Kiss and Control

BY : orionshadow
Category: Bleach > Het - Male/Female
Dragon prints: 8941
Disclaimer: Tite Kubo owns Bleach and the characters depicted therein. The characters in this story are not mine. Payment is not received for this work.

Tite Kubo owns Bleach and the characters depicted therein. The characters in this story are not mine. Payment is not received for this work.

Note: This is set in another AU to Different Circumstances, For The Love of a Friend, etc. It is a birthday present for Kashima. Happy Birthday! I hope you like it and the chapters to follow.

Accidental Kiss
While he knew that his family only wished to help, he was beyond their help. Their care and concern suffocated him. Love was not everything and he'd had enough of it. The only woman whom he could love was dead and no matter how many women were presented to him as suitable matches, they lacked something. Each of them was beautiful with sweet voices and delicate skin. Watching them walk reminded him of the reeds waving gracefully in the breeze. Many could sing or play an instrument. Some were versed in writing poetry. Not one of them was an unsuitable match for the head of the Kuchiki clan. There could be no doubt that they were trained in duty and honour and would probably be good mothers and sensible wives devoting their time to arranging flowers and not searching fruitlessly for an abandoned sister.

Talented, beautiful and gentle. All the possible choices presented to him had each of those qualities but on meeting them he noticed they did not rouse the spark of instant devotion that he'd felt when he'd first encountered Hisana. Marriage to any of them would be an act of duty and considering how strictly he stuck to duty during his daily life, he wanted some measure of freedom in his private time. He agreed to permit the continuing introductions, but paid as little attention as was polite to the candidates. He could not imagine living in the same house with any of the women, nor did he wish to do so.

One night, after yet another fruitless miai and feeling confined by the extensive grounds of his home, he decided to seek alternate scenery. The potential wife to whom he'd been introduced had barely looked at him, modestly averting her eyes from his face as her mother rattled on at length about her daughter's accomplishments. She could sing, play chess , arrange flowers, write poetry in beautiful calligraphy, had mastered the strictures of the tea ceremony and so forth. She was a perfectly worthy female, but he wanted a woman to look at him fearlessly as Hisana had. Politely, he spent the required time, but left as soon as was possible.

Rain had been threatening to fall all day and instead of viewing the moon reflected in his private lake, he desired to watch the shimmering appearance of the lunar object in the flowing turbulence of a river during a rainstorm. The sound of the running water would make him think of something other than his grief for Hisana and his concerns for his sister, Rukia. Since she had returned from the human world and been rescued from execution, their relationship had changed. The substitute Shinigami's words had struck home and he found he was beginning to care for her, wishing to protect her and make her life more pleasant. Trying to maintain his strict control over his emotions was well ingrained into his normal practice, but the action of learning to love again, even the love for a sister, made him once more realise that love, while rewarding, could also lead to expectations. His upbringing and constant observation warred with his new emotional ties and he needed to remove himself from the place where both problems seemed to be centred.

While Rukia continued to be headstrong, she had mellowed. Often she would advise him how to approach his problematic lieutenant, and while he valued her suggestions, he resented the solutions were not his own. Most of them had worked and he needed to keep in mind that she knew the man well. All the same, it seemed akin to manipulating the man and while he appreciated the subtleties, it took up more time than directly giving orders and expecting them to be followed without question.

Leaving his estate he walked, without haste, toward the river. As it was night time the place should be deserted and he would be free of the unseen presence of his servitors and their observation of his actions.

Arriving at his destination, he stood for several moments, enjoying the silence that was only broken by the sound of the water tumbling over the rocks on the way to it's destination. The moon's reflection wavered in the moving water and he was reminded of a haiku that Hisana had written for him in the early days of their courtship.

A small sigh escaped his lips. Wherever he went, whatever he did, his thoughts inevitably returned to her.

He was startled to hear an answering sigh and turning he saw hidden in the shade of a tree, a female figure, apparently sleeping. Lying on one side, her face was hidden by the shadow of the tree. It seemed unusual for anyone to sleep under a tree and he moved a little closer to see if the woman was in need of assistance.

As he approached he began to recognise the person resting there. Here was the woman who was the antithesis of his Hisana. Where Hisana had been short, this woman was tall. Hisana had been quiet and polite. This woman was brash, could be rude and was in regular trouble with her captain. Sometimes he wondered why the man put up with her. Renji Abarai was barely adequate as a lieutenant, but this woman was lazy, neglected her paperwork, didn't respect authority, hung around with men, drank far too much sake and seemed obsessed with fripperies. Rangiku Matsumoto had little decorum. Hisana had been small and delicately formed while this woman was over endowed. Her long hair was a constant irritation as she refused to confine her tresses in any manner, preferring to leave them to fall down her back. If she had permitted the hair to at least partially cover her cleavage he would not have regarded it with such disfavour.

