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.

 

Part Your Lips

 

"You may leave for your appointment, Matsumoto."  Toshiro's voice broke through the fragile concentration she had and she felt her stomach lurch.  She didn't want to leave.  Even doing paperwork was preferable to spending more time with the unbearably proper Captain. 

How could anyone live with someone who didn't know how to laugh?  It made sense that Rukia had progressively withdrawn and seemed to smile less each time Matsumoto saw her.  After her task of helping Captain Kuchiki select his poor bride she would try to spend more time with Rukia. 

She felt her mouth form a pout which she tried to hide but then decided she had a right to pout.  Once again she was being forced to give up her free time for an unappreciative man who didn't seem to realise it was HER time to spend how she wished and she did not wish to spend her time deciding which person would have to suffer marriage to Captain Kuchiki.

"Pouting doesn't suit you, Matsumoto.  It might form lines around your mouth and age you prematurely," she heard.  It was obvious Toshiro was attempting to tease her out of her bad mood.

"Captain, if a 'request' for my assistance is received tomorrow, I trust you will reject it.  I will help the Captain tonight but I am not prepared to go each night until the decision is made.  It may take days or weeks for a selection to be made," she heard her voice quiver slightly at the thought of weeks.  She had deliberately not mentioned months as she feared even mentioning the possibility might make it fact.  "I need some time for myself," she finished, hoping he hadn't noticed the slight tremor in her voice.

Toshiro looked at her, raised his eyebrows slightly and then sighed.  "I will only promise I will not agree to each night and not consecutive nights, Matsumoto.  The sooner a bride is selected, the sooner this task will be finished.  You have made it abundantly clear you are not enjoying helping the Captain but it is an honour he has chosen you to assist in this task."

The last words made her want to rant at her Captain, telling him how this type of 'honour' brought no enjoyment or feeling of esteem.  The main emotion she felt was either boredom or shame.  The shame the remembrance of the kiss stirred in her heart each time she saw the man and along with the shame there was some other feeling she really didn't wish to examine.  It might be fear, or loathing, or disgust or some other emotion she did not feel comfortable experiencing.  It was already difficult dealing with the unrequited emotions she already experienced, especially the feelings of grief and loss at Gin's betrayal.  One day those feelings might fade but for now they were present and problematic.

She didn't want to think this way or even begin to feel. Instead of expressing her displeasure at what she suspected was his gentle teasing (or not) she pressed her lips firmly together, unwilling to release the words which wanted to escape her mouth.  She shrugged, hoping it would indicate her indifference to the supposed honour bestowed upon her.

"It is too late to rescind my agreement for tonight, Matsumoto.  I agreed you could delay your arrival at work tomorrow and I will consult you if another request for your assistance arrives, but as you have commenced this task, it is best you finish it," there was a slight, pleading tone to Toshiro's voice which she found hard to ignore.  She was also aware of how he hated tasks to be left incomplete.  It gave her a slightly uneasy sensation to recognise that in some strange way she was curious about Captain Kuchiki's final choice, even though she already pitied the future holder of 'both his hand and his heart'.  She doubted if he had a heart and unfortunately the hand was attached to the body and thus, not of much use.

Why had that though crept into her mind?  It was odd and pointless and she shook her head, trying to rid herself of the strange ideas and emotions which seemed to pervert her ideas.

"I will go, Captain.  I will represent our Division and be a model of decorum, at least my version of it.  There is nothing more you can say to make me feel that this evening is not a waste of time and an unwanted, unpleasant duty," she saw a look of sadness begin to creep over Toshiro's face and giving into the one positive emotion she felt she gave him a quick hug.  "You also owe me a meal and sake when this is over.  You're paying."

"Fine," Toshiro said, sounding more relieved.  "Report for duty at 10.30 tomorrow."

She noticed her morning start time had been delayed a further half an hour, hugged Toshiro once more and checked she had the belongings she needed before she reluctantly left.

Determined to finish this imposition on her time she began to stride with speed toward her destination.  As she let her mind wander to the discussion she'd had with Shunsui the previous night she again wondered how two intelligent people had such difficulty in doing something as easy as listening.  Listening was the easy part.  Trying to see, let alone agree, with another person's viewpoint was much harder.  Perhaps that was why listening was hard because of the expectations that the person talking to you might expect agreement.

Struck by the idea she stood still, lost in the implications of the idea.  If you didn't listen you didn't have to acknowledge the viewpoint of the other person or their wishes, needs or hopes.  Listening meant tying to understand another person's feelings and maybe even attempt to understand. 

No wonder people didn't want to listen.

A cold breeze tugged at her hair, making her realise she was standing in the street, while she was only a few houses from her destination.  Resolving to consider her idea further, she tidied her hair and made sure her sash was straight.  Reaching the door, she was pleased she did not need to knock, but was immediately admitted to the estate and led to a different room.  Someone let her in and bowed.  Normally she would box in response and utter some polite words but her eyes sought out Captain Kuchiki to try and gauge his mood.  As usual he looked aloof and displeased. 

"Wonderful," she thought grimly, with a touch of pique.  "He is frowning already and we haven't even started."

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After reading the unhelpful and possibly wildly unrealistic interpretations of his dreams in the dictionary, Byakuya carefully replaced the book where he found it.  He picked up the copy of The Journey West, curious to see if the cover hid another book but was surprised to see the book was what the cover indicated and there was proof it had been read.  Notes in Abarai's handwriting actually seemed to indicate some understanding of the meaning of the work, not that reading Buddhist inspired literature was of much use for his position.  It did indicate there was possibly more depth to his lieutenant than he'd originally though.  Hearing muffled footfalls he returned the book to the pile and pushed other books around a little before returning to his desk, picking up a pen and bending over some order or other that supposedly was important enough for his attention.

A few seconds of reading proved Abarai had misinterpreted his instructions, again. It was yet another request for a detailed inventory of weapons, clothing and other items used to outfit his subordinates.  This sort of menial task was below his interest and seeing it almost made him feel as if his rank and intelligence had been reduced.  With a frown he put it in the pile meant for Abarai's attention.  The man should know by now to remove trivial paperwork like this and allocate the work to one of the accounting staff or whoever handled this type of report. 

A Captain was not an inventory clerk, no matter how much importance the Old Man placed on micro-management.  Everything should be included in the Summary provided to him each week by Abarai after he collated the various reports he received.  Details were important in battle but not in the everyday management of a Division, unless they threatened the health and safety of the people within it.  He raised a eyebrow coolly at the paper to express his displeasure.   The paper did not react, which was as it should be.

The irritation he was feeling was purely because of that paper.  It had nothing to do with the incorrect interpretation of his dream.  Dreams were purely electrical impulses of the brain which occurred during sleep and the subconscious attempted to make sense of the random pulses.  No one could interpret dreams.  If he began to believe in dream interpretation, how long before he began to consult Taoist monks or fortune tellers?  Superstitions were for peasants.  

He was aware he lived in a place that many thought was only a superstition but he knew it was real.  Superstition was the belief in things that did not exist. 

Thinking this way was making him slightly confused as he attempted to justify the belief in one superstition while he was refuting another.  His irritation rose further as his logic began to discern one or two flaws with his reasoning and he quickly turned his mind to other matters.  Logic could be a useful tool, used wisely and on problems which responded to the method.

He heard a noise outside the door and was glad of the excuse to vent his anger on someone else.

As his lieutenant entered he spoke sharply.  "Abarai, there are a number of papers which you have incorrectly given to me.  Remove them from my desk and make certain such unimportant papers do not appear on my desk in the future."

The man stood stiffly, his eyes darting from the papers to his Captain.  He opened his mouth as if he were about to speak and then shut it quickly, biting his lip as if he were trying to stop words from issuing from his mouth. 

More irritated by this display of sloppy behaviour he demanded, "You have something to say.  What is it?"

Abarai gulped, ran his hands over his face and replied in a carefully controlled monotone, "You told me you wanted to see ALL the paperwork and allocate it yourself as a few mistakes had been made..."

The man ceased speaking as he noticed the expression on his Captain's face.  Byakuya vaguely remembered the order which he had given the previous day.  It angered him to have forgotten his instructions but Abarai mentioning the fact made him feel an unpleasant and unwelcome emotion he refused to name.  Fuming he tried to rationalise his mistake.  He didn't make mistakes, or not mistakes which other people could notice and then use them as a reminder of his imperfections. He'd forgotten due to the events of the night and the meaningless dreams which had plagued his sleep.   How many times had he been required to remind his subordinates of orders which they had forgotten?

His lips tightened, involuntarily as he tried to consider a way of rectifying the situation.  "I think you misunderstood my intent, Lieutenant Abarai."  The tone was harsher than he'd expected but the man was forgetting his position by pointing out the minor error.

As expected the statement caused his subordinate's expression to betray his confusion.  "I... I don't understand.  I am sorry, Captain Kuchiki, but could you explain it again," his voice was for Abarai, rather shrill.   The man shifted his feet in his confusion permitting Byakuya to raise his eyebrows in exasperation.

"You are meant to sort the paperwork into the area for whom it is destined, write a brief summary which you will attach to the top of each batch, detailing what it contains, who it will be sent to and the action I need to take, if any.  It is very simple, lieutenant, and will save me considerable time," he congratulated himself on his quick thinking and logic.  This made more sense and showed the subordinate  who was really at fault by making the mistake.

