Title: Close to Me
Author: NotebookPaper
Rating: K
Pairing: RukiaxRenji ((I suppose it's hinted because no one makes a kissy face in this thingy.))
Notes: Made because I found it rather odd that I had a fic of them already together and not one of them getting together, or at least making amends for the past in this case. Guess I just wanted to be traditional. I am planning on making a real chapter fan fiction for them, but I have no idea when that will come up. Um, I was also listening to "Come" by Namie Amuro, which is the 7th ending for Inuyasha, when I wrote this. It doesn't exactly fit, but for some reason it helped me type.

Disclaimer: I do not own Rukia or Renji -even if they are the only couple that would make me go bi- or Bleach in general.

It was quiet out, which meant that there were no watches nearby. For the two who were breaking rules it didn't matter if it were a blessing or a sign that the lower level shinigami were slacking on the job, for they could have it either way at this point. The two were leaving the Seireitai at this moment, running to a place that would suit their purposes.

Renji halted Rukia just as she was about to run around a corner, a light curse coming from the petite shinigami as she realized she was about to cross the path of a wayward guard. They were far off, whoever they were, but the two could not risk being caught now. 'Not after Aniki-sama gave his blessing.'

"Calm down, Rukia, we'll make it," Renji whispered close to her ear. His breath made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end for a moment before she took a deep breath and settled a little further into the shadow of the building.

It was tough to admit out loud, but Rukia was definitely on edge. After escaping an execution anyone would be, but ignoring orders so soon put her on an odd road to repentance. If anything it made her jumpy. At least now she had a cohort that was a lieutenant, and the go ahead from more than one captain. It helped that the lieutenant was a long time friend, and one with an odd ability to calm or stir her emotions.

"Thanks, Renji."

She could feel his nod more than she saw it as they waited in the shadow for the nameless shinigami to pass them. Whoever it was they walked too damn slow, and Rukia felt a tick develop in her brow, though now she was just more annoyed than anything. All the same, as the man came level with the two of them she backed a bit more into the shadow to avoid any form of moonlight ((Why did it seem like the moon was always full when times were sorely against it?)). Renji pulled her back against him, the shadow being so thin that it was necessary for both of them to flatten against the wall with as little movement as possible. Wishing she had thought to wait for a time when the moon would make the shadows longer, Rukia relaxed as best she could against her red-headed partner in crime. Her lashes came together to hide the whites of her eyes in case the man looked.

He didn't, of course, and a gentle pat on her shoulder told her all was clear. With another deep breath she was off again, Renji right behind her.

The tension in her shoulders finally seemed to melt as they made it out of the Seireitai, out of the area they were most likely to be found opening a portal to the living world and reprimanded for ignoring the orders given not to enter Hueco Mundo. They continued running for a while, sticking to deserted alleys and watching for areas conveniently bereft of life. When they found a promising dead-end Renji halted at the mouth of it and took up a look out post without even an exchange of words as Rukia opened the portal that would take them to Karakura Town, right outside Urahara Shouten.

"Renji." Her whisper released him and both ran through the portal into the quiet street of a place that seemed far friendlier than even their deserted alley.

Outside of the shop the two finally braved a look at each other, breaking the concentration of fleeing the Soul Society with smiles that said they'd done a job right. Once inside they'd be able to start the plans to save Inoue from Aizen and his Arrancar, and the simple thought of it was enough to make their reiatsu flare when they allowed the cap off to alert their friends to their presence.

Urahara greeted them at the door, his fan in front of his face and the shadow from his hat over his eyes.

"Well, well, it's my favorite customer and our freeloader. Here to get to Hueco Mundo, no doubt?" Rukia nodded her affirmative to the question and Renji rolled his eyes at the previous comment. "Alrighty. Follow me on down."

Renji and Rukia looked at each other then at Kisuke's retreating back.

"Wait a minute, Urahara. Shouldn't we go get Ichigo, Sado and Uryu first?" Renji asked as they both looked back at him.

"They've already gone ahead."

The two made an "oh" sort of noise at first, following the man with the white and green hat without question a few paces until both stopped abruptly.

"What?!" they both exclaimed at once, the one leading them not even flinching at the reaction.

"Are you serious?! They left without us?"

"It's hardly something I'd lie about, Kuchiki-san."

Renji only sighed angrily and shook his head while his small companion seethed next to him.

"As soon as I find him I'm going to hit him a good one! Urrrgh! That stupid, stupid strawberry head!"

"Very effective, Kuchiki-san. Shall we?"

The man in green seemed far too happy about the whole situation as he led them practically dancing down to where sounds of combat were raging. Who would be fighting here now if the others were already gone? The answer was surprising enough.

Perhaps if there had been more time Rukia would have taken a few more minutes to convey her shock and to speak comforting words to three back at the underground training rig Urahara had made. But it was paramount that they catch up to Ichigo, Sado and Uryu before they lost all chance of contact, and thus making it through the Garganta came first. So they went immediately.

