I realise I have only just updated, but I figured I may as well get them out as soon as I write them, for it is unusual for me to write this much anyway. This chapter starts off quite depressing like the rest, but I hope you enjoy the end as it gets a bit more light hearted *winks* Thanks to those of you who are watching this story. Also, warning: this chapter is why the story is rated M… XD
[chapter 1] [chapter 2] [chapter 3] [chapter 4]
Your Fractured Life
Through The Glass [Chapter 4]
Renji grits his teeth as the harsh night air caresses his bare arms, wind whipping cruelly at his skin. He does not let the cold stop him from his mission, and as he slashes down the third hollow of that night, he is able to forget the boy lying ill in bed, forgetting that Ichigo is about to die.
Once the dust settles on the ground and he has sheathed his zanpakutō, he is left to his thoughts once more. Even though he tries to spare his mind the guilt of thinking about Ichigo and his looming illness, he can not.
For Renji believes he is guilty of one thing. That he is powerless.
He has the raw physical strength to destroy hollows – but, to save one person's life, that is his weakness.
Without breaking a sweat, Renji could easily slay a thousand hollows, heck give him a million hollows and an army of Menos Grande, if only it would cure Ichigo.
Pressing the palm of his hand to his forehead, he adopts a frown and snarls under his breath, "damn it, this is useless."
He wants to punch a wall, to scream and to shout, and so he does, drawing out his own blood as he pounds fists against a brick wall. The pain in his hands subsides the ache of his heart for a short while.
Renji presses his forehead against the flat surface, arms dropping to his sides as it begins to rain. Blood trickles off his aching hands, pooling in a puddle on the ground. His head begins to pound ruthlessly, but he takes the pain, preferring it rather than thinking about Ichigo.
Renji laughs bitterly. He is unsure if it is the rain droplets that are leaving wet streaks down his cheeks, or if he is crying.
Perched on a tower in the soul society, lost in thoughts, a lone figure sighs. A gentle breeze cools damp skin, sending a chill down the body of the soul reaper. Observing the boundaries that surround the Seretei, watching innocent souls talk and laugh and work, the lonely soul reaper cries.
Rukia wipes at her eyes briskly, grimacing as more tears pour down her face.
A soul reaper must not be weak like this. If only I was stronger, Rukia scolds and thinks to herself, I could have got there before Ichigo, and defeated that damn Hollow. She screws her fists up tightly, knuckles going white as she leaps from the tall building.
She had been in the Soul Society for two days now, but she was not any closer to understanding Ichigo's illness, nor was she able to find any clues as to how to cure him.
Her last hope was to speak to the 12th Division Captain Kurotsuchi, and hope he is willing to share any information he has stored in the database. But the likelihood of him wanting to help Ichigo was slim to none, and if that was the case, she would have to get that information by another means. Even if that meant breaking in to the 'Research and Development Facility' and risking punishment.
She would much prefer to endanger her own life than allow Ichigo's to waste away.
Renji is awoken to light shining in his eyes, blinding him, but it is nothing compared to the noise of people struggling and the sound of arguments coming from outside his door. He sighs when he recognises whom the voices belongs to. Leaving his small bedroom in only his boxers and shrugging on a white t-shirt, Renji comes face to face with a livid Ichigo and a flustered looking shopkeeper, who is in the throes of trying to force the stubborn substitute soul reaper back into bed.
"Ichigo, the best thing you can do is rest right now!"
"I have done nothing but sleep. I feel fine!"
"I will not allow you to train. The stress it will cause on your body could be harmful!" Urahara argues, gripping Ichigo by the shoulders as he attempts to push him through the door back into his bedroom.
"I'll keep an eye on him," Renji says. "Ichigo seems to be all right at the moment. I'm sure he could cope with a little bit of training."
"I hate it when people talk about me like I'm not here." Ichigo turns a glare at Renji. "And, that seems to happen a lot recently," he mumbles.
Renji grins back at the frowning boy and slaps Urahara on the back. "Come on, give him a break. If this is what Ichigo wants, I'm sure he can make up his own mind."
Urahara allows his grip to loosen, dropping his hands, defeated. "Use the training room downstairs, I'm not going to risk you running into any hollows outside." He demands, and leaves before either soul reaper can argue.
"Renji…" Ichigo begins, the corners of his lips twisting into a small smile, rather than his prominent frown. "Thanks. But really, you don't need to worry, I do feel fine… At least… for now I do."
Renji's looks down at his bare feet, sighing. "That's good to hear, Ichigo… Well, are we going downstairs to train then?"
A light pink colour creeps over Ichigo's otherwise pale cheeks. "Urm… yeah. But, aren't you going to get changed first?" Ichigo's eyes roam down a tight fitting t-shirt, over boxers and down firm legs, lingering, perhaps, a bit too long, before he averts his attention elsewhere.
Renji notices Ichigo's reaction and resists the temptation of goading the boy. Instead he laughs it off whilst walking back into his room to throw on his gi.
Training only lasts for 20 minutes before Ichigo is feeling distressed and out of breath, but he tries to ignore the pain in his limbs, which is mostly due to the poison in his system rather than the strain of fighting.
Ichigo thrusts his sword at Renji, gripping at the hilt of his zanpakutō tightly, struggling to keep his grip firm. He wants to prove to the other Soul Reaper -but more than that, he needs to prove to himself that he is well enough to fight. If he can at least feel somewhat like his old self, where fighting and taking down hollows was only second nature, perhaps he could force his body to get better.
"Not bad, Ichigo," taunts Renji, smirking. Lunging at Ichigo and knocking Zangetsu from his hands. He grabs Ichigo's fingers firmly, interlocking them as he thrusts the defiant boy to the ground, landing gently atop him. "But you really shouldn't let your guard down."
Ichigo is reminded of their kiss from the previous night. Renji's lips are enticingly close to his own, their breath warm against his cold skin and heating his cheeks into a permanent flush. Ichigo sighs, steadying his breathing. He wants to blame his rapidly beating heart rate on his illness, but he discerns it is due to Renji being agonisingly close.
"Damn… Renji," Ichigo mutters, out of breath.
Alarmed, Renji apologises profusely. "I'm sorry, that was stupid of me. I shouldn't have done that," he begins, but is stopped when moist lips are roughly pressed against his own, shutting him up with a forceful kiss.
"Ichigo?" Renji asks questioningly, pulling away.
Ichigo's only reply is to smile and switches their positions, so he is pinning Renji to the ground. His smile widens into an accomplished smirk.
"You're not going to break me, Renji. I thought I told you already – I'm fine," he says.
Neither one has the words to express what they are thinking, nor perhaps are words even needed, for what better way than sweet, stolen, kisses, to say… I need you.
Renji is the first to move, wrapping strong arms around Ichigo's neck in a tight embrace and pulling their mouths together. Both sigh into the heated kiss, tongues and lips slipping and sliding as they battle for dominance, sparring in a new, more pleasurable, kind of way. Their hands roam and search up and down arms, around the sides of firm chests, electing sweet moans out of their mouths.
Impulsively, Ichigo grinds down against Renji's firm body, causing friction against their groins. He is pleasantly surprised when he feels fingers sneak down his chest that rub against his growing hard-on. He groans softly against Renji's mouth. Their kiss is fiercer, full of want and need and lust. Neither one wants to relinquish their control and so they battle, in a sensual sweep of their tongues, pleasantly moaning into each other's mouths.
Ichigo's head begins to spin out of control, abruptly feeling woozy and light headed. Ichigo grunts, not wanting to lose the heat and contact of Renji's body, but his displeasure is soon gone when it is replaced with agonising pain shooting down his chest, hitting the pit of his stomach. He kneels above Renji, still straddling him as waves of nausea overcome him.
Realising what is happening; Renji sits up, folding Ichigo against his chest in a loose hug. Ichigo tries to break away, as if some part of him does not want to depend on anyone else, but Renji does not let go, nor does he want to. He feels Ichigo's tears falling onto his shoulder, making his gi damp, but that is the least of his concerns. Ichigo's body shudders violently from the pain, and Renji holds him through it all, until the tremors stop and Ichigo no longer wheezes from the agony.
Concerned, Renji whispers, "Ichigo?"
Renji can hear his own heart ringing in his ears, persistent, and loud, full of worry. He is thankful for when he feels Ichigo's pulse, beating gently against his own chest.
He knows this is only the beginning of something much worse.
Gripping Ichigo tightly in his arms, Renji lifts him effortlessly, holding Ichigo against his chest, carrying the unconscious boy back into Urahara's shop, to be placed in bed. After removing Ichigo's damp clothing, he wraps him up in covers and leans back in a chair to observe him, ensuring that Ichigo does not get affected by another, unannounced, attack.
Tentatively, Renji strokes his fingers through the orange mop of hair. Ichigo's outbreak had frightened Renji, for it was unexpected and made him realise just how serious this situation really was. He frowns and decides to tell Urahara of what happened in the morning.
Consumed by sleep, Renji allows himself to drift off, his hand staying clutched against Ichigo's scalp affectionately.
Ichigo awakens, disorientated, the darkness around him is overwhelming until he recognises where he is and presumes Renji must have brought him back to his bedroom. He feels something warm against the side of his face, and reaching out for it he sighs lightly when his fingers come into contact with Renji's hand.
Desolately, he smiles, tracing Renji's fingers with his own. However, his grin disappears when he brushes over rough cuts along the knuckles of the Soul Reapers hand.
He turns over onto his side, squinting to make out the form of Renji. In the darkness, he is able to see that Renji is in a deep sleep, although obviously very uncomfortable in the small wooden chair, his long legs stretched out before him, head tilting to one side as he breathes gently.
"Fool," whispers Ichigo tenderly.
Exhausted eyes close wearily, and Ichigo falls back into an uneasy sleep.