A Thousand Shards of Crimson

Epilogue : 500 years later

Byakuya gazed at his reflection in the mirror watching the older man unblinkingly gazing back at him. He grabbed a comb that was lying on the dresser and slowly started untangling the slight knots that had formed in his sleep while he was tossing and turning restlessly. His usually steady hands trembled slightly as he placed the kenseikan pieces in his greying hair. Byakuya had aged nicely, still retaining most of his youthful features 500 years later. The slight wrinkles on his face complimented by his silky grey-black hair spilling across his shoulders, made him look dignified and more proud than ever. After straightening his silver-white scarf Byakuya stood back, unable to discern whether he was satisfied with what he saw. It doesn't matter how I see myself. Would he still find me just as amazing as he used to, 500 years ago? He swallowed nervously, the muscles in his throat tightening as he wondered what he would say to the man who had disappeared from his life so suddenly five centuries ago. His hands refused to stop trembling as he pictured the scenario in his head once more, looking into the eyes of the man whom he had fallen in love with. He prayed that he wouldn't fall to pieces when their eyes met, but most of all he prayed that Renji's eyes would still look at him with the same passion and love that had caused Byakuya to fall madly in love with him.

Exhaling the breath of air that he had been holding Byakuya straightened his scarf once more, and picked up the beautiful boquet of deep red camillia's that was lying on the dresser. Sliding the door to his bedchambers open he let himself out, gazing at the smooth sapphire sky above him. He closed his eyes, letting the breeze kiss his pale cheeks, ruffling his hair. Byakuya made his way across the stone bridge, watching his reflection in the koi pond rippling as the fish slithered in the dark waters, racing against each other. The cherry blossom trees swayed in the cool spring breeze, the pink petals drifting lazily towards the ground. He reached out and caught a pink petal between his long fingertips, and pressed it against his lips, remembering the night in the woods when Renji had sliced the petal in half. As he passed his parents grave he briefly glanced over at his grandfather's tombstone, grateful that Renji's tormentor had finally been put to rest. Pushing the gate open Byakuya walked out of the estate, and towards central 46 headquarters, wondering if Rukia and Renji's other friends were already there. There were many in Seiretei who believed that Renji was innocent despite central 46's ruling and for that Byakuya was grateful. Upon arriving at the entrance Byakuya was surrounded by a throng of people including Rukia, Rangiku, Hisagi, Ikkaku, the majority of the captain's and most of their vice captain's as well. Byakuya could feel his heart swell with warmth and joy as he watched everyone carrying boquets of flowers, their eager voices filling the morning air. He licked his parched lips nervously, as two memebers of the Kido Corps emerged, and raised their hands signalling for silence.

