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Title: Journey Into Dreams
Pairing: Shunsui/Nanao
Genre: Romance/Drama
Rating: M
Status: Multi-Chapter, Ongoing
Contains: Spoilers for the Lost Substitute Shinigami Arc, consensual adult activity.
Summary: Nanao's vacation takes an unexpected turn when Captain Kyōraku follows her to the Fourteenth District.


Back to Chapter 1.

A/N: I tried to work some of my slots on my fanbingo card into this story. Fanbingo is a community at Dreamwidth. This is chapter four of five; this story will be around thirty thousand words total.  This chapter and the last one are a bit shorter, the natural breaks in the action just ended up that way.  I'll get the next one up in a few days and finish this story. ^_^


Sitting on a stool in the privacy of the extravagant bath, Nanao admitted to herself that she had wanted him to look at her.

Her hands ran over her breasts, and she shivered. If only they were his hands, rougher and larger—

She sighed and dropped her hands. Thinking about him this way did nothing to ease the ache in her belly. She'd wanted him inside of her this morning at the beach, and nothing that happened today—not the arguments, the love spell, the rotating landscape, the uncooperative weather, or the scheming kitsunes—had changed that.

She wanted him inside of her.

The water of the bath was wonderfully warm and soothing. She relaxed, her head leaning back on a towel, alone in a bath that could have held twenty. The door from the dressing area opened, and somehow it was not a surprise to see Captain Kyōraku there, a bath basket and a small towel the only things maintaining his decency.

"I'm sorry, Nanao-chan, they assured me that this was the men's bath. I'll go."

"Do you really think that you'll find the men's bath if you leave?" She raised an eyebrow at him.

"That's a good point. I'll wait in the dressing area until you're done." He appeared conflicted about how to leave without offending her modesty, finally beginning to back up toward the door.

"You don't have to leave," she said.

"Nanao-chan?" He looked so shocked that she laughed.

"The kitsunes may interfere with us less if they believe things are going the way that they want. Besides, I'm close to falling asleep in the bath. You can make sure that I don't drown. There's obviously room." She waved a hand over the water of the bath.

"If that's what you want, Nanao-chan. I'll stay." He shifted to a stool, and she leaned her head back again, closing her eyes. It was one thing to ask him to stay, but it would take a level of boldness Nanao wasn't sure she possessed to openly watch him wash himself.

She peeked instead. He was such a handsome figure, his muscles strong, his chest covered with hair, his skin sun-kissed, and his hair long and curling. She wanted to press her fingers into that hair, to touch that firm muscle, to kiss his full lips. He was so attractive to her that even peeks were too arousing for her senses. She kept her eyes firmly closed when she heard his footsteps and the sound of the water closing around him.

After a few minutes had passed, Nanao opened her eyes and darted a glance at him. He looked relaxed, leaning back in the bath. His posture was comfortable, as if he bathed in the women's bath all the time. Perhaps he did bathe with women regularly; Nanao didn't know. The corners of her mouth turned down.

His small towel covered his lap—although it was not neatly folded, as the towel in her lap was—and it was poor camouflage for his arousal. Maybe he was not as comfortable as he'd appeared at first glance. She wanted him so much, but could she have him? Her brow creased and she let out her breath in an audible sigh.

"Feeling better, Nanao-chan?" She turned her head toward him. His eyes skipped up from where the water lapped at the curves of her breasts to her eyes.

"Much better. But I still ache in places." She sighed again, and his eyes slipped to her lips.

"Do you? I wouldn't want my Nanao-chan to be uncomfortable. I'll gladly offer to massage any of your aching parts." He grinned. This was the kind of innuendo-laced offer he'd made her for years, and she'd never accepted.

"Would you?" She shifted enough to raise her legs and wiggle her toes out of the water. "Even my feet?"

A flash of surprise crossed his face. "It would be my pleasure." He moved closer to her until he could draw her feet across his thighs. His fingers were nimble and strong, and she enjoyed the movement of his hands over her sore arches. "What would people say if I told them I caressed Nanao-chan's skin in the women's bath?"

"Tell anyone you like, no one will believe you." She was relaxing back into the bath, even as desire for him ran through her with every beat of her heart.

He chuckled. "You're right. But I don't need anyone to believe me, because I know it happened."

She smiled slightly.

He continued his massage, switching his attention to her other foot. A moan escaped her lips when he pressed a sensitive spot; his eyes darkened. "Nanao-chan."

"You're very good at this," she said, defending her lapse.

"There are essential skills a man must have, lovely Nanao-chan, and this is one of them."

"That hardly seems true." She raised her brow at him, but the effect was lost when another small sound of pleasure left her mouth.

"It is. But this isn't my best work. If we did this properly, with oil and a bed, I think you'd enjoy it much more. I think you'd give me a lot of beautiful moans."

She tilted her head, regarding him through heavy-lidded eyes. "Maybe. But not for my feet."

His reaction made her lips curve. "Nanao-chan, are you flirting with me?" he asked, sounding intrigued.

She considered that for a moment. "No. I want to seduce you. I was flirting with you earlier today, but now I am attempting a seduction."

His hands stilled on her foot. "You want to seduce me?" His eyes had an intensity that was nearly predatory, but his facial expression was soft.

"Yes."

He looked off at the door of the bath, but said nothing.

She pulled her feet away from his lap and stood. His eyes immediately came to her, which was both pleasing and embarrassing. She crossed the distance between them with a faint blush on her cheeks and a small towel in her hand.

Nanao leaned down to his ear, resting a hand on his shoulder for balance. "I'm heading back to the room now. I'm going to bed. I want you to come." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "I'm inviting you to my bed. Consider your decision carefully; this is an invitation that won't be repeated." She kissed him once, chastely on the cheek, and then rose, walking out of the bath.

"Nanao-chan, why?"

She hesitated, afraid that if she said anything she'd say everything. But she wanted to give him enough to say yes to her. Her hand drifted up to her chest, above her breasts. She couldn't face him, so she stood in profile to him, enough to see him from the corner of her eye. "It's hard to breathe."

Sometimes I can't even breathe without you.

His breath caught, she heard it, but she fled out of the bath. Her heart was pounding in her ears and her hands tingled. She returned to their room quickly, her body still wet from the bath. Luckily she had not encountered anyone on the trip; she wasn't sure what she looked like now. She stood in the room with her sleeping robe on, but hanging open. The sash she held in her hand, undecided. Would he come?

She heard the door opening, the rustle of cloth, his quiet footsteps, and froze in place. He'd come to her. Panic and excitement competed for control of her body.

"Nanao-chan." His hand brushed her hair over one shoulder so that he could kiss the nape of her neck.

She swallowed. "Are you—" she started, but couldn't continue.

"I'm accepting your invitation." He strung kisses on her neck over to her speeding pulse. He licked and sucked at her tender skin, which made her gasp.

The sash fell from her fingers. She slipped the robe down her arms and let it flutter to the floor between them.

He made a pleased sound against her skin. His arms embraced her, pulling her back against his body. A small moan escaped her lips at the feeling of his skin against hers.

"Such beautiful sounds. I want to hear more," he said, his fingertips slipping over her nipple.

She drew in her breath at the sensation. "I want more than your hands tonight." Her voice had a sharpness that was at odds with the way her body melted against him.

He chuckled. "You can have anything you want, sweetheart. But I want to take my time with this. I want to touch all of you, taste all of you." His tongue brushed the shell of her ear.

"That's very diligent of you," she murmured, and her legs felt weak. She turned out of his arms and slid onto the bed.

His eyes traced over her body. She had an urge to cover herself, but she resisted; she wanted him to look. The heat in his eyes was worth any small embarrassment she might feel. "Diligence is my favorite virtue," he said, coming down next to her in bed.

"Liar." Her hands curled around the back of his neck.

"I'll prove it to you," he whispered against her lips, his hand on her thigh.

She opened to him, her mouth, her body, and reluctantly, her heart. If she could have held something of herself back, she would have, but she'd loved him too long and wanted him too much to keep her heart separated from her body. Even if she'd tried, the care in his touch would have drawn her heart out of hiding and into his hands.

