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Title: The Trials of Nanao Ise
Genre: Romance/Drama
Pairing: Shunsui/Nanao
Spoilers: Through manga chapter 423
Status: Ongoing
Rating: R
Summary: Nanao will face the consequences of her decisions during and after the Arrancar War. Can she overcome these trials, or will they divide her from Captain Kyōraku forever? Canon compliant through manga chapter 423.
Contains: Some mild adult content.

Back to Chapter 28.
Chapter 1.

Shunsui stared at Nanao’s bent head.  She’d been looking up at him before she’d told him the story of their kiss, but now she watched the street beneath her feet with great interest.  She seemed more sober than she’d been when they left the restaurant, though whether that was because of the long walk or the unhappy memory she’d shared he wasn’t sure.  He had no trouble believing that things had happened the way Nanao said they had—it matched what little he remembered of that night and what Ukitake had told him later.  But there was one thing he wondered.  “Why didn’t you tell me before?”
 
Nanao made a disdainful noise.  “Because the events weren’t humiliating enough as they were?  I should have told you in the morning that you had a lapse of sanity and kissed me, but found it dull enough to promise never to do it again?  Or perhaps I should have told you that I was pathetic enough to be reduced to tears over it?”  She made a horizontal slicing gesture with her hand.  “No.  You didn’t remember, and I was grateful for that, after I’d had time to consider the matter.  If you’d remembered, or if I’d told you, you would have apologized for the kiss and you’d have promised yet again to never kiss me.”
 
“And that would have upset you?”  The answer was obvious but Shunsui asked the question anyway.  Often the words that someone would reply were not the most valuable information to be gained from a question.
 
“Do you even understand what humiliation feels like?  If I’d told you, even if I tried to cut things out or hide them, you would still have known that I’d let you kiss me, that I’d wanted—it wouldn’t matter if I’d have said the words or not, you would still have known.  You see too much.”  Her brows were drawn together and her lips turned down.
 
He’d hurt her that night.  Not only that, but a conclusion was coming together in his mind, one that made him wince further.  “Nanao-chan, you didn’t want to tell me because you thought I’d kissed you out of jealousy and then rejected the idea of ever kissing you again?”
 
She looked away, another lock of hair slipping from her chopsticks.  Her steps were uneven but he held her upright easily with his arm around her waist.  “Isn’t it obvious?  I shouldn’t have ever told you.  I don’t know why I told you now.”
 
He refrained from the rare opportunity to return a lecture to her she’d frequently given him about the unfortunate effects of too much alcohol.  It wasn’t really his style anyway.  “Nanao-chan, what would have happened if I’d said something different after we kissed?  If I’d told you ‘I love you’ instead?”
 
She glanced up at him, startled, and he read the surprise in her eyes and something else, something vulnerable and liquid.
 
The conclusion he’d been working on clicked together in his mind and his heart ached in his chest.  “You would have accepted me as your lover then.  You would have started a relationship with me.”
 
She flushed and looked at the moon, the street, anywhere but his face.  “I was very young then,” she said in a small voice.
 
“And after that night?”  His words sounded rough.  He already knew what she would say, but he wanted to hear it from her lips anyway, to take the exact measure of what he had thrown away without realizing it.
 
“I was more careful after that.  I didn’t let you have an inch without a battle.  You would never hurt me deliberately, I know.  But without ever intending to, you could have—I had to protect myself.”  Her hands closed into small fists.
 
Decades.  He could have had decades with her, but instead they’d spent those years dueling over how close he was permitted to sit to her, whether his hand on her shoulder was an acceptable touch, which meals they could share together, and myriad other small issues on the periphery of their relationship, rarely reaching the core issues separating them.
 
He’d known for years that Nanao was hesitant to trust him with her heart, but he hadn’t realized that he’d given her what amounted to a rejection after her first kiss.  That wasn’t what he’d intended, of course, and if he’d been sober he would have been able to salvage that moment, to give her the reassurance of his love that would have eased her, but instead he’d passed out and forgotten one of the pivotal moments of their relationship.
 
Idiot.
 
Given what had happened it was more surprising to him that Nanao had ever been willing to give him a chance for a romantic relationship.  She must really—
 
He stopped suddenly.  Nanao tripped and he caught her lightly with his arm around her waist.  He lifted her up into his arms, and her hands came up to grip the sides of his gaping uniform top.  “What are you doing?” she asked, and that frown was still on her face.
 
“I’m going to say something to you, and I want you to believe me, Nanao-chan.  I love you, and I loved you when I took your first kiss.  I’m sorry for what happened afterwards, that I hurt you, that I didn’t remember.”
 
