji in a partial choke hold.
"Dude, let go! You're choking me!" Renji gasped, half joking. He wrapped his arms around Ichigo's waist, pulling him closer. "I ain't got a ring fer ya, but I promise I'll get you one."
"I don't care about a damn ring." Ichigo stated, pulling back. The tears had dried and he had the familiar determined look in his eyes. He looked like a man again. "Why did you wait so long to ask?"
Renji shrugged. "I had to get permission from the higher ups. There are laws in Soul Society about marriages."
"Two men can't marry for one, but I got special permission for that. And also the fact that a shinigami and someone from the outside aren't allowed to marry."
Ichigo looked confused. "Aren't we breaking both those laws?"
"Weren't you listening? I got permission for us from Yamamoto-taichou. And as for that other law, as far as the thirteen protection squads are concerned, you're a full fledged shinigami."
Ichigo pulled away from Renji. "That's a lie. I'm a substitute." Renji tried to protest but Ichigo stopped him. "But we're not gonna argue about it tonight. Tonight is a night of celebration. Have you decided on a date, yet?"
"Yeah. August first."
Ichigo's eyes widened. "That's only a month from now!"
"Yeah. I know."
"Are you sure?"
Ichigo grinned. "Well. What's done is done."
"Yup." Renji leaned in and captured Ichigo in a soft kiss. "Yer not gonna regret this tomorrow mornin' are ya? I don't think I could handle being rejected a fourth time by the same person."
"I might and I might not. Let tomorrow morning decide. And later tonight." Ichigo kissed him again, but harder. "I think we should... You know. Leave."
"Yeah. I think we should, too." Renji left the money on the table before taking Ichigo by the hand and leading him out the door. Finally he was content. Life was great. And there was only one last thing left to do before it was complete.
Exactly One Month Later
August 1, 20XX
Ichigo paced in his waiting room, his white tux feeling too tight. He was so nervous. He was only eighteen. He could wait a couple years, right? No! I've got to strike while the iron is hot. If I don't do this now, I may never have another chance. He ruffled his hair and took deep breaths to steady himself.
A few minutes later Orihime poked her head around the door, smiling. "Kurosaki-kun. It's time!" Her smile glistened as she held out her hand for him to take. Before he took it, he wiped his sweaty palm on his pants. This was no time to feel jittery. "You look wonderful." She whispered, guiding him to the doors of the church. "You'll do fine." When they'd reached the doors, she squeezed his hand once before letting go. She took a basket of flowers from someone to the left of the door and nodded at the organist.
The wedding march began to play. Ichigo took a deep breath, and took the first step towards his new life.