Thank you so much for reading and reviewing! I'm glad to hear that you guys felt the emotions in this story, it's truly the best compliment I could hope for! XD
Here goes…the epilogue!
"Time to wake up, sleeping beauty. Wake up!" Renji's voice said in a low, sultry tone.
Ichigo groaned under his breath and reached for his phone. After a few blind attempts, he managed to hit the right button, and his custom-made alarm sound was silenced. Renji had programmed it into his phone one day as a prank, and Ichigo had liked it so much that he just left it as it was.
"Ren, get up," Ichigo mumbled, voice scratchy from sleep. He turned around and slapped the spot next to him but met nothing but wrinkled bedsheets. It was still slightly warm, suggesting that Renji had just left the bed not long ago.
Rubbing his eyes, Ichigo sat up reluctantly. Surely they could afford to sleep in for a few more minutes? But then again, Renji had been jittery since last night, so Ichigo wasn't surprised that the redhead woke up before the alarm. In fact, he wondered if Renji had gotten any sleep at all.
Ichigo swung his legs over the side of the bed and stuffed his feet into his favorite pair of furry slippers. After a dramatic yawn, he finally stood up and trudged to the adjoining bathroom, where Renji was brushing his teeth, judging from the soft gargling sounds coming from there.
"Mmmph! G'mg m'ng," Renji said through a mouthful of Listerine as Ichigo slipped his arms around his waist from behind.
Ichigo laughed and dipped a finger in the toothpaste froth that was left behind around Renji's mouth. Eyes dancing with mischief, he smeared it on the redhead's nose, earning himself an elbow in the ribs.
Renji spit out the mouthwash into the sink and turned around, closing his palms over Ichigo's hands. He leaned in to give the younger man a peck on the lips and immediately wrinkled his nose.
"You have terrible morning breath, babe," he teased.
Ichigo blushed and pulled away, but Renji's grip tightened around his wrists. Renji laughed, then leaned in again to claim Ichigo's lips. Ichigo struggled a bit, feeling embarrassed, but Renji managed to pry his lips apart anyway. The strong spicy taste from the mouthwash instantly assaulted his mouth as Renji slid his tongue aggressively between his lips.
"There," Renji said when he finally released Ichigo's lower lip. "You're all fresh now."
"Gross!" Ichigo gave the redhead's calf a swift kick, but couldn't deny that his mouth did indeed taste a little better. He wriggled out of Renji's grasp and bent over the sink to rinse his mouth, then reached for his toothbrush.
"Aww, c'mon." Renji nuzzled Ichigo's hair. With a quick tug, he slipped his hands into Ichigo's boxers and slid them down to the younger man's thighs. He massaged the smooth skin slowly, savoring the warmth and firmness of Ichigo's legs. "I was just teasing you."
Ichigo shot his boyfriend a dirty look, but his features softened when Renji pulled him closer, pressing his back against Renji's bare chest. Ichigo's eyes fluttered closed when he felt warm fingers brush dangerously close to his happy place. Sensing the reaction, Renji blew lightly on Ichigo's ear and grinned when Ichigo shuddered.
"I think we can spare a few minutes," Renji murmured. He took Ichigo's earlobe between his teeth and sucked gently on it. "What do you say?"
Ichigo smiled. "Mm hmm," he hummed happily. He could feel Renji getting aroused behind him and felt a surge of pride and satisfaction that he was the cause, even though it was pretty much a daily occurrence for six years now.
Renji bit down on Ichigo's ear, then turned him around slowly, his hand never leaving Ichigo's hips. One look into Renji's darkened eyes was enough to make Ichigo hard, and he hooked his arms behind the redhead's neck and pulled him closer. Ichigo peppered light kisses all over Renji's face before sighing into the redhead's ear. With his eyes closed, Ichigo slowly dragged his palm over Renji's chest, lingering a little longer over the scar from the gunshot wound below the right collar bone, while his other hand snaked up to rake through Renji's long hair.
A low whine slipped from Ichigo's lips when a hot palm cupped him inside his boxers. Renji smiled against Ichigo's hair and started stroking, keeping the pace slow and steady even as Ichigo's breath began to quicken.
"Mmm," Ichigo complained, thrusting into his boyfriend's hand, silently pleading for something more.
Renji's eyes fluttered closed as the sound went straight into the pool of heat between his legs. He held his hand still for a brief moment to collect himself, then he suddenly yanked Ichigo's arm over his shoulder and scooped him up in a fireman's carry. Ichigo yelped in surprise and started to laugh as he was carried into the bedroom and then dumped on the bed. He only had a few seconds to recover his breath before Renji was all over him, licking and nipping his neck and chest as he held the younger man down.
Ichigo groaned, knowing from Renji's frenzied pace that this was going to be rough — just the thing that he was craving now. He shifted his legs to trap Renji between them, then he rocked his hips upwards and felt himself harden even further as he brushed against Renji's taut abdomen.
The redhead growled deep in his throat and sat up just long enough to slip his underwear off, then he was back, claiming Ichigo's mouth and neck greedily. Ichigo squirmed beneath him, trying to free himself from his boxers but failing miserably as he felt himself melt under the relentless assault. He bucked his hips, hoping that Renji would get the hint. After five excruciating seconds, the redhead finally reached down, and a few hard tugs later, Ichigo was free.
They slid against each other, bare skin against bare skin, their moans becoming needier as friction and heat built. Then, finally admitting that he couldn't hold himself back any longer, Renji slipped his hand under their pillows and retrieved a small bottle.
Ichigo sighed softly as he felt Renji reach between his legs. He didn't really need this; they had just had a vigorous round before bed last night, but Renji always insisted on it no matter how urgent he felt. Ichigo suspected that it was a lingering fear from what Renji had witnessed back then, so he'd never stopped him. And it didn't hurt that Renji had a magical touch that was capable of bringing Ichigo to the brink with his fingers alone.
"Look at me," Renji murmured softly.
Ichigo complied, knowing that Renji loved to watch his expression when he entered him. He felt the blunt heat, the familiar ache, then his mouth fell open as Renji slid in, filling him with one strong thrust. He moaned, long and loud, and rocked back to take the redhead in even deeper.
"Shit," Ichigo hissed through gritted teeth, anxious to get things started. "I'm r-ready."
Renji nodded. He placed a quick peck on Ichigo's lips and pulled back, then he snapped his hips forward and buried himself to the hilt with almost brutal force. Ichigo cried out and arched his back, savoring the rare moment. They only indulged in rough sex occasionally, and usually only when Ichigo initiated it — another lingering side effect from that incident from almost ten years ago. It had taken hours and hours of persuasion before Renji was finally convinced that Ichigo was genuinely okay with it, that he actually liked it now and then.
Just knowing that Renji was in the mood for this now made Ichigo painfully hard, and he had to force himself to calm down so that this would last longer than five seconds. Another savage thrust lifted his hips off the bed, and he screamed, immediately abandoning his feeble attempts of self control.
Renji gripped the back of Ichigo's knees and threw his legs over his shoulders, lifting Ichigo's body higher. Ichigo cried out again as Renji slammed into him, the new angle giving Renji even better access to his pleasure point. He was getting so deliciously close, and Renji's low, guttural groans only served to nudge him even closer.
A few thrusts later, Renji let go of Ichigo's legs and pulled him up onto his lap. Then he grabbed a fistful of Ichigo's hair and crushed their lips together, his hips never stopped moving. Ichigo panted into Renji's mouth and followed the rhythm, letting his body rise and fall at the same frantic pace.
Then, with one last thrust, Renji bit down on Ichigo's neck and stiffened, spilling himself deep within his boyfriend's velvety heat. The steady pulsing inside of him pushed Ichigo over the edge and he immediately followed suit, moaning Renji's name as he shuddered.
Spent, they clung to each other until their breathing returned to normal. Ichigo glanced at his wall clock out of the corner of his eye and whispered, "Tick tock."
Renji whipped his head up and practically jumped off the bed in his panic. Ichigo toppled backwards, laughing as he watched Renji run into the bathroom, cussing up a storm as he went.
Ichigo stretched and got out of bed himself, chucking softly when a string of expletives rang out as soon as the shower was turned on. Renji had no doubt forgotten to check the water temperature before stepping under the spray…again.
Ichigo understood the redhead's urgency, though. It was a big day today, after all. It wouldn't do if Renji showed up late.
Renji tugged on his tie nervously as he examined his reflection in the window for the umpteenth time that morning. After that, he peered intently at the window to make sure that it was clean. That led to another round of obsessive inspection of the rest of the shop. Renji wanted everything to be perfect. It had to be; so many years of hard work had finally led to this — his very own restaurant in Karakura's premium shopping district.
The journey hadn't been easy. He had Ichigo by his side all the way, but things weren't always rosy between the two of them. Painful memories resurfaced every now and then, often resulting in fights — even a brief separation three years ago — but they persevered and eventually emerged stronger than ever.
Explaining the situation to their friends had been a little awkward at first. Needless to say, people were stunned; Isshin, especially, felt hurt that Ichigo had kept the incident from him. But after they got over the initial shock, Renji was surprised by how supportive his friends were. Ukitake had welcomed him back with open arms, and Renji eventually did manage to finish fixing up the entire house. Since then, of course, Renji had moved out to his own place that he now shared with Ichigo.