Renji gulped nervously, unable to believe that today was the first time in 500 years that he would feel the rays of the sun kiss his cheeks. Sitting in his dank cell for centuries had made him yearn for the cool summer nights, and the roaring winter fires. He wanted to feel Earth's tears trickling down his skin, and swim in her vast deep blue oceans. He longed to gaze into her blue eyes, and trek through the green forests, yearning to feel the moss between his feet, and kiss the soft ground. He couldn't help but wonder about Seiretei, about Rukia, his friends who were previously vice captain, and most of all he wondered about Byakuya. In the darkness of his cell, with nothing but four walls for company, Renji's sanity was kept intact because of Kuchiki Byakuya. For the past 500 years, Renji had relieved every single memory; every touch, every kiss, every encounter over and over in his head. He knew that the day would come, where he would gaze upon those cool grey eyes once more, and so his will to live never ceased. Today, standing infront of the entrance of central 46 Renji wondered whether Byakuya still felt the same way about him. There were a mutlitude of thoughts, running through his head, scrambling over each other, making Renji feel queasy. He wondered whether Byakuya had moved on, with a woman who ended up carrying the next heir of the Kuchiki family. The thought made him feel nauseous, and lightheaded, so Renji quickly put it at the back of his mind and took in deep breaths. His heart was thundering against his ribs, and Renji feared the anticipation would rupture his heart. Regardless of whether Byakuya had moved on or not, Renji just wished him nothing but happiness, and prayed that Byakuya had not closed himself off to the world. Lost in thought, he was startled when the doors finally slid open and a stream of sunlight came pouring into the room. He shielded his eyes, the light blinding him momentarily as he blinked furiously, his eyes starting to tear from the brightness. The cool air, nearly knocked him to his feet, as he inhaled gulps of the fresh spring breeze, the fragrance of the grass, and mud overwhelming him till he felt dizzy. He slowly placed an unsteady foot forward, and then another, stumbling as he finally left the dark room behind him. A thunderous roar greeted him, shouts and hoots of laughter as the crowd cheered wildly. Renji cupped a hand over his right ear, wincing slightly at the loud ruckus that greeted him, yet he couldn't help but grin weakly, the muscles in his mouth struggling to pull into a smile after being unused for centuries. He used his other hand to shieled himself from the light, and slolwy scanned the crowd, his eyes watering as he gazed at the throng of people waving banners, and flowers in the air. He could feel the painful lump rising in his throat and tears of joy fell from his eyes trickling down his cheeks as Renji wiped the tears from his face, his grin broadening. His eyes finally landed on a pair of beautiful silver ones, and then everything disappeared. The people in the surrounding area vanished, their shouts of joy fading out into the sping air, as Renji's eyes zoned in on the one person whom he had been yearning to see for the past five centuries. He noticed nothing except for a man with slightly greying hair carrying a beautiful boquet of camillia's the exact same shade as Renji's once flaming red hair. Renji's breath caught in his throat as he watched the breeze ruffle Kuchiki Byakuya's silky smooth hair. He looked beautiful as ever, his back straight and proud, his eyes shimmering with unshed tears, brimming with joy.

Byakuya watched as a thin man with long red hair streaming down his back stagger towards the crowd. Hands reached out to clap him on the back and ruffle his limp, dull hair as Renji slowly made his way through the throng of people, yet his almond coloured eyes never left Byakuya's. He watched Renji struggle to smile back, and politely shake the hands of his old friends and members of his division. Byakuya stood at the back waiting patiently for Renji to finally make his way over to him, longing to kiss his fingertips and take him in his arms. Renji face was slightly lined with age and fatigue, the lines deepening as his face crinkled into a familiar smile while he spoke to Rukia. He had lost most of his muscles, and the shade of fire that once kissed his hair had now dulled with age and time, his red hair tinged with several wisps of grey. Yet in Byakuya's eyes, Renji was the most beautiful man he had ever seen. His brown eyes still shimmered with the playful vibrance that Byakuya had come to know and love. He smiled softly as Renji finally turned towards him and slowly but steadily made his way towards Byakuya, his eyes shining with tears. Byakuya mustered all his willpower, forcing himself to remain still, struggling to stop himself from running towards Renji with open arms. He could feel the tears gathering at the corner of his eyes as he watched Renji quicken his pace stumbling a little on the way. Byakuya didn't care about the onlookers, he didn't care why the crowd had turned their attention to him, whispering to each other. As Byakuya watched Renji, the voices died down, and the faces in the crowd blurred as Renji finally stood infront of Byakuya his brown eyes ligthing up with such joy that Byakuya was afraid his chest would burst. "Renji," started Byakuya softly, grasping his hand as he looked into those warm brown eyes, "Welcome home."

Notes

* Ginrei died one year ago due to a delibitating illness.

* After Renji was released the attacker personally went to the Omitsukido to turn himself in.

* The Kuchiki elders inclduing the attacker were charged with attacking a vice-captain, tampering with evidence, condemning an innocent man to imprisonment, and were sentenced to 1000 years in prison, and banishment to the human world after having served their imprisonment.

* Byakuya had Renji's title reinstated to the 6th division vice-captain.

* Byakuya had finally agreed to be in an open relationship with Renji, and was delighted to find that most people were accepting of their relationship save a few people whose opinions did not matter.


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