The Day The Moon Fell
In the aftermath of Aizen's fall and incarceration, we entered a new age of peace and rebuilding in the Seireitei. Over the weeks that followed, we rebuilt what had fallen, healed the injured, and strengthened the ties that bound us. It was against that backdrop that my longtime dream was finally realized. For over forty years I had dreamed of reaching out and touching the moon. One day, unexpectedly, I reached that goal. But as the famed Senbonzakura shattered in his wielder's hand, a snap decision I made in the heat of that friendly battle threw our lives into chaos. And now, things will never be the same.
Renji sighed in relief as he signed off on the last of the stack of reports that had tied Byakuya and him to their respective desks for weeks after Aizen's capture, leaving them unable to do much more than share meals while working and slip away for short training sessions to stretch their legs and rebuild their strength in the wake of their battles in Hueco Mundo. Such was their workload that both had essentially abandoned their homes outside the sixth division and caught what scant hours of sleep they could in their respective quarters.
Although once or twice, Renji had accompanied his captain into his quarters to finish up a few stray tasks and had drifted off on the noble's bed as Byakuya read and signed the last few pages and quietly turned off the light and went to sleep alongside his vice captain…
Not a word was ever said about those nights by either. Having lain close to each other on the battlefield and fought for their lives more than a few times in the return from Hueco Mundo, the two had fallen into a sort of harmony and existed almost as extensions of each other. But as time went on, that ease…that letting down of barriers opened each to the other. And it was then that Renji Abarai began to notice things about Byakuya that he hadn't before…things that, in his desire to surpass the proud noble, he had missed.
Renji had, at first, seen Byakuya as an icon of the noble class. In the early days of knowing him, Byakuya was a pinnacle of power, beauty and ruthlessness, the essence of the pride and arrogance that seemed to mark the noble class. And Rukia's induction into the Kuchiki clan had set off the fires of under confidence in the young redhead. If, he thought, Byakuya Kuchiki wanted to come into his life and steal his best friend…to take her away from him and make her believe that nobles like Byakuya were so superior, then, by kami, Renji was going to get strong and beat the man down until he had to admit that Renji was not just a dog from the Rukon, but someone worthy of Rukia's friendship and admiration.
In their battle over Rukia's execution, Byakuya had done nothing to amend that perception, goading his vice captain as he delivered blow after blow, until finally, Renji collapsed at his feet. But in the aftermath of that battle, the noble did something unexpected. As he stood over the wreckage of his fallen subordinate, he unwound the long scarf from around his throat, and as a tribute to Renji's resolve and growing ability, he spread it over Renji's bloodied form before turning and walking away. After saving Rukia, Byakuya had never asked to have it returned and Renji had never offered to return it. Neither had he cleaned their mingled blood from it. He kept it folded neatly in his dresser and let his fingertips gently brush the expensive fabric as he dressed each day.
It was a reminder of what he was seeking…
Yes…although Byakuya saving Rukia had earned Renji's respect, the sixth division vice captain still sought that long-held goal. But the reasons for having that goal were slowly changing. He no longer thought to beat down his arrogant, noble captain to prove a point. He didn't need anymore to prove anything to Byakuya. And, in any case, Byakuya was no longer simply a representative of the pride and arrogance of the noble class. His desperation to save Rukia and his subsequent confession and apology to her had revealed to Renji that someone very different lived beneath that fine, pale skin…someone Renji had never known or crossed swords with. This man was quiet and withdrawn…and the few times Renji was allowed to see through the noble's careful defenses, he sensed deep solitude and loneliness. There was courage in the man…resolve…and recklessness that his family had done their best to deprive him of. Byakuya was careful to give him only short glimpses, but his awareness of the existence of this hidden incarnation of his captain changed Renji's perception even more.
