Abarai Renji knows that he's the butt of a very cruel cosmic joke. Everything he's ever wanted is just out of reach, taunting him with its closeness. But try as he might, he can never quite grasp it.
Rukia. Captaincy. And now Ichigo, too.
All of them slipping through his fingers. All of them belonging to one man.
Renji once looked up to his captain, once copied him in thought and action. Kuchiki-taichou's brave and strong. Elegant where Renji's fumbling and obnoxious. Cold and aloof. Not just some stray from Inuzuri. All together too perfect. Too much like looking at the sun, blinding with his radiance. Too distant like the moon and stars, mocking him with the potential to be better. Something he somehow seems to lack.
But admiration is far from understanding. And occasionally, it turns into something else entirely. Twists in on itself until it's unrecognizable. Hero worship taints with resentment, morphing into a hatred all that much worse for its origins. A seething sort of jealousy that consumes his soul as surely as a Hollow would.
And it would've never happened if not for one person. One final straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.
Ichigo. Loud but silent Ichigo. Determined and powerful. Smart and a smart ass.
Renji's not sure when it happened, this all consuming attraction. But it's there and oh-so-obvious to anyone who bothers to look. As apparent as his vivid red hair or the tattoos on his face.
He's not the only one. Renji can see the same longing reflected in Inoue's eyes. The glint of wanting what she can never possibly have.
But both of them are out of their league. Lost the war before they even realized there was a battle. Have to be content watching Kuchiki Byakuya enjoy what they so desperately want for themselves.
And Ichigo… Ichigo's fucking oblivious.
He smiles at the bastard. Fucking smiles. And laughs. And kisses him when he thinks no one's looking. Kuchiki-taichou's all that he sees, all that he'll ever see.
It eats at Renji; poison courses through his veins. Sword twists into his gut. And the fact that his captain knows of his jealousy, knows of what he feels for Ichigo, only makes it that much worse.
Renji could've taken smug superiority. Could've taken haughty taunting. But the almost pitying cast to his captain's face is entirely too much to bear. It's agony in a way that nothing else has ever been.
Fucking Kuchiki Byakuya has everything! Everything he's ever wanted. The man has wealth. Power. Prestige. Rukia. And now Ichigo.
It isn't fair. Not fair at all. But when has his life ever been?