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Bleach Fanfic: Honeybees and Chocolate

Title: Honeybees and Chocolate
Pairing: Shunsui/Nanao
Genre: Romance/Drama
Rating: T
Status: One-shot
Contains: Spoilers through Bleach manga chapter 520, mild adult content.
Summary: When Shunsui forgets Valentine's Day, Nanao surprises him in a way he'd never expected.

Notes: Here's a little story for Valentine's Day, I hope people enjoy it!



Shunsui stamped the final paper and dropped it on the stack. He sighed. There was still the Captains' meeting this afternoon. When he came back to the office afterward, there would be fresh paperwork. The First Division generated more paperwork in a day than had crossed his desk in the Eighth in a week. He leaned back in his chair, running his hand down his face.

He'd finish the new paperwork, grab some dinner at the mess hall, and then visit Ukitake. His friend had been under the weather for a few days, but Shunsui hadn't made it to Ugendō to see him yet.

Time was so much shorter when every important decision crossed his desk. Shunsui knew it would be this way when he'd received the appointment to Head Captain, but he didn't have to like it.

His eye was drawn to Nanao's back as she slipped into the office, closing the door behind her. "How was your meeting, Nanao-chan?" She'd been gone all morning with the Shinigami Women's Association.

"It wasn't a meeting. It was an event planning session." She hesitated by the door before turning sharply on her heel and marching to his desk, a pensive expression on her face. She held something red in her hands, which she placed precisely on the desk in front of him.

It was a large box shaped like a heart. "Nanao-chan?"

Her brows drew together, her cheeks pink. "What?" she snapped.

"What's this?" He pulled the top off of the box carefully. Inside was a heart-shaped cake covered in chocolate.

"Isn't it obvious?" Her eyes narrowed and then widened. For an instant she looked stricken, but her eyes shifted immediately to irritation. "Did you really forget about today?"

He glanced from her face to the chocolate, his brain finally finding the connection. "Valentine's Day?"

She crossed her arms. "Yes, Valentine's Day. I can't believe you'd forget after the way you harassed me about it last year and the year before—"

Shunsui watched her pacing and reiterating a litany of complaints regarding his past behavior on Valentine's Day, but he was focused very intently on one thing.

His chocolate was blank.

She hadn't written 'obligation' on it, as she had last year, and the blush on her face was a tantalizing token of her motivations. "Nanao-chan."

"—And that's without even mentioning the honeybee situation—" She broke off when he said her name. "Captain?"

He liked that she still called him that often, even after months at the First Division. Hearing people call him Head Captain made him feel too young and too old all at once, as if he was a child playing at Yama-jii's desk again, and as if he was as old as Yama-jii had been.

He looked down at the chocolate, his fingers drawing the outline of the heart in the air above the box. "Nanao-chan made me valentine's chocolate."

"I made you chocolate last year." She sounded defensive, which made him smile. Not only did he think he'd caught her out at something, she thought so, too.

He nodded. "That chocolate was very lovely, too. But that chocolate said 'obligation' on it." He stood. "This chocolate doesn't say that, does it, Nanao-chan?"

She swallowed as he crossed the floor toward her. "Maybe we were out of white chocolate, or I forgot, or—"

He shook his head. "No. If you wanted to have white chocolate to write with on your cake, there would have been some. Clever Nanao-chan doesn't forget things."

She huffed. Her eyes flicked to the door and back to him.

"Nanao-chan wanted to say something to me without words," he murmured in her ear, leaning down to her.

"You can't prove that."

He grinned. "Can't I?" He laid two fingers gently on the pulse in her throat. "Your heart is beating fast, Nanao-chan."

"Maybe it's not because of you," she said with combative fire in her eyes. Her hand came up to wrap around his wrist, but she didn't pull away from his touch.

"That's a possibility. We could test that." He caressed the skin over her pulse.

"How would we do that?" she asked, dubious.

"If I kiss you and your heartbeat speeds up more, we can conclude that I'm the cause." Her lips were a delicious rose. He imagined them parting for him, silky and welcoming.

But her lips parted for crisp words instead. "That's not remotely scientific. These are not laboratory conditions and you can't eliminate all of the other variables."

"That doesn't mean it's not worth trying." He shifted closer to her face, until he could distinguish each of the eyelashes framing her beautiful eyes.

"Your reasoning is lacking." But she didn't move away. Her lips turned up very slightly, her eyelids slipping half-closed.

"We're having a romantic moment, Nanao-chan. Reasoning should be swept away by the tide of your love for me." Only a whisper separated their lips now.

"That's ridiculous." Her words were soft, the tone not matching what she'd said. Her hand tightened on his wrist and her body curved into him a little.

Her breath was sweet and he imagined her sampling his chocolate as she worked on it. His valentine would taste even better from her lips, he was sure. He closed his eye and crossed that final space between them.

His lips collided with her fan in a stinging slap. She'd wrenched his hand off of her pulse with brutal efficiency. "Okikiba-san," she said, and Shunsui understood immediately.

He turned his face to the door, exaggerating his pout. "Nanao-chan is so cruel."

Okikiba looked undisturbed. He had an excellent poker face, so it was difficult to know if Okikiba realized he'd interrupted a special moment. "The other Captains are assembled and waiting for you, sir."

"Already?" Shunsui straightened. He went to his desk to put the lid back on his chocolate cake, not wanting it to dry out while he was away.