He sought out her sensitive spots, listening for her gasps and moans. He lavished attention on the curve of her neck, the inside of her elbow, the softness between her hip and belly. His mouth followed his hands, his tongue slipping out to taste her skin. Her breasts fascinated him, as he spent long, hot minutes teasing her with his hands and mouth.

Finally she tugged his head up, catching him with her nipple between his teeth. "Nanao-chan?"

Although she was naked and glistening with sweat, when she spoke it was in the same tone she used in the office when he was slacking off. "I require your attentions elsewhere, Captain."

He smiled. "You can even use that bossy voice in bed, Nanao-chan? I like it." His hand skimmed down her body. "Your flower petals are so wet. For me?"

"Obviously. Captain—"

"No, Nanao-chan. I want you to use my name. Shunsui."

Any retort she might have made was lost when he slid one finger into her body, stroking. The power of speech abandoned her temporarily, and when she'd recovered it, she murmured, "More."

"Anything for you," he said next to her ear, and she dug her hands into his hair when he pushed a second finger into her body and his thumb rubbed her heated flesh in a way that sent sparks through her until she caught fire, tightening around his fingers.

He took her cries into his mouth. The kiss was messy and rough and she loved it, the way she loved the seductive promise of his voice when he spoke. "So lovely. I want to taste you, Nanao-chan."

"That's—" she started, but stopped. His heavy-lidded eyes were intense on her face. He was clearly prepared to convince, to coax her until her resistance fell away. But why should she protest when just the thought of his mouth on her made her shiver? She wanted him to taste her. "That's very diligent," she said, a heavy blush on her cheeks.

He grinned. "You delight me, Nanao-chan."

She scoffed, but her haughtiness dissolved under the caress of his tongue. He pressed kisses against her and explored her with leisurely strokes of his tongue. The velvety texture was an exquisite sensation on her skin. He brought her to the peak with a few focused touches. "So sweet."

She was sweating and breathless when she felt his lips on her again. "I can't."

"Trust me," he whispered, and the brush of his teeth made her gasp. The combination of licks and nibbles and sucking lit her desire alight again. Her toes curled into the blankets; the pleasure of this was incredible. His fingers pushed into her, and that was too much. Her cries were loud in her own ears, but she was too close to peaking to care. "Nanao," he murmured against her skin, and his voice dropped her over the edge.

When she came back to her senses he was watching her face from between her legs, his hand stroking her leg in soothing circles. She sat up, gripping his shoulders. "Come here."

He resisted. "I want to taste more of your honey."

She hit him with a grappling move like the one she'd used at the beach. He caught himself with his hands, his legs sprawled out, and Nanao on top of him in his lap. "Nanao-chan wants to spar in bed?" He didn't sound particularly concerned; he could easily have stopped her from flipping him, but he'd let her do it instead.

She shifted her hips so that her center rubbed against him. He was sitting up, so she leaned in to his ear. "I want to feel you, inside. Let me?"

He smiled. "You can have anything from me that you want, Nanao-chan."

Her heart stopped for a moment, but she forced it to start again, and she pressed her lips against his until her want for his love was pressed down. He'd meant that, but in bed—only in bed. "Thank you," she said primly, and he chuckled.

His laughter stopped when her hand reached back to circle him while she sheathed him in her body. She felt so close to him, holding him inside of her. Her eyes shut, her brow furrowed.

"Nanao-chan, are you alright? Do you want to stop?"

The worry in his voice opened her eyes. "No, I'm fine. I—" She curved her arms around his neck, hiding her face against his chest. "Shunsui."

His arms wrapped around her, pressing her close. "I know. I feel it too."

They stayed like that for a long minute. Against his skin with his strong heartbeat under her ear, she believed that this was as important to him as it was to her, that it was precious to them both. Love words hovered under her lips, but she did not speak them.

She rolled her hips and felt his heartbeat speed up. His response pleased her, so she did it again, lifting her head up and pulling back from him enough to see his face. His eyes were dark and hot, and the intimacy was too much for her exposed heart to bear. She closed her eyes and dipped her head.

"Nanao." His hand tipped her chin up. "Stay with me," he said, and it was a request, not a demand.

She couldn't resist the need in his voice. "Please," she whispered, without knowing what she was seeking.