Then, four years ago, Tessai decided to return to his wrestling roots. To Renji's shock, the man asked him to take over his business. Renji would be the new owner effective immediately, and he would pay Tessai back each month until he covered the cost of buying the shop — which, he thought, was a ridiculously small amount of money. But Tessai had insisted that that was all he would accept. Spurred on by Tessai's support and the joy of actually owning something, Renji had thrown himself into the shop. The first thing he did had been to spruce up its look — fresh paint, wood work, new banner, upgraded furniture, advertisements — and customers started pouring in.
In fact, things had picked up so well that Renji decided to expand the business. He placed Hanatarou in charge of the original Tesshou Ramen Shop, then he set to work on his plan to open an izakaya, determined to serve the best sake and food in Karakura in a modern, East-meets-West type of setting.
And that led to today: the grand opening of Tesshou Izakaya. Employees of the two restaurants — both current and former — gathered in front of the shop along with a throng of onlookers, all waiting eagerly for the opening ceremony. When the auspicious time arrived, Renji would cut the ribbon together with Tessai.
"No! Don't lick that!" Orihime's uncharacteristically stern voice caught Renji's attention, and the redhead turned to see his friend pry her daughter off the floor. The toddler wiggled in Orihime's arms and protested loudly.
Renji smiled as he watched Hanatarou reach expertly into his diaper bag and whip out a bottle for his wife. Orihime thanked him with a quick peck on the cheek and walked away to feed their child.
"Oi oi, it's almost time!" Tessai piped up, pointing to his watch.
"We wait," Renji said firmly. Time was ticking by, but Renji refused to begin the ceremony without Ichigo by his side.
"What's taking him so long?" Jinta grumbled, annoyed that he had to wait so long before he could get his free meal from the new restaurant.
Renji wiped his brow. Jinta was right; what was taking Ichigo so long? He should've been here half an hour ago! Had he gotten lost on his way here? With a worried frown, he stuck his hand into his pocket and fished for his cell phone. Then, just as he was unlocking the screen, Hanatarou yelled excitedly, "There he is!"
Renji's eyes lit up as Ichigo's car screeched to a stop by the road side. All four car doors were thrown open at the same time, and four people got out — Ichigo from the driver's side, followed by an older man with long, wavy brown hair from the passenger's seat in front. A tall, curvy woman with dark skin and pale blond hair climbed out next, immediately attracting the attention of all the straight males in the audience with her exotic beauty. A short, skinny little girl with light green hair skipped up behind her.
Then, finally, the last person stepped out from the car. Renji let out a surprised gasp and ran up to catch the raven-haired woman who leapt into his outstretched arms.
"I'm so proud of you!" Rukia gushed, giving her stepbrother a quick squeeze before stepping away. "Kaien sends his regards."
Renji grinned as he pictured his new brother-in-law. Kaien would've accompanied that greeting with a solid punch to Renji's arm if he were here in person. Rukia had long since divorced her useless, ass-licking first husband and found herself a much better partner. Kaien was the epitome of the phrase "I don't give a fuck" when it came to Byakuya and his so-called authority over Rukia's life.
"And that's the reason we were late," Ichigo grumbled playfully as he pointed at Rukia. "Her flight was delayed."
Renji ruffled Ichigo's hair fondly, and then turned to greet Starrk and his family. Over the years, since Renji's criminal record and deportation history banned him from entering American soil, he and Ichigo had been trying to get Starrk to visit them in Japan. Now that his daughter was older, he finally took up their invitation. The older man — now one of the most experienced and famous negotiator on the police force in a big city in America — introduced his wife and daughter to his old friends, who were meeting them for the first time. Starrk had met Tia, a police sniper, a few months after Renji was released from prison. Their daughter, Lily, was born less than a year after that.
Their heartfelt reunion was cut short when Tessai announced loudly that the auspicious time had arrived. Renji and Ichigo made their way to the front of the restaurant, and five minutes later, Tesshou Izakaya was officially open for business.
As people wrestled their way into the restaurant, Renji turned to Ichigo and slipped his arm around the younger man's waist.
"Thank you," Renji whispered and brought their foreheads together.
Ichigo grinned. "Well, you owe me one massage a day from now on."
"Mmm." Renji licked his lips with a smirk. "Sounds like a good deal."
"Oh, and," Ichigo continued, his grin widening. "You get to clean the bathroom for the next six months."
Renji groaned and rolled his eyes. "Way to ruin the moment, idiot."
Ichigo laughed, then he leaned in and whispered in Renji's ear, "If you do it without clothes on, maybe I'll...oh, I dunno...help now and then."
An eyebrow shot up towards Renji's hairline. Now, more than ever, Renji was thankful that he hadn't gotten on that train.
I think I should've named this chapter "Light", haha! I'm sorry if I layered on the fluff a little too thick, I just really really wanted to give them the happy ending that they deserve.
I'm sad that this story has reached an end, but I really had a blast writing it. Thank you all for the support throughout the journey! Now that this is done, I'll be able to focus my energy on The Roommate, so look out for updates on that one in the next few days! =)