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.


Watch the Stars

He pulled himself up, with as much elegance as he could summon, affronted by her observation,  "Did you have any doubt?  While I may be fallible, I attempt to make as few mistakes as possible."  The feeling of embarrassment at being seen spilling tea, by someone he was trying to impress and assess caused his tone to be harsher than he had planned and he hoped she wouldn't be too offended.


His heart sank at his thoughts.  How could it be possible he was trying to impress this woman even though she was unsuitable for him in all ways. Why was he concerned he might offend her with a normal reaction?  If it were possible for them to have a purely physical liaison, even though he did not approve of those type of relationships, especially as he was preparing to take a bride, would he take the opportunity? He shook his head trying to remove the last convoluted thought.  Normally his thought processes were logical, flowing easily from one idea to the next in the correct order and he didn't experience the twists and turns he'd just experienced. Once more he shook his head a little, trying to restore the workings of his mind to their usual strict paths and was relieved when the strange thoughts vanished.  Trying to remain calm and appear disinterested, he looked at her coolly, assessing her as if she were a potential bride.  It was important his original observations were upheld and reinforced.  It wasn't due to his non-existent (if only it were so) attraction to the woman.


Even a first glance indicated she was wrong.  Her hair was long, flowing, curling around her shoulders and face.  It was not neatly piled and pinned on her head in an intricate hairstyle with the requisite decorative touch.  No respectable noble or geisha (who adhered strictly to a code of dress) would dare permit her hair to be so disorderly as the exterior might mirror the disorder within.  In addition, the Lieutenants' hair was the wrong colour.  Not a simple gleaming black but a strawberry blond that shimmered, seeming to capture the light and reflect it.  Purely on one feature, her hair, she was unsuitable.  He couldn't recall any time when her hair had been confined, plaited, put in a bun, held in a net or even pulled into a ponytail.  It was a symbol of the woman.  Untamed, unconfined, loose and free.


These thoughts both calmed and disconcerted him.  Wasn't the idea of her assistance to prove once and for all how incompatible they were and how she would be a poor choice in mate?  She had commented on a simple mistake he'd made, proving her inability to politely ignore the incident.  None of the women he was considering for his wife would have made a comment that might be interpreted as insulting.  Most would possibly assume the blame and apologise as if they had spilt the tea or been the direct cause of the incident.


Even though he was staring at her with anger she continued to smile at him, which both pleased and infuriated him. Her next words did not help. "Perfection is best left to the Gods.  Mere mortals may be embarrassed too easily, no matter how few mistakes we make."


"I aspire to perfection," he said bluntly, while resenting his need to reply. 


Her smile diminished and the lids of her eyes lowered slightly.  "Captain, I apologise for being outspoken but I see no point in even pretending I never make a mistake," her voice was soft but all the same, the words did not sound like an apology.


"Your mistakes are well known to everyone," he said, his temper roused further.


It seemed his words annoyed her as her eyes flashed slightly and she commenced rising to her feet.  "It seems pointless for a person with my many faults to attempt to help a man, intent on perfection, in finding a wife." Her mouth was firmly fixed and her posture and attitude indicated she was set on leaving.


If she left now, the experiment would be a failure.  The unlooked for and irrepressible thoughts might not leave as easily as she was proposing to do.  He wanted her company a little longer to strengthen his resolve.  Yearning was not a part of his life.  It could not be permitted.


"Please stay," he said, without even thinking what he was saying. 


His words made her halt and she turned to look at him with a clear but hard stare.  Involuntarily he admired the way her hair swept over her shoulders and wondered what it would feel like to touch it, run his fingers through the vibrant softness.  He found he had risen to his feet and was holding out a hand toward her which he quickly dropped.  "Deny the attraction,' he told his racing heart.  "Physical is not mental."


Her stare didn't falter.  "My Captain ordered me to assist you, Captain Kuchiki.  I do not know much about 'polite' society and have little interest in the nobility. Nor does it concern me whom you choose to marry.  As I appear to have insulted you, it seems wise for me to leave.  A noble woman would assist you in a manner you might find preferable.  She would be able to judge amount of deference you require."


He noticed the mocking emphasis on the words 'polite' and 'deference'.


What could he say? Choices ran through his mind but none of them seemed to suit.  Some were apologetic, which did not suit his dignity; others were reminders of duty.  Finally he settled on, "I need help.  This is an important decision for me and as it is a lifetime commitment, a mistake now is not easily solved.  As an intelligent, adult woman you can provide valuable insights."


The word intelligent had been a quick substitution for 'experienced' as he had noticed her reaction to the word when it was used previously.  Experience could count as intelligence in some circumstances, but for now he needed to salvage the situation and his pride.


Incredibly, Rangiku's gaze softened slightly, "For once your words are not an insult.  I agree to stay for one hour, on two conditions."


