Author's note: I do not own Bleach or its characters. This is set after the Winter War and is slightly AU. Written for the Division 8 Romance community's Christmas contest on Deviantart.
I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
"Nanao, you have to tell me." Rangiku pouted at her.
Nanao shrugged. "No, I don't. If you don't want to go shopping, that's fine. I'm sure I can manage on my own."
Rangiku snorted at that. "Yes, and you'll come home with many more books and without the dress you went looking for in the first place. I'm coming with you. I just want to know what you and Shunsui have up your sleeves. You never perform. Not at public functions at least."
"No one except for the two of us will know anything about the matter until the party," Nanao said.
It was true that she rarely performed either vocally or instrumentally in public. She played for her friends on the rare occasion, but that was it for the most part. Except both she and Shunsui had decided that everyone deserved a treat especially since the Winter War had ended, and when the Eighth Division had been put in charge of the entertainment for the annual Christmas party, the two of them had decided that they would perform together. What Nanao had not expected was that she would then be deluged with people wanting to know just what they were planning to perform.
That information was being kept top secret mostly because it really did suit both Nanao and her captain to keep everyone in the dark. The truth of the matter was that they would be singing a collection of holiday songs, mostly romantic ones, and neither of them really wanted to deal with people telling them what to sing, making requests, or trying to interfere in any way. Nanao knew what is was like to have people meddling with your performance, and she was not at all interested in dealing with that. Not right now at least.
"Fine," Rangiku huffed. "But this performance of yours had better be worth it."
Nanao shrugged. "I think everyone will enjoy it."
So the two women set off for an afternoon of shopping. It was not exactly how Nanao wanted to spend her afternoon, but Captain Kyoraku had pretty much banished her from their office for the rest of the day, and since he had actually done his paperwork for once, Nanao was hard pressed to find an excuse to refuse. Besides, she did need a new dress for the party, and it would not hurt to get some other holiday shopping done as well. The Eighth Division Christmas party was also coming up, and Nanao would need a white elephant gift for that as well as usual small gifts that got handed out to the seated officers of the division. Nanao might not like running around outside in the winter (it was much too cold outside for her tastes), but it really was not something she could easily avoid.
Of course, with Rangiku along, Nanao did not have much time to look at anything other than the myriad of clothes that the other woman foisted upon her. There were reasons that Nanao didn't exactly enjoy shopping with Rangiku. She enjoyed shopping at more leisurely pace than was possible when Rangiku was on a shopping mission. But at the end of the afternoon Nanao had purchased not only a lovely red sweater dress but also a pair of knee high leather boots that Rangiku had insisted on. So it was a very satisfied Nanao that returned to her quarters just after darkness had fallen.
She was not at all surprised to find that the lights were on inside her quarters, and when she stepped inside the smell of curry was in the air.
"Nanao-chan?" Her captain's voice came from her little kitchen.
"I'm home," she called, setting her bags on aside.
He appeared dressed only in his black uniform. Nanao had no doubt that she would find his haoris draped over some random piece of furniture. He kissed her and helped her unwrap her winter layers. Shunsui smiled and brushed his nose against her own.
"Perfect timing, sweetheart. Dinner will be ready in five minutes."
Nanao smiled. "Lovely. Let me go wash up."
The Winter War had done a number of things, and one of them been pushing Nanao to action when it came to her relationship with her captain. She had finally taken the risk of letting him into her heart. It had been more than worth it. However, at this point the only people who were aware of the change in their relationship were Captain Ukitake, Captain Unohana, and Rangiku. Well, Nanao suspected that Ichimaru knew as well. She did not think that Rangiku kept any secrets from the man at this point. That was perfectly fine with Nanao though. Eventually they would let the rest of the world in on their new status as a couple, but right now Nanao was enjoying the privacy their secret gave them.
And really, there were very few things better than coming home on a cold night to find a warm dinner waiting for her. As usual, Shunsui's cooking was absolutely delicious, and Nanao ate until she couldn't manage another bite. Once the clean up from dinner was finished, the two of them curled up in front her fireplace.
"So was your shopping excursion successful, Nanao-chan?"
She nodded. "Very actually."
He pouted at her. "You're not going to tell me what you bought, are you?"
Nanao smiled at her. "You'll see it at the party."
Shunsui laughed and kissed her. "Very well, precious. Keep your secrets."
