Contains: Spoilers for the Lost Substitute Shinigami Arc, consensual adult activity.
Here it is, the last chapter - it should wrap everything up with a little sweetness. Thanks to everyone for reading, and thanks to everyone who reviewed!
Shunsui and Nanao stayed in the room for most of a day, sleeping, making love, and eating food brought in random intervals by smiling foxes. They left once to use the baths, and what they did there was most certainly an inappropriate use of a public space. Nanao scolded him thoroughly after, though she'd been just as inappropriate. He grinned through the entire lecture, his hand stroking her thigh.
Nanao was happier than she had been in a long time, but something was still nagging at the back of her mind.
"We have to go back," she said.
"We're on vacation." Shunsui held out a strawberry for her, and she took a bite of it. Being fed fruit in bed, naked—it was too decadent for words.
"If we don't leave soon, someone will come looking for us. Did you tell anyone where you were going?"
"Rangiku-san and Ukitake." He popped the rest of the strawberry into his mouth.
"Then we'll have a little leeway, but I don't want to push our luck. You were right when you said there could be a lot of trouble over this."
He sat up, smiling. "If you want to go back, the solution is easy enough, if you believe the kitsunes." He held out his wrist. "Tie me up, Nanao-chan."
She wrapped her slender fingers around his wrist. "I don't think I can."
"Nanao-chan? I thought you believed that I love you?" His eyes watched her face, full of concern.
"I do. I—" she struggled to find words for her feelings. "I believe it, and I'm glad. But if I used the ribbon, I would question it someday. I couldn't be certain that what you felt was still the truth. I would worry. It's my nature. But it's so good now, and I—I don't want to feel that fear. I couldn't believe you when you said it for so long. But now I know it's the truth, and I always want to know that."
He cradled her face in his hands, kissing her forehead. "We'll find another solution," he said, the gentleness in his voice closing her eyes.
He kissed her. "I'm not. My Nanao-chan wants my love, and that makes me happy. If the kitsune love spell would make you feel insecure in my love in the future, then we won't use it. It's that simple."
She looked away. "You wouldn't feel the same way I do, if the situation was reversed. The kitsune's ribbon wouldn't make you insecure in a relationship."
"So? We're different people, Nanao-chan. You can't use my behavior as a standard for yours. Given how much you've scolded me over the years for my behavior, I can't imagine why you ever would use me as a standard." He began to kiss and suck at her neck.
"You're so confident." Her hands slipped into his hair.
"Yes. For a couple of reasons. I told you, didn't I? I knew that if I made it into your heart, I would be held in there tightly by you." His hand moved to over her heartbeat in her chest.
"The new recruits at the Eighth will tell you that my heart is made of stone."
He laughed, low and deep. "If Nanao-chan's heart is made of stone, then I'm carved into it." He shifted her back on the bed and pressed kisses to her breast, above her heart.
She couldn't deny it and didn't want to try, so she turned the subject. "What was the other reason you wouldn't be bothered by using the kitsune love spell on me?"
"That type of thing is most effective on the weak-willed. As the new recruits of the Eighth will also tell you, Nanao-chan's will is made of steel. A magic like the kitsune's should have a very minimal effect on either of us, if it has any effect at all."
"We should go and discuss the possible resolutions with Chiyo-san."
He squeezed a slice of orange over her breast, letting the juice scatter down her body. "Later." His teeth grazed her nipple.
"Don't think that I'll let you get away with this kind of behavior every day," she said, but her hands curled in his hair.
"We're on vacation," he murmured, following the juice on her body with his tongue.
"Can we speak privately, Chiyo-san?" Nanao asked, standing in front of the tables full of Chiyo and Misao's wares.
"Of course. Misao-chan, mind our things." Chiyo rose from her seat with a grunt, walking slowly out of the room.
Misao nodded, giving Nanao a smile and a look that was hopeful and worried. Although she did not approve of their actions, Nanao did feel a twinge of sympathy for the girl—as one of the youngest members of the Gotei 13 when she joined, Nanao knew the sting of lagging behind your peers.
Nanao followed Chiyo to the garden, and the bench that they'd shared during their night time conversation. "What would you like to talk about, Ise-san?" Chiyo asked.
One corner of Nanao's mouth turned up. As if the old fox didn't know. "I would like to talk about this, Chiyo-san." She pulled the love spell ribbon out of her sleeve.
