Head Captain Yamamoto needs his head examined with all this paperwork he requires the squads to do, thinks Gina with a sigh. People do want to live lives outside of the Gotei 13.
Placing her signature at the bottom of the form, Gina blows lightly on the ink. On the right side of the desk are three small towers of paperwork that are only a few inches shorter than her desk. She lifts up the paper labeled 'My Paperwork' slightly to slide the completed form beneath it. Leaning back in her chair, Gina grimaces when her chair complains slightly. Her gaze shifts to the left side of her desk. Three towering towers loom above her. Putting her hands on the desk, Gina stands and stretches her 5'5 ½'' height, loosening her muscles from sitting too long. The young woman studies the stacks before she points her finger at the stacks one at a time.
"Eeny, meeny, miny, moe," Gina murmurs, pointing between the different towers. "Catch a tiger by its toe. If he hollers, let him go. Eeny, meeny, miny...moe."
Her finger points at the middle stack. Gina sticks her tongue at the middle stack before she closes her eyes. Silver light gathers around Gina while her spiritual pressure rises. Her hazel eyes open when her spiritual pressure levitates her from the floor into the air. Humming slightly, Gina removes the paper labeled 'Yamasawa Paperwork' off to page through the papers below. She takes a few papers from the stack and replaces the paper label. Her feet return to the floor when she lowers her spiritual pressure back to barely anything.
"Back to work," murmurs Gina. She places the stack down in her empty metal paper holder and sits back in her chair. Gina picks up the first page of paperwork. The young woman settles to read it when knocking makes her look at the door.
"4th seat Officer Bana, may I come in?"
Mentally, Gina imagines herself dropping the form and knocking her head hard against the desk's wooden surface several times until she is knocked out. The young woman huffs a small laugh at herself before she sets the form back in the to-do pile.
"Come in," Gina answers. The door slides open to reveal Richiki with an armload of paperwork.
"I collected the lower ranked officers' paperwork," the unseated Squad 6 member says. "I thought I would save you a trip."
Gina shifts the stack from Yamasawa's paperwork out of the metal paper container to the right corner of her right corner of her desk. She holds out her hand, saying, "Thank you, Richiki-san. The captain is expecting that work from me."
"Where did all that come from?" exclaims the young man. His bug-eyed expression produces a small grin on Gina's full, unpainted lips.
"My paperwork, Lieutenant Abarai's paperwork that I volunteered to help him with," Gina says, pointing to the respective stacks. She hesitates before she points to the middle stack. The young woman says sheepishly, "That there is… the stuff Yamasawa-san doesn't want to deal with."
"That looks like all of 3rd Officer Kanna Yamasawa's paperwork," Richiki remarks, frowning. "Why did she dump her work on you?"
Gina laughs wearily. She sets the new paperwork in her metal paper holder. The young woman pulls out the four plain, wooden chopsticks that holds her mousy brown hair in a bun. Her wild, bushy hair falls to just beneath her shoulders in natural curls. Giving her head a quick shake, Gina inserts the chopsticks into the brunette mass and twists them to reshape her bun.
"Same reason why Lieutenant Abarai has basically given me nearly three fourths of his paperwork to do whenever I offer to help in the past month," Gina says. "The squad evaluations."
"Huh? But… But the evaluations are in three months," Richiki answers.
"Captain Kuchiki intends to re-evaluate his officers, meaning no one is guaranteed they'll remain officers," Gina explains. "He wants to see if the officers have taken their roles seriously since he promoted several new ones three years ago. My guess is Yamasawa-san is nervous because her last mission didn't go so well. There's also her misguided goal to get the captain to notice her, send Lieutenant Abarai to a different division, prompt her to lieutenant, and proceed with a captain-subordinate romance that leads to her being the new Lady Kuchiki."
Richiki frowns briefly before he asks, "Doesn't that mean your position is endangered?"
Gina smiles, her hazel eyes warming. "There's too much paperwork for me to freak out about the evaluations. I've been training after hours simply because the paperwork has been insane. Lieutenant Abarai has been hosting extra training sessions for the non-seated members who want a shot at the seats." She leans forward, resting her chin on her folded hands. She asks, puzzled, "Why aren't you there? Don't you have the goal to be like Lieutenant Abarai?"
"Umm… Yeah… But I got chores to finish up," Richiki confesses. He holds out a piece of paper. "I've only got half of them done."
Gina stands from her desk. She laughs sheepishly when she knocks down the chair. Moving around, she picks up the chair before she holds her hand out to Richiki. "Give me that. I'll finish it."
