Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Title: The Trials of Nanao Ise
Genre: Romance/Drama
Pairing: Shunsui/Nanao
Spoilers: Through manga chapter 423
Status: Ongoing
Rating: PG-13.
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 2.
Chapter 1.

It was deep in the night that the alarm came, when the only shinigami out in the streets were the ones on patrol. Even the most party-loving people had curtailed their evening activities in recent weeks.

Shunsui had received not only the memo that went out to the divisions recommending "a strong focus on training and preparation, and a reduction in all nocturnal diversions which reduce the readiness of our forces," but also a personal reminder from Yama-jii that they would be going to war any day now and Shunsui had better not be passed out in a bar in the Rukongai when the order came down.

So he was drinking at home instead.

Nanao would certainly be annoyed with him if she knew.

But then she was already annoyed with him—no, perhaps not annoyed precisely, but upset? Disillusioned? She'd avoided him since their talk in the morning, and he'd allowed that, retreating from the office to visit with Ukitake at the Thirteenth, knowing from past experiences with her that it was best to let her work through her emotions on her own. Then she would reestablish the footing of their relationship, usually sliding back several steps towards the professional and away from the personal.

Very rarely she would allow a small change in their relationship. He accepted any opportunities that moved him closer to her without causing her panic. It was a delicate dance but he did it well. Usually. He'd pressed her too far today when he'd told her how important she was to him.

Even as he said the words he'd known it was too much for her, but he was going to war in days and her emotions had been so exposed that he'd needed to comfort her. He grinned without amusement and lifted his sake dish in a toast to the moon. Some comfort. She likely wouldn't really speak to him for a week.

A hell butterfly flitted across the moon and around his dish, seeking a finger to land on. He knew what the message would be before he heard it—all captains and other selected officers please report for deployment to the false Karakura town.

Shunsui drank the last of the sake in his dish and slid the jug into his sash. He took a last look at the moon and allowed himself a moment of regret that he would not see Nanao again until this was over. A few blades of grass ruffled when he stepped into shunpo, and then he was gone.

Nanao stared at the ceiling of her quarters without interest. She was tired, but sleep was evasive. She could hear her captain's voice in her head, over and over, saying "You are very important to me, Nanao."

He'd been serious, she didn't doubt that. She could hear the sincerity in his voice each time it replayed in her mind. His face had been open and gentle, his hand warm and firm on hers.

"You are very important to me, Nanao." It was true, and because he meant the words she'd been scared and run away, taking refuge in their normal banter. She winced a little, remembering what she'd said about him and women, and how disappointed he'd looked. It was wrong of her to say something like that to him when he'd been so genuine.

"You are very important to me, Nanao." Yes, but in what way? He'd been praising her as a vice captain moments before. Did he mean she was important to him at work? She knew that was true, but didn't really believe he'd been thinking of her professionally in that moment.

"You are very important to me, Nanao." If he'd definitely been talking about her personally, how was she important to him? Did he think of her as cute baby Nanao-chan, in the way she sometimes worried that he did? She was so much younger than him, and he was so overprotective, it was possible.

If he did think of himself as a father figure to her, he'd done a terrible job of being one for her. Even when she'd actually been a child, after Vice Captain Yadōmaru disappeared, he'd never seemed fatherly to her. Of course he'd been gentle with her when he told her that Vice Captain Yadōmaru was not coming back. He'd let her sit with him for several hours without speaking, him drinking his way through a bottle of sake slowly, and her running her hands over the cover of the book she and Vice Captain Yadōmaru had been reading together.

After she'd finally accepted what he'd said, her eyes had been filled with tears. She'd thanked him formally for telling her the truth. He'd looked worried and moved to hug her, but she stepped away, thanked him again, and left for her quarters.

Even then, emotions were very difficult for her, and she'd been relieved in the time following that he hadn't tried to transfer her to a squad with a female officer to baby her, and that he never seemed to pay her particular attention unless he saw her perform particularly well in kidō or combat training. His ridiculous, flowery praise annoyed and embarrassed her, but that was just Captain Kyōraku being himself.

When she'd gotten older, as a seated officer, she'd realized that he must have manipulated the patrol schedules so that she would always be on an easy patrol with experienced officers. That had bothered her, but not too much, because it was not different from how he treated the other female members of the division after Vice Captain Yadōmaru disappeared. That didn't make it right, but it was normal.

If father figure was what he'd been going for with her then he'd missed by several miles.

That didn't mean he'd be a bad father, though. He'd probably be a loving, playful and attentive father to his children. After so many years of life, any new experience was bound to hold his interest for a long time. Especially when it involved something that he'd made—he was so proud of all his poetry efforts and his serialized novel, even if no one read it.
Of course, he'd be so permissive with his children that it would be critical for someone provide them with routine and discipline. Developing a clear schedule would be necessary, so that—

"I did not think about that. I did not. It was just a result of that line of speculation and my natural organizational tendencies. That's all."

Nanao thought of oceans, of falling winter snow, of glacial rivers, anything that would soothe the mortifying burning of her face and chest. No one knew what she'd thought. It was secret and safe. She breathed in and out deeply.

"You are very important to me, Nanao." As a woman, then. But there'd been so many women before her. How could she stand against the legions of her predecessors? Even if there weren't so many in the past, what would she do when the inevitable happened and he lost interest in Nanao? Watching a new parade of women march in and out of his arms would be unbearable.

