Keep Me Close

By: Hitokiri Musei

Rated: T

Summary: RenIchi. A silly mistake leaves Ichigo temporarily blind, and Renji is sent to protect him. But through the ups and downs of fully healing this injury, as well as attacking Hollows, Renji discovers that Ichigo means more to him than he thought…

Warnings: While this is not my first Bleach fic, it is my first attempt at RenIchi. I've read a lot of them, and I'm a massive fan of the pairing, but I've never tried to write it before. Please do be a little gentle with me!

Updates will probably be few and far between; I am a working college student after all!

I don't own Bleach. I cry.

Chapter 1

Abarai Renji slid the door open, bowing in respect as he stood before his captain. Byakuya was currently examining a paper that lay before him on his desk, his dark eyes scanning the sheet. Renji knew that the paper contained some sort of information for him; there was no other reason as to why Byakuya would call him in to his office.

Byakuya looked up as Renji entered the room. "Renji."

"Yes, Kuchiki-taichou?"

"I am to send one of my trusted officers to Karakura Town to watch over the shinigami-daikou Kurosaki Ichigo for a time, as he is unable to protect himself and the town adequately." Byakuya said calmly. "I have chosen you for that task."

Renji's eyes widened faintly, and he felt pride swell in his chest as he realized that Byakuya had just mentioned that he trusted him. Then his expression grew serious. "Something's wrong with Ichigo?"

Byakuya nodded. "The report does not detail it, but I have been informed that there was a Hollow attack a few days ago that left Kurosaki Ichigo injured. I do not know the extent of his injuries, however. Can I count on you to get this job done, Renji?"

Renji nodded sharply. "Of course, Kuchiki-taichou. How long am I to stay with Ichigo?"

"Until he is able to protect himself and the town once more. We do not want to lose his power; he is a very valuable asset to our war with Aizen." Byakuya replied, setting the papers down on the surface on his desk. He gestured, and a hell butterfly fluttered over to him. "This butterfly will take you there."

"Thank you, taichou." Renji said, bowing once more and then following the hell butterfly out of the room. The redhead snuck a hand down to grip his zanpaktou's hilt as he ran, his thoughts traveling to the orange-headed shinigami-daikou.

He felt Zabimaru shift faintly where his precense resided in his mind, and then the spirit's voices echoed in his mind. Any idea what's wrong with him?

Renji frowned slightly, pressing his lips together. No idea. However, if it's something that's knocked Ichigo out of commission, it must have been something pretty bad.

He felt Zabimaru's firm agreement in the back of his mind. Though the zanpaktou hadn't had much interaction with Ichigo and Zangetsu, the monkey spirit had a certain respect for the both of them. Renji's fight with Ichigo had been quite an interesting clash, and then the bankai training had given Zabimaru a bit of a comradeship with the moon zanpaktou.

The senkaimon closed behind him as he entered the living world, running into dark skies and a lightly drizzling rain. Renji sighed, leaning his head back in the cool water. He loved rain; the Seireitei got it occasionally, but it didn't happen often. He started moving towards Ichigo's small apartment that he had showed up near, his hand still wrapped around his zanpaktou's hilt.

Renji leapt up to the floor that Ichigo was on, landing lightly on the balcony. Ichigo had moved out of his family's house not long after he turned 18, the want to be on his own coupled with the fact that it was closer to the college driving him. He left his balcony doors unlocked, ready for any shinigami visitors that might come.

The redhead pushed the door open, closing it lightly behind him as he moved into the small living room of the apartment. It was dark inside; he figured that Ichigo must still be sleeping. He headed towards the bedroom, wanting to know if the orange-head was asleep, as well as curious as to what had happened to him.

He pushed the door open to a dark room, his eyes adjusting easily as he spotted the lump curled up on the bed beneath the covers. Renji moved closer silently as Ichigo shifted on the bed, a soft sound coming from his lips. Curious, Renji stood beside the bed and gazed into Ichigo's face.

