Howling at the Strawberry Moon

Chapter 1

Renji was reclining lazily on the rug underneath him; his eyes half closed. After all, family picnics were tiring, just watching his children run around made him sleepy.

He could hear Rukia giggling at the young pair as they chased each other around. He could feel his partner's eyes on him, and he could definitely sense when Byakuya turned his back on him. Did he know? How much had he found out?

These questions raced through his brain after hearing Byakuya sigh; usually a bad sign. His son, Akihiko screamed: "Can't catch me!" which broke his line of thought. He opened one eye lazily and saw Masako jump on the male, his over-energetic daughter nearly knocking the wind out of the child.

From where he lay, Renji could tell that Byakuya was getting tense and when the captain started to get up, Renji grabbed the captain's wrist. It was only a slight movement, but he felt him withdraw slightly, as if he was trying to distance himself from him.

"Leave 'em be, they're only playin'" he said sleepily.

Byakuya unwillingly sat back down again, but Renji could tell he was uncomfortable. The lieutenant couldn't see his face, but he knew that Byakuya wasn't happy at all.

A shout of: "Hey! Give it back!" came from the direction of their son and Byakuya sighed loudly. "Unfortunately, he also inherited my hot-headedness" complained the captain. The lieutenant couldn't believe this.

"Really?" yawned Renji "I can't imagine you hot-headed. You're always so calm." "Trust me, grandfather used to tell me that I had to control my rage" replied Byakuya. A flash of guilt flickered through Renji's body; the thought of Byakuya's rage inflicted on him scared him and made him once again contemplate how much Byakuya knew.

Renji gulped. "I wouldn't wanna see that" he said nervously.

Akihiko eventually got his hair band back and the pair hurried over to the rug where Renji, Rukia and Byakuya were sat. "Daddy" said Masako, tugging at Byakuya's kimono "Ichigo Daifuku!" Renji's eyes widened and he swallowed. For one second it sounded like: "Ichigo, Die- Fuck you", but maybe that was his guilty conscience talking.

"What did I tell you?" reminded Byakuya and Masako bowed her head. "Sorry Daddy, Ichigo Daifuku, please" she asked. There it was again, those words which sent nervous impulses coursing through his body.

"What have you been teaching the kids, Byakuya?" Renji said with a hint of nervousness in his voice. "Calm down Renji, they only want food" replied Byakuya and he presented them with two packages, each containing an assortment of Japanese sweets. The tightness in Renji's chest relaxed a little and he could breathe more freely.

They ate hungrily, but they both saved one each. "Auntie Rukia!" they called "We wanted you to have these!" The young Shinigami took them politely and thanked both of the children.

Byakuya sighed once more and looked directly into Renji's eyes. He opened his pale lips and said: "Its times like these which make you realise that family is more important than anything." The eye contact made him uncomfortable so he tried to avert his gaze.

It was futile and he found himself looking into Byakuya's dark eyes with his own chocolate ones. "How much do you know?" asked Renji awkwardly, his voice reduced to a whisper.

Byakuya's eyes narrowed slightly and he replied: "Enough."