"I take it you knew them?"

Rukia looked up at Renji from where she was pulling their mantles out of the bag she had brought with them. The wind wasn't so bad here just yet, but the ominous whistle that echoed from far off was enough to warn her that there was more than a possibility of heavy winds. The mantles would be necessary.

"Yeah. Tatsuki, Keigo and Mizuiru. I never would have guessed that they had spiritual power."
Renji looked out over the desert surrounding them. "Karakura has surprised us before."

"You're right."

The red-head looked surprised for a moment when a mantle was thrown around his neck. He looked down at the tiny Rukia, wondering how she had managed to put it on him without jumping, then simply smirked as he tightened it to the right fit.

The two started running, companionable silence between them, Los Noches ahead of them. But as they continued to run and Los Noches seemed no closer the two slowly became agitated and slowed their pace to a walk. By all rights they should have covered miles, but nothing but sand and dead trees surrounded them. Not one sign that they were closer to their destination was seen.

"What the hell?" Renji demanded, finally breaking the silence as he halted altogether.

"Is this some kind of game?" Rukia pondered, stopping only a few paces ahead of him.

The wind was picking up around them, the promise of a fierce dust-storm evident in its gales. The two continued unsurely, their walk towards the ever elusive Los Noches slowing to a turtle's pace as the elements fought against them. Sand began to whip around them, making them pull the mantles Byakuya had given them over their mouths and noses. Soon neither of them could even look up to see if their destination was still ahead, not that if they even managed to raise their eyes Aizen's stronghold would appear any closer.

Hours seemed to pass as they continued, the winds blowing Renji's hair out of its bounds and Rukia's all askew as it picked up velocity. Whenever their locks blew into their faces they were pushed with so much force it seemed the hair would cut through their thin layers of skin. It was almost welcome when Renji's heavy foot dropped into a hole and halted them, for Rukia -who had to be pushed forward by the heavier man lest she not be able to move against the storm at all- was feeling their trek across the desert in every one of her aching muscles. She silently, and guiltily, thanked whoever put that hole there for allowing her the chance to stop her steps and just lean against Renji. It was humbling, the force of nature being able to work against them even with their heightened spiritual power.

Rukia almost missed the sound of Renji's voice from behind his mantle as he yelled at her over the sound of the storm and strained to catch his words.


"It's an underground tunnel! Lets go down there 'til the storm subsides! This is crazy!"

Of course she complied as he took her down into the darkness. Sand flowed in after them, the wind blowing much of it down into the dark place now that its cover was gone. They had to back away to avoid the thrashing of wind and dirt, and soon they were catching their normal breath where the winds barely tickled them. The taste of the dirt was still evident in her mouth as Rukia's legs finally gave out with a shudder. She would recover quickly enough, probably once the winds calmed, but it was still something that the storm had made her legs so tired. Renji seemed fine, but then again he was a lot bigger than she was.

Renji made a feeble attempt to light the place they were in, and Rukia giggled at the tiny ball of light he summoned. Even she was able to lift her arm, as shaky as it was, and produce a better light source. The easy flow of her own reiatsu seemed to calm her body, and after she willed the light to float over them her limbs were steady in their resting state.

"Che. Show off," Renji said in good humor as he sat down and took to running his fingers through his disheveled locks ((Were they ever a mess.)). He'd gotten used to being outshone in the demon arts area, though it was only when he and Rukia were alone that he wouldn't show annoyance about it.

"I think you're going to need some help with that," Rukia commented as she rearranged her short mop and crawled over to him.

Renji raised an artful eyebrow, noting the shakiness in her knees, but otherwise allowed her to circle behind him and take in the back of his head. She made a few clicking noises with her tongue as the ball of light followed her before her hands delved into his hair.

He winced, like only the pull of a single hair could make you, a few times, but soon her combing fingers elicited a content sound from his throat.

The sound made Rukia pause for a moment, but she continued despite it with her jaw set until the task became rather enjoyable. Once the tangles were taken out the silky red hair felt pleasant against her fingers, and she couldn't get enough of it. For the sake of changing her course she positioned her hands on either side of his head and scratched the skin beneath his hair.

Renji's tattooed eyebrows rose over his hairline when Rukia's nails began to rub into his scalp, surprised by how great it felt. He allowed her to continue for a while after grooming him, his mind settling as her ministrations pleased him, allowing his thoughts to wander away from their current place in time.

Rukia was so close to him like this. It was the closest they had been for years. Was this an obvious sign that their past had been mended, or was he reading into it too much?

It was an issue that hadn't really been brought up past Rukia's needless apology way back when her execution failed. Now Renji was sure she was alright, but didn't something need saying on his part?
He opened his dark eyes and stared at the ground that glowed in the soft blue light, his mind working on what he might say even as it threatened to go blank with the bliss Rukia's nails elicited. She must have noticed he was distracted from the pleasure because it stopped and her voice brought another kind of pleasure to his ears.

