The Losing Side
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach.
A/N: This was supposed to be a one-shot but the minute I decided the title I realized it was a multi-chapter deal. XD I hastened to conclude Exciting Proposal because oh my god, I can't handle more than one of these things at a time, and so with much pride in my heart I give you my offering.
Chapter One: Classic
It was siesta time, and Karakura town was snoozing.
"Ya snooze, ya lose."
One unlikely pair, though, had determined that boozing was a suitable substitute for snoozing. Fuck happy hours. Renji and Uryuu needed to get pissed.
Renji said it again and Uryuu chortled.
"I wasn't actually snoozing, you know." He crossed his legs under the table and tipped more sake into his glass. "I was sewing. Large, lacquered buttons from Kyoto onto a silk shirt. For the school's adaptation of Hamlet—or was it Romeo and Juliet? One of those. She was my partner. Did the seams."
Renji admired the way Uryuu handled his drink. Sentences got shorter, but no less lucid.
"Kurosaki saw her first."
"He called shotgun?"
Uryuu shouted. It was a laugh, in his way. "No. She did."
Renji contemplated his fingers and snorted. "Sucks some sweaty ball sacks, don't it?"
Uryuu's apartment was a one bedroom, two bathroom affair above the Tsuruya bakery that supplied Kakakura's most sumptuous bread. Buttery smells were forever wafting upwards, warming the young brunet's home and the cockles of his heart. There was a small kitchen and an alcove for the breakfast table where they sat. The living room didn't have a TV; the single sofa faced windows and a low shelf of books.
"Why two bathrooms?" Renji quizzed.
"When someone sleeps over? More efficient in the mornings."
Not a lot of people had slept over. In fact Uryuu was pretty sure Renji was the first. Assuming he stayed here till dark, of course, when Uryuu would politely insist his guest stay the remainder of the night. He wondered why his life was so lonely and decided introspection didn't sit well with cheap rice wine.
"You and Kuchiki-san. How did you meet?"
Renji told him. Uryuu nodded.
"What separated you?"
He let go of her hand all over again.
"Why would you do that?"
"What else should I've done?" Bitterness sat well with cheap rice wine: Uryuu would have to remember. "Was I supposed to be the selfish jack shit to stand between her and her chance to belong to a family? To stop her from leading a good life, just because I didn't want her to lead it without me?"
"Yes. You should have."
Mutual resentment turned to unhelpful advice with barely a jolt. Renji stared unintelligently. Uryuu went on.
"Had you held her back. She wouldn't have met Shiba Kaien. Nor Kurosaki." Uryuu blinked. "Maybe she wanted you to hold her back. Thought of that, Abarai?"
"I try not to."
Silence sidled up to them and kissed their cheeks.
"It looks like rain," Uryuu commented at length.
"Ishida, do you think Inoue would've gone for you if, you know, you asked? Before Ichigo nearly died for her, I mean. That's gotta give 'im the edge."
"I nearly died for Inoue-san as well," Uryuu nibbled his lower lip thoughtfully, "She doesn't like him any better for that. To be honest? She's saturated with love. And not so weak that she would take any man but the one she wants."
"I don't think Rukia's stubborn in the same way," Renji heavily said, "She's lost love once so she knows she it can happen again. She doesn't let herself hope too much for Ichigo. Scared it'll end up in misery, and who can blame her?"
Silence stalked back and helped itself to a taste of their lips. This time it stayed a while.
Three hours later it was finely drizzling and they were officially plastered. Renji lolled on the living room carpet while Uryuu burrowed into the sofa, searching for something.
"Ish'da, let'shh do something shtupid."
"I won't—hic—get married to you…"
"Gud. I'as thinkin' of somethin' on a—a smaller schkale."
"Hmm?" Uryuu's backside rose in the air. He dug his fingers through the cushions.
"Let'shh jump in th'canal."
"What for? It's two feet deep these warm summer evenings…"
Uryuu didn't get it, but he was game. Renji could have married him, he was that soaked in alcohol. Loose-limbed gaiety took them to the end of the street; mild confusion took them the rest of the way. Standing on the canal's banks, they agreed to strip to their underwear. Just for the…the liberating experience of it. For the fully sozzled hell of it.
"Communing with nature," Uryuu said.
"Naw, you gotta be buck nekkid fo' it t'count." Renji's words tripped over themselves and he held Uryuu's hand tightly.
They tossed themselves into the shallow waters.
"Ishida! Isn't that your son?"
Uryuu's father adjusted his glasses and coolly eyed Kurosaki Isshin from under his umbrella. "Why would you assume that?"
"He's in his undies, holding hands with a guy."
"Oh, ha-ha, you bitingly witty man—"
"They've jumped into the canal." Isshin wow-weed. "I'd say they're drunk as hell. Tch, so young to be an alcoholic…Uryuu takes after you."
Ryuuken turned a furiously cold back on his resented drinking partner. "It won't be his death. I intend to go home."
Alas, it was not to be. A hand hooked his collar and propelled him backwards. "Help me get the kids first, they'll be arrested for making a nuisance. You want that black mark on your son's record when he applies for college?"
"We're estranged," Ryuuken propelled his own damn self, and Kurosaki keep your hands away. "I shouldn't care."
