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Title: The Trials of Nanao Ise
Genre: Romance/Drama
Pairing: Shunsui/Nanao
Spoilers: Through manga chapter 423
Status: Ongoing
Rating: R
Contains consensual adult activity.  I've raised the rating, although it may not be necessary for this chapter, I think it's appropriate for later ones.
Summary: Nanao will face the consequences of her decisions during and after the Arrancar War. Can she overcome these trials, or will they divide her from Captain Kyōraku forever? Canon compliant through manga chapter 423.

Back to Chapter 17.
Chapter 1.

Nanao sat at her desk in the office that she shared with her captain at the Eighth. The complaint by Vice Captain Takahashi was spread out on the desk and she consulted it from time to time before neatly writing on the response form in front of her. She'd started work on it as soon as she returned from the First, stopping only to teach her final scheduled advanced kidō course.

She was startled when she felt Shunsui's reiatsu nearby. Moments later he appeared in the door of the office with a grin. "Still hard at work, lovely Nanao-chan? It's getting late."

Nanao glanced at the clock and saw that it was thirty minutes past the end of the day shift. "I have to finish this by tomorrow afternoon."

"What could be so urgent? I know you're ahead on all the division work. Even with the backlog there can't be that much that's critical. Come out and have dinner with me, Nanao-chan. We'll go to that noodle shop you like." He swept into the room and stood in front of her desk, smiling.

"I can't leave yet. Don't touch those," she snapped when he reached for one of the pages of the complaint. She gathered them together and flipped the stack over so he couldn't see it.

He raised an eyebrow. "What kind of work for our division would I not be able to look at?"

"It's not for our division."

His brow arched higher. "How interesting, Nanao-chan. Are you taking in work for other divisions on the side? If you wanted a raise in pay or more recognition and love you should have asked me. I'd give you anything," he said, leaning over the desk with a kissy face.

He stopped when his lips planted against the kidō book he'd gifted to her this morning. "Captain, I'm working on my response to the formal complaint from the vice captain of the Kidō Corps. Sasakibe-san implied it would be in my favor to return the forms quickly. I'm sorry, but I can't talk about it with you and I have to work on it at least a little more today."

Shunsui's face grew serious as she spoke, but he still smiled easily at her. "I understand, Nanao-chan."

"I'll see you when I get home," she said, implying he should leave. The man could be a terrible distraction when he wanted to be, and sometimes even when he was just napping on the sofa.

"I'll look forward to it." He leaned over and kissed her forehead.

"We're in the office, captain." Nanao gave him a look over her glasses.

"Everyone's gone home already." He winked at her, and strolled out the door. "I'll see you later, Nanao-chan."

Nanao continued work on her response, grateful that he hadn't argued with her or tried to see the complaint. The sooner she finished this work and returned it to Sasakibe, the less risk there was of Shunsui learning about the command post events.

It was thirty minutes later that she finished another of the forms and flipped through the pile. She could probably complete the remaining forms in the morning and bring them to the First in the afternoon.

She was surprised again by Shunsui's reiatsu. This time he appeared almost immediately in the door, laden with dishes.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"Since Nanao-chan can't come to the noodle shop, I brought the noodle shop to Nanao-chan!" He grinned at her and set the food on the small low table Nanao ate lunch at frequently.

"You didn't have to do that. I was going to leave in a few minutes," she said, rising. Shunsui ushered her to the table and she sat down to eat.

"It's udon."

It was one of her favorite dishes from the noodle shop and it pleased her he remembered that. "Thank you, captain."

"Call me Shunsui, Nanao-chan." He endeavored to look hurt, but she shook her head at his exaggerated expression.

"We're in the office," she said.

"Then I look forward to hearing you call me Shunsui tonight, when we're at home."

Nanao smiled a little and shook her head. The udon was good, and still hot. How had he used shunpo without spilling any? Nanao considered the possibilities while she ate. Perhaps there was a kidō spell? That reminded her of the kidō manual he'd gifted her with this morning. "Thank you for the book. It was very thoughtful of you."

He smiled all the way to his eyes. "Did you like it, Nanao-chan?"

"It's very interesting. There are some words and phrases I'm not familiar with, though."

"Well, it's a very old book. You should read it when we're together, and I can tell you what everything means."

"You'll spend the whole time trying to get me to sit on your lap." She huffed a little.

"That's because it's the perfect position for us to read together! Then I can easily see over Nanao-chan's shoulder to the book, and offer my assistance with any unknown language." He finished his food and stretched out on the floor beside her, propping himself up on one elbow.

