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Title: The Trials of Nanao Ise
Genre: Romance/Drama
Pairing: Shunsui/Nanao
Spoilers: Through manga chapter 423
Status: Ongoing
Rating: PG-13
Contains: Mild mentions of partial nudity.
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 8.
Chapter 1.

There was a beam of sunlight slapping her in the eyes. Nanao half-opened one eyelid and saw the sun filtering through the window was much higher than it usually was when she left for work. But she couldn't have work today, or she'd have already been awake.

Satisfied with this thought, she wriggled deeper into her cocoon of blankets away from the sun until her back was pressed against the man behind her. The heavy arm around her waist tightened and the large hand resting between her breasts stroked her skin once, approvingly. She rested one of her small hands on the large hand.

Nanao drifted in and out of sleep, but something was nagging at her. Why wasn't she at work? This question buzzed around her head until an answer finally swatted it away. I'm not at work because I'm with my captain.

She'd nearly dozed back off when the answer sank in. I'm not at work because I'm in my captain's bed. At that Nanao woke up abruptly. The arm wrapped around her was Captain Kyōraku's arm. The hand resting on her chest was his hand. The legs tangled with hers were his legs. The chest she was pressed against was his chest.

That blissful relaxation she'd felt faded into tension. She should get up, now. Could she get up without waking him? This was so awkward. An embarrassed flush ran up to her face from her chest. She'd let him hold her, comfort her, had even cried a little on him, and then she'd fallen asleep in his bed, still clinging to him like climbing ivy.

"You're thinking too loudly."

Nanao shot up at the sound of his voice. She tried to get to her knees but tripped on one of his legs and fell against his chest, half upright. He was lying on his side and she pushed against his chest to try to get up but instead of providing resistance he just fell easily onto his back. She followed, surprised, landing harder against his bare chest than either of them expected. She shoved herself up on her hands and was stilled by a hand across her back.

"I'm not," she said, looking at him from only inches away. Her brows were drawn together tightly.

"You're not what?" he asked in a lazy voice. His face was relaxed and his eyelids only half-open, as if he'd just woke, but his eyes were intense and focused on her. One of his hands came up and stroked her cheek, her neck, and the hollow at the base of her throat in long movements.

"What?" She was thoroughly distracted. The hand on her back massaged the muscles in her lower back and it felt divine.

"You said you're not something?" He never stopped the slow touch of his hands.

"Thinking. I'm not thinking," she snapped.

He smiled, white teeth flashing.

"This is your fault."

"I hope so, sweetheart." He used his gentle touches to angle her face closer to his until there was only the space of a whisper between them.

"I'm going to get up," she whispered, but did not move. They stared at each other for a long minute. Nanao was intensely aware of the heat of his body, the pressure of his hands, and the closeness of his lips. If she moved her head slightly they'd be kissing. She swallowed and darted her tongue across her lips. His eyes followed each small movement closely.

"I have to think." She wiggled back from him, rising on her hands. Her body felt slow and filled with liquid heat.

"If that's what you want, lovely Nanao-chan." He trailed his hand down her throat and across her shoulder.

"Shut up," she said crossly, batting his hand away and rising from the bed. What she wanted had nothing to do with what she was doing now. Since this was entirely his fault, she scowled down at him. He smiled at her.

Suddenly Nanao noticed that when she looked down she could see a lot of her own skin. Her yukata gaped open at the front, revealing a long strip of pale flesh all the way to her waist. Nearly half of the round shapes of her breasts showed, but her nipples were still covered, barely. No wonder he was so happy this morning.

She pulled the edges of the garment together and held it with one hand, then kicked him in one of his thighs. "This is your fault," she said. "I'm taking a bath. If you try to come in I will end you. Painfully." She glared at him but his smile never slipped.

"My Nanao-chan is so vibrant in the morning."

It was only after she'd slapped the door closed and stripped to sit on the bath stool that she realized she'd marched away into his bathroom and that she'd have to walk back through his bedroom to get to the guest room where her things were.

She groaned and smacked herself lightly on the head.

Cool water soothed the embarrassment and arousal that had filled her body in the bedroom. She relaxed slowly, sighing for a long moment when she slipped into the warm bath. Tension rushed back in when a stray question slid into her mind.

Should she have stayed in bed with him?

Past the immediate and automatic denial that popped up as a matter of habit, she felt uncertain. Nanao had decided she wanted to spend the rest of her time in the Gotei 13 with him, experiencing the romantic relationship she'd denied them for so long. Staying in bed with him would have given her a big part of that experience she'd wanted.

Still, she shook her head. What she really wanted was not just sex; she wanted everything a complete relationship with him would offer. Whether or not he wanted the same thing was another question.

Perhaps she should just ask him.

Another automatic denial rose in her at this thought, but she brushed it aside. Nanao had never considered before being a woman who would initiate a romantic relationship with a man, but at this point she needed to think about the possibility. Rangiku had advised Nanao often enough about reaching out for what you really want without fear. Waiting around for a man to do something was not who Nanao was in any other part of her life, so why would that be who she was in romantic relationships?

Captain Kyōraku already expressed his personal interest in her several times a day. Assuming his interest was genuine and romantic, not just sexual—which was itself a large gamble, especially considering his past behavior—he had already left himself open to her. She remembered him guiding her lips close to his but not kissing her. Was he waiting for her?

Waiting for her to make a decision, to close that final distance between them she maintained so carefully. She flicked the water of the bath, annoyed. How very like him that was. He didn't want her to feel forced or uncertain, so he hung his intentions out wrapped in light flirtation. He'd lived for thousands of years. If Nanao took thirty, forty, even a hundred years to respond positively to his attention that would be fine for him. After all, he had all the time in the world.

She didn't.

Time was running short for the status quo of Nanao's life as it had existed for the whole of her adulthood. She did not have endless years to contemplate the possible outcomes of a romantic relationship with him.

"I have to think," she'd told him.

But now she needed to act.

When Nanao came out of the bathroom she was relieved to see the doors to the porch open and her captain lounging outside, looking off into his gardens. She retrieved her glasses and hairclip, and went into the guest room to put on a fresh yukata, this one a rich green with large lavender flowers patterned on it.

In the kitchen she put together a simple breakfast and made a note to pick up groceries soon. Her captain didn't keep a pantry that could really feed two people for several days in a row. He employed an older couple—they tended the extensive gardens and cleaned up his home when he asked for it, hiring additional help when they needed it—but they did not live in or see to his pantry. He valued his solitude and privacy over the convenience of being served constantly in the way Captain Kuchiki was.

She called him in to eat and they shared the meal amiably. By mutual unspoken agreement neither of them mentioned the events of the morning. She studied his face while he talked about getting a new sofa for their office. His hair was pulled back messily into a ponytail and his facial hair was thicker and scruffier than usual. He hadn't been able to clean up yet, since she'd commandeered his bathroom.

Objectively she knew there were much handsomer men in Soul Society; she worked with many of them. Captain Kyōraku's face lacked the icy refinement of Captain Kuchiki's; he did not have the edge of Vice Captain Hisagi or the perfect symmetry of Eighth Seat Ogidō, the member of Fourth Division who was so popular with women.

Yet Captain Kyōraku was the man she'd coveted privately for years. It was his face she wanted to see and his hands she wanted touching her. Nanao had rarely dated; she disliked wasting time, and evenings spent in the company of tepid men who could not dislodge her captain from her heart were her definition of wasted time.

He was looking at her, one brow raised. She realized he was waiting for a reply of some kind about the sofa. Though she hadn't followed his words, she was certain she knew the course this conversation was supposed to take. They'd had it at least once a month for the last year. "There is no room in the budget to accommodate a new sofa. You are welcome to fill out a requisition request for next quarter, although 'I don't like the color' is not likely to get the funds for you from First Division."

"But Nanao-chan, the sofa is also too small to nap really comfortably on. We need a longer sofa," he said earnestly.

"The purpose of our office furniture is not to accommodate your naps, captain." Nanao sipped her tea, a nice orange pekoe from his cupboard.

"But precious Nanao-chan, I'm so much more productive and efficient when I'm well rested!"

"Are you, captain? Somehow I've never noticed anything like that." She raised one brow at his pouting face. "If you really want new furniture, the division does have money in the budget next quarter for new furniture for the common room. We could put our current office furniture in the common room and buy new furniture for our office with those funds."

"That would be ideal, Nanao-chan. Let's do that. I want—"

"If we do this, there are conditions, captain," she said, cutting him off. "I will select the new furniture. It will not be pink. You will be extra careful with our current furniture, because if it sustains any damage I will not send it to the common room. I'm only willing to do this because our furniture is relatively new and still very nice, even if it is an awful mauve."

"The color looked better in the catalog, Nanao-chan."

She made a scornful noise in her throat.

"And it's not as if the color will matter after a few division parties." He smiled at her.

Nanao winced at the thought of the inevitable damage to any objects left in the common room for more than a few weeks. "That is unfortunately true."

"Speaking of parties, we should go to the division soon," he said.

"You need to get checked out at the Fourth tomorrow, and I thought you'd want to visit with Captain Ukitake. Perhaps we can go to our division the day after tomorrow?"

"That sounds good."

"I'll make the party arrangements with our Third Seat. Pull down your yukata, please." Nanao stood and padded around the table to kneel behind him.

"I'm always willing to strip off my clothes for my precious Nanao-chan." He shrugged out of his yukata to bare his upper body.

"Your wounds are looking much better," she said, tracing around them faintly with her hands. "Are you in pain?"

"It's less today than it was yesterday."

Nanao started the healing session, one hand on the sword wound cutting down his back and one on the cero wound. She worked her healing in silence, sending her reiatsu through his body and following with the healing kidō. He might not really need this full body healing now, but it was not difficult for her to do and he seemed to enjoy it.

After the kidō light faded from her hands, she smoothed her palms over the wounds. "These are healing very well." She was pleased by the sight of pink skin instead of what had been ugly scabbing over the cero injury. The sword wounds from Aizen and the Espada would undoubtedly scar, but even those marks could be faded away with time and certain kidō treatments.

"It's all because of my Nanao-chan's tender care," he said, turning and reaching for her with his lips puckered ridiculously.

Nanao evaded him easily and began to gather the breakfast dishes. "Since you're feeling so good, you should have no problems with cleaning yourself up today."

"But Nanao-chan, what if I slip in the bath and injure myself? I need your delicate hands to help me wash, to gently soap my skin, to caress my—"

"In that case, I'll send for Third Seat Enjōji to assist you. He will most definitely be able to save you from a falling injury in the bath." She sailed into the kitchen with the breakfast dishes.

"Nanao-chan is cruel today," he remarked from the entrance of the kitchen. He watched her with benign interest.

It was only late morning and Nanao already felt like all her nerves were frayed. She wanted some time to do normal things, to reestablish herself in familiar work. Thinking about changes in her relationship with Captain Kyōraku, worrying over the possible punishments from Central 46 and the captain commander for her crimes in the command post, and waking up in an intimate situation with her captain this morning were all spiking her stress levels.

She had a brief fantasy of going into the Eighth Division and sitting down at her desk to a nice cup of tea and a pile of paperwork, secure in the knowledge that her life was unchanging. Unfortunately, even if she went into her office today, she would know that things were changing, that parts of her life were out of her control. Nanao hated that.

"I have to be cruel today." She kept her back to him as she washed dishes.

"Do you, Nanao-chan?" There was no condemnation in his voice, only warmth.

She twisted around to look at him for a moment, but couldn't find anything to say.

Whatever he saw in her eyes was enough. "Don't worry so much. It's a good time to relax, isn't it? When was the last time you took a real break from work? There's at least a few days before you'll be able to go to the office. You should try to enjoy yourself, Nanao-chan. I'll be in the bath. If you want my help with relaxing or enjoying, lovely Nanao-chan is welcome to join me."

She threw a dish towel at his grinning face.

On to Chapter 10.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 24th, 2011 06:11 am (UTC)
Aw, too cute! I particularly loved: She pulled the edges of the garment together and held it with one hand, then kicked him in one of his thighs. "This is your fault," she said. "I'm taking a bath. If you try to come in I will end you. Painfully." She glared at him but his smile never slipped.

"My Nanao-chan is so vibrant in the morning."

I'm looking forward to more - each time I see you've updated, I can't stop smiling! Thans for posting :)
Jul. 24th, 2011 06:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your comments! This story has a plot, but most of it actually revolves around the interaction of Shunsui and Nanao, so I'm glad their moments are enjoyable.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )