Two Ends of the Spectrum
This plot bunny comes from the amazingly complex and fascinating mind of Walkure Leaud. Thanks, once again, for pointing me in the direction of a great story! Love, Spunky
Chapter 1: Soul Destruction
We see each other through odd lenses…glass that distorts and bends, that knows only shadings of truth or reality. We are not black and white, not good and evil, even when broken in two.
Could two people be anymore different?
Renji scratched his head and pretended to be focused on the report he'd been reading and rereading for the last half hour, while the serene looking noble across the room worked steadily at the stack of papers on his desk.
Damn it, he looks like he actually likes doing this! How can that be? We sit here for hours, scratching out reports…making schedules…doing all of this boring, repetitive shit, and he sits there looking like he's reading a favorite book…or daydreaming, but when he does that, he (unlike me) gets everything done!
Renji sighed and rested his face on his hand. He felt the dark, inquisitive eyes touch him for a moment and fought to keep from fidgeting or squirming. He wasn't glaring or even trying to make a point. He was just glancing…looking up from his work…coming up for air. But to Renji, it felt like an assault.
Then he remembered…
He was careful not to sigh or roll his eyes or to look as though he had forgotten that Byakuya took his tea every day at precisely ten, two and six. He knew the schedule…just constantly lost track of time…unlike the Kuchiki heir, who seemed to be so orderly and aware that he noticed the number of seconds late it was.
Renji took a last look at the paper he had been reading, then stood and stretched, and started down the hallway towards the squad kitchen. It felt good to move after having to sit for so long. It cleared the cobwebs from his head and brought some life back into him. And…it also gave him time (while he waited for the tea to steep) to think about the million ways in which he was different from his captain.
I'm too tall and lanky and he's smaller and perfectly contoured…
I come from the Rukongai and he's noble born…
I'm tanned and leathery and he's soft and pale…
I'm loud and he's quiet, even quieter when he's pissed…
I can't sit still for a minute and he can sit, barely breathing for hours on end…
I live for the moment and he is a creature of routines and habits…
I'm an odd looking, tattooed freak of nature and he's fucking beautiful…
So damned gorgeous…
Captain fucking hot Kuchiki…
No wonder he couldn't concentrate…why he constantly made mistakes and earned the noble's dissatisfied frown (which was also incredibly hot…). No wonder he was constantly late with the tea and sometimes had to make it a second time, because he got distracted and put in too many tea leaves…or too few…or didn't allow it to steep for the right number of minutes…or fill the cup to the proper level for drinking without spilling.
There's a word for that…anal.
But I shouldn't start thinking about that…
About that firm, sexy ass and what I'd do if…
"Ow! Shit!" he hissed, flash stepping to the sink to stick his burned hand under the cool, running water.
He blinked back the instant tears the stinging pain caused and tried to keep counting in his head so that he wouldn't screw up the tea. He got back just in time to pour too much tea into the cup…then took a small sip (even though it wasn't his favorite tea) to bring it to the proper level. He walked back to the office and set the tea in the noble's hand, trying not to flinch and spill the tea when their hands touched, then walking back to his desk and watching as the soft, perfect lips touched the edge of the cup, just where his had…and it was almost as though they had kissed.
"Is there a problem Abarai?" asked the Captain.
"Ah…no…just wondered if the tea was acceptable."
"Yes, the tea is fine, Abarai, arigato," Byakuya said smoothly, turning back to his work.
He jumped at the use of his given name. Usually, Byakuya used his surname.
Swallowing hard and wondering what the hell he had done wrong, he climbed to his feet and walked to the noble's desk.
"Yes, Captain?" he said, sitting in the chair beside the noble's desk.
"Give me your hand."
"Huh?" Renji said, blinking.
He extended a hand, looking down at it in confusion.
"Other hand, Abarai."
Oh, that hand…
He extended the hand he had burned while making the tea. Byakuya's hand touched his, sending a jolt through his stomach and making him catch his breath. He hoped the noble would just think it was because the damned burn hurt.
The pale fingers curved around his gently and soft green light wrapped around their joined hands. And while Byakuya gazed down at their hands, Renji cautiously admired the lovely wide gray eyes, the perfectly sculpted lines of his face, the long, graceful white throat, the pale green ginpaku kazahana no uzuginu, the perfectly tailored and pressed haori set against the deep black and also perfectly fitted shihakushou. He breathed in the mingled scents of sakura and green tea and wondered what it would be like to taste those slightly parted lips.
