I’m a huge RenRuki fan so I’m stoked to find this page of glorious work and active engagement relating to this topic I could go on about! I was wondering... during their separation, do you think Renji and Rukia slept with/dated other people? One more than the other? Just wanna know your insight since you put so much depth into their relationship. I love it. (I personally like to think that Renji had a bit of a “hoe phase” especially while he was in the 11th)
Tumblr is so great, I can’t believe people actually value my opinion on this stuff (this is absolutely one of my favorite topics). Thank you so much for your kind words, and I am ecstatic for the opportunity to pontificate on this topic.
Just to clarify, if you were asking for my opinion on the source material, and I had to “support my opinion” or “cite references”, my actual interpretation of canon is that no, they were absolutely celibate during this time. Rukia had a cute li’l crush on her vice-captain and Renji probably went on one very heterosexual date with a girl once and felt bad about it for a year.
When I am being generous and world-buildy, I like to consider the fact that shinigami are souls. They do not have bodies or hormones and so I can get behind the idea that bonds of family and friendship are far more important than sex and attraction, because those are fundamentally earthly concerns. In the hands of a thoughtful, talented, preferably ace writer, this could be an incredibly interesting setting but that is, uh, not consistent with any other aspect of Soul Society, including the fact that they sell sexy calendars of the captains, plus Kubo took the time out to canonically remind us that Soul Reapers poop and have babies.
So, instead, here is the horny Polynya headcanon version, which is what you probably wanted anyway. I’m putting it under a cut because it gets a little R-rated, and also it’s hella long, but the short answer is Renji absolutely had a slutty phase.
Some people headcanon that Rukia and Renji were actually in a romantic relationship at the time of her adoption, and if that’s your reading of it, and you want to believe that they waited for each other out of loyalty, I suppose I can get behind that.
I don’t think they were together, though. I waver from time to time about how physical their affection got in Rukongai, but I think they fell in love and never admitted it. When their last friend died, they both became absolutely terrified of losing the other, so they came to the Seireitei in order to get strong and not die. I don’t think Rukia ever wanted to be Soul Reaper, to be honest. Given the strength of her principles and her particular moral code, I do think she is a great one, in the style of “I would never want to be in a club that would have me in it.” Consistent with Oetsu’s trial in the Royal Realm, I think Renji was born (died?) to be a Soul Reaper and Rukia knew this and also that he would never go unless she went with him. She absolutely regarded getting him into Shin’ou as saving his life and getting him where he belonged.
Once they were in school, I think they had to keep their distance socially if they wanted to succeed. The Gotei runs entirely on nepotism, and Rukongai kids who don’t adapt are looking at Squad 11 or 4, best case scenario. Even if they were aware of their feelings for each other, they had to play it cool for now. Renji is a long-term planner, and I think he set his sights on pass tests -> graduate -> get Gotei position -> live happily ever after with Rukia. Rukia is not so good at long term planning, and also not so good at formal education and I think she just got depressed and salty, especially because she was never sure if he actually returned her feelings or not. I absolutely think that when she accepted the adoption, she assumed she was leaving Renji to his live his best life, and at least going somewhere she was wanted.
Even though we, the reader, are presented this story as a tragedy, in many ways, this is exactly what they had hoped for. They lived. That’s it. That’s all they ever wanted. Renji got to have his perfect job and Rukia got to live in indescribable luxury. They are both so, so happy about this and have no idea why their faces are so wet right now.
The last thing either of them wants, to be honest, is the other one pining after them. They have each accepted trudging through their life in misery because they think they have made the other happy. There’s a scene were Byakuya shows up to the Squad 6 holding cells to announce to Rukia that he has no plans to save her, and Renji looks just devastated, not just because Rukia’s gonna die, but because he thought he was sending her to happiness.
Also, on a meta level, I am middle aged, and for me, the romance of only ever being with one person is boring as hell. The idea that they would get together and lose their virginity to each other just makes me indescribably tired. Childhood-friends-to-lovers isn’t actually that interesting to me-- it is the separation itself that makes it spicy-- that they went off and had other life experiences-- and sexual experiences, and came back found that they loved this person even more now.
I headcanon Rukia as very horny and pro-sex in theory, but has is a big problem of opportunity. On one hand, I think she and Byakuya have a firm don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy, where as long as she stays out of the gossip columns, he doesn’t care what she does. On the other hand, though, I feel like secret affairs are kinda hard to manage, especially since she entered the noble network late in life. Anyway, I figure she’s had a number of casual affairs, mostly with other nobles who are invested in not getting caught, and also do not have any interest in any sort of emotional attachment. I think Rukia is absolutely bi, and mostly slept with ladies because they were more likely to be discreet, although there was probably a dude or two in there somewhere. Rukia only has two relatinship modes-- detached and ride-or-die, and she was very careful to keep everything in category 1, because she had no expectation of ever having a functional relationship that would go anywhere; no one she was actually interesting in being with would ever pass Kuchiki muster. I think she tried dating a nice boy from Squad 8 once, and everyone in Squad 13 thought it was the cutest thing they had ever seen. They went on three dates and never kissed and Rukia hated it and never did it again. She let herself have a huge crush on both Kaien and Miyako Shiba, because she was absolutely sure it could never go anywhere, and that definitely played into her devastation at their death. She may have had some Bad Decisions Sex in the wake of that, but I think for the most part, the affairs became more trouble than they were worth, and she’s been on a pretty long dry spell around the time we meet her.