"Eh? Again? Bana-san, I can't let you do-"
"I'll go crazy if I don't give myself a change of pace," Gina assures him, smiling a little. "I've been at this since six this morning."
Richiki hesitates before he offers her the paper. Gina accepts the page, skims, smiles and stuffs the list into her kosode. The young woman propels the younger squad member out of her office with her hands at his shoulders. She shoves him down the hallway gently, calling, "Get moving! Lieutenant Abarai will be starting a new session soon!"
"Thanks, Bana-san!" The young man waves back to her before he rushes out of sight.
Gina smiles before she closes the door to her office and heads off to do the young man's chores. An hour later, Gina returns to her office pleasantly tired and satisfied. There are days she missed the non-seated members' duties. At least no one can dump work on others, Gina thinks with a slight scowl at the paperwork before her, working on yet another pile of Yamasawa's.
She pauses in her work at the sound of something being slide beneath her door. Looking up from the form, Gina sees a white envelope with writing on it on the floor. Her thick eyebrows lift up. The young woman leaves her desk to pick up the envelope.
"This is from the captain," murmurs Gina, recognizing the captain's beautiful calligraphy even though it only has her title. Why didn't he just come in? He is captain after all.
Breaking the seal, Gina pulls out the single page. "As a mark of your five years of service, I invite you to a subordinate appreciation dinner tomorrow night at the Kuchiki manor," Gina reads the paper. "You will be expected by my staff at 7."
Gina looks down at herself. Her uniform is the standard, nothing special about it. She does have her rank badge on her left upper arm. What her uniform unfortunately highlights is Gina's pear-shape body with some love handles above and below her natural waist. Gina pinches one of her love handles ruefully.
"Huh," Gina considers the invitation. "Nice as that sounds, there's no time. I have my own training for the evaluations...plus a surprise."
The officer goes to her desk to pull out a sheet of her paper. She writes, 'Captain Kuchiki, I appreciate your invitation. However, I must decline. With my current workload and upcoming evaluations, I do not wish to disappoint you in your decision in appointing me as your 4th seat. The invitation is unexpected but thoughtful. Knowing you appreciate my work is the best reward for me. Thank you. 4th Seat Officer Gina Bana.'
Satisfied with her response, Gina places the response and the invitation on a stack of completed paperwork. She grunts a little but manages to leave her office with the navigates through the hallways to arrive at her captain's door. She stands on one foot to help her manage the load and free one hand to knock on the door. When there is no response, Gina tentatively opens the door. She discovers the office empty. Gina readjusts her grip on the paperwork and lowers her leg.
"Huh, must be watching the training or attending to other duties," Gina muses aloud. She places the paperwork in the captain's to-do section. The young woman always feels a little bit guilty of bringing so much work to her captain. However, her captain always answered her concern that the paperwork is what comes with being a captain and having more responsibilities.
"Okay, back to work," Gina tells herself. She promptly leaves the office to return to her own, forgetting the invite in her own work.
Early evening finds Gina slumped in her chair, but all the paperwork is cleared out of her office. A heavy sigh escapes her. "I rather be fighting Hollows than face paperwork," murmurs Gina. She stands, stretches and yawns. "Alright, tidy up, stuff food in my face, and to the more serious work," the young woman says. Gina tides up her office before she heads out for the day.
Two days later, Gina sits at her desk with her normal amount of paperwork sitting in a tower. She frowns at the patrol report, working on deciphering the non-seated member's handwriting. A knock sounds on her door. Gina sets the paper down, answering, "Come in."
The door opens with her lieutenant, Renji, poking his head into her office.
"Oye, Gina, the captain wants to see you in his office."
"Me?" inquires Gina, frowning. "Captain hasn't sent for me ever. The only times I've seen him is taking paperwork to his office or reporting in from a mission. Did he say why?"
"No… But he seems pretty pissed off about something," Renji confesses. "Want me on standby? It's the least I can do since you've taken up the bulk of my work for the past month."
"Thank you for offering, Lieutenant Abarai," Gina tells her lieutenant, smiling. She stands from her chair. The young woman removes the chopsticks from her hair, shakes her head and reapplies the chopsticks to her hair into her custom bun. "Your training sessions are important to the rest of the squad. Several of the officers filed their transfer papers. If new officers are selected, they need to be at their best."
She exits her office and starts walking towards the captain's office. Renji falls into step beside her.
"Ya know, you haven't been coming to the training sessions. It would be good for you," Renji informs her.
Gina laughs slightly, grinning, "Too much paperwork. Besides, I am capable of holding my own. Remember what happened when the captain assigned you to spar me for the officer test?"
