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Heat Wave

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They roll in once in a while, heat waves from some other world, so that the air in Soul Society becomes heavy with water and the sun grows blinding, taking up the sky. The borrowed sunlight beats down, hot as the day is long, and the wind turns slow-moving and unhelpful, sending little puffs in through the apertures in the building, precious and fleeting as the last gasps of a dying man. The air ripples like molten glass in the unaccustomed glare; colours are brighter; the flash of light off a sword scorches the eye and leaves purple-green bruises on the vision.

It's a little like being wrapped in a damp hot towel. Renji pushes his mat over to the doorway, and shoves the door back as far as it can go with a foot. He decides to play dead until existence feels worth the effort again.

He's only half-asleep when the footsteps stir him out of his doze. It's impossible to get to sleep in this heat, with the humidity dragging at his skin. Even so, he cracks open an eyelid and prepares profanities.

"Get out of the way," says Rukia. "You're blocking the breeze."

"What breeze," grumbles Renji.

Rukia's wearing a light silk kimono and she isn't even sweating. She looks cool, clean, smells faintly of soap. The heat doesn't seem to have touched her at all. Her bangs slide down her face, a dry whispering sound like the rustle of fabric, the hair not even catching on her skin.

She catches his wrist before he can touch her. Her palm is dry.

"Watch it, freak -- " She drops his wrist, looking disgusted. "You're clammy."

When they were kids, she would have wiped her hand off on her clothes. Even later on, he would've been able to catch the tell-tale crook of her wrist, before she remembered herself and snatched her hand back. Now she shakes it, a graceful, impatient gesture, as if she can get rid of the sweat that way.

If Renji had the energy, he'd glare at her. As it is, he settles for a roll of the eyes.

"Some of us have sweat glands," he says.

Rukia looks superior, as if anything so common as the possession of a sweat gland would never have occurred to her.

"Most of us," she prods him in the side with a foot, "do not roll all over others' floors like animals -- "

Renji grabs the foot and pulls. Rukia goes down with a shriek -- she screams like a girl, but nobody could fault her reaction time. Her palms hit the floor before the rest of her can. She twists as if bones are another thing she's decided to forgo, and kicks Renji in the throat.

"Oh fuck ow!"

"Lout," says Rukia, shaking his hand off the other foot and folding herself back into kneeling position.

"Fuck you," Renji tells her. "Leave me alone. I'm sleeping."

"In the middle of the afternoon?"

"Good a time as any." He's pleased to note that strands of hair are sticking to her face now.

"In my room?"

"Take it up with my landlord," says Renji. He turns and settles on his side, closing his eyes. He can hear Rukia fuming behind him, a feel like a hissing kettle.

"Boor. Troglodyte. Barbarian -- "

"If you kick me again, I'm gonna have to fuck your shit up," says Renji, eyes still closed, voice elaborately bored. This time he's ready for the rush of air. Before the fist can connect, he catches it in his hand, yanks on it, pulls her over and tips her on her back. Her kimono's ridden up. Renji suddenly feels a lot more awake.

"Aargh," she says, and struggles till he lets go of her arm. "You smell. That's disgusting."

"It's too fucking hot for this, Rukia," says Renji.

"That's what I was going to say -- "

He brushes the perspiration beading at her hairline with a thumb. "Nice to know you sweat too."

"Try it," says Rukia, cold as winter, "and I'll bite your tongue off."

Renji goes for broke. She sinks her teeth into his tongue.

"Ow! What er fug, 'ukia?"

"I hate summer," she says intensely, inexplicably, then she puts her hands in his hair and pulls him down and Renji decides to put off complaining for a while.

Rukia kisses with her usual tense focus, her knee in his stomach as if she's not quite sure she wants to be here. Renji lets himself sink into it, the slide of tongue against tongue, the complicated negotiations of teeth and noses. He likes this, can almost forget who he's with when it's this good, except that Rukia smells less of soap now and more of herself -- a tart scent, almost bitter, a close sweaty fleshly smell, nothing even remotely close to clean. Rukia would like to think of herself as being fragrant, thinks she should walk on clouds and shit sakura blossoms. Renji prefers her like this, right up against him, fingernails digging into the back of his neck and mouth almost too hot against his. Times like these, she's familiar, get-at-able, and he almost believes he can hold onto her.

He slides a hand up her thigh, and her head goes back. Renji tries cupping the back of it, but -- okay, it's way too hot for that. The hair tangles with his fingers, and her scalp's damp with sweat. Rukia says "gah" low in her throat and pulls back, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

"So, the hairtie stays on," says Renji, tugging at his clothes.

"Entirely the wrong weather for this," says Rukia, as if the Kuchiki schedule sex according to season. And he'd ask her why she's here, but she's wriggling out of the kimono and fuck his training in the 11th division -- if there's one thing he's learnt from the farce that's been his life, it's that you have to choose your battles.

It's too hot for desperation, even though he's beginning to ache now, starting to feel like he's been hard for hours. But he can ignore it, with Rukia's skin under his fingers already tacky with drying sweat. He takes it slow, touches her breasts, the shallow dip under her ribs, the jut of her hipbones. She wiggles her toes against his side; when he squirms away she takes the opportunity to sling her legs over his shoulders. They fit: a shoulder in the soft-skinned hollow of each knee. The callouses on the balls of her feet scratch along his back. He shudders, presses red thumbprints into the white flesh of her inner thighs, and opens her up.