She was sexually appealing. That was evident from his own controlled reaction. The many comments he'd heard in passing from the male Shinigami made it evident that many of them had noticed her attraction, but many bemoaned the fact that she turned down any offers. She had her circle of male friends with whom she passed the time and seemed unwilling or reluctant to increase the number.

Whether or not she was profligate with her favours interested him not at all. It didn't spark even the slightest curiosity. The woman was simply a lieutenant who was undisciplined and immodest. The question that now entered his mind was one of why she was there. He knew she enjoyed drinking, but moving closer he could not detect any scent of alcohol nor see any containers that might hold intoxicants. What reason she might have for sleeping under the tree he couldn't guess. The weather was warm, but not hot and the impending rain affirmed it was a bad decision. It was typical of what he knew of this woman. She would act without logically considering what might eventuate. He always planned his moves, except when he met Hisana.

Even as he thought this, his eyes remained on her, enjoying the sight of a woman abandoned to sleep, unaware of his presence. It had been many years since he had watched a woman who was not related to him slumber. He'd almost forgotten how loose their bodies became and the movements flowed smoothly as they turned or stretched while sleeping.

"Gin," the woman breathed and a look of longing briefly touched her face before she sighed deeply once more.
Was she dreaming of Ichimaru? Not that he cared, but after the obvious rift between the two, followed by the desertion of the traitors, it would have been apparent that there was little chance of reconciliation or romance. Why had she not taken the sensible decision and driven all thoughts of the man from her life.
Catching himself in that thought he recognised that he was in the same position. Hisana died many years previously and he continued to hold her memory dear. Instead of forgetting her, or allowing her memory to fade while he continued with the duties of his life, he clung to the past. If he didn't Hisana would be dead in his heart. That level of grief would force him into obvious mourning and would attract notice. Then he would need to face the comforters and unwanted sympathy; the invasive questions of people who were more curious than concerned, but hid their motives behind hushed voices and carefully chosen words. At the time of her death he had forced his face to remain impassive and projected an air of detachment and had thus escaped the worst of the attentions. Nothing would restore his wife to him.
Firmly he denied that thought. His wife had died, tragically young. Mourning was only natural, in fact expected. Time was immaterial, even if it had been over 40 years.

That realisation was the worst of all. He had lived without Hisana for 40 years, lonely and withdrawn while sheltering behind the facade of control. In spite of all his justification of why he was uninterested in remarrying the truth could no longer be hidden. Fear was the motivation. Having loved so deeply he was now afraid to open his heart to another and experience again the same sense of loss and disassociation.

The woman turned from her side onto her back. The moon shone through the branches of the tree, catching the gleaming gold of her hair and shadowing her cleavage by the filtering leaves of the tree. Instead of his gaze being drawn to her breasts as it inevitably was, he looked at her face and studied it carefully. With her eyes shut, the coquettish look was removed from her face. Her forehead was smoothed and her lips slightly parted.

She was pretty. Yes Lieutenant Matsumoto was undeniably attractive. Her hair was disarranged, but he found he liked the disorder as it softened her face, making her chin appear rounder, her mouth softer and her features were framed by the golden glow. Like this she exercised a definite appeal and while he knew he was very capable of refusing to act on any sudden impulse, he had a moment where he yearned to forget the years of discipline and training.

"I should return home," he thought. "If she wakes and finds me here she may make a dangerous assumption."

Acting quickly on the thought he prepared to return home. A large drop of water fell on his cheek. The tree would provide little protection from the storm and while it was not his responsibility, the woman might catch a cold if left exposed to the elements. If she were sick, the 10th Division Captain would become even more isolated for the duration and while he could never admit it, he felt some slight compassion for the young man's plight. The woman seemed to be the only person who could actually make him smile, even while causing him more problems than she was worth.

"Lieutenant Matsumoto. It is beginning to rain. Rouse yourself," he moderated his voice not to be too loud. While waking Abarai and witnessing his shock might provide moments of amusement, it was uncertain how the woman would react.

She stirred slightly, but hardly flinched at the sound of his voice. Frowning, he called her name again, but seemed to be ignored once more. Deciding that he did not wish to raise his voice, he almost left her to her deserved drenching, but remembered how Hisana had once wondered if her disease had been caused by sleeping during a rainstorm and wandering through the hostile streets trying to find a way of becoming warm and dry. The woman who lay here was not fragile, but did he wish to witness another death which might be easily prevented.

"I'll touch her shoulder and waken her that way. It is indecorous for me to touch a woman to whom I am not related, but how else can I rouse her?"

Immediately his mind summoned up a number of alternative methods of awakening the woman, some definitely out of keeping with the acceptable behaviour of the head of the Kuchiki clan. Kicking her foot might scare her and cause her to immediately act in self defence. Calling out louder might not work as the sound of the river and rain were becoming increasingly more noisy.

