It had been one week. One week and he was already climbing the walls. How he had allowed himself to get into such a state, he had no idea. But here he was. The once proud Lieutenant of Squad Six, reduced to a twitching pile of mess.
All because of a woman.
It was so obvious, even Kuchiki Taicho noticed.
“You’re off your game,” Byakuya said. He sheathed Senbonsakura and regarded Renji with his trademark indifferent stare. “That was horribly sloppy, Lieutenant.”
“I’m sorry, Taicho.” Renji bowed deep, chest still heaving with exertion. “I will do better next time, I promise.”
“Yes, you will. Once you apologize to...Lieutenant Matsumoto is it? I heard you two weren’t speaking.”
Renji’s head shot up. He stared at his captain in shock.
Byakuya was unmoved. “What. You think I didn’t know?”
“I...no,” Renji stammered. “I just...”
“Thought you two were carrying on in secret?” Byakuya scoffed. “You’d have to turn the volume down quite a bit to accomplish that, Lieutenant Abarai. Everyone knows what’s been going on.”
Renji felt his cheeks go bright red. “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean...”
“Whatever. I don’t care. Just go apologize to her. I need a functioning lieutenant in my division and right now, you are not that.”
“Yes, sir. I will sir.” Renji bowed low, hair almost brushing the ground. Byakuya said nothing further, just turned and stalked off across the lawn.
Renji sighed and waited for the humiliation to subside before going to clean himself up.
Two hours later, he was standing in front of the Division Ten barracks, this time under the scrutinizing gaze of Hitsugaya Taicho.
“Well, it’s about time you got here,” Hitsugaya muttered. “She’s in her room. Sulking.”
“Thank you, sir.” Renji gave him the same deep, respectful bow he’d given his own captain. “I’m sorry to have caused you so much trouble.”
“Oh please,” Hitsugaya said. “Compared to what she usually gets up to, this is nothing. Just go get her out of this mood, would you? It’s annoying.”
He stepped aside, allowing Renji to enter the building. Renji did, opting not to ask what the captain had meant by his last comment.
Rangiku’s room was on the far side of the barracks, so it took him a few minutes to get to his destination. When he did, Rangiku opened the door almost before he was even done knocking.
“Yes?” Her tone was callous but her eyes betrayed her. She was happy to see him, just as he was happy to see her.
“Hi,” Renji said. “Kuchiki Taicho said I had to come apologize.”
Rangiku raised an eyebrow. “Kuchiki Taicho? So you’re telling me you’re only here because your captain made you come?”
“No.” Renji shifted his weight from foot to foot. “I mean, he made me come, but that’s not the only reason I’m here.”
Rangiku folded her arms. “All right,” she said. “I’m listening.”
“Ok. Well, first off, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have implied in any way that your job and your squad were less important than mine.”
“That’s right,” Rangiku said. “And you will do well to remember that. I’ve been around here a lot longer than you have, you know.”
“Yes, I know.” Renji looked down at the floor. “And you and Captain Hitsugaya are a very important part of the Gotei 13. As much if not more so than Squad 6.”
“True.” Rangiku leaned against the wall. “Keep going, I’m liking this.”
“Um ok. Well...without you guys, I would have gotten my ass kicked and possibly killed on several occasions, so I was really out of line when I said you guys...were slackers. Um. And I don’t think you’re lazy. I think you are really good at your job. And... if that isn’t enough then I admit...I miss you. A lot.”
He looked up. Rangiku was smiling, and she was looking at him in that way special way she had. The one that made him feel all wiggly on the inside.
“You miss me, huh?”
Rangiku straightened. “All right. If you miss me, than I guess I can lift your ban.”
Renji felt a surge of hope. “Really?” he asked.
Rangiku nodded. “Yeah,” she said. “And... for what it’s worth, I might have missed you too. Even if you were a colossal jerk.”
Renji let a smile of his own cross his lips. “How about I make it up to you,” he offered.
Rangiku grabbed the front of his kimono and pulled him towards her. “How about you do,” she said. “Starting right now.”