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Bleach Fanfic: Heart of Summer, Chapter 6

Title: Heart of Summer
Pairing: Shunsui/Nanao
Genre: Romance
Rating: T
Status: Ongoing, Chapter 6 of 7
Contains: Spoilers for the Lost Substitute Shinigami Arc, minor adult themes and content.
Summary: In the heart of summer, Shunsui seeks a kiss.
Notes: This is my sixth entry for the Week of Love giveaway happening July 6th - July 12th at shunsui_nanao.  My pieces are written as chapters for this story, and I'll be posting one chapter each day this week.
Prompt: Birthdays


Back to Chapter 1.

Shunsui lounged in his bedroom, looking out the open doors to the garden. It was mid-afternoon and he was alone. Ordinarily by this time of day, Nanao would have come to demand some work from him, Ukitake would have sent a butterfly asking if he was free for lunch, division members would have begged time off or other favors that they thought Nanao would refuse, and there would have been at least one meeting he'd failed to escape.

But today there was silence.

It was his birthday, something he'd forgotten briefly before thinking of Nanao's recent birthday at the festival. When he'd recalled the day, instead of happiness at the occasion or sadness at the passing years, he'd felt a tingling annoyance.

He couldn't remember how old he was today.

It sounded ridiculous, and when he was younger he'd laughed at Yama-jii for saying things like that on the old man's birthday, but that was centuries ago. Now thinking about his age felt like an exercise in history lessons at the Shinigami Academy—I was this old when that battle happened, and this much older the next time—he sighed.

He was getting old.

Light steps on his porch and the wafting scent of bright fruits announced Nanao's arrival. Her shadow fell over him as she removed her shoes, but her shape was unusual; she wore a kimono in pale pink, patterned with butterflies. He'd given it to her, two years ago. She'd tried to refuse it, because of the expense, she'd said, but he'd suspected she'd felt the color too close of an association with him.

She'd never worn it.

"You didn't come to the office," she said, straightening. She gestured slightly, wanting to be asked in, and he waved an invitation from his lounging position on the floor, his head supported by one arm, his elbow holding the weight.

"I never work on my birthday." She'd done something with her hair, as well; it was tied up in an elaborate way with combs and pins. Rangiku again, most likely.

"How is that different from any other day? But you usually come in. Have you even been out of bed yet?" She glanced at his thin robe and the exposed futon, blankets mussed.

"I'm over here, so I'm not in bed." It was a thin distinction, but he wanted to make it.

"Are you sulking? Why? It's your birthday."

"I'm not sulking."

She raised one fine eyebrow. Was she wearing eye makeup? It looked good.

"I can't remember how old I am." He looked past her as he confessed, staring into the garden.

"I see. Would you like me to tell you? I remember. You're—"

"Nanao-chan, your excellent memory is truly a marvel, but there are times I wish it wasn't so good. Do you know what it feels like to be so old that you can't remember the number anymore?"

Her face softened, and she came to sit on her heels next to his chest—carefully, because of her fine clothes. "You're brooding."

He didn't respond, but he did turn his head to see her face.

"No, I don't know what that feels like. I haven't had nearly enough birthdays to have such a problem." She smiled. "But your years have given you a certain—interesting patina."

It was rather a strong compliment by Nanao's standards—she valued things that were interesting far above things that were only attractive, he knew that. Interesting patina. He'd take it. "You look beautiful, Nanao-chan."

"Thank you." She clasped her hands together in her lap, her eyes sliding away from his in faint embarrassment.

"I've never seen you in this kimono. Why are you wearing it today?"

"For you, obviously." She pushed her glasses up.

"For me?" he asked, surprised. She was rarely so direct about things like that.

"It's your birthday," she said, and her slight smile returned. "You should go and get ready, or we'll be late."

"Late for what?"

She gave him a disbelieving look. "It's your birthday."

A party, then. He did not feel very festive today.

Nanao leaned over him, her hand brushing his cheek. He froze. "You should clean up, too, or the young girls won't give you any attention." She ran her fingers over his stubbly jaw.

