Building from Ashes
Chapter 1: Dreams of the Fallen
(I originally posted this on Shadow-Eyes-01. Just moved it to consolidate my work. Thanks for reading!)
Kuchiki Byakuya did not know what to make of the situation he found himself in. It was awkward enough to be forced to lie in bed day after day, healing from the wounds of battle, but to suffer that and the humiliation of having been so used, so twisted that he would break his promise to Hisana…that he would persecute and not protect his sister…He just couldn't stomach that.
Things that made sense before were making no sense now. And what he had judged to be right in his mind before Aizen Sosuke's betrayal rang with wrongness.
"I want to kill that bastard," he breathed, not wanting to open his eyes to the late afternoon shine coming in through the window, "If he wasn't in Hueco Mundo…"
"What was that, Taichou?" said a sleepy sounding voice from the chair near the doorway.
Abarai Renji…He'd forgotten his fukutaichou was in the room…again. Soon the red haired fukutaichou was going to think his taichou had lost his mind…if that wasn't the case already. Byakuya sighed.
"It was nothing, Abarai."
He felt the brown eyes watching him and kept his eyes closed. It was too soon after their battle with each other for him to decide what he felt about Abarai Renji. He wasn't ready to deal with that at all.
"Would you like some tea, Taichou?" Renji asked.
"Tea would be good, Abarai, arigato," he said, letting an eye open slightly and watching as Renji disappeared out of the doorway.
He dozed for a time, drifting on the edges of sleep, not wanting to drop off all of the way for fear of igniting the disturbing dreams he'd been having. But he had pushed himself too far avoiding sleep, and he sank into it despite himself.
"Here's your tea, Taichou."
A warm tanned hand placed the cup into his. He reached up to accept the cup from Renji's hand, but as he took it, the warm hand did not pull away. It touched his gently, making him raise his eyes. The brown eyes were looking back at him in the most unusual way. Kuchiki Byakuya was mystified, both at the behavior of his fukutaichou and his own odd response. He didn't want to pull away. He didn't want the hand to leave his.
Renji's voice startled him and he jumped awake, nearly knocking the tea from his fukutaichou's hands.
"S-sorry Taichou," Renji said quickly, "I'll just clean that up."
Byakuya sipped at the tea silently as Renji knelt, cleaning tea from the floor. He studied the top of his fukutaichou's head and the black tattoos that disappeared into the top of his shihakushou and continued unseen down the length of his back to… Byakuya stopped himself, almost choking on the tea. He forced his eyes away, looking instead out the window. It was fall and the leaves were changing. He tried to distract himself in their colors, but kept coming back to the color red.
"Excuse me, Taichou," Renji said, brushing a towel lightly against his arm, "That should do it. How is the tea?"
"The tea is good, Abarai fukutaichou. It does not, however, feel good running down my arm."
"Sorry Taichou, I'll be more careful next time," Renji replied.
Byakuya blinked slowly.
"That would be good."
He turned his eyes to the window again as he sipped at the tea. He heard Renji return to the chair near the door.
"Abarai Fukutaichou, you needn't remain here all hours of the day," he said quietly, "I am certain there are much more important things you could be doing."
Renji did not look up at him.
"My first duty is to my taichou, sir. Besides, I enjoy taking care of you."
Byakuya didn't know what to make of that.
"I certainly don't need looking after, Abarai."
Now the brown eyes flicked up to meet his.
"Everyone needs looking after sometimes…Taichou," he said softly.
"I am not weak," Byakuya said sternly, "and there are more than enough healers in and out of this room at all hours to see to my needs."
Renji's lips turned upward into a warm smile.
"But can they make your favorite tea?" he asked matter-of-factly.
"Sadly, no," Byakuya admitted, "but don't burden yourself worrying about it. I'm only going to be here for one more night. After that…"
He stopped, giving it real thought. After that, what? It would be several days before he could return to work…and his own staff at home didn't make the tea as well as his fukutaichou. And he hated the thought of lying alone in his room with little to do but stare out into the garden and wish he could go out and walk in it.
"Do you need an extra hand once you're at home, Taichou?"
And there it was, just what he had been hoping against hope he might hear. He wasn't sure whether or not to believe his ears. It was presumptuous on Renji's part to think he wouldn't have enough people waiting on him at home. He should refuse. He opened his mouth to do just that. No one was more surprised than Kuchiki Byakuya at what came next.
"That would be appreciated, Abarai Fukutaichou. I will be released in the morning."
Renji nodded. There was a long silence.
"Will you be staying then?" Byakuya asked, looking down at the cup in his hand.
"If it's no bother, sir."
