DISCLAIMER: Bleach no mine. And Renji is sexy. Nodnod Yes. Yes he is.

As with most of my stuff, I've also posted this on LiveJournal, so sorry if you're seeing it again.

This is a bit darker and more involved than I usually write this pairing, but I'm hoping it is still enjoyable. I'm cooking up a small ficlet for a sequel – please tell me what you think.

Hospital Tree Climbing

The hospital room was pleasant, or as pleasant as those things could possibly manage. A bay window encompassed almost an entire wall, providing a view of the city that in any other five-story building might be called breathtaking. Even in this sea of white the available expanse of skyline and open air was appreciated; the blinds of this particular room never closed, even in the bright of midday or the blinking streetlights of midnight.

The whiteness of the walls too, was carefully distracted from by the arrangement of dozens of vases, pots, and bowls containing splashes of color. Sunflowers, orchids, lilies, lilacs, even a bunch of roses made entirely out of chocolate filled the room with bits of brightness and vibrancy as they overtook every available piece of furniture.

As constant as these encouragements came however, the stiff, ungainly bed, sterile sheets, constantly beeping machinery and dripping bags of clear liquid still remained more so. As is the major flaw of a hospital – it will always be a hospital.

Night had fallen some time ago, the overhead light turned off so that the window glowed faintly with the activity below. The figure currently occupying the bed shifted, turning to face the glass pane. Eyes the color of good brandy and framed with the beginnings of crows feet cracked open, watching the outside silently. A few seconds later a shadow fell across the view and the window slid open. If having a person step into one's room via the fifth story window was an odd occurrence, no sign of this was exhibited. After closing the window again the room's new occupant turned and walked quietly over to lean on the wall next to the bed. "Did I wake ya?"

"Not really." The arm unoccupied by an IV needle lifted and ran through short spiked, hair. Even in the dim light one could see the outlandish orange color, although it had paled through a steady increase in grays. "Sleep isn't any fun when it's all I'm allowed to do, anyway." The other snorted softly in agreement. "Shouldn't you be patrolling?"

"Eh, it's a slow night."

"You've said that every night for two weeks, Renji." An orange eyebrow lifted in what may have been a skeptical expression, but the slight smirk accompanying it ruined the effect.

Renji shrugged, matching the other's expression. "Been a slow two weeks, then." The tall redhead pushed off the wall, the black fabric of his uniform swishing as he circled the bed. "These are new." He reached out for the tag on a large vase of snapdragons sitting on the small bedside table.

"Yeah, Tatsuki came by today and brought those up, said they were from the family next door to her, but that they couldn't make it during visiting hours."

"'To Doctor Kurosaki, with thanks in the knowledge our daughter can climb trees again.'" Renji made a face at the note. "Why would they want her climbing trees in the first place?"

The other huffed incredulously. "Cause it's fun, dumbass. Haven't you ever climbed a tree?"

Renji shot over a half-glare, but sensing the honest curiosity in the question shook his head. "Rukia used to, when we were kids. Always thought she did it to bug me, though."

That earned a small smile. "Well yeah, that's fun too. But seriously –" The sentence broke off on a tiny hiss of pain as the body in the bed convulsed in a feeble lurch, hands fisting in the sheets.

Renji appeared back at the bedside in an instant. "Ichigo?"

"M'fine." A few deep breaths later and he settled back against the mattress again, clicking the tiny button that upped the pain medication. He glanced over, tired brown eyes quirking in an attempt at a smirk. "Well, not exactly fine, but you know."

"Yeah." The silence that settled for the next few moments might have been awkward had not the room weathered so many like it beforehand. Renji's eyes narrowed slightly, their red color darkened to a fine wine in the dim light, before softening back into half of a smile. "So Tatsuki actually brought you flowers?"

Ichigo shrugged a shoulder. "Well, they were from someone else."

"But she actually walked in the door carrying them, right?" He let out a small hum of amusement. "I woulda paid good money ta see that."

The other snorted. "You should've been there in college when she got three dozen roses delivered to her in the middle of karate."

Renji nearly choked from laughing so suddenly. "You're kidding! Who did that?"

Ichigo smiled, his eyes sparkling deviously. "She never found out, but I think Keigo convinced Chad to do it. He kept blushing all week – it was great."

Finally reigning his chuckles back in, Renji plopped on the floor next to the bed and leaned back against the frame to face the window. "Did I ever tell ya about the time Shuuhei and Yumichika found some pink hair dye…"

The night continued lightly, the two batting stories of their friends back and forth to one another with great amusement. On occasion one would remark that he'd already been told a particular tale, in which the other picked up the challenge of retelling with greater detail and added embellishments. The saga of Ikkaku's eye shadow, complete with ample hand gestures and frighteningly accurate voice impersonations left both men laughing hard enough for Renji to clutch his sides and fall over while Ichigo wiped the tears out of his eyes. Before he finished his hand fisted again, a silent grimace crossing his face for several moments before it passed, leaving only a blank expression staring at the ceiling. "Hey, Renji?"

Hearing the other's change of tone, Renji picked himself off the floor. "Hm?"

"Do you remember anything from when you were alive?"

Renji gave the upturned orbs of brown a long, searching look, as if expecting his answer to be within them. He raised one hand, rubbing his bandanna absently. "No." Beneath the cloth, his tattooed brows furrowed a little. "I used to, I think, when I was a kid. I'd get these dreams, but," he dropped his hands, shrugging "I can't remember what they were anymore."