So…ever so slowly, hatred turned to respect, respect to admiration, and admiration into the beginnings of something that felt very much like love. Renji sensed that Byakuya, too, had changed in how he viewed his vice captain. It was embedded in their everyday conversations…normal sounding exchanges over work, in the words and eye contact as they greeted and took leave of each other, and it was always…always apparent in their training.
At first, he had been nervous about Byakuya's offer to allow them to train with no protective controls. After all, he had grown beyond wanting to hurt Byakuya, and now only sought to be able, just once, to defeat him in their training battles. And once each month, Byakuya offered him an opportunity to reach that goal…looking up from his work, meeting Renji's eye and then standing, taking his weapon and leading his subordinate out onto the training grounds. Each time they fought, Renji learned something new, and between battles, he studied endlessly to overcome what had caused him to fail before. Their monthly battles lasted increasingly longer, and the noble's proud body was often nearly as battered as Renji's when they were finished. Each knew that the day was coming that Renji would win his first battle, but neither suspected that the day was so near…or that Renji's first victory over his now beloved captain would leave such devastation in its wake.
"Here's your tea, Captain," Renji said, smiling as their fingers brushed against each other in the exchange.
He couldn't help but feel pleased at the flustered look that flashed in the dark gray eyes and the pretty blush that touched his cheeks.
"Arigato, Renji," he said calmly, but Renji heard the very slight tremor in his voice as he said it.
It's so obvious. I'd have to be an idiot not to see that he wants me too. I wonder why he won't do anything…won't say anything about it…
Never once did Renji consider making the first move. The man was his superior officer and a clan leader. And Byakuya was obviously abnormally shy, despite how powerful and privileged he was. The redhead worried that moving in suddenly would trigger his defenses and make him too defensive. And besides, he sensed something else behind Byakuya's reticence…something he suspected had to do with the Kuchiki clan. But he wasn't sure what it was…and until he knew, he planned never to step over that line.
Renji walked back to his desk and sat down. He continued to work, taking sips of tea and stealing glances at his captain. Byakuya sat quietly and appeared to be focused on his work, but every so often, his eyes would stray to Renji…touch gently on him for a moment, then return to the work on his desk. The redhead longed for the noble to break the bonds that held him back and to set fire to their seething emotions.
"Renji," said the noble, standing and taking hold of Senbonzakura, "It is time for our training."
"Right, Captain," Renji replied, picking up Zabimaru and following him out to the training grounds.
They quietly took their places and held their weapons ready. Byakuya didn't give him a moment to think, but immediately attacked with his senka, knowing full well Renji could block it now. Renji forced his blade down and their eyes met as the two moved into a heated exchange of hard strikes and blocks, turns and slashes. Repeatedly, their swords crashed against each other and their feet carried them in an intricate dance around the large grounds. By the time they flash stepped away from each other to release shikai, both men wore light tracings of blood on their skin.
Renji easily stopped the release of the noble's shikai and the two moved on to a bout of heavy hakudo fighting intermingled with more slashing of swords. Amidst the exchange, Byakuya managed to release a burst of petals that set Renji's skin on fire, but he paid for it as Zabimaru caught his shoulder, rending fabric and flesh, and making the proud noble yield a sound of pain. He recovered quickly and they entered a barrage of mixed attacks that left both bleeding freely. Renji saw Byakuya step back and sway slightly for a moment…and without pausing to think, erupted into ban kai.
It happened so quickly that Byakuya had no time to release his own ban kai. He used a blend of shikai and kido blasts to try to bring the skeletal snake down…to give himself time to raise a more powerful attack, but Renji knew well now not to panic, and how to weather his captain's attacks…and although, eventually, Byakuya was able to complete the release of ban kai, the skeletal snake was slowly cornering him…and both men knew it.
