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, and I make no money from this work.

A Need To See

Infatuation was fine.  It was only infatuation, nothing more.  In the past, his few unspoken infatuations were fleeting, some lasting a matter of hours or days.  Infatuations passed after spending time with the person, assessing flaws and finding out possible areas of conflict.  The lieutenant had already shown many character traits he didn't like.  He required time and familiarity to breed the contempt he wished to feel for her.

He needed an excuse to spend time with her, without her Captain observing and without the woman being able to guess why he requested her company.

Wrinkling his forehead, he tried to think of a valid excuse.  Trying to obtain more information about the Arrancar had worked once but with an audience.

He had his own lieutenant.  Was it possible he might request a swap?  The only potential for that working was if all the lieutenants were swapped and that might not be universally popular.  There was no guarantee he might obtain her through a swap.

Trying to become part of the rowdy and disreputable group with which Lieutenant Matsumoto spent much of her time was discounted quickly.  He had often voiced his disapproval of the group and the woman might notice and deduce his intentions.

Lying awake in bed, staring at the ceiling he grew aggrieved that no exercise he'd performed immediately caused him to sleep.  Instead he lay, thinking of ways to spend time with a woman who was nothing like Hisana.  Not modest, quiet or retiring.

Once again, he'd been pressed to attend another miai with a female of good family and reasonable education.  His reluctance stemmed from the meetings he already attended.  None of the females met his requirements and often were too shy to talk with any ease.  This thought uppermost in his mind, he slept with dreams chasing through his head of life with his wife.  When he awoke, he was almost convinced she lay next to him but a look disabused him of this notion rapidly. 

As he ate breakfast, he looked through the new list of candidates for the role of his wife.  The pictures showed women who were reasonably attractive, very conservatively dressed in classic kimonos.  Some could write poetry, play music or even sing.  Talents, which might be useful in a wife.  None of them were trained to fight, use tactics or lead others.  As for obeying orders, he was uncertain. 

Then his lips curved in an uncertain smile.  Did Lieutenant Matsumoto follow orders?  Most Captains had heard the gossip regarding her regular insubordination, made palatable by her charm and close friendship with her Captain. 

Until now Rukia has been absent from all his miai's only the matchmaker had attended.  Her lack of involvement was not appropriate.  She should be assisting and show more interest in his future wife.  After all, they would be sharing the same house and as his sister, she was the logical choice to help as it was also her duty.

He looked over to his sister who had only nodded in acknowledgement to his morning greeting.  "Will you be able to attend a miai later this week?"

Rukia raised her eyes from the food at which she was staring, but not eating.  "Sorry, brother.  I didn't hear your question."

"Another miai is to be arranged this week.  Tonight we should look at the possible candidates and select one."

A small gasp and flicker of panic crossed his sister's face.  "I'm sorry brother, but I am on patrol in the human world every day this week.  Night patrol," she said quickly.

A small silence fell between them.  Her reply had been swift but not convincing.  Night patrol for a week was unusual and this was not a time of high Hollow activity.

He raised an eyebrow and asked, "Why night patrol?"

She bit her lip, hesitating.  "We've received some worrying reports," she said, her eyes returning to the plate in front of her. 

These reports hadn't been widely circulated.

"Captain Ukitake asked me as a personal favour if I'd patrol this week and of course I agreed," Rukia continued.  "I'm very sorry brother, but maybe next week, if the situation changes?"  The tone of her voice indicated the situation might not change. 

Even though he felt there was more than she was saying her attitude indicated it might be best to pursue the matter later.  He remembered when Hisana had worn a similar expression on her face and knew that prying further was a mistake.  Of course his instincts urged him to ask more questions until he knew the full extent of any problems she might be experiencing, yet the times he had done so with Hisana she had withdrawn and he'd later found her with a wet face and red eyes, unwilling to look at or talk to him.

"It is a pity as this matter should be settled soon."

"Byakuya, I don't... I mean..."  She began and stopped nervously glancing at him.