It shocked him she felt she had the right to place conditions, but he nodded in order to hear what they were.  He could reject them if they were ridiculous or onerous.


"The first condition is for you to look at the photos of each candidate and decide if their appearance appeals to you," she said, and she gazed at him as if eager to see his reaction.


For a moment he couldn't believe her suggestion.  Simply look at the pictures to see if he found the candidate appealing?  "People cannot be judged solely on their appearance.  It is a very superficial way to make a decision and I am not superficial." 


She smiled at him, apparently not upset by his reaction.  "No, you are not superficial, but you are a man and men are attracted by appearance.  If a candidate does not appeal to you while looking at her image, it is unlikely you will find her attractive in person."


While her words had the ring of truth he did not like the suggestion he would be impressed by beauty above all the other qualities he had outline. 


"You want an heir from the marriage," Rangiku continued quietly.  "If you are attracted to your wife, obtaining the heir will be easier."  She coughed slightly and looked away, avoiding his gaze, her lips slightly pressed together.


"What is the other condition?" he asked, not willing to agree to the first condition, but curious to know the other requirement in order for her to remain.


Looking at him, she appeared to hesitate.  "The other condition is we remove anyone under the age of 17," and she continued after the quick and disdainful raise of his eyebrow.  "Your requirements are very particular and it is unlikely a young girl would meet them."


He compressed his lips, annoyed at her conditions.  If he agreed, one of the most advantageous unions might be removed.  The marriage was meant to provide both a wife and a powerful alliance and her conditions might interfere with that.


"A girl under the age of 17 would find it difficult to assume the responsibilities of a noble household,' she said as if by way of explanation.  "Her upbringing would assist her but you have admitted to a desire for perfection.  Young girls need time to play and learn."  Her tone sounded wistful.


"Captain Zaraki's Lieutenant..." he began and then stopped realising that argument was spurious.  While she held a distinguished command at such a young age, he still recalled a number of incidents where she had  acted as young as she appeared and the many pranks she had played on him.


Rangiku smiled at him.  "Lieutenant Yachiru is a handful.  She is young and wilful with an indulgent father figure and she helps in proving my condition.  Is it possible some of these candidates may have indulgent parents?"


Marrying someone like Yachiru would be impossible to tolerate.  With a show of reluctance he nodded his agreement.  "I will exclude any potential candidate under the age of 17.  In fact I insist we do that before I look at any of the portraits of the candidates provided.  Why look at an image if I will reject the potential bride later due to her age?"


The smile which greeted his words brightened the woman's face and despite his vows to the contrary he found he enjoyed her approval and the way the smile provided a different aspect of her face, one he found appealing, to his discomfort.  This was a more genuine smile than the polite ones she had bestowed on him until now.


Acting immediately on their agreement they sorted through the folders, removing those who were disqualified by age.  Once all the folders were removed he was shocked to realise how many there had been.


"That is over half the candidates removed.  It may make our task easier," Ranjiku said as she stacked the removed folders near the door.  "Now you have to fulfil my first condition."


The woman was taking charge and he was certain he didn't like it.  Women should be quiet and not dictate what he should do, but if he raised any objection, he was sure she would leave.


She began opening each folder and then selected two picture's from each and placing them on top of the file, securing them with a paperclip.  One was a full length portrait and the other was of the candidates face.


"Men are attracted by both face and form," she said quietly as she was working.  "If her face is pleasing but her posture is imperfect, you will be unlikely to choose her.  Of course the pictures are carefully posed...."  her voice trailed off as she looked at the picture she was holding.  "I do not believe this candidate will suit."


He wondered at her decision but responded, "Leave the file in.  It is important to consider each candidate fairly."


Her eyelids flickered slightly and she nodded placing the folder on top of the others and handed them to him.  "Please start looking at these while I do the others," was her request and once more she pressed her lips together, possibly in disapproval.


As his eyes fell on the first picture he understood her reaction to the candidate.  The likeness wasn't complete but it was difficult to look at the face and not be reminded of Hisana.  While he had almost grown accustomed to Rukia's resemblance to her sister, marrying this candidate might be a constant, difficult reminder.  The female in the picture had long hair and her nose was a different shape, but the set of the eyes and the shape of the chin reminded him of Hisana.


"I agree, Lieutenant.  It is not possible to include this file in those I am considering," something caught in his throat and he coughed slightly.  Resolutely he placed the folder on the table after removing the disquieting pictures and placing them back inside the folder, refusing to look at the Lieutenant.  He'd lost Hisana twice.  Once when she devoted all her energies into finding the sister she had abandoned all those years ago and then when she had died.  It might appear strange to people who had known his first wife if he married someone of a similar appearance and he didn't wish to be the subject of gossip or speculation.  Seeing Rukia was a constant reminder of his wife but marrying this woman would be an insult to Hisana's memory. 


