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Title: Practicing Marriage
Pairing: Shunsui/Nanao
Genre: Romance/Drama
Rating: T
Status: Multi-Chapter, Ongoing
Contains: Spoilers through Bleach manga chapter 515, mild adult content.
Summary: When Nanao's family asks her to consider an arranged marriage, Captain Kyōraku decides to interfere.


Back to Chapter 6.

Chapter 1.


The sun was streaming in from the wrong spot. Nanao opened her eyes and found she was in the wrong place entirely. She was in his house—Shunsui's house.

"Shunsui," she said once, rolling his name over on her tongue. She could get used to that. She could call him by his name. Husband, she thought, but couldn't manage to say the word.

"Nanao-chan?" Shunsui called from outside the room.

She sat up, putting on her glasses and combing her fingers though her hair. "Yes?"

Shunsui entered the room, already wearing his uniform and a wide smile. He looked more awake and alert than she'd ever seen him at an hour like this one. A large tray in his hands rattled as he walked. He set it down next to the futon with a flourish. "Good morning, Nanao-chan. You look lovely today."

She eyed him suspiciously, but he smiled. "What is this?" she asked, turning her attention to the overloaded tray.

"It's breakfast in bed, Nanao-chan. Well, next to the bed. I didn't think you'd want the soup and syrup in bed, the surface is too uneven." He sat next to her on the bed.

"Breakfast?" She studied the tray covered in bowls and plates. There was udon, fragrant rice, a tall stack of waffles covered in syrup, eggs covered in sauce, sliced fruit, seaweed salad, and a steamed egg. "This is a lot of food for breakfast, and some of it doesn't seem to be for breakfast."

"I wanted to get the point for my excellent cooking skill and surprise you with the romance of breakfast in bed. I'm sure you can appreciate multitasking, Nanao-chan." He handed her a napkin and laid out several utensils on the tray.

She sipped tea—peach and delicious. "Multitasking at romance? That's very ambitious of you, especially at this hour. You're rarely awake this early." She sampled several of the dishes, finding them excellent.

"My desire to share a romantic breakfast with Nanao-chan was more than enough to get me out of bed this morning." He offered her a bite of waffle and she accepted it. The heavy sweetness of the syrup was pleasant, if a bit strange on her tongue.

"I see. But is eating breakfast in bed actually romantic? It seems it would be very messy." Syrup would be very sticky on the blankets if any spilled, wouldn't it?

He grinned. "That depends very much on what you're eating," he said, his voice dipping suggestively.

She gave him a repressive look, a faint blush on her cheeks despite her best efforts to suppress it. "We were talking about romance, not sex."

"Yes, we were. But food can be very sensual, Nanao-chan." He held a bite of melon between his fingers, bringing it to her lips.

She hesitated. He raised an eyebrow in amused challenge. She met his gaze, her lips parting for the fruit. He pressed the melon into her mouth.

"Fruit is firm on your tongue, but still soft. When you suck on it, so much sweet juice flows out. And it nearly melts in your mouth when you eat it. All of the delicious sweetness fills your mouth, dripping down. I love the taste." He picked up a piece of melon and swirled his tongue around it lovingly before he ate it, making a sound of pleasure that caught her breath.

She hurriedly ate her own fruit, turning her eyes to the tray. It just wasn't fair of him to come so early and surprise her in her sleeping robe while he was awake and handsome and talking about sensual things in that silky murmur. She swallowed heavily.

"Nanao-chan." She lifted her eyes to his. He was leaning toward her, one hand pressing into the bed for balance. Nanao froze. He was going to kiss her. She wanted to be kissed by him; she could admit that to herself. But they were sitting on a bed, he hadn't really been talking about fruit, and she had yearning flowing through all of her veins for him. He licked his lips.

Anxiety scratched at her. What was the best way to handle a situation like this one? "You can have the point for cooking," she said, shifting back and standing. "I need to get ready for work, or I'll be late."

He smiled and rose. His eyes were knowing and warm, and she felt a sting for her inexperience in this area. "Thank you." He came closer. "Can I have a kiss good morning, Nanao-chan? I think if we were married, we would share kisses in the morning."

"This is an unlikely scenario, isn't it?" She raised an eyebrow. "It's very early, and you're almost never awake at this hour."

