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, except for the original characters.  I make no money from the publication of this work.

Falling Debutantes


The walk to Captain Kuchiki's estate had not calmed her anger.   "I wanted to relax tonight, maybe eat some chocolate and drink sweet tea and instead I'm visiting a man who probably enjoys writing reports.  Why am I doing this?  Because he is too useless to choose his own wife," she thought as anger made her walk faster.  "He could have chosen anyone else but he had to choose me to help.  What did I ever do to make him notice me? ...Aside from kiss him accidentally?"


She abolished all thoughts of emotion or feelings from her mind.  The kiss happened, it was in the past and it possibly was the worst accident she'd ever had because it drew the joyless Captain's attention to her. 


"This might go on for months!  Months of my life wasted spending time with Captain, oh so superior, remember I'm a noble, Kuchiki.  And Rukia won't be there to make it at least bearable.  Why does Toshiro have to be so generous with my free time?"


Looking up she noticed she'd arrived at her destination and sighed deeply.  Shaking her hair back and running her hands over it to make certain is was smooth, she approached the gate, hoping no one would respond to her approach.  While she knew it was a futile hope, she still wished the gate keeper might be busy doing something else, but her wish was not to be fulfilled.  Even before she could indicate her presence the gate keeper had seen her and opened the gate with a low bow.  She bowed in return and wondered why he hadn't challenged her instead of simply letting her in.  In passing through the gate a woman in a slate grey kimono approached, stepping delicately in her geta due to the constraints of her clothing.  She did not smile and Ran noticed her quick glance which seemed to assess her and find her lacking. 


She bowed, not as deeply as the door keeper and said in a high but quiet voice, "Lieutenant Matsumoto, please follow me.  I will take you to my lord who is awaiting your arrival."


The tone indicated nothing and returning the bow, Ran followed the woman through the well tended garden, over an abbreviated moon bridge which gave her a glimpse of the many large carp in the water below and past a raked stone bed with a large rock in the middle.  The gravel around the rock was raked into circular patterns, pleasing to the eye.  They approached the main entrance to the house and as requested, Ran removed her shoes and entered the house with a sinking feeling in her stomach.  "This is so formal.  Will I be expected to kneel on tatami matting all the time I'm here, 'helping' the Captain?", she wondered.  "I can, but it is not the most comfortable way to sit and I've worked hard today.  I want to relax and take it easy."


The woman sank to her knees, pushed open a sliding door, bowed and said, "Lieutenant Matsumoto has arrived, My Lord Captain."


"Show her in, Kame and please make certain no one disturbs us until I give the usual signal," Captain Kuchiki's voice ordered with less bitterness than normal.


Until then, Rangiku hadn't really thought of that trait being present in the Captain's voice.  He usually sounded condescending, arrogant, commanding and stern but now, on reflection, she thought there was often the tinge of bitterness in his words.  It was a peculiar realisation and one she decided to think about later.  She'd need all her wits to handle the situation of choosing a bride.


Entering the room she was relieved to see chairs and a table.  At least she wouldn't be expected to kneel on the floor.  The table was neatly covered with a variety of folders, all closed, all labelled with female names.  Looking at the number she took a deep breath.  From the number it appeared this might take longer than she'd thought, unless some of these had already been rejected?  Maybe he'd already rejected most of these potential brides as unworthy to marry into the Kuchiki clan?


"Thank you for your prompt attendance, Lieutenant.  Please sit down.  May I offer you some tea?"


He sounded almost human.  She sat near the table and said, her eyes still on the folders, "Thank you Captain.  Tea would be very welcome."


She heard a whisk being used in a porcelain bowl and turning her head she noticed that the Captain was whisking what could only be green tea.  Wonder and astonishment raced though her as she had thought he would demand a servant perform the task, if it happened. "I didn't expect a tea ceremony," she thought while trying to recall the etiquette required.  After the bowl of tea was placed before her and her thanks spoken, she turned the cup the required way and sipped the tea. He too took a cup and drank some with his usual impassive expression. 


The room was mostly silent.  A small flush of colour flooded her face as she questioned whether she should say anything or wait for him to speak first.  Any delay meant more time spent with this man and the thought didn't appeal to her. 


His voice broke the silence.  "It was difficult but I persuaded the nakodo to provide me with iegara concerning the most eligible females from the noble families who are eager to make an alliance with the Kuchiki clan.  The ones considered too old or too young have already been removed unless the alliance would provide my clan with an advantage which cannot be overlooked."


"Great," she though.  "So there might be some children.  I don't want to talk to children about marriage. It's wrong."


"Of course, if a child is chosen we will remain engaged and she will stay with her family until it is decided by medical practitioners and legal experts that she is both physically and mentally ready for marriage," the Captain added.


A small sprig of relief blossomed within her.  "At least he isn't a paedophile, or I hope he isn't."  Instead of replying she nodded.