"Oh yes, that. Have you decided to use Misao-chan's little spell?" Her tone was casual, but Chiyo's eyes had narrowed.
"No." Nanao stretched the ribbon between her hands.
"No? But I thought that you and Kyōraku-kun had, ah, begun a more intimate relationship."
Nanao's cheeks warmed. Had the kitsunes been spying on them? She dismissed the notion; even if she hadn't noticed, Shunsui would have. Besides, they had spent a little time in public areas of the inn, and it wasn't as if he'd made any effort to hide his affection or satisfaction. He had all but shouted it from the rooftop. "We have begun a relationship that could be categorized as a romance, yes."
"Then using the ribbon would not change things for you, so why are you still opposed to using it? I thought that your cautious nature had stilled your hand before." Chiyo watched Nanao's face intently.
"Putting aside the unethical nature of the love spell, yes, it was caution on my part not to use it before. But now that Captain Kyōraku and I have started a personal relationship, I don't want to question the sincerity of his words and emotions. That's why I won't use it on him now," Nanao said.
Chiyo shook her head, chuckling. "So you've moved from not wanting to take any risks to taking a huge one: that a man will stay true without any supernatural aid."
"I suppose you could see it that way, but in this case, I think that this risk is no risk at all." Nanao smiled.
Chiyo sighed. "I'm glad for your confidence, but this is going to put Misao-chan in a very rough spot."
"Chiyo-san, can you tell me the exact conditions for Misao-chan's completion of this test?"
"The love spell ribbon must be given by Misao-chan, and used by tying it first to the wrist of the spell user, and then to the wrist of the target. This can be done while the target is conscious or unconscious. One of the participants must be you, because Misao-chan gifted you with the ribbon," Chiyo said.
"I see. I believe I see an outcome that would be satisfactory for all of us, Chiyo-san." Nanao slipped the ribbon back into her sleeve.
"You do? What is it?"
Nanao told her.
Chiyo laughed. "So that's how it is? Well, it should work. Kitsunes only care for the letter of the rules, not the spirit of them. I'll thank you for this, with all of my gratitude. Misao-chan is my last granddaughter to go through this test, and I'll be so relieved when she's done."
"I wouldn't deny Misao-chan her future, when the solution is so simple for me." Nanao stood.
"Thank you, Ise-san. You didn't have to be so generous, after we've tricked you and trapped you, but I'm glad that you are. If there's anything the kitsunes of the Laughing Fox can do for you, just come by and ask, any time at all." Chiyo shuffled of the bench.
"I appreciate the offer, but I don't know if I'll come out here again." They strolled back toward the inn.
"I think you might be here again one day. Kyōraku-kun is a romantic man, isn't he? He'll want to celebrate anniversaries, and I think he would want to do it here sometimes. You'll be welcome as our guests. We'll give you our best seasonal rate."
Nanao laughed. Even saving a kitsune from certain failure only warranted a discount, not a free stay, it seemed. Not that Nanao would be coming back any time soon. "Will you know when the ribbon has been used?"
"Yes, Misao-chan and I will know right away. You can rest assured that you'll be able to leave at any time after using the ribbon," Chiyo said.
They were nearly back at the inn when Shunsui appeared around a corner on the garden path. "Nanao-chan, Chiyo-san, good afternoon. Surely I've found the two most beautiful flowers in this lovely garden."
"Oh stop, Kyōraku-kun," Chiyo said, and laughed behind her hand.
Nanao raised her eyebrow at him.
"I was looking for you, Nanao-chan," he said, and his eyes showed a little worry.
"If you'll excuse us, Chiyo-san?" Nanao turned back down the garden path.
"Of course! I'll be at my table if you need anything." Chiyo winked broadly at Nanao.
Shunsui caught up with Nanao, draping an arm around her waist as they walked. "I missed you this morning."
"It's actually afternoon. I wanted to speak to Chiyo-san, and I saw no reason to disturb you."
"I like it when you disturb me." His hand crept toward her backside.
"Stop that." Nanao tugged his wrist until his hand returned to her waist.
"Chiyo-san looked happy." They'd reached the bench where they'd watched the moon together. He sat, trying to pull her into his lap.
She resisted and sat beside him. "She is happy. She even offered me a bucket of questionable favors and the best seasonal rates at the inn," Nanao said, her lips twitching. "As if we'd want to return."
