Ban Kai

BY : KiraDouji
Category: Bleach > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 3814
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, nor the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.







Title: Ban Kai

Rating: MPAA: PG-13, Fiction Rating: T

Pairing/Character/s: Renji + Byakuya

Disclaimer:
The author holds no license of nor makes claims to any of the characters,
concepts, or story the above originated from in any way. The characters are
used without permission of the original creator for the sake of entertainment
only. No profit is gained from the writing found hereafter, nor
any personal credit taken for the character designs, personalities or concepts
stemming from the original story used. All situations below, unless otherwise
stated, have no bearing on the creator’s original work, and are solely the
creation of the author based on personal interpretation of the above mentioned
works or are parodies exempted from copyright laws. It is the responsibility of
the reader to observe all warnings before proceeding to the fiction below, as
it may contain any number of situations, themes, ideas, views, or lifestyles
not suitable for those under the age of 18 or which may be contrary or
offensive to the beliefs of some. In the event that the following is the
author’s original work, or contains an original character, the author holds the
copy write and should be contacted before either is used or distributed in any
way. All questions and comments concerning the written work or otherwise can be
made directly to the author.


Warning/s: Spoilers for the Bleach manga from chapter 140 on, the Bleach anime episode 51 and
up.

Word Count: 5,725

Summary: Sequal to the drabble
"Elusive", in which Renji runs for his life, Byakuya is surprized
and we all learn a thing or two about stir fry and
long hair.

Author’s Note: This was
seriously fun to write XD




Ban Kai

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.”

-Aristotle


The relationship between the captain of the sixth
division and his lieutenant had changed. It wasn’t a huge change, nor was it
outspoken, but it was still there. However, in the hectic post-battle
reconstruction that gripped the Court of Pure Souls the change hardly seemed
anything worth mentioning. Everyone was banding together on some level, whether
that be because they honestly wanted to help, or because their captain had
threatened bloody murder if they didn’t, it was still there and so were they,
day after day rebuilding what had taken only a few chaotic days to destroy. Not
to mention that in order to notice what had changed, one had to have noticed
what was there before.


In short, little facets of each man seemed to have
altered in each other’s presence.


The court’s newest vice-captain, Abarai Renji,
didn’t quite act like the newest addition anymore. He was dashing around from
one place to another, but far from chaotically. Contrary to previous uncertain
errands of only a few short weeks ago, he could tell you exactly where he was
going and why if asked. If you could catch up to him, of course. The only
people who noticed exactly how quickly Renji was accomplishing all his tasks,
though, were the friends that watched him collapse on a well placed floor
cushion at their end of the day get-togethers. There was always a half-hearted
joke about how his captain had finally whipped him, to which Renji usually
replied with a fiercely thrown pillow and any number of rude comments.
Nevertheless, there was no denying that Abarai Renji was finally applying his
dogged determination to his duties as vice-captain. As for the why, well, that
was anyone’s guess.


The captain of the sixth division, on the other
hand, didn’t seem to notice or care about this change in attitude. Except that
the other captains had noticed a few peculiar things about the work
assignments. Every day, Kuchiki would somehow manage to acquire all of the most
spread out errands, no matter how inane or small they were. And everyday, Renji
would be dashing from one end of the Court of Pure Souls to the other as fast
as he could run. Most didn’t think much of it and went about their own work.
And while it certainly couldn’t be said that Zaraki Kenpachi was either caring
or particularly interested in things other than battle, he could tell a
training regimen for what it was, and so had taken to occasionally chasing down
his former squad member with a rather malicious grin. Perhaps he was as
sadistic as people said… it certainly was fun to see Renji’s expression when he
noticed the eleventh division captain chasing him down with a downright evil
gleam in his eye.


However, the strangest thing by far, in the mind of
one Ukitake Jyuushirou, was that he was now being contested for the most days
off by the last captain he would expect to take any sort of vacation. The man
hadn’t even taken more than the weekend off when his wife died and he hadn’t
even been a captain then! Although, Ukitake suspected that had more to do with
burying oneself in work than anything else. Still, it was strange; strange
enough that he had started setting aside a few extra moments here and there
observing his fellow captain. He wasn’t immediately sure what he was looking
for: perhaps some symptoms of illness (not that Kuchiki would ever let that
show) or even a sign of mourning. Given what had happened, it wasn’t at all far
fetched to think that the noble had finally let himself mourn the death of his
wife. But neither of these possibilities appeared to be the answer as the man
seemed neither hurt in anyway nor emotionally disturbed.