"You don't want me to sit in your lap for educational purposes," she said. She ate some noodles, smiling at the taste. She'd been so hungry without realizing it and the food was delicious.

"On the contrary, I think you sitting in my lap would be very educational for both of us. We could both obtain a great deal of enlightenment." His voice dipped from teasing to a dark honey tone.

She pushed a bite of noodles into her mouth to give herself time to think. His teasing had taken on a more sensual note lately. Perhaps it wasn't that different from his usual teasing and only seemed more sensual because she knew he meant what he said now—he desired her, and he wanted her to know that. Yet he'd been careful from the start of their trial courtship to not overwhelm her with his desire. He'd said she should be happy with each step of their relationship.

But she was only now realizing that meant Shunsui would wait for clear signals from her that she wanted more from him. If he'd been cautious before, he was even more so after she'd nearly ended their relationship on the second night. If she wanted things to advance between them, she'd have to tell him clearly. Nanao was ordinarily a direct person in her work and her life; she had no trouble dictating assignments, listing expectations, and setting boundaries.

Why, then, was it so difficult to ask for what she wanted in her romantic relationship? It wasn't just because this was a new area for her, although that was certainly part of the issue—the gap in their experience levels that remained still bothered her. She took another bite of noodles, her brow furrowed.

Nanao was afraid. The thought sprung out of nowhere, but as soon as she saw it, she knew it was the truth. She was afraid that Shunsui would find her inadequate, afraid that he would reject her advances, afraid of exposing her emotions and her dreams and having them crushed.

She scowled. Nanao hated being afraid; she hated feeling cowardly or weak. Shunsui wasn't afraid. He'd offered her his heart whole and she'd sliced it up out of misery at his previous lifestyle, but he still kept offering her his heart with all the same openness as before. That was brave. Nanao had taken the big risk of asking him for a relationship, but she'd let her fears have far too much power over her since then. She needed to take action.

Everything would be easier if she could trust Shunsui completely. She trusted him with her life already; now she needed to try and trust him with her heart. He said he loved her and she knew that he desired her, so she had to trust him not to reject her. At the least she couldn't be ruled by fear. Not when she was already committed to a path of reaching out for what she wanted. What she wanted most was Shunsui, so she would keep reaching out for him. She could start with something small.

She smiled. "I am always interested in learning new things."

He chuckled, looking a little surprised. "Nanao-chan is even making jokes today."

She finished her udon and arranged her dishes neatly. "Who's joking?" She kept her face and voice cool as she rose to straighten the papers on her desk.

He was behind her with his hands on her shoulders in a flash. "If you want something from me, you need only say so, Nanao-chan," he murmured in her ear.

"We're in the office," she repeated.

"Let me remedy that." He wrapped an arm around her waist and she felt the disorientation and the rush of air around her. His shunpo had them at his house in seconds.

"We left the dishes," she blurted out, and tugged herself out of his grasp, taking a few steps back.

His eyes were narrowed with a predatory gleam. "Forget the dishes."

Her eyes widened as he stalked closer.

"What do you want, Nanao-chan? Tell me," he whispered in her ear, leaning over her.

She swallowed. His reaction was more intense than she'd expected, perhaps more than she could handle. She didn't speak.

His lips brushed the curve of her ear. "Tell me, Nanao-chan."

Her breath caught in her throat. Could she do something like this?

He cupped her face in his hands. He tipped her head up until she met his eyes. His face was close to hers. "We're alone here. This is between us, sweetheart."

Her lips parted, but she didn't speak.

"I want to give you what you want, Nanao-chan. Tell me." His thumbs brushed her cheekbones softly.

Her eyes darted to his lips, and she licked her own. Her heart was beating quick and hard, and she wondered if he could feel her pulse under her skin.

"I already know what you want. You can tell me."

She swallowed. "Why do you want me to tell you what I want if you already know? That's unnecessary."

He smiled. His hands were so warm on her face and neck. She wanted that heat all over her skin. "It's unnecessary for me. But it's very necessary for you."

He wanted her to admit her desires, to accept some responsibility for what was between them. If he swept her away and she regretted it later, their relationship would falter and possibly fail. But it was so hard for Nanao to say even this small wish. She took a shallow breath. "I thought that—I would perhaps like to receive detailed information in a particular area."

"Is that so, Nanao-chan? I am always eager to satisfy your curiosity." His voice made her shiver with anticipation. "What area is of interest to you?"

