Leave Nothing Unsaid
(Dedicated to Alabirdie, who has been a wonderful supporter of my work and put this on her wish list of storylines ;) Thanks for reading and taking the time to respond!)
Chapter 1: Contemplation
Byakuya wondered when the room around him had gotten to be so silent. He drew and released a soft sigh, closing his eyes and thinking of how it was nice to have something like that to put a ripple in the deep calm of night. It should, he thought, be just that…a ripple…not a roar to wake the dead, but just enough to bring him up from the depths of concentration, to ensure that, from time to time, he breathed. He needed that. Most often, he had it, though this night was an exception. He had excused the one who usually tugged him out of his dreamlike working state…to tell him that working hours had been over for some time and that he should go home and get some rest. He had often wondered that if Renji hadn't been there, if perhaps he would have gone on working endlessly…
But usually, the evening ended with a hot cup of tea and a short review of the day's progress. It had taken some time for them to fall into this easy, comfortable rhythm. Renji was not so much a creature of habit and ritual as he, and so needed to have the structure set carefully in place around him and be settled into it. The edges that didn't quite settle had to be slowly filed away with a slow blink of the eyes and a calm assertion that this was simply how things were to be done. Though Byakuya knew that it went against the fiery redhead's nature, he would always defer to his taichou's judgment. Byakuya found such moments of obvious internal struggle charming.
At first, he would have said that Renji amused him. He came to Byakuya barely gentled and filled with anger…anger that was, at first, unexplained. And though he never once loosed it on Byakuya, he understood what it was, where it came from and how it would someday come back to haunt them both. And just before Rukia's scheduled execution, it had. Byakuya had been both surprised and unsurprised.
It wasn't a surprise that Renji placed him in the crosshairs that day. Byakuya stepped into his path, knowing full well that this would be the time that the redhead would not back down. He accepted that as fact and moved forward into the battle, unsurprised at first by how well Renji anticipated him. It was much as it had been the few times they had crossed swords in training maneuvers. But he had to admit to being surprised at the strength of the young man's resolve, the attention to detail that he had given to planning this very exchange. He hadn't known how or where or when it would happen, but Renji had gone to incredible lengths to see to his readiness. And there was no greater evidence of it than when those colorful lips had wrapped themselves around a deadly word that Byakuya had never expected to hear from them.
"Ban kai…" he whispered, remembering how, in that moment, his focus had been shattered and his eyes had given away his wonder, his curiosity at what it would be like.
For just a moment, that surprise and fascination touched his features and gave themselves away to Renji…and Renji knew him well enough not to miss using that moment to his advantage.
Byakuya sighed again, more deeply. Despite the cold words that had passed between them, he had loved the feel of Renji's power meeting his. The only thing he could compare it to was two lovers colliding unexpectedly, literally, love at first sight. He would never look at Renji the same way afterward, but he was made more cautious by what had happened, and he had never, or so he thought, let his guard down enough to show Renji that he was teetering on the edges of being in love. Luckily for Byakuya, his last ditch effort to prevent Rukia from being killed earned him, not just a sword in the heart, but Renji's gratitude, emotion that translated into the redhead's constant presence at his side as he healed…and a change in the emotions beneath their interactions. There was a new, quiet deference that Renji showed him, a retreat of the anger and a willingness to leave the past behind. The ice between them began to melt away and Byakuya felt the distance between them closing until his newly healed heart ached with a mixture of deep affection, deeper longing, and an intense fear.
He couldn't allow himself to fall in love with Renji. He recounted the reasons repeatedly to remind himself. It was against the rules of the Gotei 13. Other taichous, of course, had crossed that line and it was more frowned upon than punished, but Byakuya followed the rules…because they were the rules and this rule was there to prevent emotional uprisings that could endanger lives. It made sense to him that their minds must be extremely focused in battle and that relationships like that could be dangerous to the entire squad. In addition to being against the rules of the Gotei 13, as leader of his clan, he was supposed to set the example for the others…not that he believed the people of the Rukongai to be lesser, but the rules of nobility were set long before his ascent. He had, of course, broken that rule to marry Hisana…and he hadn't repented of the decision…but his personal feelings mattered little when set against the clan's honor, so he could not allow himself to break that rule again. Finally, though he hated to admit it to himself, what he felt for Renji frightened him. He had loved Hisana in a very gentle and beautiful way, but what he felt for Renji was more all-encompassing. It didn't just warm him inside, it lit a fire to everything, sometimes making him dizzy with lack of breath, turning his blood to molten lava and making him so hard that he had to take breaks from his fukutaichou's presence. The redhead invaded his dreams when he tried to sleep…and his thoughts when he tried to work. He knew that eventually his resolve would crumble and he would make a complete fool of himself.
