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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
Comments:Someone asked me about possible dark endings, so I want to reassure people that this is not an angst story, and it will have an appropriate ending for a romance/drama. Hopefully people are reading it for Shunsui/Nanao romance and drama, since that's the main focus here.  This chapter is also roughly the halfway mark of this story. I'm really happy with the response this fanfiction has gotten; thank you to everyone.  ^_^
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 19.
Chapter 1.

At the First Division Nanao dropped quickly into sobriety. Sasakibe met her at the gate, as he had yesterday, and brought her to his office. She accepted a cup of tea and they spoke for a few minutes of the weather and the condition of various shinigami they knew. When there was a lull, Nanao handed over the folder with her copy of the complaint and her responses.

"Thank you for your promptness in this matter, Ise-san. How did you find the questions?"

Nanao took a sip of tea, considering. "They were interesting, Sasakibe-san. I was a bit surprised by the repetition involved."

"I believe that is intended to draw out possible discrepancies in a person's accounting of events. I am certain that posed no issues for you, however." Sasakibe smiled slightly.

"It did not. Can you tell me what will happen next?"

"Of course this is only speculation, but it is probable that Captain Yamamoto will review the information on your case. He may even request to see you before the case is considered by the Central 46. After the Central 46 reaches a decision on the accused crimes, Captain Yamamoto will consider the complaint and make a judgment about that."

"I see. Can you perhaps speculate as to how long the Central 46 will take to reach a decision?"

"A few days, perhaps a week. The Aizen matter is quite consuming, however."

"Yes, I imagine it must be. I cannot express how I have appreciated your consideration in this matter, Sasakibe-san. Please accept my thanks."

"You're welcome, Ise-san. I am grateful for your professional manner and discretion with regards to this matter."

Nanao smiled and nodded, standing to leave. A thought occurred to her, and she paused. "I do have one more question, if you don't mind. Do you know why the captain commander would have chosen me for the command of Seireitei, especially in light of the serious nature of the order from the Central 46? Wouldn't you have been a more appropriate choice, Sasakibe-san?"

Sasakibe cleared his throat. "As to that, Ise-san, I am certain the captain believed that you would carry out your duties to the best of your ability," he said slowly.

Nanao nodded. She still felt something wiggling in the back of her mind—Captain Yamamoto knew that she had sided with Captain Kyōraku in the Rukia Kuchiki matter; Yamamoto had nearly killed her with his spiritual pressure—so why would he assign her a task that demanded complete obedience to orders so soon after that incident?

She pondered that question as she said goodbye to Sasakibe. Perhaps she would never know the answer.

****************************

Shunsui lounged on Ukitake's porch, as he had on thousands of afternoons. He watched his friend out of the corner of his eye, in case he needed help settling on a cushion. Ukitake looked pale and wan but that by itself didn't indicate much; he frequently looked that way. He didn't ask about his friend's health again; he had at the beginning of the visit—Ukitake said he was fine, and Ukitake preferred not to dwell on the topic of his wellness or lack of it. He seemed no worse than he did after a major attack of his illness, so Shunsui left it alone. Retsu would tell him if things were really going poorly. "I wonder if they'll break the teapot before they manage to bring it out."

Ukitake smiled at the sound of his Third Seats arguing over who would bring his tea. "They have so much energy, don't they?"

"They should learn to relax a little." Shunsui grinned and settled back against the post.

"Oh? You look pretty relaxed yourself. Is it going well with Ise-san?"

"I think it is, now. It wasn't at first. She was concerned about my previous—lifestyle." He flinched a little. Even thinking about Nanao's words stabbed him.

"I'm not surprised. You must admit, moderation hasn't been one of your greater virtues, Kyōraku." Ukitake turned to look into the house. "Are they ever going to bring it?"

"Probably not before it gets cold. But Ukitake, I'm hopeful about things with Nanao-chan. She's even started to play with me. I like it. When did you get her that traveling desk?" He let himself drift a little on the pleasure of their afternoon encounter in the park.