As he stood next to the woman he looked down at her face, and saw she was not a peace. Her face appeared to reflect unpleasant thoughts and he wondered what dreams tormented her sleep. If he woke her now, she would be free of that dream, even if reality was harsher than the events that her subconscious presented to her.
He reached out a hand toward her shoulder and hesitated.

Carefully he surveyed the surrounding area to make certain that no one observed his action. Satisfied of their isolation, he reached down and gently touched her shoulder. What happened next was unwanted and unexpected.

The woman, whether awake of asleep, he was unsure, wrapped her arms around his neck and brought his mouth down to hers. "Gin," she murmured. "You came back to me." Then her mouth met his and she kissed him. Trying to draw back made her pull him closer and he found his hands were now on her arms, trying to break her grip. In deference to his greater strength he tried to be gentle, but found it was necessary to exert more and more strength while her tongue lapped at his lips, trying to break through the instinctive compression of his mouth.

His rigid control was helping him ignore the sweet pressure of her mouth on his, the delicate warmth of her flesh against his neck. But then the way her arms held him changed, became more coaxing, less insistent, and while he knew that the affection expressed by her embrace was not directed at him, it unbalanced him. For a second his lips parted and her tongue swept gently into his mouth and without meaning to he shut his eyes and ceased trying to set himself free.

"I should stop this now," h e thought as his arms encircled her. "This is without honour," was his next thought as he returned the kiss. Each moment that passed both increased and ruined his resolve. Hardly believing he was capable of doing so, he gently released the arms from around his neck and reluctantly removed his mouth.

"Gin. Wh...." The woman's eyes opened slowly and he saw the recognition, confusion, sadness and embarrassment trace across her face. Her hand touched her mouth and then she turned away and got to her feet, apparently mustering as much dignity as possible while increasing the distance between them.

"I apologise Captain Kuchiki. I mistook your identity," she stammered trying to avoid looking at him directly. He could see her swallow hard before she spoke. "There is no real excuse."
Now he was faced with the difficulty of delivering a reply. An apology was not warranted, as he had not initiated the kiss, but with a small taste of guilt he knew he chose not to end it sooner. The woman would not know that. Deciding to diffuse the situation the decision of how to reply was easy. "Mistakes happen and this time I will overlook it, if you agree to never mention this to anyone."

The woman gave him a quick look and then seemed lost in thought. "It didn't happen?"

The statement was offered as a possible solution and he was pleased with the suggestion. Neither of them had anything to gain from the situation, only much to lose. Mindful now of why he'd attempted to wake her, he said, "It might be wise if you returned to your quarters before the rain becomes torrential."

She lowered her eyes and for a moment he admired the dark of her lashes against the cream of her cheek and then was drawn to listen to her words. "Thank you for your consideration, Captain Kuchiki."
With more decorum than he expected Lieutenant Matsumoto bowed and then swiftly left, moving in the direction of 10th Division.

The incident was over. Returning to his estate he mused about marriage. It was possible that he had lived alone too long and a wife might provide companionship. The lush feeling of the woman's lips lingered on his own, reminding him of the charm that flavoured a kiss shared with the object of one's love.

It would be wise if he kept as far from 10th Division as possible.

Entering her quarters, Ran closed the door and made certain it was secure. Then her legs gave way and she sat suddenly on the floor.
Tonight had been a disaster and she was still trying to work out the magnitude of it. The calendar date had unsettled her and made her feel foreboding all day. Even after all this time she should not allow the anniversary of the day of meeting Gin to affect her to this extent. While still young they had often sat near the river, under the tree, idly discussing their ambitions and shared plans. Out of sentiment she had visited the place after her days duties were complete. Away from the avid eyes of others, she had permitted the tears which had been building within her for the past week, to flow.

Any shared plans they had would never happen. Not now.
In many ways it was a relief when Gin had turned traitor and left. She no longer had to see him and have a constant reminder of a friendship that had defined her life and shaped her into the woman she now was. On occasions she wondered if he deliberately set up their regular encounters to remind her that he no longer had any need for her or her friendship. Just as deliberately she continued to call him Gin and stubbornly refused to address him as Captain Ichimaru to make clear her position. Unlike Momo, it was not forgetfulness that led her to continually make the mistake. Instead it was her deliberate choice.

Pride made him insist on his correct title and she had experienced enough of his pride and arrogant expectations to put into action the idea that as there was no longer anything more that he could take from her; she took from him. It might be considered malicious by any observer, but only the two of them knew the underlying rancour had firm basis.

The mixture of love and loathing Gin roused in her had at one time confused her and made her question her sanity. Now the rough grit of the conflict lay just under her consciousness and coloured her life. Once it had sickened her and she had sought to free herself of the shackles placed upon her life, but none of the suggested remedies had worked.