"I would consider it." He rubbed his cheek against her hair before nipping at her ear. "I enjoyed most of our time here. I'd like to stay longer."
"We spent most of our time in bed, Captain."
"I know. I loved it. And I love to hear you say my name—won't you use that, instead of Captain?"
"I'm sorry, but it isn't so easy to stop calling you Captain. It's what I've called you for many years." Nanao was aware that his touch was just within the bounds of public decency but didn't stop him.
"I can persuade you," he murmured, and she did grasp his hands then.
"Anyone could come by, and I need to talk to you about something."
"About why Chiyo-san was so happy, I imagine." He met her gaze, and his eyes were alert, although he was smiling.
"Yes. We did agree on a solution that should work for all of us." Nanao drew the ribbon out of her sleeve and held it out to him in her palm.
"Nanao-chan?" he asked, accepting the ribbon from her hand. "Are you going to use the love spell on me, after all?"
"No. You're going to use it on me." She saw surprise flit across his face.
"I'm going to use it on you? Will that work?" He rolled the ribbon between his fingers.
"It will satisfy Misao-chan's test, yes. She'll pass, and we can leave without any difficulty." She met his eyes, holding her face calm.
"That's good for Misao-chan. More importantly, are you really comfortable with me using this love spell on you, Nanao-chan? I know I said that I didn't think it would it would have much effect, but—"
"It's fine to use it on me. I'm not concerned with the effects." Her eyes slipped away, to the nearby stream. The water burbled cheerfully. Her hands trembled slightly, and she smoothed her palms over her thighs.
"Nanao-chan," he said, and the doubt in his voice made her sigh.
"Tie it around your wrist, and then tie the other end to my wrist." She held out her arm.
"Nanao-chan, is this really what you want?" His fingers closed around her wrist, stroking her pulse.
"Yes. It's a simple thing, so just tie the knots." The calm had slid off her face and a frown had replaced it, but that was entirely his fault.
"What?" Her head whipped around to see his face.
"No. I'm not going to use the ribbon until you tell me why you're fine with me using this on you, when you wouldn't use it on me. Just now, you wouldn't even look at me, Nanao-chan." He let the ribbon flutter into his lap to free his hand, and cupped her cheek.
"Why do you have to be thoughtful and caring whenever I just want you to act? It's annoying," she snapped.
He smiled. "Nanao-chan is important to me. The details matter to me, when it's about you."
She huffed to cover her reaction to his words. "I'm not going to explain what I tell you any further after I say this, and you're going to use the ribbon without delay or deviation."
"I'm listening," he said, and the intensity of his eyes made hers close.
She drew in a deep breath and opened her eyes. "I know who I am, and I know who I will be. I know this because I'm steady, reliable. I change so little that people in our division can tell the time by my routine. I am constant as the mountains, and I love you. I've felt that way for years already. So that ribbon can do nothing to me, because it can't change who I am."
There was shock on his face and wonder in his voice when he spoke. "Nanao-chan."
Her cheeks were hot with embarrassment and her eyes stung with hurt. She jerked her face away from his hand. The hurt surprised her, but she'd thought that he knew her, all the way through, something that had alternatively mortified her and pleased her over the years. "Didn't you know already? I thought that you knew—that you knew me."
Two of his fingers pressed softly against her lips. "Nanao-chan." His fingers slipped to her cheek when she stilled and tipped her head back toward him. "It's different."
"It's different to know something than it is to hear it from your lips. I told you that before, with the Valentine's Day chocolate." His mouth caressed hers, and she let her hands drift to his shoulders.
He deepened the kiss, and she dug her fingers into his hair. "Wait. There weren't going to be any delays or distractions—"
"This isn't a distraction. It's everything." He pressed kisses to her throat.
"Sentimental." She sighed. "But I like that sentiment."
He smiled. "I have more. And we're still on vacation, anyway." He dropped the ribbon in her lap before rising and swinging her into his arms.
"I thought diligence was your favorite virtue." She raised her eyebrows severely as he flash stepped to their room with inappropriate haste.
"It was. But after much deliberation, I've decided that a different virtue is now my favorite." He undressed her with an efficiency that was actually rather diligent.
"What's your new favorite virtue?" she asked, her lips tilted up.
"Constancy," he said, and she made a sound of surprise.
"Oh, that's—" She shook her head.
"Tell me." He pulled her into the bed with him.
