Chapter 3: Break the Ice

"You've got it, Taichou...Byakuya. We'll take our time this time."

"Very well," said the noble, "And when we make love this time, I would like to take you...if you don't mind."

"What?" Renji asked, his eyes widening, "you're kidding me, right?"

"No," Byakuya said solemnly, "I gave myself to you today, and I was hoping that tonight, you would do the same for me. Do you have a problem with that, Renji?"

"Ah," Renji said anxiously, "Well, actually Byakuya...the truth is..."

"We are lovers, are we not?" Byakuya asked quietly.

"Well, yeah, of course. I think we already took that step. But..."

"And when we come to this place together, we forget our other boundaries, ne?" the noble went on, "I may be your taichou, but in this place, I let that take a place of lesser importance. Here, we are equals. We give and take both. Is that not how it should be?"

"Uh," Renji stammered, "L-look, Taichou-"

"Byakuya," said the noble, "Renji, you do consider us equal here, ne? Or is it that my inexperience as a lover makes you see me as lesser?"

"Oh, kami, no, Byakuya!" Renji said quickly, groping for an explanation, "But I've never actually...let anyone take me."

"I see," said Byakuya, "So, you have always relegated your lovers to the role of the 'woman' in your lovemaking? Does that mean that you look down on them? And more to the point, does that mean that, in this place, you look down on me?"

"No! I never said that! I just never let someone do that to me, that's all! It's special. I was saving that for...!"

He stopped himself, his eyes widening as he realized what he had implied.

"I didn't mean that!"

"Renji, I think you should leave," Byakuya said calmly.

"I said that I didn't mean it that way!"

"How else could you mean it?" asked the noble, "The implication of calling that act 'special' and reserving it for someone else who you haven't necessarily even met means that you do not expect a relationship with me to last. Therefore..."

"Stop it, okay! I didn't mean it like that," Renji objected, holding up his hands defensively, "I just meant that I want to have some choice about how I do something like that!"

Byakuya's eyes narrowed warningly, making Renji flinch.

"Like the amount of choice you offered me?" he asked with icy sarcasm, "I can see that I have made a rather large mistake. I thought that you were sincerely interested in me, as I was honestly interested in you. But, it seems that you wanted someone to warm your bed until the right person came along. I assure you, I am not that person. Get out, Renji. Just go!"

Byakuya turned away before the redhead could answer, and flash stepped out the door into the small garden outside his quarters. He stared up at the full moon, his heart throbbing painfully inside him.

He looks down on me. I am a clan leader and a taichou, but this man, this commoner sees me as less than him when we cross that threshold.

What was I thinking?

His eyes stung as he closed them against sudden, hot tears.

He just wanted me to lower myself.

But is that really a surprise? All along, he told me that he wanted to surpass me. He wanted to defeat me. Well, I imagine he has what he wanted. What I let him do to me...I have never let anyone do that. I gave in to him because I feel something very profound for him, but Renji doesn't feel the same.

A tear slid down one proud cheek.

He just wanted a way to feel like he was better than me.

I was so stupid.

"T-taichou?"

Byakuya turned his head aside to avoid the redhead's eyes.

"I told you to leave."

"I will," Renji said penitently, "I just wanted to say that I'm...sorry that I gave you the wrong idea. Really. Look, I never imagined that someone like you would even notice me. When you did, I just...I lost it. You're just so damned beautiful and you smell so good. Your skin is so soft, I couldn't help myself! I'm sorry that I acted that way and didn't give you the chance to really decide to give in to me. Maybe it's selfish after doing something like that to ask you to be patient with me about turning things around. But, I just need some time and the right situation to get to that point."

"Hmmm," sighed the noble, "Well, Abarai, you know where to find me when you are willing to look me in the eye as an equal partner. I think that as much as you have the right to decide that, I have the right to hold myself back from a situation in which I am seen as less than a man."

"Does that mean that I'm less than a man if I let you fuck me?" asked Renji.

"No," explained the noble, "Because I would receive you into my body without hesitation. The only reason that I am balking now is because you do not see me in the same light."

"Well," said Renji, following Byakuya's eyes up to the glowing moon, "maybe it's kind of because you already have the upper hand, here at work. You get to be the taichou twenty-four, seven. And I'm always your fukutaichou. You're also noble and a clan leader, two things I can never be. I am Rukon born and I am your subordinate. Is it too much to ask that somewhere, sometime, I get to be the one on top?"

Byakuya sighed and lowered his eyes.

"I suppose not, if that is an issue for you. So, you resent me for holding the titles that I do?"

