The River of Night's Dreaming

. . . of which five per cent proved incapable of remembering their basic Academy training in kidou . . .

. . . and I step down into the snow, my feet bare in my geta, white against white, collar pulled back that precise degree to show the nape of my neck, and his eyes widen as he looks at me . . .

Ise Nanao was a professional. She could do her Divisional reports even while fantasising, without misplacing a single figure or a single shinigami.

The sun was shining brilliantly outside. She could hear the gentle breathing (snoring) of her Captain from his couch in the corner. Too much (when not?) wine last night, and she'd come in to find him there, and had half-drawn the curtain so that the sunlight would not hit him too painfully in the face when it reached that corner of the room.

And in the meantime, someone had to do the reports.

. . . situation was complicated by the arrival of a Twelfth Division group . . .

. . . and as I reach out to take the cup of wine, he catches my wrist, and his hand is warm against my skin . . .

At first she had been flustered by her Captain's behaviour, and hadn't known how to take it. He'd drawn back a little and let Rangiku explain a few important points to her.

"Don't worry," the other woman had said after a Vice-Captains' meeting. "He's just playing. Snap a fan in his face or something. You should hear the sort of thing he calls me." She put manicured fingers to her mouth and giggled. "It's rather sweet, I think. Not like some of the Captains. Imagine Komamura-taichou calling you "his Nanao-chan . . ."

"Komamura-taichou would do no such thing," Nanao said primly.

"That's the point," Rangiku said. "Try looking at it this way. Every Captain has a few little eccentricities. If we ever get to be Captains, so will we. Personally, I've got plans." Her eyes gleamed. "But leaving that aside for the moment, he," she gestured to her left, "is playful. You," she gestured to her right, where Nanao was sitting, "aren't expected to fall panting into his arms. Just show you're paying attention."

"With a fan?"

"Unless you want to use something heavier."

Kyouraku-taichou had been touchingly grateful the next day when she'd done her best to break his wrist.

. . . so understandably the Fourth Seat currently in command of the patrol group from Eighth felt it necessary to explain that the shinigami under his command were not available as experimental subjects, and while I cannot entirely condone the language that he used, still I must note that . . .

. . . and as we huddle together under the single blanket, storm howling outside the thin walls of the shack, his hand traces down my cheek to the side of my neck, and he turns my face up and bends over to kiss me . . .

She considered biting through her ink brush in frustration.

Kyouraku-taichou was a gentleman. She had come to appreciate this. A gentleman and an aristocrat. He would absolutely never consider forcing his attentions where they were not welcome. (Judging by the number of different perfumes she could smell on him from time to time, they were frequently very welcome to a lot of people.)

He flirted with every woman in sight, and a fair number of men as well.

Which meant that all his words were no use at all when it came to actual definite meaning.

. . . and I would like to note that our Division was certainly not the first to release zanpakutou . . .

. . . I come in out of the drenching rain, my clothes soaking and plastered against my body, and as I kneel before the fire and slip off my kimono, I hear his footsteps behind me as he approaches . . .

Nanao wasn't an innocent. She'd had a couple of (extremely private) affairs at the Academy, and later when rising through the ranks. She wasn't some sort of blushing virgin swooning at his feet. She was just . . . discreet.

She hadn't expected this.

She didn't love him. She respected him. She admired him. (Well, she admired some aspects of him.) She obeyed him loyally. She lusted after his body. She wanted him physically. Personally. Carnally.

Even on those occasions when he managed to slip an arm around her waist or get hold of her wrist or put a finger against her lips, he never took it a single step further. He was just playing the same game with her that he no doubt played with every single woman who spent time in his company.

. . . nor were we the ones to, and I quote, state that, "everything would be different when our Captain the Great Experimenter rules Soul Society with a rod of iron and chains you minions to the laboratory tables," . . .

. . . he is lying on his bed as she enters the bedroom, naked to the waist, arms folded behind his head, and he looks at her with unmistakeable desire in his eyes . . .

And it would be so embarrassing, so mortifying, so utterly hopeless if she made the first advance and he said no. Or even worse, if he tolerated her out of kindness, and then one day she looked round and saw the truth in his eyes. They would never be able to work together again.

She had thought about asking for advice. She wasn't stupid. But when it came to people who could give that advice . . . well, there was Ukitake-taichou, and she could just imagine how that conversation would go, starting with her stammering request to take advantage of his long-time lover's body and going downhill from there. And then there was Matsumoto Rangiku, which would probably involve suggestions about turning up naked in Kyouraku-taichou's bed, and even if there wasn't that to worry about, there was the possibility of the whole of Seireitai hearing about it very shortly afterwards, because Rangiku never could resist a juicy bit of gossip, and as for the possibility of Ichimaru-taichou hearing about it, absolutely not under any conditions whatsoever. Kotetsu Isane would probably blush. But Isane was known to have definite views about fraternisation anyhow, and being in favour of it, which wasn't entirely surprising considering how well she got along with Unohana-taichou. And Hinamori Momo was quite out of the question . . .

And now she was maundering and wool-gathering. She made a mental note blaming Kyouraku-taichou for it.

. . . and when I heard the screams and crashes, naturally I proceeded to the incident site as fast as I could . . .

. . . in the dark, his knowing hands slipping inside her kimono, easing it back off her shoulders, holding her against him . . .

She had considered certain options to indicate her interest, or even her availability. Accidents involving water had been planned out and then discarded as cliched, or prone to misinterpretation, or likely to risk getting a cold. Meaningful gifts at yearly festivals would either be tactfully ignored or might be overdone. That chocolate business last year had been . . . unfortunate. Turning up in his bed ran the risk of other company beside him, and while she had nothing against Ukitake-taichou, she wasn't sure she wanted to take matters quite that far.

. . . inquiring in a rational yet definite way what the situation was . . .

. . . the shock of the wall against her shoulders as his mouth came ruthlessly down on hers . . .

This was quite ridiculous. If it had been someone else's problem, she would have politely looked down her nose at it and withdrawn.

Maybe he'd notice something.

Probably he wouldn't.

. . . somewhat disturbed by their eagerness to continue the fight, so naturally brought matters to a close as rapidly as possible, and can only apologise for the damage which Kurotsuchi-taichou asserts I may have done to their delicate cyborg implants . . .

. . . pinned under him as his hands traced down her body . . .

There was time. Perhaps she'd get over this little carnal obsession. Perhaps he'd say something other than his usual flood of compliments. This was Seireitai. There was nothing but time.

. . . and in conclusion, with the greatest of respect for my fellow Captains' work, feel that we may possibly have a future problem here . . .

. . . him above her, dark against the moon, bare flesh against bare flesh . . .

And what could be more normal than to desire his sinewy body? She was only human.

"Nanao-chan," her Captain murmured lazily from where he lounged. "You've been hard at work again."

"Finishing your reports." She set down the ink brush. "I have the one on yesterday's events all ready for you to sign."

Kyouraku-taichou scratched his head. "Oh yes. That little problem with Twelfth."

"Indeed, sir," she said patiently. "The one you insisted you had to drink to forget."

"But you remember." He smiled up at her from under his hat. "My perfect Nanao-chan."

"Sir," she said with dignity, "I would hardly have let you get into trouble on your own."

. . . and after all, there was always tomorrow . . .

And after all, there was always tomorrow.

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