A/N: Hey all! Welcome to Red Duty, Black Honor. As the title might suggest, this is a Bya/Ren story, although a number of other pairings will be present. Just to let you know; this will be LONG. About 15 chapters, give or take. It will be updated weekly. This first chapter isn't very good, but it establishes a bit of groundwork that will be necessary later on, so please bear with it!
Timeline: Set post - War. Spoilers will be vague to nonexistent for the most, but may crop up for all current (387) chapters.
Warnings: For this chapter, primary warning is Renji's mouth.
In case you missed it in the A/N (does anyone read those?), this story will be yaoi. Flamers may seek exit now or face ridicule later. Further warnings will be posted by chapter.
Disclaimer: I do not own or profit from Bleach in any way; it is property of Kubo-san and I am borrowing his characters entirely without permission.
RED DUTY, BLACK HONOR
Chapter 1: Brotherhood
"You will not touch my sister again!" The words, spoken at a furious pitch that tore across the courtyard of the Sixth Division barracks, were accompanied by a wave of reiatsu, frigidly cold and sharp-edged.
It was met, and rebuffed, by another wave, this one hot, wild, scorching. "Like fuck I won't, you bastard," Renji Abarai snarled back, his hand clenching around Zabimaru's hilt until his knuckles blanched. "What the hell right do you have to call her your sister, anyway? You swoop in like some fucking avenging angel and save her, but it's always after the fact! After we got out of Rukongai. After Ichigo saved her. After she was almost killed by an Espada! After, after, after! You're never there when she really needs you! You weren't the one that gave up your meals and your blankets at nights so that she wouldn't be cold and hungry. You weren't the one who gave up your goddamn body to some bastard in the streets just to keep her safe!"
Tightening his grip on Zabimaru's hilt, Renji stormed forward, the wild edges of his reiatsu tangling and fighting with the sharper, clean-cut edges of the other's.
"Fact is, sir," he snarled, leaning forward until he was nose to nose with the other man, "You may have taken Gin's blade to save Rukia, but I took yours. So you tell me - which one of us is really her brother?"
And with that, Renji spun on his heel and stormed out of the courtyard, leaving Byakuya Kuchiki shocked speechless in his wake.
It had been so fucking stupid. A whole damn lump of misunderstandings, piled on top of one another too fast to dig out of. Rukia had been having lunch with Ukitake-taichou - why, Renji still didn't know - when the man's disease had flared up, badly. The coughing fit had been bloody, and violent, and if the medics he'd spoken to were to be believed, severe enough for real concern. If Rukia hadn't started performing healing kidou on him as soon as it struck, the effects of it would have been much worse.
Renji had been returning from lunch with Shuuhei, Kira, and Matsumoto when they saw the Fourth descend in force on the barracks of the Thirteenth. Worried, they had followed them in, only to find the medics sweeping Ukitake's unresponsive form back to their own division for treatment, and a shell-shocked Rukia spattered with the man's blood.
She'd looked so shaken, so terrified, that Renji did what he'd always done when they were nothing more than stray dogs on the streets of Inuzuri - pulled her into his arms, holding her close, muttering in her ear that he would protect her. She let him hold her for a few minutes, until she was calm, then shoved him off and headed for the Fourth division, sparing Renji only a glance over her shoulder and a quick smile of thanks.
It was simply bad luck that Rangiku had still been drunk off her ass, and somehow, within an hour of the incident, had managed to mutate the entire affair from an innocent hug into a damn makeout session, and worse luck that Kuchiki-taichou had managed to overhear the damn mutated rumor on his way into the office after a meeting with the Kuchiki Clan elders. The latter was always enough to put him in a foul mood; the former on top of it was quite enough to make him lose his formidable temper.
He'd stormed into the office, the scent of cherry blossoms riding ahead of him like a storm front, slammed both hands down on Renji's desk, and demanded to know what had transpired between Renji and Rukia.