The smiling face was presented to her frequently during her daily life and only his desertion had brought her a measure of peace. Today the love had far outweighed the darker emotion and led to the bitter tears under the tree. Exhausted by the outpouring emotion she had lain down, staring at the sky and stars through the patterning provided by the branches. Her reddened eyes had drifted shut and she was once again young and in love. Gin was there, talking and laughing with her as they ate and drank during an impromptu picnic. He had been gone for some time and was refusing to tell her where he had been. Her inability to gain any information from him summoned the usual mixture of irritation and despair.

He must have noticed and employed a distraction. "An apple for you," Gin had said and laughed as he tossed her the fruit.

The memory made her smile and he had leant forward, a teasing distance between them. "The apple is never free. You know that, Ran. And you know how to pay."

Her despair forgotten she smiled. "Gin, " she breathed and then placed her arms around his neck and kissed him.

Strangely he hadn't seemed to welcome her kiss. He had tried to pull her arms away and then, for some reason he had stopped trying to break free and kissed her in return.

The problem was, it hadn't been Gin, or just a dream. She'd kissed the Captain of 6th Division. She'd kissed the noble Byakuya Kuchiki, a man who to all appearances despised physical contact and disdained interaction with people he did not deem suitable. It was more than probable he despised her before she'd kissed him.

While she had suggested that they forget it, as it was the only solution she saw as viable, it was possibly a vain hope. She remembered his kiss. His lips were different to Gin's and his touch hadn't scared her.

Sitting on the floor she tried to plan. There was little need for her to see the Captain for some time. If she kept to her duties and followed the orders of her Captain she probably would not need to leave 10th Division unless there was another of the interminable Captain's meetings, but if they arrived early she could hide in the room with the other lieutenants.

The plan had merits but would mean that she would have to desert her drinking companions for a time. Maybe the early, sober nights, while boring, would do her good. She might recover that easy dreamless sleep she'd experienced when she was younger and had fewer concerns to think about. Youth was a time when untroubled sleep was more frequent, but with the passage of time and the total of her experiences weighted heavily on her heart, the sake helped drift into the sleep she craved. If she meditated and cleared her mind, she could normally find sleep, but it took time and concentration.

Sighing she ran a hand through her hair and pursed her lips. That simple, automatic reaction made her remember the sensation of kissing Captain Kuchiki and her hand went to her lips and unexpectedly, she yawned. The sleep under the tree clung to her and she should seek her bed. The kiss had happened, but it was in the past and would not be repeated. The Captain would never admit that he had kissed her, and she wished to forget. She did not wish to enter into a relationship with a man who held himself aloof from all around him. If she ever decided to form an attachment with another man he would have to openly care about her; not play torturous games of control while firmly gripping all the power of the relationship.

Getting to her feet she went to bed, resolutely putting any thought of Gin or Captain Kuchiki from her mind. Men only brought trouble for the fleeting pleasure they might provide. They wanted to possess and own while not wishing to give up any of the freedoms they enjoyed. Those few moments when she knew Gin genuinely cared about her were few and too often she was forced to question if the words or gestures were genuine.

"I'm thinking of that man, again," she said angrily. "Why can't I forget? It's over and he's never coming back."

As she prepared for bed she stared at the wall, trying to think of anything but her erstwhile love and the events of the night. Instead she wondered what mood her Captain would be in the following morning. The choices were many. From past interactions she knew he might be annoyed, irritated, cool, detached or melancholic. It would be her responsibility to try to lighten his mood once more.

Closing her eyes she pushed all thoughts from her mind. She was a lieutenant and could direct her thoughts and reactions. She had made a simple, unconscious mistake and it was over.

Turning on her side, she smoothed her face against the cloth under her and continually cleared her mind of words and images until she the sleep she sought finally came.

The following day drifted through the normal routine of work and her attempts at teasing her captain and the brief flashes of memory that she resolutely pushed away fearing that they would encourage emotional turmoil. Nothing would happen. The day would pass like any other with Toshiro exhibiting his usual flashes of impatience and then she would eat a solitary meal and either read, or go to bed early. Instead of her usual deception that she eagerly looked forward to each new day and the fun she might glean from new experiences, her future began to look rather drab. It was a relief to no longer be tormented by the idea of encountering Gin, but at least the dread and fear were tangible feelings. What sane person would miss negative emotions?

Only Rangiku Matsumoto, because they were the only emotions she'd experienced fully for too long, aside from the outpouring of rejected love and grief she had permitted to affect her the previous day. The relief had faded too soon and she was left with a bleak outlook and an empty hole where her heart had once rested.

"Matsumoto, please complete this filing. It's been remarkable that you have managed to pay attention to your work today," Toshiro's voice broke through her thoughts and she immediately turned to him, forcing her mouth to turn upward.