"Thank you for the chocolates, Ise-san. They were very flavorful," Okikiba said as Nanao secreted her fan away.

"You're welcome, Okikiba-san. The chocolates have a bit of hot pepper in them, for bite." Nanao moved to the door. "Captain?"

He went to the door, smiling at Okikiba and Nanao. Okikiba returned to his desk in the outer office. There was a small red box with delicate candies inside open on the desk.

"You laced your chocolates with peppers?" Shunsui asked as Nanao walked with him to the meeting room.

"They make the chocolate more intense. We had other things—Hinamori-san used oranges for hers—but that seemed too sweet to me." She adjusted her glasses.

"Of course it did. I am very much looking forward to tasting your intense flavors, Nanao-chan." His voice dipped suggestively.

She blushed sweetly, but when she spoke her tone was brisk. "Can you find your way back to the office on your own after the meeting? I still have a lot to do before the party, and I wanted Okikiba-san's help."

"I think I can manage to make it back to the office on my own," he said. Nanao took her job very seriously, even when that job was escorting him down a single corridor. "But what party are you talking about? Is another division having a Valentine's Day party this year?" A party was normally held by the Eighth, planned by Shunsui, but since he'd forgotten the holiday this year, he'd assumed there would be no party.

"The First Division is holding a Valentine's Day gathering for any members from all divisions. It will be held in the common room and the courtyard, provided the Twelfth Division provides the air heaters I've requisitioned."

"We're throwing the party?" he asked, surprised.

She nodded, her lips pressed together.

"You've planned a party for all of the divisions for Valentine's Day? But you've never really supported celebrating the holiday. You've said it's an inappropriate event for a workplace. Why would you plan the party when I'd forgotten?"

Her head tipped down, her eyes hidden by her hair.

"Nanao-chan?"

Their arrival at the meeting room brought her eyes back up. "The Captains are waiting for you. The party is at seven tonight. Dress is casual and refreshments will be served, but not a full dinner. Eat beforehand." She inclined her head and started back to the office.

"Nanao-chan." Why would she work on this party in secret?

She paused, turning her head in profile to him. "I'll see you at the party, Captain. Please be very productive this afternoon, even though you'll be alone."

He made a sound of agreement in his throat and watched her walk away.




After work Shunsui grabbed dinner from a street vendor and then went home to clean up before the party. Although Nanao had said the dress was casual, he put a fresh uniform on. Yama-jii had very rarely appeared in public out of uniform as the Head Captain. Shunsui felt obliged to maintain that tradition.

He swung by Ukitake's house and helped his friend bundle up for the season and his illness. If Nanao had requisitioned heaters from the Twelfth, there would be heaters, but Ukitake's health was delicate at the best of times.

"How long have you known about the party?" Shunsui asked, lifting a wool haori for Ukitake.

"Everyone's known for weeks, you know that. Ise-san sent the invitation to everyone's phone."

"Nanao-chan sent it to their phones?"

Ukitake flipped through his phone for the announcement, passing it to Shunsui. "Though I have to say, I wish you wouldn't give Ise-san tasks so far outside of any legitimate duty. I know her role is primarily to make things easier for you, but planning an event of this size must have been an enormous undertaking."

Shunsui read the invitation, a frown on his face. All shinigami from every division are invited to attend Head Captain Kyōraku's Valentine's Day Celebration of Love on February 14th in the First Division Courtyard.

More prosaic details about food and drink followed, but the overall tone was in keeping with the announcements of previous years that Shunsui had written himself. She'd even used graphics of hearts and a pink background. "You didn't tell me you'd gotten an invitation, Ukitake."

Ukitake blinked. "Well, I haven't seen you too much lately. But why would I tell you about your own party? You didn't ask if I'd gotten the invitation, and I assumed you knew who you'd sent them to, since it was literally every shinigami in Seireitei."

She'd sent them to everyone but Shunsui. Since the invitations had his name on them, everyone had assumed he that already knew about the event. She'd kept it secret by telling everyone. He grinned. It was a clever strategy, a good reading of people's reactions and of his own preoccupation with his responsibilities as Head Captain.

A few people from the Eighth had told him they were looking forward to drinking with him again, but he'd thought they meant it in a general sense. They'd actually been looking forward to this party.

"Right. Why would you?" Shunsui pressed his hands together, clapping once. "Let's get going."

Ukitake smiled. "It's good to see you excited about something again. It's been a while."

Shunsui stopped, considering. "It has been a while, hasn't it? I didn't realize."

"You've been taking your work seriously, which is good, but you should still be able to relax sometimes." Ukitake shook off one haori. "If you put any more layers on me I might fall over under the weight. It's not that cold, Kyōraku."

Shunsui shrugged. "All right. Let's go." He jumped into flash step, arriving quickly at the First Division. The gate had a large banner welcoming guests to the party.

Inside, the plain and sedate courtyard had been transformed. Paper lanterns in the shape of hearts floated in the air, tethered with thin wires to the walls and posts. Tables lined the courtyard in neat rows, laden with food and drink. Several ice sculptures of hearts and cupids made a striking display, and a large chocolate fountain flowed steadily at a dessert table as people coated fruits and candies in the streaming chocolate.

Members from all divisions milled around, laughing and talking. Several people were dancing on a large dance floor colored a striking pink. Shunsui wondered where Nanao had found something like that in Soul Society; he wanted one. The requisitioned heaters from the Twelfth kept the temperature comfortable. Paper trees in pink with heart-shaped leaves swayed behind every table. The décor was romantic, celebratory, and excessive. Shunsui loved it immediately.

"Head Captain Kyōraku!" Third Seat Enjōji jogged up to Shunsui and Ukitake, his cheeks already pink from drinking. "The party is so big this year, it's great! Was it your idea to dress up all of the women from the SWA? Captain Soi Fon looks amazing."

"Dress up the SWA?" Shunsui asked, his eyes scanning the crowd. He spotted Rangiku in a slinky hot pink sheath and Soi Fon in a rather unfortunate ruffled taffeta dress, also pink. "It wasn't me, Enjōji-kun. I never tell women what to wear, it's much too dangerous."

"Maybe they voted on it, then." Enjōji clasped one of Shunsui's shoulders jovially. "Come and have a drink at the Eighth's tables, sir! We'd really enjoy it." He leaned in. "But if you're looking for Vice Captain Ise first, she's on the dance floor."

"Thanks, Enjōji-kun. I'll stop by later." Shunsui strode forward, intent on finding Nanao. Was she actually dancing? Romantic music played low in the background.

The crowds parted enough for him to see Nanao at the edge of the dance floor. Her hair was up, more elaborately done than usual, and she wore a pale pink dress with cap sleeves and a flirtatiously full skirt that fell to her knees. She wasn't dancing. Instead she carried a clipboard and a pen, and pointed out various changes to a few shinigami from the First.

"We also need the speaker system checked. The left side wasn't working properly. Please secure the loose square at the corner of the dance floor nearest to the gate. I don't want any accidents," Nanao said, her tone all business, even as her dress whispered softly when she moved.

"Nanao-chan."

She stiffened at the sound of Shunsui's voice, her forehead creased when she turned to him. "Captain Kyōraku." She wet her lips.

"This is a wonderful party, Ise-san. Did you plan all of this yourself?" Ukitake asked as he walked up.

"No, I had a lot of help from Okikiba-san and the SWA. Please come this way, Captain Ukitake. We've prepared a special table for you." Nanao's skirt swished enticingly as she led them to an inside corner of the courtyard near the First Division building. Two heaters pointed at a large table, and the ground was lined with pillows and throws.

"Thank you for thinking of me, Ise-san, this is very nice." Ukitake moved to sit at the table, Kiyone and Sentarō hurrying over to him.

Nanao turned back to Shunsui, clutching her clipboard to her chest.

"You look so lovely tonight, Nanao-chan." Shunsui smiled at her. She was wearing a delicate touch of makeup that enhanced her eyes and lips.

"The SWA had a vote on group attire for this event. I lost." Her lips curved up.

He chuckled. "I'm rather fond of the pink theme, though. Nanao-chan is so sweet in a party dress." He brushed her shoulder with his fingers, savoring the feeling of silk over her skin.

"Thank you. We all went shopping together. It was challenging." She shook her head. "Captain Kyōraku, I—"

"Nanao-san!" Hinamori skidded over to them. "The ice machine from the Twelfth is shooting ice blocks across the room. It seems to be stuck on some kind of attack setting. One of the cooks was knocked unconscious."

"Call the Fourth Division for medical help. I'll be right there." Nanao straightened.

"I'll help," Shunsui said as Hinamori hurried away.

"No." Nanao's voice was sharp and his eyes widened in surprise. She softened her voice when she continued. "No, thank you. Please go and enjoy the party. There are a lot of people who'd like to see you having fun tonight. I'll take care of the ice machine. I have a lot of things to do, anyway."

"I want my industrious Nanao-chan to enjoy the party you've put so much effort into with me."

"I'll enjoy the party later. Go and have a drink with the Eighth. They've missed you." Her eyes and voice were gentler than usual.

Had she been missing him, too? "Nanao-chan, I know things have been different—"

"Captain, there is a marauding ice machine on the loose. We can talk later. Please go and enjoy yourself," she said, her voice crisp again. She marched away to subdue the errant machine.

He grinned. Only Nanao could make a party sound the same as a fat stack of paperwork. But she'd gone through the tremendous effort of organizing a huge event for a holiday she didn't even like, and if she wanted him to enjoy her work, he couldn't refuse her.

Besides, it felt good to spend time with his division—former division, he reminded himself—and the members of the Eighth welcomed him to their tables with drinks, jokes, and laughter. Shunsui slipped back into his old habits with ease, holding a dish of sake in one hand and gesturing widely with the other as he told the story of a past Valentine's Day disaster to the officers of the Eighth. "That's why I don't recommend anything to do with bees."

"Did Vice Captain Ise forgive you for that?" Enjōji asked, laughing.

"Eventually. Very eventually, after a lot of apologies and paperwork." Shunsui's eye sought Nanao, finding her near the ice sculpture of a huge heart, supervising the reinforcement of the decoration with stakes and ropes. Anyone else might have let it tip over as it melted, but Nanao would have an upright heart until it couldn't be salvaged anymore.

He spent a pleasant hour catching up with the Eighth and then made the rounds of the other divisions, visiting with every table. Yama-jii would have set up at a table and had people come to him, but Shunsui thought it was an acceptable deviation to socialize more informally than that.