"Shunsui," she whispered, and it wasn't what he'd asked for, but it was what he wanted, and she wanted to give it to him from her lips.
"Lovely Nanao-chan. Let's linger a little longer."
They stayed another day, and Nanao enjoyed it thoroughly, although she did feel some guilt about leaving the Eighth on its own for so long. Their Third Seat was not qualified to manage the whole division. If she'd known Shunsui would follow her out here, she would have made arrangements with the First Division.
But the pleasures of having the memory of this trip were worth the extra work she'd have to do when they arrived home.
In the morning, after breakfast, Nanao sat on her heels across from him in their room. "This time, let's use the ribbon without delaying, Captain." She handed the ribbon to him.
"Shunsui," he corrected.
"Let's use the ribbon without delay, Shunsui," she said, raising her eyebrow.
"Are you worried about leaving the division alone for too long?" He twirled the ribbon around his fingers.
"You aren't concerned with leaving Enjōji-kun in charge for days? It was one thing when I thought you'd be back there within a day or two, but leaving our Third Seat alone for nearly a week? I don't even want to think about the possible mess." She adjusted her glasses.
"When you put it like that, it's a bit of a concern, but I'm sure it's not that bad, Nanao-chan."
She held out her arm. "I won't know until I see the office for myself."
"You weren't worried about the office before, Nanao-chan."
"I was worried about—other things. Now, I am not," she said, wetting her lips.
He grinned. "That's good. I don't like to see my Nanao-chan worried about serious things."
"Our office is a serious thing." She wiggled her fingers impatiently.
"If our officers file their bonus money reports a few days late, it's not really a problem. If anything really serious had come up, they would have referred to the First Division, anyway." He captured her fingers in his hand, raising them to his lips to kiss.
She shook her head.
"But since Nanao-chan wishes to use the ribbon now, I will. Although I would have enjoyed extending our vacation further." He tied one end of the ribbon around his wrist, and then tied a soft loop around her wrist. "Is that all?"
The ribbon was static, but there was an odd tingling in her wrist. "Something is happening," she said, just as the ribbon disappeared with a small flutter.
"Nanao-chan? How do you feel?" His eyes were a little worried, despite his previous confidence that no harm would come from using the ribbon.
Her eyelids fluttered. "Oh, Shunsui, it's so wonderful of you to think of me." She crawled over and climbed into his lap, one of her hands clasping the back of his neck. "I'm so lucky. You're so considerate, so charming, so handsome."
He swallowed. "Nanao-chan?"
She studied his face with satisfaction; he looked a little sick. "Shunsui, you're so generous, so romantic," she said, raising one of her hands to his face. "So easy." She flicked his forehead lightly and slipped back off his lap to the floor.
The relief on his face made her chuckle. "That was mean, Nanao-chan. I was worried."
"You were worried about what I'd do while I was under a love spell?" She tipped her head to the side.
He grinned. "No, I was worried about what you'd do to me after you weren't under a love spell, if we'd gone back to Seireitei and people saw you like that."
"The consequences would have been dire. Fortunately for both of us, the ribbon didn't have an effect on me." She stood, stretching.
He wrapped his arms around her from behind, pulling her back against his chest. "That's because sweet Nanao-chan already loves me," he murmured in her ear.
She squeezed his hand. "We should get going. I want to say goodbye to Chiyo-san and Misao-chan. It'll be early afternoon before we reach the division, at this rate." She stepped away from his arms to pick up her packed bag.
He took the bag from her hand, carrying it with his small bag. "I'm sure they'll be happy to see us."
In the large room with Chiyo and Misao's wares the pair of foxes sat, reading over a list on several spread-out papers. "It's complete, Misao-chan. I'm certain." Chiyo glanced up at Nanao and her Captain as they entered. "Ise-san, Kyōraku-kun, I'm pleased to see you. I have to thank you both again for your help."
"Misao-chan has passed her exam, then?" Nanao asked.
"Yes, she has, thankfully. I don't know what we would have done otherwise." Chiyo smiled. "Please come back whenever you like. We'll be happy to offer you the best seasonal rates, and any kitsune assistance you may need."
"That's very generous, Chiyo-san. We'll come back to visit," Captain Kyōraku said.
Nanao gave him a sharp look over her glasses, but smiled at Misao. "Good luck, Misao-chan."
They turned to leave. "Thank you," Misao said, her voice just a squeak. She popped out of her human form, a small fox sitting in a puddle of clothes.