What answer would satisfy him? "You have told me I should take my duties more seriously, so as a good lieutenant should, I am obeying your instructions." Would he believe her?
As she expected, a raised eyebrow indicated that he might have some doubt regarding her explanation. "Why now?"
Biting her lip she tried to create a plausible explanation, swiftly. If she delayed too long he would guess it was not the truth. Placing a hand on his shoulder, very aware that he might flinch at the contact, she said sincerely, "We are under threat and the time for fooling around is over."

She had judged correctly. Toshiro shrugged off her hand and said gruffly, "Good. Now finish your work and you can return to your quarters."

"Thank you Toshiro, I mean Captain Hitsugaya," she said meekly.
The stern, searching look he gave her alerted her that the last might have been an error. "Are you sure you're feeling well? You're not getting ill, are you?"

Stifling the sigh that rose from her throat she simply shook her head.

His expression indicated that he was unconvinced by her explanation and before he could question her further, she quickly devised a believable lie. "Would it be possible to have a week's leave?"

On hearing the question, Toshiro's face cleared. Then he shook his head, reluctantly. "That explains it, but no leave. Preparing for the Winter War takes precedence over everything."

Instead of the expected rush of relief that she had managed to deflect his attention from the real matter, she felt nothing. No sense of triumph or achievement, only a touch of sadness that she had lied to her Captain.

"We'll all have a holiday, when this is over, " was his assurance, but he spoilt it by adding, "if we survive."

She tried to laugh carelessly, but it sounded forced. "I'll hold you to that."

Her work completed she bid her Captain a good night and left, walking directly to her quarters, not permitting her steps to lead her either to the river or anywhere else. She would collect her toiletries and then go for a long soak in hot springs.

Fortunately they were segregated and she would not encounter any male friends or acquaintances. Today, Toshiro was the only male with whom she could tolerate interaction as he would never initiate any form of physical contact.

Bag in hand, she moved swiftly in the direction of the springs. A soak in hot mineral water might clear her mind, or fog it sufficiently so she could sleep.

Turning the corner she stopped short, nearly turning and running. Captain Byakuya Kuchiki was walking in her direction, alone and with his usual air of determination. It was too late to run, he had seen her. Swallowing hard, she forced her face to assume a non-committal expression and nodded to him, her neck stiff.

He nodded in return and walked past. Breathing a sigh of relief at his lack of reaction she walked on to the springs, vowing that she would forget the trivial incident. The kiss hadn't happened.

Byakuya had spent his day fulfilling his duties. The regrettable incident of the previous night was firmly excluded from his consciousness. As he instructed his subordinates in their duties and offered constructive criticism and direction he did not let his thoughts wander, but kept them firmly on the business at hand. HIs past experience in handling grief and anger bolstered his adherence to his duty.

When he finally sat at his desk to rest, a cup of tea steaming near his hand, a brief image of a pair of large wondering eyes staring into his own passed through his mind. At first he tried to pretend they were Hisana's eyes, except they were the wrong colour. Abruptly he rose and knocked against the table which in turn caused the cup of tea to spill.

Aghast he looked at the tea cascading over the table. It had been cleared of papers, but he feared that the surface of the family antique would be ruined. There was no cloth in sight that he could use to mop up the mess, except the clothes he was wearing. Not permitting the sigh that rose within him to be voiced, he quickly obtained some waste material and used it to clean up the spilt tea. Summoning a servant he instructed them to make repairs to the table, and in the interim to replace it with something worthy of his rank.

It was unlike him to be clumsy. He could not recall the last time he had accidentally damaged anyone or anything. It was his responsibility to carefully plan his moves and show the composure that was required of the Head of the Kuchiki clan. His sleep had been disturbed and it was possibly a contributing cause to the momentary lapse.

Leaving the office he noted that the sun was well on its path toward the horizon. There would be no questions asked if he returned home and sought solitude.

The servants knew not to interrupt him when he decided that he preferred privacy as it was stated very clearly to any potential employee. Those who failed to listen to the instructions were given their wages for the next month and politely told that their services were no longer required. If any questions were asked, polite, non-committal replies were provided, but people rarely enquired. While most people seeking employment with the Kuchiki clan did so because the wages were good and the conditions fair, many did not relish the strict code of conduct they needed to follow.

Feeling assured that he would be able to spend time following his interests he returned home. Once there the need to clean himself grew and he requested that a bath be prepared.

"Wouldn't you prefer to use the hot springs today, Master," one of his longest serving retainers asked.

Byakuya looked at him and noted that the man did not seem to be able to look at him. "What is the problems with the bath?" he asked. It was obvious that the man was avoiding explaining the situation.

"Lady Rukia, well Lady Rukia..... Lady Rukia is there and gave orders not to be disturbed."

This news made Byakuya frown. His sister did not normally take long baths or commandeer the bath when others might require it. "What of the other baths?" He knew there were others, but he preferred the main one.

The man seemed even more nervous as he looked around as if seeking an explanation. "None of them are worthy of you, my lord," was the eventual reply.

