The New Years Eve party, while festive and fun, was a bad memory. It was the night that Rukia and Ichigo got engaged. That
night Renji began to see for the first time what Orihime-chan must see every time she looked at Ichigo and all because Ichigo
got to Rukia first. Damn him.
That Orihime- no, his Orihime, had looked so sad that night.
Ichigo and Byakuya had been talking for a while, the two looking even more stressed by the second. They almost looked
like they'd come to blows any moment now. But even so for some reason Rukia looked so happy as she watched the interaction.
"The hell is Strawberry talkin' ta taicho about?" Renji demanded, wondering why Ichigo would go out of his way to discuss
something seriously with Byakuya.
"You'll see," Rukia replied softly, smiling. And it wasn't her usual smug, teasing smile either. It was a real smile,
a true smile. Renji just didn't get it but then he didn't get a lot of things, so he supposed that was alright.
He scowled. "Why the hell're you bein' so mysterious for?" he demanded, pretending that he wasn't sulking.
Rukia sighed and looked up at him. "Would you just freakin' wait a minute, Renji?" she returned, glaring at him.
He sniffed and shoved his hands into his gigai's pockets. "Che, whatever."
Then Ichigo and Byakuya started their way, the noble looking both resigned and annoyed. When they reached the two, Ichigo
dropped to one knee before Rukia, pulling a small black box out of his pocket. "Hey, Rukia," he said with a smile. "You know
what this is, don't you?"
She nodded, looking as if she were holding back tears. She had eyes only for Ichigo.
Renji didn't understand it so he looked up, about to ask his captain what was going on. And that's when he saw her.
Orihime-chan was staring at them in horror, a tear trailing down her cheek. Renji whirled back around just as Ichigo said
those fateful words.
"Kuchiki Rukia, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?" Ichigo asked, opening the box to reveal a small diamond
Rukia threw her arms around Ichigo shoulders, sobbing. "Yes, yes, yes!" she cried.
Ichigo hugged her back with a smile and looked up at Renji. "I need to talk to you in a minute," he mouthed, smiling
at the redhead.
Renji felt as if a black hole had opened up beneath him and swallowed him whole. He couldn't breathe and the sounds
around him became muted. The people seemed to be moving in slow motion, back and forth, gathering around. Somewhere on the
edge of his senses, he saw Orihime leave with Tatsuki, crying into her hands. Tatsuki didn't really look angry, though, only
Rukia slipped the ring on, only to be told that it had been Ichigo's mother's. She looked truly touched even as she
and Ichigo kissed. Byakuya looked annoyed by the entire thing but there was relief swimming in his eyes. He knew that Ichigo
could take care of her and that was good enough for him.
When Ichigo finally got away from the exultant Rukia long enough for them to talk, Renji was seated at a table at the
edge of the room. "Renji! I was wondering if you wouldn't mind being my best man?" he asked, sitting down beside the redhead.
Renji shrugged. "Fine," he answered, then looked up at Ichigo, about to ask what a 'best man' was.
Something in Renji's eyes or expression must have forewarned Ichigo, because he held up a hand, frowning. "Renji...
Are you okay?" he asked, his eyes searching Renji's face.
"No," Renji answered honestly. "Not really."
"What's wrong?" Rukia asked, appearing behind Ichigo. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and watched Renji worriedly.
"Is everything alright, Renji?"
"Fine," the redhead lied, sighing. "I think I'm going to go get some fresh air." Without waiting for them to reply,
he rose, bowed and gave them a stiff 'congratulations’ and walked out the door.
The garden outside the church, while cold tonight, was rather beautiful, and as soon as Renji saw Tatsuki and Orihime,
he headed over to the pair. Tatsuki saw him coming and must have told Orihime, because the second he was within reach, she
threw herself at him, sobbing and hugging him. Renji went stock still, positively shocked. He wasn't quite sure what to do
so he just hugged her back.
"Y-you don't have to b-be sad!" she sobbed, her tears wetting his shirt. "I-I know you l-loved her!"
Renji, confused, pulled away and searched her face. Then he realized that despite her own pain she was trying to comfort
him in his. Sighing, Renji pulled her back into the hug. "You should heed your own advice, Orihime," he stated.
Tatsuki smiled sadly, remaining seated on the bench he had found them on.
"I-I know," Orihime said sadly, sniffing. "But..."
"It's hard to let go," Renji suggested when she trailed off.
She nodded. "It's hard to let go. It's hard to just... accept it, but... 'Nii-sama had always said to be kind to others
and think about them before myself, so..."
Since then, though he'd been sad for a while, Renji was also happy. After all, if it hadn't been for Rukia and Ichigo he
and Orihime would never have met and they would never have fallen so deeply in love. So even though Renji hated Kurosaki for
making Orihime cry he was grateful to him as well. And even though they were left in the dust they managed to make something
"Renji-kun!" Orihime called, interrupting his reminiscence. "I've got the picnic food!"
He looked up, watching in horror as she crossed the field with a basket of food. Not again... "Let me help you," he said,
getting up with a sigh.
Orihime smiled and gave him a peck on the cheek in thanks when he took the basket from her. "Thank you, Renji-kun!"
He smiled. "Thank you, Hime."