Renji gets an offer and wibbles hesitates over it; Byakuya pounds talks some sense into him. Drama, I-3

Renji eyed the messenger, entertained, in a detached kind of way, at how out of place he looked in the middle of the muddy practice ground behind the south sixth court. Though Kuchiki-taichou would undoubtedly approve of the poor guy’s formal words and poker-up-the-ass posture.

“… so, that being the case, a quorum of the Thirteen—” the messenger’s voice stumbled, “of the… remaining Thirteen division captains call you before them to receive their acclamation as captain of the Fifth Division.”

Renji’s hand twitched once toward the paper held out by the messenger, before he closed it into a fist by his side.

“I can’t accept it,” he said quietly.

“Then please come at once to… you what?!” The messenger gaped at him, poise blown away. A wry smirk curled Renji’s mouth, imagining his captain’s expression of chilly disapproval, now.

“You deaf?” he prodded. “I can’t accept it.” Humor drained away again, and he added, soft and hard, “Not yet.” The messenger opened and closed his mouth a few times, waving the paper at him, and Renji wheeled around and stuffed his hands into his sleeves to keep from reaching for it after all. “Don’t you have work to be doing?” he growled over his shoulder.

“I… I’ll… take your… your refusal… to the captains then,” the messenger stammered, sounding dazed. “Um. Yes.”

Renji caught some pretty uncomplimentary muttering as the messenger took himself off, and snorted. “I can’t accept it,” he repeated to empty air. “Not yet.”

Lifting his eyes, he caught Kuchiki Byakuya’s expressionless gaze for one moment before his captain was gone from the balcony where he’d been listening.

Renji liked to think that he stayed alert for anything, even when he was at home.

Anything, however, didn’t usually include a tiny brat of a fellow vice-captain landing on his shoulders and pounding him on the head with a small but very hard fist.

“Renji, you idiot!”

“Ow!” Renji’s chin hit the tatami before he managed to haul her off. “Yachiru, what the hell?!”

Yachiru dangled from his fist, glaring at him. “What do you think you’re doing, disobeying your captain’s orders?”

Renji squinted at her, wondering if Rangiku had invited Yachiru over for sake again. He thought they’d all learned better, after last time. “What the hell are you talking about? I haven’t disobeyed orders!” He paused. “Well, not recently.” Then he howled as Yachiru kicked him in the elbow and squirmed out of his grip to stand in front of him with her arms crossed, tapping a toe.

“Your promotion,” she snapped. “Who do you think nominated you?”

Renji blinked at her while his brain worked through what she’d just implied. It took a while. “Kuchiki… taichou?” he said at last, voice thin with disbelief.

“Exactly!” She walloped him another one while he was distracted.

“But,” Renji protested, with his hands over his head, “but I’m not… I still have to…” He stopped as Yachiru’s glare cranked up another notch. When she spoke her voice was very calm and Renji sat up straight. When Yachiru got serious, smart people listened up.

“Three captains are gone. Hisagi can temporarily take the Ninth; they’re shaken, but they all know him and trust him. The Third and Fifth, though,” she shook her head, eyes shadowed. “They’re broken. And Momo and Izuru… they… ” she bit her lip. “Even Unohana-taichou can’t say when she might recover, and he’s… not doing well.” She jammed her fists on her hips and stomped closer, until they were nose to nose. “So quit acting so stupid and take the promotion! It’s your duty to the divisions, and to your captain, who obviously knows which way is up even if you don’t!”

Renji veered off from that last bit and picked something else to argue with. “So they can advance Ikkaku-san,” he told Yachiru, stubbornly. “Anyone can tell he’s half past ready, for all he’s been slacking up till now. And Ayasegawa can go along as his vice-captain. They’d be a good change of pace for the Fifth.”

“They’re moving to the Third, already,” she shot back.

“They should move Rangiku to Third,” he grumbled. “It’d be good for them and for her, both.”

“She’s not ready to move up,” Yachiru said, flatly. “And Hitsugaya-taichou is good for her already. You know she needs someone to look after her.”

Ticking down the list of vice-captains, Renji had to admit that the only people who were really ready to move up were him and Yachiru. And one look at the glint in her eye decided him that he wasn’t crazy enough to suggest that Yachiru leave her captain.

“All right, all right!” he exploded, at last. “Get out of here and leave me alone, you little brat! I’ll think about it.”

Yachiru beamed at him, serious look evaporating. “Sure thing, Rakugaki!” She hopped out his window with a cheerful wave. Renji growled after her. She didn’t have to look so sure she’d won, already, did she?

He sprawled out on his back, staring up at his ceiling blankly. “Taichou,” he murmured. “Did you really?”

Renji spent the next day shooting thoroughly weirded out looks at his captain. It was hard to tell for sure, but he thought Kuchiki-taichou was amused by it.

There was a suspicious lack of any one else getting promoted to the Fifth that made Renji grit his teeth every time he noticed it. Now, on top of his urge to press forward and the pride that demanded he catch Kuchiki-taichou first, he had the urge to be contrary and tell them to all fuck off piled into the mix. It didn’t make for a peaceful day.

When he realized he was thinking about tracking down that Ichigo for a really good fight, Renji decided he had to do something. Maybe he could talk it over with Rukia…

He stormed off to the dojo and yelled at the Captain-General until the old man agreed to a match, instead.

“Finding excuses to slack off of your duties?”

Renji craned his head to see Kuchiki-taichou standing in the doorway before Yamada hauled his chin back around.

“Hold still, Renji-san,” Yamada told him, firmly, shining a light in his eyes.

“I’m fine,” Renji grumbled, trying to bat the light away. “Just got a little knocked around. And I finished the paperwork before I left,” he added to his captain.

Kuchiki-taichou’s eyes narrowed a fraction. Renji stifled a wince. Okay, so the paperwork wasn’t what the Captain was talking about. He hunched up a little, as far as the bandages would let him; it wasn’t that unreasonable that he wanted to kick Kuchiki-taichou’s ass into next week before advancing, he thought mulishly. There were things a man had to do for his own pride.

Yamada smacked him on the shoulder with two fingers, and tried to look stern when Renji goggled at him. “Stop that, Renji-san. I haven’t finished with your ribs yet.” He turned to face Kuchiki-taichou, and Renji figured he was probably the only one close enough to tell that the poor guy’s knees were shaking. “Kuchiki-taichou, your fuku-taichou will be released in two hours.”

Yamada clearly didn’t quite have the guts to tell Kuchiki-taichou to take a hike. Renji didn’t blame him, not with the cold stare he was getting.

“I see.”

Renji snorted as Kuchiki-taichou turned and swept back down the hall, and Yamada slumped against the examining table. “Entire damn place has lost its mind lately,” he muttered, clouting Yamada on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. He’s a stickler for protocol; wouldn’t kill anyone who isn’t in his own division.”

Renji couldn’t help remembering that he was, in fact, in Kuchiki-taichou’s division, when he was released from the clutches of Fourth Division only to find his captain waiting at the door.

“Come,” Kuchiki-taichou ordered, briskly.

Renji followed along, sighing. At least whatever deadly dull penalty job his captain had in mind would probably keep him busy.

They finally stopped at one of the practice fields. Renji, figuring that he was about to be assigned to cut the grass with nail-clippers or something, felt his jaw drop when Kuchiki-taichou undid the bundle under his arm and tossed Zabimaru at him. “Taichou?” he asked, slowly, staring at his zanpaku-tou.

“The Thirteen Divisions have no use for deadwood,” Kuchiki-taichou stated, drawing Senbonzakura.

Renji’s brain scrambled to make sense of the whole situation, but his body already knew this was a fight and was more interested in not dying. He drew Zabimaru. After this long under Kuchiki-taichou, Renji knew for a fact that he was serious. He was always serious. Icicle-bastard.

“Prove that you are not ready, and I will revoke my nomination,” Kuchiki-taichou told him, evenly. “Hold back and I will kill you.


Renji came to starting at the sky, covered in slime, with Unohana-taichou standing over him as she sealed her zanpaku-tou. “That was reckless, Kuchiki-taichou,” she scolded, mildly.

“It was necessary,” his voice corrected.

Renji managed to turn his head and squint up at the figure looming on his other side. Kuchiki-taichou looked down at him, detached as always. “Closer,” Renji rasped. “This time.”

One brow tilted slightly. “Perhaps,” Kuchiki-taichou returned. “In any case, my nomination stands. You will report to accept it.” He turned away while Renji was still trying to muster the energy to scowl.

Two steps away, though, he stopped. “I have only fought four others who have come closer since I became captain myself. Stop wasting time arguing your fitness. Abarai-taichou.”

Renji felt his face heat. Oh, he was not… he was not blushing. No. No way. He made an uncomfortable sound, flailing for anything he could say that wouldn’t result in yet more embarrassment. Unohana-taichou had a hand over her mouth, and her eyes were sparkling. Renji squirmed.

Kuchiki-taichou looked over his shoulder. A faint curve marked one corner of his mouth. “Someone to chase, to get stronger, wasn’t it? What made you think that would change? It would take considerably more than a promotion to make you my equal. Work for it.”

Renji stared, and then laughed, and then coughed as the laugh caught on the pain still running through his chest. “Ah,” he gasped, at last. “Then I’ll just have to do more, huh? Taichou.”

Kuchiki-taichou’s dismissive glance, raking him up and down before he turned away again, made Renji hold his stomach as another laugh clawed its way free. He grinned through clenched teeth at his captain’s retreating back.

“More it is, then.”


A/N: Rakugaki means scrawl or scribble or graffiti. It seemed a likely nickname for Yachiru to use for Renji.