Disclaimer - I do not own Bleach

A/N - this story was written for, and is dedicated to, my best friend. Ticia I just wanted you to know that you and your dad are in my thoughts and prayers. Told from the POV of Shunsui Kyouraku and centers on his thoughts about and feelings for Nanao on the day of their wedding.

I Just Knew

There are some things in life that a person just knows, things that need no explanation, and the one thing I know, that I've always known, is that I love Nanao Ise, my little Nanao-chan, with every fiber of my being. When I first met her, that day in the office when she officially joined the ranks of Squad Eight as my vice-captain, I was attracted to her. The attraction was sort of bad boy likes good girl in that she was up tight and strict about following the rules while I myself made it a point to break the rules at every possible opportunity. Her uniform was always neat and proper, her vice-captain's badge always in place, while in sharp contrast I wore a pink haori covered in flowers over my actual captain's haori.

She was shocked by this behavior, I could tell by the look in her beautiful eyes, but she hid her surprise well. Much better than her predecessors as a matter of fact. She was always respectful, even when trying to force me to do my share of the paperwork. She never said anything about the fact that I was always late coming into the office and even ignored the fact that I took frequent naps during the day.

As I got to know Nanao-chan and learned more about her personality the initial attraction that I felt upon seeing her turned to love. She was a very giving person and completely loyal to those she named as friends. I spent many years shamelessly flirting with her and attempting to get her to admit that she shared my affection. These declarations of love always earned me looks of disapproval and occasionally a sharp slap with her fan.

My Nanao-chan was always big on following the rules and kept reminding me that fraternizing with her captain would be frowned upon by the higher ups. I kept insisting that I didn't care what a bunch of stodgy old geezers thought while she kept insisting that she did.

None of this discouraged me however and eventually, after a REALLY long time, my persistence paid off. By the end of the Winter War, which had been both physically and emotionally taxing for everyone, my Nanao-chan was finally able to return my I love you.

No matter how long I live and no matter what else happens I will never forget the first time that my Nanao-chan whispered those words to me. It was the very day that Aizen and the Espada attacked Soul Society and my Nanao-chan was injured in one of the many battles that ensued.

She lay unconscious in the Squad Four barracks for several hours and during this time I point blank refused to leave her side. After all it was my fault that she was there in the first place. I should have protected her. I remained by her side and when her eyes finally fluttered open I was the first thing that she saw. Still feeling guilty for the pain that I had caused her by my failure to protect her I leaned over her bed. "I'm so glad that you're okay," I told her, my voice low and throaty due to the myriad of emotions that I'd experienced that day. "I don't know what I'd do if I lost my precious little Nanao-chan."

Having fully expected a sharp tongued order not to call her my little Nanao-chan I was completely shocked when I heard her whisper the three words that I'd began to fear I'd never hear.

"I love you."

My eyes widened in surprise and I briefly wondered if maybe I'd heard her wrong. Perhaps I'd imagined the whole thing since those were the three words that I had so longed to hear coming from her mouth.

"You weren't hallucinating," Nanao-chan said as though able to read my thoughts. Why I was surprised by this is beyond me, after all she's always been able to read me perfectly.

I smiled down at her, lovely despite the bruises on her delicate skin, and then after a moment's hesitation I leaned down and gave her a tender kiss. The kiss was meant to be short and sweet but as I moved to pull away Nanao-chan prevented this movement with a hand placed on the back of my head.

My tender kiss quickly turned to pure passion and when we finally broke apart I was actually out of breath. "Wow Nanao-chan that was. . ."

"Wonderful," Nanao-chan finished, a soft smile on her face.

And that was the beginning of our romance. It wasn't a big change, I mean she still attempted to get me to do my paperwork and I still tried to get her to loosen up and join me out in the courtyard beneath the cherry trees but we were more likely to take each others advice. I made a conscious attempt to complete my paperwork on time and occasionally she agreed to join me under the trees.

Those little moments may not seem like much but I treasure every second that we spent together, whether in the office or out in the warmth of the sun, and it's what has led up to today.

Our wedding day.

After much debate on the best way to pop the question to her I finally decided to propose beneath the cherry trees. It was one of my favorite spots after all and the best place to bare my heart and soul for the woman I loved. Decision made I left a note on Nanao-chan's desk telling her to meet me out in the courtyard. I knew that she wouldn't refuse and when she stepped out into the courtyard I saw her eyes light up as her gaze fell upon the picnic that I had prepared.

"Captain. . ."

"Come join me Nanao-chan." I still have no idea why she insists on calling me captain but if we're on duty she refuses to call me Shunsui. I guess it has something to do with her need to follow the rules.

A blush rose to color her pretty face as she sat down beside me on the blanket that I'd spread out on the soft grass under my favorite tree. I remember thinking that she had to be the most beautiful woman in all of Soul Society.

After our meal I took a deep breath and then knelt in front of her. Taking her delicate hand in my own, rougher, one I gazed into her beautiful eyes. "Nanao-chan I cherish you more than my own life and I promise to always protect you with everything that I am. Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"

There was a pause as Nanao-chan thought about my words and my heart began to race. Then she smiled brightly and nodded her head ever so slightly. Elated I jumped to my feet, pulling her along with me. Unable to contain my happiness I danced around the courtyard with my Nanao-chan held in my arms, her feet not even touching the ground. I was on cloud nine and that's another one of those moments that I'll remember and cherish for as long as I live.

The door opens at this point and I'm forced to return from my reminiscent thoughts and once again focus on the here and now. Glancing up I smile broadly as my best friend Jyuushirou Ukitake steps into the room. Jyuu offers a smile in return. "Are you ready Shunsui?"

Without hesitation I reply, "Yes!" I'm more than ready and can't wait to claim Nanao-chan as my wife. This is a day that I have been waiting so long for and I have no hesitation about taking the vows that would bind me and Nanao together forever.

Jyuushirou chuckles softly. "So tell me Shunsui, how did you know that this was the right time to ask Nanao to marry you?"

I smile broadly. "The time just seemed right somehow."

My best friend accepts this answer and together he and I leave the small room where I had been awaiting the moment of my wedding. I'm excited and completely ready to face my future with Nanao-chan at my side. I have no doubt that our life together will be good and as the years go by if anyone asks me how I knew that Nanao-chan was the one for me then I'll smile and give them my reply.

"I just knew."

A/N - Sorry if Kyouraku was OOC. Like I said in the earlier author's note this story is for my best friend.