He almost had…
He had been feeling particularly lonely this evening, having just noted the anniversary of his loss of Hisana. And even having gone to her grave, having come to the realization that the feelings of aching loss had eased, he still ached inside. He had been alone for so long. He knew he need only say the word and he would have his pick of noble females…or he could slip away to the Rukongai and visit one of the well apportioned escort clubs. Neither path held the slightest interest for him. Because when he felt lonely like this, there was a face that appeared that intensified that loneliness until it became excruciating…and he couldn't lower himself to accept anything less than that visage.
So this evening, he had felt the loneliness take hold, had felt his emotions rumbling beneath his skin…and the door had opened and Renji had burst into the office looking upset. He had thrown himself down at his desk and begun to work like a maniac, as he was wont to do when something threw him off kilter. Byakuya had bitten at his lip, wanting so much to find out what it was that ailed his fukutaichou. And finally, he hadn't been able to stop himself.
He had done the unthinkable…gotten up from his chair and left the room to make tea for the two of them, then returned and set Renji's cup in front of him, sat down near him and said his name. He could remember every word that passed between them…
"Renji…your reiatsu is burning holes in the walls."
Renji kept working, without looking up at him. Byakuya took a breath and ignored the insult.
"Renji," he said again, "If you need to…"
Simple, direct and without eye contact. A clear violation of, not just rules, but of the state of what was between them…something that actually began to approach friendship. Something was very wrong and he knew better than to leave it. He reached over and slipped a hand beneath the redhead's chin, raising his eyes so that theirs met. Renji's eyes were red and swollen and when Byakuya looked down, he noticed that the redhead's hands were bruised.
"You're hurt," he said, taking Renji's hands and sending healing energy into them.
Renji felt the first touch of his power and yanked his hands away. Byakuya caught his breath sharply.
"I'm fine. And if it hurts too much, I'll just go to the fourth division. Just…please…leave me alone."
Every instinct he had told him to simply leave the door open for Renji to approach him and to walk away. And if not for the loneliness he had been feeling, if not for the strong desire to make things right again, he might have listened, but his body did not listen any longer to his thoughts. It had heard the calling of his flesh and knew that he desired Renji, cared about him, loved him. And his hand moved from the redhead's chin to his cheek. Renji's eyes locked on his, flaring. Byakuya stared, feeling something like fear looming up inside. He had seen that look in the redhead's eyes before. It was usually the last thing his enemies saw before they died…
And before he could register the movement, Renji had jumped out of his chair and forced him back against the wall. A lesser man would have fought back immediately, but Byakuya felt his back strike the wall and held himself perfectly still as the redhead's face closed in on his and Renji's mouth descended on his forcefully. His lips parted in shock and a hot, angry tongue thrust itself in between them, burying itself in him and seeking his tongue with uncontrolled, heady passion.
Holding himself still was no longer an option. Renji's body was pressed up against his and he could feel now that both of their bodies were responding…burning and aching to join. Renji's body moved against his and he moaned into the redhead's open mouth, the sound rising up from somewhere within that he knew Hisana had never come close to reaching. Renji's tongue stroked his and Byakuya felt his knees weaken. He tried to force himself to remember why this was not an option, why he should tear himself away. But Renji's arms wrapped around him tightly and strong hands slid roughly down his back, tightening and pulling him forward, melting his body deeper into the redhead's and threatening to allow him to be swallowed whole.
He could feel that he was shaking, and his mind still screamed at him to pull free. This was wrong! As much as he ached for it, it was wrong and he was wrong to allow it. His mind threw itself at his body now, howling and grasping for control as Renji's hand found the ginpaku kazahana no uzuginu. His fingertips stroked the fine, soft material for a moment, then with his eyes on Byakuya's he tore it away and descended on his taichou's slender, white throat, biting down and sucking hard enough to leave marks. Beneath his growing panic, Byakuya felt the intensity of emotion beneath the act, the long submerged hunger that had been allowed to swell, until it became insatiable. His hands still pushed against Renji's chest, but they trembled and his fingers curled, taking handfuls of the fabric of the redhead's shihakushou. His legs shook harder, until he felt himself starting to fall. But Renji trapped him against the wall, holding him up and attacking face, mouth and throat with hard, hungry kisses.
Slowly, Byakuya's hands loosed themselves from Renji's uniform. They hesitated there, against his chest for a long moment, then slowly wrapped themselves around the redhead's body. Byakuya let his weight fall against Renji in surrender, giving himself over to whatever force was driving his fukutaichou to cross these lines. The redhead's eyes found his and bored down into him, renewing the shivers of pleasure that were racing through him. He held Renji's eyes, knowing what was about to happen, but helpless to stop it, both of them frozen into their paths as they were defined. Renji's hand cupped his cheek and he gave Byakuya a kiss that was far more tender, wanting in a way that was gentler, but no less passionate. His hand dropped to the tie at noble's waist and the calloused fingers took hold of the ends and began to pull. Byakuya's eyes widened and Renji's forced themselves in deeper. He felt his resolve slipping and the very fact of his beginning to lose control shook him back into awareness. His controls snapped back into place with shocking suddenness, and his hands found Renji's and set themselves upon them. He felt Renji freeze at the touch and slowly the passion that had been so strong in his eyes faded and he let Byakuya go. He stepped back, watching as Byakuya swayed and caught himself, his mouth still burning, his body aching with want and his heart breaking into pieces at his having ruined things. He couldn't look up, couldn't watch as everything crumbled.
