Disclaimer: Insert eye-roll of the obvious here.
Listening to: Patrick Wolf – "Accident and Emergency".
Byakuya Kuchiki does not approve of Renji Abarai in the slightest. He is loud, uncouth, usually attired in clothing Byakuya would not even condescend to give to charity, and is tattooed like a gangster. He is abrupt, has a slightly coarse sense of humour, and is far too casual for Byakuya's tastes. He spends far too much money on appallingly gaudy sunglasses, far too much of his life surrounded by dirt and decidedly far too much time around Rukia.
He almost has to curse the Kuchiki drive to have the best, because it is this trait that has dragged Renji Abarai straight into his path. However, he is a Kuchiki and, therefore, when the family business elected to diversify and a construction company was required he had immediately requested the Shihouns. Yoruichi is not simply his childhood playmate and occasional tormentor – or, rather, his tormentor and occasional childhood playmate – she and her company are the best in the business and Kuchikis always hire the best. It is a crying shame, though, that the head construction foreman went to high school with his adopted younger sister and is now ingratiating himself into Byakuya's life.
Byakuya disliked Renji from the start. At least, he tells himself that. The only problem he has with that scenario is finding reasons to dislike Renji that he can live with justifying. Most of the ones he can find – the list above, for example – are purely superficial. If he is strictly honest with himself, he actually only has three reasons for disliking Renji.
The first is his hair. Byakuya takes excellent care of his dark mane. There are weekly visits to a 'coiffure architect' – Byakuya may have to fight back a snort at the ridiculous title, but damn, Sergei gets results – conditioning every second day, and specialised brushes and combs. He realised long ago that he likes his hair long, and the only way to have it so and not end up with it looking unprofessional is to take very, very good care of it.
Which is why it's galling to see hair that looks just as good on a man that clearly cannot be bothered to take any real care in his personal appearance.
Byakuya knows perfectly well that this is probably a little petty, but dammit, he can't help it. It annoys him no end that Renji Abarai's hair looks just as good as his – no, better. He doubts his hair has ever made someone daydream about what it would be like to thread their fingers through it delicately, before roughly, but not too harshly, grabbing hold and pulling it back, to expose the owner's throat and leave it bare for –
He's not getting into that. Suffice it to say, the hair bothers him.
The second reason is Rukia. It has taken Byakuya years, especially in the aftermath of his wife's death, to build a relationship with her sister, his adopted family. Their bond now, while not exactly fragile, is tentative, still relatively new. He prides himself on those occasions when he manages to make her smile, when he gains access to her confidences. And then he comes along and starts with the in-jokes and the reminiscing. The next thing Byakuya knows, he has become the outsider looking in. He gets to sit there while this interloper makes his sister giggle – giggle! – and he is supposed to be perfectly fine with it. Perfectly fine with those little quirky smiles and broad grins Renji casually throws Rukia, perfectly fine with the way his arm slides around her shoulders.
It's nauseating, it's –
Well, alright. So he's jealous. A little.
The real problem there, which he will only ever occasionally admit to himself, is that he seems to be considerably less jealous of Renji for stealing Rukia's attention from him, than he is of Rukia for stealing Renji's –
Which he's not thinking about. Much.
This, of course, brings him to the third reason.
It's a silly reason. He wouldn't even bring it up, really, except he is trying to be brutally honest and –
He may be attracted to Renji Abarai.
Fuck it – he is attracted to Renji Abarai.
He doesn't like it, of course. While there may not be so much to dislike, there is plenty there for a conservative fellow like himself to disapprove of. He problem is that he's not sure he wants to. He keeps finding that he likes Renji's humour, rough edges and passion.
And, if his physical reactions to Renji's presence are anything to go by, he certainly likes the way he looks.
This is not the first time he's been attracted to a man, though it's the first time someone other than Hisana has caught his attention and held on to it so tightly, but Byakuya likes to tell himself it's a phase. Popular culture dictates that everyone has to fall for a bad boy at some stage – right?
Except, appearances aside, Renji does not quite fit the bill. He's honest, warm and tells jokes that Byakuya has to try very hard to not laugh at – after all, that would be encouraging him. Rukia herself has described him as 'a big teddy bear'. Unfortunately, the first place Byakuya's subconscious went with that statement was that one typically took teddy bears to bed, which made him think of –
Nothing. Nothing at all.
Byakuya really hates his subconscious sometimes.
He knows this is all pointless. Renji is clearly attracted to Rukia, Rukia to Renji, and he will just have to grin and bear it, ideally without any grinning – he's never been the publicly expressive type. He will put up with Rukia constantly inviting the man in question over to the house, because she is his sister in all but blood – he loves her and wants to see her happy. He will simply continue to avoid the object of his… well, he'll try to avoid Renji as much as possible without making things obvious.