"My staff has done additional research into the potential brides as is normal.  While their research indicates some of the candidates do not match all of my requirements, it seems wise to have a person who is not connected with the family to review the information, which is why I have requested your assistance."


Rangiku repressed a sigh at his words.  She was simply a person not connected to the family who might be good at matching requirements.  So many other people could have fulfilled the role, but she was stuck here, wasting her time and energy on searching for a bride for a man who would probably treat her with the level of politeness required but would remain aloof and condescending. 


Deciding she may as well try to progress things, she asked, "What are your requirements?"  Already she was composing a mental list of the things he might require.  Beautiful, obedient, respectful, humble, of very good family, a knowledge of all the protocols etc.  All the things she wasn't, nor aspired to be.  It was fortunate she had no interest in the man, otherwise the list might be heartbreaking.


She was not surprised when she was handed one page of closely written characters, but upon reading the first requirement she felt her lips open in astonishment.


"1. Skilled in martial arts or be able to defend herself."


Not be beautiful or docile but must have some fighting skills.  It seemed an odd request until she vaguely recalled it was usually a requirement of Samurai's who might not be always at home to protect their women.  Hoping her surprise didn't show she continued reading.


"2. Have an understanding of financial management, keep correct records and identify mistakes in calculations.


3.  Ability to read and write.


4. Run a noble household smoothly while also having the ability to cook and/or supervise cooks.


5. Possess courage, strength and fortitude and be able to make wise decisions without delay.


6. Ability to amuse self when alone.


7. Conversation should be varied and not confined to household matters, clothing or gossip.


8. Not be prone to anger, arrogance or vanity.


9. To be calm when all others are not.


10. Possess no bad habits."

That was the list.  She turned the page over to check there were no further conditions and then read it again.  The list astonished her.  There was nothing about beauty or noble heritage, but then as the list of potential brides had been selected by a nakodo, she would have excluded any who did not meet that criteria.  Yet his requirement that his wife be able to make wise decisions without delay meant she may not consult with him before making any decision which was astonishing.  Ran had viewed the Captain as a man who needed to be in control of every situation and to even think that he would permit his wife to make decision which might affect him made her reconsider her understanding. 


Looking again at the second requirement she almost smiled.  Did he want a wife or an accountant?  In this household there would be one servant whose task was handling the finances, or maybe the Captain performed that function himself.  Or did he believe that his servants were falsifying accounts.  The last three requirements definitely excluded her from the position of the Captain's wife, not that she even wanted the role.  She had bad habits, was often the rowdiest person and may possess just a little vanity.  Well, why not?  She had a good figure and flowing hair.  So what if she showed off her attributes a little more than most would consider seemly.  She was her own woman and didn't need to answer to any man about her appearance and habits.


She had once considered a man's needs and wants above her own and look where that placed her now.  Alone with a confused sense of longing, betrayal and overwhelming sadness for her young and innocent self who had been used and set aside when other prospects were available. She kept trying to avoid the word 'gullible' when she thought about her relationship with Gin, but she knew she had been.  It was hard not to trust someone she had known so long and shared so much with, but all the time he hadn't cared about or trusted her.  Biting her lip she tried to push the thoughts to the back of her mind as she looked at the list again. 


"Do you understand the requirements, Lieutenant?" A voice asked.


Ran blinked and looked at the Captain.  "Do any women exist who can meet all these requirements?" she blurted out and then felt the blood rise in her face as she realised what she'd said.


The Captain frowned at her, as she expected.  Of course he frowned at her.  She had questioned his precious list of requirements for his future wife.


"While creating the list, I considered very carefully the situation and needs of my position.  While I am the head of a noble house I am also a Captain of the Gotei 13.  These two roles need different skills and my wife will need to be independent and sensible in order to run my estate efficiently when I am unavailable," the cold tone indicated the Captain did not appreciate her question.


Instead of feeling chastened by his words, Ran felt a tinge of anger.  "You want a martial arts accountant who displays the qualities of a Buddha and knows how to perform all the household tasks while amusing you."


Was she imagining things or did she see the corner of his mouth twitch slightly.  Ignoring this possible sign of anger she continued, "Not all women are taught martial arts or accounting.  There is no mention of beauty or the ability to sing, draw or play a musical instrument."


The frown which had vanished for a moment returned.  "I am seeking a wife, not a geisha."


The comment made her pause.  Choosing her words carefully, for her, she said, "Do the files report on whether the possible bride meets the requirements?"


"It is not possible to research everything.  I had hoped you might provide an insight after you attend a few maia's.  The last 5 of the list are difficult to determine until I meet the candidate."


"Not even then," Ran muttered under her breath.  How could any of those qualities be discerned in a short meeting?


There was a short pause and Ran wondered if he'd heard her comment.


"I want this to progress swiftly.  If possible the maia's should commence next week and I would like to choose a bride within a month, two at the most."


She couldn't help herself.  "I was told a month!  Two months?"


The frown deepened.  "Lieutenant, may I remind you of your responsibilities to your Captain?"


"He said a few weeks or a month.  This is also not strictly part of my duties. I have a life aside from work, Captain Kuchiki.  "


"Not much of one that I can observe," he replied.  "Drinking and flirting with any male who looks at you."


Had he really said that?  He might be a Captain but she was here helping him and he had no right to be so rude to her!  She didn't pry into his personal life and had no wish to know any of the details.  Why would she be interested in what he did at any time?  He was a man who didn't know how to enjoy himself.  Then another thought struck her.  "Are you stating that I am flirting with you, Captain Kuchiki?"  She tried to sound flirtatious but her voice was too harsh with the throb of her anger.


For a moment his eyes met hers.  Was she mistaken in the slight flinch she thought she saw as he looked at her?  Did he find her so distasteful to look at?  "No.  For some reason you do not flirt with me.  The opposite in truth."


"Then your statement is not completely correct.  You are a male who has looked at me and yet I am not flirting with you."  Even as she said the words she knew it was a mistake, but it was too late.


"It seemed to me you were suitably conscious of the difference in our positions and refrained from your normal behaviour," the Captain responded with his normal level of animation. 


The man was cold.  Rather than continue the fruitless discussion she asked, "It might be best if we began reading the files rather than waste any further time on small talk.  I have the list of desirable traits and will endeavour to find candidates who meet the requirements."


"I would ask you keep the list confidential.  I have not shown this list to anyone else."


His statement confused her.  He had been working with a nakodo and his family servants on finding a bride but hadn't shared any of the qualities he wanted in a wife?  How was that possible? 


Almost as if he read her thoughts he commented, "My staff have researched any training the candidates have undertaken and questioned the servants extensively regarding the demeanour, abilities and character traits of each person.  Ran barely prevented her eyes from rolling as she normally would have when presented with this type of information.


"I'll read the files.  Have you any you would like me to check first?"


Captain Kuchiki again looked at her directly and then his gaze diverted from her face to the wall behind her as if he found looking at her too unpleasant.  He directed his gaze to the desk and sorted through a few folders which he then handed to her.  "These are the ones I consider to be the best alliances, but have not yet had the time to determine if they meet my criteria."


Stifling a sigh, Ran took the files from him.  They were the thickest ones, of course, and judging from the covers, not full of fun.  Very few of the files she handled were fun.  Flicking open the first one she saw what was obviously a studio portrait of a young woman in a very pretty kimono, posing against tree covered with cherry blossom.  Her hair, clothes, expression were everything she thought the Captain would expect in a bride.  Then she remembered the comment about geisha's.  Quickly turning over the photo, she began reading some of the details.  Her name was Sakura and Ran had to stop her impulse to smile.  Named Sakura, of course she would be pictured in front of cherry blossoms.  She was aged approximately 20 years and came from a family whose nobility nearly equalled the Captains'.  She was educated, so it was easy to assume she could read and write.  According to some of the people interviewed she assisted in keeping her family's financial accounts in order, which met two of the criteria.


From the information contained in most reports, Sakura was sweet, pleasant, remembered to provide the necessary gifts on the right occasions and had skill in making fudge.  Ran wondered about that.  Fudge seemed a strange item in which to gain cooking skills.  It was sweet, creamy and unhealthy and while knowing that suddenly Ran wanted a piece of rich, soft, cloying fudge.  She needed something to help her keep her mind on all the details about Sakura's daily, tedious life. Why not be skilled in making fudge?  It didn't hurt anyone, except any diabetics or hyper-glycaemic sufferers and they shouldn't be eating fudge anyway.  It proved she could cook, at least one thing, and knowing how to make fudge might lead to making other things, like salted caramel sauce, chocolate torte, linzer cake... Ran found she was licking her lips at the thought of sweet treats.


"Are you hungry, Lieutenant?" The voice broke into her thoughts, destroying her mental images of ice cream slathered with gooey sauce, crepes filled with berries and smothered in cream, parfaits of jelly, custard, fruit, meringue, cream and chocolate and she blinked sadly as these visions were replaced with the reality of the office. 


Gathering her thoughts and pushing away one further tempting mental image of a single, perfect chocolate truffle she answered, "I am hungry, Captain," she almost added a few words about having difficulty concentrating on the words in front of her as she fantasized about all that was sweet but quickly realised it was too much information and not something she wished to share with this man.  He appeared to be able to resist the temptation of all that was chocolate and she didn't understand how and had no wish to learn.


Was she imagining things, or did the Captain's lips quirk at the ends?  She couldn't be sure as he rose and went to the door.  She didn't see what he did but he returned and sat.  "We should clear the papers off the desk and place them neatly to one side.  We do not want the staff to have an insight into out deliberations concerning their future mistress.  You know how servants gossip."


