Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. All characters associated with the series are the property of Tite Kubo, I am simply borrowing them for my own amusement.


The corners of Ichigo's lips lifted slightly as a pleasant tingle skated across his remnant dreams, dragging him slowly towards the waking world. He rolled his head gently against the pillow, protesting the loss of the already forgotten memories while shifting deeper into the warmth at his back. The tickle on his skin paused for a moment, a contemplative silence, and then continued.

It took him only a few seconds to realize that Renji was petting him again, tracing the lines of his stomach and ribs, but he wasn't awake enough yet to complain. He didn't mind, not really. It was just a strange sort of tickle; one that made him want to squirm in ways that had been a bit unnerving while he was still trying to deny certain attractions. Honestly, it still made him nervous most of the time but currently, still drowsy and warm, he just couldn't bring himself to care.

The fingers slipped lower, dipping into his navel, and he finally gave into the building shiver, a sigh spilling from his lips. The body behind him shifted, drawing closer, warm breath stirring the fine hairs at the nape of his neck. He tipped his head forward, exposing more of his flesh as the fingers painted lazy patterns back up his stomach.

"You awake?" Renji's lips moved against his shoulder, his voice barely more than a whisper in the stillness of the room.

"Sorta," Ichigo mumbled, not bothering to open his eyes.

Renji made a sound that might have been a chuckle, but it was too soft to distinguish. He continued his slow exploration, following the contours of ribs beneath flesh, scraping his nails over the skin. Ichigo shivered again, his hand twitching against the blanket as a different kind of warmth spread through him.

"You're petting me again," he muttered without any real heat.

"Yeah," Renji agreed, smirking against his skin. "And I think ya like it."

Ichigo opened his mouth to deny it, but all that came out was a startled little gasp as a thumb flicked over his nipple. He finally opened his eyes, staring down at the darker hand as Renji rolled the hardening bud between his thumb and finger. He bit his lip as his body twitched in response.

"Ya like that?" Renji's voice was deeper than Ichigo remembered.

"I-I don't know," he stuttered as the fingers squeezed a little harder.

"You fuckin' lie a lot," Renji pointed out, leaning forward to catch an earlobe between his teeth, tugging it gently.

Ichigo's breath hitched as his senses swam under the foreign assault. Strangely, his body knew how to react even if his mind didn't, leaning into the touch, pressing into the heat against his back. Renji's fingers were moving again, following a meaningless path to the other nipple, stroking it gently. He released his hold on the earlobe, tongue flickering out as he tasted the skin behind it. Ichigo's head fell back, red hair drifting over his cheek as Renji continued down his neck.

"Renji...I..." He didn't know what to say, but he felt compelled to say something, anything.

"What is it?" Renji murmured, lips trailing over the curve of his shoulder.

"Nothing." Ichigo bit his lip again, trying to relax.

Renji lifted his head for a second, sensing the hesitation despite the hazy quality of his thoughts. "Y'okay?" His breath was hot on Ichigo's skin as he unconsciously teased the nipple between his fingers.

Ichigo exhaled shakily, squirming under the touch, still worrying his lip though he made no move to stop him. Renji's eyes narrowed at the reaction, a wayward thought dancing across his mind. He leaned forward again and Ichigo drew in a sharp, hissing breath as he felt teeth sink into the top of his shoulder; not hard enough to hurt, but enough to send a little shiver racing up his spine. He shuddered, his lips parting on a silent gasp.

A hand came up of its own accord, tangling in the red hair, surprising them both by pressing him harder into the skin. Renji pulled back, lapping the area, drawing the first muffled groan out of Ichigo. The hand in his hair tightened and he smirked, nipping along Ichigo's exposed neck to recapture his earlobe, biting down harder than he had before.

"Shit," Ichigo groaned, arching into the touch.

Renji sucked the soft lobe into his mouth, rolling it with his tongue. His hand slid back down Ichigo's chest to splay across his stomach, holding them together, keeping the younger body still as he continued his assault. Ichigo gave another soft, choking moan and Renji felt his own hips twitch in response.

Tentatively, hesitantly, he slid lower, tracing Ichigo's erection through the cloth of his shorts. Ichigo bucked against his hand, thrusting instinctively, craving the friction.

"Fuck, Renji..." he bit out brokenly, his hips rolling as the fingers made a second, still too subtle pass.

The hand returned, gripping him harder, sliding against him as he jerked convulsively. His eyes fell shut and he clenched his jaw against the sounds that threatened to spill free, arching against the palm stroking him slowly.

"Ya like that?" Renji's voice was heavy and thick against the back of his neck.

"Stop talking," Ichigo hissed, already off balance enough without added conversation.

Lips moved against his spine and Renji squeezed him once more before pulling away, leaving him panting and vaguely dissatisfied. There was no time to voice an objection, though, before fingers slid over his hipbone, dipping beneath the waistband of his shorts. His heart smashed into his ribs, responding to what he knew was coming even before those long fingers curled over him.

"Ahhh…" Ichigo's head rolled back, thrusting into the callused hand.

