Fire Across the Sky
(I was looking at this one and began to regret never having finished it, so I'm picking it up, dusting it off and will be posting new updates now. :) Enjoy!)
Chapter 1: When Fire Met Rain
Byakuya sat quietly at his desk in the sixth division headquarters, his eyes focused on the papers in front of him as he worked his way through the thick pile of reports that awaited his approval. He heard approaching footsteps and looked up expectantly as his red haired fukutaichou entered the room, his hair and uniform in perfect order and the clean masculine scent around him indicating he had bathed just before leaving his apartment.
"Renji," said Byakuya, looking mildly surprised, "You are actually on time this morning. That is a good thing. There is someone I would like you to meet."
Renji glanced around the room, but not seeing anyone, he looked back at the noble questioningly.
"He will be back in a moment. I sent him to make tea for the three of us."
"You're having him make your tea?" Renji asked, looking surprised.
Seeing Renji's odd expression, he hastened to explain.
"He is familiar with the process. He is actually a member of my household, a cousin of mine. When the third seat officer's position opened up, I recommended him to Soutaichou, and he approved the assignment. He is near your age and appreciably powerful. He, in fact, has a bankai, however, he has not served in the military before. But the elders have given permission for him to serve with me."
"Ah," Renji acknowledged, sitting down in his chair to wait for the new third seat's arrival.
He heard a delicate footstep and looked up, standing involuntarily as the young man entered the room. He was a shade smaller and slighter than Byakuya with more wavy, less controlled silken black hair and wide sapphire eyes that looked far too friendly to belong to any Kuchiki clan member. He had the same perfect, pale skin and delicate build as the clan leader, but where Byakuya's face had a more angular look, this young man's was more heart shaped. His step was lighter than Byakuya's, but his reiatsu pulsed softly around him, telling Renji just what a formidable fighter the man must be.
All that and as pretty as taichou is...
"Renji, this is our new third seat, Kuchiki Tetsuya. Tetsuya, this is my fukutaichou, Abarai Renji."
Renji extended a hand and Tetsuya smiled and accepted it.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Abarai fukutaichou," he said, bowing briefly, "Byakuya-sama..."
Byakuya cleared his throat meaningfully and Tetsuya blushed cutely.
"Erm...I mean, Kuchiki taichou has told me a lot about you."
"Eh, I hope it didn't scare you too badly, Kuchiki-san," Renji joked.
He felt a soft twinge at the noble's cute expression, and how he blinked and then smiled in amusement as the joke registered.
"Not at all," he chuckled, "As a matter of fact, he was quite complimentary. And hearing the way he speaks of you, I was anxious to meet you."
"It's nice meeting you too. About the only family member I see is Rukia, and she is adopted into the family."
"Tetsuya's father and mine were first cousins," Byakuya explained, "They grew up at Kuchiki Manor together. Tetsuya and I met as teens. We have trained together for many years, so you will find him an excellent sparring partner when I am otherwise occupied."
"Sure," said Renji, "That would be great. "I can always use more practice, and it's good to have different opponents so that I don't lose my spontaneity on the battlefield."
"I agree," said Tetsuya.
Gods, he's cute...cute, hot, looks pretty innocent...and he's Kuchiki taichou's favored cousin, making him, not only even more desirable, but completely off limits to me. Damn!
"Why don't you show Tetsuya to his quarters and make him comfortable?" asked the noble, "I have a taichou's meeting, but I will be coming back to stay here for the night, and will leave with the two of you for Karakura Town in the morning."
"Sure thing, Taichou," Renji said amiably, "No problem."
If only 'showing him to his quarters' meant what I wished it meant.
The two left the office and walked down the hall to the third room. Renji opened the door and the two walked into the room together.
"It's not so big," commented Renji, "But upper officers don't have to share space. You have a private bathroom, and the closet's pretty big, though not even close to what you probably have at Kuchiki Manor."
"It will be fine, Abarai fukutaichou," the noble answered quietly.
"Huh," said Renji, noting the presence of several shihakushous and a few pieces of new furniture, "I guess Taichou already had them move in some things for you."
