Author's note: I do not own Bleach or its characters. This is set shortly after Ichigo and company returned to their world.


Barely Breathing

Silent as a shadow, Shunsui crept through the halls making his way to a familiar destination. It was late, but he wouldn't be able to sleep until he had done this. He hadn't been able to sleep for the last month until he did this. Stopping in front of Nanao's quarters, Shunsui sat down, closing his eyes and concentrating. He could hear the steady sound of her breathing, and something in him relaxed.

He had been terrified during the fight with Yamamoto, but he had also been too busy for that fear to take over. He had even managed to hold it together until after the ryoka had left. But now he had nightmares almost every night about if he hadn't been quick enough in spiriting Nanao away. He was furious with the old man on a number of levels. His comments to Nanao clearly had shaken some of her self confidence that Shunsui had worked so hard to build. Nanao was young, yes, but she was also remarkable skilled and really quite mature for her age. She simply had not had a chance yet to build up experience.

But at the deepest level, Shunsui was furious because Yamamoto had hurt Nanao. Very few things caused him to lose his temper any more, but Nanao was the most precious thing in his life, and he would not allow anyone to harm her. There were times when the depths of his feelings for her scared him a little. Shunsui knew that should anything happen to Nanao, he would be utterly lost. He doubted she even realized how much she meant to him. He had always known that it would be slow going to build a romantic relationship with his beloved lieutenant, but one of the things his long life had taught him was patience. And he was making progress.

However, none of that dealt with his currently inability to sleep without checking on Nanao at least once. On the really bad nights, it was often two or three times. Shunsui also knew that soon he wouldn't have the chance to do this. He didn't how long he would be away from her once the war really started. As much as he hated being separated from her, Shunsui couldn't fault the old man's logic in keeping Nanao here. She was a strategist and had a flair for logistics making her the perfect choice of who to leave in charge of the Seireitei while they were gone. And she would be safer here than on the battlefield. Still, Shunsui didn't like the fact that he wouldn't be able to watch over her when the time came. He trusted her skills, but he was also a little paranoid when it came to her safety. That was one the reasons he was here right now.

A change in sounds brought him out of his thoughts. Before Shunsui could react, the shoji door slid open and his lieutenant stood there is a soft grey yukata and her hair down. Nanao sighed.

"Come on then." She held out a hand to him. "You're keeping me up, and we both need sleep."

To his utter surprise, Nanao pulled him inside her quarters and led him over to her futon. It was a good thing that he was already barefoot and dressed for bed because she pulled him down beside her onto the futon. Nanao snuggled into him and pulled a blanket over them both.

"Don't get any ideas, Captain. We both need sleep, and this seemed a suitable compromise. It is not going to become a habit." Despite her sharp tone, Nanao's voice was sleepy more than anything. "I expected you to behave."

Shunsui wrapped an arm around her waist. "Thank you, Nanao-chan."

"Sleep," she ordered.

Shunsui closed his eyes, and with his Nanao-chan safely in his arms, sleep came easily.