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.

Tite Kubo owns Bleach and the characters depicted therein. The characters in this story are not mine. I make no money from this work.

Controlled Meeting

Despite the lingering concern he experienced, he slept dreamlessly that night. His body, tired from the exercise, relaxed, and the slight ache of his muscles gave some distraction from his thoughts. He could not even recall one image from his sleep and that pleased him. The encounter with the woman had meant nothing. He could forget her and return to his normal duties.
The next day he returned to the hot springs and was gladdened that he did not accidentally meet the woman again. He didn't even question why he wished to use the hot springs rather than his private bathing facilities. The hot springs had revitalised him and he may as well use what was freely available. Or perhaps if he saw the woman again, it would prove to him that the momentary insanity that had overcome him had permanently departed. The waters soothed him but again made him feel the need for exercise.

Once more he returned home and trained fiercely to build on the work he had done the previous day. No other reason seemed feasible. Once more, shaking and sweating, he cleansed his body and slept dreamlessly, or so he assured himself each morning. No dreams.

Days passed. He did not visit the hot springs every day, but he trained and forced physical improvements, gratified that his privacy was assured and no one could observe this aberration in his behaviour. There were excuses that could be made, but he was the head of the Kuchiki clan and had no need to explain his actions to others. If he wished to work toward physical and mental improvements, that was his decision.

Rarely did his thoughts return to the unfortunate incident near the river, or so he assured himself. Unlike Hisana, the woman had touched his life only briefly. Not even touched his life. She had touched him physically and that was all the importance he permitted it to have. Now she could fade back into the shadows among the other nonentities who populated the Seireitei, with whom he had little contact and even less in common. How could a woman like Rangiku Matsumoto begin to comprehend the duties required of a member of a noble house? Not that she would ever be called upon to do so.

Sitting at his desk, he was considering how to persuade his lieutenant to be less annoying than usual when the man noticed his gaze. "Sir?"

"Abarai," he began and faltered.

"Sir?"

"My tea cup is empty," was his final stab at ending the conversation.

The small frown that Abarai wore showed that the request was unexpected. As the man made, and poured tea, Byakuya pondered the problem. There was an urge to talk to someone, even this man, but what could they discuss? For a time he wished to be relieved of the need to watch every action, every word carefully, but this man was not the person with whom it would be wise to permit such freedoms.

He wanted to talk to an equal, or a near equal on the same terms. Immediately he dismissed the female population of the Seireitei. A conversation with any of them might be misconstrued and above all, appearances must be maintained and conventions upheld. Aside from that, a woman wouldn't understand the difficulties he was facing.

That meant a male and a Captain. Captain Soifon's lieutenant might be male and a member of minor nobility, but he was of a lower rank and did not appear to be a person with whom anyone would wish to discuss work, let alone anything else.
Quickly he called to mind the rest of the Captains. With much care he considered their personalities and strengths. None of the acting captains were included as they might not grasp the gravity of their position. Captain Yamamoto was also excluded as there might be danger in exposing any form of insecurity to the man. Other Captains were rejected for their inability to understand the importance of nobility or other reasons that seemed pertinent. After careful deliberation there were only two that seemed like possibilities. Captain Ukitake, but as he was Rukia's Captain that was an obvious basis for culling him from the two. Rukia would ask questions that might be intrusive or lay doubts as the reason for his actions. It was beneath his dignity to explain himself to his younger sister. In addition, the man might involve Captain Shunsui, who was notoriously indiscreet.

That left Captain Hitsugaya. The young man appeared as isolated as Byakuya, holding his honour tightly and observing all the formalities that were required of the senior officers. That he was that woman's Captain didn't matter. He had to face difficult decisions and remain immune from the events that swirled around him. Considering the matter further, it was a good opportunity to observe how he managed to keep the woman under control in order to provide some insight into how he might be able to further influence Abarai into conforming with his expectations, in preference to his own desires.

While the idea appealed, he faced one factor. What excuse could he make? It would be considered aberrant behaviour if he simply asked to converse to another captain unless it directly related to the functioning of the Seireitei.

He'd extensively questioned both Rukia and Abarai about their experiences with this new threat, but he had received very little information from the others who'd participated in the mission to the human world. Past experience indicated that the two mentally unbalanced creatures from the 11th Division may not be prepared to answer his questions unless forced to do so. However, the young captain was known for his powers of observation and analysis and he'd fought the Arrancar and won. The information he held might mean the difference between being prepared or disgrace.