"Yeah, that surprised me," Renji admits, rubbing the top of his head ruefully. "Still, you should come. You work hard enough to be third seat if your fighting skills improved from the time we sparred."
"I've been working on that...plus a little something after hours," Gina tells him. They come to a hallway. Seeing the earnest expression on Renji's face, Gina sighs and puts her hands behind her back. Two of her fingers cross as she says, "If I get through the patrol reports and no paperwork magically appears, I might be able to squeeze one of your afternoon sessions in. And if we end up sparring in the session, I'll bring out what I've been working on."
"Kay. See ya!" Renji casually waves before he heads down the left hallway.
Gina smiles before she heads in the opposite direction. She shivers at the captain's cold, intimidating spiritual pressure. "He's pretty upset if he's not restraining himself," muses Gina. Straightening up, Gina continues her way towards the captain's office. She takes a moment outside the office to adjust to the full weight of his spiritual pressure. The young woman knocks on the door.
"Enter," commands the captain's velvet, cold voice.
Gina opens the door. Byakuya Kuchiki sits at his desk. His eyes are closed with his hands folded together. Her eyebrows lift to see a small stack of papers before him with her name written. Without my rank title, wonders Gina.
"4th seat Officer Bana reporting, Captain Kuchiki," Gina says with a slight bow out of the habit she developed during her first months serving Squad 6. She straightens up and adds, "Lieutenant Abarai said you wanted to see me. How can I serve you, Captain?"
Byakuya opens his eyes. Gina flinches at the cold, controlled rage rarely expressed in his eyes. His spiritual pressure spikes in the room.
"I promoted you to your seat despite your lack of experience and shikia because of your work ethic, Bana-san," the captain states. "It has come to my attention that I have been deceived."
"What do you mean?" asks Gina.
"Don't attempt to deceive me further," Byakuya orders. "I received your acceptance of the invitation. The one who appeared was 3rd seat Officer Yamasawa who wished to clarify the misunderstanding. She informed me at the dinner that she had been the one responsible for the squad's improved performance. You had been dumping your paperwork on her and lazing about. Your increase in form since the promotion supports her claim."
Gina gaps at her captain for several heartbeats. She closes her mouth after a moment. "Captain, I have-"
"There have been several times in the past months I had discreetly looked into your office. At those times, I've discovered paperwork piled in your office without your presence there," Byakuya informs her. "I am stripping you of your seat and transferring you out of my division. I will not tolerate an officer sullying my squad's standards."
"You… You have no intention to listen to my side of things, do you, Captain Kuchiki?" Gina asks. Her voice is tight from emotion, and her eyes waver with the moisture that started gathering at his blunt comment of her size.
"My third seat has served in my squad longer," Byakuya states. "I have no reason to doubt her."
She's fooled you too, Gina thinks sadly. Gina is quiet, fighting to not break down. The young woman's hand reaches to touch the badge tied around her left arm. She swallows the lump in her throat before she unties the badge and places the badge neatly on the captain's desk.
"How soon do you wish me to clear out of...the office and squad, Captain Kuchiki?"
"Your new captain is expecting you by noon. Put whatever work you have left in Lieutenant Abarai's office." The captain answers. He picks up the stack of papers, her transfer papers as she finally understands it, and hands it to her. "That will be all, Bana-san."
"Hai… Captain Kuchiki," Gina says. She hesitates before she bows to her former captain, too choked to say more. Some tears escape Gina's eyes before she can stop them. Gina straightens up and exits the office. She pauses outside when she feels the man's spiritual pressure vanishes.
Gina waits until she is in the sanctuary of her former office to let the tears fall soundlessly. She makes herself look through the transfer papers. The young woman flinches at the transfer paper's harsh discharge statement and the strong opposition of offering her a seated position. Her drowning spirits lift slightly at the sight of 'Squad 10' in the section where she is being transferred.
I might be back to square one, but I heard good things about their captain… I got into the Academy after six failed entrance exams… I've got to think about why I joined the Gotei 13… They're looking up to me as their role model. I can't disappoint them by letting this setback get to me.
Gina slips the transfer papers into her kosode before she digs for a handkerchief. She mops at her tears and blows her nose noisily. The young woman slaps her cheeks with her hands and exhales shakily.
"To work...one last time for Squad 6," Gina murmurs to herself. Her personal possessions consists of a small picture frame holding a picture of her in her Academy uniform and a homemade card with bold words saying, 'Good luck, Nee-san! Love, Ko, Naomi, Cho and Takara.' These she slips into her kosode.