Renji replied with a muffled grunt, sucking at the tender skin where his neck and shoulder met, grinding slowly against him as he started to stroke. Ichigo drove helplessly into the fist, the scrape of Renji's battle rough skin making it hard to breathe, making his head spin. A thumb curled up, collecting the liquid seeping from his slit, smearing it around the head of his cock in deliberately slow circles. Ichigo trembled, straining against Renji, a broken cry escaping as teeth grazed the pulse beating wildly against his throat.

"F-f-fuck…" Ichigo bit his lip hard, his eyes squeezing shut. It was overwhelming; everything was so strange and fast, but it felt sooo good and he didn't want it to stop.

Renji released his neck, pulling back to look at him, stroking slowly down his length. He shifted away, nudging Ichigo onto his back, staring at him through escaping hair as his hand continued the torturous rhythm. Ichigo's eyes opened, hazy and dark with lust, meeting his gaze.

"Ya okay?" he murmured, curling an arm under Ichigo's neck so he could brush his fingers through the sweat dark hair.

Ichigo stared up at him through half closed lashes, his hips rocking up as the fingers around him squeezed. He understood the real question: was he going to be okay when all of this was over? He gasped, his head straining back against the pillow. He didn't have an answer for that question, but he was fucking tired of being a coward.

He reached up, catching the end of Renji's braid, pulling it loose so that he could thread his fingers through the fiery cascade. His other hand slid against Renji's chest, hesitantly tracing the tattooed lines, unsure of what to do. Renji faltered, momentarily losing that slow, steady rhythm.

"I like it when you touch me," he confessed, nuzzling against the hand in his hair. "I always have."

Ichigo licked his lips, his eyes darting to the path his fingers were following, feeling bolder at the admission. Renji was moving again, fingers sliding faster, hips rocking as he ground his erection into the thigh pressed against him. Ichigo's lashes fluttered and he slid his hand lower, tracing over an already coiled nipple. He took it between his fingers, stroking it experimentally.

"Harder," Renji breathed, twisting the hand around Ichigo's cock, leaning into his writhing body.

The younger man complied readily, pinching the hardened bud, rolling it until Renji threw back his head with a throaty groan. There was something powerful about drawing a sound like that from someone like Renji, and Ichigo could think of nothing more important than hearing it again. His hand was shaking as it slipped lower, brushing the top of Renji's shorts, drawing back nervously.

Renji released his hold on Ichigo, catching his hand and pressing it to the hard length straining against his pants. His breath hitched on a moan, his head falling against the younger man's shoulder as he bucked into their combined touch. He groaned again when he felt the fingers wrap around him, testing him, sliding over him with growing confidence.

He pulled back and found Ichigo watching, flushed and panting, an almost wild look in his eyes. Renji held that gaze as he brought his hand up, licking across his palm and fingers before slipping them back into the younger man's shorts. Ichigo's hips arched off the bed, his head thrown back with a choked shout as the fingers slid effortlessly, fast and hard.

He shoved his hand down Renji's pants, all hesitation lost under the assault as he gripped him tight, stroking ruthlessly. Renji shuddered, biting down on Ichigo's shoulder to muffle the sounds that were rising in his throat. Ichigo twisted against him, thrusting wildly into his fist, his eyes rolling back in his head. He could feel the tension coiling tight, begging to be set free, begging for release.

"IIIICHIGOOOO, it's time to – ggAAHHK." Isshin had bounded through the door only to trip over some invisible obstacle, staggering into the wall.

Ichigo reacted instantly, shoving Renji back and falling over the edge of the bed in his attempt to put distance between them. He drew his knees up in front of himself, trying to remember how to breathe, thanking every god imaginable that it had been his father and not Karin to come barging in. He heard Renji's frustrated groan and felt the responding sentiment throb between his legs.

"Don't you knock?" he fumed, glaring at the man who still looked flustered from his near fall.

"I-I was coming to welcome my dearest son to the new day." Isshin's beaming smile looked almost painful and he seemed to have developed a keen interest in something outside of the window.

"Are you sure he can't see me?" Renji had shifted closer, his breath tickling Ichigo's ear. "He's acting really weird."

"Why the fuck are you acting so weird?" Ichigo demanded, eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"What language to be using so early, think of your poor sisters." Isshin danced from one foot to the other. "Speaking of your sisters, I must be off; daddy's love must be shared."

He tore from the room before Ichigo could respond, slamming the door a little too hard behind him. Ichigo continued to stare into the empty space, his face burning. The bed dipped and Renji settled onto the floor next to him, still frowning.

"He can't see you, alright? He's just fucking weird," he assured him, dropping his head into his hands in mortification.

"Whatever." Renji moved restlessly, turning to face him. "Ya want me to finish you?"

Ichigo moved his fingers a little, peering at him from the corner of his eye, half incredulous and half tempted. Unfortunately, Isshin chose that moment to rematerialize in the hall, calling out something about breakfast as Karin shouted a continuous string of insults in his wake. Ichigo groaned, his hands sliding back into place, and Renji seemed to recognize this signaled the end of the morning.

"I should probably get back to Urahara's." He sighed heavily. "I didn't finish the report from last night."

"Yeah, um, I need to take a shower and do a couple of things here," Ichigo muttered awkwardly. "I'll be over there to train later."

Renji rolled to his feet and Ichigo tried not to stare at the front of his shorts, not needing the reminder of his own condition. He dressed quickly and quietly, shoving Zabimaru into his sash and tying back his hair. Ichigo stood, rubbing his neck as he watched him move towards the window. He paused, looking back as if he wanted to say something.

"Look, I…" He ran a hand over his face and Ichigo realized that he was thinking about apologizing.

Still reeling from the mornings activities, and not feeling particularly apologetic himself, Ichigo crossed the distance between them in two strides and crushed his lips against Renji's. He used the moment of surprise to his advantage, sweeping his tongue into Renji's mouth. Arms tightened around him, crushing them together, pulling him up as Renji kissed him back, hard. He pulled away, glaring defiantly, needing to prove that he wasn't going to scare so easily this time.

"This ain't over," Renji smirked, some of his earlier tension falling away.

"No shit," Ichigo smirked back, stepping away and crossing his arms. "Now get the fuck out of my house before someone sees you."

Renji chuckled, pulling the window open and giving him one last, hard look before leaping to the grass below. Ichigo watched him shunpo away and felt a residual shiver course through his body. It was going to be a long fucking day.


Ichigo sat cross-legged on the ground, staring moodily at Zangetsu sticking out of the sand a few inches away. In the distance Urahara was rummaging through his usual collection of oddities, humming to himself as he waited for the final decision.

Ichigo, bored with his orders to take it easy and feeling strangely irritable, had sought out the former captain as soon as he managed to escape his house. He'd been curious how his experiments were going and having found him ready for another round of tests, offered to see if his Hollow side was up to the task. He hadn't tried accessing his inner world, opting instead to ask Zangetsu outright to see if it happened to be one of his more forthcoming days. He'd gotten an answer almost immediately, in fact he'd gotten two; his Hollow whispered that he was fine, and Zangetsu offered a somewhat vague warning about overtaxing himself. They'd fallen silent at that point, and Ichigo resigned himself to waiting.

"Any progress?" Urahara asked casually, crouching down in front of him and pressing a sticky metal disc to the inside of his wrist.

Ichigo frowned at it, turning it towards the light for a better look. "No, but I'm getting a weird headache. I think maybe they're arguing." He pressed his fingers into his temples and glared at the sword again.

"Hmm." Urahara placed a hand against Ichigo's forehead, brushing his reiatsu over the younger man. "There's no specific rush, this can wait."

"There's always a rush." Ichigo shook him off. "Fucking Aizen's not just going to sit around and wait for me to feel better."

Urahara shrugged but conceded the point.

Ichigo huffed, scratching moodily at his wrist. "What do you have that can push me into my inner world? This is getting ridiculous."

Urahara frowned at him but cocked his head to one side, considering for a moment before making his way back to one of his boxes. Ichigo was about to follow when he felt a tug at the edge of his consciousness.

'That is unnecessary, Ichigo.'

He dropped back into the sand, "So what's the decision?"

'It is safe to utilize your Hollow abilities for a short period of time, though no more than two or three hours.' He sounded displeased and though he wasn't stupid enough to ask, Ichigo wondered what had been said to make him go against his obvious wishes.

"That's fine," he agreed, shaking the sand out of his clothes and pulling Zangetsu out of the ground. "Is there anything else?"

There was no reply.

"Looks like it'll be fine for a couple of hours," he informed Urahara, who had paused mid-search to watch the one-sided conversation.

"Well, that gives us one session with the Negacion field, possibly two." The blond seemed to do a couple of quick calculations in his head. "That should be enough to give me a direction for modifications."

Ichigo nodded, rolling his shoulders, not really looking forward to fighting his way out of a void dimension but glad to be doing something useful. He watched Urahara fish the strange cube from his pocket, unwinding the chain carefully before slipping it over Ichigo's head.

"I'll be monitoring things closely; if it looks like you're struggling I'll intervene." He looked more solemn than usual.

"I thought I was supposed to struggle," Ichigo pointed out, spinning the cube between his fingers.

"Yes, but after a point it's no longer productive." Urahara's sage look was marred by the smirk tugging at his mouth.

He looked like he was going to say something else but a buzzing behind him drew his attention. He looked back, frowning, and then transferred his gaze to the ladder that led to the surface. Ichigo turned and saw something dark drop through the hole in the ceiling, disappearing behind some rocks that obstructed his view.

"Seems that we have some company," Urahara said unnecessarily, glancing at Ichigo from the corner of his eye.

They both knew who it was and Ichigo was vaguely uncomfortable with the fact that Urahara seemed to be leveling his curiosity at him, instead of at the approaching figure. He busied himself with rewrapping Zangetsu until their uninvited guest strolled into view.

"Hey." Renji stopped a few feet away. "Thought maybe you could use a hand. Ain't got nothin' better to do."

"That's very kind of you, Abarai-kun." Urahara stepped forward, effortlessly slipping into his most carefree tone. "But I'm afraid the instruments I'm using are calibrated very specifically. It would disrupt the experiment if you were to stay."

"Uh-huh." Renji's eyes left the former captain to linger on Ichigo. "If it's about the Hollow, it don't bother me."

Ichigo saw a look of interest creep into Urahara's eyes and winced slightly. "It's not what you think; nothing exciting is going to happen."

"Then what's it matter if I stay?" Renji cocked an eyebrow at him.

Ichigo squirmed uncomfortably; he really didn't want Renji to see this.

"Calibration issues." He tried to sound bored. "Everything's really technical."

Renji made a rude noise, "That's bullshit."

He tilted his head slightly, regarding Ichigo with one of his unusually shrewd looks. "It don't change anythin'. I already know what it means, I just wanna see it."

"Why?" Ichigo looked to Urahara for help but the blond had dropped all pretenses, shifting his gaze between them with blatant interest. Ichigo scowled at him.

"It's sorta been buggin' me since ya told me, and I don't want it to." Renji shrugged. "Figured the best thing would be just to come an' see for myself."

"Facing your fears?" Ichigo knew the thought shouldn't bother him so much, but it did. This is why he didn't want people to know about this shit, because it made them afraid, it made them look at him like he was a different person.

"You're such a dumbass." Renji gave him a flat stare. "I already told ya I ain't scared. I'm just, I don't know, curious, I guess."

Ichigo's jaw was clenched so tight that Renji could see the muscle jumping. He started to take a step forward but drew up when the younger man tensed further.

"Look." Renji's eyes narrowed in frustration. "If seein' the damn Hollow didn't send me runnin' then what the fuck is seein' the mask gonna do?" He let out an exasperated sigh. "The bastard cursed at me, for fuck sake, it don't get much weirder than that."

"You've actually seen the Hollow?" Urahara had apparently reached the limits of his patient listening skills, a rare look of shock plastered across his face.

"Yeah," Renji admitted, sparing the other man a glance as though just realizing that he was still there.

The former captain looked like he had about a thousand questions, but he held his tongue. Probably just until Ichigo was stuck in the Negacion field. He scowled at him again.

He really didn't like the thought of Renji seeing his mask, because it represented the dark part of him that he'd spent so long fighting, the part that he'd been so afraid of. Admittedly, Renji had done better with the Hollow than he would have thought possible, but he'd always seen the mask as different, as something that he'd done willingly.

It didn't matter that he was in control; he could still feel the power beneath the surface, like black threads running through his veins. He could feel the hard edge of it in battle, could feel it coiling heavy and thick inside of his reiatsu. Shinigami and Hollows were natural enemies, down to the core of their beings, and despite this being his only viable option he couldn't shake the feeling that he was somehow tainted. Couldn't help but think that other people would see him as tainted.

Still, Renji already knew the truth of the matter, all he was asking for was the physical proof and some part of Ichigo felt like he owed him that. Renji had put up with a lot of shit from him recently with minimal complaint, which considering their history was really surprising. He had put a lot of trust in Ichigo, and now all he wanted was to have that trust returned.

"Fuck." Ichigo threw back his head, staring at the pseudo sky in defeat.

"Would you care for a seat, Abarai-kun?" Urahara had apparently learned to read his intricate and subtle degrees of vulgarity.

"I just want to see the mask; I don't need to stay for the rest if I'm gonna be in the way." Renji sounded a little subdued for someone who'd just won. Maybe he'd been hoping for less of a fight.

"It's fine," Ichigo sighed, meeting his gaze once again. "I wasn't lying about it being boring, all you have to do is sit and wait."

Renji shrugged, looking between Ichigo and Urahara.

"So," he sounded the slightest bit apprehensive. "What happens now?"

Ichigo clenched his fists a couple of times, trying to release the tension in his muscles. "Might as well get it over with." He tried to sound calm, glancing at Urahara, "We can start the experiment in a few minutes."

The former captain nodded and Ichigo turned back to Renji, his whole frame rigid. "Are you ready?"

Renji's lips twitched slightly. "You're freakin' out again."

"Asshole." Ichigo found himself smirking, the knot in his stomach loosening.

He took a deep breath, steeling himself for any possible reaction before reaching up and drawing his hand across his face. He felt the mask forming, felt the twinge of pain that had accompanied his bankai, and then the power snapped into place. He dropped his hand, staring at Renji, watching his eyes widen in reaction to the mask and the dark bite of his reiatsu.

Renji barely hesitated, covering the distance between them, ignoring the way that Ichigo tensed. He stopped about a foot away, staring down into the black and gold eyes, his brows drawn together in a frown. A hand came up slowly and Ichigo had to fight the urge to retreat as fingers traced the red markings beneath his eye. Renji repeated the gesture, tracing the lines across his forehead, brushing against his hair with a gentle, sweeping caress.

"Can you talk?" he asked, his brows still furrowed in concentration.

"Yeah." Ichigo's voice was soft, muffled by the barrier between them.

He felt a surge of power and reached up to catch Renji's wrist as the mask broke away, feeling him twitch in surprise. The darkness faded from his eyes and he blinked as he felt Renji's fingertips brush over his cheek, following the invisible pattern of the mask once again. He stared up at him, unable to think of an appropriate response as the touch sent a tingle down the side of his neck.

He snapped back to himself a second later and pulled away, noticing Urahara grinning in a way that made his face burn. He turned, clearing his throat as he released Renji's wrist. Whatever reaction he'd been imagining, that hadn't been it.

"Well now you've seen it." He was proud of the fact that his voice sounded normal. "We should start the tests, the clock's ticking now."

Urahara nodded, still grinning, and turned to retrieve the necessary components. Renji just watched as Ichigo stepped away, walking to a flat patch of sand before turning to face them again. He licked his lips, reaching up to grasp Zangetsu before nodding sharply.

"Mask on." Urahara's grin had settled into a smirk.

Ichigo pulled the mask over his face once again, his fingers clenching tight on Zangetsu's hilt. He had one last image of Renji watching him with concern before everything pulled apart and the world dropped away.


"Owwww," Ichigo groaned, rolling onto his side so that he could draw his legs closer to his chest.

"Here." Urahara was kneeling beside him, pressing a bottle of water into his hand.

He sipped at it without raising his head, letting it puddle under his face when it ran over. His chest was throbbing dully, but he was more concerned with the way that his stomach was rolling, threatening to rebel if he didn't comply with its wish to remain still. He felt fingers pressing against his neck and managed to turn his head.

"How long?" Ichigo muttered, watching Urahara frown.

"One hour and thirteen minutes," he replied, looking apologetic. "I probably should have brought you out."

"M'fine." Ichigo waved him off. "Doesn't really hurt, just feel sick."

Urahara pulled out his notepad, jotting down a couple of entries as Ichigo took slow, deep breaths to calm himself.

"Where's Renji?" he asked after a moment, feeling a little better.

The corner of Urahara's mouth lifted and he spared him a wicked glance before returning to what he was writing. "He's sitting about 12 feet behind you. He seems rather angry."

Ichigo groaned, pushing himself a little ways off the ground to test his stomach's resolve. They'd managed to get two rounds in, though the last one had been rough. The first time he'd reappeared, slamming into the sand and coughing up a little blood, Renji had decided that this was a bad idea. Unfortunately, bad idea or not, it was necessary for Urahara's testing and so he'd pulled himself back up and shook off the residual pain. Renji had gritted his teeth but hadn't said anything; he knew the stakes as well as anyone.

"Did you get enough?" Ichigo asked Urahara, throwing a glance over his shoulder to where Renji was slowly stalking towards them.

"Enough for now," Urahara sighed, closing his pencil in the notebook. "I don't think I'll ever be able to hold an Espada for more than a couple of hours, but it looks promising for the lower ranks."

"Can it take more than one person at a time?" Ichigo finally managed to sit up properly.

"I'm still working on that." Urahara tugged off his hat and ran a hand through his hair. "I have the basic concept laid out, but it will be almost impossible to test outside of actually taking it into a battle."

"That shouldn't be too hard to find soon," Ichigo pointed out as Renji dropped down next to him.

"You have to go again?" he asked, sounding more resigned to the process now that he'd witnessed it again.

"I can't today," Ichigo sighed, digging his palm into his eyes.

"You're sure Seireitei wouldn't have somethin' you could test with?" he asked, helping Ichigo pull the cube from around his neck.

"They don't have access to the type of Hollow energy I'm targeting and I'm fairly certain they wouldn't be pleased that I'm dabbling in these experiments again." Urahara accepted the small device, looking tired. "I wish that there was some other way to go about this, but there simply isn't."

He reached forward, turning Ichigo's arm over, peeling the flat disc off of his wrist. He rubbed his thumb over the reddened patch of skin a couple of times, turning the thing over in his hand, pale brows furrowed in thought.

"I never asked what that was," Ichigo muttered, allowing Renji to examine his wrist when Urahara released it.

He felt a little shiver run through him as the long fingers moved over his skin, sending a tingle up his arm that had more to do with the memory of the redhead's panting breath against his neck than with the experiment. He shook his head, trying to focus on what Urahara was saying.

"I was taking some more involved readings of your reiatsu fluctuations." He ran his hand through his hair again. "I'm trying to collect enough data to modify the way we track the Arrancar. Currently, everything is centered on the reiatsu signatures of an ordinary Hollow, which can cause problems when monitoring something else."

"Could ya track the fuckin' reiatsu supressin' ones?" Renji asked.

"I don't know at this point." He stood slowly, pocketing the little devices. "I just don't have access to a wide enough testing pool."

"Something else to test while we fight." Ichigo gave him a wry smile.

"I suppose," he agreed, offering him a hand up.

Ichigo allowed himself to be pulled to his feet, swaying slightly as the world righted itself. Urahara's hand closed around his arm as he peered at him in concern.

"Are you sure you haven't over done it?" he asked.

"Well, Zangetsu isn't complaining, so I guess it's fine." Ichigo unconsciously leaned into Renji when the redhead stepped up behind him, not missing the twitch of a pale eyebrow as Urahara released his arm.

He scowled, but didn't move. "Knock it off."

"My, my, such a rude tone." Urahara was grinning again as he replaced his hat, pulling it low over his eyes.

Ichigo felt the heat creeping into his face but he'd had enough experience with Urahara's odd behavior to keep it from spreading too far. He straightened, feeling the fatigue settling in his bones.

"You should get some rest if you're planning on patrolling later tonight, Kurosaki-kun." Urahara was still smirking, but his tone was genuinely concerned.

"I will." Ichigo was more than ready to comply.

"I could tell Hitsugaya-taichou that ya ain't feelin' up to it," Renji suggested, falling into step as they headed for the ladder.

"Fuck that," Ichigo scoffed.

Renji chuckled, feeling relieved that Ichigo at least sounded like himself, even if he looked half dead. Ichigo staggered again, catching his foot on an overturned rock and Renji slipped an arm around him for support. It was the least he could offer after having spent the last couple of hours unable to do anything but watch him struggle.

Ichigo slid an arm up Renji's back, gripping his shoulder like a crutch. Honestly, he really did feel like he'd over done it, but there was no point in complaining about it now. Renji's arm tightened around him and he felt Urahara's eyes boring into the side of his head.

"Not a fucking word," he muttered, looking straight ahead.

Urahara's dark chuckle barely reached his ears. "I'm certainly in no position to be questioning other people's behavior."

Ichigo ignored him for the rest of the trip back into the shop, not even bothering to look back as he trudged into Renji's room. He stripped down to his hakama and fell onto the futon in a graceless sprawl.

"Ya really gonna be okay for tonight?" Renji dropped into a chair, looking down at him.

"Yeah, just wake me up in a couple of hours," Ichigo muttered, already feeling sleep overcoming him.


The Hollow was running again. Ichigo swore, wondering why the hell things couldn't just stand still and die as he took off in pursuit. It wasn't an Arrancar, but it was big and seemed capable of speeds that, in Ichigo's opinion, were just unnecessary. They'd been chasing it for what felt like hours, and it was getting irritating because it could dodge as well as it could run. He swore again as it disappeared between a couple of buildings, using shunpo to cut up an alley and head it off.

Renji had let him sleep until only an hour or so before they were due to start their shift, which was longer than he'd intended but left him feeling worlds better. He'd been able to shower and forage for food without any real sense of hurry, allowing him to keep that sense of wellbeing for a little while longer. He even accepted Ururu's message that Urahara had some medicine he wanted him to take with better than usual spirits, muttering only a couple of choice curses as he trudged down the hall.

He'd found Urahara on the phone with some unknown caller, an unusual occurrence because the former captain hardly knew anyone who bothered with human communication. He'd had the most incredible look of glee on his face as he blithely explained that he could hardly be held responsible for other people's failure to pay attention to what was going on around them.

Ichigo had started to leave but Urahara had motioned him to stay, digging one handed through his supplies for whatever horrible concoction he was planning to foist on his victim. He paused, wicked gaze locked on Ichigo as he informed the mouth piece that whether or not he had been aware of the situation was beside the point, as he was running a humble shop, not an information service. Ichigo frowned, wondering why the way he'd drawled the word 'situation' seemed to linger with him.

He'd taken the little bottle of death flavored mystery sludge, not even bothering to ask what it was in his haste to get out of the room. Something about seeing Urahara that thrilled made him want to be as far away as possible. As he slid the door closed, he thought he saw the blond give him the slightest wink, which only served to reassure him that nothing good was going to come of this.

He skidded out of the alley and blinked at the empty street, wondering for a brief moment if the Hollow had somehow managed to become invisible. A muffled explosion to his left cleared that mystery up, and he realized that he'd just missed a turn somewhere. He dashed off towards the destruction, wondering where the hell Renji had disappeared to.

He got the answer to his question as he rounded the corner of an obscure industrial block and found the other Shinigami lunging at the Hollow. He missed, narrowly avoiding its lashing tail as it spun around and ran again.

"Stop fuckin' running!" Renji demanded insanely, lashing out with Zabimaru and taking a chunk out of the street.

Ichigo jumped into the intersection, effectively heading it off. It shrieked at him and launched itself skyward but he was ready, following it up. He swung Zangetsu down and almost sighed with relief as he felt the blade bite into something solid. The Hollow screamed its rage at him, even as it started to disintegrate. He landed near Renji, watching until it faded into nothing.

"Fuckin'…runnin'…bullshit," Renji panted, leaning back against a wall and closing his eyes.

Ichigo laughed, slouching against the brick as well, running his sleeve over his forehead. He felt good, the adrenaline still pulsing in his veins, the light breeze cooling the sweat on the back of his neck. He turned so that his shoulder was pressed to the cold surface, still chuckling as Renji caught his breath.

Renji's tongue slipped out, wetting lips that remained softly parted as his breathing started to slow. Ichigo felt that strange pull in his chest, that twisting, tingling feeling that made his blood race. He felt his own tongue dart out, licking his lower lip in response, unable to look away. Renji's eyes were still closed, his head thrown back against the wall, exposing the curve of his throat to the night air. Ichigo watched as a bead of sweat rolled down the side of his neck, tracing the contours of muscle and tendon that his fingers itched to follow. It disappeared under the edge of his robes, traveling down over that tattooed flesh that he could still see every time he closed his eyes. His smile fell away and he realized that he didn't feel like laughing anymore.

Ever since the abrupt end to that morning's activity, he'd been suffering from a complicated mixture of dissatisfaction, arousal, and irritation. If he remained idle for too long he could feel the memory of the fingers sliding over him like it was happening again, hear the echoes of the shuddering sounds as Renji moved against him. He'd been in a slightly uncomfortable state for most of the day, and suddenly it felt like he couldn't even breathe. He bit his lip to muffle the sound of frustration that tried to sneak out.

Renji heard it anyway, and his eyes cracked open as he turned his head, staring down at him intently. He could feel the raw need rolling off Ichigo in hot waves, sending an almost imperceptible shiver through him as his eyes darkened. He watched as Ichigo bit harder into his lip under the weight of his stare, his pulse pounding visibly beneath the delicate skin of his throat. A moment passed between them, a thickening of the air, a sudden heat in what had been a cool night, and Renji felt his stomach drop. He reached out, pressing his thumb against Ichigo's lip, pulling it out from between his teeth slowly. He traced along the soft curve, smoothing out the teeth marks, dipping into the warm mouth when the lips parted easily. Ichigo reacted without thought, licking the pad of the thumb, his breath hot and moist.

"Shit," Renji breathed, Zabimaru clattering to the ground as he reached for Ichigo, pulling him closer to taste his mouth.

Zangetsu joined Zabimaru as Ichigo's hands fisted in Renji's kimono, pressing into the kiss, sucking on the tongue sweeping into his mouth. One of Renji's hands was in his hair, tilting his head to the side, and the other was slipping down his back to crush them together. Ichigo made a soft, whimpering noise as a thigh ground against his already straining erection.

He pulled away from the kiss, leaning in to lick the side of Renji's neck, tasting the skin that had been haunting his dreams since his moment of drugged indiscretion. The tang of sweat mixed with Renji's unique, wild flavor, and Ichigo pressed closer, needing to burn it into his memory.

The redhead fell back, leaning against the wall, dragging Ichigo with him as he felt sharp teeth graze his skin. He gasped, his hips jerking forward, thrusting shallowly against Ichigo in a broken rhythm. He snaked a hand between them, pulling roughly at Ichigo's sash, peeling back the layers so that he could slide his hands over bare skin. Ichigo groaned at the contact, his breath stirring the fine hairs on Renji's neck.

The hand in his hair tightened, pulling him back to the kiss, their tongues crashing together with frenzied need. Ichigo's hands shook as he tugged at Renji's clothes, faltering a little when he felt calloused fingers sliding up his back. With a final dizzy effort he made it to skin, blunt nails scraping over the tattooed chest as Renji hissed into his mouth. He found a nipple, pinching it, twisting it hard just like he'd been shown.

"Ichigo…fuck…" Renji's head rolled back, his hands falling to the lean hips riding against him, shifting them sideways to grind their erections together.

Ichigo choked, his fingers biting down hard, drawing another spasm from the other man as he dropped his head onto the tattooed shoulder. Renji's hands left his hips, working the ties on his hakama, plunging inside to curl around Ichigo's aching cock and pumping hard. Teeth sank into his shoulder as the younger man cried out, straining against the touch.

Ichigo felt like he was on fire, his heart beating so fast that he thought he might choke on it. He was still sensitive from the morning, and the fingers stroking over him felt so good that it almost hurt. He wanted this so badly that he couldn't even think, couldn't do anything but moan brokenly as he thrust himself into that fist over and over again.

His hands fell from Renji's chest to tear at his hakama, needing to touch him, needing to make him feel the same burn that was quickly drowning him. Renji groaned, riding a shudder as the hand closed over him, sliding over his weeping head and down his pulsing length.

"Gods, yes…" he breathed against Ichigo's ear, biting down on the lobe as he pumped him faster.

Renji's hand ripped free, shoving Ichigo's hakama lower, licking a sloppy trail across his palm before gripping him again.

"Oh, shit…ngghh…fuck." Ichigo was writhing, straining against the fingers that where stealing his sanity.

