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The Taste of Blood and Sins

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Renji woke up lying on his side, naked, sprawled on the floor with the coppery taste of blood in his mouth. From the slant of the sun coming in the window, it was late, well after noon. He thought, maybe, he was in the captain’s quarters, but the place was totally trashed.

He’d had… dreams of killing an annoying, prissy kid with glasses, a shopping bag, and weird superpowers. Or….maybe, that had happened... hmmm. Well, with any luck, the bit where some punk human boy--or was he a shinigami?—thrashed his ass with some kind of over-sized zanpaktō was just an awful nightmare. That had to be a dream, didn’t it? That giant sword was clearly something Freudian.

If at least some of it were dreams, that’d be a comfort, because Renji also kind of hoped he hadn’t slashed Rukia’s face.

Or… tried to rape his captain.

With a groan, Renji managed to roll over onto his back. Gods but he was sore. Hardly a muscle didn’t ache, and somebody had cut him--more than once. Heavy, clumsy fingers found a thin, taunting slice on his chin.

Oh fuck. The little orange-haired pussy was real.

Wait, though, hadn’t Byakuya killed that kid with the-cool-move-that-has-no-name?—huh, well, that was all right, then.

Byakuya….

Renji pulled his head up to his chest and looked around. This definitely used to be the captain’s quarters before it became a war zone. There was that priceless antique watercolor of the heron ripped in two, its frame shattered. A fortune’s worth of silk was shredded and tossed haphazardly around the room. Bits of uniform lay torn or crumpled in every conceivable spot. A single tabi hung from a beam on the ceiling. The dressing table was toppled, its contents scattered and broken everywhere. In all the rubble, for some reason, Renji’s eyes focused on the little jeweled wooden box that usually held Byakuya’s kenseikan. It looked like it had been stomped on.

“Uh, Taicho?” Renji called out hopefully, “You alive?”

When there was no answer, Renji sat up. Shit, even the futon suffered damages. The frame had just been shoved at an awkward angle, but a section of mattress hemorrhaged stuffing in huge gobs.

Renji was seeing a big dock in pay in his future.

That was, if he didn’t stand for murder.

He was starting to get seriously worried. He tried something he knew would provoke a reaction from the captain, even if Byakuya had only a single breath left in his lungs, “Yo, Byakuya! Where are you, man? You bleeding in some corner?”

No answer. When Renji stood up to start his frantic search for body parts, a piece of paper floated gently to the floor. Renji blinked at it stupidly for a moment, until he recognized the captain’s careful script.

He bent down and picked it up. It was a note. It seemed to have been stuck to a bloody part of his shoulder.

It read: Take the day off.

Renji looked on the other side, hoping for more.

It was blank.

Turning the paper back over, Renji scanned the note again, this time trying to read between the lines. Was this, ‘take the day off, you deserve it,’ or ‘take the day off; I can’t stand the sight of you’?

It was impossible to tell.

Renji was getting to the point that he could sometimes understand Byakuya’s slight changes in expression or hear the extra meaning in his tone, but when confronted with just his technically perfect, impersonal calligraphy—he had no clue. No idea where to even start. Even so, Renji desperately continued to puzzle at it, searching for anything more in the sparse words.

Unfortunately, Renji had never heard of Byakuya awarding anyone a day off for good behavior in the entire history of his captaincy. On the flip side, Byakuya probably also never asked anyone to become his demon dog before, either.

Good news is, Renji thought, letting the paper drift down to join the rest of the mess, I left Byakuya well enough to write. Bad news: that also means he still has the use of his sword arm.

Renji stood there for a long time, surveying the damage and wondering what the hell he should do with himself. He considered crawling into Byakuya’s bed and trying to sleep. He shrugged; it was as good idea as any. Carefully, he picked his way over to it, trying not to crush anything new.

Standing over the futon, Renji stared down at the torn, stained sheets, frowning. It was deeply disturbing to notice that the side of the bed that suffered the most abuse was Byakuya’s. ‘His’ side was strangely untouched. It was like, even in the state he’d been in, Renji was still thinking about who slept where.

That’s why I broke that box, too. I hate those fucking kenseikan.

All the captain's stuff, everything... expensive.

Renji shook his head.  He couldn’t blame this on Zabimaru. These were his demons.

A soft rap at the door startled him. Renji was half way over to open it, when he remembered he was completely naked. “Who’s there?”

“Fourth Division medic,” came a masculine voice. “Captain Kuchiki sent for me. I understand you may be injured, sir.”

“Go away,” Renji said. “I’m up, I’m good.”

There was silence from the other side of the rice paper door, but Renji could still feel a calm, staid reistsu lingering there. Finally, the medic cleared his throat, “The captain fully-briefed me, sir. I won’t be shocked.”

Fully-briefed? What the fuck? Somehow Renji couldn’t imagine Byakuya calmly saying ‘See to my lieutenant, I left him naked and bleeding in my quarters.’ Actually, the more he thought of it, the more Renji figured Byakuya was the only person in all the Soul Society who could say something like that and not get any questions. No one would dare.