He realized suddenly that the dark eyes had lifted and were watching him. A flush roared onto his cheeks and throat and he pulled his hand free of the noble's.
He has to know, right? How could he not see? It's so fucking obvious! If he would only say something! If he would just do something!
But the dark, secretive eyes had dismissed him and had returned to the work on his desk.
"Arigato, Captain," the redhead said, standing.
He walked back to his desk like a dog with his tail between his legs.
Only if a dog had a hard on like this, he wouldn't be afraid to do something about it. Of course, another dog wouldn't be likely to cut him into little pieces with a swirl of pretty sakura petal blades either. Kami, it would almost be worth it, though…
He was dragged out of his thoughts by the arrival of a hell butterfly.
Captain Kuchiki, menos grande have attacked the shinigami base on the Hueco Mundo border. Proceed to the base at once with a relief detachment.
Renji was on his feet and halfway to the staging area before the message was finished. As awkward and dull minded as he was around the office, when it was time to defend the Seireitei, his mind sharpened until it had an edge more dangerous than his blade. He lined up the unit, called out the orders and had them out of the sixth division and flash stepping towards the crossover point in record time. He felt Byakuya sweep up beside him and then continue a step ahead, the rest of the way to the base. He continued to run, his eyes planted firmly on the back of his captain's haori.
They passed through the senkaimon and emerged inside the shinigami base. Immediately, the sounds of battle reached their ears and a heady bolt of adrenaline moved through the redhead. The squad stood ready in the gathering area as Renji followed Byakuya up into the battlements. The noble studied the lay of the battlefield, the positioning of the fighters and the approach of the enemy, then turned to the red-haired vice captain.
"Take your group to the right. Climb the hill and provide kido support to the fighters. It's the eleventh, so don't expect them to be using much but their blades."
"Hai, Captain," Renji said, flash stepping away.
He led his group onto the rocky hillside along the edge of the battlefield and ordered the fighters into position. The advance guard set the shield to provide cover from incoming ceros as the kido specialists fell into stance and began their incantations. Renji stood ready on the hilltop, watching as Byakuya's group crested the hill on the far side and a third group of fighters surged onto the field below them.
Kido fire exploded over the top of the hill and rained down on the enemies behind the battle lines. Furious howls erupted form the hollows and a group of winged beasts rose into the air and turned toward them. Renji drew his zanpakutou.
"Ban kai, Hihio Zabimaru!" he cried.
The skeletal snake screeched to life and roared over the shield, soaring down and loosing a crippling red blast at the horde of flying hollows.
"Hikotsu Taihou!" he shouted.
The snake's mouth opened wide and a blast of red fire blasted out, surrounding the stunned hollows and burning them into ash. As they fell, he turned the snake back into a coil and searched the field for any further threats.
It was then that he noticed the flash of petals erupting from the hilltop across from him. Byakuya stood at the top of the hill, his weapon in ban kai mode, sending hards blasts of petals down at a group of menos that was heading towards the battlefield from the far side. He followed the petals with a heavy shock of blue kido fire that roasted the approaching menos and made them explode into nothing. The noble sheathed his sword and started to turn back towards the main battlefield.
Then Renji saw a sight his eyes could not quite believe. A dark shape suddenly appeared on the hillside…to close to the turning noble.
"Captain! Behind you!" Renji screamed, bringing the skeletal snake around and leaping onto its back. He soared across the field, he eyes locked on the scene ahead of him. Byakuya's body continued to turn in slow motion as the dark shape at his back raised its clawed hands above its head and summoned a huge red fire scythe. Byakuya's eye registered the motion and his hand went to his blade as he turned. His weapon was out and lifted up to block the incoming red scythe. But somehow, inexplicably, the scythe passed through Senbonzakura and down through the noble's braced body.
Renji blinked, then covered his eyes as a huge flash of red light enveloped Byakuya and the hollow. For a moment, the noble's silhouette stood tall and firm on the hilltop, then the strong legs buckled and he sank to the ground at the hollow's feet.
"Captain!" Renji howled, sweeping down and closing in.
