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But Not Forgotten

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“What about this one?”

 

The bed shifts gently beneath them as Byakuya props himself up on his elbows to see what Renji is referring to. “Senbonzakura,” is all he says by way of answer, and Renji’s tongue flicks out to trace the thin, silvery line just under Byakuya’s ribcage. He likes the way Byakuya tenses a little, trying not to squirm while they both indulge the fiction that he isn’t really ticklish. He won’t say anything, and Renji has no qualms about taking full advantage of the fact. There are days when Byakuya does nothing but trace the lines of his tattoos - steady and methodical, as though he’s inking them from scratch. Today is revenge, and Renji intends to make the most of it.

 

“And this one?” he prompts, shuffling down the bed a bit, dipping his head to trace his lips along the line of a second scar just beneath the first. Long and white and faintly raised, it feels newer than the last, and not yet quite as well healed.

 

Another badly-suppressed shiver makes Byakuya twitch beneath Renji’s mouth. “Senbonzakura,” he says again, and if there’s a touch of impatience in his voice this time then Renji ignores it. The thing about Byakuya is that he has many different stages of ‘annoyed’; Renji knows all of them by heart, and he knows that this particular one is just code for ‘too proud to allow any intimacy without at least a bit of protest’.

 

It’s endearing, in its own strange way.

 

“You’ve got a lot of scars from Senbonzakura,” Renji observes, as he turns his attention to the fine lacework of faded marks decorating Byakuya’s sword arm. Now that he’s moved away from the ticklish ribcage, Byakuya doesn’t seem to mind the attention as much. A soft exhalation, a bit like a sigh, leaves his lips as Renji turns his arm over to trail soft kisses from wrist to elbow, lingering wherever he finds one of the rough-edged, raised patches that marks the site of a deeper wound. Renji has always loved scars, for much the same reason he loves tattoos. They’re a record of a person’s life - who they are, where they’ve been, how they’ve suffered. Byakuya’s scars tell a life of rigorous training, a long struggle to rein in the treacherous brutality of his own immense power. “Is there any mark on you that isn’t self-inflicted?”

 

“A few,” says Byakuya. He still sounds impatient, but Renji can see the faint beginnings of a smile play across his lips now, and knows he’s secretly enjoying the attention. Byakuya holds up a hand before him, and Renji makes out the faintest trace of a thin, flat scar running from his wrist to the fleshy gap between his thumb and forefinger. “My dueling instructor, shortly after I commenced tuition.” He shifts, points to a faded slash-mark along his left side. “The first hollow I put to rest.” His hand moves up to his shoulder, to what must once have been a painful puncture-wound. “Zaraki,” he says, lips pulling tight around the word in distaste.

 

Renji chuckles. “I think I remember that one,” he admits. He’d been in the fifth division, at the time, but the reiatsu blast from that encounter had shattered windows all around Seireitei.

 

Byakuya shakes his head. “I fail to see the fascination,” he says with a slow, long-suffering sigh. “They’re only scars.”

 

They’re not only scars, Renji thinks. They’re a part of you. But Byakuya has never had patience for sentimentality, so Renji keeps it to himself and settles for turning lips and tongue on a new target. There’s only one piece of intentional art on Byakuya’s body - the symbol of his clan, inked small and dark just under where his heart sits. Next to it, just nicking the edge, is another scar: the lingering shadow of a deep stab wound, still rough and pinkish about the edges. An unbearable amount of symbolism all in one place, and so intimate that Renji almost feels obliged to look away.

 

Instead, he lowers his mouth once more and presses a kiss, soft and chaste, to this last and newest mark. “You forgot this one,” he says. “Gin’s sword.”

 

For a long moment, Byakuya just looks at him. He shakes his head again, but this time it’s not in disapproval. “No,” he says, and his voice has sunk to a low, wistful murmur. “No, that one above all is self-inflicted.”