Title: Unexpected Birthday
Contains: Nanao celebrates her first birthday at the 8th. Prompt: family.
Note: This was originally posted for the Week of Love challenge on the shunsui_nanao community on LiveJournal. I don't own Bleach, in case there was any doubt.
Nanao curled tighter into her hiding place as footsteps pounded up and down the halls. She should be ashamed of herself. Shinigami, no matter how young, were not afraid and certainly did not hide. It wasn't hiding, exactly, she decided. Evasion. That was an important skill and worthy of a shinigami. She nodded briefly, lips pursed in a thin line before her shoulders sagged. Whatever she wanted to call it, it was unacceptable.
Nanao slid the door of the supply closet shut noiselessly behind her. The halls of the 8th Division were quiet at this time of the afternoon and the warm July sun slanted through the open windows in long patches. At the end of the hall, the door to the dining hall stood open. It had become a favorite place of hers since she had joined the Eighth, with its long tables and bright light.
Scooting inside, she hesitated long enough to give the room a quick once over, enough to satisfy herself that she was alone. A small corner table by a large window waited, and Nanao crawled gratefully into the seat, enjoying the sensation of the sun hitting her skin. The book she brought was an older one that she had found on a back library shelf, and judging from the dust, it had not seen the light of day for some years. The librarian, a squinting old man with a receding hairline and a nasally voice, had been so surprised to see it that he had told her to keep it rather than going through the trouble to create another entry for it in the library database.
Something was crawling on her. She shrieked, instinctively clawing at the back of her neck. A large beetle bounced off the window and crawled across the table.
"Awww. Does Nanao-chan not like bugs?"
Nanao's skin crawled, this time for a different reason as she faced her assailant, leaning casually against the wall behind her.
"I'm not afraid of anything." She snapped. "And that's Ise-san to you."
The boy was tall, with black hair and a square jaw. He was several years older than Nanao, and good with kido, something that rankled her sorely. He made a tsking sound. "Better get that temper under control, Nanao-chan. Mommy might not like it."
They were bullies, Nanao kew, they wanted her to rise to the bait.
"Ise," she spat.
"How'd you end up here anyway? I'm curious." One of the other boys that Nanao hadn't noticed chimed in.
"I heard you didn't even pass the division test," the older boy remarked lazily. "And Captain Kyouraku picked you up because he can't stand to see a girl cry."
Nanao stepped back, the white hot rage building in her stomach boiled over. She was eerily calm. "Hado #1, Shou!"
The powerful blast of energy plowed through the dining hall. Tables and would-be assailants alike scattered, but Nanao didn't really see, nor did she notice the crowd gathering. She didn't have time. A hastily summoned shield kept her from being hit by a second Shou spell, but she was already summoning her next spell. "Hado #31, Shakkahou!" Red fire exploded from her hand, catching her assailant on the shoulder and spinning him into a pile of tables.
A moment later he was up again, charging down on her with an almost feral yell, zanpaktou raised above his head. She was prepared for this however, already drawing the necessary characters. "Bakudou #9, Geki!" Red engulfed the boy, freezing him in mid stride.
Nanao was shaking with rage, already summoning her final spell. A cool hand and an iron grip on her wrist stopped her. She froze, her breath catching while icy cold replaced the white hot rage accompanied by a faintly ill feeling in her tummy.
"That will be enough." The voice, like the grip, was cool and unmistakeable.
Nanao swallowed thickly, willing herself to look up, despite the lead like feeling numbing her body. Vaguely, she heard orders being given. The boy was taken away, but she didn't notice where. His compatriots disappeared, spineless without their leader. Normalcy returned, and Nanao stood blinking at the carnage. The dining hall was destroyed. Mangled chairs and tables were piled haphazardly, large swaths crisscrossed where the paths the kido had taken. A large black hole in the opposite wall from the Shakkahou spell showed daylight. A bitter taste rose in the back of Nanao's throat. What had she done? Of all the unprofessional things to do, this was probably the worst.
All around her, clean up began, and Nanao was aware of Vice Captain Yadomaru arranging for meals to be served in the common room for a couple of days or, weather permitting, out on the 8th Division courtyard.
"Come with me."