Three hours into the party he'd returned to Ukitake's table, eating and drinking with his friend. Nanao had yet to have a drink or relax for a single moment. She'd spent the entire time marching around with her clipboard, making sure the party ran smoothly.

He watched her arrange discs at the music player with the questionable assistance of Rangiku, who was holding a drink and laughing. Shunsui rose and turned to Ukitake. "Do you need anything?"

Ukitake shook his head. "No, but even if I did, there are a dozen people here that could get me a drink. Go and dance with Ise-san."

Shunsui grinned and strolled to the table with the music. "Nanao-chan."

She glanced up. "Are you enjoying the party, Captain?"

"Yes, but I want my lovely Nanao-chan to enjoy it, too. Will you dance with me?" He held out his hand for her.

She shifted her clipboard from one arm to the other. "There are still some things to do—"

Rangiku swept around the table to tug the clipboard out of Nanao's hands. "I'll take care of it!"

"But you don't know which items aren't complete," Nanao protested.

"The party's great and everyone's having fun. Don't worry, I'll figure it out." Rangiku pushed on Nanao's back until she took Shunsui's hand.

"I've been outvoted again," Nanao said, her lips curved up.

He led her out to the dance floor with a flourish and drew her in, maintaining a short distance between them to keep her comfortable. "I'm glad, since it means I get to dance with you."

"Everyone is watching us." She stared at his chest.

"They're all impressed by my good fortune." He let his hand drift slightly over her back.

She blinked, looking in the direction of the Eighth's tables. "Is Enjōji-kun taking pictures?"

Shunsui laughed. "He is. I'll have to get copies."

She shook her head but her tone was indulgent when she spoke. "They're all cheering you on."

"I'm sure some of them want to see you slap me down," he said, shrinking the distance between them by a bare inch.

She noticed, of course. He could see it in the narrowing of her eyes. "No one from the Eighth wants you to fail. Did you catch up with them earlier?"

"Yes, I had a lot of fun hearing all the news from them."

She smiled. "You mean all of the gossip."

"It's the same thing, Nanao-chan." He exhaled. His voice dropped low. "I've been neglecting my friends. You were telling me that with the party, weren't you?"

Her brows drew together. "You've been very focused on your new role and your new responsibilities. You haven't done anything wrong, it's just—" she broke off, her eyes sliding away from his.

"I've been neglecting my friends. I've been neglecting you." His hand tightened on hers as he led her through the dance.

She looked up, irritation bright in her eyes and voice. "You've been neglecting yourself."

"What?" he asked, surprised.

She ran her hand down from his shoulder and tapped his uniform over his chest. "Why are you wearing this? You went home and cleaned up and put a uniform on again, when you knew there was a party. Why?"

"It's just a uniform, Nanao-chan." His denial probably wouldn't convince her; he knew that before he said the words.

She smoothed her hand over the fabric. "Last year you wore a ridiculous yukata to the party, as if it were a summer holiday."

"Valentine's Day is a holiday, Nanao-chan."

"Then why are you wearing your uniform?" Her eyes were gentle, her voice soft.

He hesitated. "Yama-jii rarely appeared out of uniform."

"I know. It's important to you to respect the position he held, and the man that he was. But you don't have to keep things exactly as they were."

"It's difficult. I don't want to forget him. I don't want anyone to look at me and think that I've disgraced Yama-jii's work. Sometimes I feel like a kid playing at his desk again." He looked away, at the gates of the First Division.

His eye returned to her when he felt her slender fingers on his jaw. "I know. But you aren't disgracing his office or disrespecting him, even if you appear at a party in a ridiculous yukata. He knew you, and he wanted you to follow after him. As yourself, Captain. If you ever go too far, if you risk the respect of your troops, I will stop you, with all necessary force."

He studied her eyes, full of certainty and tenderness, for a long moment. He'd thought she would be glad—that everyone would be glad—to see him being the man he thought Yama-jii expected him to be. But his friends had been so happy to see Shunsui tonight, laughing and drinking. They'd missed him being himself.

Nanao had missed him. Enough to plan an enormous party for hundreds, with paper trees made with heart-shaped leaves and a chocolate fountain and a dozen other excessively romantic touches that he adored and that must have made her wince when she'd chosen them. "With all necessary force, Nanao-chan?" He pouted, exaggerating the shape of his lips.

"My volume of The Abridged History of Seireitei stands ready to return you to your path at any time, Captain." Her voice was brighter, but her face was worried.

"That's a bit too literal, don't you think?" He pulled her closer, their bodies just touching. "There are far better ways for you to handle me."

She smiled, relieved, but her eyes were still serious. "You'd enjoy that too much."

"Absolutely," he murmured close to her ear. "I told the Eighth about the honeybee incident," he added, because he wanted her eyes to lighten.

She laughed, startled. "The honeybee incident? I can't believe you'd tell people about that."

"It was a cautionary tale. The fever of love gone wrong, romance led astray—"

"Bees in my quarters, in my food, in my sheets, in my clothes—"

"It was specifically in your panties, Nanao-chan. I remember, because you hit me with the chest they were in when I told you that bees are attracted to sweet things." He grinned, enjoying the rise of her eyebrows as her annoyance flared up. She was playing at it, though, because her mouth was soft and her eyes amused.