"My love. My Nanao." He cupped her cheek and drew her closer to kiss her.

Her eyes had blurred with tears at his words. She kissed him with her heart exposed. The kiss moved from light to deep, playful to pleasurable, biting around the edges and sweet at the center. It was everything that the two of them were, and she lost herself in the kiss, in him, as he moved beneath her. There was no distance between them now, no silence—there were no words said, but their bodies spoke to each other.

Afterward she lay on his chest, sated and relaxed. She did not regret what they'd done; no matter what happened after this, she would always have this memory.

"You may have killed me." His voice was low and sent a thread of desire through her, although she'd just been satisfied. Perhaps he would always have that effect on her.

"That will not get you exempted from work next week. Death by sex is not a legitimate excuse." She sat up in bed, rolling her neck.

"Nanao-chan is a harsh mistress." He pouted, which she ignored.

"That is my job, Captain." She smiled at him.

"Captain, is it? You said my name so beautifully before. I really want to hear you call me Shunsui again."

She looked away.

He leaned on his elbow, one hand caressing the line of her spine. "I don't think you should call me Captain, Nanao-chan, unless maybe we're playing pirates in bed, and you're saying, 'Oh, Captain, I've been such a naughty girl!' Then it would be fun."

Her lips turned up at the falsetto he used for her voice. "You're dreaming."

"You're right. It would be much better if you were the Captain in that scenario. Then you'd say, 'Shunsui, you naughty pirate, what have you done?' and I'd say, "Oh, Captain Nanao, I've been very bad. Please punish me.' Isn't that better?"

She laughed, shaking her head. "You want to play with me?"

He sat up to kiss her shoulder. "Of course. We're going to have so much fun together."

"And where will we have this fun?" she asked, her voice light, but there was a heavy feeling in her stomach.

His arms wrapped around her middle. "Anywhere that you like, Nanao-chan. At home, in my bed—which is far more comfortable than yours, so much that you'll want to stay there—"

"You don't know that. My bed could be very comfortable."

He kissed her neck. "I know you, and I know myself. My bed is more comfortable, I'm sure."

He was probably right, considering the premium he placed on comfort. "Where else?"

"In the office, in the garden—"

"As if I would permit such inappropriate behavior in the office." She remembered the pleasures of his mouth and squirmed. "Certainly not often, if ever."

"You want me in the office, Nanao-chan. You want to play with me at work." He licked her pulse.

She smiled slightly. He was right—she would want him in the office—she'd want him anywhere. But those words—play, fun—they fell like lead on her happiness. They'd just been so close, so intimate. But what was it to him?

It's just some fun, Nanao-chan.

She pulled away from him gently, rising. The abandoned sleeping robe she retrieved from the floor and tied, crossing to a tray. She sat and poured herself a cup of the icy tea, drinking slowly. "This made me happy. I want you to know that I'm glad to have been with you like this."

"Nanao-chan?"

For a few hours she'd let herself imagine that she could stay in the Eighth and have an intimate relationship with her Captain. But that was impossible. If she opened herself up to him any further, the pain when he ended their romance would be too much; it was already hard to bear.

"When we get back to Seireitei, I have to leave the Eighth."

"What? Nanao-chan, if you don't like what we did in bed, or if you don't want—"

"It's not that. I enjoyed what we did in bed, very much."

"Nanao-chan, I know this has been a rough trip—"

"No. It's not that, either. If I explain why I came out here, you might be able to understand."

He moved to sit next to her on the floor. "Please, tell me."

"I came out here to try and find a way to separate myself from you."

"What? But why?"

"I needed to rebuild the barriers between us again. You'd broken them all down over the years somehow, so slowly. And I was content with that, for a while—working with you, letting you flirt with me—I liked what was between us."

"Nanao-chan." He tried to place a hand on her shoulder, but she shook her head.

"No. What we had, it wasn't everything—but it was enough for me. When we were like that, I could pretend that I was special to you, that what was between us was special to you."

He reached for her again. "Nanao-chan, you are special to me—"

"Don't." He pulled back. "When you went to war and came back, when you were in the hospital, I told myself that I would try to become someone that you could want. It hurt when you left and it hurt so much to see you injured like that. I sat at your bedside and counted your heartbeats and told myself that I could be a woman that you would really want. I told myself that I could have more of you."

"Nanao-chan," he said, and his voice was so gentle, she couldn't take it. Did he feel pity for her? She shrank away from him, hugging herself, but it was too late to stop now, and she had to finish.

"I didn't know what to do, how to be someone that you'd want. I asked the other women in the SWA for advice, and they all gave me their best, some more useful than others. I thought I would try, when you were better, when things were normal again. But Yadōmaru-sempai and the others were invited back, and I was afraid. I didn't want to lose my position and the Eighth and my relationship with you—it was ugly, and I was ugly. When she didn't come back, I was so relieved. It was wrong for me to feel that way—"

"No, sweetheart, that's normal. It's not wrong to be relieved that your life wasn't changed, or that your job wasn't taken from you."

She shook her head. Her voice was shaky. "You went to the Living World to visit Yadōmaru-sempai, and I realized that it didn't matter what I tried to do. What she'd told me was true. I can't have the kind of relationship with you that I want. It hurt so much, because when you chased other women, I could tell myself they weren't important, that what was between you and I was special, but Yadōmaru-sempai is someone important. She matters."

"Nanao-chan, Lisa-chan is a dear friend. And I'm not involved with her, I told you that earlier. I'm sorry if you were hurt—"

"Don't, please. Don't feel sorry for me, I can't stand it." She pushed off the floor and went to stand by the window. Her fingers clenched her arms so tightly her knuckles were white. "It's not about Yadōmaru-sempai, not underneath. I know you aren't involved with her currently. It was just a clarifying moment for me."

"What did it clarify for you, sweetheart?"

"I'm an idiot." She glanced at him over her shoulder, smiling faintly.

"Don't say that. It's not true." He stepped toward her, concern in his eyes.

"I am an idiot. I let myself have ridiculous dreams about you. I'm a fool who took a joke too seriously. I was trying to find a way to be content again in the Eighth, without my dreams. But I couldn't do it. You followed me, and I wanted—I wanted you."

"You can have me, Nanao-chan."

She shook her head. "Not enough of you. I'm too greedy. I have to leave the Eighth, because I can't have some of what I want with you, without having more. It would hurt too much." She leaned her forehead against the window, trying to control her breathing.

"Nanao-chan." His arms wrapped around her from behind, turning her to his chest.

"No. Please don't, it hurts—"

"I know. And I'm so sorry."

The pain was so sharp that she couldn't breathe for a moment. She thought she might break into pieces on the spot. Her body began to tremble. He held her up with his tight embrace. "Let me go, don't touch me." Her voice was barely a whisper.

"Listen to me, Nanao-chan."

"No—no, don't—" Even though she knew already what he had to tell her, she couldn't bear to hear the words from his lips.

"Please listen to me. I never meant to hurt you, Nanao-chan." He was warm and smelled spicy. Small tears escaped from her eyes and ran down his body.

"I know. I know that already. I told you, I'm a fool, an idiot, and it's my fault, not yours."

"No. You're not a fool, or an idiot. You're clever and brilliant and so lovely. The failure here is mine. If I've made you feel like you weren't precious to me, if you've been hurt by my conduct, I am truly sorry, Nanao-chan."

Her heart was pulp inside her chest. "Don't be sorry. You haven't done anything wrong." She wanted this to be over; his heart was so big and kind, she knew that. He would try to repair things, try to console her and cover her with his sympathy and pity. "Just let me go. Please."

He held on. "Nanao-chan, I love you," he said, and this was unbearable.

"Let me go." She shoved herself away from him, staggering a few steps, and then sank to the floor. "I know you're trying to be gentle with me, but it's cruel. Please don't try to comfort me. After we get out of here, I'll leave the Eighth, and things will be easier for you."

He knelt beside her. "I don't want you to leave the Eighth. I don't want to be without you, Nanao-chan. I love you." He cupped her face in his hands. She blinked, trying to clear her vision enough to see him.

"What?" Her eyes met his, and she could see that his eyes were tender. She clenched her hands in her lap.

