This is quite possibly the closest thing to a Shane/Dustin fic on the net. Sad, really; I saw them from the first episode. It was Hunter/Cam that surprised me. Comaraderie was actually written first in hopes of breaking through another case of writer's block, which is the sequel to this. I actually haven't seen much of Ninja Storm, due to circumstance, so I appologize if this comes out seriously out of character. I mostly posted it to appease the masses and hopefully get rid of the block. I'd like to continue this story line eventually, so feel free to comment with complaints and suggestions. This takes place just after they become Rangers, sometime before the Thunder Rangers arrive.

Enjoy! ^_~

Forced Confession

Shane looked up at the sound of voices arguing quietly as they came down the stairs into Ninja Ops.

"You have to tell him *someday*!"

"Why? Things are just fine the way they are!"

"It'll eat you alive if you don't fess up!"

"I'm feeling pretty cool."

A frustrated noise. "How do you know he doesn't feel the same way?"

"Trust me, Tor. He's *definately* not."

"What, that whole raydar thing you're supposed to have isn't going off? Please."

"Just drop it, okay? It's not a big deal."

"It is so!"

"Hey guys." Shane interjected casually as Tori and Dustin entered, trying not to let on that he'd overheard whatever they were talking about. "What's up?

"Totally dreading simulations today, bro. Sensei's probably got something brutal in mind." Dustin sighed.

Tori glared at him. "We need it." she said at last. "We have to stay sharp if we're going to defeat Lothor."

"A ninja must always be ready for a confrontation, whether it be related to the body, mind, spirit, or heart." Sensei spoke up.

"Yes, Sensei." they said as one.

"Simulator's ready." Cam announced.

"Is it just me, or does he like, take *way* too much pleasure in this?" Dustin muttered as they headed out.

"It's not just you, bro." Shane assured him quietly, patting his shoulder.

****

Exhausted and sore, the trio bid their Sensei and Cam goodbye, heading up to the portal. "I am *so* ready for a hot soak." Tori moaned.

"Tell me about it. Bed, here I come." Dustin agreed.

Shane caught his shoulder. "Hey bro, can I talk to you for a sec?" His eyes flickered to their other friend as she paused. "We'll catch up with you later, Tor."

Her gaze shifted from one to the other, a small smirk spreading over her face. "'bout time." she murmured. "See you."

Dustin looked at Shane quizically as Tori passed through the portal. "What's up bro? Something wrong?"

"Not exactly." Shane hesitated. Stopping Dustin had been an impulse decision, and now he wasn't sure how to approach the problem. He wasn't the type to let things sit, prefering to face his problems head on, but this was a delicate situation. "What were you and Tori arguing about when you came into Ops today?"

So much for delicate.

Dustin just gave him the usual clueless smile. "What do you mean, bro?"

"She was trying to get you to tell someone something." Shane said patiently. Patience was *not* his strong point, but with Dustin one had to try. Being naturally a bit of an airheaded, Dustin was excellent at using it to his advantage when he didn't want to be in a situation. He was craftier than people realized.

Dustin's smile faltered for less than a second before he shrugged. "I don't remember."

That split second had been all Shane needed. "You're lying."

"Am not." His gaze flickered to the side.

Shane sighed, rolling his eyes. "Bro, you're the worst liar I've ever met. I've known you too long to fall for that. What don't you want to tell me?"

"Who said anything about you?" Dustin demanded.

"Why else wouldn't you want to talk to me about it?" Shane asked sensibly. "You've never had a problem with telling me stuff before."

Dustin hesitated.

Shane sighed, frustration setting in as the last of his abnormally short patience ended. "Look, fine, whatever. If you don't want to talk-"

"I'm in love with you." Dustin blurted out.

Shane blinked. For a moment, he thought he'd imagined it. Then his eyes took in Dustin's intense study of his own feet, drooped shoulders, and clenched fists. No, it really happened. The words had even been carefully selected, despite the rush they'd been said in; Dustin had been careful to say he was *in* love with him, not just that he loved him. He was making sure it wasn't mistaken for a different meaning.

He took a moment to consider his response. Did it matter? Of course not. Dustin was still one of his best friends; nothing changed that. Did he love him that way in return?

He was a little surprised to find he wasn't sure. He knew he loved Dustin as his best friend at the very least. Was it more than that? He didn't really know. He didn't *think* it was, but he'd never really thought of Dustin that way. Honestly, he'd never thought of *anyone* that way.

His train of thought was abruptly de-railed at the realization that Dustin was shaking in obvious effort to control himself. He reached out to touch his shoulder, expression softening. "Hey-"

Dustin tensed, his head snapping up to stare back at Shane. He wasn't crying or anything nearly so dramatic, but his face was flushed and his eyes seemed a little darker than usual. His jaw was clenched as he forced himself to look directly at Shane. The only sign of fear was the fists that had yet to release.

Shane smiled gently at him. "Relax, bro. I'm not gonna attack you or anything."

Dustin blinked, clearly startled. "You're not?"

He shook his head, amused. "We've been friends for how long now? You really think I'm gonna just throw that away?"

"Huh?"

He chuckled, patting Dustin's shoulder. "You're still my friend, Dustin. That won't change because of your preferences." The smile faded to true regret. "I love you, bro, but I don't-"

"It's okay." Dustin broke in. He offered a weak smile. "It's okay it you don't...feel the same. I didn't think you would. I just really didn't want you to like, hate me or something."

Shane scowled, abruptly yanking him in for a noogie. "I'll never hate you, especially for something like that. Don't be dumb, man."

Dustin laughed a little, trying to fend him off. "Okay, okay, I take it back."

Shane let him up, studying him intently for a moment. "We're still friends." he said firmly.

This time the smile was genuine. "Always, bro."

Shane clapped him on the back, turning back to the portal as he kept an arm around his shoulders. "We'd better get home and get some rest. More training tomorrow."

"Aw man, don't remind me!"

They headed to their respective homes, comfortable in their friendship again. Things would be different between them now, but they wouldn't allow their friendship to fail. It was too important to them.

In the darkness and laughter, Shane never heard the sound of Dustin's heart breaking.