She runs her paperwork to Renji's office. Gina debates on leaving an explanation but decides against it. The last thing she wants is her first friend in Squad 6 to enrage the captain to use his bankai. She grabs the cleaning supplies and gives her old office a deep clean that it desperately needed. Gina admires the sparkling of her former office wistfully. Her office was the third place she could call her own in her life. Sighing shakily, Gina exits the office. She walks through the squad, reflecting on her awe, bewilderment and nerves of getting into Squad 6.
I learned a lot...they can't take that from me, Gina tells herself. She pauses to look in on Renji training the squad members in the training courtyard. Gina smiles to see Richiki hanging on Renji's words. Her smile fades when she notices Kanna smirking knowingly at her. The 3rd seat officer mouths, 'Fat Girl got the boot.' Gina turns her head away. She straightens her shoulders and leaves Squad 6 for the last time quietly.
Six months later, Gina sits cross legged before the low table in Captain Hitsugaya's office. Four small towers of paperwork sits on her left side while four slightly taller towers sit on her right side. The half of the towers on her left and those on her right have the paper labels of 'Matsumoto Half' or 'My Half.' A particular loud, unladylike snore directs Gina's attention to the cause. Rangiku sleeps on the couch with her arms over her head. Snore pepper the lieutenant's breathing.
Too bad I don't have the confidence in my position yet to slack, Gina thinks. Her gaze shifts to her left arm where her lieutenant badge hugs her upper left arm. She smiles slightly.
The sound of the door opening causes Gina to shift her gaze. Toshiro stands inside the door's threshold. An irk mark appears on the captain's face.
"Gina, I told you. Don't let Rangiku dump her paperwork on you." He declares.
"Lieutenant Matsumoto finished one full stack before she decided a nap would cure her hangover," Gina explains, pointing to one of the stacks with the lieutenant's last name on it. "I'll wake her before I go on my lunch break. The paperwork we received from the squad requiring your attention is on your desk."
Gina points to a sizeable pile on the left side of Toshiro's desk. The white-haired captain frowns.
"Where did my completed work go?"
"Oh… Sorry," Gina laughs sheepishly. "I ran them to their respective divisions to stretch my legs."
"I thought I saw you flash stepping on my errands," Toshiro remarks. He sits at his desk, continuing to speak, "Captain Kuchiki stopped me on my way back from Squad 13. He inquired about you."
Gina's brush pauses from making contact with the form. She sits back to look at her captain. "What for?"
"He wished to know if you had any issues with your fellow squad members since you transferred into my division," Toshiro explains. "I said I wasn't aware of any. Since he mentioned it… Have there been any?"
Gina looks down at herself. Her form is trimmer, but she remains slightly overweight for her size. A good natural smile graces her face before she answers, "I'm not exactly gifted in my body shape. There were a few comments floating about my size until Lieutenant Matsumoto had a sound talking to the squad members about respecting women. Since then, they stopped."
Knocking sounds at the door.
"Enter," Toshiro commands.
One of the new recruits, an awkward, dark-haired girl with large glasses, staggers into the office with an impressive stack of paperwork. She crouches down and places the stack on Gina's left side, informing the lieutenant, "Lieutenant Bana, I brought paperwork from the lower ranking officers for you and Lieutenant Matsumoto to review."
"Thank you, Ayame-san," Gina says while she inwardly sighs. She smiles and remarks, "You've been putting in good effort for your third week here."
The dark-haired girl blushes with a sheepish smile. "Saving you a trip is the least I could do since you helped me catch the Hell Butterflies when I accidently sent them loose the other day," confesses Ayame. "If you need help, I'll be in the training courtyard practicing my swordsmanship, Lieutenant Bana."
"Keep up the good work. Remember, 100 times for each exercise," Gina reminds her. "You can only get stronger by practicing where you struggle the most."
"Hai!" Ayame smiles. The unseated member exits the office. Gina starts paging through the documents, creating two smaller stacks. She picks up pre-made labels 'Matsumoto Half' and 'My Half' and places them on top of the smaller stacks.
Toshiro sighs heavily. "I wish Rangiku picked up on your work ethic as quickly as the new recruits seem to be assimilating it," remarks the white-haired captain.
"Hmm… Someone say my name?" Rangiku inquires. She sits up sleepily. The lieutenant eks at the sight of the captain, falling off the couch. Gina swiftly shields the paperwork, so Rangiku rolls on Gina's back, a bit on the table and then plops in a heap on the floor. None of the paperstacks are disturbed.
