Disclaimer - While it is a nice dream, reality says I DO NOT own Bleach. Realitys sucks sometimes.

Summary - "When will ya get it through yer thick head that ya don't have to fight this war alone?"

Warnings - Language and mild Male/Male interaction. Don't like it? Then hit the back button.

A/N - I wrote this ages ago but forgot about it. It's just a little one-shot based on something I witnessed between a couple of my former platoon members (you guys know who you are). After talking to them, this is what came about. Hope ya'll enjoy. If you like it - let me know. Heck, even if you don't, tell me what could make it better.

"Bullshit! I'm fine." The frustrated growl rang out down the hall of the 4th Division headquarters.

As if to prove his point, the orange-haired shinigami pulled himself to a sitting position on the edge of the bed. Ichigo had braced himself for the pain; pain had become an almost constant companion during the war, both physical and mental. Unfortunately, he wasn't prepared for the wave of nausea and dizziness that crashed over him. As he involuntarily closed his eyes and gritted his teeth waiting for it to pass, he heard the low chuckle from the other fighter in the room.

"Sure ya are, rookie." Ignoring the glare shot his way, Renji just grinned at the younger man.

"Shut up," Ichigo ground out, trying to ignore the sharp throbs from the sword wounds on his back. Trying to take a deep breath, he resisted the urge to grab the gash across his stomach and instead reached for his uniform top.

A frustrated curse made him raise his eyes to look into a steady amber gaze. Renji pulled the shredded top from the other man's hand and tossed it behind him. Placing his hands on the hunched shoulders, he gently but firmly forced Ichigo back down onto the bed and while Ichigo would never admit it, he was grateful to be lying down again

"I dunno what yer trying to prove, dumbass, but you are staying here to get healed. You will then stay here until ya are cleared by Unohana-taichou or I will get her to sedate yer ass for the next fuckin' week." Renji kept one hand on the chest of the younger man, careful of the injuries but firm enough to keep him from trying to get up again. His brow creased in concern as he took in the pale face, eyes clenched and jaw locked against another wave of a pain that he could feel wash through the other's reiatsu. When he was sure the other shinigami was going to stay in the bed, he motioned to the slight healer who had been hovering just outside the door.

"C'mon, Hana, he won't give ya any problems," the red-headed shinigami said pointedly.

Nodding his head, Yamada Hanatarou, 7th seat of the 4th Division and practically personal healer to both shinigami representative Kurosaki Ichigo and 6th Division Vice Captain Abarai Renji, stepped up to the bed. A few minutes later, after some quick preparations, his hands glowing a soft green as he began healing the teenage shinigami. After almost two years of war, he was used to the varied difficulties of getting the young man to relent to treatment. Ichigo hated being out of the fight, he especially hated being out of it when his team was still in it. Because of this, it usually took at least one other person to "persuade" him to get treated if there was still fighting going on.

"Abarai-fukutaichou, shall I call for someone to attend to your injuries?" Hanatarou asked the question without looking up from his work, brow furrowed in concentration.

"I can wait, Hana, until yer done with berry-brains here," he answered.

"You're one to talk, you fuckin' overgrown pineapple," Ichigo snapped, responding to the nickname without opening his eyes.

"Besides, they really aren't that bad," Renji went on, ignoring the comment. It was the truth; he had escaped the ambush relatively unscathed. He just had a few shallow cuts across his arms and torso and a deeper one on his lower leg from when the added weight of Ichigo in his arms hindered his ability to dodge an attack. But it was the younger man he was concerned with; he had taken the brunt of the attack, felling three opponents before the fourth cut him down. Since reinforcements had arrived and the fighting was almost done, Renji made the decision to bring Ichigo back to the 4th himself.

Renji opened his eyes when he heard the restless movement from the bed. "Ya' need to stay still, brat, so Hana," he stopped when he got his first good look of the teen's back. "Holy shit, Ichigo, yer a mess. What were ya thinkin', tryin' to leave?"

One brown eye cracked open for a second at the last statement. "My team is still out there," he answered simply.

Renji was about to respond to the absurdity of trying to fight when a person could barely stand when noises from the other side of the bed grabbed his attention. He looked at Hanatarou curiously when he suddenly stepped back.

"Whatsup, Hana?"

The young healer shook his dark head and said, "I need to get Unohana-taichou or Isane fukutaichou to finish. Some of the wounds are too serious for me to heal properly. I've managed to stop most of the bleeding but –" he waved his hand in a vague gesture. "I'll be back," he finished as he slipped from the room.

"See how messed up ya are," Renji pointed out to the stubborn teen, trying to stay calm even as he felt the adrenaline from the fight still singing in his veins. "Even Hana has to get help to heal ya."

The older shinigami shook his head in frustration at the muttered protests from the prone figure on the bed. Two years…two damn years of watching people they knew bleed and die and the kid still didn't understand that if you don't take care of yourself you're not much good to anyone else. He was going to get himself killed if he kept this shit up.

"If yer gonna say something, speak up!" snapped Renji, anger starting to dominate the frustration and concern.

"I said that some people need to quit overreactin, you dipshit." Ichigo's eyes narrowed and his normal scowl was firmly in place. "You act like a fuckin' mother hen sometimes when I could still be out there fighting." He snapped his mouth shut. He hadn't meant to say that to the other man. He knew it was pain and the after effects of the battle still clinging to him that was making him edgy and quick to take offense.

Renji tried to rein in his temper, he really did; fighting side by side throughout the war, he knew what Ichigo was like. But it exploded when he thought about how the other shinigami looked, lying crumpled on the ground, blood pooling around his slight, battered body.

"Sonuvabitch, boke! When will ya get it through yer thick head that ya don't have to fight this war alone?" His voice was low but harsh. He was sitting straight up in the chair, hands fisted on his knees as he fought to keep them from trembling or throwing a punch at the stupidly stubborn orange-haired rookie brat.

Surprised at the outburst, Ichigo opened his eyes and raised himself up on his elbows. Before he could respond, Renji continued, "Most of us have been doin' this long before ya were a twinkle in yer old man's eye. If ya keep this up, ya won't make it to the end of this goddamn war. And then where will I - the team be?" Renji hoped Ichigo didn't notice his slip and hurried on. "Gods, Ichigo, how fuckin' hard is to admit that sometimes ya need some help? That sometimes ya just can't fight anymore?" Renji slumped back in the chair, the burst of energy and anger exhausted as fatigue started to press down on him.

Shocked by the concern and hurt in the older man's voice, Ichigo bit back the retort that was on the tip of his tongue. He was silent for awhile as he mulled over the best way to answer Renji. He deserved some sort of explanation and Ichigo let out a tired sigh as he decided to answer honestly. At least as honest as Ichigo could be with himself for some of his actions.

"I don't think that I have to fight this war alone," he started, voice soft and thoughtful, eyes down as he watched his fingers pluck idly at the sheet beneath him. "And I know that you and the other shinigami have been doing this for a long time and are more than capable. But they are my responsibility."

"Who?" asked Renji, the confusion apparent on his face.

"Chad, Tatuski, Ishida and Inoue, even Rukia. It's my fault they are involved. I couldn't stand it if something happened to them. Since it's my fault they are all here then it'd be better if I died then one of them." He stopped when Renji knelt down so that he could look straight into the soft, brown eyes of the other man.

"Ichigo," he started but was cut off when Ichigo continued to speak.

"Ok, I know that Rukia and you would be fighting anyway, but she is part of the team. And that doesn't really matter because it is my fault the others got involved and are here. They are my responsibility. It's my duty to protect them, keep them as safe as I can, even if I have to die doing it," he repeated in a firm yet quiet voice. "I couldn't live with myself if something happened to them or you," he admitted in a whisper, "especially you." Ichigo flushed, he hadn't meant to say that last part. He was just so tired and his mouth and brain seemed intent on conspiring against him. Shit, shoulda just went with the wise ass comment. Ichigo was so busy beating himself up mentally, he missed the slow smile that made its way across Renji's face. He was so tense waiting for either the punch or the inevitable wisecrack that when Renji finally did speak he was taken completely by surprise.

"I completely understand that last part," Renji said softly.

Ichigo looked up, wide brown eyes captured by the look in the warm amber eyes gazing steadily back at him. Renji brought one hand up to cup Ichigo's neck, thumb gently stoking the fluttering pulse, the other one tracing the jaw that trembled slightly under his hand. Ichigo felt his breath hitch in his throat at the light caress. His tongue came out to wet his lips unconsciously as a strange sensation settled in his stomach.