"What is it Rukia?  What are you trying to say?"

She bit her lip and gazed at him, her eyes appearing even larger than normal.  "I lov...," she broke off, coughed slightly and then resumed.  "Hisana was my sister and though I don't remember her very well, I loved her."

Byakuya nodded.  He knew the sisters had loved each other, but still wondered why Hisana had deserted her sister, leaving her to whatever fate awaited an unprotected girl on the streets of the Seireitei.  Of course she'd regretted it as soon as she had time to realise her mistake, but by then it was too late.  Often she'd despaired, convinced her action had caused her sister's premature death.

Rukia said nothing more and he waited, patiently at first.

"You loved your sister," he finally promoted her.

Her hands clenching each other, Rukia finally said, "I thought you loved my sister but now you are planning on marrying again."

He still had a little trouble working out what she was saying.  Was it not normal behaviour of the noble class to marry and provide an heir despite preferences?  Duty was important and he took it seriously.  "Yes.  As head of the Kuchiki clan, it is my role to provide leadership now and plan for leadership in the future by providing an heir.  Possibly even a daughter to assist in forming alliances with other noble houses."

She flushed.  "Brother, I am your sister and I am trying to understand, but if you loved your wife, why seek another?"

His lips thinned in displeasure.  Love?  What did love have to do with marriage in this circumstance?

"If you had children with Hisana, would you marry again?  What would you say to the children?  How would they feel about a woman trying to replace their mother?  Could you love another woman as much?"

Rukia was asking the questions very seriously.  The questions struck him as peculiar. 

"Hisana and I did not have children so the question is immaterial.  However, if we had I would possibly have married again to provide a mother to the children we had.  Children need a mother and a father and as they are young it is easy for them to adapt."  If he soothed her with these words maybe she might cease acting so odd.  "As for loving my wife..." he gave the matter serious thought.  "It is an arranged marriage where our wishes and needs are considered.  In time love may happen, or not, but it is of no consequence."

The look of astonishment on Rukia's face made him wonder once more if she had any grasp of the serious interest he took in his role. 

"I marry for the family, not from my own desire," he said.  "As you are my sister, it is your role to assist me in the selection of a bride."

Then the situation became even more peculiar.  Rukia burst into tears and sobbed, as quietly as she could.  All the same, tears at breakfast were not seemly.

"What is wrong?  I am asking nothing unusual."

"I can't... It's impossible.  You are asking too much of me, Byakuya," she began to rise to her feet.  "Please excuse me.  I must wash my face.  I apologise for the tears, brother, but what you ask is something I cannot do.  Not now." She bowed slightly and left the room before he was able to indicate his agreement.

Through the time he'd spent with Rukia it was evident her mind was made up.  She had refused to help him and any hope of a change of mind was slim.

What was he to do now?  Relying on the nakado was not satisfactory and asking even a senior and trusted servant did not help.  It was important he ask a woman who was knowledgeable in the matters of the heart and knew the mistakes which were possible in choosing a mate.

His mind drifted toward Lieutenant Matsumoto.  Here was the perfect opportunity to spend time with the woman in a more intimate setting.  Asking another Captain to assist put him in a position of owing a debt to an equal.  Asking another Captain to provide a subordinate was still a debt, and there might be an associated debt to the subordinate, yet on balance, he was paying the subordinate a great compliment for seeking her help.  The request was flattering, implying trust in the judgement of the other party.

"Captain Unohana is the logical choice," his conscience reminded him.

Even as he tried to deny it, he knew it was true.  "Being in debt to a Captain places me in a lesser role," he reasoned.  "While Captain Unohana is the perfect choice, is it wise to have two of the most senior officers engaged in a purely private matter."

His conscience began to point out the flaws in this argument, but he ignored it.  Quickly he considered the other female officers who might be considered and dismissed all of them quickly, finding faults in their characters, behaviour and loyalty, ignoring that some of these same problems existed with Lieutenant Matsumoto as well.

"I will write a letter to her Captain, asking him to direct her to assist me," he decided and rising he left the room to go to his office.