"But I'm awake now, lovely Nanao-chan." He raised his hands and placed them behind his back, leaning down for her. His eyes twinkled. "I'll be good, I promise."

He'd accurately pinpointed her concern with his teasing, but that made her frown severely at him. It was the clearly the better choice not to sleep with her Captain while she was considering the possibility of marriage to him or to one of the men the matchmaker had chosen. Sex would complicate the already layered relationship she had with Shunsui. She knew that, but her heart still raced for him, her tongue darting out to wet her lips.

"Nanao-chan." He held himself still, bent over enough for her to kiss him easily, his expression open and relaxed. His wide mouth tipped up at the corners. He'd trimmed his facial hair this morning; his appearance was neater than usual. If only he'd make a stupid kissy face so that she wouldn't even be tempted to kiss him of her own volition.

A kiss was just a small thing, wasn't it? She was tempted. She'd enjoyed kissing him in the garden, and she was sure she'd enjoy kissing him now. "If we were married, and if we were even awake at the same time in the morning, we might share a kiss," she conceded.

He smiled. "I'd wake up just for the chance to have your kisses, sweet Nanao-chan."

"If you don't set an alarm, I doubt we'd be kissing in the morning very often. I get up quite early." Her hand drifted up to his jaw. His eyes watched her intently. "And this kiss does not guarantee that we will be sharing further kisses. This is a singular event."

"Of course, Nanao-chan." He held his breath when she raised her other hand to his cheek. That softened her further. Why would a man like him hold his breath when she touched him?

She went up on her toes to have her mouth even with his mouth. Her lips brushed across his softly, once and then again. His lips parted slightly, making the kiss moist and melon-flavored. He tasted good and she wanted more. She tentatively outlined his lips with her tongue. He made a sound of pleasure but she retreated, pressing her lips against his lightly and pulling back from the kiss.

"Good morning." She stepped away from him, dropping her hands.

"Good morning." He grinned, straightening. "Do you want any more of the breakfast?"

"No, thank you. It was delicious, and I'm very satisfied now."

"I'm happy to hear that. It's my pleasure to give lovely Nanao-chan satisfaction in all things." He brushed her lips with a teasing fingertip. "Do you need any more satisfaction, Nanao-chan? I'm at your service in any way you want."

She batted his hand away lightly. "What I need right now is to get ready for work. But I'll keep your offer in mind while I draw up the training schedules for next quarter."

"That's mean, Nanao-chan!" He winked at her and lifted the tray, strolling out of the room. "I'll see you at the office in a little while."

She pressed her fingertips against her lips, exhaling shakily. That was not the start she'd expected to have today. She'd take her time getting ready, and center herself before she faced him in the office. All of her boundaries were sliding and shifting in this marriage practice. It was disconcerting and surprising.

She shook her head. Making a logical, reasonable choice of husband was important. She would focus on the tangible reasons that Shunsui would or would not be a good choice as a match.

But she could still taste him on her tongue.


Nanao was watching him from across the office. She was doing it subtly, but Shunsui was too familiar with her not to notice. He wrote another character in his letter to his family and then glanced up, but she appeared absorbed in her work.

Nanao Ise is a woman of refined sensibilities and the highest intelligence.

That was true and sounded good, like the type of thing a man should think of the woman he intended to marry. What else should he say? Her passions are strong and—no, he shouldn't mention something like that to his family, even if he intended it in the politest way.

He pressed the end of the brush against his lips, considering. When he looked up again he caught her eyes on his lips. She dropped her eyes and the faintest pink appeared on her cheeks, but she flipped the pages of her work as if he hadn't seen her staring. He grinned.

She is beautiful and elegant. Her loyalty and dedication to our division are beyond question.

He might have imagined what greater intimacy with Nanao would be like but the reality of it was even more delightful. She was skittish and careful but attracted to him and willing to give. His heart had burst into a skipping run when she'd kissed him this morning, her lips sweet with syrup and fruit. Nanao-chan's kisses are delicious—no, that would embarrass her.

She'd been embarrassed this morning, and nervous about being on a bed with him. He'd thought since the garden that she probably didn't have much intimate experience with men, but after last night he thought it was more than that making her nervous. She'd looked hurt after he'd admitted to not telling his family. What had hit him when he saw the pain in her eyes wasn't just that he was important to her, but how much she wanted to be important to him. He could tell her that she was important to him a thousand times but it wouldn't be enough. She wanted to see it.

