Written for the Week# 10 prompt at the bleach_contest community on LiveJournal; Jump. Set post-War, it's been 40 years since Renji last saw Ichigo, and now the substitute Soul Reaper sends a messa...
by: youkai_girl AKA eternalsailorsolarwind
Disclaimer: Bleach and all of its characters are owned by Tite Kubo, his Japanese publishers, and Viz. I only own some very nice merchandising.
A/N: Written for the Week 10 prompt at the LiveJournal community bleach_contest: Jump. Technically, this is a Renji/Ichigo. It's been forty years since Renji last saw Ichigo. Time has not been all that kind to him, and he has a message for the redheaded Soul Reaper.
Renji scanned the playground, looking for the man he was supposed to meet. He wondered why Ichigo had chosen this spot for their meeting, but he'd given up trying to figure out the substitute Soul Reaper many years ago. It had been over forty years since he'd seen the man, and the Fifth Division captain wondered if he'd recognize the old man that Kurosaki Ichigo must be by now.
After a moment, his eyes lit on an old man with a cane sitting directly across from him, brown eyes staring at his gaudily dressed gigai/. The orange hair was white now, but the strength of the /reiatsu that suddenly pulsed from him was the same as ever. He grinned, somehow not surprised. Ichigo always did manage to stand out in a crowd somehow, no matter what he did. Winding his way through small children, Renji walked over.
The changes that time had wrought over the last forty years saddened the /shinigami/. His last memories of Ichigo were that of a young, vital warrior. Now, he was suddenly faced with an old man nearly seventy. Even though he thought he was prepared for it, he was wrong. It hurt to see his former lover like this. But it was his own fault that it had been so long since they'd seen each other; his fault they'd been caught breaking the rules.
Romantic relationships between the living and shinigami were forbidden – period. Not even for Ichigo would they bend that rule. So they were punished in the only way possible: separation. Ichigo was banned from Soul Society, and he was forbidden from visiting the living world for twenty-five years. Nearly a third of a lifetime.
By the time he'd served his sentence, Ichigo had moved on. Married, had kids. So Renji stayed away, not wanting to cause anyone pain. Another fifteen years passed, and just yesterday he had received a message from Ichigo requesting a meeting. Curious, he came.
“So, /gaki/, whaddya want,” he asked, grinning wolfishly at a scowling Ichigo.
“Idiot,” growled the white-haired man before him. The brown eyes sparkled with pleased humor. “It's been forty years, and that's the first thing you say to me? I ought to bring out Zangetsu and teach you some manners, /oyaji/.”
After a pause, they both chuckled, and Renji sat down next to Ichigo, realizing that though he was elderly, there was still plenty of strength in him. He didn't doubt that if Ichigo shucked his body, he'd find that the soul within was still as he remembered it. “Ya' wanted to talk to me?”
A fist clobbered him on the head of his /gigai/, “Yeah, asshole. Where have you been the last fifteen years?”
Rubbing his head, bemused that the blow actually stung, the taichou stared at him. “You moved on, got married. Had rugrats. Didn't think you'd want to see me.”
“I was lonely, you jerk. I never moved on You're right where you're supposed to be,” Ichigo huffed, pointing to his chest. “There was just more room there than I thought there'd be. Besides, I heard you 'moved on' a long time ago.”
Glaring at him, knowing exactly which midget to blame for that, the redhead replied, “I did not. I just wasn't celibate. There's a difference.”
The substitute Soul Reaper sighed, “We're both idiots, then. Hardly surprising, coming from us. But that's not the whole reason I called for ya'.”
Renji blinked as he was handed the substitute shinigami license Ichigo had received as a boy. “What? Why....”
“I'm dying, Renji.”
The tattooed man's mouth dropped open. He'd never though Ichigo could die, not after all the hell he'd gone through over the years. His former lover was one of the constants of the universe. He couldn't just ...go away. “You're /what/?”
“All of those years of jumping in and out of my body weakened my heart. I've got six months to a year left.” Ichigo stared sightlessly out at the children playing, lost in thought.
Licking his lips, Renji felt an ache in his chest. “What then, Ichigo?”
Brown eyes blinked at him owlishly. “What else, you /baka/? I go to Soul Society.”
“But the ban....”
“It's a life ban. Once I die, it ends,” the other man replied patiently.
“That means...,” the Soul Reaper couldn't finish the sentence, afraid he was wrong. A wild hope suddenly flared within him.
“If you want,” said Ichigo, suddenly sounding shy. It reminded the captain of the Ichigo he had first taken as a lover all those years ago.
“I want,” replied the redhead with a grin. He hadn't felt this good in forty years.
“Me too,” agreed the substitute /shinigami/, turning his head as a girl came up to him.
“Grandpa, can I have some ice cream,” she asked, before looking at the tattooed man sitting next to her grandfather. “Who's this?”
“He's...a very old friend, Atsuko-/chan/,” replied the old man. “The best.”
Ichigo's eyes looked out at him from the little girl's face, widening in surprise. “You're like Grandpa.”
“He is,” agreed the white-haired Ichigo, levering himself up with his cane. “Come on, kiddo, let's get you that ice cream. See you soon, Renji.”
Watching them go, Renji felt an anticipation and excitement that he hadn't known in decades. After all these years, he and Ichigo were going to have a second chance to be together; a new beginning. He'd never dared hope for it, and now he realized he could hardly wait.