Weary of the conversation, Byakuya said quietly, but with great force, "I require a full explanation tomorrow. For now I will visit the hot springs, but on my return there will be no equivocation."

The man bowed deeply and scuttled away as Byakuya informed his personal servant of his plan. The man assured him that the necessary items would be conveyed to the springs and he only needed to walk there.

Immersion in the hot springs in the company of others was not as pleasant, but the hot water relaxed his muscles and as he changed pools he occasionally graced those present with small talk. A few words, and he would close his eyes, hoping the signal was clear. As time passed the springs became busier and it seemed logical that he should depart.

As he left and began to walk home, a woman appeared from around the corner. He heard her gasp which drew his attention and he glanced at her. Dumbfounded, he saw it was the woman from the previous night, the one he had inadvertently kissed. Quickly she arranged her features to show no emotion, but he could not mistake the fear he had seen in her expression. She nodded stiffly, he nodded in return and walked past as speedily as was possible without running.

Nearly all day he had managed to push her memory from his mind. It had been too late when he arrived home to discuss a potential marriage with any of his family members and this morning he had felt a strange reluctance to do so. He's knelt, staring at Hisana's picture, the belief that no woman could ever replace her growing stronger within him with each fragment of time. Each fleeting recollection of a warm pair of lips pressing against his was immediately pushed out of his consciousness.

However, seeing the woman brought everything back. The way her body had felt for the space that he'd held her, the slight roughness of her teeth against his tongue. The stirring of desire that he had resolutely ignored. Each of those dangerous memories once more rose to the surface of his mind as he walked home. Any relaxation he'd felt as a result of the bath, vanished.

Disconcerted by his unpredictable emotions, he directed his steps toward his training area. For hours he practised, going through each range of exercises he could remember. Once more mastering the patterns and then sparring with an imaginary opponent. His muscles screamed against the prolonged motions as perspiration ran down his body.

Finally exhausted he once more called for a bath to be prepared and this time received no opposition. Allowing his aching limbs to relax within the warm water, he rested his head and stared at the ceiling. His eyelids fluttered and forced him to acknowledge that he was nearly sleeping.

"I will avoid any contact with that woman for the rest of the week," was his resolve. "Or even the next month."

Days passed. She was thankful that after that incident near the hot springs, she had not encountered Captain Kuchiki again. She was still returning directly to her quarters after work, attending the bath house, but keeping as close to the headquarters of 10th Division and her home as much as possible.

While it removed that problem, there were the other issues which arose as a result. She was lonely and often bored. Missing the comradeship and fun that she shared with her friends made her act in a more exuberant manner with her Captain. He was not responding well. While she undertook each task requested he seemed to shy away when she came close. It wasn't fair. She hadn't hugged him too much. Maybe once or twice. It wasn't a big deal. If he didn't try to struggle, she would probably not hug him so often.

In her heart, she knew she hugged him so often because he resisted but underneath, responded. He needed the reassurance as much as she did, but had to pretend the physical contact was unwanted and intrusive. Fear of harming others due to the cold nature of his power had distanced him from too many people and it appeared that the fear remained.

"Toshiro, I mean, Captain," she began but her question was never asked. The interruption was in the form of a summons to a Captain's meeting.

As soon as she realised what was occurring, she tried to excuse herself from attending.

"If I have to suffer through listening old men discuss irrelevant problems, you can endure talking to the lieutenants," Toshiro told her his arms folded. "I've told you before. It's no excuse unless it excuses both of us."

The reminder almost made her pout. Instead of doing so she shrugged slightly and frowned. When Toshiro had invented that rule it had seemed fair, except when he decided to use it. "Will you make sure you leave the meeting immediately?" The words were spoken before common sense prevailed.

"Matsumoto, do I need to remind you that I am the Captain and provide the instructions?" His firm voice was proof that he was displeased with her. "We will leave now. Captain Yamamoto despises tardiness."

There were no further protests that would be acknowledged. On occasions, nearly all the time, Captain Hitsugaya would not be persuaded against his decision. This was one of them. Taking a deep breath she nodded and then exhaled slowly. Trying to consider the matter in a positive light, there were many possibilities. Captain Kuchiki would summon Renji, rather than arrive at the lieutenant's room. Toshiro would leave the meeting as soon as possible and release her from the possibility of seeing the Captain, if he acted in accordance with his normal behaviour. Even if she were immersed in conversation with Hisagi or Kira, she might notice if Captain Kuchiki came to the door searching for Renji. Perhaps if she positioned herself as far away and out of direct line of sight of the door, neither of them would notice the other.

As they walked she ran through dozens of scenarios. She didn't want to see him. It had only been a kiss. Only a kiss, nothing important. People kissed each other all the time and it meant little. Friends kissed. Acquaintances kissed. The brief touch of lip against lip was a way of spreading disease, not a gesture of genuine affection, at least not in this case. Accidental kisses were accidents. Nothing more and certainly a great deal less.

Except Captain Kuchiki was not the sort of man who kissed people freely. From what she had observed or heard, he avoided physical contact as much as possible. Possibly noble upbringing discouraged touching or the man had a germ phobia. The other likelihood was he was inhibited or was actively repressing his emotions. The odds were that the latter was the most probable.
There were rumours about his marriage, but for once she had not been interested in listening to the gossip. Previously her interest in Captain Kuchiki had been absent, but circumstances were forcing her to change her mind.

Mentally she administered a hard slap. Nothing had changed. Accidents didn't cause change, at least not an accident like this one. They had agreed to forget it ever happened.
Why couldn't she forget? It was obvious from when they met that the Captain seemed unaffected. For all she knew he had forgotten or was so disgusted by the incident that he would never acknowledge that it had occurred.

Safe in the room she went to the left corner on the same side as the door and stood there. At first she considered facing the wall, but realised it would look strange. Standing, facing the corner might seem she was being punished like a child for a misdeed and would cause awkward questions. Instead she leant her head and back against the wall and stared at the ceiling.
"Hey, Ran. What's up? You haven't come to see us," Hisagi was standing in front of her.

Thinking quickly she smiled and replied, "My Captain has kept me busy and I began to look tired. A girl has to take care of her appearance. "

"We miss you. "

The way the words were uttered showed that Hisagi genuinely meant them. The temptation to agree to meet with her friends was great, but not yet.

"Next week, maybe," she countered, not wishing to commit herself.
"You missed something. It would have made you laugh," Hisagi said and began to describe a set of events that made her smile and eventually smile with genuine amusement.

Renji came up behind Hisagi and leant on his shoulder. "What lies are you spreading?"

"They're all about you," Ran told him. None of the stories had been about him, but why not make him worry?

Renji looked aghast and quickly tried to hide it. "There can't be any stories about me because I haven't done anything."

Ran noticed the slight air of nervousness about the lieutenant of 6th Division and wondered what was bothering him. He was glancing around the room, careful not to permit his eyes to linger too long on anyone person which gave her a hint.

"Tell us about your new love. Have you finally given up on Rukia?" She tried to infuse her voice with a teasing quality but it came out flat and nearly accusatory as she recalled who she was speaking with. She didn't want to talk with or be near Renji when his Captain came. The thought made her throat become tight which impeded the teasing tone.

A dark red flush slowly spread over Renji's face and it appeared her words had struck home. His gaze wavered, descended to her chest and then suddenly he looked at the floor. If anything his face grew even more flushed and he partially turned away.

"I have to talk to Kira," Renji said hastily and walked over to the man.

The sudden change in Hisagi's stance drew her attention and as saw as she looked at him that he seemed disturbed and was staring at her with his mouth slightly open. "Ran. Why did you say that?"
The sudden silence around them indicated that she had said something wrong, but she couldn't think what it might be. It would be a relief to them all if Renji could start thinking about women other than Rukia. It wasn't anything he said, or anything he didn't say. If anything it was that look he had in his eyes whenever Rukia's name was mentioned. This time it had been absent.

Hisagi bent and whispered in Ran's ear. "I thought you knew. You were in the human world with Renji."

Ran wrinkled her forehead. What was Hisagi talking about? The human world had been fun. She'd done lots of shopping, ignored her captain and skimped on her training. That had been a pleasant interlude before she had entered this period of working in a dedicated manner. Nostalgically she remembered sharing food with Orihime and eating ice cream. It seemed so long ago.
Renji had stayed with the depraved shopkeeper while Rukia once more lived in Ichigo's house. She hadn't noticed much. Let other people take care of their problems while she enjoyed the unexpected holiday.

"Yes. I was," she agreed wondering what disclosure he was going to make.

"He met someone," was his simple answer. Before she could press him further, her Captain appeared at the door.

"Matsumoto. Now," he said in his imperious way.

Thankful she was leaving before another captain arrived she nodded at Hisagi and made her way hastily to the door. All the time she wondered. Renji met someone in the human world. He'd met many people. Did it mean that the man had succumbed to infatuation for another female? It was about time.

Emerging from the door, she stepped beside her Captain. "I'm ready, Toshiro," she said, relief at escaping an encounter with Captain Kuchiki coursing through her body.

"Captain Hitsugaya. Lieutenant Matsumoto," a cool aloof voice spoke from her right. She knew the voice and felt the blood flow increase as her heart beat faster. It was too late to run and Toshiro would ask questions if she did.

"Captain Kuchiki," Toshiro replied with little warmth.

"Would it be possible to speak to you in your office later today?"
Looking at her Captain's face Matsumoto was not certain who was experiencing the most shock. Dread began to blossom. The only explanation she could think of for this request was the disclosure of her mistake. As her mind raced over any possible actions she could take she heard her Captain agree to the request.

"I will attend your office in an hour," Captain Kuchiki said and after summoning his senior aide, he left.

Ran was left with little choice. "Captain, there is a series of events about which you should know." The words were hard to utter.
"Tell me when we get back to the office. I don't wish to discuss important matters in the street." The words were as she expected, but it was obvious Toshiro was wondering about the request. He hardly seemed to notice her increasing agitation.

As soon as he had settled behind his desk, she took a chair and began to earnestly explain all the events that she thought he needed to know.

"I was sleeping under a tree where Captain Kuchiki found me. He woke me and I thought he was someone else. It might be that he wants to tell you that I was sleeping outside." She didn't mention the kiss. Who could believe that she kissed a man because she dreamt he was someone else? It made no logical sense.

Waiting for his answer, she fiddled with an ornament, a green porcelain dragon, she had given Toshiro.

"Leave it alone, Matsumoto or you'll break it. Why were you sleeping under a tree?"

The facts might only hurt her. "I was tired?"

"You give your answer as a question. Either you were tired or you were not. Why were you sleeping under the tree? Were you drunk?"
There was no manner in which she could disguise that the last question hurt. That night she had been sad but sober. "No. I wasn't," she replied stiffly.

Toshiro sat back in his chair and stared at her. She returned the stare, not ready to drop her gaze until he did. Her Captain blinked and coughed as he seemed to be preparing a reply.
"There is something you are not telling me. Don't try and deny it," he added as she opened her mouth, "and it is the omission that interests me more than the information I currently have. Half truths are not answers."

Confronted in this manner, she knew that any excuse she gave would be futile. Searching for something to say she stared at the ornament and fiddled with it once more, reluctant to meet her friend's gaze as she revealed the probably reason for Captain Kuchiki's request. "I kissed him," she admitted, aware that there was little chance she could disguise the main issue.

A loud exhalation showed the level of Toshiro's surprise.

Waiting for an angry reprimand she stared intently at the dragon rather than look at her Captain. The chuckle that she heard must be a mistake. Nothing about this situation was slightly amusing and it wasn't easy to make him laugh.

After another deep breath, her captain spoke again. "You kissed Captain Kuchiki? Did you mean to, or was it an accident?"

Still avoiding his eyes she bowed her head further and with a feeling of dread told him, "Accident. It was an accident. I was dreaming...." her voice tailed off as she remembered the dream. Even in his absence Gin caused her nothing but trouble, pain and embarrassment.

There was silence which stretched as she felt the familiar pain of remorse. Mistakes and accidents seemed to dog her life and while some were by her deliberate choice, the accidents were the ones which usually resulted in the larger complications. While this was an accident, it was also a mistake. Allowing sentiment to direct her actions was not sensible. If she had remained in control and not gone to the tree none of this would be happening.

"We should be able to resolve this in some way," Toshiro said, but sounded uncertain.

Ran tried hard to think of something that might appeal to the head of a noble house. "A tea ceremony?" The suggestion had some merit, but it might mean she would be alone with Captain Kuchiki and the idea was more terrifying than comforting.

'"You're anticipating that the Captain wishes to see me regarding that night. If he wished to do so, he would have spoken to me the next day. Matsumoto, not everything is about you." Toshiro said after some deliberation.

It sounded like a reprimand and her cheeks flushed with colour as she fought the urge to reply as her instincts urged. Almost as if to prevent her heated words from being uttered, a firm knock announced a visitor.

"Welcome the Captain, Matsumoto and don't leap to conclusions," her captain told her sternly. "Bring refreshments in 5 minutes."
"Can't I stay and listen to what Captain Kuchiki has to say?" Ran burst out, impatient to know the reason for the request.

"If he wishes you to learn the reason, he will request for you to stay," was the reply to which she could not formulate a contradictory answer.

Wishing Toshiro permitted her to place a mirror in his office so she could check her appearance, she ran her fingers through her hair and checked her appearance as much as she could, adjusting her neckline, straightening the bow a her waist. Taking a deep breath, she walked to the door and opened it with the due amount of deference.

"Please enter, Captain Kuchiki. My Captain awaits your presence." Trying to sound formal didn't suit her, she decided. If almost sounded like she was mocking him. Deliberately she tried not to look at him, but couldn't resist shyly glancing at him from under her lashes.

He seemed to be looking over her shoulder and ignoring her. Despite all she claimed she found it less than flattering that he wasn't looking at her. It was possible he was here on business that didn't concern her. Was she pleased or disturbed by that thought?


The title of this story is taken from the song 'Kiss and Control', by AFI.
'miai' -( Japanese) meeting between potential bride and groom to see if they like each other before the wedding is arranged.

'How Soon Is Now?' The Smiths
'What You Will' Dreaming Genies
'You Can Do Better Than Me' Death Cab for Cutie
'Dead Sleep' Jimmie's Chicken Shack
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