"Something wrong, Renji?" she asked tentatively. He allowed a decent amount of time to pass before he answered, fishing for something, anything, to say to remain on the track he was hoping to ride out completely.

"Is there, Rukia?" Damn, that sounded dumb.

Her fingers disentangled themselves from his hair and fell into her lap as she sat back. She knew what he meant, and pouted because she was sure she'd made it clear.

He turned to look at her and blinked at the perturbed expression on her face. Now at a loss for what to say to that face he reached for a spare piece of cloth to tie his hair back. What did that adorable, puckered lower lip of hers mean to say to him? Blast her for making him blush.

Rukia's face softened at the barely masked look of being lost on his face. It was always something when Renji didn't know what to say. He always seemed to blush more readily about it than she, though it was definitely not something that made him look feminine. She waited for him to look at her again, waited until she had his attention.

"What do you think might be wrong?"

He stared at her, blinking once or twice before he was sure she actually meant to ask that question.

"I let you go, Rukia. I'm sorry for that."

Having it out on the table made quite a difference to Rukia. It was like she hadn't realized she'd been carrying his guilt along with hers for their past around as well, and once he'd said it a weight was lifted off her shoulders. Renji seemed to feel the same and it made her smile at him as genuinely as she was able to anyone.

"If you're not going to let me apologize what gives you the right to?" she asked with a laugh as she came forward and flicked his nose.

Renji went cross-eyed to look at the tip of his assaulted nose, and afterwards he smirked up at her, a single canine catching the blue light. The devilish look the smirk lent to Renji's face -one that always seemed made for a troublemaker but was the trademark for a red-headed street-urchin- made Rukia's smile part her lips and let loose a laugh. As the sound of bells floated from her lips she allowed herself to fall against him, all inhibitions borne from their misunderstanding melting away as his strong arms caught her in surprise.

They laughed with each other and wrestled there on the cold floor, making up for all the time they had missed together and healing wounds that spring only from severed bonds that need not be severed. Their mirth calmed eventually and they soon found themselves sitting back-to-back listening to the echoing winds they were sure had decreased in volume since they entered the deserted tunnel.


"Yes, Renji?"

"It feels sort of stupid now, doesn't it?"

"What? Rolling on the floor? It always does when the moment's over."

"No, no, I mean these years spent moping alone when we were both regretting it." There was no need to specify what "it" was.

Rukia let her head fall back between his shoulder blades, closing her eyes as she turned her head and listened to his heart-beat through his back.

"Yeah. It does seem really dumb, doesn't it? I bet we both thought we were doing the other a favor."
Renji tipped his head back curiously, only catching sight of the top of her black head out of the corner of his eye.

"Oh yeah? I can see how I'd be doin' you a favor by letting you join a noble family. Where's my sweet end of this deal?" It was said in good humor; Renji didn't regret remaining what everyone thought of as a useless street-rat. That background was probably what made him a lieutenant today.

"Now that you mention it, it seems even dumber. When you told me it sounded great I thought that you wanted the best for me. That was probably true, I know, but I thought I was doing you a favor by taking it as well. It was like it proved our family had made it somewhere, like when a kid does great for themselves and a parent is happy, but still at home and in the same conditions they always knew. I thought you would want it that way, but I forgot that we didn't exactly have the most stereotypical family." She smiled fondly, distantly, sadly. "I forgot that we had to stick together to be able to survive."

Silence took them again as Renji absorbed her words. He supposed it made sense. If at least one of them had completely ascended from scraping the ground of the Seventy-Eighth District like a stray dog it would seem they had all done something right. Somehow it only made sense that the star of the group would do it and suddenly realize that she still wanted to be around the only stray left. Renji allowed himself a smug smirk that quickly tempered to one of simple happiness.

"We won't forget again, Rukia. Just stay close to me and we'll always be alright."

"Sure thing! Stay close to me too, Renji. It's what family does."

Warmth seeped into both their beings and they were content, their heads dropping back as they looked up at Rukia's conjured ball of light. They were family, and in some ways more than just family. Old wounds had healed and now broken parts of them could be used once more where the other was concerned.

"Hey, I think the wind died down," Rukia said as she stood, both of them listening for the sounds of the strong gusts that had the power to blow her over. They weren't there anymore.

They blasted their way through the sand that had collected over their entrance and made it out. Soon enough they found Ichigo and his rag-tag group with three extra beings of questionable skill.

They also hit the "strawberry head" a good one after rescuing him from a fearsome sand beast. All was normal.

All was normal even when it came time to take separate paths in Aizen's labyrinth of a stronghold. Even though they were physically parted, a barrier had been broken that allowed the two to offer the other their emotions, their very souls, as a constant comfort and reminder that the other was always there with them in spirit. It was thus that they were always close to one another. As a not-so-stereotypical family should be.