Hello! This is my first fan-fic, so please be gentle! I've finished all the chapters and am posting them all at once, so this is a completed story! Please review! :)

Chapter 1

As he listened to the pleasant clinks of the wind chime next to his window, Hisagi Shuuhei stifled a yawn and stretched. It was 2 hours after regular work hours. Everyone from the 9th squad had left long ago, but he had a lot of catching-up to do for the monthly Sereitei magazine editing work, which had been neglected due to the large amount of squad work to do in the past few days.

A neck massage now would be nice…

Before he could finish that train of thought, he heard a sudden burst of pattering of feet followed closely by laughter. Then his office door crashed open and three people dressed in shinigami uniforms fell to the floor.

"What is this?" he demanded, annoyed. But of course he already knew. Almost everyday after work hours, Ikkaku's group would go out drinking. Tonight was no different.

"Sorry, Hisagi-san!" Yumichika said through fits of giggles as he got up from the floor and dusted his sleeves. "It's Abarai's fault, he wanted to get you to join us!"

Still on the floor, Abarai Renji said with a hiccup, "Come on, Shuuhei, don't be such a prude. You shouldn't work so late everyday."

Shuuhei rolled his eyes. "You guys are so drunk, and it's not even 10 yet!" Just as those words left his mouth, a loud rumble escaped from his empty stomach, sending the others into fits of laughter once more.

"Don't be so hard on yourself, Hisagi-san," A soft voice came from the door. Kira Izuru leaned back on the door frame. "It's not healthy."

Shuuhei smiled at his best friend. "Alright," he threw up his hands, "I'll be right there, you guys go back to the pub. Save me a seat!"

Ikkaku, who was just getting up from the floor, grinned and slapped his arm around Yumichika. "Told you we could convince him if we all come by!"

Shuuhei watched with amusement as his friends slowly shuffled out of his office still laughing and looking pleased with themselves. As Renji was about to walk through the door, he turned and said to Shuuhei with a smile, "Don't bail on us now." Then he was gone.

Shuuhei sighed.

You have no idea, Renji.

The pub was packed as usual, filled with shinigamis relaxing and having fun after a tiring work day. Hisagi picked his way carefully through the crowd and waved when he heard Yumichika's high-pitched shout from the back of the room.

Finally reaching their table, he gave a sigh as he sank down next to Kira. "Ordered anything for me?"

Kira peered at him over his sake cup. "Only your favorite." He pushed a plate of broiled mackerel to his friend.

Shuuhei quietly tucked in as he watched the others chatted happily, interrupting each other with laughter and the occasional jab at someone. Kira looked at his friend again. Shuuhei had always been an introvert, preferring to keep his thoughts to himself. But lately he noticed that his best friend had withdrawn into himself more than usual, which set off alarm bells in his mind.

Sure, Tousen and Gin's betrayal had been a terrible blow to the both of them. As Kira struggled through each day, he could only imagine that Shuuhei was going through the same thing. With the war brewing just at the horizon, their hearts were heavy but Kira had already begun to pick himself up through the haze of pain in preparation for the eventual fights with Aizen. Shuuhei had always been much stronger than him, so he was surprised and worried to see his good friend like this.

"Hisagi-kun…" Kira started.

"Hmph?" Shuuhei responded through a mouthful of rice.

Kira sighed and shook his head. Now was not the time nor venue to delve into this topic. Not with all the others around. "Nothing, I…it was nothing important."

Shuuhei shrugged, but inside he knew what his friend wanted to say. He also knew that he wasn't being himself lately. Then his thoughts were interrupted again by laughter from Ikkaku.

"So Renji! You get to be freeloader-san again tomorrow!" Ikkaku said, clapping Renji on the shoulder. "Looking forward to another trip to Karakura town? This is what…your 4th trip now? Why do you have to go so often anyway?"

Renji gave a dramatic sigh and said, "Urahara is a pain-in-the-ass. But Rukia is already staying with that brat so it's not like I have anywhere else to go."

Shuuhei's breath caught in his throat. Renji? Leaving again so soon? But he just came back not two days ago!

"Soutaichio thinks that the Kurosaki brat could be targeted by Aizen because of the crap Aizen said as he left," Renji explained. "He seemed to think that Aizen is interested in the brat's sudden increase in power, you know, could be something the bastard can utilize for the war."

Shuuhei chuckled quietly to himself. Even though Renji was whining, he could see the twinkle in his eyes whenever he mentioned Ichigo and Rukia. He knew that they were the closest friends Renji had, and Renji loved being around them. Shuuhei wished that he could be part of that, but he knew that he would stick out like a sore thumb. First of all, Ichigo didn't really know him during his short visit here to rescue Rukia since they never fought each other. And secondly, that kid was so young. They just would not click. So Shuuhei could only envy them from afar.

If only I could be that close to Renji. What would it be like, being more than just a respected senpai to Renji?

It's not that Renji ignored him. It's just that they knew each other as senpai and kohai at the academy. Even though he never felt Renji being uptight or especially careful around him, he could feel that unspoken boundary.

Aside from envy, Shuuhei also felt a pang of worry for Renji. If what Soutaicho thought was true, Rukia and Renji were in danger being with Ichigo. Ever since Aizen left for Huco Muendo, Rukia had been stationed at Karakura, and now it looks like Renji would be joining her in the same mission.

As his thought wandered, Shuuhei pushed away his plate and leaned back against the wall. He stared at Renji's hair from across the table. So fiery, so silky, so…

"Hisagi-kun?" Kira waved his hand in front of Shuuhei's face. "You ok? Are you ill?"

Shuuhei laughed and slowly stood up. "I'm fine," he said reassuringly to Kira. When Kira's eyes narrowed, he added, "I'm just tired from the long day, that's all. Look guys, I gotta go. Early meeting tomorrow."

As the other booed, Shuuhei turned to leave. Just he was almost out of earshot, he heard a familiar voice. "You want anything from Karakura?" Renji called out, raising his sake cup in the air. "Another choker, perhaps? To go with the one you have?"

Shuuhei turned back and shook his head, then went on his way. "Spoil sport!" He heard Yumichika yell, and then he was suddenly outside in the cold. Hugging himself against the bite from the wind, Shuuhei sighed and slowly made his way to his quarters.

Be careful, Renji. Just be careful…