Letting out a content sigh, she rest her head against his chest. Shunsui just pressed a kiss to her hair. Nanao enjoyed moments like this when all was right in the world.
"So did Rangiku try to wrinkle just what we're singing out of you again?"
She nodded. "Yes. What is it with people about that?"
He just chuckled. "Well, sweetheart, you've kept the fact that you are musical a secret for so long, that people are now driving themselves crazy with curiosity about what you can do."
"Well, they'll just have to wait and see."
Shunsui kissed her. "So, do you want to practice now or shall we just call it a night?"
Nanao laughed. "You are not getting out of practice that easily. And we're not having dessert until after we've practiced."
He just laughed and kissed her again.
Two days later, the Eighth's Christmas party was over and done with, and the Gotei Thirteen wide one would be tomorrow. The parties were staggered for a reason; it gave the members of the Eighth time to recover from their hangovers. Still, the party had gone rather well with no drunken brawls or major injuries. Nanao had been pretty pleased. Of course, she had taken her leave after the first few hours. She was not very fond of boisterous parties, and once all of the official duties like the white elephant exchange and honoring the seated officers were done with, Nanao had been free to leave.
She had gone home and spent the rest of the evening with a good book. Shunsui had slipped into her bed at some point in the wee hours of the morning, signaling that the party was most likely over. Nanao had left him sleeping there in the morning while she went to go see how bad the damage was. This year it had only taken half a day to get the division back in to some semblance of order and cleanliness. Nanao was planning on spending the rest of her day dealing with paperwork. She was hoping to get far enough ahead that she wouldn't have much to worry about until after the Christmas party was over.
Shunsui appeared in the office doorway sometime around two.
"Hard at work, my Nanao-chan?"
"You will be too if you decided to stick around." She gestured at a stack of paperwork with her pen. "Those all need your signature on them, and then they're ready to be sent to the First Division."
He pouted at her. Nanao ignored that. Some parts of the relationship had not changed at all when they had become romantically involved. He still tried to get out of the office work, and she did her best to keep him on task. Of course, now she had some other bribes in her arsenal that she had not had before, but really, other than that not much had changed when it came to their office routine.
Still, this afternoon Shunsui was fairly amenable to actually getting down to work, and Nanao managed to get him settled with the stack of paperwork without too much trouble. In fact, before too long, her captain was humming to himself. Nanao smiled and continued to work. Around seven o'clock Shunsui decided that she had spent enough time working. He had finished with the stack of papers she had given him several hours ago and since had been simply lounging around the office.
"Nanao-chan, enough is enough. Time to go home and have dinner."
She looked up from the form she was currently completing. "Five more minutes, and I'll leave. I want this set of forms dealt with before I call it a day."
He sighed and gave her the puppy dog eyes. Nanao simply ignored him. Once she was done with done with these forms, she would not have to fill them out again for another quarter at least. Nanao calmly ignored him as she finished the last few lines of the forms before signing them and setting them on top of the stack to go to the first division. When she was done with that, Nanao tidied her desk slightly before turning to her captain.
"What did you have in mind for dinner?"
He laughed. "That's for me to know, and you to find out, Nanao-chan."
Shunsui swept her off to a little noodle shop in the Rukongai. It was actually one of her favorite places to eat, and the hot, thick noodles with their savory broth was exactly what she needed on a cold winter's night. On their way back to his quarters, Nanao found herself tucked in his arms with his haori wrapped around them both. Shunsui had claimed she would freeze other wise. Nanao hadn't bothered to complain. Besides, he moved faster in the snow than she did, and she probably wouldn't be warm until they managed to get back inside.
Thankfully, Shunsui's quarters were warm and toasty. Nanao let out a soft sigh as the heat sank into her bones; she always felt the cold more intensely than most people. Shunsui had always claimed it was because she was petite. Shunsui leaned in and kissed her.
"I'll go make some tea, Nanao-chan, if you want to get the music out." He glanced over at the grand piano that dominated one side of his living room.
Nanao nodded and made her way over the piano. She was very familiar with this instrument. She had spent years practicing on it. From the moment that Shunsui had learned that she had some musical talent, he had encouraged her and made it possible for her to continue studying music. Pulling the music out of the piano bench, Nanao selected the piece of music that had been giving them the most trouble. Her fingers easily found their proper place on the keys, and Nanao began to play through her part of the song.