"Gokei, Senbonzakura Kageyoshi…" Byakuya said, sending a cloud of petals and attempting to wrap them around Renji and his skeletal snake. He gasped in surprise a moment later, when the skeletal snake broke through the petals, carrying a panting and disheveled Renji on its back and releasing a blinding red blast at the stunned captain. He flash stepped away, just in time, but the snake turned swiftly and bore down on him again. His eyes widened in surprise and twin blasts of blue fire burst from his hands, slowing the snake and giving him time to flash step away.
"Senbonzakura Kageyoshi, Shukei Hakuteiken…"
He had never raised the white emperor sword in any of their battles…
When Renji had asked him why, Byakuya would only say that it hadn't been time. But for whatever reason, Senbonzakura flared white and the reiatsu exploded around them. Renji felt a surge of adrenaline as they surged towards each other, each putting all of himself into a last, hard attack. The impact was so shattering that he lost the sense to feel it. He managed to come down on his feet and a moment later, saw the tip of a slender blade slice into the ground. He turned and looked up to see Byakuya, the white light still shining around him as Senbonzakura broke apart into a hail of harmless pink petals…and petals and captain began to fall.
Without hesitation, he launched his aching body into the air and caught his captain, then brought them down gently and dropped to his knees, holding Byakuya in his arms and staring. The dark, pained eyes looked up at him and the noble said nothing, but everything Renji needed was conveyed in the pride in those beautiful eyes.
"C-congratulations…Renji," Byakuya managed finally, "You have broken my blade."
Renji ignored the words and the swell of pride in his chest and immediately set about healing the most serious of Byakuya's injuries. The noble rested quietly, making no sound, even when Renji knew he was in pain. As the injuries were healed and the pain faded, Byakuya reached up and began to heal the worst of Renji's injuries, which he noted, were nearly as serious as his own.
"Don't worry about that, Captain," Renji said, gently pulling the pale hands away from his body, "I'll be fine…and besides…I earned those. I want to feel them."
Byakuya's lips curved upwards and he relaxed. Renji opened his shihakushou to treat a serious slash to his ribs and couldn't help but notice Byakuya gazing up at him with a pleased, but at the same time, sad expression. Again, he sensed the loneliness, the longing beneath the proud exterior…and in the flush of victory, Renji Abarai made a sudden, somewhat reckless decision. He leaned over Byakuya, working at the torn flesh of his shoulder, then as the wound disappeared, he shifted, bringing his face closer to the noble's. A blush rose immediately on his captain's pale cheeks and Renji decided that he had waited long enough. He closed the distance between them and captured the startled noble's lips in a deep, sensuous kiss. Byakuya's hands rose up and pressed against his chest, and he tried to speak, but Renji didn't want to hear the words. Instead, he thrust his tongue between Byakuya's parted lips and kissed him harder, bringing his body down on top of the noble's, trapping it firmly beneath his own. He released the sweet tasting lips and used his hand to ward off Byakuya's objections.
"Captain…" he whispered, "We both know what's been going on. I've seen the way you look at me. I never acted on it before…because I didn't feel right about it. But things are different now. I'm different. If you think I'm wrong, then say the words. Tell me that you don't want me…that I'm not good enough for you. Tell me that I don't deserve you!"
He slowly removed his hand from over Byakuya's mouth and the noble gazed up at him with a haunted expression.
"You are not beneath me…and it isn't that you don't deserve me. You are more than good enough…and you are right that I do want you. But, Renji…we…"
"Stop," said the redhead, reclaiming his lips, "Don't say anymore. Just…lets act on what we feel right now. I finally feel worthy of being with you…"
"Renji," the noble said, pushing harder against his chest as the redhead kissed him, "Renji…I can't…"
"Yes," Renji said between kisses, "You can. You deserve to be with me, if you want to be. We both deserve this. Just relax and let it happen."
"I love you," Renji said, making the dark eyes widen in surprise and bringing desperation to his expression.
Renji's hand slid down and removed their loosened hakamas. Byakuya gasped into the redhead's mouth as Renji's hot flesh touched his. He moaned and his fingers curled into the fabric of Renji's opened top as Renji's body rubbed against his.