Disconcerted, he looked at the next image.  The face was pleasant, the figure adequate but for some reason she didn't appeal to him.  Maybe it was the slight wrinkle in the nose, or the expression in the eyes which was the cause of the opinion but without thinking about it much he placed the folder on top of the one for which he had a much bigger reason to reject.


A quick glance across the table made him look away quickly.  The lieutenant had finished her task and was leaning on the table, one hand cupping her cheek as she looked past his shoulder and at the painting on the wall.  He hoped she hadn't noticed the glance.


Swiftly returning his gaze to the images awaiting his attention he removed another few folders from the possible candidates.  One appeared to be vertically challenged and another caused him to look at the inside of the folder.  The age of the woman slightly exceeded that which he had specified and thus he felt no compunction in removing her from his selection. 


"Found anyone appealing yet?" Rangiku asked.


The question wasn't unexpected but he did not wish to be questioned.  It was his choice but as he looked at more images he felt each lacked something intangible.  Looking at her he wondered if she was feeling well as her lips appeared to be pressed together. 


"Not on all levels," he replied primly.  "It is not an easy task to select a bride on looks alone." 


"Or be selected on another person's recommendation," she said dryly.


Again he felt irritation at her comment.  "This is the way it is done.  We are not free to choose from anyone. There is an obligation..."


"I know.  Nobles are different.  At least if I every marry it will because I lo..." she interrupted him only to falter.  "Care about the person," she finished quietly her eyes cast down, refusing to meet his gaze.


"That may come in time," he said.  "Or course I will care about the mother of my children.  You would do well to chose your future husband with as much care."


Amazingly there was no reply to his comment but one glance showed him her lips were tightly pressed together and he wasn't sure if it was to prevent a smile, grimace or comment.


"What are you thinking?" he surprised himself by asking.


Her eyes opened a little wider at the question and she opened her mouth to reply, then closed it.  After a few seconds thought, she said, "Captain, it seems that you need to spend time considering the pictures and it might be easier if you did this without company.  I appear to be interferring."


Did it matter who was present?  He was adept schooling his features in order to hide any show of emotion, but then he remembered she resented performing this task.  How to use this to his advantage?  If he agreed with her she would leave, but both tasks remained unfinished.  He still desired the woman sitting across the table and he needed to choose a bride.  "Yes, you may leave but I request you return again tomorrow.  If I select a wife quickly your obligation will end sooner."


"Thank you, Captain," she said rising quickly.  "I will return tomorrow but the following day I have an obligation which I am not prepared to re-schedule."


Thankfully he caught himself before he made any enquiries.  The obligation could mean anything and asking about it further would appear out of character and intrusive.  Instead he nodded and replied, "Thank you for your assistance.  It has proven valuable."


Again he noticed her lips were pressed together as she quickly bowed and left the room.

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


Rangiku moved swiftly out of the mansion, attempting to control her face and her overwhelming desire to give into the sensations she was experiencing. It had been difficult to keep her mouth shut when all she wanted to do was laugh, sigh or give a blunt reply.


The whole situation was ludicrous.  Captain Kuchiki was as vain and introverted as she imagined him to be.  Her amusement at the spilling of the tea had brought a sharp retort and made her feel very uneasy but also ignited a desire to break into laughter.  However, she was aware that any hint of her amusement would be seen as a sign of insubordination.  Each time she felt the urge to laugh she closed her lips tightly and bit the inside of her cheek, when necessary.


Pushing the hair off her forehead, she managed to round the corner away from the mansion and then leant against the wall and began to laugh.  It felt good to release the laughter which had been threatening to expose her amusement too clearly.  She could imagine the Captain's eyes widening in the look of stupefied disbelief at her merriment and then his anger quickly rising as she responded to his expression with even more laughter.  Did the man even know how to smile?  Had Yachiru ever managed to make those lips curl into even a semblance of a smile at her antics.  Rangiku doubted it.  If her memory served her correctly, she had heard of remonstrations with Captain Zaraki who simply laughed in Captain Kuchiki's face as he told him to lighten up and find an alternative to the predictable reactions of anyone else having fun.  Of course the Captain hadn't said it in those exact words.  It had been a succinct and pithy comment.  One which had reduced Captain Kuchiki to speechlessness for seconds before he lodged a formal complaint with the Old Man, who had directed an apology be given.


She wished she'd been present for the apology.


Her need to laugh faded.  The laughter hadn't been inspired purely by the spilling of the tea but was partially due to her discomfort and feeling of awkwardness when in the company of Captain Kichuki.  Sometimes laughter or similar expression was her initial reaction to a situation where she felt out of her depth but needed to pretend she wasn't truly affected by it.  She had been.  Choosing a partner in this manner seemed slightly sad and very restrictive.  If he selected a wife, the woman selected would have a chance at refusal, but in most circumstances the subtle, or even non-subtle pressure of the family usually forced the 'bride' to agree to the marriage.


