Previously on "A Test of Faith":
"Trust me, it doesn't feel very nice talking to the lake and wishing that your loved one is with you," she added, her lips quivering slightly.

I do apologize for the delayed update! I wanted to end this story with a bang (pun totally intended ^.^) so I decided to spend more time on it.

Here it is, the last chapter, with a fresh slice of lemon!

Chapter 18

Shuuhei stared at the broken door. What on earth happened to this thing? He listened for any indication that Renji was in his quarters, but couldn't hear anything, so he pushed gingerly on the door. It immediately sagged open, hanging precariously on one remaining hinge. Shuuhei grimaced at the sight, then tried to somehow wrestle the door back into its frame.

Once that was done, he turned around and looked at the familiar room. wasn't entirely familiar anymore. The bed was a disaster; the covers crumpled and untucked, part of the cloth hung limply off the bed. One chair was overturned and lay on its side, probably the same one that Shuuhei had kicked over the other day.

How long has it really been? Shuuhei mused. It seemed like it has been forever, but it couldn't have been more than a week since the last time he was here. He bent down and picked up the chair. Dirty clothes were strewn around the place, and several used cups sat on the table. Shuuhei sighed, then, he began to tidy up the place.

When he came to the bedside table, he saw a teal-colored piece of clothing on it. Huh, he thought. What was his sleeping kimono doing here? He remember this one, it was one of his favorites. He reached out to touch the smooth silk fabric, smiling sadly as he was reminded of the last time he wore it. Weird, why would Renji place a ripped kimono out here?

Wait a second, he thought. "I asked her to teach me how to mend your clothes, okay? It was supposed to be a surprise!" Renji's words from the other day suddenly rang clearly in his ears. He was serious?

Shuuhei picked up the kimono and unfolded it, then immediately flipped it to the side to examine the seam. There it was; a series of fresh stitches in a different colored thread than the others. He ran his fingers across the clumsily-sewn stitches; they were not the prettiest thing to look at, but they were strong and sturdy, just like the pair of hands that had made them.

He gripped the kimono tightly in his fist and clenched his eyes shut. Oh, Renji...

Just then, he heard the door rattle, and with a creak, it swung open. The familiar figure that stepped in stopped dead in his tracks when he realized that the room wasn't empty.

"Shuu...Shuuhei?" Renji croaked, not daring to believe his own eyes.

Shuuhei turned around and faced the redhead, and was immediately taken aback by the terrible state of the man. "Renji!" he gasped in surprise. The man looked so tired; the usually bright eyes were dull and swollen, not to mention the dark shadows below them. His hair was unkempt, and he looked like he hadn't shaved for ages.

Renji stumbled in, still unsure if Shuuhei was real, or was it just his hallucination. More than once in the past week, he had imagined that Shuuhei would be here waiting for him when he returned from work, but he knew it was only wishful thinking. Now that he really was here...

"Is it really you?" Renji asked, blinking furiously.

Shuuhei stepped towards him and held out his arm. "It's me," he said, his voice breaking slightly. "I'm so sorry, I'm so, so sorry..."

Renji's fingers wrapped tightly over Shuuhei's. Yes, it was real; he felt the warmth of Shuuhei's hand, it wasn't his imagination.

"Wha—?" Renji said in confusion. "I'm the one who's sorry."

Shuuhei looked down at his own feet. "I overheard your conversation with Akari, and...and I know I was wrong," he mumbled. "I know, I spied on you again..."

Renji looked as if he was at a loss of words; Shuuhei braced himself for another outburst—he totally deserved it, of course. Then the redhead's face broke into a smile although he still looked confused. "I've never been so glad to be spied on before," he said shakily. "But...but why? Where have you been all this time?"

"I..." Shuuhei hesitated. He knew he should just admit it; he was a coward, too ashamed to face the consequences of his actions, too afraid to acknowledge his weakness. "I didn't know how to...I thought..." His voice failed him.

Renji didn't need to hear the rest. He pulled Shuuhei into a tight embrace, holding on to the man as if Shuuhei would disappear in a puff of smoke if he let go. "I'm just glad you're back," Renji said, holding back happy sobs. "I'm sorry too. I should've understood your feelings, I should've—" His words became muffled as he buried his face into Shuuhei's neck.

Shuuhei chuckled and pulled away. "No," he said. "We need to sit down and talk, like, really talk. Akari is right, we do have serious communication issues."

Renji blinked, looking even more confused now. The last time Shuuhei mentioned the girl's name, he was cussing at her. And now, it sounded like they were the best of friends. What did I miss in the past few days? Renji thought.

