Title: Finding Warmth
Author: Akuni
Universe: Bleach
Genre: Humour, Romance
Rating: PG-15 (for language and sexuality)
Pairing: Renji/Ichigo
Spoilers: manga chapter 247+
Word Count: 2600ish

Summary: Trapped in the cold, Ichigo and Renji fight to stay warm.

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, I'm just borrowing it for a while.
Distribution: Also posted to my LJ... please ask if you want to share it. :)

Dedication: For myself, 'cause I could. Written for the oneblanket scenario on LJ. See this story posted on my LJ for an adorable piece of fanart done for me by a fan. :)

A/N: I always wanted to try the 'one blanket' scenario. Ichigo's information on survival is incomplete on purpose – he's just doing the best he can with what he knows, and he doesn't know everything.

Finding Warmth

"How long did they say they were gonna b-be?" Ichigo tried to speak around his chattering teeth.

His red-haired companion put away his communicator and wrapped his arms around himself again. "Depends. Could be a day. Could be a few days."

"A few days?!" Ichigo repeated incredulously. "We'll probably be dead in a few days!"

"The area's too unstable t' open a portal," Renji explained, frowning. "An' they said we'd better not even think a' usin' flash step, 'cause the results would be 'dangerously unpredictable'."

"So what're we supposed to do for a few days?"

"Wait, I guess." Renji shrugged. "We go out in that an' we're definitely dead."

Wait. Ichigo sighed and slid down the wall of the crystalline cave they'd chosen as their shelter from the biting cold of Hueco Mundo. They'd already been stuck there for most of a day as they waited out the freak blizzard that had erupted – more of Aizen's twisted work, no doubt, but it was still very real, and very deadly. Ichigo wasn't sure how it had happened, but in the mad dash to escape Las Noches, the companions had been separated in the storm and it had been a fluke running into Renji – literally; they'd crashed into each other at full speed right outside the cave.

"Fuckin' freezin'!" Renji grumbled for what had to be the hundredth time, hunkering down and huddling in on himself.

"Too bad you can't bankai in here." Ichigo tried a joke. "That fur cape'd come in pretty handy right about now." To his surprise, his companion actually laughed as he folded himself even smaller, each breath puffing visibly in the chill.

Ichigo knew the solution to the problem, but there was no way he was going to be the one to suggest it. He gritted his teeth. I'll freeze to death first before I give him the chance to laugh at me! Then he sighed. No, I won't. I can't.

"Erm… yanno I've been studyin' some with my old man," Ichigo began awkwardly.

"Oh yeah?" Renji looked interested.

"Did a bit of survival training, yanno first aid stuff," he continued.

Renji offered him a half-hearted grin. "So what're ya sayin', ya got an idea how we can survive this without killin' each other?"

"Very funny, asshole!" Ichigo tried not to snap, but he was having trouble forcing out the words. "I know what we gotta do, but I swear if you give me shit about this you won't hafta worry about freezing to death, 'cause I'll kill you myself."

"In case ya didn't notice, Ichigo, I ain't in a position t' argue right now." Ichigo peered closely at his comrade – Renji's lips were tinged with blue.

Shit. Ichigo braced himself. "Ok, we gotta stay awake, and conserve our energy. And…" he waved his hands in a circular sort of motion that he hoped would convey his intent, "…share body heat," he mumbled quickly.


Ichigo blinked; he'd still been expecting an argument. "Er, ok, I'll just… sit here then." He scooted over to sit beside the shinigami. "I may still decide to kill you and eat you if you get any more annoying, though," Ichigo warned as he pressed their shoulders together.

Renji snorted. "Well it ain't a fur cape, but we got one thing, anyway." He unwound the cloak from around his shoulders. "We can share it." He draped half of the long, thick cloak over Ichigo's legs.

"Thanks." Ichigo pulled the material up to his chin, and leaned closer. Warmth spread from their shoulders and arms under the shared blanket.

"So what else was there? Stay awake, an' conserve energy?" Renji shifted on the hard stone floor of the cave. "Well ya know a lot 'bout my past, so tell me 'bout your family," he suggested.

So Ichigo talked, until his throat was dry. While the storm raged outside, he told Renji about Tatsuki kicking his ass at karate, and about how Keigo had two separate porn collections – the usual girly skin mags under his bed, and the secret stash of erotic male nudes at the back of his closet. Both of those stories earned a hearty laugh, and Ichigo began to feel more comfortable.

He even found himself telling Renji about his mother, after he'd run out of stories about other people they both knew. The red-haired shinigami said nothing, only nodding slightly as Ichigo described his encounter with the Grand Fisher, and nudging his shoulder in a friendly sort of gesture when the story was done.

After a couple hours, however, the words faltered as the wind continued howling outside and the cold began seeping back into their bones. Ichigo was at a loss; they'd already done everything he knew to do, and it just wasn't enough.

"This ain't workin' anymore," Renji said uneasily. He was silent for a long moment, and Ichigo could almost read the struggle flitting across his features before he spoke again. "Gotta get closer." Renji shifted, tugging at Ichigo's arm as he spread his knees.

Ichigo's half-frozen mind skipped to a startling conclusion. He can't possibly mean… His stomach flipped over, and he swallowed heavily. "Uh…"

"C'mere." Renji pulled at him again.

"What?!" Ichigo spluttered, jerking his arm away reflexively. "No way!"

"Idiot, what're ya 'fraid I'm gonna do, bite ya?" Renji rolled his eyes. "Your pride worth freezin' t' death?"

"This isn't what I had in mind!" Ichigo flushed as he stared at the confused-looking shinigami.

"What the…" Renji's eyes widened. "Fuck, Ichigo, that's not… I wouldn't… idiot!" A cold fist thumped his shoulder. "That ain't what I meant!" His face was losing its pale, frozen look as the blood rose to the surface.

"Well how'm I supposed to know that?" he snapped. "Cold might've short-circuited your brain or somethin'!"

Renji glared. "Look, just sit in front a' me, will ya? No one's around t' see us, so ya don't gotta worry 'bout your precious reputation."

Ichigo was stung. "I'm not worried about that," he grumbled. "I wouldn't be embarrassed 'bout somethin' like that." He shrugged uncomfortably, pushing the thought away. "Why do I gotta be in the front?"

"'Cause I'm bigger, dumbass."

Oh. "Fine." Ichigo climbed over and sat between his comrade's legs. He tried not to flinch as Renji's arms wound around him and attempted to resettle the cloak over them both.

"It won't work like this, Renji," Ichigo said. "I'd have to…" He leaned back slightly, tensing warily.

"J-just do it," Renji said impatiently. "Losin' all the heat we b-built up, here!" He was shivering again already.

Ichigo forced himself to relax and let his body rest on Renji's chest. "Is this ok?" He tilted his head, realizing too late that he should've stayed still. The back of his head smacked into Renji's nose.

"Ow!" Renji's howl of pain was loud in his ear, and Ichigo ducked, flinching away from the sudden noise.

"Fuck, sorry!"

"Never mind, j-just get back here!" Renji pulled him back, at an angle this time, so that Ichigo's head was in line with his shoulder instead of his nose. "Get that cloak b-back up here." His fingers shook as they plucked at the heavy material pooled on Ichigo's lap, and Ichigo was horrified to see they'd gone very white.

"Renji, what the hell?" Ichigo snatched the cloak back up to his chest, turning – carefully – to wrap the corners around his… oh hell, his very cold-looking comrade. "There somethin' I should know about here?"

"I don't take the c-cold very well," Renji admitted. He stuck both hands into his lap behind Ichigo's back, and tucked his chin down to his chest.

"This… is bad." Ichigo bit his lip anxiously. "We've done everything I know how to do." He looked at Renji thoughtfully. "Except… ok, let your hair down, that'll cover your neck at least."

"Don't think I can g-get the knot out… I can't feel my fingers."

Shit. "Ok just a sec…" Ichigo reached one hand up and fumbled at the band holding the spiky ponytail in the air. A couple good tugs and it snapped; long, thick red strands spilled down, covering the shinigami's neck and shoulders.

"Thanks." Renji's shivers vibrated against his back, and Ichigo started to feel real fear.

I can't let him die, I just can't! "Ok, new plan." Ichigo twisted, pulling the cloak up over their heads; he berated himself for forgetting something so basic as covering their heads in the cold. He resettled himself against Renji's chest and tucked the ends of the cloak under their legs, awkwardness forgotten in the desperate need to keep his friend alive. Yes, friend; might's well admit at least that much now, Ichigo. "Now, gimme your hands."

"What?!" It was Renji's turn to splutter.

"You wanna keep those fingers?" Ichigo snapped, worry pushing frustration into his tone. "Put your arms around me and put your fingers under my arms."

"F-fine, but no funny business." Cold arms slid under his; Renji's lean, muscled limbs were long, and his arms wrapped all the way around Ichigo without difficulty.

Ichigo was only slightly relieved to hear Renji attempting his usual humour. "Dream on." He forced himself to chuckle. "Pull your knees up, and put your head on my shoulder." Renji obeyed silently, and Ichigo was startled by the sensation of being suddenly surrounded by the other man.

"Thanks, Ichigo." Renji's voice was low and soft next to his ear.

"Just don't die on me." Ichigo was startled again, hearing the almost pleading note in his own voice. He tugged the cloak closer around their heads and folded his arms over his chest, letting them rest overtop of Renji's.

"Doin' my best." It was much warmer this way, and Ichigo found himself relaxing more than he'd thought possible. He was warming up quickly, and Renji's embrace was surprisingly comfortable, and he was so tired after all they'd been through…

Ichigo's eyes snapped open only a few minutes later. "Renji!" he exclaimed, heart thudding painfully at the shock. "Renji wake up, don't sleep!"

"Wha?" Renji raised his head from where it was pillowed against Ichigo's neck and shoulder.

"If we sleep, we die," Ichigo stated bluntly. "Stay awake!"

"Can't…" Renji's head drooped again, and Ichigo shrugged his shoulder violently.

