A/N: A short one-shot for New Years. Enjoy!
"You didn't come to the party, Nanao-chan."
Nanao opened one eye, squinting at the light coming through the office door. She was curled up on the couch where her captain usually took his mid-day naps, still in her work uniform and quite irritated at the disturbance that the aforementioned captain was causing to the very pleasing dream she had been in the middle of.
"I don't attend parties, sir," she reminded, closing her eye again, hoping he would take the hint and leave her alone.
"Nanao-chan did not want wish her captain a happy New Year?"
"Happy New Year, sir."
"Why are you sleeping in the office, Nanao-chan?"
She grunted in annoyance. The truth was that in order to avoid the party she had chosen to bunk in the office that evening- if she had risked going home she was sure that one of her friends or colleagues would have come looking for her. Rangiku had probably set up camp in her living-room at midday, just to ensure that Nanao was dressed properly and was bearing enough cleavage to be deemed acceptable at the seedy bars she intended to drag her to.
"I must have just passed out from exhaustion," she lied. "After all, you haven't touched a single paper all week, and I've had to make up for it."
He paused, seemingly in contemplation upon the subject. "It's the holidays," he offered as an excuse. "But you shouldn't have to work harder because of it."
She opened her eyes slowly, wondering at his apologetic tone of voice.
"I was caught up in the romance of the season, and inadvertently stolen the magic of it from you," he confessed. "Can I make it up to you?"
"You could let me sleep," she suggested, resting her forearm across her brow.
"I let you sleep most nights. That isn't enough."
She snorted softly at his not leaving out that there were in fact some evenings he had kept her awake. He had a penchant for love poetry at three in the morning, and would often show up at her house to recite it to her before the perfect lyrics left his head, never to return. "Perhaps you could find it within yourself to complete the stack of forms that has been piling up on your desk for the past week," she offered, although her voice lacked conviction. More than anything, she wanted to be left alone, but she knew he could not be swayed until he was given his task of repentance.
"No, no," he objected. "Something I can do to restore your holiday spirit. Is there nothing you want?"
"You're a generous man, captain. I'm sure you can think of something yourself."
He hummed in agreement. "Something to give my Nanao-chan to remind her of how romantic this time of year is," he pondered out loud.
She scoffed at him. "Why don't you sleep on it?" she suggested testily, eyeing him warily as he shifted his posture in the doorway, folding his arms over his chest and sauntering leisurely into the office. She couldn't make out his features; just his shape silhouetted in the light from the hall.
"We'd be losing valuable celebration time, my dear," he said simply. He glanced at her pointedly. "It's almost midnight, you know."
"If I miss one year, it won't make a difference. We do all the same things every year without fail anyway."
This seemed to pique his interest. He hummed in thought as his fingers stroked his jaw. "That's it! I know what I will give you."
"Excellent. You may give it to me in the morning. You can find me here, much later than now," she said, rolling over to face the back of the couch. She started, however, when the couch shifted with her captain's added weight. "Sir?"
"I've heard," he said lowly, "that in the West, they have a curious tradition that they perform every New Year's at the stroke of midnight."
Hesitantly, Nanao sat up, eying her captain critically.
"They say that in order to ensure happiness and good fortune in the coming year; that a kiss should be shared with someone you care a great deal for."
Nanao's eyes widened and she pressed her back against the couch, trying her hardest to distance herself from her suddenly entirely-too-close captain. "A kiss?" she repeated. Her heart pounded; a feeling she was unfortunately growing used to whenever Shunsui breached the bubble of personal space she tried to maintain at all times.
"That's what they say," he said, shrugging slightly. Her eyes were adjusting to the darkness, and she could now see the solemn expression he wore, half illuminated by the lantern lit hallway and half by the moonlight streaming in through a nearby window. "If you want good fortune, anyway."
She glanced away, trying to calm her fluttering nerves. "Good fortune is a scam. There's no such thing as luck." Nanao was sure her blush was even visible in the dark, and tried her best to dispel it.
"Perhaps not, but the New Year is also a time for firsts."
"Then we'll go and watch the first sunrise," she announced, suddenly less lamenting of her lost sleep. She'd make up for it another day—her taichou was constantly instructing her to take more time off of work anyway. "I bet we could see it perfectly from the roof."
He grinned, but Nanao thought it was lacking in its usual sincerity. Indeed even her usual sense of triumph at staving off his regular come-ons felt less fulfilling this time. For some reason, it gave her a sense of the opposite.
Quietly she followed his lead and stood, letting him wrap his pink kimono around her shoulders tightly, listening with half a smile as he fussed over her. "We can't have my Nanao-chan catching a cold- that'd be a hell of a way to start the New Year."
They shunpo'd to the roof hastily; eager to leave the office where the remains of Shunsui's initial offer clung to the atmosphere, all the while seemingly forgetting the looming stroke of midnight and that there was a long wait ahead of them both before the sun would rise.
Drumming her fingers across the hard clay roof tiles one time too many, Nanao sighed heavily and looked at Shunsui. It was a hard, calculating look; one that meant to pick apart every bit of him and discern what it was about him that made her insides turn flips at the prospect of a silly western New Year's tradition.
She was ashamed of her cowardly response to the proposition, to be perfectly frank. For once in the entire time she had known him he was offering her a kiss for a legitimate purpose with no loopholes of insincerity, and she saw no possible strings attached, unless you counted his small profession of caring for her, which was no secret itself.
