A/N: It has been so long since I've posted anything, I almost feel awkward getting back into the swing of writing. But thankfully, Paws-bells sent me some things to beta, and as always, reading her work got my imagination going. I've been planning a sequel, of sorts to The Noble Sort, my first Bleach fanfiction, but I wanted to focus on Nanao and Shunsui much, much more. I have a feeling that story will be about both couples I've formed there, but I'm definitely planning on exploring the Nanao/Shunsui thing in depth. They're just too interesting to leave alone, really. And Nanao is too interesting to leave alone, really.

Until then, though, I'm going to explore the Nanao/Shunsui thing.

So sit back and enjoy.


"Golden"


She was running.

Her geta were flapping loudly against her bare feet as she ran, and dust was forming clouds along the roadside, but she didn't care. Even her kimono flapped wildly—but there was no one to scold or berate her for her behavior here.

The grassy, golden fields swaying to her right called to her child's heart, the freedom of the Twenty-Third District and its simple farming communities a beautiful sight to her grubby eyes. The road was only a little in front of her, the road that would take her away from the grime and grit of Rukongai, the dusty hovels she had spent so much time darting in and out of as one of the many street orphans in the city.

But the farm…

Since old Yoshida-san had taken her in, the farm had become her solace. They grew beautiful flowers, food for those who needed to eat, even here, and most of all, they had one of the only cows this side of Rukongai.

It was the most peaceful place in her afterlife, the only place that she had ever found worth missing. The farm was now her home, and she had never been more proud—to be able to point and say she lived there was truly a blessing.

Nanao's bright blue eyes sparkled in the sunlight, her laughter lifting on the warm spring breeze as she skidded around the corner, slipping down the long dirt road between ever-growing golden wheat, her heart joyous. She could already see the farm, see the little porch on which she would spend her evening with the little book she clutched tightly to her chest. Her world was beautiful today. Her world was the heaven she must have imagined in the real world today.

Today she would learn new words at Yoshida-san's side. Tonight she would sleep with fireflies flitting through her bedroom. And tomorrow she would milk the cow, and pick vegetables to be taken to the market, and she would play in the dirt before having a sudsy bath and a dinner—an actual dinner!—of stew, because she would feel hungry by then, and Yoshida-san would watch in awe as her body glowed from the nourishment.

She had reiatsu, and it made her beautiful to Yoshida-san.

Her world was beautiful. Her world was a bright kaleidoscope of childish lovelies—textures, colors, smells, warm hugs and quiet praise. No orphan had ever been loved so much.

Nothing bad could ever touch her again.

Nanao woke up gasping for breath, the scent of the old farm still swirling in her nostrils. She quickly turned in the bed, twisting the blankets even further, praying to every deity she knew of that her dream hadn't woke Shunsui. Luck was on her side—her larger than life lover was still sprawled on his side of the bed, soft snores escaping his open mouth with every exhalation, ruffling the soft hairs on his chin.

She allowed herself a small smile.

Her heart was still pounding, her lungs rushing to get a breath, as if she was still running down that dirt road in the middle of spring. She could even smell the sun baking the wheat. He always smelled the same—probably one of the many things that drew her to him time and time again, before she knew who he was or how important he would be to her.

She flopped down on the mattress, scooting closer to the warm body next to her. Her dream might have been full of warm sunshine but it was winter in Seireitei. Shunsui, sensing her movement, just resituated his arm and pulled her closer to his side.

She wallowed in the contentment that came from being near her taichou mixed with the happiness her dream had brought her.

He even felt like sunshine.

It had been so long since she had thought of the old farm. Her life before her time as a shinigami rarely entered her thoughts anymore, and sometimes she wondered if she could still actually remember anything from those years before she was entered into the Academy. Thankfully, it seemed like the memories of the old farm and Yoshida-san were still there, just buried under the massive amount of memories she had made since being brought to the shinigami.

Her scant years with Yoshida-san had been the best of her life, at least until she was assigned to the Eighth. Yoshida-san had been the only person to care for her until she met her friends in her squad. As a child, it had been doubly great—the freedom to run, to be free and laugh and cry without repercussion, no worries—and at her tender age, she was sure she would never leave.

But the bitter parts of the past were better left buried at the moment. She had plenty of time to drudge up the memories of having to leave Yoshida-san. The quiet night full of warm sighs and even warmer sheets thanks to her lover were better for the happy memories.

She snuggled even closer to Shunsui's side, basking in the feelings she felt well up inside her as she took in his golden-tan face.

She had been so worried, worried that the Eighth would turn out the same way, that she would be forced to leave the home she had found as a shinigami. Most didn't stay in one unit, after all. And she had been so young when she was assigned here…

But, no. There had been times that were hard, when friends died and friends left, when sorrow filled the halls and she thought nothing could ever bring back the peaceful feeling that running through those fields had brought her child self. But in Eighth—well, it was a motto. Things got better. And through it all, first as a taichou, then as a friend, now as a lover—he had been there. He had been her stone, her rock, her fortification when the doubts had crept in and burrowed underneath her skin.

He had become her place of solace, and she had become his. When his family was being obstinate, he came to her. When his sensei was angry, he came to her. When he felt that he had lost all sight of what he originally intended for his life, when the darkness he hid deep inside came to claim him, he came to her.

She was his little farm in Rukongai.

And he—he was her life, now.

He was the golden sun to her pale moon. She took in his light, revolved in orbit around him, and she could never even think of existing without his presence in her life, not anymore. Shunsui Kyouraku had become the most important thing in her life.

She might have been wrong about the farm, about Yoshida-san and the things that would come in her future, but she knew she was right when she was here, with him. Nothing could ever happen that would ever truly touch her again, not with him. Yoshida-san might have sent her to the Academy, but now, Nanao could truthfully think of it as Yoshida-san sending her to him.

She whispered a silent thanks to the old woman that had meant so much to her before pressing a soft kiss to his chest, nuzzling against his ribcage and inhaling his unique scent.

She heard him murmur as he shifted, his eyes fluttering softly as his brain struggled to bring him to reality, and she slid slowly up his sleep-limp body. When his arm, following her progress all the way, tensed around her waist, she grinned against his mouth, and then pressed a slow kiss against the lips that had come to take over her very soul.

Sleep was no longer the only thing on her mind.