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07 September 2008 @ 01:55 am
[fic] Bleach - Taking Lessons  
Title: Taking Lessions
Author: kawree
Fandom: Bleach
Request: For nizlaili's REQUEST on fic_on_demand. I don't usually do requests or gift fic...mostly because I fail at deadlines and actually getting them done, but I'd been trying to write some Bleach fic for a while and kept coming up with no ideas...and this request piqued my interest. Because predictable cat is predictable, and I do love gruff jerkfacey boys with hearts of gold. :D I hated the Bount Arc, and the built-up dynamic between Jinta and Renji was really the only thing I watched it for. >:[
Summary: Returning to Urahara's shop after running some evening errands, Renji and Jinta find themselves taking a somewhat unexpected detour. And that's before they realize a Hollow has decided to follow them home.
Word Count: 7,670; Oneshot. This wound up being like twice as long as I was planning on. O_o;;;
Warnings: Just some cursing--a few f-bombs. Nothing you don't hear on the school bus anyhow.


"Are you sure we're not lost?"

"No, for the last time, we are not lost."

"Then why have we passed the same corner three times?"

Renji paused in his steps and hefted the paper bag of groceries he held in his long arms, and then twisted to scowl down at the small red-haired child at his hip. "You didn't have to come with me, you know," he griped, his eyes narrow and his lip curled in distaste.

Jinta folded his arms gruffly over his chest and harrumphed, turning away and lifting his chin. "Well I had to make sure you didn't just run off and shirk your duties," the boy replied. "Someone has to make sure things get done properly."

Renji rolled his eyes and started forward again. "Right, like your little girlfriend," he grumbled under his breath. Then he yelped when a blast of pain erupted in his left shin. "Oi! You little brat--the fuck was that for?" he squawked, leaning over to rub the bruise now forming on his knee where he'd been kicked.

"She's not my girlfriend!" Jinta snarled, and Renji made a horrid face at him.

"Well it's no wonder!" he snapped back, yelling over the top of the grocery bag; "you treat her like a dog!"

"I do not!" Jinta refuted without any further compelling evidence, and Renji just growled at the boy like it might intimidate him into agreeing with him.

It was a crime the way Jinta picked on poor Ururu, making her do all the sweeping and never helping out when she was straightening up around the shop. Ururu insisted that Jinta was only joking, and never really meant any harm, but Renji wasn't entirely convinced. He'd seen that the girl was no pushover--not in her Ultra Spooky Attack-Zombie Genocide Mode, anyway--so why didn't she ever push back when Jinta got crappy with her? Ugh. He would never understand the way girls thought.

"You do so," Renji snapped finally, and set the bag of groceries down on the sidewalk, one hand on his hip and the other gesturing widely at the sidewalk. "Fine, Mr. Genius, maybe we are lost. I don't live around here, I live in another dimension; do you know how to get back?"

Jinta harrumphed again. "Of course I do!" he insisted, and thrust one arm out, pointing to their left. "The shop is this way!"

"Fine!" Renji barked, picking up the bag again. "Then you lead the way, you little knowitall!"

"Fine! Maybe I will!" Jinta snapped, and stalked ahead, scowling horribly as he walked, Renji making faces at the back of his head as he followed.

"Fine!"

"Fine!"

"Fine!!"


Renji seethed. Damn...fuckin'...kid! He'd been nothing but a pain in the ass the whole time Renji had been staying with Urahara, despite how helpful and obliging he had been. He'd offered to help out with all the chores around the shop in exchange for room and board (well, he'd kinda been guilted into it, actually...), and he'd even said he'd help train Sado if Urahara would answer some of his questions (well, he'd mostly been roped into it, but same difference). He had been 100% pleasant and agreeable and polite and Jinta had done little but make fun of him the whole time (even if he had kinda deserved it when he'd been cocky and dropped that heavy shipment box on his foot yesterday). All in all it was really getting old.

Jinta fumed. What the hell was that stupid freeloader's problem anyhow? He'd done nothing but complain ever since he had gotten to town. He slept in all the time (well, he had been out late a few nights sending Hollows), he ate way more than his share at dinner (well, only that one time. Every other time he didn't have seconds...and he'd looked pretty guilty anyway. He was also like three times as big as the others--the guy musta been like nine feet tall!), and he never helped with the sweeping (but he had moved all of those really heavy boxes in the back room yesterday...). Well, either way, Jinta was really tired of his attitude.

It was really frustrating, actually; Renji had seen that the kid wasn't a total jerk. When a group of Arrancar had descended upon the town the other night, Ururu had gone into her crazy zombie-mode and gotten herself stabbed, and Jinta had actually come to her aid. He'd been pretty brave, too, whacking the Arrancar right on the head with his giant...well, whatever the hell it was he fought with. It hadn't been the most successful of rescue missions--were it not for Hihiou Zabimaru, Jinta would have been a kebab!--but the kid wasn't all jerk.

It was infuriating, to be honest. Jinta knew the guy wasn't a complete loser. Despite his gruff demeanor and short temper, he seemed like a decent guy. And he was really strong. He'd been watching him fight that monster guy with the bull mask, and it had seemed at first like he was gonna lose like...well, like a giant loser. And then Ururu had gone and screwed everything up by getting shanked...but the freeloader had really come through that time. He had blocked the enemy's attack and had taken a bad hit so he could get away with Ururu. Even if he was rude and lazy and a freeloader, he was...actually pretty cool when he wasn't being a rude lazy freeloader.