That wasn’t quite right: there was a definite
change, it just wasn’t… bad. To put it simply, Ukitake now found himself
baffled by the enigma that was Kuchiki Byakuya. He had even taken the
initiative to have lunch with Rukia a few times a week, gently inquiring about
her health and the general stability of the Kuchiki household. Never been
better, apparently. However, Ukitake Jyuushirou was not a nosy man. If they had
all managed to find some manner of peace, so be it: he, at least, would not
question it. Besides, working with a sixth squad captain who didn’t bring a
cloud of tension with him everywhere he went and didn’t glare quite so often
was much preferable to the alternative.


 


~*~


 


“- THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!” Renji
screeched behind him at maniacally grinning eleventh squad captain.


Yachiru waved at him happily. “Ken-chan wants to
play and Renji-kun looked like he was having fun!” she chirped.


“I’M NOT HAVING FUN! I’M RUNNING ERRANDS! GET AWAY!”
Renji sped up.


Zaraki grinned, “You’ll have to run faster than
that.”


“Renji doesn’t want to get caught,” Yachiru cheerily
informed him.


Getting caught by the bloodthirsty captain was right
up there on the list of things Abarai Renji most definitely did not want
to happen. “STOP CHASING ME!” he wailed, forcing already tired muscles to go
just a little bit faster.


“Not a chance,” Zaraki smiled the scariest, most
disturbing smile Renji had ever seen. For a moment, he thought he’d caught
sight of fangs. Renji swallowed, turned forward again and desperately tried to
master shunpo in five seconds.


 


“My, my, is that Abarai-kun?” Kyouraku inquired, lifting his hat a bit so
he could watch the mad dash across the rooftops.


Ukitake glanced up, “He’s gotten faster. Out on
another errand?” He glanced over at the other captain walking alongside them.


“Division Four required extra supplies to be brought
in from Rukongai in order to replenish their reserves,” Kuchiki blandly
informed his companions.


Kyouraku nudged his hat back down. “Che, what’d
Abarai-kun do to get that job?”


An imperial black eyebrow rose minutely. “He asked
for it,” Byakuya answered simply, and then added, “Renji already completed all
of his work this morning, it would be wasteful not to assign him the jobs that
need to be finished.”


“Reasonable as always.” Ukitake smiled gently. “Would you
like to join us for lunch again tomorrow, Kuchiki-san?” he offered, delicately
mixing propriety and familiarity in his wording to keep the other captain at
ease.


“I must decline,” Byakuya answered smoothly, “as I
will be taking my day off elsewhere.”


“Another one?” Ukitake queried softly and glanced
at his companion.


“That’s quite a few lately, isn’t it?” Kyouraku
remarked casually. Kuchiki frowned minutely, but said nothing.


More out of worry than any kind of curiosity,
Ukitake finally asked, “… Is everything all right?”


“I appreciate your concern, Ukitake-taichou, but
your worry is unfounded.” It’s none of your business, so don’t ask.


“Ah…” Ukitake managed, knowing he’d crossed a line,
but seeing no way to back up.


“Nah, he’s probably just using it to do extra work
while we’re not looking,” Kyouraku interrupted in his usual, slow manner. “How
else could he stay on top of all that paperwork? I’m sure Nanao-chan would love
to know the secret.”


Ukitake gave Kyouraku a brief, thankful smile. It
certainly hadn’t been his intention to ruffle any feathers. “She’d only want to
know because you leave her so much work,” he teased lightly.


Kyouraku just shrugged, glancing askance at the
third party present. Kuchiki’s visage hadn’t changed since the beginning of the
conversation. He sighed and continued talking since his companion refused.


 


~*~


 


Renji was grinning like a maniac and he new it. He
was exhausted; his muscles were sore and would certainly be staying that way
for a few days, his spirit energy felt abysmally low and he was sliced open in
more places than he dared to count, but he just couldn’t stop grinning.
Adrenaline was still rushing through his veins, keeping him standing but doing
little else. Dust was still settling around him and he couldn’t help inhaling
it in gasps as he wheezed and coughed it back out, trying to catch his breath.
All and all, he was in pretty bad shape, and he knew it.


But he’d be damned if he let that ruin the thrill of
seeing the look on his captain’s face when he’d landed the strike.


Never mind that he had five or six swords sticking
out of him when he actually managed it. Never mind that his hair was sticking
to him because of blood and not just sweat. Never mind that he couldn’t hold
his sword anymore, and Hihiou Zabimaru was slowly dissipating around him.
Because for one moment Kuchiki Byakuya had been completely shocked, had been
forced to react instinctively to an attack he had made. And for that, he could
only grin as he slipped to the ground under his captain’s stare.


“Gotcha, taichou…”


 


~*~


 


Sometime later a rather tired Kuchiki Byakuya
appeared outside the Fourth Division’s headquarters carrying a rather bloody
Abarai Renji. Needless to say, it was quite a sight, and certainly not one
anyone in the Fourth Division was expecting to see after things had finally
settled down again. Despite this fact, the Sixth Squad’s captain strode in
without so much as a word and deposited his lieutenant directly, yet carefully
on to the nearest bed.


“Abarai-kun! … K-Kuchiki-taichou?” Hanatarou
stuttered, hardly believing his eyes. For a moment, he was torn between moving
immediately to help the obviously torn up form of the Sixth Division’s
vice-captain and trying to form words for the blood drenched captain standing
calmly in front of him.


“Hanatarou, what are you just standing there for?”


The voice of his own vice-captain snapped back into
action and he sprang over to Renji’s bedside, already rolling up his sleeves to
get to work with a hasty, “H-hai, Kotetsu-san!”


Isane turned her attention to the noble
and had to wonder, at least briefly, how someone could look so calm being as
drenched in blood as he was. …Or how he even got there for that matter. “Please
sit down, so we can tend to your wounds as well.”


“Most of the blood is his,” he replied curtly. “See
to Abarai first.”


Not to be daunted, Isane smiled gently and replied,
“Hanatarou is capable of healing Abarai-kun on his own, Kuchiki-taichou. Side
wounds can be worse than they seem, too, so it would be best if you let us see
to you as well.” She hoped the short speech was polite enough: dealing with
Kuchiki Byakuya when he was half comatose was one thing, trying to treat him
while fully conscience was entirely different.


Before she could get an answer, however, there was a
short tug on her sleeve that made her turn around… and
look right back at Hanatarou. “Anou… Kotetsu-fukutaichou… Can I uh… speak with
you?” he asked quietly, glancing once or twice at the captain of the Sixth
Division uncertainly.


Well, Kuchiki didn’t seem to be going anywhere at
the moment… Isane sighed and nodded, following her squad mate a short distance
away. “What is it, Hanatarou? You should be helping Abarai-kun.”


Hanatarou was wringing his hands, “I stabilized him
before I got your attention, but I need to… I think I recognize his wounds.”


“… Recognize them?” Isane frowned. While is was
normal for members of the Fourth Squad to become familiar with certain wound
patterns, the way Hanatarou had pulled her aside made her think it was
something more than that.


“That is… I think… It looks like… He looks the same
as when I healed him after he fought Kuchiki-taichou to free Rukia-san.”
Hanatarou finally babbled out.


Eyebrows rose. “You think Kuchiki-taichou did this
to him?” Hanatarou shook his head, and then amended himself by nodding. “Well
which is it? Yes or no?”


“I think he did but… but you can tell, fukutaichou…
those weren’t normal fighting wounds and Abarai-kun told me… he said that when
he fought Kuchiki-taichou seriously they both fought with their ban kai.”


Isane let that process for a minute. When had Abarai Renji achieved ban kai?
was the first thing that crossed her mind. This was followed quickly by, why
would Kuchiki Byakuya attack Renji with his ban kai… and then bring him in to
be healed
? And lastly, perhaps most disturbing, was the fact that the
special war time ordinance for the release of zanpakutou within the Court of
Pure Souls had been lifted: making it once more a crime to do so barring
extenuating circumstances. “… I’ll get Unohana-taichou. Attend to Abarai-kun.”


Hanatarou nodded and with one last fretful glance at
the captain of the Sixth Division, slid back into place next to Renji’s bed,
focusing on the surfeit of open wounds that needed to be seen to. With so much
damage, he was almost glad the vice-captain had passed out. At the same time,
though, it was worrisome because it was most likely due to blood loss and that
was a bit harder to fix that just sewing him up.


 


Byakuya arched an eyebrow at the rest of the
shinigami in what served as the emergency room who had collectively stood there
since he walked in. A few jumped when they realized some attention was finally
put on them and urged their comrades to find work somewhere else and quickly.
Satisfied, the noble turned back to watching Hanatarou heal his vice-captain.


