Renji and Rukia meet their respective zanpakutou.
"Vice Captain Abarai, what do I owe this honour?" the not so humble shopkeeper asked.
Renji lunged forward as if to grab Urahara by his yukata and shake him senseless. Urahara, however, stepped nimbly to the side, causing Renji to launch headfirst into the wall, his hands bracing himself just in time to prevent an unfortunate collision. Urahara stuffed a box of chocolates, keys and a map down Renji's shirt before prancing off with his fan a flutter.
Rukia leaned against Renji and they ate the chocolates in silence-the only occupants of an otherwise empty field.
"So where are we again, Renji?" Rukia asked as she licked her fingers one by one.
"Training facility. Crazy shopkeeper lent me the keys. Thought we should check it out," Renji said as he popped another chocolate into his mouth.
Rukia squinted and looked up at the sky.
"Impressive. You'd almost think it was the real thing," Rukia said.
A dark speck in the horizon headed towards the two shinigami. The two tensed for a moment, their hands falling to their zanpakutou. Renji frowned.
"Zabimaru?" he muttered under his breath.
Despite its bulk, the giant nue walked with lanky grace. Renji seemed nonplussed and gave a dismissive wave. However, Rukia's eyes were like saucers, her mouth shaped in a small o. The nue walked up to her, eying the diminutive girl. He butted his head against her side and she squeaked. Renji rolled his eyes.
"He's so fuzzy!" Rukia squealed as she wrapped her arms around Zabimaru's neck. "You never told me!"
Zabimaru rubbed his head against Rukia's head, causing her to squeal again.
"I like Rukia-chan. She's much nicer. I should have picked her," Zabimaru rumbled.
"Betrayed by my own fucking zanpakutou," Renji grumbled under his breath, trying to ignore the sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach.
The last time Renji had checked, the shinigami wielded the zanpakutou, not the other way around. Renji watched Zabimaru run across the field, Rukia giggling as she clung to Zabimaru's broad neck for her dear life. He wasn't questioning the nue's taste, but...Renji sighed, trying to maintain a stoic face.
"Sulking does not suit you, Abarai-kun," a woman said.
Renji sprung to his feet and spun around. A tall woman, all white-her skin, her hair, her lips, her nails, stood behind him. The only spots of color were her black, black eyes and her pink tongue, peeking out as she spoke.
"I've always wondered how low your tattoos really go. Rukia has never been able to answer," the woman said, her dark, sweet voice like the chocolates they had eaten, the centers filled with smoky whisky.
She trailed a finger from his eyebrows down the side of his face to the opening of his kimono. Renji began gasping for air, gulping it lungful after lungful. When had he stopped breathing?
"Perhaps you'd like to show me, Abarai-kun?" the woman asked.
"Guh," Renji grunted.
She ran her slim white fingers through Renji's hair, causing it to tumble down his back. Renji's breath came in shallow bursts, his pupils dilating. The white woman smiled as she suddenly seized a fistful of his hair, jerking Renji forward for a kiss.
Rukia snorted. Zabimaru shrugged.
"I can't take her anywhere," Rukia said with a shake of her head.
"My sentiments exactly, Rukia-chan," Zabimaru grumbled.
A loud purring interrupted his thoughts and his vision was flooded with white. He opened his mouth and that too was filled with white fur. The purring grew louder-it brought to mind the strange humming noises that would come out of the Twelfth Division headquarters. A long pink tongue licked his face-an experience akin to sandpaper.
"Be nice, Shirayuki," Rukia called out from the distance.
Shirayuki began swatting Renji with her paws, her purr taking on a menacing tone. Renji, having keen survival instincts, began scratching Shirayuki behind her ears, paying no mind to her very functional claws. Shirayuki rested her head in his lap and curled up against him. Renji passed his afternoon like this-cuddled in a bundle of white fur, Rukia's laughter in his ears. His glum face fooled no one.