"Aren't you going to ask me why I did that?" Renji said in a rough whisper.
Byakuya shook his head, not yet trusting his voice.
"Are you going to have me reassigned?" he asked.
Byakuya paused, then shook his head again.
"But you won't go any farther, will you? That door, the one that leads to your bedroom…it will not open for me…any more than your heart will. This is a dead end street, and everyone can see us walking on it. And what happened tonight, was that some poor drunk fool laughed at me for going along with this. He made the mistake of pointing out the obvious. I can never have you. That thought makes me crazy, but I was halfway to accepting it…until I started getting signals from you. But you can't help yourself. Your mind only releases you and lets your emotions take you so far…and then the doors close…and I am always on the wrong side of them. I did this to make you see that. And now that I have, the time has come for you to choose. I am taking the open assignment in Hueco Mundo. I will be gone for a month. And when I come back, I will ask you one time to be honest about what you feel for me. Be careful how you answer, taichou. Because if we cannot reach agreement, I will leave the squad."
He gazed into Byakuya's eyes a moment longer, then turned away. Byakuya waited quietly as he started toward the door, not intending to say a word. The words that came out of him next surprised him.
"So…you are saying that if I won't consent to go to bed with you, then you will leave the squad?" he asked softly, "and if I won't let you partake of my body, you will run from me?"
A flash step later, he was back up against the wall again and Renji's eyes were burning holes in his. He couldn't breathe, object or move.
"That," he said, pointing to the bedroom door, "isn't where the problem is."
He pressed a hand to Byakuya's chest, over his heart.
"This is where the problem is…and the resolution. I don't care if you agree to fuck me, but I do care if you look at me with that much emotion, then open that pretty, lying mouth of yours to deny it. If I thought you were doing it because you felt superior…or because you were above accepting me as your lover, I would let you tell yourself all of the lies you wanted to. But I can't look at the sight of you, staring at me like a lover looks at the one he adores, and then to demean that emotion by refusing to acknowledge it. That's why I am doing this. It's as much to help you as it is to protect myself."
He was gone before Byakuya could answer.
Byakuya sat up in a cold sweat, his eyes filled with tears and his mind filled with memories. Even time, it seemed, wasn't helping him. He buried his face in his hands and let the silent sobs shake him. Every night it was the same. Every night, the memory returned to him in his dreams. Every night, Renji left him to think about what he would do. Every night, he came face to face with what his answer would have been.
But he had never been able to give Renji that answer, because his fukutaichou had never returned. So night after night, Renji left him alone with that question, and night after night, his heart screamed the answer that he couldn't give Renji that night.
He heard the door open as third seat, Rikichi burst into the room, carrying a cup of tea. He set it on the nightstand, then sat down next to the bed, waiting until Byakuya had the chance to get himself back under control and his hand reached out to take the tea.
"I know it's difficult, sir," the youth said respectfully, "but I will be honest with you. I don't think these dreams you have about him are a mere symptom of your missing him."
He had never said a word to the boy about what he had dreamed. He hadn't had to. Rikichi knew.
"I think it's more than that. You and Renji were really growing close…right up until he left that night for Hueco Mundo. I know he must have been upset, because otherwise, he would have left in the morning. And I know you were upset, because your reiatsu was painful to be around for days after."
Byakuya sighed and brought the tea to his lips. Rikichi had learned the making of it from Renji…and so it was perfect. It made his skin crawl…
"So if it is more than just missing him, what do you think it is?" he asked.
Rikichi met his eyes squarely.
"You don't think he's gone. You don't accept for a second that he's not coming back. Something inside you that is still connected to him is telling you not to give up, Kuchiki taichou…and I think that you should listen to it. If you are wrong, then you are no worse off for having been thorough…but if you are right…"
Byakuya held the boy's eyes in silence, the emotion rising at what he had said. He knew that it was wishful thinking…that after two years, Renji would not be returning home. But something inside him would not let him crush the youth's slim hopes…some place inside him where, indeed, his own hopes had not died.
"You will go with me to Hueco Mundo in the morning. There is a reconnaissance mission that will take us deep into enemy territory. Be sure you are prepared."
He set the tea down on the nightstand and dropped back onto the pillows, wondering as he did if the dream would come again. To his surprise, he slept peacefully, dreaming only once of Renji standing on a sand dune, somewhere in Hueco Mundo, his dark brown eyes fastened on the moon, both loving and hating it.