"The portable desk? It was my gift to her when she became your vice captain, I think. Then or perhaps a bit later. I don't remember exactly. What does the desk have to do with your play?" Ukitake shook his head. "Wait, on second thought, I don't need the details about your play. But I'm happy for you and Ise-san."

"Thanks, Ukitake."

"Are you going to tell your family?"

Shunsui raised a brow at him. "I'm trying to draw Nanao-chan in, not scare her off. I can't think of much that would give her more cause to reconsider her relationship with me than a room full of my family."

Ukitake winced slightly, though he tried to cover it with a fast smile, to Shunsui's amusement. "Perhaps it would be best to wait for a while."

"Perhaps it would be best to wait forever, given your reaction. I thought you liked my family," he said, teasing.

"I do like them! I do! They're just very—" Ukitake gestured with a hand, still searching for a word, but nothing seemed to come. He looked at Shunsui for an assisting adjective but Shunsui just grinned. Finally Ukitake just raised his other hand, making a vague motion. He nodded as if this provided all the description necessary.

Shunsui chuckled. "In any case, I'm going to keep Nanao-chan to myself for a while."

"That's a good idea." Ukitake waved at his Third Seats, trying to attract their attention in the hopes of drinking tea while it was still afternoon. His officers didn't notice their captain's efforts.

"How was it when they finally got to see you?" He nodded his head to indicate the bickering Third Seats.

"Well, Retsu-san must have told them not to be too loud or to upset me, because Kiyone spent the whole time trying not to cry, and then they argued in whispers over who had missed me the most. I asked Sentarō if they'd been in the command post during the battle and Kiyone started crying, and Sentarō was trying not to cry, and then they were arguing loudly over who'd missed me the most."

"So they were there. Maybe they can tell us something about what happened with Nanao-chan and the Kido Corps guy," Shunsui said.

"I think so, but Retsu-san asked them to leave the infirmary before I could confirm it for certain. I'm concerned about the complaint against Ise-san too, Kyōraku, but I don't want to force them to break confidentiality."

"As if I would force anyone to do anything." He opened his mouth to say more but was interrupted by the appearance of Ukitake's Third Seats. Sentarō Kotsubaki and Kiyone Kotetsu were still arguing over the tea tray.

"I'm sorry it took so long, captain, but Kotsubaki was being an idiot." Kiyone huffed.

"I'm also sorry it took so long, captain, but she was being a huge jerk." Sentarō crossed his arms.

"I'm not a jerk, you jerk!"

"Shut up, you booger!"

"Yare, yare. You two seem to be doing well. How are you?" Shunsui pushed back his hat to watch the pair.

"Oh, Captain Kyōraku! I'm so happy that Captain Ukitake is home!" Kiyone nodded for emphasis.

"Captain Kyōraku, I'm equally happy that Captain Ukitake is home, if not happier!" Sentarō's head bobbled several times from his powerful nods.

"I'm happier, you monkey!"

"I couldn't be more thrilled, idiot!"

They argued for several seconds, until Ukitake interrupted, scratching the back of his head. "Thank you for the tea, Kiyone, Sentarō."

The two began to leave, each proclaiming their extreme joy at bringing the tea. Suddenly Kiyone stopped and turned back. "Captain Kyōraku? How is Nanao-san? I was a little concerned since she wasn't at work for a while and she hasn't sent any messages about the Women's Association. Was it because of the complaint?"

"I was also concerned about Ise-san! I was about to ask about her, since I just sent my written eyewitness account to First Division," Sentarō said.

"I was more concerned! And my eyewitness account was just as long as yours and better written!"

"Yours couldn't be better than mine! You were crying most of the time! What could you remember about what happened?" Sentarō pointed at Kiyone.

Kiyone put her hands on her hips. "As if I would forget Nanao-san casting a level 99 kidō. You were the one who had to ask me the name of that other kidō!"

"So what if I had to ask the name of the kidō with the light rods. You were the one who forgot what they were fighting over!"

"I did not! And you're the one that's breaking confidentiality now, jerk!"

Sentarō flushed. "You were breaking confidentiality too, stupid!"

Kiyone huffed. "He's her captain, he must know about the complaint already." She looked at Shunsui, who nodded. "See? He already knows."

Shunsui took the lull in their sparring to fish for more information. "Nanao-chan is fine. She was taking care of me; that's why she hasn't been at work. I was surprised that Nanao-chan would cast kidō like that in that situation."

Kiyone rushed to answer him. "Oh no, he was being awful, that guy from the Kidō Corps was a bigger jerk than Kotsubaki even."

"Yeah, he was ruder than Kotetsu, if you can believe it! He said awful things about how the Gotei 13 had died and about Ichigo Kurosaki."

"He didn't say bad things about Ichigo Kurosaki, he said bad things about um, that other guy, what's his name—" Kiyone faltered.

"Oh, with the hat and cane sword—um—" Sentarō faltered too.

"Kisuke Urahara?" Shunsui supplied helpfully.

"Yes! And he was going to do something, or not do something?" Kiyone scrunched her brows together.

"I think it was to do something, because that's when Ise-san used the kidō." Sentarō waggled his eyebrows.

"That's what it was! But it was all in my written testimony, which was completely accurate—"

"Not as accurate as my testimony because mine was a page longer than yours!"

"It wasn't longer, monkey! My handwriting is better than yours, so it took up less space!" Kiyone shouted.

"Well my testimony was more favorable to Ise-san, because I paid more attention to what happened." Sentarō stuck his tongue out at her.

"Mine was better for Nanao-san because I gave a stronger sense of the timeline." Kiyone shoved a hand at Sentarō's face.

"Mine was better because I wrote down what that Kidō guy said to Ise-san!"

"Mine was better because I didn't use dirty language like what that Kidō guy said!"

"What did he say to Nanao-chan?" Shunsui asked with his voice low. Kiyone and Sentarō looked at him nervously, even though he'd left a smile on his face.

"We shouldn't say," Sentarō said with a glance at Ukitake.

"It's alright, you two. You don't have to say anything." Ukitake made a placating gesture with his hands.

"Oh, come on Ukitake, I'm sure it's alright for them to say whatever it is. We're the only ones here." Shunsui raised an eyebrow at his friend.

"You wouldn't like to hear it, sir." Kiyone twiddled her fingers. Shunsui did his best to look sleepy and non-threatening.

"No, you'd be really mad, Captain Kyōraku, about something like that." Sentarō rubbed the back of his head.

"But I wouldn't be angry with either of you, I promise." He smiled at Kiyone.

She looked down at her hands. "He said she was a bitch and that she only got her position because—" She flushed and looked away.

"He implied something about you and Ise-san, sir," Sentarō finished, looking miserable.

"Did he? How rude of him. I'm not sorry to hear he got hung up in Nanao-chan's kidō. Thank you for telling me." Shunsui held onto his smile.

The pair made their goodbyes to Shunsui and retreated into the house.

"It's a shame that the Kidō Corps hides away in their compound," Shunsui said after several minutes.

"Hurting that man might be satisfying, but it wouldn't help Ise-san at all." Ukitake was being reasonable, but Shunsui didn't feel like listening to reason.

"Snapping his neck would be very satisfying."

Ukitake snorted. "As if you would do something like that."

Shunsui pulled his hat lower to cover his eyes.

"In any case, this can't be the first time Ise-san has heard something along those lines."

"It's not. But that doesn't mean I have to like it." Shunsui frowned. "I haven't heard something like that in years."

"Just because you haven't heard it doesn't mean it isn't said. People are more careful around captains, Kyōraku." Ukitake sipped his tea. "Ugh, it's cold. At least now we know what happened, if not why."

Shunsui sighed. "She wouldn't have tied him up in a Bakudō 99 during combat operations for calling her names."

"No, I agree. But we don't know why it happened because Kiyone and Sentarō don't know why it happened."

"Unfortunately the reason is what matters the most to what Yama-jii will decide."

"You'll find out eventually. Before he makes a decision, you'll be fully informed of the complaint. That's your right as her captain. For now, you should just be patient."

Shunsui tipped his hat to look at Ukitake. "It's hard when it's about Nanao-chan."

"Everything is harder for you when it involves Ise-san."

Shunsui nodded and sipped at his tea. "This is awful. Let's have something stronger to drink. I could really use it right now."

***************************

Nanao sat on the porch at Shunsui's house, reading the large kidō book he'd gifted her. It was a couple of hours after she'd left the office, and the sun was hanging low in the sky. She'd stopped at the Tenth after work to see Rangiku. The blonde was working through a backlog of paperwork much larger than the one at the Eighth, and she'd been happy to see Nanao and have an excuse to stop for a while. Nanao'd been pleased to see Rangiku looking less weighed down than she had at the hospital, though she still had dark circles around her eyes and her cheerfulness seemed a little brittle.

It would take time for Rangiku to recover from her loss. If Shunsui was to be believed, time could ease any suffering. Nanao hoped that it was true, for Rangiku's sake, as well as her own sake. She suspected it would take more time than she'd lived to date to get over the loss of Shunsui. She stared at her book, not reading the words, but instead wondering over what Shunsui would think of her after he knew about her crimes.

As if conjured by her thoughts he appeared next to her, sitting on the porch with his legs sprawled out. "How delightful it is to come home and see my beautiful Nanao-chan in my house. I could get used to this," he said.

"Technically we are outside." Nanao glanced up at him from her book. "How is Captain Ukitake?"

"As well as can be expected. Retsu-san isn't sure yet whether this will set back his health permanently, but she's hopeful it won't."

"I hope it won't." Nanao hesitated and then rested her hand on top of his. How many times in the past had she wanted to comfort him but held herself back?

He caught her small hand between his two hands. "Thank you, Nanao-chan."

Her cheeks tinted pink. It seemed so much more difficult to stop herself from reacting when she did something bold than it was when he was being ridiculous. He'd said some outrageous things to her in the past, and she'd gotten very good at containing her reactions, but lately all of that was slipping away.

They sat outside until the light grew too dim for reading. Shunsui offered to make her dinner again, and she accepted, surprised and pleased. Even though it was his dinner, she helped him in the kitchen. They talked about the things they'd done during the day, and it was easy and comfortable. Nanao found herself smiling and even laughing more often than she'd done in the past.

After they ate he suggested they take a walk in the garden. They strolled along a spacious path. His garden managed somehow to be well-planned and maintained and yet still give an impression of wildness, as if the trees and flowers had sprouted up naturally in these bold and whimsical patterns.

"I was a little surprised to see you so early," Nanao said. She ran a hand over the petals of a rust-colored flower.

"Surprised? Why?"

"Because it's Friday. I thought you would be going out drinking." She glanced at him once and then turned back to the garden.

"Would it have upset you if I had?" His tone was that light, curious one he used often.

"Not at all. But if you are well enough to go out drinking, you can hardly have need of a live-in healer." She arched a brow at him.

He led her to a low bench and sat. She put a hand on the stone and shivered; it was cold. He pulled her into his lap, where she sat with the same straightness and dignity she would have had in the office. "I wouldn't want my Nanao-chan to be chilled. Do you think I would have gone out for the evening without telling you, or asking you along?"

"I don't know. It isn't as if you consulted me about your activities in the past."

"But now, Nanao-chan, when we are in an intimate relationship together, when you are staying in my home, you still expect that I would not have the courtesy to tell you what I'm doing?"

He was still using that light, curious voice, but Nanao's fingers fidgeted and she clutched her hands together in her lap. "I don't know how something like this works."

"I see." He brushed the back of his hand over her cheek, her neck, down her straight spine. "It's marvelous how you manage to be so proper in any position. I really wonder how far you can take it."

"A professional attitude is an excellent asset, especially under difficult conditions," she said primly.

"Is it? I wouldn't know." He lifted her chin so her eyes met his. "Did you think I would waste one of my nights during our trial period getting drunk?"

"Certainly you spend a large enough percentage of your time in such a state that it would be a natural conclusion to think you might spend some of this time in the same manner."

"Oh? I suppose that's fair. I have spent a lot of time going out with friends and drinking. And I anticipate that in the future I will still go out sometimes. But when I do, I will talk to you about it. And I will invite you along, even if you decline every time."

Nanao shifted in his lap, her tension easing a little. "I suppose it would be a good idea for both of us to share our plans regularly."

"Absolutely, Nanao-chan. Now let me ask you a question. Do you think I'd prefer to go out drinking with friends and end up passed out on Ukitake's porch or come home early to play in bed with my sexy Nanao-chan?" He bent his head and nibbled at the fine skin of her neck.

Nanao's eyelids fluttered. "I don't know."

"Yes, you do." He sucked at her pulse. "You should answer my question. I answered yours."

She tipped her head back further for him and clutched at his haori. "I didn't ask you any questions."

"Yes, you did. Not openly, but you asked, so now you can answer my question." One of his hands drifted over her waist, her back, and the curves of her hip.

She sighed, dipping her hand inside his uniform to run her fingertips over his chest. "You'd rather go to bed."

"I'd rather go to bed with you. The last part is important too, Nanao-chan." He drew back from her neck and cupped her face with one hand. "Remember how you feel right now, Nanao-chan. I want to come back to this very soon, but first we need to talk about something unpleasant."

"What do you want to talk about?"

"The complaint by the vice captain of the Kidō Corps."

Nanao stiffened in his lap. She withdrew her hand from his chest and stood up, taking a few steps away to study some green shrubbery. "It will be a very short conversation, considering the complaint falls under confidentiality and I can't discuss it with you."

"I know what happened, Nanao-chan."

She felt a chill run up her spine and turned to look at his serious face. "You can't!"

"But I do. You cast a Bakudō 61 and then a Bakudō 99. The guy from the Kidō Corps called you a bitch and said that you were sleeping with me."

Shock, panic, and horror ran through her in simultaneous threads. If he knew what happened then he must know that the complaint was the least of it. "How did you find that out?"

"I'm a resourceful man, Nanao-chan. I know what happened, but I'd like to hear your account of things."

She rubbed at her temple with one hand, glancing at him across the path that separated them, but he was impassive and nothing of his thoughts leaked into his face or voice. "It was going to be bad anyway, but that awful little man—that rude pig—" she stopped, pulling her anger back in.

"Insult him all you like, Nanao-chan. It isn't as if I hold the Kidō Corps in such high regard that I'll be offended." Shunsui sounded a little amused now, but his face was still serious and neutral.

It was the neutrality that was throwing her off. Her captain was many things, but neutral was not usually one of them. Indifferent, lazy, uninterested, yes, he could be all of those things, but neutral about something affecting one of his officers, neutral about something affecting her? Never.

She narrowed her eyes at him. "What do you think about my conduct?"

"I think I'd like to beat that little bastard from the Kidō Corps to within an inch of his life. I think he deserved what you gave him."

Nanao tilted her head, her brow furrowed. "But what do you think about my conduct in the command post?"

"I want to hear your account of events first, before I decide," he said.

Insight struck her in a hard burst. "You don't know what happened."

"Oh? Haven't we been talking about what happened this whole time?"

"You know something about the complaint, somehow, but not about what happened in the command post. You don't know why the Kidō officer and I fought." She shook her head. "I see now. You must have gotten it out of Kiyone-san or Kotsubaki-san while you were with Captain Ukitake. You probably led them along just like this." Cold fury ran through her veins.

"You're making a lot of assumptions, Nanao-chan. I could have found this information from any number of sources." He spoke easily and evenly.

"Maybe so, but that's not really the point, is it? You tried to trick me into breaking confidentiality and telling you everything." She crossed her arms under her breasts. There was a chill burning behind her eyes and she knew that they were likely glowing violet.

"Is it so wrong that I want to know what happened? Do you expect me not to try and protect you?" He spread his hands wide, his face earnest.

"I expect you to wait for confidentiality to be lifted. I expect you to follow the procedure that you would accept for any other officer in our division targeted with a complaint." She was so tense she heard her jaw pop on some of the words.

"But you aren't every other officer, Nanao, and I can't treat you as if you were."

"Do you have any respect for me at all as a professional? You can't give me special treatment, it's insulting to me and it's an abuse of your position."

"You don't think I'd try to help other members of our division? Of course I would. But I won't pretend that you aren't different for me. All I want is to know is what happened so I can talk to Yama-jii about this quietly, before anything has to be decided."

"You want to unfairly influence events," she said, coming to stand before him. Her words were frosty with fury.

He smiled. "Of course I want to influence events. I love you, Nanao. If this can be cleared up quietly, without a lot of rumors or trouble, I want to do that."

"That's not something you can do. As a captain, you should respect your position and treat your subordinates equally. Promise that you'll stop this now, and leave things alone until confidentiality is lifted." The thought of him digging into the events at the command post made her heart jump in an irregular rhythm. She wasn't ready to face his reaction to her crimes yet—she'd expected to have more time. Nanao looked into his dark eyes and saw the moment they filled with regret.

"I can't promise you something like that, Nanao. I need to protect you, even if you don't like it." He reached a hand out for her face and she smacked it away, hard.

"I won't let you treat me like a little girl. I am a vice captain of the Gotei 13. You tried to trick me for information and now you won't agree to leave this matter alone, even when it's something you have no right to be involved with at this point anyway?"

Shunsui stood, reaching for her. She dodged his arms and slapped him forcefully across the face with an open palm. A sharp thwack sound fell between them. For a moment they stared at each other, both shocked. She'd never hit him like that before. Her palm tingled and the back of her eyes echoed the feeling.

"Nanao—"

"Stay away from me." She nearly leaped into her shunpo, fleeing from him at her fastest pace. He could easily catch her if he wanted, but she didn't feel his reiatsu following her. She flashed into the barracks of the Eighth and entered her quarters. Her breath came in short pants and she paced the length of her small, sterile quarters with sharp steps.

She sighed. If she stayed here, Shunsui might be tempted to come and talk to her, or come in the night and hold her while she slept, when she wouldn't remember she was angry with him. In the past he would have left her alone for certain, until she cooled off and restarted their relationship, but now everything was changed and she didn't know how to predict him.

She picked up a heavy tome on kidō links and flashed out of her quarters. At the Tenth Division she hesitated and felt for Rangiku's reiatsu. Her friend was still in the office the captain and vice captain shared, likely working on the mountain of paperwork.

At the door to the office she hesitated again, but Rangiku called out, "Come in!" and she entered. "Oh, Nanao-san, I wasn't expecting to see you again so soon." Rangiku smiled, but it faded as she took in Nanao's face. She stood and walked over to Nanao. "Well, I wanted to stop for the night anyway. Come back to my room and tell me what that idiot man did. I have some nice plum wine I've been saving."

"How do you know it was an idiot man?" Nanao asked.

"You only wear that expression when your captain has done something really, really stupid."

Nanao almost laughed, blinking her eyes rapidly. "Thank you, Rangiku-san."

"That's what friends do, Nanao-san." She smiled.

A small smile crept onto Nanao's lips. "Thank you, Rangiku-san."

On to Chapter 21.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
darkmystcompel
Aug. 23rd, 2011 06:55 am (UTC)
Ooooh, nicely done! Shunsui's quite wrong if he thinks that Nanao will just sit back and let him protect her, because they're in a relationship! Well, perhaps he realises that now, anyway...

I loved the bickering of the third seats, and Ukitake's exasperation! Nanao's interaction with Rangiku was also lovely :)

And, and... we're only half way?! This makes me happy :D

Edited at 2011-08-23 06:55 am (UTC)
r_dahlia
Aug. 25th, 2011 12:36 am (UTC)
The third seats, they're so energetic! I wonder what's happened with them now in the manga.

There is roughly half the story left. This is really a pretty long thing, around 140k words in the draft, but I do think I probably should edit some of that out. It's not all necessary to the plot, though I think most of it is enjoyable Shunsui/Nanao indulgence. ^_^;
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )