A/N: I had never, ever, ever considered writing a NanaoxShunsui fic until I was persuaded by this random contest of Blackvelvetband's. . .loosely using the prompt of "bandages, singed eyebrows, and the quote 'I enjoy wiggling my toes'" which may or may not follow through.
So here you are, dear reader, a slightly odd take on this pairing by your truly.
Shattered Ideals and Rose-hued Secrets
She had never liked the color pink.
So when she lost a bet to Matsumoto (one of her regretted wilder moments) and had had to go into the lingerie store with her, Matsumoto could not understand for the life of her why—why—she had finally picked a hot pink bra with tiny flowers on it out of all the other possible choices.
- - -
Ise Nanao had never liked to drink.
So when she got slightly tipsy at an eighth squad party, Matsumoto just stared. Nanao's captain had somehow convinced her to drink sake, and she had relented—"just this once." It was Kyōraku-taichō's birthday, one that marked the assumption of another complete century onto his still virile shoulders.
- - -
Nanao had never been one to take her glasses off.
So when Matsumoto came across her sparring with her captain and the lenses cast beside her, she was puzzled. How could Nanao see without her glasses? She couldn't. So, naturally, Shunsui had managed to injure her back as she attempted to finish their fight without her spectacles. She singed his eyebrows and hair with kidō in return, and Matsumoto had had to make both of them go to fourth squad (especially since Nanao passed out shortly afterward).
- - -
Her best friend had never been able to turn down a massage.
So when Matsumoto happened to see a very tense Ise Nanao allowing her captain to gently work her sore back muscles shortly after the sparring incident, she wasn't very surprised.
It was what happened next that surprised her.
- - -
"Relax, Nanao-chan!" Shunsui admonished his vice captain airily. "If you hunch your shoulders over any more, you're going to retie the knots I'm trying to work out of your muscles!"
"Hmm," was her only reply, but she sat up straighter.
The only real thought that was screaming through her head was, DAMN! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!
Lately, her captain had been plaguing her thoughts more than he had been plaguing her.
But she had told herself—told herself—that she couldn't give in, couldn't ever give in, if only because he was Kyōraku Shunsui, and she was Ise Nanao.
Doomed before they began because of their office positions, Shunsui's ADHD when it came to women, and her own reluctance to commit to something she had little to no experience with.
She didn't want to get hurt, and she didn't want to do anything too outside of her comfort zone and beyond the bounds of propriety. Having a relationship with her captain practically embodied breaking the two top rules in her life.
He wasn't serious, or probably wouldn't be for long, so she couldn't get her hopes up. And he was an experienced womanizer, one that could have his pick of all the woman shinigami in the Seireitei any given day.
So, really, she didn't even know why she was even considering it.
Well, no, she did know why.
She was scared.
She didn't want to think about what was waiting for her back in the main portion of the Seireitei; possibly even the eighth squad office buildings barely a hundred yards away.
It was possible that her fears were unfounded, but after her convalesce in Fourth Squad—
She woke to the clean, antiseptic smell of a recovery room.
All she remembered was her captain wailing something about his hair, then his strong arms suddenly closing about her as she fell dizzyingly, and the whispered word, "Nanao?" that had sent shivers down her spine before the darkness claimed her.
"Ise-fukutaichō?" came Captain Unohana's calm voice. "I need to speak with you. . ."
Shunsui broke into her thoughts, saying, "You need to get out more, Nanao-chan. These stressed parts of your back are very unhealthy. You spend too much time doing paperwork."
"That's only because you spend too little time doing yours," Nanao replied primly.
Shunsui laughed, and she imagined that she could feel his throaty laugh reverberating through his large, strangely graceful hands. "Is my Nanao-chan's wound healed?" he asked instead.
Nanao gritted her teeth in annoyance, but she wasn't sure if she was irritated at her captain, or at the fluttering in her stomach. "Not quite, taichō, but I feel substantially better."