"I cannot believe that you brought a beehive to my quarters—"

"It was outside of your quarters, and honey is most delicious fresh from the source—"

"Honey doesn't spoil, and it's a terrible idea to bring a beehive anywhere. I don't know why the bees didn't sting you into oblivion for that."

"The bees found me charming, Nanao-chan." He winked at her.

She shook her head at him. "At least someone found you charming that day. I can't believe you would voluntarily tell anyone that story."

"It was a cautionary tale. Besides, the bee incident wasn't a total loss. I did get to see your panties." He wagged his eyebrows.

She made an outraged sound. "I should have hit you with that chest a few more times, since you clearly don't regret your actions appropriately." She pursed her lips in a way he found delicious. "But I don't have my fan. This dress doesn't have any pockets."

"Your dress is perfect as it is, Nanao-chan." His eye traced the elegant lines of her collarbones above the sweetheart neckline of her dress. "Besides, surely the bee incident is far past punishing now. It was years ago."

She smiled. "I bet the Eighth liked that story. They love to see you get away with things."

"I think they liked the part where you slapped me with a chest the most." He glanced at the Eighth's tables and saw them watching the dance floor avidly.

Nanao followed his eyes. "No, the Eighth loves to see you cross my boundaries and get away with it the most. You've imprinted an overly romantic character on the whole division. Are they eating popcorn? Where did they get popcorn?"

He chuckled. "There's a popcorn machine in the second floor storage room here. It was Sasakibe-san's. Someone at the SWA must have dragged it out. But I still think the Eighth is waiting so eagerly to see you slap me down."

"I would say that we are both correct. The Eighth is hoping to see you get away with something romantic, and expecting to see you get slapped instead." Nanao inclined her head to the Eighth's members.

"Nanao-chan."

She turned back to him. "Yes, Captain?"

"Let's give them what they want to see." He spun her and her skirt circled out, her heels lifting. He pulled her back into him, much closer than before, their bodies pressed together firmly. "What do you think, sweet Nanao-chan? Will you fulfill their hopes, or their expectations?"

He hand left his shoulder to hover near his jaw. She tipped her face up to study his eyes. They were barely dancing now. "What about your hopes?" she asked, and the tremulous tone of her words made him draw her in even closer.

His voice was low when he answered; this was something private, something important between them. "My hopes remain the same. You know what they are already, Nanao-chan. My ridiculous, brash hopes—isn't that what you called them?"

"I said that they were bold and inappropriate." Her lips pressed together, distress showing in her eyes.

"It's all right, Nanao-chan." He smiled, even though it was difficult, loosening his hold on her.

Her hand landed on his jaw before he could step back and restore the distance between them. It was only a brief touch, but he froze. Her hand moved to the joint of his neck and shoulder, her fingers digging in a little as she held him to her. "This is a holiday party. Dancing too closely is a very minor impropriety," she said, shrugging one shoulder, a pretty blush on her face.

He grinned. "I agree completely, Nanao-chan. Given that I can see two Vice Captains passed out at a table in very little clothing from here, I'd say that we're really very respectable."

"Hisagi-kun and Kira-kun should stop trying to drink with Rangiku-san. It never ends well for them." She sighed. "The Eighth is taking pictures of us again."

"You fulfilled their hopes, Nanao-chan. They want to commemorate this moment." It felt so good to be holding her like this, smelling her orange blossom soap and stroking the silk on her back. He thought about the paper lanterns, the ice sculptures, the music and the chocolate fountain. She'd put a tremendous amount of work into the party. He remembered the chocolate cake she'd given him, tantalizingly unmarked. "What are your hopes, Nanao-chan?"

Her eyes widened. He'd never asked her that and gotten a real answer. She always deflected the question, saying that she hoped he'd work more or she hoped he'd stop trying to steal kisses. "My hopes?"

"Yes, Nanao-chan. Will you tell me?"

She wet her lips. "My hopes have changed." There was a vulnerability in her eyes that caught his breath. Whatever she asked him for now, he would give it to her. "Did you like the flavor of my chocolate?"

He wished she'd asked for something more, but Nanao's steps closer to him were often circling and slow. "I love your chocolate. But I haven't tasted it yet."

She withdrew from him, a flicker of hurt passing through her eyes before she snuffed it out. "I see."

"No, you don't." He pulled her back in, leaning down to her ear. "After this afternoon, I had a dream—a hope—of tasting the chocolate on your lips. I want to eat it with you, Nanao-chan."

She took a deep breath. "Is the chocolate in the office?"

"It's at my house." He shifted upright, wanting to see her face.

"You want to eat your chocolate with me?" Her eyes were luminous and heavy.

"Yes. Nanao-chan." He bent his head closer to hers, arrested by her expression, yearning to kiss her.

"Remember where we are," she whispered.

He pulled back. "It's difficult when I want so much to be somewhere else, alone with you," he said ruefully.

There was a long silence. He held her, his hopes rising, despite his efforts to hold them down. If she was going to shut him down completely, she would have replied quickly.

"We can arrange that." She nodded, her voice shifting to crispness. There was a calculating expression on her face he'd seen before, but never for something like this. "I can meet you at your house in twenty minutes. We'll leave separately. Go and enjoy the party, and I'll make sure my clean-up plans are still intact. Leaving Rangiku-san in charge was a bit questionable, given how much she's had to drink. I'll see if Okikiba-san is available instead."

