"Why the hell are they acting so strangely, something's up…." Renji contemplated, picking up his towel, following behind Rukia through the dusty streets of Rukongai.

"I know, Yuki especially. He keeps looking at us weird, I think they know something we don't." Rukia announced, pulling the towel closer to her chest as she gazed at the moon, which sat comfortably on its blanket of darkness.

"Well, when we get back we'll just beat it outta them." Renji suggested, thrusting his clenched fist into the air. His mind couldn't help but wander back to earlier in the day…

Everyone had just finished their meals, placing the frail spines of the fish into another small barrel that they decided would be used for trash, after it was stolen earlier that day and the contents were used up immediately. Renji glanced into the small bone-filled barrel, the whites of the bones catching light from the moon, contrasting the darkness that surrounded them in their final resting place. Renji always insisted upon burying the fish, it was the least they could do, to honor them for their nourishment and their sacrifice, so all he could do was stare down the jagged spines solemnly, as he thought of places to bury the remains.

In the background he faintly heard Kouta complaining about having no tea bags left, and then heard Yuki suggest he, Rukia and Ikichi go together, considering it was dark now they needed at least three people to pull off a quick heist. Renji was snapped out of his thoughts when Yuki said "you guys go, and be careful…me and Renji will manage the fire while you're gone." Renji nodded at the three, silently agreeing to Yuki's proposition, and as he watched them go it felt like his heart fell abruptly into his stomach, creating a twinge of worry and regret, 'I should've gone with Rukia.' he stated, almost punching himself for thinking such thoughts…he knew Rukia could take care of herself, 'so why the hell should I worry about her?'

"Hey, Renji!"Yuki exclaimed, trying to get his red-headed companion's attention, making the boy jump in surprise, then his expression turned angry."What?"Renji yelled, clearly upset.

The two boys sat in silence, it seemed as though Renji's loud outburst echoed in the air between them, making Renji extremely uncomfortable. The silence continued for minutes, but as Renji stared blankly at the smoldering fire, it began to feel like hours were passing, yet, he didn't want to break the silence for some reason. Probably because Renji felt as though Yuki was about to tell him something he didn't want to hear, he could tell by just observing Yuki's body language. He was poking aimlessly at the cracking fire in front of him, sighing every now and then, refusing to make any eye contact with the red head.

"Just,don't do anything stupidor you'll ruin everything," Yuki sighed, finally breaking the silence, but that comment left Renji extremely baffled, the confusion playing on his face when one of his eyebrows raised and his mouth dropped open slightly. Renji stared down the boy across from him, obviously waiting for a follow-up response to that confusing statementwhich never came. Renji thought deeply and intently about what his friend said just now,' but what does he mean, I don't even know what he's referring to.' Renji contemplated, running everything that happened today through his mind, but he got nowhere. Just as Renji opened his mouth to speak, he heard the rapidly approaching footsteps of his three returning friends, his eyes leaving Yuki's strangely downcast face. He knew that Yuki was dead serious about his comment, making Renji even more baffled.

Renji continued to ponder, his mind lost in deep thought, so much so that he walked smack into Rukia, who had stopped walking since they arrived at their destination.

"Umph!" Rukia exclaimed, as she felt Renji's large figure slam into her own, knocking her forwards, as she stumbled to catch her balance, "What the hell, Renji? Watch where you're going!" Rukia yelled, turning her flustered face to glare at him, as her fists clenched at her sides.

The collision jolted Renji from his thoughts instantly, as he stood there flustered, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand, "Um…I'm sorry, I didn't mean to." Renji apologized, as he bent over to pick up her towel that had flung to the ground, he frowned when he noticed the once pristine, pure white towel was now blotched with dirt. Renji chuckled awkwardly, but composed himself when he noticed the anger rising in his small raven-haired friend, "Here," he said, extending his arm out, offering his own clean towel, "Take mine." He concluded in a soft voice, smiling slightly as she tentatively grasped the towel, her large azure eyes blinking at him. Renji sighed, turning around and walking towards the nearest tree, where he proceeded to whack the towel against the sturdy bark, smacking all the dirt from its position on the white towel.

Rukia watched Renji carefully from where she was standing, and as she grasped his towel in her hand, she couldn't help but blush at how thoughtful he was being. She knew Renji was nice, of course, but he always teased her. She just expected him to laugh in her face over the filthy towel, and mock her when she became angry. But, she blushed harder, he didn't do that…instead he apologized, which he rarely does, and he spoke in that soft tone as he gently offered her his own towel in exchange. Her head turned away from him instantly when he turned around, holding the now clean towel under his arm.

She closed her eyes when she felt his body brush past her, carrying with it a cool and calming breeze. She proceeded to follow him, mimicking the way he neatly folded his towel on top of a large, smooth rock, where it would be ready for him once he had his fill of swimming. Rukia's eyes took in the way the moon, somehow finding an opening between the slanted tree tops, had cast its bright reflection on the surface of the water. The stream was so peaceful and calm, the sound of running water filled her ears, causing her to sigh in content.

"Well…are ya just gonna stand there or are ya gonna swim?" Renji questioned, his teasing tone returned, and somehow put Rukia at ease. She forced herself to sneer at him, and watched as he, with his back turned to her, slid open his plain brown kimono, revealing the expanse of his muscular back, the muscles there dancing under his beautifully tanned skin. She bit her lip, as she began to untie her own kimono, sliding it off her shoulders, leaving her there in that small, pure black bikini she always wore.

Rukia, walked up to Renji, who was now standing in only his black swimming trunks, with red lightning patterns down the sides, and placed her outfit neatly next to his, on the very same rock that held their towels. Renji suddenly sprinted, jutting Rukia from her thoughts as she followed right behind him, racing with him to the water's edge, which was actually only a couple of feet away. Both friends jumped, side by side into the crystal clear water, immersing their bodies into the shallow beginning of the stream, water splashed, thrusting itself towards the moon, begging for the distance to close between them.

Both emerged their heads from the water, giggling and splashing around, as they dipped back underwater, basking in the feel of the liquid caressing and covering every expanse of skin. Together, they swam in large, confidant strokes towards the middle of the stream where the water deepened, to about 15 feet, surprisingly deep for a running-water stream. In the middle of the stream Renji and Rukia flailed their arms around them, keeping their heads above water, as they swam around, splashing and teasing one another. Rukia couldn't help but notice how differently this was from all the other times, not that it was different simply because it was just them two, but different because of how she felt. She had never felt so calm, the swimming became something intimate between the two of them, it was just them, completely vulnerable to one another, occupying one another's' complete attention. They talked about things they'd never talked about before, hitting on sensitive subjects like the soul society and how they felt about soul reapers.

"Well, you do know its more than yielding around cool swords, Renji…" Rukia responded to his shallow observation, "It's about sacrificing yourself for the sake of others. It's about justice and wrong or right."

"Yeah, I know…" Renji admitted, in all seriousness, before adding in, "Plus, like I said…beast swords and you're allowed to kick asses in the process." Renji laughed, changing the mood from solemn to goofy with one remark, making Rukia laugh as well. "True, you've got a point there." Rukia admitted in a small smirk as she waded calmly in the water, sighing in pleasure.

Renji chose to dive under the water, looking out through blurry, water ridden eyes, taking in the serene feelings he was experiencing. As he looked up from his place on the bottom, he smirked deviously, swimming towards Rukia's lithe form. Chuckling under water, Renji reached out, easily enveloping her small ankle with his large hand, and tugged her down into the water, roughly. Rukia's arms flailed desperately, splashing harshly against the surface as her body was pulled abruptly under water, making her sputter as the water rushed up her nose. Renji resurfaced, and couldn't contain his laughter, the face she made was priceless, and just thinking about how she looked just then made him laugh harder.

Rukia's head plowed out of the water, she gasped for air and coughed violently, which made Renji actually feel guilty. Rukia glared daggers at him, and flinching under her gaze, Renji opened his mouth to apologize, only to let out a loud yelp as Rukia's foot launched itself against his groin, hard. Wincing and doubling over in extreme pain, Renji grabbed his groin as Rukia continued to yell at him, "Well, don't instigate if you're not prepared to get what you dish out, dumbass!"

All Renji could do was clutch his groin harder as he throbbed in pain, feeling like that kick was hard enough to bruise him. "Fuck, Rukia…" he cried, wincing more and squeezing his eyes shut, "You have no idea how much this fuckin' hurts. Ya can't kick a guy there." he scolded, feeling more than slightly angry, like she totally over reacted.

"Well, geez you big baby. Suck it up!" Rukia yelled over her shoulder, as she swam towards the shore hastily, after feeling herself start to shiver from the cold. But Renji, was not about that, he lunged forward, grabbing her ankle again and pulled her forcibly towards his body. Rukia yelped at the sudden action, as her light body was jerked backwards roughly, her arms still grasping at the water ahead of her.

"No you don't. We are so not even, Rukia." Renji complained, making Rukia kick against his grip. But he just gripped her harder, almost brutally, making her whine.

"Ow, stop it Renji, you're hurting me." She admitted, reaching down to push his hand away.

"Ow, stop it Renji, you're hurting me." He mocked her, using a high pitched voice he reserved for when he impersonated her.

When he felt her nails did into his hand, he winced; grabbing her wrist he lightened his grip on her ankle and turned her in the blink of an eye, to face him. Once again his hand tightened around her ankle, tugging it up some, forcing her backwards into the water, she flailed her arms around wildly and screamed at him.

"Renji! Stop!" She screamed, trying to launch herself away from him with her other foot planted firmly on his hip. When Renji sensed her foot on him, he reached forward with a wicked grin, and still gripping her ankle, his free hand attacked her sides, gripping and tickling her relentlessly. Rukia wailed, as she burst into a fit of laughter, she tried to form words, but all that came out was yelps and giggles. Damn, him…he knows she's ticklish, and he's using it against her. Renji smirked and laughed as she squirmed under his attacks, watching as she tried with all her might to free herself, but couldn't.

"OKAY, OKAY…I'm-sor—rrr-yyy!" she cried, apologizing through her laughs. Renji never asked her to apologize, but she sensed that an apology was what he way vying for, because she could read him like a book. Renji released her from his grasp, feeling utterly powerful…he, Renji, made the stubborn Rukia succumb to his silent wishes. "Well, that was all you had to say." Renji smiled, grabbing under her elbows and lifted her slightly, pushing her away from himself. He couldn't help his gaze as it fell towards her barely covered breasts, taking in the way her ivory skin shimmered in the moonlight, watching droplets of water slide down her cleavage. Rukia, of course wasn't the most well endowed, but she did have amazing curves, renji, of course couldn't help but stare at her gorgeous form as she giggled, splashing water in his face. He shielded himself form the rising wave of water, but to not avail. After the torture continued, renji growled and lunged towards her, wrapping his hands around her frail, powder white wrists, to cease her movements.

Renji tensed, staring into Rukia's deep purple irises, feeling like he was swimming in them instead of in the water below him. Rukia stopped struggling against his grasp, her eyes taking in the emotion behind his eyes, and she felt the wind whoosh out of her lungs when he smirked seductively at her. Pulling her slowly closer to him, Renji leaned in, causing Rukia to bit her lip, and then….SPLASH. Rukia felt Renji spit a heap of water in her face, water he had been secretively storing in his mouth, and she had no idea.

Rukia looked at him through the drops on her long, dark lashes….she expected him to laugh, but his face told her he was just being innocent and playful, to which she smiled genuinely back at him. Renji chuckled, never breaking his heated gaze from her own, as he released one of her wrists, and gently caressed the chunky drops from her face, making Rukia close her eyes briefly at the tender motion. Renji's smile disappeared when her eyes flickered opened, her big eyes searching his face intensely, he breathed out shakily when she inter twined her small fingers within his own, pulling his hand from it's position on her face.

Her other hand mimicked that brave one, reaching out to hold his neglected hand, so that both her hands were holding his own. Never breaking eye contact with him, Rukia pulled their hands up and out on opposite sides, keeping her fingers laced with his own as she reached them back to rest them on her lower back. Separating her fingers from his own, she reached her small hands up, to gently cup his face, watching his eyes darken. Working on her new found confidence, Rukia slowly leaned in, closing her eyes as she narrowed the distance between them.

Renji's eyes drifted shut, as he felt Rukia's soft lips press lightly against his own, to which he responded, pushing back against her lips, driving her backwards. Rukia whimpered against his lips as the kiss turned from a simple chaste meeting of lips, to a desperate clash. Their lips moved against each other, as Renji slid his arms around her hips and lifted her, to even their heights, moaning as her skin pressed heatedly against his own, and her arms wrapped around his neck.

Loud cheers exploded, making them both jump in fright, breaking the kiss. Their heads snapped over to a large bush, where, out jumped Kouta, Ikichi and Yuki, they were all cheering, hollering and clapping loudly, puzzling the water soaked couple. Renji blushed, lowering Rukia to her feet, watching as she covered her red face with both her hands, she was utterly embarrassed, so was he.

"HOLY SHIT! Finally you two came to your senses! Congrats!" Yuki cheered, holding his stomach as he laughed uncontrollably. The two boys around him joined in with the cheering, as they smirked at Renji and Rukia, laughing at their bright red faces.

Renji and Rukia were in utter shock, wondering in embarrassment if they were watching from the bushes the whole time. As the cheering subsided, the three boys left, running away as fast as they could after Renji threatened their lives.

"Oh my god," Renji realized, "They set us up…those bastards set us up!" he fumed, punching the surface of the water.

Rukia smiled, she knew her friends had good intentions and she knew they didn't intend to embarrass them or exploit them in anyway. Of course, right now, Renji couldn't think about anything but wringing their necks…he always had a way of letting his emotions get the best of him. But than again…she realized…that was what she loved about him the most. Rukia walked to the shore, sliding her body from the water and wrapped his towel around her. Placing it snug against her body, she noted, with a smile, that it smelled like him. His wonderful, addictive scent.

"Well," She said slowly, flashing him a seductive smile over her pale shoulder. "Are you coming to bed…or not?" she asked…picking up her clothes as she briskly walked into the woods, leaving behind a blushing and shocked Renji.

"Yeah, yeah." he said under his breath. "I'm coming…dear." he said mockingly, but couldn't help the blissful smile that grazed his face…