But jeez, he was sure being obnoxious. Why couldn't he just act like a normal person and treat other people with respect? Why did it always have to be an argument? Why was it always a fight? Was it so hard for him to just be nice once in a while? Why did he have to act like he knew everything and make it hard for everybody?

The remaining walk was made in silence.


Half an hour of said silence later, there was still no sign of Urahara's shop, and Renji was really starting to get pissed off. Oh, the shop is over this way, is it? You stupid kid, you don't even know, do you? He grunted and hefted the groceries in his arms again, grumbling indecipherably under his breath. Damn kid hadn't even offered to help carry anything. Feh.

Twilight had passed a while ago, and all the purples were bleeding out of the sky to just leave a star-spotted inky indigo overhead. Streetlights were flickering on, filling the air with a soft buzzing noise, like a giant bumblebee was just hovering overhead somewhere. Renji sighed audibly. All right. This had gone on long enough.

"Oi, brat," he called over the bag of groceries; "are we there yet?" He added an intolerant whine to the tone of his voice just for fun. Guh. Why was the kid so obnoxious? Renji liked kids, but something about Urahara's self-proclaimed little second-in-command just really grated on his nerves, and it was a damn shame. The kid had real potential to be cool; he was fierce and brave and pretty clever...but he was just so arrogant and...bad-tempered, like an angry cat. Every time Renji tried talking to him, there was hissing and the fuzzing of fur, and he walked away with scratches across his nose. Why had the kid wanted so badly to tag along to the store in the first place?

Jinta ignored him and just kept walking, scowling. Dammit--why was he such a jerk? Jinta wanted to like him; he was a badass! When he'd released his reiatsu limiter and kicked that bull-guy's tail? Oh man that had been cool. But he was just so irritable and impatient! He was tetchy like an old bear, and Jinta was a little worried that he'd get swatted like a fly by one of his big hands if he bothered trying to make actual conversation. Surely something he said would piss the guy off, and he really wasn't keen on getting flattened. ...Why had he wanted to tag along with him to the store again?

Another few minutes of silence, and Renji was about to open his mouth to prod the kid again--'Are you sure we're not lost?'--when an eerie, echoing cry rang through the night. Halting in mid-stride, Renji turned over his shoulder and squinted, every muscle across his back tensing up. That had been nearby. Big. Heavy. It had sounded an awful lot like...

"Kid. You heard that, right?" he asked, glancing forward again. There was a funny smell in the air...like too-wet earth after too much rain, when tree roots began to rot. It was almost sickeningly sweet and yet acrid all at once. It smelled like death and emptiness; the almost syrupy smell of...

Jinta paused, but didn't turn to look at him. He had heard it, and he was thinking the same thing Renji was. The air smelled funny, and that had sounded an awful lot like--

Another howl, closer this time, and every hair on the back of Renji's neck stood up. Shit--why hadn't he noticed it sooner? Stupid; he'd been so busy being irritated with Jinta he hadn't been paying attention. The spirit energy was strong. Not something to really be worried about, but strong nonetheless. It was approaching from the north. No...wait, the west. No...wait, it was--

"Fuck--!" It was a flyer.

He barely had the time to drop the bag of groceries (dammit, he heard something break. Now he'd have to go back to the store. If they could even find it again) and dive forward as there was a great blast of wind and the shattering of concrete behind him. He landed hard on his left shoulder and grunted as he rolled somewhat clumsily back to his feet. Rrgh, stupid gigai! It was like trying to move through a wall of wet tissue paper. He could still get around just fine, until he had to move quickly. Or gracefully. And then he might as well have been wearing a fat suit. His limbs just wouldn't cooperate like they were supposed to.

Backpedaling and casting one last baleful look at the ruined groceries, he lifted his eyes to see a large, hulking shape shimmer into the shadows of the dimly lit street. It was a Grade-A big-ass flying Hollow, with massive webbed wings like a bat and a huge, hideous bony face, complete with the trademark toothy grin. Renji sighed again. Great. Fantastic, even. Just what he needed to really make his evening complete.

"Kid, get outta here," he ordered, stepping back again and concentrating to try and pull out of the gigai. The damn thing still didn't fit quite right, and trying to separate from it still took longer than it really should have. He was really going to have to talk to Urahara about it one of these days. Jinta pursed his lips, and Renji held up one hand sharply. "Ah--!" he barked. "Don't argue with me. You ain't got your giant baseball bat this time around, so just get outta here. I'll handle this guy."

Just as soon as I get out of this fucking gigai...

Jinta scowled, but moved backward a few paces, his steps hesitant. He still remembered the squirmy feeling in his gut from a few nights ago, when he'd honestly thought that the Arrancar was going to win and Renji was going to die. Somehow, he had that feeling again now, and he didn't like it one bit. And he didn't like that he didn't like it. Why should he have cared anyhow? He was just some stupid freeloader. Fighting Hollows was what Shinigami did, and if the freeloader was too lame to even be able to do his job, well, then it wasn't really Jinta's problem. Yeah, that was right! That was what he was here for, right? Renji was in town to protect it from Hollows, and so there was no way he could possibly be so lame that he couldn't do his job. He always did his job, even though he complained about it. Even when Urahara had asked him to clean the gutters!

