Summary: Renji and Zabimaru. There are some things you just don't share with anyone else except your zanpakutou. And then only because you don't have any other choice.

Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach. I just have fun with the characters.

The first time Abarai Renji met the spirit of his zanpakutou, he almost impaled his foot with his own sword.

Scrambling to catch the hilt that had slipped from his slack fingers, he tripped over the chair one leg had been propped up on, and fell face-first in front of the… Well, he wasn't quite sure what to call it – it seemed part baboon…he swallowed as he caught sight of – was that a snake?! – hissing at him from behind one heavily muscled shoulder.

He was suddenly aware that – though he didn't care about all the pompous and stiflingly stupid rules that seemed to be part of Academy life – he was hardly in the best position for this first meeting with his zanpakutou. For one thing, it was bloody uncomfortable, having to crane his head up like that.

Zabimaru – and how did he suddenly just know that, anyway? – simply stared at him for a very long moment, unimpressed.

Renji's mouth worked soundlessly, giving an excellent rendition of a goldfish. "Wh…Yo…I…um…Hi?" Inwardly, he cringed. Could he possibly have sounded any more pathetic?

Both sets of golden eyes blinked once, very slowly. A disdainful hiss. "Iss thisss what we have to work with?"

The abrupt appearance of a set of fangs near his face understandably took up most of his attention. When he finally registered what was said, "Hey! Is that any way to talk to–"

He almost avoided slipping on the forgotten blade in his scramble to get up.

Anyone who even thought of asking about the very prominent, very purple bruise on his face the next morning merely got a glare and a very twitchy sword arm.

The first time Abarai Renji released his shikai, he almost got his head knocked off because he was too busy staring like a fool at the form his zanpakutou took.

"Don't just watch it!" The roar startled him enough to duck when the end of the blade whipped around, just missing where his head had been moments before. An unconscious flick of the wrist caused it to fly back out, tearing up the earthen ground for several paces before it slid to a stop.

Still a little shocked, it took a while for Renji to recover. "Hell, yeah!" he whooped, punching one fist at the air. Unfortunately, that fist just happened to still be holding onto the hilt of a zanpakutou still in shikai form. There was just enough time for one thought. Oh shit.

When the tip slammed back down this time, it found a target.

The howl that echoed through the (thankfully deserted) training area was definitely not made by Zabimaru.

Renji stubbornly refused to explain to the Fourth Division healer how exactly he came by his foot injury.

The first time Abarai Renji achieved bankai, he was left wondering what it did because he had collapsed from the utter exhaustion of continuous intensive training.

He woke up to find the spirit of his zanpakutou sitting on his chest. Zabimaru growled and stepped back. "Get up and fight."

Renji bared his teeth in response and staggered up.

Both parties were clearly tired and pushed to their limits, but neither suggested that they stop to rest. Time was a luxury they didn't have.

Still, "At least this time you didn't damage anything important."

Famous last words.

A/N: Gift-fic for a friend who loves Renji. Something about exam period always ups my productivity in fic writing (possibly due to unhealthy amounts of procrastination). I haven't been keeping up with Bleach lately, so my grasp on characterisation might be a bit rusty. Reviews are much appreciated!