Again she reviewed how she had been forced into this brief and unwelcome 'relationship'.  She'd kissed him accidentally and was now committed to assist him in choosing a bride.  'In future,' she resolved, 'I will be careful who I kiss.  It leads to complications.' Thinking this she sighed and began the walk back to her accommodation.  A sliver of moon occasionally hid behind the clouds and a light, cool breeze swept around her as she gazed at the stars, slowly walking. 


The stars remained even when lovers disappeared, friends died and the world changed around her.  They were more dependable than humans as the asked nothing, expected nothing and gave nothing, except a light which was only perceptible at night.  Even so, they were partly responsible for her predicament.  If she hadn't fallen asleep when she had, under the stars with dreams of Gin and the past plaguing her memory and thoughts, she might not have kissed the Captain.


'I am angry with him', she admitted openly to the stars.  'The man is not better than me because of an accident of birth.  He may aspire to perfection, but he isn't perfect.' Then a  smile rose to her lips.  'I wondered if he was going to demand I leave when I made my two conditions.  Trying to hint as delicately as I could without being obtuse about the need for attraction to have children made it hard not to giggle.' The smile quickly vanished.  'I wish he'd taken my advice about not looking at that picture.  His face changed and almost looked human.  I almost felt sorry for him.  That is the one thing we have in common: we both lost the one we loved.'


If the stars were listening, they only listened and did not respond.


She felt a pang of sympathy as she recalled the sadness in his eyes, sadness she had not expected to witness.  He'd quickly placed another folder on the one which had roused the emotion to hide the images, she imagined.  At least it was the only image she'd seen which had appeared to contain the resemblance. 


'If only he would smile," she told the unresponsive stars.  'I saw a small spark of humanity in him today which I've never seen before.  It made me see him as a person, not just a Captain who seems so inflexible and aloof.'


She had not really been paying attention to her surroundings and she started as a figure appeared before her, swaying slightly.


"Tsk, tsk, Ran.  Talking to yourself in public is not something you do.  Have you been drinking?  Do you want to have a drink with me?  I thought we were having dinner together, you, me, the others... You know who they are."


"I sent a message.  My Captain had promised I would assist someone with something.  You have been drinking too much, Shunsui.  You should go to bed."


"Assist someone with something.  Very precisely vague, Ran.  The message wasn't clear.  Thought you might join us after you helped someone with something." Shunsui swayed a little closer.  "I wanted to talk.  I needed to talk to you.  My beautiful Nana is being mean to me again.  I wanted you to help me."


Automatically she felt the need to apologise as she wasn't able to help him when he needed it.


"Do you want to meet for lunch tomorrow, when you are sober?" she offered.  "We can talk then."


"I need longer than a lunch time.  I need hours of your time because I keep making mistakes.  Tomorrow night?"


Almost agreeing, she remembered and bit her lip.  "I can't.  I have to....


"Help someone with something," he said with her.


They stood there, trying to look at each other in the dim light of the stars. 


"Ran, please..." Shunsui pleaded rarely and usually when he did it was important.  If she didn't help him the situation might worsen and it would be a bigger mess for her to try to rectify.  Nana was as inflexible as Captain Kuchiki and Shunsui had some of Ran's easy going attributes.  When Shunsui did not comply with Nana's expectations there were problems and she was not easy to appease.


A brief, unexpected and unwelcome thought crossed her mind.  "A good reason to remain distant from Captain Kuchiki.  I don't want to always appease someone who will not compromise." She started with horror at allowing the thought to pass through her mind and then pushed it away into one of the darkest places of her mind, erected a mental door, locked it, barred it, nailed planks over it, threw it into a deep hole, covered the hole in bubble wrap and then ignored it.


Shunsui was talking.  "I hate feeling like this, Ran."


She sighed and she bowed her head.  'A friend is a friend is a friend' she reminded herself.  "Come back to my place and I will make some tea and we can talk for an hour," she said to her friend.  "Only tea," she said firmly as she anticipated a demand for strong sake.  "We both have to work tomorrow and I need a sober sleep."


"Thank you, Ran.  You are a good friend to me," Shunsui said as he wrapped an arm around her shoulder.


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

A.N.


Happy Birthday DKNK.  I will try to write another chapter before your next birthday.

Soundtrack


'Choose Me II' Xilent


'Mind Control' Zomboy


'Fortuna Imperatix Mundi: Fortune Plango Vulnera' from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff


'First Came the Stars (Bluetech Remix) Shulman


'Rose Rogue' St Germain


'Kiss and Control' AFI



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