Nanao is very important to me. Please look forward to meeting her.

He could be serious about Nanao. Shunsui just hoped that she was serious enough about him to brave the challenge of his family. One woman had once referred to his family as terrifying. But maybe terror was too dark a word—Ukitake had a few times made some meandering statements suggesting it would be deeply unwise to bring any women home because of the strong personality of Shunsui's family. He'd been right about that. The few experiences Shunsui had with bringing women to meet his family had been rather poor, and none of the relationships had persisted much beyond that point.

Nanao would be fine, though. She was a strong woman, and they'd do some training today to refresh her hand-to-hand skills.

And even if the meeting did go badly, it shouldn't matter much. Shunsui was committed to marrying Nanao. He could always appeal to her practicality and point out that they wouldn't need to see his family much after they were married.

He finished his letter, signing it with a flourish. Nanao watched him as he sent a hell butterfly requesting a courier. He sealed the letter and gave it over to the courier with some brief instructions for delivery.

Shunsui rose from his desk, grinning. "There, now you can consider my family informed, Nanao-chan. If you want to meet them, we can probably arrange it in a couple of days."

"Wouldn't a phone call have been easier? A letter sent by courier seems a bit old-fashioned." She raised an eyebrow.

He strolled to her desk, leaning a hip on the side and resting one hand on the surface in front of her. "Maybe. But if I called, someone might ask me a lot of questions. I prefer to have control over the way important information is delivered. Sometimes the old way is the best way for a situation."

"I suppose so." She leaned back in her chair.

"When you were at the Academy, did you send letters to your family? There weren't such advanced phone systems then."

She looked startled and then a little sad. "No, I didn't send many letters. No one wrote back to me much. What is your family like?"

She wanted to change the subject, that was obvious, but he wondered about her family. "The Kyōraku family is small, especially for a noble house. There are usually relatives popping up everywhere in those. I don't see my family often, but they've always been supportive of my career."

"But not necessarily of you personally?" she asked. Nanao had always been good at catching what he didn't say.

"I was difficult for them when I was young. I spent a lot of time with Yama-jii, because of my spiritual powers. So I didn't spend as much time with my family as they might have preferred, and I didn't have any interest in the martial arts. That's been our family's path for generations. I wasn't bad at it; I just didn't have passion for it. I'm sure they thought it was related to the time I spent with the shinigami."

"If you developed your powers early, spending time with Captain Yamamoto was likely necessary."

"It was necessary, but that doesn't mean my family was happy with the situation." He shrugged.

"I understand." She studied him with empathy in her eyes. "But you always seem to enjoy sparring when we practice together."

He smiled at her. "That has more to do with the company than with the activity itself, Nanao-chan."

She shook her head at him. "Was it only the martial arts that separated you from your family?"

"No. My father is a very goal-oriented man, and I just wanted to observe the world around me and let things develop naturally over time. It frustrated him that I didn't approach things the way that he did, that I didn't want to memorize information from books and practice in the dojo in the rigid way he preferred. In the end, my parents decided to send me to the Shinigami Academy."

"Were you upset about that?"

He shrugged. "No. The Academy was a good place for me to be then. I had a natural aptitude for the work and I made friends. Yama-jii was more indulgent with me than I probably deserved. Even if I didn't initially choose the path, it was a good fit for me, and I've made the choice to continue many times since then when I could have quit."

"I'm glad that you stayed. I couldn't imagine being without you." She continued in a rush. "That, is, you're a valuable asset to the Gotei 13 and Soul Society, so it's beneficial that you remain in service, Captain." She glanced down at her desk, obviously flustered.

But she was so cute. "I can't imagine being without you, either, Nanao-chan. But please call me Shunsui or maybe darling, sweetheart, dearest, lover—"

Her fan pressed to his mouth. "I will not use any of those ludicrous endearments."

He pouted. "You find my endearments ludicrous?"

"It's different when you say them. If I said them, they would sound ludicrous." She sounded very certain.

"I don't think that's true. How do you know that endearments wouldn't sound good in your voice? Have you used them before?" He didn't think he'd ever heard her use any of those words, in any context.

"Of course not! Those endearments are completely unprofessional. When would I say things like that?" she snapped.