"I don't want you to go. If there are dreams that you have for us, I'm glad. We'll reach for them together." He stroked her tears away with his thumbs.

"I don't understand." Her tears had slowed, but her brow was creased. "Even if you say something like that, you have to know that I can't change that much. I'll never be like Yadōmaru-sempai, it's not my nature. I would want to have an exclusive relationship with you, a serious one."

"What did Lisa-chan say to you?"

Nanao sighed and closed her eyes, to shut out his gaze. "She said that she thought I'd be different. And she said that I needed to learn to cover my emotions better, because my feelings for you were so obvious in Karakura, and that it was my bad luck to want you that way. She was quite clear that you are too old for me and that I wouldn't be able to accept the kind of relationships that you have with women. She wasn't being cruel to me—on the contrary, she felt sorry for me."

"Lisa-chan doesn't understand what's between us, Nanao-chan."

She smiled slightly. "She knows you. Better than I do, and that's why she felt sorry for me. She knew I wasn't capable of the kind of relationship she had with you. And she's right. I can't sleep with you casually and call that enough." She looked away, pulling her head out of his hands. "I'm sorry. This is humiliating."

"Don't be sorry. I always knew that about you."

"That I was possessive and uptight?" She rubbed her temples.

"No, that you were a secret romantic."

"What?" She turned to face him. "You think I'm a romantic?"

He pulled her surprised body into his lap. "Yes. Because I know you, Nanao-chan." He nuzzled at her neck. "You're loyal, caring and intense. I always knew that if I found my way into your heart, it would be very hard for someone, even you, to dislodge me." He'd found his way up to murmuring in her ear. He licked the outer curve, causing her to gasp with surprise.

"But Yadōmaru-sempai said—"

"She doesn't know me better than you do, Nanao-chan. And Lisa-chan is not a romantic, in any sense of the word. If you said you had secret longings of the heart, she'd assume you meant you had longing of the groin and she'd tell you to sleep with the person and get it done."

"Secret longings of the heart is an overly dramatic phrase."

"But Nanao-chan, isn't that what you feel?"

"I wanted to sleep with you, but what I really wanted—this is the most embarrassing conversation." She tugged on his arms, her face pink, but he didn't release her.

"No, Nanao-chan, this is the most delightful conversation. I'm so happy to be having it with you now." He strung kisses along her jaw.

Nanao struggled for focus. Being so close to him was as overwhelming to her senses as it had been earlier. Her hands crept to his chest of their own accord. He was so warm, and the texture of his skin felt wonderful under her hands, and his lips— "When you went to the Living World—"

He licked the dip of her collarbone. "I wanted to see Lisa-chan because she's my friend, and I hadn't been able to talk to her in a long time. I also wanted to tell her about you and me, and find out what kind of conversations you'd had with her. It was obvious that she'd had an impact on you. In the hospital for the first few days, you were so open with me, so loving. But after you'd spent time with Lisa-chan, you moved farther and farther away from me."

"I didn't know what to do."

"I know, sweetheart. Lisa-chan apologized, by the way, when I saw her in the Living World."

"For what?"

"You were right. She didn't mean to hurt you. She was trying to protect you from being hurt by me."

She sighed. "I'm so tired of being protected."

"When people love you, when they care about you, they want to protect you. You've done it yourself, to others, haven't you?"

She had, with the kitsune love spell—she'd refused to use it on him, despite his consent, because she didn't want him to be hurt, to have his emotions twisted and falsified. "I have."

"Then you know it's not so easy to stop protecting the ones you love." He kissed her temple.

She tilted her head. "You're in love with me."

"I'm in love with you. How many times have I told you that?"

"Dozens. But I couldn't believe it then." She arched her neck for his kisses.

"And now?"

She climbed off his lap, standing and brushing his lips with her fingers. "Now I do. Come back to bed with me."

He followed her to the bed. "You should get some sleep, Nanao-chan. You're exhausted."

The robe fell off her shoulders, the sash discarded on the floor. He was still naked, and she reached for his hand as she knelt on the bed. "I'm not completely exhausted."

He smiled as he came down beside her, his hand engulfing hers, his lips pressed to hers.