"Do you?" he murmured. She knew he still felt bad for accidentally hurting her. "What did Unohana-taichō say?"
Nanao smiled humorlessly. What had the fourth squad captain said? She had said many things. . .
". . .and so you could be of great help in many ways, Ise Nanao," Captain Unohana finished gravely.
Nanao's mind was reeling. She still hadn't completely registered the long and detailed explanation that the fourth captain had just given her about her kidō. After suffering through several technical-term laden lectures, she had finally understood the gist of what Unohana was trying to tell her.
Her kidō was unique, perhaps dangerously so. If Unohana herself had not healed her, it was possible that her protective energy would have fried a lesser healer. But, as Unohana had dizzyingly suggested, if they tapped her kidō properly, then maybe she could do amazing things.
Heal old scars, replenish blood, and even eradicate mortal wounds, much like the human girl with the odd spiritual powers could.
Supply portable strength and bonding spells to healers without adequate power with no harm or inconvenience to her.
Enhance the training of novices.
Nanao had always been gifted in kidō, and was, perhaps, the greatest kidō master in all of Seireitei, but she had never been truly hurt before. If she had been, it had never been enough for a healer to look at. So this was new, and the possibilities were endless. If this abnormality could be isolated, it could have properties beyond belief.
She might be able to fashion a type of bankai with her kidō.
But most importantly, with minimal training, she could probably completely heal Ukitake Jūshirō within a few years.
"If I were to agree to begin," her voice cracked, out of disuse or fear, she did not know, "by merely healing Ukitake-taichō, could this be kept quiet?"
"Of course," Unohana told her kindly. "But I think this is very promising. I will talk with the commander-general about your training and your possible transfer immediately."
Nanao froze, and her heart nearly stopped. "Transfer?" she choked out after a considerable pause.
"I'll have to see. . ."
So that was why she had gotten herself into this predicament. Shunsui had found her meditating in one of the eighth squad gardens and had begun to tease her mercilessly until she had snapped something about her injury being his fault.
She did not know how he had known—maybe Matsumoto had told him—that she loved massages. Before her hand could even brush the ever-present book lying beside her, he had knelt down and begun to massage her back tenderly, carefully avoiding the lower region where he had injured her.
Naturally, she had melted like putty into his soothing touch. Damn him, she couldn't willingly pull away from a massage! And she could use all the assurance she could get in face of what could be awaiting her outside this garden. . .
"Nanao?" Shunsui asked her softly. "What did Retsu say?"
Nanao jumped slightly and almost began to stutter before she composed herself. "Unohana-taichō merely said that my kidō is extremely resilient and a credit to its wielder. After I go back tomorrow for my check-up, it will not be necessary to return because I will be sufficiently healed."
Shunsui laughed again, but Nanao thought she detected a strained quality in his merriment. "I always knew my Nanao-chan was exceptional!" he said playfully. His voice dropped a few notches,"Maybe even in more ways than one. . ."
She half-heartedly hit him, and then hunched her shoulders again. Shunsui made an exasperated noise. "Yare, Nanao-chan, you are going to get stuck like that."
If you weren't so ridiculous in your teasing, I would be more comfortable because I would know your intentions. As it stands, I haven't the faintest idea what to think, and it's ripping me up inside. Can't you see that taichō? Can't you see? "I highly doubt that that is feasible, sir," she murmured instead, but then her inner walls crumbled and she added, "but I can lie down if you'd like."
Shunsui's eyebrows shot up. He was used to Nanao ignoring his advances, and, while it still hurt him, he was used to it. This though. . .could it be that maybe his Nanao. . .?
He had loved her long, but had finally realized it when he had injured her. He couldn't bear the thought of his office without Ise Nanao, his near-quiet rests without her grousing, his days without her constantly by his side, and now, as he wished wistfully, he wanted to spend every night with her in his arms, protecting her so that he might never worry again.
But his top priority was Nanao's happiness, and if she didn't want him, than she didn't want him.
But that didn't stop him from trying.
Maybe one day he would stop being such a coward and tell her outright how he felt. And if she turned him down once and for all, so be it. True, his already fragile heart would never mend, but he could solace himself with the thought that she was happy. He would survive on her happiness and leave her alone.
So her obvious unhappiness today had drawn him to her like a moth to a flame.
This odd compliance, was it because she needed comfort, or was it because she too felt the stirrings of deep emotion within her?
Shunsui looked down at Nanao, who was now stretched out on the ground, and continued to knead her back gently and expertly. Thank all the gods for Matsumoto Rangiku.
Nanao's eyes were closed, and an unwelcome reminder played across her eyelids. . .
"I have spoken with the general, Ise-fukutaichō," Unohana said calmly. "He says your training should begin immediately."
Nanao swallowed. "And of my possible. . .transfer?"
"That is still unsure," Unohana told her, worry etched into her normally calm features. Suddenly she frowned, and Nanao felt it too. "What is he. . .?" Unohana whispered almost to herself. "One moment, Ise-san."
She returned a minute later with someone in tow.
"Ise-fukutaichō? You have a visitor. . ."
And he, the apparent determinate of her fate, stepped into the room.
Never had she wished more in her life for Shunsui, or even General Yamamoto, however cold, unbending, and downright frightening he could be. . .
"Yes, taichō," she said peacefully, her heart already hardening into stone at the reality of her situation.
"Something is wrong. What is it?"
Again, Nanao smiled bitterly, an expression that Shunsui, thankfully, could not see. What was wrong? Many, many things. . .her final acceptance of what was in her heart. . .how he did not care for her in the way she wished he would. . .how she would now have to go someplace completely new and frightening. . .
"I'm fine, taichō," she whispered, attempting to sound stiff, but failing miserably as the peace suddenly shattered into a thousand irretrievable pieces.
"Is there anything I could do, Nanao?"
Nanao cringed. He sounded—well, he sounded so sincere. "I don't believe so," she said in a whisper barely audible to her own ears.
But he heard her. One hand came up to smooth her hair, and she shivered. "Nanao-chan is so strong," he said lightly, but she could tell he was still being serious. "But sometimes even the best of us need help."
"I know," she snapped, suddenly angry. She had no choice now, and it was best that she left anyway. Things were getting out of hand, and she wasn't about to let him use her. "But this isn't one of those times."
"You know I would do anything for you, lovely Nanao-chan," he told her. "If only you asked."
She ignored his comment and thought instead of what she could do to make this man happy. It would be best for both of them if she left, but— "Taichō?"
"If Ukitake-taichō could be healed, forever," she asked quietly, "how would you feel?"
There was a pause as her captain considered this completely unexpected question. "I would be exceedingly happy for him," he replied in an odd tone that sent shivers down Nanao's back again. "And I too would share his happiness. I would be a thousand times less worried, because my oldest and greatest friend would finally be out of the danger of constant death."
A tear slipped unheeded down Nanao's cheek.
It was settled then. She would cooperate.
Anything for her captain. Her Kyōraku-taichō .
His next words were suddenly drowned by the increased thudding of her heart in her ears and the blind panic that rose to flood her mind.
He was here already, and he was making no attempt to hide his presence, which she took as a fair warning to her.
Shunsui wasn't paying attention again, so he didn't feel it. But she did, she felt it acutely in the prickling on her skin right through the marrow of her bones, which were all humming in apprehension.
Her fear of what was happening to her, of this radical upheaval and her broken heart, was eating at her like a fire, feeding on the elastic of her muscles and the suppleness of her flesh, causing her to quiver and clench her fists.
She could not let this get the best of her.
She would not break under this force.
She would ride this tiger.
She came back to her senses gasping slightly, but in control of herself. She lay there, feeling thoroughly dejected.