He smiled. "Maybe you just need to practice a little. I'll kneel here, looking handsome and romantic, and you can use some endearments on me." He knelt beside her chair, grasping one of her hands.

"This is inappropriate behavior for the office." She pulled her hand away.

"Think of it as a part of marriage practice." He leaned forward, grinning. "You were making exceptions for the marriage practice yesterday."

"But it's very unlikely that I would use endearments if we were married." Her brows drew together.

"Just try it once, lovely Nanao-chan. You don't have to use them if it's uncomfortable for you after that."

She sighed, but her hands fluttered over his face, landing very lightly on his cheeks. She licked her lips, her cheeks a delightful pink. Her upper body curved towards him, over the arm of the chair. "Shunsui," she said softly.

His breath caught when she moved closer, her lips a whisper from his. He was lucky, so lucky, that this woman he wanted more than any other would want him, too.

Her lips parted, but no words emerged. Her eyes were indigo in this light and he could see himself reflected in them. She licked her lips and then pressed them together. "I don't think I can use the endearments."

"Sweet Nanao-chan."

"There are some things I can't say. Especially in the office."

"Don't worry about that. My name said in your beautiful voice is already a meaningful endearment to me."

She turned away from him, adjusting her glasses. "We've already agreed that I'll use your name during this marriage practice."

"Yes, and I'm very happy about that." He rose from his kneeling position, leaning against the desk beside her chair. "Don't worry about meeting my family. I'm sure it will go well, and even if it didn't, it would be fine."

"I'd like it to go well," she said, studying her hands on the desk.

"We'll do some sparring later, just in case. But I really believe that my mother will like you, Nanao-chan."

"Do you think so? Why?" She tilted her head to see his face.

"Yes. For one, you have the kind of work ethic she has, and that will please her. She still teaches classes almost daily at the dojo." He smiled.

"You sound fond of her."

"She indulged me a lot when I was young. Less when I was older, but still more than most people would have. I like to be indulged."

Nanao arched an eyebrow. "Most people like to be indulged."

"Do you want to be indulged, Nanao-chan? What can your Shunsui do to make you happy?" He leaned in close to her, murmuring in her ear.

She looked a bit surprised and he decided he must have been neglecting her in some way, if she could make that face. "Indulged? Normally I would tell you to do your work, but that was finished yesterday, and there isn't much that's new today. Putting work aside, I have no need for indulgence."

"But that can't be true, lovely Nanao-chan. Indulgence is for things and experiences that you don't need, but want. Everyone wants to be indulged, so please let me indulge you."

Her eyes lit up for a momentary flare before she spoke. "We're at work. And there's nothing like that."

But he'd seen desire in her eyes before she'd quashed it with her words. He tipped her chin up with two fingers. "Tell me how to please you, Nanao-chan. I'd love to indulge you in anything."

She licked her lips, her eyes lit with that desire and a hint of mischief.

"Just one thing," he coaxed.

"We have work today." But her eyes stayed on his. She wanted to be persuaded; that was all right, he had a lot of practice at persuading duty-focused Nanao into fun.

"We did so much work yesterday. You said there wasn't much. Our marriage practice is important too, and we should devote time to it." She was close to agreeing, so he pressed on. "Spending the afternoon together is the prudent, sensible thing to do. Tell me what you want, Nanao-chan."

""It's not precisely permitted," she said, her voice low, confiding.

His smile grew wider. How fascinating. "Even better."

"It's not precisely forbidden, either." She shifted to speak into his ear. "There's a place in the Rukongai where I would like to go."

On to Chapter 8.


Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
akai_miko
Jan. 9th, 2013 10:52 am (UTC)
well well~ INDULGE hmm? >D

Hmm... I wonder what will happen in next chappie....
House? what house?

r_dahlia
Jan. 11th, 2013 06:47 pm (UTC)
Indulge, yes! What could Nanao want? (That she'll admit to? XD)

I'm not sure what house you're asking about, exactly? Sorry, it's been a long day. XD

Thanks for your comment!
(Anonymous)
Jan. 12th, 2013 09:53 am (UTC)
OH MY GOD
This is so good. Just the fanfiction that I was looking for. Thank you for writing this!! I hope you update soon!! :)))))))
r_dahlia
Jan. 12th, 2013 11:25 pm (UTC)
Re: OH MY GOD
Thanks for your comment, I'm glad you're enjoying this story! ^_^
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )