Renji sat on the porch steps overlooking the 11th Division practice yard and nursed a jug of sake. He had too much on his mind to truly enjoy the party, which was in full-swing and in fine-form tonight. A very drunk Ikkaku Madarame was attempting to teach his “luck-luck” dance to Captain Zaraki and several others. This was made particularly hilarious by the fact that Ikkaku couldn’t remember the steps and seemed to be making up things just to see if the captain would do them.
A groan was the only warning before Captain Kyōraku settled down next to him, and laid his head in Renji’s lap. “Hello, Mr. Renji,” he said, smiling his goofy grin up into Renji’s face. “I hope you don’t mind my use of your thigh as a pillow.”
Renji was always surprised by the copious amounts of hair Kyōraku sported. Long, thick waves of brown curls spilled everywhere, barely contained by his simple ponytail. Plus, the guy was just a bear. He was never clean shaven and he had hair on his chest, his arms… everywhere. Yet he always wore the most garish and girlish pink kimono over his captain’s haori.
To the captain’s question, however, Renji just shrugged. He didn’t mind being someone’s headrest. Hell, it was the most action he’d gotten in days.
“You seem particularly morose. I never had you pictured as a sad drunk. Belligerent, yes; sad, no,” Kyrōaku said. “Is there some reason you’re here and not tucked into the beautiful silk sheets in the Sixth Division with the even lovelier captain?”
Renji’s eyebrows shot up momentarily surprised. He thought about denying the implication, but the expression on Kyrōaku’s face was one of genuine concern. Renji shrugged again, and then let out a long sigh. “He won’t even look at me. I want him to fuck me, and he won’t even look at me.”
“Oh. That is a problem,” Kyrōaku said. “I presume Mr. Byakuya knows of your desires? Honestly, I thought you two had gotten past introductions already. Didn’t I find you in his bedroom the other day?”
“Yep,” Renji said, taking another pull on the jug.
Kyrōaku seemed to consider this very seriously. He scratched the hairs on his chin. “Am I to understand that after an initial dalliance things have cooled off precipitously?”
As plastered as he was, Renji had no hope of following that. “Wh… at?”
“You had sex once and now he’s not talking to you, right?”
“Yeah,” Renji nodded. He was just drunk enough that he couldn’t control the impulse to stroke Kyrōaku’s hair. He absently twirled the soft curls in his fingers. What was it with nobles? Did they all have silk for hair? “I can’t figure him out. First, he’s all ready to pounce, but stops when he finds out I’m a virgin. Then, he’s all—“
“You’re a what?”
Renji waved off the question, “Yeah, yeah, big fucking surprise, I know. The point is, I’m still waiting, aren’t I? I mean, he even let me—you know, top him.”
“Oh, now that is a surprise. He must love you.”
“What?” Renji’s voice was much louder than he intended, and garnered a few curious looks from the dancers. “What did you just say? There’s no way anyone is in love!”
Kyrōaku sat up, and he had a kind, almost pitying smile on his face. Taking his straw hat from his lap, he put it back on his head. It titled at a sloppy angle. “I don’t think you have to worry, dear boy. He’ll come back around eventually,” Kyrōaku put an arm around Renji’s shoulder. “Byakuya Kuchiki doesn’t like being out of control. Love is a crazy-making feeling. He’s uncomfortable with it, but love always finds a way.”
Renji wasn’t sure he was entirely comfortable with the thought of love either, but no words came out. He just sat there and tried to consider what that might mean.
“What are you two talking about? Who’s in love with Abarai?”
Renji looked up to see Zaraki standing over him. Ikkaku and Yumichika flanked the captain on either side as usual. Zaraki was always a little frightening up close with his crazy hair and eye-patch, and Renji found himself wanting to back up and put a hand on his zanpaktō, Zabimaru. But, with effort, he held his ground. “No one,” he grunted. “Trust me, sir. Absolutely no one.”
“Is that your problem?” Zaraki asked. “You’ve been moping around here all night, Abarai. You’re bringing the party down. Do you need to get laid?” Zaraki made the question sound like a battlefield command.
“I think he does,” Kyrōaku said with a soft smile, letting his hand slip from Renji’s shoulders. “Poor lamb.”
Zaraki crossed his arms in front of his barrel chest and frowned. Renji could feel the intensity of Zaraki’s spiritual pressure bearing down on him. “Well, shit, boy, that shouldn’t be a problem. You never seemed like the wallflower type. Go get it.”