The hollow drew a sword and raised it high over the noble's fallen body. The blade fell in slow motion as the snake reached them and forced the strange hollow back. Renji shifted to his shikai and sent the jagged blade flying in the hollow's direction, knocking the blade aside and forcing the hollow to flash step away. It stood in the distance, glaring at Renji with glowing green eyes, then it disappeared, leaving Renji with his fallen captain at the top of the hill.
"Captain!" yelled Renji, dropping to his knees next to the stricken noble.
Oddly, he saw no blood on the pristine, white skin. His face was deathly pale and his chest barely seemed to move. He saw bruising on the captain's body and leaned over him, sending his reiatsu into the noble's still form. He found what seemed to be severe internal bleeding and caught his breath at the sight of blood emerging from Byakuya's nose, mouth and ears. Healing green light flared around his hands and sank into the motionless noble's body.
"Get Hanatarou!" he shouted to the scrambling member of Byakuya's group.
He leaned over Byakuya, raising his reiatsu until the ground around them rumbled softly.
"Come on…damn it, move…breathe…do something. Captain…"
But Byakuya's body remained silent and unresponsive.
"Vice Captain Abarai!" called Hanatarou, "What happened? Did you see?"
"It was a hollow," Renji said as Hanatarou replaced him at Byakuya's side, "Big…about six or so feet tall…green skin and glowing green eyes. It raised its claws and attacked with a scythe made of red light. It passed through Senbonzakura and hit him dead on!"
Renji's brow furrowed suddenly and he looked around, his eyes scanning the area around them carefully.
"What is it?" asked Hanatarou, leaning over the noble and continuing the healing that Renji had started.
"Senbonzakura…His zanpakutou is gone!"
Hanatarou looked up from where he bent over Byakuya and looked around.
"You didn't see any sign of how it disappeared? No odd releases? There are no broken pieces? Any residual reiatsu?"
"No," Renji said, his panic growing, "Hanatarou, there's no sign at all of what happened!"
"Well, he doesn't seem to have much in the way of spiritual pressure right now. Perhaps it's an effect of the creature's attack and it will just re-form like it always does. Captain Kuchiki took a lot of damage to his body, do maybe his zanpakutou did too."
"Yeah…maybe," Renji said, frowning worriedly.
He turned back for a moment to look at where the clean up crews were moving onto the battlefield and starting to carry away the dead. He turned back again and dropped down beside the healer.
"Hanatarou, tell me honestly…he's hurt really bad, isn't he?"
The healer sighed.
"Despite the lack of damage to the surface of his body, there is a lot of damage inside. I am going to stabilize him and we'll take him back to the Seireitei for surgery."
Renji felt a coldness building inside him.
"But…he'll be okay, right?"
Hanatarou raised his eyes and Renji felt a stab of fear pass through him.
"I don't know, Renji. It's bad."
Renji took a slow breath.
"Is he stable?"
"But I don't know if he'll stay that way. We need to get him back as quickly as possible…but the transport team isn't here yet."
"Okay," said Renji, "then I'll take him back. I have the fastest flash step of anyone here but him."
"A-are you sure, sir?" Hanatarou asked uncertainly, "I mean…"
"Hey…it could mean the difference between him living and dying. I'm taking him!"
Without another word, Renji bent and lifted Byakuya into his arms. He turned and flash stepped down off of the hill and back across the battle ground to the base. He shot through the base and past the staring guards at the senkaimon. He barely noticed when he passed through the precipice world, he was so intent on getting his captain back to the Seireitei. The streets flashed by so quickly he didn't see. He trusted his body to turn him in the right directions and focused on speed. Before he knew it, he was racing up the steps and into the fourth division. The injured captain was immediately taken to a room and Renji was taken to wait in a private waiting area.
He sighed and sat down, knowing that the surgery was likely to take a long time. Soon, night had come and it passed by him in a flash…with Rukia arriving and falling into his arms crying…the two of them sitting quietly together…hot tea…looking out the darkened window…and endless, breathless waiting.
His heart stopped as Captain Unohana came out of the room wearing a weary expression. She stopped in front of them and gave them a bracing smile.
"Captain Kuchiki came through the surgery just fine," she assured them, "I admit that I am concerned, because his spiritual pressure is still very low. It may be the shock to his system or an effect of the attack that injured him."
"Can we see him?" Rukia asked.
"Of course," said the healer, smiling, "He is still unconscious, but it shouldn't be too long before he wakes."