This will pass.
"He hates me."
Renji flops onto the couch, having carefully checked that the coast is clear of the he in question. He's not sure whether to be disappointed or not when he realises that his companion is the only other person in the room.
Rukia rolls her eyes. This is hardly new – in fact, Renji has found that she does this with alarming regularity whenever he opens his mouth, especially when it comes to one topic in particular…
"Nii-sama doesn't hate you. He's just an aloof kind of guy." Rukia's lips quirked into a smile. "In fact, I think he really likes having you over here."
Renji wishes. He also wishes that he didn't seem to spend all of his spare time trying to converse with a man who makes the iceberg that hit the Titanic look like a sociable creature. Hell, Byakuya wouldn't have needed to hit the boat; he would have just stared it down until it felt really awkward and sank out of insecurity.
Renji has a slightly odd imagination at times.
Any other time Renji would have given up long ago, but every once in a while, he could swear that Byakuya Kuchiki is actually trying not to laugh at his jokes. It's subtle, the twitch in one corner of his mouth, the way his eyes half close, but it's there – Renji's seen it.
Which may or may not have something to do with the fact that he watches Byakuya Kuchiki.
At first he told himself that it was just a mild case of infatuation. Byakuya Kuchiki is a good-looking man – a ridiculously good-looking man, if he's honest with himself. Sometimes, Renji can't help but wonder if he's quite real; there's something about the mix of pitch-black hair, winter-pale skin and those fathomless grey eyes that suggests something ethereal.
The longer he watched, though, the less he could pretend. There's nothing mild about this case of infatuation now, and Renji would hesitate to even call it a simple infatuation. The more he's watched Byakuya, the more he's seen glimpses of the personality under the mask of indifference. It's not just the efforts to avoid laughing at Renji's jokes, it's the way those eyes light up at Rukia's presence, the way occasional dry comments slip out that have Renji chuckling in agreement, and the way the man in question just seems to accept solitude as his most comfortable state.
Somewhere along the line, Renji has ended up liking Byakuya Kuchiki the man, which is where the problems start.
Renji isn't sure of a lot in this world, but he's fairly sure that he's not Byakuya's type. After all, the guy's been married to a woman and, at least when Renji last checked, that doesn't usually tend to be conducive to dating a man. Renji's also nowhere near refined enough – he never even finished high school, in favour of starting work in construction early. Somehow, he doubts that he's what Byakuya Kuchiki has been dreaming of.
Of course, knowing that still doesn't change the fact that he'd really like to be.
Rukia's no help – she seems to think he and her 'Nii-sama' are a cute couple, and she can't wait to have them fight over who gets her as maid of honour (her words, definitely not his). But then, Rukia's never been one for seeing the impossible; it's something he admires in her until it begins interfering with his love life.
Or pitiful lack thereof.
"You know", she continues, "if you weren't so busy freaking out that he'll catch you staring and paid a little more attention, you'd notice that he stares at you just as much. You're both as hopeless as each other."
It's not that Renji doesn't want to believe it, he just knows better. Guys like him don't end up with guys like that. It's an unwritten rule.
With a groan, he sits up. "Whatever. Look, I'm gonna go out tonight. I need to have a drink or two. You in?"
For a second, she looks as though she'll agree, and then something unsettling seems to flicker across her face. There is a sly look in her eyes, but her tone is entirely innocent and Renji starts to wonder if he's imagining things. "No, I think I could use a quiet night in. Where will you go?"
Renji shrugs as he grabs his coat. "There are some good bands playing at Alchemy. I figure I'll head there."
As he strides out the door, he vaguely hears Rukia's call to have a good night.
The tentative knock on his study doorframe has him looking up straight into Rukia's eyes. Byakuya smiles faintly.
She smiles back, twirling a tendril of dark hair through her fingers. "Nii-sama, I have something of a request."
"Name it." Maybe he spoils her, but she's a level-headed woman, and he doubts that, it this point, it will turn her insufferable.
He is rewarded when her smile widens. "Um, would you be able to sort of… Not be here tonight? It's just, I have someone coming over - "
He blinks. "Oh. Say no more." Well, she's certainly of age; a twenty-something now, just like he is. Just like Renji –
He's not going to think about Renji.
A lead weight seems to settle in his stomach.
"I'd be happy to vacate the premises." He has no desire to watch what he can't have. "In fact, it might be an idea if I get out of your hair now." Grabbing his jacket, he decides that tonight, he will be getting very, very drunk.
