The Bluff Is Called


“You’ve done an excellent job on this report, my lovely, lovely Nanao,” Shunsui warbled, sidling closer to her. “I think it deserves a reward.” He shut his eyes, puckered his lips, and moved his face closer to hers, waiting for a kiss that would never come.

Any second now, he would open one eye and make a disappointed moue with that puckered mouth, drawl something about how cruel she was to him, and saunter back to fling himself on his futon for his second mid-day nap.

Nanao knew this because it was how it always went. She’d do something with her customary precision and talent, he’d try to get her to kiss him, she’d refuse, and he’d go for a nap, as if her rejection had simply exhausted him.

Standing there before him, staring sullenly at his handsome face twisted into that stupid kissy expression, Nanao wondered idly what he’d do if she deviated from the norm. He did it, she mused, only because he knew she wouldn’t take him up on it. In fact, she wagered he’d panic if she ever did give in and kiss him.

Her lips curled smugly before she leaned forward and touched them to his.


Immediately, his eyes flew open. Nanao blinked, unaccustomed to looking at another person from so near. She tried to pull back but he grabbed her, preventing her escape.


“Oh, no, Nanao-chan,” he murmured against her mouth. His lips were warm and dry, and his breath tasted of sake. “I’m not letting you run so quickly, now that I’ve finally got you.”


Though the words were rather menacing, his hands on her arms were infinitely gentle, and his eyes were as sweetly sad as ever. He closed them, then, and tilted his head to the side, the better to angle his mouth over hers.


Nanao felt a zing of terror at the expression of heartfelt concentration on his face as he moved his mouth over hers, brushing, caressing, lingering. She had miscalculated, with disastrous results; her taichou had not been merely toying with her, nor was he a mere flirt. This meant something to him, and she was dismayed that she’d taken a step over a threshold she wasn’t prepared to make.


Even worse, her body was responding to his kiss with almost embarrassing speed and fervour. Having never really experienced actual desire before, she thought to catalogue it.


Point #1: there was a queer tightening in her chest, specifically in the area of her diaphragm.

Point #2: a wave of heat rolled through her body, commencing in her belly and spreading outward to leave her fingertips and toes tingling.

Point #3: her breath came in on a rough gasp. This had the result of parting her lips, which Shunsui took immediate advantage of.


His tongue flickered against her teeth, then past them to tap gently at her own. The rough wet-velvet caress shocked Nanao into another gasp. He stroked his tongue against hers in a long, sinuous slide and this time, the heat spasmed inward, sending a rush of warmth to her center. She made a rough sound in her throat and struggled to break free of his hold, wanting to be able to move more freely against him.


He released her immediately, moving away from her, and Nanao was vaguely aware of the trepidation on his face, but uncaring. Her body was clamouring for more, dammit. She took a step closer to him, arms out, reaching, feeling only the blaze of need, the urge for pressure against certain parts of her.


Shunsui was not one for denial. Never had been. He indulged his own desires for naps, for dramatic entrances and too much sake, and for his lovely but regrettably repressed vice-captain.


This was the first time in the decade she’d served under him that Nanao had shown any receptivity toward his advances. And he wasn’t about to squander it; who knew when she’d let him kiss her again?


He’d been disappointed when she pulled away— oh, my, yes—but one glance at the soft, confused passion on her face and the way she reached for him, needing him without entirely understanding why, erased all such sentiment.


He had his own arms around her in a heartbeat, and thrilled to feel her wind hers around his neck, pressing herself urgently against him. The soft crush of her small breasts against Shunsui’s chest made him groan as he lowered his mouth to hers once more.


She felt and tasted just as good as he’d imagined for so, so long. For all that he seemed like a silly flirt, he was actually a man of deep and sincere sentiment, and Nanao’s combination of pretty face and remote personality (just begging him to loosen her up) had proven deadly to his romantic old heart.


Now that he thought of it—remarkable he could think of anything, the way Nanao’s tongue was gliding against his—this was distinctly uncharacteristic behaviour for his vice-captain. Shunsui called upon his centuries of discipline and wound down the desperation of their kiss until he was just pressing his lips against the smooth skin of her cheek.


“My lovely, lovely Nanao-chan,” he murmured against the peachy flesh, “I am confused.”


She tensed against him, but did not fight to be released. “So am I,” she replied, her breath warm against his ear in a way that made him long to fling her down on the futon behind them. “I thought only to call your bluff, but…”


“But it got away from you,” Shunsui finished for her, and she nodded, her hair sliding against his face. “Why would you think it a bluff?” He pulled back enough to see her face. “Have I ever given you reason to believe I was not genuine in my—“ he took up her hand and pressed a kiss to the inside of her wrist “—heartfelt appreciation of you?”


“You’re always so dramatic,” Nanao replied haltingly. “One doesn’t often see who you really are.”


He smiled. “Ah, so only the serious me is the true me?” At her nod, he kissed a lingering kiss to her other cheek. “But, Nanao-chan, can I not be both silly and dramatic as well as serious? Must I be the same thing all the time?”


“It would be far easier,” she said, scowling at him.


He laughed. “Easier, yes, but boring! Life is long when you’re dead, lovely one! I would go crazy if I had to be the same person all the time.”


“You’re crazy as it is,” she muttered, turning away from him and folding her arms over her chest.


He came and wrapped his arms around her from behind, resting his chin on her head. “A perfect fit, just like I suspected!” he exclaimed happily, ignoring (as usual) her disparagement, so delighted was he that she didn’t pull away and attempt to maim him.


Instead, she leant back against him, almost grudgingly, and placed her hands atop his where they lightly clasped her middle. “You’d better not try to maul me when we have work to do,” she said, and it took him a moment to realize what she was saying.


“It will be difficult,” he said, heaving a mighty sigh, “but I think if we do paperwork with you sitting in my lap, and hold hands at all other times, my desire for your touch just might be satisfied.”


He glanced down at her face to see a very pretty flush scald over her cheeks before fading.


“As long as we get all our work done,” she replied, and he realized—with shock—that she was agreeing.


For that, of course, he had to kiss her, and he spun her around to fix his lips to hers once more. After a leisurely exploration of each other’s mouths, they drew apart, and Shunsui noted with no little satisfaction how glazed and dreamy were her eyes, how pink and shiny were her lips. She looked utterly beguiling, to his way of thinking.


“I shall have to draw you!” he announced gaily. “This moment of beauty must be captured for eternity!”


He went digging through her desk for a clean sheet of paper. Finding one at last, he took up the pen she’d laid down when she’d given him the report and began making quick, efficient strokes across it, bold and black.


Nanao watched as the drawing took shape, a frown dawning and growing as Shunsui progressed. When he was done, he straightened and beamed down at his creation.


“Look, Nanao-chan!” he announced. “It’s you.”


A pot of ink bounced off his brow to thunk onto the desk before him.


“Nanao-ow-chan?” Shunsui rubbed his now-bruised forehead with the back of his hand, making the paper wave wildly around his head.


“If I actually looked like that, you would run away screaming,” she replied coolly, glancing down at the page’s stick figure featuring outsized spectacles and an impossibly large nose. “As a favour to you, I will attribute this to your lack of skill, and hope you don’t actually think I’m that hideous.” Unconsciously, she reached up to touch her nose and reassure herself that it was still small and cute.


“Lovely, lovely,” Shunsui crooned, cupping her face in his hands. “You know I’m a terrible artist. You just inspire me so.”


Something seemed to melt inside her at the soft sweetness of his gaze, and she felt her cheeks heat.


“I have work to do,” she said stiffly, and hip-checked him away from the desk so she could return to order the paper he’d shuffled around in his search.


“Ah, just so,” he agreed sadly, and tossed the pen back onto the desk. Then he plunked himself down in the chair and pulled her onto his lap. She squirmed for freedom until his happy hum told her he liked that, and she finally slumped back against him in defeat.


“I can’t win, can I?” she said, sounding disheartened.


“You really, really can’t,” he agreed cheerfully. “There’s merit to knowing when to quit, you know.”


Nanao gave up. Besides, he was warm and rather comfortable. She gathered to her all the things she needed, and got to work.


And Shunsui leaned his head back against the chair, and fell asleep again: the sleep of the deeply satisfied.