Nanao almost allowed herself to believe sometimes that her captain's frequent declarations of love for her were genuine. But even if he loved her today, that didn't mean he would love her tomorrow. Nanao could not risk letting her fragile and secret dreams come to life only to have them shattered by his eventual disregard.

"This is pointless," she whispered. She threw off her covers and padded across the room, sliding open the door to the small garden. The garden was private, shared between the vice captain's and the captain's quarters at the division. Captain Kyōraku was not here. While he used these quarters occasionally, he had his own house in Seireitei.

She craned her neck at the moon. It was full and glowing and she was certain that Captain Kyōraku was sitting on his porch, drinking and writing poems in the silver light. She felt an urge to go to him and set their relationship to rights, but he might be in a romantic mood from the moon and the sake, and she couldn't bear to be teased right now. Even worse, he might still be in a serious mood, and she couldn't stand the way his eyes would see too much of her when he was really looking.

No, tomorrow she would straighten things out between the two of them and make everything light and normal again. Tomorrow—

But a hell butterfly skimmed the edges of the moon, coming down on her. She listened to the message, and then ran into her quarters, looking for her clothes. There would be no tomorrow.

Ukitake was already at the senkaimon when Shunsui arrived. A few of the vice captains milled around and Soi Fon stood alone with her arms crossed and her lips tight, as if daring anyone to approach her.

Shunsui sauntered over to his oldest friend. Ukitake raised one eyebrow at the sake tucked in his sash.

"I didn't think it'd be tonight," he said, patting the sake jug. "But it seemed like a good idea to bring it along. We'll probably want it before this is done."

"You may be right." They watched people arrive, the mood subdued. Even the men from the Eleventh were quieter than usual. "Did you speak to Ise-san?"

"No. I was giving her space." He sighed.

Ukitake gave him a sympathetic look. "At least she's not coming to the fight with us."

"There is that."

Yama-jii and Vice Captain Sasakibe appeared in the crowd, Yama-jii speaking and the other man making quick notes in a small book.

"It won't be long now," Shunsui said. He felt the resignation that always came to him before a serious fight—whatever it took to defeat the enemy, he would do it; no matter the toll to him, he would protect Soul Society, his division, his friends, and his—

But she was there suddenly, out of breath and a little disheveled. "Nanao-chan?"

"Captain. I wanted to see you before you left," she said. She straightened the lines of her uniform.

"Excuse me. I need to talk to Captain Soi Fon for a moment." Ukitake nodded to Nanao and strode away towards Soi Fon, who looked as unapproachable as before. Shunsui would have to thank him for his friendship and sacrifice later.

But now he was alone with his Nanao, and she seemed nervous and faintly guilty. "Sweet Nanao-chan, have you come to declare your love for me before I leave?" He leaned towards her, making a silly kissy-face.

She scowled. "Of course not," she said, but she pushed his mouth back from hers gently, with the palm of her hand. She looked away from him and to the Kidō Corps members opening the gate.

He pressed a kiss into her hand and moved it to cradle his cheek. She pulled it out of his grasp and glanced around at the gathered officers.

"I'm going to come back soon, Nanao-chan."

She scowled up at him, but her eyes were worried. "You'd better. I'm going to save a backlog of work for you."

"That's mean, Nanao-chan! But I could never leave my lovely Nanao-chan alone for very long," he sing-songed. He stroked a hand down her arm, surprised she didn't stop him with a fan before he touched her. She must really be worried about him. "It's going to be alright, sweetheart," he said in a low, serious tone that wouldn't reach the others.

Now she did knock his hand away. "Don't call me that," she said, but the rebuke sounded absent. She fussed with her sash and then hesitantly pulled something small out of a sleeve, wrapping her hand around it before he could see what it was. "Here, this is for you." She held her hand out, looking away from his face.

He opened her hand and took out a small case covered in silk and embroidered with a delicate cherry blossom pattern. "Nanao-chan? Did you do this yourself?"

She nodded, still looking at the gate. "It's for your hairpins or small things."

"It's so beautiful. Thank you, Nanao-chan." He'd known she liked to do traditional embroidery, but she was private about it and he hadn't seen a finished piece like this up closely before. Gifts from her were never this personal.

"If you spill something on it, it'll be ruined," she said, eyeing the sake in his sash.

"I'll treasure it, Nanao-chan." He turned the case over in his hands, admiring the life she'd put into the flowers. He wanted to look at it in the daylight when he could really see the colors.

She nodded again, finally meeting his eyes. "Captain, I—"

Yama-jii interrupted her, coming to stand next to Shunsui with a solid thump from his cane. "We will be moving out now. I leave the Gotei 13 in your hands, Vice Captain Ise. You have your orders."

Nanao swallowed hard, nodded. "Yes, sir."

Sasakibe was already herding the other officers through the gate. Yama-jii began to walk away. "Come along, Shunsui."

"We'll talk when I get back, Nanao-chan." He looked into her eyes, trying to say without words the things she wasn't willing to hear.

"Be careful," was all she said, but her eyes said much more.

Shunsui turned away from her and entered the gate, leaving Nanao alone with the moon in the wakeful night.

On to Chapter 4.