He'd never tried to keep it a secret, either, and she had to admit she was grateful. It was nice, and often times comforting to know that in the world there was always someone who she could fall back on, no matter what the circumstance. It was unconditional, his devotion to her.
His gaze was fixed on the horizon, and he was uncharacteristically quiet. Nanao's eyes traced his familiar profile; his steep forehead, focused brow, straight, handsome nose, full lips and proud chin sporting comely scruff.
Her own admiration and affection she had kept more safely guarded; and looking back on that decision now, she found it rather unfair, both to Shunsui and to herself.
"Thank you, sir," she blurted rather abruptly.
He cocked an eyebrow in her direction.
"I, uh, thanks for bringing me up here."
He smiled and nodded and they fell into silence again. Nanao was about to attempt to break it, albeit awkwardly, once again when Shunsui spoke up.
"Do you remember how we used to spend New Year's, Nanao?"
A sharp pain in her chest reminded her all too well. For years her New Years were spent at the shrine, praying among the other visitors; except her prayers were not for happiness and prosperity and health in the future. Hers were less hopeful, and stained by the past. She wore her shinigami uniform rather than the elaborate kimonos that the other girls wore, hoping to appear less noticeable. Unfortunately, plain black in a sea of colour was just as eye-catching.
Her captain found her every year without fail. It was a wonder that he did, as he was unfailingly drunk every time he (quite literally) stumbled across her. She'd lead him back to his home and make him coffee to sober him up and they'd inevitably spend the rest of the night in each other's company. Neither of them needed words to express their grief, but also their consolation; it was a silent exchange of their mutual presence that saw them both through to the next morning, when the sting of their heartache had passed.
"I'm tired of looking back," he said, and Nanao slid her hand over the tiles until her fingers brushed his. "Make a New Year's resolution with me, Nanao-chan!" he suggested eagerly. "Let's resolve that for one whole day, every New Year's Day; we look only forward, never back on the past."
Nanao shook her head. "I can't do that. For me, New Year's Day is a day to appreciate the people we care for; the people we love, and look forward to more time spent with them. How can I do that if I do not reflect on the times I have already had in the past that make me wish for more?"
Shunsui gave her a lopsided smile. "So smart, Nanao-chan." He patted her hand companionably. "So who are you appreciating tonight? Rangiku-chan? Momo-chan?"
"They are both my dear friends," Nanao agreed thoughtfully. Indeed she did feel a great deal of appreciation for the two vice captains who had made themselves a permanent part of her life, but she could not avoid the truth. She glanced at her captain again, sighing softly. "You."
She tugged his kimono a little tighter around her shoulders toward her chin; perhaps to keep out the cold, or perhaps to hide behind. "Every New Year, I think about you. What you've done for me, and what I've done to deserve it." She laughed, then, spitefully. "Honestly, I can't seem to figure that last one out; because I keep doing everything under the sun to deter it, but you keep caring, and I never do anything to show you let alone tell you that I really care about you too, and every year I resolve that this year will be the year to change things. This year I'll show you, but I…" She cut herself off and quickly looked up at her captain, whose expression was both dumbfounded and profoundly moved. "Sir, what time is it?"
He blinked. "Er, sometime around half twelve, I would think."
"I guess I missed the chance then."
"What do you mean?"
"To usher in happiness and new beginnings with a kiss," she said simply. "The western tradition you described."
She sighed morosely. "Yes?"
"We're not in the west."
"So it's not our tradition. We can make our own tradition; let's say we kiss every New Years Day at half twelve to repent for all the feelings not shared throughout the year."
Nanao frowned. "No. That's impossible, because from me, a kiss means 'I love you', and if I were to kiss you once, I would not be able to wait a whole year before I kissed you again, and if I kissed you before next New Year, I'd have already shared those feelings, and I'd have no reason for which to repent."
Shunsui stared at her for a moment then barked a laugh. "You're far from a romantic, Nanao."
"I'm entirely too practical for romance," she said with a sigh. "Which is why I think we should go inside."
"What about the sunrise?"
She smirked. "There are other firsts we can observe."
He helped her to her feet with a sly smile. "I hope you know that just because I still owe you a favor for having stolen your holiday spirit it does not mean I have to let you sleep tonight."
Nanao flushed red, but allowed him to pull her toward him, cautiously and slow, like one would coax a frightened cat. "I'll let you off the hook," she said when she finally settled against his chest. "I seem to have rediscovered my appreciation for the season."
"And what was that reason again, darling?"
She rolled her eyes. "It's because I want to spend the foreseeable future with you."
"And why would you want to do that?"
Despite the fact that he was garnering such joy from dragging this out, she let him have his moment, but she threw in a scowl and a glare as she replied "because I love you."
He grinned at her cheekily. "I love you too." He tucked her hair neatly behind her ear. "To new beginnings?"
She laughed and shook her head. "Repentance for years wasted."
"I think we need to compromise," Shunsui noted, his nose wrinkling at her solemn description. "That's not a very romantic sentiment."
Nanao's arms slipped around his neck, pulling his head down and his lips against hers, sealing an 'I love you' in a kiss, pouring out the affection and admiration she held for him without the need for cumbersome words, that would really only be half successful in portraying what she truly felt; which Shunsui would later admit was a very romantic sentiment indeed.
A/N: Happy New Year everyone!