“Abarai can get it if he wants it. If he’s this much of a hangdog, it must be someone special,” Yumichika pointed out.
“So? What’s the hold up?” Zaraki asked. “If it’s important, then there’s all the more reason to go after it. Hard, with everything you’ve got.”
“He gets hung up on class, remember,” Ikkaku pointed out. “He spends a lot of time not feeling worthy.”
“Shut up, Madarame, ” Renji snarled. “See if I ever tell you anything in confidence again.”
“Class, huh?” Zaraki rubbed behind his ear for a moment, causing the bells in his hair to jingle. Then, with a sigh, the giant man settled down cross-legged on the ground. He put his hands on his knees. “Well, that’s just stupid. What makes a man worthy is his actions. If you want something, take it.”
“That works for a lot of things, dear captain, but occasionally people need romance,” Yumichika pointed out, leaning a hip against the porch railing, he flipped back his shiny hair. “If he’s hung up on a girl, she might like a little sweet talking, and I could see how that’s not Renji’s strong suit.”
“Nice,” Renji muttered.
“Girls are complicated,” Zaraki noted, with a thoughtful nod. “Are you still pining after that little runt, what’s her name, the Kuchiki?”
Renji tugged on his ear and turned away. A blush colored his cheeks. Unfortunately, Kyrōaku caught his eye, only deepening his embarrassment.
“Not that one, I think,” Yumichika said with a knowing smirk, “The prettier one.”
“Oh?” Zaraki asked, sounding curious.
“Yeah, Renji always set his sights a little too high,” Ikkaku added. He was sitting on the ground now, too. They’d encircled Renji like they’d gathered for some kind of perverted council meeting. The paper lanterns overhead flicked long shadows across the ground.
“There’re a lot of issues in the Kuchiki house,” Yumichika said, playing with a bit of his hair thoughtfully, staring out at the emptying practice yard. “Could be complicated.”
“Nah,” Zaraki said. “If it’s the boy he wants, things just got easier.”
“How do you figure that?” Renji asked, taking another drink from his sake jug and then passing it to the waiting hands of Kyrōaku.
“Well, if Kuchiki actually has a cock under all those robes, it can’t possibly be that difficult to convince him to have sex,” Zaraki continued sagely. “He’s a man, right? Men like to fuck. Most men will fuck anything, so you shouldn’t have any problems there, Abarai.”
“That’s just… great, captain. I feel incredibly flattered,” Renji said.
“It’s actually not bad advice,” Kyrōaku muttered, passing the jug to Yumichika. “You said you’re having trouble getting him interested. Maybe you should just… surprise him. Just slide into those silken sheets and see what happens.”
“Showing up naked always works for me,” Ikkaku said with a nod. “No one likes to turn away something willing.”
“Yes, well, that kind of aggressive play is guaranteed to score here in the Eleventh. But, certain men can be much more complicated than you think, particularly men like Byakuya Kuchiki,” Yumichika said quietly, after taking a delicate drink. “Abarai could get himself killed doing something as reckless as that.”
Zaraki took the bottle from Yumichika, and, after taking a long swallow, said, “Yumi has a point. You do realize that Byakuya Kuchiki is going to want to fuck you, right, Abarai? You’re not thinking you can hit that.”
“He’s pretty crazy with the confidence,” Ikkaku said, taking the bottle passed to him. “He probably thinks he can take Kuchiki.”
Renji was mightily tempted to point out he already had, but he knew Byakuya wouldn’t appreciate people knowing that. More to the point, everyone would assume he was talking trash. When he noticed they waited for him to say something in response, Renji lifted a shoulder. “I know what I’m getting into.”
“Do you? You ever done anything like that before?” Zaraki asked. “It’s just--I don’t see you taking it well. I think you’d fight it, make a lot of noises, maybe even scream…” The captain smiled to himself as if he enjoyed the images in his head. A happy sort of growl escaped his lips. “Yeah, he’s probably going to have to hold you down.”
Renji found himself kind of stirred at the idea. He quickly dropped his eyes, hoping no one noticed.
When he glanced back, he found Zaraki still nodding to himself like he was still picturing it all, and both Ikkaku and Yumichika had moved away slightly. Ikkaku in particular had paled and focused on the sake jug instead of his captain.