Rukia beams at him, clearly oblivious to the inner turmoil she has just caused. "Thanks, Nii-sama! Hey, I hear there are some good bands playing at Alchemy tonight."
He couldn't care less where he goes, so long as the drinks are potent, but perhaps the music will be loud enough to drown out coherent thought, should the drinks fail. He mumbles his goodbyes and sets off, trying and failing to avoid all thought of Renji Abarai.
Two hours later and he's fairly sure he's passed the point of tipsy and he's heading somewhere called intoxicated.
Byakuya doesn't care. He's not thinking right now. He's throwing back vodka like there's about to be a second potato famine and everything feels vague and fuzzy…
Yes, fuzzy is probably the best he can come up with right now. He sighs. Drinking alone was an appallingly bad idea, in hindsight, and now that he's reached a point where he knows better than to continue drinking, all he can do is sit here and mope. It certainly doesn't help when he spots a flash of red from the corner of his eye, a particular shade that seems to haunt him these days. By the time his brain catches up and he turns to follow it, whatever it was has disappeared, and he decides it's time to call it a night. Maybe Yoruichi will let him crash on her couch, though he'll certainly have to put up with months of mockery after –
"Holy shit! Byakuya?"
The voice is far too familiar. Slowly, almost unwillingly, Byakuya looks up to see whom exactly he's managed to stumble into, and comes face to face with Renji Abarai.
The universe is just cruel sometimes.
Byakuya's eyes narrow. Renji is here. But Renji can't be here. Renji is off doing… well, Rukia, which is why Byakuya is here, too plastered to see straight.
There can be only one conclusion, then.
"Why", Byakuya annunciates as clearly as he can, "would I spend twenty-nine years not hallucinating only to start now?"
'Renji' blinks. "Uh… how much have you had to drink?"
Byakuya draws himself up to his full height and pokes his hallucination square in the chest. He feels solid enough, but that does not excuse him for calling Byakuya's behaviour into question. "That is irrelevant. Immaterial. I stopped counting."
There. That's told him. Except, judging from the chuckling coming from the Renji-hallucination, it hasn't. "You're shit-faced, aren't you?"
Well, that isn't very nice. Byakuya frowns. "What objection do you have to my face?"
To his surprise, the hallucination blushes. It's a very complex hallucination, he decides. "I really don't object to your face. You have no idea - " It cuts itself off and clears its throat, which leaves Byakuya a little disappointed; he gets this feeling that he would have liked to hear the hallucination finish that thought. Instead, it continues, "You really need to get to bed."
In his drunken haze, Byakuya raises what he hopes is an eyebrow. "Are you offering to take me?" The innuendo is deliberate, and he has the pleasure of watching 'Renji' gape at him like a fish and flush even more.
Eventually he stutters out something about Byakuya being really drunk, which inspires the man in question to simply sniff; that much is fairly obvious. Byakuya takes the opportunity to half collapse against 'Renji's' shoulder, in a move that is one part tipsy, three parts amorous. His hands thread through the hallucination's hair. It all feels so real, Byakuya can't help but think, as his fingertips trail through hair that feels like silk.
"What on earth do you use on your hair?" Byakuya mumbles, only to have a surprised, "Uh, nothing. I wash it and I brush it", as his only response.
"Not sodding fair", he mutters, before fisting his hand in it and tugging.
'Renji' makes a surprised squawk as he tilts his head back, only to double it when Byakuya starts to trace the tattoos on his neck with a mix of teeth and tongue. Byakuya, meanwhile, simply wishes to confirm a theory he's had for a while about whether Renji's tattoos taste different to the rest of his skin, and is rudely interrupted when his hallucination pulls him away, staring at him wide eyed.
This simply will not do. Byakuya frowns. "Bad hallucination", he admonishes, before attempting to lunge back in and continue his assault.
"Look", the hallucination begins, "you are clearly insanely drunk right now, because sober you'd never come near me. Even if Rukia - "
The name stirs a memory within Byakuya. "Rukia told me to come here." He takes a step forward, sliding further into not-Renji's embrace so that their bodies are flush against one another. "It was an excellent idea. I should buy her a pony."
Even as his hallucination stutters out something incoherent, Byakuya notes one thing; the heat that flares in 'Renji's' eyes when their bodies meet. Apparently, when he's with hallucination-Renji, the attraction is mutual.
Byakuya cannot hold back the triumphant smile as he proclaims, "You do not object to my face."
'Renji' frowns. "Well, no, I – mppffff!"
He cannot continue, of course, as Byakuya is now kissing him. 'Renji' tastes like vodka, though given how much Byakuya has had to drink tonight, everything and everyone would probably taste like vodka right now. But the heat and the chapped lips that meet and slide over his, the low moan that is drawn out, and the calloused hand cupping Byakuya's chin are definitely not products of the alcohol.