"Why are you still here?" Renji snapped, slicing a hand through the air as he managed to separate halfway from the gigai, now looking rather ridiculously like some kind of two-headed monster from a bad science fiction movie. "Get going! I'll be along as soon as I--uwaugh!"

"Isourou!"

Jinta tumbled backward with a wail as the flying Hollow took advantage of Renji's moment of distraction and swiped one of its great wings at them, sending Renji end over end into the air. Jinta scrabbled backward, crab-scuttling across the pavement, watching in alarm as the redhead was slammed into a guardrail along the side of the road with a yelp.

Ow. Ow. Spine...wasn't supposed to bend that way. Renji felt like his entire torso had been crushed in a vice. His breath stolen from him, he fell to the pavement on hands and knees, coughing, and then realized that the impact had not only knocked the wind out of him, but it had knocked him quite cleanly out of that wretched gigai. Oh! Well that made things a little easier. Gritting his teeth, he shoved the lifeless faux body beneath the bent guardrail with one foot, and then coughed again.

"Get up, you dumbass!" he heard Jinta shout, and he lifted his head to glance at the boy. Then he slowly lifted his arm, his hand, and finally his middle finger.

"Didn't I tell you to get the fuck outta here?" he shouted back.

"You're not the boss of me," Jinta rebutted, and Renji rolled his eyes.

Damn kids. Fine. He'd just have to get rid of the Hollow before the Hollow could make another attack. Shouldn't have been too hard. Now that he was out of that blasted gigai and he could move more freely, this would be a snap. Renji wasn't a lieutenant for nothing (even though he'd only been a lieutenant for less than a year); he'd beaten a fucking Arrancar (barely), and there was no way he was going to be taken down by a single stupid Hollow. That bastard Ichigo would never let him hear the end of it!

"Then stay outta the way," Renji growled, a wicked grin on his face as he braced a hand on his thigh and pushed himself back to his feet. Arching his back to straighten himself out, he grit his teeth as several vertebra cracked back into place, and then he quickly snapped his neck from side to side, his right hand falling to the sword at his hip. As the Hollow reeled back for another swipe, Renji drew his sword, the grin never leaving his lips.

Jinta hadn't seen the entire fight that night with the Arrancar--he'd scrambled up onto the roof a good ten minutes into the commotion, and by then Renji had already released his bankai and still appeared to be losing. But suddenly the boy wasn't so certain about his supposition that Renji was just a lazeabout. Oh, sure, the guy had kicked the Arrancar's ass that night...but not without consequence. He'd come back to the shop all sorts of bloody, with a haunted look in his eyes and a heaviness on his presence. It had been sobering, if nothing else, to see him so...serious. He was a grump, but there was usually an air of absurdity about him that made Jinta never quite able to take him seriously. But there was no absurdity tonight. No silliness, no faux bravado--this was all real. The glint in Renji's dark eyes was fiendish and confident, proud and wicked and strong, and Jinta just sort of stared. He watched as Renji moved with an almost liquid grace, drawing his zanpakutou and gliding the palm of his hand down the spine of the sword. The slender blade seemed to transform beneath his hand, into gunmetal-grey and silver sectioned pieces, each with a wicked-looking spike. Renji's smile was predatory.

"Hoero, Zabimaru!"

He drew his arm back and snapped it forward again, and the sword reacted like water, flowing fluidly with his movement and extending forward like a whip, the sections splitting apart, bone and fiber stretching between them. Jinta just sort of gaped, watching the spiked segments of the blade fly toward the great Hollow. One, two, three successive strikes, and the creature howled as its bone-white flesh tore beneath the blades. Renji recoiled, snapping the sword back into place and pausing a moment to survey the damage.

The Hollow roared in pain, great rivers of inky blue-black blood pouring down its body, and it reeled, its mighty wings kicking up gusts of wind and dust from the road. Renji shielded his eyes from the dirt, and then gasped when the Hollow seemed to vanish from sight, shimmering away into the dust it kicked up with its wings.

"What the--?" He stepped backward, scanning the road, the sky, but the Hollow seemed to have vanished into thin air. Had it flown away? Fled the scene to recover and come back another night? ...No. That couldn't be right. He could still feel it, could still smell it; the damn thing hadn't gone anywhere, it had simply concealed itself from sight somehow. It had suppressed its spirit energy as well--Renji could barely feel it now, but it was definitely still there. Tricky bastard, it was smarter than he'd thought. "...Shit," he grunted, resting his sword on his shoulder and trying to hone in on the monster's reiatsu. If he could pinpoint its location, maybe he could hit it while it still thought it had the advanta--

"That was awesome!"

Renji gave a start when a voice broke into his concentration, and he snapped his head to the side in time to see Jinta emerge from where he'd been crouched in the alley between two closed shops on the far side of the road. Stupid! Couldn't the kid still feel the Hollow nearby?

"Kid, get back!" he hollered, swiping his free hand through the air and making a fist. "The Hollow is still nearby; go home! I don't care if I ain't the boss'a you; your boss'll have my ass if you get--"

Before Renji could finish his sentence, there was a deafening screech from above, and another great gust of wind. Above! It was the same technique the damn thing had used when it had first caught them off-guard--concealing its reiatsu and approaching unseen from above! It could cloak itself against the night sky?