Mechanically, Nanao followed. This was the end, she realized. There was no way that she would be allowed to remain here in light of such behavior. A part of her, the rational part, said that she should be grateful that Vice Captain Yadomaru was going to give that order privately instead of publicly disgracing her in front of the rest of the division, a fate she certainly deserved. Then another thought struck her. What if they punished her first? What if she were publicly humiliated, or worse publicly whipped? Her stomach roiled.
A gentle breeze disturbed her hair. They had come outside without her realizing, passing out of the Eighth grounds and into some of the hilly woodland beyond. Large trees swayed in the breeze, and Nanao recognized this as one of the places her Captain liked to take his naps. Apparently Vice Captain Yadomaru liked it too.
A large tree with spreading roots stood nearby, and Nanao followed her superior as she strode purposefully towards it and sat on the ground in the shade.
"Come here." Her voice and face unreadable. There was no choice but to obey, but Nanao felt cold despite the warm July afternoon.
"You're new to the Division. Nanao Ise, right?"
Nanao nodded, her mouth dry.
"I can't hear you."
"Yes, Vice Captain." Nanao was surprised at the clarity of her own voice.
Vice Captain Yadomaru nodded once, a crisp, short movement. "I see. Have you read the policies and procedures of the 8th Division?"
"Yes." The weight on Nanao's chest felt like it was crushing her now. Her breaths coming in shallow puffs.
"Then, you are familiar with our position on fights outside of training and the battlefield?"
"Yes, Vice Captain." She whispered miserably.
"Good. See you don't forget it. Tell me about your kido studies."
Nanao blinked at the sudden lightening of the mood.
"I… Well… I studied in the academy and it was my favorite subject. So I got books from the library, but he said I could keep this one."
Vice Captain Yadomaru burst out laughing and Nanao's face flushed crimson in her embarrassment.
"Sit," she said indicating a patch of grass next to her. "What's the highest level spell you've cast, Nanao-chan?"
Nanao squirmed, "The Shakkahou is the highest I can cast with an incantation. I've tried a few others, but…"
"I teach an advanced kido classes every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. I'd like you to come," Lisa cut in. "They'd be a bit advanced for you yet, but you'd catch up quick."
"Yep." Lisa leaned back against the tree, closing her eyes briefly as the wind blew through her hair. From somewhere far away, the faint scent of food wafted over the field. "You go to the festival?"
"Tanabata? No, not usually." Nanao's hands worried the sleeves of her uniform.
"Why? It's your birthday isn't it?"
Nanao's head snapped up, eyes wide. "You… How did you know?"
"I'm Vice Captain. It's my job to know things. Besides, it's a bad thing not to celebrate a birthday," the corners of Lisa's mouth turned up in a rare smile.
Blushing, Nanao shook her head, but the hollow feeling remained in her tummy.
"What is it, Nanao-chan?"
"V-vice Captain Yadomaru. You- You're not going to transfer me?"
Lisa opened an eye, tilting her head to see Nanao better. "Why do you think I'd do that, Nanao-chan?"
"Well…" Nanao groped for words, dropping her eyes once again to the grass. "Because I caused a problem?" She ventured.
A wry chuckle made Nanao look up. "What, that? That wasn't really a problem. An inconvenience, maybe, but not a problem. Take our Captain, for example. He's a problem, but you don't see him getting transferred, do you?"
Nanao giggled, shaking her head, eyes bright with amusement and pink with embarrassment.
"Believe me, Nanao-chan, you're not a problem. Besides, if we transferred everyone who had a bad day, we wouldn't have a division at all. Just see you don't let it happen again, though." She added, fixing Nanao briefly with her stern glare and Nanao shook her head vigorously.
"I won't, Vice Captain Yadomaru." She paused.
The corners of the Vice Captain's lips turned up.
"…And." Nanao squirmed. "And thank you."
Lisa looked surprised for a moment, then grinned. "Don't mention it. The 8th can always be your family if you let us, Nanao-chan. You just have to let us in. Don't forget that."
"Good. Now how about some festival food. I'm starving."
A/N: I tried to keep the kido spells pretty low, considering how young Nanao is. Given that, the Shakkahou was probably a bit of a stretch, but Momo is shown using a Shakkahou spell in the Academy. So it seems reasonable that Nanao would be able to cast that spell right out of the Academy, especially since my own headcanon puts her at the top of her class for kido. Anyway, thanks for reading!