It was stupid, really, that he had allowed it to
happen in the first place. He’d thought – that is, he had hoped – that the
first battle would be enough to convince Renji to slow down. Looking back on
it, the idea had been doomed from the beginning. The very thought of Abarai
Renji deciding to slow down because of a hurdle was quite simply unfounded. But
he’d known that since their first spar. No, he wasn’t upset for letting the
spars continue on afterwards. It was safest, really, to know exactly how his
subordinate was training his ban kai. What really dug under his skin and made
itself comfortable was the simple fact that for the slightest moment, he’d lost
control. Byakuya almost frowned but caught himself beforehand. Because Renji
had surprised him. Because, despite all his ability, the damned man had managed
to get past his defense and he’d reacted instinctively.


The reminder of what had happened twanged his side
again as if to get his attention. On some level, Byakuya knew that he should
have let his wounds be seen to as well, but seeing Renji collapse in a pile of
flesh and blood… of feeling his spirit pulse drop tremulously low… It made him
remember another time and place when he had turned and walked away. He hadn’t
seen Renji’s recovery then, hadn’t paused to see if he would live. There was no
guilt for his actions, but now that he could look back on them clearly there
was pain and a somewhat begrudging respect for his vice-captain.


“Kuchiki-taichou?” A soft voice inquired.


He pulled his gaze away from Renji and discovered
the warming presence of the Fourth Division captain standing quite close to
him, her second in command right behind her. “Unohana-taichou,” he greeted,
inclining his head a bit.


She smiled gently and tilted her head a bit towards
the inner door, “Would you join me, please?” Byakuya did frown then, hearing
the extra meaning beneath her words and for the first time began to wonder
exactly had transpired between the two healers just moments ago. “It will be
just a few minutes, and then you can return here if you would like,” Unohana
added graciously.


The woman really was hard to argue with. And so,
Byakuya acquiesced and followed her quietly through the door that lead to the
inner corridors of the Fourth Division headquarters. “Your wounds are
aggravated, how far did you carry him?”


Byakuya briefly considered not giving an actual
answer, before making the connection. “From west Rukongai,” he replied,
watching her reaction.


She smiled briefly and led them into a side room,
closing the door behind them. “That is quite a relief to hear. Could you remove
your robe, please?”


He nodded shortly and went about undoing his scarf
first, which he set on the bed next to them, and then continued on with his
outer robes. “What did she tell you?”


“You released your ban kai and Abarai-san was the
target,” Unohana replied, easily taking each layer of clothing and folding it
crisply. “Judging from his condition, I am willing to believe that. Ah… looks
like he hit you pretty well too.”


Byakuya glanced down at his left side, for the first
time actually looking at the wound that had caused everything. It was actually
a fairly large gash seated just below his ribs still very much open and
bleeding. Additionally, there was a nasty slice down his forearm that had
caused blood to trickle down to his hand. Why did his left side always seem to
take the brunt of the damage? He made a mental note to improve the left side of
his defense.


Unohana tsked softly and took a clean, damp clothe
to gently clean the wounds. “You should be more careful next time.”


Byakuya glanced down at the woman calmly
administering the treatment his wounds required and then returned his gaze to
the wall as she worked. For some reason, the fact that she knew there would be
a next time bothered him and he couldn’t place the why. Of course, he hadn’t
doubted there would be. Now that Renji had actually managed to land a good blow,
he’d be twice as determined as before.


“I’ll give you some ointment to help close the
injuries before it gets this bad again,” she continued in the same soft tone
she always used even while concentrating her spirit power to heal the gashes.
“Please remember you are still recovering, though, Kuchiki-sama. Your body may
be mended, but it is still possible to cause further damage. Your lieutenant
should be told the same.”


“I will mention it,” he replied quietly.


They fell into a companionable silence as Unohana
continued to work her magic on each injury she came across. “There,” she
announced a few minutes later, as she straightened from her work. “So long as
you take the rest of the day easy you should be fine for work tomorrow.” He
nodded in reply and reached for his clothing again.


Isane greeted them both halfway down the
hallway, passing a small container to Kuchiki while glancing at her captain for
some kind of confirmation. Unohana smiled pleasantly at her and whatever was
between them seemed settled. Byakuya didn’t doubt that it had to do with him
but didn’t particularly care, either. And so, he moved ahead of them both,
re-entering the front room.


Oi! Kuchiki-taichou!”


Well, at least he had regained consciousness. “Yes,
Renji?”


His vice-captain had propped himself up against the
headboard at some point and was wearing the same silly grin he’d had just
before he passed out. “Heard Unohana-taichou had to take you out back: didn’t
know I hit that hard.”


For the first time in fifty years, Kuchiki Byakuya
rediscovered what it felt like to fight down a smirk. “You don’t, Renji,” he
answered instead while walking over to the end of his bed. Renji ran a hand
through his hair a bit self-consciously but still chuckled at the jibe, already
knowing the truth in it. “I think we’ve inconvenienced the Fourth Division for
long enough today.” Get up, we’re
leaving.


Renji’s whole expression lit up and he literally
jumped out of bed, which was probably not a good idea as he was immediately
overcome by a light-headed feeling and fell back on the bed with a thump.
“Abarai-kun!” Hanatarou squawked, first trying to scramble out of the way, and
then dashing over to make sure the vice-captain was stable.


“I’m fine I’m fine!” Renji insisted, fighting off
the anxious healer.


“You shouldn’t be running around like that! You lost
a lot of spirit energy!” The smaller shinigami scolded.


“Yeah, yeah, so I got up too fast. I’ll be fine,
hey- lay off!!” The last came out as a roar when Renji finally managed to shove
Hanatarou away a safe distance. He shot his captain a furtive look.


The revered noble just met his gaze and very calmly
said, “We will be taking the rest of the day off, Abarai-fukutaichou.” Renji
deflated somewhat at this, having expected to get right back to practice.
Still, Byakuya had that look in his eye that very clearly stated he wouldn’t be
argued with. It was either that or he was amused, and since Renji had never
seen his captain amused, he went for
the more likely explanation. “Get your clothes on; I set your zanpakutou on the
table.”


“Uh yeah… ‘bout that…” Renji rubbed the back of his
neck a bit, not quite meeting his captain’s gaze. “You kinda shredded my
robes.” He gestured to the pile of blood and cloth on the ground next to his
bed.


Perfect. Kuchiki Byakuya found himself at a
loss for words. He couldn’t very well blame his lieutenant for something that
had been a result of his own instinctual reaction. He felt the intense urge to sigh,
but refrained from doing so. Really, what was he going to do with this man?
“Then just get your sword.”


Renji slipped off his bed slowly this time, and
grabbed Zabimaru from the table. Laying the sword across his shoulders, he
glanced back at his captain. After receiving a stoic nod, he smiled a little
hesitantly and waved back at the remaining members of the Fourth Division.
“Thank you, Hanatarou! Seems like you’re always getting me out of tight spots,”
he yelled with a grin.


Hanatarou smiled brightly at him and waved back,
“You’re welcome, Abarai-kun! Have a good day!”


As they left the building, silence descended on the
duo once more. Renji sensed tension creep up around them suffocatingly fast and
wondered what he’d done to put his captain into such a bad mood. He could have
sworn the man was in a better mood just a few moments ago. Tension outside of
battle was not something Renji was fond of, especially not concerning his
captain. He stretched slightly, his muscles still a bit tight. Hey, it was
better than fidgeting.


“We need to wash up and eat something,” Byakuya
instructed suddenly. Renji nearly jumped at the sudden noise. “You need to
replenish the energy you spent.”


Renji gave a nervous laugh, “Are ya’ kidding? I’ve
survived worse.” Whoa, wrong thing to
say,
Renji deduced immediately from the frosty look his captain gave him.
His laugh trailed off weakly. “Eh heh… um, yeah… You know, my place is pretty
close to here… want to stop by for lunch?” He glanced at the sky, checking the
time as an excuse to look away. “Well, I guess it’s more like early dinner,
or-”


“You cook?” Byakuya inquired and while his
expression didn’t really change, Renji could have sworn he heard a distinct
tone of disbelief.


Che, ‘course I can cook!”
He defended immediately, looking back at his captain.


“All your meals are provided for here,” the noble
pointed out.


“Yeah, well, wasn’t always like that. A guy has to
learn how to fend for himself, ya’ know,” Renji muttered defensively. “And
anyway, if you don’t want to-”


“What will you make?”


“Eh?” Renji blinked.


“What do you plan on cooking?” Byakuya repeated.


“Oh, I uh…” Did that mean he had agreed? “I dunno… I
think I have enough to make stir fry for two people?”


“Ah.”


“… So you’re coming, then?” Renji ventured, glancing
back at his captain. Byakuya arched an eyebrow at him as if to say, “That wasn’t already obvious?” He sighed
and made a small waving gesture with his left hand. “All right, you could just
say ‘yes’, you know.”


 


~*~


 


To Byakuya’s surprise, the flat was actually… clean.
Well, it wasn’t exactly spotless, but everything looked well kept and there
wasn’t anything on the floor. He wasn’t quite sure what he had expected to see,
but it was still a pleasant surprise. Renji walked in after him, closing the
door and muttering something as he pushed his hair back over his shoulder
again. “What was that?”


His lieutenant looked back at him abruptly, as if
not having expected him to hear anything at all. “…’s nothing, taichou. I just
need to find a hair tie. I think that was my last one, though…” He sighed a bit
and set his sword down against the traditional style dinning table in the
middle of the room.


“You seem to have a habit of losing them,” Byakuya
remarked.


Renji gave him a peculiar face and then replied,
“With all due respect, Taichou, you
seem to have a habit of slicing them off.” Oh. The Kuchiki heir wasn’t quite
sure how to reply to that. Thankfully, his vice-captain had already moved on
and into the kitchen, saving him the need to respond. “Ah, looks like we’re
havin’ beef,” he called out after a moment, and then reappeared at the
entranceway to the small room. “If you want, you can use the shower…” He
offered, walking out and over to a short hallway. “I know you said you wanted
to wash up, and it’ll take me a bit to make th’ stir fry…” he added as an
afterthought, glancing back.


Cleaning up was very appealing at the moment, since
he was still relatively covered head to toe in blood. Unohana had been quite
selective in her cleaning. At the same time, cleaning up and then dressing back
in said dirty, stained clothing was rather unappealing. As if reading his mind,
Renji suddenly added, “I probably have something you can change into… I mean,
if you want.”


Finding no more reason to turn down the offer of
soothing, warm water, Byakuya nodded and followed his subordinate down the
hall. Renji slid open a door on the left to reveal a small, but functional
bathing area. It was built traditionally, with two separate rooms: one for
undressing and another for actually bathing. The bathing area had a bathtub in
it, which Byakuya hadn’t expected from the description he’d been given, but
noticed that the tub had been fitted with a shower head as well. And, once
again, everything looked well kept and clean. Byakuya glanced back at his
vice-captain as the man said something about being right back and jogged across
the hall. He looked around again. It was strange to think of Renji cleaning
anything, but the domestic scene was equally… fitting.


“Ah, here, taichou,” Renji spoke up, walking back in
with what looked like a folded kimono about the length of their normal robes.
Byakuya noted with some relief that was plain white: not the usual patterns the
red head wore off duty.


“Thank you, Renji,” the noble answered politely and
took the cloth.


“Ah… yeah, no problem,” Renji grinned again and
stepped out. “Towels’re on the right,” he added before leaving completely and
sliding the door shut.


 


Renji was more than happy to get back to the kitchen
and out of the host role for a bit. How on earth people managed to be so polite
and accommodating and, and… nnrg! He ran a hand through his hair. Why the hell
was he entertaining Kuchiki Byakuya of all people, anyway? Because you invited him. Renji told that particularly informative part of his mind exactly where it
could stick its comments, thankyouverymuch.


He pulled out the bags of vegetable and meat,
distracting himself with getting everything set up. Since he’d had wounds
pretty much everywhere, most of him was already clean from Hanatarou’s
excellent healing. The kid really had talent. Be that as it may, he still took
a moment to wash up at the kitchen sink before settling into making the food.
He set some water to boil, and with his old set up he knew it would be a while
before that happened. Some of his hair fell in front of his eyes as he watched
the pot. He pushed it back. It fell forward again. Renji swore creatively at it
and marched off to his room again. It was already going to be hell getting it
clean tonight, he didn’t need it getting burnt, boiled, or anything else his
cooking could possibly due to it.


Unfortunately, he noted after going through every
drawer he owned, he’d been right about his supply of hair ties. Renji sighed
and tried finding a spare piece of cloth or string or something. He really needed to talk to his captain about that, or
at least figure out how he managed to fight with his hair down and not have it
flying everywhere by the end. Eventually, he found a piece of string hiding
under a shirt he’d mended the other night and looked at it dubiously. It was
something, yes, but there was no way in hell it’d hold his hair up the way he
normally had it. Great. Renji set the string on his bureau and quickly pulled
his hair back into a French braid, somehow tying the string at the end well
enough to hold it. Well, it was better anyway.


When he returned to the kitchen, the water was
happily boiling away. He smirked at his timing and set about getting the rice
poured in, the vegetables washed and chopped, the skillet cleaned and the meat
sliced up. It was a familiar and soothing pattern. Soon, all the nervous
tension of earlier slipped away and his sore muscles loosened up a bit. The
rice was taken off the stove and poured generously on two plates, the pot
ending up in the sink, soon to be followed by a soy sauce covered skillet and
mixing spoon. It took him an extra moment to find a spare set of chopsticks, but
he eventually did and even managed to dredge up the two pieces of ceramic
whatnot to place the chopsticks on when not eating. It seemed like something
the Kuchiki heir would expect.


Renji had long since admitted to himself that he
wasn’t very good at ‘entertaining’ guests. Having a few friends over for a
drink or something, sure, but playing host and trying to actually entertain
someone was over his head, to say the least. Not one to be daunted, however, he
arranged the dishes on his small table as precisely as he could manage, having
only vaguely glimpsed what a properly set dinner table looked like. The drinks,
he noticed, would be another thing entirely. Out of just about everything, and
what he did have was just enough for one person. Sake would have to do, he
surmised. Then, with a sigh, he put the bottle he’d grabbed away and took out
the unopened one. It was higher quality and now that he thought about it, Renji
very much doubted his captain would appreciate the crap he normally drank.


Of course, that launched him into a deep and arduous
search of his cupboards for sake-appropriate cups. He grumbled under his breath
the whole time. This was the last time he played host. It was too much damn
work. Abarai Renji was not a man who knew all the ins and outs of propriety.
That was damn sure. Just as he re-entered the main room that was currently the
functioning as the dining area, he noticed his captain already seating himself,
setting a pile of neatly folded clothing next to him. At least the kimono seemed
to fit, and the man seemed to be in a better mood now that he was clean.


“Enjoy the shower?” Renji asked as he set the bottle
of sake on the table and placed the two newly found cups down on either side of
it. “Hope you like sake,” he added, “I don’t really have anything else.”


“Sake will do,” Byakuya answered evenly, pouring himself some. “And the shower was fine.”


Well don’t just jump
all over me with thanks, now…
Renji valiantly pushed on, keeping a scowl from his face
as he sat down casually and picked up his chopsticks. “Dig in, taichou; I’m not
the only one who needs to eat.” He couldn’t resist the small jab, he just
couldn’t. Not with his captain sitting there in his kimono looking as regal and
just… perfect as usual as if he
hadn’t just been involved in a bloody battle only an hour or so before.


True to his nature, though, Byakuya merely took a
sip of the sake in reply, watching Renji over the top of the bowl like cup.
“You found a hair tie,” he commented finally, and gracefully set his cup on the
table once more.


Renji was already a good quarter into his plate. He
swallowed. “Not really, I just found some thread.” He poked at a piece of meat.
“I guess I’ll have to find some more later.”


Byakuya nodded once and picked up his own pair of chopsticks
in a two-handed maneuver Renji had never seen before in his life. He concluded
that it must’ve been a noble thing, and decided to ask Rukia about it at some
point, and then went back to eating. His captain didn’t really seem like making
small talk, which was fine with him. He certainly didn’t want to spend his
dinner searching for topics of conversation that he really couldn’t care less
about. Unfortunately, though, this made him miss the slight widening of
Byakuya’s eyes when he finally took a bite of the food.


“Renji.”


“Uh, yeah?” Said red-head looked up from his
food curiously.


“Who taught you how to make this?” Byakuya asked in
a painfully polite manner.


“I, uh… just kinda learned.” Renji frowned lightly,
not quite able to discern the look on the nobleman’s face. “Why? I shouldn’t
taste that bad…”


“This tastes excellent, Renji.”


For a moment, Renji wasn’t sure he’d heard right. Kuchiki
Byakuya… liked his cooking? He didn’t know what was stranger, the compliment or
the fact that his captain had looked just a little surprised when he’d given
it. Well… Well I’ll be damned.
Without really thinking about it, he grinned. The same open, absolutely pleased
grin he’d had earlier that day. “Glad you like it, Taichou.”




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