He's heard himself called an ice prince before, but now he is melting, melting into the arms of a figment of his imagination and it feels too good to care. His is falling, falling, falling…
By the time his head hits the hallucination's shoulder, he is out like a light.
Gasping for breath, Renji stares at the man in his arms.
Carefully, he formulates a plan of attack.
He is going to get Byakuya home, go home himself, take a very, very cold shower and hope he calms down, and then try to approach Byakuya tomorrow.
With any luck, he and Byakuya might just go halves in buying Rukia that pony.
Byakuya wakes the next morning in his bed fully clothed and very hung over.
His mood is not helped when he discovers that Rukia's guest last night was her closest female friend, Kiyone, and that something of a Johnny Depp marathon had been had in his lounge room. He attempts to confront Rukia about this, only to have her blink at him wide-eyed and innocently query just what he'd thought she meant when she asked him to leave last night.
Byakuya remembers last night far too clearly.
He also remembers that if Renji wasn't here as he'd thought, then the person he'd assumed was a hallucination last night…
Byakuya decides to spend the day hiding in his office. He's not sure yet if he's going to have to hide there the rest of his life, just to avoid potentially meeting Renji, but at least this way he can ascertain if there are any additional comforts that can be added; after all, most offices aren't equipped to handle being a long-term hideout.
He might be acting a little immaturely and melodramatically about this, but he doesn't care anymore and his head really hurts.
He decides to have a nap at his desk, because he keeps thinking about that kiss and, if he's asleep, he can go back to blaming his subconscious if he dreams of it.
Which he does.
When he wakes up, it is late afternoon, his head doesn't hurt anymore, and Renji Abarai is in the chair opposite him.
He only just avoids squealing like a girl.
Instead, Byakuya opts for glaring at the man in front of him. "How did you - "
"Rukia let me in." Renji's tone is blithe, and he flashes Byakuya a quick grin that does odd things to his insides.
He does not approve. "Well, I am sure that you are perfectly capable of showing yourself out."
Renji doesn't budge. "We need to talk."
That is the last thing Byakuya wants. Real Renji has no interest in him and is probably about to request that they never mention last night again. Real Renji likes Rukia. "We do not. Last night did not happen. If you wish to ask my permission to date Rukia, don't bother; she makes up her own - "
"Why the fuck would I want to date Rukia?"
Byakuya latches on to the excuse to get angry and runs with it. "What's wrong with my sister? She's attractive, intelligent, of good family - "
Abruptly, Renji stands up and leans across the desk until he and Byakuya are almost nose to nose. He came here determined to speak his peace, and he'll be damned if Byakuya's attitude is going to get in the way of that. The man Renji saw last night was well beyond three sheets to the wind, but he was still recognisably Byakuya, and he wanted Renji. Renji holds onto that thought as he starts, "I know all that. She's my best friend. But she's not the Kuchiki I'm interested in, and she knows it."
Byakuya goes very still, his eyes wide. Renji's gaze is heated, and he wants to believe, but he's still reeling. Not quite trusting his voice, he licks his lips and tentatively asks, "Just to clarify, how many Kuchikis do you know?"
Renji shakes his head, a smile crossing his features. "Just the two. And you're impossible."
Byakuya opens his mouth to retort that he most certainly is not, only to find that Renji has decided to take a leaf from his book and kiss mid-reply.
Funnily enough, as Renji's lips part and allow Byakuya to taste him, he decides he doesn't mind.
He does, however, mind the hissed, "Yessss!" that comes from the doorway. As he and Renji part, both watching each other intently, Byakuya addresses his sister as she stands in the doorway. Knowing Rukia, there is probably some sort of victory dance occurring, but he's damned if he tears his eyes from Renji's to check.
"Rukia, would you be so kind as to absent yourself from the house tonight? I'm having someone over."
He can hear the laughter in her voice. "Whatever for, Nii-sama?"
His mind is completely blank. He blames Renji, who has managed to swing both of his legs over the desk and settle them on either side of Byakuya in something of a… compromising position. He likes it. "Ah… Johnny Depp marathon?"
Rukia giggles and Renji snorts, before adding, "Rukia?"
Renji flashes Byakuya a quick grin as he closes the distance between them.
"Just go buy yourself a pony."
I love these two – I can't help it. I know that Byakuya's out of character, but given that here he's human and in his twenties, I see him as the implusive guy who'd play tag trying to be dignified (and failing whenever Renji's around).
So I'm thinking of writing a side story or two for Mixing Business with Pleasure, but here be the first. Let me know what you think.
R and R, y'all.