"Gina-chan! You let me sleep in again!" complains Rangiku.
"Because she's too nice a person," grumbles Toshiro. "Gina, go take your lunch break and add an hour to it."
Gina starts, looking at her captain. "But Captain, that's too long. And the-"
"Rangiku will take care of it," Toshiro cuts Gina's protest off. He smiles slightly, "The weather's nice. Say hello to them for me."
Gina's next argument loses its wind. She sighs but smiles. The young woman slowly works her way to standing for her legs are stiff. Once she is certain her legs can function, Gina bows to her captain. "I will. I'll be back in two hours, Captain Hitsugaya."
Gina closes the door and waits three seconds. Right on cue...
"What! How come I only get one?"
"Cause she works harder."
Gina smiles to hear the pair go into their usual banter of Rangiku being lazy. The lieutenant flash steps from Squad 10 into Rukongai where she purchased a tray of onigiris with different fillings. Humming, Gina flash steps to one of the moderate districts. She appears before a rundown house. Grinning, Gina flares her spiritual pressure till she is glowing silver around her body.
"It's Nee-san! I feel her spiritual pressure!" squeals a young girl's voice.
Piling out of the house are three young girls who look nothing alike. The trait they do share is being slightly overweight. All three of them are in smiles. Each girl has a plain, wooden chopstick in their hair. Gina laughs and holds the tray out of their reach.
"Hold it, hold it, hold it, Naomi, Cho and Takara! We can't start yet. We're missing-"
The four turn to see a young woman running towards them. She is slightly younger than Gina but several pounds heavier. Her sandy blond hair is held up by a plain, wooden chopstick. Her bare feet pound the dirt hard. Sweat drips down her face when she comes to a stop. In the young woman's arms is a square package. Gasping for air, the young woman tears off the brown paper and reveals the top half to a white kosode with the symbols of the Academy on either side of the chest area.
"I passed!" The girl exclaims. Tears roll down from her green eyes. She uses the paper to dab at her cheeks. "Three... Three tries… I start next week Monday… I'm so happy..."
Naomi, Cho and Takara squeal again. The younger women converge on Ko in a group hug. Gina balances the tray in one hand in order to give the new arrival a one armed hug above the heads of the other girls.
"Congratulations, Ko-chan. I told you that you're smarter than me when I was your age," Gina tells the sobbing girl. "If I had known, I would have sprung for dumplings. Guess we'll make do with onigiris until we can do a proper celebration. We have a new Soul Reaper-in-training in the house!"
Gina lowers the tray, saying, "Ko-chan, take two. You've earned it."
Hiccuping and smiling, Ko grabs two onigiris.
"Alright, we do the normal go-around. Naomi, one. Cho, one. Takara, one. And…" Gina manages to break an onigiri in half and holds it up. "Half for me. Captain Hitsugaya said to say hello. How are things since my visit last week?"
The four happily update Gina on their lives while they eat. Between the four of them, the tray empties. Gina gives each of them a hug and promises Ko to see if she can borrow Rangiku's camera to give Ko her own picture in her Academy uniform. The lieutenant arrives back at her division in high spirits. She takes out her chopsticks to shake her hair out from the flying it experiences during her flash stepping. Gina is in the process of fixing her hair back into her bun when she runs into someone's chest. Gina grimaces when her chopsticks' points jams into her head hard enough to hurt.
"Ouch, damn it," Gina complains. She steps back and lets her hair fall down, holding her chopsticks in her hand. "Sorry about that. I-" Gina's sentence dies when she discovers herself looking up into the face of Byakuya Kuchiki.
"Captain Kuchiki," exclaims the lieutenant. She drops her chopsticks when she takes a step further back. Her haste makes her miss the flicker of emotion on the captain's normally serene expression. Gina bows low to the man. Her hair falls over her shoulders, several inches longer from the last time she saw the captain.
"I apologize sincerely. I wasn't watching where I was going. My mind was elsewhere."
At the lengthy silence, Gina straightens up to find she is alone.
"Huh?" inquires the brunette. "Captain Kuchiki?" Gina looks around, but she does not see the captain in sight. A sigh escapes Gina. She runs her fingers through her hair. "Maybe he's still angry about that misunderstanding," murmurs the lieutenant.
Gina looks down to locate her chopsticks. What she finds is her chopsticks resting on a white envelope that has 'Lieutenant Gina Bana' written in Byakuya's calligraphy. Gina picks up the five items. She completes putting her hair up with her chopsticks before she examines the envelope. The young woman hesitates before she breaks the envelope's seal. 'Please' is the first word she reads when the pulls out the piece of paper. Frowning slightly, Gina checks the other side and discovers more writing there.