“I have your robe,” the medic offered, when Renji didn’t respond. “Captain Kuchiki delivered it personally.”

Renji frowned. He’d inched closer to the door, he peered at the rice paper, as though trying to see through it. “My robe?”

“Yes, the handsome one with the flowers. I must say, sir, it looks very comfortable.”

Renji slid open the door. The medic was typical of a lot of the members of the Fourth. He was small and unassuming and fairly traditional-looking, as well. This one’s long black hair was held away from his pleasantly innocuous face by a thin ponytail that stretched almost to the middle of his back. He didn’t even blink at the sight of Renji’s nude body towering over him, though his eyes did seem to note the location of every injury.

“Excellent choice, sir,” he said, handing Renji his robe. “You get dressed. I’ll just grab my other supplies.”

Renji stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “Hold up. Here’s the deal,” he said, “You can come in, but in exchange you tell me everything the captain said to you. Every last word.”

“That’s the only way you’ll let me treat you?”

Renji nodded seriously.

“Very well.”

#

Renji perched on ‘his’ side of the captain’s bed while the medic wound bandages around his chest and waist. The medic had said nothing, but his eyebrows rose in shock at the state of the room when they’d first entered it. Still, Renji had to give the guy credit--he kept his opinions to himself.

“So, come on now,” Renji said, getting tired of having to hold his arms up in such an awkward position. “I’ve been patient with all this healing shit. Now tell me what the captain told you.”

“Let’s see,” the medic said. He sat down beside Renji to tie up the loose ends of the bandages. “Perhaps the most interesting detail, in my opinion, is that Captain Kuchiki originally wanted only our captain to come to you. She convinced him, however, that if his intention was discretion, then her presence would cause your division to--”

“Gossip?” Renji offered when the medic seemed unsure of what word to use.

“I was going to say ‘worry,’ but, yes. As for what he said about your injuries, well, you know him better than I do, I’m sure, but it seemed very typical of Captain Kuchiki. He simply said you’d been injured during your mission to the human world and that you’d suffered a kind of post-traumatic meltdown.”

“Meltdown? Nice,” Renji muttered. Still, he had to admit, it was a clever way around the truth.

“Oh, don’t worry, sir. Your captain insisted that no such word go into any of your official medical records. He also warned me that you might still be…um, ‘on edge’ and that I was to approach with caution. He also told me, quite privately, that he’d had to subdue you and that, well, you needed your robe.”

The medic was blushing furiously now. Renji, meanwhile, scowled. “Subdue? He used that word?”

“Yes,” the medic admitted a little fearfully.

“Subdued, seriously? And you didn’t wonder how all that ended with me naked?”

“Oh! Gods, no, sir! That’s none of my business.”

“Damn straight,” Renji said, pinning the medic under a hard stare. “And if I hear one—“

The medic interrupted with a raise of his hands. “No need to threaten, lieutenant. I already got that from Captain Kuchiki. And, no offense, sir, but he’s way scarier than you.”

Renji grunted in acknowledgement.

As the medic stowed away his supplies, Renji stretched out his arms and twisted his torso a little, testing the tightness of the bandages. After taking his robe from his lap, he stood up and shrugged into it. “Yeah, well, thanks for this,” he said, patting the bandages visible over the folds of the dressing gown. “You did a good job.”

“Thanks for letting me in,” the medic said. “I know that was difficult for you.”

Renji covered his slight blush with a growl. “Don’t push it. Get out of here before I throw you out.”

 

#

Renji started to try to clean up some of the mess in the captain’s quarters, but gave up after a half hour. Byakuya had servants for this sort of thing, and, anyway, it was too demoralizing. He wanted to try to see Rukia if he could, too. 

Just as he was ready to leave, he spotted Zabimaru... hiding.

The zanpaktō was under the bed, its hilt just peeking out from the edge, as if afraid to come out. Its spiritual pressure was dampened as if trying to be invisible.  “Aw, come on.  It’s all right,” Renji said, kneeling down to pull out the sword out by its sheath. “I don’t blame you.”

We only gave him what he asked for, a deep voice said, sounding a little chagrined, none-the-less.

“Eh, stop fretting. It’s good for him,” Renji said, straightening up. “There should be consequences. Anyway, maybe it’ll give him pause before he asks so much from us again.”

Renji headed for the door. He’d have to leave Zabimaru in his quarters, though, if he was going to check on Rukia. He’d have to make sure the zanpaktō knew their separation wasn’t meant as some kind of punishment. Because he hadn’t lied; he truly believed none of this was Zabimaru’s fault. This particular beast always raged in Renji’s soul, just below the surface.

Anyway, now that he knew he hadn’t actually hurt the captain, he had a lot fewer regrets about last night. Byakuya might think he could control a demon, but that was only because he’d never really faced one -- never had one of his own, riding him.

Byakuya always wanted things rough—well, now he might understand why Renji didn’t.