Hey, all! I'm Gundam Girl (GG), and this is my first Renji/Rukia fic, although not my first Bleach fic. I also have two IchiRukis and a Yoruichi/Soi Fong. This fic was written for the fabulous Beck, and coming soon, an Urahara/Yoruichi for Gold Berry. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or any of its character. I am making no profit from this story.

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Tree Talk

By Gundam Girl

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It had been a long while since he had seen clouds so white in a sky so blue. In fact, Renji couldn't even remember when he had last looked up to see how the sky was on an afternoon. The thought made him frown – there used to be days when he spent hours lying on his back with his hands under his hand, staring up at the clouds and watching them float along. At that time, he didn't have the worries he had today; being Kuchiki Byakuya's devoted and useful Vice Captain, constantly training to be a stronger Shinigami.

Byakuya had been busy lately filing reports via Death Butterflies and with no current threat to Soul Society, he had given Renji the day off. Renji suspected Byakuya did it just to get the red-haired Vice Caption out of his way. Renji couldn't help it if he liked to practice sword swings as he talked to Byakuya.

But he had no desire for practicing with his sword now. He was feeling lazy today, something he normally only indulged in if he were with Byakuya (because the man needed to show some emotion now and then, even if it was frustration). But Renji took his opportunity and folded one arm behind his hand, leaning against the trunk of the apple tree in sat in. The summery weather made it the perfect place to relax, and Renji took down a ripe, red apple with slow, careless movements, biting into it and not bothering to take care of the juice that dribbled down his chin.

A particularly fluffy cloud floated above his hand. A group of birds flew just below it. He felt himself smile; the cloud resembled the apple he was eating. It wasn't the first time he'd seen an apple-shaped cloud, but it amused him just the same. Shutting his eyes, he chuckled.

"And just what is so funny?"

He fell silent abruptly and looked down. Standing in the tall grass below that rippled in the breeze stood Rukia, her arms crossed, one leg in front of her. Though he kept his face straight, inside Renji smirked. That was her "don't give me your crap" stance. He'd seen it thousands of times.

Instead of answering, Renji just turned his nose up a bit and called down to her. "What are you doing here? Doesn't Uchitake have plenty of work for you?"

Rukia didn't smile, but her expression lightened a little. "Not really. His health condition has prevented our squad from getting too many duties. I've had a lot of free time lately."

"So what are you doing out here?" asked Renji, watching her at an angle. " We're pretty far from the wall."

"I should ask you that." But she didn't. Instead, she looked up and gazed at the same cloud he'd laughed at. He thought he saw the corner of her mouth turn up.

"You're pretty stern today."

"I talked with nii-sama last night." The statement made questions an impossibility, and Renji only nodded. Gentling his tone, he jerked his head. "Join me?"

"What?" Rukia said the word like he'd invited her to jump into a lake and float to the bottom. He'd seen the expression on several members of the House of Kuchiki, and he could tell living in nobility had altered her a bit – the way Byakuya wanted it to. "In this?" she continued, gesturing to the ankle-length casual kimono she wore. The silk waved and rippled like the grass, pressing against her legs like the blades of green that leaned toward her, as though everything directed his attention solely to her. She snorted in a very unlady-like fashion and turned her head away. "You're joking."

At that, Renji did smirk. Finishing off his apple, he tossed the core to the ground. It was quick, but so was he, and the Shinigami saw her eyes dart to the discarded trace of fruit and linger there for an instant before returning to his own glance.

With all the care of Shunsui and his tea, Renji tore down another apple and held it up so that it gleamed in the sunlight. "Want one of these then?"

Rukia shrugged but stepped forward until she was standing just underneath him. "I just had lunch an hour ago."

He scoffed, grinning. "Like that ever stopped you before. Go on," he called. "I know you can't resist 'em."

"I can too," she retorted. Even so, she lifted her thin arm and took hold of the apple he leaned down to offer her.

As she grabbed the round fruit, Renji grabbed her wrist and hauled her off her feet. The dark-haired Shinigami gave an indignant shout, wincing slightly as he hefted her not-so-gently beside him onto the thick branch.

"What are you doing, idiot!" She exclaimed the offensive title like it was the worst thing in the world, but it was all Rukia had in her to call him. "This is silk!"

"Like you honestly care." Ignoring her distress, he leaned back against the bark like he had before and looked up at the expanse of blue overhead. "Why do you let your family worry you like that, Rukia?"

He said the word 'family' as though it were something disgusting to be forgotten and not bothered with. Which, Rukia assumed, it was to Renji. His only family had been a group of street kids that had gotten scattered to the winds around the time Renji and Rukia had left to become Shinigamis.

Their family, Rukia reminded herself. Renji and she had been like siblings. She chewed thoughtfully on her apple and glanced at him. She suddenly felt guilty for not having spent hardly any time with him the way they had in the academy.

"You always did like those." Rukia met Renji's pleasant eyes and couldn't help but smile at his amusement. "You used to steal apples when the rest of us went for bread."

"Well, they're good," she insisted. At the memory, she let her legs dangle, forgetting about the silk that scratched on the rough bark beneath. She reached up to grab another apple.

"I want to give you all you wanted."

"Huh?" She paused with the fruit halfway to her mouth. Turning to her, she stared at the profile of his face. He stared off into the distance, and she took the opportunity to trace the patterns of his black tattoos with her eyes and see the way his jaw had sharpened since they were children. Her head fell a little bit.

"I didn't think you still remembered something like that," she admitted, her voice sad and her eyes cast down.

Renji looked at her. And it came flooding back.

---

"Don't you think that's too risky?"

Rukia looked back over her shoulder from the safety of the darkness in the little hut they lived in. She peered through her dirty, messy bangs. "What?"

"I don't know, Rukia." Renji scratched his cheek and glared at her. "Taking six apples from the market and trying to get away with it?"

"Don't, please." Rukia rolled her eyes a bit and grinned at him. She tossed him one of the aforementioned fruit. "I've never been caught before. Maybe next time I'll go for seven."

"What kind of woman eats seven apples on her own?" Renji couldn't help returning her mischievous expression.

"I do," Rukia insisted. "Like you really mind, Renji."

He didn't. Renji knew, as good a thief as he was, Rukia was twice as good and had hardly a chance of getting caught in her apple-stealing attempts. "As long as you share."

"Heh. I always do."

Watching her sheer delight at devouring the red fruit, Renji sat down and leaned against a thin wall. After a moment of silent chewing, he swallowed and spoke up. "One day you won't have to steal these anymore, Rukia."

Her large, dark eyes swept up to his, her surprised expression as genuine as always. "What—" she began.

"You won't even have to buy them." Renji brought a fist up to his face and sent her a determined look. "Someday I'll give you all the apples you could want. You'll have so many, you'll get sick of them."

Rukia laughed a little. "Hard to see. What would I do if that happened?"

He only shrugged his slim shoulders and caught another apple she threw at him. "Switch to oranges."

They laughed together, as they always did. It lasted into the night.

---

"In the end, I guess I didn't need to get them for you," Renji muttered, casting his own eyes away from her. "You can have as many as you want in the Kuchiki House, can't you?"

Rukia studied him for a moment, then forced herself to laugh. She found she could only be stern with him for so long. "Come on, Renji. You know I don't like depending on them. If I had to depend on anyone, it would be you."

Renji's eyes darted up to hers. "Yeah?"

Her smiled grew, their eyes connected. "Yeah."

Their gazes stayed put for a few seconds, then both quickly shifted and turned their faces to the sky.

"We used to do this all the time," Rukia commented.

Renji nodded. "We should do this some more."

The agreement was made silently; words weren't necessary after so many years of friendship.

Renji chuckled again. Rukia's head snapped at him. "What?"

"It's just…silk suits you." Renji shook his head. "I guess I never expected that."

If it was anyone but Renji paying the compliment, Rukia would have blushed right then. Since it was Renji, she simply turned her embarrassment into annoyance. "C'mon, Renji, I can be as pretty as any other Shinigami."

"Like Rangiku?"

"Renji!" Rukia muttered a word that sounded like "lech" to Renji. He only grinned.

"Hey." He leaned forward. Rukia went on muttering to herself. Frustrated, Renji set a hand between them on the branch. "Hey, Rukia!"

Mistake. He knew it as soon as he shifted his weight but wasn't fast enough to do anything about it. The treebranch didn't like the abuse on it much, and the branch vibrated like one of the leaves it held, and before either Rukia or Renji could so much as shout an exclamation of alarm, there was a loud Crack! The branch snapped between their weight (mostly Renji's), and the pair tumbled down to the tall grass below.

They landed as painlessly as they would. Rukia was the most uncontrolled – she landed on her back, with one hand of Renji beneath to brace her. Renji himself landed right on top of her. He went on all fours quickly as not to smother her, and panted from the unexpected event. "Rukia! You okay?"

Rukia looked up at him, slightly shocked. "Yeah. Renji…"

It was then they both noticed their position. Renji saw that she had gripped his collar during their fall. But his eyes never left hers.

It had been years since they had gotten this close. The last time must have been when Rukia was still a skinny brat and Renji a clumsy kid thief. Renji felt his heart speed up, and it wasn't from the fall.

"Renji," Rukia murmured again. Her breath rose and tickled his chin. She blinked.

The brush of her eyelashes on her cheeks drove him, and his lips dropped to hers as quickly as his guard dropped with them. When he rose again, Rukia was staring at him. He felt his stomach drop.

But then she smiled, turning her hand on his collar to brace against the back of his neck and drop him down to her again for a second kiss. After it ended, she shifted out from beneath him and got to her feet.

Rukia stared up at the clouds a moment, then looked down at him again. "You're right," she declared. "We should do this more often." She left him smirking after her.

Renji wondered how long it would be before she realized her kimono was now torn in the back.

Fini

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