“Be nice,” Kyrōaku admonished Zaraki. He gave Renji a light pat on the thigh. “Don’t let him scare you.”
Zaraki’s eye widened and an even more evil smile spread across his face. He let out a wicked laugh. “Scare him? You telling me that Kuchiki is going to be his first, for real? Shit, boy, you really are out of your league.”
“You’re not helping,” Yumichika said sternly. “Besides, you’re assuming Kuchiki is exactly like you just because he’s a good fighter and strong. He’s from a very different background from almost all of us. I’m absolutely certain,” Yumichika gave a meaningful sidelong glance at Kyrōaku, “That Kuchiki has been schooled in certain arts, probably when he was very young. It’s very traditional, very proper, and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t a considerate and experienced lover.”
Renji was extraordinarily grateful to take the jug from Ikkaku, and he drank as deeply as he possibly could without seeming desperate.
“You get to go to school for that as a noble?” Zaraki said. “Damn.”
“Not exactly,” Kyrōaku said, watching Renji drink jealously. “But, yes, it would be unlikely that a member a high ranking clan never apprenticed under someone who taught him more than, shall we say, combat or kidō.”
“Those guys get everything,” Zaraki said with a sad sort of sigh.
“Not everything,” Kyrōaku said, clearing his throat until Renji reluctantly handed over the bottle, “Which is why I still think the original plan has merit. He may have had schooling the in act itself, but that doesn’t mean he knows how to get it any better than the rest of us. Mr. Byakuya obviously needs a bit of encouragement in that regard. I think it would be an excellent idea to just show up naked and force his hand, as it were.”
Zaraki nodded, “Yeah, there you go, Abarai. Listen to the noble. Unless you’re too chicken shit to get your cherry popped.”
Which was how Renji found himself trying to sneak into Byakuya’s bed in the middle of the night. He couldn’t take the insult from Zaraki, which led to the world’s shortest fight and him being tossed out into the street and told not to come back until mission accomplished.
Unfortunately, Byakuya’s furniture had it out for him. Tables kept throwing themselves under his unsteady feet.
“Renji,” the cold sound of Byakuya’s voice cutting through the darkness stopped him in his tracks. “I hope for your sake you’re not drunk and looking to score.”
“Oh.” Feeling like a rabbit caught in a snare, Renji’s heart thudded against his chest. Then, finding the wall at his back, he pressed into it. He let gravity take him to the floor slowly. “Shit.”
He sat there in the dark feeling miserably. If he couldn’t even execute this feeble sneak attack, how was he ever going to get Byakuya interested? And what if he’d just made things worse? He must have been out of his mind to take sex advice from Kenpachi Zaraki.
An exasperated sigh was followed by the sounds of bare feet on tatami. “Get up,” Byakuya said, standing over him. “You might as well sleep it off here.”
Wait, he wasn’t being kicked out? In stunned gratefulness, Renji took the hand offered him and pulled himself to his feet. Whoa, he’d been on the wrong side of the room. No wonder he couldn’t find the bed.
“You’re naked.” Byakuya’s assessment managed to sound both irritated and slightly amused. “Tell me you didn’t walk any real distance without clothes.”
“Just from the door,” Renji said, settling down on the mattress--which was much further away than he calculated, so he half-fell.
Byakuya seemed to be staring intently at the pile of fabric and such near the door. Renji’s eyes finally adjusted so that he could make out Byakuya’s profile. Not that it helped; Byakuya wore the same unreadable expression as always. “I should have known you wouldn’t stray far from Zabimaru.”
Renji nodded, and rubbed his face. If he’d taken Zabimaru’s advice he’d be composing poetry for Byakuya instead caught in the middle of this fiasco. “I’ll bet you even like poetry,” Renji said, collapsing back into the pillows. “Although mine sucks.”
“What are you babbling about?”
“If I wrote you poetry would you fuck me?”
Byakuya turned back to glare down at Renji. Even with his eyes half-closed, Renji could feel the intensity of Byakuya’s gaze. “It’s going to take a lot more than poetry, if you continue behaving like a moron.”
Renji groaned. “Shit. Moron is my default setting.”
“Yes. That’s obvious,” Byakuya said curtly. He didn’t say anything else for a long moment. Renji, in fact, had started drifting to sleep when Byakuya continued, “At least move your feet, you gigantic baboon. You’re taking up the entire bed.”