"Lieutenant Gina Bana, I wish for you to join me this evening for dinner. My staff will let you in at 6:50. Captain Byakuya Kuchiki," Gina reads the words aloud softly. She turns the paper back over to the 'Please.'
Byakuya Kuchiki, for the five years she served him, has never used 'please' in any verbal or written communication to her. Gina slips the invite into her kosode. She thinks over the invite, not breathing a word to her captain or co-lieutenant. The young woman leaves the squad to go to the tiny house she has lived in since she was promoted to 4th seat three years ago and continued living in through her lieutenant salary could afford her better housing.
Entering her dwelling, Gina goes to the neatly made futon and lies down on it. She pulls out the the invite to study the item. The young woman traces 'Please' with her fingertip. A sigh escapes her. "The only thing I can gain is a meal I don't have to cook," decides Gina. "Still, it couldn't hurt to at least be presentable."
Gina leaves her futon and heads to her wardrobe. She looks through her few options before she smiles. The young woman pulls out a dark purple kimono with pink petals decorating the material. Matching it is a pink obi.
"This will work," Gina murmurs with a slight smile.
Fifteen minutes later, Gina combs out her slightly damp hair from her shower. The kimono complements her shape without showing off her love handles too much. She gives her damp hair one last brush before she sets it down besides her chopsticks. Gina frowns while fussing with her hair with only the small mirror in it to see her results. Sweeping her hair up, Gina studies the effect. She groans before she shakes her head and slaps at her cheeks with her hands.
"Stupid, just keep it simple." The young woman tells herself. Gina picks up her chopsticks and fixes her hair into her traditional bun.
Gina checks the time and sees she has about half an hour before the time. The young woman inspects herself one more time before she leaves the bathroom. On her way from leaving the house, Gina adds her wakizashi that has a pale pink sheathe, a bronze guard and green handle wrappings into her obi. She locks her house behind her.
The lieutenant makes her way to the Kuchiki Manor at a good pace. Renji had sent her there as a messenger to the captain when he was not at the squad. Gina arrives outside the estate. She gazes at the imposing structure of the wall surrounding the estate when she comes to the door. Taking a deep breath, Gina knocks on the door. A plump, gray haired servant opens the door a moment later. The older woman gives Gina an impassive stare from a face wrinkled from time. Gina recognizes her as Yoko, the Kuchiki clan's chief of staff.
"Hello, Yoko-san… I'm Gina Bana… You might recognize me when I came to deliver messages from Lieutenant Abarai to Captain Kuchiki..." the young woman says, feeling her cheeks heat a little. She bows politely to Yoko, saying, "I was expected at 6:50… Right?"
The older woman's impassive stare slowly turns into a warm smile.
"I'm pleased you haven't forgotten me." Yoko answers. She steps back. "You're expected. Please, come in."
"Thank you," Gina responds. She steps in and waits while Yoko closes the door.
"I understand you've been promoted to lieutenant in your new squad a few months ago. Congratulations," Yoko remarks while she gestures Gina to walk alongside her. Gina politely falls into step with the older woman.
"It's just about three, not that long. My captain got tired of finding me voluntarily doing my lieutenant's paperwork on a non-seated member's pay," Gina confesses with a chuckle. "Of course, he put me through officer testing to ensure that I was capable besides being effective at paperwork. I did well above average," says Gina, smiling at the memory.
"Having shikia places you exceeding above average, young lady."
Gina starts. Her wide hazel eyes stare into Yoko's gray eyes that twinkle above the slight scowl on her face.
"How did you know about me having shikia?"
"I'm the chief of staff here. It's my job to know things," the older woman states grandly.
"Nothing less but the best for the Kuchiki clan," Gina remarks with a warm smile, feeling herself relaxing.
Yoko nods, smiling. The rest of their walk is in silence when they enter the gardens. Gina sees her captain standing on a small bridge over the river. The man lacks his usual hair piece as well as his fingerless tekko gloves. He stands very still, gazing up at the full moon.
"Kuchiki-sama, Lieutenant Bana is here."
Byakuya shifts his gaze from the moon to the pair.
"That will be all, Yoko-san," the man says.
Yoko bows and takes her leave. Gina looks at her former captain who turns completely to face her. His attire consists of a formal, gray kimono decorated with Sakura blossoms. He carries his zanpakuto in his obi. The man gazes at Gina. Feeling a bit self-conscious with his gaze on her, Gina bows low to Byakuya.