He started to say more, but froze expectantly as the squad alert signal sounded.
Code yellow alert...code yellow alert...Squad Six survey group B is under attack in Karakura Town. Reinforcement group please respond. Squad Four is en route.
"That's us," said Renji, turning back towards the front office, "You want to wait here or come with me?"
"I will accompany you," said Tetsuya, following him down the hallway.
"Looks like Taichou left for the meeting already, so I'm lead and you're my wingman, okay?" said Renji, leading him out the front doors and into the meeting area, "Mostly, you'll just watch, but if anything threatens the group or I go down, you make sure everyone lives, got it?"
"Yes, Abarai fukutaichou," the noble answered.
He looked around as they waited for the last of the group to arrive, and gave a soft, odd sounding whistle. Renji was about to ask what he was doing, when he was distracted by the sound of hoofbeats approaching.
"Do you ride, Abarai fukutaichou?" Tetsuya asked, as the hoofbeats grew louder and a tall, muscular black stallion, with a wavy mane and tail, reminiscent of Tetsuya's hair, and large, sapphire eyes, burst into view.
"Do I...?" he began.
The stallion stopped for a moment, and Tetsuya bounded nimbly onto his back, then extended a hand towards Renji. The redhead flash stepped and scrambled up behind the younger man, then turned back to the gathered group.
"We're going ahead. Fourth Seat Tsutomu, you lead this group!"
"Hai, Abarai fukutaichou, sir!"
Tetsuya's heels touched the stallion's sides, and the beast launched himself forward into a fast gallop, making Renji grab onto the noble and hold on for dear life as the scenery raced by.
"I would suggest holding on with your legs," Tetsuya advised him, "but you are welcome to hold on to me as well."
Renji tightened his legs around the stallion, and leaned forward against the noble's slender back, enjoying the swift breeze that carried the scent of sakura across his senses, and the pleasant closeness with the other young man. The long ends of Tetsuya's hair teased his face and throat as they rode forward.
"You have access to a family senkaimon?" Renji asked.
"Yes," answered Tetsuya, "Where would you like to go?"
"The group was investigating a garganta that had opened near Urahara Kisuke's shop."
"I know where that is," said Tetsuya, drawing his blade and pointing it straight ahead.
A senkaimon opened ahead of them, and the stallion thundered into it without slowing. Renji spoke soft course adjustments to Tetsuya, who somehow relayed them to his mount without even speaking. An exit opened ahead of them, and the horse leapt down, passed through it, and emerged into the middle of a group of fighting hollows and shinigamis. The stallion reared, and Renji slid off over his rump, nodding his thanks to Tetsuya.
"Hang back, okay?" he ordered the noble, "If we get into trouble, get us out."
Tetsuya positioned himself on a small rise and watched as Renji flash stepped forward and sent Zabimaru cutting through the attacking hollows. Hollows screeched and died, several at a time as Renji attacked repeatedly, giving the other shinigamis precious moments to recover themselves. The group seemed well on its way to gaining the upper hand, when Tetsuya's sharp senses picked up an odd shift in the reiatsu around them. He watched Renji carefully as the fight continued, and realized after a moment that neither the redhead, nor the fighting group sensed the incoming threat.
He moved instantly, setting a number of waterforms near the battlefield and positioning himself to intercept the incoming hollows. A group of three Arrancars appeared, and closed in on the lone rider, laughing as he raised his blade in challenge.
"Tetsuya-san!" yelled Renji, catching sight of the noble facing down the three new enemies, and flash stepping towards him, "Don't try to take them on all at once!"
"Bankai!" cried Tetsuya, urging his mount into a run and angling his sword, "Koori no bakuha, Re-kuhime!"
Renji stared, dumbfounded as a hail of ice blades erupted from the tip of Tetsuya's blade and slashed at the powerful hollows, striking the three and forcing them back as they sought to raise their own power. The horse beneath the noble trumpeted, then stunned the redhead again by releasing a blast of ice blades, identical to his shinigami master's. Two of the Arrancars used sonido to escape in opposite directions as the stallion bore down on the third, which was still reeling from the double attack. The horse crashed headlong into the Arrancar, sending it sprawling, to be finished by Tetsuya's scathing blade as they rocketed past where the hollow had landed.
"Watch out!" Renji yelled, "Ceros!"
The two Arrancars that had separated, launched a dual attack on the horse and rider that had just destroyed their comrade. The ceros flashed and Renji's heart froze, seeing he wasn't close enough to intervene.
"Bankai!" he howled, "Hihio, Zabimaru!"
He sent the skeletal snake flying forward as Tetsuya and his stallion were swallowed up by the ceros.
"Damn it!" the redhead hissed, directing the snake so that it swept down on the two Arrancars and loosed a huge fire blast of its own.
"Take that, you bastards!" he shouted, a dark feeling overtaking him as he flash stepped forward, looking for where Tetsuya and his horse had come down.
"I think that is all of them, Abarai fukutaichou," said Tetsuya's voice, startling the redhead, "And our reinforcements just arrived."
"Arigatou for the assist," the noble went on, "though I was positioned to attack, you finished them more quickly."
"But...? Renji said again, "You were over there...and now you're...how?"
"Abarai fukutaichou, is something wrong?" Tetsuya asked, exchanging glances with his stallion.
"What...?" muttered Renji, "Okay, you wanna tell me what the hell is going on here? How did you escape that blast? I thought you got fried!"
"Oh," said the noble, drawing his sword again, "I have an elemental zanpakutou that is water based. I set waterforms."
He used his blade to raise a barely perceptible copy of himself astride the horse. Renji gasped as he slashed his sword downward, striking himself and his mount, then he marveled as they disappeared and reappeared where the waterform had been placed, and water splashed to the ground where they had been.
"You could not see the water because it was evaporated by the heat of the ceros. My apologies for worrying you."
"Oh...hey, no problem," Renji said, rolling his eyes, "You just scared the piss outta me. I thought I got Taichou's cousin fried on his first mission. He would have had my ass!"
"Not to worry, Abarai fukutaichou," said Tetsuya, giving him a congenial smile, "It ended well."
"Abarai fukutaichou, who is that?" asked one of the squad members.
"I thought it was Kuchiki taichou until he attacked those Arrancars!"
"He's a third seat and he has a bankai?
"Did you see those ice blades?"
"What is your horse's name?"
Renji noticed the light blush that came to Tetusya face and throat, and could see the hint of anxiety in his features.
"All right, guys. Back off the poor fella and let him breathe. This is Kuchiki Tetsuya, our new third seat. And that's his horse,...?"
"Arashi," Tetsuya supplied, "Pleased to meet you."
Arashi bowed his head, then tossed it and whinnied.
"We'll have plenty of time for talking when we get back. Is the reconnaissance done for the area?"
"Hai, Abarai fukutaichou," said the fifth seat, "We had it all ready to go when we were attacked."
"All right, then," said Renji, "Team secure, mission accomplished. Let's go home."
Renji moved to the head of the group, walking with Tetsuya on Arashi at his side. They made their way to the central senkaimon and passed over together into the Seireitei.
"So, lots of excitement on your first day, ne?" queried Renji.
"Yes, so there was."
"Well," said Renji, "The next bit's not so exciting as fighting hollows. Every mission, every battle, pretty much every time we freaking breathe, there's a report that has to be filed. So, you and I are going to do a write-up on this skirmish. Hope you were paying attention, because the report has to include descriptions of enemies fought and techniques used in battle."
"Ah," said the noble, nodding, "Well, we have a similar procedure we use in house security at the manor, and Byakuya-sama...erm...Kuchiki taichou had me fashion it using the Gotei 13 model."
"Oh, that's useful," said the redhead, "But tell me something. If you were important enough to be doing something like that, then what are you doing taking a military position now? Why didn't you take one before?"
"I have been head of house security and Kuchiki taichou's personal bodyguard for some time. And the council of elders imagined that it made sense for me to be posted where he spends the bulk of his time. We were only waiting for a position to open that was high enough rank to put me close to him."