"No! Damn it, you do not get to die here, you hear me Renji?" Ichigo planted his feet on the floor and shoved his back against the other man, crushing him against the rock wall and forcing a hard breath out of Renji's lungs. "Talk!"

"'Bout what?"

"Anything. Everything. I don't care, just don't fall asleep." Ichigo thought hard. "Tell me about being in the 11th Division."

"They're nuts," Renji snorted softly. "But I spent forty years there, an' learned most a' what I know from 'em."

"Like what?" Ichigo encouraged him to keep talking.

"Ikkaku taught me how t' fight. Yumichika taught me how not t' piss off Ikkaku." Renji chuckled a bit, and Ichigo turned his head to see his friend's small smile right next to his nose. He turned back quickly.

"What else?" he asked. Renji's grip loosened, and Ichigo turned around again in alarm. "Hey!" He slapped at Renji's arms.

Renji's eyes opened. "Sorry. I think ya gotta keep hittin' me, or I'll fall asleep." He took a shaky breath as Ichigo nodded. "Where was I?"

"The 11th Division," Ichigo prompted, resting his arms on Renji's again and pinching him.

"Right." Renji cleared his throat. He spoke at some length about the camaraderie that the members of the chaotic Division shared, and Ichigo found himself warming to people he'd barely even met.

Sounds more like he's talking about family than just some friends he once knew in his old Division. Ichigo mused. "So you're pretty close to them, then?" he asked.

"Yeah. They're the ones who figured me out. Just like you with your friend Keigo." Renji laughed weakly.

"W-what?" He can't mean… Ichigo ruthlessly smothered the hopeful little voice inside him.

"They knew, even before I did," Renji continued, oblivious to Ichigo's inner turmoil. "Took me out an' kept fillin' my glass 'til I'd drunk enough t' figure it out for myself." He laughed again. "Said they caught me lookin' at you instead a' Rangiku-san one time too many for it t' be coincidence."

Me?! Fuck… he really can't mean that. He loves Rukia, he as good as told me when we fought! "Shows what they know, eh?" Ichigo fished. "You told me you loved Rukia."

One long strand of red hair fell over Ichigo's cheek as Renji nodded against his shoulder. "Yep, I do. We've been family almost since the day we met. We even became blood brothers." He chuckled again. "Blood sibs, I guess I should say. But that's different, an' it only took gettin' pissed drunk t' see the difference."

No, no no no, this isn't real, this is some kinda joke. He figured me out and now he's just teasing me to keep me awake, hoping if I get mad I'll stay warm. "Hah, good one!" Ichigo tried to laugh it off as a joke. "Had me goin' there for a minute, you really did."

"I ain't jokin," Renji said quietly. His chin brushed Ichigo's neck as he spoke, sending a small shiver down Ichigo's spine. "You don't gotta say nothin', just wanted t' let ya know."

"Renji, you're not… then it's the cold. You don't wanna be tellin' me this." Ichigo closed his eyes and fought down the rising hope and desire. He failed; his fingers crept down Renji's arms of their own accord and wormed their way between the other man's fingers.

"It ain't the cold, either." Renji's arms tightened, and his head lifted. Ichigo felt the shinigami's heart thumping against his back, and he couldn't resist any more.

Ichigo knew what would be waiting for him when he turned his head. The angle was awkward, but he met Renji's dark red gaze for a moment before they closed the gap.

Renji's lips were cold and chapped as they pressed against his own, and they were more than a little off centre, but none of that mattered. What mattered was the electricity that raced through him as they twisted to get a better lock, the heat that rushed through every cell as their shifting finally fit their mouths together properly, and the shaft of excitement that shot straight to his groin when Renji's tongue slid over his own.

Ichigo let a soft groan escape when the arms around his waist brushed his growing erection, and the proof that he wasn't alone in his arousal was the press of hardening flesh against his hip. The groan that echoed back at him as he rocked into it was intoxicating, and he wanted…

Ichigo pulled back abruptly, a little alarmed at the direction his thoughts were taking. "Ahh…" He pulled in a steadying breath. "We're gettin' a bit ahead of ourselves, here."

Renji's lips weren't blue anymore, they were swollen and pink. His face was flushed, and his skin felt warm to Ichigo's touch, warmer than he'd felt in hours. "Right," he nodded. "We still gotta survive this storm." He licked his lips, and offered a grin.

"You're assuming we can survive each other," Ichigo smirked, trying to hide his nerves with the double-edged comment as he settled back against his friend and resettled the cloak around them. He knew he wasn't alone in his anxiety, either, by the way the shinigami's arms shook just a little when they wrapped around his waist again.

"What now?" Renji asked, sounding a bit apprehensive.

Ichigo felt a familiar scowl tug at his lips. "Other than 'don't die'? How the hell should I know? I was hoping you'd have some idea."

Renji made an exasperated sound. "Great."

Ichigo snorted. "Yeah." He gripped back tightly as Renji laced their fingers together again, and leaned his head against the shinigami's cheek in a silent promise. He had no idea what they could make of such a bizarre partnership, but Ichigo knew neither one of them would ever back down from a challenge.