For once in his life, Renji got the chance to see Ichigo without the constant scowl. In sleep Ichigo was calm and relaxed, his eyebrows smoothing out and his face lax in calm sleep. His lips were parted slightly, not pressed together as they usually were, and his breath was soft and even. Renji could see his eyes moving slightly beneath his eyelids, and his face was a little pained, but this was the most relaxed that Renji had ever seen Ichigo. It was a bit of a shock, as well as a treat for the redhead.

At that moment Ichigo's lips thinned, and then his eyes snapped open, staring up into Renji's red-brown eyes. The redhead instantly moved back, giving Ichigo space, but to his shock the shinigami-daikou continued to look around, his eyes darting back and forth.

"Who's there?" he demanded sharply, sitting up and clenching both hands into fists.

Renji was stunned speechless. His mouth opened, but not a sound escaped his lips. Ichigo's head turned, his face back in its customary scowl, though Renji could see a faint hint of fear in those features.

He… He's blind?.!

"Answer me!" Ichigo's voice was angry and sharp as he stood, moving forward where he no doubt felt Renji's presence. Ichigo had never been much of a reiatsu reader, but Renji knew that orange-head should know enough to be able to identify him.

He's only just woken, dolt. He probably hasn't thought of that yet. Imagine you being woken from a solid sleep like that; you would probably do the same thing.

Renji agreed silently with Zabimaru, and finally forced himself to speak. He didn't have to though, at that moment Ichigo frowned, and then realization dawned on his face. "Renji?"

The redhead nodded reflexively, and then swore inwardly when he realized Ichigo couldn't see it. "Yea, it's me."

Ichigo's scowl deepened. "Bastard, why didn't you say something? You nearly gave me a heart attack."

Renji fumbled at that. "I… I was…"

The orange-head's expression relaxed a touch. "Oh. You were… Yea…"

They both faded off into uncomfortable silence, and then Ichigo took a few steps backwards, searching with his feet until the back of his knees hit his bed. He then sat, his face turned in Renji's direction. "Well, come and sit down, Pineapple. I knew they were going to send someone to look out for me, but I never expected you."

"My division was chosen." Renji said dazedly as he followed Ichigo's instructions, not even bothering to correct the nickname. "Kuchiki-taichou picked me to go. He knew that I would be able to handle it, and that you were comfortable around me."

Ichigo shrugged, his eyes in Renji's direction. "I figured they would send Rukia."

"She's away for a while on a series of missions dealing in the Rukongai. I don't know the exact details, but that's what's going on there."

There was another silence, and then Renji spoke quietly. "So… what happened?"

Ichigo sighed, and then reached to his left, his hand searching. Renji realized what he was going for, and leaned across the orange-head, flipping on the lamp beside his bed. Ichigo smiled sadly as the redhead settled back down. "Thanks. I'm still getting used to it; I forgot that it was dark in here. I suppose you would like to see, even if I can't."

Renji was too busy looking at Ichigo's face. His eyes were open, but the skin around them was a little shiny; obviously burn marks. His eyes though, they were the biggest change. Usually Ichigo's chocolate eyes were full of determination, pride, fire, the very things that made Ichigo who he was, but now they were just blank, a faint grayish color dimming the normal rich chocolate brown. They were bloodshot as well, the red veins latticing across the white.

Ichigo smiled slightly. "Yea, a bit of a sight, aren't they? At least, that's what I've been told. I really have no idea."

The redhead shook himself, looking away. "I'm sorry, Ichigo."

The other man shook his head. "Don't be, I suppose it was my own stupid mistake. There was a new type of Hollow; I'd never seen anything like it before. It was rather small, so I didn't think anything of it. What I didn't realize was that it had a particular ability that I've sort of run into before. There was a Hollow a long time ago, right around when I first became a shinigami that could spit out bombs that he would make explode with a sound he made with his tongue. This one was very similar, only it blew itself up when it knew that it was done."

Renji raised an eyebrow. "Really now? That's certainly unusual. I've never seen a Hollow that would willingly kill itself."

Ichigo nodded. "Same here. I almost had it too, and then it leapt towards me. I started to raise Zangetsu, but it exploded just in front of my face. Apparently the damn thing was full of acid; I got sprayed pretty badly across my face. Lucky thing Orihime was nearby; she heard me…" Ichigo swallowed faintly. "She heard me screaming."

The redhead looked taken aback at that. He had never really heard Ichigo scream.

"I don't really remember much after the explosion." Ichigo murmured, his face downturned. "All I know was that I wanted to claw out my eyes; it hurt that bad. It felt like something was eating my face off as slow as it could, peeling off my skin layer by layer."

Renji shuddered.

"When I came to I couldn't see anything, but the pain was gone. Orihime was there, and she told me that she had done all that she could, but the damage was far back in my eyes; she couldn't seem to get it to heal with her Shun Shun Rikka. She worked for nearly three hours she told me." Ichigo said softly. "I owe her for that much, I guess. She said that the damage was so extensive that she managed to heal most of it, but she was exhausted, so I made her stop and told her that she could try again later."

"Was it that bad?" Renji asked. "I thought that Orihime could heal anything."

Ichigo nodded. "She told me that all the nerves and arteries that connect my eyes to my brain, as well as a lot of the ones that move them and focus my pupil, all those things in my mind, are destroyed. The acid got in my eyes and worked its way right down to my brain. If Orihime hadn't gotten there in time, I probably would have died; it would have eaten right through my brain. She was racing to heal as the acid was racing to destroy; that made it harder and a lot more exhausting. She said that she's managed to stop the progress of it, so it won't go any further, but this is about as much as she could heal for now."

Renji was shocked. Ichigo had nearly died, and if they hadn't known Orihime, and the gentle woman hadn't been there to help, Ichigo would have. The redhead was silent for a long moment, absorbing what Ichigo had told him. "Wow. Good thing we know Orihime."

Ichigo snorted. "That's the understatement of the century. I owe her my life." He suddenly chuckled faintly. "Then again, I suppose I usually do."

Quiet reigned for a moment, and then Renji spoke up. "So… where do I sleep?"

The orange-head sighed. "We'll figure it out. I guess you're gonna be here for a while."

Ichigo stood, carefully walking across his room towards the closet at the other end. He kept his hands stretched out in front of him, his fingertips hitting the door as he reached the side. He slid the door open, his hands searching inside. Renji watched with a pang in his heart, standing and moving toward the teen. He reached out, putting a hand on Ichigo's shoulder. The orange-head flinched at the touch, not expecting it, but then turned his head towards Renji.


"Where is it, Ichigo? I'll get it."

Ichigo's face grew stubborn. "I don't need your help. I'm not an invalid." He turned back to the closet, his hands reaching again.

Renji sighed, and then carefully steered Ichigo in the right direction, making sure that the teen found the right thing that he was looking for, the extra futon in the closet. Ichigo said nothing about the help, but pulled the futon down and unfolded it on the floor beside his bed. Renji made no move to help him, knowing that it would only anger the man.

As soon as he'd finished, Ichigo took a step back, waiting until the back of his knees hit his bed before sitting down. It was quiet for a moment, and then Ichigo sighed. "Thanks Renji."
Renji smiled faintly, shaking his head. "Don't mention it, Strawberry."

Ichigo glared in his direction at the name, but felt his tension ease. "Well. I'm going to go to sleep; I'm still a little tired from what happened."

The redhead nodded. "I'll be down here. Wake me when you get up, okay? I don't want to leave you by yourself."

"I don't need your help!"

Renji smiled to himself, settling in the futon. Whatever you say, Ichigo. But I'm not going to leave you alone like this. You wouldn't be able to protect yourself.

I made up most of the facts that Ichigo spouted off about his eyes, so don't pay too much attention to that... Um, other than that, nothing really exciting... Hope you like it, feel free to ask questions!