Renji grit his teeth and uttered several colorful curses under his breath as he dashed forward, watching in something like horrified slow-motion as Jinta realized what had happened. The boy's big eyes widened in fear as the shadow of a great shape he couldn't see blocked the light from the streetlamp overhead, casting his body into shadow. Another unearthly screech raised gooseflesh on the boy's skin, and he raised both his arms into a crossblock in front of his face, his hands fisted and his eyes squeezed closed. He had no weapon, he had no nothing, and his feet wouldn't move--his feet wouldn't move! In the end, he really was just a kid--a kid who usually had a big weapon to hide behind; a kid with a big mouth, a big ego, and nothing to back it up with empty hands.

The wind was fierce and the dust in the air stung his arms, and Jinta cringed, waiting for the same impact that had sent Renji flying before, waiting to be sent tumbling through the air, limbs twisted and bones broken.

But the impact never came. Instead, there was a grunt, the sickening sound of metal on bone, and Jinta opened one eye hesitantly. He gasped audibly.

"I-Isou...rou?"

"Why don't you ever fucking listen, you stupid brat??" Renji snarled over his shoulder as he braced Zabimaru with both hands, holding back the Hollow's massive tail. "Are you trying to make me look incompetent??"

And suddenly Jinta took back every mean thing he'd ever said or thought about Renji. Maybe he acted like a freeloader, and maybe he slept in too much, but as the boy stood there, watching the Shinigami's powerful arms shake as he held back the creature, Jinta thought to himself that maybe he hadn't been giving him enough credit where it was due.

"Are you gonna run or am I gonna have to tango with this thing?" Renji barked, and Jinta jerked out of his trance.

"Ah...right!" he cried, and whirled on his heel, turning and running as fast as his legs would take him down the abandoned length of road.

Renji grit his teeth and shook his head. Stupid kid! Staring off into space like he had all the time in the world. With a roar, Renji shoved the Hollow back with all his strength, shifting Zabimaru's hilt in his grip and slashing for the beast's tail again. When the Hollow had made to attack, Renji had seen the tactic it had used--clever bastard! The thing was built rather like a sea ray, with a wide, triangular body and barely any legs to speak of. But its tail was long and powerful, with a heavy spaded barb on the end. It wasn't that the thing could actually cloak itself, it was that its underbelly could change color, like a chameleon. When it launched itself into the air, all of the exposed belly had shifted color to match the inky sky above. The only reason Renji had known where the damn thing was was the fact that he'd left it bleeding, and the sickly stench of Hollow blood was unmistakable. A great gust of wind from the things massive wings created a dust cloud that concealed its descent, and then a single thrust from its tail would impale its victim.

"You think you're real smart, don't'cha?" Renji taunted, grinning toothily at the beast as it regrouped, flapping its enormous wings and kicking up dust. "Can't fool me twice; I'm onto you." He swirled Zabimaru around his hand and chortled darkly. "Come on, then!" he shouted, jumping backward and lifting his sword to strike. "Come and get me!"


Jinta's heart raced as he ran, his hands fisted and his legs pumping as fast as they would go. He had to get back to the shop--had to get his tetsubou. He wasn't just going to run away like a coward; he was going to go and get his weapon and come back and help, because he was a man, too, and just leaving that dumb moocher all alone to run home and be safe would make him a pansy. Rounding a corner, Jinta scraped to a halt and spun in a circle. Aw, jeez, they'd really gotten completely turned around, hadn't they? Where the hell was he?

He checked the little metal streetmarker plate on the side of a building, then made a sibilant sound through his teeth. Crap, the shop was a good eight blocks from here; it would take him upwards of ten minutes just to get there. By the time he got his tetsubou and got back to where Renji was fighting, it would be too late and the fight would be over, and Jinta would have looked like a stupid coward.

"Che!"

With a snarl, the boy spun on his heel and ran back in the other direction, back toward where he'd left the scene of the altercation. Hurdling over a low fence, he dashed through a small park area, his big eyes scanning the ground for--aha! There we go. Wrapping his small hands around a heavy tree branch that had broken off during a lightning storm last week, Jinta hefted the stick over his shoulder and darted back out into the street.

He wasn't about to let the stupid freeloader take all the credit, after all.


With a grunt, Renji bent at one knee and lunged backward as the Hollow screeched, sending resonating shivers through the length of his zanpakutou and down his arms. He dodged across the road and tumbled into the grassy area beyond the street as the creature's tail slammed into the pavement again, leaving a heavy dent in the asphalt.

Dammit...his movements were getting slow, and he was breathing heavily. The damn thing had still had a trick up its sleeves after all, it seemed; Renji glared down at the blood on his arm, the slash in his sleeve, the gash in his skin below his left deltoid. The barb on the Hollow's tail...it was poisoned, wasn't it? That was the only explanation for his sudden sluggishness--there was no way he should have been this tired so soon. His head was swimming faintly, his eyes sliding in and out of focus. He hadn't lost nearly enough blood to be this slow; the damn thing had fucking poisoned him.

Shit, he lamented, sidling around to the backside of a picnic table and taking to a knee a moment. Dammit, he wasn't going to just go down here. Seriously, Ichigo would make fun of him forever, and more than that, he wasn't about to just trust Rukia's well-being to that hotheaded idiot. Bad enough she was sleeping in his closet, he wasn't about to just completely hand her over so easily. Diving forward when the Hollow screeched again and brought its tail down on the picnic table, Renji somersaulted and leapt back to his feet, blood running freely down his arm now, fuzzy greyness pricking at the edges of his vision.