By the time she had played it through once and started a second run through, this time singing her part, Shunsui had joined her at the piano with two cups of tea and a small wrapped package. Nanao raised her eyebrow at that.
"I thought we weren't exchanging Christmas presents until later."
Shunsui smiled at her. "This isn't your Christmas present."
"What is it then?"
He kissed her cheek. "Still so suspicious. This is just a small token of affection."
Nanao rolled her eyes, but she took the package none the less. What she found inside was a matching pair of earrings and a broach in the shape of golden holly leaves with garnet berries.
"I checked with Rangiku, and she said they would probably go with your new dress."
Nanao blushed. They would match perfectly. "You didn't have to go to the trouble."
Shunsui grinned at her. "I wanted to. Do work on our parts separately, or should we give the song a try with both of us singing?"
The rest of the evening was filled with music until the two of them retired to bed. Nanao was more than happy in linger in the warmth of Shunsui's bed in the morning. It was an official holiday for everyone in the Gotei Thirteen, so she had no reason to be up early. Especially not when she had her own personal heater available. She snuggled back against Shunsui, just enjoying the moment. It was not often that she actually got to sleep in or lounge around in bed. And with Shunsui's steady heartbeat in her ear, Nanao was quite content where she was.
When Shunsui finally woke up, the two of them shared a leisurely breakfast before going the separate ways. Nanao had a number of small errands she needed to get done before the party tonight, and she was supposed to meet up with Rangiku in order to get ready for said party. By the time Nanao had finished her errands, mostly miscellaneous little things that she just has not gotten to lately, it was late afternoon, and Nanao had to scramble in order to squeeze a shower in before she headed over to Rangiku's quarters.
She arrived at her friend's door with wet hair and her outfit tucked away in a garment bag. Rangiku answered the door with her hair up in a towel turban.
"There you are. I was beginning to think you were chickening out on me."
"You promised not to do anything too exotic." Nanao had been reluctant to agree to let Ran do her hair and make up in the first place.
Rangiku waved her hand dismissively. "Oh ye of little faith. Now come on. We don't have much time."
Within half an hour, Nanao was rather startled with the changes Rangiku had made to her appearance. The other woman had some how managed to achieve a much softer look than Nanao's normal one. Her raven hair was pulled back with a pair of wooden combs, and Rangiku had also managed to tease it into soft curls that framed her face. The make up was light and emphasized her eyes. Combined with the dark red of her sweater dress, it had a startling effect. Nanao certainly felt beautiful and confident. She completed the outfit with the knee high boots Rangiku had talked her into buying and the jewelry from Shunsui.
Nanao wrapped her shawl around her shoulders as Rangiku put the last touches on her own make up.
"I'm going to head out to the party."
Rangiku nodded absently. "Sure. I know you and Shunsui have stuff to set up. Gin is supposed to be here to pick me up shortly. I'll see you at the party."
With a smile and a nod, Nanao headed out, making her way through the snow. The party was being held in the grand hall located in the First Division. Nanao took notice of the festive decorations and the truly impressive spread of food as she made her way to the small stage that had been set up. There was already a grand piano waiting for her. It did not take Nanao long to remove the piano's cover and open up the lid. She set her shawl down on the piano bench and went about making sure that everything was positioned as she wanted it. When she played a few experimental notes on the piano, she found that it was perfectly tuned.
"My Nanao-chan's beauty knows no bounds," Shunsui's voice came from behind her.
Nanao turned with a smile. Her captain cut quite a dashing figure. He was dressed in a dark Western suit with a pink tie. In one hand he carried his guitar case, and in the other he had their music.
"Are you ready for this performance?" he continued.
Nanao nodded. "As ready as I'm going to be. Shall we finish our preparations before people start arriving?"
It did not take them long to finish their set up and to warm up their voices. The two of them ran through three of the songs they were going to perform in order to get warmed up and used to singing. It also gave them a chance to gauge the acoustics of the room. Neither of them like using a microphone, but that did mean that they both would need to project and know what level of sound they had to produce. However, by the time that other party goers started arriving, both Shunsui and Nanao were ready to perform.