"Tell me honestly that you don't love me," Renji said, staring down into his captain's eyes, "Tell me you don't love me…and I'll stop."
"I…" Byakuya panted, "I…can't…I can't love you, Renji…I can't."
Renji shook his head.
"But you didn't say that you don't," Renji said, still thrusting against him and feeding him kisses, "I feel the truth, even though you won't say it. Byakuya, you aren't pushing me away anymore. You are holding on so tightly, I couldn't leave you now if I tried. Stop fighting me…and stop fighting yourself…"
He left off talking and took his captain's lips and mouth again in a heavy torrent of kisses. He slid slowly down the pale, writhing form, tasting the sweet, white flesh everywhere as Byakuya's words faded into incomprehensible moans and panting breaths. Renji knew better than to wait any longer. He wet his fingers in the noble's mouth and carefully prepared him, then settled in between his parted thighs and buried his mouth in kisses as he entered. Byakuya made only a single, small sound of distress as his body tightened in protest, then slowly relaxed and began to move with Renji's. His eyes closed and he breathed harshly against the skin of Renji's throat as the redhead thrust deeply into his body, pulled away and thrust in again.
"Aishiteru yo, Captain…" Renji whispered, returning to his lips as their pleasure began to peak and Byakuya moaned and thrashed beneath him.
Hot seed spilled onto their skin and the noble cried out softly as Renji's heat filled him inside. He made no more pretenses of trying to push the redhead away, but met his kisses hungrily.
"Renji…aishiteru yo. You are right. I wanted you! I wanted you for the longest time. I have to tell you that…before…Renji…we have to leave the Seireitei…now!"
Renji stared down at him in surprise.
"What? Why?" he asked, noting the desperation that had entered Byakuya's eyes.
Byakuya pulled away from him and hastily set his clothes back in place. Renji adjusted his own clothes and followed as the noble flash stepped back inside the sixth division and headed for the front door.
"Captain!" Renji called out as they ran, "Captain, what's happening?"
And then he felt the rising reiatsu…
"Run!" Byakuya hissed, "We have to make it into the Rukongai before they reach us!"
They left the division and flash stepped through the darkened streets. Renji followed on his heels, feeling the press of strong reiatsu and hearing distant flash steps and voices behind them.
"Captain!" Renji said breathlessly, "Who are they? Who's following us?"
Byakuya didn't answer but only flash stepped faster as they closed in on the Seireitei's gate into the Rukongai. Just when it looked as though they would reach it, flash steps sounded all around them and twelve dark, hooded forms surrounded them. Renji placed himself at the noble's back and drew his sword.
"It isn't any good, Renji," Byakuya said softly, his voice strangely calm and his body relaxing against his vice captain's, "They are too strong…even if my sword hadn't been broken, the two of us could not defeat all of them. Don't resist. They will only kill you."
Renji stared as one of their pursuers stepped forward and removed his hood, revealing a pale, lovely face, much like Byakuya's.
"The elders?" he asked softly.
Byakuya made a soft sound of affirmation as his cousin stepped forward, glaring at them.
"Where are you going, Lord Byakuya?" he asked softly.
Byakuya looked back at his cousin silently. The man looked more closely at Renji.
"Is this the one? The commoner we sensed with you?" he asked.
A group of guards from the Seireitei gatehouse approached them and Byakuya's cousin stepped forward to meet them.
"Is there some trouble here?" the lead guard asked.
"No trouble," the noble assured him, "This is family business…and does not concern you."
The guards knew better than to argue and turned away. Byakuya's cousin turned back to face them.
"Now then…" he said, stepping forward, "Where were we? Lord Byakuya, I think you were about to explain why you were sensed having sex with this commoner. I very clearly remember you standing before all of us and promising that after marrying Hisana and bringing that other Rukongai trash into the family, you would never step out of bounds again. You have to have known we would sense you."
"It's my fault," Renji said quickly, "He didn't want to."
The elder's glare deepened and he looked from Renji to the still silent Byakuya.
"Well, Cousin," the elder said quietly, "Is this true? Did this commoner overwhelm you? Did he force himself on you?"
"Y…" Renji began.
"No," Byakuya answered softly, "He defeated in fair battle…and then…I gave in to him."
His cousin gave him a surprised look.
"So…even knowing the cost, you let him take you?"
"As I said, he proved himself in battle. I did not see it as a breaking of the rules, considering…"
There was a long moment of silence, then the elder nodded to the others.
Renji made an exclamation of dismay as four of the nobles encircled him and froze him in place with their kido.
"Captain!" Renji called out, watching helplessly as Byakuya was surrounded and restrained.
"Satoshi," Byakuya said calmly, "Release my vice captain. I will cooperate fully. You don't need to include him. He hasn't done anything wrong."
"That's where you are wrong, Lord Byakuya, said his cousin, "He dared to lay hands on our head of household…in violation of the agreement you made with us."
"He didn't know about it. If he had, he would never have touched me!" Byakuya insisted.
"Better for both of you if he hadn't," said Satoshi, "Because now we have no choices. You have taken those choices away by breaking our laws in defiance of your vow."
"Look, let him go," Renji said, struggling against the kido that held him, "I won't let it happen again. It wasn't his fault. He was weakened from our battle…"
"Indeed…and it seems that our leader has become too weak to continue."
He turned back to Byakuya and drew his zanpakutou. The other cousins moved in around the restrained noble and placed their hands on him. The reiatsu flared around them.
"Stop!" yelled Renji, "What are you doing to him?"
Within the restraining kido, Byakuya swayed and dropped to his knees. He made no sound as his cousins finished what they were about, then stepped away. Satoshi stood in front of Byakuya, looking down at him with sympathy.
"I am sorry," he said, sincerity in his voice, "but this is the understanding that we had. We cannot have a leader who cannot follow our rules, or one that is too weak to lead us. But do not worry, now that we have reclaimed the power our bloodline gave you, we will give that power to another…and our clan will be strong again. I will make your death swift and humane."
"No!" screamed Renji, shattering the kido that held him and flash stepping forward.
Kido fire exploded from all around, sending him crashing to the ground as Satoshi raised his blade and struck Byakuya. Renji screamed again as blood exploded around his captain and he sank to the ground at his cousin's feet. The twelve elders turned together and walked away, not looking back as Renji dragged himself to the fallen noble's side and called out to the guards on duty.
He turned Byakuya and studied the wound, a chill slicing through him at its accuracy and depth.
"Damn!" he hissed softly, standing and lifting Byakuya into his arms, "They're not going to be able to do anything. There's only one person who can save you now!"
He flash stepped towards the central senkaimon, ignoring the voices of the guards behind him. He reached the senkaimon and flash stepped through the precipice world, whispering words of encouragement, but expecting that the noble was too far gone to hear them. He swept down into the living world and ran for Urahara's shop, the air burning in his lungs. He shattered the front door as he burst inside, calling out for Kisuke. The shopkeeper appeared and directed him into a room, where he set Byakuya down and The shopkeeper leaned over him as Renji stood, watching and struggling to regain his breath. Urahara made an exclamation of dismay and placed his hands on the noble's chest, invoking a dark reiatsu that wrapped around Byakuya and sank into his body. A bolt of terror went through Renji as Byakuya fell still.
"Kisuke!" he gasped.
"It's okay, for the moment," the shopkeeper assured him, "He's in suspended animation. I'm calling for Orihime…just…Renji, you need to know. Even if she saves his life…there's a problem. But I'll explain after he's out of danger…"
"Just don't let him, Kisuke…please," Renji said, his eyes wide with desperation, "If he dies, it will be my fault!"