Bewildered, Renji stared back up at his captain. "What are you talking about?"
The razor-edge of reiatsu hummed, threatened. "Do not play me for a fool, Abarai. What have you been doing to my sister?"
"I haven't been doing anything! What are you tryin' to say?"
"I am not trying - I am telling you that if you ever threaten to compromise Rukia's innocence, the consequences to you will be fatal."
Renji had lost his temper, then. Seizing Zabimaru, he'd headed for the door, struggling to take the high road and avoid the argument. It might have worked, too, had Byakuya not followed him.
They had just entered the courtyard, where most of the division was finishing their lunches or practicing kata, when Byakuya had lost his faltering grip on his temper and snarled, "You will not touch my sister again!"
"Yeah, pr'y much," Ikkaku drawled from the other side of the tree they were sitting under. "Why'd ya yell at him, anyway? E'en I know tha's stupid."
"Gimme the sake, Ikkaku, you've had enough."
"An' you haven't?"
"I'm still coherent, aren't I?"
A grunt was his only response, but the gourd landed in his lap anyway. Uncorking it, Renji drank.
"You really wanna know why I yelled at him?"
"Asked, din't I?"
"When I saw Rukia in Ukitake's office, she looked so... broken. She had the same damn look in her eyes that she did when she was supposed to be executed. An' it brought back all those damn memories... the way he'd been so damn cold, how he didn't care if she died." Snorting, Renji took another swig of the alcohol, barely noticing the burn. "He calls her his sister, and he didn't fucking care if she died! Of course I was gonna be mad. And then he came in and started yellin' at me about Rukia and her purity and I dunno what the fuck that was all about..."
"Che, that's Ran's fault. Y'din't hear?"
Forty seconds later, Renji was fully prepared to commit homicide. He was already in trouble - might as well earn it. He was, thankfully, distracted from his murderous thoughts by the presence of another reiatsu, tentative and familiar.
"Down here, Rikichi," Renji called with a sigh, and the young Shinigami appeared a few seconds later, hopping awkwardly down the slope to the tree where the duo were sitting. He stumbled the last few feet and recovered by bounding clumsily forward, the beads in his hair clacking.
"Kuchiki-taichou made any concrete plans to murder me yet?"
"Ah, no, after you left he just stood there for a second, then ordered everyone to get back to work and disappeared. I think he might have gone home...?"
Renji snorted. "Digging my grave as we speak, no doubt. Though if he uses Senbonzakura on me, I won't need one." Pushing himself to his feet with a sigh, Renji dropped the sake gourd back into Ikkaku's lap, and, ignoring the older man's curses, motioned for Rikichi to follow him. He had something he needed to do.
"You're an idiot, Byaka-bo."
The noble didn't stir from his place at the window. "Surely you did not come all the way to the Seireitei simply to inform me of that."
Smirking, Yoroichi flopped down on the couch, kicking her delicate feet in the air to admire the dark-purple polish on her toes. "Nah, came to check on Jyuushiro. He's doing better, if you were wondering."
Byakuya hadn't been - he'd stopped in to see the other captain earlier. "Then why are you here, harassing me?"
"Because you need to be reminded when you're an idiot. It happens so infrequently I don't think you recognize the signs, even when they are biting you in the ass."
Raising an eyebrow at the backhanded compliment, Byakuya finally turned to face the woman sprawled across his couch. "I acted... hastily. I allowed my emotions to overtake my logic and common sense."
"Been a while," Yoroichi remarked dryly, and Byakuya very nearly smiled. It had been a while - since his childhood, over a century before, when the young Shihoin princess had often goaded the then-temperamental Kuchiki scion into games of flash-tag.
"So, you wanna tell me why you started screaming at your lieutenant in the middle of the barracks?"
"I was not screaming. Nor did I start in the middle of the barracks. I was initially attempting to conduct a conversation in our office, and it... got out of hand."
"I'll say. So, you gonna tell me what had you so upset? Family troubles?"