Apparently Nanao planned her romance the same way she managed her work. He grinned, his hopes flying higher. "It's a date, Nanao-chan. I can't wait."

"It's not a date." She glanced around to see if anyone had overheard. But they were largely alone on the dance floor and their audience watching from the tables was too far away to listen to them.

"Would you prefer assignation? Liaison? Rendezvous? I have more, if you don't like any of those." He couldn't stop smiling.

"We'll negotiate terms," she said, her lips curving up.

He chuckled. "I'm really looking forward to it." How long had it been since he'd felt happiness coursing through his veins like wine?

Nanao stepped out of their dance. "Twenty minutes," she murmured and strode away to the chocolate fountain. Rangiku held Nanao's clipboard perilously close to the fountain's flow.

Shunsui made his way back towards Ukitake's table, stopping when he saw Okikiba.

"Are you enjoying the party, Head Captain Kyōraku?" Okikiba asked.

"Very much, it's wonderful. Nanao-chan said that you did a lot of work to put this together. Thank you." Shunsui clapped him on the shoulder.

Okikiba nodded. "It's been a pleasure to see the courtyard full of life and Sasakibe-san's popcorn machine running again. It's been a long time." Nostalgia colored his voice.

"We'll do it again," Shunsui said, and meant it. He wouldn't neglect the lighter side of things in the future. Seeing everyone at the party reminded him of how important relaxation and bonding were to his troops and to him.

Back at the Thirteenth's tables, Ukitake was listening indulgently to a long, complex story told in a series of interruptions by Kiyone and Sentarō. Shunsui couldn't tell which of them was actually telling the story. When the two started fighting over the next part, Shunsui dropped down next to Ukitake. "I'm going home now."

"So early?" Ukitake turned to him, frowning. "You usually stay until the end of a party, or close to it. I thought you were having fun tonight."

"Yes, but I have a date." He grinned.

"What?" Ukitake lowered his voice. "With Ise-san?"

"Yes. We're going to share my valentine's chocolate," Shunsui said.

"I'll wish you good luck, then." Ukitake leaned back on his hands. "This party she put together for you is pretty amazing."

"Thanks. It is an amazing party. Enjoy the rest of it and tell me about it tomorrow, all right?"

"Sure." Ukitake smiled.

Shunsui rose and hurried into the First Division, stepping into shunpo in the first empty corridor that he found. Nanao had said twenty minutes, but there were some things he wanted to do first. In his house he turned up the heat until the air would be comfortable for a woman's bare skin. He grabbed the clothes he hadn't dealt with properly in the morning off the floor of his bedroom and threw them in the laundry.

He spent a few precious minutes straightening up his bed. He wasn't sure that Nanao would see it, but he was hopeful and he wanted her to be pleased to lay down with him. Candles would set a romantic atmosphere, so he lit several in the bedroom and in the room where the chocolate sat on a low table.

Wine was the best accompaniment for this night, so he selected a fine bottle. He'd just put out the glasses when he heard the light step of Nanao outside. He went to meet her on his porch. "I'm glad you came, Nanao-chan."

She was rubbing her arms, the thin silk not enough of a barrier against the cold away from the heaters at the party. "Thank you. But I should have put on something warmer."

Shunsui pulled off his pink haori and wrapped it around her shoulders. He guided her into the house with a hand on her back.

"Thank you," she said, glancing up at him and biting her lip. She was nervous, and he wanted to put her at ease.

"Those heaters from the Twelfth Division are marvelous, aren't they? I want one for my house. It would be so nice to sit outside in comfort regardless of the season." He offered her a cushion for the low table.

She sat neatly, curling deeper into his haori. "All you have to do is ask. Since you're the Head Captain now, the Twelfth Division would just give you one."

He sat on the same side of the table, facing her, and resting his hand on the table. "That's true. Somehow it makes me not want to ask."

She nodded. "It takes the fun out of it for you. What you'd enjoy is the game, figuring out the right bribe or leverage to use and how to get the best price on your own illicit Twelfth Division heater. If they just give it you, there's no game."

"You know me so well, Nanao-chan."

She tilted her head. "It's not a difficult guess. You usually want a game, don't you?"

"I often do. But even if I can't have the game, I'd still like the heater. Maybe I should just ask for one." He rubbed his chest. That feeling of being too young and too old nagged at him.

"No." She pushed the haori off of her shoulders, letting her dress glimmer in the candlelight. "What you should do is have Captain Ukitake ask for two heaters. He could use one anyway, with his condition, and the game will be more challenging if you're trying for more. Let him be your front, and you can still bribe and play your way to a heater."

He stared at her for a moment and then burst into laughter. "That's a good idea, Nanao-chan. I'll do that."

She chuckled. "You'll more have fun that way." She reached for the wine, pouring a small amount into her glass, more into his.

"Thank you. Will you sit outside with me in the winter when I have a heater, Nanao-chan?" he asked, lifting his wine.

She sipped from her glass. "I might." Her eyes reflected the flames of the candles and her lips wore a secretive smile. "Did you want to eat your chocolate now?"

"Soon." He leaned forward. "I wanted to ask you something first."

She nodded.

"When did your hopes change?" he asked, unable to keep his voice easy and curious. He wanted to know this too much to pretend it was a casual question.

