It's been a while since I last wrote about my favorite pairing, I've missed them. :)

This is set in my Shuuhei x Renji universe which began in "Till Death Do Us Part".

Shuuhei heard the news early in the morning. That's why he was waiting at the Senkai gate when Renji arrived. Hair wild without his headband, Renji had streaks of dried blood on his cheek and bruises and cuts could be seen underneath ragged chunks of missing fabric on his shihakusho. Other than that, though, he appeared calm and clear-headed, choosing to report the incident to the Soutaichio before tending to his injuries.

The incident. The first time they actually had an actual battle with the Arrancars from Aizen's army, the first time they'd seen, first hand, how powerful the enemy was, and also the first time Renji thought his childhood friend was really going to die.

He had been in a fight of his own against the Espada's Fraccion when Rukia fell; he had eventually won, but it had been a close one. Rukia had nearly been executed in Soul Society, but at that time, Renji and Ichigo had fought for her life—successful or not, at least he could do something. This time, however, he could only watch helplessly as Orihime healed the horrifying wound in his best friend's stomach where she was impaled by Grimmjow's hand. His fucking hand!

Shuuhei knew immediately that it was bad the moment Renji stepped over the threshold of the Senkai gate. Renji's physical wounds were nothing, but Shuuhei could sense desperation and distress in his partner's reiatsu, could see it clear in his eyes even though Renji had only glanced at him briefly before departing for the First division.

Shuuhei followed the redhead to the Soutaicho's office, but stayed behind at the hallways. His place was here, not at the front lines like Renji. He should be professional and not let his emotions spill over a single attack. In the big picture, this incident would ultimately be a tiny speck in the entire war. But Shuuhei couldn't control the wild beating of his heart in his chest. His fingers turned a raw pink as he wrung his hands, forcibly suppressing his nervousness. Renji could fool everyone else with his brave front, but not Shuuhei. He could never fool Shuuhei.

Renji skipped the Fourth division, instead choosing to rest at his own quarters. Shuuhei made one attempt at persuading him to get proper treatment at the infirmary, but stopped after Renji flat-out rejected the suggestion. There was no use trying to argue with the redhead when he was in this mood, so Shuuhei simply waited for what he knew would happen once they were alone behind closed doors.

Sure enough, the second the door clicked closed, Renji sagged against the door and closed his eyes, his composure shattered. There was no need for him to keep his emotions bottled up in front of Shuuhei. Breathing heavily, his legs buckled under him and he slid slowly to the floor.

Shuuhei was immediately there to catch him, holding him in a silent but fierce embrace. Words held no meaning under such circumstances. Renji gripped Shuuhei's waist tightly and buried his face into his partner's neck, trembling slightly in Shuuhei's comforting arms.

After a few minutes, Renji was finally able to bring his breathing under control. "Rukia...Ichigo..." he whispered in a broken voice.

Shuuhei said nothing but he tightened his hold, crushing Renji's body against his own. Then, in a soothing voice, he said, "Let's get you cleaned up."

The redhead didn't nod but he allowed Shuuhei to pull him to his feet and lead him to the small bathroom. He stood there numbly as Shuuhei stripped him of his dirty clothes with familiar ease until he was finally bare. The cold air raised goosebumps on his bruised and raw skin, but Renji ignored the discomfort.

"Sit," Shuuhei said, then gently guide Renji down on a low wooden stool next to the tub. A bucket of water was set next to the stool with a white cloth folded neatly over its brim. With a soft grunt, Shuuhei knelt down in front of Renji and began to wipe the grime and dried blood from his partner's body.

"She nearly died, Shuuhei," Renji whispered as he watched Shuuhei rinse the towel in the water. He couldn't get the image of Rukia bleeding and unconscious in Ichigo's arms out of his mind. Ichigo himself had sustained serious injuries, but Renji suspected that the boy probably wasn't even aware of his own pain. Like Renji, Ichigo valued Rukia's life above his own.

Shuuhei remained silent as he glided the towel across Renji's chest, carefully cleaning the fresh cuts on the tattooed skin. Then, after a stretch of silence, he said, "I know."

As he'd expected, Renji immediately spat, "No, you don't. You didn't see her, you weren't there—"

Sighing, Shuuhei reached up and held his partner's chin in a gentle grip. "I once thought you were dead, remember?"

Renji's features softened at the memory, and the fire in his eyes disappeared. Lowering his gaze, he said, "Sorry. I...I'm just—"

His sentence ended abruptly as his lips were sealed by Shuuhei's. The familiar warmth and taste calmed him at once, and he closed his eyes and responded, parting his lips for his lover's tongue. Shuuhei caressed Renji's lips tenderly and coaxed the redhead to slide his tongue between his lips, and Renji complied, tracing Shuuhei's teeth and lower lip.

When they finally broke the kiss, both were panting heavily. Putting the cloth away, Shuuhei pushed Renji's legs apart and moved closer to press himself firmly against Renji's body, which had spiked in temperature from their intimate contact. For a few seconds they stayed like that as they felt each other's heartbeat against their chests. Then, gently, Shuuhei guided Renji to his feet. Once they were both standing, Shuuhei pushed Renji against the wall, pinning him with his own body.

"I need you," Renji whispered, holding the back of Shuuhei head and digging his fingers into the spiky dark hair. This was the only kind of comfort that could soothe his ache now, and he knew that Shuuhei would understand.

Shuuhei brushed a lock of crimson hair away from Renji's neck and blew lightly on the skin, sending a shiver through Renji's limbs. "I know," he murmured, tightening his hold on Renji's hips. "I need you too."

Being the taller of the two, Renji slid down slightly and hooked one leg around Shuuhei's thigh, exposing himself. With practiced grace, Shuuhei eased his finger into his partner, then, as Renji groaned out loud, he began to move, coaxing Renji's muscles to relax around him.

The dull pain that accompanied the second, then third, finger brought back memories of their many passionate nights, and even though Shuuhei was silent right now, Renji thought he could hear the ghosts of Shuuhei's cries, the deep, shuddering moans, and the hoarse whispers of his name. At the thought, Renji moaned softly and dug his nails into Shuuhei's back, drawing a hiss from the man.

Then, with a grunt of pleasure, Shuuhei was inside. Renji arched his back and welcomed Shuuhei's slow thrusts. His muscles strained to accommodate his partner; it had been a while since they last did this. But Renji's body quickly adjusted to Shuuhei's girth, and it wasn't long before they were moving as one, taking and giving pleasure in the rhythm that they had perfected over time.

The wooden wall protested under their weight, creaking and shaking in time with their hips. As their pace quickened, Shuuhei braced himself with one palm on the wall next to Renji for leverage and snapped his hips with feverish vigor. His back was decorated with angry pink stripes from Renji's nails, and his shoulder stung from the bites and scrapes from Renji's teeth. But he was only vaguely aware of these as his senses were overloaded with the cries and curses tumbling from his lover's lips.

The feeling of Shuuhei entering and leaving him over and over again made Renji forget everything else. All he cared about now was lowering himself to meet Shuuhei's thrusts. Then, as tension began to pool in his belly, the tears flowed.

Shuuhei was immediately there to kiss the wet, salty trail, following the tears from the corners of Renji's eyes to his cheek and down along his jawline. His own eyes stung as he heard the sadness and despair in his lover's sobs. "It's okay now..." he whispered in Renji's ear. "'re okay. We're okay."

It wasn't a matter of pride or honor, Renji wasn't ashamed of his tears, but he needed to be strong in front his friends, comrades, especially Ichigo and Rukia. Shuuhei was the only one allowed to witness him in this state, and somehow—Renji didn't know how—Shuuhei always knew what to do, and always managed to make him well again.

"Shuuhei!" Renji's grip tightened on his lover's waist, then, with a gasp, he stiffened and came, shaking violently against Shuuhei.

Keeping his hand wrapped firmly around Renji's pulsing length, Shuuhei let the man ride through his climax in his fist. He held himself back until Renji's trembling lessened, then finally allowed himself to release deep within his lover. The spreading warmth drew another series of sobs from the redhead, and he slumped forward, burying his face into Shuuhei's shoulder.

"You're okay..." Shuuhei continued to whisper as they slowly sank to the floor. When Renji nodded, Shuuhei smiled, and the tears he had been holding back throughout their lovemaking slid down his cheeks.

Chests rising and falling in sync, they stayed on the floor for a few more minutes, then Renji pulled them both to their feet and got under the shower. Hugging Shuuhei to his chest, he turned the faucet.

"We're okay."

Yeaaahh...not one of the bubbly pieces that I usually write about them, but I hope that I was able to convey the bond that they share in this different style as well.

Thanks for reading!