He was going to have to end this quickly.

Holding Zabimaru out in front of him, he took a deep breath and steeled himself, squaring his shoulders and glaring fiercely at the Hollow as it loomed above him. "Wanna piece'a me?" he growled, half a grin tugging at his lips. "Then come and get it! Ban...ka--"

"Isourou!"


"Buh?" Renji was pretty sure all the color drained from his face when he saw Jinta leap through the air, a huge stick poised over his head. ...Oh no. "Kid, what the fuck are you doing??" he howled, watching in slow-motion as Jinta brought the branch down square on top of the Hollow's great triangular head. There was an echoing thwakkkk! sound, and Renji grimaced as the Hollow howled, reeling back and twisting in one fluid motion. Jinta yelped as the sudden movement threw him off-kilter, and one of the Hollow's great wings knocked the boy toward the ground forcefully.

Darting forward, Renji dove to catch the boy before he could slam into the ground, seizing him and twisting to slide painfully across the earth on his back, Jinta clutched to his chest. Grunting, Renji ignored how his body protested painfully, and nabbed the kid by the back of his shirt, hoisting himself upright and yanking the boy to his feet.

"Are you retarded?" Renji cried, releasing Jinta's shirt and staggering a bit where he stood. "You can't defeat that thing with a fuckin' stick."

"I was trying to help!" Jinta snapped back tetchily, folding his arms. The stick was a splintered mess now, having been slammed to the ground by the force of the Hollow's strike. Jinta shivered--if he'd hit the ground going that speed, he'd have broken his back. Or worse! He suddenly felt terribly guilty; Renji probably had a bruise the size of a beach ball on his chest now from where he'd slammed into him instead. "Th...thanks," he grunted, scowling.

Renji shook his head. "Don't thank me yet, kid," he replied, squeezing his eyes closed a moment and trying to regain his equilibrium. Oh God, the whole world was tilted. He took a deep, slow breath through his nose, then waved a hand at Jinta. "Stand back," he ordered; "I got one more shot at this sonovabitch. If this doesn't work, you get outta here, okay?"

"What?" Jinta jumped and squawked rather in the manner of a ferociously irritated parrot. "You want me to just run away?"

Renji grinned over his shoulder, then nodded. "If," he reiterated, and tightened his grip on his sword. He wasn't sure he had the energy to summon bankai anymore; he was feeling pretty woozy. The poison was really slowing him down--what was it? Some kind of neurotoxin? ...Er...no, that probably wasn't right. The spirit-particles that made up his body shouldn't have reacted to traditional mortal poisons. Oh, it didn't really matter in the end, anyway. Whatever the hell it was, it was making it really hard for him to keep his eyes from sliding out of focus, and his breathing was growing erratic. He was going to have to make this last shot really count.

Sorry, Zabimaru, he thought, taking another deep breath; I know you hate this, but...I ain't got much choice, buddy.

Jinta watched Renji slowly reposition his hands on the hilt of his sword, and he scowled at the blood running down the Shinigami's arm. Moron had gotten hurt! And now he expected him to just run off and leave him there to die? What an idiot! Jinta didn't necessarily like him too much, but...he wasn't just gonna leave him there to die alone. Urahara would have been disappointed in him, and Ururu would be upset. Ururu liked Renji; she thought he was silly, and very obliging despite his terse demeanor. Jinta couldn't just not come home with the guy; it would have made her sad! Only jerks made girls sad.

Raising his zanpakutou over his head, Renji let out a roar and then brought the sword down hard, striking the earth with the end of it--"Higa...Zekkou!"--and watching as a burst of bright reddish light illuminated the weapon. There was a blast of heat, and Zabimaru was engulfed in light, which shot out from the tip of the sword, zooming toward the Hollow now hovering above the trees and preparing to make one more attack.

Renji hated using Higa Zekkou; he knew it hurt Zabimaru, and it was really a last-resort attack. Breaking apart all of the sections of the sword to make an omni-directional attack on the enemy...pouring all of his spirit energy into the assault and driving the splintered pieces of Zabimaru's blade into the opponent--it was a reckless move, and he knew it. He had to be pretty desperate to make it. It left him completely defenseless, injured his zanpakutou badly enough to put it down for the count for a good day or so, and Zabimaru was always sore with him for a good week after that. But his vision was growing fuzzier, his breath shallower; his balance was failing him--he didn't have much choice.

Please work, he implored, lifting his eyes to watch the jagged cord of light spiral up into the air and surround the Hollow. The creature twisted, the light flickered, and then there was a great thundering roar as the red light sharpened into countless sharp shards of crimson energy and plunged into the flesh of the Hollow. It bellowed in pain as the splinters of light and energy drove into its body and tore it apart from the inside, and Renji twisted to grab Jinta by the arm, yanking him to one side and diving behind a tree as the Hollow fell to the earth, its mighty tail leaving a great crater in the grass.

Jinta covered his ears and just let himself be pulled as the air and the earth exploded all around them. He heard Renji grunt in pain as they hit the ground, and he curled up his legs, drawing his knees to his chest as they fell hard behind a tree, the blast of wind as the Hollow fell blowing dirt and debris all around them. There was the deafening death cry of the creature, and then there was silence, and after a good forty-five seconds of just lying there with his hands over his ears and his eyes squeezed closed, Jinta remembered to breathe. When he figured it was safe enough to pry one eye open, he peered around, then cautiously opened the other, pulling his hands away from his ears and turning to look and see what had happened to the Hollow.

The clearing in the grassy area was...a mess. The Hollow was gone, the air no longer reeked of sick-sweet and syrup...the pressure of the monster's reiatsu was gone. There was a massive crack in the earth where the thing had fallen and then faded into nothingness, and there were glittering shards of steel and bone littering the ground. Zabimaru... The boy frowned, wondering if the sword could be fixed? He had lived with Urahara for a while, but he'd only seen the shopkeep use his zanpakutou a few times ever, and he'd never seen it damaged. But, well, there really weren't many things Urahara couldn't do, so Jinta was pretty sure that even if Renji's sword was really broken, Urahara could probably fix it without much trouble.

Sitting up straight and dusting himself off, Jinta turned over his shoulder to cast Renji a big grin. "Oi, Isourou, you did it!" he exulted. "I guess you're not completely useless after a--...hey...are you okay?" Jinta cut himself off in mid-insult when he noted that Renji was still sprawled out on the ground where they'd fallen. "O...oi!" he called, and grabbed the Shinigami by the shoulder, shaking him gently. "C'mon, quit playin' around, you retard. Get up! Look, you beat the Hollow--we can just go back to the shop now."

Renji didn't move. Jinta shook his head and shoved his shoulder harder. There was sweat on the Shinigami's brow, his face drawn in discomfort, his breath shallow and ragged. Jinta swallowed hard and yanked on Renji's sleeve.

"Oi! I'm talking to you!" he shouted. "Stop playing games!"

He reached out and nabbed Renji's wrist, pressing his fingers into the sinews below the Shinigami's mammoth hand, feeling for a pulse. It was rapid and irregular--this...wasn't a game. You couldn't fake that. Jinta felt his blood run cold.

"Oh...come on, you've gotta be kidding me," he cried. "Isourou! ...Isourou! Wake up, you big idiot! Oi!" He punched Renji in the shoulder. "You listen to me when I'm talking to you! I outrank you at the shop and I order you not to die, you jerk! Get up! Get up!" He punched him again, harder this time. "Get up!! I'll hate you forever if you die! Isourou!!"


§


Renji's eyes fluttered open, and he clumsily lifted a hand to his face, grimacing. ...What the hell had happened? His...whole body kinda ached, and his head was killing him. ...Shit, had he gotten completely drunk again or something? Rukia would have his head for this. He blinked rapidly, then glanced up when movement caught his eye--

"Waugh!"

--and yelped in alarm when Rukia's big worried ash-grey eyes filled his line of vision. Oh God had she been here the whole time? He hoped he hadn't said anything incriminating. He did that sometimes when he was drunk; Ikkaku and Yumichika had started keeping a notebook of blackmail quotes.

"Oh good, you're awake," she said, smiling wryly. "It's nice to see you, too." She glanced over her shoulder and cupped one small hand beside her mouth. "Urahara-san~ Ichigo~ He's not dead~"

Not dead? ...Oh! Oh. Right. Not drunk. Poisoned. That explained the headache a little better, perhaps.

The door to the spare room in the back of Urahara's shop opened smoothly, and the tall blond man poked his head inside, waving a closed fan dismissively at Rukia. "I told you he wasn't going to die," he said chidingly. "You should all have more faith in my abilities."

Ichigo shoved Urahara out of the doorway and jabbed an accusatory finger at Renji where the redhead was lying on a futon, his arm bandaged and a cold compress on his brow. "You big idiot!" he scolded. "What the hell were you thinking? Taking on a poisonous Hollow all by yourself is reckless! Can't you ask for help?"

Renji tore the compress from his brow and sat up quickly, irritation coursing through his veins, but before he could make a snappy comeback his equilibrium left him and he doubled forward, slamming one palm flat on the mattress between his knees and grinding the heel of his other hand into his eye socket with a grunt. "Nngh...get bent, Ichigo. Like you're one to talk anyway. I didn't know it was poisonous, and besides...it ain't like I coulda just asked it to hold on a minute while I called my pals," he snarled, and Rukia silenced any further chastising from Ichigo with a sharp frown as she pressed Renji back to the futon.

"All right, all right, that's quite enough out of both of you," she scolded matronly, retrieving the cold compress--which was now lukewarm at best--and planting it back on Renji's face, covering his eyes unevenly. "You two can duke it out once Renji's well again."

Renji plucked the cloth from his face and frowned at Rukia. "How...did I get here, anyhow?" he asked, and Rukia offered him a shallow smile.

"Jinta-kun found your soul phone and dialed me," she told him. "It seemed mine was the first number in your speed-dial, Renji," she added teasingly.

Renji made a halfway flustered noise and quickly replaced the compress over his eyes.

"Sorry for the inconvenience," he grunted uncomfortably. He hated feeling like a burden, and surely having Rukia (and therefore Ichigo) have to come cart his dead-weight back to the shop was surely grounds for irritation on their parts.

Ichigo huffed. "Well your damn gigai was the biggest pain in the ass to bring back," he grumped; "nevermind carting your heavy carcass all the way back here, you had to shove the damn gigai all tangled up under the guardrail half-mangled and--ow!" He glared at Rukia when she casually reached over and punched his foot.

Urahara dropped to a prim seiza position beside the futon and folded his arms, peering at Renji. "You were lucky, Abarai-san," he chided; "if he hadn't thought so quickly, you might have been in real trouble you know?" He smiled pleasantly as Renji plucked the cloth from his eyes again to frown confusedly at him. "That Hollow's venom really did a number on you. It was similar in effect to the nerve toxins of an earth rattlesnake, intended to paralyze a victim so it can be devoured alive."

Renji made a face. Why was it that the shopkeep could somehow say such somber things in such an upbeat voice? He could probably be announcing the end of the universe and somehow do it with a smile on his face.

Urahara adjusted his hat and continued, wagging a finger informatively, "The neurotoxin of a rattlesnake causes paralysis and can interfere with the functions of the heart and lungs...as the Hollow's toxin was doing to you. However, I was able to--"

"Spare me the science lesson, Urahara-san," Renji groaned. "In the end, so long as I ain't dead, I don't really need all the gritty details."

Urahara just smiled. "Fair enough," he said, and rose back to his feet. "You should be fine by morning; the antitoxin had already gotten you out of the woods, so there's nothing to worry about." He slid the door open and hesitated in the doorway. "Thank you, by the way, for your efforts to try and keep Jinta safe."

Renji gave a start. "Jin--" He tried to sit up again, then grunted when Rukia planted her hand on his chest again, leaning most of her weight against him to keep him from moving. He glowered at her. "Kid's okay, right?"

"He's fine," she assured him, smiling, and then flicked him in the forehead. "Just get some rest, bakamono," she scolded him then, and got up, dragging Ichigo out after her and sliding the shouji door closed. She cracked it open one last time, and poked her head back inside. "We'll come check on you again tomorrow, okay? Don't overdo it!"

And then she was gone, and the room was quiet, and Renji just draped his arm over his face and sighed heavily.


He wasn't aware he'd nodded off until he jerked awake at the sound of the shouji sliding open. Tearing the (now completely dry and not cold at all anymore) cloth off his face, Renji blinked in the darkness of the room, alert and tense, and then relaxed when he saw it was just Jinta standing in the doorway, scowling as usual, his hands behind his back.

"Oh," he said, "it's just you. Hey, kid." He draped his arm over his face again. "How ya doin'?"

Jinta scowled further and stalked over to the futon, dropping to his knees and planting a white pastry box on Renji's chest with a grunt.

Renji lifted his arm and quirked one eyebrow. "Uhm..."

"...Th...thanks for saving me!" Jinta blurted hurriedly, bowing his head and then quickly shifting to get up again. Renji's hand shot out more quickly than the kid expected, however, and he caught Jinta's pantleg, sending the kid pitching to the floor with a yelp. Leaping back up to his hands and knees, Jinta whirled on Renji and cuffed him soundly upside the head. "What the hell was that for, you jackass?!" he shouted, and then recoiled, looking sheepish. "Er--! S...sorry. You're not like...still all hurt and stuff, are you?"

Renji glowered, rubbing the crown of his head where Jinta had walloped him. "Well now I've got a headache again," he complained good-naturedly, and shifted to sit up and examine the box the boy had placed on his chest. "What's this?"

Jinta sat back on his haunches and glowered at the floor. "A thank-you present," he said stiffly. "Rukia-neesan told me they were your favorite, so..."

Renji frowned, then opened up the box. A hearty laugh dusted over his lips upon noting the contents--the kid had bought him half a dozen mini-taiyaki from the 24/7 convenience store down the street. "Kid, you didn't have to do that," he said, rubbing the crown of his head again. "It ain't like I saved your ass because I wanted presents."

Jinta refused to look at him. "I know," he replied, "but...I yelled at you and called you a dumbass and a retard and I didn't listen to you when you told me to go home."

Renji rolled his eyes. "Yeah, well, nobody listens to me anyway," he said sullenly, and gnawed the head off one of the little pastries.

"Well, and Rukia-neesan said you are a dumbass and a retard sometimes," Jinta offered, and Renji clocked him on top of the head with one big fist. Jinta just laughed and rubbed his head, then kind of grinned at Renji. "You were...pretty cool, though," he admitted. "You killed the hell out of that monster even though you'd been poisoned."

"Well, I am pretty badass," Renji agreed modestly, offering the box to the boy, who accepted one of the little fish-shaped sweets and shoved its head in his mouth.

"Yeah yeah," Jinta said through the mouthful of taiyaki, rolling his eyes. "Humble, too." He pulled the fish-shaped pastry out of his mouth and frowned. "I'm sorry your sword got broken," he said; "do you think Tenchou can fix it?"

Renji waved a hand dismissively. "Zabimaru'll fix himself," he assured the boy, confident that Rukia and Ichigo had retrieved the zanpakutou safely. "He'll just be pissed at me for a few days."

Jinta brightened. So everything really was okay then.

They ate their taiyaki in companionable silence for a few minutes, and then Jinta shifted. "I guess I'll go now and leave you alone," he said, and then paused. "Un...less you were gonna faceplant me again."

Renji just snorted.

"Next time, get directions to the stupid store, okay?" Jinta said stiffly, and Renji bristled.

"Hey, you're the one who insisted you knew where we were going," he shot back, folding his arms and grimacing as the bandaging around his shoulder pulled.

"But you wouldn't listen to me anyway!" Jinta harrumphed, and Renji bared his teeth.

"Welcome to my world, runt," he snapped.

"Well maybe if you weren't such a jerkface people would listen to you!" the boy growled, and Renji shoved another mini-taiyaki in his mouth.

"Well maybe if you weren't such a brat, I'd listen to you!"

Jinta stalked toward the door. "Fine!" he grunted. "Next time, maybe you should take Ururu with you!"

"Fine!" Renji shouted back. "Maybe I will!"

"Fine!"

"Fine!"

"Fine!!"


Jinta slammed the door closed and then sat down outside the room, nibbling on the rest of his mini-taiyaki.

Freeloader.

Renji flopped back down on the futon and pulled the blanket up over his head, still chewing on his pastry.

Brat.

And then Jinta grinned. Sure, he was a freeloader, but...he wasn't so bad. In fact, he was pretty brave and, in the end, he was a cool guy. Little moody, little sour, but all things considered, well...the shop was always more lively with him around.

Renji swallowed the last bite of his taiyaki and sighed. ...Well, maybe Jinta was a little brat, but he wasn't a bad kid. His heart was in the right place, even if he ran off at the mouth and didn't always respect his elders. Renji would have protected the little jerk anytime it was necessary. He...rather reminded him of himself, once upon a time--crass, brassy, swaggering through life like he owned it. Well, he still did that, actually.

Heh, maybe the kid was all right after all.

Popping the tail of the pastry into his mouth, Jinta let a smile bleed into his features. Maybe one day he could grow up to be just as brave and strong and...reckless as the freeloader. In the meantime, he supposed he'd just keep taking lessons.

fin



Comments are ♥! Man, Urahara's kinda hard to write. O_o I dunno why, either. Eh. Hope you enjoyed this~ It was a lot of fun to write.
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~nizu~: tokyo knight kingdomnizlaili on September 7th, 2008 11:44 am (UTC)
How do I even begin??? ♥

I've reread the story numerous times and it sent me squealing still after the hundredth time - I particularly enjoy reading Jinta and Renji's inner monologues the most, they do spend a long time debating why the other is a brat/jerk/bastard/mooch but at the same time isn't and is in fact so much more -

And I love how Renji thinks of Jinta first, or maybe he just wants not so much collateral damage, but Jinta being Jinta, just flat-out refuses and stays where he is, because if he didn't, he wouldn't get to be Renji's awesome sidekick that he secretly is, and he wouldn't be the first to catch Renji's fall - wahhh Kodak moment right there. ♥

And guh. Jinta. How do I love you and your taiyaki. And for immediately apologising after giving recovering!Renji a whapping on the head.

And Ikkaku-Yumichika's Let's-Blackmail-Renji!Quotes Notebook! ♥

This fic is made of so much awesome and win. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. It was everything I wanted and so much more~~~ XDDD *is deliriously happy*
➥《Nocturnal Flying Mammal》✈: renji grinkawree on September 7th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
♥ i'm so glad you enjoyed it~ it was a lot of fun to write. i've actually never written Jinta before; i've RPd Renji and Ichigo and Rukia before, but Jinta and Urahara were brand-new, so i'm glad they came across well. ^_^ thanks for the great prompt! :D
~nizu~nizlaili on September 7th, 2008 11:57 am (UTC)
Really fangirl the part when Jinta sees the other side of Renji we all know and love so well - shinigami Renji in battle mode who takes no shit from Byakuya and hollows and evil things and gives them hell-

And thanks for the RenRuki bits! These two are the love. Oi Ichigo! Renji's perfectly capable of taking down a Hollow or two on his own thank you very much! He may not necessarily escape all intact and poison-free but still! *huggles Renji*
➥《Nocturnal Flying Mammal》✈: hawke sisterskawree on September 7th, 2008 08:40 pm (UTC)
i know right? poor Renji; he never catches a break. and the RenRuki parts were...probably my favorite parts. XD their love is so oblivious and snarky. it's great. :D
never give up!  ৵  never surrender!: (bleach) ishida's talking in heartsloquaciousquark on September 7th, 2008 08:45 pm (UTC)
Ahaha, that was so cute! There aren't enough Jinta + Renji fics around, so this was a breath of fresh air. Memmed!

➥《Nocturnal Flying Mammal》✈kawree on September 7th, 2008 08:47 pm (UTC)
thanks for reading! ♥
~o0o~fine_lights on September 9th, 2008 02:47 pm (UTC)
You write a great action scene! It's been a while since I've seen Renji in full badass mode, and the interaction between him and Jinta was very true to the characters. All the little details (like Rukia being #1 on Renji's speed dial, awww) just made the story. Overall a nice blend of humor, seriousness and Bleach-style ass-kicking!
➥《Nocturnal Flying Mammal》✈: hawke sisterskawree on September 9th, 2008 07:23 pm (UTC)
thanks so much! :D i'm still somewhat new to the fandom, so hearing that i'm doing it justice--especially from another author--really means a lot. i had noticed that there was a very small number of fics that involved any asskicking, despite how much asskicking goes down in the manga, and so i figured 'what the hey?' and just ran with it. i'm really glad it came out well. thanks for reading~ ♥
hcb_chibi: roxas say whuthcb_chibi on February 3rd, 2009 04:04 pm (UTC)
...
>>
<3
Stop making me like things. I have even less of a life than before.
<3 Wuv you're writing. :)