Abarai flushed an uncomfortable shade of red which clashed unpleasantly with his hair.  "I... um..  ur, you want... yes, Captain." He moved to remove the paperwork from his captain's desk but hesitated once more.  "The papers which are specifically for you..."

Byakuya once more raised his right eyebrow, trying to radiate a cool disdain for the question.  "Obviously the reports and papers for my eyes only are to remain on my desk.  As you are aware, I keep them separately and they should never be mixed in with the routine work.  Now see that the paperwork is sorted correctly.  I expect it back in half an hour, or 45 minutes," he corrected, realising that setting impossible targets would not make his subordinate work faster than was possible.

Abarai looked as if he wished to say more but after a few minutes hesitation he simply nodded and returned to his desk, his complexion nearly vermillion in colour.  For the next half hour he worked frantically, checking and rechecking the papers he spread out , allocating them into piles, checking and moving some to another sheaf and then back to the original.  Byakuya watched him covertly, interested to see the set and determined expression that formed on his face.  The task should not have been this difficult but then he saw Abarai looking his way.  Their eyes accidentally met and Abarai looked away, once again flushing an ugly colour.

What was bothering the man?  It was a simple task for his simple mind.

Shortly after the papers were placed on his desk and Abarai stood at the desk, quietly waiting.  Pursing his lips, Byakuya looked through them, taking care to re-arrange two that could be placed in either pile and then curtly nodded.  He was tired of the man's presence and he wanted to go back to the estate to prepare for the evenings .  "You may leave for the day.  Before you return tomorrow, try to discover a means of calming yourself while at work.  Your clear agitation is disturbing what should be a benign atmosphere." Once again Abarai looked as if he wished to speak but Byakuya gave him a stern look. The lieutenant gave a stiff bow and left without a further word being spoken, for which Byakuya was thankful. 

There might be something wrong with his lieutenant, but the man displayed his feelings too openly for Byakuya to summon much sympathy for his emotional or mental state.  Despite encouragement  the excellent advice he provided, Abarai still had not followed the example set by him, his Captain, to maintain a tight rein any display of emotion.  Perhaps once Byakuya has selected his bride and the marriage was arranged he might spend some time with his subordinate to once again try to school him in the ways of managing his feelings, or at least concealing them to some degree.  If another person could recognise your emotional state and manipulate those emotions, it provided a vulnerability which no member of the Seireitei should exhibit.  This has been too evident when the ryoka had invaded Soul Society.  Thinking about those events made him press his lips together tightly again.  Before any unwelcome emotion could come to the surface and encourage him to explore an unwelcome memory, he tidied his desk, making certain it was arranged to his particular specifications.  It did not take very long.  He took one more look over the office and making a note to remind his subordinate to tidy his area and remove unnecessary clutter.  Perhaps it was time to ask his retainers to give it a thorough clean and perhaps refresh some of the decorations and furnishings.  He liked order but a change would be welcome and might provide a different, more efficient environment.

Satisfied everything was in order he left his office and returned home.  Thinking of the uncomfortable moments last night had bothered him.  In an attempt to placate the 10th Division lieutenant he  had ordered a special meal tonight, putting some thought into what food his 'assistant' might prefer. 

Her habit of frequenting bars was known throughout the Seireitei.  If she enjoyed such an environment, perhaps the food and drink from one would assist her in relaxing.  If she were more relaxed she might be able to concentrate on the work they were doing and instead of reducing the number of candidates by some arbitrary means, for example age, they could exclude those who did not meet his particular and quite reasonable requirements. 

As his heritage and preferences kept him out of wine shops and bars, he ordered his housekeeper to obtain 'bar food' by either hiring a chef or ordering food from one of the more sophisticated establishments.  His orders also included small alterations in furnishings in one of the least used rooms, further away from the central part of the compound.  Low tables, cushions or making it appear more like a bar was left to the discretion of his housekeeper and chief domo.  They would have a better idea but if the lieutenant would work more comfortably in a 'familiar environment' .  He had received word that what could be done, would be done,  and the staff would do their very best but hoped he would not be too disappointed if they did not meet all the requirements. 

The latter did almost sound like an attempt at a reprimand from his retainers, but he decided to ignore the attempt.  They were honoured to serve him.  It might be an unusual request, perhaps but not unreasonable.

Byakuya was not expecting to enjoy whatever food or environment in which he found himself, but if Lieutenant Matsumoto's  tastes were catered for, she may not be so ready to be amused by any incidents which might make him seem less than perfect.  He'd even arranged for some premium sake to be warmed and available along with special tea. 

The evening was chill with an unpleasantly intrusive breeze snaking around the streets of the Seireitei.  It was the unpleasant  wind that was causing him to make haste to his destination, nothing more.  He did not like the way the tendrils of the current of air attempted to disarrange his hair or how it made him long for a warmth different than the one he experienced from a brazier or a bath.