She looked down at her wine. "Everything has been changing, hasn't it?" She set her glass on the table, looking at the wall. "I didn't want things to change. I told myself that even if we went to the First Division, even if you became the Head Captain, you would still be the same. You and I would still be the same."

"But we weren't. I'm sorry, Nanao-chan." He touched her hand on the table.

She frowned. "Don't apologize for that. It was inevitable that you would change. I could see you thinking about what Head Captain Yamamoto would have wanted, would have done, and I could see you adjusting your behavior to what you thought it should be. It wasn't wrong of you. Respecting the history of your new position, guarding the legacy of a man you loved, those are good things, important things."

"Yama-jii was important to me, Nanao-chan. I wanted to respect what he'd built, especially since I had to rip some of it down for the War."

She turned to him, her eyes downcast. "I know. I watched you become more responsible, more committed to your work, more careful in your words and actions. It was everything I'd ever said I wanted you to be." Her hands fidgeted in her lap. "But you looked so tired, and so sad sometimes."

"I'm sorry, Nanao-chan," he murmured, even though she didn't want him to say it. He'd changed, and he'd hurt her without realizing it.

She shook her head. "You were doing what you thought was best. You were doing what I thought was best. But you didn't smile as much, and you didn't play your games with me as much, and you didn't visit your friends as much. I went to the First Division with you because I wanted to support you, but I failed."

"You haven't failed me, Nanao-chan." He wanted to say more, but she held up her hand.

"Please let me finish," she asked.

He nodded. Whatever she wanted to say, he would listen, even if it was difficult to hold back his desire to soothe her.

"I thought of the Valentine's Day party after Christmas, when you barely attended the party and didn't seem to enjoy yourself at all. I know there was a lot on your mind, with the war clean-up, but I wanted you to be happy, to drink too much and steal a kiss from me, and you didn't do any of it. You were being the man I'd told you to be a thousand times, and I hated it."

He reached for her hand, clasping it between his hands. Even if she didn't want him to apologize, he hoped she would let him comfort her.

She allowed his touch, taking a deep breath. "I didn't know what to do, or even if I should do something. How could I rebuke you for good behavior? Then I thought: he loves Valentine's Day. It's your favorite day, and you're always such a pain about it for weeks in advance. I started planning the party and I thought that you'd find out and come to me and tell me how much I must love you, and then we'd play our old games a little. I was so certain that I wouldn't get away with keeping it a secret. I sent messages to everyone in Seireitei, how could such an enormous party stay secret?" She laughed without amusement.

"Clever Nanao-chan. But I wasn't paying enough attention to the people around me." He squeezed her hand and she looked up, sighing.

“So you didn’t find out.  You didn’t even remember the day.  I never thought I’d give you a chocolate and have you look at me blankly like that.  I can’t tell you exactly when my hopes changed, only that they have, between when we came to the First Division and today.”  Her lower lip trembled a little bit.

He caressed her cheek.  “It doesn’t matter exactly when it was, Nanao-chan.  Just knowing that you feel that way is enough for me.”

“Is it?  There was a moment—barely a flash, really—this morning when I gave you the chocolate and you just stared at it and at me and I thought, he doesn’t love me anymore.  I know you said that your hopes remain the same at the party, but if it’s really too late for us, I understand.”  She ran her hand roughly under her eyes, cutting off any tears that might have fallen.

"Don't cry, Nanao-chan." He reached for her, shifting to pull her up into his lap. "Do you really think I'd stop loving you because I got a new job? Sure, it's a hard one, and I've changed my behavior to meet the challenge, but my feelings for you haven't changed. I love you, Nanao-chan." He tugged her glasses off gently, wanting to see her eyes, but she hid her face against his neck. "It's not too late. If anything, this is well ahead of what I'd expected. I thought I had another dozen years of chasing you before you declared your love for me."

She made a sound halfway between a laugh and a sob. "Who's declaring their love?" she huffed against his skin.

He grinned. She still wanted to play the game between them, and he liked that, but right now he wanted her to be certain of him. "I am, Nanao-chan. I love you, and my hopes remain the same. I want to have a future with you."

She sniffed, leaning back from him enough to see his face. Her eyes were damp and glittering in the light. "When I refused you before, the first time you told me your hopes, it wasn't because they were ridiculous to me. It was because I didn't want things to change. But if everything is changing anyway, then I want to have more than games with you, even if it hurts sometimes."

He lifted his hands from her back to cradle her face. "I enjoy the games we play. But my love for you won't change, no matter how much other things change. It'll hurt sometimes, but love is worth it. And there's a whole set of new games we can play together now, Nanao-chan."

She was quiet for a long moment, considering, but then her eyes lifted to his, challenging. "What games do you want to play?"

He grinned. "There are so many. But first I want to eat my chocolate with my sweet Nanao-chan."

She moved out of his lap, kneeling in front of the table to take the lid off the chocolate.

"Let me," he said, forking up a bite of the cake for her.

She parted her lips for him, her eyes heavy and lit with a different kind of fire. He held the bite of chocolate up for her and she closed her lips around it. She chewed carefully, her eyes never leaving his.

He licked his lips in anticipation. "Lovely, lovely Nanao-chan."

She swallowed, her tongue sliding out to clean the frosting off her lips. But she stopped before her tongue had gotten very far. "Would you like to do this for me?"

He smiled slowly. "It would be my pleasure, Nanao-chan." He brought her close with one hand in her hair and another on her back.