Resigning himself to the interrogation, Byakuya sat in a chair facing the couch, sparing the woman a glare as he did so. "My meeting with the clan elders this morning did not go as I might have hoped," he admitted sourly. When Yoroichi raised an eyebrow in inquiry, he sighed faintly and began.
"The situation is unacceptable," came the grating voice of his grandmother. "According to the reports we received, you were nearly killed multiple times in the recent war. You have no heirs, and Rukia is untrained and unfit to accept leadership of the Kuchiki clan. Therefore, we have come to the decision that if you have not found, married, and impregnated a suitable candidate within the year, Rukia shall be betrothed and wedded in order to provide a viable heir for the clan."
"And you're honestly going to go through with that?" Yoroichi demanded, aghast. "You haven't so much as looked at another woman since Hisana died, and now they want you to just up and marry again?"
"I apparently have very little choice in the matter. It is the decision of the clan."
"Correct me if I'm wrong, Byaka-bo, but you are the head of the clan, right?" When he did nothing more than arch an ironic brow at her, she continued, waving her hands for emphasis. "You're supposed to be the one telling them what to do, not letting yourself get lead around by the nose! Rukia certainly won't roll over for whatever suitor they happen to pick out - I don't see any reason you should!"
"It is my duty to my clan, Yoroichi. If something is required of me, I have no choice."
"So your clan requires you to go out and find some random woman who just happens to have the right pedigree to satisfy your useless, pompous-ass clan elders, marry her and get a child on her even though there is no chance you're going to love her, and spend the next however-long being utterly miserable because of it?"
"Gods, Byakuya! Isn't your happiness worth more than that?!"
"The mere fact that you consider your personal happiness to be of greater necessity than duty to your clan is why the House of Shihoin lies in ruins, Yoroichi. Now, please. Leave me."
Sighing, the woman slowly rolled off the couch and onto her feet. "Look, Byakuya. I've been around longer than you, and I've seen a lot more. And I grant you, my clan has fallen. But I have a good life, good friends, people I love. I enjoy my life. Can you say the same?"
He didn't answer her, just stared silently at an empty spot in the air above the couch until she finally gave up and turned to leave. She was halfway out the door when his voice called her back.
"Would you marry me?"
He wasn't serious - she knew that, just by the angle of his eyes. "Hell, no," she answered, laughing. "We'd kill each other within a week. And Kisuke wouldn't be particularly happy if I was suddenly seeing another man."
A quirk of Byakuya's lips answered her; she smiled back at her old friend, turning once again to leave. As she breezed out, she threw a final word of advice over her shoulder. "Apologize to Renji - he's the best lieutenant you'll ever find!"
And with that, she was gone, a burst of Flash taking the goddess back to her happy life and the man she loved.
Alone in the mansion, Byakuya turned back to the window and sighed.
...it is with deep regret that I therefore resign my commission as Lieutenant of the Sixth Division of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads, effective immediately.
He added his signature with a flourish - not because he was happy, rather; angry and defiant. He had made his case clear; an irreconcilable clash of personalities between himself and his captain was threatening the morale of the squad, and based on 'the events occurring earlier this afternoon,' he felt it was best all around if he removed himself from the situation.
"There. Done." Blowing on the parchment to dry the ink, he shot a glance towards his couch, where Rikichi sat, toying nervously with the beads in his hair.
"Renji-san? Where will you go, now?"
Rolling up the parchment, Renji shrugged slightly. "Back to the 'leventh, I suppose. Zaraki doesn't give a damn about insubordination. Hell, I think he actually likes it. I won't make lieutenant there, but the fourth seat's open. It's enough."
"Should I -"
"Rikichi, don't even think of transferring. The Eleventh would eat you alive." Seeing the younger man's hurt expression, Renji backpedaled a bit, quickly adding, "It's not the end of the world, ya' know. I'll still train you. Just... stay with the Sixth. It's a good division."
"Yeah, but you made it good, Renji-san. Kuchiki-taichou is... hard to work for, you know that. You were the one that we all went to, the lower ranks. We can't go to him like we go to you."
"You'll work somethin' out, kid. The Sixth managed perfectly well before me, it'll do fine now. Here," he added gruffly, tossing the paper at Rikichi, who bobbled it from hand to hand for a moment before catching it, "go leave that on Kuchiki-taichou's desk. I'll deal with my transfer paperwork after he signs off on my dismissal."
"If you say so, Renji-san." Bowing nervously, the younger man retreated to the door, pausing just long enough to add, "We'll miss you, sir," before he took himself out.
"Yeah," Renji muttered, staring at the closed door. "I'll miss you guys, too."
"I hope you're not planning on jumping off."
Renji snorted, not turning from his position, sitting on the very edge of Sokyoku Hill. His feet were dangling over the incredible void, the edges of his hakama ruffling in the light breeze.
"Depends on how mad your brother still is. It'd probably be a more merciful death than Senbonzakura."
Rukia gave him a wan smile as she settled herself cross-legged next to him, peering uneasily over the drop. "Nii-sama respects you... he'd use Bankai. It would be over quickly. I'm joking!" She added, when Renji turned an appalled look to her. "Nii-sama's not going to kill you, I promise."
"Yeah? Well, last I heard, I wasn't ever allowed to touch you again, so you'll forgive me if I'm just a little skeptical," he shot back, turning his glare back on the empty space over the Seireitei.
He did love Rukia - there was no denying that. However, he didn't love her in the way Byakuya was afraid of. They'd been through every terror, every ugliness imaginable in Inuzuri, seen one another exposed to the worst sort of pains. They'd stolen, fought, and sacrificed for each other. It was a bond between them that was closer than that of lovers - it was a bond of family.
"Yeah, about that..." Rukia began, and was almost immediately cut off by a deeper voice.
Renji yelped; it was only the iron grip fisted in the back of his kosode that kept him from tumbling headfirst over the edge of the hill in shock. Twisting around, he stared in utter disbelief at Byakuya, who was crouched inches behind him, one hand still bunched in the fabric between Renji's shoulder blades.
Rukia, on Renji's other side, snickered faintly. "Nii-sama knew you wouldn't stick around if he showed up alone, so he asked me to distract you. Play nice," she admonished, kissed Renji's cheek, bowed respectfully to her brother, and calmly took herself off without another word.
Awkwardly, Renji turned back to face his captain - former captain?? - quite at a loss for words.
"Sir, I -"
"I received your letter," Byakuya interrupted, cutting off Renji's tumultuous thoughts. "And your resignation is not accepted."
"Need I make myself more clear?" Raising his free hand, Byakuya opened his fist; a rain of confetti-fine scraps of paper tumbled free, drifting over Renji's lap. The only fragment larger than an inch across bore a recognizable mark - Renji's own signature. The one he had defiantly scrawled across that same piece of paper only a few hours ago. Looking at the scraps, Renji suppressed a hysterical urge to laugh. The parchment hadn't been torn; the edges were far too neat. Kuchiki-taichou had unleashed Senbonzakura on Renji's letter of resignation.
"You are my lieutenant," Kuchiki-taichou said, calmly. "I intend to keep you as my lieutenant for as long as you are at that rank. Therefore, I have rejected your resignation."
"I can see that, sir."
Byakuya sighed, his frustration ruffling over Renji's ear. "And you were not at fault for our... altercation earlier."
"I accept full responsibility for over-reacting. And I apologize."
The last part was enough of a shock that Renji very nearly fell over the edge again - thankfully, Byakuya's hand was still fisted in Renji's kosode and prevented the tumble.
"Perhaps," the noble suggested dryly as he rose to his feet, "we should continue this discussion in a less hazardous locale?"
"...yeah, that's probably a good idea," Renji answered finally, and, standing, fell in step with his captain as they walked away.