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Fanfic: Bleach, Renji/Ichigo.

Title: The Art of Smiling
Author: black_goose
Fandom: Bleach
Pairing: Renji/Ichigo
Word count: 2200
Rating: PG-13
Prompt: #30, Heal
Summary: Soul Society ponders how the two most unlikely men ended up together.



The day that Soul Society found out that Kurosaki Ichigo and Abarai Renji were sleeping together had started out as normal day (at least for the two involved: Yumichika had to spend an extra hour doing his hair after an incident with Yachiru) that slowly, but surely, turned into something quite horrific.

To begin with, with hindsight, perhaps they shouldn’t have left the door to Renji’s rooms open. And perhaps, just perhaps, Renji shouldn’t have told Hisagi that he’d be there, and to send anyone looking for him there ("How was I supposed to know? I didn’t even know Ichigo was coming over in the first place.") Also, perhaps, and this was the biggest perhaps, perhaps they shouldn’t have been having sex at 3 o’clock in the afternoon – though, as Renji pointed out, when is a good time then?

But they both agreed that if they’d known it was going to be Ikkaku who walked in on them, they probably wouldn’t have done any of those things. Because Ikkaku immediately told Yumichika, who then ran off and told Matsumoto, who then told the entire 10th Division during a routine training session, and from there onwards everything was lost.

After all, it wasn’t every day that the shinigami world found out that two of their captains (who were war heroes, no less) were sleeping together, or that they had been for a few months now. The fact that the two of them, who were fairly loud, ‘shout it from the rooftops’ people, could keep it secret for so long was enough of a shock for their friends that they could not even bring themselves to feel angry over the fact that it had been secret.

Once the shock from that thought wore off, everyone was then struck with the realisation that this was Renji and Ichigo who were in a relationship. Ikkaku thought the world was ending; Yumichika pondered the extent of which it could be considered beautiful; Matsumoto announced that it was absolutely wonderful, and Hitsugaya wandered off in search of some painkillers.

It was not long before their closest friends were being asked if they had known anything about the affair. Most truthfully denied knowing a single thing, but Rukia smiled mysteriously and refused to answer, while Byakuya murmured that Renji “had been his vice-captain, after all.”

But to those who don’t know them, the lower members of the divisions, they barely noticed anything out of the ordinary between the two – when they met in the streets between divisions, their conversation was never unusual, and they spoke and left with grins, no displays of affection at all. And they still went out with the other men they knew were their friends, and laughed and drank together, and still rolled into their separate divisions at around 2am, Renji and Hisagi demanding that everyone get them more alcohol, while Hinamori tried to stop Ichigo from waking up the entire 5th division.

But to those who really knew them, they began to notice things that they hadn’t before. And, astonishingly, it wasn’t even the most observant member of them who noticed it first.

Zaraki Kenpachi did not pride himself on having a large amount of brains, but more on his fighting ability. Yumichika might scorn that as being an ugly thing to have in life (Zaraki just reckons that’s the gay in him talking), but the captain feels that even without the best brain in the world, it’s easy to learn and grow, and fighting has helped him to do that. He can read people like its second nature now; missing something in a battle means death, and he rather likes to win. The ability that he’s honed and sharpened over the years has given him the edge that keeps him at the top, but to be honest, it’s not just in a battle that he uses it, because, after all, what sort of man would he be if he didn’t use his advantage for things like blackmail?

He’s always thought that there was something a bit odd about Ichigo, but then so did everyone else in Soul Society, because of that incident with Orihime and the not jumping her bones. So he couldn’t really base anything on him, because he was pretty much a given. He likes watching Abarai the most. A man like that, he never learnt to keep him emotions buried down, and Zaraki noticed the slight touches on Ichigo’s shoulder, the momentary silence when the orange haired boy entered the room. He’s noticed the eyes that flick back and forth between the other man and whoever Abarai happens to be talking to.

But now that’s it out in the open, and Abarai can follow Ichigo around and make sure that he doesn’t get into any trouble, like he is now in their monthly fighting session, Abarai seems to be more obvious that ever. Zaraki can feel the glares in the back of his head like he’s actually being stabbed (not that it would make any difference, more likely to just cut the other captain) and when they’re finished that sprawled along the ground, bleeding and laughing (Zaraki) and breathless (Ichigo), Abarai runs up, desperate and annoyed and hits Ichigo softly on the head as he helps him up.

“If I knew that this was what it was like every week,” he tells the bloody man, “I wouldn’t let you do it.” And it’s said in the kind of voice that implies death if he disagrees with his assessment of the situation, and yet it’s accompanied by a smile that recognises the importance of the training.

Ichigo just gives him this happy little smirk, and Zaraki thinks that if they’re going to be so obvious about it, the two faggots deserve each other anyway.

When Renji stumbles into the fourth division holding a semi-conscious 5th division captain in his arms, the poor members on duty thought that the apocalypse had come and they were being attacked for the first time since Aizen had been defeated – how else, they asked, could one of the strongest (if not the strongest) captains in the Gotei 13 be in that state? Unohara checked her calendar and then realised that it was the day that the 5th squad captain fought the 11th squad captain and everything calmed down a bit.