Arriving at his residence he washed quickly and changed into conservative but comfortable robes.  Slightly refreshed, he went to the room he'd specified to be readied for the work tonight.  On entering he was pleasantly surprised but also disconcerted to see the change.  it no longer bore the mark of being a room in the noble Kuchiki residence.  It might have been, an albeit  high class, bar, or so he imagined.  There was a counter with stools where they could sit, and two low tables near each other with plenty of room for documents, drinks and food.  The light was subdued but more than adequate for reading documents and a few plants and some rather vulgar ornaments completed the decorations.  A woman who had been standing  behind the bar when he entered walked up to him and bowed deeply. 

"This person is very grateful for this opportunity, noble sir.  This person promises absolute discretion and will leave if you indicate it is necessary.  Please enjoy," she said in a quiet tone.

Byakuya was somewhat surprised to find the cook/chef was a woman but reasoned she must be good or his staff would not have employed her for this occasion.   The mention of discretion both concerned and calmed him as he would be discussing a delicate matter in this room. 

It struck him then, he was discussing this matter with a woman not known for her discretion but he had not heard any rumours about his marriage.  Perhaps Lieutenant Matsumoto was not as talkative or indiscreet as he had supposed.  When he thought about it further he's heard she'd been devastated by the desertion and betrayal by her friend/lover, Ichimaru, but he'd never heard any details except for a few nights of inebriation.   Any time he tried to think of her he was confused by the woman he had talked to and the persona she presented to the public.  Her Captain's obvious affection for her also surprised him.  The 10th Division Captain struck him as being logical and rational but perhaps was still subject to the persuasion of emotion due to his youth.

A small niggle at the back of his brain made him acknowledge he had been the recipient of a kiss intended for Ichimaru and he'd seen the sadness in the woman's eyes when she'd recognised him.  Time had passed but it appeared her grief had not. 

Shaking the thoughts away he noticed the bar woman appeared to be waiting for a reply.  "I do expect discretion and am pleased with your assurances that you can be discreet.  This discussion is private and if any hint of leaves this room, I will know and action will be taken."

A scared but annoyed expression crossed the woman's face.  "A bar keeper and cook needs to be discreet, otherwise patrons would not feel comfortable and safe drinking in the establishment.  Nobles, commoners, whoever, all deserve the same privacy."

The words were quiet but forceful and for a second Byakuya almost felt ashamed.  Almost.  He did not wish to irritate this woman so early.  Trying to rectify the situation he said, "I do not frequent bars and am unaccustomed to the culture.  Your assurances provide reassurance.  I am Captain Kuchiki, as you know.  How may I address you?"

The woman looked at him, as if assessing his honesty.  Appearing to make up her mind she nodded as if accepting his 'apology' and said, "This person is called Kotaro, Junko Kotaro.  This person's preference is to be called Kotaro or many of my regulars call me Senpai," she looked at his face, appearing to observe the look of horror on his face and  gave a small, reassuring smile as she added, "it is their little joke.  Call me Kotaro."

Byakuya quickly smoothed the expression from his face.  He did not like to call anyone Senpai.  "Thank you Kotaro.  I am sure you will fulfil your duties adequately, I mean to my satisfaction."

He'd seen a quick flash in her eyes and considered that perhaps the people he normally spoke to were not as sensitive as this bar keeper, or whatever she was.  Those who knew him accepted he was both a noble and a captain and was thus accorded more respect.  Did commoners really believe they held any prestige such as his?  He dismissed the idea but the mention that many of her regulars called her 'Senpai' did not sit well with him.  If he felt so inclined he might later investigate her background to discover the reason for her subtle arrogance.

A quiet rap at the door made him turn around.  "Enter," he commanded at the same time Kotaro went to open the door.  She bowed deeply and stepped aside to permit the lieutenant to enter.  Slightly annoyed at the presumption of Kotaro, Byakuya moved forward and bowed slightly to his guest.  For the moment she ignored him and was hugging Kotaro, which again surprised him.

"Senpai," the lieutenant said happily.  "I have not had the pleasure of seeing you for some days.  How glad I am to see you here."

The lieutenant and Kotaro knew each other and form the way the lieutenant greeted her, the barkeepers words had proven true.  Some of her patrons did call her 'Senpai'.  Was this a good omen or would the evening prove to be difficult instead of the one he'd planned?

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A.N.

A very late birthday present.  Sorry KK.  Things happen, months pass.

Soundtrack

'Kiss and Control' (of course)

'Stay' David Bowie

'Louder Than Words (Instrumental)' Les Friction

'Supernatural Thing' (Tom Middleton Cosmos Mix) DJ Mark Dynamix

'Vienna' Ultravox

'Drink to Get Drunk' Sander Van Doom

'Lavender' Two Door Cinema Club

Review.  They may amuse.

 



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