"Nanao!" Shunsui said sharply. "What happened?!"
"Taichō," she choked, "Oh, Taichō. . ."
"What is wrong, Nanao, you're worrying your poor old Shunsui. . ."
"I can't feel anything," more tears slipped down her cheeks, and she didn't know if she was talking about her back or her frozen heart, "I don't know why." She took a deep breath and tried to be reasonable. "Taichō, please check my wound. . ."
Shunsui paused. Did he dare remove the upper part of his Nanao's robe? Well, she had asked, and, vulnerable as she was right now, he wanted with all his heart to make her feel better. . .
Nanao propped her chin on her hands after she removed her sleeves. Besides her bra, she had several sashes wrapped around her that served as an undergarment.
But she had quite forgotten—
"Nanao," Shunsui breathed. "I didn't know you wore pink. I didn't think you even liked it."
Damn, Nanao thought savagely. Damn Matsumoto, who made me think of this in the first place! "On occasion, taichō," she said faintly.
Shunsui paused again, and then decided he wanted to show his exquisite Nanao-chan some small portion of what he really felt.
He shouldn't be so much of a coward, because from what he could see right now, it was quite possible that she cared for him too.
"Nanao-chan, you're bleeding," he said softly. He gently unwrapped the lower, pink sash and caught sight of her bra.
Brilliant, rose pink, with tiny flowers on it.
Flowers?! What would possess Ise Nanao to wear that?!
He grinned wolfishly. Could it be?
He looked at her bandages and saw that a small amount of blood had seeped through to the second-to-last layer, but he wasn't unduly worried. It was nothing Unohana couldn't patch up in the blink of an eye.
Bending down slightly, he caressed a bare shoulder and felt her shudder beneath his touch, making him want to see her expression. Was she excited? Angry? Shocked?
He breathed on her neck, reveling in her slight jump. He carefully pressed his lips to the nape of her neck, savoring the shockingly intoxicating taste of her skin, suddenly moving up the side of her neck to her cheek, breezing gently across her delicate skin hungrily, wanting more. . .
Nanao had been lost in the feel of his hands, had ignored the fact that he might discover her best kept secret, had barely cared as his hands caressed her. . .had finally realized he was kissing her sensitive skin too long after pleasure blossomed in her chest, making her hot all over.
He wasn't serious! He couldn't be! And she had made up her mind.
Nanao was suddenly standing above him, shrugging back into her black robe and Shunsui stared bemusedly up at her, salty sweetness lingering on his lips and long-held dreams still pounding through his mind.
What was she doing?! He reached out to her, and he realized there were tear tracks on her cheeks.
Why had she been crying? Had he hurt her? But the pain in her eyes did not seem to be born out of loathing or anger. . .
It dawned on him, finally, minutes, days, months, years too late.
She thought he was trifling with her.
His hand brushed her robe, but she tugged away. She suddenly didn't care about what was waiting for her out there; it would distract her from this impossible man in front of her, at least. "I'm going to fourth squad now, taichō," she told him sternly, adjusting her glasses, her book already in her arms. "I'll be back soon."
With that, she was gone, leaving Shunsui bewildered, hurt, and holding a strip of pink cloth adorned by a single, deep magenta flower that looked oddly like one of the ones that beset his treasured haori.
- - -
Matsumoto knew that Nanao would never ever have done that with Kyōraku Shunsui, so she was very confused.
But then she too registered the presence just outside the eighth squad building and remembered what Nanao had told her softly while still in bed in the recovery room.
She put two and two together and swore under her breath before quickly flash stepping away to dissuade her friend from her present course of action.
The pink of her scarf whipped mockingly into her eyes and she pushed it angrily away.
- - - - - - -
A/N: Shooting for the "Flashing Glasses" award!
This will be in four parts and might be slightly crack-ish but def. logical.
PLEASE REVIEW! Or Nanao-chan will take off her glasses and beam you with Cyclops-esque power kidou beams!