"Is that why he's been pressuring me to promote?" Renji asked, frowning.
"Has he?" asked Tetsuya, "If so, it is because he feels that you are ready. But his reasons were unrelated to my placement in the squad, I assure you."
"But you already have a bankai..."
"Why should that matter?" asked the noble, "In terms of powers, you and I are probably evenly matched, so a squad in that situation is actually quite fortunate, from a strategic viewpoint. And I have no aspirations to advance to your position, unless you should promote and the position becomes open."
"So...you really aren't so interested in serving the Gotei 13..."
"I am here to protect Kuchiki taichou," the noble said simply, "I will, of course, adhere to chain of command and the laws of the organization, but I have a dual purpose in being here, yes."
"Do your elders think that Taichou is in some kind of danger?" asked the redhead, "Is that why they encouraged this?"
Tetsuya gave him a guarded look.
"A clan leader has many enemies, and must be, at all times vigilant," he said solemnly, "My presence near Kuchiki taichou is meant to be an expression of that vigilance."
Renji nodded briefly and went quiet.
I wonder what's really going on here.
Is Taichou in some kind of danger?
He continued to mull it over in his mind as they re-entered the Seireitei and took the road back to the sixth division. Upon reaching the headquarters, the two found Byakuya working quietly at his desk. He looked up as the two walked in and nodded in greeting.
"Renji, Tetsuya, I understand that your first battle together went well?"
"Yes sir," reported Renji, "We were able to safely extract the team and the information they had gathered, although Tetsuya-san's power kinda took me by surprise, and I wasn't aware that he had a bankai until I saw him use it."
"You used your bankai?" Byakuya asked Tetsuya.
"Yes, sir," the younger noble said solemnly.
"He spotted three incoming Arrancars that the rest of us didn't sense, killed one and was poised to take out the other two when I finished them."
"I see," Byakuya said, gazing up at Tetsuya, "Tetsuya, it sounds as though you did well for your first experience in military combat. However, in the future, I would like you to reserve use of your bankai for extreme situations."
"But sir," Renji began, "Tetsuya was just..."
"I understand. But it is important, not just for the members of the squad to see Tetsuya's abilities, but that they see the two of you working in tandem and Tetsuya responding to you in a way befitting of your respective ranks. I am not suggesting that my cousin endanger himself, but neither should he be too swift to resort to use of his bankai when a lesser power would suffice. Tetsuya, I know that at Kuchiki Manor, you were accustomed to fighting all out at full power. In this organization, we reserve full power for times when other powers fail."
"I understand," Tetsuya said softly.
"Very well," said the noble, "Now, Tetsuya, if you will go and make the three of us some tea, I need to speak to Renji privately."
"Yes, sir," Tetsuya replied, turning down the hallway.
Renji bit at his lip gently, thinking about what Byakuya said as the noble motioned for him to sit in the chair next to the noble's desk.
"So," he said, when Renji was seated, "What was your honest impression of my cousin?"
"Ah, Tetsuya did great. He followed orders to the letter, used his senses well, responded quickly to changes on the battlefield, and I think his use of bankai was reasonable, considering. There were three freaking Arrancars..."
"I know that," Byakuya acknowledged, "But I want him to learn to respond to you as a subordinate should respond to his senior officer. He is unaccustomed to that, having only worked as security staff at the manor. As I said, he should not endanger himself, but should hold back until bankai is really necessary."
"Good. Now, something has come up and I cannot accompany you to the living world tomorrow. I would like you and Tetsuya to go together, so that you can adjust to working together."
"Sure thing, Taichou," Renji answered, carefully hiding his disappointment that the noble would not be coming along on the mission as planned.
But Tetsuya is pretty darned attractive also.
Cute, kind of innocent...
"I have every confidence that Tetsuya will conduct himself well," Byakuya went on, "But...I want you to watch over him carefully, Renji."
Taichou is worried about his bodyguard getting hurt?
And earlier, it seemed to me like Tetsuya might be here because of concern about Taichou's safety.
I wonder what is going on...