The realisation that he might be possibly manufacturing a situation in order that he could once
more see the 10th Division lieutenant was speedily dismissed. It was essential that he speak with the 10th Division Captain and his lieutenant because they both had actual experience in fighting the Arrancar. The information he'd gathered until now was not complete or satisfactory, partly due to Abarai's inability to explain anything, either thoroughly or clearly. As for his sister, she seemed changed, saddened perhaps by the abduction of her human friend. He'd questioned them both extensively and they had assured him they had withheld nothing. In fact it had almost seemed like Rukia had flinched slightly when he'd asked about her living arrangements in the human world when he'd last questioned her about the Arrancar.

A reluctance to delve into his sister's emotional state was only to be expected, given their history. He expected that information to be provided freely and it was far better than trying to force a reluctant partial confession regarding any matters that concerned her, and possibly him. It seemed she was over her earlier infatuation with his lieutenant, for which he gave sincere thanks, but if she had formed an emotional attachment to another person, be it Shinigami or human, he didn't wish to know. In due course he might begin arranging miai's on her behalf to find a suitable husband from among the nobility. A new alliance could only improve his position and the strength of his clan.

Easily overlooking the fact that he was avoiding a similar alliance, he began to consider further options. He was curious about the Arrancar and their methods of fighting. For a complete answer he might need to include the two thugs from 11th Division. The friendship that existed between the two men and Abarai might assist in the questioning, but he might have to clear it with their captain.

A small tinge of red leapt to his cheekbones. His last few interactions with that man had not been pleasant. They had nothing in common and he considered the brutish behaviour and predilection to solve everything with violence to be an example of the man's limited intelligence.

However, if he was prepared to sacrifice his preference to avoid the woman by speaking to both her and her captain about the Arrancar, he could put aside his prejudice to speak to Captain Kenpachi Zaraki also. That meeting would be brief.
Another thought struck him. He could have an initial meeting with the Captain of the 10th Division and request that he invite the two men from 11th Division for a subsequent meeting where he could question each of them, and it would be easier to clarify their stories.

This made perfect sense. It made him wonder why he hadn't thought of it previously. If he collated all the information and worked with the other Captain, they might develop a plausible strategy for dealing with this new threat. There should be more consistency in sharing information and they could jointly present their findings at a Captain's meeting if Captain Yamamoto could be persuaded of the need.

It would also be a method of providing distance from the regular meetings with potential brides. It was difficult to make a decision. He was certain he'd wanted a bride, a woman who would be decorative but also distant, when he returned to his estate after the encounter with the 10th Division lieutenant. A wife to listen to him and provide him the release he often denied himself. It had seemed so clear, but now the women he'd so far met through these arrangements all lacked an essential element. None of them had stretched their lips much when they smiled, or the smile had seemed forced or false. In retrospect their voices had seemed too high and gouged at his ears with their inane babble or pedestrian observations. Even though each had claimed an ability to sing, he doubted that the tunes they chose would please him.

Again he stopped his thoughts from veering further into the wrong path. The women he'd met were suitable otherwise they would not be presented for his inspection. Occasionally he'd felt a spark of interest yet further conversation quickly extinguished any growing attraction. His Hisana had been easy to talk to, with a wide range of interests and knowledge. Her sharp intelligence had both challenged and sustained him.

The women he'd met had agreed with him too readily. None had dared to challenge any of the opinions he'd decided to voice, instead giving soft and sweet agreement. No woman who smiled sweetly and agreed with deference to any shallow utterance was likely to retain his interest, no matter how beautiful and supposedly talented she was. Talent did not substitute for courage or intelligence. Beauty was not enough to mask a nature without compassion or substance.
He'd made a decision. He would seek to speak with Captain Hitsugaya the next time there was a Captain's meeting. It was time the two youngest male Captains formed an alliance against the older experienced ones who seemed reluctant to share their power or knowledge with others.

*******************************************************************************

The boy's expression had amused him. It reminded him of his own when he was younger and trying to hide the insecurity he felt. During the brief conversation he didn't glance at the woman and the arrangements were quickly made for him to attend Captain Hitsugaya in his office. As soon as he could he summoned Abarai and returned to his own Division.

Sitting at his desk, he considered taking his lieutenant with him to the meeting, but decided that at this time he would prefer to discuss the Arrancar and Espada while he observed the woman free from the added irritation of Abarai.
Thinking carefully he assessed the situation and tried to determine the best way of making the meeting provide the answers required. He would try to observe the 10th Division lieutenant to discover if he had any real interest in her, aside from the obvious and if she seemed to notice him at all. In this matter he was the person who knew the situation and had the best chance of finding some of the answers to the questions that he'd tried to ignore since that night at the river.

