He had never felt like this.
Not even when he was having the crap beaten out of him by the Captain for trying to save Rukia. No, it was different then. Then, he knew that his chances were slim, he knew that it was unlikely that he would come out of the battle alive, but he also knew that the Captain, if anything, was fair. Perhaps not merciful, after all there was nothing merciful about Senka, about his kido, about Senbonzakura, but Captain Kuchiki was fair. If he had deserved death back then, he would have received it, and he would have gladly received it knowing that he had done something, had tried his best.
This was different.
Standing and watching his Captain be batted aside like a child with a shinai was different.
No doubt the relationship he had with Captain Kuchiki was vastly different from the one he had with Rukia - the latter had been with him for the longest of times, while the former still treated him occasionally like a retarded monkey.
But this, this was just plain unfair.
Sure, there was little between them but a healthy dose of mutual respect, both for their strengths and for the roles they played in Rukia's life, and Renji would definitely hesitate to call the Captain a friend of his, but this was still going too far.
He wasn't stupid. He knew what it meant when Captain Kuchiki said that his bankai had been stolen. He also knew what it meant when the Captain refused to stand down, refused to let him join in the fight, and insisted that he stand there, and watch, to learn to exploit the enemy's weak point.
There was a reason why Captain Kuchiki was adept at kido. That reason had little to do with the monstrous amount of reiatsu he had and a lot more to do with how good he was at controlling and suppressing his own reiatsu, which directly correlated with the gap in power between his shikai and bankai.
So yes, having experienced both Senbonzakura's shikai and bankai with his own body, Renji knew very well what the Captain's actions meant, and knew very well that Captain Kuchiki had realized it too.
Still Captain Kuchiki denied him the right to join in, to help. Although he had just shot Renji that 'you retarded monkey' look, there was no disguising the tremble in those limbs nor was there anything hiding the tiniest fraction of concern in those eyes.
Renji was uneasy, jittery, and on edge but still stood his ground and watched. If the more rational of the two of them advised him to observe, then he would damn well observe this battle to the best of his ability.
It was about all he could do to prevent himself from rushing in and helping.
He felt something crack within him when Captain Kuchiki came to a grinding halt right in front of the Quincy, possibly due to that ridiculous "fear" ability, but felt that same something break when the familiar dangerous tang of Senbonzakura Kageyoshi filled the air and turned on his master in a whirling sea of pink.
Having trained with the man, Renji knew how much effort went into the polishing of those abilities. Utilizing Senbonzakura only looked effortless because he had spent decades getting cut by his own blades before being able to make everything look so easy.
Rationality left Renji then, when the petals scattered and he saw Kuchiki Byakuya on both knees, body careening dangerously towards the ground only to be stopped by trembling, bleeding hands.
This was rage, despair, frustration, fury all rolled into one desperate emotion.
They didn't know how difficult it was to wield such power.
How dare they trample on him with his own power?
They didn't know how painful it was to be apart from one's own soul.
How dare they trample on him with his own Senbonzakura?
They didn't know how much it took to knowingly fight a battle one couldn't win.
How dare they?
How dare they trample on him like that?
How dare they?
He could not look, could not bear to look at Captain Kuchiki struggling to get off the floor.
This was just wrong.
Kuchiki Byakuya being torn to pieces by his own zanpakuto.
Kuchiki Byakuya on the floor.
Kuchiki Byakuya losing.
All of it, just wrong.
Even as he leapt, even as he swung Zabimaru down in a furious arc, somehow, deep within his heart, Renji knew that it was going to be futile. He had not been able to scratch the monster before, now that the Quincy had Senbonzakura, how could he even hope to begin to hurt his opponent?
But he would try anyway. He would do something, try something, try anything, if only it would work.
The blades of Senbonzakura's shikai rushed alongside Zabimaru's fangs towards the Quincy, and for that one moment, Renji's eyes widened as they caught sight of Captain Kuchiki standing. Bleeding from every possible inch of skin, haori tattered, all stations of nobility torn from him, but standing.
If possible, the respect Renji had held for Kuchiki Byakuya went up a notch. He knew that it had taken extraordinary effort for the Captain to push himself to his feet after taking a direct hit from his own bankai, and for him to have used Senbonzakura with such delicacy afterwards was just beyond comprehension.
The idle thought that he might have just underestimated the sheer stubbornness and willpower of Kuchiki Byakuya floated through his head.
In that one moment, Renji's heart relaxed, before the bottom of his stomach dropped straight out when Senbonzakura Kageyoshi's blades tore into their former owner once more.
No matter how strong he was, no matter how much willpower he had, a second strike was too much.
This was going to be too much.
The Captain's head tipped backwards in the onslaught, eyes wide in a pained unseeing stare, mouth open in bleeding shock as he staggered a few steps backwards in a futile attempt to stay upright. As Senbonzakura was withdrawn, his lean frame toppled forwards, haori almost entirely torn to shreds, knees betraying him.
This was not happening.
This was wrong.
And once more the cruel pink wave surge forward, keeping him from falling, washing past him, wresting his limbs to and fro like those of a ragdoll, crashing into the walls behind them with such force that they went straight through.
Kuchiki Byakuya losing was wrong.
Kuchiki Byakuya dying was wrong.
As Senbonzakura Kageyoshi returned for the fourth time, Renji watched in abject horror as Captain Kuchiki's left arm was thrown around lifelessly outside the rushing, roiling wash of petals.
He felt sick.
Sick. So sick.
Sick of standing by and watching, sick of not being able to do anything, sick of being left behind.
While rationality had long since left him, all that was within his mind now was rage, a pointed, focused, white-hot rage.
He didn't hear himself yell.
He also didn't hear the other Quincy approach from behind.
As his body came to a crashing halt somewhere in the middle of Soul Society, Renji idly, dully mused that the Captain was going to have his hide for not being alert enough to notice that second Quincy.
The treacherous voice in his head whispered, "That's if he's still alive."
He would give that more thought, and Zabimaru was saying something, but he was a little too tired, a little too drained, a little too broken to properly pay attention.
The darkness claimed him as he drifted off into blissful, merciful unawareness, unaware that Kuchiki Byakuya's reiatsu had just flickered,
Inspired by 501/502.