The rumours surrounding Renji and Ichigo had even made it all the way to the 4th division, and they, like everyone else in Soul Society, were desperate to see for themselves if what they had heard was actually true. Their captain and vice-captain had to literally push people out of the way as they attempted to make their way into the room Ichigo had been placed in. Kotetsu yelled a lot; Unohara commented calmly that she doubted such noise was beneficial for a healing environment, and gave the kind of smile that stuff fear into the parts of the heart that even Zaraki couldn’t reach.

Judging by the slightly frantic look on Renji’s face, Unohara doesn’t think that he’s seen the aftermath of a fight that had just taken place. She likes to think that it makes Aizen’s destruction seem tame. But still, she reassures him, because they have literally done this a thousand times before, and the injuries are not so life threatening that the 5th squad captain will need to be kept in overnight.

There’s a sort of relief on Renji’s face when she says that that suggests that he hadn’t really believed her when she said it wasn’t life threatening, and only the action of actually sending Ichigo home would convince him. She likes that look of complete joy, a moment of pure emotion in Sereitei, which has changed, evolved since the betrayal, and perhaps not for the better. She knows that people find it hard to trust now; she can see everyone wondering whether that person that they think they know well is really who they think say they are. And so that wide, goofy grin on the 9th division captain’s face is something she welcomes and greets and loves.

‘The guys’, as Renji likes to call them, are a slightly rag-tag group, with Yumichika coming up first, dragging Hisagi behind him, and Iba bringing the rear, wondering if he’s the only straight one in the place. They’re the friends that they have that they can trust the most, who they know will always be there to fight for them or protect them, if needs be, and who’ll understand if it’s something that needs to be done solo. Renji drank with them and went out with them and laughed with them long before Ichigo came along, and now that he’s here nothing’s changed – now there’s just one more person to drink with, to go out with, to laugh with.

Even now that the secrets been revealed, there’s nothing that changes in the going out part, or the laughing part, and there’s only been a slight difference in the drinking part, because it doesn’t escape anyone’s notice that when the two men get slight drunk, the fact that they can causes them to act in ways that would never have come about if they were sober. Renji’s hand likes to place itself on Ichigo’s hip, or play with his hair at the base of his neck, or wrap around a waist or shoulder. And Ichigo smiles and laughs and pushes him away, or kisses him sloppily, his own hands coming up to pull at the hair tie or to pull at the material of whatever outfit Renji is wearing at that time.

Yumichika announces that it’s almost as beautiful as Hisagi and himself, but is quick to stress the almost part.

Iba mimes throwing up and when he goes into the bathroom to find them kissing against the wall, he actually does throw up.

Kira thinks that it’s really very sweet, and that he’s glad that Abarai-kun has someone now that Rukia has married Kuchiki-taicho, and he’s sure that Ichigo-san will be perfect for him. When he shyly tells Ikkaku this, he gets lauded for being a romantic sop, but at least he gets kissed for it too.

Ikkaku tells them to get a room, because he don’t need to see that shit, and then goes back to trying to grope Kira.

Hisagi tries to turn his head away and forget about it, because he’s got to work with that person on Monday.

The vice-captains of the 5th division and 9th division find the entire thing cute and disturbing respectively. Hinamori doesn’t find Ichigo in any way or form as good looking as her previous captain, and she acknowledged that they were rather different personalities. So in her opinion he could be with anyone he wanted. The short moments when he wasn’t scowling in a way that suggested anger but didn’t really are when Abarai-kun was around, so that’s something that makes her laugh and she knows that if there’s one thing she needs, it’s more laughter.

Hisagi likes that there’s a constant smile on Renji’s face, because it reminds him of how far they’ve come, all of them, since the war with Aizen and Tousen and Gin; but the reason that he keeps inside and has only told Yumichika, the real reason he likes that smile is because it’s different from anything else he’s ever seen, the smile of someone in love and someone who’s willing to do anything for that other person. It’s a smile that’s different from Aizen’s calm, reassuring upturn of lips, or Tousen’s straight faced glance (because men of justice don’t smile) or Gin’s constant smirk, and that’s something important. That’s something to preserve.

Rukia looks at the two best friends she has in the world now, and it’s hard to picture the broken men they once were, Ichigo forced to kill and cut and destroy while Renji could not quite find the strength to save those that he wanted to, because the men they fought were stronger than anyone could ever have imagined. Broken men, with broken hearts, as Ichigo missed his chance, and Renji realised that she didn’t love him in that way. It had hurt, proving that to him, and she’d turned to her brother for help, which led to a cruel cycle.

But now he winks and gasps and laughs, honestly, truly laughs, at Ichigo, and kisses him hard, free and cheerful, as Ichigo returns the kiss. She likes seeing them together; she likes to see the hidden looks and smiles, the carefully constructed touches or brushes. It proves that they’ve moved on, and that there’s hope for them in the future. Those wounds that were created in the war have faded over, until she can only see the faint scars that probably manifest themselves in the form of nightmares, like hers do – though, she supposes that it’s not really her place to know what happens at night between the two.

Byakuya thinks the whole situation is totally ridiculous and can’t understand how any vice-captain of his could lower themselves to a fake shinigami with a stupid bankai. No amount of pointing out that Ichigo is, similarly, a captain, changes his mind.
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