He copied Renji's actions, tasting the salty fluid across his fingers, pulling him free so that he could slide over him, faster, harder. He squeezed his eyes shut, drinking in the sound of Renji's shuddering groans mingling with the ones spilling from his own lips. He sank his teeth into his shoulder again, feeling the world start to draw in on itself, throbbing between his legs as he started to convulse.

"Harder…" Renji's voice was dark and wild and Ichigo didn't know if he meant his hand or his teeth so he did both.

Renji threw his head back, not bothering to muffle his shout as he arched forward, thrusting into the rough fist. The sound was too much for Ichigo, shooting through him like lightning, shoving him over the edge.

He buried his face in the crook of Renji's neck, his sobbing moan muffled as he came, spilling hot over the still moving fingers. Renji tensed, his rhythm faltering as his own release screamed through him, pulsing between them in blinding waves of pleasure. The hand slid over him a couple more times, drawing out the orgasm, leaving him gasping for breath.

Ichigo finally released him, still panting into his neck as the shivers raked his body. Renji brought his clean hand up to thread through his hair, stroking the back of his neck as they wound their way back down. He rubbed his jaw against the orange hair, sliding against the sweat on his temple, in a lazy gesture of affection.

Ichigo pulled back, straightening up, flushed slightly with embarrassment. Renji cocked his head to one side, studying him intently and Ichigo managed a weak smile of reassurance. He stared shakily down at his hand, still coated in Renji's release, and at his stomach which had suffered a similar fate. He had no idea what to do about it. He flushed deeper, noticing that his hakama had pooled around his feet, trying not to stare at the fact that Renji was equally exposed.

The redhead chuckled lightly and Ichigo's head snapped back up, watching him raise his own hand to examine it with interest. He seemed to consider for a moment before tentatively licking the still warm fluids from the tip of one finger.

"Ugh." Ichigo wrinkled his nose, forgetting his momentary embarrassment. "Don't do that."

"Why not?" Renji licked the finger again, his brows furrowing as if he were trying to decipher the taste.

"Isn't it gross?" he asked, still looking disgusted.

"Well it ain't made of candy." Renji rolled his eyes. "But it ain't the worst thing I ever tasted. Figured it might be worth gettin' used to."

"Why?" Ichigo looked at him like he was crazy.

Renji just smirked at him, sucking the finger into his mouth up to the second knuckle, holding his gaze with heavy intent before slipping it in deeper. Ichigo felt a flush creep over him that had nothing to do with embarrassment.

"Oh," he breathed, unable to find any other words at the moment.

Renji let the finger fall from his mouth, smirking again. He dug around in the folds of his clothes with his clean hand, pulling out one of his bandanas and tossing it to Ichigo. The younger man blinked at it for a moment before realizing what it was for. He cleaned himself up the best he could before handing it back and worked on re-securing his clothing while Renji wiped himself down.

He brushed some invisible dirt off of his leg, trying to find something to do with his hands as he struggled to process everything that had just happened. He didn't feel the pull of the familiar panic, which he assumed was a good thing. Still, he couldn't help the embarrassment that rolled over him every time he remembered the sounds he'd been making, or the way he responded so shamelessly.

He'd never really thought of himself as a sexual person before. Sure, he was a guy and he had certain needs, but it was something that had always been a distant second to whatever crisis was going on in his life at the moment. He'd never been so overcome that he forgot where he was, or what he sounded like, or everything except the blinding need for release.

A finger hooked under his jaw, tilting his face towards the man responsible for his current problem. "Ya okay?" Renji asked softly.

"Will you stop asking me that?" Ichigo scowled a little, irritated that he had been caught worrying, and that he was apparently so easy to read.

"You gonna stop lookin' like that?" Renji countered, cocking an eyebrow at him.

Ichigo's scowl darkened but Renji just snickered, leaning down to kiss him before releasing his chin. He fished his communicator out of his pocket and flipped it open, scanning through a couple of screens.

"Still got an hour 'till we gotta meet Hitsugaya, where do ya wanna head?"

Ichigo took the little device out of his hand, scrolling through maps of the city while Renji looked for a trashcan to dispose of the now overly sticky bandana. He had settled into a somewhat mechanical pace of page flipping when something caught his attention and he faltered. He hit the back button a couple of times until he came to a map of the street that Inoue's apartment was on. He frowned.

"Does this thing pick up Shinigami now?" he looked up as Renji returned.

"No." Renji gave him an odd look. "Why?"

Ichigo shrugged. "Just a weird reading on Inoue's street, but no alarm or anything. I thought maybe it was Matsumoto and Toushirou since they're staying there while she's in Soul Society."

"Weird how?" Renji took the offered communicator, staring down at the screen. For a second he didn't see anything, and then there was a soft flicker, a tiny, barely there pulse that was soon joined by a second. His eyes widened, a memory of blood slicked grass flashing through his mind.

"Shit!" He took off running even before he started to dial, knowing Ichigo would follow.

"What is it?" Ichigo was keeping pace beside him, matching his speed in shunpo.

"Arrancar," Renji growled, a sickening feeling settling in his stomach as the call continued to ring unanswered. He put on an extra burst of speed.