Pressing her lips firmly together in an effort to prevent her natural response that she knew nothing about servants or gossip, she simply gathered her folders, making sure she kept the one on Sakura on top as it seemed she might indeed be a potential bride, she made the table ready.


Food quickly arrived.  It seemed only seconds before the table held two trays which contained many dishes both hot and cold, designed to be eaten with minimum of fuss or mess.  Wishing to rapidly complete her obligation she said, "I will continue to work through the files while we eat.  As you wish to meet your future wife within a week we do not have much time."

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


Byakuya was disappointed to hear those words.  He'd hoped they would converse over their meal.  Perhaps discuss their findings and compare the candidates but the woman sitting opposite him had once more opened the file and was reading, getting closer to the end.


Nothing had worked out as he expected, but whenever it concerned this woman nothing did.  She did not react the way he was accustomed to people responding to him. Her gracious and unfazed response to his offer of tea and her quiet acceptance of him performing the tea ceremony had almost made him widen his eyes slightly, but he'd resisted the impulse. 


Instead of the boisterous, opinionated and seductive woman he'd expected, Ran had been quiet, polite and very hard to read.  The only real evidence of animation was her reaction to his rather modest set of requirements and the strange expression which had settled on her face before he'd asked if she was hungry.  The way she'd licked her lips had led his imagination places it shouldn't go.  Not for this woman.  She was unsuitable.  It was one of the main reasons he'd chosen her because he was undeniably attracted to her for all the wrong reasons.  He thought seeing her in his house with the files, pictures and histories of his potential brides around him he would be able to dispel her allure and instead settle on a woman who had the birth and breeding he needed to provide the required heir and relax with her into a companionable married life.


Instead he'd looked at the obviously posed photo of 'Jun' (a good name for a wife) and then glanced quickly back at Ran.  Even with a frown on her forehead as she chewed a piece of eel shashimi, she seemed to show more elegance than the woman pictured pouring tea in a gracious and accepted posed, the sleeves of her kimono sliding back to reveal pale and slender arms.  Ran wouldn't know how to do the tea ceremony or the number of kimonos she would be required to wear for each occasion.  How could she decide which kimono was appropriate to the season, time of day, and people she would meet?  The accessories she would need?  The hairstyle?  All he'd seen her wear was her uniform, though Rukia had shown him some pictures of Ran in the human world where her clothing had been if anything more revealing and short.


He turned his eyes back to Jun's folder and looked through the notes made by his staff.  Nothing there appealed to him.  Of course she could read and write, had the ability to draw, dance, sing, play a variety of musical instruments and was also talented in the art of flower arranging.  A picture of one of her arrangements was included and his glance quickly revealed it held to all the elements required.  It didn't inspire him.


Nothing inspired him about Jun.  He put her file aside.  One potential culled from the number yet to review.  His lips thinned as he thought of his comment to Ran about requiring a wife, not a geisha.  He hoped if she glanced through the file she would see that he was applying his standards to the females he was selecting.


"Captain, I think this candidate meets many of your requirements," Ran voice interrupted his thoughts.  He looked at her and noticed she was holding out a file with one hand while her chopsticks gripped a piece of fried lotus root.  "Aren't you eating, Captain?" she enquired.


Not really noticing what he was doing he automatically took the file from her with and with his other hand reached for his chopsticks while looking at her.  His moment of lack of concentration made him knock over his bowl of miso soup.  The lid slid off and in order to prevent the spill he dropped the file and from the sound it made he knew all the contents had fallen out and spread over the floor but his hands quickly righted the soup before more than a few drops escaped from the bowl.  A flush spread from his neck up his face at the strange feelings he was experiencing.  Why was he feeling embarrassed by a few simple motions?  Sure he'd dropped a file and spilt a little soup but he was subject to the same gravity as other people.  He thought he heard a snort and looking across he saw Ran had her hand placed across her mouth and her eyes sparkled.


"You are human after all," he heard her say.

============================================================================================================================================


A.N.


This chapter was nearly going to be late.  Sickness and family issues again interfere but with luck, good management and a talented hit man, all should improve given time.  (Only kidding about the hitman, maybe).


Once again this is for my dear friend who still seems to like this couple and even continues to read Bleach.  Happy Birthday KNKD.  Hope it is special for you.


Soundtrack


'My Secrets' Yellow Taxi


'Tea Party' Kerli


'Sugar is Sweeter' CJ Bolland


'Secret Longing' Moi Dix Mois


'Kiss and Control' (of course) A.F.I.


Review.  Reviews sometimes amuse.


Kame: Tortoise/Long Life


Sakura: Cherry Blossom


Jun: Obedience


 Iegra: Pedigree

 



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