"Misao-chan, really." Chiyo sighed.
"Misao-chan is a sweet girl, isn't she?" Shunsui asked as they left the inn.
Nanao nodded. They moved into flash step, arriving at Seireitei in short order. She felt a small pang of sadness as they reached the clean streets leading to the division, but shrugged it off. She was glad to be home, wasn't she?
At the Eighth Division, their appearance in casual clothes caused a small commotion, with shinigami running around and Third Seat Enjōji appearing in the doorway, looking hassled. "Captain! Vice Captain! You're back already? Ah, it's great to see you—" he broke off into nervous laughter. Papers fluttered out of one of the windows upstairs.
Shunsui's hand landed on her shoulder comfortingly. "Nanao-chan, why don't we just leave them to it today, and come back tomorrow. I'm sure Enjōji-kun will have everything sorted by morning."
Enjōji nodded vigorously. "Absolutely, Captain. We just had a small mishap with the paperwork yesterday, but everything will be ready for you and Vice Captain Ise tomorrow."
It was against Nanao's instincts to leave a mess alone, but she did not particularly want to deal with whatever problems Enjōji had encountered now. "See to it that everything is in order tomorrow morning, Third Seat." She nodded sharply and walked out of the division gates, Shunsui following behind her, one hand on her back.
Members of their division murmured as they passed, and Nanao knew there would be gossip about the two of them returning together from vacation, out of uniform and with him touching her without any rebuke. When they were on vacation, it'd been easy not to be concerned with propriety; the only people around had been kitsunes running lousy matchmaking schemes for their own ends.
But now things were different; they were at home. How would things be when they were back in their normal environment? How did she want things to be? They could try to maintain the appearance that their relationship was the same as always; she could hold herself distant from him, refuse his attentions in public, and avoid the gossip that would inevitably follow them if their relationship became known.
They arrived at her home. She hesitated at the door, removing her sandals. Shunsui stood outside with her bag, waiting. He'd already known the question of what they would do in their regular lives would arise now, she could see it in his eyes, but he was waiting for her to decide what she wanted.
She grasped his wrist and tugged him into her home. He came easily, smiling.
"My bed is comfortable," she said, crossing her arms over her chest.
"I'm sure. But mine is more comfortable." He set the bags down next to a low table, cradling her face in his hands.
"Comparisons will be required. We'll need to make scientific observations about both beds."
"Absolutely. We'll have to be very diligent." He kissed a line across her cheeks and nose.
"Tonight we'll go to dinner somewhere nice, somewhere that lots of people will see us. And tomorrow we'll file some fraternization exception forms with the First Division. We might as well get the fuss over with quickly." She furrowed her brow, considering.
"We'll dive right into it, then? I like that." He kissed the crease in her forehead. "I don't want you to worry like this, though."
She sighed. "I'm going to need a vacation after cleaning up the division and ignoring all of the dramatics people will undoubtedly engage in regarding our relationship."
"We can go back right now, if you want."
She slipped out of his arms and wandered into her bedroom. "I don't wish to revisit the Fourteenth District so soon, thank you. But I've heard the Lake District is very nice." She glanced at him over her shoulder.
He smiled. "As it happens, I know of a lovely place in the Lake District. I'd be happy to go there with my Nanao-chan." His fingers slipped under the neck of her clothes. The sleeves of her yukata slid down her arms, and he kissed her shoulder.
Her lips curved. "At the end of next month, maybe? I think that might be sufficient time to resolve everything here."
"I can't wait," he said. He dropped onto her bed. "Come here, sweetheart."
"I'm going to have to make a list." She knelt on the bed next to him.
"A list about the beds?" He kissed her neck, drawing her down.
"A list of things you can't call me in public." She nipped at his lips.
"That's probably futile, sexy Nanao-chan."
"Sexy is going on the list." She ran her hands down his chest.
"I'll give you a few more for your list." He murmured names in her ear, some that made her gasp and others that made her laugh.
She smiled. Vacation might be over, but the two of them were just beginning.
A/N: I tried to do some different things in this story, and ran into some challenges. It didn't turn out exactly as I'd planned, but I'm happy with it overall. ^_^ I'll be back soon, posting my entries for the shunsui_nanao Livejournal community's Week of Love giveaway, starting next Friday July 6th.
As always, thanks for reading!