Renji couldn't help the shiver that ran up his spine as he watched the slick tongue run over pink lips. The hand on Ichigo's jaw stopped moving and slid back so that long fingers could curl in the short, silky hairs at the nape of the neck. Slowly, the redhead brought his face closer to Ichigo's before leaning in and brushing his lips against the younger shinigami's mouth. Although surprised, the teen still returned the pressure he felt with his own mouth. Renji's tongue softly traced the lips that parted under his before slipping inside the moist warmth. Ichigo gently caught the seeking tongue with his teeth, sucking it gently, savoring the taste of the older man. When he released it, Renji plundered the mouth under his, exploring every heavenly bit of what was offered. Renji moved his hand to the back of Ichigo's head, burying it in the silky strands, tilting it so he could deepen the kiss. The move caused Ichigo to break away with a hiss. Closing his eyes, he attempted to will the pain away while trying to bring his heartbeat back to some semblance of normal.

Chuckling to cover his own breathlessness, Renji pulled back and said, "It was supposed to make ya feel better, not hurt ya."

"Was that the reason you did that?" asked Ichigo, eyes dark and serious, a hint of vulnerability on his lightly flushed face.

Renji studied him for a moment before answering quietly, "Not really. To be honest, been wantin' to do that for awhile now."

Ichigo's lips curved into a small smile as he lowered himself back down. "Good," he said, voice slightly muffled by the pillow, "'cuz so have I."

Renji couldn't keep the smirk off his face as he pulled the chair closer before settling back into it. "What, kiss your nakama while ya lie bleeding in a hospital bed?" he asked teasingly.

"Shuddap, dumbass," Ichigo groaned, "You know what I meant."

Renji ran his fingers through the soft, orange hair, "Yeah, I do," he said slightly more serious, "But this probably isn't the best time or place for it." He felt the reluctant nod of agreement under his hand. Smirking, he leaned down to whisper suggestively in the younger man's ear, "But if yer good and listen to Unohana-taichou, we can do it again some place more private."

The feel of Renji's breath ghosting over his ear made Ichigo shiver slightly. He bit back a groan when he felt the older man run his tongue over the shell of his ear before gently pulling his earlobe in between his teeth, nibbling for a minute on the tender flesh before he released it and sat back in his chair. Ichigo raised his head slightly to shoot a glare at the smirking shinigami.

"You're on," he said, challenge in his tone. Renji's smirk got bigger and he leaned back in his chair, long legs crossed out in front of him. They sat quietly for awhile before Renji startled Ichigo out of a fitful half-sleep.

"I meant what I said, ya know," he said, serious again, "'bout not having to do it all yerself. Ya ain't gotta just grit yer teeth and keep going. There's no shame in askin' fer help."

Ichigo didn't say anything but nodded his ahead against the pillow in acknowledgement. To be honest, the way he felt right then, he didn't think he could do it alone. Whatever pain relief Hanatarou's healing had provided had long since worn off. Every cut was on fire and every bruise seemed to throb in time with his heartbeat. He bit down on his bottom lip to keep from moaning as another wave of pain and nausea washed over him. Renji looked over at him in concern as he heard the choking noise rise from Ichigo's throat.

"Want me to see about getting' ya something for the pain while we wait for Unohana-taichou?" he asked, unable to keep the sympathy from his voice. He knew what it is like for every breath to hurt.

"Nah, I'm -," the younger man started to say from force of habit and then stopped. He wasn't fine and they both knew it. "Yeah, could ya?" he finished in a whisper as his eyes slid closed again.

Renji couldn't help but grin at the admission, knowing it was hard for the other man to admit it; it wasn't a lot but it was a start. He quickly left the room, looking for a healer who could put a pain block on the young shinigami.

A few minutes later Ichigo couldn't help the sigh of relief as the pain subsided to a dull ache. Renji sat quietly next to his bed, lost in his own thoughts, absently running his fingers through the short, spiky hair. Ichigo unconsciously leaned into the comforting touch as he dozed off. His last clear thought was that admitting to needing help might not be such a bad thing.