A/N: This is yaoi/slash, and if you skip it, I won't be offended. It's barely pg-13, though, and just for some language, so nothing explicit or anything you have to think too hard about is in here. I was compelled to write a short one-shot to explain my view of the relationship I support in my fics between Renji and Shuuhei. So, enjoy! Besides, I (at the time of this first draft of this A/N) have managed to not use Hitsu and Ran. If this is the second draft of this note, I may have squished some HitsuMatsu in here somewhere.

This does have a little more of a serious note to it, but I hope it still holds my usual humour.

This is my foray into slash/yaoi, so please understand that this is "out of the box" for me, and out of my comfort zone. I have made every effort to not be offensive to anyone, please bear that in mind (unless reading slash/yaoi offends you, which begs the question "Why are you still reading this?!"). Also, this being my first try, do let me know how to improve. I refuse to go M-Rated with this genre. However, I am trying to gain a better understanding of this whole concept, so any constructive critique is appreciated. 8-)

I will not now, nor ever, be continuing this fic.

-Enjoy! And please, review!
-Rachel Noelle

oOoOo—RN—oOoOo

Back in the academy it was just simple admiration for a senior, sixth-year student. Shuuhei had as good as saved all their asses, with the help of a taicho and his second, of course, from certain death. Naturally, Renji had taken a liking for the male. At that point in time his complex and mixed emotions for Rukia certainly kept things so platonic neither would have hesitated to kill someone for suggesting otherwise. If Ikkaku and Yumichika were straight, then goddamnit, at the time, they were, too.

Looking back now, Renji feels it was after Rukia's first mission to the Living World that things started changing. Shuuhei agrees.

When Ichigo came plowing down the walls and barriers to Soul Society, having reawakened his shinigami powers and hell-bent on Rukia's rescue, it became glaringly obvious that Renji needed to move on. Rukia was, and would always remain, his best friend, but he realized she would never be his lover. It hurt like hell to accept it, but, he did. It just didn't all sink in until later.

Shuuhei recalls, just before Ichigo and his group broke into Hueco Mundo, taking a break from his journalism duties to sit and chat with Ukitake. Ukitake invited him to stay for the afternoon, as he observed the two girls practicing. Orihime was certainly quite an appealing piece of eye candy, and Rukia, though no runway model, was certainly easy on the eyes. But, Shuuhei had scheduled a drinking date with Renji and a few others that evening, and preferred to get his work done.(1)

Already there wasn't enough time to spend together.

When the Winter War was over, and things in Soul Society and the Living World had returned to something akin to normalcy, Renji found time to accept Rukia's love for Ichigo and not himself, and got over it. Shuuhei was beside him every step of the way, offering support like any good friend. Shuuhei, on the other hand, was recovering from having joined the 'My former taicho was a crock of shit' club. And, as the saying goes, one good turn deserves another.

And so Renji and Shuuhei formed something of a support group, encompassing only the two of them as members.

Their support group began meeting up for drinks or some form of entertainment in Rukongai once a week. Once a week morphed into every weekend day, or whenever both now-acting taichos could find the time. And suddenly, that, too, changed. Soon they were meeting for whatever reason every day, and occasionally more than once a day.

Only when Rukia rolled her eyes at Renji and Shuuhei's pitiful excuse for their get-togethers did either consider there might be more to it.

"Yeah, you two aren't in love and Nii-sama's actually blonde," Rukia grumbled. To her, and everyone else in the SWA, it was a blatant statement of fact.

To Renji and Shuuhei, happily on their way to a comfortably drunken stupor, it was big news. Renji and Shuuhei blushed deeply, and both shot glares back to the petite shinigami. Ichigo, ever present when he could be, glared right back.

"If she's wrong, then Mayuri is the next candidate for Santa Clause," Ichigo muttered as he and Rukia left.

Renji and Shuuhei, both embarrassed and worried for everyone's sanity, including their own, swiftly went their own ways. They murmured a quick goodbye and, never meeting the other's eyes, exited the little pub without another word or glance.

Shuuhei didn't dare approach Renji about anything for three weeks. And only then because Kira and Hinamori, who'd finally come into something of a stable condition, inquired as to the conditions of the 'lovers' spat.'

"Hisagi-san, Abarai-san is just so perfect for you! If you let him go now, you may never be happy again. A relationship like that only comes once in maybe a millennia. You shouldn't let anymore time waste before you kiss and make up," Hinamori had reprimanded. Kira, having finally returned to his old personality, smirked and nodded in agreement. Shuuhei rolled his eyes at the couple. Birds of a feather, that's what they were.

He briefly wondered how many people assumed he and Renji were lovers as he shooed the twosome out of his office. He had work to do, as he'd been brooding over Rukia's words for nearly the full three weeks.

How did someone go from being straight to being… well, not? He'd been with plenty of girls, each more pleasing than the one before, and never once had having the same level of an intimate relationship with a guy cross his mind. Never, ever.

Frankly, Renji wondered the same. Suddenly, he was over acting like a puppy for Rukia, and trailing alongside Shuuhei every free second of his time. Could it really be more than platonic? How did one go about telling?

In the end, they decided it must simply be an emotional thing. Not that men were often 'good' at expressing their emotions. But, perhaps, they'd grown so close, that, like any heterosexual pairing, they'd developed a fondness and level of familiarity that went just a tiny step beyond platonic. It was still far from intimate, but there seemed to be a tendency to get a little friendlier with one another than 'platonic' called for.

So, with good word from Kira and Hinamori, Renji sent his acting fukutaicho with a message for Shuuhei to meet him at their favorite pub that evening.

In lieu of meeting there, the Eighth Division hosted a party that evening. Nanao, of course, unhappily looked after her taicho as she watched the other shinigami present get themselves happily sloshed.

Neither having ever been one to hold back when imbibing liquor like a fish drinks water, Renji and Shuuhei took full advantage of the free drinks and were rapidly, and deliriously, drunk.

"Ya know, I been thinking," Renji managed. It was a miracle Shuuhei even understood, as the red-head's words were slurred and his own hearing was impaired just enough. After a few moments where Shuuhei somehow indicated that Renji should continue his one-sided conversation, the red-head managed, "What if Rukia's right?"

Hard to imagine for them, but even drunkenness wasn't fully resistant to embarrassment. Both men blushed deeply, averting their gazes. Shuuhei eventually corralled his straying thoughts long enough to put in, "I bet she's not. But, I guess we could try it just to prove her wrong…"

And that was why Rukia found them, some time later, kissing in a dark corner of the walkway to the Ninth Division.

Their first kiss was awkward. Not so much due to the inebriated state of both participants, but having only ever kissed females before, neither could figure out quite how to go about it. Normally, they would have placed their hands on the girl's waist, or hips, depending on how forcefully they were trying to get laid, but, both being male, this natural instinct presented a problem.

They finally compromised, and settled for something sort of in the middle. Besides, Renji's hair was longer, and Shuuhei refused to give.

Now, six months later, they still keep their public displays of affection to a minimum. Rather than buying frivolous gifts that neither would appreciate or even so much as show off, they opted to alternate buying drinks or dinner.

To the untrained eye, they were simply friends. But to those who knew, they sat a bit closer, touched a little longer, spoke a little softer. And that spark of adoring affection is always lingering in each one's eyes.

oOoOo—RN—oOoOo

Notes:

(1): I do not remember if Renji was still training with Urahara or not at this time. I think probably, but I don't remember where to find it. So, for sake of the story, we'll say either he is not, or he's scheduled a drinking date in SS with Shuuhei, Ikkaku, Yumi, and whoever else happens to comprise 'The Usual Gang of Idiots' for the evening. (The Usual Gang of Idiots is actually a reference to the credits page of any copy of Mad Magazine. Also which I do not own, but would love to re-subscribe to, haha!)