Before he left, he quickly glanced at the picture he had of Hisana. The image of her smile pained him as it was lost to him except through this picture. Carefully wrapping it in white silk embroidered with rose petals it was returned to his drawer. Feeling a slight lack of confidence he glanced into the mirror to see if his face showed any of the foreign emotions that trickled through his veins. The slight crease in his forehead and tension around his eyes disturbed him and he once more assumed the carefully bland, bordering on severe expression that he habitually wore. Delicately he touched the hair claps, checking they were secure and then deftly rearranged his scarf.

Using his shun-po, the walk to 10th Division was brisk. Once more he checked his hair clasps and scarf and ran his fingers over his forehead to check the crease had not returned. He must look as normal. This was a simple meeting between two captains interested in identifying the weaknesses in a common enemy. Nothing more.

The lieutenant opened the door. While he had expected she would be the one given that duty, her appearance shook him. The colour in her cheeks was heightened and her eyes were bright with either anger, excitement of some other emotion he couldn't guess. Swiftly he looked over her shoulder, attempting to give the aura of indifference.

"Please enter, Captain Kuchiki. My Captain awaits your presence." Her warm voice almost made him stare at her mouth, but resolutely he kept his gaze away from her face.

"Captain Toshiro. I appreciate the time. May we commence on this immediately?" Purposefully he walked past the woman, not replying to her words or presence.

He heard the woman catch her breath behind him. She must imagine he was there to demand an apology or explanation for her actions and possibly a reassurance it would not be repeated. Recalling his demand for the meeting, he knew he hadn't made the reason clear. It had been partly intentional as providing the reason wallowed an opportunity for the request to be declined. The hours spent working on his fighting skills in an attempt to tire his body and mind enough so he could sleep without thinking of the woman had led to this.

And he refused to acknowledge the dreams.

"Please sit down, Captain Kuchiki. Matsumoto, bring some refreshments and don't dawdle," the tone of voice with which the Captain addressed his lieutenant contained a mixture of both affection and impatience.
The woman bowed slightly and left the room.

"Why did you ask for the meeting?" The light but gruff voice of the boy was interested and demanding.
This once he would reply without the condescension he naturally felt for the child. "You have fought and defeated these new enemies. In the interests of preparing for future battles it seems appropriate the information be collated and shared."

Captain Hitsugaya sat back in his chair, appearing surprisingly imposing despite his stature. His bottom lip protruded slightly, possibly indicating that he wasn't convinced at the explanation. "It was my understanding Twelfth Division were handling that. We were monitored the whole time we were fighting in the human world and questioned intensely on our return. Why do you want to do your own study?"

He had overlooked the possibility that the boy might mention this. It irritated him that he had failed to recognise the intelligence of the person sitting opposite, but having already commenced he didn't wish to show his discomfiture at the question.

Thinking quickly, he let his mouth turn down at the corners in displeasure. "The Twelfth Division Captain has proven reluctant in the past to share his observations and information which may benefit others."

While partially true, he knew that in this case General Yamamoto would not allow the knowledge to be hidden.
A small nod indicated that the young man had experienced problems in dealing with Twelfth Division which wasn't unusual. Byakuya almost breathed a sigh of relief, but knew to do so would betray him.

"I know that we were questioned separately, but if we all talked together we might remember more," the boy said reflectively.

"At first I wish to talk to you about your observations." He swallowed as he prepared to do something he rarely had need to. "I've been informed of your ability to assess situations quickly." The smooth talk slipped off his tongue with little effort.

The boy flushed and then cleared his throat. "If I didn't know you don't indulge in flattery, I'd think you were trying to manipulate me."

All the rumours were true. The young captain was sharp and not gullible. He'd identified the trick, but was questioning the motive.

A soft rustle of cloth and gentle steps indicated the return of the lieutenant who bore a tray containing a simple white teapot, three cups and a plate of biscuits. Placing the tray on the table, she requested if either of them required tea and they both assented.

It was only natural to permit his eyes to linger on the woman as she poured the tea with deft movements, her sleeves occasionally sliding up her arm to display the creamy skin under the black fabric. Not one glance did she spare for him, her concentration totally focused on the task and presentation of the tea.

None of the women who had served him tea during the miai had moved with the mixture of strength and grace, but few of them had given the task the concentration it deserved. Most had spent too much time flicking him interested glances from under their eyelashes. Some of the potential brides had interested him in the manner that the glance made them appear both modest and interested at the same time, while other should have been discouraged from making the attempt. One or two appeared to have eye defects when they made the attempt, for example being crossed or wall eyed, and this immediately caused him to dismiss them from further consideration . The worst example was one young lady who reminded him of a cow in season and he quickly looked away from the unfortunate sight.

Lieutenant Matsumoto didn't make the attempt, and the delicate curve of her cheek was only enhanced by her lowered lashes.

She did not remind him of Hisana.

The boy stared at him, his face impassive and then he asked, "My lieutenant also has experience with the Espada and Arrancar. Do you wish for her to remain and offer her observations?"

While he appreciated the direct question, he paused to think of which answer would suit the request for the meeting. Appearing too eager to have the woman in the room might indicate his interest. Dismissing her, which he didn't wish to do, might make him appear to have fabricated the basis for his request to visit the Captain.

If Lieutenant Matsumoto was not included in the conversation, he would lose the opportunity to observe her and make a mockery of the carefully constructed scheme. Both of the people in the office were looking at him, even without checking it was so, he knew it to be true. From the expression on the younger Captain's face he guessed his arrival had interrupted a confession about the events by the river. Carefully he would avoid any reference to that incident, though it was the reason he was there.

Choosing his words carefully, he made his face impassive as he replied, his tone cool. "If you will vouch for her powers of observation and if the lieutenant can add anything of value, then her input might be of some merit."

A small, quickly stifled gasp showed that the woman was not pleased with the comment. He had purposely been as insulting as possible to find out if she would protest as he expected. Maintaining his observation of the captain he saw the man look sternly at his lieutenant before turning a glacial stare on Byakuya. "My lieutenant is a fighter and regularly makes very clever observations, otherwise she would be swiftly replaced."

A darting look showed a small happy smile on the woman's face as she nodded approvingly at her Captain. The friendship there was closer than he anticipated.

"Sit down Matsumoto. I hate it when you hover over me," Captain Hitsugaya snapped.

"Yes, my Captain." A smooth response followed by her quick acceptance of his demand. She carefully moved her chair to one side of the table in order to fully take part in the conversation, rather than be seen taking sides.
This was where Byakuya grew uncertain. How long would the questions last and were they adequate?

"You encountered a new type of Hollow?"

The boy rolled his eyes and then realised what he was doing and quickly adopted a serious expression. "More than one type. Arrancar and Espada."

Byakuya nodded. Trying to cover his gaffe he hastily said, "The Espada are elite Arrancar and both Espada and Arrancar forced their way through to the human world. Why that time?"

"They wanted Orihime Inoue. I'm sure that was the reason. She wouldn't go with them willingly, I know she wouldn't," Rangiku said passionately.

"Matsumoto, recollect where you are," was the speedy admonishment.

"You know her too, Captain. She wouldn't go unless she was forced to do so," she protested before falling silent under a glare similar to the one that had been earlier directed at Byakuya.

"Is there anything special about the girl?" His sister had mentioned the girl, but he'd mostly ignored the comments as it hadn't seemed relevant. Now he tried to remember the few things she'd said. Something about her healing abilities. She'd healed a gate keeper when Kourosaki had invaded the Seireitei and seemed to exercise some enchantment over the Captain of the 11th Division.

"She's very young, sweet and innocent. Her healing powers are amazing," Lieutenant Matsumoto tried to sound detached, but failed.

"Can she fight?"

Captain Hitsugaya stared into the distance and then shook his head. "Not really. Her attacks are weak. Her shields can withstand some attacks."

"We don't know what she can do. Your sister might, as she trained with her," the woman spoke directly to him with due deference, but refused to look at his face.

Intrigued, he wondered whether she was remembering the kiss. If this was so, there might be the chance she wasn't completely indifferent to him as she'd appeared each time he'd seen her.

The discussion continued with Captain Hitsugaya providing further information and valuable insights which his lieutenant noted on paper, after a little objection. Her calligraphy was practical, not pretty, yet she was efficient in noting the major points. While it wasn't easy, he concentrated on the information, only occasionally letting his eyes wander. Once or twice he thought the young captain noticed, yet he said nothing. Was he mistaken or was there a small glint of amusement in the boy's eyes?

After an hour, he knew it was wise to end the meeting.

"I will arrange for all of those who went to the human world to meet," he offered.

"Why not invite all the Captains and lieutenants?" The woman's voice was quiet and the suggestion was good but he felt a certain reluctance to accept it.

"Not all, Matsumoto. Only the ones who are prepared to listen and learn."

The smile which formed on her face made him look away quickly. The meeting was a mistake. Instead of providing him with assurance that he was imagining the emotions he wanted to deny, it was confirming his worst suspicions.

He was infatuated with Rangiku Matsumoto.
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A.N.
Offering excuses is an exercise in futility, so I won't.

Soundtrack
'So Cold' Breaking Benjamin
'Definition' from Naqoyqasti Phillip Glass
'It's No Game (Part One)' David Bowie
'Strangers' Portishead

Review. Reviews sometimes amuse.

Thanks to P.ours, Catarotta, Hae, Toast and taixi. There will be further chapters.



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