“Oh, right. Sorry,” Renji said, scooting over to make room. As he did, he wondered if Byakuya had a favorite side. The intimacy of the question made him blush a little. What would it be like to be here enough to have his own preference?
He already had fond memories of the smell of these sheets, after all. Renji had never known any man who left behind such an alluring scent. It wasn’t entirely perfume, either. There was something of Byakuya in the mix, an earthy, manly odor that made Renji want to bury his face in it.
Or mark it as his.
The sounds of Byakuya settling in behind him were equally maddening. Renji shook his head in mute frustration. If Byakuya seriously planned on sleeping and not fucking, this was going to be a long night.
Just being in his bed again had Renji ready to go. He glanced over his shoulder, disappointed to find Byakuya’s back to him. “Hey,” he said. “Can’t we just mess around a little?”
“Go to sleep. I will not reward idiocy. It’s bad enough I’ve allowed you to stay.”
But, he had let him stay, which meant Byakuya must have some interest. Renji was about to turn over and try a little non-verbal convincing when a massive wave of reistsu held him in place. He got the point. “Okay! Okay, no sex. Let me breathe, for fuck sake.”
The spiritual pressure let up. As soon as he was able to move again, Renji pulled himself out of bed.
“Where are you going?”
“I can’t stay,” he said. “Just being so close to you makes me… crazy.” Holy crap, was Kyōraku right? He almost sat back down when the sudden realization hit Renji in the gut like a sucker punch. The room seemed to swim and he felt the blood draining from his face. Was he acting this stupid because he was in love? No, it couldn’t be. He’d always thought if he was going to fall in love it would be with Rukia… not a guy, not this guy…. “Plus, I think I’m going to be sick.”
Renji made a lunge for the door, with the idea that he had a long dash to the soukouka, the public toilets.
With a flash of speed, Byakuya grabbed him and spun them in the direction of his private water closet. Using that strength that always surprised Renji, Byakuya hauled them through to the little room and all but tossed him in front of a chamber pot.
Renji shook his head at the delicate ceramic thing in front of his face. “No. It’s too nice. You’ve got to let me go—“
“Renji, I shit in it; you can throw up into it.”
It was too late for any more argument at any rate. Much more sake than he thought he’d consumed came back mixed with whatever the hell he’d had for dinner. All the while he retched Byakuya crouched beside him rubbing his back. Everything he imagined he wanted was mixed up in the feeling of Byakuya’s touch, so soft, so concerned, so… loving.
His stomach heaved again.
Why couldn’t he be more like the men Zaraki talked about? He couldn’t possibly need more from this man than a good fuck, could he?
When it seemed no more would come up, Byakuya nudged him gently until his head rested against Byakuya’s knees. He clung to the silk, feeling exhausted and weak. Fingers stroked his forehead, lightly tracing the lines of his tattoos.
Among the words of comfort Byakuya murmured, Renji thought he heard, “And what would my mother have thought? Look at you, a drunken ruffian with tattoos everywhere, even on your neck, your face….” A little amused laugh, and then he added, “No, not a suitable object for my affection, at all.”
Renji breath quickened. Affection?
“Come on, soldier,” Byakuya said in a more commanding voice, “On your feet.”
With Byakuya’s help, Renji managed an upright position. His feet were steadier now, but he still felt drained, emptied. Luckily, the bed wasn’t far away. He sank into it, careful, this time, to leave plenty of room for Byakuya. To his utter surprise and pleasure, Byakuya faced him and snuggled close. Wrapping his arms around him, Byakuya pressed Renji’s forehead to his chest. Cool, smooth skin felt good against his sweaty, fevered brow.
“Poetry,” Byakuya muttered, as if to himself. “Egads, what must that be like?”
Though his voice was scratchy and his lips still pressed against Byakuya’s collarbone, Renji recited, “Roses are red, violets are blue, you’re so hot, I wanna fuck you.”
Laughter, loud and uncontrolled, burst from Byakuya. It took him a long time to get himself under control. When he did, took Renji’s face in his hands and kissed him deeply. “You, Renji Abarai, are the poet laureate of the Soul Society. Your genius with words may have, in fact, captured my heart.”
As Byakuya swept him up into another kiss, Renji vowed never to doubt Zabimaru again.