"No! I didn't say I resent you," Renji said, an edge of exasperation in his voice, "I just said that it would make me feel more...I don't know...more worthy of you. Less like some nobody from the Rukongai who isn't good enough to be with you."

Byakuya's frown deepened.

"Is that really how you feel, Renji?" he asked softly, "If so, I think it is not that you fear I will look down on you. It is that you already look down on yourself. And that being the case, I think you need to be more self confident on your own before you seek reinforcement from me."

Renji let out a resigned breath.

"So...you are saying that you don't want to see me?" he asked unhappily.

"Renji, you are in a different place than me. Please do not misunderstand me. This is not about where you come from or what ranking you have. This is about one person who wants to meet another with no boundaries, and nothing holding them back. But when you set a barrier between us, you bring back all of those things that set us apart from each other. We are two men who are attracted to each other. Should we not both be able to express that as men of equal standing?"

Renji lowered his eyes and let out a breath of resignation.

"Fine. If it's going to keep you from being with me, then have it your way."

"You are missing the point, Renji," Byakuya said, barely audibly, "I am not asking you to give in to me. I am asking you to stand on equal ground with me...to be as ready to receive my love as I am to receive yours."

Renji kept his eyes lowered and his gaze averted. He bit his lip gently, thinking for several long minutes.

"Okay," he said finally, "I get it. And it's fine. Just...I am kind of nervous about it, so..."

He went silent as Byakuya turned and gathered him in a warm embrace. He attacked the redhead's surprised mouth forcefully, stealing Renji's breath away and making him stare at the beautiful man in front of him.

Oh gods, I really don't want to screw this up...ever! He's so...

A powerful, lusty shiver went through him as Byakuya turned them back inside and led him to the hot tub. The noble turned away and slipped out of his clothes, while Renji watched with riveted, firelit eyes. He hung his clothes on hooks beside the hot tub, then stepped down onto the first step. Renji stopped him, and Byakuya looked back at him curiously.

"Renji, what...?"

"Just trust me. Sit down on the edge, with your legs in the water...just your legs."

"Oh...very well," the noble said uncertainly.

He complied quietly, watching through smoky eyes as Renji peeled his clothes away, revealing the full complement of his tattoos. A shiver went through Byakuya at just how handsome and dangerous the younger man looked, naked and stalking towards him, stopping just short and stepping down into the water.

"You look kinda tired," he told Byakuya, "How about I rub you down a little to relax you?"

Byakuya gazed back at him silently for a moment, then nodded in assent.

"Close your eyes."

Byakuya took one more look at Renji's beautifully tattooed body, then let his eyes slide shut. He quivered involuntarily as something warm was dribbled onto his skin and he smelled almonds.

"Almond oil," Renji explained, his warm, rough hands massaging the oil into the noble's shoulders, chest, arms and back as he spoke, "It soothes...helps keep your skin soft and goes really well with the scent of sakura, ne?"

"Yes," Byakuya agreed, "It does."

Byakuya shivered as Renji's fingers brushed a sensitive place, then went on to explore and caress him all over. Most of the touches were relaxing and soothing, but with his eyes closed, the noble found himself responding more and more strongly to the light teasings of his erogenous zones. He loosed a soft, unbidden moan as Renji moved forward, still running his hands over Byakuya's lovely, pale body and sinking into his mouth for several long, deep kisses. He released the noble's lips and kissed his throat, just beneath an earlobe, then ran a line of kisses down the side of his neck, along his fine-carved collarbone, slowly over one pale breast, pausing to tease him until he was flushed and panting softly.

"Renji..." he moaned.

The redhead chuckled and continued placing kisses on his soft belly, making a haphazrd line of them down to his navel. He earned a more lusty groan from Byakuya as he plunged into the little round recess, then let his tongue slide slowly out again. Byakuya leaned back on his hands, catching his breath as the redhead began a more seductive and pleasing manipulation.

"Renji!" Byakuya moaned again, his fingers curling.

He couldn't help but steal glances as Renji's mouth pleasured him, sending small shivers and heady jolts of rising pleasure through him. One hand slipped into Renji's hair and loosed the hair tie holding it back, sending it falling in crimson waves down onto his tattooed shoulders, adding brightness to the already sharp contrasts of black tattoo and tanned skin.

He is so exotically beautiful...so different from anyone else, Byakuya mused inwardly, I am glad we came to an agreement. I think I would have eventually agreed to anything to be with him. I am just glad that he and I could come to even ground together. Yes...this is...so wonderful, being with him this way.

I love you, Renji.

I have for some time, I think, but I don't dare say the words. If you are not ready to give yourself to me, then it would likely be too much to hear those words from me. I cannot wait to say them to you, but I will force myself to wait until you are ready. Take your time, Renji. Grow into love slowly, if that is what you need. I want this to last forever!