That being said, I think Rukia is a lady who takes care of herself, if you get my drift. I think she has an extensive collection of erotic romance novels, a good imagination, and Kuchiki money worth of self-service sex toys. I think by the time she and Renji actually hook up, she has decades worth of pent up fantasies, and fortunately for her, he is intrigued by her ideas and would like to sign up for her newsletter, please and thank you.
Speaking of Renji, let’s talk about Renji! After Rukia left, I think Renji Made Some Plans and buckled down into a long, hard haul of Making Himself Worthy of Seeing Rukia Again. He made it through school, he went into Squad 5 with Izuru and Momo and... lost 90% of his momentum. This is exactly the scenario of the kid who busts ass through college to follow their dream, and then two years into their dream job, realizes that they are going to be formatting pivot tables in Excel for the next 15 years before they get to do anything remotely interesting. At this point, Renji is young, hot, bisexual, inked, and not very satisfied with his day job, and Thus Began the Ho Period.
Momo and Izuru hate this. They hate it so much. They have both had big crushes on Renji since school and they are right there. It wouldn’t be so bad if he would find a nice sweet partner that they like, but no, he just goes off on weeknights and comes home reeking of alcohol and covered in hickeys and ruining his career even though his job performance is actually fine. The fact is, even though he has always acted like he doesn’t know, of course he knows they like him, he’s not dumb, but Izuru and Momo are the type of people who mate for life, and Renji absolutely knows how badly he would break their hearts. He can’t even talk about it with them, all he can do it pretend like he doesn’t notice and hope they’ll realize what trash he is. He still loves Rukia and will always love Rukia and has made peace with the idea that he will likely never get to be with her-- he’s still working towards it because he must, because it would kill him to give up, but he knows that he’s only good for a fight or a fuck and not much else. Their friendship gets increasingly strained until Momo and Izuru can’t understand anything he does and he can’t stand them caring so damn much.
Anyway, this escalates in deciding to leave Nice, Respectable Squad 5 entirely, and joining the French Foreign Legion Squad 11. Squad 11 respects a man’s right to wallow, and Renji takes a swan dive to rock bottom. His only saving grace is his training with Ikkaku, which he takes absolutely seriously. Yumichika eventually takes interest in Renji, and teaches him how to take care of his hair and have standards. Yumichika and Ikkaku realize that if they can make him Functional, they can get him to do paperwork, so they help him beat the Sixth Seat and let him start hanging out with their friends.
Renji is still sleeping around at this point, but at least he’s sleeping around with a better class of people. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Polynya, has Matsumoto ever pegged Renji? (You probably weren’t actually thinking that) The answer is yes, Matsumoto has absolutely pegged Renji, and she was utterly delighted to give Rukia tips later on. Rukia does not begrudge Renji his slutty period in the least, because she knows that, given the opportunity, she probably would have been Worse, and also, he’s slept with 3/4 of the Gotei and picked her out of all of them, and also, he’s just incredible at oral.
The slutty phase tapered off when Renji had a bit of an actual relationship with Shuuhei. First of all, they are absolutely each other’s types, physically. Secondly, Shuuhei (whom I headcanon as significantly less pathetic and more bisexual than in canon) would be able to handle being in a relationship that is fun and supportive, even if it’s not destined to last. He is well aware that Renji is devoted to beating Captain Kuchiki and that he’s never going to truly be able to be in love with anyone until he gets some closure with Rukia, but that’s a long way off, and Shuuhei’s got his own baggage, who doesn’t have baggage? So they sleep together and go to the bar together and hold hands sometimes and tool around on the motorbike and wear a lot of leather and Hisagi cooks Renji food and Renji eats it and they’re pretty happy for a few years.
Eventually, around the time he gets serious about trying to make vice-captain, Renji starts to hang out with Izuru and Momo again, who have recently made vice-captain themselves, and are really happy to see that he’s gotten himself back on the wagon. He’s started thinking about Rukia a lot again, and he’s feeling a little bad because he loves Shuuhei, but he’s not in love with Shuuhei, and also, Shuuhei and Izuru have started looking at each other when they go out drinking, so Renji claims he needs to concentrate on the vice-captain’s exam and they have some nice breakup sex and then he sliiiiiides on outta there like a good bro and is very happy for his friends when they start hooking up.
Did that cover it? Boy, I had a lot of thoughts on that, huh? To summarize: They both saw other people. Renji had way more sex, just a tremendous amount of sex, but always carried a torch for Rukia (not really intentionally, I think he would have liked to be able to get over her, he just couldn’t), whereas I think she really did give up on him for a while.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk, please read my fanfiction, where I am constantly hinting at all this stuff, I swear I will eventually finish that Squad 11 story.
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