"Thank you, Captain Unohana!" Rukia exclaimed, flash stepping towards the noble's room. Renji followed her inside and the two sat down on either side of the bed. They studied his pale face and pained expression worriedly and each held a soft, limp hand. Their silent vigil claimed the rest of the night and it was well into the next day, when Renji finally convinced Rukia to go home to rest and change.
"I'm not going to leave him for a minute!" Renji promised, "Just go and get some rest. I promise that as soon as he wakes, I will send a hell butterfly to let you know."
"All right," the violet-eyed girl said reluctantly, "but when I get back, it's going tobe your turn to go home and rest."
"All right, Rukia…sheesh! Get outta here, will you?"
Rukia shook her head and flash stepped away, leaving Renji sitting alone at his captain's side. He sat quietly beside Byakuya, watching him sleep and thinking back to how normal the day had seemed, right up to the very minute that Byakuya had fallen. He was amazed at how quickly things could change and be undone. He sighed heavily, leaning forward and resting his chin on his hands.
A few hours later, he noticed that Byakuya was beginning to shift about in his sleep. He moaned softly and his eyes rolled beneath the closed eyelids.
"Captain?" Renji said touching his arm gently.
He received the shock of his life as the noble's dark eyes opened and fastened on him. There was a moment of hesitation, then Byakuya dove into Renji's arms, his eyes wide, his heart pounding and his hands clinging tightly to his vice captain.
"Renji!" he gasped, "Oh my kami! That hollow…was…it was so…"
Renji frowned and pulled back slightly, tilting his head and staring at the wide, innocent looking eyes and frightened expression…things that looked awfully out of place on his normally stoic captain's face.
"Ah…Captain Kuchiki," he said, smiling, "You're feeling better…"
"I hurt like hell!" the Kuchiki heir exclaimed, earning him raised eyebrows and a look of confusion from Renji.
"You know…" said Renji, "You've been through a lot, Captain. Why don't you get some more sleep. I think you'll be more…like yourself after some rest."
"Okay," said the noble, lying back against the pillows, "but Renji…promise me you won't leave…p-please. I was having really bad dreams and I always feel better when I'm with you."
"Ah…okay, Captain…uh…sure. Thanks…I mean, it's nice to know you like having me around."
"Well…of course I do," said Byakuya sitting up and reaching for him.
The next thing he knew, Byakuya's arms wrapped tightly around him again and soft lips touched his.
"I love you, Renji…I have for a really long time."
"Wh-what?" Renji whispered, his eyes going as wide as the Kuchiki heir's, "C-captain?"
"What's wrong, Renji? Haven't you wanted me to notice all of the things you do to get my attention? You did want me to notice, right?"
"W-well…um, yeah, but…Captain…I uh…I'll be right back. Just uh…try to close your eyes and get some rest, okay?"
"Renji?" called the noble, "Renji, where are you going?"
The redhead stepped outside the door and shook his head in confusion. He remained there for several long minutes before swallowing hard and walking back into the room.
"Renji!" Byakuya cried, his eyes tearing, "Renji, why did you leave me alone?"
"Hey," said Renji, sitting down beside him and letting the noble's arms wrap around him again, "I didn't leave. I just went out for a minute. I'm here."
"Don't leave me again…" Byakuya sighed, dropping his head onto the redhead's muscular shoulder, "Don't leave me, Renji."
Renji gazed down at the noble, deciding it was probably the drugs that were making him so oddly uncontrolled. He smiled gently and held the noble close, trying not to laugh and promising himself he wasn't going to use the situation to torment the noble…not ever…
It would mortify Byakuya to know he had acted in such a way…
But some part of Renji actually wished it could be real…
Byakuya stirred and found himself facedown in the sand. Senbonzakura lay beside him, reflecting the bright moonlight. He sat up slowly and rubbed his eyes.
He had no idea how long he had been there…or how he had ended up so far from the battlefield. His body still ached, but a quick assessment told him that he hadn't been badly injured.
He sat still for a moment, trying to sense his position, then frowned as it dawned on him how far into the desert he actually was. He concluded that he must have pursued an enemy or group of them into the desert during the battle, although why he had done it refused to come back to him.
But it hardly mattered…
What mattered was getting back on his feet and returning to the base…or to the nearest base. He slid Senbonzakura back into his sheath and climbed to his feet. Turning slowly, he sensed the position of the base and began walking towards it. He resolved to concern himself with making sense of things when it made sense to do so…and not until.