His eyes wanted so much to drift closed, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from the sight of the redhead, on his knees, with the hot water bubbling all around him, the ends of his red mane dipping into the pool as the rest moving with him while he continued what he was doing. His eyes closed and his flushed face deeply contented, he slowly began to prepare Byakuya for their joining.

Byakuya suffered just a moment of regret as Renji coaxed him into the water, where he knelt on the step with his back to the redhead and his body braced at the edge.

It feels so good having him love me this way. I love feeling connected to him like this, feeling his strength while he makes love to me.

Why doesn't Renji want to feel this?

Is it that he doesn't want to feel my strength? My power? He wants me to be weaker, to be held, possessed and penetrated, but he won't let himself be trapped that way?

Trapped?

He has had only casual relationships. He has never stayed with any one person. And I feel like his refusal puts me in the league with those he has tasted briefly, then set aside as 'not the one.' I won't be a place marker in anyone's life. As much as I feel for this man, I cannot let him simply bend me to his will, then abandon me.

How is it that, for all his protestations that he wants to be with just me, I am so certain this man will break my heart? And knowing that my heart will be broken, why can't I follow through and just walk away? Will I bend until I break for him? Will I sacrifice everything, only to learn that he is going to leave me?

Pain, mingled with pleasure, jolted his body as Renji took him. The redhead's strong hands grasped him almost painfully as they moved together. The collision of that powerful, beautiful body with his, the passion in the hands that held him, and the delicious heat all around them, stole Byakuya out of his thoughts. Whatever reservations he had could not withstand the intense pleasure of becoming one with his red-haired lover. He moved with Renji, soft gasps and hungry moans escaping him. Renji's body went taut against his back, and seething heat erupted inside the noble. The sensation brought him to the very edges of bliss and he ached for Renji to move again, to touch him somewhere, anywhere, to bring him to climax. He could have cried as the redhead pulled away and Renji sank down onto the bench, sighing contentedly.

"Oh my god, Taichou, you are...amazing!" the redhead panted, closing his eyes.

He reached out a hand under the water, but Byakuya pretended not to see and settled on the bench a short distance away from him.

"Is something wrong?" Renji asked, "You did come, didn't you?"

He doesn't even know?

"Of-of course," he lied.

"C'mere."

"What?" Byakuya asked, blinking.

"I want to hold you for a while, if that's okay." Renji mumbled sleepily.

"Oh."

He moved closer and settled into the redhead's arms, resting his head on Renji's shoulder. Renji's head turned and they exchanged several hot, wet kisses, while Renji's hands slid down his back and caressed his soft, round bottom.

"I'm sorry, Taichou," the redhead whispered suddenly.

"What?" Byakuya asked, frowning, "Renji..."

"I know I'm doing a lot of things wrong," he went on, "but I don't mean to. You're really special and I'm glad we're together, but I have to confess I'm scared as hell that you'll leave me."

He is...?

Renji is afraid I will leave him?

"I've never been this much in love with anyone before, so I keep making mistakes, but I don't mean to hurt you, Taichou. I wouldn't want to do that."

"I know. And I am not going to leave you, Renji. I love you too. I want this to continue as well."

He was surprised at the genuine feeling in the redhead's look of relief.

"Do you want to take me now?" Renji asked, further derailing the noble's already scattered thoughts, "I'll let you if you want to."

You have no idea how much I want to, but...

"No, Renji."

"Huh? Are you sure? It seemed to really bother you when I said I didn't want to."

"Well, I gave it more thought, and I came to the conclusion that such a thing should be what we both want before it happens. I will wait, Renji. You will tell me when you feel ready."

"But, Taichou..." Renji objected.

"And stop calling me that," the noble said, frowning, "You must call me by name when we are alone together. I told you. I am not your Taichou here. I am your lover, Renji. Stop placing barriers between us."

"Is that what you think I'm doing?" the redhead asked.

"That is what I know you are doing," Byakuya said quietly, "You are insecure because you are still too focused on our differences."

He breathed in Renji's warm, masculine scent and settled more firmly into his arms.

"We are just two men in love with each other, Renji. The rest doesn't matter here. Not where we came from, what titles we hold or anything else."

If I tell him this often enough, if I am patient with him, Renji will begin to trust in our feelings for each other. He has never had a stable romance before. He has only known casual love and sex. This is a big adjustment for him.

If I am supportive and patient, Renji will learn to have faith in what is between us.

"Thanks, Byakuya," Renji sighed, kissing him on a warm, flushed cheek, "Thanks for understanding."