Paper Flowers

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach.

-Written for BlackVelvetBand's Shunsui/Nanao challenge.

-A/N: This is part three - much more romantic than the previous chapters, and very fun to write. Heh. I hope everyone enjoys! It was a little rushed to get it out in time, but I think that it turned out okay all the same. I didn't have time to do the color symbolism I had planned to, so I hope you guys can be happy with this all the same. 'T' might be too high a rating for it, I'm not sure.

I've got a demon magic woman
Got me so blind I can't see
That she's a demon magic woman
Trying to make a responsible captain out of me

Chapter Three: In Full Bloom
(In Which a Relationship is More Than Professional)


Nanao groaned. "Taichou..."

He grinned apologetically and shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, my darling Nanao-chan, what can I do? I certainly never meant for this to happen."

She buried her head in her arms, trying to block out any light. "Taichou, what did I tell you about my tolerance for alcohol?"

He looked away from her, his expression rather sheepish. "That... It was low?"

"That's right. And who insisted on taking me out with Matsumoto-fukutaichou and friends anyway?"

He grinned. "Me?"

Nanao looked up at him with fire raging in her eyes. "That's right, taichou. You. I told you that this would happen; I have no tolerance for alcohol and if I drink even a little over my sobriety limit, I have a terrible hangover the next morning."

Shunsui whimpered a little and scuttled over to his couch. "Nanao-chan's so mean," he muttered, stretching out and covering his face with his hat. "I only wanted to show her a good time." He looked up with another, rather more lascivious grin. "You certainly seemed to be having a good time when you told the whole bar that I was the most handsome captain in all of Seireitei."

Nanao groaned and sank back down onto her desk. "I was drunk. I didn't mean it."

"Oh, that hurts my feelings, Nanao-chan. Who is the most handsome captain, then?"

She grunted and said, her voice muffled, "Zaraki-taichou."

Shunsui laughed hard, his whole body shaking. "Oh, Nanao-chan's embarrassed because she thinks I'm handsome." He stood up, and though she couldn't see him, she sensed him come stand in front of her desk. "Well there's no question about who the most attractive fukutaichou is. My beautiful Nanao-chan has them all beat hands down." He chuckled. "Except perhaps that mountain of Soi Fong's." He chuckled again and put a gentle hand on the top of her head. "Go home, Nanao-chan, you need rest." Before she could argue, he said, "Or if you think you need to stay at work, then at least use the couch. I'll go get some lunch for us." And humming a quick, peppy tune, he strolled out of the office.

Nanao peeked out at the empty room. She sighed and took off her glasses, rubbing her aching eyes. Why had she agreed? Stupid question, she realized. When could she ever refuse him something that he asked for so nicely? It was becoming more and more evident to her that the tiny crush she harbored for her captain had grown into something much, much bigger.

Yes, he was handsome. She did consider him to be the most attractive captain (even the most attractive man) in the Seireitei. His body was broad and strong, and Nanao was more than aware of her own affinity for such bodies. He had a laughing smile, a spark of youth and humor in his eyes. And even if he was sillier than most of the youngest students at the Academy, he had a maturity that came from experience – he could always be counted on when he was truly needed.

She sighed and chastised herself for slipping into foolish daydreams. He had been much more flirtatious than usual, and that flattered her at the same time as it made her that much more attracted to him. What she would give to have him in her arms for just one, brief moment.

The previous night had been more fun that she would ever admit. She had come solely because he had invited her, citing worry and a desire to see her have more fun as his motivations for issuing the invitation. And, of course, she couldn't say no to that. So putting on a brilliant show of reluctance, she allowed herself to be persuaded. And she had gotten to watch him laugh and drink and smile, talking about personal things she felt privileged to hear. She had taken sips the same time he had, pretending her lips on the cup were her lips on his lips.

And, with as much as he drank, she had gotten fairly hammered fairly quickly. She groaned at the memory. At least she had only called him handsome; she didn't trust her tongue when it was under the influence of alcohol, and she wouldn't have been surprised if she had blurted out that she loved him to the entire bar, as well.

Except, of course, he was her taichou, and she couldn't.

Things were that simple to Nanao – chiefly because she made them so. He was her captain, therefore she was not allowed to have romantic feelings for him (however handsome and strong and perfectly suited to her he might be).

It was then in her thoughts that she began to sense his reiatsu nearing the office, so she quickly slipped her glasses back on and headed over to the couch. It was a little lumpy because of its age – but it smelled just like her Kyouraku-taichou, so she felt she had very little reason to complain.

"Ahh! My Nanao-chan has taken my advice!" the man himself said gladly as he sauntered back into the office. "Feeling better?"

"No," she groused. "And I suspect you're here merely to increase my headache further."

"Oh, never, Nanao-chan. Why, I'll even promise to do some of my paperwork today."

She looked over at him skeptically. "Really? You actually promise?"

"Some, Nanao-chan," he reminded her, shoveling off all the papers on his desk to set the lunches he had picked up down. "And who's to say my definition will be quite the same as yours?" He grinned and sat down. "If you're still feeling badly after you eat, why don't you go see Unohana-taichou in the fourth division? I'm sure she – "

"No," Nanao said quickly. "I'm not going to waste her time asking for a cure to an ailment that was completely and utterly my fault."

"I thought Nanao-chan said it was my fault."

She glared and the next second a couch cushion came whizzing by his head.

"I let myself be talked into it, sir. I could have been more firm in my initial refusal. Besides that, I…" She cleared her throat. "I did have a good time. Thank you for inviting me."

He smiled. "You're welcome, Nanao-chan. Maybe we can do it again some time." Seeing her face, he laughed. "Perhaps with less sake involved."

Nanao didn't know it, but her captain wasn't as blind to her feelings as she thought he was. Shunsui knew his vice-captain felt something for him; he just didn't know exactly what it was.

And, of course, being the type of man he was, he decided that he just couldn't be happy until he found out.

"Nanao-chan," her taichou asked one late afternoon, "do you believe in destiny?"

"What?" She looked up from a pile of his paperwork she was completing. "Did you say destiny, sir?"

He nodded. "I did. I asked if you believed in it."

Nanao thought for a moment before answering. "I can really say either way. I've never given it much thought before. I suppose that there could be, but I'm inclined to doubt it."

"Ahh." He nodded thoughtfully. "What if I told you that I believed we were destined to work together?"

She had gone back to work, obviously considering any real conversation of substance complete. "I would probably take away your sake, Kyouraku-taichou."

He laughed. "My Nanao-chan is so cruel." He sighed, watching her intently as she worked. "What do you believe then, Nanao-chan? In truth?"

"I don't know, sir. As I've said, I've never given it much thought."

He stood up and pushed in his chair. "Then tell me what you prefer: the feel of skin or paper? the sound of a deep, warm voice or the turning of a book's pages?"

She looked up, struggling for words. "Wh-what? Kyouraku-taichou, why are – "

"I'm just curious, Nanao-chan. That's all." He placed his hat on the desk and took a few steps toward her. She still didn't speak. "You don't know?" He was staring at her, the heat of his gaze so disconcerting she could hardly think. "Then let me help you decide."

Nanao was suddenly very uncomfortable with the situation. The anxiety she felt increased as he took another step towards her. "Kyouraku-taichou," she said, swallowing a tiny bubble of something like fear, "I… I can answer your question with no assistance."

"Then why don't you?"

She swallowed again. "I prefer books to many people, but…" He was suddenly right in front of her. She sensed that he wanted her to stand; almost involuntarily, she did. "Th-there are some voices that I love to hear…" Looking into his eyes, there was no mistaking where the situation was headed. Nanao wasn't sure if she really wanted to let it go there.

He took her hand and put it up to his chest, right above his heart. "And some skin… you long to touch?"

It shamed her, but she felt her hand tremble. "Stop it. This – "

"If my Nanao-chan would give me her permission, there is skin I long to touch, as well."

"I didn't mean…" She looked away from him, whispering heatedly. "I didn't mean it was your voice I loved to hear," she said, her face red.

"Then whose did you mean?" When she didn't answer, he said, "Are you feeling all right, Nanao-chan? Your face is flushed. Does this closeness make you uncomfortable?" He looked pointedly down to the hand still on his chest; she quickly drew it away.

"Of course I'm uncomfortable. This is very inappropriate." She walked over to the far wall, looking off to the side so she didn't have to meet his gaze.

"Nanao," he said softly, her name smooth in his mouth, "why do you stand so far away?"

There was something in his voice, something warm and new that she had never heard there before. If she turned her head, what would she see? Would the expression in his eyes be as warm as that something in his voice?

"Is this 'far away', taichou? I see nothing wrong or unusual about this distance."

He was in front of her in an instant, his hand snaking presumptuously around her waist. "What about this distance? Is this distance wrong or… unusual?" He leaned close to her ear and whispered, "Is it wrong to want to be close to my Nanao-chan?"

That settled it. They were damning their professional relationship forever – but what happened between them would stay between them, an intimate secret that they never had to reveal.

"No," she replied quietly. His head came up a little, his eyes meeting hers. She put a hand to his face, the feel of smooth skin and the stubbly growth of beard so welcome to her small, milky white palm. "Because your Nanao-chan wants to be close to you."

She didn't even consider the ramifications of their actions, not when there was such a plea, raw and naked in his eyes. Her whole body felt unsteady, and her lips trembled as they met with his.

What Nanao would always remember was the he tasted like sake: lips, tongue, every inch of warm skin. She had never relished the taste of it more.

: end :
-End A/N: There we go! The end of this lovely little fic. I'm still not confident writing Shunsui/Nanao, but I definitely enjoy it. Hee. Thanks for reading this far, everyone, and I hope you enjoyed it! Reviews are greatly appreciated.