She flinched, turning her head into his chest to hide her face.  “I don’t want to talk about it.”
 
“I’m apologizing for my poorly chosen words and for forgetting.  But I’m not going to apologize for kissing you.”
 
Her head turned up so she could meet his gaze, her eyes very wide and very violet.  “What?”
 
“I’m glad that your first kiss was with me, sweetheart.  I’m glad that it was a shared moment between us.”
 
Her eyes drifted closed.  “It was a good kiss,” she whispered.
 
“That’s why we’re going to do it again.  I’m going to shunpo now.”  He jumped lightly into shunpo, reaching his house with a single step.
 
“Do the kiss again?”  Nanao breathed deeply.  She always had a little difficulty adjusting after a shunpo jump, especially when he carried her.
 
He dropped her gently on her feet, holding onto her waist with one arm.  The entryway of his house was larger than the one at his quarters in the division, but it would do.  He leaned Nanao against the wall and knelt to remove her shoes, then his.
 
“Yes, we’re going to do your first kiss over.”  He stood and braced one hand on the wall beside her head.  His other hand stroked over the curve of her cheek.
 
“You can’t do something like that over.  It’s a singular event.”  She blinked up at him.
 
He smiled.  “We’ll recreate it, then.  Only this time, everything will go as it should have the first time, not just the kiss.”
 
Her mouth formed a small O.  “Why?”
 
“So that we can both share the memory, and it can be a good one, instead of bittersweet.”  Her brows were still drawn together.  He brought his hand off the wall and down to her cheek so that her face was cradled in his hands.  His lips paused a breath away from hers.  “Sweet Nanao-chan.”
 
Her eyelids drifted down and her lips parted.  He brushed his lips against hers once, twice, gentle and soft.  She tasted of plums—after all these years, she still wore the same flavored beeswax from the Rukongai—and he slipped his tongue just slightly between her parted lips.  Her mouth was rich with the fruity drinks she’d had and the pastries she’d eaten.  His Nanao had a love of sweets she tried to keep quiet, but he’d known for years.
 
She made a protesting noise and followed his lips when he broke their kiss, which made him smile.  He stroked her cheeks with his thumbs.  “Nanao-chan,” he murmured, and she opened her heavy eyes to look at him.  “I love you.”
 
Her eyes softened further, her cheeks pinked, and she pulled on his shoulders, trying to draw him back down to her.
 
He resisted.  “What would you have said back to me, if I told you I loved you then?”
 
She shook her head once.  “I wouldn’t have known what to say.  I wouldn’t have said anything.”  She tugged on his shoulders again.
 
He yielded to the pull of her small hands and came back to her lips.  This kiss was deeper, but still gentle.  Nanao rose on her toes to add more force to the kiss, her tongue small but bold in his mouth.  Her hands drifted inside his clothes and slid down the muscles of his stomach.  When they parted for air he nibbled at her earlobe.  “My Nanao-chan is so impatient.  Something like this should be savored.”
 
He lifted her up and carried her into the bedroom.  She sighed at him, her eyes brilliant in the moonlight.  “You always act as if we have forever, as if there are days without end for us, but you don’t know if that’s the truth.  I want to fit as much into our time as I can.”
 
She slipped out of his arms when he knelt on the futon.  That lovely green dress came off.  She reached for the edge of her white panties, but he stopped her with a hand.  “Leave that to me.”
 
Nanao grasped one of his sleeves.  “Take this off.  And your hair, please take the tie out.”  She removed her chopsticks and stacked them next to the bed, with her glasses on top of those.  It made him smile to see her things so neat in his space, to see her so neat in his bed.  He wanted to dishevel her.  But first—
 
“It’s true that I don’t know how much time we’ll have together.  But Nanao-chan, I want to have days without end with you.  I want to wrap you in my love forever.”
 
She lay back on the bed, watching him disrobe.  “You’re such a romantic,” she said, but her voice was soft, not chiding as it usually was when she made statements like that.
 
“What about you, beautiful Nanao-chan?  What do you want in your forever?”  Naked, he propped himself up on an elbow beside her, stroking her face with his free hand.
 
Her eyelids fluttered down and she drew them up again, very slowly.  She didn’t speak for several moments, and when she did, it was a bare whisper.  “I want to stay with you.”
 