Shuuhei gestured for Renji to sit down, then he stared at the table, unsure how to begin. "We..." he began, then closed his mouth. Why was this so difficult? His mind knew exactly what he wanted Renji to know, but he couldn't put them into words.

"Well, I know what I want to say," Renji said finally, after the silence dragged on for nearly two minutes.

Shuuhei looked up and nodded for him to continue.

"I was selfish," Renji said. "I only thought of myself when you talked about my staying late, and my first reaction was to think that it's unfair when I really should be thinking from your point of view and I didn't even stop to think if what you said was true and then I went ahead and—" He started babbling at that point, his cheeks getting pinker by the second, then he paused, breathing deeply as his emotions crashed over him. "I...just never thought of what it's like to be you."

"Renji..." Shuuhei said softly. "I...I'm even worse. I kept letting you down, and then I...I shouldn't have doubted your loyalty. I cannot say sorry enough for raising Kazeshini on you..." He sighed. "I felt so jealous, and I let that control me. I', so sorry." A single tear ran down his face despite his heroic effort to keep up a stoic front. He clutched the kimono tighter in his fist, unable to let go of what he'd done when he walked into Renji's attempt to learn how to mend this kimono.

A thumb touched his face to wipe away the tear, then he felt himself being pulled into a hug. He rested his head against Renji's chest, and for a while they stayed like this, just quietly taking comfort in each other's closeness and warmth.

"Will you forgive me?" They both said at the same time.

Renji chuckled and held Shuuhei closer. "There's nothing to forgive," he whispered, and felt Shuuhei's shoulders sag in relief. The silk kimono slipped out of Shuuhei's slackened fingers and draped across Renji's feet. The redhead let go of Shuuhei and bent down to pick it up.

"Heh," Renji said sheepishly. "I was actually hoping I could redo this before giving it to you. It's really quite ugly..."

Shuuhei grinned. "No, it's perfect," he said. "Just don't let Ishida-kun see it."

Renji held up the kimono and stroked the fabric lovingly. "I still remember the last time you wore this..."

Shuuhei leaned forward and purred, "Would you like to see it again?"

The deep, sensual voice of his partner sent Renji's pulse racing, and he nodded silently. He swallowed as Shuuhei stood up and began to untie his white obi. As the knot became undone, Shuuhei's deft fingers travelled to his kosode, shrugging them off his shoulders along with the white shitagi underneath. Renji hungrily feasted his eyes on the perfect, tan skin that gradually became exposed as the robes slid off Shuuhei's body. Shuuhei moved slowly, almost teasingly, keeping his eyes locked on Renji's the entire time. His mouth curled up in a smirk when he noticed the flush on Renji's face; the redhead probably didn't even realize that he was beginning to pant lightly.

"Do you want to help me?" Shuuhei asked huskily as his hands went to his hakama-himo. When Renji reached out to touch him, Shuuhei gestured to the bed. The redhead understood immediately. With one hand gently tugging on Shuuhei's hakama straps, Renji walked backwards slowly, guiding Shuuhei to the bed. Once they were there, Renji sat down on the bed, still holding the straps loosely.

Shuuhei stood in front of him and nodded. Fingers trembling slightly, Renji gingerly untied the straps. Finally, the last piece of clothing on Shuuhei's body fell to the floor. Renji leaned back and ran his eyes over his lover's naked body, taking deep breaths to calm himself. How he'd missed this...Shuuhei's lean, sculpted torso, his smooth hips, his hardened manhood... Renji felt his lust awaken as he took in the glorious sight. How could Shuuhei feel inferior when he was so perfect? Renji decided then, that he would show the man how unnecessary his fears were, over and over again, until Shuuhei no longer doubted himself.

Suddenly realizing that he'd been staring dumbly at Shuuhei for a long time, Renji grinned a little sheepishly at the man, who was looking at him with a hint of amusement. Holding the kimono by the sleeves, Renji nudged Shuuhei so that he turned around. Then, Renji stood up and gently put it on Shuuhei. When the soft fabric landed on Shuuhei's skin, he closed his eyes and let out a contented sigh.

"So, shall we work on our communication skills?" Renji whispered, pulling Shuuhei into his arms. "How about let's start do you want me to take you tonight?"

Shuuhei let out a soft moan at the redhead's words; so crude, yet so erotic when it came from Renji. "I want you on top of me," he whispered back a little shyly, his voice thick with desire. It felt like it had been forever since Renji touched him, and he longed for those skilled fingers and the feel of Renji's kisses on his skin.

Turning Shuuhei around, Renji lowered his head to claim Shuuhei's lips. "Help me," he murmured into the kiss, guiding Shuuhei's hand to the knot of his obi.

It didn't take long for the Renji to shed his clothes. Shuuhei allowed himself to be pushed gently onto his back, savoring the warmth from Renji's hands on his body.

As if he was marking his territory, Renji let his fingers roam all over the body beneath him. He ran his palm up and down Shuuhei's inner thigh, but never touching the aching organ between his legs. When Shuuhei squirmed in protest, Renji gave him a wicked smile. "What do you want me to do?"

"T-touch me," Shuuhei whispered, looking at Renji pleadingly behind half-closed lids. "Touch me...there."

"Here?" Renji moved his hand up Shuuhei's inner thigh, but stopped right at the very edge of his crotch.

Shuuhei groaned. "Up, a little more."

" this?" Renji's fingers brushed against Shuuhei's sack but they didn't linger.

"No..." Shuuhei moaned, beginning to realize what Renji had in mind. "Why do you always torture me?"

"Oh? I'm not torturing you," Renji said, feigning innocence. "I just want you to tell me exactly what you want," he continued with a smirk.

"You little..." Shuuhei cursed. "H-hold me."

"Like this?" Renji stroked Shuuhei's rock-hard erection, feeling it twitch a little under his touch.

"Harder," Shuuhei pleaded. He hissed in pleasure when Renji's hand bore down and gripped him tightly. "Yes," he whispered. "Like that."

As Renji leaned down for another kiss, he murmured, "Do you want me to go slow, or go fast?"

"Whatever you want," Shuuhei said with small groan.

"Mmm...then it's going to be a long night," Renji grinned, then he brought their lips together and Shuuhei immediately forgot all about communication.

"More, Renji, more..." Shuuhei's voice trembled as he gripped Renji's hips. The bed frame creaked as his body rocked in time with Renji's thrusts, but it wasn't enough. "Harder..."

Renji grunted in response and snapped his hips forward for an extra-deep thrust into the man beneath him. He couldn't stop the moan that came tumbling out when he felt himself completely engulfed in that familiar, velvety heat. The ends of his hair tickled Shuuhei's face but Shuuhei was oblivious to it. All he knew then was the intense pleasure between his legs—both from being filled by his lover and from the friction on his arousal, and the pair of scarlet eyes that were staring into his. There was something raw about the way Renji held his gaze as he thrust into him; it made him even more aroused than ever, and his erection throbbed in response.

"Am I close?" Renji asked between pants, searching for Shuuhei's special spot with each thrust. He loved the way Shuuhei's eyes would roll back into his head when he hits the spot, but he had yet to see it today.

"A little lower," Shuuhei whispered hoarsely. "More, lower. Ohhh, up a little..." As Renji adjusted his angle, Shuuhei suddenly gasped out loud and arched his back. "Ohhh…god! There!"

Chuckling softly, Renji noted the angle. Soon, Shuuhei was a babbling mess beneath him, varying from muttering curses to yelling out Renji's name. Each sound he made went straight to Renji's groin and the redhead could feel himself approaching the edge.

"R-renji, I'm...going to..." Shuuhei stammered, right on cue. "G-going to..." His words trailed off into a long, breathy moan as he came, the wave of pleasure causing him to throw his head back and curl his toes.

Following closely behind, Renji buried himself to the hilt with a final thrust and let go, releasing all the built-up tension from the entire night. He let out a small sob and buried his face in Shuuhei's neck. And there they remained, unmoving, until their heartbeats finally slowed down.

"Wow," Shuuhei said, laughing softly as he raked his fingers through soft crimson hair. "I think our communication improved already."

In the 6th division courtyard, Akari looked up in the sky as she felt the spiritual pressure both vice captains. They're happy, she thought, feeling a little wistful, yet at the same time happy for them.

"Akari!" A voice called out to her from the hallway. "Dinner? Kazu-san and the others are already waiting there."

Akari turned around to see Rikichi waving at her. "Sure," she said with a smile. "Dinner sounds good." Watching Rikichi's face light up, her heart warmed. No, she was not alone.


I want to thank you all again for following the story, and I hope you guys like the ending! I had a really fun time writing this, especially with the comments and encouragement from you all!

In case you're wondering...yep, I do have a story planned with that kimono in mind! ;)

Sayonara for now~