Finding a brush, pouring water on his ink stone and then selecting the parchment, he hesitated.  There was the chance that Captain Hitsugaya might show the letter to his lieutenant, therefore it should not be too flattering, but provide the reasons he sought her assistance.

In the beginning he must remind the Captain that while they both held similar office, he had other responsibilities which required his attention.  Being honest was the best option.

 Captain Hitsugaya,

It is the responsibility of the head of a noble house to wed and provide an heir.

The words were blunt and clear.  Only a person of low intelligence might misunderstand his intentions.

Staring at the words, he considered the methods with which any questions regarding Rukia and any nakado's might be deflected.  It was highly possible Captain Hitsugaya or Lieutenant Matsumoto may have some idea about the process.  It was beneath his dignity to explain his sister's blatant refusal to assist him in this matter and might reflect badly on the Kuchiki clan. 

Selecting a piece of scrap paper he wrote down a few thoughts.  "Rukia in on special deployment and is unable to assist me at this time."  Good, but not good enough.  "No one understands the characteristics the wife of a noble house should possess."  No.  It was crucial at this time he identified why he was asking Lieutenant Matsumoto to help.

After much effort and a number of infuriating attempts, he finally produced:

The nakados (Japanese matchmaker) who have provided candidates for my previous miai's (arranged meetings between two unmarried people) have not fully understood my requirements and my sister also appears to have some misunderstandings regarding the potential wife of the head of the Kuchiki house.  Her duties also make it impossible for her to be present at all the meetings with potential brides.  In light of this, I request Lieutenant Rangiku Matsumoto undertake the role of family friend/ guardian.  Due to her experience with unfortunate alliances, I believe she is uniquely placed to identify potential problems.

The wording might be more delicate, but she had been involved in the scandalous relationship with Ichimaru. It was common knowledge.  Her experience was valuable and gave her a unique perspective. He'd indicate how important her experience was to him.

She is considerably more experienced than many of the potential brides and I feel that would also assist in choosing the right wife for me.

Did that strike the right note?  While he was asking Captain Hitsugaya to loan him his lieutenant it needed to be made perfectly clear: she was to help him, not a potential candidate. 

While age and experience do not necessarily lead to wisdom, I am certain Lieutenant Matsumoto would be of immense assistance in identifying a woman who will satisfy my requirements.

He dared to think of satisfying his requirements with her... No, thinking that way only complicated matters.

I appeal to you as a brother officer to order your Lieutenant to assist me in this matter.  You will earn the gratitude of the Kuchiki clan.

Order was the correct word.  The woman was known to be stubborn on occasions and this might be one of them.  In their last meeting, her disinterest in him was clear, at least it appeared that way.  He prided himself on having this idea.  The infatuation was doomed.  In a few days, or weeks, any charm he discerned in her would fade.  Rangiku Matsumoto was everything he didn't want in a marriage made to create stability in a noble family. Any person with the necessary breeding and sense of decency would know this.

With a stifled sigh, he signed it.

Yours sincerely

Byakuya Kuchiki.

With great attention, he read the letter through.  It said all he needed to say.  Polite, displaying a great amount of control and stating everything very clearly.  There was nothing it was possible to misinterpret and most women should find it flattering that their opinion was sought.

He read it through one final time, made certain the ink was dry, the sealed it with his personal seal.  After it was set, he summoned a servant and sent the note to Captain Hitsugaya. 

All he needed to do was await the expected response. 

Should he ask the Lieutenant to arrive half an hour early so they could discuss his future bride without the interference of the Nakado or candiate?  It was a reasonable idea.

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

“May I read the letter now?”

Toshiro shook his head firmly.  “Once you have done an hour’s paperwork; then you can read the letter.”

She prepared to argue.  If he didn’t intend to let her read the letter, why had he mentioned it?  Was he being mean or trying to find new methods to guarantee her attention?  All the emphasis on duty and work and fulfilling her responsibilities grew old, fast.  It made her feel like she was growing old and wrinkled.  Her youth was passing as she wrote stupid reports and listened to people talking about matters, which didn’t interest her. 

"Matsumoto, there is more to life than fun.  Work steadies and centres you, preparing you for the harsher realities of life."

"Captain, there is more to life than work.  Fun makes it possible to relax and recover from work.  May I remind you I am older than you," she hated saying the words as they reinforced her negative feelings about aging.  "I grew up on the streets having to take care of myself."

He nodded sagely at her words and she knew he was preparing some comment which would destroy any further arguments.  "You've had fun, now it is time to work.  You may be older, yet age does not guarantee wisdom."

"But, Captain...," she began.

"If you don't begin working on the papers I've placed on your desk, I might decide you can work on the budgeting for this financial quarter," Toshiro said with an extremely serious expression.

For a moment, Ran wondered what he meant.  Budgets?  Financial quarters?  Did he mean he wanted her to look at the financial side of things, add things up and try to work our percentages?  No, he couldn't mean that.  No one could be that cruel!  She hated working with figures and each time she tried to add up a column of figures she was certain it was wrong.  One time she added the same column of figures three times to obtain three different results.  Toshiro had stated at that time he'd take care of the money if she took over some of the other, boring administrative tasks.  At the time, she'd been more than happy to accept his suggestion.

A small cough preceded her carefully worded reply.  "Toshiro, you really don't wish to create more work, do you?  Last time you swore I'd never be let near a column of figures again."

"You need to stop being fearful of numbers, Matsumoto.  Numbers can be your friends and help you understand the value of money and work."

Was he teasing her?  Seeing number as her friends?  How old did he think she was?  "Numbers are not my friends.  They're evil.  Hollows invented them to torture Shinigami's," was her attempt at trying to put her viewpoint across.

"No, they didn't.  Numbers help up keep track of money and items.  As you do not seem to wish to work on the budgeting will you do the paperwork without further discussion?"

Her Captain had trapped her.  She either did paperwork or added numbers together.  It wasn't fair!  Paperwork was boring and numbers hated her but she had no choice.

 Biting her lip, she nodded and went to her desk, shoulders slumped, eyes downcast as she plotted her revenge.  Maybe she'd wait until he was least expecting it and then she'd give him a great big hug.  He'd squirm and bluster while she'd feel a sense of satisfaction that he wasn't perfect in every way.

The pile of papers seemed to magically increase as she looked at it.  "Captain, would you like some tea?  Some water?  Food?  I'll cook," she offered.

He gazed at her steadily.  "Make a large pot of tea, and then commence work.  This time I will not give in and do your work for you."

It was unfair how easily he saw through her attempts to put off work.  Grumpily she made the tea and poured it.  With her steaming cup beside her hand, she reached for the first paper and began to read with little interest.  A report on recent events of those on patrol on the borders.  The person who wrote this outlined everything factually.  No impressions, no feelings, no mention of any gossip.  Simple discussion about crops and the occasional bandit attack.  Even the bandit attacks became boring at the pen of this writer.

It contained little of importance but with an air or martyrdom, she finished it and placed it in her out tray.  The in tray was still dauntingly full.  Rifling through the papers to find the largest document, a wad of papers seemed to belong together.  If she removed that and read it, maybe her in tray would be less scary.

Strangely enough, it was a report from 6th Division concerning possible training methods to increase the ability of the zanpakuto.  It didn't focus on bankai specifically, but ways of adapting the shika to develop more attacks by combining the power of the zanpakuto with kido.  Despite her dislike of paperwork, Ran read on enthralled.  This raised possibilities that had never seemed achievable.  Looking at the end, she noticed the author was Captain Kuchiki.

Why had he undertaken this research?  He'd achieved Bankai and had even developed a variation of it to make it more effective.  It seemed an altruistic gesture, which seemed out of character for the man she thought she knew.  They way it was written made it accessible to anyone who spent the time to read it and rather than providing step by step instructions, it gave general outlines or hints of different ways of accessing the power or considering the situation from another angle.  Was this the same man who treated her with disdain on nearly every occasion they'd met since the accidental kiss?

Ignoring any thoughts of the man she read and made notes, many notes so immersed she didn't hear her Captain talking to her.  Only the feeling of a touch on her shoulder made her raise her eyes.

"Matsumoto.  I have been trying to talk to you for the last 5 minutes.  Were you asleep?"

Flushing guiltily, for what reason she wasn't sure, she put down the manuscript and replied, "I was reading through the paperwork and making notes, Toshiro.  You ask me to make notes when something is important."

Her Captain eyed her with speculation.  "Are you feeling unwell, Lieutenant?  You haven't even hummed, yawned or tried to get me to take over."

She bit her lip and finally said, "This is interesting.  It's making me think..."

Toshiro raised an eyebrow and she stopped at the look.  "There is no need to look so disbelieving.  I can think and reason.  It's a pity all paperwork isn't this interesting."

"What is it about?"

Before she could formulate what she wanted to say she began speaking, almost repeating some of the more interesting ideas word for word.  It was rare she was so impressed with another's ideas.

Toshiro listened for a while and then held up his hand.  "Very interesting, Matsumoto.  I believe I will read the manuscript in its entirety, keeping your notes for reference.  Is it possible to estimate for whom it will be useful?"

"Everyone," she gushed, then halted.  "Captain, it may soon be included in the curriculum of the Academy, especially for those people who seem to possess normal talents so they may be enhanced."

He glanced at the manuscript on the table with a frown of consideration.  "You've nearly finished it.  I suggest you finish your reading and then we will break for lunch."

He was suggesting a lunch break?  Only a few minutes had passed since she started reading.  Looking at the clock it was clear she had been immersed in the subject and it was indeed nearing the noon meal.  Instead of suggesting they break for lunch immediately, she nodded and was quickly immersed in the manuscript in front of her.  It seemed so easy to read and in a short time she closed the manuscript and sat, staring without focusing while her mind tried to absorb all the new ideas.  "Captain, may I make a copy of this?"

Startled, Toshiro looked at her.  "Certainly."

"Thank you, Toshiro," she said.  "We should have lunch now."

A small smile curved his lips.  "I am pleased you have fulfilled your side of the bargain.  Are you going to read the letter before or after lunch?"

In her interest in the document, she had completely forgotten about the letter.  "Now, please."

On receiving the letter, she felt a certain reluctance to open it.  With Toshiro watching, she was unsure if she'd be able to make her reaction.  Taking a deep breath, she opened and it and noticed, thankfully, it was short.

Captain Hitsugaya,

It is the responsibility of the head of a noble house to wed and provide an heir.

She felt her breath escape and her cheeks turned red.  He wasn't...  He couldn't be... Her eyes devoured the next line.

The nakados (Japanese matchmaker) who have provided candidates for my previous miai's (arranged meetings between two unmarried people) have not fully understood my requirements and my sister also appears to have some misunderstandings regarding the potential wife of the head of the Kuchiki house.  Her duties also make it impossible for her to be present at all the meetings with potential brides.  In light of this, I request Lieutenant Rangiku Matsumoto undertake the role of family friend/ guardian.  Due to her experience with unfortunate alliances, I believe she is uniquely placed to identify potential problems.

Her skin flamed and her eyes burned.  "Experience with unfortunate alliances!", she thought.  "Gin was a Captain of the Seireitei!  How dare he! So what if the nakado's are having trouble.  The problem is no woman will meet his insanely high standards, unless she is a goddess or a female clone of him."

She is considerably more experienced than many of the potential brides and I feel that would also assist in choosing the right wife for me.

Was the kettle boiling as she was certain she heard a loud hissing noise? Raising her head briefly she realised she was making the noise, angered by the "considerably more experienced". Next, he would imply she was older and wiser or some such rot.

While age and experience do not necessarily lead to wisdom, I am certain Lieutenant Matsumoto would be of immense assistance in identifying a woman who will satisfy my requirements.

He had!  He implied she was old and not wise.  The insufferable egotism of the man!  Did he sit down and think hard about how he could provide the most insulting observations possible?  Is this the reason Toshiro has made that biting comment earlier about age not meaning wisdom?  Men were horrible people who didn't know how to have fun, court women or write letters asking for assistance. 

No.  Her mind was set.  She wasn't going to help Captain Kuchiki in this or anything else!  And Toshiro could make his own tea next time!

Despite herself, she scanned the last few lines.

I appeal to you as a brother officer to order your Lieutenant to assist me in this matter.  You will earn the gratitude of the Kuchiki clan.

Yours sincerely

Byakuya Kuchiki.

Before she said anything she read the letter again and the second read through didn't diminish any of the anger she felt or soften the words she read.  She closed her eyes for a few moments, but the letter was burnt on her mind and she could remember the words without viewing them.

Swallowing her rage as best she could, she said, "Why me?"

Toshiro looked at her blankly.  "Why you, what?  He explains in his letter..."

"You mean he insults me in every way possible.  Toshiro, how would you respond if someone blatantly said you had failed relationships, lots of experience and age, but not necessarily wisdom?"  Her voice rose as she spoke and she didn't try to stop it.

Her Captain's eyes widened and he read the letter again, carefully.  Then she thought he smiled.

"It's not funny, Captain!" she said before he could laugh.

Obviously trying to control his face he nodded, possibly in agreement.  "You reminded me only a short time you are older than me, but you are correct.  The Captain has been less than diplomatic in his request."

"Then why me?  Wouldn't Captain Unohana be a more appropriate choice?  She certainly has experience, as she is one of the original Captains of the Seireitei.  None can doubt her wisdom or intelligence," she said, hating the fact she sounded bitter.

Toshiro pursed his lips and said hesitantly, "She is a Captain.  Maybe he asked her already and she declined."

Rangiku racked her brain.  If he wanted a female viewpoint then Captain Unohana was obviously the best candidate.  She was certain he wouldn't approach the Captain of the Second Division due to her observation of their cool relationship, or the third seat of the Thirteenth Division.  Nanao would be a perfect duenna, but not much fun and possibly might select someone she thought suitable who wasn't.  Momo was not well enough to feed herself, let alone assist in this.  Nemu might not even understand the concept.  Knowing the rather difficult relationship between Yachiru and Byakuya and given her age, it was unlikely she might be of assistance.

Which left her, unless he requested assistance from Yoruichi, but she knew their rivalry would interfere in any joint project. 

Even so, why choose her? He hardly knew her and from the contents of the letter, he knew of her, her reputation had certainly not escaped his notice.  The carefully constructed words contained insults, intentional or not.  His words made it plain he did not have much respect for her unless the recent discussion he had had with both her and her Captain has made him notice her.  Surely he had banished the memory of the kiss from his mind.

Why didn't he hire a nakado who did listen?  Wasn't that the logical step?  Why did he want to involve her?  Not that she'd inquired but the ones used by a noble house must be from the nobility and thus in contact with the best candidates.  Surely they had experience in meeting very specific guidelines in a future partner.  From the little she knew of the noble Captain she was certain his demands might be very specific, even down to skin colour, height, weight and fingernail length.

Then another thought struck her.  It was clear he was asking her to make it plain he had no romantic interest in her and wished to disabuse her of any notion that they would ever become closer.  The carefully inserted insults might be there to signal his lack of interest, otherwise why include them? 

How did it make her feel?

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A.N.

Happy Birthday NKDK.  Once more I managed to put aside the time to write this chapter in time.  I hope that you enjoy it.

The title of this chapter is taken from the lyrics to Kiss and Control by AFI.

Soundtrack

'Fear of Dying' Jack off Jill

'Mistake in Time' Waikiki

'These Words' Natasha Bedingfield

'Time Limit' Utada Hiraku

'Kiss and Control' AFI

 



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