He stopped breathing.  He’d told himself for years that Nanao cared about him, that she would accept his love someday, that even if she could never say any words of affection it wouldn’t matter, but hearing this confession from her lips brought everything inside him to a standstill.  He forced himself to breathe.  It was hard to speak, and he swallowed a few times before any sound came from his throat.  “Then we want the same forever, Nanao.  That’s truly something to savor.”
 
Her fingers played with his hair.  “To savor—” she murmured, with her eyes unusually dreamy.
 
The future was in darkness, as always, and he could not see what obstacles and terrors might arise, but he still smiled.  Now he had Nanao beside him, in his bed, in his home, in his heart.  Whatever might happen, they would face it together.  He thought of the past, the false starts and misunderstandings.  They could face that together too, and put it to rest.  “Will you accept my love, Nanao?” he asked.  He laid his head on the pillow, bringing his face close to hers.
 
Her small hand came up to caress his jaw.  “Idiot.  Did you forget already?  I gave this kiss to you back then.  You like to make me repeat myself,” she said in that delicious bedroom voice.  He grinned and opened his mouth to speak, but her mouth pressed against his and her hand tangled in his hair.
 
“Some things are worth repeating,” he whispered near her ear, and savored the shiver that ran down her body, the way he intended to savor every part of this moment.  In cold and bloody times he would pull this moment up like a lamp against the icy darkness, letting the light warm him from within.
 
**********************************************************************
 
It took at least ten minutes to organize the SWA group enough to leave the restaurant.  Jūshirō carried Kiyone, Nemu supported Rangiku, and Isane stood with Retsu.  Soi Fon and Yoruichi leaned on each other, Soi Fon attempting to look as dignified as possible.  Their group made its way slowly out onto the street, pausing for Isane to adjust her shoes.  “Living World styles are so difficult to walk in,” she said.
 
“But so sexy!” Rangiku spun to face Isane while making her point and would have overbalanced her way onto the ground if Nemu hadn’t held her upright.  “Thanks, Nemu-san.  You’re a good friend.”  She slung her arm over Nemu’s shoulders.
 
They plodded on, stopping at the Second Division for Soi Fon and Yoruichi.  “Good night, ladies.  It’s been fun.”  Yoruichi flipped back her hair and then strode through the gates, a wobbly Soi Fon straggling behind.  The captain of the Second made an admirable, if only somewhat successful, effort to appear sober and scowling in front of the members of the Second on night watch.
 
Rangiku sang a variation on a very dirty drinking song Jūshirō had heard many times from Kyōraku, about a most unfortunately named girl and her misadventures in a bar.  He shifted Kiyone in his arms.  She was a small woman, but carrying her to the Thirteenth was against the advice of his healers, if Retsu’s side glances were taken into account.  He did regret a bit insisting on carrying her home, but it had been the proper thing to do.
 
At the Third Division Rangiku pulled away from Nemu.  “I’m going to have a few more drinks with Kira, he won’t be sleeping.  Let’s do this again soon,” she said, chasing any clouds off her face with a wide grin.
 
Kira was probably awake—Jūshirō had a feeling that neither of two that Gin had left behind got enough sleep of late.  Soul Society was fully inhabited by spirits, but it was always the ghosts that couldn’t be seen, only felt, that really haunted the night.
 
Jūshirō had long experience with such ghosts.
 
He bit down the need to cough as they approached the Fourth Division, but a ragged gulp still escaped his throat.  Retsu studied him with her dark eyes, their sharpness not softened by her smile.  “Ukitake-san, we’ll take Kiyone-san with us.  She can stay with her sister tonight.”
 
“Don’t worry, Retsu-san, I can certainly take her to her own quarters—”
 
“Ukitake-san, we’ll take Kiyone-san with us.  She’s had a great deal of alcohol, and Isane will be able to help her if she has any problems.”  Retsu’s smile notched tighter on her face.  She was truly the most intimidating captain in the Gotei 13; Jūshirō could admit that freely, when she wasn’t within hearing range.
 
“Of course, Retsu-san, you’re right.”  He handled his bundle of Third Seat off to Retsu, relieved that he wouldn’t have to carry her all the way to the Thirteenth.  It would have been chivalrous to do so, but chivalry was exhausting.
 
“Good night, Ukitake-san, Nemu-san,” Retsu said, and she was echoed by Isane as they retreated into the Fourth.  He breathed a sigh of relief, rubbing at the sore spot on his chest marking his newest injury.  The skin was tight and itchy.
 
“Are you well enough to continue, Captain Ukitake?”  He was surprised to hear Nemu speak.  She’d been so still he’d forgotten for a moment that she was there.
 
“I’m fine, Kurotsuchi-san.”  He smiled at the woman.  What in the world was she wearing—some kind of school uniform?  The skirt was bordering on obscene, although it did showcase Nemu’s long legs.  She was really a beautiful woman, something he’d barely noticed before, but now saw clearly.  Rangiku must have been somehow involved in this outfit; it was the only thing that made sense.
 
She cocked her head.  “Your health is not fully restored.”
 
He scratched the back of his head.  “Maybe not, but let’s not talk about it so close to the Fourth Division.  I wouldn’t want Captain Unohana to drag me back to the hospital.  Shall we go, Kurotsuchi-san?”
 
She hesitated for a moment, and then began to walk just behind him.  “Captain Ukitake, it is my preference to be called Nemu.  Please use my name, if you wish to do so.”
 
“Oh, um—” he paused, surprised.
 
“If it makes you uncomfortable—”
 
“No—no, it doesn’t.  Nemu-san.”  How odd it was to be on a moonlit walk with a woman, alone.  When was the last time he’d been alone with a woman that wasn’t Kiyone and wasn’t applying healing kidō or feeding him medicine?  He couldn’t even recall.
 
“Are you certain, Captain Ukitake?  I make many people uncomfortable.  They find me uncanny and are disturbed by my origin.  I have heard this said about me many times—it is a very regular occurrence.  There is no necessity for you to accompany me home if you do not wish to do so, Captain Ukitake.  I am capable of returning alone to the Twelfth, as I am not incapacitated by alcohol and unable to use shunpo safely.”
 
“You’ve heard people say that about you?”  He turned around, startled.
 
“My hearing is superior to that of most beings.”  She watched him with interest.
 
He stopped moving, placing a hand on her forearm.  Her green eyes widened.  “You don’t make me uncomfortable, Nemu-san.”  That was a bit of a lie, but she wasn’t making him uncomfortable for the reasons she imagined, and it would be rude to let her think that he didn’t want to spend time with her.  “And it’s my pleasure to walk you home.  What could be better than the conversation of an intelligent woman on a moonlit night?”  He’d borrowed a bit from Shunsui there, imperfectly, but it seemed to work.
 
She cocked her head again, studying him, and then gave a slight nod and a slighter smile.  “As you wish, Captain Ukitake.”
 
They walked past the Fifth and Sixth at a leisurely pace.  He’d slowed until Nemu had accepted walking beside him without comment.  “The party that you attended—did you enjoy it?”
 
“Yes.  It was pleasant to eat and play games with the other members of the SWA.  I experience happiness in their company, although I do not always understand their interactions.  Nanao-san and Rangiku-san have increased my understanding over time.”
 
He chuckled.  “Nemu-san, if you always understood other people, you’d be the only one in the world that does.  Even if you’ve been friends with someone for thousands of years, they can still surprise you.”  Hadn’t Shunsui surprised him tonight, when he’d told Jūshirō what he’d planned?
 
“You are speaking now of Captain Kyōraku, as I would infer, or of someone else?  You are renowned for having many friends.”  She turned her head to see his profile.
 
“Kyōraku, mostly.  I wouldn’t use a word like renowned to describe me—but I do know many people, that is true.”
 
She nodded.  “So you have an expertise in the area of relations described by the term friendship.”
 
Jūshirō bent his head enough to see her guileless eyes.  “Expertise is a strong word, but I do have a lot of experience with friendship, yes.  Is there something you’d like to ask me, Nemu-san?”
 
Her red lips parted, but it was several moments before she spoke.  “Nanao-san said that she is my friend, and Rangiku-san said that all of the members of the SWA are my friends.  Can you tell me, please, what the requirements of this scenario are for me?”
 
He blinked several times, but she continued to watch him with that serene expression.  “The requirements?  Nemu-san, friendship is not a scenario, it’s a relationship.  And it doesn’t have requirements.”
 
“A relationship.  Yes, I understand that concept.  But can you please explain to me the parameters of such a relationship?”  She clasped her hands together in front of her.
 
“Nemu-san, that’s not how it works.  Every friendship, every relationship, really, is different.”  He scratched his head again.
 
“This is making you uncomfortable?  I am sorry, Captain Ukitake.  Please disregard my questions.”  She turned to face the street, walking with an exactness that was still graceful.
 
He sighed.  “You aren’t making me uncomfortable, and even if you were, that doesn’t mean you have to stop talking.  If I want to stop something, I’ll say so.”
 
She glanced at him from the corner of her eyes.  “If it is acceptable to you, I wish to understand what it means to be friends.  What are my obligations?  What is the normal behavior of friends?”
 
Answering her questions could give her bad advice, but not answering them might lead her to ask others that could give her even more inappropriate information.  He shuddered to think what her father might tell her about relationships or friendships.  “This is just general information, alright?  There are specifics in every relationship that aren’t covered by this.”
 
She nodded, so he continued.  “Friendship is about companionship with people you like.  You’ll talk together, give each other advice and help when the other person needs it, and you’ll accept their advice and help sometimes, when they give it.  That’s very important, too.”
 
“What types of help do friends offer?”
 
“It depends on how close you are, but it could be all kinds of things—moving furniture, help with work, protecting their backs in fights, verbal and physical.  Friends make all kinds of sacrifices, large and small.”  It was strange to try to explain this to someone.  He darted a look at her face to see if she understood.
 
“Why?”
 
“Why?  What do you mean?”
 
She looked up at him, her brows drawn together very slightly.  “What benefits does friendship offer that people will give so much for it?”
 
He considered his answer for several moments before speaking.  “It varies, depending on the friendship, but underneath I suppose it’s about not facing the world alone.  Friends are people who stand together in adversity.  It’s adds value to your life to have friends.”
 
“Thank you, Captain Ukitake.  Your data is clarifying.”  She frowned.
 
“What is it, Nemu-san?”  He wanted to get this right, for her sake.  She deserved to have friends, and to know what that meant for her.
 
“Nanao-san and Captain Kyōraku are having sex.”
 
What?  Now?  Do you mean now?”  He glanced around to see if they’d strayed closer to Kyōraku’s house than he’d thought, but they were miles away.
 
“I have no particular knowledge of their activities as of this minute, but I could obtain that information if you wish to have it.”
 
“No, don’t do that!  That’s not necessary.”  His face felt warm; was he blushing?  He felt more unnerved than he had in a very long time.
 
“You were unaware of their sexual activities?  I am surprised by this, given your friendship with Captain Kyōraku.”  Her eyes were still guileless, but he’d definitely lost control of the conversation.
 
“No, I am aware, but—perhaps you could explain why you bring that up now?”
 
“I am hypothesizing regarding the distinction between the relationship of friendship and the relationship of lovers.  Rangiku-san has informed me that sex is what sets lovers apart from friends.  However, that cannot be the sole defining factor, because people have sex with others that they do not regard as their lovers.  In this example that I am considering, Captain Kyōraku is well-known to have had sex with many people, but those people did not have the romantic relationship with him that Nanao-san does.  So I must wonder what the additional element is that distinguishes that relationship from other sexual interactions by Captain Kyōraku?”
 
Jūshirō coughed, raising a hand to cover his mouth.  Kyōraku’s reputation for womanizing was apparently strong enough to reach even the most socially-inexperienced person in Seireitei.  Given what his friend wanted now with Nanao, that would probably make him cringe if Jūshirō told him.  “While it is possible to have sex with people and not consider them important relationships or use the term lover or anything like that, it is not something I would recommend.  It’s hollow, interaction like that.  Yes, you have the pleasure of sex, but it isn’t accompanied by the closeness that comes from a serious romantic relationship.  The difference between friendship and romantic relationships isn’t about sex, really, it’s about the feelings between the people involved.  Ise-san and Kyōraku have very deep feelings of romantic love for each other.  That’s what makes their relationship different from friendship.  Friends can have very strong feelings for each other, even love each other, but it’s a different type of emotion than the one between lovers.”  He coughed again.
 
“I comprehend some, but not all, of your explanation.  What are the symptoms of love?  How would one distinguish this feeling from that of happiness, or pleasure?”  She tipped her serene face up to the moon.  The light made her pale features more striking than she’d seemed in the dim restaurant.  She was really an attractive woman.  He dropped his eyes to the ground.
 
“Well—that’s—” he paused, coughing again.  Once he’d started, he couldn’t seem to stop.  Nemu stepped close to him, studying his face and body as he coughed into his hand.
 
“Perhaps it would be prudent for you to return to the Fourth Division, Captain Ukitake.  I will offer you my assistance with shunpo; I am able to support your weight.”
 
After the coughing fit passed he moved to the edge of the street to lean on a wall.  “I’m not going to the hospital tonight.  This happens all the time.  They won’t do much more for me than I can have at home right now.”
 
“You wish to return home, Captain Ukitake?”
 
“Yes.”  He sighed in relief, only to be surprised by the feeling of Nemu’s body pressing into his side and her hand lifting one of his arms over her shoulders.  Her other arm wrapped around his back; she was warmer than he’d expected in the cool autumn night.
 
“I will assist you, then.”  She jumped into shunpo, and then they were at his home.
 
He wasn’t going to complain when she hadn’t tried to push him back to the Fourth.  “Around the back, there’s a door—it’s my bedroom.”  She walked him into his large bedroom, releasing her hold on him.
 
Jūshirō stood in his bedroom, watching her move around it.  She was either unfamiliar with appropriate etiquette in someone’s home, or ignoring it—she studied his personal space with obvious interest.  He imagined that she had no sense of appropriate etiquette because no one in her home had ever treated her with any.  He felt a flash of anger at that; everyone deserved to be treated with respect.
 
“This is a medicinal tea?” she asked, lifting an empty cup he’d had in bed earlier.
 
“Yes, it is. It suppresses my cough.  You don’t have to stay, Nemu-san.  I’m sure you’d like to get some rest.”
 
“I require very little rest, Captain Ukitake.  It would be minimal effort for me to prepare your medicine for you.”  She considered for a few moments, wetting her red lips, and her voice was more uncertain when she continued.  “If you wish for me to go, I will do so.  Shall I rouse your other Third Seat to attend you?”
 
Damn.  It would be nice to have some of the tea before bed, and he didn’t want her to go wake up Sentarō, who’d rush over here and have to be talked down from bringing him to the Fourth.  Additionally he suspected he’d hurt her feelings by trying to nudge her gently out the door.  Whether she fully recognized it or not, she was sensitive to people’s discomfort around her.  “The tea is in the kitchen, I’m sure you’ll find it easily.  If you’d please prepare some for me, I would appreciate it, Nemu-san.”
 
“Yes, Captain Ukitake.”  Her low voice had regained the smoothness she’d lost moments ago.  She slipped out of his bedroom.
 
He sighed and rubbed his forehead.  What a strange night this was turning out to be.  He changed quickly into a sleeping robe.  While it wasn’t necessarily appropriate to be in sleeping clothes with a woman in his bedroom, Nemu was unlikely to be aware of the impropriety and he was too weary to worry about it himself.
 
After making a stack of pillows, he got into bed and leaned against the pillows, so he could recline without being flat.  The position eased his chest discomfort.  It was a hassle to have even a slight attack of his illness while he was still recovering from his chest wound; his coughing made the scar tissue in his lungs shift and pull.  Retsu would heal the scar tissue at some point, but that would take months of ongoing treatments.
 
Nemu returned with a tray containing a teapot and cup.  She knelt beside the bed, pouring him hot tea.  Her long fingers brushed against his when he accepted the cup.  She watched him drink it with a calm face and curious eyes.  There was none of the pity or disgust he’d seen from many who’d witnessed one of his attacks.  He wondered what kind of a life she led at the Twelfth, what kinds of things she’d seen there.
 
“Your condition is improving,” she said, after several minutes of silence.  She did not appear to have the need to fill empty spaces in conversation.
 
“Yes, thank you.”  He sipped from a second cup of the tea.  He’d been stopped from answering her awkward questions by his coughing fit, but just because he hadn’t answered her didn’t mean she would stop trying to find data.  What if she asked Nanao herself?  It was her relationship that had caused Nemu to ask questions, after all.  He imagined Nanao’s immediate, forceful denial of such emotions, and the confusion that would cause Nemu.  Perhaps Nanao would refer her to Rangiku instead.
 
Although Rangiku had a lot of experience with complicated relationships, she tended to try to simplify things when explaining them.   That was how Nemu had come to believe sex was the only difference between friendship and romance in the first place.  And her father—well, no one should ever ask Mayuri Kurotsuchi about anything emotional, and he was decidedly uninterested in relationships, for all that he’d created a daughter for himself.
 
The tea was making him sleepier, as if all his weariness was pressing him down into bed.  “Listen, Nemu-san.  I can’t answer your questions right now, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t.  Why don’t you come see me at another time?  We can talk then.”  He studied her face.  Her expressions were all rather slight, but he could see faint traces of surprise now.  “I would like it if you would consider me your friend, Nemu-san.”
 
The surprise became more apparent.  “You wish to be my friend, Captain Ukitake?”
 
“Yes.”  He handed the teacup back to her.  She deposited it neatly on the tray.
 
There was a faint flush of pink on her cheeks now.  She smiled.  “I would be pleased to name you as my friend, Captain Ukitake.”
 
He smiled at her.  “Good, then.  Come to see me whenever you like, Nemu-san.”
 
She hesitated, nodded.  “If you prefer it, I will visit you.”
 
Jūshirō leaned back against the pillows.  His eyelids were heavy.  He saw Nemu lean over him, studying him as if she could see his heartbeat through the blankets.  Perhaps she could.
 
“Your condition will improve further if you take rest now,” she said.
 
"Yes, I’m going to fall asleep very soon.”
 
“I will leave you, then.  Good night, Captain Ukitake.  I will visit you soon.”  She rose and walked to the sliding door.
 
“Good night, Nemu-san.  I’ll look forward to it.”  He smiled at her as she left, closing the door behind her.  The smile was still on his lips when he slipped into sleep.

On to Chapter 30.


Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
darkmystcompel
Oct. 1st, 2011 04:35 am (UTC)
Bwahahahaha!! Ukitake borrowing Kyouraku's lines, and Nemu asking about Nanao's sex life? Priceless :D

Also, Nemu and Ukitake? Interesting - that's certainly not a common pairing! ^_^
r_dahlia
Oct. 1st, 2011 05:05 am (UTC)
I don't think the Ukitake and Nemu rises all the way to the level of a pairing in this story, but I did want to develop her and Ukitake offered an interesting opportunity. It does present some possibility though, odd as it seems. I wonder if I could actually write an Ukitake/Nemu? It would be a challenge at the least. ^_^;
darkmystcompel
Oct. 3rd, 2011 09:02 am (UTC)
Not a pairing this time? Aw! But it certainly would be a challenge :D I have a soft spot for Nemu, I have to admit.
r_dahlia
Oct. 3rd, 2011 11:35 pm (UTC)
Well, there's just not that much story left here, so I don't think they quite get to being a pairing. People can imagine them becoming a pairing off-screen, of course. XD But it might be something interesting to write in the future, for sure.
akai_miko
Oct. 1st, 2011 10:39 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for updating! I couldn't wait for this chapter :)

I like that you are including Nemu. She certainly needs more love. But I thought you were doing UkiUno...:?
r_dahlia
Oct. 1st, 2011 04:31 pm (UTC)
Ukitake doesn't get any further romantic development in this story in any direction, really. I thought it would be interesting to see Ukitake and Nemu interact, and I wanted to develop Nemu. I think she can be manipulated, so she needed to talk to someone who wouldn't do that, and that's Ukitake.

I think their interaction works like this here: he notices she's attractive, because he's alone with her for the first time and focusing on her, but he also notices that she is still developing an understanding of relationships and social interactions. His offer to be her friend at the end of their walk is genuine--he would regard any romantic overtures towards her as inappropriate, since she understands so little about it, and he believes he can be a good influence on the way she grows in the future. Fundamentally, Ukitake is a decent person.

All that being said, readers can interpret the story however they like, that's the privilege of the reader. And I do have a 'Rare Pairings' prompt on my Fanbingo card (from the Dreamwidth community), and I was considering an Ukitake/Rangiku or an Ukitake/Nemu to fill it. XD

And totally off-topic, I think I'm going to scan Hyakuiro Megane, one of the Negibouzu doujinshi that isn't on the internet yet. I really like the Negibouzu stuff and there was interest in that one. I know you wanted to see it, so look forward to it in the future. ^_^
akai_miko
Oct. 2nd, 2011 09:53 am (UTC)
WOW. Long :D

I see...I also think that other people would for sure take advantage of Nemu's personality. Her father for example is doing it all the time.

Yes..thank you for writing him so in character :)

Wait? How does this fangbingo works? (I mean I wanna read those :P)

Yeah! Thank you so much!!I can't wait!! :D

Also I have question about shunsui_nanao . You are posting there quite often so I thought I will ask. Is posting ShunNao artwork there allowed? Sory if I'm being stupid or sth ^^;

r_dahlia
Oct. 2nd, 2011 09:20 pm (UTC)
Well, with Fanbingo you request a card, and you get one with random prompts. This is my card, for instance. http://pics.livejournal.com/r_dahlia/pic/00001qyz/s640x480 You write stories or do other fanworks that fulfill the prompts on the card, creating bingos. I haven't started doing my bingo card yet, so I haven't posted anything yet. You can read other people's posts at the Dreamwidth community, linked in the above comment.

The shunsui_nanao has been abandoned by the owner since at least 2009. People just post there anyway. I think you can post anything you like as long as it's related to Shunsui/Nanao and it's appropriately credited, adult content is behind a cut/warned for. It's not a very lively community right now, so it'd be nice to have more people post there. Go for it! ^_^

Edited at 2011-10-02 09:22 pm (UTC)
akai_miko
Oct. 3rd, 2011 02:25 pm (UTC)
I see...And you are requesting pairings? And what pairings do you have? :?