And so maybe he's got something of an oral fixation, but from the sounds Rukia's making he doesn't think she's complaining. And this, slick heat and the soft noises of skin sticking and parting, the ache in his jaw and the hot still air pressing him down -- this isn't comfortable, no, but he thinks he could stay here a while. Just like this.

Except Rukia bucks, pushes down on him greedily, tugs his hair till it hurts -- bitch -- so he gives her his fingers, slides them into wet, squeezing heat, and tastes a distinct triumph when she arches like a strung bow, baring her throat. There's a visceral thrill in even the pretence of submission. Rukia's admissions of defeat never last long, so he rears up and gathers her in. She fits, an armful of hot perfect flesh slippery with sweat.

She untangles her legs, refolds them around him and looks up at him from under her lashes: a calm, expectant look, because they've known each other too long for games. The candour unbalances him. When he pushes into her it rips a groan out of him, ragged and bleeding and -- fuck. He's lost again, hasn't he.

"W-what?" says Rukia, her breath coming short.

"Too fucking hot for this shit," and it's not like he even knows what he's saying, but he hadn't even known there'd been anything to lose. Stupid of him. Nothing's ever not a struggle when Rukia's involved.

Her eyes have gone soft. He doesn't look at them again.

"Fool," says Rukia, pressing ruthless fingers into the back of his head, sliding them around and down to stroke his throat. Her thumb skitters across the skin. She speaks almost lovingly. "Animal."

"Bitch." Composure is an overrated quality. He interposes an already-sticky hand between their bodies and lets his fingers make his point for him.

The sun's ubiquitous enough that when he closes his eyes he can feel it still, a hushed yellow glow against his eyelids. Rukia likes it fast, hard, so he draws it out nice and slow, relishing the tiny aborted movements she makes, the stillborn moans she traps against his skin. She's not going to ask, of course, and if Renji takes that as licence to do whatever the hell he wants -- well, he's always open to complaints.

The bright red shock of her fingernails scoring his back is no surprise, though he jerks at it all the same. He's way too easy, but they both know that already, and that she has to use the knowledge at all is a victory of sorts.

"Hey," he says against her collarbone. She flinches at the gust of humid breath, says, "Yes?" and there's no air to laugh with, but as long as she feels the grin in his voice, he's satisfied. He rubs a thumb over the slickness between her legs, hears her make a small hurt noise, and that -- that's enough. Game over. He slams a hand down on the floor, lets it take his weight, and gives her what she wants.

Raw enough to hurt, this, and he remembers thinking it's too hot for desperation and it is, fuck, he's sweating and his hand is cramping and his back is going to hate him when this is over. The world is airless; heat drapes over them like a tangible thing. But Renji knows all about trade-offs and the curl and uncurl of Rukia's feet against his back might just possibly be worth it. The harsh urgent gasp he wrenches from her with every thrust, the working of her throat -- yeah, this, he thinks muzzily, thoughts starting to scatter and blur in the nice restful dark at the back of his eyes, this is a bargain he could consider making.

Rukia arches against him when she comes, making a sound like dying. That low rippling moan -- she sounds like she's in pain, like someone's thrust a sword in her heart, carved her out and left her for dead. Blood writes an imagined farewell across his sweat-stung eyes. Renji clutches at Rukia and slams into her and comes in a spasm of fear and guilt, every muscle in his body tensing, every hideous possibility crowded in his chest. Death and failure and the cold front.

But Rukia's still shuddering against him, her palms flat on his skin sticky with sweat. Her head is too warm, the whole afternoon's heat trapped in the black hair. The sun blazes clean into his eyes. He blinks away the afterimages and pulls himself away from Rukia just enough so he can collapse on his back, wincing as the mat clings to scraped skin.

The wind brushes briefly over the sweat cooling on his skin. He shivers, then it's gone, leaving behind a prickle he can't scratch away. Beside him Rukia stretches, makes a disgusted noise, and sits up. He lets his eyes shut, the thump of his heart slowing down.

"Now I'm going to have to take another bath," she says. He bares his teeth, but doesn't open his eyes. If he spreads out a little more, none of him has to touch any other bits of him, and now he can sleep.

The nigh-unbearable pressure of Rukia's foot on his throat is hard to ignore, though. He looks up. She lifts the foot, deliberately pushes his jaw to the side, says,


Renji ignores the sudden leap low in his belly. He decides to be asleep. It's easier than he expects. Exhaustion claims him, the heaviness of it pressing his uneven breathing smooth, and when Rukia walks away he hears her footsteps as if from a distance, through the muffling weight of sleep.

When he jerks awake again the sun's low in the sky, smearing messy orange streamers across the blue-purple backdrop. The yellow glare is gone, but the heat still clings to the day. Renji itches everywhere. He looks up and Rukia's kneeling beside him, clean and untouchable in a silk kimono. For a moment he blinks at her, dazed -- hasn't he lived through this already? -- then Rukia, startlingly, smiles.

"Were you dreaming?" she says.

He isn't sure.

"What?" he growls, but it comes out more confused than annoyed.

"You sleep like a dog," says Rukia. "Twitching and snuffling in your sleep. I thought you might be chasing rabbits in your dreams."

He gives her the finger. She laughs, getting up.

"You know where the baths are," she says.

"Yeah, yeah," he grumbles. He considers not bathing just to annoy her, but with the evening folding him in inescapably humid arms, the gesture's really not worth the discomfort. He picks himself up, groaning when his back protests. The room is dim with twilight, and when Rukia pads away, it's as if she's fading out, vanishing into the soft-textured darkness.