Notes: Set around chapter 423. For fanay's request "our days will be crushed by the mill of time" from the poem "La Meule" by Raymond Queneau. Title from the September 16, 2005 prompt for the lj community 31_days.

She bustles around the office, filing paperwork and speaking to their subordinates. It's business as usual, except that she hasn't looked him in the eyes even once. He is out of place without his hat and haori, even standing in his own office. He is reminded of what it was like to stand in front of Yama-jii and be scolded, partially because being in only his shihakushou again makes him reminisce, and also because it just happened five minutes ago. He had blustered a lot and yelled about the importance of honor but it was still vaguely paternal in tone. Shunsui just chalked it up to stress and made a mental note to make Yama-jii take a day off sometime in the next 20,000 years.

Nanao-chan is going easy on him. She hasn't slapped him yet or hit him with her book, but she must be upset. He knows this, but he is bold enough to ask anyway, feigning incredulity:

"You aren't still mad that I wanted you to stay behind?"

Her back is to him and she knows he is looking so she restrains her anger, her shoulders relax. He is looking, but not for the anger. For the rims of her glasses behind her ears and the fine hair on the back of her neck that cannot be swept away or clipped up. He has been gone too long, even though he really hasn't. He lets the silly lines float away, like "time spent away from her feels like an eternity", because it's not quite true. They have spent a century together and he'd like another, that's all. He really shouldn't hold her back from fighting and he won't always be able to but for now it's better to err on the side of caution. He feels so old, suddenly. Because the red in her cheeks, the life on his sword, it's all blood. And it could have been his or hers, this time it wasn't but a time will come again and then another.

"Then what? Were you really worried about me, Nanao-chan?"

"You're an idiot," she says.
"You could have been killed," she says.

But she doesn't say no.