"Funny how it doesn't stop you from caring though, huh? C'mon," Isshin furled his umbrella and broke into an enthusiastic jog, "Race ya there!"
Each man helped a dripping youngster to his unsteady feet. Renji and Uryuu, too wasted to notice anything, thought it was all freaking amazing. Isshin threw the red-haired one over his broad shoulder like his own child and, placing a hand on his bum to keep him there, strode away. Ryuuken went with, picking up Uryuu in his arms, bridal style. Cradling him, almost.
Isshin glanced over at the rare spectacle. "You're so tender. Would it kill you to be that way to him when he's conscious?"
"Silence. I will not be lectured by a man who advices his son to enjoy his daughters' panty-less touch."
"Heh, that story made its way to you? Impressive."
"Other adjectives occur to the mind."
Uryuu's place was the sensible option. Ryuuken would be damned before stepping into Isshin's home, and equally unwilling to offer Renji a place in his.
"You have a key to your kid's house?" Isshin raised an eyebrow as Ryuuken indicated its presence. "Isn't that a violation of his privacy?"
"Says the man who bursts regularly in on his daughters' baths."
"Hey now, that third time was an accident."
They deposited their loads on the sofa and left a note explaining briefly and plausibly what had happened to the duo. Ryuuken asked the obvious question.
"How did these two, of all people, get so stupendously inebriated together? Never there was a more unlikely pair of bar buddies."
Isshin coughed slightly to remind the good doctor that there was too, and they themselves comprised it. Ryuuken started and contemplated the man's face. Isshin said shrewdly:
"Women. No better thing for young boys to bond over."
"Women," repeated Ryuuken, his bronze eyes contemplating his son instead.
"Yep. I know for a fact that the little Inoue girl fell for my Ichigo, and your Uryuu's fond of her. The shinigami…well, he's Rukia-chan's best friend. Maybe he resents taking second seat to my son."
"Your child appears to be quite the stud."
"Naturally, nothing else could be expected with such a fine piece of ass for an old man."
"I feel I may vomit."
"You always say that," Isshin was grinning, "Oh, lighten up, Ishida. Are you going to let that stick in your ass forbid your own son from the first real friend he's probably made? Uryuu doesn't get along with Ichigo, but he seems to like the redhead well enough. Don't take him away…"
Ryuuken let his fingers graze the tips of Uryuu's. A flash of light on his glasses hid his eyes. "I don't suppose he would listen to me even if I did forbid him."
The moment passed.
"Rebellious teenagers. We'll keep an eye on them," Isshin said, and Ryuuken led the way out.
The morning after was sad and gloomy.
"Ohhh," Uryuu groaned, a novice at handling hangovers. Renji snored wisely on, knowing better than to wake up before noon. Matsumoto Rangiku had taught him well and had she been there she would've drawn the drapes against the grey sunshine probing the windows inquisitively. Incapacitated Uryuu only pulled a cushion over his face and tried not to feel. His first sleepover seemed quite the failure. Why had he allowed himself to imbibe so much poison…?
The imbibed poison took unkindly to being addressed thus and knocked him out again.
When next he stirred, the kitchen smelled hella fine and Renji was stirring something in a pot. It was evening. Uryuu felt the time in his bones and also the digital clock on the wall.
"Wake up, Ishida, I need some help. I'm making stew but I need you to run down and get some of those chunky walnut rolls and take out the trash otherwise the place will smell like empty booze bottles."
Uryuu had heard of people who fell asleep and slipped into alternate realities via wandering wormholes. Obviously it had happened to him. How else would this domestic daydream be explained?
"Ishida, are you freakin' listening to me?"
But something was amiss. Surely in an alternate reality he would feel some attraction to Renji instead of the ache for Orihime. The brunet relaxed only slightly when he realized how much more likely it was that he had simply married Renji in some blind ardor roused by last night's excess of spirits.
"Hurry your ass up, Kuchiki-taichou will be here any minute!"
He perused the alternate-reality theory again because there was no reason conceivable in even the most contrived of circumstances for Byakuya to darken his doorstep in the life he knew, ever.
Renji spared him a glance and recognized that old look of virgin drunkards creation wide: the one that said it did not know what to make of anything at the moment and can someone please turn down the volume. He set the stew on simmer and sat himself with Uryuu to sort it all out.
"Captains get concerned when lieutenants play hooky. I told him where I was and he's coming to verify my alibi. I think he trusts you or something, yeesh, more than me. Gotta make him dinner 'cause it's polite, and gotta clean up because we don't want him thinkin' I go around introducing sixteen year olds to booze."
"But you did."
"Not the point."
"I would think it rather is."
"Shut up," Renji suggested, and Uryuu acquiesced. Forty minutes later, the knock on the door and Byakuya behind it came as expected.
The fury in his features and the fat lip were less predictable.
I always had the vague intention of writing this ever since I started noticing the incredible number of Naruto/Whoever pairings. But since I'm binging on Bleach, I transferred the harem rights from the blond to the redhead. (Orange-head? Orangutan? Strawberry!) I'm less confident in my ability to make this work than I was with Exciting Proposal which—flowed—and meant—a lot—so give me lots of encouragement and love; I'll try and make this worth it.