His tongue swept over her lower lip, teasing, but when she parted her lips in response he wanted more. His lips covered hers, his tongue delving into her mouth, seeking her taste. She was flavored with the chocolate, bittersweet and rich, with a flare of heat from the peppers. Her arms came up around his neck and a small moan escaped her. She broke the kiss, breathing shallowly.

"Nanao-chan is so delicious," he murmured.

"It's good." She licked her lips, pink and swollen.

"Do you want more, Nanao-chan?"

Her hands tugged at him from behind his neck, trying to bring him close. She wanted his kiss, which made him smile.

He resisted her pull. "I want another taste." He dipped one finger in the chocolate and held it up near her mouth.

She took hold of his wrist, curling her tongue around his chocolate-covered finger. Her eyes were focused on his face, burning with intensity and laced with knowing amusement. She knew exactly what it did to him to see her doing this, and she liked the effect she had on him. She drew his finger into her mouth, sucking. Her tongue drifted over his skin in search of errant chocolate.

That was too much for him. He pulled his hand away from her lips, replacing it with his mouth. The kiss was urgent and greedy. He devoured her and she responded with equal fervor, her fingers laced through his hair.

But he wanted to savor this moment with her. He slowed the kiss, lingering. "I'm taking your chocolate and the party as a declaration of love, Nanao-chan."

She bit his lower lip. "That's bold of you," she murmured, drawing him in.

"But you'll allow it, Nanao-chan?" he asked, holding back his kiss.

She pressed her lips against his and he lost himself in her kiss for another timeless moment. "There's still a lot of cake," she said, one corner of her lips curved up.

"There's still a lot of you that I want to taste, too." He dipped two fingers into the chocolate, gliding it onto the delicate skin of her neck near her pulse. His lips brushed her skin lightly before he meandered over the chocolate, licking and sucking.

She made a sound of pleasure in her throat, clutching his shoulders. "Wait," she whispered, breathless. "You'll get chocolate on my dress."

"Yes," he murmured, but didn't stop until he heard the sound of her zipper peeling open. He sat back to watch her stand and shimmy out of the dress. He enjoyed seeing the drop of the dress down her body, over her delicate breasts, her cute navel, and the curves of her thighs.

She wore a bra and panties to match the modern style of the dress, pale pink with a pattern of cherry blossoms. Nanao folded the dress and set it on the table before turning back to him. "I like that dress. I don't want it covered in chocolate."

"I love the dress, and I love what you're wearing now even more." His hands grasped her hips as she stood over him. "I'm taking your panties as a declaration of love," he said.

"Are you going to take everything I do as a declaration of love?" Her eyes gleamed in the candlelight, full of teasing and sensual heat.

"Yes." He ran his hands up to her slender waist and back down to her hips where the panties hugged her skin.

"Will you loudly and publically say these things about my love?" She raised an eyebrow.

"Probably. The temptation of Nanao-chan's love is too great." He smiled up at her, a little sheepish.

She sighed, but her eyes were indulgent. "What if I gave you the real thing? Could you promise not to make proclamations about my panties and my love in public?"

His breath caught. "The real thing—your declaration of love?"

"I'll give you a clear and private statement of my affections. In exchange you'll refrain from discussing my panties and declaring my love for you publically." She knelt in front of him, his hands slipping up to her shoulders.

"But I can still declare my love for Nanao-chan publically as much as I want?"

"Yes. But if you say that your panties are a declaration of love for me, I'll be a bit disturbed." She gave his sash a speculative look.

"I don't have panties or anything like that on, Nanao-chan. You're welcome to check for yourself." He tugged on one end of his sash.

She grabbed his hand away from the sash. "In a little while." She rose up on her knees. "Do you agree to my terms?"

"Yes." He wanted to see her face for this, but she shifted, her cheek brushing his, her breath warm on his ear.

"I love you," she whispered into his ear, and drew in a sharp breath, as if she couldn't believe she'd said it.

He pulled her back gently to see her face. There was vulnerability in her eyes that surprised him, and tenderness filled him. "Thank you, Nanao-chan. I'll treasure your love." He leaned his forehead against hers. "I love you, Nanao-chan."

She kissed him, aggressive and sweet. Her hands slipped under his uniform to clutch at his bare back. She moaned. He wanted more of that sound, more of her desire for him.

He reached for the cake, wanting to draw a new streak of chocolate on her tantalizingly bare skin. His fingers stroked a sweet path between her collarbones. "Valentine's Day is my favorite holiday by far, Nanao-chan." His lips sought the new chocolate.

"It was your favorite before, and you forgot it this year." she scolded, but the effect ruined by the little gasp she made when his tongue slid between her breasts.

"I'll never forget again. I'm already making plans for next year."

She laughed. "No honeybees, please."

He smiled against her skin. Next year would be an extravaganza of love beyond Seireitei's imagination.

But right now, he was with Nanao, and there was nothing more important than this moment between them.

The End

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
akai_miko
Feb. 15th, 2013 02:49 pm (UTC)
Awwwwww holyyyy!

This was so... sooo cuteee~
You had me squeeing few times~
And honeybee situation? Marvelous! XD

Thank you for writing this story! :3
r_dahlia
Feb. 17th, 2013 05:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I'm glad you found this story cute! ^_^

Thanks for your comment!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )