Kiss and Control

BY : Orionshadow
Category: Bleach > Het - Male/Female
Dragon prints: 8539
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.

Turn You To Nothing

Tite Kubo owns Bleach and the characters depicted therein. The characters in this story are not mine, except for the original characters. I make no money from the publication of this work.

Ran had been considering this possibility without actively thinking about it. What would she find unimportant? Perhaps the aspects of a person which did not denote character, but were mainly granted through birth, education and expectations, rather than life experience. She expanded on the question: “Her family, education, interests, talents or something else?"

The Captain nodded at her question and appeared to spend some time thinking about it. Why did the man need so much time to answer a question about what he found essential in a wife? She caught herself and wondered if she was being unfair.

As she considered the matter further she wondered what attributes would she find attractive in a husband? She paused, astounded that the question had even (or never) crossed her mind. Marriage had always been something that might happen eventually, perhaps, probably not, maybe, maybe not, to Gin. After that ended in disaster alcohol seemed much more dependable than a man. It might make you betray yourself, but it never lied about you, to you, cheated on you or failed you (mostly). She had been humiliated by alcohol, but that was of her own doing.

A quick shake of her head to dismiss her thoughts only made the situation seem more absurd. Her thoughts were not under her control, possibly due to the alcohol or something else. If she could extract herself from this situation, return to her normal routine of work and whatever, maybe the few tentative forays into introspection would cease. Without thinking about it she raised the cup to her lips and sipped.

Still the Captain had not answered. He appeared to be thinking. Involuntarily she raised an eyebrow, wondering what his answer would be. He had pondered the question for some time.

"A noble family would provide a good education for their children, so it needs to be family and interests," he finally answered with a slight nod of his head, as if to give emphasis to his pronouncement.

The answer did not really surprise her. Family was paramount, of course. Carefully casting her eyes down, she nodded, looking at the folder she held. What interests did this man have? He was obsessed by honour and family. What other interests could be considered appropriate for a man like the Captain? It was unlikely it would be an interest they could share.

The thought made her raise her eyes up to his as she fought to control her expression. The man sipped his sake calmly after breaking her gaze.

"It will be hard to judge if your interests match as I do not know what they are," was her rather bland comment. "I assume your interests range wider than those of a nobleman or a Captain of the Seireitei." Wickedly she added, "You may have a passionate interest in stamp collecting, and from what I have read, none of the candidates share that hobby." Stamp collecting may attract some people, but she could find no interest in looking at sticky pieces of paper with rather dull pictures on them. He liked dull things: duty, family, responsibility and paperwork. Stamps would probably delight him.

The man coughed. Was he laughing or choking? It didn’t matter. She continued, "Your column in the Seireitei Communication demonstrates your passion for etiquette. From observation I am aware you uphold the rank and dignity of both nobles and the Seireitei and I am aware you have many skills in combat, kido, Shunpo etc. Aside from these interests and your need to control the actions and thoughts of both Rukia and Renji, I know little." For a moment she wondered if she had overstepped the boundaries by her last comments but pressed her lips together tightly. If he didn’t like what she said, she didn’t care.

Sake! Sake might help. It wouldn’t help her curb her tongue but might make her care less about what he thought. The momentary and fragile courage from the drink encouraged her to continue. "Don't deny it, Captain. It would be a lie and we need to be truthful through this process."

She waited for him to provide her with a cold reproof, but a quick glance showed he had closed his eyes. Was he tired or trying to think of a suitable punishment for a commoner who showed a marked disrespect for his position? Did she care? The food was there, sake was available, both were good and might provide some comfort if she consumed them. The Captains presence certainly did not comfort her.

She ate slowly, with enjoyment, sipping the sake tasting the pickles and noticed the man was also eating.

He had ignored her comments and seemed to be calm. Was he ignoring her?

This was frustrating! He was not answering her questions and she was stuck here until they could make some progress with the selection of his wife. The progress of the previous night had been encouraging and made her hope that this experience would soon be over but now nothing was progressing, except her need for more sake.

Thinking longingly of her bed and time away from this tiring process she spoke very directly. "So, Captain, I'll ask again. I know the sashimi is divine and distracting but we still need to establish your interests in order to match them with the potential bride. I believe we can include food as one of the interests.” She smiled, trying to balance the potential harshness of words with her expression.

Fortunately he responded quickly and in order to record his words she picked up a brush and recorded his response. "Calligraphy, reading the classics, many forms of martial combat, painting, cherry blossoms, night time walks, gardens and other past times. The normal interests of a noble and a soldier."

As she took notes, she noticed he was watching. On hearing one of his interest was calligraphy she faltered briefly. Mentally chiding herself for her reaction, she completed the brief list, attempting to keep her features unmoved. Why would she care how he judged her writing? The man was a prude with boring interests. Who but a pretentious noble would read classics? They were as dull as paperwork but on reflection, she preferred paperwork. At least it had an ending without boring moral directions.

The few ‘classics’ she had attempted to read were usually about the idle rich doing whatever it was idle rich people did, or so she imagined as she did skip a few words, paragraphs or pages. After that tedious ‘suddenly nothing happened’ the author would write at length, drawing conclusions which no person who had to exist without the protections of wealth and position would see as normal. Who cared if the flowers in bloom were the wrong colour, or someone had not turned the cup the correct way before they sipped their tea? Did it matter?

These thoughts raced quickly through her mind, but she was careful to keep her face as impassive as possible.

Then she realised her opportunity. These were the interests she has seen listed in a few of the files. It cut out several candidates whose interests were quite different. To make certain she was not removing some candidates who might prove to have similar interests she listed other interests, a few she knew he would view as beneath his notice, purely to see his reaction.

"Music? Dancing? Gardening? Gourmet food? Eating at cafes? Ikebana? Origami? Bonsai? Taiko Drums? Pottery? Pachinko? Fishing?"

She gauged his reaction carefully while attempting to not look at him directly. It wasn’t easy, but some of the fleeting expressions which crossed his face almost brought a grim smile to her lips. He reacted mostly strongly to the mention of drums and Pachinko, as she suspected he might. His eyebrows had almost reached his hairline when she made the suggestion.

The man was a noble snob or a snobby noble.

Or a prat.

He sighed with impatience as he gave his reply, the content of which did not surprise her, "I have some interest in music and bonsai but the rest do not appeal to me."

This made it easy. Noting his preferences, for reference and proof of his requests, she selected 3 folders, which she presented to his with as much courtesy as she could muster while placing the rest with those which had been removed from the potential brides the previous night.

Without realising it, she sighed with relief and a less than diplomatic smile could not be suppressed. This was the answer. One of these women met his requirements. His status meant he could meet the three candidates and select the one who pleased him most. She was free!

"Ask your Nakodo to arrange a meeting with these three candidates. From everything we have discussed these are the most suitable. The best families, good education, similar interests and you selected them as you find them appealing." To celebrate her release she drank the remainder of her sake and immediately rose to her feet. If she left now, she might be able to visit the small wine shop near her quarters and have a few quiet drinks without fear of committing a faux pas. Or insulting the Captain by preferring the drink in her hand to his company.

The man rose to his feet, as she expected but before he could comment she quickly said, "I believe I have completed my commission. You have three potential brides who meet your criteria. It is not necessary to invite me to the ceremony or celebration and I hope you find every happiness in your marriage."

With joy, relief, gratitude and some tiny feeling of regret she hugged Kantaro, whispering her intention to visit her the next night. She then turned, bowed, as custom required and checked her path to the door was clear. As swiftly and quietly as she could she left the compound.

The air outside seemed clear and crisp, a delight to breathe. There was no feeling of regret that she would not be forced to return to spend an uncomfortable time with a humourless man who lived a narrow life.