"I would like additional information on kissing," she said primly.

"I'd be glad to advise you, Nanao-chan. But kissing is something best learned by doing it." He rubbed his thumb over her lips once. She glanced up at his face. His eyes were tender and dark—not amused, as Nanao had feared.

"Learning by experience, then." Nanao nodded. "I'd like to begin my research at your earliest convenience."

He smiled. "As it happens, I have some time now." He led her to the porch overlooking the back garden.

Nanao watched as he gathered some cushions into a fluffy pile and sprawled out on them. He patted his leg, indicating that she should sit on his lap, but instead she sat on her heels neatly a few feet away from him, spine straight.

"Yare, yare, Nanao-chan. You'll have to come a little closer than that." He held out a hand to her. "Do you want to have a drink first?"

Nanao shook her head. She looked at his hand but did not take it, instead sliding over towards him another foot. His hand landed softly on her face, his knuckles brushing her skin.

"Look at me, Nanao-chan. Are you afraid?"

Her spine stiffened. She adjusted her glasses. "I am not afraid," she snapped.

"It was a poor choice of words. What if I ask if you are concerned?"

"Not about kissing." She hesitated. "However, I might have some concerns about further areas of study."

He gently turned her head with his fingers on her chin. "Sweet Nanao-chan. I told you that I want you to be happy with everything. If you want to kiss, that delights me. There's no rush, is there? Moments like this should be savored." She scanned his face, but it was sincere. He smiled, and there was anticipation in it that made her dart her tongue out to wet her lips.

Slowly she reached out one of her hands to him. He clasped it in his much larger hand and drew her to him until they faced each other on the cushions, thigh to thigh. She was grateful he didn't pull her into his lap; she didn't feel like she could maintain her dignity in that position right now. Her body flared to life when they touched, a reaction that Nanao had no control over and that worried her. She'd been aching for him since last night.

At the oddest moments earlier in the day, her attention would wander to remember the feeling of his hands on her skin, or the touch of his lips over hers. She thought of him in the middle of her second kidō class, with shivers running down her spine. She'd eaten a candy after lunch and thought of him devouring her mouth. He'd roused something in her that was hungry and burning and needing. She did not think she would be able to go back to the way she'd been before he'd kissed her, when she'd had full control over the world of sensation locked away inside her. "It's your fault."

"What's my fault, Nanao-chan?"

She startled when he replied to her thought, and flushed a little when she realized she'd spoken it aloud. "So many things it'd difficult to keep track of them."

Shunsui smiled. "I'm sure that's true," he said easily. He leaned over until his face was even with hers.

Even though this was her idea, she felt nervous suddenly. "Maybe I should take notes." Nanao stood quickly, wiping her hands on her uniform.

He stopped her by taking one of her hands and pressing a kiss into the palm. "Why don't we practice first? If you still want notes, you can make them after."

Nanao couldn't think of a way to object further without seeming cowardly, so she nodded and dropped back to sit on the cushions. "Very well." She stiffened her spine and clasped her hands together in her lap.

"Lovely, lovely Nanao-chan," he murmured, and leaned in close again. His lips brushed over hers in a soft kiss. He dropped light kisses on her cheeks, her jaw, the corners of her mouth, and then returned to kiss her lips fully.

When he pulled back slightly to study her face Nanao asked, "This is the start of a kiss, then?"

He lifted her glasses off and set them on the porch safely away from the cushions. "You can start with anything you like. This is something sweet," he said, sweeping light kisses from her ear to her mouth. He took her hands in his and rested them on his shoulders. After a moment he drew his hands away and wrapped one around her waist, caressing her neck with the other. "Then there's something like this, which you could call teasing." He licked at her lips, drew the bottom one into his mouth a little to nibble it, and ran his tongue along the seam of her teeth.

Nanao's mouth opened slightly in response to his play, but he continued to tease her with kisses and licks and bites. She made an impatient noise and tugged on his shoulders. He smiled against her lips. Her eyes fluttered open when his mouth left hers. "What do you want, Nanao?"

She took a few deep breaths. She wanted to have a kiss that felt like the one he'd given her the night she'd asked him for a trial relationship. That kiss was deep and hot and tender, and it'd been untainted by thoughts of other women he'd had. She wanted to feel that again, but as an active participant. Asking for something like that directly seemed too difficult; she didn't know the words. She took refuge in professional language. "It seems that a deeper exploration of the subject would be prudent."