Ichigo nodded a little, still refusing to look anywhere but skyward. "This doesn't bother me, for the most part. I got to grow up, guess I wasn't expecting to grow old quite so quickly, though." He brought up his available hand, examining the pallor that was painfully obvious in the pale iridescence. "Cancer's not exactly a bad way, either. And I got a preview of where I'm going already, It's just –" The hand fell back on the sheets with a soft thump. "I don't want to forget everyone, all of the people I care about." He waved a little in the general direction of the forest of flowers taking up most of the room.

"You won't, Ichigo." Renji's voice was quiet, entreating, as if the words were too precious to be spoken at any higher volume. "You care too much to forget. And even if you did, we'd still find you. We're not gonna stop being your friends just because you can't remember it. And when we found you, I'd let Rukia have you until the sense got beaten back in."

He was rewarded with a small chuckle as Ichigo's eyes finally left the ceiling and turned to look at him again. "Way to ruin the mood, dumbass."

"S'what I'm good for." Renji returned the smile with a wolfishly smug grin. Ichigo snorted, before turning serious again.

"Why are you here, Renji?" Renji blinked and raised an eyebrow at the question, and Ichigo continued to look at him, curiosity and several deeper emotions swirling beneath the surface of the pools of brown. "You're always around, when I was down in college, during the mess of trying to get a practice off the ground, when Karin and Yuzu moved to London, Mom's first anniversary without them, probably five break-ups… you always just, here. Even if I hadn't seen you for years, you'd just show up, looking exactly the same as before and saying it was a slow night." The indistinguishable emotions had risen closer to the surface. "Why are you always here?"

A few moments passed before Renji gave a halfhearted shrug, wine eyes glinting as he worked over his answer. "Just cause you were growing up and living and saving lives and all that... it didn't mean you shouldn't get to laugh sometimes, ya know? I figured –" He ran a hand through his spiky red ponytail. "I figured it was something I could do, and," The last part came out on a murmur. "I like making you laugh. You frown too much as it is."

"Hm." Ichigo's eyes closed as he smiled at nothing. "Making you laugh isn't that bad, either."

The beginning rays of morning started creeping in across the floor, signaling the imminent rise of the sun. Renji glanced over his shoulder. "Guess I should get outta here."

"Do you mind if I leave first today?" Renji stiffened minutely, and turned back to find a look of calm question across Ichigo's face. He swallowed, and then shrugged.

"Yeah, okay."

"Of course," the look was replaced with one of sagely wisdom "It wouldn't be right for me to leave without a kiss goodbye." He looked up expectantly.

"The meds have fried your brain."

"You are the only one here, and it's not like you can get a nurse. Besides," The sagely look was ruined by the quirk at the corners of Ichigo's mouth. "I've wanted to know what it felt like since I was eighteen."

"Now I know you've lost your mind." Despite the grave tone, a familiar grin had started to crawl across Renji's face.

Ichigo quirked an orange eyebrow. "What? Is the big bad Bankai-level Shinigami afraid of a kiss with an invalid who may not even remember it tomorrow?"

Renji sighed. "I can't kiss you goodbye, Ichigo." Before the flicker of hurt could surface, he continued. "You're not exactly gonna be gone long, you know. It'd be pointless. I could," An exact replica of Ichigo's sagely expression appeared on Renji's face. "give ya a kiss for luck on your journey, I suppose."

Even with clearly tired facial muscles, Ichigo managed a grin that could give Renji's a run for its money. "That works."

Renji nodded diplomatically before reaching up and loosening the tie holding his hair, sending a wave of crimson cascading around his face and shoulders. He slid up and leaned fully ove the bed until his nose barely brushed Ichigo's, the hair forming a curtain around their faces. "Gotta make sure to do this properly" He murmured, breath brushing against Ichigo's skin. "Wouldn't wanna jinx it." With that he slid one hand behind Ichigo's head and the other under his shoulders, bringing the others lips up to meet his own.

Ichigo's hand tangled through the red strands as Renji caressed the mouth beneath his. Ichigo's lips parted after a moment and Renji responded in kind, snaking his tongue into the new territory. He explored slowly and meticulously, taking in the feel of every new surface and cataloguing the soft, pleased moans he drew in response. Ichigo's tongue also joined in the play, brushing against his and acting as a guide to new, unfelt spots. A hum vibrated through both bodies, although it was uncertain who made it.

Finally Renji pulled back with a soft wet sound, staring into the half-lidded eyes barely a hair's breath away. Ichigo smiled against Renji's lips, releasing his hold on the other's hair. "Do me a favor, Renji? I'd like it...if you were the one to find me again. He brushed a lock of red from the other's face, bourbon colored eyes managing to laugh and stay entirely serious at the same time. "If I were to remember anyone, I think it would be you."

Renji gave a small smile of his own, softly planting another kiss on the slightly swollen lips. "Okay." He untangled himself from the other, carefully laying the warm body back onto the pillows. He leaned over to Ichigo's ear. "Have a safe journey." He pressed his lips against the conveniently placed cheek and felt Ichigo smile.

"See you soon, Ren."

For those of high spiritual awareness, a soft blue glow seemed to encompass the bed and slowly sink away. Those without would make due with the steadily beeping moniter next to the bed ringing with a flatline.

Renji stood and walked to the window, turning when reached it to glance at the vase of snapdragons. A soft smile crinkled the red eyes. "Still have to ask what's so great about tree climbing- bastard never told me." Hair blowing softly in the breeze, he leapt from the window and into the morning.