"Good evening, Captain Kuchiki," Gina says. She straightens up to meet his gaze.
"Come," Byakuya says simply. He starts walking.
Gina follows her former captain curiously. He leads her to a grove of trees. Gina stops walking, her hands covering her mouth that fails to cover her gasp. A blanket is laid out beneath the trees. Spread out on the blanket is a feast.
"I instructed the staff to have everything ready by 7," Byakuya states. He sits on the blanket. "The food will cool if you continue to gwak, Lieutenant Bana."
"Oh… Sorry," Gina stammers. She shakes her head briefly before she sits opposite of the captain. Byakuya pours tea into two cups before offering one of them to her. The young woman smiles shyly, accepting the cup and saying, "Thank you, Captain Kuchiki… It's just… It's just a little overwhelming… Especially when I'm clueless why I'm here and why you've taken such care to detail."
Byakuya sets the tea pot down. He picks up his own cup to sip his tea. "Your application," he states.
"My lieutenant insisted we take you into the squad because of your reason. You wished to set an example to young women who are not perfect can go far if they push themselves. The reason for applying to the squad was to rise in the ranks beneath the most intimidating and strict captain, believing it would inspire potential young women who hold back because of their physical uncomfortness," the captain explains.
"Good God," Gina laughs a little. Her shoulders relax while she smiles. "I haven't thought about the application essay since I submitted it with my exam for the Gotei 13. I thought being upfront was the best."
"In comparison to the other applications, it was refreshing to have an applicant with ambition besides being the new Lady Kuchiki or surpassing me," Byakuya says. He sips his tea again before he sets the cup down. He fills his plate from the many options laid out. "What have your duties been like as a co-lieutenant to Squad 10?"
Gina picks up the chopsticks and loads her plate with a bit of everything. She smiles a little before she answers, "Captain Hitsugaya is very much like you. He has high standards and expects the best from his squad. Lieutenant Matsumoto is an extremely laid back version of Lieutenant Abarai. It's a good thing I had some experience assisting Lieutenant Abarai with his paperwork. It's made the transition easier."
The meal goes on. Gina finds herself talking most of the time. Her former captain asks questions or offers a comment once in awhile. The young woman looks down at her plate. Her cheeks heat to discover all the serving dishes are empty.
"Umm… Did… Did you get enough?" asks Gina shyly.
Byakuya nods, finishing his tea. Gina starts a little when Yoko appears with a few younger servants. They clear the dishes away from the blanket before they seemingly melt into the night. Laughing at herself, Gina rubs the back of her neck.
"That surprised me. Your staff gives exceptional service. Please let your kitchen staff know the food was wonderful. My favorite were the dumplings," Gina confesses. She drops her gaze down, feeling her cheeks darken. "I'm usually more restrained in my eating with company. Guess my blabbering and the food lowered my guard." The young woman gazes around the garden, willing her blush to die away. She waits a few moments before she gathers her nerve to look at her former captain. "You never really answered me earlier. Why am I here?"
Byakuya shuts his eyes and lowers his head slightly.
"My invitation for the subordinate appreciation dinner I slid beneath your door six months ago to the day was a smoke screen," the captain states. He opens his eyes to look at her. "My true intention was to inform you of my wish to court you if it agreed with you."
Gina's eyes bug, her jaw drops and her cheeks flush. She quickly closes her mouth and hides her flaming cheeks with her hands. The young woman drops her gaze from the captain.
"Are you sure you invited the right person here?" asks Gina. "I always imagined you would continue to honor your wife's memory or eventually chose someone who's more on your level. 3rd Officer Kanna Yamasawa is someone I could picture you with."
"Yamasawa-san has been demoted and sent back to redo her studies at the Academy," Byakuya informs her.
This information jerks Gina's attention back to the captain. "Eh? Why?" asks the lieutenant. "She has shikia and generally does good work."
Byakuya shuts his eyes before he speaks, "Yamasawa-san had deceived me into believing you blackmailed her to do your work."
"Blackmail?" Gina repeats, shocked. "Seriously? She never liked me since I'm not a slender, beautiful woman like she is. To go that far...I don't know what I did to deserve that." Gina shakes her head before she asks, "Why did you believe her?"
"At the time...I had not been in full control of myself," Byakuya admits.
"So… How did you figure out the truth?"
Byakuya's eyes open, but he does not lift his gaze to meet Gina's. "The squad's performance in their daily tasks had been slipping in the three months following your dismissal from my squad," the man says. "Yamasawa-san's work turned mediocre despite her insistence the sudden change in her workload was to blame. I came upon my lieutenant and Yamasawa-san arguing that she let slip her charade.
"I investigated her blackmail claim as well as the performance decline. Her blackmail claim was a lie. Richiki-san and several of the squad members vouched for your positive influence on them. They worked harder because you listened to them and assisted them to get stronger. Initially, I intended to demote Yamasawa-san and send her to a different squad...when she spoke ill of you. I intended to offer you her seat to transfer back into my squad… However…" Byakuya stops speaking, shutting his eyes. "I came to Squad 10 with the offer...when I saw you release your shikia in your testing against Lieutenant Matsumoto. Why was I not aware of you having shika?"
"You never asked," Gina responds. At his slight frown, the lieutenant laughs sheepishly, rubbing the back of her neck. She explains, "I only learned her name last year. I've been quiet about having shika because I wanted it to be a surprise. I trained after hours alone to try and polish my shika as best as I could. It was my hope to be a special moment when you witnessed my shika for the first time," Gina adds with a rueful smile.
"As I wanted the moment I revealed my wish to court you special," the captain says. He opens his eyes to look at Gina. "Lieutenant Bana… I am sorry."
"I had acted rashly based on clouded judgement when I dismissed you from the squad," Byakuya states. His hands turn into fits on his lap. "I discredited your hard work and integrity as an officer in my division. There's nothing as a captain I can do to atone for the dishonor I've done you. I'm sorry… Forgive me, Lieutenant Gina Bana."
"It was a complicated misunderstanding with Yamasawa-san manipulating events the way she wants," Gina answers. She smiles gently, saying, "This evening was a nice apology."
Byakuya's fists tighten on his lap. "That's not the only intent of this evening," the black-haired man states.
"What other intent could you have?" inquires Gina, tilting her head slightly.
The man's eyes widen briefly. He closes them and rises to his feet. The man walks a little away before he stops with his back to Gina. His spiritual pressures rises fast and hard to outline his body. Gina winces and shudders from the power, weight and chill it gives. It remains at an unbearable high before his pressure disappears.
"My true intention for last time and this evening is the same," Byakuya whispers. His head bows slightly. "A part of my pride is yours even if you find my courting you disagreeable. It has been for two years."
Gina stands before she cautiously approaches Byakuya who remains still. She stops to study his profile. His eyes are closed with a small frown on his face. The lieutenant notices his hands remaining fists at his sides with only the smallest tremble. Gina hesitates before she reaches out to touch his cheek with her fingertips. Byakuya's eyes open at her touch and turns his face to look at her.
"Not one woman in your squad is immune to you as a man, Captain Kuchiki," Gina says. Her cheeks turn slightly pink. "They've gone through the stage of thinking about you in less than innocent fantasies at some point. I'm guilty of it. But I never really seriously considered anything between us because of your wife. She had to be an incredible woman for you to go through what you did to be with her. Besides… I'm a bit on the...plump side. Why would a man such as yourself take a personal interest in me?"
Byakuya's hand covers hers, bringing it more fully against his cheek. He reaches his free hand out to stroke her cheek. His hand continues behind her. Gina feels her hair falling out of the bun. The captain drops the chopsticks into the grass before he combs his fingers through her freed hair. She parts her lips to speak, but Byakuya kisses her. The lieutenant starts briefly before she sighs into the kiss, shutting her eyes. Her hands frame the captain's face before her hands slide into his hair. Several kisses pass before Byakuya lifts his head to gaze down at Gina. His expression is serene except his eyes are warmer.
"Wow," Gina laughs, slightly breathless. Her cheeks are pretty pink while she smiles up at him.
"There isn't anything I would change about you," the grey-eyed man informs her. Byakuya lowers his forehead to hers, whispering, "I wasn't certain you would come… My comment that day... "
"There are worse," Gina tells him, smiling.
"Is my courting you agreeable?"
"Hai, Captain Byakuya Kuchiki," Gina answers. She drops her gaze down, blushing. "I would like it very much."
Byakuya's arms encircle the brunette in a strong embrace. Smiling, Gina wraps her arms around him. Her cheek rests against his heartbeat.
"What's within my power to give is yours if you ask for it, Lieutenant Gina Bana," the man murmurs in Gina's ear.
"Thank you, Captain Byakuya Kuchiki," she whispers. Gina lifts her head to kiss him. It is a kiss that lingers for some time before they mutually draw apart. The young woman rests her cheek again on his heartbeat, smiling. Who would have known Byakuya Kuchiki wanted a big girl like me in his life? Gina muses internally.