She walked briskly to the wine shop and selected a few bottles to take home with her, had a brief conversation with the owner and then made her way home enjoying the sense of freedom. At the moment solitude was her desire. No maundering talk of the problems of love from friends, no selection of suitable brides, no railing against fate, no gossip. Just quiet and the alcohol dulling her senses while she thought about nothing. That would be the most enjoyable part of the evening. Not needing to think, to concentrate on matters that did not concern or interest her.

Checking the street quickly, hoping no one was waiting, she could find no shadows or sign of reiatsu. It seemed that on this occasion she was fortunate. No one appeared to be lurking, awaiting her return.

She entered her home, placing her purchases in accustomed area and selecting one small bottle and a clean cup. Just a little more sake to help her relax and sleep. Tonight she would be moderate, sleep and rejoice that the unwanted task was over. She opened the bottle, poured a cup and made herself comfortable. The sip of sake pleased her.

Reflecting on how quickly she had drawn the lengthy sessions to an end made her lips twitch into a smile. Then a slight stab of remorse made the smile disappear. One poor woman would be forced into marriage with the Captain. On the other hand, they had been brought up to fulfil the role of dutiful wife to a noble husband and Captain Kuchiki was quite pretty. His looks might help distract his bride from his cold nature and boring interests, which they might even share.

It might even be possible that the candidates had not listed their true interests, but rather the interests they thought a future husband might find attractive. Some of the candidates had claimed the ability to cook, not that there would be much need to do so if they married the Captain. She mentally reviewed the ones who had been excluded and congratulated herself for protecting them. Unfortunately one of three remaining would probably be chosen. At least all of them were over 20 years old and their education had included all the suitable talents and knowledge to run a noble house. For one moment she regretted including one candidate as from the file it seemed she was quite timid and fearful of upsetting anyone for any reason. Ran sincerely hoped she would be excluded from the choice when the meeting was arranged.

The main issue for any bride would be to keep busy and avoid the inevitable boredom of being married to a man who had no sense of humour, kindness and even seemed to lack the ability to relax. Ran tried to imagine the life and shuddered. Not for her. Thank goodness no one had expectations that she should marry well and maintain a lifestyle to which she did not aspire.

Picking up the bottle to pour another cup she noticed it was empty. How had that happened?

Catching sight of a clock it appeared she had been lost in thought for over an hour. All her plans to be alone, in the quiet and not thinking about anything had been thwarted. Why had her mind continued to think about the man, the marriage and the future life of the bride? It should not concern anyone except the people involved.

Quickly running her hands through her hair, she spent a few minutes massaging her scalp and decided it was time to sleep. It would be an end to the distracting thoughts that were plaguing her for no reason. She did not care who Captain Kuchiki married, when he would marry or if he would marry. He was irrelevant to her. His marriage was irrelevant, his issues would no longer affect her. It was finished and she was free!

Sleep was the answer. She didn’t have to think when she was asleep.


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Unsure what to do next, Byakuya indicated they should sit down. Kataro hesitated but eventually sat on one of the chairs near the bar, rather than on the floor. Following her lead, only because he wished to find out what she meant, he sat, making certain he was facing her in order to observe any reactions.

“What do you want to talk about? I’d be less helpful than Ran if you want to ask about who to marry. She seems to have solved most of your issues,” she paused as if waiting for an answer.

What should he say? It had been a momentary mistake to ask her to stay but her comments about Lieutenant Matsumoto had intrigued him. He’d heard others dismiss the Lieutenant as of no importance, but her Captain seemed to respect her opinion, while he complained occasionally about her laziness, but most Captains complained about their subordinates for a multitude of reasons. He had even heard some lieutenants complaining about the laziness of their Captains, which shocked him. Such insubordination should not be tolerated, let alone voiced in public! The he realised Kataro was waiting for him to answer while he lets his thoughts contemplate irrelevant matters.

“Your comments about the Lieutenant caught my attention,” he stated slowly, quickly substituting words for the ones his mind suggested. “Intrigued” was a better word than attention as the former might indicate more interest in Kataro’s words and her thoughts regarding the Lieutenant.

In response the woman bit her lip in contemplation. “Why?” she finally asked. “You are planning to marry some noble woman to please your family and it surprised me to discover you had asked Ran to help. She’s clever, though she hides it well, but her one major relationship was a disaster. Since then she avoids romantic entanglements. Not the sort of person I’d ask about love or marriage. Perhaps Captain Kyoraku might be better to ask regarding romance, but marriage? I cannot think of anyone in the Gotei 13 I’d recommend.”

Byayuka found he was nodding in agreement to her last sentence, but quickly stopped. Mind racing, he tried to think of a reasonable, or acceptable, explanation for his interest. The question made his shoulders tense and a niggling feeling of irrational concern invaded his thoughts. “She is not what she appears,” he said and felt a rush of relief and overwhelming disgust for the statement. Why was he explaining himself to a bar owner?

To his surprise Kataro nodded as she responded, “Is anyone?”

A slight tinge of colour rose up his neck. Was that aimed at him? Did she know how he felt about the lieutenant? How did he feel about her? The recent interaction had surprised and confused him as she had adeptly ended their meetings with a quick, sensible and easy solution. He’d felt both angry and sad, not that he would admit that to anyone.

He contemplated Kataro and tried to guess her motives. It was either an astute reply, or a generalised comment. Probably the former. Why was he surprised? People who tended bars heard all manner of things: secrets, gossip, contemplation, and drunken ramblings.

Trying to direct the conversation back to his agenda he answered, “Possibly, possibly not, but we are speaking of the lieutenant.”

“You are asking about Ran. I am querying why you asked for her assistance,” was the simple reply.

He didn’t like the reply and chose the reason he had provided to Ran. “My sister was unable to assist me,” he began and halted. Why did he have to explain anything? The reasons Rukia had given did not really indicate she was unable but more that she didn’t want to be involved. He would think about that later. It was not important now.

“You’ve been widowed a long time. I know it is not my place, but you invited this conversation. Why are you looking at marriage now?”

His stomach twisted a little. There were many reasons he could provide: the recent battles, the loss of some of their captains, the continuation of the Kuchuki house, loneliness (not that he would ever admit that), the urging of his family (which had been persistent for years), seeking a meaning in his existence or boredom. He paused at the last thought. He wasn’t bored! How could he be bored with the constant threat of invasion, the problems with Hollows, the restructuring of the Gotei 13?

“Moonlight on the river,” he heard his voice say.

The silence in the room was profound. He had trouble believing he had uttered those words aloud. The moonlight had shimmered on the river the night the Lieutenant had kissed him. A emotional romantic response that had no basis in rational thought or noble life. Moonlight did not deter duty. Nor did the reflection in any substance. It must be the beer, the sake. Alcohol was to blame! This had been a miscalculation but he had to discover a way to deflect any further questions.

The woman’s brow had wrinkled at the four words. “Is that an unfinished haiku? It does not strike me as a reason that the head of the noble Kuchiki family would seek to marry an unknown woman.”

She let the statement hang in the air as he attempted to find a rational explanation. Then he saw behind her a painting which had hung on the wall for many years. It was so familiar that he ignored it most of the time, but now it seemed to provide some explanation.

“The painting behind you was created by my great grandfather,” he began and was relieved when she turned to look at it.

“It is a common theme,” Kataro replied. “A rustic and romantic scene of a river with the moon rising high.”

“My esteemed relative painted it on the occasion of his marriage which formed an alliance between two noble houses. He hoped for so much but the marriage was a success only in the alliance and the progeny. The painting, in my family, came to mean that we must do what we can to advance our family, wishing for the best result, while acknowledging there can be disappointment as a result of duty.” Composing his face to reflect a cool interest he wondered if she would delve further.

“Interesting,” she said as she turned to face him once more. “I hoped it might be a revelation of some interest in Ran that was not simply to your advantage. She is a bitter romantic. One that loved so fully and was almost destroyed by the rejection and betrayal of that love. Now she prefers to drink, laugh and not really feel anything rather than love again.”

‘A bitter romantic’ was a strange phrase to describe someone. He knew about the tawdry relationship with Gin; didn’t every person in the Seireiti know? She had not been discreet, but neither had Gin. There were a number of rumours about how Gin had dismissed her from his life, but they were only rumours. Only Gin and Ran knew what happened and it seemed likely Ran would not discuss the situation with him. Maybe she had taken the bar owner into her confidence. “I understand that Former Captain Ichimaru ended the relationship,” was his simple reply.

Kataro looked him squarely in the face, her expression conveying nothing. “Maybe.”

Maybe? What was the woman saying? That the lieutenant had ended the relationship but remained bitter as he did not try to change her mind? “The lieutenant ended the relationship?” he had trouble keeping the incredulity out of his voice.

There was a brief silence. “Does it matter who ended it? It ended, Ran was hurt, Gin didn’t seem affected and people gossiped. Lots of suggestions, lots other questions but I never asked Ran. She would cry and drink and cry again and drink some more in the first month. Her health began to suffer. I would have refused to serve her but she would have managed to find alcohol somewhere else. So I changed things.”

This was making little sense. The bar keeper didn’t know what had happened and didn’t ask but she changed things? What could she change? Not reality. The romance had ended and Ran was bitter as a result. She admitted Ran was still bitter. He tried hard to resist the temptation but he couldn’t. “What did you change?”

She smiled slightly. “Nothing much.”

He felt an edge of anger bite through him.

“You seem very interested in Ran. I wonder why that is?”

Before he could stop himself he said quietly, his voice harsher than he meant, “It is not the Lieutenant that interests me. I was simply curious about you stating you changed things. The relationship was still sundered and your friend was upset. There seems no change.”

Kataro lips twisted briefly into what he thought might be a smile. It was only a flicker around the mouth so he could not be certain. “If a Shinigami cannot change the situation, you find it hard a bar keeper can?”

The increasing surge of anger fought with his need for control. Stilling the anger and remaining calm was almost second nature to him, but even so it took an effort. Why was he reacting so strongly to this conversation about inconsequential matters? He had his choice to make between potential brides and the lieutenant was an irrelevance. “I am sure you can perform miracles in your own way,” was his abrupt answer and he was pleased with the steadiness of his voice.

Kataro rose to her feet and began to pack a box she placed on top of the table, her face showing a careful, neutral expression. Without looking at him she said, “Ran is very dear to me both as a friend and a woman. I am still confused by your interest in ...” she broke off, cleared her throat and continued before he could protest, “I mean your request for her to assist you in choosing your bride. I will finish packing and leave. You can send the money in the morning. It seems unlikely our paths will cross again, so I wish you and your bride felicitations and the hope that the alliance will be more than one of families.” As she said the words she finished packing, picked up the box and walked toward the door.

For some reason a servant opened the door swiftly, permitting her to leave. He noticed it was the man he’d entrusted with the evening’s arrangements. Had he been listening at the door? He was a trusted man, but could he have been overcome with curiosity?

His eyes drooped and with the room empty he felt most of the tension and anger seep out of his mind. It was time to sleep. Tomorrow might help him find clarity and without alcohol in his blood stream the rational part of his mind mind function more effectively.

Going to his room, leaving his staff to do their job of tidying the rooms he used, he quickly made himself ready for bed. Just before he fell asleep a brief memory of the ‘accidental’ kiss crossed his mind and a brief yearning resonated through him before he was claimed by sleep.

A.N.

Delays, delays and more delays. Sorry. Happy belated birthday/Christmas/Australia Day KK.


 

Soundtrack

Kiss and Control (of course)

“Moonlight on the River” by Mac DeMarco

“Nippon zenkoku sakenomi ondo” by ET-KING

“Regret is a River” by Mourning Dove

“Skinny Love” by Birdy


 


 



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