The One Called Sorrow
Note: Set right before manga chapter 155.

A night in Soul Society is usually a peaceful thing, especially if one is the Captain of the 8th Division, Kyouraku Shunsui. He could usually be found on the roof of the Division's headquarters, gazing up at the night sky, one ankle crossed over the other in a nonchalant manner that said he saw nothing frightening in the shadows. He did this every night unless Nanao was with him, and then he would sit, knees crooked outward as she poured sake for him. Sometimes he would watch her, the graceful movement of her wrist as she tilted the small pitcher, the dark shine of her hair as she turned to regard him solemnly.

He liked to watch her expressions, probably because they changed only rarely. He was always aware when a new one surfaced though. He knew her face almost better than he knew his own. Something would change around her eyes and her mouth and he would file the look away in his mind, slapping it with a subtitle of 'angry' or 'relaxed'. He didn't like the one called 'sorrow'.

She never showed it to him often, and if he called attention to it she was quick to smooth her features back into conformity. It didn't fool him though. Her sorrow inevitably meant his. It might have surprised him that she didn't really understand this.

"You're thinking about something," she said quietly, her smooth voice ruffling the silence. Moonlight rimmed the edge of her glasses and he smiled at her.

"Don't sound so amazed," he chided, holding out his cup to be refilled. She obliged. "My best thinking is done at night." She watched him, her eyes vast and full of stars, until he had to grin, touching her nose with a finger as if she were a child. "Don't worry, sweet Nanao. It's not too dangerous."

Ignoring his endearments as she always did, her reply was straightforward. "You're thinking about Kuchiki's execution." He didn't answer, gazing out over the rooftops with perfect serenity. Nanao's grip tightened on the sake pitcher. "What do you plan to do?"

He finally looked at her, leaning towards her conspiratorially. "Are you worrying about me, Nanao-chan?" he asked, pleased. The expression marked 'irritation' crossed her face.

"Of course not."

But then he saw it, at the corner of her mouth and in the set of her delicate jaw. Sorrow. It shot through his heart and landed somewhere in his stomach, a glowing ember that gnawed at him. His smile slipped.

"Please don't make that face, Nanao." His voice was low and soft. She jerked a little at the lack of a suffix to her name. "You know it makes me sad to see you do that."

She inhaled and turned her head away, saving him from seeing his greatest weakness. She was always doing that. Saving him. It would be years before she would ever admit it.

"There are rumors," she offered after a moment. "About a conspiracy within the Divisions." This time, when she glanced at him, her expression was firm. "I follow you."

He stilled, knowing she was telling the truth because his Nanao was always serious, and that burning coal she had sent through his heart was extinguished as if it had never been. He loved it when she did that.

He raised his cup for her to fill again. "I know, my dear Nanao-chan. I know." His smile was just for her. "And I won't lead you astray."

The End.