"No," said Byakuya, sipping his tea, "It is no bother."
When the cup was empty, he set it on the table next to the bed and slid down into the pillows. It wasn't nearly as comfortable as his bed at home, but there was something pleasant about the warmth of Renji's reiatsu nearby and the soft voices that sounded during the night. It was easy to fall asleep…too easy.
He felt fingertips touch his cheek and turned his head toward them. They moved on to trace his lips and he brushed their ends with light kisses. He heard a contented sigh and felt the closeness of someone's face. Lips touched his tentatively, then pulled away. He longed to follow them. He wanted to feel that warmth again.
"Renji," he whispered, "don't go."
"Shh, don't worry, Taichou. I'm not leaving."
He opened his eyes and found himself looking into Renji's in the darkness. There was a moment of awkward silence.
"What are you doing, Renji?" Byakuya asked quietly.
"You said my name," Renji said in a voice barely above a whisper, "You asked me not to leave and I told you I would stay…that's all. I thought you were awake, but I guess you weren't after all."
"I see," Byakuya said, shifting to get more comfortable.
The motion sent a sharp twinge through his wounded chest and he winced.
"You okay, Taichou? You need a healer?" Renji asked quickly.
He shook his head.
"It was nothing. I'm fine. Arigato, Renji. Go back to sleep…although I don't know how you manage it sitting on that chair."
Renji chuckled softly.
"I can fall asleep anywhere."
Would you sleep well wrapped in my arms?
Byakuya blinked, forcing the rogue thought away. What was wrong with him? He tried to think back to when the strange thoughts had first come to him. It was after their battle. After that…all he had wanted to do was to go back and make sure Renji had survived. He had only been able to force himself to leave because he sensed Unohana Taichou's reiatsu approaching.
He had walked on in a daze after that, consoling himself by thinking that he had only done what was necessary…what the rules and laws required. But later…when he knew how the law had been manipulated, it rewrote their battle in his mind, and instead of being reminded of his superiority in the battle, of the fact that he had bested his fukutaichou, he had been assailed with remembrances of how hard Renji had fought to stand up for what he thought was right. And he had mercilessly taunted Renji for that at the time. Now it had a different feel to it. Renji had been right to stand up to him…to try to force his eyes open. And something had happened when Renji broke free of his restraints and surged toward him in that last moment. His eyes had looked directly into those deep brown orbs…and he had seen the resolve, the spirit in his fukutaichou that made him break free and launch that final, desperate assault.
It was after that that the dreams had started.
At first, he had brushed them off. He chalked it up to the stresses of injury, lack of sleep and a good measure of guilt. Renji had fought admirably, despite the difference in their abilities. It was natural that he should notice and think about that…but there was more to it. There was his fascination with how Renji had looked as he fought, brown eyes fiery with resolve, hands tightened on his zanpakuto, and the reiatsu flaring wildly around him. Renji had looked beautiful to him. There was no other way to describe it. So it was new respect, he supposed, some acknowledgment of Renji's steadily improving ability. But somehow, it seemed more than that.
But such a thing could not be. He was not attracted to men. He hadn't felt a strong attraction to anyone since Hisana. So why was he dreaming these things?
Renji sat, half-sleeping in the uncomfortable chair, his eyes drifting back to his now sleeping taichou. He could barely see the rise and fall of Byakuya's chest and could barely register the sound of his steady breathing. He wondered for the millionth time if he should leave, but every time he prepared to get up and go, Kuchiki Taichou became restless and began talking in his sleep.
And his words were always the same…to the point where Renji wondered if, perhaps he might not be dreaming…if somehow the pleas for him to stay might be real.
But why would his stoic, distant taichou need him? He had been quick enough to brush Renji off during their battle. And even now, when he was awake, he seemed not to really even notice Renji. What use would a noble like Kuchiki Byakuya have for someone like him?
He had been ready to write it off as his imagination until tonight. This time, as before, Byakuya had asked him to stay, but something different had happened. Renji had gone to him and dared to touch him lightly on the face…and his taichou had kissed his fingertips. Then Renji had become very reckless and brushed his lips against Byakuya's. He had barely pulled away in time to avoid being caught. But before he had pulled away, he was sure he had felt those lips move. He was sure what he had felt was his kiss being returned.
But even if it was…Byakuya had done this in his sleep. Renji had been wide awake. And ever since, he couldn't sleep at all. He couldn't stop thinking about how good those lips had tasted…and how warm they were. He couldn't stop thinking about the light touch of those full lips on his fingers, and the unusual gentleness in the voice that pleaded with him not to leave.
And now, in spite of insisting that he did not need Renji's help, his taichou had accepted Renji's offer to come to his house and tend to him for the next few days. Renji hadn't missed the flash of surprise in Byakuya's eyes at his own words. He was pretty sure that Byakuya was feeling something…something that he wasn't quite ready yet to accept.
But that wasn't going to keep Renji from trying to figure this out. He would go to the Kuchiki home and somehow or other, he would find out just what it was that was happening between them. He wasn't stupid enough to simply leave it to Byakuya to make a move. Even if his taichou recognized and accepted having feelings for Renji, there was no way the proud noble would act on them…not unless he knew for a fact that Renji felt the same. If desiring someone who was beneath him in status was bad, then being rejected by someone beneath him would be intolerable. And after the humiliation Kuchiki Byakuya had just suffered, Renji was truly shocked that any of this was happening.
So logically, Renji knew he had to find a way to send a message…without being too obvious. If he was too obvious, he was likely to end up at the wrong end of Senbonzakura. He wasn't quite recovered enough for that…yet. For now, he should proceed with extreme caution. Unfortunately for Renji, caution was a thing that required something more of good sense and awareness of boundaries than Abarai Renji had been gifted with. In other words, he was, it seemed, doomed from the outset to do something incredibly clumsy and stupid. Luckily for him, angels exist to watch out for those with such foolish recklessness. But would his guardian angel be faster than an onslaught of sakura blades?
"What are you doing, Taichou?" Abarai Renji asked, looking into the quiet depths of the dark eyes that entrapped his.
Byakuya's long pale fingers slipped beneath the top of Renji's shihakushou, sliding it back off of his tanned shoulders, baring the angry red lines and black tattoos that ran down the length of his fukutaichou's slender back. He gazed calmly at this, his expression serious, then leaned forward slowly and pressed his lips to the healing cuts, closing his eyes and letting healing light pass out of him and into Renji.
As he explored the expanse of Renji's back, his softened tongue extended through parted lips and tasted the fiery reiatsu around them, the life-giving blood, and the sweetness of the tattooed skin. Gradually, the wounds gave way to the loving strokes of the taichou's lips and tongue. Even as they disappeared, leaving the fukutaichou's back free of the painful slashes, Byakuya's mouth continued to travel along the black lines, following them until they reached the beginnings of his hakama. He paused and straightened, returning to the warm shoulder.
Renji's face was turned away, but there was no missing the flush on the young man's throat. It was there that Byakuya's lips traveled next, nuzzling beneath the fukutaichou's chin, again healing the red markings and tracing the black lines until he felt Renji's heart racing beneath his lips.
He paused for a moment, gazing down at the muscular chest and abdomen, then moved forward again, pushing Renji down onto his back. His fukutaichou fell back with a gentle release of breath that touched the raven black hair, moving it slightly as Byakuya continued his ministrations. Renji inhaled sharply as his taichou's warm tongue encountered an erect nipple and stopped to tease it gently in passing before moving across his chest and giving the other the same enticing treatment. Then he moved lower, still healing cuts and following tattoos until the pink tongue dipped into his navel and that perfect mouth closed on the area, sucking deeply. The resulting gasp of delight that rose out of Renji and the tightening of his powerful abdominals, sent a wave of pleasure through the noble, who crawled up Renji's torso and brought his body and mouth down onto his fukutaichou's, trapping him and treating him to a flurry of kisses that began lightly and deepened until both were open-mouthed and relentlessly tasting each other's depths.
Byakuya's body was still at first, simply holding Renji in place, but with the deeper kisses, that warm body began to move, straining against the robe that still clothed the taichou. His hand fell to his waist and pulled the tie free, allowing the robe to be pushed aside and bringing the length of their heated bodies into skin-on-skin contact. Byakuya's body stung beneath the bandages, making him moan in pain, but he didn't want to stop. He didn't want these beautiful sensations to end.
"Taichou?" Renji's voice sounded panicked.
Someone was holding him down.
"Don't move, Taichou. Your wounds are bleeding again. I've called for a healer. Just try to hold still."
It took every bit of control he mastered not to tear free of the warm hands that held him and attack the tanned skin of the one who leaned over him. His wounds were stinging sharply now, bringing him back from the dream and he found himself suddenly grateful that his lower body wasn't what was about to be examined by the healers.
Abarai Renji released him and stepped away as the healers moved forward to examine his taichou's chest wound. As he backed away, he was surprised at the fact that his skin no longer stung with each movement as it had before. When he glanced down into the front of his shihakushou, he caught his breath sharply, marveling at the lack of any sign of his previous injuries. He glanced back at his taichou, his mind still reliving the calm, healing touches he had been dreaming he felt.
What just happened?