sincere: TOA: Ion hovers uncertainly (your eyes open ;;)
Kay ([personal profile] sincere) wrote in [community profile] insincere2015-04-06 07:40 pm

Bleach, "Future Perfect" (Renji/Rukia)

Every now and then, Renji gets caught up in the moment and loses sight of his goals. And every time, he gets a reminder of what he's missing in his life.
Contains unrequited Renji/Rukia because I am incapable of writing their destined happiness. Pre-canon timeline. Written for the [community profile] fic_promptly prompt, "the first time he sees her in Kuchiki family finery".

.future perfect.
Renji could tell that he was going to like it in the 11th Division. Captain Aizen was intelligent and likable and had been nothing but good to him, but reporting in every morning had felt like... well, like work. Everyone had been very proper, diligent, and dedicated. They had gotten the job done and gotten along like good colleagues.

He had been in the 11th Division for less than five minutes before he was raucously greeted by dozens of shinigami, all of them eager to spar with the new kid and all of them gratifyingly impressed by his abilities. He'd been ranked sixth seat and then invited out for a few quick drinks before the evening's fireworks celebrating the day of founding for the Gotei 13. It wasn't like work at all -- it was like hanging out with a bunch of friends and getting a pretty badass reputation for doing it.

They were on their way to the bar when reality intervened.

In the 5th Division, they probably would've all stepped aside and stood respectfully on the curb to wait for the noble's processional to go by, and she probably would have passed through without a glance. The 11th Division did not make way for the entourage: they continued walking down their side of the street in the opposite direction, laughing and jeering and shoving and attracting lots of attention -- including hers.

"Renji?" Rukia asked.

He froze at the sound of his name, the sound of her voice, and didn't even notice as most of his new division continued on without him.

She was stunning -- done up in the sort of elaborate silken kimono that could've easily kept them and their friends back in Inuzuri swimming in water to last them a lifetime, assuming no one had killed them for it. She wore delicate geta and makeup that called attention to her beautiful features, and her hair was done up elaborately, secured in place with expensive combs and decorated with strands of jewelry. Servants littered the road around her, one holding a parasol over her head to protect her from the sun.

Renji had never seen anything so perfect before.

He stood there astonished for so long that she stepped forward, lifting a hand to touch her chest. She said, earnest, "Renji-- it's me."

That made him realize how he must seem to her, and he shook his head to clear the irritating sense of foolishness. "I know who you are, idiot!" he sputtered reflexively. A servant gasped out loud, but the only thing Renji was concerned about was the way her eyes narrowed in unmistakable anger. "I just-- wasn't expecting to see you here, and dressed... Do you dress like this all the time now?" He gestured at her helplessly, trying to sound casual while covering for his dumbfounded lapse.

It didn't work. Rukia gave him a flat look. "Today is Founding Day," she reminded him.

"Right! I know that, obviously." He had completely forgotten. "So you're, uh, all dressed up to go to the ceremony, then. As a member of one of the great noble families."

She paused before lowering her head, manicured fingers fussing with one sleeve. "Yes," she said. "Oniisama and I were just heading there so that we could go up to the Kuchiki box."

He had never felt more like a mangy cur in all his life, looking at her perfect face and thinking of her perfect brother and acutely aware that only heartbeats ago he had been howling and wrestling with a pack of other mangy curs, enjoying how little it felt like doing anything respectable.

She added, "I just saw you, and I was -- surprised. You were transferred to the 11th Division?"

"Yeah." He thought of telling her that he had been ranked sixth seat in the strongest division in the Gotei 13, but standing in front of her now it didn't feel very impressive. So he changed the subject. "You look... good." The words sounded hollow, meaningless platitudes, but he couldn't even begin to describe how incredible she looked. Like something out of a literal dream that he might wake from at any moment. "Really good," he said, softer.

"Thank you," she murmured, slightly red. Embarrassed. They had forgotten how to talk to each other.

On impulse, Renji asked, "Are you?"

Their eyes met, and he searched desperately for validation in her face. He had told himself every day, for years, that she must be happy because he had tried so hard to be unselfish, to keep from holding her back so that she could live the life that she deserved. If she wasn't happy, he didn't know what he'd have left.

Instead he found just enough hesitation to make dread settle in his stomach. It only stayed on her face for a second before Rukia smiled broadly, straightening with a hint of her old pride. "Of course! I'm more than good, I'm great. I never knew life could be like this, Renji! Oniisama has given me so much -- I owe everything to him. It's been amazing."

The words did nothing to dispel the cold knot of regret, but he smiled for her anyway. "I bet," he said. "Eat something fancy at dinner for me."

Despite their best efforts the moment lingered, and she seemed uncertain. She had just opened her mouth to speak when he drew up alongside her, casting her into deeper shade. Kuchiki Byakuya swept past them, his captain's haori like a banner behind him, and said distantly, "Come, Rukia."

Hatred swelled in Renji for a moment, so hot that he had to clench his fists to keep his lips from curling in a snarl. Just like that time, he took Rukia away; just like that time, Renji did not merit so much as a sidelong glance.

Rukia shot Renji an apologetic look, but she was already moving away. "Enjoy the party," she told him with a small smile.

She brushed past him and Renji swallowed, hard, his mind flying far away, years back, the memory so sharp that he could almost see it -- the last time they had connected, the last time she had touched him, brushing his hand aside and rushing past him, leaving him what felt like forever. But the past faded as he turned to watch them go, and the anger seeped away. He tried to imagine living with that cold bastard and wondered how Rukia could possibly be happy that way.

There must have been something about Byakuya he couldn't see from the outside. She had enthusiastically assured him that she was... But then again, he had once enthusiastically assured her that he was happy to lose her, too. They told little white lies to one another with the belief that the other one would be better off. Maybe she had been trying to protect him, the way he had been trying to protect her.

He'd wondered all this time if he had made the wrong choice for his own sake, but that was the first moment when he thought that it might have been the wrong choice for them both.

"Wow," said Madarame Ikkaku. Renji almost jumped out of his skin, whipping around to stare. The older man stared back, expressionless. "What was that?"

"It was painful to watch," Ayasegawa Yumichika agreed mildly, in the same tone he might've used to observe that it was beginning to rain.

The two of them had been standing behind him the whole time. Renji resisted the urge to snap, No one was forcing you to watch! because they were his superior officers. Instead, he looked up one more time at the retreating entourage and he said, "That, Madarame-san, is the reason I'm here."

One time decades ago the girl he loved had said, Let's become shinigami. Now every morning, every day, every night, he meant to be working so that he could show her and her brother that he was worthy. No matter what division he was in and no matter what those around him were like.

That was his past, his present, and his future.