"Nanao-chan is giving me attention."

"Calling me a young girl is stretching a bit at this point, don't you think?" Her lips curved.

"Not at all. When your years are measured in the thousands, we can revisit the question."

She shook her head at him. When he opened his mouth to argue the point further, she pressed two fingers against his lips. "We'll be late if you don't get ready soon."

He kissed her fingers and she withdrew her hand. "Should I wear my uniform or something more formal?" he asked, sitting up.

"It's supposed to be a surprise, so—"

"—my uniform, then." He met her amused look with one of his own. A surprise party that involved Nanao meeting him in a kimono was not going to be much of a surprise, as something like that was highly suspicious.

He rose and sauntered into the bathroom, getting ready for the day. When he emerged, clean and dressed in his uniform, Nanao was sitting on his porch, drinking tea she must have made for herself, and reading one of his books. His breath caught, and she turned her head to him.

"What is it, Captain?"

He smiled.

She closed the book and moved for the tea tray.

"Leave it, I'll get it later."

She gave him a look that said she didn't quite believe him, but shrugged and stood. "Let's go, then." She laced her arm through his, holding his bicep with her hand. "It's more convincing as a surprise if it looks like you didn't know where we were going."

He nodded. "It's the courtyard at the Eighth, isn't it?"

She sighed. "If anyone asks, you were very surprised, alright?"

"I was surprised," he said, and his tone brought her eyes up.

"What?"

"I was surprised to see Nanao-chan in her lovely kimono, coming to get me."

She glanced away from him, her cheeks faintly pink.

At the Eighth she led him to the courtyard, filled with orderly rows of tables laden with food. Unlit torches stood at neat intervals, and an open space in the middle of everything looked ideal for dancers or other entertainment. "Nanao-chan planned my party?"

She nodded and her voice was pleased when she spoke. "Yes. An event of this size can't be left to chance."

There were hundreds of people in the courtyard, from the Eighth and other divisions. He waved and returned greetings from shinigami as Nanao led him to the head table, full of Captains and Vice Captains.

"Look, Captain, they match!" Rangiku said, jarring Hitsugaya with her elbow. Her flushed face suggested the merriment had begun before their arrival.

"They're too cute, Rangiku-chan," Shinji said, his mouth full.

"I told you we'd be late," Nanao murmured as they took their seats.

"It's a party, Nanao-chan. Being a little late is perfectly fine."

She poured him a cup of sake without prompting, which pleased him. There was amusement in her eyes. "You're the one who was worried about the ticking by of time earlier."

"That was different. That was about centuries, but this—" he gestured at the party around them— "is about moments. Having a drink, listening to friends, basking in the light of a beautiful woman."

Her eyelids fluttered closed, and when they opened her eyes had a lovely warmth in them. "Even centuries are made of years, and years are built out of moments, aren't they? Centuries and years are just something we use to label things for easy reference. What are important are the moments, and you remember those, don't you?"

He leaned towards her, touching her hand on the table. "I remember you," he said, low enough to avoid being overhead.

She shifted slightly in his direction. "Did you want something, Captain?" she asked, and there was an invitation in her voice that he loved.

"Nanao-chan. I want—"

"Octopus fritters!" Rangiku cheered as she plunked a dish in front of Nanao. "It's your favorite, right? I made sure we'd have some."

"Thank you, Rangiku-san. They look good," Nanao said, sliding her hand discreetly away from Shunsui's hand.

"Octopus fritters," he said when Rangiku had moved away.

Nanao chuckled. "Don't be gloomy. It's a party. That's this moment. You and I—you and I will have our moment later." She licked her lips, her eyes dropping to her hands.

He tipped her chin up. "Later." He smiled.

The party continued around them, sweeping them into the fun here and there. He watched Nanao eat octopus fritters in her pink kimono and smiled. Perhaps the exact number of his years didn't matter, as long as he could still have memories like this one.

On to Chapter 7.