"I like it when you talk dirty to me," he said, grinning. He swallowed her indignant response, his mouth on hers, devouring. This was what she'd wanted. Sparks of heat ran through her body, pooling in her belly. Tentatively she moved her tongue against his and he made an approving noise. "Play with me, Nanao," he said against her lips when they parted for air.

She imitated his movements, stroking his tongue with hers, moving her lips as he did. "Like this?" she asked between kisses, the words barely a whisper.

"Yes." He kissed her deeply, gently at first but with increasing pressure as Nanao responded. She rubbed her body against him, and he lifted her into his lap so that she straddled his hips. Her hands slipped under his uniform and explored the skin of his shoulders.

The need she'd felt last night returned, becoming more urgent with each kiss. She moved against him restlessly and sighed at the feeling of his hard body against her. She repeated the motion until he groaned and clamped his hands on her hips.

"It's your fault," she gasped, trying to move against his hold. Her nails bit into his back.

"My fault? Tell me about it."

She pressed her lips against his. She gave him sweet kisses and then teased him, as he'd shown her, before exploring his mouth with her small tongue. His hands shifted on her hips to feel her butt, grasping each cheek firmly so he could hold her still. "It's your fault," she whispered. "I thought about you all day."

"Did you? I like to hear that." He leaned back enough to see her face clearly. "What do you want, Nanao-chan?"

Her eyelids fluttered and her cheeks blushed pink. She licked her swollen lips with her tongue and tried to shift in his lap. She didn't speak, but instead pulled on his shoulders to bring him back to her for a kiss. When she pulled back he traced kisses on her neck. "I want—I want—" she couldn't finish her thought.

"Tell me," he said in a voice like dark and smooth honey.

Nanao fought against herself for a long moment, battling her instinct to protect herself from rejection and embarrassment. She pressed her face against his chest. "You." It was the barest flutter of sound against his skin.

"Nanao-chan." He lifted her face and kissed her deeply. "You make it hard for me to take my time, sweetheart. Let me touch you. Just through your clothes," he added when she bit her lip.

She hesitated. The heat in her body made her limbs heavy. She brought a hand up to his face and swept it along his jaw, touching his lips with her fingers. "I trust you," she whispered.

"Nanao." He kissed her, a deep kiss textured by lips and tongues. His hands explored her body through her clothes, pausing near the neckline of her uniform and the side slits in her pants, but resisted the temptation to enter the openings. One of his hands slipped down her thigh and between her legs. She shivered and moaned into his mouth as his fingers stroked her through her clothes.

She wanted to give him permission to go into her clothes, because she was burning and his touch was so good—arousing and soothing and necessary all at once—she was greedy for it. But she couldn't pull her mouth away from his kiss now, not when the sensation was building, building, and then she dug her nails into his back as she shivered. Small sounds escaped her lips into his mouth as she peaked.

Afterward, he resettled her on his lap with her legs between his and her head resting on his chest as her heart slowed and her breathing eased. He ran a soothing hand over her hair. She looked for her hairpin and saw it with her glasses; he was always took it out whenever he had the chance.

"I hope you found your research interesting." She could both hear and feel his voice from her position on his chest.

She would have blushed, but she felt too relaxed to be embarrassed. "It was most informative."

"I'm glad you found it satisfying. I volunteer myself for any time you want to explore further areas of study. My Nanao-chan is a quick study." She glanced up to see him smile at her. It reached all the way to his eyes.

Nanao sat with him on the porch for a long time. The air was crisp but she was warm in Shunsui's embrace. She felt content with the events of the evening; there was none of the regret she'd half-expected and feared. Though the gap in their experience was still so large, and that was a concern, Shunsui took such care with her that she didn't feel inadequate or incapable when she was with him. Actually she found him too cautious in some ways—as if he worried showing her his desire would frighten her. But she did have to admit, there were times she would see him watching her like she was a feast and he was a man starved, and her heart would race. Some of that was fear of his intensity, but some of it was excitement.

His pace with their relationship gave her mixed emotions. She was touched because he wanted so much for her to feel comfortable and happy with anything that happened between them. She was bothered because she did have limited time with him before the unknown future would swing down, possibly dividing them forever. But he didn't know that, so if she wanted to move forward with him in this relationship, physically and emotionally, she'd have to take the initiative.

She thought about what would happen if she couldn't be with him after the judgment for her crimes at the command post. Her contentment faded as her heart ached at the thought of leaving him. At this point, she didn't even want to sleep alone anymore, but Nanao knew that she was strong. She would survive without him if she must. And she didn't need to sleep with him. She just enjoyed the closeness and the contact with him so much more than she enjoyed her solitude.

She'd been touched more in the last few days than she had in the last few decades. Secretly she delighted in it, as if he was warming not just her body but her heart with his embrace. That was something he'd like to hear; it would appeal to his romantic nature. Not that she could ever say words like that out loud.

She could feel the hour growing late so she reluctantly climbed off him. "I'm going to take a bath."

Shunsui pressed a kiss into her hand.

She washed with the new soaps he'd gifted her, enjoying their unique fragrance. Yawning, she dressed in a sleeping robe and walked back out to the porch. Shunsui still lounged on the cushions, now with a drink in his hand. She came up behind him and slipped his uniform top down his arms. Silently she began the healing kidō. He made a sound of enjoyment in his throat when she sent her reiatsu through his body, something she did because he liked it, not because he really needed it.

When the light faded from her hands she spontaneously ran her hands up to his shoulders and pressed herself against him in a quick almost-hug. "I'm going to bed. Goodnight."

"Stay with me, Nanao-chan. We sleep so well together." He turned to study her face.

Her hands fidgeted a little so she clasped them in front of her stomach. "When I go back to my quarters, I'll be sleeping alone again. I need to be able to do that." She didn't mention the nightmares, but she knew he was aware of them.

His eyes watched her intensely but he spoke easily. "But that's not today, is it?"

Nanao shook her head. He rose from the cushions and took her hand, leading her into the bedroom.

"Stay with me," he said. His eyes glowed in the moonlight.

She nodded. Maybe it was weak of her, but it was easy to give in to him when she did not want to sleep alone in the cold bed in the guest room. She fussed with the blanket as he got ready for bed.

He got into the bed and pulled her back against him, curling himself around her body. She put one of her hands over the hand he rested on her stomach, drew it up to her chest and laced her fingers through his larger ones. He made a sound of pleasure and kissed her temple.

Nanao's eyes closed, her lips curved into a smile.

On to Chapter 19.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
meroko26
Aug. 16th, 2011 04:05 pm (UTC)
Ohh. Hot. More. More. Love Nanao's logical approach to romance. Good to see her as a REAL person nervous about a relationship as opposed to crazy want sex Nanao like some other fics.
r_dahlia
Aug. 18th, 2011 01:08 am (UTC)
Thanks for your comment, I'm glad you're liking Nanao's characterization! I wanted Shunsui and Nanao's relationship and intimacy to have the stops, stutters, and jumps that a real relationship might have.
darkmystcompel
Aug. 17th, 2011 03:35 am (UTC)
Hot, loving, tender and so sweet... have I mentioned, yet, that I love the way you write these two? :P There's just something so honest, so real about the way you write this.

Completely OT, but I posted my top 10 Bleach moments in honour of the 10-year anniversary. Just a bit of fun, but check it out if you like! Top 10 Reasons I Love Bleach
r_dahlia
Aug. 18th, 2011 01:05 am (UTC)
Thanks! I've tried hard to be true to how I think a Shunsui/Nanao relationship might develop and I'm happy that it's coming across as intended!

I'm so glad people are enjoying this story - I was a bit worried when I wrote it that people would find it dull, because it's really a story primarily about the development of a relationship. There's not a ton of action and most of the conflict is internal or interpersonal.

I like your list of Bleach moments! 10 years, it's almost unbelievable. And Kubo wants to write 10 more. Wow! ^_^;;
darkmystcompel
Aug. 18th, 2011 01:24 am (UTC)
ONLY 10 more years? I'm greedy like that :P But I do admire his dedication!

I think relationships are fascinating to read about, really. Perhaps because I suck at them in real life, lol! But for me, this kind of conflict will almost always have a bigger emotional hit than an actual battle - I want to know the reasons for things, the emotions, the misunderstandings, the things that make it real and meaningful. After all, most of our lives aren't full of action at all - but they are full of people.

In any case, *you* don't find Shunsui/Nanao dull, and that really comes across in your writing. You portray them as interesting, and that makes others interested too.
r_dahlia
Aug. 18th, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC)
I do find Shunsui/Nanao interesting, and I'll probably do more writing on them in the future.

I really liked your comment about relationships and life. It's very insightful!
darkmystcompel
Aug. 22nd, 2011 05:56 am (UTC)
Oooh I hope you do! I'll read it!

And thanks :P
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )