Author's Notes: This could almost be Crack! I think. Just something I wrote because Shunsui and Nanao need more love and I wanted to show how slimy Gin can be. I'm not sure when this is set, probably sometime before chapter 150.

A Snake in the Grass

Nanao had never been one to socialize, she never felt the need for such things. She was a practical person and she knew other people thought she was hard to read, which was why the other shinigami never made much of an effort to speak with her either. They were comfortable in their mutual indifference.

Until the day Nanao found herself alone in Soul Society's library with Ichimaru Gin.

She had never had the occasion to speak with him by herself before. She had been introduced, of course, and knew that he was on easy terms with her Captain. (But, then again, who wasn't?) He had a reputation for calm, almost lazy battles where he never broke stride, never flinched, never frowned. She might have admired him distantly, taking his apparent composure as confidence in his talent. But then he stood next to her in front of a shelf of dusty, leather-bound books that smelled of age and candle wax and greeted her as if she were a friend.

"Aaa, good morning, Nanao-chan."

She turned her head to look at him slowly, quelling the shiver that ran down her spine and the sudden lurch of her heart, dark eyes widening slightly behind her lenses. She was so unnerved, so off balance, she spoke despite herself.

"That nameā€¦" She pressed her lips together, forcing herself back into a state of serenity. Inside her head though, her thoughts raced. No one except Shunsui had ever addressed her like that, no one had ever had the courage to do so. Nanao found that the sound of it on Gin's lips was like oil on water, a gentle phrase covering words meant to bite.

His smile never faltered. "Oh, was that too forward? I suppose you don't want me to address you with such familiarity, Ise-san."

She released a pent-up breath and bowed her head slightly in his direction in attempt to find her footing again. "I'm just not used to hearing it. Only my own Captain calls me such." She moved away from him then, telling herself it wasn't a retreat, just a change of position. Still, she made sure not to show him her back. "I haven't seen you here before, Captain Ichimaru. Is there something you're looking for?"

"I was just wandering and decided to take a look in here." Long, slender, almost delicate fingers brushed the spines of the books in front of him. "As you say, I've never been here before."

There was a darkness in his words that rooted her to floor, holding her in place as he came towards her again. Lies, her mind whispered, he's lying, but she couldn't get her lips to move, transfixed by that unseen gaze as if she were watching the approach of her own doom.

A snake charmer to a snake.

Those thin fingers reached past the heavy manuscript in her arms and encircled her wrist, turning her body instantly cold, every muscle tensing in reaction. Just when she thought she couldn't bear it another minute, the smooth, amber voice of her Captain drifted from the doorway.

"There you are, my sweet Nanao-chan!" Shunsui was smiling, looking as relaxed as ever, the bright print of his clothes somehow awakening her from her daze enough for her to step away from Gin, pulling her arm free from his loose hold. The Captain of the 3rd Division let his hand drop as if it had been of his own accord. "Ah, Gin!" Shunsui continued, "Thank you for finding her. She tries to escape me sometimes. I can't imagine why." He winked at her over Gin's shoulder and she was almost grateful for the motion. It was a lifeline back to reality (although she would make sure to berate him later for saying such things about her in front of a Captain).

"You should keep better track of your Vice Captain, Kyouraku-san." Gin said, as he brushed by the 8th Division's Captain breezily. "We wouldn't want anything to happen to her."

Shunsui nodded as if Gin were simply being helpful. "Of course not."

Still smiling, Gin departed and the room suddenly seemed brighter. Shunsui turned his gaze back to her and she came to life, dropping the volume in her arms to the ground with a heavy thump!. Inhaling for what seemed like the first time in minutes, she struggled to smooth her features.

She could never admit that she was happy to see him. At least, not out loud.

"Nanao," he said quietly, and she realized he had dropped all honorifics, a sign he was being serious. When she didn't immediately answer, he came to her side and rested a hand on top of her head gently as if she were a child. "It's alright now. It's only me."

She wanted to step out from under his hand but found that his touch gave her warmth while Gin's had stolen it.

"He's dangerous," she said almost soundlessly, highly aware that words spoken within Soul Society had a way of seeping into the cracks and reappearing at the worst times. Shunsui took his hand away.

"All Captains are dangerous," he answered, and then grinned goofily. "And I am the most dangerous of them all, right, Nanao-chan?"

"Laziest, you mean," she retorted, forgetting about her disturbing experience in the face of her Captain's antics. Shunsui put a hand over his chest dramatically.

"You wound me, my adorably cute Nanao-chan."

Shunsui, however, did not forget. Nanao never went to the library alone again.

The End.