I'm so glad that coommunity ike this exist anyway :) It's a pity that owner abandoned it but i hope it will be livelier now :D Few more people were added ;) I think I will :D when I will be better at drawing Shunsui xd
r_dahlia
Oct. 3rd, 2011 11:39 pm (UTC)
With Fanbingo you don't have any particular pairings you need to write; you get prompts like: Zombies, or Pretending To Be Married, and then you would write a story that satisfied one or more of the prompts. Basically they're like storytelling cliches or archetypes that you take on and work over. You can work in any fandom or pairing you like, and create any kind of fanwork you want.

I am always hopeful the Shunsui/Nanao community will grow if they reappear together in the manga. ^_^
akai_miko
Oct. 14th, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC)
I see :D convenient thing indeed :D when you write something write about it on your journal. I would like to read it no matter what pairing but please no AiHina

Yes I'm sure a lot of good writers and generally fanartist will come back/start making art about them again. Very good example is celulind (her fanarts are amazing!!). And MSWesternInk and VioTanequil and...you can say so many writer names...If I recall correctly a lot of them stopped about them in 2008. Last Kyouraku and/or Nanao appearance?
r_dahlia
Oct. 15th, 2011 10:55 pm (UTC)
AiHina is a really dark pairing, and I don't have a real interest in it. Shunsui/Nanao is the pairing I really ship in Bleach; there are some other pairings that I like the idea of or that get a lot of canon material, and it might be fun to explore that a bit. Shunsui/Nanao will probably still be where I would do the most in fandom, because it's my favorite.

Well, in terms of the manga, Nanao hasn't appeared in something like six years. Due to the different regional publication schedules, those volumes probably came out later in different places. She's appeared in a couple of group spreads after that. In the anime, she still appears in the filler, at least.

But yeah, her appearance was last around 2006ish, and that could have inspired a few years of fandom work, but without any fresh appearances, it's hard to sustain lots of people's interest in the pairing, unfortunately. Hopefully if she and Nanao appear again, they may get some moments that attract people's interest and inspire some fanworks.
akai_miko
Oct. 16th, 2011 01:51 pm (UTC)
Oh thank god. I like other pairings too but Shunsui/Nanao is and definitely will be my favorite. Glad to read it.

You counted TBTP? She appeared there. Yes it's a pity that she only appears in fillers and omake's. It's still better than nothing, but seeing her in canon would be so much better...

Yes I'm hoping for them to appear soon. And sure that they will be shipped more. When Shinigami appeared again in 460 chapter a lot of people started making fanarts and fanfics. So Iguess it will be the same if you know what I mean.
r_dahlia
Oct. 16th, 2011 03:39 pm (UTC)
I forgot TBTP, you're totally right. I was just thinking of the present timeline. So it is probably more like 2008 that she last appeared. Hopefully she appears soon!
akai_miko
Oct. 17th, 2011 09:37 pm (UTC)
I see :) well 5 years if absence is long enough. Yes I hope so

Off the topic: When will you update? I'm really really curious what will happen now..
r_dahlia
Oct. 18th, 2011 12:04 am (UTC)
I expect I will update today or tomorrow--I am just not completely satisfied with the chapter yet. Yes, I do obsess a bit over very minor details. :P

I also need to measure out where I want the rest of the chapters to cut--it's close enough to the end that it matters if one is too long, it'll short one of the other chapters. ^_^;
akai_miko
Oct. 18th, 2011 05:54 am (UTC)
Oh yes thank you for updating!how I love these ff.net messages... going to read it just now. ;) well I think it's good that you are obsessing with details XD we have more pleasure in reading it ;)

Ok I understand. It's important isn't it?
r_dahlia
Oct. 18th, 2011 01:03 pm (UTC)
I think I've settled on 4-5 chapters, possibly with a little epilogue. An epilogue is a bit self-indulgent, but it could be cute.
akai_miko
Oct. 18th, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)
Ohh. It's not too much. I will be really sad when you finish this...I have to say that this fic is my favorite of all ShunNao's in the net. And I'm really enjoying it...

Well cute/fluffy epilogues are always welcome ;D
r_dahlia
Oct. 19th, 2011 03:12 am (UTC)
Thank you, that's really nice to hear! *^_^*
akai_miko
Oct. 19th, 2011 06:43 am (UTC)
Well no problem at all :3
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