Of course, the entertainment didn't start party off. First, there was the official welcome from the Commander-General, and then there was dancing and mingling. At least for awhile. Once everybody was here and enjoying themselves, that was when the entertainment portion of the night began. Shunsui flitted off to get them drinks while Nanao found herself drawn into conversation with Retsu and Isane. Before long Shunsui and Jyuushiro had joined them. Shunsui handed her a mug of hot spiced apple cider. Nanao sipped at her drink and enjoyed the conversation.
As usual, the Commander-General made a rather long winded speech of welcome and about the time of year. Nanao tuned most of it out. Once the speech was over, Shunsui claimed that the first dance was his.
"After all, I don't know if we're going to get another chance after we start singing. They might not let us stop, you know."
Nanao rolled her eyes, but she let him escort her out onto the dance floor. The current music selection was a swing version of a classic piece, but it was easy enough to dance to, and Nanao and Shunsui were an accomplished pair. They moved across the dance floor in perfect unison. Dancing with Shunsui was almost as much fun as sparing with him, and it was something that Nanao enjoyed quite a bit. She also ended up dancing with Captain Ukitake as well as Gin Ichimaru. After her three dances, Nanao begged off any more dancing and retired to the sidelines with a second cup of hot cider.
It wasn't long before Shunsui joined her. He smiled at her and offered her his arm. "Are you ready to get the show started, my Nanao-chan?"
She took his arm. "As ready as I'm going to be."
The two of them took their places up on that stage, and Nanao seated herself at the piano. She played the opening chord of White Christmas, and a hush fell over the assembled group. They got even quieter if that was possible when Nanao began to sing.
"The sun is shining, the grass is green, the orange and palm trees sway. There's never been such a day in Beverly Hills, L.A. But it's December the twenty-fourth, and I am longing to be up North."
That was when Shunsui joined her on the song. By the time they had finished the first song, they had definitely captured everyone's attention. Nanao smiled and began to relax. They moved through their program with ease. It consisted mostly of solos and duets, though there was at least one song where they dragged Jyuushiro up on the stage, and another that turned into a quartet with both Retsu and Jyuushiro. The mood of the music they had chosen was mostly light and romantic, and some of it was a little silly. But everyone seemed to enjoy it, and when Shunsui and Nanao had brought their final song to a conclusion, there were demands for an encore.
Nanao traded a smile with Shunsui. They actually had anticipated this and had saved one song especially for an encore. Shunsui started the song on the guitar, and Nanao couldn't help but smiling as she sang the first line.
"I really can't stay."
"Baby, it's cold outside." This song really suited Shunsui to a t.
"I've got to go away."
"Baby, it's cold outside."
"This evening has been
"Been hoping that you would drop in."
so very nice."
"I'll hold your hands they're just like ice," Shunsui winked at her.
"My mother will start to worry."
"Beautiful, what's your hurry?"
"My father will be pacing the floor."
"Listen to the fireplace roar."
"So really I'd better scurry."
"Beautiful, please don't scurry."
Nanao gave a little shrug. "Well, maybe just a half a drink more."
When they finished the song, there was a thunderous applause from their fellow shinigami. Nanao and Shunsui took their bows, and the party continued on. Nanao found herself absolutely overwhelmed by people who wanted to compliment her on the performance and talk about her singing. After about twenty minutes of this, Nanao needed to escape. Crowds were not exactly her thing, and Nanao could only deal with so much. It took some time and doing, but Nanao managed to collect her shawl and slip outside.
She stood out on one of the sheltered porches with her shawl wrapped around her and watched the falling snow. Nanao would say that tonight was a success, and she had enjoyed herself. However, at the moment she was ready to go home and go to bed.
"You know, Nanao-chan, you're going to freeze to death out here without a proper coat."
Shunsui's arms slid around her, and Nanao leaned back against his chest. Nanao smiled.
"How can I freeze if I've got you to keep me warm?"
His grip on her tightened, and Shunsui leaned down in order to kiss her. When he released her lips, their breath was visible in the cold air.
"Ready to go home, precious?"
Nanao shrugged slightly. "You're welcome to stay if you want."
"I'd rather spend the rest of my evening with my lovely Nanao-chan. Besides, it's gotten to the point of the party where more people are drunk than coherent anyway." He nuzzled her ear. "Going home with my Nanao-chan sounds like a much better idea."
Nanao laughed and snuggled into his embrace. Winter really was not her favorite season, but she had to admit in moments like these it definitely had its good points.